Brother Cock



there is a rooster
living in the woods
near the stream
where i stop on my way home

black he is
with red wattles and comb  

i first knew of him 
hearing him crow 
when i stopped
once in the morning  

startled i was
then wary  

for i feared a rooster
when i was small
and my first memory
is the dream i had
of crazy bird eyes
and talons  

and my father
killing him with a hoe  

so i was nervous
the second time i saw him
when he sidled toward me
in little jerks
eyes blazing  

i backed away  

later i realized
that he is wary too
and we became friendly

sort of  

and i called him brother cock  

now i think of him as a hermit eccentric
though because we don’t speak the same language
i cannot tell what kind  

half a mile
from the sprawling hen-house machine
from grain and warmth and shelter
and all the fucking he could stand

out here in the woods


a refugee from the factory  

is he a monk or a rebel
or is he just shy
or sick of the chicks’ critiquing
or worn down
by beaks and pecks
and choking on methane  

did he reject the life of privilege
on principle  

or does he maybe  
just want to sing the dawning down  


painting the sky    
with his rough song






not tentative

and hesitant

like the crocus

and the snowdrop

not yearning

and coaxing

like the red birds

in the treetops

not the clenched potentiality

of the tight buds and green sprouts

but triumphant

and glorious

suddenly verdant

and urgent




bright life

raging in the high up

haze of green

in the underbrush

the sudden rush

of wide brown waters

in the low place

i have come to love

first south wind

of the season

high water everywhere

ditches and streams and fields

all is changing

and ever same

spiraling and spinning

out of and into

within and beyond

the wholly unnamable


I Am Driving



i am driving

the ritual


the road

i have been taking


listening to pharoah sanders

from 1971


thank you reggie


it is the north way

the one that looks Midwestern


thousand acre fields

and big animal barracks


huge silos and

giant crawling metal slugs


to cultivate

the earth


and spit out the corn

and the fermented liquid shit


not the sweet fresh

or composted stuff


that smells

like green life


the roll of the land

is gentler but wider here


where it is not

perfectly flat


a few miles away

a secondhand Appalachia


hills more rugged

more woods


farms smaller

land of the little Anabaptists


but this the land

of big Anabaptists



not amish



the machine


animals in factories

money machines


though the mennonites

are friendly reserved people


well meaning

like the rest of us


wisdom be attentive


there are signs

in the front yards


do not forsake

the doctrine of Christ


god is lord

over all the earth


be ye pure

of heart


the farms

have veal cages


where calves cry


for their mothers


and a feedlot

with cows



in their shit


a metaphor

of hell


then past a sort of rural



new homes in the woods

golf course across the road


right before the dip

into the mile wide flatland


the chewed up cornfields

less flooded tonight


there are seagulls picking over

the remains of last year’s harvest


woods in the distance


and on the east side

of the bridge


hundred acres or so



following the road


which comes sharp from the west

bending half mile on


and then another half mile

after the hairpin


to the bridge


where i stop


two days ago i could not reach the bridge

the narrow road was flooded


the day before that the stream

which a week ago

was a trickle in the ice


was wide and brown

and strong


i hesitate


not trusting the current


and not trusting

the shoulders


and backed the half mile

to the curve


and found a new way home


after all these years

there are still


new ways home


but tonight i approach the bridge carefully

i have startled wood ducks here


and see from the mud on the banks

that it crested high


and has gone down

ten feet or so


i love watching the same place

day to day


the world ever new

everything in flux


later i stop

at the place


where my daughter and i

painted landscapes together


last june


painting greens and golds

and rose and white


way back then

when  she loved me



in midmarch


it is all ochre

and umber


the grey sky

rippled and brushstroked


like a different world














The Red Birds


the red birds

in the bare treetops


are singing down

the spring


living flames

on living candles


beckoning the sun


last year

i wondered


as they sang

so early


if it meant

that spring was coming young


but it was not to be


march was bleak and cold


nothing stirred


the shoots

which had sprouted


began to turn



this year

the cardinals sang

even earlier


first week

of the second month


which ended up

breaking records


for frigidity



a new theory emerges


me being all scientific and stuff


that maybe

they have to work harder


and start



to rouse

the green


when they know

it needs stirring




i will

test this theory


it may take

many years


trying to know

what is knowable


in this













The World is Ever New


the world is ever new


i know this from the stream

where i stop


on the wayback road

on the way home


two days ago it was icebound

and rippling


today it is wide

carrying frozen shards

and branches


strengthened by the thaw


two days ago

the loudest noise


was the pipe

draining the fields



the pipe is below


the singing water



i know the newness of the world

from walking in the woods


never the same


from the weather


from the light


from the multiplicity of forms

the infinite takes


or i think back

to last summer


skipping stones

on the pond


with my children


i feared that flat stones

were an endangered species


and we had used them up


but then

months later


there were new

skipping stones


there on the shore

gifts from the deep


and i realized

the pond is never calm


for long


but always undulating

kicking up new stones


onto the shore


the world is always



nothing is ever still


except the mind

that empties


and the heart


that’s  finally






I Did Not Know


i did not know

when i began this way


how deeply

it would cut



so festered


the knife

must strive


down deep things

barely alive



in your own home



in your own land


stay calm

and breathe


and sigh

and weep



do not








I Will Drive This Road



i will drive this road

until it is a poem


taking the back way

i mean the way back way


where you can drive thirty five

and stop to piss


or look at the sunset

or a tree


or to watch the cows

on the hillside


or the crows

in the field


ohio’s beauties

are humble


but plentiful


i will listen

to the same music


until it is like a ritual

always new


but with a familiar frame


i will drive down

into the small appalachian outlier


the little hollers

and quick streams


the trailers

and low hills


just over the bridge

acres of junked cars



awaiting redemption


then up the rise

on honeytown road


long view

and small woods


then near orrville

the fallow flats


fertile looking

even in winter


where the thousand acre fields stretch

unto the woodlands


and the creek flows

under the ice


in the shadow

of bare trees


sky golden rose

purple clouds


and you can see

for a mile in either direction


it is a good place to stop

turn off the engine


and pharoah’s magic


and stand

in the middle of the bridge


and stretch and sigh

and breathe


and listen

to the cold water


headlights coming


get back in

turn the key


and up

past the train tracks



the county road


past the semi trailers

and metal barns


then in the marshy plain

south of town


a flock of geese

are heading east


maybe a half mile



on a parallel path


they are doing

thirty seven


i speed up to catch them

and we ride a mile in synch


until they veer to the south


then i am onto

a higher road


pharoah again



and cajoling


blue hills

on the horizon


beauty broken

by power lines


and cell phone



driving home

driving home


to what






i will drive this poem


until i know you


taking the back way

i mean the way back way


until it is a road


we are immortal



we have forever



and i


i am learning