Brother Cock

big%20ol%20chicken

 

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

alone  

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  

alone  

painting the sky    
with his rough song

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Today

today

finally

spring

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

jonquil

tulip

forsythia

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

flame

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

 

mennonite

not amish

 

wielding

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

uncomforted

for their mothers

 

and a feedlot

with cows

 

standing

in their shit

 

a metaphor

of hell

 

then past a sort of rural

suburbia

 

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

 

narrow

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

 

today

in midmarch

 

it is all ochre

and umber

 

the grey sky

rippled and brushstroked

 

like a different world

 

always

 

and

 

forever

 

and

 

ever

 

 

amen

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

brown

 

this year

the cardinals sang

even earlier

 

first week

of the second month

 

which ended up

breaking records

 

for frigidity

 

so

a new theory emerges

 

me being all scientific and stuff

 

that maybe

they have to work harder

 

and start

earlier

 

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

 

vale

 

of

 

 

tears

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

today

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

blooming

 

nothing is ever still

 

except the mind

that empties

 

and the heart

 

that’s  finally

 

 

pure

 

 

I Did Not Know

 

i did not know

when i began this way

 

how deeply

it would cut

 

illusion

so festered

 

the knife

must strive

 

down deep things

barely alive

 

hated

in your own home

 

displaced

in your own land

 

stay calm

and breathe

 

and sigh

and weep

 

and

do not

try

 

 

to

 

 

understand

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

 

disembodied

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

 

onto

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

away

 

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

 

consoling

and cajoling

 

blue hills

on the horizon

 

beauty broken

by power lines

 

and cell phone

spires

 

driving home

driving home

 

to what

 

may

 

wait

 

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

 

how

 

to

 

 

wait