THE FARMER

featured in the poetry forum March 30, 2024  :: 2 comments

Daybreak, and the old woman
is pushing the wheelbarrow
full of straw

She is alone
except for cows
arranged on the hill
and birds
darting through
harps of light

I see her every morning
cats following
pawing the falling straw
and I am certain
it is she who takes
away the night —

when we are all asleep
she is awake
gathering the darkness
in her apron

editors note:

Now we know; never have been awake to see her. (Congratulations to John on the recent releases of two collections: Viper Brain, and SEE. Click the links to get your copies.) – mh clay

TRANSITION

featured in the poetry forum January 22, 2023  :: 0 comments

summer arrived
like a summons
limping and winded
the same moment
I thought about
quitting all this

the concrete snow is black
charma guy down the street
is selling firewood –
handwritten sign nailed to a stick–
$5 a BUNDLE
a few mediocre logs
more like driftwood than firewood

Bread and Milk Street –
reminder of what nourishment
sounds like

on a
road of icy gales
a thin skin of rime
on the windshield
wipers scraping
my heart trying to keep pace

next day I went
to drop a 5 on a bundle
but the snow
had buried the logs
the sign – everything

I drove home disheartened
convinced that sorrow
is made of ice

here is what time does

last night
summer showed up
on the deck
like a curse
and I complained –
too fuckin’ hot
sweat crawling up
the back of my neck
mosquitoes drifting around
my cigar smoke

I felt like a man
made of
a cave of absences

last winter
still gnawed
as if I were breathing
splintered wood
the trumpet vine
and the orioles
brawled their orange brawl

I wondered how
I had gotten here
without you
whom I never even knew
not for a moment

how had I arrived
with nothing but lies
and grass
and dandelions
trumpet vines
orioles on all the branches

it’s too hot to care

I wish I were colder

editors note:

In the hot and cold of things, we’re either a sweater or wearing one. (We welcome John to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

Home Run

October 27, 2021  :: 0 comments

The playground at St. Mary’s was a cracked and bumpy blacktop square maybe a hundred feet long on each side and surrounded by a tall anchor fence on two sides, the school on another, and an old garage that completed the square. The garage was a really low, gray, four-car structure. I was never sure who, if anyone, used it. …

STOPPING BY THE WOODS AT OCEAN STATE JOB LOT

featured in the poetry forum March 3, 2021  :: 0 comments

The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
– Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know. His house
could be anywhere across this busted,
split to bits country, where nearly all the
frightened people are masked to hide their fears,
as cities burn and bullets scar the air.

For twelve years, Paula has been a cashier.
In the village it’s very still these days;
quarantine times and perpetual masks,
still, the Ocean State Job Lot is busy,
Paula on a register, eyes smiling.

Paula and I have become friends over
the years, her constant smile, her eyes not right.
The darkest evening of the year won’t stop
her ringing at the light of Number Two,
her wild, wide black hair pouring down her back.

We’ve made small talk over these many years,
though our connection has not been easy.
She is quite timid and prefers quiet.
The sound between us, oftentimes silence,
and the sweep of wind in the parking lot.

Until the day she said, “You a teacher?”
I said, “Yes I am. I teach poetry.”
“Oh, I love that!” Her eyes beamed and she spoke —
Whose woods these are I think I know, she said,
and she spoke the whole poem perfectly.

Whose woods these are I think I know. His house
in the village is very still these days.
The darkest evening of the year won’t stop
the sound between us, oftentimes silence,
though now she says the poem perfectly.

editors note:

Friendships found in verse abound. – mh clay

THE BARBER

featured in the poetry forum December 13, 2019  :: 0 comments

1.
The shop is wedged
between two whitewashed glass storefronts
in a mall that did not survive.
Nobody comes here —
hollow buildings
and the barbershop lodged in the middle.
The barber sits all day in the fat chair,
reads porn,
and smokes Luckies.
In the parking lot
the yellow lines have faded
and the storm has swallowed the barber’s car.

2.
When I was a child
my father would bring me here.
He and the barber would laugh and drink,
and I would sit in the chair,
a mirror in front, a mirror in back,
and count the reflections of my self.

3.
Years later I bring my son to the barber.
He is an old man, happy,
makes me a drink,
sips his.
My son sits in the chair between the mirrors,
says it’s like watching the barber go far away,
getting smaller and smaller and smaller
as he goes.

editors note:

Each reflection, a generation passed, until we disappear in the curve. – mh clay

POND, 5.3.19

featured in the poetry forum July 14, 2019  :: 1 comment

5.3.19
1.14 p.m.
61 degrees

The hummingbirds returned today.

Pluck and aerials this 1/10 of an ounce, and
ovations are due each time the hummers return, as they did today.
Nervous polliwogs, disperse with every step I take, and
dive, bellies flashing white, vanishing into the mud instantly.

editors note:

This poem is part of a 1-year project called POND; “Everyday, at different times during the day, I visit our pond with notebook and camera in hand. I jot down some notes… Then I head home and write a four line acrostic using the letters P, O, N, and D.” Cool!
mh clay

FICTION

featured in the poetry forum May 26, 2011  :: 0 comments

…to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect nonchalance! – Walt Whitman

I want to get all my mistakes,
injustices, and regrets,
real or imagined,
and trick them into thinking
that they’ve gotten the better of me,
that I’m finally dispatched.

I want them all to meet
in some remote location,
like maybe a big house in the country,
where they’ll sit by a stone fireplace,
drinking Courvoisier
and smoking La Gloria Cubanos,
laughing at how they used me,
made a fool of me.
I want them to feel absolutely certain
that I’m gone.

What they won’t know
is that I’ll be outside hiding in the woods,
camo on, face blacked,
getting their bodyguards lined up
in my cross-hairs.
They won’t hear the shots
over their loud boasting.

Then I’ll appear,
to their terrified surprise,
ghostly behind the couch,
and they’ll beg me to reconsider,
yelling, Wait! There’s been a mistake!
But it will be too late.
I’ll take them out one at a time.

Then I’ll mess with a gas pipe
that just happens to run down the wall
right near the fireplace.
I’ll pop it with the butt end of my automatic
and it’ll start to hiss,
my cue to saunter out indifferently,
rifle slung over my shoulder.

I’ll open the front door
and walk slowly across the lawn
into the foggy night,
perfect nonchalance,
as behind me the big house
explodes in a series of deafening volcanic eruptions,
boiling flames 100 feet high,
sending shards of wood and metal and embers
raining down on everything,
explosion after explosion,
but I will not flinch.

Metallica’s Fight Fire With Fire
will have started to play in the background
as I stroll in silhouette against the monstrous blaze,
all the consequences of my every indiscretion
dissolving in smoke and flames
as I disappear into the fog
clutching a secret no one will ever know
but you and me.

editors note:

Who said revenge wasn’t sweet? Sweet indeed, especially when foisted upon our foibles. – mh clay