Monday, April 30, 2012

30 of 30 Elegy for Joyce Mcginnis

It was a funeral year,and a terrible church.
the preacher had an altar call in the middle of the service
as though this was the ideal time, to hammer us
with that threadbare, impoverished faith, worn carpet on the altar
a pair of yard-sale plaster praying hands atop a speaker,
a paint-on-velvet Jesus, and I was young enough to be embarassed

By the Appalachian wailing in the funeral home,
the collapsing and being escorted outside, the coffee can of cigarette butts
the beige shirts and colorful ties, the kentucky drawl of the preacher
I have never felt more northern, more Catholic, more outside
than that room, the women red-faced, collapsing
My own calm in the face of their grief.

You were born again, but I knew your stories,
the woman shot through the barstool
Red's blood clot and the bullet that cured him,
Your prison time the family secret
knew of your bike, your studded belt that spelled your name
your racist dolls, dirty books, knew the cackle of your laugh
your smoking cigarettes with an oxygen mask,
planted lillies in your lawn. Stared at the Mack truck tabletop lighters
the apple-head dolls, turned over  the plaster frogs with human genitals
near your stagnant birdbath, knew the smell of your backyard goat
a picture of a man with elephantisis, carrying his balls in a wheel barrel:
But you did not know me, called me "Chuck", called me "Chad",
Called me "Neva's Baby" when I was fifteen,
though you had embroidered names on my cousin's woolen jackets
always more interested in your own stories.
My mother and her sisters were charmed by you,
like mice by a snake, they needed the your gaze
even if you only saw your own reflection in their eyes
the children that you left, again and again
that gaggle of garrulous sisters at your dying bed
who did not seem to notice that you did not love them.
who dutifully ate the 7-up cake, the ham left warming for them
that you never bothered to wait for their arrival to eat
on the holidays we drove across two states to your home and car dealership
to eat your leftovers, to slip off and read the black books upstairs, to steal whiskey from your bar,to spin until we fell

When you died this was my inheritance, a rack of pipes that no one smoked
a set of books in black covers, with pentagrams on the back. a collection of stories
of a woman that I never knew, a memory of the sting of stolen whiskey.

29 of 30 Elegy for Rich Weiss

We rode the freight trains into town
jumping off when they picked up speed
and sliding down the rock embankments.
A sign on a post, covered in rust, bulletholes
advertised a long-closed window and siding company
"Exteriors of time" Fields of corn and wheat,
a go-kart track, the weird sculptures of Mini Golf
under fluorescent lights,a dingy arcade where metal bands
played in the gravel parking lot, a whirling pit over the gravel.

Rich was older, had better weed,
drank stolen airplane bottles of "cocktail" and "martini"
with us, hopped cemetary fences, showed us how to make a pipe
from tin foil and a pen, from soda cans and apples.
Rich, on Dilaudid, or Codeine, or Valium and Whiskey,
alone, a drunk, stumbling scarecrow
( or asleep on the tracks, depending on who was telling)
was hit by the Burlington Northern,
and his heart stopped.

The paramedics jump-started him,
and Rich came back, Electric Lazarus
with cinematic tales of a white light, of voices
of being spat back into the world,
which he would tell while we huffed gas,
drank Everclear, shook with stolen speed
I do not recall the method of his second death.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

28 of 30 Elegy for Milford Russell

I remember only once,
riding behind the stickshift in a rusted Chevy
sticking to vinyl seats
Hank Williams on the radio, and I
eight or nine, you gave me a drink of your beer,
some chewing tobacco.
We rode out and picked up some bales of hay.
I tried to lift, to be a good grandchild,
but my arms were weak, and you laughed
You did not remember my name.

The corn was drowned, the mud cracked and bloated
Merle Haggard was drunk
I went fishing once, with some relation of yours
a son from your second wife, I think
he showed me how put the hook through the minnow's eyes
I caught nothing but a tiny bluegill, too small to keep.
You were not there.

When you were sick, I went with your daughters
to load some cattle onto a truck,
to sell and pay your medical bills.
The cows were spooked, the bull angry, his head down
Your daughters frightened and useless.
The cows uninterested in dent corn and dying
I forced them up the ramp,
sent them to slaughter,
You did not thank me.

At your burial, your steel grey pompadour
rail thin in a black suit and tie, dressed for town
with wood paneling and lillies,  muzak and Jesus.
I did not know you at all.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

27 of 30 Elegy for Daniel Toth

There was the day you fell off the wagon
I was nine, and you drove us to the lake
to meet your wife, my mother and sisters
It was you and I, alone
and you set the six pack between us
and when we arrived,everything went wrong

The boat did not have a pump,
the duckweed skinned the water,
grey sand, and bright sun
There is a photo of me,
a piratical handkerchief, binoculars
a boatless captain. There are none of you.

Your son, jumping on the couch,
stabbing the wall with a knife 'like daddy"
Your wife who haunts the edges of photos
How we cleaned your house,  found your works
 a zippered case of syringes, pipes and bellows
an aquarium of neon fish.
set your wife's impractical heels in rows

You, cook and junkie, dry drunk
Your impossible blond children,
your coal black hair, your Zig-Zag tattoo
Your scar, Your bottomless sorrow

that found its end with a final drink
a bullet through the head, politely
in the back yard, so as not to leave a mess.

Friday, April 27, 2012

26 of 30 Elegy for Nolda Risener

You owl-white ghost, rheumy and yellow-eyed
your voice a death-beetle tick, a moth wing
and you deaf as headstones.
Laboring to move, slow and deliberate
a tortoise, ancient as god and death
your hands like stained paper,
nails ivory and cruel.
You terrified. Great grandchildren dared each other
to tell you a joke, and you'd lean in, slow and terrible
toothless, clouded, not quite blind.

Old Regular Baptist,
at your graveside no devil's instruments
but a palsied, liver-spotted choir,
in lined- out hymnody sang
Amazing Grace, ten thousand years.

They demanded to open your casket
at the graveside, the grandchildren
that you mothered, and we, their
toy children, too young to be discarded
watched,in polyester suits
squinting in Kentucky sun
as they clawed at you.

In your baby-blue casket,
Your dress white as christening.
Your mouth open to sing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

25 of 30 Elegy for Mary Rita Rakovan

Your bird-brittle bones weighed less
than the casket of my sister's child.
You, dry as down, as cottonwood seeds
the long years cloud the glass.

Your well scrubbed floor under a sheen of motor oil now
they grind dirt into your carpets
Your clothes, and his hang in the closet
side by side in the room of your death.

There are deer in your garden,
come from along the power lines
to eat the spring shoots.
The Japanese beetles devour your Zinnias.

In the grave, all your forgotten Slovak returns
the language of a mother country you have never seen.
You whisper back and forth, with Andy
through the entangling roots. Cleveland dissolves.

The war is far away, and you are together
The Wonder Wheel spins above the boardwalk.
The gypsy again, in roller-skates.
You see only this, the soldiers in their uniforms
the girls with stocking seams painted up their legs.

Not your son, his dirty nails, his swallowed mouthful of truths.
Not the host passed over by your family, dutiful in borrowed suits .
Not the blue plastic madonna with broken hands,
the sardine cans in the sink.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

24 of 30 Elegy for Ben Sztuba

Your house, the horror house
the doberman vicious,one eyed, blind and tumorous
clawing inside the door.
shouting, and barking

The phones torn from the walls,
kept locked in the trunk of your car
your heavy hands, blurry tattoos on the knuckles
"love" and "wine", motor oil in the cracked skin

Another woman's name on your forearm
your belt worn sideways,
a motorhead, a mechanic
drinker of cheap Polish brandy

Your family learned to live around your edges
and I learned to move
in that undercurrent of fear
to leave when you came home

Your youngest son a policeman now,
he answers the calls
for men like you, impotent and angry
full of stupid spite

what misery it must have taken have taken
to make our house a refuge
our house of hoarded metal, of shuttered windows
our dirt and danger seem safer than home

His brother always your greasy mirror,
a thief of bicycles, a bully
a sadist with a clothespin
your wife, bending spoons
and reading tarot, a captive gypsy witch
with no plan of escape
When I learned of your death
of the loss of my father's only friend
I let out the breath I did not know I held
I let my footsteps fall louder on the stairs

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

23 of 30 Elegy for Steve Gurney

My first grief, 1981
Our yards divided by a concord grapes
on rusting fencing, a strawberry patch
you, 71 then, teller of lies
gifting me with arrowheads
chipped from broken coffee mugs
pulled from the burning trash
"ancient artifacts" you said
with the mug handle still attached

Your pond, stocked with catfish
with overgrown goldfish,
bullfrogs and water walkers
your boys hunting squirrels on our acre
the smell of the squirrel brains frying with eggs
hominy grits and black coffee

Your house, all meager screen
and cookpots catching the rain
and you, all hillbilly gristle
a scarecrow, a possum, your wife a white ghost,
telling lies about angels with books
at the foot of your bed, about
your heart stopping on an operating table
the light that pulled you out of yourself
and spat you back like a fish bone
a dip of snuff spat in a radiator

You tranplants, on the wild road
where they scratched the addresses
on the mailbox with pocket knives
where they burned crosses
on front lawns,
gravel line between two counties

Your old hound chasing turtles
howling at the moon
the white scar over your heart
you showed me, solemn

When you died, I wept
your sons filled the pond
with rusting wachine machines
and scrap, mosquitos in the stagnant water
the grass grown tall
the birds had all the grapes

Monday, April 23, 2012

22 OF 30 Elegy for Angela Lynn Williams

The river lies flat and glittering
between the hills, coal barges
and trains drag the black rock
north to burn, in fall of a rainless summer
fires eat the underbrush

The storefronts are boarded,
the last note of your song
ringing through the brick streets
empty attics and discarded treasures
old records, Ma Rainey , Bessie Smith, Maybelle Carter

You sang rough, barrelhouse belter
and hillbilly choir, old time,
sang the bridge into the river
the birds from the sky

sang spurge and sorrell through the pavement cracks
sun on a broken bottle
dandelions in the brownfield reclamation site
crumbling factories,catfish in oilslick,
hawks above the highway
bones of the horses showing,
ice melting off the highway cuts

dry years blew trash through the streets,
the boneyards filling,
sparked the hills to flames
the city dying, you still singing

in the burning ship of your hometown
the bone of your poverty in your throat
a bittersweet hillbilly twang
in the final resonant spring of your last song
the shuttered shops fall to dust, the trees ablaze
and everything burns in quiet

Sunday, April 22, 2012

21 of 30 Elegy for Christal Luevano

There are shots on the bar today
amber votives,  offerings
your bike  slowly rusting,
a jukebox coughing up
London Calling, Hank Williams

The cranes are fishing in the ditch
Life seethes on in its dumb animal bliss
The cancer in your father's  hollow bones
does not retreat though it plants a flag in you

Say instead: your hair has grown back
a long black pennant, behind you
Your bike is built of light, and Gary
has saved you a seat, with a fresh glass

Say instead; the clouds are hill country
the thirsty ghosts line the bars there
the road winds on and on, copless
an unspooling of mondayless days

Kiki, go smiling, go with no hooks in this world
to hold you, your own wheels beneath you
a black highway, a long and raucous night
an endless sunday

Saturday, April 21, 2012

20 of 30 Elegy for Natural Death

By water, by automotive collision
asleep, and surrounded, encircled by offspring
by disease slow and steady, by virtue of the bodies failure
the clockwork ground to halting, in white rooms
enlivened by florists, by rouge and wax
by the concealed stitch in the lip
the cheap shoes, the rings removed
and shared amongst the family
by slow degree, by pact, by violence
by the blossoming of strange flesh
in the corridors of the body, by the failure of the heart
by slow and ponderous breath, by paralysis
each slow and honeyed day past savor
and the mouth drying to dust, to husk and shell
by one's own hand, by the million stratagems
of a microscopic bestiary, that devours us even
as we live, we are consumed, burning, dissolved in solution
unstitched in starlight, in the noonday sun,
in privacy and in the public square
we are discovered, cleaned like a tagged buck
stuffed with cotton and wax, or left to dry
forgotten in front of a television tube
fallen down the bottle, the plate of powder
this menagerie i have collected
my clot of ghosts are , one and all
natural as milk

Friday, April 20, 2012

19 of 30 Elegy for Jay Ferguson

You are quiet now,
you brandisher of baseball bats
you psycho-billy dancer
crooner of the barlight

The city is burning, crumbling to wreckage
and you were the crowing rooster
atop the ruin, the song of the fire

The nights all run together,
until, blinking, in the closing time light
we are herded into the street
with tall boys in bags
with sugar-spun eyeballs
swallowing starlight

to wreck cars, to fight
to drink until the sun rises in rented houses
to pass platefuls of our own death 
And you, Jaybird
crown prince of wasted time
king of portugal, of cockaigne
of the orchestra of donkeys

You don't have to go home
but you can't stay here

18 of 30 Elegy for Anson Edwards

They wrote your name
on the end of the bar
and did coke off it.

Like a plywood tombstone,
to kick, to pour beer over.
 You hold court  in the red lights
The bartender pounds on the bar
with a baseball bat

My sister carries a picture of you
in a football uniform, improbably young
and uninked, you squint into the sun

they put your body in the ground
and went to the bar and did rails
on the toilet tanks
wrote you a sharpied epitaph
in beer soaked plywood

Hail the conquering hero

Thursday, April 19, 2012

17 0f 30 Elegy for Dick Clark

It is New Years Eve in the city of the dead
and they are playing all your favorite records
the 45's your sisters broke, Your grandfather's box
of 78's that burned with the house.
The tape that got unspooled in your first car.

When the ball drops, it is the sun itself
going down into the wintry dark
and the dead stand crowded in the street
and the cold blows ticker tape through them

He is the oldest teenager,
His teeth reflect the borrowed light
like the moon's sliver
and the kids twist

He plays the unsaid apologies,
plays all the thrown away declarations of love
the burned letters, the swallowed words
He is officiate of this rite,
and without him, the world has lost a priest
for the living, the years have stopped
rock and roll, contrary to expectation, has died.
in the city of the dead, they stay up late
Dick Clark is on Johnny Carson
Buddy Holly's new song
is rising up the charts
The twist king says
Let's twist again, like we did last summer

and you taste the summer in your mouth
cicadas and lemon, wild irish rose
a stolen kiss in the tall grass
crackle of the radio

"I played records, the kids danced, and America watched"  Dick Clark

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

16 of 30 Elegy for the Dying

You slack-rope walkers, jugglers of flaming torches
performing for circles of kin,
for the indifferent eye of god
in white rooms, and home in bed

the world is going, and you hold on to the scraps of it
the curled ash of testaments, of fever
you are halfway gone already
haunting your skin,
the body a failing machine,
black smoke of burning oil

your eyes are drinking in the world,
that is left, taking a small allotment of light
into the dark, It is too late.

a lifetime of action and inaction is resolved
already, and you are as forgiven as you will be

We cannot choose to go, or stay
and this antechamber is a burning house,
a remembered light. this wire, these numbers
these attendants in utilitarian blue are only smoke
we gather with you, to watch a world burn away

Monday, April 16, 2012

15 OF 30 Elegy for Andrew Rakovan

In the dark,  Jack Daniels on the rocks,
sleepless, the war still in your head
you walked the house, prefabricated
and alien to you all your life
the rooms never used

You built a house with your hands,
broke the windows from larger panes
and trimmed the lumber yourself
they ran a highway through it
and once, when i was young
we walked to the place it had stood
and watched the traffic puncture its ghost

You believed. In Edgar Cayce and Padre Pio
in spark plugs embedded in stone
in a library of copper plates under the Sphinx
in saucers cutting through the sky,
the beast in the bottom of the loch

Insulin injections and boiled sweets
In Italy, you drove through the mountains
for three days, with the blood and brains
of a friend on your shirt,
delivering medical supplies

You traded spring water for Cognac in Paris,
walked a Coney Island Boardwalk in black and white
with a black haired girl with my grandmother's face

did we know each other?
I kept my secrets, even with you.
Your insomniac vigils were yours alone
I carried your casket to the grave,
and did not return until I was carrying another body
to lie beside you.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

14 of 30 Elegy for Tom King

Your junkie girlfriend in tow,
you came to my place, asking for a future
for a spread of cards that said something other than they said
other than the slaves chained at the foot of the devil,
other than death's pale rose

You were a drummer, and a good one
and I have played sloppy drunken slayer riffs with you
farther into the night than we should have,
the double bass steady as a doomsday clock
shared coke reeking of ether on a bar toilet tank
and I told you, even then
in the midst of my own dying
to stop

you could not stop
when you were climbing, building cell phone and radio towers
dangling on safety lines above the birds
did not stop in Africa,
shooting still with dirty needles,
the company refusing to fly you home
the poison spreading through your blood and your fever

and home, they amputated your hands,
leaving you two tattooed drumsticks
to hold, and fingerless, you could not tie off
could not press the plunger, and stopped

until you begged your friends, and they
tied off your severed arms, shot you full
of stopping, of white flowers, of the end of the story

13 of 30 Elegy for Ike Whitt

Above the trainyards, in a dying town's wildness
spray-painted over a bible verse, your epitaph
"Ike Whitt lives". You do not.
The painted rock juts above the trees,
the lizards sun themselves.
beer cans and dope bags, dead lighters.
a single, stunted tree climbs from the rocks

We have never met, you and I
but i recall your death, how
when they pumped your stomach
they found dilaudid and aspirin,
birth control pills and vitamins
how you wandered through your party
with your zip lock bag, a pillowcase of pills
you became an adolescent legend,
our own keith moon, dead of rock star excess

there is no novelty in this. the kids who crush
pills on the stone that bears your name
have never heard of you
and the hills have healed over our footprints
yours and mine, the trainyards rust
rats on the river bottom.

the bar stars dim in the daylight,
single file, to graves, a procession
too many to spray their names on the rocks
too many to remember

Saturday, April 14, 2012

12 of 30 Elegy For Sam Patch

"Some things can be done as well as others". Sam Patch

The gulls cry at the base of the falls,
a ravenous and expectant mob
they are clean and white
like cotton in the mill,
the child's hand spanning it
a host of angels

You, drunk, with a trained bear,
a fox on a chain, jumping from the mill, from the masts
of moored ships, from a rickety platform
on goat island. You strike-instigator. You spectacle.
You stone against god's window. fever-tinged
How the proper ladies gathered,
the gentle folks tittilated to see you
romance your death, dance with it

How you fell, headlong the last time
they believing you were hidden in the cave
watching and laughing, finishing your bottle
the preachers railed against their sheep,
for their need for a wonder

they could not accept their own muddy hands
all those clean white gulls, their open mouthed awe
and hunger, and you, wingless, uplifted in the spray
dead beneath the ice, buried with a wooden placard

Thursday, April 12, 2012

11 of 30 Elegy for Eric Deer

Red-faced, unfinished, hand curved to hold the hammer
illegible poems scrawled on notebook-paper
I remember you, clean
reading and building
in a store filled with old paperbacks
not comatose on that lawyer's floor,
veins full of Fentanyl, as they lied over you
your time already finished
Your father, sharer of needles,
fled the scene.

There was a wave behind you,
of dead boys and shrinking funerals
the festival gone out of it, after a while
only the family shows up

but death was still novel then.
and hung over in a five dollar suit
the soles of my shoes cracking
I went in,and spoke to you

You held your daughter's picture in your hand
and the flowers and doilies
of that room were suffocating
as your mother gawked at your exotic friends
and after, We drank and did not sing

We asked your family for your notebooks
the illegible poems and stories,
but they did not understand
how we wanted to hold some piece of you
as you spilled into the ground, and the quiet fell
so they gave us nothing

I found some loose pages, after
in a borrowed book, unfinished drafts
unreadable now, a crooked scrawl against the lines.

10 of 30 Elegy for Second Uncles

My first funeral required a black suit.
a clip-on tie. The saints watched,
blandly pleased, as I genuflected,
knelt, stood and sat.
I did not know the man,
like a rubber plant,
rouged with wax-fruit cheeks.
They drank coffee, and after, whiskey
but they did not weep
stained light,fake grass at the graveside.

My first death was a mouse on a trap
dry and stiff, forgotten under the chair
bloody and grinning, black eyed
in the  dark.

The did not lower you
into the earth, the women wore red
There was no rain.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

9 of 30 Elegy for 1368 Norfolk

You will not die, though the ash of the burnt piano
grow briars, though the pipes clot with dirt
the well fills with toads
and your cement blocks rot like teeth.
You are my shame, my embarassment
holes in the bathroom walls,
the wet black mud beneath the floors
a king of rats, indissolvable knot I drag you behind me.
Still they post mail at your address.
You habitation of devils, you vulture's cage,
sunken city and carrion
Your grass still grows green as a graveyard.

Today i clawed a phone from the wall,
screamed when your name was conjured with.
You foulness, you black tar lung
you are the soft black spot at my core,
you worm in the wood
you frost-blighted plum tree.
I am a broken house, my siding falling off
my sodden carpet and rotten couch
my rats, my wasps, my tongue is a hangman's knot
and my father hangs at the end of it
the clapper for my hollow bell
you have your way inside me
and i see you crawl beneath the skin,
you sink full of maggot
you attic of fucking raccoons
my guts rattle with your grease
your stink comes through my skin,
black socks and zest soap
coke ovens and anger

I am burned down and rotten
past wrath and sorrow
I am dead wood and foxfire,
the collapsing septic tank, this rusting shed
and you, specter of all my specters
you eat your canned sardines and live
though the innocent die,
you sit alone at the funeral
you buyer of caskets
you polyester suit
what will my children say of me
in twenty years?
My heavy hand, the table,?
my shouting, my accidents and my apologies?
what black thing did you bargain with,
what squats on your bloodline, what spider, what owl

you fixer of broken machinery,
you yellow toothed smiler
how i hate this face of yours i wear
your awkward dance, your thin tongue of a belt
they seat you at their table, they pour you milk
you trashman picking at bad dreams,
you weedy lot and burnt foundation
you motherfucker, you nightmare

i would burn this house to the ground again
to drive you from me,
I would burn , just to be rid of you

8 of 30 Elegy for Charles Broughton

The town swallowed your death
in a gas station bathroom.
In the stillness, there is a light
and the coffee pots are filled,
endless vigil of insomniacs,
cigarettes for the sorrowful,
the passing through.

Your road still winds down to the river
the muddy cornstalks, the train trestle
young boys still drink there, in the shadow
of the bridge, the catfish jumping.
still crush pills on the toilet tank

your house, a rotten tooth in a broken mouth
the bottles piled up in the trash
life continues without ceremony
the dead stare through a filmy mirror,
the flickering fluorescent sun.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

7 of 30 Elegy for My Sisters' Easter Ducklings

You motherless things,
you had no home to hold you.
Your cardboard box open to the sky
behind the garage, among the rusting sheet metal.
The willow wept.

The rabbits lived until the snow came,
starved in their crates unfed by we lazy children
but you would not survive the day.

My sisters did not think to pray.
their white dresses and bonnets for show
a masque of piety, my father refusing the host
and bloody Christ staring at the ceiling
through the endless morning

We ate what sweetness we could find.
My dog, loose from the flagpole,
prowling the grass
for another small and unwatched thing

Friday, April 6, 2012

6 of 30 Elegy for George R. Cookingham

You were first, to ride ahead  on the lampless road
the bikes, half-stolen, kicking mailboxes in the pistol-whipped dark
the dodged bullets, climbing barbed wire fences
the night we came across an open grave,
the casket sitting in the middle of the street,
the black tar of the road.

The night you stole a car,
and wrapped it around a tree
and walked a half mile on a broken leg,
your punctured lung flecking your lips with blood
and threw gravel at my window.

Our science fair project to take a picture of the soul,
and your father dying in the middle of it,
the voltage running through the copper plate, over the film
calling devils in the dark of the wheatfields

That moon grinning down, your dead father
hanging over us,as we smoked his funeral flowers
over the bloody mirror,
huffing gasoline from cans.
Everclear in a gallon jug
My father's stolen .22
every broken window in the church
a tooth to catch your absent god
his relics in your backpack
as you climbed from windows,
escaped asylums
When your heart stopped, your truck kept going
through the intersection and into a telephone pole
The camper where I hid you rotted into the ground
my house burned to the foundations
your girl's head filled with ghosts

Thursday, April 5, 2012

5 0f 30 Elegy for Gary Lynn Coffey

There is a house for broken men
when they are shaking,
when they are thirsty,
when they have no other house

There is a song for the loveless
for the rusted truck and the shotgun
a song for dry places
a song for the scar

In the long and godless sunday
of waiting to die,
the interminable afternoons
the loneliness of an empty bottle

jukebox hymnal and border-town heaven
honky tonk on the edge of hell
this chapel, these ministers of grace

Come into this cool dark place
steady your hand with a drink.
Play us a song.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

4 of 30: Elegy for Ted O'Neil

In the windowless Union Bar and Grill
the painted goat quoted Heidegger
"Existence is in the form of a question"
and we, dumb and young and full of Schlitz
gathered around the burned boat you left behind you
and were starless

The day the haterock died,
I hated God and Texas
hated the way they left you
on the floor,the record deal
the night before, you said to me
"I'm almost thirty years old.
I have to get it together"
The next morning, your brain was dead
and your body followed

Yesterday, on the radio
I heard a song from nineteen years ago
It was not yours.

There is a procession,
with pinhole cameras in their bones,
with men in bottles, a patent medicine tent revival
a smalltown parade of car crash and almost
You go into the dimming light as we forget
forget the body's abandon and roar of blood

The ghosts gather thick around the bar, remembered smoke
moths hurling themselves against the incandescent,
the spirit yellow in glass. The townies sway.
a nineteen year old kid
beats the shit out of a pawnshop drumkit.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

3 of 30 : Elegy for Tim Cantrell

He was a horse thief and a drunk
I have found him sleeping in tall grass,
outside the bar, met him when he lived
in the woods, on the run from the law.
With a needle wrapped in string,
a bottle of india ink, I scrawled
a blurry cross on his arm, and the alcohol bled out
In prison, he read Blavatsky.

In prison, he read Blavatsky.
and did his time, and was released
He carried in his head, a murdered father,
a tangle of useless language, Blavatsky
We used to play Pyramid, upside down
with a pinochle deck, and endless blue cases
of beer. Played circle of death, the
bicycle cards face down on a stained carpet

The burned down houses, the bartered cigarettes
Blavatsky and a blurry cross
coke and hotel rooms

Now your sons are fatherless, and you haunt their heads
the table where you died some shrine, the pill-dust
in the cracks of the wood. You died , your secret safe
the head full of Blavatsky, of dead fathers
gone into dark, the blurry cross on your arm

Monday, April 2, 2012

2 OF 30 Elegy For Ingrid Elizabeth Deardoff

Your pretty dress is a hammer
knocking against the eyes of God.
The sky is a stone. The tiny ants
go about their blind business.
We have sown you,  seed
in the black soil of home.

Concrete angels feign weeping,
deathless and mute, they cannot curse
plastic flowers bloom and bleach in the sun
the shining cars swarm on the black road

Your name is stitched into our tongues,
it should not be a synonym for grief,
the ink of it in your parent's skins
should be a bird, a song, not coal or fire

you cannot laugh
we have washed your long-legged body,
the song of the saints goes on
how do they praise him for this?
this broken circle, shattered kin
o grinning death you sonofabitch

in the hills, in summer
tiny lights flit in the tall grass,
small stars under the trees

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 OF 30: Elegy For The City Of Detroit

The city, tumulus and cenotaph,
grows meadow-bright in the char of housefires,
the rank and rotten fabric of a child's dress.

The engines are rusting, silent room after room
the last word rings, the phone, unanswered
petroleum plastic fetish.

A mill willed to the devil and his fire.

The books swell with rain, with silverfish
with a swollen tongue of affluence we do not speak:
let them burn.

Let strange gods return to the stones,
Let the hollow galleries ring with vandals,
flowers grow from the midden.

We will drag our plows through the bones of the dead
We will pepare a ruined house for our caller,
the dwarf with blazing eyes and rotten teeth

A flowering tree in the skull of a car
a circle drawn in the dust.