Three Poems

 

The One Way Sign, Sunk

 

“The wise man built his house upon the rock,

The wise man built his house upon the rock,”

 

The flood flushed the field mice. Some took cover

under passing cars, or up inside

Amateur Photographer’s overshoes. Pictured here:

one mouse towelling with a corduroy cuff.

Another, blind as boot rubber.

 

The mouse at heel

believes in Moses; the mouse on top

in overturning power structures. His teeth

at the plantar fascia dare the boy to move.

 

“The foolish man built his house upon the sand,

the foolish man built his house upon the sand,”

 

Stanfield’s Factory sunk to its

 

QUALITY UNDERWEAR

 

sign. The engines stalled, gunning; brothers scavenge

logs that floated away from the Irvings.

 

The dog gets cruder prizes.

Branch in his mouth, a grin extension.

 

“The rains came down and the floods came up,

the rains came down and the floods came up,”

 

Pictured here: two girls canoeing,

 

ONE WAY

 

sign up to its neck.

 

 

You’re Breaking the Law, You’re Breaking the Law

 

- Raveen is a hypnotist who did live and televised

shows in North America.

 

“I can’t speak to you, but all of my best

memories are in restaurants: in the booth after

we’d all drove down to see the hypnotist,

Lizard face-deep in her tea opining

she hadn’t got called up to get hypnotised.

I’ll probably never see Raveen again in my life,

she says, thoroughly martyred cause she missed

an opportunity to lick a stranger’s stomach hair.

Raveen is probably best enjoyed from afar,

I told her, then doesn’t Bonnie take it into her head

to order ice cream and lap it just the same.

That set us laughing, hard, even Lizard

holds her ribs, fans herself and blurts,

You’re breaking the law, you’re breaking the law!

Then we were all caught up, feeding off

each other with no telling how or when

it’d stop.

 

You’re breaking the law, you’re breaking the law!

Needless to say, that led into the sidesplitter

about James’ famous night of crime. My boy:

eighteen years without a whisper,

then he just about knocks the moon off its nail.

Him and the Barnes’ eldest (and another I half suspect).

Took all my willpower trying to keep a straight face

as the judge took us through the night’s proceedings.

I’ll spare you hearing that whole thing again.

Funniest for me was watching Jamie in the dock,

ears so bright I thought they’d blow.

 

Though I’ve come past the embarrassment in years since, that summer

I swapped out of bakery so I could hide back in meat.

Funny how policy changed, since then – now the whole fridge

is this apple red sirloin, striploin. We’d always kept

chicken livers and the rest in plain sight.

Folks have to ask for their tongue or trotters special wrapped, like,

Psst! Marrow bone! I got a broth habit.

I suspect it’s easier to get crack in town.

 

Not to imply I’m a moral paragon myself. Back when I clerked,

I wore my skirts right up the there. Ha! Thighs

like a pole vaulter, and I wasn’t one bit ignorant

of the attention, let me add: kept a set of keys in my apron,

jingle to draw the eye. Shame I got

one sinister blotch with Jamie, and things so fragile

between me and Dennis, that did us in.

I wasn’t surprised, I knew what sort of thing I was in to,

but you know I think that man disappointed himself.

Six months later, babe at breast, and doesn’t he show up

out of the blue, sheepish, like a boy, clearing his throat,

hefting this microwave. He let on it set him back

seven hundred, a fortune in those days.

Nearest he could come to an apology.

 

And didn’t the blessed thing have wood panel,

here in my kitchen done cream and blue. Blame the last owner.

Country chicken wallpaper, pink ribbon round each throat.

But that microwave functioned better than it looked,

defrosted evenly, popped every kernel, turntable worked

through all Jamie’s babydom until he finished school.

The replacement’s the right colour, but it’s never been as good.

Set a dish of any weight in there, all you hear through the house

is thump—thump—thump—thump.”

 

 

A Windfall’s Wet Yellow Stump

 

That season took what it came for and went.

Firewood stack, picked white in the sun

and a windfall’s wet yellow stump.

They’d jimmied out ten-year sections, powersaw

wrangle. Said, some lucky it didn’t hit the house.

Left this pie of gristle for the axe,

 

hatchet really, and James having out like a boy.

He followed two good cracks with a slug lump, thought,

Funny how much you have to guide the down stroke,

should be nothing, back to ground. Last night he’d

 

walked the back road, guardrail bolted

to creosote posts salvaged from warped ties.

Sickly, honey-stuck brown. A trail for bruised

ankles, hitchhiker’s thumb. What if the police

pulled up. Sir what would you say you’re. Nothing

officer just. Self-sabotage, to script both sides.

 

A fumble when the real lines come. Or follow

where she led into the skanked floodwater,

garbage swell, cigarette butts trying to leaf.

Or that dive. We have to jump at the same time, she said,

I don’t want to see if you get killed.

A near miss as they struck together.

 

Close as the vein in his neck. Wife.

Not on paper. Would have been better

to marry, in case they needed a divorce. James remembered

his mother coaching the car door. Slam, Jamie.

That mushy sound means it’s half-closed.

 

Mush in a forehead. Rings around an eye. Concentric

strew. Afterward the hewn elms

read magazines aloud in apartment bathrooms.

Posture tells. Gaze at the grate in the ceiling,

paint drip white. Fan behind, off-kilter. Hitch

lump it goes. Asking again.