Tuesday, December 1, 2020




Begging Children


Just strangers who barely come up

to her waist,

three children are paid from a coin purse


while her companion pulls her away

with a cursory, “Give money

to one and they’ll all expect some.”


But they don’t have expectations.

Just fleeting smiles, all in the hope that

she’ll remember something about them.



Swamp Buggies


There they go,

six swamp buggies

setting off for a race

to the other side of the mars :


dodging mangroves and floating islands,

six contraptions on high wheels,

driver at the helm,

and a burping engine out back.


In the distance,

folks can see the bubbles

from one sinking in the mud.

Hear the cries of another

taken by a gator.

Or a third, in the clutches

of some renegade Burmese python.

Or they can barely make out

the hunched back of one contestant

wilted from the heat.

Or a fifth wrapped up in reeds.

Or a sixth,

dropping down a big hole,

completely out of sight.


O America,

at home,

your swamp buggies

are drowning

in a quagmire,

while you’re in some

foreign elsewhere

fighting wars.





Our teacher was a disciplinarian, a martinet.

He patrolled the aisles to ensure that every student

was in the correct, upright, attentive position.

He’d make hands on adjustments to both boys and girls.

In his mind, proper poise was 95% of learning.


He had this ruse whereby, when the bell rang,

and we slowly eased ourselves out of chairs,

he would suddenly, in drill sergeant voice,

call us back abruptly to our trained-dog poses.

It was like musical statues.

Only without the music.


He even timed us.

I’m sure, we had the world record,

but it was nothing to be proud of.


“Focus” was the word he drummed into us.

Feet parallel. Flat against the floor.

Ankles pressed together.

Knees at ninety-degree angles

(Even before we could define 90 degrees).

Hands flat on knees.

Backbone as straight as the side of a building.

Chin tucked away

so the head could only look forward.


Talk among ourselves was forbidden of course.

Raised hands were strictly for answers to questions

not requests for bathroom visits.

Even the slight scraping of a chair

stopped the lesson mid-word.


After a year in his class,

we learned the routine perfectly.

It was 95% of what we grasped.

The other 5% was algebra.




How We Integrate


In camp, the mosquitoes lean on our flesh for blood,

the lake for the swish of a canoe,

the ground for the weight of our bodies,

through chilly night, cocooned in blankets,

the moon, for the flap in the tent

where its light moves in a glowing circle.


Our eyes depend on their closing,

the back of our hands, for the heads easing down,

the night for a silence as good as it gets,

the wind for our breath – it can make no other arrangement.



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