Destitute in Eunice

 

In Eunice no trees grow

There are sand hills

And as in Jal and Hobbs mistakes

 

As in Jal and Hobbs families mourn

Where we were five

One says now we are four

 

In Eunice wind shifts sand

But the hills do not leave

Mistakes are made people grieve

 

Where we were five we are four

Where he is we do not know

In Eunice no trees grow

 

 

 

 

River

 

I’d never seen anyone so lovely 

I’d never been so lonely

She was the morning

 

                         ****

 

A person could walk either up or down 

the path

 

She was the sun reflected off the bus 

windows

 

I called it the back path because it was 

behind fenced in yards

 

There was no front path only streets and 

sidewalks

 

There was sunlight warm enough not to 

be wearing a jacket

 

E getting off the bus

 

Long dark hair, white top, skirt

 

I walked to the top of the back path and 

saw E getting off the bus

 

Morning sunlight of students walking to 

school, some with books in their arms

 

She was the corner filling station at River

and Madison 

 

Waiting for the light to turn green

 

If you walked up the back path you walked 

from woods and a river behind it

 

She was the morning star and the light 

shone in her hair as she stopped at the 

curb

 

If you walked down the path you walked 

from River and Madison gradually towards 

the woods and the river

 

E was the center of the morning she was

everything the back path the river behind 

the trees

 

 

Stone Floor

 

In a desert dugout the concrete 

I mix with water

sloshes in a wheelbarrow.

 

It looks like clay with pebbles.

I lay flat stones on dirt.

Far from blacktop

 

and houses with running water,

I think of my friends who recently

held their stillborn son.

 

I slit bags of concrete with a hoe.

Rain has kept the ocotillos green,

with buds of purple and blue.

 

Outside the dugout,

yellow flowers on a hill.

He broke down twice on the phone,

 

another friend said,

yesterday, the day I came here.

Concrete dries my hands.

 

With a soaked rag I wash

the concrete film from stones.

I dip water from a bucket

 

and pour it into the wheelbarrow.

I slit another bag.  Dust rises.

I pour more water.

 

With stones gotten earlier

from a creek-bed intact,

forty percent of the floor done,

 

I drive the five hours home.

 

 

Classrooms

 

1

They come with distractions to divert our attention

From the walls and floor, the open or closed

Door.  Professor X locks the door so if you’re five

Minutes late you can’t get in.  You’re lucky

There’s a window and you can look out

At stables where they keep the thoroughbreds.

The room has tinted windows, a projector, a white board.

If someone spills a grape soda on the carpet

And it stains, that’s a problem.  I once taught

In a classroom with dark wood, windows

That opened on a slope of thick-leafed trees.

Many classrooms have no windows.  You

Tell the students, the first day, we have

Green orange black brown purple markers.  You

Pick one up and write their names on the board.

So when mom or dad asks them what happened today,

They can say, The teacher wrote my name.  

 

2

Stand in the corner, don’t turn around

And face the class, I remember that.   I liked

It when they dimmed the lights for a film

Of a short story—“The Sky Is Gray,”

“The Displaced Person.”  I liked it especially

In the night classes, the room itself

Wrapping me like a warm cloak,

My attention on a peacock in a yard

In the film.

 

3

I was sitting in Miss Enright’s English class

When it came over the speaker: they shot JFK.

We all turned and looked up

To where the sound was coming from.

 

 

The Gradebook

 

The gradebook closes at noon,

Friday, May 21st.  As if the gradebook

were the big book, the life book,

something large enough to walk in

and out of.  The gradebook closes.  

That reminds me of  

“The bar will close at two a.m.”

The bar, the church, the court, 

the big store you walk around in,

up and down aisles for hardware,

linens.  The gradebook gazebo

on the crest of a green hill.  Gradebook,

a cave, a chapel of geologic

formations. The grades are stars

in the cave’s night sky:

A for friend, C for sibling, 

B- for spouse, or for life partner 

(as we’ve been reading in obituaries

recently). Why didn’t you

let your daughter keep the kitten 

when you knew how that would please her,

Mr. Selfish?  Each star in the cave

darkness equals a grade: one for regret,

others for mistakes, for kindness,

forgiveness, acceptance, and deceit.

What grade for being myself?  you asked

your wife, who’d given the kitten

to a young fellow who named it Sky, 

his own workplace nickname 

at the furniture warehouse 

of Hoffman and Koos. 

Warehouse-large or locket-small,

the gradebook is open, and you look

into it.  How am I doing? you ask

and expect a reply from the darkness.

 

 

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