Trying to Sleep
It’s not to practice death, you sop,
hands folded—like a man displayed—
at the waist, below where God blew
the first breath. So pop the soliloquy’s
balloon with a sharpened jawbone,
pop this bubble taut with self-talk.
Self to the self: give up or give
out. Your wife beside you sleeps
the even sleep of a seesaw, weight
and counterweight. In life goes,
and out, air to the chest’s throne.
Her ribs shape not a cage but a fence.
The gate creaks when she leaves
her body behind. She sighs in the field.
Morning’s a far way off.
You’ve gone ahead. She’ll be along.
The Father’s Hand
He claims it could shatter a Masterlock,
crack the hasp clean. But today, unreclined,
father sleeps in stuttered fits, one hand
grinds the naugahyde, and his mind
drifts in dream, how he cracked
his clay after it hardened. What he made
snapped free of the man and plays alone
in the failing day, stomping the last
of the dappled light through cottonwoods,
yellow leaves all turned by blight.
Smoke rises from behind their single-wide
with its warped siding, its lean, cartoon sheets
covering high windows. From inside
the burn barrel: sandbox shovels,
a wooden mallet with a splintered haft,
rags that stink of mineral spirits.
And a doll’s head gone bald, the hair
black plastic that drips down her ruined face.
The shirtless child, that spent lead slug
of a child, dips a stick in the barrel
and draws forth the scorched head,
sets to cooling her, smoothes the cheeks.
Goes back for the shovels and holds
the doll before him like a lantern
at the mouth of a sloping tunnel
that, he knows, soon will be a chute.