I am the garden. My stone walls
Curve around this hollow
Aside that rocky hill.
After winter’s fallow
My olive trees
Carpet me in yellow and white.
You watched alone that night
Weeping in my bower.
I watched your friends flee
But could not follow.
I’m watching still
In my hillside shallow
My olives growing tall.
Watered by your tears,
They’ll grow for a thousand years.
I broke branches for him
Snagged my cloak on thorns
Held the magic door open a moment too long
So he could enter
So he could follow
Did you hear something? I asked
In the copper wood
My sisters heard only music
Who’s there? I asked
Daring him show his face
To the silver moon
He stayed in shadow
When the dancing was done
The golden boughs dripped dew
Our slippers dripped blood
My tiny boat dragged
Heavy with the weight of him
I trailed my fingers in that cold water
Watched behind as he crossed my ripples
With silent eddies of his own
He married my older sister in the end
Men want what they always want
Even that poor soldier
Stepping on my gown
Spilling leaves in my cup
He looks just like an opossum, startled by headlights,
His pink nose and beady brown eyes
Crowned with reflective silvering hair.
You can imagine him heading out to a party,
Lips smacking as he wanders in search of a mate.
When an opossum plays possum,
When a teenager drinks too much beer,
His lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared,
Saliva forms around the mouth.
There’s a foul smell we won’t discuss.
His eyes close or half-close, involuntarily.
Once he passes out, the stiff form
Can be prodded and turned over, or even carried away.
The animal, or the college freshman,
Will typically regain consciousness
After a period of a few minutes up to four hours,
A process that begins with a slight
Twitching of the ears, and ends
With a Supreme Court nomination.
The black rock presses back against the sea.
Waves crash against its back, spit through its cracks.
Let us astonish ourselves, let us leap,
Blind to convention, out among those deep
Waters, waves parting as we arc faster,
Hands outstretched, fingers gripping until we
Cover our own heads, astonished, blinded
By salt foam, water swallows our faces.
Blind, we grope towards each other, lost in deep
Waters. Nothing holds here, nothing can keep
Its old shape. Let the undertow draw us
Under, deeper, leaving no trail behind
Us, airless, lost to black rock and the sea.
Laughing, we leap backwards, spitting out salt.
I am a good shepherd! I’ve worked my
Whole life for everything I’ve got.
I lie down in green pastures
I fish in quiet waters
I go to church whenever my soul wants refreshing.
My momma led me in the right paths,
I carry my father’s name.
Mostly I keep out of dark
Valleys, but if I have to go in,
I’m thankful for my concealed carry permit,
And my right to own an AR-15.
I will fear no evil,
For I can take care of myself pretty well.
I like old hymns and country music,
Comfort food for a tired soul.
My wife sets the table
If she gets a good shift at Walmart
And makes it home before I do.
Otherwise I set it myself.
We all work there now, it’s the
Only place left that’s still hiring.
I can change my own oil.
I don’t drink too much.
But I still have a shorter lifespan
Than my old man did.
I just want to live and die
In my own damn house,
With my own damn guns,
And my own damn dog.
Is that too much to ask?
Our Father, which art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Second Amendment.
Hallowed be the First one, too, which
Confirms our Right to worship Thee
Howsoever we darn well please.
Don’t fret too much about thy Kingdom,
We will usher that in on thy behalf.
We’ll enforce thy will on Earth;
You keep doing your thing in Heaven
(I think we’re all good with that).
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our occasional misgivings,
As we work against all those
Who mistakenly work against Thee.
Lead us not into weakness or sentimentality,
But deliver us from Lefties, Pinkos,
Transgenders, Queers, Greens,
Any and all gun-control advocates, and
Above all, from Hillary Clinton.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the
Power, and the Glory that you have
Given us, forever and ever,
An orange, cut in neat slices across the grain,
Sits on the cutting board,
Ready for teeth and tongue.
It’s a messy proposition, vibrant, advertising
Sour sweetness on the plate, in the scented air.
My mother loves oranges.
In childhood, she had nothing.
Family of nine living in a defunct service station
Just outside her Colorado town.
Hard-packed dirt floor,
Stained-glass kitchen window
Pieced together from ends of beer bottles
Scavenged from the roadside,
Set in a wall built of oil cans
Packed with sand against rain and wind and snow.
She tells of fixing the chimney in a blizzard,
Her dad coughing below, coughing, coughing
As lead dust from the munitions factory
Seeps from his lungs into blood and brain.
War work, for a man too old to fight.
Mom taught me to peel oranges
With straight shallow cuts, stem to navel,
Pulling the peels off in strips like bright orange canoes,
Or cutting round and round, a corkscrew spiral.
Throw it over your shoulder
For the letter of a name
Of the man you will marry,
P for Peter, G for Garland.
Everything she had was a hand-me-down.
Clothes, books, whooping cough.
Her father’s faith.
Only the orthopedic shoes were hers alone.
Heavy, ugly, wear them every day
Or grow up a cripple.
I thought she grew up in Little House on the Prairie,
Not the 1950’s we used to watch on tv.
Other girls had poodle skirts, saddle shoes,
Boyfriends with cars.
My mother had oranges.
Golden, ripe, sunshine in a box at Christmas
From her California grandmother.
She still eats one every day.
Or two, if she’s forgotten the one
She already had this morning.
She was raised to be tidy, so even the peels
Don’t give her away.
Only the sweet mist of orange zest
In air scented with memory.
“The Problem with Progressives” by Sharon Rauenzahn
The problem with progressives, my husband said
Walking into the kitchen while I cooked
The problem with progressives, he said, is that
Don’t say it, I thought
Just don’t say it
Let it be unsaid
Don’t say we aren’t incremental enough
That we try to fix everything at once
That we are too pessimistic about people’s abilities
That we are too optimistic about government
Don’t say what you are thinking
That we let identity drive too much policy
That we have no sense of unity
That we want too much and understand too little
Just don’t say
What I know you are thinking
Married seventeen years, I can read your mind
The problem with progressives, my husband says
Pulling off his glasses, rubbing his eyes
He looks tired
I hope he likes this tofu curry
I’ve never made it before
I hope he doesn’t say
The problem with progressives, he says, is that
When you look at one thing with them
Everything else around it
Goes out of focus
I wish I’d gotten bi-focals instead, he says
I should have known he’d say that
That smells really good, he says
Is that tofu?
I wish I’d gotten the bi-focals, he said
When you jump out of a
Your stomach rises as you do
As the sand
Hanging below you
Then rushing up
Slow at first
If you’ve jumped high enough
Out over the playground
Higher than houses
Then you come down hard
Swallowing your feet
Pressing up into your bent knees
Pulling your hands and face
Down into the sun-heated grit
Getting up again
Laughing the sand
Out of your
Dusting the sand off your
Getting old is like that
Stomach not quite under control
The land rushing up
Slow at first
Not laughing so much now
As you cough the
Out of your mouth
Getting harder to stand back up
From the dust
Swallowing your feet