Hunting the Cotaco Creek
His hand in hold so trigger tight its blood
believes in ghosts. It clings with finger set
on steel and waits inside a dream of ducks.
The twilight burns into a rising arc
of eastern sky as sun reveals herself
too proud and instantly receives full-face
a splash of mallard flock. A shotgun blasts
the yellow into streaming pinks and gives
the creek its new-day taste of echoed blood.
Two green head ghosts fly through the pulse of dawn
upon a trigger’s touch. The creek empties
of sound. In silence human fingers find
wet feet of web and carry in each hand
a bird whose only cry comes in color.
The Bass Fisherman
He was the silent type, the mute scholar
reading the sky instead of his books,
wasting no words above the still waters,
searching instead for shades of detail,
for the sharp, deep shadows of silver,
for the subtle moves that only seers see.
He was the careful type, the peaceful brave
wrapping his weapon with string, down
and prayer, warming his sight with colors
of sunset, waiting for sunrise to show him
the way, watching the depth of each cloud
that floated on the lake of his eyes.
He was the simple type, the timeless boy
flipping and testing his first flying rod,
urging it on past limits of hand and arm
to the other side of vision and dreams,
using all of that first moment to cast
the perfect balance of boy and boat.
He was the cautious type, the prize bass
with the broken hook still in his mouth,
staring up at the lake’s final surface of man,
following the drag of the feather’s taunt,
waiting, waiting, learning at last
the only reward of patience, is patience.
The Alabama Wiregrassers
Dry-rooted in penny coated clay,
the wiregrassers come
suntan tamed in drawl
through the mire faster.
Machetes high-aimed for home,
they carry the clues of day
across their open, flying clothes.
Blade for blade,
steel for grass,
they flog the wire
with a hungry denim run.
Black shin hair stares
boar-bristled red out
from rips of hinged-tight jeans.
Tobacco spittin’ voices
seep coarse through gapped teeth
like hot wax from upside-down brown candles.
An evening shadow sinks itself
in the open field,
closing it for night.
The copper cold dust
from spun home trucks
relaxes into dew
and paints itself across the wiregrass
that sleeps in rust
beneath a hush of moon.
The Bowman’s Hand
“A fifteen-year-old athlete died of cardiac arrest
from a high school friend’s punch in the chest
during a classroom ‘cuss game’ popular with students.
Witnesses said he complimented his opponent
on the ‘good hit,’ then died.”
The Birmingham News
The game over, the target rests on the ground;
but the heavy hand of the standing boy
will carry the weight of this dark moment
into the bull’s-eye of memory, into the
corners of every swollen night.
This is the hand that will open and close
too many times before it sleeps,
before it catches that first star,
shines it bright within its praying palm,
puts it back into the black heaven of boyhood.
This is the hand that will shade the eyes
that study the sky for a cloudless past,
the hand that will grip and hold
the burning weight of growing old.
This is the hand that will not rest in peace,
that will not heal the broken arrow,
that will not lose its quiver;
the hand that will shake inside
the hand of too many smiling strangers.
This is the hand that will caress a sleeping son
named after his father’s brave young friend,
after the one untouched by time,
untouched by the sharpness of age,
by the point of a pointless game.
When Howard Became Jesus
No one in the huddle laughed
when Howard said he was Jesus,
that if we did not believe him
we were all sinners doomed to hell.
The next play was a hand-off to Howard.
Everyone, even our team, piled on,
grabbing for Howard, for the ball,
for the chance to cling to something solid.
When our boyhood heap had finally become still,
a pointed shadow drew our eyes way down the field
and there against the goal post leaned Howard,
the warm ball in his arms like a baby,
his eyes round and deep like the barrels of a gun.
Walking home, everyone was silent but Howard.
He said he had wanted to tell us about it before,
but was not sure we were ready to listen,
not sure we were ready to believe.
He said for the last year and a half
as he lay each night on his back,
his arms stretched out in a cross,
his feet so neatly together,
he was sure he had been chosen to lead us
in the path of righteousness for his namesake.
He said it was not luck that he had aced every test,
that the bookcase and birdhouse he built in shop class
won ribbons at the county fair.
He said that was just his way of being Jesus,
that we must learn to trust his perfect ways
and regard his saintly airs with adulation.
But we walked on in silence, each new step
so tight and full of fear we could not breathe,
could not break away and run on home alone.
At his house we stopped and watched him enter,
his eyes releasing us at last behind the door.
That night beside our beds we fell to prayer
and prayed that all that afternoon was just a dream,
that we would wake up in the morning and find Howard
in the huddle telling lies just like before.
The All-State boy from Alabama
faked, leaped, drifted, and shot
for the New England coach
and his dollar cigar.
A scholarship, apartment, new car,
and a name rode on his mid-air act.
But the ball and the boy were buddies,
and again his try was good.
Without missing a beat,
he took the one-bounce rebound,
spun into a lay-up, grabbed it
coming through the strings,
raced low to the opposite court,
faked, leaped, drifted, and shot.
Again the strings played his song.
On a silent count of three,
the one-man audience
pulled the unpuffed cigar from his mouth,
his silver-dollar eyes
already on the championship.
“Where’d ja learn that stuff?”
The All-State boy from Alabama
spun, dipped, jumped, and said,
Through the boy’s thick drawl
and the gym’s hollow acoustics,
the coach misheard it as “I’ze cool.”
Pale, he called the boy, “boy,”
preceded it with “hey,”
and followed it up with
We were different when we returned to earth.
Too alone in our fall to forget,
we lost all trust in the touch of gentle hands.
The dropped baby in us grew.
We listened too long to a thinner wind,
climbed too close to a hollow sun,
stood one by one in the cockpit’s open door,
left our mothered souls in the fading steel
of a Cessna’s shaking belly,
stepped into a handless world,
stretched the corners of our eyes until they spit,
watched an anvil earth fly up at us,
took our own umbilical cord in hand and ripped,
and fell like frightened spiders
who spin our frantic silk that clings to only air.
Our jarred bodies lay on a sudden fist of clay,
unwound themselves with web and line
and carried the dead fish in our feet
away to dreams of distant seas.