A White Russian Christmas

I know, when I see the white cattle egrets
tending the late December fields,
grazing like guinea fowl, gyring like gulls.

I know, when the rains drive straight across,
rinsing blood from the memories,
drenching the log where I cut back thorns
to sit and watch the birds and rains.

Behind the cattle egrets, red broad cows
stand down the horizon,
russet frames for miniatures
of empty portraits in the sky.

Portraits as troubling and graciously vague
as those of long-dead grandsons made
on future daughters by drunken soldiers
killed before next payday.

I know, but know a little rinsing
will irritate me more than cure:
the welcome of an opened door
spoiled by anxious questions.

The red cows turn their horns toward me.
Thorns fragile enough to break
on my finger’s bone, but not before,
slash back at my knife and hand.

– – + + + – – –

I let myself inside the field.
The grass, felt-pressed by sheep,
springs up around my ancient boots
mimicking marches I remember.

Marches like those being made
in Grozny on this Boxing Day
where the only wholly silence is
that of the usually vocal West.

The evil empire bombs soldiers
drunk on ‘kill the infidel,’
a draught drunk in our daughters’ blood
for so many aeons that we are glad

when an empire somewhere draws the line,
then bombs those transfixed on that line flat.
Recording both sides’ transgressions,
gods wish each side good genocide.

I walk the fields the sheep have grazed
and clean my boots in welcome rain.
I thank the gods for Gore-Tex
and pretend to hunt the cattle egrets.

Somethings

The peroxide-blonde possum looks alien strange
but she says with the passing of the seasons she’ll change
into something, into something we know of.

She grins like a fool and wears styrofoam horns
that she picked from the litter thrown down from a dorm
like they’re something, a valuable something.

She climbs down the locust tree avoiding the thorns
and follows me home watching out for loose dogs
that hunt something, and to them she’s a something.

I put a bowl down on my porch and we share my Mac meal.
She eats like a starveling with tales to conceal
about something, a frightening something.

I ask her no questions, she tells me no lies.
I give her the rest of my milkshake and half of my fries
and we’re onto something, a companionable something.

I sit in the rocker. She sits under the swing
and we talk without words if that makes any sense
about something, a valuable something.

Then she leaves in a flash of upended blonde fur
and somewhere I guess she is half up in a tree
waiting for something, an I-don’t-know something.

Unidentified Visitor

He had a scents-of-porpoise air about him,
not fishy, really, more at like detention
halls at schools that did not have a gym.
His walk was awkward, as if he was wrenching
his way through water known for salt retention.
A Dead Sea dolphin that had been seconded
to shore duty to dry out? The last enthroned id
from Freudian literature? That would be strange.
Stranger far is why we’d left the throne lid
up, and let him loose to stride our home range.

First Autumn Days

Once upon a time, back when I thought ‘muscat’ was what lived in the river behind the fields behind the house, there was a future that beckoned as only futures can. This particular future was mine, and I looked forward to it. Analysis would come later, with growing up and marrying and a vengeance. Now there was just the future.

The present, I got that for my birthday, didn’t fit anymore. Someone close had died and I thought it was my fault though it happened far away. I didn’t, really. Think about it. But I knew.

The sun shone anyway and right way through the forest edge where we kept losing the ball. The larger dog always found the ball and brought it back, sometimes days later, always wet. The sun burned the dew from the weeds and in April and September, sometimes October, we would tie our sweaters around our waists and go looking for nuts and birds and animals. We found muscat tracks in the mud, and travels and futures in all the house’s books, futures written so they flew past every time we looked in: Defoe, Carroll, Dickens; Dumas, Voltaire, Anna Sewell (lady authors had first names). Forests and books full of black bears seldom seen.

I met China, a missionary lady from there who came to visit one of my aunts, and didn’t think to ask her which part. ‘China’ was enough to know. Still is, although I’m conditioned now to think I should think it shouldn’t be.

I thought that I learned early that real life wouldn’t teach me much. That’s what I thought it taught me until real life intruded. Burst in. The beauty I found and find every day comes from nature itself and also as distilled into books and paintings and music. We are the distillers, we think.

We are the distillers, we think. We wonder why it is not ‘sometimes’ but ‘every time’ and think that’s thought. Like others, I turn my ‘thoughts’ to provenance and teleology, and, like them, achieve nothing that affects berries, birds, animals, or China; achieve only long tortuous sentences. Maybe China is affected, but where in China?

The stillness of Jeanne d’Arc as she lies in Rouen. That’s a future. They burned her. I know that. Usually I don’t think to ask who burned her. ‘They’ is enough to know. They used up their futures. A cloud of meaty smoke.

When the wind comes down from Normandy and the leaves turn tail and it’s impossible even for the larger dog to find the wet ball, we jump into our sweaters and think of futures in which we migrate to places we would sweat in our jumpers. Endless sand beaches occupy us but not really, considering how triste the tourists look doing the Sanibel shuffle in perfect weather all the daze of their unoccupied lives. They don’t think about it, but they know.

We turn our faces to the autumn wind. We sing of futures, and wonder why mayonnaise here, unlike back when, leaves an aftertaste that muscatel only dissipates, not kills.

Tale of the Gorgon Morgan Zola

Of course there are naked ladies in the garden.
The gorgon guards them as he has half the summer.
And we, sighting them, bicycle by as if,
if we keep our eyes averted, he will harden
till his menace, veiled, a cryptic, scary mummer,
gets mooted, and – the way icicles stiff
with frost will fracture when struck from the side –
then we pop him with our handlebars and ride
unscathed through the garden gates and, once inside,
acquaint ourselves at leisure with the ladies.
We listen, as the prettiest and the smallest
of them (she’s pleased we ogle her) explains
the rules – which are, when each of us has made his
peace, the one of us left standing tallest
may banish all the others to the plains
where they’ll monkey round to grind the gypsy organ
while he, new Zola, like the pirate Morgan
gets crowned the garden’s statutory gorgon.

P.S. It is sexist to depict the hideous gorgon
as usually or especially a female.
The reigning Morgan Zola’s from Glamorgan
and’s for a male a very hot tamale

Story Times

We don’t want facts and thought. We want a story
we believe in and can use to justify our killing
the planet while imagining we are safe.

Here’s one candidate story: soon the elite will live on Mars
and we will be among that proud elite.
(Fantasies compounded must come true.)

Here’s one candidate story: we are successfully inventing
ways to vaporise the poor and breathe the air
this releases to live forever and to fly.

Ulla

Blonde Ulla’s left her heart in Kristiansund
with school photographs in Helen’s husband’s file
under a lock he clipped one evening when she’d swooned.
She’s left the harbour lights that glare for miles
at the cheeky deep-sea vessels that they’ve mooned
since oil was found offshore. Her mother smiles
when she reads Ulla’s letters from a part
of Europe far away. Poor Ulla’s heart.

Ulla’s other parts take her to the Costa Blanca
and are themselves too much, her rivals pout.
Her brain is sharper than a custom Tonka
toy car with fins flint-sharp enough to rout
competitors. And, socially, to plonk a
leg near hers makes other girls lose out.
They’ve been men who loved her till death did them part.
There are men and women left who want her heart.

Blonde Ulla works the coast line from Valencia
to Alicante, helping automate
shoe factories and banks, intelligentsia,
and anything with cash. Her systems rate
with world leaders who experience agnosia
to all else when she speaks, and she is great
at language, and assisting in downsizing,
and, being heartless helps, ‘reorganising.’

This week finds Ulla at her own convention,
one she’s dreamed up, promoted, and now chairs.
Its theme is expert systems for prevention
of further global warming. Miguel stares
when she (he’d thought her mindless) says, ‘Encryption
of our source code guarantees, for those who dare,
they’ll own the only axe that saves the wood,
and do extremely well from doing good.’

Miguel (his English mother calls him Michael)
stares on as Ulla finishes. His trance
continues until Whap! he sees the mike’ll
give him a way to meet her. ‘Grab the chance,’
his heart berates his head, ‘Quick, on your cycle.
Think up a line to make her want to dance,
then pedal like a shaman to her side
and set your grin on Honest/Open/Wide.’

‘Your majesty,’ young brain-stunned Micky mumbles,
then, growing up, speaks on in dulcet tones,
‘Ms. Chair, excuse me, but the share price tumbles
at times like this. I feel it in my bones
that your mike’s bugged, and when the crumpet crumbles…
Excuse me, I mean criminals wire phones.
Don’t say another secret! Take the stairs
up to the ballroom, join the Astaires.’

Ulla watches Micky while she’s thinking
every Windows conference has its mouse.
But, as she notes the way his ego’s shrinking,
her inner id speaks up: ‘Don’t be a louse.
Perhaps he’s an investor, one for drinking
with and learning secrets from. Your house
of hard and software would be so much rubble
if you didn’t mix its brick with field-trial stubble.’

Miguel, who’s rich because he’s good at getting
the message while he cannot understand
the language, grins as he picks up the letting
go, the coming down, of Ulla’s band
of usually-up defences. ‘I’m forgetting
my manners and convention. Is your husband
not here? You’re single?’ He’s on cruise control
as he leads her softly to the spiked punch bowl.

Ulla, while she is not one to wallow
with anybody, customer or not,
has perfect legs that secretly are hollow.
They let her drink opponents on their twat
s. ‘You’re on, amigo. There is no Valhalla
for Vikings if they die not drinking rot.’
She drains a pint and with no backward glance
lets Micky catch her up. They start to dance…

She feels that sex, like film, the church, and fiction,
depends on skills suspending disbelief,
and she fantasises love should guide one’s friction.
Were her partner not in love, he’d be a thief
who would not miss her heart. She loves his diction
but dreams of tangos. Dancing was the chief
reason that she let him in her bower
before they’d known each other for an hour.

She wakes, amazed to see him watch her eyes
as were she sheeted, or he sought a sign.
She showers, strides the terrace while she dries.
‘If I weren’t Viking I’d not blame the wine.
I’d think his sounds not whistling snores but sighs.’
Miguel regards her, thinking she’s divine.
He sees her as an angel from above
and falls, his first time ever, into love.