Ask My Dad: A Cake a Soap
sit good n
heavy in the
hand, like a
brick a banana
Dove n Coast n
Ivory fluff's so
puffed full a
bar is gone
in a week,
it goes cheap,
but keep in mind
who the poor
slobs are who
dishing out more
for this crap
in the long run,
just the way they
want it, too,
the dirty crooks.
Stolen Groceries: Blackduck, Minnesota 1985
Yes, it was unforgivable
to steal groceries out of the car
of the county commissioner's wife's car.
She looked like a nice lady,
tall, sturdy, wide-hipped,
a woman who could run a tractor
and weed a row of beans in a minute.
But we were running out of propane
to heat the trailer, the girls whining for
commodity cereal or potatoes from the
root cellar. It is cold in the northland
even in April, the muddy season
the month between winter and spring
when nothing grows and the winter supplies
are nearly gone. When I was young, we'd hunt
duck, pheasant, pea hen in those months,
but now you need a license, a freezer,
and a man who can shoot straight.
The commissioner's wife loaded
those brown bags filled with ground chuck,
bananas, and bread into her shiny car.
When she tucked into the post office,
I opened her back seat door, lifted
the heavy bags, and swiped the tissues
off the crocheted doily.
I was starting up my rusted truck when she
ran out, her eyes meeting mine for a slitted flash
as I cranked hard on the steering wheel, foot
to the floor, heading out of town.
The Family Business
Jackie's been here for twenty-five years and he tells me
you get used to it. He says your nose learns to seal itself
when you dive headfirst into an ocean of dust; your eyes
develop nictitating membranes to keep the chemical sprays out;
and your hands...
they will grow their own gloves,
invisible and tough
I've been a janitor for three weeks and I thought I was made of stronger materials.
We play chess in the break room. Jackie
asks me what my favorite piece is.
I say the pawn because, you know, he's the underdog;
the odds are against him. Jackie identifies
with the pawns too, but he, finds nobility
in their sacrifice, he sees beauty
in their simplicity,
in the fact that they're always
Jackie shambles from room to room, moving
half as fast as me but somehow getting twice as much done.
The night shift will mess with your head like that. Jackie smiles,
the saddest face I've ever seen. Sometimes I look at that face and feel
like we are the servants entombed alive with the pharaoh,
polishing someone else's gold while our oxygen runs out,
dutifully preparing a grand feast for a god
who will never be hungry.
But Jackie tells me that there is honor in this.
A good day's work.
An honest living. There is
poetry in this.
But what kind of poetry lives
in a can of orange naturalizer, the liquid
breath of dragons? The mist dissolves
every word creeping up my throat, overwhelms
every idea. They got me wiping my reflection from the glass,
scrubbing the shadows off the walls. They got me
so scared of my alarm clock that I can't fall asleep,
even when my muscles drain out from underneath
my fingernails and my thoughts stream out of my ears,
and I am left with nothing
but two eyes that refuse to close for fear
of what they might see.
Is there really honor in this?
Or is that abstract notion the carrot
they dangle in front of us pawns
to move us across the board?
But Jackie says you can't think about it like that. He says
that without us, the people who live and work in this building
couldn't function, that we keep the gears turning
and that it might not be glamorous
but it's necessary.
And maybe he's right. Maybe
I am just a working class kid who somehow hustled my way into college
and got delusions of grandeur. Maybe
now I'm "too good" to go into the family business:
a hundred generations of janitors
and factory workers
So I suck it up...
and last for two more months.
And on my final day before an uncertain future,
I make a point to shake Jackie's hand, and I say:
"I've been thinking man. I think
the reason pawns can't move backwards is because if they could,
they'd kill their own kings in a heartbeat.
"Instead, we are forced to keep moving, believing
we can get to the other side and become royalty ourselves,
but most likely dying on the way there,
sacrificed for a cause we don't even understand.
I wish you...
"I wish you the best, man.
I wish you horses
the saddest face I've ever seen,
and disappears into his work.
There's something to be said for bankruptcy --
and confession -- the counting down to zero --
the exact Hail Marys -- the clean slate.
To rid oneself of all that's gotten in the way--
clearing the brush so the creek can be heard
as a litter of bells in the deep woods.
Just then the old habits gather around
smoky and lazy as a pile of cats.
Why change what's so familiar and purring?
A broom supplies its own satisfaction --
whispering across the wide-planked floors.
And the mail anticipates happiness each day--
promising a lower rate --a fresh start --
a pause at a quiet café in Thessolonia.
All the dust to be lost in the soft clapping of erasers.
Then --to arrive at the joy of clear water
in the heavy bucket-- the sopping sponge --
this broad stroke of black through all the old words.
bread for my daily
Give us this
Give us this day
Give us this day our daily bread
Mouths to be fed
I feed the multitude with what I got
Words of truth I never stop
Feed your mind and your body will follow
We know this
We harvest the seed
So take notice
Money will never make the world stop
I barter we borrow
Must be a better day tomorrow
Throw the bones
I wait for the oracles
Tree of life
What will the message
How do I survive this strive
I we sacred
Must be song must be music
Who will these branches reach
City is hot summer is closing in
Fellas they rock ladies are posing in
Days come and go again
Urban griots script quotes
Of a city in motion
Mother and child
Down crowded streets
What will their fortunes be
We -- visions of a liberated future
We -- of water and spirit
We --breath of divinity
And I thank god
For love friends family
Seeds of life
And bread for my daily
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