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Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011

Burlap

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The dogs dragged home hunks of goat:  rib cage,
jointed shank they played tug-o-war with,
not letting go; a head with shoulder, tendons
dangling twisted, frozen black eyes
like hard struck periods.

Last night, thunderheads erupted, fumaroled
from the horizon.  Lightning boomeranged, tined,
looped into thin, bent wire.  Houses lifted
and turned on their foundations.  Loose barns
collapsed.  Tin cans like hail pelted tulips
and snapdragons, roofs, lodged like rocks
caught in the roots of upturned oaks.
Houses stood untouched.

I want to draw an arc like a shovel’s cut
into dry, stiff soil to connect these things,
but can’t.  The storm changed its path
before it reached me, lost its nerve over the lake.
The petting zoo up the way dumps its die-off,
its stillborn kids in an open pit.

Lilacs clumped with heavy, slow bees that wing,
light.  Windchimes we’d hung from a bough
before she’d left tink in the distance.
After I bury, under crossed cedar and beech
shadows, under screaming crows, this burlap sack –
black plastic wouldn’t let in air and worms –
I’ll just lie on my hammock, watch the bronze
butterflies, the black trunks, the green shadows,
the chicken hawk.  I’ll build a pitted fire
that later draws moths and bats, let the dogs
sleep on the back porch, lay a limestone path
until I can’t see anymore beyond the fading glow.

The Great Bear, Orion’s belt, a dipper handle.
Under a moon wrapped in horse hair clouds,
a jay calls to mark its territory.
Grass scratches my calves, the back of my neck.
Something in the field sounds like an oboe’s held note.
This is the place.
I whistle back.
I cinch closed the night.


John Walser holds a doctorate in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is an associate professor at Marian University in Fond du Lac.  He is a founding member of the Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective.  (www.lakepoets.com)