nova November

The leaves reign and the rain slashes fueled by snake wind the cold crawling underneath my fingernails chilling my blood nova November remember her pale body pasted wet with leaves and sieves of dust clockwise the cattails chasing their tales

Playing catch knuckleballing oakleaf divers the road slick as ice

She walks naked through the woods her rustred hair hanging to her waist though she never looks back never utters a prayer never gives thanks and this enflames me fills me and I watch and listen Thomas Hardy coming to mind the woman of the moors lit by peatfire

Stained by berry juice peach juice plum jam

Erica as Eroica the tympani tyranny ping-ping-ping of hearts the rush of breath of breatheless footfalls nova November remember breaststroking the lowering of the body the ringlets the trumpeter swans flying fanfareing along the bluffs the creaking of old trees and men

“kisses sweeter than wine” in my synapses my naps’ constant concupiscent lapses

Ice-coat raincoat seedcoat fecund and sleeping in the earthquake the barred owl: who-who/who-who-who-who the unanswered question twilight whylife and worms for midwives and she is gone without warning dies without warning without notice just gone

nova November remember rustling colors lightfilled blindness and child dreams wept and wet

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Viking Hand

My hand surgeon Dr. Calfee told me today I have “Viking Hand,” a condition where the ligaments leading to the fingers thicken until bumps rise up under the skin of the palm. The bumps tighten along the ligaments and curl one’s hand inward. It’s an inherited condition, widely found in genetic Brits. I am Welsh, mystery solved. Who passed along Viking Hand to me, I do not know, but I have my suspicions.

If Judge Roy Moore had Viking Hand, it might explain his girl groping style. The hands of the afflicted are perfectly curved and suited for junior miss ass grabbing. Macbeth might have had Viking Hand, a new theory of the “out, out damned spot” crowd.

A little internet research has revealed some other aptly-named afflictions. “Mongol Mastoid,” for instance. In ancient times, Mongol invaders celebrated mass slaughter by repeatedly thrusting their spears into their own ears, the lobes of the affected ears growing thick and outward. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has thrusting ears. Mongol Mastoid Syndrome could explain why he met with Russians but didn’t hear them.

“Reichstag Shoulder” is attributed to Germans who inherited their grandfather’s shoulder joint condition, from repeatedly performing the Nazi salute. Certain divisions of the Luftwaffe, in late 1944 when they were out of planes to fly, were documented charging unarmed into advancing Russian positions, killing thousands of Russkies by stiff-arming them. Donald Trump clearly suffers from Reichstag Shoulder.

“Brobdingnagian Beak,” the repeated slamming of a whisky glass into the nose, causing abnormal bone growth and brain damage, can be seen in generations of imbibers. Steve Bannon, for instance, who when he gives a speech has to balance his torso backwards to offset his elephantine nose and can only spout gibberish.

“She’s Got Michele Bachman Eyes.” This is fairly common in Republicans without souls, which explains why the Republican National Convention looked like a scene from “The Walking Dead.”

“Ryan’s Run.” A variation of irritable bowel syndrome, where the sufferer shits out of his mouth. “Mock Turtle Head.” Kentucky’s own turtle-esque Mitch McConnel suffers from this condition, where a human head develops an oversized bony cavern which stores Ryan’s Run.

Finally, there is “Sara Palindrome,” where the demented speaker spouts gibberish while looking across the Bering Strait to see Russia. Example: “Swat God for a janitor; rot in a jar of dog paws.” Translation: We’re bringin’ God back to the working man, and Libtards can rot like the feminazis dogs they are.”

Of course, there is one public person who has Viking Hand, Mongol Mastoid, Reichstag Shoulder, Brobdingnagian Beak, She’s Got Michele Bachman Eyes, Ryan’s Run, Mock Turtle Head and Sara Palindrome, all rolled into one flatulent, beady little body.

The alt-Right Reverend Pat Roberson.

Can I get an Amen?

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Stand By Me

Actress Heather Lind has joined the growing chorus of women coming forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment. Lind, star of “Turn: Washington’s Spies,” said that she was groped from behind and told a dirty joke, by none other than eighty-nine-year-old former president George H. W. Bush, from his wheelchair, at an event promoting the TV show in 2014.

Ms. Lind also claims that President Bush groped her a second time while Barbara Bush rolled her eyes, as if to say “not again.” A Secret Service agent is purported to have advised Ms. Lind to never stand next to the randy ex-president.

(Whether Mr. Bush ever groped Mrs. Bush from behind—in the “bird in the hand is better than two in the, uh, bush” analogy—was not reported.)

Is it ever okay to grab-ass? Miss Manners, in her book, “Up Front About Your Behind,” observed that the only way to avoid having one’s keister kinkily cuckolded is to adapt the old nuns’ “ruler code for dances,” in this case staying at least a yardstick length away from anyone.

I once did a stint as a driving instructor to high school kids. A girl client and I had just sat in the car, me on the passenger’s side filling out paper work. I instructed her to run through her preliminary tasks, adjusting mirrors, checking brakes etc. She promptly leaned across my lap to reach the outside mirror on my side, her yoga-panted middle resting on my middle, said yoga pants slipping just enough to reveal part of her end zone.

My face burned. I mean, it caught fire. I prayed to White Jesus to take me. My panicked mind jumped to tomorrow’s newspaper headline: “Driving Instructor Gropes Girl.” Actually, my panicked hands shot up and groped the car’s ceiling. My panicked voice shook as I sternly told the kid to sit up. She blew a bubble and sat up and adjusted the mirror on her side. I didn’t say another thing. She was oblivious. Thank god George H. W. Bush wasn’t her driving instructor.

Let’s start with President Eisenhower and play, What Future Presidents Copped a Feel? Ike? No way. John Kennedy? Way-way. Lyndon Johnson? Yeah, baby! Tricky Dick grabbing hippie heinie? In his dreams. Gerald Ford? Pardon? Jimmy Carter? Lust in his heart but not in his hands. Ronald Regan? Well. . . George H. W. Bush? Read his lips. Bill Clinton? Give the man a cigar! George W. Bush? Nucular. Barack Obama? No way-way. Donald Trump? Way, baby, way, way across his big brass bed.

Moral of the story: Fathers and mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be White House interns. (Sorry, Willie Nelson.) Advise them never to lay across their driving instructor. Watch out for communion wino Father Maximus in the sacristy with his “knife.” Avoid all people named George, whether uncle, president, personal chef, tax man, tai chi instructor. (Except—there’s always an exception—for my music teacher George H., who stood up to my jerk of a father.)

A woman friend recently told me we’d all be better off if we avoided men. At least she included me in the “we’d.” Now I’m rooting for all men except me to spontaneously combust.

Yeah, baby!

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The Song of Debra

We walked the narrow Michigan country road between rains, the dog straining at her leash to pull us forward, my friend laughing at her frenzied pet.

There was silence filled with words and words filled with silence.

It seemed as though we could touch the low clouds, and there was the constant rumble of thunder in the distance. The grasslands along the woods were ember-colored, a prairie fire of light and dark sky. Stands of forest shook their branches, and tree rain fell, a baby’s rattle morphing into a maraca, the reedy breeze the percussionist.

We passed an aged barn, its boards soaked and stained from rain scars. Two horses watched us from the barn doors. They knew the dog and the woman. We walked to the fence, and the horses came outside and put our hands in their warm mouths, noses noisily sniffing.

This was a painting, I thought, light and shadow that might have made Vincent envious – cloudy, cloudy night, out of the bleeding sunset.

That night, after Debra and the dog had gone home, I sat in her boyfriend’s living room (he was at a wedding in Cincinnati) and listened to the rain fierce the rain soothing the rain ranting at bent trees. Acorns landed on the roof and burst like popcorn.

I sipped scotch. The power went out. The house was a black hole. My bones ached. I groped my way to the dining room. I sat and looked out the window. The black bird feeders black-gold with finches. Tufted titmice. Chickadees singing blues. Redheaded woodpeckers hammering. In the ink, the blackness, the dream light. I sipped scotch.

Outside, Gregg’s stone labyrinth above the pond, a line of possum pilgrims, masked bandits, coyotes praying, a killdeer crying ‘let me Kodak you, baby,’ a disbarred owl seeking penance, and denning, snoring snakes beneath the stones.

Let us prey pray praise posit ponder palliate: The ebony nightlight. The tintinnabulation of bluebells, baby’s tears, baby’s breath. The blackened fish stirred in pond song. The dark matter and the matted mud and the leaf pudding and the dark doesn’t matter and blackness matters.

Soughing black lives of snails, spiders, mosquitoes buzzing ears, beetles, bats, sleeping fox kits, a lagging hummingbird, thoughts, crows looking at baby pictures: matter.

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Yesterday

Yesterday, nuthatches swarmed the bird feeder. The dogwood tree seemed to move like an escalator, birds walking upside down in a row. And there were the visiting birds, perching along the electric wires, migraters at a rest stop.

Yesterday, I walked along the river. The path was strewn with acorns. I could hear fellow walkers and some bikers approach: the crunch of tires on acorns, the crack of acorns underfoot.

Yesterday, a lone man in a john boat piloted eastward, his left arm holding a huge, flapping, Confederate flag on a pole. He stopped the boat every minute or so to stand and wave the obscene flag with both arms. I assumed he was protesting Black Lives Matter, the after-verdict shutdown in St. Louis. How empty must a life be, I thought, that holds up the symbol of a lost cause perpetrated by rich, white southerners who, if they were alive, would have nothing to do with a hardscrabble desperado in a john boat.

Yesterday, a migrating forty-pound snapping turtle stopped at mid-road on Stroke Hill and hissed at me. It was too big and aggressive to pick up and relocate. So, I stood guard and alerted passing cars. Snapping turtles rule their world but not the world of pickup trucks. Finally, I kicked at the old warrior, and it hissed and crossed and disappeared down the bluff.

Yesterday, long strands of white pelican pearls swirled above the islands.

Yesterday, my straight-faced friend Hummingbird Man retold me his annual fall story, that hummingbirds hitch rides on the backs of big birds all the way to Mexico. Belief is a powerful thing. Science hasn’t got a prayer.

Yesterday, dog-eye sulfur butterflies with yellow-green wings undulated on the breeze. If I had to vote on Best Butterfly, I would elect dog-eyes. They come before autumn, gather in large groups in puddles, and flutter in concert, and break tender hearts with their sheer beauty.

Yesterday, my legs burned, my heart beat wildly, my body rained sweat and gnats, my feet became brittle and numb, and still I walked, among orange-hued soybean fields and golden row of cornstalks, above the ribboning Mississippi River. And I saw my younger self in the mirror of my sunglasses: young and strawberry-haired and rusty-bearded and sex-crazed and arrogant and vital and confident and masculine

yesterday.

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Electric Neon Deep Blue

The Genehouse walk today began with but a single step from the house. A splendid Imperial Moth lay, wings extended, in some fallen leaves just below the porch. Its wingspan was three inches across, its coloration mottled yellow and brown. Eyespots dotted its wings.

Giant moths have in common that when they are fully articulated they are the most beautiful creatures to behold, they have but four to five days to live, and one mission, to mate and leave behind the next generation encased in tiny eggs. They don’t even eat, for they won’t live long enough to be hungry.

Like the biblical, mythical Seven Days of Creation, it’s all relative. Imagine, you’re a perfect specimen of a teenager, you spot the most gorgeous boy or girl of the imagination, you mate and mate with abandon for four days, the girls among you lay eggs, and then you die.

I walked through the canopy of shade down Stroke Hill, every step orchestrated by the frenzied music of cicadas. Hummingbird Man, aka Vance, with his long blond ponytail reaching to his butt, was working on a four-wheeler engine in the front yard. Twelve hummingbird feeders hung from windows and a fir tree. For every nectar portal, four or five rubythroats fought to reach the liquid. I stood amidst the feeders, and hummingbirds chattered in my ears and swarmed my face.

“I’ve trapped at least five coons,” Vance said. “They come at four a.m. and climb the tree and try to take the feeders down. I just let them go, upriver. If you know what I mean.”

I walked east along the Mississippi. Great and snowy egrets looked like stilt walkers, plodding along the shoreline of Scotch Jimmy Island. The water was riffled by a cool breeze, and sailboats zigzagged across Alton Lake.

And then I spotted an indigo bunting, flitting along the bluff trees. It was finch-shaped, its body electric neon deep blue. It was spearing insects. A couple of bikers stopped and asked what I was watching, and we all marveled at the sight. Indigo buntings are royalty, related to cardinals. They make bluebirds appear pale, by comparison.

Nearing home, I stopped in at Farmer Orville’s place. He and Quilt Queen were talking Taco Bell. “Or just get anything,” Quilt Queen said. “I don’t care.” “She don’t mean it,” Orville said. “Bring back an exact order, or there will be hell to pay. I am a man who knows where his bread is buttered.” His wife smiled and nodded.

Orville groupies arrived in cars, seeking tomatoes. Country small talk broke out. I saluted my friends and walked home.

Birds and butterflies can break your heart. The beauty, the song. Half of all animal species on earth have gone extinct. We like the show of nature, more than the stewardship it would take to preserve living things. There will always be butterflies. Except, there won’t. Our great-grandchildren may only know butterflies and moths from sketches in books.

But hey, as one friend put it, “Glad I won’t be around to see it.” And your kin? The children? “Well, I hope they figure it out.”

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Send Me No Power

I am powerless—in more ways than one. I drove to my house to soothe the cat. The electric lines were still down, the house was an oven.

I stopped for coffee at the convenience store. The parking lot was full of contract electricians, some all the way from Oklahoma. I walked to a young guy’s truck and tried to make small talk, but he wasn’t having it.

“You don’t deserve air conditioning and power,” the guy said. “I’m working around the clock, and yesterday I took a break and worked my soybeans. And I didn’t have no air conditioning. You people (I thought he meant seniors) think you should get everything. Well, listen up, guy. All the electric grids in the world are going down—only the fittest will survive. I am ready.”

I believed him. He may or may not represent a class of people who call themselves survivalists (white people, dare I say it), but I wasn’t going to probe.

I spent an hour with the cat. She was obviously stressed. A car pulled up, and an electrician, a black man, got out and introduced himself. He was the point man on getting the power restored. I mentioned that a lot of people were stressed out. He had heard an earful already, as had his colleagues. Unfortunately, he also had a few customers who didn’t want to let him in their houses.

“I love my job,” the man said. “I will keep any further opinions to myself. You look familiar. How do I know you?”

I told him I was a writer, most recently about the Tuskegee Airmen. He had been at the ceremony to unveil the memorial to George and Arnold Cisco. He said I was blessed.

And then I drove to Farmer Orville’s house. We sat on the porch, and his wife Quilt Queen offered me more coffee and some Pepperidge Farm cookies. I told them about the two electricians. “What a shame,” Quilt Queen said. “That in 2017 people still hold racist feelings.” She was utterly sincere.

Their neighbor Walt’s giant maple tree had shattered in the Saturday night storm, one long piece of it snapping off and flying like a spear, downing itself just feet from my friends’ kitchen. This turned into a theological discussion. Sure, God tried to kill me; I’m a heathen after all. But He also threw a maple spear at the sacred Missouri Synod Lutheran kitchen, from whence pies and cookies and cobblers emerge.

“Read your Martin Luther,” Orville said. “God don’t choose sides. You are a spectacular sinner, but I am a sinner too.”

True dat.

And since God or god or Universe or universe don’t take sides, we all are being called—to speak against hatred and injustice. To act: not a comforting notion to most people my age, who “don’t worry, be happy,” and want to eat and be merry and dote on their grandchildren, never mind the grandchildren are facing global catastrophe and may have to fight for water.

And if we don’t speak and act, we deserve the survivalists, who—in case you haven’t heard— managed to elect a President of Hate of the United States of America, even if that president is cheerfully throwing them off the bus.

In chaos is joy—if you have a gun.

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We Interrupt This Program

The tanks rolled up to the balcony where I was standing and holding a little girl in my arms. The turrets made an awful racket as they pivoted their guns up and toward the balcony. The girl screamed and clawed at my arm. And then the tanks fired: This was my dream.

I awoke with the cat in the crook of my arm. She was yowling and trying to get away from me. There was a freight train coming at the house, and an explosion, from outside. The cat vanished, and I jumped out of bed and stood under an archway.

I opened the front door and saw wires and cables strewn all over the front yard, the power still on. Rain slashed northeast, and lighting repeatedly flashed to the north, like a lamp light turning on and off. A 20-foot tree limb lay across the wires, at the corner of my study. The car, I thought, the car.

I called 911, and within minutes two firemen pulled up in a pickup truck. They shouted at me to stay inside. They had been making rounds in the storm’s path, Stanka Lane to Stroke Hill and up to the highway. The storm, it seems, took the Genehouse path.

The firemen told me that several house fires were being fought, power lines were down, and thousands of people and homes were without power. They checked my yard by flashlight. My shed roof was punched in. The street light pole next to the shed had snapped, and the wires all fell. My carport was listing toward the house but the car was fine. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE, STAY INSIDE.

So, I had a beer and typed a message on Facebook, and I discovered that friends all over the area were awake, many without power. We had been scorched by 108-degree heat the day before, and we all had looked forward to sleep.

I was dead tired. I lay down, intending to check back in with friends, but I drifted in and out of dream states. At least I was cool. And Scout the cat rejoined me in bed.

And then the power went out. My box fan stopped singing white noise. The storm had passed; there was deadly quiet. I meditated until dawn.

And walked outside, and saw the damage that the tank in my dream had caused. I went back in the house and read the Sunday paper. By 10 a.m. the heat started rolling back in, and steam rose off the tall corn across the highway. The humming birds fed in a frenzy. But there were no insects, squirrels, birds.

The tree that crashed my carport bounced and rolled off to the right onto my shed. Had the carport not been there, in front of my bedroom window, Scout and I might have. . .

I’m fine, staying with a friend down the road, cool. I imagine that a lot of people who live alone are bearing the heat, as they bear life itself and wait.

And wait.

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Cracked Like Me

“What the hell did you think I’d be doin’?” Farmer Orville said, in response to my questioning his sanity because he was weeding blackberry bushes, and the temperature was 102.

My hummingbirds drank two containers of sugar water today. The squirrels lay flat out on the ground, their limbs extended. There were no insects to be seen. The ground was hard and cracked and burnt. The sky was spit-colored, and a metallic perfume of pollution filled the air.

Quilt Queen sat indoors and watched “Ellen.” I handed her my fingernail clippers and she relieved me of cracked and broken nails that I couldn’t handle. She and Orville keep the thermostat over 80. I had showered for the first time in five weeks, and now I was soaked through again.

“There you go, Robert,” the GOP congressman said on NPR. “You said you would interview me about Made in America Week, and now you’re throwing in cracks about Trump and Ivanka—like I know anything about Trump and Ivanka and the stuff they sell.”

“I am done with that Republican Party,” Orville said. “We elected an idiot.

“When I was a kid and it was hot like this on our farm, I would shimmy up to the top of the tallest maple tree, the branches hangin’ over the road. And I had me this really cheap wallet, and I would stuff it with green, edged paper that I had cut to look like money.

“And I would tie that wallet to a long length of fishin’ line, and then I waited for cars to come along. I would dangle that wallet at windshield height, you know, lure in somebody with ‘free’ money. Ever’ once in a while, a car would brake and a driver climb out to grab that wallet, and I would haul it up and make it dance. And people would shake their heads and curse and drive off. And I’d be up in that tree, invisible, and crackin’ up.”

Orville is like an implied character out of a Chekov play: the corrupt gentry holed up in the big house set and existentially suffering, and the unnamed farmer out in yonder cherry orchard, doing the work.

Madame Ranevsky: Without the cherry orchard, my life has no meaning for me, and if it must be sold, then for heaven’s sake sell me too.

Orville: Well, I’ll be weedin’, if you need me.

Madame Ravenesky (to Orville): You want to eat me, don’t you, you want to devour us all.

Orville (cracking up): I prefer a DQ cheeseburger.

Madame Revenesky (watching Orville exit): I knew it.

Orville’s grandson Justin drove up the drive in his pickup. Quilt Queen ran outside to hug and squeeze her two great-grandbabies. She babbled like a brook, and it was Tower of Babel gibberish, like I do with Scout the Cat: you know, ‘widdo wookums’ stuff.

Orville shook his head in amazement. “Tough old woman cracks me up, goin’ bonkers with them babies.”

Fingernails clipped and with a bagful of ripe, homegrown tomatoes, I walked home.

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Daddy’s Girl

For once, I’m on President Trump’s side. I mean, I don’t know of a dad who hasn’t been photographed putting his hands on his daughter’s rump, or sat his teenage daughter on his lap and put his arm across her bosom. Or thought about dating his vixen child because, man she is hot! Or sat on a bed with his daughter while he’s on the phone, and she is kissing him! Oh, that randy Don!

“A man told me he masturbated whilst thinking about me, which is gross. What made it worse was he was my dad.”

Was that quote from A. Cray-cray Sara Palin? B. Bible babble-booster Michelle Bachman? C. Ivanka Trump-tramp?

Did you guess: A.? Sara is a primal jerk, but not a jerkoff. B.? Remember that evangelical axiom, that you’d go blind if you masturbated? Have you looked in Michelle’s eyes?

The answer is C. Ivanka Trump.

Before you get all “Scarlett Letter” on me, remember that “Oedipus Rex” is about mommies and sons, not daddies and daughters. Daughters are “sugar and spice, and everything nice,” so what’s wrong with getting a little loving? Lighten up, Puritan! There is no concupiscence when dads do it.

The Trump family has gone through a lot, but so would you if your family was composed of: a racist, mobbed-up grandpa; a mentally ill, mobbed-up father; an illegal alien mother, two sons who shoot elephants for fun; and enough boob jobs to support a college of plastic surgeons.

If Trump wasn’t President, we’d probably ignore the family. Unless he reneged on paying us for services, or stole from his own charity, or hung out with a convicted child molester. Oh, wait, President Trump DID do those things, that rapscallion!

No wonder the Evangelicals say things like:

“I believe God has answered and I believe He has put Trump in office because the Bible says that God puts the leaders in charge. He can put bad leaders in charge and he can put good leaders in charge. He has put Mr. Trump in charge.” Anne Graham, coo-coo daughter of Billy.

“This is not Trump’s agenda, this is heaven’s agenda.” Jim Bakker, convicted felon and evangelist.

So: God put Ivanka on daddy’s lap? So: God so loved his sexy girls that He gathered the tweens and the teens and sat them on His eternal lap?

God the father, God the son, God the holy perv.

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