The August sun starts in against the
And rugged Kansas grain.
The rented Dodge whines on through
heat so candid
It puts last year, its palmy days of
And cloudy rhetoric,
Flatly in the shade. The very air
Above the pavement wilts, yet feed
In ranks of tasseled scarecrows
So tall a boy could lose his way in
The posted fields shoot past, glaring
Flashing close shaves, cheap rooms,
The shrike’s barbed-wire kabob of bug
Poor, starchy soul, this dry plain
seems to say,
Of souks, casinos, elevating tells,
There are certain states that you
Yourself not up but back
Down into. Like the first. Stop
here, dig in,
Study the disc, the sprouting stump,
And all of those old saws.
Acknowledge the corn: you’ve been
No root, no fruit. So come on down
Maybe you’ll spring up yet,
Giving as good as you are bound to
Fire in All Things
A TABLE OF
Your wife, who polished verse,
Was duty-bound to quarrel
With much that we’d rehearse
For you at the corner billiard
The homespun language,
And where to put the accents
For English and massé,
And how to break loose racks,
And cut, and kiss, and bridge.
You never could insist
That we play for small change
But hated to see us risk
Before we’d learned to hold
Our own with hustlers
Whom you’d have shot blindfold.
Now, shuffling through a haze
Denser than that in Scotty’s
Those hot, long Saturdays
You worry you’ve forgotten
There by your river,
Colors carom from bank
To bank across
The fading felt, the rankest
Double-cross, you play
Again. You’re under the gun
Again and bound to stay,
As always, till you’ve won—
Or followed though
On one last stroke and seen
That the sun has spun
Home under darkening green.
From The Fire in All THings
Now LeRoy on the kill room floor
Was almost larger than life.
Mondays the green fatigues he wore
Had creases sharp as the knife
That was his very bread and butter,
And his face was hand-carved ebony.
For the days the new boy with the
Stayed out of LeRoy’s way.
Later that summer he learned to tell
(After LeRoy had his fun)
A skinned pizzle from a skinned tail
And not to grind the one
Into the dogfood mix he’d pour
In boxes, freeze in lots.
He’d scoop up cheeks, sweet and sour
As rotting apricots,
And fill each barrel till it weighed
200 pounds and more.
The elevator rope had frayed
So many years before
He couldn’t look up as he let
His load down 20 feet.
LeRoy laughed to see him sweat
And went on boning meat.
Across the street, at The Blue Moon,
He flashed a friend’s draft card
And drank one tall red beer each
The barmaid made it hard
(He would have said he had “a heart
But he’d punch in on time,
Hose the concrete down, then start on
The tripe, slick with chyme.
He marveled at the huge pink lungs
(“They’s soft as a big gal’s
That he hung up with hearts and
On hooks in chilling lockers.
He learned it paid to be precise.
Learned an esophagus
Was really easier to slice
Than greasy radiator hose.
LeRoy owned he’d eaten dogfood.
The kid swore he would last
Till school began. The pay was good.
“The rules are hard and fast,”
LeRoy’d sigh. “But they’s the only
Ones,” he’d wink and grin.
“Whatcha do when you get lonely?”
Before the days drew in
He met a girl, wheatshocking blonde.
On weekend nights they drove
Out Sweetbriar Lane and by the pond
Made love, like mad, made love.
Fire in All Things
All poetry on this page
Copyright © by
Stephen Yenser, 2011