Mark Vogel:Four Poems
Dad saying no more than final
at the over-run frenetic public auction —
we can’t buy Grandma’s apple sauce/warm cookie/
coffee cake museum, for obscure thin-lipped
rules stare, mute, saying clear enough her
clean ordered house, her frozen art,
her trimmed pink spirea, will be
left to drift.
No filed deed for smiling white-haired minutes
before cancers eat hazel from her eyes,
before cell by cell maggoty dehydration shrinks
essence. No holding in check last ugly memories/
dying on the kitchen linoleum with mouth open/
her thin wrinkled arms sprawled in front, reaching.
No more smelling cinnamon sugar coffee cake
coming and coming. No hearing like a prayer
a crafted surety, a brittle voice asking
for a ride to the hair salon.
What was behind the door has slipped
into seams. Instead the observer’s
command: Give it all away.
No, and no, for yes the river dust coats counters.
The oatmeal cookies in the ceramic jar have
disappeared, and already grass creeps over the walk.
We move away, heading north, by order forgetting,
like nothing real ever stays. A sixteen year old
taste of ownership dissolves, another chunk gone,
mixing completely with sunny warmth,
I murdered one of my mute and friendly ducks,
accidentally cutting her nearly in two with
the knobby truck tire in the gravel driveway,
though in stark red and black and white,
no blood gushed. Let it be clear this was no
patterned behavior, more duck-slaughter than murder,
for I didn’t swerve to kill the innocent mother
sleeping in weak winter sun, and I knew
responsibility opening the door to her
extended neck reaching for the sky,
her once whole body now fascinating meat,
neatly split by the oversized tire.
This minor obstacle, this bump in the road,
never to be smoothed. The shocking timeless
death struggle—the inability to look away—
a day-glow absurd thought, almost a prayer,
escaping: Thank you, Goddess of Ducks,
for stark early morning visions,
this wrenching alert,
this gaudy dying drama stamping
colored sin in rusting tin memory.
The expectation of cleanliness
Smelling of chain oil, gasoline, and sweat,
he plods shoe-sliding on leaf strewn dark soil.
The deafening saw is finished spewing dust
down hillsides, and behind him logs lay
horizontal where they have rolled. The struggle
has been mighty to achieve new form.
Learning to be dirty again, he mumbles,
like this is a surprising condition
for a deodorant king at home in the mall.
We strip to t-shirts, because the once right
flannel shirt is clammy, the March breeze smells rich,
moist, a bedroom not hiding just finished sex.
Enough is new this morning, that if we looked
transparent frog eggs would appear in the pond.
Already, without trying, we have exposed
lime young ferns and beetles, and smeared
boundaries beneath disturbed winter leaves.
The gray blanket has been lifted.
A surprising Daniel Boone swagger rises rough,
natural, a choreographed layered insistence,
as molasses humid layers, the ooze of essence,
and rot, escapes from dissected trees.
Without edict, growing time breathes spring,
refusing to remember the rigid freeze.
Saucy air dances in familiar ferment, and we smile
like young fools, all new beard and scruffy hair,
busy admiring our creation.
Living the itch
Outside Knoxville in six a.m. cool,
fog hangs in the hills, the wisps dissolving,
but on the interstate already
the travel machine fires on all cylinders.
This hotel crouching not a hundred feet
from I-40 has lost all innocence.
The ground shakes at the core,
an electric charge fueling snake-like writhing,
away to a thousand pressing needs.
From the balcony in groggy pause, I watch
neighbors smoking and packing, touching
huge vehicles they love—
the shiny exotic, the only truth breathing.
Eager salesmen and vacationers
head into slick pounding just as
thin sun filters through doomed trees.
In a cocky oil-stained corner a caravan
of silver Harleys idles deep and rich,
waiting for riders adjusting the world’s
Soiled carpet is no place to linger
when home two states away promises
less trammeled humor and
dog tails wagging in ecstasy.
Holding watery coffee, the last retreat
inside rented walls can’t diminish
the virus. Before the thin mirror, a stark face
sees hissing herds rushing shoulder to shoulder.
The sun heats a kind of beauty as
exhaust shimmers, a practiced ironic grimace,
since long before dawn Shelby Lynn went
the other way to Nashville.
Like the song says, nothing else to do
but move into the fumes, onward on the
only obvious cracked and