The day before the night before the fourth of July

The day before the night before the fourth of July


Slotted in a window seat over the darkening earth

on the airplane going home

he sees below a town, a dim and delicate grid

not yet lighted


and like an ember dropped on a carpet

he sees the red spark, the fireworks outside the town

straight below

red pinpricks blooming softly up

then sinking back


into the valley hollow pooled in dark.


Earlier that morning he’d stripped the bed,

his brothers’ house the bed where their mother

had slept and on the sheet spots of blood

from her cuts and scabs never healing,

those diabetic pinpricks.


The guest room was still and quiet sheer curtains

Pulled against the early light


The spots of blood not quite

embers not quite


Inventory of skills

Inventory of skills

You know there is a huge
Computerized inventory
Which people update every year
A skills inventory

But all the lists
In the world don’t
Amount to much

What matters is a bunch of guys
In a room deciding who
Should get ahead, and who
Should not

In such a chance-filled world
The great catastrophe
Is wrong place, wrong time

Above all one must learn to
Streamline oneself shamelessly
Wear all the right masks
Learn the vocabularies of discourse
Get to know the right people
Cultivate the subtleties
Of self-promotion

Then sit tight and wait for things
To happen, and hold
Your long knife tightly

We’re not concerned about old Joe
But we are concerned how his
Will reflect on us

What we do when someone fails
Is to put him in a little boat,
Tow him out to sea
And cut the rope.

An important skill:
portray yourself as being decisive.

The Diamond


 The Diamond

She thinks of the house with the stair treads hinged so that beneath each stair the hollow became a storage box for such things as shoe polish, the long can-shaped vacuum cleaner and the gun cleaning kit. There was a gun in the cabinet beside the backdoor.

Remember how precise the backdoor latch was, press the brass thumb paddle and then turn the heavy door knob with the raised rosette filigree and there’d be a very liquid click like the bolt sliding on a rifle. It was a heavy door solid wood and thick with an upper window the glass old with faintly puddled distortions. The door would swing light as a breeze on its hinge.

Outside the smell of air in town was of feedlots, sagebrush, trash burning in a barrel, and then that bright metallic tang, a high shining smell that rose up into her head that tasted and smelled and was tasted on the tongue a taste of brightness and chalk. Or there was the green and bitter smell too of the black walnut trees and their hard pitch-colored fruit that lay scattered in the yard.

And so to the girl stepping out through the heavy door the latch clicking like a gun behind her as she stepped into the shade of the black walnut trees, something was moving and it would always be moving she could at once taste a cleaving on the air, and hear the splitting as it raced on and far away.


There is a whistle

This is a bell. A whistle.

There is a bell. Or a steam whistle and it becomes the thing which directly orders their lives. They wait for its signal and without their signal all they do is wait. They rest in a state of listening. They rest between the signals of the steam whistle. Or the bell. The significance of getting a bigger bell for a growing city. The significance of the signal, that all can hear and all can be called to attention. Called together. We are called together by this steam whistle. And here is a recording of the actual liberty bell. And hear is a recording of the actual steam whistle that signaled from the water front saw mill. The rain came down, never the less the window was open when she tested her tape recorder and you can hear the steam whistle clearly in the background.

This was the bell I was telling you of. It summoned everyone within earshot. It was the thing that bound us together. Our minds are all separated, and then the steam whistle sounds and our minds are all together. We are waiting. We go back to work. The whistle, the bell. The familiar outline of the icon, even the tangent of the bells crack familiar. We love this object because so many have gazed upon it, kissed it, pried a flake from it.

The dead president was laid beside it and a line of mourners three miles long slowly passed by both, looking at both of them that day, bell and man, and the bell absorbs all of this.
If it were to ever ring again all this could be heard in that sound.