mini chapbook

JD Whitney

MY

  mother said
I was a gift
from crows
           because
she fed them.
My father
          said
why not.
Crows
      brought them
many trinkets.
My parents
           raised me
fine
     until
I learned to fly.              
                  Then
they wanted crows
to take me back.
They did
         but
not until
their other gifts
                  were
all returned.
It’s
     good to be
back.
You
    couldn’t
spot me if you tried.


 
THE GIFT

when the tv has been turned off
and the news
             slowly sinks
into the dark throat of the screen
then it is time for all parents
to call their gentle
                     musical children
into the livingroom
to sit at their feet
in a circle of wonder around them

it will be quiet
                 the tension of
tongues must not be broken
as the parents undress
before the softly puzzled eyes
of their children
who will be held
                 briefly
and for the last time
in that first clear moment of necessity

first the father will
part their mother’s hair
and make a swift incision
from the bridge of her nose
straight up 
            back
over the head
              and down
to the nape of her neck
as
   taking the instrument
from his trembling hands
she parts
          his
hair

and then the two will stand facing
hands on each
              other’s heads
both
     grasping the flaps
of skin
and hair
and with a terrible pull down to the feet
the heaps of wet skin
                      slowly folding into themselves
they will step out
                   red
as the low sun
sinking
        far beyond
stunned children
more pure
          than gratitude.

 


NEW

     drapes
she sd
drapes.
        Nah
he sd I want
boat.
      But
look
     how the
couch
fades
      she
sd if you still
love
     me
drapes.
        Yeah
he sd
      things
do fade
        he sd
boat.


ECSTASY

        ain’t
all it’s
cracked
        she
sd up to be.
Not even a
           near
he
sd miss?
Miles
      she
sd to
go before I
sleep.
       Let
he sd me
help.
Some
     she sd
things
       I
have to
do for my
self &
       this
is one of them.

 

   appeal
she
    sd
to you.
Not  
    half so
much
     he
sd any
-more.
       &
yr not
       half
she sd the
man
     you
used to
be
    she
sd either.
Oh
    he sd
yes I am.


 
IN HIS PLACE HAS COME COLD 

                           children.
Your father is
gone and his
             blanket
with him.
I must leave you alone
until
      morning.
So she went through the night in her
skin in the
            wind
walking.
Air
spread for her
               parting
each step in front of her
leading her body beyond her.
Turning she
             turned to the sea
where the sea lay still
where she lay with her
legs spread
            wide
to the sea.
Sand
held her.
          And the sea came the
water came
           ocean slid
into her.
          Song that she
sang.
And she slept.
As the sun rose she wept as she 
rose 
     as she
gathered the fires
                    in her hair
as she gathered them
gathered them
gathered them
gathered them home.


 
YEAH

      we had
shoes
      my
sister & me but
just
     good ones for
church & school
                so
we’d go outside
barefoot
spring mornings
&
  our feet would get
SO COLD
        we’d
step in piles
              of
fresh
cow poop
         to
warm our feet
up
   but
I mean
       just the ones
from OUR cows
              not
the neighbors’.


 
GRANDMOTHER

            lets
some birds wear
duck suits
because
        they
like to
look like
ducks
      even
if they are.
Under
      those
fake duck feet
hide
duckfeet.
          Behind
each duck
mask
     is
Duck.
Pretending.


 
GRANDMOTHER

             knows
how crows
always liked
laughing
         at
stories about
people
       even
before there
were
     any.
So she
made some.
           Some
crows & some
people.
        Now
they know why.
Crows
do.


 
GRANDMOTHER

            hears
winter trees
exploding!
Must be
        old
nibble-lip
Windigo.
Says
     come on
in
   we’ll
fatten you
up
   on
roasted
children
         but
instead
pushes HIM
into her fire.
Catches
        his
slush in a bucket
to keep
        warm until
spring
       & then
dump it out-
side
     to be
puddle
       children
can play in
safe
     until
first
frost.


 
GRANDMOTHER

             says
yes
    Fire
was once a
person
       she knew
because she used to
be
   that person.
When she wore her
red
dress.
       But when she
took it off
after the 
dance
      it
kept on dancing
without
        her
in it.
So
   she
just lets it dance
where it
         wants
on its own.
            She
misses it
some
     but
then
     she’s
still there
            in it
when it dances.


 
COUSIN WOODPECKER:

How do you keep
that
     bright red
hat on
while you work?

 
COUSIN OTTER:

I
  think I had
those
whiskers
         once
& that much
play.
      Did
you
    stay
too much
dry
    once
& live
       in
too many words?


 
COUSIN WATER STRIDER:

No
   religion but
grace.


 
COUSIN HAWK:

First the shadows of
your
     talons
meet the mouse.


 
COUSIN RAVEN:

Are 
    you that
other one’s
shadow
       or
your own?


 
COUSIN CICADA:

Song
     so
dry
    only
dust
dances.


 
COUSIN COYOTE:

I see your shadow
goes
     where it wants
without you.


 
COUSIN STONE:

I hear you
speak
       too
slowly for
           my
ears.


 
COUSIN HERON:

So . . .
         my
knees
are backwards.


 
COUSIN BULLHEAD:

All
    your
little ones
together—
not
    an
underwater
storm
      cloud
after all.


 
COUSIN COUGAR:

Last night’s rain
gone
     but
five-pad
foot-
     print
ponds.


 
COUSIN SLUG:

If I could
learn
      to make
my
   trail
glisten.


 
GRACKLES 

         at
the truck-
stop 
     pluck
fresh
bug-
chunks 
       off
fronts 
       of
Peterbilts.
 
sweeping
the broom
shorter.


 
LOCUST HAIKU

seventeen 
syllable
sleep.


 
BOWLEGGED OLD

old
man
    wobbling down
the grocery
aisle
      sees
my t-shirt
           says
so
where can I
get
    me
one of them
Harley-Davidson
motorcycles?
             Says
my
   kids are
taking away my
car
    but
I’ll be
showing them.


 
SIDEWALK

where it
curves
       & then
curves back
around
       that
tree
     no
longer there.

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