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Jody Stewart


Boys who can’t play ball watch a donkey rise out of the lake,

shake off his ragged, grey pelt. Red bells

still around his neck -- souvenirs from his last war.

Put to bed early this same summer evening, a small girl

sees a red horse moving backwards through that picture pinned

above her headboard. The flowered wallpaper also seeps away.

When he yawns, a ghost uncurls from the donkey’s jaws.

The boys, beneath the bleachers, see soldiers

squatting at the lake’s shore rinsing stickiness off their hands.

Across this careless continent, a black window-fan

shushes through rose-scented air where a widow

curls towards death. Her children

flow in and out of her room

They love her the way grown children should

no matter their secrets.


This summer baseball season is late and will last just two weeks.

Trees rush at the sky while deer browse the suburbs,

the way kids, lolling on their porch steps, lick ice cream slowly.

A brother and sister shift the widow in her bed.

She thinks she sees a red horse in the shadow of her dresser,

a small hand holding the reins. The widow remembers

how she’d been both calligrapher and postmistress

when her family was interned in treeless Arizona.

Now she has her own good children and rests in a dark breeze.

Boys scuff the diamond’s dry grasses,

chins down, hands empty. As the pink sky

darkens, twilight’s fog rises from the lake.

The boys and their donkey walk towards a house

where they can smell something cooking,

a sweetness which hovers before explosion

The little girl sighs and twists in her bed. Roses shoot out of

wallpaper and pile up around her as the horse trots back

into his painting with a slim, black-haired rider

clutching her pen, ink, scrolls -- a night- folded flag.


about Buddha in the night.

He was at my high school when Linc Russell

splayed me across the smooth

beige table in the chemistry lab.

In the dim light, Buddha shone

over by the sink.

Let me tell you

how that tall man – the one I loved—

was tender when asleep.

But I lived alone, beyond his edges

in a world of green, and late lilacs.

My arms and thin ankles

drifted down streets separate from him,

yet he stretched out within me.

Our city was at war, water buckets

o the steps, soap, blood, rags.

How the roadside Buddha almost dozed off

watching the way the world

kept dying in front of him. It never stopped:

children, soldiers, mothers, sheep.

So many down, stiff as old horses. And others?

Their faces just stopped shining.

Let me say the Buddha was surprised

at how sleepy this made him.

Sometimes when ku beloved slept

I would almost float within a long, lake-calm moment.

no road, no scum- encrusted steps,

No Buddha tipping over.


Birds in blue water

the air above

green, gone to butter-pale --

soft as the cloth

laid on his stilled face. Two hands

gentle on that lace shawl

as it’s folded up

for the rest of her life.

That’s one kind of good-bye:

no ambulance roar

and flash, no tipped chair

crashing, no wrenched child

caught in soiled sheets.

The birds skim their blue

water in the hallway’s

skewed painting hung too high

for the ordinary eye.

How she mourns, wishes

she could have loved

with more force than a single

spring flower: pretty, buffeted

then gone. How

she wishes she could have loved

like birds lifting

above a whole year’s garden.


My friend in Wales, who sees it stark, still lets

a ragamuffin in his garden

to dig and pluck, then shovel up

that snaky nests of worms.

My friend, whose every star of hope

comes and goes without him, walks

those dark slopes

where some brief Eden might appear.

The ragamuffin blossoms her hair,

powders the good, imperfect earth with ash.

Standing knee deep in the broken stream,

she plucks out pieces of watery light.

An intention of crows tell her their one joke:

that they are also made of beauty

From my far-flung chair and window, I watch

her dark hands fling sparks into a tangle of worms.

She is a sliver of spirit, singing off key to birds,

and trying not to poison where she steps.

My friend has written a long letter to his family star,

a book about destruction

in its cocktail dress and narrow, desiccated shoes.

Not everything broken can come green again:

not Eden, not Ophelia’s mind, and clearly

not that woman whose curled body iced over

when the pipes burst in her one apartment

in one city in the one country of Ukraine.

My friend at his desk sets this image aside,

clicks off the lamp, stands at the window where

he can almost see the Black Welsh Hills

adjusting bedding for a frantic, and over-lit sky.


They caught you stumbling down the mountain

with boots full of gold; they spied you

drinking wine beneath the shade tree with your ruby

fingertips, your jade knees and shirt of indigo silks.

On the first, second and third days they looked

for you, Bonanza Girl, little celebrity

wiping down the counter at Pipefitter’s Rest.

You had nothing to tell them; your romance was private.

Next time you be coming down the mountain

you’ll wear coveralls and dust.

No one will care to ask about your picnic,

where you buried those boots, or why

there’s some wild rumor that your baby died.



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