Among the dry brush, it’s only
his sameness that stands out.
All neutrals, brown on brown,
fully absent. He ambles, stops,
drops from sight—nope,
still there. So much backdrop!
Someone’s smiling—me or the rabbit?
Painting the Cow
Cow 3 of 9, oil painting by Brianna Berghuis
The cow has no issue with being painted.
She lifts her massive muzzle to you,
black as a tire, wet as a sponge.
Her fermented breath condenses,
snot dotted with bits of straw.
You can use raw milk across her forehead.
Mix in egg yolk for that unexpected
yellow at her jaw line:
a smear of morning sun.
The cow is not self-conscious, wearing
her dapper crust of dung,
giving you a gold-brown edge to set
against the cold white sky.
If she’s discontented, the cow
keeps it to herself for now,
though she could step on you
with the weight of a small truck.
Her big ears flap like soft slippers,
ready to hear your thoughts.
Light plays on the pool
of a watchful, inky eye.
If you’re quick
you can stick the sharp legs
of your easel into the muck
and get to work.
Reset / Morning After
“The sun will rise in the morning…” Barack Obama
Yes, and blaze on the glass—
don’t forget: a long look
can blind you.
The birds will pour their hearts
into something once
while the last fluttering flags,
still golden on the maple,
must come down.
What does the wind want,
but to tear the skin off
the fallow fields?
No matter how sad they look,
it won’t pay to keep them—
let the cows go.
Plow the dreamer’s books into
the ditch. Get the gas can.
Stand and watch.
If only this throbbing tooth would never grind or grate again!
I’ll vote for ibuprofen: it’ll make my mouth feel great again.
The chickadee, wholly absorbed in each moment’s hull and seed—
No interest in the hard-shelled nut of being great again.
Over the whine of his ATV, a neighbor boy rides tall in the saddle.
He fills his tank for a ten-dollar bill and gasoline smells great again.
The sanctity of the locker room’s restored at last, thank you Lord.
PC’s been purged–it’s great to all be white and straight again.
Grandpa taught me how to rhyme on his bony, sing-song knee.
Catch a nigger by the toe: he thought it sounded great back then.
The young drone pilot, poised all night above his glowing screen.
Nothing like rubble and blood to make a country great again.
Pulled from line, a family stands with widened, dark-brown eyes.
Isn’t it great to breeze right through, relieved you won’t be late again?
Big Daddy Warbucks, back in the house, dripping glitz and bling.
He’s all like Let the good times roll, now that the NASDAQ’s great again.
Go find the Comeback King, old Bonaparte in his iron cell.
Ask him how that went—does he still desire to be great again?
Five hundred sovereign treaties, each one so carefully broken.
Sitting Bull has the talking stick, before you claim to be great again.
So let’s gather now, with songs in praise of Justice’s beautiful body.
We’ll finger-sift her ashes, and hammer on God’s gate again.
And you, Lowery—knocked flat by our national freight again?
It’s cold out here and the moon is thin, but it will be great again.
Norma Rae as a honey bee
Since daylight, she’s been knocking on doors
in high-rise rows of corn where no one’s home.
Next, she’ll follow a nitrate trail downhill
to scrappy pastures by the silted creek,
blue-collar lots of coneflower and butterfly weed
as rare as decent housing and a union wage:
back-roads pushed further back each year,
cows thinned out by mass incarceration.
Along the highway, she hovers to watch a guy
in Day-Glo vest and Carhartt bibs mowing ditch hay,
the cardboard No Spray sign buried in his wake.
Gentlemen: your average working bee is not stupid.
She just gets tired.
That bit’s a voice-over—
no swarm of New York lawyers to call in—
so she re-straightens her tiny shoulders
and moves on, ready to dodge cars along parkways,
sail the edges of alleys, wherever she can pick up
that river of vibration that still calls itself a Sisterhood.
Last week, she had her Oscar-winning moment,
imploring pollinators and poisoners alike
with those honeyed, fractal eyes.
When the cops hauled her off in their net,
the whole hive hit the bricks and nearly
lost their way home. Now they wait in the dark,
hoping against the odds for a new Queen,
crossing their multiple, yellow-caked legs,
while Norma quietly made bail and got back to work,
One Big Union embroidered on her DNA.
She’s a free-range blossom, a scrupled sting
in that song she hums: Which side are you on?
Here she comes now, as the credits start to roll,
overloaded with leaflets, zig-zagging low over asphalt
and thistle, manure lagoons and drainage tile,
our stitcher of invisible thread,
our busy beacon, too small to fail.