week of July 16-22, 2001
.BECOME A POET OF THE WEEK
click here for submission guidelines
I was an Air Force pilot, taught at the Air Force Academy, and am Texas Poet Laureate for 2001 Some of my recent books are All Occasions (University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), Blessings the Body Gave and The Flying Dutchman (Ohio State, 1998, 1987), Counting Survivors (Pittsburgh, 1995), Night Landings (Harper & Row, 1989), and After the Noise of Saigon (Massachusetts, 1988)
My poems have been in journals including APR, The Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and TriQuarterly
I live in Lubbock, Texas
Visit Walt McDonald’s website: http://english.ttu.edu/faculty/McDonald/
The following work is Copyright © 2001, and owned by Walt McDonald and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.
Things That Go Bump in The night
We rang a doorbell and ran,
darkness ours for the hour,
cedars and shrubs to hide us Shoving, cursing each other,
we watched a feeble light
snap on, the porch door slowly open
and old heads staring out What did they know
about the streets at night?
We trotted off and laughed at someone’s gas,
a swaggering band of brothers Any brass knocker was ours, any bell
we could stick a toothpick in
to leave it buzzing We picked victims
randomly, some couple
who stared at one of us last month,
the scowling father of a girl
we loved, others on impulse Dogs flung themselves at us
and rattled chain-link fences I remember a car with one light out,
the clang of trash cans in the alleys If one of us saw shadows and bolted,
all of us took off running,
not daring to look back
First published in The Black Fly Review 1458
My Brother after Whippings
Weather keeps running off to Florida
like my brother at fourteen, too old to spank,
too smart to find in a circus or on beaches
of biceps and bikinis He made it to manhood
on spring break, his only cash the car he sold
in Daytona Uncle Otis called off the marshal,
swore the car was my brother’s gift, his to trade
for a weekend My father and Otis rode off
without talking, my father purple, Uncle Otis scowling
like my brother after whippings Otis taught my brother
to drive, to skydive and fly a plane What happened
in that Daytona lockup I’ve only guessed,
a shouting match between Uncle Otis and Father.
When they came back, the car broke down
in the driveway, steam hissing from the hood For years, I watched the weather maps,
turned a thousand milk cartons around,
staring wax faces in the eye I studied parades
of soldiers who never turned their heads I sat through every circus, men with tattoos
defying death on the trapeze, men with their necks
in the mouths of lions, children of all ages
disguised as clowns in borrowed cars, breaking down
and fleeing in floppy shoes from Keystone Cops
with rouge I looked for my brother
outside the tents at feeding time, past gaudy horses
browsing on oats, caged tigers eating like pigs,
boys slopping elephants with pails
First published in The MacGuffin 1430
Who knew if what Otto carved was true
on an oak planted before the Alamo?
But there came bull-necked cousins
with knives and fists tight as walnuts.
When Cousin Edward flexed his first tattoo,
boots wide apart, Otto sipped his Coke
and grinned The fall of France
meant less than Cousin Melba’s pants
hung out to dry in words blond Otto carved
for all to see on Uncle Homer’s farm.
I pictured Melba, older than me and man
what legs, the only blonde in our family,
that pout, that dimpled chin like Harlow’s Where Melba walked, boys parted like the sea How could a cousin fill out a blouse like that?
I fondled a baked potato with my hand
and stared at my seventh cousin, sipping coffee
like adults And then she smiled at me:
I sat there chewing like a fool, my eyes licking
those movie-star bruises under her eyes,
her sleepy, long eyelashes, her pouting lips.
Did Melba and Otto really do what all boys wished?
He was my friend, a boy they would stomp and kick I helped beat my distant cousins until they cried,
hating their dogs and squatty necks.
I had my reasons thicker than friendship.
But two of those cousins died in World War Two
while I was warm and safe in high school.
Otto came back to town without a leg
and married Melba married a college friend
and moved away For twenty years, I saw her often
at family funerals and weddings My cousins
and I smoked pipes and hunted on Sundays,
griped about taxes and the price of shells
as if wars never happened We raised our shotguns
and fired, and emerald pheasants fell
First published in Louisiana Literature 1550
After Weeks in the Rockies
Back home, even this much rain would do,
a drizzle trickling gallons overnight Hardscrabble rain is rumor,
clouds in another man’s sky,
except when flash floods wash calves
and rattlesnakes down arroyos.
Caliche mud is mush, easy to sink
a hoof in, dry only hours after storms
when we ride out to count the herd.
We could live in this cramped cabin
in daily San Juan showers forever We think of debts, the cows that need us,
and promise we’ll come back Driving home,
we lower the windows to catch the breeze,
the aroma of pines Flat miles go by,
the same dry sage and cactus We’d do it
a different way, if we made prairies.
Rain, like children, would visit more often,
buzzards like domestic dogs would lead us
to calves before they starve, the summer sun
would squint, not a hot, hypnotic stare
enough to drop a bull If we stand in one
unshaded place too long, our boot soles burn.
But lift your head and look around: it’s home
First published in Manoa 1140
A past poet of the week and actress living in New York City Currently I am published on Stirring and Onyx Journal, soon to be published on 5 Trope, Asterius, and DisQuieting Muses I also was published in PoetryMagazine, Carve, Attic, Comrades, for poetry and fiction.
The following work is Copyright © 2001, and owned by Nanette Rayman and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsover without written permission from the author.
Dreamy to Him
Three pink stitches on Lorelaiss cheeks
flared early warning There her professor-lover
screaming that she would never
act again Grabbed down the poetry,
Yeats or perhaps safe Wordsworth
as deputy for her drama
Wee hours he recited In a hush he
mixes drinks Skewers fruit with a fork She bends to the touch of teacher to student
in fingertips, her mouth velvet, her pores dewy
until torrid, she staged her own Phaedra,
and cried out, Professor, Ive never loved you more.
Dreamy to him, these fractions of time with his student
whom neither the stage or another lover
would ever own again Now that she was his voice,
he held her hard and held
her captive, in the wild net of the moon
And murdered her with that voice Her sunken chest
could not flutter more When she died
he snapped the emoting body into parts
and shrouded all the mirrors around
where it had stood And wailed
a wail of death, his black eyes shivering.
Hold Yourself While Dancing
She is emoting, not emoting
smiting the given circumstances
across universe smug atoms
beating Stanislavski grit
back to the fourth wall
In breath-hued flesh, she says, “See me-a woman”
but to be alive is to spill out of the cut
in the mirror she breathes glass flowers
each with her face inside, mouth in hyphen,
she spreads lost flesh, airbrushed over belly, over
her unborn body within, yet to come molds of passion,
the lines of a dancer’s armsthighsblaring heartsex
a woman in a tango, holds herself while dancing,
alights in the middle of the road
she laughs Is this the Method?
Judges are planning to pass sentence on those
who refuse to stay in that moment
the way a girl carries a water jug,
one arm up, in a dancer’s balance Breathing .