Samples from Love to Ashes


I pitch the culled rejects                        
Into the fermenting moil:                        
The clipped tops of onion shoots
Gone brown and woody,
Lost tomatoes gaping
With bird and worm wounds
That ooze a warm sappy sourness
Over my muddy thumbs,
Errant weeds
Ripped ruthlessly root and branch
From their intrusions into the garden
Like guests ejected brutally
From a well-heeled affair,
Wilted bean stalks
Well past flower and pod
And drooping carrot tops,
Their queer knuckled roots since munched,
Lettuce limp in the late May sun
Spent before rescue by harvest,
Cracked shells and gritty grounds
The white and black of eggs and coffee . . .
Breakfast ends in a heap in the sun,
Great husks of cantaloupes,
Their hearts cut out
And cucumbers limp as spoiled sausages
Piled deep in grass clippings hot and sour
Laid on by the boy in the yard.

The tangled crippled hands
Of withered vines
That hid their fruit
In the hot spring sun,
Until I turned the leaves silver
To the sky,
Entwine the splayed roots of pepper plants
Like arthritic chicken legs
Festooned with tangled wormy soil
Wrenched from their premature demise
All heaped in reckless discard
Like a mad chef making soup
To fester in the moisty heat
Of transubstantiation    
Enlisting all manner of creepy crawlies
And allies sundry microbial
To toil putrescently and anaerobically
The livelong day and night.

The Elements

You are for me the breath of life,
Fond kindred spirit once and forever,
And I breathe inspiration’s sweet perfume
From the flower of your loving heart.

You are for me the textured earth
Upon which I set my flagging step,
The rock to which my timid resolve
Tethers for steadfast certainty.

You pour into me like an artesian spring
Coursing and welling in seamless profusion
With  hope that fills up my empty vessel
Quenching, unquenchable, changing and changeless.

You bank for me my ebbing coals
And stoke my expiring fire
You are my embers’ suspiration
That leap to flame at your gentle  breath.

I bring to you my today and tomorrows
I entrust to you my life
I cleave to you until time is done
And stilled is my loving heart.

Suicide Cowboy

For Rick Etter 1956-1997

I was diminished
When I heard he’d glad-handed the grim reaper,
Whose polished sickle glinted blindingly
In the hot dawn sun
Of that cruel day of reckoning.
Whose withering swift slash
Cut him down outright
Putting an end once and for all
To his pitiful incomprehensible demoralization,
Into which he stumbled
With brazen disregard
Over and over and over again, 
Pulling on his last whisky
Stubbing out his last butt,
Screaming in the blaring dawn,
So long, buckaroos.
Dead ashes to ashes
Dead dust to dust.

Rusty Wheelbarrow

The wheelbarrow is tipped
In the corner of the rusty field
Entangled in the shadows of long afternoon,
An architecture for crafty spiders’ webs
And dust, disturbed by wind and rain.
Its wooden handles are furrowed and cracked
Like hands of an old worker,
Its axle broken and bent
To spin no more in the thicket
Of its derelict repose.
The weeds and tangled branches entwining
Climb over its awkward upendedness
Like furtive mice flitting in the gloaming,
Afraid of the vigilant espying night eye
Of the silent owl in the sun’s last slant.

This broken barrow, spent by long work
Long done by hands long gone
Lies wracked and undignified
In its sculptural abandonment,
Fit now for shadows and neglected unkempt
Like a forgotten windmill
Along a forgotten road
Left to the empty wind and the clatter
Of weeds and sticks on its bulk,
Reclaimed by the relentless tendrils
Of dust and time,
Swallowed bit by bit
By the steady drops of yesterday’s rain
That slapped tinny like a stone on a bucket
In the corner of the rusty field
Entangled in the shadows of long afternoon.

Copyright© 1998, Thomas Phalen, All rights reserved.