Napoem 26 – The Psychologist Breaks the Rules

The Psychologist Ignores the Rules

I despise I.Q. testing.
Every time –
it may be the simplest thing –

In what direction does the sun rise?

She answers “up”
and cries.

I can’t teach my grandson to read.
I can’t even grow flowers.
My daughter says I plant them too deep.

Just one time
I’d like to break
protocol, give out
daffodil bulbs,
grab her hand,
circle her wrist
with thumb and forefinger,

dig a hole,
this deep
one for each bulb.
Throw it in,
any which way.
Like you,
it’ll know,
where the sun rises.


Napoem – 23, 24, 25 – Red Slough Field Notes, cont.



Again, in the spirit of NaPo, and in the haze of exhaustion, I am looking at these as notes for what may be a poem later, with a good deal of pruning, cutting, pasting….

April 20, 11:25 A.M.

The Washington couple’s heads are tilted perpendicular to the sky, comparing Black and Turkey Vultures. She asserts the Turkey is more buoyant, he that the Black has better dihedrals. I am torn between faking a look of bored comprehension and suggesting both are best roasted, rubbed with a little lemon and sage.

I am saved by the sight of a Moorhen, which I am told is the first of the season. Chevy says I  must follow till he radios it in. Bob says they taste just like chicken. The bird, possibly suspicious of our intentions, hides under some dead stuff overhanging the marsh, her red beak, a flame igniting the brush.

April 20, 3:00 P.M.

Mervin(?) says we’ll mosey over to “this other lake” where someone shot a trumpeter swan. Off refuge, on highway, fumbling for my seatbelt, Chevy mentions he spent time in the hospital, is still recovering from Wernicke’s, it’s a vitamin deficiency, you know. Bob and I look at each other, think, trifecta – ataxia, ophthalmoplegia, confusion, (alcohol), where are the damn seatbelts?

Barbed wire bars us from the lake. Merlin(?) says this place belongs to Joe Ward, keep low, last time he came out with a gun and shot a few rounds.

Mom was a Ward; I recall what Gramps said – all Wards in this land descend from five brothers. I contemplate inviting old Joe to dig in the dirt among the roots of our mutual tree when his door bangs open and out shoots a little red heeler. Chevy – don’t worry, he’s just looking for food – the dog bypasses the group, launches himself, bounces off my thighs and spies the open door of the Jeep, where Bob is rooting around. The two of them find energy bars.

April 20, 3:05 P.M.

Two men, young, skinny, few teeth, drive up in a red, dented pickup truck. Chevy gives us coordinates – Texas 4 miles due S., Louisiana 14 SE, Arkansas 20 due E. The men ask if we have pics of the trumpeter swans, eye the camera around my neck, triggering – Me: Evidence? Bob: Deliverance? Chevy: Don’t worry they just want meth, slips behind the wheel of his jeep.

They have dead baby chicks, mention nesting owls under a bridge. Irresistible to Washington couple. Harvey(?) says he doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Chevy won’t get out of his jeep. The younger man says he’s a Ward and chicken farmer. Creds in order – a relative! Good to go!

Don’t know what he does under the bridge, but an owl wings it to a low branch, glowers.

Chevy’s parting shot is an image on his digital – marsh covered in storks, ibis and heron. Hands us his card – come back in June for the exotic tour.

NaPoems – 19, 20, 21, 22 (and will continue) Red Slough Field Notes


Red Slough – Field Notes

April 19 – 5:45 P.M.

The trees, a mix of pine and hardwoods, lean over the highway, touch in spots, close in behind us.

Pretty is the adjective we repeat. Pretty green. Pretty lush. Pretty dense. Pretty remote. Pretty abandoned. There are movies of which this place reminds us.

I look for palmettos, though Bob claims we are too high and still too far north, agrees there is a sense of displacement, neither Oklahoma nor Louisiana nor Texas nor Arkansas.

We disconnect with the loss of internet and cell, will hear no news from home or from Boston, no anniversary of terrorist bombings, none of terrorism on the loose.

Weather report looks reliable. Car thermostat reads mid fifties. Rising. We are filled with hope and bird checklists.

Will set alarm for 6:30 for best photography.

April 19 – 6:30 P.M.

Illumination –
Wedged between two pines
a dogwood tree blossoms.

April 20 – 7:30 A.M.

Off Mudline Rd. Not far from Bittern Lake. Sun shines. 41 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit. Wind from the West and goddamn brisk. Thin jackets and what we wouldn’t give for gloves.

Came to see Neotropic Cormorants, Wood Storks, Soras and Roseate Spoonbills, that other pink bird. What we see – Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs and Northern Shovelers. All should be in Canada now. We feel a sense of camaraderie with these birds who have also been fooled, a sense that we are all a little askew of axis, lost in a wetlands – cum – rice paddy – cum – restoration project.

I shoot until I can’t feel my hands and lose my relationship with the camera.  Mostly, I document what’s there and shouldn’t be, think I get off one decent shot of a tree swallow.
What’s next, we discuss, maybe look for a ranger’s station, warm up, see if we can find facilities and water bottles, maybe some snacks. Head back to the car and there’s some guy, hands knotted with rheumatoid arthritis, window rolled down, in a beat-up Jeep Cherokee. He introduces himself as Chevy, Master Naturalist and Guide to Red Slough.

April 20, 11:15 A.M.

Chevy waits for a party -Vernon(?), who seems to be a retired manager of wildlife, and a couple who has traveled from Washington to see the same things we aren’t seeing but with considerably more equipment and enthusiasm. She will give ANYTHING, she tells us, to see an alligator.

Somehow we end up in Chevy’s backseat, part of the party. Chevy has the keys to the gates and we bounce along previously forbidden levies, Martin(?) and the Washington couple follow.

At seemingly random intervals, Chevy spins a donut, waits for Harlan(?) who promptly jumps out, waves his hand vaguely in the air at three or two or one barely discernible dots flapping overhead and shouts Neotropical Cormorants! or Black Vultures! or Fish Crow! The Washington couple grab their checklists. I, perhaps a little skeptical, ask, How can you tell? I am rewarded with a snarl, Behavior! Subdued, I beg to know why a Grebe is not a Duck. Read the book! Said book is flung in my general direction.

Mid-morning and we abandon the vehicles for no reason I can tell and walk. We are looking for an alligator nest. Washington woman pulsates, nearly incoherent. We aren’t sure if it is excitement or the fact that Marlin(?) is negotiating terms – not quite sure, but sounds like he is bargaining an alligator for her big toe. He sounds eerily like a Circus Big Top ring leader. In the end she gets sight of five eight-inch alligators, at no cost. Seems ANYTHING was nothing at all. After the build-up, we feel a little cheated.

Napoems – 10, 11, 16 & 18 – because in the spirit of NaPo even the duds deserve the light of day.

This is what happens under conditions of too much life stuff and not enough sleep. A poem a day does not mean, well, this is what it means…

American Sentence

Chocolate and strawberry beer for dinner; must be NaPo.

Stress Relief

Quicker than liquor,
calmer than Lorezepam,
cheaper than Mazatlan  –
three dogs at my feet.

The Evolutionary Biologist Dreams

I put on my elephant shoes
Stomp! Stomp!
Goat mouth bleats.
Alligator tail applauds.
Smack! His bitty legs
churn. Oh! sinuous moves.
Where are the trees?
Where are my opposable toes,
prehensile tail?
Chimpanzees swarm
the backyard fence.
Pop! Offer them a beer
and seat at the Super Bowl.

Dog As Metaphor

When I say a home without a dog is sterile,
I mean stark.
I mean lack of understanding house broken.
I mean a door will never be a window.
I mean where are the alter egos?
I mean the ego is never sacrificed on the altar of the id.
I mean wine and beer are poor substitutes and cars can’t kiss you back.
I mean rabbits breed freely in the garden.
I mean death hides in the closets.
I mean an old, blind, deaf and incontinent poodle does not become an operational definition
of human aging, marriage vows, fidelity, loyalty and tenderness and a bone is the detritus of steak and gets thrown in the garbage at the end of a meal.

Napoem17 – The Promise of Spring

The Promise of Spring

Spring came late after fooling the lilacs
into belief in promises. Such shock
from the withered buds lying on the ground,
resentful as the beer cans scattered on our carpet.
Betrayal leads to withholding, this, I  understand.
Last May it was open windows and the fragrance
of lilacs and, this, the brutal browning smell
of blasted beginnings.

When I said goodbye, you smashed your fist
through the wall and said this house
is mine. How like you to mark
your possessions. That afternoon, the first tornado
of the season. I stood on the roof
of a friend’s house and cheered its coming.

Napoem15 – Alpha


She was my first,
hard-bodied, a little too fast,
wouldn’t meet my eyes
until I came back and took her
from the shelter,
taught her to come on command.
Wanted to use her
to herd sheep. The trainer said
she looks at them like they’re mutton
sandwich, not a chance.
She taught herself
to stalk like a cat, killed her own
meat – rabbit, squirrel, rat and, armadillo,
packaged in a pre-made sandwich.
She was defeated by Turtle,
carried around in her mouth,
wrinkled brow and brown eyes asking
where’s the tenderizer?

Napoem14 – Where the Conversation Always Ends

Where the Conversation Always Ends

Chew – the only kind of tobacco he never used and now he carries
a circular can sewn under skin and muscle over his heart-pocket.
The instructions for his internal cardiac defibrillator include warnings
like if device discharges during sexual activity partner will not be affected.
Pity. I, too, would like to feel the earth move.

Our talk turns to what to do if, without mentioning what if what. He has a fear
of being cooked, a method I prefer; tales of the dearly’s
ashes tossed out hot air balloons and inhaled on an updraft, notwithstanding,
or, perhaps, withstanding. Where shall he lay

is the dispute. In New Orleans, in the family plot, where there is one box
for the generations of family bones to bed entwined, until full when the old ones
get shaken out to make room for new applicants? Or Oklahoma, where we met
and live, shall I bed him down and oblige myself to stay,

place flowers at the appropriate holidays and some day join him
in the ground, is the implication, and where the conversation ends. Then,
there is that which is never said, regarding the twenty years
that separates us and the heart that beats, unaided.