"Name Of Horses" - Donald Hall

"Name Of Horses" - Donald Hall

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding 
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul 
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer, 
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields, 
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine 
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon's heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres, 
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack, 
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn, 
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load 
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns. 
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill 
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun's muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave, 
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground - old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost. 

Donald Hall (1928-2018) was Poet Laureate of the United States in 2006. He said in a Paris Review interview: "when I was fourteen I had a conversation at a Boy Scout meeting with a fellow who seemed ancient to me; he was sixteen. I was bragging and told him that I had written a poem during study hall at high school that day. He asked—I can see him standing there—You write poems? and I said, Yes, do you? and he said, in the most solemn voice imaginable, It is my profession. He had just quit high school to devote himself to writing poetry full time! I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. It was like that scene in Bonnie and Clyde where Clyde says, We rob banks. Poetry is like robbing banks. It turned out that my friend knew some eighteen-year-old Yale freshmen, sophisticated about literature, and so at the age of fourteen I hung around Yale students who talked about T. S. Eliot. I saved up my allowance and bought the little blue, cloth-covered collected Eliot for two dollars and fifty cents and I was off. I decided that I would be a poet for the rest of my life and started by working at poems for an hour or two every day after school. I never stopped."

"On Weeds and the Millefiori of an Idle Mind" - Aralee Strange

"On Weeds and the Millefiori of an Idle Mind" - Aralee Strange [December 5 1943-June 15 2013]

If I were pulling weeds I wouldn’t be so antsy now
so full of doubt and need of what I do not know

If I were pulling weeds my fingers would command my eyes
and find each greedy stalk and yank a path to clarity

Dirt is dirt
green is green
this is flower
this is weed

The world would slowly fade away and the broke mosaic of my brain
would come together at the task

This is flower
this is weed
I am them
they are me

I would hum the melody that scores my dreams and find
the words to calm the beast that slinks along beside me

Dirt is dirt
green is green

My thoughts would settle down in green and
lie there cool and damp and clean all day

But when I shirk my job and sit and brood upon the times and
what is yet undone and why we burn our crops and kill our young
all my fractured tableaux come unglued and shatter on the floor


dirt is not always dirt sometimes
it’s fake
green is just blue and yellow with maybe
a touch of red
some flowers are deadly
some weeds are flowers
angels are here if you want them to be
Trouble is here all the time
we carry him with us it’s how he gets around
ever since he lost his legs in some dirty little war
gets a free ride when he needs one just like any
other veteran

We are him
he is us
if I prayed give us grace who would I be talking to?

One scary mother doppelganger double talking to me

     I know you
     If you were pulling weeds you couldn’t hang around with me
     I am a million laughs you know but I am nature-free
     I have no truck with dirt and green they play too rough
     they do not see the difference between them and me
     my rules do not apply
     If you don’t mind I’ll catch a ride downtown

That’s where he stays he pays no rent he sleeps around
when he sleeps and hustles drinks and dope and sex
the patron saint of drunks and poets and black blues singers

     Put the pedal to the metal I’ve got a powerful thirst

And so of course a bar is first where everybody knows his name
and liquor’s cheap and flows so sweet around each word he says
and pretty soon here comes that glow that worms its way into
your heart and makes you think I’m happy now

     It’s happy hour
he spits
     another round?

So round and round and round we go and when we stop
nobody knows it’s happy hour nobody cares Trouble’s here
his voice a murmur low and warm crawling along the bar

We’re a family reunion we’re comrades in arms
he laughs at our jokes we admire his aplomb
ole roy and his posse singing old campfire songs
beneath a sky of black light blue

     Happy trails to you
     we meet

and the hands on the Rolling Rock clock tick around

Through the looking glass behind the bar
the other us
lost on the far side our lives in reverse
our faces morph a ghoulish frieze
I am them and they are me
(sober thought on a drunken spree)
disembodied bobbleheads blind dumb numb
is this noise home?

The air is sick with smoke and Trouble
one drink away from too many

     I loved a woman once
     wrapped myself around her like a kudzu vine
     until I couldn’t get loose
     Gave her begonias and forget-me-nots
     she laughed in my face
     Gave her the key to my heart
     you mean that bag of black ice in your chest?
     She touched my cheek and split

     I see her around every now and then
     she talks about her life
     we share a pot of tea
     I tell her I love her
     she says she loves me

The barkeep pours out one last round and unless I miss my guess
from here on out it’s a hard fast slide down to a bad bad place
A careless word is all it takes who gives a fuck! I do you prick!
a punch is thrown the fight is on and pretty soon here come the cops

So if no one minds I’ll skip this round and pay my tab and vamanos

     Whoa! companera
     what can you be thinking
     the night is young and if I’m not wrong
     you’ve got the better part of a twenty left
     I know a place couple of blocks suit us to a T
     for every shot you pay for I get one shot for free
     so what do you say

Nothing down here is free I know that and so does he
and back on the street all I can see is not pulling weeds
is dangerous to my health not to mention my piggy bank
which hit the floor with all my marbles

So I’m counting every step and I'm stepping over cracks
full of poke weed rag weed dandelion and spotted spurge
all the green that works its way through asphalt in a season
and if I don’t watch out I’ll start asking why

why what
what you got?
Trouble on my back


     Seems you’re hankering to pull some weeds
     so just drop me off at Thirteenth and Main
     I’m much obliged
     Until again

Stumbling down these streets all the thousand flowers
scattered at my feet would never come together
Yesterday’s done now’s now and tomorrow’s a mystery
the tenacious vegetal pitch of my attention is focused on

Dirt is dirt
Green is green
This is flower
This is weed

I have to get down on my knees to find the picture.

Next open mic WEDNESDAY JULY 11 with ROB WHITE


July's Word of Mouth open mic will be held on WEDNESDAY JULY 11 because the Globe will be closed for the July 4th holiday. Join us for featured reader ROB WHITE upstairs @ 8 pm on WEDNESDAY JULY 11 for our next monthly open mic!

"A Poem For Uncle Jackass (October 27, 1927 – August 14, 2016) Written, Mostly, While Standing in His Hand-Carved Pirogue, a Hammer and a Bag of Nails Hanging from My Waist, Nailing Up the Last of His Gospel Signs--All According to Codicil" -  Samuel Prestridge

They must think I’m dancing on the water,
coming around the bend of the river
and seeing my jerky moonwalk
as the dead man’s pirogue dry humps backwards.
Between blows of the hammer, I hear them,
the party barges, laughing, grilling ribs,
burgers, trying to talk girls out of their swimsuits
for the sake of the vitamin D in sunlight.

They follow the signs to where I’m tethered,
standing in his pirogue, hammering his last
signs to boney cypress knees, buttress roots:

--And I will come in hot judgment . . .

     and witness against sorcerers . . . 

and against the adulterers . . . 

and against all  false swearers . . . 

and against oppressors, saith the Lord. 

His hatreds were infectious.  Dead and buried,
he remains, a spasm, a spirochete
in my brain, blood, in my spinal column.

I live his meanness, nailing up his signs
to watch the letters weather,
to see them vandalized to tatters
for firewood, spite, souvenirs,
to listen for shooters tuning pistols, dotting i’s,
hollowing out a’s and o’s, honoring
letters of his law.  His strictures true
my hammering—no keening strikes, careening
nails, ricochets that put out an eye.
His anger’s in my knees, locked against rocking,
in my stiffening back, arms, in my vertigo.

Samuel Prestridge is the featured reader at the Word of Mouth open mic this Wednesday, June 6, upstairs at the Globe in downtown Athens. Sign-up for open mic is at 7 pm and readings start at 8 pm.

"Homework" - Allen Ginsberg [born June 3 1926]

     Homage Kenneth Koch

If I were doing my Laundry I’d wash my dirty Iran
I’d throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap, scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle,
I’d wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,   
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,   
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain Sludge out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little Clouds so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie   
Then I’d throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood & Agent Orange,
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out the tattletail Gray of U.S. Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or an Aeon till it came out clean.
Boulder, April 26, 1980