Mark Vogel: Poetry: Three Powerful Poems

Who owns what

They crawled up the house like we could never do,

and brazen lived in the chimney behind the metal grate,

coughing, snoring, making hidden beds behind walls.

Unbelievable how at home comfortable they were,

so that more than once, in yellow evening, with

the back door open, they walked in to eat cat food

in the kitchen like we were sleep-in servants

hardly worth noting, here for their needs,

like we could never own anything.

At a time when spiders lived in cities in the stone basement,

an unreal chattering seeped from darkness. I tiptoed

so tentative on creaky stairs, ready for a horror show,

and flipped the light and saw actors in a cheesy sit-com.

Five adolescent coons amongst ripped trash bags

eating pizza and cantaloupe rinds sprinkled with

coffee grounds. Eyes a-glitter saying stanky party

with no boundaries, like shame could only exist for us.

Decades later, ripe torn flesh like an insult is headless

in the barn—a peace loving duck rendered red meat

and bad dream, while round the corner an unearthly

growl promises to rip and tear without reflection.

In a gray metal trap a grizzled murdering boar coon

with rough eyes aches to hurt, a twisted lone ranger

gone bad. Within an hour, searching for someone else’s

rocky woods, I drive fifteen miles of mountain roads.

On a ridge top lonely and stark, just us two,

I look down on blueberries, rhododendron, laurel,

the blue hills going forever. Ignoring his continuous

threatening rumble, I release him from his wire cage.

Without hesitation he turns west, his powerful legs

churning, heading straight back home.

When the Appalachian states

have been made into mega prisons

Confident Talking Head 843 rips apocalyptic chaos

from context, stating one in thirty U.S. males

has experienced the Penal System as home,

while outside the cable world in a blue beaten rental

ten miles up an Appalachian road pot-head Ronnie,

with flecks of pepper in his beard, wakes Southern proud,

but ashamed of having done time.

Up another road, mumbling to himself, John Henry’s

molasses talk no longer smells of whiskey drinking

in a neglected dog pen—a decade since Fat Pansy

rescued him from county lockup and submerged him

in primitive baptism. Now he grows beard

and belly, never neglecting children,

or his precious hogs in the woods.

In this intimate and isolated Meat Camp, North Carolina,

Max drags a bum leg up the ladder to caulk,

above his nine year old boy learning lessons building

shaded Lego castles. At lunch Max will share

sandwiches, RC cola, tales of long gone cocaine days,

the wildness living behind a quiet smile—

his poem a tattoo of records glued to skin,

while closer to town scarred Danny tweaks a ring

in his eyebrow, his Martian orange hair rattling

with electricity. His college degree earned inside

feeds manic teaching for nursing students eager to cure,

the story of being busted once, twice, three times—

Quaaludes, primo pot, a fist of pills—learning

to dream while locked within state limitations.

Off the mountain swirling fear injected wind fuels

bogus blinded toughness eager to punish, to open wide

a blackened maw. So tiresome this soiled morning,

state and federal wallets lying on the bureau ready

to pay for a thousand crowded holes. Even with

churches on every corner, no one dares speak

for those no longer innocent.

the necessary interludes

Fresh spring mounting splashing

love making is over and Leonard sunbathes

on the rocky clay shore, eyes closed

while two black and white sons in the yard

shift and preen, waiting for a cue.

In the absence of his mate Joanne and her

king-making eyes, Lenny is awkward,

dull, neutered, dreaming her nudging pecks,

seductive walks through garden jungle,

her sleek flights to water. Not so far

removed in the dark barn, Joanne deposits

one egg a day into her feathered nest,

then sits with faith on a growing young.

Her internal clock counts meditative time.

For weeks Lenny wallows lethargic

even with worms in the garden and corn

in the barn, an algae-rich pond for swimming.

He walks instead of flying and hisses

at amoral sons crass enough to fuck

their own mother, until the air itself tires

and stalls. Then Bingo one shining May morning

like it was all planned, and fourteen yellow and

brown fluff balls bounce in a happy line,

nothing cuter quacking eagerness, and Lenny

all a-move is tall, red wattle vibrating, knowing

to strut, preen, stare down cats as the gaggle

rub close, then swirl in water. Amazing,

a growing summer appears as one whole

continuous line. For the thousandth time

a tired past has been painted over, immediately

forgotten, like it never existed.

Beyond Hesitation

Another motley game on a know nothing August night

in a league where no catcher can catch, in bottom

division play-offs rigged so every team can win.

Blindly loyal fans seek excuses to cheer, but instead

they get kid-movie scenes with insects swimming in lights,

slow motion pop ups, dribbling rollers—son/dad/boyfriends

acting communal molasses parody.

Another strike out and players cluster, plotting strategy,

seeking energy as the game drains for the final last inning outs.

Then a blink in the lights error—a man on, followed by

a slap double where comical boney legs churn,

and the air quickens like it does when baseball congeals,

finding evolving form. The opposing captain

for so long so stolid, takes charge, steals third,

and umpires gather in deliberate stall, the game drifting

in black clear night collecting in the hills. Then before

waiting stares an aluminum bat connects—a fly to center—

an intent runner waits like a frozen statue, then heads home.

With momentum hard the ball whistles straight/true,

faster than the determined running captain bald and bold,

and the catcher snags the rocket, and in one motion tags,

so much like art that the forgotten crowd erupts feeling/knowing

surprise reversal, how one thin foot makes all the difference.

Without a pause the championship trophy is held high

for snap shot grins, for all to clutch and hold. When

adrenaline settles into wet grass players walk bowlegged

and proud wearing dust and grass stains, collecting one last time

bats and balls, satisfied enough ancient ritual again,

as predicted, has produced a hero.