Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: ekphrasis

The Gear Turner’s Work

the gear turner’s burden
is a wrench and lonely work
on the plains beyond
old 66 where grass

fire prays the flowers
into smoke he turns
his shoulder to his work

where he sweats the ground
grows mud he knows
the hoarse and tired voices
calling from the gears

creaking aching groaning
rusty throats and steel tongues

pinned and staked
burned and buried all the years
forgotten when the earth closed
healing on their work
in strange articulation

the gear turner hears a song
the old machines the old machines
he’ll whisper to the others
when evening fires burn low

he’ll creak and groan
in steel tongue stolen
riddles to their questions

This is another poem based on the image in The Mag #109. I did another one from this same photo last year.

Creepy School Cafeteria Nutrition Posters

Cauliflower’s been working out, ripped clothes and muscled arms urge everyone to dance. The blueberry girls and grape chicks with their leafy hair giggle and smile nearby. In walks Whole Grain Hipster, sporting a suit of bread and cereal like a seventies cartoon pimp, swaggering down the lunch line, healthy, cat, healthy, he nods over at the clique cliché of all the artsy individualistic girls: the lonely beet, eyes closed playing Dylan on her sad guitar, the bubbly pixie art grape, splashing paint so dreamy. Off in the corner by the water fountain, a cluster of grapes with black-eyed peas for eyes, fruit from the vineyard by the reactor, laugh through their carefully carved mouths while a lone mushroom makes his getaway on a hot rutabaga balloon made from some unfortunate member of misunderstood beet girl’s family, turned upside down, greens shredded and stalks used for lines. It’s a tough world for veggies and the fungus always wins but it’s healthy, man, so healthy.

I administered our state social studies test to a group of sophomores and juniors in the cafeteria today and so I had a lot of time to study the posters in there. File this one under ekphrasis.

What the Dog Saw One Night on the Beach

The turtles came at night
and hid their eggs; the dog,
unwanted stray, came down to eat.

When angels hatched
he barked and stared, head
cocked and ears erect.

The first of the angels
lifted her goddess eyes
to this desolate wind-scoured
world of stony hearts
setting moon, roaring sea.

The dog considered the angel
a moment (which would count
as seven moments in human time)

then he trotted back to town
and lay outside the souvenir stand
where the owner usually left
a bowl of scraps each morning.

For Magpie Tales #112

Announcement: My book, Birds Nobody Loves, is on sale (15% off the paperback) throughout April in celebration of National Poetry Month. You can order it from Amazon or my e-store. I don’t know when (or if) the price will take effect at other retailers.

Small Adjustments

First he thought it was the stars, that creaking groan and grind of tired years but with time the tension grew and he realized the problem lay not overhead but underfoot (as problems often do). Some days the gripping stuckness beneath his feet felt tighter and other days it felt looser like someone else’s shoes depending on where he walked and what he ate for breakfast. Out on the plains where the stars rattled so faintly as to be almost inaudible, he located the source of this tension, unzipped the blackland earth and studied the dull gears that moved the gears that made the world go round. He turned a wrench against the machine—so surprisingly simple to adjust, this mechanical universe—and retuned the planet’s motion relative to the earthly key of his own aspirations. That’s the way he explained his good fortune years later as he leaned back in the worn leather chair of his old age, smiling in the knowledge that he was now very close to achieving his lifelong goal of living happily ever after.

For Magpie Tales #109

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