by Mark DeFoe
At Cub Scout Camp I lost the card that said
I was a Wolf or Bear. I begged my mom
to drive me back to find that scrap of paper.
How I prayed and wept, and Mom, a woman
I know now not given to attention
of others’ prayers, being grimly caught up
in her own supplications, drove me back.
It lay there, fluttering on the path, where
God had promised. I was good for a month.
In Kansas, brooding about breaking up
with Sandi before we got to French kiss,
I wandered out on a deeply cold day
with my old .410. I killed no rabbits,
but walked home on creek ice, a secret path
through that wilderness of stretching white fields.
I walked on water, thinking in summer
this is the way the turtles saw the world.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason
I found myself so clever and handsome.
My father-in-law and I were sweating,
lashing some antique chair on my van’s roof.
He kept giving lessons in knots. Finally,
I said, in effect, he didn’t know shit.
I recall since it was the first time I
dared say it and the first time he took it,
standing there holding one end of my rope
in his big meat hook hands, me, arrogant
nobody who had stolen his daughter.
Knowing Too Much
He came to visit, my old man, he who
once could slam any man’s arm down hard on
the beer-stained tabletop. Four wives had sucked
at his success and left him a husk. When I
drove wild down our winding roads, this pilot
who had nursed Gooney Birds across the Hump,
broke bread with Chou and the Flying Tigers
and Earthquake Magoon who had bought the farm
over Dien Bien Phu, held no hard, knuckles white.
Somehow, he was afraid. For the hot shot
he had been, for the man I would never
be enough to be, I throttled back, leveled off
and plotted a course for home.
The World Etiquette of Cool
by Gaylord Brewer
The answer’s not in unisex perfume,
not hanging in the sleeves
of an ankle-length lambskin coat,
not in satin blazers, team colors,
or firing the eyes of a rattlesnake tattoo.
Sweat and bark all day, do your reps,
you still can’t buy it in a gym,
learn it on a bass or fiddle, shade it
through a pair of Raybans.
All industry earns you is embarrassment.
It’s nothing to do with fashion
or attitude, a cashmere scarf from Uruguay,
adoring the mirror above your bed,
shaken or stirred or learning French.
Forget James Dean stroking a cigarette.
Dying’s only a fraction of it,
but more than stripped abs, a hot trigger,
and daddy’s four-wheel-drive.
You’ll catch a glimpse of the real thing
only once, maybe, when I swagger by
in a scowl and baggy shorts,
head shaved and gut proud,
aces and jokers tumbling from every pocket.
Don’t try to follow the trail, child,
my woods get dark. Go to the clubhouse
and enjoy the rest of your little life.
Truth’s for suckers. As for cool, we have
what the gods imparted. To you, none.
by Susan Cavanaugh
Morning. Uncle Ray in his pajamas, informing us
America is turning into a country of foreign faces
standing in front of broken-down churches.
He cuts sloppily into a ruby-red grapefruit.
Two cups of coffee into the pot, Uncle Ray
announces we should be mending our fences
this very afternoon, not staring at him all pink
and alive with that look of hands-behind-our-backs.
He suggests we mend our fences late today, at the time
the sky almost faints into the colors of a Mass card,
then he starts talking of Auntie Jen, of how,
even in her deathbed, he went to her
with messy hair, unable to sing. It’s approaching ten
and still in his pajamas, Uncle Ray beckons
for one more cup of coffee, imitating the gasps
of trout in a plastic bucket. He tells us,
holding his cup up high, as if to make a toast,
that now that Auntie Jen’s been gone for seven years,
he wants to find someone to love enough to love them.
The kind of woman, he says, who could always have
a lollipop in her mouth. Even if she were a CPA,
a red lollipop would not be out of place,
but would look like a precision tool as she waved it
across a 30-page computer print-out. She’d be
beautiful, says Uncle Ray as he goes to the kitchen
to brew another pot--beautiful, he says, as the lone
hunter he saw in the marsh last Sunday carrying a duck
by its scruff, steam rising from its still warm blood.