Noontime, our lunches
uneaten in brown sacks,
we pulled out hoarded change,
got down on our knees,
counted up, and hunched
over the upturned sweatbox
that served for a table.
In the dry-yard
The luscious halves of Rio Oso Gems,
the sweet eyes of Faye Elbertas,
stared and shriveled in the sun,
but we ignored the heat,
were indifferent to gnats and dust
and the stink of rotting fruit,
dizzy anyway at fifteen
from every breath we took.
We sucked at the freezing cokes
Simpson took off early to get for us
and, clockwise, took turns
holding for a minute the white dice
in our stained hands,
moaning, talking to them
in a way we had just learned.
We courted luck for the first time,
Jim Rains, John Simpson, Wes Schaal, myself,
eating later on the run,
smashed bologna and bread in one hand,
lifting loads too heavy for us,
becoming men, pulling
like mules at cars loaded with fruit
on the miniature railroad,
Indifferent for a time
even to the girls
calling to us from the shed
to bring them fruit,
to take away their trays,
to get them a drink of cold water
or to marry them someday
as we all would.
The Day of Good Looks
Today I was inordinately handsome.
This morning I noticed it in the mirror,
The soft glow surrounding my face,
The strong jaw, the even, white teeth.
In the shower I thanked God
For the transformation.
I sang while the towel adored my skin.
But this afternoon I was disgusted.
I thought of the nice girls
Who would make themselves cheap for my sake
And the terrible pressure of glances.
I thought of women hanging around,
Of the monotony of slamming doors in faces,
Of beating them back with a stick.
Oh, I longed to be as other men,
Calling on God in a fever for my old face.
The Day of Patience
This was the day I tried patience.
In the morning, the word was a shield
I stood behind, a stolid archer.
It was a stone I turned over and over.
So I got out a packet of seeds
Known to take forever to sprout.
I made rows perfectly straight in the garden
And got down on my knees. I planted carrots.
I relished the tedium of pulling weeds,
Of being careful, of nurturing my crop.
But how many saints have gone down
In a blaze of temptation?
This very afternoon I trimmed a puzzle piece.
This same day, at solitaire, I peeked.
Then I remembered how often I had sat
Before a chessboard, waiting for genius to come,
And the long evenings I had fussed with God
Because nothing ever happened in my life.
Then I knew patience was a huge pair of shoes,
A baggy suit, a terrible savior I could never face.