April 11, 2012

The Clue of the Broken Locket

Found finger-worn
in a blue pocket--tarnish,

dust, a scrap of lyric
on a grocery store receipt--
1 dozen eggs,

a pint of whipping cream--
Oh, darling,
please believe me--

clasp butterflied, un-
openable, a heart dented--

nail, hammer--I'll
never do you no harm

a sterile paring knife, a cut
precise, warm gleam--
Believe me when I tell you

I couldn't stop it,
the cake from collapse,
a lump of bitter chocolate

in the icing. A hair
frozen in a tiny gilded frame.

April 5, 2012

The Password to Larkspur Lane

A crumbling fence,
rusted sign: No Trespassers.

Mustard spreads wild and dry
each side of the road--

a sparrow, it seems,
or finch for each
loud, yellow, nodding

bloom. You said Walk west,
I'll be behind the chain-

No warning
about thorns, thick arms
of studded blackberry,

or the feathered, shrill
alarm raised with each step.

So much for stealth.
Past the dying cottonwood--
the drainage ditch.

Pitched forward down
the dusty slope ringing
abandoned fields.

At the bend, suddenly
all quiet: a thousand
gaping, silent violet mouths.

April 4, 2012

The Sign of the Twisted Candles

This time, you light them
all at once, a flash
of sulphur, each forgotton

name. A tree, white blooms,
and all at once the smell
of an exhausted man.

It's spring, dogs
pause to darken lightpoles,
sniff at creosote

melting from old wood--
a beer can in the fire--dregs
of mutilated snails.

A chin dripping tobacco.
The way smoke shuts tight
your throat, singes

the tip of your braid.
A man's weighty hand,
your shoulder. You've dropped

the candleholder, snuffed
your light, darkened
your way out.

April 3, 2012

Nancy's Mysterious Letter

Dear Nancy,
I am also a Nancy,

separate from you.
But similar, a

shadow Nancy,
the kind of girl

that likes a little
violence, ambivalence

in heroes, villains.
Reluctant sidekicks.

I'm complicated,
Nancy. I'm you

without rules,
you if you had no

religion, scruples.
I'm 2am Nancy,

An empty fifth and
Ned in my bed.

Handgun under
the pillow. I'm

trust no one Nancy,
Nancy hard-boiled,

I'm the Nancy
between the lines.

April 2, 2012

The Clue in the Diary

Today, you counted your steps
walking home from the bus stop.

You thought about the boy
sitting to your right,
a lock of golden brown

slicing his forehead,
a lighter's warm tip
pressed to the green vinyl seat.

Melted smile.
The scream of old brakes.

A girl, safety pins in her ears
and burns in the crook
of each elbow. The time

was four-thirty. The hedges
cast shadows on black knee highs.

Eighty-five. Eighty-six. Eighty-
seven. A flagrant, radium sunset.

If the phone signals two rings,
turn to page fifty nine.

If the note lies still folded
by the courtyard gate,
turn to one hundred and six.

February 16, 2011

The Secret of Red Gate Farm

is that it was not always red--
a history in each layer
of flaking, sun-burnt paint

each time a crop turned under,
an acre gone fallow.
Has the milk turned sour?

Has the embryo stayed
too long in the egg--a web

of bright pink ribbons
cradling the yolk--and the pumpkin
rotted on the vine? Before,

a scarecrow proudly raised
its flour-sack head above the rows.

Now a fever--a murder of crows--
the backfire of a harvester--

Now the farmhouse groans.
An empty belly. A rusty hinge.
Evidence of weasels in the barn.

September 16, 2010

The Secret of Shadow Ranch

Sagebrush does not roll
across every dirt road.

This woman does not garter
a tiny pistol to her thigh

and I do not throw down
a slug of whiskey before I depart

the dusty, dark saloon
that no longer stands.

There is no stand-off
every time the clock strikes noon

and the jailhouse door
doesn't swing shut with a bang.

No horse-thieves. No bandits.
No bandannas slung across noses

hiding outlaw mustaches
and tobacco-stained smiles.

This revolver is not loaded.
These boots are not spurred.

No smoke streams from the cheroot
not clenched between my teeth,

no five o'clock shadowed jaw,
no sideways sneer.