Ruminant

Ruminants are mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food by fermenting it in a specialized stomach prior to digestion, principally through microbial actions. The process typically requires the fermented ingesta (known as cud) to be regurgitated and chewed again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is called rumination. The word “ruminant” comes from the Latin ruminare, which means “to chew over again.” (Wikipedia)

The living green goes into a gut
especially for stewing
then is retrieved
for a second chewing.

A knot of cud augmented
by funk from within
foments, fermented,
now in the swell of the paunch,

now in the honeycombed tripe.
Pulled up for another gnaw,
then down to the omasum –
known too as bible, psalterium.

And at last the maw,
where rennet is added
to the remnant, dull and warm,
of whatever bright thing first invited

rumination in this pensive
thing masticating, that stares
at something beyond the fence of
the neighbor’s farm

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The Red Lamp

Twice a week I jog past a green house where an old artist lives, and if my loop back
coincides with dusk, I’ll see the lamp with the red shade radiant in one corner
of the front room where, through the naked window, I know she’s looking down
at the pages in her lap, as I will by the light of my likewise florid lamp
someday when I’m old enough to prune the trees in the yard till it looks as wild
and neat as this bright cottage of which I always dreamed. The gleam raises
my eyes from that favorite tome before I plod on past, up the long hill that looks
so falsely flat, and reach the relief of downslope to my home street. Pausing first
to tuck four saucer-large blooms into my hand, I speed through the gathering gloom,
a beam of headlights washing sudden across my face, and the sudden curt thought, too,
of who is this woman hugging the muddy shoulder of a back road with a clutch
of posies in her grip, and the flare of something like rage: at the presumption
of these petals, the earliness of the season this year – such cheek – the looks folks shot
at me all fall, on account of that sticker on my bumper, at red lights, which this one is –
exhaust turning ruddy as it gathers in a cloud behind me, then a green light and I’ll turn:
right, right turn, always right, the lights in the waiting house aglow beyond the now
dark yard, the chair ready for the one I’ll be when I get there, the tale I’ll read.

Late Capitalism

Filling the front window of the small house: a lit-up, sumptuous dollhouse.
The saucer magnolia’s blooms break open early. They are already browned.

It is February. In the grocery, a child screams three aisles over for what it can’t have.
The automated lotto machine does not give change. It says so after you’ve fed it a $5 bill.

The silver maples on our street list: crooked, waterlogged, and dead. Only my landlord
springs to have ours hacked down so some stray storm won’t plunge it through the roof.

A fat robin hops onto the stump as I pull in from work, in fruitless pursuit of a worm.

Felling the Maple

A crew of seven showed up in a truck
hauling a skid steer loader and a steel maw
on a trailer that ate logs open-jawed,
leaving piles of fragrant dust in the street.
First went the canopy that shed a shower
of brown leaves each November.
Next the stubbed-off crown, and the crook
where the trunk forked, where one night
last spring the moon got caught in the lace
of newly minted whirlybirds. Then the saw
signed its hieroglyphic lines across the bole,
cut out a deep wedge from a foot above the base.
Its girth half gone, the listing column crashed
with a thud that shook the house. And now, below,
a network notes the loss, then quietly regrows.

Change

Change is good, they say
as if change isn’t a neutral thing
as if it’s not an empty purse
unclasped and waiting

to receive – or not –
the jingling handful
of extra, remainder
of a transaction completed

hope and change
and peace through strength
and strength through unity
and unity through faith
as if change is plainly good

and no change plainly good,
as well, depending on
the seller and the goods
as if we’re now excused

from asking what was
and what’s to be:
and who precisely
will make this change
trickle it into our hands

the change we chase
glimmers golden, jangles
like walking-around money
as when the boy I saw yesterday

paused and stooped to retrieve
a heads-up penny
on the path to school

Jeremiad

Third-quarter moon caught in the pines across the street,
its orange oblong knocked slightly to the right,
this afternoon’s demure crop of crocuses shut up for the night.

Beyond the frogs’ wee-hours din down in the creek,
one street over – bright, then gone, then bright –
comes the yellow flare of a house’s front hallway light.

A man’s voice rings out, bellowing complaint:
what he’s going to do – here his words are muffled – and what he ain’t
and a woman replies if he’ll just turn the other cheek

her friend will black his good eye, too, for in truth she’s no saint
either. I stand, held by the brawl that brought me out, under the quaint
scalloping of my front porch roof, my heart thudding, my silence replete.