Burgess Needle, three poems
EMERGING SHADOW FROM A GREEN MOUNTAIN
One day in July, the 7th day of the year
walking with Timothy whose name has seven letters,
along with the woman who lives in a house where
the pavement ends, passing
the home of the road commissioner’s daughter,
where the road has no ruts and all roadside
vegetation is neatly trimmed,
We held hands and did not wave
when the driver of a passing car, somehow related
to a man who’d shot her dog, went by
and over the bridge
above the clear water we ambled
even though my right knee ached
and the woman admitted she could
no longer run –
Then again, who to run from, I wondered.
Abruptly, we stood before a steel forged pipe protruding
from a hill side and, since this was not Paris,
there was no gargoyle’s mouth at the end from which
rich and potable water burst forth
into a welded metal box labeled
As in my name having seven letters and Lincoln,
our road’s name, also having seven letters,
and that speech so long ago where the 16th
president referred to 4 score and 7 years ago --
We are all so lucky, certainly luckier
than the inhabitants of Jericho whose walls fell
after 7 priests with 7 trumpets
circled the city 7 times,
Lucky to have found each other again
even though it took more than the 7 days
needed for Creation.
We each sampled the frothing, clear water
so cool from on high that back at the house
at the edge of the paved road I sweated
but was not thirsty though the crust
of strawberry/rhubarb pie should have made me so.
No, my friends, I was filled and fulfilled
in the emerging shadow from a green mountain –
And the swaying wooden fence bordering
newly-mowed grass seemed as powerful and charmed
as China’s Great Wall.
I looked up and waved, absolutely sure,
someone in a passing capsule
could see my smile.
ARE WE NOT ALL SO FORTUNATE
The plan was to walk and ride
turns on the bike
turns on the gravel
Hug and whisper our way
on Kennedy Road to Fiona’s
beneath a murmuration of starlings
a few proud red-breasted robins
For really fresh eggs dropped
that very day called what?
A circle of eggs?
So brown, irregular and heavy
they surprised me.
A shock of eggs?
A new collective noun!
And Fiona herself walking steady
standing firm nicely recovered
from doing a header down a flight of stairs.
Are we all not so fortunate
in our irregular skins our
on and off sensory impressions?
What? What? Did you feel that?
Jesus, the taste of freshly-ground nuts is
We walked we rode the moon
held its orbit the eggs dropped
a brief distance Fiona stands
Points to day lilies in bloom.
So fortunate are we all especially
the rooster who is given no obligations
save the obvious few
Unlike ourselves with our skin-covered
balloons of bone and blood
so precarious as fragile
as the eggs we carried safely home
We two like wise ones
in a distant desert land
bearing not frankincense and myrrh
But Fiona’s fresh eggs
lucky Fiona who survived a great fall
Were gifts to our own blessed selves
with a surfeit of river water
Smooth stones green with lichen
to be placed on our distant grave markers
honoring us our long lives
Tempered by a walk to Fiona’s
for perfect eggs
smooth heavy and brown
So unlike our own irregular
so incongruent with
gravel eggs roosters and even
each other except
Where and when it all matters most
on a bed above a river
embraced by each other’s sighs.
NOT EXACTLY EDEN
Shredding unripe papayas into a blisteringly
hot salad called som tam is what they do
in a portion of Thailand called Issan
where I taught English. Even so,
my worried mother, visualized me standing
shin-deep in rice paddies, fretted over
my lack of delicacies and mailed me a package:
spices, brownies and a large bag
of marshmallows. Wisut, my Thai roommate,
found some of the spices actually growing in our
yard and we both laughed at the irony.
Then we stared at the marshmallows.
They are plastic, are they not? Wisut asked,
squeezing one over and over.
No it’s like candy I said
He shook his head and walked away.
That weekend, a boy scout celebration, found
students scattered around the school and my house
lighting fires and cooking pots of rice.
Some of the more skilled among them
packed their own dessert of nam-dok-mai mangos
to slice alongside sticky rice balls with coconut sauce.
Out there between buildings, in lush growth they seemed
indifferent to the possibility of cobras.
Inhaling the scent of boiling rice, I had an epiphany.
Let’s make a really big fire I cried.
Cheerfully, under such a full moon, shadows
of palm and guava trees were etched on the gound as
tokays lizards called out tokay tokay tokay.
With a long stick I pierced a white orb allowing it to darken,
burn and drip before pulling it out as an offering
only to be met by stark disbelief.
It is plastic, my teacher, a student said, echoing
my roommate’s first thought.
I cautiously nibbled the bubbling treat, leaving
faintly burnt smidgen to share.
Somboon, the bravest, brought it to his lips and tasted.
In this The Land of Smiles surely Somboon’s smile broke
all records. Quickly, many sticks pierced the treats.
After the first go-around there was a joyous attempt by all to join
in the first Thai marshmallow roast.
Burgess Needle was a school librarian in Tucson for thirty years before retiring and moving to Ripton, Vermont. His poetry and fiction has appeared in Connotation Press, Inkapture (UK), Blackbox Manifold (UK), Concho River Review, Raving Dove, Boston Literary Magazine, Decanto (UK), Centrifugal Eye, Iodine, Blue Lake Review, Minotaur, Nutshell Magazine (UK) and DeComp Magazine among others. Diminuendo Press published his poetry collection: EVERY CROW IN THE BLUE SKY in 2009. His second collection, THAI COMIC BOOKS was published in 2013 by Big Table Press. His most recent collection is titled FADED PHOTO BRINGS IT BACK (available on Kindle). He taught English for two years in Nang Rong, a small village in northeast Thailand for the Peace Corps and has been a co-director of the Southern Arizona Writing Project. He is on the final edit of a memoir about his experiences in Thailand. His web site is: www.burgessneedle.com