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Burgess Needle, three poems


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 --

oh, Lord!

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.


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

so specific.

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

perfect eggs

So unlike our own irregular

gerrymandered lives

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.


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:

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