Burgess Needle, three poems

September 1, 2017





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

               LUCKY #7

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:    www.burgessneedle.com

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