Fishing, Fathers Day | The Old Horseplayer
Philosophers Club | New Orleans 2010
Ode to My Branch Loppers
They come ready to my hand,
Like a ball bat or tennis racket,
Useful, overlooked, underrated tool-
Coupled with a bow saw, or chain saw,
They enable many things.
Downed wood, limbs and branches
Ignored by others as too troublesome,
To me become fuel for woodstove.
Branch loppers in one hand,
Bow saw in the other,
Back along the Russian River,
Mid-November, my old beat invaluable
Green and white side-step, slide-door
1969 VW van nearby,
I more than happily take over
Someone else's abandoned brush pile-
Oak wood, pine, madrone, cedar and alder.
No discriminator, my branch loppers accept it all,
Lop, lop, lop it clean
For bow saw to turn into transportable lengths.
I breathe deep. A hawk is flying.
The river flows-so far below flood stage now
It's hard to believe what it can sometimes do.
The next day I go
Up a nearby hillside after manzanita.
Manzanita tends to die out for some reason.
I don't know why.
A botanist or forester could explain it perhaps.
Or a Google search.
All I know is some stay alive and healthy
While others die, become brittle, break off, uproot.
My bow saw and branch loppers
Work on the gnarly dead manzanita.
I love the texture and color of it-
Smooth maroon turning to rough black.
Over the hillside the sawed branches go,
As close to the van as I can toss them.
I do more lopping and sawing on the flat,
And carry a good load back.
That very night,
By the airtight woodstove,
Watching through the glass,
Warmed by wine, woodfire, friendship,
I give thanks, propose a toast.
Here's to you, branch loppers,
Purchased at Ace Hardware
For less than thirty bucks-
Sharp, well-made, useful.
Long may you lop!
Ode to My Bow Saw
half moon queen
of my tool shed
I love you
love at first sight
in my younger days
using too small bow saws
reward never equaled effort
but then I discovered
the perfect size
crafted to my capabilities
designed for my desires
and ever since
I have been
in bow saw heaven
Our dog Scout
sees me pick up the bow saw
she's as happy as I am
we're heading for the woods
a cool October day
after wayward branches of oak
ones that hang too low
ones that have died out
ours for the taking
bow saw goes to work
time ceases to exist
we see what we can saw
we saw what we see sawable
yes we're having fun
useful practical fun
to the health
of the household
I thank you
for all that you enable
there's no reason
not to use
and keep on using you
And I don't want
to forget to mention
how wonderfully quiet you are
unlike those admittedly useful
but obnoxiously loud
you do your work
in a graceful
always without complaint
Please let me know
if there's ever anything
I can do for you
Fishing, Fathers Day
drowning a worm
watching my bobber
ripples on the pond
in a bowl below the world's cares
renoir monet seurat
but never quite captured this
this is what my brother-
my brother brian
who died in a car crash
when he was twelve-
this is what he loved
more than anything
it was never really about catching fish
it was the teeming life of the pond
that continually fascinated him
the myriad minnows in the shallows
multicolored multishaped wonders
small blue dragonflies mating in flight
yellow mustard blooming magnificently
purple sage purple
whatever that fragrant flower is
fronds of pondside algae
glint of sunlight on ripples
the wind in the reeds
the wind in the willows
the wind in the sedge
at the edge of the pond
the ephemeral nature of all phenomena
whoah! now an osprey
hovers flies on alertly watching
blackbirds flit and dip
not redwinged blackbirds just-
a killdeer kee-kee-ka-kees
a belted kingfisher
starts to alight nearby
thinks better of it
cries as he flies away
three ducks glide in and land
at the other end of the pond
joining the four ducks
already swimming there
i cast again
find a shady spot
watch my bobber
smoke my backwoods smoke
drink my redhook ale
if i happen to catch any fish
it will be a tremendous bonus
The Old Horseplayer
for Paul Wight
"All of life is six-to-five against."
He doesn't go to the track much anymore.
He's 87 years old for Christ's sake.
Yeah, they've got elevators now,
and those little golf carts
that'll pick you up at your car.
But that means extra tips,
and then there's the drive, the cost of gas.
With off track betting and cable tv,
there's really no need to go to the track.
And anyway, as he likes to say,
"They wouldn't have those places if people won."
Still he buys his Racing Form every day-
his son drives him to the corner store-
and he places a few bets.
What the hell? They're still running.
There are some good young jockeys at Churchill Downs.
He still knows a few trainers.
Why not risk a few dollars?
The old horseplayer spends a lot of time with his son.
His son is 55 now. He drives the old man around.
He and his sisters took away the old man's car keys a few years ago.
He called a locksmith and had a new set made.
They took those away too.
So now he's resigned himself and his son drives him.
They drive out River Road.
"That's where the Pine Room used to be,"
he tells his son. "I remember the night it burned down."
They drive out U. S. 42, past some of the horse farms.
There's still something about a yearling
that makes his heart leap up.
Back home he calls OTB and bets $10 on a horse
he likes in the 3rd at Saratoga.
"Never bet on anything that can talk,"
he tells his son.
"Okay Dad, I won't."
"If it rains, go to the movies."
"Thanks for the advice."
Yeah, the old horseplayer has seen a lot.
His wife died a year ago.
He's been lonely since then,
but he's hanging in there.
He's got his kids and grandkids,
and church, and the horses.
He's making a novena at St. Leonard's,
praying he'll live to 105.
Why not? The odds are long,
but the horses are still running.
Why not stick around, see what happens next?
Maybe there will be another great horse,
like Sir Barton, or Man O' War, or Secretariat.
Maybe there will finally be another Triple Crown winner.
He walks to the kitchen, pours an iced-tea.
His son comes in the back door.
"Drive me to the corner, will ya?
I need to buy the Racing Form."
The welcoming party of wild grains,
The wild rice gang,
Encounter their adversaries,
Take them out to lunch,
Argue fine points of theology and philosophy.
How many angels on the head of a pin?
Sound of one hand clapping?
Which came first, egg or chicken?
What's the difference between a duck?
Lunch gives way to serious sake drinking.
Reasoned argument turns to name calling.
You intentionally obfuscating, self-deluded
Hegelian son of a bitch.
Yeah, your argument's so circular it's makin' me dizzy.
Your mama is so Kierkegaardian that only a self that
relates itself to itself and is therefore grounded
in a power higher than itself would want to fuck her.
Don't you be talkin' 'bout my mama!
After that, order is never restored.
Fisticuffs mix with fragments of invective:
Zen fascist bastard! Baudrillardian neo-Nazi!
Your German accent sucks!
The party of wild grains boards a houseboat for home.
Their guests curse them roundly and depart by train.
Plans for next year's meeting will be arranged by mail.
New Orleans 2010that magical musical
on down to New Orleans
brown water widening
as it wanders
down to the Gulf
lush green vegetation
the serpentine coils
of the river
ripples on the surface
barges in tow
all along the levee
roads and people go
pine trees rising
out of swamps
like you've never seen
you can hear the gumbo sound
there's music all around
Olde Town Inn
i can see the umbrellas
hear the rain
clock on the wall
thermometer on the wall
plates and trivets
on the wall above
the coffee pots
jazz music on the radio
bees n' beads
beads n' bees
beads and bees
in the trees
pretty red-haired girl
in long peasant skirt
and black t-shirt
cups o' coffee
back to the room
in the morning
On the Street
it keeps on happening
up in the morning
cup o' coffee
out for a walk
all through the vieux carre
the rhythm of the street
all shapes and colors
white, black, brown, tan
girls in t-shirts
long dark hair
or short kinky
nice ass in blue jeans
on the sidewalk
outside the Maple Leaf
Rebirth Brass Band
all the people
clasping hands, embracing
"How you been?"
"Well look who it is!"
"Old Benjamin himself!"
"Oh, I forgot about that."
among the friendly
in old rawngy nawngry
By the River
well the music
the days, the nights
got to get me
a Faubourg Marigny
after po' boy
walking on the levee
above the Mississippi
foaming rippling down
all along all down
to the gulf
to the Gulf
© Copyright 2005- by Daniel Barth. All rights reserved.
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