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Ode to My Branch Loppers | Ode to My Bow Saw | Fishing, Fathers Day | The Old Horseplayer

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Ode to My Branch Loppers

They come ready to my hand,
Like a ball bat or tennis racket,
Useful, overlooked, underrated tool-
Branch loppers.
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!

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Ode to My Bow Saw

Soft shape
sharp teeth
half moon queen
of my tool shed
bow saw
I love you

I admit
it wasn't
love at first sight
in my younger days
using too small bow saws
reward never equaled effort
but then I discovered
the perfect size
30-inch blade
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
which contributes
to the health
and economy
of the household

Bow saw!
I thank you
for all that you enable
ambidextrous tool
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
timely manner
always without complaint

Please let me know
if there's ever anything
I can do for you

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Fishing, Fathers Day

drowning a worm
watching my bobber
ripples on the pond
in a bowl below the world's cares

renoir monet seurat
came close
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
orange dragonflies
black-and-white-winged dragonflies
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
splashes down
ascends empty-taloned
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

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The Old Horseplayer

for Paul Wight

"All of life is six-to-five against."
                   --Damon Runyon

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."

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Philosophers Club

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.

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New Orleans 2010

Flying In

that magical musical
muddy misty
old Mississippi
moseying, meandering
on down to New Orleans

wonderful warm
brown water widening
as it wanders
down to the Gulf

lush green vegetation
caressed within
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
and greens
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
       old round
thermometer on the wall
     plates and trivets
     framed prints
old-fashioned wire
cooking accoutrements
     on the wall above
       the coffee pots
  people talking
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
   carrying two
       cups o' coffee
   back to the room
     in the morning


On the Street

     it keeps on happening
   like this
up in the morning
     among friends
    cup o' coffee
   books, reading
      out for a walk
all through the vieux carre
     walking, walking
the rhythm of the street
       the people
all shapes and colors
white, black, brown, tan
    girls in t-shirts
       long dark hair
     or short kinky
        breasts bounce
    nice ass in blue jeans
     on the sidewalk
outside the Maple Leaf
Rebirth Brass Band
       you bet
    all the people
clasping hands, embracing
     shoulder bump
   "How you been?"
   "Well look who it is!"
   "Old Benjamin himself!"
"Oh, I forgot about that."
     among the friendly
  sidewalk people
   in old rawngy nawngry
     New Orleans


By the River

well the music
      the days, the nights
      the neighborhoods
Faubourg Marigny
Faubourg Tremé
      got to get me
a Faubourg Marigny
      hat today
   or tomorrow
after po' boy
or muffaletta
walking on the levee
above the Mississippi
      rolling down
      flowing down
foaming rippling down
     past Nawlins
  curving snaking
  raunching taking
      swamping cutting
   all along all down
      to the gulf
            to the Gulf
                 o' Mexico

April 2010

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