Suburbia lurks noisy boys

by Shelby Stephenson 


Suburbia lurks noisy boys.

I lay wooden pallets over the streams in the upper pasture.

Let the goose grass grow.

It loosens my musings.

One foot, two − this dogwood, that poplar, maple, swamp bay.


The sun spots me.

My special woman sees my woods with her wonder.

My woods are beautiful with running streams.

Her streets are lovely.

Let our worlds turn − I shall go straight down the grassy patch to the wetlands.

The thrush stays at my shoulder.

The deer run wild between house and woods.


I try to tell her who I am.

She says her Yoga class gives her a tingle.

The dance the deer did today dittoes Greece 5000 years B.C.

I believe in the unseeable, the swayable with the unswayable, severable and inseparable.

Progress becomes a dot on my clamor.

The value of one cent’s my armor.


Perfectionists and whiners want my right to pen syllables.

I’m left with their trip-ups, dribs, and snivel.


My son asks What is wind? − moving his fingers toward the lake.

Those who have spells sing a fury in the schoolyard for a nickel,

Ever stamping feet, moaning My name’s Earl.

January howls around the corners of my plankhouse.

A form for verse, it just is − understood by infants only, hugging the necks of people.

Descendants tell their stories; blows come and go.

Consider the chances of outdoing Death?

Why I am an Accident of Birth.


The grave waits among the smell of cut flowers.

Widower:  “I feel like a bird that’s lost his mate.”

Amblers search the past on stones.

Oak-tree roots shape faces.

Moss won’t leave the dead alone.

My shoulders hurt under our mistakes − Pap George’s slave girl?

Mark Valsame says July might have become Julia Stephens(on) Jones.


The cow-man drives his white truck through the pasture-gate.

The cows come loping toward him.

He unloads big spools of hay.


Stray cat pauses in the hedge and preens its paws.

A fox, one leg tucked in a dangle, frills Sanders Road.


Construction-workers stream to their projects.

In the morning sun two paper-cups blow out of the back of a pickup truck.

Hours take moisture out of sunrise.

Drags of worm-shapes dry dew.

Toward evening empty beer cans litter the shoulders.

Night drops its vanity.

Every cricket’s a zither.

Lightning bugs boogie.


The hog-killer stabs the shoat’s throat and goes up with the knife,

Wipes it on his overalls, guzzles moonshine.

I lean against the gallows-pole and smell the alcohol and blood.

Amid splattering corn

Intestines coil blue-green, knobby, and grainy.

A haslet plops in a tub.

Blowfly lands on unstripped guts.

The hired-hand places his hoe on the anvil.

The tenant bridles the mules and leads them to the two-horse plow,

His baggy britches downward-tugging from the S-wrench in his pocket.

Furrows clod his brogans.

He haws the mules between the handles at the end of the rows.

The terrier chases the cow-man’s calf away from the electric fence.

The piper dives for the minnow, this line and that one, doubling.

My father never quite loses the smell of the hunting-jacket,

The quail or mallard or rabbit or squirrel,

The bloody down, sock of underbellies, lumpy eyes − closed − meat for our table.

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