Five Poems

Land Mind

All weapons aren’t meant to kill.
In fact, the most effective weapons
are often the ones that incapacitate
your enemy’s body or terrorize his mind.

Land mines are very definitely
weapons of this sort.
I remember what we called them
in the infantry: foot-poppers.

You don’t know when they’re
going to go off.
And they don’t honor
truces or cease-fires.

Drink to me only with thine eyes
and I will pledge a mine.
This land is your land
this land is mine land.

Listen to the call of the mine-ah bird.
You’ve got your coal miner,
your gold miner, your silver miner,
and then you’ve got your land miner.

True generosity is when what’s mine
is yours. Mine land, mine Kampf,
chow mine? Land mine, mind land.
Mine. Mind. Mine mind.



it’s like a voltaic mercator projection wrapped around an old shoe
it’s throwing a spate of clockwork underwear in the cockamamie zoo
send up a weathervane the four winds sucking on a tootsie pop
runn down a back alley when the boulevard’s a dead-end kid or cop
cut up a wave of revulsion and season with a spring of parsley or tuna
whip up an average trauma when the craters orbit a dive-bombing luna
in the event nothing happens take a message take a trick but don’t cheat
avoid internal rhyme it’s a crime prevention will cure a pound of salt pork
but an empty belly balloons all wrung out the black cat scratches New York
or it’s blowing sax in a studded club with low-cut diamonds pacing the deck
it’s gargling cement when the forms break and the danger signs say relax
it’s biting the ballot stuffed with sheet-metal prayers and a shiny hidden tax.


Are You Being Served

anything in this department of blah,
a subject, or even an object, or action,
like a scatter of seeds across this derelict
plain, or a landscaping into fancy, or is it

a tract without a point, no moral, no picture,
just predeconstructed text rattling along
sagging badly unless we throw in a president
and BOOM by reflex up in your mind

popflies this hardball, all according to
the language contract which requires you
to approximate whatever we pitch, as,
the history of the major leagues, regardless

whether you’re interested in it, or a word
you don’t even know, perhaps nebbish,
which we don’t recall and are now forced
to go and look up, which the closest dictionary

doesn’t even list, but it does list “nebneb,”
about which there is apparently very little to say
except it is the same as “bablah” which is a tree
with tannin useful for dyeing, but the problem is

it’s awfully close to blahblah, and wasn’t the nebbish
a creation of Al Capp, so what are we doing,
now they call it web browsing, or is it neb dozing
try leather, this jacket will ride up with wear?


The Grace and Stupidity of Deer

See the deer run, how fleet they are, oops
one ran right into this truck kind of tumbling
end over end in a flurry of headlight glass and
paint chips it’s sliding now into highway litter.

Ooo they run with this liquid motion but here
comes one bumbling along with a leg hanging
hickety-pickety it goes, the liquid dribbling,
bumpety-clumpety, for hours, maybe days.

Ah the arcing white tail as they leap, such verve!
But here’s a klutz that runs into a bullet tumbles
all akimbo—having blundered into one I guess
it needs a second or third till it settles down.

Sigh, a group of them majestic on a slope,
motionless, alert! What’s the matter with
these five, hanging by their heels under the oak,
looking awfully thin, staring dully at the ground.

There was a dance, a balance, they say, between
the ranging herd and hungry wolves, not pretty
if you were old or weak. How dumb of the boldest
and best to end up wrapped, frozen, venison!

Talking deer! Silliest things I ever heard!
“Shoot us with a drug, birth control,” said the buck.
“Yes, and the same for your human horde,” said the doe.
“For they starve,” said the fawn with such large eyes.


My Man

This is my man rushing along the freeway.
It’s a hot, sunny day. Traffic is flowing smoothly.
My man is going to get home just fine.
Why do I find myself studying his calm profile?

He is of course not calm. He’s rushing at
seventy past exits and entrances, he’s one of the players.
He’s carefully monitoring his position relative to other traffic.
Often he makes crucial decisions that literally save his life.
But none of this bothers him.

He can think about things.
He can carry on a conversation with you.
If you asked him he would even admit, while carefully
slowing a bit to let the car ahead cut in front of him,
that sometimes traffic is insane and that
mass transportation is the way to go.

He might even admit
that yes he accepts these poisonous ribbons of concrete
because he doesn’t have any choice,
he wants you to see how helpless he is, how powerless,
and how therefore he has convinced himself
that it appears as if there’s nothing wrong.
Everyone still breathes fairly easily.
Traffic is flowing smoothly. My man
is going to get home just fine.

He’s not thinking, but he is,
about what goes on at night under the exits and entrances,
about how concrete pouring into streets and alleys
wiped out neighborhoods and mom and pop grocery stores.
He would not want to talk about, if you brought it up,
the role of the freeway in creating ghettoes.

He might say, if you asked him, I’m thinking about
a place where I can live in contentment and total self-deception,
where I am just one of God’s creatures, part of the landscape, you see,
and if you ask where I live I can say, oh, just over there,
in that valley, in harmony, in that peaceful valley, just over there.

— R. Virgil Ellis, Cambridge, WI