Selling My Dead Brother
I said yes to the phone solicitation
without much thought—he’d only
been dead a day. Why not use
his few good body parts
in some spooky transplant?
Most of his body had failed him:
eyes crossed all his life worsened
when diabetes set in. In his last years
he watched TV through binoculars.
His tongue too deceived him
into eating junk food washed down
by soda or sweet tea. His ankles
could not support his great weight.
His kidneys failed. The gout ate him alive.
In my plan his body would be consigned
to a last great fire. It sounded noble, a gesture
I thought he might make, donate whatever
the compassionate phone solicitor
asked for. He fell for ideas like that.
When the thank you letter came,
I saw my brother’s body was an investment,
that I’d sold him to capitalist cartels at a price
he could never afford. Fault and blame?
He killed himself with too many plates
of pasta loaded with butter and Velveeta’s
fake cheese. He washed everything down
with good ole Mountain Dew. The thank you
letter’s lost. I scattered his ashes
at Clemente’s statue, Steelers field, the
three rivers. That was our life together.
What more, I still wonder, could I have done
before I signed him away?
Hay Bales on the Northern Plains
I want them to be buffalo huddled
within their shaggy selves under winter
sky almost white as snow below, buffalo
that survived the long rifles and chant Buffalo
Bill’s dead at each observation car that passes.
Beyond this pasture everything blurs
to obscure-- North Dakota stretching
north to Canada. Where are we?
Not the Badlands, not good lands either.
Soon, spring; this might be green
wheat. Another season, harvesters sailing
dusting the air gold. Already
diligent farmers have ploughed
curved furrows. My train rolls through
last February days, Fargo to Minot,
Minot to Williston’s fracking camps.
Last night I slept, twisted, covered
by my jacket and dreamed of Key West.
Now I’m humming Marley. Bleak
seems overused. White’s inadequate.
Think of the Whale, the Eskimo’s hundred names
for snow. I am out of my land, sky not mine,
air fierce and frigid. These late years, it takes
more and more to redeem my solitary man.
Imagined buffalo, glimmer of blue sky,
brief swatch of a field not cut to stubble,
Minot’s promise of a fast walk to a bad cup of coffee’s
not enough. Tomorrow, from the rapids
to the sea. Portland, a drink, a meal,
another drink, a bed in a hotel.