Grosvenor Slab


Oh yeah, I was in a deep, deep sleep.
I woke up but I couldn’t have told you
What day it was. I didn’t even know
Where I was awoken. Some dream
Still hung heavy about me
Like a classic film aching with plot.
The President, some massive conspiracy.
I was escaping its grip,
Helping to bring it down.
Instead I awoke, and now
I find Missouri all around.


Imagine the sound of that comet,
Its tail a contrail split in two,
Dust and fried ice, the Sun
Seething with impotence
As the comet passed it by,
Somehow staying together.
Then I saw it the way I saw it,
Wicked blue morning
Cows in the field with
Better eyes than me.
There on the horizon
A comet
Upside down, breeching,
Glowing with
Prank light
An hour before dawn.


Clothes pins
Look rickety
But still
They held my
Sweaty clothes


Word to the wise:


On this half-wild
screened-in back porch
I negotiate terms
with leaping toad,
with wily packrat.

The wasps have numbers.

The recluse skitters
up my leg
with thrombosis venom.

I move
quick as a comet
hoping to remain
intact on exit.


Smoked my
mower blade
on a hidden stump.
Blade’s not
supposed to bend
like that. I
hung it on a
cedar limb,
hung it there
with an antler shed
I found on
the other side of the pasture
before it was all
summered in.


The day was
a prayer for rain
a coming together—
a bonanza of
back porch clothes pins
clinging to the heft
of the breeze.


Packrat playing
musket ball
mud-cake ball
walnut ball
in the attic. The
game can be played
by one packrat,
maybe two.
Best to play
when the Sun is down,
then off and on
throughout the night.
Roll the ball
just at the moment
that man down there
sleeping with the light on
falls lightly
into the soft arms
of sleep.


The box fan blows nothing but
hot air.
I’ve tried to
sleep with the light on
in this old farmhouse,
a gambit that barely worked
in the cooler months.
And now, in what must
be upper-eighties
I wake to see the pillowcase damp
with the neck of night
twisted this way and that.

A blue mud dauber fans its wings
against the inside of the bedroom window,
sounding like large, insane eyelashes
refusing to believe in glass.


That’s right, Traderight.
Step right up, haircut’s a nickel,
Lollipops ten to a penny.
Box-a nails and a hickory-handle hammer
Runs you two bits. Cool down now
In the nape of Big Elm spring,
Take the pitcher up to mother,
It’s been chilled all a-morning
Waiting but waiting
For her tired arms
To churn it.


Star star star of night
We’ll treat you right
in Traderight. We’re a
Gander-ways from
Kansas City, no straight line
From here to St Louis.
These hills are
Too rocky for grain,
Too tricky for a train,
But there’s no better space
For a pasture of cattle
Or a crossroads town.


whippoorwill light, coyote light, skinklight
pushmower light
shedlight, ivylight, starchartlight

out there, early morning, in the hazy blue pasturelight
there’s animals out there, there’s something alive
those aren’t rocks, can’t be bears, could it? no
but there’s a bunch of them, and god, they’re huge
could it be, of course it has to be
cattle in the pasture just before dawn
illuminated by Venus in Taurus,
calm in the cometlight


Wasted with mowing I took to my car, took to its air conditioning in search of a swimming hole. I found a spot where a pretty creek swept under a road, leaving pools on either side of a concrete slab, a gravel bar spreading a welcome blanket, making a shore. I bathed in that creek. It was warm, warm water, sand in my shorts. I ducked and ducked. I emerged to find a truck parked on the gravel, a man in rubber boots taking tackle from the back. Awkwardly I asked him, I asked him what that place was called.

He thought for a moment, he said, ‘Grosvenor Slab is all I’ve heard it ever called.’

Bit by bit he carried gear from his truck to a spot in the shade, upstream of where I’d gotten in, upstream of the slab.

‘This is changed a lot over the years,’ he cautioned. ‘It used to be different.’

The creek had changed, its channel had wandered. The gravel bar wasn’t the same. The people were different, too.

‘No one fishes any more,’ he said, over his shoulder, carrying buckets. ‘Kids, these days, it’s nothin but phones, and video games, sittin inside all day.’

When I asked he said he was fishing for catfish. I left him there, not quite refreshed but a little more clean, rinsed by the creek of deet and sunscreen. I left him setting up along the banks of the Tavern Creek, somewhere north of Traderight, MO. I left him in his boots, in the heat.

I drove away with dust in the rearview as he dangled a hook into the current, searching for something he wasn’t even sure was there.