Goes Away

Where one leak seemed fixed, another springs up.  Well, isn’t that the way it goes?  Stained wood, stained mattress.  Damp kitchen, scary room.

Stove going.  I was in the dirty attic.  Three-legged chairs, canceled checks, dauber nests by the hundred.  I go up there because the attic is my place to intercept the rain that finds its way through the farmhouse’s old, fallible roof.  Like me, the rain keeps returning, keeps coming back to this remote piece of cattle country in the middle of the state.  

A mist rises from the pasture, hangs there like a cloud.  Above, the sky is clear.  There is, thank God, no wind.  It is still.  I can hear nothing but the nothing that is, the nothing that once will be everything.  If you would be so kind as to scatter my ashes here.  If you would allow me to play the part of the sandstone, to let the water through.

The mice are back.  Two traps, old cheese, picked clean.  Leave the droppings where they lay.  Wise rodents.  Re-bait, try again...


A short missive from Farm, from late last year...

All Roads Are Crossings (2020)

Where did I put that thing? It has to be in here somewhere. I’ve never brought it back into the house. Maybe I threw it behind the seat? Or maybe the kids were playing with it, even though I’ve asked them to stop. Perhaps I stashed it in the console, along with the sunglasses, the pens, the motion sickness tabs, and this notebook. Or maybe it’s hanging on the rearview mirror, hidden in plain sight, like a rabbit’s foot, a pair of dice, or an air freshener that wore out many moons ago.

~

Things that are crumpled: bedspread, sauteed greens, the economy, mask on the ground, the hours of last night in my memory, recyclables once tipped into the collection truck, an old friendship, the silence, a grounded butterfly’s wing, used latex-free gloves, plastic bag in my pocket that once held oatmeal raisin cookies, my stash of reusable cloth bags now outlawed from use at the grocery, deleted email, used coffee filters, my previous laptop after an unfortunate run-in with the suddenly vital videoconferencing app known as Zoom, various articles of clothing that are now just laundry...

The full essay is here

A Little Dauber Do Ya

1

The only thing here in the traps was a very crisp frog. There's a bit of a breeze. Only some of the grass has grown, only some of it needs to be mowed. The rest is fried—if it isn't dead it might not grow again this year. So there's one upside to the heat, to the lack of rain: less mowing. If I can stick out the balm, I can spend my time here the next two days doing more of this, and maybe a little reading...


The rest of the story...

To the Dogs

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A couple of dogs were here yesterday when I arrived, and they have stuck around.  

I have been giving them food, so I can’t be too surprised that they have stayed.  I had an old can of soft food stashed away on the upper shelf of the corner kitchen cabinet.  It didn’t look too bad; they ate it.  They’ve also gotten a few of the heart-shaped Newman’s-brand treats, which are basically doggie biscuits.  And I’ve given them some kibble I had tucked away in a mouse-proof bucket back in the main bedroom here at Farm, dateline Traderight, MO.

I’ll give them what food I have, for as long as they are here, and then I’ll restock with some fresh food when I return.  Whether the new inventory will be for these two on some later visit or for my own dog Hugo or for some other rando dogs that might appear somewhere down the road, who knows?

They slept out front last night.  They growled and barked a few times.  Somewhere around one or two in the morning they woke me with barking and I had to pee anyway so I went outside.  Even before I stepped out the front door I could smell something dank and rich and garlicky, a very deep and funky body odor let loose into the wild.  Skunk.  There was no doubt about it.  Like a bomb had been released...


Continue reading...

River Flint

Look at how red that star is.  Oh, I know, my pillowcase was soaking wet.  Did you just text me?  I never use the hand dryer.  You know that door makes a lot of noise when it bangs shut, right?  I don’t have any idea what time it is.  The insects are happy.  I can see Orion’s belt now.  Can you imagine coming out here before the road was paved?  I don’t know if those people are just getting up or if they never even went to sleep.  The river’s gonna feel good tomorrow.  Why do you have that rubber band around your wrist?  It is not possible to drink enough water.  Is your dog dreaming in his sleep?

***

Man, where’d you find all that kindling?  If you saw Orion’s belt that high above the horizon in the middle of September it had to be two a.m.  Yeah, I had to wear ear plugs.  Can kayaks leave a wake?  Something absconded with the chips last night.  What’s this spongy stuff?  That guy slept in his van.  I dreamt about box fans.  What time are they picking us up?  You can’t use that kind of pen on these notebooks.  If it rains on your birthday that’s good luck, right?  Those look like chigger bites to me.  Almost nobody was wearing a mask.  If you saw a reddish star that bright it was probably just Mars.  It’ll go back up eventually.  That fire’s going good now.  Of course I brushed my teeth.  Did you hear those ducks going at it in the middle of the night?  Well, I’m supposed to wear a biteguard.  It was worse inside the tent, believe me.  I gargle if I can.  Dogs actually shed a lot this time of the year.  The whole thing was so stupid.  Is he just going to keep going back and forth like that?  Oh, that’s a cute mask.  It’s amazing those things float. I don’t know, I think it’ll be fun.  That was definitely an owl.  What’s that movie where they all scramble like hell to get ready for the airport?  You’re gonna have to get somebody back out here to take some photos.  Hey, how easy is it to tear these things in two?  Holler if you want a muffin.  Did water get in there?  Well, I was looking for my headlamp but it was one of those things where I needed my headlamp to find it.  I’m in fine fiddle with an hour to spare.  Those clouds do look pretty thick over there.  I always travel with a couple of little soaps.  Eh, I’ll sleep on the river...  


This short prose poem continues. Thanks for reading...

The Case of the Missing Steak

But then a second Yoakum brother paid a visit.  This was Junior, the youngest, veteran of the Navy, pulling up the drive in an all-terrain buggy with his wife Ginger in the passenger seat and two hunting dogs in tow.  

I had never met Jr before.  He lives not far away.  We got to talking.  He had some questions for me.  He wanted to know about the house.  Does it have running water?  Yes, I said, but the toilet is not currently hooked up.  Is there any air conditioning, a window unit? asked Ginger.  Negative on that.  Just a box fan, I said.  

Jr remarked on the clearing I’ve been working on these last few years.  He even noted how the shed had been cleaned up, part of it anyway.  He had memories of Willy Lee, who lived in this house in the middle of the last century, who farmed this land.  Jr identified that big hulk of rusting metal in the pasture near the barn as a wheat combine.  A thresher.  My mom’s dad was a wheat farmer, he would have known that hunk of rust was a thresher.  On a recent visit, my uncle Vernon had alerted me to an article outlining the history of my grandfather's threshing circle in the Okawville Times.  I wondered about the viability of growing wheat on this rocky terrain but I guess old Willy Lee had it figured out well enough...


Click on this link to read the full story...

Three Persimmons

Today I ate three small, round, plump persimmons.  They were of an orange hue, tasting somewhat sweet, a little juicy.  Fleshy.  I didn’t know much about persimmons until recently.  Probably I ate one or two somewhere along the line but when and where and why I cannot say.  These persimmons were from a stately tree with silver-green leaves that stands out now in the north end of the cattle pasture at a place I call Farm, a plot of sixty acres of mixed pasture, scrub, and hardwood forest in eastern Miller County, Missouri.  

This past winter I set out to begin relieving this land of the burden, of the scourge of eastern redcedar infestation.  These cedar trees, which aren’t actually cedars at all but a type of juniper that grows as a tree, grow at a quickened pace.  With speed and numbers on their side, a gang of cedars will take over just about any landscape, encircling older and taller trees, choking them out, robbing them of water and other resources...  


This short essay continues here...

A Farmhouse Almanac

Today was mowing.  Hours of mowing the grass surrounding this old farmhouse.  After timely rain all summer the ground has dried out as September lurches on, dateline Traderight, Missouri.

I arrived here late this morning, some dew still in the grass, the moisture bad for mowing.  But that was fine because first priority was to get the well’s jet pump working better.  When I left here two weeks ago the water was running but the pump would not reach its cut-out pressure; it would not kick off.  A pump can’t run like that.  If it does, it’ll burn itself out...  

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Coal Clams Are the New Storm Here

As we sat down at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room on our last full day in Savannah, the arrangement of food on the table drew attention.  The number of items itself was only part of the story: sweet potatoes, cheesy potatoes, fried chicken, cornbread, corn, rutabaga, cole slaw, cukes, black-eyed peas, lima beans, stuffing, barbecued pork, cabbage, green beans, jambalaya, white rice, baked beans.  All in porcelain bowls with serving spoons.  This was a family-style meal.  The way it works is that you stand in line outside the restaurant for a half an hour or so.  When one of the tables inside opens up, seven to nine of the people standing in line take a spot at the open table.  When you sit down, the food is hot and ready to go.  You grab a bowl next to you and start loading your plate.  If there’s something you want in a bowl across the table, you ask for it to be passed.  

Anne-Marie didn’t initially sit down.  She set her purse on her chair and went to wash her hands.  Brook had her hand sanitizer out.  I had mine out.  The woman seated to my right asked to use one of the bottles.  She and her husband had driven up from Miami, though they hail originally from Spain.  They had planned to be in Japan this week but canceled that trip because of the outbreak.  The other couple at our table was from Michigan, bringing the total at the table to eight.

I was conscious of the way I handled the bowls when passing or receiving them.  But I also felt resignation.  What’s done is done.  Let’s just enjoy lunch, I thought.  Reflecting back on the meal I’m wondering about the family-style concept in the age of corona.  That restaurant is an institution.  The original Mrs. Wilkes’s grand-daughter came to our table in greeting.  Yet, with the way the news is trending overseas, the word ‘inevitable’ comes to mind.  How do we stop going out to eat?  How many traditions are we willing to concede?  How many will we lose one way or another?  I mean, I’m putting pen to paper on this trip not just because I’m a writer but with a mind to meeting an assignment for a travel writing class I’m taking at Washington University in St. Louis.  My readers are my classmates.  But I don’t know, as I sit here in Savannah, ready to go home, if my class will even convene later this month.  Stanford has already gone online...


What follows is an essay I wrote one year ago as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to publish it elsewhere, I am happy to publish it here on my blog today. Click here for the full essay and thanks for reading...

Shovel and Broom

While clearing the porch of today’s endless torrent of snow I thought about that long William Gass story, “The Pedersen Kid.”  I wish I remembered the story better but what I recall is the story of a kid getting lost outside in a snowstorm.  The story takes a surreal turn, like an impressionist painting, maybe the kid survives, maybe he doesn’t, maybe what starts to flow from the story is the kid lost in the snow somewhere telling himself he’s alright, he’s found shelter.  Gass at the height of his artistry.

My wife was outside before I was this morning, and I said to her, to myself, “You’re making me look bad.”  My body is always cranky and stiff in the morning, I usually have a hard time putting on my pants.  I found a way into them, a pair of lined snow-appropriate pants that I fortuitously requisitioned from The Internet six weeks ago, not knowing this snow would fall, but wanting to be warm at Farm, snow or no...  


Continues a short entry about sweeping snow...