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...

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...

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...

Physical Former

1. It is tomorrow here already.
When the vodka's gone
it means we have to sleep
And I don't want to sleep—ever!

2. Turning and twisting.
What was all that law school for?
Those early mornings, Austin city
bus, statutes, prescription glasses,
hard attitude, I
Never wrote the checks. I only ever
sued one "person," one dumb city and
It was a win but
what is that victory now?

The rest of the poem...

Pages from An Old Woodshed

I've been clearing out part of the shed. One of the bays. I think of it as a future café, or perhaps even a place to sleep. I'll show ya. I'm taking certain old items—tire, rim, an old heavy plow, pure iron, the weight—and moving them into a different shed. A junk shed.

Now I'm taking my drill out there to reinforce the structure a bit. This is my playground, my school, my office, my church.

To read much more, including a new theory of the universe, continue here...

The Only Bluff in Iberia

Farm Party prep gone awry

Light rain tonight,
Missouri farm.
After the neighbors have helped,
After they have asked after us
Who are growing up here
Six days a year.

Mice droppings on divan.
Recluse on back porch, ghost-brown.
Dust and dauber carcasse.
Somehow the lights still work.
Weeds, stickers, tag-alongs.
Jimson weed and bramble...

Full poem...

From Cabin to Cave

Greer Spring, Oregon County, MO.  Photo courtesy Anne-Marie Vaughan.
Greer Spring, Oregon County, MO. Photo courtesy Anne-Marie Vaughan.

And then this
A spring, the water
feeding on air

I thought,
Let the world be replenished
But, no, the world
replenishes itself

Loud current, green leaf
The fallen log
be runneth over
until rock:

Nature smoothes its future,
becomes hard as a fossil
in the tumbling flow

We are warned.

A funnel, an umbrella
The reverse of an umbrella

The force washes me now
downriver, everything
left behind
and I cannot
go back
to get it


I wanted to get through the first section of this notebook on this trip.  The pages in this section are edged in blue.  I've got a ways to go, sorry to say.  I did not do enough describing of areas.  I was reluctant to write in the car and thereby pissed a lot of decent words down the drain.  I would have said more about how the plains looked once we were on the eastern side of the park, looking out toward the east.  It was what I called Custer's view.  East of the park, on the fat part of the divide, the land begins the process of flattening out and it's as though you can see for miles and miles and miles.  Maybe you can.  The colors were a range of maize yellows and sun-bleached wheat whites and dull greens and then of course the blue of the sky—that dumbstruck, blue-lipped blue.  The sky was free of clouds as we drove north to Canada on Wednesday but it was accentuated and supported by fairly high altostratus on the way back down.  It was mackerel sky in spots, probably my favorite day sky.

There was champagne—well, prosecco—in our room at the Belton yesterday.  It sat in a little ice bucket on a tray along with a card of congratulations and two up-ended champagne flutes.  B had told them it was our 10-year anniversary trip, which was true.  It was the same brand of prosecco as was waiting in the fridge at our cabin (Reclusive Moose), for Patrick and Anne-Marie in recognition of their tenth.  This was not coincidence.  One of the co-owners of the cabin is the general manager at the Belton.  The other co-owner was waiting tables at the restaurant there last night.  Small town in a small world, I guess.

Continue reading about this trip to Montana and Canada...

Eagles in Winfield, MO: Lock and Dam #25


We left here at two minutes to nine—nine being when we were to be at the Vaughans' house.  I had rushed to get my backpack filled with the right things.  As I sat it in the backseat, I remarked to myself, "This bag is heavy."

At the Vaughans' place, Anne-Marie was ready to greet us as we made to knock.  We piled into her Scion, for what reason I never inquired. I was kind of disappointed because I really like riding in Pat's Vibe.  Pat still drove.  I rode shotgun and felt I had nothing to say.  Pat made the left from I-170 North to I-70 West (a turn he once made in error, begging Billy's chagrin at the White Birch disc golf course, but I digress).  I thought: he's done it again—why are we getting on Interstate 70 West when Grafton and the eagles are east of here?  But I didn't say anything, except for a small prayer that I said only to myself (and God).

Through the airport area on Interstate 70 is a nasty speed trap—Berkeley, Edmundson, St. Ann: the various airport municipalities, some more obscure than others.  Pat wasn't exactly laying off it but I didn't see any cops.  Eventually they were there (two of St. Ann's finest), but one had gotten out to share some hot intel with the other and Pat saw the guy's fluorescent highlighter vest and eased up. 

That disaster averted, I got back to worrying about where in the hell we were going.  I thought, "Is he going to take Lindbergh to 367?"  That's not the way I would have gone, and we would lose a little time, but it would get the job done—I guess.  Nope.  Then we flew by the ramp to get onto I-270 and I was completely confused.  I resorted to consoling my worry by thinking, "Okay.  There's some other place, along the Missouri River that's really good for seeing eagles, that Pat knows about because he's got the whole St. Charles County-sort-of country street smarts thing going on."  Except that B and I had recently mentioned to Pat and Anne-Marie that we (me and B) had driven up along the Great River Road to Grafton on Christmas (with my sister Emily and her boyfriend, Rob) and we had seen a boatload of eagles along the way.  If Pat knew about a sweet spot for eagle watching that was somehow better, he didn't mention it then.

I started to worry that his plan was to take a series of ferries to get us to Grafton, something we had done once when we all went to Grafton for my birthday one September.  On that occasion we first took the Golden Eagle ferry across the Mississippi to Golden Eagle, IL before then taking the Brussels ferry across the Mississippi yet again to Grafton.  This possibility concerned me because I was pretty sure that neither of those two ferries was running today.  I'd checked.  The winter has been quite cold and best I could tell from the websites for those ferries—and from Twitter—the ferries were shut down because of ice build-up on the river.  The Winfield ferry, which I'd never been on and didn't even realize existed, had apparently started running in the last day or so, but Winfield was a bit further north.  If we headed up that way, it might be our only option but even then: if the Brussels ferry wasn't running it wasn't clear to me how we'd get to Grafton.  Either way, it was looking like we were going to be spending more time in the car than I had imagined and I was starting to fret just a bit...

The eagles are just ahead...