Saturday, October 31, 2015

Painted Paris Pumpkin

photo by Jean O'Neil

A grocer on Rue du Commerce
honors Halloween by painting
a clown face on a pumpkin.

No jack o’ lantern to scald
the minds of tiny children,
this creature’s winsome black gaze,

red blob nose, lolling tongue
look harmless as if lounging
in a textured suburban garden.

The grocer wants twenty Euros
for his artwork. The day inclines
toward the west, the overcast

thick as old-fashioned topcoats.
I crossed the Atlantic in one stride
to visit on your native soil,

but the pumpkin has locked my gaze,
so I have to buy and tote it
like the head of the headless horseman

to a rendezvous with horror
France hasn’t seen since the Forties.
It won’t perform that American

jack o’ lantern act, but maybe
the red tongue will lap and slobber
on some gray woman rushing home

with a string bag of fresh vegetables.
This freshest vegetable of all
will kindle her like puberty;

and if she steadies herself enough,
stifles the urge to call the police,
she’ll rush home to her family

and jolt them with slathers of kisses.
I hope you also will endure
the pumpkin’s friendly drooling                                 

and inspire yourself to respond
with earthen passion ripe enough
to brace us both through winter.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mud Bottom

Drained to expose the mud that lies
beneath all sensitive membranes,
the pond looks ashamed to occupy
so much acreage for nothing.
On the shore the latest mushrooms
are skulls in memory of skulls
of creatures who’ve died of drought.
Their secrets aren’t available
anymore, although they understand
that draining the pond and drowning
fish in the pitiless air
meant something to someone elsewhere,
in another dimension, distance
the leer of mountains can’t explain.

I bag the edible boletus
for dinner, avoid the death-caps
standing aloof in the deepest shade.
Sometimes in the feverish light
of October I escape myself
and stalk naked but transparent
in falling woods, leaving no tracks
and calming the deer still browsing
the salad of this year’s growth.
Then my slack old skin-bag puddles
on the ground, an empty jump-suit.
If someone came along and found it
they’d mistake it for the rubble
of someone who drowned in the pond.

Today, though, there’s no drowning,
no escape from the body,
only a line of tracks that ventures
a dozen yards into the mud
and returns, tripping little bubbles
of swamp gas. I pack my mushrooms
in my hunter orange knapsack
and turn my back on the pond,
hoping my absence will heal it.