Termite the cat that used
a bull for games Termite
was her name.
Every Sunday she had oysters for dinner.
Every morning she had cream.
She went out enthralled in pleasure who on a farm
gets to do that?
Termite the cat, terror of children
and terriers alike, hunter of hound dogs,
stalker of shepherds, marauder of all
of Shakerag’s mutts.
Her kittens, conceived in plain sight on the porch,
popped out placenta covered on this seat. No one
drove the trucks for two weeks
until she drug them to the hayloft to begin
to learn to hunt.
Wild spitting devils those kittens, farmed
out to other barns, never once in their lives forced
to trade false affection for food.
9 A Short Treatise on Pickup Trucks in American Culture
A pickup truck means you are a person with something that needs doing, something big that needs doing, something that needs hauling from one place to another, that needs loading and unloading, that needs to public and proud in the open bed.
A pickup truck means you are a person who is not too proud or too showy, a pickup truck gives you something to endlessly show off how much it can haul what kind of new spark plugs gives you amazing power to pull what kind of tires what kind of toolbox what you’ve done this week to the carburetor how you’ve tuned to have just a little more roar than is absolutely necessary.
A pickup truck is manly, is masculine, is butch, construction butch farm butch owner of store of heavy stuff butch, is proof you can do what needs doing.
A pickup truck is practical because every real job has stuff to haul.
While the car replaced the carriage horse, the pickup truck replaced the wagon hitched to two massive Belgians.
Pickup trucks come in two varieties: the show-off model and the working model. Many farms may have one or more of each.
The amount of rust on a pickup truck is in direct proportion to how it is has served its purpose.
Pickup trucks have hauled people and animals fleeing danger. Pickup trucks have hauled Black men to lynchings. Pickup trucks have moved hunters to the woods and animals home to eat. Pickup trucks have hauled new appliances home and hauled stolen goods away. The purpose of a pickup truck is to haul. To what use people put that purpose cannot be blamed on the truck.
A pickup truck is all about class. Is the Clampetts. Is Ma and Pa Kettle and Poppa Walton and Okies and Good Ole Boys.
Pickup trucks, when driven by white men, do seem oft to sport a confederate flag decal or four.
The bench seats of pickup trucks have been the holy lair of teenage sex since the pickup truck was invented. One can say of a pickup truck that it is has been in a family for three generations. One can say of three generations of a family that they have been in a pickup truck.
I got married.
I had kids.
I was who I was
supposed to be
except those two times those
hunting trips up through Iowa
to North Dakota
ring-neck pheasants flushed faster
than you could shoot them
being who I was supposed to be, best
friends on a journey best friends who kept
the best secret bestly
that was the second time the first time I went
was a birthday trip with my beloved uncle
who taught me what I was supposed to be
and told who I was supposed to be and those two things
were also true
were the first stones in my bones, the ones too calcified
for chemo to cure stone seeds, seeds of stone
never allowed to split and shoot never to know light
or water or the crisp chill of Dakota day
7. A Powerful Pulsing
When I was conceived this truck
idled smooth smooth as Dad’s hair
slicked back a finely tuned
smooth a deliberate practiced
this is the story of how we begin to remember
but the truck I knew ran rough
these are roots of rhythm
rough like driving over cattle gates
rough like pedaling my bike over frosted
rough like the palsied shaking
of the old farmers’ hands, lined up
in their wheelchairs along the long
hall of the county nursing home
and the roots of rhythm remain
Sticks and stones may break my bones
but certain words will kill me
words that name the stones lining up
in my bones lucky stones lucky stones lucky
bones til their luck ran
Lucky stones lucky socks lucky pennies lucky
rabbit’s foot on a little chain not so lucky
for the rabbit we’d say, the charm
that gave the luck to us.
It wasn’t words that killed those rabbits
but what did? What factory slaughtered
rabbits and for what reason and where and who
decided to dye the feet bright pink or green
Sure, one family I knew raised rabbits
for slaughter. Sure, we hunted rabbits to
skin and fry up and eat
but neither of those produced the hundreds
of thousands of feet in boxes on shelves
in Dime stores and Drug stores or in ads on the back
pages of comic books.
Sticks and stones didn’t break their bones.
Where were they when their luck ran out?
5. what is known is not always true
a tisket a tasket
a something something basket
mareseatoats and doeseatoats
and a little lamb followed her to
school one day, school one day
lamb followed her to school one day
which was against
follow follow fallow
to lie then fallow which means not wild
but plowed and then unseeded
and how has that never been a synonym
for fucking while wearing a condom?
fellow with a fallow phallus
a fallow phallus had the fellow
if a fellow has a fallow phallus
how can he have children for a lamb to follow?
and if a fellow with a fallow phallus
nonetheless had a child could the fallow
phallus protect her? Wherever there are lambs
there are wolves nearby and that’s
The International Wolf Center interrupts this rambling
to state unequivocally that the inevitability
of wolves stalking lambs is a fallacy,
and fallow fields left full of wildlife
will keep a hungry wolf from traveling
far afield to eat your lambs.
Wolves eating lambs = bad
Dogs eating lambs made into chow = good
It always comes back to purpose you see
Besides nearly all of the lamb-eating wolves
are wolves of the whistling human
variety. One such wolf attacked my
lamb leaving her bloody but alive
to be hunted again. Which is how I knew it was
a human wolf for actual wolves kill to eat
then go back to their peaceful female-headed
family lives while human wolves
say “tsk tsk the child reads too many
fairy tales her imagination is out
a tisk tisk, a task task,
a basket full of human crap
4 A good life
Death in the country is I suppose
somewhere on the psychotic scale.
The old farm dog when he dies is
sobbed for and mourned and buried with a stone
marker and the stories about him grow
to legendary while the calf you saved by
bottle feeding 10 times a day gets sent to slaughter
and eaten through a long cold winter
and both animals had good lives, that’s how you learn
to understand it, having had a good life,
though one was much much shorter and ended
in a planned and choreographed murder
Stay practical. Everything has its
purpose and purpose matters more than
time. Wasteful stupid waste to
outlive your purpose.
The purpose of a calf is to be beef.
The purpose of a dog is to be guard
The purpose of a truck is to run.
Purpose over? Time to go. No sense
being sentimental over what by its
nature is finished.
But half the barns round this way
hold an old rusting truck. No sense
in being sentimental.
So goddammed much stuff broken
here the truck’s axle all the messing
around with the motor just to lie on the rough
of the idle just to imagine
what was broken in the past or maybe
the past was whole but each second
of its immense feet marching across
the old farmhouse floor wore
down the foundation so life now
is iffy enough and the future
is bound to fall in on all
who survive to see it
I won’t survive the fall
I mean this fall I mean not some time
later when the last bits of these floors are
splinters in the last toes of the last children here
I mean lying here I’ve pulled the choke
back out and the rust of the truck floor rattles
with the motor’s idle roar, clacks the knobs
of the window handles shakes this seat
shakes my bones I’d rather
stay here and open the throttle wide
and let the engine shake my bones apart
rattle loose the hard dark stones my bones
shown in black and white are harboring
I mean I was made to the rhythm
of this truck’s shimmy-shake and if
I want to be unmade here as well
that’s my own goddamned decision
Last year I started NaNoWriMo in good faith, as a story that appeared in my head written in poems. Then I got the flu on November 6th and that was the end of that project. This year I’m starting again, using the first few pieces from last year and then trying to find my way back into this voice that is speaking to me. Or through me. There may be no difference between those.
late afternoon out to the barn
keys and can of leaded gas in hand
rusty slide of door rolling back
grandpa’s faded truck
door locks never used not even once
lifting the steel hood to check
the connections on last week’s
new battery, pulling out
the cardboard scrap to check
the size of the oil stain
rusty chrome of door handle
hinges and your voice both
rumbling scratches so long
since either prayed
the smell of him might still remain
the imprint of his left fingers on
the back of the choke throttle
youtube says pull it one half inch
but the heart is looking now, seeing
more than a camera ever could
pulling the lever as far as it will come
spraying WD-40, sliding it in and out again
until it comes no farther
how can the key be so small?
In it goes, turning and hoping
turning and holding breath
turning and a click and a sputter
pedal choke clutch
pedal choke clutch
pedal choke clutch
sputtering and dying
sputtering and gasping
sputtering and shuddering
the closest thing to a purr this old engine
letting the engine run
lying down across the seat
decades of dust and yet the smell
of hay and ponies and the carhartts
soaked with gas and engine oil he
wore home from work
six days a week
perfume of a life lived with
limited choices, pony manure enough
to grow tomatoes wider than
a supper plate
just laying, the jerky engine idle
the rhythm of your