The Blue Cup

Through binoculars the spiral nebula was
a smudged white thumbprint on the night sky.
Stories said it was a mark left by the hand
of Night, that old she, easily weaving
the universe out of milky strings of chaos.

Beatrice found creation more difficult.
Tonight what she had was greasy water
whirling in the bottom of her sink, revolution,
and one clean cup.

                               She set the blue cup
down on the table, spooned instant coffee, poured
boiling water, a thread of sweetened milk. Before
she went back to work, she drank the galaxy that spun
small and cautious between her chapped cupped hands.

:: Minnie Bruce Pratt, Walking Back Up Depot Street (1999)


Mending a Net

Outside, an old man who might have been
   a prophet mended a net and whistled
      something tuneless and familiar.

Across the road in the paint-flecked house,
   old women sipped coffee and spoke
      about heathens and church attendance.

The old man knew the voices--Mary Lambert, Eunice Haddock,
   Abigail Crane, the door-to-door breakfast committee
      at Good Shepherd Baptist. They spoke of an Easter Festival,

a Spring Fair to bring lost souls home.
   Words sliced through the screen porch.
      Gulls floated on wind blown

in from the bay, white hard-edged
   divots cut in a calcium sky.
      Down the oyster-shell road, by palm scrubs

and slash pine saplings, ditches stood stagnant, mosquitoes hovered,
   thick as thumbs. Rain had been falling
      for weeks; the old man's knees became his almanac.

His knuckles throbbed with a red, pulsing ache.
   The old women talked in blue, quilted voices,
      words like the interweaving of a cast net

or maybe like the weights that pull it down,
   the cinch that pulls mullet and trout in close
      before the fisherman draws sieve from water.

Someone may have mentioned his name, gestured with a chipped cup lip,
   but syllables knotted together
      and the old man lost the sounds as the south winds blew.

The net now finished, pooled at his feet.
   Behind him, a wooden box of nets to be mended.
      Above, gulls and gray could mean something

if he looked, if he took the moment to decipher
   what might not be a message. But the wind cut
      grooves in his skin. His fingers had gone numb.

:: Jeff Newberry, in Gulf Stream #25, 2006


So What

My father, after repairing triple-load washers for twelve hours
on a Saturday, would put on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and call
me into the garage. "Hear this, slugger? One four five. That's
all there is. Sons o' bitches. . ." I never understood how any
man could be on his back for twelve hours and come home to
listen to Miles Davis for another three. We split Budweisers.
"So What" always on. I remember it that way. He sang the 
words that Miles didn't need. I was ten, eleven. The sun still
out. Coltrane fading in after Miles' solo, then Miles gone.
Gone for most of the song. He's not allowed to come back
until the end. Those are the rules. That's the thing: my father
taught me this. The rhythm section the whole time keeping
time like running water. Brush stroke, snare off, over and 
again. Coltrane catches the wind of the last phrase, echoes,
and goes off wherever it was he went off to: Paradise, fishing with
a cooler full, the driveway spotted with oil, the gear grease on
his glasses and collar, the grease in his hair glinting blue at his
wake, "So What" instead of a sermon.

:: Alexander Long, Light Here, Light There (2009)


The Riveter

George was serenading me as he showered
and had I not ducked in for a wet grab, a warm view
of white suds where his leg hair was curly and thick,
I would not have been the first to see three clear words
materializing on the steamed-up mirror:
DAVE LOVES and then my name. I cooed
as one hand handled George, and one wiped glass.
Last week at the plant I left my desk and pens
to work down the line from him; a substitute
body was needed to rivet VINs into the hoods.
A woman with a strange machine in her hands,
I riveted in those long steel strips of numbers,
by which any man can prove a stolen car is his.

:: Katie Hartsock, in Clementine