Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fall Allergies

Political pollutants taint the air this time of year--
worse than ragweed pollen, loblolly pines,

Queen Anne's Lace, grasses galore. Yard signs,
TV sound bytes, slick flyers, Internet yahooing,

Robodialing, stump meetings, word of mouth
disease threatening our health more than Swine Flu.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mr. Big Brown Shops

A handsome man
dressed all in brown
from his cap to his shoes
considers stew meat
at the supermarket.
I wonder
if he's the man
who always rings our doorbell
before scurrying back
to his chugging brown truck.
Or the same man
who brings treats
for our barking Sheltie,
waves at us
if we make it to the door
before he revs up his truck
then rattles away
in the fading daylight
like a brown phantom.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You Tarzan, Me Surprised

When I was maybe thirteen
my parents began letting me
go to movies alone or with friends.
One Saturday matinee
the only show I was allowed to see
---after Loony Tunes and before the weekly serial---
I stood up to spot some friends.
In the flickering glimmer of a newsreel
or a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans preview
I saw my father
sitting a few seats in front of me
still wearing his baseball cap.
Asonished to see Dad at the movie
I never mentioned spotting him that day.
Perhaps he simply wanted to see
Tarzan of the Apes, Episode 13,
"His Own Kind."

(This poem originally appeared in Literary Magic,
Summer, 2009)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lint Heads' Lament

Today, the last big mill in our town
burned down, almost to the ground.
It was a vast factory once, employed
thousands---textile heaven in its day.
Vandals probably started the fire,
as they usually do, though who can
know why they want to destroy this
last big building where their whole family
worked over the years. Dozens pour out
to watch the dark, coiling smoke climb
so high in the sky a city twenty-five
miles away sees one of our landmarks
go up, make a menacing cloud.
Friends who've not seen each other
since the mill closed decades ago
watch firemen douse the glaze.
Some recall teen years spent in spinning
rooms, some sweeping up cloth fragments,
others shed tears, glad they're no longer
called lint heads.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Scent of Memory

In a late October beach walk
I see only strange seaweed,

high tide debris, puff mud,
feel ocean spray, smell salt

water---until I cross wind
with smoke. Cigar scents

suffocate me save one
familiar blend: the brand

my grandpa puffed when
I was a boy. Today---more

than sixty years since I last
smelled that flavor, a hint

of cinnamon toast, perhaps
parched peanuts--on a

windy Carolina shore,
memory lives in aromas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Every Man is a Piece of the Continent

Our small farming village where I grew up
provided aplenty for the living---
grocer, two churches, a handy man, some

widows and orphans, stray chickens,
mosquitoes, snakes---but lacked provision
for the dying: no graveyard, an oddity

as our village was planted many miles
from towns or burial places. This cold fact
never registered with me till I moved

to a city where cemeteries flourish.
Returning to the village over the years,
I mourned as it disappeared---widows died,

orphans moved away, grocer gone, churches
empty. One spring I walked the raised railroad
tracks as I did during childhood. Delighted,

I discovered many village residents
had not gone after all: in a far corner
of one cotton farm a small cemetery.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crab Bisque Blues

Unlike some who’ve stood at a kitchen
sink weighing the world’s sweet problems,
I have no such scales, though I could
take solace in knowing why ants circle
my sink as if it’s a sinking ship, when
my stainless steel vat of dirty dishes
only waits to fill my German-made
dishwasher, which ants possibly know
and care about. Still, I do wonder why
we can’t resist watching ants, and
aren’t more in awe of mysteries deeper
than the kitchen sink---or this vast pot
in which I cooked today’s crab bisque

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Executive Assistant Purchases Spring Flowers

At six thirty sharp she rises from her firm mattress,
tucks her tresses into a pony tail, pads across the
patterned carpet to a stationary bike standing
near an eastern window overlooking the small

cemetery directly below. Each morning while
riding her bike nowhere—sweat beads gathering
in her lean cleavage, bluish veins bubbling along
her thin thighs, skimpy arms---her eyes wander

back and forth across the cracked and chipped
grave markers. Sometimes she parks in her
allotted condo space, wanders into the cemetery:
Jasper Massey, 1877-1899, is nearest the low,

crumbling rock wall separating final resting
places from SUVs and Lexus sedans. Yesterday
she walked briskly to a far corner of the grave
yard which she often fixes on from her high seat.

The tiny, moss covered heart, leaning askew:
Melissa Avery, Infant Daughter of Cary & Oswald
Avery, Left To Be With God After Only Three Days.
She Was Too Good for This World. God Took Her.

Kneeling in front of the heart, she leaves a
handful of supermarket jonquils for Melissa.
Swiftly, spike heels dig deeply into soft soil.
Her stationary bike has waited all day.

Crape Myrtle Sonatina

It’s no secret sheared shrubs
are not saucy
topics for poems,
little gained
in contemplating the bare,
bark-skinned, erect limbs jutting out,
haughty in their loveliness
trimmed to the nub,
waiting for winter to buzz-off,
spring to turn the whole world warm,
crape myrtle bushes into summer snowflakes
after Bradford pears, forsythia,
embarrassing azaleas
pink with envy.

Seasons at Odds

Before daylight today, dark skies bleak,
clouds tossed about like restless children.

A persistent mockingbird swooped around
my head as I stooped to pick up the paper.

She had been nesting in a nearby tree.
The season was out of kilter. Winter-

time mild as May caught a mother bird
off guard, disturbed my morning reverie.

Journey of the Candidates, Christmas, 2007

There they are, the whole lot of them
trudging from diner to diner, barn
to barn, house to house, in Iowa
and New Hampshire, even in staid
and stately old South Carolina,
like a bunch of vagabond vagrants
looking for a handout. And I guess
you could say that’s sort of what they are.
They smile, bow so humbly, just to get
a handshake, to see if you’re paying
attention to their very needy selves.
Today, I hear they may go underground,
just for a couple of days, you see,
so as not to upstage the kid who was
being hailed as the genuine article.
Really, it’s hard to know the real
thing in this season of so many
of them trudging around from diner
to diner, barn to barn, house to house.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Red, White, and Green

On Saturdays during strawberry season
in Carolina, the entire Gonzalez family
comes early to pick. Field owners
don't check for green cards when red
berries ripen and quickly rot in the field
in the hot noonday sun. Local townies
also show, children in tow, gramps for
fun, uncle Dave to drive the SUV. The
Smith family comes for the fresh fruit
taste, sunshine, mixing Carolina twang
with a few Hispanic words the kids pick
up in school. During strawberry season,
when the juices flow down the arms of
pretty children, joy is the common language.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yogi, Poet Laureate of Baseball

At 83, icon of icons,
there you stand, Yogi,
your shadow smaller
and smaller
each time we see you.

Your clear-eyed twinkle
fills old Yankee Stadium
your presence,
your smile,
your catcher's squat stance.

O, Yogi, essence of our poets,
your word horde---
tho not deep,
is distinct, your voice unique,
rhythms just right.

We want one more line, Yogi.
We promise not to mangle
this one,
as we have done
over the years.

Your coy smile beguiles,
holds us fast. Laureate
to the end, speaking
on the occasion, echoing
yourself, I'm Sorry to See it Over.

(Appeared originally in The New Verse News,
September 24, 2008)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Widow's Funky Life

Widow Ragsdale's shanty,
---smells seeping from doors,
windows, roof, fake brick siding
---was a monster's nostrils spewing
steaming shit --rancid, mephitic,
Words for rotten fish, putrid out-
houses, rotting vegetables -- for
Miss Sukey, our mule who died
in a ravine --didn't fit the fetid
odor whirling from the Widow's.
Dad said the stink exceeded any vile,
noxious-to-the-nose, ferocious
fart by a country mile.
Widow Ragsdale, a village treasure---
ancient, endured without rancor
despite being a backslider,
whistled suggestively at males,
wore a halter top in August--
labored in her gardens, picking red
tomatoes to give away, deadheading
petunias days before her demise.
Even then some claimed a repulsive
stench rose in her dust, a haunting
Hawthorne hag causing blossoms
to wilt, contaminating nature.
After no Widow sighting for five
days, her house was stoned:
kids threw rocks on her tin roof,
town gossips pointed fingers,
tongues tattled. On the sixth day,
the Holiness preacher declared
God would forgive anyone who
rammed her door to bring out
the corpse.
The Widow was hauled away at midnight,
taken to a country cemetery, buried
without song or scripture, her shanty
torched, gardens plowed under, petunia
seeds sown by winds across the small
plot of the woman, once-treasured

Friday, September 12, 2008

If Hirsute Men are not Pretty

If hirsute men are not pretty, this world never was,
and pretty is a word meant only for babies. Maybe
the curvature of the chin covered with curly hair,
dimpled, even dappled when hair clusters around
the extended jaw of an aging gent, gives the arc
of the face its exquisite edge. Here is the hallowed
place men stroke as they muse about sports stats---
or a shapely ass--the space where red wine drops,
a crumb stops, is dabbed by an omniscient napkin.
Men have such pleasure as may be found in the
subtle feel of flesh covered with bristling follicles,
feisty feelings aroused in boys with puberty fuzz,
a buzz radiating from the touch of fingers to beard.
If hirsute men are not pretty, this world never was.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Writing by Earl in The Centrifugal Eye

Earl has poems, an essay, and an interview in The Centrifugal Eye, Summer, 2007. If you would like to see these items, here's the link to read more:


At some point in the future, Earl will reprint the poems from that issue which featured him and his writings.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On First Reading Kay Ryan's Poems

Homage to New Poet Laureate

Were you
Those years
I needed you
When critics
Told me
Did not
Old maids
Like Emily Dickinson
or old farts
Like Me
Sticking up
Like a
Middle Finger
At the world.

(Appeared originally in The New Verse News)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Selected List of Poems Published by Earl

There is No Crying in Baseball (Third Lung Review)
Hanging with Auntie (Southern Gothic Online)
John Travolta Stars in my Flick (Strange Horizons)
Night Owls at Work (Muses Review)
Lost: One Typewriter (Lunarosity)
Skateboarders (Lunarosity)
Send in the Jackass (KAKALAK)
I Want to live Forever, Learn how to Fly (Aroostook Review)
Once Upon a Road to Derry (Aroostook Review)
Kinsey's First Interview (The Centrifugal Eye)
Crane Forests, 2006 (Arabesques Review)
A Gleam in Freedom's Eye (Arabesques Review)
Arabian Knight on the Run (Arabesques Review)
The Great Jack Complex (Underground Voices)
Poetry in Motion (The Centrifugal Eye)
The Last Days of Crazy KAP (Underground Voices)
Teaching an old Bird New Tricks (The Centrifugal Eye [Pushcart Nominee])
News Flash: AC Invented in Arkansas, 1945 (Word Riot)
Lament for a Baseball Dad (AETHLON)
At Walter's Wake (Arkansas Literary Forum)
The Human Stain (The Centrifugal Eye)
A Funky Mister Faulkner (Faulkner Newsletter)
Carolina Snipe Hunt (The New Verse News)
Between the Sheets with Bette Midler (Southern Gothic)
Carpe Diem, Saturday (Lunarosity)
How the News was Delivered Today (New Verse News)
Postponing the Slippery Slope (KAKALAK)
On the Burning of the Community Theatre (New Verse News)
Winter Solstice--Dream Variations (The Centrifugal Eye)
In addition to this group, Earl has published more than
40 poems in The New Verse News and Elsewhere.

Ode to a Baseball Cap

To the non-believer, you're a colorful cap,
nothing more than a beanie with a brim.
For the faithful in baseball nation, you
are a hallowed, even holy, head covering.

Your colors call us to worship in cardinal
red, pure white, or royal blue---caps of many
colors for the game in which players and fans
find their way around the bases, ending at home.

When we put on our hats, we are acolytes,
troops for our team,living and dying as we
win or lose. Little lid, you are the common
cap, the beanie that binds hearts and soul.

For the nine-inning outing and for all the
nights and days our lives, we wear our
caps to work, to worship, to play, to shop,
to eat, to sleep, to dream, to the hereafter.

(Originally published in Third Lung Review)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Slow Pitch

Before Dizzy & Daffy,
Maris & Mantle
Bonds & McGwire,
before TV showed us
baseball's seedy & greedy side,
I taught two talented groups
of the sporting life in Texas:
jocks & beautiful girls.

Baseball players,
lackadaisical learners,
seemed secure in a simple desire---
earn a passing score.
Always dressed to the nines,
the beauties spent
their days dreaming
how to spend $1000 a month
allowances provided by rich oil papas
and sizing up options as tycoons' wives
or mates of men dreaming of major league
stardom by polishing their curve, slider,
and fast ball.

Like dense pitchers shaking
off signs from cagey catchers
the ball players seemed almost
oblivious of fast balls thrown
their way every class by beautiful
curves from across the aisles.

I never knew who scored or struck out.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


The title of this poem was cribbed from Robert Frost.
I'm sorry he used it first, but I will not let his luck
stand in my path to claim it, too. This poem has none
of the mysterious aura surrounding Frost's. Nothing
here will entice readers like those who believe they
know Frost's meaning about a whispering, smooth
scythe. No hay, just grass, we're mowing this morning.

The mowing my granddaughter did today for the first
time is a different thing. A pre-teen, she wants to learn
how to mow grass, not with a scythe, but a lawn mower.
The venerable Powercraft push mower, a family friend
for two generations, has been put out to pasture some
years ago. My Toro mower, with gears and gadets to
please, waits patiently to be primed, coughs itself into
starting, drones happily as a June bug on an oak.

I mowed a row back and forth, showing her some minor
hazards such as rocks and toads (another poet probably
used that toad earlier, too, but never mind) or baby birds
and the occasional black or green garden snake, the kind
that lives in fescue grass or cool clay among us in Carolina.

After a couple of rounds, she has the knack of it. No more
reason for me to stand nearby commenting about strands
of grass which hadn't been mowed closely enough, or her
lackadaisical lapse in overlapping. No point in say here
you mowed well or there's a patch needs work. My concern
was not the straight row or the amount of time she took. She
knows I'm watching while she mows even if I'm not there.
I will be looking long after she quits mowing this morning.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hush Little Baby, Don't You Cry

Sudden summer thunderstorm cadences
march in like invading armies, push
aside resistance from ballgames, equestrians
jumping over latticed fences, placid
summer scenes forced to become quixotic.
Threatening, dark clouds overwhelm
skies, dominate landscapes, sending crushing,
cascading lightening, hail, and rain.

Summertime living is not always easy,
despite jumping catfish, high cotton,
rich daddies and good looking mamas.

(Originally published in The New Verse
News, August 02, 2008)