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Eight Bucolics

ISSUE:  Winter 2004

what color is your collar Boss
is your backbone sore from bending over
when you clap your hand against your thigh
does a little cloud of dust fly off
do you wipe your face with your shirttail Boss
I’d bet one day’s wages that you do
though I couldn’t say for sure how much
my wages are they’re probably
enough O I get by alright
a beech seed here a feather there
a locust wing a wing as light
as air besides it lets light through
I get a double portion from you
I tie my purse strings tight but put
this in your pocket all I have
I’d lay it on the table Boss
for you I’d bet you jerk your lines
you hang your salty harness from
a red nail in your barn you pour
your horse a scoop of oats you give
its tail a tug you say nighty night
you spotted nag it’s funny Boss
I can hear you chuckle when
you close the door you’re happy for
a good day’s work a spotted horse
I wonder if those spots are real
or painted on it makes me smile
to think about it Boss even
field hands need a laugh or two
a little riddle a twisty tongue
I wouldn’t put it past you O
you sneaky devil you cut up Boss

the light inside the shadow how
it hovers there it’s like an owl song
a quiver hoot it shakes a little Boss
I think your face is in that flicker
is your neck a candle wick your face
a flame on top you’re almost always
going out so dim sometimes bright Boss
not for the life of me can I put
my finger on it the way it comes
it also goes which is quickly Boss
if you would just sit still I’d carve
your face into a stick then I
could look at you Boss a hundred times
a day you could listen for the owl
if he let out a hoot I’d turn
your wooden ear into the wind

there was a fox Boss in my dream
last night a fox the color of
the field before it wakes to green
I didn’t know there was a fox
about until it moved until
it moved like it was sliding Boss
it slid across a furrow then
I barely saw it sliding to
the woods sliding to the river Boss
I never know what’s going to cross
my path O never what will make
me ask another question that’s
a question in itself I’d like
to know why everything is stuck
in the middle Boss of something else
why the fox was stuck inside my dream
though it was making for the river
do you make nothing Boss but questions
did you set that fox inside my head
did you lay that field behind my eyes

you move in every direction
at once you’re worse than
the wind Boss worse than
a rock dropped in the water
here there everywhere that’s you
you’re like the sunshine always
reaching does it make you happy
Boss you must have fun the way
you dilly dally in the grass
from blade to blade I hear
you laughing I hear you clap
your hands I see what happens
next blackbirds hit the air
the treetops wave goodbye
what a life you have it easy Boss
you put me in stitches how you spin
the stars with just a finger

of course I like the sun
I like it tapping on
my back it makes me turn
I like it lighting up
the horse’s breath I turn
to see it every time
it happens Boss you make
it happen all the time
not every day of course
but often just enough
for me I know if you’re
not lighting something up
you’re doing something else
like pushing birds across
the sky I turn to see
them too whenever you
get pushy Boss you push
the birds you light the horse
you make me turn my face
for you of course of course

did you boss the horse against the barn
to cut the wind in two or spare the horse
from being all alone the way
you spare the hawk from being bored
by sending it the wind you make
the hawk belong alright you lay
it all against my eye as if
it were a picture in my head
you make me see belonging Boss
for what it is the thing that holds
it all together like a string
that’s tied to everything a loop
that passes from the water to
the bucket Boss the windmill to
the breeze the branch that’s swaying from
the hawk that left it for the wind
which lifts the hawk to see the horse
beside the barn one thing about
your string I find surprising Boss
it never has a tangle no
it never has a knot I think
you hold the running end above
the clouds above my seeing once
in a blue moon Boss I think you raise
your finger to give the string a pluck
which makes me happy Boss because
I know a picture never moves
O Boss I think you know it too

O boss of ashes boss of dust
you bother with what floats above
my chimney what settles to the ground
you wake the motes from sleep you make
them curtsey in a ray of sun
they hold their tiny breath as if
they’re waiting for the little name
of the dance that’s coming next then they
will take their places Boss if I
were smaller I would join them O
I’d cut a rug or two I’d slap
my hand against my shoe if that’s
the kind of fuss you’re raising Boss
you know I never know for sure
I only know you bother me
from time to time you’ve caught my breath
a time or two you’ve stirred me up
before which makes me want to tell
you Boss I wouldn’t mind it if
you bothered me a little more

say what have you got underneath
your floppy hat anyway Boss
besides your head a piece of string
a play pretty thing perhaps
a lucky feather do you even
need luck a little charm I doubt
it Boss since you’ve already got
the numbers at least the ones that count
you know the raindrops in the river
the blackbirds rising in the sky
how that sky looks like it’s waving Boss
a hundred little waves in one
even now it carries me away
never ever could I count that high
O underneath your hat is nothing
but a tree a little tree whose leaves
have pictures colored on them one
of which I hope is me my tree
my horse my little dog my field
O Boss underneath my leaf
isn’t there a rule for crickets when
they rub their legs together Boss
they tip your hat a little bit
whatever else they do they lift


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