“Winter Corn,” photograph by Don Graham, 2012. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Winning the Invitational

We ran through crackling corn rows
muddy legs, burning lungs, snow

thin ice on mud

exhalations like explosions of factory steam
skinny arms whipped by icy leaves
solitary endeavors for a team
picking off the man in front

for personal joy

we ran for school

community

identity

finding ourselves in the function of our legs
On the way home, the coach

a one-legged man drove
as if drunk

still trying to find himself
his dreams of running through icy fields

gathered around him

*
A Circuitous Life

When I came to the stone I turned
Became the scuffed toes of my boots
A man in denim with nail dirt
And purpose in calloused hands

Long handles and gasoline, the grip
On my mind like black tar heroin
And the growl of the boss man
Like a long wall in all directions

Until the blade of my anger struck
Another stone surrounded by shells
And memories of the ocean flooded
My sandbags floating in a high tide

Drifting like jellyfish seemingly
Without purpose but migrating on
To cliffs of dark basalt covered
With verdant and fecund possibility

But, the overwhelming bluffs
Proved a place of turning again
Into the libraries of trail tales
Endless words to ponder and obey

And the stones were on shelves
Each one snarling and forbidding
Until I turned becoming again
The scuffed toes of my boots

*
All of the Marbles
The brains sat in the circle, surrounded by string. I can’t tell you what they were thinking, being one of them. But, it had to be something like, “Can you smell that?” How many times does a small ball in the big court think about larger issues? In Mumbai, people spend their entire existence whipping shirts against rocks. In the Brazilian rain forest, I once knew a naked man who ate the leeches that attacked him. And why not, I say! If a bigger ball hits you, you’ll react; that’s what they all do. But, this has nothing to do with taxes or the failure of tulip bulbs to reach their full potential in the spring. It’s more about bringing things into the cave, where they can be examined and either kept or discarded, as expediency dictates. The French man sings about love, out on the desert sands of the Sahara. How did he know? Penguins live in a forbidding patch of water; there is a crumbling piece of architecture in downtown Portland that ought to be demolished; a small car in Jamaica is an invitation to malicious intent; a knot is a measure of speed unless it ties; these things. When I was able to walk, I never closed my mouth, thinking that all the colors would swirl into the vortex of my sinking heart. And now, as any art major could tell you, I am gray inside until the light goes away. When the brains are scattered by the steely, some win and some lose. We all get picked and arranged and gathered. Then, it’s time to move on.

carriage.2

Brad Garber has degrees in biology, chemistry and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, essays and weird stuff in Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, On the Rusk Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Third Wednesday, and other quality publications.