Inhuman Swill : Poems : Page 5

Rules for dog owners

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We often say, my wife and I,
that Ella is our first dog,
the one you make your mistakes on.
But for me, that isn't true.

My first dog was Jessie,
a runty black shepherd mix.
Some of the mistakes I made
with Jessie were things like

Don't scold the dog unless
you catch her in the act.
Don't let the dog bite you.
Don't ever hit the dog.

Don't buy a dog with someone
you don't like, let alone love.
All mistakes I wouldn't
ever ever make with Ella.

Full entry

The stumbling block

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I can't sit down
to write a poem

without hearing
Garrison Keillor's

voice, reading it
over my shoulder.

Full entry
            

Woman in burqa
Pushing her grocery cart
Texting on her phone

Full entry

The Lunar Night, Chicago

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In the indigo sky
hang lights like lanterns
strung from here to eternity.
Bright holes punched in the night,
they creep in from the east, queued for
landing but aimed at the spotlit moon holding
fast in their path. But the moon gives way, first
to one plane, then the next, endlessly ceding its place
in line as if shy to touch down at O'Hare. Would
they even know how to handle a moon out
on the tarmac? Call the Marines! Call
Homeland Security! Just get that
thing quarantined before
it hurts some fool or
alters the tides.

In the icy park
we watch the planes,
the dog and I. Lights prowl
past us on two horizons, Damen and
Foster Avenues, impossibly distant in the
winter air that falls like gravel from my mouth,
the subzero air as cold as no air at all. Around us
spreads the pocked and cratered snow. We are alone.
If I were to slip here on the ice, hit my head, crack
my skull, the blood spreading like transmission
fluid as my dog whined and licked my face,
no one else would know. In space
no one can hear you whimper,
and we might as well
be on the moon.

Full entry

Under their skirts

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Under Their Skirts
The sidewalk trees drop
their skirts of dirty snow
for a silver-tongued winter rain,
exposing a careless mulch of cigarettes butts,
not to mention the occasional dog turd
and chicken bone.

Nothing better to do, trees,
than eat, shit, and smoke
as you wait at the curb
to be picked up by spring?

Full entry

Infidel dog

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Infidel dog
This morning,
with a high of seventy degrees in the forecast,
amazing for a November in Chicago,
I drove the dog to Warren Park.
That's where we go for a special treat
instead of our usual neighborhood walk,
because the squirrel chasing is most excellent,
and there are never any cops there to harass you,
a scofflaw walking his dog off its leash.

We like to run up the steps of the sledding hill,
which a parks department sign actually proclaims "Sledding Hill,"
and then charge down the slope,
after which we make our way around the skirt of the hill
where the squirrels rummage through the leaves
like so many bargain hunters.
We crunch crunch crunch across the orange carpet,
and if we're lucky we spot a squirrel far enough out
in the open that Ella can chase it full-bore
back to its tree.
She has never once caught one.
Or at any rate never killed one.

Next we like to follow the cinder jogging path
all the way around the little nine-hole golf course embedded
like an off-center yolk
in the albumen of the park,
and that's exactly what we did this morning.
I walked in the leaves at the side of the path,
trying to encourage Ella to do the same,
but unless she has a rodent, lagomorph or marsupial in her sights
she prefers to walk on pavement. Go figure.

We were on the south side of the golf course,
the tall chain-link fence meant to protect us from flying balls
off to our left,
when I saw two men coming our way along the path,
youngish men—younger than I, at any rate—
neatly bearded men dressed in long robes the color of wet sand.
It was already warm enough out that I was regretting
the heavy coat I wore over my hooded sweatshirt.
I snapped my fingers imperiously,
calling for Ella to return to my side,
to leave the path and get out of the way
of the two youngish men engaged in animated talk.

Full entry

Smoke

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Smoke
I make it my general practice
not to drink and write.
At least, I try not to drink
when writing fiction,
where the prose should be clear
and lucid as water,
even as it refracts the light.

But poetry's a different matter.
A little whisky never
hurt a poem. Not much, anyway.
Certainly not this
glass of it, distilled from smoke
that might have
scribbled words like these in
the air as it
jittered away, leaving only this
amber residue,
not so transparent as it appears.

Full entry

Passing

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It's getting harder these days
to tell the crazy people from the sane,
what with technology the way it is.

It used to be that talking to yourself
in public was a sure sign of instability,
like wearing a sign that said,
"Steer clear of me, I'm not quite right,
I might be dangerous, if only to myself."

But now we all do it, carry with us
an invisible chorus of voices
in a magic Bluetooth cloud, insistent, demanding
voices clamoring for attention, screening out
the real world around us, making us each
more dangerous than twenty actual crazy people,
a more present threat to public safety than
any potential suicide bomber.
Or at least more annoying.

Thorazine does nothing at all to fix it.

Full entry

Almost fall

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Squirrels chasing each
Other up and around trees
Like on Benny Hill

Full entry

Immortality

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I have no illusions of immortality

Or do I?

The way I shovel known poisons into my mouth
Shout motherfucker at drivers who cut me off
The way I still haven't put up the smoke alarms, two years later

The way I keep putting off Moby-Dick
Let a day or more sometimes go by without writing a word
The way I, on rare occasions, neglect to say I love you

Full entry
The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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that even a
missionary
could afford.

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William Shunn

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