POETRY by Kevin Heaton
He Called My Mother Sister
Life was rough at grandpa’s; He had more kids than dollars,
and moved from house to house faster than The Children
of Israel fled Pharaoh in the desert.
He was an old horse tradin’ swap fox, who once traded
a week of his life for four tree-whipped coonhounds,
and an Essex four door stuck in reverse; which he promptly
backed over one of his kids. A mellow sort of fellow,
and slow to anger.
The furthest he ever traveled was uptown to the Farmers
and Drovers Bank corner on Saturday nights to chat,
or to the banks of the Neosho; where his pal, Punkin’ Duncan
lived in a clapboard shack with no paint. The two of them
would flush down donuts with black chicory, and impale
foot long nightcrawlers on fish hooks to dance
the burlesque for old whiskered flatheads.
Life was rough at grandpa’s; for dinnerwar, and cutlery
there was: one plate, a cup, a knife, and one fork, rinsed
and shelved in the sink. In bountiful times: there were always
plenty of commodity eggs, cheese, and peanut butter
to compliment a steamer full of greens, and store-bought
roll paper to set beside two holes in the three-holer.
Salems were his brand of choice and never far away
from a grateful, toothless lover’s kiss. If he ever had a tooth,
I never saw it. The kids once bought him a pair of hand carved
chompers, which he promptly interred in a bureau top drawer;
permanently divorced from his gums.
For a time, he lived in a 12’ x 60’ along the tracks, and when
the Katy flew by, and blew her horn; you could swear
it was Gabriel calling down the rapture, and you’d been left
God unzipped a rainbow:
the show was about to begin.
I pulled my chair to within six
feet of the Lantana camara,
and breathed, motionless.
The first band of celestial magic
dust descended upon autumn,
transforming falling leaves
into tiger swallowtails; morphing
in midair. They fluttered to earth
as guardian angels hovering over
the leafy pot 0’gold before
me, paying homage to sweet
umbel sugar nectar. With each
flick of the heavenly scepter,
a new variation and color dubbed
my dainty revelers; casting them
in varying roles: swallowtails
transfigured into peacock pansys
spreading fancy at approbation.
Birdwings threw butterfly kisses
to painted ladies concealing common
leopard stripes with neopolitan talcum.
Each, slowly rotating within
the kaleidoscope, as I gazed into
it; transfixed and awestricken.
The Pool of Bethesda
At the union of two rivers,
legacy wed kindness, giving
rise to a serene, healing
stream of new life flowing
through desert sands of human
thirst, into a Bethesda
pool of second chances
for souls enslaved to masters
of malady and hopelessness,
cleansing open sores of living.
Beyond shorelines of affliction;
remedy appeased fevers
of suffering, and parched,
blistered flesh received
the healing balm of compassion.
Be Still And Know
of woodland serenity.
the newborn fawn unwind
the umbilical embrace
and take her stand.
that all you are,
is not all there is.
a baby’s breath
winds of compromise,
but applied to chimes
may pierce the pall
of sorrow, and bestow
upon the sound
Laying on of Hands
Harvest suffering with yielded fingers
immersed in compassion
appeasing travail forsaking agony.
Recall impies of war from Achilles
dispersing angry throngs of demons
loosed to torment before
the chosen time
injecting ampules of healing
into veins of sympathy in atonement;
assuaging cruel injustice
for mercies sake.
Flint Hills Rider
Pasture gates swing wide, and cattle
guards part like a Red Sea: Flint Hills
Rider makes his rounds astraddle
old Smoke Signal, riding lookout
in vision quests, keeping vigil
over revenant spirits still roaming
native lands forever purged of man’s
curse and consequence; sentenced
to eternal penitence for deeds undone.
Guardian of phantoms exterminated
by his own people’s blind greed
and lust for land, protecting wispy
prairie souls from a second extinction
at scarlet hands of flesh.
Bones of first ones, resurrected
for the hunt, allow him passage
through sacred ground, to scout
the good trail to herds of white
buffalo, across The River Styx;
into valleys of the shadow of death.
From saddle bags laden with stars,
he casts sparkles at eternal
darkness, and sips chicory round
the warmth of hallowed embers;
serenaded by chuck-wills-widow.