No. 4 & 5


Jeff Friedman  

Calling Bekka

After two hours of hiking Indian Ridge, 
climbing past the rusted frame 
of a Dodge Omni, past the last trail sign, 
winding up and up into the tall firs 
to a place where the shrubbery thins--but not 
getting to the top--I walk back toward the trailhead
marked by a boulder and the thick trunk 
of a post strung with power lines. 
Dense, tall shrubs, overgrown weeds 
and wild grasses surround me. Hard purple 
grapes dangle from vines threaded 
through branches. Milkweed pods burst,
and cotton floats over the trail. I break a stem, 
smear the milk on my palm and taste its sweetness.
It's the end of day, the end of summer.
The goldenrod seems tired out, wilting and drooping,
giving up its color. I call Bekka and hear a noise 
in the tall grass, but it's only the wind, not my dog--
a small Husky-Shepherd with large pointy ears--
breaking through a thicket of brambles.
She won't play catch, retrieve sticks or even 
come when called unless the reward is good enough.
Tired from hiking and impatient to get home, 
I won't go after her. She could be 
a mile away, charging after a deer 
or leaping at chipmunks or field mice 
before they dive into their holes or chasing 
another dog while the owner frowns and shouts. 
I call her again and pull out a plastic 
bag with chunks of balsamic chicken 
and hold a few pieces up to the wind.

Out of Reach

Beyond us the fox gloats
in the gloaming, his mouth full
of bloody feathers and the chickens
clamor for justice--a posse of voices--
until shots ring out. Dipping his antlers
the moose robs the broken ash,
then licks up the salt at 
the rutted edge of the highway.
Darkness coming on, the brook 
rides past the Abenaki
burial ground, past the ancient 
rocks where I watched a spotted 
hawk dive into the woods,
where I lay down
and felt the knuckled memories 
drumming inside the hardened earth. 
Now a flame hisses in the white globes
strung in the pines.In the ravine
the coyotes yip around a glowing carcass
and a dog howls tethered to a wire. 
As frayed nests fall, as moths 
flatten their wings and disappear,
the owl's jewels glint just out of 
reach in the dark above the beams.

Taking the South

(For Nathan Schwartz)

This is the desert our fathers
promised us, the holy rocks,
the eternity of white sand,
the caves full of computers
and explosives, the air germy
with hate. Lying on my belly
I smell the oil oozing from the 
body of earth, the black fires
burning. When I call out
no one answers. In the fiery
cumulus, the angels wring 
drops of acid from their shirts. My
eyes burn, and my hand
lobs its grenade and shards of
metal shower into the trenches.
I tighten my mask. It'll be a long
night waiting for the husky
shadows to unsheathe their knives 
repeating their orders,
waiting for the bird on my shoulder
to say its prayer and fly into
the drifts of dust, into the funnel's
drumbeat, into the wicked whistling
that kills the voices in our brains.
In my dreams my friends and I shake
and thrust on the dance floor,
and the young ladies love us
for our beards, for the touch of our hands,
for the laughter that explodes from our guts,
for the sweet red wine on our lips. 



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everything published 
here remains 
with the author's.


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