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Category archive for: Kerry James Evans

Plundering

You start up Ole Maude and we take gravel to all your hangouts: the coffee shop,

the iron bridge,

and your favorite, the county dump, where you found the stove Grandmother

cooks supper on today.

Except for that back left eye, the thing works fine. I helped you clean it.

We meet Cecil

at the coffee shop, where he pulls mints from his pocket—he thinks

they go

with everything, and you let me know quick that coffee is good with nothing else

but coffee,

yet behind your back, I’ve been stirring in cream and sugar for years.

I don’t drive a pickup

like you did, but I’ll take the gravel roads to the bridge where you

jumped

from the top as a boy, and when I’d ask if I could jump, you’d say no.

I understand now,

but since you died, I’ve leapt several times into that snake-infested water.

The current

took hold of me one time and sent me nearly a mile from the bridge.

But I’m dry now,

and Ole Maude’s waiting. Nothing beats a couple of Swisher Sweets

to give you cancer

and a Chevy Luv to send you to the dump. Plundering’s harder than it looks.

Just because I’ve grown

two feet since the last time we’ve come out here doesn’t mean I can see it any better.

The smell is worse

and the caffeine doesn’t hold as long. So I pop a mint in my mouth and breathe

in the stench anyway,

but I don’t find a stove or anything like it, just junk, piled up and buried,

from someone else’s memory.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Blue Ribbon Tomato Soup

This is dinner: tomato soup

with black pepper and garlic salt,

a grilled cheese buttered

on both sides,

charred in the skillet on the stove.

He serves his brother and sister this meal

with napkins and plasticware.

They say grace.

Their parents are working.

Parents work.

The meal is superb.

He gets a wink and a high-five, turns off

the stove eye—

sometimes he forgets.

He is a chef at any restaurant imaginable:

Cracker Barrel, Country Kitchen,

the coffee shop on US 78,

just before the peanut shack

in Carbon Hill.

His brother and sister agree.

They say he ought to enter the county fair.

Drape a cloth over his arm

when he serves.

They remind him not to speak about how

food stamps paid for this meal.

They talk about the neighbors up the hill,

the expiration date on the milk jug.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Volcano

I’ve seen the Mojave, but I’ve never seen the desert.

In training, I swept for mines, but I’ve never seen

my brother’s leg destroyed after detonation;

I’ve seen the legless soldier walking with a prosthetic

across town, through the grocery store, at drill,

trying to hold on for one more year, for pension.

I’ve seen the different phases of training—crawl,

walk, run—and I’ve seen the failure of battalions

at each phase. I’ve cleared a path, myself,

and marked, with flags, the safe zone;

and I’ve walked through such a minefield.

I’ve witnessed the Volcano, a machine, scatter

960 antitank mines

over one kilometer of sand, but never have I

seen the battle, or the desert, or those mines, or TOC

calling a precision-bombing air strike across the line.

I’ve dismantled many mines, winnowed Russian mines

from French mines, but I’ve never seen the mines

on television; I’ve known soldiers who have seen

those mines; soldiers caught under fire, blasting cap

clenched in the mouth, jaw gone missing;

and that must be what it means to see the desert:

a face charred, blood dried and stuck to bone,

the land laid out before you erupting.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Packed in Ice

My wife      pulls a peach      from      the freezer,

then      stares      at the knives      stuck

in their wooden      block.      I want      the right      line

for our      marriage,      but the exact      emotion

is a peach      packed in ice.      I cannot  accept      this,

though      clearly,      here      it is,      cold

and ripe,      and now,      in hand,      passed

between us      like a desperate      artifact.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

What Makes the Green Grass Grow

A military man wraps his fury

in camouflage. Concealed,

the man must feel at home:

ordered, pressed, complete.

That is the point of a uniform—

to look sharp in garrison,

to salute the brass properly

without a wrinkle showing.

And what of the sewer grate

that catches in a soldier’s mind—

bolt and chamber—spark

pouring from a fresh M16

in fresh hands with fresh ideals,

firing bullets down a range

of plastic pop-up targets

that fall facedown in dirt

with each hit, only to spring

back to the way they were?

After a day of shooting,

the maggots chant: Blood

makes the green grass grow,

affirming the natural order,

as if smoke and lead are tools

for planting in the afterlife.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Monopoly

She is always the wheelbarrow—a piece

he can’t grasp. He is the cannon.

They never deal out property; the Deluxe

Edition, they’d rather fight with each roll

over New York and Boardwalk, Railroads

and Utilities. He’s yet to own Boardwalk,

but he manages to swindle the Railroads.

Occasionally, he is lucky to land in jail,

where he doesn’t have to mortgage property

to pay rent. She buys hotels early, casts

him to the ghetto of Baltic. Once, he boasted

three monopolies and won Free Parking.

They place $500 in Free Parking. He bagged

his earnings from the middle, revealing

the mustached man with his shoulders

shrugged, hat tipped. The man winked at a stack

of pastels tucked under her edge of town.

The game was fixed. She kept drawing

the good cards from Community Chest

and Chance. Her husband lived in the suburbs

and she was his landlord. Like his father,

he slipped off and got drunk on Boardwalk,

gallivanted for a while. It cost him everything—

she owned that, too. Fed up, he took out a loan

at 10 percent interest, paid her and passed Go,

collected two hundred dollars and made a run for it.

He got as far as Pennsylvania before she caught

him stealing her hotel shampoo. Clogged

barrel, she broke him. She gave the worst smile:

Cook me supper and I’ll let you stay.

from BangaloreFind it in the library

Copyright © 2013 Kerry James Evans
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.