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Tag: Rodney Terich Leonard

XI

An outhouse year.

Someone I love rips rags for tampons.

Someone I love speaks less & less.

Is the sky

ever too pink

to suggest you’re poor?

I am eleven—

having studied them

I introduce myself to Colonel Douglas R. and Jessica K. Smith

husband & wife

of Rockfords Golden Rule Market—

the Smiths of Asprey & Chanel

cashmere & city speech

of Beethoven’s italicized wonderment

I know because I asked

of Black-chauffeured blue Cadillac

& 2 Doberman Pinschers

guarding their brick Federal Colonial.

I am hired.

To neaten & clean,

to stock & cashier—

sometimes I pump gas.

On calendar-circled Saturdays

I utter Eames, rattan, Picasso

bone china, commissary, sparkle, miso

lacquer, Andrew Wyeth, linseed oil

poached, Shakespeare, Melba toast

duvet, Summer’s Eve, Harper Lee

salmon, invoice, Unleaded, Visa.

Slowly

I inch

my family away

from

government

milk & cheese.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Hummer of Anyone Decisive: 1915-1990

My grandfather—

John Walter Edwards strummed the guitar

under a sycamore tree.

City trash-truck worker,

curer of thrushes’ problems,

brought directly to holder & folder of his wallet,

my grandmother, Mary Emma.

New to the rise of millennium-ripped questions,

memory is technological; it lurks & it forgives

dilution & tint—

I have some questions from all the grandchildren:

Were you atheist or agnostic?

In your sphere, God was nowhere?

Why the austerity, so few words?

Leo-born to tempt & deter—

John to wife,

Daddy to Catherine

Willie Doris, Ruby

Johnnie Mae & Mary

Elizabeth, Dezzie & Louise.

Mr. John

to weekend women

& back porch bathers—

lithe hummer

of anyone decisive,

you sucked raw eggs.

Intro to empty:

your mother’s portrait, above

a bed, straight-nailed to the wall,

& never a ringing rotary—

did without,

as a way of being,

heal anything?

Young sergeant of Grand Forks,

here the tall tan men are sun

& though private, I am no secret.

“Big Deddy,”

this legacy of amours & faulting

darts my tumult.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Fastened to Roots, Love & Story: Mother Recalls a Ten-Pound Storm

Midwife of scarce warmth,

Mrs. Wilson’s lamplight air.

Her cod-liver tongue, talcum bosom

& cursive note of thorny expectations:

Come see me when I can best assist.

Bring two, bleached sheets.

My fee in 1970 a hundred dollars.

Aretha’s “I Say a Little Prayer”

Salt & sautée my mother’s lilt.

Closer to thirty than strength,

I straddle a stool; Salem’s ashes

Flicked in hair-grease top

Fastened to roots, love & story.

It’s Thursday before Thanksgiving—

Each half-mile, (she walks to & fro),

The moon, a vat of pelvic threat.

Scheduled curls oil the world.

Baby between thumb & formula,

The same day catching her & stove

Singing mismatched ditties: Yams

Meatloaf. Before I put on my makeup

The moment I wake up.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Pink Chenille

She of Ecclesiastes & cream-colored envelope,

the mother mails

to summer cousin—

cash, food stamps, regards:

Dear Shirley,

Your bosom is

a great big city, pink chenille

for other folks’ children. Six weeks of pillowed

nights to dream of freeways, malts & shortstop,

my son jumped off the sighing Greyhound belching Sunkist,

Patrina & Pea-Eye, his new bus-seat friends—

belief & noise stuck to his chest, yelling he’d thumbed

way back to basement-paneled Sixteenth Street Baptist:

Cynthia, Carol & Carole & Addie Mae—back to 15 September 1963

Child, came home chirping Five Points South,

UAB, Thirteenth Avenue North, Dynamite Hill,

Legion Field & Dr. A.G. Gaston:

Part of all you earn is yours to keep.

The truth is red:

Next to them that’s got shall get, I twitch.

You wear raven silk taut at the nape of the neck.

In wards of Pac-Man, Adidas, & Atari,

you ushered in this rattle of awe—

glorious Black Fever!

Glorious—

Yours,

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Lord, Have Mercy: Don’t Go to Hell Cramped Up

Father, 1959

Daddy loads, cocks, & aims his gun.

Four young girls & their baby brother

trace the woods

by mercy of the moon.

Briar-torn legs bleed a simpler truth:

no enjoying June today.

Ever smiled an alcoholic into

burying his flask & bully?

Probably easier to patty-cake with the sun.

Son, 1999

He tongues the last cubes

of Johnny Walker’s twist & trick.

Sleep rinses his eyes yellow-pain clear.

Own pail to pull,

bobby pin headed toward the eardrum,

the clack of dominoes,

bones on the table.

The twenty-year deal:

sober hell & jail at fifty—

alphabets to learn, son uttered strangely,

swallowed whole.

Ghosts

to shotgun

again.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Domesticoustics

a. (1997)

Arrival at twenty-one

cocks his tam sideways.

Deep-freeze nod

to alley deacons & white folks.

Terry Derell

strums corduroy-gray

acoustics.

Chlora is his tiramisu—

he’s indiscriminate

pot & vodka-cranberry wise.

b. (2012)

Maria Inés

backhanded the hurt—

hyena-laughing.

Common shoulders

glittered for night-prerequisites.

Eye sockets

house sass-glass.

Her Louboutin’s are hers.

Jazz is novel nectar.

Moon-swayed—she’s absosucculent.

c. (1974)

Snatched from

tight-eyed scribble,

water boils,

china shards scrape,

white kittens meow.

What night is this, Rodney?

Amid jumbo pencils,

red satchel & Crayola,

candy corn & wide-lined,

pee-wet paper,

my mama’s teeth

sweep the linoleum.

from Sweetgum & LightningFind more by Rodney Terich Leonard at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rodney Terich Leonard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

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