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Spring/Summer 2004, Volume 21.3

Poetry

Brad Maxfield

Photo of Brad Maxfield.

Brad Maxfield (M.F.A. University of Oregon) lives in eastern Oregon and teaches composition at Boise State University and Treasure Valley Community College. His poems have appeared most recently in Rhino, Potpourri, Skidrow Penthouse, and Lucid Stone.



Unless I Am Mistaken

They lied through their teeth, those
addle-pated auctioneers, about how

anything is possible, and why the wind,
lacking all decorum, seeks to re-locate

the burned-off range land to the dunes above
the turgid river. Now, even sprinklers there spew

sand as if the season for plowing had come
and gone in the heartbeat of a fossil fish.

Across cow-terraced hills, the roads are reeled in
by casinos, fat as bullfrogs on a helipad.

And scarecrows stand all akimbo, uncertainly
flapping their arms in their ragged resolution.

There is no easy way to die, down on the farm,
McDonald's notwithstanding. Some sagging wire

waits for the tractor driver's neck, to pull him
backwards under the shining discs turning stubble,

and then his body, back into accident rising at dusk
into spectacular questions. On the lips of cloud-fish

spawning across rim rock, primitive prayers take shape.

 

Hooch and Tumbleweeds

The last of the apple orchards at the edge
of town now screams with starlings in
ever growing numbers as fields around get

swallowed up by asphalt drives and leveled yards
for every dream, in every shape and size. Yours for
Zero Down. Easy Terms. Views with double lots

to ease you into the future with a basement you can use
for an office or a bunker or a recreation room

in the manner of the Golden Age of Hooch
and Tumbleweeds. I don't have to tell you all how
small a bullet entry wound can be or just how long
a snake bite takes to make a stump of an arm or leg. Some say
we should not apologize for the past or make too much

of a little speculation. We want to believe progress has come
to the hills, at last, above the only rivers left that will not
offend this generation's gentle sportsmen, grazing deer

beside their breeding pairs of ostriches and emus,
as much at home as antelopes once were, whose heads
most folks never see outside a tavern or a barber shop.

 

Zona de Vado

As long as we are here, we might as well bow
our heads and crawl beneath the floor boards
with the rest of the engineers and their stash

of gigabytes. And, yes, it is clear that we could,
or at least should, have seen it all coming all along,
if only we had had a little more time

to test our theory about which pachinko parlor
just might host the next, though some say last, truly
immaculate conception. What with the growing

deserts of the West and our unquenchable thirst
for media attention, we may have to build
new roads in anticipation of the flash

floods of emotion or those gnawing thoughts
that our common memory is no longer all that it is
cracked up to be. For the hell of it, start with imagery—

boys with orange slices for smiles; or make that piles
of rifles stacked against a dying palm—a fair trade
zone for soldiers with nothing much to fear
but the children there with nothing to lose.


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