Portrait in 2/4


Not the refinement of the waltz

but the boozy, blue-collar polka for me.


Pla Mor, Starlite, Peony Park, Sokol Hall –

those Nebraska polka halls staged

pageants of folk exuberance,

oom-pah tubas and accordion flourishes

as men with farmer tans and shiny pates

swept stout women with doughy arms

in looping circles ’round wooden dance floors.


With beer and sausages, kolaches and coffee,

such Saturday-night escapes provided

a whirl of diversion against the flat plains

rising up into knolls, the hard life beaten back

beyond the edge of the parking lot.


Inside, the dancers

cast nimble shadows on the windows,

all while the 2/4 rhythm spilled over the edges

of the four-cornered hall, the music always flaring.


The Giving


. . . as if we gave ourselves as gifts

– Boris Pasternak


Years before the day, there was the dazzlement.

I served you coffee, but you forgave me for that.

You bought me wine, but chose me for your sister.


When I chose you instead, I stopped talking to myself.

Then your lips, and tongue, bespoke me,

your eyes seduced, kaleidoscopes of light.


At sunrise in the church cemetery,

empty of souls on a Sunday morning . . .


Later, we walked through rolling pastures

in search of visions tinted by chromatic skies.


At your feet, I pulled you down into a kiss

as you leaned over my shoulder from behind.


Lifting me, you sealed my possession,

and your gift – the world in a single touch.




Whether I petition or postulate,

each plea rises up like a prayer.


Less forgotten than unmapped, memory wells up

from the depths of silted-in forgetting,


and the dipper I drink from burns my lips –

metal cold to the touch, water brackish with oblivion.


To quench, then, the desire of both flame and thirst

is to stand in solitude, waiting for time’s surcease,


anticipating an interceding word,

waiting for some apparition to speak,


for the river to rise to the surface,

for the one who stands at water’s edge to dip,


and drink, again.