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Excerpt Poems: "The Hills are a Lie," "How to Talk to a Brushcut Man," "Love of the Same"

The Hills Are a Lie

Join me on this tour of the English Downs
where the Long Man is re-cut into sod,
more deeply than those pre-historic men
intended; intention the truth
easily cut into. Is this the first stencil
and so the only authority left? Forget hieroglyphs,
called down when the Rosetta Stone
turned falcons into argument.
The Long Man looks down,
a little white lying on green.

Seven horses carved on the South Downs Way.
One a gentleman thought too small
and far too hung. In 1850 he
wiped anatomy clean, made it bigger
in that big Victorian Way. He made truth.
And the story goes from there, commonly
out of the mouths of guides.
The one horse that speaks to you
and you and you.

Let's lie at night
in the hard-on at Cerne Abbas
chalk-drawn around us, those spade
made balls re-edged lovingly out of lawn,
caught between the legs of another walking
man. The fertility of you
wasted on the likes of me.

Let's lie between two rocks
and a hard place, well
on our way. Stepping in the trepidation of flesh
that will become myth.

How to Talk to a Brushcut Man

pretend you've never touched one before
ask if you can touch it
act as if nothing's happened
use metaphors
billiard ball
ask if you can borrow his comb
ask if he's in mourning
say nothing
say it will grow back
ask for a lock to remember him by
rub him the wrong way
comment on the nap
comment on the nape
say he looks like someone famous
elvis in g.i. blues
oliver north
sinead o'connor
grace jones
whisper to him and feel it
wonder how it feels moving between your legs
ask what shape he leaves on his pillow
say how much you hated the beatles
check his profession
check his politics
don't mention his ears

Love of the Same

I dream my motherís mausoleum.
She will have no such thing.
But I dream it, walk with footfalls
echoing before each frame,
as in a film with sound gone wrong, a song
racing ahead without the singer.

So this is my motherís mausoleum, I think
in my dream, knowing how ridiculous.
The floor is slate, pink and grey, echoing
as I approach the white stone
sarcophagus cast in her shape. I know
this dream is a memory of England ó
Canterbury Cathedralís stone bishops
dead around the nave, so many
with such a long history of dying.

My motherís sarcophagus, yet I donít remember
how the mask looked ó why the need?
I know her well. My dream understood.
I see only stone, smooth and white,
lifeless as memory. There is no fear in waking.
She lives still, at 73.

In life, my father struggled on a gurney
six days longer than expected. After aortic-valve
replacement he pulled at tubes catching his voice, wanted
to hear himself shout at my mother. He yanked
until nurses tied his hands to the metal catch we leaned against.

Fear grew, though he lived, pressed like
the pillow clutched against his chestódeep coughs
to clear his lungs, the pressure applied
kept his stitches from bursting.
Two years on, he canít look at the scar.

My mother wants no funeral. My father does.
This is where their opposition ends.
For in their aging they return to parents
long dead. This is no metaphor.

They have become immigrants that smile and wave
as if parting on a dock.
My fatherís plot ó purchased beside his mother,
father, in a town that ceased to exist
when the railroad pulled out. He will rest
on the incline above Byemoor.

A second plot my mother will never use.
She has an envelope in my files
with no secretsóshe will be burned to ash
and sprinkled across her motherís grave in Medicine Hat.

Our days, so many, build memory into life.
That husband and wife count their days, as days go on,
back to blood and birth and love as a child ó
not love of an other. Love of the same.

Mother, Father, I am the same, but never
made your break ó to make my own.
You are my lovers, as any
man with man knows. My fear grows.

And one day that dream, my motherís sarcophagus
a few steps away, the white stone
that will wake me
to a life so alone.