Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Fragments from Fort Worth,...
 The bluffs of Ireland
 A classic malediction
 How the west was won
 Old glory
 The receptionist's affairs
 The kite
 Children walking home from...
 The thaw
 The cynic to the sage
 The salvage yard
 From "The virgin"
 Biographical sketch
 Back Cover
 Grant of permissions

Title: Fort Worth and other poems
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095873/00001
 Material Information
Title: Fort Worth and other poems
Physical Description: iv, 28 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Furbush, Matthew John
Donor: unknown ( endowment )
Publisher: Matthew John Furbush
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 1985
Copyright Date: 1985
Subject: English thesis M.A
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 1985.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Matthew John Furbush.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00095873
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000528829
oclc - 12770284
notis - ACV1167

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front cover
        Front cover
    Front Matter
        Front matter
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
    Fragments from Fort Worth, 1959
        Page 1
        Page 2
    The bluffs of Ireland
        Page 3
        Page 4
    A classic malediction
        Page 5
        Page 6
    How the west was won
        Page 7
    Old glory
        Page 8
        Page 9
    The receptionist's affairs
        Page 10
        Page 11
    The kite
        Page 12
        Page 13
    Children walking home from school
        Page 14
        Page 15
    The thaw
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
    The cynic to the sage
        Page 20
    The salvage yard
        Page 21
    From "The virgin"
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
    Biographical sketch
        Page 28
        Page 29
    Back Cover
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
    Grant of permissions
        Page 33
Full Text
II -e i I,, II I I II









For Barbara Stephenson


I wish to thank the members of my thesis committee, Donald Justice,

William Logan, and Brandy Kershner, for their helpful criticism and con-

stant encouragement. I'd like to offer special thanks to Donald Justice,

who introduced me to the delicate art of formal verse, and who, in turn,

has suffered through lengthy passages of unpracticed percussion--yet

still was eager to praise one successful line of rhythm: his friend-

liness, integrity, and aesthetic intelligence have been a continuous in-

spiration to me.

Creative writing thrives because of teachers like all of you.




ABSTRACT . . . .






OLD GLORY . . . .



THE KITE . . . . .


SYMPATHY . . . .

THE THAW . . ..





* .


. v

. 1















Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts




August 1985

Chairman: Donald Justice
Major Department: English

A dominant setting for these poems is the American West, a region

I have slowly begun to tap for ideas during the past year. The expanse

of prairie once seemed uninteresting to me, but now, from a distance,

it seems both rich and fascinating. In the future, I plan to use the

West to conclude section IV of "The Virgin," sending the two women off

in a direction that represents both escape and knowledge.



Who'd have believed the West would come to this?
The tumbleweeds, the swell of plains, the dust,
The dust-devils--now gone, gone that sense
Of nothingness....
Reinforced concrete
Rakes the sky from tops of cellar walls.
Road graders steer their plows away from town,
Their freshest tracks abloom in upright rows
Of steely pipes--taps, blue taps,
That lead to buried webs of dry connections...

Twelve blocks back, they're wet. Two water worker
'Gopher in and out of manholes, stop
To whistle at a housewife bending down
To flowers near the walk. She hears, then laughs,
But won't look up, remembering her name,
Mrs. Rob McClintock, Longhorn Circle.
Next door, a tanned, retired Navy man
Tacks back and forth across his pea-green lawn,
Sights her shirt while keeping stride, and thinks,
"Tits like guns of battleships--enough
To knock the Old Man off his feet," but then
He hits some choppy ground, some turbulence,
His fertilizer spreader jabs his hip
And makes him stumble forward, stub his toe.
She laughs again.

High noon. No ghostly swaths
Of shadows paint the patios or streets.
The clothesline poles all point toward the heavens--
Then boom! The dogs choir out their siren howls.
Windows shake. A cat falls off its sill,
So scared it doesn't quite land on its feet.
The Navy man looks up, swears his praise,
But nothing's there.
Inside, the mid-day news
Warns her of sonic booms and mad-dog scares.
A wave of static swells, and tingling hair
(Electrified upon her arms from fear)
Makes her want to call their strangest friends.

Across the street, a prefab Quonset hut
Repulses prairie dust, roofing the pit
That scoops away a part of two backyards.
The "Doomsday Neighbors" once spent weekends digging.

The pit dragged down their cash, and left them tired,
She dials one digit, waits--
Would they be proper guests at cocktail parties?

At 6:15, with perfect tardiness,
The anvil heads of crewcut businessmen
Sweep in like storms above the table plains,
Now spread with Vodka bottle elevators
And grid-like trays of corn chips, wheat chips, dip.
Horses at a trough, they concentrate
Upon the food to stop their roving eyes
When the boss's newest date arrives--
Stiletto heels, a cruelly balanced tease,
Foundations built of Spandex, cord and wire,
Plucked eyebrows, then, like frosting on the cake,
A slash of lipstick, Revlon's Fire and Ice.
The wives flash frigid smiles, try not to stare.

Downstairs, on the rec-room TV screen,
The children watch (but don't quite understand)
Two chimpanzees dressed up like Blanche and Stanley;
They fight, scratch, then ride each other's backs.
The camera pans...
Back at the yard party,
A man in madras slacks and Stetson hat
Taps a woman's arm, makes his point,
Then taps it again for that which he believes.
The woman crimps her straw, then slowly leads
Their conversation to the avant-garde,
The Theatre of the Absurd as art.
"It just goes on and on, but what's it worth?
It has no meaning, nothing happens"--
Just then
A half-grown collie leaps the garden fence,
Barks his greeting, and thinks that it's a game
When he hears shouts and everybody scrams.
He grabs a bone, sits near the plate-glass door,
And dully stares at those he holds at bay.
A cat appears. He yips, drops the bone,
Then starts to chase, but cannot get inside
And soon returns. The cat returns too,
And once again, the collie hesitates
In his confusion of desires....


To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen, and always,always delightful.
--Elizabeth Bishop

The only sublime parts of the landscape were bluffs--
Or the buildings that stood on them,
Nearly removed from the solid land.
A twisted finger of rock still reached to the lighthouse,
A spyglass of a lighthouse, propped on end,
And made of stony sections, (although not yet collapsible.)
While we clambered out its jagged path
A group of children crept behind and surprised us,
Then led us further, toward the edge. .

"No one knows how old the lighthouse is," they said,
"But inside it you can see into the past."
"How far back can you see?" we asked, then smiled.
Shrugging their shoulders, none replied.

From afar, veins of ore like threads
Wove the walls into a glistening web
That shone from where we stopped.
The sun, standing atop that bluff,
Hauled up that bright,alluring net,
And we couldn't help wondering--
Was this the history the children meant?
The lower stones--the ones we could've touched-
The present, then reaching up and back, the rest,
Reaching. . Into the past.. .

But when we came close enough to touch,
The sun had dropped its tempting net,
And the walls seemed lifeless, drab and damp.

Our guidebook mentioned no legend either,
Describing only its Norman features,
But the chill we felt inside its door--
Could the local children have known more?

We gazed straight up. . The building swayed, then spun,

Shaking our sense of distance,
Until we focused on its angling stairs,
Leaning, inclining, one way, then the other,
A way of climbing to the top! But--

The stairs were broken, incomplete, of course,
Their lowest step a flight beyond our reach.
Yet if we could've reached them.. .

Walking back, we glimpsed that net again,
Shimmering, taut, and dangling just above
The rising floor of Irish Sea.
Beneath its shape, the green receding shoals
Seemed the perfect place to cast a net
And fish and fish upon those lighter reaches--
Firm indications
Where bluffs must once have been.


What firm-bred debutante, a high-toned cog
Of machinations in some fitness center,
Tips Soave Bolla with you this winter, Paris,
Inside your Palm Beach condo? For whom have you
Obscured the cloudy shapes of old affairs,
Then to change the subject, reappeared
In something subtly "fetching," London Fog,
To linger in her doorway--cunning hints
That soon you'd like your nightly, seaside walk....
Fogged, then smashed is what she'll likely get,
Not just from being left, but when she finds
You're trailing millionaires of your same sex....
In flight pants, scarves, is how she'll think of you,
For she will know the way the jet stream's shifts
Can leave her tanks on empty, power gone,
Her tail now flying straight-rudderless,
And windows darkened with a swarmy film
From those harsh currents, which have shown me, too,
How high mosquitoes fly, you Parasite.


Far from the upward, mobile Concorde class
Who relish champagne clouds and "atmosphere,"
Their firmaments are dense, suburban spreads
Through which they ply, shunning gourmet grass
And its surrounding "airs" for earthy beer
That spins their monkish, modest, downturned heads.

The browns they wear suggest they're from the West,
Their work and leisure suits rumpled and soiled
As if, in hidden diligence, they've toiled
To make their marks a notch above the rest;
Their only flaw's their feet, which paddling loam,
Have caused the gaits that hint of a prairie home.

Their paths of work, of minor prominence,
Arise like webs that cross the Bible belt,
Western designs linked in a widespread plot:
To undermine the thought that reverence
Cannot be felt where wealth is firmly felt,
And prove that real estate's the Common Lot.

Des Moines, Topeka, Lincoln, Shaker Heights,
The middle grounds of earth their favorite "digs,"
These moles are pilgrims from the Eastern shores
Who won their promised lands through buyer's rights,
Collective mortgage laws the bread and figs
By which they jointly gained their temple doors.

And yet they blindly thrive in solitude,
These paradoxic tunnellers, blundering through
Their lives as through a passage thick with shoots,
In which they find random caches of food
Or barren desert clay--yet on they chew
As if the.sweet and sour were equal fruits.

So down they stay, these landlocked submarines,
Content to cruise their vaults like sightless dwellers
Of shallow parts where there are no decisions,
No shifts in path, no wants beyond their means--
Except on brilliant days, in twilit cellars,
Desires for deeper realms and lesser visions.


Inside that dirty, old Nebraska diner
The waitress winked to clinch her lewd one-liner
Then spilled some milk between my boyish knees.
I jumped, my head collided with a rack,
And dazed, I thought of trucker's tales--disease
From midnight meetings in some backwoods shack,
Or shotgun weddings, a dozen homely kids,
Life as a forklift driver-on the skids.

My city thoughts of country parts weren't wrong;
Out there, they forced you into staying long--
She'd nabbed my wallet. Her daddy brought the bill,
Then said, "We're closing, son," his "son" like ice
That trickled down my neck. The windowsill,
Too high to climb, held flies for sacrifice,
Trapped on that greasy plain that held their wings.
A table game of wooden pegs and rings

Called "Cowboy Roundup" caught my desperate eye.
The carved instructions read, "Give it a try.
Make careful moves. Don't let the calf escape."
I slammed the game across the checkered floor
To start events I hoped would soon take shape.
Three brothers, fat and mean, plowed through the door,
Behind them, her. "Should we make him pay?"
They sneered. I mounded salt upon a tray,

Thinking they'd toss me out for sure. She winked.
"I like a man with nerve. Those games ain't cheap.
Fifty bucks. Work here. Out back, you'll sleep."
Just then my neck twitched, I coughed and blinked,
Then saw the waitress sponging milk between
My feet. I stood, excused myself, then paid.
Outside, the fields looked false, and Nature's green
Seemed forced from planted rows, dream-like, man-made.


"Actually, the flag at Fort McHenry
was taken down throughout that night"-
Smithsonian Museum of American History

The first Star Spangled Banner
No longer waves but shudders
In the blasts of air
That steal through the revolving doors.

Its curtain shroud arises twice an hour.
A crowd of sixth grade children'jam the lobby,
Nudge the railings, fly before the guards,
Then calm to see it lift. .

The flag's a net. . It slowly draws them in.
The missing star and tattered stripes were sheared--
Not by shells-
But by hunters of souvenirs,

Now held at bay
By sensors linked to guards' alarms.
Past tourists' ears,
Their warning pulses throb unheard.

On the mall, three student soldiers loiter,
Shuffling in circles to keep warm.
Proudly, they flick flurries
From each other's plastic epaulets,

Then taunt a walking Black tramp,
Who drops his gaze but does not veer.
In the frigid air,
You can see the steeled Negro breathe.*

Above Virginia, cotton-gray clouds hover,
Riddled full of TV signals
That shock the Capitol
Into a state of near paralysis:

Their message--snow.
A Western system. Far ahead of schedule.
Congress monitors the road conditions,
Deliberates, then votes to dismiss early..

In 1791, Pierre L'Enfant
Predicted great congestion
With la circulation too,
And proposed a starry city hub

That flung its influential avenues
To all points of the compass.
Paris, Rome, the arched etoiles of Trajan
Became the models for his plan,

Mounted on a "scale as to leave room
For that aggrandizement and embellishment
Which the increase of the nation's wealth
Would permit it to pursue,

At any period, however remote. ." **
Today, the avenues seem shrunken.
Growing snowdrifts clog their sides.
Ice has downed a dozen power lines

And the traffic lights on Independence
Are no longer synchronized.
Congressmen race against them,
Hit their brakes,

Then are surprised to find
Their cars plow straight ahead
No matter where they steer.
Across the White House walks,

Concrete flowerpots
Nick the shins of slipping pedestrians,
While in the drives
The sand trucks do not budge to help.

The reflecting pools grow tarnished, taut;
Old floes of ice-abandoned continents--
Find new berths;
Swaddling their shapes, fresh sheets of ice congeal.

The new War Memorial
Casts the mall's sole reflections;
Its darkened sheen returns
Expressions of its visitors.

Along its downward ramp,
A schoolboy turns his back,
Aims his Canon at the obelisk
But can't quite capture it--

As sky and structures blend
Through the flawless *Lowell's For the Union Dead
Snowflake stars **Encyclopedia Britannica
Dissolving on the lens. .


So many wrong numbers!
Yet when your office lines
Are all engaged, you still
Find the time to laugh,
Offer friendly answers.

Beneath your writing blotter,
An old New Yorker, thumbed,
Reveals vacations spreads
In siftly focused sections--

"Respectable Victorian Manor. .
Provincial charms. .
City chamber comforts. .
Connecting suites. .Discreet."

A travel agent calls
And hints that you should know
Why your boss would take
His crippled aunt to Edinburgh.
(Last year, Acapulco.)

But when the pleasure ships
Have all returned, will we
Still find you here--the Queen
Of Vestibules? Reviewing

Ranks of hairsprayed salesmen,
Delaying heated wives,
Delaying lives. . At home,
On your bedside companion,

You lift your princess phone,
Recall an old exchange,
Then dial--your touch electric,
Gently passing over
Numbers you have known--


What poetry fits the rich? Who, on long afternoons,
murmur obtuse niceties
as they stoll quite aimlessly
through cool, sumptuous gardens. Years later, following

a bankruptcy, the garden grows wildly, untended,
and all the children, inclined
to cynicism, now find
their afternoon walks dwindling, their remarks pointed, curt.


Twenty years ago, in second grade,
During "Nature Observation Week,"
I led the list to give a brief report,
A speech, the likes of which I'd never made,
And stood before the class, sheepish, meek,
With plans to make it good--but mostly short.

I started out, "Above the graveyard gate..."
And wove a tale about a giant crow
That perched upon a line until a wind
That could've blown him down, pushed him straight.
He spun around, as if rehearsed to show
The strength of wire....In class, I stopped, then grinned.

The 'teacher's face turned marble white and gray.
She said, "The horrors of an untrained mind'
A bird could never....H mmmpf! Imaginings!
Sit in the hall, you'll be the dunce today."
I'd raised her ire, and then was shocked to find
The bounds of truth weren't tried by underlings,

Although I'd seen the way a talon's shape
Could grip if upside down, it made good sense...
About n month ago, just down the street,
I glimpsed a clump of string that seemed to drape
A kite's forsaken ribs, suspended, tense,
And beached from weeks of scorching August heat.

It piqued my thought, a distant, clinging form,
Too high :.d far to be clearly discerned,
So when the forecast called for winds and hail
I rushed to see it close before the storm.
The clouds, advancing coiled like breakers, churned
And seemed to tide me back... -
I glimpsed its tail-

Then skeleton, which clattered, came alive,
A vacant ribcage pulsing high in air,
Its talon's sinewy grip outliving death
In a vision no one could contrive.
So that which distance hid, surprised me there,
And I stood trembling, drenched in childhood breath,


To watch the lightning's jagged, quick attacks
Shatter the wall of rain in brilliant cracks.
The thunder scared two jays, which beat the skies
Above a maple, hung in hovering stalls,
And, (dare I say it?) swooped like waterfalls,
Which, in exotic places, stop; then rise.


Now they begin to wonder
If never stepping on the sidewalk cracks
Has made a bit of difference; perhaps,
Yes, once or twice they must've missed,
Slipped off a step, or quickly glanced away
At some police car's flash. .
And further on,
The hole torn through the playground fence--
Could it be larger? Is someone looking?
Would they hear shouts of "Stop" if they began
To slip across the grounds and out the gate?

November's sky is dim. Their stomachs growl.
The shortcut's path has sunk beneath the leaves.
They lose their way, an argument occurs,
One boy deserts the rest then disappears.
The rustling fades; the children round a long curve,
Only to see him far ahead--and snared
Inside a thicket, his arms a flailing bird's.
He shouts, cheers them on, but before they're near,
He sheds his coat and pulls it till it tears.

What traps! A landscape of discouragements!
How will they escape, forget?
But then
A siren blasts a path of sound, (for them?),
The thick, confounding trees lay down their capes,
And seem to point the way toward a street.
They walk uphill, and though they're tired, pretend
The braking lights of cars form stairs of red,
By which they rise, dawdling and reluctant,
Beyond the gruff, impatient horns of men.


As children, barely old enough to listen,
We were told the stained glass windows were
The gems of heaven, the skies of paradise.
While the people prayed, we'd gaze about,
Standing on the seats of chairs and pews
To see the colored puddles streak the nave.
But then we'd jump--surprised, when pinches knifed
Into our calves and we were ordered down
To sit without a twitch and stare at Jesus,
Old Blood and Guts, pinned to his crucufix.


On a road adrift with month-old snow,
A rabbit crossed the ice before the car,
Paused, then ran back when I thought he'd stay,
Clipping his head against the car's belly,

The steel transmission ball or muffler clamps.
I thought of driving on (and now I wish
I had), imagining it half-alive,
Sprawled and dragging, with upturned yellow eyes.

But I've always thought (and taught the kids)
That of our few responsibilities
One is making sure that things don't suffer,
If we can help it--or control their lives.

This rabbit died as soon as it was hit,
Its neck a flaccid sleeve of downy heat
As it turned it in the headlight beams
And glimpsed its stomach rot, a weeping pus

That thrust out from its ribs, and surely meant
It would be dead before the season's end.
I hate to say it pleased me, dangling there,
That I took joy in such a horrid growth,

But then I felt that sign helped ease the fact
That I had been the one to break its back.
At home, I spread it on the kitchen floor,
And stepping softly not to wake the family,

I slipped downstairs to find a garden spade.
When I returned, I found our half-grown cat
(His neck still brightly tied in Christmas ribbons)
Raking his claws along the rabbit's haunch,

Digging down through fur to flesh in seconds.
I picked him up, hissed "No," spanked him twice,
Then tossed him off, but he leapt back again,
Tearing deep into the rabbit's neck.

I snatched the bows the kids had strung around him
And this time threw him harder yet--too hard,
For he let out a shriek to raise the damned
When his flank rebounded off a cabinet.

Limping off, he spat and hissed at me,
And I--I felt inclined to curse him back
For tearing into something fully dead.
Beneath its coat of snow, the garden plot

Seemed tough as steel, the shovel clanging off
But slowly nicking loose a patch of crescents,
That finally broke into a scar of clods.
I curled the rabbit in that small depression,

Heaped the clods atop it like a cairn,
Then filled my tracks as well as any thief
Who worked a moonless night in late December.
(Though now I wonder how well anyone

Can cover up his tracks--the Chevy's skid,
The Poker night I'd kept concealed for years.)
That morning, I woke to cries of "Daddy, Daddy,
What happened to the cat?" I hedged and schemed,

Came up with nothing but, "We'll see the vet,"
Who later looked me in the eyes and said,
"It's hard to think he did this to himself. .
And I--I stammered back, "Will he get better?"

The vet relied, "Of course," then shrugged. "Bruised ribs.
A hairline fracture at the worst"--although
The cat sure didn't listen, hobbling round
As if his side were cracked in sixteen places,

Then keeping up his act at home for weeks.
When I'd get near him, he'd shy and limp away,
Running to find the kids, who'd see him sway
And think I'd stepped on him, or something worse,

Jammed a needle into that tender haunch--
Yet despite the cat's theatrics, I never
Thought him harm, except that once I wished
We hadn't chosen pets that year as gifts.

Among the kids, I seemed a suspect man,
Until the rains began to thaw the yard
And they began to start suspecting him.
A tent of water dimmed the sky for days,

Pounding the garden to a plot of muck,
And for a week he whined and moaned so much
I feared that rheumatism took that bruise.
He cried, of course, to go outside, though God

Could tell you what he planned to do out there,
Practice island leaping, swimming strokes,
Or, most likely, cry to come back in.
But none of us would let him past the porch,

Perhaps because he wasn't big enough,
Or for the reason no one said aloud,
His leg might not have been completely healed.
The second week of rain I woke to shrieks

That seemed like bobcats tearing down the door,
The metal kickboard whining from his claws,
And saw the kids were up, their lights on too,
And then I knew there had to be a limit,

A difference between consoling strays
And letting pets control your family's life.
So I was destined for the key and door latch,
The cat rushing through my legs--a tide

That ebbed along the garden terrace wall,
His backturned eyes like sunken water lights.
Right then, I thought, "Should I have let him go?"
And called him back, but there seemed little chance

That he'd return--he'd been cooped up for days
And could've prowled straight through a sleeting night.
The next morning, through the haze of rain,
I saw that patch of garden--now torn up,

And donned a poncho, then slowly waded out
To find the cat in throes beneath a hedge,
His eyes like milk from vile, malignant poison.
I took him in and tried to give him water,

But he wouldn't drink, lifting his head
To stare at me the way he'd stared at Christmas--
The time I threw him-and almost daily since.
Thank God the kids weren't up the day I steered

The car back to the vet's, swearing aloud,
"A lifetime full of pets, but never this,"
And then I touched his head and thought of--lies!
I'd tell the kids, "It's hard to see at night.

The cat was prowling somewhere near the shoulder,
Then bolted, and the driver didn't see him,
Didn't even hear him hit the tire. . "
But if that lie had worked, could I have looked

Into their faces, dodged their pointed questions,
"Who let him out?" or "Couldn't he have jumped
Beyond the wheels without that bashed-up leg?"
And what about my headlong, headstrong driving,

With all the things that follwed--simple trust
Of a rabbit's normal, game-like feint,
The cat's attack, the throw,. the cabinet door,
And I, the head of discipline, gave in,

Trying to help the family get some sleep
And let the cat roam free--as he deserved.
But who can tell if that's what he deserved?
Had I been toying with the ways of things

To take him in? What good had come from helping,
Him nearly dead and rattling from the poison
And me with foggy thoughts, thick with evasion?
I shouted more excuses at the windshield

Until the cat let out a final sigh.
I stopped the car beside a sodden field
And from the trunk, I took a broken shovel
Wrapped the cat inside a faded blanket,

Then picked my way across a swollen culvert.
I dug a knee-deep grave in minutes, then spread
The cat inside, but right away the hole
Began to seep then fill with grayish water,

The ground as soaked as sand with heavy tides.
I quickly snatched him out, looked up, then damned
The crumbling ground, the rain, the filthy sky.
I flung some dirt back in, laid down the cat,

Then lightly tamped a skin of dirt above.
The broken spade, I tossed into a ditch
Flooding with dirty water, then imagined
That gulley slowly rising, creeping through

The field to wash away the shovel's scar,
Unearth the cat and float him on a surge....
But where could anything be put that it
Could never be defiled, exhumed again?

Back at the car, I looked up in the air
To see the sky-sized web of clouds adrift
In all directions, dragging, back and forth,
Their clashing shafts above the flooded land.


What wisdom is this,
To cling to such barrenness
With your limbs outspread?


The hushed cars breed rust.
Their windows show no prices.
April sleet sprinkles a crust
Of downy ices

Across the sprung hoods
Which dampen, start to glisten.
Like rural buyers, the woods
Stand still and listen

To the cold patter
Which shines the glass and fenders.
No common country matter,
This ice storm renders

Jalopies jewels,
Which, on winter's robes, reclaim
The season of renewals
For the old and lame.


A gang of bikers ring the circus tent,
Posting one man at each illumined flap
Like links that form a monstrous snare or trap.
Soon they'll put the squeeze on those within....
Behind the flaps, the host shouts out "Wisconsin,"
And two old snowbirds, Jack and Eunice Decker,
Raise another round to Old Milwaukee--
The New World's Munich--the place where they were born,
And every Fall, still fly from, gliding down
For Hot Springs, Florida's Octoberfest.
"Diamond" Jack's a rockhound, former spelunker,
His camper weighted down with baubles, gems,
Things of this world, granites, amethysts,
A chunk of lignite, smoothed by sand, resembling
Michelangelo's polished Pieta
(When viewed from what he called the "Finder's Angle,")
And just below, a kneeling Hiawatha,
Its sandstone feathers dropping teary dots
Upon a wavy mica Gitchee Goomee,
Yet all his finds of Nature far surpassed
By one he carved, his precious Hot Saint Joan,
Tearing loose her fragment arms from stakes
With one arm raised in hostile, victory grip
That clenched a sword-like shard of meteor,
Which, towering above her head, inspired a crowd
Of massy geodes, rough, unpolished, crude,
And clogged like works of Delacroix or Rude.
Eunice, a pensioned high school counselor,
Denounced fossils and gems as too concrete
And sought the abstract truths of gossip sheets,--
Pathetic dirt about some actor's life,"
The stuff that made her interest "character,"
And for a hobby, a love of Gothic tales
Fogged with storming men whose mental states
Were nebulous, intense, and so bizarre
She read for quirky flights as prime voyeur.

Upon the stage, the host shouts "Big Wyoming,"
But no one drinks or cheers. The silence cues
The gang to roll--the Big Top's lights are fires,
Their studs reflect, their iron crosses burn
On pools of leather laced with plated chains,
That strap their shoulders, biceps, thighs and wrists
Then all connect back to their drive-chained hips.

The midnight drinkers hold their beers and stare.
A woman shouts, "Stay calm." Their aging leader,
Overweight and bald with chest-length beard,
Struts up the steps that serve the makeshift stage,
Twirls his Nazi helmet, brass swastikas,
Then, goose-like, waddles at the speechless host
Who drops his head in silent fear or prayer.

By a chain that rings her naked throat,
He drags a teen-age girl up to the stage,
Slaps the microphone to scare the crowd,
Then with a Marlon Brando hoarseness, whispers,
"She's a virgin." The people murmur, glare.
Two drunken teamsters rise, adjust their belts,
Then act as if they'll try to take control.
He whispers, "Turn around," so all can see
The bikers' death's head logo, "Devil's Deacons,"
In golden script on flames of blue, then shouts
"Let's go" before the teamsters hit the stairs.

Eunice moves, as if by simple instinct,
Toward the girl's magnetic, snow-white hair,
While the bikers flood to distant tables,
The meanest hanging back to bait the teamsters
Who seem to float toward the gang, converge.
Inside the fray, the Virgin reappears
And seems to break her heavy, noose-like chains
Before the fighters' eyes.
They freeze, retreat.
She watches Eunice edging up and calls,
"Don't think you gotta save me lady, look--
The master links are fake, but don't tell them."
She points her hand at their receding backs,
Then, noticing the wince in Eunice's eyes,
She quickly adds, "Come on outside, we'll talk.
You're like my aunt. My great aunt, that is."

A wall of Winnebagos rings a pond,
Spreading like a great mistake of nature,
A seep, aleak, cloudy, scummed and edged
With flats of dying fennel.
On waves of sand,
They seem to bob beside the caravan,
The Virgin's feet defying brambles, thistle,
Until they reach the shore.
The moment hangs
Till Eunice starts a tale of goats and sheep
(A tale that she, in youth, did not believe,)
Then slowly trails away into reflection...

The dim, eternal truths that brack can spawn,
The rapt observers of that stagnant deep,
Combine in reverie, but soon one breaks--

"So which men fight, which men behave like sheep?"
The Virgin interrupts, shifting her feet,
Then kicking stones. "Can we go back and drink?"

Teary-eyed and now too drunk to sing,
Two German yodellers, tight in Lederhosen,
Choke out a schmaltzy, throaty-vowelled spiel
Praising the Wese, Stuttgart, Baden, Omsk,
But celebrating, far above the sights,
The German Wunder Volk! The famed composers,
Brilliant leaders, Otto, Bismarck, Selim,
Siegfried, Wilhelm--Deutschland Uber Alles!
The oompah band picks up the homesick spirit
Moaning out the anthem like a dirge,
While the crowd assaults the center stage,
Hoops their arms around the yodellerm'waists,
And forms a monstrous circle, tight as staves.
Sweeping his hands in gestures grand and brave,
A yodeller erupts in halting praise,
"This wondrous brotherhood. These hearts, these kegs,
These human elements...The foam, the dregs."


Three hours before the dawn, Eunice wakes
As if a lotus stalk arising, firm,
A part of earth, yet filled with tingling nerves
That seem to stretch into the night, the sky,
The universe; her mystic feeling soars,
Embracing cattails, comets, possums, stars,
All things assured of sense and place and source;
From a distant, melancholic camper,
A strain of music swells, maintains, then fades,
While just outside her window, leaning pines
Grow taller in her mind, their distant crowns
Entwined in lofty, lightning-twisted spires
That penetrate into the firmament;
This sum of sensate things, this tapestry
Of revelations, seemed to gently touch,
Once or twice each year, her heart and mind,
Which, over-conscious of their worldly joys,
Their sweeping mystic visions, slowly sunk
To blackened mires of guilt, their opposite...

Above her head, the moon throws spectral light
Upon the pond, and waves, in circling flight
Echo the clouds around the moon that wait
In misty rings, saved for a lofty fate,

And recollections of another place
Return to chill the depths of Eunice's mind...
A haze of childhood ways, in wintry blue,
Blue, the shade that tinted northern walls,

The upper windows, shafts of crossing light,
And tier on tier, the circles funnelling down,
Past harsh dividing cliffs--monstrous steps,
All getting smaller, steeper, winding deeper
Toward the motion at the stark-white center
Of West Milwaukee's Iceland Skating Rink.
Her fifteen-year-old's thoughts of doom and death
Take back their clutching grip as she recalls
The nicking sounds of hordes of skaters' blades
In ragged rhythms as they cross the ice
In Fall rehearsals for the Christmas Follies,
A modern passion play performed on ice.
Appointed chiefly as a speaking angel,
(A sort of closet, teen-aged Gabriella,)
She'd had no choice of roles, and now, enraged,
She hated practice, parents, teachers, priests--
The rules that put the screws to Catholic souls.
At home, she'd blow her horn at ten P.M.,
To show her parents that she was surely there
And not carousing with her wicked friends.

The night before, taped high inside her locker,
She'd found a picture of a headless bird
Above a note, from faithless friends, which read,
"Only a turkey stays home all Thanksgiving."
(She'd been grounded for the five-day stretch,
And locked inside, she'd eaten till she'd moaned.)
No one had called or spoken to her since.
That night, she'd run the bathtub steaming hot,
Climbed in, and watched her razor on the sink
(A cliched plot of teenage suicide)
Until the bathtub fell to tepid, cold,
And drove her off to bed in numbing gloom--
A gloom that rose the next day on the rink.

Iceland's boiler raged, went on the fritz,
And Eunice felt the sluggishness of slush
In patchy traps across the thawing ice;
A clique of winged girls and shepherd boys
Cooly observed her warming up her legs,
And in their gaze she felt an urge to race,
To free her wrath and gloom in rapid flight--
Her skates' accelerating outward flicks
Slicing through the wet, subsurface reds
That split the hockey rink, till melting slush,
With heavy, concrete grip, engulfed her feet
And slammed her flat upon her lower back,
Her flaccid limbs like rags, now paralyzed.
Her chest convulsed in pain, her cheek touched ice,
Her positioned so she faced a gate,
And yet despite those first contorting pains
Her thoughts sung clear as if she'd realized
That this was what He'd wanted, pure revenge,

Her strength, her sense of worldly things--denied,
Her life now visionary, trapped in Him;
Yet under deadened nerves, she truly felt
The block of ice was flimsy, wafer-thin,
Adrift in time, a soaring, unmoored floe
Just looking for a likely place to fall--
A metaphoric, cheap disguise for Fate
Parading as an icy moral lake
That punished her for wanting her own life.

Two hands caressed then cupped her fallen head,
And as she calmed she slowly focused on
The model face of heart-throb Misha Damen,
The rebel son of West Side's Slavic priest--
Who, to end her last confession, said
That when she spoke Hail Marys she should try
To think why She was the most esteemed.
Misha had volunteered to play the Devil,
But the rink instructor dropped the part. .
He touched her cheek, his satin, costumed lap
(Which smelled of age and courtly mustiness)
Cradled her wet and woolen-hatted head,
Exuding wild, medieval hunting scents
That started shivers treading Misha's skin. .
His nostrils flared, his polished pendant shone,
In it, she glimpsed her frantic eyes reflected,
But then a trembling shook beneath the rink,
A sword of bluish light licked past his head
And Iceland's furnace blew. .
Her fallen form,
Ignored by fleeing hordes of youthful angels,
Remained untouched; the icy rink turned void,
A desert dimmed with hissing mist and heat
That seemed to suffocate. . She felt a faint,
Then glimsped the fate again, jawing wide
And level with the rink.. .
She dreamed she rose
In Misha's ivory arms, his supple limbs
Conveying her toward some fiery deep . .

A monstrous catacomb, the chamber soared,
An inward leaning sky from tiers of seats
Filled with a tree of metal ducts unpreached,
A rising, flexing dynamo of heat
That billowed clouds of steam, clumped and furled
In bat-like angel wings about the beams.
The tank itself, its arm-like ducts outspread,
Spewed hot, dostorting flashes from its grate
And through the gash between its hoop-like ribs.
Soon those wings of steam that beat like Fate
Pressed damp caresses through her humid robe;
She tried to rise or call, but couldn't speak
As brilliant light approached, heating her cheeks.


Then woke to Misha's firm, yet soft embrace,
A generator's sound and sputtering lights,
And reddish droplets on the cooling ice .

The loss--that came to weave her mythic web,
The loss--a wondrous pain, returning Sense,
But then another shudder jarred the rink,
Her flaccid limbs moved as Misha reached,
And with a graceful sweep, returned her horn.


"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
--Professor Marvel, The Wizard of Oz

Born and bred in the heart of the Western wilderness, I spent my

preschool years in Wichita, Kansas, while my father worked for the

Magnolia Petroleum Company (now Mobil Oil). We moved to northern

Pennsylvania when I was school age, for my father's work required

him to follow the discovery of new oil fields in Appalachia. After

that, we moved back to the West, then returned to Pennsylvania again.

I graduated from a junior college in Pennsylvania with a degree

in electronics technology. With this degree, I transferred into Penn

State's electrical engineering program, then promptly switched majors

to English and humanities. I received a master's degree from the

University of Wyoming in 1981 and have been in Gainesville since.

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a thesis for the degree of Master of

Donald Justice, Chairman
Professor of English

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a thesis for the degree of Master of

William Logan
Assistant Professor.of English

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a thesis for the degree of Master of

Brandon Kershner
Associate Professor of English

This thesis was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of
English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate
School, and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Master of Arts.

August. 1985

Dean for Graduate Studies and Research

Fort Worth and other poems main
LD 1780 1985.F983
I 12il 2 02i 33IlH
3 126202144 3436




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