Three poems by Larry Duncan

Farm Life

My father’s chair didn’t waltz.
It rocked.

My mother’s face was a plum.

Tomatoes worms,
the size of chubby green fingers,
ate eyes into the red and purple
faces in the garden.

Every day was Halloween.

My sister and I hung
like loose sheets from the branches
of apple trees and fed horses
through the charged wires
of an electric fence.

“Careful,” she said. “They think
your fingers are sugar cane.”

I held my hand between the wires.
The equine head lolled
and opened its mouth
and the world was filled
with a field of flat, wide teeth.

We stood frozen,
my sister and I,
in the fray of apple
and horse, our hearts
learning to breathe again
in the face of simple hunger.

While my mother’s eyes stayed
shuttered as a farm house
and my father’s chair pounded
it’s unanswerable knock at the door.

"Chair" (photo by Flickr user Matt Jiggins)

“Chair” (photo by Flickr user Matt Jiggins)

Mass Transit

The trains run strange,
hopscotch through the coiled
heart of the interstate,
bounding from line to line
along the rainbow dissection,
disregarding time and tables,
trailing a comet’s tail of batwing
newspapers and errant hats.

No one ever arrives.

The buses are in collusion.
Desperate shades mill tight
orbits around the graffitied
enclosures, muttering, “When
is the time?” No one wears
a watch anymore and the cell
phones all died in the wait.
Besides, it’s never the right route,
always the wrong number.
The times have been changed.

No one ever arrives.

The cabs have all been exiled outside the angels.
Though some insist they never existed,
figments of our collective imagination,
like alien abductions, bigfoot and democracy,
products of our need to not be alone,
errant knights in yellow whisking
the dislocated, without stops,
to their destination for a few crumbled bills.
Some people will believe anything.

No one arrives.
Not on time.
Never home.
Not in this town.

Not with all these roads between
and not a station in sight.
But still, clutch my ticket
and crane my neck
to scan the rail lines
and empty streets for any sign
of that high, wide face
and the burning light
that will take me across town,
somewhere away from this waiting.

"Bus Home 3" (photo by Flickr user Rob Brewer)

“Bus Home 3” (photo by Flickr user Rob Brewer)

Hank Williams Drives His Truck into a Tree

Hank Williams drives his truck into a tree.
The front fender carves a frayed
smile into the bark of the oak.
He can’t decide if it’s an omen
or the universe breaching
the veil to laugh in his face.
Either way, he has miles to go.

The engine’s running
but the front axle’s broke.
He can’t control
the way the wheels turn.
There’s no choice
but to continue the rest of the way
on foot, to leave the radio on
until the battery dies
and everything goes dark.

He knows the way to go,
down the epileptic rows of corn
turned blue by the moon
to the crossroads of stars
and white lightning
where Robert Johnson waits
with a handful of brick-dust
and a silver plated revolver
to put a bullet in his head.

But there’s a pint of mash
in the glove compartment
and a symphony of cicada
and whippoorwills
to keep the cadence
in his heart clean.
Each stride across the dark assuring,
this will all make a beautiful song someday.

MFB photoLarry Duncan currently lives in Fullerton, CA.  Where he drinks, writes and wakes everyday at an ungodly hour to go to work.  He received his MFA from California State University, Long Beach.  His poetry has appeared in various print and online journals, including Citizens for Decent Literature, Emerge Literary Journal, The Mas Tequila Review and My Favorite Bullet.