P o e m s

J e f fK n o r r

Text Box: J ≠ K








The drunk down the street

wore taps on his black boots,

and each afternoon tapped

a rhythmic slide and click step

cool like he was Gene Kelly.

Aviator glasses, pressed blue jeans,

VFW cap creased at the crown

the bill curved with the horizonís

slight arc, like at the bay of Dínang

where he must have hoped

a hundred times to head home.

How many ghosts did he put away

each day down at Poor Joeís?

How many missions did he fly

into the haze of gin?

Rumor had it he was a door gunner

and we boys all made cracks,

doorbell ditched his house

leaping bushes, scattering invisible

when he barked like a stray dog.

Mostly we were scared of him,

his mumbling at us as he stumbled along

the sidewalk while we played

two-hand touch, our glory still ahead of us,

in the air alive as rain.

But the day the silver morticianís van

parked in his driveway, we all hoped

it was his wife.Finally, when the sheeted body

was gurnied out, the van left us

huddled in the street in silence

as if church had just finished.

We stood, all of us making plans,

listening to her wailing, the cries

drifting into the street, then yelling,

then plates smashing until it was dark

and a jet passed over us.

Dark except for a streetlight,

and quiet except for my brother

tacking flattened bottle caps to the toes of his Keds.






Point Guard



The young man, mid-depth in the seats

of my lit class has his head down

listening somewhere far off,

not to Wordsworth but the grunts of language

that sound like basketballs hitting the gym floor.

He will start tonight against Butte College.

He scratches a sketch in his playerís notebook,

his fingers wrap the pencil

the way I imagine they wrap

the threads of net when he ties it to a rim,

or pulls tight the laces of his shoes.

His cheeks are still taut and soft

against the bone of his face, angelic,

the long wrist and slender hands

with those fingers that dribble and pass

and wrap the pencil again so lightly.

He will not go pro.Heíll finish

with 52.6 from the field and 68

from the line, no record in assists.

But I imagine him wrapping those fingers

carefully around the tube of a stethoscope

one afternoon, the bright light of his office,

lab coat and loafers; he drums his fingers

against the bird back of a small boy, listening

to the balls of air thumping inside the lungs.








The boy cradles a pullet against his red

shirt, while he sits on a hay bail.

The small round arms, those young

limbs a nest of space in the air.

His father watches wondering if the calm

bird can feel his sonís heart, that maybe

it feels close to the henís own beat.

His boy looks up, brown eyes

searching his father recognizing

this love before the chicken clucks

and the boy begins to stroke the mottled

brown and black neck, the tips of his

fingers combing the chicken the way

the man has felt his sonís hair in the night.

The last time he felt a birdís neck the shotgun

blast had broken the gooseís wing and pellets

had punctured the breast and side.

The bird flopped in the shallows until

the man held him by his sleek black neck;

dark eyes, like gems, glassed with fear.

He should not have looked in them.

It would have been easier

with a clean shot.So he rested

the Remington on the soft earthen

bank of the pond and held the goose,

two hands wringing the way he wrung wet

towels over the gray, stone laundry sink.

The goose made a gargling sound, a snap.

He could taste the scotch in his mouth,

the round cold metal of the flask on his lips

back in the blind, afternoon light fading.

He wants it again. He feels the distance

death brings, straw and mud, the gold

leaves of fall at the feet of his son.

The young hen chortles in the small arms.

He glances skyward to the light and wind.

She feels safe with you, he says.