Measured Extravagance

28 January 2003 - 12:34 p.m.

Alchera Project Number 13: OPTION NO. TWO: Write a poem that includes strong imagery reflecting this season. Your number of lines should definitely exceed 20.

Winter Construction

In the yard next door, the workmen burn
lumber and branches in makeshift firepits.
The woman who owned the house
has been dead for two years; last fall
it couldn't fetch the price upon which her heirs
had set their hearts, so now they're razing
and ripping and trimming the trim
and adding fresh rooms. It ought to be pretty

once it's completed, but right now it's a mess,
the yard a slick of mud and litter
pocked with the makeshift firepits.
I think the workmen build them for warmth.
There's so much debris - dead trees, dead chairs,
chunks of forlorn, formerly flowered walls -
it could easily fill another three dumpsters
next to the giant blue tank they've already stuffed
so full it's no wonder it hasn't been emptied
even though it's been packed for weeks.

It's a bitter time for construction:
I wouldn't want to be perched on that roof
pinning down paper and juggling with shingles
while the wind bit at my face and fingers.

Then again, in the summer, the sun can make
a body so dizzy, until the head is swimming
even though the air is smotheringly still.
I suppose you could say that there's no best time
(in the spring and the fall, there's rain) so thus
it's always the time to build, and to burn.
I watch out the window, calming the dog
and mentally warding the flames away from my house.
I think the residue of snow in the air
should be enough, along with the mud,
to snuff out stray specks, stray sparks, stray streaks

before they can reach the fence, the gate
we recently had repaired, the house
we aren't planning to sell, that we're cleaning -
studying the pipes and the seams and shaking
out blankets to wear until it's properly feathered.

    - pld


Some other bits of poetry:

When the driven die
their real inner stone reads: you did
a little piece of it, a little piece.

    - Marge Piercy, "The fecund complain they are not honored"

I expected one question the moment I was back --
Where did you go? Nobody asked it.

    -Reynolds Price, "Ascension"

Ann, Ann!
Come! quick as you can!
There's a fish that talks
In the frying pan.

    - Walter de la Mare, "Alas, Alack"


Perfect with cocoa: "Well, what did you expect him to use his feet?"


One year ago, Natch said to me: "You're in Louisiana? I noticed the change in atmospheric pressure ....."

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