Robert D. Sutherland



Reprinted from James R. Scrimgeour's Dikel, Your Hands and Other Poems (Peoria, IL: Spoon River Poetry Press, 1979), with the author's permission.



His kids chase the geese with sticks
round the outside of the brick box house
that still looks like the factory
it once was

inside the kitchen / first glance
reveals a neat clean room
new panelling / looks nice
although there is no heat


and the wiring in every room except the kitchen
has been ripped out
and even there / where
his wife entertains visitors
our adjusting eyes see the loneliness
of cabinets waiting for doors / and the sink
waiting for its pipes
wrenched out 3 months ago
           “The longer she nags / the longer
           it’ll take me to put them back in,
           says Benjamin


in the living room / more panelling
stands against the window
blocking the light
and the TV plugs into an extension cord
which coils round our legs like a jungle growth
but shrivels from the tread of his wife

as she travels the well worn path / from
the bathroom (where she flushes the toilet
with buckets) carrying water
for our coffee

which she heats on the stove
as she chats amiably with Chris


while Benjamin leads me down
into the interior
where wind through broken windows scraping
stands hair on end / where canvas covered heaps
haunt / stand guard over
the squirming pieces of the walls
of the once-cozy 3 bedroom basement apartment
he knocked out with a crowbar
3 yrs ago (two wks after moving in)

Benjamin / you see
always liked to work with his hands

                                             (pp. 6-8)


Hey paul, about those Dolphins

Hey paul, about those Dolphins / you mentioneddolphins
dead on the coast of florida / in your newscast
high noon / july 21, 1976
you gave them two lines / before turning
to the insurance commercial / page three

well, what really happened / do you think
time magazine is right / some foreign parasites
affected their sonar / or were they flying blind
from the nets of tuna fishermen

you dont imagine / they were rubbed out by the mafia
(and/or the cia) for having unlocked the secrets
bebe rebozo and nixon stonewalled in the florida keys
you dont imagine / they were planning to attend
the democratic convention to cast their vote
for planetary realism / do you

ya, paul, the last two were kinda far out / those Dolphins
were probably doing nothing more than striving to evolve
out of their communal slime into rugged individualistic
efficient american businessmen / or better yet
i bet they were good patriotic fish / a bit late, maybe
but good patriotic fish with a sense of history
blue, white and red fish / on a pilgrimage
to see the bicentennial display / glittering
fireworks at fairview park / normal, illinois

why mr. harvey, really now, well, maybe, i was
just a wee bit sarcastic / but i’m serious now
serious thinking they could have been a lost clan
of Hopi Indians returning to Oriabi / after
having journeyed to the four corners of the world

yes, paul, I guess thats impossible / i dont
really believe it / but i do believe
this demonstration was a last attempt at communication
like kerosine soaked Buddhist Monks burning in
         Saigon squares
i believe these Beings filled with the Holy Ghost / but
the secular match necessary to ignite the oil slick
simply bowed their heads
and plowed into florida sand
making 25 small Furrows on our shore / good day

                                             (pp. 14-16)


Shock Waves from Chile: September 1973
(for Pablo Neruda)Chile


They say the healthy cells stopped fighting
the resistance collapsed
and the crab chalked up the final notch
on his coral claw


Your conviction
is both sentence and reprieve
for on death row you saw them
the boatloads of bodies
            (shot neatly
            the straight bullets zinging
            from the bottom of the chin
            through the top of the head
            so sweetly)
bobbing on black waves
under gray skies / yes
you saw them
the top of the iceberg


far away in our land
(where Nixon is playing Pinochet)
men and women feel the quake
the shock waves spread
through Providence Rhode Island
Boston and Amherst Massachusetts
Madison Minnesota / Ft. Collins Colorado
and Normal Illinois (at the very least)
long distance lines glow with white heat
coil warmly around us / preserve us
as icy black tidal waves break
break again and again on our shores.

                                             (pp. 24-25)

Will Somebody Please Tell the Damned Bird
the Poem Is Overbirds

The blackbirds pour out
of the emptying tree
into the chill autumn air

flowing three inches deep
the flock
spills over the rim of sunset

even now
when the poem is finished
still / another bird
from his tree branch

                                        (pp. 28-29)




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