Five Dreams of Home


Now itís dusk we haul boxes chairs
portraits framed in gray wood
people I have never known
a dead man shakes his head at us these twenty years
my mother kisses his grim mouth
takes his keys and drives
hell bent for the far highway
I say the gateís closed but she drives
faster wooden posts and wire and the truckís steel nose
slams through and out onto blacktop itís dark
maybe rain and before us
the whole world the whole world


In defense of whatever happens next
now the fields are thick with blue stem
and the river always runs
the wind still hauls dust but the boy
who called you weak buys you whiskey
begs another story
now your mother lies down
to love a man the Durango cactus on the sill
blooms and blooms things still bleed
but blood is good again
and in the far field you see
your father heís so far away
you run for him he calls to you but oh
whatís he saying


This time Iím ten-years-old
flipping my jackknife at the walls
sunburnt tired home from work
my mother clacks her teeth at what Iíve done
I run to the dark shed
sit in the straw by my dead
fatherís shit-stained boots
his feet fill the boots
he hauls a metal bucket loaded
with good grain he says nothing to me
only calls the sheep from the field


For this I will need a claw hammer
a rust-gutted Chevy Luv six miles of fence sloped
and broken as an old manís smile
and give me too the old man
say my dead grandfather my dead father
it doesnít matter just a strong back
and a face that knows the dirt sorrow
and dirt grace and good dust of dead things
now we race and clatter across the prairie
breathing from beneath the Luvís tires dust
breathing the whole sweet world breathing us


I wake in the dark and remember
someone with their back to me
beneath a cottonwood
a barrel of rainwater and the wind
dust and dry grass in the wind

My wife a soft hill of sheets beside me
I rise and stand before the open window
somewhere in the night
a man says goddamn and laughs
a streetlight whines snaps off

This is the dark world I can do nothing
about but settle back
into darkness I wake in the dark
and remember

Joe Wilkins, though born and raised in eastern Montana, on a stretch of high prairie everyone calls the Big Dry, now teaches writing at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. His poems, stories, and essays have been recently published in the Georgia Review, the Missouri Review, Northwest Review, Orion, Pleiades, and Tar River Poetry, among other magazines and literary journals.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761