Hearding Frogs


Twice in my life, I saw
my dad’s penis. When
I was five, we peed

together in the old
bathroom, a converted
center hallway, walled

and plumbed, part
of a former dogtrot
hauled up our hill

with mules and logs
when the road to town
was straightened and

paved. I remember it,
then, something like
a fence post, set

sturdy and strong
at the crown of his
legs. But thirty-five

years later, when
he lay a patient
in bed at Archibald,

when the nurse raised
the sheet degree by
by slow degree, when

I could not look
away, I saw a tired,
cold bullfrog, no

chorus or lek left,
resting on his haunches,
gathering strength

to make that final
leap into the pond.


The Sum of All Things


The Sum of All Things

In 1934, Roosevelt put an end
to farm foreclosures. Federal agents
killed Bonnie, Clyde, Dillinger,

and Pretty Boy Floyd. In May,
a Black Blizzard blew most of Texas,
Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas,

grain by grain, into the Atlantic.
Hitler became Führer of the masses, and
two broken-hearted Lindberghs

still fled from the press. My dad,
who turned six that year,
started first grade and reveled

in the smell of gas exhaust
on the bus ride to town, even though
country kids were packed like pigs

on the long facing pews, their backs
braced against the world by simple
planks and canvas to keep

the rain out. Young and poor
and full of grits, it’s hard to know
how much hell can break loose,

or even if it matters much. But
every lanterned night he learned
the trade of sums on borrowed

paper, seeing how one thing
adds to another to make something
new. In the end, math

got the best of him: the relent-
less Winstons, the crazy
wife with all her curtains tagged

and packed, the miles and miles
of oxygen tube, the liquid
that builds, gram by gram, round

a struggling heart and finally
stops it cold as a pine knot.

My Father Loses a Testicle


My Father Loses a Testicle
Spring 1994

On Monday, my father has surgery
to remove a large prostate stone
and his left testicle, chronically inflamed—

he tells me this on the phone.
For a year, he has peed blood and carried
the tender weight of himself in his clothes.

That day, he will wake at five
for the long drive, before the sun breaks
the honed edge of the dark, surgical pines.

We forget—the spectacle of mortality
closes ahead and behind. The corn fields
wash away and turn to stone;

the quick creeks harden with silt
and debris—we look, but cannot find
the places of origin any more.