In the summer of 2007, I rendezvoused with my wife in Rwanda where she worked as a nurse-educator overseeing an HIV/AIDS health program.  Suddenly remote and unplugged, awash in new experiences while reading books about the atrocities a decade earlier, I wrote poetry.  Turning to verse was a surprising, but completely understandable, response to the world I was engaging.  Five years later, on Florida's gulf coast, I lobbied University of Tampa administration to allow me to take a term of poetry. I argued that studying poetry would benefit my prose, no duh right?  I worked with the brilliant Erica Dawson and returned to those Africa poems. I also explored the frontiers of being a father and the equally alien world of farm life, how my wife grew up.  These first-time events relatively later in life across such different contexts—Africa, fatherhood, the farm—had a significant impact.  While at UT, I completed work on the better part of a chapbook tentatively titled "In Terra Aliena: Poems on Foreign Turf."

Primus

Village appears after tight curve taken at eighty kilometers
Mirages of people barter over cassava and millet at market
Beans spread over blankets
Goats rotate on skewers
Blur of blue Primus sign tacked to a mud and straw wall

Kids shoulder clusters of green bananas across the clay road
Driver blares horn says something strange but profanely familiar
SUV disappears over a hill
One among a thousand hills
Blur of blue Primus sign tacked to a slant wooden shack

Women with infants on their backs balance baskets of tea leaves
Men push bicycles heavy with plastic containers of banana beer
Elders form judgmental circles
Around brothers in pink shorts
Blur of blue Primus sign tacked to a cracked stucco wall

Girls in indigo dresses stroll with arms locked
Boys in olive knickers kick a ball of bound leaves
Some naked below the waist
Salute the passing Land Cruiser
Blur of blue Primus sign tacked to a corrugated shack

We shoot through their villages sacred and scared
Ghosts vanishing past endless hills and terraces
Desperate to forget
Why should they recall
Me counting signs between Kamembe and Kigali?

Garden City

Princess cried when the Fisher-Price castle disappeared
To make room for the garden not much larger than a grave.

She’s old enough now to help dig holes and sift stones
That rise to the surface like fossils bearing stories.

“Daddy, what’s that?” as I shovel compost from a bin
And wonder why we chuck garbage by the alley.

Corn lines the back row even though last year cobs waned,
Got wormy, but she wants to grow “pop cairn.”

Next Brandywine and Marvel Striped for a steady
Summer harvest as she tires of sauce, salsa, salads.

Peppers’ hot waxy fruit starts slow but comes out mad
By August when one secret bite will collapse her spirit.

Herbs don’t stand a chance with her wild feet and straw hat
Fallen across her eyes so that only her faith remains.

I pull her out of the garden, rub dirt off her cheek
With my palm as if polishing a ripe tomato.

Princess has forgotten about the plastic castle;
She asks when the “pop cairn” will be ready.

I reply with water and waiting.

3AM Lambing

Goddamn and dystocia muttered with steamy breath
This moment frozen between profane and sacred
In the barn in the middle of a numb March morning
Anchored by ageless winter and rush of present time
Naked bulb dangles from a splintered rafter
Dim halo bathes rope-sutured pen
Light enough to see ewe struggle
Straw nosed against corrugated wall
Eyes eggs with pupils olive-dark
Water bag passed an hour ago
She must be restrained
It’s a goddamn mess
He puffs cold orders
Find whatever twine
Put my weight
Onto her shoulder
Like a lineman
Two gray triangles
Tip from vagina
Without sleeve-glove
His eyes closed
Hand guided
By anatomy
Memory
Head back
Legs present
Lasso hooves
Slip twine
To mid-shaft
Metacarpal
Pull
Damn it
Tighten
Grip
Tighten
Again
Bear
Down
Pull
Again
Come
On

Iron (Hemochromatosis)

I want to know why Hemingway cracked,
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

                                                “Stanger Than Fiction”
                                                Bad Religion

Preened between corkscrewed antlers
He fired iron into lions on tawny savanna
Far from Oak Park Key West Ketchum
Eyes shadowed under a wide round brim

He fired iron into lions on tawny savanna
Angled steel hooks into Walloon walleye
Eyes shadowed under a round wide brim
Pewter flask pressed against meaty hip

Sharp steel hooked into Walloon walleye
Picador pierced flesh with bloody lance
Slipped the flask again from meaty hip
“A man does not exist until he is drunk”

Picador speared offal with bloody lance
Sangria in Pamplona proof whiskey on safari
“A man does not exist until he is drunk”
Mojitos at Finca Vigia sweet vermouth in Milan

Sangria in Pamplona proof whiskey on safari
Memory and liver shackled by genes and drink
Mojitos at Finca Vigia sweet vermouth in Milan
Old man and he sees his future written in iron

Free Agent

For Reggie Harris and his poem, "Poets at the Ballgame"

I would like to see the day
When a poet goes to arbitration
After several years of rising fame
A dozen MVPs under his belt

He packs the stadium every night
And loyal fans follow him south
Where they are sure to get a ticket
Into the shittier poet’s park

Crowds still recall the night
He wrote for the cycle
Couplet, triolet, sonnet, and villanelle
They called him out to tell a ballad

His lit agent makes some calls
Waits to see what offers come
“My client will switch leagues,
Free verse to formal poetry.”

Sign him or let him play the field?
Are his best phrases behind him?
It’s the risk publishers weigh
When their way is the bottom rhyme

I would like to see the day
When poets are the real players
And all the daily papers
Carry last night’s metaphors