Ambrose Scott Handel ( 1919-- )

Marriage and Montana

Her walk to the well
and love of biscuits puffing
said enough for me to marry.

At that moment she saw a flower
growing violet by the pond,
the universe had already planned it--
scattered violet seeds
to make her plucking pleasant.

She laughed and called me a bottom-feeder.
"I was sugared by emendations
and palatablized glosses," I replied.
I pressed my nose to the bakery window
and felt the penny in my short pants.

Our love grew like corn in the night;
Detasseling, what stood, after, made seed,
and Iowa has more seed corn than anything--
we were not entirely against it
but we moved to Montana anyway.

That old broom? I laughed.
When she flung it off the porch
after swatting to death two bats.
Said she imagined fleas and other little bugs
hopping directly from the dead things
to the demesne between her legs.
The frail kerosene lamp at low wick
kept me at my extermination work
long past midnight.

All morning she hung and rehung the curtains;
arranged in many ways the table and chairs;
so, I claimed, in the morning she could see
first what more windmill work I must do--
to finally set before her at supper my promised
pail of icy Montana water.

Up one Night
I stayed up late one night
well past midnight. I heard insects
whittle under stones,
fish rising in the pond,
winds moving a barn door
open and shut,
open and shut.

In the morning, I was surprised
to find nothing had changed--
except a hinge, loosened.

True Kids

8. Grade School
In third grade mom packed for me
four cookies, a pear, and a sandwich
wrapped in paper and all in a sack.
There was also a note--

"Dear Teacher,
Our family dog died this morning.
On this very bleak day in December.
Tommy may be a little sad."

Tommy's mommy.

The old dog jumped, yipped and yapped,
caught the long-eared bitch next door.
For a long time I watched their astonishing caper;
then, his heart failed and he never pulled out.

But mom couldn't put 'that' down on paper!

9. Evening Inside
I looked for faces in the ashes in the stove
in the kitchen in the winter in the late evenings
when the fire was flickering out. I lived in North
Dakota on a farm. Farm kids do that a lot--
look at ashes and see faces. Once I saw a blackbird.

10. Minnows and Worms
In front of Sammie's filling station,
sat a pop machine, a minnow tank,
and a wash tub full of worms in dirt and moss.
A block away the river ran shallow
between the dunes. Walking to the bridge
we passed Shirley Sheen's house.

Sometimes I am awakened in the night,
even yet, by the smell of minnows and worms.

First Hair

11. Boards

Cottonwood boards, like popple,
twist and won't hold a coat of paint.
Their only use is for signs--
"Lumber for Sale"

12. Short a pair of Shorts

I thought I had my shorts
secure under my boots,
but they blew loose
as I frolicked
in the pond
with Marcella and Della.
I imagine they rolled
across the bluestem pasture
and caught on tumbleweed.

I don't know what they will do there,
except flap and tear and then be blown on again;
maybe snag on a razor sharp barbwire fence.
But if I had had them on,
I would not be here--
in the emergency room;
and Della and Marcella
wouldn't be laughing
their asses off.Time off

13.The Critiquer Comes Home

I came home when I was fifty,
my first visit in twenty years;
in the cave behind the shed,
I found a rusted hoe
and with it I beat the ground
where mother had planted perennial poetry
one spring, a long, long time ago.
Between the springy tufts
weeds had taken sprout;
I was as rusty as the hoe, but I got
the old, old weeds cleanly, cleanly out.

14. On Time

Right on time, evening comes in the country
as it does in the city. I sometimes think cows
heading for the barn bring down the sun;
just so, do men waiting beneath the ground
and women taking off their stockings.

15. Wrinkles

When mom was twenty-one she wrinkled
up her face and kissed my baby' brothers belly.
At her age of seventy-one the wrinkles are still there;
as are the herons in the gully behind the barn.

16. Venus

I see that Venus has other names—
the Evening Star the Morning Star,
the Western Star. The pussy-willow
is known by other names too--
but for the boys we were in the tree house
it was always pussy-willow.

17. Trailer Court

Women who live in trailer parks
like to go barefoot down to the mail boxes and talk.
They grow tomatoes from seed in peat pot,
talk to astrologers, buy cigarettes,
and have large breasts.
Mrs. Mellons, who had a white
picket fence around a small tree in the front yard,
let Kenny Storch touch one.

He told us about it up in the attic
one night when we dripped candles.

18. Moon

I could have married,
this last time,
a society woman
with piano notes painted on her nails
and a pinched butt
for walking on slippery
country club tiles.

Could have--
but I picked a gal
who waits tables at a truck stop;
lives in 2-rooms over Elmo's saloon.

I could have chosen neon lights;
but I picked the moon.

19. Upside Down

I was upside down for 15 years and didn't know it,
Like hanging by my knees on monkey bars all recess
and not hearing the boys yelling at me to look
at Shirley Sheen hanging and trying to hold her dress up.

20. Hawk-eye!

Hawk-eye is when you spot one,
either soaring or sitting on a fence post,
while driving a Chevy convertible
down to Tulsa.You yell "Hawk-eye"
before someone else does to get a point--
or you can watch Meredith
stretched out on the back seat, asleep in the wind.

21. Elmo's

When highway signs no longer hold a coat of paint,
motorists stop by Elmo's saloon and ask for directions.
An hour later, in a light summer rainstorm, they're back.
Old Elmo sells them gas, beer, and old Hershey candy bars
that have turned white with age.

22. Old Timer

I saw my father, drunk, stumble
down the five steps to the root cellar;
he never came back up --on his own accord, that is.
Because the Kaiser failed to kill him with mustard gas
he was allowed to die looking for pickled watermelon.