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Site design: Skeleton


Sample Poems by Gary Thompson

At Livingston Park

The towheaded boy
in black swimming togs
is clinging to the fence
that keeps the ducks and geese
and lordly swans
safe in their shadowy pond
away from little- boy hands.

His hair is newly wet
and spots of water soak
dirt dark around his white,
white feet. Maybe a boy-
sized hole is where those prints
start from? Maybe rocks are piled
there to block the way for boys
not birds?

The boy is rapt,
his body draped
against the fence, his attention
upon the flock. He is making
secret wishes to catch
dreams he's trying to live-
a pageant of birds in place
of ordinary days.

Weeping willow branches
grace the shore the birds
are swimming near.
The boy's aglow
with innocence. The swans
are white, so white they shine.
All's touched by sun, except the sand
his shadow blackens.


Speaking in the Unknown Tongue

It is eight minutes to eight
beneath a bare, swaying bulb
and the women are speaking
to God, their best-skirted bodies
swaying to music they make.

Whatever words-if they are words-
being tongued, someone has scrawled
in neat hand on the blackboard:
When did Mississippi become a state?
Some raise a hand or hands,

eyes closed, to their Lord
and speak with so much passion
their bodies seem to float
off the floor. What state
in the union has more colored

than white______, the hand asks.
And what does God say
when service is over and the women
walk down dark paths to their homes
speaking of children?

Ans: On Dec. 10, 1817.


Baptist Deacon

He's a ways down
the Lord's road now,
tapping with his cane
keeping the weeds away.

Those big ears,
they heard a calling
in carpet-bagging years,
and he set off wandering

following Jesus off
into terrible shadows,
his cane shooing people
back unto the path.

He searched his best.
Now he's mostly ghost-
worn shoes, white Sunday suit,
cane pointing to the light.


The Mattress Factory

Two women sit and rest
after a morning of making
mattresses.
The old one's drowsy eyes
droop as if dreaming
of a bed somewhere-
maybe that soft one,
that rope-and-sack relic
her husband passed on in.

The young one's eyes
have already taken off
work, gazing out
the loading-dock door
toward evening.
She wears a straight sack
dress and kerchief
pulled tight around her head.
She's looking good,
poor but good, and she knows
what a bed is for.

Certain enough, hunched
against a far wall, a workyard
Casanova appears to snooze.
But beneath the brim of his hat,
his eyes peek past the crone
and rest on the curves
of the pretty one.

Behind the threesome,
unfinished mattresses are piled
three high, ticking
waits to be cut and sewn,
questions float in shadow and light
waiting for answers-
Are the two small windows
cut into the face of the building
the unblinking eyes of God,
or simply a world watching
this most human
of human predicaments?




Making a Date

Crumpled hat
in his torn back pocket,
the shy tobacco picker
has walked to town
to woo his girl.

She's not convinced,
a bit stand-offish
but listening, pinkie
scrunching her nose and cheek
in a portrait of thinking.

Her scuffed white oxfords
two-step with his dark boots.
Smitten, the picker fumbles
through his only good pocket-
so what is she waiting for?




Saturday Off

Her countrified
Mona Lisa eyes
draw us
into her world-
a world of work,
work, breathe,
work.
But it's Saturday
and she's off
the afternoon
and evening.
Now she lounges,
leaning
against the whitewashed
porch pillar,
languid
and open
in a rough- cotton
smock.
Her face
is too relaxed
to smile, but joy
traces the cheekbones
and edge
of a mysterious mouth
that Leonardo
would surely love.
Somehow the bones
of her body have gone
on vacation,
except for the arm
she leans on
and the oddly-placed
feet,
which seem to resent
the work
they still must do.