character sketches

 

 
 

 

Dylan
A tribute to Tony Hoagland

music comes through the speaker system
quiet and soothing

it rests on the air
as though the lyrics were telling a
beautiful story

Toby sits to the side of the bar
he knows the words to the song

hums along with the melody
an occasional phrase working its way
out of his mouth
for the bartender to hear

I hear him sing the words Dylan carved
into his heart, snatches of red
in the hammer, the branch,
blood mixed with poison while

children point guns
the dying, the burning, the starving
the tears

in the twilight the leaves rustle
while the gazer watches
the golden sun settles
peacefully in the west

men and women going on about their
tasks
as if the world is a good and
benevolent provider

like the woodpecker oblivious to
all but the wood at his beak
they peck at the business of life

and I’m amazed at the dichotomy
of the soothing music
playing in the bar
sung with machete words

copyright© 2010
 by Terri DeVries

 

Margie Sue 

Margie Sue creaks as she shuffles
grim determination
etches lines on her weather-worn face
she has a way of getting
where she needs to go
     when she has a purpose

as wide as she is tall
she is of the old stock
who never gave a thought to not
     doing the right thing

it is hot and sticky
a day to move like the proverbial turtle
in the dense southern air
resting often and long
to regain breath humidity steals away

she is relentless
a pot between her hands
held with grease-stained potholders
it emits steam from the lid’s edge
      in thin
          wispy trails
causing sweat to form on her brow

porch steps moan under her weight
each a victory as she overcomes it

when she reaches the door
a young woman holding a wailing infant
   appears
        welcomes her inside
            accepts the pot of seafood bisque

Margie Sue reaches out her arms
embraces the child
     rocks from one foot to the other
until the child quiets
     an old soul
     a new soul
in harmony

copyright© 2010
by Terri DeVries


Ivan                                                                                                           

barely averting disaster
he doddered through the door
cane scratching the flooring
as he sank into the rocker

yep
he said
that was the time I saved the day
all those Japs and only me
to protect us all

the stories fell from his lips
spilling onto the listeners
around him
expanding with each telling

yep

his eyes clouded over
though his body remained
seated in the rocker
he was jettisoned into the past

yep

that was the time

it was
the time

yep

copyright© 2010
by Terri DeVries

 

visiting nana 

coming home was comparable to
passing into a painting
                          backwards

winter had brushed everything white
snowflakes seasoned the landscape
like grains of salt

wayward gardens left to wither
bespoke fragments of early fall foliage
                           surrendered to the snow

the house seemed to spring out of the soil
a piquant purple door distracting the eyes
of errant passers-by

paint chips clung to the siding
                           residual remnants
defying color definition

sidewalk pavers caved and teetered
a precarious pathway to the tentative porch
                          preceding the entryway

the house refuted evidence of residency
eaved roofs frowned down on us
as we rapped to announce arrival

                        she looked drip-dried
this wilted woman appearing at the door
a perfect pairing to the house

aged like the antiquated
furnishings and fixtures
                     she wore welcome on her face

in retrospect I remember
sounds, sights, smells
                   memories made in yesteryear

travelling toward home
passing into the painting
                 backwards

copyright© 2010
by Terri DeVries

 

day interrupted

unforeseen
it comes 

oblivious
I make my coffee
sit on the patio
contemplate the day

 the list is long
     oil change
     luncheon appointment 
     haircut at two
     bank deposit
     tickets for Friday
     check on Mom 

a normal start
the busy
takes the day 

in the middle
my cell rings
it is my sister

irritated, annoyed
at the interruption
I snap
what?

 then I stop 

everything 

stops

copyright© 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

Diamond Disconnect 

Its fiery brilliance glittered under
the jewelry store’s lighting, a large stone
set on the platinum semi-mounting.
The facets caught glints of light,
bouncing them
into the absorbed eyes of the woman at
the counter.

In the background
the TV screen showed impossible images,
smoke and fire billowing from buildings,
bodies hurtling through the air as if shot
out of a cannon.
An awful truth wordlessly unfolded
on the screen, as the small
crowd of employees and
customers stood, frozen in place,
watching the
unspeakable happen.

The jeweler indicated the screen. “It’s awful.
The Twin Towers have been hit. Terrorist
planes plowed into them. Reporters say
thousands are dead.” 
Pointing again to the fiery structures,
he continued, “That’s live coverage.
It just happened
twenty minutes ago.”

For a moment she paused, gave
a cursory glance
at the carnage,
considering,
then turned to the salesman,
positioning her hand
to better see the ring.

“Do you think the stone is big enough?”

copyright©  2009
by Terri DeVries

 

evening games

it’s getting dark
children delight
in the scary shadows
imagining monsters and ghosts
the game goes on
who can last the longest
in the trees
behind the house?

distant giggles echo
fragile as delicate
threads
of spider silk
partly joy
mostly bravado
little boys pretending
to be knights
impressing little girls with
their courage

copyright© 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

Well, If That Don’t Beat All

she said to the old man.
They stood side by side
in the yard
beside the ancient pickup,
he with a shovel in his hand,
she with a pickax.

Beaten to a bloody pulp,
the bludgeoned mess
sat on the drive
behind the rear wheel of
 the truck.

Might’s well get rid of it,
said the woman.
Best bury it.
Yep, said the man, Might’s well.
Too hot to leave it set out.
It’ll cause a big stink.
He strode over to the pile
of mangled flesh
scooping some up with the shovel.

Reckon I’ll dig the hole,
she said matter-of-factly.
Over yonder’s a good spot.
Next to old  uncle Ralph.
Grounds pretty soft there.

The pickax dug into the soil
making room for the
remains.
The old man brought a shovelful
from the drive,
dumping it in,
sorry to see a wasted
watermelon.

copyright© 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

Bitter Harvest 

My uncle grew concords on his forty-acre farm,
great, purple clusters swaying in the wind,
their scent wafting provocatively to passers-by
on a late September morning.
He took pride in their plentitude.

 Prudent grape growers owned contracts,
but certain he would garner more
without constraints on the vineyard, my uncle
signed no agreement.

That year the crop was touted the largest in years.
The clusters huge, grapes literally bounced
with juice and sugar.
As my father assessed its quantity and quality,
he realized the inevitable;
a glut of grapes equals smaller profits.

The harvester came, ruthlessly squirting juice
as it lumbered through the fields by moonlight.
Grim, but resigned, my father watched the filled trucks
come and go as the machine moved on among the rows,
drunkenly careening around corners
and chugging past fence posts.

On my uncle’s farm no harvester appeared that year.
Companies required to take contracted grapes
had no obligation to the freelance farmers.
And so the frost hit in fall, bringing vast amounts of
sugar to the grapes.
The clusters, waiting in vain for a harvester, incredibly sweet,
held death-grips on vines.

Leaves withered on the ground, as fallen
grapes refused to dry up into raisins,
choosing instead to mold until winter.

copyright © 2009
by Terri DeVries


 

broken chord

the old man came to visit
carrying his music
never far from him
the comfort of his guitar
as much a part of him
as his heart 

he sat at table
instrument to the side
not tasting his dinner of chicken
and potatoes
his hunger was for song
food held no appeal

hands shaking as he tuned
one sensed the downward spiral
of his ability to play
his hair once black as charcoal
now white and thin
cried out his age 

he played
 loudly at first
then slowed, stopped
eyes gazed into yesterday
when arms were young
fingers strong and sure
and music came unbeckoned

guitar set aside
as crippled fingers curled
a sinister reminder of years passing
tears forging a path
down his leathery cheek
the old man returned home

copyright © 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

 commuters

 

 

radio flyer

the wagon rusts silently
in the tall grass beside the shed
paint pulled away in small chunks
red chips spattered about
like blood spray

wheels cracked with age
suspended in time
the wagon waits in vain
for the laughing boy to return

the old man, useless as the wagon
sits passively on the porch
age-dimmed eyes unable to see the shed
he longs for the days
of running like the wind

copyright © 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

alternate destination

the car sits at roadside
seemingly abandoned
slightly scraped
a few dents
here and there
an old car

down the road
the young girl walks
purse flung over her shoulder
steps reluctant
face turned towards
the gas station less than a mile away

arms hanging at her sides
face vacant of emotion
she is not there
her mind and heart are in the car
heading toward the place
she dreads

she reaches the station
pays for a can and some gas
retraces her steps
pours two gallons
into the tank
gets into the car

her mind now on the road
wishing the walking
had lasted forever
keeping her from
her inevitable
destination

copyright © 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

angel unaware

she is an ordinary person
not pretty
shy due to an ungainly walk
reticent in her demeanor
unimportant to the throngs on the street
regarding her as a nuisance
blocking their charted course

she is quite heavy
(sturdy, a kind person would say)
wearying easily
beneath her weight
dressed in a frumpy ensemble
(practical, a kind person would say)
not fashionable
like the beautiful walkway people

she enters the building
removes her coat
approaches the young child
unable to walk
body impossibly twisted
distorted, beatific face beams
at the sight of the lovely angel
come
to bless her day

copyright © 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

Herb

overalls  the uniform
a flannel shirt, winter and summer
he is tall, muscular, of undetermined age
a farmer all his life

new car every two years
always a Chevrolet (the best, he says)

we are recipients of his castoffs
      radio-phonograph
      old records
      National Geographics
      farm equipment

I  smell the cigars, an integral part of him
he, in his straw hat and overalls
cigar clenched tightly in teeth
dumps truckloads of potatoes
into the shallow cellar
a dank-smelling cave
behind the cabin

I pass by the outhouse
the shack with a throne
summer or winter (sweating or shivering)
phone book or catalog pages
serve their purpose

he drives a
big John Deere tractor
always clean, fairly new (he likes things that way)
except his tiny cabin, which is old
musty, cigar-smoke-filled
but somehow homey, welcoming

we spend hours one night a week
watching Topper and Life of Riley
 smelling of smoke
we eat pork and beans on a metal plate

I play games with his neighbor Helen

copyright © 2009
by Terri DeVries

 

 

 

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2 responses

16 09 2009
Jo

Excellent!

8 11 2009
Michele

Mom, you are very gifted. “Diamond Disconect” is brilliant.

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