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Rio de los Brazos de Dios

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I miss the smell of cow manure

And fresh-cut hay

That mixes with my line-dried clothes

And cleanses me of dumpster smells

Sour-liquored memories

Barroom carpets soaked in piss

With cigarettes that linger on

The lips, indicting covert shades

Of manic nights spent speculating

In the place where love is sold

By orange neon glaring light

That advertises incremental

Death served from a spout

That calls in still small voices

False hopes made real in fleeting moments

Snapshots of the night before

That ended in the cold despair

Of mornings spent in silent shame

Unforgiving clocks that moved too slow

To cover my iniquities.

The tractor on my father's farm

Provides a momentary comfort

Diesel smell and throaty rumble offer solace

Cover wounds all self-inflicted

As I mow in straight lines

Geometric order out of chaos

My father's periodic waving

Coaxing in my struggles

With the demons that have taken

Other loved ones in his family

While he looked on always helpless

Offering in loyalty

All that he had to push the river

Back behind the levee crumbling

All around his youngest son

Who surfaces and then goes under.

I can only smile and wave

And wish that I could find redemption

From the galling black obsession

Driving me to find the secret

Why the grass, the sacrifice,

In heat, oppressive, swirling

Thick like Karo syrup

Hot like blood that's leeched of poison

Pure like nature

For a moment I'm suspended

Time is frozen

All the voices sudden silence.

Harmony is on that tractor

In the heat down by the river

With my father gently waving

On that sea of grass no drowning

No repulsive smells to haunt me

With the memories my sins die

God is Good, but I can't see Him

Like I see my father waving

From the porch with his forgiveness

Now I'm on the bus commuting

With a book to serve as bandage

On a wound like vivisection

In my gut, but no one sees me,

Hoping that next time the damage

Won't be so severe that mowing

Can't repair or stop the bleeding

Or that line-dried clothes won't mask

The smell of spirit putrefying

I walk into the River

With the dogs as my companions

Worrying that they cannot

Perform the function God assigns them

Looking at this Erring Child

Who leads them into deeper water

Hoping that their God won't leave them

Drowning while he seeks his answers

In this stream so aptly named.
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