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Poetry By
  Bob Baker

Published on: 8/4/2010

I will not harvest
from my land this year,
not this seventh year
of jubilee.
But I will celebrate
the harvest moon.
Perhaps fly my celebration
in the breach of harvest
on a prayer flag
chasing after wind
watching just the wind on the patch flag
show me
the business of the earth without the vanity
of crops to tend.

I will celebrate
a heartfelt celebration,
of the river running to the sea, as ever.
Commerce of the earth,
earth, here before my people came
to claim that it was theirs.
Claim still with pesticides and poison vanity
harnessing the wind, claiming the river,
that it will as always run into the sea.
I will celebrate the six straight years
of sheaves of grain and corn and beans,
my plot of land has given me.
An edible menhir.

The lord's wrath in every cup of vanity.
But no one steals the beans I do not grow this year.
Some people horde imaginary post symbolic money
beyond trade, or concrete commerce,
beyond cover form the rain,
beyond the blighted nitrogen and benzene ring stung
wrung-out earth of the modern industry called farm.
Will they eat the image of a dollar
when the hunger strikes?

This year, this seventh year,
this small piece of earth
that takes me as a temporary,
privileged guest
will get a rest from my demanding hands.
Rest, from my hungry mouth;
and it will do whatever magic
a small brown damp piece of earth
will do at rest,
ethics of a wise god?
rhythms of a finite earth?
What have I to do with understanding?

Just let it be in faith and practicality,
removed from the perceived
center of power, center of efforts,
focal point of worries
about the rain and not the rain.
Just leave the ground to amplification, simplify,
break down and build up,
mingle humus with a higher dignity.

I have faith
that it will renew and sustain itself somehow.
So next year I will
plant again, and the next,
and I will celebrate
the harvest,
I will celebrate the cycle
of the moon,
and I will celebrate the earth
and my brief time allowed
to see the furrows turn.

Published on: 6/16/2010
The Ceremony and the Burden

In the luxury of indifference
the expeditious phrase
"I love you,"
fell from your mouth
like brown water from a lapping dog
in a dead eddy of the river.

Yet I love, as stupid as a sparrow,
the lightness of your tasty glaze of passion.
What virtuosity you had
in the complex act of looking
back into my eyes,
warm brown-sorrel hue of iris
diverting my attention
from the endless depth of black.

That spring you ran
with bulls in Pamplona,
knowing you could die.
It has happened. When a hapless runner,
too drunk to properly defend himself
has dived awkwardly beneath protecting walls.
But it is the bulls, everybody knows
who are running for their lives.

When we walked through
fresh fallen snow, pristine
on a world-white January morning,
we wrapped the specular reflex
of our ardency around each other like
an asteroid circle wrapped around the sun.
I welcomed your cold hand, thrust
into the playful, trusting, idiot-mittens of my

Spring blossomed
robin bird-song blue that year
your hand withdrew
and quickly cooled down from the zap
of microwave I was to you,
molecules not permanently stirred
from warmth, so willing, embarrassingly
willing skin convected to your skin.

Now what do I do
with the lovers drinking coffee on the esplanade,
smiling and laughing at foolish things,
staring significance into each others eyes,
watching the pigeons as if they were turtle doves?

One of you is Rabia with tea and oranges,
they need to know,
a breast in heaven, a visionary
to whom truth is an illusion, and love
is to kiss a scarring hand.
The one who cares the most
does not buy a candle and go barefoot
looking for an honest man.

The ceremony of the one who cares the least
is a simple familiarity with these facts;
beauty is a knife that will carve its own flesh,
pleasure is a hand in the small
of an arching back.
Love is a market option, put and leveraged,
until the profit margin justifies a sell.

But the burden of the one who cares the most;
that is a bull in the arena holding ten banderilleras,
head hug low,
lunging at the cape,
with no sensible destination,
no thought of fighting nobly
for the crowd.

Treated to a royal life for a few years
the bull dies in twenty minutes.

The burden of the one who cares the most
is laid down late, but at last in the failing light,
laid down late in August,
laid down in the dust of the arena
in late afternoon.

Published on: 6/16/2010
Who Forgets a Shirt?

She answered my knock
with a smile and a shirt,
that's all.

I was pleased.
I liked her in an
oversized man's shirt.
I liked the smile,
and certainly I liked that's all.

Then the monogram
spoke ciphers on a pocket,
told a clever secret
or a joke, depending
on your point of view.

We were never lovers.
Love, that dread dispensing
four letter word.
had a nice ring to it
I thought.

The monogram was mine,
no doubt,
my shirt,
her smile,
surprise surprise.

I said, where'd you get
my shirt?
Your son
left it here
she said,
and smiled, determinedly demure.

Then it was clear.
It's not about a buddy
it was about a game.
Genitalia are terrain
and pieces put to use,
not pawns, not kings and queens,
but bishops, horses maybe, knights
you know.

they can jump
two forward
and one always sideways.

Published on: 3/2/2010
In America: Four Times A Day

Alone at crib-side,
with the mini-mickey whoosh
ventilator-breath fed baby,
tend-me-tone multi-monitors,
the emitting diode light show,
these all fade.

I am alone with the baby,
motionless both of us,
except a rise and fall of chest,
hers mechanical, mine catch and release.
Hers scheduled to stop, when the committee votes.

Two years old, raped, shaken, burned,
"Here's what happened.
She fell down the stairs."
That's the story. That's the case.

White coats round and round.
Everybody lawyers up.
Social services a-buzz.
We will now show this baby the best
that civilization has to offer.

Deal with it
Professionally. That is my task.
Visualize events,
unthinkable events,
in detail;
accurately enough to present

Tediously, I testify,
one more time, to one more jury,
ordinary men and women
bewildered by the horror,
desperately wanting to believe
there was an accident.

I will explain again,
that this particular constellation of injuries;
the swollen, hemorrhagic brain,
blood in every layer of the retina,
fingerprint bruises on the arms,
multiple fractures in varying stages of repair,
torn vagina, cigarette burns; these
do not happen by accident.
These are not the findings of a baby
who fell down the stairs.

You see, good people, the size
of a baby's head compared to the strength
of the neck musculature,
when shaken violently by the shoulders
subjects the fragile brain to high velocities of deceleration . . .
And so it goes, so goes the accounting
of the mechanism of neural injury.
Ending with the diagnosis,
non-accidental trauma incompatible with life.

Maybe they didn't mean to.
Maybe they were raised in abuse.
I don't know about the question why.
Others will tell you why.
My job here is to tell you,
ladies and gentlemen,
somebody killed this baby.
No transforming metaphor,
no cadence of emphatic speech.

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