Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. Poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.
Close enough to inbred neighborhoods
are the last bones of a farm grown up in trees,
the cows, pigs, chickens gone, the remains
of a dream now piecemeal, soiled by older
generations. A sixty foot drive leads to a
chimney foundation, to dangerous barn detritus
smothered by jungle, a junked tractor
left to rust—the tires dissolved. One hour
into the long awaited Saturday night date
Sara and I are hidden on the old farm
with hair disheveled, in half-light and shadows,
eager to explore our urgent half exposed attraction.
The car windows fog, and cicadas drone,
but we don’t listen because we are sixteen,
and break rules with mouths and hands
that need no direction to make up for lost time.
Then behind us a horror—adult movement,
a car’s focused headlights, blue lights that pulse,
intrude and shock us alert. In dark panic
Sara shields her face, fumbles with her blouse
as a flashlight shines through the window.
Faceless authoritarian verbiage incapable
of humor insists— and we shift and struggle
to resume form as two cops stand outside
the window, bored, but demanding, with
side-ways grins that mock our subsiding fever.
They let us go with a formulaic warning
about trespassing in forbidden lands.
We drive indignant out of the darkness back
onto lit streets, where we scream to the night
air: we have done nothing wrong. With giddy
laughter in the rushing alive swirl we speak
more delicious crimes. We are one as we
work to recreate our freedom—to live what
we imagine as future—now a room on the
Bay of Naples, away from deniers so easily
appalled, where we throw windows wide,
and make love on the cool blue tiles.
our names have been sold to the ether long before
biting Blue Ridge wind cuts into bones.
In darkest winter in thin survival mode tree/bush/seed
catalogues invade from the North and West—
even McMinnville, Tennessee—smelling desire
for future wild profusion/out of control
squash, tomatoes, grapes, cucumbers.
Gilded green promises paint persimmons,
pumpkins, kohlrabi, kiwi—dawn redwoods
shooting eighty feet high,
complete with swamps and dinosaurs.
Shameful the devious promote success
upon delivery/a PLAN for cleome,
blue red yellow pink peonies—pages of
instructions that ignore how crusty snow blankets,
and sidestep the truth that most often no one
nurtures the mail bare-roots,
fragile and dug too early, then wounded in
delivery. They fail to explain how new
arrivals can be tortured by frost upheavals/
or how persistent spring rain
makes plant propaganda melt in alien green.
Who admits that in mature summer the mature
often strangle the young? How
despite insults/false spring starts and
layered darkness like a blanket, soil softens
and spring sun warms. How even as
the last sleet blisters windows
the germ of fruits, berries, spinach lives/
the persistent new, while in the blood we
know effusive July thighs every time
open wide to fertilize/
to overwhelm with plenty bigger than us.
One more glance at what can’t be stopped.
Not a spark
as a fat jet shudders with thin walls hissing
monotone instructions as mantra
while a private movie in Row 39 links us
shoulder-to-shoulder enacting ceremony—
opening bags, storing, buckling belts. Her quick
smile that looks to my eyes could mean anything—
I know she goes home, and I am a tourist, uprooted,
but together so close, immersed in five hour
oblivion with electric current that flows
direct to the source.
Rushing ground disappears as clouds loom,
then grow into mountains. Behind
headphones a glance reveals her Tim O’Brien
and red wine, but nothing concrete lingers/
no ascending music marks a scene/no obvious
parameters crossed. No passion spirals out of control,
unlike a once-upon-a-bus saga when a girl’s head
appeared on a shoulder, saying innocent
unraveling would soon occur.
Instead a surreal movie is muted, without
comprehension, as we shift and settle.
A beverage and two murmurs spell out nothing,
though time ticks no isolation, and a gentle
bumping/so accidental/brings rich breath.
This Charlotte to Seattle rush has a quiet
narrative in rumbling half sleep/her shoulder
against my arm until we wake renewed and
safe, warmed by contact.
At the baggage carousel our eyes seek more.
Even in my moving away with an
eager son into the green spring rain a rumpled
intimacy replays, unhurried, shared clean-as-water
smiles. A magnetic linkage still flies above
language—we are bound together with other
precious loves (too few) not yet completed,
fresh in the slow inhale, alive in an ache
that waits for more.