James Doyle

Windowsill Seascape

The cockerel is lazy at the yard's dust.
I can reach along the glass, catch any

fly in my palm. The sun is that slow.
The cow is acting up, won't last long. Perhaps

the kids should take her name away from her.
They need a stranger for what must be done.

The barn slants the afternoon on stray cracks,
stacks light in piles, like hay waiting

to be baled. The age of this farm has made
me too patient. Now spikes in my blood,

the doctor tells me. Now I must hurry up
and get it done. When my wife comes back

from her sister's, I'll have to speak
right away, or the house will turn slow

and sour, like a carousel on a broken
axle. I'll use quick words. The currents

where waves split themselves on rock ninety
miles away right through this window.

Working the Tractor

Tractor rust killed Harry Phipps.
But I've had my tetanus booster
so I can slew my hands brown
and orange twelve hours a day

without worrying. So far out
I can't see the farmhouse,
my tractor is a boat bumping
and grinding across the Pacific.

Shark fins flash from the turned
soil, circle, disappear. No blood
here, just low-grade oil cracking
its way through the pores of mud

and rubber. The dog hates the sun.
His crazed sniffing for something
larger, juicier than earthworms
runs the furrows down, but they

keep turning and doubling back
on me. My skin burns the heat
solid enough to slough off,
one seed line after another.

Sand begrudges the soil water
wider and wider as the years
go by. My grandchildren will
sift the farm between their fingers

in piles of grit. But not today.
The tractor bulges dirt shiny
as muscle to either side, churns
the veins to their stretching point.


Goats On the River Bank

Sunday afternoon and the children
tried to play tag with the goats.
Parents said stay at least a hand's
length from the horns, don't

pull the beards, spread the picnic
blanket away from them. Being
literate, the children offered empty
soda cans to the goats, since tin is

their kindergarten-story diet. Some
discussion about hairy belly-
buttons, hairy eyelashes, whether
you could teach a goat to talk

or catch a Frisbee. The parents
said the goats seemed unconcerned
because their evil step-parents watched
over them from the trees. This

was a new one on the children, though
they had long suspected dark
things under the river. The grass
was more alive now with breezes

and centipedes. Wherever the children
stepped, someone could be buried.
After the goats were branches bending
away from the touch, leaves

in the shape of fog, parents' voices
flowing off, down the river. After
the goats, bedtime stories, ghost
lights, shutters damp with moths.