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Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite

I think it's great that you have this space here--I feel selfish posting this for comment when I have not commented enough here, but hey the space is empty, why not begin the inhabitation of this place? This is my Road Journal, and I could have posted this in Field Notes, but I also think so many poets have no clue how to group their poems...I am one. Workshops on chapbooks are few and far between and it's a necessary thing to learn. Let me also note I am astounded at how unfinished the work is in these pieces--but I'm enthusiastic to pick your brains on how to produce a body of work. where do you learn about this? Any ideas? I guess I'm interested in macro more than micro commentary, though any is welcome. Thanks.

Dark Early Light Late

The Dollar Tree Suite

No Pirate, No Cowboy but Very Blue Collar, at the Dollar Tree in Eastport Plaza, Portland, OR

What I remember I remember being sent out
we were sent out one by one into darkness
a group of us sent out without any map always at night
it was dark and we would go out singly
and it seemed as if to spell one another and follow a line
but somehow I knew we always took different routes
a great arc or an orbit into vast wildernesses
was it forest meadows mountains or parks?
I don't remember any civilization
I don't remember any sounds streetlights bells chime
not even gunshots I crossed a stream in my boots
and wore a greatcoat and carried a stick—we all had these
like a uniform the stick a staff of protection a talisman?
I knew or had been instructed that should I stray from the line
of orbit—a line that couldn't be seen by me
or anyone but felt or knew the route—that I would be
vulnerable because I knew what I was doing was perilous
fraught with danger from creatures or forces in the dark
present but unseen and whether we were at war
or this just a fact of living the mission something
or someone depended on the simple task but don't remember
who or what was I struck by something in the dark?
And I never met anyone on this quest or journey
and I couldn't remember why. Later pieces of it float back
in my coffin bunk and again later as piece by piece
rolled off the truck to a crew stacking it somewhere unseen.

Train, Bird, Man, Behind The Dollar Tree in Milton, Wa

Despaired finally of describing the bald eagle's response, not as cry
shriek whistle nor even fluty laugh, no no no, but simply this:
The aspen splint of a Diamond strike anywhere kitchen match
scratched shearing into white bluish flame turning to mellow warm
reddish yellow--not orange--but red and yellow, burning just as sudden
just as long in a treetop over there somewhere in the dark, while the moon
hung its face just now behind a cloud, obscuring what light, till the eagle,
awoken as the laboring freight calls unearthly sweet rich loud awaaah
awaaaaah do you hear it awaaaaaaaaaah he does waaaaaaaaaahaaaaaah
echoes like some serpentine animal god wailing wound, metallic preeminence,
or perhaps merely, 'I am here under this sky, just like you.' Unable to imagine
really, other than hear his reply, what such a bird makes of this (if wonder, curiosity,
annoyance) housed in his dark tree standing in a less than acre fiefdom, compassed
by city and air--I hit on it, uniquely american filled with like euphoria sudden
as sounds at night, or struck match. I scratch this failure, I a part, like them,
articulate this dumb sound sounding, effort and afford, try to strike light.

Sign language at the Dollar Tree on 182nd and Powell

Backed up against the wall so no one can force the door, though I'd feel it
if they did, who'd want to get out and investigate that feeling of lock being cut
the trailer door opening? Not me, brother. It seems it always rains when I'm here
and early so sober white lights haven't yet come on the black pavement wet
always wet window down, smoking, I listen to a bird sing, somewhere just over
the wall to who or to what-- me? Don't make me laugh. Stare in front of me at grafitti tagging
poorly half done by toys on cinderblock someone painting over another's, all of it amateur—
nothing pretty, a claim staked then rebuked. Counting the beats of the song, two, three,
again and again thank you sometimes four—thank you sweet bird
sweet sweet bird --why do it—sweet sweet-- surely someone figured it out
wrote about it? Must google. But perhaps not—the simplest things remain
mystery do they not? Don't they, well, so late in life sadly the first time
I remember really listening this intently trying to discern intent
and surely there must be more to it than merely Spring so late or territory
and why live here a pity for the poor thing but thank God for them here
in this place where one night I ran over unaware crushing the head of a rat
the size of a child so fat no wonder it couldn't dodge the tire. Across the lot
the bar busy, traffic, but I can't hear that tonight, I just know—all I hear repetition
birdsong no one hears but me this too I know and keep hoping for more
and it delivers keeps delivering, light song after the sun gone down.
Three black guys who take the freight, marked by gangsta tats and spider webs up arm, over
shoulders, fun and funny they respect my backing skills, want their own CDL,
but I miss so much speaking as they do and language play I scarcely understand
gesture innuendo I hear more enjoying the sound of birds animated, foreign,
but of course first comes lightning then the thunder sky alive with force
like God's and surprise, His aseity, or a hard slap from behind. Once I saw
a beautiful woman dressed up all in black, high heels, about to enter the bar
as I was pulling into this lot--damn near clipped a parked car making my turn—
blind to all but her at that moment. Lightning like that. Woman in black.
Birdsong in ghetto at evening. Yes, like that. Like that. Beautiful, like a lover,
spooning something delicious to her husband behind the wheel of a semi pulling
out of a truckstop. Who can know it, where it comes from, when or why—it just comes—selah.

Tiny Apocalypse behind the Dollar Tree in Lewiston, ID

Behind the mall my truck faces a sheer hundred foot high cliff
Running parallel with the back lot of the mall a hundred foot high cliff.
Strange how why city planners built all these big box stores stair
stepping up the steep valley grade cut by conjoining rivers: The Snake and Clearwater.
Just because the city grew. Walls formed by backs of buildings and cliff
form another miniature valley I must walk through to get from restaurant
back to my truck. Something inexplicable not rational unnerves me. Neighborhood fine
uneasy as if dark is full of intent even while security lights glow vague around delivery
dock door overcast sky mottled grey black a shrouded half moon shining.
Hear huffing noise a breathy intake then exhalation huh huh huh huh—too busy
relieving myself on the drive tires of the dark side of my semi to turn around
conscious rejection denial of alarm signifying courage or cowardice? First, owl?
Then something mechanized. Someone charging my back with a small axe this his war cry.
Still not turning—not willing to admit real threat not easily rattled but alert
hear the call again heh heh heh heh ehh. I see in my mind a throat feathered
pulsing rapidly with sound breath heralding something. Remember
working on a dock in southern California hearing the sound of some animal
knife to neck screaming unearthly or infant brutalized in mortal terror—I asked Guillermo,
“What the hell was that?” “Un Tecolote.” “Que?” “Pajaro,” and he made expanding
motions with his hands and fingers circular around his eyes trying to make them look bigger.
Turning, I see the ghosty grey bird fly with wings white mottled on the undersides mirror
sky along cyclone fencing that girds cliff land to rest on a post high up but
directly in front of my truck. It is a cardboard cutout away and above the light
surveying whatever phantomon the other side of the fence—I can't tell,
or see what is up and over in darkness.
In shadow beside my truck, watch the head turning, both of us peering, eyes like black marbles,
sense more than see hunting eyes scrutinize, it sees clearer over distance curious
curious unafraid both eyes both sets calculating, individual equations, purposes, paradigms,
then the bird flies away into the dark toward what I discover in the morning leaving the lot
is vacant field, round-ended wings, to talon snatch whole swallow squirming bite small
wriggle furry bodies head first tail last like huh huh huh huh huh, the black throat
last nonsight for mice eyes thinking no this can't be, the horror impossibility this predicament
no way out but down, down further, further in,
or off to cough up more bones balls of pelt over and over night after night. Behind
the mall my truck faces a sheer hundred foot high cliff and mice stream over the edge,
run toward it.

Caught out of hours and regrettably handing off my rollers to Jim at the Dollar Tree in
Beaverton, OR

“I don't like these Schneider directions—they're not clear.”
He speaks through a grizzled beard,
weathered and burnt tobacco wrinkled face.
Answers my question—me looking at the trailer, sizing him up
as he carries each of the rollers from my tractor to lean up against the wall:
“Been with these guys only two months now
but at this for 44 years. Used to pull a flatbed.
I don't like leaving my rollers out in the rack
exposed to the weather any more than I liked rolling up
dirty tarps—yeah I try to keep the rollers in the trailer.
Still have two trucks, Peterbilts, parked at my house in Cusick.
You know I used to deliver to New York City all the time,
was one of the few who'd agree to go there. There would be three
exits with the same number, 6,” he smiles,
“and if you missed the right one or you took the wrong one
you'd either end up downtown or on your way to the docks.
If I got lost I stopped. I'd just stop, you bet,
right in the middle of a busy intersection, prop my feet up on the dash,
get out the thermos and pour myself a cup of coffee,
then wait for a cop to arrive. It never took long—hell,
they'd not only tell you how to get where you needed to go
but escort you out of there. I'll put a strap on these rollers
and leave them in the yard for you behind the guard shack.”
He moves in closer. “I used to take loads to New York
until I got cut up. On the GW, he sliced through my airlines,”
tries to show me in the faint glow of a 4 am parking lot
the scar across knuckles of a fist, then points down and motions upward
and says, “he stabbed me in the groin, here, like this.
They removed 14 inches of my colon. Got taken
to the hospital, but I'll tell you what—I took that bloody knife from him”
then he presses his bone knobby fist just below my sternum, gently
presses in turning it slowly, “—only one of us went to the hospital.”

Unloading at the Dollar Tree in Ellensburg, WA

This store is unusually located, downtown,
amidst beautiful old brick buildings; parallel parked,
my steers and hood block the crosswalk,
but it's early morning late fall, 33 degrees cold, clear,
from quiet leaf strewn streets I feel a safe,
hot apple cider nostalgia comfortable and comforting—
that a tiny eddy of a town, a middle America joy—would rather die
than suburb or strip mall, yet somehow survives.

As I'm unloading during pause in the racket,
I catch her saying to someone in the building,
“I woke up at 4 this morning, turned on Animal Planet,
and watched giraffes fight with their necks—Man,
the way they swung those necks.” Struck me funny.

van Gogh was throwing freight at the Dollar Tree on McCollough in Oregon City

There he was, all five foot four of him, and gaunt of course—but wiry and stronger than he looked--
perhaps it's how large he has become in our imaginations but I expected he'd be taller. Just as I was
sure it was van Gogh, because self-portraits don't lie (do they?) I was also positive it couldn't actually
be him. Obviously, right? Perhaps someone equally crazy wearing a costume with natural physical
similarities—hell I could play along. He did have the close cropped red hair and angular features, and
the first thing he did was demonstrate he wasn't afraid to climb into the trailer and work side by side
with me despite the fact that doing so went against Dollar Tree policy (injury and liability issues). I
admit, at first I found I was disconcerted: Could it really be van Gogh? A poseur? Did I want real or
fake, a crazy person in the trailer with me? What about that poofter hat he wore? Apparently he didn't
worry much for his appearance, despite tauntings he must take daily from school children for it. And
take the straw hat: he wore it decorated with many brightly-colored ribbons. At first alarming, like the
missing ear (wow, that's hard to fake), but then you noticed splatters of paint, on his clothing, his hands
and arms, rings and flecks under his fingernails which were bit to the quick.
“You paint,” I asked.
“Yah,” he responded, “mostly houses—my day job.”
The odd thing was, the paint on his body and clothes weren't colors conventionally used in
house painting, but why push it? We alternated throwing the boxes onto the rollers, which when
moving quickly made a sound like a loud swarm of bees.
“I make my handful of francs here, for a few hours a week.”
“Francs?” I smiled, humoring him, You mean dollars?”
“No, no, a common mistake,” he smiled, not budging an inch, “I'm Dutch, but moved here most
recently from France.”
“Ah,” I said. If we were in California, I wouldn't even be asking questions—context would speak
volumes. Okay. Sometimes Dollar Tree stores got temp help from the local rescue mission—
especially in Spokane, I noticed. This never bothered me—any help was help. Still, damnit, after all
the self-portraits, how can you not know a Van Gogh, when one is standing and working and sweating
right next to you, and muscling through the heavier freight? I began to wonder if something were
bothering me—a bad sausage and egg McMuffin for breakfast? Something slipped into the coffee? He
could tell something was nagging at me, perhaps it was because he was throwing two or three cases for
every one of mine, and I couldn't stop staring.
Finally he said, “I remind you of someone...believe me, I get this a lot.”
All I could think to say, dumb as it was, is, “Damn, you're a hard worker, aren't you? Passionate too.
But tell me really, who are you? Actor fallen on hard times?”
“Color and light,” he said, “light and color, always, even throwing these trifles out the back-end of a
trailer--as if the Heaven between moments were all that mattered. We, you and I, serve the mundane,
the tedious till it sparkles, eh, my truck driving friend?”
Time to play hardball with this little fruitcake whoever he was, I decided. “But you never worked a
day in your life except for a time as a failed art dealer, and at your Art and painting. Your brother
supported you tirelessly.”
“Ah, now we get to the heart of it, then.” His sharp blue eyes pierced me in the halflight of the dim
trailer. “Perhaps I am working to pay off my debts, which are many....many. Or perhaps I am not the
man you take me for—seriously, after all, how could I be—but honestly, how could I be anyone else?
Could you be mad? Are you merely stupid? Something else? I cannot see or believe for you. Perhaps
I am, as I used to think of my life, on a voyage in a frail boat in perilous seas? Or perhaps I was like a
man who poured so much life into my pictures I neglected to live, in fact somehow,” he laughs,
“confused painting with life, until now. Every day is extraordinary and we pilgrims sorrowful yet
always rejoicing.” Despite my no nonsense attitude, as I looked at him, he began to shimmer around
the edges—not exactly lighting up, but brightening and blurring a bit around the edges, as he took the
hat off and mopped at his brow. I thought about how little sleep I'd gotten last night. As we finished
and he turned to walk to the edge and then jump nimbly down from the trailer, he pointed to the
propaganda poster on the warehouse wall, “Make every dollar count.” I said, “Hey, thanks for the help
today.” He waved and nodded, then turned a corner, without looking back, heading for a smoke or a
drink of water, no doubt. I placed the loadlocks and tightened the strap, lowering the rollers to the floor
and feeling very tired, but my head was strangely bouyant and light, like a fever was coming on.

Last edited by dmehl808, Nov/23/2008, 2:35 pm
Nov/23/2008, 2:26 pm Link to this post Send Email to dmehl808   Send PM to dmehl808
Terreson Profile
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Re: Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite

This is rich. I am sure you get that the series is going to require several readings, slow and careful like. But this is precisely what the forum can be put to. I am sure others get tired of the space limitations most poetry forums force on us. I am sure others want, sometimes, to stretch out, get expansive, bring more than just a slice of their work to the party.

It is good to see the forum inaugurated. As an aside, Dave and all, that the board is not set up with a quota system, or a set ratio of poems posted to comments posted, is deliberate. Members are smart enough to figure out their own sense of the quid pro quo balance.

Anyway, Dave you'll get the macro reading, as you put it. I get what you are after.

Nov/23/2008, 3:06 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite


Seems like such a long time since you posted this, I wonder if you check back for comments.
I know nothing about compiling
no help there.

But I did want to let you know that once I got
past what seemed at first glance, a daunting read...I got lost in these scenes. I can't think of a point where I stumbled or was pulled
out of the experience. And it was an experience. Thanks for posting this, I'm sure
I'll be back to read again.

Jan/22/2009, 9:43 am Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
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Re: Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite

Thanks Chis--I apologize--part of the daunting quality is that the poems lost their formatting in the cutting and pasting. This is a series I've been writing for the last year and I'm still adding to it.

Thanks for daring to read. Glad that once you dove in, and despite the formatting issues, they could hold your interest. Means a lot. Someday I'll fix the formatting and update the series here. Sure appreciate your encouragement.
Mar/21/2009, 11:58 am Link to this post Send Email to dmehl808   Send PM to dmehl808
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Re: Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite

Finally getting around to the Suite, Daveman. Sorry to have taken so long.

I guess I wasn't aware while reading of what you call a formatting problem. It didn't much seem to matter. Text is what mattered. You've asked for the macro-reading. Key to the suite came to me with the third piece. "Birdsong in the ghetto in evening." This comes across as both motif and theme, what ties the whole together. Ghetto implying more than economic poverty, but poverty of the soul as well. Ghetto also symbolizing the urban-centric implosion. To me at least it does. And then the birdsong idea. The lyrical, immediate insistence looking to make sense of things. And soulfulness itself singing itself, which, when you think about it, is always the heroic act of little people in circumstances beyond their control. The suite is telling me that, in fact, nobody is in control of a bad scene gone worse. And all we ever have is the commerce between people and environment. This is what I get from the repeated Dollar store settings.

This is ambitious stuff, Dave. The conception is large. But I don't sense it is unwieldy.

Apr/18/2009, 2:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
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Re: Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite

thanks Tere--you get it pretty well--you're a hell of a good reader. Basically I am adding to and feeling my way through the series in the dark. I'm writing one or two poems a month--and as long as I'm stuck in this job I'll keep writing more. I couldnt understand why birds figure in almost every poem--the bird is the poet. Evidently i know that on some level below the conscious. Once it becomes conscious, it beomes self-conscious, and risks being trite--I have to watch that.

I hope to read the LD poems soon--truly looking forward to it. I hope you're well, heading into another summer.

btw. The last few weeks, I've been distracted researching and writing up the relationship between prose poetry and free verse--maybe I should post some of that here--I know you've trodden this ground and gone further with it than I have.

Thanks for taking the time here on my pieces.
May/17/2009, 9:21 pm Link to this post Send Email to dmehl808   Send PM to dmehl808
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Re: Dark Early Light Late--The Dollar Tree Suite

Good to see you around, Daveman. I would be delighted to read your thoughts on prose poetry and free verse. I am not sure I've ever thought of the two at the same time. Feel free to post them.

Hope the job is treating you well.

May/18/2009, 12:04 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson

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