Strabismus is a condition in which eyes do not point in the same direction
When Trina watched fourteen vultures with six-foot wingspans
in a bare-branched cottonwood tree outside her door
as they flew away in one astonishing swoop, she did not say,
“The sight of red-headed vultures makes my heart sing.”
Ever the cock-eyed optimist, she did say, “Look! A sign of spring!”
Sometimes It’s Like That
I saw... my own figure... coming toward me,
Goethe, Poetry and Truth
I stand on her porch,
try the doorbell, knock,
walk down the driveway,
check the back door,
jiggle the knob,
shield my eyes,
put my face to the glass.
She pretends not to see me,
waits for me to leave.
What does she fear?
I’m here to convert her?
I’m running for office?
My house is on fire?
I really need her?
Sometimes it’s like that,
trying to get back in.
Pleading a poem down from a tree,
Coaxing a poem out of the dog house.
Sweet-talking a poem behind its mother’s skirt.
Tricking a poem into a car.
Luring a poem into the bedroom.
Kicking a poem out of the house.
Gunning down a renegade poem
trapped in a box canyon, sandstone cliffs
rising a thousand feet. A rock slide blocking the way.
The lily-livered poem whimpers, “They’re coming to get me!”
The sheriff of the poem posse hovers over the blank page.
“Put away your pistol, Billy. That one died of fright.”
I wish I had a conspiracy theory
Then everything would make sense,
the Bernie Bros and friends of Mike Pence.
AOC, Ivanka Trump, and Cardi B
would fit into the same hashtag mystery,
The Q-Anon boys would have a spot
in my dystopian Camelot.
The Antifa guys would have their place.
I would understand Outer Space!
The Bitcoin carnivores, ethical vegans,
the RINOs, the Soros, even Big Pharma--
the color-coded cabals--all understood
in my delusional diorama.
Thinking Inside the Box
I much prefer to think inside the box
these days because the cardboard walls provide
a sane asylum, a sanctum sanctorum
for thoughts not fraught with desperation.
This unpaid staycation frees me for contemplation
of happy thoughts like the aesthetics of corrugation,
frees me from reckless musings on what I can't control,
like the coming recession and vaccination suspicion.
I’m tired of collective consternation and political gall.
I’ll stick to a lotus position inside my box
and think about nothing at all.
Skating on Thin Ice
The dullness of the landscape consoles
I traveled through Taylor Canyon one evening
not long ago, late-blooming rabbitbrush aglow,
willows textured in bold shades of red and gold.
And now, before heavy snow, after freezing nights,
the canyon, meadows, mountains, and sky
merge into hues of drab tans and vague blues.
I’m tired of myself, dramamine queen
of this interregnum, languid as a wasp
on the frozen windowpane.
But the dullness of the landscape consoles me,
the monotony a respite from trying too hard
to enliven my diminished life.
I think I’ll stay still for a while,
hoping I’ll remember the bright canyon
trusting I’ll be ready for the coming season.
Don't Let Mom Spatchcock the Turkey
Lately, I’ve had the thought that I could have been a butcher. I wonder why you don’t see many women butchers. Is it a union thing? I’ll have to ask one of the guys at the grocery store in town. I need to learn their names. Any French housewife or gourmet cook gets to know her local butcher and I don’t mean in the biblical sense.
I like deboning. I deboned some chicken legs and thighs not too long ago. I like the precision, the clean feel of chicken flesh, and the technique for turning an inexpensive cut of meat into tidy bundles for stuffing. Farce, I think it’s called. I felt like Julia Child. She could talk and cut up a chicken at the same time, on television, as a matter of fact.
There is a cute food blog where the young woman in a small kitchen in Manhattan films herself cooking while drunk. That would not be a good idea if you decide to spatchcock the Thanksgiving bird.
I really enjoy spatchcocking. This technique for splaying a fowl came to my attention on several internet food sites as a speedy method for barbecuing the holiday bird. Several weeks before Thanksgiving I bought a six-pound capon just to practice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right tools. I needed a sharp clever and a mallet to make strong whacks through the backbone. Instead, I resorted to vigorous sawing with my serrated bread knife. It worked, but the sawn backbone was rough along the edges. Also, I needed a boning knife to cut around the edge of the breast bone, severing it from the rib cage. I got it right on one side, but the other side looked like a collapsed lung.
“Spatchcock” is an Irish term that means “dispatch the cock.” I can see some medieval Irish housewife standing in the barnyard, declaring that the mean old bastard has to go, referring to an irascible rooster who outlived his usefulness. “Dispatch the cock!” she declaimed with her arm raised. I wonder if her husband shuddered in his rubber boots.
Admitting how much I enjoyed spatchcocking a capon just for practice might make me seem like a figment of Stephen King’s imagination. The truth is that being a housewife is getting on my nerves. My family is gone. My spouse is getting cranky. I feel like time is running out. I need a new hobby. I’m getting a wee bit peevish.
A septeugenarian curmudgeon coping with covid and the 2020 election answers the question, “How are you doing?”
I am doing my best to stay away
from the neurotic, the lazy, and the
just plain crazy as they come in a cloud
(that cloud) of indignation, frustration,
paranoia, and just plain panic, wearing
angry red stripes or a self-righteous blue.
I am doing my best to fight the dread
of human touch--a squeeze, or a hug,
a pat on the shoulder. Signs of affection
send me in the opposite direction.
I closed the door, took up the welcome mat.
I’m in hibernation, waiting for vaccination.
Carmen Advises Her Cousin Dawn on Getting a Job at the Nursing Home (they speak Spanglish)
Sobrina mia, this woman, the activity director, she’s a crazy lady. Last Christmas she gave guns to the old men and baby dolls to the old women. Si! Verdad! The guns were plastic machine guns that shoot bubbles. The dolls had heads como melones, blue eyes that followed you up and down the hallway, soft white bodies, pink hands, and feet with tiny toes. Dios mia! They were girl Chuckie dolls! Dolls from the devil. The old men with guns started shooting anyone who came into their rooms--the nurses who stick the catheters into their wrinkled pinas; the pobrecitas who empty the bedpans. Soon they were shooting their sons and daughters, cursing them for living. When one viejo put the gun into his mouth and tried to kill himself with bubbles, they pumped his stomach, took him to the ICU. They took away the bubble guns--pronto. The old women hated the baby dolls. They threw them on the floor. Except one old lady. She held it all day and all night. She sat in the hallway in her wheelchair until the day she died, holding her doll, crooning to the back of its bald head. “ See my beautiful baby, rockabye beautiful baby.” The Chuckie doll grinned at us como la cabeza de la muerte. Si! Verdad! A true story. Someday I will take you to the janitor’s closet. In the darkest corner you will see the crazy doll sitting on a wheelchair staring at you. None of us will touch it.
Nancy Harris McLelland taught creative writing, composition, and literature for over twenty years and Conducted writing workshops for the Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College , and the Great Basin Writing Project . An Elko County native with a background in ranching. McLelland has presented her "Poems from Tuscarora" Both at daytime and evening events at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Her essay, "Border Lands: Cowboy Poetry and the Literary Canon" is in the anthology Cowboy Poetry Matters .