H. Douglas Rhoads
H.Douglas Rhoads - Active in the 70s and early 80s as a small-press editor, publisher, supporter and contributor. Also giving readings at colleges and universities throughout the midwest.International Who's Who of Writers and Authors, 1976. A scattering of national and international awards through 1981. Invited to give haiku readings in Japan, 1980. Left the poetry arena (burnout) in 1982 - but returned to writing via Online services in 1990. Been limping along ever since. Started Raven's Nest Website in 1996 - started a website design company, WebSightLtd, two months ago. No time for new writings for a very long time now - mainly revisions, etc.
The following work is Copyright © 1997 and owned by H. Douglas Rhoads and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author.
Sitting With the Dead
To the unclean river, take me
In the roiling waters, put me down
Into the stink of it;
Wash the innocence from my garments,
And my soul.
They speak to me of mysteries
I fear to know,
The dead -
Their anguish gnaws at me like acid
Pitted words offered up for eating.
With tears of Babylon, anoint me
In pools of corruption, push me out
Beyond these shallow eyes;
Take the virtues from my knowledge,
And my heart.
Without words they speak regrets
That breed in wounds,
Their witness serves me bitter dishes
Ripe with the unilluminated me.
Have never seen a tree
Nor felt textures
Of its bark -
An my nose never filled
Of its blossoms -
And wind-swept flutters
Of its leaves
I've never heard.
Sliced out from radiation
Transformed in pulse
To faded nodes of braille;
Machines of errant flesh
To images of trees -
That thinks to Dream
Yet only thinks of leaves.
A clumsy little girl
with a bowl of rainbows
in her arms.
I am 26 years old and am soon to complete my Master's in literature at Texas Tech University. I have published poetry and short stories in several off-line journals and have presented scholarship at national and international literary conferences.
The following work is Copyright © 1997 and owned by Todd Heldt and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author.
Old Love in July
Close like cracks in the sidewalk,
they tangle in fingers of shade
darker than stains on wedding-day linen.
She, a print-dress balloon and he,
a brown-burned lizard.
Under the front-yard magnolia,
she props her feet in his lap,
listens to the beat of cars passing
hitting the dip at the corner.
They count years by summers, heat:
she sips lemonade;
he clips her toenails.
Advice to Hitchhikers
(for Jason B. who lived in a cave for five months.)
One in five will ask for oral sex
or what color underwear you,re wearing.
Bet on it; but keep your money in your shoe.
Don't be picked up within ten miles
of an adult bookstore. And read the bumper stickers
before climbing in; avoid the NRA if you have pink hair.
Carry a pocketknife but do not hurt anyone
as long as you can run. America will hide you.
You know that, which is why you stride highways.
The curb is harder than your couch,
and you might miss your kitchen--
clean spoons that curve your face above soup--
but Ramen noodles are seven-for-a-dollar
and filling if eaten uncooked. Besides,
pots weigh you down. You want to tread light.
Drunk Girl and the Devil's Tongue
(For the girl whose parents told her I was the antichrist.)
You, spinning girl, I am the devil who drives you
drunk, rolls the wind beneath your palms.
Listen to this low road at night, feel its breath
through open windows--we tell no lies,
only the truth of how far we can take you,
which is no place you've ever seen.
We speak one language, the road and I,
hum louder than a hot engine or whisper
high and straight against your neck;
the skyscrapers of our voice tickle your ears.
And you, dizzier than clouds, hear us speak
and believe. The word is all around you; even taillights talk,
weave broken yarns in the dark.
Near Family Waking
I can hear my mother: 6:30 in the morning,
singing church choir around the breakfast table.
She has two parakeets
from a ragged family, mother and son
from the other part of town;
she likes the son,
who is disadvantaged with poverty
and not having much a family.
So poor, he doesn't know thank you
for an unwanted gift.
Leaks in the roof have made him too honest,
open windows with no screens--
the only cool he knows.
Younger I would feel guilty
for having it so good: a soft bed,
an air conditioner.
I am old enough, though,
not to feel anything
I do not want.
Mother still sings;
not much has changed.
Her parakeets are chirping their
off-harmony. She's washing
breakfast dishes, I imagine.
Each sound carries
a house full of first movement.
Our language will never capture
the subtlety of waking up.
This is why we cry when we are happy:
there is no fair outlet of good joy.
And now the sound of a coffee cup
settling down on the kitchen table.
Father turns the page of his morning
paper, the rustle of newsprint.
I can hear him thinking
the song, the birds are absurd this early.
I love how mom has no doubts about religion,
and dad won't admit that he does.
And I love how they stay together,
trying to love each other,
growing to the contrary.
How they don't seem to talk.
The danger of words like love
is in their misuse, their overuse,
their pitiful abstraction.
No one ever will understand
how I feel for waking
with arms and legs to stretch,
with hands to open and close.
Not once could I explain a flower's blooming,
the necessity of its action.
The sun is climbing now,
over the hedge in the backyard,
into my window. Soon it's time
to make another morning,
to find the comfort
of whatever conversation
in the kitchen I can find.
(for Tim Hardin, 1958-1989)
I am a crop duster, therefore, a god--
have cheated my days from trees and wires,
eighteen wheelers and ground.
You might understand my place
if you were all thieves with pockets grand
enough for the whole of this world.
I have skimmed grounded clouds
of cotton and grain, dipped low and lower,
swooped under power lines,
spanned cars by stolen breath.
I weave the threads on your back,
wrap the wheat round your gut.
Once I had grace to look in the window
of a Chrysler as I swept the air. Hummed
towards them like damnation, the man,
the woman inside. Her eyes became saucers,
moons. His mouth formed words, swore to me
what must have been a prayer.
I saw in the woman's lap a baby, as it really was,
oblivious to the danger. I see everything up here.
They were safe. I just wanted to show them
the dark side of the globe.
Listen, I am the bird who feeds you all,
beaks a baby's food soft enough to digest.
I have a family myself: a wife named Julie,
a new son, Timothy, after his father.
Every day I cheat those things
Every day, I cheat those snares
in this world that might wish me harm
the thin horizon, the depth of the sky.
A few acres of pine and oak grow
shadows at night. Briar and honeysuckle
bury the edge of our neighborhood.
Thick vines brown with age,
tougher than pocketknives.
And then the clearing, a perfect circle
we found by accident, hidden:
Grass tickled our stomachs
as we watched clouds
or stars at night, heard
the movement of trees
in the dark,
Years earlier, in those same pines,
a friend and I found
a shadowed man, transient,
dead and shivering
My friend prodded stiff limbs
with a stick he pulled from the brush.
I could not move.
The first time
I saw a dead man,
the first time I made love
would be a hundred yards apart.
Funnier still, how my hands trembled
both nights, not sure where to put themselves--
the fear of being caught seeing things I wasn't supposed to see,
the parts of me buried in those woods both times
under whatever light the moon offered.