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Sample Poems by Darius Degher


I've sloughed off skin so many times,
cast rattlers in the sand behind.
In Phoenix and Los Angeles
I burst into brand new selves,
cleaned out the ashtrays and moved on.
The Captain understands all this,
the new careers with no gold watch,
the marriage that I muddled through,
the daughters lost to other states,
their children runways, highways off.
His latex gloves arrange the tubes
like salty deckhands tying line.
As he unwraps the new needles,
I hear my voice speaking secrets.
Then he's listening, wiping blood.
A last smoke halo sailing off,
the iron buzzing in his hand,
he etches lines on my triceps:
a kedge that moors me to a shore
less fading than identity.
I tell him this and he just smiles
as if he's blessing death away
with something certain to survive
the blood vessels and graying hair,
the dead reckoning that remains.

Living Will

While filling in his living will
he discovered the will to live again.
For unacceptable qualities of life
he checked the boxes on the form
for chronic coma, feeding tubes,
persistent vegetative state.
For a week he lived his testament:
didn't sleepwalk through the frozen foods
or ignore the glorious fluorescence.
Quickened by the canteen's quiche,
he lost track of what a colleague said,
smiled about a project gone awry.
He notched his deepest ever breaths,
exhaled slowly like a yogi,
was dazzled by his prism paperweight.


You'll see both rivers from that watershed.
And though it's understandable to cling
turn gently to the one that lies ahead.
Although the edges of an umbra spread
to shroud the shapes of your flock scattering
you'll see both rivers from that watershed.
We all will have collected words unsaid,
the unsung love sighing and blustering.
Look gently to the one that lies ahead.
Despite knowing the frame is limited
you'll wish another spring were issuing.
Accept both rivers at that watershed.
Of course, you're bound to be unsure, misled
by science and religion wondering.
Turn gently to the one that lies ahead.
Perhaps there are no images to dread,
no forests of darkness and reckoning.
You'll see both rivers from that watershed.
Go gently to the one that lies ahead.


the vast grasslands of Africa
were humid forest canopies.
Great fires rendered them savannas,
dreamscape of cheetah and zebra,
nativity scene of every zoo.
This forest has been different too.
The stand of pine that lightning charred
has become this hushing aspen copse,
the summer shade for this old house
built on Anasazi arrowheads.
Once there were feathered triceratops
and scores of species lost to time.
Now people live to make nations
and books about the jar of self
that lies in the slow shallows of rivers,
emptying and filling up anew.

Invasive Species

Discharged from foreign ballast tanks,
the zebra mussel deprives natives
like the benthic amphipod.
The Caspian fish-hook water flea
starves out Great Lakes larval fish.
The Asian long-horned beetle breeds
in Sacramento cargo holds.
And nineteenth-century science still mocks:
the starlings loosed in Central Park
to naturalize the birds of the Bard;
the snail that had been escargot
that plagues West Coast tomato plants;
the eucalyptus tinderbox
that fuels Southwestern forest fires.
Johnny Appleseed wandered wide,
devolving nurseries on the wild.
Colonists swarmed with cows and bees.
Man's best friend accompanied him
across the ice of the Bering Strait.
And so much arrived unheralded
on driftwood and in hurricanes.