Nebraska Center for Writers

NEBRASKA SEEN IN A PURPLE LIGHT
by Charles Fort


He saw a purple light on the horizon of earth, a thimble of lilac shadow pouring into the Connecticut River. Was it the shallow breath of the Platte moving the high grass and locust wing? What was that you saw in the sky on the day your wife left this, her angelic face behind a veil of stars, all the beauty known in the world in one place somewhere in Nebraska? Had you seen a purple light between the living and the dead? Was this a miracle after dying? It was her pulse dispersing a cloud of embers into thinning air. This was a widowerís charm, a way to cobble the heart to an earthly demise and heavenly pause. It was seen the gift of deathís apparel of the star under a parasol of sandhill cranes whistling a mournful evening flight above your head. They landed in cornfields and ripe soil. A butterfly wing fell on your shoulder. Rainwater filled the cracked earth. You were taught this was the widowerís way. You were left with few words and two daughters. The small town of Kearney knocked on your door. They opened their own wreckage of the heart to your own. In their small offerings they gave you a larger world. It was in the good ten years of music, dance, and song of the school plays choirs for the ghost of the world on the plains. He was a black mannikin in a red cloud cowboy hat, the rancherís ball dance in snakeskin boots. Your good neighbors Ed and Kathy knew the mortal kiss too well. The local newspaper wrote you love letters. It was the story of love against the turbulent earthly waters, economic collapse, scorched landowners, and annual July 4th fireworks on Palomino Road. It was a tornado warning in purple dust rising over the river, sweeping over the calves and pigs, ice storms and high winds, river mud caught in a Nebraska stampede. Your last words written in longhand inside your university office: This was Nebraska seen in a purple light and nothing but love here tonight.

Charles Fort
Paris, 2011

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2013
by Charles Fort


fromTHE VAGRANT HOURS
by Charles Fort


September

The month of sonnets:

The long distance runners roamed the hills
recited their poems in the afternoon and kissed.
The poet-professor in corduroy cuffed pants
daydreamed of the evening flask of black whisky
his nights watch over the hour glass of metaphors.
The young men were cumbersome in their stalls.


October

The month of sestinas:
The charm of lovers against the burred ivy walls
held the riddle of sixes and coaxed the studentís heart
to a blackboard of pentagrams and tarot flames in chalk.
The griotís basket of apples, chestnuts, and maple leaves
held back the screen door of their teacherís writing studio.
The young women were cumbersome in their shawls.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2003
by Charles Fort


BROTHER KENNY (BROTHER BIRD)
by Charles Fort


Brother Kenny (Brother Bird)

There was a tumbler pigeon in your hand
brother Kenny, elder brother, king-archer,
its unbridled flight above the chicken wire
filled with speckled eggs and caged birds.
They roost inside the mouths of gargoyles.
Their hooked nails climb the brittle stars
among the charred oak and smokestack
into the dominion of a feather blue sky.

Inside your perch at a Veteran's Hospital
you twice tried to raise your skeletal arms
and lift a throne of angels above the earth.
Was that a lighthouse nest you warmed
as the north wind shook your body down
snapped the masthead and hollow bones
as those seabird eggs broke into blossom
and sang in your cupped and weary hands?

You held crossbow and Apollo's arrow
brother Kenny, elder brother, king-archer,
your wild boar tail and black bear heart,
tanned and skinned, teeth straightened,
pinned to walls too frail for majesty.
You fell, curled, out of your wheelchair
like crumpled paper in a schoolyard ruse
as stray pigeons pecked at your sleeve.

The tenement neighbor dropped the baby
starlings into a barrel of fire at the curb
and you whimpered from the third floor
railing that rose and swayed like a ship
its flag raised into the insignificant air.
The ash and snow fell over the garden.
Had you looked into the wishing well
the way one stared into a fire?

There was a song sparrow in your hand
brother Kenny, elder brother, king-archer,
one last letter tied to its wounded leg.
Its angel wings called you to the window
one iridescent last kiss to delicate lips.
You released their glory older gray bird
and fell to earth one hand on the wheel
the homing pigeon tumbling heavenward.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 2008
by Charles Fort


DARVIL MEETS JAMES BROWN IN
HARLEM AND NEW ORLEANS
by Charles Fort

Please, Please, Don't Go

Harlem. 1962. Apollo Theater. Ain't no potatoe like blackberry jam. Darvil sits three rows and three hours before show time front stage his elephant ears and alligator eyes drift to a black cajun a drummer like a waterfall in the rocky mountain fat back Americana rent party on a twenty four hour street corner rock and roll born and stamped grade A by the bastard blues and subway humming birds feed on race records found sunny side up on a brownstone Victrola 78's thrown to a black bottom mama by a big daddy in a nine piece suit woven in the harlem renaissance fire hydrant hot sauce hand out by a social worker in a farmer's market mango pie in the glove compartment of a three story Cadillac collards in every black ass pot a green banana in every two door garage mast head alley cat wrecking crew in grand central station grease on the ankle shoe shine pullman porter on a bag pipe anchors away on a continent of the five and dime window cleaner on the fifty-nineth floor juke joint catfish band in New Orleans. Try Me. 1982. Mississippi Queen floats on a red river midnight saxophone, like a full moon carousel of bourbon and beer baroque barbecue goat ribs alligator pie mardi gras mambo street car lizard smokes a cuban cigar five minutes to show time ain't no potatoe like blackberry jam.

Reprinted with permission
from Darvil
Copyright © 1993
by Charles Fort
St Andrews P


FOR TWO DAUGHTERS
by Charles Fort


There is no history in their eyes
as they tap the lilac drum and birch,
roll out the silver necklace into a straight line
over the stone and open wound.

The light brown yet darker daughter
sits on her father's back porch
and reads a poem to the brown
yet whiter one under his arms.

There is no history in their eyes
only the ancestral trick light
pulling the cart out of the mud and war
with mules, peasants, and slaves.

There are one thousand metaphors,
a father's fortune in their eyes:
hollow star, broken wheel, caboose,
wild horse, wings over a blue pond.

Their father's pen replaces the hollow star
with a broken wheel and drops a whistle
on the train as wild horses graze
and stare at the wings above the blue pond.

There is no history in their eyes
only two daughters in the backyard
hidden under the cellar door.
This is their evening of metaphor

Reprinted with permission
from American Poetry Review
Copyright © 1993
by Charles Fort


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