3 poems — Tim Kahl

THE ALPENHORN

The herders sounded all is well to the Kingdom Hall
below in the valley, where both halves of the mind are
held together by the lessons learned from Abraham.
They are the same lessons learned by spyware
activated from afar to keep record of compromised
commandments. It is not always easy to obey,
especially when echoes in the valley indicate a change
of will. Abraham heard his order and complied. Abraham
did not fear the questioning gaze of the overseer.
Abraham did not ask for another look at the sequencing
data. Are you not focused on the future rather
than the lifestyles of Ur, friend of Abraham?

The cows come home for their milking, quiet
as a dairyman’s frown. Cheese made in
the mountain air relieves the urbane and
the faithful in their special season of trying
to believe. The same grain worn through from
idea to idea and again the children are sent
to the arcades for hours and hours of Donkey Kong.
Were you one of those who were sent away
with entertainment in your veins, friend of Abraham?
Are you not descended from those sweet obedient
herders who call your name with the alpenhorn?
— All is well. All is well. I have seen the future
on Google News, Google Maps and Google Genomes.

***

WONDERLAND

It’s good to be dreaming well again,
to be back in a groove that reveals
an RV boneyard at the foot of
the Mt. Washburn hairpin.
I trade obsidian with a tourist
who sings his national anthem —
din sol, din himmel, dina ängder gröna.
On the map Teton turns to Teewinot.
A friend envies the bison tuft
on the end of my penis. The rivers
rise to the navel and release their
long-haired water babies to push me
in the rest of the way. I stick out
like a boulder the sun can beat on
and intimidate. Halfway through
to a land of abandoned vision
quest, I resume the pursuit
of a Shoshone dream.
I collect rock and twisted stick
and jay feather for the shrine
by my bed. Tonight I plug in
to the other world to watch
a cloud shadow float like a gray god
across the valley, watch my
dream double be
dismembered by a bear.

***

THE GUTTER BEATER
for Frank and Kym

A woodpecker is beating up a gutter again.
Its frustrated love call of banging against metal
separates its ardor from all the other chirpers.
Every listener knows that little guy means business.
He’s sending out a signal that he’s ready to rattle
his brains for the cause. He’s a determined bird
pounding out his anthem of “Damn it all, let
the nest building begin! We all want to play along,
drumming on this desk and that table,
in those nervous moments waiting for a word
from the beloved that everything’s OK,
that the future’s still intact, together.
In those moments a little mindless drumming
takes over, a sympathetic rhythm with
that poor bird whose head should blister
or be splitting with pain. But he is driven to meet
his new obligation. Some say it is love,
some say madness. Why despair in drawing
differences? They wouldn’t matter to the birds
. . . nor anyone else.

***

Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has public installations in Nevada City and in Sacramento [In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth and here.] He currently houses his father’s literary estate—one volume: Robert Gerstmann’s book of photos of Chile, 1932).