Because as a toddler
I couldn’t pronounce Kistler,

my grandfather
became known as Kiki –

as opposed to Grandpa,
Peepaw, Pawpaw, or Pops.

Scots Irish, raw-boned, ruddy red,
he stood five-foot-five,
a bantam rooster of a man.

He owned and operated
the Nation Station
just outside of Summerville,
and he’d pump your gas
and check your oil
and wipe your windshield,
making sure you were good to go
in those days of yore
before self-service and debit cards.

When it was his time to go,
at the hospital overnight
we took turns sitting vigil
so he wouldn’t have to die alone.

On one of my nights,
he commenced, as he might say,
to hallucinatin’, being chauffeured
by long-dead second cousins
once twice, but now, forever removed.

I tried to talk him down
as if he were tripping,
not knowing that
it’s not uncommon
for the dying
to seek refuge
in the ether.

Kiki didn’t believe in God,
so at the funeral
the rent-a-preacher
didn’t know him,
spoke in generalities,
blandishments, insuring that
Kiki would not come back alive.

No mention of the
sun’s having baked his
bald head and exposed neck
into a permanent ripe tomato red.

No mention of the angry invectives
That spewed like lava when he was angry
“That goddamn psalm-singing son-of-a-bitch!”

No mention of the ukulele,
the yodeling, his tenor voice,

No mention of the radio, Paul Harvey,
the Atlanta Braves.

No mention of the half-pints
of Old Crow hidden in his shoes in the closet
so his wife, my grandmother,

wouldn’t find them
when she cleaned his room

on the opposite side
of the house from hers.

Things Come in Threes

Swallow Tail Butterfly among Lantana
click for sound

Until they think warm days will never cease.

John Keats, “To Autumn”

Like the faint semi-tragic scent of tea olive,
the epitome of ephemera, the butterfly flits
among lantana and disappears.

Hummingbirds hover; barred clouds bloom.
The retreating sun draws in its long shadows,
Then slowly dims the lights.

Bravo! Encore! Encore!
Four to six weeks the doctors said.
A sleepless night but then again the sun!

The Ballad of Old Buck Holland ( a reading)

The Ballad of Old Buck Howland
For years and years he lived right here
in a tent on the edge of Folly.
He brewed his beer and wrote his poems
in the shade of a stunted loblolly.
He played at working construction,
could drive a nail I guess,
but what Buck was really good at
was downing his Inverness.
He’d have a drop in the morning,
he’d have a drop at noon,
he’d have a drop at midnight,
‘neath the light of a winter moon.
The cold on Folly ain’t that bad
(unless you stay in a tent),
but Buck would hum all through the night,
shivering but still content,
content because his poems would clack
from that old Underwood,
clack-clack-clacking, like a woodpecker,
on the edge of the stunted wood.
The VA doctors warned him
to change his lifestyle soon,
but Buck was a stubborn cuss.
He loved the light of the moon.
They found him dead inside a shed
on the side of Folly Road,
and in his hand he held a poem,
the last one he ever wrote:
            Drunk me some wine with Jesus [it read]
            At this here wedding in Galilee.
            He saved the bestest for second
            And provided it all for free.
            So I quit my job on the shrimp boat
            To follow Him eternally,
            No longer bound by them blue laws
            Enforced by the Pharisee.

            And we had us some real good times
            Till them Pharisees done Him in.
            Ain’t got no use for the religious right
            After I seen what they done to Him.

            Then when Saul Paul stole the show
            I sort of drifted away.
            Cause he never quite did understood
            What Jesus was trying to say.

            Paul was like a Pharisee,
            Cussing this, cussing that,
            Giving the wimmins a real hard time,
            Gay bashing and all like that.

            So I stay at home most nights now
            Trying to do some good,
            Offering beggars a little snort
            Whilst praying for a Robin Hood.

            Drunk me some wine with Jesus,
            It was the bestest day I ever seen.
            Drunk me some wine with Jesus,
            Partying with the Nazarene.

I can think of worse things 
to have in your hand when dead
across the bridge on Folly Road
inside an old tool shed.
Robert Lawrence Buck Howland 1947-2016

In Living Memory



In memory of Judy, on the anniversary of her death, a villanelle about Everyday Use and the grafting of new life, in which she has the last word ~  Caroline Tigner Moore


In Living Memory
a villanelle

There hangs a patchwork quilt above our bed
A stained and storied past in pastoral,
Skylit purple, indian summer red;

Clary, sea glass stitched with auburn thread.
Tuck to rimple, soft in autumn’s thrall,
A damocletian quilt above our heads.

Aboard the river bark where we were wed,
The innocents stood by in quiet pall
As each we swore to share our daily bread.

And like a bruise that first appears bright red
Then blue and green and ochre in its sprawl
We lay this patchwork quilt across our bed.

So stitch together prints of all our dead,
In orisons, from labyrinthine walls.
Her face was viridescent while she bled,

But now at peace… and lovely overhead,
A Pride of India[1] shades her, green and tall.
Here lies a patchwork quilt across our bed.
“What you see is what you get,” she said.

Caroline Tigner Moore

[1] “Pride of India” is an alternate name for a crepe myrtle.

The Grill

Hit arrow for sound.

In memory of Paul Yost 1955-2014


I’m tearing apart paper,

newsprint, the obituary page,

shredding descriptions of lives:

of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,

bachelors, partners, husbands, wives,

shredding their black-and-white

faces, their smiles, their stares,

ripping also the memorial verses

loved ones have left,

wadding it all up

to fuel my charcoal chimney.


Yet not enough.


So here comes the sports page,

the World Cup, accounts of pop flies

dropped, ripe for ripping,

ripped, balled, stuffed, ready

for the match’s fiery effacement.


And that poor chicken! hatched, harried,

pecking its food among hordes,

pulled from transport crates,

shocked for the throat cutter’s convenience,

plucked, eviscerated.


This one’s also been

deboned, yet not sold soon enough,

skewered by butchers along with

aging onions and overly ripe peppers.


After its scraping, red and black,

slightly rusted, the grill stands ready,

top open, at attention.


I place the chimney

upon the barred metal, pour in

the briquettes, and torch the

shredded lives of others,

their wins and losses,

and watch the smoke

rising into the dissipation

of the silent, cloud-shifting sky.