Poetry from John Middlebrook

 Marble Icebergs      
 Words engraved on monuments          
 from the mouths 
           of our chosen leaders. 
 But these words,                               
 when laden                                  
 with deceit—crater,                      
 and our trust descends                        
            along with them.                       
 Monuments are more                            
 than mere marble                        
 gleaming—buffed by the sun;          
 their spirit can be fragile as glaciers                   
 the warmer the earth becomes.           
 When facades of Statecraft                          
 undermine hope,                                      
 monuments’ foundations erode;     
 statues become like icebergs                               
 that lose their grip                                   
 and float away in the fog. 

 Camp of Dreams
 Dreams at dawn fade like voices in the woods 
 from a gathering of hunters at the end of their trail. 
 There, they huddle in the mist 
 to trade one last tale of stalking game— 
 stitching vapor into legends as full of stuffing 
 as animal heads mounted in a dusty den. 
 Then, as the coals of their fire hiss 
 and the nest of ashes dies, 
 the hunters recede into a glen 
 past the bog of the mind,
 just before one’s eyes 
 open wide.  

 Rural Auction
 The caw and cadence of the auctioneer          
 cuts through the din as dust swirls ‘round 
 farm wives, daughters, cousins, friends.          
 Jawbone to ear, they nudge and whisper.   
 Their strong arms stretch                             
 as they pick through and gauge                             
 the hodgepodge of housewares on display:                     
 pots and dishes and the many evening hours             
 gathered in boxes of hand crochet. 
 Ringed behind them, young farmers listen 
 as fathers swap gossip, weather and news.      
 Their clay-red faces are outcrops of rock                   
 jutting under ball caps, atop denim and plaid.   
 Afternoon long, they mill and mingle,                         
 their ears keenly tuned to the auctioneer’s call.               
 They see, but never watch, the objects they want:       
 that newly-painted tractor, a tiller, a plow,                 
 that old sleigh and harness—just for kicks,                
 or maybe those bibs lined with woolen fleece.   
 About the yard, children frolic.       
 They weave their families into cloth made whole,  
 except for the one kid who sits by the road,      
 draws in the dirt and counts the autos
 that brake for a look and drive on.                         
 Under the oaks, the old folks totter 
 in wooden rockers not yet sold.           
 Their faces relax and offload worries.
 Humming soothes them, as watches lie   
 stopped on their bed stands at home.               
 Cattle graze in summer pastures.                     
 The corn grows fatter as the harvest waits.     
 Toil is tempered with patience and tactics     
 to outwit markets and partner with nature.

 These Confounded Desires
 I felt at ease with my desires undeclared— 
 I didn’t want their objects all the same.  
 But they kept lining up like autos 
 in used car lots, 
 lies on their meters                                 
 and paint layered over                            
 their hungry scabs of rust.                               
 With so little difference between them, 
 it took years to see them all.        

My home on the web is www.johnmiddlebrookpoet.com, and here, you can find the details of my publication history. I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I manage a consulting firm focused on non-profit organizations. I have been writing poetry since I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where I also served on the poetry staff of Chicago Review.

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