Poetry from John Middlebrook

Marble Icebergs      

Words engraved on monuments          

          resound                  

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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