Poetry from J.K. Durick

Simple Tasks

each task for him
is like a thousand
said backwards,
is like a familiar
ungrateful stranger,
or that tangle of wires
left in the way,
a simple task is like
a stray bullet,
or a bus backing
down an alley
the trash cans,
the alley cats,
the drunk sleeping
one off.
at 92 he knows
they are all like that
always ready
to trouble and blot,
tatter and trip,
lure the unwary
over to the edge,
his stray step,
a missed call,
the wrong number
of checks left
in the book
the end of the month,
the rent,
the phone,
even church.
at 92 we’ll know
them too.

Before terrorism and TSA ruined it
a person could go to an airport and
just pretend to be going places, could
sit among the real travelers and listen
for free to their talk of schedules and
boarding times, of flights out, of layovers
in Chicago, in Philly, in D.C., the names
had a magic in them, they meant away
and bustle, of whole places to imagine;
a listener, even our pretend traveler
could blend into the group of people on
their way somewhere, had destinations,
were destined to fly away, even when
it was just pretend; there were drinks
in the bar, newsstands to wander, books
to buy to distract them and carry-ons and
fiddling with tickets, even if the tickets
were pretend, props used to play the part
a part that could go on for hours, with all
the coming and going, the others changing
arriving, departing; it had the feel of life
the way it is, the way it should be, here for
a while, then we’re gone, even if we never
leave our place, or get on a plane.
                          Round Up
The guilty and the not so innocent are all around us
going about their business as best they can. A DUI
or two, some petty thievery and violence, domestic
and the like, outstanding warrants and missed court
dates add up, so once or twice a year, around here
the law teams up, state police and locals, sheriffs,
game wardens, and even border patrol sends a few
to gather up, roundup the wanted, it’s like old home
week, a trip down memory for so many; this time
there were sixty-four picked up, jails and courts
opened their doors, were busy playing catch up, and
when the local TV covered it, they showed a line of
the apprehended, pictures, a rogues’ gallery of sorts,
a bit like a medieval rendering of the seven deadly sins,
the familiar faces of the guilty and the not so innocent;
we all watched looking for people we might know,
a neighbor we always wondered about, or the guy who
was just ahead of us in line, or the one we drove past,
the one with his thumb out, the one we joked about
picking up, never would; it’s a reassuring ritual, part of
the way we assess the world, play catch up, clean up,
get it over with once or twice a year, till the time when
they come for us, get us, picture and all, then it will all
seem very unfair, till then we go about our business as
best we can.
J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Social Justice Poetry, 1947, Stanzaic Stylings, Synchronized Chaos, and Algebra of Owls.