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Sample Poems by Tim Kahl


Half the gray sky has burned off, the delivery
trucks begin to gather at the stoplights.
The drivers on espresso, their work shoes on
the gas pedal, comfortable. The morning
is shaping up like a long line of customers
who expect to get some service for their money.

Another ordinary day at the marathon with
paper napkins on the passenger’s seat for company.
Eyes read the vehicle in front, the mind juggling
the license plate numbers, every car a possible
lotto winner. The fast pass on the left. The slow
keep moving, maybe wave to someone they don’t
know, but this could be dangerous unless it
already happened once before in a movie.

Maybe the car by the side of the road isn’t
really stranded, just somebody who thinks
the road signs are the scenery and got out to
take a picture. Maybe throwing something
out the window is really a divination. If it
lands on a guardrail or gravel, the future will
differ. If it bounces, this is how many
strangers will try to keep pace with you.

Suddenly, the day which was way out in front
has slipped behind. It is the drive home and minds
are numbing unless it is summer, Friday, four o’ clock.
Then, everybody is going somewhere, taking  items
with them — delivery as a state of being ready.

Eventually the weekend will arrive
and the truckers will no longer belong to each other.
No revving engines. No signatures gathered.
No routes rehearsed over and over.
But the highway will have burrowed itself

into the memory of those who drive for a living,
who drive to be delivered into a blank future
where half the gray sky has escaped its purpose
and the other half presses on like a sermon.

The Tour of Homes

The hammer and the nail prepare for a developer.
A plan expands where the pines meet a hole for a lake,
and the tape measures mark where squares
collide and the Swainson’s hawks fly over.

Oaks disappear at the silent auction.
Free summer classes in discipline are offered.
Gaming tables are set up to test the natives in rehab.
The children of retirees intervene later.

The secret location of the exotic animal farm is kept
a secret. The day spa prospers. By the old briquette plant
a new pick-up speeds along the multi-purpose trail.
A family laments the loss of a giant shade tree.

Finally, the tour of homes can begin, right after
the experienced merchants make their deliveries.
Support groups serve up healthy meals;
a man named Cecil plays western swing for cancer patients.

A member of the planning commission
slips and shoots himself while hunting rodents
at his home. A flag is flown at half-staff
for the vacant land, for all the available housing

to be built where the promo balloons bob
above the numbered lots on this astonished ground.

Looking for Methusaleh

Mad about conifers in the rain shadow
of the Great Basin Range, we search for
the oldest living thing, born before Noah’s Flood.
It has stood as part of its durable tribe,
feet in the lee side dolomite of the White Mountains.
It is there, but it is not there.
No one will tell us; no JPEGs on the web.
This is done for its protection, our hands
unable to damage the heartwood that’s exposed.
Muir mused that trees are imperfect men,
but what then of imperfect men? Do they wear

their fire scars from lightning strikes?
Does their polished deadwood gleam?
We are not far from the garden of elders,
but the threat of our hands is less than
our minds that think about living large
while the thin ribbon of Methusaleh’s bark,

still alive, is pinched off by its dead flesh.
We are looking for a ghost, the oldest one
to haunt our heads in the clouds.
The search goes on at ten thousand feet;
the old gnarled bastard is not bound to
its yelled name. It does not rot.
Methusaleh! Can you hear me
or are you beginning to show your age?


Why is the trailhead so often hidden near
the service islands at the truck stop?
A dog hunts bottle caps in the parking lot,
sleeps in the bucket seat intended for
human passengers. It limps,
recovering from where it has been.
Each new moon is its own reflection.

The dog knows winter
and how to follow moonlight in the snow.
The dog remembers winter is nearer than fire.
It has seen the plains, drunk from muddy rivers.
At night it sleeps on cheap lumber
near a house built during spring,
the earth sticking to the sides
of this house standing ready for winter.
A dark woman lives alone there,
she and the winter dog are intimate,
each knows the sound of the other’s breathing,
a little panicked, but living as though

the trailhead leads to spills — oil and memory.
No one mentions there is a place to be
silent, where a broken creature can listen to
the sounds of trucks hauling lumber.
A lost dog, dog in the house of a woman,
still the dog remembers how things have spread
as it continues to search along the trail.
The dog remembers its reflection, limping.
The dog remembers winter is nearer than fire,
but it can not find the trailhead again.