Poems by Teg George


Look at those azaleas, their red petals
and almond shaped leaves, some green, some going

yellow to brown with tiny specks like moles
on my arms--is it disease?--same as killed

my grandfather?--mottled places appear
in fall then its leaves fall and its stems dry

--shadows on these leaves, petals drooping, rough
red marks, purple places--unrelenting

freckles popping my skin and poisoning
my humor--my arms radiate away

as I shove aside these azaleas
whose blossoms drop behind me like blood.


Yes, I always dreamed I'd retire from cares
like that little fat Bacchus in Fantasia
who lounges around, munches grapes, chases
beauties, fattens himself on chicken breasts,

licks his fingers after crunching the wings.
Instead, this damn nurse has squashed Bacchus'
guts and fried his liver with her ultra
sound:-- and now his hands have this chicken skin

he used to fiddle with when visiting
Granny,-- not daring to stare at his mom
and dad's hands--he's reached an age where hands
scar and blemish too easily:-- so sad

and stretched, as though he were some tablecloth
for God's midnight snack, or a vinyl cover
for the devil's picnic table. And what
is he to make of this?-- His daughter's new,

inflatable, Xmas candle attacked
him! What will she make of this? "Not sleepy!"
Here's Bacchus grabbing at a candle that
floats away from him:-- "Your candle's sleepy!"


As I said to my Sunday school,
"When the angel's Cup-Bearer darts

at us with the Sun at his back
how will he find Us since we are

Hidden beneath and within his
shade of Death: who can conceive him?"

Not my students who ask again
how he came to be: See How He

Came To Be: "Walk the pebbled Lane
where he grew: go and see the Quad

where he roomed then dance at his Hall:
drink tea in his Parlor and sit

at his desk: peek in his Closet
--touch silk Chanel #5 skirts

he swapped at the Variety:
peruse books in his Library:

wander through his Garden." His mind's
Nature ranges forever front

and back at the same Time echoing
every Calamity--like feasts

his Harvests unfold--his mind passes
Creation as the "top-shelf, one

stop source" for the end of Archives.

Benedic, anima mea

It wants to curse You but cannot,
to accuse You for the darkness,
to blame You for the lack of stars,

for brown sunsets, black seas, putrid
wind, dying gulls, burning barges,
rot and muck, for shaking gills, snot

on walls, scars, beached dolphin, cyclones,
flashfloods, subsea mines, spoilt herring
--but the sun rises, and it slips

away then looks to You to give
it food--instead You take away
its breath, and it dies and returns

to dust, or it trembles and smokes
--for it is the Leviathan
which You have made for the sport

of it--so who are You, anyway?

Double Life of Veronique

Sometimes it's my heart pittering away
as I try to sleep--the sheets rise and fall,
not from my breath, but from my quaking chest
becoming, it seems, someone else's chest

--what else is left? You push snooze, put the room's
phone on low, and I toss, dream I'm in Poland
but miss France--ferns, sparkling green river
--sometimes it's so much patter, conversation

lurches and all I can hear is the other
diners and clinks on their plates. Sometimes it's
a harp. Sometimes, a tree shaking its leaves
--the whole summer's world startled then settling

--but mostly it's a singer catching up,
wheezing up a hill, or feet crashing down
one, trying not to fall, trying too hard
until the pace evens and the song,

suddenly, over--lingering bitterness
too sweet to discard. Your camera poised
on the tripod, and myself hurtling
through the lens, 'picture me.' Your Leica

colors the things I don't understand
--her red hair bruising the clouds and wet stones
next to my streetcar and my face in its
window as her soul floats and her voice swells.


When I thought I'd bought a bottle brush bush
and it hadn't bloomed, my disappointment

was my own. Now, it's bloomed and I see it's
a powder puff! Which is more telling, my

ignorance over plants or my open
joy at these huge, red, pincushion puffs!

Every hour I must walk the yard
to watch if any more cones blossom.

My intoxication with these buds is
enormous. I ration my trips, so my

wife doesn't think me mad, but even she
loves these bright explosions--they remind her

of "something" which, here, ever becomes mute.


Even small fish won't bite on the worms
my dad and I bought at the barber's shop.

Impatient, we start a fire in some rocks,
and I watch the ants fight over our worms,

the river lap our chairs, smoke rise, and no
birds hang. No mice, no snakes, nothing stirs

except our bobbers undulating--red,
white. Not fiddling with the line as Dad does,

I make my bobber float farther than his.
For lunch, we share a can of sardines.

What a waste--nothing to show at the shop
whose walls are hung with fish only Paul

Bunyan could've landed. Dad keeps his mouth
shut as the barber clips his hair while I

read 'Field and Stream' and dream of trout fried
in an iron skillet--meat, white and flakey.

Even my thumbs seem to ache from their gills.


My friends are gathering for my
first Christmas without you. They have
always held me up. You, who once
had bells and bulbs adorning your

limbs, will not be near us--not
that you weren't invited--all year
long I called you, and all year long
your machine drolled out, "No," as though

you knew I called and called. Not our
friends. They never call you: They've
promised. So my wreaths ring their door.
My egg nog swirls for them. You held

me up once. Now, they string popcorn
and drape me with their lights--isn't
that what they're for? Or am I
still loving you? Green as you were?


Bubba dragged us all
out of the party
because a busboy

had boogied your girl
what was he thinking
he was trying to

save us from ourselves
and he loved you as
a little brother

but you loved yourself
as a complica
tion how could you know

he wanted to roll
your life into what
gender or sex would

not allow it's not
as though you've lost touch
as though Bubba was

wrong about dances
that won't dignify
our ears mouths or songs


Whatever I see isn't made for me
after the Potomac swallows all my

cash, so I worry my friends with angels
--winged ones, free-walking, too, amber-dyed

like Leonardo's sketches, arm in arm,
fingers twining in and out--not singing.

Life is good with little cakes and herbal
tea brewed in the angelic sun. My friends'

love balloons in the sky with my angels
who walk through the clouds--until I am thrown

out of my flat, my things strewn over Jeff
Davis Highway--old pots, pans, grease tacky

card table, chairs, and plates still full of soft
angel hair all seem sprinkled with chrism.


what did I expect that he would somehow
become sane who has never been so self
indulgent he can't talk forever but
an hour for his Doc is forever

so she heads him out the door and wishes
him Luck and makes sure the script from her hand
stays in his:-- handed like an ape all thumbs
he is until he's had his daily dose

then off to the Infinite Mushroom Hoi
Polloi Wigwam so ho ho ho on Pax
Jax attacks Pro Sacks zoloft ritalin
or elavil but not quite quite for his

friends who need some respite from his sudden
blank gaze and reptile wit and after glaze
Serzone in his eyes tiny pupils:-- I
guess I can't remember what color size

--:all in all too big for him zinnias
would cry roses would drip he would whip him
self alive until dose time elapsed to
Tip Him Over And Pour Him Out this whom

life has threaded up and sewn completely
crazy:-- people I have known and never
considered him one of their Company
--:how many nuts can One know and not real

eyes that the bark rubs off the lumber hits
the saw:-- O have I felt them coming close
too close too close I could fold up like card
tables or pup tents and pull my legs stakes

posts or put my cards away in a wood
box like our church librarian who planned
to live a few years then not:-- O have I
removed myself from them waited for them

to unlimb and to branch off like live oaks
in a hurricane their leaves shed over
the lawn like Coins on a green glass table
--:but their brains infect mine and starched Collars

scratch my face when I hug them I hug him
--:he sees them crawling toward him Night after
Night his Spiders wild crying relentlessly
like him they sink beneath a woolen sky

that precipice he hadn't the courage
to belay but neither could I:-- Who makes
the obstacle course us who sets the jail
door or garden gate to enclose:-- we bloom

like lichen set to Black Rock enamored
of damp we'd as soon harden to but can't

Lily or Iris

To be that other thing completely,
whether lily or iris, is to wait
two or three summers until it can bloom
like your voice rising in the morning

and closing with evening. Some days, no voice
because you're away in another town
and we miss one another--not even
a message for our machine. To be

that one with the other, to raise one voice
above the other, love--eternity
can forgive our small competition
when voices collide and wrestle, bearing

over--but the loss of one voice, even
eternity in its own stone silence
can't allow for that loss, that leaving
that seems so eternal but is really

that other thing, lily or iris.

Looking Glass

What can I see when I look
through the magnifier: bigger
leaves with tiny veins like mountains

and mites like dinosaurs? What makes
me want to see enlargement
instead of scale--4X, 10X

instead of X? What leaf will seem
best? I can't decide between rose
and maple--one is orange now

while the other is still green
--orange, flakey, and withered compared
with the uniform quickness

of a green, close-veined ellipsis
--one with patterns, the other
with no valleys nor rifts. Who spread

mucous trails has left. Who indulged
herself along these narrow trails
can't be satisfied with quick blooms

but must pace urgently along
the maple's bark into its leaves
--its happy centers, and when all

else is escaping, penetrate.


strange songs in my head
piddling notes that stretch
above the maple

tree where I built my
platform above broad
magnolias my

chums hid behind we
used magnolia
seeds as our grenades

intricate rhythms
played on tinny things
toy pianos flutes

plastic drums and hats
plying us with wished
for sounds of war made

delicate machines
kaput early we
worshiped under steel

science overhead
waiting for blossoms
to explode on us


Yes, somewhere still in a bush is your heart
--stone sharpened on the hinge of desperate

longing--open, shut and still no searcher
at your marks to rescue you from black earth.

Courage, one could say that gallantly they'd
persevere, but who could deny pain steeped

in the brush where your bones bake burrowing
beneath moss and leaves, fall, winter, and spring?

Here, it's summer and they dig and trowel
with energy--unforced yet willed to roll

you from that grave unknown stretching broadly
along the riverside, trail, park, and road.

Your bathing suit then bones their only clues
scattered in the woods by things that craved you.

Name Game

Restraint, we don't have--the birds, the trees, all
have to listen to us--doves, woodpeckers,

cardinals gather around us, and we
give it to them--they round oaks, powder puff,

ligustrum--they must listen, all ears, all
gums, all beaks, their patter, swirl, and rustle.

We grade them, classify them--you birds, some
of you are called cardinals, but we call

you, 'ruby birds'--some of you are called oak,
but we call you, 'fall-in-our-yard'--some, doves,

but we call you, 'weeps'--some, gum, but we call
you, 'glass'--some, heron, then, 'wrinkle tail'

--powder puff, then, 'Scotch hair'--ligustrum,
then, 'diseased'--woodpecker, then, 'hammer

hammer,' then, 'take apart ants and slugs, grubs
to your tube tongues, suck and plunder'--we call

and you answer, 'Ree-bok, Ree-bok, Ree-bok.'

No God

No god in that little garden
next to the maintenance shed--a kind
of glade that shimmered from rain, no

sun, the kind of green that becomes
iridescent when shadows don't
cross it, don't raise one shade of green

against another--a green hell,
really, the color of a five
dollar bill, the color of bad

bruises or a shin gone musty
after death when the undertaker
can't bend to his machines fast enough

--no god for that glade, no sorcerer
either, nothing but a gluey
haze filled with gnats and webs and heat

glimmering in my mind--frozen
shine just beyond some red mowers
and yellow tractors, just beside

the cedar shed, a glade rising
up the hill and into woods, not
deep woods, just a few trees, then streets.


Once he longed for the ____ he became more
opaque as though light in its ____ points could
not penetrate his substance--what substance there
was since the word had ceased to have any meaning

for him. He tried to convince himself he wasn't
disappearing: "I'm as much as there ever was."
He partitioned his being into here and there
--as if he were grocery shopping at a store

with which he was forever unfamiliar, the aisles
turning this way and that way until he couldn't
find canned peaches, bottled apple juice, clams,
chips--Where had he gone? What would others say

now that even he had lost his voice with its old
timbre? Its old tempo? Once he longed
for the unutterable, he began.


After my Irish grandma yelled,
"The Matthias' boys ain't wanted
at the party," there was no one

left to care for her except my
mother--my Quaker grandpa had
already got himself a new

gal, and my other uncles, aunts,
and cousins had things to attend
not including grandma's pending

death--so Mom worked at Selective
Service, and while my dad harassed
her to marry him she tended

her mother--now Dad tends my mom
as she falls deeper into death,
the place all are invited guests.


Those purple phlox--that's what they are
--underneath the great green blindness
of the empty billboards--run mile

after mile along the shoulders
and into the fields, to the trees,
into the washed-out pits and streams

that drain the highway as I lumber
along in the rain--my big right
foot hunkering down on the gas

--I glide farther with one push
on the pedal than any ox
drawn wagon--mile after mile nestle

beneath my wheels, and white lines drain
the blacktop while signs strain my eyes
--the purple roadside, the purple

blinding me and my shoulders melting
into my seat until my dreams
putt away from me, and Eighty

Four signs point us to 'turn here.'

Poor Replica

O, you, poor replica of a bleeding
heart, your flowers and your leaves appear

then disappear through no one's fault I can
account for--not mine, at least, since I have

never given you soil nor water
but what buries you or flows down at its

own speed, season by season--so what do
your shortcomings and leavings show, a tall

oak's might, a thin maple's--the large lack I
have for you, you who have grown not full

--who has spread your failure all over me?


Why did we buy
these ramblers--:we
don't crush their blooms

in books, scoop their
thorns into boxes,
save their switches

for some Lenten
rule--:painful to
train, we grab them

by mistake, prick
our fingers, wrists,
knuckles so our

blood empties in
to their blossoms
where bees suck our

redness away
when the sun burns
scarlet to black.


Friends are following me around because
I forget to write to them, forget their

birthdays, ages, their saints and children's names
--they're checking my references, thumbing
through my Rolodex, interrupting my

CV, my dreams. My friends think my home is
cozy until their extended families

all drop in,-- then the hearth's too small to hold
hands, the ceiling's too low to their helmets,
and the table's too wiggly for wrestling.

"How can we give thanks?" they cry. Their luggage
fills my attic, and their trucks fill my yard.

They're sleeping on my bidets and screwing
on the porch and leaking out my windows
and swimming in my sweat:-- one friend takes pot

shots from the roof that dimples from his piss.
When I'm at work, they give my dog a trip

to the pound, my wife a ticket to She
boygan. "Give me back," I say, "Give me back."
"Where were you when we needed you?" they scream

and pole me upright in their Victory
Garden, let the straw spill from my nostrils.

They go, "How's it going?" and, before I
can turn, they turn their backs like all other
backs strolling down my street. I shout, "How do

you do." But they set their heads against me.

Seagulls' Wings

After the archdeacon had laid it on,
he left for another loaf, pickles, beet
soup frothed nicely at his maid's. While outside

he found cosmos rooted in the planking
around the kitchen door. 'How long,' he wondered,
'had they been at table, 'cause cosmos grow

quickly in days, not minutes.' The slow hike
to his maid's hearth and back took just long
enough for iris to sprout alongside

the paving, and apple trees, some heather,
and honeysuckle, too, had formed and bloomed.
When he got back, the bishop and his guests

had risen. The wind stirring the open
window tossed flakes from the tablecloth, crusts
to the floor, glasses stained or shattered, chairs

overturned. He cleaned the remnants, and all
the crumbs, the seeds, the bones filled seven bags.
He heard leaves rustle, cicadas, too, saw

the ordinary sky, blue,--'What to do?
What to do?'--seagulls fluttered over his
head:--an angel with her mouth to the horn.

Surfing with Philip

Me and Larkin at the beach:-- him looking
for Famous Cricketers, me, a gawker

after bikinis and my neighbor's black
hearse:-- Tommy Collier and Alan could not

surf, but they did have girlfriends with sisters
my age:-- though I was too shy and would just

stare which drove Larkin crazy:-- "Still going
on!" he had screamed and startled several

pelicans into landing farther out
the pier:-- with Larkin gesturing against

the shore, I paddled out to catch some curls.


Protect me from my good intents, my Dear,
so that I might leave our world's pieces pleased

I didn't try to bind jagged bits to bits,
or add the parts and find the sums unfit.

Detect for me the shortest path, old Son,
so I will arrive with a steady rod,

an unshaken cap, and a creased trouser
seam because those who expect me, defer

to those with ultra looks and hardy step.
Respect me where I end up, my Baby,

so I can raise my chin above the worms.
Inspect my cuffs, straighten my tie, and pep

the crowd, dear Chum, so I go down grandly
this way, burying my hole among Norms.


Each year our daily has a feature
on wildflowers that reminds us
not to cast these seeds on the wind
but prepare the ground as we would

for any annual not now
classified as "wild." How are we
to differentiate wild from tame,
at least as flowers go? When does

their sturdiness make them weeds
to most--while delicates need our
sturdy ways to keep them fresh?
Shouldn't these flowery weeds be

loved as much as heather or holly?
Or have we gone mad with flower
tending and tend to love those
most who need protection or love?

Poems by Teg George


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