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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Tuesday Morning’s Plate

By: Peter Coe Verbica

On his deathbed

he finally gave up

the combination

to the safe.

But lean and laser-eyed,

she still can’t

drop that heavy anvil

Or canvas bag of horseshoes,

taken from

the hocks and hooves of fate.

What’s left

of the razorbacks

still chew at hog wire

crisscross the rectangled gate.

In the bellows,

I hear the hand-cranked whining

as bits of charcoal start to bake.

Years ago,

she burned down

the roadside restaurant,

Left a kettle alone

on the stove,

all the while huggin’ Kate

in the quiet whispers

of a Eucalyptus grove.

That conflagration

stopped her worries

of showing up shaky

or closing late.

One day a torrent of rain

will wash the sugar

from both the thistle

and the grain.

But for now —

Adios to the oil

and curls of sawdust on the floor.

‘Bye to the heartwood

on the beams, on the ceiling

and sliced upon the door.

They say touching

the wounds of Christ,

ain’t the same

as straight-laced believin’.

That no matter the hunger

gnawing at your stomach,

leave behind your lyin’ and deceivin’.

His emphysema

no longer interrupts

her chasing dreams through picture windows.

The days are warmed

by whiskey, a broken book,

and buzzards unwinding in the sky.

Above the uneven lawn,

the sounds of crows’ gravelly screaming,

as if someone is killing them

to put them in a pie.

Whether he went

to hell or not

with those pruney feet,

heaven only knows.

The days are peaceful now,

not havin’ to hear him hack,

or blow the bugle of his nose.

Some say he wrote

a jumble of genius and

slow roasted it on a spit,

held the callow faces

of life in the hollow

of his mitt.

She holds her mud,

and won’t say

whether he can’t

or if he could.

But, at the funeral

the fat pastor winged it.

He winged it pretty good –

about the ol’ boy being a pauper,

and a painter,

and being misunderstood.

His art’s getting moldy,

the plein airs lean

on each other in the shed.

But, that’s the rhyme

and reason of life,

she thought.

Like a rust or worry,

it eats on even

the best works of the dead.

On his last day,

he coughed up

the combination

to the safe.

Even with a sharp knife,

she still had trouble

as she cut through Sunday’s steak.

Like life,

it sure had gotten tougher

on Tuesday morning’s plate.


Peter Coe Verbica, grew up on Rancho San Felipe, a cattle ranch in Northern California. He earned his BA in English from Santa Clara University, a JD from Santa Clara University School of Law and an MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Tuesday Morning's Plate was inspired by Tom Waits' brilliant 'Murder in the Red Barn.' As someone who witnessed both the mercy and pitilessness of ranch life, 'Tuesday Morning's Plate' brings to mind some of the fog and thistle in the early morning hayfields I walked as a boy.

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