They pissed in the pickle barrel,
at least that was the summer's rumor.
It sat beneath the trestle,
covered with layers of orange paint,
its accordion-fold doors
opened to a scrubbed wood counter,
chrome stools with cracked
black seats. We stayed in our car,
Dad and Mom in front, Gay and me in back,
while lanky teens in black-white-and-orange uniforms,
military-style paper caps, brought trays to hang
on our half-closed windows.

We chugged foamy root beer
from sweating glass mugs, chomped burgers
delivered in translucent paper bags,
fished out stray onions,
licked sticky orange sauce from our fingers,
then ate the pickles.
I ride Vencedora
the first time
since she lost her baby.
My hand caresses her neck,
ignites memories:
midnight visits—
     my hand on her flank
     feeling little kicks,
my moan when I found the stillborn colt—
     how light he was,
     how soft,
     where I buried him.

It's barely June; it rained
last night. A damp
honeysuckle smell
enfolds us; we plunge
under shade,
surface in the sun
at the top of a hill.
She quickens as we near
the edge of a large meadow,
dive into a grass sea.
Her nose brushes its waves.
To push through
she has to lift her hooves,
slow a bit.
My legs are soaked with her sweat.
As we plow through the ripe prairie,
furry seed heads explode into the air,
stick to her chest, belly, my legs, arms.
Just-cut hay will arrive at dusk.
I look at the uneven pile
of sun-bleached brown bales
left over from past years.
Each has its own character:
     leafy legume,
     wispy thin grass,
     coarse with tough yellow stems.
Tan outsides hide muted green within.
The bottom layer smells faintly of mold
where it meets concrete.

I move 50-pound bundles by their red or tan twine,
willy-nilly at first, fumbling
for a plan. I find
mounds of loose hay,
nests my dogs built in winter
to sleep away gray daylight hours.
There is part of an old glove,
just the red lining, that disappeared
one cold day Minnie was bored.

I come back about sunset.
Fifty feet away I can smell
the thick scent of alfalfa and timothy
that was still connected to the earth
four days ago. I inhale the fragrance
that will fade along with the grass-green façade,
like a collection of memories
covered by the dust of time,
till you dig deep into the stack.

["Taking Stock" – Honorable Mention, 2006 James H. Nash Poetry Contest, St. Louis Poetry Center]
Magnificent and opulent,
the Cathedral of Toledo
stuns not only by normal
abnormal amounts of gold, jewels,
treasure. Its interior is transformed
by warm sunbeams through a sculptured,
frescoed skylight—the Transparente,
ascension from Earth to heaven and back. A column
of sunlight moves amidst the shadows,
enchants and enthralls with shifting
patterns of color and shade. Alabaster
angels ignite in their Baroque
jumble of marble and gold. At noon,
the altar is ablaze.

At the end of the plaza sits the anomalous
Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca,
a cast-off hull,
stripped, stark, and bare,
tourist stop, synagogue in name only.
Chair-less, empty, with walls of faded frescoes,
you can smell its poverty.
I am transfigured
in its shadows.

[First Prize, St. Louis Writers Guild Deane Wagner Poetry Contest, 2006]

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