March 4, 2016

Poems By Tim Staley: "On the Cusp of Snow and Thaw", "Daddy Daughter Campout", "Folk Rock Flophouse"

Tim Staley was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1975. He completed a Poetry MFA from New Mexico State University in 2004. He serves as publisher of Grandma Moses Press. His first full-length poetry collection, Lost On My Own Street, is forthcoming from Pski’s Porch Publishing. His newest chapbook, The Most Honest Syllable Is Shhh, is forthcoming from Night Ballet Press. Journal publications include Border Senses, Cacti Fur, Canary, Chiron Review, Circumference, and RHINO: The Poetry Forum. His hobbies include thinking, taquitos, and waiting. Actually, just taquitos.  He lives with his wife and daughter in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Find him online at

On the Cusp of Snow and Thaw

I tell myself I’m home out here
alone in the cold
a half mile from the road
beside Sapillo Creek
where silence broods
on the nail head
of the moon
without budging.
Each night the freeze
stretches out the earth’s pores
and leaves them worn out
and satisfied in the morning.
Tonight Old Forester sloshes
in my blue aluminum cup
while Willie Nelson sings
from a tiny speaker:
One night of love
can’t make up
for six nights
alone. I romanticize
man versus wild while
hundreds of miles
away on our crappy futon
there’s a wilderness
in my wife’s eyes
I can’t face.
Late at night the air ticks
in shafts of moonlight
with ice crystals
and sparkles crackle
like the fire.
I’m drunk enough now
to appreciate anywhere
there’s water in the air.
A hound dog
with a transmitter collar
trots through my camp
on a mission.
He goes deeper
into the wilderness
than I care to.
I’m not ready
for so much quiet.

Daddy Daughter Campout

It’s 2:31 PM.
She’s playing airplane in the van.
This air traffic controller
sips a Budweiser.
I don’t feel too tired.
She’s done playing airplane.
It’s 2:32 PM.   

Every path we walk down:
pine trees, property lines,
broken glass, shotgun shells,
dead fall, beer bottles, cans,
car campers and another man’s
screaming kids, and best of all
these bones: elk, mule deer, bear.
Spines with rib cages and necks,
fur still clinging to hooves and shins.
Listen close, hear the insects mining.

A blue tarp under us both,
Miles Davis, ESP, on a weak speaker,
bones of the chorus flesh out the verse.
A fleece vest of mine and a jacket of Suzanne’s
wrapped around her. Planes
and satellites blink between the stars.
In the firelight she’s finally asleep…

How many lifetimes did it take to get here?

Folk Rock Flophouse

I’m in a band with 7 guitar players
you know guitars players
with those long wooden shafts
that jut out from their torsos.
They play seven of my songs
            extremely well
if they remember
or once they’ve found the sheet
with all the chords.

At practice they’re not grounded
they buzz literally:
            Pleased to introduce…
            Thrilled to introduce…
until we’re one trashed phantasm
in speculative harmony.

Tell them, tell them
Helen begs tell them
            kick the feral out the band
and I tell her I can’t
and Helen doesn’t say tell them
for awhile.

Then there’s the drugs.
Damn the drugs that work
in tidal waves.  A gateway hug,
a bump or two, then came Jessica,
my yogi’s daughter
home from Naropa, she found an antique
poster of me for her bedroom. I tack it
by tiny hammer and drag
my palms across her tiny chest. I kiss
with my tongue her tiny mouth. She cries behind bangs
and maybe we’re in love and Helen knows
not to squelch it
though for her these arrangements
map a narrow corner.

Accidents are chronic,
they curl and hammer the fingerboard.
Even the guests
on my list
don’t show.
Don’t they know
how lucky they are, my notes all
strung out before them?
Oh fuck their failsafe guitar lick--
            that clipped
chiffon phrase.
You see Helen’s a seamstress, her fingers
draw my torn crotch
through the Singer, she dreamt up spangled
saxes for my lapels, initials
in deep last week by her needle
            and of the vinegar aroma
in her sewing room,
of the acetic taste in her mouth
well, it’s not as bad as it seems.
Taste is not the question, neither
is the sweaty marble upstairs.
Desire comes from the neck
stamps the reed , jumps the first
piece of brass it can find. Yes
I stole rocks spray painted gold and
I made Jessica take back the poster.

I’m starting to take this band seriously:
            No dope during practice
            No smoke break after every song
            No tambourine with no god damn plan.

Choreographers show you
when to move
            where to move
in relation to a mood
            cause when you move
cause when you move
did you make the new move?
            the old move? the right move?

My band’s only question
is who’s following who?
Of self improvement they lied.
At last I tell them
I’m the gig czar now!
and I hadn’t meant
to exonerate them wholly
but four guitars fall flat
as guitarists single file
are drawn by toes
beneath the dusty rug, so easy
they sink in the foundation’s crack.
The rhythm section follows suit
as usual a second behind.

Now, by God, if you stand to leave
I’ll take it
            as an ovation.

I find Helen reading in bed
and I approach like a hair
sluicing downstream, unsure
which branch to wrap.

Options crescendo with rock
in no short supply. 
It’s her I curl beside.

~Tim Staley

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