August 1, 2016

Three Poems by Ross Polen: “Homemade Wine”, “Kids at Trampoline” and “High School Runner”

Ross Polen is a high school English teacher and adjunct college composition instructor in Jasper, Indiana. He says poetry is his greatest content passion. His work has appeared in The Poet’s Haven.


Homemade Wine – Dubois County, Indiana

Cabernet and Chardonay? – You’re shit out of luck
When you’re meandering down farm – stained highway 56.
Being ever-accosted by thunder-trucks – their mud flaps
Flapping and attacking your new little Subaru as you gently slide to the shoulder.

“Let them pass,” she sheepishly strains.

Isn’t it amazing how surprising salvation can be,
Like a sign seemingly made of children’s play sticks marking a road when you’re in the sticks –
One that somehow reads clearly, like a brazen Bible verse,
“Tanner Winery, since 1994.”
The road is as narrow as the creek it crosses,
Leading to a great aluminum-sided shed
That once read “Tanner Farms.”
Open a beaten screen door and see the dust
Drift elegantly in sun cracks on the floor,
Squint and see a figure in the corner
Who seems upon his overall-strapped shirt’s aroma’s release as subtle
And complex as the oldest vine in his vineyard.
Even his walls smell of must
And the mast on the floor, but his methodical movements will not allow you
To be nervous, and his aged face shakes and breaks the dust
With a smile and nasal- tongued voice

Like a grandfather slurping at the dinner table.

You know this is winery taboo – farm fruits, elderberry,
Dandelion and cherry smashed into new “juice,”
But the dust is starting to stick to your sweat
Due to the dearth in ventilation,
And you say, ‘What the hell, give me some of your finest”
In the driest tone you can muster.
At some other time or place, perhaps if in the ritz of
Five stars or Napa’s mist, you may stand erect and nervously
Take a sip. But here, don’t miss the chance to really enhance
Your own mind’s fermentation

And quaff the bottle of just one man’s proud creation and settled conversation

Directing you to the easy way home.

Kids at Trampoline

The real thrill must come from
The young way they condescend death
At each rise and at each time they descend.

The symbolism is simple enough for them:
Candy-glazed nylon netting that keeps trying
To suck their bare feet in,
Like the amorphous and tantalizingly sensuous
Clothes/toy pile in the bedroom corner
Evilly outlined by the night light’s end.

But they can see the fun in this darkness,
This slick black void that that they giggle on,
Toe-pierce, and destroy at play –
Just as they did on their first day
Entering the earth
As they knew all was ok.

High School Runner

In the morning at aching hours
She throws her freely straight hair
Into a sleek ponytail (but still with easy care)
For a few more moments of further study
In the dead dark.
Her breakfast is a two-mile run
Showered in the sweat of ending sprint,
And a small apple in passing through school –
As precise in punctuality as any man in any suit.

She slides to my classroom second period
With backpack on but books already out.
After the shoulder snapping and back twisting
From a backpack torn with books
And a mind pulsing from chalkboard-eating AP Physics
Equations and the endless odd-numbered nightly assignment,
Her face still moves with an eager ease toward me
As the clock becomes a track meet shot.

These subtle shifts of seconds that palpably slow –
You know, the ones that count, the ones that form minutes
That become sentient on my classroom clock
And on her wrist during her race
Across Indiana’s cross-country courses
Of heavy hollows and hot fields of baled hay
The ones that punch like the pointed trail dirt root
To the ball of her foot, but that she has mastered
In her pursuit of the art of oblivion.

But her sagacious look at me
At the classroom bell’s beginning –
Her body ready and rigid
For the lesson I am supposed to give her –
Leaves me ague with the loss of what I thought I knew:
That my marathon that morning- most mornings –
Was finishing my coffee before prep period’s end.

Such embarrassing sin,
That like some solicitous mass everyday email
With pedagogy for sale
And suggesting my professional improvement,
I presume I am preparing this student.

~Ross Polen

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