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Poetry

Joe Cottonwood

Joe on white square

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses as carpenter/contractor in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog. joecottonwood.com

All of your ancestors come to your wedding

By horse, by canoe they come
dressed in grass skirts and beaver pelt hats.
They bring amphorae of wine,
barrels of ancient beer.

They fight. Belch. Kiss both cheeks.
They paint designs on your face
and weave flowers in your hair.
They hug, squeeze, make ribald jokes.

They smoke sacred herbs. Chant,
pound on drums, sing in lost language.
They puff music in hollowed bamboo,
dance in circles, juggle flaming torches.
They draw antelope on the walls of your cave.

As dowry they bring generations of struggle,
millenniums of sacrifice. They will come
to your wedding whether you invite them or not.

Wish them welcome.

Steps to Closing the Cabin at Silver Lake

Remove palettes still slimy with summer,
dismantle the T dock leaving a stub.
With friends toast the beefy sunset
from rare to well-done to salted with stars.
Walk friends up trail to cars, sidestep worried
glances, say you’re fine, say goodbye.
Listen as loons from the far shore beseech,
locate, gather lovers unseen.
Be fine.

Awaken to half a gray moon in half a gray night.
Equinox. Fog. Half everything, dark.
Bury compost, burn burnables, drain the pipes.
Store the hummingbird feeder, all gone south.
Bike a final ride along forest road once cleared
as dairy pastures now deep woods,
a century of second growth
to the ancient hilltop farm where some
stubborn fool god bless him or her
hopefully him and her still clear
the Adirondack acres bounded by stone fence.
Wonder if the heart has second growth.

Return by bike to the stub.
Strip, jump, gasp, swim briefly
as your penis shrinks to peanut
and testicles try to re-enter your torso.
Dry yourself. Dress warmly.
Walk through a final inspection inside.
Linger next to a little glass jug
where she would leave wildflowers.
Watch as a bumblebee yellow and black
drops with a thump from the sky
and crawls the windowsill slowly
with fuzzy grit through the chill.
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