John Palen’s poetry has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Passages North, upstreet, Main Street Rag, The MacGuffin, Williwaw Journal, Sheila-Na-Gig online and elsewhere. His latest book, Distant Music, came out from Mayapple Press in 2017. He lives on the Grand Prairie of Illinois.
How Things Change
The neglected dam at Edenville
holds back eighty million tons of water,
generates a little power for the grid,
a little worry for the powers that be.
Then weeks of rain, until the watershed
has had it, can’t hold any more.
The lake overtops the spillway,
liquifies embankments. The dam fails,
and the flood tumbles, ranges free
through low woodlands, streets, houses,
rising, rising, rising. Nothing can stop it
until it’s satisfied. Even if you live
downstream and have much to lose,
that part of you still able to be awed
will say, Let it come. Let it come.
Gary in Plot 23
As old-fashioned as the windmill
that lifts a tall, galvanized blossom
over the community gardens,
he plants in rows instead of raised beds,
mulches, hoes, weeds,
makes trellis out of downed branches,
comes early in the day before it’s hot
and again at dusk before dew wets the beans;
never pushes advice on first-timers
who show up late on weekends
to puzzle over heat-withered peas
and unthinned corkscrew carrots —
just smiles, gives a little wave
and packs up to go home,
leaving the book of his garden
open for them to read.