Dick Westheimer has – in the company of his wife Debbie – lived, gardened and raised five children, on their plot of land in rural southwest Ohio. He has taken up with poets and the writing of poetry to make sense of the world. His poems have appeared in Rattle, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Riparian Anthology, and The New Verse News, among others.
Fear and COVID, March 11, 2020
this fear from below
is not of being alone
is not of dying
it is of the unknown
My house is filled with what that fear looks like:
a bottle of hand soap, two jugs of bleach,
three packs of toilet paper in the basement,
bottles of Fresh Scent Disinfectant™ concentrate
which I splash around as if its astringent stink
would somehow cleanse me of this anxiety.
I know it won’t, but, whenever COVID dread
chimes inside my head, I spray a little Lysol in the air,
anoint doorhandles and floor mats with this
CDC approved concoction to pretend I am in control.
Last I looked, I had thirty cans of black beans
socked away on three different shelves. For the past
few days, I’ve stayed up late, headed to the supermarket
past midnight and stalked the near vacant aisles.
Instead of Purell, sold out for days, I’ve hoarded
bunker stuff. This buying is like a talisman
I hold on to as if it might shield me from fear.
Today I stood by a man who
threw up his hands as he looked
at an empty grocery shelf and wailed,
What am I going to feed my kids?
I stared at the bag of apples in my cart,
thought of the other bag I had at home, was
afraid to touch the man, afraid to give him
my apples. I was just afraid.
Of Bauble and Bullet and Stone
When the sun sits just right in the sky,
the glass beads strewn on our gravel drive
shine with a light all their own.
Each was tossed here years ago by
the children next door – a birthday rite,
a small child’s joy in scattered stone.
The kids are gone but the jewels–unmarred
by time, the freeze and thaw, the tire grind–
remain where they were thrown.
Each dazzles bright – a thousand stars
in their bed of limestone crush where
I stop, stand, let the day slow,
gaze down at one, where I see reflected
a tiny image of me against an expanse
of tree and leaf and the great blue dome above.
In another I perceive our neighbor’s boy
who’d now be a man if he’d not left us
in a single shot, taken by a sadness all his own.
The Delusion of Title and Deed
The neighboring fields were once farmland –
rows arrayed like corduroy draped over mild hills.
They rolled from us to the road, past siloed barns
and tidy homes. Those lands, now,
have been abraded bare, stripped of loam, left a scared red clay,
like acres of rosacea. New-dozed roads threaten to spread –
sclerotic gray veins named for what they paved over:
Sparrow Way, Wild Flower Run, Old Creek Road,
and now, as those open places close in, I’ve got
a deer infestation on my land. Like rats they eat
what I imagined was mine – all those growing things I tend.
In despair I fence all I can, protect what I depend on
for solace with charged wire.
Every time I run a trail or work the fields,
I scare up scads – mottled fauns, their mamas
who stare at me fierce, fearful, the bucks who
stand their ground, shake their budding racks until
I raise my hands high, make myself big. In turn
they startle, raise their white tails, flag me as trouble,
bound high as the saplings they browse – then disappear
into the second-growth copse like antlered fairies.
I am moved to conspire with a crossbow bearing friend
to thin the herd. I hope for coyotes to pull down a few
as we consider how to take those vermin out, too.
Either way, I lose. The killing, the fencing, my affection
for this place that makes me hate these creatures
and plot their demise: its not pretty, but it’s all I can do
except abandon my gardens and let some other grower
wash the blood off her hands.