Albany Poetry 
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Guest Poet Chris Tusa

Cow Tipping Near Indian Creek

Drunk on beer and cheap whiskey
we stumble from our pickups
into the cold black air,
follow the yellow glow of headlights
through blue clouds of fog,
over chain-linked fences,
thickets of barbed wire,

past junked tractors,
rusted chicken coops,
toward a weedy bank
where moccasins glide
across a black mirror of water
and empty beer cans drift

against the ripple of stars.
Once there, we stand together
in the blue light, content
for a moment to watch them,
balanced gloriously in sleep,
moonlight tracing the black
continents on their backs,

their breath rising like spirits.
The sweet smell of manure
ripens in the air around us
as we step into the soft mud
to shove them,
asleep and unknowing,
into the freezing darkness.

April, 2002

Chris Tusa's Questions:

Do the line breaks in the poem seem awkward?

The Spirit of Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop was the first person convicted of witchcraft in Salem. Suspicion initially arose after someone claimed to have seen her spirit in the rafters of the Putnam barn. She was executed by hanging on June 10, 1692. --Life and Times of Bridget Bishop

I was born in the dark
corner of a barn, conceived
in a drop of sheep's milk,
squeezed into this bitter world
by a farmer's callused hand.

Most mornings I rise like steam
from the muscled backs of horses.
In the afternoon I'm dust
settling on floorboards,
a twitch in a cow's neck.

All day I drift in the dusty light
of the hayloft, high above
the constant cluck of chickens,
forever in a blue halo of flies.

It's only a matter of time
before my voice scurries
along the rafters of the barn,
before gossip flutters
in the branches of trees
and the word witch ripens
in townspeople's mouths.

April, 2002

Chris Tusa's Questions:

Does the voice seem believable?

My Grandfather's Hands

Bruised and bloodshot
these heavy callused hands
once pulled weeds

from the tangled earth,
yanked vines and rope,
shoveled black dirt.

In the sun they held scythes
glowing, gripped the necks
of whiskey bottles.

At work, they jerked
wrenches, rusty crowbars,
read lugnuts like braille.

In the dark sweat of the barn
they fell hard on the backs
of horses, pulled calves

from the clenched hips of cows,
snapped the necks of chickens.
At night they cupped in prayer.

Balled into fists they clutched
axes, dug graves, wrestled
with wheelbarrows, split lips.

Now, soft as the wings of angels,
they sleep, folded forever
across his sunken chest.

April, 2002

Chris Tusa's Questions:

Is the poem overly sentimental?

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