Five Poems by Clarence Wolfshohl

Exchanging Gifts

This morning it was a dead baby possum.
Two days ago, several lumps of raw meat
that may have been mice or moles
the night before. Laid on the walkway
displayed like a fish-monger market,
gifts for me in return for a galvanized pan
full of Old Roy. We have entered
into this gift exchange, trying to be
discreet, making the drops predawn
after her night of the hunter and mid-day
when I think she is sleeping or nursing
her kits, not likely to confront
one another. I would think she’d give
the food to her family, but perhaps Old Roy
is enough, but certainly not the taste
of wild I expect a fox to crave.

Maybe these carcasses are not food
but honorific gestures as what my cat
makes, leaving moles and mice, once
a young jay, just inside the cat-door.
She is saying “see what I can do”
or “this is in tribute.” But my cat
knows me too well, knows I deserve
no tribute. So I cannot know what the fox
means, only know that we
have entered an exchange,
both probably surprised it happened.

I Love to Hear You Complain
--for Amii

I love to hear you complain
of my granddaughter, how
she won’t wear the pretty blouse
you got her for the first school dance
and how she now wants
to go to the movies Friday
with her friend who is a senior
and has a car. And all of a sudden
she’s talking about the girl’s car
as an object of desire so that
you’d not have to take her to school
and back, but she at least is talking
hybrid. How she shuts herself
in her room and listens to music
and talks to her friends on the phone,
and the other day when you opened
the door she was indignant that you
were not respecting her privacy,
and what are you going to do
with her, and in my pause
you laugh and say, “I know,
I sound like mom,” and
although it’s only your voice
from 100 miles away, the voice
is hers from thirty years ago
and both of you are in this empty house.

In Fashion

We just passed a dead armadillo?
How damaged was it? Shell
still intact, not cracked
like a jigsaw puzzle?

If we were back in Texas,
we could stop and gather
it into a tote sack and take
it to the purse-maker

in Hallettsville. He’d cure
the carcass, affix some kind
of lining and handle and paint
the armor—maybe the Texas flag,

big old Lone Star. Or maybe
a longhorn silhouette on burnt orange
field—hook ‘em, Horns—or delicate
bluebonnets nearly as fine

as an Onderdonk plein-air.
They sell armadillo purses in chic shops
to tourists and those women
who wear boots with shafts

like the Bayeux tapestries.
$500 or more they charge, and
we could make a fiver or sawbuck
if we go back.

Comic Book Adventures

The back lawn waved an ocean
beyond our island of solitude,
the giant pecan limbs’ lagoon
of shade like a deserted island
but for us three sprawled
over the big picnic table
of 2x6’s Darrell’s father had built.

Like Kon Tiki, it kept us
afloat on those baked August afternoons.
Darrell and Larry held comic books
above them, umbrellas for the dots
of sun raying through the leaves;
I read novels that summer, The Scarlet Letter,
mostly because I heard some older kids
say it was about adultery and we were
in that gangly age when our pants legs
couldn’t cover our socks. Darrell read
some superhero—Batman or Superman;
later he was to take a discoverer’s
proprietary interest in Spiderman.
Larry, a couple of years younger, read
Donald Duck, sometimes Archie,
so we called him Veronica.

As our Kon Tiki slew above the Mariana Trench
and we braved oceanic terrors
of Darrell’s begging dachshund and gnats,
we lashed ourselves to the mast
of the printed page—no matter his
protagonist sported a giant “S” on his
chest and mine a delicate, red “A”
while Larry mused over Jughead’s beggar’s crown.

Family Night at the Junkie Farm

This hour, across from a dude
who’s headed to Huntsville for ten years
for a rig and half an ounce. He wants
to finish the belt for his wife
before he leaves tonight. We keep
time with KCOR, conjunto
and Louie and the Lovers.

The radio says hordes
are piling up at the border, like
tumbleweeds blown north by ill winds.
The Senate debates nothing.
No one can eat meat.

On the way out the gates
Santiago crosses my path
with his infant son in his arms.
the guard’s orders are not
to let residents go to their families’ cars.
Surrounded by his immediate past,
Santiago tells the guard to write him up,
walks to the car with the still
sleeping boy in his arms.

In the booth, the man breaks
his pencil point.

Clarence Wolfshohl, professor emeritus at William Woods University, has been active in the small press as writer and publisher for over fifty years, publishing poetry and non-fiction in many journals, both print and online, including North Dakota Quarterly, Concho River Review, San Pedro River Review, Agave, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Cape Rock, and New Letters. Among his recent publications are the e-chapbook Scattering Ashes (Virtual Artists Collective, 2016), the chapbooks Holy Toledo (El Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), Queries and Wonderments (El Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), and Armadillos & Groundhogs in late 2019. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. Wolfshohl lives in the suburbs of Toledo, Missouri, with his dog and cat.