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Rodd Whelpley

My dog feigns he’s new to English,

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pretends these fat, ant-ridden buds
bursting from starts we rescued years ago
from the gardens at my boyhood
home, my wife’s family’s century farm

are called pee-on-mees. And I say
“No, Buster, peonies. Peonies.” And he
stares blankly, evincing not a bit
of sorrow that he’s sopped in ammonia

and uric acid a hundred years
of plowing, sowing, of hoping for work,
of whispers – the dark lady unnamed
in the margins of photos, the uncle light

in the loafers, the brother too, the money
absconded – secrets, as cold as those beers
hidden in the toilet tank, meetings
with that social worker ending

in silences harder than a slap.
Pissed so cavalierly on those roots
we carefully dug from the clay of Ohio,
the soil of Iowa to replant to this backyard

in another state, a plot on which we hope
to grow some better outcome. He pees
and pees on the peonies, that come spring
refuse to do a thing. Except     they bloom.

A Pocket Guide to Native Tongues

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Words can’t capture the nuance of anything
precisely because they are mole traps
with invisible springs.

Seasons neatly colored.
Geegaw Geegaw Geegaw
My baby used to sing.

It meant summer. It meant winter. It meant
fall, and a decline without declension, as if
geegaw weren’t a verb.

Which it is. And a noun, and also
adjectival: The description of a song.
The songbird.

And the singing, sailing for the un-ambitted space
where a childish nothing finds at last the edge
of everything.

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