Friday 5 May 2023

5 Poems by Tim Peeler

One Tin Soldier

I’ve thought an awful lot
About white rimmed shades
On a biker’s round face
With circular facial hair
How much the camera
Asked us to hate him
Displaying his bastardy
How clean how perfect
They broke when Billy Jack
Shot him between the eyes
With a thirty-eight
How the blood waited
Seconds before it fountained
Over the handle bars
Of his Harley-Davidson
I thought a lot about
His evil bully smile
How the bad guys
Are always surprised

By their demise.

Flash Flood

It was raining harder than he’d ever seen and he was an old man and he’d seen a lot of rain. He heard it hit the cabin’s metal roof and saw it rush right across the gutters, pounding the deck. He saw little waterfalls splashing down the twenty steps to the driveway, but it was workout morning and he would drive the twenty miles there and sit in the hot tub, and he would walk a little and lift some weight, a lot of weight for a man his age, and he would talk to his retiree buddies, and they would watch the young women on the elliptical runners and the treadmills, or he might walk into the aerobic room and move in time to the party music for a few minutes. Then he would grab some fresh towels and head for the sauna because Dr. Oz said that was the best way for a man of his age to end his workout.

When he backed the Jetta out of the drive, his dog chased him again, but he didn’t feel like reaching into the back floorboard for the ammonia spray, so he drove on up the hill with her following till he reached thirty mph. The rain had slacked some as he drove past the road that cut off toward the emerald mine and headed through the little town with its one stoplight, store and post office. Then he was on open road descending the several miles to the river and the eighty year old dam that held back the river and created real estate for the doctors and dentists and mill owners and such. He tried to listen to Rush Limbaugh who was talking endlessly about the radio conglomerate that was trying to screw him and how his show would be stronger in the end. He knew this was true because Rush was the only person in the media who had the guts to tell the unvarnished truth. He could count on Rush even when he couldn’t count on himself or when he felt himself slipping in some way.

But this morning he was having trouble hearing Rush because the rain had caught another gear, and it was raining harder and harder the farther south he drove. Finally he crossed the river, and the 28 foot gates were wide open near the top, water gushing through like madness. And the local radio interrupted Rush to give a flash flood warning. All this happened as he slowed to 20 mph. The water came across his car, endless waves of it, and he could barely see. There was nowhere to pull over and he was sure he’d make it anyway. He always did. Water surged down the hill toward his car, but the Jetta stuck to the road, and he continued forward. He was almost to the first turn off though he was fighting for visibility since the wipers could not keep up with the deluge. Rush was talking about Trayvon Martin again, and he tried to listen even as the car fish tailed a bit as he crested the hill.

Suddenly another car came flying around him, traveling 50 or more with no lights on. He watched it in disbelief. How could anybody be that stupid and be that much of an asshole, he thought. As he was thinking that, the car began to turn right into the cut through road , hydroplaned in two spectacular circles and flipped into the ditch. He pulled left of it when he turned, then refixed himself in the right lane. The rain was even more furious and he wasn’t about to stop for that speeding asshole. Rush was talking about how George Zimmerman should be treated as an American hero, and he knew that was right. He checked to make sure he had his pistol in his pants pocket and he did. He always did. You never knew what might happen out here. Rush was calling Trayvon a drug head and a thug and a poor representative of his race. He knew this was true just as he knew there were worse things out there than flash floods and assholes turned upside down in ditches. And though he hadn’t done it in a very long time, he said a quick prayer thanking God for not making him an asshole.

Hoe Boy Pauses on the Lawnmower

He is thinking of silos
beside long dirt roads,
mountainside creeks
where gold might lie,
guiding a bull's powerful
shoulders, pasture to pen,
the first time he wore
football pads, leaned into
a stance and locked
a scared boy's eyes,
moonlight through the
Torino's window,
soft white flesh of the first
girl he thought was the one,
a beach song he never forgot
even after college turned him,
these lonely unplowed fields,
wind ticking winter grass.


The dead people are really quiet tonight,
Ice having coated the brown grass and stones,
And dying just a kind of freezing.
Their fights have never been more finished,
Their votes never more counted and finalized.
Both murdered and murderers remain silent.
The long flat road that runs by the cemetery
Is empty, the living hunkered in their homes.
Young women are confident, young men still
Angry, it is night and the children are hiding

Or dreaming frozen dreams of muffled screams.


Tim Peeler is a retired educator from western North Carolina. He is a winner of the Jim Harrison Award for contributions to baseball literature. He has authored twenty books including fifteen books of poetry and four regional baseball histories. His poems have been anthologized by Time/Life Books, Simon and Schuster, and University of Southern Illinois Press, and have been used in an HBO documentary.

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