Bruce Pemberton

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Spring 2020 #4

There’s rumors on how the Farmer's
Market will work. You’ll enter on
Sixth Street, exit on Third, walking in
one direction and leaving two blocks
away. Browsing is discouraged, if not
banned. I just want two tomato plants,
an Early Girl and a Fourth of July, as here
we only get a hundred days without frost.

At the Market, if you don’t mask,
you might as well wear a MAGA hat,
might as well be one of those shirtless boys
on Daytona Beach, proclaiming invincibility,
who offers up a tearful, televised apology,
after, possibly, a parental threat to cut off
all funding. Wear the damn mask,
or we’ll stick you in trade school, you over-
indulged and privileged disappointment.
How could you embarrass us like this?
What will Nana and Pop-Pop think?
They’re quarantined in Cabo, crying that
they want to come home.

We walk lock step in the now patrolled
Market, looking for tomato starters.
All I want is a real BLT, one with my own
tomatoes, arugula from the aging mountain
hippie with the elderly, snoozing blue heeler
curled up in the jump seat of her old truck,
thick bacon from the supermarket butcher,
and dark brown bread from the parolee
who learned to bake in prison.
I’ve done everything I’m supposed to.
Under a benign big sky and an early summer
sun that doesn’t care if I live or die,
I must be asking for too much.

Spring 2020 #5

“The dead know only one thing.
It is better to be alive.”
-Stanley Kubrick
“Full Metal Jacket”

Dead at 94, six years ago,
old man, you’ve missed it all.
Not the best year to turn 100, anyway:
the virus, George Floyd, nightly riots,
and of course, the rise of Trump.
Had you lived, you would have loved him,
at least until the Corona ripped apart
your nursing home, emptying out
the dining room, scattering your Army
buddies, including that wheeled-chaired sailor
full of profane tales of his favorite
ports-of-call. Nearby, a cranky matron
ate with her own china and silverware
brought from a home that no longer exists.

They’re all gone, stacked now in cold storage,
awaiting some respectful disposition
from Fayetteville’s funeral directors,
who frantically run their crematoriums
overtime to keep up.


Bruce Pemberton is a retired high school English teacher and tennis coach. He lives on the Palouse, in rural, eastern Washington state.