At Buddy’s place,

So deep in the hollow

The sun has trouble finding it,

You can dig your heart out

In search of crystals

(To effing China if you like, says Buddy)

For only one dollar a head.


Bud sits there on the covered porch,

Rocking his ass off,

A tin mug of Jack Daniels

In one bony hand

And a bucket full of dollars

In the other.

His overalls are badly patched,

The bandaid on his glasses coming off,

He hasn’t shaved for days,

But his caving pals have slapped

A fresh coat of white paint

On his clapboard house

And somehow that has made him

More presentable.


Cavers, he’ll tell you,

Are the only family he’s got.

His wife Bess lies in the rocky ground,

The quartz ring he made for her,

A real beaut,

Still on her finger

Or what’s left of it.

His son Wayne is incarcerated

Two counties away

For God knows what drug foolishness.

His snooty daughter Myrna’s

Locked up too, he likes to say,

Under her own cogni-sense,

In a gated community

Close to town.

Her infrequent visits

Are nothing but ploys

To get him into a home.

I have a home already,

He tells her, gesturing at Crystal Hill.

What the hell do you think this is?


Ah, but the cavers.

At their property

They invited him

To share their fire and

A leather pouch of Mary Jane.

At midnight he wandered into

The plastic sheeting that served as sauna

And found them, men and women,

Happily conversing,

Huge smiles on their faces,

Naked as jaybirds.


Now they’re trudging

Up and down the mountain slope,

Armed with trowels, picks, and shovels.

Billy, who has a nose for gems and fossils,

Nudges him awake

And produces from his muddy sack

The most perfect crystal

He’s ever laid eyes on.

Held up to the light,

Its sleek, translucent planes reflect

A more robust image of himself,

Before Myrna, before Wayne,

Even before dear Bess.


He is poised on the lip

Of a powerful rapid,

Paddle held crosswise to his chest,

Scouting the terrain.

Suddenly he takes the plunge

And for one split second,

Before he hits the water,

He digs at the air, sweet Jesus,



(originally published in Whisperings)











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