Dale Cottingham

A Moral Life

I couldn’t help it. Others
were clearing brush. O, why not join in.
There’ll be uneven ground, a guard rail to ignore.
I got immersed. My balloon went up in a lovely affair.

As the sun arcs past its nadir to the horizon
the cabaret streets hold themselves out
where citizens roam blankness
that the stranded night evokes and then
return to their places wondering what that was all about.
They are the others in my life, sometimes
teachers, sometimes villains.
In the end I get to decide.

What did it matter if I stumbled with weed sling in hand?
Doesn’t the earth demand earthiness, earthliness,
prayers offered by tarnished hands?
Tomorrow I think I’ll go back to clearing brush again
for these are moments, moments of insight
where I try to gain, and regain, possession of myself
and in that sense this play becomes work of survival,
a kind of moral life.

Dale Cottingham is of mixed race, part Choctaw, part White. He is a Breadloafer, won the 2019 New Millennium Award for Poem of the Year, is a finalist in the 2021 Great Midwest Poetry Contest and has been nominated for the 2021 Best of Net. He lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.