poem10 Dec 2018 07:33 am

On this flimsy, sea-sodden paper
I write your favorite words,
spell the color of your eyes,
the feel of your lips on mine.
But the wind won’t tell me
where you are.

I was an angry thing,
forgetful of my vows,
unwary of my passion.
Now I would call you back,
forgive you your transgressions,
as I ask forgiveness for my own lapse.
One sin should not excuse
the tempest I unleashed.

On what far shore does your body lie wrecked?
The winds won’t tell me.
I would blow you home to my arms,
let you weep repentance there;
a weeping man’s alive
and capable of redemption.

Sand will blow in upon the waves,
in years restore the shore in a new shape.
The leafless trees will bud.
Survivors will re-people the isles
that shuddered at my tantrum.
But how shall I rebuild?

They say when a wind-catcher violates
her truce with the gods
the winds keep silent forever.
They do not lie.
I strain and hear nothing,
just the creak and strain of
broken branches,
the groan of leaning timbers,
the scattering of someone’s unmoored photographs.

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poem26 Nov 2018 08:17 am

A gentle distortion draws me:
my voice, but deeper, a register
I recognize from wistful dreams.

As I sleepwalk the stone basin,
an elf owl yips, rousing me.
I glance back to the ridge where

friends wreath the campfire.
Exhausted by exile, my chosen tribe
sleeps dreamless as the night is moonless.

None misses me yet, so I spiral down
to search out my other voice.
Deep in want, I’m engulfed,

unaware I’ve entered the earth’s maw
until Death titters to itself
in bird and bat and lizard bone

snapped underfoot. Ahead
I sense a void but still I walk
the narrowing corridor, my elbows

scraping the earth’s craggy throat
and I wonder, When did I cover my ears?
Perhaps some counter-spell unwinds inside me,

for, fear remembered, I crouch to crawl
to the cenote’s oily-mirror edge.
I stare into the eye of the stone

eager to greet my siren self—surely taller,
broader-shouldered to shelter our deeper voice.
Instead, glaring back is the girl I almost forgot:

Limp-braided. Round-chested. Survivor.

She is the vessel of my dream.
To drown her is to doom him.
Both are equally Me.

I recoil from the cenote’s edge.
The hungry ghost churns my reflection,
raging but powerless to force sacrifice

from mere disappointment, not despair.
I flee the ravening dark, running
toward night, firelight, friends.

Up and out, I emerge
knowing the moon is not missing,
merely waiting.

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poem19 Nov 2018 07:34 am

The villagers, unable to tell them apart,
burned our healers and the witch
leaving no one to save us
when the Black Death finally came

Fleas mounted on rats
bent on rape and rapine
crashing through our defenses
like a stone through cathedral glass

Alone on the pyre of my wife and children
I hear their laughter and their cries
their faces surging up through the cold, gray ash
the haunting stench of good meat gone bad

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poem05 Nov 2018 05:16 am


You were too timorous for us,
old husk that weighed us down
like an anchor.
You cared what gossips whispered.
You stalled and repented and wept
when we would have leapt.

The scarlet silk called to you, true,
but in the end you had a grey soul
more suitable to prim pumps
or straight-laced oxfords
than for dancing slippers.
Seven-league boots would have done for us
almost as well
but you’d never have tugged them on.

Once the red shoes wrapped around us,
we knew we were meant for more
than sermons and solicitude,
cradles and kaffe-klatches.

So when you cried out to the woodcutter,
we rejoiced,
glad to be cut free of you at last.

Dance, now we dance!
Out of shadowed forests,
away from the cemeteries,
beyond the suburbs,
to crater’s rim and glacier’s hulk,
through blizzard and sirocco
to foreign cities’ din and crush.

You couldn’t grimace through the pain,
reach that place where you
forget the audience,
forget even yourself.
But we know—we know!—
we never needed you.
Pirouetting through the theatre of the world,
we are the Dance.

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poem29 Oct 2018 08:09 am

On every stair and fence and wall
icons and idols remind us of the fleshy
seed-stuffed bounty of our Goddess
during this her yearly festival
and sacred celebration.

Even in the chrome and marble foyer
see the altar loaded
with black and orange offerings
to Our Lady of the Winter Squash.
Our golden goddess feeds the world.

Give Her bones and blood
the best foods for the soil.
Please Her with images
of her sacred animals: crawly spiders
in massed grey webs

scattered with dry-sucked corpses,
flapping bats that feed on flowers, fruit
and blood,
and arch-backed cats
as fecund as the night.

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poem22 Oct 2018 08:20 am


When Tarot cards fail—
and the High Priestess
is brought low,
blue robes swelling like waves,
tumbling from her throne
that teeters atop the Tower’s edge,

While the Magician sinks, flailing his sword,
as he drowns in the Moon’s dark sea
amid his floating cup and white lilies
beneath nightmare wolves’ howls
and psychotic crabs clawing ashore—

When the brave lady tames the fierce lion—
but cannot save the Hanged Man from himself,
and the Star’s light is dimmed, restrained
by shadows cast from the Devil’s chains,

Then the gypsies close up their shabby shops,
and turn off the red neon signs.
Now bewildered by their clients’ fate lines
they return the $10 reading fee—
explaining they can no longer see;
even their crystal balls are now cloudy.

When the runes are a ruin, and
prognostication by stars, entrails,
clouds, leaves, and birds all fail:

Then we must reconstitute the storm
for the homeless last fay—
confer with them to restore the lost chaos,

Invite the young sibyls from their caves
listen to what they say,
ask them to show their unburned prophetic books to us.

Turn off all cellphones and electronic devices.
Light candles for all dead and future goddesses.

Coax the silenced waters of Delphi’s mountain
to flow with cryptic answers again.

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poem15 Oct 2018 09:53 am

-1-

She veils the eyes of the prophets
and coalesces from the night
profound, meaningful

the flames of her pupils
cool to auburn and seductive
— whirl — in a desert of her making
and they move her closer to that goal
though she cannot say her master’s name

or point him out to us
with the certainty of a stargazing priest
in the city, which has so many names,
masters and minarets, so many priests,
so many calls to prayer
vying for the souls of the faithful.

She slips past the guards
in silence; they smile
and do not search her —
her naked body. What does she have
to conceal? Some flaw, perhaps

a voice like breaking glass? thoughts
inane and childish? a deluge of chatter
to extinguish love’s torpid cinders
after the fact? No matter.

They laugh and speak of their master
wishing they were him, to have

what he has: the power
to draw such beauties to his bed
and shut them up, night after night

-2-

Their qareen shriek a warning, nails
piercing into — through — the souls
of the watchful guards, those wardens
unable to hear the whispers given in sleep
when so wide awake.

-3-

The tent is a palace inside
heaped with bolts of silk and satin, a box
of gold filigree with billowing clouds of platinum,
a heaven of gemstones sequestered within.

Their master smokes hashish from a hookah
and speaks of the prophets — men and women —
who come to him every night as he sleeps
on the same bed that he’d love to share
with her. “Are they always right?” she asks,
drawing a shebriya from her mouth. He thinks
this a wonderful trick, and tells her so.

“Are the prophets not at times silent?” she
whispers, revealing another trick
of the blade.

The guards outside fail to hear him,
or they mistake his dying gasp
for one of pleasure. She, enticing Sila,
leaves in the dawn as she arrived;
they only smile as she walks away,
naked and unashamed.

-4-

Qareen stand over him
and disturb his mirroring pool
with tears of corundum and of jade

illustration is Salome by Manuel Orazi, 1930
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poem08 Oct 2018 06:03 am

My patron impresses paramours
with moon shards dappled in 24-karat gold
and fashioned into pendants
for fawn-colored necks, diadems to adorn
black brows smooth as glass.
But for his favorite fucks
celestial jewelry is not enough—
my patron demands poetry of me,
sinuous verses that ensnare emotion,
binding his beauties to him better
than any promise ring or
diamond-crusted chastity belt.
A disgusting seduction
but one I’m obligated to perform
or end up fighting
alley cats for scraps.
Only, my patron’s mining operations
harrow the source of my lyrics.
Poetry is a refraction,
a transmutation of moonlight
(itself a reflection of sunlight).
The moon he’s wrought, hanging like
a chipped saucer in the night,
conjures no more magic than
the broken crockery on my kitchen shelf.
Though I’ve explained the effects
of his brutal lunar harvest,
the scales of his eyes aren’t calibrated
for the subtle calculus
of art and heart.
Accused of disloyalty, sloth, and
breach of contract, I stalk
his moon-embellished lovers,
struggling to distill the secondhand light
to pen a last, paltry sonnet and escape
into the plundered night.

Illustration is View of Constantinople by Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky, 1876

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poem01 Oct 2018 06:23 am

You stitched your clothes with feathers.
Hitched your unwinged self
over the cliff-side dripping with guano
for the harvest of birds.

Gannets and guillemots and gulls,
fulmars, snipe, bonxies, plovers and puffins
and the pterodactyl skuas
fastening you to the stony ground

to the gray bounds of sea and sky.
Trusting your life not to slip.
Invaded by good mainland intentions
that undermined everything.

What need for windows in stone houses
when the view was not rare—
you lived your life in and out of it.
Tamp out the peat fire and hobble

away. A thousand hard and airborne years
broken by the world that is not this place.
Not peat, not stone, not the track
made by sheep. Abandon the tight Cs

of the cleits, the storehouses
dotting the slopes cairn-like,
planted obsessively against the travails
of sea and sky and starvation,

vented to let the wind
keep the contents dry
so the constant rain wouldn’t rot
everything that kept you breathing.

The walls thicker than the space
they contain. Part nature, part culture
both parts alive. The mystery now
inside the clinging, vacant Cs,

always in sight of the sea
sometime shelter for the wild-now sheep
often their last. This is the world
your ancients built and time muddles

to tumbles of eroding stones erasing
the marks of human hands till no one
can read how it dies and is dead. Clouds
wool-heavy on the hills so empty of you.

photo is “Cleit for storing fuel or hay on St Kilda” by Richard Keaton, Dec. 31, 1897.
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poem24 Sep 2018 08:00 am

My booth-thin box of glass holds Daddy dear,
Brown eyes lens-big, bald spot in jet-black hair,
Bemused and curious, with startled stare
And starting smile to find himself brought here,
As sudden as a dream, whisked back from time,
The youthful forty-nine I knew at three,
Saved from a death that he can’t even see,
Yet glad as ever for this family time.

My elevator-box is rich with hours,
Air fresh with life and hope, its strength renewed
By joy from those receiving its rare gift:
Reunion with our loved ones. Though the power’s
Limited, our glassed guests only viewed,
Our mutual spirits rise on my time lift.

illustration is portrait of the poet’s father
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