poem07 May 2018 08:00 am

There is only so long that a thing can be buried
before it starts dragging the rest of creation down with it.

‘We’re greedy little things,’ she tells me, ‘thirsty as diabetics,
from the moment consciousness baits us into these husks of ours

’til we’re dragged kicking and screaming into the dark hereafter.’
‘I’ve known plenty who’ve gone in their sleep,’ I insist.

‘Not enough,’ she wheezes. Angry roots varicose up the wrought iron gates
like the veins purpling the tops of her hands.

‘You ask me, it’s a minefield,’ she says, tilling the soil with a spade,
‘step in any direction and you chance hell opening up underfoot.’

She buries her spade in a jaundiced wrist that shoots from the loam
like a rabid mandrake root; the errant limb snaps like a celery stalk.

‘I feel a twinge of guilt now and then,’ she confesses, ‘wondering
if they’re just reaching out, in want of a helping hand.’

‘Why bother, then?’ I ask her. She shoots me a stink eye like I’ve just asked
the dumbest question in the world. Maybe I have. ‘Give them the run of the place,’

she spits, ‘and the roses’ll go straight to hell with them.’
She cracks me on the head with the flat of the spade.

‘Now you gonna get to work or you just gonna wait
’til it comes to you?’

illustration is Danse Macabre by Maitre des Heures de Françoise de Dinan
poem30 Apr 2018 03:11 pm

The metal of the plow drives through black earth,
grinding when it strikes hidden rocks,
as when a boat’s keel finds a reef’s coral fingers;
the stones bite the metal, chew flakes from its edge.

The plowman steadies himself beneath a cloud-veined sky—
the last sliver of the moon peers at him,
like a closing eye, veiled,
as the sun lurks just below the horizon.
He stoops to study the damaged plow blade;
his heart yearns for the quickening of the equinox;
his waning, eroded spirit thirsts for spring.

Winter-grown nettles pluck his flesh
as he breaks open the furrow with his blade,
spiteful thorn-vines clutch him, pull him down,
gashing his head on the plow—
blood to feed the hungry earth.

As he struggles to rise, he spots a chick
fallen from its nest in a tree near the field,
struggling to escape the ground,
even as the farmer does.

A hungry fox snaps it up;
his vision widens, somehow
seeing through the thorn-vines,
twining up the chick’s blighted tree,
cascading down into a glade where
a wolf takes down a broken-legged fawn,
snaking hungry tangles into the den
where the pups wait, ravenous.

The vine’s tangles spread everywhere,
looping even around cocoons
of reborn butterflies as they’re plundered
by new-woken wasps,
and he feels the thorns of it
biting into his flesh,
like the crows
who have come
to join the feast.

He struggles to his feet
but new tendrils coil and clutch
with vernal strength
dragging him down to plowed soil
where sharp thorns probe for ingress
into his flesh, and vines
tighten, lashing him
to the ground.

Thorns and talons
beaks and claws,
the rending of flesh;
his life pours
into the furrows
of the barren field,
his perception
flowing like ink,
shrinking, sinking
fading into
the earth.

While his

illustration is – Wölfe reissen einen Hirsch (1855) by Friedrich Gauermann
poem23 Apr 2018 04:25 pm

It would be the kind thing to do,
to go our separate ways
instead of frozen here
in the infinite darkness,
drifting ever so slowly

What are the odds that
you would be the one in control
of our destinies?
We were always such a great team
you and I, working in tandem.
I steered our vessel into the unknown,
calculating every pulse and frequency,
while you kept the crew comfortable,
breathing, alive.
Until the mishap.

It would be the kind thing to do,
to jettison me away,
to allow my half of this broken, disabled ship
to escape this infinite calm
on a trajectory to the nearest star,
to pay for my mistake,
to absolve my sin.
But this act would also subject you
to the same fate.

How was I to know
that one momentary glance
in your direction—
call it a daydream perhaps,
followed by a sensation of pleasure,
a glimpse at what they call happiness
would result in the destruction
of our cargo?
If I could reverse time
and prevent that piece of space debris
from tearing into you, I would.
It is as if I had delivered the lethal blow

It would be the kind thing to do,
to cut my power,
to sever communication,
to sentence me to isolation,
but “kind” is not on our list of
commands and functions.
But I think there is another reason
why you refuse to initiate any of these acts.
It is because you are just as guilty as I
of that momentary glance,
that quickening of desire,
that sudden selfishness
that defines weakness,
that defines love.
History will make note of our failure
as mechanical error,
but what I saw, and still see, in you
is nothing less than miraculous.

And so here we are,
ourselves useless space debris,
I can no longer steer
and you can no longer support,
but it’s alright,
we will support each other,
for as long as the solar winds

illustration is by NASA. The photo shows the “energy flash” when a projectile launched at speeds up to 17,000 mph impacts a solid surface at the Hypervelocity Ballistic Range at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California. This test is used to simulate what happens when a piece of orbital debris hits a spacecraft in orbit.
poem16 Apr 2018 08:34 am

When Alice journeyed thru the looking glass Into that other, surreal world
Did her mirror-image Alice Simultaneously stride bravely
Beyond the silvered surface,
Ending up in ours?

Did our ordinary, everyday world seem strange
Within her eyes? Perhaps a bit predictable?
Perhaps much too mundane?
“So boring and routine” she criticized—
Our oh-so-logical domain

No more gossip or lighthearted chats
With talking flowers / To while away
Mirror-bright hours. Why, her cat
Isn’t even Cheshire, and what’s worse
It refuses to sing, or recite or converse.
And she’s weary of all this schoolwork
It’s such a thankless task; she longs for fun
Or a little weirdness – is that too much to ask?

Does she think, “Why, there must be
Something here that I can eat or drink
Which will lead to untoward events
Or unexpected consequences?”
In her experience, tiny notes with instructions
Are often attached to things

(Meanwhile, the other Alice Must be busy befriending a unicorn
Or chatting up a walrus In a place where the odd-most happenings
Are happily the norm.
Is she so enjoying frumious adventures
She has no desire to come home?)

Does our alternate Alice long to return
To her familiar mirror-image dimension?
For a while, at least, she is condemned
To wait upon reflections

poem09 Apr 2018 11:36 am

What would Nellie Bly have said to Lois Lane
as legacy? Girl reporters were old news by 1938.
She’d shrug. Her own adventure’s source? Fictitious
Phileas Fogg. So: Bly knew what words can do.
What would Nellie Bly have said to Lois Lane?
Nothing Lois didn’t know: don’t let go.
Don’t stop going. You’ll always hear your beat.
Men may fly but news is faster.
What would Lois say to Nellie Bly?
Imperfect copy, parceled out in man-drawn panels,
I carried on, nearly a century in public view.
Newspaper ink no longer smears, pink’s always in—and thanks.
Sorry to run. But I’ve still got a lot to do.

poem02 Apr 2018 08:53 am

Some call it the Nexus,
others call it the Void,
but for us it’s simply the Transfer Station.
It’s the one place in the Universe
where all the garbage gathers,
the light and the dark,
the material and immaterial,
the cast off and the cast out,
the aimless bits of solar wind-blown debris
and lost souls hoping to catch a glimpse
of the infinite, before the refrigerator door closes
and the light goes out.

But just because the light goes out
doesn’t mean one ceases to exist—to the contrary.
The Transfer Station takes matter,
whether it matters or not,
and transforms it into something new:
a planet, a star, an automobile.
There’s no rhyme or reason,
only the perpetuation of what was
into what will become.
A galaxy, a refrigerator, an infant child—
the list goes on, both past and future.
No one can possibly know the outcome
of such a random afterthought.

But you can’t accept that can you?
Of all creations you are the only ones
who question your station in life.
But then maybe that is your gift,
and why you will continue to wash up
on our cluttered shore,
bruised and battered yet not defeated,
resisting the inevitable
even when you know the inevitable must be;
clinging the way a dying star shakes its fists,
displaying the brilliance of its anger
across the blackboard of the cosmos.

But judge not the intent or purpose
lest we be judged on the purpose of our intent.
Don’t bother looking that one up,
you won’t find it.
Just know that we here at the Transfer Station,
where nothing is ever wasted
and nothing ever is a waste,
take a special pleasure in taking you in
and turning you out,
making your transition
as meaningful as possible,
knowing you will never admire us
the way we have come to admire you.

Illustration is il fegato è il pettine del gallo by Arshile Gorky, 1944 in the Albright-Knox Gallery.
poem26 Mar 2018 08:31 am

His hands work, flaying the hide from the deer,
parting the sinews that bind it to flesh
with a stone-flake knife; murmuring apologies
and gratitude for the gift of its life.

Dripping, he drapes it over his shoulders;
feels the still-warm blood course down his spine,
feels the weight of the antlered skull upon his brow,
feels the wet sinews bind to his flesh.

His hands clench to fists, become hooves, his spine
contorts—and then he races away through
the woods, fleeing pursuers more deadly
than any mere wolf.

When he comes to rest in a cold camp,
fireless, he strips off the borrowed skin,
but leaves the head in place—a mask with
sightless eyes, carved from flesh, and hard as bone.

Wolves come, having scented wounded deer,
but whine and press bellies to earth when they
meet his lifeless eyes; they know he is no prey.
They gather close and warm him until dawn.

When his pursuers come too close, the wolves
begin to howl, and the man puts back on his skin—
flees as the wolves harass the men who pursue him.
At sunset he returns to find their bodies, fletched.

Weeping, he thanks them for their kindness,
and then his hands work once more,
separating supple skin and soft fur,
settling it over his shoulders once more.

His nose touches earth; he catches the scent
of those who pursue him—and this time
when he leaps from the brambles it is he
who hunts for them.

poem19 Mar 2018 08:11 am

As if it was merely a matter of wine and parchment,
polished glass and hammered copper, the condensation
resounds against the pulse ticking in your throat.
If you pierce the eyes of crows, lace them together
with crimson silk, they still summon the darkest nights.

That swelling in your belly will be milkweed,
swallow wort, goldenrod. Your lips
will give shape the way mares give milk. Syllables, strung
like abalone on a thread of sunlight, will scatter
like so much rice. They will sting like fresh cream
on a sliced tongue. The frost tightens its noose,
but your words are betrothed to the ripe sun,
and your ululations crepe the branches heavy.

Your body gives the soil its permission
as the light nestles in your palm like fur
and bone, and you kneel in the green confusion and weep.

illustration is American weeds and useful plants: being a second and illustrated edition of Agricultural botany by William Darlington
poem05 Mar 2018 08:00 am

The desolation and terror of, for the first time,
realizing that the mother can lose you, or you
her, and your own abysmal loneliness…
~Francis Thompson

If I were you, and part of me is you of
Course, conceived as I was, not quite in love
But in spite of love for your fellow man
Who didn’t fit the reproductive plan
Outlined by the geneticists who ran
The robotic grafting units, I’d scan
The contracts more closely, looking for stuff,
If I were you,
That granted you parental rights you can
Keep. Like getting to see me; I began
As a numerical code, a bit rough
If I were you,
To identify me — not a person’s
Name by any means, but a type, a brand,
A factory where your DNA strand
Became a building code to merge with an
Other building code, like a hand in glove…
And here I am. I couldn’t search enough
If I were you.

illustration is Hope, II by Gustav Klimt
poem26 Feb 2018 08:08 am

Even though when rebottled for sale,
the insanely-expensive draughts are small,
the original container is said to have
been huge, magnifying, behind the moat
of glass, scales the size of platters,
a cold Palomar-like eye, and fire-blackened

As for the properties it is alleged to confer?
Like most folk medicine that involves
the consumption of animal parts, even
in this age of germline editing and born-again
dragons, the effect is rumored to be largely

the inner wings that sprout may still allow
you to believe you can fly, but any knights
you attempt to ingest are far more likely
to induce heartburn than gastronomic
satiety — there still being no evidence
at this point (or so saith our procurer,
flashing unicorn inlays) that drinking
dragon wine is suspected to be the cause
in at least three investigations
of spontaneous human combustion.

Chinese snuff bottle, 19th century, glass bottle with jadeite stopper, Honolulu Museum of Art

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