poem19 Feb 2018 08:36 am

She is sister to all
citizens of the sea.
She has kept the selchies’ secrets,
danced with them at moonrise,
carpet of discarded pelts
beneath her feet.
The mermaids permit her earthbound voice
to join their chorus;
although she’s neither terrible nor tragic,
her songs still taste of salt.
She travels each day
to hear the holy rock struck
like a drum by ocean’s swells,
her own heart hammering
answer near as loud.
This is prayer and preparation.
The last of her kind to have the gift,
the last whose knowing fingers
harvest and weave,
she must wait
till infant granddaughter grows
before she can pass on the ancient craft;
her only child, a son, lacks
blood’s inheritance
or woman’s patience.
No mollusk delivers up its thread to her.
Byssus cloth, shimmering with memories of nacre,
never sold but saved for special gifts of love,
is far less precious than her work.
Hers is true sea-silk,
woven from wave and wind.
It needs no lemon-juice to coax its gold.
Her silk catches the glint of sun,
star-silver, moon-shadow,
the undergleam of deeps shaded
by coral forests
and the dreams of whales.
Woven into armor,
its shark-strong links
make the warrior invincible.
Suppleness learned from
the dance of kelp beneath the waves,
its robes grant undine-gracefulness
to any wearer.
A sail of her stuff,
so fine it may fold into a tea-cup,
will carry your ship
through all the seven worlds.
—That is, for those few
who win the wave-weaver’s favor,
convince her of a righteous cause.—
But for herself,
she sometimes knits a net
and, passing the pearl-laden oysters by,
trawls the waters for the tales
the sea tells no one but itself.

poem12 Feb 2018 09:25 am
Michael and Satan:
forever among the homeless and the pigeons.
And the tourists—
every moment
someone is photographing them
with cameras that change year by year.
But they are only focused on each other.
Supposedly they are locked in battle:
Michael, triumphant with his sword;
Satan, defeated on the ground.
But from the side—
that isn’t fear in Satan’s eyes.
Mild annoyance perhaps,
familiarity certainly.
As if Satan has been lying in the sand,
reading a book or looking at the sea,
and Michael, bored, is jesting,
and will soon settle down
and sit beside him,
watching the water.
Photo by Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15905060
poem05 Feb 2018 08:00 am

It’s a day that smells of sulfur,
semi-cooled lava and odd vegetation
that will grow just about anywhere.
It’s a chiseling-rock day.
A collecting-samples day.
A day of wandering through
metals cast off by the deep interior.
I start it with a yawn,
a stumble across the bedroom floor.
I can hear my co-workers, already up.
filling the corridors with coughing and complaining.
It isn’t what I signed up for
but I own my situation just like I do my chin bristle.
Only the job doesn’t come clean
at the edge of a razor.

Wedge a fist open, find a coffee cup
stained the color of a molting rat,
poke gook out from under eyelids,
then slump in chair, suck caffeine into
every vein in my body
to waken all that blood sludge –
those are my body’s orders.
And reach for a cigarette of course –
like a mime because there are no cigarettes
between here and Epimetheus.
NASA don’t want me breathing in nicotine.
But they have no problem
with the fumes of Mount Copernicus.

The guy in the room next door flushes a toilet.
The woman on the other side
has brought her family along for the duration.
They argue like scientists with contradictory theories.
Over nothing really. It’s just how they are –
doomed to bring the ‘f’ word
to the far reaches of the galaxy.
A snarled “Don’t you talk that way to me”
is like an alarm clock around here.

Must be time for my second coffee.
Or my second phony cigarette.
The day’s instructions spill out of my bedside
multi-function unit.
The agenda is the same as yesterday and the day before.
And always, in bold lettering.
a brusque, “Don’t forget to turn in your reports
by the end of the day.”

So here I am.
More light years from home
then there is light.
I was out of university
and Big Space was hiring.
They stuck a helmet on my head,
equipped me with the latest in rock hammers,
and let me loose in the universe.
I’ve been sealing and labeling pebbles ever since.

I could have been a doctor like my old man.
Or even a musician like my grandfather.
They’ve never been beyond the stratosphere
and their imaginations haven’t complained.
By the time I see Earth again, I’ll be middle aged
And half the people I know will be dead.
Yes, with all that back pay, I’ll be Croesus rich.
But there’ll be no one for me to spend it on,
least of all myself.

The team meet in the mess hall for breakfast.
The conversation is muted and without eye contact.
Then it’s suit up, wave goodbye to oxygen,
and do your best to ape
exactly what you did yesterday.
Yes, I’ve witnessed much that others haven’t.
So wake me up when it’s time for me to testify.

illustration is 
poem29 Jan 2018 08:00 am
We had reservations,
luckily made months in advance;
even our inferior hostelry was filled.
Everyone wanted to visit the place
before it was too late. Some tourists
who expected lodging to be available
had meltdowns right there in the dank
lobby. We spent the debased currency
as if it were water, but icy native eyes
followed us with hostility, even though
we learned a common local greeting
(which translated roughly as Repent—
the end is near). Their famed arcades
appeared smaller than the guidebooks’
gushing descriptions, and the details
oddly rounded, compared to earlier
photos. Uncooperative guards would
not let us climb gleaming staircases
(Slippery When Wet signs impeded us
everywhere), nor allow us to set foot on
translucent bridges, even when offered
lavish bribes. Ancient statues of crystal
seemed to have shrunk and smoothed
further each time we passed by them.
Everywhere, deepening puddles lapped
at our ankles, and we shivered despite
the crowds in whose warmth we nestled.
We complained loudly about the dearth
of portable heaters, the dampness, plus
the lack of authentic restorations, and
asked them why they could not simply
move their planet further from its sun.
Illustration is By Giovanni Boldini – Dorotheum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18993859
poem22 Jan 2018 08:00 am

My clinging love,
I would move one moon
Around the other to have
But one more tesseract
Of your unignited breath,
One more contravening twist
Of your moribund compound eye, another
Sharing of crossed lecherous forelimbs.

Ours is a gradient of love outside of gravity,
And I know your many erotically enveloping shapes
By the bulbous singing of near crystals alone.

We make a triptych so elastically refined
That our peers at times see us at once solid and liquid,
And grievously spend the last of their minerals
To similarly evolve. Come with me:
Let us be the volcano, let us evenly
Salt the underside of the gaseous rocks.
Let us again spill dark matter wondrously arisen.
Craft gossamer with me yet another slithery dimension.

illustration By Didier Descouens – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12472781
poem15 Jan 2018 08:00 am


Find a hummingbird whose emerald wings
thrum like your lost lover’s heartbeat.
Wait three springs, or four, or eight,
till she hatches an egg the color of the sky
on your last happy day.

Break it in two
with a ruby-hilted sword.
Suck and savor
what would have been a bird;
this makes you stronger,
able to give up
what you’ve cradled and coddled all your life.
You no longer need it, not really.
You’re better off keeping it hidden,
and it’s better off, too;
you tell it that as it resists your

Insert the precious quivering thing
safe inside the egg.
Ignore the wild fluttering as it struggles
to break free.

Seal the egg with a locking spell
till the seam is invisible
and looks for all the world
like something that might still become.

Thrust the egg inside a ring-dove’s throat.
Force a fox to swallow the dove whole.
Never mind its pleading eyes.
Shove the fox into a silver casket
locked with a golden lock
whose key you down with a goblet of burgundy.

Round and round the casket wrap iron chains
insistent as seaweed wreathing a drowned man’s legs.
The fox in its prison may cry and yelp
but you will pretend
not to hear.
You don’t mean to be cruel;
it’s just the way things are.

Journey north to where the maps
say the world ends
or south to where all tales began,
it makes no difference;
it’s the distance that counts.
When you find a ship, take it;
it knows where to go.

Once you are far from the seven continents,
beyond the isles of pestilence,
where the sails die for want of wind,
you’ll know you have arrived.

seven leagues down,
ocean above you weighty as eternity,
to darkness so black
the whales fear it.
There in the sand,
where even the sharks won’t see,
bury the casket.

Swim back up.
Sail the world,
build a fortress,
destroy a city,
as you wish.

Now, you’ll think,
you will be safe forever,
nothing will ever hurt you again.

But someday you’ll hear chains burst,
a fox cresting the waves,
the beating of a ring-dove’s wings,
the crack of an egg.

Illustration is Orchids and Spray Orchids with Hummingbird by MJ Head
poem08 Jan 2018 08:00 am

The secrets of the forge come with a price.
The power of flame, the mastery of metal,
who can resist the bellow-blown mesmerism
of flames? Reds so intense they sublimate white,
that purifying danger, beckoning, haunting.

A tricky power, though, a sinister one.
Who can trust those who’ve delved into
the flames? Surely the bellows possess
an evil spirit, the horseshoes leak bad luck,
the blades already reek of the lives they will take.

A useful skill, but why take a chance? Keep those flames
outside, away from the homes of upright folk,
far from our vulnerable ones. Sickness spreads
from those flames, an evil breath, don’t you smell it
in the smoke that oozes out of the chimney?
And those who speak the tongue of flame and anvil too.
Pay them and flee back to the safety of our homes,
and let them come no nearer.


Image: English: Joseph Wright of Derby. An Iron Forge Viewed from Without. 1773. Oil on canvas 105 x 140 cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
poem01 Jan 2018 08:33 am

When we were kids,
no one wanted to be the zombie boy
from The Nightmare Before Christmas,
the fat kid flanked by zombie parents
and guided through each day.
Even when he’s not attached to Mom
by a leash or held on Dad’s shoulders,
you know he’s never been by himself
to the park, or what passes for a park
in that Gothic Podunk.

No, everyone wanted to be the three feral kids,
the Huck Finn Lost Boy kids,
wolf pup pack,
stylish street gang of three:
devil kid, witch kid, dead kid.
Bonds stronger than summer camp lanyards.
Running wherever by themselves with each other.
Adventures beyond gray hills, candy for dinner,
never flinching at the Louise Bourgeois spiders.

We wanted to be kids like that,
mouths and feet free.
Parents are missing in stories for a reason.

But stories are stories,
and in stories you know
Jim the freedman or James the pirate or Jack the skeleton
is ready to step in. And look:
here comes the car driven by adults,
the three kids riding small-town-cool on top,
their tricks wordlessly forgiven
as they return to the safety of the square.

As children we knew we were not in a story,
and that refusing the leash meant refusing the shoulders.
That “lost” would mean something different to us,
something with sidewalks and broken glass
and stale smells we did not recognize.

poem26 Dec 2017 08:27 am

It’s not what you know; it’s what you do with it.

Slunk: the skin of an unborn calf;
there is another word for the skin
of an unborn snow leopard.

Alembic: a vessel or flask, but anything
can be a vessel and serve to contain
fluids, liquid or gaseous. Some fluids
cannot be contained.

Caul: the translucent membrane enclosing
a fetus; it must be quickly retrieved
following a carnivore birth, before
the mother eats it. Its flavor is best
not described.

Glory: the halo of light formed around a shadow
cast upon mist; this light can be refined
and forged into a weapon.

Oculus: an opening for seeing through,
sometimes found, sometimes deliberate.
What can be seen through a naturally
formed hole in a small stone depends
on where the stone came from
and what left it behind.

Ecliptic: a great circle in the cosmos
representing the sun’s path over the course
of a year. Eclipses occur when the moon
crosses this path. What happens
when the moon crosses your path?

Cistern: an underground reservoir
for rainwater or other liquids. Dry,
it may serve to sequester a living
subject for a considerable time.

Soras: the length of an eclipse cycle
on the terrestrial plane. There are
other planes, glistening and golden.

Albedo: the measure of reflected light.
But you wished to measure
the reflection of darkness.

There are words for the precise stretching
of shadows, for the semen of a murderer,
for the eyelashes of a strangled faun,
for the foreskin of a demon, in languages
extinct for millennia in this universe.
The inflection changes depending on
whether it is an albino demon. After
memorizing the lexicon and syntax,
it’s only a matter of intention.

poem27 Nov 2017 08:03 am

For sale: one chest of drawers
(slightly used) of corpses
some drawers stick
some full of hands,
full of heads empty of thought
some chest of drawers

of chests

For sale: the buttons
once kept in that chest emptied to make room
now used by surgeons
to button your plastic together
(mint condition) action figure
posed to attract buyers
who pass hurriedly assuming
that you’re another mannequin

for sale,

more interested in the clothes
on your frame
than in your frame itself

For sale. Dolls, many varieties;
life-like screaming excreting,
IV marionette, paper
with nurse outfit,
CPR dummy, mouths agape.

For sale: used books,
used up. Words no longer function.

For sale: one music box
Gears in good working order (see)
as one turns over in gurney
the beeps and blips change tempo
the song box rings out its finale
with bells of mourning

For sale: bells
For sale: bells
For sale: bells

illustration is the Spice Shop by Paulo Barbieri, 1637

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