poem14 Aug 2017 08:43 am

The King Crab ruled from high
in his sandcastle
until one day, troubled,
shod his seahorse
with horseshoe crabs
and, with a brace of pistol shrimp,
rode away from his kingdom
into the enchanted
kelp forest

where he stumbled on
a crabapple hermit crab apple crab
who had visions and told tales
of a higher land
of warrior mantis monks
rescuing pretty maids
from dragonflies,

of sailfish sailors
who discover that the shore
is just the sleep crust on the ocean
which is, itself, an eye.

The hermit said, “Your ornamental
gardens, livestock, patterns
in the clouds,

we attack the world with a putty knife,
forming it in our own image,
at least into the mold
of our brains.”

The ocean, blinking, eroded
the sandcastle away like every metaphor
under tides of indifference.

illustration, A Crab Lying on his Back, by Van Gogh
poem07 Aug 2017 09:36 am
  • I.

    There is more witchcraft in your words than in the highest of candle-circle ceremonials
    More sacredness in your smallest sigh than in the towers and arches of cathedrals.
    Where other pyres leave scars, your fireglow kindles comfort and joy.
    There is more gold in your breath, more divinity in the palms of your hands
    More absolution in the twist of my hair around your finger
    Than in a thousand churches in a thousand years.
    When I look into the divine, it looks back into me.
    We were told that if we ever met past the edge of the clean, sanctioned light,
    We would know only discord.
    Our songs would fall flat and so would we, dance ending before it began.
    We’d trip on our own feet–look, down on the ground, right on our faces
    Like the first humans in the first Garden.
    But in choirs of angels I heard my own voice calling your name before I knew to speak
    In pulsing drums and racing hearts and every breath, I heard you answer.
    We knew every step.
    We didn’t fall.
    You took my hand and led me away from the sun.
    I didn’t miss it.
    Its light was always harsh, always glaring, always sharper than a serpent’s tooth.
    The first time I felt any sun-warmth was on my back as I turned.
    The dark blessed us both,
    Feather-soft, nectar-sweet, wing-rush free and full-moon joined.
    When opposing melodies meet, heavens ring with harmonies.
    Rapture sounds best around a bonfire.
    After the circle,
    We stood together at a crossroads:
    A pair of vampires, when no one would invite us in.
    You looked at me–you still held my hand–and asked, “which?”
    I smiled and said, “craft our own.”
poem31 Jul 2017 05:00 am

swollen and pitted with arthritis

a blue marble
smooth but for the jagged crack
cleaving one side

a lullaby
a mother never got to sing
to her newborn son

dog tags
dented and scratched

a baby’s tooth

she walks through the cemetery
collecting them one at a time

the knucklebone
rolls to her of its own accord

the marble
is a hard lump beneath her foot
sullen and frightened

she kneels in the wet grass
listening to the lullaby
as she turns the knucklebone and marble
between her fingers

the dog tags
lay just beneath the surface
of fresh-turned soil

she has to dig for the tooth
in an unmarked plot
along the outer fence
while the infant wails incoherently
through his trash bag and rags

the knucklebone
goes to the granddaughter
who treasured the quilts
her grandmother continued to make
even as her fingers bent and twisted

the blue marble
goes to the man
walking through the prison gates
a reminder to hang from his keychain

the lullaby
she writes down in a neat hand
on fine paper
and slips beneath the front door
of the heartsick widower

the dog tags
she delivers in person
to the legless marine
and then holds him while he weeps

the tooth
she keeps for herself
she fills her pockets with them
strings them around her neck and wrists
tokens of the lost and abandoned
as she walks cemeteries uncounted
gathering the gifts of the dead


A skeletal couple gaze at their baby’s first tooth.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Colour lithograph by L. Crusius, 1897.
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
poem24 Jul 2017 08:00 am

Dug in under ice, rock,
where stars don’t twinkle,
but remain hard, cold, distant dots.

Look up: Io’s belching sulfur again—
droplets flung across the void,
caught by unseen winds,
rain against the surface.

Europa and Ganymede shoulder
into view, fleeting across the face
of the monster that chains us all.

Squint: you can just see auroras
dancing like ghosts, spirits, around
Ganymede, as the king’s tongue,
radiation-laden, licks his fleeing favorite.

His swollen red eye peers at us
as water-miner drones lift off,
returning to ships waiting in higher orbit.

Here, we’re far from his leering gaze,
his lecherous tongue, his groping gravity.
And yet, we never feel quite safe;
we’re trapped, like all his other lovers.

image by ESO/M. Kornmesser, downloaded from http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1615a/
poem17 Jul 2017 08:00 am

Her bones vibrate with song.
She is the lute strung with flesh.
You would have to touch her to hear.
You would have to touch her to understand

I am descended from a line of witches
stretching all the way back to the age of fires.
We never burned, but oh, we own the heat.
Coals are ice in our hands, and hearts
not brittle fantastical things that break,
but bloody muscle that fits in our hands.

Her hands are always lined with sand, earth.
She is a pilgrim looking for pearls in a desert.
You would have to follow her to know what she really wants.
You would have to stop looking at her to really see.

I am like the wandering wind, nothing
like all these brave women before me. They
owned the earth they were born on, and I
have forgotten the place where my mother gave me life
and left her own to sing with shadows.
And if Death is my home, I choose not to want it.

Her coat is the sky made from starlight and ice.
She never hungers even if her mouth is always dry.
You would have to think up the well
deep enough to slake her thirst.

I am no longer without shadow.
I am no longer star-hidden, ice-cowled.
Once they feel your flesh, once they really see you,
all they want is bind you to their earth, home they call it.
Shadows form when you stop moving with the stars,
when you bow your head to the sun.

Her bones glow like molten gold,
Her heart as if caught by the lute’s string.
She will take the fruit from your hand and eat.
You would have to catch her shadow in a well to make her drink.

Illustration is Hexen by Hans Baldung, 1508
poem10 Jul 2017 08:37 am

Who painted the sky
with brushes of fire? In streaks
of cometious flame?
That artist moved
on to another canvas
long before his creation
could be witnessed, seen, admired

Everything we see above
belongs to dusty past
Those splots of light scattered
like Pollock’s drips—chaos
or order? Only aficionados
and art critics will debate

while a student sees points
of light and imagines the lines
between, makes connections,
draws shapes, scrys symbols
Divining the dimensions of destiny

Only a student possesses
such confidence in the face
of monumental impossibility. And only
a master realizes the futility

of over-simplifying the stars
knowing each one isn’t a drip—
it’s a galaxy, crammed with worlds

where destiny is dwarfed by possibilities
too numerous to imagine

and pauses to admire the artist, instead

Sunset By Félix Vallotton, 1913 – http://impressionistsgallery.co.uk/artists/Artists/tuv/Vallotton/19-25.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55156972
poem03 Jul 2017 08:21 am

                            The years
pass and pass, and still she feeds
the snakes in her hair
one by one, wary of bites.
She has forgotten the names
she first gave them, forgotten
just how many bites,
but not her scars,
hard as bronze,
rough as sand.

                            The days
pass and pass, and still she can’t
stop studying the wind-churned foam.
She dons sandals,
sunglasses, a large grey hat
steps quietly into the sun,
steps quietly in to the crowds.

                            So hard
to see the monsters here.
She sips a coke, nibbles pizza,
mourns that fruit doesn’t taste as sweet
when not stolen from the gods.
Children shriek against the waves.
The snakes hiss in her ear.

                            She lifts
her hand to the hat.
Later she will find some living food.
Later she will sing to them.
For now she watches the shifting sea,
lets the salt fall on her lips.
She is only skin and stone.

Monsters Exhibition (Palazzo Massimo, Rome, 2014)‎, photo by Sailko
poem26 Jun 2017 11:39 am

mirror, mirror
you needn’t be shattered
to slice into my flesh, my bone
who is fairest? never me
look how you twist the light
it’s not mere age, no
this nose is mine, same as ever
bulbous and broad
hair, lackluster as straw
after a day on the stable floor
skin wearing a sheen of oil
near reflective as glass
and downward
this dumpling body
my ogre thighs
their friction could spark fires
their quakes, level cities

if I could blame a curse
claim some dark geas
has distorted my beauty
made me into a beast–if only!
no, the plain truth stares me down
reminds me of why I stay locked
within this tower among clouds
where word by word
I have laid these bricks
to hide my ugliness from the world
never myself

Portrait of a Lady (Plastic Drawing) (Lyubov Popova, 1915)
poem19 Jun 2017 08:00 am

The River soothes,
the River strangles,
it rushes beneath the moon

At the River’s edge,
the funeral pyre rises above
our sweat stained shirts,
our calloused hands.

We drink,
we sing,
we wait
for the procession to arrive.

I cast a glance.
The River rises,
the River falls.
I know what’s out there:

The River Monster,
beneath the rushing water,
with eyes of onyx,
patient as the coming dawn.

The procession approaches,
mourners cry,
prayers are spoken,
we position the corpse,

feet pointed southward,
The River Monster
gurgles with delight.

Its odor is masked
by the scent of basil,
rose and jasmine,

The chief mourner
sprinkles water,
three times he circles the pyre,
before lowering the torch.

Flames rise,
the corpse roasts and crackles.
Water splashes in the dark,
the River Monster nears.

The pyre warms the night.
We bake and bask,
we drink and sing,

Soon the pyre crumbles,
ash and charcoal
enter the water,

We stand back
as the River Monster
crawls ashore,
swallows the smoke

then disappears
into the River’s depths,
where it will wait,
patient as the coming dawn.

poem04 Jun 2017 08:00 am

On a world where alcohol
kills the natives with the inevitability
of a bullet through the head,
it takes a special sort of bartender
to pay the rent each month.

Finding thrill-seekers,
the young and the foolish,
who don’t have the sense
evolution gave a gibber bug,
finding them night after night
after night after night,
wears a body down,
dulls an agile tongue.

Finding the depressed,
the suicidal and near-,
those tired of life, ready
for one last experience
that can rouse a flicker of interest
in a jaded cephalothorax.

Too, the impulse buyers, the
I’m-tough-enough crowd
(they’re not),
and if you get enough trade
to keep the doors open….

So many bodies!
Takes a strong back
(even with power tools,
back hoes, et cetera)
a young back, too,
working long hours,
or the dead stack up.

Lax laws on this planet,
but do-gooders from off-world
(humans, the Sirius, the Thalxa, many more),
they keep getting in your face
like you’re doing something wrong.
But, you have a solution.
Quick or dead, know what I mean?
And you have helpers, young and strong,
a backhoe, power tools.

Still there are times it gets you down:
dawn after a slow night, the rent overdue,
midday in the pouring rain,
your birthday spent alone,
and you think,
I coulda picked something easy,
plenty of jobs with less stress,
better hours and better benefits,
and no one trying to lynch you,
but hell, you fill a void,
you’d have no custom
if you weren’t needed,
right? And so you live,
to kill another day,
in humble service.

image: CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2969474
Absinthe Paul Beucler à Bart (25 France) par M. Ringel

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