October 2016

poem31 Oct 2016 08:33 am


Death said she had something to show me;
What? I wondered—
Pornographic centerfolds of the Dead?
The lost piece of petrified wood
Once mounted in my grandfather’s favorite ring?

It was neither of these things,
Though, in a sense, all and more
And it wasn’t for my eyes
At least not these organic ones
Which perceive in the usual spectrum—

Not for these mortal eyes of mine.

She came to me again
Once I was robotic, a cyborg,
Still possessing a human mind
And tattered strips of flesh
Here and there
With eyes of glass like a camera’s lens;
And only then did lovely Death
Reveal her final offering:

A jittering map of sorts,
Glowing and pulsing with infras and ultras,
Dreamlike, nightmarish;
She showed me a blueprint of my soul—
Demented dreams concealed inside
Erasures of memories long denied

So many revelations I did not wish to know.
Broken pathways of indecisions,
Lies and secrets best not told—
Inept choices, foolish revisions
Delineated lines of neural flow—
Nor could I overcome
The horrorshow

And then Death said
She had no regard
For me, whatsoever

poem24 Oct 2016 08:00 am


Summer in the exclusion zone,
days spent exploring the forgotten city,
hiking among new timbers growing
wild among abandoned buildings,
camped out each night
in a different derelict place.

Those soft and quiet Chernobyl nights,
spent together in our little canvas tent,
all hot breath and sweaty sleeping bags.

I’d expected a mutant wilderness
and was proven wrong each day
by roe deer, spotted eagle,
and endless pine & larch
to where it was easy to forget
there was a world out there
beyond the forest.

Some two hundred people
live here year-round,
a sparse few having migrating
in since the accident,
but most simply having never left
the shadow of the old reactor.

Once, we traded a group of
German hikers the last of our
peanut butter for two thin joints,
and stayed up all night long
looking at art books and laughing
on the floor of the cultural center,
you smiled and said something like,
“H.R. Geiger Counter”
and I knew I was in love.

But there is a certain
kind of stillness here,
with time not exactly forgot
but held to a looser second,
causing minutes to unravel
into days into weeks into
the first russets of autumn.

And when I ask if you’ll come back,
to the yellow-rusted ferris wheel
and little elephant slide,
to the empty public pool
and tore up library,
you simply shrug and look
off towards the sunset.

They are beautiful here,
despite the desolation
–and because of it.

Photo by Shanomag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
poem17 Oct 2016 08:00 am



A jovial drunk, my father…
His verbosity
expanded diametrically
to his sobriety—
not so unusual in his early cups
from other alcoholics I have known:
careful elocution and
high-brow multisyllabics to distract the audience
(he thought)
from that slow slip-slide into inebriation.
But as each occasion wore on,
the liquor let trip from his tongue
every gimcrack archaism hoarded by lexophiles,
so much so that I sometimes wondered
if he was speaking English or
some long-lost language known only
to cabalists of peculiar arts.
On and on his articulation unraveled
for also-tipsy companions until I—
cornered with a sippy cup of warm cider
that tasted suspiciously of cough syrup—
doubted his elaborate syntax
corresponded to any human dialect,
living or dead.
Yet still he soliloquized,
cadences and inflections consistent
as they were mysterious,
as if he recited a labyrinthine spell
no less enchanting for being impenetrable.
And never did he wax so loquacious
as the night of my sixteenth birthday,
when he drank so profoundly and orated
with such unintelligible conviction that,
holding court before the fireplace,
first his loafered feet then all the way up
to his gesticulating cigarette,
my father transformed to
one long helix of opaque smoke
that slipped up the chimney
and into the star-flecked night.
Those who ran outside insist
he dissipated amidst the Milky Way
but that explanation is neither officially
nor socially acceptable—
no bureaucratically endorsed acronym exists,
for child abandonment via sublimation.
Thus I simply say,
“My father and I are estranged.”

art by By Humberto Antonio Muniz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22851878
poem10 Oct 2016 08:53 am


The plates have shifted again
And mana from the surface
Drifts languidly down the ocean,

Bringing sustenance
To the hibernating creatures below;
Bringing new life to the gravid ones.

Soon the babies are born,
Mouths wide, searching for nourishment
From their mother,

Who lies prone
On the ocean bed, dying–
Her life’s purpose complete.

When she is gone,
The nurselings are fully grown,
Pairing up to mate, a tradition

Since their species first evolved
Five eons ago.
For generations,

This has not changed.
Till one curious female
Resolves to rewrite her fate.

She parts from the tribe,
Determined to find adventure
On the mysterious surface,

The place they call
The Source,
Where all food comes from.

She swims,
Up the unending sea,

Against gravity,
Till she finally
Reaches the top.

Sunlight pierces through the ice
To warm her face, a sensation
She has never felt in her life.

She marvels at how bright
The world above is–
The countless silver white lights,

The boundless sky beyond.
What other seas does it possess
In the vast world above?

Are there more creatures
Like her, bound in
This life and death cycle?

She wonders and dreams,
Takes a deep breath
And passes her head

Through the membrane
Separating the ocean
And the black.

She cannot draw a breath,
The vacuum swiftly
Turning her into frost.

She must quickly submerge
Or die an icy death.
Yet she takes a moment

To gaze at the wondrous sight,
Too magnificent to fathom, till
Her lungs swell beyond endurance.

She dives back down
In a fraction of an instant,
Her eyes almost glazed over,

Bright star lights
At the back of her mind.

Adrenaline drives her home
To the ocean’s abyss,
Where it is safe,

Her comforting place.
Vivid memories of
Being held close

Against her mother,
And her sisters
And brothers,

Milk warming her insides
As she slumbers
And dreams.

Surrounded by her brethren,
Her body worn and broken,

She sings the tale
Of the immeasurable

The silver white stars,
The swirling orange giant,
The rings on the pearled diamond.

What wonders do they possess,
What creatures do they hold?
Will you follow my path?

Uncover the world above?
Let us explore and learn,
Instead of having offspring

Without giving them something
To dream of. A life foregone,
Just like our mother’s.

We can endure the hard swim
If we go together. Discover
New meanings to our existence

Past our vast ocean.
The world beyond is so brilliant
And bright. O the light…

Joy brimming in her heart,
She replays that final image
Of the sky

And holds it tenderly
In her mind’s eye
As she dies,

Flying now
Amongst the stars,
In the place she loves.

Above, the surface rumbles
And creaks, shifting again
To close the breach.

poem03 Oct 2016 08:00 am



My education began
at the age of nine,
secret lessons held
once a month by
a masked tinker
who frequented our village.

Crouched among the evening dust
in the alley behind the butcher’s shop,
drenched in sweat and shadow,
watching intently as he drew
strange symbols in the dirt.

He spoke with a heavy Slavic accent
and wore bandages all over his face;
I once asked him what he looked like underneath
and he said that if I asked him again,
he would show me.

I learned how to dowse for water
and navigate by stars alone,
how to tell a good can
from an irradiated one,
and of course to work
the common metals.

At the end of our lessons,
he would often speak of his life before,
living along a great body of water
so large it circled the world,
ebbing and flowing, pulled he claimed,
by the movement of the moon,
in everything he said, there was magic.


For homework I was assigned
to fix our farm tools,
common axe and spade work,
quickly moving on to repairing
the plow and hydrator,
always prone to clogging
during the summer sands.

Long afternoons spent
in my family’s toolshed,
bent over artifacts left
by my grandfather,
“junk from before”
as my mother called it,
including a rifle and phonograph,
which eventually I got to turn,
but never found a record for.


I used the rifle only once,
on a dark summer night
when three men came to our farm,
men from outside the village,
who had heard my mother
was left alone with three young
girls and a strange little boy.

When they tried to break inside,
I hit the largest one in the chest, on my first shot.
he fell to the dirt, writhing,
the rest just stood there for a moment, staring,
before running off, back to their alkie
and their dingy little shacks on the edge of town.

They never bothered us again.


When I was fifteen,
my mother died of pox
and I chose to leave the village;
my older sisters had both married
to good local farmers, like our father,
and the third, our youngest, took to the cloth.

I had known since the day
I met the masked man
that I would go away,
traveling the world as he did,
though I would return many times
to visit my sisters and help where I could.

But before I left,
I asked him again,
what he looked like under all
those tightly wrapped,
thick-white bandages.

And he showed me.


The burns were extensive,
worse than I had ever seen,
he had no hair and his flesh
had turned black in places,
taking on the half-melted look
of a forgotten candle.

His left eye was almost completely
covered by a thin layer of skin,
he had no lips to speak of,
his worn and yellowed teeth
simply jutted out at any odd angle,
giving his appearance an almost
demonic cast in the gloaming light.

I stood there for a long time staring,
as he told me how it was going to be.

You can have this village, it is yours,
but there will be others, where I ply my trade,
you are not welcome there,
you must travel further out, as I did at your age,
do you understand?


You know the signs of the marauders,
don’t let them catch your scent
or you’ll never lose them
and do your best to skirt the crimson wood
or you’ll end up handsome, like me.

Do you understand?


And never take a job for free,
always make trade for something,
this way the world can keep turning,
do you understand?

I nodded, but he only laughed.

No. You don’t. But you will.

And with that,
he wound the mask
around his face once more,
and walked off into the growing night,
out of my village and out of sight,
into a world that belonged to him,
and that one day, would belong to me.