December 2016

poem26 Dec 2016 07:18 am


On the first day, after the appropriate sacrifices
(hare and tortoise, several calamari, and a brace of snails)
we watched our hero Hippias in the discus race.
The rolling discus squashed the toes of half a dozen men,
and he was one. Maybe next time.

At noon, the Spartan women hosted
a magnificent display of competitive callisthenics.
Eye-gouging was not permitted;
all else was fair. Almost all survived the fray.
It will go down in legend.

After lunch, the chariot hurling! Incorruptible judges
down from Thrace ensured that every chariot was standard weight.
More than half the field was disqualified. Our hero Philippos
passed that hurdle, but any of the Spartan girls
could have thrown the chariot twice as far as him.

At sunset, in the Olympian Lake, our hero Gorgias
will compete in the octopus wrestling.
He’s several arms and legs behind his giant foe,
but we’re hoping the philosophy he’s studied will give him the edge
against a mere beast, though it counts past eight with ease.

The javelin hunt will top off a perfect day.
We’ll hunt the elusive javelin across the wooded hills
by the thin light of the crescent moon.
The shy creatures never prowl until full dark.
A jolly night for all (except perhaps the javelins).

Image of kylix in British Museum, photo by © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5
poem19 Dec 2016 08:00 am


We were a colony of the broken,
a colony of famished sorrow,
our eyes branded with the searing tongues

that licked away the life we knew,
tongues that lapped our loved ones
into a throat that swallowed

with the immensity of an endless shadow,
and the hunger of our huntress whale
stalking her krill throughout this flaming sea.

Wherever we looked,
it was all the same:
we tried to blink away

the horrors in hopeless flutters,
but the smoke of writhing bodies
will never leave our eyes.

So we march
into the dreaded hills
like a line of melted ants

detached from the hive mind,
brains disoriented
like a jumble of squirming worms.

We build our huts in latticework,
unconventional honeycombs
as if to build away our old way of life,

but now we are just the parasites
lost in a world no longer ours.
And so here we huddle,

here we nest,
the oscillations of our cries
phasing into broadcasts

at long-range frequency,
the vibrations of our shared lament
humming static throughout the night.

illustration By unknown master (book scan) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
poem12 Dec 2016 11:20 am


12 stories above the drowned Cathedral grounds
on the ledge, just under the spire’s roof
my back against the wall, under the gargoyle
his front talons outstretched, darkly angelic, he’d hardly save me
spewing ice-cold rainwater, he seems indifferent to my life and death

while the choir of their passage, the Valkyrie
circle in the blood-red sky
pick out the heroes and villains from the battle still raging below
their souls aglow
whether to Valhalla or to Folkvangr (their judgment)

I remain invisible, beyond help or harm
a ghost, simply
convulsive with cold
shackled to the ledge and to the side of the wall
by sheer terror
my fear of heights, and of falling
an observer

if only I still wore those wings of canvas and bamboo
I wore in the mountains of Shangri-La!
to my own undoing, I admit

Would that I could still do battle, and be judged
would that I could fall into the fray
to change the tide
to cry my cry of ecstasy
as rage and blood filled my senses with power and might
squandered on a cause I could not know

so I am bound

and in my own selfish vanity I cried–
’tis well I cry nothing, I’ve nothing to say

illustration By Peter Paul Rubens – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,