February 2018

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
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