poem04 Sep 2017 11:17 am

Little Red,
Motherless babe,
Taught to be self-sufficient
And brave at a young age.

She gathered fruit,
Hunted squirrel, trained herself
To be a sharpshooter
With the wooden crossbow she made.

Werewolves in the forest,
The local rumors howled.
Little Red was unperturbed.
She had no fear at all.

She’d fought off snakes,
Outrun grizzlies,
Shot alligators
While spearing fishes.

“But this is new,” her ill Gran said,
“This is a cross between a wolf and a man.
He’s wily, wicked, and dangerous too.
I worry he might outsmart you.”

“Fear not, dear Gran,” Little Red said.
“I’ll fetch the doctor. Go back to bed.
My aim is true. If he causes trouble,
I’ll take care of it.”

Through the woods she walked,
Eyes ever watchful,
This fragile little girl,
Cloaked in a velvet red hood.

Predators stayed away,
Fearful of Little Red’s spear.
Only the new ones in the wood
Dared to venture near.

A soft woosh betrayed his presence.
Little Red sent two shots his way.
A yowl of pain from the south.
Little Red sent four more that way.

Out leapt the werewolf,
Dripping blood like bread crumbs.
That furry crazy-eyed wolf thing,
At Little Red he lunged.

She stepped artfully aside,
Shot him another two times:
Once in the head,
Once in his eye.

Another two for posterity,
And he was down
Splayed and drunk
Like a sheep skin rug.

Little Red rushed home,
Doc in tow.
Gran was sitting up,
Unnaturally flushed.

Her smile revealed
Stalactites in the snow.
She tore the good Doc in two
Without so much as a hello.

Little Red stared in dismay.
For the first time, she could not aim.
Scarecrow-still, she watched
Gran turn, face elongating,

Arms sprouting fur, like
Seedlings in slow-motion.
Gran’s nails and teeth
Grew like rabid weeds.

In her eyes,
A familiar crazed expression but
None of the love nor recognition
Little Red used to see inside.

She swung her new talons
At Little Red’s head, unfroze her
With the knowledge
That this was no longer Gran.

Gran would never
Raise her hand
At her beloved granddaughter.
This was truly some other monster.

Twin head shots
Dispatched that alien thing.
Little Red wept with sadness and rage
As she carried Gran’s body for burying.

Now marked
A new era for Little Red.
It was time to grow up;
Time to hunt predators instead.

Illustration is “Red Riding Hood Meets Old Father Wolf”, Gustave Dore, 1864
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poem28 Aug 2017 08:27 am
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poem21 Aug 2017 08:03 am

this world is not of our choosing
no
we did not choose this world
of dense black forests
and thick yellow fog
and stinging rain

woken
too soon
from our centuries’ sleep
stranded
beneath strange stars

and our children died
and our children died
and our children died

the trees shivered with our grief
and drank our tears
and their trunks split wide
pink wood
and wet

and we tucked our children inside
those who could not breathe
whose eyes burned and bled
whose skin blistered and broke

dense black bark knit and grew
sealing our children
within their warm wet trunks

and the stinging rain fell
and the thick yellow fog flowed
among the dense black trees
and the strange stars became familiar

when the trees crack open
will they still be our children?

illustration By Caspar David Friedrich – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=151076
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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
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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.
    II.
    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.
    III.
    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.
    IV.
    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.”
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poem31 Jul 2017 05:00 am

knucklebone
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
uncut

she walks through the cemetery
collecting them one at a time

the knucklebone
rolls to her of its own accord
eager

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
images@wellcome.ac.uk
http://wellcomeimages.org
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/
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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/
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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
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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
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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
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