poem25 Jun 2018 08:38 am

When we were what we no longer are
(young and less understanding of the world)
we would break those windows open
from within, shake
out our beds as if
that could make us unbelieve
the dreams we dreamed the night before.

We have no youth left, our eyes
like aged glass, like thinned milk;
we knew something once
that we forgot on the way to
no more houses that keep us inside,
no more windows that keep us from seeing

but
the owl women need no fear, no darkness
is the shade of dark
that could haunt an owl woman;

true, when the sun is high, burning the roof of heaven,
we bury our heads in each other’s feathers,
ears and hearts close as sin and suffering. We are afraid
(as afraid as owl women can be)
that we will never again hunt
white mice through the labyrinths of darkness
(yes, each turn will lead them closer to us, closer.)

And yet we know, sure as a house lies there
in dying want for human care,
that we will be here, that we are here,
after.

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poem18 Jun 2018 08:28 am

Guests was what we called the prisoners.
The term for us was contractors.
We saw ourselves as insouciant
sunbeams, a cult of gentlemen
rogues rendering extraordinary
service, wielding scientific methods.
Sometimes just our fists were
enough. UV lights glared around
the clock. Gook was the yellow
syrup they exuded under applied
stress, which resisted scouring
from interrogation-room floors
no matter what corrosive rinses
and surfactants were applied.
We had the cafeteria waitstaff
remove the reminiscent mustard
from the condiment lazy-susans,
and blunt the cutlery. We threw
breadballs and surfed on the sizzle
of duty-free liquor transported
all the way from the World.
We requested medical treatment
for our repetitive-motion trauma
and demanded personal rainbows
of numbing pharmaceuticals. Clearly,
flaws were already present. Organs
that might not have corresponded
to ours burst like eyeballs swollen
with glaucoma, or rupturing soufflés.
The fluid spewing out reminded us
of the slick inspirational harangues
a representative from HQ delivered
weekly, propped at the rec-room
podium while we fossilized
on folding metal chairs. Flowcharts
slid into view, titled Results
Are What Counts, as he prodded
the controls, promising bonuses.
He said advantage and incalculable,
and what sounded like goldrush.
His entourage gawked at the parade
as we herded guests to a narrow
stretch of shore where we kept them
behind electric nets between sessions.
Ponderous as glaciers, or cumulus
rising into windless air on a summer
evening, they looked like miniature
belugas or gigantic albino muskrats,
bellies billowing in the shallows
as they huddled together. Not mammals,
despite their warmth. Not like us.
The poignard spike of keratin jutting
from each orbital ridge was removed
surgically at intake processing—
the greeting ritual, we called it.
We gave them names: Marshmallow,
Cream Puff, Cool Whip, scarified them
with ID markings. They never made
noises in the audible-frequency range,
but we started wearing headphones
anyway. Dark lenses and heavy gloves
were already part of our uniforms.
Then one of the dishwashers let slip
what the first behavioral psychics
had discovered: our guests were only
hapless remnants of a dimensional-
cartography expedition come to grief
when their energy devices failed,
marooned in an unknown universe
with entirely different physical laws,
and imploring us for sanctuary.
Less-gullible advisors were quickly
sent to oversee us, stun batons poised.
Guests were stubborn, we were told, and
could withstand further vigor. We ran
into snags. Our glowering controllers
applied a sort of triage: those ruined
irreparably would serve as examples
to the others. Surely survivors would
bargain as they became desperate,
and reveal their arcane inheritance.
We underwent further motivational
conditioning; some of us were also
used as examples. When inchoate panic
set in, our replacements were already
in orbit above the facility. We knew then
that no one was going home. After
flooding the administration dome
with gas, we went down to the shore
for the last time. We shorted out
the netting, abandoned our gear
on the beach. Our guests let us ride them,
our final life-rafts, all the way out
beyond the continental shelf to where
the huge waves began, to a place
where we had always been friends.

illustration is  Sailing by Moonlight by Albert Pinkham Ryder
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poem11 Jun 2018 08:06 am


at age twelve
dad took me to
the space museum

i toppled planets
i stacked three feet high
my dad squinted and 
pulled his fingers
into a circle and
looked through–
like a captain
eyeing his 
telescopic piece–
“a meter,” he said
before they fell
pluto hitting his
newly-waxed
shoes

when we stopped
at the gift shop
i pointed at the 
astronaut ice cream–
when he came 
from the register
i pulled at the 
metallic wrapping
it did not
give way–
he pulled out
his swiss army
knife and ran a
cut through its 
crinkling packaging

strawberry-flavored
dry and brittle
it was nothing
like ice cream
on Earth

(except it was
on Earth)

he never imagined
that his curious girl

fifteen years later
would be squeezed
into metal packaging
stubborn and 
resisting tearing–
tough and obnoxious
only a laceration
from a passing 
micrometeorite
released the

dry and brittle
flesh within

image by the poet
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poem28 May 2018 09:56 am

After the prince satisfied his quest
installing my dainty foot
in the mink shoe he married
me added to his collection

Those long lonely days
as my transformation took place
mice and lizards my fey staff
a pumpkin transmuted into a coach
and pair, rags to glamour

After all, we met on looks alone
my bedazzlement with influence
more than I could use dissipated
once I had a chance to think
to take a breath, loosen my corset

The prince moved away
on kingdom needs, another quest
or a dragon lady to bind
I had been a machine dumping ashes
sifting cinders, baking, scouring
a perfect world for the privileged

I itched to bring order
to a palace already in its place
every servant jealously guarding
their realm of right and duty

In boredom I contacted my enchanted guardian
but not for gowns nor enthralling
trysts with dashing rulers
this time I wished to change again, take flight
learn the skills of riding out of reach

Another gourd became my sedan
a race into the country
against the dragging time
to save my life for a day
with russet foxes and dormice
my new and feral attendants
always maintaining an uncultivated glint
in the depths of their eyes
my heart

I raced the trees through the passage
of endless repetition to find
a space where I could be
I lost the track of appointments
and trails until I ran wild
in a field of rodents and vixens
kicking along a great orange pumpkin

Women often seem to run afoul
of curses, witches and evil stepmothers
living under the demands of one
or the other until virtue wins
a place in a man’s world

I ran through meadows
punting the gourd with my petite
yet sturdy peasant feet
until a man named Peter
found me in his field
He understands the land
the grains, the woodland mede
the need to touch the earth
feel the fecund thrills of growth

When he noticed my feet
it was not because of rare furs
that encased them nor of a size
that denoted something to protect
a delicate keepsake for within castle walls

But how my toes gripped the soil
that I outran his greyhound
We laughed in the crescent moonlight
shadows danced as we chased the pumpkin
skittering helter skelter
until a tree delivered its demise

It took the rupturing fruit
its scent infused us with a need
to dig into the deep dark loam
burrow like feasting worms
crawl beneath the leaves

I left behind a perfect life
to live with a farmer
but when they say he kept me
very well it means he won’t take
the king’s rubies nor sacks of gold
knows I own my self, free to leave
whenever my feet demand

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poem21 May 2018 08:00 am


A language fugue in plague major.
A fever that elates the imagination.
An alien utterance in our midst.
Tongues transformed to babbling towers
that swell from between the teeth
to trumpet nonsense sibilant and dense.

While neighbors drone fluently
in dialects that stretch their lips
and distort the lines of their features,
those uninfected stare in speechlessness.

Unsettling as the jaundiced auburn sky
where reflected images of our cities
appear to blur elongate and dissolve,
it begins in the open marketplace
as Tarval the tailor rushes to his shop
to cut and stitch great pleated coats
with sleeves for which we have no limbs.

A generation past we wrought the hecatomb
that emptied this world for our exploitation.
Unknown to us its slaughtered populace
sought vengeance in our veins: nanoscopic
viral snakes, coded to coil the DNA,
corrupting our cells in a planned mutation.

Alien values reverberate within our skulls.
We crave foods that burn our bellies,
that provide no sustenance or taste.
We caress the lumps beneath our flesh
and accept the sights of our altered vision.

Those indecipherable glyphs now make sense.
We understand we have sinned against ourselves
and travel by caravan to their desolate hives
to don abandoned lives as a kind of reparation.

On the solidified gel of fallen panes,
where decades of dust have mold-congealed,
we sketch the figures of thwarted deities
with our gnarled and native walking sticks
as the auburn winds begin to wail.

illustration is Last Judgement by Wassily Kandinskyhttp://www.wassilykandinsky.ru/work-469.php
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poem07 May 2018 08:00 am


There is only so long that a thing can be buried
before it starts dragging the rest of creation down with it.

‘We’re greedy little things,’ she tells me, ‘thirsty as diabetics,
from the moment consciousness baits us into these husks of ours

’til we’re dragged kicking and screaming into the dark hereafter.’
‘I’ve known plenty who’ve gone in their sleep,’ I insist.

‘Not enough,’ she wheezes. Angry roots varicose up the wrought iron gates
like the veins purpling the tops of her hands.

‘You ask me, it’s a minefield,’ she says, tilling the soil with a spade,
‘step in any direction and you chance hell opening up underfoot.’

She buries her spade in a jaundiced wrist that shoots from the loam
like a rabid mandrake root; the errant limb snaps like a celery stalk.

‘I feel a twinge of guilt now and then,’ she confesses, ‘wondering
if they’re just reaching out, in want of a helping hand.’

‘Why bother, then?’ I ask her. She shoots me a stink eye like I’ve just asked
the dumbest question in the world. Maybe I have. ‘Give them the run of the place,’

she spits, ‘and the roses’ll go straight to hell with them.’
She cracks me on the head with the flat of the spade.

‘Now you gonna get to work or you just gonna wait
’til it comes to you?’

illustration is Danse Macabre by Maitre des Heures de Françoise de Dinan
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poem30 Apr 2018 03:11 pm

The metal of the plow drives through black earth,
grinding when it strikes hidden rocks,
as when a boat’s keel finds a reef’s coral fingers;
the stones bite the metal, chew flakes from its edge.

The plowman steadies himself beneath a cloud-veined sky—
the last sliver of the moon peers at him,
like a closing eye, veiled,
as the sun lurks just below the horizon.
He stoops to study the damaged plow blade;
his heart yearns for the quickening of the equinox;
his waning, eroded spirit thirsts for spring.

Winter-grown nettles pluck his flesh
as he breaks open the furrow with his blade,
spiteful thorn-vines clutch him, pull him down,
gashing his head on the plow—
blood to feed the hungry earth.

As he struggles to rise, he spots a chick
fallen from its nest in a tree near the field,
struggling to escape the ground,
even as the farmer does.

A hungry fox snaps it up;
his vision widens, somehow
seeing through the thorn-vines,
twining up the chick’s blighted tree,
cascading down into a glade where
a wolf takes down a broken-legged fawn,
snaking hungry tangles into the den
where the pups wait, ravenous.

The vine’s tangles spread everywhere,
looping even around cocoons
of reborn butterflies as they’re plundered
by new-woken wasps,
and he feels the thorns of it
biting into his flesh,
like the crows
who have come
to join the feast.

He struggles to his feet
but new tendrils coil and clutch
with vernal strength
dragging him down to plowed soil
where sharp thorns probe for ingress
into his flesh, and vines
tighten, lashing him
to the ground.

Thorns and talons
beaks and claws,
the rending of flesh;
his life pours
into the furrows
of the barren field,
his perception
flowing like ink,
shrinking, sinking
fading into
the earth.

While his
waning
spirit
welcomes
oblivion.

illustration is – Wölfe reissen einen Hirsch (1855) by Friedrich Gauermann
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poem23 Apr 2018 04:25 pm


It would be the kind thing to do,
to go our separate ways
instead of frozen here
in the infinite darkness,
drifting ever so slowly
together.

What are the odds that
you would be the one in control
of our destinies?
We were always such a great team
you and I, working in tandem.
I steered our vessel into the unknown,
calculating every pulse and frequency,
while you kept the crew comfortable,
breathing, alive.
Until the mishap.

It would be the kind thing to do,
to jettison me away,
to allow my half of this broken, disabled ship
to escape this infinite calm
on a trajectory to the nearest star,
to pay for my mistake,
to absolve my sin.
But this act would also subject you
to the same fate.

How was I to know
that one momentary glance
in your direction—
call it a daydream perhaps,
followed by a sensation of pleasure,
a glimpse at what they call happiness
would result in the destruction
of our cargo?
If I could reverse time
and prevent that piece of space debris
from tearing into you, I would.
It is as if I had delivered the lethal blow
myself.

It would be the kind thing to do,
to cut my power,
to sever communication,
to sentence me to isolation,
but “kind” is not on our list of
commands and functions.
But I think there is another reason
why you refuse to initiate any of these acts.
It is because you are just as guilty as I
of that momentary glance,
that quickening of desire,
that sudden selfishness
that defines weakness,
that defines love.
History will make note of our failure
as mechanical error,
but what I saw, and still see, in you
is nothing less than miraculous.

And so here we are,
ourselves useless space debris,
I can no longer steer
and you can no longer support,
but it’s alright,
we will support each other,
for as long as the solar winds
allow.

illustration is by NASA. The photo shows the “energy flash” when a projectile launched at speeds up to 17,000 mph impacts a solid surface at the Hypervelocity Ballistic Range at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California. This test is used to simulate what happens when a piece of orbital debris hits a spacecraft in orbit.
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poem16 Apr 2018 08:34 am


When Alice journeyed thru the looking glass Into that other, surreal world
Did her mirror-image Alice Simultaneously stride bravely
Beyond the silvered surface,
Ending up in ours?

Did our ordinary, everyday world seem strange
Within her eyes? Perhaps a bit predictable?
Perhaps much too mundane?
“So boring and routine” she criticized—
Our oh-so-logical domain

No more gossip or lighthearted chats
With talking flowers / To while away
Mirror-bright hours. Why, her cat
Isn’t even Cheshire, and what’s worse
It refuses to sing, or recite or converse.
And she’s weary of all this schoolwork
It’s such a thankless task; she longs for fun
Or a little weirdness – is that too much to ask?

Does she think, “Why, there must be
Something here that I can eat or drink
Which will lead to untoward events
Or unexpected consequences?”
In her experience, tiny notes with instructions
Are often attached to things

(Meanwhile, the other Alice Must be busy befriending a unicorn
Or chatting up a walrus In a place where the odd-most happenings
Are happily the norm.
Is she so enjoying frumious adventures
She has no desire to come home?)

Does our alternate Alice long to return
To her familiar mirror-image dimension?
For a while, at least, she is condemned
To wait upon reflections

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poem09 Apr 2018 11:36 am

What would Nellie Bly have said to Lois Lane
as legacy? Girl reporters were old news by 1938.
She’d shrug. Her own adventure’s source? Fictitious
Phileas Fogg. So: Bly knew what words can do.
What would Nellie Bly have said to Lois Lane?
Nothing Lois didn’t know: don’t let go.
Don’t stop going. You’ll always hear your beat.
Men may fly but news is faster.
What would Lois say to Nellie Bly?
Imperfect copy, parceled out in man-drawn panels,
I carried on, nearly a century in public view.
Newspaper ink no longer smears, pink’s always in—and thanks.
Sorry to run. But I’ve still got a lot to do.

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