poem22 Oct 2018 08:20 am

When Tarot cards fail—
and the High Priestess
is brought low,
blue robes swelling like waves,
tumbling from her throne
that teeters atop the Tower’s edge,

While the Magician sinks, flailing his sword,
as he drowns in the Moon’s dark sea
amid his floating cup and white lilies
beneath nightmare wolves’ howls
and psychotic crabs clawing ashore—

When the brave lady tames the fierce lion—
but cannot save the Hanged Man from himself,
and the Star’s light is dimmed, restrained
by shadows cast from the Devil’s chains,

Then the gypsies close up their shabby shops,
and turn off the red neon signs.
Now bewildered by their clients’ fate lines
they return the $10 reading fee—
explaining they can no longer see;
even their crystal balls are now cloudy.

When the runes are a ruin, and
prognostication by stars, entrails,
clouds, leaves, and birds all fail:

Then we must reconstitute the storm
for the homeless last fay—
confer with them to restore the lost chaos,

Invite the young sibyls from their caves
listen to what they say,
ask them to show their unburned prophetic books to us.

Turn off all cellphones and electronic devices.
Light candles for all dead and future goddesses.

Coax the silenced waters of Delphi’s mountain
to flow with cryptic answers again.

poem15 Oct 2018 09:53 am


She veils the eyes of the prophets
and coalesces from the night
profound, meaningful

the flames of her pupils
cool to auburn and seductive
— whirl — in a desert of her making
and they move her closer to that goal
though she cannot say her master’s name

or point him out to us
with the certainty of a stargazing priest
in the city, which has so many names,
masters and minarets, so many priests,
so many calls to prayer
vying for the souls of the faithful.

She slips past the guards
in silence; they smile
and do not search her —
her naked body. What does she have
to conceal? Some flaw, perhaps

a voice like breaking glass? thoughts
inane and childish? a deluge of chatter
to extinguish love’s torpid cinders
after the fact? No matter.

They laugh and speak of their master
wishing they were him, to have

what he has: the power
to draw such beauties to his bed
and shut them up, night after night


Their qareen shriek a warning, nails
piercing into — through — the souls
of the watchful guards, those wardens
unable to hear the whispers given in sleep
when so wide awake.


The tent is a palace inside
heaped with bolts of silk and satin, a box
of gold filigree with billowing clouds of platinum,
a heaven of gemstones sequestered within.

Their master smokes hashish from a hookah
and speaks of the prophets — men and women —
who come to him every night as he sleeps
on the same bed that he’d love to share
with her. “Are they always right?” she asks,
drawing a shebriya from her mouth. He thinks
this a wonderful trick, and tells her so.

“Are the prophets not at times silent?” she
whispers, revealing another trick
of the blade.

The guards outside fail to hear him,
or they mistake his dying gasp
for one of pleasure. She, enticing Sila,
leaves in the dawn as she arrived;
they only smile as she walks away,
naked and unashamed.


Qareen stand over him
and disturb his mirroring pool
with tears of corundum and of jade

illustration is Salome by Manuel Orazi, 1930
poem08 Oct 2018 06:03 am

My patron impresses paramours
with moon shards dappled in 24-karat gold
and fashioned into pendants
for fawn-colored necks, diadems to adorn
black brows smooth as glass.
But for his favorite fucks
celestial jewelry is not enough—
my patron demands poetry of me,
sinuous verses that ensnare emotion,
binding his beauties to him better
than any promise ring or
diamond-crusted chastity belt.
A disgusting seduction
but one I’m obligated to perform
or end up fighting
alley cats for scraps.
Only, my patron’s mining operations
harrow the source of my lyrics.
Poetry is a refraction,
a transmutation of moonlight
(itself a reflection of sunlight).
The moon he’s wrought, hanging like
a chipped saucer in the night,
conjures no more magic than
the broken crockery on my kitchen shelf.
Though I’ve explained the effects
of his brutal lunar harvest,
the scales of his eyes aren’t calibrated
for the subtle calculus
of art and heart.
Accused of disloyalty, sloth, and
breach of contract, I stalk
his moon-embellished lovers,
struggling to distill the secondhand light
to pen a last, paltry sonnet and escape
into the plundered night.

Illustration is View of Constantinople by Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky, 1876

poem01 Oct 2018 06:23 am

You stitched your clothes with feathers.
Hitched your unwinged self
over the cliff-side dripping with guano
for the harvest of birds.

Gannets and guillemots and gulls,
fulmars, snipe, bonxies, plovers and puffins
and the pterodactyl skuas
fastening you to the stony ground

to the gray bounds of sea and sky.
Trusting your life not to slip.
Invaded by good mainland intentions
that undermined everything.

What need for windows in stone houses
when the view was not rare—
you lived your life in and out of it.
Tamp out the peat fire and hobble

away. A thousand hard and airborne years
broken by the world that is not this place.
Not peat, not stone, not the track
made by sheep. Abandon the tight Cs

of the cleits, the storehouses
dotting the slopes cairn-like,
planted obsessively against the travails
of sea and sky and starvation,

vented to let the wind
keep the contents dry
so the constant rain wouldn’t rot
everything that kept you breathing.

The walls thicker than the space
they contain. Part nature, part culture
both parts alive. The mystery now
inside the clinging, vacant Cs,

always in sight of the sea
sometime shelter for the wild-now sheep
often their last. This is the world
your ancients built and time muddles

to tumbles of eroding stones erasing
the marks of human hands till no one
can read how it dies and is dead. Clouds
wool-heavy on the hills so empty of you.

photo is “Cleit for storing fuel or hay on St Kilda” by Richard Keaton, Dec. 31, 1897.
poem24 Sep 2018 08:00 am

My booth-thin box of glass holds Daddy dear,
Brown eyes lens-big, bald spot in jet-black hair,
Bemused and curious, with startled stare
And starting smile to find himself brought here,
As sudden as a dream, whisked back from time,
The youthful forty-nine I knew at three,
Saved from a death that he can’t even see,
Yet glad as ever for this family time.

My elevator-box is rich with hours,
Air fresh with life and hope, its strength renewed
By joy from those receiving its rare gift:
Reunion with our loved ones. Though the power’s
Limited, our glassed guests only viewed,
Our mutual spirits rise on my time lift.

illustration is portrait of the poet’s father
poem10 Sep 2018 08:00 am

The shadow-man-outside-the-airlock,
in our sleep,                 walks outside our cave.
He shuffles,                   scrapes dead sticks,
pretends to be the wind, pretends
to be other                    than our dim selves –
glitch in our evolved mindware.

The man-creature-outside-the-airlock,
spider-eyed,                    dressed in bones,
alien                                in the flesh,
glowers, growls, and shakes a graven stick.
We have come                 to meet him.
Yet our shadow infests us.

Bogeymen still bewilder
us starmen.                    It is hard,
amidst our familiar ghosts,
to assay the alien,
to hear the voice            above the wind.
Eyes open, open the door.

illustration from Stories of Beowulf by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, 1908
poem03 Sep 2018 08:37 am

Her wails draw rings of fire
around my bed; in combat

a psychic makes me wash my hair
with sea, and the roots come undone

almost as if by gratis. He says her wails will
travel the trenches occupying caves underwater –

the place where seafolks dwell:
(we whisper their names
lest they come to being).

It is how it is, he enunciates the air
with a low voice. And I travel into past
tense. It must be returned to

the throat that delivers these wails; as if by
skill of the dual-tailed living deep in waters

of the kind we bathe with to release
knots tied in our strands. The whole

point about blind belief is in questioning
nothing; is in letting the power of

an aging scry heal you; is to forget you
ever caused her empty promises. Now,

the sea begins to shudder on my wet scalp,
murmuring echoes like carbonite chemicals.

The psychic tells me this is initiation; the way
for dowsing to find home; her wails tell me

clearer of inhabitation – how her body is
a field of clovers, entities of the sea take her

as theirs every night. Drops of the sea
trickle down my back the length of my hair;

whispering back my understanding of how
I was a blank slate, of how she fell onto it

like braille, while he presses a dry cloth
to my forehead, invoking the jinn to cease.

By GO69 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65084170
poem27 Aug 2018 08:14 am

books remember

the roof falls in
and the walls cave in
and the floor cracks wide

the rain and the sun
touch their spines
and they remember
that they were trees
deep rooted and tall

and trees they become again
pages melting beneath water and light
settling in the rich earth

and they grow
trunks engraved with the words
of cather and whitman
leaves shimmering
with the verses of basho and dickinson
branches whispering

winds rise and rush
storms carry word-seeds
high and far
forests of poem-ash and myth-maples
groves of tragic-oak and satire-thorn
grow deep-rooted and tall
a world of stories
by a library of trees


Detroit Book Depository
poem20 Aug 2018 08:24 am


Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles.

Blades of grass lick my legs as I fatten
with dew. Your fairy throat can’t swallow
the other kinds of water. Your lips soften
dough-like butterflies. I wring the

tatters of my homespun dress.
Your paralysis breaks, your hands
two dragonflies — they waver — your wings
cobwebs, encrusted in a woodland case of sores.

I bathe you, comb you, dress you
mimic your motions with a decade-old delay.
Raising children must be like
sowing yourselves in the ground.


Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles.

Blades of grass lick my legs as I fatten
with dew, as my calves grow slower
and slower, as I drag my feet
through dirt. Once I found your stolen shawl

Buttery-white, hidden by father so
you would not leave us. You said you didn’t want it
and smiled. Your teeth started falling
one by one. You crushed them into sugar

— for me. Your hair started thinning
braid after braid. You turned it into flour
— for me. Your eyes rolled on the ground —
you made them into soup — for me, for me.

If you could cut yourself in pieces and
bake them in the oven — one arm pie, one leg roll —
you would, you would — for me. Because
fairy mothers think their

children ought to devour them.


Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles.

Blades of grass lick my legs, as I fatten
with dew, as my calves grow slower
and slower, as I drag my feet
through dirt, as I listen to the rust

of tatters, of my homespun dress
of the rags around my ankles, heavy
with dew — for you, for you. Mother,
you always tasted bitter. The songs

you didn’t sing, the flights
you didn’t fly. This is my dowry
and this
is my inheritance.


Before sunrise I tie rags around my ankles
— I breathe, I breathe —
blades of grass lick my legs
my rugs, my chains, as I fatten

with dew, as my calves grow slower
and slower, as I drag my feet
through dirt
and walk
through meadows
and my lips crave

for morning dew.

Illustration for ” Drottningens halsband ” (The queens necklace) by Anna Wahlenberg in “Bland tomtar och troll” (Among gnomes and trolls), 1914.
poem13 Aug 2018 08:11 am

Rainy nights in my Neon-966
white seats awash
the color of day-glow pearls,
a can of Rainier tucked
warm between my legs.

Sadie in the backseat
swears she saw a mutie
last Friday night in Denny Park,
sulking in the shadows
with the ghost of Mia Zapata,
(so she’s clearly already fried)

Easy Street Records,
drinks at Sakura’s [桜],
then on to Jaron’s house
where he sells us something
that’s supposed to be like Syth-2.

Pill popped and pinpoint pupiled
and we’re finally cooking
bass thudding
with the drug in our ears
the city comes to life,
even the bums cast
indescribable tremors of light
with their every movement,
vivid auras in the dark.

Off of Yesler
we stumble across
an abandoned-house party,
some local wailers playing inside
probably talentless
but to us it resounds
an orgasm in minor key
so shots and beers
and someone gives Carter
a long wet kiss,
but when empty kegs
put the band to rest
we end up driving down the road,
chests ahum with the buzz
of truthful and passionate
and pointless conversation.

smoking and throwing bottles
off a cliffside near the highway
we can just barely glimpse,
through the ocean’s spray,
the clean white blinking lights
of the new city
hovering out above Puget Sound;
all alloy and pretension
a hundred thousand people,
kids of six or seven
whose feet have never
touched the ground,
automated, self sustained,
and from where we stand,
the whole thing smaller
than my hand held up to the sky.

Somehow it seems
higher and higher each day,
proof maybe that the old city
is still sinking,
after all these years
succumbing to the soft
wet maw of the earth.

illustration is from Unsplash and was published under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

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