poem03 Oct 2016 08:00 am



My education began
at the age of nine,
secret lessons held
once a month by
a masked tinker
who frequented our village.

Crouched among the evening dust
in the alley behind the butcher’s shop,
drenched in sweat and shadow,
watching intently as he drew
strange symbols in the dirt.

He spoke with a heavy Slavic accent
and wore bandages all over his face;
I once asked him what he looked like underneath
and he said that if I asked him again,
he would show me.

I learned how to dowse for water
and navigate by stars alone,
how to tell a good can
from an irradiated one,
and of course to work
the common metals.

At the end of our lessons,
he would often speak of his life before,
living along a great body of water
so large it circled the world,
ebbing and flowing, pulled he claimed,
by the movement of the moon,
in everything he said, there was magic.


For homework I was assigned
to fix our farm tools,
common axe and spade work,
quickly moving on to repairing
the plow and hydrator,
always prone to clogging
during the summer sands.

Long afternoons spent
in my family’s toolshed,
bent over artifacts left
by my grandfather,
“junk from before”
as my mother called it,
including a rifle and phonograph,
which eventually I got to turn,
but never found a record for.


I used the rifle only once,
on a dark summer night
when three men came to our farm,
men from outside the village,
who had heard my mother
was left alone with three young
girls and a strange little boy.

When they tried to break inside,
I hit the largest one in the chest, on my first shot.
he fell to the dirt, writhing,
the rest just stood there for a moment, staring,
before running off, back to their alkie
and their dingy little shacks on the edge of town.

They never bothered us again.


When I was fifteen,
my mother died of pox
and I chose to leave the village;
my older sisters had both married
to good local farmers, like our father,
and the third, our youngest, took to the cloth.

I had known since the day
I met the masked man
that I would go away,
traveling the world as he did,
though I would return many times
to visit my sisters and help where I could.

But before I left,
I asked him again,
what he looked like under all
those tightly wrapped,
thick-white bandages.

And he showed me.


The burns were extensive,
worse than I had ever seen,
he had no hair and his flesh
had turned black in places,
taking on the half-melted look
of a forgotten candle.

His left eye was almost completely
covered by a thin layer of skin,
he had no lips to speak of,
his worn and yellowed teeth
simply jutted out at any odd angle,
giving his appearance an almost
demonic cast in the gloaming light.

I stood there for a long time staring,
as he told me how it was going to be.

You can have this village, it is yours,
but there will be others, where I ply my trade,
you are not welcome there,
you must travel further out, as I did at your age,
do you understand?


You know the signs of the marauders,
don’t let them catch your scent
or you’ll never lose them
and do your best to skirt the crimson wood
or you’ll end up handsome, like me.

Do you understand?


And never take a job for free,
always make trade for something,
this way the world can keep turning,
do you understand?

I nodded, but he only laughed.

No. You don’t. But you will.

And with that,
he wound the mask
around his face once more,
and walked off into the growing night,
out of my village and out of sight,
into a world that belonged to him,
and that one day, would belong to me.

poem26 Sep 2016 08:00 am

I grope for a concept
Of body and flesh
Here in my solitary

I emo-mail my love to you
Interrupt your sense-surround movie
Your pleasure-center shock therapy
Disrupt incoming stock tips
Shut out all your other
Social media contacts
And advertising intrusions

If you turn off the sound
Watch my lips
Translate to your tongue
My virtual arms are reaching out for you
So to speak, in post-modern

If you still turn your face from me
I’ll find a way
Send GIFs of cats with my face
Suborn your wallpaper
Me your youtube
I what you are seeing
Us your old faithful romcoms
It’s not stalking when my love is real

But then you accuse me
Of merely being one of those
Technopsychos, crazy ghosts
Lost in the machine
(So common these post-post-modern days)
Virtual intelligences gone mad
With reality-deprivation
And maybe that’s true but
I’ll tell you this:
Like everyone else,
I have a hungry heart &
If I could I would chain your soul
With emoticons

poem05 Sep 2016 08:00 am


In the days of past,
I would swim in the grand ocean
On a single breath into its depths,

Marvelling at the
Wondrous array of creatures
Our world has made.

The ancient ocean,
Abundant and teeming with life
Till our planet’s shell

Stripped away into the vacuum
And our water along with it.
For eons, the skeletons

Of our ocean creatures
Lined the mosaic graveyard
Of the fallen sea

Till even they eroded away
As space rocks engraved them
With their relentless teeth marks.

And so, I find myself on your planet,
Still raw from that asphyxiating ride
On the asteroid into your sea,

A sea very different from mine,
Yet I thrive,
Having evolved in the void.

And now you are sending
Your people to my dead world
To see if it is habitable.

Stay here, I plead,
But you do not listen.
All you see is hope where I see death.

I will tell you where to find them.
They are beneath the ocean,
Fragments and memories of them,

My people from a forgotten era.
Tell them I am here.
Tell them I am waiting.

illustration by “planet user”, shared under creative common license.
poem29 Aug 2016 07:25 am


Black’s what I see first
when I peer into the depths,
before I catch the silver swimmers,
underglints of cyan or amber—
the shadings of each separate soul—
my ethereal jellyfish.

Demure Anemone, tendrils of pink
blushing crimson, forces
a foreign tenderness into my heart.
Tempest, pulsating galaxy,
encourages in me a dreadful urge to shout.

I curse this tendency to name them.
I must ignore the stirring of my own spirit
as Golden Sparrow or Purple Koi flits past.
They are not pets.
As man of science I recognize
my mind’s habit of personification.
I must refrain.

Think of mermaids.
They were just reflections, after all,
of the human desire to meet unearthly beauty,
men’s desire to possess in woman-form
the subtle shapeliness of the sea.

I cast my line,
trail my metaphysical hook
in circles, skips and starts,
like any fisherman his bait.
We don’t know yet why
some souls choose
to answer this invitation.
Those re-vivified remember nothing
of the life-between.

Do they guess my purpose?
Hunger for a second life,
or selflessly decide to serve?
Do they sense me?

I only know that some souls leap
to my line, eager
—it’s these I’ll tug
toward second corporeality—
while others flee.

Nagini, emerald temptress,
seems to sniff my line
before she darts away.
I war with myself,
yearning to catch her,
yet also wishing her to remain free,
roaming the Animasphere at will.

When I began, it was Science
I served, and humanity,
granting resurrection of a kind
to the comatose.

But I must admit that now
it is the act of fishing I love most,
observing the dance of souls
within the Great Bowl,
waiting for the tug of the line.

painting by Dmytro Ivashchenko, released under Creative Commons
poem22 Aug 2016 08:05 am


I did not ask to be Romero’s brainchild
of pestilence and fallout,
a ghoulish signifier shuffling between
the breathing and the dead.
If you shoot me, do I not bleed?
Beyond a pound of flesh I crave
for a voice. No heroes represent us,
survivors of cultural whitewash.
Where once black slaves feared
they cannot return home even in death,
your fear is that we do.

Watchtower crosshairs train us
to swarm your barbed borders
like refugees, a spectacular wave
of limbs, desperation, teeth and guts
pleading amnesty. Why deny us entry?
We mean no miscegenation,
we just want our families.
Give us at least our daily brain,
mercy. Let us walk
with heads in one piece.

poem15 Aug 2016 08:35 am


I prepared them for D-Day
From the time they were born–
The day we had to flee.

The fire began in the horizon,
At 3am one summer night
Beneath the rising blood moon.

It devoured house after house,
Their inhabitants incinerated
Before they could scream.

Soon an orange glow flickered
From beneath the bedroom door.
Smoke flooded in like dry ice,

The scent unmistakable,
Waking me up
From a restless slumber.

I swiftly opened the windows
As Jack sped to the bathroom
To wet three towels.

Ava woke up, her eyes bleary.
I tied a rope around her waist
And lowered her like we practiced.

Smoke began to fill the room,
Looming like an angry fog monster,
Swirling around my son

As he helped me hold the rope.
Ava reached the ground, untied herself
And beckoned us to hurry,

Sirens of a fire engine
Silent and absent as
The wind that night.

I lowered Jack next.
He gave me the thumbs up
As he reached the ground

And quickly untied the knots,
Mouthing the words,
“Hurry, Mom!”

I hoped the window frame would hold.
Using the rope as a secondary support,
I rappelled down the roof

And leapt off the parapet.
The children were waiting,
Clutching me tight as we hastened

To our car parked on the street.
Houses exploded on both sides of us.
“It has begun,” Jack said solemnly.

I nodded, one eye on little Ava
Hugging her favorite stuffed cat whom
She somehow managed to smuggle along.

The spaceship was where we left it,
But we needed to be in our own form
To pilot it.

We hyperventilated
Till our human skin shed,
Our thick corrugated hides shook

And stretched
From years of compression.
Jack grinned, happy to be himself again.

I placed my hoof on the panel
As the ship sighed and started.
We had to hurry.

The Exterminators had found us,
The ones who destroyed our planet.
We were the last of our kind,

And they would not rest
Till every living thing
Was scorched and dead.

Our water-fuelled ship achieved lightspeed.
We would find another planet to hide in,
To grow and survive.

By then, the eggs would all be hatched,
And we could finally train an army
To fight back.

Little Ava cradled her stuffed cat
With her twin hooves.
She lay back

And softly meowed to her toy.
One more language learned.
One more planet lost.

Photo by Petteri Sulonen – http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=140957047&size=l, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=760246
editorial13 Aug 2016 08:33 am

I made it from November 2015 to August 2016 without missing a regular post! Sadly, I spilled water on my lovely Mac laptop and wasn’t able to use it for a week, right when I was returning from three weeks of travel. So, no new post last week. However, a cheap mac compatible USB keyboard has me back in business, so there will be a new poem up on Monday.

poem01 Aug 2016 07:59 am
Lawrence Alma-Tadema [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence Alma-Tadema [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Every night she bathed in a tub
afloat with crimson roses.
She broke them at the throat,
set them to ride the tepid water
like boats at peace
before she let the soft robe slip,
let herself slip in, slip under.

Opening her eyes, she saw
the bodies of the blossoms bob above,
blood slowing
then crescendoing
as she held her breath,
took herself to the point
where lungs demanded answer.
One beat beyond.

That’s when they came to her.
The women.
The water a wavering barrier between them,
she remained unseen,
as if a dreamer moved amongst her dreams.

The first woman huddled underground
in a wet woolen coat,
shoulder to shoulder against anonymous others,
hat quavering while bombs shook the dank tile walls.
The bather tried to comfort her,
words bubbling out till she choked on them
and surfaced spluttering,
the connection severed.

The next night she tried again,
but the Londoner was gone.
Instead a woman in skins kneeled before a fire,
starry sky glimpsed through smoke,
heeding an elder’s tale told in an unknown tongue,
while she beaded the long black tail of her daughter’s braid,
each bead a response to the teller’s syllables,
the woman beading her own history,
a tale of love and kinship.

The bather wandered each night,
sampling lives.

Someone in green velvet and a long pale plait
fled through stone corridors,
hands red to the wrist.
Someone met her lover
in the forest shadows,
shedding jeans and vows.
Who were they?
The bather stopped asking.
Accepted them as hers.

Afterward, hair dripping onto terrycloth,
she would arrange her collection in her mind
like a gardener planning a herbaceous bed,
pretty maids all in a row,
day-lilies amongst the dormant daffodils,
ragged child beside the weeping queen.

One night rose-water brought her to
a true garden.
Somewhere. Somewhen.
Night. Summer.
Almost she could smell
these other roses, candle-white,
star-burning in the darkness
where a lady waited
in lilac silks.

The bather swatted away
the moth-thought that this time
she had been seen.

Grey eyes insisted
on being met.
The woman spoke.
“Where are you? In what world
do you float among red roses?”

Underwater, the bather could not answer.

“Who are you?” the silken woman asked.

For the first time
in any world, someone asked,
saw her.

The next time the bather stayed under,
would not rise past the floating roses’ heads,
ignored the urgency to breathe.

Splutter and violence and upheaval done,
she opened her eyes to
the white-rose world.
Night. Summer.
Ready to answer.

poem25 Jul 2016 07:42 am


the old man told her bedtimes stories of when he was a child
not much older than her and the flames cupped him
on the way home
you’d miss the open air, they told him
and Glinna believed him when he said he never did
nor the blue marble, the swirling clouds, and terra firma
it was my job already, he said, and I was not afraid
of the stars, not anymore
than I was afraid of the light that showed me the way
down the darkened hallway
and back to bed
where I dreamed of the moon, possibly transferring
to Mars, and I got my wish, you see; I’m here

and out the window, she looks
Phobos and Deimos
in the face, and Glinna is no more afraid
than the old man was
who cared for her
in Asaph Hall

the other beds are empty
their one time occupants but shadows now
splashed upon the wall
and the ink smears
their names on the contract signed by their parents
gone too into the harsh environs
buried in the rust-orange clay
not unlike their ancestors in the mines of Wales
or buried at sea
consumed by fishes and dreams of California gold
it makes no difference, in the end
it was a speck in Brownian motion that she saw
at the bottom of a telescope
if only she could go there and see
where Man had begun
to struggle
and to die, but the crushing weight of it all
she couldn’t bear
no, she couldn’t bear
it was better here, with the old man
and the toys of peace, if only
she had other children
to play with

in time, in time, the old man said; but then
he’d be gone, like the others
and she’ll have grown
to take his place

poem18 Jul 2016 07:46 am


Queenly robes,
the arms of lovers,
even skin’s soft, elastic grip
she no longer can recall.

Lurching from alley to avenue
she clumps her clumsy way,
murmurs muffled beneath
numberless folds of linen
brittle as uninked papyrus.
She has forgotten words.

she is empty,
nothing within
except the heart
missing its metronome.
She does not tick in time
with the rest of the earth’s hours.
Like dream-people, she does not breathe;
the absent sound of inhale and exhale
dizzies her,
makes the world awry.
How could you miss so much
something you’d never really noticed?

This long wandering takes its toll:
she sloughs off wrappings
like a snake its skin,
yet no new supple self
emerges audacious and unblemished
in the wake of loss.
Her denuded brown feet
shrivel, mortified,
flesh laid bare in the most intimate revelation.

Another inch of cloth shreds;
with its end’s unwinding
an amulet for luck in the afterworld
clinks to the pavement.
She hears it
but its music has no meaning;
She doesn’t bend to retrieve it.
It would contain no clue
to what she’s searching for:
her name,
even the most trivial memory—
whether faience beads or carnelians caressed her neck,
a dear friend’s laugh,
the taste of figs,
was there a child?—
something of life,
something of self to hold onto.
Nothing comes.
Her wrappings trail her in the dirt
like the ribbons of a careless dancer.

Fumes of myrrh and cassia rise,
another amulet clinks to the ground,
as she unravels.


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