poem24 Oct 2016 08:00 am


Summer in the exclusion zone,
days spent exploring the forgotten city,
hiking among new timbers growing
wild among abandoned buildings,
camped out each night
in a different derelict place.

Those soft and quiet Chernobyl nights,
spent together in our little canvas tent,
all hot breath and sweaty sleeping bags.

I’d expected a mutant wilderness
and was proven wrong each day
by roe deer, spotted eagle,
and endless pine & larch
to where it was easy to forget
there was a world out there
beyond the forest.

Some two hundred people
live here year-round,
a sparse few having migrating
in since the accident,
but most simply having never left
the shadow of the old reactor.

Once, we traded a group of
German hikers the last of our
peanut butter for two thin joints,
and stayed up all night long
looking at art books and laughing
on the floor of the cultural center,
you smiled and said something like,
“H.R. Geiger Counter”
and I knew I was in love.

But there is a certain
kind of stillness here,
with time not exactly forgot
but held to a looser second,
causing minutes to unravel
into days into weeks into
the first russets of autumn.

And when I ask if you’ll come back,
to the yellow-rusted ferris wheel
and little elephant slide,
to the empty public pool
and tore up library,
you simply shrug and look
off towards the sunset.

They are beautiful here,
despite the desolation
–and because of it.

Photo by Shanomag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
poem17 Oct 2016 08:00 am



A jovial drunk, my father…
His verbosity
expanded diametrically
to his sobriety—
not so unusual in his early cups
from other alcoholics I have known:
careful elocution and
high-brow multisyllabics to distract the audience
(he thought)
from that slow slip-slide into inebriation.
But as each occasion wore on,
the liquor let trip from his tongue
every gimcrack archaism hoarded by lexophiles,
so much so that I sometimes wondered
if he was speaking English or
some long-lost language known only
to cabalists of peculiar arts.
On and on his articulation unraveled
for also-tipsy companions until I—
cornered with a sippy cup of warm cider
that tasted suspiciously of cough syrup—
doubted his elaborate syntax
corresponded to any human dialect,
living or dead.
Yet still he soliloquized,
cadences and inflections consistent
as they were mysterious,
as if he recited a labyrinthine spell
no less enchanting for being impenetrable.
And never did he wax so loquacious
as the night of my sixteenth birthday,
when he drank so profoundly and orated
with such unintelligible conviction that,
holding court before the fireplace,
first his loafered feet then all the way up
to his gesticulating cigarette,
my father transformed to
one long helix of opaque smoke
that slipped up the chimney
and into the star-flecked night.
Those who ran outside insist
he dissipated amidst the Milky Way
but that explanation is neither officially
nor socially acceptable—
no bureaucratically endorsed acronym exists,
for child abandonment via sublimation.
Thus I simply say,
“My father and I are estranged.”

art by By Humberto Antonio Muniz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22851878
poem10 Oct 2016 08:53 am


The plates have shifted again
And mana from the surface
Drifts languidly down the ocean,

Bringing sustenance
To the hibernating creatures below;
Bringing new life to the gravid ones.

Soon the babies are born,
Mouths wide, searching for nourishment
From their mother,

Who lies prone
On the ocean bed, dying–
Her life’s purpose complete.

When she is gone,
The nurselings are fully grown,
Pairing up to mate, a tradition

Since their species first evolved
Five eons ago.
For generations,

This has not changed.
Till one curious female
Resolves to rewrite her fate.

She parts from the tribe,
Determined to find adventure
On the mysterious surface,

The place they call
The Source,
Where all food comes from.

She swims,
Up the unending sea,

Against gravity,
Till she finally
Reaches the top.

Sunlight pierces through the ice
To warm her face, a sensation
She has never felt in her life.

She marvels at how bright
The world above is–
The countless silver white lights,

The boundless sky beyond.
What other seas does it possess
In the vast world above?

Are there more creatures
Like her, bound in
This life and death cycle?

She wonders and dreams,
Takes a deep breath
And passes her head

Through the membrane
Separating the ocean
And the black.

She cannot draw a breath,
The vacuum swiftly
Turning her into frost.

She must quickly submerge
Or die an icy death.
Yet she takes a moment

To gaze at the wondrous sight,
Too magnificent to fathom, till
Her lungs swell beyond endurance.

She dives back down
In a fraction of an instant,
Her eyes almost glazed over,

Bright star lights
At the back of her mind.

Adrenaline drives her home
To the ocean’s abyss,
Where it is safe,

Her comforting place.
Vivid memories of
Being held close

Against her mother,
And her sisters
And brothers,

Milk warming her insides
As she slumbers
And dreams.

Surrounded by her brethren,
Her body worn and broken,

She sings the tale
Of the immeasurable

The silver white stars,
The swirling orange giant,
The rings on the pearled diamond.

What wonders do they possess,
What creatures do they hold?
Will you follow my path?

Uncover the world above?
Let us explore and learn,
Instead of having offspring

Without giving them something
To dream of. A life foregone,
Just like our mother’s.

We can endure the hard swim
If we go together. Discover
New meanings to our existence

Past our vast ocean.
The world beyond is so brilliant
And bright. O the light…

Joy brimming in her heart,
She replays that final image
Of the sky

And holds it tenderly
In her mind’s eye
As she dies,

Flying now
Amongst the stars,
In the place she loves.

Above, the surface rumbles
And creaks, shifting again
To close the breach.

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.


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