Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nighthood in the Neighborhood

The chickens came back, the beetles and the bears,
The pigs and the pronghorns, ready for the spring
That hopes eternal life is just a fad,
That fruit must be explained by leaves,  and buds
Will never fill their ponds in dustbowl days.
Some of the chickens felt bedraggled wings
Would not make them an asset; but the wolf,
Famous for fairness, said that wings were meant
For wagon trains and truck stops.  They all bunked
By Union River, watched the sky, and said
How pleasant it was that stars came out at night.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Books of the Dead

for Stuart James

Jesus, Stuart, look
What we have come to, thick
And tired, brought to book,
Brought to ground, and sick
With authors. I had read
Every single one—
Recited them in bed
And taught them to my son.
Now they look away.
It’s just as they had said,
They never meant to stay.
Jesus, they’re all dead.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Beaux Bois, e.g.

The trains still run through small, eccentric towns,
Mostly at night, the children, brave in their beds,
Dreaming of sleeping somewhere else, so young
They think that Indiana is escape—
Trains still pass by the silos that are not
Mere symbols of desire, and they pass
What used to be a station, but is now
A home for unwed orphans, and they pass
Fireflies making fun of locomotives.
And nobody jumps the train. If it slows down,
That’s so the engineer can take a leak
On Illinois, grateful for the attention.
The children who wake up—well, more or less—
Will check if they are now emancipate.
They’re not; but tracks still run both ways at once.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Lullaby In Slumberland City

While birdies slept and earthworms snored
And owlets stooped to swoopy flights,
You the Teen Queen Max restored,
With endless make-up, endless nights.

Our tygers pad the jasmined path
And cherries fall from green green trees
And all our dead lay down their wrath
As I awake through slow degrees

In shadowed rooms to unfilled beds.
The clock, the clock. Across the lawn,
In fact, the sparrows shield their heads
Till, chime by chime, they rouse to dawn.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Cardiac Arrest

When we were young, when we were less,
When you were poised and I a mess,
We were as we are now, apart,
Unequal portions of a heart
Broken for decoration, cute
As flowers trimmed above the root.
And one of us flourished. One did not.
But which was which, and which forgot,
I do not say. You do not know.
The flowers dried, the roots still grow.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

In a Teapot

Still, in senescence, playing demi-monde,
he finds at last that even sex grows callous.
Besides, the tiny movements of his phallus
lately have made him reach for digitalis.
Prospero breaks his wand.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Inside of Moab, It's Too Dark to Read

Outside of Moab, they’re replacing Time
With sidewalks.  Rolling either way, they pass
Monuments, which will never now occur,
First heart attack which ended with a kiss.

In Kingman they are stocking all the bars
With Mexican beer and sandalwood, in Page
Nothing but churches and the refugees
From Old California missions and next spring,
The spring after that, and pools in desert towns.
Nothing sets like a sidewalk laid in Time,

Fossilized bugs and palm prints.  Over in Brush,
The Mayor declared that Time was just a myth,
An immigrant’s invention.  He pronounced
Chicken-fried steak the plat du jour; he drank
A Nehi Orange, and Time just washed away,
Like fiddlers on a flood plain in the rain.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hic Jacet

Like a commercial, death by quantity,
For that most dismal catalogue of names;
And we are pikers, grieving by low primes
And little stones on picayune display.
How dare we? asks the Russian winter. How
Now, this memorial mound of mismatched socks?

Have you not heard of Blutenwald? they ask,
Who populate the textbooks. No, by God,
I haven’t, but I blush, ashamed of 1,
3, a handful of minimum loss--
A butcher, a baker, an artisan of light
In watts too small for speakers on the Platz.

No one in history bears names like these,
Compiled like dogs and cats. They have no dates,
Vice-consular assistants; no pink rose
Tells aphids how they’re called, in Latin yet.
It snows on them in aggregate. It rains
On mockingbirds, on shrews and shrubs. On mine.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wait Till Your Cow Comes Home

The winter cows are coming home
To roost. From fields of cinnabar
They file a-lowing. Near and far
They look the same and sound the same
And know their antecedents are

Preposterous. In barns tucked tight
They chaffer over wisps of hay:
O have you heard the news today?
LaToonya will be coming late
To tea, and why, no one would say.

They cannot hide and are not heard.
In dreams of petitpois they rouse
The King of Cows to build a house
Where he is warm and they are ward,
Where cats surround the shrinking mouse.

Friday, July 07, 2017

That Old Black Magic

Ants, they may whisper, but they’re hoping for
Something preposterous, something more the size
Of Cincinnati, something which can catch
A mortgage in mid-air and snap its neck.
They may say shadows, even in the dark,
But what they mean are little men with knives,
Carving their names in the venetian blinds,
Altering light. Dressed up they may exude
The confidence of snipers, but they wear
An amulet of frog hair on each wrist,
Boasting that they walked miles to cure DTs.
Under the bed the suitcase is packed, the tag
Tied with a chain cased in a plastic sleeve,
Directing it To Whom It May Concern.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Devolvus Still

Devolvus, underground, preserves,

By lying still, his fraying nerves.
Yet in the sun, his brother walks
Above, and steels himself with talks
And chatter, as if they were kids
And wonted. And no mom forbids
One’s shoes inside or singing loud
Or hamming it up to please the crowd
Of featured hangers-on. If he
Should wish to lie there quietly,
Devolvus doesn’t say or swear,
Since he has time to spill and share,
By wit, by verve, by joie-de-not.
What was that punchline? All forgot.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lying in State

Once the day began, the full
English breakfast well disposed,
all was well, and all was well.
The doors and minds and blinds were closed.

The coaches glided by, a ghost
brushed and curried at every pane.
The pigs, two years before their mast,
policed the park; down Primrose Lane

a masked man with a bag marked Swag
scampered and capered, free at last.
There seemed a lout for every lag;
at each semi-detached a cast

of Nelson or dear Albert stood.
We shouted as the trees went by,
depeopling a laburnum wood.
The dwindling hedgerows filled the eye.

Now for a cuppa holy grail
and biscuit. Down the wet cement
parades of plastic bags, how frail
the castle and the elephant,

seeking lodgement against the cold
whose day is coming. Hear the late
cobblestones crack. Come sing the old
songs: our ladies lie in wait.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Virgil & the Bees

appeared in Angelic Dynamo


we have rather chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax;
thus furnishing mankind with two of the noblest things, which
are sweetness and light.
--Swift

A flat gray stone absolved of dung and schmutz,
Warmed by the sun and near, not in, a grove,
Proximate to a meadow, not to sheep,
Unthinking sweaters on the hoof, at hand
Running water for sound effect: then sit,
And you will find the bees. Theirs is a mind
Unfit for your accommodating self.
Like physicists, they are absorbed by thoughts
Too pure and rarefied for you. They work,
The autumn ever coming, honey from
The dandelion and excrete a light
So fine it makes divine commedias
A piece of cake, a holiday of dusk.
He listens: you can see him move his lips,
No buzz, no hum. Hexameters like glass,
The shape of cells, coincidentally--
They were invented to store wisdom, wax,
And pollen effluents. Thus you have flowers,
He thinks, stung by the notion Dido walks
Amidst gray flowers she can never touch.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Elder Than Springtime

He was the elder. So he had been told.
He felt it, too. So much to take on faith,
But this, not this. He grizzled as he stared
Into the mirror recollecting zilch
Of what made him the elder. And of age,
A twist of this, a week of that, whole years
He called to mind in no detail, except
The colors of the calendars and shapes
There for memorializing the months, like May
Bedecked with buds and always breasts, but none
With heft or veins. A birthday cake of shrubs
And columbines like candles, and the wind
Which did not quite extinguish them, but made
Counting unlikely. In the dark he saw
The eyes of March, a fall of fallen leaves,
But no one younger, elder though he was.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Epithalamion

Zeus the Thunderer sent his golden rain,
Which fell at the wrong address, like orange juice.
Not having been invited, Nereids
Did not attend. Nor wood-nymphs. Neither fauns.

The guests arrived by Greyhound, on the Beagle,
Borne by two wolves named Love & Happiness;
And Dionysus brought a box of wine.
Hephaestus hit the cake with hammer blows,

Which scarcely cracked the frosting. Siva sent
Regrets, cerise bacilli, and a drum.
And Dionysus took his singlet off.
The bride wore orange blossoms and a snood,

Which Ceres blessed with lucky charms, her vows
The death of childhood and a Liebestod,
The groom brought all his horses and a halter,
And even Fafnir, stag but looking, wept,

Especially since the wedding cake was hollow,
Busy with carpenter ants and worker bees,
Suspended in lemon custard. And the fall
Began. The groom would end dragged by his heels,

The bride pent in a harem, Ceres’ child
Stuck, still in Hell, and Dionysus’ date
The sport of kings. Zeus sent a nice clean rain,
And all was gone, except for the photographs.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

What Do the Old Men Say?

What do they mean, who say
The world has gone awry?
The trees leave every day.
I saw them in July,
As green as the heart of man.
I see men stiffly clad,
Colored in gray and tan,
Calling our summer bad
For insufficient shade,
Damning our leaves as small,
Making their wrath a blade,
Hurrying us to fall.
If only our lives were sad,
If we saw that we had
Outlasted our summer stay,
They'd happily love us all
And tidy us away.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Taken at the Flood

This appeared in Angelic Dynamo.


Later the yard boys dyed the new growth green.
Nobody knew it wasn't grass but ants,
And who were they going to tell? They didn't speak
To other hills, impossibly soigné.
The trees were propped back up, the roots tied down,
The stream was re-recorded and the wind
Instructed not to blow its obligations.
New men arrived. They never guessed a thing.
If told that they had been replacement parts,
They'd have discovered fossils and designed
Evangelists to praise the status quo.
It wasn't said that apples used to taste
Preposterously sweet, that knuckleballs
Danced polkas on their way up to the plate,
Or that the dogs would talk about the day's
Prodigious hunt. The brand-new women wore
The chic fall fashions, still a little damp.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Spoils of Colby

He says he has the Eagle of the Ninth
For sale. He says he bought it secondhand
At Wagonwheel Collectibles in Colby.
It doesn’t come with provenance, he says:
He can’t afford to DNA the stains,
Though you can, if you want, on your own dime.
They found it in a yard sale up in Vail,
Where folks have follies, know about the used,
And might speak Latin. That’s the bit that sells,
He tells me. I said, empire is dead.
It’s only lost, he says. Eagles can last
Longer than vandals wearing furry suits
Who pocket pillage. They can transfer wealth,
But not create it. I bought used CDs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manon

Dear Abbé:

We are pent up in our loft,
Too stippled to sing, too poor to buy new clothes,
Ladies and gentlemen, too sick to beg.
We tell each other stories. I'll be quiet,
She'll be at peace, and when the fairy says,
A plugged sou for your thoughts, then mum's the word.
Orchids could never change our little love.
Once she is dead, I'll be a notary
And practice barratry; when I am dead,
She'll move to customer service for the mob.
Someday, God willing, there will be crème brûlée,
Amoxicillin, and some warmer clothes.
Till then they hum, who do not know the words.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chains They Forged in Life

The poems no one heard of populate

This verbosphere, invisible and bleak,
Dottering incoherently in dry
And crumby cupboards, turning old bedsheets gray
On sleepovers, making little girls pale,
Afraid that they have accidentally bled.
Elegiac and embarrassed, full of tropes
Disparaged by Seleucian kings, most tell
Stories of unrequited jealousy
Engraved on stone with sponges, vetted by
The underappreciated and the fat
Recipients of Golden Books and schmaltz.
A few are goodbye letters, never signed.
A few are tax returns, unaudited.
Some lisp. Some swoon. Some have these wild ideas
About the immanence of outer space.
They drool. They belch. Complain. Complain. Complain.
They like a mirror, write they backwards verse.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

When Nighthood Was in Flotsam

The staff has snapped; the flag has been misplaced.
The Coconino County Bar & Grill
Breaks both its windows, locks the doors, and posts,
Send me a kiss by wire.  Bourbon flows
Through the arroyos.  Canteens burst with beer.
The news does not report.  Tequila leaks
Upstream.  The fish are dying for a drink.
No, sir, my realism is not an art,
Says Jenny Wren, the brickbat in my pie,
The neon in her undies, my patootie.
She shines from both sides now.  The Bar & Grill
Has set cane chairs out on the promenade
And pointed them with seashell, which it sells
By the seashore, if only it were there.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Burying the Survivors

They buried the survivors in a hole
Just big enough for almost all. Waste not,
The adage of the moment, after years
Of blood extravaganza, seemed all right.
The one left over got a monument,
A roundabout about him, and a sign
Pointing the way to Points of View and All.
Homies broke down there every day, from age
And penury and flats, with rubber bands
Holding their hearts together and their clothes.
Lucky the Caravan sold cups of joe,
Premeditated burgers, cannabis,
And shortbread local mommas wept upon.
Somebody blew him up one summer night.
He fell back to the ground in bits of spud.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Milk of Amnesia

It covered up my recollections, some
Oobleckian, obliterating ooze
Memories couldn't penetrate. It took
Her name, their numbers, all the horses' men,
The time and dates and instruments of debt;
And where it came from, plumbers wouldn't say
And politicians promised not to learn.
Unkempt, unkept, I cried, ringing my bell,
Making my way down North & South, well past
The point where anyone I knew had lived.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Desk-Waller

When I awoke, you weren’t so great,

Not hell on toast, not fixed as fate,
Less than high sentence, more than fair,
Too cute to cry, too young to care.
You weren’t all that. I saw that some,
Of little fame, were twice as dumb,
Stuck out as far, and rode as fast,
And had no skills, and had no past,
And were both free and kind. They came
Before I called; they knew my name
And were available right now.
I didn’t want them anyhow.
The heart is hard, concealed and stark,
And whores in alleys after dark.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Future of Extinct Birds

Extinct, the birds are full of woe,
Serried like bowling pins. How could
The nevermore be sad, dodo
A shadow in a shadowed wood?

Why do you say that I am real,
But we are not? You have my word,
I am as dumbstruck as you feel,
Singing the song an absent bird,

Succeeded, sang. If what we say
Endures beyond the tumbled trees,
We still would ride, like birds, away
Upon an undocumented breeze.