Saturday, September 30, 2006

#160: September 30, 2006

I admit tonight I feel a little groggy--
There's no use pretending it isn't true;
My eyes are red, my brain's a little foggy--
Three afternoon beers will do that to you.

So poetry's not foremost on my noggin
Tonight, and for that I apologize;
Fatigue and stress and alcohol is cloggin'
The pathways I traverse when cracking wise.

I had my reasons for getting all buzzy
So long before the sun sank in the west;
No poet always makes a gem, now does he?
He hopes you'll skip his worst, and read his best.

The muses who refuse us will return;
Meanwhile let Bacchus smack us with his urn.

Friday, September 29, 2006

#159: September 29, 2006

When Everything is better, we can sit
Just quietly and watch the sun go down;
We'll smile and play pinochle quite a bit,
And never have a good reason to frown.

When Everything is perfect, we can play
Piano for an after-dinner song
And never fight, nor fuss the day away;
We'll all hold hands and proudly sing along.

When Everything is settled, we're all friends,
And everyone's as happy as can be,
We'll hold no grudges, never make amends,
And revel in the peaceful company.

We'll seldom raise our voices, never shout--
But I don't know what the hell we'll talk about.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

#158: September 28, 2006

From what I know about the human heart,
it must be made of something malleable:
pliant when young, springy (at least in part),
supple, elastic--sadly fallible.

From what I know about the human brain,
it must be made of somewhat firmer stuff,
so facts and figures etched in will remain
forever, so long as there's room enough.

And yet as I get old, a paradox:
things graven on my memory disappear
like words from wind-worn, ancient desert rocks,
getting fainter and fainter year by year;

Yet my love, writ on water, somehow stays--
miraculously, magically, always.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

#157: September 27, 2006

Down by the stream where Maddie used to play
the field mice forage wild acorn and seed,
while bullfrogs nestle wetly in red clay
and wildflowers shiver where hummingbirds feed.

Three coins glimmer beneath the shallow waves
where tiny fingers pressed them years gone by,
and like a revenant crawling from its grave
a buried doll's arm reaches toward the sky.

Not far away the old house, crowned with leaves,
peers out cracked windows on a weed-choked lawn,
and nothing but the wind through rain-warped eaves
could tell you who lived there, or why they've gone.

All night down by the stream the bullfrogs call
their lovers, and the darkness covers all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

#156: September 26, 2006

All things not moving forward start to sink,
sometimes by weight of inertia alone;
they're swallowed just as sure as any stone,
though sometimes not as quickly as you'd think--

It might take years to reach that final deep
where quicksand sloshes over mouth and nose
and fruitless struggles bubble to a close
with no one standing by, even to weep.

It's hard to gain momentum back, once lost,
with no vines hanging low enough to grasp
and ankle-deep mud sucking at your boots,
reminding you of streams you never crossed
before your feet stuck here as firm as roots,
so quick you hadn't even time to gasp.

Monday, September 25, 2006

#155: September 25, 2006

Turn off the lights we used to study by
and lock the books in their glass-fronted shelves;
keep literature and poetry to yourselves,
and let Nothing offend the heart and eye.

Let microscopes and glass slides gather dust
and store experiments each in its place;
stop pointing telescopes at outer space,
for Nothing out there's worthy of our trust.

Shut universities, empty the schools,
Put bars across every library door,
and turn the erstwhile students out to play;
For now the earth's inherited by fools,
who will not hear what Reason has to say,
and Nothing really matters anymore.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

#154: September 24, 2006

Once in a while the quality of light
around us shifts, and suddenly the hues
that just moments ago had seemed so bright
are siphoned of their brilliance. Petals lose
their kinship with the blood, and fields once green
turn drab and sallow. Blue sky drains to gray,
and nothing in which beauty has been seen
retains its color. While I cannot say
whether the change happens before the eye
or behind it, I wonder, when it goes
and everything returns to its true shade,
do those primary and tertiary glows
come back as strong? Or when those colors fade,
does part of our perception also die?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

#153: September 23, 2006

It's like, you know, that thing that someone said
one time before we went out to the bar--
something to do with circuses and bread...
I can't remember. Where'd we park the car?

I am so drunk. Oh yeah, the point of it
was how we don't consider what we do
because we get distracted by the--shit!
How long's this paper been stuck to my shoe?

So wait, this is important: we don't think
about the stuff that really makes us tick;
instead we entertain ourselves and drink
until--hang on, I feel a little sick...

Hey, there it is! Thank God. What did you say?
Ha ha guys, real mature. I'm so not gay.

Friday, September 22, 2006

#152: September 22, 2006

Just turn me loose and maybe I'll come back--
but keep me here and I'll be sure to roam;
some ropes cut tightest when the knot goes slack,
and sometimes foreign countries feel like home.

If you can prop me up I'll give you strength,
but lean on me and we're both bound to fall;
some journeys can't be measured by their length,
and some folks travel fastest when they crawl.

Tell me a story, but don't make it true--
I never can believe such tales as those;
Say someone loves me, but don't say it's you,
the less you feed this thing, the more it grows.

Just 'cause something's a fact don't make it right;
it's sun-up now, my love: kiss me goodnight.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

#151: September 21, 2006

The story's often told about the snake
who befriended a frog to hitch a ride,
and doomed them both halfway across the lake--
his snakiness just could not be denied.

Likewise the scorpion wooed the ladybug
and promised her he'd still his murderous tail,
yet killed his love, and with a mournful shrug
Proved proofs against his nature bound to fail.

Just so am I, who, though I try my best,
can't stop offending those I long to please;
Though I grind teeth and pound upon my chest,
the beast inside always wins his release.

I'm not trying to be an ass, you see--
it's just some things come naturally to me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

#150: September 20, 2006

Empty out all the books--crack all their spines
and shake until the pages dance like leaves
in autumn winds; rattle them till the lines
break regimental ranks. Roll up your sleeves

and toss the paragraphs into a tilt,
make punctuation spin like weathervanes
till sentences like wasted wine are spilt
into the carpet, leaving awful stains.

Impose chaos on order like a god
and don't stop till the pages all show white
as swaddling sheets--then with a stately nod
sit down, take up your quill, and start to write.

Just try to press the pen down hard and fast;
it's difficult to make these scribblings last.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

#149: September 19, 2006

After so long, the cool breeze on my skin
is sensuous and strange; new lovers sigh
like this, and coolly draw each other in,
tracing with smell as with another eye
the contours of themselves. So too the smell
of freshly sprouted leaf, green as its flesh,
comes to me now where all was burnt and sere
mere days ago--as if begun afresh,
the earth were building its new Eden here.

But this is fall, not spring, and so the growth
that bursts forth now is doomed as soon as born.
A false beginning, which promises both
birth and decay, evening after the morn.

Between the summer fire and winter freeze,
this bittersweet season, this autumn breeze--

Monday, September 18, 2006

#148: September 18, 2006

The Devil isn't hiding in my bed--
I've turned the mattress and torn up the sheets,
made sure it's solid at both foot and head,
and checked it all again, in case he cheats;

Neither is Old Scratch lurking in my books--
I've emptied shelves, ruffled the pages too,
pulled cases down to check for secret nooks,
even interrogated binding glue;

He's not in my TV--I checked the tube--
Nor magazines depicting today's style;
nor on the Internet (I'm not a noob)--'s got no info worthwhile;

Whenever I go where they said he'd be,
There's never any Devil--only me.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

#147: September 17, 2006

To show his love, our father dug a pit
as deep as he could reasonably dig
and broad as our tiny backyard would fit
(no swimming pool nor basement was so big);

He filled it to its rim with broken glass
and rotting boards with nails jutting like teeth
rusty with plaque; scraps of polished snipped brass
concealed serrated tin-can lids beneath;

And finally when he had it all complete
he took us out and led us to the lip
of that torturous maw, whereat our feet
cramped, shaking, fearful of the smallest slip:

"I love you," Dad whispered, hands on our heads.
"Don't make me toss your asses in," he said.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

#146: September 16, 2006

I can't forget that night among the Tombs:
exhausted from a day pressing the sands
with blistered feet, my wind-raw face and hands
sun-cooked, and lacking any other rooms
I fell down in the shadows of the stones,
longer each moment. I ignored the words
etched in that sand-worn rock. Some carrion birds
who perched nearby scrabbled for ancient bones.

And whether in my fitful desert dreams
or else in truth, all night I heard a voice
like thunder down a well, that roared in pain
or vicious anger--such inhuman screams
I might well have gone mad, had not the noise
stopped like a breath once sunlight shone again.

Friday, September 15, 2006

#145: September 15, 2006

The zombie pulls himself out of his grave
and stands, a rotting husk against the night;
But no abandoned house, no island rave,
Nor shopping mall arrests his failing sight.

He sniffs vacant boulevards hungrily
and lunges toward a cat he cannot catch.
A squirrel perhaps? He cannot climb a tree;
The chattering rodents are more than his match.

No teenagers cavorting on the stones;
No graverobbers to fall under his teeth.
No satanists--he's withered and alone
As any three-week old memorial wreath.

He's hungry, has no victims, and he stinks;
"Things sure ain't like they used to be," he thinks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

#144: September 14, 2006

Two polar bears sitting on spring-green hills
look up at constellations shaped like hearts;
nearby my lover shows her collage skills--
cut flowers and butterflies comprise the parts.

White paper folded width-wise happens next,
inscribed in thick-spread crayon "for my Dad";
and then another card devoid of text,
hand-painted--for a two-year-old, not bad.

Then photographs--my little Thea Rose
just bloomed, minutes old, pinking in cool air;
Young Will straddling a mountain--what a pose!--
surveys the lowlands with a conqueror's flair.

And you--your tulip smile and solar face
make this gray cube not quite so bad a place.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

#143: September 13, 2006

To make a friend is easy: you just say
your name, shake hands, make small talk for a while,
discover common interests, exchange smiles,
and make a date to meet again next day.

It's keeping friends that's tricky. Life's not slow,
and objects not held tightly will get thrown.
Distance and time separate, or unknown
offenses turn our comrades into foes.

It takes an effort--which is why I'm glad
that through the years you never loosed my hand
when my grip faltered; now I understand
what rescued riches I might not have had.

I thank you now for such tenacity.
May all your friends be more like you than me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

#142: September 12, 2006

There's chicken on the grill for those that want it;
there's ears of corn and baked potatoes too.
I ain't fat! If you got it, why not flaunt it?
You wish your swimsuit looked this good on you!

Hot dogs, burgers--come on and eat your fill, folks!
(Well howdy, Pastor. Pull you up a chair.)
Get seconds--you don't eat it, no one will, folks!
And waste's a sin; just ask the preacher there.

What, Gluttony? Now let's not get medieval.
Those monks had way too much time on their hands,
categorizing seven kinds of evil.
But eating evil? I don't understand.

If God didn't want folks to overeat,
why'd he make all the critters out of meat?

Monday, September 11, 2006

#141: September 11, 2006

She went to work in 1943
in California shipyards by the bay.
The Navy steel sang like the memory
of her young husband, half the world away.

But ringing hulls could not quiet the dreams
of ships like those she worked on all ablaze:
the whine of Zeros over sailors' screams,
the enemy sun ringed in blood-red rays.

Later, she'd have believed she'd seen it all
with sixty years between her and that shore;
till Tuesday, when she watched the Towers fall,
and smoke blacked out the sun like clouds of war.

The tears and fire and blood that she saw then,
she'd hoped she'd never live to see again.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

#140: September 10, 2006

There lived a wizard once beside the sea,
not long ago nor very far away.
He was the finest wizard he could be
(though such was none too fine, I have to say).

He'd call small waves to pull sandcastles down,
and rains to dampen picnics on his beach;
though some say he once made a poodle drown,
such magic was, in fact, beyond his reach.

His shack was built of driftwood and whalebone
and trimmed with golden scales and spiral shells.
For many years he lived there all alone,
reading his books and practicing his spells.

He died a happy sorceror, and sleeps
cradled in his beloved briny deeps.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

#139: September 9, 2006

Do not tell me the truth! Are you insane?
Nobody wants that in this day and age.
Tell me something that justifies my pain;
Make me a lie that feeds my righteous rage.

You think because I ask, I want to know?
Our questions now are all rhetorical;
Prejudgement's quick, and wisdom is so slow--
thought's easiest when categorical.

Tell me what I already think is right;
Confirm the things I always have believed.
Let me sleep soundly in my bed at night,
assured in prejudice, my guilt relieved.

Honesty's not as noble as you make it--
although it's useful to learn how to fake it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

#138: September 8, 2006

"Hey, babe--I got something you'll want to see,
but if I show, you got to show me yours!
It's stiffer than the drinks this barkeep pours!
That's funny, right? Aw, c'mon, talk to me..."


"You come here much? I think I might recall
a beauty of your 'caliber,' now Hon.
Can you help me cock and load my Love Gun?
Hey, I'm just playin'--can I give you a call?"


"Man, dead tonight--well hi there, little lamb.
S'a mirror in your pocket there, perchance?
Cause I can sure see myself in your pants!
Ow! Hey, no need for violence, baby! Damn!"


"Hey dude, let's split. Ain't nothing going right.
How's I supposed to know it's lesbo night?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

#137: September 7, 2006

A little goblin lives under my chair
and pinches me when Mommy says "Be still!"
At quiet time in school he pulls my hair
and forces me to talk against my will.

In church he sticks his horns up through the pew
and hurts me so I just can't keep my seat.
While Baby's napping he slips off my shoe
and makes me wake her, tickling my feet.

If it weren't for that impish little sprite
who gooses till I'm jumping like a flea,
I'd be so good--I'd do everything right!
My folks would wonder what's become of me.

But he's still down there, waiting for his chance
to jab me with his claws, and make me dance.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

#136: September 6, 2006

The fire does not go out--not though the coals
consume their skins and don a coat of ash
as gray as boredom; not though the pop and flash
of that initial heat that sparked our souls
to conflagration sputter down and fade
to silent smoke, where once the roar of flame
had driven us to frenzy; though we blame
these bellies loosened, those dark hairs now grayed.
My love, we've spent our fuel in prior days;
we've burned green wood and thrown up such a cloud
it blinded us past reason, care, and doubt.
To burn long at such heat is not allowed.
Though we burn low, the fire does not go out.
One breath: the cinder sets the world ablaze.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

#135: September 5, 2006

Just what's the fucking point of all this crap?
I'm getting hoarse shouting into the void
to no echo--I'm also quite annoyed
that now it seems I fell into the trap
of counting myself better than I am,
smarter, with enough talent to succeed
where others toil in vain. It's vain indeed--
the truth is, if my words were worth a damn,
if anything I said was worth the ink
I spill giving it form, that now and then
I'd get a glimmer, sparks to give me strength.
But no--I scream and cry until at length
it's clear things aren't so hopeful as I think.
And while I keep shouting, my voice gets thin.

Monday, September 04, 2006

#134: September 4, 2006

The pods are raining down from outer space--
their fiery tails trace atmospheric burn;
thousands of extraterrestrial sperm
ejaculate from their moon-shadowed base
aimed at our egg-like Earth. They pierce the land
and from the smoking holes sprout purple roots;
leaves like ships' sails spring from skyscraping shoots
topped with onion-shaped bulbs. This phallic gland
emits a perfume never smelled before
by earthly insects--an ammonioid scent
spiked with ozone. Whatever beast it's meant
to lure is one our planet never bore.
No green thumbs among this invasive horde,
lucky for us. Back to the drawing board.

This sonnet appeared in the print publication Dreams & Nightmares #82.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

#133: September 3, 2006

Take up this bloody stone and mark the heft
of it; notice its finger-curling weight,
as suited to the right hand as the left--
you see? Now drop it, before it's too late.

That rock has been the death of twenty men.
You may well laugh, but I tell you the truth.
Ask Penny Hinson or her sister, then;
their widow's weeds should furnish you the proof.

Some objects, fit so perfectly to task,
compel the use for which they seem designed.
This stone's function is murder. Do not ask
why it is so. As well to seek God's mind

for what He meant when He shunned bloody Cain,
or marked mankind for its eternal pain.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

#132: September 2, 2006

The little man edges out of the wood
and knocks the dry clods off his hobnail boots
just as the sun becomes an orb of blood
and creeping shadows blanket the gnarled roots;

His road-worn coat has holes in the elbows;
his tattered trousers mud-caked as his shoes.
Burst vessels spiderweb his swollen nose;
his face, once jolly, darkens like a bruise.

The bottle in his fist helps him forget
the shame and pain he's left, the stories told
about him in his former village yet:
how he, of all his kind, first lost their gold.

He spies the thief sleeping in his back yard,
fingers the knife and smiles--this won't be hard.

Friday, September 01, 2006

#131: September 1, 2006

A pack of savages rushing the goal,
Driving balls before them like frightened sheep;
Firing into the net, they fall and roll,
Exultant in the dance of sprint and leap.

Loosing barbaric yawps high-pitched and shrill
They stamp opponents' feet like they were flames;
To them, every direction is downhill.
Sidelined, I struggle to learn all their names.

Somehow I've got to harness this: to teach
Then how to dribble, show them where to stand,
What goal- and corner-kicks are, how to reach
For passes with their feet, not with their hands--

They charge me when I whistle for the ball;
I'm Rome, and they're the warriors of Gaul.