Tuesday, October 31, 2006

#191: October 31, 2006

They prowl the darkened roadways like a plague,
all teeth and hair and indistinct contours
obscured by mists that roll in off the moors
so that only their intent is not vague--

Their tattered robes and ruined faces tell
of difficulties faced and hardships braved
like fiends that dragged themselves from ancient graves
to make your neighborhood a living hell--

You well may lock your doors and turn your keys,
but nothing will dissuade them from their haunt,
unless you give the fiends just what they want
and hope they'll grant you merciful release--

They're coming through the yard and up the street!
They're clawing at your door now--Trick or Treat!

Monday, October 30, 2006

#190: October 30, 2006

"I had him stuffed and placed him in the hall
above the fireplace. See--there he hangs.
His glass eyes catch the fire, the dagger fangs
polished and bared. Hm? No, man, not at all!
I like to tell the tale. I show his head
each chance I get. Mark you the silver coat,
hairs tipped with black, like quills. And near the throat,
my bullet hole. One shot! And he was dead.

"What's that? Oh yes, it's true about the moon.
It's well you visited me on this date;
you get to see him in his trophy state.
Talking of which--we'd best get upstairs soon.

"It's nearly dawn. Let's leave him while we can.
You wouldn't want to see him as a man."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

#189: October 29, 2006

My brother came roaring into the yard
at such a speed I'd never seen before--
standing above the seat, legs pumping hard,
and only me between him and the door;

I shuffled right--my brother turned the bars;
then left--he jerked them back, a devil's dance;
and then the impact--breathlessness and stars;
blood stained my shirt, and more than mud my pants;

Ron tells the story still: "an accident."
He tried to dodge, but I fled in his way.
Bad luck, sure, but no malicious intent;
We were just kids--such happens every day.

He laughs--too much, I think--voices insist
that part of him is sorry that he missed.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

#188: October 28, 2006

No time tonight, so this one's going to suck.
You might have come here hoping for a gem,
But this is not going to be one of them,
So if you hoped that--sorry, no such luck.

Blood from a stone or turnip will not come,
and you can't milk a fish; best not to try.
There will be music again by and by,
But now the strings of Orpheus' lyre are dumb.

Habit can do a lot, but just so much;
The rest is magic, or perhaps a spell
Of the spiritual sort--so who can tell
When he may not be visited by such?

If it's ninety-nine percent perspiration,
You still need just a little inspiration.

Friday, October 27, 2006

#187: October 27, 2006

There's something making noises in the sink.
I hear it when I go to bed at night.
It seems no sooner I've put out the light
Than I hear that sick scratch, and clinky-clink!

Sometimes I never even sleep a wink
For nightmares of what's crawling up that drain:
A snake of matted hair, or something plain--
A severed baby's finger, pruned and pink...

My mouth goes dry, but I can't get a drink;
Instead I keep the covers pulled up tight
Until exhaustion overcomes my brain.
It might be nothing; then again, it might
Be something fit to make me go insane!
How will it end? I scarcely like to think--

Thursday, October 26, 2006

#186: October 26, 2006

I guess I want to tell you you were right.
I would have taken any chance I got;
and whether it were done for love or not,
the difference to me then would have been slight.

I claimed I was in love--and that was true,
the way you only are when it's your first:
amazed, inflamed, drunk and yet dying of thirst
not quenched by paltry words like "Love you too."

So I was mean and stupid with desire...
But think of this: as leaves turn gray and bland
after a brilliant fall, so too the hand
of memory paints the past in swaths of fire;

Our chances to be that special are few.
Just think of it, now--it could have been you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

#185: October 25, 2006

O brew me up a batch of bitter beer;
Distill me whiskey from your sourest corn;
Stomp wine from grapes too early in the year,
And serve it to me straight--I am forlorn.

My ankles swell, my stomach gives me pain,
My nerves are dull, all sense begins to fail;
And bitter thoughts entirely rule my brain,
So quick with that new wine, moonshine, and ale.

The beer is medicine for aching joints;
The whiskey cleans the pipes and fires the blood;
The wine invigorates heads it anoints
And makes life's mysteries well understood.

Let me be drunk on bitterness and bile,
And turn it thus to sweetness--for a while.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

#184: October 24, 2006

Say something sweet to me before I go;
Say my love's sweet as candy wrapped in cake,
it's yummy as chocolate chip cookie dough--
and tell me quick, while I am still awake;

Compare my smile to strawberry ice cream,
and my kisses to rows of candied dates;
my voice spun sugar, airy as a dream--
and do it now, before it is too late;

My dear, these days are sour and malformed;
it's cold, and soon enough we will be dead.
Let's have our love perfect, sugared and warm--
write icing vows on hearts of gingerbread;

Though life be cruel, no matter how it hurts--
let's give each other, love, our just desserts.

Monday, October 23, 2006

#183: October 23, 2006

I've been a fool who leaped into the air
convinced that he could fly; my wings were strong,
my feathers well-ordered--but I was wrong,
and broken bones rewarded my bold dare.

I've been a simpleton who set to sail
in washtubs, searching for a paradise
of palm and honey--it was bad advice:
half-drowned, I learned only new ways to fail.

I've sought to break my orbit of this sphere,
but gravity has bound me tight as rope;
I've loaded rocketships with little hope
of liftoff, while I counted down in fear--

But through a little window stars have danced
on velvet...and I think I've got a chance.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

#182: October 22, 2006

The next day Paul's gravestone had fallen down,
the granite split on that rain-sodden lawn
as by a thunderbolt. The new dig yawned,
a manhole-sized black wound, all edged in brown.

McKee said grave robbers were sure to blame--
a clever lot, as he chose to believe,
who might thus tunnel down and so relieve
Paul of whatever jewels befit his fame

in death. But we all knew it wasn't true.
We'd heard the oaths Paul swore on Devil Hill
with wine running like fresh blood down his beard.
And we could see the tracks the mud held still:
one set, leading away. And so we knew
his vengeance would be worse than we had feared.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

#181: October 21, 2006

I'm standing at the bottom of the stairs;
I see your bedroom door open a crack.
No one can stop me now, for no one dares:
You've got my toe, and now I want it back.

The grave rot rolls off my corpse like a fog
over my tattered clothes, all brown and black;
It wasn't easy climbing out the bog,
But you've got my toe, and now I want it back!

You thought it just a keepsake or a bone
You could display as a macabre knick-nack;
You didn't know I'd come out of my grave
To find you shivering, frightened, all alone
Under your sheets. Now you cannot be saved.
You've got my toe, young man--I WANT IT BACK!

Friday, October 20, 2006

#180: October 20, 2006

His patients called the dentist Dr. Smiles.
A more sadistic man ne'er ran a drill.
From his office the cries rang out for miles;
his waiting room was full, quiet, and still.

He'd knock out crooked teeth and overbites
with hammers, chisel roots while patients screamed.
Later, mouths full of even, pearly whites,
they claimed it not quite as bad as it seemed.

But for the doctor no excuse would do:
"Of course it's torture without novacaine!
But joys bought cheaply are held loosely too,
and beauty's trash if not purchased with pain."

Those who sat in his chair never returned,
nor had to--their straight smiles had been well earned.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

#179: October 19, 2006

I don't feel like I've used my brain so much
these last ten years. Not like when I was young.
Things vanish right off the end of my tongue:
birthdays, names, anniversiaries and such.

I don't spend time on philosophic dreams;
few ethical conundrums seize my mind.
Sometimes I feel I've just been flying blind
one day to next, with no stops in between.

Perhaps I once considered my own thoughts,
believed beliefs, held certain meanings deep--
but now I walk through life as though asleep,
my brain tied up in unsolvable knots,

My self subsumed in routine, hypnotized,
and dying, dead, before I realized.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

#178: October 18, 2006

The door burst open like a storm, and Stag
blew in. Bill Delisle stood up, like he knew.
No words--belly to throat the blade sliced through;
Mr. Lee unzipped old Bill just like a bag.

Bill gasped and stared down, clutching at his gut
with bloodied hands. The barroom was so still,
I heard the suck and slip of innards spill
through gaping flesh poor Bill could not hold shut.

And whether it was money or a girl
or some point of twisted honor caused the fight,
we didn't know, nor did it matter then.
But what I can't forget about that night
is the sudden calm between those angry men
as one of them slipped off this evil world.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

#177: October 17, 2006

One day I'll tuck my hands behind my head,
Put my feet up, exec-style, on my desk;
Leave the voice-mail's blinking eye angry and red,
Turn my screen saver on and get some rest;

One day I'll just lean back and close my eyes
And shuffle off to Dreamland for a while;
Let coworkers debate the whats and whys
Behind my sleepy Bartleby-esque smile;

Perhaps my beard will grow down to the floor,
My fingernails curl like a ribbon's tail,
My PC obselesce while I just snore,
The company bankrupt, the markets fail--

And one day I'll wake up, and stretch, and stand,
And step into a more exciting land.

Monday, October 16, 2006

#176: October 16, 2006

Like Mithridates I've drunk poison straight
to steel my guts against life's miseries;
I've meditated on ignobe fate,
pre-tasted pain, sampled calamities;

It's pulled my eyebrows down, and lined my cheeks
around the corners of accustomed frowns;
it's fixed my eyes asquint, so that for weeks
sometimes I see no colors, only browns.

Maybe it's made me strong--but now I find
my tongue's so burned with vinegar and bile
it's hard to taste the sweets, and to my mind
it's easier to grimace than to smile.

With curses simpler than a prayer to speak,
I wonder if it's better to be weak.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

#175: October 15, 2006

The cats are yowling on the churchyard fence,
their eyes like yellow lanterns o'er the gate;
And anyone who had a lick of sense
would be on his way home--it's getting late.

The bats are circling there like windblown leaves
before the thunderstorm; the autumn moon
becomes a jewel of blood. No one believes
the dead are restful now, or will be soon.

The steeple clock tolls like a funeral bell
and on the path twigs snap where no man treads;
the tombstones stretch like angels out of Hell
and shadows flutter wraith-like round their heads.

So shut your eyes and hold your breath and pray
for one more hour, and dawn, and All Saints' Day.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

#174: October 14, 2006

Don't ever go to dig on old Bone Hill,
no matter what you hear 'bout buried gold.
There's things crawled through that soil ten centuries old
that, certain autumn nights, may crawl there still.

Strange voices down valley now and then
roll out from Bone Hill's foot like roaring waves;
their owners rest uneasy in their graves
below--their ghosts are not the ghosts of men.

So if you ever go there with your spade
to turn that curs├Ęd earth for riches' sake,
first let the priest say rites over your head.
For in Bone Hill they're angry and awake,
and do not care whether you are afraid
or not--these nameless, ever-watching dead.

Friday, October 13, 2006

#173: October 13, 2006

I'll start this thing when I feel good and ready,
So just hold on, try not to wet your pants.
The race goes to the tortoise, slow and steady,
And not the hare--now just give me a chance.

A few deep breaths--one in, one out, and ahhh!
Yeah, that's the stuff. Some stretches--one, two, three...
(I should have had that massage at the spa;
My muscles are like knots--feel 'em and see.

Okay: we're counting down t-minus zero!
So shut your eyes and slowly count to ten.
I'm psyched--I feel just like a superhero
All set to save the world...All righty then:

Now turn me loose! I'm chomping at the bit!
It's time to start this sonnet!

                                                      Say what?
           
                                                                           Well, shit.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

#172: October 12, 2006

You'll miss me when I'm gone--you'll turn around,
searching the chairs and corners of the room,
But I'll have disappeared like a new moon
Inside a starless night. I won't be found
Out on the porch, a beer popped in my hand,
Nor in the workshed cursing at my tools
For small betrayals; nor hid among the ghouls
And witches trick-or-treating. Understand
That once I've gone, there'll be no finding me,
However long you call my name or weep.
Lack of success will wear down your resolve;
You'll have to give me up eventually--
Except perhaps at night when you're asleep
And mysteries are easier to solve.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

#171: October 11, 2006

The Hearse Men came the night my father died.
I saw them from the window on the drive:
their wagon black, stained velvet draped its sides,
and two black horses, more dead than alive.

Six men fell out in old coats and top hats,
then scrambled in the house on spider limbs.
Their eyes shone in the moonlight like a cat's.
They took my father's corpse and left with him.

I ran downstairs to see what they had done
and found my father resting in his bed.
He smiled at me, the fever in his cheeks.
My mother clutched her rosary like a nun.
It was the best he'd looked in many weeks.
In less than two hours the man was dead.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

#170: October 10, 2006

She never leaves the house--she stays shut in
among her clocks and oriental rugs;
The light through dusty drapes falls sick and thin,
while shadows flit along the floor like bugs.

Each lonely hour her prized grandfather chimes,
a sound more like mad laughter than like bells;
In Fall the house is damp with mold--sometimes
the wood floor sounds like screaming as it swells.

And still she sits folded in antique chairs,
or else she paces hallways in the night,
nursing the candle flame like her own shade;
And no one comes to see if she's all right,
and dark things curl and skitter on the stairs,
and the moonlight cuts right through her like a blade.

Monday, October 09, 2006

#169: October 9, 2006

Analphabetic acts all out of school;
Benighted buggers bustling by the bay;
Decrepit crim'nals, crooked, cramped, and cruel,
Forever found freeloading--what the hey?

Gangrenous goblins gobbling Goebbels's guns,
Heaving a heavy hamster out the door;
The jammy jack-of-all-trades gyps the nuns,
And no one comes to visit anymore.

Nonsensical sensationalized sense
Passed off as poetry, but where's the good?
Republicans lather, repeat, and rinse,
And Democrats do not, although they should.

I picked this peck of purple prose for you--
No need for thanks--your silent awe will do.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

#168: October 8, 2006

She got it done the day she turned eighteen
with money she'd skimmed off her parents' change
from errands to the grocery store. Not strange,
then, that she'd want this branding to be seen
only by those allowed. A special mark
and secret, hidden from a curious world
who'd never guess this quiet little girl
was something dangerous there in the dark.

And so she went to college; grades were good.
She haunted the library most weekends--
papers to write and other things to do.
She was thought bookish by most of her friends;
but lonely nights in her dorm room she stood
naked before her mirror, and she knew.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

#167: October 7, 2006

What made me think I was the one for this?
What momentary madness seized my brain?
I must have lost my mind. I can't explain
This monumental study in hubris.

I have no talent for it; nor have I
The patience I would need to find a way.
I don't know what to do, nor what to say,
Nor how to go about it. Well, then, why?

Too many fairy tales, I guess, where kings
Were made from beggars stupid and unlearned
But bold enough to try--and thus they earned
A happy ending, among other things.

But I'm a frog, no prince, and I have found
To date no fairy godmothers around.

Friday, October 06, 2006

#166: October 6, 2006

I want to do things that are bad for me
and damn the consequences! Tip my hat
to doctors--thanks, but no thanks--and feel free
to bathe my arteries in more trans-fat.

Maybe I'll take up smoking, drink too much,
and never exercise or go outside;
stop brushing teeth, use junk food as a crutch,
and get one of those cute scooters to ride.

I'm so damn tired of looking at labels
and using measuring cups to dish my meals--
feed me more of your organic fables,
I'll show you how a pressed garlic clove feels!

But I've got kids, and premiums to pay,
so I'll be good--at least for one more day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

#165: October 5, 2006

Because of my bad dreams I lie awake
in bed and toss my sheets until the light
oozes like honey through the drapes, and Night,
dispelled, slinks darkly westward like a snake.
All through the day a feeling I can't shake
enshrouds my foggy brain like linen gauze--
uneasiness without obvious cause,
not lessened by what catnaps I might take.
For when I sleep, my bedroom windows quake
and shades with spider legs and tiger claws
crawl over creaking floorboards fit to break
under their weight; they draw up to their height
to smack their slavering lips and stretch their jaws--
then I wake up, my hair and knuckles white.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

#164: October 4, 2006

On Mount Leblanc, the Indian lit his smoke
and flames painted the flat planes of his cheeks
as red as blood. I'd camped with him for weeks
and found him silent. Now at last he spoke:

"Beware the night the wind howls like a beast,
but no leaf stirs nor maple bends its branch!
The Wendigo roars like an avalanche,
and calls your name! For once the storm has ceased,
you'll feel the blood a-boiling in your feet--
O fiery feet! O burning feet of fire!--
and run through snow and over frozen stream,
leaping and bounding, faster, ever higher,
till both your legs are ashes, and the heat
transforms your watery soul to clouds of steam."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

#163: October 3, 2006

The smell of damp earth swept into the room
and covered the two sleepers with its scent.
Silently one arose, got dressed, and went
down the back hotel stairs into the gloom.

At length his roommate also came awake
and rushing to the window soon espied
two figures on the rustic path outside
between the hotel and the mountain lake.

And even from that distance he could see
the moonlight glowing in her demon's eyes,
her teeth bared like a serpent's o'er the head
of his companion--and before his cries
had roused the inn, the sleepwalker lay dead,
his killer fled to immortality.

Monday, October 02, 2006

#162: October 2, 2006

Why should we drug ourselves into unreason,
Watch unnatural colors twist and fade,
But that our eyes can't take another season
Of natural hues so stolid, dull, and staid?

Why should we drink ourselves to nightly blindness,
And so shut all sensation from our brains,
But that reality favors the mindless
And only the insensate have no pains?

Why should we shun the world before our noses,
Replace it with a false but pleasing ruse,
But that we know the bloom is off the roses
And such a sense is nothing great to lose?

There's Truth in wine, I've heard my elders say;
There's not, though--and I like it best that way.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

#161: October 1, 2006

A beggar met a gentleman one day
Between the castle and the Channel piers.
His Lordship stopped him to inquire the way
And thus allay his Lady's travelling fears.

The beggar wore a coat of tattered rag
All caked with filth and spotted by the rain;
Old age had made his features twist and sag,
And he breathed raggedly, as if in pain.

The gentleman repeated his request;
The beggar stared, and answer made he none,
But put his hand upon his Lordship's chest,
Moaned piteously, and like a mist was gone.

The Lord laughed to his Lady, seeming brave,
But slept a fortnight later in his grave.