Tuesday, March 31, 2009

#405: Because Such Distractions of Beauty Cannot Bet Left toStand

Out yesterday, along a path that led
behind a dozen houses on my street
I suddenly smelled honeysuckle flowers.
The sweetness of their perfume made me turn
and break through brambles till my shins were lined
with scratches and my ankles burned. In pain,
I trailed that sunny odor to its source.

Perhaps I half expected godly bowers
where Venus, ringed with cherubim, entwined
her earthly lovers. What I found instead:
a grumpy neighbor rooting out the sweet
gold blossoms and green vines from where her chain
link fence was set. She piled them high to burn.
She smiled and shrugged. I understood, of course.

Monday, March 30, 2009

#404: Pediatrician's Appointment

The longer they were gone, the more it seemed
that something must be wrong; he tried to think
of harmless things, but something in him screamed
it was all lies. The monsters in the sink
of his black thoughts raised up their heads and danced.
They sang the names of all their progeny--
bone cancer, diabetes--devil rants
occluding all his rationality.

And when at last they walked back through the door,
the doctor's good report clear in their eyes,
he could have wept for joy--except he knew
this was a moment's respite; there were more
worries ahead, more nights of fearful sighs--
years yet for all his nightmares to come true.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

#403: Night Encounter

A fog lay nestled close against the ground
that night, and up above the moon's white eye,
half-lidded, stared us down. The only sound:
the squeaking of the bats. Old Ned and I
sat in the cabin. I turned bleary eyes
on that back window where the Thing had shown
itself the last three nights. Across my thighs,
a loaded rifle. Ha! Had I but known
what kind of thing was lurking in that mist--
What fearsome claws! What eyes of burning flame!
--I would have held my Bible there instead,
or spent the evening taking Eucharist.
At least God showed His mercy to Old Ned;
he was asleep and dreaming when It came.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

#402: Annabelle

So once upon a time, I had this horse:
I called her Annabelle--that was her name.
I swear the sunlight was her power source;
on clear-sky days she'd run, tail like a flame
behind her, hooves that barely touched the ground
beneath, and up above, the sun and me.

She'd jolt my spine with every leap and bound
till my ears rang and I could barely see,
But still, tears down my face, I gave her rein;
sometimes she'd go for miles, until at last
a cloud obscured the sun. Then she would halt.
I'd clamber down, bow-legged and in pain,
but never angry; it was not her fault.
She had to chase the Sun; and He was fast.

Friday, March 27, 2009

#401: Another Friday Job

Why is it every Friday afternoon
I get so lazy, lose my will to write?
I put the pen to paper, sure, but soon
it's back to themes like this, cliched and trite.

A piece about *not* writing poetry
has always seemed a cop-out most obtuse;
It's navel-gazing to the nth degree,
for which I normally have little use.

But now in my old age I understand
why poets do this time and time again--
it's watching the poetic grains of sand
slip through, until the weekend can begin.

If in this battle I turn tail and flee,
At least I know I'm in good company.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

#400: Storm Front, with Pines

God put a gray lid on the sky today
and pressed down hard; the belly of the storm
seems inches higher than the trees that sway
beneath, and every pine now changes form

into a giant's spear, whose needle tip
wil pierce whatever cloud should fly too low,
like cutting through a wineskin, and the rip
will spill the thunderstorm on all below.

But still the clouds maintain integrity;
the tall pines waver gently in the breeze
and do no harm to man nor earth nor cloud.
And something in their motion speaks to me,
as if their calming souls whispered aloud
and offered up the wisdom of the trees.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

#399: The Case of the Missing Shoes

Don't talk to me about your missing shoes
Unless you've something humorous to say.
You've got to see the funny side, okay?
It's really an uncommon thing to lose.

You don't have to get mad, although you may--
You'd be within your rights, no question there--
but wouldn't it be better not to care?
Just shrug and chuckle: "Oh man, what a day!"

The cops? You're kidding, right? I've got some news
for you: they won't go hunt a purloined pair
of sneakers, man. Who says crime doesn't pay?
Stop leaving those damn things under your chair
perhaps, and--search my office? I refuse!
Just what are you implying, anyway?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

#398: Dear Editor(s)

Oh, please reject me--please! Here, take my piece
and crumple it into a paper ball,
then throw it in my face, or at the wall
and bank it in the bin. If your release

Is quick enough (I hear it's in the wrist),
you might get one more poem in the air
before the first sinks--that's pizazz, right there!
Now try a three-point shot--no, I insist!

Without some sadomasochistic streak,
a need to know my stuff's not any good,
would I send it your way? Maybe I would--
but then, God knows, my outlook might grow bleak.

So fire away! I've got sonnets to burn.
Then maybe, one day, it'll be my turn.

Monday, March 23, 2009

#397: Disappear

One day, the ones we love will disappear
and in the spaces where they used to be
an empty outline only we can see
will mark their absence. Time to time we'll hear

a voice almost like theirs, perhaps a phrase
they used to speak in laughter or in tears,
the cadence like an echo in our ears
of songs we sang before, in brighter days.

We're destined to be haunted in this way
or else to haunt the ones we leave behind;
That's how it is, and how it's always been.
We'll leave, and where we go no one can say,
these memories a perfume to remind
us all of blooms we cannot pluck again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

#396: Rock Star

I could have been a rock star--up on stage,
I'd bang my head and dance under the lights,
play my guitar while groupies half my age
would wrestle for the honors of my nights;

My music videos on MTV
(or youtube rather now, like everyone),
more cash than I could ever spend on me,
and my day job description: having fun;

I could have got tattoos and pierced my tongue,
and driven fancy sports cars everywhere,
sampled the newest drugs and oldest sins;
made it a game to lead astray the young,
divorced my model wife for our au pair...

Say now--why did I not do that again?


Saturday, March 21, 2009

#395: A New Worry

As if you had not taken yet enough
from me of Life's enjoyment, span of years,
and nights of rest--another cause for fears
slides suddenly from your pressed, black suit cuff

And flutters to the ground, it's brazen face
turned up for all to see: the Deuce of Spades.
And so another nightmare thought invades
a mind where calm seldom enough has place.

I think of you, a skull whose grinning teeth
are rotten, in your fist a sugar bowl
you sprinkle in the bloodstreams of your prey.
If there were one gift I would not bequeath
my child, one wish I'd barter for my soul--
but you, Devil, take even that away.

Friday, March 20, 2009

#394: Billy's Gone Away

Young Billy hooked the cables to his head
(he'd wrapped a hanger round his temples, tight)
and threw the switch--some smoke, a little light.
"I must be doing something wrong," he said.

He tinkered with the box a little bit,
tightened a couple screws he found were loose,
adjusted half the gauges, checked the juice,
and put the top back on again. "That's it."

And this time, luminescence filled the shack;
his face took on a weird, unearthly glow.
He cried, "Eureka!" every hair on end,
and vanished into smoke. That's all I know.
Wherever Billy's gone, he won't be back.
I hope he's happy there--Godspeed, my friend.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

#393: Disgruntled

I wish I had a Robo-Kicko-Bot
to follow me around all day at work
and put its boots to anyone I thought
was acting like a snotty, pompous jerk;

He'd give his good swift kick to worker drones
who spend the whole day snuffling like bears;
and salesmen, welded to their tiny phones,
best not let KickBot catch them unawares!

I guess I must absolve the CEO,
and payroll folks--the ones who cut the checks;
but everybody else, look out below!
Robotic justice comes--you could be next!

Behave--and should you need me to remind you
the reason why...well, friend, just look behind you!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

#392: The World I Cannot Reach

If there must be a world I cannot reach,
it might as well be beautiful and green;
let breezes bearing petals kiss the hills
and ruffle grasses like a child's hair;

And let the sun set gold there, like a peach;
let purple-flower clouds complete the scene,
where silver-armored fish sleep in the rills
and nothing gentle, pure, or good is rare.

If I must stay here, trapped in glass and steel,
where nothing blooms, where everything is gray,
I think I'll bear it better if I know:

The world I cannot reach is warm and real,
and all are happy there who've found the way
and someone (if not I, then you) may go.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

#391: Down the Pub

Come on and pour the ale out for us, lass!
Give us a jar and fill it to its rim;
The nights are long, the fire is growing dim,
And nothing hates us like an empty glass.

It's Guinness, black and bitter as the years
We've spent alone, our friends and family lost;
A round for all, barmaid, and damn the cost!
This potion's fit to banish all such fears.

Or else it's Bass, as warm and brown as wood
Tossed in the stove to chase away the chill;
Or maybe something stronger by the gill--
A dram of whisky sure would do us good.

Time marches on, it's no use to resist;
So let us face it: brave, unbowed--and pissed.

#391: Down the Pub

Come on and pour the ale out for us, lass!
Give us a jar and fill it to its rim;
The nights are long, the fire is growing dim,
And nothing hates us like an empty glass.

It's Guinness, black and bitter as the years
We've spent alone, our friends and family lost;
A round for all, barmaid, and damn the cost!
This potion's fit to banish all such fears.

Or else it's Bass, as warm and brown as wood
Tossed in the stove to chase away the chill;
Or maybe something stronger by the gill--
A dram of whisky sure would do us good.

Time marches on, it's no use to resist;
So let us face it: brave, unbowed--and pissed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

#390: Lunae Infinitum

Another Monday down--how many more?
Let's see...what's fifty-two times thirty-five?
(It could be thirty-six or thirty-four,
that's just an estimate. If I'm alive

A decade more than that, well that's just cake!
But you can't count on it; Therefore I won't.)
That's eighteen-hundred-twenty, give or take.
But wait--there's something I forgot. You don't

Count holidays; but then it gets too hard.
You have to break out calendars and such!
Say eighteen hundred flat. That's clears the card
of Mondays for a lifetime--not too much,

And this one's nearly done! That's one less, now.
Chin up, my lad! You'll make it through--somehow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

#389: Sunday Night Clean-Up

It's Sunday night--we cannot now ignore
the mess the kids have made; it must be faced:
the action figures strewn across the floor
as though some massacre had taken place;

A horse's head lies, mounted on a stick,
like some Godfather's warning in your bed;
a Nerf Gun choice of weapons--take your pick--
or have a Jedi lightsaber instead!

Stuffed animals like trophies from a hunt,
and one splayed, naked, shameless Barbie doll.
The leavings of some spry, tornadic runt
already snug and sleeping down the hall.

Ah, hell, let's leave it there another day;
and if it gets too bad--we'll move away.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

#388: Dark Day

If I had stood up years ago and said,
"This is not what I wanted. I refuse,"
back when I did not have as much to lose,
it might have made a difference. Now instead,

I stay pressed in my cushioned, comfy chair
and do not speak--there's little left to say.
Escape? Perhaps I'd try, were there a way,
or anyone at all I thought would care.

And I could rage at circumstance or fate,
but I know better now, and so do you.
Inertia is a symptom, not a cause.
The type is set, the hour is growing late,
the tale's not tragic; neither is it new.
It ends like every other story does.

Friday, March 13, 2009

#387: The Hole

We found it round the back when we moved in.
It's bottomless. Near thirteen feet across,
sides smooth-worn stone. It yawns there like the den
of some gigantic worm. We're at a loss
to give it explanation.

Some dark nights,
when there's no moon, I take my rusted spade
and toss in fill, imagining dim lights
down in its depths. It's an illusion, made
of stars and cool, still water, says the wife.
But there's no water here.

It takes its toll.
Sometimes I swear to God I feel the pull
of some force down below that wants my life.

I keep on tossing dirt into that hole.
I don't believe it ever will get full.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

#386: Some Days

Some days it's like molasses in your pen:
you shake and shake and shake, but nothing spills;
On other days you can't wait to begin,
but some damn fool has blunted all the quills;

Some lucky days the poetry just flows
like sun-warmed honey over lovers' flesh;
Still others you would kill for days like those,
or anything at all that might sound fresh;

Some days you stain the page with blood and tears,
slip fingers in between your ribs and squeeze;
Some days your thoughts resemble well-oiled gears
inside steel locks to which your words are keys;

And then some days you've got fuck-all to say--
and you end up with nothing. Like today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

#385: Byron

A cad, perhaps, who never felt a thing
could not also be tasted, smelled, or heard;
his tongue designed to wrap around a word,
drape it in golden robes, and make it sing;

His fingers stained with ink, lips always curled
in wicked, mocking smiles; and yet a heart
to march to Greece and play the hero's part,
however much he claimed to hate the world;

No hope of heaven, wringing from this life
forbidden fruit, his sister by his side
(he could not take Augusta for his bride,
and so, in vengeance, sodomized his wife);

A devil, angel, dreamer, sage and child,
he whispers to us still--"Be wild. Be wild."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

#384: Dragonslayer

I know it was not happenstance that set
my foot upon this path those years ago
when I, a lad before my first shave yet
by two more summers, braved the ice and snow
to search for that hard beast. Not chance, but fate
propelled me north from my hometown to sit
by wizards' fires that burned so strange and late
into the night, that by no hand were lit.

The crafts I learned beside those wizened men,
with runes drawn in the wrinkles of their cheeks
and stardust in their beards, will serve me well
when, sweating in the foul reek of his den,
the voice of Ardeth, Ancient Slayer, speaks
once more, and sends that demon back to Hell.

Monday, March 09, 2009

#383: The Way Tricks Went Down

The way she tells it, Tricks went down like this:
the Boss's man came in, eyes red, aflame
(they called him Hash, but Ed Fink was his name,
the nickname from the weed), and in his fist

the racing form that showed Don't Fail Me Now
had come in third instead of pulling lame.
The Boss had lost a wad, and knew the blame
was Tricks' and Tricks' alone, no matter how.

The gunsel, high as income tax, took aim
(the gat was in the paper, natch), his wrist
supple as surgery, would not allow
last words or prayers. Tricks winked at Betty Dow,
his lips pursed, flirty, one last Judas Kiss,
before the bullet took him off his game.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

#382: The Neighbor Dog

Last night at three a.m., the shade of sleep
was ripped in two by brightnesses of sound--
a needle-yelp, that icepick-wielding hound
who haunts the neighbor yard. However deep
in Dreamland's tide you swim, he'll pull you out
with tireless, tooth enamel-wearing noise.
It seems like hours--you'd think he'd lose his voice!
But sadly, no. And when you start to doubt
your moral firmness, picture in your claws
the mongrel's throat, a silver cleaver close
with Silence on its edge, or else a dose
of cyanide to drop in champing jaws--

His owners save him though an open door,
and you lie waking, fuming, until four.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

#381: Just the Same

Though now we're fatter and our hair is thinning,
Though wrinkles line our cheeks and crease our eyes,
Though years have passed us since our last goodbyes,
It's just the same now as in the beginning.

Though clock hands large and small have not stopped spinning,
We've changed zip codes and lovers many times,
The word for "age" and "tongue" no longer rhymes,
It's just the same now as in the beginning.

It's true, our lives are closer to their ends
And glories lie behind us, while before:
A track on which we have no hope of winning;
But never mind--at hand are wine and friends,
And hours till dawn--why would you ask for more?
It's just the same now as in the beginning.


Friday, March 06, 2009

#380: TGIF

It's Friday afternoon--don't watch the clock--
you know about watched pots by now, I'm sure;
Start counting every tick and every tock,
there's no way you'll be able to endure.

Eyes on the screen, keep tapping at the keys,
try not to think about your car outside
just waiting there to give you your release
and speed you on that lovely weekend ride.

Another hour and this will be the past--
the emails, phone calls, crisis of the day,
all dissipated like a cloud of gas
and nothing else to do for love or pay.

Put in the time, just half an hour more...
then let no one between you and the door.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

#379: The Philosophy of Disappointment

Babe, dig it: everyone will let you down,
you give them time enough. That's in the bank.
The world keeps turnin', leaves go red and brown,
and nothing changes. Got no one to thank

but Nature, babe. That's just the way we're built--
can only keep it steady just so long
before we wreck. Then nothing left but guilt
and shame, and who was right, and who was wrong.

Your friends and relatives, your lovers too
(especially them), whoever gets your trust
betrays it, baby. That's just what we do.
What you expect? We're made from clay and dust.

God could have made us out of stronger stuff--
but then the test would not be hard enough.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

#378: Handler

You know, they're only ugly; they're not mean.
But people still assume the worst--they see
those curling claws, skin cracked (and worse yet green)
and jump to foul conclusions. As for me,

it took some work, and lots of sleepless nights
(and countless liver snacks, of course) but now
I've gained their trust. Sure, I could show you bites
and scratches--but I'd sooner show you how

they purr whenever tickled on their chins
(just mind don't touch the tusks, they're sensitive),
or how they love to nudge you with their fins
(but don't nudge back--not if you want to live).

But folks will hate, with no reason nor rhyme.
Come on, best lock the cage. It's feeding time.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

#377: Cranky, 24/7

"WE NEVER CLOSE!" in letters two feet high
above the drug store halfway down the block.
If that be so, I asked the sign and sky,
Then why does every door here have a lock?

And anyway, what good to anyone
does such insomniacal commerce do?
A snacker desperate for honeybuns
at 3 am, as well as Theraflu?

To open up at six or so, and close
at midnight, even one, will well suffice.
I'll wager there's no cold nor runny nose
can't wait
that long; if not, well, pay the price!

And as for those who might well look askance--
They'll learn to buy their condoms in advance!

Monday, March 02, 2009

#376: Songbird

At first I couldn't find him; branches crossed
each other like the shadowed edge of pen
and ink drawings, the wind would blow, and then
in rattling leaves his music would be lost
till calm returned, and like a ghost he'd take
the melody again--the pipe and trill
and once martial and mournful--thus he'd fill
the woods with music only he could make.

Yet still invisible--I strained my ear
and eye in fruitless search of him, so long
I'd nearly given up; but then he changed
the tune to one of joy, so brave and clear
I picked him out--gray, feathers disarranged,
and barely big enough to hold his song.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

#375: Wherein Sonnet Boy Questions His Motives for the Restart

What for? Not just to show it can be done--
That's proved already, most conclusively.
And so far it's been hardly any fun,
Though one still hopes it will, eventually.

Perhaps like Rumpelstiltskin's lady fair
I hope to spin my straw thoughts into gold;
Discover treasure underneath the hair
I used to have, before I grew so old...

And yet if I did not believe there lay
some secret worth unearthing in my brain,
Some flowers yet ungathered on the way,
then why begin the journey yet again?

It's Patience that I need, that much is clear;
and arrogance enough to persevere.