Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"The Serious Moonlight"

The serious moonlight glazes the tree leaves,
a frost without warmth, a worn silver plating.
Moonlight’s magic is transformative.
As photographers once dipped blank sheets
of square paper into chemical baths, 
and waited patiently for an image
to emerge from the blank whiteness,
so does moonlight bring us a new world
washed in her pale, cold flames.
This silver star tied to a naked branch,
is so much more under the moon’s caress,
than the limp leaf that dangles helplessly
in the breeze, beaten by the brutal sun.
The diseased branches, the sickly arms
of dying trees imploring for help from
a pitiless, blue, and indifferent sky,
become terrible and wicked
when bathed in moonlight.
We make our wishes upon the stars,
but it is the moon who answers.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Portrait of the Poet

My mirror’s nature is mutable,
Its function changes with
the length of the day's shadows.
In the morning it is a mother
with a checklist for the day:
face shaven,
teeth brushed,
shirt tucked in (like a badly made bed).
It tells me, “You are ready to set out
into the careless, brutal world.”

In the evening it is a trusted
counselor, dispensing advice
for the night:
“Yes” to this shirt,
“No” to that haircut,
“Yes, you may catch someone’s eye.”
(My mirror isn’t afraid to lie.)

But oh, that 3:00 A.M.
mirror is the mirror of
unvarnished truth, of
hard and harsh honesty.
My flesh is collapsing like
the Greek economy. My
joints ache like the Tin Man’s,
and my face cracks like
an old pie crust. “I am
a troll now,” I think.

A troll. Back in the 80s,
when AIDS was the great
unsolved mystery, and it
seemed A Flock of Seagulls
would be a major band,
a troll is the name I used
for the old men who roosted at
the bar and cackled at each other
like grackles on a telephone wire.

Yes, my 3:00 A.M. mirror
is the teller of savage truths.
But here is another truth.
The eyes are still the eyes
of my youth. The old hopes,
the old longings, the old
defiance is still there.

Yes, I am a troll.
I am a troll and
I shall linger under
bridges, tossing
riddles up at the club-bound
smooth-faced youths
and cackling like a grackle
at the puzzlement in their faces,
as I eat the Billy Goats Gruff.

Friday, August 14, 2015

100 Word Poem

A  brown husk, an old cocoon
adheres to my wall, a gaping hole,
an open mouth marking the spot
where something segmented,
with wings thinner than sparrow’s breath,
with scrambling legs, and unfurling antennae,
emerged knowing all that it would ever know.

Consider the caterpillar who wove this shroud.
Did it understand the impending death of
its present self?  Did it understand the voracious
feeding on plants, the devouring of the leaves offered
to him, communion wafers, life,
nothing symbolic here, being consumed,
destroyed, and transformed to fuel
a future transformation?

 Life consumes life; death is a pause between bites.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My belly proceeds me into every room,
a vanguard, announcing my prescence,
a hairy melon, the fruit of my labors,
my corpulent calling card that I wear
the way a peacock wears his tail.
My belly is territorial. He surveys
the room looking for other bellies
to fight, making sure he is mightiest.
Other bellies hide under ribs and
behind belts in fear. Stains adorn
my belley's face like warpaint. No
food escaping from a fork finds
refuge on the floor; my belly
catches them all. No table contains
him; he pushes them all away.
My belly adores to petted. People
pat him for luck, as they would
pat a statue of the Buddha in a Chinese
restaurant. They gather him in their
hands and scrunch him together the
way people hold the face of a friendly
pit-bull between their hands.
Expectant mothers in their ninth
month approach pressing
their ripeness against mine, asking
for the blessing my belly may bestow.
Lovers rest their heads on my
belly. "Panzon" they murmur. "Corazon"
they sigh and kiss him him in adoration while I read a book. My belly demands
his privacy.
My belly is a cruel taskmaster. He
leads me from the base of my spine,
his grip there is relentless, painful, and
my knrees are crumbling under
his weight. He doesn't know, and
please don't tell him, but I am
contemplating a divorce.
He will be fine. I know he will.
He will meet new people, maybe travel,
maybe buy a sports car. My
worries are for me. Like widows,
like mothers whose children are
grown, like men who've lost their
professions, I wonder...
who will I be on my own?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Each cigarette is my last one,
the jagged inhale in the morning,
the ending of my day in the evening,
the break for contemplation in the middle
of the day. Each one is my last one.
Why do we do that which harms us?
We smoke, drink, and eat our days.
Maybe we weren’t meant for so much plenty.
Maybe our success is our failure.
Maybe Wilde got it wrong.
Each man doesn’t kill the thing he loves.
Each man is killed by the thing he loves.
The origin of dust is a mystery.
No motes float in the sunbeams
spearing through my windows,
no sandstorms rage outside my door,
yet the grey film builds silently
on my books, my shelves, my hats.
Dust is a silent vandal, covering furniture,
then houses, then entire cities.  Dust is
time made visible, permeating everything,
swallowing everything, yet as gradual
as raindrops carrying a mountain
to the sea.  We flail at it with
lemon-scented rags, but still it
comes, falling, slowly, as inevitable
as our own deaths. Even then, we don’t escape
the dust. We become one with it, and in turn,
land on some future window or door,
shouting a mute warning,
dismissed with the flick of a feather,
yet always, oh always, returning.
Heed the dust, my friends, and remember,
what we wipe away today,

is what we become tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Novena for this cycle is to write about what you would do if a doctor gave you only nine days to live.

Nine Days Left
An absurdly precise medical prediction
has left me, O’ Muse, only a novena of
days left to live. Sing through me Muse,
help me to perfect my days. Guide me
through the last of life, and grant me
a moment of simple joy in each day.
Day 9
"Boiling the Perfect Egg"
The white sphere cold in my palm,
the water raging in madness below,
is momentarily brought to its senses
by the plunge of a cold egg.
Three minutes and the magic
happens. Liquid turned solid,
a white corona surrounding
a solid, yellow sun. The shell
peels in great white chunks,
like tearing drywall from an old
house till the naked egg
lies quivering, yielding,
in my hand.
Day 8
"The Perfect Haircut"
“A number 2 all over,”
I tell the lady at Just-A-Cut.
She doesn’t know this will be
my Last-Just-A--Cut.
My baldness makes cutting
away what is already dead
an act possible to perfect,
its simplicity as beautiful
as the white, porcelain cup,
by the mirror before me,
in which rests
a black, plastic comb.

Day 7

"The Perfect Walk"

The moon behind me
my dog in front of me
no spider webs brush my face
no toads squish under my shoe
the pond thrums with secret life
a slight chill in the air
keeps the mosquitos
away and my dog and I
can walk for miles
and miles
and miles.

Day 6

“The Perfect Nap”

Today I shall make my bedroom
An inner sanctum, a refuge
from the sun’s afternoon
heat. I shall draw my curtains
across my windows and stifle
the voices in my mind. A good
nap is a luxury, a blessing
not to be wasted. Let the world
spin without for a couple of hours.
When I leave this world, will I count
the anxieties needlessly worried over,
or the peaceful hours under my covers?

Day 5

“The Perfect Memory”

Emotions cling to photographs
in the same way a single hair
on the floor gathers dust unto
itself. Photos in boxes, envelopes,
and half-finished albums litter my table top,
a shipwreck of memories washed ashore
by my tidal wave of efforts to find that
one photo, my most perfect memory,
you at the carnival,  bathed in neon light,
head thrown back, mouth open,
eyes full of delight as the cotton candy
jumps its cardboard cone and takes flight,
aided by a sudden breeze, and lands in your hair.
I know if I can find this picture, I will sleep tonight.
Your photo will be th charm that keeps the night
beasts, those twin hounds Anxiety and Regret,
chained to their trees for another night.

Day 4

“The Perfect Honey”

It is said the bee takes inventory of
her stock after that advance scout
of winter, the first frost, strikes.
She caps her combs, she counts her larvae,
she measures the royal jelly, she weighs
her honey, she clears the detritus of
summer from her hive. She seals
her home against the creeping cold,
and with her sisters huddles in a dense
ball of life, constantly churning, moving
from center to periphery, vibrating,
creating warmth to fight the pressing cold.

So shall I on this fourth day,
take stock of my life.  From what
people and books have I gathered
nectar, and how have a shared
the honey I have made. Have I
pollinated minds with new ideas?
Have I filled the honeycomb of
my life with supply enough
to nourish those who come after?

When my soul leaves to join
that eternal swarm, the pulsing,
vibrating, ball of life, forever
churning, forever cycling
from center to exterior and
back again, what warmth will
I bring, and what warmth will
I take? The hive of souls

Day 3

“The Perfect Resting Place”

In lieu of speech and opposable thumbs,
God has granted- should they reach a
natural end to their lives- animals the
right to choose their final resting places.
Elephants shamble slowly down
dusty savannah trails to their graveyards.
Good dogs die with their master’s hand
resting on their heads, and cats slip into
shadows to  places unknown.
Squirrels cease their chattering
in leafy treetops,  and opossums
practice their death like method actors.
Rarely, is man given a choice. Our intelligence,
which is different from wisdom, keeps
us dying in sterile, white rooms, surrounded
by tubes, and the sounds of dementia
and mourning.

Grateful I am that the day of
my deliverance has been revealed
to me. My elephant’s graveyard,
which I approach, head down, shuffling,
will be an old recliner. A book shall
be on my lap, my dog shall be at
my feet, and I shall look out
my window, waiting for that
terrible beating of wings,
the approach of the unknown.
When it comes, may it find me
leaning forward in anticipation,
eager to know what comes next.

Day 2
“The Perfect Goodbye”
I shall double bag all my pornography
and take it to the trash-no one needs to find
that. I will write letters to loved ones and friends
asking for and granting forgiveness (they know
what they did and they know what I did). I will
max out my credit cards on Amazon ordering
extravagant gifts for those I love.
I will teach my dog how to order pizza
from Domino’s and leave him plenty of cash.
I will make a playlist of my favorite songs on
iTunes and listen to them all day. I will smoke a
last cigarette while watching the sunset from my porch.
I will read Walt Whitman and know that he is
for me.

Day 1

“The Exit”

Wait. I have one more………


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Shadows love to sing.
On still, moonless nights they
coalesce into choirs on
the steps of government buildings,
in the arched doorways of churches,
and the empty floors of parking garages.
They sing their hymns, their nearly
soundless vespers, sighing like the
wind through dead leaves, like distant waterfalls
only dogs and the mad can hear.

The sing for us, these shades of ours,
they see our days and know we need prayers.
Their chant is an invocation, as shadows know
a blessing for us is all they can ask
of the still, silent, space into which their
voices rise.

The new Novena prompt is "Where does your shadow go at night?"

I shall send my shadow
to watch over you at night.
From his ceiling perch he will
measure the metronome of
your breath, count the turns
your body makes under your
blankets, and monitor your
midnight mutterings for
murmurs of my name.