from the centers of each n bleeding rose n blooming from the cracks n an eye n fixed on n the infinity it's told n stays as open as glass. n Behind them n a mist n so thick it wants to drip n dulls the copper light.

sorrow

a day longer than a month of joy

after joy
follows

ill weather unsent for
man is the author of.

he gains enough
who loses

who loves
will always find

something to mourn.
seldom alone

what the worm is to wood
comes uninvited

dwells on the confines of pleasure
pays no debts to the soul.

like rice in an attic
higher than your knees

birds fly over your head
build nests in your hair.

Featured Image: “Fading Out by Design” by Shann Larsson.

Image used with permission from the artist.

The Step-Widow

Leaves limp. Shade
falls. Spells spin cocoons
to cricket tunes she holds in thrall.
The bent necks of shattered gourds
bloom mold and worms
fester in sour apple cores.

Amidst this mottle, Her many-eyed skull
stumbles on a hoard while scrounging:
bell jars boast pickled hearts and livers,
peeled skins and intestines
stretch in warped frames
leaned on easels.
Encrypted potion recipes
pour curses from Ziplocks’ pursed lips,
crawling up her legs as leaches and ticks.
Dusk bats bleeding out of echoed caves
weave the moon phase, clouds, and Milky Way
into a winter-colored thread
she tightropes through the sky.
Briers wind around to drag her down.
Starving wolf cubs pounce from mesas
missing by inches.

But her burlap of eggs sturdies the wire
while the hourglass branded on her back
slakes off in chaff and sand
wind feeds to the stars
which fall as frost. Her footing
lost, her mind drifts
to Elysian fields
splattered in blood,
kiting over cactus barbs and snow drifts
until her vision finally desists.

Planets of mothballs
strung as pearls along her journey’s length
we harbor in heirloom chests,
trying our best to treasure,
yet at the thought of them
around a child’s neck,
the heart shudders.

a golden urn
that can never be stolen

a kind of natural food for the mind

a weightless treasure
easily carried

no thief can touch

like rowing upstream
knows no frontier

no shame in sour roots

no royal road to pleasant fruits

comes through work
a little dangerous

remains
after all else is lost.

learning

crosses are ladders that lead to
vengeance slow but sure

he who always looks to
stubs his toe

who is ripe for
falls not before his day

even one hour of
is worthwhile.

do your best
and leave the rest

to rain pearls and jade
the cold and hungry

cannot use
cannot buy with money

cannot stir one inch
without the push of.

many a man leaves for Hell
on principle

where better to rule
than serve

where sharing with a sage
is better than a fool.

the net is coarse
but catches everything

along the road
no one travels.

within the heart
wherever we die

when it weeps
the earth lives.

heaven

Note: all lines are taken from the ‘Heaven’ entry of Routledge Book of World Proverbs, ed. Jon R. Stone.

a stone kicked
into a wasp’s nest

hurts your foot more
than the injury that caused it

has no eyes
so clouds the mind

cannot perceive the truth.

never without a reason
but seldom with a good one

do not let the sun set on
this force broken by a soft answer –

better to cross fragile ice
than a fasting man.

do not trust with a sword
folly without power

an expensive luxury
hunger and delay stir –

its physician
reason

its remedy
delay

and silence
the answer.

anger

Note: all lines are taken from the ‘Anger’ entry of Routledge Book of World Proverbs, ed. Jon R. Stone.

[r]Evolution

News anchors kept us from drifting
as current events tore through
the narrow straight, all bows
against the flow.

Stern headlines rippled
around sharp shallow rocks
while we prayed for the tide to turn
to keep our fears at bay.

But that ship had sailed, its story unfolded
like thunder in a bloody sunrise.
Casts delivered lines, hooks
baited, sunk deep

where color into darkness faded.
How easily the snake tread on
bit, and quickly blued the red –
the whites flashing and bellowing,

evening lightning lashing out!
Surfacing, our breath roared
into lungs drained of voice, and sea legs,
not trusting solid ground, at first betrayed.

Paper columns sheltering idols
among the valleys and peaks
we read again and again,
relearning what to believe.

***
Every truth in time turns false,
every compass as the poles stray
errors our altars, cracks expanding admit
light, enhance and warp our understanding.

Only the set morphs
from pulpit to podium to panel – the media,
paint and clay, to prose and pixel.
The expanding spectrum encourages

a different blindness,
as things seemingly transient,
like tides, ruled by constant forces

we learn to see, forget,
and are reminded.

Timely Visits

I.

The President’s in town.

Aside from a smug crowd in the town square
wielding posterboards of witty vitriol

and their counterparts waving baby flaggies
like preschoolers playing with their wieners

a passive gloom mediates
the rest of everything.

Fermenting trash cans
drool into sidewalk cracks
in front of small businesses

open but empty.
The insurance broker bustles
behind closed doors
his windows dark with Internet.

It feels like the Saturday after
Good Friday must have felt
back when people pretended harder
to love Jesus.

Cue a windblown Walmart bag
tangled with a tumbleweed

the pickup waiting at a red light for no reason
other than not getting caught.

The pavement swelters. The outlet mall
twists and shimmers. Any moment

the motorcade will roll through
to wound its ghosts with kind words
to staple receipts to wandering holograms
trying to return something
they never meant to buy.

II.

The President’s in town.

At an empty TGI Friday’s
the waitresses packaging takeout
watch his limos slide by
like Christopher Columbus
through the Bahamas.

The bartender steps into
the security camera’s blind spot
to sneak a shot of 1800 Gold.

Next door an excavator pauses
demolition in its jaws
like a child’s claw caught in a cookie jar.

The lights turn green. Yellow ribbons
the murderer colored between
flap in the same breeze
that unfurls the half-staff flags.

III.

The President’s in town

to check Death’s pulse

to check a eulogy off his bucket list

to exercise his freedom of
teleprompter. Meanwhile

Self-awareness
(which hasn’t showered in weeks)
coughs beneath a shred of foil
so atrophied it’s brushed like dust
so deep within the big empty brain

even if its cries were heard
even if they traveled as far
as the Pharaoh’s hardened heart

who could find it to drag it out
into the light where
in all honesty
it might die?

What’s Missing

The lost glove in the road,
giving the finger
to every wheel that ran it over,
and its other, not long after
hidden under car clutter,
couldn’t decide who was better

off. In their unintentional
endeavor, the honeymooners
discover how

they hate being together.
What’s missing always ties the knot
between such seeming dissonance,
such that imagination rots
with possibilities:

lemons and sugar
crave a squeeze and stir,
the blurred world and its lens
look for an eye, and the paperclip

patiently stands by.
The waiting we all insist on
makes anxiety worthwhile
and our universal refusal

to blend in.
Our neighbors yell
at their yelling neighbors
whose dog just won’t shut up,
barking at what they know
is nothing –

that nothing
precisely what he fears.

Equipment Failure

The summer dumpster’s slow-cooked stench
hit before sinking in
          realization the rip cord didn’t pull
roaring into our ending nerves.

Forbidden foods flashed
            before our eyes
                widened
– black donut holes in abandoned handbaskets
– effigies of Twinkies nodding no
                whispering over
             the triple bypass to hell

shimmering with mirage.
A blue pickup hooks up downtown
with a cute used
        bloodless coupe.
History dies in its making
love.

While the shoot won’t open
we shoot the shit
         as immortal
         as forgotten:

the martyred manicurist
of King Midas

and Medusa’s stone-faced
optometrist.

The surest truth

sounds its pitch
black in the smooth of a song

because silence is simply
without self-defense,

though it’s often assumed to be wrong.
The popular melodies

bulldoze its debate,
mix it to a mean

grey cement,
embellishing so brutally

the guests it hosts
impose on its intent.

Such language is a city
built on faults;

no one can say
when blame will fall,

when earth we thought was solid
heaves from under us instead.

The light of logic
thus, like the moon’s,

is another’s;
when its source expires,

it still will glide
between ourselves and further stars.