the sale of city park

That summer’s end
they buried the pool
after pumping out the water
folded its edges into
its empty center
almost gently

with the hydraulic fingertip
of an excavator
which also pressed
the earth down
until it was as smooth
as the lawn it became.

Its scaled fence uprooted
rerouted and barbed-wired
cautions trespassers now
where trees used to be
and laughter hadn’t drowned
when a bit of danger was
how fun was had
everything done upside-down
backwards and blindfolded.

Not long after
their leaves fell
you could see across the road
beside the baptist church
the cemetery
so cared for
it seemed alive
at the freshest grave
spring flowers leaned
against its stone.

The regiment parades

past the empty wicker chair
wound so tight against

the frame it protects
that supports it

to occupy a singular purpose


steps timed so even
the bell tower cowers

the brick and mortar of
parliament watching

knowing no matter
how right the angles

are always justified.


Still empty on the balcony
years after such painstaking assembly

tendons unraveling
integrity caving

beneath the weight
of mere weather

ghosts drift through
its avenue in snow.


Homecoming from
that war was quieter.

The bells tolled
victory desperately

and widows stayed
indoors for decades

wrapped in shawls
the mantle clocks unwound.

Their mending
was unrivaled.

for no reason

Everyone
with half a brain
agrees:

certain falsehoods contribute
to the greater good;

meddlesome truths
just get in the way
of their artificial obstacles.

The best science, stained
with speculation, leans,
its cornerstone set
in slow quicksand, while

the ever-stable steeple
(though built of contradicting tilts)
never dares waver
(though it’s able).

Don’t you think
the best decisions
are mostly heart and gut,

the hunch of justice
crouched to pounce
on weighing options?

Anything slightly impure
is a lure: mindblowing breadcrumbs
lead us back and
draw us in -

for no reason
could do as well
to ration our glitches
we demand be activated.

So this timeless tick -
our insatiable bliss -
gorges always at the trough
of necessary ignorance.

such a point of view

Was the defendant bribed
or did he win a bet?
asks the lawyer's 

severed hand.
And here enter
computer chips

programmed with precendents
seeking to bring
the founding fathers

back to life
as what-if robots
(upon which the jury realizes

most of them were assholes).
If assholes had eyes, how important
such a point of view

would be - pushing out and pinching off
all honesty, each calculated waste
honing their hindsight.

Featured Image: still from “The Bathhouse” © Federico Solmi

in China

In China, 
on the subway,
when the train and platform doors shut,
if you’re pinched between both sets when the train departs,
you’re torn in half,
smearing blood and guts down the windows
while folks on both sides
read the morning news on iPhones.

In China, 
escalators, 
with minor mechanical adjustments,
become human meat grinders
which, if they had lips,
would lick them. You can see
their chomping teeth turn.

In China, 
people get revenge by 
dipping effigies of their enemies' pets
in boiling gutter oil before
blowing them up with leftover fireworks.
There is a mobile app 
that does this virtually
for a modest fee,
if you don't wish
to spend time
on cleanup.

In China, when it rains, 
umbrellas, yurts, and those weird-looking roofs
dissolve, and people’s skins slide off like blanched peaches.
Beneath them, you can see computer chips
flexing muscles and beating hearts.
The fish take to the trees
for what the river becomes.

In China, each child is born with 
a boxcar of textbooks, near-sighted spectacles, and 
a master’s of science in quantum physics. 
To accommodate this,
the vagina dilates so much 
the mother turns inside out.

Featured image: ‘Run!!!!!’ by Jan Schrijver.

Coronation

I wake up in a strange country
becoming familiar. At first,
nothing is different –
the day is well on its way
to ending as usual – a sunset
more or less beautiful.
My neighbor leaves for work,
the gravel crackling under his tires
before the engine groans
onto the frigid, salt-crusted road.

Then it occurs to me as a nightmare
in an idle moment is often remembered –
a sickness is running through
the hardened heart of every handshake, echoing
through the atrium of every conversation
its blue-veined death. Every kiss, every embrace,
could end in remorse. To think this is Christmas,
and it could get even worse.

The Crown is passed
from hope to hope
as we celebrate quietly
(and in fear if we are wise)
the birth of it, as if weaved
from the thorns in our sides
to wrap wreathlike around his head.

But salvation is for spring –
there’s winter ahead.

I have never been born again,
and wouldn’t dare in this time we’re in
take and pass the virus of communion,
but it seems Christ
is as born as ever –

realer now than flesh and blood.
He walks among the tired nurses
dressed in walls of disposable gowns,
within the machines we use to breathe
beyond what would have been our last
and the vaccines coming toward us
at the slowness of lightspeed,
the hem of the garment
we’d trample each other
to touch.

If this isn’t Christmas, then it is
an unusual day like any other – coffee and reflection
in the windows dimming as the light grows,
in the dark rectangles
of monitors and cell phones
the world’s tiresome problems
waiting. A surgical mask hangs
from a coat hook by the door.
Dinner will be more like
the Last Supper alone
if the only choices were scant leftovers.
I didn’t bother with decorations this year
and in the daylight my neighbor’s
look desperate and feeble.

A package has been waiting on my porch:
a new flag I had forgotten I ordered.
I go out in the brisk air
to take down the tattered one
and Google what to do with it.

Featured Image: Coronavirus crisis on the Earth, by Olga Nikitina.

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.

learning

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.

 

Note: all lines are borrowed from the “Learning” entry in the Routledge Handbook of World Proverbs.

Featured Image: “Introspection” by Jacqueline Faubert

heaven

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.

 

 

 

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

Featured Image: “Engel with the Scales”, by Isaak Feldman.