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.

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?

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.

Plakat

A blue and red
widow’s wig
       barely floats
       just its lips
touch the water’s
still meniscus
       and without will
       out of boredom maybe
though there’s no wind
her flowing locks
       follow
       a solemn twitch.

She would not have let
the eggs hatch
       to this stagnant fate
       of pet shop prisons
so she has been
isolated
    for her nature’s
    cruel mercy.

No opportunity to save
the future
     their suffering
     her stolen hoard inherits
barren plots of rock
plastic plants
       nutritional supplements
       to bounded nothingness
their only way out
the sky they sip.

A word on resenting the success of others

Doesn’t it suck not to be
on the totem pole with the cool kids
instead ensnared in boring necessity?
Think ignored utility pole burdened with signals.
Think hungover surgeon whetting his scalpel.
Think boner put to better use. You see art now
from outside it – unlike your university days when
everything in the THC haze
blazed with profundity.

Now you are a planet pretending not to orbit
convinced you’re blazing your own trail through the galaxy.
But every sightseen thing is disappointing
every break from the routine
harder to stray from the expected.
I feel bad for you who are also we
whose profession and age have crimped
the senses’ extraordinary machinations
tirelessly flinging al-dente noodles at unfazed walls.

I used to have the best metaphors
and ways of hiding them you wouldn’t believe –
tainting dark caves with the light of day
sleeping bats would wince at
realizing they weren’t as blind as they thought.
I was sad enough to do good art –
to make futility worth my while –
while others thought correctly
what a waste! We celebrate it like a trapdoor
wandering its minefield
our burning offerings
dying.

Hatred has a meanwhile heyday
a staged buffet where trolls
launch pies and rotten tomatoes
at body positive versions
of Disney princesses.

These new names coming into the known
some ten or twenty years younger
ravish the internet with their words.
You don’t admit they’re good
but follow them for the same reason
Trump and Maddow follow each other
as if somebody were leading –
they’re doing something
in each other’s light
elusively right.

Tiger Lily

Who corrected when you said
wind was invisible gold
and innocent seeds
future diamonds

who never let you climb the trellis
and spread across the sunstruck roof
like a napping cat

who drew the line at color-by-number
and deemed rainbows and penumbra
you wondered at distractions
cast her sundial shadow

keeps you under glass
in a frame by the bed

makes sure you’re buckled in
for the daily high-speed chase

knows too much dreaming is a waste
control her way of caring.

You are her center
worshiped slave
uplifted downtrodden
fulcrum to pride and shame

the blessed oppressed
she prunes and preens.
Without her roots

how far could you crawl
how long would you last
before withering?