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.

[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.

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.

Charity

The tourist bought the Sherpa boots
who from then on could never go without
damaging others with good deeds.
The side effects of this pill

kill or coax us to long
for swifter death.
For instance the widow
leaning too long on

the tired banister
collapses to communicate
internal turmoil – sharing disaster
so it might be understood better.

If help hurts and hurt helps
the loving mother nurtures a despot.
Beneath his brutality a Renaissance tunnels

inspired by oppression (scandalous sculptures
seditious canvases) but ends
merely in practicality

adorned until encumbered
(suffocating corsets
gauntlets gauded with jewels).
The soul
free-falling

upon the concrete
becomes a body.
Beware of all philanthropy
since good deeds done in turn
depart and take your share
of kindness likewise

elsewhere – plagues spread in the wake
of well-meaning apostles.

Featured art: The Waste Material, 2015, by Samedi Von Drole
Oil and other media, 70x50x4 cm