[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.

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?

Spiritual Physics

Above the cliff
standing guard
over its own demise,
a stolen car in neutral
adheres to gravity
without understanding

the slope
the edge
its trajectory.
The story

is these laws not breaking,
retreating after destruction
imperceptible except that
loyalty repeated

erodes.
Now the steering wheel responds
to what it once controlled.

A rosary swinging
from the rearview mirror.

An old birthday card
lost for safekeeping
jostles in the glove box.

Because everything happens
as planned, between the waves
booming their chorus, the splash
is a church mouse, the sinking

like eyes falling shut
if sleep were prayer
and prayer dream.

At home in a junk drawer,
which if opened would gleam,
the spare key waits
its turn forever.

Conducting a silent
invisible orchestra
bouncing as if
a hundred instruments
weighed nothing

a Chinese drag queen poised
at the center of a sea of cushions
flexes her fan
to flirt or hope
to inspire
fear and failing

dives upward
taking winds
and strings and brass
in hiccuping arrhythmia
away from curious fingers
of child scientists and predators

so strange
art can live
in false eyes
on dung and corpses
guised as flowers and guiltless

for it is natural this
hysterical gown
worn by the vulnerable
and our preconception
as if beauty were neither
utility nor taught.

butterfly