Friday, March 30, 2007
A slimy, creeping gastropod
envisioned heaven in the dawn,
raised his voice to call on God,
mighty father of the lawn.
“Are we not fashioned after Thee?”
he asked the stolid, staring Toad,
“Shall we not wake one day and be
at Thy right hand, though we are mowed?”
“I’ve got better things to do
than chew the fat with slugs like you,”
big slime to small responded,
to a flower bed absconded,
where, until he’d dropped so brashly by
and made the worming robin fly,
that long-awaited feathered luncheon
had had Cat’s complete attention.
“Don’t eat me, I’m truly foul,”
toadied Toad as a breath of air
hooked his left eye from its cowl;
the scream inside him smothered there.
“Lord, I beg you not to eat me,
Lord and Master, you mean, right?”
No answer from a toad completely
paralyzed with pain and fright.
“So, what might you be offering
for your low life, you clammy thing?
I doubt the likes of you could give
enough to let me let you live.”
“For you the fatted caterpillar!
Choicest fly! You’ll have your fill,
though half the world’s disappeared,
and things are looking pretty weird.”
“Save it. Bring your disgusting pelf.
Our taste runs to the feathered and furred,
so your diet’s no concern to Ourself,
but it just might serve to bait the birds.”
“But Master, if you’d give me back
my eye I could triangulate
to your greater glory, send my tacky
tongue unerringly straight.”
“No sinful, rancid beast should wear
such jaunty baubles, not in pairs.
I’ve left you one to look at Me:
what greater mercy could there be?”
Toad did as he was told,
surprised he could be as ruthless
as necessary with lives so cold,
spiny, alien, unamphibious,
though Cat did need a huge supply--
they either got away or crushed--
so time went rather quickly by,
as often happens when we’re rushed.
But one day everything was changed,
Toad’s universe was rederanged
in the unseen instant he half-saw
his master lick the grubby paw
of Mutt, the Beast from Through the Fence,
who seemed familiarly incensed:
“You’d live to hunt another day
if you could hunt like you can pray.”
No need to dwell on what ensued
in all the grim particulars;
Cat predictably got chewed,
but unpredictably vehicular
was Mighty Mutt’s untoward demise:
he jumped the hedge and tore right out
in traffic with his maddened eyes
fixed on his lacerated snout.
Toad, strayed to his own fortunes
from the path of true extortion,
felt at last not freed, but only
vain, effaced, toad lonely.
Then the slugs offered beer:
he dropped a tongue, found some cheer,
and then a mate, against all odds,
and tads in thousands, water gods.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
You almost wouldn’t see him there,
bent as he is to his gray screen
in his gray office, gray hair.
No cloak cowls the bony mien,
spine a scythe, saint slim,
he sits in the chill, Hertzian hum
mousing scrim after scrim
from screen to ether. Humdrum.
At his back, beyond his blinds,
his half-acre of smoked pane,
even the confirmed grinds
douse their lights, catch a train,
but the lord of the graveyard shift
is too preoccupied to look:
he’s locked to his phosphors, ten swift
digits ticking his power book,
dividing a twinned infinity of thens
by the absolute value of now,
scrolling an endless skein of whens
past his pale, translucent brow.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
These woods belong to one I know.
They say he has a tumor though;
he won’t be down to interfere,
not in this infernal snow.
He needs the money right enough,
but so far he’s been hanging tough;
his kids, of course, are hot to sell,
we’ll let the reaper call his bluff.
We build the boxes, build the dream
that builds suburban self-esteem.
The more you build, the more you make,
so we can pipe that little stream,
move these trees out of the way.
Lumber’s selling high today,
and there’s the bank and hell to pay,
and there’s the bank and hell to pay.
Friday, March 23, 2007
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”
Maybe something like the slaves?
Without so much as a husking glove
they lugged the rock and stacked it dry
beneath Virginia’s ruthless sky.
But maybe skill like theirs is love:
the walls abide, unlike the graves.
Slave-built: a golden phrase
in Real Estate, a guarantee
the yuppies covet: money in the bank,
and no one ever stops to thank
the masons for their loving artistry;
we’re all equal nowadays.
That leaves us with the mounted lox
beleaguering a hapless fox
who dares a jump and takes a fall:
but even horses know a fool,
and one exception proves the rule:
everybody loves a wall.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
It had always been there,
so far as anybody knew,
though some oldtimers swear
the fairy tales are true,
that one night in a hard freeze the hill
gave way, set staring at the town
the dark eye vacant in a face of stone,
set the townfolk whispering, as townfolk will.
From deep within arose
a constant ululation,
of ancestral conversations:
soon the council chamber reeked of fear.
They talked of evil portent, buried sins,
the easy virtue of nitroglycerine.
While they talked the people disappeared.
One by one they fled,
the vacant houses bought
by a crop of newlyweds
who needed space and thought
a cavern with a waterfall was just
the thing, who put in catwalks, colored lights,
and candy stands and rides and Ladies’ Nights,
but the crowds stayed home. The thing went bust.
Again, in droves, they fled,
the crop of houses bought
who needed space but thought
the argument for safety very strong.
The motion carried. Council bombed it tight.
But now we often hear it, late at night,
a low, dissolving, subterranean song.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Now and then the moon decides
(with due attention to the tides)
to have a bit of sport with those
realists among us who suppose
themselves immune to influence
by lifeless sintered basalt spheres
whose blue, reflected radiance
has borne our booted engineers.
How else do we explain
the beady-eyed empiricist
out walking in the freezing rain
to greet her in her veil of mist,
imploring Luna with the same
endlessly repeated name,
his love, his soul’s one desire,
his only answer frozen fire?
Luna’s cruel; she is just;
the one face she poses true,
so we, in cracked and cratered dust,
may limn ourselves.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
As fate would have it,
hope springs eternal,
but walk a mile in my shoes
before you go against the grain,
because wonders never cease.
Year in and year out
we search for that special someone
till we’re in over our head,
chilled to the bone,
crying our eyes out.
That dog won’t hunt.
We’re long in the tooth,
and at this point in time
we need to give a wide berth to
pigs in pokes. People need people.
When hell freezes over
we’ll go off the deep end,
throw caution to the wind,
and, against all hope,
let bygones be bygones.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Hung in a web of air the hawk
peers mindless at the ground,
sum of his feathery appetites,
a clerk indentured to the thermals,
scanning for his portion the bankrupt,
busy landscape, pure momentum
unrestrained by frigid dreams
of perfect freedom, fatted prey.
His is an ancient heart, quiet
in the rote tyranny of shape.
But into that unruffled calm
as he rolls from his cage of air to become
a screaming hymn to wind flashes
keen the fugitive idiot joy.
Then, in sliced remains, he stands,
tries to remember what that was
that happened to him in the sky,
that ghost in the machine, fire
in his chest. As if on strings
he blinks and flings himself aloft.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
They were a couple made in heaven,
if such a thing could ever be,
a pair of youths at sixes and sevens,
in love with the same nonentity.
She loved him, but he looked away:
no woodland nymph could win his heart,
not when stark perfection lay
just out of reach, a breath apart.
Narcissus saw a perfect face
suspended in a perfect pool,
while Echo stood in perfect grace,
parroting a perfect fool.
Not since the goddess touched her throat
had Echo uttered Echo’s words,
but now she found she had to quote
each bald inanity she heard.
“What an idiot,” she thought;
“Why must you always flee?” she said.
Narcissus, badly overwrought,
assayed a kiss, but dunked his head.
“Your beauty beggars all my dreams;
it’s almost equal to my own.”
“Get a life,” her senses screamed.
“Endless love,” her larynx moaned.
Echo fell too ill to eat;
Narcissus aged and took to gin.
Both their hearts conspired to beat,
but clearly love would do them in.
At last the luckless bride and groom
became the essence of their choice:
he a drooping, showy bloom,
she a disembodied voice,
promiscuous, perhaps, but larky,
full of devilry and tricks;
Narcissus, riding Charon’s bark,
rejoined his lover in the
Monday, March 12, 2007
At the foot of our basement stairs
a spoked wheel leans on a box,
its perfect symmetry of pairs
a pure illusion, paradox.
The eye rights it, the way the heart
restores its lost and broken objects,
trues the skewed, rusty parts
to pure, unearthly polish, reflects
gold the brass of vanished keys,
beyond price the fountain pens
forgotten in lost libraries,
perfected in nostalgia’s cloudy lens.
Eyes shine too in the mind.
In corridors of complicated sleep
they probe the shadows unresigned
to what we had, but couldn’t keep.
Ageless in a labyrinth of grace,
they search the old familiar ground
for spokes to fit the vacant spaces,
end their quiet clamor to be found.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Corporal Taylor, never first,
got off a desperate, tiny burst,
but fell in flame that slaughtered night,
felt the seven bullets bite:
two below his fingers in the stock,
one the trigger housing took,
three pierced his wet fatigues to pass
unchallenged through the wheezing grass.
But dulce, dulce et decorum est
the iron crab that starred his chest.
He lit a Kool, dragged it deep
to drug the demons back to sleep,
thanked the starbedazzled wife
whose superstition saved his life.
That: a skein of smoky bars
where mangled trinkets fit to scars
won smoky drinks and smoky eyes,
smoky voices, smoky sighs.
He hid from those he drank among
the smoky fingers in his lung.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
As if the glasses weren’t bad enough,
or stiff legs after such wild exertion
as jogging through some pages in a chair,
or giving the gruesome facts their morning scrape
to check the spreading patches of dirty gray;
as if the short snatches of conversation
I can still often make out were not
so often reassurances about my weight;
as if the evening didn’t come too soon,
now I’m falling asleep in the afternoon.
I’m no drowsy palace-worn caliph:
time refuses to be on my side.
There is this to do, there is that,
there is persistently the bloody other,
and calls from every he she and it
with two bits to be politely dodged:
I simply can’t afford to be nodding off
when circumstances call for plodding on.
Because evening is coming, coming soon,
and now I’m sleeping in the afternoon.
Monday, March 05, 2007
My neighbor’s lawn’s a stern rebuke to mine.
Not merely greener: relentlessly so,
and plush, a velvet monoculture, refined
to a purity too uniform to mow.
It came on a truck a couple of months ago.
Still, he rides his snorting Toro from its pen
three dawns a week, to skirt my tangled tare
with blades, defoliants, clouds of nitrogen.
Two cycles done, he goes around again.
I get to watch him as I sip my juice:
each glance across a thin, explicit wince
because my dandelions offer no excuse,
cling to life with a flawless impudence
that mocks the horrors staged beyond the fence.
He knows his undertaking’s bound to fail.
There’s more than disenchantment in his eye:
I think he knows the creature must prevail
that hardly deigns to quiver as he powers by,
but sends its infant millions to his yard to die.