Saturday, March 29, 2008


Rusted railroad tracks
buckle beneath the water tower.

The hard yellow sun
pulls dandelions from a rotting grade.

Breath is shallow, short,
arteries twisted away from ties that bind.

I stutter-step through gravel,
recalling your journey away from the heart.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Question of Balance

Archibald Wix was a retired banker, meek and mild, who lived his days in ease … if ease can be defined as listening to the incessant nagging of his obsessive-compulsive wife, Clara. Archibald usually turned his hearing aid down in the evening while reading the paper. It was a sacrosanct hour, when silence and the crisp pages of the Herald, spread wide, blocked out whining that had begun thirty-seven years earlier.

“Your shirts are hanging crookedly on the hangers again!” Clara shouted from the kitchen.

Archibald turned to the Science and Technology page and read that mini-black holes, no bigger than the wart on a stepmother’s jaw, drifted through space like vagabonds looking for handouts. Well, in theory, at least.

“Archibald, you left your cup in the sink again!” Clara said with vocal cords raw from years of finding fault with the cosmos.

An hour passed, and Archibald turned his hearing aid up to see if any natural disaster other than Clara required his attention. He lived near the San Andreas Fault, and sometimes the earth did a quick mambo, rattling the china cabinet. He heard a melodious voice singing in the kitchen, a voice with the clarity of crystal and the timbre of a medieval damsel singing ballads to her suitor. It was a situation that called for investigation.

“Hello, Archie,” said a comely woman in her early forties. “What would you like for dinner?”

To Archibald’s left, a small black dot was floating through the kitchen, boring into the wall as a small, tinny voice called from the dot’s infinite density: “What are you up to, Archibald? Who is that woman in our kitchen? Get me out of here!”

Archibald wasn’t a scientist, but he knew that black holes not only gobbled up matter but also coughed up molecules on occasion, like cosmological burps. A mini black hole had apparently wandered through his kitchen, making both a deposit and a withdrawal. So long Clara, hello Elizabeth, the name of Archibald’s good fortune.

“How did you get here?” the banker inquired.

“I’m not quite sure,” Elizabeth said. “I remember being somewhere very small, like a genie’s bottle or a magic lamp. But I know you’re Archie, and now I’m here in the kitchen. So what would you like for dinner?”

“You,” replied Archibald Wix, not feeling the need to provide any astronomical explanations to a woman just moments away from the delights of courtly love.

As a banker, Archibald had always kept his books balanced. The universe had given him far more than a gold watch in return.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eternity in the Key of C

I tap the yellowed piano key with a bony index finger,
a C that stirs the marble-top bureau,

family pictures, wine glasses in the oak cabinet.
A French tapestry captures the one-note melody,

an orphan tone already dying.
I examine the faded oriental rug,

a thousand silent notes woven into fractals,
indigo snowflakes from an opium dream.

I hit the C again, the wire an old man’s vocal cord.
It is a feeble “yes” in a quiet room,

a museum where even the sunrise has been archived.
I glance at my body in the armchair

by the open window, summer breeze blowing
a white lace shroud over my face.

A heart attack, I think.

There is a polite knock at the door.
Floorboards creak as I shuffle through the parlor.

Eternity, waiting on the porch,
has given me time enough to say goodbye.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

After Reading Haiku

I sit in the sunroom,
looking at the yard I have given back to nature.
It is time for wildflowers and weeds
to grow tangled and tall
in the orgiastic bolt that is spring.

But there are words—

old pages yellow
the story of small kisses
roads in deep green woods

that I cannot shave from my tongue
with razored thought grown dull.
They grow reckless, wild,
like ivy that will stitch the trellis
until it falls over the windowsill,
circling my bed on a night
when I dream of love.

I must bolt from middle age
without manicure, without edging,
a sprint to the last breath
that will see disorder weave foolishness
and disregard into ruts of routine.
The papers on my desk must not be left too neat.
My clothes must be found on the floor,
shoes tossed in the hallway
in a manner that will puzzle progeny.

Beyond the sunroom,
blades of grass are hatching conspiracy.
The ox-eyed daisy has poached the loam
where roses and lilies held sway.
Decades hence,
people will say my final years
were roads in deep green woods.

Picture: public domain

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big Apple Pics

Well, it's time for something different, so I thought I'd post a few pics from a trip to NYC in Jan., '07.

This shot of the Empire State Bldg. was taken from the top of 30 Rockefeller Center, home of NBC Studios and SNL, Conan, Nightly News, MSNBC, etc. I waited until the last possible minute to take this picture so I could get a "good" sky and have just a few rays of light hitting the right side of the building. It's a melancholy shot, and it gives me the feeling, given the state of planet earth, that this could be what the last sunset might look like.

I know--everyone has seen the Statue of Liberty, but take a look at the size of the people standing at the foot of the base. They are miniscule. Liberty Gal is big! I was overwhelmed.

I felt sorry for this gull sitting on pilings in New York Harbor. It seemed to be a very philosophical bird, looking at vast distances and considering its place in the world or perhaps contemplating where it must go next. Or maybe it was just taking a rest.

That's a reflection of my son in a puddle of water. He was 18, and I think it reflects who he was (and is) given that no one really has any sense of clarity at that age. At 19, going on 20, he is still an upside down, fuzzy character who thinks he knows far more than he does. He's majoring in classical guitar.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day and Night

The silver rings pass through each other,
the magician pulling them east and west
with a double hitch of his hands
to show they are locked fast, like lovers.

And then they are divorced,
circles no longer sharing the quotidian mystery
of day and night sliding into each other
as they trace infinity along the equator.

The magician returns home
after the sun has fallen over the rim.
He says nothing to his wife as they eat
on opposite sides of the round kitchen table.

Picture: Public Domain

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Original Sin of Biff Penfield

[This story has been revised based on previous comments.]

Biff Penfield had been warned by his fraternity brothers not to go out with Nebula, the vixen from Chi Delta Chi, a sorority rumored to be aligned with the Dark Arts. Hazing was one thing, but Nebula was considered to be bad mojo. Some of the boys she dated disappeared or flunked out of school.

Biff was game for anything, however. He’d heard that Nebula had erotic charms that were known only to certain Chinese concubines. How could he pass up the invitation to go swimming at her father’s deserted mansion on Long Island?

Nebula slowly descended the steps in the shallow end, violet eyes sparkling beneath long, jet-black hair. The tattoo of a snake writhed from her navel up to her left shoulder, circled her neck, and fell upon her right breast in serpentine fashion.

Biff, wearing nothing but the designer clothes given him by Mother Nature, treaded water in the deep end and watched Nebula swim toward him using—what else?—a sultry breast stroke that was slow and mesmerizing.

Biff felt intense waves of ecstasy as his mysterious host physically joined him and spun her body a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees. His legs circled Nebula's torso, and his hands clutched her thighs as she hung upside down in the blue water, her body straight as an arrow aimed at the underworld. And then he was unconscious, Nebula disappearing into a black maelstrom beneath the diving board.

“Well, what happened?” asked Biff’s frat buddies as they stood around his hospital bed. “What did she do?”

“I’m not sure,” Biff replied, “but if I don’t get the tattoo of this snake lasered off my chest and shoulders, my parents are gonna kill me.”

Biff lived an ordinary life in the years ahead, but on certain moonless nights when the tide was high, he found himself scratching his chest and shoulders. Temptation not rebuffed has a way of leaving an indelible mark, even if unseen …

… not unlike the taste of a forbidden apple lingering on the palate of mankind, which must forever swim in a pool of regret while searching for a lifeguard on a tall wooden platform.

Painting: Lilith, by John Collier, 1892, public domain

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Scarecrows at Sunset

Bare fingers of trees are splayed
against a crimson and purple sunset.

Scarecrows in flannel shirts fall sideways by degrees
as an evening chill rolls across fallow fields,

hope nothing more than a straw dream
of next year’s seed.

Button-eyed heads loll in the breeze,
empty sleeves flailing to wave off winter.

The growing season has rolled away
on an axis of black hearts, black eyes

eclipsing salvation and sun
on an updraft from a distant sea.

Fat devils sleep in the rookery
while scarecrows hang on crosses

before commending their spirits
to a burial in unforgiving snow.

Picture: public domain

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Five-Dollar Apocalypse

Meriwether Stout entered the fortuneteller’s small studio on a lark, for he didn’t believe in crystal balls, astrology, or tarot. He was a bookkeeper, a clerk who juggled numbers the way a circus clown juggles balls. He’d never dropped a nine or a six—not any number—for he was a model of circumspection and rationality. But when Madame Zoya touched his arm, he felt a jolt of electricity jump through his veins and then burrow into the very marrow of his forty-year-old bachelor bones. For a brief moment, he felt his skull had been rendered into a photographic negative.

“The years will be unkind,” Madame Zoya told him. “That’ll be five bucks, mister.”

On the street again, Meriwether was flustered and checked his pocket watch to find an anchor in the temporal, green-ledger universe. The timepiece had mysteriously gained three hours. The five-billion-year-old sun was lower in the sky, and the shadows of pedestrians were unnaturally long and ominous. Nearly everyone looked long in the tooth.

He walked on and glanced at his pocket watch again. The minute hand was spinning wildly, like a third base coach waving a runner home. Building facades cracked, and ivy tore great fissures in the sidewalk like tendrils of sentient, malevolent rope. Cars grew rusty, sagging on reddish-brown axles that had not spun into gear for eons.

Meriwether was nonplussed, which is to say his brain was experiencing a minus for the first time in his Newtonian world of rational, balanced numbers. He looked up to see the glacier, a mile high, scraping its way down Broadway.

He didn't snap out of a trance or awaken from a nightmare. The years had indeed been unkind.

Picture: public domain.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Essence of a Poem

It should be a woman
opening her eyes
after long hours of sleep,

the silhouette of a taut muscle
after it has hammered
a threepenny nail into yellow pine.

It should be the sound
of rain rushing through a gutter spout
to fertilize the ground with sky,

the music heard by a deaf girl
at her first symphony
as half notes fall from the staff.

Picture: Public Domain

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Once More by the Lake

[A tanka sequence first published in 1999 in Lynx, a journal of Japanese verse forms.]

shades of green
a twig tells of your step
behind me
this sound once more by the lake
and your petals unfolding

a whirl of skirt
follows your proposition
through the screen door
scented spring twilight
rolls down the nape of your neck

knowledge of change
fish break the silver surface
with liquid desire
sparrows call as stars rise
through quietly tossed hair

moonlight on water
a blossom floats on the white breast
to become a nipple
my head rests in your lap
crickets speak of this moment

a single kiss
lips have no words
for their mating
ripe love under stars
speaks only in tongues

two branches
the silent lake uncaring
if they are tangled
wet glory of spring
that water cannot hide nakedness

(Picture: public domain)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Lily Fourshanks, Searching for God

Now just where was that rascal? Lily had searched under the bed, behind the refrigerator, on top of the armoire, and inside the closet behind the winter coats. No God. Not even an angel or an Old Testament patriarch. She found only gum wrappers, a picture of Elvis, and several empty pill bottles. She knew the lithium prescription was important, but she was so busy this morning, what with looking for God and all.

And then it hit her. Why hadn’t she thought of it before?

Lily ran to the storage closet under the stairs where the board games were stored. God knew everything and would be a natural at Trivial Pursuit. She pulled the box from the stack of Parker Brothers pleasure and proceeded to carefully lift the cardboard top from the game, expecting a billowy cloud of white wisdom to rise up like a genie.

“Rats,” she said when no deity appeared. “He certainly is elusive.”

Lily believed that an almighty being should be more accessible. If she needed her washing machine fixed, all she had to do was pick up the phone and call Sears, which had radio-dispatched trucks. If one wanted to communicate with God, therefore, one used a communications device. She had been so stupid!

“Hello?” she said into the black cordless receiver. “Are you there, God? This is Lily Fourshanks of 317 Henway Drive, Minetonka, Idaho.”

Lily heard the dial tone, not the voice of I Am Who Am.

“That just takes the cake,” Lily said, slamming down the phone. “Whatever God is, he’s no Sears repairman.”

Lily was on the verge of existential despair and lay down on the rug in her dining room. God was lying right next to her.

Lily picked up the shiny copper penny, on which was inscribed, “In God We Trust.”

“He looks a lot like Abe Lincoln,” she mumbled, “but at least he has a beard.”

Lily dropped God into the pocket of her apron before happily washing dishes and mopping the floors.

Lily ardently believed she had found the Almighty. For the rest of the day, nothing indicated otherwise. The neurotransmitters in her brain had ceased a feverish mambo in favor of a peaceful waltz.

It is said that not a single sparrow falls to the ground without the Father’s leave. The same apparently goes for pennies.

Picture: public domain

Bolts of Silk: A Great Poetry Blog

I recently discovered Juliet M. Wilson's Bolts of Silk, a site devoted to collecting poetry from many different poets on one blog. In a bit a shameless self-promotion, I am honored to announce that Juliet has featured my poem, An Abundance of Tides, on her blog. Two more poems by moi will be featured on Bolts of Silk in the months ahead. Juliet herself is a very accomplished poet, whose work may be seen at Crafty Green Poet.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Vignette Noir

You walked through the steam in a tight black dress
and boarded the Pullman car.

A shrill European whistle
gave the locomotive its raison d’etre.

Outside the station,
a streetlamp made slanting lines of rain visible

as far as the covered newsstand.
Tightening my trench coat, I haled a cab,

opening the back door
as the fin-like curb-splash

washed over the gray sidewalk.
At the apartment, I drank cheap scotch

and listened to Mahler’s last symphony
before sleeping on the mattress

where we had both created
the sag.