Reptile

poetry

I would look for frogs near rotting stumps
in the summer evenings of my younger days
collecting them in jars for a few hours
until I set them free
or cast them against the pavement
to be fed to baby snapping turtles
else be let in the tank for the corn snake
to have her way, at her leisure

I was a cruel god then,
my subjects kept nourished
with the blood that I saw fit to spill

Woe are the frogs of the summer evenings
of my younger days, flailing in clenched jaws
or stunned and rent to shreds

I was a cruel god then

Frog that I am now,
I pray my god finds mercy.

Giving Ground

poetry

I.

The air was cement
in the afternoon sun

I counted the stains
on the upholstery
on the backs of chairs
until The Law walked in

I was brighter then
I am warmer now


II.

At Eleven O’Clock
the pain set in

I clutched your thigh
through gritted teeth

I’d heard what you said
I never heard you say a word


III.

The Law was restless
pistol hand on grip

I tried to keep my eyes down
as her visage shook my soul

The air in my throat
grew thicker still


IV.

There were just us three,
two tables and a pistol between

You stood to leave with elegance
as I floundered, chair to floor

I spat your name as the door swung


V.

The Law saw my despair
and her pistol hand was mercy;

She shot me twice

and waited

for the light in my eyes to go out

The Devil Never Settled

poetry

I sat for perhaps a lifetime
my hands clutching nothing
as I rocked in the perfect black

I found my feet slowly
When finally I could breathe again
and found the pool more slowly still

“Further West, I’d wager,” I whispered
as I eased in to the frigid water feet-first
and filled my lungs with all the air they’d take

In a moment I was submerged
in another I was swimming under sea and stone
It wasn’t long before I saw the sun again.

Almost Paradise

poetry

“You’ve come so far,” you whispered
as you wrapped me in warm arms
robbing all my breath from me

“You know I can’t come with you.”
I felt you say in to my chest,
my arms finally overlapping yours

“I swear you’ll see me again.”
you crackled, tightening your hold
even as you began to fade away

You took the light when you left;
With hands and knees I found the cave floor
and laid my tears there in the darkness

The Queen A Muse

poetry

I came to on a slab of hard rock
my eyes adjusting to the soft blue light
peering through a thin crack in the cave roof

Seasoked clothes clung to my skin
as I rolled my sore body to the side
working slow to stand before gazing around

You were there next to a gentle pool
there was a glow about your bedclothes
and a gentle brightness in your smile

We stood in the cool of our breathing
until you stepped forward to touch my shoulder;
I couldn’t say a word

The King A Prophet

poetry

I made tracks through the sandy beach
closing on the vast blue sea
which calmed and quieted with each step

There was only a yard between us
when the sea became stock still,
the air a perfect chill, and silent

I stopped a moment, hearing only my heart,
the quiet breaking as the sea exploded,
thundering upward in a great pillar

The watery monolith roiled as it blocked the sun
“Hello, old friend,” I whispered in its shadow;
it shuddered once, then crashed down to consume me

Gates of Paradise

poetry

I made my way through sand-set grasses
beneath the heat of the high noon sun
falling forward with each soft step

The salt-air harassed my hair and clothes
The rumble of the unstoppable growing louder
I found myself on a short dune-cliff

The sea stretched out immeasurable
rolling softly beneath a nearly cloudless sky
its vista unmarred by passing ships or seabirds

“As cold as it ever was,” I murmured
as I dropped my pack in the yellow stand
climbing down to the beach below

God was a Sailor

poetry

My body rose first the next morning
awoken in part by the rattling cold
I stood watching the sun a horizon away

The tin kettle was near the top of my kit
the black grounds in the bottom were thick
“Just a taste sometimes,” I muttered, stoking smoking coals

When I descended toward the water
it was full on oats and coffee
and with steps unsure as they were careful

By the time the sunrise had ceased
I was half-way down the mountain
with only the great blue sea in my sights

Breadth of Heaven

Uncategorized

It must have been twelve hours
Though the dark laid useless my pocket watch,
I could have counted clacks

As the car slowed beneath my flour-bag perch
I pushed the slide-door wide
leaping to beat the bulls

I rolled to and stopped in a pile
my eyes finally finding me on a mountaintop
overlooking a great wide sea

The dusk set in as the freighter set out
“Mountain’s cold as scorn,” I mumbled gathering fuel;
I found no serpents under fallen brush

Northport Angels

poetry

In the afternoon sun
I could have heard my fits of coughing
but for the freight train’s clatter

you were somewhere near the ocean
“I’m sure of it now.” I said from my knees;
My feet found ground beneath me

My pack lay heavy on my shoulders
the blood nearly reddening my cheeks
my tracks leading to the freighter-line’s

the clatter had ceased by then
and it was just a short climb inside
to the long ride up the mountains

The Devil Went West

poetry

In the autumn dark
between silence and sleep
I’d thought you could be found

I fumbled with my switchblade
When I heard the racket
Just beyond the edge of the clearing

there was a rustling then
a whisper to the din that had come before
and the viper slid up my leg as carelessly

“What did you do with her?” I asked unanswered
while the fangs found my deepest reddest vein;
I was dead by morning

Hanna

poetry

What do you say to me?
you asked me one night by telephone,
when I call you you crying,
how do you calm me down?

I tell you that I love you,
I replied from atop my car hood
behind No Fun House,
and that things will get better.

You always kept that sugar
in the back of your throat,
and it fooled folks in to thinking
that you felt better than great

Four years is a decent stretch
for two friends to fail to connect
but I guess it makes good sense
that we failed the way we did

When you called me at 1am
three winters ago, I wish I would
have spent more time telling you
that I love you like I always had

When you called me at 1am
three winters ago, I wish I would
have taken just a moment to say
that things were going to be OK.

I guess I would have been a liar
but I love you still – it’s still easy to love
And I’m sorry things never got better
Even though I always said they would

If Time Could Travel Backwards Part 7

poetry

All the money in your pocket
for a brand new ’79 Ford truck
with custom ordered everything
with a radio that wails
nearly as loud as the gasoline motor
burning rubber beneath a Carolina moon
You’ve been drinking a little
and so has the man to your left
but you get home safe regardless
and didn’t hurt that truck of yours
as it sits rusting in the driveway
just like it has
For decades
It’s 2017
and you haven’t seen your oldest son in 4 years

Billy

poetry

Billy lost his thirties
To hard drugs and cheap booze
And a wife that didn’t love him

He lost his money because
He couldn’t stop himself
When the crack-pipe came around
And besides, the boys on Cork street
Always treated him right

Billy lost his stride to gas station food
And he lost swagger to head trauma

He even lost his luck on pawn

And now he’ll lose his forties
To the tumor that’s growing
In the roof of his mouth
But he’ll never lose that look in his eye,
not that horrible broken one.

Not til the day he dies.

if time could travel backwards part 6

poetry

I would knock you over
before your new soft skin
ever touched the fire

I would let you slide
when you needed to
even if I hated it

Instead of snapping back
or head-butting
I would take more hits
more stoically,
I would take your lashing
with much more grace

But later when your skin was tough
I’d let you take your scrapes head-on
without an unsolicited word,
with all the fury of a desert storm

Fury there would be

And I would hope and wish and dream
that when a cold-front came in
you would thrash beyond it’s milding

You would burn bright forever

and sometimes I would light my torch with yours

If I could make time travel backwards
and make you whole and even
I’d give you everything I could.

Everything.

Summer Cold

poetry

It’s the cough that kills me.

‘Too warm for this.’ I think
to myself out loud as the shiver
sets deep in to my bones
– just for a moment –
as the crickets chirp
just outside my window.

This old blanket serves
just as good as new
for to swaddle me up
and keep me warm in this
65-degree-Fahrenheit night

And I lay awake wheezing
and wiping clear snot
on to the back of my hand
until it’s saturated enough
to flail to find my kerchief
– an old cotton T-shirt
that I’d already worn.

The chirping seems to swell
with the unconscious chatter
of my arms and guts – and
everything, as far as I
can tell – and it would
fade again, I’m sure,
if not for this headache.

‘Ain’t it just the way?’
I yell to the uncaring crickets,
‘Sore throat in the middle
of Goddamn June!’

It’s the cough, though,
the stupid fucking cough,
that gets me every time.

Maggie

poetry

You are riding
on the top level
of a two-story bus
traveling late at night
somewhere
in South America

You are sick
to your stomach
at 4am and
through the wonders
of modern technology
I know

I wish that you
were cured
of whatever it is
making you feel awful
on a Tuesday morning
in Peru

I wish that you
were cured
of all the other
bad things,
too

A Thursday Night in March

poetry

I descend the steps from my front porch
into the softest of cold rains,
My only protection from the elements
a thinning button-down,
worn-out cowboy hat,
ruined pair of sneakers
– Foundry and Boot Hill and New Balance.

I am not concerned with time or
temperatures or saturation points.
The moon and stars are hidden but
I am sure that they persist.
A car speeds by every so often,
reminding of my frailties
in comparison to their metal might

Lightning whites the sky now
and now, threatening thunder
that never comes. For instants it
is as if the world is blackness
floating in a nothing more profound
than the depths of space could ever be

Two days ago the air was hardly
warm enough to breathe. Now
it whispers with impatience as it
chastises falling specks of chill wet.
If I glance past the street lamps just right,
the road looks like it’s dancing.

Retching

poetry

By three AM the skeletons shuffling
have left us with our ghosts
out in the chill night air
to stretch our legs, and make merry
our spirits, until we settle
at a point, and set
electric alarms to remind us
what we owe
the next short morning

It is in this space
that I think that I will find you,
writing your own lullabies
and sorting your own mail
and looking for something, too,
among these retching ghosts
and sleeping, lying corpses

I thought I found you once, but
it was just a trick of the eyes

Cold Patches

poetry

I am a considerate sort,
I promise myself.

Shuffle papers quietly
ignore shouting next door

We’ve all got to be mindful
while the tough parts get sorted

I don’t want to do any sorting.

The wind blows through the old sill
near where I lay my head most nights

sometimes my nose is cold
when I wake up to use the restroom

When I come back, I just tuck deeper
in to the blanket that I keep
in spite of differences of opinion.

The rest of my home is warm, I guess,
except for 5AMs with eyes wide open

ceiling fan spinning above
a recently interrupted dream

It isn’t a very bad one
but it always makes me feel bad
anyway