When Lorca held a dagger
to his poem's throat
and demanded angels
forsake their voice of haiku,
but must crow in telegrams
inscribed on carnations,

Those red roosters of heaven,
(you said only that their host was feathered –
did you not notice their craws, their combs,
Gabriel's stud-strut across the yard?)
crazed by their silencing,
voices locked forever on wax cylinders,

Like heavenly accordions
playing dust polkas,
like a cricket whose chirp
cannot be found in the wimples
of a nun, the mad search
and beating of sacred cloth with a cane –

Then oh Lorca, oh Basho,
outside, the smell of fruit trees
in Valparaiso:

The lemons, so sour –
Transubstantiation drinks
Scent of angel skin

Rags and Feathers

It is snowing dead angels, 
a blizzard of choir robes 
and feathers 

Bombs and tanks 
and guns do that, as Suzanne 
told you long ago 

Her voice an echo 
from the harbor, 
now you finally understand her 

There never was 
such a thing 
as a Salvation Army 

A song blown out of the sky 
by .45's 
with a clip of sorrows

For Shay’s Word Garden

(Song for Randy)

My breath was hissing sand in a dry arroyo,
Joni Mitchell sat at our campfire, toasting butterscotch s’mores
as I was dying, the sulfur taste and smell of dried apricots
tying my throat closed with laces of fruit leather

Anaphylaxis in the New Mexico desert the night
cold, the stars cold, the cold blue lips 
of the Milky Way trying to shout no, no Joni, I'm
not going to be a free man in Paris unfettered and alive,

Not a free man even back in Taos or Denver or in the car 
10 miles down the trail since I'm not going to be alive
in a few minutes please conjugate "hejira" in the Arabic 
hijrah "departure," from hajara "to depart" because 

I'm departing all right, the wolf of your song circling the fire 
with silver smoke in its teeth, Kevin trying to make me sing 
"Both Sides Now" which was a sick thing to do if you think about it
but he must have decided better I die laughing 

except singing along with Joni Mitchell saved my life,
can it save yours? Try it. Let the words form up in your constricting heart:
"No regrets Coyote. Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
and the lips you can get." Do it. Save yourself if you can.

For Shay’s Word Garden

A Donald Barthelme Reader

Where An Online Hot Tub Buying Guide from Popular Mechanics
Is Dazzled by Hollywood's Bright Lights

Cup holders, multicolor LED lights, and removable headrests – budget aside, 
when in the market for a hot tub consider the features most important
for actors to play submarine and avoid their unpaid agents.
The first thing to nail down is how many people 
you’ll generally need to accommodate, including
her bodyguard and Natasha in her gown and streamers.

The majority of options out there are for four to five people 
or six to seven people, so yes, bring the man from accounting
with a face saddened like a porcupine.

But there are a few large models 
that can accommodate eight or more adults:
a couple of cops, the fire chief, the mayor. Maybe you are Gatsby!

As well as extra small hot tubs ideal for two. 
Square inflatable hot tubs
for blackbird-boned lovers who want a quick coo.

Next up is the number of jets. At least 100 jets.
Or should have at least 170 jets. A lot of jets.
Jets are as necessary as a good hero role.

Always check the number of jets 
to ensure you'll get the experience you want –
the shocking welter of water, so peculiar and wonderful.

Check water capacity (measured in gallons) and overall dimensions.
Remember, size is important! 
Please do not gape at the pool boy.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Small, Smaller, Smallest

On a cold winter day, I squish through the streets 
of Greenwich Village 
until I stand before 75 1/2 Bedford Street,
the "Narrowest House" 
in New York City.

Where lived the widest mind –
her words expanding like swan wings in flight 
over the quarrel of water tanks
and tarpaper rooftops
endlessly arguing the city. 

Clearly what ails me –
I take up too much space.
I must move to smaller and smaller rooms, crawl
into an overpriced, cubbyhole of my mind and write
crabbed on a stool.

Or maybe jack into one of those 
video game follies 
where the walls slowly press in 
and squeeze –
a giant lemon press for poems. Or garlic.

That’s it! Smash myself 
paper thin, 
pressed like a stricken butterfly
between the pages of a dictionary. 
Yes, that is how it’s done.

To grow bigger, get smaller, 
said Alice.
Squeeze and squint and scrutinize 
the margins, annotations, punctuation,
the endless inky spaces 
within words.

Smaller. Swooning past atoms,
forgetting even the names
of electrons and protons.

Smaller still. 
Silly-string theory 
squirting from mathematical cans.

Smaller. Past the hearse whisperer. The ferryman.
The exquisite, infinite, idiocy of nothingness.

The Quantumverse.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Lament of a Wool-Spinner’s Husband*

Beyond the porch, hydrangea weave a blue and purple skein,
your fingers spin naked kisses on the wheel – 

wool leaves a honey smell of earth on your hands.
I listen to rain the wheel makes.

I taste crabs, tide, when you say here, feel this, it is so soft 
and beautiful, I say is this for Pablo's socks? 

Yes, I can see as you spin, you will then knit this yarn 
into loaves and fishes. His feet, so white, will know 

salvation and charity, they will be an origin story, feet 
that create the world like Enkidu and Gilgamesh – 

wild man, bull man, who beats his shield before the gods, 
his song immortal. If only I had such socks!

Dear wife, I see a cortege of right whales and topaz, 
hawksbills and vole-song emerge braided from your hands, yet 

when I try on the socks, they are heavy as iron. My voice
sours, I bark like a dog, my words falling down stairs

like malediction, take them, please, I feel silly
In them, they are bluebirds of misery. I

peel myself off, skin turned inside out, hamper rim-shot 
my soul – I will be sweat washed from Sunday's laundry,

then drain and spread and seep down through sandy loam, 
where I am salt that feeds the flower beds under our awning

and stain your lips again
hydrangea blue.

*Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda

For Shay’s Word Garden

Toe Jam

Baudelaire sits in my living room trimming candle wicks and his toenails
with a pen knife.

A Nor' Easter blows into town 
like a circus running from debt.

He asks for a lantern. I show him how to turn on the floor lamp 
and overhead lights, but no luck. He sits in the dark.

The wind keens, the moans of dinosaurs 
wailing their extinction.

I have to read him the Wiki article on Fleurs du Mal over and over, like reading
Goodnight Moon to a child. He appears to understand English.

Lightning from Dr. Frankenstein 
bringing his monster to life.

He wears his flâneur costume with that floppy bow tie. 
He's back to picking his toes.

Gusts of snow mad as hornets
sting my face.

Let's be honest, the opium and syphilis have not been kind to him. His skin is mottled 
and orange like a pumpkin.

And then leaves town, vamoose,
with the runaway girl.

Shay’s Word Garden

Virgo Rising

Maybe the Zodiac killer of the ‘60s
disappeared from earth
or at least California 
and true to his name
began stalking the night sky instead

Killing off constellations 
he thought were rubbishy glitter,
or taking a razor to the Gemini Twins
for their sophistry
and pretense

Finally, someone stabbing new stories 
into the darkness, a stiletto 
cutting fresh scars 
with needles of light: The Goblin, 
The Madhouse Nebula,
The Killer Toys

Holding my hand, you point: "Look, there! 
next to the Pleiades Morgue –
isn't that Ted Bundy?"
I say, no, it is Ted Hughes,
husband of Sylvia Plath, serial killer 
of poetesses, his words slashing lines in poems

"Oh yes, I see that now, and 
there's The Oven! Yes, yes
there she is, can you see Sylvia, her head,
that cluster of stars filling the kitchen 
like vapor, 

Which makes the starlight fray and dim,
the night now a bit dark
even for me

Shay’s Word Garden

Close Work With Print

A blackbird rose from the catastrophe of scrub,
pomp and plump of snow clattering off branches.

Its wings were flapping like a book 
flying off the shelf, feathers black and smudged

from close work with print, wingtips of words 
and birdsong slipped with ice melt and berries.

I say "Downward to darkness, on extended wings."
and the bird grimaces, because I always say that, 

because it is always "Sunday Morning" for me,
in my waking dream I wander through a poem

of coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, 
words, the fragrance of lilacs. The bird whistles: 

"Call me Wallace." This old, odd chimera of my life
made of papier mâché, an ill-matched pastiche – 

part lumbering walk, part postcards from Colorado, 
part the haunted mask I wear – laughable

my pretense of the ancient sacrifice, to arrive
at this place in the woods without gloom

or suffering – a bird rising from the snow,
its beak red with berries, testing my reality

as if I were the poem, the fabrication, 
the dithered smudge flying across a white field.

Shay’s Word Garden


I don't want anesthesia for breakfast again,
no pouring naptha on my cheerios, or ether 
in an oatmeal feed bag over my nose and mouth.

(However nasotracheal intubation of coffee
is indicated per DSM-5, 315.30 (F80.89) –
Pragmatic Communication Disorder, e.g. Poetry1)

Better your feral kissing stays stitched
across my skull, sutures of the cranial plates
fused into a flight of starlings, like radios

tuned to the shillelagh station – Swing, somewhere
between Cab Calloway and a blackthorn club
arcing towards my head.

Only you.

1Diagnostic Features:

“Social (pragmatic) communication disorder is characterized by a primary difficulty with pragmatics, or the social use of language and communication, as manifested by deficits in understanding and following social rules of verbal and nonverbal communication in naturalistic contexts, changing language according to the needs of the listener or situation, and following rules for conversations and storytelling. The deficits in social communication result in functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, development of social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance. The deficits are not better explained by low abilities in the domains of structural language or cognitive ability.”  (From DSM-5, pg. 48)

Shay’s Word Garden