Where the Keys Are

I'm supposed to list my obsessions. OK, fine:
  1. The ferry maintenance depot near my apartment.
  2. The human body personified as root vegetables – potatoes, turnips, rutabagas.
  3. I can’t remember Jack Shit, though I’ve met him often enough.
Mostly the last one – it's like trolls under the bridge have custody of my memory. Pay the fee in princess skin or thou shalt not pass. I look in my wallet, but no Ben Franklin. That look of his makes me think he feels sultry in his lingerie, hidden under his coat. I feel pretty too, Ben.
Maybe my missing to-do lists and kodak moments are lost in a time warp – if we rip the veneer of space away will we expose its mechanism, its springs and bomb wires? What if lost time is a pendulum swinging in the clock case with its balls cut off – fixed like a steer so it can't reproduce. Or memory baked into adobe bricks, daubed with mud, stacked into walls in reenactments of the Alamo, where we always lose.
Someone said it’s the journey, not the destination, blah blah blah. I feel miles itchy with distance under my skin, yet the tundra of my kneecaps and knuckles are insurmountable. The rocks quit, the mountains quit, even the pavement quits before it ends down the block. With light pollution the milky way is only a candy bar. Nowhere to go from here.
Just once, contemplate Powell in 1869 – shooting the fevered waters of the Colorado river in wooden boats. Make the shift from your first gear to fifth, fourteenth, infinity. From darkness to light to fugue to black holes that leave you breathless on a far shore.

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse


Rue de Rivoli – "It's you! Assassin! Mon frère! 
Ah, we were but children when we joined the Legion,
marching from Algiers under Rollet – 'Honneur et Fidélité,' eh?
You, brave flower, fighting like a tiger in the alleyways,
and me, bragging open brothel doors.
The Devil or God (And which is which, in the desert?)
a coward when we blindfolded him,
rag carnation in his mouth,
we shot him with our Berthiers,
bolt-actions genuflecting in the sun.
Did we sin? We were fools!
We ate our bitter hearts out in that desert,
boiled our souls with thorns and thickets.
Riders with wind and sand rasping between our saddles and thighs…
Oh the melody they make – say it! Sirocco!
Now, over there, to your left, Diguet and his Montagnards
who gave so much blood at Tuyên Quang,
'Français par le sang versé.'
Now I merely puzzle the streets of Paris,
a toad who buries himself in cafes.
You say you garden now? Shadows of songbirds
against the barn, netting and dressing them
for your pies.
Here! Violets for your dear wife. Tomorrow it will rain.
Treat your blindness with care. Adieu!"

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse


The day slips away, a greased crow –
hours and minutes on fast wings, my hands slick
from trying to spell the alphabet backward,
cawing: “Mind your p’s and q’s!” and which is which

Waiting for Amazon to deliver a box of wind,
open its thermals to lift my pages,
my shuffling, flapping sorrows and anthems –
trash or wings and which is which

My wife sends me to the pharmacy, midwife
to the season's skele-ghost and fire-nurse costumes,
the mockingbird kiosk sings for my debit card –
and which witch is which

I stop in the park and thumb coins into a rose bed,
wait for autumn to brew me a coffee –
I bang on the trash bin, demand oak trees
drop their red and yellow poems, end their masquerade

Of art and life, and tell me which is which

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse


This morning I am a shuffleboard disc – 
shoes scraping across cheap playground asphalt, 
lines weathered and flaked 

I try shoving over a copy of The Waste Land, 
see if I can make points with ”hyacinth,” 
or bump off “lilacs” with ”lilies” 

But I'm too sleepy. I still have goblins 
in my fingers from last night's dreams, 
my maw dry and filled with peacock feathers 

Better, my game of folding grief like origami – 
I tear pages from the book, crease poems into 
surprise! A crown of thorns 

Forget about forgetting, 
memory steeps in tea bags of the past, 
dried peels and scabs of 1970 in tiny paper sachets 

"Are we having fun yet?" 
Outside again, the sun slowly slides 
Into scoring position, aloft 

Above the mirrored river, 
wings choppy as waves, 
geese wheeze south for winter 

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse


Sleepy, when my arm went over you,
the trapdoor slipped open
as always

And we fell in stuttered flight,
like bees drowning in sugar water
set out in the lids of jars

Tongues and stingers
slurred with nectar,
our waggle-dance instead a stumble

Drunken semaphores to the Sandman –
Instead of: "follow this way to forage, 
to hive, to hoard"

He reads: “Turn left at Chicago,
ride the ferry in your dwarf costume,
and meet us in the Shatterproof Café”

Which becomes someone else's dream tonight
while we linger on the veranda,
our bower draped in honeycomb

For Shay’s Word Garden and The Sunday Muse


The clouds were tired of smelling my feet – 
old man legs that swing, swing,
until toes stub the sky –

God's vast blue nostril inhaling
summer's residue and blister,
dead skin of bestsellers litters the beach

OK, no, only my face in the towel bag
huffing sunscreen fumes;
you said it was time to go

For all good things must come to an end,
like Columbus I sail
off the edge of the world

Pull the ripcord and parachute with all the others
in our Chevy Niñas, Pintas, and Santa Marias
down I-95 into Manhattan

Hurricane of returning vacationers,
lightning flash turn signals,
children the howling wind and rain in McDonalds

And you, as always, in the passenger seat
with your movie star face –
oversized sunglasses and bored look

We hang suspended, swaying
from the ends of steel cables on the GW bridge,
close enough now we can smell New Jersey

You say, as you always do:
"Never again. Never."
The dogs need to pee.

The Sunday Muse

Opera on the Half-Shell

Soprano:Seagulls, various
Basso Profundo:The Seal
Chorus:Beach bums
The Band:Banjofish, Harmonicafish, Washboardfish, Jugfish
Act 1, Scene 1:Dogman, walking the beach.
He contemplates, life, death, and hotdogs.
Dogman:This hotdog sings the mustard, sings the relish, relish the sky, relish the beach, my tongue in a pickle all day la la.
Beach Bums:Yes! Yes! Sing with relish!
Dogman:Sing with abandon! But abandon means bereft. I sing and am alone forever, my lungs lost in a forest of breath.
Beach Bums:No! No! He must not be lost!
Dogman:Like Popeye I smoke the spinach of storms. I flex my blimps.
The Seal:(Burps).
Dogman:A great fishyness fills the air…
Seagull:Yessiree yamma yamma fishfishfish.
The Seal:God said let there be squid, and there was squid.
Seagull:Yamma yamma squidsquidsquid.
Dogman:Clams are an open book of wagging tongues, shoal-mamas. I attend death at their pearly gates.
(Clam harmonica  plays…)
Dogman:I see the angry red kimono of sky open, naked sun flashing the sea.
Beach Bums:What do you see, oh what do you see?
Dogman:I see ramshackle clamshackle clamtastic fantastic hallelujah.
The Sea Hag tosses my fate like dice eyes.
Snakes in the house of Fate, spots scratched out, rolling blind.
Seagull:Yamma yamma
Dogman:The sky’s white lei’s of lightning, welcome to stormwash.
Flowers of heathen dance shock my neck.
My Popeye’s sailor pants are salted and scrimmed and scrummed.
Beach Bums:“O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis”*
Dogman:Oh monsterous fate! Whirling wheel, malevolent and vain.
(Clam harmonica, repeat)
Dogman:Is there no shelter from this sky? Is there no hotdog for those shriven of sin?
Seagull:Yamma hotdoghotdog. Absolution and Cheez-its!
Dogman:Fortune, speak plainly now. I beseech you!
(Thunder rolls in the distance)
Dogman:Lo! I have had a vision! I abandon this hotdog to the gulls. I craven crave crave but a Mermaid taco! This shall fulfill me at last. To feast on a Chimera!
Seagulls: (unison)Skree! Skree!
Act 1, Scene 2A simple cottage near the shore.
A mermaid hangs wash on the line
She, struggles to remain upright…
*"O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
ever waning"

-- Carmina Burana 

The Sunday Muse

In Memoriam(ish)

Death says to me: soon enough, he will call collect.
(Only pay phones in hell.) (No burners?)
But the phone companies killed all that years ago –
"Operator? Operator?" A bot buzzes in the receiver
like a dying fly.

My cell phone screen is cracked with jokes
and I don't recognize this grim reaper's smile
staring back at me from the lock widget –
gives new meaning 
to saving face. 

Saved by the bell, or ringtone. Sitting out on the deck –
listening to woodpeckers' hard words with bark beetles.
"I hear you knocking, but you can't come in."
I skipped Morse code in Boy Scouts
along with Lifesaving and Bugling

Which means I can't play taps for you, my friend –
only these fingerprints
on Gorilla glass, tracks in the sand
draining down the silicon hourglass.
If survival is eulogy enough, we are still here.

*”Death Calling Collect” – Don Tracy, 1976 (among other versions/sources)

The Sunday Muse


Now we’re inside the hat trickWhat? You say I’m stuck up a magician’s sweaty sleeve, packed with flowers, a bunny, and silk?
I thought a hat trick was in sports.Performing the nifty magic of being a man — are those roses or a crown of thorns? A fancy red hanky or was I coughing up blood? Is that my lucky rabbit’s foot or road-kill?
Three wickets, three goals, three strikes.Maybe I’m a fire-eater, but you wanted a mind-reader.
What on earth is a wicket?If I hold out a rope to the audience, slit its bight, do I slip the noose?
And why are they sticky?Ouch, I cut to the high card, it’s a suicide king.
This is mixing metaphors.Magician’s rent their doves. I thought you needed to know that.
I am confused.Yes, that is the trick.
What is the narrative?Let’s do the escape thing at the bottom of a tank of water. Or Everclear.
How does this tell us about men?Dressed in my best flak jacket tuxedo. Either I undo the shackles or drown.

The Sunday Muse

Flower of Power

Your head is a flower!Yes, I am the beautiful “Metamorphosis.” Kafka’s vision abducted at birth, found alive in a crack of pavement outside Prague. Passionate. Unbowed.
“After a night of uneasy sleep, dreams pressing roots deeper into the soil, fingers aching like thorns, Gregor Samsa awoke to find he was transformed into a wild rose.”
But sadly.Yes, sadly past peak. Drooping and wilted. What can one do?
How do you see without eyes?You mean how do I smell when it is I, rose, the center of the world?
It is for you to pluck and die with not knowing, to find your way to me by scent alone.
You have become one, not many.
You have sacrificed your humanity.Liar!!! The world pulls through my veins into the very color of my petals.
What sustains us, the garden of origin and eternity. Let there be light – flowers were first to turn towards god.
If only you too welcomed bees onto your face, felt their tongues.
As well the wasps with murder in their eyes and bellies. They, too, dab for nectar.
What? What would I know?
You are just a begonia, high on plant food.
It is really irritating.My thoughts are a choke of pollen, wind sweeping across the pavement. Wipers pushing to and fro on the windshield of your car.
Please be practical.My wife no longer needs a vase. She can clear out the cupboard over the stove.
And you?

The Sunday Muse