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

This Little Piggy

let's play footsie with death again one little piggy two little piggy
hickory-dickory TikTok rockets doomsday clocks ten seconds to midnight
ten-nine-eight-seven-six little piggy how many nukes can a nuke-chuck chuck 
little piggy little piggy blow your house down I smell roast pork little piggy

The Sunday Muse

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

TSM 200

In which the poet is interviewed by the poems. “Tell us about yourself.”

Tell me about your eyes.I am a periscope
squinting above the surface
of coffee.
Why is your soul caramelized with soot?My vacation in Eden was a hot time,
but I wandered too long in the garden
without sunscreen.
Why did you abandon the piano?My father re-pointed the bricks of our house
with Mozart. It was beautiful, but his fingers
tipped the scales.
I heard you can breathe underwater.Do you want to see my fin collection?
Some people have shoes,
I have a closet of dorsal Nike’s.
Did you once throw your fate on a wheel?No, that is a lie
spun from mud and clay.
What is it with your hair and the birds?When taking trash to the dump on Wednesday,
first one, then another (!) seagull
pooped on my head. True facts!
How did you survive in the desert?I decapitated myself by rolling up the car window.
I was tired of the complaining
and that thirsty mouth.
You cried watching “Valley of the Dolls?”As a boy I was in love
with Patty Duke
What do you do when your back is to the wall?Write a sex poem.
You write of the co-evolution of wolf and shark.When I stumbled on the carcasses
of two frozen deer on the beach,
words flooded my lungs with hunger

The Sunday Muse

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

243 West 63rd Street

black and white keys are bullets from a piano 
loaded in your eyes then fired by trigger fingers
curled around the doorknob where you lived 
at 63rd and West End someone calling out "who's there?" 

when I would stand outside listening for the ricochet 
of silences as if there would still be echoes 50 years on
instead of shots from the projects across the street
and tasting the gunsmoke of heroin-grey sky

smelling jazz salts revives me from 
touching the numbers on your door,
the rooms now empty of music, no piano in the kitchen
fact: our apartment was a block from your house 

Thelonious Sphere Monk Circle of 5ths 
where the rhinoceros statue was cemented head first
by its horn in the ground as if a fat-man trumpet player 
made a swan-dive of scales from the balcony above

the rooms now full of music the color of money, 
tickle the ivories tickles your teeth with diamonds
until the piano player calls it quits and closes the shades
each note recluse as the door bangs open

the new tenants brush past me coming down the steps
in overstuffed coats as if whatever music was left in the walls
they've hidden in pockets or packed for extra warmth 
and smuggle down to the subway take the A train to Harlem 

where the notes escape like a flock of birds
riffing into the sky

The Sunday Muse

The Firepossum

I look over and see a firepossum 
trundling in from the storm –
eight baby owls on her back,
her crown of scarlet begonias.

She heads to a stack of journals,
feeds on the garbage I call poems. 
Spits and hacks out most, but a greedy 
smeck smeck smeck from time to time.

I say "Firepossum, play dead!"
and she filches around in her pouch –
has a bootleg tape of the Red Rocks tour –
Jerry and Co. jamming on Row Jimmy.

Wikipedea says the firepossum
is a mythic beast that rises in flames
like the Phoenix from ashes 
of suburban shopping malls in Arizona.

The familiar of muses
who blow into the mouths of the owls 
like feathered ocarinas
tuned to the key of see? 

She climbs into the burning hearth,
disappears, leaving an empty room 
and owl pellets – I hold in my hand
inky bullets 

of hair, bones, claws, and teeth.

The Sunday Muse