Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Watchman's Son

Above the plain the watchman walked,
the night aflame with torchlight.
I, a lonely traveler, stalked
across the plain, my home across
my back. The tower's gate in sight,
I hailed the man and found his son
who wandered through the night.

I asked for shelter and he told me
that in the kingdom's name
he would give me leave
to remain on the border
between dark and light
as long as I never again
fell in love with the night.

"It was a year better spent elsewhere,"
I said. "In the air, the ground,
in some hole of a cave
retreating from the world.
The night is merely a wanderer
without a home to find."


I built a wall of mirrors
shining outward,
reflecting the world back at itself,
and thought it meant something about me.

You drank the first cup of wine
you found dripping on a forest path.

Together we shattered the glass
encasing our little world
were pulled flailing into the void of space.

I can breathe. Can you?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dream Country

The girl's finger's were like ropes,
lashing the boy to her as with iron hoops.
The girl couldn't help it: had been used,
had been abandoned, so was not responsible
when her words made themselves manipulations,

When the sun rises high, I'll tell you a mystery.

The boy remembered a night spent sleeping
in front of a fire, the flame burning down
as the moon rose, all his friends
off in the woods smoking pungent grass.
He had vowed never to be alone again.

One night they slept together, innocently,
legs and breath entangled in a bag
in the woods, muted stars peering at them
through tree limbs. They whispered promises
in each other's ears, and each promise they broke.

When the moon burns low, I'll tell you a mystery.

Why are the sun and the moon opposites,
asked the girl. Screw dualism.

The boy had fallen asleep, and his dreams
were loud, a great dark void
swallowing all he had ever known.

When the light of the sun and the dark of the moon
meet in the morning's fresh gloaming,
I'll tell you a mystery.

The girl stood and looked at the boy,
his mouth open with a fine line of spittle
tracing his cheek. No disgust, but pity.
She walked the forest as if she had never known fear,
as if the waving limbs of pine trees were never monsters.

Tears traced down her sleeping face:
her dreams were of worlds colliding,
the sun's face going dark, 
the moon falling from the sky,
the boy become a man, sliding out of her control.

When the sun burns the dew off the grass, now, I'll tell you a mystery:
We none of us know any other person, nor do we know ourselves,
but true love is possible.


The boy's manly hair, his set chip of a jaw,
his burnished skin, his arms ropy with muscles
were all set to inspire confidence. But in his eyes
burned a void, for where once he had a soul
now merely a collection of catch-phrases:
believe in yourself, be respectful, don't take
any shit, dish out better than you take,
neither borrow nor lend. I found
less to respect in him and his motivational wind
than in the old man I met as a child,
sitting on his porch drinking the dust of the county
highway, pot-bellied, suspenders stretched
nearly to breaking, beard long and frazzled.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Circus Between Dawn and Sunrise

1. The Barker

Step up, step forward, through the gloaming gates
into the place between: between your fear and your hope,
between life and birth,
between freedom and flight,
between death and sleep. Get your souls read,
your palms fed, get your love solved,
trap your spirit behind a wall. Don't
be afraid, little child, your blonde curls
will be safe from snarlers, jackanapes and churls.

Step right up, ladies, gentlemen, spirits and shades;
children, vampires, forests and glades.
Women, your men will be safe;
no flashing lights here, no titillation,
no irrigation of the eyes and sighs.
Men, fear not, your women will endure no attack,
there are no men with drug-laced rags lurking
in the shadows here, no slaver of any kind.
Children, you may escape your parents
into a realm of confectioner's delight.
Candy! Candy! Candy!

Step right up, all you who are weary and heavy-laden,
for the rest we give is that rest which blackens the soul,
pours it through a fiery furnace, reconstitutes it as precious gold.
Ignore the winged creatures pouring from the shadows
for they are mere lights, smoke, and mirrors.
See the magician with bats pouring from his eye sockets;
see the lady who spits an infinite stream of beer from her mouth;
see the child born with snakes instead of hair.
Ladies, gentlemen, toilers, fools and all others:
step right up and see the greatest show on earth!

2. The Bearded Lady

If you could have seen me when I was young,
oh what a pretty thing I was.
Sun dresses lit up my legs, my arms, my face
like Persephone's glowing limbs, yet was I kidnapped
and brought to this hole in the ground,
made to grow crops to attract customers,
made to shear sheep and grow their skin from my face.

Once my father told me I would be the beauty of the nations.

Yet did I choose this hole in the ground,
for the sun when it shone on me
burned too bright, and when the faces of the gods
are turned toward me I get stage fright, I cower,
I turn away. I grew this outfit to hide from them,
I dug this hole to hide from them,
I buried myself in this earth to hide from them.

Oh, what a pretty thing I was.

3. The Magician

Step into my house,
this flimsy palace
made of canvas
which flaps in the breeze
like the winged slipper
of Mercury. Venus has nothing
on me for love, for brightness.
See how my face shines
like a lighthouse at night.

I'll make your mother disappear,
I'll make your father crumble,
I'll make the screams of your child
vanish into the night.
Do not fear me.

Step into my house, and I'll show you wonders.

4. The Lion Tamer

My hair is long like the manes of lions, mother
said. I once tied a weight into it and killed
the county sheriff with my lion-mane hair.

That's no proper thing for a little girl to do,
said my mother. So I killed her, too.

Then I had to run.

I ran and I ran, through the lands of the night,
across the surface of the sun,
and my feet burned but still I ran,
and I dissolved but still I ran,
and I was consumed but still I ran,

until I found a patch of earth no foot of man,
animal or god had ever trod. I collapsed, weeping,
until the lions came for me. They ate my lungs, my heart, my liver,
until I was nothing but a bare patch of earth
on which no foot had ever trod. All this is true,

yet also have I always been here,
with the lions, taming and trampling
their will under my small feet,
trapped, transfixed by their roars.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wise Blood

He held the guitar like it was a lover,
like it was a bird,
firm and yet loose enough that it could fly away.

His fingers seemed barely to move
and the music of the spheres
filled the grey cell block of dorm room.

"I got this after my first break-up,"
he said. "She took it as a compliment,
but it was never about her."

"I knew a girl once,"
I said, "who took credit for spring
because she covered herself in snow."

"I knew a man," he said,
"who thought he had killed God
because he gouged out his own eyes."

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'll Not be Named

This to all
paragons, prophets, pundits, peddlers, pontificators
whose speech seeks sophistication but not philosophy:

You have not named me.

Oh, you've thrown glowing words
to dance and decorate my bed,
calling me friend, lover, student, trial, terror.
You've called me orator, rapist, average, genius,
ravaged, revolting, revolutionary. You've let me dance
in twisting virtue, travel treasonous trails,
rest awhile in your warm embrace.

And I admit I've given you power:
I've had my crushes, wise and foolish,
I've offered up glowing words
hot off the presses of my passion,
I've written you sonnets, novels, plays,
essays in which I've essayed
to capture some spark
of a window reflecting fire
when there's no fire to reflect.

But you have not named me.

Don't think that because I've given
flickering eye, lover's sigh,
words of subservience
that you know me, hold me, are responsible
for me. Like all the world
you wish I would end my life were it not for you.

But you will not name me.

The only word with the power to name me
is not a word,
the only hand with the power to hold me
is a hand so strong it could crush
Plato's formal fist;
and until your words can burst forth
from the bonds of life, from the dust of death,
until you have the power to speak mercy into being
or create grace in my heart,

the only name I will be named
is one that comes not in your preaching,
not in your prophesying,
not in your screeds telling me my place
and yours above me,
but in an impossible still small voice
with the power to ignite a whirlwind.