Bloodwork

My body is the offering
to be harvested, bottled, and cultured.
I lie about smoking to keep something to myself.
Sharp earthworm –

the needle is an instrument of harvest
wielded to vint me like wine by a philosophical phlebotomist.
As his earthworm burrows, the philosopher expounds:
“Panache is what evokes hunger and color.”

He vints me. Like wine from a stone, nothing flows.
Nausea overthrows my consideration of blueberries and salmon.
Panache is syncope is static.
Gray clouds fill the curtained space.

Blueberries, salmon?
My world is a confusion of semaphores
the gray clouds fill.
I give up my greasy sweat.

My world is confusion –
I cannot will myself to bleed!
I give up my consciousness.
Panache is semaphore is sanguine.

It seems I
keep something for myself.
Blood is the sanguine semaphore of
my body, the offering.

February, 2016

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This Poem is a Dog Fight

Wildflowers, muddy tubers:
My girls tug at their leashes and my hangover.
I am hazy.

Humidity inside and out.
Solstice promises winter relief, but not yet.
Bleary, I walk

Homeward like a faulty Magi.
I’ve pollen-droppings and night soil offerings,
Leftover myrrh –

Bagged, but stronger than frankincense.
Nature keeps her own and rewards with smell
and sight and taste.
Coffee is what I want,
That and a North wind portent older than Bethlehem’s star.
Instead,

loose

dogs!

Unwelcome trinity of curs
Rush along the trail we wound in search of wind.
Animal anger

Suffers no love for neighbors.
My girls lunge into the charge, a vestment of hackle,
An arsenal of mouth.

Noise and fear! My legs
Are bared guilt amongst the snapping teeth.
I chose this route,

Decreed to take the trail in reverse,
A pagan unspooling of the year, a poetic talisman,
Sympathetic magic…

Demons escape the mirror.
They are silver-furred and baying for blood,
Mine, or my dogs.

I forfeit the mild commandment
Annul it with exultation and become the wind I sought:
A goddess untamed.

Inspiration is literal,
A breath transformed into a scream and horror into creation.
Fury and wonder

Declare this howl divine.
It is awareness, and it is implacable as the seasons
Threshing the years.

The revelation of canines
Breaches the eternally curved edge of infinity,
Carries me with it.

December 2015

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Salt Mine

I am the pointlessness that sunk this mine.
The shaft is lightless and reeks of my flayed liver.
Others shuffle through. Daily we stand up together
in the wince-light of a projector’s Cyclopean glare.

My willingness fattens a bad future.
Sixteen years of digging holes put
miles of darkness between me and what could have been.
No more philosophy or Friday evening swims, just
tunnels and rotting canaries with my name.

Red or green carts carry my effort to the surface.
The Man’s pork is salted with my haul;
empty carts descend back to me forever.
The storyboard here has a circular plot.
I count my few grains by feel, like a mole.

My fellow laborers –
I fear we will never make it out!
The clever system dispenses random rewards and
a starving man will stab you for a single blackberry.
Oh, we’ll keep digging as long as there are bills.

Anxiety brings on the cigarettes,
the sharded-glass throat ache.
I gargle with saltwater and choke on the irony.
The carts were built for their track.
Like them, I keep going back.

The corporate samovar drips payday sacrament
to dull the pain of a dulling mind.
Pickaxes clang, bang & proclaim
the non-stop juggernaut.
Diamonds may glitter, but not down here.

I know a miner turned mystic; she followed UP to OUT.
Are we so different?
My mandalas of dirt and canary bones,
surely they sing!
They are the dirge of an endless Monday.

The light of the mind is where I want to live.
I’ve been there before, in that explosion-bright.
Instead, I forfeit myself.
Indentured, mortgaged, suburbed –
My dumb hands dream of the shovel.

My soul and body
wage schizophrenic war in this 9 to 5 cell.
The carts go in,
the carts go out –
salt in my wounds.

February, 2016

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Coin-Operated Fish

verticle_background_fishI have hunted a purpose to revel.
Sought, in people and books (those crooks).
Served tea to a crossword devil –
Whiskey, I mean, in a bower of rooks.
Rathskeller, I mean, to scry in wassail –
A fish discontent with chosen hook.
I have drunk her grail.

Powerless, I have pretended I am.
Sat all the way down, down in dirty rooms.
Listed grudges and hopes, wide-open as a clam.
Put on UNITY and COMMUNITY (a costume).
All twelve steps of phlegm and blood bewail
the stinkin’-thinkin’ fish, counterfeit lamb.
I have drunk her grail.

I have stolen what they have:
piquant self-effacement and rules, rules, rules.
O sober thing with a vodka tooth, decry
defects of character & banish my ghouls!
Pity my fraud of false travail,
naught but the lies of a coin-operated fish.
I have drunk her grail.

Christmas, 2015

 

Image courtesy of Dawn Hudson.

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I Fed Compassion to a Crow

My quarter-life luxury
was a spiritual crisis.
I drove it eastward and hard,

a geezer in a red coupe
or silly girl in pursuit
of dharma running in loops.

My swift-traded rack for wheel
brought me borrowed mindfulness,
and a peek show of the path.

I could be right where I was:
live, yet free of suffering!
Meditation dissolved bone,

voided knowledge of evil.
My no-self bore five precepts,
a list-driven aftermath

chockfull of lovingkindness.
My good! Ripe for abuse
in this death without mothering.

Skin like saffron robes,
patient as a monk,
I fed compassion to a crow.

In his nest bunker
of locks, bolts & shades,
that meek crow became a vulture.

For sixty-two days
he wore his necklace
of women’s fingers, grapes and dates.

Those decayed sweets? Infected.
Mosquitoes blacked my bare feet,
while a tick nuzzled my teat.
I was transformed, not deathless:
an ignorant Buddha, drowned guppy, cheat!

Enlightenment done wrong is just another crisis.

December, 2015

The first six  six stanzas are based on a mangled sonnet, while the next three follow a syllable count of 5-5-8 to represent the five precepts and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Sixty-two is the number of wrong views. The Buddhist parable of Angulimala tells of the conversion of a serial killer who wore a necklace of the fingers from his victims.

– Josephine St. Vincent, The Poet Obscura

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Thieusies

The house, across from a church,
was a funeral parlor
for the pestilent redoubts
of a century’s world wars.
Some enterprising Belgian
bricked in the two double-doors
where mourners used to enter
and leased to Americans.
Us, with a dirt floor cellar!
Mold in the kitchen, cat’s howl –
an obscene, guttural sound.
You were a colorful nine
to my cheerless thirteen.
Our youth drew them like poison.
Remember how we trembled,
in the darkness and the truth?
Oh, sister! Your ghosts were mine.

The Fourth without fireworks,
a harbinger without runes.
The last foreign daughter, she
warned us something lurked.
Terrified of the shower, she
swore it waited like water –
her words, hidden in my room:
This house is a devourer.
We dragged your mattress, exhumed
it like a body, and cowered
beneath the late summer light.
Sun attended signs
of a supernatural blight:
tapping in the halls, rapping in the rafters.
All night, inhuman intruders wrote
Morse-code in devil’s aural scrawl.
Oh, sister! Your ghosts were mine.

Walls sang obituaries
for dead boys in Croix de Guerre.
Our home, a cemetery!
Poor pretty, in this fable
you are poltergeist’s beloved.
Our quartermaster’s table:
their resting place, your nowhere.
Tormented and shoved, you were hysteric
as souls in Salpêtrière.
Psychic portal aflood,
you fled – demon, banshee?
Just me. No Christ and no swine
to cast out dread. I found you
with the fowl, by the tree.
Shivering, invisibly scarred.
Even now, I hear your pleas.
Oh sister, your ghosts!

December, 2015

manchester-cathedral-gargoyle

Image courtesy of Darren Lewis.

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Bankrupt Witchcraft

Salt the relics and turn the wine
that conjured vinegar from yams and yeast.
Tradition is a jester and a jailor.
Sister! The hex on the table –

You lied in the spring, you lied in the rain.

Empty seat and shattered cup are the devil’s tax.
Pay your toll and tithe, selfish girl,
in blasphemous stellar parallax.

I served you the spring, I hid you from the rain.

The foods here are raw and crushed –

the cranberry sauce, my pain.

December the Last, 2015

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I Sated the Void

It sacked my interior castle.
Wail and howls –

loss, as usual, and a nameless urgency.

It did not ask me but stole stole stole,
unanswerable as an owl
caught out by the sun.

***

I entered my sleeping self
and found I wasn’t there.
No name, no memory, in an incognito room
heavy with foreign shapes.
I said to myself,
whoever I might be,
There must be something I can know.
Inchoate agitation replied:
not words, but velveteen cecropia wings fluttering.
See! moonlight coalesces in a gauze curtain.
I don’t know that window
or understand the sounds of an iron lung.
A hotel, I think.
This backache is mine.
But who is that,

breathing?

***

Outside this alienation,

coyotes trill Persephone songs.

***

Aril is the word
I learned in Saint Augustine,
that and coquina.
One is edible and known
to women who traffic with the underworld –
the other, an amalgam
of dead things telling partial stories.
On our first day there, I hurt my back.
Maybe that’s why Tam and I skipped
our cemetery visit.
Gravestones, coquina, fossils (even a diary):
only markers for what can be neither
fully grasped or told:

Identity is memory that has an audience.

The pomegranate arils were sweet
defense against the eventual Lethe.
Another thing we neglected:
a visit to The Fountain of Youth.
Mr. Leon, Mr. Leon,

how’d that work out for you?

***

The immeasurable gap between
“being and nothingness”
is a chasm we have no choice but to cross.

***

“Je suis perdu, je suis perdu,” she repeated,
thinking it meant “I’m sorry”
and not “I’m lost.”
The Belgian landlord’s daughter led
her home –
Who will lead me home?
This room is not a hotel.
That’s an intuition, and sturdier than the
fact of the moonlit window –

not a window, but a door.

I’m home, but not here.
The big cecropia beats her wings.
Coyotes and owls give voice to wild chant.
Almost a year ago, Tam and I
saw an owl in daylight,
lodged in a palm frond like a feathery kitten.
It was a message of loss misinterpreted.
Within the week, Tam’s mother had no voice to say, “Je suis perdu.”

I was no landlord’s daughter.

***

Not knowledge but instinct
brought me back to my sleeping self.
Is this how Alzheimer’s feels?
Is this my feathered-kitten, moth-winged invoice
for the toll we all pay,
and some of us pay before death?
Breathing, breath in the dark;
a hand I reach to hold.
In the morning Tam says,

“It was a dream.”

Coyotes, hold your tongues!

January, 2016

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For You, Golden One

Oro! Aurum! The warning’s in the root.
Pity the alchemist romancing lead –
I’m not the first to throw my back out
Trying to move some immovable thing.
It was the key limes and that cart of stone,
A supermarket Stonehenge, would-be throne.

The true center? A cart of coquina,
In the city of poured concrete castles.
Sandcastles, really, full of cracks and shells.
It was silent and secretive as death,
Implacable as an Easter Island head.
I married that rock, by pain we were wed.

Agony is the accretion of self,
A condensing into this one moment.
It is how the universe always feels.
I know, because the starfish galaxy
Of tendons behind my right hip told me.
Pain substantiates alchemy’s ley lines.

The heavy cart did not move at all.
Even on wheels, that much weight does not flow.
I had no good answer to your question,
just this sudden freedom, explosive snap.

The starfish arm, from its own body ripped,
is neither lead nor gold, but Mobius Strip.

January 2016

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A Lesson in Mourning

 Sestina for the Land of Flowers

The Atlantic spits her taste of stolen paradise,
Frothing the beach with seafoam eidolons.
A startled gull blows back, backwards as guilt
And all the palmettos, they are mossed in mourning.
This is the sum of an emptied sun:
Salt in the mouth of a pelican.

Starfaring mother, you juddering pelican!
We are not dead, but stranded. Out beyond paradise,
In a bardo of eyes, we stake malignant claim. The blind sun
Is dumb to our cannibal heritage, but Gaia is heavy with eidolons.
The awful heft of our survival is mourning.
Is it wrong to want some small joy without guilt?

Those little wild oysters are making pearls of our guilt.
Their razor-bristle is navigable only by Pelican.
His people saw the massacre, and in their mourning,
Stretched their mouths to scoop up what was left of paradise.
Right here, two hundred shipwrecked men were slaughtered. Their eidolons
Twist into vengeance: sharp as oysters & relentless as the sun.

No lullaby forged that saint in sun.
Man’s glory ranges eight octaves of guilt,
Heard only by the ears of eidolons –
And me, gulping Florida Mules like a drunken pelican.
I came here expecting paradise.
I got a hangover, a backache, and a lesson in mourning.

They thrust back against mourning
By carrying babies and tradition out into the sun.
Seminole casinos and Kosher delis are lit and alive in pilfered paradise.
Here, as everywhere, atlas trumps psychic in mapping guilt.
Genocide distinguishes man, much as bill shape identifies pelican.
Our family tree is mossed with eidolons.

An eccentric bought a mummified child. The eidolons
of mother and aunt came gratis, yoked to the boy by mourning.
Four to six years old; dead of infection; on display near stuffed pelican –
These slender bones once played under the sun!
I deserve this backache; one look and I share the eccentric’s guilt.
Sweet boy I never met, I pray you are laughing in paradise.

Although bountiful, this is no paradise. Rife with eidolons,
Every blossom is an elegy of guilt and admission of mourning.
The sun rises and sets, not for us, but for the blameless pelican.

January, 2016

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