Sister Riptide


Your sweaty face presses my cheek
in this sway-swaying of
hips, cohesion, anemone.

Your ocean runs aground
beneath red sky’s warning.
Soul-stung by your own poison —
          you bolt.

Never mind the crush of crowd,
forget the beat rattling my ribcage.
I am in a room with one soul.

You are outside
in the black —


sum of shore and riptide.


In the form of breath,
as the function of true black,
it stalks the woods.

In the breath of form,
as the true black of function,
it worries the remains of a deer.

Breathless form,
functionless truth —
at least evil cannot cross water.


Puberty coincided with our move to the haunted house —
          poor little sister, newly nine and weighed down with
          blood and ghosts.

We both know a woman may swallow her dis-ease
          by the pint, yet still the shadow detonates.
          There are no mornings, just blood.

The haunting?
          You carry it in your soul’s womb.
          Once a month, it takes you for a prowl.

On the lawn, in the oven of summer,
          you came to, checked the contents of your purse,
          asked me if I was mad.

          Hush, hush –


Your demons sniff the driftwood of my bones.
What is the proper measure of legion?
By the pint, by the shot, not at all?

Blacked-out taillights mask us in cohesion of night.
You recall nothing of your wreckage, how you
left your purse, left me, left yourself.

Sister Riptide, you were ransacked,
and there is no water to cross all the long road home.

A Little Undomesticated

For R, with thanks. I don’t believe in bad dogs.

And you are the Knight of Wands,
fire’s human guise of low-set Rottweiler –
all battle-passion, dark hair, and youth.
A protector, or a menace, depending on parallax.

Oh, guise of low-set knight! You fell reversed
in a wrongheaded skirmish –
Protector turned menace turned until threads stripped on threadbare norms.
Bad dogs get put down and errant knights get the axe.

Once upon a time, you caught me in a wrongheaded claim.
“I’ve killed sixty-eight men,” you said. “Nothing about me is young.”
Bad dogs and errant knights are always a bit undomesticated –
and me, too, giggling at a stake through the gingerbread man’s sugared heart.

You said, “I’ve killed men,” but what I remember is your Halloween party.
Games for Rambo, Buffy, Ozymandias’s wolves –
and me, too, giggling at a stake through the gingerbread man’s sugared heart.
Sixty-eight ghosts tugged their sheets and shifted apples as we bobbed:

Rambo, Buffy, wolves? Gone, and you with them.
The High Priestess of the Country Club presided over your exit, oblivious
there’s no sleep with sixty-eight souls tugging your threadbare sheets.
You growled in the wrong tone, in the direction of the wrong – – –


The High Priestess presided in a wrinkled shirt, and I was sad,
more human than dog,
unable to growl in any tone, in the direction of any
answer to a civilization that fears its own knight.

July, 2016

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Under the Light, the Greatest Darkness

Under the Light, the Greatest Darkness

Stop stranger. Where is my friend?
Someone is using his voice
to spit shine wounding syllables.
The grey-white sky brightens –
           even the water sweats in this assault.
Look, look, look! How the light pierces!
I can see all the way,
           selfish grubber,
                all the way into you.

No fun, is it? Even the cheese here is serious;
illumination bitters the gruyere.
I can’t swallow around this rent, this gash,
this sudden attack.
Light penetrates the faults your syllables open,
           blasts us equally.
I mean: Surprise, shrapnel!
A single shard
           exposes shadows
                thickening in your mouth.

This is the weeping season of April,
when even the drought-locked land glisters with tears.
           I, too, glitter in your relentless supernova.
Look, while you can
           diametric expansion, circular spread
           the way raindrops join on a sidewalk.
Overexposed light flays me with truth.
You hold the tangled, lit string
           my intestines in your hands.

May, 2016

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Lacking an Orbit

Her chipped, colorful mug,

a trinket?


Like something

of yours, but somehow off.
Not cosmos. Roses –

The flowers here are all wrong.
Her mug of shrub roses opens
the scar of your excision
and conjures you.


Together, our trajectories aligned.
We shared an astronomy book.
We gathered fistfuls of cosmos
and tracked Hale-Bopp.

Our scrapwork physics?
Some twenty years of deadspace, vacuum.
The comet will return;
it alone abides.

I think I let you keep the book.
We watched the cosmos wither.
The comet loomed, then left.

(there is no us)

April 2016

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Image courtesy of Lynn Greyling.
Image courtesy of Lynn Greyling.

Conversation with a Friend Immured by Obscurity

Image courtesy of Tammy Sue.
Image courtesy of Tammy Sue.

Now vexed soul uncoils,
and taproot supplants wishbone.
Gargoyle! Be brazen in defeat.

Exalt this place of stone?

Exalt this place! For stone,
renounce your puny name.
Let go of hopes, those brutish
tongues that lap at fame.

A song of Theremin anguish
cries out –

– In false farewell,
for patience erodes angels
to lumps anon in parallel.

Breath grieves!

Graves are the sigil
of days, their bright since spent.
Make honey of your strife,
and secret your lament –

Anchorite, you are the truth of life!

March, 2016

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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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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


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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