Ozymandias of the Office

Ozymandias of the Office

I scale the King’s wrinkled lip
His half-sunk sneer just fits my crooked back
Day by day, we tender the desert’s high tide
Spill upon spill
                         boundless
                                           with sand fleas

day job/ missile silo/ sacred reliquary
The mourners lost the torso and the tongue
between His kingdom and today

stone nose/bald stone eyes/kneeless stone legs
Five radioactive canopic jars
These are my desk and my desk is an altar
Spill upon spill
                         lifeless
                                      with sacrifice

I use the King’s amputated legs to thwak!
harvest-heavy trunks of traded hours
walnuts/peaches/poems

tumble        shake loose        but quiet, quiet

Colossus and I decay

Spill upon spill

                       shattered

July, 2016

Image Courtesy of Rajesh Misra

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Book of Crow

raven-fullbody

I. Crow Choral

Grieves and a weep weep weep –
        Crow in a glut of sweets.

Graves and a knock knock knock –
        Crow in a kiss of hemlock.

Ghosts and a growl growl growl –
        Crow in a rot of bacchanal.

KAW-CAW-KRAW!

Weep and a grieve –
Knock and a grave –
Growl and a ghost –
        Crow in a vowel of boast boast boast

II. Calling Crow

The doorway to Crow is 3 AM.
The pathway to Crow is fear.
Kaw caw craw –
        Straight away summons him.

III. Recognizing Crow

Crow chortles in the battlefield.
Crow traffics in poppies.
Crow shrieks in the millions,
        spackles the land with offal,
        wears the guise of grackle.

Guard well your fledgling hopes –
        Crow wants to eat their shine.

He is the long-tailed crackle and drag.
He is the gold-eyed death coins.
He is the purpled raiment glistening with tears.

Crow is putrefaction perfected,
        here to set you up for the okie-doke –
Grieves and a weep weep weep

IV. Wards against Crow (ineffectual)

Powerlines are overcrowed with psychopomps,
those gluttons of the sweetness
        we can’t help but
                                drop.

Graves and a kaw caw kraw –
        Crow in a copse of hysterics!

Draw your circles of salt.
Raise up your crucifix.
Shine the gift of kindness.

Salt, crucifix, kindness –
        Crow crushes them all.

V. Crow Visitation

Crow-trickster!
He played a little game,
the two of us under my sheets.
My foot, he took
                   (only that!)
All my toes bent down,
piggies at worship.
My arch constricted and my sole
                   (my soul!)
fell thrall to the King of Crows.
Oh, he gave me a real crowfoot,
both nexus and crux
                   (exquisite pain!)

                   Cruel Crow was anything but urbane.

VI. Crow in Poetry

It was he who
        had the crow’s eye view
        of the rough beast.

It was he who
        scattered the white chickens,
        spilled the barrow of life.

It was he who
        fanned the panic,
        laid-low Lady Lazarus.

Now I concede this line-up is a put on,
but I’d bet stars to rats
it was Crow who
gave you the old okie-doke,
        you know
                graves and a knock knock knock –

Tell me Leda,
        are you sure it was a swan?

VII. Compassion of Crow

Motherless boys are
        the ultimate
        knowers of death.

They weep and knock and growl.

Loss traps them.
Slugs in a pan of beer –
                     drowning –
until Crow sips away
their memories of her.

VIII. Crow Action/Reaction

Crow flapped his wings –
        a string of dark stars fell.

Crow opened his beak –
        time devoured eternity.

Crow flew in the cracks of soul –
        dirge was born.

IX. Joining Crow

This morning I woke to a squall
        of rats and motherless boys.
I fed them sweets.

This morning I woke to a tornado
        of crowfeet and psychopomps.
I fed them hemlock.

This morning I woke to a siren
        of poppies and put-ons.
I joined their bacchanal,
        and we sang
                KAW-CAW-KRAW
        and we danced
                KAW-CAW-CRAW
        and we lived
                KAW-CAW-CRAW

Ashes to Crow, Dust to Crow –
                we all fall
                        down.

June 2016

raven-headshot

Images Courtesy of George Hodan

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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 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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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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