Category Archives: Poetry

Blind Ed’s Tavern and Crematorium

When winter ceases stalking,

Takes you from the flank,

And your bloodied coat is in the bag at your side

With the body, I know a joint on the edge of town

Where the hearth always glows.

 

Drop your bag in the back with the rest,

Then slip through the blizzard’s claws at the door.

Pick a stool—Ed will know what you need.

Take a glass to thaw your throat

While the drifting embers lick snow from your shoulders.

 

When your color returns and your breathing eases,

tavernEd shakes your hand, pressing a warm key in your palm.

Upstairs, slip off your shoes, sink into the bed,

Let the rumbling roar of the furnace roll you

Deep into a dream of summer.

 

Ed can’t help with ghosts—

He deals in miracles, not magic—

But thank him on your way out,

And tip well.  Blind Ed knows

He’ll see you again soon enough.

Cabin Boy

Each ounce of daylight he’d earned

He spent in the throes of a mad ship

Named Delilah.  Her crooked masts hung

Inches above the rumbling sea,

Her sheets slave only to the gale.

 

A cannonball hole to starboard

Ushered storm-spray into his quarters.

ship
“Her crooked masts hung inches above the rumbling sea.”

His hammock swayed between the drops

Plucking his creased forehead like a mandolin.

Neither storm nor Hell on deck could wake him.

 

Within his fragile, rounded skull

He lay nestled in the grass by a waterfall—

Its earthly place swallowed by the labyrinth of memory.

A blanket of mist rolled over him on the breeze

As the soft crashing rocked his head

 

Side to side, starboard to port,

Beneath the crackling thunder of boots.

Delilah listed toward the smothered sunset—

Pitching him through the wound in the hull,

Still cradled in the arms of the riverbank.

Time: The Sleepless God

Resigned to the embrace of an oak or an elm

Nestled on a knoll as the knell from the church

Hummed its farewell for a stranger,

I settled with a stack of worn letters

And read them by the starlight.

 

When the bell clamped its jaw,

Time—the sleepless god with bloodshot eyes—

Heaved me to my feet, spun me around,

Nudged me down an overgrown path

Headed east through a forest of firs.

 

The sun crawled up behind a rotten stable

Filled with cracked horse bones.

I touched their splintered ribs,

Whispered their names,

Damned them again for dying.

stables
“The sun crawled up behind a rotten stable.”

Stomping a pelvis to powder,

I headed west, though the path was gone.

I charged into the troop of trees,

Fell over a root wrapped around a headstone

Scarred with the name of a freckled farm girl.

 

Three more tombs with names like wide-eyed cattle

Bruised my eye, broke my teeth, and stole my shoes.

I pushed through the steel needles, back to the hill,

As the sun set behind the town,

Outshone by the strobing casino.

 

The letters, scattered once more,

Will find me as they do.

I step over an empty grave under the elm or the oak,

Throw open the casino gates hoping to turn a profit—

Or at least break even.

Sad Rock

Hunchback of Whogivesadamn

In a room flooded with paper

Covered in dots, dashes, and scrawlings,

Perched on a crate, bent over his telegraph.

 

“Lunch plans, dinner plans, sex,

Woke up too late for breakfast, sex,

Does your back hurt? Mine does.

I bet they put something in the water.”

 

So the reams read as they roll

‘Round and ’round the room,

The cobra closing on another kill.

Hunch doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

 

Just outside, the lane overgrown,

A crow lands on a wire, squawks unheard,

Looks down the street towards the edge of the world—

Only little houses and wires in a withering grassland.

 

He calls again, the air swallows the sound,

Like everywhere else on this sad rock.

Bristling, he snaps the wire; it sparks,

Writhes in false agony, drops to the ground—

 

And so does Hunch, like fresh lumber,

A brief thud as he strikes the floor.

He whimpers as he dies alone,

Never thinking to walk next door.

Steel River

A glittering scar tears apart a meadow;

On either side, trees black with death

Haul the burden of the steel-wool sky.

A mile deep and fifty long, a river rolls:

 

River of riches, stream of steel,

Dazzling the eyes which crave it!

They plunge their toes into the earth

Where then—now roots—they drink.

 

New blood surges through them,

Sending their limbs skyward.

Their hands contort into spidery frames

As their backs collapse beneath the sky.

 

Eyes and teeth drop into the river,

Fingernails split, sprouting branches,

The gaping holes are plugged with knots

Of rotting, fetid oak.

 

A glittering scar shreds the heart of a meadow;

On either side, anguished trees

Haul the burden of the gunmetal sky.

A mile deep and sixty long, a river rolls.

Where You’re Going, You Won’t Need Sunglasses

What if you got into your car,

Turned off the stereo,

And just kept driving—

Like the spark in your skull

That crawled into its neuron Studebaker years ago,

Hit the on-ramp, and never looked back?

 

The smooth, broad hiss of asphalt

Carries you over the road

As the sun rises in the rear-view,

Sets over the dash.

On an empty highway,

Buildings blossom ahead and vanish behind.

 

A playground bathed in pastel paints

Where a girl with a voice tries to teach a boy to sing.

A high school with a fault line in its wall

Where hollow kisses ride full lips.

A parking lot where the head—

Not the hand—finds love.

 

A cobbled walk melting

Under the Georgia sun and street jazz,

Where trembling fingers reach for a switch

To cut off glittering hazel eyes

Deserving, not wanting, an answer.

The switch takes out the lights.

 

The sun disappears,

The moon quits,

The stars leave without a proper goodbye

Or even a strained “Talk to you later.”

The horizon hides far beyond

The stunted reach of your headlights.

 

You count the stripes in the road,

Hear the dull roar of the asphalt again,

And barely see the edge of the grass

On either side of the road.

There might be buildings and people.

There might not be.

 

A corrugated shed ends the road.

Your brakes don’t squeal—

They only sigh when your head strikes the steering wheel.

The engine stutters through its last drop of gas,

The battery slips out with a whimper.

The slam of the door stops at your ears.

 

The empty air stands close,

Follows you inside.

Rusted bits sting your hands

And blood creeps down your wrists

As your aching fingers fret and fumble

For a light switch.

The 7:30

Knock, and the door will be opened,

But knocking can be dreadfully rude.

 

One, two, three—one, two, three,

I’m standing under the 7:30

While she pushes her hands through the sky

And the moon pours through her steel-toed eyes.

 

The door cracks, a shepherd pup

Slips into the night, looks me up—

A stiletto—screwdriver-orange—crashes down,

Spooks the dog clear out of town.

 

I peel through the waving door,

Find myself on the upper floor.

A murder of crows in her viscous wig

Pecks at the window with olive twigs.

 

In the basement a paper desk resides.

Her thunderous coughs stir the tides

In a whiskey barrel loaded with ink

As each word written turns sunflower pink.

 

The desk crumbles under my stare,

Lays the poem’s scaffolding bare.

A dust bunny raids the gore,

Walks away with the metaphor.

 

The 7:30 vanishes like a lady,

But the crows stand sure and stately—

Knocking, like I had before,

Knocking at my open door.

 

I round the corner, breathe in the lane.

Forget the growing, bloody stain

Across my snowy shirt of lamb

And drink my way to Amsterdam.

 

As starlight swirls above the bay,

A tramp with gloves stoops toward the fray.

“Chocolate?” he offers, but drops it.

A familiar crow arrives to profit.

 

“Something wrong?” the tramp’s brow cocks.

My shoulders tremble and knees knock.

I confess as I faint on a two-story shoe.

 

“Across my snowy shirt of lamb . . . and drink my way to Amsterdam.”

Trainmaker

“A dimming bulb clings to the ceiling . . .”

 

A dimming bulb clings to the ceiling

By a fraying wire while she nudges

A thimble smokestack into place.

Her fingers waltz across the placid headlamps

Arrayed on the shelves, untouched by dust.

 

Some cracked, some hazy,

Some clear and crisp as the night outside.

Soup cans, clock hands,

Toothpicks and cufflinks bound tighter

Than anything bought in a box.

 

She bends a spoon around the left wheels,

Matching the watch chain on the other side.

She fastens the lens from a pair of glasses

Abandoned in a public restroom.

She gives it a mother’s grin.

 

A room full of crowded people,

Their painted plastic on pedestals.

She brings her own table,

Displays her latest, beaming.

They spit acid when she speaks.

 

She walks out with it

Swaddled in her arms,

Clutched against her bosom,

Marches home with the dignity of war,

This Moment

watch

 

In all time of life behind me, I have not seen a moment so fondly.

With all time ahead of me, in vain my life to search for one would be.

As I inhale, filling my lungs with the hope to make it last.

Watching at the exhale this perfection so easily passes.

Faster than my eye can see, too subtle for my ears to know.

The greatness of this moment, I cannot take for granted.

It’s wondrous potential, I can not explain.

 

A Name Machine

Inspired by Neil Hilborn

 

I work in a factory filled with empty corridors

Crammed between razor angles,

Droning lights,

And the pounding of stainless presses

Cracking out Idaho plates.

 

They tell me I’m writing—

A machine making names for machines—

Lining up letters and ripping down the lever

While the river, miles away, signs every stone in its bed

With a flourish and a story.

 

They tell me I’m writing—

I make names for machines.

Each solemn slam wrings my stomach.

The diamond drops drain from my fingertips

With each symbol I place.

 

Four years wasted on Software Engineering,

Where smiling automata on the 800th floor

Leaned their glass eyes on me from the walls—

Smiles fueled by the fumes of burned paychecks.

I’ve only learned the ache of hatred, the pull of regret.

 

The mission statement rattles my spine,

Closes my throat, choked and inflamed:

“Make humanity irrelevant.”

I tap the keys.

They tell me I’m writing.

 

I caught my breath by the river,

Sobbing into its whisper,

Wanting nothing more than anything else.

A silver car with Idaho plates, its hazards flashing, clicking,

Waits in judgment, hauls me to the factory.

 

A man with the roaring voice of water

Came to town and spoke my language.

He lives with the river,

Beyond the factory’s antiseptic grasp.

He knows what writing is.

 

He saw the car with Idaho plates.

He ran through the mud

Where tires lose grip and engines stall.

Yank me out of my skyscraper cubicle.

Siren Song

Sing my sweet siren, sing just for me,

sing me to my death, to my reveille.

A shimmer on the ocean, a whisper on the breeze,

this wonderful temptress, brings me to my knees.

Tis a vexing sound, this song she can sing,

to seize my heart, and hold my being.

Awaken such darkness, a longing for depravity

mingling with pleasure, pain bringing ecstasy.

Then to taunt me from my harbor, my safety forgotten,

her arms around my neck, from my senses begotten.

A chill causing buss, my will now surrendered

my final waking moment, with a smile I’ll be remembered.

 

“Sing my sweet siren, sing just for me . . .”

Thunder Rising

Upon this mountain a lone figure stood

Many years waiting for the spirit to arrive

To simply see the being if he could

To be renewed in faith was what he strived

 

A blast of thunder knocked him from his feet

Flashing serpents struck out from the sky

Upon this high place at heavens seat

Bringing rain and cloud as the spirit did fly

 

Natures wrath exemplified

Gazing upon the spirit was believing personified.

 

The Flowers

Still it sits, like a statue in the eyes of the world.

Waiting for what? It know not.

All that is left is the birds in the trees

and the flowers.

 

The flowers.

 

The path is empty, as usual.

The steps are gone, replaced by wind.

Whispering . . . whispering . . .

Rustling the rainbows of the trees.

 

The flowers.

 

Stone beneath, wood above,

open to the sky yet shielded.

Shielded from the light that wears the stone

That coats the colors of the forest.

 

The flowers.

 

Waiting for the light to fade;

the sun to drop forever more.

To take with it the colors of the world

and start anew with dawn thereafter.

 

Angel Wings

My white angel wing coat wrapped around me,

holding my arms crossed against my chest. So gentle, so soft, so

restricting. What? Nothing.

 

Soft and gentle, like the touch of the woman I loved.

She was as beautiful as the mid-day sun.

I’d been waiting years to tell her, waiting for so long;

Watching

 

She’d met someone new, and taken a fancy to him.

But no, that was impossible, how could that happen?

I must have imagined it, never mind.

 

I met her in the park one day, amidst the spring sun.

I confessed love for her the likes of which I had not known before.

She replied, her words pouring over me, I could hardly contain my breath,

and something . . . wasn’t right. It itched in the back of my–

No no no nothing was wrong continue on.

 

And so I told her the plan, to leave this place, to run far away;

to see the great places of the world together and fall ever so deeply in love

insane
“That’s why they keep me locked up and hopped up, in a room of mattresses, behind concrete walls.”

that we could never dig ourselves back out.

She told me sweet words and her soft hand caressed my face–

I could scarcely hear her.

I smiled a leering smile and a gleam took over my eyes, as I looked into hers.

So red.

Wait what was that? Nothing, the story isn’t over yet . . .

 

I bought the ticket and hopped on the plane,

I smiled to the passengers, passed them and packed my bag,

running red, into the seat next to me.

I smiled, and sat alone waiting for the plane to take off.

Oh what a joyous occasion it was finally happening! I said,

Brushing the bag beside me.

 

That’s why they keep me locked up and hopped up,

in a room of mattresses, behind concrete walls,

with my jacket of angel wings.

The Blossom

Like starlight from the ground grow high,

stolen from the dark night sky

shedding from their stately stems

a vision of eternity.

 

Bursting forth and full of life,

despite all hardships’ bitter strife,

gleaning from the sun high ‘bove,

a gentle bloom, serenity.

 

Clustered close, a flower’s breadth,

and carried high, from weightless depth.

Searching, straining, for the light,

a blossom’s sole proclivity.

 

The Puppet Theater

Tied together, pulled apart,

weary of the needle’s knot,

clothed in finery from a time of yore.

 

Scratched and cut, shaved and buffed,

tailored from the carver’s cuff,

wooden flesh beneath these eyes of glass.

 

Dancing, dancing, on the string

Graphic from Czech Marionettes
Marionettes. Graphic from Czech Marionettes

knowing that future brings

not but more, more of this life of lies.

 

Puppetmaster calls to walk—

stiff commands, he cannot balk

Walk he must, until these strings are cut.

 

But at that night, with crew asleep,

Did puppet from his perch did leap,

cutting out the lines that stole his life.

 

Falling flat, moving none,

his time astring at long last done,

the puppet laid still as wood upon the floor.

 

For without strings and hand of master,

a puppet can move no faster

than the wood from which the claimed are carved.

 

And at next morning, after pastor,

comes the evil puppetmaster

to put his king back in the seat of throne.

 

Strung again and again

kept together with his kin,

the Puppet Theater dances, dances, dances for its crowd.

The Box

Ever does the box sit staring,

holding what she wants the most.

Tempting souls with understanding—

fleeting knowledge, like a ghost.

 

Behind the keyhole, steeped in darkness,

lurking just beyond her sight,

the yellow box stays locked regardless;

ode to owner’s stubborn spite.

 

So there it stays, its contents hidden

from the world’s most watchful eyes.

Waiting for the un-forbidden

to wrest from it its precious prize.