THE QUESTION

Even long after he had left
his childhood behind, or such
of it as he had actually had,
he could still stare up into
the night sky, at ceiling of stars
with more than a little awe.

And even though he had left
childhood behind, no one
had yet answered the one
question his parents ducked
time and time again, one
so simple a child knew
its answer, but asked anyway,
for validation or irritation.

If God created the heavens
why did He or She arrange
the stars so that people
could see in their order
other people, lesser gods
and all manner of animals?

NAMELESS ONE

It is truly unfair, sucks really,
that proximity has cast me
as nameless, yet I am forced
to wear all manner of terms
that fit their mood at any
given moment, and even then
they can’t seem to agree.

You can say it is petty, but I
am jealous of Titan, and hell
even Phobos and Deimos
have proper names, and they
are a misshapen, dim pair.
Maybe I should blame
my companion who rejected
a host of names, wanting
to be called earth, but why
do all the major planets have names
while I am tagged with,
nothing more than moon.

Santa Cruz Wharf, September

The quieter you become
the more you can hear.
— Baba Ram Dass

Orion lies over the wharf
staring at the moon, dangling
like an unyielding eye, barring sleep
while below the waves wash
onto the shore, licking the pilings
and tasting the sand, a calming roar
broken only by the barking
of the harbor seals.
It is not a night for hunting
the bear has fled over the horizon
preparing for the coming winter
and the hunter tires from the chase.
A gull nips at his heels, and plunges
back into the swells, he must be
content with the odd fish and scraps
from the strange ones who mass
on the wharf each day and retreat by night
until there is only the hunter
and the goddess and two young men
curled into the sand.
I stand on the balcony
and stare at the hunter
wishing that sleep would come,
that the white eye would blink,
but the waves wash in
and the harbor seals bark
and the stars beat
a slow retreat.

First publshed in Lighthouse Weekly, January 17, 2022
https://www.lighthouseweekly.com/post/geography-and-santa-cruz-wharf-september

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

First published in Glimpse, Issue 54, Fall 2021

BALLET OF THE GODS

Once they pierced your heels
to hobble you, bound up
feet and ankles to lash
you to the earth, there weren’t
angels then, no wings, just the pain
of toes crushed inward,
the silent agony of motion,
a cruel joke played by gods
starved for entertainment.
But Terpsichore, hearing
Erato’s song, set them free
brought them to a pointe,
allowed them to take wingless
flight, and toes became a platform
from which their joy rose up
spinning, whirling, slashing
until even the most jaded
of the gods fell silent in awe.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

MOSES SAYS TO AARON

We sat in the tent
and you complained again
of our condition, knowing
what lies just out of reach.
He speaks to me, not you
and there is little you can do
to hide your jealousy.
I often wonder what might
have happened if I had wiped
the blood of the lamb from your lintel.
It was you who watched
the calf take shape and
did nothing, seeing it
a personal tribute, and
ordained its fashion
and for your sin
we shall be together
forgotten men
in the land of Moab.

First appeared in Live Nude Poems, July 2021
livenudepoems.com/2021/07/

NO BACKS

As you age, your vision changes,
and not merely that of your eyes,
for you necessarily become
near sighted about many things.

Of course you dread the fact that you
could be myopic if circumstances
conspire against you, barely able
to be IN and remember the moment.

Even those healthy take to mythology,
and astronomy, wishing they were
Titan, living life in retrograde, but no one
has yet managed to become Benjamin Button.

COSMIC CONUNDRA

They say that some
of the rings of Saturn
are braided.
They also say that
Rapunzel’s hair
was braided.
I am a skeptic for when I stare
at Saturn
through the old binoculars
I see two fuzzy
astigmatic spots of light
and Rapunzel has gone
punk, and I see only
an oversized
nose ring.
The sad thing is
that Jupiter’s red spot
is showing signs
of becoming
a melanoma.

First published in The Post Grad Journal, Issue 1, Spring 2021
https://www.thepostgradjournal.com/issue-1

CASSIOPEIA

You sit on your self-made throne
and stare at the night sky
as clouds gather
and dissipate beneath you.
Do you even recall
why you were cast out,
condemned to your cell so vast
yet infinitely confining?
Does your body remember
the touch of his hand
the crude hunter
who set you aflame
with a white heat
that paled the sun of summer?
What do you imagine
as tongues of the Perseids
lick across the sky
and disappear into
the ebony holes that lurk
in the corners of your eyes?
You move slowly across my world
and only the dawn brings you peace.

First appeared in Abyss & Apex, Spring 2021 Issue 78
https://www.abyssapexzine.com/

DUST AND ASHES

Between Scylla and Charybdis
they cower amidst the ruins
fearful to look skyward
lest they encourage
the rains of hell.

Now and then they visit
the corpses, hastily buried
grief drowned by the sound
of the laugh of the gunner
peering down from the hills.
It is always night for the soul
and lookout must be kept
for Charon, who rides
silently along the rivers of blood,
that flow through her streets.

In the great halls,
far removed from the horror,
self-professed wise men
exchange maps
lines randomly drawn,
scythes slicing a people.
They trade in lives as chattel,
reaping a bitter harvest,
praying there may only be
but seven lean years.

They offer a sop to Cerberus,
three villages straddling the river,
but the army of the hills
knows they will take that and more
and waits patiently for the winter
when the odor of sanctity
no longer arises out of the city
to assail their nostrils
and Shadrach is
no more than a ghost.

First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.