EARLY IN THE SECOND BOOK

She wrapped him carefully
in an old blanket and several
sections of the Times and put him
in the basket with the broken handle
she found out behind the Safeway
near the culvert that was home
until the rains came.
She placed him among the weeds
and beer bottles, where the river’s smell
licked the wicker, and she hoped
he would be found quickly.
She envisioned him at the right hand
of Kings, holding forth on all
manner of life and death,
princes seeking his insight,
hanging on his words. He
would not be like others
dying at the hand, whim of wealth.
He was found a week later
lodged against a grate
at the intake of the power station
and placed in a far corner
of the city cemetery under
a simple stone “Baby Doe.”


First Published in Backchannels Journal, Ed. 2, 2019
https://www.backchannelsjournal.net/edition-no-2-2019

NAM

He said, “I survived the war,
was up to my armpits in water
wading through the night
through the rice plants
that would never bear grain
once we called in the orange.
I walk through minefields,
the noise a deafening silence
since the only sound that mattered
was the click that shouted death
You think Ii have issues now
and in your mind I certainly do
but you my issues didn’t go away
like Jamie’s, he heard that click and a moment
later his issues were gone, and the moon
was painted blood red that night
and it inhabits my dreams still.

RECALL

It is always odd
watching older men gather
to talk about their lives,
about how much they
no longer remember of last
year and a decade ago, about
the infinite details they do
recall of their time spent
in the army, air force, navy,
the smell of slop on a shingle,
the stain on the finger from
field stripped cigarette butts,
the olive drab they were and lived,
the base post exchange
the mandatory Ray Ban aviator’s,
the sergeants grimace,
the body count no one mentioned
in the war they hated, wanted over,
how they were all brothers
in arms, now just old men,
sharing painful memories.

ON THE MESA

At night, in these mountains
you see a million stars, but
all you hear is the silence.
It bothers you, this silence
and you strain to hear, what?
There is no one here but you
and your breath is swallowed
by the night sky. Be still
for the wind will rise,
and these mountains
and these trees herd us
into ever smaller spaces
as we have been herded
for generations, we
will gather as we ride
among the peaks and down
into canyons, listen
carefully, for inside
the wind we dance around
your ears, our songs faint.
As the full moon rises
slowly over the mountain
listen carefully
you will look for us
but we cannot be seen.
You will hear our song
dancing across this mesa,
one voice to another.
You will imagine us
coyote, you will feel a chill
along your spine
and we will fall silent.
The stars will smile
for they know our stories
but to you we are
simply, the songs of coyotes.
Listen to our voices
we will tell you of the land
of the grasses once here
where our herds grazed,
now gone to endless sage.
As we lick at your face
taste the tears
which have watered
this now arid soil.
Look at the flowers
pushing out of the sand
and rock, see our faces
in the stones about your feet.
You may return to your homes
and pull your comforters
around your chins, hiding
from the night’s chill,
but we shall remain
among these peaks, in
these canyons
for another ten thousand moons.


First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019

FORGOTTEN PROCLAMATION

He was quite tall for then, even
tall for now, and that hat must have
added almost a foot, a mortician
likely as not, if not a lawyer.
He wrote eloquently, even if his voice
was not quite of his stature, his words
always had impact, digging in the
gray and blue bled soil of Pennsylvania.
Today would be eleven score
and nineteen and I doubt the forefathers
would recognize the creation or want to.
7800 dead, 27,000 wounded, all watered
the Pennsylvania Farms with tears,
and today the soil has been given over
to stark down signs telling us
what they think we ought to know,
devoid of pain, devoid of impact.
Eleven score and nineteen
and we say to those knocking
at our door, “not now, we’re full,
there is no room at this inn
for the likes of you and yours.”

BELLY OF THE BEAST

From within the belly of the beast
Sheol is a placid place, removed
from the waves rattling the timbers,

silent of the cries of the men
berating their fate, uncertain
as to the cause of their discomfort.

Let Nineveh burn, lets its people
scatter to the streets, let the King
stare out at the destruction and wonder.

He should need no prophet, no seer,
no interpreter of dreams to know
why all about him lies in ruin.

Inside the belly of the beast
it is warm, and comforting,
a womb from which one

should have no desire to be
cast out upon the land, or to drown
in the swirling waters of the angry sea.

There is only the hunger in the bowels,
and the blackness of a thousand nights,
a blackness darker than the shade

of the tree, which withers in the heat,
of the waters which disappear
before quenching the endless thirst.

Within the belly of the beast
there is no sound, no voice
to draw forth thoughts, no dreams

to disrupt the sleep that will not come,
only the void and the silence
and the cries that echo off baleen walls.

Nineveh lies in ruin, Sodom a pillar
of salt, the walls of Jerusalem lie
a jumble of stones, the oil of the lamp

seeps into the arid ground, and only
the weed springs forth to mark
the graves of the forgetting people.


First Appeared in A Writer’s Choice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1999

BOTTOM LINE

They are dying but
it really doesn’t matter
since the bottom line doesn’t
recognize their plight, and
never mind that we paid
for its invention, for that
is the beauty of this age.
God is no longer
in charge of things, bought
and sold, and now assigned
to watching the corn grow
in central Illinois, and this
wasn’t a good year for crops there
and most everywhere.
Now it is too hot and dry
but since we can’t acknowledge
even the concept of climate change
countless veterans by
of a curable disease because
we need to fund the next war
won’t be able to complete.