The Mother Whore

And to think that, by the radiance of day,
all of them marvel at Michelangelo’s frescoes,
celebrating their God and gathering to pray
beneath what that elaborate vault shows,
never thinking of the Ladies of the Night
who earned their bread through their oiled thighs
while men worshiped with that old Babylonian rite
through similar poses— wet on wet, likewise.
Eve, Mary, Magdalene, and so many more
are enfleshed in “sin merchants” whose wanton wares
are now prayed to, as with the Great Whore
replaced by a God shunning such carnal affairs.
The Mother and the Whore are together exiled
from the same robe, conjoint bodies bare
for the sketches which such artists used, eyes wild
with defiance, and an artist’s ironic stare.
What went through Michelangelo’s impish mind
as he sketched a harlot as the Mother to Cain?
Was it resentment against the pope who stood behind,
prodding him to paint for his own political gain?
Perhaps it was mere pragmatism, as someone who might
have had disastrous secrets of his own,
wanting to avoid trial about his own demons at night
and focus, eventually, on chiseling masculine stone.
Whatever the case, light and dark were often combined
into the form of the Mother, beneath her open skirts
which Man much desired and much maligned—
so many prostitutes peopling the holy works.
The God of Ideals, thus wanting for
the glorification of his stories,
relied on the Mother Whore
of Necessity to birth his glories.

Grief

Grief, they say,
is an ocean;
deep and dark and expansive
with briny tears.
But I know
that grief means missing
a defining aspect of
the self
that can never return,
no matter how many rains
are sent with prayers.
Grief is an ocean
without water,
beyond tears—
it is a gigantic hole in the ground,
lifeless, dry, useless with
gritty, fossil-strewn sands.
Grief is a desert
where an ocean once danced with waves
to carry us forward
across the dark chasms
of life.
Now what is left to us
but the stark, scorching gaze
of the sun
as we wither beneath its overbearing truth
and add our skeletons
to this blanched, blinding,
endless
shoreline?

Outrage Culture

It is the newest spectacle sport,
and the most popular in America,
the audience and the players
united on the field as one,
dog-piling onto the person with the pigskin—
the pigskin being
long pig skinned for a game
of blame.
Social Media is the new
iron maiden
symbolically puncturing
with a million retweets
for a therapeutic session of
bloodletting.
It is asymmetrical warfare, an
aircraft carrier’s worth of
self-righteous artillery shells
blasting away at every backwater thatch hut
that some terrorist
to our sensibilities
inhabits.
It is not a matter of
Left or Right,
right or wrong,
justice or penitence,
but a means of getting our
kicks in
to make us feel better about
our own street corners
as we curbstomp the condemned.
It is a
Julius Caesar narrative
as everyone unsheathes their
daggered fingers
to text a bloody mess.
Et tu, Brute?
The only thing worse than a
troll online
is a holier-than-thou troll
inflicted with the disease
of self-righteousness.
And don’t think you will escape this
trending pillory—it is the most popular
fashion accessory of the modern era,
and is bound to catch you eventually.
We no longer enjoy 15 minutes of fame;
now it is 15 minutes of
shame.
Punishment should always be dispassionate,
not only for the sake of blind justice,
but for the sake of those of us in the jury,
in the audience.
We should not uncage the monkey in man
by letting emotions become involved,
otherwise simian fingers
dig deep
and fling poo
in every direction
until we are all plastered
stucco-a-la-shit.
We like to believe,
while bathed in the bright light
of our digital screens
that the world is lit up and we can
see
and
judge
with impunity,
but everyone lives in a cave,
seeing only the darkness of their own
ignorance
and mistaking it for revelation.
We are troglodytes groping
through the dark caverns
of our own skulls.
Worse,
there are those
trying to ride piggyback
to the piggy bank
off the mistakes of other
mortals,
thinking themselves the Greek choir,
standing godlike on the sidelines
in judgment
and
speaking of shame in strophe,
antistrophe,
to the scripted dialogue of a villain
when, in truth, they are the merely crowds
gathered excitedly to see
a hanging,
spitting on the condemned
as he walks toward the gallows,
never having had a
trial, condemned by the rage-blinded
animal monarch
we call
“public opinion”
while fingers eagerly
tear meat from bone
like the Bacchantes tearing Orpheus apart
with their keyboard-clacking frenzy.
But what a dangerous thing mob-rule is,
Robespierre,
for you never know when it will
show up at your social media account.
And we all do not simply live in glass houses,
but instagram posts,
facebook tags,
impulsive tweets,
our lives selectively cropped and
copy-pasted
to be scrutinized in
live-stream meltdowns,
cell-phone ambushes,
truncated audio recordings.
Who knows when you
will be the one burned at the stake in the next media firestorm?
Let he who is without sin
type the first comment.

Epigrams For Luminaries 1

Jorge Luis Borges
He stumbled through a labyrinth without walls,
blind, as we all are, as he walked those twisting halls.

Virginia Woolf
She rode her stream of consciousness wherever it went
until she sank in the waves, pockets full of rocks and sediment.

Charles Dickens
His expectations were not great at the start of his life,
but they grew more expansive, as did, too, his wife.

Douglas Adams
He did not throw in the towel—rather it unfurled
as he hitchhiked elsewhere, to another world.

Philip Larkin
He sang a song to the gloomy morning hues
when all he wanted was to listen to Jazz and the Blues.

Ambrose Bierce
As a lexicographer he sought to define many a word
from the perspective of the Devil, so as to not be absurd.

Anne Sexton
It was not a fairytale life for someone of her kind,
so she hopped in the car to leave it all behind.

Sylvia Plath
She had Nazi boots always pressing down on her chest
and marched herself into an oven, wanting to rest.

Terry Pratchett
Though a jester, he disliked drama, as does Death,
and so he merely nodded upon taking his final breath.

Diana Wynne Jones
Not always living a charmed life, she still wove magic
to transmogrify resplendent joy from what was tragic.

Robert E Howard
He imagined himself better, a throneless barbarian king,
and crowned himself with a pistol when he tired of living.

HP Lovecraft
He dreamt of horrors lurking in every sphere
and died, eventually, of a lurking fear.

Edgar Allan Poe
His career was buried prematurely before he hit his stride,
fame meeting him on the Plutonian shore like a deathbed bride.

MR James
Like an academic scrapbook, his life seemed a bit dull
so he inserted into it mezzotints most diabolical.

Sheridan Le Fanu
How dark with murk was his drinking glass,
through which his green Irish tea came to pass.

Flannery O’ Connor
Lupus reminded her that faith was not a friendly dog,
but a wolf that hunted you through the dismal fog.

Scorn

The tree’s shadow was a raven’s wing—
ragged, black, and riotously flapping
to the bellowing gales of the coming storm,
the winds cold, yet the season warm.
She waited until the sun had disappeared
behind the dark clouds that rose and reared
like black bears newly awakened from sleep:
angry and clashing, their roars loud and deep.
She went, then, searching for the three witches
as the forest struck her with its hateful switches,
and she came to the storm’s eye, where they dwelled;
a calm circle around which the vortex swelled.
The lightning crackled and the witches cackled,
each to the black cauldron was shackled.
The girl approached them, unhesitating,
while they watched her, silently wry and waiting.
“Did you summon the storm?” the girl asked,
“Or did it summon you?” The witches, each masked,
stirred the steaming, storm-funneled pot,
the broth of which bubbled sullen and hot.
“Take a gander into yourself,” the witches said,
“and know what it is that is in your head.”
The girl stepped toward the cauldron’s fuming funnel,
and dared a glance into that whirling, swirling tunnel.
She saw in the broth Hanna, the foreign maiden
whose beauty she hated, only now her body laden
with a humpback and warts and all of the features
that would ruin the most divine of creatures;
and she saw a prince, handsome and strong,
lifting herself to his saddle, amidst a festive throng,
and he had the face of the man to whom she gave
her virginity, thinking he would thereafter save
her from the mills and the cottage and the peasant life
and take her to his castle to make her his wife.
She saw the villagers who mocked her for a fool,
including her parents, now subject to her rule,
and relished how they kneeled and bowed
as she stood tall above them, beautiful and proud.
She saw, also, herself bedecked with jewels and lace
as her husband held her close and kissed her face.
And lavish banners were raised in her honor
while lords and ladies of the court fawned on her.
But as soon as these sights appeared, they dissipated,
and she saw images of what was true, what she most hated:
her prince adjusting his purple pantaloons as he rose,
shoving her aside as he struggled to put on his clothes.
Gruffly, he left that hayloft where they had embraced—
her maidenhood bleeding; no longer chaste.
“Who are you?” the girl whimpered, recoiling from the broth
as it bubbled over, slobbering like a lunatic’s froth.
“We are you,” the three witches said, “as you well know.”
The girl tried to flee, then, but found she could not go.
They doffed their masks: maiden, mother, and crone,
and they each had her face, and her face alone,
marking, with a map of ridged wrinkles, her future years,
mirroring her life to come, carved by heartache and tears.
The cauldron was her heart, the storm her soul,
and the rage and the sorrow swirled from that hole.
The blackguard’s fickle word, and betrayal,
had churned this fury, they say unknown even in Hell.
Her rage increased, like a whirlwind of annihilation
that gyred outward to level village, castle, and nation
with all of the powers of a woman thoroughly scorned,
her Hecate crown like the sickle moon, sharply horned
with all the bestial rage of her jilted pain
as the elements obeyed this vengeful Queen’s reign…

The guards found her at the first light of dawn,
babbling madly upon the diamond-dewed lawn.
She raved and clawed at the prince’s tower—
his wedding was moved to a later hour.

Four Epigrams

Preachers speak so forcefully of chastity’s worth
that he wonders how anyone came to be upon the earth.

The plot was twofold in her scheming brains—
the plan to murder and the place for the remains.

All of those selfies reminded her, in her old age,
of all the life wasted trying to get “likes” on a page.

Where Oedipus began he found his end,
a consummate doom he could not apprehend.

Acquiring Signal

He could tell she was breaking up
on the telephone line:
his terms
of service were not good
enough
and she always cut out on him
when she wasn’t the one talking.
He wished she paid
attention to him like he did to her,
but she didn’t seem to think
downloads
were as good as
uploads.
He walked around the field,
trying to get a better signal
but the distance,
(or the indifference)
was too great.
It was a clear night sky
but everything between them was
unclear, static-eaten; a bad
connection.
He had cut a
crop circle
in that field with his
frantic pacing
and was about to leave
when he saw a strange light overhead.
He was never very good at
picking up ladies,
but this girl picked him up so easily
that he felt like he was
walking on air,
head among the clouds
as she shone the limelight on him,
beaming him up to her flying saucer
as he stood stock-still,
frozen as if with stage fright.
She somehow elevated him
as she looked down upon him
and invited him into her
inner sanctum.
Once there, she picked his brain with
telepathy
and something similar to a
laser scalpel.
He opened his mind to her like a
canned ham,
and though his ex-girlfriend
thought it as unwanted as
Spam, she thought it
caviar.
She cared about what he thought
as she lit up his neurons with
so many deep questions and
so many sharp surgical instruments.
She took great care, too, with his
heart,
tenderly caressing it,
stroking it,
lovingly sealing it away
in a special, protective jar
during the dissection.
And even though she had
large black eyes
and long suction-cup fingers,
and legs that bent the wrong way,
she seemed genuinely interested in
everything about him,
her life now dedicated to him
like an extraterrestrial
Jane Goodall
so attuned to her Great Apes
that nothing else in the world mattered to her
as she brought him home
to meet her parents;
as she bragged about her
Grad school thesis experiment
on hominid males.
Looking out from his jar,
his disembodied brain
considered itself
very lucky
to have such a wonderful, immediate,
and uninterrupted
connection.

He mattered in her life.