A Russian nesting doll,
all of literature,
one within one within all—
no books writ were so pure.
Take, for instance, Roland,
a childe of Charlemagne,
oliphant in reluctant hand
blown always in refrain.
To the tower he came
in rhymed verse, or pulp prose,
a changed man, yet also the same
neath that tower’s shadows.
And as an old king leers
and giants gather in range,
the dreamer sheds his close-eyed tears,
for nothing seems to change.
Prayer (Lip) Service
They speak as if to inspire
(or at least to pay lip),
but when closer to true fire
the wax begins to drip,
dribbling each empty prayer
in small puddles and wicks,
smoky, evanescent air
and melting candlesticks.
When was worth ever worth the knowing
but of sails when the wind is blowing?
What good the ale or good the weather
if stout trust is not shared together?
When was honesty worth its value
but when the crew slanders what is true?
What depths have the seas, crest to abyss,
when plunged with friendship, ever amiss?
What was vigilance from up on high
but the crow’s nest and a watchful eye?
What was a purpose against the odds
but wheel and rudder defying gods?
When was one’s character worth its test
but in the tumult of the tempest?
When was integrity worth its salt
but in the hull, made strong and gestalt?
What fears come forth from the wide ocean
when hearts swell with stronger emotions?
People will speak storms just to wreck ships—
may you never sink by briny lips.
Fling out the dragnets of thought
to draw up what’s forgotten,
corpses bygone and ill-got
with their substance all rotten;
seine through the insanity
to catch clusters of regrets,
envy, lust, and vanity—
the small bait which soon begets
larger hauls, each dragged upward:
pride, wrath, gluttony and greed,
all of which have so suppered
in accordance to the breed.
Drag up! Drag up! Hoist them high!
Like the sharks of some sea hunt
being raised now, eye to eye—
not a publicity stunt.
They thrash, they growl, they bite,
dead yet their instincts remain
to attack as if they might
bring back all the repressed pain.
So drag the nets, haul them up,
and bring me the bodies now—
wring from them their sour syrup
and shotgun blasts to each brow.