“God-Given” Gifts

He visits museums and art galleries

to see the master works of sculptors and painters

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He goes to concert halls, opera houses, jazz clubs,

to hear deft musicians play songs

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He attends theaters and goes to the cinemas

to watch brilliant actors become other people

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He watches comedy shows and standup routines

to laugh at the witty jokes comedians tell

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He looks after the runaways, the prostitutes,

the transvestites and the vulnerable,

enticing them into his car, talking to them like

an old friend, kindly neighbor,

philanthropist in times of need,

taking them

somewhere remote, quiet, and alone,

and he bludgeons them, stabs them,

strangles them, rapes them, kills them,

chops up their bodies, takes

souvenirs

for his own home gallery,

disposes of the remains

and then he calls their relatives on the phone,

mocks them,

tortures them with his firsthand accounts,

relives his depravity through their fresh tears,

and he

leaves complacent clues at the scenes of his crimes

to taunt the cops,

watching the News media

to rejoice in his grand debut,

becoming famous as the anchors

talk him up to

Godzilla proportions of destruction,

and then, satisfied, he

lays low for a year,

waiting,

watching,

returning when the ruckus has subsided,

cultivating his celebrity once again

with a second season of murders,

elated as his alter-ego alias

passes along the lips of those who

pray against his trespasses,

and eventually he

betrays himself,

outs himself so he can be celebrated with

loathing, with infamy,

with international intrigue

through books, movies, cult status,

fan mail, declarations of love,

becoming a cultural phenomenon

as famous as Raphael or Elvis,

and all because

he has a God-Given gift, too.

A Historical Riddle

No gender studies for this warrior queen,
but studies of war, of spear and shield and blade,
and the tactics of her foes, pitted between
patricians, patriarchy, those who invade.
A lioness, she set out after the hare,
becoming, in time, both leader and hero,
seeking the eagle and its bronzed raptor’s glare,
roaring so loud as to scare distant Nero.

C’est La Vie Sucre

The Empress Josephine had all the pearls
that a woman could want around her neck,
wealth envied by ladies and dukes and earls,
like the treasure from a galleon wreck,
yet below-deck, behind her crimson mouth,
the sugarcane sweets from her hometown isle
on Martinique, down in the Carib South,
had rotted her teeth brown behind her smile—
brown like molasses, and no pearls could hide
the oyster-halitosis in her quips,
for though the empire fetched pearls far and wide,
she had no pearls within her foul clam lips.

Winnow

Work hard—do not mind the scorn
of the wretched, petty souls,
but rise stronger, yet, each morn,
and labor upon your goals,
ever-fixed on your field,
however loud they may laugh,
for your harvest will still yield
if you winnow wheat from chaff,
deaf to the dim-witted herd
who chew the waste of your wheat—
do not mind them, not one word,
or the crude roughage they eat.
All that matters is your crop
and your winnowing mission;
sow and reap and never stop
in your dream, your ambition.

The Garroter Priest

They come unto him, the Garroter Priest,

praying like sheep to the fangs of a beast,

seeking his rosary, his brimstone path—

the way of war, and its bleak aftermath.

Kneeling before him, they welcome his grasp

around their necks, like a tight choker’s clasp,

his fingers interlocked in grim prayer,

helping them see their God (as they lose air);

the God of the Red, of rage consuming

like a stab, a gunshot, a bomb blooming

to engulf their lives and welcome the flood

of fire, of ash, of smoke and tears and blood,

hearing evermore the discordant choir,

each angel strumming its sinewed lyre.

His clarion call is a dire wolf’s howl

and his flock gathers, a pack on the prowl:

“Come, O flock of mine!” he says, “A fine fleece

each of you offer, and in return, peace

shall be your reward—the peace of such spite

that knows no end except when the sharp bite

about your neck sinks deep, strangling from you

a life burdened with grudges old and new.”

And so the Garroter Priest blesses those

whose wolfish fury hides in sheepish clothes,

wrenching from their throats the hunger of hate

and bleeding them to a more tranquil state,

for a faith of hellfire and brimstone laws

proceeds by a cannibal’s fangs and claws

as the acolytes eat one another,

shepherd on flock, and brother on brother,

until one remains, the Garroter Priest,

who welcomes himself to one final feast.