Carried Away With Oneself

The townsfolk worried when the river would crest,
knowing it would flood their precious farmlands
and ruin crops before the Summer harvest,
all so fearful it was out of their hands—
that is, all except Donnie, the local fool
who lived in a white house all fading fast
and didn’t know how to discern a plain mule
from a jackass, or from a looking glass.
Anyhow, Donnie had it in his dense head
that he would save the town from the great flood.
“Give me all your buckets,” Donnie loudly said,
“and I will reduce that river to mud.”
Townsfolk thought this a hell of a hoot, all right,
and so they gave him every bucket,
and so Donnie took them to pail, day and night,
at the river, walking far to chuck it
away from the river, out toward the swamp,
where he fancied he made a difference,
even as the locals would laugh and would stomp
to see him so taken with such nonsense.
By and by, the river crested and then ebbed
as the floodwaters flowed farther on South
to the tributaries, watersheds, all webbed
until the river ran dry at the mouth.
The townsfolk were amazed to see such a thing
and praised Donnie for his supposed feat.
“If you are so grateful,” he said, “make me king!”
The townsfolk all knelt down to kiss his feet.
Thereafter Donnie saw to the floodwaters
whenever the rains fell in a torrent,
and he had much to eat, and many daughters
from the townsfolk, though it was abhorrent.
Each year the river rose, Donnie would bear it
with buckets, scooping it by the liters
as proof of his practice and pledge and merit
as the river rose, or fell, by meters.
But then came a year with such heavy rains
that they feared a forty-day flood was nigh
while the river swelled and broke over the plains,
the current swift, the whitewater crest high.
“Donnie! King! Save us!” they all cried out in woe.
Donnie scoffed at the river, wide and vast.
“I’ll right it,” he said, his orange cheeks aglow.
“You just wait and you’ll see! I’ll fix it fast!”
And so he took up his bucket, and his crown,
and he went to the rabid riverside
where he dipped his big, greedy buckets down
into that roaring, racing river tide.
For days he bailed at the river, growing tired,
yet the river only swelled larger still,
the farmlands and the town becoming but mired
in the bloat of that Leviathan swill.
“You are a fraud!” the townsfolk said to their king,
but he never lost faith, too much the fool
to ever doubt himself in any one thing
as he sought to solidify his rule.
And so Donnie worked at his usual pace,
which is to say, slow…lazy…no swifter
than the Hare when sleeping in the fabled race
against the tortoise, that steady drifter.
But the river was both the tortoise and hare,
for it ran swift while staying in its bed,
or else moved steadily outward, here and there;
whichever way its swelling excess led.
And Donnie waded out in the deep, thinking
he needed to get to the river’s heart
to pail out the most, although he was sinking
to his neck—yet still thinking himself smart.
“You won’t ever beat me, river,” Donnie yelled,
choking on whitewater as it tumbled
like the frothy fury of millions that swelled
until Donnie tripped and gagged and fumbled.
And, at a blink, Donnie was swallowed from sight
beneath the currents he thought he mastered—
his crown and buckets were found the next night:
the river will always have the last word.

The Hound

Half-consumed by flame
and half-consumed by ire,
assuming a fearsome name
and so fearful of fire,
he drinks deep of wine
and the dregs of despair,
serving a green-eyed line
that is golden of hair;
despising his butcher brother,
that slaughterer of men,
and loving no Father or Mother
or any among the Seven.
In both court and in war
he barks like a beast,
fed on table scraps for
guarding those at the feast
until the chained fires light
upon the blood-soaked bay,
burning away the night
to make a hellish day
over the Blackwater
while he flees the flame,
coming to the daughter
of the man who lost the Game,
taking from her a kiss
and asking for a song,
tears falling with a promise
to do her no wrong.
Thereafter he flees
as a stray on the run
as smoke stains the breeze
and the kingdom comes undone,
the war raging on
within and without his heart,
but in the War for the Dawn
what will be his part?
He steals a wolf pup
in the hope of a job,
but sees her brother sup
headless within a mob
and then, by the Trident,
he meets a gang of cutthroats
all vicious and strident
whom he slaughters like goats,
but not before injured
by a blade in the thigh,
his heart not so inured
from the thought he will die,
and so he asks for ease:
for the Stranger’s gift,
but the pup grants no release
and gives but short thrift,
taking his gold, and his horse,
and leaving him without pity
to set a seaward course
to Braavos, the free city.
He dies, in a sense,
from the rot growing within
and is reborn in the silence
on an isle of holy men.
Living once more
as a gravedigging cripple,
he walks the quiet shore
and counts each ripple
sent out from the war
that he has forsworn
to atone for misdeeds
and the guilt he has borne
for all of his deeds.
But there will come the day
when he must leave the isle
and enter again the fray
to fight for the Dawn while
facing down his own death;
when the Night descends
and he sighs his final breath
as the daylight ends.
Will he say a prayer?
Or utter just a word?
Maybe a gruff puff of air
or just “Little Bird”?

A Candle On The Borderlands

Let us join these tears by candlelight
as we huddle close together
in a small halo not half so bright
as we would like in such weather,
for this woe-betided Winter’s night
is cloaked in the raven’s feather,
so hold each other, (hold oh so tight),
knowing Death may always sever
our lives so starkly as black from white
in his borderlands of Never,
for a time will come when we alight
beyond such borders forever.

Consequences

“Consequences follow, my dear,” Lady Thatcher said. “They are the most faithful of hounds.”
“If only men were so faithful,” Lady Fairsdale said, fanning herself with her little oriental fan. “Then I would not fret so much over Henry’s time abroad.”
The two ladies exchanged mischievous, knowing smiles.
“The stray cannot remain away for long,” her elder friend returned. “Perhaps you should seek consequences of your own in the meantime.”
“I have enough dogs in the kettle,” Lady Fairsdale said, tucking a stray tress of russet hair behind her dainty pale ear. Her ear was tinged a faint cherry at the topmost curve, as were her cheeks and the flat of her chest above her bodice-bound bosom. “And of dogs and men and consequences I have tolerated enough. They all make such a terrible ruckus.”
Lady Thatcher sipped at her tea, a glint of mischief enlivening her otherwise dull brown eyes. “In my day the ruckus was what made dogs and men and consequences, my dear. A good ruckus makes the world go round.”
The pool of shade plunged from their broad parasol and soaked the two Ladies in its cool depths while the lustrous sun rose to peep over the treetops, burning the cool mists into fairy-fire that disappeared in the crisp dazzle of the dawn. The two Ladies chatted away, and gazed upon a young man and his happy father by the hedgerow. Lively petal lips found compensatory fare in conversation, though younger petals longed to quiver in other diversions.
“A man’s task is to prove himself worthy of a Lady’s affections,” Lady Thatcher said. “A Lady’s task is to prove him wrong. If she fails, then he has met his match. If he succeeds, she has failed herself.”
“You speak as if no man is worthy of a woman.”
“A wealthy geriatric may be,” she said. “Provided he has the decency of an imminent grave.”
Lady Thatcher was herself mottled with age, and yet like a well-kept antique she yet clung to a certain luster and fine figure which had possessed the hearts of many susceptible men when in her youthful bloom. And she still spoke as if fresh from the bud, in full array of her colors and her fragrance.
“That said,” she added, “a poor servant may be worthy, too, for a while. At least insomuch as he proves adept at the task given by his Mistress.”
The faint cherry of her young companion’s cheeks bloomed into a scarlet blush that no high breeding could conceal. She fanned herself fervently, and gazed out upon the lawn. The gardener and his son trimmed at the hedgerow. The old man stood with a bent back and a sweaty forehead, pointing and directing his son. The latter—in his prime years—worked the sheers assiduously, scissoring away the offensive leaves from the otherwise squarish greenery. Distantly, the dogs in the kettle barked with incessant insistence.
“When is Lord Fairsdale to return?” Lady Thatcher asked absently.
“However long he requires in Venice,” Lady Fairsdale said, disinterested. “Two months? Three? He has been gone already for two months.”
“So you have time, at the least, for more consequences,” Lady Thatcher remarked meaningfully. “A Lady in her youth, such as yourself, should always seek the fulfillment of such idle time in whatever means are natural to you.”
The young man glanced at the young lady from the distance, smiling to himself. His father took no note, but the young Lady did. Lady Fairsdale noted the young man’s large, strong hands, watching them flex and relax, her green eyes traveling up his thick forearms to the folded sleeves and up his broad shoulders to the slight slit of his white shirt, the cleft of his chest, the straight neck and square chin, dark eyes and dark hair. He was a strong buck, she knew, and yet the doe led him on like a dutiful fawn. Lady Thatcher watched Lady Fairsdale watch the young man, and smiled with vicarious pleasure. Lady Fairsdale’s bosom heaved, crowded with frustrated breath and its own largess within her bodice.
The dogs continued to bark, but both Ladies ignored them.
“It is needful work,” Lady Thatcher said.
“What is?” Fairsdale said, entirely dazzled and distracted by sunlight on a labour’s dew.
“Caring for gardens,” she said. “There are consequences in failing to attend them. They can grow positively riotous if unchecked.” She smiled. “And there is so little ruckus heard when one’s husband is away. The dogs can yap all they please, but none will mind them.”
“I should mind them,” a voice said near at hand, startling the two Ladies. “The temper of a dog is only equaled by faith to his Master, and he will bite those whom his Master mislikes.”
The gentleman loomed, a shadow with the sun at his back. Cradled in his arm, like a newborn babe, was a rifle that gleamed blackly in the forenoon sun.
“Henry!” Lady Fairsdale gasped. “I thought you were yet in Venice!” She cleared her throat, and calmed her heaving chest with the flat of her hand. “Has the venture been a failure?”
“To the contrary,” Mr. Fairsdale said, his tone casual between grinning yellow teeth. “The venture went rather well. So well, in fact, that I sent Howard to manage its conclusion while I returned home to see to…other affairs.”
He abruptly stepped around the table and headed toward the gardener and his son.
“Henry!” Lady Fairsdale exclaimed, close to fainting.
Lord Fairsdale halted and turned about, still grinning. He looked cheery and cheeky, ear to ear, though the thin wisps of gray hair at his temples— in their disheveled state—lent an air of uncouthness to his overall visage; as though frayed by some wayward tempest. An unhealthy sweat bedewed his reddish forehead, trickling over wrinkle and pox scar alike. Yet, his features otherwise were cast in a mold of hard-chiseled amicability.
“What is the matter, my dear wife?”
Before she could speak, a group of men— likewise cradling rifles—stepped forth together. Mrs. Fairsdale, attempted to contain her heaving breast and the hammering heart within. These men were her husband’s friends. Lords, one and all.
“Hunting today?” she said, glancing to Lady Thatcher.
“Of course,” her husband said, still grinning. “It is a lovely day for it.”
“Must you?” she asked, feeling frantic and febrile. “It does not seem a good day for it. Looks like rain.”
There were dark clouds converging on the horizon.
“A quick hunt will not take long,” he countered, still grinning. “It is my land, my wife. I will do as I please. The rain will not keep me off from it, however sadly it falls.”
The dogs in the kettle barked in a great clamour as the group of men converged on the gardener and his son. Lady Fairsdale watched them unblinkingly, feeling powerless and faint. Her hand instinctively sought the hand of her elder companion, tremulous at the clutch.
“Do not fret, Ellen,” Lady Thatcher said. “He suspects nothing.”
“He never smiles so dreadfully much,” Lady Fairsdale said, breathing labouriously. “Not ever on our wedding day, or the next morning.”
“You fear overmuch,” Lady Thatcher said. “Your husband is like most English husbands. Thinks himself lord of his lands, but is ever asleep on the throne. All is quite safe. No need to faint at phantoms, my dear.”
“But the hounds…” Lady Fairsdale said, trembling. “What a terrible noise!”
“Oh, they are beasts without reason,” the older woman said. “As are most cuckolded men.” She giggled softly. “You did well by marrying a man twice married before and twice your age. He is likely, thus, twice certain to be abloom within a meetly season. And then, my dear, your true life will begin.”
“I will not marry again,” Lady Fairsdale vowed. “I wish only to serve myself.”
“And so you should,” Lady Thatcher said. “Just keep plenty of comely youths in service. It has done wonders for my woeful years of widowhood.”
Lady Thatcher’s sly smile encouraged Lady Fairsdale’s to debut. It was a most winsome smile, charming both man and lad and lord and pauper, and had won her many an invitation to London’s most prestigiously exclusive soirees. Her smile suddenly vanished, for she could hear, at a distance, the conversation between her husband and the gardener’s son.
“I have never hunted before,” the young man said. “Perhaps you would rather I serve as a beater?”
“Nonsense,” said Lord Fairsdale blithely. “You are a hunter after my own heart. This I know to be entirely true.”
The young man’s father admonished his son to acquiesce to the Lord’s proposal. The dogs barked ever more loudly.
“It will be my first time using a rifle, sir,” the young man said.
“I think you will have much luck in it,” Lord Fairsale remarked. “The Devil’s Luck, I dare say, and a happy disposition toward it. All young men do. Just aim to the heart.”
The young man looked to his father and, sheepishly— almost shamefully— glanced to Lady Fairsdale. She shook her head only slightly, her eyes wide.
“I insist,” said Lord Fairsdale.
The young man was handed a rifle and shuffled away with the hunting party. Lady Fairsdale watched as the group of men walked down the sun-gilded field, toward the dark arbor of the forest; divided as day from night. Lady Fairsdale sighed. All cherry tinge had drained from her cheeks and ears, her face a pallid mask of bloodless fear as the men vanished within the woods.
“My dear,” Lady Thatcher said, “you mustn’t fret over such things. There is a proper order in society, and the English are known for following decorum among their peers. No harm will come of it to anyone of importance. Least of all to you.”
A shot rang out vengefully, like the crackling thunder of an old, angry god. Lady Fairsdale’s heart leapt as if to burst. The dogs’ clamour died at once to a deathly silence. The rain began to weep along the horizon.

Trifecta Defectum

Social Change
You can tongue the wound
all day long,
stitching sound bites and sassy truths
along the
bleeding, pus-profuse threshold
and yet the hemorrhaging and the pain
will always overflow.
Unless you are a surgeon
scraping away at the
necrotic flesh
and excising the
multiplying tumors
and suturing the anemic veins,
you are merely talking the patient
to death.
Change takes wars
and bloodshed
and transfusions of power,
not wagging tongues that
French-kiss the damage
in humanity with a
cannibal’s love.
Surgeons and soldiers
are the same:
they are both butchers of Man
and from their butchery
comes the cosmetic change of the world
in all of its dubious, scar-tissue progress.

A Lesson Learned While Reading T.S. Eliot
Good poetry should not be
a door slammed shut
in the face,
its interior glimpsed only through
an ivy-curtained window
while standing upon large stacks of
pretentious tomes
thick with erudite esoterica
idiosyncratically selected and
covetously curated;
no, good poetry must be
open to everyone, inviting
so long as you take the time
to tour freely
while its house spirits
crouch in corners, waiting
to be discovered along
retreaded passageways,
bodies buried beneath the floorboards,
and even a dungeon, if need be,
where tormented emotions dwell
in Gothic pretenses,
or a labyrinth of learning
that spirals vertiginously downward
below the solid foundation—
the point is
to let readers in
at the base level
without an exclusive invitation.
It is up to them how
deep they delve
and how many ghosts they rile up
from the dark, dusty depths of that
multistoried retreat.

Turn-Style
Stepping into this circle-jerk café of
literati
makes me want to take a salt shower,
and not the
bukkake kind
that little Miss Instagram is taking
as she uses the stylish turnstile
for a stripper cage,
blocking the entrance with her
social media presence.
So many others here, too, with their
generic cup of Joe-poetry
and when everyone is both barista
and customer
keeping tabs on each other is more a
tit-for-tat business obligation
than a genuine passion.
They cum and go,
laboriously yanking each other’s
percolators
only to get themselves off
for the creamer in their coffee,
because otherwise the drink is too
bitter, this wake-up call to reality too
jarring
wherein everyone is a
poet
and so no one is.
Against the wintry emptiness
of anonymity
everyone huddles inside
to keep warm, basking in
self-serving attention.
Oddly,
for being such a hot trend
it has only left me curiously
cold.