Take To Flight, February

Go! Leave! Take to flight, February,
for you linger overlong
with such a darksome mood, chill and airy
that sings too mournful a song.

The shortest among monthly brethren,
but not short enough, forsooth,
as we wait for the Spring to set in
and you cling by nail and tooth.

It’s true they stole from you a few days
to add to their collection,
but no one wants you here anyways,
and would rather you had none.

You are the Georgia of Winter days,
the state I hate driving through
on my way to the Gulf’s golden bays—
Florida without the view.

We are all tired of this bleak Winter
and its cold dark solemn hours
so we’ll be in the garden center,
looking at the Spring flowers.

Ode To The Skunk

Thou foul beast! O skunk, where art thou at?
Black and white malodorous polecat!
Do not— oh please—take me by surprise
when by dark I seek with cautious eyes
to know where thou lurketh in the night,
thine cloud lingering as doth a blight,
for if I do not heed the wise nose
then heed how futile the water hose!
Not even saints may abide that smell
that be worse than the sulphur of Hell
as it clingeth like sin to the skin
although we scrub again and again.
What devilry beneath that proud tail!
And what a fallout! What a trail
that follows it like a stain on air
warning us all—beware, fool, beware!
Nor can we trust fruit of the nightshade
to cleanse one’s soul of the fetor made;
‘twould be best simply to eat the leaf
and thus pass beyond such earthly grief.
Oft feared more greatly than grizzly’s growls
and worse, by far, than the wolf pack’s howls
and yet how adorable that beast
with its brown eyes, soft fur— cute at least
in eyes that look past its rank odor,
for in the eye of the beholder
beauty be found, and the will to love
what is shunned both below and above…
O god! Where is it? Where’d it go?
Ach! It has sprayed me! Oh no! Oh no!!!

The Tragic Miracle Of The Feminine

It is like the womb of the Madonna
besieged by a Roman soldier
and thereafter birthing Christ—
it is to take violence inward
and transform atrocity
into a miracle, the feminine miracle
of self-sacrifice against natural
savagery,
life from violence,
and so, in the manner of his mother,
Jesus worked upon the savage earth
feminine miracles
with life rendered from violence,
love bleeding out from violence
as he took within him
the spiteful lance of Longinus
to birth life and love and mercy
upon a savage world,
accepting the whip and the
thorned crown
and accepting the cross;
not to save mankind from itself,
but to show the way
his mother knew
of terrible violence
and awful miracles,
for Mother is god
in the eyes of a son.

Nike

What would that goddess of Victory think
to see the little children laboring
beneath the scrutinizing gaze of their
slavemasters
as they construct shoe after shoe
for these grown men
playing little children’s games
to the lionizing shouts of
millions?
Is this the
Victory
her name now invokes?
Is this the glory
of mankind—
a touchdown
as the crowd goes wild
and another child slaves away
their fleeting childhood
so overgrown man-children
can play games
into their forties,
cradled in their laurel crowns
in a deified retirement
the sweatshop children will never know?
It is a black mark
upon the glories of the modern world.

To Trick A Trickster

dreamcatcher

“Am I going to die?” Johnny asked. “Or am I already dead?”
The tall man stood silent in the luminous circle of Johnny’s flashlight, his face shrouded in the shadow cast off from his coyote-skin cowl. Johnny could not see the tall man’s eyes, but he knew they were fixed upon him; nor did Johnny want to see the tall man’s face. By instinct he knew he did not want to see it.
“Time means nothing to me,” the tall man said. “In the past you were never alive. In the future you are alive no more. You have the present, and the present alone. Make use of it however you can.”
The tall man’s slender limbs and barrel chest were bare; only his loins were covered with a strip of golden-brown pelt like the cowl upon his head. He was coppery of skin, and spoke with a Native’s flat, unhurried English. Above him the gibbous moon was the upturned eye of a lunatic, spilling its wan light in a futile wash down the Kentucky hills. All along the hilltops, and cradled in the vales between them and their slopes, were whiskey warehouses. They stood solemn and silent and reeked of sweet firewater vapors.
“I am part Cherokee on my mother’s side,” Johnny said. “And Iroquois on my father’s side.”
“White or Red, all men’s blood tastes the same,” the tall man said.
In Johnny’s left hand he gripped his flashlight, but in his right he gripped a large knife his father had made him. It had a handle cut from the crown of the king of the glade, mottled white-and-brown. The antler handle served a blade his father had fashioned from the tooth of an old circular sawblade once used in a mill. The tooth and its kin had felled and butchered many a forest, and was sharper now than it had ever been in its previous use. Security guards for the distillery were not supposed to have weapons, but Johnny always kept the large knife under his black parka, held in a deerskin sheath against his chest.
“What have I done to you?” Johnny said. “I don’t even know you.”
“It is not what you have done,” the tall man said. “It is never about what you have or have not done. It is merely a game. All the world is a game. The game is all that matters.”
Johnny had been walking around in the cold half the night. The patrol vehicle had broken down around midnight, so Johnny had to foot it in the dark. It was nearly Winter and, so, was a cold night, but he had been so angry that he was overheating by the time he made a single pass around the property. He had taken off his hat, and opened his parka, his temper a fire that seemed like it would soon catch on the fake-fur lining his parka’s collar.
“I don’t want to play any games,” Johnny said, looking past the tall man, downhill, toward the gravel road that led back to the distillery. The distillery was at a long distance, breathing steam like a dragon and lit up like a small city. It was too far away, and too loud, for anyone to hear him if he shouted for help. He had nowhere to go from atop the hill except down, past the stranger.
“The game is all there is,” the tall man said. “It has rules, and all must obey its rules, even as they cheat other players.” He seemed to grin from within the shadow of his fanged cowl. Sharp white teeth gleamed amidst the blackness. “Do you believe you can cheat against me? It may be the only way you live to see the sunrise. I will give you a hint. You must cheat by using the rules.”
“I don’t understand any of this,” Johnny said. “Who are you? What do you want?”
The tall man said nothing.
The chilly grip of Winter took hold of Johnny’s bones, tightening throughout his young body until he felt like an old man with an icicle arthritis. His hands trembled, and he shivered. His former fury had given way to cold terror, as a fireplace extinguished to cold ashes.
“I don’t want to play games,” he said. “I just want to leave. Please. Let me leave.”
The tall man stood immobile. He seemed so tall that the moon crowned him, even as he stood downhill from Johnny.
“The Hunter comes,” the tall man said. “And to face him we must find champions. Are you worthy as a champion? Can you play the game? Or are you carrion in the snow?”
Johnny should have known something was wrong. While footing the property he saw none of the animals that frequented there every night. No opossums. No skunks. No raccoons or squirrels or deer. He had been alone throughout the night.
And yet not alone at all.
“Fine,” Johnny said, his breath labored. “What do I do? How do we play?”
“It is the most natural thing in the world,” the tall man said. “You simply survive.”
The tall man raised his hands above his head, taking the moon in his hands and pushing it higher above him— as if gently pushing a balloon higher in the air. Disbelief betook Johnny, and he gasped. Before Johnny could catch his breath the tall man shattered into a pack of coyotes that scattered all around him, sprinting wildly over the earth.
Johnny swung the flashlight all about the hills and warehouses. Here and there he saw the flitting forms of coyotes in flashes, gone at the instant; almost as if they were never there at all. Figments of his imagination, he thought, but more real than the ground beneath his feet.
Then came the leaping teeth. From the left. From the right. Behind him. Before him. Below. Above. Where they manifested—snarling and leaping—Johnny slashed with his father’s blade. Blood spilled and bodies slumped. A great circle of dead beasts was piled around him, soundless and seemingly unaggrieved.
Johnny never relented, but struck out at them until none were left and he stood alone among the corpses. Breathing heavily, and sweating with the exertions of the fight, Johnny wiped the blade of his father’s knife on his pants.
“I have won!” he shouted triumphantly at the darkness. “I won the game!”
Exhausted, Johnny staggered down the hill, following his flashlight’s halo and heading toward the lights of the distillery. He felt hot and overworked, stumbling along with the help of gravity and the downward slope of the terrain into the valley. The gravel was loose. He felt tired. His hand hurt with the impact of the bodies against the knife. He tried to return the blade to his chest sheath, fumbling it while still keeping his flashlight in his other hand. Blinded by the upturned light in his eyes, he was slipping the knife into the sheath when he slid on some loose gravel and fell forward onto the ground. He landed on the knife at an unlucky angle and drove its blade into his heart. He gasped once, then slumped to the side, giving up the spirit.
The tall man stood over him.
“That is not how you trick a trickster,” the tall man said. “Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness. You must abandon them to become better. Your kind— all mankind— will never win the game playing like that. And Winter will tell his story soon. How can any of you survive the tale to come?”

Bringing Me Down

It was the most forlorn of towns
where all its people had depression
and shared only their frequent frowns
and their latest therapy session.
They moaned and groaned about each thing
that pained them a little here and there,
acting as if no suffering
was as awful as their own to bear.
They made sport of it, in a way,
trying to outdo each other’s sorrow,
and if they did not moan most that day
they would always moan more tomorrow.
But there was one man in the town
who only liked to crack funny jokes:
Barnaby, the comedy clown
who tried to help all these mirthless folks.
Barnaby always did his best
to get a laugh from his neighbors,
pulling toys from his purple vest
or juggling a bunch of sharp sabers.
One day, however, they found him
hanging dead from a thick, knotted rope,
swaying from the oak’s creaking limb
like a man given up on all hope.
Every townsfolk wondered why
Barnaby had chosen to leave this world,
thinking him too jolly to die
by his own hand with a rope unfurled.
Then they found the angry letter
in his pocket, next to his flower,
and it read, “Things won’t get better
so long as I live here one more hour.
I’m tired of the endless whining
about life, misery, and whatnot,
and I think it quite a fine thing
to end this life quickly and just rot.
You have all been bringing me down
for more years than I should have let you
and I will not be a sad clown;
no Pierrot, so melancholic and blue.”
The townsfolk thought of his last words,
taking umbrage at his swaying shade
as it hung above, with the birds
and the mocking song their voices made.
They left Barnaby up to rot,
thinking that was what he had wanted,
and when they bemoaned their sad lot
they looked at once to him, undaunted.
“We have all been bringing him down,”
they said, smirking at some private joke,
“so we ought to honor the clown
and let him sway above us sad folk.”
Hence, they kept Barnaby aloft
and trembled to see him through the years
as he lost his skin and flesh, oft
grinning at them and their endless tears.

Silly Sally

Little lassie Silly Sally
did but only dilly-dally
in the sylvan silver valley
till she came upon the play
of the Wild Hunt in twilit day
near the rounded mounds of the Fae.

Seeing little Silly Sally,
Oberon said, “My dear, shall we
take a turn about my valley?”
And Sally, being so Silly
kicked up her frills, like a filly,
and said gladly, “Oh, sir, will we?”

Thereafter came the wild laughter
as Silly Sally followed after,
thinking herself none the dafter
than any pretty princess told
in fairytale whose telling’s old
as pouch of leaves for fairy gold.

Silly Sally took to saddle
aft Oberon, and her prattle
was such that he had to paddle
her backside hard after an hour,
for his mood began soon to sour
upon the way to his tower.

“My sweet lord!” Silly Sally cried,
“why smart my innocent backside
as a cow’s harsh leathery hide?”
Oberon cursed lil Sally then
so should she ever speak again
it was in but clucks of a hen.

“A truer voice was never heard,”
he said, “for a girl like a bird
who clucks with each unwelcome word.”
Into his tower gone at last
as twilight flicker-faded fast
into the night, so black and vast.

Once within the tall tower fort
Silly Sally was brought to court
where the Fae made much merry sport
of her Silly mad-addled head
and sleepy eyes, as if abed
while she served them their wine and bread.

Sally had been really silly
to take the ride to the hill she
knew was shunned by both brave billy
and every kid and nanny
that grazed near that grassy span the
village men called quite uncanny.

For though Sally was yet Silly
and had the sense of a gilly
with all its petals plucked, still she
should have known better than so dare
the King of spirits bright and fair;
she should have ran away from there.

Now she was in the Fairy Hall
where fairies that were big and small
gathered at King Oberon’s call
to feast until the rooster’s cry
when darksome night should fade and die
so the Dawn may retake the sky.

“T’will be done at the rising sun,”
Sally vowed, “then I’ll run and run
to the priest, or at least a nun.”
But Sally did not reckon Time
when in the magic Fairy clime
where the sun did but slowly climb.

For hours she served the fickle Fae,
cleaning after them in their play
while wearied wan along the way,
hoping the night to end anon
as the party went on and on
and the years passed afore the Dawn.

Oberon called to her at last
before the night had fully passed
and, smirking vastly, he thus asked,
“Dear, was my favour worth my fee?
Think long next time when you are free
and you come upon the Seelie.”

Suddenly, the King frowned at her
and she asked what was the matter
as his head turned, like a ratter.
“Why do people call you ‘Silly’?”
he asked. “For it sounds like ‘Seelie’,
yet it cannot be so, really.”

Sally glared at him, voice chilly
as she explained the word “Silly”
to him, her tone sharp and steely.
“It means that one is blessed true,
or lucky by chance, and chosen too,
which is much luckier than you!”

“It is no blessing anymore,”
Oberon said with a frown, “nor
has it been since the times of yore.”
Silly Sally shook her small fist
and gave him a kick, then she hissed.
“Back to Faerie! Back to the mist!

“I am most blessed among all those
among the sylvan icemelt floes
and the field’s golden barley rows
for here I am, revealed to all,
as does a doe at the buck’s call—
Titania, without equal!”

Sally threw off her girly guise
to reveal herself to all eyes
that dared to see contrariwise.
Resplendent in her wings and dress
and russet in each twisted tress,
she was their Queen, all would confess.

“I swore return,” she declared,
“and would forsake you if you erred
once more in life, and you so dared
to take another woman here
to our home within the last year
of our long estrangement, my dear.”

“And so no longer I will be
known to you among the Seelie,
but will be Unseelie till thee
flee this lovely sylvan valley
and make home some other alley
of eldritch place— do not dally!

“If thou cross me I will kill thee,
if thou mock me I will spill thee
as a crimson river will thee
thus bleed upon thy valley
while I stalk thee as an owl free
with talons to disembowel thee.”

With booming voice, she sent them all
away from that great Faerie hall
and bound them in a mighty thrall
so Oberon, King of the Fae,
could not rule by bright light of day
his kingdom till he changed his way.

Titania did not dally
but went out into the valley
to take in the air and tally
the times she had chastised her spouse
throughout the years, from house to house,
scolding the old abusive louse.

Remembering made her rally
her temper unto a sally
of magic in that green valley,
aiming at the tower till she
blew it all down, willy-nilly:
no one hence hath called her “Silly”.

 

Silly— originates in the word “seely”, which meant fortunate, lucky, or blessed. Reminds of the word “Seelie”, as in the good fairy court, and “Unseelie”, the bad fairy court. Could mean good luck and bad luck brought about by fairies