Patches

 

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He rode Westward with an overlarge knife
which Jim Bowie would have thought a bit much,
but would not have said so, if he had valued his life,
for Patches had upon him Death’s constant touch.

They called him Patches because he rode so Devil-May-Care
throughout the Wild West in the same suit of tattered leather,
unraveling as he traveled, having to stitch himself when threadbare
again and again, making a patchwork of parts haphazardly sewn together.

Alongside his knife, he kept a sharp needle and a spool of red thread
with which he sewed endlessly along his tumultuous route
as if he was suturing a wound just as soon as it bled,
before decay could set in, or the limb could bleed out.

And he had golden teeth, which gleamed when he grinned
through the tornadoes and the Apache raids, all the last stands
and the dysentery and the Pox plagues, the wild desert wind;
his grin never faltered as he searched the untamed wastelands.

Like himself, his horse, too, was a motley-blotched beast
of variegated colors, an inchoate piebald mare
with a white face, and black eyes, which never in the least
tired as it traveled from town to town, here to there.

And his saddle was unique among the American West
for it was made of tanned leather and beaten hide
scalped from Natives and Whites and Blacks and the rest
which he took from the corpses strewn along the endless ride.

Where Patches rode, the sun sank into a pool so red
that it seemed the mesas bled, as did the arid canyons,
and the flatlands that were once a hellish ocean’s bed
now a scorched expanse, as if leveled by the firing of canons.

Patches was a rumor, a hope, a promise, a ghoul,
a bedtime nightmare for kids, and adults, too,
and a savior for some, though mostly just a necessary tool
who could broaden horizons, if he did not happen to kill you.

Like his saddle and suit, America was sewn together as he went
from one mile to a thousand, tirelessly and inexorably, lest any
parts come apart at the seams and fall away, forever rent
from the whole, the union, unraveling this Manifest Destiny.

Even today he rides, retracing his old paths as they fray and tear,
stitching it with new scalps he takes beneath that bloody sun
and holding that bleeding horizon together for another year
until there comes a day when his own patchwork will come undone.

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The Knight And The Dragon

He was a dragonslayer, born and bred
to hunt and kill those hot-blooded lizards
with spear and shield and a plume upon his head,
and without the aid of ballistas or armies or wizards.

His kingdom flew proud banners at high mast
with vibrant colors arrayed in blue, red, and white
and held a celebration for him to thereby cast
him forth from the castle with love and delight.

Yet, the only person who set forth with him
upon the long journey into faraway foreign lands
was his squire, Verus, for whom the apparent whim
was a means of funding life’s necessary demands.

Rumor told that there was a new dragon, very strong
and more snake in make than the previous drakes,
its eye shrewd, its fangs sharp and its coils long
so that its constant burrowing caused great earthquakes.

Where the dragon flew, acid rain fell in its wake
as it snorted coal-black smoke and ashen death
to poison every creek, river, and freshwater lake
that it touched with its sooty shadow and putrid breath.

This new dragon was, in fact, quite old
and had bided its time with patient care,
taking land and tribute, but not being too overbold:
remaining quiet as its coils expanded in its lair.

The knight knew he needed to slay it soon
ere it became too big in its massive size,
but there were things to curtail the dragon’s fortune—
natural impediments to its scaly enterprise.

To the Southwest lay a mountain range, tall and wide,
and just on the other side many foes did roam:
large Bengal tigers who hatefully eyed
the dragon as it grew close to their beloved home.

To the North spread a bleak reach of ice and snow
where there slept a bear, brooding in his cold war cave,
and to the East a sea of hostile depths, its uneasy flow
rife with sea serpents that vowed to protect their enclave.

As for the knight, he knew the perilous path
and ventured forth boldly, fancying the quest
a fairytale story, full of valor and courage and wrath,
never doubting that he was the best of the best.

He glanced upon the terrain where the dragon dwelled
and bethought himself more than ready for the fight,
even as his squire told him to wait, lest he be felled
by overconfidence and the want of keener insight.

But the knight was bold, impatient, in want of war,
riding into the rice paddies with his spear raised high
and charging at the dragon with the intent to gore
the serpent as it slept beneath its smoggy sky.

Imagine the knight’s surprise when his brand new spear
suddenly snapped like the thin twig of an elm tree
as it struck the giant dragon’s hide from the rear
and bent and broke into pieces of two and then three.

Astounded, the knight could only blink in dismay
as the dragon began its terrible counterattack.
The knight was thrown from his horse, falling to lay
sprawled out, spreadeagled, on his aching back.

His armor fell apart with each undercutting slash
and so the desperate knight called out to his squire
as his breastplate melted in a blinding white flash
from the serpent’s breath of industrial fire.

“Wherefore mine armor thus fail?”
he demanded, retreating from the beast,
fleeing as if followed by the flames of Hell
and fearing to be the main course in a feast.

“It was cheaply made by the dragon himself,”
the squire said. “And so is cheap attire, to tell truth.”
The knight exclaimed, “T’were better some witless elf
made it in mirth and mischief! Forsooth! Forsooth!”

After having retreated to a distance, the knight
stripped down to his cloth, then cast aside his spear,
and looked about for a way whereby he might
win the day, and not submit to despair and fear.

The squire, being a curious boy, climbed a nearby rock
and watched the dragon as it coiled inside its cave.
He said to the knight, “I think you should try to talk!”
to which the knight replied, “You are a silly knave!”

But then the dragon gestured toward the knight
as if he did, in fact, wish to speak of treaty terms,
and the knight, having already lost the good fight,
thought it prudent to speak with this king among wyrms.
So the knight followed the dragon inside his den,
finding, to his surprise, golden coins of all types,
including a lot of gold coin from his own kin
and his own house, inlaid with stars and stripes.

“You make such cheap things, dragon,” the knight said,
“and I do not believe any of us should pay more.”
He then crossed his arms and ruefully shook his head,
to which the dragon replied, “You get what you pay for.”

The knight blinked at this, then suddenly laughed out loud,
and so, too, did the dragon, each one eyeing the other
with an uneasy sneer as they laughed, too proud
to admit aloud that they truly needed one another.

“But what of my people?” the knight said at last,
thinking of his kingdom and what they might think.
“If I do not kill you I will be exiled, an outcast!”
The dragon told him he could kill him, with a wink.

The knight, thereafter, returned home to his people
with a cheap, fabricated dragon’s skull
which he paraded through town, and beneath the steeple,
before putting it in his house’s bank, now not half so full.

As for Verus, the squire, he stayed with the dragon
to learn what he could from that poisonous beast,
and learn much he did, though he was not one to brag on
how much he knew, for that was not wise in the least.

The dragon, himself, grew larger, spreading to the savanna
where lions and elephants pledged that they, too would be loyal
and to give him tributes of labor and land and mana,
much as the knight did, gripped in each tightening coil.

Undocumented

I fear the legion of the Undocumented
and how many they may kill each year.
Their names are strange to me,
like invaders from another world;
so many foreign names like
asbestos,
aspergillus flavus,
nitrosonornicotine,
formaldehyde,
cardiac pulmonary disease,
PETE,
glyphosate,
radionuclides,
high fructose corn syrup.
There should be a gigantic wall
of regulations
to protect our people
from these homicidal invaders.