Orange And Black

An October road, orange on black,
like obsidian beneath falling rain,
so slick and gleaming, forward and back
while wet shadows along the winding lane
wash up like alluvial shores,
the lamplights gentle on the front windows
of bricked-up glass, small-town stores
half-dreaming, half waking in rows.
Boughs detailed with orange flecks of light
or else darkly blank as fat thunderclouds
while they line the sidewalks to the right
like chandeliers partly covered with shrouds;
Hollow-eyed houses, empty of life,
with columned porches aglow with light—
each half-glimpsed raindrop a silver knife
that flashes as it slashes through the night.
See the church with its river-rock face,
dark and wet as if the river still runs
over the stones all set into place
long before the town known for its bourbons.
In the graveyard trees sway with the wind
while their weather-withered branches disrobe,
orange leaves tumbling, end over end,
glanced in the sullen light of a lamp’s globe.
The maple tree has an orange crown
and black branches like charred sorceress bones,
the leaves soot-sided embers come down
among the sprawling, stygian headstones.
Orange and black—all orange and black,
the colors of Halloween all around;
spire to cupola, eave to smokestack,
and splashing in the puddles on the ground.
From afar, now, the town is aglow
in the dark, silent sea spread all about;
a bright river boat drifting below
rain and shadow mingling along a route.
Orange and black—as if a pumpkin
left out at night and gone halfway to rot—
a Jack O’ Lantern with its plump skin
half-burned, its grin’s inner flame just too hot.
Neither asleep or awake: a dark dusk,
this town in October’s darkening eves,
flame and shadow consume the wet husk,
light losing the battle as Summer leaves.

Autumn Tea

Acorns underfoot, red foliage overhead,
we walk through the woods, to the wilted clover bed
where the Green Man lays, a god no longer green,
and soon to fade beneath that arboreal scene.
From his brow we take a handful of brown leaves
while the birds fall silent among the sylvan eaves.
He rouses, briefly, and offers to us a seed:
it smells of every plant, tree, and even weed.
Returning home, we set the water to boil
and dig a hole in the earth, planting in the soil
the seed that he gave us, a seed of Springtime hope
as we drink our Autumn tea and we try to cope.
The world is one of colors all flaring in hue,
life and death together—a bittersweet brew.

Autumn Vixens

Autumn Vixen I
Look at her lovely sly eyes
glinting darkly among the leaves;
a fox, but only in disguise—
her red hair often bereaves.

Autumn Vixen II
Autumn blew a chill kiss with its wind
through the tree-lined streets of our small town
and teased us softly of Summer’s end
when her leaves would soon fade and fall down.

Eager to wear her yellows and reds
and that drab brown frock she herself loves,
she coos, and her breath goes to our heads
with a fog that rolls over foxgloves.

An artful lover, she also weaves
spells with her middle-aged, mature charms,
yet playful, too, as winds through the leaves
so her love is fresh and, thus, disarms.

And though withering with winds so cold
that you bundle up for her embrace
she is lovely, still, her colors bold—
lovelier than Winter’s haggard face.

Autumn Vixen III
When the season reaches an age
and cares not for judgment from the world,
she may well turn to the next page
and let her dress fall freely, unfurled,
and welcome onto her bare breast
a man daring the scandalous task—
naked, unafraid, wholly blessed
with neither name nor shame nor a mask.

Autumn Showers

(Written with appreciation for
Robert Frost’s “My November Guest”)

How is it that gloomy Autumn murk
is as passing lovely as a Summer’s day
when sunlight fails and shadows lurk
and rainclouds dim each reaching ray?

Fall is always weeping, even when not,
while yesterday’s tears drip from eaves
and color drains from a reverie of rot—
the huddling memories of fallen leaves.

The gray barrenness is a thing akin
to mourners crowding a funeral home,
peopling absence around a silent coffin
from which the spirit has gone to roam.

And grief has a beauty all its own,
being an atmosphere of misty tears,
a season when we’re among many, yet alone,
plunged deep in phantoms from previous years.

It is overcast with a private veil,
the ambience of our greatest grief
a season of solitude, languishing and pale
like the sun seen through a torn diary leaf.

Autumn is the season of loss and pity,
moody and umbral like the brokenhearted,
but its dirge refrains with a line of dignity—
“Remember to remember the departed.”

Fall (Asleep)

The land was speaking again
with the wilting of the black trees,
the yellowing of green fields, the glen
strewn with leaves from a cold breeze.

Beneath the dismal gloom the land lay
languid while clouds drizzled a cold shower,
gloomy droplets throughout the day
mourning the waste of every flower.

And the sun was gone, as if it had crashed
into the cornfields, with their broken stalks,
and burned itself out, shattered, smashed
into cold black soil, strewn with rocks.

Wherever the land spoke, it decried
like an old man afraid of the long, deep sleep
to come beneath the blankets of Winter-tide,
heavy, cold, silent, heap upon heap.

Four Poems

Autumn Splendor
Molten gold apocalypse
through flame-palmed crimson leaves—
blinding blast of a mock-eclipse;
a war-drunk dawn that bereaves.

The Blues
Met the Devil down in the delta
of Louisiana, the sorta’ fella’
who could sing any song a capella,
his voice smooth as sarsaparilla.

He had a diamond-studded cigar case
and he smoked souls with a smile on his face
while watching those who’d try that hobbled chase
of fame and fortune, that tired musk-rat race.

“You don’t have much to lose,”
he said, grinning at his own ruse.
“Except everything, if you so choose
to learn how you get you the Blues.”

But I was a right, ripe fool way back when
and didn’t see the trick he was playing then,
and when he said I’d lose it all to sin
I scoffed, like all those other Blues men.

My daddy got drunk, hit his head and died,
my wife left to live on the greener side,
and I lost my house to the rising marsh tide;
then my Blues found me, like a deathbed bride.

I picked up my guitar, and I slid my fingers all along
those biting strings, those bracing frets, the song
that came to my fingers being of sadness and of wrong;
my voice like a bullfrog’s— deep, woeful, strong.

I sang about wealth and I sang about fame,
I sang about sin and I sang about shame.
I sang about forgiveness and I sang about blame,
I sang about everyone, never saying no name.

But nobody’d listen to me or my tune
‘cuz my grooves grieved like some sad-lulling loon
calling out from the lake, lonely beneath the moon,
and all because I wanted the Blues too soon.

So I went back to that Devil and to him I said,
“I don’t want the Blues no more, Dickie Red.”
And he answered with a shake of his slick ol’ head,
saying, “The Blues will last till you’re done dead.”

And now I got the Blues, for all they’re worth,
and I can’t feel no pleasure, or joy or mirth,
bidin’ my time, like a crab among the surf
while my days go on by, this sorrowing earth.

Crippling Euphemisms
To nail wings onto Tiny Tim’s crutch
to make it look like a rocket
and to think you have done so much
to straighten his leg, socket to socket.
He will not fly to the moon,
nor will he run and play like other boys,
but you’ve created false hope which soon
crashes and burns and utterly destroys.

The conceit that senseless word salad
could somehow nowadays be deemed
a poem, the misnomer made valid
by a hashtag alone, not by what it seemed,
is not unlike the village idiot grinning
and thinking himself the new constable
because he had played at a carnival, winning
a plastic badge; it is demonstrable
of the times, of the mediocre standards
that preside like a village idiot over all,
commanding attention with bland words
and the clueless noise of a town-crier’s call
after he has drank a barrel’s worth of beer
and slurred, proudly, Pig Latin to many a deaf ear.