Frog Song

“I love the song of these dear ones,” she said
as she sipped wine beside the reed-riddled pond.
“And I love this wine. It is a lovely red.”
Behind her the mansion stood, a red dusk beyond.

She let the young man with the golden hair
kiss her neck as he touched her black-gowned hips
and though she was older than he, she was still fair—
except where concerned her late husband’s lips.

“Yes,” she said, “I declare this croaking song
the finest I have heard since before my wedding.
Frogs are princes, you know. They can do no wrong
so long as they are croaking before the bedding.”

The young man laid his head upon her breast,
his curly hair glinting gold against mottled skin,
and she kissed with wine-stained lips that gilt nest
and laughed to think of her husband’s wrathful kin.

“Those complacent fools,” she said, “they thought to steal
from me what was mine by right of marriage,
but there was no breaking the words of the Will.
No longer am I horse to their whip and carriage.”

The clamorous chorus of frogs rallied,
gurgling amidst darkening New England waters
and she twirled her finger in his hair as she tallied
the delicious scowls of step-sons and step-daughters.

But nothing was more delicious than that last sound
her late husband made as the glass fell from his grasp;
a sound like a faltering footstep on boggy ground—
the croak of a throat given to a phlegmy gasp.

“There is nothing the right wine cannot accomplish,”
she said pushing the young man’s head farther down.
“The right vintage is a genie granting any wish…”
She moaned as he kissed her within her mourning gown.

The picnic at the pond sprawled but a little way
from the fresh-cut headstone, and the unsettled earth,
so her late husband could join them on that joyful day
of his own Wake, with its amphibious frog-song mirth.

Shirikodama (Or The Finer Points of Politics)

 

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(Dedicated, sincerely, to the turtle-man himself, Mitch McConnell.)

It was in the midst of Japan’s Edo period that the musician Mochimitsu traveled to the Shiga Highlands, looking to hone his skills as a flutist while also seeking patronage generous enough to sustain him for a time. Mochimitsu was a young man then, and had not grown to be the legendary artist that later years would prove him to be. But he was hale and hearty and he stopped by a small village on Lake Onuma to seek rest and food. Onuma Lake was a beautiful expanse of water. The village beside it was a modest huddle of mud huts with straw thatch roofs, and its people were fishing families known to be industrious and peaceful. They had not much to offer for Mochimitsu’s songs except fish and rice, which he gladly received with gratitude. At night he played his songs for them beneath the stars, and the piping of his hichiriki— or double reed flute— pleased all ears, echoing from the birch trees and maples to the slumbering summit of Oshima Komaga-take.
Fortune was not well, however, in the Shiga Highlands. Heavy rains soon fell, preventing Mochimitsu from continuing his journey. He stayed with a different fishing family each night, their generosity granting him a good meal and a corner in their dry huts. Soon, however, the heavy rains rioted upon the land. Ponds and lakes brimmed and spilled. Lake Onuma flooded terribly with excess and a strange, bubbling madness. The village priestess claimed it was the work of demons that lived on the islands in the center of Lake Onuma. The floodwaters rose up around the village, melting the mud walls and washing away the straw roofs. The villagers swam to their boats, or clung to makeshift rafts that they assembled in the panicked hours as the waters destroyed their homes. Some villagers did not survive. Many among the elderly perished, their bodies floating on the Lake’s distending surface. Mochimitsu was fortunate. When the waters rushed in among the huts, he had been out of the hut, relieving himself. Realizing the danger, he secured a boat of his very own right before the frenzied heft of the floodwaters rolled against village, smashing the remaining huts and killing many. Mochimitsu floated on the boat for hours that night, looking for survivors as an unnatural mist rose around the lake. It was so thick that a perpetual twilight subsumed the Shiga Highlands.
Mochimitsu sought land, but found none forthcoming. He had no skills as a boatman. He was confused by the fetid mist, and lost his heading as he paddled with his bare hands. Circles upon circles he scrawled upon the forgetful waters, chasing his own waves. As a consequence, he saved no one. When he finally found land, he frantically paddled toward it. Yet, he found himself tricked. It was not the mainland, but instead a series of islands in the middle of Lake Onuma. There were figures upon those islands, and so he drifted toward them.
The priestess had been correct. Demons had conjured the rains and bid the lake to swell. They were nasty turtle men— known as Kappas—and they hungered for the souls of humans. Mochimitsu saw their silhouettes in the mist from afar. They gurgled and giggled with gluttonous delight, dragging the bodies of men, women, and children onto their islands and feasting upon their shirikodamas; the fabled life energy in a human’s anus. They ate of them with their long tongues, the terrible sight nauseating Mochimitsu as he watched the turtle-men feed on filth and shame and death. They had no morals. They were vicious, heartless creatures that relished in their corruption.
Seeing their atrocities, Mochimitsu gave an involuntary gasp of terror. He clamped his hands to his mouth, but it was too late. The Kappas turned their attention to him, all as one, abandoning the drowned, bloated corpses of their previous victims to seek fresher spoils. They dove into the water and swam faster beneath the burden of their foul shells than Mochimitsu ever could hope to swim in his naked skin. Helpless in his boat, Mochimitsu took up his reed flute one last time, puckered his lips upon it and began to play what he assumed would be his final song. He played with the full strength of his lungs and his heart, harnessing a melody that would have made tengu weep. It was to be his magnum opus; his perfect cherry blossom blooming in the ears of gods and demons alike.
The Kappas halted as they heard his song, floating around the boat with their beak-faced heads half-submerged while their red eyes watched him through the mist. Their green, pointy ears perked up, calmly swaying with the notes of his song. Mochimitsu did not look at them. He closed his eyes against the black hairs around the concave tonsure of their skulls; their long, unspooling tongues with their barbed tips. Mochimitsu played for what must have been an hour, his thoughts focused in the pure, radiant form of his song. It kept the depraved demons at bay. They could not move, mesmerized by his skill. The rains stopped falling altogether. The waves unwound and the sun burned the remaining mist away. Still, the Kappas remained transfixed, listening to Mochimitsu’s prowess.
At length, a boat of fisherman came by. They approached surreptitiously, armed with long-handled spears. They were hungry for vengeance, seeking the creatures that had defiled and destroyed their loved ones. While Mochimitsu kept the Kappas enthralled, the fishermen impaled the misbegotten demons through their skulls, spilling the waters they kept in their heads. They then chopped them up and fetched their violated dead from the accursed islands. Mochimitsu was hailed as a hero that day. Henceforth, his legend grew as he ventured from village to village. He now found employment by ensorcelling the loathsome turtle-men so that warriors might more easily dispatch them. He gained a good reputation and saved many lives.

Many years later Mochimitsu became the flutist at the Emperor’s palace. He did well in court, as both a musician and as a man of integrity, and was deft at not only the flute, but at imperial politics as well. The Emperor respected Mochimitsu’s opinion, for he was often wise in his thoughts, but also slow to reveal them, whereas others were overeager to spread their hasty opinions. Many nobles resented Mochimitsu, for he was a lowborn flutist, whereas they were born of esteemed blood. They plotted against him. They often attempted to pit him against the Emperor with rumors and gossip. They planted poisonous seeds all around him.
But it was to no avail.
One day a nobleman asked Mochimitsu how he came to be so skilled at handling petty nobles. How, the nobleman asked, could he survive when so many sought to undermine him for the sake of endearing themselves to the Emperor? Mochimitsu held his flute in one hand, contemplating his flute, and this question, for a long time. The flute was both straight and narrow. His answer to the question, thus, needed to be both straight and narrow to be true.
“I have spent many years besting such creatures with my own song,” the old man said. “I know how to handle such creatures. I know how to defend myself against turtle-men who spend all of their time with their tongues up other people’s asses.”

Guts

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A bold, doe-crazed, bounding buck
came toward a fence fanged with barbed wire,
but instead of going around, he tried his luck
by leaping over what divided him from desire.

He caught himself on the coiled thorns of steel,
tearing himself open so that his guts unspooled and fell
to festoon the fence line to thereby reveal
his viscera unveiled from its ragged pell.

The does gazed at him briefly, then looked away,
grazing on grass as they had before—
although he had proven to them his guts that day
he had not proven him possessed of anything more.

Take It Easy

Take It Easy

Floyd did not mind much that his trailer was floating down the Mississippi river. He had put it on the flood plain when he first bought the land twenty years ago and so he knew the risks involved. Moreover, the river had risen by the grace of God. Who was he to question the Lord? The ride was quite relaxing, in its own way, especially at night when he went to bed. During the day he would catch a cockroach and hook it to his fishing line, casting the line out his front door. More often than not he caught a catfish or a carp. They had muddy flavors, of course, when he cooked them on his kerosene grill, but Floyd didn’t mind. Floyd didn’t mind much of anything, really. He was as easygoing as the river. Whatever the Lord willed, he accepted. He was by himself, anyhow, and so he needn’t have bothered to worry what anyone else thought or believed. Not that he was contentious. Throughout the year of marriage to his exwife Mabel he had been the most accommodating, agreeable husband a woman could have asked for. The only reason Mabel divorced Floyd was because he “had no ambitions”. He only wanted to exist as he had done for years, neither wealthier or in a better neighborhood. He aspired toward nothing and Mabel resented that aspect of him. Mabel never once thought that, had he ambitions, he would aspired for someone better than her. Not that Floyd ever thought such things. He was too easygoing for grudges and insecurities and the other petty emotions of Man.
The trailer swayed gently in the current. It was like living on a houseboat. Floyd did not mind it at all. He thought himself possessed of no reason for unease or upset as he was swept downstream. If the trailer sank, it sank. If not, that was fine, too. It wasn’t that Floyd was suicidal, passively or otherwise. He just accepted things the way they were. On the spot. At face value. It had galled his exwife somewhat. It also galled his coworkers at the rock quarry. Sometimes they thought working the rock had softened his brains. But Floyd had always been the way he was. His mother always said he never cried once when a baby, even at his birth. She attested that it was because of his “Cajun stock” that he was so mellow. Their long line of New Orleans ancestry had lived in places where others dared not, and consequently their blood found life easy nowadays no matter how stressful the modern world could be. After all, wrestling gators and eking out a living on the bayou with mosquitoes always at your neck was a good way to condition the blood to flow slower when other bloodlines would gush in a panic. If gators taught a bloodline anything, it was patience, tolerance, and abidance.
The river widened and rushed onward, faster. Yet, the trailer did not sink. Naturally, Floyd had no electricity since becoming unmoored, but he lived in Louisiana, and it was Summer, so he didn’t need electricity. It wasn’t cold. When it was hot he simply sat at the door with his feet in the water. For entertainment he watched the trees and the banks roll by. Occasionally he saw a riverside town or city. Gobsmacked people watched him with gaping mouths, pointing incredulously. He waved at them in easy friendliness. Sometimes he would climb up on the roof of his trailer and lay down beneath the sun. So long as he was on the Mississippi, he had a source of water. He drank it without much caring about germs. He knew they existed, but, again, he thought it up to God whether sickness killed him or not.
It was on his fifth week of his journey that land disappeared altogether. Curious, Floyd climbed atop the trailer and gazed out over the horizon. End to end without end, the horizon was only oceanic water. The trailer had floated out to sea. Not even a smudge of land shadowed the horizon. Floyd put his hands on his hips and gazed out to sea. It was beautiful. Nor did he feel overpowering dread, nor fear for his life. Instead, he caught another cockroach and went fishing. He caught several fish over the course of the next month or so. He did not know any of their names. He cooked them on his kerosene grill and ate them calmly while the briny scent of the ocean filled the trailer. Nor did he lose one wink of sleep knowing that he was adrift at sea. Sometimes when he woke up in the early morning hours he saw shark fins through the front door. This caused him no alarm whatsoever. Rather, he fished as he usually did, and if a shark stole his catch he would hook another cockroach on his reel and try again. There were plenty of fish in the sea for Floyd and the sharks. Eventually, they all ate their fill.
And then came the storm. It started as choppy waves that tossed and shook the trailer like an impatient child trying to open a tin of chocolates. The winds howled like beasts incensed by blood-thirst and madness. Calmly, Floyd closed the front door and sat on his sofa, wondering what would come next. He had never been in a storm at sea before and it was a novel experience he accepted as he had accepted everything else in life.
The trailer tossed left and right. Floyd’s sofa slid to and fro with the direction and momentum of the waves. He accepted this, too, sitting at ease upon that sofa as it paced back and forth restlessly like a caged animal.
The storm lasted for three days. Floyd did not have much to drink, since the sea was saltwater, and he could not catch fish, since the sea was a jagged-toothed shark in frenzy, but he accepted all of this rather easily. It was easy to accept, too, since his trailer was like a bronco in the bug-bitten madness of a rodeo. His stomach was queasy; his lips parched. His body accepted this as much as his mind, however, and so he was only mildly sick from this incessant rollercoaster ride.
On the fourth day the sea laid down to rest like a child after a terrible tantrum. Still feeling queasy and dizzy, Floyd climbed on top of his trailer and sat there for a while, beneath the cloudy sky, letting his stomach and brains slow in their churning spin. In time he saw an island toward which the trailer drifted. Had he been anyone else he might have thought it a delusion brought about by dehydration and hunger and fatigue, but Floyd accepted it for a real island. So, when the trailer struck the white sands, he climbed down and stepped foot on dry land.
It was a tropical island. There were palm trees and mountains and exotic flowers abloom everywhere. Birds flew above, and he heard boars rummaging through the bushes. He saw coconuts and accepted everything he saw as it was. He even accepted that a band of short men in boarskin loincloths were approaching him, holding their spears out as if skewer him like a kabob. When they pointed their spears at him, and then pointed up at the mountains, Floyd understood and followed them through the forest and up the slopes. All of this he accepted, too.
There was a village on a foothill leading up into the mountains. Clay huts roofed with palm leaves huddled atop the flat crown of the foothill. Women and children waited there; the children playing while the women cut fruits and cooked stews in large stone pots. The men motioned for Floyd to sit. He did so. The women brought to him clay plates filled with fruit. He ate it obligingly. They also brought him stew, which he accepted in turn. While he ate he looked around the village and saw artwork made of bones— marine bones, boar bones, bird bones, and even human bones. Actually, there were lots of human bones. There was a pyramid of human skulls tucked away in one corner of the village, behind what seemed to be a stone altar. Blood had stained the stone.
Floyd accepted all of this as easily as he had the storm and the river. Whatever God willed, he accepted. So, when the men pulled him up to his feet and began marching him up into the mountains, he did not fight or reject his lot. The view from the mountainside, at least, was very beautiful. He could see all over the lush island, and even far out to sea.
The pygmy men halted at the cresting slope of the highest mountain. They then pointed Floyd forward, holding their spears at his back lest he escape. They did not look at him, however, but kept their heads turned away. It was obvious to Floyd that he was meant to proceed forward alone.
Floyd walked forward. Atop the mountain he found a tarn with the deepest, darkest, blackest waters. Where the sun touched the waters no light shone nor penetrated. It was like a well of black ink, fathomless as lightless space between stars. Floyd stood at its edge, watching. Accepting. Unafraid.
And then the inky waters began to churn. Something rose from it— an eldritch entity beyond human comprehension. Floyd saw it, and it spoke to him, and he accepted the Cosmic Truths that it gave to him. It then submerged again, the inky water flattening to a smooth onyx surface once again. Floyd descended the mountain.
The pygmy men waited for him in the foothills, as did the women and children. They had spears and stones hoisted, at the ready. Yet, when he descended— waving and smiling in earnest friendliness— they dropped their spears and stones, and then dropped to their knees, bowing and wailing for forgiveness.
The tribal elders directed Floyd to a special throne they had made for the predestined prophet and avatar for their god. Floyd could not understand any of this, but he accepted the seat offered to him as tribal hospitality. The native people served him fruits again, and coconut milk, and roasted boar. For the next ten years they treated him as a god-made-flesh. They genuflected before him and thanked him for rains, or else clasped their hands together, wringing their fingers worriedly as they begged him mercy when lightning struck during the sea storms. Floyd did not want them to worship him as an avatar, but he also did not wish to question or rebuff their beliefs. He believed that people should believe what they wished to believe, and who was he to muddy their religion with doubt? It was rude to question another person’s cherished beliefs.
Some of the women offered themselves to Floyd, too, and he accepted them. They seemed as pleased about the copulations as he was, so he saw no reason to reject them. It would have hurt their feelings to push them aside when they mounted him in the privacy of his own hut. They wanted his children, and he gave them children. Even the married women wanted his children, for the tribal elders wished to mix their blood with his so that the subsequent generations could commune with their God without being driven mad. Floyd eventually learned to speak their language, but never convinced them of their error. He was too easygoing to attempt to correct them in their (mostly) harmless habits. They said he had been sent by their God, and he agreed that God had sent him. It was God’s will, as was everything in Floyd’s world view. Things were as they were, just-so, and Floyd accepted them as always. He even spoke to the God in the mountains, though he was not sure the God even saw Floyd or acknowledged him. The God in the mountains was more like a weather system than a sentient creature. It was not that it did not like Man, but rather, it did not think of Man at all. Yet, it did embody the Cosmic Truth, and so it imparted that knowledge, whether it intended to or not.
All of this Floyd accepted, also, living in contented acceptance for many years. His newfound family grew, alongside the tribe, and they faced no better or worse circumstances than any other tribe of equal technological advancement.
Eventually, a boat arrived from America. It was an exploration vessel belonging to a team of anthropologists seeking to better understand the island tribe. For a long time the tribe had been known, but never studied. Now a group of twenty-somethings intended to make what they presumed to be first contact with the tribe. The pygmy warriors met the anthropologists on the shore, their spears at the ready. They escorted them up to their village without delay, much to the delight of the Americans. The anthropologists were very pleased about all of this…until they saw Floyd sitting on his throne.
The pygmy village bowed before Floyd, but the anthropologists refused. They accused Floyd of colonialism and slavery and cultural appropriation. Floyd, on the other hand, accepted all of these accusations also, as he did the accusations of “cultural genocide” and “white male entitlement”. Who was he to upset the anthropologists with counter-arguments? He kept his silence. On the other hand, he also accepted it as God’s will when the pygmy people took umbrage at the way the strangers were squawking at their God’s avatar and marched them up the mountainside to face their God’s judgment. After all, who was Floyd to intercede in another culture’s edicts? He had no aspirations toward that maladjusted cause.
The anthropologists went mad from the Cosmic Truth. Afterward, they wandered down the mountainside, laughing maniacally, or else sobbing uncontrollably. Some fell to their deaths. Others threw themselves willingly from the mountainside. Some had to be put out of their misery by the pygmy people, their heads smashed on the altar and their skulls cleaned and bleached in the tropical sun before being added to the pyramid. All of this was God’s will, Floyd thought, and so he accepted it as such. There was no need to be willful, himself. Taking life as it was was the best way to live. Not even an Eldritch God could ruin his peace of mind.

13 Ways Of Looking At Bourbon

As a short life
that bites and quickens the blood
before swirling the drain,
he downed the shot in one go.

The bottle of bourbon
was his djinni demon,
granting his most beloved dream
in the black-out oblivion
of inebriation.
Silence.

So much that was hard to swallow
in life
he washed down
with firewater burning
at 180 proof.

He cut his worries
like he cut his bourbon—
with chunks of ice-cold indifference.

The angels drank their
inspiriting share
and in return
blackened the world
with their drunken hymns.

Sour mash teemed,
life becoming death
as bacteria ate themselves
toward extinction—
Man likewise.

The golden amber liquid
sloshed inside the glittering glass,
a magical potion dispelling illusions
and opening portals
toward the truer realms of
personality.

The bottle,
like his patience,
had been depleted,
shattering over the
skull
of the belligerent country bumpkin.

They lubed the wheels
of their lovemaking
with bourbon foreplay,
only for the wheels to slide
right off the tracks.

Barrel-chested
and full of himself,
his blood burned hot as bourbon
until the day
a bullet
un-bunged his heart.

They distilled their culture
using corn, rye, malt,
limestone springwater,
coal, lime, salt,
and plenty of caustic.

White Dog so pure
it brought tears to their eyes,
and helped them breathe fire
to burn crosses.

The rackhouse collapsed,
spilling its barrels outward
like a dying sow
birthing a fat farrow of piglets.

French Crowns

A harem for the King’s hearty vigor
was kept cloistered in his Versailles villa,
each woman tempting with a curvy figure,
their breasts and thighs white like vanilla.

Yet dissuaded was a lad’s lust to leap
as the servants brought thither food and wines,
for those women were the King’s to keep
and wore wigs to cover scarred hairlines.

Pockmarks fringed each merkin weave
and perfume covered the wanton stench—
Love, long ago, was a thing to grieve
if enjoined with a syphilitic siren wench.

Now see the King— goiter, caruncle, crown—
flanked by cankerous cherubim floating aloft,
and strutting, as a turkey, bald to his down
when his powdered wig was, in private, doffed.

Turkey and King thus unified, it is not a wonder
that Benjamin Franklin regarded fancy France
as the greatest of all countries, a telltale blunder
which invited the pox into his loose-buckled pants.

The “French Crown” spread across the globe,
as coins do, from purse to opening purse,
and with it, too, the manias of Love—each dropping robe
crowning men and women with a meteoric curse.