Coroner, just staple it to my faint forehead,
the cause of death; and tag my twitching toe
before you put me with the legion John Doe dead—
beneath this morgue’s cold, clinical glow.
Coroner, I do believe you will soon find
that my skin is quite thin when you cut in,
for I’ve a soft-cover for both body and mind,
never having a hard-cover, though a shut-in.
Coroner, when you split me open, look to see
the heart that beat so hard as I composed
what my brain fain thought to be poetry;
that heart still beating— open, but also closed.
See how my heart quickens, hastening to pace
as the scalpel ascends, my soul laid so bare,
and look at the agony on my febrile face—
the pain of seeing how you do not care.
Never had I thought to go under the knife
while yet living, Coroner, and all those times I tried
to make for myself a literary life
are now lost among the others that have died.
No numbing agent, and no rigor mortis—
I can feel with every nerve, though I lay inert
upon this operation table, a corpus
awaiting the body bag and then the dirt.
And do not hold back the medical school
whose students seek to become as staff—
let them observe the dissection of a fool;
perhaps one should like an autograph.
Wait, are we to needle and thread already?
Careful as you stitch! Do not twist or jerk!
The spotlight fades and I am feeling quite heady—
Watch out! Have a care! This is my body of work!
The boy shivered in the shadow
of the island lighthouse,
listening to Triton’s horn blow
and trembling like a trapped mouse,
for the wrathful waves rose up, nigh
with a fury well he knew
when his father’s hands surged up high
to beat him all black and blue.
The sea let loose upon the beach,
on crag, seastack, and sand,
flinging down frothy fists to teach
lessons unto lad and land.
His father had told him to stay
far from the bright beacon,
but the boy willed to disobey
father and lord and deacon.
The townsfolk went along the shore
at the calm of next day
and found the body—but no more;
his soul adrift from the bay.
Detective Drake gazed on the murder scene,
watching the crimson pool melt with the ice
and the snow-angel imprint left by Dean
when he collapsed after being stabbed twice.
“No murder weapon yet,” the deputy said,
“but his wife said he had plenty o’ enemies.”
Drake remarked, “Scarlet letters can be read,
but I’m not sure I want to read any of these.
“Dean was a man with a lot of free time,”
the Detective said, “especially for married women.”
Sighing, he added, “Too many suspects for this crime.”
He smiled as if he was sucking on a lemon.
On the porch sat Dean’s distraught wife,
crying as she was consoled by a local officer—
nearby, icicles were as sharp as a knife
and tears slid off of them as much as off of her.
Drake saw the ice gleam with the squad-car’s flash
and saw the same gleam in the eye of the widow,
both a furious red in time to a rhythmic slash
as the clouds overhead thickened with snow.
“Winter sure has a sharp ol’ set of fangs,”
the deputy said, staring at the ice-toothed house.
Drake ignored the icicles on the overhangs,
muttering to himself, “So does a jilted spouse.”
The crickets all gather around
an oak tree to play their lonely songs
while crouching on the dewy ground—
they vibrate their wings in their throngs.
A single cricket left behind,
all alone while the others form pairs,
but continues his song to find
a heart to warm in nightly airs.
Little cricket longing for love,
sawing a song among the gnarled roots
of the oak tree looming above,
and fearless of the marching boots.
What faith you must have in this world
to play so boldly for all to hear
when the cold Fall winds are unfurled
and hungry predators draw near.
The soldiers all gather around
a campfire to sit so they may rest
while a soldier saws a sweet sound
from the violin at his chest.
He sings a sad song for his wife
left at home with his fair-haired daughter
and although there will soon be strife
he plays and plays without falter.
Little soldier mourning his love,
sawing a song among the camplight
with brothers alike, hawk and dove,
and fearless of the marksman’s sight.
What faith you must have in god
to play so boldly for all to hear
your heart’s music like that of Nod
as your enemies draw so near.
Sickly mother tosses around
in her bed, her brow ablaze with fire
and listens to the howling hound
as the crescent moon climbs higher.
Her daughter sits by the window,
the grandfather clock just behind her,
counting the seconds as they go—
each hour’s chime a sad reminder.
Little daughter at the cold glass,
what faith you have in a clock’s numbers
to wait for the slow time to pass
while your sickly mother slumbers.
You count each moment of each day
with a cadenced voice ringing clear
to answer the pendulum’s sway
as the descending Scythe draws near.
How sad that they should
make meaning in life
like a husband who’d,
in a fit, murder his wife,
and now rummaging in
the graveyard site
to exhume her coffin
and put things right—
yet try as he may
he cannot assemble her
in a believable way
that will resemble her
when she was living
and could speak her own—
what is the point of giving
murderers the chance to atone?
Even now, long after the
car wreck, I open the torn books I
salvaged from the collapsed backseat
and out falls another
shard of glass
to chime dully on the linoleum floor,
such Devil-may-care artifacts
reminding me how
crashed into me from behind,
his approach unseen
like some master-class predator—
the Apex of
Oddly, I am
his collision should still affect me today
with haunted visions of
what horrors could have been
had he not been off his game that day,
because it all reminds me that
any given moment
can be a taken moment
and so life is more vivacious
and more precious
than ever before;
not an unlimited commodity,
but a priceless continuum
I must spend wisely
as I am, in turn, spent.
And so these glass shards are like
announcing loudly each moment
I am alive, saying
“Remember! You are alive!
You could be otherwise!”
And so, amidst the book shards
and the spinal pain
the world is framed
as it should be:
not with affectation,
but with affection.
have become the attendant angels
bookmarking every moment
with sharply fractured glass.
I have always been beholden to terrors
in the dark of night—fancies, demons, errors
of my own unbridled mind, a lunatic
while there burns the moon, a wick
which casts shadows inside my skull
in between waking and sleeping, the lull
where Reason is dethroned and exiled
and the demons all clamor, going wild,
and more often than not, these nightmares
are conjured forth when daylight glares
to shine on those whom I most cherish—
my family, my wife, all whom perish
when in the fit of these frightful dreams
wherein I can only listen to their screams,
unable to save anyone from the boogeymen
that come for them, time and time again.
When I was but a boy I saw many rings
of demons in my room, flying with bat-wings,
and even now the Hat Man visits me
along with Shadow People who stare darkly.
And yet, however fearful such things are
they are not the most fearful, (not by far),
than when I wake up right afterward
in the witching hours, when nought is heard,
because I have mourned a thousand times
during such nights, as the moon climbs,
and even with my love beside me in bed,
she lays still, silent, eyes closed as if dead,
and I fear for her in this parody of Death
even though she always yet draws breath,
for there will come a day against which I
can do nothing, no matter how hard I try,
and so I know a future will arrive when
one or both of us will never wake again,
Death having the final laugh, at long last,
for every night we mocked him in the past.