This meager-bosomed flame has died
upon the midnight mountainside
and all below the valley lay:
shadowful, deep, a darksome bay.
Above me stars flare and shimmer,
but they are far-flung, faint, dimmer
than the fire which erstwhile I fed
with flighty fancies from my head,
and the world has grown darker now
with that looming doubt-beclad brow
of the mountain I once bethought
myself the conqueror, thus brought
by such talents and suchlike skills
as made such mountains not but hills,
in the meantime leading astray
upon a path my pride did stay
as does the Fool in Tarot deck
who walks beside both bluff and beck.
My heart-fire flickered to fade soon
with the new-risen harvest moon
and Autumn’s acorn-bells shall call
while Summer’s splendors wilt and fall
and cold winds sweep them unto piles
that feed no fires except denials,
cold, rustling, leaf-shod winds oft wail
and trace futility’s trail
that I dared to climb for so long;
what a mournful, tenebrous song.
The moon is gone, the stars are dim—
was my journey passion or whim?
The mount is dark, the wind is cold,
doubt is a sickness taking hold.
No light at all, no light to guide
along this ruthless mountainside.
The fire is snuffed, the fire is gone—
should I relent or carry on?
The night sky is but black ashes
within which no heart-fire flashes
and not yet halfway to the peak
nor it half to the height I seek.
How foolish to travel so far,
thinking my fire could be a star.
I was as the candle quite bright
in the corner, amidst cobwebs,
aflame, yet misplaced in the night;
alike tallow as its glob ebbs.
My tallow dribbled down to aught,
the flame fed by a finite host,
burning the wick away to naught—
no more, now, than a smoky ghost.
The bright light I gave was unseen,
lit only in neglected nooks,
and though I burned both bright and keen,
I commanded no second looks.
Forgotten, forlorn, extinguished,
a puddle lax in the drip pan,
melted by the ambitions wished
to be illumed within my span.
Yet, I burned nonetheless…so bright,
if only for sake of burning,
giving it my all for a light
meaningless in toil and learning.
This ancient chrysalis chafes,
keeping too close to the skin,
like one of those small bank safes
magicians lock themselves in.
Sealed tightly shut, I do doubt
that Houdini could escape,
and I only want out—out!
It is an ironic jape.
Life is a zombie’s coffin,
a Pharaoh’s dusty old tomb
like what they put Karloff in:
a mummy with little room.
You suffocate while wound-round
in bandages of the past,
yet however much you pound
the old casket lid holds fast.
To break free, you must first die,
yet to die you must first grow,
shedding larval husks to fly
like the Mothman, on the go.
Perhaps the bridge must fall down
before we hear the warning
of that cryptid, leaving town
while others are still mourning.
Of course, on the other hand,
change comes when least expected,
Mr. Hyde taking command
while the signs are neglected.
It can be like Dracula
waking to a brand new age,
exchanging moldy moolah
for fresh ink on a crisp page.
Turning over a new leaf
is not so easy as said,
no easier than the grief
that comes when mourning the dead,
or eating the dead, like ghouls
who hunger for what is past,
the bitter, nostalgic fools
in cemeteries amassed.
This living-dead life idles
like Frankenstein’s creature bound
to bygone flesh, the bridles
electric, but with no ground,
so the charge does not charge,
but burns the assemblage whole,
death remaining, by and large,
despite the jolts to the soul.
True change comes when least wanted,
like the full moon to a man
whose lupine life is haunted
by every monthly span.
It visits us, like a ghost,
a poltergeist in revolt,
possession unto a host—
a demon we cannot molt
as it rearranges chairs,
smashes dishes, shatters glass,
bringing to us the nightmares
which, at sunrise, should then pass,
yet they do not, subsuming
the day-to-day life we knew
until the shadows looming
become a stale cocoon, too.
And then great Cthulhu wakes,
disrupting the status quo,
and amidst the floods and quakes
we lose all we used to know,
finding ourselves lost, afloat,
like flotsam in tides so strange
that we regret this brash boat
moored on the island of Change.
Truly, I should like to have a word
with those latecomers, my dreams deferred,
not to harangue them or make a fuss,
but to see them on the express bus
and sooner upon their hastened way
long before the traffic-jammed midday,
and not so idle in friendly talk
nor wasting time on a winding walk—
look, I have laid out the welcome mat
and I just wonder where they are at
because the hour is growing so late
and I would rather they made this date
to come, promptly, to the open door;
the truth is I can’t endure much more.
I think I have been patient enough
with the overtime, the stress, the stuff
that a man must do to set things right
before the curtain call, the spotlight,
and the theater should be packed well
since the tickets were sent through the mail
at no cost to the masses, the crowd,
since I am not really overproud
and would not charge for what came so free
to my mind, without surcharge or fee.
I need reassurance, some regard
after working for so long, so hard,
but the venue is a bust, it seems,
and no one cares, not even my dreams.
They are out and about, in the park,
or in a cab elsewhere, on a lark,
or taking the subway to a street
away from me and my meet-and-greet.
I am the pariah from a group
that I introduced, kept from the loop
while they go bar-hopping like frat-boys
and parade like divas to the noise
of downtown’s pageantry and pizzazz,
welcome with the pop razzamatazz
that sells so well among Plebians,
yet respected by Bohemians,
while I wait, in exile, from afar,
thinking that I should hop in my car
and chase them down, maybe hit-and-run
to avenge myself for what they’ve done,
and what they’ve not done, these damn dead-ends
who are worse than mere fairweather friends.
My dreams are why I am full of doubt—
to hell with it, I am going out!
I have some body-bags in my trunk
and my dreams all need a place to bunk…
Is it the soft shore
to the sea of dreams?
Is it the linen moor
of seams and what seems?
Tis a nightly nest
from whose feathers rise,
the fledglings flying best
with unseeing eyes.
Work hard—do not mind the scorn
of the wretched, petty souls,
but rise stronger, yet, each morn,
and labor upon your goals,
ever-fixed on your field,
however loud they may laugh,
for your harvest will still yield
if you winnow wheat from chaff,
deaf to the dim-witted herd
who chew the waste of your wheat—
do not mind them, not one word,
or the crude roughage they eat.
All that matters is your crop
and your winnowing mission;
sow and reap and never stop
in your dream, your ambition.
In a small corner of my head
squats a ramshackle little shed
where I place on a cobwebbed shelf
all the dreams I had for myself;
boxes upon boxes of books
all covered in dust—no one looks
at such things, away from the sun,
along with other things I’ve done;
stories…poems…by the hundreds,
like waste that clutters other sheds,
stowed away, unread and unloved,
where doubts and bitterness have shoved
worlds of wonder, flashbacks of days,
where the black mold of Time decays
the flimsy whimsy, each thin page
lost to mildew—that necrophage.
Sometimes I glance in the windows
and see the books there, lined in rows,
but I rarely go in…rather,
I know it foolish to gather
dreams from a rickety old shed
soon to collapse within my head.
So I wait…frown…sigh…shrug…then leave,
forsaking all, lest I deceive
myself with hope that any book
could be saved from that moldy nook.
Yet I return, despite the mold
growing rampant and taking hold
with its toxic odors and spores
permeating the air indoors,
and I read from the books, sometimes,
horror, fantasy, and some rhymes,
unable to leave what I should,
the fool’s hope stronger than the wood.
The shed trembles as if to fall,
yet I remain, each crumbly wall
a part of me as much as aught,
just as each book is my own thought,
and, so, should it crash at long last,
(which it will, the die just-so cast)
I will be among the remains,
among the books and wood and panes,
decaying together, the whole
as always was, body and soul.
So subtle the silent blade
that slices a notch at each second,
by our own indolence made
and at the end of our lives reckoned.
It is a sweet bloodletting
which we but scarce notice at each pass,
in idleness forgetting
the lost sands slipping through the hourglass.
The bear still chases me
in my dreams
following me from the car wreck
more than a year later,
with my own voice
as I get cut-off in traffic,
or grinding my teeth
when I have to
work overtime on my days off,
as another submission is rejected
by another publisher.
They say a bear chasing you
signifies uncontrollable rage,
and I know this to be true
because I took a hard knock
to the head
and it woke that grizzly bear
from its primordial hibernation in the cave
of my skull,
and I try to tame him,
but every time I try
or yoga vinyasas
the bear still stirs
and goes chasing me around,
denting doors with my knuckles
and hurling furniture with my
or threatening to maul
a flippant punk in a store.
How many times, I wonder,
have I attempted to lull the beast
with koto melodies
only to growl at the piping of a hichiriki,
or calm him with smooth Jazz
only to snarl at the intrusion
of a noodling saxophone
upon the pitter-patter of the piano?
I must hate wind instruments
and sometimes wish to slash
especially when someone prattles on and on
with self-important conceit.
No lullaby can soothe
the savage beast
of head trauma.
My insomnia, too,
is the bear’s insomnia,
and melatonin pills don’t mellow him out
enough for a long hibernation.
Meanwhile he follows me
from my dreams
into the waking world,
snapping in rage
at friend and foe alike
as the circus of Life twirls on,
the bear handler mauled
by his own mismanaged anger.
He leads them through the desert
with a mirage of water,
promising an oasis
toward which they scramble
on hands and knees as if supplicants
only to find the shattered statue
strewn among the blank desolation
of the American Dream.
Their thirst goes unslaked,
yet they praise him with hoarse voices.
The Moon’s Glow
He was as jolly as the Summer sun
in a clear sky above golden fields
and so she seemed, too,
beaming with the light he gave
in unconditional generosity,
but however bright she glowed
with borrowed light
she herself remained a cold place
hard to inhabit.
A clutter of stemming words
in search of fruitful meaning;
clusters of inchoate imagery
without the thinnest shade of
like a drug-addled hypochondriac
thinking herself a dryad
at the mercy of a logging company,
lost in her own fussy blooms
as she traces the trifurcating twigs
during a whirling tornado
without an eye of calm.
The heartwood bleeds sap,
yet one wonders if the
taken to the trunk
was merely trying to cut straight to the
The burl-knotted bosom
in warty bunches,
and even when chopped up
and stacked in ricks
the woody worth of it is
the dryad’s blustering smoke
a deliberate obfuscation
on whatever illuminations might reel
from the hearth
such tangled brush feeds.
there are mushrooms growing
along her thoughts
which I think quite fine,
even if poisonous as a
every single one.
Cleaved shelf of stone
jutting out from hills heavy-headed
with shaggy pine;
cleaved shelf of stone
rugged with old thoughts
like a giant’s brow troubled
by dreams that trickle in icemelt
as the sun rises unseen
behind a pale sheet of snowfall.
I have known dreams as steadfast
as such stone,
dreams blasted long ago by dynamite,
yet have not worn away
in skirling winds
and seasons of thunder
and tantrums of quakes.
Time wears on
and the stone dreams remain,
more silent than beds of snowfall;
more lasting than the roads
that divided them.