For weeks the widower next door
has been blowing piles of leaves,
fresh-fallen leaves heavy with last night’s rains,
his leafblower like the dull bellow of an
echoing through the woods that surround his house.
Before Autumn he was cutting down dead ash trees
with a high-pitched, bewailing chainsaw
all day, every day,
and using a hydraulic splitter
to create pagan mounds of split wood
for a fireplace he did not have.
At night I can see
a flashlight spearing the darkness
as he leads his yappy little dog
out for midnight potty,
the widower following the dog stiffly
as if half-embalmed in his old age;
or I hear his grunts and groans
as he climbs a ladder
in the blind, moonless night
to pull leaves out of his gutters
and toss them into the shadows.
The woods resound with his tearless sorrow.
My grandfather once told me
that I needed to “grow up”;
an old man obsessed with money,
obsessed with little slips of green-colored paper,
with numbers in a computer on a flickering screen
at the bank,
obsessed with stock market reports scrolling across
the bottom of a television feed
while chattering heads speak of
he said I needed to “grow up”
because make-believe slips of paper
were more important than anything else.
Humans do not shed delusions
as we get older,
we only prioritize them,
organize them into concerted conceits
to make us seem “grown up”,
to make ourselves believe that the numbers
are as substantial
as a brick to the face;
and not only does the emperor wear no clothes,
but he is not really an emperor,
no more than the little germ is
that he inhales into his lungs
to grow sick and die
while shamans from all over the country
sing prayers and dance and wail
and the decimal point moves left or right
like a marble between two children
who make-believe the marble to be
the earth rolling between the stars.
A pocketful of sharp pens and knives,
each a thing that can end many lives,
but when I ponder which is the best
I take the largest knife to the test—
two or three people may surely die
before I catch the policeman’s eye
whereas a pen can legally kill
MILLIONS with a legislative bill
that seeks to cut taxes for a few
while the poor who make less revenue
slave away at labors ever worse
for the sake of a CEO’s purse,
whether cutting safety at the mills
so the machinery comes off its wheels
and goes falling down, crushing workmen
into puddles of red jam, or when
the concrete mix is not up to snuff
and collapses from the mountain bluff,
or the insulin cost soars so high
it outstrips blood-sugar, by and by.
Look, an ounce of ink, or maybe less,
can make one hell of a bloody mess
and make more money from sacrifice
to Mammon, that god of wealth and vice,
and that is why the coin and the pen
are in the pockets of congressmen
and why a thief with a bloody blade
is not half so bad as thieves “self-made”.
Everyone seemed taken aback
by his muscles and their strong swells:
Uncle Sam stacked just like a Big Mac,
his abs racked up like hex dumbbells.
“Recovery roids,” were the rumors
that spread quickly from tongue to ear,
but the gains were malignant tumors
growing deadlier, year to year.
The Golden Cow’s teats
overflow, yet she grazes
on rife Johnsongrass.
We rode a surging wave
all the way from Hawaii to the
but now we are just coasting dubiously
in the coral-fanged shallows
of the Trump presidency,
and I can hear the sirens of
while the waters upon the shoreline
their sloshing foam of bursting
revealing the scattered
from the last
will glut themselves
as they have not glutted since
If you look down
you might think the sky
is the limit,
but that is just its
breaking before the orange-faced, false sun
goes down one final time.
You naysaying canary,
shrilling in the open air
with a song so wary—
“Beware, fools! Beware!”
why are you full of distrust?
His answer’s quite scary:
“The boom and the bust!”
You gloomy, winged prophet,
why speak of imminent doom?
Why not just come off it
and enjoy the boom?
“Because the sky is falling
as you drink unto wealth’s dregs,
debtors will be calling
to come break your legs.”
You petulant little bird
flapping in your little cage,
why should we heed your word
in this Golden Age?
“Because you see only the gleam
and think only of the sum,
yet it is but a dream—
the collapse will come.”
Who are you to question us?
We have built lustrous empires!
“Foundations crumble, thus,
and all end in pyres.”
“You have your heads in the ground,
mining gold so as to thrive,
but heed the ancient mound,
men buried alive.”
You vile, pernicious creature!
You’re more crow than canary!
“I am a mere preacher,
though my moods vary.”
“Continue mining the earth
to build castles in the sky
and discover their worth—
rich kings, too, shall die.”
the self-proclaimed “stable” genius
which might reason him
good at the horse race,
yet he bet and lost money
at his own casino, rigging the
at a cost to himself.
The trump card
always comes up short
and always seems to lose
It is the Artifice
of the Deal.
Hemline theory would indicate
that the economy is on the rise,
but the shortest hemline
is at a bikini contest
which he presided over
and, sure enough, the bikini lines
were lucrative for him, garnering him
mobs of money,
Killer Green Backs,
and all in exchange for
whatever was left of his soul.
He never drinks,
but he takes a stiff shot of
to embolden his small
turning up Jesters
at a game of Poker
and marveling at the shotglass
as he pushes the chip
on his shoulder
marveling at the shotglass
as he realizes
that it is a hole in hand,
an abstract made manifest,
and so easily shattered,
unlike his deepening hole.
Yet, his worth
is still on the rise
like an airline
bedecked with golden countertops,
stalling in free-fall
back to earth.
he knows the worth of
someone else’s money.
Parading the apoplectic corpse around
of a political rival
as a boogeywoman,
he panders to his
promising to save America
from the “Elites”
and the illegal immigrants
that make their Wal Mart foods so cheap.
Yet, even while obsessed with
other people’s status
his supporters never wonder about his own, and
they empathize with him because
in their minds
they are as deluded as him,
thinking, as he does, that they will all be
rich again someday
even as they pull the lever
on a toilet slot machine,
flushing other people’s hopes down the drain
to spite the American Dream
they supposedly adore.
Their movement is an operation
of malice, envy, jealousy,
hating “East Coast Elites”
even as they elect one to office,
praising him for the
which patronizes them
he is BIG LEAGUE,
and you are all so minor,
especially you miners.
He must want to be minted
for his face is stamped
with faux gold,
his boggling eyes
puffily underline in black bruises
from a bed beset with a
the eyefuls he bought
still causing him trauma.
He says climate change is not
but his bloviating denials
add another cubic ton
to the atmosphere,
and the warming waters are rising.
Whether it is a
or it is just a languidly indifferent
there is no doubt
that the Gambler is drowning
in the Vodka depths of debt,
and, as any drowning person,
he will drag whomever
he can grab
down with him.
Perhaps if we told him
the Gobi Desert was made of
he would get lost there awhile,
reveling in the greatest
looking in a mirror.