Roughspun Heron

Though stirred by the slightest wind
in want of flight, without the wont,
I tumble, end over end,
the word of Fate a wayward taunt.

My wings are frayed and thin
and depend on the whims of air;
I cannot fly like my kin
whose wings of flesh and feather dare

the stirless sky, or the storm,
but must keep to currents of chance,
yet…such is also the norm
for all things born of circumstance,

for all things in manner made
to be as Nature chose for them
must likewise be as so bade
by fold and form, by stitch and hem

and come undone at the seams
by wear and tear, by mold and moth,
by Fate which compels such dreams
to animate both flesh and cloth.

Moments

A single grain of sand
slips through the hourglass
and with it falls
whole buildings, cities,
empires, crumbling to dust
in an instant,
so brief, the demolition,
and yet so many years
to build it, to amass
the sacrifice of days, of skills,
of lives, all
now gone
with the smooth slippage
of inevitability, the giddy
evanescence of the material world,
sand unto sand, the
humanistic mandala imprinting
the earth
erased by restless winds, by
sleepless tides,
burying pyramids with gravity’s
intractable pull
and the erosion
of fickle electrons.
There is no compromise
to be found
in the sinking sands of Time.

Agony

A devil is blacksmithing down below,
hammering agonies into my foot,
laughing as he works hard, blow after blow,
while embers flare and he heaps the sloughed soot
of an unthinking life I once knew well
in ingratitude and a thankless peace,
but now, in this Hephaestus pit of Hell,
flesh is enfolded in pain without cease.
Hammer, clamps, tongs, furnace and the anvil,
clutching and smashing with Vulcan focus
to forge the leg to a fallen god’s will—
a monument of pain, aching locus
whereat there spirals the spiteful fire
that brands the soul with the maker’s design,
scarring mortal flesh, his single desire
to make what is like himself: pained, divine.

Meditations On Pain

Reality rooted in nerves,
walls of sensation, innate jail
where the clew-woven warden serves
punitive sentences; a hell.
Body horror without escape
as spooled flesh and blood both betray
the existentialist great ape
whose pained intricacies relay
agonies visceral, instant,
and terrors stemming from thought,
imaginings you cannot shunt
like blood to one side, but a clot
that causes fever in the brain
and a stroke at the narrowed strait
of the much-overloaded vein,
thoughts and blood at a rapid rate.
The pain hums like cicadas, each
vying for attention, the swarm
overwhelming, all with a reach
deep within the somatic storm,
and while we recall the beliefs
of our ancestors before us,
the pain drags us along its reefs
while we hear that siren chorus.
No escape and no compromise
for the flesh that begets mankind,
shackled as we are by the ties
never to be peeled, fruit from rind.

Vacation

Scott saw the lake from the highway,

sprawling at a lower elevation beyond the

guard rails and the trees that rose between.

Its green surface was still, untroubled,

silent,

undisturbed by the windless afternoon

while Scott drove by, going home from the

buzzing, banging, screeching noises of the

Amazon warehouse; the rush as he dashed

from one row to another, scrambling to pick

and pluck and rummage another profligate

item, Made In China, that was as needful

to the average consumer

as a scarf in summertime,

trying to meet the quota demanded of him,

minute by minute,

hour by hour,

day by day

unto endless days.

Going home to an empty apartment

after a twelve-hour shift

was like

dumping himself into a box

in accordance to his bin number

and mailing himself out the next morning

once again

to the same Amazon warehouse

to pick and pluck and drop all over again.

He wanted a vacation.

A real vacation.

He wanted to go to that lake —

not to fish

or to camp

or to swim,

but to plunge his car

headlong into the depths of it and let

that placid stillness envelop him

as he sank to the bottom,

apart from the hectic human world,

uncaring,

detached,

lungs filling up

while his life emptied out,

and the tranquil bosom of the lake

sealing up, like a wound —

reconciling him within its serene silence.

The real horror of his

life

was that it went on and on and on.

Betwixt

At the pinching snip of Love and Loss,
the intersection, that fateful criss-cross
of scissors cutting like conjoined knives
that separate, at length, two lovers’ lives—
Atropos and her unyielding blade
pressures us together, made and unmade,
the freshly cut edge, and the sharp ache,
that defines and destroys within its wake.

Jack In The Box

Death is an old jack-in-the box,
the coil wound tight as music plays,
springing out with a grin that mocks
and startles at the end of days.
There is never laughter, nor mirth,
in this ancient jester’s dealings—
the old crank wound round at our birth
is never stopped by our feelings.
And we always know he will spring,
this jester with his mirthless grin,
yet the shock still has a sharp sting
as we face the box, the coffin.

Man Up

Black and white cat screeching
with a badly broken back,
its limbs flailing, reaching—
a useless, aimless attack;
claws spreading, fangs flashing
in the chilly rain that falls,
gut bleeding, teeth gnashing,
while a small child, somewhere, calls.
Neither needle or stitch
can mend all this damage done,
and, kneeling in the ditch,
I see the blood burst, then run.
Guiltless, my hands in gloves
rummage for mercy to use,
and I wonder what loves
we might, someday, likewise lose.
Penknife in trembling hand
unfolding a silver gleam—
I feel myself unmanned
by the cat’s tormented scream.
Releasing the cat, now,
clutched in Death’s unflinching grasp,
I rub my clammy brow
and hear it gurgle and gasp.
The rain falls cold, meantime,
and I see the cat’s gashed eye
caked black with blood and grime,
yet alert and asking, “Why?”
I put away my knife,
the cat still writhing in pain,
yet clinging to its life
though life itself is a bane.
Turning to go away,
I am haunted by a word
echoing to this day:
“Coward, coward…you coward…”

In Sheep’s Clothing

He came from another flock,
from another farm,
during the famine times.
He said,
“I will teach you how to survive
when the the soil
and the Shepherd
have abandoned you.”
His fleece was much the same as ours,
except shamelessly splashed
with streaks of crimson.
He said,
“Bring unto me your littlest lamb
and I will show you the way.”
I thought the horror would be to see
wolf fangs when he parted his lips,
but his teeth were the same as ours
and, with some effort,
he tore open the lamb’s throat
to lap blood with a quivering tongue.
We knew not what to say
to protest the hunger in our bellies.
His teeth were the same teeth as ours
when grazing upon the barren hillsides,
now repurposed with a terrible
resolve
to meet a terrible need,
as were ours
given time.
His teeth,
his fleece,
were the same as ours.