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.

A Car Crash In Phases

The devil is in the details,
and the decals:
you work for
G4S Security,
(“Securing Your World”)
but then
while minding your own business
on another workaday workday
along comes
catastrophic chaos
careening into your lane,
headlong, because of a
fishtailing blowout,
and you know, intimately, that security
does not exist beyond the
abstractions,
the catchy slogans,
the marketing gimmicks,
and the government placebos
in a world overripe with
unthinking daredevils,
unplanned plot devices
and shitty writing prompts.

There is blood, and there are
cries of existential pain, terror,
as the newborn emerges from the
crushed womb, the
airbag yolk
in the center of the
sudden head-on collision.
Flopping on the ground,
fetal position,
you shiver in fear
of the new reality you have been
born to,
exposed in the clinical light
of an indifferent sun.
The midwives arrive,
sirens wailing,
and bind you down
to the shaky stretcher
for your bumpy high-speed delivery.

Thank whichever god you like
for that natural drug,
adrenaline,
but when the entheogen fades away
and the razorwire of pain spirals
up your broken ankle,
you might just sell your soul
to the highest bidder,
or any bidder,
to make it uncoil
its pythian grip
and let slough off
what now seems a burdensome gobbet
of agony.
Amputate the foot
and burn it on the altar
of a heathen god,
if only to exorcize that insatiable
demon
gnawing at the twisted ankle.

Trauma Center chaos.
Flatliner prima donna
taking center-stage
on the heli-pad,
airlifted above the
ambulance peasantry.
And now this
6’4″ cop-killer wannabee
weeping and cursing in turns, chest
full of vainglory from a police officer’s
answering retort
of gunfire.
What are his colors?
Gang or
gangrene?
Reeks of rot as he curses
his caretakers.
He will hold his tongue
in solemn silence
when the undertaker comes.
Meanwhile you try to use your
Zen training
to calm the vibrating crescendo of
panic
swelling in your brain
while you wait for the trauma center
to set your foot
on the straight and narrow path again.

Pretty nurses and
polite surgeons
like long-lost friends
always welcoming another companion
into their parlor games,
yet
they have played
Cat’s Cradle
with stainless steel wires
and you,
silly you,
somehow caught your
foot
in the halo-rimmed web.
It is a medeival torture device,
but also the only hope you have
to save that
limp, wayward-flopping piece of meat
at the end of your leg.
A thankless task it serves
as you curse its barbarous efficiency.

Drip, drip, drip,
the IV dripping
endlessly
whereas your mouth is
cotton dry,
your cottonmouth fangs dripping
eager with vengeful venom
to strike out at the
chirp-chirp-chirping of a
bird-brained neighbor’s
shrill-shrieking phone
every five minutes;
a nocturnal warbler
in need of birdshot.

And yet,
despite the devils and the
demons
and the heathen gods,
there are fallen angels
that choose to serve mankind
selflessly
upon the earth—
those braving the
shit and piss,
the blood and pus,
the wafting williwaws between
festering flesh,
the violent outbursts of pained creatures
lashing out in the throes of suffering
and to whom these offenses
are endured in impersonal deference.
These are the angels
to be found on earth
if you are only strong enough
to find them within yourself.

The Lighthouse

You do not
warn of danger
when you virtue-signal from atop your
white-collar ivory tower;
rather,
the desperate blink of your
gaslighting
is but a distraction, is but a
siren’s call
for those of us in
straitened channels of
blue-collar shoals.
Your flashing guidance
blinds us
as much as the dark of night
and so
Black and White all
capsize together
in the coral teeth of your
treasure-strewn whitewater
judgment.
No,
you are not on the
lookout
for anyone’s well-being
but your own
as you gnaw the unified bones
of the shipwrecked dead.

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.

“God-Given” Gifts

He visits museums and art galleries

to see the master works of sculptors and painters

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He goes to concert halls, opera houses, jazz clubs,

to hear deft musicians play songs

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He attends theaters and goes to the cinemas

to watch brilliant actors become other people

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He watches comedy shows and standup routines

to laugh at the witty jokes comedians tell

(because they have a God-Given gift, too).

He looks after the runaways, the prostitutes,

the transvestites and the vulnerable,

enticing them into his car, talking to them like

an old friend, kindly neighbor,

philanthropist in times of need,

taking them

somewhere remote, quiet, and alone,

and he bludgeons them, stabs them,

strangles them, rapes them, kills them,

chops up their bodies, takes

souvenirs

for his own home gallery,

disposes of the remains

and then he calls their relatives on the phone,

mocks them,

tortures them with his firsthand accounts,

relives his depravity through their fresh tears,

and he

leaves complacent clues at the scenes of his crimes

to taunt the cops,

watching the News media

to rejoice in his grand debut,

becoming famous as the anchors

talk him up to

Godzilla proportions of destruction,

and then, satisfied, he

lays low for a year,

waiting,

watching,

returning when the ruckus has subsided,

cultivating his celebrity once again

with a second season of murders,

elated as his alter-ego alias

passes along the lips of those who

pray against his trespasses,

and eventually he

betrays himself,

outs himself so he can be celebrated with

loathing, with infamy,

with international intrigue

through books, movies, cult status,

fan mail, declarations of love,

becoming a cultural phenomenon

as famous as Raphael or Elvis,

and all because

he has a God-Given gift, too.

The Modern Oz

The modern Tin Man is fueled by

snake oil,

having given away freely his

heart

for an Amazon discount

and a podcast peacemaker of

conspiracy theories.

The Scarecrow has lost his brain

in a broken trade deal,

having pawned it off to pay for

tariffs

while he stuffs the breadbasket with

soybeans,

laying down,

at long last, beneath his

thresher

to return to a simpler time.

The Cowardly Lion roars

with hashtags on Twitter,

Instagramming a fierce photo

while, between posts, shuddering

in the dark of his

lock-down apartment.

The Wizard sits on a

golden toilet

behind the puppeteer curtain,

vociferating loudly

like an orange talking head

to distract from the sounds he makes as he

drops another turd in the swampy toilet bowl,

refusing to flush it.

Dorothy, meanwhile, has been picking fights

with the little people,

accusing them of being

illegal immigrants

while she ignores the tornado of

historical currents

that had brought her to this golden city

upon a hill.

And the

Wicked Witch of the West

sips Tea Party tea,

caterwauling as her flying monkeys busily

troll online,

copy/pasting disinformation for

a ruble a post.

And poor Toto is nothing but

roadkill

splattered along the Yellow Brick Road.

(Non bene pro Toto libertas venditur auro).

Editor’s Note

A good editor sacrifices the
author
for the story,
castrating the pride and ego
with an impassive scalpel
to sterilize the dominating old bull
so easily misled by his crown of horns;
a good editor
culls the herd
and promotes more virile progeny;
he
brings down the
slaughterhouse hammer
on the bullish head of
stubbornness,
letting the author’s vanity die
so that his stories may live, lest the
juggernaut rampage,
trammeling newborn calfskin
under haughty, overbearing hooves.

Holly Folly

An orchard of holly trees,
thousands unto thousands,
countless,
bejeweled with red berries,
each a crimson drop
of sacrifice,
each a
generation of Man
spawned hitherto
since before Man was Man.
Strolling among the shade
I wonder why we are so
poisonous
as we grow among paradise.
A chill wind blows,
signaling Yuletide’s approach.
They like to say Christ died for our
sins,
but, if so,
why are the berries
still so deadly?
Why do we grow so plump
in our hearts
with a brimming poison?
Christ may have changed
water into wine,
but could he refine the deadly wine
of this bitter berry
into benign water
so we might wash away our sins?

Two Poems

His Prayer
He prayed with his thumbs
crossed,
throat brimming bile,
spittle spraying from snarled lips,
forearms flexing like the forelegs
of a panther in pursuit of prey,
hands straining to the tendons
with an eagle’s grip,
veins pulsating rapidly
with quickened blood;
he prayed with thumbs
crossed,
a vengeful garroter
strangling his exwife
or his chuckle-head coworkers,
his estranged, ungrateful children;
prayed with his
thumbs crossed,
choking the whole world
until only the sound of his
grinding teeth
remained.
He prayed everyday
breathlessly
to a god of death,
his thumbs crossed
around the bulging cords
of his own empurpling neck.

Firm Grasp On The Matter
His painter’s hand had been ruined
by the relentless teeth of age,
crippled in the grinding gears of
arthritis, and so his grasp enfeebled
by a sacrifice to Art and Beauty
yet
he painted such Beauty into the world
with his gratitude for life—
even as his body fell apart around him
he could paint the world with his
gratitude
and none could paint better
than the workaday wonders that he saw
in the passing of routine things
juxtaposed with the inevitable finality
of death’s imminent grip
so close at hand.