After-Affects

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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
Death
crashed into me from behind,
his approach unseen
like some master-class predator—
the Apex of
apex predators.
Oddly, I am
glad,
grateful,
invigorated that
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
exclamation marks
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.
Gratitude and
urgency
have become the attendant angels
bookmarking every moment
with sharply fractured glass.

Pythian Road

In a valley gleaming with goldenrod
between high-browed hills, I met a god
who was golden-crowned with the sun
and standing, quietly, by the flat-rock run
of a crystal creek, so snakelike through
the waving wildflower view,
and nearby the land that was green and gold
spread vast beyond the blacktop road,
and that rural god walked alone along
the hissing highway, whistling an easy song.
He paused a moment, lost in his thoughts,
and he shook his head at our lots.
He said, “Such haste is it you so often make
that one wonders whether you could ever brake
in time to save you from your own speed
and the fast progress that you think you need.”
Meanwhile the clouds passed overhead,
slow and silent, dark and overfed
with rain, with lightning, bloated in flight
and shading the valley from the midday light,
their pools deep and cool and blue and vast
while a car behind me lost patience and passed
to go wherever it was he thought he liked
while the pagan god took his time and hiked.
The god said, “What a fellow to rush his life
and travel a speed as if Fate’s knife
could be outpaced if he could just get ahead,
only to rush the knife along his thread.
Listen: I may have killed the Pythian snake,
but it is, in fact, an eternal loop in make,
and all mortals are bound to its coils,
so why rush the ending and all that it spoils?
It is the curse of your accelerated age
that you flip the script without reading the page.
Take your time and take in each sight
before you are confined to a Stygian night.”
And though I heard this god, I also wondered—
as the clouds above rained and thundered—
if it was wise to heed a god with all the hours
to walk so slow and admire the flowers.

The Beast Remains The Same

It is a curious circus trick
to force a lion to leap through rings,
not done by books or reason or logic,
but with a whip that snaps and stings.
A natural predator is thus tamed
only through the promise of violence,
not education or being shamed,
but by Nature’s basic commonsense.
Try to read to the lion a book
about the innate worth of a human being—
try to raise him from a cub to look
at a woman as an equal, seeing
enough to emote and to understand,
to empathize with potential prey…
He will not listen, and will eat the hand
that flips the page, despite your dismay.
You are but meat he has his eye on
and he only understands brute force;
and, no, this is not just about a lion,
but all creatures without remorse.
If you think you can tame the breed
through intergenerational reform
you are in denial and you really need
to look at history, and its norm.
The lion has always ruled the lamb,
despite whatever Jesus might have said,
and if not a lion, the strongest ram
ruled with a bellicose, horn-crowned head.
Tyrants, pharaohs, psychos, thieves,
kings and queens and bishops and popes—
they rolled up the bloody cuffs of their sleeves
and rarely washed their hands clean with soaps.
Look: the beast reigns if not whipped each day
nor is this a Beauty-and-Beast case,
and sometimes not even a whip can keep at bay
the beast salivating close to your face.
Nor is the lion-tamer always spared—
he is often the first that is mauled;
too complacent as fangs are bared,
lamenting his career as he is clawed.
And the lion-tamer has in his own heart
a fierce lion roaring in equal measure
so he may fulfill his grandstanding part
and rein-in other lions for your pleasure.
The point remains: no book has ever
halted the fangs of a slobbering beast,
nor education or beliefs, however clever,
so do not trust Life’s circus— not in the least.

Upright Or Twisted

This vast field beneath the glorious Sun
is brimming with honey-sweet light
that glitters with soft fingertips on the tall, golden grass
that billows its head in a loving wind
like a Mass come to pray.
Few trees are scattered about this field’s face,
but these few trees are strong of branch, straight of trunk
and spread wide with canopies proudly dressed in summer leaves.
These few trees are courteous to one another
and do not war with distant neighbors;
not only because they cannot touch each other,
but because they do not have to.

There is a dark hollow beyond the field
which moans deep between a rolling hillock
and the swelling rise of an umbral knob.
The trees within its mouth are gnarled of branch,
twisted of trunk,
crowded for space,
and reach crookedly around each other with covetous intent
to steal the weak slivers of light offered by the negligent Sun.
They war with serpentine branches not because they want to kill,
but because they are naturally inclined to try to survive,
for not every tree is sprouted in golden fields,
nor is it to blame for where its seeds are planted.

Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

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The seastacks stand tall above the tides
like Hellenic pillars sculpted each day
while a small seashell, dragged ashore, collides
with my bare foot as I walk upon the bay.

The seastacks have been proven through eons past
to endure Time’s erosive ebb and flow,
whereas the seashell shall never outlast
the night, broken with the sea’s careless catch-and-throw.

Yet, while I stand in the shadows of Time’s temple
I admire the quaintness of such short-lived creatures,
the shell at my toes being a thing seemingly simple,
yet taking eons to craft with such finite features.

Hodge Podge Poems

To Grip The Truth
A knife whose blade was made
from the blade of a plowshare, the handle a
bone antler, its grip offered to me
pommel-first
so
blade may part pelt,
flaying another skin
from a corpse hanging
by steel hooks
to bleed the slick meat dry
in the cool, ramshackle shack
where fluorescent lights reveal all
in clinical detail.
Old antler-handled knife…
freshly butchered buck…
what must be said is that
Life will eventually turn you against
your own kind,
one way or another,
until the blood mixes with mud
like wine poured spitefully from the
cup of peace
and we all are tools, all
hanging upside down and
headless,
bled dry for someone else’s daily meal.

Outrage Room Argument Theory
What is going through the head
of the person in this Chinese room
where we slip online text to be read
only for the outrage machine to boom?

An innocuous comment on a post
is misread by the command program
as an attack on those who are most
oppressed in their limited RAM.

Context and nuance do not matter—
only the buzzwords are comp[<ed>];
he, or she, is thus a Mad Hatter
always “/t’ed” off at the code prompt.

So, take what anyone innocently says
and crunch out preconfigured outrage
like dispensers spitting out PEZ—
they fail the Turing test, page after page.

Nothing but intentionality in their box,
they follow codes in their operating system—
but is there really outrage on the VOX
or are they simple machines of algorithm?

Don’t Tread On Me
The snake struck fast
at the dive-bombing eagle,
its spring-loaded coils
shreaded by a
taloned tread
and its gun-oiled body
now hanging limply
after a misfire.
The bird rose once more,
unharmed and
unimpressed
by the venomless mottos
spoken by saber-rattling snakes
shooting off at the mouth.

You Can Leave If You Don’t Like It
I am riding
with a loved one
who speeds along the busy road
and refuses to stop at flashing red lights.
It is frightening
and I try to tell you to
slow down,
to
obey the rules,
and you tell me that I should just
leave
if I don’t like it.
Sure,
I could leave;
you could just
drop my ass off at the next corner
and I could ride with someone else,
but I am really hoping to change
your mind
because I care about you
and
because even if I did leave
I would still be sharing the same road
with you
as you recklessly drive
along these global crossroads
of history,
smashing through everyone
with your red, white, and blue negligence.