Two Poems To John Keats

Blood Vessel
What god did not genius grant
without a price beyond recant?
For Keats rode his daydreams swift
unto the empire of his gift
and in return gave libations full
to quench the god that bore his hull
with a cascading sanguine surfeit tide
upon which Despair rode astride,
reaching for the farthest protean shore,
his wish thus granted, and such much more
that lyrical currents carried on and on
his fame, his name, with each new dawn
and though his bright star was ill-borne
upon red wavelets he did but mourn
his name was never written on the waters,
but in the hearts of England’s sons and daughters.

The Moth-Time
He wrote hurriedly at the darkening eve
and yet his life was ever at the moth-time,
hand and quill fluttering fast at lantern’s reprieve
while oil and ink bled out for a lasting rhyme.

Crickets and critics sawed a mocking song
to hasten the falling shroud of Night,
but though the sun lasted not so long,
a bright star was raised to a new height.

For far above and aloft it shined and shined
where neither voice nor quill might impugn
the tragic poet whose lustrous life declined—
he became companion to the moon.

 

(Recently I resumed reading the poetry of John Keats.  One of the premiere English Romanticists, Keats lived a tragically short life, dying at the age of 25 while mourning his own presumably insignificant contributions to English Literature.  While Keats was often possessed of a brilliant acumen for observing and encoding Truth with beautiful imagery, he was thankfully quite wrong concerning his own legacy.  He died thinking himself nothing more than up-flown dust on an errant wind, and stands tall as a titan in Western poetry.  I simply wanted to show my appreciation for his terrible tragedies and his enduring genius.)

Lost and Found Free Kindle Giveaway

For a limited time my children’s novels are free in their kindle format. Though written for children, they also touch upon deeper themes and adult subtexts. I am rather proud of them, though I wish they would gain greater traction (and readership). Below is the link for the first novel. The 2nd novel is titled “Stormy Within The Strawberry Patch”. It is listed on my author page.

A Short (A)Morality Tale

Justin Faire was a godly, fair-minded man. He whipped his kids no more than they deserved, went to church every Sunday, paid his taxes on time, and worked hard upon his farmlands, earning a comfortable living for his grateful family. He gave alms to the poor, and every year hosted a generous feast for his neighbors and fellow churchgoers. When a neighbor’s crop was lacking, he supplemented his neighbor’s stores with the abundance from his own. As a father, he was loving, but firm. As a husband he was devoted and very satisfying to his wife. As a neighbor he was friendly and inspired good will in all that he did. His only vice was his virtue: he believed in fairness and order and an ideal sense of the cosmos.
“You reap what you sow,” he often said.
And what was more, he believed it. He believed that if a man worked hard and was morally righteous in his leisure time then God would treat him well in return. That was the one true covenant between Man and the Cosmos, according to Justin Faire.
Justin Faire had a bountiful life in many ways. Not only were his fields fertile, but so too was his marriage bed. His beloved wife bore him four children: two daughters, lovely as their mother, and two sons, strong as their father. All of his children were upright in all that they did, following the straight and narrow path that their father and mother walked every day of their lives. Their children adored their parents, honoring them in all they did. As a consequence, the Faire family was much lauded among the county, and no gossip ever followed them but praise without even a hint of resentment, even if rife with envy.
Many respected the Faire family, especially its patriarch. Justin would have been a chieftain in ancient times, wherever and whenever he might have been planted. He was strong, wise, handsome, and just, always encouraging his neighbors to be better men. Had he the desire, he could have ran for mayor of the county, governor of the state, president of the nation. Yet, Justin Faire solely wished to farm and earn his bread through soil, seed, and sweat, like any righteous, Godfearing man should.

Just down the road from Justin’s farm, however, there was another family that was the abject reverse of the Faires. This family, whom no one spoke of except with a disapproving shake of the head, had earned a nasty reputation throughout the decades. Terrible things were said of them, and more terrible things were true of them. They earned their ill-repute each day of their lives in honest recompense, for they were overfond of cheating and lying and stealing and trespassing their way into infamy. Consequently, no one wished to speak to them, much less do business with them or marry into their family. The patriarch of that family had been warned against breeding his wife at her age. And though he often scoffed at any sort of advice— including a doctor’s advice—he heeded this advice and took it to heart.
He bred his daughter instead, or so his neighbor claimed.
The malformed boy borne from this grotesque union was named Joshua, though most people called him “Mongo” behind his back, for he was, without a doubt, the largest, most ornery Mongoloid anyone had ever seen. Mongo heard this name sometimes, but was partially deaf, and slurred as if he was always drunk, and so he spoke of himself using this name, but mispronounced it as Mondo whenever he spoke. For Mondo spoke of himself in third-person whenever a thought crossed his lopsided brain.
Eventually his name went from Joshua to Mongo to Mondo, and it remained there. Mondo was well known throughout the county. Women and children were admonished to avoid him. Even men feared being near him alone. The towering creature scared everyone. He was a large man-child, an idiot, with a high voice that slurred as if he was always drunk, even when he wasn’t. And he was strong, despite his laziness, and could hurt someone if he was of a mind to. Eventually, Mondo’s father died, and his sister-mother had fled not long after he was born, and so no one remained to take care of him. The people of the county did not know what to do with him. He was a middle-aged man who could not take care of himself. The Bible offered no specifics concerning such a peculiar predicament.
And so Justin Faire— sensing the injustice of the predicament—stepped forward and offered to take Mondo onto his farm as a farmhand. Mondo greeted this offer indifferently, shuffling away with Justin Faire with an impassive blandness on his malformed face. Justin took Mondo to his home. Justin and his sons then built a small shack with nothing more than wood, nails, and a sense of duty to their fellow Man.
“This is your new home, Joshua,” Justin said, for he despised when other people called the imbecile Mondo.
Mondo stared at the edifice indifferently, his gaze wandering toward Justin’s two daughters and his wife.

Over the next month or so Mondo stayed with the Faire family. He did little work on the farm, sitting around and idling by himself. Sometimes he harassed the cows. Sometimes he killed chickens for no reason. And sometimes Mondo eyed Mrs. Faire in a way she did not like, and the daughters, too, but Justin dismissed their concerns, saying, “Charity unburdens the heart, and heavy hearts sink like anchors into the Lake of Fire.”
Mondo had no heavy heart, for he regretted nothing. When Samson, the farm’s dog, ran up to him in an excited state, Mondo kicked the dog so hard that the amiable mutt tumbled over backwards like a wheel and struck the side of the barn. The dog was insensate for a while, but gradually stood and limped away. It took three weeks for Samson to heal. Mondo never did apologize or pet the dog. Instead, whenever he saw the dog his booted foot dug into the ground as if ready to kick the wary mutt again.
Whereas Mondo contributed nothing to the farm, he ate in outsized proportions compared to anyone else, including Justin Faire. The large imbecile could and often did eat a whole chicken by himself. When Justin’s two sons complained, Justin admonished them toward patience.
“He takes much, it is true,” he said, “but he will provide us strong labor when he overcomes the grief of losing his family.”
Justin’s sons were not convinced, nor were his daughters. Mondo sometimes stared up at their window at night, watching them lay down for bed. Justin’s daughters said he never prayed, but only stared at the house like a cat staring at a mouse in the field. Nor did Mondo pray in church with them. He sat in the back pews, or simply walked out during the sermons, preoccupying himself by throwing rocks at birds in the trees near the graveyard. One day Justin discovered Mondo turning over headstones, and knocking them down. Justin chastised him, but Mondo turned an indifferent shoulder to him.
At last, Justin Faire tired of Mondo’s laziness and petulance, realizing that it stemmed not from mourning, but from a lack of regard and a lack of shame. Thus, he doffed his belt and went to take it to Mondo’s backside, hoping that a few lashes with leather would soften the man-child’s contrariness where the lashes of a tongue would not.
Mondo was sitting in the barn, as he often did when he wanted to avoid farm work. He had the farm cat in his arms, and was tightening his arms around the tabby. The cat screeched and clawed to no avail, soon smothered in the Mongoloid’s unfeeling arms.
“I will put the fear of God into you, Joshua!” Justin yelled, at last losing his temper and coming after the idiot like a spirit of vengeance.
Mondo greeted Justin Faire’s wrath as he greeted any other thing done by Man. He ignored it. When the belt came down against his backside he did not flinch, nor cry out in pain, but dropped the dead cat and looked impassively at his caretaker. Standing, he took hold of Justin’s wrist in his fat hands and twisted it until there was a terrible sound like an oak branch breaking. Justin Faire squawked and dropped to his knees. When he tried to free his broken arm from Mondo’s merciless grip, Mondo took hold of that other wrist and broke it as easily as the first. Justin was a strong man, but this pain was severe. He tried to remain conscious, but the agony proved too great. He fainted within moments.

When Justin Faire woke later he staggered out of the barn, sweating and groaning as he staggered over the field toward the house. He came upon the bodies of his two sons— limp and pale upon the ground. Choking back tears, Justin Faire hurried around the house. His two daughters sat together, agog with horror and clutching one another in their trembling arms. Justin saw Mondo atop his wife, rutting like a beast while the latter screamed in terror.
Howling like a wounded wolf, Justin leapt atop Mondo, striking him with his elbows. The imbecile did not grunt or groan or even sigh, but grabbed Justin Faire and wretched him down to his knees, clutching the patriarch’s head between his arms as a man might a sheep soon to be shorn.
Justin wept and raged and fought in utter futility against the fat, unwavering arms of the idiot.
“Why would you do this?!” he cried between clenched teeth. “We took you in! Gave you a home! Food! Clothes! We were as charitable as anyone could be, and now look what you’ve done to us!”
“It ain’t about you,” the idiot said. “Nothing ever was.”
Mondo snapped Justin Faire’s neck and let him fall to the heedless brow of the imbecilic earth.

Flash Fictions

Naive
“There was once a man who believed ardently in Humanism,” her father said. “He believed so utterly in Humanism that he ventured forth into the wild jungle, where it was said man-eating tigers stalked the shadows. He brought with him no protection except several books on Humanism. Once there, he preached to the jungle on the value of a human life, reading from his many books of all the merits of letting humans live and thrive. Many of the tigers passed him by, indifferently. But a few tigers began to gather around him, watching him very intently as he lectured them. He even preached to their cubs, thinking the next generation of tigers would know better than eating human beings, if only they were taught to be Humanists.
“An expedition discovered what remained of him a few weeks later, his bones surrounded by books and his skull’s sockets gaping wide, as if in abject surprise.”
“He was naive,” his daughter said. “He should have known better. Predators don’t care about that stuff when they’re hungry.”
“True,” her father said. “But you, too, should know that you are living in a jungle. That is why I want you to bring more than just books with you to ward off the tigers.”

Zen Breath
It began so simply, as many things do, and it grew unto complexity, like a sheet of paper, blankly white and smooth and flat, now folded into an origami animal. Miyazaki’s anger burgeoned from workaday irritation to blinding rage as he waited in the subway station at Shinjuku. And the irony of the situation was that as he stood waiting, steeped in his own aggravation, he attempted to take a deep, Zen-centering breath and release the rage in dissipation— he really had tried— only for the nearby commuter to breathe out a cloud of cigarette smoke which Miyazaki inadvertently breathed in, coughing uncontrollably while the other commuters stepped away from him; stepped away from him as if he had some fatal airborne illness for which he needed to be quarantined. It was then, as he coughed and cursed and chewed the grudge of that terrible year spent as a twelve-hour-a-day cubicle jockey— it was then that the yokai possessed him, at long last, and drove his fist through the smoker’s heart, tearing its vermilion core out while bystanders screamed and scrambled to flee from the horrific carnage wrought by the long-horned demon that suddenly stood amongst them, glaring with red eyes as he rushed about, in gorilla-fisted fashion, rampaging throughout silver-edged, neon-lit Shinjuku until later that afternoon, killing many people in his wake until finally finding himself at Hanazono Shrine and, by entering it, expelling the demon so Miyazaki could sit down and empty himself of his negative emotions. Indeed, he emptied himself so completely of negative emotions after that terrible indulgence that he transcended the mortal plane and passed on to a higher plane of Enlightenment. Many people, consequently, have since concluded that Enlightenment could be achieved as much through devastating debauchery, excess, and sin as much as through years of abstinence, purification, and meditation. Zen Buddhists and Shinto Priests cannot reconcile themselves either way and, it is feared, many such esteemed personages were denied Enlightenment because of this troublesome anecdote.

Scrambled, Not Over Easy

2019-01-09 13.21.46-1

No one tells you that
while you are lulled in routine,
ungratefully disgruntled by
early Monday morning traffic
and you stop behind other cars
and wait impatiently for someone to turn
that the universe will smack you
on the back of the head
at fifty miles an hour,
telling you
“WAKE THE FUCK UP”
as the car behind you
flips you over,
somersaulting you
with the world atop your
head and
flapjacking your worldview
until you see things more clearly,
even as your eyes loll in their sockets
like Magic 8 Balls
drunk on quantum
uncertainty.
No one tells you that during a
car wreck
your body will scream
involuntarily
while you ride shotgun
in your own head,
eyeing yourself coolly
while shards of glass explode as a
mandorla
all around you
and your body performs interpretive
Jazz Hands
to express the melodrama
for which you are the
embarrassed audience.
They never tell you
that you see everything in
real-time
while
Zen-detached,
as if admiring the Hollywood production
of the dynamic scene of
chaos
in which you are the
happenstance center.
And then, when the car finally slides
to a stop, resting on its roof,
and you are hanging upside-down
like a tangled marionette
from your seatbelt
and everyone is screaming their scripted lines
“Get out!
Get out of the car!”
and you smell gasoline
hemorrhaging out of the
eviscerated underbelly—
no one tells you
that you will feel
embarrassed, like some grandstanding
drama-queen
with an agent desperately gushing
flammable indulgences
trying to land you
gigs.
And so you crawl through
shattered glass and twisted metal,
searching for some lost
lyrics
to a song that was playing before
the impact.
Hopping up to your feet
you are greeted by strangers rushing to
see you
as if you are the most important person
in the upside-down world,
like a Star Baseball Player
striking the home-run to win the game,
only the bat is a car
and the ball is your
head,
adrenaline making a
manic muppet of you,
your limbs trembling wildly as you
stand aside from the aftermath
as if you weren’t at the center of it
and glancing back at your new
compact car
with gasoline threading down
upon a large book,
a Philosophy Encyclopedia
that you glanced through occasionally,
as if in search of the meaning of
Life, and now this scene of
Near-Death
pissing gasoline
all over its platitudes.
And then you look down and see
that you have been jostled, hustled,
shaken down
straight out of your brand new shoes,
walking on coolant-kissed asphalt
in damp Christmas socks
while the paramedics spread around you like
gauze around a bleeding wound,
strapping you down to a board
like a broken leg to a splint
and lifting you into an ambulance,
speeding down the interstate
to take you to the
amniotic surrealism
of the antiseptic,
bleached, blank
ER
where the ritual of
medicine
is conducted between long hours of
waiting and
wondering and
pain, they
discharge you, a healthy
human specimen no longer
interesting, and so no more
in need of their godly powers.

Adjusters are called in,
eventually,
for insurance claims
and skeletal frames,
and the towing company
vultures
swoop in, crouching upon your
ruined car, pecking at your
pockets for more cash,
more life, whatever remains
after the impact
of which you were victim
and they, now, the new
predators.
You feel like the Fool Card
strolling alongside a scenic path
only to be shoved from behind
by the Devil Card
into a gaping gorge
that you could not see before.
Later, after you have sacrificed enough
blood-money
to the vultures
and you retrieve your car,
you find odd things remaining
in the wreckage of
yesterday:
you find “The Fragile”
by NIN,
and
“The Audacity Of Hope”
by Barack Obama
and you find
“Nights From The Alhambra”
by Loreena Mckennitt,
and a collection of HP Lovecraft stories,
and a collection of MR James stories.
Poor Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar
does not survive, but
seeks oblivion as she
always had.
The handgun your father gave you
survives the collapsed
accordion trunk,
but all of your
sissy-ass coconut water cans
have erupted in an orgy to celebrate the
End-Times.
And, with great sadness, you find that your
cheery-cheeked, chubbily-grinning
Bodhisattva
has gone on to Nirvana
at long last,
taking with him his
price tag
which you left on his plastic bottom
for the love of
irony.
And, beyondhand,
comes a day divinely warm
stolen from Winter when
Summer
cheated at a game of
poker,
and you lay in your fiancee’s arms
while she cries and holds you to her
heart
and you think
“How would I like my death?
Scrambled
or over easy?”

Punctuation Marks

Poetry,
for him,
consisted of
impactful observations
which struck sharply upon mortality,
punctuating
like roadkill
here and there
the highway of life
to remind us of the
inevitable
end of the road,
and, so,
provoking our sympathies
for, and from,
what we will all become
as Death’s eighteen-wheeler
eventually overtakes us.

Frayed

This chequered quiltwork life
has many frayed edges and loose seams:
the petty coworker strife,
the disappointed career dreams,
the shivering colds and feverish flus,
the traffic delays going home,
the overtime and the insurance dues,
the snagging, yanking, tearing comb—
all frayed edges and loose seams,
all petty nuisances and annoying frets,
all rotten strawberries and spoiled creams
all lost chances and hopeless bets.
And yet it persists, this tattered thing
held together stubbornly, day to day,
despite the mud spatter and the coffee ring,
the food stains and the flea-bitten stray.
But when you were torn away from me,
so, too, was the cross-stitched heart
of that assemblage, that tapestry,
and it all unraveled, coming apart.