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

2019-08-10 04.56.39

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.

 

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.