Battle Of The Wits

I prefer Saki to Wilde

like a gleeful little child

too busy throughout his day

with the games he likes to play

to eat but in little bites

the sour-sweet dessert delights,

each story packing a punch

that does enough as a lunch

for an intellect in need

of some nourishment to feed,

and, besides, he does not cloy,

being subtle, this choirboy

whose wit prefers not to preach,

but seeks with humor to teach

lessons acerbic, yet smooth,

like a tonic meant to soothe,

yet burns when it’s ingested

to purge someone phlegm-chested.

I hold nothing against Wilde

nor Dorian Gray, so styled

with wit as to be satire

of satire itself, a pyre

in which irony aflame

immolates the author ’s shame —

an enlightenment most quaint

despite its destructive taint

that hounded him in his life

and cost him his lovely wife.

But while both men have now won

readers generations on

and lived the same span of years

while closeted for their fears,

Saki died before such fame

could make or break his strange name.

A sniper ’s gun found him out

in the trenches, at a shout

to snuff out a cigarette

only to die himself, yet

even his death was satire —

for, ere the sniper did fire,

Saki sought to ward the eye

of Death, so none else might die,

but, in so doing, passed from

service, life, till kingdom come.

Saki fought and died in France,

enlisting despite the chance

of the combat and horror

well known in the First World War

whereas Wilde died destitute

in Paris, in ill repute,

not that I blame him for it

or for each close-minded Brit

that despised him for his book

or the astute views he took;

it is just that Saki knew

how to keep just out of view

(save when in a sniper ’s sight

in the early morning light),

but the point is simply this:

Saki did not take the piss.

He loved Britain, in his way,

and fought for it, till the day

he was laid to rest, at last,

which showed that his writing past

was love of life, of folly,

and though sharp, too, was jolly

and he critiqued Britain well

with the tales he had to tell,

proving satire is best done

of what you love most, or none,

for it is, otherwise, spite

and, so, propaganda —trite,

of little substance or worth,

and very little of mirth.

Sharp, witty, and full of love:

thus does writing rise above

the pettiness it records

and thus deserves great rewards.

After all, life is a jest

told with great love, if told best.

Editor’s Note

A good editor sacrifices the
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;
brings down the
slaughterhouse hammer
on the bullish head of
letting the author’s vanity die
so that his stories may live, lest the
juggernaut rampage,
trammeling newborn calfskin
under haughty, overbearing hooves.

Medley Of Rhymes

19th Century Reality Check
Drunken, the servant stumbled down the hall
and sprawled outward amidst the lordly ball.
So much of an uproar came from the fool
that a gentleman challenged him to duel.
“As it please my lord,” he said with a bow,
then proceeded to beat the dandy’s brow.
He broke the gent’s nose and blackened his eye
till the gent yielded with a pleading cry.
The servant then righted himself up, tall,
and glowered at the nobles, one and all.
“You thought yourselves superior,” he slurred,
“but now you can see the truth, by my word.
You think you can command us with your names,
but what happens when we tire of your games?”
He pointed at the gent weeping on the floor
and drummed his barrel chest, wide as a boar.
“Mark you, fools, a beast of the savanna
whereas you’re but cats on the verandah!”
He then stumbled out of that regal house,
having taught prideful cats to fear the mouse.

The Graeae (Professional Critics)
Oh, these critics three
passing one eye between them,
two thus blind in three
as they clutch at the one’s hem
and beg for guidance
while they look in jaded turns
and oft deride sense
for sake of what thereby earns
an eye passed again
as if good taste came, not sight,
with an eye plopped in
while in caves yet lacking light.
They cannot see much
in caves so dark with conceit,
each one out of touch
beneath the columns of Crete
and fighting for views
from the fickle, rolling eye,
blind to changing hues
in a new day’s dawning sky.

Clubfoot In Mouth
Lord Byron, that conceited bastard,
always had to put in the last word
like the boot to the head
of a corpse before abed,
but even that was a gaff
from which the corpse might laugh,
the clubfoot striking as befits
a club and foot dull to the wits
it disdained with tragic toes
as belike a nib, bent, that flows,
for he was, after all, an aristocrat
and, consequently, a pissy brat
born among pretentious elites
and despising Middle class Keats
and deriding him for dying from
a “bad review”, a conclusion dumb
and disregarding the acute thrombus
that had killed his brother, Thomas,
to whom Keats tended in bravery
while Byron committed knavery,
his sense of Art so narrowminded
that he was himself all but blinded
to the trends beyond his own,
like a dog chewing an old bone,
or a coxcomb nibbling his sole
swollen yet swallowed whole.
There is no doubt about it—
Lord Byron was a little piece of shit,
and as for the Little Ice Age’s start
it began, no doubt, in his heart.

Master Trappers
Some are ambushed from within
by their genetic booby-traps.
Some say, “Original Sin
is the reason for such mishaps.”
But it’s best to think these traps
inborn, waiting, like lightning rods—
and listen as the thunder claps
like snares set and sprung by cruel gods.

Earn The Urn
Ashes to ashes, all to burn
in a clay jar or porcelain urn,
and so the hours of accruing wealth
amount but to a heap of self
dissolute of its former worth
much as before its earthly birth,
and so some dwell in the bottle
to drink away the days they have got till
interred within the selfsame glass
through which their precious hours did pass,
whereas others to cubicle cages
are confined by career stages
and yet others choose to be free,
letting ashes blow across the sea.
As for me, do what you feel you must
since all empires aspire to dust
and earth become a gigantic urn
for the things we think we earn.

Echoes Lost

There was a monk who lived by himself, cloistered in the high mountains. Where the mountains existed does not matter; everywhere, nowhere, it does not matter. What matters is that every day the monk ventured down into the timberline and rummaged for his food— mushrooms, nuts, berries, and dandelions—and every day he fetched water from a limestone well in the cave where he slept. This was how he lived. This was all he knew. It was enough.
The monk was an ascetic in his isolation. The only belongings he possessed were his robe, his straw mat, and the bucket with which he drew water from the well. He lived for decades by himself, nor did anyone deign to visit him, for no one knew he lived in the mountains. His only conversations were with his echoes in the well. These conversations were very one-sided, but the truth was that he was unsure which side these conversations actually took place on. He listened as much as he talked, for the well echoed with his words. It was very much like a form of meditation, for through the echoes he could see how he was, himself, an extension of the world, and see how the world was indeed an extension of himself.
The monk was not a solipsist, but he was a philosopher, and a poet, and the theologian of his own religion. His philosophy was very wise, his poetry very beautiful, and his religion very true. In fact, the monk’s religion was the truest religion ever known upon the earth, besides the self-correcting religion known as Science. The monk could not abide falsities, and so his religion had to be irreproachably truthful. If it had not been, he would not have abided it. He would not have believed anything at all.
Sometimes the monk spoke for hours into the well, lecturing the well so the dark hole could in turn lecture the monk. It was as if the earth itself was revealing its heart to him, and all of its secrets. At other times the monk would be silent for weeks and listen to the winds talk amongst themselves, carrying word from around the world like a gadfly-gossip. He appreciated, too, the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks, the howling of wolves and even the growling of bears. Whether fierce or funny, all conversations were his to learn from. Therefore, there was much to listen to, even when isolated in the mountains.
But however much he learned and lectured, the monk was mortal and, in one especially cold winter, he passed away. No one knew what his religion was, or what he had heard in the wilderness, nor the heart of the earth and its unburdened secrets. Not even an echo remained of him, spiraling up from that deep silent well. Why, then, does this monk matter? Does he matter, or was his life simply another Koan— the deferral of meaning?

There was an oni that lived in the mountains. He did not like humans, but he had grown accustomed to hearing the monk talk. In fact, the oni lived in the well, and sometimes he played tricks on the monk, altering with his own voice the echoes that rose up in return to the monk. It was not that the oni was spiteful, nor that he really wished to deceive the monk. It was only a bit of mischief to pass the time, and the monk seemed contented with the echoes that rose up to meet him. The oni had lived for thousands of years. He knew about humans, and he knew about the material world. Long ago he had nearly become a Bodhisattva, but turned away from the Path after succumbing to baser impulses. He had also traveled the world, and had learned many religions and their various facets of Truth. Thus, he had imparted the monk’s words with real truths about the earth, and about mankind. He lied, yes, by falsifying the monk’s voice and throwing his voice with words not the monk’s own, but he spoke truths among those words. His echoes, thus, were true insomuch as they spoke to the Truth.
When the monk died, the oni wept for a year. His voice echoed out of the well and rumbled in the mountains. His voice became as thunder and his tears became as rain. The storm of his grief brewed over the mountains for a long time. Yet, no one visited the mountains, so no one heard him or his grief. When he had finished grieving, the oni left the well and took his echoes with him. No one knew the oni had existed in the well— not even the monk whom the oni mourned. Why, then, does the oni matter? Does he matter or was his life simply another Koan—the deferral of meaning?

There were mountains that were somewhere, or perhaps nowhere at all. They may have been, or may never have been. A monk may have lived among them, and an oni may have also, or they may not have. There may have been echoes in the deep bosom of the earth. Or there may not have. Yet, of them this was written, and writing is but the echoes of things that may or may not have been. Why, then, does writing matter? Does writing matter, or is it all simply another Koan—the deferral of meaning?

Why Poetry?

Because when poetry is good
it is as a fairy-haunted wood
full of shadows and foxfire
which burns in glade, thicket, and mire
and fireflies in hinted flashes
while, at a distance, lightning crashes
and rain coos its gentle music
along the canopy, its dew thick;
because the wood is known, yet wild
and I wander as an elfin child
in want of magic and insight
between the gloom and the bloom of light
that sparks with such breathless surprise
and wakes the mind as it blinds the eyes;
because it is, too, the splinter
caught neath the fingernail, and Winter
blowing cold through the frosted trees
to bring famine to all families,
and it is the pookah, so crazed
it trammels its rider till glazed,
it is the wendigo, hungry,
and the charlatan, his tongue free
to charm off the chastity belt
of the princess whose soft heart doth melt
at the gold song of a cuckoo
and then her own song: that of “boo-hoo…”
It is the dagger in the bed
as she cradles so gently his head,
it is the will o’ the wisp aglow
to lead astray another John Doe;
because it heals us when we die
each day of our lives, wondering Why?
And it resurrects us anew
when the woes of the world hack and hew
at our hearts, our bodies, our minds,
gutting us like fruits unto rinds;
it helps us to understand ourselves,
and our feelings, those tectonic shelves
hidden away in our secret depths
whose quakes come with our quickening breaths
while we seek the words of solace
to shelter against pains that toll us
in an old crumbling barn’s facade
against the wrath of a jilted god.
Because it is innate, this need;
as inborn as to breathe and bleed,
and we know no better way
to heat the night and to cool the day
with but few of the choicest words,
nor how better to compete with birds.

Word Salad

There are cockroaches scurrying
in the jumbled salad bowl
of the midnight special,
unashamed within the neon light
of this downtown diner.
Do not try to persuade me
that they are almonds
as the other patrons praise the chef
and vomit profusely on the counter.

Trifecta Defectum

Social Change
You can tongue the wound
all day long,
stitching sound bites and sassy truths
along the
bleeding, pus-profuse threshold
and yet the hemorrhaging and the pain
will always overflow.
Unless you are a surgeon
scraping away at the
necrotic flesh
and excising the
multiplying tumors
and suturing the anemic veins,
you are merely talking the patient
to death.
Change takes wars
and bloodshed
and transfusions of power,
not wagging tongues that
French-kiss the damage
in humanity with a
cannibal’s love.
Surgeons and soldiers
are the same:
they are both butchers of Man
and from their butchery
comes the cosmetic change of the world
in all of its dubious, scar-tissue progress.

A Lesson Learned While Reading T.S. Eliot
Good poetry should not be
a door slammed shut
in the face,
its interior glimpsed only through
an ivy-curtained window
while standing upon large stacks of
pretentious tomes
thick with erudite esoterica
idiosyncratically selected and
covetously curated;
no, good poetry must be
open to everyone, inviting
so long as you take the time
to tour freely
while its house spirits
crouch in corners, waiting
to be discovered along
retreaded passageways,
bodies buried beneath the floorboards,
and even a dungeon, if need be,
where tormented emotions dwell
in Gothic pretenses,
or a labyrinth of learning
that spirals vertiginously downward
below the solid foundation—
the point is
to let readers in
at the base level
without an exclusive invitation.
It is up to them how
deep they delve
and how many ghosts they rile up
from the dark, dusty depths of that
multistoried retreat.

Stepping into this circle-jerk café of
makes me want to take a salt shower,
and not the
bukkake kind
that little Miss Instagram is taking
as she uses the stylish turnstile
for a stripper cage,
blocking the entrance with her
social media presence.
So many others here, too, with their
generic cup of Joe-poetry
and when everyone is both barista
and customer
keeping tabs on each other is more a
tit-for-tat business obligation
than a genuine passion.
They cum and go,
laboriously yanking each other’s
only to get themselves off
for the creamer in their coffee,
because otherwise the drink is too
bitter, this wake-up call to reality too
wherein everyone is a
and so no one is.
Against the wintry emptiness
of anonymity
everyone huddles inside
to keep warm, basking in
self-serving attention.
for being such a hot trend
it has only left me curiously

Poems About Poems

Slam “Poetry”
without latitude,
like a star leeching
only to die
in the stage-lit sky.
Showing a lot of sass
and growing to critical mass—
appeal by keeping it real
as to how you feel,
a plastic feel, a scenery meal
of emotions with the drama
overlarge, yet small—a diorama.
Overrated while masturbated.
Your slam doesn’t jam
except like jellied ham.
It’s Instagram spam,
flimsy flimflam.
Anyone can rhyme,
given some luck,
given some time,
given a fuck,
but the scheme
and the theme
have more to score
than a mediocre meme.
Wade out of the shallows,
fade out from the tallows,
parade out to the gallows
and try to hang
with my gang
of poets, of know-its,
before you blow bits.
Show some class
even when wiping your ass,
because the masses
can give only so many passes
to the pretentious
before they lynch us.
Try to understand
that even in Wonderland
you are undermanned
with whatever word-rhyme
allows meaning and flow,
without catching, like birdlime,
to halt you as you go.
There is always a speed limit
for someone of a dim wit—
you are only veering left and right
with one headlight,
like a car on slick roads
while sliding on toads
come out to feel the rain
and listen to the thunder,
not of applause
as you blunder,
but of a worthy cause.
And while you seem to know
how to put on a show,
that foghorn sure does blow
every time you roshambo
for your petty tugboat row.

Rupi What’s-Her-Name
A confection of
colorless cotton candy
substance and sophistication
and sold popularly to
sweet-tooth instagram sycophants
from a mollycoddled generation
longing for safe spaces away from the
carnival grotesqueries
of life.
Put her cotton candy words
in your mouth
and they dissolve precipitously;
easily digested, for there is nothing
of substance
in their wispy conceits.
Eaten and forgotten
upon the same instant,
nothing lingering as an
nothing to chew
as it
vaporizes vapidly
on the malnourished palate.

Soap opera soapbox antics
and papier mâché frailty,
the outsized pinata of an
easily busted heart
spilling suicide notes
written on Starbucks napkins.
Before you go hang your
Emo effigy
from a church’s belfry,
Your pity-party has got the
Fire Marshall
Mellow out the melodrama
and the melancholy
you melon-headed colic baby.
You treat your podium as if it was a
chopping block
and every time you step up to it
the greatest tragedy is taking place.
Your persecution complex is less
and more
What are you a martyr for?
Who isn’t?
Cupid has made a
St. Sebastian
out of everyone, whereas
some of us wear the quills like wings
to ascend the past
and you act like a canary in a collapsing coal mine,
but you are just high on your own
You don’t have a broken wing,
only a
compromised spine.

The Patronizing Patronage Of Alfred Prufrock

I have pinpointed the precise problem
with the poetry of
TS Eliot
and it is in his lack of confidence,
which is to say, his ego, his
for he overcompensates his
with self-aware learning,
bastardizing natural
with stilted posturing to impress,
like a painting by
da Vinci
framed in a gaudy gold neon lit
ready to ironically flush itself down.
Being a poet primarily of
he was an Anglophile,
as are most,
and being dissatisfied with his
Missouri roots
he lopped off his dandelion head
so the fragmentary seeds could drift
across the salty Atlantic
and settle on the isle of Albion
where he would renounce America’s
rough-spun Plebeian quilt
for a Patrician’s patronizing banner.
It was his lack of confidence
that spurred him toward his
adoptive homeland,
seeking Anglican angels
to sing him to sweet surrender,
trading a mongrel empire on the rise
for a purebred, dying one.
He was a
Hipster gigolo
fucking an old aristocratic socialite
beyond her prime,
yet still proud enough to taunt his
flaccid inferiority complex
as he withdrew from her primly preened
all the while ejaculating profuse
And for what?
A wasteland of would-be
between himself and his
tea-teetotaling, modernist pubmates,
all of them condescending
and yet Eliot being so smart
as he admittedly was
being also self-aware enough
to know he was a joke to them,
a novelty from
and desperately seeking approval
due to his colonized mind.
But he was never really accepted
for going Native.
Woolf conflated him as
alien to her as an
for all the difference it made
while riding her waves of
And I pity him,
for he never loved himself,
not really,
as he sought acceptance on
foreign shores
like Boudica if she had
betrayed herself
for the sake of Britannia.
He applied a stress-test
to fracture poetry to many facets
only to be fractured
Like any true-born English intellectual
he preferred the language of
or the pretense of it, anyway,
but failed to be
embarrassed of his own
Britishness, too busy being embarrassed
by his Americanness.
If not for Academics
equally insecure as Eliot himself
and thus seeking a sense of worth
in a world indignant and derisive
toward their pretenses…
if not for Academics
entombed in their ivory towers
and peeking through ivy curtains
to scoff at the Plebeians down below…
If not for Academics
peddling codas and ciphers
for his esoteric babble
then Eliot would never have been
but a scornful footnote, at best,
in the annals of Poetry.
See here how I kick his
and yet it remains aloof and insular and
masturbatory and cryptic?
This is the best poetry the
could muster,
and would have been better
with his newfound silence,
or at least that is what this
simple Kentucky boy
tends to think
after having attempted once
to cut his own roots
and drift to far shores.