They only thought in black and white
while their world bled a crimson red
like newspapers tumbling at night
down an alleyway awash in light
and heaped with the bleeding dead.
Ambition beyond his small size,
the salamander dreamt of a hoard
whose vast spillage would fill his eyes
as he scurried beneath grate and board.
Ofttimes his fire-coiled tail fell free
as he flitted fleet-footed therefrom
fierce fireplace and hot-breathed chimney,
wishing to think such his fate to come:
a wish to breathe fire and puff smoke,
to be cobbled thick with scales like stones,
to tower taller than an oak
and to be strong with hard timber bones;
as chimney and cottage so that
wizards and warriors would all fear
to hear him, as he feared the cat
when that sly huntress came stalking near.
And so he thought gold the measure
whereby he would grow to dragon size;
gold wherein he’d lounge in leisure,
knowing himself grown monstrous likewise.
For a mountain of gleaming gold
had a magic to transform all things;
as if magic cauldrons of old
that could transpose paupers into kings.
One day such were his golden dreams
to find mountains of coin to covet
when a man split his pocket seams
and a landslide of coins rained from it.
The salamander gathered fast
the coins to the fireplace, just below
the grate—a mountain thus amassed
where fire and gold could both gleam and glow.
A hoard of gold! A dragon’s den!
He lounged among his golden tender
as if changed by a magician
to a dragon in all his splendor.
And though he was as yet so small
as to be crushed by a careless heel
he felt he towered over all:
he felt how a real dragon must feel.
Wildeflowers have never bloomed so gay
as they had bloomed thus for Dorian Gray
and yet with the open bloom came, too, doom,
for it had birthed him from his own secret tomb.
Like Achilles mourning his dead “friend”
he sought himself and fate to his own end;
to be sincere requires sacrifice,
your own or the world (a small part will suffice)
and it means blooming from furrowed turf
fertile with corpses buried in the earth—
corpses of the old, prejudiced ways
to beautify with flowers the coming days.
Sometimes I cannot help but wonder
at Man’s cunning to multiply the dead,
but then I hear the rolling thunder
and see the lightning branching overhead
and, in a flash, see thousands thus slain,
knowing then the absolute blinding fear
of a god whose vast, fulgurous brain
is less Christ, more Holocaust engineer
with the power of electric chairs
flashing along thunderous synapses;
enough to kill whole towns unawares
while the god’s good temper ebbs or lapses.
And yet, why does such a god refrain
when death can be wrought quickly as thought can?
Note, the generous falling rain—
perhaps gods are as bipolar as Man.
I have oft slain myself
with many leisure hours
spent idle on a shelf
while my dear dream sours—
squandered much in repose
when I might have else gained
much more, or so it goes,
had I not thus refrained,
and in wasting the hours
wasted myself in course
and whatever powers
of mine might provide force
to propel with the stream
of my goals and desires,
profligate unto dream
while my dull life expires.
So many my phases
spent sawing my own thread—
sawing my thread with wear
as Atropos raises
her scissors as fated
to spur strident regret
as I see the frayed seams
and how I also whet
Death with layabout schemes,
for languid was my mode
when ample time blessed me,
but now that I grow old
I am no longer free
to seek diversion for
lounging as I so please,
but must face Death’s black door
and the chill in Fall’s breeze.
I who have taken day
and made a dull, dim thing
of every sunray
that could crown me a king
with the riches of Time,
(a precious rare tender)
rather than this crime
as my own self-lender
and never to be repaid
as the mortgage grows more
with debt indolence made,
for I am a turncoat
against my own season,
a suicide whose note
was slow in its treason.
Hark! The clock strikes again
as day drains to the lees—
it is a mortal sin:
suicide by degrees.
Whenever Earl’s hapless love life
suffered a dry spell,
he found himself a willing wife
in a bourbon cocktail,
and if she ever gave him lip
he would give it in turn,
kissing her cool glass for a sip
to taste true love’s sweet burn.
Earl thought they were a perfect match,
at least for his own taste.
When sad he tossed her down the hatch,
fingers tight on her waist
while he wobbled a wayward dance
that filled him with drunk glee
as he spilled her down his good pants
and fell down, all dizzy.
It was a Mint Julep, his drink,
and some made fun of it,
but he never cared what drunks think—
he never cared a spit.
While other men drank Black Label
and the women drank beer,
Earl drank Mint Juleps, when able,
meanwhile having to hear
people mock him in the tavern
for his “lily liver”
each patron eager at a turn
to sing him downriver.
Their many nights out together
were always rough-and-tumble,
whether in fair or foul weather
he would often stumble,
and often he would come home late
with a black eye in pairs
from when his ice-and-sugar date
had thrown him down some stairs.
Still, no matter how rough and wild
each party and its fight
they were nonetheless reconciled,
sharing a bed at night—
a wet bed at night, all soaked through
as he cuddled her close,
sipping at her minty green dew
for a lullaby dose.
Throughout the years Earl’s love affair
with Mint Juleps was strong;
though he was mocked, he did not care
and drank it all day long.
You see, it was a favorite
of Francine, his late wife,
so he wanted to savor it
now and always in life,
for it reminded him of her,
of the first girl he kissed—
first kiss, first and only lover,
the girl he loved and missed.