To gamble against that grand extortionist,
as he continues his protection racket,
and to inevitably lose,
exchanging the going rate of
dust and cobwebs,
mildew and mold,
faded paint and creeping cracks,
with the punitive rate of
cinder and ash and crumbling stone
is a hard payout,
especially as beautiful stained glass
melts again into sand
which we cup futilely in our hands.
Time is not only thief,
but judge, jury, and
the repo man,
and to expect anything else
is to expect the sun to rise
at nightfall, the skies
to lay down like the oceans,
and the dead to live once again
to embrace us as in days of old.
Time is our landlord
as well as the vandal.
Criminalize the graffiti
and he becomes an arsonist—
begrudge the insatiable blackmail
and bemoan the black smoke as your
beautiful lady’s soul
wafts darkly into the heavens.
She has gone under the knife
to remove his careless scars
only to be smote by his
And yet, even as Time
ravages with his blade and his fire
we join together,
hand in hand,
to suture tightly the hemorrhaging wound
before it can bleed us dry.
Together we hold each other up
even when the world is burning down.
We cannot hope to conjure again
a cathedral from the ashes,
but we can seek sanctuary
beneath the pediment of the human heart.
Like Quasimodo in mourning
there is a beauty to be found
in so much ugliness.
Charlie, the Chipmunk, was being chased
around the yard by the Rooster, Chanticleer,
and though he scurried with great haste,
he knew he was no fleet-footed hare.
“My time on earth is nearly done,” he cried,
“if I cannot reach my burrow and hide!”
Reynard, the Fox, appeared then, and said,
“Quick! Leap up onto my pointy nose
and I will save you from that feather-head!”
Charlie dithered briefly…then he chose.
“I have decided to let you help me out,”
he said, climbing Reynard’s snickering snout.
Chanticleer saw Reynard, his fabled foe,
and swiftly abandoned chasing Charlie,
turning about on his taloned toe
and fleeing without attempting to parley.
Charlie cheered and began to gloat,
and away he went, down Reynard’s throat.
He thrums a dead druid’s drumbeat
upon the sadly humming heartwood,
the sap dried by the nearby hearth’s heat
while he stares out from the shadow of his hood.
Once upon a time she was a desirable dryad
upon which he could carve no lasting claim,
for her heart was triply-trunked, a branching triad
that grew in many directions without shame.
Throughout the abbey she had ensnared men
with her pink petals and fulsome fruits,
tempting his brothers away from Heaven
and suckling from them with her roots.
Beneath the shadows and the heavy cowl
he smiles sardonically, rapping his knuckles
upon the length of her body—her wooden scowl
etched harsh…deep…as he softly chuckles.
He had not resented her for being a goddess;
rather, he cared little for the souls of others
and he did not care if he was lost or godless,
anymore than had his wayward brothers.
No, she had rejected him, and his rut,
when he came to her to lust unto his fill,
and so he took up an ax and thereby cut
her pale bark so that the red sap did spill.
Now only he remains at that cloistered retreat,
and he takes his time to avenge his wrong,
her heart resounding with the rhythmic beat
of his own hollow, lifeless, unfeeling song.
I cannot reconcile this embarrassing scene
of these two figures whom are both so distinct—
an angel floating overhead, so serene,
and, below, a satyr given to ruttish instinct.
The angel sings of high ideals: poetry and art,
and is an asexual creature that adores the sublime
while also lauding its own enlightened heart
and all whom should wear a halo, in time.
But see the scandalous, horn-crowned satyr
as he frots upon some frothy-legged nymphs;
one after the other, the compulsive fornicator
is frenzied at any intimate glimpse.
The satyr waves to the angel, wryly grinning
and pumping away at the nymphs in repose
and the angel sneers in disdain, brusquely spinning
away as the bestial act comes to a close.
Is this all there is to Man? This conflicted binary
of pretense and impulse in constant friction?
Or do the traits of human inheritance vary
beyond the id and the superego fiction?
How inspiring was Ahab, and how inspired,
like a blacksmith hammering his will upon the sea
as well as upon the hearts of the men he had hired
to work his vessel as he sought his enemy.
He was a master wizard in a captain’s guise,
a leader born to take charge of other men,
steeping them in the vainglorious enterprise
of hunting down the albino leviathan.
What a madness was stamped upon him—
a feverish fury forged from fickle fate,
his leg having been taken by the cruel whim
of some trickster god for mirth of bait.
And to think, his lost leg should so doom
not only Ahab to join it down below
in the salty depths, but all those whom
entrusted themselves to his manic undertow.
He made such a defiant last stand,
propelled by the lingering phantom pain
as he clutched the wheel with a steady hand
and steered his ship, and himself, insane.
So many bodies dragged down to the depths,
like Fallen Angels slain in war with God,
cast from great heights as extinguished seraphs
for the pride of Ahab and the doomed Pequod.
See the weeping cherry willow tree
standing at this rural road’s bend?
Its mournful pink petals bloom free,
yet tremble in an alien April wind.
The bough darkens with distiller’s mold
and an overcast Kentucky sky—
does the tree dream beside this road,
its roots longing for the soil of Sendai?
It dreams as a lost lover whose reminiscences
amidst dandelions and bluegrass
remind that it is a foreigner born by cedar fences
while restless race horses snort and pass.
They are polishing their beloved idols again
from atop their revered ivory towers;
rubbing the gleaming marble skin
and feeling self-important at all hours.
While they polish each illustrious person
and repeat their prayers in sanctimonious halls,
a cynical crack branches like a creeping curse on
the base of the tower—until it crumbles and falls.
They pray to their idols for whatever cures
might be forthcoming in this catastrophe,
and are shocked when their heroic figures
keep their silence with blank-faced apathy.
To polish icons that crown your culture
when you need to tend to the foundation
is to forego the needful until it totters, full sure,
to collapse across the malcontent nation.
Apollo’s light never accomplished half so much
as the engineering flame stolen by Prometheus,
nor is his academic light so warm to the touch
as the Titan’s flame bestowed to free us.
But who wouldn’t rather be Apollo spreading light
instead of a Titan chained to a mountain slab
as a menial vulture takes bite after bite
while complacent gods lounge and gab?
The oily, stinking tool shop of a tinker
accomplishes more than any ivory tower
because it is in the former that a doer and thinker
may forge the turbines to harness true power—
including power from the stagnating breath
of idle gods too preoccupied to help us
as they listen only to themselves, utterly deaf
within the bright—yet cold—halls of Olympus.