Fighting Shadows

Upon the wall hang two deer mounts,
their heads crowned proudly in their prime,
harts once at war on bad accounts;
both shot at the same place, same time.
The candles flicker as they burn,
casting shadows around the room,
and the antlered shades fight in turn
as the deer did before their doom.
Back and forth their dark shadows go,
thrusting their crowns at their rival
even though dead in the dim glow
where vengeance seeks vain revival.

Idle Mind

Think of a hummingbird
with badly clipped wings,
its flightless heart still stirred
with its flutterings,
yet unable to flap
ten times a second,
due to some strange mishap
not quite yet reckoned.
That’s how an idle brain
lingers in disuse,
slowly going insane,
failing to work loose
the taut sinews of thought
with breaststroke motions,
its stagnant neurons wrought
with inert notions.
It cannot drink nectar
from a flower bloom,
staying in its sector
while other birds zoom
here and there in the field,
flower to flower,
their fast-beating hearts thrilled
with Summer’s power.
Meanwhile the clipped bird stays,
unable to fly,
caged until its last days—
sad, longing to die.

Stygian Dyer

The black clouds drag like threadbare cloth
frayed upon the night’s washboard sky,
stained by the brew of a witch’s broth
and the ancient crone’s milk-moon eye.
Crook-fingered oak trees stir the froth
and work the rags as hoarse winds sigh,
shaking, incensed, becoming wroth
as clouds unravel in the dye.

The Goblin Maiden

Behold the great goblin maiden
with her sharp nose spiraling round,
her ears long and her head laden
with curly white hair to the ground.
Her laughter is not like a harp
and her voice is not sweet honey;
her skin is green, her teeth are sharp,
and her large yellow eyes runny.
She does not enjoy any fruit
nor the fragrance of perfumed oil,
her nose is like a long taproot
seeking worms beneath the dark soil.
She snacks on fat bugs like bonbons
and slumbers in a bed of withe,
awaiting the oncoming dawns
in a swamp swarming with her kith.
Although no knights seek her green hand,
they seek her when upon their quest
through the soggy, boggy upland
to pierce her hungry-hearted breast,
for she steals the false hearts of men
with her glamor, cunning, and guile,
plucking the crimson meat out when
enchanting their greed with each wile,
with each pile of gold and gemstones
mined from deep beneath the peat bog
where men shrink to leather-bagged bones
and phantoms swirl in the pale fog.
Yet, come knights, come kings, come all priests:
they shall fail, shall fall, are thus slain
and gutted, in turn, like dumb beasts
in this butcher maiden’s domain.
For what are her truest treasures
except the skulls of foolish men?
What are her keenest of pleasures
except hearts overripe with sin?

Bureaucracy

Is not the act of filing paperwork
like a pagan ancestor
sticking his trembling hand into the
stony mouth
of a giant idol and praying
(with sweat-salted lips)
that the rains will come
and the food will be plentiful?
Did not our pagan ancestors quiver,
not knowing whether that
stone-silent mouth
would answer their gestures of faith
with modest blessings
or whether it would remain
cold, quiet,
unstirred by pious pleas?
I stick my hand into the mouth of
bureaucracy
and pray,
wondering if it will
grant my meager prayers
or whether it will
bite off the hand offered
to slake its bottomless throat
as countless others queue behind me…

WB Yeats

Was it a matter much discussed
among those feisty Fates,
a man over which they oft fussed—
that poet who was Yeats?
Symbols all hold sacred power,
or so he oft professed,
from Gyre to Wheel to the Tower,
all icons were thought blessed,
granting to the conjurer’s art
the skill to summon verse
that conveys from a mind and heart
songs for bards to rehearse.
Ireland has had its word-weavers
in days of yore and lore,
but the Fates were true believers
when they emptied their store
into their Fae cauldron to brew
this man of Tarot sight
whose poetry embodied true
the Emerald Isle’s rite.