Handful Of Poems

Allusion

A Russian nesting doll,

all of literature,

one within one within all—

no books writ were so pure.

Take, for instance, Roland,

a childe of Charlemagne,

oliphant in reluctant hand

blown always in refrain.

To the tower he came

in rhymed verse, or pulp prose,

a changed man, yet also the same

neath that tower’s shadows.

And as an old king leers

and giants gather in range,

the dreamer sheds his close-eyed tears,

for nothing seems to change.

Prayer (Lip) Service

They speak as if to inspire

(or at least to pay lip),

but when closer to true fire

the wax begins to drip,

dribbling each empty prayer

in small puddles and wicks,

smoky, evanescent air

and melting candlesticks.

Moral Compass

When was worth ever worth the knowing

but of sails when the wind is blowing?

What good the ale or good the weather

if stout trust is not shared together?

When was honesty worth its value

but when the crew slanders what is true?

What depths have the seas, crest to abyss,

when plunged with friendship, ever amiss?

What was vigilance from up on high

but the crow’s nest and a watchful eye?

What was a purpose against the odds

but wheel and rudder defying gods?

When was one’s character worth its test

but in the tumult of the tempest?

When was integrity worth its salt

but in the hull, made strong and gestalt?

What fears come forth from the wide ocean

when hearts swell with stronger emotions?

People will speak storms just to wreck ships—

may you never sink by briny lips.

Dragnets

Fling out the dragnets of thought

to draw up what’s forgotten,

corpses bygone and ill-got

with their substance all rotten;

seine through the insanity

to catch clusters of regrets,

envy, lust, and vanity—

the small bait which soon begets

larger hauls, each dragged upward:

pride, wrath, gluttony and greed,

all of which have so suppered

in accordance to the breed.

Drag up!  Drag up! Hoist them high!

Like the sharks of some sea hunt

being raised now, eye to eye—

not a publicity stunt.

They thrash, they growl, they bite,

dead yet their instincts remain

to attack as if they might

bring back all the repressed pain.

So drag the nets, haul them up,

and bring me the bodies now—

wring from them their sour syrup

and shotgun blasts to each brow.

Unrequited

Unrequited love is a
kikimora,
a chaff creature coming in through a
locked keyhole,
reluctant to leave
as it sits heavy upon the chest,
spinning flax into the
come-hither thread
for our heartstrings
while we lay motionless,
paralyzed beneath her.
In the morning we see her
wet footprints
and know the tears she sobs profusely
as our own;
we know, too, to whom
such footprints lead.
How bitter her cellar haunt
as she cocoons herself in the shadows
of the past,
delegated to the dark corners
of our homes
until night returns
with its straw-doll ghost
of what never was
and what never could have been.
She is a hollowed thing
made of winnowed straw
blown in from the golden fields of
tempestuous youth,
never expelled
and never truly free.

Dog-Gone

(Dedicated to Wolfen, who deserved better)

There is too much failure in flesh and bone
to mete the measure of a dog’s faith
and so when death leaves me alone
I tread through woods in search of his wraith.

What is that shade following from behind
that I scarce glimpse but in twilit gray?
The best friend I will never again find—
gone, too soon, and missed every day.

It must be true, I believe, that if heaven exists,
all dogs are Assumed into its celestial ranks,
but I also know that in Death’s parting mists
I may well find myself on infernal banks.

Truly, my greatest sin was to a friend
whose sin was to love one unworthy of love
and if I meet him again, at the very end,
his heart will decide if I go below or above.

It is a cruel joke that Man should enchain
as if he does not, himself, need to be fettered;
we think ourselves lords over this fickle plane,
but only by a dog’s love are we bettered.

Let me repeat this, so there is no doubt—
a dog might treat any devilish man so well
as a god in life, but when that man’s life runs out
there is no place for him but in Hell.

Regrets

Oftentimes I wear my regrets like an
Iron Maiden
to drive home the many points
in my life
when I did as I ought not to have,
or did nought at all,
so the regrets can pierce to the
heart
of many matters,
reminding me with penetrating
insight
to do things differently next time,
and, so, this fanged clamp of
memory
can galvanize as well as
immobilize,
rendering me bloodless, but also
fearless,
for if I regret enough
my threshold of pain broadens
until I no longer fear to roll into the
thorn bushes
of new situations,
whereas if I were to flinch away
from the bloodletting possibilities
I might simply fling myself into
the lurking thorns unseen on the
peripheries,
anemic as a blue-blooded
prince
in regicidal Denmark,
weighted down with his callow
indecision.
And so I crawl through the
deadfall
of my yesteryears
knowing that sometimes the only
closure
we can have for our regrets
is the many scabs
sealing over the wound,
ready to break open
and bleed anew.
You’ve made your bed
of nails,
now lie in it.
Yes,
the bite stings strongly with the
familiar fangs
of my own bear-traps.
I have honed them myself
through a lifetime of brooding
with whetstone relentlessness.
For what are regrets
if not
hunting traps
we set so intentionally
for ourselves?

How Things Pan Out

Washing a pan that was more hope than gold
in a waterfall’s pellucid stream,
he was bent and tired and wasting old,
chasing the elusive American Dream.

He sighed aloud, unhappy with his yield,
the pan but silt and flint and rock,
and a young man approached from afield—
a jolly fop stopping by for a talk.

“Why so glum?” the young man asked.
The old man answered, “In all my many dawns
I have yet to find one golden that basked
in a sunrise, or blessed by Leprechauns.”

The young man glanced up the mountain
and saw the waterfall’s mist-borne cataract.
“There is your rainbow, that pretty fountain
as lovely as any Fairy’s golden contract.

“For poetry is the thing that enriches a man,”
the young man continued to say with a smile,
“and rainbows and beauty and all which can
inspire the spirit— that is what is worthwhile.”

The old man did not look up, not a span,
and continued sifting water over mud and silt,
gaining nothing in his old rusty pan—
not even pyrite, or such half so gilt.

Cursing, the old man smacked the stream
with the traitorous pan that denied him,
then glanced up at the foppish fool of a man
that smiled obliviously beside him.

“Can I buy food with rainbows?” he said,
“Or shelter, or clothes, or a doctor’s care?
“Listen to me, and let this settle in your head
like a dragon on his hoard.” His eyes did flare.

“You will understand more about real needs
when you are older, and by then it will be too late,
because the foolhardiness of youth only leads
to squander and squalor, for that is a man’s fate.

“You speak as if rainbows were themselves
something substantial to bridge empty air,
but they are things conjured by Youth’s elves,
so try walking those colors, if you dare.

“My complacency is as silt washed away
and all that remains are material dreams—
small, it is true, as bits gathered day by day
as I dig the darkness for whatever gleams.”

The old man said no more, standing with his back bent,
and grabbed his bucket, his pan, and his pickax,
walking toward a ragged, moth-eaten tent
where he rummaged for food amidst dirty sacks.

He sat down and ate from a bowl of gruel,
his face devoid, like a hopeless slave’s,
then took up his tools, being his own pack mule,
and walked uphill again, toward the caves.

The young man watched the old man ascend
and vowed never to be such a sad-looking man,
but his high dreams, too, came to nothing in the end
except a few bits of gold in a rusty pan.

Passion, Regret, Distraction

Lapping River
The warm rainstorm rushes
into the wanton lap of a valley,
and the hot river gushes
as Springtime passions rally.

Alluvial
The words of your love spill
like a quenching flood,
but after the brimming thrill
your heart is but silt and mud.

Thirst
My sweet sake cup,
your selfless sacrifice—
how you fill me up,
emptying yourself of vice.