Be-Leaf

Arbor Arbiters
What fickle gardeners all gods be
that punish by pruning the young stem
for the trespass of the ancient tree
even as fruit is offered to them.

Daphne
How inert thy heart be now in repose
beneath the reign of his luminous love,
having been chased from out of thy maiden clothes
and thus sheltering with leaves above.

Was it stench of blood billowing outward
like snake wherefrom all prophecies were spilled
or was it thought of Apollo’s touch that spurred
thy limbs harden so as to not yield?

Victory was thine, of dubious sort,
in laurel leaves crowned with thy frightful flight
and crowning all whom of Olympian sport
competed for favor in his light.

But I also wonder if since thou grow
with thy crown proffered to the light to tease
thy pursuer with what he would never know,
are not thou like other trees?

By No Other Path

(An atheist’s advice for believers)

You think that upon your earthly death
you will exhale at last your final breath
and sprout from your ghost the angelic wings
to carry you aloft, to the King of Kings,
but with whom you count yourself there among
depends on how well you climbed each rung
of the burning ladder that leads to Heaven
during your life, enduring the Seven.
You cannot fly high by flapping tongues,
but must give with open hands to take the rungs—
by giving up your all with selfless alms
and bearing the wounds of Christ upon your palms;
for it is a burning ladder you must ascend,
each rung a Hell before your End.

Beneath His Habit

Beneath his habit there was hidden
what, in his gospels, he preached against—
a body beset, disease-ridden,
for which he so shivered and coughed and winced.

Beneath his collar there grew like weeds
a cancer of the throat, so like libel,
and down below his rosary beads
his lungs were black as a brand new Bible.

While he spoke to save each lamb-like soul
in the rapt congregation of his church
there was an irreparable hole
in his heart—literal, which made it lurch.

And there were blood clots, each quite swollen,
in his arteries, clogging the relay,
and there were polyps in his colon,
lined like pews in a church, ripe with decay.

He read aloud tales from the good book
of his Lord, and how He might spite us,
his fingers trembling, stiff at each crook,
and thorn-ringed with a flaming arthritis.

His frail body was the tale of Job,
each youthful blessing stripped wholly away
until only faith filled up his robe,
forcing fickle flesh through another day.

Love became his words, and creed his sight,
while pain became his altar boys and choir;
as he spoke of faith, his lips were white
and he smelled of Death beneath his attire.

But he felt akin at last to Christ
as he hung tormented upon the cross,
knowing faith means being sacrificed
to prove one’s faith, through its gain and its loss.

Speaking of the paradise to come
he became so passionate and pious
as to feel faint, his arms and legs numb
while he toppled down upon the dais.

Thus he fell, and thus his flock mistook
his death as evidence of their god’s wrath,
averting their eyes, so as to look
for some other means—an easier path.

Medley

Viewing
Most human thought is
best left unseen, like a closed
casket funeral.

Prayers
Never had he once prayed for rain
to strengthen the crops in any field;
but to mock the tears of the slain
and drown the graves of the men he had killed.

The Sailor’s Curse
“Cranky Christ on a crook’d cross
wi’ a crotch full o’ itchin’ crab!”
he said after tasting her special fish sauce.
She punched him in his belly flab,
at which he was at a complete loss.
She said to him, “Watch ‘er goddamn gab!”

The Biggest Predator
The twin seastacks rose from the salivating surf,
pale, jagged sandstone towering above the earth,
and through the frothy ocean, like a tongue between,
the ghost of the world that was could be seen
in the backwash waves that thrashed up and fell away,
terrible creatures swarmed within the spittle spray—
they tore at one another within a bloody tide,
bickered and bit, fought and fed and died,
all dissolving within those tumultuous waves,
even the largest among them but simple slaves,
for they were the feast and the furor of Mother Nature
who devours all creatures, despite her nomenclature.

Simple-Minded Stories
Rinse and condense—
no space on the
bumper sticker
for nuance or context;
black and white bullet points should proliferate
but reiterate only one thing:
we good, they bad.
Let me tell you a farfetched fairytale
easy enough for a child to follow:
Once upon a time
in a faraway kingdom
we good,
they bad.
The end.
People throughout history have loved such
tribalistic myths,
but I fail to follow the bandwagon.
The stakes are so high,
yet the plot so thin
and the characters dehumanized
beyond any personality.
I cannot suspend disbelief
as the contrivances compound
in the lazy storytelling.
Here’s a truer story
with more substance to it
than the cliche plot
that has been told again and again
throughout history:
Once upon a time
some people thought life would be
easier
if they had to think less—
the end.
Except that last part is fiction
because this story has never ended.

Bible Babble
You
renounce Babylon everyday,
but should it truly displease you
take up hermitage in the
Appalachian Mountains,
comforted by the holy works
you cherish
and never bludgeon the brains
of others with your cherished Book;
do not banish the vices or voices
as if misremembering that
Jesus overthrew Caesar;
no,
rather,
he banished himself, outcast
in ascendance.
So, run to the hills
and in your sacred pilgrimage
keep a vow of silence,
otherwise you profane the Word
with that which you would
condemn Babylon.
For when in
Babylon
you are a Babylonian
even as you preach against its temples,
but worse,
for you are a holier-than-thou
hypocrite.
You have a
stained-glass heart,
and how easily shattered
the panes are—
as easily as any glass house
David might live in
as he readies his stones.
Stop cowering in the skirts of
the Great Whore
and venture out into the
Wilderness
should you be in earnest—
do not return.
Do not preach, at one moment,
against the sins of your Mistress
and at the next moment
sleep in a Babylonian bed.
Become the martyr to your purported
puritanism.
Go now:
go steeled in your faith.

Two Poems

Dance Of Destruction
How many times have we twirled around,
Kali and Man, hand in hand
circling the worldwide burial ground
of this atomic wasteland?

Take just one among her many arms
and spin apace the countdown,
hastening to the shrieking alarms,
trammeling every town.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
and the world a barren place—
hers is a radioactive lust
and we court her arms’ race.

How so lovely her necklace of skulls
and how seductive her hips
as we dance like island cannibals
and kiss her entrancing lips.

Ah ha! To taste the dust on her tongue
is to taste the Holocaust
and to be one of many among
the M.A.D. men—those ever Lost.

The Hammer, The Nails, The Wood
How fitting that a carpenter’s son
should die by tools of the trade,
all of the houses now undone
for an empire by conquest made.

When they hammered the three long nails
did he see the distant days
or hear the far-off church bells
summoning flocks to sing his praise?

Did he see the world overtaken
with his hard words so softly spoken—
when he proclaimed himself forsaken
was it in seeing the covenant broken?

No doubt he heard them sing such songs
in adoration of their beloved Christ
while committing unapologetic wrongs
to forge a blood-soaked zeitgeist.

Perhaps he heard, above the cheers
of the Romans who mocked his pain,
the war cries through the future years
of those of a self-righteous reign.

How like those planks of rigid wood
his flocks would become in time—
unbending, hard, holding as best they could
cross-purposes and poor pantomime.

So did he receive a vision of life
as he died a carpenter’s death;
did he see pain, hypocrisy, strife—
was that the doubt in his final breath?

Sokushinbutsu

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Try reason instead of
resin;
try moving from your position of
embalmed stubbornness
and grow rather than
mummify
within this mountaintop shrine of
isolated ideology.
You are not a disciple of
Enlightenment,
but a squatter huddling around the sutra
of your own willful
Ignorance.
Changing your mind will not
kill you,
but to cease all intake
except your obstinate beliefs
will make you a lasting
monument
to undecayed
foolishness.
Repeat your mantra of
denial
over and over again
until you assume the silence of perfected
oneness
with your antiquated ideology
while the world moves on
without you.
You could step through the
torii gate
to see a new plane of awareness
but your eyes have been petrified
shut.
The way outward
has been closed
by the way inward.

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Upright Or Twisted

This vast field beneath the glorious Sun
is brimming with honey-sweet light
that glitters with soft fingertips on the tall, golden grass
that billows its head in a loving wind
like a Mass come to pray.
Few trees are scattered about this field’s face,
but these few trees are strong of branch, straight of trunk
and spread wide with canopies proudly dressed in summer leaves.
These few trees are courteous to one another
and do not war with distant neighbors;
not only because they cannot touch each other,
but because they do not have to.

There is a dark hollow beyond the field
which moans deep between a rolling hillock
and the swelling rise of an umbral knob.
The trees within its mouth are gnarled of branch,
twisted of trunk,
crowded for space,
and reach crookedly around each other with covetous intent
to steal the weak slivers of light offered by the negligent Sun.
They war with serpentine branches not because they want to kill,
but because they are naturally inclined to try to survive,
for not every tree is sprouted in golden fields,
nor is it to blame for where its seeds are planted.