Turn-Styles

Trimmed Excess
As a bonsai tree
trimmed of cluttering branches;
so, too, poetry.

Enochulum
Firstborn in the cold lands of Nod
to a killer exiled by God,
in a place abandoned by love,
forsaken by Father above—
and yet how is such nascent sin
borne by a boy hapless by kin?
Enoch, child from an outcast seed
and guilty by blood of his breed,
whose father envied a brother
for God’s love, more than another;
Enoch, son born to roam the earth
without hope, joy, mercy, or mirth,
who roams through the wilderness wide
beyond the vale of Edentide
and neath a God who should begrudge
Man as made by his cruel judge.

Parasites
Cleptocrats never believe
that they have ever stolen,
by sleight of hand or up the sleeve,
for an empire fat and swollen
on the blood of their employees
upon whom they feed,
never knowing themselves as fleas
on a dog they slowly bleed.
They believe they built the edifice
on their own, and all alone,
blind to the truth, as Oedipus
upon his shameful throne.

Good Jazz
Not that busy jazz
where instruments trip and tangle with
one another
in a confused, rambling clamor
of crazed pedestrian traffic,
but jazz removed from the hustle and bustle,
as slow and moody as the haze
of smoke lingering long after
she has gone to bed,
the ashtray breathing thin
while its sultry plume is aglow
with the insomniac skyline
of a restless city—
while she turns in her dreamful sleep,
mumbling a name
like a wish in the cold blue twilight
of endless longing.
Perhaps piano keys
dripping like raindrops
off the eaves of the somnolent stoops
and trickling along the
black-gloss streets, alight with
the city’s neon blood,
or the steadily pulsating drums
that lull with their thumping ease,
the distant rhythms
of faraway apartment life,
and that soothing bass
echoing up to the ceiling of the soul
like a subway train deep in the
heart of the city
felt at the cloudy heights
of a slumbrous skyscraper.
Nothing is so fine
as sleepy jazz
reverberating in the
dreaming glow of the midnight city.

Three Poems

Contrast
Snowflake flashing amidst the darkness
as white from black, a startling starkness,
a speck catching light within the void,
twirling, lifting, drifting, downward, buoyed
and returning to vast darkness yet;
a white moth fluttering in vignette
without a cry, a voice, nor a yelp,
fleeting, countless, and hopeless of help.

Blind Faith
The self-sabotage
of a belief system
is not unlike an otherwise good man
playing William Tell
blindfolded
as his son trembles and flinches
and the erratic arrowhead flies
while feathered with what is presumed to be
an angel’s quill;
the forbidden fruit of knowledge
rolling off his head
and falling to the ancient earth,
slaked once again
by the blood of innocence.

The Theseus Ship Paradox
Always on the lookout for new lands
while adrift on the exotic seas,
running aground shifting island sands
to beach upon new discoveries.
Seven years may seem so very long
when charted afore the christening
with the winds and currents flowing strong
and a hale crew keen on listening,
but by such stars in aft retrospect
it is rather short and fleeting brief,
though grateful for not having shipwrecked
on a Siren-haunted coral reef.
Yet, wear-and-tear ages ships as well
as they drift along with wave and wind,
weathering both tsunami and gale
while navigating toward World’s End.
Thus, to starboard, larboard, stern and prow,
the old timbers are replaced in time,
and nonetheless afloat somehow
in Protean storms as the waves climb.
Death and rebirth, this seven-year course
with figureheads at prow and at stern
whose Janus visage changes and morphs,
yet true to the blueprint— the pattern.

Sic Trans Gloria Novae Mundi

It was low tide and Jacob stumbled down the white dune, staggering stiffly toward the lapping surf on the New England coast. Bubbly froth lazed forward and withdrew, then lazed forward again, tumbling planks and splinters of wood and other flotsam in its playful foam. Jacob hobbled with his arms raised for balance as the dune finally plateaued onto the white beach. His backside still stung from yesterday, when his father had whipped him so hard with a leather strap that he could not sleep all night long. He had shoved his little sister. As atonement— in the eyes of his parents and of his God—he was to collect mussels from their clusters among the seaside stones on the beach, or catch crabs, or harvest whatever else God would provide since the Natives had retreated further inland with the advent of Autumn. His father said that the Natives helped the previous Winter only because God had inspired in them His love, but that the pilgrims could not rely on the Natives now. There would be no more help from the heathens, he said. Jacob wondered why.
Jacob was grateful to be away from his family. He was angry, but was too young to understand much more than he was tired of his sister following him incessantly and betraying him whenever he attempted to do anything besides chores. Susan was a little Judas, he thought, and he wished for no more flagellations on her behalf. He had only wanted to walk by the creek, alone, and catch frogs, perhaps, or skip stones. But Susan was stubborn as his shadow, and clung to his trail as steadfastly on her short little legs. Losing his temper, he baptized her in the creek with an abrupt shove of his hands. Yes, she almost drowned, but he saved her, drawing her small body up from the hole he had not seen in the creek. Weeping, but still breathing, she clung to him as he carried her back to their village. Her dress was drenched through and she had nearly drowned herself again in tears by their arrival in their drab stick-and-wattle house.
Jacob hated Susan as he walked along the shore, aching at the seam of his britches. It was his tenth Autumn and the seventh since crossing the Atlantic to the New World. He could not remember the voyage except vaguely— impressions of dark, dank cabins cramped with other pilgrims seeking new lives away from England. Within the shadowy, fetid ship he had felt it sway back and forth upon the grumbling sea and it seemed as if they were in the belly of the Leviathan. His sister had not known the Hell of floating upon the sea. His mother had tried to comfort him with kisses and caresses, and his father had tried to comfort his mother with the Word. But a toddler knows when his parents are lying to themselves. It was evident upon their faces, which he remembered most vividly of all. Their faces were like the damned, and they shuddered as he did at the endless roar of the godless sea.
Seagulls cawed shrilly above, drifting sideways with their white wings lifted aloft, suspended almost magically on the salty winds. Jacob wondered if angels possessed such wings, and if they flew in the same manner in the firmament. The seagulls’ voices reminded him of Susan’s as she cried, and so they infuriated him. He stooped down to pick up a shell or pebble to throw at the birds, but his hand happened upon something strange on the shore. Brushing aside the sand, he found a little doll made of withe and decorated with a pale blue ribbon. Picking it up, he dusted it off. The face of the doll had been painted, but the smile was erased by brine and sand. It reminded him of his sister. He glanced about, and saw more things upon the beach, tumbling languidly to and fro in the lethargic waves. They were remnants of what had been a ship. It had been a large ship, he knew; not unlike the ship which he and his mother and father boarded years ago to come to this wondrous and terrifying world.
The pain in his backside had kept Jacob from sleeping last night, but so, too, did the storm that raged distantly at sea. The winds bellowed like demons and the thunder boomed like pagan gods in a terrible war. Rain leaked in through the roof of their house and pooled in the village square. Not even the stone church was spared flooding. Now that the storm had passed, the sky was crowded with pillars of white clouds through which the sun gazed wanly. The sea had calmed itself, though the wind still hissed uneasily, as if resentful; its grudges not yet relinquished.
It was easier to believe in pagan gods than his father’s God in this New World. His father had said that the New World would be a new Jerusalem; a paradise on earth, born in the belief and the devotion to their God. It would be different than the Old World and all of its iniquities.
The seagulls cried overhead, like angels in agony, and Jacob felt a deep sadness. He untied the blue ribbon from the doll, then hobbled up the dunes and onto the wind-blasted, rain-flooded New England grass. Using a stone, he dug a small hole in the muddy earth and set the doll within it, covering it over. He then used the ribbon to bind two sticks together and propped them up above the small grave. He tried to say a little prayer, but it died on his lips. His eyes burned, but not from the chill, briny wind.
Collecting up an armful of mussels, Jacob hobbled home and gave them to his father. He then apologized to his sister and spent time with her, watching her as if she was the most precious miracle in the world. All throughout the week he never spoke a cross word to her, nor lost his temper with her. And if he became angry, he remembered the drowned doll that had washed ashore.
Susan saw him cry only once—a few tears while he fed the chickens—and asked him what was wrong.
“The world,” he said. “Old and New, it’s all wrong.”

Brainstorm

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.

A Meth-head To His Madness

Eddie was fascinated by flashlights,
as all Meth-heads are,
and he would click a flashlight
on and off
as if sending some SOS signals
to a UFO among the stars
as if he hoped it would
come down and take him somewhere else;
or he would aim the halo at the walls,
dragging its luminous circle
up and down
as if trying to bleach with light
the stained, decaying world clean.
The more Eddie’s teeth rotted out
and the more his skin bled
with cankerous craters,
the more obsessed he was with flashlights,
turning them on and off,
on and off,
being able to turn off the
flashlight,
but never his disease.
All the haloes in the world
cannot save Man from himself
and before the end
Eddie told me of the time
he saw the Devil—
not when he was taking,
but when he was being taken
by his Stepfather
in the old, mildewed shed
while his mom was sprawled out
on the trailer’s living room floor,
high on acid.
“No angels saved me back then,”
he said,
“and none are gonna save me now.
None are gonna save nobody.”
I told him, “That’s why people have to
save each other,”
and he laughed—
a laugh not of madness,
but of insight.
“What do ya think I need savin’ from?
It ain’t the Meth.”
He turned the flashlight off.
“That’s just the way out.”

Numb Puppet

Stretch the sinews, at the joint,
over bend and curve and bony point,
weave the spool of muscle thread
from limb to limb, and from toes to head;
pack the organs, tight betwixt
the rib cage, crammed together and mixed,
and seal the bones with the skin,
the skein that keeps all such snugly in.
Give him hopes and dreams and faith,
love the guiltless fool, mislead the naif,
pull at his strings, watch him dance
upon the wind, the whims, happenstance.
Tell him lies about the soul
as he feels troubled, that inner hole
no heart or nerve or hormone
can rightly fill, nor ought else so known,
for the puppet knows his strings
and the truth of all such mortal things;
cutting tendons, bleeding veins,
he frays his seams and unwinds his skeins,
gouges his eyes, stumbles blind
and strikes his skull to numb the mind
with trauma out from the shelf
atop which the puppet finds himself,
abandoned as Cain in Nod
by the Puppeteer, the Craftsman, God.

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?