Scarification

A petty thing,
a little line
between yours and mine,
that can sting,
a nicking mark
seeping such blood
as to bring the flood
for the ark;
to cut in twain
and drown the earth
beneath frothy surf
and the pain.
What can I say
of this red line?
The scar will define
what it may
and what we are
as we carve space
out of time and place,
near and far,
dividing life,
dissecting earth,
knowing well the worth
of a knife,
and of a pen,
of the red ink
which makes us all think
we are men.
For we worship
law and order,
border to border,
and we drip
from cuts we draw
along our skin
to demarcate kin,
tribal law.

The Aztech Machines

The Outrage Machine is in high gear,
mulching both lord and peasant alike,
grinding them up throughout the year,
ending whole careers at the first strike.
More efficient than a woodchipper,
farther of reach than a printing press,
it is akin to Jack the Ripper,
the bloodstains being a PR mess.
Nor are the cogs satisfied for long
and soon even the feeders fall in,
astonished that they, also, could wrong
but a little and pay for their sin.
Digital sausage is its mainstay,
the byproduct of its online rage,
it earns its sacrifices each day
just by being an anthropophage
because we love when Aztech machines
are bloody with the ink of all those
nobodies, losers, stars, teens and tweens,
celebrities, anons, hoes and bros.
Let them offer their ignorance to
enthrone us with our self-righteous wrath
so our dopamine lords can imbue
our brains with meager joy at each gaffe,
but bicker, too, in online comments,
the oneupsmanship among the hordes
in this incestuous comeuppance
as we vie for upvotes, Reddit awards.
It is a harsh reality, thus,
that a loose tongue can get caught in gears
which, once caught, never let go of us,
nor our families, friends, or careers.
So sit tall, lords, hunched over your screens
and feel pride as karma’s cogs grind on,
meanwhile beware the Aztech Machines:
a loose tongue cannot be withdrawn.

Change

This ancient chrysalis chafes,
keeping too close to the skin,
like one of those small bank safes
magicians lock themselves in.
Sealed tightly shut, I do doubt
that Houdini could escape,
and I only want out—out!
It is an ironic jape.
Life is a zombie’s coffin,
a Pharaoh’s dusty old tomb
like what they put Karloff in:
a mummy with little room.
You suffocate while wound-round
in bandages of the past,
yet however much you pound
the old casket lid holds fast.
To break free, you must first die,
yet to die you must first grow,
shedding larval husks to fly
like the Mothman, on the go.
Perhaps the bridge must fall down
before we hear the warning
of that cryptid, leaving town
while others are still mourning.
Of course, on the other hand,
change comes when least expected,
Mr. Hyde taking command
while the signs are neglected.
It can be like Dracula
waking to a brand new age,
exchanging moldy moolah
for fresh ink on a crisp page.
Turning over a new leaf
is not so easy as said,
no easier than the grief
that comes when mourning the dead,
or eating the dead, like ghouls
who hunger for what is past,
the bitter, nostalgic fools
in cemeteries amassed.
This living-dead life idles
like Frankenstein’s creature bound
to bygone flesh, the bridles
electric, but with no ground,
so the charge does not charge,
but burns the assemblage whole,
death remaining, by and large,
despite the jolts to the soul.
True change comes when least wanted,
like the full moon to a man
whose lupine life is haunted
by every monthly span.
It visits us, like a ghost,
a poltergeist in revolt,
possession unto a host—
a demon we cannot molt
as it rearranges chairs,
smashes dishes, shatters glass,
bringing to us the nightmares
which, at sunrise, should then pass,
yet they do not, subsuming
the day-to-day life we knew
until the shadows looming
become a stale cocoon, too.
And then great Cthulhu wakes,
disrupting the status quo,
and amidst the floods and quakes
we lose all we used to know,
finding ourselves lost, afloat,
like flotsam in tides so strange
that we regret this brash boat
moored on the island of Change.

Two More Rhymes

What-Knot
There is a knot made of conflict,
a ball twisted with emotions,
threads bound together, as if tricked
by their struggling, wrangling motions.

I’ve tried to untangle this knot,
to loosen and unwind its twine,
but it does not relax as ought—
it is a knot, this heart of mine.

The Tower
The limestone-toothed tower looms tall,
its shadow stretching over all,
reflected in the crystal loch,
built to endure, from block to block,
a famed fortress of those before
who reigned in bygone times of yore,
yet, the kings have all gone to dust
and the tower stands, as it must
not because dead kings willed it so,
but because Nature did bestow
great power to her ancient stones—
power to outlast kingly bones.

Two Rhymes

Futility II
A lifetime of labors
for what one hopes to be,
by books or by sabers,
but to spit in the sea
for all that is its worth
in the backwash of brine:
spittle upon the earth,
such is this work of mine.

Omen
In a barn blackly bearded with a bog-borne mold
an ill omen was birthed, a goat horned tenfold,
gutting his mother as he came unto the world,
and in his nebular eyes the stars glowed and swirled.
His horns grew coiled around and into his own skull,
piercing his brains until his wits were dim and dull,
for his was a crown cursed by banal happenstance,
the misfortune that occurs by mere random chance,
and he grinned like an idiot god who could see
the meaning of Life, Death, what was, is, and would be.

Offal’s Lessons In Manners

Offal, the court fool, speaks:

“A lord marked a swineherd at his morn meal.
‘How came you by such uncouth manners, friend?’
The swineherd spoke while he ate to his fill.
‘Manners are not so hard to comprehend.
My hogs have manners, too, which oft contend
with the highest lord ruling in his land,
for though they lay in the filth they expend
it behooves them to not use a hoofed hand,
their snouts deep in what they don’t understand.”

“The lord, astride his horse, snorted disdain.
‘You would do better to learn from your lord.’
The swineherd swallowed and, without refrain,
laughed aloud, eyeing his lord’s long, sheathed, sword.
He said, ‘I have learned much from my swine horde.
Indeed, they are not afeared of the blade
for they are too happy among filth, lord,
to know the blade till its kiss has been made
across the throat and their life debts are paid.’

“The lord blinked, confused at such unconcern.
‘Had you sense you would not speak quite so free.’
The swineherd did not flinch, but took a turn
around his sty, watching his hogs till he
saw the sow roll in grime and gunk and glee.
He then said, ‘Had you sense you would know how
filth can come out of either end of me,
but I find truffles well as any sow,
which I gift to you, lord.’ He gave a bow.

“‘You bring me no truffles!’ the lord replied.
‘Indeed, I think you hoard them for yourself!’
The swineherd smirked from ear-to-ear, quite wide,
not unlike a mischievous bogle elf.
‘Go to my larder and look at each shelf.
I am deprived of truffles, and of care,
for I have not your manners or your wealth.’
The lord dismounted his horse, haughty his air,
and went to the cottage to look in there.

“Meanwhile the swineherd went to the lord’s horse
and fetched the lord’s blade from the bridle’s sheath.
He said, ‘Oft one must be careful, of course,
for swineherds among hogs may come to grief
wherefore fallen—however long or brief—
they may feed their lessers with the fumble
for hogs rush to claim what others bequeath,
even if unwitting be the stumble.’
The lord came out, then, with a gruff grumble.

“‘I found my truffles, knave!’ he growled aloud,
his arms cradling truffles like a farrow,
but afore he could say aught else, he bowed,
his neck split from a slash, clean and narrow.
Away fled his spirit, like a sparrow.
The swineherd fed the body to his swine
and buried the bones beneath a barrow.
‘Ill-mannered hogs may begrime when they dine,
but they may yet end a royal bloodline.'”

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.

The Shepherd Of Dreams

Wherefore come the mists in the vale
but as clouds hung low and heavy
with flights of fantasy to tell
which brim, but not break, the levee?
Such mists might come stampeding wild
lest the shepherd guide them with calm,
ram and lamb and ewe all made mild
with blessings from his phantom palm.
He shepherds half-glimpsed, as a ghost,
amidst the moisture of the morn,
a patient specter on the coast—
who is to say he is forlorn?
Mists and dreams manifest his flock,
fading, half-forgotten at light,
floating far from the lonely loch,
their fleece foggy…drifting…cool…white.
Do not rouse at the passing flock
or the flock is quickly dispelled,
and do not blink at the reed stalk
by the shepherd’s easy hand held—
it is the bane of goblin kin
who covet the flock for their own,
eating dreams of sleeping children
as they toss and turn, weep and moan.
Thus, the shepherd tends his flock well,
though his eyelids may droop down low;
sentinel even when storms swell,
lightning strikes, and the strong winds blow.
Highlands, lowlands, valley and moor,
the flock wanders on hooves unheard,
guided gently from shore to shore,
quiet as his unspoken word.

Mythical Riddle

A temple he had made
with demons as his thralls,
but doom was therein laid
in those holy halls.
Great wisdom could not save
this ruler so reverred
as he became a slave
to endless Lust, steered
far from a loyalty
unto his only god,
a man of royalty
ruled by his own rod,
traitor like his father
for the locust embrace
of a foreign daughter
with a pretty face.