Jack In The Box

Death is an old jack-in-the box,
the coil wound tight as music plays,
springing out with a grin that mocks
and startles at the end of days.
There is never laughter, nor mirth,
in this ancient jester’s dealings—
the old crank wound round at our birth
is never stopped by our feelings.
And we always know he will spring,
this jester with his mirthless grin,
yet the shock still has a sharp sting
as we face the box, the coffin.

More Rhymes

Lucubrations

If science is still a candle

in the dark

then we must get a firm handle

on Truth’s spark

and grow it into a campfire

for the woods,

to reveal our world and retire

our dark hoods.

But politics are sunglasses

worn at night,

dimming the Truth as it passes

near the light

and veiling our eyes with shadows—

do not shade

your sight with how a mad-fad goes

(they all fade).

Beyond the tribal lenses

we all wear

we could gain better senses

for what’s there

if we could only hold the light

close and fast

we would nevermore fear that night

of Man’s past.

Rotgut

The rust-banded barrels

and rust-colored spiders,

rust-bespeckled heralds

with cocooned miters.

Rotgut whiskey, bellied

with gut-rotting venom,

insect innards jellied

and melting within them.

A Dead Horse

It is a dead pack-horse

for your grievances, your grudges,

beaten without remorse,

yet still it lays, never budges

beneath that scornful weight

encumbering its frayed saddle

as you spite its sad state,

not sparing yourself the paddle.

A Difference Of Character

Some wear their petty little griefs

as if they are acclaimed war scars,

listing long their aggrieved beliefs

as if Purple Hearts, or Gold Stars,

while others, with true wounds to bear,

hide them beneath thick, modest sleeves,

afraid others will glimpse and stare

at what never fades; never leaves.

The Garroter Priest

They come unto him, the Garroter Priest,

praying like sheep to the fangs of a beast,

seeking his rosary, his brimstone path—

the way of war, and its bleak aftermath.

Kneeling before him, they welcome his grasp

around their necks, like a tight choker’s clasp,

his fingers interlocked in grim prayer,

helping them see their God (as they lose air);

the God of the Red, of rage consuming

like a stab, a gunshot, a bomb blooming

to engulf their lives and welcome the flood

of fire, of ash, of smoke and tears and blood,

hearing evermore the discordant choir,

each angel strumming its sinewed lyre.

His clarion call is a dire wolf’s howl

and his flock gathers, a pack on the prowl:

“Come, O flock of mine!” he says, “A fine fleece

each of you offer, and in return, peace

shall be your reward—the peace of such spite

that knows no end except when the sharp bite

about your neck sinks deep, strangling from you

a life burdened with grudges old and new.”

And so the Garroter Priest blesses those

whose wolfish fury hides in sheepish clothes,

wrenching from their throats the hunger of hate

and bleeding them to a more tranquil state,

for a faith of hellfire and brimstone laws

proceeds by a cannibal’s fangs and claws

as the acolytes eat one another,

shepherd on flock, and brother on brother,

until one remains, the Garroter Priest,

who welcomes himself to one final feast.

On Black Wings

The shadow laughs atop the tower

beneath the moon, at the midnight hour,

watching the princess fall fast asleep

under heavy guard, in castle keep.

The raven rises and wheels about,

bringing dreams that make her scream and shout,

clutching sheets as a funeral shroud,

her voice echoing despair aloud.

The guards fetch the king to the tower

and the king comes, says, “My dear flower,

what is the matter that you should cry

when so esteemed, daughter, in my eye? ”

The princess trembles at a chill breeze

and faint laughter, feeling ill at ease.

“Father!  O Father!  I dreamt a life

bound to the birthing bed of a wife! ”

The king frowns, but begins to pet her,

saying, “I have received a letter

from the prince to whom you have been sworn

since the grim days before you were born.

It is time, now that you are of age,

that wedding vows soothed this blood-feud rage

that has withered heir, heart and harvest

so peace may blossom and prosper, lest

dark days visit again on black wings

and War whet his corvid cravenings. ”

But the princess knows her destined prince,

having met him afore, and her sense

comes in a dance they had as children

at Summer Solstice, his hand chill when

he took hers in it, as was his smile

as they circled, lutes playing while

his eyes stared coldly, and black as coal

and just as soon to flare fierce, his soul

made of hot and cold moods, fire and ice,

every moment a roll of dice

if ice should frost his disdainful speech

or wildfire should burn all within reach —

she had seen him as a dragon prince:

cold-blooded, flame-throated petulance.

“Father, please, I cannot marry him,

for his heart withers both root and stem,

allowing nought to grow but a blight. ”

The king says, “A goodly plow sets right

Eden itself after the Fall, love,

and so you must trust in God above,

or else War will sup eternal yet

as the blood feuds grow…to much regret.

Think of your people, foremost in mind,

and discard all else, as fruit from rind. ”

Then the princess weeps, her lips curling

with bitterness, while black wings go whirling

round and round the star-accursed tower

as a Black Angel round the bower

of the Tree of Knowledge, and the bough

from which the Fruit cursed every brow.

The raven laughs, and the princess cries,

the feathers flap and she seals her eyes

and says, “I know my death comes just so

with the peace our good people may know,

so promise you will do as I wish

and eat a raven upon your dish

a year hence, to this ill-omened night

and each year hence, father, come what might,

for ‘tis death I sup on this hour late

as I waken to a black-winged Fate. ”

She then springs from her bed, flinging forth

from her high window, while to the North

the raven returns to the cold hand

which had bid it fly from that cold land;

messenger and master together

awaiting the storm, the cold weather,

and the feast to come, mingling laughter

for both War and Death, ever after.

Maybe

Maybe mercy, after all,
is to be dead, like the moon,
unfeeling to one’s freefall
and the cold night—needful boon
to not feel the creeping rot
as it eats your pockmarked face
while the hollowed heart feels not
the cold void of lifeless space.
Yes, the dead may be at peace
like the moon chained to earth’s side—
the living long for release
while tears swell at high tide.