By The Light Of Diogenes

I would not flinch at sullen light
should we meet on a darkened street
nor would I dare to bark or bite
and run like dogs, on hands and feet,
to gain favor with one clever
as to prefer dogs to Mankind,
for I know he would not ever
be but of a contrary mind.
In the halo of his candle
I would try to be quite honest—
honest of whatever scandal
weighed heavy upon my own chest
and invite him to see the soul
of one who knows his share of shames
and ask to be judged as a whole
and not only by his bynames.
Perhaps we could reflect in turns
with a mirror that truly sees
so by glass and by light that burns
he might judge, too, Diogenes
and come away enlightened
to see himself so much clearer,
both of our souls thereby brightened
in the candle and the mirror.

Gratitude

Gratitude is not the desert flower
thankful for the sudden shower,
but the thanks given for strength to abide
the thirst of a dry countryside—
to endure the arid eons between
each drop meted, meager and mean,
so the hot hills dissolve around its roots
and blast-burn its shriveled shoots,
shrinking but never dying as it wilts
in its scorched bed, as its head tilts
as in humble prayer, offering thanks
to not know the flush river banks
where a flower is drowned in silt and mud
when showers swell rivers to flood
and die from glut and generosity
and an overbearing pity—
for a flower never drowned in dry lands
except if by well-meaning hands,
and so we learn gratitude from such plants:
it is a thing rooted in circumstance.

Another Smattering Of Poems

Panis Caelestis
The strength of his faith was just paper thin
like the bread of the angels, a wafer,
and so he stacked up the toppings of sin
to make an hors d’oeuvre of the bland flavor.

Pride
Pride is as the hard seed
deeply buried in the
hardened earth
and coiled tightly
in upon itself in a shell of
stubbornness.
But how beautiful our
potential
when we crack that shell
and allow ourselves to
open
as the bud unto its
bloom,
presenting sincerely our soft-petaled
humility
to the open sky
and its humbling elements—
to drink from the pelting rain,
to bask in the glaring sun,
to blossom unafraid
of being trammeled underfoot
by living with our hearts
wide open.

Trigger Warning
Stop your crying—
it’s just birdshot.
You’re not dying
from some heard thought.
I’m shooting off
at the big mouth,
so turn and cough
or migrate South.
I’m the kettle,
you’re the hot pot:
while you’re fretful
take your potshot.
I do not care
if the mic’s hot;
free speech, free air—
I’m no robot.
I’ll speak my mind
as I so please,
both fruit and rind
without surcease.
Be glad it’s not
a stronger shell
like some buckshot
or truth to tell.

Three Variations On Speaking Truth To Power

Haiku
Speak truth to power,
buried to your neck in sand
as the tide rolls in.

Rhyme
Willful, he speaks his truth to power
as a man against the surging tides;
speaking until the late evening hour
when wave upon wave rolls and collides
with the wide, unwinding, shell-strewn land;
speaking to stop the ocean with truth
while buried to his neck in the sand,
the moon unmoved above—aloof.

Ebb And Flow Rhythm
Willful, he speaks his truth
to power,
the moon climbing high, aloof,
hour to hour
while wave upon wave collides
with the shore;
a man against the tides
speaking evermore,
yet buried to his neck in sand,
the moon sitting atop its tower
as he stakes his final stand,
gurgling truth against power
while the surf strikes his face
like the backwash of his own words
as he struggles, stuck in place,
and there gather the seabirds
to torment him as the waters rise
and the hours dim to night,
deaf to his cries
in the cold moonlight.

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.”

Some Crude, Lewd Poems

Millennial Miracles
Innumerable millennia of evolution—
of toil and struggle and sacrifice
and immeasurable gallons of
sweat and tears and blood—
and thousands of years of
scientific progress
all so a satellite orbiting earth can
triangulate
the video feed of a Swedish woman
drilling herself with a silicone dildo
mass-produced in China
and send it via encoded super-info highways
down under
to a pubescent boy in Australia
so he can watch it on his smart phone
as he takes a quick wank before
heading to school
to nod off in class
as the monotone teacher talks in utter
disinterest
about Medieval mortality rates.

Teenaged Angst
A teenager squeals his tires
at the change of the traffic light,
his Mustang roaring down Main Street
like a young lion in rut
ready to take on any old beast
for the privilege of his pride.
Meanwhile I take an easy, leisurely pace behind
knowing this is likely the only
action
he will give any rubber tonight
and thinking of my
wife waiting at home
ready for some happy
friction,
her green light saying
GO! GO! GO!
After a few seconds the young dude
putters down to the
speed limit
once again
as if embarrassed by his
premature acceleration.
He turns off at a sidestreet,
Mustang grumbling curses
at another luckless Saturday night
spent revving his engine
for no one at all.

Substance
Poetry would be better as a
choking hazard,
not
baby formula;
it would be better
a scalding bitter tea
rather than
lukewarm kool-aid.
Poetry can be a
comfort food,
if you should like,
but should never be
mass-produced
and easily forgotten.
It should not be
common fare.

Sword And Sorcery Politics

Words can be as a sharp sword
grasped by the adept tongue
to cut down many a horde,
yet therein among
are foes defter at the thrust
when they fight you, those skilled
beyond your means, so you must
use truth as your shield
to deflect their subtle lies
and such black magic spells
that can kill heroes, likewise,
when a true tongue fails;
for such warlocks can conjure
phantasms of falsehoods
to overmaster hearts pure,
but lost in the woods.
Such conjurers breathe black smoke
to suffocate swordsmen
till they cannot see, and choke,
lost to dark lords when
they use the truth against you,
their alchemic spellcraft
warping facts until untrue—
a dizzying draught.
All you can do, then, is bow—
bow to truth’s fickle blade
and maybe survive, somehow,
perhaps by the aid
of a good PR wizard
whose power extends
to charisma points, his word
a spell that rescinds
the curse that has unmanned you,
whether from your false foe
or by your own false hand, too,
for he may well know
the coveted counter-curse
to restore your honor
or keep it from getting worse…
Nope, you’re a goner.

Just Toxic Enough

Sometimes I feel overcrowded
and wish to be more like a
black hickory tree—
the kind of selectively antisocial tree whose
toxins
wither almost everything near it
to give it space
so it can grow its foliage
(without throwing shade)
and grow its roots
(without groping)
and drop its nuts
(without worrying about
the consent of whomever
is actively feeling up its
hardwood
from down below).
It is not “manspreading”
or
“mansplaining”,
and it doesn’t make me a pig
or even a
pignut,
nor is it crass cynicism—
it is just a want of
personal space
and some quiet solitude
and natural boundaries
as I keep to myself
to avoid the eager whine of the chainsaws
and the hungry woodchippers.

Philosophers

How sad that they should
make meaning in life
like a husband who’d,
in a fit, murder his wife,
and now rummaging in
the graveyard site
to exhume her coffin
and put things right—
yet try as he may
he cannot assemble her
in a believable way
that will resemble her
when she was living
and could speak her own—
what is the point of giving
murderers the chance to atone?

After-Affects

IMG_3028
Even now, long after the
car wreck, I open the torn books I
salvaged from the collapsed backseat
and out falls another
shard of glass
to chime dully on the linoleum floor,
such Devil-may-care artifacts
reminding me how
Death
crashed into me from behind,
his approach unseen
like some master-class predator—
the Apex of
apex predators.
Oddly, I am
glad,
grateful,
invigorated that
his collision should still affect me today
with haunted visions of
what horrors could have been
had he not been off his game that day,
because it all reminds me that
any given moment
can be a taken moment
and so life is more vivacious
and more precious
than ever before;
not an unlimited commodity,
but a priceless continuum
I must spend wisely
as I am, in turn, spent.
And so these glass shards are like
exclamation marks
announcing loudly each moment
I am alive, saying
“Remember! You are alive!
You could be otherwise!”
And so, amidst the book shards
and the spinal pain
the world is framed
as it should be:
not with affectation,
but with affection.
Gratitude and
urgency
have become the attendant angels
bookmarking every moment
with sharply fractured glass.