Charles Southerland EPO
Poems Prior to 2023
morning breath into the field
and lay it in the fescue sprung with ladino clover.
At first, I bent over, then I kneeled
with the weight of your name on my tongue; a plover
running in the muck of a nearby pond, chirping
for his mate. My fingers dove into the soil,
into the roots of grass; the plover slurping
a worm retreated into the cattails, too loyal
to rat him out to predators waiting on the levee.
A pipe organ breeze came calling, the low notes
swooned across my back, her high tones heavy
on the tops of the stalks like a tide whose waves feign quotes.
I watched the shaken dew rain upon the ground
and disappear from sight like you when frost unwound.
theory of cold fusion
You’ve climbed the seven highest mountain peaks
The world is turning on, no closer now
To heaven than the deepest depths one seeks
To plumb. What next?, the moon or Mars you vow
To rocket off , becoming your own gods?
The heavenly you seek is one more climb
Than you deserve putting you quite at odds
With truth so near, so far away, sublime.
Your reach and grab will snatch your final gasp,
As hubris, burned like oxygen, expires.
But did you know that things far beyond your grasp
Are found down on your bended knees near fires
That burn the hottest mainly where your pride’s concerned,
Lends faith as cool as fusion’s works which can’t be earned?
say that fevers have to run
Their course to break so that you might return
To normal. Doctors say the only one
They can’t predict an end to: viral burn,
Affects the joints, the head, the heart and eyes,
The mind, the gut, it paralyzes some,
Is suicidal, murderous; it lies
In-wait, sometimes it incubates. How come?
They say results are inconclusive, but
Unlike the other bugs, it seeks a touch,
A kiss, a knife to make the deepest cut,
Infect the wound, a word or two, not much.
It spreads so easily between two hosts,
Between their lead-lined coffins and their ghosts.
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I am again, solo sailing,
my heart tied high on the jib, the wind
uncut in the sail, the cotton undressing, flailing
for direction; I give it leave and send
it toward the Search bar. It knows the way
by memory, as if the wheel tied by rote
transmission at the docking post holds sway.
Some say the place is rowdy, uncivilized, note-
worthy. Tying up my ride, I hear what Henley sings:
“You can never leave” I untie
my heart and bring it with for chance, for flings.
The Search is always lit up on the fly.
I wake up on my floor, again, with cuts and bruises.
There must have been a storm brewing in the Muses.
were perfect, those early years.
She papered the walls paisley; he sanded the floors.
She ordered Ancien Cru du Roy, picked spears
of asparagus out back; he grilled lamb. The chores
were joyous. She hid one bottle inside a wall
unopened, just in case. Though she was barren,
he never cared, for she was it. The Dall
ram she had bagged five years in, had “Karen”
inscribed in gold beneath its neck. His moose,
too big to mount inside, hung outside in the eave
and weathered well. And then there was the goose
whose feathers fell, no Phoenix, he. But Steve
left first. She’d papered seven times by then.
The house went last and swallowed the wine within.
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THE MOUNT OLYMPUS NEWS
*Corruption exposed in
You’ll never get this past
the Cyclops eye:
The Centaur has an issue with his tail.
It broke off in the freeze and without fail
exposed his ass to all the gods—Stand by—
Reporters on the scene,
(The Harpies), pry
for details of the incident, the veil
of secrecy intact, the puckered trail
of woe behind him, caught up in the rye.
They found her in a stall,
the filly bruised
and unresponsive to their quests for truth
or dirt on him to cut him down to size.
He was a politician and he
his power—poled her in the voting booth.
But Oreithyia would not be
The goddess didn’t beg, as
some would have.
She could have stopped him, after all, but then
what pleasure she would
miss to freeze then calve
his rear for those on high to see their kin
displayed so nakedly
ashamed; it turned
and burned them so, and him, chagrined as gore,
could barely walk, and
though she hadn’t spurned
him, (force aside), where was her claim for more?
While they debated
above the populace for years, the Greeks
adopted logic and the stars
become flung constellations for the freaks.
All we have left are horses
and pigs who crowd the teats of one old sow.
These vultures run their
sorties in ones and twos
descending through the mist of heavy fog
led by their olfactory orbs with urgent news
of flesh and blood fresh from a whimpering dog
smashed by a bread truck on
an early run today.
The pit bull crawled beneath a fence, his hind end
useless, toward a sumac bush some yards away.
I watched him thru my scope and saw him rend
the bush, his gnashing
teeth gashing and tearing,
his strength waning, blood leaking from his anus.
Those vultures began to land around him, staring
Into his defiant eyes, the far-away-ness.
I’d lost no love for pit
bulls; whom should I shoot?
I squeezed the trigger of my rifle, resolute.
WHEN THE STARS GO OUT
there is trauma, have no
doubt, with the end,
and when the carabiner breaks, the fall
is so precipitous one must pretend
its' face is soft, not granite at all.
I only speak of her this way because
she would not be so moved unless the earth
quakes at her roots and violates the laws
of heaven, how I pray, for what it’s worth.
And having landed at the base, she took
my breath there one last time—I held the rope,
too frazzled to repair and I forsook
her heights, and caught my breath and left the slope.
The carabiner has a rated load.
Freefalling to a stop makes it explode.
His moves are almost
Just like the walking stick on an oak branch,
A toe tapping to a beat-down label,
A finger thumbing on his head to stanch
The headache in a melody he longingly wishes
Fulfilled. It all reminds him of the old days
When two were one like Genesis—hisses
Perfection. His eyes are closed, lids a haze.
It’s shrewd for unnamed deities to vanish
Leaving a pedestal smooth as though unused,
Except those traces of flakes at the base, clannish
In design, intent with purpose, clandestinely infused.
But he knows the name of this one as clear as sound,
As clear as blood flows from cuts to heels unbound.
I fear I might mis-translate
what you said
And lose the very essence of your words.
May I record you as I do the birds:
The warbler, shrike and wren, red’s wild-combed head
Who can’t fly straight because his wings are strained
By his erratic breaths—the young cock quail
Who only knows four notes, the nightingale?
Perhaps the mockingbird who has profaned
The puerile bluebird to his detriment?
I listen to them all here in the field
Or from the house, the wood, the swimming pond,
The deer-stand in the right-of-way, the tent
I hid in, hunting, while my body healed—
As you well know, from wreckage and its rent.
You are the bird of
paradise; I’m fond
Of you beyond compare, despite your squawk
When you were ill with me, the bedroom talk,
Too colorful for feathers to respond.
But when you left, it was the hardest thing,
This separation. Distance has allure,
It surely does. Migration’s not a cure.
These days, your speech has turned to twittering.
I asked if you were lonely; you said, no.
I wondered if I heard you nearly right.
I am the red-winged blackbird’s gulping tone,
The swallow, swift, the collared dove, hoopoe—
No, not the Merlin, hunting late tonight.
I am the loon, I am the loon, alone.
THE SUN COMES UP
I will kiss you with the aroma of sassafras on my lips,
And woo your tongue like the mourning dove coos
for his chậtelaine,
I’ll coax the nipples of your breasts like heather
in the breeze or ships,
Full mast in a gale, sprite to the leeward side as you feign
Epiphany. These vibrissa seek to enveigle
You from the ends of my arms to the arch of your spine.
Your hips are amphora jars filled with honey and regal
Port wine where I sip and sop a lane to dine.
Oh the foxes tail is twisted around the root,
A snare disguised as shelter for the taming of a shrew.
I see you penetrate me with eyes, acute,
Intense and entertained from a certain view.
The point of all of this is no surprise.
You taunt me in my dream before I rise.
It’s winter here; I see you in the field
and hear your voice as though a waterfall
has suddenly appeared in the mist through the chill
amongst the ghostly masts of white oaks revealed—
revealed by the rising price of gold subdued
by hills who still are cast in shadow like you
except for the lipstick stuck on his wings intruding
promiscuously for all to see in dew.
But how you came to flight I do not know.
Your eyes are as dark and piercing as evermore.
When leaving a lover far behind, you show
him nothing, not even your final score.
And lost in the murmuration, you don’t care
that I can’t find your heart anywhere.
The harrier took more than she could carry
and crashed in Lover’s Field. Oh bird of prey
with slender wings, I wish that you could tarry
a little longer in my heart or stay.
You’ve seen the sage grass part, which made our bed
a mattress filled with witnesses—they said
they’d never seen the like—no whiter flesh
had ever lent itself to burn to ash.
And now, the bleaching of my bones has come.
They nestle scattered nearer to the soil.
A mockingbird sings a note and bees hum
in the residue where centipedes recoil.
The nighthawk’s flown, unburdened of her prize
if ever were such a thing. Damn her eyes.
GOING TO HEAVEN
Cathedral de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
It’s hard to reconcile belief
with doubt, but if you feel alive
come dawn, there’s nothing like the great relief
of one surviving Acapulco’s dive.
One-hundred & thirty-six feet, you say.
You have just one, and hobble off
the jump, fists clenched, hurtling towards the bay;
a voice inside your head is screaming—a cough
has caught your breath—you realize
you need more air, the intake short
of what you dare when the speed-limit flies
on past your eyes, but nothing can abort
your crash into the bluest sea,
the riptide always pulling out
untethered things and even so, debris
deposits, no returns nor roundabouts.
You see anemones before you rise
to break the surface through the froth
and perch who form the letter ‘O’, too wise
to speak unlike your Fido and the Goth
Girl way up there who’s waving, consoled
that you’ve fulfilled your bucket list.
She sold you on the whole thing and she told
you, you were worthy, worthy to be kissed
and kissed and if you missed the water,
hit the rocks or belly flopped,
you wouldn’t worry now if it was hotter
just like the baby accidently dropped
the first time on his head who cried
and cried in pieces. She’d pick you up
and sew you back together, let you slide
the next time in a felt-lined coffee cup.
You wrote her in the will for love
but never told her of the deed
that she’d inherit everything above
expenses, placing her above your seed,
above all else except your God,
who was non-negotiable.
You’d made that plain tailing the orca pod
somewhere in the San Juan’s sounding babel.
And when you jumped into the chop,
the seconds seemed so long—a blink,
eternity and angels followed, cop
and robber—you might want to have a drink…
I am a rose flung in the air
by children of the bells and landing where
drifting from a steepled tower
I’m clothed by him, washed in the crimson shower.
Love is a solitary profession.
Before you read any further, listen
here, my friend, to the hawthorn’s true confession,
how the wind-strained roots hold tight in the frisson,
how the thorns on his branches self-inflict
shallowly and deep, deeper still, draws blood
in cursive language like an ancient script
a tattoo artist anchors for his bud.
Some repairs are bitches to heel, to calm.
Those scars are passion, wanderlust evolved.
I have spent my life rooted in the balm
and cursed the wind which moves me—still—I’m galled.
I am the kindling arms that start her fire,
(Or so I thought) but fate is the tryer.
Suppose it’s just a
Reverberating in a cave or canyon
Or our own bedroom or the silent sound
Of distance between us in the sand on
A deserted island beach where Caruso
Was a castaway once upon a time.
You have cannibalized the words below
And stripped them to the chine bone alive—no pantomime
Could survive alone without an audience
Of one. What could I say to change your mind?
If love is just a hole to fill, my sense is
You’ll walk on by without a look and find
Some satisfaction in your middle finger
Searching a void where it’s left to linger.
I found a finger in a black
stored in a tow-yard compound in a town
whose name I can’t pronounce. There I linger
with it in my hand, a pale reminder
how nothing cuts much finer than the tin
I’d slit my own on: Chunky Campbell’s Soup.
Hers had a ring attached to it beneath
the seat—somehow they’d missed it, raw carnage
so complete with blood-wrenched Levi’s, tee shirt,
a single running shoe, divorced, I guess,
to live alone, discarded specks of glass
clear to the toes, a size-nine and a half.
Loose change had vaulted from the ashtray’s keep,
had flown across the seats and overcome
the chasm in between pure gravity
and the rear back-dash ledge, quarters, mostly,
dimes like teardrops scattered, left in the lurch;
a 1959 wheat penny was
wedged just under the accelerator-
pedal tinged with soot, the airbags deployed,
exhausted, the rear-view mirror—cracked,
and hanging by a wire. I pop the trunk.
Prosthetic legs are not as
rare as you
might think. I’ve found a couple loose in cars
I’d bought at towing auctions, some guitars,
harmonicas and lots of fishing poles.
Winter clothes and leather coats and helmets
all kinds are always nice for the store.
I’d even kiped a Sport King pistol once,
—sheriff missed it, I guess, or didn’t care.
It’s mostly tools though; it’s the trade-craft tools
I like--like Craftsman wrenches, or Snap-On.
You can’t believe the saws and drills, the planes
and trowels, four-foot levels, brushes, squares-
hammers of every kind and weight and nails
in boxes unopened, loose screws and rope,
babushka’s too, fetching prices I set
and dicker-down to pay the rent each month.
I haul the cars to scrap yards, sell the tires
and rims. There, all the memories are crushed.
Except, the finger in the
black hulk wreck,
a finger severed with a ring of gold,
a white-gold ring, a comfort fit, sized nine
is in my hand, the both of us too pale
to understand. It’s winter, and I’m chilled,
the lopped-off finger frozen stiff, the nail
turned blue, the knuckle-creases swelled with smiles
like totems carved on a pole sans faces.
Her suitcase fills the trunk. I flip the latch
and open it, and all the smell of her
comes out and hits me in the chops, slaps me.
All her clothes are large; some are extra-so.
A sweater with Estée Lauder unfolds-
I dig a little deeper, find the shirt,
the twenty-dollar gray tee emblazoned,
a single thin red stripe across the chest,
white letters that read: “Fuck me, cowboy stud.”
I grip her finger harder with my hand
until it thaws, regains its warmth, its color.
I re-latch the suitcase and shut the trunk.
I hobble to the open door and sit
there on the seat; my free hand dials my cell.
A smart phone rings down low between the seats.
I set her finger on my lap and dig
between the crevice—find her phone ringing.
I answer holding a phone to each ear;
distorted, I hear them say: “Hey. It’s me.”
A shadow of sensation lies therein.
The hungered truth is stumbling on the stairs.
All pleasure which is measured is a sin
And faith misplaced is made of wishful dares.
We end up in the sea like all shipwrecks,
All bounty in our broken holds are drowned,
As memories prolific, fond of sex
And drink and taste, are never to be found
Again. The churning of the sea assures
This, one and all. It washes, purifies
And casts the remnants on the tides. The cures
Belong to God, and who can criticize?
But one is left to hold, this death negate‑
And having found him, nothing is too late.
I’ve gone and jumped into the sack of age,
lost track of time, thought I could tame the clock,
but saw its hands break me apart, engage,
entangle, foist me on its points, a cock
impaled upon the vane for crowing long
into the wind. And I was blind to it
and where it went and memorized its song,
but never sang it even when it hit
the charts—of course it went to number one
and toppled there—was stricken, struck, but then
it let me see my face, what time had done.
I barely recognized those other men.
Oh give me burlap for my clothes to wear
on roost and make the end to come a hare.
I found a message in a bottle buried
down deep in the sand while making castles
to plunder with the tide. I often carried
things away I’d scored which caused me hassles
quite due to room above the
dunes, my bungalow
tight for lying low, much less for friendships.
I was not a seaman nor wanted so
much to be one; I’d broken both hips
when I was young aboard a
which failed escaping from a hurricane.
I limped both ways from time to time, a wretch
is all that’s left of me, sometimes insane
with jealousies when ships
passed by my view.
My memories are etched in fog and horn,
directed light to shadows steaming through
the strait, the lighthouse white and ghostly worn.
The bottle, she was old,
hand blown and corked
and blue, light blue in hue, sky born, at odds
with whiskey glass. No corkscrew, I had forked
around its neck and mouth, beseeched the gods
of fits and loosening
swells to free the phial,
relieve the parchment yellowed by its travails.
An icepick did the trick though, holes by sile
as smooth as I could plunge, like termite trails.
A whiff of perfume stumbled
out and struck
me in my nostrils flush and I remembered
some young girls long in my past, how blind luck
fell to love and lust and how some limbered
me as worthy as the next
It was a girl who led me to the ship
which broke my hips, such was my own folly.
She loved me wildly but I took the trip,
delayed myself of her
embrace, the rest
you know, too long to heal, near half a man
my legs as shaky as a foolish quest
she turned aside, so blame her if you can.
I healed down at the beach
in sand as deep
as thought, and in the surf I whaled away,
withstood its presence, found a way to sleep
by counting waves, letting them have their say.
And so I strained to walk
until the pain
forgot me, and every day I strolled the beach
combing inches, feet, yards and miles, the strain
of looking closer on my eyes to leech
the smallest treasure to my
But over time I watched the tourists flock
the dunes down to the beach to bathe and rinse
in sand. They made their castles but the clock
of tides would do them in
When low tide came each morning I began
to build and form the grandest keeps to see
and won awards with some I made. I ran
with cash to squirrel for
keeping. They shot
their photos for the Newport News. I dressed
in Levi shorts, straw hat and sandals, not
a shirt to wear, and no one would have guessed
I’d found the bottle while
dredging deep for grit
to hold in place the towers I’d begun.
I hid it there in plain sight in a fit
of pride. I took it home with me, the sun
slung low, found west and
hung up in the trees,
their fingers made of shadows reaching out
to ease the exit of the crowd and seize
the full moon by its knees to cause the lout
to shine its light out in
the shallows leap.
Now in my bungalow I fetched the note
rolled and bound with string—there was nothing cheap
about it, the finest paper, thick—wrote
in the finest hand. As I
this perfect lettering in cursive script,
the sinew string aside, I also learned
the words in ink were black and I was gripped
as if spellbound, as if it
spoke to me:
Oh Darling, how I wish
you’d found me here.
Instead, we’re lost apart, but I can see
Across the waves and years, I love you dear
And hope this message finds you well and fine
As I can dream for it to be, and though
We might not ever reconcile or mine
The depths of touching hands again, I throw
This bottle in the sea with twenty more
In hopes that one will find you. My perfume
Is all I have to send for now. I wore
it when we met. It was a special bloom
From Nice. You nosed my neck and drew a breath.
I fell for you then and you said to me:
I won’t release it even to my death
Or loss of mind and all lucidity—
Farewell for now and soon to be again
Nearby as touching hands is not enough
Nor winds which blow above the Highlands rain
While watching you regale me in the luff.
I cried, recorked the bottle with its smell,
returned it to the ocean. I was torn
that I was not the one to whom it fell—
and turned around—I’ve lived too long to mourn.
His first clue should have been, no Fang Fang tryst.
How do you put your tail in such a twist,
In such a voluntary bind, a hole?
When clearly she was quite the Chinese mole.
She’d had two mayors in her clutches, cold.
She’d posed for photos with them all, we’re told.
And there he was, an easy mark, Swalwell.
How much did he divulge with kiss and tell?
He’s on the Intelligence Committee
In the House and it gets rather shitty
From here; mom or dad wouldn’t interrupt.
It took the F.B.I. to break them up…
She’s disappeared now, gone back to China.
What secrets were spilled from her vagina?
THE SLIDE RULE
On a scale of one to ten, how often do
you think of me? or should I say how much?
Why do I ask? you ask. If I, like you,
abstain from interaction, are you my crutch?
or is my foot like Byron’s, or, is such
a thing too inconceivable to dare?
I think of it, like you, each day, a touch
of tincture and I’m healed, I think it fair
to say that I’m not getting anywhere.
I think you know it too and purposely.
I’m thicker than I realize and bear
It better than some do, supposedly.
I remain yours truly and so sorely.
I’m sorry, but I was hoping that you’d score me.
In Albany the governor cannot hear
the dirge in Queens or Harlem for his fist.
His foot is on their necks. It’s very clear
in Albany the governor cannot hear
the dying for his Emmy, book tour—fear
is rampant, but where is the journalist
in Albany? The governor cannot hear
the dirge in Queens or Harlem for his fist.
This sidewalk suffers
wearing and a crack—
it’s quiet in the night and warming back
to life this morning by the doughnut shop.
The traffic by their feet and crumbs on top
its surface call for birds to be aware
of smaller fare like ants who steal their share
of all that’s free to any soul, the bum
across the street, the busker at his drum.
But back to night, about
the planet Mars,
Where wind is motion and the light of stars
Into eternity is all that counts
Of beauty close and far and all who trounce
The sidewalk can ignore the cast of red
Diffused throughout the Milky Way, instead
To shady faces laughing at the sight
Of mannequins who look so erudite.
If left alone, the
sidewalk’s face will age
like marble gods and goddesses; this page
will fail as well into the grist of mites,
become the fodder fired by troglodytes.
Some folks will memorize the final words
and spout them like the trill-filled plumaged birds,
like grass seeds sprouting from the sidewalk’s crack,
the lushness of a poem coming back.
You’re out there on the
a selfie of your feet, as bare as cliffs
and Dover white. Instead of albacore
you order sea bass grilled, hieroglyphs
in Croat from the menu where you point
and shake your head and laugh as if you knew
the lingo—always had, in every joint
you traveled to—I wish you’d make your stew.
I hope you find your way back home, our house
in need of spirit, flesh, instead of freeze-
frames frozen on a cellphone text I douse
with tears. I’m getting sloppy and the leaves
are falling over one another late,
and all of them are searching for a mate.
Spoon River Cemetery
Tell me something new now
baby tell me
all about it, make me cry, make me laugh,
tell me true, tell me some great mystery.
Now darling, don’t hold
back, ain’t nothing free
for nothing, love, and I don’t know the half,
tell me something new now baby, tell me
where you’re going, why you
leaving, sweet pea.
Don’t leave me hanging with a photograph.
Tell me true, tell me some great mystery.
I can take it, don’t you
I can see you ain’t too happy, riffraff’s
telling me something’s new now baby; me
and you can make it, if you
want to flee,
I’ll fix it if you tell me. Telegraph
me. Tell me of your greatest mystery.
What’d I do to make you
cry, can’t you see
it’s on my headstone as an epitaph?
Tell me something new now baby, tell me,
tell me true, tell me some great mystery…
1. Please don’t touch your
testicles with your hands.
2. And ladies, please don’t
pop him in the nards.
3. Please shelter them in
place, no foreign lands
Where gypsies might be reading tarot cards.
4. Try washing all fromunda
cheese* with soap,
Warm water, pat and dry with cornstarch dust
Or rinse with apple cider—most can cope
With, even if they burn or shrink or bust.
5. Take care with
Your Johnson as is needed when it spits.
6. Stand six feet back from
her and masturbate
In case she has a fever or harsh fits.
7. If they are swollen from
the action, stop.
8. And if you’re older, let
her stay on top.
*All the stuff down yonder
when you haven't showered in awhile.
Army term heard frequently in Iraq.
Now if I told you that the
to me, and then I told you at the end
it hummed a tune, just how could I defend
myself, my sanity, if I awoke
tomorrow with my arms around its doors?
A catsup bottle conducts spiral ham
and cheese in symphonic harmony; jam
and mallows playin' jello with some s'mores.
The icebox said, "At last!
You're home! Enjoy
the heat, the stove is stoked, we're all alone,
my friend." "All right," I said, his voice inside
my head.(I know you think this is a ploy
for sympathy, an act you can't let slide);
until you see the smoothie play trombone).
Walter Hawkes is a four-time Emmy winning composer from Mississippi who
lives in N.Y.
He has played trombone on several albums for such
luminaries as Norah Jones and Jack Grace.
A flock of fainting goats
one day were taking notes
about corona virus
hoping to inspire us
with an anecdote––
It just takes one, they wrote,
a tickle in the throat
is so much more desirous––
than a short misquote
regarding an antidote.
The kids run barefoot on
the brick-lined street
And part for goats a shepherd leads to sell
At market on the square, the Billy’s bell
In sync, hooves click resounding to repeat
Between the village walls—a certain beat
The children clap to—closing in as well,
The butchers from their shops, a bloody smell
Put forth from red-wrought aprons in the heat.
In summer’s morning on a
The goats are sold in lots, sometimes in pairs
In case a peasant or a nobleman
Wants breeding stock to fresh an aging herd.
The tenders single out the bought, the pay
Enough to satisfy the shepherd’s cares.
If anything I ever imagined
struck you as even slightly odd; sorry.
But my imagination isn’t kept
in some dark keep. It had to leap starry
skies, the undulating heavens. I swept
the universe for you, having scavenged
its farthest reaches, room by room and porch.
I sifted through the dustpan’s nebulas.
Back then, I was a self-consuming torch
each day, and when I found you, Daedalus
rejoiced, returned to digging dirt. What life
we have apart now. I’ve forgotten how
to fly, am prone to drown like lost Leander,
while you, no Hero, diddle and meander.
If given half the chance,
would things be worse?
Things appear much closer in the mirror.
If we could rearrange the universe—
I mean, what if we shift the gears, reverse
the order, take the wheel, then we steer her,
if given half the chance? Would things be worse?
Perhaps there’s some among us who are terse;
white-knuckled rides are always riskier.
If we could rearrange the universe,
I doubt that we could make it more diverse,
but make the farther somewhat the nearer,
if given half the chance. Would things be worse,
or better, writing Greek heroic verse
to constellations scrambled, but clearer,
if we could? Rearrange the universe!
Reverse the curse, and we can ditch the hearse
in Charon’s Styx, Death’s paid interferer,
if given half the chance. Would things be worse
if we could rearrange the universe?
The dossier of Steele’s was
Before the FISA court four times. In fact,
It was a Clinton dirty trick instead.
You might not like the Trumpster or the bed
Whores might have pissed on or the folks he backed—
The dossier of Comey’s falsely pled
That Papadopoulos and Page had said
Those things as truth, what’s more, that Russia hacked.
It was the DNC’s bad faith instead
Which led us to this fateful loggerhead
Where lies become the trope. The deck was stacked
By Clapper, Brennan’s dossier who pled
On CNN, NBC the widespread
Disinformation-led campaign jam-packed
With bad-mouth actors spouting off instead—
What happened to the fake news bull and Zed
When Barr and Durham’s sawed-off shotguns racked
Their shells and shot the dossier? They said
As they sped off, “Zed’s dead, baby, Zed’s dead”…
Going to the 1934 movie: “The
He grasped the meter,
falling to his knees,
too drunk, disorderly, to stand his ground,
but rose again, and as he came around
he fed it pennies, nickels, dimes; the fees
for space kept adding up and time became
a factor as he waited for the girl
to show, a fox for sure, or a squirrel
bucktoothed, he couldn’t say, enough with blame—
how bourbon has its way, and with regret,
a great amount of both caused him to slide
again against the meter for the ride
down to the curb where it was soaking wet
along the gutter from the rain or piss
from other patrons of the street-life guild
who’d never acquiesce to being billed
for their relief—it must have been the bliss
of bladders hissing on the fiery street-
lit barrels where they warmed their hands and sang
the bawdy songs of sailors and au lang
laments of bankers in their shoeless feet.
But near the Bijou where he waited long
into the night, he sobered some, and found
a twenty-dollar gold-piece on the ground
wedged in a sidewalk crack; there’s nothing wrong
with finders-keepers as he looked both ways,
his eyes as shifty as a black cat clock’s
twin peepers on a pawn shop wall three blocks
from where he stood, and suddenly; she sashays
into the parking place he held for her,
her Model A, no entourage, but style
exuded up and down her neck, a pile
of auburn hair, chinchilla hat-wrapped fur
clung to her sequined skirt tight to her thighs
like strands of rope down to her shackled heels
spiked like medieval pikes, electric eels
click-sparking every step, and all the guys
and dolls made way for her, save him, who took
her arm in his, and how he straightened out,
demeanor proper, she a red-lipped pout;
a star-struck Copper tipped his hat, she shook
her ass, he tilted backwards on his beat.
They make their stroll into the movie-house,
Move past concessions on the rug to grouse
About the prices, find a double seat
And settle in with contraband in hand:
A sack of buttered popcorn, two Cokes,
A flask of bourbon in his pocket—folks
Would never know the indiscretion, grand
Enough, but simple tastes are always that.
They watch, enraptured by the drama’s scenes
Of treachery, the way that Dietrich leans
Into the role of Catherine, her spat
With Peter, coup d’état, the golden age
Of Russia, peccadillos, appetites
Un-cloistered by a reckoning of lights.
He kisses her, she kisses him, the stage
Grows brighter and the sound regains its zeal.
The end returns them to the meter where
Her car is parked. He kisses her in air
As cold as fusion—some would say surreal.
In times to come, the rest
of you will know
The secret lives of men who barely are—
And others scattered through its strands where woe
Is commonplace and misery not far
Removed from losers and their memories
For death to bury deep enough, to quiet
A single solitary ghost or ease
A conscience tortured by a scythe in riot.
I am a ghoul, if nothing else, these days.
I’m not afraid of death or life or pain
That I have caused or will; I know the ways
To torment those who live for their own gain.
And in this knowledge, some will rue the sun
That came upon their corpses. I am the one.
For Pastor Bob Lamb (long retired)
He was a Lamb before the wolves
Madisonville, KY circa 1973
That Bob was just a country
Some folks throughout the charismatic realm.
He didn’t speak in tongues, nor had he piled
His pulpit with the prayer cloths at the helm
Of his right doctrine: faith in Christ alone—
No works or water, handling snakes or vials
Of deadly poison to regale, no Joan-
Of Arc or other saintly figures, trials
By fire or deprivation, some trite vow
Or healing ceremony, spirit-slain
And falling backwards, always backwards, now.
Amen’s were fine, and hallelujahs reign!
His sovereign God would choose the flock to save.
The rest of them could go to hell and rave.
He brings a certain rustic
To town. He’s learned the ways of dilettantes
By watching online videos. His hair
Is parted properly. He uses fonts
Like: Mistral, Leelawadee, Moolboran
For writing poetry on napkins while
He’s having dinner at the Kazakhstan
*All you can eat* buffet house—crocodile,
The Special, Friday night until they’re out,
With chocolate mousse dessert the featured sweet.
He gives a lecture reaching men about
The raccoon hunter’s U.K.C. elite,
On how to tell the difference when a dog
Lies on the tree, and getting lost in fog.
I watch two lizards mating
on a stack
Of hawthorn sticks with both their tails askew,
Entwined, & he is mounted on her back
Unmoved; he’s early though and whoops, the screw
Goes wryly wrong. He’s not monogamous;
Another’s caught his eye. He’s just a guy
With syndrome issues much like all of us
Without, and so he sticks it to the fly.
And after lunch, he chases down the one
Who’s dressed in pretty stripes, in gaudy garb
In hopes that this erection is more fun
And lasts a little longer with his barb.
It’s getting dark and Venus’ rising light
Gives way to Mars who finally gets it right.
I’ve tried to rid myself of all the stuff,
some nearly worthless things, some others not.
The values change, keep changing, and it’s tough
deciding what to keep or throw, the pot
enameled, chipped, a hole down low inside
—a planter, maybe, filled with dirt, posies
sprouting, or a target; I can’t decide,
though shooting at it soothes my neuroses.
The house has paths that you might just avoid.
From room to room and from floor to ceiling
are stacks of things that you and I enjoyed-
Pink Floyd, and others; That Lovin’ Feeling…
Don’t judge me for living in a hovel.
When I die you’re gonna’ need my shovel.
Your shoulders sag and stumble when she falls
down sick, unlike a manufactured shrug
indifferent to diffidence and calls
from relatives removed from cancer’s lug.
Reflexively, your taste goes dry. You chug
an overpriced unsweetened drink and wait
for diagnosis and the stage the bug
has taken in her—they can’t operate.
You don’t believe in God, but even fate
can’t keep you from the chapel or your knees
when you go bargaining—where you equate
your jargon with a prayer while begging, please.
Your odds are much like hers, and in the red,
your eyes reveal your soul and where it’s led.
When you professed your
love there in the road
to me, I found it was the strangest place.
Too late, I saw the sign that I’d been snowed
and when the plow came
through to spread its load
of salt, it flattened me without a trace
when you professed your love there in the road.
Well, I’d been trucked
before. I had the mode
down pat, and yeah, I’d melted down, my face
too late to see the sign that I’d been snowed,
but when it hit me, I was
myself the pain of being flung through space
when you professed your love there in the road.
How did it miss you?, love,
itself of savor? I don’t get it, Lace.
Too late I saw the sign. That I’d been snowed
was not in question,
knowing that a toad
cannot with kisses make a prince’s case.
When you professed your love there in the road,
too late I saw the sign that I’d been snowed.
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