Make

The grey sky looks blue when you’re yellow. 

I hope the rain cradles you 

And makes you new. 

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Lots of Haikus

I craved sheet music 

Dragged my nails along the earth

Until Italy. 

I burned the temple 

In pursuit of the priestess 

And found salvation. 

I breathed in the smell 

Of fine wines and sweet sea salts

Of olives and rose.

I discovered there 

Among the gnarled green trees

An ancient story. 

A sleeping mythos 

Come alive in the autumn 

The old ritual;

The old old country
With its romance languages

Its zupa and prawn 

Its olive oil 

Pressed thick as maple syrup 

Bottled for dinner.

I walked through the square 

And saw with tears in my eyes 

Brunelleschi’s Dome.

I strolled the Arno

In search of focaccia and wine 

Found only myself. 

A wanderer

A pebble floating downstream 

Toward wine dark seas. 

A stranger alight 

In the land of Medici 

Clutching my passport;

Clinging far too long 

To some lost notion of love

The relics of death;

The spoils of war,

A war no one could but win

Though both met defeat.

An old memory 

Playing on a projector 

Dancing on the screen,

But would not dissolve 

Into that pregnant ether 

Nor would dissipate

Into the endless sea 

The True Mother of Human

The bearer of life;

Nor the winking moon

The torch blazing in the dark 

The big hunk of cheese; 

Nor the deep valley 

Carved from fossilized rivers

Moving down mountain;

An old memory 

Playing ad infinitum

Here inside my head;

Deciding my fate,

Rendering my art ugly 

And yet beautiful.

I went off searching 

For mystics with seashell eyes 

Who knew the secrets;

Objectivity 
A reality I could not touch 

A meaning yet found.

And when I arrived, 

On Dante’s doorstep 

With my old question, 

Banging in my mind 

Expecting to listen 

To the sound of inferno 

Burning in his soul, 

I found the front door 

Paint chipping into nothing

Swinging wide open,

The living room dark, 

Smelling of dead company 

And swarms of fruit flies
Swirling the altar 

Where mangos lay smashed 

Into froth and pulp.

I found the bedroom 

Draped in yellow skeletons,

And sad melody;

A quartet playing 

In the shadows by the bed 

Without sheet music; 

Without instruments 

Without drum or conductor

Without care at all. 

I found them laughing 

Their eyes filled with some big joke,

Some cosmic joke.

And what could I do, 

But cackle right alongside

While they played me 

The last sonata

Their pal Jesus ever wrote,

An opus of life 

A real tear jerker

A meaningless spell of notes 

A manifesto. 

They played til they cried 

And when they cried, the sound rose 

Above the white noise,

The empty answers,

The stupid bullshit 

That once filled every blank space 

In my throbbing thoughts;

Every wondering

A wandering, every fall 

A chance to get up

Every last question

I could ever think to pose

Finally withdrawn.

Moku Pai (Pie Island)

If we’re being honest, the island looks a lot like a butt. Not a particularly fleshy butt. Just a regular, average sized butt with its central cleave, and its two proverbial cheeks. No one would use the words ’round’, ‘thick’, or ‘juicy’ to describe it. Nor the word ‘bubble’. It would have no trouble fitting into a pair of Apple bottom jeans were there a pair large enough to accommodate such a landmass. No, Sir Mix A Lot would not have rapped about it. Becky would not have bothered to look at it. And there is no junk in its trunk. But! And I do mean but. There are hidden treasures in its depths, as there might be a half eaten zucchini squash or a hot wheels car wrapped in a Trojan condom.

One cheek faces due west, toward Midway, toward Tokyo, toward itself if you traverse the whole planet. Then again all things on Earth point to themselves if you’re around long enough to make a full rotation. Separating the westernmost cheek from its counterpart is a glittering channel of water that flows magically north. The other cheek, the more eastward of the two, is where the Shaman built his cabin, in a convenient glade entirely bereft of landmines. It serves as a safe haven, a treaty zone so to speak, for the island’s fauna, who by now have learned to avoid the north end of the island, where the trees run sparse and the underbrush gives way to glistening white pebble beach.

It is there where most of the unexploded ordnance remains, still unexploded, heavily oxidized by a half century of Pacific ocean rain. Landmines, the exploding dinosaur bones of the military industrial age, the perverted, unwanted cousin of the iron spike, the least child-friendly jack in the box on the market, the pimpled ghost of Brigadier-General Gabriel J. Rains. And here they are, of all places, on an invisible island in Hawaii, abandoned by the Yankees, left to fester; on this island which the locals have aptly named, Moku Pai. 

The leaves do not turn on this island. There is no autumn to which a New Englander might be accustomed. No crimsons. No apricots. No maroons. Nothing. With the exception of the landmines, made flaky and red by corroded alloy and too much sun, looking like scattered acne pockmarks from the sky, the island is as green as a sugar snap pea garnished with cilantro and encased in emerald.

Yes, and though we’ve established the resemblance of the island to a butt, we have not specified whose butt it is. One might, considering the evidence, liken the island to the rearend of one jolly green giant, lush in its verdant flora, plump in all the right places (although you will find no canned vegetables here;  nor will you find a large wooden sign that reads,’Welcome to the Valley’ as appropriate as such a sign might be for an island resembling a pair of buttocks. But ultimately such a resemblance is neither here nor there. It serves no purpose beyond the crude and the whimsical. Yet if whimsy is our goal then we must note the following: that Moku Pai, in truth, resembles neither butt nor Georgia peach, but, as the island’s name suggests, a great big green pie, sliced lazily in two, and floating, always floating, in an endless ocean of whale clad blue.

An Uncoordinated Yo-Yoer

One day I want to stay. The next I want to run again. 

My subconscious whips me around like an uncoordinated yo-yoer. 

A malaise hangs over me like a cloud, like a dead tree, like flayed animal hides stinking and dried. 

I want to cast everything off and go back home. To you. 

How my body fills with ecstasy when you enter my mind. 

How my heart fills with sighs when I think of you next to me. 

How I miss what is gone, and hope so badly that it returns. 

Yet wonder if the bridges have burned, 

If the roads have been toppled with rock,

If the power lines have fallen like wounded knees, 

And the messages are getting through at all. 

Your absence uprooted me. 

I am a nomad now. A tumbleweed with a backpack. Homeless. Tired. 

Digging Totems

I dug up my totem pole yesterday.

It had been sitting in the middle

Of my ex girlfriend’s living room

Gathering dust

Looking shriveled and neglected.

No one was home so I went in

With a variety of shovels and sheers

And dug and dug

Until the carpet was uprooted

And the bedrock foundation had been cracked

And dirt was seeping through the newly formed fissures.

After considerable push and pull

I unearthed it completely

Then carried it out over my shoulder

Without looking back.

There is a glade behind my house

With craggy trees, bramble

And a thin little creek trickling

Off toward somewhere.

I found a flat spot of earth

And placed the totem there

Carving a hole into the soil

Planting it firmly until it neither

Swayed nor rattled in the wind.

When finally I completed my task

When finally it stood strong and motionless

I tied a rope around it

Fastening the other end to my waist

Laughing all the while.

And I danced

And I ran

And swung like a tether ball

Around and around the totem.

I did so until the moon

Was bobbing among the woods

Like a Chinese lantern,

And the squirrels had retired to their dens

And darkness enveloped the neighborhood.

In the morning I awoke

To the sounds of birds chirping and pecking

At its wood-carved faces.

With my coffee and my book of poetry,

I sat at its feet

The white blue Sun draped over my back,

Knock, knock, knocking

At its solid walnut bole

Breathing in and out

To the satisfying rhythm

Of completion.

Then, when my knuckles tuckered,

And my wrist grew tired,

I plopped against it,

Tipped my cap over my eyes

And napped until it seemed that

My spine had fused with the totem itself,

Until there was no arguing

No quibbling or questioning

That I was anything but centered,

Anything but happy,

Anything but home.

 

 

Chicken Little

My attention was fixed elsewhere when the plane fell in my backyard. I was busy in my study, examining the carcass of a wasp with a new microscope I bought off Amazon. The wasp had died in the space between the screen and the window sill. The yellow sun was shining on the yellow paint of my bedroom walls. And there it was, dead as a doornail, calling to me.

I was halfway between the thorax and the abdomen, examining the membranous folds of its wings, when the plane fell. I didn’t hear a thing. Not because it didn’t make a sound, but because my headphones were in and my music was blaring in my ears. If a plane falls in your backyard and you’re not around to hear it, does it still make a sound? The answer is an unequivocal yes. My neighbor, Mrs. Raspberry, will corroborate. 

It was eleven AM when I went downstairs, headphones still in, to fetch a cup of coffee. The sight of the plane did not startle me, although I did think of Chicken Little. There were flames and distant sirens and baffled neighbors holding their arms above their heads like sit-ups. But I suppose I was more disturbed by the fact that the crash had maimed from the oak tree in my yard, a single branch upon which a bird’s nest had sat, with its fresh little chickadees chirp chirp chirping all day, serenading me. And now they were dead.