Up and Down the Stairs
Gliding high in the white rafters
with the winged creatures,
dragons and griffons,
osprey and purple finches,
come down now, before you drift
the outer atmosphere and lift
the rings from Saturn’s fingers
as if you deserved them—
and you know you’ll pawn them
when you return to solid ground,
reducing the mystique of a millenia
to a consumer transaction.
Morbidity and Mortality
Vanity, thy name is—
Narcissa! Oh, there she is,
cheeks flushed and rouged unnaturally red,
like one painted lotus flower
in a sea of thick, black mud.
Or a central line
that must be given up.
Either way, there’s something out of place,
with stakes as high
as likely they will be.
the sky turns over with a sigh,
restless in its witching hour sleep
with dreams that creep and crawl
on shallow breath
until things we see
become those things we saw
and death neglects to come that night at all.
Two Steps Backward
well we’ve veered off course this time
and the atlas is crammed under the back seat
with your crumpled boutonnierre
and my last ditch attempt
(five volumes, no less!)
at selling out. Drive on, darling.
Nothing left to say as the
engine hums and I wonder this out,
ticking off the minutes
with the skittishness of
a spider in a windstorm.
Bed of Weeds
Fire catching caught
a cold and cancer
is the worst sentence—
structure has to give
a little if the breaks and bends
will ever build and bury
weeds and wash the sheets
and give up pride, the
lion’s share is cast in
goldenrod and mustard seed.
A hurricane of emotion
A break in the clouds—
a mere crack in the lead-gray
walls that shudder in a thunderous clap—
reveals a silver thread
tied off by the storm makers
at pensive unrest
in their cradle-rocked beds.
Pretty Little Things
Broken bits of sand dollars wrapped
over macramé—mention this to your
mother, why don’t you?
Not everything that glitters is gold.
Not everything that rusts is silver.
And not everyone wants, either.
With a high-spirited lilt in her
otherwise, unaffected, Midwestern voice
she refused to answer his question,
cast it off with philosophical mutterings
of Sudanese orphans and free speech,
laced in overused irony, empathy chocked
like wild aster in a bed of nettles and weeds.
And a young man with political aspirations
chimed in, expressed, in a speech bereft
of well-placed pauses or present tense,
that what the people want, the people get.
Now they all choose sides, one after another
except Maryanne, timid, her heart bleeds out
once an hour, for lost dogs and widowed
mothers. The brothers, a pair of priests
who deal in absolutes, decorate the room
with string after string of fresh-water
pearls, gleaned from the depths of their
most shallow state.
Hang them from the ceiling, these notions
of death and taxes, beggars and kings.
These less than serendipitous things.
Not a gardener in the house, to dig
in loose soil, in unsettled earth,
bury foreign seeds from Eastern gardens,
to grow trees with fruit of uncertain
color and bittersweet taste. Chaste,
and strange enough to end an idle racket.
Come to me now!
Brothers in arms, sisters at rest.
I drink a bitter cup this evening
tea leaves spoiled
it’s not news to me that the old man’s raging
but in his reckless abandon
he might knock the sky from the heavens
and I’m not going to clean that mess up
to be so hateful
and patience stretches only so thin.
Written on the Courthouse Steps
In this murder of crows,
I will lose my soul.
Here, said the woebegone sparrow,
trembling in sinew and quaking in marrow,
this is the gilded cage
that will bleed my hopes dry.
This is where those sharp-tongued crows,
in black-sheened clothes
will pick at my bones
and peck out my eyes.
A Raging Epidemic
Shake it off,
the world-weary plague,
a blight of soul
and tacks and tares
a field of weeds
the golden vetch
fabric rent and
curtains blowing in
hot glare off a sullen, vindictive
sun and stars conspire together
in facing the enemy
you have my word
and my absolute devotion
every second Sunday from now
until the end of all things
and play it off easy—
as sparrows of the air,
as lilies of the field.