Thursday

WE WAIT

We sit, she leans against me like a lover,
I cradle her like a baby, her head.

 I sit, slouched on the bed,
 holding his hand, mine on his.

 We wait in silence.

 It is only right, that parents grow old,
 and die before their sons.


 J

Monday

OFTEN

     
Someday you will leave.
I’m sure that in this
it will not be your  
purpose to cause pain.

     And here I’ll say something philosophical
     about the nature of change
     and the wisdom of letting go.
     Then a rhythmic image of nature,
     naked branches, twigs
     scraping at a window.
     Then I allude to something visceral
     and violent, like dripping blood,
     drip drip, but not so obvious--
     thrumming in your ears.
     Then something innocuous again,
     like a breeze and slow breathing,
     then I close with--
     either ‘And’ or ‘But’--

often I discover 
my left index finger
tapping, fast as if 
with anxiety.

J

SLIP

 I told her
     with firm conviction, secure,
     with confident tenderness,
that she was mine.

Had any woman ever said such a thing to me
I would have pulled her into my arms and kissed her
     with manifest sexual desire.  
I would have loved her even more,
for such words.
To be loved,
     asserted as an observation
     of adamant fact --
how comforting.

She
however
was offended.


J

YOU

You didn't know
   when you first loved me
   when you opened my heart
      like soft hands pursuading a fist
that I would turn my love back on you
   like a blast of fire
   like pulling a child out of a well
   like a mirror.

You didn't know that after a long life
bright with grace,
I would die in your arms
   with a smile.

Or maybe you did.


J

Sunday

Compassion

A pilgrim moves across an unforgiving land beneath the dusty sun, and comes to a walled city. Hoping to find relief from his thirst, he passes through the gates. He comes to a bustling marketplace, and drawn to a knot of people, he moves over to learn what they are about.

A small boy is poking with his toe at the body of a dead dog. Each time he jars it a whispering growl is forced through its throat, and a white snarl passes across its stiff lips. The loitering adults find this amusing and laugh merrily.

One of them says, “What a mangy bitch -- you couldn’t even patch a sandal with its scabby hide.” Another says, “When the rats finish eating that skinny carcass, they’ll be hungrier than when they started.” And another says, “It stinks now, but not as bad as when it was alive.” They all laugh at such cleverness.

Then the pilgrim steps forward. “Pearls,” he says, “pearls cannot surpass the whiteness of her teeth.”

In the ensuing silence the adults slowly grow ashamed. And each of them turns and goes away, one by one, to his own place until, at the side of the dead dog, only the pilgrim and the small boy remain.


J

Grace

A young wife walked to the cottage of a wise man to buy a potion for her husband. Ever since he had returned from the war, the husband had been cold and ill-tempered. He rarely spoke, and when he should have been working, for hours he would stand unmoving and stare toward the sea. After hearing the problem, the wise man said, “Yes, I know this affliction, but one thing you must provide. Bring me the whisker of a living tiger.”

The young woman was shocked. “Surely you can brew some elixir without causing my death,” she blurted. “How can I get such a thing? It is impossible.”

The old man smiled a small smile. “If you think it important, you will find a way.”

Late that night the young wife dressed by moonlight and sought out the cave in a mountainside where a tiger made its lair. She held out a bowl of grain soaked in meat sauce, and called to the tiger. It did not come. The next night she came again, and still the tiger did not appear. But she returned night after night, and after a time the tiger crept out and coldly stared at her.

Weeks passed, and each night the woman came a bit closer, holding out the bowl. And the tiger would stand, and stare into her eyes, and listen to her soothing voice as she sang sweet songs and spoke of her love for her husband, of the gentle man he once had been, and how she longed for his peace to be restored. One season rolled into the next, marked by the woman not so much in the motions of weather, as in the movement of the tiger, toward her. More nights passed, and the two came closer together, until at last the beast took one final, graceful step, and lapped up the food from the bowl in her hand.

And she came to find the tiger waiting for her, and she would stroke its broad head, driving her fingers into its thick fur, daring to hear its deep-chested, rumbling purr. And finally, softly, she asked in a whisper if she might have a single whisker, and she snipped it off, and thanked the beast, and rubbed its throat, and went to her solitary bed.

The next day she returned to the cottage of the wise man. Joyfully she produced the bristly hair and gave it to him. Carefully he examined it, and nodding with approval, he asked how she had come to possess it. The story spilled out of her, of how she had come, and patiently waited, and slowly approached, and gently coaxed—each night bringing food she knew it would not eat, gradually gaining the wild animal’s acceptance, never raising her voice, never showing her impatience and anxiety -- until it trusted her.

Hearing this, the man took the precious whisker and dropped it into the fire. With a quick hiss it twisted into ash and vanished.

When the young woman found words to speak, she cried, “It was all for nothing? And now my husband will never return to me!”

The old man smiled his sad smile. “It was not for nothing. Is a man more vicious than a tiger? Is he more insensible to kindness? Will he forever fail to respond to love? If you can win the trust of a savage beast, how much more the wounded heart of your poor husband? Go, and practice what you have learned from taming the tiger.”

The following year a child was born. It was given a name that means “grace.”



J

Friday

Guilt

Late morning sunlight bright as burning lime shone through the window when I came in. The body hadn’t been moved yet, and was still sprawled—or heaped, rather, like a dropped doll—across the iron bedstead pushed against the middle of the far wall. The body lay angled toward the left shoulder, both arms pulled so that the hands almost touched behind the back. The right leg was bent under itself, foot hidden under the thigh, the other leg extending half off the bed, toes not quite touching the floor. It looked like a photograph of somebody stumbling down stairs.

Blood had spread entirely across the Union suit underwear, turning it rusty and dark. Blood had soaked through the blanket and sheet and matting, through the cotton and horsehair, onto the broad dull floorboards, and flowed out from under the bed in a long puddle, looking like black tallow floating on brown water.

Flies had followed the stink of alcohol and blood and excrement in through the dead-looking branches of some neglected vine, through the open windows, rattling their wings like beggars’ cups, angry and hungry. Oddly, I could see only one sucking at the blood on the floor, its head dull and bright with blue and green, like part of an ugly rainbow. Flies live through the winter in Los Angeles, sustained by an abundance of filth.

Three patrolmen stood near the windows, thumbs in belt or behind lapels or flicking at large brass buttons. Two of them smoked cigars. They talked about cockfights, beer, women, laughing once in a while in not-loud barks. The patrolmen hardly lowered their voices when I entered. They hadn’t removed their hats.

An ice wagon groaned by along the side street, the unequally-yoked dray horses plowing the road-ruts just that much deeper.

The coroner, a fat Irishman with side whiskers and tobacco-stained mustachios, had just finished closing up his bag. “Pretty clear,” he muttered. “Suicide. Cut his throat, shallow but thorough. Bled to death. Razor still in his hand. Nearly had to break the fingers to get it out. His razor. Dead all night. Since ten maybe.” A few more words between us, then he nodded a good-bye and positioning his belly toward the door left the room.

The dead man was young, lean, with a medium build and pale, hairless arms and legs. Even more pale, of course, now. Blood hadn’t gotten at his face or hair, and I could see the smooth, flawless skin of a triangular face, a small straight nose, dimpled chin, full, womanish lips with a sulky downward curve now that he was dead. Wavy brown hair still neatly slicked back from the perfect arc of his eyebrows and the smooth, perfect surface of his forehead. Slivers of blue iris showed from beneath the upper lids, the whites almost as clear as a newly born baby’s. His lashes were thick and long, and gave him an oddly innocent aura. He had been a handsome lad. The ladies must have swooned for him.

A skinny-legged table stood up against the right side of the bed, closest to the body. It held a whiskey bottle, two-thirds empty, no cup. Crowding the rest of the table-top was a gray washing bowl and pitcher, both limned with soft red roses. Above the table, the gaslight still flickered.

The man’s clothes had been draped neatly across the bed’s foot rail. Wherever he’d been Saturday evening, he’d cut a dashing figure in a Norfolk jacket of pale blue, matching trousers, a Madras shirt with small oxblood dots, and a wing collar now looped over it casually. A boater hung on a post, with a bright pink-checked necktie wrapped around it like a maiden’s kerchief knotted to a shield. Patent leather shoes rested pigeon-toed on the floor, forlorn as only the empty shoes of a dead man can be. A dollar-sized ruby stain marred the front of the shirt, suggesting spilled wine. Even among the other smells, when I held it to my nose it still had a vague fruity odor.

Sergeant Gregory entered, and said, behind me, “His name was Vladislaw Moes. Been here about ten months according to the landlady. I just finished up talking to her. He was twenty-three. Clerk at Caven & Son. Got paid yesterday. No known debts, or enemies. Moderate habits, personable. Spent the evening out, don’t know yet where, then came in about 8:30. Made an early night of it, what with today being Sunday. Wasn’t heard from since.”

“Came home alone?”

“Yeah. Always.”

“Neighbors?”

“The landlady in the room closest the outside door. Three other roomers, one across, Suarez, one by the front door, Krueger, and McKinley above. Stairs the first door as you come in, on the right.”

“McKinley. Talk to them yet?”

“Yeah. Landlady’s a half-deaf widow name of Mrs. Quincy.” Gregory paused, took a deep breath, shifted his large feet and continued: “Maybe she drinks a little. And it looks like she runs a pretty loose place, doesn’t mind her fellas entertaining, if you get my meaning. She locks the door at nine, and the roomers let themselves in with a key after that. McKinley was entertaining. The woman was still there this morning. Took a lot of knocking to rouse them. Suarez didn’t come in till after midnight, and made enough noise to wake the old lady. Krueger doesn’t have much to say – home all evening, reading and listening to his gramophone, he says.”

I moved over to the other side of the bed, to the wardrobe and dressing table. A good-quality long mirror had been secured to the inside of one of the wardrobe doors, and the other held a colorful array of cravats, neckties, hats. More hats rested on a high inner shelf, several stylish coats were carefully hung from a stout wooden bar, and a neat row of shoes, polished, lined its floor.

The dressing table showed the dead young man’s personal effects scattered across its top – Mysteria Pomade, a set of men’s brushes and toiletries, Flumel’s Divine Hair Tonic for the Gentleman of Particular Taste, a silver and enamel engraved pocket watch, an unopened packet of a dozen high-band linen collars, a scatter of coins, tobacco and paper, talcum powder. Several collar studs lay on the cover of an incongruous Fairchild’s Magazine a couple years old, which was at the top of a stack of Men’s Wear, The Young Man’s Journal, and the like. A few squares of paper, canary yellow, were scrawled with numbers and idle pencil scratches. A receipt for the collars, and another for two shirts, lay folded by the collar studs. A razor strop hung from the knob of the top drawer, close to the bed.

Below, partly open dresser drawers held a few neatly folded and well starched shirts, and two other shirts, clearly new, white, one with heliotrope stripes, the other with Hunter green double diamonds. The middle drawer held trousers, again neatly folded, and several white linen Union suits — so under the blood, he had worn white. Soiled clothes in the bottom drawer, awaiting a launderer who would never see them.

“So was this Vlad a Russian?” I asked Gregory.

“Or something, a Polack or something, but didn’t have an accent. Been here since he was a kid. Came west from St. Louis, and before that from New York – ten months ago like I said.”

“O.K. McKinley and Suarez are out of it for now. I’ll talk to Krueger and see what’s what.”

“Think it’s worth it? Doc says suicide.”

“Yeah. I heard. I hope he’s better at his job than he is at ours. How does he know whose razor it is? Why would a dying man keep hold of the razor? – especially with the arms and hands in such an awkward position? Why would a fellow buy new shirts and collars, and that very day kill himself? It doesn’t make sense. Where’s the money from his pay? Why were the windows open on a cold winter night?”

“Well, we opened it. It was getting pretty ripe in here.”

“Then why didn’t you turn off the gaslight?”

He didn’t answer.

“Why was there no note? Why is his hair still so neat? He combed his hair and then sat down in his underwear and cut his throat? I’ve never seen a drunkard with such neatly combed hair. For a young man so obviously concerned about his appearance to end up dead in blood-crusty underwear just doesn’t ring true,” I said. “It might be suicide,” I said, “but it’s not clear at all.”

I went into the hall, to Krueger’s room. He opened his door as soon as I knocked, like he’d been listening at the door. I introduced myself and entered. His room was more of the same, except its occupant was alive and the prevailing odor was the innocuous incense of pipe tobacco rather than the exudations of death. Bed in the far left corner, with a gramophone on a small trunk at its foot, window to the bed’s right, two chairs and a table in the middle of the right wall.

“Come and sit here,” he invited, motioning awkwardly to the near chair. “You will have something to drink?”

He was a fattish man of middle years, aging badly, bald with graying blond side locks that hung around his head like a cannibal’s grass skirt. His nose bent down and sharply to the left, and a ragged scar puckered the right side of his face. The whites of his eyes were the color of tobacco smoke. His hands were thick as muffins, with short sausage-fat fingers – he could have been holding breakfast. He wore clean, faded gray overalls, a washed-out sidebutton shirt without a collar, and scuffed brown workman’s boots, square-toed and heavy. A shapeless felt hat hung on a peg by the door.

Ignoring his invitation, I walked past the table and chairs to the window on the far wall and stood next to the bed. “So, Mr. Krueger, as you know, your neighbor next door has been killed.”

Krueger sat with a thump in the chair, looking stricken. “Killed?” he said in a choked voice. “He did this to himself I thought.”

“That remains to be seen. Tell me, if you would be so good, if you can shed any light on the matter.”

“I know nothing.”

“By which you mean?”

“Ach, well, no, I am in my room all night. That boy, he was a good young man, very quiet. It is like they say a tragedy.”

Krueger went on like that, speaking in the vague platitudes of a simpleton. I listened to the nervous words filter though his thick mushy accent, just to hear him speak. He sounded slightly drunk, but no bottles were in sight.

“Might I trouble you for a drink of water?” I interrupted.

“Forgive me. I am a bad host. I am bothered by this thing, this death.” He rose and went to the cabinet behind him. He took a drinking glass from the standing cupboard, held it under the spout of a burnished nickel water urn engraved with large florets. He pressed the tap button, hunching his shoulders as he did so as if exerting great effort. His hair hung like wet fraying rope over his neck. Showing through the crossed bands of the overalls, the back of his pale blue shirt was blotched dark with sweat. He looked uncertain and strangely small.

I crossed the room and looked at the books in a narrow bookcase – a dozen or so heavy tomes with long German titles. On top of the case were a couple of candle stubs. A partly-eaten black-bread sandwich was growing stale on unfolding brown paper. A pipe lay on its side, and next to it a box of matches and a leather tobacco pouch sat on a square yellow envelope about four inches across. A few coins. A silver-framed photograph of a foreign-looking matron flanked by two younger women, all seated formally before a painted seascape – rough waves breaking across ragged rocks on a storm-clouded beach. Odd place for a trio of Prussian hausfraus to pose. Sturm und drang.

“Your water is here,” Krueger said, after a moment. He had been looking at me silently. I walked to him and took the glass, then went back to the window. He sat again.

Under a half-hour of questioning, he told me about his Saturday, uneventful – his job, as a trolley motorman – his relationship with Moes, cordial. Then I thanked him and left. We did not shake hands.

In the dead man’s room, two men had placed a canvas stretcher on the bed, next to the body, and were pushing and sliding and tugging it into place between the poles. The man on the right, burly as a bear, seemed squeamishly aware of the blood on the floor. Then they covered the body over with a horse blanket and carried it out of the room and down the hall, into the bright winter sunlight outside. I followed. A crowd of children and adults idled around the doorstep and on the corner, but parted to let them pass. The men worked the stretcher into the back of their van, then climbed up onto the seat.

The big man took the reins and with a gentle shake signaled the horses to move. Jerking to a start, the wagon jogged slowly north on Central toward the city morgue. An automobile came snorting down the road like a blind black bull, making the horses nervous and blowing out smoke enough to make you think it was heating an office building. More and more autos every day, it seemed. There was a lot of traffic for a Sunday. I watched it moving along the long avenue for quite a while — riders and buggies and carriages and omnibuses and trolleys and automobiles, the din of metal and leather and rubber and stone and dirt — until the wagon was just an anonymous spot in the distance.

Then I returned to Moes’ room, empty now, devoid of occupants living or dead, and paced its floor restlessly. For about an hour I looked through the entire room again, under the blood-soaked mattress, between the pages of journals, inside the scribbled yellow envelopes on the dressing table, inside shoes, pockets, behind the wardrobe. Gramophone music seeped through from Krueger’s room – a sad, slow waltz with too much brass.

The low solstice sun sent long rays across the floor, full on the thick and drying bloody pool. At least no one had stepped in it. I sat at the foot of the bed on a clean spot, the toes of my shoes inches away from the stain on the floor, my eyes fixing morbidly on the flies settling again to lap at its edges.

Then I got up and pushed the bed away, up against the western wall, revealing all of the blood on the floor. In the center of the blot, where the blood was thickest, a slight triangle of imperfection broke its surface. I looked closer, squatting on my heels. With my nails I plucked at it, pulling out a square of thick sodden paper, lines of viscous fluid trailing beneath it. I carried it gingerly to the wash basin and dropped it in. Then I emptied the rest of the whiskey into the bowl, sloshing it around to remove the blood.

It was an envelope, about four inches across. Pulling it open and apart, I could see that the inside was still yellow. Empty.

I dropped the paper on the table, wiped my fingertips on a clean part of the bed, and stood thinking. Something about square yellow envelopes. So many square yellow envelopes.

I moved to the door. Out of the room, down the hall, to Krueger’s door. Sorry to trouble you again but. Inside, at his bookcase. Under the tobacco pouch, a square yellow envelope, canary, filled with cash. Printed in small elegant type on the flap, Caven & Son.

Oh, Mr. Krueger. What have you done.

***

The case was a sensation, in large part because the young man had been so achingly handsome. Newspapers published his photographs, of which there were very many: he had been an artists’ model in both St. Louis and New York. Soulful profiles, tasteful nudes, poses heroic. The rooming house, its shabby clapboards now wreathed with pink and lilac Wisteria blossoms, became a Mecca of sight-seers, and Mrs. Quincy forsook her laudanum long enough to bask in the implicit glory of having for a time nurtured the fallen hero. Both Caven and Son gave interviews lauding the lad’s diligent and noble character, fit to wed any mother’s daughter. A line of ‘Moes Neck Wear for the Daringly Fashionable’ was produced by some enterprising capitalist, and did brisk business.

Articles mourned ‘The Sacrifice of Ninus to Mammon,’ and urged the feeling public to ‘Weep for Adonis,’ and all such variations. Letters to Editors were published of various females, claiming to be his fiancée, his widow, his paramours, his hareem. Society women attended the trial in black garb severe as Castilian doñas, draped in veils, making spectacles of themselves on the Court House steps, imploring the prosecutor to avenge The Slaughter of Beauty & Youth. Balladeers composed lachrymal dirges, and pilgrims trekked to his graveside, where young girls in flowing gauze danced like Isadora Duncan to timbrel and lyre among the headstones. Donations were taken to pay for the erection of a larger-than-life marmoreal statue in his likeness, in the archaic Greek style of a Kouros — so precise in its anatomy that the statue itself became a scandal, remedied late one night by the hammer and chisel of some skulking Bowdler – or perhaps Baudelaire.

But the trial was short. Krueger was convicted and sentenced to be hanged for the capital crime of murder. His violence and propensity for the knife was attested by the fact that, some months before, he had been somehow involved in a drunken brawl in a beer hall down on East 57th – and one of the men had been found stabbed dead late the following evening.

Krueger had been in poor young Vlad’s room, the prosecutor declaimed, on that fateful and dire Saturday night in question. Young Vlad had innocently revealed his hard-earned savings, bursting probably with optimism over his fine prospects. But, woe, the fiendish Krueger grew swollen with greed or was enraged by an insane blood-lust, and snatching up the deadly blade had slashed the sweet victim’s tender throat as he sat helpless and unaware on his bed. Then the beast Magog with his innate low-cunning placed the murder-blade in the dead or dying fingers, and taking care to avoid getting blood on his sweat-soaked clothes, seized the money and skulked back to his own filthy dark lair of depravity. Twisting at imaginary mustachios, no doubt.

In any case, it was a stupid crime, and senseless, committed for a sum too paltry to cost a life. But that’s every crime.

Krueger complained of his innocence in hard German consonants, but he was an ugly man, and his story was unpersuasive. He claimed that the money was his, then changed his tune, saying he had borrowed that sum a few weeks before and was about to repay it. But young Vlad had just received a raise, and the amount in the envelope exactly matched the new salary. Hearing that, Krueger then claimed incoherently that the boy had handed him the money on the evening of his death, without explanation. By this point the young Dionysius could have arisen from his flowered grave to testify that Krueger was innocent, and the jury would still have convicted him.

That was that, then.

For several months I continued investigating cases for the D.A., fraud and embezzlement and blackmail and larceny and assault and murder and the whole litany of malfeasance propagated by modern city life in the young twentieth century. One morning, though, I found a letter waiting at my desk. No return address, but the Folsom postmark made its own insinuations. I opened the cheap envelope and stood reading the enclosed letter. It was written in a pointed old-fashioned hand. From Krueger, of course.


Dear Mr. Investigator Matson,

I am writing this letter. I saw him at they say La Main Gauche, this is eine schlechte Verein for men, when I pass by in my trolley as a motor man. And I told him that I seen him going into such a place that you will know about. He very bothered and crying and give to me money and did not say nothing and I think it is so strange and I think about it all night also. About why he does that. And I find out now I am in prison what such a place is from a man here. But I know nothing about this then. I only tell him I seen him like to say hello for him be so nice and polite always. But he is very bothered and go in his room. Then he come to me very drunk and hand to me this money and he talk so I understand nothing and crying. But I say nothing about no money he gave to me to you because then it look bad for me I think. But now I understand what he do that for. He thought I am for the black mail. And I will not say nothing ever also. But then he cut himself. And it is not me who did this thing. Ich bin unschuldig. But he was a poor young man who when I am young is what we say ein Arschficher. And I am going to be hung but you must know this please and help me and save me from this for I am innocent of this. And now what is true you know.

Sincerely,

Gustavus Krueger


I uttered a word, and threw the letter at the desktop. It caught the air and fluttered to the floor. I left it there. The half-drawn window shade clattered arrhythmically against the casement in the cool breeze. Footsteps tapped their way down the hall, passing and passing behind some distant door. I sat down, sat still, arms stretched out, fingertips arching off the desk like a ribcage eroded from black dirt, then palms flat, cold and sweaty.

I sat for quite a while.

What have I done.

***

Downtown near the corner of 8th and Olive, recessed between a tobacconist and a haberdashery, a very pale red door bore the words La Main Gauche in minuscule script. A ceramic tile had been attached as a plaque, painted like fine china with the likeness of a satyr, facing away, hands clutching at some unseen waist-level object, tossing a knowing leer over his shoulder to the outside world. I pushed the door open. Inside, downward-leading stairs disappeared into the darkness of a pit. I touched the wall and descended. At the bottom, dim electric light shone from behind a cornice, revealing another door, locked.

I knocked. A Judas window opened and I held up my badge.

I waited.

It wasn’t a saloon, it was a sort of club, where a sort of waiter passed between tables looking for wrist movements. He was dressed the way a woman would dress if she dressed like a man.

I spoke to a sort of manager. He said his name was Lysander, and he was the shiniest man I had ever seen. He almost glowed. His eyes had a way of lingering, of querying from behind lazy lids. Peek-a-boo. A machine-made cigarette hung slender and loose from his lips, a single curl of smoke rising tranquilly from its end.

“Oh my heavens yes, I should say so, who could ever forget that lovely boy. Such a shame, and it was only his first visit here too. The poor boy, whatever could have possessed that monstrous brute to harm him I shall wonder for the rest of my days.” And on he went, every now and then removing the cigarette by caressing his lips with the fingertips of his left hand, squeezing with index and middle fingers, slowly waving his hand away as if he were blowing languid kisses. He did it with practiced insouciance, in case the shade of Oscar Wilde might be watching from hell.

Lysander was not as discrete as his position and proclivities warranted. But I wasn’t working a vice case, and so I wasn’t interested in the back rooms of his club.

Yes, Vladislaw Moes had been to La Main Gauche that Saturday evening. So what did that prove? That Krueger had the means to blackmail him, and a motive perhaps to kill him.

But it also meant that Moes had a reason to kill himself. To try to bribe Krueger, and then in guilt and shame and self-loathing to go and kill himself. He had been raised by a very devout mother. Perhaps he’d been trying to turn over a new leaf – or to keep a new leaf from turning over – but succumbed to his urges, as not only young men are wont to do. Perhaps he thought in his flight westward he would leave such things behind, shed and out-run the demons lodged in his flesh. Perhaps he grew weary of abusing himself to underwear advertisements in men’s fashion gazettes. But I will leave the interpretation of dreams to prophets and quacks.

Well.

That’s it then.

Krueger was hanged at Folsom Prison.

I tried to get the case re-opened, and the prosecutor was first amused then irritated and then seething with anger at my efforts. I had been the one to make the case against Krueger, after all.

“So what if he bought collars that day,” I said, rebutting my former arguments. “You buy collars, I buy collars. Everybody buys collars. I guess everybody who cuts their throats buys collars. So what? So what if he didn’t leave a note. Maybe he had other things on his mind. Maybe he was preoccupied. His hair was neat? He used a lot of pomade. It would have stayed in place in a 70-knot gale. Of course it was neat. And he was in his underwear. If you cut your throat in a frenzy of fear and despair, maybe clothes and hats and shoes and lovely flowery cravats don’t have as much meaning as they used to. So what if he was holding the razor. Galvanized froglegs jump. Who can say what a dead man will hold onto. I’ve seen dead men holding guns and coins and clumps of hair, and somebody’s torn-off ear.

“And Krueger never killed anybody after any beer hall brouhaha. He wasn’t in any knife fight in a saloon or anywhere else that anybody knows about. He was just there, and there was a fight between some Mexicans. Nobody says he was in it. And he was at work the next night, when the Mex was killed.”

But of course he was a lawyer, and a prosecutor, and was not without a rejoinder. A man as ugly as Krueger had to be guilty – a weak argument that was somehow compelling. And he was a blackmailer. Or they both went to this club, this salon together, and had a tiff afterwards that ended in death. Or something else that nobody can think of but this ****ing Katzenjammer scum was guilty, no matter what.

“What we’re not going to have,” he said, thrusting forward his large head perched upon his thin neck, “is headlines about us ****ing up, or about a vice problem that nobody at all wants to hear about or read about. We’re not going to spit in the public’s eye by saying that their beautiful Adonis was a ***** boy, now are we. You’re *** **** sure we aren’t. That wouldn’t do anybody any good at all. You want to have your name permanently linked to that? I don’t think so. And I’m sure not. I have a future in this town.”

I threatened to take it to the papers. I knew how stupid that sounded even as I said it. I tried anyway. But Los Angeles is a small town, and the Brahmans all belong to the same schlechte clubs, and they know where their interests lie. Even Rosenburg wouldn’t print it, Socialists being in sympathy, apparently, with all manner of practices – strange bedfellows and all that.

So that’s it then. Krueger was hanged, protesting his innocence with his last breath. Maybe he was guilty. But justice has to be guarded, and it wasn’t. So hard luck for Krueger and hard luck for me. And for everybody else too.

The day he was killed, I left my badge on my desk and haven’t seen either since.

I walked down the broad low steps outside the stately government building and caught a random trolley – for all I know, Krueger’s trolley. It took me south, down into the slummy areas. It was summer by now, and afternoon. The flies that don’t die in winter swarmed like a minor plague through the streets, shadowing the trolley, afflicting the horses, eating ****. I rode until evening, back and forth like a played-out Sisyphus, thinking about nothing at all, or about logic, or about a city, any city, every city, where men sit alone in rooms devoid of any beauty except what rises from the gramophone or reflects from the mirror. Then I went to my room, my own room, and sat up alone late into the night.


END

Tuesday

STATES OF MATTER

Everything is like everything else
      yet we make distinctions.
Grief and joy each have their voice
      without words
      the face of each is known.

Water rolls downward
      tears, rivers, glaciers.
It rises only as a mist
      by heat or cold
      too rare to see.



J

Saturday

TRACKLESS

My heart knows the skyways of south-winged flocks.
The swift broad curving wind like riptide
      pulls my soul yearning from my bones -
           naked, small, like something not yet born.

I do know where the cold wind nests.
I’ve taken care to mark the place.
Come some sunless dawn, tomorrow or after,
to find me gone, flown. And trackless,
the snow lies deep across the field –
beneath its heap my love lies still.


J

Monday

Owl's Moon

Never had there been a time when villagers could journey through the forest without fear of the wild beasts, lurking men, the dark spirits that hid in its tangled thickness. Even those hardy souls who dared live at the edge of its grim and frightful presence were careful, for not a few had been known to leave home in the dawn, no more to be seen.

Sometimes a mighty crashing was heard all the way to the river, and the hardy huntsmen who dared seek the cause would return with tales of some huge unseen beast (it must have been) that ripped a path the length of a long stonethrow through the big trees ‑‑ a slash that just started, and stopped, leading nowhere ‑‑ no path at all really, but a crushed and broken place in the woods. Sometimes weird cries and calls rose up and drifted to their ears, the sort of noise a boy makes into a well, trying to frighten his playmates. Sometimes a woodcutter would come upon piles of flesh and bone and fur ‑‑ fresh and bloodless, like feathers of a bird left after a cat and the ants were done with it.

Why then the old woman had chosen to remove herself into the woods was a strange thing that the village women talked about. Most of the men hardly noticed, but even some of them took note that smoke rose no longer from the hut of the little grandmother who had given them sweets when they were children. The old woman was known to sometimes tarry at the forest’s edge, milking her trees as she said, and return toward sundown with a cup or a bucket of clear, thick sap. The next day the children could be heard squealing with delight, dancing gleefully, eyes gleaming greedily as they sucked their fingers of the last sweetness from the candy she had given them. The girls too received sweets from her, and as they grew, other things, that only women know about.

But some time in the early days of spring, the old woman had disappeared into the wide dark expanse of trees that surrounded the village and perhaps the whole world. How long she had been gone no one could say, whether days or weeks. But when a young woman went to call on her, seeking a remedy for some lingering winter ailment, the hut was found open, cold, empty. Soon the old wives were bending their necks together, clucking out their speculations, and the men stared grimly into the fire or smiled crookedly or furrowed their brows.

Time passed and no sign was found, and the moon rolled through the seasons until autumn softened the forest and muted the sky. Then a woodsman came breathless into the village, telling how he had spied an ancient shack in a mottled clearing far into the woods. There he saw the missing old woman, pecking about in a small herb garden, chirping out a tuneless whistle.

“Old mother,” he had blurted, “what are you doing here?”

Without raising herself or even turning her head, she said, “Why, I know this little one, come far into the deep woods. Run along home, my young pup, or darkness and her children will overtake you. You would not wish to hear them sing.” A dull foreboding seized him then, rose into panic and so he ran, crashing over the dim animal trails until he found the village path, dashing until he finally reached home to tell his tale.

There was a young girl who found need of the old woman’s skills, and glad she was to hear it might be found upon seeking. A lovely girl, her skin as fair as pale flowers in the shade, her cheeks the hue of hot modesty, and trailing down her slender back, adorned with buds and blossoms, hair that shone the untamed russet of the shy, sly fox. By no means went she unnoticed, and when of an evening the firelight danced in her tresses, the boys were swept up and transported in their minds and blood to other places more suited to the solitary pursuits of lads and their lasses.

One tall, laughing youth ‑‑ his teeth so strong and white, his head tangled with wild, dark and careless curls, his shoulders broad, his hips that met the rope of his britches like a finger through a ring ‑‑ was seen to leave the dancing and music, the pipes and drums, the swinging skirts and stomping boots. He left to follow this lithe miss, out into the encircling darkness. Who is there to say a word on this, without thinking first of his own youth, her own memories, their own blood and breath and sleepless nights.

Outside the orb of firelight, the cluster of the village homes, the meadows and fields, into the trees and touching the forest proper, they might have met, these two young things. Oh, ah, my pretty pretty lass, my meadow rose, my love as sweet as plum wine and clover honey, fair and dear as pearls, more precious than gold, your lips the color that rubies must be, your cheeks so hot and cold, your lips your neck your ears your eyes neck lips, I will hold you have you hold you know you always be my love for I am yours. Tongues, and teeth.

If he pushed himself upon her, she might have refused. Perhaps she did.

Tongues and teeth.

But he paid her no more mind after that night, and she wept herself to sleep unceasingly.

That was summer, though, and now it was fall. The heat of those bonfire nights had cooled, and though some embers still burned, buried in the ashbanks, the short, stocky horses of the fields were growing wooly for the winter, and leaves lay a deep bedding for the coming snows.

In the biting morning mist, frost cracking like brittle sap beneath her feet, and cloaked from the rimed air in the faded folds of a cape colored by cinnabar and madder bloom, the girl hurried from her home toward the forest’s edge. The sunrise lay before her, unseen for the towering trees that loomed ominous as black warriors sheathed in midnight stone. Through the serpent-hole of a road and she was in the gloom and thickness of the old trees while yet the full dew trembled on the grass.

The cold air grew cool but never warmed, even when the sun was at its height. So she walked, carrying a woven-bark basket of goods she would gift and trade for what she needed from the old village grandmother who had been lost and was now found.

The day drifted by as a tiresome progress of small steps and snapping twigs. Gaps between the trees led to false trails, and narrow paths splayed and forked and multiplied beyond her memory or experience.

She was lost.

She turned and hoped to make her way back, but how many ways there were, and all the same, so narrow, so faint, so vague in their direction.

The sun grew low, and shadow lay upon shadow beneath the thickly woven branches. She scurried along, not slowing as she wrapped her slender shoulders tightly in her cape, its loose ruddy cowl flat as an empty sack upon her back. Her full tresses, a second mantle upon the first, draped her back like a crimson beetle-shell too short to cover wings.

Just where dusk and twilight meet, the sky cast in hues of hollyhock and mallow, a chill wind cut through the trees and from behind tossed her hair off the cowl and into her face. Hastily she covered her head, anonymous as a distant friar now with her cloaked breast and linen hood. Clutching tight the basket before her in both hands, she hurried with quick short steps, careless, urgent.

The trees closed in. The tunnel of her sight was a world of darkness. Her arms were snared in thorns, hands snatched by the hag fingers of the undergrowth. Lost, lost she wandered, terror and noise panting in her nostrils, breathing sharp and fast as a heartbeat.

What sound is that? ‑‑ the padding paws, the dragging claws of wild dogs or hunting wolves? What shadow there that moves then disappears behind her stare, what bear what beast that hides to feast on young girls’ flesh? Is it wind that howls so like wailing souls and shakes the leaves like rattled bones? Is that moonlight glancing off a shiny leaf, or glowing eyes of some fell beast crouching in her way and set to tear her neck?

And then she has broken into an open place.

***

She stands on the brink of a cluttered clearing, and the swollen, yellow, owl’s moon has risen and grown silver, splashing over her like bright surprise. Gray and silver like water and smoke surround her, and she is drawn inward, moth to moonbeam.

Hunched low as a stump and heaped like forgotten firewood slumps the old woman’s mud-dull hut.

This is the place.

“Hallo,” she cries. Silence answers. “Old grandmother? Are you there?”

Is it some reply that rises from before her, or the grudging forest whispering its tricks ‑‑ back go back come back.

“Hallo,” she calls again, and this time it is a voice that echoes back from within the shack.

“Ah, my little one. I heard you coming. Come to me, for I am old and cannot make my way.

At the threshold, a tattered door of ancient planks drags on oak hinges.

Inside, darkness is held off by an oily fire that flickers in a stone hearth at the farthest wall, throwing sullen shadows with a flame too shallow to be gold. Sitting by the fireplace, covered to her neck in a broad animal-skin blanket of shaggy gray fur, the old woman emerges from the gloom as a dance of shadowed features.

The hut is rank with the stink of singed hair and burning flesh. Fire cracks in the hearth, demanding the girl’s eyes, and she sees twisting in the flame the fur and fat, the sinew and bone of some disjointed beast.

“Close the door, my dear. My body is old and winter is near.” Yellow flame glints off the old woman’s eye, bright beyond reason. “Lower your hood and let me look at you, my silly cherry. And put your basket down, your tasty treats.

“I have come,” the lass begins ‑‑

“Yes, yes, my nose is still below my eyes. I know why young girls come to old women in the woods.

Now the weeks and months flare up and burn the girl’s face with shame and fear. She sobs, a soft and keening wail like distant wolves baying in the rain. She cannot speak. Her face twists ugly and mad. Tears streak her cheeks like rolling quicksilver. Only her shoulders move, jerking to the stifled shudders of her breath.

The old woman sits, still, rocking perhaps, although the wild pelt muffles any motion, covers over her legs and distorts her feet.

At length the girl has quieted herself, unmoved from where she stands. No feminine instinct draws her to the old woman’s arms, her lap, the presumed comfort of her thin breast. The stench of meat, of blood, of rotting tissue suffuses the air, and fire cannot purge it.

The girl, the old woman, are silent, weirdly, one at the center, one on the wall, the flames cracking off the moments like clacking fangs on crunching bones.

Overhead, the shattered thatch of the roof slices moonlight into scattered patches across the floor, and by that light ‑‑ the fire is useless ‑‑ the girl takes in the face of the old woman and is possessed by a sense of otherness. The crone's wet gaze seems to flare like fire and shine like stars. The girl's eyes grow wide, fixed hard upon the old woman. She feels a distant shock, like catching important lies, like the death of a child, like hearing the knife drawn that will cut your throat.

“So large and glowing in the moonbeam, your eye,” she breathes.

Sighs an aged voice, “I see the shadow of falling dust, the air that hisses through your nose.

A sound of stretching leather issues past the hearth.

“Your ears ‑‑”

“I hear the creeping of the worms beneath your feet, my sweet, my sweet,” the old voice rattles. “I hear the heartbeat in your belly.

Shadows play across the walls, hinting at creatures God chose not to make.

A smell of musk and loam and sweat pervades the air.

“How oddly twisted your head appears.

“I remember the hour of your birth, the splashing of your waters, the blood of your cord, the blood” ‑‑ a sound like falling rocks and mountain thunder.

“Your teeth gleam so white in the moon’s clear light,” whispers the girl. “Your teeth, your tongue ‑‑”

But what she might reply or taste or tear is lost or claimed by the silent woods, the scudding clouds, the swollen moon, and the old woman makes no human sound, for present now is some accursed monster rising from a place within the shack to take possession of its gloomy walls.

A cry a scream a growl a snarl a howl that mars the silvered moon with blood, and blood there is, for in through the flimsy door a woodsman crashes, hearing the roars and terror and screaming girl within. His boots his arms his flashing ax that catches the moonlight slipping past the thatch, and there after the madness of an evil moment the old woman lies, naked, dead, grandmother, midwife, lover of children, giver of candy, inducer of miscarriage.

No sign is there of the wild brute that must have torn her, the wild beast the woodsman has hacked and chopped and slain with his ax. That monstrous thing has disappeared, it seems, dragged itself away in the darkness and confusion, somehow leaving no trail of blood, only the severed limbs and parts of the harmless, lost old woman who had secreted herself away in the hard, gnarled womb of the forest.

***

In the village, girls and young women will wake and walk and gather mint and gold currants, berries of holly and yew. They will wash their flaxen hair, or raven’s wing, or red as rust, with mare’s milk and new wine. They will weave garlands with deft fingers and skip in circles holding hands.

In the village, the boys, the young men dream of lightless waters flowing under sheets of ice, of black earth layered with leaves, of barley grass sweeping at the hot sky, of wildflowers ringed around maidens’ hair. And stretching out from the village, its valley, the wooded hills around ‑‑ beyond, the vast and wild, the endless forest extends farther than eye can see or dreaming mind envision.



J

Tuesday

Waiting

When she says goodbye.

What Touch

What touch, what breath, what lips now turned away,
And what embrace I shared and share no more,
And where now fled, the one I did adore
Although remotely, for it is my way;
What hours and evenings, now a foggy gray
Of, no, not tears – for shuttered is that door –
Of just more loss, which mind cannot ignore
But its remembrance passes as a day –
What is it like? No solstice winds delay
Nor dally, no, nor tarry in their chore,
But strew the sky with icy ash and pour
Out on the land a breathless snow to stay,
Benumbing, til the vernal sun allay
The frost, and kindle warmth, and breath restore.


And then, later, when she says perhaps.


What Hope

What is it? Hope? What murmurs might restore,
What whispers might conspire and soft allay
My heart left open with unease? – to stay
A moment at my ear before they pour
Like birdsong calling to some morning chore,
For so they must, and shatter sleep. Delay
A while that rousing ray, that coming day
When dreams are brushed away. Ignore
A while that beating fist upon the door
And fold your voice in muted shades of gray,
For softly sounds the song that finds a way
To raise up joy. Too dimly I adore,
But this is just my way – and nothing more
May come from me, but cast me not away.

___


J

Sunday

MECHANICS

Night falls.
Full moon.
I am on the ice.
My hand casts shadows
     onto itself...my palm looks like
     the ribbed sands of a desert.
Sand and ice--
the reconciliation of extremes.

I never dreamt that water
     under ice could make a sound.

Overhead, a shadow is falling
      for twelve thousand miles.
It never stops falling.
But on the other side of the world
     there rolls eternal dawn.


____________

Saturday

BESLAN

Tuesday

DEFINITION

Words: reproducible vocal sounds
         communicating a definite
         or commonly agreed upon
meaning;

insufficient to convey
         ultimate truth
or to assuage,
         inconsolable,
such
         grief.


____

JOSHUA TREE

Atop a single mountain rising
from a desert plain pillared
     by Joshua Trees bizarre
as coral...like runes--
there I would make my home,
among the rocks,
     not so much a scorpion
as someone who cannot
afford the water for tears.


_____

HE SEEMS TO BE GRANITE

He seems to be granite.
He seems to be a mountain of granite
but his heart breaks
not with a roar
    but a snap

I've seen a river of ice
crush its way to the ocean
crash like lava to a shadow-raving sea.
It's not like that.
It's like one long tear
    sliding down a neck.

This is not the confidence
    of a man prepared to kill
more like the silence
    of the flight of a bird
        seen through cross-hairs.
What is this?
Grief?


__________

Monday

ISLANDS

o time thy pyramids
      thy caravans
            o time thy grains of sand

o time thy fathoms
      thy currents
            thine islands of mist

o time thy passions
      thy thunder
            thy triumphs of wind

o time thy fires
      thy dances
            thy subtle shades of ash


oh time


____

Saturday

AFTERWARDS

I have forgotten
    her voice, her laugh
    the sound of her bare feet

forgotten the turning of her head
    the wetness of her eyes
    the softness of her hair

I have forgotten her lips
    her kiss, her kisses
    her velvet lips

_____

A Fable

Look here.

Exegesis of "A Tale"

It's a true story, actually, or rather a true tale. All but the last third, that is -- I just made that up ... things have to make sense, after all. The knight -- well, the man -- is still in the wilderness. It's been some years now, and he has no hope ... but we knew that. For our part, we might hope for him, might pray for him. He wouldn't admit it, but it's not so much despair as rage that stays his lips from prayer. Endings should be happy, after all, when you're a knight in a tale. He failed and still fails to appreciate that he lived in the real world, for all that there are dragons.

For my part, I have long known that God needs fools. Pity those whom God uses. That's why I have intervened. We always know how every story ends. Perhaps happily ever after, but certainly in death. There is a happy death, though, and I gave it to this poor, pathetic fool, wouldn't you say? -- if he dies, that is. Who knows ... maybe he recovers. But what should we expect? If mercy is to be found, it's not in plots, but themes.

What then shall we say? That he died happy? But he still lives, remember? -- I made the ending up. My tale-spinning may just be the tickling of an ear.
I wrote each of these three parts years apart, and I just made up the last part. So what shall we say? Maybe it's this: love has value in itself, regardless of its object or its outcome. If we love dragons, what must we expect but catastrophe. But this love has made the world richer, if only in the eyes of God.


A Tale

Walking through the deep forest, a knight passed across a stony place and chanced upon a huge brambly nest holding a frightful leathery egg. He hid himself and waited to see what creature would come to brood over such an egg, but none came, and the sky was slipping into night, and the air faltered coldly. He came closer, and feeling some life in it, he held it to his chest, and brought it home to his castle. He placed it by the hearth, and he cared for it.

Autumn rolled into winter, and winter into spring, and in the fullness of time the egg shook, and tore and cracked and when it hatched, it was, of course, a dragon. But the knight continued to care for it, for some reason known only to himself – the heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing.

The dragon grew, and tested its wings, and breathed fire, and it went thundering about the countryside, tearing through the sky, blocking out the moon. The villagers came and said, “We cannot have this dragon louring over us like this,” but the knight sent them away, because he cared for the beast. And soon enough, barns were burnt, and sheep were stolen, and no one actually saw the dragon do such things, but everyone knows what dragons do, and they were afraid that their maidens would soon be carried off.

The peasants came again, brandishing pitchforks and big sticks and torches, and they said, “Either you kill this dragon right now, or we will hack it to pieces here on this very spot, and you as well.”

And the knight drew out his sword, and placing the point on the beast’s brow, between its eyes, he said, “This is not a dragon. This is a unicorn.”

The unicorn is the most magical, and the most beautiful of all creatures. But it is not born, it is not hatched. It is created, by love.

***

But some dragons remain always dragons.

It stretched the span of its scimitar wings, ascended to the sky, and blasted the village with a mighty spray of flame that showered the women and children in a fountain of death.

Then it flew away, a diminishing demon of scale and naked leather.

The villagers – the stench of the burnt flesh of their loved ones still sharp in their nostrils – rose like a great wailing and beat the knight unmercifully and cast him into a pit. And he was dragged before the king, and condemned as a sorcerer and sentenced to be flayed.

But even as the verdict was carried out, the sky grew black and a great wind rose. It was not the dragon, returning to rescue the knight. It was a wild storm, and blew so violently the people were scattered, and the knight crawled off and escaped.

He found in the forest a barren and secret place where he hid. He rested, drinking dew and eating such things as came to his lips. In time his flesh mended, even after such a torment. But his spirit was broken, and in bitterness his heart wept unceasingly.

He lived in silence among the stones, where no human voice was heard. Sometimes he imagined the prancing of silver hooves, but when he looked, only char-dark ravens hopped across the rocks, their long black beaks clacking like snapping flames.

After a time he went no more to look when some thing skittered over the slaggy waste. He dreamed no more, since dreams rise only from a spirit that is not broken.

The dragon has disappeared to strange countries, and memory of it is dim, like the fading of grief.

The knight alone mourns, with anguish as hot as the first flame of betrayal. His food is bitterness, and there is no comfort to be found in the silence of these stones, where ever he seeks to rest his head.

***

Winters have passed, and the forest is said to be haunted by monsters. A shepherdess tends her flock in the meadows of the wood, and a new lamb has wandered away and is lost. With trembling, the young woman enters the shadow of the trees, seeking after it.

A wolf has torn the lamb to pieces, and mad with the heat of blood it rises to attack her. With a mighty bound it leaps, its slavering jaws hot at her throat, its teeth now wet with the blood of two creatures – the lamb’s, its own
– for its head has been crushed by the blow of a great stone.

The maiden is trapped under the weight of the huge wolf, and still death looms black in her vision, for the beast is not yet killed and the raw gasping of its breath is hot and savage on her breast.

In terror she sees a man, the man crouch and such struggle and he heaves the massive monster off the girl and flings it to the side. She rises, in terror, in terror, transfixed now at the horrible sight of the looming wild man before her – his scarred face – his hair matted as hard as scales – his hands clasped now before him and bubbling with blood.

Clutched together, his torn belly, blood pouring through his fingers like overflowing wine. What fateful, what tragic swipe of the fatal beast’s fearful claws has so torn him open, to make so deep and ghastly a wound?

The man sinks to his knees, sways, lays on his side with a soft sigh, curled like a sleeping child, like an unwanted child under a torn blanket of burned leather. The girl moves to him, kneeling, his head in her lap. She touches his torn skin, his hair, scales, his eyes, his eyes, his, no, not mad, no, not anguished, not sad, no, his kind, his kind eyes. His eyes, so full of gentleness, so filled with love.


Thus do dragons become unicorns – created by love.



Exegesis


scorn and indifference

Poetry is such a personal thing. It's been my experience that trust invites betrayal. How hard it seems to be, to inspire loyalty. But I am, mostly, anonymous, here. Like, like faceless pornography -- if they don't know who I am, then I'll show my private parts.

---

IN ENGLISH

A short, declarative statement
    too artless to be suspect
    but hard to hear
        torn as it is
            at last
        from such an unwilling throat:

My heart is full of pain.

A short, declarative statement
    too artless to be suspect
    but hard to hear
        torn as it is
            at last
        from such an unwilling throat:

My heart is full of pain.

A short, declarative statement

_____

SHALL SARGON RISE

She sits, observing with calm eyes like those
     that saw the rise of Sumer and Akkad.
Her stride, like that which trod out Uruk’s streets,
     regal, proud, though used to briefer ways.

Her arms, her hands, that pierced and parted
     and pulled, that plowed the Sealand’s surf --
     her smooth shoulders slicing the rising Tigris’ wide flow --
     a flash of polished copper, the shadowed places of her underparts.

Her hair, her neck, her face -- shall I touch them?
Shall I taste her lips, drink her breath,
     feel the blood beneath her flesh
     feel her flood of heat suffuse through me?

To stare again upon the stele of Mesopotamia.
To stir again, that star long since fallen into dust.
Shall Sargon stand and make this one his own?

______

NARCOTIC

Her slow dancing in shadow,
her form cast of fire and shade--
distorted through smoke,
narrow as a snake.

She twists away then
from all men,
for too close a kiss
lost her to wilderness.

He courts a sort of darkness,
his lone voice low, near toneless,
troubled by that old root
trembling in his gut.

I am numb,
vandalized
by dull time.
What desert
have I crossed
for this thirst?
__


IF I SHOULD

If I should dream no more
if I should hold no hope
if I should walk the evening
     paths alone and pass unknowing
          every lovely thing

if stones should learn to bloom
     and wild mountains waver, wilt and fade,
          faint and fall, and scatter fine as mist
if seas should rise to meet the sky
     and quench the ancient lunar thirst
          and searing passions of the sun
and stars depart upon an ebbing tide
     of light that turns across the heavens’
          span and passes always from all sight

if I should dream no more
my heart grow cold and silent
     with a grief too deep for tears
then shall I turn
      no more my thoughts
          to you.

                    ___

Humor Blog
Top Sites

  • Copyright © 2009