A surcoat of leaves, the panoply of branches
spreading like boils, like rat infested storehouses
plagues and poxes and Khans, the skewers
of wooden fences pricking Seljuks to anger
as New Rome falters like smoke in wind,
tracing the zephyrs, conforming to the shape
the political engagement of turbidity,
a swirl of dust spun up like yarn from the hoof taps
of a thousand stampeding horsemen.
Over the plain, in the teeth of white capped hills
some horde, some golden envoy, some Tatar king
spies the walls of Muscovy lingering, low, pegged
to the soft ridge of a rolling highland, no domes,
no baptism, no Methodius, only the wooden piles for
ritual sacrifice – wine for men and flesh for women
an Animistic hypothesis, tilting quintains of
impending revelation, the spinning jabbers, the fish hooks
of an international conspiracy.
Through the links, the postcard image
Humvees and new recruits guarding carnage,
the purple petaled liquor of spilling blood
our Molech’s sacrifice, our god of the dead
the trembling mountain of a law giver
glinting knife of a patriarch raised,
facing his test, not expecting redemption.
Girded for battle, Joshua and his horns
the lapping water of Gideon’s lamp bearers
Judith lofting Holofernes’ head, triumphant
as the camp’s deserters fled north and south
no Napoleon rising to mete out punishment
consequence for impenitent lovers, quarrels
with the lengths of the hours and days of creation.
All the old questions get asked again.
And again. And again.
Slate gray skies, cloudy morning
in the navy yard, bucking battleships
ballasted by a hundred sleeping sailors
missing the hallelujah horn, morning reverie
the whistling siren of Atlantic winds
funneled by Potomac hostlers parking pintos,
as Ralph Nader nibbles muesli and reads the Times.
Long chained anchor, porcupine quill in the bay’s back
a Lilliputian dirge set in the key of Kazoo
drizzled honey cakes sampled by submariners,
crumbs stowed in torpedo tubes as Nemo
delivers inspired speeches, turtleneck turned up
captain’s hat pressed on Neptune’s ceiling
as he pirouettes demonstratively, gesticulating.
On the bull moose stump, pounding
fist raised, voice raised, bellowing
the cause left behind like a war
peace time agitators sinking ships
an alcoholic stupor during prohibition
speak easy swill spilling on mechanical bars.
Green light speeder chasing, cycles
burlap waves, slurping, sloughing, snake’s skin
miasmic trench line horror, hallowed
in the green halls, old gods diminished
splintered into pre-Raphaelite fragments, shivs
for slaves bursting free of mythic chains.
Is that all you got, old liners, old timers
baths and babies, fetid water breeding Zika
Rio cancels its Olympiad, Laertes sports his deltoid
bravery, pouring hot sauce in inspired flagons
insipid, euthanasia by ambrosia, a sip
a swig, a modern beverage for forgetters.
My mesmer, canton bristling in the courtyard
weathered graven rumors of past lives,
floral arrangements eliding, eclipsing, a phrase
superimposed on every long hour of breathing
of eating, a succotash of brisk colors clamoring
like the chequy flag of a minor noble house, parading
in the wintry garden, flowers souring, rusty bullets
the Dada hammer of a flintlock rebel, barrel splintered.
There is no audience, no congregation, no witness-
no seal but saints or angels and the subtle spin states
of electrons, plying their entropic gospel.
There on the stele, like a Vesuvian shadow
the paparazzi flash, in geologic time, gray slate
the sky tempered gaze of Urania heavenward
Galileo entranced by her song, capering
the demoness trapping him in sun centered rings
the crystal enclosure of a metabolic theory,
cathartic, industrious, a hymn to education
and an almighty revel personifying doubt.
The scene is set, and now the players.
The world inchoate, hands of God with
fingers splayed, eye keen on the rubble
in the cold winds of deleterious space,
gaze splintered infinitesimally, yet undivided;
flickering sunlight, puddling in the absent atmosphere
violet undercurrent, rippling over troughs
the deep set ridges of incomprehensible time;
is there no mud for disbelieving blind men?
gravity never releases doubters.
Caught on it, the crinkling of plastic
the long line of ledgered paper
rambling through the dustscape
inescapable calculations, dromedary
sipping on its water hulk, sandy
and scraped, blistered hoofs clacking
pavement; hitched to hydrants in Saudi,
burst children’s attention spans
on any hot summer day.
I did not want the chocolate chip cookies.
I picked A4. But fate intervened.
Sharp sounds or socks, the calls of morning birds
fever enriched meditations inside the bubble of my thoughts
the voices of robust instruments plead their cases
settled into their jurist’s box, white wigged, long sleeved
sipping tea, spouting erudition in complexities,
a jargon plexi-glass bending to scratch, a shape
foundling standing on new legs, teetering like
a stone too heavy for the balance, the meagerest
buzz of a razor to cheek, sheared like Sampson
in his Delilah den.
Crippled blackbird, straddling the yellow line,
a dividing line between the living and the dead,
a sultry line, vapors rising like fleeing spirits,
winds swirling as he stumbles, wings flapping lamely
clinging madly, every flinching tendon, every strained
maddening muscle, tweaked by evolution for flight,
every hollowed bone, every minor ounce, asking
if life will out, there in desperation, dying.
Old steel guitars, rusted and unstrung
tucked into the back of abandoned factories
dusty and forgotten, the carcasses of machinery
bone dry and pitiable-a matron spinning tales
of past romantic conquests before she donned the white.
In the fearful corners, the chiffon cobwebs
dangling egg sacks and nursery flies, a grim
Mother Goose anthology, by the heavy sagging rafters,
the avenues of barn swallows and rooks,
their nested angles herded by feathered castellans.
Red brick towers climbing, manager’s desks
overturned like 1917, yellowed pages chaotically
carpeting the wide beamed floor in imagined patterns,
in the eyes of trespassers a synchronicity, a message
left behind by the fleeing Boyars.
Gloss on a shiv, a crimson brush
Delacroix’s viscous palette, Lady Liberty,
the butcheress, laps a liquid broth – vampiric
tubercolic, fitful, coughing wave, impediment
to the necessary receipt of sacraments,
the digestion of de Goya’s print, blackened
teeth sunk into the hank of a tempter’s thigh
contusions spreading like the Roman legions
There in a winter crypt,
woolen fingers scratch at frozen lids,
the promise of unChristian resurrection
Glory in Valley Forge
for the gravediggers, the theatrical
presentation of officers and French men
imposing rigid speculations on impending
Not every thought is harmonious, dredged rivers
seldom yield the same sludge, for each season
there is a new drain on the landscape, furrows
forming rivulets in each storm, thunderous applause
like angels slapping wings respiring, garlic
infused, blowing over Adam’s corpse, venial pardons
plowed like the compromising till, the corn fields
in July, sprawling.
Her lips, carnelian, a conceit
headdress of violets, blooming
in the hedgerows of her amber braids
like the pinched faces
of morning glories at dusk,
their clambering tendrils eclipsing
the slender distance between
her shoulder blades;
as the devious curves of hips
abandoned the safety of her narrow waist
falling floor ward to dancing feet,
their daring mistress
now lying down in the middle
of a beach road,
on a dark night of wine
and laughs, and blissful confusion.
The somber palette of 10,000 maniacs
storm spreading over Parthian lands;
each Top 40 hit is a toppling emperor
from Nero to Agrippa, so easy to forget the list
their olive garlanded heads like trucker’s hats
slop sipping gladiators in a highway dive,
quarter driven showers and photo booths
for quick love stories, slipping upstairs and in,
no illusions of a lasting romance
only the crinkly reminder of photographs
stuffed hastily into oily wallets.
In a simple geometric, red on white
brick, free standing station, a way point
hither, beyond the scraping shadows
white swaying trees like carcasses,
dangling skeletons strung up, pasted
together in Papier Mâché, painfully
pinioned by some jokester, reproaching youth.
Between the rails, wind and salt stained
grass daubed by an itinerant artist
hired by a circus passing through, tiller
by trade with high aspiration,
perspiration drenching every bicycled
tread, fletching serious Farmen,
rubber footed, tip-toeing, craning.