Friday, October 26, 2012

The Ringing Chord

Every Tuesday night at ten
the accordion doors in the back
of the Chinese restaurant clack shut. 
The barbershop aficionados huddle around 
the banquet table, paunchy retirees 
in button downs and polo shirts,
eyes wobbling through their thick lenses.
They shovel dumplings into their soft mouths,
hurriedly slurping their egg drop soup,
until their leader gives the signal
and begins to  walk them through each part
-the lead, the baritone, the plodding bass, 
the feathery tenor- guiding and sculpting each word 
with his hands as well as his lips.
Four at a time, they push back their chairs
and crowd together at the foot of the table.
Eyes squeezed shut behind their bifocals,
they strain their necks and croon,
singing only the tags- the last four bars
which encapsulate the entire composition,
the climax as four winding paths 
snap into perfect a capella alignment
and cause a harmonic shudder to pass through
the flaming silk phoenixes, the caged dragons
on the walls of the restaurant.
They spend hours entwining those strands
into a thick melody, voices vibrating
with an otherworldly frequency
not unlike the way you vibrate as you lie there, 
quivering, lashed to the motel headboard,
forgetting the rope burning your wrists
as you lose yourself in song.

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's September and I'm Erasing All Your Emails

Just before sundown,
clouds of migrating swifts
spiral into the chimney
of the school, like gnats
sucked into a drainpipe.
It's dizzying, even from 

down here. A hawk will 
occasionally scatter the flock
and even though I cringe, 

I'm also thrilled, secretly 
hoping to see the killer 
snatch himself a meal.

Thousands of mayflies 

bounce in the sunlight
above the pond, dropping 

then springing back up
as if yanked by rubber bands.
The insects dance like 

television static, one last
jitterbug before last call. 
One settles on my arm.
I flick it away as gently as I can
and watch the ducks
as they skim the tiny bodies 

from the water.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saline Flush

A briny whiff away from the coast, just beyond
the plywood-storefront trough of Cloverdale,
in the husk of a barn reborn as a flea market,
in a glass display case, nestled amongst
the souvenir thimbles and novelty salt shakers
stood a plasticine pony, on whose saddle was mounted
a little pickaninny, his head like a scorched buttercup.
Brand new, handmade, wide-eyed and grinning vacantly.

We drove on, past the Holsteins which stood rattling their bells,
past the herons hunched with their spears poised in the shallows.
We laughed at the ubiquitous tsunami warning signs
that depicted a faceless figure chased by a cartoon tidal wave.
We visited the stubby lighthouse that squatted stubbornly on the cape
with its head full of lenses, listened to the crash and hiss of the tide
that combed the crags with its foamy fingers.

At the end of the day, we wove inland through the sitka forests,
my feet half-buried in balled-up receipts and cracked mussel wings,
while far behind us, that tiny figurine dismounted from his steed
and got down on his knees
and gazed up at that sky of glass
to pray for the those tablets to scrape
deep beneath the surface of the Pacific
and unleash the hungry crest to chomp down on the shore.
He prayed for a countryside scrubbed clean
of all its antiques and tchotchkes,
for scattered livestock and herds of crippled sinners
hobbling for the hills, never looking back
but still turning to salt anyways.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

My latest book of poems culled from The Carrion Call has arrived, and I have to say, it's my first collection which I can honestly say I'm happy with. I hope you are too! Illustrated with photographs taken by yours truly.

 Buy your copy here: Hit the Deck

Friday, October 5, 2012

Song of Eryops

There was an age when amphibians ruled the Earth.
They were fiercer in those days. Toothed frogs. 
Salamanders dressed as crocodiles. Electric axolotls.
Their king was Eryops, a lumpish brute
who, as despots do, declared himself the apex of evolution.
Just think of the power of being equally at home
on dry land and in the drink! The proud beast didn’t see
the price of that compromise, that by straddling both worlds
they mastered neither. And so, what do you imagine happened
when he led his people inland? The sun squeezed them dry, of course,
and there was no pond to soak their crackling skin.
And so the amphibians were forced to reluctantly adapt.
The most stubborn -or cowardly- of them slunk back to their soggy homes
to be replaced by creatures who had made up their minds
about which side of the fence the crawled upon,
who were brave enough to leave the muddy banks behind.

Of course, though their reign is all but forgotten
the amphibians are still with us, and they thrive,
if more humbly than before. Their domains shrunken
to puddles and ponds, they govern from beneath stones and logs.
No longer behemoths, most of them are small enough
to squirm in your palm.
Eryops throws back his lumpy, misshapen head
and bellows, filling the sticky air with his song,
lamenting for a kingdom lost, then lumbers away
to stuff his mouth with prey
to stifle his sobs.

The New Client

1. Haul yourself up to lie on the muddy bank.

2. Get used to your new lungs, the way they heave and blow
in contrast to the delicate fluttering of your gills.

3. Dont worry about predators, you are the first,
an enterprising aeronaut exploring a virgin marketplace.

4. Blink the ooze from your eyes and look around.

5. Roll in the dust to protect your glistening hide from the rays of the sun.

6. Try out those legs. Youll get the hang of them in no time.

7. Enter the embrace of the earth who displays her wares for you,
exposes her teat and implores you to suck.

Your credit is good here, she assures you. We welcome your business.

8. Straighten your tie.

9. Prepare to introduce yourself to your fellow creatures, shaking whatever appendage they offer in greeting.

10. Try your damnedest not to lick your chops.