Saturday, November 30, 2013

Diatomaceous Earth

Formed from fossilized plankton
and resembling baking soda,
this white powder scours the exoskeletons
of fleas and other small insects
causing them to die of dehydration,
in essence tearing them apart.
And thus I was exterminated,
one less parasite for you to pluck
from your succulent hide.
Not that I blame you. 
I happily lapped up your love, 
pretending I didn't know that
it was laced with a substance
that would cause my spirit
to shrivel and wither, that would suck
my tear ducts dry,
leave me an empty husk.

The Gospel According to Claude

Eryops scowled, plucked a wad of tin foil
from his left nostril, squinted at it, flicked it across
the bar. It plopped into Claude’s brackish pint.
Claude started, then turned to look at his purplish,
foul-smelling neighbor. Eryops grinned sheepishly,
shrugged. Claude fished around in his lager,
gradually managing to extract the crinkly orb.
He pinched it, then popped it into his mouth, bit down.
Crunching the metal, rendering the ball
to silvery shards. Eryops shuddered at the sound.
Claude stuck out his tongue. On its tip
stood an exact tin foil replica
of St. Peter’s cathedral. Everyone in the bar
started laughing. Even the bartender snickered
and shook his head. Eryops slunk out, tail tucked
between his flabby legs. He crept back to his pond
and stayed there, hidden in the mud, willing himself
to evolve into something exempt from humiliation.


The tinfoil church is lined with stained-glass scenes
That stretch up almost to the curved ceilings.
In one of these Claude rides on the back 
of a large purple amphibian,
whipping it with a rolled-up newspaper and cackling.
St. Claude who tamed the harmless monsters
while the dragons built their nests in the upper stories
of the skyscrapers. Claude whose bad breath
scorched the earth, made the land inhabitable only
by the hardiest insects and scorpions.
There are other scenes of course. Claude leading
a band of tiny creatures across the road
to the safety of a grassy roundabout. Claude parting
the fuchsia sea. Claude getting into a fistfight
with a burning bush. Claude dressed as a bumblebee,
turning water into royal jelly. Claude suckling
the newborn savior at his teat. Claude opening
an umbrella to keep the manna from messing
up his coif. An aluminum foil pipe organ squeals
and screeches Mozart’s Requiem by way of Bartok,
or perhaps John Cage. The choir mumbles. The floor
beneath the pews is covered in taste buds.
Some hippie starts strumming on a tin foil guitar
and they all start to groan.


Everyone comes to the church now. Eryops lurks
in his chapel of mud and grumbles. He doesn’t see
what the big deal is. Claude the false prophet,
Claude the virgin motherfucker. Claude the absent father.
 Claude of Arc, Agnes of Claude. Eryops is sick of it,
want to expel the demon from his mouth, spit him out.
The billboards the neon, the sky writing.
The pop up ads, the newspaper inserts.
The late night infomercials.
He’s a hack, yells Eryops, a phony.
A charlatan, a shyster. A snake oil salesman. A huckster
and you’ve all fallen for his pitch. But no one listens,
they’re all crammed into the cathedral, or watching
the service televised on pay per view. Eryops froths
at the mouth from the overturned prune crate
he’s perched upon. He squirms with rage, grits his teeth.
His blood boils heed my words! He spits, but no one does.
Burn in hell, he mutters. Claude’s ear prick up.
And now, he says, his voice booming,
Allow me to read to you the First Letter of Claude
to the Amphibians.
I’ll get that bastard yet, thinks Eryops and creeps away.
He’s suddenly had a plan.


This is my chance, thinks Eryops, as he tapes
the explosives to his chest, triple checks the wires.
He pulls on his robes and slips into the crowd,
balancing on his hind legs.
He enters the cathedral, the mosque,
the synagogue, the glorified wigwam, the igloo
of porcelain tiles, the suit of turtle shell armor
etched with the sacred words of His Most Holy Claude.
Incense swirls in front of the stained glass.
In the center of the enormous room, beneath the dome,
stands a six story sculpture of Claude
cast in solid tinfoil. Eryops’ teeth chisel
against one another in rage. He settles into a pew,
as close to the front as the dares. The holy man
lifts his arms. All rise, he intones, and Eryops
reaches into this jacket to press the detonator.
Nothing happens. The celebrants rustle
their hymnals, start to drone. Eryops’ eyes roll,
frantic. He pats himself down. What happened?
He has no idea. Sweat gushes from him,
drenching his clothes, spilling front his cuffs
to puddle on the floor. The old ladies edge
away from him, the chanting rises to a fever pitch.
He sees a white light and passes out.

Meanwhile across town Claude is also
experiencing some unusual sensations.
Seated at the trough of the strip club,
a woman with skin so black it’s almost purple
wraps her body around the gilded pole,
then unpeels herself and undulates in a way
that drives Claude crazy. Her teeth are blinding
in the spotlight. Claude hurls dollar after dollar
at her, the money he’s gathered from the collection baskets.
She picks them up with her toes and stuffs them
deep up inside her. He’s smitten. And then a sudden flash
from between her spread legs, the blink of white
 and Claude is gone, his stool spinning,
a flutter of dollar bills drifting in his wake.


Both find themselves standing before God,
these dueling banjoists, those asthmatic adversaries
gasping for breath in the stingy atmosphere of Heaven.
So what’s this all about, asks God, his words
scorching the very air. Eryops feels his warty
skin crackle. Claude’s eyebrows start to smolder. 
Whoops, sorry, forgot, mutters God, taking a step backwards.
He fastens a mask over his mouth, adjusts the elastic.
Better? They nod. Good.
Now, I hear there’s some feud between you boys
that has been disrupting things downstairs.
They both start babbling, each pointing
to the other. All those churches erected
in his name, whines Eryops.
You little snitch, hisses Claude. You and your
pathetic little bombs. Good thing I paid that kid
to sneak into your closet and replace your explosives
with Silly Putty.
Okay, said God, I think I’ve heard enough.
He flicks a switch and the two become fused.
Oh shit, say the newly Siamese twits. I do not fucking like
the looks of this.
The clouds part. The earth floats far below,
its bayous beckoning with their fetid pools
their decrepit shacks, their rusty overturned
canoes. Go home, God says, and gently lifts his boot.

A streak across the sky, a splash.
The two-headed hero is home.
This sucks, mutters Clauderyops. I had it made.
It’s your own damn fault, says Eryopsclaude,
holding his nose and dragging them both
down into the mud.

The Closing of a Baha Fresh

It’s dark inside
all the tables and chairs have been removed
but the salsa bar is still there, just waiting
to be stocked again
if I press my face up to the glass
next to the Retail Space Available sign
I can see ghostly figures moving around in there
bent over the little tables
munching on their quesadillas
lining up for soda refills
And out here, right where I’m standing
was where you and I sat with our fish tacos
you giggling and gazing at me
like a little girl in love for the first time
and me reaching over and touching your arm
to make sure you’re real, and you were,
I could feel your skin, could feel you reach over
and wipe a bit of salsa verde from my shirt
Sometimes I would come back here and sit
at that same table just to relive that moment
of being wanted, just to remember what it’s like
to feel smitten. Now there’s nowhere to sit
but I will find other places to torture myself
with these memories  
or maybe I will go home and allow myself
to finally forget.
Those tacos were really not 
all that good anyhow
or so I keep telling myself.

Sparkly Tights

 (overheard from a teenaged girl on the downtown bus Friday night)

I made this chain thing
out of bottle caps
They were all Canadian
so they had boobs
and whales on them

Our presentation was basically
we sang a song
and I put a cover over my head
and made ghost noises

I ate paper
to get him to not
talk to me
It worked

Friday, November 29, 2013

At the Bonfire

They painted over that mural of Mt. Rushmore
that had the faces of Indian chiefs
in place of the presidents, and you know what, I miss it,
even though it was poorly rendered,
and you couldn’t tell who any of the chiefs
were supposed to be, though to be honest
I probably wouldn’t have recognized them
no matter how good the likeness. Maybe Sitting Bull,
since my ex had a print of his portrait on her wall.
You can still see the mural very faintly
through the layers of white paint.
I’m sitting outside the bar across the street, listening
to the members of some band at the next picnic table over
drunkenly bitch about the douchebag owners
of the local music venues, and I swear
there are few things that elicit less sympathy
than a bunch of young white musicians griping
about how unfair the world is. The waitress comes out
for a smoke and joins in the complaining,
whining about her living situation, sharing an apartment
in a recently-gentrified part of town. She’s wearing
a long shirt as if it is a dress and cowboy boots the sky
is clear and black and I can see some endangered
Portland constellations, and her cigarette smoke
is stinging my sinuses, I’ve backed myself

into a corner in my life, and barring
some act of the god I don’t believe in I don’t see how
I’m going to weasel my way out of this one, and the waitress
has gone back inside just as I was about to order
another, and I feel myself fading, layer by layer,
draining myself of life like I drained the cheater pint
of locally brewed IPA on the table before me, I wonder
what would happen if giant robots would descend
from the sky and annihilate us all, all us American
hipsters, middle class slackers, we sure have it coming
me the musicians the cokehead wait staff
the white guy with the dreadlocks
the beautiful athlete leaning into every word uttered by
the girl with the cleavage but no chin
the biker with no helmet and no light cruising by
whoever painted those Indian chiefs
whoever painted over them. We all get crushed,
burnt by the robot’s laser eyes, or made their slaves,
dragged off to work some uranium mine
halfway across the galaxy.
I certainly don’t want to die, but it’s easy to argue that
on some level we all sort of deserve to.
And oh, the night air is cool and caresses me
I can see my own hot shadow plastered on the wall
under the orange lights, my own reflection
searing the one-way glass of the bar window,
and the athlete has decided he can do better
and jettisons his date, who is chatting up the guy
with the dreads, and I am arrogant enough to wonder why
I, the most interesting person on this street,
this town, this planet, am once again
trudging home alone, though I know I should
be grateful I even have a home to go to, that I’m not
sleeping under a bridge, or being marched
toward some reservation, or God forbid concentration camp,
I’m fortunate that the only jail I’m confined to
is of my own making, is my own bulging sack
of pale, pale skin.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Scaling Ass Mountain

All art is confession: one can conceal nothing of one’s weakness. -Gaston Lachaise

The first moment he saw it,
he knew it was his destiny
to scale the massive formation
that loomed above him.
Mt. Isabel! Her curves and crevasses
silhouetted against the sky.
And oh, that ass, a planet unto itself,
presenting unlimited vistas of sublime
and unexplored terrain.
He spent his life obsessed with those peaks,
trying to capture them the way
they’d captured him,
to freeze the warm flesh in cold bronze
and marble like a reverse Pygmalion.
Glued to him by his gaze,
she was transformed into an object
and he a slave prostrating before her
like she was a golden calf, albeit one
already endowed with gargantuan udders.
He molded the earth, drove pitons into the rock
in order to immortalize his goddess,
to make sure her flesh would never sag,
would never rot.
We stand before her, marveling at her physiology
wondering what he saw in her
aside from hills and valleys,
wondering if he still would have worshiped her
if they had grown old together, if the memory
of that youthful body would have been enough
when the muse herself was etched with
wrinkles and stretchmarks.
Maybe they were both fortunate
that he died before he could see
that mountain wither and erode.