Thursday, December 31, 2015

XING

A raccoon skull sits atop the plastic scalp
of a deer decoy that stands on the front porch
facing the two-lane highway that cuts through the forest
Another year and you and I still comfort one another
as we watch the herds of traffic thunder past
thinking of those who didn't make it across


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Heart-Stealers

As Ray and I strolled along the sunny streets of Mahajunga,
snapping photographs and looking for a place to grab a bite,
we noticed that the locals all appeared to be avoiding us,
lowering their eyes whenever we glanced in their direction.
They seemed to be doing the same to the other white tourists
as well, even crossing the street when one approached.
Only one young girl smiled as we passed, and so we stopped
to chat with her. She was quite friendly, and in impeccable French
explained the legend of the mpakafo, the heart-stealers;
pale, slender beings whose greatest joy is to rip out
the beating hearts of its victims to feast upon.
Ray and I glanced at one another. This country was infested
with superstition. We'd heard plenty of tales
of other outlandish creatures as we'd crossed the island:
tiny beastlike men that crept through the forests on all fours,
fearsome flesh-eating oxen, seven-headed serpents sprouting horns...
We asked the lovely girl why she was not afraid of us like all the others.
Because, she whispered, I am what is known as a kinoly. 
After I died, I came back to replace my rotted entrails 
with fresh ones torn from the living, using my long, sharp fingernails.
She wouldn't show us those nails, no matter how much we pestered,
hiding her hands deep inside the folds of her patterned shawl.
She let us take her picture though, to help us remember
this charming girl with her wide, bright eyes, her brave smile,
her pounding heart, remember her long after we'd moved on
to find our dinner elsewhere.


[inspired by various bits of Malagasy folklore]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pine Needles

jagged scales glued back onto the body
of a peeled pangolin

world's longest splinter, the telephone pole
pulled out of the tip of your ring finger

the broken cradle the fixed
singing them lullabies with cracked jaws
full of chipped teeth

paper crushed ice cone held all your hopes
thick and slow as sap
flipped it over and nothing fell out

sad how small our worlds become
she was so excited to be getting free ice cream
it was all she could talk about for days

claw pushes up through the rubble
like a barbed orchid
body buried beneath a pile of bricks
I draw this image over and over
it doesn't heal anything. Nothing gets healed

*

grabbed a squirrel by its tail
stripped of fur, it was just a necklace
of bones. Beaver tooth, mastodon molar,
cactus and sea urchins with the spines removed
we are spiny little bastards. We clench our teeth
and bug our eyes, daring the world to grab us
to receive its handful of quills.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Wristwatch

She rubbed lemon on her wrists, then dipped them
in powdered sugar, rolling them
back and forth. She spread her arms
on the lawn. The grass tickled her skin.
Ditto the ants

A plastic tarp stretched across the gap
in the rocky ground. 
Its grommets had rough metal edges
that scratched her palms. She kept dropping
the rubber band, the electrical tape
The knotted copper wire

It was all soft as pillows, soft as soap and snow
but it all went rough as sidewalk, sandpaper, tree bark
A wooden pallet flicked its splinters into the wind
Tiny explorers burrowing into the planet's skin

She slid her hands into a cold soothing pool,
fingers breaking through the sheath of ice
When she pulled them out she realized
she'd lost her wristwatch
she could see it gleaming down there
on the rocks far below
a distant lighthouse winking through the fog
She removed her shoes

She moved into a house of hair
and accidentally on purpose started 
a grease fire on the stove
Needing the thrill, or maybe just curious
Burning curtains, flaming braids,
sticks of dynamite with curly pubic fuses
lit one by one, they all fizzled out
every single one a dud
Gasoline on her lips, juice running down her chin
She held her wrists over the flames
and sadly squeezed out a few drops of blood
to squelch the conflagration
before tightly, tightly rewrapping 
the bandages.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wedding Portrait Photographer

Glistening droplets roll down the windshield
of the stolen car parked beneath
the tattered billboard.

Wadded in the back seat,
a sweatshirt, tube socks, sports bra.
Energy bar wrappers litter the floor.

On the asphalt beside the driver's side door
a puddle of dropped curry dried to an ocher crust
tries to keep from dissolving in the rain.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Turtle in the Smokehouse

She nearly stepped on the skeleton of a goose partially covered by scattered leaves. Not far away her St. Bernards had long since been reduced to the very things they would have once dug for, panting with excitement as they sprayed loose dirt everywhere. Across the way the pond was for sale, and she hoped the new owner would not fill it in, displacing the snapping turtles she loved despite their tendency to snatch young waterfowl from the gently rippling surface. Her father had once killed one of the reptiles and hung it by its front claws inside the smokehouse to surprise anyone who opened the door. With her mother gone she felt like she was being dragged under herself, that some horny beak had clamped down on her leg and was pulling her down as she struggled and watched the necklace of bubbles undulate upwards from her nostrils.
           She nudged the goose’s bill with the toe of her sneaker, plucked a yellow leaf from its eye socket. Marveled at the bones of its long neck. She wondered if she’d be able to wriggle free, or if she’d find a way to breathe underwater, find a way to survive in the darkness and the mud. Maybe the thing gripping her would not devour her after all but raise her as its own, teach her the ways of the sediment dweller, instruct her how to lie in wait before rising silently to the surface toward the floating leaves, toward the webbed feet paddling far above.