Friday, February 26, 2016

The Traffic Island of Gustave Moreau

     An island inhabited by monsters; Minotaurs and sphinxes and cyclopes, musical instruments with human heads and hairy rat men wearing red jello mold helmets, an island surrounded not by water but by highways on all sides, with metal and concrete barriers standing guard before the gravel shores. All the beasts are frantic, too terrified of the rushing traffic to try to escape. They subsist on litter tossed from car windows, supplementing their diet with the occasional hitchhiker or victim of a blowout. Their mad master visits occasionally to paint them some new chimera companions, though they beg him not to; their kingdom is already crowded, and the old man's eyesight is failing, his recent creations little more than formless blobs barely able to stand upright on the canvas as the cars and tractor trailers go roaring by.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


I close my eyes, knowing I can't trust her

Cut off our circulation with big rubber bands

You can imagine this floor any color you want

Shadows stretch around the room when you move the lamp

The larvae live in the mouth of a fly
and are deposited under your skin
when the fly bites you

Shadows suddenly lock into place

All the rubber bands snap simultaneously

Everything in the room turns the same color

I open my eyes and choose to trust her anyways

Thursday, February 18, 2016


      He’s flailing about through every room of the house like a rogue fire hose shooting water in all directions, screaming like a machine gun clattered to the concrete spraying bullets. The echoes of his yells ricochet off the walls, bounce back and forth like a vat of superballs dumped into an empty swimming pool. A shower of dice bounce off the carpet, carried by the tornado that swept through the casino where he lost it all, the same whirlwind that also whipped up a flurry of playing cards and spun all the Roulette wheels in the wrong direction. Ripples of thunder emanate from the closet, where the coat hangers sizzle, wreathed in ribbons of lightning. Bursts of color splatter the halls as Roman candles sizzle in the pantry, whirling Catherine wheels spit sparks in the dining room, strings of firecrackers crackle like chili peppers in the kitchen. She stands in the center of it all, in the black pupil of his hurricane, pressing two fingers against the pulse that throbs in her cold left wrist.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


      The massive paw swung at us, its long, hooked claws carving furrows in the air. When we came to, all five of us were scattered about the parking lot, bruised but alive. Nearby, in the spot reserved for the foreman, lay the carcass of the bear. The hide was empty, its innards nowhere to be found. One by one we crawled inside. Not only could we all fit, but we could stand up inside. Each one took a leg and I commandeered the head, peering out through the eye holes. After some practice we could coordinate our movements pretty well, and we shambled up the steps of the loading dock and in through the open gate at the back of the warehouse. We roamed up and down the aisles, occasionally bumping into a stacked pallet or abandoned forklift, until we reached the center of the building, which had been cleared of boxes and equipment. Lying there on the concrete floor were five bodies, five heaps of skin and clothes from which the skeletons and organs had somehow been removed. We looked at one another but couldn’t make out our facial expressions in the darkness inside the hide. I threw back the head and opened the jaws and roared at the fluorescent lights. The mournful sound  reverberated off the ceiling.  Just then we heard a loud buzzing. I turned the head around and saw an enormous swarm of bees approaching from down one of the aisles. The bees flew into the five empty bodies and one by one they stood up, balancing on wobbly legs. Insects darted in and out of the mouths and eyes and other orifices. Taking shaky steps they approached us. We slowly started to back up, which was difficult inside the skin. We backed into a stack of boxes which toppled to the ground with a great smash of broken glass and sticky amber fluid. The five men leaped at us and we turned around within our heavy fur and, as best as we could, began to run.

Monday, February 15, 2016


High on the slopes of Shasta
her sweat turned to steam in the lodge
and she purified her flesh with glacial melt
and her chest was pierced with winter birdsong
and when she emerged reborn she made her way
back north, speeding like the shadow of a falcon
up the Five. Sleet pricked the windshield
and a mile from the cul-de-sac where she lived
her car skidded into the frozen shoulder
Every surface was sheathed in ice
so she crawled the rest of the way
on her hands and knees
No scarf, no gloves, 
jeans with holes in the knees
Wind whipping her shawl behind her
The she-wolf, the tigress,
teeth bared in a fierce grin,
tendons in her neck straining,
heart screaming
as she left her forties behind
and raced on all fours
ravenous and wild-eyed
into the new decade

for Jo 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Mill (Max Beckmann)

The erected a scaffold of tar, then strapped us
one by one to the sails
and turned the crank. The faster we spun
the more the blood sped to our heads.
We squeezed our eyes shut tight
but the wind kept prying them open,
forcing us to watch the same scene
blurring past over and over.
Inside the black wheels turned,
teeth grinding the grain, the corn,
the bones.

They built a birdcage of lightning-scorched limbs
lashed together with lengths of burnt wick,
then papered the floor with pages torn
from the Torah. They threw in a pair
of billing, cooing songbirds with clipped wings
then hung the cage from a bough
beside the river
so the raptors could perch and stick
their talons and beaks between
the splintery bars.

They built a machine of stained glass
and black ash, pistons dripping lymph
and rancid grease.
They emptied the overflowing tubs,
dragged a mop halfheartedly back and forth
across the wooden floor, decorated the racks
with earrings and gold and silver fillings.
A single lock of hair curled up to hide
behind the stiff tongue of a shoe.
They filled the hopper with smoldering coals
to cause the waterfall to boil,
a rippling skin of waves and flames
fanned by a hot wind, our final breaths.