Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Skull In The Book

The skull in the book asks me what I'm reading.
We both know that he only wants to criticize.

The train rolls on, works looms.
I had hoped to get in a few pages, but no.
The skull in the book won't shut his pie hole.

I tell him it's about a woman
whose husband has a secret;
it's about a girl
who hears voices from her closet,
and it's about a cat
who stays on the stairs in the dark, watching.

The skull in the book scoffs. 
He wants spies and intrigue and sex.
"There is, Skully," I say. 
He frowns.

For a while I describe the scenery to him. 
He hasn't got eyes, but he has curiosity. 
He tells me to kiss him, he's a Prince.
"You wish."

At my stop, I tire of it all,
and discard my book with the skull in it. 
I can hear him, fuming inside the barrel with the coffee cups
and McMuffin wrappers.

I think I won't go to work.
I stand there for a second, stupid and a little afraid,
like a woman who wakes up not knowing where she is,
how she got there, what this strange body is
or why she's inside it, casting about for a clue.

Sunday, January 14, 2018


I am hiding where you can't see
me, down where the roots find 
winding ways and secret water,
daughter of both silence and 
random lightning strike.

I am hiding where you can't touch,
such a stand-offish lonely sort
aboard a black-winged bird
absurd and glorious in her particular 
vernacular of singular songs and caws
jackdaws and crows
know better than a professor at his books.

I am hiding in the red detritus
I might as soon worship as any
many-strictured deity, and yet,
getting it wrong, being found out--
shouting and giving myself away,
saying yes, I really do reduce to
blues in the afternoon sung by
my own traitor voice on these pages like a kiss.

for Fussy Little Forms: Chained Rhyme.


Saturday, January 13, 2018


Danger is everywhere--
at the bottom of a tea cup,
hidden in the fold of a newspaper,
tucked under the curve of your lover's breast.

Go ahead, scream;
it's your perfect right.

Those trapped in nightmares are paralyzed.
"You sustain me," is a sibilant statement,
often sincerely lisped by those with lipstick on their teeth. 

Another Flash 55 for my BFF.  


Friday, January 12, 2018

Floral Arrangement

When time has come for me to rot,
forget forget-me-nots.

Place touch-me-nots upon my grave--
no rose, nor lily, nor daisy;
and dig it far from madding crowd--
the loud, the false, the crazy.

Say few words, if any you must--
and lace them through with laughter
that unrepentant madmen know--
then silence ever after. 

A flash 55 for my BFF's weekly bacchanal. 


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Post Card

Greetings from Goon Island. 
If you feel ugly or are on the run from Sea Hag,
climb into a cannon and have them shoot you here.
You won't have to shave your legs,
and everything is served Florentine.

Greetings from Goon Island.
I must've got brained, I can't recall arriving or why.
I am 8 feet tall,
and tiny gals who would fit in a tea spoon always insist
on standing next to me. 
I am Blue LaGoon, the mumbling nightclub singer
with the flower in her hat.

Doesn't narrow it down much, I know.

Oh baby,
what I do remember is being Eugenia the Jeep,
arriving in a box with a printed message
all the way from India.
"I have magical powers" said my note,
which I had written
while walking through a wall just because I could.

Greetings from Goon Island.
Here, when I try to signal "yes", I just fall on my face. 
When I try to be HERE
and then
I just go in circles until I'm dizzy.

Despite the kindness of the Goons on Goon Island,
I wish you were here. 
Try to find a cannon.
Watch out for Bluto.
Elocution isn't everything, Toots--
try the sailor's semaphore,
head for the horizon,
and I will watch for you by the silent and singular 
light of the stars. 


For "Rhubarb" at Real Toads.

I have chosen "Popeye" (originally Thimble Theater) characters Alice the Goon and Eugene the Jeep, staples of my young childhood. I watched them faithfully on channel 9 out of Windsor, Ontario.

Alice the Goon was an 8 foot tall gender non-specific slave of the Sea Hag, who had threatened to hurt her baby if she didn't obey. We found out she was a girl when Sea Hag finally called her by name, "Alice." Eventually saved by Popeye, in later versions Alice donned a skirt and flowered hat. She only spoke in mumbles. 

Eugene the Jeep was a creature from the 4th dimension, who managed to land himself here. In print, he was discovered in Africa, in cartoons it was India. He was mailed to Popeye in a box, with a note of introduction. Popeye's reaction? "Well, blow me down!" Eugene could walk through walls and jump from location to location in the bat of an eye. Eugene the Jeep didn't speak either, but he shook his head for "no" and bowed down and swished his tail for "yes."  The military vehicle was named for him because it was small and maneuverable. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


A house
by blackbirds.
A window
where a woman stood
after losing her child.
A lawn
once anointed
with lemonade.
A fence 
repaired three times
by the same hands.
A porch
where a deaf dog
slept away his days. 
No car
and a suitcase in the back.
A letter saying

for dverse poetics. photograph by sharon knight.


Monday, January 8, 2018


What's under the dirt
in the garden by the moon-gray shed?
What's under the bloom 
and the petal walls in my head?

Dangerous, it's dangerous
hooker red and high like this.

What's under the beat
in the heart of a summer night?
What's under your skin
where ravens go blackly bright?

Dangerous, it's dangerous
hooker red and high like this.

What's under your smile
curved with fearless faint regret?
What's under our tongues
gone dawn dissolve and yet....

Dangerous, it's dangerous 
hooker red and high like this.

Dangerous, it's dangerous

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Occasionally, one must be cleansed.
Sure, you could wait on a bench at the train station for Jesus to return,
surrounded by clergymen offering judgement and asbestos underwear.
But Jesus,
in white shirt and tie,
running the afternoon shift at Chicken Barn,
would take you aside from your deep fryer duties and tell you--
cleansing should be a private thing,
a personal thing,
not subject to "likes" and "shares" or other public scrutiny. 

Come, get still within yourself.
Lay out the things you'll need:
the towel,
the candles,
the knout and the noise-reducing headphones. 

Concentrate on necessary rituals;
the curly fry placed upon your tongue,
the orange soda in the tiny dixie cup.
Find the kernel of eternity and meaning inside the absurd and the preposterous.
What I'm saying is, look within.

Take the cloth and the sweet-smelling detergent to the tabletops
of your personal dining room.
Prevent disgusting build-up of
and wild profane outbursts.
Stop sleeping with everybody who asks.
Make today a changing day in your life.
Turn off Dr. Phil.  

In the end, there is no "end."
You'll need to repeat this, like lines in a stage play,
but lines that change with each new performance.
Buck up, Bo Peep.
Jesus stands ready with company protocols and his wonderful crooked grin.
His hair is long, he likes the extra crispy sandwich, 
a good joke, women, kindness.
Present the clean crescents of your fingernails to Him.
Approach your duties with pride.
Go home, empty your mind, forget the hectic lunch rush.
Be at peace.
Do it all again tomorrow.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


She's so proud of her jugs, but they're only full of wash water.
Who else would wear diadems and diaphanous gowns to do a load of colors?

She says she gets a weird high down there in the basement,
and tells the future to Pecky, miserable in his cage,
more fascinated with millet than prophecy.
The sun, to him, is a fairy tale;
the rattling furnace is as close to a tree as he'll ever get. 

God, I hate her. She's so nice, and so stupid.
Going through the pockets of her man's jeans, she pulls out a diamond
from among the phone numbers and weed dust.
She sticks it in her eye and starts speaking in tongues. 

For fuck's sake, the cycle's almost done,
her kid is howling upstairs because Thomas the motherfucking Tank Engine ended,
and now I have to pick up her slack while she la-dee-dah's around 
like a brain damaged nymph.
"Snap out of it!" I screech, and she blinks, then frowns,
then flips open the machine.

"When did you buy that?" I ask her. What about your precious jugs?
She waves her hand.
Her one diamond eye sparkles, the other looks vaguely up at the ceiling.
Pecky screams, apropos of nothing.
"Bless your heart," she says. 
The furnace kicks on.
Her dog comes down and circles three times, then shits next to the dryer.
"We're blessed," she adds as she hefts a plastic basket on her hip,
then turns and rises up the basement stairs 
like carbon monoxide inside a party balloon. 

for Camera FLASH! at Toads.

Friday, January 5, 2018


I told Pumpkin
about your heart--
how it couldn't be broadcast, even locally.
Is fucking finding? No.
My life, yours, Pumpkin's,
are like collars fitted to only one neck. 
Right, girl?

Pumpkin is poemless, unlike me.
For her, shit is shit;
she's not sentimental.
She finds dead hearts, shakes them apart--
comes home looking pleased. 

A flash 55 for my BFF.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


I remember those times--
the August bird on the hollyhock,
the one-eyed landlord,
the angels reposed between the cobblestones--
when we had everything and wanted nothing
except a ticket out.

What else would we have done, in the City of a Hundred Spires,
but sing as if every lamp post were a tall stem,
and we the warblers in diklos and babushkas,
hearts as tiny and strong as the astronomical clock?
"New York!" was all that fell from other lips in moments between notes,
though none of us had ever been.
Only you and I still loved the dumpling and the sugar cake. 

In those days, we heard the horse hoof, the wagon wheel,
the ships with their deep bass calls that shook the docks. 
And you, my double and my simple bloom,
the favorite soprano among us all,
loved to watch them, loving the motion they made,
while all the time staying stock-still,
holding your breath--and my hand.

I remember all my family's things wrapped in patterned cloth,
the Orthodox cross above our church when I saw it for the last time,
in early winter, with only sparrows on the steps, and no music.
My father had our ticket in his coat pocket
and my mother silent at his side.
For many years, in Chicago, we made pastries and pies
for strangers, and in time
all the children spoke English and sang only before ballgames,
eating hot dogs and forgetting.

They call me Ba-boo-shka, and smile.
"She never left the Old Country," they say, but how could I?
I once licked crumbs of sugar cake slowly from your soft lips
as you stayed still and the whole world shifted. 
How could I ever love Chee-ca-go, having once, in warm summer,
loved you? Tell me that, little songbird.

babushka--a head scarf. Also, an old woman or grandmother.

diklo--a head scarf denoting a married woman

The City of a Hundred Spires--Prague

the poster--by Alphonse Mucha. It refers to the Moravian Teacher's Choir, 1911.

for Fireblossom Friday: That's the Ticket.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Because A Thing Is Not Real

Jus because a thing is snot real is no reason
to toss Baby out wit bath water, rye?
What snot got fins
my have wings, and looka you wit boph feet in lead boots.

Am I not serious jus cus
I fye sunflower in either han when I wan?
Can feel stem, face, yello starburss unda my touch,
sun hot on my skin,
and looka you wit all da fax, cand feel a thing
Who got tye fo dah?

Got lotsa say, in words my own chose seff, 
dun mean ain't got the Queen's English at my disposal dependin
wut planet spin unda me at any gibbon moment, babe.