Monday, November 21, 2011

Fox's Confessor - Chapter Six

When Father Overbee drank he often thought
Of St. Augustine (“To The Burgundy,
Thence I came…”) but refused to think what brought
Him to such a pass: he knew the company
“The Legless Fox” kept was most nights only
“Me, myself and rye.” So he thought it strange
To have someone other than a barfly
Or transient intrude on his solo binge:
Parishioner or not, encounters made him cringe.

Tonight’s visitor in natty long coat
And pin-striped three-piece was holding in hand
And close to vest a fancy leather tote:
That’s where, thought Father, lawyers keep contained
Such secrets convictions that sins defend…
The priest avoided making eye contact
And turned to his drink as the stranger scanned
The room for signs of life. In fact, he attacked
His beer: shall I be shit-faced tonight, or just shellacked?

Before too long, though, half way through the priest’s
Latest coat of liver stain, the stranger spoke –
Not to him – to imaginary guests –
Or so it seemed. Perhaps the priest mistook
The man for his appearance: homeless folk
Have taken to wearing upscale suits
, he thought.
Intrigued, he listened to the stranger talk.
A beer later, the stranger began to shout,
Then looked at – or through – the priest, and quickly ran out.

“There goes the evening’s divertissement…”
The cleric said, and, shrugged to silence, sipped
His glass and munched at a free assortment
Of nuts and snaps at the bar. As he tipped
His glass to drain it, someone lightly tapped
His arm. A fat fellow sat a stool away
And watched the glass the priest held as it dripped
Its final drop into his mouth. “Good day,”
He said. “I’m Lonnie Cash. Are you enjoying your stay?”

“Good day – evening, sir. I’m actually not
A regular guess – I came for the cashews
And stayed for Wilmaukee’s Best. Look at that…
Late fer New Mexico and no excuse.
A bishop-forced vacation – can’t refuse.”
“Are you a priest by name of Father Andy?”
Asked Lonnie barging through the priest’s obtuse
Palaver (Although that’s not quite the way
That he put it later to Peyton: “He was high!”)

“Who needs to know? You can tell Mrs. Conway –“
“Are you a priest?” (Although still dressed in his blacks,
He had his Roman collar stashed away
In his back pocket.) “Whew, this ‘Headless Fox’
Sure’s gotten busy tonight. ‘Matter facks,
I am – or was – or…whaz on your mind, son?”
“We’ve got a guest in Six-sixty-six –
He’s very ill, you see – and a Christian –
And he’d like to have a priest to do confession.”

* * * *
Delirium – dying delirium,
Thought Lytlewood, once more in the lobby.
He pounded on the call-bell like a drum
And Peyton Cash appeared almost instantly
Behind the desk. Or the insanity
Of an old man.
“I’d like to take my suite.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Lytlewood. Here’s your key.
I would suggest you take the stairs tonight
As the elevator is cranky – and it might –“

“You expect me to take six flights of stairs?”
“Of course not, Mr. Lytlewood, go straight
On down the hall and there’s elevators
To left and right, but take the one on the right.”
But Lytlewood shot a severe look at
The man. “You damn well know I’ve been before.
Who’s taking care of baggage this late
At night?” Even Peyton Cash – cool cucumber
Extraordinaire – struggled to keep composure.

“We’ll…We’ll have them sent up A.S.A.P….”
“What kind of place you run–“ Whatever else
The aging thug thought he was going to say
Was lost in vertigo and closing walls –
He gripped the desk to ride out the crippling spells
Of nausea, letting fall to the marble floor
The dossier from Music. When the chills
And shakes subsided, Peyton standing there
Beside him, both saw its contents spilled everywhere.

* * * * *
As Father Overbee replayed the scene,
Bizarre and of a piece with how his night
Was shaping up, his presbyterian
Instincts assumed a sober defense of rite
And sacrament: while he agreed, despite
His clodded judgment, to see the sick man,
He told the thumbless fellow – as he spat
Tobacco juice into a brass spittoon –
“Sish sishty-sish, huh? Good nummers for confection…”

“Well, Padre, spurt it can’t hurt spurt can it?”
“I’ll need a hole and stoly oils – a stoles
For extreme inaction – what? Bah! Emmit fit
To drivel meself and get a couple miles
To walk –“ “Oh, don’t sweat spurt the details
There Padre – just spurt go and do your thing.
The little stuff are just the devil’s
Excuse for spurt to make the ol’ purse strings
Of pig tails – or is it honey spurt for the bee stings?

“Shit, I don’t know – the point is spurt…Well, shit,
What was my point?” “The rask of gitting lust
In detools?” "Ex – spurt – actly! Did I hit
The hammer on the tail?" "– I think I mussed
Your name, Mr….?” “Lonnie Cash, your host…
I’m owner of these here praymises, too.”
And Lonnie, pausing half a second, thrust
His hand at Father Overbee and threw
A look at his piled empty glasses. “Want to play through?”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Fox's Confessor: Chapter Five

The Burgundy was Lytlewood’s retreat
From larger universes. Renting peace
Of mind, he found his refuge bittersweet –
At once a cure for the common disease
Of life, and sure reminder that when lease
And rent come due, the vacancies remain
The first concern. In its halcyon days
The hotel spilled with bouquets and champagne;
Today, it’s real estate prostitutes Mnemosyne –

A fact the hotel’s current state drove home
As Lonnie drove Lytlewood into view:
The faded facades of dismantled Rome
Could never have filled Caesar with more rue –
Its garish art-deco and neon threw
Enough electricity to trace its dark
Abandoned silhouette. As evening grew
It spread its stain against the sky in stark
Majestic hints of heydays and high water mark.

With tears of practice, Lonnie got the hang
Of driving without thumbs. – But Lytlewood
Soon realized he wasn’t worth a good damn
For carrying bags – This bed is mine I made...
He was left with baggage at the colonnade
That announced The Burgundy’s grand entrance.
As Lonnie went to park in back, he stood
And saw the hotel’s old ways – a sentence
Scrawled above the arch to welcome with faux-pretence:

Check Your Cares At Door, Ye Who Enter Here!
With a short strained sigh tucked under his breath
Against nostalgia, he opened the door
And stepped inside. In crossing underneath
The jamb, he thought he heard the hotel breathe,
Exhaling years and years of quiet years…
The lobby’s marble floor echoed with
His falling steps – like mourning – without tears
He thought – or echoing for years and years. And years…

A furtive movement caught his eye: someone
Retreated into the office behind
The desk – as if to avoid detection.
But Lytlewood was rather disinclined
To follow up. Instead he looked to find
A concierge or bellhop. Then the bar
Recalled him to its modest doors; they dinned
The clank and hum of business, familiar
Enough to guide him back to find his old north star.

He was too weak with his sickness to think
To want his old proclivities: a box
Of choice cigars beneath his arm; a drink
In hand to start the night…Scotch – hold the rocks!
The Burgundy’s bar – called “The Legless Fox” –
Had naturally attracted Lytlewood –
Though few guessed his big shoes would leave the tracks
Of little Reynard behind...And once, I could…
He weakly pushed the swinging doors and stepped inside.

There were only three others in the room:
A bartender toweling a whisky glass
Behind the bar, another pushing broom,
His back to Biggy, and – seeming out of place –
A single patron crouching comatose,
Nursing drinks at the bar’s far end, his mood
As black as his attire. And then a voice
Yanked at Biggy with its unlikelihood.
It’s good to see you again, Mr. Lytlewood.

As Lytlewood knew that the gangster’s life
Was full of strange and bloody things, and one
Was just as soon accustomed to mooncalf
Grotesques, stupid lore and superstition
Of underworld and overlord, as to gun-
Downs and garottes, the sign and sacrament
Of thuggery itself: still, the phenomenon
Appearing now before his eyes was different –
Virgil Strong – not quite spirit, not quite corpulent.

It was Lytlewood, after all, who first
Appealed to Music’s Machiavellian
Propensities, suggesting, worse to worst,
Divine authority cows even villains –
“A taste of blood will only whet the thirst,”
He said to Music, “but feed the will on fear
And even vice and crime are all but forced
To pay the gods respect.” He helped, therefore,
Convert dishonest souls to Music’s strident care.

Oh, sir, the ghost continued, why surprised? –
You act as if the boys had hacked your tongue
Instead of mine. But you must have realized
We’d be waiting here – with spring in step and song
In heart – and ready to bring you along
With us
. But Lytlewood simply stared
Down the bar, long and cool. Don’t get us wrong,
Mr. Lytlewood – no expense was spared –
If you’re to die, we’re here to make sure you’re prepared.

It’s Music’s little pastime, Lytlewood
Suspected – testing him around the edges,
To see if age and pleasure had destroyed
His hardness, mollified his ancient grudges
Against the world. If Lytlewood budges,
So Music speculates, then who else might
Betray me? Sham sureties, bogus pledges –
Surely these more than bullets took the fight
Out of Music? Still, there’s something here that’s not quite…

“Say, Virgil, you keep referring to ‘we’
And ‘us’ – but I see only us in the place,”
The gangster thought to say – with levity
To show he’d play it out. Don’t remember us,
Good man? – Remember Eddie the Puss?
That’s Eddie Pusarchik right over there
At Table Eight. Recall how you hopped him
Up on smack and made him rape his mother?
I think he whacked his father, too – for good measure.

Then standing over there by the jukebox –
That’s Tony Romula. No? You had him kill
His brother over phony rotten stocks
In city real estate. Talk about shill
And shell games: A regular Cain and Abel,
Those two. If Jimmy hadn’t played both ends
Against the middle, skimming from the till
On top of all…I always said, you bends
The rules enough and nothing in it recommends.

And Hector “Horsey” Harriman is here –
The stable trainer for Mr. Music’s
Arabians? If I’ve the story clear,
The bookie – Parrish Bowes, was it? – tried to fix
A race in which Achilles’ Heel, Music’s
Prize thoroughbred, was running. Hector slipped
It’s feed a mickey; Bowes slipped him greenbacks;
And didn’t Music have you have Hector strapped
And dragged behind Achilles ‘til his spine was snapped?

Oh, he’s there by the cigarette machine
With Bowes now…What became of Bowes again?
That’s right. Once you got Hector to come clean –
Before his last ride – you “found” Parrish in
Bed, committing fornication
With Mr. Music’s mistress. What a knack
You had for fabricating a fiction.
Didn’t you show him counterfeit Kodaks?
Is that what makes a fellow swallow Clorox and Ajax?

As Virgil Strong continued his catalog
Of Lytlewood’s auld lang syne alumni,
Biggy’s gaze began to drift like fog
From face to ghostly face to – suddenly
He sensed almost simultaneously
Two curious facts: the barkeeps were gone
And, he noticed, during Virgil’s litany
The barfly in the corner tying one on
Was following this one-sided conversation.

…Again involving Mr. Music’s mistress –
What was her name? Oh, hell!
(Sorry, Sir!)
But that’s it! Hell – hell – Helen Crosby! Yes!
I’m sure of it.
Strong paused. It makes me sore,
I must confess
(It’s just a harmless figure
Of speech, Sir, but apologies, of course!)
As I was noting, it’s just like a whore
To fail to keep appointments. This will force
The Master’s hand – and you know how he hates remorse.

“What do you know about Helen Crosby!”
Interrupted Lytlewood. “And who the hell
Are you! I’m dying, as you correctly
Surmised – but look, the joke was going swell
Until you mentioned… Helen.” His voice fell.
“Please tell me. What the hell is this about!”
Exactly so, dear Mr. Lytlewood. Hell.
And we have just the place for down and out
Fatalities like yourself. Let me explain it

By taking all your questions one by one –
No, better yet, let this answer for all:
This cocktail party (which cannot begin
In fact until Ms. Crosby’s arrival)
Is in your honor. For being faithful
To the Master, we’d propose a fitting toast –
Except the whore prevents it – so until
She shows, the Master has but one request:
It would be best to ignore that nosey goddamned priest.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Fox's Confessor: Chapter Four

Lost in sorrow’s thickets, the cleric missed
The coming thunder, steel gnawing down
On steel, the grind that crushed and pushed and pressed.
And Lytlewood, abject with abstraction,
Ignored the nearing lights of the station.
In lonely vigil, only Lonnie heard
The train approach the town – its combustion
Now sweeping like fate’s engine forward toward
The platform, a cargo of revelations on board.

The gravity and steel strained to a stop
Before the platform. Nervous clustered knots
Of those awaiting departure took a grip
Of bags and baggage, memories and regret –
And those awaiting arrival of debt
Assumed and endured now scattered to see
Before being seen, hoping to forget
The argument, the tiff, the row, or free
One's conscience from some latest infidelity.

Amid the crowded station’s fervid come
And go, the thick-chested man rose and reached
For baggage overhead. His head went numb
And slumped over – until darkness encroached
Upon his sight and gravity unstitched
His dozing mind in momentary dread.
But catching himself, he stood again, latched
One hand to bag and one upon his head.
His feet felt for the platform with the weight of lead.

Through his faintness Lytlewood thought he saw
An obese figure make its way from shadows –
Waving to him, the man lacked thumbs, his jaw
Hung like a dog’s. In clean accounting rows
The memories started adding up and rose
To meet him – that same fat body hog-tied
With phone cord; that same jaw in twisted throes,
And thumbs jumping from his hands as the blade
Performed precisely: action owed and suffering paid.

The moment Lonnie saw old Lytlewood
He knew that something about him was wrong.
He seemed an apparition as he stood
As if about to faint. “It’s been too long,
Mr. Lytlewood!” His words seemed to hang
Too long before Lytlewood made reply:
“You…what? – why you?” “I’m here to help bring
Your baggage and things to The Burgundy.”
“Lonnie Cash – yes, that’s your name? – I’ve come here to die.”

* * * * * *
“I shit you not, Peyton, it’s what he said,
On God’s honor,” Lonnie explained back at
The hotel. “Also, he said he’d be dead
In hell, he said, before the night was out.”
But Peyton half-listened and, half in doubt,
Regarded Lonnie’s news as if received
Without the bona fides of proper bullshit.
“I think, dear brother, you falsely perceived
(Big words always got to Lonnie) and thus believed.”

“Well, all’s I know is he don’t look so good;
He got these shakes – and driving here I saw
These dizzy spells possess him. Lytlewood
Ain’t Lytlewood is all’s I’m saying now –
He even told me, ‘Take it nice and slow
Through downtown’ – which added a whole half-hour
Because we drove by this old whorehouse so
He could, I don’t know… something to remember,
He said, holding hard the while to some kind of folder.”

When Lonnie finished Peyton began to hum
And think and hum and…. Lonnie blurted, “What!”
The office light was shedding from its dome
Unsettled shadows on Peyton’s balding nut.
He leaned into the cone. “Well look, here’s what
I say we do: if Music’s golden goose
Is getting ready to kick the bucket –
We need some way to find out what that goose
Is going to do and whether it’s meant for us.”

“Remember that Music demands his men
Have to be registered Catholics to play?”
Continued Peyton. “He held confession
A good way to keep his men honest and fey
For blood." “Fey?” “Shut up, Lonnie, and listen –
So Music kept on his payroll a real,
Honest-to-God priest who heard all the sin
And nonsense of Music’s men. Then he’d squeal
Afterwards to Music. The trick would never fail.”

“What trick?” “Oh, Lonnie, clam it, for Christ’s sakes!
The trick was to confess and keep close tabs
Ensuring no one came with higher stakes
To Music’s table. Nothing up for grabs –
You see? You put a fear of God in rubes
And they won’t play you for one, or abuse
Your confidence. So we find a priest that gabs;
We make it so he don't know it, set him loose
On old Lytlewood – and if he doesn’t refuse

He’ll have to be thinking Music's being thorough –
And maybe he’s dying for sure – well, will
He refuse a priest? One way or not, we’ll know
If Mr. Biggy Lytlewood is ill
To death.” “And where’ll I find a priest that will
Want to?” Peyton smiled wide. “Well, as I see….
That rummy from St. Placid’s fits the bill –
And it so happens that he’s currently
Buying up the bar. He goes by Father Andy.”

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fox's Confessor: Chapter Three

“Holy shit. That’s what we are, my dear friends
In Christ” – Father Andrew Overbee sat back
From pen and desk. Holy Shit? That depends
On more distinctions than thy rhetoric
Hath dreamed,
he thought, No, no. Better to stick
To boilerplate, Andrew, and besides, it sounds
All too Protestant…
He knew his homiletic
Style already put him well out of bounds
With Bishop Linseed and his diocesan hounds.

So Father Overbee killed his sermon
For Sunday in utero, crossing out
Its only sentence. Best goddamned line on
Things in a while. But wasn’t meant to be,

He thought as he cast his gaze at
A page torn from Time he’d tacked to his wall –
The famous Holbein sketch of Dean John Colet –
The softened eyes affixed, half-skeptical,
As if gauging the grill of a confessional.

Instead of starting over, Father Andrew
Blew flatulent ruminations from his lips.
He rolled his eyes, paused, and suddenly threw
Down his pen. He looked at his fingertips
And joined them – then let the steeple collapse.
Leaping up, he took, in three strident bounds,
The distance from his chair to his relapse:
The beer can’s hatching crack – this best of sounds!
Thought Father Andrew – provided motive and grounds

For his recovering recovery
From alcoholism. He downed the can
In three hungry gulps, then belched: "Oh-verr-bee-
You-lush"" He knew that his next confession
Would include a Budweiser commission
And half a case of Milwaukee’s Best
Beforehand, to muster up enough spin
To twirl around the usual manifest
Of sins – to save, of course, his mortal best for last.

So Father Overbee began to move
From room to room, wandering the rectory
In search of ideas to rescue and love,
To mollycoddle in discovery,
And raise the blade of reality
(As Abraham would unbloodied Isaac)
Above his intellect: Thursday's homily
Of fear and trembling – mental disconnect –
And fear and loathing –Deny! – usually to redact

On Sunday morning: In his years (the last
Eleven at his current assignment –
The moribund St. Placid’s) as a priest
For God’s Rabble, Father Overbee spent
His time interring old ground for talent
He may or may not have buried alive.
The Long Ago of youthful resentment
Had softened into middle-aged reprieve
Confirmed with liquor – all the better to believe.

It was a bargain he made with his flock:
The parishioners keep a friendly distance
And, playing the equidistant cleric,
He guarantees some kind of real presence
By keeping faith in words, an allegiance
That split infinitives into sermons
And baptized syntax with sly inference.
Yet even as God’s shadow determines
The form,
he thought, matter’s meaning dims the world with sins.

The solipsism was never his style
But he had separated himself from
The world, pursuing faith in partial exile.
His library consoled – but played it dumb
When critical interrogations came
And knocked on his door. His caged parakeet,
Jeremiah, waited, perched in the front room.
Preparing Father, this shrill paraclete
Enthralling souls that came in off the street. Twit tweet!

Twit tweet! The song sung now pulled him up short –
For day had long since concluded its terms.
Who should want counsel now?! With a brusque snort
He reluctantly dropped everything: the forms
And manners of life, mysterious charms
Of social survival; due sacrifice
To quotidian gods; liturgical norms
For ordinary life – which all suffice
To say his fellow man became his daily cross.

The knock foretold fulfilled the prophecy
Of Jeremiah’s song – announcing each guest
A ghost of grief for Father Overbee.
Half-heartedly hiding his mild disgust
He met Mrs. Conway, parish liturgist
And secretary. Halting her entrance,
He quickly stepped out on the porch and made fast
The door behind him, stealing a quick glance
At something she was holding in her vein-blue hands.

“A good evening to you, Father Andy,”
She said. And her sour-tart smirk said in turn,
I piss you off when I call you that, don’t I?
“And to you,” he replied. “And your concern?”
“Oh, well, I just wanted to come and return
This bit of mail I’d taken home by…chance.”
As he took it he noticed it was torn.
“I think it’s something of some importance,”
She added as he saw the seal, “– from His Excellence.”

He waited for Mrs. Conway to leave
Before attending to the envelope.
Prepared for all, he was not so naïve
To think its contents held any good hope
To come: it was, after all, the Bishop.
Upon a careful read, he went inside,
Retrieved a beer and came back to the stoop.
The Six O’Clock – its whistle opened wide –
Resounded in the distance. He sat down and cried.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Fox's Confessor - Chapter Two

“Holy shit…” Biggy groaned, his eyes shut tight,
His mind in momentary suspension
Before resuming gravity’s upward float –
For he was dreaming of resurrection
And drowning, day and night, a rising sun,
And light and light…His hooded lids snapped wide
To see the first golden tendrils of dawn
Unfold across the rooftops. From his bed
He tried to consider which kingdoms to divide.

But something was wrong. Had he but believed,
Body and soul, in the body and soul,
And not the body only, he might have lived
To see his life in more than terms of will.
But it came to pass that the world was ill-
Conceived this morning. Lytlewood awoke
And found the world the way he left it – still
One fact, but now divorced, as if it broke
From his will, amputated in a single stroke.

He raised his skull from his pillow, a head
Burnished in laurels of foxfire crimson
And balding in corruption, noble, staid
As Caesar’s bust. But the latter season
Of his pate belied the high green of June
That flourished, trunk and limb, beneath his clothes.
Still, as he swung his feet from bed linen
To floor, with shaking nausea bile rose
To meet his false youth with age, his vain works with days

Long passed. “Today I die,” said Lytlewood
To his burnt reflection in the smoked glass
Surmounting his nightstand. Half out of bed
He hunched and stretched his hand where a small mess
Of sleeping pills had spilled. The half-darkness
Half-hindered his search for the telephone.
His hands concieved receiver and mouthpiece
Plucked from the cradle. Clenched at like a bone,
He put it to his ear and, not waiting for a tone,

He dialed. Waited. And spoke like one
Who learned to talk to himself, one marooned
With his own voice for more than a million
Seasons. “Yes. I want you to go and find
Two airplane tickets to Miami and
The cleanest whore in town. I need to go
Away awhile… What? I see. A demand.
Not a request. Well. Music would know.”
He hung up and woke up: Where Music sends, I go.

Biggy Lytlewood was not one to call
Rapacious, but he knew how to “acquire.”
The Money – not some, not even most – but all
Was his task as underworld stockbroker:
Attracting attention among the higher
Dominions, thrones and powers, Reynard Lytlewood –
His name before his name became bigger –
Determined his own course, for bad or good,
Relieved a man of his gold as any stone of blood.

He took a comet’s path in his career
Among the other orbiting bodies
And watched from his own insulated sphere
The rise and fall, the wax and wane, surcease
And excess, this universe of chaos.
To his game surprise, he survived, and thrived
To see that murder, bribes, and rank abuse
Of power, sex and money, had moved
His orbit into circles more and more depraved.

Of these, none had more perfect compass than
The machinations of Frankie Music –
His was a total system: he the sun
Around which revolved Lytlewood’s logic
Of tally sheets and body-counts. In quick
Succession Lytlewood rose through the ranks
Of Music’s syndicate. His bailiwick
Was making Music the Baron of Banks
And himself, touched as Midas, horrid as the Sphinx.

It was the face of that deceitful god
Of waste and nothing, that blood-lusty beast
Of riddle and mirage, which now with stolid
Expression stared at itself, holding fast
Its gaze upon the bathroom mirror, cast
Out deep (and thus in deep) to find the cause
Of sickness. Impassive as a clenched fist
He knuckled up the passing pain, his face
Unmoved, its golden whiskers creasing time’s increase.

When pain subsided, it left Lytlewood
In weary contemplation: what to do
Now that mortality had come and stood
Beside him? Say farewell? Miami grew
Insignificant – and whores the more so.
He doused his face and neck from the basin
Of shaving water. Suddenly he knew
Where he would go – a place half way between
Where we would be going and where he had been….

“You’re all set, Mr. Lytlewood. Your train
Arrives in town a little after six –
About sundown. At the station a man
From the hotel’s due to pick you up and fix
You up in penthouse suite Six-sixty Six,
As you requested.” Meyer, his chauffer –
Efficient and discreet, handed tickets
To Biggy, sitting in back. Over his shoulder,
Meyer spoke the way he drove – with purpose. “This folder

“As well, is from Mr. Music.” He passed
It back. But Lytlewood already knew
What the file read: Assignment – his last.
So what did it matter which stone he drew
The blood from this time? He guessed his would flow
Soon enough…. But we leave to meditate
On his yesterday and his tomorrow
One whose will is lost to a present state –
To meet another lost in time’s eternal debate.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Fox's Confessor - Chapter One

It is told, then, that Musciatto Franzesi, being from a very rich and considerable merchant in France become a knight...
-Boccaccio, The Decameron, First Tale, First Day

“Holy shit! Lytlewood’s coming to town!”
Lonnie Cash’s huff-puffing bulk almost
Reached the room and his brother Peyton’s frown
Before his fat squeal filled up and crossed
The office doorway. His brother was lost
In thought, his exquisitely thin fingers
Drumming desktop for some sullen sunk cost
The way a hunted animal lingers
With haunting hungers in shadow’s hidden dangers.

“Yeah, Lonnie, he’s coming alright – I heard
About it this morning. One of Frankie
Music’s men had rung in an early bird
Reservation,” Peyton said, his lanky
Frame rising slowly, painfully, frankly,
To greet his brother with the same cool regard
Lonnie’s perpetual anxiety
Always – the way Peyton saw things – incurred.
He watched as the word reservation registered

Within the sallow jowls and sag-heaping jaw
Lonnie would bounce and jounce with confidence
Like pistons as he worked a plug of chew
Embalmed in Juicy-Fruit. His countenance
Made counterfeits of intelligence,
Dismaying his friends, surprising his foes,
And disgusting, with thick-headed offence,
His brother – so it was that Peyton was
Fond of slapping Lonnie’s fat face with good bad news.

“Reservation?” Lonnie repeated. “Here?
“At The Burgundy?” “Where else?” Peyton said,
And pretended more quietly, “My fear
Is that our Mr. Biggy Lytlewood
Wants someone’s due – Music never yet did
Send Biggy but the business required
A heavy hand’s caress, some smarts – and blood.”
The piston in Lonne’s jaw devoured
The news fiercely – then froze his face as he inquired:

“But why…The Burgundy?” A seven-story
Red-brick affair, old as sin, the inn was built
By hands long-lost in graft’s deep pockets; hard
And fast and ramshackle to a fault –
It stood in comic pride, almost at a tilt.
Each room dirty with money’s satin sheets
And ghosting dirty looks from shades of guilt
Down in the crawling business of the streets
Prefigured shapes of darker days and lamp-lit nights.

By the blood-red of its own furnaced brick,
It was then rechristened – and not too long
After Peyton Cash had made specific
Arrangements to get its gain for a song:
The Singerman Arms, owned by Virgil Strong,
Became relinquished compensation for
Arrears to Frankie Music’s sturm und drang.
(Some say Strong’s coffered corpse still minds the store,
Inspiring the Cash brothers to filthier lucre.)

The brothers held court in the dingy nook
Behind the registration desk, itself
Bare but for a leather-bound ledger book
Spilling pages from a cracked spine, each leaf
Holding sacred secret history – no shelf
Of Shakespeare could story such confessions.
Biggy Lytlewood’s own tale had its life
Reserved in The Burgundy’s discrete lessons
Of quick columnar writ and dead letter questions.

“Lytlewood will be on the evening train,”
Said Peyton as he rolled a cigarette
With barely a pinch of weed stuck between
His fingers. “So I’d just as soon as bet
A pin as wage his train is coming late.”
In one motion he lit and took a drag,
Exhaling, “so… be… early.” And he let
The words – a heavy caution – hang like fog
In smoke between them. With no hope for epilogue

The falling silence bore up each second
The office clock was chipping off like ice.
“Sweet Jesus! Peyton – I hadn’t reckoned
We’d see Biggy’s ugly fox of a face
So soon after…after…” And he held his
Hands up – four digits apiece. Each lacked a thumb.
He’d submitted them, a small sacrifice
To Music’s men for dues to something dumb
Of Peyton’s doing: unpaid interest on a sum

Of loans to keep the Cashes’ solvent grasp
On Burgundy’s lease. “You’re going to hold
That on me ‘til death comes for my last gasp,
And no doubt after,” said Peyton. His cold
Sneer of fraternal hate only retailed
The wholesale hurt his brother tried to fling
At him with a wit he rarely revealed:
“You know, Peyton, there’s not a goddam thing
A man less than an ape can hope to be holding

At day’s end.” Sunlight, oily and urban,
Had seeped down through the city’s upper spheres
To bleed the hotel’s dirty blinds and span
Their gridlines across Lonnie’s face. Faint tears
Angered his grey eyes to black, and shudders
Of past pain held him a moment beyond
The surety of hatred the brothers
Made in compact, contracting like hot wind
From furnace lungs that waits for the tongue to expand.

But let’s now leave in uneasy conference
The brothers – unable to speak or know
Their own minds in confident alliance –
And further shape what will come tomorrow
By glancing back at yesterday’s afterglow:
See, already dawn ignites the daily lamp
A final time, should time alone allow,
For Mr. Biggy Lytlewood - his limp
And sleeping form begins to stir to life’s contretemps …

Friday, August 26, 2011

Epithalamium: Twenty-fourth Hour

Oh, muse, did you call back to say you’re well?
My singing ends, I know, much too self-conscious -
Invoking music’s mirrors with selfish spells.
My friends, I run the risk of Narcissus,
But agitate his placid pool –
And pray this paltry poem's shallow puddles
Reflects the truth you’ve tapped with love in deeper wells.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Epithalamium: Twenty-third Hour

Wisconsin is middle earth to a child;
Its intercessory night shines with light
Once day is put away – a treasury filled
With gold that keeps the promise of its weight
Long after the sun’s tabernacle door
Has closed, and long before
Night’s temple curtain falls, expanding time
And multiplying stars in dark divide
Allowing God’s reprieve – a prayer – to climb
The planes and angles of contemplation
As each constellation
Is held by beauty’s will. Let it be done:
As two souls join in revolution, conferred
In tight orbit around their nuptial word,
They give their starry multitude but one
Fixed house of heaven, one configuration
Incandescent as love – the mystical rose
Nature cannot see but knows to be the key of grace.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Epithalamium: Twenty-second Hour

Well, look at the time. If we die alone
It’s justice that we should. The century
That passed has gone as deep and clear to bone,
And tells us to stifle, hush and bury
Our little homicides of heart and soul
Despite the yawning hole
That cannot be argued away. The child
Is deaf to sloganeering vitriol,
Knowing only life and love, both defiled
By minds divorced from heaven, wedding hell
To queered political
Predilections Cain possessed to murder
His brother’s duty, giving birth to rights
Without responsibility. Love waits,
Though, patient for assent from the mother
To receive mankind’s universal face
Fathered in time and space.
We do not die alone and we know this –
For death by nature cannot turn the key of grace.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Epithalamium: Twenty-first Hour

The beauty of night is merely darkness
For those who never bother with the stars
Beyond the first – Lucifer nèe Venus,
A distant sun of indistinct desires
That serves as dusk’s out-riding fugitive.
Its light is meant to give
Some dim indication of sullen gloom.
But rising moon and fulgent stars contrive
To arbitrate the glory bride and groom
Will bless with seed and womb.
The moon resets her jewel within night’s crown;
Ascending, silver-throned, a queen who grants
These newest lovers light’s discrete romance,
And grave regard commingles with light renown,
Reflecting pools of joy with deeper joy.
The moon is love’s envoy
And magnifies the mysteries of darkness –
Which nature cannot solve without the key of grace.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Epithalamium: Twentieth Hour

Peeper frogs intone a choired serenade,
A final refrain to hush the bonfires,
Last guests lingering in toadstool promenade,
Until each echo expires and retires
In search of rest with the imitation dead
Who take the night to bed.
The bride and groom, though, rise to their heaven,
Awake, alone, and led
Along candled corridors to a shrine
Of their making, where private hymns rehearse
Entwining wreath and thyrse,
And vows that made a debt are paid with pleasure.
So rain will fall to rescue wasted lands
From drought, and fuel the seedling’s green demands -
The swelling promise, a loving partner
In God’s creation, gift of soil and root,
From sprout to rigid shoot.
Imprisoned outer darkness knows but this –
Its nature can't be free without the key of grace.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Epithalamium: Nineteenth Hour

At night yesterday’s nearer than tomorrow –
Perhaps because the sundown sadness of grief
Bristles chill against the skin, a sorrow
You own up to the way a summer leaf
Will blush and betray its autumn destiny
(The fall is sanctity
Writ large). The fading colors argue sleep…
And stars will blink their maps of unity
To brave the cries and whispers that would keep
Awake with unwarranted vigilance
The doubts that had long since
Been put to bed. This dark margin is slight
But draws out from hearts the poison of distance
And cradles moments that make the difference
Between passing hours and constant moonlight.
The moon wears her light like a wedding gown
And slowly dresses down
From sky to earth – and to what darkness is
Denied by its nature without the key of grace.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Epithalamium: Eighteenth Hour

All day, the wit of wine and laughing friends
Were joy’s company on the sun’s journey.
But as these light things have their own ends,
Allow yourselves the means of intimacy –
A whisky bottle, cigarettes, a kiss
And roads to reminisce,
The country rides and city boulevards
Where public courtship serves love’s interstice.
Again, art assaults what modesty guards…
Original touches sing a sweet refrain –
On parched hearts, a soft rain;
The simple gesture casts a cooling shadow,
The kind that’s welcomed in desert places.
Such expressions appear as oases -
Amid empty eternities, they flow
With fertile faith and overspill with mirth
Because on all the earth
No other night unlocks the stars like this.
Indeed, the world’s dark nature finds no key of grace.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Epithalamium: Seventeenth Hour

How brief the golden moment’s occasion
Before its passage into iron age…
The dew has put the pearl on day’s horizon.
Minting hill and field in rarity’s coinage,
Day pays its dues to night, its tax to peace,
Its rent to stars set loose
Within a pastured sky. A sad note more
Of merry tunes and good talk slips the crease
Of dooryard darkness, and fades out before
Spying evening creeps through western windows.
The descending dusk slows
Events and points up violets and nightshades –
A solitary vase arranged just so
Beside the bed where bride and groom go
To pay the mutual debt of maidenhead’s
Incorporation. Perfect honor rules
Their contract, more than jewels
And gold, though the tawdry world can't know this,
Its nature all out of tune with the key of grace.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Epithalamium: Sixteenth Hour

The pastured cattle stomp for stanchions; sheep
At hilly intervals are clouds in green
Euphoria; both endure the tired creep
Of shadows that thread the remnant sunshine.
The moments mount a shadow’s blade of grass
And leave a bent sadness
Beneath every hoof print. The steps away
From night begin their count. The drowsy guests drink
As they have all day. The near heavens thank
Their host, this perfect day,
With early starlight from one that loves to make
Her presence known as harbinger of night.
The moon and Milky Way corral their light
In every window. Farmer’s hoe and rake
Can take their rest at last. The harvests wait
For plow to cultivate
Tomorrow’s fruit – what will come just to this –
That nature’s fertile soil turns by the key of grace.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Epithalamium: Fifteenth Hour

At day's decline, we're all Pelagians;
We wind our clocks too tight. Supposing loss
Of creature, evening’s shade, we look across
The stark Manichean meridians
And hemispheres that helve the truth in two –
Our maps and minutes grow
As long as compass roses will. The feast’s
Time-honored guest, the bishop of Hippo,
Retraces autumn’s landscape, charting east’s
Determined west, the one that bridges sun
And sky. If there’s a sudden end to summer,
The season has its own patron father,
The sainted sinner whose confession won
The hour and still carries the day for brides:
No dark nor sea divides
The flesh – for love’s new land is found with this –
Nature’s compass – calibrated by the key of grace.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Epithalamium: Fourteenth Hour

This day unseals the door to a hidden path
That brings you to a garden’s grafted branch,
Adopted vines that ripen fruit by oath
And, pouring pure from heart and vessel, quench
The thirst: the day is given memory
To speak with antiquity –
Like Greeks, we break fast with feast, splash drink with song,
And dance with laughter, leavening moiety
Of minutes into countless moments, feeding
Hilarity’s mind with frothy melody.
The crust of levity
Sops the soup of charm and saucy wit. The meat
Is celebration’s common cause: a dance
With the bride (the groom, accosted by aunts
And cornered by cousins, never gets to eat).
Like novice Bacchae, boys patrol, picking up
Neglected glass and cup
And down each, loathe to waste what comes to this –
That nature drinks its sunset song in the key of grace.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Epithalamium: Thirteenth Hour

The twelfth bell chimes with the first “Oremus”
To signify that holy silence stays
The same for Isaac as for Lazarus –
And rattles in the rib-cage, in Adam’s case,
With eye to eye proposing heart to heart
To make complete the part
In her, in him, that would not die alone
If it could be helped. So lads might court
A princess, less to claim her mundane throne
And more to seat and crown her bridled hand
In eternity’s band
Of gold - and chronicles of flesh and kings
Might be condemned to realms of “Name & Date,”
But love’s alliance ratifies the state
By gratifying God’s own fiat of things –
The solemn quotidian of haunted saints
Who, watching, whisper hints
Which lover and beloved see as this –
That nature’s chamber opens with the key of grace….

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Epithalamium: Twelfth Hour

Philosophy unlocks the temple gates
That poetry paints in paneled pictures.
So theology ushers in with rites
The unity of alien natures:
Let nave and vestry breathe an air refined
By doctrine first defined
Upon the windy shores of Galilee;
Let shadows disappear, become confined
Within the noon’s well practiced liturgy.
Here, light is known again! Let God provide
Moriah’s mountainside
Another savage grace, a covenant
Of changed names once more promising offspring -
A summary of sand and stars accounting
The dividends in mystery’s own quotient.
Then close the gates and toll the steeple bell
To tell to all in hell
That the bond prevails today because of this –
Nature’s heart is locked in love by the key of grace.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Epithalamium: Eleventh Hour

While woman’s rites are life’s passage, selfless
As sunrise – man produces art to find
Proper reference to himself. Her noblesse
defined, man finds his mate in mind
And body, wholly immolating self
To win a better half.
Thus woman’s soul will lead a man to feed
On tempered speech that hopes for love in faith.
His temple’s rooted in her maidenhead.
His stylus learns to speak her tablet wax
While both inscribe the text.
As poets find authentic depth and rule
Within the margins of whitest vellum,
So script is honed. Her love’s regular school
Improves his mind by its curriculum.
Yes, woman is sunrise and sunset, and man
Matriculates within
Her golden walls and campus to learn this –
That nature unlocks the truth with the key of grace.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Epithalamium: Tenth Hour

Were we clever gods, we could take and make
Our songs of songs from fashioned battle-shield
And spear, with heads and limbs on barb and pike,
And love erotic as a battlefield.
If we could be bold to speak of conquest,
What soft breath would caress
The ears of doubt, surmounting lip and eyes
In body language silent tongues discussed
With prayer? We'd know a peace without disguise,
Collecting royalties
Where marriage country’s pastures, barns and fields
Hold pregnant harvest; the kingdom’s country mile
Holds court between the hayrick and round bale;
The plough’s yield holds back beaten swords' returns;
And God alone suffices in the wheat
That man takes and men eat
Piece by piece to know that peace is found in this –
That nature’s harmonized within the key of grace.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Epithalamium: Ninth Hour

Presence of all color and its absence –
These are the principles of matrimony
That we dress between sixes and sevens,
And to the nines. So, the ceremony
Contributes flesh to words that spell and sound
A candid gown’s profound
Renunciation of anything less
Than love’s everything. But groom assumes his ground.
Declaring dark, his counterpoint’s address,
He dons a funeral suit this sober morning,
Joyfully informing
His death to the world in whole cloth and prayers
Offered in the sanctuary of a vow,
A promised place from which all graces flow,
A rock that issues manifest waters
And sets a desert spinning rainbow hues
That restless love pursues
In light and shade, both staked and claimed by this –
That nature dresses by the color key of grace.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Epithalamium: Eighth Hour

Village weddings are complex affairs –
Most kindly described as “political.”
Once fiddlers get their pay, they'll put on airs
To quilt the planks with quadrille, waltz and reel,
And play the summer chimneys from their swallows,
Dead men from their gallows,
And old folk back to darling dreams of youth.
The fife, the bohdran, squeezebox and banjos
Rouse “The Mad Buckgoat” to jigs, and tell truth
To “Priest in His Boots” with “Aileen Aroon”
To dance up “A Scot’s Tune.”
The farmer boys hum them all, running apace
From graveyard to church steps, except today
A holy hush recalls them from their play…
They blush dumb with looks to see the bride’s face,
Prepared at last, bouquet for anchor, fast
And firm before a last
Glance to the choir loft where voice joins voice to this
That sings to find its nature by the key of grace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Epithalamium: Seventh Hour

Midmorning tea and toast with marmalade
Will bolster bride and groom against a rampage
Of taffeta and tuxes; snakes to braid;
Slacks to press; and hangovers to manage –
White noise of detail, white heat of minutiae
(A great-great-aunt’s fuchsia
Pantsuit provokes the bride to sudden tears) –
Such lapses are the comic lacunae
Which stuff the pillow full of talk for years
And show how the sun's sacramental rise
Can cast all enterprise
In half a shadow, man’s own breaks and faults.
But swelled to hear the weather’s good report,
These hurricanes at loose ends fly apart
And calm falls like wind on water. Time halts.
The bride is rising to the occasion
Without hesitation.
Her heart’s red-letter day finds her peace in this –
That human nature’s voice can reach the key of grace.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Epithalamium: Sixth Hour

Forgive the intrusion – I imagine
This morning like love’s first day, wide awake
For Eve to give her sinless eyes to creation,
Her temple’s tapers conning Eden’s book
To learn its joys before the fruits of sadness
Queered her into Venus,
And marred men into warring, whoring gods.
Today, though, fruit's made wine, the wine is choice,
And well-stocked this day of hours. So, fused bloods
Supply a sharing cup, cohere like flesh –
Restoring Adam's wish
To inherit everything names can speak;
Adorning Eve - her old glories return,
A harvest borne in leaner years, reborn
Through primrose promise, labor’s golden yoke.
So now you’re wide awake
To mix your sweat and blood - they come to this
When linking natures grasp and turn the key of grace.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Epithalamium: Fifth Hour

The birds that lose their winged self in song
Build their nest from a phoenix melody.
In God’s blue beard, they tangle up their song
With psalms that pinion clay’s theogony
And let earth rise to survey time’s estate:
Aurora married late
Or Tithonus too early, but the birds
Prefer perforce to kindle their own light.
The poets are clever to feather words
(Hardy darkened his century with a thrush
And Shelly sought to rush
His lark through gravity’s legislation),
But these are solitary fictions of
Lost hearts. Today, we look for David’s dove,
Like Keats’ midnight minstrel, lost in translation,
But raised to salvation
By eagle’s wings and robin’s throat for this –
That nature sings up morning in the key of grace.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Epithalamium: Fourth Hour

With snake-like charm, the Kickapoo meanders
The driftless virginity of Wisconsin;
This place which faced the stare-down of glaciers
Remains geology’s lode and touchstone.
The tannic river mellows morning’s mint
And gives a golden hint
To sunlight’s fuller karat. There’s a ring
Of lichen on every pine – promises meant
To be kept by time. The seasons bring
Their own gifts to your marriage, and the land
Gives your own promise ground –
Surprising bluffs aproned in shady green shaws.
The fields raise up suddenly all there – then
Drop to valleys of morning mist where crows
Are calling, rusty, raw,
Carving cold through fog, giving voice to this –
That antiphonic nature scales the keys of grace.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Epithalamium: Third Hour

Indicative bees punctuate fields, fed
On sunlight’s imperative, becoming force
Enough to tender rain’s subjunctive mood...
Might there be an interrogative universe
Without love? The answers are in full flower,
Deep among the clover
Cropped up, nodding to August's morning sun –
Purling petaled heels with names: Virgin’s Bower
Borders day with Canada-Columbine
And Dame’s Rocket shoots her perennial works
Along wood’s edge where Flax
Is patching Dutchman’s Breeches and weaving
The Touch-Me-Nots to tease the Nipplewort;
Forget-Me-Not is Adder’s-Mouth’s retort
To Lamb’s Quarters and Pearly Everlasting.
But Jack-in-the-Pulpit’s sermon summons us
To Grass-in-Parnassus:
“Gather bouquets and boutonnières for this –
That nature best pronunciation key is grace.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

Epithalamium: Second Hour

Wisconsin is middle earth to a child
Where cock’s crow breaks upon a day, excused
For putting night away – a memory filed
For later. For now, the first light, diffused
Amid the woods, shakes dreams from crotch and limb
To saunter off to tomb
And toy box. Today is a day for brides,
For men to man the clocks at sunlight’s climb
From earth’s coffin-lid. At such times time glides
Through house and hall like wafting coffee’s strength;
And labor’s heft and length
Are measured shadows swallowed up by noon.
By second cups of morning, though, you wake
To courtship’s end. From now on you will take
Just enough sugar to sweeten your spoon
Of cream as light will join
This day that gives itself. It comes to this –
Nature opens up its light with the key of grace.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Epithalamium: First Hour

(after Spenser )

For Omar and Miriam: August 28, 2004,
Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo

…strong nerves are an advantage
and accurate wrist-watches too
can be a great help.
-W.H. Auden

It used to be you could call up a muse
And laugh a while; or cry in the same breath
To think another, less faithful, would refuse
To comment on the marriage of life and death –
Antony gulled by Cleopatra’s asp,
Heaving breasts, a last gasp.
The modern muse phones in her funeral wreath
With a voice vodka-curried to a rasp.
It used to be Greeks owned heaven and earth
And wedded the twin realms for οἰ πολλοί
In pleasure's coupled joy.
This day, though, sisters replace muses to serve
Greens, breads, meats – all brought in well-wrought vessels.
My friends, marriage never fights, but wrestles
To find its comic feasts. These days, the nerve
You need the tragic graces hold in reserve.
So I pray this poem comes just to this –
That nature sings best when tuned to the key of grace.

Friday, April 15, 2011


In the beginning was the word…

Carl von Linne had changed his name in time
Arriving much as Abram did at Ab-
Raham, lord of kingdoms, families, and phylum,
Leaving order and to each class a job:
Vindicating Adam’s utter Babel
Of general sinfulness with special grace.
Note Abram’s stamen and Sarah’s pistil:
Love is the word at root that’s left their trace.
Incarnated in each renewed season,
Nativity thus digs for its own dying.
Now, too, these numbered names have sounded song
Even as Eve’s woman joins Adam’s man –

Justifying the names of everything –
Creatures deeded God’s creative dominion.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Zingiber & Zinnia

Carry my bones with you out of this place.

Zingiber, you edge the east of history
In the cornucopia of your root,
Navigating empire, traversing spice route,
Gaining universal appeal – this story
Is your real horn of plenty: medieval
Belief would see the source of your descent
Exalted in Edenic exodus, sent,
Reprieved and rescued far east of evil.

Zinnia, you edge the west of mystery…
In the asterix of your desert bloom
New worlds of color set their suns in starry
Nativity: Cortez among las mariposas,
In God’s garden plot he saw Adam
Add Joseph's name to the new genesis.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Zizyphus Jujuba

…he drew up his feet upon the bed, and died.
And he was gathered to his people.

Zizyphus jujuba, your fruit is born
In infant innocence, nestled within
Zion’s crowning hills – a tender flesh to thorn,
You yoke your destiny to the branch of men.
Passions dulled by your fruit, the Lotus Men
Hibernate in dreams, eschewing your thorn,
Undulating in a slow reign within
Souls that die to life and live to be born.

Jacob nominated death’s land at last,
Ushering in the end of the beginning
Just as Adam brought Eden’s conclusion
Under the guise of fruit with thorn that would last
Beyond his children’s fathers by beginning
A generation without conclusion.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yam & Yarrow Root

The blessings of thy father are strengthened
with the blessings of his fathers:
until the desires of the everlasting hills should come.

Yams are hunked with earth and hold with nothing sweet,
Although essentially blessed as blood, these boiled
Medicinals that mean to eat at root
Something sown from meaning made manifold:

Yarrow root will reproduce a white flower,
And love loves me not, but withers and drops;
Reproduce another, though, it bleeds fire –
Random as straws dropped in total collapse.

Oracular as itching, yarrow heals
Wounds – the way yams absorb earth’s properties –
Rubbing raw Trojan feet hot on the heels
Of fortune, cooling heels like Achilles’.

Our fathers wear such everlasting crowns,
Their hills topped by chance, blessed by Providence.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yellowwood & Yew

…and taking his father’s hand
he tried to lift it from Ephraim’s head…

Yellow woods array in patterns that repeat,
Entangling brittle-branched zigzags of limbs
Lost in familiar double-crosses, split
Like lineages. At issue, the names
Of cladrasis: the older lutea
Withdrawn as merely colored circumstance,
While golden heartwood finds kentuckea
Observe a land of stated permanence.

Old Jacob rested life, thus, his wrestling hands
Declaring Ephraim before Manassas –
Selecting Joseph’s second-born son as
Yews choose to eulogize: each bough depends
Earthward, piercing graveyard flesh, wintered bones
Withdrawn as Yahweh’s own death-interred bones.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Xmas Rose (Christ Herbe)

Behold as you see, both you and your lands
belong to the Pharao. Take seed and sow the fields.

X-mas rose infiltrates Lenten gardens,
Making Christmas unwind Easter’s rebirth
And torture expectations with silence –
Such are the seasons still beneath the earth.

Rising late, you’re early enough to last
Our winter’s cracked and cankered calendar.
Slowly your striking petals break the fast
Eternity’s observed in time’s empire.

X too marks the garden spot where sorrow bore
Her benefice. Time’s famine brought her low
Evoking flowers from tears. A tiny hand
Reached for, drawing up the black hellebore,
Beholding gifts received with debts to owe,
Enriching Joseph’s seed with promised land.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Xmas Berry Trees

God sent me before you into Egypt
for your preservation…

X-mas berry trees take the world by storms,
Moving through mango groves and everglade,
Ahead of hurricane’s surging tide –
Successfully florid in invasive terms.

But before this Hollywood berry came,
Emaciated winter, withering thin,
Remembered its December with famine,
Recusing claims to true a new land’s name.

Youth’s fountain ages with each season’s promise.
Thus Ponce De Leon’s Pascua Florida
Renews its tropic tropes with yuletide flora.

Each storm warning blows with signs of Christmas
Endowing violence with nativity –
So Joseph’s virtues weathered sovereignty.

Monday, January 31, 2011

White Horehound

I thy servant will stay instead of the boy
in the service of my lord...

White horehound bodes a bitter exodus.
Horizon-bound and slave to winter’s ease,
It sees itself the hair shirt of Horus,
Tickling scythe’s demand for easy excuse….

Easy, too, Pharaoh steadies hand and heart,
Hovering over herbs’ biting leaves to hold
Osiris purged in vase and set apart,
Reversing a Jew bought with a Jew sold.

Egypt embedded horehound with importance –
Half the time in hope; in faith to make a guess
Otherwise. So blood takes its fill of sins,
Urging dawn to bloom the day with darkness.

Now bitter as an herb, poor Juda says,
“Death’s my brother the day another dies.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wisteria & Walnut Tree

“Is this your young brother,
of whom you told me?”

Wisteria, the first and last, always
Invades the trellis, pergola and wall –
Succoring selfish suckers with clustered sprays
That, dripping fragrance, fatally strangle
Envied forests of their eastern light: Zi ten
Remands its vanity; each vein-blue vine
Intertwining weathers, bruised blue with rain,
A German tongue-storm that lashes blaue regan.

Walnut trees thus bear up the nuts of Zeus
And hang down in lusty strains of godhead…
Love speaks all languages nevertheless,
Neglecting neither native tongue nor blood,
Underwriting Joseph as the alien
To transcribe Israel’s love for Benjamin.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Violet and Veronica

And the third day he brought them out of prison
and said, Do as I have said
and you shall live, for I fear God.

Violet, Father Zeus had splayed your purple
In Io’s sorrow, violating her way,
Obliging her to eat your life. Each footfall,
Left you cowed with bruised inconstancy,
Eliciting your obedient grief
To flee a passing god’s momentous might.
Veronica, though, hard pain’s high relief,
Expressed with easy petals a complete
Redress of sorrow’s portrait, facing God –
Obedience, her sunlight’s own reward,
Now again is bearing victory’s return.
In a similar passage, Joseph stored
Corn and kine, restoring Egypt’s common good,
And freed his brothers from their hungry scorn.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Viburnum and Viscum

And he turned his name,
and called him in the Eyptian tongue,
The saviour of the world.

Viburnum takes its own wayfaring way
In earnest, honest in fen, field or farm,
Burgeoning arrow-true or queered to stray
Unencumbered by season, soil or worm.
Regaled as moments turn with burning suns –
Now hot and high in June, now low and cold
Until November’s trimmed orbit – at once
Met everywhere and everywhere exiled.

Viscum, another such broadcast outcast,
Interprets seasons – intertwines them with myth:
Sticking to sleep’s twiggy limbs, mistletoe’s curled
Confusions kiss around the cursed and blessed
Until Joseph cursed his journey, blessed his wealth,
Met a pharaoh, and dreamed to save the world.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Umbrella Flower

"The Hebrew servant thou hast brought,
came to me to abuse me."

Umbrella flower, shut within your throat,
Myriad hues await release once spring
Became a captive word, stripped of its coat,
Rendered mute by winter’s wasted making.
Eventually your umbels fall away
Like timbered standards. Still, you would maintain
Legions against a late October’s day
And hold your ground among the autumn slain.

Flowered doctrine leaves a signatory note
Like Adam’s apple choking off the tongue.
Of course, your yawning parasols can cure
Whatever starves the year: by spring your song
Endures the lies that swallowed Putiphar –
Revealing truths that stuck in Egypt’s throat.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January: "If Once You Have Slept on an Island"

If you wish to avoid foreign collision, you had better abandon the ocean.
-Henry Clay

If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same…
-Rachel Field

If once you have slept on an island, new
With year, and January’s doorways, windows
Opened out past the beach, in past the curtains,
Then you know how even in sleep the sea
Ceaselessly commutes, surrounding each day
With surf's squared-off epiphany at your door.
You wake and drown in garnets at sunrise,
Awake in cool dampness beneath the sheets,
Missing what it said, but certain of the voice –
That same dampness which whispered you to sleep.
Then you’ll have found this blue and green island
Which surrounds you, split in your eye, sundering
Your time, bringing each weekend on the wind.
From the edge of your bed, edge of the world,
You hear oceans pegging down your corridors
Of slate-grey morning. Here, the faint odor
Of last night’s cooked sole hangs like gentle
Aftermath, and lost quests for old romance
Surge past bluest dreams, creak with the floor joists,
And hiss in the dune grass under the porch...
Thirty-one days hath your island. An un-
Even split – against the shoals on which you dream:
Where it is always winter and the beaches
Always filling with cries, gulled and echoless;
Where departures and arrivals are all the same,
All run to one featureless promontory
Spied from the ferry, and your heart races
Every time you return, each time you go –
And scrub oak and snarled patches of pine find
The primal cling of anticipation’s root
To bald outcrops of rock – old as the new year.

Monday, January 10, 2011

December: "Ice Storm, Maine"

There is something about winter
which pares things down to their essentials
a bare tree
a black hedge
hold their own stark throne in our hearts.
-Moya Cannon

- “Maine always takes place in an ice storm, like an animal revolting against itself...”
- You say to me as two unpaired, wind-scrubbed crows outside our window pick along the fresh-packed tundra of harbor scenes: prosaic villages sidewalks, yards and streets, rendering the year in its annual arrears, thinned out, now thinner still, the only tension found kissing at the heart’s one and only breaking-point, white fields piling up with winter’s paperwork, untended, waiting.
- We turn back to our tea.
- The business on the table is packages and overspent budgets like public confessions rolling out toward the frayed ends of ribbons and scraps of wrapping paper – shavings from a golden bough.
- But another glance outdoors as I churn amber with my spoon:
- Inky in character, each crow, a black pearl harboring icy onslaught in its eye, casts its cares toward a more corvine heaven....
- A murder beyond the pine row; a singular black drill sergeant warding the day on toward the cold country's parade grounds…..
- Cradled in snow drifts, black plumage strikes against the snow (opened-ended parentheses in winter’s paragraphs...

And in day’s continuous count down, the December sun’s
Low feast of lights trims back old New England
And her long year’s immoderate growth
To that pure Monhegan island
Of January rock - as if paring away
The isolation of our winter
To the waiting arms of discontent.

Waiting. We are waiting now too. So, we wait.
That’s the poor trick we’re learning lately,
As history secretly fashions a cold night
Into the mystery-image of snow’s god
Who falls again to earth, and dead grass
Conceals a cold god in winter solstice,
Discovering simple solace in an ice storm.

And you think again to speak against these rookish souls,
Daring to tease out their cyclic devotion to sacred time)
As if Christmas is not the beginning of the end for death
But only revision of purpose, a return to household chores.
So the year rolls on ignorantly toward sanctuary’s end
But we remain haunted by our bodies, unable to escape
The holy tension of present time, indivisible by years, months or days
Even as the heavens' turquoise crown of stars these last few nights
Is all holocausts -a solemn reaching down with northern lights.