Bonfire

empty communal beach
every star an opaque crystal
the firmament a big bowl
what chance do we have
against the stupendous
build a pyramid
of driftwood and kerosene
the interior is fire
arranged by windy night
windy as a knife
as the money paws
against our pockets
as palm to palm
we hold hands
and sing along
with the sun
as the meshed conflagration
appears to disappear
as does everything else
elemental and sine qua non
if the wood weren’t here
it’d have been welcomed
on another beach
by another set of strangers
when the fumes
are noxious
I walk into the wind
settle into my limbs
try not to notice
how quickly we devolve
afflicted by disregard
in love and afraid
of flesh and death
it’s a long slow settling
into charcoal and ash


Spittoon

someone spit
someone perturbed
the shiny vessel
made it wild-eyed
barbaric
gave it an innocence
that was disingenuous
a mortal design
made this existence
and cast it as waiting
to flee the rocking chairs
to flee the swinging doors
so sordid and degrading
so much time
of mine wasted
drenched in syrup
drenched in mist
when as I am
I could have been
something else
a vase with silk roses
amphora filled with wine
hands cupped together
or myself on a mantle
or myself alone
in the dark
in a silent cupboard
packed with ash, bone
a different vessel
this but not this.


Habitat

An oak tree falls to its side and cannot get up.

It cannot get up. The earth hugs it close.

Hugs it close and wraps it in soggy embrace.

Wraps it in moss so that it’s covered.

Leaves fall. Bark loosens. Limbs wither.

Spiders move in. Grubs move in. Snakes move in.

Mushrooms bloom. A collection of caps and stems.

A hand draws near. It grazes the bark.

A hand draws close and plucks from the bloom.

A pail is piled high with mushrooms.

Boots stomp through muck.

A pail swings beneath a hand.

A body sweeps through shade.

A mouth salivates and moistens the tongue.

The tongue tongues the roof of the mouth.

The mushrooms move in. They start to break down.

The mushrooms. The flavors. The mouth holds them close.

The flavors surprise. They’re held close. They’re held dear,

Mouth, tongue, throat savor the flavors before they’re swallowed.

Just for a moment, they savor the surprise.


Manure

He’d collect the air in deep
deliberate breaths,
hold to the fragrant odors
like a wish, the rest

of us feeling sick.
Then he’d say, “The dead don’t smell.
Trust me. This you’ll miss.”


To the Sun

We love you like idiots, entranced by your meshed
conflagration of dwindling hues, and are suffused
by desire, every straining bit of flesh
aligned with your motley fading visions. If just
once you didn’t disappear, we’d transform our lust
for proximity into becoming, go fresh
into unlit territory. If every
advance wasn’t retreat, enclave of ancient bent light,
we wouldn’t regard your loss so anxiously.
Instead, our lips still slip awkwardly, tense up too
suddenly. Indicate, spent day, what to do with our few
remaining moments. Share your sensibility
about drifting in time. It’s not too late.
Guru of the vast horizon! Commiserate!



My Lover, In Memoriam

My lover entered homes like a premonition; draped in dark robes and floating, she left her shoes at the door.

My lover silenced rooms; like a mantra during meditation, she caused all chattering to cease.

My lover leered at the haughty; like an unexpected tempest, she doused etiquette in salt-grinding disdain.

My lover never swooned; she was unimpressed with everyone except Picasso and Brancusi.

My lover got her facts wrong; she claimed the troubadours were more powerful than royalty.

My lover sometimes appeared to go without leaving; like an earring without its backing, she dangled precariously to the edge of listening.

My lover was frisky; like a fish, she fluttered and flashed with hunger for a meal.

She ate my recipes with gusto; with joy, she bit and chewed the noodles and onions.

But tomatoes, she would not eat; she ignored the ripe red slices on her plate.

My lover’s fever grew rapidly; like a grease fire, it melted her skin, and water would not put it out.

My lover was fearless but sad; as a trapeze artist reaches forward, she let go and trusted madly that she would be caught.

My lover was redolent of burnt cookies; she was sugar and flour scorched by fire.


Flamenco (Remix)

Not played out, yet—not as I
remember—
A (billowy)

kind of music/moment,
one you plunge yourself
into, so to

feel the different parts
of the (different)
whole touch.

A seismic event, the—
grind | shhhhh. . .
dancer

with an impalpable lover,
echo of the luminous, quivering
surface of a tarnished fork:

a riotous,
many-fingered,
feathered,

rotating, colored copulation
of elemental vitality discontinuing
the passive/neutral.

Times when I bleed like this,
I glide, gladdened that belonging
may originate

in this enchanting seeming.


The Banker

Oil on canvas, circa 2008
6 X 9 ft.

The banker is tall, bony, pallid – a long-faced man eating a bowl of soup. He sits at a wooden table with a wooden bowl and a wooden spoon. As in many of Schrieber’s paintings, the light comes from an unidentified source— too bright to for a candle, too dim to be the noonday sun.

The subject wears a tank top and suspenders. Schrieber’s working title was The Usher After Work, yet we know from his journal the portrait was commissioned by a banker. Apparently, the painting was never delivered due to a disagreement over price.

A program for a wedding and all the religious accouterments nearby – the Cross, Rosary and so on – suggest the connection to the subject’s duties. There is also a wicker basket with a long handle for collecting tithes at Mass, and stacks of dollars in front of him.

One wants to say that he looks sad and lonely, but there is no evidence of that. All we can say for sure is that he is old and sipping on soup.


To Christians Who Support Torture

So you think
it’s naïve

to protect the bodies
of those

who threaten
to upend

this comfortable
way of life?

So you think
they deserve

to suffer,
their transgressions

unforgivable?
I wish

you were with me
in the Prado,

standing before Velázquez’
Cristo Crucificado.

The buckled body
hangs

on the Cross
against

a black background,
bruised,

bloody,
but glowing.

It is impossible
to be distracted.

No clouds, no sky.
No criminals

on the right or left.
No disciples.

Just the body,
the wood,

and the knots
in the wood.


Diego Velázquez / Public domain