Mothers’ Day Psalm

yours is the thorn that suckles us
the marsupial pouch in which we play king of the hill

yours is the rare orchid appointed
to a moth no one has ever seen

yours the corals whose cities shone
like nothing from a planning committee

and yours the epidemics the cancers the blights
a creativity as limitless as time and space

oh Nature soften the hearts
of all your little pharoahs
so we don’t have to overthrow them

and let those who insist you must be male
give birth through their penises

Harrowing

an empty coal train
is rolling past a hobo camp

so many vacancies
like christ’s tomb

while the emergency room at the hospital
has no beds to spare

no windows of any kind
only an addict’s hallucinations

and a skinny old man
yelling help without the p

hell hell hell for hours
until the hospitalist snaps

out here it’s nearly easter
another winter’s worth of fossil fuels

have risen indeed
on wings of mercury

a gray fox ravaged by rabies
leaves her pelt beside the burrow

as the first hepaticas
raise their blue cups

Eschatology Ritual

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Rituals

 

the end is far
fetched and fletched

with the iridescent darkness
of starling feathers

an aftermath of statistics
warring stories and desecrated graves

this year in Gaza
or next year in Jerusalem

the end is far
from everything we think

when we wish
upon a starvation

drop two bunker-buster
bombs before bed

side-effects may include
nausea guilt mass carnage

the end is foreign
to the 24-hour news cycle

spinning new gossamer clothes
from faith alone

Supremacy Ritual

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Rituals

 

nine knuckles are gathering
in a room appointed for sleep

theirs are the only shadows
not checked at the door

nine claws are judging
the entrails of a suit

flies have been eliminated
but still there’s a hum

nine knives are carving
a number into a bare back

even under the eyelids
it’s white as a cloud

Homo allegheniensis

i compose myself
for the sniper

the hundred-year flood
the flint of winter

spring-loaded
like a mountain rabbit

i could be the type specimen
for a new extremophile

hardy as a tardigrade
tender as an endolith

the laundry basket holds
all my changes of heart

still warm
from the late Carboniferous

like the wood lice
that wander under rocks

i am crepuscular
my sky is stern

Self-Censorship Ritual

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Rituals

 

this fragile midnight
its rich veins of blood

let a tooth take root
in a soft skull

at the end of the earth
this very crescent

a high C
guttering in a puddle

or lodged like an eyelash
under your island

at another end of the earth
a drone army

firing tree seeds
into clearcut mountains

if you have a price
you’re not a prophet

go self-censor
for the bathroom mirror

between sleeps
knowing they no longer knock

Bad Faith Ritual

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Rituals

 

you rise and then what
whose hand will throw your stone

there’s a shape in the sand
that’s got your name on it

a cartoon heart perhaps
or half a castle

let’s snort the headlines
and see who sneezes first

play a game of hashtag
among lifeless bodies of evidence

and collect our empties
for deposit only

five cents for a jack boot
ten cents for a child’s shoe

twisting our tongues as she sells
spent shells by the seashore

i’m not waving but droning
unmanned and wired
to go off

Vagrant

so what if the labile moon
becomes your emblem

the half-shell upon which
your camino is served up

sew it into the lining of a coat
for use in emergencies

a subway token for the underworld
or an owl’s limitless eye

stirring up the birds
in your bedroom tree

its screen will sell you nothing
in glowing detail

it claims one egg
from every clutch

it brings out your darkest shadow
once a month

White Phosphorus

a found poem from the WHO

What is to give light must endure burning.
—Viktor Frankl

a white to yellow waxy solid
with a garlic-like odor

ignites spontaneously
until it is deprived of oxygen

used in grenades and artillery shells
to produce illumination

used as a rodenticide
and in fireworks

exposure to white phosphorus
can cause severe burns

affected areas of exposed skin
may appear yellowish

may show necrotic
full-thickness burns

death may occur from shock
hepatic or renal failure
central nervous system or myocardial damage

particles that have penetrated the skin
may start to burn when the wound is opened

white smoke may be seen
emanating from wounds

Amnesty

Our lives are an amnesty given us.
William Stafford

meanwhile the trees
are relaxing their grip

turning toward sleep
in a kind of hypnagogia

vivid and hallucinatory
against the gray

‘HUNTERS WEAR ORANGE
SO SHOULD YOU’

though the sign itself is yellow
as are many red maples

it’s the most primary
that school-bus color

meanwhile children play tag
outside an Amish school

in clothes so plain
it marks them as exotic

one of them rooted to the spot
scrunching up his face

a hole opens in the clouds
but not for any missiles

meanwhile skeletons
are unsettling in front yards

one pushes a lawnmower
towards several bony arms

like barked sticks
sprouting from manicured grass

in the distance some engine
i don’t notice until it stops

and i’m left with the sound
of my footsteps in fallen leaves

walking the empty bed
of a former coal country railroad

past pastures and high hayfields
up into the autumn hills

just below the clouds
a raven gives his voice box a shake

and out tumbles
something like a child’s cry
crossed with a horn

18 October 2023