Smooth Animal

outside my house
i see another.
it blinks with windows at me,
leans out with a face that falls apart
broken tv on the lawn
scooped like a bear carcass
new land growing over

a smooth animal curls on the lawn
its tail circles the washing pole
taut, receding
licking a furry arm the length of line
that holds my clothes.

all of my terrible clothes
my smooth animal wears them,
sneaks under the house
i look back, see him waiting
under the bed
the chair the table

inside my house
anywhere he goes
he finds clothes heaped in beautiful folds
Piles of Sweatshirts
to be marvelled at, believed in-

he is sicker
than my oldest
unmatched sneaker.

Moonrock

Until I was twenty-two, I believed the faces of the sun and moon belonged to the same rock. I thought: when man first walked on the moon, he must have done it at night.
When my friends heard about this belief, they mocked me until they realized that no one had told them outright that it wasn’t true. Then one of them punched me. Laughing, he attempted to reassure us that we had all learned about such things in science class.
“Come to think of it,” one said, “I have seen the sun and moon together in the sky, on plenty of occasions.”
“So there’s your proof,” said another.
I agreed, nodding wildly. I had seen them together in the sky, too, but I had found a way to explain it: if you really looked, one or the other was always more duskily faded. Like a reflection in water.
“Or ice,” another said dreamily.
“You know, the Apollo astronauts trained right here in Iceland in the 1960s.”
We immediately bowed our heads in the direction of our quietest friend. I loved when this one spoke. We were careless listeners among each other, but when he spoke, we paid attention. We paid him the reverence that only Valur had ever earned from us, in those quivering post-match moments in the Hlíðarendi Stadium.
“My grandfather used to spy on their activities, combing the surrounding volcanic rock for cavansite.”
“Cavansite?”
“It had been discovered in Oregon earlier that year. He read about in Geology Magazine.”
We all stared at him blankly.
“In his old age, he became obsessed with finding this rare blue mineral. He would take my father on long walks, circling the training camp, whose presence had been corrupting his ideal of the black-ridged Icelandic landscape. My father remembers these walks, though he was very young, due to how completely alone he felt. My grandfather never said a word to him about the astronauts over the fence. Their mission, their freeze-dried food and microgravity training. All stuff which would have been fascinating to a child. He was too busy searching, and they had to search quietly. Every rock my father picked up glinted like a tooth, but it was never the right one. Never the prismatic royal blue contained in the crinkled magazine photograph, which was tacked to the mantle in his father’s workshop.”
“Did they find it?” I had to ask.
“Forty-three years later,” he said, lowering his eyes. “Another man found it.”
We all started thinking it- that his grandfather had died trying.
“You have to wonder… Was the cavansite there all along?” a boy asked, incorrectly, but we forgave him. He was careless with words, while I was usually not. And I had been mistaken about the moon.
I wondered if I would ever live it down, and that night I lay awake, dreaming of astronauts landing without sound as tiny snowflakes on black rock.
I twisted my neck out the window and aimed it at the moon.

The Maudlin Sisters

Maggie shivered in her dead mother’s nightgown, as the wind hurled branches at the roof, and dust tornadoes formed here and there on the attic floor. She stared into the locket, squinting at the Maudlin sisters- their smug faces and thin lips; the dumb noses which sat upon their faces like blind slugs.

The Maudlin girls… would have been 86 this year.
Had Maggie’s mother not murdered and buried them here.

Maggie closed the locket and went behind the house with a shovel. The Maudlin sisters shrieked from inside, crying for justice.

The ground below Maggie’s feet started to rumble.

 

-originally publ. on 100wordstory.org

Cracked

‘bring a lamb to school

see who is the fool’

i laughed. on a dark day

i laughed so my skull

crackahd the plate 

so sweep them 

china dust pieces 

under the grandmother rug

lick it there

leave those rough shapes

in the bulldust.

how my sideways face looks

to the girl on the corner

walk antelope talk

stockings in stock

check-pick

ground in lock-step

what a bad bad girl.

yes

i laughed. and sold my only thing.

yesss

i spun into silence

my womb was the shape of me

see under

those yellow brick lights

under the grandmudder

in a peaked silence

one that abounds. downtown girl

you rise

with fresh madness each night

you sink 

you were unlike the birds

broken thing

i think you could fly.

Real Talk

These are real, real emotions, man, and we are on our way downtown. Downtown with our fingers on a lipstick cap inside our jean pocket to suggest a knife. Our hood, our hat is pulled low. We got this worm-lipped grimace on our face. We glide past the bus stop and see him with black, glittering eyes. Waiting at the stop, in khakis and a black raincoat and dark glasses, and he is just asking for it. Something like a fuse sparks in our head. He is pathetic. We are furious- not at him and we know it, but we can taste our own fury sitting like blood in our mouth. Our sweat is murmuring and our hand is a sweet fist- one to pump and kiss the sky. We wonder what it would be like to crush his skull under our blind boot, because our eyes have moved to swallow something small and pebbly from the part of our brain which recalls childhood. And the drama of the everyday never shakes down like this on the sidewalk- not without us slamming into it, not until we make it. And he never even saw us coming. No, he was thinking about divorce as a way out and how his whole life has been a lie and there was no way he could have seen us coming after that. No way, not from miles away.

Music Bit My Mouth Open

The whining cars up on the hill are missing home. They beg, where is our tomb? The answer shudders underground and in my hands are flowers. And beside me is all my family standing in a Domino row.

If I combine the only witness, slump his tongue right under mine…

Afraid to feel without a thudding chest to get the blood out. And. Tastes like clockwork, works like climate change. How? Press a thumb to my lips, taste the hard-won tip of a bee-stung corn. Size of grapefruit. Lanced on my abdomen.

Come up the riverbank, my seasick carp.

A Lifetime of Milk

Carl stood under the umbrella, looking out across the downtown square. In coveralls reeking of machine oils and sweat, made worse by the rain. On the farm, Carl remembered, nothing was ever made worse by rain.

The old man’s farm. Paved over. A lifetime of milk and red earth-tinged memories. Sprouting tall buildings now, where sweet corn and green pastures once flowered. Where an old cow giving birth kicked the daylights out of his five-year old head. He got to name that one, ol’ Milk Dud, on account of how much his head bled.

And now he was the old man. He couldn’t have told you how it happened, but it did, and the city came up all around them. Lost the farm, hired on at the factory. At least he and Barb had the kids.

A tiny spasm wracked his hand and the umbrella slid out. Carl winced. The arthritis was flaring up, more and more these days. He collapsed to his knees. Why the heck did he come back here? And in his coveralls! He stuck out like a sore thumb. And in fact his thumbs were sore, and the truth was that being here made him feel there wasn’t a thing left worth livin’ for.

-originally publ. on flashfriday.wordpress.com

The Perils of Belief According to the Meek (Tongue-in-Cheek)

Mary wasn’t wild-
there was just man, in Joseph
who sought to prophet
from a timely
mis-conception?

Give them a wide birth, let a million stars
go blind in the stable wound
of One Sun, risen and

springing wet and screaming
from the flesh of her hips,
bred with honey and wheat
the shape of her waste
was a virgin, chased
out of veins and into vanity,
bleeding into the heir,
the one and only Hymn…

(a wise man bending to pray)
(a king bending to the scent of prey)

And do some holy theories lend themselves to
idle worship?

Allusions proceed from the altar,
in answer,
from a Book with No Reservations
and some would have them starting,
altered and ending
in a place
wholly borne of illusion-

born of Creation.

Notes

This poem is quite literally intended to be tongue-in-cheek, hence the title, but only in subject matter. It’s chock-full of homonyms/homophones; some are instantly apparent, and others may not be… When thinking about how to feature words that are similar in sound and spelling, but vary in meaning, I inclined naturally towards a biblical/religious theme (Christian scripture, simply because I’m familiar with the bible stories).

Why? As a writer, I am fascinated by the intent and function of each word in context. Equally fascinating is the fact that entire religions are based on the arbitrary interpretation of ancient scriptures. Regardless of one’s faith or lack thereof, most people would grant that the human experience is clotted with disputes over the language of scripture- one only has to open a newspaper to see how ‘inter-’ and even ‘intra-religious’ conflict has led to violence and other systemic social issues.

With regard to homonyms/homophones, I was drawn immediately to their role in misapprehension of language. As in the absence of precise context in scripture, this poem demands that the reader employ their particular context to understand it. After all, I employed mine… I made choices in the spelling of these words, intentionally, to provoke alternate meanings and alternate interpretations.

Finally, the beauty of the choice to proceed with a religious theme, revealed itself as twofold: first, the tone/language of the poem evolved organically to reflect actual scripture; and lastly, this poem (hopefully) accomplishes the goal of provoking disparate reactions in readers. And to accomplish it, according to each person’s spiritual orientation in life- the very thing which tends to figure at the core of who we are, and how we see the world.

Time

My doctor thought of Time in terms of a green wound,
a sly, leech-lidded reservoir under the skin-

Time was his wireframe glasses and the clock I punched
when he told me the forecast of those old wounds
when my life gathered around me to hug itself through this…
and in my mind I went back as a ghost to
all my future high school reunions

and did not hear my name all night.

THE VIRILE HARVEST

In town the dust gathers. In skins of yellow dust the people pray.

The chapel wilts all week, dips in the middle. An old host. Chestnuts hit the roof during service and belief thuds into the hearts of men, frightens the women. They fear the Harvest. They know the roots are here to stay.

Paint peels off an old barn in the sun. A new cat every day.

The farmers reach into the ground, dung clung to the heels of their boots.

The sun tips water in their mouths, and something brazen and heavy clatters down the road. A patch of dust swabbed over the elbow, scabbed over the heathen ground.

The people wait for wheat to curl.

They dig up the virile harvest.