• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 06
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Treasures of the Town

It is almost time for his meeting with the woman from the council. ‘Just a chat,’ she’d said. ‘Nothing to worry about.’ But he is not so easy to fool. He’s had the date marked on his calendar for weeks, the sight of it whenever he stepped out back to make a cup of tea, never failing to lend a fresh layer of gloom to the ever-quiet town museum.

      This afternoon, he has hung the closed sign on the door, knowing it will make little difference to the number of visitors. He’s set up a table and chairs in the main exhibition space, although he knows this Claudia, the woman from the council, will not approve. She has made it abundantly clear that she’d have preferred to meet at her office. But no, he’d insisted, if they were getting together to talk about the museum’s future, oughtn’t they to do so here, among the treasures of the town – or what she evidently sees, although she’s never quite said so, as a motley collection of curiosities.

      According to Claudia, his museum needs to move with the times, to work towards receiving official accreditation. This means following national guidelines, telling the story of the town, being ready to pare back the objects on display, objects left to his care for over half a lifetime.

      The deer skeleton is a case in point. On Claudia’s first visit, not long after she moved to the town, she’d taken the opportunity to come down and wander about, making not a word of comment on the shine of the brass plaques or the cabinets’ smear-free glass. She’d stopped when she came to the deer, displayed in its usual more conventional grazing pose, and suggested that a better place for it would be dismantled in a box in the basement.

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1

Good Husbandry

No one wants to be in this position,
deep cuts to the fat, then the flesh,
now down to the bone.

We never wanted to be in these positions,
growths branching from our hips, through our ribs,
now up to the brain.

Still, in the shadows, I stand tall, belly ripening once more.

2

Oracle

In a clearing we found him, after walking for hours in the forest. Some had strayed early, their mission forgotten, others gave up to return to the comfort of the village hotel. But I kept up with my fellow seekers, finally reaching the dark clearing where we saw the Stickman - ancient and rickety, terrifying in his otherworldly frailty, jauntily poised on the rock that the villagers claimed was life-giving.

“Now listen,” he said as we gathered before him.

His voice was a sigh, a wind calling through caverns, a rush of tiny pebbles down a steep gulley.

“I know you are searching for answers, for miracles, but what you see - that lone tree is my garden; the other, my love; and the child - they are all I have.”

We stood transfixed by his breathy incantation, our gaze level with the tangle of roots, veins, ganglions sprouting, a shriek of pain at his centre, a girdle of anguish. But the rock held up his stick-bone frame of smooth-rubbed branches, like baked clay filaments, hard and easy to shatter.

“Tell us what to do, should we leave our towns?” a woman asked.

“Should we live in the forest?” another pleaded.

“Tend your garden,” the Stickman said. “And tend to your children. Find your rock and be seated.”

Then he stood and walked away, those disconnected fragments of bone-china limbs cohering to make movement, the core of pain a furred silhouette. He leaned into the tree of his child and disappeared.

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3

The Tread of Secret Kings

For a long time I groped in darkness. The iron-rock upon which I sat anchored me and would not let me leave. Neverthess it was a place of wonder, this rock, a place of multitudes. Naturally – of humiliation also. My first discovery however was a delight. Tapping with sickle fingers, delving about, I found that the sags and wattles of my old body – what I like to call my field, forest, and town body – had fallen away, leaving fine enamelled bone. My arms were double-sticked; likewise my lower legs. No longer was I to be troubled by mutinous bowels or wretched sexual organs. What difficulties they had caused...

Eating presented a twofold problem, having neither guts or digestive juices, nor any actual food. I was surprised, at first, that it was necessary at all. The periods of starvation were long and painful and certain images assailed me over and over. I was a man of great importance, a leader, a sorceror. Figures approached hourly to consult me, having travelled far and wide to hear my wisdom and seek my justice. Later, some informed me that I had committed a crime; others that I was the victim of crime. The details are unimportant: I had merely indulged my privileges to the full. Among my treasured possessions I counted certain individuals; their earthly bodies were mine to dispose of as I saw fit.

Hunger brought me to other shores. Here I approached the divinity, glimpsing him on distant mountains, in obscure vales, wading in rivers. With training and discipline I learned how to make the tantalising flashes last entire seconds. One inch above the divinity's head floats the great parabola of the infinite, which is the last of all numbers and no number at all. And from the parabola some few pieces of knowledge percolated down to me.

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4

Embryos

Every tree is different.
Sometimes it can be a container
for an embryonic form,
Perhaps a parasite
yet to grow branches
to match its parent.
Maybe it never will be a match,
but always an alien
form.
Or maybe a new tree will branch
out
from the belly of another alien
form.
We must wait and see.
Every tree is different.

5

You Are There

where you should be
where you ought to be

your tongue tastes thighs
speaks to the dead

sinewed spirit belongs
where your bone belongs

where your lips are home
where I expect you to be

where your heart flops
breath snuggles, bones rest

with me not someone else
somewhere else somewhen

at this breath's end
at end of the line.

6

Now while it’s raining

There I am;
a blink, a birth,
a wish to be the one across eons.
Fading like the others into dust,
scared of what body holds for me.
Love as a reminiscence,
powerless, lacking rebellion.
Here we are:
looking at each other,
wondering if there is still a passage
behind the glass,
confessing that we are stuck together,
regardless of the perspective.

7

Antler Truth

Let me tell you jokers
there is no trump card.
Not from heaven, hell
Nor the universe
exists a reason why
you might believe me

But believe me, you will.

In my bones lies the truth
In the moment between galaxies,
In antelope's breath,
In birch silver
In buzz bee dances.

You will
Laugh off your bones
Till the death's head rattles off.

And you will learn to love
In freedom.

8

ALMOST EGYPTIAN

In what is believed to be
Da Vinci's final painting,
a "disturbingly erotic" John the Baptist
points upward toward Heaven
with the index finger of his right hand.
He seems to emerge from the darkness around him,
and at the same time seems to be returning to it.
Perhaps more enigmatic than the Mona Lisa's,
his smile is more intense, his eyes are piercing—
unlike eyes that are missing from empty bone sockets,
much more like eyes that see into your heart's desire—
a desire you fear, and fear that he can control.

As sure as I'm sitting here,
trying to write a poem about things I can't understand—
as sure as you're born (at least I assume that's you,
curled up inside the uterus of that writhing tree),
I can't stop thinking about Young Goodman Brown:
Seems that everyone in town sold their souls
to the chiaroscuro, just to have a part
in the Great American Short Story.

Georgia O'Keefe's in my head—
or rather has replaced it on my meatless shoulders
with a deer's skull—oh, dear!
And John the Baptist points to the sky
in such a way that you can't really tell
if he points the way to salvation or damnation—
or even if both are the same thing.

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9

Tulgey Wood

At last here is a screen capture
of the Tulgey Wood so fully described
by Mr. Carroll.

Home of the Jabberwocky, as well
as a miscellany of other creatures that
have the capacity to both bite
and devour.

The greeting exercise in taxidermy
wields his stern warning, but we
are too curious about the strange
pollination habits of the flora
here to heed a rebuke.

10

The Nudest You Can Get

Wave your finger,
dear deer,
I can see all of you.

This is the nudest
a creature
can get.

If you were carrying
a pocket
watch, it would slip
right
on through.

I can imagine
just a little
bit of blush
at your bleached
cheeks.

I can imagine
we might
be friends, but you
seem
a little standoffish
about this
whole thing.

11

Bone stag sings to the pregnant tree

holds a bundle of twigs, wound
like a mass of veins round a heart.
He points to the moon – to the scratches
the stars have left in the dark sky.
The tree nurses life to her heartwood,
stays calm, stays quiet. She remembers
how once, in the madness of March
she made love to a hare, handsome
and leaping, dancing and long-ear mad.
His paws played the tune of the moon
on her just-buried roots. He slept
in his scrape at the base of her bole,
curled into her bark – she loved
the shock of his soft. They said
such a match could never turn to fruit
yet a leveret grew inside her, magic
as night. When her time comes,
she will nurse him on acorns she makes.

12

Menir

Stay with me now.
Are you sitting?
Your comfort isn’t really of any odds to me.
Have you not seen me?
My pelvis acts as
the fulcrum on this menhir
I
Sit upon.
I’ll hold my court while you grasp your tongues.
I’m sat fully in front of the unborn children in the trees.
Their whispering of these pines
is payback for my time with the hunt
in the search for some such thing
as I never knew could be found.
Look around this land—
and I want this to land with you—
the eyes will have it every which way but loose.
It’s up to you to
look in them, watch for the swell of my pupils.
Watch out behind you;
these trees grow through us all.
Questions, you must have questions…!
I’m sorry, I’m stopping you here.

13

Actaeon

Flowering hawthorn bursts the solar plexus,
and is wintered by the light's decline
into a seething mass of sticks,
a brittle-veined unknown.

A glimpse beyond that tangled wood and bone
into the seductive truth of artifice,
the body's wildly ramifying sign
now becomes nexus

of self-consumption, like a stag with its antlers
absorbing the whole forest, structure
gnawed to dysfunction,

hounds slavering at the rupture,
the inside out, the expanding reign
of the spaces where flesh refrains and falters.

14

I have a secret

The truth is that the earth is a powerful living being
Like one of those cells you studied in biology
A giant circular version, complete with a membrane and life vibration.

Man is the only animal stupid enough
To destroy the eco-system it depends on
For more luxury, more leisure time, and to accumulate more things
That gather dust in and out of cupboards – while encased in a man-made cage indoors.

Only man has sold his soul
and that of the earth
and now stares blinking with short-sightedness
Believing the world is contained in a mobile phone.

Video games have replaced playing with friends outdoors
Likes have replaced congenial hugs and pats on the back
Virtual reality is slowly replacing living while
Adult life is a rat race from waking to bed
Rushing from breakfast to work.
Working through lunch
Multi-tasking through your kid’s lives and your own.

Modern life is a bubble
Disconnected from reality.
Stop.

Happiness is found in nature
In quiet time with family and friends.

Stop rushing to the grave
And killing everything in your wake.

15

The Deceiver

Listen, listen carefully
Hidden in the bark-womb of the bellied tree
Is the story unborn and this is my not telling
My unsaying of those not yet and those to be
The skeleton of words disintegrating, distorting
The message, as I speak ambiguously

Listen, listen carefully
Listen to its bones break as I rip it apart
See the skin of the tale flayed and draped
Curtains to my stage, splayed prose
Wrapped around an audience
Forested by spiked-rib trees and tree-spiked ribs

Listen, listen carefully
Listen to the ending I give, its silent finality
I am the Crowned Deceiver
Unwriting my book with truthful lies
As I sit on my cold stone throne, the Horned One
Master of Ceremonies on this underworld night

16

Hidden in the Woods

Stalkers and death crawlers,
we know they wait in the dark
woods where a womb folds
inside a tree trunk to hold
the tomorrow’s birth in bark.

We ignore them, move past
when a forest cracks its knuckles
and bony twigs hold up a finger
of warning betides, what was learned
in the arch-silences of winters

when their mouths watered,
their eyes salted in wind,
feet gone stiff with wandering,
skeleton fused to stone
after longtime seeking

the grace of grazers,
spry and fleet footprints
on earth hard
from trampling.

17

Regrets

The darkness that invaded Rob’s soul, left a world of hate inside him. The late-night drinking binges ripped his marriage apart and he spent his nights at the grounds of the cemetery wondering why it wasn’t him instead of Jimmy. Though sober now, Rob had lost everything. His best friend, his wife, his job, what did he have left? A lonely life of regret and the image of Jimmy’s skeletal remains when he was found three months after his disappearance.

Rob was the one that owed the money, not Jimmy. Jimmy paid the price for protecting his friend. Jimmy gave them the money, but they killed him as a warning. Rob knew who did it, but they covered their tracks and the killers would never pay, all because Rob gambled and drank his life into a stupor.

Rob had to learn to live with the guilt. But could he?

18

Black and White

The night
           is still alive
             with bones
                 of time
                     seeing a dance
                       a sculpture
                         symbolizing
                             black as dark
                             white as light soul
                               the tribe of a poem
                                 brings a desert
                                 with prayers
                                  lighted pages
                                 black and white lamplight
                                   mysterious but genius
                                     wild words of the beast that streams
                                      inside dreams.

19

Armageddon

The man said global warming was fake news,
a conspiracy, a feeble attempt to screw
a thriving economy.

The man said it was fine to own a rifle or handgun,
as long as it was just for fun, to carry on
hunting without a care.

The man said he needed more electricity,
forget turbines, solar panels and the sea,
go nuclear.

The following year, my garden withered,
trees died, animals starved and shivered
in monochrome winter.

Now bleached bark and bone in my garden
are a tribute to Armageddon,
a sad reminder.

20

You

Your dry bones, stark,
stripped bare of supple flesh.
Your arrogant antlers, curved,
poised to tangle trespassers.
Your ever-pointing finger,
insisting I had got it wrong.
You, perched on a stone throne,
for extra height, to elevate
your ego, desiccated, proud.
You, doomed to miss the spirit
of the forest, the tree of life.
You did not see the trunk
holding me safe, enwombed.
You did not know I grew,
ready to kill your wife.

21

Spooky Pooka’s Message to the Nation

‘Now let me tell you,’
said the deer-headed man,
with twigs like dyspepsia
radiating from his stomach.

‘Let me say
that in my time here,
with nothing for my naked pelvis
but these termite mounds,

I have found it
not as bad as it appears.
There is that willow behind,
just waiting for April

and the other tree,
species still a mystery,
now a full nine months
in gestation.

I wonder when the birth will be;
I believe it may be soon,
may be a time for joy,
may have colour in it.'

22

AWAY AWAY AWAY

nothing grows there
nothing glows there
nothing goes

in the answer phone
a voice abandoned
by her own loneliness

I don’t want to describe it
I don’t want to dwell in it
I am healing

Some don’t know what is like
to be a rainbow child
in the land of dust

where nothing nothing
nothing

grows glows goes back
to stay to say to play
It was never their heyday

in the 80s

curious and small
all the while the Carnival
paraded on the TV

In my clenched fist
a handful of confetti
in my tireless heart, a door

and the road that lead to every dream

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23

A Date with Grim

He wonders just how many
times he has cheated death,
Knows there's a price to eventually
pay for dancing this dance

Midnight rattle bones play
a crimson song, overtones
are ominous, an invitation
to disaster written in jagged
defacing letters

Come on sweetly, the skeletal
figure sings, we have an appointment
vastly overdue.

24

Bone Branch

share
a sloppy kiss
below
bone branches
tickled all
the way into
your sternum
looking longingly
desperately
into empty eyes

this
is the place
my note
said to meet
but now you
seem nervous

what for?

look at all
these haunting
figures
I've painted for you
a gesture
of love, if only
rendered
in a dark palette.

25

waiting games

before reason, arms,
sheep-thought, follow the leader,
count sleep, jump fence, border, horizon.
before reason, line up,
look sharp, sprout stones,
aim right for the hurt.
before reason, before thought,
just say hate, in monochrome
steel hearts.

how did we come where we have come?
were we here before, are we here yet?
what did we believe was greener grass
for our future? fodder stiff, we chewed
chewed, chewed, forgetting to talk.
tenderness fled a long time ago. now trees,
now soil, a doze of ozone, but do you have
the pass? all dystopias will be the dystopia
of birth.

who will be the first now, to raise fist,
or finger, say forever: I told you so?

26

A Skeletal Secret

"Come let me tell you a secret," it whispered;
Seated on the anthill, a sage, a spiritual guide.
"The earth is the womb of the universe,
She has carried it on the lips of her fingers,
Sucking at the stars, the moons and the numerous suns...
No! Do not look at the tree. Turn your gaze away.
She is pregnant with truth; verisimilitude.
She births at noon to the tweeting cries of summer birds."

"You see," it raises a finger at a thought,
It's pelvic girdle girding the anthill, balanced by forces unknown,
"This throne is the door to night."
It cocked its antlered skull and peered...
"Will you tell this secret to the roaches,
bestriding your kitchen sink?"
It stared at its spindly legs,
barely touching the monochrome soil.
"No you won't."

"I have a heart, you know, a life, a beating heart."
It nodded its horse face,
The monochrome night breeze fleeing its chest cavity,
Cracked rib columns cackling in silent moan.
"Come, do you know where it is?
It's inside the throne, yes it is."

"You tell a good tale, yes you do.
I must leave you, mother calls.
It rubs its stomach and turns,
"You should go, my friend."

27

On the rocks

That was one hell of a night.
Only the terrible time
Nicky acquired tattoos,
Waking at five to a text
Message announcing the sack —
No more complacent, obtuse,
Dull afternoons at the shop,
Watching old movies, for him —
That is the only night out
Any of us can recall
Close to catastrophe like,
Anything like, what you’ve done
This time around. Would you look,
Please, at yourself? You’re a mess.
Eyeless, aghast, self-enslaved ...
Even old Nicky himself
Gawped. He’s impressed. By the whole
Damnable absence of flesh
Thing. And the headgear. Tell me,
What have you done with your left
Arm from the elbow on down
This time around? That was one
Hell of an evening, I know.
Evening and morning, I know.
Roofs have been raised. Even so,
Nobody hankers to see
Ribs and the skeletal look
Taken to such an extreme.
No, this is going too far.
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28

Improbability

The improbability means you say nothing.
It often happens that way.
You’ve seen a ghost, the back end of a stag,
As you drive through the night.

Who is chasing you?
Red coats or poachers?
The same men, different sides of the law.

You remember a story; of a deer offered refuge
By a scorned witch; they supped together before dawn.
Who will shelter you?

29

Heaven knows

The skeletal creature, half-man half-deer, posed as we took a photo to capture the amazing scene in the woods. It didn't seem to mind. We noticed the finger on its right hand pointing upwards, almost as if it had a message for us. I linked this to a similar sign I'd seen in some of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings. In the background to its left side was a tree with a growth almost foetal. The tree of life but also of death, if the holes surrounding it were representative of ulcers?

Death comes to us all, often with great suffering. We know not why. Perhaps the creature would have liked to tell us if it could, as it pointed heavenward. Alas, we heard nothing and assumed.

Only God Knows.

30

LIFE IS NEVER FAR BEHIND

Death is close, today. At the forefront. In the picture. Present.
But life is never far behind.

Look beyond bristling, skeletal, gently warning death to the bulging belly of the tree behind and see the foetal figure waiting to be born. Life grows in the belly of the tree behind death.

Death says, with that raised forefinger and that gently inclined, ‘Listen-to-me’ head, ‘There’ll be life after yours. It will be born. Where there’s life there’s also, necessarily, death. One cannot exist without the other.’

So the day will come when we make room for the ones behind. But until that day, death says, ‘Where there’s life there’s hope.’ He says that because he’s sitting on a termite mound. A place where air winds along tiny termite-built tunnels. A place where there’s oxygen for all levels of life.

So breathe and celebrate, wherever you are, whatever your level, whatever hangs in the balance. Breathe and celebrate until the last day comes.

But even then, know that life, even if not your own, is never far behind.

31

Bone Gardens

Famine came crawling on its knees,
begging for a home in alms. My roots

dark like the furry hide of a raccoon’s
stare. Nobody can know how deep a

human’s desires flow. My ribs
sleep in different rooms; sutured to

independent plans. I surf statistics
and alternatives. The one thing

that drives towards the gulls is a body
of light, emerging like the sign of infinity.

The way my face caves like a lone stone
grown taller than the length of an ocean’s

wave, does not wheel precarious boats to
any mines of crops. I could sit in a field of

ripe fruits thrusting their bellies through
from a lover’s cling of the root goddess,

watch their juices leak out
like a stone-earth’s sweat,

yet feel no wind on the nape
of my maw, hunger ricocheting

like trapped lilies in bone gardens,
ripening on the brink of a lupus moon.

32

FALL OUT

Apple cheeked smiling
until that day 
when he absent-mindedly looked through the other end of the telescope.
It was all too much
too close.
The monotone inner landscape of
broken tree covered hillsides,
the foetid silent lakes.
He took to his heels then
'Here be monsters!'
Even a backward glance held fears of gorgons and
Lot's salty fate. 

33

Remember Her?

She sat.
Her hair was perfect and I remember she had her legs crossed, her skirt pinched higher.
She had these glittering eyes that I could never forget.
They were green.
I remember when she stood, elongating her previously crumpled figure to her full 1.7 meter height.
Her fingers were long, with different coloured nails at the end of each finger. They wrapped around my shoulder, my hand, I remember how they felt, warm, soft, small calluses before every knuckle.
Her laugh tinkled through the air, the most luscious sound to accompany the most luscious music I can remember.
The way her hips moved, sashayed, skirt flipping around her thighs, her feet slipping forward and back in a fluid manner. Her arms danced above her head like waves.

And then she sat. And no one ever saw her beauty again.
Year after year. She remained. Legs crossed, skirt wrinkled.
And I always remembered how
she sat.

34

Seeing is Believing

I am not as frightening as I look,
Some people regard me as a warning,
A legacy of a world depleted and destroyed by humankind,
I am to them a future nightmare,
A time when the seas dry up and the land is drained of all its nutrients,
They do not look beneath the surface,
Their vision is skin deep,
For I am just the winter of our world,
Spring will follow,
My body will no longer be parched and desiccated,
Trees will burst into bud,
Flowers will push their way upwards and bloom again,
The planet will be recycled, rejuvenated, revitalised and recreated.

35

Molybdomancy

In place of your pink bag of stomach and the tremor of intestine, a ghost of coral floats, brittle-sharp, bleached; synapse, perhaps, not snapped in the silver gelatin monochrome of a photographic print, but in the zapped spectre of bone on filmy x-ray black; maybe molten tin flung through the sprung trap of your ribs, to slink and settle your fate with a cold, hard splash.

36

Son of a tree

My dreams have been getting heavy again lately. All the cold sweat, the shaking, the dull stares into the darkness in between two nightmares. It is all back, yet again. I never know when this starts and how it ends, it is always like my shadows eventually catch up with me after they got bored of me the last time. Once you learn how fragile all reality is, it never leaves you any more. This notion will never disappear, and will follow you in around like a catchy proverb you've learned in your childhood. It will shape your worldview, it will add that last weird sentence in the banal everyday description of the house you grew up in you were trying to give to that woman on your last date, it will keep you hyped and high after you made that perfect, totally over-optimistic plan. Because reality is so bendable that both nightmares and utopias live side by side in it.

I dreamt of a pregnant tree last night, that gives birth to whole grown men like me. They sit there crouched, hugging their legs, with full body hair and broken teeth, semi-white beards. I could see the others, still sleeping in the thick bark layers, illuminated by the little light available. I was sitting on the ground, all naked, could feel the soil entering in between by butt cheeks. Above me erected on a rock, preaching, was a big archaic skeleton with an animal head. I don't know what it was saying any more, but it gave me great comfort.

I woke up this morning to find only one shirt left, the one that has a button too high that presses right on that place in my throat that is the most gentle. I shaved my face perfectly, and shined my shoes. There was just the right amount of peanut butter to put on my toast. On the way out, I was careless and tripped on her arm. I fell down, turned on the side and grabbed my legs. Waiting to be born again.

37

Our Seed

Welcome to my garden,
my delicious and destitute friend.
I've never seen such regretful eyes
it gets worse, I won't pretend.

Welcome to my kingdom,
there are rules you must obey.
But let me tell you a story
I'd forgotten 'til this day.

Gentle was her nature,
her mind a snowy owl.
I wonder if she remembers me
or what I'm guarding now.

Magic was her master,
loving was her fall.
But she did plant one last seed
before sacrificing us all.

Cosmic was her landscape,
and the ground we walked upon.
Until the day she flapped her wings
and everything was gone.

Terror was her treatment,
desolation and despair.
I prayed to join my family
instead, her seed is in my care.

Read more >
38

Such a Dear

Returning to the earth
The bones are all that is ever left
Left to blend with ancestral soil
Soaked in stories from the past

She was such a dear
As gentle as a deer
Quick to startle, of nervous disposition
The utterance of words, rare
Yet stories collected in her sighs

At her stillest when death brushed up beside her
We observe the heave of her chest as she struggles for breath
And in these final moments of regret
We wish we had been brave enough to speak the words that choke us
Asked the questions fear stopped us from asking
But we never did
Mistaking her silence

She was such a dear
Tight lipped
Yet as gentle as a deer

Now she’ll take her stories to the grave
Offering a final sigh to the wind

39

Death, the spring and other thoughts

Lighter times require lighter measures
Existential thought by one who treasures
Is it an open universe?
Will it expand forever or reverse?
The garden trees, death they do triumph
The spring awakes them from their sleep
For the moment the flowers riot
For the winter months they have been at peace

Deep thoughts about the years before us
And the years that lie ahead
Thinking back to twenty years and life before the internet
No online occurring FB drama
No Instagramatic picture show
No tweeting from a forlorn leader
And retweets from those in the know

Lighter times and increasing leisure
Gardening to some is a pleasure
Mud and sticks and old bones
Copper coins that lie alone
Looking out from a window
Wispy white clouds passing by
Existential thoughts occur again
And what happens when we die

Read more >
40

A Daguerreotype of a discourse by Herne the hunter

A discourse by
Herne the hunter:
there is a burst

of dry fingered
twigs through my
pelvis where the

genitals were strung.
I raise my finger
to point to

you – bone, oak
wood in utero forms
sculpted from

resin. Sitting on
a fabricated rock
in a daguerreotype

typified by chiaroscuro. Today
the west wind is
mercury vapourised and

now there is
only a stymied
textile

darkness – felt
covering this flat
vivarium:

Read more >
41

Fair Game

I am your mockery trophy,
once preyed upon, no longer hunted,
moth-eaten, past its prime,
mounted to gloat at.
Straddling my boulder egg,
I am a doe disguised,
morphed into a mighty stag,
adorned with useless antlers.
I bristle at the trunk behind me, laden with life,
while my roots grow inwards,
crowding out unspent, fleshless spaces
in which bare branches defiantly refuse to bud.
I carry wild blackthorn in my belly,
a warning to the uninitiated:
Enter at your own peril.
Roots reach upwards, into my hollow ribcage,
waiting with bated breath for my heart to hatch.

42

THE LAST TRUTH OF THE TRUTH TELLER

this is what the truth teller looks like
its bones provide complete transparency —
the birth of its successor in the womb of a tree

will come round at last no longer hidden —
although its future is immanent nobody can speak
of an eminence in the present tense

the head of a stag or a bull has import
nods unsteadily in time the bone forefinger
that wags with a faster tempo

it all makes time in black and white
invades then ignores the narrative
throws out the narrative as a bad innovation

scores out words as they approach
marks the picture with straight lines —
the story of the Minotaur was once told

it was told as a truth the truth teller
no longer tells — the result is this last one
its frivolity a finality that sits — cannot run

post truth will leak dreams of poems
drafted by a moving finger —
each poem in turn will put flesh on the bone

43

The Rut

I continued to visit Uncle Edgar every day after Mother died. He continued to repulse me. Without her, my old home had taken on a different personality. Somewhere along the line, its soul had flown to somewhere brighter.

At every window, curtains hung listless and weary. Cushions sagged and drooped, as if the very life had been kicked out of them – much like Mother. Silently, they sighed their demise and accepted their lot – much like Mother. Even the efforts of the lightbulbs were half-hearted.

But my mother never was.

He sat in his chair in his splayed tartan dressing gown and stained blue pyjamas, and waited to be served.

‘Here you are, Uncle Edgar. A nice boiled egg and soldiers.’

I laid the cushioned tray across his knees. His eyes flicked in my direction as he stabbed a finger of toast into the yolk and shoved it between his thin lips, chewing noisily as his rubbery face gnashed on the food. I removed the tray when he had finished.

‘Thank you,’ I said pointedly.

I wiped his face. He shoved me away and scowled. Then he pushed himself up and out of the chair. I heard his bedroom door slam.

I let myself out.

Why was I doing this? Stepping into Mother’s shoes? I had always hated the man. Uncle Edgar, the chauvinist. Uncle Edgar, the arrogant. Uncle Edgar, the bully.

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44

ON THE HORIZON

Death watches over all of us
From the day we're born.
The Devil looks into our eyes
And stares at us with scorn.
No matter if we beg and plead
Death will come our way.
All around is evidence
That death is here today.
Cemeteries are full of bones.
People who have gone.
Not one will ever come again
Not Jane, nor Jill, nor John.
So when the Devil laughs at you
And says your turn is next
No point in getting angry.
No point in getting vexed.

45

Scarecrow

The fields are constantly
Under attack
The lively crops
Cannot fight back.

It is under siege
The crows and sparrows
Destroy the harvest
With their beaks sharp as arrows.

It is screaming out
For a little salvation
It wants to escape
The foul suffocation.

The scarecrow can relieve
Their pain and suffering
A great bit of assistance
It can surely bring.

The bone shaped skeleton
The scarecrow mannequin
With its constant presence
The crops will surely win.

46

Midnight in the Hall of Mirrors

There are scratches on the frame where black birds have flown,
damp in the hollow beneath your hand, and webs in your hair
where spiders’ eggs impel themselves towards birth.

In the split mirror, your reflection mumbles your name
backwards and there are letters written in your thick breath.
Your eyes are bitten dry of tears, their lids too tight to close.

It’s too late to listen to what your mother always told you,
admit your mistake and go back to bed, as spiders spread
across your scalp, and the beast demands his nightmares back.

47

SOME KIND OF MESSIAH

A hybrid of things
none good and part mythical
with adaptations, appendages
where none ought to be
all gathered at will
an amalgam of wickedness

polluting the light
it delights in the night
its solemn warning, ossified
stay away little girl
here's the edge of the world
best you run on home to your own tribe

48

The Yellow King

I was tangled in all the wires —
Music was stopping —
at first wavelength slowing,
Try and equivocate the happenstance and turn,
whether a stubborn ox, or mule's
brittle bones,
nothing is pretty anymore then. When only a yule-
tide would suffice. Oh is he sweating yet? Or is the drool
dripping worse as dried ice.
A sweltering sunbeam.
A melodramatic escapade.
If one can only hope
this planet, our planet is but one
island beneath, a shared sun.
Even if life is bona fide,
twenty thousand light years
above the sky.
But what's beyond that?
I'll take Dark Matter for 700, Trebek.
That's a daily double, if it isn't too late to pass —
The girl from Stanford to my left seems better equipped to tackle;
because fate would have it that I'm already committed to a different shackle.
It's unique.
The future is not bleak,
a random tangent
could never hold its own against
a tandem, ahem, if it is not a word, then —
play, pause, rewind
preferably something from the 80s.

Read more >
49

Best

Man those floorboards were smooth weren't they? Blonde and beachy. Old, but not so old they crumbled beneath our growing feet or we fell between the cracks. Those tiny faces staring up at us from within their growing memories.

It was real cool down there. Not as humid as above, halfway up the grey room that reminded me of a 1970's two-toned wagon spray painted on a day when indecision stuck up its middle finger at the world, just like you, your favourite expression in a laughter-beat. Who cares? you always said.

The small square window beside the green front door shows us that the world out there goes on. Moans on through wet skies and water washing along the gutters and down the drains. It's true the rain has had its way with us over the last three days. Your wig has come off — an odd thatch of a matted root thing — as your head topples on its neck, a tube of veins word-searching over your throat. And yet. The floorboards where we used to play stay cool, don't they? That's why I've got my skirt hitched high to my thighs, cellulite pressed against them as your swollen yellowwhite bandages bleat against the stinking liquid dripping from your liver and kidneys. They have taken their final bows.

I watch your horns grow as their pink and Prince purple forms wrap the air and all the secret things we always said, smacked on the walls, the furniture and the floor my amazing Best. I wrap. And sit. And wrap your liquidlogged legs as I spit at the gentle breeze blowing from beneath the door.

You are my Best. My four-letter Best. My very Best I tell you. In silence.

My very Best.

50

Hidden Filipino

As patriarch, I had been shape-shifting through various forms, some to educate the youngsters as to camouflage while hunting, some simply to entertain.

Eventually the younger children were put to bed in the boles of nearby Molave, stunted and twisted by the magic of the sacred glade, and I sat on The Warlock Stone, solemnly gesturing for silence. The laughter subsided, allowing me to begin my tale in the fashion of our kind: telepathy and nuances of the body position.

"I was happy in my original home, content in my primitive existence: hunting, playing and loving with my family and friends in the small community in an island group of unspoiled forest, rivers and beaches.

Then the ‘tourists’ came and though they were an exciting novelty for a while, they brought with them a sense of privilege – as if their mere arrival gave them entitlement to our home. They didn’t like our ways, how we looked, what we ate.

Mere annoyance at first, they arrived in increasing numbers. They heaved like pus on an infected wound, devouring our space, destroying foliage upon which we and our prey depended.

I was all for war when they killed sister-son, but the elders vetoed it, recognizing that it would invite catastrophe. So we maintained our meek appearance and traded for enough of their pump boats to carry us away from the pristine islands the invaders were set on despoiling and headed towards the sun, relying on the fish and rain we caught – ignorant of just how long the journey would be.”

Read more >
51

PHANTASMIC HYBRID

Cool is the head of the classical sage
Who dares chance the Forest of Baryn.
Strong is the arm of Protector-cum-Page
Who’d spare nosey scholar from harr-mmm.

Black is the air between nefarious boughs
With web-mist for undergrowth too,
But death is the hollow which Nature allows,
Where reigns cryptic Ossacerv, Hugh.

52

Philosophy

Hear my riddle:
It grows in a tree,
It grows within me.
It grows in the ground,
It grows all around.

The great teacher sat upon a rock, the space between his bones giving view to the natural world around him. He scratched his head and belted out a tune, getting about half the words right.

53

Of Demigods and Men

I always knew my father was different, right from a very early age when other kids would play football with theirs in the park, whilst mine looked through telescopes, consulted astronomy charts and marvelled at demigod paintings on his study walls. He did this time and time again. Whatever the weather, my father would immerse himself in the fantastical, the elusive, the unknown.

My mother knew not to disturb him when he was holed away in his study and told me that I should go and play outside. It was such a nice day.

But I waited until she disappeared into the kitchen and pushed open my father’s study door. He stood not more than four feet away peering at one of his creepy paintings. I turned to leave when he called me back.

‘Come in, Stephen. I want you to see this.’

Slowly, I moved to where my father stood and followed his gaze. A ghoulish skeleton of a demigod stared back. It had the head of a stag and the torso and legs of a man. I shuddered and backed away.

‘That creature there, Stephen, is your grandfather, would you believe. Fitzwilliam was his name and he was a man of great character, as you can see.’

‘He’s a monster,’ I blurted out. ‘A demon. He’s not fit to walk amongst men.’

My father sneered. ‘And what would you know about that? You’re just an insignificant little boy.’

Our relationship was strained after that. We rarely exchanged a word at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Years later, when mother died suddenly of a stroke, I had no-one else to turn to. I returned home for a short while and knocked on my father’s study once again, now faded and decrepit.

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54

The Dare

Toby said there was something in the forest.
‘There’s always something in the forest,’ I said. I was sitting by the school games hut, a discus in my hand. Toby was leaning against the warped wooden door, the team sashes over his arm. A crash came from inside. Jas was piling the hurdles together.
‘Yeah, but this is different.’ Toby leaned down. ‘Some sort of skeleton, I’ve heard.’
I stood up just as Jas came out of the shed, hair on end like he’d already seen something scary.
‘Jas is coming tonight. Dare you, Ben.’
I threw the discus into the shed. ‘Sure.’
Tonight turned out to be a midnight meet. Another silly idea of Toby’s but actually I was counting on it.
The other two were waiting for me by the bin in the car park.
‘Come on,’ Toby said turning into the trees. The night seemed alive with eerie sounds – owls, foxes, things creeping through the forest floor. ‘Not scared are you?’ Toby asked. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or whether Jas was included in this.
We walked further into the wood. ‘I’m not sure about this.’ This was Jas. ‘What if we get lost?’
‘I got badges in this.’ Toby said proudly, but I knew he was lying. He’d been asked to leave cubs but scouts tolerated him despite the incident of the tent fire. Jas walked closer to me.
‘What will your mum say if she finds you’ve been here at night?’ I goaded. Was that a whimper I heard?
And then we were in the clearing. Sitting on a stone was a human-like skeleton with a deer’s head. Jas screamed. Toby jumped around in delight until I shone my flashlight over it. I was watching their faces, the horror as they took in the twigs growing out of the middle of the skeleton. I guided the flashlight right of the bones towards a tree with a hole in its trunk. Read more >

55

You once followed the course of the packs

You once followed the course of the packs
Guided
By that smell of furrows
Possessed
By the dizziness
That was spilling
Above the crowd
You learned to bite
And to dismember as the others.
The Dawn
Tore the veil
Diminishing
Of the night
To offer you a horror
Newborn.
You killed your own in the dark.
You were part
Of the weakness that you devoured
You were
The prey.

56

Ghost

Oh you are a skeleton
you are neither man
nor animal, but you
crown heady success
why you even look happy
in a black forest deadly
your visage is smart
you look like playing dart
you summon awe, bewilderment
but the horns are your crown
are you coloured brown
or simply white as a ghost?
Come on, I can't believe that
you exist.

57

MINOTAUR

A nubile virgin every spring or he’d destroy the kingdom – that was the bargain the Minotaur had made with the King. Parents prayed that the gods would send them sons and wept when their prayers went unheard. Mothers bound their daughters’ breasts, or married them off before puberty. Anka’s parents tried a different ploy, treating her as a boy from the moment of her birth. Her father even taught her to fight until her swordsmanship out-stripped his.

At the winter festival the year Anka turned fourteen, the King’s men quartered the crowds like pickpockets, noting which girls had reached maturity. No-one slept easily until the choice was announced and, despite her parents’ care, they picked Anka.

Guards pushed her into the Minotaur’s maze and retreated but, around the first corner, Anka’s father passed her a sword. “I cannot stay – I must be seen weeping with your mother,” he said, “but remember what I taught you – you can do this.”

Trembling but brave, Anka followed the roar of the hungry beast to its source – a bull’s head armed with fearsome horns, but the body was that of a man – she could kill a man. The creature was not expecting a fight. It was all noise and bluster, and had spent a whole year lying on its bed of virgins’ bones. Anka, young and agile, danced around the lumbering beast, darting in to slash its Achilles tendons and, when it fell, to plunge her sword deep into its black heart.

When all was quiet, the chanting of the priests rose to a crescendo, but over it all Anka heard her mother screaming her name. Like a bee to the hive, she followed that thread of love out of the maze to freedom.

58

Self-portrait from the Edge of the World

I, dark. A deer.
Skinned. Bone
and antlers in a ruined wood.

Still a woman
I am bearing twigs.

My heart, swung-out
is a bird. Flown.

The trees swell. Grief is a foetus. Waiting.

My lost tongue warns you that the flood is soon/the rubbing flood
and all its drownings.

59

nihilistic vegan

Now now … I shall not allow you to weep my death.

24,383,561 killed each day, each one held dear, by none. What is left?

Overconsumption breeds the underexposure of the true reigning massacre

The endlessness

A caustic society, no call and response. No fertilisation, just draining of fluids.

My mouth holds dry and I weep as the particulates pollute the capillaries.

The abnegation of 56 billion.

60

Night School

Now that you’ve got it clean
down to the bone
teach me
how to use that deep
explosion
of pain at the body’s core
to push past the necessities of flesh
to stand here bare-boned
beside you
ash white under the moon
not sleeping like the infant grub
curled in the tree’s hollow
or the full-formed but yet
unrealized imago
still quiet in its husk
but balanced in the space between
unready and unopened
wearing a crown of horn
sharp and bright
as a diadem of stars

61

Many

For the dark gods are many:

            They give birth to themselves,
            metastatic, suckling blood.

They hold court in a gleam of bones,

            open to shadows. Wired upright,
            they cannot fall.

Neither this nor that, they evade catalogue.

            They curse with gnarled finger,
            deepening time-scoured runes.

Leafless, their trees lack season,

            lifting monochrome jags,
            lichen-scale stippled.

Their followers fear and fall prostrate:

            Dust, they mouth dust.
            They irrigate dryness with terror.

The dark gods preside, indifferent,

            rasping blade across whetstone,
            readying stained altars.

62

Two Dead Deer

It begins with a kindness. A skeletal deer brought in from the snow. She was kind like that, my mum. It kissed our own deer, a brief encounter, nose against nose. In a street of six houses it was my mum who brought in the skeletal stray from the snow but it was me who noticed the spots of bright red on the straw. Glass in the hoof, that’s what we thought. Drip, drip, drip. Blood from the ass, that’s what it was. This disgusting riddled deer, brought inside our barn from the snow, pissing blood from the ass. There are vaccinations for it nowadays but back then it spread like wildfire. Both deer dead in hours. What a word, “Nowadays.” It’s like a broom. Things are better Nowadays.

I remember the University. I don’t know why we went all the way out there. My mum donated the deer I guess. I was too young to be told of autopsies. We would’ve taken the bus that swung by twice a week. Five hours it would’ve been, I don’t remember any of them. I try to fill in bits that are missing but I find it’s getting harder to do. We would’ve sat quietly on the bus. We didn’t have the two dead deer with us in some bag, I’d remember that. We met our vet there. He wasn’t in his white coat. A grey suit, I remember, with a red tie. I don’t know why he was all the way out there and I don’t know why we went to meet him. I was only five. I know this because papa wasn’t gone long.

“This way,” he said. There’s comfort in direction and we followed. Down hallways, past men in shirts double-taking at my mum who was not yet old then. Through a wide courtyard, corrugated plastic for a roof, once clear, darkened with moss and bird shit and cosmic dust.

Read more >
63

PRIVATE OTHERLIVES

“Four gory years ago our anthropologists brought forth, amid incontinence, a new nation, conceived of Liberty – the taxidermist from the village – and dedicated to the proposition that all grave-robbers are equally weird.

Now we are engaged – me and Liberty – in nightly and uncivil conflict, testing whether that nation, or even our union, can long endure.

We are met on the great battle-field of the wardrobe, wherefrom I pounce unto her willing bones –”

“Dad!”

“Wow, TMI, dude.”

Bonnie had clapped her hands over the youngest’s ears. “Jimmy’s only five for pity’s sake.”

The father adjusted his posture on the stone and raised a finger.

“We have come to masticate a portion of yon field –” he began again. Just then mother Skinwalker swept into the clearing, blood still dripping from the hide of her latest victim which hadn’t quite fused around her hips. She raised an eyebrow at her husband before nodding to the children.

“Well?” she said.

“He’s been hitting the peyote again, Ma,” Declan offered.

“I only had –”

She gave him a quick stare. The eyebrow fell. She picked it up and slapped it on again.

“Don’t tell me,” Liberty sighed, self-consciously adjusting the wayward lips. “The Gettysburg Undress? Same ol' rubbish he made up for his stag-do?”

Read more >
64

Correction and clarification

Excuse me, I think you are mistaken, this termite mound was here far longer than I was, its mound a comfortable resting point for my ischial tuberosity ... hmm, oh the bottom of my hip ... I guess ... the plant, oh that well I'm not sure where that came from, perhaps I stored up too many apple seeds in there and they decided to sprout ... No I'm afraid not, no foetuses in here, try that tree behind me, the one that looks like a baobob, yes, of course ... you haven't heard that name before? Oh well, I can't help you with that ... Well ... yes, when the toes started sprouting I was concerned, but then the rest came too so I assumed it was part of the natural order of things and didn't question it ... There is one naked one behind me ... Yes, how embarrassed it must feel!

65

Earth-Like

There's the question
of domestication
and re-purposing.

Conceivably, this place
could provide
both food

and shelter. And the unusual
manifestations
of life

after death may have much
to teach us, but
I have been wrong

before when I've said
such things
in my optimism —

when I've seen
an upheld hand
and assumed a welcome.

66

I can feel trouble in my bones

In my red, fringed bow ballerinas
I can feel surfaces again

hardness unyielding
to my toes, each pebble

conglomerated in the stub slabs
of the business district

each trip cobble defining
my quartier’s streets.

This week the road menders
were out fixing winter’s siege

the actions of frost and thaw
stones cemented into place

just in case they’re plucked
and smashed, a ready arsenal

to launch against false order
righteousness against women

and those, oh so many, causes
touching us these spring days.

67

Generation

When you walk in the woods, it’s always best
to see everything, set your body to rewind,
in case you miss something. If you stay too long,
you might realise you are nowhere, the footprints
you deposit mean little to the tree’s arching body,
where nothing is off limits; is this what freedom is?

Held by four directions, form painted with earth
and held in its birth suit, the bone stag sees you,
every mark, every design, and trees reveal secrets
before we know them, the faceless year disappears,
like a once trusted friend, stealing away,
stuffing ideas into deep dark pockets.

When the sun wakes, you are older,
and count on things more, there is a new mother,
three flowers to the wind, and black skeleton branches
touch out for acceptance. The struck tree
sees years come and go like lightning,
the bone trumpet sounds the winter’s stretching
drum skin, and strips the body raw.

The stag waits in the thicket, knowing the ways
of wordless stories, dreaming to break ice again.

68

Kickshaw

That’s what they tell me I am,
when I arrive after incautiously
saying: I don’t want to be
famous to myself any more
.

But surely everyone wants to be
Marilyn Monroe at least?

queried the one-man geopolitical
wrecking crew as he

led me to the graphite garden
where I am to learn to appreciate
the clicking metallic rain of
the endless luminous chain

of my ribs, then shake my empty
fists at a non-existent god.

69

The Reflection

S was very happy today. Her five years of hard work had borne fruit. ‘Finding You’ her philanthropist organisation, was hosting a charity auction in the morning to be followed by a dinner at night. Finding You would divert these funds to resettle women who had been victims of abuse and exploitation. It was a triumph and very much her own. Her rich businessman husband’s contacts did undeniably help in opening many doors for her, but she had not taken a dime from him.
‘So S, happy now?’ Her spiritual guru Swami Sarvanand Maharaj was on the phone.
‘Yes guruji! It’s all because of His grace and your blessings.’
‘Efforts are your own my child. May you continue doing the good deeds and set a good example for others to follow.’
‘Yes, this is my mission guruji.’
‘And don’t forget your pauper guru! Donate some money to our organisation too.’
‘Of course, my privilege guruji.’
She was getting congratulatory calls from everyone including her parents, her sister, her friends and her husband’s family. It was indeed a blissful day!

Getting ready in the morning, S took out the saree woven by the women under her care. She would make a statement with her humble attire at the glitzy event. It was important that others understood the depth of her commitment to resurrecting troubled lives.
As she looked into the mirror to check her reflection, an absurd and horrendous figure looked back at her. S quickly turned away.
What was it that I saw just now? A human, an animal?
She turned to the mirror again and saw the creature mocking at her yet again. It was a human skeleton with the head of a deer. The same kind that was displayed in the lobby of their farmhouse in Bharatpur. Why am I seeing that trophy in my reflection?
Read more >

70

HENGE

Shaddup, let me think. Hmm. If A results in B then C must D? Or? Hinge behind hinge and then not always hinge ... but henge? Henge – one type of hinge, certainly. Applicable. To the point. Marry, but where's the point? Give me a point and I'll appoint to the point and thus the anointed appointed will not be disappointed. Diss-a-point-ed? Ha! Skewer what they call 'world' like a glistening toffee apple to rot these innocent sucklings liddle toothikins then, diddums then – ooze a diddums now, huh? These great stoopid lummocks. Little do they know. The fulcrum, the fulcrum! Get on with it, dithering old fool. Now. Get-King-in-Castle – get-King-in-Bitch on Heat – wait-nine-months-get-Saviour of Mankind-out. And you're halfway there. Hmmph! Such a laborious, lengthy, messy, mammalian, biological process; give me chemicals anytime. But that's the only way these dolts and scuttlers on earth know how to open the door. Ah ah ah whoopee in bed and it's a new carbon-based life-form! Spirit sent spiral sperm SPROING! … and … that's it: juice in the womb, juice on the face, pop! Out the front door. Signed, sealed, delivered. Does what it says on the can. The can of worms. I'll have 'um! Rise, ruse, roil sap, simp sump, bap bimp … bump – where was I? The hinge, the hinge! Ah but – of the hinge, where is the hinge around which to swing this merry scheme? Henge, unhinge! Am I unhinged? Rent the fabric, fulcrum fabric ripcord thistledown seed; wash the groping hand of sea where formless out of formlessness the mist and dangled carelessness of seabirds shape and swirl the vortices and display an early penchant for … skirt. Uh hu. Skirt. It’ll have to do.

71

Skeleton City

Bled of colour, no birds singing,
stacked tenement ribs sucked of innards,
bleached open staircases searching for souls.

Empty sockets, eyeball blasted,
twisted metal like pelvic cradles, gender blurred

Bony joints, unused to air, fixed in arthritic contortion,
some splintered, surviving to point the finger.

Groaning vertebrae struggling still to support the spinal
threads lashing and sparking at the burnt smoke sky.

Words of ancestors cosseted in bodies built to teach
cratered and collapsed, crushed to dust,
concrete mingling with cadaver, knee deep.

72

Lost Boys after James Miller

Found it seemed so to understand
the perverse symmetry so
to try was his own free will
well then, the ground of fractured and tender.

He tried to hold, he could do beyond grew,
weak with deep hollows and shadows
a number of known to be honest.

Experience much younger than other lines
following the days were holes in the garden
filled and folded as if from the dry.

There was no sign of brightness to break
the dark over oil his past and present boys, lost
boys with magic and headdresses.

73

Jackalope-Girl Decides No Children

The women would smile their condescending smiles,
say trite things like You’ll see
as if after marriage, I’d change
my mind, suddenly desire
a swollen belly, distended
womb, a litter of monsters sucking
my chest. What would be next?
An apron. A fainting couch.
Powdered formula mixed with Jack Daniels
warm on a nurse’s wrist.
A generation of half-breed
girls, jaws aching, cheeks scorched
with shame when their classmates ask
about their whiskers, their antlers.
I said no and I mean it.
A husband, a garden, a job.
If those women keep waiting,
I’ll be here. Earthly. Skeletal
in the high exposure of aftermath,
the landscape around me trying
to make up for what’s lost.

74