One day Ray woke to discover that plants had overgrown his home.
A tree rose through the chimney, the carpet was covered with brome,
Ivy crawled up the bricks and wound over grout,
And when Ray squeezed his toothpaste tube, roses came out!
He had to brush his teeth with a paste made of petals,
So his evergreen breath smelled of needles and nettles.
While on the bookcase, where the photographs of his parents had lain,
Were garlands of daisies, tied in tender knots in a bright daisy chain,
And in the picture frame which’d featured a Eurasian magpie,
There was now a photograph of a desert landscape full of succulents and cacti.
In the kitchen bowl where there’d been garlic and chilies,
There was now water, and, in it, red and white Santa Cruz lilies!
When Ray opened the refrigerator door,
He discovered its chamber was abundant with bright slipperwort.
And when Ray walked into his once plainly furnished living room,
He found it overflowing with fungi, a forest of mushrooms!
All throughout his home, wherever he went, wherever he stood,
Ray was surrounded by orchids, azaleas, wisteria and wormwood!
But the most peculiar thing of all, was that Ray felt something in his foot,
And, looking down, he noticed that it had grown a root!
And from his fingers, there were growths of shoots and leaves
And the woody drapes that a liana weaves…
Ray suddenly felt thirsty for water, though his urge to pursue it was scant,
And with a final green look at the verdurous world, Ray turned into a plant!
The Captain’s Company is a wild west tale of ruthless, barbaric bandits and their raid on a village that is isolated in the wastelands of the malpais.
Mountains scarred the dusk sky as the wain creaked along the ridges, grit and dust billowing beneath, while a man in a cotton jerkin sat upon a thwart leading a train of horses with loose reins through scores of leagues, through the grey and brown livery of the land.
Atop his wooden cart burned a lit brazier expectorating malodorous white smoke, and the brazier burned as its fuel the litter and leavings of the dross of humanity. Lying acrossways upon that brazier skewered through with a stick was the head of a blackened doe, the sharp stick having been passed through its ears, and the head all cooked until the flesh was carbonized and the driver, that partisan of violence and ciphers, dragged behind his wagon by a hawser a monstrous burin which graved upon the land a deep trail so that his track could be traced. And when the burin became stuck upon stones buried in the sediment, he only beat the horses carelessly, as thoughtlessly as if he’d learnt abuse by rote.
And there came after him a ragged lieutenant whose good eye was rimed by cataracts, and whose poor one was covered by a patch encrusted by mucus and blood, and there was behind them their crew slogging with horses through that calyx, that whorl of a valley surrounded upon by all sides mountains and the dust. There existed no liquid agent to slake any thirst, so the horses had foamed, and the limping animals had all dried of their lather some long time past. Yet the men continued to beat them, until one animal fell, and the men not even considering the future or perhaps making incongruous concessions to ritual or fortune or deity did not pause to butcher the bony beast, only left it exposed. When the men were some leagues further on, the moon lay in a crescent like the cushion of a lackadaisical, bohemian artist, and the horse was lost from sight. The men pitched their tents at the foot of the mountain, and they pulled from their pockets specie of gold and silver and muttering passed them about to study the faces and obscure origins of their dead makers.
When the sun rose in the morning, the lieutenant set down a dense sun dial carved of jasper, and aligning the gnomon with true north calculated the time, while the leader of that crew, having apathetically discarded both spit and the head during times previous, measured the altitude of the mountain with an iron sextant which he wore around his neck upon a lanyard. There was on that morning a man who would not rise, for he was sick with dehydration, and the lieutenant saying, So see this man’s true color amid this desiccant! did in fact remove from that man both his hands as an attainder, and burning the flesh from them, scraped passively the cartilage and muscle while he rode as a man is wont to whittle a stick, and the blind lieutenant was left with the bony remains of two hands that afternoon as the company passed up the mountains. When the men passed near a steep ravine, the lieutenant cast the bony hands into the gorge, and the men continued traveling. They turned a hairpin corner, found a spring of water was issuing forth from the granite, and the leader of them all put his lips and tongue to the wet wall in a kiss, and he sucked. When it was the last man’s turn to drink, he made haste despite his thirst, for the men were already riding further along the steep path, and in such circumstance he pressed his lips to the vadose wall which smacked of calcite and stone, and he drank.
At last the company reached the mountain’s peak, and they bivouacked in a fissure in the rock, without a fire that night, for their strength lay in their secrecy, and they woke before dawn, and by the time the sun rose they had descended down the mountain a quarter of its height.
The town below lay in a bed of silica, agate, yuccas, and aloe, and there was in it only one street and the leader of that company spit forward upon his horses, and he beat their flanks with a tawse riddled with glass shards. There were upon the horses’ flanks the scars of many beatings, and the animals screamed beneath that taxing thong. The burin acted now as an anchor by which to keep the animals from stumbling down the hill, for the heavy cart that the captain sat upon threatened at all times to overtake the animals from behind and to run them down, and so it would have if that great implement were not being dragged behind. The cart was loaded with the tools of miners: dynamite, powder, torches, picks, mattocks; and the weapons of fell armies: rifles, revolvers, grenades, machetes, bullets, shells, and even a chipped scimitar from God knows where. The town which lay at the foot of the mountain had by now onlookers filtering into the streets, and upon seeing the company in the mountains descending appointed a manciple to coordinate weapons and to revet the bank. A townsman glassed the party with binoculars, observing in that gruesome congress its cynosure and the wagon that he sat upon, and drawing his hand upon whiskers more salt than pepper, remarked, If that ain’t Dylan’s gang, I’m hanged from a honey locust. And indeed as Dylan’s gang approached, the desert town assumed a sepulchral air, as the men in the town barricaded themselves inside the hastily fortified bank: a bolus of eyes peering around pillars and single shot barrels steadied upon countertops, muzzles aimed toward the bank’s locked door.
At the edge of the town, Dylan halted the men with a raised hand, and a company man unhitched the burin from the wain. He spoke to his men in a voice rasping with effort, as if he’d lost his voice in a sickness and would never regain it, No one here is getting out alive. I am the last dynast of the devil’s family, the armature of the dynamo of chaos machines, and the cholera of men. We will hang the tellers and the bankers naked and dead by their wrists to a rafter, for it is only through displays of hegemony that we can grasp dolor and sublimate it, for in violence we express our sorrow and in violence we celebrate our sorrow! At the conclusion of such rasping, the men let out a muted, ragged cheer, and Captain Dylan opened the chest upon the wagon and the men distributed among themselves weapons of war, while the captain hung grenades from rings gusseted into his jerkin and slung rifles by their straps over his shoulders and with a cocked revolver in each hand at waist level strode into town without looking back even to see if his men followed behind him or fled, and the lieutenant grasping at sticks of dynamite, for he was an admitted poor shot what with his eyes, stuffed the dynamite into the pockets of his jacket and hefted a half full keg of powder from the trove and, stowing the barrel upon his shoulder and thus armed with the explosives and feeling inside him a desiderate for wanton cruelty, he began the walk into town
Dylan’s company walked right up the main and only street.
The wind blew a hot breeze, and there were the sounds of scuffling about, of final preparations from within the bank, and a few mutterings from Dylan’s company. Dylan himself fired the first shot when the men were still some ways off from the bank, and he shot straight through the bank’s door, then ejected the spent smoking casing, and reloaded. With a whoop, the men stormed the bank, loping and shooting, and when they drew near the entrance the snipers on the rooftops began to pick them off, but Dylan’s men howled and were indomitable, and the flimsy lock upon the bank door gave way at the second shoulder thrown into it, while from inside the rifles were fired, and more of Dylan’s men were shot down like dogs.
There was a score of men inside the bank, and all were in the end beheaded and hung from their wrists naked as the captain ordered, and the vault of the bank was blasted open, and from that trove more gold and silver bars were thrown into the coffer, and a man who had lain in hiding rose above the counter suddenly, and with a single shot he terminated the life of the lieutenant and for his efforts, the townsman was hung upside-down and naked from a rafter while a company man slit his throat with a bowie knife so that the townsman’s death, among the many others, might serve as a terrible example and cautionary tale.
There were folk screaming from rooftops, and all were ignored.
Captain Dylan shut the trunk of the chest and locking it with an iron padlock bade his men to saddle up, and they did, a new man riding to the fore in replacement of the late lieutenant, this new man with a jacket whose mantle was of fox fur and he was without teeth and in such raiment he stank of something foul and wicked, and saying only very little the men beat their horses into activity and began the journey towards a distant town, their faces to the setting sun, their shadows lying long behind.
I’ve begun work on a murder mystery and industrial espionage novel. Accordingly, the old cerebrum is tracking toward the cloak-and-dagger.
Two Scornful Armies
Two scornful armies embrace in cataclysm
With death to grace their nihilism,
Like frosted roses on a cake
Like two hearts coupled just to break:
War’s inferno blurs in disinterest’s dulling prism.
The Architects of Espionage
The dour architects of espionage
With greedy eyes doth sabotage
Their own lightless souls
Their own kingdoms of coal
And raise in their place a palatial mirage.
What qualities are inborn in a spy?
A treacherous hand, a furtive eye.
Men of gnomic aspirations,
Fertile libidos, splashy libations,
But most: a fool’s insistence to die.
The Cigarettes were a hard core band full of righteous punks and rage,
The singer supported anarchy and sang it out on stage;
Lily was the drummer girl, a saucy lass in black,
She wore a fishnet pair of slacks, her thong rose out the back.
Jimmy was the trumpeter, always barefoot when he played,
Smoking reefers in the club and forever getting laid.
Molly was the bassist, she was a poet in her soul,
Writing chords and lyrics about Hell and money and control.
The city board of Farmington, a town conservative and straight
Booked The Cigarettes unwittingly for their Annual Harvest Fête,
When October came around the leaves turned orange and black,
The pumpkins ripened on their vines, the hay was heaped in stacks
Mrs. Trot put on a dress, her corset, stockings, and her hat,
And toodled out with Mr. Trot who was wearing his cravat.
On the way they met the Smiths who ran the local mill,
They were dressed in modest best, as humble as a hill.
The evening started very fair, with meats and fruits and pie,
There was cider in the goblets and a pretty autumn sky,
And then the band began to play, you could hear them from a mile:
A pounding drum, an ominous hum, the locals lost their smiles,
Then on the stage a screaming rage, as the singer yowled and croaked,
The sun went down, the lights came on, the fires flared and smoked!
The locals of Farmington were first transformed by fear,
And then they caught the wind of it and began to lend an ear!
“This band is fuckin rockin!” shrieked Mrs. Trot and threw the horns,
“Yeah, this is how we celebrate the reaper and the corn!”
And soon enough the town of Farmington said to Hell with our respect!
And threw themselves into a night of drink and dance and sex!
And every year thereafter… the townsfolk booked The Cigarettes!
There are many things that go bump in the night:
Monsters and coal stoves can cause us some fright.
There are creaky old floors and loose attic fans,
Leaves in the wind, and tumbling garbage cans.
But sometimes you’re sleeping and a missile will roar,
Like those over England in the Second World War.
And that, my darling, is when I’ll come for you,
When the night is stygian, colored deep black and dark blue,
You’ll see, my friend, by the light of a bomb,
My grin broad and lethal, my eyes full of calm,
And I’ll crook a green finger for you to come here,
And when you reach my side, then it’s Death for you, dear.
For that is my name, my ancient job, my old trade,
I’m the one who waits by the road in the glade,
I’m the one who whispers your one and true name,
The one who ignores both your money and fame,
I’m the one to watch out for, by town or by cave,
I’m the one to spirit you along to your grave.
The Disappearance of a Cat is a sestina. My dictionary defines a sestina as “a poem with six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet, all stanzas having the same six words at the line-ends in six different sequences that follow a fixed pattern, and with all six words appearing in the closing three-line envoi.”
The Disappearance of a Cat was written at a time when I was listening to a lot of David Bowie, and it was written with him (especially Ziggy Stardust) in mind. It’s about a rock star, a cat, who chooses to disappear from fame.
Red curtains billowed open for that cat;
he waltzed onto the hardwood, so loaded,
his mouth slightly ajar, green eyes sparkling,
luring us into his act—a spider
deftly beckoning, weaving to music
of his own creation, dreamy and gold.
A costume hallucinogenic and gold,
he broke out with a well hung air, that cat
mortified the wild crowds, overloaded
as we were with his glitter and sparkling
hair. He played implications of Spider
and Cherry Wolves, lost in his own music…
Is it madness? the press asked, Your music? Tell us, how do the things you touch turn gold?
He shrugged, slunk away like a peevish cat,
but turned, It’s all in how you get loaded— swig the right juice, you’ll be loved, sparkling; if not, you’ll be trite, clichéd, a spider.
And there’s nothing so lethal as spiders, save snakes, executives, and flat music- but every new enigma is choice gold.
We all dug his edgy airs, his cool-cat
Oscar Wilde imitations, stacked and loaded
as they were in packages, all sparkling
and convenient, quickly shipped to sparkling
masses and to the corporate spiders.
And everyone bought his life, his music,
his t-shirt. His album went silver, gold,
platinum; Rolling Stone begged for that cat
to pose, provocative and well loaded.
Vulgar, he said. Not a chance. But, loaded
and stoned, his agent dragged him in, sparkling
as wine, and spread him out on a spider
divan with eight purple arms, swank music
regaling him throughout. And royal gold
sashes were draped across the kingly cat.
One day he found nothing more in music-
each grain of gold vanished, nothing sparkling
left. And he disappeared with it, that cat.
I’m sick today, my throat is red;
I’m sick today, I’ll stay in bed.
My body’s sore, I don’t feel right
I sweated through the endless night.
I’m sick today, I think I’ll die.
I’m sick today, this is goodbye.
I feel all achey, my head’s not straight.
My body’s stopped, my brain is late.
Thanks for the Get Wells and your smiling face;
I need no soup; I’m a hopeless case.
Thank heaven for my pillow, and thank heaven for bed,
I’ll lay in mine until I am dead.
Then you can put me in the coffin,
And lower me down,
My friends will weep,
When I’m in the ground
Where I’ll be amongst the spiders and ticks,
The worms and beetles and… Oh! I am sick.
The Williams host a fine dinner party, but a monster shows up uninvited, wearing a tuxedo and monocle.
A fine party was thrown at the Williams’ home,
And the guests they all wore their best.
Lily had come with her hair in a bun,
A tennis bracelet, and a brooch at her breast.
And Cindy’s diamonds did shine,
While her emeralds looked fine,
And the gentlemen wore cuff links and vests.
But of all the attendees who came,
One was not quite the same—
He stood out from the rest of the crowd.
He wore a suit (that is true),
And he had polished his shoes—
But it wasn’t his clothes that stood out…
He was a good nine feet tall,
And nearly as wide as the hall…
With a face like a tyrannosaur!
He was mottled and scaly,
His white eyes glimmered palely,
And on his sharp teeth were remnants of gore!
Mrs. Williams she said,
“Now I may be misled…”
(Here she gave her husband a forward shove)
“But you should tell him, my love,
That although we’re delighted,
This fellow has not been invited,
And this party is just not for him.
And if he’s aggrieved,
Well, firmly ask him to leave,
And tell him we’re sorry, but there’s been a mistake.”
So Mr. Williams approached the stranger and said,
“Good evening, my name is Fred,
But then Fred stopped himself there…
Because the monster gave a menacing glare,
And Fred’s heart dropped in his chest for a mile
Before he steadied himself and put on a diffident smile.
“Ahem! My friend!” Fred began again,
As he puffed his chest and sucked his gut in,
“Well, I see that you have six arms!
And that’s just one of your charms—
For at the end of your arms there are claws,
And razor sharp teeth in your crocodile jaws!”
At that the monster gave a broad grin,
That creased his pebbly skin.
Then the monster looked through his monocle,
That made his eye seem maniacal,
And he took his top hat off his head.
And wouldn’t you know it,
But there were two antennae and so it,
Seemed he had already heard everything that Mrs. Williams had said.
The monster said, “I hope you won’t fret,
If I’m not ready to leave just quite yet,
Because the reason I’ve come,
Is to feast upon some
Of the guests whom I have just met!”
Then the monster flexed his great chest,
And the muscles burst out of his vest
Revealing skin that was like a dinosaur’s!
There was screaming and wailing amidst his terrible roar,
As the monster broke from his formal wear,
He commenced to rip and to tear
The doors from the walls
The ceilings and halls,
And to destroy everything that was in sight
He ate up Mrs. Williams,
And her diamonds worth millions,
And then he disappeared into the night.
When the dust cleared from the raid
And all the guests stood afraid
One man stood up and began to proclaim,
“Well, Mrs. Williams she was a fine host,
And so I propose a fine toast,
Of her finest and Frenchest champagne!”
And so the glasses were raised
And the revelers continued on in their ways,
Drinking and dancing that night.
For it’s better to stay up,
Through the small hours and sup,
Than to try to sleep while you’re frozen with fright!
Two skateboarders ate a pizza pie
While switch smithing at Hollywood High.
They got switch feebles; they got nollie tres;
They got onions and tomatoes and peppers for days…
Chris was wearing black, and Lux was wearing pink,
Chris he had the piercings, and Lux he had the ink…
Chris he frontside flipped it, laid down a Muska hammer,
The cops showed up, and they hauled them to the slammer.
Well, the pizza it got lonely, it was chillin in the box,
It stood up on its crust, said, “I feel as burly as an ox!”
The pizza looked around through its pepperoni eyes,
And the folks who saw it standing up were taken by surprise!
The pizza took a handful of melted mozzarella
And styled it like the haircut of one very sick fella—
At the tip of its slice was a cheese mohawk,
And the pizza swaggered and it staggered down the L.A. block.!
The pizza gave a knuckle bump of crushed red pepper
To the homeys and the players, the pimps and high steppers!
The girls smelled its fine aroma on the September breeze,
Said, “I want all of that, without the calories!”
Well the slice kept on walkin Highland Avenue
Said, “I’ll stop and Dave and Buster’s, and there I’ll grab a brew.”
So he waltzed on in to the restaurant,
And a fellow looking down said, “This is what I want!”
Then he picked up and ate the slice of funky pizza.
Here are three limericks–dark, grim, and surprising–to enrich your Sunday.
The Bright Butterfly
There once was a bright butterfly,
Who made cheerful the air of the sky,
Three wicked children of kings,
Tore off its fair wings,
Though not even they could ever say why.
The Pennsylvanian-Era Pig
There once was an archaeological dig
On which they found a Pennsylvanian pig
They said How bizarre! This pig is too early by far!
So they baked it and ate it with figs!
The Violent Boy
There once was a violent boy
Who thought the world was only his toy
He began every fight,
And made girls weep from his spite,
And he grew into an old man with no joy.
This poem tells of the repellent (but true) origins of the wax that Madame Tussauds uses in its wax museum’s sculptures.
Madame Tussauds has kept a revolting secret for years—
They harvest their wax from children’s ears!
Now, I’m sorry if the truth has jellied your knees.
It’s disgusting, I know.
But that is why Madame Tussaud’s must go
To such lengths to say their wax comes from bees!
Now, the waxman will sneak into a child’s room,
With a silver speculum and a small spoon,
While the child lies deep in sweet dreams.
This waxman will creep very near,
Insert the instrument deep in the ear,
Then spoon the wax out as if it were cream!
When Tussauds first get the wax,
It is as gold-brown as flax,
And they must store it well out of the light.
So they hide it deep in dark caves,
And far underground in fake graves,
So the wax stays in endless night!
And by the time Tussauds brings the wax out,
It has become as treacly as grout,
And they must pour it into enormous glass jars.
Here the stuff sits,
As wax sculptors spoon out small bits
To make their models of stars!
Here is a blank verse poem about a man walking down the path of life, with Death always trundling along a few steps behind.
Well, I walk hand-in-hand with Life,
And Death walks a few steps behind,
And wherever I go, and wherever I lead,
Death is sure to follow.
So I had a few words a few years ago,
With that reaper known as Death.
I said, “So long as you’re coming wherever I go,
I’ll go wherever I want.”
He said in reply, “That’s a very fine view,
Just keep in mind, my friend:
When your time comes,
I’ll take you away,
You cannot run too far or too fast.”
So I nodded and considered,
And I went on my way.
And Death walked a few steps behind.
This is a poem about Tim, a baby tiger at the zoo, whose stripes all fall off when he rubs against his water trough.
Tim the Tiger was born at the zoo,
With a trait that caused a hullabaloo:
When the cat rubbed against his water trough,
Every one of his stripes fell off!
And the baby tiger was left all orange.
The stripes lay like leaves on the ground,
Fluttering in the wind, with rustling sounds.
So the zoo director said to glue the stripes back on,
In the depths of night, before the dawn,
So the baby tiger wouldn’t be all orange.
Well the night that night was a deep, dark black,
When the keepers re-adhered the stripes to Tim’s back.
And the baby cub thought it a very fine game,
Because they petted and stroked him and said his name.
For the baby tiger never knew that he was all orange.
So the keepers worked by Orion’s dull shine,
And, finishing, found they’d made an odd design!
For without the aid of their trusted sight,
They’d glued the stripes from left to right!
And they’d left Tim’s tail completely orange.
Well the people came to the zoo next day,
And they admired the very stylish way,
Tim the Tiger seemed to stand
With his stripes in a horizontal band,
And a tail that was entirely orange.
And although the zoo director was raging mad,
The keepers they were not too sad,
For they said, “Well, if he thinks that Tim has caused a stink—
Just wait till he discovers that our penguin’s pink!”
And over time the stripes fell off, and Tim was left all orange.
Here are three strange and funny limericks. One about two young lovers, another about a group of “Pizzanistas,” and a third about a green iguana who smokes marijuana.
Two Young Lovers
There once were two young lovers
Who disappeared each night under covers
They’d reappear at the dawn
With all the night gone
And wonder whether she’d be a mother.
There once were some rebel Pizzanistas
Who were as zealous as the Sandinistas
These rebels put their pepperoni instead
On the underside of the bread,
And called themselves pizza artistas!
The Green Iguana
There once was a green iguana
Who loved to smoke marijuana
When he smiled his lips curled,
When he smoked the smoke furled,
And he lived in a state of nirvana.