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Splinter

splinter

A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh
Like any black worry aching the blood,
A fevered heart in dead February. Mud
And wood are piled as winter winds engage
In mortal combat with fields of white, clash
In dull retort with beds of wilted sage.

As hands are steeled to helve each ringing log,
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh,
Like ironwood and oak. What April wish
Can lick its roots with rain and shape the woods
To fly once more? Each leaf, a violent flag,
Slivers sunlight into a thousand gods.

Yard by acre, the grub denies the plow
Its seam in spring, but quick as silverfish
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh.
Each swollen sty keeps it from summer’s eye:
Did not the soot-grey sage die to know
The shed secrets that hurt seasons deploy?

Now in woodsheds, those secrets are kept locked
As hostages of summer drying out.
Agonies of decay never forget
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh
To vanquish the epoch and moment clocked
In concentric rings counting down to ash.

So summer falls and winter’s meat is fresh
For death—but first, autumn’s echo so sounds
Its drums from trunk and branch, and sun redounds
To arctic shadows drawn from night just as
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh.
The whetstone sings its dirge in orchard grass.

Plucked as a loom, the bruised lilacs withdraw,
Unraveling a spool of leaves and blooms
Now bruised and left for beetles, mushrooms—
As forest floor enfolds the underbrush
And sawdust spits at the toothy bucksaw,
So splinters tend to surface deep from flesh.

Five Tanka for Creation

800px-Flammarion

Ὅταν οὖν τι σῶμα κατὰ μηδὲν ἐξαλλάττηται
τῶν προϋπαρχόντων, ἡσυχάζειν αὐτό φαμεν…. -Galen

1
Photosynthesis
Before there was anything
To kiss or embrace,
Before our bed was warm with
Your soil or my seed — hunger.

2
Caress of plasma,
Hydrogen and helium —
Touches my face as
My giddy hands graze your thighs,
Heaven’s dizzying columns.

3
Tectonic spangle
Of plates on the lithosphere;
Your soft surf of breasts
Against my trembling shoreline;
You alone, tsunami’s love.

4
The original
Hertzsprung-Russell diagram,
This random order
Constellates your dark features;
Your fuse burns a comet’s tail.

5
Trout scales, clade branches,
Ascend in rainbow patterns —
Your body pulses
Shallows beneath coral cliffs;
Your eyes glitter dark, seaward.

6
Eukaryotic—
The foundation of all flesh,
Dante’s (h)O-M-O
Draws me to your deepest earth —
Creative, an act of love.

7
The cool part of day,
A sort of post-coital
Tristesse setting in;
For you walk in my garden—
So perfect, so incomplete.

Corporation Sole

fisher_king

The river that’s flowing before me now
Pretends to understand its lonely brother Styx.
It is October time, a time of myths
And stranger maths
Than summers know
Or passing springs can bring to sum.
The leaves surrender to a gathered text of sticks
Retailed for fuel and some

Forgotten task that lazes on the banks,
Awaiting frost’s soliloquy of spears and blades.
My whining spill of spooling line
Upsets a loon —
It glides and banks
A wake upon the distant shore.
Old grandsire Proteus appears at last, a blaze
Who builds his kindle, sure

Enough, from limb and branch of weeping pines.
The shivering fish that shake away my hook reform
Beneath the surface. Scaled with dusk,
They catch the disc
Of moon that spins and pines
For autumn’s tomb. A china plate
That shatters trees and stars, this lunar form
Resolves to hold the plait

Of Pitys’ hair the way that Pan had sighed
To grasp her battered body Boreas had thrown
In lust. So raw, his breath
Now fits its breadth
Along the side
Of evening’s flesh. Its chill now combs
My fire. I edge myself against this flaming throne
As ancient winter comes

To claim my blood as corporation sole.
The world’s collateral is not enough and preys
Upon my wasted groin.
(What god will groan
To claim my soul?)
With empty cup in hand, I wait
Between the river’s deep and castle keep. Each prays
To lift this golden weight.

What came in the mail

Scan 1

Another cold spring again this year…

 

John Barleycorn in Rags

john barleycorn

He is John, man in ragged overcoat
Long to withered knees
Manbeard made of clipped leaves and twigs

Man with face of rough bark
John who walks Saturday-night stupor
Through sibilant rings

Of maple, elm and linden leaves,
Swiftly satyr-dancing
Into crackling flower of fire

In peripatetic permutations, cough
Of dry staccato vespers, leaf to stone,
Each skeletal ballet whispers

He who is barrowed by mottled stile,
Stilled and waked in copper kettle,
Kegged and bunged for cooling cellar

In hoarse tones violent riots of autumn
Become seasonal rites trans-
Corporeal, quiet in slow burn

He is John of the demijohn
Bottle god of good folk,
Fanatic familiar of flagon, flask and firkin

His limber limbs are all consumed,
Sap-drunk as wasp and hornet
Dry and empty as cracked bobbin,

His spirit tumbles leaves down empty lanes
And empty well; he is spirit in wind,
He makes spirits from color, heat and motion

He is tall shoots and thick roots,
A shock of fruited stalks between
Breaks from his loamy scalp.

His anatomy taps boot heels,
Claps coarse palms. He, mate of dance,
Husband of hilarity, spouse of song.

Brittle brown leaves, fallen angels
Dancing down cold swift winds
Hymns that scrape, swirl and click

And always he must come along,
Always feed fire’s fermenting flower –
He empties nectar from his eye

He is John, and John must die.

Korrektiv goes to the Jesuits…

Unknown

Here.

A Valediction Against Eloquence

artillery

         We cannot know how much we learn
         From those who never will return,
         Until a flash of unforeseen
         Remembrance falls on what has been.
          – Edward Arlington Robinson

I find temerity an easy thing,
A second cousin to that bravery
Which soldiers, priests and changeless change
All seem to learn by heart, to hear and see
In each their several works – the deafening
     Of cannons, bells and clocks. Each counts. Each counts for me.

The almanac’s perennial report
Indicts the dates of E. A. Robinson,
Supposed locus for my own mortal tort –
A figure slated: 1869
To 1935. What years are mine?
     These sixty-six, a vectored fix to spec to span

Such integers? Let fire for mine commence
By azimuth with ticking, tolling tongue;
Arrange bouquets of fusillade, bomb blast
And dry percussion; rip a canyon mouth
From mountainside. What bombast can outlast
     Artillery’s timely canon of eloquence?

Drinking in Bed with You and Lucinda Williams

lucinda_williams

Our bed’s been drinking, spinning morning dry
As Lucinda pours her loud blood in song
From whiskey bottles, singing about why
Both love and coffee scald, both black and strong
As night – but sunlight lays its warning blade
Across your tapered thighs. There, spider veins
Put paid to what our nudity has made –
Now flush with alcohol – the blush that stains
My middle-aged desires. Your rounded hips
Are building flesh to slender curves; these rise
As, rolling on your side, you bring your lips
To mine and cut the lines that held my eyes.
The spirits, going sober, speak to bone:
We limp through love; you reconnect the phone.

Tractatus at a Benedictine Monastery Near Huttledorf: A Propositional Sonnet with Phenomenal Lemma

brother rabbit duck

         But primordial life, wild life striving to erupt into the open – that is lacking.

The world is everything that is the case.
    So garden shears will comprehend the axe.
    I bend at first, then kneel to ask this rose
What case exists as mere atomic facts.
    I feel the soil. The sun is kind to beat
    Upon my backside – meaning what it meant:
The logical picture of facts is thought,
And thought’s proposition, significant.
    Do roots thus know the bloom? Does eye thus see
    Itself? Does work thus play like rose with worm ?
All basic functions of veracity
Can pattern truth to serve the general form:
        Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must
        Be silent: worm to rose and light from dust.

Snowman

snowman poem pioc

TO ANASTASIA

…the nothing that is.

The head’s the first to go, defaced
In image, mind…. The sloping sphere
Of snow will melt away and, traced
Like shade, remark when now and here
Will shift like future winds that turn
Against themselves. The fastening
Of household objects will suborn
A child’s emotions, meant to sting
Like death. Unmittened hands will grip
The snow like icicles against
The spine – a patient morphine drip.
The future tense, the coming sensed,
Deployed in perfect case and form:
So death will come – and sun will warm.

Rotund pectoral planetoid of snow,
This middle section sculpted by hands
That lend you their formal warmth, do you know
At present what of time your image lends
To winter’s metaphysics? Only now
Exists for you, the beating heart you have,
Or seem to have, can only live and grow
More frigid. Tell us what it’s like to cleave
These moments undefined, escaping, lost
Yet not, the snow that falls the same that fell
Or waits to fall. So winter goes…. You trust
Each falling flake of snow is there to tell
That what you find is all you see here: scraps
And fragments buttoned down with beer caps.

At bottom, earth and other elements have mixed
To bring this work of art to light of day, the end
Of every poet’s work: to show the past, perplexed,
Untested, strange as snow that falls before the blind:
And so you stood, as fixed as history or news
That lasts a day, but either way, a monument
To words, a selfish cenotaph to time. The clues
You left behind were numerous and adamant
With meaning; numinous and adequate to speak
For tiny hands from whom you took your purposed shape –
To signal life on earth, to breathe, behind the break
Of mind and body, sentience. With no escape
From knowing, man leaves his prints everywhere to know,
Like a snowman who stands in snow despite the snow.

Marsh Pennywort*

marsh pennywort

Marsh pennywort repays in dividends
As it multiplies interest, its coin-
Rounded leaves, dangling thin purse-strings for fronds,
Supports inflation of its foreign green –
Hard currency in wetland’s liquid time,
Precious specie preponderating pond-
Economies with toad-spawned tadpole slime,
Necessarily blessed because so fecund.

Now too, the marsh will pay what seasons played,
Yet holds interest in soil across the board
While reed and rush enriched by fluid coins
Of marshy realms devalue winter’s trade.
Resplendence sees pennywort well-prepared
To issue species: nature’s greener groynes.

*Thus begins an overhauling of my Carlos Linnaeus sonnet cycle, this time in the quatrain, alas, changing out the meditations on Genesis, which ended the old versions, for a more rounded, satisfying poem. In the revision here I attempt to stay true to the poem’s own interior logic, rather than attempting to impose an arbitrary logic on the poem based on a meditations which organically has nothing to do with the plant involved. At any rate, it continues to be a work in progress…

A few things to know about the Marsh Pennywort – while mildly invasive, it also does a good job of preserving marshlands by strengthening the soil with its root systems. Also, a groyne, as you may or mayn’t know, is a man-made jetty-like structure used to control shore erosion. Suffice it to say that the pun on the word proved irresistible.

Maidenhair Tree

gingko print

Fühlst Du nicht an meinen Liedern,
Daß ich eins und doppelt bin? – Goethe

Maidenhair tree, you living fossil (also “Ginkgo”) –
Around tomorrow’s roots you grow from ancient days
Implying leaves evolved from petals each time they blow,
Dynastic in brilliant hues. In fan shapes you praise
Early autumn’s fanfare – flower house fandango
Neglecting neither flesh nor mind. You hide to show
High courtship with seasoned arts learned in woman’s ways –
As blushing bush will show to hide what loosened stays….
Informed by loneliness, your autumn-baring limbs
Release your leaves upon the cold-creek mountain air.
This plants you – orphaned phylum, species, class – and limns
Relevance to love as organic Yiji love:
Each fall you play the courtesan and let your hair
Enlighten Kingdom Earth through the pleasure that you give.

Rain and Fog and Straw and Man

Morning Fog

Like hushed antiquities ensconced in crates,
Excelsior, and mummy’s cotton gauze,
This roadside farmland holds no common cause
With time or place. A breeze investigates
The dialogue of rain and fog, yet yields
No evidence of crows nor their scarecrow,
But only emptiness in open fields
That proves a second harvest – stubbled straw.

So modern man, a target on the move,
Will enter such a landscape in his mind.
His feet will neither sound nor mark. The mist
Envelopes them, and rain is quick to drive
The point – the past erased or redefined,
Mere straw to scare the crowing nihilist.

Photosource(no relation)

Pantoum for the Fifty Percent

tom and viv
The dinner détente dies, the candles fade,
The tension mounts, a cat that climbs the stairs.
Like clowns out of step in a sad parade,
The wind and rain repeat, but no one cares.

The tension mounts. A cat that climbs the stairs
Connotes the awkward moment’s masquerade
The wind and rain repeat. But no one cares
When love grows still and breathes contagious airs.

Cannot the awkward moment’s masquerade
Expend emotion’s capital like tares
Our love still grows? To breathe contagious airs
We hum the minor chords of Scheherazade.

We spent emotion’s capital. Like tares,
The dinner détente dies. The candles fade.
We hum the minor chords of Scheherazade
Like clowns out of step in a sad parade.

Father Loisy’s Still Life with Book and Pears

loisy pioc

The search for truth is not a trade by which a man can support himself; for a priest it is a supreme peril. – Alfred Loisy

The morning sun is threading through the haze
That hangs above my head. Tobacco’s whiff
Occludes this April’s finer fragrances.
I break my fast on pears and wonder if
The foolish faith within my heart corrects
The proofs of falsehood – my grandest grazie
To God! These fondled pages – each dissects
The saints’ exquisite corpses, prima facie.

And deep in thought, I stab my cigarette
At earthenware from which I ate the fruit.
The sticky ash that crumbs and smears my plate
Evolved from gold ciborium and cruet.
And so these browning table pears don’t rot
But change, project, develop, recreate…

The Draconids

draco

FOR NORAH

And especially were we led to cultivate that discipline developed in respect to divine and heavenly things as being the only one concerned with the study of things which are always what they are…
– Ptolemy, Preface to The Almagest

My daughter’s eyes dissolve in tears that turn
Her irises to violent shades of plum.
There’s not a single star to which she’s born
But romance has its seasons – some that come
With flowers, some to desolate the heart:
For heaven knows what breaks it, either whole or part.

Perhaps she feels her orbit tilts askew,
A teen-aged Pluto – distant, unobtained…
She casts her face against the residue
Of evening light – the setting sun has gained
It’s nadir. Soon the light that sets is lost;
The sky turns dark like velvet smirched with quartzose dust.

I vanquish pedantry’s old urge and bring
My daughter out beyond the pasture wire
Where thirsty cattle crowd around a spring
Of fresh discovery. We look and stare,
Our imaginations fixed as hooves in mud
And ruminate on stars as Guernseys, grain and cud.

Thus, constellations, clusters, nebulae
Offers more than a comet’s passing peace;
Consummate wonder weaves its fabulae
Of squibs from Northern Star to Southern Cross –
And counting up, my daughter can’t recall
An integer so wholly astronomical.

Resisting words, I let night speak – or sing –
For itself, spreading starry charts before
The autumn equinox which waits to spring
October’s Draconids across the door
And sill of space, showering eternity
With falling fire at tears’ escape velocity.

Returning through the fields, my daughter stopped
To watch as deicidal Draco squirms
In polar transit. Once, Athena stripped
The worm of tooth and claw, and now he warms
His artic blood by sloughing skin for flame
(Recurring fall to fall, his scales retain his name).

Beneath this snaking string of pearls, I pray
My daughter finds each star a widow’s mite –
Beyond our reach but held within the play
Of waxing grace, a shepherd satellite
That casts its shadow on the human soul,
And governs gravity with love’s more buoyant pull.

Brushed Mohair Boyfriend Sweatshirt

brush jpg

 

Upstate, a weekend away from college,
Your roommate’s sister joined our coterie –
What boys define as men. With foliage
For fashion, the sunlight fading early
Became her figure’s fugue – so perfect, picturesque
In autumn, earthy, delicately picaresque.

The camera, tomorrow says, can’t lie:
About her marble skin, her hair a nest
Of robin’s wings – her emerald eyes rely
Upon arresting candor, prepossessed
As bees that flirt with failing thorn and dying rose –
But stuck in time, she strikes an adolescent pose.

Each minute, yesterday replies, construes
The truth of lies and strips from silks to flesh
What Madison Ave. only rues
But cannot refute. Context’s textile mesh
Imbeds in memory the silken worm of love,
But head cajoled the heart – till both could not believe

The evening air, so sharp and tang with leaves
In burning piles somewhere beyond the light
Of bonfires. Flame’s dancing logic still gives
Her face the look of truth while smoke and night
Still infiltrate her sweater’s cabled virgin wool:
It’s cold. She shivers, holds her hands in twilit fall –

And suddenly she looked at you across
The flame. You’d nursed your whisky flask to death;
Your eyes surmount their diffidence and toss
A glance her way. October steals your breath –
But dropping hands, she lets her eyes return to earth.
You wonder now what mocking god had given birth

To time and seasons. Heading back to school,
You thought about what could have been. You saw
Her once again – a final time – the cool
Of autumn giving way to winter’s raw
Emotion. Bundled up, she walked the whitened quad,
Her eyes as green as ever. Wink had passed by nod,

Your mute and shared admission fall occurred
At all. You turned to watch her slip away
Through snow that fell across the campus, blurred
Her lines, and failed to capture or portray
What, later, flying colors testified with lens
And film: that time and seasons hold no circumstance

With beauty’s rising smoke that, metal-blue,
Had veiled the milky spray of stars back then
When whiskey, fall and fire were all you knew –
Her fickle fame and fey adrenaline
Were waiting for the future, undeveloped prints
That cozened marketplace collateral. But since

That time, her rites of spring draw out modesty
In pencil skirts; her winter duffle makes
Its quilt-lined obsequies; her summers free
Bikini, brief and thong. But memory speaks
At last and turns the page to whiskey, fall and fire. You learn
For the first time: she’s autumn smoke, an ache, that burn

Of pure emotion, spilling now like ink
Across the colored capture, blotting out
The years, renewing face and form. To think
You knew her once so young. Without a doubt
Her eyes retain that fabled age of innocence –
What took J.Crew’s fall preview to experience.

What Came in the Mail

image

The latest Dappled Things.

Hmm … and what have we here … a very fine apostolic meditation ripped from the manuscript of Groundwork! (coming soon — and we’re not kidding this time! honest!  — from Korrektiv Press).