You May

You may know our secret history but not
its secret plot, our words though what we say
no longer lives in them—so close to see, so
close to not. You may know us if you find
beneath knotted jungle our dilapidated
temples and winged bridges, our fortresses
with gates of woven iron, but will you see
in our universe of slide the places where
we found our mortality? Unknowable
now those complex scrims so like the real thing
they thrilled us from afar, or our enemies,
soft-footed, but unable to resist comment
on their stealth, coming in loud as the geese
that flew in from our fairytales, their burdened
skirts and later immolation. But still
to be known the umbral armature of
last words and last things, and the monster that
lives along the river in whose shadow
children, and sometimes lovers, disappear.

 

 

 

 

Alas the captain

Alas the captain
the last late asteroid flies past
that swarm of clicking drives us.
Anything to save the herd. He says.
If the core overheats.
Bypass the vessel and all its vessel-like,
retrofit the avatars.
We do the future.
We made Mars.
Our ray guns light up
while the reptoids.
An enormous hole on deck five.
But our outfits more stylish than.
We are the partial humans,
We have names, we weld,
we meld, we hang out in wormholes
and hotels. We love tubed nutrients,
our plasma bomb.
Inside outsiders
we’re an underground.
Not lightning on the horizon.
Phosphorescent
antennae anomalies, warheads
and pranks, institutions
and airy boats the size of
dinosaurs blocking out.
Breathing up.
Separated we guess
the other’s mind. The engineer
has moved the plate,
our window not a window
but a gate.

Zelda Forgives You and Understands

noaa tornado 1 mod 1 bw

I forgive you for asking me to drive your car to the shop to have the brakes adjusted and neglecting to tell me that the brakes were like gone and that shifting into second gear would put the car into reverse.

I forgive you for trashing my turntable and my easel and my guitar and miscellaneous other gear that offended you for no other reason than that it was mine.

I forgive you for what I discovered the night the ice storm downed power lines and trees and unleashed a torrent of pigs from a farm down the road who rooted up every bulb I’d ever planted, something I could perhaps have curtailed if I could have seen them with a flashlight instead of only hearing them. It wasn’t just that the batteries in the flashlights were dead but that even when I located the good batteries I couldn’t find a good battery.

Here’s some friendly information for your new life with your new wife: putting dead batteries back in with the good batteries will not recharge them no matter how many dead batteries you try it with.

I forgive you for pissing in the cat box when you were drunk–I understand you just needed to mark your territory.

I forgive you for not even calling me when I was in the hospital, and I understand that you probably thought Continue reading

Bottom Baboon

single hatpin bw mod 6

One had to wash up after meetings just to feel human again.

The unit boss was a stodgy little thing with a closet full of personae. There was the prissy schoolmarm persona concocted for most of the email she sent us, though “sent” doesn’t convey the way she issued it forth, sometimes in wave after wave, as if she’d been saving it up. That little persona sometimes held hands with another one, a coquette who wore fancy hats and longed to be admired, and there was another one she seemed to imagine as a Victorian woman of letters with a long, slow hatpin and a lot of time on her hands. Her missives seemed to assume that we were pets of a sort–often bad pets–with no lives of our own, and thus always interested in hers.

My Dears,
Autumn is upon us, and I have yet to take my cozy winter shawls out and my somewhat trendy though purposeful rainboots still sit in the back of my closet, a bit dusty they are, though everything else in my tiny closet is neat as a pin awaiting the munificent and beguiling change in weather, which seems to be arriving sooner than I’d anticipated this year unlike last year when it arrived with the Perseids, those glistening ladies who swarmed in last November’s sky. I watched them from my sturdy balcony, drinking the special tea that an adoring friend sends me from China, accompanied by my faithful Esmerelda who could not see the magical fireworks of nature in the velvety dark sky because her eyesight, alas, is failing although she still greets me with excited little leaps and yips of joy whenever I return home from work, which, as you know, is often late in the evening because my duties as your leader are so numerous and so time-consuming . . .

You had to scroll through lots of that kind of thing to parse out or get to whatever it was that you needed to get to in addition to admiring her person and enjoying the glimpses she set forth of her fascinating life.

. . . Just as season follows upon season, monthly reports are due on the last workday of each month—that’s the last workday, NOT the last day of each month. Unlike the season, which seems to be arriving unseasonably sooner than even I had anticipated, your monthly reports are sometimes arriving at the last minute or, unfortunately–dare I say it?–late. Some of you have of late–no pun intended, tee hee–been forgetting that when paperwork is not tendered forth at its appointed time, all is not right with the world even if the seasons go on, wistfully, perhaps, in their fleeting and inimitable if somewhat relentless and casual way without our notice. If you cannot submit required paperwork when it is due, I shall have to take the unfortunate and regrettable step of docking your otherwise generous pay, and I shall have to go out of my way to do so, or rather, I shall have to ask the Dean to go out of his way to do so. Nothing could make me less happy than taking such drastic action, and I’m sure you do not want to make your ever faithful and humble leader, me, unhappy.
Cheers!!!

She may have actually thought that we were grateful for her personal ruminations and thought them charming and witty. And some—perhaps many– of us may have. But I always felt as if I’d been pinned down and slapped around. After the first year of it, just seeing it waiting there to be opened made my lesser self run all around in my mind slamming doors and kicking children.

Of course that may have been because by then I had gotten to know the constant behind her miscellaneous personae, that unpredictable and snake-mean little person who was endlessly busy not so much being the boss as showing us that she was the boss and nobody was the boss of her. When she lobbed email at us or corralled us into the protracted performances she called meetings, the several fancy fussy little beings boiling away inside her couldn’t quite agree on why we needed to be bothered but all agreed that we should be bothered often. And at length. Some of us more than others.

Tatting away at her computer expanded opportunities to circulate and bestow her queenliness. The missives constructed for mass consumption (unlike those aimed at individuals and sent by regular mail and sometimes even registered mail to contaminate your home) always started with “dears” or “my dears” or “dear ones” and ended with “cheers,” words that began to look unsavory or even threatening when one paused to reflect, as I often did, on the contempt in that familiarity, or paused to reflect, as I often did, on the fact that she enjoyed having everyone in thrall and that she really could, and did, punish anyone who didn’t enact the appropriate excitement upon seeing her perambulations through the cubicles or seeing her planted firmly and troll-like in the nearest possible exit.

She had an unerring instinct for primitive–and very effective–forms of intimidation. At some point even before I was singled out for special treatment, I realized that she didn’t really smile: she bared her teeth. She wasn’t quite as good at the subtleties of impression management as she probably imagined herself to be. Everyone pretended not to notice, though no one should be faulted for that. If she thought you saw it, you yourself would be in for the kind of relentless micromanaging that makes it difficult to get any work done, the kind that had nothing really to do with your work and everything to do with her compulsion to tell you over and over that she could do anything she wanted to you and there was nothing you could do to stop it.

The fiefdom she maintained needed helpers of course, and she was a tireless recruiter. She’d beckon someone into her office or catch them off guard in the supply closet and in a flimsy approximation of casual chitchat she’d bring someone’s name up and slide it around in some faint praise before tarring it into place with some drummed up flaw or offense, and if you refused to participate in this, well, there were punishments. One must admit that she had a talent–though perhaps it was just a lot of practice–for turning innocuous or even good things into bad things. By the time she was advanced to a sort of permanent overlord position, she had turned a group of amiable and otherwise intelligent people, some of whom might even have been thought of as one’s friends, into a mob.

It’s hard to sit in a roomful of colleagues most of whom will no longer even look you in the eye and to know your part is to be the baboon at the bottom and to know that part of their part is not to be the baboon at the bottom by helping her make you the baboon at the bottom. But what’s even harder, perhaps, is to catch sight of your own face over the sink in the women’s room—one had to wash up after meetings just to feel human again—to catch sight of your own face and to know that if you didn’t know what it was like to be the bottom baboon, you yourself might be one of them, sitting in the smug seat of the sycophant, enjoying the high end of the pay scale.

Close Enough

The nudibranch family two blocks away
answers a mighty summons from the past,
desire for love like a roof overhead, light like

light from stars long dead, like the afterlife
of your feelings now you know. There is
no god of creatures, only rocks and rain,

no thought of you in any mind, just static
and a random cat escaped from physics,
rolling in sunshine, close enough to joy.

Maps

Our first maps are just abstract things:
we center what we know while nether regions
fall off edges, or countries of imagination,
blown out of all proportion, squat
invitingly unlimned, cramped in blank corners
populated with cities of monsters or mothers.

Later but still early on
uncharted territories occupy our minds
while we are caught in well-known grids
merely travelling on a dirty cross-town bus
or maybe driving late at night, alone,
not going anywhere, just not going home.

And later still, when ordinary life
has permanently locked its lock,
our dreams are full of fascinating
trips through stygian regions
where other people like the ones we know
are crucified or slowly roasted on the shores

of heaving rivers while we glide cautiously past
in makeshift boats paddled by guides who say,
“Don’t look now, Dreamer:
that will never happen to you.”
Then we discover it has already happened to us
in heartbreaking in and outside ways.

Finally we find ourselves pointblank
living lives we thought we’d never live
and where we really are is where we’re lost
as if another had mapped our lives instead of us.
Usurped by this strange self, we try hard to believe
that what we really are is unsurveyed.

Days Out

Three days out we lost the steering
soon after we fell ill:
it ate up all the edges on the map.

The boss locked down to scribble
crazy snares and lob them out
for stumbles in our way.

Our instruments failed in pairs–
some kind of voodoo someone said
but we were past remarking

so much was so the same.
She ditched our last provisions
then beat us with her cane.

 

 

Mind the Blanks 2

. . . a story to play with–the story emerges from what the reader’s mind does with the blanks when the reader is reading. No rules–it’s playtime.

Preface to the First Edition

Some ________ are more _______ than others. Take, for instance, the ________. Seldom ________ in more ________climes, various species of ________—the ________, the ________, the ________ among them—thrive from ________to ________.

One day ________ brought ________up in a most unusual context. We were discussing ________ when ________ suddenly began wondering aloud if ________ still _______ on the ________ river. I said, “Well, of course,” but ________ drolly said, “Don’t be too sure.” and then explained that ________ often ________ when ________.

________ told me that in the past ten years, ________, several ________ had ________ in ________. The situation had become so ________ that the government of ________ had mandated that ________. Notwithstanding a few ________, the local populace responded with ________, going so far as to ________ lesser-known ________ in both summer and winter. The effect this had on the ________ population was ________, and ________ were hastily called in to ________.

While ________ was telling me this, I had been ________. I started to ________ but thought better of it. “Surely you don’t mean that ________ ________,” I said. “Oh yes,” ________ said; “They even ________ ________ .”

When ________ left ________that day, I felt ________, but I shrugged it off as my usual ________. But that night I dreamed I was in ________, surrounded by ________ and pleading with ________ to ________ while ________ ________. I awoke so ________ and ________ that I couldn’t ________, and I spent the rest of the night ________.

The next morning I began to ________, and by the following week I had gone to ________ where I was greeted with ________ and began the ________ journey, a record of which now ________ before you.

Rue

No news here since the last famished
liberation, I’ve settled in silence
and the odd letter, embroidery
no one can see. When all you wanted
was bright bonnets and quaint skirts,
you got a skint knee and rue
prim as trimmed whiskers
to pass on to me along with
the magic of wash-and-wear.
Now we know you were the brave one,
now we know what that cost.
I’ve not forgotten how you sewed
my clothes–a velveteen collar on
a little coat, a flowery button on
a sleeve–or how your mother
made a quilt from what was left
of all you’d made for me. If only
you’d taught me gratitude and
how to scry unspoken expectation,
I’d not be so sorry now for all
the things that then I didn’t know.