An Almost-Prize-Winner available online now

The winners and finalists for the Nancy D. Hargrove Editor’s Prize are available to read now at Jabberwock Review’s website. They have been made available as a preface to the print issue releasing next month. Please make your way over and check out the great work from the writers. My poem “How to know if God exists” is a finalist, a piece that relates poignantly to the anniversary of September 11th, 2001. Please check it out and let me know what you think. And congratulations to the winners and other finalist, whose poems are all excellent.

coversum16

A poem about the end of the world

I wanted to protect you

I wanted to protect you from death
and so I lied
about the boy in the casket
who was anything but sleeping.
I wanted to protect you from violence
and so I bought a gun
to keep beneath my mattress.

To protect you from heartache
I said your Yorkie ran away
after I washed the dirt
from his grave down the drain.
To protect you from adulthood
I hid your gifts in the attic
until Christmas morning,
and took a million photos
of your joyful face
to keep you the same age.

I wanted to protect you from the elements,
the heat, the cold, the rain,
and so, come summer, our AC would run nonstop,
while the winter would fill our lungs with woodsmoke
and my hands with the callused work of cutting.

I wanted to protect you from apathy,
so I nurtured your every whim,
speaking with invisible friends,
naming the grasshoppers you caught in the lawn,
hanging your crude drawings of houses
under magnets on the fridge.

I wanted to protect you from disease,
and so you’re now afraid of needles,
despite my promises of ice cream.
I wanted to protect you from fear
so I said, “Of course, monsters aren’t real.”

I wanted you to be safe,
to know love like a blanket
fresh from the wash,
to know each living thing
as a tooth on a cog, amid the wheels
and gears of a grand machine we’ll never see.

But I was wrong
to try and protect you from this world,
to think you’d never know the itch
and swell of its sting,
something as simple as flesh
serving the purpose of food
for the microcosm beneath.

Poem responding to Colin Kaepernick controversy:

Star-spangled sinner
~for C.K.

O, say can you see the bodies in the streets?
Red planets rising through draped white sheets.
Sold out stadiums still stand and applaud,
still hold hands over pride-swole hearts,
while the homeless hunt half-eat hotdogs
from dumpsters
and beg for change in parking lots.

Is this too preachy for you?
America the beautiful bowl of bloody piss?
America the drone strike bomber of the innocent?
America, where a busted tail light
is a cancer gone undiagnosed.
Where they watch hundreds drown
in capsized boats just off the Turkish coast
and do nothing except turn up their nose.
America, the Christ-like Nation of narcissists.

When were we ever great?
When we split the backs of the blacks we owned?
When we drove the Natives from their homes,
into cages, whiskey bottles and worthless fields?
When we were the first to drop the Bomb?
When we told women they couldn’t decide
if part of themselves should live or die,
who could buy land, who could vote?
When we poisoned our own water supplies
and left the destitute in their slums?

If you want me to stand and sing your song,
give me something to sing for!
The redwoods are burning, soon to be gone.
The tundras are thawing, soon to be gone.
A state of emergency is more than a flood.
America is dying.
Are you still in love?

colin k

Elegy for Gene Wilder on the day of his death

For Gene

Say goodbye to childhood,
Goodbye imagination.
Say goodbye to whimsy
Goodbye, gold ticket sun.

Purple velvet, curly cue grin
mania embodied wide blue eyes
shining like wet silk,
Jack without his candle stick.

Technicolor or black and white,
scenes spilled over with vibrant life,
a dance, a soliloquy, a turn of the cheek,
laughter rushing forward like flooded creek.

Want to change the world?
It’s as easy as lighting a fuse
or a lantern in an unlit room,
as easy as closing your eyes
to the hammers of doom.

For Gilda, for the faces awash in light,
for the ether that swims betwixt our lives,
for the river of silver streaked bone dust chimes
filling our veins with ticking time.

For the children, for the never born,
for the geezers struggling to hold their form,
for the quiet, for the obscene, the uncertain
and the lost, for the dreamers dreaming again.

Say goodbye to childhood,
Goodbye imagination.
Say goodbye to whimsy,
Goodbye gold ticket sun.

gene

A new poem about the Democratic nominee

The first
~for HRC

The first woman could talk to snakes,
she accepted their gifts
and made love to knives.

The first woman cut a hole
in the ceiling that wasn’t there
with a diamond large as hope.

She pulled herself up
by her bootstraps
and stood on the other side

of the sky, filled with balloons
and music and little girls’ eyes
swollen with tearful pride

at the thought of selling out
to an idea, becoming
nothing but a box to check,

a hero in a white pant suit
stalling the moon
with promises of an endless night,

and her fingers crossed
for more time
to win the love of the undecided.

New publishing news

I had some work appear this month at the online journal In Between Hangovers. They published three of my poems, which can be found online now in their archives. I also have two poems forthcoming from their sister publication, Your One Phone Call. Many thanks to the staff for sharing some of my work.

In my other endeavor, the new Murder of Crow Hollow 19 released this month on the 19th. It features stunning work from eleven talented poets. Please take a moment to read through the issue,and if anything moves you,feel free to let the artist know about it.Everyone could use a little more encouragement in their lives.

 

ch19 m3

A poem about grief

The last elegy

What can my words do?
Not bring men back to life.
Not make rose petals
fly from the mouths of barrels.
Not erase the myriad ripples
of time’s relentless consequence.

Love and beauty still exist
though it gets harder to see
through the haze of fear.
I’m privileged to suggest
that the world moves
regardless of man,
that self-preservation is trivial
in a cosmos of unknowns.

When you feel helpless
look to the stars
and remember how dark
the night is with eyes closed.
When you feel helpless
put your cheek to the ground
and breathe deep the absence
of murder and malice,
the earthly scents of soil and stone.

We all die alone.
What are we doing in the in between?
I want to believe
that people are good,
that these deaths matter
to everything that comes after.
I want to believe
that blood spilled in the streets
comes at a cost
never truly paid.

These lines drawn between us
disappear when viewed from space,
just as we disappear,
and only the lights in our makings
can be seen like distant suns
and the hope that light
is what we all eventually become.

My Fourth of July poem

America the quiet

America, you’re not so beautiful anymore.
Your mop water runs red,
bags under your eyes
so blue they’re almost black,
but at least your skin is mostly white.
America, every day is your birthday.
Every meal is a birthday cake.
Your waist is shameless in its waste.
It’s okay. You’re lovable
even when you’re unfuckable.

Did you hear the fireworks?
The neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking.
Ever wonder how many gunshots
go unnoticed in the noise,
how many bodies get found
days after the party subsides?
America, your breath reeks of beer,
and they named it after you.
It’s okay. A car crash won’t kill an idea.

America, I’ve stopped loving you,
even as you have stopped pretending to care
about anything other than yourself.
The fireworks flash in showers of spark
and awestruck mouths gasp in the glory
of their jellyfish embers, emblazoned
against a backdrop of indigo sky.
The charcoal briquets in the charcoal grills
turn gray and white with heat,
scents of seared meat and smoke
drift through the dew-drenched yards
of America, celebrating independence

from terror,
from suicide bombs,
from water scarcity,
from revolution.

America, I still believe in you,
even as sports stars and movie stars
and rock stars and rap stars
continue to let the homeless starve.
Even as we enslave ourselves
to the cell phone.
Even as rapists get lesser sentences
than simple possession charges.
America, can you hear the gunshots?
Can you hear the explosions?
The cries in other tongues?
There’s a world apart from us,
and it is suffering.
America I need you.
I need to believe your silence
is indecision
and not indifference.

Poem for Muhammad Ali

The Greatest

Poetic pugilist,
writing poems
on opponents’ faces
of paper and papyrus,
with fists, clenched and padded
and wrapped in leather
like notebooks packing punches.

Float like a butterfly,
sting like a bee,
hands can’t hit
what the eyes can’t see.

War is something more
than a photo opportunity
for Elvis Presley
in his G. I. Blues.
Something about killing
strangers that never uttered
a racial slur, never hated
or enslaved men
with different color skin,
wasn’t worth keeping
that championship belt,
was worth being called coward,
worth taking a stand.

Float like a butterfly,
sting like a bee,
hands can’t hit
what the eyes can’t see.

And Parkinson’s became that
invisible enemy
a brain disease to battle
futilely and eternally
as emotions lose their nuance
to a blank face,
dressed in the flesh
of the greatest boxer
who ever lived,
the dog that made thunder afraid,
thief of Superman’s cape,
only man to ever make Godzilla cry
one hand tied behind his back.