The day the poetry died

Ask the fire

The day Don Rickles died we went to war.
A dark sky streaked with red smoke
like bloody tears leaking sideways from stars,
signal flares just messages in broken bottles
dropped out the portholes of sinking ships.
No one was laughing.

Where was Kendall Jenner?
Not placing a Pepsi in the limp hand
of every dead parent of every dead child.
Not turning her cunt into a refuge
for orphans or smearing her lipstick
on the phallic ends of Tomahawks
meant to distract the world from treason.

Kendall Jenner was irrelevant again,
in less than a day of Twitter shame,
a soft drink could be a soft drink again,
and an erection could be an erection.
This is why April is the cruelest.

There’s a black hole beneath every bullet-
proof vest. And no one changed their profile pic
to the Syrian flag, except the poet
everyone had already decided to ignore.

60 is an even number, suggesting
a fair and balanced approach to death.
Just ask the fire.
It burns in the windows of churches
and terrorist cells the same,
a hell we keep choosing to make
instead of offering to take shelter
inside a glass of water.

For Okla Elliott

Elegy for the poems lost
~for Okla Elliott

I did not know you and I never will.
Why must breath whittle itself
from the bark of broken dreams
into a quiet fist, holding nothing?

Is this what it means to be tiny,
temporary as a ribbon of light
fluttering across the water?
In the fiber optic ether, they whisper

untruths and vindications,
a eulogy for unfinished works
and the cruel, callous benevolence
of a universe robbing the night,

silencing heartbeats, silencing songs,
drumbeats, the metrical enunciations
of tongues flicking against teeth,
a guitar pick placed perfectly

through three stings in the neck
of a guitar never to be played again,
its cherry-scented case unlatched
at auction, and then museum,

beneath glass and filtered light,
they’ll come from miles
to wonder at the source of magic
and words like timpani behind their eyes,

it’s the common music of lustful love,
threaded and stitched
through every palm, every throat
crying to be heard and held,

held until morning
removes all misconception
about permanence of the dark,
something the insomniacs will never learn.

Inaugural poem for Donald J. Trump

For the America that could have been
~inaugural poem for Donald J. Trump

When I piss in the shower,
I piss for America,
for a world without water
and a body nearly too tired to stand.

Somewhere an entire city boils,
spooning their showers
from a hissing toilet tank.

When I jerk off at work,
I jerk off for America,
watching my semen like hot snot
slide its way into the mouth
of a white porcelain sink.

This is true happiness,
job security like a throbbing hard-on
begging to be stroked
while the homeless shoplift
bottles of mouthwash
to chug themselves into the hospital.

I order my cheeseburger medium well.
I order my cheeseburger for America,
an America of FDA-approved cancer,
and reality TV politicians,
movie star presidents,
where you can add “gate” to the end of anything.

I welcome my labored breath,
the coming numbness
of hemispherical lightning,
being fed through a tube.

I welcome the odor of the hoarders
and their living room of pungent chaotic comforts
that will become my life of isolationism
and hermit crab-like skittishness.

I will become a nicotine patch.
I will become my favorite NFL logo.
I will become the half-eaten doughnut
left in the box at the AA meeting.
I will become the opposite of content,
wrapped in a trauma blanket,
rustling like a pile of leaves
with something hidden underneath.

America, when I shriek, I shriek for thee.

Poem written on Christmas Eve

Hope is a bird reborn
~for Maggie Smith

Fitting that the sky stays muted today
that shade of tombstone gray
where the light seems to strike and die
like a bird against the glass
of a window it thought was just more sky

I’m at that window
searching the scenery for clues
that the world isn’t ending
I’m at that window
wishing I was anything else
maybe the squirrel hunched on my deck railing
scratching a frantic itch
in its ribs
like that is all that matters
and if I opened the door
and shouted “we are all going to die!”
it would just bolt through the crisp leaves
and find another place
to scratch its itch in peace

Somehow things continue
outside the realm of Twitter
and FBI conspiracies
reciting the word “emails”
ad infinitum

Somehow the small magics
of flight and song and solstice
continue to work their physics
oblivious to protests
and the promise
of a new nuclear arms race

Somehow people are still sharing
Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”
like passing a heart
grown in a petri dish
from hand to trembling hand
and remembering
the ones that beat inside them

I stumbled across her other-worldly eyes today
and drew a sharp breath
that such a shade of blue
could still blaze a path
out of the hopeless ether of winter
and find me
stop me in my tracks
make me believe in poetry again
and its prophets
put here like fire
to warm our hands by
on the coldest days
of seasonal affective disorders
and losing democracy
like a bird of broken bones
twitching in the brittle grass

Do you remember what it felt like
the first time you buried something
the way the light seemed to illuminate
all the wrong things
and odors were all mismatched

a coat smelled like a fireplace
a book held notes of copper and wet dog
your hands were reminders of rock and dry dirt
the powder of gravel rising up like steam
from a passing car
carried the scent of a lake turning
a cricket kept and crushed in the palm
a jar opened to expose
the dried husks of once vibrant beauties

Everything is wrong
except the notion
of reincarnation
in the phases of the moon
that even as men with flat-black stares
line up groups of people before their barrels
where the earth breaks away
like a mouth ready to swallow
there remains something unending
and unknowable
beyond our eyelids
every time they close
and right now a bird’s beak
is just cracking its way
free of its speckled shell

Another Standing Rock poem, reposted

Dakota

How beautiful must the world be
to make me stop and notice
I am a narcissist?
I’m so far away from the plains,
the rolling weeds and sagebrush,
dirt-dry plateaus cracked like ancient faces.
I’m so far away from open fields
stretched equidistant to every inch
of the empty and aubergine horizon;
the sky seems endless as a child’s imagination,
white puffy clouds like floating castles
turning purple and gray along the dust bowl rim,
with rain shaft ropes tethering those
mountainous zeppelins to the Earth.

How beautiful must the world be
to make me care about the future
my children will live to see?
Some hold onto hope like eagle feathers
in their hands, have seen the stars
through a portal of smoke
cloaked in a buffalo’s hide.
They have stood for centuries
at the edge of a graveyard,
watching the white man dig more holes.

How beautiful must the world be
to make me want to live here
inside its nebular womb?
With every breath, the timeline of existence
shrinks backward one step.
In my heart, I could wear a headdress,
I could smell the burnt leaves
wafting like spirits around my skull,
like voices turned to ashes
swirling and sticking to my tongue.
I could sing songs around the fire
in a language I never learned.

How beautiful must the world be
that I shut off these engines of dinosaur teeth,
that I throw my hardhat to the ground
and climb down from my mechanical cage,
that I brush the crushed grit from my jeans
and embrace the joyful tears
streaming down my face
with so many arms around me,
welcoming me home like a long lost son,
turning to stand in line
against something as intangible as time?

How beautiful must the world be
that I admit I’ve always been wrong
about everything I’ve ever believed?
This world must be beautiful,
with its birds, its light-flickered murmurations,
its ponds with surfaces kissed
by hungry fish mouths catching flies.
It’s a beauty that never asks to be observed,
and that is just what makes it
so irreplaceable.

Thanks to New Verse News and James Penha for originally publishing this poem. You can find it here.

Joe Biden Memes as a Poem

Joe Biden, My Hero

I wish Joe Biden would kick Donald Trump’s ass.
You know he wants to.
One haymaker to the jaw and the Ole Orange Fraud
would fold himself like a slinky
made of elbows and knees and fish guts.

Violence isn’t the answer? No!
It’s a crowded stadium rising to its feet
as the referee counts to ten,
each finger a bell going off in your heart,
some primal release, catcalling
to the echoes of thumping bass strings
you once called arteries and veins.

Go ahead and replace “In God We Trust”
with “Joe is the Man” on our currency.
Knock Mt. Rushmore down
and build a castle from the rubble
to house his sacred remains,
the Joesoleum we’ll call it.
America needs a pyramid!

Here he comes, with his aviators on,
Trans-Am engine squealing
like a god of thunder
barely contained
under a waxed black hood,
spewing dust clouds a mile wide
into the sky to signal his arrival
at Standing Rock, where he asks the police
to pull his finger
and then gives them the bird
while screaming
“Happy Thanksgiving, Motherfuckers!”

Smiling like a lunatic,
he hands out bowls of Rocky Road
to the Natives and says,
“Let us eat ice cream and forgive our enemies.”

Joe Biden could do this.
He could tie eagles to his shoes
and fly overseas
to Aleppo, rebuild the city
with nothing but sweat and bare-knuckled braun,
he could talk the warheads into changing
their life’s work,
ask the machine gun to become a seed spreader
and the jihadi to accept peace
over a poker game.
He’d have the Middle East baking each other pies
in less than a week,
come back with a box of expensive cigars.

The homeless crisis? Solved.
He would simply let them live in his garage.
Global Warming? Not a problem.
Joe would lend the sun his shades,
cross his arms,
and wait for Barack
to pat him on the back.

 

 

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For the Standing Rock protesters #NoDAPL

Water Protectors

~to those at Standing Rock, ND

For water, I freeze.
For water, I bleed.
Under this veil of riot shield
and blind eyes turning
away
from history repeating.

For water, I suffer
concussion grenades
For water, my jaw—
bruised and broken,
rubber bullets and graphite batons
barricade and barrage
the flesh
of those willing to stand
where they say do not stand.

Water, bringer of life
how can you belong to anyone?
Water, source of all growth,
my body belongs to you.

See this moment.
See this moment,
and let it change you.

As money cannot be eaten,
oil is not for drinking,
so why is your smile
shiny and black
with that crude
caked and congealing
between your teeth?

For water, I render
my face to the gnashing
of a dog’s barking bite.
For water, I accept
this martyrdom
of a body that history may rewrite
but the Earth knows all secrets
in its silent witnessing.

Remembering Leonard Cohen

Darker
~for Leonard Cohen

You want it darker, let the volcanoes erupt,
darkness is what happens when the stars turn up.
Darkness is what happens when your breath gives up.
America, I write your name
in the fog on the glass,
and watch it turn to tears.

Treaty with the Devil and your food tastes like smoke,
there’s Jesus snapping his fingers
waiting for the punchline in the joke,
but I never said I was funny,
and it’s dangerous to assume things
from people you don’t know.

On the level, I’m not lying when I say it’s bad.
On the level, someone stole what little dignity we had.
Before things get worse, they have to get bad.
Let’s not pretend we’re in control anymore.

Leaving the table with my food still warm,
my stomach has turned
itself into a cigarette burn,
a wound inside me
becoming an invisible scar,
for the rest of my life
I’ll eat nothing but paper.

If I didn’t have your love,
I’d be counting the days
between my mouth
and the barrel of a gun.
I’ve never given Death a kiss,
but soon I’ll suck him off.

Traveling light hits us from every side,
children still ask
for the door to be cracked,
and I’ll always concede
to my child’s palliative panic attacks.

It seemed the better way,
to turn each heart into a fire of protest,
to shoot bottle rockets
into each other’s eyes,
and still hope to catch
the falling sparks from the fuses.

Steer your way clear of the cliff
if you can,
but I’m afraid
half the world is gone
like the moth in your dream
you woke trying to catch.

String reprise / treaty while it’s good
and it’s there for you to sign,
soon enough all that’s left of this life
will be the ash
of the poetry we burned.

cohen

A review of Christoph Paul’s HORROR FILM POEMS, coming soon

You can learn a lot about life from horror films. If you need proof, all you have to do is read the aptly-titled book of horror-inspired poems from Christoph Paul: HORROR FILM POEMS. Not only do these poems read like a love letter to the genre, taken as a whole, they provide insight to the hidden depth and value this often scoffed at artform provides, by using horror as a gateway not to Hell, but to reveal either the hidden or the obvious truths about life and existence we all-to-often take for granted. Just as in making a scary movie, the art is in knowing what not to show, a poem earns its merits by knowing what not to say, and Christoph proves his poetic chops time and time again here, by letting us fill in the blanks, disturbing our senses, and pointing out the beauty in the blood. As the final poem in the collection deftly states, “a poem reminds us that life is still worth living.”

 

There is a lot of loving detail on display in this collection. Each poem is prefaced with a cool sketch of a character from the film it is based upon. The title font on the cover itself references PSYCHO, one of the greatest films ever made, and a clinic filmmakers have emulated ever since on how to shock an audience. The table of contents reads like a horror fan’s laundry list of quintessential films and cult favorites that some would claim stand tantamount as cornerstones of Hollywood’s go-to cash cow genre. This is a collection that no horror-fan should live without.

 

While some of the shorter poems are my favorites here, due to their terse yet succinct and poignant layers of meaning, there are also great moments in many of the longer pieces. I love how Christoph finds a way to speak through different characters throughout, while maintaining a casual authenticity akin to the work’s original intent and resonance. Of course, there is blood. Of course, there is death. Of course, there is psychosis and gore on display. But that is the thrill isn’t it? Much like the Roman Coliseum, we come to see the guts spill, but know we are safe in our seats.  

 

Still, it is very hard to single out the best work in this book, as there is so much to enjoy. I loved the whole thing. The lyric poems are haunting in their stark imagery. The humorous moments work their magic on the funny bone. Every poem is like visiting an old friend and noticing how they’ve changed over the years. All that being said, I really enjoyed “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “JAWS,” Blair Witch Project,” “Pumpkinhead,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Evil Dead,” which might also be my personal bias of my favorite horror films showing. The thing is though, I found something to love in nearly every poem in this book, and I’m sure any horror fan would do the same. So, I recommend you get a copy, and take this trip down Horror Nostalgia Lane.

 

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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.

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