~~ December ~~
Like a Wave
tidings come rolling in
over the crags
of your day-to-day
like a salt wave breaking
cold at your feet
muddy between your toes
lean in and draw conclusions
like stick figures
with your finger
arcs and lines and dots
in the damp sucking sand
in the back of your mind
make a hand-print
proof you are here now
before time’s indifferent ocean rises
and wipes it all away
~~ November ~~
Noon and All
Noon and the
sun all ego
in the seamless
Later in the
though as if in
a hall of doubts
Time and I
are not as close
as once On a
1st name basis
Now I wouldn’t
if it said things
behind my back
I wouldn’t give
the time of day
to a clock on fire
Nor piss upon
~~ October ~~
under a corner of the veil
it’s a sombre silence,
you sense the nastiness crawling up the road
your name slipping around on its lips
maybe it’s the Catholic hell
in its native form
bringing a brimstone takeaway
my feet are nailed to the ground
the torn-sheet clouds
my memento mori
and without challenge,
~~ September ~~
Why are you so plaid today?
Not your clothes but expression—
a green and blue geometry
of repeated overlapping squares
like many half-open windows
ruled over your daily sneer.
The day beckons with icy roads
and trees groaning and dropping
some of their favorite branches.
We should drive to the landfill,
but if we crash with that plaid
all over your face the police
will arrest us for being surly.
Maybe a cup of Ovaltine
will temper the grid of nerves
that has wreaked this new pattern
where the old one was crude enough.
Maybe if I scramble four eggs
and douse them in Tabasco sauce
you’ll eat so cheerfully the ache
of warp and woof will lessen
and permit a tiny hint of smile.
I don’t understand the green and blue,
an unfamiliar design. Maybe
the Scottish Register of Tartans
in Edinburgh would understand
or at least identify this sample.
But you aren’t all that Scottish,
are you? When you dress to go out,
don’t wear competing colors
or fashion police will nail you.
Maybe as the day passes in slips
and slurs of ice, sleet, and slush
you’ll shed this obsession with plaid,
and will recover sense enough
to close those half-open windows
that however opaque promise
a future of picturesque views.
~~ August ~~
Untitled In August
Joan Payne Kincaid
August when everyone is under pressure and despondent.
Birds are saying goodbye wondering who will return in spring .
Halfway through August he said it’s been a hot and dry one.
The sun shines less often and is never as bright.
It’s getting near the World Series.
Life is finite and you better hurry to make your point.
She thought it was important to get the dishes washed.
Summer is coming to an end tornado watches up.
Syndergaard still can’t deal with base stealers.
Seeing summer out so many years we never get enough
Of the little harbor so safe in storms.
Maybe I’ll lose my identity she said I have to take that chance.
We are pre-programed chemicals
Your body not quite certain what works outside or in.
Here again at the Shack with beer and lobster.
Surrounded by hills and clouds
The sun descends into watery secrets.
~~ July ~~
line the sands at first glimpse of morning
sun. Spaced like iridescent sentinels,
they claim perches on rainbowed terrycloth,
fall like dominoes into prone position. Oiled
up, shades down, they offer their flesh to the light.
Thirty minutes later, this open-air oven triggers
internal thermometers, and one by one they turn
themselves over to brown the other side.
~~ June ~~
The sun’s across the road,
. . . . . . in their summer litany
even trees their in-place pawing,
wind’s later grasp of the arm
. . . . . . will have night chill in it
ice cubes gelling
. . . . . . you can hear their vise-like
. . . . . . statements in the next room
bottles which gleam in a row
. . . . . . your choice of poisons
. . . . . . mine elixirs
the view across the valley
. . . . . . gold lucidity
. . . . . . into dusk dreaming.
Town of No Taboos
The sign with its square lettering
invited me beyond the ten-foot wall:
Ataraxia: Population 45, Where
Aquarius Dropped His Jug of Water.
My footsteps carried me
to an ambiance that nothing had
prepared me for: a hotel named
The July Inn, a bar called No
Worries, roasted acorns, caviar,
and a rare Merlot the main
course at Carol’s. Violets shrugged
as I shuffled past the drugstore,
and a blind roustabout scratched his
bald head, counting to ten,
holding a blue marble shoebox.
Beach waves reside
inside my rectangle, boy,
so open any door in the town
of no taboos, and you’ll die
happy, he said, empty eyes staring
at the cloudland above him.
I touched its smooth surface, and,
yes, sin didn’t exist, nor virtue.
What did I expect? I decided
to leave, not wanting to live in this
oasis where seals licked bricks, hags
lingered in lobbies, their rags more
tattered than mine. Did I stumble
in a fugue through the place I couldn’t
translate? Before I advanced much
further, trudging into the desert again,
I noticed a city of vices ahead, burned,
black, and, I thought, not yet purified.
~~ April ~~
One Person’s Seriousness Is Another’s Colossal Joke
J. J. Steinfeld
Let me say right off the top
while I’m in this philosophical mood
this slight metaphysical delirium
about meaning and the meaningless
that one person’s seriousness
is another’s colossal joke
a prayerful joke like death—
God slaps you for such a thought
and when God slaps
it’s not like the strap at school
by a shy, secrets-burdened teacher
or a prizefighter’s knockout punch:
God’s slap barely makes a sound
but it hurts like the death of a beautiful bird
the recalling of which
will shape and sharpen memory for you
leave you fearful of death and loss
and making colossal jokes.
~~ March ~~
Michael Lee Johnson
Solo boxing, past midnight,
tugging emotions out of memories embedded,
tossing dice, reliving vices, revisiting affairs,
playing solitaire-marathon night,
hopscotch player, toss the rock,
shots of bourbon.
~~ February ~~
The Angel in Flight
is a thieving angel
snagging your heart
like a bright red kite caught
in a flowering tree the supple fingers
of its wild branches
holding gently entangling
all that you wish for
until that angel’s overbearing
blows your heart free
to fall to the hard earth lost
amid a whirlwind of blossoms
and lonely love-struck words
~~ January ~~
When we hear a melody
a Coltrane solo on a sax
or tunes from an accordion
from childhood streets
a whistling calliope
near a city pushcart
the recorded voice of Sinatra
Peggy Lee, David Bowie
singing of a lost love
becomes alive in their notes
the day becomes a memory
and all night thoughts
all arguments of love
break-ups, new beginnings
full of retraced letters
those echoes of good times
remembering those journeys
when I taught the classics
of an exile between two continents
as Odysseus remembered Penelope
at our table of grape leaves
surrounded by an absence
in being parted from a partner
not forgetting my own exiled life
near our favorite Greek cafe
drinking ouzo with lamb
and honey and almonds,
yet just as I am here on the Cape
in a slack season
without many vacation tourists
amid a rain spell
to review my pastimes
as nostalgic songs from a jukebox
in this enlightened night spot.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.
Subsynchronous Press 2020