Augury (at childhood’s end)

Something covered his face,
a flash of green, of something grotesque—
something cartoon bright and monstrous,
like a grinning snake
or sharp-chinned goblin.
The screen door’s springs screeched, rusty.
The hard slam sang out a full acre,
calling rise to the cricket
and frog songs
from the marshland nearby.

Fresh windrows were long, thin slashes
between the house and the thicket line,
and the land looked
as if it’d been raked hard
by a set of ragged claws,

even in the gloaming.
Lightning pulsed in arteries,
flashed crooked across the sky,
illuminated
the sickly white on the figures
where they stood among the trees,
where the glowed, softly,
in the growing darkness
so that he stumbled, fell looking up
to see them, again, so near.

His knees marred into the dew-damp
soil—bones on cloth, popping popping,
too young to be popping,
he was cast down like the cards
he wouldn’t touch.

He didn’t seem afraid of them,
though he should’ve been.
Someday, they’d slice away his soft edges
to get inside him. Someday,
they’d burn him out like a cross
planted in the copper-red ground.

They said his daddy drew lightning,
that the man drew strikes like flies,
honey, they said, like honey, and grinned,
and that he was hit ten times by twenty,
dead by twenty-five—

so he’d better watch out,
Boy, watch out. He just might
set himself alight.
They’d all laughed that time
before they yelled, RunGo on. Git.

That memory set him running
under the storm, so he took the lead
they gave before,
though there was nowhere go.
Soaked-through, the thing
on his face caught rainwater,
sloshed about. When the hail fell,
it was the size of cherries
and the plastic shielded his face.
Red welts sprouted beside the dark marks
already there, clustered like grapes.

Through the field and back,
circling to the front,
he sought the way clear, the old man asleep,
the front door open, the stairway empty.

He sought the quiet of his room,
the dusty corners and torn pages,
the squeaking springs and cotton sheets,
the little dusty boxes filled with paper,
the scrawny cat both yowling and purring
from the bedside.

Someday, they’d try to set him on fire
to burn him out like a field full of muscadines,
take a scythe to his pride
and fill him back up the right way.
But he’d rip himself open
before that, lay his own bones,
like a goat’s shoulders,
across black silk cloth,
so they’d be too scared to touch.

But God was missing. And a big shadow
took his place, filled the doorway, back-lit
by porch light, and straightening, stiff,
so it was clear the moment the boy was seen.

He slowed a glance at the stones
beside the porch, could have picked one up
to swing, to shatter
the big stained teeth so the old man’d spit
soupy Chiclets in handfuls,
choke on his liquored blood
while the blackeyed specters
closed-in from behind.

He stepped onto the porch and whispered,
crimson and whiteon the inside. Long letter I.
Why have such pretty, bright colors inside?
He sweated and smiled.

Blood and bone. The fist against his throat
cracked, his lips dropped
pink spit. Then red. Red.
The blood would feed the bugs,
grow the grass, so he bent
for a smooth stone
of his own, laughed and laughed.

If he used it
to beat the old man to death,
chipped-away at his skull
like peanut brittle,
pounded until there was nothing
but shell and wet, the red and the white
would seep slowly into the earth,
and the others might let him be.

If he killed him there
in front of the nowhere God
and everyone, and fed the hungry worms,
they might pat his back hard,
wink, and then call him a Man.

 

© Rainbowchaser | Dreamstime.com – Gloomy landscape (illustration)

Xenomancy

11070866884_a7ee6d3eaf_z

They ran barefoot in the summertime
in packs like stray dogs, ragged and dirty,
and there were leaders and followers. Each fell into place
warrior and peacemaker, alike,
the way that young women do when left good and alone.
They hunted, too,
though, if asked, they couldn’t tell you just what.
No, it was in the motions; the movement was what mattered,
especially on the longest of the hottest days.
Beneath the brightly hot, the hours of sweating, breathless
they found cool, stale air inside the station,
safe inside a public darkness
since it was best for watching anyway.

There they pressed the backs of their thighs
against the splintered wood, felt their skin stick
to the layered shellac,
cringing. Like pews.
They sat and were audience, again, but not to god
for once, there were no cubbies for hymnals,
no blank envelopes tucked somewhere
for drawing  body parts,
for drawing their mocking laughter,
for catching old man and woman frowns.

No, inside the dark,
they broke apart. Individual again, solitary inside
but not entirely alone with their skin pressed thigh to thigh,
and that was good,
since they each watched ragged claws
peek from inside stiff sleeves when the man in white
adjusted his tie beside their rows,
when he tipped his stiff hat to passersby.
They spotted him fast, or Katy did, anyway,
shoving her elbows into sister-sides,
grunting concern and vigilant.

His suit was crisply white and looked like weddings,
like rich people’s summertime
and rituals on boats nobody used to fish;
it seemed to glow when the shadows fell darker, 
when the sun disappeared behind the trees
outside the dirty windows
.

Someone whispered that his suit turned his teeth yellow,
and it passed down the row.
The gold buttons at his middle
reflected light like signals, sparks—
they’d been polished in piss, someone added,
since that was supposed to make brass shine.
His crimson tie was pinned by an aurulent star,
five-pointed, and 
at its white diamond center
blinked a ruby eye. It pulsed,
throbbed like a heart in its watching. 
It shifted sometimes
in a jeweled socket, though you’d never
notice unless you stared hard, so someone said.
But they tried not to stare. They all, it seemed,
tried not to stare: fingernails needed inspection;
there was something on the floor.  

There were country children tucked
among the bigger bodies in the crowd that hustled by.
Side-eyed, they were stealing looks
at his big daddy hands, too,
but they were not as brave.
They tucked their cheeks behind knees,
got jostled and knocked-about.

The man in white daubed his forehead with a kerchief,
seemed oblivious to the chaos around, focused on the signs
above or something inside,
though they knew he saw. He stepped before the rows
and made a show of smoothing the front of his trousers
of lifting his nose like an old hound.

The girls in front, the leader-types, that set them off.
Jessie thumbed her nose the way she’d seen in movies,
in pure pantomime. Something about him made them stir
that way, and they stood
leveled their shoulders, clenched their hands.
They were small bulls, invisible to most, and he grinned
but never looked directly their way.

The man in white stepped outside
into the heavy air that smelled like 
creosote,
like kudzu beside the tracks, green,
like the paper mill stench, poison,
from five miles up the road.

Their heads turned again, like a pack,
and they followed him with their eyes
as he stepped, full, into the sun,
lowered himself to his haunches—
feet flat, like giving birth, there, between his thighs
and shot them back an over-the-shoulder grin. 

One of the girls, a shy girl,
one of the girls who always ran in-between
whispered later that she saw a shift, swore
that something grew cock-stiff
and rippled beneath his coat. She laughed,
said it just had to be sinister,
more sinister than his old thing, she giggled,
tucked there beneath the fabric behind:
a tail, vestigial, maybe, jerking like sex
with its red, knobby end;
maybe waxy ropes with little teeth,
grew about his middle.

It was hard to tell what was real, she said,
and it really didn’t matter
since there was nobody they could tell
that would believe them
anyway.

Katabasis

11099711876_6d6e79b650_z

 

The place smelled like rust,
from pipes overhead.
It was hell when you got that scent
up your nose, when the smell
settled in your mouth.

There were no locks on the door,
so anyone could enter, all.
Old paper boxes, clumped newspaper
grew mildew and something else,
something noisome
that clung to our hair
for days after.

Fungus grew, black and green,
in my lungs after a night
underground. It creeped, thrived.
It grew soft hyphae
that snaked through my veins,
rooted, and then threaded-out
through my pores
like hair
that I’d need to shave soon.

It was a nighttime place.
Our elbows touched nervous in the dark,
sharp on rough.
We whispered sleepy apologies.
Our skin was cold and sticky
beneath cheap cotton, polyester blends,
the thrown-together
bedclothes from the dollar store.

We hoped no one would
cut us out of them
before night’s end.
We wore clean underwear
and dressed for death, like always.

There was static on a battery radio
that  squelched some bad reception,
AM some tinny country twang
about whippoorwills and liquor.
Men and women.
Plastic flashlights twisted out dark;
the batteries inside were ancient and coated
with a greenish sheen.

The old women flapped their hands,
panicked. They talked,
but I listened to my heartbeat
like the sound outside
that was like a train, always like a train.
They said it sounded like a train.

It was a joke—depending
on how it was said, who said it.
It was stupid, repeated,
repeated until it had no meaning.
We had ridicule ready for ourselves
before anyone else had the chance.

My teeth ached during lightning flashes.
We counted thunder claps each storm.
Static felt like chewing tin foil,
while we waited for the rumble,
waited for the flashes
to charge the air to spark.

Each spring, the sky ripped-open
and sprouted dark, whipping tails.
We ran under the eerie calm,
inside the spinning air.
We squinted against the slap, the prickle
of sideways rain and licked our lips,
tasted the iron in what fell
and sought crowded shelter
from the killing storm.

Temenos

There’s a metallic buzz
under the nighttime sound,
the sundown hum—
the scratchy beating of wings,
like cross-legged sitting,
singing
into whirling metal blades.
It’s a static voice,
an electric device pressed hard
against a wounded, smokey throat
to crackle thoughts.

I shoo it from my ears
like flies
when it draws too near,
when I am alone
beneath the wet darkness. Especially then.

Some of them bob like spiders,
spin their webs—
almost invisible until they catch,
cling, and coat
your eyes and mouth,
leave you sputtering.
They hang between the trees
like small suicides
and sometimes catch a breeze
for a swing
but mostly net.

Some need like fathers:
distant but vigilant, selfish,
protective sometimes
if it serves them;
critical but stoic;
kind,
when it serves them;
they cherry-pick their food.
They pick their teeth with tiny bones
and smell like tobacco.
Some of them are blue and cold.
They purple our toes, chatter our teeth.
They season us with oneiric teases
but keep good distance, wise,
and only watching,
only watching
so they feel like Time.

Some are red and burn.
They set everything on fire
and take us back to black tar,
to dirt and simple need.
Warm seduction,
there is little of them left
either
at the end of things.
(Dark Matter
is warm not cold
on that plane.)

Some are fat as babies,
giants, hungry and propped-up
on hospital beds.
They wait for death
with their big thumbs
pressed on morphine triggers
when it’s not between their gums
or pressed inside to sex.

They catalog death, the ways we die.
The boring ways, the ways forgotten
and ignored, the absurd,
the pathetic.
When we’ve forgotten,
they take turns
turning pages.
They take turns.
And they always dream on paper.

FireShot Capture - In the Image of God_ John Comenius and _ - http___publicdomainreview.org_2014_0

John Comenius (Public Domain Review) 

 

Black Sun

 

“He has been called the Father of all the Gods,
but most of his children have been stillborn.”
-Saki, from The Music on the Hill

FireShot Capture - Image taken from pag_ - https___www.flickr.com_photos_britishlibrary_11080384264_

She stole grapes from the market,
the darkest ones with seeds
to spit after—
the fat, purple ones with tight skin
pulled over meaty flesh,
round, ready to split.

She half-expected to pluck a spider
from the hairy stems,
to pull a small, biting thing
from the plastic nest,
and meet its small wrath. Fair trade.

She let each dark globe roll on her tongue
before she bit and tasted summer
when she sampled,
caught those seeds between her teeth
and smiled at the cameras
as she walked out.

On the road home, she met the eyes
of passersby,
of men and women in their cars
slowing to crane their necks, staring
since no one walked those roads—
especially not in the heat,
especially not alone.

She cut into the tree line
when she grew tired of the game,
found the clearing,
knelt near the black horns
that sprouted from the soil
twisted and curled
like the branches
of a small, writhen tree.

She felt insects flit around her ankles.
Knits bit into her scalp, burrowed deeper.
They buried themselves
before she could pluck them loose,
and it itched like hell.

She stilled,
listened, caught the scent
darkly rich and sweet,
tempting, as always.
And she wanted to be ripped apart.

His head rose slowly from the dirt,
chin-squared and shoulder-straight;
he blocked the light
and turned the bright rays around him nimbus.
His eyes were touched with gold,
turned blue glowing then black; his skin,
no longer stone,
turned russet.

Two lines of moisture sweated
down her throat,
seemed to race to touch dirt.
White-bodied, bulbous fungi
ringed the clearing
and seemed to bend their caps
towards where they stood.

She heard laughter somewhere
near, just beyond the thicket,
on the man-made trails.
Chatter,
they were part of the world
without. Always Other.
And she wanted to be ripped apart.

When the hikers passed,
she placed the bag of grapes
on the ground, near his muddy feet,
below his crooked legs
that smelled like dog,
below the sucking mouths
that writhed
with minds of their own,
and dripping tongues
that willed her to stare
as she bent
so that her face flushed dark.

The gesture was a Black Sun—
womb and tomb,
and she regretted the pieces
she’d already taken
but knew it wouldn’t really matter.

His wry expression
was not forgiveness
or gratification.
Not reverent,
the gesture was an exchange
of hungers
both great and small.