The Catfish King
early morning communion:
with an obelisk neck
tethered by taut, blue, running threads
over the liquid smog of her backyard
A cacophony of little bubbles and metallic
flashes of living, slipping scales crescendo.
The lion pit under her wafer of moldy bread.
A milky glint smiles bright white
in the cataracts of her eyes.
Her face clowning, shown wide,
toward the cloud waves
who clap down at us
and laugh back.
More, now, the plebian crowd roars
His proud camouflaged tail attempts
an inconspicuous flirt.
Tells her to wait; he wants us to pray.
We, eager children, we, crouched virgins,
at our first circus show.
The trees stop bristling and the shadow men
hide and whisper in every darkness.
The cloud waves touch their peaks
ready to crash
and he dives.
He flew higher than all of our kites —
just ask the Crabapples,
the Salamanders, the French Pussy Willow.
His great sucking mouth kissed
and held to her ageless touch.
Under a sky turned electric,
atop discarded bags of
stale, yeasting Eucharist,
We saw, from our grassy nave, in physical form,
the definition of faith.
Nights of the Summer Drought When the Dust Buried Thought
on the still liquid of onyx coffee
left out from the night before.
The alabaster porcelain softly claims:
across its dusted side and will sit
until noon when
Mother knocks its silent perch
And curses her Husband’s forgetful ways
along with the stumped cigarette remains-
whose corpses deteriorate
in front of his favorite thinking spot.
(His derriere imprinted on the listing porch,
made less mortal by the wood rot
which struggles to hold the weight
of his nightly thoughts.
And the infinitesimal poofs which float in through the summer breeze
remind the Husband of fake snow on stage
from a play he saw years ago in Ames,
when he thought,
I’ve seen what it means to be dead-center
But still to fade.)
The Redwood Seed
Today I bought a Redwood seed
And will plant it in my parents’ field,
In the center,
When it is two years old.
And many years from now,
After the last human has died off,
And when some great, adventuring species
To this planet and perhaps questions my tree,
They will never know this tree
Was nursed and coddled to infancy.
This tree was ogled with tipsy curiosity
At dinner parties and saved many from
“Now, what could this little fellow be…?”
This tree sat silent as we sat silent,
Our little company radiating in the synthetic glow
From the TV who screamed of future wars and siege.
We couldn’t hear the leaves whispering behind
Our shaking heads.
They will never know
This tree endured so many years of dress-up.
The little plastic white twinkling lights
Wrapped up lithe and tight,
The family smiling, content and proud,
“See? There’s still something to be happy about!”
This tree that swayed with the breeze
Of my trampling steps
And caught a whiff of salty and sour breath
From my mother’s drunk tears.
And felt the force and was also injured
By the bullet spray of our careless words,
The collateral damage of now pointless fights.
This tree witnessed
The cat catch the mice.
They will never know
And we will never know,
Though we will always suspect,
That the dog relieved himself on the tree’s base
At least a few times.
After those long day trips,
When we’d race home and, to our surprise,
Find no surprises from the Dog.
We’d look at the Dog, look to each other, look to the tree…
Then shake our heads and knock
Such a silly notion to the floor.
They will never know
That one day I stood with the tree
And saw myself reflected in its leaves
And knew it was time for both of us
To say Goodbye and start living life.
The tree heard the excited tone in our conversation
But could see and feel trepidation on our breath.
The ground felt cold and satisfyingly wet.
We hung around after the dirt had been pressed
And patted against the ground.
We whispered comforting and loving nothings
And talked big-talk about the future of our gentle beast.
I drove away
And watched the tree in my rearview mirror,
This simulacrum already giving hints about our future.
When they come and question this tree,
They will not know what it means to be rooted,
by nature, to an Aboriginal Memory
in a cracked terrarium-
And they will not see my hands
Which planted the seed.
Blushing Thursday in the parking lot
Peeked through tinted windows
And could see
The genesis of the Big Bang:
The birth of some little universe formed
at the crossroads of
Synthetic-leathered backseat seams
and a rumpled heap of jean
casually resting at the feet.
One final rhythmic tug ignited the great explosion:
Viscous liquid stuff sprawling forward,
the born strength of forged and flying elements:
Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium,
each dwindled into protein,
each a million years old,
all hurried down to a sweaty, clenched hand.
The solitary participant relaxed into his sticky seat,
the dark matter of his mind faded and ceased.
While blushing Thursday contrasted dark with decay.
Crown Prince Rudolf had Poor Rich Boy Syndrome.
And, if the narcissist Mary Vetsera hadn’t been so impressionable
(Such a young romantic, only 17 years old)
Perhaps she wouldn’t have agreed to that suicide pact at Mayerling.
The brackish of new-age and old blood
The host of a continental flood
Which could only carry and birth a great skeleton, for
The fish rots from the head down.
Then if Karl Ludwig hadn’t pursed his chapping lips to sip
That fateful glass of contaminated water,
Quenching and flat
On the dried out badlands of Egypt and Palestine;
The strong man, the oak tree, never would have shook
And sweat with Typhoid Fever
And then cursed the jaunt of travel in his death.
So that ultimately -perhaps- Franz Ferdinand and Sophie
Wouldn’t have held the weight of a price so heavy
It was dealt with in a string of fate:
That magnificent Clotho took her time
With nimble fingers and fretted line
Of the brow
She wove the braided noose and cackled at
A plan laid loose
Hatched in the fevering mind
Of an assassination gone awry:
When the car pulled up he dropped his drink.
Gaurico Princip didn’t notice the pool of water in which he stepped
Or that shatter of glass from which it leapt
Or the trail of steps its liquid momentarily kept.
He walked to the vehicle.
The weight of a familiar metal pressed in hand,
A glint of black that rarely left the night-stand,
And a thought, ‘steady and fast’, his only demand.
The final words of Archduke Ferdinand
Matched those of Princip’s thoughts:
It is nothing, it is nothing, it is nothing…
(In the perfect world)
The Great War would have never been fought:
The young Kaiser Wilhelm II with his young Germanic Nation
Couldn’t have made the worst militaristic decision
Of crossing into Belgium
(In pursuit of the French)
To outrun the Russians
Which enticed the British into an attack of reparation.
The guilt and damage of the Second World War
Wouldn’t course through my blood.
My Great Grandmother and her Father never would’ve had that fight
Over some now broken-down and long-gone bike
Causing her to flee Germany to make some ridiculous, stubborn point.
Leaving the mountains of the Black Forest behind and
The small flowers which peppered her countryside.
She left the land but not the mindset
And my Grandmother cried while we looked through
Pictures of the Holocaust in some addition of Life.
Her limp, useless hand, struck dumb by Polio couldn’t
Wipe her face which stung and was tattooed for
The water dries but the salt will stay
The invisible insignia of past mistakes.
I wouldn’t be laying here abstract and stretched to fit
In this outgrown bed, the bottom of my pillow wet with sweat,
Watching a hummingbird buzz and flit in the growing dawn:
The morning breeze brought him in
Confused by the smell of our salty sweat
Mixed and coalesced
When you coxed apart and speared that part of me which only
Another can reach:
The scent of the intrepid.
His rhythmic pulse and the push of his little head
Against the stone ceiling
Match my own beat
And a well-known feeling: a glacial heat
That swells in a mistake recognized.
Together we stay determined:
We’ll break through that looming ceiling
It is nothing, it is nothing, and it is nothing.