Shelter Skelter

Poetry by Dan Raphael  ↔  Art by Scott Young


burning not mine

co-opts my wardrobe

sky removed rain from its dictionary


colors we euphemise–

not to their face

a tease of clarity

a promise of synonyms


the same shirt in 100 different fabrics

your new house paint has to be unique for 3 blocks around

houses sprouting from the mud each spring

red & orange attack in october


as if snow was all colors

cleaning the street after Pride

from color to collar

from the yellow city to the red state

a river of toner, a lake of naked easter eggs

one sun following the other, a second moon for weekends and holidays


across the line is yesterday or tomorrow

before fire was at our fingertips

when true darkness more chemistry than shadow

the more people you put in a cave the brighter it gets

all those thoughts and CO2, the bitterness of radon


you can tear down a house

but its crumbled soul will infest whats built upon

cross bred into apartments

doesn’t matter how small its mine

a loft without walls

a murphy bed, a murphy kitchen, a murphy bathroom

air filled walls instead of plaster

clear ceiling so the floor can stay green


“a game of dance but you have to rent the shoes”

                                                                                 mark sargent

they said i couldn’t use my shoes, & they didn’t have any size 15s

so i bowled in slippery socks, i hiked with plastic bags on my feet.

what should i melt and inhale to protect my lungs, to pave

the alveolic soil getting so much unknown to sprout—

cant be identified til it blossoms, as if we can ungrow it

as if the pollen can be put in reverse or at least forget how to invade

and overwhelm, corroding the roots, filtering solar rays,

putting meters on every roof since the IMF and Bechtel bought the sun

& demand their righteous profit


if you’re not already succeeding why should you be educated.

we’ll let you dance but only at night in abandoned warehouses

without windows or insulation, 3 snakes of razor wire between me and the sky.

i have an oak limb to defend myself from a sniper squad of  pitchers

aiming to strike me out. i hope this concussion brings benevolent hallucinations,

creativity i can trade for stitches & pain meds—you never kill the pain

just make it smarter, as the sky’s always been grey, as bruise free skin means

you can afford medical photoshop, not that black market hack

that turned my bicep to corduroy, not the instant saliva

whenever i pass the golden arches envisioning rain that makes everything crisp and salty.


when the huddle breaks i take my stance and charge the horizon-wide train

of industry and over-population, praying for that sweet spot in any melee

where the flowers are bright, the tea almost ready.rbyb5



With One Step

at least one mind always open

checking out is checking in, time for your elation

growth is seldom symmetrical, ticking as i warm

with bulbs between my feet, networked so i can fly

when my arms a world away


a city where you don’t need to go outside, borealis in a glass,

without my contacts everythings black & white

how decisions are mass produced—you have to know how to ask

i’m living on a ramen budget so i can afford solar-powered wings

my ribs are just for cooling and communication.


the language of weather is almost translated by our emotions

which are polyglot omnivores, a stream 12 inches wide but uncrossable,

not water, the other side of a mirrors internal organs

i hear toenails of rain, trans-body supplements,, iny clouds of gravy

mandating naps at inconvenient moments, when everyone is watching

the stove changes sides & frosts the august windows

so the winged insects can write us instructions

held to the mirror i’ve sanded my palm for hours to create


by looking in one looks behind, look through to out, teach the toes

to see through shoes and know colors by their jersey numbers:

split formations, shotgun, only the invisible can score,

the name you get when you graduate, the name you need

without water, shelter or company, just trees on speed,

wind on raw beef, rattlers sleeping in dorito bags,

how can so much smoke with nothing for miles to burn

Terraforming my selves


how long hosing down how many lying on the softest asphalt of our dream-sheet streets

in a wider future where trucks are more than a mile away,

all large vehicles like whales from catholic immigrant families

making a face for every window in a wall with a hole for every drunken night

when the mirror wouldnt illuminate and edit itself, couldn’t find the proper channel of

john wayne or johnny depp, no former models with heron legs and steroid biceps

swinging one hand across a flaming bridge through an over-stuffed city

when all the meat defrosts and no one has a spatula big enough to flip over the burger

of common memories we hope someone will pay 90 dollars to watch


the water bills on mad yeast, showers when they decide,

flushing on a time lock, anti-cistern laws, if the rain never falls who owns it,

clouds too swollen to fly trees vining to the sky while the sun becomes a peep show,

a rented utility that shuts off when the credits dry, skull top voltaics,

networks tapping networks inside networks breaching  memory dams,

how many wind turbines can fit on my back, cant stop my bicycle for another 2 hours,

barns with a thousand hamsterspowering the nearby cul de sac,

downwind, around the block is another county


keep your hands visible and still,

my ear buds arent plugged int so i’m the only one listening

to the aurora borealis of frying oils crisping our gestures and ideas

in this iodized wind asparkle with thirst, my mystery backpack

ready to challenge an indecipherable vocabulary of what hydrogen did

with whose exhalation in our submarine cars murking for the privacy of river bottoms

before vulcanized rubber when gasoline came straight from the ground

and only people near wells could drive


the higher up you live the less you see,

not a line but a loose chain of isolated window-domes

costs how much to change into whats reflected from the locked down outside,

doormen replaced with drones, gibbons trained on joy sticks

sending their shadows through a constricting wireless city

where the corn is popping beneath the cardboard sewers

i’m being buttered and exposed to a binary star swing-dance orbiting lasso

calling me to split into 64 and begin that topographical weave

in an acre of bread i’m a whimper of yeast


Dan Raphael’s most recent book is The State I’m In

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Global artists and writers dedicated to sharing creativity around the world.

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