Under the Neon Cactus

Poetry by Mark Terrill • Art by Teresa Getty

a song of a little bird who fell in love with a whale.
a song of a little bird who fell in love with a whale.



Under the Neon Cactus

First I was a substance, then I was a cause.

Then they destroyed me, then they birthed me again,

and there I was, sitting on a stool in the womb-like

cobwebbed nautical ambience of the Texas Bar in Lisbon,

just a bottle’s throw from the harbor, knocking back

cervejas and cognacs, not just as some dumb pub-crawling

tourist but with a bona-fide Merchant Mariner’s Document

with full Qualified Member of the Engine Department rating

and wages to burn, a thirst to be slaked, and a bone to be

picked with fate & foreordainment, but fully prepared

to receive the contraries allotted to my person

with suitable dignity and magnanimous grace.


An ancient whore whose youthful beauty

had not been totally annihilated by the ravages of time

sidled up next to me on an adjacent bar stool and we began

to merrily dissect the vicissitudes of love and money.

Some KLM pilots and flight crew at the other end of the bar

said I looked like Donald Sutherland and bought me a drink.

I reciprocated the gesture and relapsed deep into my inner-

mind and began to consider the Attributes—on the bad days

you wished they had an end; on the good days you can never

count them all, while in the interim you continue to excavate

that gritty crevice between the Disguised & the Overt,

a lullaby from Eros bombinating in your ear.

they are only islands if you cannot walk under water
they are only islands if you cannot walk under water

What Runs the Game

The money exchanges hands

but the value of those hands

remains unchanged.

That image—if it is indeed an image—

is riding with me today,

a co-pilot of sorts,

so that when she opens her mouth

to speak of living things

and what comes out is dead—

dead as a pile of banknotes and coins—

a language in which only the poorest

would dare to speak—

my feet are still anchored

firmly on the ground,

although my pockmarked fealty

to the lesser truths may be signalling

the termination of my social contract

during the rise and fall of

these times we might have lived in

vaingloriously or otherwise.

what if I finish reading Moby Dick
what if I finish reading Moby Dick
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