Birth of One Thing, Death of Another

Crows and ravens,
they tell us about change.
A famous crow in Vancouver has gone missing;
his mate hops the fence expectantly,
and at the same time, here in the foothills
a young crow in distress
circles our house, calling plaintively.
She has lost something:
a parent or a plan, the usual order of things.

For the Druids, these black birds
stand between us and the other world.
For them, the raven is Bran, the healer,
though sometimes we heal into loss.
Sometimes we are missing from the old world,
sloughing it off with illness.

Hope and horror both
have their hands on that gate.

The black juvenile circles me
on my morning walk along the Hogback,
drawing a net around my lack of superstition.
She has something urgent to tell me,
in what can be
the static doldrums of late summer,
in the season’s dangerous inactivity:

child-changer, she calls,
child, teacher of the man.

Advice on introducing yourself, from a random Internet search

You’re at a formal gathering — say hello and state your name.
Say something like Hey, I’m first name.
You may also want to say the name of the other person first.
You’ll need to walk and stand with confidence.
Mention that you like to eat pizza and ice cream and going to the beach:
something they will find interesting and compelling,
like how you pour cold water down your back
because it helps you move faster and keep the right posture.

You’ll want a full, firm web-to-web handshake.
Test your handshake on several folks before important introductions.
Don’t stare down at some aimless point or at the corner of the other person.
Instead, be anything you are interested in.
Listen to my daughter —
she mentions that she likes to eat pizza
and ice cream and go to the beach.
Or you can just say Hi everyone,
it’s great to meet you Mary.

Three Gold Angels (Dramatic Monologue)

Those are the three angels, he said,
hosted by Abraham, painted by Rublev
around fourteen hundred.
You see how their wings arch
like storm clouds punched clean
by each gilt halo, by each halcyon feather —
such a treasure! and yet some say
this is not the original here in the Tretyakov,
but that a duplicitous docent
put up to it, who knows?
by a handsome benefactor, arranged
to have it brought out at night, between shifts.

A moonless night, gentlemen,
the streets wet, silvery wet,
the discriminating collector waiting in a black car
smoking black Sobranies with gilt foils:
the slim ones, made for women
but preferred by him;
he tapped the window with a cane
and the driver, after we — after we, ha! absurd!
(after they, I should say)
received the package, sped away.

The streets were silver wet, the stubs
of cigarettes on the ground, only metres
from the Kremlin.
Think of it — the gold foil,
the gold spires, under the paper
the three angelic heads still shining
after all these years of soot and smoke!

And the sound of the Chaika,
the rumble of that perfect engine
on the cobbles, fading exquisitely
into the night — but I rattle on, eh?
To coffee! A short break
before we return to the bank perhaps?

Copyright © 2019 Lilibug Publishing.

4lb Hammer

Jenny posted on the facebook
I was some kinda slut
and Cassie wrote a comet how
I was a redneck mutt,
and the comets kept coming
cause girls y’know don’t stop —
that’s how I found myself one morning
in my daddy’s shop.
They talked about the social
and talked about the promenade,
sayin so-and-so’s got crinoline
and so-and-so’s got laid,
and guess who out in Bleekers Woods
doesn’t have a date,
but I got a 4lb hammer.
Its such a lovely weight.

I say Hi Jen!
you and the girls just slummin?
But later in the back she don’t see it comin.
Her dates got jewry, faux as gold,
but all his cardine cufflinks
do not hold a candle
to a genuine hickory
hammer handle.

Declining Your Wedding Invitation, Liza

Doctor Hide and Missus Heckle
request the pressure of your company
at the nuptials of their nubile
to that gin-soaked wrench William —
Bill, call him Willy,
Built-to-Spill Bill, lately.
Johnny Cum Lately, often.
Lately, too soon if you ask her.
Got the deckle edge
guilt script, ripped it
from the headlines.
Doctor Hide and Missus Heckle
resent the persistence
of your matrimony
to the moany, moany,
stop, stop! do you hear something?

Dear Liza,
Whole in my bucket,
the bamboo strip
weakening and about
to brake:
no more moon in the water,
no more fluid in the brake,
no more breakfast in the morning,
by the scream,
the cattails dancing,
the coattails flying,
the tent open,
the guests dying or unconscious,
the groom disheveled,
the bride ungroomed,
the horse pissing on his hobbles,
our mumbly peglegs soaked.

Here’s hoping there’s a hole
in the thatch of your hovel
where the rain gets
what’s coming to it.


The sun sets in a muddled bank of cloud,
the evening falling fast on Labor Day.
Five of us around the table:
a Brewer’s blackbird, a jack pine,
a stone, and Emily and me.

We served red berries and a trout,
and when the dishes were all put away
we played that old game of Telephone,
where you whisper a few words
in your neighbor’s ear
and they pass along to theirs
what they believed they heard.

Blackbird, I said,
All I have to lend is meager light.

He landed weightless on the stone,
repeating: Dark or day we rise in eager flight.

The stone, stone-deaf, in a low voice
to the tree: Snow numbs, but see,
on the hillside how it glistens!

And the pine, a metaphysical sort,
passed along: Wind hums, sit with me
and feel her kisses.

The message came to Emily
who turned and touched my face:
But when it comes, she said
the landscape listens.

Making Garden Gryphons (Ghazal)

They’re never as practical as you will have thought:
Sphinx moths with a real girl’s face? but at least you’ve thought.

The best invent themselves: perhaps a fox hair brush?
Too slow to beat the hawk, too bright — well, we might’ve thought.

Contrived creatures, and never as we’re taught, “nature”:
we will have felt “dragon” but never thought the thought.

A winged lizard — impossible! Do caves give birth?
Unless…combining fear and earth, evil, half-thought…

Beauty never makes a beast, though beauty kills it dead.
Just think with hormones, not with bioactive thought.

A perfect petri dish: some sleep, cold stew, some wine.
Remembering embarrassments she will have thought.

Ta-da! How’s this? A stag’s body, a cat head couched,
its one eye white as pearl, part blind — full blind to thought.

Sweet Monster

My husband gone
I raid the fridge, she says.
Not to eat but to pare.
He is happiest when it is full.
I toss out instead
past dated eggs, old olives,
a month-old splash of milk.

Cat food — tossed.
I keep dry vermouth,
muscular carrots,
whole grain bread.
When I am finished
the refrigerator breathes.

I miss him terribly,
but when I walk in
the kitchen is calm.

On the north seat,
the tabby, the young one,
watches me,
quiet without him.
She opens her belly to the sun.

She is my loneliness, too:
sweet monster,
sitting peaceful in my chest,
stretching in the big bed,
purring at the breaking light.


Stained with grass and goose shit,
a baseball is a perfect thing.

If you ever felt the difference
between the ball in a bare grip
and the numb wing of the glove
you understand the game.

This pale pill,
stitched skin, Frankenstein monster
wrapping wool, a motley
redeemed by weight,
falls homing in the hand.
Even a statue wants
to make it move,
deliver from its scars
a quiet arc.

Young, I used to throw the ball,
a thing they hit.
Now I throw my love for it.