September-November 2018

“Windfall” was posted in three by 3  March-May 2015. Recently, I submitted it to the print journal Passager. Publication will be in the January 2019 open issue. Their website is: http://www.passagerbooks.com/our-journal/

“Calliope’s Conundrum” was written while I was living in Brazil. The year was approximately 1995 and the title was “Calliope.” Soon after I moved to the US in 2006, it was critiqued by a poet friend, Tia Ballantine. In mid 2017  I reread the poem and commentary. The revision, “Calliope’s Conundrum,” was finished the first week of November 2018 which delayed the three by 3  posting.

“Artist In Residence” was begun in June 2018 and completed in August. It was my default poem during the rewrite of  “Calliope’s Conundrum”.

        Windfall

A bonafide bluffer, the chameleon can lie—
flat out on a rock—even when
the sun stares into his eyes,
the wind rubs him the wrong way—
from the front, down his snout.
Still—he doesn’t blink or twitch,
appear to breathe, turn tail
as the crows approach.

Early risers, they’re ready to eat
anything from the ground up
that happens to be there.
By dawn the flock’s airborne, soaring,
some on top, the rest circling
lower, around his whereabouts.
In a few more loops, they’ll be
within swooping distance,
cawing for blood.

Could the wind change sides,
blow the crows black into the sky,
give him a chance?
There isn’t a chameleon born
whose camouflage hasn’t fooled
scores of high flyers;
nor one alive that hasn’t been lucky—
once in a while.

Calliope’s Conundrum

                                                        For Tia Ballantine
                                                             1                     

Sure, I looked up to Icarus.
Supported him over
a mean-spirited king
half human, half bull headed.
What muse wouldn’t —
despite my sisters’ insistence
that, unless undecreed,
only trade winds can leave the island.

My heroes are mortals outclassed at birth,
but weaned on virtue; their mettle
tested often and sorely, even in good times.
They brave each day with equal zeal,
end one adventure, begin another,
stay the course, never lose hope.
Icarus was fitted with wings
that could survive a perilous journey.
Whenever he put them on, I imagined
a pilot in the making, airborne, heading
for the mainland—mission accomplished.

                                                              2

A golden orb rises at dawn, crowns
the sky, glows until dusk.
Any body, fowl or not, venturing
near is consumed by fumes and fire.
So why in the world did Icarus
change his flight plans —
went from gliding around
to soaring into the sun?

From aloft, the gods on Olympus are
ever meddling in the lives of others.
They know, but won’t tell, whereas
my sisters have their say about the meltdown.
Worse than silence is being judged
by a jury of peers— in this case
for conspiring with a minor, believing
that given a chance he’d eventually
become a hero, no doubt about it.

 

Artist In Residence

Crystal sparkles, so a bowl
like the one sunning
by the window appears to dazzle.

On occasion it’s fruit colored.
Yellow when the apples are ripe,
green grapes out of season, ruby red in,
pears as amber as honey…

What’s seen in the light of day
he renders truer than life,
still enough to hang from any wall,
high or low, its bowl laden
with the fruit of his imagination.

June-August 2018

The three by 3 posting of March-May 2018 announced the acceptance for publication of “Wolfish,” “What’s in the Attic” and “Re-Possessed.” in the summer issue of Horror-Zine. A subsequent editorial decision replaced “Wolfish” with “A Widow’s Diary,” originally posted in three by 3, March-May 2015.

Both “Watch Closely, Listen Carefully,” and “A Showdown at Seaside” were begun in January 2018. The former was finished in April, the latter in June.

     A Widow’s Diary

Web…web…what did I expect
         from a spider stuck
                  for months in a closet?
She’s accomplished a lot—
         strung hers’ up and down,
                 netted one…two…shelves.

Spring’s arrived. I’ve brought a taste
         from my garden, seasonably
                  sweetened by nectar.
Won’t the spider be pleased?
          She’ll have a butterfly
                  for company, bluer
                          than the sky outside.

 

Watch Closely, Listen Carefully

The sounds an owl mouths
            while stalking earmark
                       whether –he’s on a limb
                                    holding tight, or airborne,
                                                above the trees, biding time
                                                            for a swoop…

Ground shadows—mice and the like—
after a field day tracking down seeds,
appear in a hurry to hole up,
ahead of what stirs at dusk…

Blink by blink an owl awakes.
Night finds him wide eyed—
on high alert, aiming
to catch sight of stragglers.

Sly minded, he mulls them
            over—who, who, who?—
                        before making a choice.
                                     Those within close range
                                                    can hear him coming,
                                                                  hoot upon hoot.

 

A Showdown at Seaside

 

Around noon on the last leg
of my combing along the beach,
I spotted a bottle, more than likely
landed by high tide…

Standing in the sand, it pointed
at the sun—glittered non-stop
until my shadow showed up…
but what I found was skinned
with moss, nothing inside
beside shells and seaweed.

Our encounter ended soon after…
the bottle cast back, caught
by an outbound current;
my heading home the way
I came, with no due regrets.

March-May 2018

The poems  “Wolfish,”  “What’s in the Attic” and “Re-Possessed”, were posted in three by 3  December 2012-February 2013,  September-November 2015, and June-August 2013, respectively. All will be published by The Horror Zine (http://www.the horrorzine.com/) in their June 2018 issue. (Obs. “What’s in the Attic” was edited before submitting. The revision is posted below).  

 

      Wolfish

             1

Critters caught off guard–
then, one, two, three…
we’re as hungry as wolves can be–
which should give the shepherd
something to stew over
once it dawns on him
who sheared down
his flock.

Such goodness on the hoof
standing out
oh so soft and white
under the moonlight
makes them clearly
much more appealing
than any holed up hares,
harder to snare, tough to eat.
There’s also a corral around them,
obliging outsiders
to either leer longingly,
or find a gate
which can be pawed open
without raising a bleat.

                 2

“Brute evil’s out there,”
the shepherd bellows
while stomping his staff.
“See how it fared
during the dread of night,
disguised as darkness,
invisible to the innocent.”
He calls us sly devils,
even though we’re wolves
specialized in cunning.

               3              

Hiding behind a hedge
listening to his mad mouthing,
we’re far too full
to howl out who’s wrong.
Meanwhile, on branches,
early birds´re chirping and singing.
What music for our forked ears–
enough to lull us
into lying low for a while,
counting fewer sheep
to fall asleep.

 

What’s in the Attic?

 

One small, bare window
above the rafters,
under the roof,
lets all the light in.
During the day it comes
from sunbeams. At night,
starbright and moonglow.

Boxes, stacks, piles
of something or another
have their place.
So does a door
the size of a hatch,
which opens up,
slams shut…

Now you appear with more to store.
Not much room left?
Shelves are full, space is tight,
air cluttered with ghost dust.
Time to cleanse the attic?
It´s long overdue.

     Re-Possessed

 

By dawn any vampire still prowling around
                                                 is as good as doomed.
It’s his turn to run scared, faster than the speed of daylight,  
                                                 toward an abandoned graveyard…

The name on the gate belongs to a family that lived
                                                high and mighty in yonder castle.

He’s their last of kin— has been since the serfs went
                                                 on a rampage, breaking in,
                                                           looting, armed with knives
                                                                     and scythes.

Hiding in the cemetery saved him. An angel or devil had them
                                                  combing the forest, until rain
                                                             and darkness finally fell,
                                                                        ending the threat.

Then came the Count’s revenge. On moonless nights he rises
                                                   to the occasion: blazing red eyes,
                                                              hand grown claws, fanged like a bat,
                                                                         shrouded in a hooded cloak.

Some die of fright, others bleed to death. Either way appeases him.
                                                    What the serfs sowed, so
                                                               shall they reap. All of them.

His down time’s spent in a coffin. It lies low, but not buried,
                                                     under a bush by the gate…
                                                                as a whole, beyond suspicion.

Once inside, he can rest on his laurels, sleep off the craving
                                                      that drove him to drink, wake up
                                                                 feeling like a new man.

December 2017-February 2018

“Scruples” #3 and “A Cabaret Called Janus” were posted in three by 3, December 2013-February 2014 and June-August 2013. They have been recently accepted for publication, the former in a forthcoming issue of  The Columbia Review (http://columbiareviewmag.com), the latter in the October issue of The Open Mouse.(http://theopenmouse.wordpress.com).

“By All Appearances” appeared in three by 3, September-November 2013. It was revised in 2016 and this version is posted below.

  Scruples 

         3.

Lazarus´s alive. He´s eating breakfast
with his sisters. On the table
there´s fresh fruit, hot bread,
enough tea for everyone, including
well wishers who´ll soon
be swarming in like locusts.

Mary and Martha´re crying, but not
for joy. A pall´s fallen over the room.
He´s confused, angry…says
he was on the way to heaven
when it turned into a back
road to Bethany…that
their meddling in his afterlife
did more harm than good.

 

 

A Cabaret Called Janus

 

Downstairs, posters flatter the lobby
with a wall of fame.
Highlighted by a chandelier,
one star shines after another,
starting from left to right.

 

The man in the dressing room
looks like the magician
among them.
He’s wearing a white tux, matching
cape and sash, fake mustache,
same pearl turban.
The poster also shows him
waving a wand of lightening
over a fiery hoop.

On weekends he appears
after midnight, prime time
for a full house.
His fans watch closely,
never miss a trick.

Soon a blinking buzzer
will upstage the mirror.
By then he should be
all made up, or not.

 

By All Appearances

 

Today, at the peak
of my morning walk
along the beach,
I spotted a bottle
which, more than likely,
was marooned by a wave
in league with the tide…

There it lay, lost,
then found, made of gold
mined by the sun,
glittering bright, brighter
the closer I came…
but what I held up
against the horizon,
was skinned with moss,
dark green, streaks of light,
nothing inside
beside broken shells.

Our showdown was short
lived, ended when
I reached the shoreline,
shut my eyes, cast the bottle
to where it once belonged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September-November 2017

The current posting of “Scruples” amounts to #’s 13 & 14. The inspiration for #13 comes from a cruise on the Danube River in 2016. As for #14, after a recent reading of a chapbook I published in 1988, I selected one of the poems for a rewrite. Ethics is concerned with true or false; aesthetics, truth and beauty.  These two “Scruples” focus more on the latter.

“Sightseeing over Scandinavia” was posted in three by 3  June-August 2012. Recently, I submitted it to the online journal Verse-Virtual.  Publication was in the August 2017 issue. Their website is: www.verse-virtual.com

    Scruples

           13.

One good look at the Danube—
                     from bank to bank—
shows it flowing south, of course,
                     broad and deep, a full length
                            channel, the current
                                     more slick than surly…
As far as colors go, teal can appear dark
                      or light, except for a short time
                                    within sight of Vienna…

There the water turns blue, the river waltzes along.

 

          14.

If a bull enters
            a crowded café,
those near an exit
            can sneak out.
Others are better off
            hiding behind a chair,
or under a table…

Alone, at the bar
           a matador on a binge                            
sips another manzanilla…
           Today he fought badly,
more afraid than brave,
            his passes too safe,
spared by a stroke of luck
             during the toque de muerte.

The bull glares back from the bottom
             of an empty glass,
headstrong, looking for revenge.
              Once in the ring,
there’s no escaping a hangover.

 

 Sightseeing over Scandinavia

 

Not a road around.
Nor telephone poles.
Just deep green surroundings
stuck with miles of pines…

Dirigibles make our annual pursuit
of transcendental truth a moving experience.
We can cover lots of ground
while floating around, day
after day, at the same height
as any horizon that comes our way.

Scandinavian forests are supposed
to be full of dwarfs.
So far, we haven’t seen any;
only herds of reindeer,
and a preying wolf.

We’re heading towards the sea,
looking forward to the coastline
for a change of place.
There’s where the fjords are, and
maybe a mermaid.
Before running out of tides
or into unfair weather, we’ll
hover over each beach,
searching for a lagoon
that shimmers, sounds like
it’s singing.

 

 

           

 

June-August 2017

With this posting, three by 3 begins its sixth year of publication. May there be many more–and all for the best!

As part of the celebration, I’m re-posting three of my favorite poems. By giving them a reprise, hopefully they’ll find readers with the same bias! For additional commentary, their original posted dates were: March-May 2013 (“Priorities in Perfect Practice”), December 2014-March 2015 (“Origins on Galapagos”),  September-November 2013 (“The Likes of Master Shimu’s Artistry”).

 

Priorities in Perfect Practice

 

Not only a metronome
plays a key role…

At the piano
sits a virtuoso.
He’ll tackle anything…

Note the ivory steps.
They slope upward,
towards a dream door.
He’s rhapsodizing
over which riff
might make
a break thru.
Also, what will it sound like?

In real life
a living room
houses him.
The walls wear ears.
They eavesdrop
on steady solos.
Likewise, a low
ceiling listens in.

Those are his
full scale critics,
besides a
small metronome
ticking away
on a table.
That’s their measure
for trying out
latent talent.
All he has to do
is follow along.
Whether the door
will wind up opening
hinges on him.
As to when is up to them.

 

First published in Octavo

 

Origins on Galapagos

 

Lucky ducks, though they’re terns,
that can always bank on
a cornucopia surfacing around them?
marooned onshore pools
with kelp, eelgrass, crabs
clinging to the bottom…

Their ancestors also fared well,
as per my post mortem memory.
Enough to establish a flock of birds
with blood lines tied to flowing tides.
My kind died out long ago,
overcome by an unstable volcano.
Had our wings been bigger
we’d have flown off the island;
or swam away if we’d known how.

Likewise, I can recall when
the first newcomber was spotted
poking around one sunrise.
He appeared alone, but as the sky shined
others showed up, mouthing sounds
like “right here” and “Dr. Darwin.”
Each day they arrived early,left
after hovering over scores of nests.

Naturally,they never saw a feather
nor heard us chirping.
We were no more than a body of ashes
left behind like lava–the darkest part
of the sand they stepped on
while doing their legwork
up and down dunes.
They came close, though,
those curious creatures
that ran around
after every tern.

 

The Likes of Master Shimu’s Artistry

 

A stream springs up.
Ribbons of currents sparkle
as they curl around rocks;
turning, by late afternoon,
into the deep water
of a long, dark pool.

There and then, its slowly
moving surface features
the likes of Master Shimu
searching for shade
along the bambooed bank.
Are those his eyes
floating among the green leaves
whisked off by the wind?

An eddy enters the picture.
Soon the leaves are drawn
towards it, branching
away on separate waves.
Also, within drifting
distance, the bottom
appears again.

He’s seen enough, though,
for a full day;
between reflections
and the mirror between them…

It’s time
to let the watercolor dry.

 

 First Published in The Montserrat Review                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March-May 2017

The poems, “Fitting Passage” and “Reel to Real,” were originally posted in three by 3, June-August 2016. Since then, the former was published in the online literary journal The Sacred Cow Magazine, Winter issue (https://sacredcowmagazine.com) and the latter is forthcoming in Bitchin’ Kitsch, Vol. 8 issue 6 (http://www.talbot-heindl.com/).

The three by 3 posting can be accessed by scrolling down or selecting the June-August 2016 entry in the archive box.

“A Self Guided Tour of Pompeii” was inspired by a trip taken to Southern Italy and Sicily in October of 2015. Besides the plaques, a field guide acquired at the Pompeii gift shop was useful in resourcing the poem.

A Self Guided Tour of Pompeii

                        1.

The citizens of Pompeii worshipped lots of gods–
publicly in temples, privately at home.
Jove, Jupiter, Minerva, Apollo, topped the rosters.
Thanks to them fortune fared good or bad.
More, but of lesser stature, meddled in household affairs.
The Lares enshrined within atriums look human,
dress alike, carry buckets laden with wine,
big and small horns for serving.

                       2.

Tourists visiting the City view Vesuvius
to the north, weather permitting.
Its dark side hides within a deep crater
that can erupt at any time.
The latest, in 1944, lasted a week,
razed an allied air base, neighboring towns,
buckled the strada to Naples.

                       3.

On display among the ruins
lie mummies from all walks of life.
Cooling lava cast them, by chance,
in their final moments.
They remain mute while plaques
in French, Italian, English,
cite facts and figures
incapable of explaining why.

 

 

December 2016-February 2017

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September-November 2016

Scruples 12 is an old/new poem. The first line comes from a work written in the mid 1980’s entitled Mirage.  Reading that poem several months ago inspired a revision, leaving only the first line intact. The rewrite became another Scruples.

By All Appearances and Taking a Hunch To Task were begun last year and recently completed.  As a writing practice, I rarely work on more than one poem at a time. These are an exception, with the former finished in February and Taking a Hunch to Task in May.

 

   By All Appearances

 

Today, at the peak
of my morning walk
along the beach,
I spotted a bottle
which, more than likely,
was marooned by a wave
in league with the tide.

There it lay, lost
and found, glass glittering
in the bright of day,
shifting from green to gold
the closer I came…

 

What I held up, against
the horizon, was skinned
with moss, nothing
inside beside shells
and sand.

Soon enough I cast
the bottle into
an outgoing current.
Adrift, it looked
like a floating ray
of sunshine.

 

  Taking a Hunch To Task

 

In the midst of this late shift
        he wonders along at a pace
                   of step and stop.
While listening, the watchman suspects
        termites’ re nibbling, more
                    than likely on the roof…

Which rafters…how many moonbeams
ready to splinter, go for broke…?

Guess turns into groundwork
    as he lugs a ladder up,
       against the wall.
It’s high time to climb
   and seek, look down
      on them, warily.

 

 

    Scruples

          12    

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder?

How much depends
on the way it’s concocted—
in a half filled glass, with
or without water, one
to three lumps of sugar.

As for when, anise tastes
bitter from the first sip…
After a few more, spirits
fresh out of the bottle serve
memories right, stir up
mixed feelings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

June-August 2016

This posting has no Scruples,  these poems stand alone!

While living in Brazil, I would visit my parents during the Christmas holidays. They lived in St. Petersburg, Florida. Tyrone Mall. a local shopping center, is the setting for Reel to Real.  At the turn of the 21st century I retired. Most retirees make a speech for the occasion. I wrote a poem —A Farewell email.  Fitting Passage is a recent poem,  begun in 2013 and finished in 2014.

 

   Fitting Passage

 

What cargo awaits
                   the train shunted
                          into this kind of siding
                                in the middle of the night?
A lone locomotive
              coupled with odd
                        numbered cars
                               chugs ahead.
Clear signals keep it on track,
               right from wrong
                          seen as red or green.

 

The master in charge of the yard
                works long, late hours
                           making haul choices.
Loading starts at whistle stop,
                 ends in time
                            for the likes of dawn.
On his darkest watch,
                  no train can come
                             and go, empty.

 

      A Farewell email

 

To: directors@the_greatest_show_on_earth.com
From: mike@residentmanager.com

Ladies and Gentlemen,

         Our Qatar tour went well. To begin with, we performed
at select locations—only those along trade routes. Besides the locals,
nomads, pilgrims, even sheiks with harems came from near and far.
         As for attendance, they came in droves. By mid trip, matinees were
always sold out. The same nightly. Then I added late, late sessions.
         Today the show goes on—finally for the last time. After that, as
soon as the troupe´s packed, a caravan´ll take us to the airport. Everyone´s
flying back except yours truly. Our fortune teller saw me living in Spain
for years, writing my memoirs.
         And how´s the head hunt going? At our spring meeting
we talked about my retirement. When was clear. That left the question
of succession.
         Your choice was Jimmy, the lion tamer. Mine was to hire an outsider.
Someone with an MBA, years of experience, used to travelling on business.
         My sister matches like stripes on a tent. Remember her, the exec
from Tusks & Us that bought our white elephants? Since then she´s been
looking for a job. Months ago I sent you her resume with photos.

                                   

                                          With kind regards,

                                               Michael

 

      Reel to Real

 

She’s waiting in a small cafe,
sitting near the bar.
He’s late. Behind her a Cinzano
logoed clock comes into focus.
Now she looks more worried
than angry…on weekends the curfew
begins in half an hour.

They´re lovers. He´s also a spy
for the allies.
She doesn´t know that;
nor what´s going on
and on, under orders.

Two men in trench coats
had dragged him off a trolley,
into an idling car.
Tires squealed. An armed guard
raised a gate.

The interrogation scenes were
too painful to watch.
Close ups showed the agents
beating him–with their fists,
then truncheons.
They wanted names, dates,
not bon mots about the weather

 

It´s Sunday. After the matinee
we always stroll around
the mall, window shopping,
looking for bargains.
All aisles cross the food court.
Anyone on our trail would see
us stepping into Hollywood,
where the burgers
are named after movie stars.

 

 

                                             

 

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