Guelaguetza

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Guelaguetza
Oaxaca, Mexico

Brass bands, marimbas, violin strings
stretched over turtle shell, conch,
mad march of goat-skinned men,
fierce-gazed, horned and ready,
mirror dance, sun sparking
flint flakes from glass buttons
highlighting feathered flounces
lifting to fancy’s flights …

… beggars hold out chronic hands,
snotty-nosed children baited to hook
your heart from your body,
your money from your purse,
pleading lips, desperate brown eyes
primed to conquer the conquistadors
that still stalk, haughty, the square
where tiny women dance
with angels and devils …

… a backstreet now, an alley,
three men in masks,
one with a gun,
two with knives,
probing for the tourist’s
wallet …

Friday Fiction: Clematis

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Clematis

The clematis unfolds its flowers: bruised purple on the porch. Beneath the black and white hammers of ivory keys, old wounds crack open. A flight of feathered notes: this dead heart sacrificed on the lawn. I wash fresh stains from my fingers with the garden hose while the evening stretches out a shadow hand to squeeze my heart like an orange in its skin. Somewhere, the white throat sparrow trills its guillotine of vertical notes. I flap my hands in the air and they float like butterflies, amputated in sunlight’s net. The light fails fast. I hold up shorn stumps of flowers for the night wind to heal and a chickadee chants an afterlife built of spring branches.

Pressed between the pages of my waking dreams: a lingering scent; the death of last year’s delphiniums; the tall tree toppled in the yard; a crab apple flower; a shard of grass as sharp as glass, as brittle as a bitter, furred tongue at winter’s end.

I know for certain that a dog fox hunts for my heart. Vicious as a vixen, the dog fox digs deep at midnight, unearthing the dried peas I shifted from bowl to bowl to count the hours as I lay sick in bed. I sense a whimper at the window, the scratch of a paw. I watch a dead leaf settle down in a broken corner and it fills me with sudden silence. Midnight stretches out a long, thin hand and clasps dream-treasures in its tight-clenched fist.

The lone dove of my heart flaps in its trap of barren bone and my world is as small as a pea in a shrunken pod. Or is it a dried and blackened walnut in its wrinkled shell of overheating air? Sunset, last night, was a star-shell failing to fire. Swallows flew their evensong higher and higher, striving for that one last breath lapped from the dying lisp of day. Its last blush rode red on the clouds for no more than a second’s lustrous afterglow.

I lower defunct delphiniums, body after body, into their shallow graves. Night’s shadows weave illusions from earth’s old bones. Rock becomes putty, malleable in the  moonlight. Midnight readjusts her nocturnal robes and pulls bright stars from a top hat of darkness. Winged insects with human faces dance step by step with circling planets and clutter the owl’s path. Night swallows the swallows and creates more stars. The thin moon hones its cutting edge into an ice-cold blade.

Catching and Caging

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Catching, caging, and making them sing

We track them through their courting ceremonies

hunt them down by the noise they make

clutch them tight between anxious fingers

We weave glass jails

sentence them one by one to green imprisonment

At day’s end we ferry them to city apartments

incarcerate them like canaries in their cages

and wait for them to sing

At first they are silent in this strange environment

we feed them with bread dipped in brandy and wine

and sooner or later they sing in their captivity

Now they will not eat

they await the liquor that burns them

into fiery tongues of song

Our midnights are haunted by their spirituals

 

Sometimes

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Kingsbrae 20.3
20 June 2017

Some Times

Sometimes,
something happens:
lightning strikes the tree,
the upraised golf club,
the umbrella,
the baby’s stroller.

Maybe
an earthquake rocks the house,
or
hailstones as big as golf balls
shatter the greenhouse glass.

More often
it is as silent as frost on geraniums,
or clothes on the line quick-frozen in the wind.

Slow crumbling:
a breaking down by freeze and thaw,
free fall on the cliff face and the subsequent scree.

A cloud passes overhead:
our sunshine vanishes.

Weir

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Kingsbrae 16.4
16 June 2017
Weirs

Weirs are where the were-wolves
bay at midnight as they dance on
cedar weir-poles, stars above them,
the herring trapped, swimming
silent circles beneath the waves
while the white horses, prancing,
dancing, avoid bridle and bit and
the saddle’s leather shame placed
over wild, bucking backs, no blind
-folds here, just dumb fish, circling,
their DNA hard-wired for what
Vikings called their weird, or fate.

Stand Off

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Kingsbrae 16.3
16 June 2017

Stand off

Yesterday,
a raven and an eagle,
bald-headed,
faced off on the ice.

They stared at each other,
necks tucked into
hunched shoulders,
feathers fluffed,
otherwise unmoved,
unmoving.

Each dared the other
to make himself vulnerable,
to stretch out his neck
for the dead fish lying
beside the ice hole
they both guarded.

It seemed as if
they were waiting
for the opening whistle
that would send them
head to head
in mortal combat.

Immobile combatants.
Slow dance of moving ice,
cracked and crackling.
Sudden swift sparring:
a dance of death.