epitaph (20210421)

dead thing under the pier
i would mourn your passing
if you would identify yourself
you resemble an alligator
(but if so, you are far from home)
or some small, desiccated
formerly scaled dinosaur
washed up on the beach
luring my dogs under
the boardwalk
to roll in you

you are missed
ancient, stinking friend
and we are not so much
separated by millions of years
of evolution
as we are by a length of leash
and two lungs full
of salt water

your fourth dead body (20180521)

your fourth dead body
lies in state on sunday
on pillars before a home
a house on a busy main street
still sleepy on sunday afternoon
not a funeral home
just a house and no crowd of mourners
but three modestly
well-dressed people
gathered behind the coffin

it’s a few blocks
from that taco shop you want to try

post obedience
involuntary body viewing
the second time
you have been surprised
by a corpse

the grass is green
cut short at the house
clouds part by the hand of god
like god is karate chopping the sky
the opening reveals a sky bluer
than the ache that
lives in your bones
creates a vacuum
the clouds refuse to rush back in
instead the heavens suck the air
out of your lungs

you are too far away to see details
of the face
but the sun reflects
off a brown forehead
you can smell pomade
thick massaged into black
permanently styled hair
what you took for beads of sweat
is mortician’s wax
pilling on skin
that will not ever sweat

you have stopped breathing
your breath has fled
like a soul on the lam

a police car pulls up to the curb
maybe to ask
why they have a body on their lawn
why the casket is open
why the corpse is sweating
why can you smell it

why are cops who have gathered
around the corner
laughing with each other
like one just told a joke

traffic lets you move
and you breathe
and the body in the casket
does not

untitled (20171105)

how many hearts
how many prayers
balance the scale

the moon is the color of blood
the color of rust
the color of flattened lead

twenty-six stars wink out

who would ever think
such a thing would

those who ask this question
would find a special
place in hell
if we ever needed
such a place

breezes (20171024)

not so much voice
as brute force
this dry santa ana
sandblasting smooth edges
off a dead man’s curves
pitting and chipping away
at softness
whatever softness we have left

dust scratches the throat
under the lids when the eyes shut
the eyes of the dead will itch forever
with copper keeping them blind

don’t forget to tip
the ferryman so
when it’s my time to cross
if i have to hang out in hell
at least i won’t be stacking stones
to build a stairway
out of my own prayers

i’ll teach him
to build a sail
and he can lay down his oar
put his hand to his ear
and prognosticate
the direction of the wind

the quick and the perfect (20170930)

only the dead are perfect
perfect in silence

you say
oh, so-and-so is at peace
and you are not wrong

but the dead
keep moving
like a handful of
shining white teeth
into a still pond
ghostly white
descend out of sight
while above
ripples ring
and crest

you measure the
depth of each trough
as it slices through you

the silence of the dead
is the roar of the furnace
only the perfect dead
move without moving

incarnations (20170926)

i saw death
meandering down
the sidewalk-less
asphalt street
full get up
dark robes
big scythe
aura of gloom
hanging visibly around him
like a cloud
of cheap cigar smoke

his bones clacked
i was in my car
don’t ask me how i know his bones clacked
my windows were rolled up
my stereo was blasting
but they clacked
or clicked
and i thought

who the hell is he here for?

too late
i saw a shadow dart
toward my car
heard the sickening
thump like
driving over a tennis ball
and shuddered

he’s one busy
if he’s picking up squirrels

ashes ashes (20170917)

was everything you felt for me
a trick of the light?
some magician’s smoke
fanned to achieve

the appropriate density?
how many parts per million
were enough to make my
eyes water?

was the fire a reflection
in a mirror
without heat,
without the power to consume?

see my ashes for what they are
no trickery here
just crematory soot
bones to grind into flour

the tools of fulfillment (20170320)

when i read that he had died
i was surprised more than anything
not that he had died
but that he had lived

he learned
when he was handed
that death sentence
knowing the next red light
would be the last stop
on the drive

so he threw himself
completely into his life
without the cushion of
random how
left with only when
as the remaining question

past past present (20161222)

these ghosts hover
like the shimmer
of christmas booze
over a dickensian pudding

[so many dead
–the poet said]

no one waited until spring
no thaw
and frost flowers
blossomed from gravesite earth

poinsettia and holly berry
heart color bright for the season
pleasing to view
poison to taste
divided by a pair of aces and nines
yet in my dreams
always together

whisper (20160527)

what is the meaning of a whisper
purred by a lover?
the message cannot be heard
within the constraints
of normal conversation
consciousness must be forcibly shunned
the message a secret
to both life and death
you will have to step into that
shadow between them
the threshold of here and there
and even then you will only ever
repeat what you have learned
in a whisper