Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lead Story


Back in those days of Brylcreem and chrome
and linebackers breaking bones,
and Gordon's doubles to wash away
the troubles of the day,

lead was in the cheerful pink paint
on baby's bedroom walls and toys,
and the infinite blue skies were full of the sweet stink
of premium fortified with tetraethyl lead

and Marshall Dillon outdrew the bad guys
hit 'em with his .45 right between the eyes
in Dodge City, Kansas alias Melody Ranch,
just north of Los Angeles where it was always noon,

then downed a shot of rot gut
at Miss Kitty's Long Branch Saloon.
(a CBS soundstage down
Highway 99 in Studio City.)

Meanwhile, in a tiny Hollywood shop,
on Santa Monica Boulevard
Eugene Stoner and his assistants,
Jim Sullivan and Bob Fremont

crafted the embryonic Armalite AR-15.
The requirement was a weapon
that could pierce a steel helmet
at 500 yards. The Army didn't like it

but the Air Force did, especially Curtis-
bomb-em-back-to-the-stone-age-LeMay.
Marshall Dillon, Hoss and Paladin,
Rowdy Yates and Maverick

kept the small screen blazing
with their six-shooter Colts
and we all gathered round
the blue glow in the living room

as they faced off out in front
of the saloon and Miss Kitty
waited patiently, and the poker players
watched from the wooden sidewalks

and we all knew how it would end
because the good guys always got the drop.
And the bad guys were bank robbers
and rustlers, not wife beaters and fanatics.

You could tell 'em by their hats.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

For His Majesty Rama IX


I dressed in black
for the midnight flight
and black was all
I packed.

to join the reverent
mass convened
in love and sorrow
for the fallen king.

Lancome and Prada
vanished from
the giant screens
above the plazas

and the small ones
on the Skytrain.
Instead they streamed
the solemn funeral

procession as
the golden royal chariot
bore the golden urn
to the golden crematorium.

And the people clad in black
gathered in the shelter
of the lotus-crenelated walls
of the grand palace

watched and wept
in the morning
sun and shadow
as the chariot

pulled by two hundred
men dressed in red
rolled so very very slowly,
sadly, to the final site.

By dusk, the black tributaries
of mourners had swollen
through the streets
and alleys to the parks

and temples, the squares
and monuments, the streams
became rivers pooling at the places
where they waited for hours

to place sandalwood flowers
on the ceremonial pyres
in honor of His Majesty
and his life.

And I thought about
one of his projects
that we had visited
a few years ago,

where coffee and melons
and cucumbers
and other good things
had replaced the poppy.

A rainstorm had suddenly descended
so we dashed under a shed
and watched the rain
bounce like diamonds

on the pavement.
And just as suddenly
it stopped and steamy vapors
drifted up into the trees.

He was a kind and good man
dedicated to his people
and they to him.
my favorite images of the king

are the one where he
was playing a saxophone,
and the one with his faithful camera
and his finger poised in thought.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

another tale from the trash bin on the corner


he's standing there.
next to the trash bin on the corner.
unsteady, kind of shaky on his feet.
breathing through his mouth.

worn out jeans.
rubber handled pliers in his back pocket.
flipping through a magazine
resting on top of the bin.

one page at a time. quickly.
turn turn turn. lick a finger. turn.
his hands tremble badly.
he struggles to turn the pages.

keeps at it. every single page.
until he gets to the last page
and puts the magazine
back in the trash bin.

he walks across the street.
old man shuffling steps.
barely makes it before
the signal changes.

i want to know what magazine
was so compelling, what feature
was he searching for?
so i retrieve it and have a look.

the cover is gone, but i turn the pages.
ad for kohler fixtures.subzero refrigerators.
a story about a japanese style house
in the mountains of north carolina.

leviton smart lighting controls.
a glass house floating above silicon valley.
a window that incorporates a fireplace.
a young woman dressed for vogue or cosmo.

the footer on the pages
identify this magazine
as the september/october 2017
issue of dwell magazine.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eeny meany miney mo


The finger of catastrophe and miracles
is playing eeny meany miney mo.

Itchy on the trigger or teasing
with a tickle, the unsuspecting
never expecting to be torched
or tossed or spared.

Prayers on the wind
climb high with the embers
hoping that God or Fate remembers
that mercy sometimes requires
a finger on the wheel.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

what you hear


all the lyrics
that i hear
now sound
apocalyptic.

but when the sun
hit the poplar trees
this morning
the wild parrots

screamed as usual.
for them i believe
it's a chorus
born of joy.

to us it sounded
like a ruckus.

the calendar
feels like a clock,
the unimaginable
coming round and round

at the stroke of midnight
as we begin each day
in darkness, waiting
for the dawn,

in faith that it will come.
and the light will shine
on blood and flowers,
and sparkle on the waters

and the towers
of this new babylon.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reality street


The cold silver night
shone on the bars
of my own infant bed.

A junebug clinging
to the window screen
had a change of mind,

and flew across the moon.
The cool pillow warmed
beneath my cheek.

The world was still
too new to easily fall asleep,
but even junebugs

go somewhere to hide
before the burning
valley summer sunrise.

On the phone lines,
so high above
the clothes line

where mommy hung
daddy's shirts and sheets
a pair of mourning doves cooed.

A squad of ants
picked at the remains
of a snail,

it's doomed trail
from the night before
still glistening

on the coarse grass
that tickled the soles
of my feet.

Mommy dropped
a clothes pin so I seized it,
squeezed open the jaws,

and let them snap shut
on the wilting blossom
of a dandelion

decapitated
when Daddy mowed
the lawn the night before.

The doves on the phone lines
cooed and I cooed back,
the words I knew were few.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

11:48


She's dressed for a morning
as cool as her childhood
village in Shandong:
warm trousers and a jacket
zipped up to her throat,
floppy-brimmed hat pulled low
over her bob cut silver hair.

Picks through the corner trash
receptacle with her practical
cotton garden-gloved hands.
Underneath the discarded leaves
of an office rubber tree plant,
she fishes out empty Mountain Dew
and Red Bull cans.

He, a white gloves firm lawyer
or hedge fund manager or CEO,
waits at the stoplight in his Bentley Continental.
Peers over his cheaters at her endeavors.
Guns his gleaming anthracite coupe
up the hill to take lunch
or treat himself to a nooner
when the signal surrenders
to his desire for green.

She crushes the cans beneath
her drug store athletic shoes
and stuffs them into a thirty gallon
woven plastic bag.
Redemption pays a nickel apiece
or by the pound. Twenty years
from now -properly invested-
she might have enough to buy
a Bentley for her grandson
to drive in her funeral procession.