The Golden Apple

The Golden Apple

 

It’s a wonder Paris could choose

who would get the golden apple

when I can barely part with one

that has red and yellow spots.

 

Yet he thrust it into the palms

of the porcelain god Venus

without a pause to consider

the empty pit in his stomach.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #86 – Sleeping / Waking

The peacefulness of a Buddhist

draws its way across your brow

beneath the wisps of blonde hair

that hide the blank expression on your face.

 

Then, with the flutter of your eyelids,

the materialism of your features fly back

like the flare of spring when Persephone

crossed the fiery steps of Hades back to Earth.

——

 

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AFTER THE FALL

He was old. So old, the new wrinkles in his face seemed to have seen more deaths than most people alive. His feeble body sprouted legs from beneath his torso, though they had shriveled from lack of use that they looked as though they more like twigs, ready to snap at any moment. His skin had gone from leathery to baked and hard. Blood spots appeared on his fingers as he moved them around. Yet still, he had to keep them moving. The doctor had said it was one thing to lose the legs, but losing the arms would be too much.

His face was shrunk as well, so much that he looked like a ghost. The one unchanged feature in him was his mind. His body had failed to weather the storm of time, but the mountain in his head was unmoved. The people of the village had dedicated a room in his honor, which was kept constant with fire so that he never felt the chill of winter. All they had asked in return were his stories.

Stories he had plenty. They enjoyed the stories from the time before, when people lived in the long abandoned buildings out beyond the hillside, but he preferred the one that followed. The calamity had destroyed many lives, but those that rose from the ashes were reliant on others. It was the great time, in his mind, of human caring. With no family to speak of, he was grateful he lived in such a time, where he would not have to fear being thrown out in the cold until he was ready to die.

That day was soon coming though, he knew. In their hearts, he thought all people knew, unless they were taken before their time by something unexpected, like a runaway bus. That had been a story the children had loved, though the parents had scolded them for laughing. But what did he care if they laughed? So long as they learned and lived, there was little worry if they laughed.

The days for laughter were long passed him. Now, some god had sentenced him to suffering. He felt like Tithonus, yet his Eos had died many, many years ago. They all had. At times, he pondered leaving the village. The cold would be good for him—he had known many good souls take their own lives in the cold. His best friend had done it, and it was said he rode great wild beasts in the dreams he lived, in those last moments.

Perhaps that day could be today. In the silence, after everyone left, he put his hands on the armrests and tried to lift himself. His arms shook, his skin cracked, and he heaved heavy breaths of air, but he could hardly rise an inch. He knew, deep down, even if he had risen, his legs would have fallen after a moment, and he would have had to crawl with half the bones in his body broken.

It was a vain fantasy, to wish to leave these good people alone, but one he greedily played in his mind. Over and over it spun, like the wheels of fire the men danced with outside. He could hear them now, chanting for the sun to come; for the cold not to claim too many of their babes. The mothers joined in to, and he listened to their voices. Strong. Loving. He listened until he felt the calm of sleep finally take him.

——

 

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WONDER WOMAN

Diana wasn’t like her comic book counter part.

She didn’t feel any inner struggle over her Superman.

She struggled with her taxes, getting tenure,

and which of her sister’s twins had twisted the cat’s tail.

 

But she was a Wonder Woman nonetheless;

the kind of woman who would wake up at five

and take the bus to the homeless shelter

just so the sorrowful could have a decent meal.

 

Maybe she pictured herself from time to time

soaring over the skyline as the sun began to shine,

dressed in a one-piece, red and blue suit

and a tiara that twinkled in the sunlight,

 

but I saw her more as the brutal hunter,

ready to hamstring the next Actaeon

that paraded his way into the wrong bathhouse;

protecting her nymphs from another abuser.

——

 

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LOVE POEM #74 – SO COLD

Outline for me the love in your blue lies.

Was life so cold between these crimson walls

that you would search for warmth in winter skies?

Are you so conned by the sweet siren’s calls

that you would cast away your canvased life?

My love has birthed for you the finer things,

and you forget so quick that lasting strife

which bound your comely hands in puppet strings.

Then sketch your will with Neptune by your side

await those waves to take you through the light.

You’ll see those shallow waters swell with pride

and drown you in that cerulean night.

Yet when I see you float beyond that door,

I know you’ll wish that you had stayed ashore.

——

 

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BAT SONGS

The shade of bats fluttering in the distance engulfed the lights of the stars, like lines of black paint against the night. The chill metal of the bench was sharpened as they passed overhead; their shrill chatter echoing in my ears. Their beckoning song seemed to call out, “Sleep, Ulysses.”

——

 

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GALE (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Privacy

I sat on a bench

confessing love, while a bird

watched me from a branch.

 

Regrowth

The patch of green grass

growing from dead dirt reminds

that life will go on.

 

Narcissus

They were so busy

staring at their reflections

they missed the white fish.

 

Disown

A doll made of sticks

lies in shambles in the dirt

as the girl stomps off.

 

Gale

A wind this restless

engulfs the valley in fear.

Even the stones shake.

——

 

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SKINNY DIPPING

Swimming in the blue-black starlight

like a spaceship drifting through the cosmos

I thought I caught a glimpse of Venus

sitting by the shore of the basin.

 

But when I turned to look again

it was only the fleeting whispers of a dove

perched on a rock in regal white feathers,

the rays of moonlight dancing on its wings

 

and I was there, frozen;

waiting for the bird to take flight

so that I could dress in peace

and not be caught naked by Zeus.

——

 

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WORDS AND IRONWORKS

I wasn’t born to be a poet.

With a name like “Smith,” one is only fit

to work over a hot fire with iron and steel,

and yet somehow the words chiseled their way

into the forge of my life.

 

The sound of my pen spattering paper

rung out like an imagined hammer,

shaping the letters of Apollo

into a work more spectacular

than those creations I’d made for Vulcan.

 

For though the glint of the ironworks

could be heard throughout the village,

it was the letters sung between drinks

that filled it with happiness

and when the time came for another pair of sons

to be whisked away on bloodied spikes

the solace of words meant more to the mothers

than the stained return of mail

to be buried with the bodies.

——

 

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NIGHT ON THE BARE MOUNTAIN

When I finally reached the flat top of the mountain, I was greeted by a flatland that was more the top of a hill than a mountain—so green and grassy I could hardly believe myself. I took a nap for a while, and when I awoke the sun had been falling.

The sudden rush of cold air had taken me by surprise, marking the end of the day. Nightfall was setting in, and the air had taken a dramatic turn from the comforts of that afternoon. I had spent the day hiking to the top of the bald mountain. It had been a beautiful hike to the top. The sky had been a clear blue, with sky shrouds only at the edges of the world view.

But it had also been quite treacherous. There were many places where the rocks threatened to give way, and the way down was no easier. Each step felt like I was trudging through the snow, hoping not to fall into some unseen depths. I turned a corner on the main path, and was blown by a powerful gust, which knocked me on my backside and rolled me toward the edge of a cliff. My legs were dangling over the side when I finally got control again, and the wind subsided. I looked down at the eons of space beneath me, like a vast mouth of darkness, threatening to swallow me up like Jonah. Grasping for the strands of ground, I managed to scramble back to my feet, and continue down.

I was given a brief respite for most of the rest of the way down, and eventually grew accustomed to the treacherous ground and chill air. The clouds had rolled in in droves, like a pack of beasts descending in the night, and when the first crack on lightning shot through the sky, it sounded almost like they had made the call for pursuit. The rains fell then, hard. Each drop was a rock, and blurred my vision. But I was getting close to the bottom.

The tempest was in full throttle then. It felt as though it were sent there, just to trap me. I had begun running, though I couldn’t remember when. I hopped over bushes, between fallen branches, and across small gaps in the path, emboldened and afraid of what would come next. I wanted to get away before more went wrong. The trees were shaking; rattling like snakes coiled, and the path had grown thick with mud. Many steps became more like surfing through waves of mud than stepping through them.

Until finally, I broke out from behind the last tree, and the world grew quiet. I looked back at the bald mountain, which looked like Sisyphus trapped in his own hell then. But I had escaped. I walked over to my car and drove home, though I kept my eye on the mountain as it grew more distant, just to make sure the storm stayed with it.

——

 

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