KNOWING THE BUTTERFLY

Was it better to know the butterfly

as he flew about the vegetable garden,

or to have simply seen him as a passerby

enjoying his stay in the sunshine?

 

Perhaps if I’d known him, he’d have stopped

and helped me along with my planting,

or told me a story about sunflowers

and how they made a magnificent landing;

 

but having never met, he stopped all the same

and waited hesitantly at the head of the gate,

fluttering his wings, faintly ready to fly away,

and that distant beauty wasn’t lost in friendly banter.

——

 

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PICKING PLUMS

Five women were picking plums from the ground. Four were doing the actual work. They were carrying swollen bags of fruit, bent over to pile more on top. One, presumably the hardest worker, had already abandoned her bag and was continuing to catch the remaining morsels in her apron. Two others had wandered off in the distance as the plums became harder and harder to find. The fourth was grabbing the last few in the foreground, when she happened upon a sullen, black rock.

The fifth woman was standing with a platter in the center of it all. She was dressed differently than the rest. Her apron was white, and where the others wore a red over-coat, she bore no such garment. Her eyes darted between the women, but returned to the girl standing in the foreground. Her face was a mix of contempt and anguish, as if the girl had done something to wrong her that she couldn’t speak of in front of the rest of the women.

The platter she carried was a small, black platter, perhaps of well-polished, painted wood, or porcelain. It contained plums that looked similar to what the other women were picking, yet they appeared to be the deep color of overripe fruit and, perhaps, were for reference only.

I liked to think, as I passed by, that she was the headmaster’s wife. She was angry at this girl for having slept with the master, and had taken her anger out on her group of maids as a whole. In the heat of day, she had forced them to pick bags and bags of fruit—so many that they had run out of the massive bags, and yet still she made them relentlessly continue. It looked as though they had picked the orchard nearly clean, too. I think they would have kept picking too, had things not changed as I walked out of view.

A sharp cry echoed from behind me, followed by the soft thumps of a dozen or so fruit. I heard footsteps rushing through the woods, then a heavy thud of a rock against something. The footsteps stopped. Two, three, four more times the rock came down, and with each thud emerged a sickening crunch.

When I finally decided to turn back, the grove had been emptied. No bags were anywhere to be seen, nor any women, though there were two patches of plums. The first was far in the distance, where the two women had gone off in search of more. It appeared they had dropped a small handful from their bags as they left, which had rolled harmlessly for a few feet before stopping. The second patch was less fortunate. A dozen plums, much deeper purple, had smashed onto the ground; splattering across the floor. The pulp and juice seeped from beneath the little heads, creating a pool of matter that mixed in with the dirt as they rotted.

——

 

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TRACING (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Pairs

I see in their eyes

the starlight after midnight

twinkling shyly.

 

Star Gazing

I lie in the dark

on a still blanket of grass

gazing at Venus.

 

Midnight Noises

The rustling night

entices my frightened dog

with howls far away.

 

Tracing

Slowly, I trace you

against the canvas of sheets

under the shadows.

 

Mirrored Sunrise

I witnessed the dawn

as a sunset upside-down

when you were with me.

——

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STRIKEOUT

Like an umpire shooting bullet holes

through a neighborly batter’s defenses,

you should strike through the draft of your paper

with the black ink of objectivity.

 

Or else you’ll be an executioner.

The ink will become your vicious black hood

and the pen will be your dripping red axe

swinging at the necks of innocent words.

 

Or worse yet, you will be back in high school,

stuttering sentences in a mirror

as you prepare to ask Suzy to prom,

just to doubt you had a shot to start with.

——

 

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THE UNIVERSE

It all started with the Big Bang

careening beyond the blackness,

weaving blue electricity

through the barren void of cosmos.

 

Then came the endless pulse of light

like a cardiac monitor

calling to the cradle of life

for it to be reborn again

 

and from the womb of the stars sprung

the stories of sacred spirits

that stoked our imaginations

like stacks of wood on the fire.

 

Until, at last, the burnt day comes;

where billowing flames unravel

the broken strands of creation

back to the heart of its great beast

 

and out of the blackened ashes

will crawl the Small Song of silence

who will retie the strings of shame

with the ropes of humility.

——

 

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HEADLIGHTS

The road had become so routine that my half-closed eyes hardly noticed the flickering of my headlights. So too did they miss the tankard smashing through the center divider; straight into the car behind me. Nor did they attend to the bloody arm reaching for help as I drove away.

——

 

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PANCAKES (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Windy Night

Wind disturbs the leaves

yet it is not the trees who

search for a reprieve.

 

Onlookers

From the kitchen door,

I catch pairs of tiny eyes

peeking through the pane.

 

Better Red

Roses in autumn

remind trees who lost their green

the beauty of red.

 

Serendipity

I most enjoy walks

through these warm, grassy fields

carrying my shoes.

 

Pancakes

The syrup drips down

the sides of her tender wrists

as she lifts her fork.

——

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THE HERD (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

The Herd

Beats in the distance

echo along the sunrise

like a veiled drum.

 

Grass

The shift of the blades

as wind washes through the plain

warns of life’s battles.

 

On Water

Walking through puddles

reminds me to imagine

my own miracles

 

Cleansing

Rain can wash away

the bad days. It’s up to you

to let it take them.

 

Night Driving

The trip was swallowed

in the abyss of the night

on the desert road.

——

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CHRISTMAS EVE

This isn’t a happy Christmas poem. This poem is something I wrote in the very early hours today, after we received some very difficult family news yesterday, and had to suffer the bitter reminder that Christmas is just another day of the year, plagued with the same pains as so many other days. So, if you aren’t in the mood for a downer, I recommend you don’t continue reading. If you are ok with that, check it out. I’ve copy-pasted my usual “after poem” stuff, so if reading more of my work interests you it is easily accessible, but the real me is not as chipper today as those closings sound. Thank you for your time, and for your support.

Christmas Eve

The stockings were hung, and the tinsel strung out

in hopes that Saint Christmas would soon be about;

the fires were low—so low that a whisper

could snuff out the flames like winds in the winter.

I shut off the lamp, and shuffled along;

away to my bed to dream my dream song.

But this year the sound of the clatter that rose

was only the phone ringing in the shadows.

I dashed to the doorknob and flew down the hall;

I rounded the kitchen to answer the call.

Hello” I announced in a voice oh-so-tight.

I’m sorry, good sir,” came the voice in the night,

“the news that I bring isn’t fit for this eve,

yet Christmas joy is what I’m tasked to thieve.”

“Thieve?” I asked, “Well don’t beat around the bush.”

“I’m sorry, good sir,” he said in a hush,

“at half past three, we found young Mary was dead;

hung by the rafters with a noose ‘round her head.”

He continued and yet the words were all lost;

deeply buried under hallowed winter frost.

I trudged out the door and up through the snow;

“Lustrous” Clement called it, hours ago.

Her favorite lines had been “Now Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!”

And now, as leaves at a hurdle take to the sky

so too, I imagine, that her spirit will fly;

Out! Beyond those bustling lights;

Out! Away from suffering nights;

Out! Over oceans sick with sorrow;

Out! Flying past lonely tomorrow;

“OUT!” I cry, with a fire so alive!

“OUT!” It echoes down the steep mountainside!

To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

Perched over the chasm I sing: “It’s Christmas tonight!

Merry Christmas to all! and to all a good night!”

——

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LOVE POEM #71 – EVEN AFTER

Even after the last cliché tropes lay burnt and dead in the hearth

and the final sonnets lie buried beneath the brittle house of poetry,

 

Even after the happiness has fled from every ever after

and the storybooks have fallen apart at the seams,

 

Even after the ocean floors have split under the hot rays of a swollen sun

and the fiery rains have extinguished the last breath of earthly life,

 

Even after the almighty gates of Heaven give way to rust

and the unbreakable chains of Hell finally begin to bend,

 

Even after all these things have come and gone,

the length of my love won’t find its end.

——

 

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