Monthly Archives: January 2017

Blood Tide and The Black Machines

She rides her motorbike down the slim, unlined lanes of the country.

               The tawny fields of tall grain whipped in the cool morning breeze.

               Little farm houses off in the distance, behind grey stone walls.


               You’d never know what had happened here, all those years before.

               The land has healed, the trenches and barbwire all gone from sight,

               Though the bones and blood and the sorrow still soaks the black soil.


               She finally stops at the empty foundation by a tall and twisted tree,

               The one she knows from the old photograph, her father smiling in

               Uniform, a beautiful woman kissing his cheek, whom she doesn’t know.


               She pulls a copy of the photograph from her pocket, looks at it now, trying

               To find the remmnants, the ether of that happy afternoon, that sweet

               Moment before the blood tide and black machines washed them away.


               But it’s just an empty foundation, and an old dying tree, nothing more here.

               She still doesn’t feel close to him, feel his spirit coming near to her own,

               Just here in empty countryside, chilled despite the fact that it’s August.


               Her father is back home, and hard to reach, lives in books and theology,

               In internal debates about the hand of god and the fates of the angels,

               Not in the voice of his daughter, not in her madness he passed on down.


               She puts away the picture, starts the motorbike again, and roars down

               The road, onto the sea twenty miles distant, to the waters over which

               The Red Dragon came, and has returned now, the blood changing nothing.

The Sin Eater

It was six am, the little digital clock said on Ellie’s desk. She couldn’t see the sun beginning to break, as the morgue was cold and underground and away from all sunlight. Still, she took a moment to visualize the coming light in her head, the cold and wan light of a February morning, the shadows that and starry ocean that receded like a tide as the light pushed its way ashore.

               She had shared just such a morning with Skylar, the young man laying cold and dead on the examination table, with the loaf of bread laid upon his chest for the ceremony that she needed to perform him, to get him free and into heaven.

               Ten years ago, after a night of drinking and laughing and talking and ecstatic lovemaking, they had walked up the scraggly, almost bare hill behind their apartment, holding hands, happy, carrying yet another bottle of red wine with them. They had sat down on the hill, passing the bottle, her head on his shoulder, in silence as the sun rose and all seemed like paradise.

               That was the last good time they’d had. That was the last time the bad outweighed the good. That was the end of everything for them, and the beginning of everything about Skylar going completely to shit.

               Ellie left her office, and went to the examination table. The sweet beauty, the boyish petulance, the trickster spark was gone from him. He was only an empty shell. Whatever it was that made him wild and mad and a goddamned fool was gone forever from him. It unnerved her to look at him like this. Bodies of those lost were uncanny faces that looked familiar, but utterly empty and alien. There had been a soul, and it was gone. What was left was a mockery.

               The autopsy had told her what she already knew, but procedure had to be followed. No foul play, his body had just shut down from all the abuse. Suicide by substances. Suicide, slowly but as plainly as if he had put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. Suicide, because he was a goddamned fool.

               He could be sweet, when he was sober, when he was himself. He could make her believe she was God’s Most Favored Angel, the greatest treasure in a starry night. She remembered him taking her down to Chattanooga and over into Dalton Georgia in the middle of the night, simply because she’d said she’d never been out of Tennessee, and he though he needed to immediately rectify that. She remembered the song he made up for her though he couldn’t sing and could barely play a guitar. She’d be flattered anyway. She remembered his tender and supplicant kisses. She remembered.

               And she remembered the drink and the drugs taking over and the demon that unleashed upon her. The rage and accusations and the jealousy. She remembered trying to take a bottle from him once when he was already smashed, and him hauling off and back handed her across the face. She fell to the floor, crying and screaming, while he continued to howl at her. She scrambled to her feet, ran out the door of the apartment they shared, and never came back.

               Once he was sober he kept calling in tears and begging her for forgiveness. But her heart was hardened to him, and she cut him out of her life forever. She gone on her way, to becoming a doctor and then an M.E., and working for the county sheriff. He’d gone on down the path he’d laid out for himself since the beginning, and it came to its predictable end.

               And now, the ceremony must begin. The loaf of bread had laid upon his chest all night, since midnight and the turning of the day. It had absorbed all his sins. In the old times a Sin Eater would eat the bread left upon the deceased, so the bread could absorb all the deceased’s sins, and the Sin Eater could take those sins upon themselves, so the deceased could go into heaven and be free and at peace forever.

               Ellie would be his Sin Eater. She would take his sins upon herself. She wanted him free and in paradise. She ate the bread, bitter and cold, and quietly tears rolled down her cheeks. She still loved that goddamned fool, even now. She couldn’t bear the thought of him in torment and without hope. She would take his price, so he could be at peace at last.

               The ceremony over, the tears shed, the bargain made. She called his parent to release the body to them, and to go and see the sun that was now risen and bright.



Matilda Lays Out The Cards While Neil Lays Sick and Sleeping

Matilda lays out the cards while Neil lays sick and sleeping,

               As the early winter sunlight grows sickly pale on the floor creeps

               To another clear and starry night, the moon no longer granting wishes.


               The queen of hearts, the 9 of diamonds and the suicide king.

               Her mind makes these random shadows the glorious revelation

               Of the fate of the coming dawn, the half seen promise of Eden.


               She is coughing, sweaty with fever and their paradoxal chills.

               She knows he’s tethered by a lifetime of love and shared dreams,

               But silk fades with impatient starlight. She won’t be far behind.


               The 3 of hearts, the 2 of spades, and the jack of clubs, even this

               Can make the words come to her, the magic of creating in loss

               And the solace that it still moves the sun in the night coming forever.


               Matilda puts away the deck, listens to Neil shudder and cough, go silent.

               She’s got the sickness to, but she’ll be able to take him by the hand to

               The gates of the garden, watch him fade into it’s everlasting light.


               Outside, the stars are bright and whipped into great pale clouds.

               They last for eons and shine across the endless darkness, come here,

               But one day they too will be gone, lost forever, all light goes.


               The last of the brandy, drunk cold but without ice, she shivers

               And coughs and shakes, but what glory in the snow and bare trees

               And clear sky, and the hope that maybe she’ll see Neil in that warm garden

Where The Fox And The Hare Say Goodnight

Where the fox and the hare say goodnight,

               Out in forest quiet in the dark and the snow

               The stars endless and the moon a weeping eye,

               And the blood and sorrows have nowhere to go.


               The fox no longer hungers, the hare no longer runs,

               And the hunter of them both has quiet passed away.

               The cold calms all time into a sleep that is exhausted peace,

               And the demons and angels no longer have their way.


               Winter, as even the stars wink out, and the moon dries

               It’s tears and it’s light goes out, and only dreams remain.

               The fox and the hare snuggle close, for it’s all past and gone.

               The hunter stays in his bed, as peace comes only for the slain.

Pinpricks of Angels

She is lithe, with dishwater blonde hair, and a distant look in her eyes.

               A black and white beanie, and dark loose clothes, and the ghost of a smile.

               An ember of some past joy, some long ago dream come true, flickers alight

               And for a moment, her feet raise off the ground, and life feels sweet again.


               As she walks home, she stops, and looks up at the sky, rarely clear and clean.

               The city lights chases away the heavens, but a few pinpricks of the angels light

               Still get to her here, on this cold and bitter night, and they are sweet manna.

               Still light in this darkness, in this city, in this world it’s so easy to believe God forgot.


               In her little apartment, with the plants she nurtures, and the place she can hope

               Or cry or just simply be, try for the quiet as the traffic and shouts come through

               Thin walls,  she starts to make her evening meal, and somewhere in the darkness,

                A quasar beats the rhythm, a code from the distance: “It can still be well.”

Touching The Stars

All these castles of alabaster and stone, touching the stars.

               All those monuments to her grace and beauty, rival the sun.

               All these gardens and rivers cold and deep and full of darkness.


               The sweet dreams of kisses as our feet left from the earth forever.

               Of seeing her wings open, her become light, and not just hurting flesh.

               Of knowing that this summer night is forever, and we are one in heaven.


               The visions of crystal palaces and lurid galaxies and romantic tenderness.

               In my head that put on the page, my tribute to all her wonder and love,

               Echoes of all the adventures I wish we could have, in some far away sky.


               They are just stories to her, stories she loves when I show them to her,

               And praises my talents and the visions I can show her inside her mind,

               But I can never tell her, that they are the bricks of the temple of my devotion


               The dreams of the things I wish we could say and do and be, forever.

No Promise of Outer Space

Black leather and denim hoodie, the hood drawn over her face.

               An old ‘70s Yamaha motorbike, a faded and flecked blue.

               Drizzly rain, clouds a crown on a starry night,

               No promise of outer space.


               Death and life in the smell of gasoline, the fire of damnation

               And fuel of the frontier, the scream of speed into darkness.

               I got on the motorbike behind her, press myself to her,

               No promise of heaven, only escape.


               One jammed open eye showing light on the empty highways,

               From the bleak valleys of these Appalachian Mountains,

               To the arid plains, on our way to the Sea of Cortez,

               No promise of love, only of sweetness.


               Asleep beneath the sky, the air chill and the stars endless,

               My head on her shoulder, watching her breathe, at peace.

               Sleeping bag snug for two, as if her skin could swallow me.

               No promise of dreams, only hope.

Mermaid Tears

Nova Scotia, where you’re from, as Spring comes around.

               Still cold enough for your teal beanie, a charm against death.

               A bottle of red wine between us, as we drink, and talk.

               The afternoon becomes as grey and dark as the northern sea.


               There are mermaid’s tears on the shore, shiny and bright as glass.

               We walk hand in hand, careful not to step on them, to not break

               Something good, even if they’re made from the sorrows of those

               Who couldn’t keep what was their joy, what made the moon so bright.


               And I think of those tears, that we leave be, though we hear there songs.

               Mermaids’ tears shed for lovers gone somewhere they can’t follow to.

               And will my tears wash upon this shore, because I can’t follow you to

               The dark forests filled with ghosts, or the shining heaven I see in your paintings.


               I kiss your cheek, and wish with our vows we were one flesh and spirit

               In this fallen world, where our devotions and tenderness are only

               Lighthouses in the darkness the other sails, leads them home, but can’t be there.

               My stories, your paintings, are the shining tears washed on each other’s shores.


Stars, Are His Eyes

I wake up in the dead of night, and you’re gone from the bed.

               I hear muttered words outside, quiet but raised up in supplication.

               Outside our window, in your teal beanie and bathrobe, you look

               To the stars and the white, distant moon, to the domain of angels.


               Words of passion and fear and sorrow, and hope and longing and love.

               Stars, the eyes of God, watching us in the night, watching our dreams.

               I watch your prayer, to the angels and the saints and to God so far above.

               What are you asking? What are saying? Do you just want your heart spoken.


               Finally, you look back to the earth, and turn to come inside again, wiping

               Tears from your eyes. I lay down again, pretend to be asleep as the back door

               Closes and I hear you come up the stairs, still with a hitch in your throat.

               You crawl into bed, embrace me and kiss my head, say a simple prayer:


               “I love you, sweetheart.”

Halo Morning

It’s cold in the house, old and drafty, flaking paint, old lead windows.

               The small alcove you’ve made into a studio, looks on the patch of trees,

               Between us and the next house, the highway, the gas station and market.

               A patch of trees, majestic and proud, even bare against a grey, indifferent sky.


               Cold, so you have your blue hoodie, tattered and loved, and your teal beanie.

               You have a little smile on your lips, as you brush the colors of your dreams

               Upon the canvas, lost in thought, lost in dreams, lost in the moment of light.

               You’re painting angels and stars again; for the moment the blackness is gone.


               I sit at the kitchen table, working on my writing, drinking hot, black coffee,

               But still looking up at you, at the light again in your soft eyes, the glow again

               In your face, and again filled with joy as you create and make visions of your dreams.

               A pleasure and a play again, not simply exorcism of madness and fear and hatred.


               The sun is coming through the grey sky, and shines it’s favor on you,

               Through the old windows, a too perfect moment, a halo on your sweet head.

               A gold coin, a morning like this, a peaceful time in the dark days of our world,

               A gold coin to buy passage across a storm ravaged sea, to make it again to this,


               A perfect and calm morning, full of love and creation.