Friday, October 31, 2014

OMANDRUIN



Sword and sorcery steeped in Joseph Campbell-inspired world myth tradition and set in a pre-cataclysmic age...
















OMANDRUIN
by Stewart Kirby

1
            The steep thatched roof and low peat walls of the old man’s hut rose in Uly’s view as he trudged up the slick rolling slope. Clouds as gray as the bundle of cold oak limbs he bore on his back gathered on the mountains, and the dark smell of rain was in the wind. It had been some days since Uly brought the old man wood, but he took the chore upon himself as often as he was able now that the days were getting shorter and the nights were getting colder. Cold enough to keep white caps on hazy peaks. Soon the rain would hit, and then the rain would turn to snow. High in the mountains without a good supply of wood the old man would feel the bite, even if he did have ice in his veins.
            When he topped the rise the first thing Uly saw was a huge gray wolf. Uly was no stranger to wolves. He had seen them since his infancy loping through the black pines at night in silent packs. In Uly’s experience, wolves were wary. But this one was different. It was alone and it was unconcerned. Beyond the wolf, barred from his home, stood the old man, frozen, gaunt, gray as a wolf himself, his long white beard like lightning in the wind. A shiny cracked leather satchel hung at his side and he stuffed this with all the acorns he could find plus a smattering of fat mushrooms. He had only just returned to his hut himself, and was about to chance a show of force with his favorite walking stick when Uly appeared and took matters in hand.
            Uly dropped the load, pulled a hatchet from his belt and made noise to scare the wolf away, shouting, “Be gone, longtooth!”
            Spittle flew from the wolf’s bared teeth as it snapped, foam flecking at the pulled corners of its snarling mouth with pine tree-white teeth. Then, just as quickly, the wolf leisurely trotted away, casting casual sidelong glances as it meandered up the rocky hillside. When it reached the top of the hill the wolf looked back, lightly panting, now joined by two more high above that raised their ragged heads.
            “We’ll kill you, old man,” the wolves seemed to say with their red glowing eyes. “We’ll chew you and the boy into bits, and drop you both back out on the snow.”
            “Not too frightened, that one,” the old man said as Uly re-stacked the bundle. “These wolves are getting bold.”
            For once the old man seemed thankful, and this thankfulness was shown with an impatient gesture of his bony hand indicating Uly was to bring the firewood inside. The old man knocked a chair aside with his walking stick to make way, and shoved stacks of books into more accommodating positions. Books with planets on them, unrecognized by Uly as such, lay stacked on volumes open to pages with arms and legs outspread in the center of a circle, a long scroll propped up depicting a man in flight wearing a unique apparatus resembling great bat-like wings, and a series of intricate prints of mushrooms and their cross-sections.
          Uly had never been in the old man’s hut before. He looked around as the old man made a fire. A thin trail of smoke rose from a small pile of ashes on the floor, looking like a little mountain, and wound its way slowly toward a hole in the roof of the old man’s stone cottage. Framed outside in the open doorway squatted a still and silent raven in a barren tree. Nearby, a strange glow coming from an open door revealed a small room, somehow incongruous with the rest of the humble surroundings. Stepping toward it, Uly looked inside.
            “Get out of there!” the old man exclaimed. Then, perhaps remembering his manners, he seemed to change his mind. The wincing expression on his face told Uly to go ahead and look inside.    
            The door was smooth and cool to the touch, made of a material unknown to Uly which emanated a dull green glow. On one wall there was a large mirror. Uly had never seen a mirror, only burnished brass, such as his mother had used. Against the opposite wall there was a wooden bench.
            “Such a room as this,” the old man said, leaning on top of the cane which he kept in his hands, for he had approached and seemed interested now,  “and there are none like it, has the power to change the world.”            
            “How?” Uly asked.
            The old man lit a pipe. “You have heard of the Host of Darkness,” he said,  “of the one called…Cernan?” 
            “Many times I have heard ghost stories.”

            “This is no mere ghost story,” the old man said. “The Host of Darkness is a real force which sleeps. When the Sleeper wakes, it will herald the end of the world. What is more, signs indicate the Sleeper stirs.”
            Uly followed the old man outside. “What signs?” said Uly.
            “It wasn’t always this way,” the old man wistfully sighed, the gleam of dusk light on his face and in his eyes. “A sense of evil grows upon the world. People are fearful, and filled with more than natural hate.” The old man paused to puff away at his pipe. “Then there are the birds of night that hoot at noonday, and petty chieftains that war. Of late the winters grow long, and wolves increase. They grow bolder, as you see.” High on the hill, the wolves watched, upright sphinx-like heads over forward-pointing paws. The old man eyed the sky in a westerly direction, as though he could see over the mountains and straight to the ocean. Puffing his pipe thoughtfully he added, “And there are other signs.”
            Uly’s face took on a faraway expression. The old man tapped out his pipe. “I am afraid,” he said, “I am an old man who believes in ghost stories too much.” He said no more on the subject.
            Uly returned the next morning with a load of firewood, sooner than was his custom. And he called out for the old man, but found he was away, no doubt gathering acorns and mushrooms in his shining oilcloth pouch. Uly, being naturally inquisitive, longed to see the room.
            Stepping within he found that the door to the curious room was slightly open, as the old man had left it. Uly set down the wood and called out for the old man, then peered inside the room. In the dull green light emanating from the walls and the floor and the ceiling he saw, above the wooden bench, something which he had not noticed before: it was either a helmet with a mask, or a mask with a helmet. He sat down on the bench. From this position he could see his head in the darkness of the mirror. He slid the door back and forth, amazed at how easily it rolled. Suddenly the door shut with a click, fitting seamlessly, and the moment that it shut there was a profound rattling of chains. Something tugged at the room, causing it to violently rock. Then Uly felt the disturbing sensation of dropping. There was a blur on the other side of the dark mirror, and the mirror was hit with a great splash as the room slammed into a body of water.
            Water lapped on the other side of the mirror…
            The room was moving….
            Uly was stunned to find he was being carried away in an underground river!
            Frantically he searched for a way out. He tried to open the door and a voice appeared behind him:
“Be careful, Uly.”
            Befuddled, Uly glanced around. Then he looked at the mask on the wall. It smiled. “You should see your face,” it said, mimicking Uly’s wide-eyed expression.
            “What is this?” Uly yelled.
            “What?” came the reply. “Not what, who!” Uly took the mask down from the wall, as though he expected to see a hole for someone’s head to poke through. The mask continued speaking in Uly’s hands.
            “I am called Peykin! A mask to some, and perhaps the voice of reason. To look through my eyes is to see what lies behind all masks.” Slowly, Uly raised the mask to his face, positioning the helmet over his head. When he donned the mask, instantly the dull green glow of the strange material was replaced with perfect clarity, as though the room were lit with clear light.
            Uly saw both in the water and out, above and below the lapping waterline. He tried to touch the mask and felt only the contours of his own face. He put a hand to the top of his head and discovered only his own hair. Yet when he reached to remove the mask, he found it in his hands.
            “You travel in a boat, like the gods and the stars and the kings of old. You ride in Omandruin, the Drifting Room. You have been given a great opportunity. In all the world, you alone ride the rivers of the caves.”
             Wind whistled deep in the distant darkness of the unending river. Massive spires stretching down from the ceiling and up from the water resembled grotesque faces. Waves of shrill pings and pops overlapped as bats filled the catacombs with a palpable shocking shriek. At the room’s approach there was a din of leathery wings as the night fliers poured upriver.
            Inside Omandruin Uly saw long combs of limestone nearly reach the river, hanging like an ice castle’s portcullis. A dip in the river added momentum and there was a glassy snapping to wake the dead as the Drifting Room mowed a swath, shearing brittle wonders which splashed about on all sides and collected in crackling heaps up top.


            Stalagmites rose below like spires in an undersea city. Peering against the window, Uly saw not the mask that he was wearing, but his own face staring back at him. When he removed the mask, the dull green glow of the room returned.
            “What the old man told you is true,” Peykin spoke in Uly’s hands. “The Host of Darkness has many names. Cernan, we will call him. Somewhere in these caves he sleeps. The day that he awakes will herald the end of the world.”
            Dark shapes slid toward the window and wavered.
            “Omandruin is the cave of caves. Here you need no food. Here you need no sleep. So long as you do not open that door, here you will not age.”
            “Then how will I ever get out?”
            “Try looking up.”
            With the mask on, Uly saw a rectangular outline in the ceiling. Standing on the bench, he pushed against it and it swung back, exposing a hatch. Nimbly pulling himself up and out, he stood on the top of the room.
            Uly ducked to avoid a stalactite, flattening himself to the silvery outer surface of the room with legs and arms outspread like a water beetle.
            “That one nearly got you,” Peykin said.
            “There’s nothing to hang onto!” Uly cried to the mask on his face.
            “What are you going to do?” Peykin asked.
            “Now that I know I can get out, I’m going back in!”
            Uly groped for the lip of the hatch and pulled it shut after him as he slipped down and dropped inside.
            “A wise choice,” Peykin said.
            Omandruin drifted beneath a sky of stone. Glistening dampness traveling down from the topsoil collected at the tips of innumerable stalactites; on each of these the moisture swelled into a dot; the dot into a drop; mineral-laden drops splashed into the river, and on the banks, where innumerable mounds of limestone developed into stalagmites. Where these formations met their source, columns were formed. Water shadows rippled on the rock as Omandruin passed.
            “How do I find this sleeping evil?” Uly asked, looking out the window.
            “I do not know. You will have to find that out for yourself.”



2

            The wild man was on his belly, kicking his feet in the slush. He did not think of himself as such, not as a wild man. Alone in the dark, with a rag of filth around his loins, Calab did not question his relation to the animals. It was Calab who was lord. He told this to the water lizards.
            “Yonder crab knows his master. See how ill at ease he is? Yonder crab fears Calab. And well he should. What couldn’t Calab do to him, should Calab choose?”
            A filthy hand with ragged nails clutched the nearest lizard. Calab squished it in his grip till its tongue bulged, and nipped free the wriggling tail in his teeth. Grinning, he chewed. “It is Calab who is master here,” he reminded, tossing the mangled lizard to the crab.
            Suddenly Calab froze. The knotted muscles of his back tensed. He scampered from the bank and hid behind a rock as he watched the Drifting Room approach. “What is this? What is this?” he whispered in a low foul breath.
            Inside the room, Uly saw thin lines spiraling down in the water like dangling strands of spider web. He watched as a small fish swam too close to one of the tendrils. Sucked into the spiral, it was pulled down further than Uly’s view afforded.
            “Whirlpools,” Peykin said.
            Uly pushed open the hatch, pulled himself up and sat down at the edge of the hatch so that his legs retained a grip inside. Uly saw from this vantage that ahead the river was pocketed with whirlpools of greater size. He reached out and grabbed a passing stalactite. Though the current was not strong, it pulled the room so that it tipped beneath him. Uly clung to the stalactite, wondering what to do.
            Omandruin was not far from the bank. Between the bank and the room more stalactites dipped, some of which were low enough that Uly thought by pushing off from where he clung he could grab another, and repeat the process until he could reach the bank where the current was weaker. There he would at least be able to catch his breath and devise a plan.
            Shifting the room as best as he was able in the direction that he wished to go, he pushed away from the stalactite and readied himself to grab the next one. His plan succeeded; yet here the force of the current was stronger than he reckoned, requiring greater effort to hang onto both the spire and the room, which, due to the increased force of the current, now tipped further than before. The river was close to entering the room through the open hatch. He did not need Peykin to tell him that if the room filled with water it would sink.
            Then an idea struck him. Carefully withdrawing one leg from the hatch, he crooked the other around the end of the stalactite and with his hands freed quickly slipped off his tunic. He tied a sleeve to the tip of the spire, wrapped the other sleeve around his hand, and swift as a cat, dropped down into the room, tipped as it was, at arm’s length where he grabbed the wooden bench and knocked a plank free with one kick. He tied his sleeve around the middle of the plank, then positioned the plank lengthwise against the opening of the hatch. The room dipped and bobbed in the current, temporarily moored to the stalactite.
            “Well done,” Peykin said. “I would not have thought to do that.”


            Through the angled window Uly saw a figure standing on the bank throw a length of rope which snaked over the water.
            “I thank you for your help,” Uly said when he had secured the room in calm water against the rock.
            The wild man regarded Uly’s offered hand with tentative suspicion, extending his dilating nostrils in a quick sweep toward it, then retreating with a furtive step backward. He pointed to the Drifting Room.
            “What is it?”
            “A boat.”
            “Boat,” the wild man repeated, bobbing nervously. “Yes, boat. It is a strange boat.” Suddenly he stiffened as if seized with an idea and barked, “It is Calab who is master here!” His defensive manner, at once both menacing and pleading, reminded Uly of a hand-shy dog. Encouraged that this statement went unchallenged, Calab added, “All of this, everything, Calab is master! You will come to Calab’s home where Calab lives. Calab saved you! Calab let you use the rope. You owe! You will be Calab’s guest.”
            Loathe to turn away in fear, Uly followed the wild man to his lair. He remained on his guard, marveling at the wild man’s repulsive strength as he padded through the crannies on his naked feet.
            “It is dark,” Calab coaxed, glancing back continually at Uly. “Come, come, Calab has a torch in his home. A torch for lighting.” Well it was, Uly knew, that through Peykin’s eyes he had the advantage. For all his familiarity with his haunts, Calab groped practically blind in the pitch-black gloom removed as they were from the dull shimmer of the river.
            They came to a cave strewn with filth and bones. “A torch,” Calab coaxed, “come in, come in, I will find a torch for lighting.” The gleam on Calab’s sightless face as he fished in the dark toward a pile of rubble did not go unnoticed by Uly. His own eyes rested on incongruous objects commingled with the refuse. Halberd, jerkin, buckler, sword, sundry chests. Comforted with his advantage, Uly dropped his guard for but a moment, taking in these treasures, and in that moment he was met with a resounding blow struck from behind to the top of his head, or rather on his helmet. Such was the protection that the wondrous mask called Peykin afforded that the blow glanced harmlessly, clanging as though it had struck an anvil.
            In a flash Uly turned and smote the wild man with all the strength of his young fist on the side of the face. The blow sent him sprawling. Dazed, Calab apologized, even as he groped for the huge bone that had been knocked from his hands at the impact of the buffet. Uly saw the wild man’s hand as it lucked onto a rusted hilt and a battered blade rose from a heap of grime. Calab gained his feet. Hefting a squat iron-bound trunk with both hands over his head, Uly heaved it with a grunt full into the brutish chest of his treacherous host, flattening him in a dazzling spray of blood and gems. Uly wrenched the sword from Calab’s grip where he lay gasping his last. A swift stroke ended his misery. The head rolled into a heap of bones and bumped into the skull of some hapless guest from a bygone day.




3


            The wavering aurora hung like a nimbus over the pool. Groundwater slid down rimstone dam stairpools. Honeycombs streamed. The sisters of the crystal lake laughed lazily as they went about their languid ministrations, and their laughter was like the musical murmur of the trickling rivulets that replenished the water’s gentle flow.
            “I will race you to the pools below the mountains which flash firelight.”
            “Come with me instead to where the course extends wide beyond the brooklets. There new forests grow.”
            “Nay, all! Look at the cave-mist rising from the river that feeds the lake. Let us thread the mist through the spires!”
            Slowly the Drifting Room appeared.
            The sisters of the crystal lake scattered on light feet, hiding in the gypsum flower and behind the splashing springs.
            Uly emerged from the hatch encrusted with the mire of the wild man’s lair and traces of gore that remained from the recent battle. Slipping into the water, he maneuvered the room to the edge of the lake, then sat down on a rock and stretched his limbs. The exhaustion of his efforts had caught up with him. It had been no easy task to haul the room around the whirlpools. More than once the slimy banks had afforded so little purchase that he was very nearly dumped into the funneling drink, but with one hand wrapped with the wild man’s rope and the other clawing at the rock, inch by inch he pulled the room, cursing the vortexes until they were well beyond his sight and he resumed his venture in the craft.

            Outside the room, Uly was famished. Yet though a growing hunger gnawed, the thought of meat seemed unappealing. He scrubbed dried blood from an otherwise excellent appropriated blade with his tattered tunic.
            “I never killed a man before,” Uly glumly lamented. “Killing is a dirty business.”
            “More than one stand to die should you falter in this task,” Peykin advised.
            Uly studied the sword at arm’s length, swung it in a hissing arc, and gazed at it intensely. “I will not falter.” Then he stepped from the rock bank and waded in the water. Bearing the blade with outstretched arms he named his sword Anadrathul, “hand of the river.”
            Removing his remaining garments--high-strapped sandals and a loincloth somewhat worse for wear--Uly swam in the clear water and cleaned himself of the muck. When he emerged at the edge of the lake, sweeping his long hair from his eyes as he did so, there appeared six strikingly beautiful women, the likes of which he had never seen. They gazed at him in wonder.
            Uly’s startled exclamation evoked even greater surprise from the curious women, who vanished in a flash with cries of, “He is a man, and yet he sees us!” Uly stumbled from the water, dripping. Hastily he donned his garments, sheathing and buckling his new-named sword. Though flustered at the unexpectedness of his modesty revealed, Uly was anxious to take up pursuit.
            “Do not bother,” Peykin said. “These are daughters of the water. Never before have mortal eyes met their own. You will never find them.”
            Scanning the lake, Uly called out, but was answered only by the echoes of his voice resounding in the stillness of the chamber. After waiting for a time, reluctantly he left. In the room his hunger abated, and yet he was consumed with his desire. Iridescent fish flitting in the window seemed to capture his attention.
            “If I don’t get some food,” he said, “ the next time I leave the room I might collapse from hunger.”
            “Indeed,” Peykin said. “How do you propose to catch them?”
            “I will find a way.”
            “You will find a way to forget the task if you are not careful.”
            “I’ll be careful,” Uly said, climbing out the hatch.


            The grotto was walled by towering cliffs lost in a blackness impenetrable even to the powers of the mask. Uly explored the slim bank with a hand on his hilt in the advent of danger, heedless of several small but tasty-looking fish which he might have deftly skewered where they hovered in deep nooks. Down a narrow corridor branching from the chasm a green glow issued from a fissure.
            Uly entered an emerald chamber. Vast green veins laced the walls. Smooth emerald slabs leaned like huge flakes of flint in haphazard fashion, each one bigger than the next. Uly’s hand happened on an angular chunk. “With this,” Peykin said, “a man could buy a small kingdom.” Uly left it where it was and pressed on.
            A profusion of vines, stemming from the highest reaches, hung before the entrance to a cave. Yet just as he started to step inside, an instinct told him something was wrong. Hearing sudden sounds of stealth behind him, he turned around in time to see a huge hand just before he was knocked unconscious . . .


SEVEN CELEBRITY-READ POEMS


You know, one of the great things about writing the movie reviews for The Independent for the last many years, I get to make friends with famous faces from film, many of which are deceased. So I asked some of my favorites to read my poems.

Thanks, Peter Lorre, Elvis Presley, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bullwinkle, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Sydney Greenstreet. You guys are the best!

https://soundcloud.com/stewart-kirby/seven-celebrity-read-poems

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

LOST COASTER - ONE



First episode of the 7-part radio show:
https://soundcloud.com/stewart-kirby/lolt-coalter-one








Tune in at 5:00 on Thursday, November 6
to KMUD 91.1 FM Garberville for the next episode!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

RADIO POE



Sunday, October 26
8:00 am
THE PREMATURE BURIAL
and
THE RAVEN
Tune in to KMUD 91.1 FM Garberville
or stream live






Click the link to the KMUD Archives and listen to
THE PREMATURE BURIAL...
(Children's Story Hour)
http://www.kmud.org/programs-mainmenu-11/kmud-audio-archive


Sunday, October 19, 2014

MY MOTHER'S MOTHER

had the most dour and frightening face on a woman that I have ever seen. I never saw her. She died before I was born. But there was this picture.

I'm told that later in life she was known to jump up and grab onto the meager outcropping of a doorjamb in some strange Southern Gothic rage, and hold herself there aloft for as long as she could. Grunting horrifically, no doubt. When my older brother was a baby, she was once seen standing over him with a big kitchen knife.

Years prior, her first husband was a self-taught lawyer whose Jefferson County, Alabama notary public seal by happenstance rests at my elbow even now. He was murdered by an insane coward who struck from behind with brass knuckles lying in wait at the edge of a revolving door when my mother was a child. The murderer never did pay for his crime. In my early twenties, I seriously considered tracking down his descendants and exacting some approximation of justice.

I really don't know much about my mother's mother. She had dark hair and looked Irish. To me she was the older, weirder Mrs. Hyde version of my mom from one photo alone, unhappily posing in a chair with my older sister in her lap. Sadly, everything she ever was got boiled down to that one picture for me, and the hushed tones that I heard whenever her name rarely came up.

I confess, subsequent to feeling the occasional nameless rage, I do wonder.


CLICK THE LINK
TO HEAR THE PULCHRITUDE:
https://soundcloud.com/stewart-kirby/my-mothers-mother



Friday, October 17, 2014

31 POEMS





















SLEEPPEELS

When heads spin
whispers begin--

whirlpools pull--
fist fits sift--

funneling thunder lifts--



CIRCUS MAXIMUS

One hundred forty-four elephants
and seventeen gold chariots
led each by eleven lions
outsize sound in stampede.

Drunkards' blood-lust cries goad
as the heads of assassinated criminals

bouncing, wince

and tens of thousands of open mouths howl.
Vendors' spices burned lessen stenches;
played sausage link entrails
ignited

explode

in screaming conflagrations;
slaves running in rolling iron cages
jab at large exotic animals
amid the bellows of the butchering
and the butchered,
the continual metal clang,
the rabble's urges for murder.

Tittering intelligentsia tip raping headsmen.
Mock sea battles
waged with the Coliseum bathed
in morning shadow
last till dusk, when

severed hippo heads

like lifeboats
bear dead men.



CARNIVAL OF THE SATYRDAY

A little blood-red fellow
too old to be a cherub precisely
but certainly smiling like one
and with fine young horns on his head
appropriate for a kid
spoke in a high-pitched sneering voice,
"I know where we can get some whores."

And great rejoice. Party favors flicked.
Oversize head dancers in the figures of

Chaplin
and
Hitler

performed a sort of leap-frog.
"I don't care to set foot outdoors."
One of Van Gogh presented a huge ear,
cordially intoning, "Take this object."
Red carpet party favors flew.

"I don't care to pay."

A waterwheel float churned dirty bones.

"These whores pay you!"

Party favors blared.
"Are you ready now to see the whores?"

"I don't care to yet."

The carnival resumed the march.

  

CONVERSATION WITH ETERNITY

For the writer there is only
the blank paper page,
the empty screen and blinking cursor,
the conversation with eternity.

When the words work well,
no high can top,
everything clears,
nothing is ugly,

bolts leap,
all times merge,
hairy early ancestors
fall to their knees

and skyward howl.



INSANITY SEAS

Set this sail to insanity seas
we'll row large rage to the larger age
where that manslaughter is this man's laughter
and you'll fathom what we're after there.

Leave the monkey with its money
weave away from uniformed uninformed
we've a ways upon the waves to ride
reach each new view with swift lift.

Let these letters unlock fetters
sound ground awaits unweighted
there's a vortex in the vertex
savor the flavor and favor the saver.

See the clever lever within
seethe no more inside your skin
then you and I will be quite glad
though when we leave they'll say, They're mad.



SLY WINK

Some of me best times
'ave been 'ad
wenchin' an' 'orin',
as it were sir, aye,
wenchin' an' 'orin'.

Aye an' ye might say I was
"reelin' from the rum"
ev'ry blessed time
as it were sir,
ev'ry blessed time.
Things get worser when I'm aware.

Why, ye should've seen me last night
bloated with the sweet rum--
a big, belchy tick I was says I,
bloated with the blood like,
such is the pretty picture I must've cut.

So, says I again,
some of me best times
'ave been 'ad
wenchin' an' 'orin'.



HOW TO HONOR THE DEAD

Once after I stopped my car in the street,
walked back to the one behind,
and without a word
inserted my fist in the driver's face

I got back in,
parked in the lot
and walked across campus
to the room where I sat
waiting for students to drop in
for writing help.

I remember thinking,
Here's one for the cosmic camera.
It's easy for people to talk about restraint
when they don't have a choice.

Even now, electric Celtic warriors
on foot and horseback roar behind me overhead,
flanked by two calm Druids.
It's true what you hear.
Sometimes your best friends
are the dead and the unborn.



WILDSONG

This poem is a quest:
it seeks clarity, adventure,
both journey and result
it records finds,
boosts the next leap,
helps me see my hand
in the great world dream,
that wisdom is the only wealth,
the only power
power of self,
when I see a monkey in a suit
I see the co-assistant night manager of
nothing,
a child with a paper badge.
The purpose of the group
is protection of weakness
through illusion,
all groups overlap,
sidetrack,
delay,
every day a hunt for wisdom,
new contentment hunt.
Civilizations neither rise nor fall,
only individuals are real.

This poem bristles like fire:
red hot,
white hot,
stiff, jagged,
drunk with battle joy it struts,
a poem of fire,
wildfire,
scorching the sky with
wildsong.
It thirsts for the blood of the city,
it hungers for the blood of Rome,
whose soft scented senators
receive its piss
on headless bodies,
this poem lines
these skulls with gold.



LIMESTONE-LACTATING STALACTITES

drip echoey, magnified drops...
P    o    o    l    s    l    o    o    P
the world dragon sleeps...
George sings
While My Guitar Gently Weeps...



SPELEOGENESIS

With more neurons in our minds
than stars in this galaxy,
firing synapses connect
like divine fingers,
lightning and leder,
stalactite to stalagmite,
Revel leveR...

The jutting speleothem
seeps minerals,
lengthening itself,
leaving minute
calcite deposits
where water drops...

If the creation meets
the source,
a column is formed...

The greater the fall,
the mightier the column.



THE HEROISM OF HEDONISM

conjures wolfish doggerels
in sacred games and festivals of atonement.
The plow of evil pushed
tills exhausted land
and the tallow taken underground
lights cities beneath Vesuvius.

A hero shall emerge:
as a blade baptized in a bed of fire
in ceremony shaped and sharpened,
a severer of shackles,
he is the bane of formulaic observance.

Pity the conqueror or praise
but stand not in his way
lest panthers' claws
and chariot wheels' grind
pin mockful notes on dying ears
frozen in the ash of agony.



ODE TO VLAD

Seated at a table in a field
forested with shower-makers,
he hears his dancing guests
sing like morning's poultry torn.
Streaming, the sun slides
higher in the sky.
Land moist as biscuits
sops honey.
From spear-shot spigots
shoots his cup's red tap.


NIGHT CYCLE

When the night cycle reaches zenith,
flowering begins.
The key to flowering induction is
a healthy growing environment
of uninterrupted darkness.
Height, branching, maturity,
all are maximized
in the greenhouse
underground.

Uninterrupted darkness.

Kill the males,
keep the females.



BE AT LESSON, BEATLES SON

Down here
in the ark in the dark,
the cell of steel celestial,
mausoleum ad nauseam,
I'm paler and I'm Vlad.
This is where it all comes up,
this is where it all goes down.
I travel canals,
change channels,
through ventricles pass landmarks-
upper level,
lower level--
aqueducts to cells--
in this hemisphere,
hemp is here.
Across the mind,
lid-lightning flashes--
in illumination's wake,
blood rains,
brain floods,
accelerates this vessel,
pounds this temple.
Hear all creation make a point--
enabled ennobled
by woofer and tweeter,
no measured step is out of joint--
I hear a siren
and I want to metre.
From injured to inured,
with the taking of a j.
Through Vishnu vision
and Osiris iris,
illusion's confusions
clearly eyed
scatter dried.
The vision is the quest,
the form is the content.
No destination exceeds being.



WOTAN

Wotan
for wisdom
sacrificed an eye.
Wotan the One-Eyed God
reigns supreme.
God of fury.
God of trances.
God of poets.
God of warriors.
The One-Eyed God
is the Phallic God.
His ravens
Thought
and
Memory
traverse the world,
return to Wotan
ruling on His High Seat,
whisper All Knowledge,
while wolves wait
at his feet.
First Earth,
Inhabited Earth,
Untamed Earth,
these three women
are Wotan's wives.
On an eight-legged steed
the Sly One rides
through air,
over ocean,
on ground.
The Reaver's rage
knows no bounds.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat
the Bearded One waits,
waits until the Final Battle--
Ragnarok--
gathering the greatest warriors.
Wednesday is Wotan's Day--
Odin, variously known--
steadfast on the icy peaks,
hard, grim, wild--
All-Father Odin,
Inventor of Runes,
shaman of shamans--
madmen invoke his name!



OPPENHEIMER QUOTING THE BHAGAVAD GITA

A big white black-eyed goat
sprang from the center of the circle--
the power of stillness pervaded--
the rearing goat hung,
swelling self-lit
in devastating silence--
we did not know what we had done--
then the cloven hooves
crashed upon the rock:
"Now I am become Death,
the destroyer of worlds."



SONG OF A SHADE WITH A RED WINE THIRST

I was working at a factory
having Napoleon-like crowned myself Educated,
assembling bike racks full-time temporary,
knowing my girlfriend and I would be gone in six months
and that the factory was heading for Mexico soon.

One guy had been there ten years. He was thirty-seven, always wore two t-shirts,
never bathed, stank like a stockyard and didn't like the Beatles because they weren't American.
There were a lot of Lao workers. Most were nimble, quick, good at ping-pong and
hot for break-time hacky sack. They spoke Lao among each other, laughing, the older women acting snotty.

When I got there at seven the smokers lightly stamped their feet outside,
and the dark early cool mornings passed with coffee still buzzy from the night's smoke and drink,
but clear and aware, energetic and enjoyed. I stood on a wood block to hit my calves with toe raises
on the assembly line, thinking about the night's writing, talking shit with the boys, laughing, until it was first break, donuts and more coffee, no longer buzzy, actually enjoying the lowly old workday mostly alone.

I didn't like feeling sorry for the people I saw who let themselves die by the hour.
There was a fellow who talked a lot about how he'd be a cop,
a prim little guy of forty sporting a tight white crewcut, accusatory eyes, and a sneering hateful whine who
picked up the trash.

There was a fat blob of crap who sat on his ass all day
in crisp plaid and a clean Cat cap sporting a phony bark
that sounded like bad Edward G. Robinson, see.
How he got that job I don't think I want to know, see.
He sure as hell didn't earn it by working.
There would come a time when I would say,

"How about some of that bareknuckle boxing you've never done in your life right now, liar,
I'll be your sparring partner, liar, let's go out in the parking lot and try some of that
bareknuckle boxing right now, let's go."

And he would not face me, but scurry to his car, scurry home to his mommy, in whose house he lived.
After lunch I was let go. Not fired, he said, sounding like
a very meek Edward G. Robinson.
I had been provoked by his abuse of office title.
I enjoyed humiliating fat boy and his sycophants in a great big scene
the doomed workers no doubt quietly relished,
and I enjoyed those mornings,
the coffee and the cold,
the stories and the banter and the bullshit,
the hefting and the musing,
getting paid to gear up for the night's fun--
for the song of a shade with a red wine thirst.

  

REDWOOD BURL TABLE

Wild with roots, a Gorgon head:
my young eyes cogwheeled at
the tangled waist-high mass riverbar trucked
and my squat mallet sent thick flakes like
flack off my checkerboarded chest,
hints of burl beneath the busted rock
stuck in the dirty redwood,
till the giant's clubbed wart clean of stone
gave a milled slab set rickety
on two paint-thick sawhorses,
wobbling in the pull of the screaming grinder's
wire bristles spitting back the loose punk wood.
Renegade spiders ran, nooks invaded by the violent metal wand
and brushed sawdust left the surface clear
for belt sanding before subjection to the stages of the orbital.
When the meaty red cross-section doused gleamed
and the scrubbed rings' fluctuating bands rippled,
torched edges blackened shone silver
where the blue acetylene tip had spread,
and set on the knotted legs of a less charred base
the finished tabletop
took center stage in the showroom
for your more and less impressed tourists,
whilst in the side yard my grimed thumb
spun a bowl.



VISHNU

Slumbering delighted
the world-dreamer drifts alone
partially submerged
partially afloat
upon a lake of lotus without limit
above and below a pillared heaven

The sun grows
the whole world withers
wind spins into cyclone
and cyclone into fire

The spider respools its web


IF LIFE EAT DEATH

Hieing to the wombed hill
Mid yip and yirr of Baalists beery
We woozy skirmishers
Wambled past the whippoorwill
And gave a girn to gimcrack,
Bedaubed in wizardry and woodcraft,
Riled rimers, with pyretic vim,
Barmy each pant and peck,
We salivating songsters,
Scragging victuals along the junket,
Raw wood thrush and songsparrow
Our stark beefsteak.
Rooty wolfberry
Sopped the Bacchic balladry,
Blackish the scape,
Our mockery beneath Varuna,
Till to indigenous ziggurats
We did sorn the shadow lords,
A measly chiliad of bubbling keeves
Ripe for us to batten.



WEIR EXAM

Floating in the wetsuit nets of light cross my mask:
refracted through the choppy surface they waver on the rock
as the hollow rhythmic hiss of my mouth’s breath
pushes through the tube–strange stone shapes
pass steady in a narrow view–arms forward
I fly streamlined toward the sandbagged pickets
where the scouring current tears away the riverbed.
Over a developing hole wedged rock taps the lonely aluminum,
raised dust glints fool’s gold, dead grass collects
twigs between the bars and undulates decaying in the cage.
I work my way along the trap. No salmon are inside.
Bloated faces pushed forth by my imagination
watch me slice my way upstream like a gill man in the Amazon.


INTERVIEW WITH A TRIBAL LEADER

Saved from a blue clay mudslide by a Horse Mountain potstop
we rescheduled, and when later came, there he was, looking just like on TV
where I’d seen him talking on Bigfoot and so looked him up in the phone book.

My buddy Eric couldn’t make the drive a second time
but my other buddy Tom could and he was there with a Camcorder catching
Jimmy in his chair and the back of my already balding head.

It’s weird to see yourself in a tight Humboldt T-shirt interviewing Jimmy
after all that hassle when in the first five minutes you realize
the show sort of lied and Bigfoot is a subject where maybe

you know more than he does. Great tribal leader, full of all kinds of stories,
only he hadn’t seen anything and wasn’t really sure. Probably TV
just wanted an Indian. If he pulled off his head and showed a

Bigfoot inside I would not have been surprised, but on the outside
he was eighty-four years old and told us of the time when he was a kid
talking Hupa in a cherry tree eating cherries and some George Washington

of a teacher jabbed him with a nail on the end of a stick to make him talk American.
He told us how to leech acorns and showed us pictures of the Deer Dance.
I told him the interview was only for me, and Tom, it was just something we wanted to do.

Back on his deck before we left, looking at the river, he said his mother told him
one time she saw four of them come out of the forest to swim,
a male, a female and two young ones, and they swam till they saw her and left.




GATLING

What a thrill it is to spin a Gatling gun!
The looks on the faces...while the faces last...
Eye-to-eye before the whirling metal sun's
Perforating punches blast the dancers back...

Enjoy a morning cup while meat bits cartwheel.

If they wish to pray, just leave them knees to kneel.




BODIES        

A man waits in the woods,
back to a tree,
wide-eyed, silent.
There are bodies in the ground.

A sleepwalker screams,
sockets bleed,
a hawk lights on a headstone and feeds.
There are bodies in the ground.

Maggots wriggle in the trash.
The afternoon is overcast.
A muffled door slams.
Upstairs,
a curtain winks shut.
There are bodies in the ground.

Shadows shatter streets,
a rotten wind sweeps.
Trees bend like backs
jammed all around.
There are bodies in the ground.

Axes sever.
Soil absorbs.
The sleepwalker falls into a grave,
and the hawk follows.

A man waits in the woods.
Back to a tree.
There are bodies in the ground.




WHEN THE KILLIN'-TIME'S COME

I may not seem partial to the things which ye so desperately clings
but one thing's fer sartin,
I'm...
gonna...
kill ye...
gonna ram m' blade clean through to the hilt
good, solid an' strong in ye--again an' again--
an' again an' again an' again--
I'm gonna cut yer bleedin' gut wide open--
stick yer neck--cut, here--here here here here here--
slash yer skull, an' rip out yer 'eart, an' yer liver--
gonna drive m' big shiny knife wamwam quick like so in yer sockets
an' slop up an' down amid yer mushy gore
aye, an' stomp ye to the pave--

when the killin'-time's come.

 

SAIL AN ALIAS

When I feel Doom mooD
That is when I Word roW
There I go in Deep speeD
Rabid in my Wolf floW
I shed the Animal laminA
I shed the GoddammaddoG
To release the Droll lorD
I turn the Revel leveR
I like to Moor a rooM
I like to Fool alooF
There I drink my Regal lageR
Then how Me leer 'n reel 'eM
I see No evil live oN
Though I Lived a deviL
Where the Pools looP
Without the Flesh selF
In Sleep peelS
Reviled I deliveR

Resume, museR




RETURNS

The arm is pulled
The tape turns
The arm snaps back with a cold loud clack
And the blade cuts the tape like a Guillotine.
These are the sounds of the Tapeshooter Model 100
Which is to a Returnsman what a chainsaw is to a logger
Or even a blog to a blogger. I call mine Charlene.
Charlene’s so sweet to me.
She’s like a slot machine, this book store my casino.
In the inner sanctum: “Mornin’!”
“Mornin’!”
Couple of glances and grins from the coworker. She’s a lifer, like half of the rest.
Arm pulled, the tape turns, and snaps back with a cold loud clack.
We are now officially at work.
“Bring anything for lunch?”



MILKING THE BACK

Thick vat glass added fresh back size
bobbing in brine like swollen legions of buffalo tongue
and the clerk would hook the one Grandpa let me pick.

At home we’d unwrap the massy package,
I with my fork, ready to poke.
Grandpa’s deft prong freed embedded gravel bits

whose frugal removal fueled our maracas.
Then he’d heft the back to sheets of wax paper
where for half a day it dried before it was applied.

I’d watch the pungent juices ooze as if alive,
seeping the way a beached whale weeps.
When it was time, Grandpa lifted the back

like a butcher with a side of beef,
squeezing loose the yellow milk
into a foil pan at his feet.

Now I am an old man.
You can’t find fresh back anymore.
I have no idea why we did all that.   



I AM THE FATHER

I am the father of agriculture
and monumental architecture.
I am the father of astronomy
and the calendar of rites.
I am the father of writing
and genetic manipulation.



See me dreaming
in gilded flesh-eater glide
caught by seventy-two accomplices
flung into the diffusion zone
and carried here to spring
fecund with accomplishment
embanked upon this foreign shore.



IN THE ULTIMATE POEM FIRST AND FINAL

letters combine to align in arrangement which reads
not just across left to right or right to left but forth and up and down and back

all making sense
no space omitted
it all interacts
inside-out
diagonal

form and content match
and the letters take shapes which in turn comment
missing nothing
texture
color
senses over senses

and the poem is thought

and the thought is matter

and we walk in the poem

and we breathe in the poem

and our hearts beat the poem

and beyond all language

the poem ex  p  l    O              o
                   l    O          O
                                  O      o           O               O
          O     o         o                  o              o

    o     o                  o                    o          o              o                o

  o       .    o  .                d               o             .       .              o                .          .

.          .                     .                                e      .
.     .          .                              .          .                                   s





A BRICK IN A BUSTED SET      

He watches a brick in a busted set.
The leak hits his head in a steady drip.
His hand holds a can without any beer.
Just sits, and stares, in a moldy old chair.