Pareidolia

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Lustrous flame dances

through the stagnant air

projecting an amber halo.

Bloody Mary, we’d like to have a word.

We’ve heard all about your exploits.

Do you hear me?

I can’t help

but get ahead of myself.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.

The last one lingers

on the tip of my tongue.

The house creaks and settles.

You could be anywhere.

The shadows breathe yet all is still.

Beady eyes glint back at us

poor, naïve souls, I think.

I don’t know.

I hope not.

Do you hear me?

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.

An insistent knock

from outside the bathroom door,

but with no explanation.

Are you there?

I can put a name

to the face

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary.


Hydra

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Thick, tainted blood coursing

through black veins,

legs like two talon-tipped tree trunks

drag a confused creature

through the muck.

Breath of pure, unadulterated pestilence,

the smell alone keeps all

but the most intrepid

far away.

It picks the bones and chain mail

from seven sets of sated, grinning teeth.

There are many mouths to feed,

and all of them like to savor

each morsel.

A gnarled, writhing rat’s nest,

growing back stronger and fuller

in defiance of defeat.

An inexhaustible capacity

for contingency

plans.

Seven falls to six,

poison blood mist sprays

from mangled stump,

then two more heads

come roaring back —

a flesh-wound quickly repaired.

Much worse than a strong enemy,

is one that’s well-prepared.


Undo

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Let’s get down to brass tacks,

I can’t go back,

I can never return

to what once was.

The things I said

in anger and in flippant jest,

hang over your head.

Those raw nerves,

flare up,

and you see red

when you see me,

and I don’t blame you.

A rung bell emanates;

the sound is as free

as the air that carries it,

I can’t beat back

the soundwaves.

What I wouldn’t give

to have superhuman foresight,

to have unflappable thoughtfulness.

To leave fear itself cowering,

to see anger and ignorance

flee from me,

never to rear their ugly heads.

But I must live

with what I’ve done

and what I didn’t do.

I wish I could

take one measly step back,

but I’m not strong enough.


People Watchers

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No good deed goes unpaid,

so let me know when you’ve figured

out the going rate

for exposure.

We get that in spades

as the days go on,

and everyone talks, and talks.

“It’s none of my business,”

or so you say,

sitting on a bench

in a tumultuous place.

People going on and on

about their days, their weeks.

The meek will inherit the Earth,

but even they, sometimes,

are willing to bend the golden rule

for a laugh at other’s expense.

Moving along, moving along

we mustn’t dwell.

We’ve all got things to do today,

places to be,

stories to tell.


Along the Garden Path

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We’re walking the old dirt road with wildflowers,

seeing the new sod from before over and over again.

That I can see the end and am lead astray frustrates us.

What we have established has collapsed still stands,

we were at least right about that.

From there we have to reevaluate what happened

I see the trail goes on from here it’s pretty short

but I’m curious as to how I got to where I am.

Every one who comes here loses,

dropping like a ton of fruit flies drunk with power.

The few raced past the exit turned back,

even they couldn’t believe their eyes.

When they saw it through,

everything matched up with what was not expected.


There are Bugs Everywhere

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My skin crawls at the thought

that they abound.

In the rose bushes, and the treetops —

in your foundation, and coming in

through the windows and gaps.

All the stones unturned

are black boxes — safe harbors

for little eavesdroppers.

Every last one,

seeing us through

10,000 lenses each,

their feelers are out

and they’re passing it

all along.

They’re on the ceiling,

they’re under your car’s chassis,

you take them with you

sometimes on your person.

They’re tearing down your house,

and stealing your food,

and keeping tabs on you —

and there are too many

to squash, before they scatter

to hide in the cracks.

We’ve all gotten used to it.

They’re out of sight

for now,

is all I can say.


Golden Hour

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A crackling bonfire,

devotes all of its passion

to what its given,

until it’s reduced to glowing cinders.

You can’t help but look

on those ruby embers,

and wonder if you’re playing God

by letting your cup runneth over them

before you go to bed.

You brought them into this world

and now you’re taking them out

while they still have so much light left.

Does the Sun feel guilty,

in the slightest,

for leaving you in the dark

every night?

You can’t help but ask,

“am I the smoke, or am I the ash?”

It dawns on you, then,

while waiting for the sunset

that you never see “the end.”

That you’re not spent

day-after-day,

week-after-week.

While waiting for the next “good morning”

you’re thankful that the sun,

cares enough

to give you time and space

to rest.


Byzantium

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Bystanders look

to the lumbering mass,

leaving long shadows

across their paths.

Marching at glacial pace

it shuffles in place,

too dense to move much.

Stained glass windows

at the ground floor

obscure a well-appointed lobby,

unoccupied.

The designers weren’t that clever,

everyone knows all the decisions

are made in the basement,

where there’s insulation.

Everything outside the tower

is a blind-spot to the operators

while they pull the levers

and argue amongst themselves.

The decaying superstructure,

rarely course-corrects –

it’s well-suited to clashing

with other titans of its kind,

and much better at picking on others

smaller than it’s size,

and little else.

An illusion of imposing strength,

a well-placed stone

is all it would take to

topple the colossus.

We already live in the ruins,

might as well act like it.


Potemkin Village

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Colorful façades line the waterway,

jutting out from nowhere

like weeds wading in the marsh.

No one goes there anymore,

it’s too crowded,

or so they say.

Announcements blare

from the watchtower.

“There is no way to appease

those who criticize us

from afar.

Repeat after me,

they hate us for who we are.”

Something is amiss,

watching the patrols march

along the perimeter.

No one enters,

no one exits.

Well-oiled machine,

you are.

“Repeat after me,

we are lucky to live

in such abundance.

We have more

than enough.”

Tumbleweeds

dance in the town square.

Bus loads of enthused

locals arrive in the nick of time,

to greet guests.

Both visits scheduled well in-advance.

“Repeat after me,

you are free to leave,

if you can’t keep up.

Cross the river

if you prefer

to live in fear.”

This is all exactly

as it appears.

Nothing to see here.


June, 2002

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Friends of friends

gather around the table,

cardboard hats and confetti

strewn about.

One part restaurant,

one part gift shop.

It’s cold in here,

animatronic animals

dance unconvincingly,

vines wind around exposed

pipes.

This place has a great atmosphere.

Recordings of monsoon season

in the Amazon,

echo through unseen speakers.

A prix-fixe menu,

presents the illusion of choice

to people too young

to travel alone.

Kids I spend every day with,

whose names I will soon forget,

don’t talk to me.

A cheerful orangutan robot,

turns it’s head

and says “help me, I’m critically endangered,”

but that’s above my pay grade.

We don’t get to choose

the bricks

that line memory lane.

I wish I could tell you,

“the journey beats the destination”

but I haven’t

gotten there yet.