The Best Laid Plans

Pounder McGurrell was a very fine squirrel,
and he hoarded his nuts with a miserly zeal
in the stump by the dump
and the hole near the pole.
He had no fear of missing a meal.

Pounder McGurrell was a very fat squirrel,
and by any squirrel’s measure as rich as a king.
He would crash on his stash,
snooze and snore, dream of more!
And he wasn’t afraid of a thing.

Pounder McGurrell was a satisfied squirrel,
with a pride-swollen heart in his oversized breast,
but he woke with a croak
to sustained, pounding rain.
The typhoon liquidated his rest.

Now Pounder McGurrell is a dog-paddling squirrel,
as he watches his nuts float away.

And that’s all I’m going to say.

driving

ever since i was a child
i’ve been having the same dream

i’m driving
(even as a little boy
i dreamed of driving)
over a suspension bridge
the kind where the road curves up
to a summit
and then back down
to rendezvous with the far bank

except

in my dream
when i reach the top of the arch
i can see
there will be no meeting at the shore

the road ends at a drop
i’m going too fast
and i plunge
screaming
into the cold dark water

over the years
my dream has mutated
and sometimes
rather than a bridge
the highway forms a towering parabola
or a roller-coaster loop
which even the most skillful driver
could not hope to negotiate
without falling
screaming
into the depths

each time i have this dream
it is terrible
and as i see the behemoth approach
my heart is filled with fear
yet i am powerless to turn away

last night
i had the dream again

i recognized the road i was traveling on
i knew well what was coming
yet i was powerless to turn away

i saw the colossal arc of skyway
which i knew
no sane driver
would attempt to traverse

i saw the wave-licked surface
of inky waters below

it was sunny in my dream
a beautiful day
other drivers on this road seemed
unperturbed

it’s always like that
in this dream

and i knew i could not stop
and i could not turn
and i had no choice
but to try and fail
and fall
and die

i was cold

but at the feet of the leviathan
i closed my eyes
and pressed the pedal to the floor
and i whispered a prayer
(though i do not ever pray
like that
i do not pray for rescue)

and then
and then…
i don’t know

my brain moved on
to another province of sleep
leaving me suspended
with hands on the wheel
eyes shut tight
gravity pressing me
compressing me
back into the seat

did i make it?
or did i hurtle downward
to the indigo water
as i’ve done in so many
dreams before?

i don’t know
i honestly don’t know

but i know
that i closed my eyes
and i said a prayer
i pushed the gas pedal hard
and i told my fear

honey
you can have the back seat
this time around
and i recommend
that you buckle up

At the Bridge

I can smell your frail hope, little goat
Just as clear and strong and pungent
As the tantalizing odor of your fear

They’re quite alike
These two fine scents
Sweet and tangy
Toothsome and rich

Like juicy mutton roasting, charring
Over crackling, reaching flames

But the aftertaste
So scrumptious
Deep and secret in the throat

That’s how you know
That’s how you recognize the savor
Born in some peculiar corner
Of the soul

And I, little goat
I love fear the very best

And it’s terror most exquisite
That I cherish in the darkest folds
And crannies of my
Prune-dry, shriveled heart

So now you’ve met the troll
Now it’s time to pay the toll

I see you quivering up there
One tiny hoof a-tap-tap-tapping
On the closest creaky floorboard
Of my bridge

I see your soft chin-hair convulsing
Like itty-bitty mousie in his trap
Sorry, broken-backed and scared

And oh so scared
And oh so scared

But you know
You mustn’t cross my bridge
Oh no, you’ll never budge
Until I’m satisfied

Are you ready, little goat?
Ripe to settle your wee debt?

Then come on now
Come on quick
Come on under with the troll
Come and see me down below

Emergent Phenomena

So I’m digging in the back of my sock drawer, looking for that cool pair with the blue and orange stripes that I wear only seldom (despite their grooviness) because for those socks, you need the right ensemble.

Anyway my fingers feel something stiff like paper, and I pull it out. Turns out it’s a photo – an old photo – a little yellowed and crinkly at the edges. So I’m like, why is there an old photo in the back of my sock drawer?

And I look at it, and it’s like this greenish flash goes off in my head behind my eyes, because I know, right in that first instant, what I’m looking at. It’s a photograph of the moment – the exact moment – when life first emerged on earth. When that first self-replicating amino acid was synthesized In a steamy tidal pool as thunder crashed above. (I couldn’t hear the thunder of course – it was just a photograph.)

And I’m standing there thinking, how could there possibly be a snapshot of the moment of abiogenesis in the back of my sock drawer? To this day, I honestly have no idea how that happened.

But this morning my kid sister comes into the kitchen and she’s like, all right, who recorded over my Demi Lovato album with this grunting? So I say, hey can I give that a listen? And she’s like, sure, whatever.

And I listen, and it’s like this sonic boom goes off in my head between my ears, because I know, right in that first instant, what I’m listening to. It’s a recording of the moment – the exact moment – when consciousness first emerged on earth. And as my ancient ancestor hoots and squawks about the fully-formed thoughts she just had for the first time maybe in the entire universe, I can’t help but think…wow, man. What’s next?

10 Things Not to Say in a Job Interview

Sorry I’m late; I
got here by unicycle.

I wasn’t sure where
to park it, so
I just left it
in the revolving door.

I might not get it back?
That’s OK.
It’s not mine.

I don’t know if the guy
I took it from
is going to make it.
I hit him pretty hard.

But that’s OK.
I don’t want
to work for him anymore
anyway
I want to work for you.

Well, not “for”, exactly.
I’m pretty sure
I could run this place much
better than you.

You might as well
put down that phone.
It doesn’t work anymore.

Your cell phone
won’t work either.
I’m jamming it
with this device.

Be a pal and
write down your password
right here.
(I can get it
against your will, but
it will hurt.)

Great! Now just exit
by the window
and on the way down
think of all the worries
that you’ve left behind!

Day of the Pig

’Tis Wednesday the Thirteenth again
And everyone knows what that means*

Like Friday the Thirteenth is bad
Because back in the day the witches
Would assemble on a Friday night
In groups of twelve (plus Satan)**

Back before enlightened times
On certain Wednesday afternoons
The village patriarchy gathered
Twelve of them – and Priapus***

So to this day good people fear
This moment on the calendar
When men with too much self-regard
Find their pomposity inflated****

Best ignore them for today
Tomorrow, back to normal grief*****

 

Why We Roam

This was late July, you know?
So what I’m saying is:
Damn hot outside. I mean
Just really flippin’ hot outside
Ridiculously hot outside
You know? The air so thick and humid
Burning on my skin like fever sweat
And blackening my mood

OK, I’m pushing this old mower
And I’m wearing shorts and flip-flops
‘Cause it’s hot outside
(I mentioned that, I’m pretty sure)
And so I get to this back corner
Of our yard, this one dark corner
Back between the shed and fence
That’s almost always in the shade

I kinda shove the mower back there
Really quick, because
That gloomy corner sort of
Creeps me out. You know?
The weeds grow extra thick there
Even though the sun can barely
Shine. And so I shove, and feel the first
Hot stinger pierce my tender foot

And then it’s like the flippin’ blitzkrieg
Man, they’re coming fast as lightning
Goddamn yellow-jackets
Jamming fiery toxic daggers
In my feet and toes and ankles
Even underneath my sandal straps
I did what any normal man would do
You know? I turned and ran like hell

Now roughly two or three hours after this
My wife comes home from work
She finds me sitting in the living room
With ice packs wrapped around my feet
Of course she wonders why, and also
Why the lawn’s half-done. So I
Explain, and say there ain’t no way
I’m going back to get that mower

So, she rolls her eyes and goes
To get the mower, then two minutes later
She comes running back and says
I didn’t see your yellow-jackets
But there must have been
Eight copperheads! The one
Coiled on the mower struck at me
And I’m not going back out there, uh-uh

I figured she was mocking me
(Despite my glaring stinger-wounds!)
So I got up, and winced
(My poor feet called me dirty names)
I went back out there to that corner
And I wish I didn’t have to get
So close before I trusted my own eyes
Were seeing crocodiles

I turned and went back to the house
My wife and I grabbed weapons
We approached the corner carefully
I can’t remember which I noticed first
The smell of sulfur or the smoke
But when the reddish purple demon-thingies
Flexed their wings and turned our way
We ran, and we will NOT go back, uh-uh

Just Desserts

The apocalypse
Though planned and scheduled
Decades in advance
Unfolded gradually, and
(Like that fictive frog a-swimming
Blithe in his apocryphal pot)
We couldn’t tell we were in hell
Until our skin began to slough

Last summer wasn’t the inception

Gaia’s sad, deranged obsession
With the caramelized, rich flavor
That’s produced by searing flesh
Stretched back through years of memory

Though not the first
It was the worst
(At least, so far…)

Hephaestus’ sledge
Would pound our heads
Each scorching hour
Of every godforsaken day
Extracting sweat in rivers
From our skulls
And limbs
And reeking joints

Until we wept
(Though we could scarcely spare
The moisture)
Dangling thirstily from hope
That we’d inspire
A cloudless sky
To mimicry

And we survived
(And some of us survived)
To see October
Sweet October
Brief October
Brief, and lost

So have a merry Christmas, darling
Let us raise a toast
To the lamented and abolished
(Planet earth?
Well…us, at least)
And we’ll devour the irony
Together with the frozen custard
And the pumpkin pie

We should enjoy
The things we have
Because
We can interpret from the snowman
Standing out there on our walk
(The snowman we once knew as Eric)
We can never, ever
Go outside the house
Again

12 Groundhogs

It’s not enough to end the rodent
See? You’ve got to kill the myth
Bill Murray never really got it
Launching groundhogs over cliffs just
Isn’t gonna cut it, Billy

Next year they’ll just coronate
A brand new Punxsutawney Phil
Rank harbinger of six more weeks
Of bleak and tiresome winter

I’m not putting up with any
More of these chill prophecies
My memes are going viral and
Millennials are so “whatevs”
Regarding this tired woodchuck story

Still, that isn’t fast enough
To slay this foul and loathsome fable
But! My master plan, the groundhog
Flu will end it all…

1000 cuts

the night the empty spaces yawned like tigers
and tigers, scenting sickly sheep, broke free
i wasn’t what you’d call surprised, you see

my eyes, made paranoid by time, were open
i’d stayed awake since he left us marooned
the gnome, that crazy, diamond-crusted wound

but still, i had high hopes for signs of life
we’d learn to breathe, keep talking, take it back
instead i’m thinking, careful with that axe…

obscured by clouds resembling dogs of war
the echoes of a bright beginning die
and weakly wave goodbye, blue sky

goodbye