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

Disobedience

This was a response or midrash that I wrote as part of an exercise in live lectio / flash fiction during my church’s 10th anniversary retreat in 2011. I recommend clicking through to read the passage from the Bible to which I’m responding, but if you’re familiar of the story of the first Passover – that’s the one.

Disobedience

It was only an hour before the appointed time, when the Lord would send his angel of death – the angel with the flaming sword that would cut out the heart of each Egyptian family. Rachel snuck out while her father was bundling their few possessions, and her mother was cleaning the remains of the tiny leg of lamb they’d been given by their next door neighbor.

She moved quickly down the street, careful not to slosh the blood in the bowl she carried. At each Egyptian home she reached, Rachel dipped her rag into the bowl, and hastily dribbled blood on the doorframe.

She kept on running into the dark, painting hope on as many doors as she could reach, until the dawn broke, and Rachel heard the first wails of anguish from the homes further on down the street.

at the mount of autonomy

at the mount of autonomy, jennifer grinned
it was clear that this summit was where she belonged
she had put in her time in the valley of innocence
listening upward, she swore she heard song

with vitality born of insatiable thirst
she put flatness behind her and started to climb
and she needed no rest, for her power was vast
as her altitude rose she made excellent time

it was only when she’d attained high elevation
she noticed her path was not solely her own
and her fellow adventurers tossed aside garbage
the mountain was covered in waste that they’d thrown

and the trail was now crowded with putative grownups
whose seeds (sowed in folly) would bloom very soon
so jennifer wept, then walked on with new urgency
picking up trash and composing a tune

wickedness

the stigma had been stitched to him
since he was six and skinned his knees
ascending quick the crooked tree
to nest and see and sense

the neighbor kid
who flicker-lit from kindled wick
eked eden from a cherished book

he arched his neck to nick a look
until he slipped and skidded
sinking

then the sidewalk kissed him
and he cried out loud
and slowly drew a crowd

they always called him wicked and
as nicknames went this sucked
and stuck

as week and decade sunk and died
he staked out sin as his, like ink
soaked deep inside his skin, in sinew

wickedness defined his psyche
itched and tickled at his sides
until he dined on wine and liquor
wed himself to growing sicker

embraced his pain and bitterness
like weeds wound round his neck and breast
he knit himself a thick and sticky shroud of styx
and sewed his bones inside

sixteen septembers after
the kid from that old luckless scene
shows up and snickers at the trick
and all the broken moments since

and offers him a warm and wayward hand
beneath a dewy eye
and wide and wicked grin

release

i woke up early
in a home that wasn’t mine
felt the sunlight streaming in
through the window
making shadows on my face
like the bars of a cell

the light told me
i could be seen
so i got up
and left
and waited for night

later
crossing the bridge in the dark
i could see almost nothing
but it was clear
on the other side
the possible paths sprouted
like the branches of a grafted tree
bowed with a varied assortment of fruits

none of them ripe
all of them somewhat
sour

but i gave thanks
for at least i had a choice
and it beat being back in the cage
with my rotting intentions

in the valley of innocence

in the valley of innocence, jennifer faltered
quite suddenly she was uncomfortable there
and she didn’t remember her reasons for coming
she couldn’t recall how to breathe such clean air

and the problem was not that she didn’t feel welcome
(the valley would throw wide its arms to us all)
while the land opened to her, benign and inviting
to jennifer’s eyes the place just looked so…small

could she really remember a time when the tips
of the trees in that wood rose above line of sight?
and the ramparts protecting the bounds of the glen
…now that she could step over them, didn’t seem right

so a half-smiling jennifer left that green land
in her eye was a look like a cat with a toy
that she’d just realized she’d completely dismembered
it wasn’t a sorrow nor fully a joy