First Lesson in Fire Eating

February 18, 2023  :: 0 comments

Camp Ahltaha was on Fairview Lake, in what William Carlos Williams referred to as “The ribbed north-end of Jersey.” I was the ‘pioneering’ merit badge instructor there during my 16th summer, teaching Boy Scouts useful knots. We also tied sticks together (“lashing”) to build ‘structures,’ which fell apart immediately. We shared the lake with Camp Nobebosco, where “Friday the 13th” …

The Alchemist’s Children

featured in the poetry forum February 11, 2023  :: 0 comments

File down the callus!

Said the alchemist’s daughter

Mix another monkey!

Laughed the alchemist’s son

Roll a frosty rolling pin

Across the table top

& crush the frozen seeds,

Now that the seed counting’s done


Two birds preparing

To pretend to be peaches,

Two ripe peaches dropping

To the dark rich earth

Their fine feathers fluid, their

Fine feathers fuzz,

Their pale green bellies glowing

From the radio song, &

Hollow bones aquiver

With the radio buzz!


Turn up the music!

Said the alchemist’s daughter

Turn it up more!

Laughed the alchemist’s son

10,000 moths swept into the volcano

20,000 wings afire like jade

The flames shot up with a deafening roar

Wind sliced through the canyon

Like a white hot blade


Everything’s glowing

Sighed the alchemist’s daughter

Everything’s gone

Laughed the alchemist’s son

editors note:

They didn’t learn this in a STEM program. – mh clay

The Tusks of the Warthog

December 9, 2022  :: 0 comments

Dentist Miz Derwood Stage Manager Stagehands Warthog Narwhal Walrus  The Dentist’s Office. Miz Derwood is in the dentist’s chair. The DENTIST enters, donning his rubber gloves. He checks his clipboard. DENTIST: Good morning, Miz… Derwood? Is it missus? Or Miss? MIZ DERWOOD: Misty. Like the East River in the morning. DENTIST (adjusting his goggles) I see. He selects a snorkel …

The Backwards Man in His Hotel Room, 1961

featured in the poetry forum November 5, 2022  :: 0 comments

Preliminary Inventory:

Bullet hole decal in the window pane.
Bad dreams to pay for room service. Something
At the bottom of the ice bucket I don’t want to see.

Observations and/or Complaints:

Raze every hotel between here & the harbor &
You still wouldn’t see the ocean. Footsteps on the
Ceiling from guests gone home thirty-five years ago.

Conversation in the Next Room:

The penne is frigging ice cold. I sent it
Back and twenny minutes later here
It comes again with parsley sprinkled on top.

Conversation in the Room on the Other Side:

What am I, a moron? Hey, gimme
Those opera glasses, maybe there’s a
Vogue model across the street getting dressed

A Possible Solution:

The answer is static electricity, sir. The
Missing sock is stuck to the back of your
Shirt. I all but guarantee it.

It will turn up when you put your shirt
On the hanger. Failing that, you’ll encounter
It when getting dressed for dinner one evening

A Questionable Proposition:

The belt is reversible, also the vest. When you
Invert the lenses of your 20/200 prescription
Glasses, you can see through solid walls

A Game of Bingo, Perhaps:

Twist to the east, & lock eyes with the beast
Twist to south, & stare into his mouth
Twist to the west, all your sins now confessed

Twist to the north, & a cold blast of wind
Awakens you. How did I get on this glacier?
Better call the desk & ask for a Bromo-Seltzer

A Comforting Verse from the Gideon Bible beside the Bed:

‘If U R lonely Jerry the Bell Hop
Knows What’s What & can fix U up’
¬—Written in Margin of Psalm 23

Wake-Up Call Request Rehearsal:

Room 413, wake-up call for 6:30, and
Right after send up somebody to untwist
Me something is stuck & stuck good thanks

Some Final Thoughts:

The unanswered question: why are candies
In the vending machines in the hall so cheap
& shabby I have never even heard of these

Brands ‘Best Fine Sweets’ good God I
Have never hated anyone as much as I
Hate the man who picked the drapes

For this room but blessings on whoever
Purchased the waste basket in the bathroom
With the eyeball pattern, you sir are a god

editors note:

The same hotel hijinx, even after sixty-plus. – mh clay

A Bright White Kitchen in West Agoglia

October 7, 2022  :: 0 comments

My friend Lonnie asked me could I paint his sister’s kitchen on my day off? He would pay me $150 and it would take two, three hours tops. $150? I said. He told me his sister Nessa lives in a bad neighborhood in West Agoglia, and that was why he was paying so much. So much? (I did not say …

Big Stupid White Dog

August 9, 2022  :: 0 comments

“Those clouds look really cheap,” Ryan Bendix said to me. One of the big stupid white dogs had wandered into the field across the street and we were waiting for it to wander back. Our boss told us to “go get him,” but the field was a swamp that time of year, so Plan A was just standing there and …

Mercury as a Girl

featured in the poetry forum August 6, 2022  :: 0 comments

She knows how to crank a rachet &
Tune a car named after herself,
How to be a globe of silver syrup,
Shoot to the top of a glass tube—

How to sprout wings on her heels,
Rocket around the sun in 87 days,
Rubber band a comic strip round a rubber ball &
Toss it thru my open window at 2 AM

Followed up with something involving
A bicycle, before the dew evaporates from
The jungle gym in the playground. Maybe
She will pretend to be a human girl today

Or at least wear cargo pants? Me she tells
To cup my hands, fills them up so she
Can show me my own eyes — are they really
Silver? — in the toxic puddle which is

Herself. Too many adjectives, she smirks
& rebuilds a sentence capable now of
Withstanding “gams” & “gat.” Her shadow
Twangs spilling over these aluminum barrels

Me: —Didja draw the comic strip?
[No answer in her speckled eyes] —& then some motion in the trees as
She spins to retrograde

editors note:

Too fast to grasp, you’ll never hold her unless she holds you. – mh clay

Graduation Day in a Mercury Mirror

featured in the poetry forum May 27, 2022  :: 0 comments

You’ve never been so lovely
You’ve never been so liquid
Like a sky made of metal
Like a sky full of ashes

You smell like thunder in the meadow
Where we buried your mother’s Atari
Games last summer! Where we buried
A jar full of pennies and marbles!

You shine like a stolen radio
In the broken window of a pawnshop
You ripple in the wind like your sister’s belt
Nailed it to a tree by the buckle

What a morning that was, this is!
I couldn’t, I can’t close my eyes, I feel
Like a potato clawing its way
Through the dirt to look at the sun

You’ve never been so lovely
You’ve never been so liquid
Like a sky made of metal
Like a sky full of ashes

editors note:

That sight; a quick slipper, though indelible marker. – mh clay

Bow Tie Pasta

March 22, 2022  :: 0 comments

The trunk lid was 20 yards away, twisted by the force of the crash into something like a giant piece of bow tie pasta. She lifted the sleeping bag from the trunk. Mine now, she said. Police sirens dopplered. She hid first among plumes of steam, then in the underbrush, until the cops left. Did they not see her or …

Mercy Glory Cranberry

featured in the poetry forum February 26, 2022  :: 0 comments

Mercy in 2/4 time
Said she craved pomegranate juice

I saw the window flex
& beyond: 19 different greens

& before: a coffee can containing
19 colored pens!

So who slapped the kitchen counter
Flower decal? & who

Else saw the rippling puddle in
The refrigerator enamel?

— I almost saw but sang (as
Always) ‘I refuse—’

& it rippled on without me. Within
Me it rippled in reverse. (There is

A word for this, I ken, or there
Will be) Mercy Mercy

Trace my fingers with the plum
Pen! Mercy Mercy

How much linoleum
Have you converted inverted conveyed

& translated? O here
Is the sun, awestruck & amazed

Mercy he would like to borrow
Some of your pens

editors note:

Oh, mercy, me! Pass the pens. – mh clay