A Foul Flotsam

featured in the poetry forum July 8, 2023  :: 0 comments

So on they came
a floating vagrancy of rejects,
already sent packing by others who’d
seen their kind before,
not fooled for a minute by their
shiny shoe buckles and boxy dunce caps,
they were spit back into that spumy sea
like poison sucked from a snakebite.

Bound for Plymouth they hit that
stony brim like an outbreak,
offering up their cold comfort
of eternal salvation like a Trojan Horse.

As with the passing down of a fatal gene
they afflict us still, these congenital hearts
of black ice and spite.

editors note:

What if they had said, “No thanks!” at that first Thanksgiving? – mh clay

Waiting for Mussolini to Show

featured in the poetry forum February 12, 2023  :: 0 comments

Summer rides us hard, this fretful season of
damp hands wrung sore, as we sit in the garden gazebo,
its bridal white blackened by horse flies like cancer spots on an x-ray.
In the vacuum-packed air of late August
you’d swear you can hear the muffled screams
of dirty blond leaves as they fall from the dying elm.

The leg sawings of night crickets
play the nerves like a stuck techno pop loop then
it’s the flash of heat lightning
in an eastern opaline sky.

You’ve been expected, you in your blousy pantaloons.

editors note:

Something to look forward to as we shiver in our winter. – mh clay

These Glimpses of the Apocalypse

featured in the poetry forum August 30, 2022  :: 0 comments

Ash falls like hellborn confetti
from skies milky with mistakes
generations of mistakes and we are
the meat curing in this smokehouse while winds
roam rough through hard canyons,
rogue bands of mercenaries, pitiless.

Merchants of resentment peddle their
tinny wares to the ready, all spongy and moony
as they take their shiny trinkets of fool’s gold
to Our Lady of Perpetual Grievance, this congregation
of small and shuttered hearts, their quicksilver eyes ecstatic
with visions of end days.

Where are the purifying showers of April,
the white linens drying in the backyard sun,
the picnics of summer with watermelon-stained faces?
Where are the small and beautiful things?

editors note:

If we took off our jewel-encrusted, rose-colored glasses, maybe we could see. – mh clay

Let It Be Known to All Who Will Listen

featured in the poetry forum December 18, 2021  :: 0 comments

Crows clot in a winter garden
crowding, trading side-eyes, carping.
Parlous clouds the colors of fresh bruising
spill over distant drumlins into a soft white sky,
the horizon soon eclipsed, heaven’s weight.

The vicar’s widow back hunched,
the effect is of a Grimm’s dwarf, she picks flowers
but just the black ones, long brittle
by winter’s wind and frosts, her wicker trug
fills with boutonnieres for the damned, as she
hums, clears her throat, hums, and
hums, clears her throat, hums.

Jordy the butcher’s dog, sour and three-legged,
barks rhythmically at the edge of the old well
as children toss rotted apples to the girl who fell in
back in ‘37, chanting Mary Dell fell in the well…

So it is with dark prophecy, arriving like a
visitation without zeal or relish or accusation,
but there is accuracy, ineluctable accuracy.

editors note:

What gets you must be true. Faith, beware! – mh clay

The Zen of Stone and Water

featured in the poetry forum May 29, 2021  :: 2 comments

To be a boulder
a stream’s mountain
the sound deposit of
a glacier its old-earth
burnt yellow polished by
the cold flow of water
it splits.

But you are a stone
tumbling in a cataract’s
brown-white churn small
if settled in the palm pitted
by the grit of angry water.

Looking skyward you see
the deft yielding of
willow wands so too
you will skim the whiplash froth
as if a dragonfly weightless
on summer’s heat no
resistance you will not be
a thing of shards.

editors note:

Shrug shatter into shard and skim instead. Om! – mh clay

The Curse of Heroes

featured in the poetry forum January 12, 2021  :: 0 comments

I know you
you’ve been seen around these parts before
son of Apollo or Zeus you’re turned-out
tumbling down from that blue gold vault
your celestine eyes blond flecks glinting they
flash like a coquette’s fan.

You are the stuff of odysseys and agonies
riven in quarters from that casting out
you are wounded and watched and wanted and legends
are the quarry of your ambition to prove your exile
unjust this makes you dangerous a lionized hazard
your vulnerability a siren’s come hither a lure and you
lorn and cocked you will surely shipwreck
gorgeously spent on this tragedy.

editors note:

Pedestals are half price this year. Better invest in mirrors, instead. – mh clay

Here Comes the Stiff

featured in the poetry forum April 5, 2020  :: 0 comments

Old age trails you looking like
a Day of the Dead figure but without
the guitarras and bolo ties and high spirits so
maybe he’s just a workaday skeleton.
Always 10 paces back, all about the morbid,
a clacking gumshoe, the sun shining through his ribs
like a set of Venetian blinds.

He’s all ‘bony Tony’, isn’t he just a riot? you titter,
ducking into alleyways and hedges like Scooby Do
when you see him and he sees you see him but
make no mistake: he’s got a list and you’re on it and you know it.
He’s as pitiless as a bounty hunter.

Can’t ditch him, there’s no discouraging him,
and his timing is impeccable—someday soon
he’ll crook at you a spooky finger
all ashen and disarticulated so
get as bucky as you like but
those bones don’t lie.

editors note:

We can always duck, but we can’t defer; he’ll swing when he swings. – mh clay

On Becoming a Specter

featured in the poetry forum May 25, 2019  :: 0 comments

A plain’s homestead, Depression’s own
splintery gray like driftwood
washed up on this prairie of tall grass,
corn yellow and wind dented.

This house husk of whistling slats
and many wrenchings molders
a baby’s bed and a browning
stove of metastasizing rust
and a flour sack curtain blanched
thin and cloud-white from
an overmuscled sun.

A scarecrow’s bones have I
throwing a stick silhouette against
this shambled phantasm as we two
melt into smudgy clots
of the darkening night.

editors note:

In the ghost of place, we are the haunting. – mh clay

After the Fall

featured in the poetry forum April 27, 2018  :: 0 comments

Nimble like a tumbler, like Fred Astaire
you skim ponds in winter climb air
like a mythic warrior you make fleet
your bitch so in repose, rare for you,
you tip your hat in acknowledgement
as your eyes silver with mercury like
rivers in the sun, unstill and bright.

Then offense somehow taken comes
a hard shower from a god’s angry summit
thunder clubs you to a stagger and you are
shocky and jerky sure footed no more
but to pitch and stammer in
still air on even ground.

Now you push a peddler’s cart
on coarse ruts to humble villages of
want and huddle so with your
little carillon tinny and clinking
they come to buy your wares,
handy and redemptive.

editors note:

Store up treasure; fall down to sell out. – mh clay

My Uncle has Alzheimer’s

featured in the poetry forum April 11, 2017  :: 0 comments

Inside your head’s a Dalí painting
birds fly backwards fire puts out water
you remember what you didn’t hear you
feel your way in a funhouse you’re about
as scrambled as a three egg omelet
on acid with ketchup.

Talking to you is like tuning
a cheap radio you’re all buzz and break up
you’re broadcast from Mars it’s
bad reception. Like your sister and brother
before you three blind mice see how they run
on and on and right over the cliff.

And all of a sudden right out of
the Superfund site that’s your head like a
vision of Mary levitating over a bayou
just out of reach of the snapping gators and
swamp gas and you remember
Greenwich Village in ‘59 as clear
as the light from God’s forehead
on resurrection day and my heart gasps
a little leaving behind a small and purple
bruise but it’s there for sure.

editors note:

Recall, not total, but pinpoint specific. Take the bruises. (We welcome James to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay