Animal Inside You: Poems of Chaos and Euphoria collects 27 free-verse poems in an exclusive Kindle edition available for $2.99, or free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Do you have the courage to be loved by the sun?
What daughter of Earth can bear his solar flare?
Better perhaps to write your verses in dark
deep forests where the hushed voice of deer
has only the moon to contend with.
Better perhaps to fold your sails and choose
for your harbor a cove where his scalding corona
remains a whispered legend.
But you, daughter of soil and wind
of leaves and blades of grass, you
who have known fear but once and never again,
your defiance carries you up the peaks
and into the light.
You cast aside your gown of slumber
to weave the dawn into your tresses.
You gather flocks of songbirds
to nest in your palms and encircle you.
Robed in such finery, you welcome him.
Regular visitors to Mars Will Send No More know I am a big proponent of using journals and sketchbooks as tools for nurturing artistic and poetic inspirations, personal growth, and ideas for writing projects. In 2015, I published a 150-page dream journal called Three Years Dreaming; and in 2016, I published a 100-page, full-color retrospective of drawings and paintings called Sketchbooks Volume One.
But my first publication of 2017 is devoid of words and pictures of my own creation. It’s a blank book called Journal & Sketchbook: A Place for Creativity, and it features 100 lined pages and 50 unlined pages—all waiting to be filled with words and images, at a conveniently portable 8.5 x 5.5 size.
The cover to this paperback features a scan of an abstract acrylic painting, one of a dozen 8 x 10 canvases I created in the last two months with the intent of making unique, colorful backgrounds and textures for book covers, business cards, website banners, compact disc covers, and anything else that needs a personal, artistic touch.
The title page, instead of displaying my name, has a blank line where you can write in your own, and places to write the dates when you start and finish filling the book. In other words, this isn’t a book by me. It’s a book by you!
Painted butterfly bushes
and permanent flowers
whose colors never fade.
Here, a panther can dream
or a child, even children
whose bodies time has aged.
Some verdant forests are
denied the waking and only
grow in starlight, real
or imagined. When you look
with your heart and not your eyes
you see a different truth.
Tonight you will take time to remember
why you could not tell her everything:
why galaxies weep and clovers sing
why each raindrop forgets its name
before it strikes the ground.
Tonight Venus the evening star
will shine brightly enough to inspire myth
but not illuminate a forest.
You will notice a shade of green in the sunset
unlike anything which came before.
You will remember how to dance
but forget how to walk.
No consolation awaits you in the
brick broken alleys between here
Nothing heals a hopeless heart like the dawn
and mockingbird song strewn across playgrounds
and parking lots in random perfection.
But that must wait until tomorrow.
Your name means nothing to you now
but you will choose one that does.
Think of the animals whose lives you stole
and the ones you cared for. Then ask yourself
how they are any different.
Think of the exceptions to every rule
then realize they are the norm.
Consider why we began breaking laws
in the first place.
Recall Pluto has not completed
a single solar orbit since we discovered it
then stripped it of its planetary status.
Our new year does not belong to the outer planets.
They have their own sense of scale and scope.
If you ever wonder if something as small
as a bee or an ant can feel love
then you don’t understand yourself at all.
Remember this tonight when you stumble home
at 3 a.m. clutching the walls and
groping the empty city.
Remember this when you
break your resolutions tomorrow but hold on
to promises you never intend to abandon.
Tattoo your body with stars
and understand it means
we could never leave each other.
Where could we possibly go that we could not
be together? What canvas in all of history
could have been painted, if not by us?
Our hands held the brushes
as they hold each other now.
We could not let go without
taking all of geology with us
Her majesty the raven
dressed in afternoon sunlight
gilding her feathers with liquid fire.
she takes what she needs.
Her empire begins above your head.
Air currents sustain her, lift her
giving grace and meaning to her wings.
This she accepts as her rightful tribute
her payment for centuries of survival
and her genius in conquering gravity.
Spying her mate, she sails the sky
carrying her prize in a beak as black
as the flag of no nation.
Solar gold, stolen silver
and her lover’s heart:
What will not last forever
today belongs to her.
Patches pulled herself from the mangled wreckage. The train burst into flame behind the tiny kitten. The heat singed her fur. Embers fell all around her, charring the grass. She coughed weakly between mews, but no one heard.
The sounds of human screams and the shriek of metal ripping and falling apart meant nothing to her young ears but noise. Noise and hurt. She crawled through the grass to the dark edge of the forest without knowing why. She only knew its cool shelter in contrast to the excruciating noise and the bright, bright burning.
In the gnarled roots of a tree, Patches curled into a trembling ball. For how many hours the screams and the burning lasted, she did not know. Eventually they quieted down, but other sounds and lights arrived in waves. At some point, those also stopped.
Too weak to mew any longer, Patches shivered until she fell asleep. She dreamed she saw the skull of another cat. The skull faded into sight from the pure black night. It grew until it filled the sky, and the moon sat in place of an eye. Little Patches had no word for death, but she understood the magnitude of what she saw.
The skull cat looked down from the sky at the disaster in the pale moonlight. Its lower jaw dropped open. From the train’s wreckage, the ghosts of dead cats soared up, up, up into the open mouth. Patches wondered if she knew any of them. From here, she could not tell.
Patches dreamed her own ghost tried to pull free from her body. She struggled to hold onto it. She twisted and shuddered in her sleep. Her limbs struck out wildly. She growled at the monstrous cat skull, and its single lunar eye focused on her.
As the eye of death examined her, Patches shook as if she had been thrown into arctic water. She growled her refusal to relinquish her spirit to this icy, grinning horror. She growled for all she was worth.
The eye of death winked at her. Patches heard a low, rumbling purr, and a raspy tongue combed the side of her face once, then again.
When she woke up alone, she killed and ate the first bug she saw. Ten minutes later, she made a breakfast of a small lizard. Finches in the bushes chirped loudly. Patches did not catch a bird that day. But she would.
She would not give up easily.
My Venus flytrap is a year old now, and it’s been a wonderfully green, insect-killing addition to the office. But I almost let it die.
Back in February, I posted the picture below. It shows a stalk growing among the various fly-eating leaves. I didn’t know flytraps made stalks, so I left it alone to see what would happen. I might as well have signed the poor thing’s death warrant.
That stalk is meant to become a flower. Fortunately for my flytrap, that never happened. The stalk only turned black and shriveled up like the leaves do on a regular basis. I say “fortunately” because when a second stalk sprouted a few months ago, I did the research I should have done in the first place. It turns out that when a Venus flytrap makes a stalk that flowers, it really puts its murderous little heart and soul into it. Once the flower blooms, the plant has done its job and gives up on life. It dies.
As soon as I read that, I cut off the new stalk and, per the article, placed it into the sphagnum moss beside the rest of the plant to give it a chance to sprout and flower on its own. It didn’t. But hopefully I cut the cord in time to keep my plant growing. It’s hard to say, as this wintry time of year is a dormant phase for flytraps.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this? Maybe it’s “Do your bloody research.” On the other hand, how dare I interfere with my plant’s attempt to create its ultimate biological masterpiece: a beautiful flower that is the apex of its existence and its entire reason for living? Why should my goals for the plant be more important than the plant’s goals for itself? Shouldn’t I just let it do what it wants?
After pondering this problem in relation to mammals I have known and loved, be they human or feline, I realized I am projecting my personal problems onto my flytrap, and that the solution isn’t mammalian in nature. What would actually make my little plant happy is not pointlessly dying, nor my trying to rescue it from itself. What it really wants is a mate: another plant, with another flower, with whom it can share pollen and create new flytrap seeds together, and spawn a whole new insect-killing generation.
So, besides “do your bloody research”, the other lesson here is: Even flytraps need a friend.
I’ll put it on my list of things to do next year. Catch you in 2017!
His garden of stars
he nurtured with his own blood
and toil. Seasons
come and go. No more
wandering the streets, begging.
The harvest grows near.
The foliage shines
luminescent and gravid.
Today we are born.
Resting on his spade
he considers the journey
from the past to here.
He was once the fool
and perhaps will be again.
No matter. That time
is over and done.
Only the future concerns
him now, its tempest
and its aimless storm,
the gift it gives and the toll
it demands from him.
He plucks the first fruit,
brings it to his lips to taste
the stellar forces
he tended so long.
Their sweetness will sustain him
through the months ahead,
nourish him through the
gathering darkness and the
unkindness of winter.
His pentacles hold
all of summer’s promises
and her sunlit dreams,
the wealth we cannot
build nor mine, but only grow
from seeds we planted.
Blue & White Nebula
Notes: Created on an 8×10 canvas mounted on board. Using a trowel, I smeared on a thick layer of white semi-gloss acrylic house paint and let it dry. Then I sprayed it with water and dropped Golden brand liquid acrylic artist paint, in Prussian Blue. It made these interesting patterns as it diffused through the water.
Now let’s have some rock from the band Nebula, from the Nebula/LowRider split album:
This “day of the dead” postcard came to me this year without any indication of the artist’s name, but it does have an address on the back for Milo Papers in Boulder, Colorado – which, as far as I can tell from the internets, doesn’t even exist anymore. It doesn’t get much more dead than that!
My antipodean sister, today is your longest day
but here, our shortest. I grow jealous of your sunlight
though you are the moon who shines in daytime.
I need days that last forever, open and unending
while you crave black-walled rooms and curtains
to deny the outside world and murder it.
These are trivialities. Your heart beats like mine.
It knows the rhythm of the seasons we cannot escape.
They enslave us and they liberate us
and we cannot tell the difference.
Beneath your radiant southern cross
you sing and paint with light to create new worlds.
You, my partner in musical treason,
my inversion who lives one day into the future,
we are not so different: two halves of a sine wave.
My troughs are your peaks
though I cannot touch nor hold your hand.
Our amplitudes are one heartbeat:
the same symphony, the inhalation and exhalation.
Water crashes into sand as far as the eye can see.
You made a home for that part of me too wild to settle down.
I could not repay you with all the gold stolen
from a thousand papist galleons.
But this is no transaction.
The family we are born into
is not the family we meet later,
the one who resonates with us and
cares more for who we are than what we were.
Some songs fade like old photographs.
Others change our lives
and stay with us always.
An orchestra could not do you justice
unless the score was revolution.
I listen to you so loud it hurts.
Long after our sun grows red
to devour her planetary children,
our elements will find a new star, together.
When she loves you, she will prove it
with glacial patience and eternities of storms
carving sacred geologies
into your planetary skin
filling it with peaks and canyons
and majestically dismembered terrains
where panthers roam in shadows,
where seekers quest for visions that often find them
but other times escape to nests
like birds on the edge of a thundercloud.
Mark this place with petroglyphs
so you will never forget
that here you drank the dew and starved
for one more drop, one more sign she cared
when every crevice of the world
dripped with evidence she did.
Paint the animals you hunted in her caves,
then realize they are you and never hunt again.
You don’t need to search. You are not lost.
You are here in the palm of her hand
and the gully between her breasts
and the soft, forgotten folds of prehistory.
If you look up into the rain and drink it,
then you already know everything you need.
Caress the canyon and dance
in its unrelenting atmosphere
like all the other trees whose limbs embrace
and interpenetrate her like capillaries.
Then you will know for certain.
Dreams are mirrors. Only fools refuse their gaze.
You can see it all from here
and she can see inside you, too.
She had no patience for anyone
who had not set themselves on fire.
It wasn’t a game to her, or an idle pastime.
It mattered in a way you couldn’t understand
until flames crawled up your skin from the pyre
consuming all you loved
boiling the blood in your veins
and filling your eyes with landscapes you’d never seen before.
That’s the kind of woman she was.
She wanted more than to go out with a bang.
She wanted you to take everything with you.
If you couldn’t, then it never belonged to you in the first place.
The city crumbles and takes her with it,
her portrait painted on its aging skin.
They should have sprayed her over metal
so she could live forever
like guitar riffs in a basement
and lovers we will never meet.
Instead, she’s been falling apart since day one,
a persona stenciled on concrete
barely more permanent than flesh.
Her heart refuses to break
but the surrounding world is falling apart
and always will be
and she is one with it and it is her and she is
all the things we should have listened to
like our bodies
the substrate we grow on
the lines and cracks of age
the structures of civilization
and all it pretends to be.
Winter visits us with careless brutality
and we only want her gone.
My tiny kitten,
bathing you with my tongue
finding shelter in these rocks
that refuse to forgive or remember
here we make our comfort.
I will teach you unconditional love and murder.
We will drink the blood of incomparable vistas
where we have only enemies and sunlight.
This frozen wasteland tattoos itself on our hearts
and the moon in a tempest we will always carry.
Naked, we run at night
caring nothing for heat or cold
only for what can be killed
only for what is ours.
We mark it, maul it
and make it our own.
is our sole inheritance
and we have no prayer
of leaving it alive.
Doubt we never entertain
We leap into the unknown
and if it will not catch us,
then we die.
But what is that
A kiss we already forgot.
I no longer taste
your salt on my tongue.
The skin healed shut.
Pull me apart again.
I never wish
for peaceful days.
I crave days that boil,
days filled with sun
except my blossoms.
They bloom for you.
They bloom for you
and they bleed.