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 hushed voices of deer
have 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.
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.
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.
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 gorges
majestically dismembered terrains
where jaguars 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
here you drank the dew and starved
for one more drop
one more sign she cared
when every crevice of the world dripped evidence.
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
the gully between her breasts
and the soft forgotten folds of prehistory.
If you look up into the rain and drink it
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.
Dreams are mirrors. 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.
She grows wings that beat the air
until it roars in turbulent currents.
She writes love letters in the dark
with invisible ink in a language
that belongs only to us.
Our hearts are made from stars.
The smallest atoms contain planetary landscapes
we can touch, together.
They will never leave us. Our gravity owns them.
Nowhere in the night sky will you find anything
that is not ours.
We are sisters of the same moon
whose web of light is our home
whose phases wax and wane in time with our bodies.
We can fly to anywhere from here.
Come into my arms and dream.
I have something to show you.
She wasn’t pretty like a model,
not the kind of beauty who disappeared
when the makeup came off.
She was something else,
a song that gets better year after year,
one you appreciate on new levels
the deeper you go.
You didn’t need to know the names of
her musicians to understand her song.
You could even get the words wrong.
It only mattered that you listened.
I haven’t painted in two years. But I recently rewrote a couple old memoirs as a poem about painting, and it felt like time to take some pretty colors and make a big splashy mess in the kitchen again. The blank canvases in my office aren’t going to paint themselves, after all. The working title for the painting-in-progress is The Legend of the Frozen Coast, partially in tribute to the Frozen Coast painting I sold on Craigslist a few years back.
I don’t know what other painters think about when they paint, but I have been imagining The Legend of the Frozen Coast as a pirate adventure story starring Meteor Mags’ great-grandmother and read on a radio program. Explore Nordic debauchery in the icy wastelands! Witness the fate of a ferocious kraken frozen in a glacier for 10,000 years! Set fire to a fleet of brigands and mercenaries! Throw in some insults and salty language from The Pirate Primer that arrived this week, and the tale almost writes itself.
A storm hammers the forest.
The wind rips down his tent.
He can’t make any sense of it in the dark.
The painter drags his sleeping bag to a rock ledge.
It gives no shelter but is clear of the trees.
Electricity tears the sky to shreds.
The rain carries out its assault
not in drops but one continuous torrent.
He huddles in the soaked bag for nine hours,
powerless and small.
Stillness, yet never-ending motion.
The calm shadows of trees on a lake
draw lace stockings on a nightmare.
The struggle for life rages below the surface.
A bee caresses a flower intimately.
He cares nothing for the coming storm.
He is within her and she is within him.
They are one and the same.
Step away from industry. Obliterate
the underlying colors and textures
even when they persist. Use an avalanche.
Give them landslides. Drench them in
thunderstorms of black and broken skies
until they recede. The painter and the canvas
are the cyclone and the shore.
You don’t need to paint this canvas at all.
Do what comes naturally. The painting
will take care of itself.
At the galaxy’s edge float stars no eyes will ever see.
You set them out thoughtfully like candles
in a bedroom, or lanterns on a river.
Some say you care for none of them
that you scattered them on a whim
forgetting all but the brightest
then one day even those.
What if they knew your delicate precision
how your heart ached to let each one go
how every orb was a part of you, shining?
You have named them all
to keep diaries of their travels
their ancient orbits and clusters
who spin in glowing whirlpools for eons.
All your stellar children, the solar seeds you planted
who carve their initials in gravity and burn
for your pleasure, someday they will all be grown.
You should stick around sometime.
When you stay in one place long enough
you get to watch people change.
Do you remember the girl too scared to fly?
She grew wings. You missed it.
Everyone goes too fast and drifts apart.
No, it’s true. She grew wings.
If you don’t believe me, then
go to the river any afternoon.
Call her name. You can see her soaring
when the clouds break apart.
Sunset is the only thing to survive.
Dead men in the summer. The loss
comes seasonally, as periodic as tidal
motion, and the townspeople understand
the tide. But they cannot stop it.
Every year, their men hear mermaids
singing on waves that swallow whales and
anchors and things we have not discovered.
The song has not changed in millennia.
Its chorus tells a sensuous dream, a hook
baited with a brightly naked lure.
Fishermen and husbands in a trance
walk into the ocean. The moon offers
guidance, but they do not need it.
They know where promises are fulfilled
in melody, in scaly embraces and breasts
which float like gravity has no power.
Men do not know they drown.
They feed at nipples below the surface
without questioning their joy,
and then oblivion.
The next morning, wives and daughters cry
over empty spots at the breakfast table. Women
know nothing of what their men discover
when they venture into saltwater and never return.
Then shells and gold and gleaming
treasures line the beach as payment for
Summer, with your storms and madness,
your lightning cracks along the shore,
and no one can deny its burning.