Pinto


The Sun filters
through canopy leaves
to impose
a tinted pinto pattern
on a utility vehicle,

two-hundred some-odd
horses neighing
under the hood,
expecting imminent
metal pedaling
and waiting in July heat

for their concrete
cowboy to unhitch them
from the curbpost
after picking up
the second load
of dry-cleaning
in as many days.

The Dawn


Tunnel through a portal
leading past dungeons,
underneath a dragon
both juvenile and mature
enough to know the difference
between a swordsman and
a cake-making grandmother
when both tap on its shoulder
looking for attention solely because
a mythical reptile shouldn’t be
taking up three lanes on the interstate,
much less signaling to passing motorists
that stopping means succumbing to
orchestrated predation that predates
the dawn of our monkey brains.

Cringe


Bent, twiggy-licking finger smidgeons
hover tomorrow, but not
when the ice cream truck
stalls on the corner.
Never when the ice cream truck
frets and coughs on the corner.

But you know the time has blossomed
when those rats reach out
for their most prized trash heap findings;
you know that time reached full flower.

Rugs roll themselves into Lake Superior,
Lake Superior glares and frowns upon them.
Under the toe of a mighty Joe Stallion,
we stroll through our riverwalk
with a mischievous grin.

Cringe
and throttle that barrel-necked
orphan cherry.
Cringe
and throttle that barrel-necked
orphan cherry.

———-

First version (“You Better Believe It”) originally drafted and posted to WHARVED on 3/18/2013

Ladder


When the pigeon-toed astronaut wannabes
decide that their way up the ladder
is through a series of elaborate hoaxes,
that’s when you need to jump in there
and take a penny for the thoughts
of every person on the planet–and
whomever has happened to colonize
the moon by that point. Because at least
then, you’d have dozens of millions
of dollars to play with–assuming
these pennies are American–and you
could invest in several organizations
for as long as you should want, letting
your money work for you. Investments are
generally deemed risky, so you need to be
young (75 or younger, preferably). Don’t
end up sinking your hard-earned wealth into
some ponzi scheme. I’ve done that four times
now, with varying degrees of failure. But make
no mistake, each one of those investments netted
at least a 59% rate of failure–the worst being
a pure 100% failure. Always do your research, and
for God’s sake, talk with a financial advisor (one
who is not affiliated with a ponzi scheme, mind you).

Our End


While we’re at this interstellar reception hall,
we should take the time to tell all our friends
what we’re doing this for: the peculiar sense
of freedom and wonder that takes off like a goose
through the heron-streaked gates of our overlords,
be they earthly or heavenly. It doesn’t matter
who takes the cake in this tradition, we must
stealthily enlist the help of as many indentured
mandibles as humanly possible, lest we fall into
a holding pattern of nothing in particular–save
plaid or argyle in shirts and socks. We’re all in
the habit of making friends with people who choose
not to know much about our end of the galaxy, and
it’s not much of a turn-on when you come to realize
that nobody really knows much about our end of the galaxy.

The freedom to choose whose friendship we want
is something to be admired, but it comes with a cost:
pepperoni pizza to be consumed by all parties involved
for as long as a grand occasion can be extended. If
pizza isn’t the taste of the day, a number of foods may be
substituted–pita pockets, burgers or even flan for instance.

Birds


Traipsing across the southern valley,
it’s time for a bluejay to fly by
and disrupt my peaceful mind–a mind
which has come to the conclusion
that separatists deserve a fair shake
before all is lost from their campaigns
to end global warming, child poverty
and the invasive spread of religion.

Without so much as a crow streaking by,
my thoughts begin to replicate
the telephone booth from The Birds,
encasing me right where I stand
and throwing my spirit aloft to the domain
of our tiny winged dinosaur friends,
who appear to be fighting off extinction
from all angles, invisible–save the insect
populations they’ve culled and the plants
growing from seeds they’ve passed.

Lose Poetry


Imagine as a poet
that you must
lose poetry
for the rest of your life
unconditionally,
may not read,
write
or speak it.

You would need
to rely
on body language,
as any sentence
uttered aloud
is rendered
unique
purely because
it has happened
at a time
after any other
we can recall
at the moment.

Such a task
would wear
on the soul,
then one day
you’d suddenly
start stripping
anger from a lemur
found dawdling
near headquarters
who now really wants
nothing more
than to go home,
as all the anger
has been removed,
exorcised, perhaps.

Biff and Buffy


I’m not too troubled
by the humanitarian implications
present in such an occurrence.
I’m more concerned with
how all these ham sandwiches–
half with mustard, half with mayo–
got here in the first place.
Falling from a passing hot air balloon
would be the most plausible explanation,
an airborne picnic that got
too heavy to stay aloft otherwise.

Biff and Buffy Picnicmaker
would have plenty left to snack on anyway
if such a scenario were true.
There would still be enough
hard-boiled eggs, potato salad,
caviar and toast points
to last them through the sunset,
as they’re not big eaters anyway.
They had a sizable breakfast
before taking to the sky,
and the only thing they really
can’t go without would be their urn
of coffee, painstakingly brewed
the day before yet still steaming–
just the way they like it.

Paste


Persevering out there
is a scrambled mess
of tofu dog segments,
melted in extreme circumstances
and wholly unappetizing.
As people hurry around
to get out of the heat,
they unknowingly tread
on the unfortunate food.
Nobody seems to notice
this sequence of events unfold
in the clattering clambering,
but nothing can be done
to save this pile of mush
from total disintegration.
What was once a protein-packed
example of culinary hubris
has become a parade of people
spreading a fine paste
across the neighborhood–
one step at a time.

Playing God


A cluster of tiny ribbons
handles itself gracefully
when asked by its eccentric owner
to dominate a meaningless conversation.
It masks any giddiness
while haranguing its close associates–
teeter totter otters, rubber party peanuts
and spackled bird houses, to name a few.
This collective of tiny ribbons
has been given the gift of gab,
an ability not commonly associated
with inanimate objects. As it riffs
about the state of the world economy,
it receives no response. What was meant
to be an exchange of language
has become a one-sided affair,
domination by default. This occasion
marks the first and last time
that this grouping will ever speak;
it slowly begins to disband,
shedding ribbons two and three
at a time until just one remains,
happy to sink back into anonymity.
The owner attempts to form a new bundle,
but playing God won’t work this time.

Lake Uponamawoc


Handier than a set of dull steak knives
and more buoyant than the Duke of Edinburgh,
this here dog in a box is a celebration
of festive times past. Since the dawn
of our current set of circumstances,
nothing has refreshed one’s sense of dignity
more than the knowledge of a particular
string of extraterrestrial occurrences
up over by Lake Uponamawoc–if they’re
to be believed. The results of these
alien encounters are apparent: dogs-in-boxes
are popping up all across the tri-county area,
the calling cards of our benevolent overlords
from the other end of the galaxy. Nobody
knows when this started, but spiritual channelers
have often said this practice predates
the bronze age by a good margin. Our species
may have first learned of both dogs and boxes
through this bizarre ritual, utterly changing
our impressions of storage and animal friendship.

Wind


Bustling wind whistles briskly through trees, tall grasses and urban corridors more often than any other location on Earth, at least for the time being. Tomorrow may tell a different story, bringing gusts to sand dunes and mountain summits, but the objective is always the same no matter where the brunt of nature’s force takes place: gather together enough energy to knock a 200-pound man off his feet with ease and judge his reaction as impartially as possible. Usually the man will exaggerate how much of an impact the wind made, even if there’s nobody around. He’ll throw up his arms nine times out of ten and yell, “Wowee, sure as hell caught me by surprise!” Again, this transpires more often than not even if nobody else is within earshot; the typical male human is steeped in macho tradition, concerned more with saving face than ensuring immediate bodily safety.

Navy


Hitherto underrepresented is the full range of emotion you’d associate with a mood ring. You’ve only ever managed to have your ring turn blue–from cornflower to navy–though most folks you know swear they’ve turned theirs putrid green in a fit of rage. Maybe their rings never went in the laundry by accident. All right, no need to lose your temper. Each passing moment now brings you closer to hurling this piece of knock-off jewelry from a fourth-story balcony. The thought of throwing the ring away produces no new emotional hues while it’s still on your finger, though the turmoil in your head should surely at least cause a minor change. What a waste of six dollars; if only you’d remembered that truck stops never sell anything actually worth the money it costs.

Gravy


Flooding the basement with turkey gravy is just the beginning, though it took 26 hours to prepare all that gravy and I haven’t gotten any sleep since starting the process. The gravy needs to at least come up to your shins, or it can’t be called a legitimate flood. I’ve decided against trying to float on my back in the stuff, I don’t need my whole body drenched with a substance that brings to mind those old elementary school turkey lunches at the beginning of the week of Thanksgiving, with potatoes and canned green beans, maybe a piece of droopy pumpkin pie. Once the taste for flooding has been satisfied, digging a hole to China in the backyard is a logical next step. All the cartoons from my youth assured me that it’s possible, and I won’t rest until I burrow through the core of the planet–though more than likely I’ll run out of energy and pass out after I’ve dug about 20 feet down.

Chemical Laundrymates


Wee Chemical Laundrymates
skip under extension cord hammocks,
content to while away their youth
in an mundane–and rather uncouth–fashion.

The parents never stuck around
to check the progression of their progeny,
evolution’s made their job
easier than most folks’.

All they have to do
is ensure the forward momentum
of their species, then they can
vacation around the world
without a care to be found,
living out their golden years with zeal
renting catamarans and pontoons.

They’re seemingly always on open water,
they seek it out instinctually
and with a vengeance, especially
when their days of procreation have ceased.

If it ever came down
to floating in a pond
versus protecting offspring from predators,
recreation would win every time.

Furball


A squirrel hurls
itself forth
from a blossom
of the eldest
poplar tree
in the vicinity

to a younger
specimen, digging
into the suppler bark
and scaling the tree
like it’s nothing

until it twitches
and clutches at air,
missing solid matter,
falls ass-backwards
for seventy-five feet,

and is caught
by a hiker who
saw this transpire
and thought about
letting the furball
drop to the ground–
it would have bounced.

Rubber Mallet


You’re unsure
of what brought you
here as you stand
right next to the
secretary of a
highfalutin executive-type,
deftly denting
the coffeemaker
with a rubber mallet,
unwittingly uncovering
the rattling inner-workings
of that percolator’s psyche,
cracks and creaks
that were never meant
to come across
this superior’s oaken desk,
unsettling his thoughts
while a way to compete
with eastern markets
must be devised
before midnight tomorrow
or these investors
will be pissed.

“Mr. Gamble is trying
to have some peace
and quiet, sir.
I suggest taking
your rubber mallet
elsewhere for now.”

“Oh, this mallet
isn’t mine. I found it
on the floor
when I got here.”

“I thought it looked
familiar. I lost mine
an hour ago, thought
it ran away from me.”

Lore


No boar before
has benefited more
from practices of yore
than when bored
in a store, implored
to do chores
lest gore hit the floor,
pouring foreshortened spores
made to ward off a horde
of imported dull swords, moored
on an old shore
scored with sores–
lore that can’t be ignored.

Stretch


Stretch into oblivion, carpenter ants
treading on you like a bridge. Know
when the chicken brains freeze
in the root cellar below your chin;
make a noise to show you understand.

Dig through your belly button lint
to uncover an ancient tome–often
misused and represented falsely
as a case study in human husbandry.

Read a popular passage that teaches,
“Never eat a stalk of wheat fresh
from the ground, rather make twine
from it and tie together your emotions
before you lose them entirely.”

Bones


Eager to toss down a bone or seven,
Champ quickened his pace on the way
to the recently-disrupted Indian burial ground,
his satchel weighed down
by clacking carpals and tarsals.

More bones should equal more peace
amongst the dead; the bones in Champ’s bag
were carelessly pilfered from less-volatile graveyards–
lands that won’t necessarily curse you
for doing a bit of harvesting here and there.

With a bone surplus approaching, the burial ground
may cease its treacherous hauntings
of the surrounding area (if the vigilant spirits
accept the new acquisitions as their own).

Then perhaps, finally, no more headless cow specters
mooing free jazz through their necks.
No more transparent locusts rustling around
with their sound magnified by all surfaces touched.
No more six-legged pumas with chainsaw growls,
stalking behind trees in the shadows.

Some locals swear they’ve heard an eerie chant
popping up over air waves and through plain thin air,
repeating itself, “Put us back where we belong or suffer,
put us back where we belong or suffer.”

The Badgers


In my effort
to be a good sport
about it all,
I forgot to take
the badgers into account.
I remembered the partridges,
jaguars and stoats,
the turkeys, oxen
and hamburger rats.
Even those mythical denizens
that I’d never thought
would spend their time
loafing around–
languid chipmunks, carnivorous deer,
handyman’s companion woodland porpoises.
I spent so much time
coming up with beasts
that I lost the line
between natural occurrence
and fairy tale claptrap.
I was up to my neck
in creatures both seen
and unseen when a platypus
splashed my face
with lukewarm water,
growling like a feral cat
and formally reminding me
that the badgers had started
gnawing at my ankle.

Reasons Unknown


Excavated from under
the crust of civilization:
a common spearhead
with markings showing
its connection to a Pre-Colombian shaft
of certain aerodynamic worth.
It belonged to a shaman
who never used it
for anything more
than target practice;
he let his underlings
do the dirty work
while he contemplated
the universe’s tendency
to give humans more
than they can handle
at any given time,
for reasons unknown
to ancient and modern science.

Transit


In transit around town
is a yellow pigeon’s beak,
filled with licorice
and about to lose its positioning
upon said bird’s face.

Where it wants to go is a question
for a different time and place,
like, say, a cathedral
on the Wednesday following Easter.
We mustn’t worry about such details
before we see where the pigeon ends up
and how long its beak stays attached.

The licorice is the original black
that aficionados swear by,
but casual eaters poo-poo.
A store of this candy has recently
been made accessible to midsize
sugar-craving urban birds.

There’s a fresh hole in the roof
of a local confectioner’s shop,
a hole the size of a catcher’s mitt
which nobody can explain.