Another Martini

Spitting black, I purge
rapturous sickness
unfurling as phantoms.

Dark tails shuffle across the floor,
a tiled chessboard
hosting one pawn minus the knights.

No royalty emerges
to risk even a brief dance
under the spotlight’s lazy eye.

Open and close,
the motionless quartet
blinks in and out of view.

Dust covers their red velvet
dinner jackets
as they listen for a cue.

Trumpet, piano, and bass
wait for the drummer to count his beat,
but the snare gently hums.

I can’t move without music,
but olives and vodka will do.
Barkeep: another martini!

The Nature of Nature

Oblivious to permanently stalled traffic,
the siren wails to commuter cars,
oversized SUVs, 18-wheelers
overturned and burning brightly.

Her throne, the mangled rail,
draws travelers to an interstate trap:
cracked asphalt rising with the heat,
swallowing entire platoons,

fighter jets and Army tanks.
The battered military men retreat,
guns and parachutes thrown aside,
as the driving path ages in reverse.

Prairie grass overruns yellow lines.
Maple trees replace exit ramps.
Nature returns to her nature,
peace through violence.

Arguing Against Syntax

Repent! Abstain
from grammatical
I sat through
your lecture:
scribbled notes,
feigned interest,
masked disdain.

Shut up, syntax!
Your rules and analysis
do not compute.
I refuse your right
to arrange words,
dense with nonsense.

Pen on paper
or maybe
fingers on keyboard
or maybe
a sudden spark
will lead the way
to mediocrity,
a half-assed rough draft

lying there, brooding,
baleful and incomplete,
plotting its revenge,
bathing in atrophy.
Anemic letters,
once rippling with strength,
wax poetic about brilliant flashes
segueing to ill-begotten ideas.

A Fly in Fog

This road didn’t exist until I turned onto it. Gravel crunched, and Gordon Lightfoot owned the radio, “a ghost from a wishin’ well.” When I tried the dial, the song stayed. A frosted doe lay in her ditch bed. The fly in her eye buzzed back to the fog as my trajectory pierced the gray, grounded clouds. Steering with my left, I felt a cold coffee cup with my right. Through the cracked windshield, just beyond the headlights, was an ill-formed outline, a robe and raised blade. As it approached, I couldn’t recall how I found this road.

Becoming Caligari

Beware the sleeper. Tonight his master
wakes him, places the knife in his palm,
points him to slanted corridors
bordering her fragmented window.

She, the queen, bestows her throne
to an errant knight, a somnambulist’s dream.
The director made her do it.
He is quite insane, you know?

I put the murderous monster
in his straitjacket cell,
but now he approaches.
Who set the madman free?

The town clerk, then my best friend,
died in this twisted affair.
I saw words traced in air:
“You must become Caligari.”

All Hail the Crimson King

I. Callahan
Cursed and defiled,
I take the strange temptation:
way station rainbow.

II. Pennywise
Come see my sewer.
Red balloons pop as my soul
devours your fear.

III. Grady
I might release you,
but we doubt your willingness
to pick up the ax.

IV. Flagg
Let the virus spread.
After the warhead explodes,
I will be worshiped.

V. Roland
Chase the man in black.
When desert turns to roses,
climb the Tower’s steps.