The History of Spine

 

starts with her bundling epochal apple                                                                                   cervical

resin to mold and morph the cord, him hunched

over topographic military

map nerve centers, them hanging limp from bone

dry limbs, us scarecrowed straight from heme stained

pitchforks. Is this survival of the fittest?

No. Backup.

Kickstart it with microbes without pronouns                                                                         thoracic

feeding on carbon compounds, holding cells

for the soon to be walking whales waiting

for fated seals, krill killers squished between

lush spongers of oxygen vaping fog

into ten-armed squid pores doomed to be bait

for fish destined for swift fileting by

no more monkeying around standing armies

sending shivers through amoeba tails then

into beaks of twelve-ton bugbirds. This can't

be the origins of love species, can it?

No. Move forward.                                                                    

This is when you and I cop a posture,                                                                                       lumbar

our got your backs may be against the wall

spinal columns ache with fossilized pain

lowest parts lack any form of wherewithal

vertebrae take last stand against the crush

yet, our curvatures are bound to bend                                                                                      sacrum

toward blooming worlds above and below

our lean downs and leap ups erect breezes

to soothe orchards breeding anxious fruit trees

squadrons deaf to booms of peace treaty drums

shafts of character, beams of compassion                                                                                  coccyx

the history of spine is tracked in stacks

of thirty three books, jackets facing out

bearing authors who stood all tests of time.

Casting Call

 

Voices fill the circle to compose a rousing chorus for change

oligarchs of the immoral universe bend now toward justice

truth rubs a disinfectant light over conjured shadows

earth revs up to reverse the human scale of injustice.

 

Oligarchs of the immoral universe bend now toward justice

treasury earnings bond with meek yearning to get out of eking

earmarks soundly invest in what was once the unheard of

visible is the invisible hand’s evaporated grip on selfish interest.

 

Truth rubs a disinfectant light over conjured shadows
education illuminates the inequities between classes
valedictorians address poverty, prejudice and planet vandalism

one percent no longer equals ninety-nine percent.

 

Earth revs up to reverse the human scale of injustice
venture capital money grows on carbon-sequestering trees
oceans don’t rise to the occasion, peaks don't sink in flames

tempests temper our resolve to step into the real green light.

 

Voices fill the circle to compose a rousing chorus for change

outside we stand in line knowing democracy is on the line

the better angels of our nature’s anxiety hovers over our ballot
e pluribus unum iwillvote.com.

Stock Shots

 

Hunting down pictures of racial

divides the colors into flesh pantones

royalty free shots watermarked

with logos of the man whipping across

eyes and mouths of models making

believe, real skins unfreckled, unpot

marked, unoiled, unscabbed, unpuffed,

ungaunt populate a mosaic light box

like the bowel of a slaveship in cross

hairs of marketing masters hoarding

spoils of images bound to bound

in their stereotyped sights

where the world of colors

melts into perfect frames

of imperfect white.

Supreme Commander

 

Come to order

 

I can’t comment

on the king’s right

to deny people of color

voting for a country where all are truly created equal

         I won’t comment

         on the king’s right

         to sever families fleeing terror

         seeking refuge for the tired, poor, huddled masses

I can’t comment

on the king’s right

to put children in cages

freezing and fearful in aluminum foil blankets

         I won’t comment

         on the king’s right

         to ignite domestic terrorists

         intimidating voters standing up forever to cast their ballot

I can’t comment

on the king’s right

to unplug healthcare from millions

suffering in a contagious world of virus vs. them

         I won't comment

         on the king’s right

         to pardon himself before he’s caught

         running from crimes against humanity and democracy

I can’t comment

on the king’s right

to deny the existence of climate change

torching forests, flooding families and negating future life

         I won’t comment

         on the king’s right

         to overpower a woman’s body

         living now pregnant with fear of abusive patriarchal law

 

Hear ye Hear ye

 

I can and I will

uncloak myself in a midnight robe

saved for this judgement day

when I adhere my notepad of no hints beneath the bench

honoring my original oath of always and forever ruling for the ruler.

Pre-existing Conditions

Water is clear

air is clean

land is brown, black, red, yellow, white and green

nature is in us

we are in nature

race is not a word

love is not an aspiration

power is in the wind, the sun, the waves

power is not in hands of someone else

the only hunger is the one to help

forgetfulness is not a disease

it’s the patients who profit from health care

alien is only found in inalienable rights

your ideas and actions guarantee joy 

to your neighbor’s brother’s daughter’s

grandson's great granddaughter's

friend watering wildflowers a continent away.

 Composting isn't a waste of time

Lawns can be a root cause of climate change

Rescue

 

Land at a loss, gila

monsters step back

wards into the soapy

ocean hoping to get

washed, their skin

escapes and floats up

to make a quilt of scales

a raft of reptile epidermis

saving swimmers with

dissolving backbones.

  "Oh, the Humanity”

 

 We are a dirigible

inflated not with laughing

or nerve but atomic number one

the commonest element in the universe

but not on earth. Our epidermis stretches across

the blimpy ellipse, our skeleton bones build rigid

      framework imprisoning bags of flammable gas cells, faint blue

      flame plume gulps, whispers and shoots up to lift all that’s left

our souls materialize into the airship of supremacy

our shadow hovers over statues breathing war

fingerpoint spotlights dark growth at night

the climate up here seems perfect when

pterodactyls resurrect, their beaks

 fossil sharpened, spear our

               escape.

The Great Environmentalist

 

Air

He invites you to take time and smell the roses and more tailpipe emissions                          more mercury and carbon emissions from coal and gas power plants                                     more toxic emissions from major industrial polluters                                                                more refinery pollutions                                                                                        more air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas                                                         more burned coal waste                                                                                                                    more hydrofluorocarbons leaking                                                                        more methane emissions from existing landfills                                                                           more smog created by ethanol                                                                          he invites you to take off your mask and take a whiff of more chemical fertilizers  bursting in air

 

Land

He invites you to this land made for you and me and more coal leases                                  more international pipelines with no environmental review                                                     more pipelines in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge                                                                more pipeline near Standing Rock                                                                       more national forests streamlined for oil and gas drilling                                                          more logging and road construction in national forests                                                             more public lands made private                                                                           more park lands managed without concern over climate change                                              more sensitive landscapes scarred by mining                                                he invites you to wash your hands for 20 seconds in more coal ash deposits from      purple mountains majesty

 

Water

He invites you to come on in the water’s fine with more lead pipes letting lead out

         more oceans losing marine life thanks to seismic air guns looking for oil

                  more Federal and Indian lands polluted from fracking

                           more Gulf waters poisoned by stagnant rigs

         more oil and gas exploration in coastal waters and fisheries

                  more toxic power plant discharge in public waterways

                           more mining debris dumped in local streams

         more waters with no flood standards accounting climate change sea level rise

                  more commercial fishing in protected marine and coral preserves

he invites you to come closer and fill your canteen with more plastic swimming from sea to shining sea

 

The great environmentalist is in his element preserving and protecting the great environmentalist.

Wave Goodbye

There is beach but no

water, the sashay of tides shrinks

into one bulgeless sand grain, the scape

is jaundiced, starfish decompose into

nothing overnight, the jellies melt into

plasticized puddles evaporating before

daylight, red sea backflips into red sky  

every turning point is a burning                              point, there is no cycle or wet

horizon, just the overreach

of wanting glass, gold, hard

things, solids shining with the glow of more            now buried and eulogized by drought.

Feeling (Insert Answer Here)        

           

            The

first

            word in a new place

            or an old place

            can start or end

            a world of song.  

            Today it was a sick

            note causing you

            to feel                                                      

            it’s not worth risking

            putting a descriptor

            after feel – 

            which upended

            everything.  

                                    Could have simply been okay, meh, bad, good, worse

                                    better, down, up, pain, no pain. Or

                        like leaving, staying

                        a panicked bully swallowing dirt clods

                        a parent overwhelmed with clouds

                        not wearing a mask, wearing a mask. Or

                                    apathetic, enraged, sad, happy, unloved, loved                                                            the anger of being reduced

                                    the joy of being expanded 

                                    earthquake from thunderbirds and blue angels overhead                                          the optimism of doves nesting under arboreal shade.

            Taking a chance

            on the middle way

            where unchoked space

            opens, the ill tenor changes,

            you dare to bear your

            conscious subjective experience of emotion

            for all to hear, come to

            terms with feeling ancient

            or unborn, courageous or

            moonstruck with caution,

            seeing the once unsharable

            was never in or out of

            but always in a lasting

                                                                                                                              place.

                                             

                                     Truth and Beauty in Numbers

 

 

                                            She does and doesn’t want to confess

                                            empathy is running on empty

                                            it takes a lot to choke her up

                                            perhaps the revealing should just be data

                                            figures free from the curve of guilt

                                            cure for anxiety conceded in charts

                                            percentages allowed to be rounded up

                                            statistics that neither deny or admit

                                            bullet points that stun the urge to cry

                                            she does confess maybe feeling less numb

                                            through numbers is proof enough

                                            that she still counts.

Man Made Border

 

Pumped up soul

shrunk body

to scriggle under

corrugated hate

dicing elbows

grating abdomen

slicing shins

grounding knees

pushing up

unnumbered, unmeat,

bigger than life

itself rising and meeting

Easter Sunday

on the other side

a rippling Muslim

exiting Mexico by

way of Mar-a-Lago

to be a towering

mathematician then

a spirited matriarch

plunked down maybe 

in Marfa or just

maybe in Everytown.

April 16

The most died today

all I did not know

all I did know

Covid-17

 

Coronavirus

wipes out an entire line

thesaurus IV’d

There. And Here. 2

 

Drown the sound of bombs in Kabul

            let tennis balls thump in the clothes dryer

grandmothers declutch red wet swaddle

            undamped daddy khakis buzz wrinkle free

terrorist twitch claims fingers and lashes

            terrycloth may find itself in next load

nerve gas yellows textbooks and teeth

            Kenmore fuel source fixes frack addicts craving

drones drop teardrops spray-painted dayglo

            a robot fluffs, folds, stacks and shelves towels

detached missiles are lots of brawn and little brain

            hankies come clean in energy smart appliance

There.  And Here. 1

 

Saudi Arabian dissident dismembered

            dishwater detergent fails to clean crusted plates

crown prince denies dirty work as waiting despots do

            forks, spoons, knives lay flat and far from stainless

royalty deflects the crime upon rogue thugs

            tea cups and mugs runneth over with grimy suds

word of journalist’s death stuns what’s left of right

            dread seeing reflections in the less than good china

his piece foretold forces of that stainful quartering

            crumbless and greaseless are next to godliness

freedom of press succumbs to a desert state

            remember to rinse all disappointment away

The Last Letter

 

This is the last letter

written by an abolitionist

                   an arsonist

written by a bully

                   a buddhist

written by a champion

                   a challenger

written by a dreamer

                   a drifter

written by an evangelist

                   an evildoer   

written by a father

                   a fascist

written by a grandparent

                   a grandchild

written by a hero

                   a hermit

written by an idealist

                   an idol   

written by a judge

                   a juvenile

written by a king

                   a kindergartener

written by a lover

                   a laborer

written by a mother

                   a mobster

written by an orphan

                   an obstetrician

written by a priest

                   a pagan

written by a quarterback

                   a quadriplegic

written by a realist

                   a revolutionary

written by a singer  

                   a sister

written by a teacher

                   a tyrant

written by an undergrad

                   an underdog

written by a valedictorian

                   a valet

written by a widow

                   a waif

written by a xenophobe

                   a xennial

written by a yippie

                   a yogi

written by a zillionaire

                   a zealot

laid all out in an envelope

entombed in a mailbox

waiting for the flag to drop.

Power Shift

 

Nothing big like stored

B-1 bombers strafing your

scalp or skyscrapers propping

eyelids. Let’s instead make

everything tiny tops, ticks

taking down elephants, ants

bulldozing 100 story

shrines, atoms heading into

totalitarian states leaving

scraps of power to the new

meek. Think of infinite

Hiroshimas bowing to one

conscientious objector. Sloppy

souls find gods on cable channels

scrambled to reveal Jesus, Buddha,

Muhammed, Michael Corleone

and spiritual meteorologists.

We allow our collection of puny pixels

to construct mammoth odd shaped

screens of fuzzy dots that make all

that is small large, all that is large

small.

Base

 

Twangs on hyper meth raise

choruses spanning the country beyond

the crossover megastar singing off

key 'vote for me and I won't set you

free' but ballot boxes for gambler’s

anonymous and artists among us

not kneeling on football fields

but lying flat on grass asses

arching to the not make us great

again archangel in virus ICU

roughing up new and old protestaments

but to the murdered laid to unrest 

with lack of conviction, to the mother

praying the envelope doesn't say

eviction, to the kindergarten teacher line

dancing in urine soaked honky

tonks and stripper grinding shade

grown beans in prairie castles rain

birding deserts pumped with moon

rock in tune with wings beating 

beneath what's called you.

Warning Song

 

Canary succumbed before she descended into the mine

her feathers crumbled into mustard seed

talons rolled up into boned ball bearings

beak melted into a tarry, sticky teardrop

wings drooped then snapped into coal dust

cage bars fell like pickup sticks, then

she dropped the axe and flew out invisible

her song now jammed in our throats.

Up There

 

They rose early to witness

the hot air balloon launch

from a field humid with hope

that all humans can fly

without taking flight, lift

off minus the need to inhale

vast quantities of what

makes life down here bearable

flames breath up inflating

the rising upside down tear

drops floating away while

all the other lovers stayed

level in their beds too exhausted

too get pumped up at sunrise

too ooh at fractured rainbows

of spots and baskets filled

with silhouettes letting their

dreams elevate them above it

all before they exhale all that soars

below.

What Can Hold

 

Right justified cannot hold

steel towns bow to fire rivers of new and now

Irish painters toss back hot Heinekens

misaligned timeblocks replace months

July is no longer the center of the year

eternity takes a left at the next stop and go light

winter arises nonlinear, breaths are half baked

the famine seeps into the current’s heat

green landscapes melt, brush calcifies

death has a dominion, December disappears

each gaunt season steps leadenly into the margins.

Cleaver Writer

In the back not stabbed

sat him with warped writing pad

butchering paper

Spring Brake

 

Spring break frees a fifth

grade girl still cocooned in teal

waterproof parka to scoot before

rusting silver Dart bouncing north and freshly

minted pewter Silverado gliding south seeing her

pogo sticking from yellow no passing dash

to dash while humming a birthday ditty to her

twin home with a cold and a cone

stacked with blue moon ice cream her

puddled splashes. the color of blue and green

coral, fail to dampen an untethered exuberance

like a candle with wild flame defying the down

pour.The elder brakes squeal to cause a halt, new

tires rotate forward, these far from random

acts of white knuckled kindness and split

second blindness reveal the girl nicked,

kicked and plopped over the meridian

like a saddle on a carousel horse, steam spins

up to the gray sun, the immense soul of a skipper

streaks up, the drivers will scream even when

every child in humid school rooms can’t stop

staring at teal screens, chalkboards and teachers.

Pod

 

Bunk beds were fun when you were five

hierarchical when they’re found in what’s your

major dorms, why did you enlist bootcamps

and too tired to sleep migrant worker tents.

Now siliconed landlord entrepreneurs rise

from the valley to spin the one above

the other units into cool furnishing

micro living pods that also come with cereal,

toilet paper and a personal TV,

a sharing economy where having

sex doesn’t have a who's on top,

single sleepers dream of not

bottoming out, ladders divide couples

stricken with intimacy poverty and no

longer on the same horizontal axis,

it’s also a four step program for type

A personalities dying for a rest stop

to repress the urge to rule a king

size mattress kingdom.

The pitch stacks up well for some,  

A living and taking climate of little rungs

to success and no windows to witness

the chilled tired and poor not

down on their luck but on their

backs crying for some shelter

from the soiled frozen sheet of sky.

Sleep Deprived Due to Construction

 

Main street ploughs down the center of my room

pot holes brim with soured laundry, dresser

drawers take on a caste system the bottom

warped shut and jammed with the tired, poor,

misbegotten never to be wanted, worn or handed

down the balding bedspread hovers like a thread

bare magic carpet over expired tar and asphalt

burying the Persian and maple planks so light

no longer reflects from the overhead fixture once

home to a bug but now overrun with mortified

shadows frying under the energy star bulb. Fast

food, is grey, under the counter drug store chains

sprawl across book shelves, desk top and trunk once

squished with unplayable toys.  The closet

bulging with bad gasses, coat hangers and dry

cleaned sweaters creates a landfill of insomnia.

Pest Control

 

Slip it in the back

hip pocket let it dissolve

like a mouse full of decon

melting like a forlorn

fur glacier through the cotton

into the buttocks the poison

you thought was disposed

is back to bite you first

time you think you’ve revenged

sadness only to see it scurry

not away but straight at you

like a tumor expanding

with melancholy.

Obstructed view

 

The lids back side reveal

due to modern visionary

exhaustion cave drawings

by an animator with a forehead

for drama dipping her three

fingers into flower-thorn

bowl of two day old boar’s

blood. The muscled breasted

stick figures glow up the droopy

dreariness now overlooking

from a luxury condo minimum

urban plains iced and boiling

blocked by a wall of Imax to

marvel at distraction figures who

don’t bleed or eat meat but live

off the blackness of have nots with

flat screened huts. The viewer

wonders about pulling the blinds

rubbing the sticky stuff off

the wily coyote tricking

the sightless to stand on

their heads and paint archers

killing six point bucks on salmon

walls wailing to pig out on the past

making peace with the blind present.

Eden

 

Son and dad sign in the garden

lamenting lost zucchinis

unheard of where weeding out skin

color that doesn’t look like him

leads to camps of kids not

dropped off by blind-sided moms

but yanked out like parched dandy

lions by agents neutered,

infertile, fixed by the state

herbicided homeland, the boy

points to the tomato plants

burdened by the unripened promise

deaf to the sins growing like

an invasive species in plots

of dirt owned by the sound of hate.

Transfixed

 

The word they give it could be gazing,

eyes hear voices, all the senses

yang their ying, the axis cracks

like a spine splintered in zilliseconds

from alienation akin to cosmic

osteoporosis, there’s no mental

backbone, atoms breed without

reason to birth awful concoctions

of blood, muscle and skin that

would turn your skin, creatures

not extinct or evolved, petals

growing fangs, maggots flaunting

their robin hood hat and tights

without one ounce of take from

the rich give to the poor

DNA, it’s all bottom feeding

fashion shows or angelic

jumps from skyscraper window

ledges piled up with moral

wing dust ready for pigeons

to perch and poop, the pews

are saran wrapped to repel

the contagious sweat of gill

less fish kneeling out of guilt

for leaving the order of water,

are you still here hugging one

gaseous bone of hope that

real people caught in the unreal

crunch and claw of a never

ever mind land of staring

at what no one else seems

to want to see?

Rancher’s Death

 

Bend

his back

straight

as a buffalo

lance, curve

his mouth

like a strung

bow, push

the lanky jasper’s brown

Stetson beyond

the hairline,

cross the booted

legs, steal

the flyswatter

from his hand.

 

Have the heavier men,

who tote their weight

well above

their turquoise

trophy buckles,

remove him

from the bunkhouse

and promenade

past the creamery, butcher

shop and blacksmith.

 

Let the wintering

cattle range

with the shorebirds

and sharp tailed

grouse. Empty

the corrals

and loading chutes.

The longhorns

are due

a holiday.

 

Carry him

over choppy

sandhills ignored

by wheezing

winds in dead

river beds. Trace

the reservoir’s north

bank, teeming

with wild swans,

gulls and pelicans.

Cross sudden

little creeks

and half

hidden spring

runs that support

trout, pike

and beaver.

 

Take him on

to Wild Horse Hill

where the Dismal

and Niobrara should

have merged,

plunge him

into a sand

crater where

cottonwood and box

elder roots

droop from the cavity

walls like split hairs.

 

Say

an old Native

prayer:

there is dust from the whirlwind   

there is dust from the whirlwind

the whirlwind on the mountain

 

And then

old riders,

with thick

torsos and slim

hips, walk home

hushed as a November

herd and listen

for his body

creaking like good

saddle leather

beneath the trail.

Rescue

 

Land at a loss, gila

monsters step back

wards into the soapy

ocean hoping to get

washed, their skin

escapes and floats up

to make a quilt of scales

a raft of reptile epidermis

saving swimmers with

dissolving backbones.

In the Barn

 

Beneath the shaft of pencil lead

lays a bar of black unabout

race or color or no color

finches find the feeder

faster than kindness

starved bus driver pulls

levers that split open

doors to the great unknowns

people migrating like birds

with clipped wings waiting

to perch on green vinyl

bench seats trusting she

will take them to that

place that fills them, the bus

driver is the feeder drained

daily by stops and starts

ons and offs lost but leading

she pours seed at night

for the finches sleeping

in the barn.

October 23

 

This morning I saw my Father

had planted heather along the highway

painted the dawning cumulus pinkish

purple too and pressed one sample of every

autumn leaf into a simple book I should read.

 

This morning I saw my Father

had set up the healing tent near water

washed the sores of traveling poor

devils and stashed a hymnal of every

praise into a primeval satchel I should bear.

 

This morning I saw my Father

had written love notes next to coffee cups

peeled the skin off fruits from faraway

trees and pestle the miracles of every

herb into hand blown phials I should taste.

 

This morning I saw my Father

had spent the night in my children’s rooms

served as the light that keeps the Grendel’s

at bay and recited real dreams of every

compassion into their stories I should hear.

 

This morning I saw my Father

had daubed my wife’s eyes more blue

splashed her pores with the lust to brush

the world and rubbed the oils of true self

love into the deep colored person I should hold.

 

This morning I saw my Father

had played the bagpipes on the mesa edge top

chanted notes all clans and tribes can fling

or juba to and melodized the speech of every

angel into a spiritual I should sing.

 

This morning I saw my Father

had composed a poem about me

placed it where he is right here and now

buried seventeen and seven hundred

and seventeen thousand years ago

this morning I saw my Father.

They Get to Be Inside

Thor roars in every kamikaze snowflake

two hours before the sun was scheduled

to surrender, it hid away all day anyway

like an AWOL Nobel prize winner.

It’s a whiteout now built from warrior

molecules dropping upon peaceful piles

of deep cold. The triton won't be on safety

tonight. Boats will be vised by hot ice while
the rest watch the conflict through
frozen glass and thank the gods
they get to be inside.

Two Hungry

 

The crepe vendor backdropped

by the wastewater treatment


center grins at the beard


trimmed with the blade of dulled

lust, lips shellacked with licorice

Chapstick dictates the degree of onion,

egg and secret sauce to be strafed

upon the thin sun of dough flattened

when Venus rose this morning.


The couple steps forward to chew

their day and swallow tubes of life,

flavors like swords sliding into

starved married throats, missile

silos belching in two-part harmony,


clouds soured more by the bacteria

behind all this than in the bloated pancakes.

 

 

Highku

 

Drummed and coked Krupa

smacked Parker bird calls black dawn

jazz addicts play craps

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