Days of Mercy

I strangled my broken memory of a horse
Into a clod of potter’s clay, painted it poorly:
Victory red when wet, now spiced mud.
The others eat potatoes without salt.
One fries onions in the bottom of the kettle.
I, their idiot father, inhale the fat in the air,
And rub my heavy bread-and-beer gut.
Today I was a sun dog, waiting restlessly to rise
At noon, alongside my mother, and puncture the sky.
Though my cue never came. Hurt,
Like the paunched rabbit hung up
Before me, I watched my blue entrails
Thud onto the wood-effect vinyl flooring.
My surrogate Turk aunt warned me,
Of the dangers of painkillers in times like these.
I explained, it’s only for my skull-splitting
Aches and the bulging pain behind my eye
That brewed last night, while I overslept,
(Dreaming of impostors in the NBA
And the end of days). So I chew the pill,
Readying up for my 4 o’clock early
With the rottweiler who beams back at me
From the wet, black mouth of my boiler room.


The clotting of ore makes ingot, simply.
Electrical storms skip and lurch through
The dark dust clouds that circle around clapped hands,
Just as blood passes, unrelenting, through singing pipes.
For now, nothing is equal: all is equal to itself
And industry understands only three emotions:

A jewel bug found on an upturned stone,
Put under the jackhammers, the sand rammers,
Washed upriver in a molten current, along
With the crude and the brine, body ruined
And memory banished, to fold into the great grey pull,
Seaward, to tumble up on churning concrete tides.

Excavators leave their bite marks in clay
Ashen soot itches on the back of a knee,
And reveals itself inside a lung long after.
Water and earth were not meant to marry,
(Only coexist), and so they make mud in protest.
Boots are scraped off at the end of the working day.

Fail under black gravity and drown in reverse.
The palette of the sky wanes, as The Firmament shudders
She may never heal, her loving grace is not unlike oil
Or gemstones. Over the lowly, all-stirring chiefdoms
Of industry, their might and their misery, Her rejection
Of the hammer hangs like the jawbone on the inside of a cheek.

The Ancestor


hereditary weakness
loss of money
a false statement
morbid dependency
staggering sickness
an overdose
instable furniture

– Madame Weyrd.


The Ancestor

Wore boar hide, admired himself in polished tin

And in the waxed ivory cheeks of his daughters,

Sunk barbed hooks into their hamstrung calves,

Bemoaning their thin, pink blood

(Gifts, all that he himself had given them).

And ignored their pains upon horseback riding.

He would wake up the estate with hunter’s horns

In the dead of night, when there was no hunt

And drank by the barrel until he was flammable.

He would storm the gardens, wood axe raised,

To defend his title from Franks and Romans,

Or the Goths, or the Picts, or the Entitled Poor.

Although most bets made were on his scarlet fever,

Or his pagan love of crushed flowers and tonics,

In the end it was an exotic flatfish that lodged itself

Inside his hot pipe. And so, his house watched on:

His third and fifth wives quarrelling over legacies,

Waving his drunken paper promises overhead,

His sons wrestled for trinkets and land-plots,

The niece who painted forgot to look up from her easel

Until it collapsed, revealing her subject on his back,

The birdcages around his supine throne set alight with noise

A round of cawing applause rattled the room,

Legs akimbo, his face was cross-eyed and hurt

As his house descended around his blue-ing ears.

New Project: Poems for Edward Gorey’s Fantod Pack

From Moth & Candle: ‘The Fantod Pack is an Oracle deck designed by author and illustrator, Edward Gorey (1925-2000).’ Published October 11th 1995 by Pomegranate Europe (first published 1969).

From Goodreads: ‘Edward Gorey’s trademark sense of impending doom is nowhere more darkly humorous than in this, his version of a tarot card deck. Each of the 20 cards forecasts a list of outcomes for the user ranging from the merely unpleasant (loss of hair, breakage, thwarted ambitions) to the downright horrible (catarrh, spasms, shriveling). The 32-page booklet provides interpretation of the cards courtesy of one Madame Groeda Weyrd, who Gorey tells us “is of mixed Finnish and Egyptian extraction, has devoted her life to divination, and is the author of, among a shelf of other works, Floating Tambourines, a collection of esoteric verse, and The Future Speaks Through Entrails.” Who but Gorey to make mirth from a kaleidoscope of catastrophe?’

I will pull a card from the deck at random, then write a poem based on the image and on Madame Groeda Weyrd’s interpretation of it, as shown on the left under the picture.




In the airport, I saw that blonde had prevailed,

Taking gold over the slivers of sky, of platinum,

Tin hats, of my silver plastic toy that skims

Now, across white caribou hide, sewing shut blue lakes.

The plane’s innards are clad in chain mail.

(Mine are not). The potable air hostesses know this,

They give me dark, medicinal gut-rot. Bilberries:

The cause and the cure. I cradle myself

Beneath a great, sky-borne tree, levitating over Moscow,

Who sleeps still [static] under cloud-sea.

Seven Sisters Around the Foot of Your Bed


With bow-curved mouths, bullet-nosed and suited,

They draw down shutters against loud, lonely noises

That scrape the skull like a truth drug —

Phantoms slamming against dirty chalkboards

To leave warnings scribbled in pink & white.

The First Word


I haven’t yet found the first word

The one that validates all others

So when I move my mouth to speak

I reveal the tragedy of empty sound


Would I accept this, my last decision?

I would walk to the quiet mountains

I would cut off my tongue and eat it there

It would better serve me in the form of food



I lay still, toppled clay golem
You sleep, deep and animated
Against my joyless insomnia

(Dreaming of rabbits?) No, bone-saw
Flee, they turn and see you, now flee
Flee on short limbs, four red stalks

In my ballooning, musing ego
I put these tremors in you
This brooding traversed two skins, osmotic

Plasticine bull-demons, horned men
Stalk through blackened infirmaries
Casting voices of lost family

My violence becomes your twisted wrist
My frustration becomes your bruxing
I am fearful and so you shiver

Impossible deserts, impossible sea
Tunnel through glass dust dunes
Paint tell-tale scars across soiled skin