I’m in a house that’s standing upside-down,
its shingled roof wedged weirdly in the ground.
I’ve seen this house on many other nights.
My love is there. We’re in some kind of fight.
I lose myself, I’m dizzy, my eyes fail —
then, when I’m finally returned to sight,
despair descends on me; I see his chest
blooming blood, his face pale, glazed with sweat—
in silent horror I behold my hand
still wrapped around the hilt & understand
with my own narrow, ruthless, phallic sword,
I’ve slain the one I most deeply adored.
I’m in a windowless, uncanny room.
My back is to the door. I am a child.
A wizened wise man, bright despite old age,
is staring silently into my eyes.
Now, I’m inexplicably aware
of some impending doom. I’m very scared.
Something is coming, something I can’t fight—
the door has been demolished! In its place
I see the pallid, terrifying face
of a young woman I somehow know is dead
but not dead—resurrected? Then, her head
deforms, her monstrous jaw unhinges, &
her throat, wet, pink & palpitating,
hears me scream before I jolt
word count: 155
“Hear me, hear me!” all day long he cries,
soliciting thumbs-up from passerby
where the people are many & most of them cry
just as loud—why he tries
to be heard over the crowd is beyond me,
but there’s always somebody responding.
“Here’s my story!” he yells. “nothing to hide!
I’ll play-by-play till the day I die
& tell you so much you’ll think it’s all lies,
but I’m really this shallow, believe me—
I live just so strangers can see me!”
“Well hollered, my friend!” another replies
at the top of his lungs from the herd’s other side.
“Isn’t it wonderful how, in our time,
we can all see each other, but never meet eyes?
We’re all the same now, whether sighted or blind!”
There’s no message here—how could there be one?
but if you want to look for one, for fun,
look around you & wonder, right here, on the fly,
where would you turn if you needed to cry?
There is a cave where people are enslaved
with manacles around their necks & ankles
& made to sit silent & well-behaved
beholding shadows cast from many angles.
Eventually, one prisoner gets free
& sees (in horror!) the machinery
that’s been projecting his experience.
He knows this is his disappearing chance
& climbs out of the pit, gasping for breath,
where, right away, his eyes scream in the sun;
in spite of this, it now seems much like death
to live in that cave (or, at least, less fun).
Plus, in the cavern’s darkness, he looks blind,
so, laughing, the cavemen pay him no mind.
word count: 246
there was a solitary mime
who built a tall, tall tower.
he chiseled it 1 block at a time,
polishing for hours.
if you chanced to wander by
as he worked (so intimately)
you couldn’t help but wonder why
his busy hands looked empty,
shaping thin air with a craftsman’s care.
one day a solitary girl (Rapunzel, she was called)
saw what he saw: walls of smooth pearl
rising, completely solid
to the carefree, pale blue sky;
she walked up to where he squatted
planting flowers around the base
& she touched him on the shoulder
& he turned to see her face
& he saw the recognition
in her kind, dark, caring eyes
& knew with full conviction
he had met a kindred mime.
so they moved into his tower
& dwelled happily alone
& sought no wealth or power
that wasn’t in their home.
as years passed by, they passed the time
by miming anything they liked;
like sometimes, the male mime would climb
Rapunzel’s hair (grown by their minds)
from ground to window in the sky
& heave himself in, smiling.
their bliss was blinding.
what was it that severed their bond?
one day, Rapunzel sought revenge,
let down her long, strong hair,
& right before her window’s ledge,
she cut him off, midair.
when his brains splattered in the mud,
his work bled out just like his blood;
gone was the roof that stopped the rain,
gone were the tower walls;
all these were figments of his brain.
screaming, Rapunzel falls—
word count: 244
Willie Lester was a man
who toured in Afghanistan;
he left when he was barely 18.
on that day, his mother cried
with sunshine in her eyes;
her son looked better than she’d ever seen.
he was decorated some
for how well he used his gun,
but mostly for the lives he fought to save;
he showed valor in a time
when his brothers lost their minds;
he was smart & strong, fast on his feet & brave.
he left with a purple heart,
but that was just the start
of the fearless fighter’s suffering & pain;
he came home where he grew up
& frequently threw up
from the flashbacks of his buddies maimed & slain
surrounded by the sound of the screaming
at night he never knew if he was dreaming
but in public he was fine
as he laughed & drank & dined
telling war stories his mom could understand;
little did Ms. Lester know
death had dealt the fatal blow
long ago to this exceptional young man.
one day, Willie got all dressed,
hung his medals on his chest
& wrote a letter for
when he was dead:
ma, my head’s so full of war,
there’s nothing left from before,
so I have to put a bullet there instead.
he pulled the trigger fast.
all his neighbors heard the blast
& stretched their rubber necks to see the sight
of the man whose violent pain
had pulverized his brain
till he was killed by his own will to fight.
word count: 108
there once was a quiet dystopian town
where the people had recently found
one among them, from birth, had this uncanny gift:
taking bad memories. he’d just lift
pain from your brain like it was never there,
each trace recollection erased.
how it worked: this Receiver himself made space
for your suffering in his own mind,
so you stepped out smiling while he stayed behind
& cried in your place.
but soon, as things go,
the Receiver could feel his power getting slow
as he watched his dark beard turning silver,
so he passed all those memories from long ago
to a young man who called him the Giver.
word count: 97
creative con artists convinced the queen
their smartest garments could only be seen
by smart people—a bold, transparent lie,
which no one had the balls to take the
fall for unraveling, until a kid
who didn’t think much of authority
said, “hi, your highness! would you tell me why
you give this generously to the eye
while leaving nothing to imagination?”
derailed, the empress looked out at the throngs
around her throne, wondering how much longer
they’d’ve let her be dead wrong
& to the men’s predictable dismay
went back to wearing real clothes that same day.
word count: 105
cold blood beading like sweat on his brow,
he fell to his knees pleading, “take my place,
God, if you have any power now—
quench the rabid bloodthirst of my race!
after I’m killed, they’ll only kill again,
but maybe with your death, the killing ends.”
the Lord supported troublemakers then,
so before he felt the press of Judas’ lips,
the tortured young man was possessed by God
but even God didn’t quite know the price
of facing the shadow of death as Christ:
a man suffers only once & goes free,
but gods, once dying, die eternally
so God cried, “Why have you forsaken me?”
word count: 104
before we had spiders, a girl at a loom
stood weaving, unknowing, her 8-legged doom.
the pride of her village, her spinning fingers
flew left & right deftly—then, arrogantly,
she challenged Heaven, feeling thirsty to see
how close she’d come to immortality.
gliding to earth, elegant as a swan,
Athena touched toes to dirt & said, “game on.”
all subjects were fair game, however obscene,
provided the work was the best ever seen;
so serenely, the girl wove an orgy-like scene.
side by side with Athena’s pristine tapestry,
the girl’s was no worse—but, for her blasphemy,
she now dwells on a web & kills passively.
word count: 120
the modest god of blacksmithing was husband to Venus,
which, in my opinion, means he wielded a fine penis;
but (being immortal) Venus craved variety,
so with the violent, forceful Mars came impropriety.
without missing a beat, the blacksmith took to his forge
& forged a silvery net where 2 gods could be stored
& laid it on the bed where his bride would be bred
against his will (having the skill to make his net invisible).
salaciously entwined, the lovers arrived, wild;
Mars threw Venus at the bed & flung
both thighs aside—
then, the delicate trap wrapped & ensnared them in their shame,
& both gods, caught red-handed, spontaneously came!
finally, complete with the victorious captor,
the trinity, immune to death, erupted in laughter.