for Alan Michael Parker
Just before the workmen, worthy of their hire,
come into view, they are announced by strange melody
and syncopation—the rising and percussive songs
of nails, like questions; the descending arias
of saws, like answers. The rat-a-tat-tat of nail guns
in a rhythm section repetition:
shave and a haircut, shave and a hair cut—
the very music of Vishnu and Shiva,
personified in hardware.
A woman, sunbathing naked on the roof, gazes out
into the sky’s thin sea, watching clouds scud by
like schooners. A woman who, between the din and drum
becomes a tuned fork, tines humming to the whine of saws,
thrumming to the drums of hammers.
And the workmen, worthy of their hire, become aroused
at the sight of skin, that world, that sea of skin, into the which
they each and all wish now to be drowned.
And gravity fails, in a localized manner.
And the naked woman rises, in a profane annunciation.
And the workmen, worthy of their hire,
stare into the future and begin to speak in tongues.
(first pub. in the anthology, Don't Blame the Ugly Mug, from Tebot Bach Press)
HIGHWAY 39 REVISITED
There was a big commotion down at the Bistro,
over some dame. A broad. This chick
who, in the Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous literature
would be someone to whom
Magical Powers were attributed.
She was fussing over some old-fashioned
beatnik, new-fangled upstart, Post-
Post-Modern dialectical immaterialist
who wore a heart on his sleeve, which
so much as a magnesium fire.
He had the look
of a three time loser
gazing at liberty for the last time before
having the book thrown at him
for spitting on the sidewalk.
She had the look
of the last chance for gasoline
before 40 years in the wilderness, carried herself
like royalty with a cigarette in her mouth,
and a scotch, neat, in her hand.
they behaved like
George and Marion Kirby, after the car crash. Like
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, before the breaker was thrown. Like
John Cusack’s marionette versions of Abelarde and Heloise
in that Spike Jonze movie.
They were so beautiful, in a violent kind of way.
Around them people wailed
and rent their garments, scattered ashes
upon each other’s heads, sang threnodies.
Outside, an armed robbery took place in plain sight.
And somewhere, poems yawned
and rubbed the sleep out of their eyes.
(first pub. in Spillway)
A POEM FOR GOD, MY DOG, AND CAROLYN SRYGLEY-MOORE
Come to me…
Come to me…
Come to me…
The Father’s heart calls:
If not close to my bleeding side
Then near to me
I long for you
I call you compañero, brother, child
I long for you.
I say to my pup
Fuzzy kaleidoscopic mind
You curious you
So like me –
Interrupt driven, self-willed, stubborn
So noble yet so base
So beautiful in your youth, but
Already bearing marks of age
I say to the poet, across oceans
Borne by machines of loving grace
Your words are written on my wall
Spray painted with your fingertips
Graven from your heart
He calls to us…
I call to him…
And I hear you...
With fuzzy ears grown long from years
At oh dark thirty
You read the morning news
In blades of grass
With the spectacle of your snout
Dark doesn’t matter, your sense reads braille in the
Front page, Entertainment, and the Classifieds of our lawn
Perused. And the Sports Page
Sets you gamboling
Around our gravel walkway
What do your furry antennae hear
From the singing speaking stones?
What messages do you chew upon
In the fallen sticks from trees?
What do you see with those
Triangular melancholy eyes
Akita mine? What stories?
Sticks and stones you have already suffered?
Losses? Mother, brothers, sisters
And false hope of a home?
Tell me dog of sorrows
Speak boy. You with your possible dysplasia
Marks of age prewritten in your young body
My ears are open—my shoulders
Boney and not so wide
Are yours. My promise is this:
This will always and all ways
(As long as I have breath)
Be your home.
SEVEN METAMORPHOSES FROM SYRUP TO STRANGE FLIGHT
Last year, when you were in the kitchen,
studying to become a tree,
I was in the yard,
pencil tip to tongue,
Now you are, cum laude,
aspen, quaking, warm dewdrops of summer
morning draping all your slender limbs.
(Soft flesh, not wood you are, I wrote)
and I am still this
When you ceased to be a banker
I renounced my life of crime,
but not until I held you up—
I had to take you hostage
in order to make
a clean getaway.
When I am a painter,
you are all the cool colors
of my palette:
malachite, lapis, cerulean, green,
swirling burgundy down
into your favorite—
If you were a painter
I would be all the warm:
sienna, umber, ochre, blood,
alizarin and autumn gold.
We are complementary,
chromatically and temperamentally.
If if is is,
maybe becomes be.
Tenuous turns tensile.
Almost morphs to most,
and all these ifs of you,
and all those whens of me,
burn to ash, and from that pyre comes this weird phoenix:
like tin pushers sitting in darkened rooms—
the better to see the green spokes circling
the screens, the better to wrangle
the calculus of transponders in motion—
watching, hushed, while
little alphanumeric scribbles
representing unbelievable amounts
of metal and flesh flying at high altitude
and speed, tick their incremental way
across a video game version of flight
a hundred years from kittyhawk
to here, darling, where we live
beneath these aerial pathways
remember in the barrio, how the roar
of inbound to LAX bothered us less
than the loud late-night mariachi wafting
on the weed-scented breeze,
or the occasional drive-by bullets?
while three blocks away
behind the invisible barriers of their
manicured lawns, the well to do worried
more about plummeting property values
than planes falling from the sky
how oddly fitting that our address
and fortunes have changed—
yet our circumstance remains similar
now the roar of inbound to john wayne airport
is the whitenoise we’ve grown accustomed to
up here on our hill, above the taquerias,
the carnecerias, the noise and graffiti
of all those sweet brown people
who pray God into their cinder block and wrought
iron walled yards full of cars
to protect them
from falling airplanes and from
the whites who live above them
like tin pushers sitting in darkened rooms
HE, BEING DEAD, YET SPEAKS, PIPES, WRITES
lessons in bone.
Jazzman lifts brass, like knife,
riffing filigrees of sadness, sonic scrimshaw
upon hammers, anvils, stirrups, all
the smallest ossicles of this
Bowed head. Eyes burn.
my love comes,
bearing gifts. Four roses odorless
and still as newly killed mice;
lays them out, like my heart,
at her feet,
with the news of her leaving.
Alone now with the jazzman,
taking all the wine dark lines
of haunted face,
written by the blind luck draw
of double helix,
scribed by horn
(not ax, but knife)
now sharpened on the castanet clatter
of my love’s knocking,
my love’s leaving. I raise
a cup of gladness
turned to vinegar and gall.
Put four roses into it:
The color of memory.
The complexion of time.
The shade of solitude.
The hue and pattern of
the chiaroscuro coloratura
the jazzman scratches on my bones.
I will raise a toast to the woman,
whose tuition, though bitter,
costly as a mouthful of ants,
is the unwilling dues
I pay to hear
all the way to my bones,
that hard bought beauty
of the blues.
(first pub. in Blue Satellite)
In my sister’s dream redemption comes
in the form of a pickup truck.
In mine, my father, dead for decades,
drives a yellow bus to the shore
where a bilingual fish explains
all secret knowledge.
In mother’s dream Christ appeared to her
after the manner of Yahweh disclosing
his backside to Moses,
but it didn’t involve vehicles,
just a tree, a red flannel shirt
and dungarees. Cars are omens
in my wife’s dreams; their portent
depending upon make, model, mileage,
Kelly Blue Book value, but above all
who is behind the wheel of this latest model
augury? And who drives my sister’s pickup
while she pulls the walking wounded
over the tailgate into safety?
And who could possibly imaging my surprise
when the folding door hissed open
in my dream, and the driver of the bus
was my dad, finally come to take me
to the place where all the real answers
(first pub. in Dog Whistle Politics from Lummox Press, 2011)
And so we drive through weather & night
outlining the coast with our lights
in an evanescent calligraphy, like
an ideogram for the two of us,
and the suchness of earth & water.
Graceful, dramatic, frightening
as the breathtaking dive the continent takes
into the misnamed sea.
Everything about this moment
from the tire hiss to the intermittent
metronome of the wipers,
delineates a character, much like
the stylish gang-write I saw, on the black
metal backdrop of a streetlight in Santa Cruz,
the one which made me wonder
if archeologists of the future would find it elegant
The jitterbug line of light we describe
along the ragged edge of our world
becomes our secret art & text—
its translation known
only to us.
Our thanks to Michael for today's poems and pix. About himself, he writes: Michael Paul is the author of six chapbooks from three small presses (all now defunct—no fault of his) and a perfect-bound collection titled Dog Whistle Politics from Lummox Press (2011) which has garnered several good reviews and is selling well on Amazon.com. Michael's work has also appeared in a number of literary journals, including Blue Satellite, Pearl, Spillway, The Valley Contemporary Poets Anthology, Dufus, FTS, Silver Birch Press and Spilt Ink Poetry. His poem, "Dear Doctor", was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Michael has performed featured readings at many venues including the Los Angeles Poetry Festival and Beyond Baroque, the Santa Monica Literary Arts Center. Michael is entering a low residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College next year and has switched his genre from poetry to literary non-fiction as he is currently devoting his creative energies to essay and memoir, though poetry will always be his first love. Michael wears many hats—husband, father, grandfather, ranch hand, house husband, volunteer, and now student—he may have to wake up before he goes to bed in order to fulfill all those roles, but he is nothing, if not game.
Michael lives in Auburn, California with his wife, Claudia Licht.