HE TOOK A DRAG OF THE CITY
Smoke drips off his cigarette
as he tries to decide which way to walk.
He decides instead to take a long drag.
Smoke scampers down into his lungs
where it hopes it will be safe to play,
but his slow forceful exhale gale
ruins the menthol fun.
Smoke almost down to the filter,
this hefty man-ox who still doesn't know his way
tosses the butt out into Mott Street
just as he feels his knuckles begin to burn.
Smoke leaves the butt,
exhaust leaves the cabs,
steam leaves the grates,
breath leaves the woman who slithers up next to him.
Smoke grips his balls hot as he hears her
hiss her hello and why don't they
get out of the cold for a while.
Smoke for eyes, candy for lips, goldthread for hair,
how can he say "no" to this painted
puppet for his time and $50?
Smoke the money away,
smoke the time gone, the newspapers tell
the story of how he
smoked the bitch when she kept laughing.
Smoke drifts out of the city as the ox-man
follows the glow of dawn and lights a cigarette,
dragging smoke down deep, keeping his lungs
Only buzzards fly in these stale skies,
only thin shapeless clouds pass over the iron sun.
The moon seems little different, perhaps made from tin,
and those clouds don't much care whose light they sop up.
Trees once tenderly shielded their daisy cousins,
but no leaves stay on the spider-leg branches
and bark has become brittle eyesore, hard as whale teeth.
Water is wasted on what was once wood.
Small things move about in the mustard grass
searching out smaller things to eat.
The gray dirt beneath affords some a home,
most a killing field, and a few a place to hide.
The needs of all but gentle things are in this glade.
A buzzard needs little more than a perch, a bit of carrion,
eyes to see and a thermal wind to lift it.
The carrion needs nothing but a place to be.
SUERTE DE MULETA
Bleeding out from a dozen-plus wounds,
the bull turns on slowing legs.
Matador smooth, tall, slender,
in black and silver jacket, his shirt whiter than bones.
The wind feels like his bride.
The crowd is a haze of sound, rank with perfumes, sweat, and tobacco.
The bull is set up to lose. He doesn’t know this,
just as his brothers and their fathers and more never knew.
The snorting, the fiery blackness of his eyes, the charge,
then that froth forming in a mouth soon to be stuck open—
None of that will help his cause,
though some in the crowd hope otherwise.
Upset can be so sweet, surprise so sublime a thing to wish for,
like a politician’s sudden illness
or a celebrity’s sudden death.
A SPECIES OF TWO
Affectations not fully your own
may have impressed the high school boys,
but to us college men
you just seemed pretty and petty.
Lean, tall, blonde and blondish;
a species of two;
long and lingering
with sharp glances, sly voices, slick expressions,
all from some favorite movie or TV show.
Your effect on us so profane,
so profound that we named you
“The Theater Bitches”
in that freshman acting class.
Once I impressed you from the stage, then twice,
that second time even drawing smiles and compliments,
real flashes of surprise.
(I'd like to think you were being genuine then.)
Did you ever make it to a city
or a shore not attached to a lake?
at a view fully your own?
The arduous task that is my mother
The slippery slope that is my father
Siblings I don't really know.
How does my daughter see me?
My next wife?
Each of them provide
as I provide:
Give, take, irritate, grate, share, love.
And love is there, always;
submerged, then surfacing
fully afloat, then sinking
beneath the waves of again.
I remember them in ways
they don't remember themselves.
I think of me in ways
they don't think of me.
Iceberg histories 9/10ths not shown.
(or is that on my skin?)
rub it off
(rub on it—pink to red)
Are my eyes really
God, I look
terrible in this light…
Those bags, how long
have I had them?
Is that a wrinkle?
(little crack, top left corner
in the vanity mirror—it’s on the right
right over a mar in the backing.
makes a smudge,
makes people think of:
a liver spot,
something to buy
a concealer for
Butcher, Baker, Prostitute, LLC
Should a storm wash them ashore
At least they’ll all have someone to eat.
The flies demand their lord,
Though a lady will do just as well
So long as her promi$e$
Ring true enough
And their multi-eyed glare she can meet.
The boat leaks
The three try to plug the holes
Try to keep it afloat
For this island Earth
Needs them powder-dry and smelling sweet.
The land they came from
Is the land of their fathers
And mother Liberty is growing smaller
As they float off in their Sea of Words
And fill the holes until one will die in the heat,
One will die of deceit,
And one will rule over the flies.
THE COUPLE’S PRAYER
Thy will be done
as our kingdom comes.
Who would dare trespass against us
with all our power and glory?
Led into temptation, forgive us
for we are bound for Heaven.
I hallow your name as you deliver me
from evil and give me a day’s bread.
Thy will be done,
as our kingdom comes.
as we forgive those who trespass against us
in our kingdom,
with our power,
in our glory,
now and forever.
WORDS, WATER, PAPER, INK
(With thanks to Ian McCulloch and Mark Burgess)
The world in your ears
the word is so clear
words as water
water as paper
paper as an impure
thing running over all
the ink the ink the words the world
One man's truth is
another president's poison
Ink links leaks of words
words as water
water as paper
paper as ink the one pure
thing the word is so clear
the mud in your ear
Our thanks and hearty welcome to East Coaster Michael A. Griffith! Michael began writing poetry to help his mind and spirit stay healthy as he recovered from a life-changing injury and its resulting disability. His poems, flash fiction, essays, and articles have appeared in many print and online publications and anthologies. He resides and teaches near Princeton, NJ. His chapbook, Bloodline, will be released in Fall 2018 by The Blue Nib. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in October 2018. Welcome to the Kitchen, Michael, and don’t be a stranger!
Poetry Off-the-Shelves will meet in Placerville at the Sr. Center tonight, 5-7pm. And don’t forget that the deadline for the Jack Kerouac Poetry Contest in Davis is noon today. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
And congratulations to Sacramento poet Mary Mackey! Her new book of poetry, The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams, has made Small Press Distribution’s Bestseller List for September 2018. (See www.spdbooks.org/pages/bestsellers/poetry/default.aspx/.)
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