We cower when they come to our tents at night. Sometimes less often- never not ever- so we do not forget our place.
We were taken by this tribe in some war past memory back in my father’s grandfather’s time. Now we belong. We are valued. Valuable so they surround us with warriors for protection. We bank their fires each morning. Children forage, women haul water from the river. Young men fold up tents for another day’s march of the army on its belly. We are the belly. Nothing of us is wasted, not even digested age. I am too old to chew, so I teach what is permitted. How to carry on. We are needed. The tribe has needs to fill. We are vessels. Weeks may go by, one no different than the other. We pretend then. Until they come to our tents at night- when we remember.
Sliver moon after first thaw is their sacred time. The season of New Battles. They select a prized madonna, freshly blooded, from among us. Each warrior fills her with seed until she is near death. She is swaddled after in soft skins, borne by all to Bruja Mother who nurses her back to life. There must be life in the madonna’s belly before Battle Season begins. Forty times have I witnessed this cycle.
Madonna calves in the barren hungry season. Our gnawed bellies are flaccid. We build a great bonfire to burn all that is dead. Here she is led to where the Brujo Father waits with his Holy Spear. It- death- is direct and swift, so revered is she. Bruja Mother holds chalice beneath the madonna’s heart. All drink hot holy blood. Her flesh is roasted for the feast. The babe, knowing neither father nor mother, belongs to the tribe. The tribe wastes nothing.
This is how we live. How we have always lived since before memory. This is how we all die, one no different than another.
Except when they come to our tents at night- then we remember.
Previously published in San Gabriel Valley Quarterly
Elegy for Eliot
Who will embrace this orphan, Eliot?
He wanders certain half-deserted streets,
His nose pressed against the fogged window pane,
On the inside looking out. Longing to
Walk among the bustling half-dead throngs
Commuting from Michelangelo there,
Crossing Renoir’s bridge to Dada End.
On this bitter April Thursday morning,
He scatters remains of last night’s ashes,
Tucks his practical cat in his rucksack,
Hopes to fall in with pilgrims’ progress
In peace to Buddha’s shrine, without a prayer.
His cross to bear- he does not understand.
Doubting Thomas shakes frost off his shoulders,
Wishing to crawl back into the Blessed
Mother Mary’s virgin womb. But she who
Comforts each to each, will not comfort him.
He grows old- cast to the side of the road.
Hollowed out by every pound of flesh
Exacted by critics’ ragged claws which
Damn him with faint praise, assent with a leer.
Re-baptized in the water faith, he dies.
Gasping the last air not yet consumed by fire.
A bit of earth marks his passing this way
With all that there really is left to say:
T.S. Eliot begins and ends.
Here, like a struck match, he begins
Previously published in Medusa’s Kitchen, We the People
In a little corner of Spanish Town
They all walk with their heads hung down.
Mustaches drooping, hands clasped,
Praying to God for what their hands never grasped.
Bright little Billy Boy, blonde with blue eyes beaming,
Walks into the church, grabs the toy
All copper and silver gleaming.
That precocious child in Spanish Town,
Out of the gloom and into the shining,
As by the door they all stand pining,
For the cross in Spanish Town-
In the mud, face down.
Previously published in Silver Bow Anthology, Our Patch
Brave New World, an Expert Opinion
One of those queer kids who collects candy
Wrappers. Abba-Zaba, Big Hunk,
Good & Plenty, $100,000 Paydays.
Suddenly realizes- he hasn’t seen
$100,000 lately. Mental note:
‘Must ask Mom next time we shop.’
Payday is smaller. He is sure of this.
Mom swears “It is for your own good.
We have all gotten too fat.”
She tells him that is why he can’t
Ride in the shopping cart.
“Why? There’s lots of room.” he complains.
But now Mom only carries a basket.
Makes him tramp along side. Hard
To be sure from this disadvantage point
But wrapper selection looks thin to him.
Kisses are not solid anymore.
Peanut butter cups have been blown to
Previously published in Perspective Poetry
Previously published in We the People