All Hallowed

A black cat arches
its bristled silhouette
against a sour green moon
in a newspaper ad
for mattresses.

September thumbed its nose at one keen summer and abruptly closed that happy book. We turned out each day after school to a gradually shifting light and a sense of turning. October’s grid of even and odd days played out like a roll of tickets and we slashed out the calendar squares one by one. Now it looms. It’s Halloween.

We dress out in style, not costume, and hit the pavement, the night before us rising in imagination. We meet up at our usual haunt and set out. The evening is drained of its color and clouds hang like wilted lilies at the edge a tree-clawed horizon, still glowing in the daylight’s wake. Mist is creeping below our knees. Flashlight beams vivisect the malign shadows. But the senses cannot claim what unknown dimensions might intersect with the ordinary on a night when saints and ghouls mingle together.

An election of angry spirits descended upon the hordes of feral children. Eyes open wide, the youngsters saw nothing amiss. They felt the strangeness of a life-eclipsing moment, no more palpable than a sense of being watched. It went unnoticed in the excitement of the holiday. Soul-snatchers unseen drew the essences right out through their tiny pink nostrils, and their animated costumes continued as before, lurch forward from house to house, shouting for sugar treats at the neighbor’s stoop with the echoes of little voices they no longer quite possessed.

We don’t see it happening like that. We are counting candies, sneaking cigarettes and breathing free, wandering the neighborhood with a sense of power over destiny. We have mischief in mind. Trick-or-treat is a make-believe protection racket and every kid knows it. Nice place you got here. Shame if your landscaping got TPed. All this youthful energy and potential, radiating on the hailing frequency of the vampiric, hungry spirits. A dead chill arrives on a gust, like a summons, and we disappear into the cavities between street lamps, wild spirits revolting all around us. We can’t see them. These ghosts, they would burn down this sleepy borough if they could even grip, yet strike a match. But their rebellious fits are as unknown to us as heartbreak.

On the night called All Hallowed the living do perversely antagonize the dead. A police cruiser slows, shines its beam on some trick-or-treaters by the side of the road. Their reflective costumes and glo-sticks shimmer at the burning edge of youth. He sees who they are, there is recognition but he sniffs, like a wraith, to be sure. The officer was himself robbed of spirit as a little punk, on this very lane. His memory of it a latency sunk like stone into forgotten water. He operates on instinct now, pulled out of nowhere. Pulled out of the darkness.

We meander down the last alleys there would ever be, fleeing the warm safety that has driven us, by the length of its boredom, right out of childhood and straight into a kind of nightmare we could not have hoped to guess. We laugh and chatter and eat treats. The glow of our cigarettes, like sprites or faerie traces, inscribe with movement cryptic runes in the darkness. The subtle chill of a watchful gaze seems to tingle upon our necks, we are so ready to be spooked.

Clueful

Debate

A conflict settled
by debate, away
will rise in appeal
some other day.

A Hybrid of Life and Death

The disease will not settle
for medicine, nor will the
remedy quarter the disease
doctor bills, they are piling up
a shot of whiskey, please.

Continuance

Things appear
to die, and I appear
to keep living
the welders are in dry dock
assembling the hulls
of sunken ships
at what point in the
figure eight of continuance
can one say end, or begin
at all points
amazing, how gracious
how sweet it is.

Clueful

I’m feeling clueful
today, little hints peeking
out from under bushes
the neighborhood jingling
like a phone full of urgent texts
bits of the crux of all matters
sparkling here and there
like gems tossed out
over beach sand.

Epitaph

Long in the hair and
gray in the tooth
he learned how to dodder
then he died, forsooth.

Pray (sol dep)

In the six regions
throughout the three times
under the one sky
peaceful, happy.


An incoherent notebook-dump from October 2018

Veiled

you will come to know it
at the very moment you are
putting off thinking about it

but it will happen to you

and you will try to think
your way out of it, too
or think your way through

as you go, as you actually go

Photo: the window by my desk at home.

Half Mast

No sunset ever called for the
evening’s dim passage, not one, but this:
good ones, they die every day
every day someone’s son, someone’s
mother, or a distant aunt—passes away
many times every day, away, away
the low and the high, kind, selfish, no matter
they’re suddenly gone, just like that
and then their friends and relations
   | are left to grieve |
I cannot fathom how it is we ever
raise a flag above half mast.

A Slice of Longevity

pyre of the moment
denies all these lingering traces
and the fireproof memories
are breaking and entering
we weep for the dead
and gone, weep for ourselves

the death certificate
rendered into thin strips, gathered
ignited, burned, lanky curled effigies
prostrate their ashen bodies
in offering, an act complete in itself
without forethought, intent
or memory, like a barfly
tossing back a shot of whiskey
at the funeral pyre of this particular
slice of longevity

Shoe Leather

Breathe us | fragile lives
Scholars of immortality
Shoe leather knows
A thing or two about walking

For each | a day bubbles
Up Like a fountain of youth
Under the climbing sun’s
Ambling summons

How did Shakespeare
Put it | whilst this machine
Is to him | cuffed
By law to this

Holding cell of
Flesh | straight jacket
Of bodily sensation
Interrogated there | outpaced
By thoughts

Accelerated Death Benefit Summary

    
    how you woo me with promises
    transcending the seal of mortality               
    while death, certain and life, unsure
    and the money, it defies gravity                         *
    it flows up, tainted, delirious waterfall
    rising ashes of burnt contracts—
                                                               *  *
        my policy is to twinkle   *
        right back at the stars             *             *     *
                                            *          *
    —until the summaries of                    *
    benefits can wait no more                           *
    and death accelerates like
    a crumpled wad of direct mail
    hurled into the gaping maw
    of eternity (represented here  
    by a waste basket)