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.

Self Adhesive

I look to make minor improvements
In the way I remember my life
And select very carefully the things
I bother to remember at all

Always endeavoring to be the best
Person I can remember being

Patching up the gaffes and goofs
As they appear (if they even dare to)
And doing a damn fine job of it too
If memory serves

Parts Per Million

Because I breathe the way we do
makes me one of  ‘who we are’
and happy knowing you are too

but then again this fence was put
that keeps outs out and ins within
stuck between us way back when

by one of us, which of us two
tried Moses-like to part the air
I don’t recall, was it me or you?

at seven, at dawn

At seven, at dawn
the sky changed its mind
and rain drummed to the
gutter talk, and set off
a car alarm, the clouds
coughing up a shutter flash
blinding, stopping all the clocks
who all had memorized
what you forgot:

my birthday, my damp firecracker
with fizzles for wishes
and no funny paper hats, just a
sheet cake looking dumbfounded
like a hostage forced to read
his captor’s proclamation:

that every day is reason
enough to mark a year begun
or ended, so just go with it
what’s your problem?

reminderesque

electronics chiming, beeping
calendar boxes addressed to us
reminders joining, streaming
it is all an insentient reminding

reminding me of something
the watched pot ever boiling
calling things to mind
sorely lacking for things, this mind

like things won’t come anyway
bursting in unsummoned
like water won’t seek
won’t join its own level

at least a paper calendar
can be twisted into kindling
that burning, hisses at the touch
of remembered raindrops

what are gods if not remembered
what is power, outside of
obedience to memory
what is the next thing

the corrections of matter, atoms
seeming indivisible memories
and forgetting our way in
breaking, entering, knowing

what shall I do
come these demands to my
bed, nudged from this sleep: the domain
of unknowable appointments

rushes are meeting, courting, mating
broods of baby rushes, feeding
reminds me all of something
temporarily lifelike

Finishes

DISTRESSED FINISH

PEELED OR RUSTED THROUGH

WET THEN DRY THEN WET AGAIN

AGING AS WE SPEAK

GATHERED UP FROM FAR AND WIDE

HEAPED UP IN DISHEVELED STACKS

TEASING AT SOME DEEP MEANING


Photos gathered from junk shops and scrap yards in the Northeast when I was traveling by car there a few years ago. What exactly is the appeal of rusty old things? Do we think we can get a glimpse of the extent of time’s doings? Yet it’s not even a clock-tick in terms of imaginable natural history.

oolong cools

the days seem long
though living

while the children
play leap frog
and the oolong cools
to the warmth of your lips
as I remember them

plots against its own containment
with every

(breath)

thing forgotten


After yesterday’s crude and infantile rant
about things that don’t matter,
I felt I owed you a poem.