shepard fairey








gustav dore

our boys

death and burial


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is Everybody In?

spake the lizard king. I sure was. The doors slammed behind me.
An urn tumbled from an ancient pillar. A large black bird took wing.

Slowly easing myself along a low stone wall, with designs on
a sofa-like thing I’d spotted on the far side of the republic,

I tried not to think about how I was getting out. Crashing
sonic booms in the muffled distance. The ground beneath me

was gravelly, uneven, and now I could make out dim light
coming in here and there beneath the walls, which seemed to

circle a thirty foot wide depression, or pit. I couldn’t tell.
Other than that, nothing. More booming. Breathing:

close, beside me. A sense of terror took me, though
I made no move, nor did I even know what I feared.

It didn’t smell well, that much was certain, which was a call
to action. Preferring an uncertain future to the one right here,

I pitched myself headlong out into the dark interior,
and fell into the pit and died. You could say, I should have

stuck, no telling where I’d be now. Yeah, bubba.

Tolstoy Had More Patience Than Me

Hemingway more commitment. Einstein was
probably more gifted, in certain areas, and
Montgomery Clift originally did have a profile.
my contact with you is limited to this,
concealed within triplets of nonsense. The Queen
of York embarked one day, in June, with her
requisite entourage. There was fool King Philip,
I must see you tonight, I’m dying. Call me Zorro.
Call me Zarathustra. Call me Jimmy Jazz.

You Could Say That I Wasn’t Watching My Back

or you could say I just slowed down. Either way it’s the dust clapper
for this kid. Brimstone tickles my nose. And makes my eyes run.

The quickest way home is seldom the best. Nor is the longest to
envy. Not even the truest path has much to recommend it.

Weirdness and whimsy seem best to carry the day. In that vein,
I offer this, Pilgrim, a rest for your head at the end of the day,

a warm spot for your feet.

Commitment To A Cause

in the face of all that defiles it; sticking when
it’s easy to run. These are learned, painfully,
by shortfall. Harder still is giving in
in the right time.

Bricked into his skull was
the secret to surviving,
which died with him.

Meet Me In The Pumphouse, Molly

I feel an aubade coming on. Sestinas resist me
like the plague. I don’t know what it is.

Even the limit lines of the limerick escape me.
But to that I say this,

meet me in the pumphouse, Molly.

a lyric there takes wing, a bawdy and crude verse,
no worse than the first; and in the morning,

all throats will concur round the note:
Molly’s gone for a sailor, and the world is off cant,

our initials scarred into its floor.

Nature or Nurture

No one could decide. The best minds put their heads together.
The boy’s future looks grim. If he were to resort, as we predict,
to low practices and shady activity, if he consorts, with the
poor and malfeasant, no nurture would be obtained,
from the tit of a whore, they phrased indelicately. Rose,
stung to the quick, as it were, took a hike to Toledo, I grabbed
a rail and rode it out. Which took ten years or more. Rose
is a phone psychic now in Vegas. I’m a ball boy at Forest Lawn.
An actor, really. The sensitive sort.

A New Social Governance

were it to descend on our heads
would be cut up, diluted, and washed away
before having the first chance to
collect in our hearts
much less reach our laps.

Après Vespers

we lounged by the carp pool; reflections of her hair
fell across the surface sweeping darkness
willy-nilly. My main maintainers of mojo
shrieked an eerie chord, my brain screamed alert. At
that very moment a grand piano spectacularly
entered our dream, descending all in a rush.
Julliard took her. Then them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Narrative Poem

should tell a story, you’re thinking by now, but
I’m way ahead of you; bear with me now: let me
just catch hold of my climbing gear, and here, seat
this hook in under your breastplate, HA, good thing

we’re wearing armor! Anyway, story was
Cleveland Cate, just to lose weight, took a Hummer
for a drive once in Spring. The larks were out, it was
quite a nice day. She thought, I’ll walk back for exercise. . .

Now, don’t get ahead of yourself, I know,
you’re thinking: How’s she get the car back?
I gave that some thought myself but decided, finally,
the last thing I need is a diet.

As for Cate and getting the car back, I'll say this much,
she didn’t. But what that means to you, or to me--or
to anyone, anywhere--is up to each of us as individuals,
I'm thinking. That’s our right.

that’s our story.

I’ve Been Sinking

in deep: every day parting these clouds with cracked fingers
I come upon mind giving muscles a comb-over.

We don't speak, anymore. And my yellow fat, what's still
strung of that, is waved by an uncertain wind.

I’m Still Not Having Any

more’s the case, I’ve hardened
into something resembling the
Masai spear, a fearsome instrument,
deployed just so, though I’ve no
sights on office

The Racist

in the mirror was likewise no prize
in other departments. Juice first gone
to vinegar, then turning hard, and bitter;
whither limb fled afore youth, or the other
way round, he couldn't say, nor answer
the bell at sixty-eight. The hell
with the crown.

Live At Seven

I’ll stop at nothing before total world domination,
and maybe not then.

Furthermore, I’ve an agenda quite prepared for launch,
if I detect the faintest hint of resistance,

which is, of course, futile, and probably, plus that,
it won’t even help.


how when unguentine at long last becomes strictly unavailable
I’ll already be gone.

Fortunately so, the rub’s off the apple, and if ever an overture
to archery was in order . . . zen em, that would be now.

The Last Time

I saw Fredricka, she was speeding away in a Benz;
flapping pink helpless arms from das boot.
The curses she nevertheless hurled back at me,
from within, were thus muffled, and difficult
to understand, in German, but I caught their gist,
which went something like this:
you evil stupid disgusting prick, I'd rather be
returned this instant to Hades' driest bowel,
and blinded, chained, and afflicted by boils, scabies,
and 2000 species of parasite, forever remain . . .
and so on, she went on; it seemed she would continue
until both the earth and I would be cinders.
I ran beside the car, snapping now and then at
those same plump arms that had cradled me, held
my last best hopes as an honest man.
Once or twice I nipped a tire.
. . . be taken prisoner by Turks and sewn into a sack
and sold, she still railed from trunk, where were stored
as well the spoils of the last nine days, out of reach,
of course, now I’d hooked hard again left.
A bent man’s way passes under the arch.

Haag UnLeashed

what could I do,
what with all we’d been through? They hadn’t
a thimble’s dram uncorked ‘fore I had her forques undone,
not long after she busted all the metal loose of her hind-
quarters, which famously rip-sawed appendages
can do some damage, as well you know, if
you've been paying attention. Haag, Eternal Queen for Life of
the Giant Black Dung Beetles was a formidable foe, which is why
I'd loosed her, expecting, I admit, some smidgen of gratitude
for old times sake, at least. But giving barely a glance at
her former captors, she turned on me, flaring
dorsal flanges furiously, emitting her regal scent
before her, as always, all unknowingly. And oblivious she was
to its effect on me. Stunned again I was, as if from the first,
and it was this, my friends, not the ripping
socket from bone, etc., that did me in.
As far as I know I did die there, and quite happy
I was to do so, in the circumstances.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Last Saturday

Today came the Maker to my door, hoping to collect what I owe
on my sins against his terrible mercy. Good luck on that. Let me
wash your dishes, I’ll crouch by your knee like a dog, but don’t ask me
to pay. I slipped through more thinning passages than even your
hundred fingers could count. What’s that worth? Not

a free ride in sight. Price and accounting’s greasy sheen over all.
I took in a breath. It cost me to do it. He turned out my pockets
and took my home, my bike, and my last-born. She capered
like a fawn at his knee. It should have been me. Now
I’m sitting here with nothing but this gray dawn,

the same tide that turns us over and over and over.

Write Like A Bastard

love like a truck. Lick the lodestone with regularity
at first, then speed up. I got wisdom’s never been written
nor even repeated, I know how to write a score. I know
the last thing ever will be you gasping your love.

And I know how to load the implement, hand her over there,
shorty. I went down early in a dirty fight, thought I’d avoid
a passle of mischief staying out of the way like that. Then
she come along with her needs and issues and cunt and all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Weighting The Freight

you run across some strange ones. In Calgary, I saw the sky go
lemon from inhalants released unknowingly into the atmosphere
by middle school graffiti artists. You had to give them credit.
The night said, look at me, say my name like you mean it,
and I’ll sing. The forest was blacker than that.

Morning found them of course partially eaten by wolves,
who had been especially adapted and introduced into exactly
that biosphere where the claimant had his left hand taken
at the wrist. To be plain, your honor, is my way, therefore,
let me say, my client deserves to die. Of that

no man can have doubt. A more low-down, evil scuz-ball
you won’t find. He’ll have to do.

Traveling With A Python

can require resourcefulness, and ingenuity, certainly, patience,
I would say, of all qualities one could have as an itinerant python pacifier,
an appreciation of time as process, process as good, as in good for
the python, which is why I should probably insert selflessness

up there near the top.


can be found here. Wealth beyond measure will come
to some. Others will find themselves fleeced of even
their shorts. Many will despair. Over there,
leading away up the hill, there’s your path to certain

glory. A way paved in pearl, and a rest for your head
in luxury’s finest moment, stilled and captured.

If you take it, let down pride, leave all starch behind,
it’s easier that way, then when they come
to harvest your head, it won’t shock so much,
I hate surprises, don’t you?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This Shriveled Hunchbacked Gypsy Bitch

had been tormenting me
for a long fucking time

I tore her off of me and
slung her like a bag o’ dried snakes
to a crowd of some kind of ravenous things

maybe people
maybe not

also there
but on my side


Saturday, January 24, 2009


Joya Lonsdale’s My Mouth is Open to All Rivers opens with an ars poetica worthy of its dedicatee, Pablo Neruda. With her leading poem I cannot reside, unentangled, Lonsdale declares straight off her astonishing adhesion to all life’s stuff of edge and dream, and in a poem so easeful in its arching ambition, so lyric in its insistent indictment of our complicit crimes, that the reader is willingly enfolded in the soft creases of our (as she must see it) conjoined natures, and basking there, little suspects that within the mutable frame of these short and short-lined stanzas lie buried pungi stakes of inescapable fact. . . . massacres, unfettered by blood . . .births, fevers. Lonsdale says: I have cravings. and Lightening strikes me in places. She won’t say where.

But star-borne, yes, we are, and of the rocks and air, and as much of blood; but contradistinctwise, deprived by desire, depraved even, in result, and not just to the strange, but too, toward family and friend; we lament, can we escape ourselves, this world? Again, Lonsdale says it better and more plainly:

. . .
Sometimes, I admit
I become
empty of
breath and
long to
run away , untethered
by hands and feet.
I grow tired of my skin.

But the world wants, it wants us, it clings with persistence, insists on our attention:

News accelerates my pulse . . . and things won’t leave me alone . . .

An amoeba declared to be seeking a witness perhaps might rouse resistance in some readers (one must presume such assertion is speculative), but more realistically:

. . .
A grasshopper lands on my chest,
presenting his perfect form. . .

When, simply:

. . .
Because I have ears
two girls on a bus look at me and erupt into song.

I am with her 100%, feeling the pulling too, which runs both ways now, so that:

. . .
Because my mouth waters
a fresh raspberry lands on my tongue

echoing the volume’s title nicely, almost subliminally. But for all that: . . . the world doesn’t give up easily: and never changes its nature, the implication of course extending as well to ourselves, so that just as:

. . .
The ocean insists on crashing into rocks, and smelling salty.

By the time Lonsdale states explicitly in the last line of her penultimate stanza:

I cannot escape the sand inserting itself coarsely between my toes.

I wish heartily that line had been the poem’s last.

Lonsdale says lastly:

I am here
clothed in human flesh
and I love.

But how well already we know that, and nearing only the end of the first poem in a volume that really does astonish with its gifts. There are quibbles one can make, and I’ll pass on a few. But the strengths here are legion: Lonsdale’s Dickensonian (that’s Emily) facility with the lyricism of the short, chopped line is unerring. While I would wish on this emerging poet longer lines simply to multiply the imagination which would emerge, and as if at no price, there is distinction in approaching perfection, and this sharp study of syllables rolls and punches as if crossing Carolyn Forché with William Carlos Williams, Mark Strand with Sharon Olds.

Lonsdale’s facility with enjambment even can cover the occasional awkward construction; breaking unentangled / from conceals it, perhaps even from the poet, just as the selfsame awkwardness can be found in that last clause of mine, semi-concealed by the words separating conceals and from and the handy bridge of a comma.

And I really must sink to the petty here, otherwise how to inject objectivity into a what must sound almost hagiographic: Taken up (I’m supposing) by the genuine cosmic symmetry she’s extracting, this poet occasionally lets a lazy word in. However, looking hard, I find only two candidates possibly needing extra duty : a fresh raspberry and sea smelling salty.

More often, the best effects of what has often been called “plain speech” prevail. So effectively that words or phrases that would ordinarily just pass for tired abstraction seem to take on new life and get up and walk with their new found power: civil wars, love affairs, massacre, love.

Lastly, the most singular quality advancing the heady, sensuous charm of this slim volume lies in the measured restraint felt in these poems’ sure muscularity. The small-scaled specifics draw one in as a lover, a friend close enough to touch, to lie beside, or dream to be near.

--Rick Skogsberg, 01.24.2009