Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sonnet #216

When I hear the mockingbird sing, I sing to her
I mock the mockingbird, then try a new song
If I am clever, and have perturbed upon her
The mockingbird mocks my happy wrong
I don't trill enough - I don't whip or whill
I don't hit the high notes, or low notes or click
The mockingbird's voice is greater in skill
And breaks my little tune high to the quick
Say I am no songbird, no voice, but say this:
The birds will bring my song to my door
The mockingbird sees me, and offers this kiss
of music; she thinks it a taunt of the poor
The giant she humbles smiles and asks more
Sing all my music back, I want to hear it soar

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sonnet #215

When we die we rest in a little version of home
Those city dwellers combust in urns and crowds
Or pile their bones in catacombs that rattle loud
where cars drive over the underworld paving stones
Surburbanite, you will lie in a green grass plot
The form and material of your tombstone will be approved
And men will come to mow the grass, and beloved
will lie together yet in separate rooms, as lived as bought

Where I die lay no memorial stone except as trees
I will be as rooted in death as the rootless
who fall in the fields unmourned, but for me
The green of living will sing of my giving; Unless
you hold these rowdy and unnamed places holy,
You don't hold me: My Legacy, my Ghost Purposes

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the baby shoes
never worn
for sale

and which
you were
likely selling
for real

Forgive me
They were gross
So plastic
And so chewy

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sonnet #214

The ghosts are made of water, we just
think that they are lights, but they are
damp, a chill that cuts to bone, an aura
In the air, like a vapor of what was lost
Accumulation of the spirits means
the cloud of life collects until
the soul, crystalline and swirling sloshed,
And this is why we cry as if
a piece of soul is torn out, lost
as if a tiny piece of spirit drifts
away into the clouds, first faces crossed
to oceans crossed to gills of fish
Until the souls rise up to clouds across
the sky, our pain up there, rain spirit's kiss

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sonnet #213

Performers are not supposed to talk about the guns
That come in the night, those thousand tiny
injuries that mark the skin, just make fun
Dance for the camera, smile and be friendly
Pretend that everything is going to be all right
When the gunmen come in the dark to take
People who made the best choices out of bad, night
comes, good people lie awake in dread, wake
the artists up to help forget that they are afraid
In the same way, the keepers of guns want to forget
The twinge of guilt that hardens like a pearl laid
 black in the back of their mind, where lie regrets
How dare anyone make anyone remember the gun song
all stories sing to the gun song, who holds the gun belongs

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sonnet #212

The big, black, ugly bird that clings
to rooftops in the city, long of wing
And long of neck, naked, warty thing
That swoops out of the twilight, singing
Songs of ugly hunger, early death
Where lost breaths are swallowed breath
by breath, we walked in city streets, enwreathed
in sidewalks, green grass and oak leaves wreath
the idylls of we who pretend until the bird
black bird cawing in the break of dawn, a word
of darkness, swoop upon the rooftops, heard
in bedrooms still dark, waking to a dead word
A kitten half-eaten by the dogs of moonlight
The wicked tooth, and vultures own all twilights

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

All Roads Lead to Rome

Baudicia will tell you this about civilization:
It happens to the body, first the women
Experience the effort to civilize
Where the glory of the empire reaches in
And hammers down and whips away
nothing is left to her own devices,
Then, as if that isn't enough, the men
Must help or die - their bodies
Will be civilized, too;
Then it keeps happening over and over
Until no one even remembers what
Was before, was it even possible
To stand alone in the forest
And feel the shape of destiny guided
By the wind in the trees, the fish swimming
Up the rivers, trapped in the weirs and plums
Dropping in early autumn

This is the story of Adam and Eve
Where the apple of knowledge was a metaphor
For the way it always begins upon a body
Inside a body, and who controls the body
Before it was a paradise on earth

When the braceros came north to work American farms
They were deloused in sheep vats, fully immersed
In ddt. Burned with it. They screamed in pain
When the lettuce and strawberries were more
Valuable than human spines

Many of the children don't remember
How it all started.
It hurts too much to tell them
How we got to here.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Sonnet #211

They call the place Cathedral Rock
The Balcones Fault rises to a balcony
A large bluff, they say it was holy
Where ceremonials were held, we walked
A long trail, the live oaks were green
New growth in buds and dead leaves
Drifting like autumn, the quiet breathes
In the space between hills where mean
City noises do not reach, where even birds
Their music and cicada songs drift away
The silence made by hills where the word
Itself becomes a memory and the sway
Of leaves descending holds the language
That makes whole, without majesterial baggage

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sonnet #210

All the steps it took for one day's weather
A pretty day, a cool breeze blowing, light heat,
Was made at the dawn of time where tethers
broke and all the cosmos scattered in a heartbeat
For millenia, the atoms clumped and scattered
Until a solar star emerged slowly among the scores
And emerging rock with life resilient and battered
Kingdoms rose upon the bones of dinosaurs
And of the days, as momentum spins the rocks
Of endless tiny patches among these galaxies
A little green where we, in smallness, walk
A pretty day, a perfect day, a dawn so perfectly
It's all connected, hurricanes become a breeze
Supernovas push at matter rustling leaves

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Sonnet #209

Tyger, tyger die afright in the
headlights of the cars, the cops who shoot
at boys from fear will quiver in their boots
With every flicker of your growling teeth
If fear can kill a child, it can kill a king
Slayer of giants, kidnapped from temples
Fed hamburger meat in some crowded rental
Enough is enough and the doorbell rings
All the bolts click free, Run! You, gorgeous!
Run into the forest, the city is all trees
All useless beasts more curious than nervous
Until the headlights come; the people see,
Shoot to kill, and brag forever -- Tyger, Tyger,
Stolen twice: They only get to hunt you here.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sonnet #208

"I've come from the future," he said
He sat down at my table in a rush
"We need to talk," he said. I shook my head
"I can tell you the future already, so hush
and don't ruin it for me. We will all die.
All of us will die. It will be fast or slow
or in a crowd, perhaps, afraid. We try
to live, but it ends. It always ends. So,
in between then and now, we do what we can
to make the world a better place, make babies
Teach them to do better, and try to make a plan
In case things don't get better. Whatever you say to me
doesn't matter," I said. "Have a drink and go home."
He nodded. "Death, they say: All roads lead to Rome."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sonnet #207

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me, and I ask her
Why she rose to heaven, why she comes here
Why it feels like the visions of self are doubled
For visions of the holy feel like a dream,
And physical embodiment doesn't see her light?

Speaking words of wisdom, she said -Don't fight
Just let the contradictions come, like an unseen beam,
The work of reconciling is too much, let it go
The expectation of desire is the agony of want
The lack of expectation is the agony of no
To live is to desire, and to risk being ghosts that haunt
Long after the time for haunting passes, let it go
Desire then abandon, to find a place both full and gaunt

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sonnet #206

"I don't know which wave to poem," he said
"There are so many words coming, all the time
I must be careful where I position this rhyme
I must not speak ill of the living or the dead
Because no one likes negativity, unless veiled
In innuendo of perspicuity, and I can't be too smart
so I shouldn't have said perspicuity, or claim high art
And If I claim low art, alone, they'll think I failed
I must speak only in feelings and cautiously,
lest I turn off all these tides, those going and coming."
That is what he said, and I told him this about poeming:
"Pick your waters and choose standing stones bravely
If you don't swim to make waves and to push
The waves will swim over you like a rush."

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sonnet #205

The family viewed from afar is uncertain
it reminds me of the train cars
Looking through the glass at other cars
How the jostling makes nauseas reactions
For the motion sick, how the two cars
Bounce around independent of each other
On the same tracks, and we gaze over
At the other car and it feels wrong from afar
It is hard to say if they are jumping tracks
If they are falling into each other while stumbling
Or tripping from the push upon their backs
We are not supposed to judge while witnessing
We are not supposed to judge. We don't lack
For confusions, enough, to find any failing
We like, any reason, we don't cross the crack.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sonnet #204

There is no stillness in the boats at rest
In dock, they rock to tides and winds
And out upon the water, moving, best
get the sea legs on, for standing still in
this swift boat means working harder
than if you sailed before the storm, look back
And pull the ropes and hold fast, sailor,
The man that stands in the center track
And touches nothing, helps no one, holds fast
How the hard sweat comes to him, how the slope
of waves knock hard until he falls -- he never lasts
So busy, sailor, on the deck, pick a rope
And get to knotting, find the wind, assert the will
Easier to guide the ship than to pretend it's still

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sonnet #203

I've earned this face. At first, born with it, but
I'm older now and worn it in good.
Every bag, every bone, all I shouldn't have and should
Is written in splotches, graying growths, wheel ruts
I've earned the callouses and the scars
When my body rests below the knife, the story
will be told in my healed wounds, of victory
Every ache in my joints, every late night star
I've counted at my labors, to the squint lines
Or the laughter of the crows, or the dog bites
And decaying leaves of winter's white shine
upon my chest, let it come, I will not fight
against the tides, I embrace the simple story:
I've endured all of this. I will endure more.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

what I'm working on when I'm not around

Every night begins with a story. This is how it ought to be in every house in all the world. The moon is not allowed to rise unless a story is told, to call the darkness and the dreams from behind the wind and clouds. This ought to be true all over the city in the valley, and true high up on the peaks of the mountains above the city, and in the ships of the air that anchored over the city like fat clouds, casting shadows on the rooftops. It was true on a mountaintop overlooking a canyon with an old, wide river, where an airship mountain ferrymaster named Rudolf Anaya lived with his pregnant wife, Drew Anaya, and eldest daughter, Joy Anaya. By day, he lashed the airships to a cable and ran the engine that pulled them past the worst of the winds rising up off the canyons, where airships untethered would be cast wildly about, perhaps landing in the sea, perhaps crashing on a mountain. In this mountain pass, the airships hauled up from the city below loaded with the famous moving dolls and clocks that were made in the factories of the peninsula. They returned to the city with supplies from over the mountains, from the north countries and the eastern kingdoms, food and drink and fine furniture and anything else that could be imagined from far away places. Rudolf came home slow, exhausted, but happy. He wore thick workmen’s clothes, and they were spattered in oil and coal dust, and he had to wash his hands three times before he could touch his fork. The family waited for him. After supper, it was time for young Joy to go to bed. That meant, of course, that it was time for a story.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sonnet #202

The seed never knows how deep the soil
Whether in a pot, or a rocky hill or a swamp
Whether crowded out, or drowned or stomped
Bloom where you land, they say, as if toil
to bloom means nothing, as if the work
The very hard work, of getting roots down
Of spreading leaves enough and floral crown
Is always possible, as if failure is a shirk

Put your boots on and go for a walk
Everywhere you step, you kill the young
These seeds are not to be blamed, don't talk
to me of personal responsibility with your tongue
And stride like giants in horseshoes crushing stalks
Tell those seeds the truth: We eat them young.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sonnet #201

Know our false gods by false sacrifices made
Where we hold our guns against statistical safety
And drive long distances against future dead
And sacrifice money to dress new, live greatly
And sacrifice children on the alter of place
Where some get good, clean cities to thrive
And others are told to keep a submissive face
They'll need to work hard with a smile to survive
Where butterflies die because they're inconvenient
Where trees are chopped down for delicate grasses
And neither deaths mattered, all some achievement

Of white or brown balls, men walking, throwing passes
To sacrifice coral, to sacrifice glaciers, to sacrifice
And for what? We will all die, still, in a devouring life.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sonnet #200

Bring out all the bones of princes, presidents,
and celebrities, and put them in glass boxes
Along the Washington Mall, where the residents
Can throw a quarter into a variety of jukeboxes
And dance among the ruins of who we were
Sing until the sun, the moon, until the blood
runs down the ears and quarters run dry
Remember this was once a kingdom before the flood
The waters will rise, the bones will sigh
And all the street sleepers wash to sea
Some will swim and some will sink
Where their last organized gasp of beauty
leaves so few encasements to cross the drink

A ball will drop from on high, a cheering crowd
The parades among the dead, the dream shared loud

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sonnet #199

Consider the African sand of the Sahara
How it blows across the sea and spreads
Across the sands of Mexico, all the dead
Bones of Egyptian Slaves, the salt of their
Brow, trapped in sand, swirling up above
And over, the dust of lions and ancient trees
And how the desert spreads, even now, we see
The encroaching of death, the wasteland, love
Lost in dunes, desert sand storms; the locusts
Traveled over oceans, in their swarm,
To islands across the ocean, swarm
On water, drown and eat the drowning, trust
The destiny of movement, the flood of doom
And send these drops and drabs of death, and soon

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sonnet #198

Good be not kind, though some would think it so
Consider all the brides who lost their oil
They ran late to wake the merchant and blow
their lamps back to life, upon return to native soil
The door was shut -- the heavenly host proclaimed
I know you not, though hours back there was home
I know you not, you used to be a guest and remained
all day, you thought you belonged; No one
let you have a little oil - nor helped with your mess
These good, holy heavens, locked you out to atone
For such tiny sins -- a fizzled fist of fire, late, a dusty dress

Shed tears if you like, all lost relations feel like stones
Thumb home in the dark and forget those who convicted
at their miserly feast --
                                     Prefer, instead, the kindly wicked.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sonnet #197

The bad trees are cut down, thrown into fire,
For the fruit is no good. The fig tree that fails
is cursed by the lord, withers and dies. All liars,
All thieves, all men who profit from what ails
the world, will be cut down. God will cut you down,
who grows thorns and spits thorns and bitter,
bitter words, words that harm, hate sewn
with a taste; God will cut you down. Better
be making the good fruit. However, the worst medicine
tastes sweet, I think, while the bitter purge heals
We live in a kitchen of sugar and adrenaline
The fruits are too chemical, so wash all your peels.
And what is good is not always what is sweet
What is good will hurt, bleed out, cure surfeit. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Sonnet #196

First the dust swarmed off the decaying grasslands
Where heat and drought and construction
and all the ruined places will function
like a dust storm; a blistering, swelling band
of hot, hot wind pouring up from the south
with clouds behind them, a sweeping summer
storm, first dust, then fat drops, the shimmer
of a rainbow somewhere, the sudden truth:
This should be a reprieve, but it will be worse
The sun is back in minutes, the water hurts
the breathing more, now, and where the burst
should have made us cleaner, the coarse
sand sticks damp the oil is lifted up to slick
But won't wash, like little hope, it makes us sick

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sonnet #195

They fall, those little whisps of grass,
As if the tiniest of deaths is less than whisper
There are no ghosts of grass, just fire
And when it is through, new grass, seed, grass
Lean out into the field where every sliver
Of green contains the lineage of eternity
The common sea of so much gras, it's easy
To forget that every individual is peacefully
Contemplating nights and days, and every
Blade, every insignificant little husk rises
Back, look back long enough they are us
Then lean forward at the grass to be a tree
There is a narrative and spirit in every grain
There is a birth, a death; joy, striving, pain

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sonnet #194

The mountain climbers know each other by the handshake
There's a weary eye, a roughness in the palm
The smell of heaven rests upon them like a psalm
hovering at the edge of hearing, there's no quake
about their steps, a lean and narrow trajectory.
They know each other in the street and cafe
They may not speak much to each other lately
But there isn't really anything to tell a story
There was a mountain, once, it was high and proud
The climbers mapped a route, gathered supply
They put one foot after another, until the clouds
Were underfoot, until the wind was a war cry
The echo of empty peaks reverberates below
Mountain climbers meet each other and they know

Tales from a Talking Board, in which I play a small part, coming in October from WordHorde


I've got a short story coming from an anthology edited by Ross Lockhart, TALES FROM A TALKING BOARD (WordHorde 2017)

Mine is a fictional twist on a true story, from back when I was marching drum and bugle corps. I was a contrabass bugle player for the Blue Knights out of Denver, CO, in 1997, 1998, and section leader in 1999.

I don't play anymore, these days, but once upon a time, I did. I never really wrote about it. It's definitely a niche interest.

Here's a link to the whole anthology, if you're interested:

http://wordhorde.com/cover-revealpreorder-tales-from-a-talking-board/

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sonnet #193

Inside every heart is a moment of silence
That is the actual beat: Without that pause
That space - that's how we measure because
the tempo is the wait between the tense

This silence, rising falling, spreading, waiting

Consider this: The world of the birds is larger
Than ours, the world of the whales is larger
For where we can only reach the wainscotting

They can breach above, below, follow tides
or winds until the whole world that is a home
is larger and wider and deeper than all of Rome
And the music that they make from where they hide

Connects all the kingdoms of the earth and we
call it silence. We call it empty skies, empty seas

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sestina #1


Braced against the skin of this watery rock
Every single person anybody knows their name
Is here, some apartment, some crowded room
Below our feet all the ground we'll ever hold
All that lives, and all that dies, wrapped in space
Endless space, and swirling suns and galaxies

I send my love to sing the galaxies
The rolling derbies of steel upon the rock
Where new kingdoms will carry our name
Where children of our love will make room
For more children, where the life holds
Warm and clean shelter, fill up this space

When you merely study this dark and space
You will not see just the empty glow of galaxies
Where no signs of life cling to ice and rock
You'll paint mythologies upon the stones by name
Therein pushing history and dreams to make room
For human bodies to rise into the dark and hold

This seedling I carry to our orchard, I hold
so close into my chest, the space
between the lemon tree and the galaxies
Is shaped like the absence of a rock
The absence of a history, of a name
And I stand between these two places, all room

I plant my love and my tree where there's room
For roots to reach and hands to touch and hold
We'll carry all these living things into space
And bring the wild earth to the galaxies
Where seedlings and insects dig into rocks
And make new islands, become new things, new names

I send my love to you signed by name
Will you let me sweetly into your room
Where, together, we may have and hold
And bathe our skin in dappled starlight space
above us sinking into our skin, the light of galaxies
Calling to our children down to our little rock

The universe in a conch shell, names in chaos held in rock
Where geologic time holds deep in our quiet bedroom
The skin of us, the tiniest galaxies of us, to fill all space

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sonnet #192

Be loyal to mother and father and child
Be loyal to god and to the holy wild
Be loyal to all children, all grands and greats
Abandon all loyalty to king and state
Abandon the store that would abandon us
And fill in the factories with slaves of rust
Abandon all loyalty to priests of the mind
Instead of loyalty -- be kind, always kind

For olive trees twist and the vines all falter
And the fig trees ooze sap in the place all bones rattle
Where the roof tops bend and carry no shelter
There is the place where kill comes for cattle

Loyal to only the wind of the stars,
And the shivering Atoms, life, alone, prays


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sonnet #191

And Solomon, what's left of all his glory?
His meticulously described temple is gone
The gold and olive-wood carving is a story
that contains the temple, now. All he has done
as a king, the wars and lovers, all, adrift
like wet books in large oceans, passing
from one wave to another, the slow shift
of rewriting wet pages and back into the tossing
Until the story, itself, only pretends at truth
There was a man, once, who would be king
In his dream, he asked for wisdom from a God
And, when he woke, the babe was brought in
Two women shouting, "It's mine! The child's mine!"
And, his mind burning, he held the sword of time

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sonnet #190

I used to know how to write a poem
Once upon a time I even knew stories
I see these ideas I built like ruined Rome
I have buried more in my worries
Than I have ever been able to keep
Once I thought I could change everything
Build parapets of paragraphs, war weep
To carry sorrow to joyful ignorance bring
Light to undiscovered continents inside
The soul of dreams. I wake up from this
The dust accumulated, buried streets wide
I stumble to work lost to the fabled kiss
Of forces greater than one little soul
I have forgotten more than will ever be whole


Monday, June 12, 2017

Sonnet #189

The castle is no place to be a man,
All that dust and draftiness, narrow stairs
And those tiny slits for windows. Escape plans
And siege equipment, and all those rare
Accumulated things growing mold
or hidden in moldy boxes, and the cracks
in the walls where mice, chewing on old
manuscripts. And there's all those people hack
coughs in the dust and race around the stairs
No, the castle is no place to be a man
The crown is an unnatural invention made for stares
That weighs the mind down. Will you stand?
I've never met a man in a castle - only jesters
Who seem unaware of the jeers of their betters.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sonnet #188

The day I knew I could never go home

Again, never again, was with a cookie
I knew in childhood, a humble cookie
And the memory of the cookie's grown
a mythology in my desire, a craving
irrational, at best, an addiction to it
Such that I must never permit
the thing to enter the house, and staving
off this desire is a fact I know as truth
If I give in and taste the cookie,
It is not so great in my mouth
As it is as a memory of the cookie
The taste is nothing but a dream
Old rooms in lost houses larger than seem

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sonnet #187

We do not know the world is not an egg
Waiting to hatch when it is warm enough
The inner workings of the magma and rough
stone crust are known only by trembling legs
And layers of sediment, volcanic eruptions
We only know what lies smeared upon the edge
The topsoil layer, the distant crane flight's stretch
and the mumble of the clouds between; excitations
could mean anything. How do we know for sure
Each planet is not a dragon's egg, remember the serpent?
Remember the old tales, how darkness swallows azure
and the land beneath our feet cracks - inadvertant
to this, we make such plans about new myths, a blur
of heavenly angels that will come, for some important

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sonnet #186

There used to be parakeets across this country
They were a splash of color in the corn
The farmers took the musketball and scorn
To drive them to the brink, a stuffed sundry
Along with the carrier pigeon, they all died
And that was supposed to be the end of it
Ask anyone they'll tell you there's no parrot
Native to this country anymore, all died
All died... Except, the pets went wild
And look up into the trees of the city
There the colonies cackle in style
They call them invasive, but they're pretty
And they came here from some emerald isle
The same as any ghosts where we lacked pity

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sonnet #185

Every time I write a book, the bird
Of it takes flight from my little boat
The flood is always here, the lost word
The critical isolation of ideation by rote
Essential to the maintenance of civilization
So from this little ship I send my birds to shore
Or boat to anywhere they land, find ration
It feels greedy to call upon the rainbows for more
The unfinished things return, finding none
And curl in among the elephants and cattle
The strong fliers, the far seeing birds, leave home
They land in distant places, cry out their soul rattle
The trilling insistence that morning sun rises
No matter what floods come, no matter night's swollen surprises

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If you've been enjoying the poetry...

If you've been enjoying the sonnets, please consider sending a paypal donation my way of five, ten, or twenty bucks to help cover some unexpected expenses.

Paypal address is sankgreall gmail com

Thanks.

-Management

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sonnet #184

There is a hole in the center of us all
A passing through of things, a gape
a place where laughter rises and falls
Where sorrow swells and hardens hate
This hole, the more we pour into this hole
The emptier this place in us becomes
It fills with emptiness, until the toll
of the hole pays in everywhere we run.

Let us go, then, to the wild places, where
the lake swells against the reeds
and the trees lean and grow to dip their
branches into the shimmering. I need
Cicada songs in high summer, birds and turtles
basking beside me, we lean back in the world

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sonnet #183

Omens foul I've seen this day, the laughing crows
Two trickster crows, nipping wings, I stopped
They sounded odd, rogue cicadas songs, I chose
to seek them out, the strange rattle, they swooped
Above the cars, saw me true and cackled

Next a dead coyote ruined on the road
The stench of meat, the bones, blood spackled
Then home in heat, the devil's goad
Drove black cats along the path beside

The dry wind whistles in dying grass,
The darkness comes, the gloom abides
The hour grows late, and still I pass

The signs of dead end roads, prayers of fear
Black angels walk the roofs, I hear them near

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sonnet #182

Play child's games and win child's prizes

What is the prize for a life lived well?
Immortality in some aether above the hell?
A brand of identity that is mostly not lies?
If we are to live this life together let us not
Pretend we have to hurt each other, or push
We don't have to stand above the rush
Or flow into the kneel of prayer and thought

Imagine what the God would do if here
Imagine life is more than one life
Imagine all known is a seashell by a pier
Us all deep inside it, all known is the knife
That cuts us free, forces of water, near
Forces of sun, sand grinding on the shell
And we have no sure way to dig out of this well

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sonnet #181

If I draw my soul out for the hungry
divide it up like unbaked dough to rise
Inside the hunger of the holy, to fill their size
If I carve my soul out for the hungry
If I walk to the silent land for the word to come
Where the birdsong is lost in the heat
And blossoms drop down unlit streets
And grass climbs over what I think of as home
And I pull these remnants up to my chin
Open my mouth and pray for rain to come
Abandon the world's yoke, where all bear sins
Abandon the words to these guttural moans
Will I be holy enough to speak again
And when I speak, return, sated deep in the bone


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sonnet #180

I can imagine Hell, but never Heaven

When I think of death, I can picture
A nightmare that extends in structure
to unravel a soul in a comatose prison

But what of heaven? How can the dream
of peace we forget upon awaking let
us imagine an eternity of forget, forget
And would I even be who I think I am?

When I think of what a soul might be
I think of memory, the story of myself
The way I tell myself and you our histories
Forget all loves, for those are stories, shelves
full of books disintegrating, stuck together
All this dust was once the library of Alexander

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sonnet #179

If God wanted you to be rich, they say
He'd make you rich. If you were worthy of his
blessings; that's what they whisper and hiss
When they kneel upon their balconies to pray

Consider the sparrow, how she is dressed so fine
How all her food is free for the taking
Until we cut down all the trees and mowed and raking
Until our owned ground is clean and neat, we'll mine

Some distant topsoil to grow all the seeds
We'll sell them back to sparrows for their feathers
If God wanted sparrows not to meet their needs
By selling their feathers, why make the feathers
So beautiful? God's blessings skip the weeds
God's blessing bends sparrow skin to our leathers

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sonnet #178

Not tonight, not ever, not until the stars burn out
I will not sleep until the work is done
and the work is never done by rise of sun
So I work, and push my eyes and hands to doubt
The meaning of all words, the worth of this
When all that lives and dies is just a beard
of green, a stubble growth, that time reared
And time will shave down with a glacier kiss
And everything we work so hard, and all will
All will... Please, but let me leave this mark
Let me just make a mess that's worth the still
awake of me. I can clean it tomorrow. The lark
of wakefullness was once a childhood thrill
No joy, just terror enough to attempt a melting ark

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sonnet #177

Even when the poem kind of sucks
There's something caught between the teeth
That merited some jive and shuck
Some music, a little bass, a decent beat
Can you dance to the poem? Is there rhythm?
Is there enough of a presence there to spare
A single thought to verse? Holy chrism
of the kings is best when it's not so rare
When nothing is so walled away that divinity
Will not scatter into the weeds as well as fields
Let us all have our moment - let all serenities
of voice and soaring join for even broken wheels:
An engine that barely turns, a mud-packed vessel
That takes great effort to dig out, shovel and wrestle

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sonnet #176

I know the storm is coming but I don't
know when the storm is coming, but it will
I'm supposed to have a plan, and I will
But, right now, I have no plan. I don't
even know what direction to run when the time
to run begins. The bathroom, I guess?
All those pipes are supposed to help, guess
a direction and watch out for glass and time
will tell if I guessed right. And when it passes
The wreckage it leaves? I'll call the insurance
I'll take photographs and beg for bus passes
If there's still bus passes. Is that enough insurance
against it? If the storm is a big one, God passes
the flood down, no savings, no plan, no insurance

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sonnet #175

The tip jar that consumes the world
Exists so owners don't have to pay
So they can tell you it's your say
Whether you make a living wage or
Not. Everyone needs a tip jar, now
We must be kind on Facebook
Get as many people to seek and look
Otherwise when debts and bills grow
When cancer comes, when lost jobs
When sick children, when broken cars
When the month adds up to rob
And no one knows how anyone ever
Made a living in this country before
No one ever has enough, just tips for more

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sonnet #174

They run along the wires above the dogs
If they fall, it's thirty feet to ground
And even there, up there, the dialog
is loud, the angry shouts, the sound
of the frustrated hunters, the warnings.
To get to even one sunflower head, it takes
A courage to face every morning
Because the whole world hunts and slake
their bellies on squirrel meat and bones
The brave leave safety, run to bury
All they need to brace for storms
To starve or race the feathered or hairy
The barking dog, the hawks and swooping falcon:
Grant me a squirrel's courage to brave grimalkin

Sonnet #173

Go to the store and buy a new you

With the right shoes, the right suit
Get a haircut, smile, the past is moot
We can buy a future, buy all brand new
A better job will come with clothes
Buy the classes that you need
Buy the certifications to lead
You can reinvent yourself with just a pose
A shine in the right light, a wink, a nod
Find a new church, pray to a new god
Find a new house in a place, plant roses
Where the ground is bare and new
New things, new places, and new you
The bluebird follows: everything is blue

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sonnet #172

The end of times are here, they're just
not evenly distributed, but look
The trash blown ragged at roadside edge
The people walking, there, how unjust
To them, all dreams lost, can't unlook
at them but say how close is this edge
We glide like ice cubes over life, it's just
That we don't notice how we melt. Look:
The crumbling houses, where the edge
of cities yawn into the kudzu vines, just-
ice thumbs upon the poor, builds more, look:
The empty mine shafts and the lake's edge
Where dead bird bones, a bit dissolved appear
The smog that chokes us out, we disappear

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sonnet #171

Fireflies and certain birds, to me, 

resemble souls, the flash of color
in twilight dark, where cardinals hover
in the green, like discovering the holy:
A whistling meteor of love sought
If bugs can feel a kind of love
If an insect feels more than shove
and push and live and eat and ought
to know the eggs they leave will
be their legacy among the rotting wood
The soul of them, the spark that stills
the hearts of children, gathering good
Dancing in the night grass, they will
clap their hands, and shriek at starlight blood

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sonnet #170

After death, or perhaps ascension,
but likely death, who will rise to fill
the gap we leave? I have some candidates
That seem to carry enough good intention
and good adaptability, and perhaps the will
The raccoon has thumbs, a genius adequate
But such loners, like the octopi, they live
in solitude, mostly, and science demands
collaboration, so I turn to dolphins
Next and think perhaps they'll thrive
From tidal flats as the sea expands
But will they build and think and often
Enough to merit interstellar advancement?
The ants, perhaps, there are so many ants

Or perhaps machines, their factories vent
to recreate this ghost of us, their discernment.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Sonnet #169

I know how to live, but not how to stop,

I wake, I breathe, I fill my mouth with water
The aches and creaks I cultivate and fodder
Keep me grounded, while I close crop
The weeds upon my skin, and scrape
The chaos off that always stinks like empty
Houses filled with rainwater, plenty
of time spent smelling good, all us great apes
Must dress ourselves, and leave the room
We know how to live, it's moving through
The tasks at hand, keeping up the zoom
of everything, maintaining houses (make room
Make room for more life) struggle on to
the next room, the next room, (make room)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sonnet #168

It's spring, high spring, where all the green is true
And all the blossoms break even in deep woods
A walk upon a shaded path, a scent so good
It made me stop and trace the breeze through
To mysteries of vacant copses, shielding trees
What thing, what flower, what bloom is this?
Somewhere in that dense shade a scream of bliss
Exploding in some tiny bloom I cannot see
The passing breeze blows all away and I,
no more certain of any scent but damp
for it rained last night, none left but try
to search the petrichor, the paths of tramps
the sweet rot of vegetation as it dies
Oh, secret flower, oh sacred memory's stamp

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sonnet #167

Poetry hides in poverty, but it isn't our fault
We're doing everything we can to whisper
What we need into the holy vespers
It's just that spirit pays as much as ought
By the community that holds up churches
We live in the age of beggar kings and cabbages
Made gourmet, where all the ravages
Of age creep in without medicine to purchase
Because you say that we chose this
We all felt the spirit move inside our hearts
And I refused to drown it in brute work, bliss
But to be the ascetic of stutters and fits and starts

Poetry hides in poverty, and it isn't our fault
It's yours for pretending we ought to halt

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sonnet #166

To capture all the butterflies of thought
And etherize them gently, that their wings
Will last forever, delicately precious things
That tatter just a little, just from being caught
And fray at edges while time marches
Until a thousand years from now an excavation
of a catalog reveals a puff of dust, a nation
distilled into piles of colored starches
all in piles below the pins, where a librarian
once placed a name, a title, a date
Never betray these words, whereon
the butterflies all lie in glorious state
Or if you forget your self, misuse their clarion,
Deny the breath was here, thyself abate

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sonnet #165

Every spring, when blooms return, I think

This might be last, perhaps the storm
perhaps a cell, falling star, a dread worm;
car accident three blocks away, sink
the teeth of one car into another's cheek, devour
the passenger, damage the drivers, rushing a light
at a left turn, nothing will ever make it all right
but every spring the flowers swell and pour
And push so hard against the dry and cold
The green leaves grow, the day is finally ours
And in the rush, the wreck, a flash too bold
The sirens come too late, the mourning hours
among the flowers, a man just 24 years old
Every flower smells so sweet, every note sours

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sonnet #164

In a thousand years, there will be coral

Kept in glass, where automated tides
Roll in and back, and keepers keep so careful
To preserve the specimens that bide
Away the centuries, unable to evolve
to handle modern oceans, trapped in glass
forever, the albatross we bear, the whole
of them that's left a display in a crass
amusement park, where children are brought
to see the gorgeous dance beneath black light
Kids will be told how this is all that's left
Then, leave for the gift shop, buy bereft

Friday, March 17, 2017

Coming to the TWIG BOOKSHOP on Saturday, in San Antonio, TX

Joe M. McDermott & Friends
Fancy Tea and Speculative Fiction Authors
Saturday, March 18, 2017
2:00-4:00 pm.
Joe McDermott is a popular local author of many Science Fiction books.

Join Joe and his friends to celebrate his latest endeavors with his friends: 

Stina Leicht, Cold Iron

Martha Wells, Cloud Roads and Serpent Sea
  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sonnet #163

Bloom if you must, but know it is risky
Late frosts sweep through and blow it all down
The insects come and lay eggs around
Based on the smell, the borers briskly
Burrow inside baby peaches and plums
And everything will be lost, all fruit
Fallen, rotten, malformed, new shoots
devoured, diseases wake up in the spring
Energy blooming is vigor that's lost
When it's time to fight the enemy host
The chompers, mosaics, and borers, and things
Big things and little things, all come to the feast
Here come the monsters, here come the beasts
Bloom if you must, and in blooming, risk defeat

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sonnet #162

Give up before it gets too late to stop
The dream before it starts, just work
Just punch the clock and never shirk
The masters' will. Consume their slop.
And when the darkness comes, don't dream
The dreams will only show you what
Will never be; all doors stay shut
Keep eyes closed until clocks scream
All ceilings of glass, when shattered,
Will reign down pain upon the rest
Hurt no one, stay low, lower is better
Where no one knows you. It's best
To play the game, immune to pain
Immune to joy, relax in golden chain

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sonnet #161

The thing about the dog is this: I knew

The moment I saw her I knew who she was:
My dog, forever, and always stay true
To that moment of insight, seen in the laws
Between the laws, into and through
For time is a jewel, not unlike a fish tank
A solid that forms from the illusion of now
And moments come, a young pup with thanks
In her heart, for both of us instantly know 
The vision of life, growing old together
Will be, always us, until all shadows
Enjoined, entwined, and meant for each other
A man and his dog, a flash through the cage walls
At cosmic truth: This is my dog, unto ends and all

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sonnet #160

The part that no one tells you about catastrophe
There is panic, sure, and shock where you don't
think this is really happening, a synechdoche
emerges out of a mental epiphany, where notes
gather in the brain, and a piece of the terror
becomes a moment of joy in awe, the bones
of joy and wonder carrying human foolish error
wrapped in a gauze of fear and pain, the stones
collapse, the levy breaks, the volcano burps
The plane is going down, down, down, also
It means something greater, it also hurts
But it means something greater, cosmic glow
enflames the knowledge of the mortal spectacle
Laugh and feel a grateful glimpse beside sepulchral

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sonnet #159

We cannot save the bees so let's build bees
It's easier just to make a tiny robot drone
Than to change how we plant trees
Changing how we farm, we field, we home
Better just to build a better bee
It will be battery operated, require jobs
Factories to build it, refine it, see
the workers lining up to turn the knobs
And lawyers will protect the patents
And truckers will drive the bots to fields
Where salesmen set up contracts and latent
economic investments unlock on fortune's wheel
Wait for the man come round to release new bots
It's better this way, plastic buzzing dot to dot.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sonnet #158

Make your own things if you can
The manufacturing has degraded
Nothing is meant to last. I'm jaded
I know, but it's true. The wingspan
Of the common angel has diminished
until the bones are showing under feathers
And even slightest weights are tethers
To a point where no one's ever finished
Just thrust out of the window, and pray
The wind is strong today. Make your own
If you can. It takes a plan, supplies, stay
in the house a while and dedicate ground
To build your own, unimported, harbors gray
never dropped, no management bound

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Universal Laboratory

Currently, there are stringent regulations and rules in place to protect interstellar objects from contamination by earth-based organisms, either single or multi-cellular. The scientists studying the water of Mars do not wish to contaminate the sample that might contain evidence of life with life. At some point, though, we do know what needs to happen: Colonization. The universe is a laboratory of wonder and amazement, and there comes time to start fiddling with things. You see, all known and verified life forms in the entire universe are located on one floating rock, and, more specifically, upon the smear of soil and air that skims across the surface along with the sloshing jostle of sea that slips around the top of massive tectonic plates. We are one giant volcano away, one nuclear winter, one asteroid, one broken Paris Accord away from potentially ending all life in the universe, period. Not just our own, but all life. This is the only place we know there is life.

For this reason, I question the decision to focus on interplanetary exploration without the notion of any terraforming, at all. There was serious discussion of how to terraform Venus, for example, by Carl Sagan, who suggested releasing genetically-modified bacteria into the upper atmosphere of the planet to eat through and shift the atmosphere into something more habitable to life, to permit terraforming to happen. Mars, a rock devoid of surface water, seems a poor candidate for life as we know it in our forested, grassy, suburbs. But, life is pernicious and takes root at the base of deep sea vents and at the top of the Himalayan range. The sort of life that is possible in a Martian atmosphere will emerge or not, if enough seed life is planted. I say, start throwing the life forms - the tiny ones - all over our stellar town. See what we can get moving. See what terraforming we can make happen on Venus and Mars. The multi-cellular, complex organic life that could be the legacy of earth is currently limited to just one little blue ball. Our situation on earth has never been more precarious. It's time to make sure that life has a better chance of continuing, even if it isn't us continuing.

Spread life. Terraform to support life. If it is human life, that's great for us, but the first step is getting a massive, complex eco-system of single-cellular life forms to pave the way for the massive, complex eco-system of some sort of multi-cellular, complex organisms. We cannot guarantee that they will eventually form cities, become anthropologists, and recreate our marvelous, mysterious, nihilistic dance with creation. But, where there's life, there's hope. That's what they say, anyway.

Make more life. There are planets near us that are indifferent to their status as sterile labs, and form a naked canvas for the organic fingerpainting smears of Darwin's God.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Laughing at the End of the World #2

In a national tragedy, a two-seater Cessna crashed into the Arlington Cemetery in a possible terrorist attack. President Trump personally visited the scene of the terrible crash to oversee the investigation and recovery. The Cessna pilot was found dead almost immediately. Determined to get to the bottom of the tragedy, he kept directing the rescue crew towards finding body after body. He gave his unfiltered comments to the press.

"This despicable, cowardly attack on our veterans," he said, "This loser terrorist and his entire nation of... I'm hearing Delaware? Is that a country? They love me in Delaware. I'm huge in Delaware! They elected me by a huge margin! Except for all the fraud. Well, we're building a wall around Delaware and Joe Biden is going to pay for it because of this cowardly attack. This despicable, cowardly attack on our sacred veterans. We have been digging up victim after victim, and there are hundreds, maybe thousands of veterans impacted by this radical liberal elite Cessna attack!"


Friday, January 20, 2017

Laughing at the End of the World

After the parties let out, but before Monday, when day 1 truly began for our latest president, the elderly man decided to relax like many elderly folks who don't read books. He rummaged around until he found a puzzle in a back closet. It was a tiger puzzle, and this pleased him. Tigers are winners, the best, number one. He opened the box and dumped the pieces out across the table, and started trying to put them together. Quickly he became frustrated and began cursing about losers and the worst puzzle. His daughter heard him and came in to see him.
"Hey, big guy. I hear you debating over here. You aren't on twitter, are you?"
"This loser puzzle. It is the worst, a failed puzzle. All the pieces are orange. There's no black pieces. I blame Obama for stealing all the black stripes. Those loser liberals! This puzzle is rigged against me!"
His daughter looked around at the puzzle, and the picture on the box. "That's awful, dad! Here let's get someone to throw those pieces. Look, I put some Legos in your desk so you can show the Senators a model of your Wall. Don't worry; I made a Mexican supporter buy the Legos for you."
"This tiger puzzle is rigged against me!"
Swiftly, she snatched up his phone and the puzzle box. Outside, she called a ma I over to clean the mess. The maid was of Mexican origin, and this was considered typical, as she was accustomed to being invisible in the room with the powerful man. The maid, carefully recruited by his daughter, was over forty.
The President's daughter went to the head of the kitchen and handed the box to him.
"Never ever buy Frosted Flakes, ever again," she said, "or you will be fired."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sonnet #157

I have a line of jars with water
Some with canes and some with roots
I change the water, wait for green shoots
To rise above the lip, sons and daughters,
Rise up through glass, and green with me,
I will sprout, too, as I am old and gathering
Barnacles in my bones and mossy smothering
Together we will lay down in a trench and see
The glory of the spring from beneath the ground
Where all that grows from us rises in bunches
And we seek all soils, all waters, unbound
Sons and daughters, you till until the hunches
Hurt, the scratches weep a little, aye, but the sound
Of songbirds in spring, the garden green lunches.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

THE FORTRESS AT THE END OF TIME

It's out now. If you pre-ordered,  I thank you. If you did not, I encourage you to do what you can to get your hands on the novel. Libraries are wonderful. Request it at yours, today!



And, if you want to help spread the word, all help is appreciated. In these noisy times, every little thing that helps art along is a good thing. Tell your friends if you like it, or if you hate it, or if you don't care either way. Talk about books. It's important to keep that part of ourselves alive as we stare down what's coming later this week, when what we always thought America was becomes something else, entirely.

Good luck, and godspeed, and eat art, make art, talk art.


Friday, January 13, 2017

I'm Around...

Recently, The Brazen Bull's Charlie Chipman was fortunate enough to get the chance to sit-down with Tor's author Joe M. McDermott, and talk about his upcoming book, The Fortress at the End of Time. Below is the transcript of the interview in its entirety. Charlie and Joe talk about everything from what is about the craft of writing that intrigues Joe to the so-called 'Dream Salesman' and their unfortunate customers. Joe's newest novel is set to be published on January 17th, 2017. To pre-order a copy of The Fortress at the End of Time click here Pre-Order The Fortress at the End of Time, and to learn more about the book, Joe, and Tor, click here Tor Publishing. Enjoy!

(CC) First, before we dive into your book, FORTRESS AT THE END OF TIME, I want to know about you, the author. Tell me about yourself, who is Joe McDermott?    

(JMM) I'm pretty sure I'm human. I'm a pudgy, middle-aged white guy from suburban Texas, mostly. 

(CC) Why writing? What is it about the craft that drew you in? When did you realize this?

(JMM) I wish I had a good answer, but I don't. I write because I don't have the power to change the world. It's either writing or standing on a street corner and shouting at passing cars. I don't feel like writing is nearly as effective, but at least I don't have to leave the house to do it. 
continued here: http://www.thebrazenbull.com/single-post/2017/01/11/Joe-M-McDermott-Interview
Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Joe M. McDermott?
That’s who I am when I write fantasy novels. I’m going by Joe M. McDermott, these days, in part because I am tired of people I have known for years calling me “Jim.”
Your new novella, The Fortress at the End of Time, will be published by Tor.com in January 2017. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
Larry Nolen, of OF Blog of the Fallen, recommended a book to me, that I loved, and which led me to another book, which I also loved. The first book was The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati, an old Italian Surrealist anti-war book. On the Amazon recommended page, there was also a fascinating book called The Opposing Shore by Julian Gracq, a French classic of SF. I loved them both, and thought about how they were better military fiction than the military fiction I was reading, because it was more about dealing with the idea of the military, the way the bureaucracy and culture press down on the soul and psyche, than about any great acts of violence.
continue here: https://civilianreader.com/2016/12/12/interview-with-joe-m-mcdermott/

Joe M. McDermott Guest Post–“The Writer Industrial Complex”

There is the writing, then there are the publishers, and then there are the consultants to writers and publishers. I refer to the third category as the “Writer Industrial Complex” and they are in the business of selling services that may or may not help books and stories along. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that this industry exists, and it can provide valuable services at critical stages of a writer’s practice. However, there is always a dark side where there’s lots of hope, a limitless supply of wannabes with money, and no accountability whatsoever. You see, the Writer Industrial Complex can always place the blame for your failure to implement their system successfully upon the feet of the phrase “Write a better book”. There are very few meaningful professional standards, and no licenses to lose. If poor student performance and bad reviews build up, it doesn’t take much to burn the website down and start over.

continue here: http://www.locusmag.com/Roundtable/2017/01/joe-m-mcdermott-guest-post-the-writer-industrial-complex/

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sonnet #156

The killing freeze browned all the citrus leaves
It wiped lantanas down to brown like baking sun
like drought and sun, but it was cold, the trees
so cold, they broke the cells, lost to brown

They say it only happens every couple years
So fight to bring them back to life and harvest
What comes when the spring rain rears
And all the heat returns in summer, the hottest

Aye, we brace, we lose, and only a few degrees
Of chill in the wind, a very gentle dip from wind
The tiniest of moments in the greatest forces we see
a subtle shift in the air, a rock face fallen, a sin

A single sin, a single tailpipe adding heat to sky
The threshold is so small, and all the trees die

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sonnet #155

In fourteen lines or less, I shall explain,
Why we will never know if color is real
It was not discovered until the prism's grain
Extended out the ray of light like skinning peels
Until then we believed all things had a color,
But now we know all things reject the pigment
That we think they are, it bounces all over
With other hues devoured. It's a figment
of imagination, then, a flicker in the eye
A way to tell a shape from shape upon the plain;
At night, for all the universe is night, color dies
and there is only shades of black and grain
like ancient television screens distorting
We know it as we see it, a convenient sorting.