Random, or non-thematically related poems, written after my last collection, Rattus. Several are in the Jumping Off series, poems that are titled with lines or parts of lines that ended earlier poems. This page also features ten episodes of Bride to Be, an early medieval romance.




Oil painting of restaurant scene with orb bursting in



Dispel the center from the story

Bookticipating that the character Ravense

after lunch finishes and excuses for sparse attendance

scatter and reconvene retelling

(then why not skip to the end?)

This One, who in uppishness started badly

This One, who at length seemed finally learning

Ravense, Ravense, the harpers line the street

And maidens in their mourning sing

And slow the hooves of horses ring

The cortege drawn where fainting green

Dies from the tree and all lies shadowed

Thy bier comes nigh the sentinel of thorn

Drawn, drawn to the sea cliff’s brink

A thousand of Cloravens fallen before

Their bones besmoothed to jewels on the shore


They wear, they see themselves in photos wearing

Habits for the ages, accursing, made nostalgic

for archival reference, stares the brown-toned

past bearing gravity to touch like a poisoned thing

And leave its burn pattern on the skin

A coat, his, an odd charcoal weave, white wiry hairs

That curl from the nap

A chance at irritation, leavings on thighs and forearms

little proofs

Of contact, hiding themselves on raincoaty-smelling macs

Or hers, her funeral suit, soft filmreel gloss on her Lancôme cheeks

Rain-misted pallid neck, lined, lined eyes

The character she plays skips trailing a red balloon

Presses her schoolgirl hat with a hand, backs slowly marveling

At cathedral spires

Lips parted in a smile of secret delight

She collides with him, he misses the shot of the passing motorcade

They spat, but how can he suspect, her father is King




Oil Painting cameo of two goldfish talking

Thought It Mattered


He has a friend in a bowl

The sort you make at the mini-mall

On your travels, in your exiles

Cautious cradled on your hotel bed

Met with, savvy one, in the aisles of commerce

Flirty one, forward one, the head portion swings

A wink, if the creature had eyelids

Saucy, why not, she dwells in the soup

Yes, her…or him…and the plastic arena

China-made cheap and portable

Gravel, a food packet taped inside

To make this assignee most comfortable

Pal of mine, while you wait in your bag for the dust to settle

A six-pack of bottled water to avoid the chlorine

I will tell you your name

Together they bubble off the minutes

In dialogue, the television substituting

As it would with any human


A laboratory where the expert

Knows he is there behind her and wants results

But cool, as DNA spotters ought to be

She speaks without taking her eye from the piece

“I’m sorry,” she says, and a long silence stretches

But music, of course, a thin ocarina

Three beats, that may be the slams of a door

“Back to the drawing board”



Esmerelda—as she is a gaudy girl

Her fishtail gown cinched and golden hued

But boy or girl, voluptuous and goggle-eyed

“If we could find Hello Dolly, you and I”

Would sing along

He begins to think…could he find My Fair Lady

His problems would be solved

“Esmerelda, these forensic shows are all alike”

Some mistake, and they’ll discover the cackling prisoner

Is the malefactor, after all




Digital image of turtle

World On


You picked up the habit preposterous

Invited it to octopus upon you like a SciFi nemesis

You would rather walk around in this condition

Than learn what your face looks like now


Does the word preposterous seem about to cover it?

Would we coin cockamamity, cell by cell

Brain-slaughteration, poppycocking shamity

Well, the boastful Knower of All Things

was your friend

Your wizard of scorn and science

Your mentor of axes the world is thought to turn on


As it does

We have one life to live, but we are entertained

The above your fortune, a cute saying

Inspiration, as an influencer’s craft page

Etched (you can learn to do this too) on a pretty

polished rock, a waxy chunk of pink granite

meteored from the planet’s heart

Eonic history concerns you not

And when the subject cracks the cookie

There again

Hera laughs the first syllable, and her face turns grim



Your worst fears will come to pass

The perfect stance of peeping round the corner

Foreseeing the next bright explosion

Blocking others from the exit, ahead of the possibility of wrong

It has done nothing but buy up all your time

You thought neglect and wishfulness would

Harvest for you deaths and breakdowns

With no blame in your trembling vocal cords

You would sorrow a bit, over opportunities squandered




Pastel and ink drawing of pig and handler

Remains of Your Legacy


Your problem is a simple one

A constant inside fret, the kind that’s played upon

But a good person is…chin up, Winsome, you

Maybe a compliant person

In event of blackballing, a quiet person

Name calling, but never accomplice exposing

Can you divide a pie in quarters

Eat the custard save the crust for later

Be your online twin, a sales agent to flog for you…zed

Memories no longer New In Box

Need taking up a little at the cuff

Initiatives restamped Not Good Enough

Looking closely at your ticket stub you find

You’d booked your cruise to Diamond Head

But the fine print spells it “damned”

You’d thought a daily glut on the deep-fried

Would drop you at the zenith of the day

Your newsfeed headlines “NASDAQ’s Wild Ride”

It nags at you, and the nag is lack of chemical

Comfort there will be a younger, handsomer mask

Of a man’s face on the backside of a pig

Suspicions fiber optics compose your wig

And every hair antenna to an agent’s phone

He sits and plays Bejeweled while another of your cryptos

Is slotted into the tomb

It’s his embarrassment that matters, he the little fellow

Who suffers most

For that sake you would let it all be snuffed and stricken

All life from the cringing earth




Pencil drawing of detached face and brain

Adverse Possession


Dear cerebral cortex

Hors de combat. When we received the news

We were saddened and shocked

There is not much in the literature

One or two articles after long search

Found describing therapies

Not met with any great success

If it won’t offend, or make you feel superstitious

(For that’s the question, isn’t it? Can you identify

what you feel, once becoming witless?)

And if our concern brings you no comfort

We are so sorry to have disturbed you

On your deathbed

Boggled…let us state your condition softly

Other brains are in the room

Some on social media call the plain naming

Insensitive to the sufferer

They prefer that one says stymied, or at sixes and sevens

We fear these euphemisms give false hopes

We want to know what is your own idea

As to disposal of your properties

You may have a debt of unpaid rent

You may wish to make arrangements

For the boarding of your hippocampus

You may feel fatalistic

Not properly thanked

Decide the lymphocytes have never done their part

You may say let them go to hell

They’ve taken their share of healthy cells

Temporal lobes woof and tweet…settle your accounts

Reasoning mind, what testament will you leave behind

Some embezzler stuffing cash in pockets

Documents in shredders

Tosses your juicy parts in the dumpster




Oil Painting of cloaked figure in abstract background

Any Random


Bats that came with the house

Obvious, it seems to you, their mouselike

Bodies dig and ratchet, gain rabid access

Ogle sonically the misfit window frame

Nighttime when in helpless longitude you dream

Fang at you under the hairline leaving an itch

Beads of foam string from your mouth and water terrifies

So will it be, the first you suspect of it


Killing yourself over grips relaxed and setbacks

Amnestyville horror after forty years of error

Isn’t it the same little camera lens, and isn’t it time you

Shake the cobwebs and the pinkeye and admit the spying

Urge forgetfulness of God, whose over-the-shoulder glance at you

Says heart attack


Too bad, or more in keeping with the drone of you, who cares?

Oh ho! Who does, who does, why aren’t these words

Bye-byes, if not your bio, why aren’t you gone…?


Hey there! Say there! Adios!

Still you want solutions mooted and shot down by you

The bats, let’s have them recur, without immunity

Smog, was it not seventies smog, that kept their tiny lungs pure?




Digitalized photo of green face

Neither Do You


Take no recovery for granted ignorant of

specifics a disinterested organ in your gut

Adipose in makeup, loyal as oil in support of fatly rights

hunkers deep in hospitality, coat for a winter of nuclear strength

Fact-checks the assertion of classes among colonial biospheres

Asseverates that independently the lardish parts are well-endowed

Contrast the sort of fancy-ass who thinks too much, and works too hard

How likely is it you delude yourself overconfident

that impulse can be thought, hating to imagine…

But it’s the leptin telling you shut up

No, say again, trap open, mental quibbles keeping mute

Liver has its agenda, and bones call the revolution

And no one shares intelligence with the brain

Hating then, to imagine all your parts connected only by a sheathing

Of flabby skin

It threatens to turn out after all, that pheromonal signals pass

Y’ello, winks the M & M and the Oreo, the Ruffles sack

Tertiary-stage salt and grease, but it’s the hormones’ gig

Brace for this…any slice of tissue can be cultured in a lab

Realistically, losses ask for cutting, so it’s the DNA’s tag

At which point the awkward coalition seems a cry for help

But if the TV sharks would make a virtual mirror

An Anthropocene age might end in self-admiring

Fitting clothes may feel a little tight

Youthful cheeks, and yet a putrid scent




Charcoal and pastel drawing of leaping figure

Even Heard


Nothing recently radio silence almost a fig leaf of the past

Your old friend with his bags of heirloom seeds

Took them to the farmer’s market, Sharpied a sign saying FREE

Bought tickets on the very plane they grounded

for yawing side-to-side, nose up, nose down

Stricken passengers allowed to board with hidden knives

Blood-messages on their forearms write, THY WILL BE DONE


To wake at the sound of a handvac

charged extra for spending the night

Used to example a displaceable person

Straphangers kept on their tiptoes tightening

in naked air the forensic thread willing

with maloccult rapine so red

All witness sweeping a barren corner

Will yield more cavingly than blind Iocasta

With no wish to broach recording

Animation lurches frame by stop-emotion frame

Surplus figures buzz-beamed into posability

mouth set phrases with the parts that move

All the brows and jawlines botoxed smooth

At the pinnacle, okay with Dr. Feelgood’s promise

He lied about the other thing, he lies about this

Hawks around in feathers of a vulture

As mower blades spit flesh that hangs on fences




Oil painting of figures and volcanic lake

An Encounter


Memory teaches us data contours the planet

We thought we had minds of our own and there

In fiber and grit, in fountaining microbeads

Unwanted papers sticking to our hands

Things that mix themselves among the needed

Photoprint generic family members with the better smiles

Of thinner people

Alba collect themselves on hooks by doors and

Days traced by routes trail the cloud of parts of us

Racking miles of presences untallied, skin and hair

And halls that lead to stairs

Dollars when we give them up turn crime on its ear

Make borrowers live on the canny dodge and bleat of pathos

Poverty live on barter and squatting at your house

Cash money given up for mental constructs

I think, and if I think of shopping, therefore

I lose no time, make dictatorial minor covetings

Or well-divided from the minute past

Am not the loser…cause, no more to do with that

Remind me, speaker, is there a word for the reason

Banks won’t lend me or another of my identities

The credit I have coming

I am anyone buying cashmere and the latest heel

Crafted to be shelved and sardonically revered

Forgotten treks in forgotten weathers yester-jingling-years

Oh, I’m forgetting another thing, speaker

Can you tell me a story of courage and odyssey


All of them, any

Those I don’t know, I find

And foretell the fate of marquee names

Plug in predictive probabilities of Things


Tell me comfort then, impersonal implacable

Floods and famines buildings falling

Figures burning

None now living know




Oil painting of houses in primary colors



Start at the threshold

alive to American anonymity the subject steps

reeling inches of play onto a leash

Wretched elder of small dogs with matted fur, combing of

will argue for the owner no more sympathy than neglect

Rage like Lear if he were less the white patriarch

Sodden and sneered at by fools even for creeping to the errand

asked today, tomorrow to recompense none of faults and failures


Another thinks of highways and side lanes in paradimensional towns

The old imposed on present days, to you sighs in color-enhanced decay

Beauty, there is beauty, false and wishful beauty, in


Fleeing twenty times in dreams with hands doing practiced things

Bound to, is anyone bound to others, or are we all free

Foot it down the street to the car, pack groceries

Changes of clothes, and speed, speed


If it’s dying around you, diplomas and wedding drag

Memories of framing Human Shape before Yawning Valley

Memories of laughing

Give unease, pleasedly they curl a finger

And bid you, “Sit here”

and can’t restore the theater cocoon

Puppets who dispensed advice or pounced

Cracked-headed, all more high-tech Ozes

And the short clip of the funnel cloud

Now be ruled by the curtain not the man

The slipping dogs of war have you at a 30% chance

Of LOLing, “So this happened”





Oil painting of tree and arch with sea view

Fortune’s Refugees


Whether this is the saga

[This Is the Saga, the announcer announces,

when the solo flute ends and the violins swell]

of three generations, in quest of freedom, unless

pioneers, then the Civil War factors

or the title asks for a sensitive treatment, of WWII…writer?

This is the Saga of Three Generations

Mother Fortune arrives, she adopts the name

Yes, call them the Fortunes, the novel begins

to have concept. “What good is your church, your God?”

shouts the son

The concertina that belonged to his grandfather

packed at the bottom of a trunk, transported

through shipwreck and combat, hoarded unhockable

through sixteen-hour shifts, punching of shoe leather

and the Blizzard of ’88

the sad death in childbirth and the tenement fire

“Don’t I owe it to Hezekiah? No! I’ll never be a musician.

I’m going to be an actor, Ma!

Don’t you understand? This is not your world! It’s mine!”


The Jazz Age rises and a daughter wants to marry an outsider

I forbid you

“Well, fine,” she tells her father. “I won’t. We’ll raise our child

our own way. You don’t want me under your roof? I’ll go—

I’m going now.”

“No, wait!”

Hard times and crimes, an empire grows trafficking sin

Twenty years and war is won, now a plague stalks the young, yet

When she raises her eyes, factory girl, prostitute

volunteer nurse at last, reformed and refined

“Papa, do you know me? It’s your Anne-Marie.”

He burbles. Forgive me.

The end. You have been listening to





Oil painting of abstract square pattern

Away Like Dust


Several announcements that the hour was at hand

were backburnered, the dare administered had been

not to face down a seasonal inflatable

but to let the season pass with a period

as advertisements give ample warning

to contemplate on a sofa safety

or safely…doing something…

It seems unnecessary

Saving your own life in any given moment will always

seem unnecessary

And the task of the turkey checklists into suburban sprawl

think of organic, slimmer birds spared antibiotics

Think of cruelty, think of local employment

Think of new ways to boil in oil, or corrode tissue in salt

Think of what the rich do the cutting-edge and the pure do

Think of oysters soaking sewage

mutinous system failures on floating

party buses, stuffed with puking drunks

harsh bosses contracted by contractors

desperate crews untutored tidy errors

overboard a severed foot or smashed skull

the touch, the essence, in your holiday swill

Think then of pearl onions and celery

Croutons in a bag

Game hens…are game hens like foie gras, precious and evil

your own to adorn your satisfied plate

your own skeleton of a living thing picked clean

there was the bird to save, the fragile tree-skirt

the blinking LEDs skitter towards you like a beggar

you’d supposed the calendar was bedrock and not a net

repaired each year by fishers with patient needlework





Oil painting cameo of dark figures on off-white ground

To Terms


If it was forgiveness come for

Or, if a jar of minutes had been stationed

where a centerpiece might go

And every staged remark of the conversation

got its candy heart with a slogan

bitcher, loser, lame-o, snob, martyr, gloater

nuisance to others, at sum, unloved

tossed in

then the house would have its ballroom floor mosaic


if it was forgiveness, if it was

like some debt of paper notes that could be paid

if skins were shed by a blistering episode

that left no trace and newly made

sorry…she might be sorry, devoid

she and he and they and we

of inequality, of future sense


It isn’t clear the last word spoken would be forgiveness

Thinking of confessional wrongs and circumstances

More, when less your angel advocates in language

That upon the gelatin soul stamps jealousy




Pastel drawing of figures on red-orange ground

Spread Your Arms


You’ll go out on a monitor

Hiccupping with your backbone wishing

for a final arch. Your chest cavity slumbers uninspired

Ten nervous snacks swallowed in the last hour

Your global gut draws its own gravity

“What goes on?” a staffer asks

The feeling is bubbly like root beer

The feeling is fear, like money on an island

sunk below the flood tide…that is all they’ll tell you

The feeling is retributive, victims sworn

to wayback themselves to the last good moment

And mark you with a dagger in the next

when the mathematics of elimination spot you

motioning with the notion you can dance

The feeling is rejoicing, of the most Bacchanalian asteroid

anticipation the feeling is peeve and irritation


“You don’t mean you haven’t called someone?”

Giggle. Hand over mouth. Eyes crinkle.

“Maybe he’ll get up again.”

“Well, I’m game. Let’s watch awhile.”


But then. You may rise, peer over one

shoulder and another, scurry to the toilet

and carry on like nothing

Your lips may pucker in, the way you’ve learned

to express the weight when no one cares for you

They lose, you have friends; and yet, suckers trust

Smart guys knew it for a sham

Can’t be harmed




Oil painting of melon head figure and archer in keyhole

If Only Others


Outed from bark made mulch by thermal shock

the beetle takes a chill that starts a frail cough

a worm’s meandering charts the tops

an infestation census-taker

feels the math mid-century young adulthood’s

unexpected death on meeting the proboscis

of a predatory wasp synthesis in skin and bone

above susception once and arteries of plants

the solidity of mountains

the temptation to belong at cost


On a day in November

Thunder but isn’t thunder

when the bowling ball rolls down the lane

at EST am we’re still in details and coffee

email then injustice, nature’s atoms her refusal

first she wants them

now, of nows, so many find themselves

stalled and suing for permission

This frenzy kills a number of bureaucrats

minor officers and supervisors of egress

exactly those desperate eager who’d wanted to rise

on the strength of this

their terrible willingness


the fingers on your hand take

random fiberglass found melted

and must, for what it touched

wield almost mythic poison

you wish to die a succubus

a kiss from you destroy them




Pastel and ink drawing of woman's face

Note of Glass


Both ordained to meet had threaded

each themselves the Past to the Place

hers the soul collecting ants and mosses

his unfreed, the patriarch beheaded

affected lineage in unexpected ways

of cashing necks stuck out for losses

caps to wear and choices wedded

to debt…debt to a woman, unpaid

by trillions, from the last shareholders’ purses

short walks from safety eyed by ruffians

style explodes among the drab

the brilliant thrilling cobalt velvets

(not impossible to rhyme but tough one)

animal familiars scorn the psychic flab

no respecter of feckering can’t-help-its

modern deitesses’ pedestals in dustbins

now heroes need to prove to her they can

no more togethering because it sells best

Partnership gives parity to A and B

Almost a combat employing seconds and thirds

And winners wrestle next with personality

Sadly actual, the draw of a dullard’s downspeech

While she on her side gets tuffet, whey, and curds

Things done without, on his side, mourned for howlingly

A wilderness of methane goes between

Steppingstones formed of plastic ash McTurds

Culminous trysts of damaged trust and celibacy






Pastel drawing of two figures seated



Soldiers, duty dull   dull and foul

made penalty by bouts of deluge it is no use

to say the farmers need it

we’ll all of us eat the fruits

but today is different, the other asks, how then…

For, don’t we? put a thousand prisoners to the sword

But yet we drink and bathe in the waters below

Drink the wine of grapes and eat the corn

The insurrectionists, the border wolves…

the gods of conquered peoples live, the priests say

if they are worshipped, and…

Recall that man who stirred the coals

thinking the fire gone out—

You prattle, but devils have ears, answers the elder

it won’t dispel the drought, I grant you

I feel the gods are deaf to us and laugh

Rain on the prisoners to give them ease…see, that one is dead

the leather that binds his wrists weighed slack

If the Lawmaker felt mollified by the Emperor’s harsh hand…

well, you’ll see, it will be another sickly spring

when the seed sprouts and withers, it is in that

we see their sport. I suppose, whom the gods would destroy

they first make hope




Pastel drawing of figure walking

Ask Yourself Expert


Ask anyone who knew you

then were you the mildewed sponge retentive

of cultured damp ask yourself expert

on passing bucks pop-psych books

you liked the idea of being in touch, liked touching

on subjects au courant liked the bodies

mangled for rockets in The Right Stuff

liked swinging graceless but not locked

as now your limbs’ tabetic walk

winds prophecy backwards

to your high school clique


they didn’t go there in those days

but you did


liked sending out for things delivered

playing host at parties given

by business friends consumed

rhino tusk and tiger gland attained

the will and secret strength of kings

or demi-godly potentates


found a doctor who let this be

took his fee, permitted doubt wrote

down for you rare it is, strict odds on your side

and what is possible and what is not said

another truth we see the unexplained

for what is mortal is not divine

he shrugs




Oil painting cameos of male and female blue masks

 Male and Female


You might be nothing much

a hatchback human utilitarian, cute thing

a nice or not nice

who says I’m not

named with a name without a hope for yourself

the profile of a popular young’un

a ranch hand from a feet up, TV on

waiting out the ninth month harlequin, a chase, a wyatt

a movie kid, precocious little mensa-ling, a riley or a jess

worried chastity and reins on, helen, mary ann

you came with a best-by date, and it doesn’t alter


he recalled

she would enter the bathroom when they’d got that close

Would you hate it if I had my neck done?

Not that it’s your business, ha ha, if I do or don’t

an idea of separate estates of what it is to date

came back and he began to think, if I had a bedroom of my own

if we spent money on the house, he said

we aren’t spending money, she said

but…your neck

oh, christ


he forgot her neck

he forgot buttoning her jeans

while she held her diaphragm sucked into her ribs

he forgot that she joked and fell to anger

he did not forget no place to put a foot

but split he doubted accident would cross his path



she remembered laudatory words

the boy-auteur who’d given her a walk-on

this large fat woman acting her only role

by critics’ circles spoken of for prizes

she from a girlfriend’s corner seeing the poor soul

roll out under lights course tears at a false son’s


the tears were physical pain

the producer cracked wise whispering in her ear obscene

if they’d known him

the good folk tut-tutting when the fat woman died

would still have hired the man and cast her aside




Ink drawing of blue mask-like faces

That You Love


I mean nothing. I said nothing…

Now I’m stuck having to explain the reason

Reason, little bunny, love is gutter-dredge, not heritage

Well, the way you fetishize the phrase who cares

There’s no legitimacy when you’re crafting dolls

Tough break you’re croaking on your pond

You salivate at someone’s feeling bad

Or it’s fealty, loyalty to a suit

The suit is diamonds, the queen your card, candidate

And when the dopiness of that makes you shunt it to the back

As the ditty goes, if you can’t inspire love

Sing it…every one of us needs

Sing it…every one of us needs

Sell it, when you’re singing in your car, and you wouldn’t believe


Enough is understood

there are bits and pieces of you everywhere…

bright dog ears of paper lodged on the floor

bits, I mean, the future you couldn’t read, canny know-it-all you were

when you reassured your actions-speak-for-themselves inductees

But hey, I don’t hold the puzzle piece, I just shape the fit

Old filthy talk and the girls aren’t patient with it

Witnesses, the line about fear never written

A soon-to-implode-in-cellular-decay Malibu Ken

must by the rabid skunk got bitten

It’ll come out, just when things get interesting

It’ll come back, just when they drop you in your hole

It’ll be a sad discovery for your impoverished descendants

All the phones you sold

All the friendly help you hired to do the job





Digitalized photo of two men



Self-abnegation hunting insects

All chemistry or all dispassion

Not dissected into ego and asked to answer

The tailored monument to Jones or Brown or Miller

We can’t feel surprised

What, Mr. Jones, is atonement

What, Ms. Brown, do you call repentance

How, Miller, do you ask forgiveness

You needed training…if your simple assignment

were to value solely the one assigned

If it were yours and you had some pride

His story is that he has

Atoned, Jones

Not blessed with all life’s advantages

And to his mind, sizing up others he knows

Fair, that is, equal, gets distributed in a way not so

You’ve already paid, you are always paying

Ms. Brown is always borrowing, tends to repent nothing

Credits herself a year’s income, sells a few things

Uses the principle of 99

Thinks she’ll never live so long

Miller says you can’t show weakness

Treasures this as a business axiom

The idea broadly that others win

When they think you’re a loser

Though nine times put to the test the tenth

Time perhaps

This, in a limited way, is true




Pastel and ink drawing of two robots



How to have human conversation.

Begin with a medium of exchange. When we last spoke on the phone; when I received your email. Introduce a subject of exchange. You had mentioned a plan to. You had been having difficulty with. You had informed me that.

B, the one inquired of, says yes, it is all sorted.

A says I am glad to hear it.

What is at this point causing our stall?

How does a plan in success manifest?

Will I be able to see the results?

Where/How will I be able to see the results?

Answering this, B must be factual. The results can be found here. By this means you will locate them.

How does a problem resolved manifest?

What signs does B see of resolution or continued difficulty?

A, you were experiencing a lack of syntactical updating, when last we spoke.

B, yes.


A, what evidence, in your syntactical updating, do you see of improvement?

B, I have learned not to correct sentence fragments, which are of style, considered acceptable in many contexts.

How is information augmented with follow-up information?

A, you had recently received more data from key demographics.

B, yes.


A, the data you recently received from key demographics, has in what way been helpful to you?

B, it lends greater accuracy and supplies up-to-date phrases known to be in use on international opinion-sharing sites, to my human conversation.




Charcoal and pencil drawing of person with scarred face

Is the raven a raven


Ravense in banishment

a portion decreed in traveling provender

gold from an inheritance drawn

for horses, wagons, hired arms

and all supplicants to the shrine

lepers under command of the charismatic

Ravense spurned favorite of the chief cloraven

Now scourge left answering to

a wandering hermit’s advertiser

a flaring mercenary barnacled on

for his gift of the Harphthan, too rare, too scarce of knowing

a marred face once admired

bears the mark scarred upon

“arrogant one”


What is the etymology of this clo

Is the raven a raven

Is the sound analogue to another

In saga chiseled on flagstones laid face down

Who walked this road and never guessed

It was a funeral promenade

Did they labor this mystery, secret into earth

in a siege town




Oil painting cameo of person in headscarf

Wonderfully Made


The psalmist makes good report of himself

God sighs that the trick of vision could not be worked

When the heavy-brained article came to move and apprehend

He had hoped praise, in parlance, would mean humility

But what do things mean? It has feet to carry it here and there

Eyes to see and ears to hear. It has…that gift that in the engineering

God was willing they understand as linear…

For pathways as He recognizes them

Trace their chronology, and the order of the astronomical web

Expands itself exactly as laid

The bolt flies all in a trice…so that each bad choice

Shows plain, going through time, thirty years…fifty years

Which is to say, no time at all. This erring figure of man or woman…

And for their sake, again, he’d thought of lightening burdens

Why should it prove in their nature to strongarm

They have been provided for


A father can’t do everything

His garden is all the gardens of the world at once

He’d always meant His creations to progress

And when they’d needed particular help, to say

Why so beset by fear and greed?

Why, are these future-sensed ones so inherently evil?

He’d tried the experiment, sending a part of himself to tell them twice

To explain, by a face they would know, that they would always

Be Provided For

They wanted more




Digitalized photo-painting of Wayne Newton

Not a Living Thing


Now you believe it, repeat it

But cautious, or not cautious…either

Cross what might be judgment in a mind so possessed

with Fear of Daddy and a dog’s hierarchy, severed by sex

You’d like, with a laugh, your grimace of apology

Which has never been that

To be a powerful, persistent foe

To be a victim, too precious to pursue

Searching history, we won’t find the answer


She, or any child born helpful

Pleased by praise and work to do

Cares for plants and animals because

a simple one takes love with love

Everything she’s given charge of safe and fed


Someone, call him John, a friend

He calls himself, says yes, no, the info was good

Offers to be on his watch, make sure others get

Maybe the symptoms fade with time, think I’ve read they might

I am a doctor, or a man of security, or a secret DARPA researcher

Think of what it means to win a grant, to be employed

A paucity of dark adventure native here in choice

(Me play on your predilections, make you paranoid)


Can be repaired, the Magnavox, your young soul prisoned

in a Lucy sitcom chiding rising star Wayne Newton

a vigil-shrine holds place in your garage

Both that, and the kick-and-scream you manage

against the end you plump

More for parents, neighbors, than yourself, but

still you like for old folks early deaths

Old tickers fibrillating

Grandpa shoveling snow, sudden, can’t be helped

Not bones in yellow flesh kept alive with a drip




Digital painting of face with heavy eyeliner

What Would I Do


I, what would I

You’ve come to such a jaded heart

Asking participation

Modern in your diction saying

Join the conversation

You talk of people in their shells

But watch them leave the trenches

Watch them start and dart the salvo

Find they’ve grown the legs of a mussel

Crackers extract them inch by inches

Footloose. Fancy. Free. Behold

the halves are empty

It’s the salty broth encroaching

Credit-homes encrusting shorelines

Like a margarita garnish

Like the bilge flushed out by cruiselines

What, alternative to stalking off

What, to fetching the elephant gun

Or rooting for Yellowstone to win

Or culting fresh sectarian fun

Searching 5000 spells for the very one

That unmelts the mind of a moron

All home-crafted witching trends to the same effect

Your thinker on the fritz

Your days stacking into missed…

Yopportunities, like dishes in the sink

insults getting borderline personal

narcissistic as a cloud of daffodils

anecdoting on stressful endings

Running out of the only constant

Grubbing for it under the sofa




Pencil drawing of trees and figure

Into Water


Which would be the more vulnerable if it were only a game

Or should the haptics of drone dragoons invest

the operator with a true-to-life experience

The prey, she

going flat in the underbrush, with a weapon of her own

We’ll say a bolas, charged in a backpack and her glasses

project the enemy view, at the drone’s homing

She fires

it falls

If it is conceived by evil men

Made to shoot flame or blades

Or gaseous poisons

She will run in light-changing camouflage

Distort the timing of terrain matching

Cancel the program with an infrared ray

And the tech made keen by a physical sense of flying

Has a brain-alteration, after fifty or so trials

Become so ethically useless as to need retiring


If it were only a game, standings would sit as evidence

Players  proud to have their scores preserved

Every year renew the quest for vengeance, the loser’s turn

The cup to hold, the champion’s name engraved




Pastel and ink drawing of restaurant scene

lie of a lucky meeting


when the banqueters were invited to the theatre

the room reminiscent in décor

wallboard smoked-white studded each six feet with phone jacks

cardboard curtains stiff-flocked as a Christmas box

of Scotch, Season’s Greetings, a shade called ruby blush

threading carpet humped in heavy traffic spots

commercial rugging stained by carted coffee pots

heel-gouged, by hard-heeled business climbers

bumper-carring rumps of grasping rivals

at conferences here

centers of gravity orbited by strong-set hair

strong jeweled broaches, discount storebought Scandal

cologne their invisible bodyguard

hazarding the ridicule of drunks who swear they’re not

never are, couldn’t, ate a big steak dinner

cords loop across to every place

except of no place thought significant

the banqueter had crashed someone mid-call

backing unthinking and sits at a corner shy

watching the others rise and crowd the double doors

fallen strands on blazers bald pates glint

in oils, ignorant of cancerous purples

the room reminiscent of conflagration

before it sparks

satisfaction and recoil, mental picture near a vision

what advantage, flee this minute     and survive

unwelcome custody of the incident, I

don’t know a soul, am not sorry to be alive

but quaver at a camera, whisper a string of lies

A stranger is found at his side

The stranger says, I admire your choice

Why don’t we walk out, see me to the parking lot

We’ll talk, and wait to learn what time this is




Pastel drawing of face

friends for years they were not really friends


beginning with the category of

or, just state it…what…are the several measures

or, measuring, in strict equity

or handicapping

handicapping to find the margin

margin of tolerance, where do the stresses fall

fallback, or setback, a drawback…to work and not be free

which is circumstance, not my fault

which in you is a mental disease

every time, she writes in an exercise book

she wants to do what they (of the media) advise, get these arguments

in clear words, not get buffaloed

not get head-butted off the stage

have a script to hug and draw from

courage    no no no

pay attention    I don’t say please

no I don’t say please I say shut up

I say every time you felt yourself judged…

Which    was only conscience speaking

Your mind went off, some rancid chemical trip

And you had to prod at me, you had to prod

You couldn’t say I’m sorry, you had to see

if I was really mad

all along, I’ve been really mad

I haven’t forgiven you

I think I can’t





Pastel and ink drawing of angry face and rabbit

Crumbs Enough


Do the things we did become forensic

Difficult to reminisce on

Small attentions

No one else recalls our birthplace

Growing up for us dispersal

Early burial


Make me a paper doll

Make me sorry to have been naïve

Make me want to see again

Make me sketch her clothes alone


Do the things we did become abashment

Difficult to see the last of

Grubbed from trash of


Make your testament and dispositions

Make your final lengthy plea

Make your silence count for answer

Make who’d valued you receive




Oil painting of city and angels

Red God White Sun


Back from a moment in prototypia

she watches dawn, inked-over

herself still as the unsafe

hunger neutral before muscles

beauty, remember

she does not counsel the surviving

to waste on it

curtain tatters take…broken blinds…first warning, shush

there is mud in early morning, gullying rain by dusk

lunatic electric that makes roulette of animal life


this is what she does

drinks of settled water ponded in the new low spot

masks her face and arms with eddied trash stuck on

so her eyes can see, or crusted mud alone

It’s the high flat perch you need

cars and trucks choked dead at angles everywhere

block streets, mummified forms within blow exposed

lost again

the surviving learned in their separate ways

not to shelter in sheltering things

the strange thick air bears projectiles

the splintering comes, doors muffled in

crack yours in desperation, be buried in dry quicksand

it takes seconds

Not walls, not stairwells, not trash bins, whipping makes dunes

You’ll have to endure the scouring

An attic floor or a roof


Fire escapes with grillwork coveted

But the fighting is bloody no one partners

With the steel pipe she carries for weapon and tool

She smashes windows, searches cars for bottled water

Snacks in plastic wrapping

Poor corpses she shrugs aside

And if she finds Doritos or a Twinkie

Very sorry to share it, she would be




Oil painting collage of two halves of a face



Fashioned as a closet with a window

and shelves in the lower third unmounted

A superman-booth made for withdrawing

A nook with a desk and chair arrangement

for the filling out of questionnaires

unsuspected occupation for retired clerics

A keyhole in the wall for peering

The vista peered upon a garden

only a pathside bed with pinwheel

impatiens, a time-travel box

Because to see through glass

is not to speak and touch


Cloistered, picture the year past

All things live before they are proven not

All things in experiment with chance to improve their odds

The mind in containment normal with nothing

quite past, and no one dead

the watcher with money enough, the present micro

the body not hungry

the householders ignorant

of themselves as hosts




Pencil drawing of humanish cat face



your living was got by pleasing cats

unthreading shoestrings of thin cord and leather

letting stains that mark deliberations

dashed in on places of established quality

boundaries where the departed show no signs of rising, stains

be left in service to an outreaching new dynamic

where the human way, so faulty

gets no nod of ordained ascendency

the cat would like a bit of chaos

a hole or two inviting mice

a light left on at night

to draw through screens left torn

some interesting moth


you came before the Angels’ Tribunal

how you had done with the cats was chief

among the thirty-seven things

your passing of the first stage in criteria is ranked

“Remember, here we don’t speak of bad or good…

You are eligible to earn points, in detachment from material

objects, but…it so happens…

You have scored a two. A two is not failure, however

it’s the cat’s judgment, not yours

You haven’t minded the sofa, but you must learn

to rejoice in it”




Oil and pastel drawing of two flame-tinted faces



You’re old

You’re a tactic with a history

purloined memory you tried and applied

On the word of a bombast, his nazi*ish ploy

it makes the town flame wonder

what propagation popped the hinges, and whether

here, in this place, a type too coincident

gathered, for reasons the investigation hasn’t

chaffed out

a touch of butane burner

might clear the husky side effects

spotlight the germ, slightly scorched

Jack of the lantern with his interest maxed

a severed head, but with cable attached

feels ignored, feels shrunken and poor

feels his inside parts slime the porch


You’re sparked

Can’t deny you were happier as a smolderer

You tried the flight of a fevered cinder

Splinter-sized and red with ire

Largely you burst when the day seemed warm

mapped hotspots to show how the wind was blowing

Cash-pots a joke for a future airing

Gift box a token to fuel reacting

Damned if you do have a past sitting banked

Damned if you don’t dare the oxygen tank

Something about your face and hands

Says been in places best not to have been




Pencil drawing of man and woman wearing masks

Fall Sick


Unlikely partners, the woman who owns the teacup shop

and her neighbor Moses Harry the cronut baker

Night and day, for contrast, these inquisitive elders

At the seat of government, on someone’s behalf

(a background billionaire?) corruption runs rife

So it seems, for the murder rate, in an unvisited burg

unshadowed by the sprawling complex

of a pharmaceutical factory, not campused by a college

The murder rate is about one in three thousand

this raises no eyebrow at the statehouse

Often it’s the new people

never mind that a town barely incorporated

boasts quite the showing of crockery fanciers

Same with the other downtown characters

a decade running their quirky stores

(but in backstory, for many years more)

Everyone here spends money like water

the book dealer with Amazon doesn’t truck

so they must all be amazing readers

the clothing boutique sells party togs

(as rich families live here, and have dress up parties…)

while the doctor who wouldn’t have time for them all

does, every sufferer met in the course

has been treated by young doctor Lemon

an amateur naturalist who knows her poisons

Moses and Tish this time find the body is

that brazen filmmaker’s, who’d rubbed so many

the wrong way…well, no one in Meadowsweet wants

put on the map

“You don’t kill over an insult,” Moses says.

Don’t you, though? It’s 2020

But surely in Meadowsweet we’re all sane

“An accident, and a panic,” Tish tries.

Dr. Lemon would know, but it looks like the Jeep

backed over him twice




Photo altered digitally



You were bound to burn out your time

that short fuse not adequate to the role

of guiding light, beacon on a hill

Steady star by lost at sea to navigate

More the fuming little stick

of dynamite laid like landmines, planned things

ran afoul of the implacable hour

You had, like all of us, to pick and choose

Let’s sift through what you picked


Let’s word associate, let’s play

Deluxe, the one with proper nouns

A sense of character, to start this round

A living face, from which to come

the statement prejudiced


maybe it’s yours needs taking

that you swallow information

that I state in understatement

has been sourced not unreliably…so much

as made up whole, from motive undisguised


Lost at Sea: (conversational) A friendly

observation about anything, to anyone


Little Stick: I was told by Popeye to expect this


Lost at Sea: You don’t make sense


Little Stick: Did some object make a noise?




Oil painting of oval shapes



First carry a sofa onto the stage

Foreshortening allows the table feet away

The table is useful, its magazines and small props

Prompting lines of dialogue

The actress has complained about the velvet

That carries light beautifully but catches at her tights

She and he perch in three-quarter pose

More athletic than viewers can surmise

A cup that to, in her dressing room, she speaks lines

Never quite fixed in memory the song they argue over, entering

Insensible, she wants to call it, and the joke of course

Is her rendering of it, the breathy oohs of the prelude

His parents are there, behind the bar, stage rear

No, she seems nice, the mother says, where she can hear

Did you want coffee, or more alcohol? Dear?

Sudden blackout and her alone in the spotlight

Glimmering to a soft blue bright


I can make this work out glorious-ly

I can fool the world, but I can’t me

Oh, to make a wish and have it be!


Her costume has changed, though the iridescence of her dress

Is an effect, she rises to her feet and step-glides left

Other dancers in dark, shining bodysuits, move catlike

The amulet that is the sorceress-aunt’s bequest

She lifts overhead to a faux-starry sky

The prop has an LED, her thumb sets the switch


Do I wish him more than ordinary?

Is it plain and good I want?

Play the princess in a hero’s story

Or myself be Lancelot?

Is it love surpassing love I dream of

Or a friend to hold my hand

As we grow old…

For we’ll grow old


Do I dream him with a dashing humor

Banter quips devil-may-care?

Me the naïf in a gamine’s story

Femme fatale, or stern Jane Eyre?

Is it life embracing life I dream of

Or a friend steadfastly there?

As we grow old…

For we’ll grow old




Pastel drawing of person searching under sofa

it hates


it curls into a fetal crouch

reminds itself of cruel conspirators

doesn’t remind

from the couch, it watches

a song once loved now sells young customers

sailcloth uppers

organic scuffs, the rubber

sustainably harvested, no less…

Harvested! Makes it think of the old tractor brand…

All snuffled up by corporate raiders, think onwards of

Caterpillar…Caterpillar selling women’s shoes!

Dire convergences in a world that insists

On coming to


it would like to read something by O’Reilly

but the Star Trek redshirt comes to mind

history has its lessons

think of uncool stereotypes

why would the “no man” not be no xm?

(by year two-thousand what the heck…)

Isn’t this where those people are headed?

The ones who call it uneducated


it absorbs information in a continual spew

its regurgitated jumble, the Weltschema of Fox News

saved coins and Grandma’s gold and land itself

attic finds, war bonds, and handstitched quilts

and three downstairs guns…one in the flour canister

one under the sofa, one atop the TV cabinet

to an actual intruder, three handy gifts




Digital art of leaf veins



rise, this is the answer

tell yourself I’m better, I’m free

Free to go, yes? Yes, one white-clad figure

addresses, the others ignore

yes, through those double doors

keep walking, painless arches flattening

back straightening

Please. I want, you say, finding the way

cordoned, by strange gryphons

To go home.

Why? So promptingly the question

from the winged door-warden comes

you are no longer sure you belong

you have no picture of it, a house

watching the street traffic calmly carry on

you will work at this new job through eternity

rescue the molecules to assemble the ordained

Eurypterus. This monster-scorpion won’t sting

He is larger than the souls of men and finds in them


Not your concern, but the claw of anchoring earth beseeches

the clay shapes losing names before eyes still

as missing friends…no, worse

I had children I made human beings




Pencil drawing of middle-aged early medieval queen

Bride to Be


She is going to marry; she will bargain for herself

A right-hand place, that of first wife, an ear beside the throne

A voice of calm and counsel, bent on knitting borders

She has two offers, and prefers of these, one

She asks that her kinswoman carry back this word

My way binds hands the better, my sympathies assured

Being somewhat divine, the queen’s younger sibling

A member of the household, but long consecrated to the gods

Is oft entrusted with her brother’s will

May leave his house, permitted to play envoy

The streets are now in a winter state

She has gone down on horseback with seven soldiers

One to lead, two either side, two behind

They walk their mounts in the mud at a stately pace

Each forward rider, a head before her, bears the king’s banner

They pass the gate; a mile they go through thin woodland

One of the rearguard is given a message

He gallops ahead where the ground is firmer

Carves behind him a trail of crescents, up the hill

Soon, as they approach, the widow’s flag is raised

To say she is at home and welcomes them

At once the hearths are set to blazing

The feast will take some time, but mead is served

“Daughter,” she says, for she has fifty years

“It is the time of life when one has done one’s duty.

I will tell you a story.”


They say Dame Fortune’s favors bless the bold

It may be so, yet such must fall with no great fealty

For equally the quiet, biding soul

Gains much, by patience… in time, she may gain all





I was for solitude and a certain path

That crossed a bridge so narrow

Here where the men stood off

In disobedience I spurred my mount

Daughter, you have seen it for yourself

How rare this treasure is

To be alone


In my father’s household dwelt a rival’s son

Sent to beg my lord for sanctuary

By an uncle had usurped the crown

This, in the affairs of men, is courtesy

His name was Alderic, and my father

For some flattery the youth had offered

Had gifted him a peregrine

I with my merlin…

And I feared

He’d set the falcon on her


He had such humors

And called to me, following

Words I did not hear

Had I been unencumbered

Coming to the widening of the way

Along the river I’d have dared the chase

“If you gave me your advice…”

His voice was there, at my left side

“I would take it.”

We were alone.

“And why,” I answered him, “do you say so?”





Why, he said to me

When guests arrive and all the household

Join the feast

And the women, those

unplighted, keep them to their couch, apart

You with your eyes demure

Sipping long from a single cup

Watching, under lashes, mantling

Changeable, like the leaves

Lifted to silver by a breeze

I know by this you think on things


For me, upon a riddle

And said he, daughter, then

My name

In a soft and certain way

On my pommel crept the merlin, catching with her toes

For dismounted, dared bend near him

I…to see his knifepoint map upon the ground

“Say that I raise an army…in this your father pledges me

To stay his hand, not interfere

And my brothers…I mean those men loyal to our house

Will come at my command…here”

He took my elbow, as to steady me

“Have you ever seen the lay of the land

That you would know one neighbor from another…thus”

I saw what he had drawn





But you say a riddle.

Well, I know but little, I am ashamed

I have seen twenty winters, nearly…and

My father and my brothers buried

Where I cannot pray upon their tomb

Lady Tamarilde, how…?

His ways grew with these falterings

Dear to me, confiding and unsure

But I repeated him again, how?

And then, abashed, though not at all

He said, I have not been counselled

Only since disgraced by my uncle

Have I heard, been told, a man takes back his own.

But I mean to do it, lady, I mean to. And—

So also do they say, a bad start makes a bad end.

And indeed, Daughter, I saw it

I asked him, is that city there you’ve marked

That the men of Rome call holy

That they claim enshrines a saint, of their gold and purple faith?

Vergrandis, have I got it right? Vergrandis.

You must tell me how it sits

On a hill? Upon the fertile river lands that flood in spring?

He stood then, with elation on his face

And stooped to me, and raised me, and kissed me

Well, I will propose a hunt…

Why will you not, I stopped him, ask that mendicant

Friar, who passes here

Whether a lady, whom you know, may not ride there

Under guardianship of an entourage, of her father’s knights

And seek audience of the bishop

And beg of him to teach her…?

Why his church did choose this site.





Alderic. Do I not know the name? Is he that man

Tills yon spit of land, so thin and barren

Trades in horses…

Have a care, young daughter. Vestal to a carven goddess

These our conquerors will have you cloistered

There your nose may humbly point, as your Mother Abbess

Orders, not in air


Humbly, my queen, I beg your pardon


Your seat is that I once was placed on

You will love, as I have loved

To find a lecher, quartering his men

Making captives of your brother’s peasants, scattering his grain

Names his price to take the road again


But I would pray vengeance on him

Simpleton. I did the like

Went I to my father’s throne and knelt there many hours

When he’d supped and taken of his warders

Each accounting of each lamb and every vine in bud

And trespassers, their fleece-cloaked shoes, scented by the dogs

At the rise of moon he said, making show of wonder

Why, daughter…

This that plagues my child’s heart

Keeps her from her mother’s side

Taking neither food nor drink

This day long

Be it naught to do with Alderic

He dares beyond his place

He too, on knees before me…did you know of it?

I have sent him hence

And do you weep? Be at peace

Whate’er you ask, I grant

Provided it has naught to do with Alderic





Now ask me, did I love him

Did I set my mind at schemes, did discover for the trying, how

To the watchtower hill the daughter of a king

Might walk as the risen sun, repulsing sight

My maid and page in train at my command

I lowered myself within the earthen fort

to the level of the camp

I moved aloof to their ladder, climbed

While men behind hands gazed

Until my own look catching theirs, the overbold

Warned I might recall a face

Canst thou judge, archer, that rider below, the insignia

He bears

I see red of madder, yellow from the dyers’ weed

He cupped his eyes obedient to me

Murmured, shy of his peasant’s speech

“Lady, we know the rogue for Alderic

Hold from the felling of him, done right enough

But there…our captain has it so of us…”

At my father’s bidding, yes

How strong the wind blows here!

And with a sleeve I wiped my cheek of tears

Still bent o’er this, cuff of my underblouse, fluttering

The archers crimson-faced, mortified at my distress

So fearful, each, to speak a word, to touch me

Loosed I the map I’d stitched in plain flax, so as to bear the weather

I have no lettering, child, and nor did he

But I had marked the place I meant to ride to

In figures crude, hands linked, himself and me





If he would be there to meet me

I would risk the chase

My father in that fretful time did keep me, guarded close

Such of quandary was my trial, to love and doubt

(and that I must, that he was not soft and pious, made me proud)

I thought of what might be feigned, illness and madness

Death…they say it can be done

But Alderic would hear of it, what then?

Perhaps for his Thisbe he would not fall on his sword

Perhaps this face…I looked in every glass

Was common in beauty

He would sigh and think of war

My chamberwoman’s bed each night was placed across my door

“Do you have kin, Hesmunde?”

Her head she bowed, wary her words

“What is the need of asking?”

I had bought a sleeping drug, uncaring I would use it


“On pain of death,” my father had warned the poor creature

I knew it

The third night passed, the fourth morning I rose vowing

I would ride to the meeting place, only an arrow outfly me

If so, so be it

A king in his might slays whom he will

And the God of Rome pursue him

And the gods of our mothers be deaf unto him

Let the fruit on the branch then wither betimes

the son, and the grandson

and the son of the grandson

Render them dust for gold

Sow in the battle-soaked blood of their fields, thorns and tares

So, roundly, Daughter, did I curse my own house





I dismounted

This tree that marked the knoll had no known like

her heart agape at the root, her wood aged white

polished to gloss by the antler of the stag

the bark of her burnt and lightning stripped

the curious leaves we ladies pressed

on cloth to trace their pattern with our needles

He’d laid his camp all round the spot

My mare quietened to a dainty walk

In my secret mind dared I to think

He protects me, he has done all this to keep me safe

Yet that the young men for mayhem chafed

I sought of the wisewoman harbor


She sat before a charcoal pit

O’er which a wet skin held the smoke

And called me, being elder, daughter

Daughter, what do I here? I tell you.

The third day hence shall stones I’ve cast

by their colors declare the fate

of your father’s kingdom and Alderic’s

once every man his brazier

hath borne to the hearth of his married home

And if the fire speed and it does not rain

Good fortune, child, to you and to your swain!





Fire in the open court, logs arm’s length wide

After a day’s burning poled to embers furnace red

Men with plucked birds pierced on iron pikes

Walk out, lower these where slots

Are spaced in the squat stone wall that guards the pit

By this light Queen Tamarilde’s guest sees the ensign

Of some other arrived sans hurrah and trumpet

Nor yet, of armed escort, accompaniment

He sits at the banqueting table, the weathering years

Made smooth on his companion

Not wholly his mirror…for the emissary notes

the eyes and chin might be her hostess’s

The devices of the banners are gold

Stag’s heads on field of madder-rose


We shall dine, and Alderic himself, as you suspect

Will, if in age I sentimentalize, my wanderings correct


Of these two men the visitor prefers the sire

That they are converts of Rome makes neither

Worthy grace to a priestess of the old faith

Devilish lads are all, like any girl, she cares for

She eyes her choice with the challenge of it

But Alderic rises from the couch

His arm he offers to his queen

The younger woman takes the seat arranged her

Next the lovers’ mild-eyed, callow son





“And the wisewoman gave her seeings

The crystal cooled to yellow or green…”

Queen Tamarilde’s smile, first arch, fades rueful

Girl, you may know your arts…but had you

My years, I should see you less smug of your prompts.

Your own augury may prove aught but uncolored

“I have not tried the stones,” her guest murmurs

“It pleases me,” the queen says, to all

“That Aldebert will tell his father’s tale.”


She scarce would turn and meet that face

The boy to whom so slyly she is introduced

“And lady, may I know your name?”

I think, she wants to say, you won’t…

But: “Wilhelmina, it will be, when I take my vows

It is Wildulfa now.”

Aldebert gives her his cup, and she, for manners

drinks. He, with a modest, efficient way, is

possessing the moment, adept as a student-priest


My father’s stone came sundered from the fire

It otherwise had been the blue

of our ocean under a changing sky

The girl from her cushion lifts a glance

To capture Alderic’s eye

“Our god knows of what he uncloaks

To mortal curiosity

You see that I have not been marked for death”

And you, Queen?

But Aldebert speaks to her again.





“She was in my father’s camp, what would hers do?

Dishonor…would he assume it so?

The cruelest of his knights, bloodiest of his kin…”

Aldebert halts in attentive pose

In sudden suspicion Wildulfa sees

her gift of prophecy under trial

“But there was no slaughter, rather, trickery…”

The legbone stripped of meat she drops

in a meaning way

and harvests a smile of insufferable secrecy

“Not trickery,” he answers her. “A better thing.

You know the flag of truce must be revered.

The company sent to deliver Alderic’s head

were thrown in doubt…”

“A fight they had anticipated, not a parley.

Arrogating to himself, in exile, sovereignty…

Do I mean exile,” she adds, “or do I mean disgrace?”

This barb, too, draws but a lively look exchanged

Alderic says, “Disgrace, I grant you, fairly said.

I was green, not yet had proved myself in battle.

My dispute not with my lady’s sire, but mine own uncle.”

“But truce my father sued after…

‘As I am now your son.’ A double-bond of kinship

Whereupon…he pledged his oath and asked as well,

the use of his new father’s seasoned men,

as officers, each to hold command.

Then shape his band of ruffians into champions.”







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