The following were published, some as prose poems and some as flash fiction, in The Brink at Logan Pond (2nd Ed.). ISBN: 1-4116-3215-X. (Lulu Press, Morrisville, North Carolina. May 2005). With the exception of “Going Home,” they all were later published as verse poems in Sailor in the Rain and other poems.
PROSE POEMS: Full Well, Big, Paw’s Long Term Memory Begins To Rot, A Matter of Moral Inquiry, and In the Mangroves.
FLASH FICTION: The Interruption, Hot Coffee, The Museum of Holds, and Going Home.
About Prose Poetry: A prose poem is a poetic piece of writing that does not look like a poem. Prose poems are relatively brief, often in the range of about 100 to 500 words. A prose poem will have some characteristics of verse poetry, such as imagery and rhythm. It may use some poetic devices, such as assonance, consonance, alliteration, but it generally does not use line breaks or end rhyme. A prose poem is formatted in sentences and paragraphs rather than lines and stanzas. It may include unexpected forms such as a memorandum, news headline, or grocery list. Generally, a prose poem reads down the page like prose rather than using spatial relations and white space in the manner of verse. Perhaps most characteristic of a prose poem is its outlaw nature, using wit, humor, irony, and/or surreality to anarchistic and subversive effect.
Chéri, desist from logic; put aside your daily cares. I am half dead for want of you. Oh, join me on my pyre! Let us set the emptiness afire, the commonplace ablaze. How your breasts sway in dove gray lace! Oh, fill my palms, Chéri, with crème broulee.
Vesper bells will peal across your crystal thighs. The rose-green moon will shine a thousand silver chimes. Its carillon will cascade through your tossing raven hair. Your belly will be a rippling steppe of wind-tossed wheat. New wine will rain in ecstasy upon our flaming flesh.
Turn loose your gypsy heart in your flashing amber eyes. Give me your breath to fill my starving breast. I will follow you down eternal rivers of no return, through carmine chasms of full-blown gladiolus, even along the perilous and dusky trails of ebony.
I cannot last much longer chained in my tiger cage. I burn in endless heat without your healing touch. But you, Chéri, are iced green melon in cool hands. Come, fill me till I am empty! Enslave me till I am free!
I walked out to the end of the universe – not just this local galaxy, you see, but all the way out to the infinity line – and stepped across and turned around to see what it all looks like from a decent point of view and – man oh man – it’s big.
Turns out the so-called universe is just the bulging right eye of a seriously large fancy goldfish, all white and orange mottled, its tail fins drooping in a vast white and orange sweep like the train of a mad bride’s gown who knows she only has a month to live.
I wouldn’t want to meet the snapping turtle that rules this pond nor the tiger on the shore.
Paw’s Long Term Memory Begins To Rot
“Ninety-two … Nineteen and ninety-two … That was the year of … the great peanut butter crop … Eight hundred forty … acres of smooth, … two hundred of chunky … We had to harvest it … with giant squeegees and … load it in cement trucks … We were lucky to get … heavy rains that fall … to wash down the loading docks … and freshen the jelly trees.”
“Oh, Lord, it’s good … to sit high up … on a rumbling tractor … in the slimy sunlight … of a dying summer and … breathe the baking wind … as you plow endless … fields … of wonder … bread!”
Paw stops to hack and retch. Bringing up the cold gray memories of his five decades in the mines, he saves them in the graduated plastic cup hooked to the arm of his wheelchair, to be measured and diagnosed. Tossing a vile tissue in the wastecan, he picks right up in the middle of his too familiar tale of climbing the Matterhorn with his faithful Sherpas.
I don’t argue.
A Matter of Moral Inquiry
The young woman coming down a hill path to Olongapo strides purposefully through the gray mud ruts. The rising breeze off Subic Bay cools the humid heat under her breasts through her sheer white blouse. Barefoot in the path, she carries her high heels in a pink plastic shopping bag.
Her pallid brow is sweetly knitted as she contemplates the moral ambiguities of human cloning—whether it constitutes exploitation of human flesh. She must do her thinking as she walks. When her pimp meets her at the bar in Gordon Street, her brow must be smooth. He likes his cash unwrinkled.
A huge nimbus cloud obscures the peak of Pinatubo.
In the Mangroves
At the edge of dawn in the mangrove swamp, dark trees go green against the rosy east. Low light throws each trunk and branch and knee into warm relief. The river fills with light. Along a sloping bank, alligators start to stir, their blood moving with the shadows’ slide. In the treetops, vultures preen and spread their dampened wings in homage to the sun. To crisscrossing ripples, a breaching carp adds more, and its returning slap echoes from the shore. As a breeze lifts and moves across the current, an old rowboat slowly swings an arc on its chain, tethered to an iron ring embedded in a weathered tree. The rusty links complain softly in the strain. The skiff is empty; it has been for some time. Its hand-hewn boards are dark and mossy green. An old cane pole, all bent and bowed, is wedged between the stern and the crumbling plank seat and a filament dangles and twirls in the breeze. On the boat’s gunwale sit several cormorants. And the shadows slide, and the breeze rises.
A man is sitting in his recliner chair in his living room reading the sports page of a newspaper that appears daily on the man’s front porch. He is interrupted in the middle of an article on baseball as a civil religion by a motorcycle gang that drives through the wall of his living room. The first gang driver in line is swinging a cutlass, the tip of which slices the sports page in half as the gang driver drives by, swinging and driving. Hey! yells the man in the chair, Hey! My sports page!
The first gang driver swings his cutlass and beheads the man’s wife who has come into the living room upon her husband’s shout. Her head, as it falls, says, Well, what the … ? Another gang driver, following behind the first, runs over the man’s wiener dog, crushing its back. Hey! yells the man in the chair, Hey! My sports page!
The rest of the gang drives through, swinging various weapons and whooping like gangs do. They all exit through the china cabinet, smashing every keepsake and trinket that the man’s wife held dear. On the floor, her head says, Well, what the … ? Hey! yells the man in the chair, Hey! My sports page!
When the gang has left, the man rises from his chair, steps over his dead dog and the head of his wife, and gets cellophane tape out of the wreckage of a little writing desk. He smoothes out the sports page and tapes the two pieces together, and smoothes the page again, and folds the page carefully. The man returns, stepping over various corpses, etc., to his recliner and sits down in the chair. He shakes out the sports page and resumes reading the article on baseball as a civil religion. He mutters, Bastards! Sons of bitches! Look how hard this sports page is to read now. Bastards!
My sugar likes his coffee hot. He likes his coffee hot. Strong and black and straight and hot. My sugar likes his coffee hot. A woman sings softly to herself as she boils a gallon of strong black coffee in a dutch oven.
A man calls out Woman! Coffee! Now! The woman strains to lift the dutch oven with a dish towel to protect her hands. She stops singing to herself.
The woman takes the hot coffee to the strong man who sits in his lounge chair and holds his cup straight out before him like an altar. She pours the hot coffee in the cup. She fills the cup and keeps pouring. The boiling coffee eats straight through the cup, through the strong man’s lap, through his lounge chair, through the floor of the house and deep into the cold black ground.
The strong man melts like a big old lump of sugar in a saucer of hot black coffee and drains straight down through his chair and the floor and into the cold black ground. The black ring of coffee stain spreads over the lounge chair until there is no strong man left there at all. The woman sprays stain remover on the lounge chair and the hole repairs and disappears.
The woman sings softly to herself, My sugar likes his chair kept clean. Yes, he surely does. She throws the dutch oven right through a closed window and the towel after it.
The Museum of Holds
A man who had gotten himself a job as a chiropractor is naked in a room. There is a certificate on the wall with calligraphic proof of official approval and it is in a fifty dollar frame, so it is okay for the man to be naked. He knows what he is doing. His patient is naked, too; it is okay because the naked man said so. The man is manipulating the patient’s body, flexing and bowing her long bones, flexing and bowing her spine. He prays the beads of her vertebrae and enacts the sacrament of release. Her moans signify the end of the treatment.
The patient, who had gotten herself a job receiving men’s parts and fluids into her body, and whose professional standing is certified by the flatness of her eyes, now begins, with her no less knowing touch, to treat the man who treated her. She demonstrates to good effect a number of holds which it is impossible that the man should do for himself. His appreciation is outstanding. She finishes with her most special hold on the bone that bears his weight. His moans signify the end of the treatment.
A man paces in the next room, who had gotten himself a job as a professional wrestler. He is very tense; he has stripped naked and is waiting for the opportunity to join the staff in demonstrating those holds that he knows best.
Cruising along with the top down under the night sky, doing ninety, heading home to El Paso, everything is fine until I see something in the road ahead. I steer hard right and the headlights sweep over a rocky ditch, so I steer hard left and – bang! The front left wheel hits something and the headlights corkscrew past power lines, guardrails, the pavement, then nothing. Screeching and crunching, loud as a foundry, the Chevy flips and rolls into the ditch. My left leg hurts like hell and the pain in my chest leaves me breathless. The last light on the dashboard goes out and here I am, in agony, in the dark.
I know I’m in deep trouble. The car is wrecked. I hurt so bad. Who knows what I hit? How bad are my injuries? How am I going to get home? Oh, man, the pain!
I am surprised to notice that the pain has stopped. Anyway, now I can think. I need to get out of this lousy wreck. This mess could catch fire. I push back and off the steering column and feel for an opening. Finding nothing to my left, I crawl over the twisted metal and onto a rocky slope. I can’t get my feet under me, so I keep crawling up until I reach a piece of guardrail upright. I hold onto it to get standing. I feel alright for someone who has just been in a car crash.
The road is a mess, too. In the moonlight, I can see a wheel, some sheet metal, bits of glass and other junk scattered back a couple dozen yards. So, I start walking back to where I swerved. My left leg doesn’t work right. It sort of swings along like it has a few extra joints but I can walk, so, that’s okay. I want to see what I hit.
The wreckage trail ends at a small heap in the road. There, by the cold moonlight, I see it’s a desert tortoise, smashed by the impact, its shell shattered. Man! I not only wrecked the Chevy, I killed a tortoise. This just keeps getting worse. And, how am I going to get home? I look up and down the road – nothing!
Suddenly, from the desert across the road, the brilliant beams of headlights wash over the scene. I see something I never expected. Here comes a bus, blazing with lights, its headlamps glaring. The whole bus is outlined in blue running lights. The side-lit route panel over the windshield says: “Homebound.” This is my bus!
It pulls to a stop next to me and the doors open with a hiss. The driver is hidden behind a smoked glass enclosure but the open door says it all. I try to step up but cannot lift my left leg. With another hiss, the bottom step slides out and down until it is flat on the ground. I shuffle onto it. Yet another hiss and I am lifted right up to the aisle level where I move into the bus and start down the aisle. Behind me, I hear the lift hissing again.
Sitting in the front seat on the right is an old man wearing wet clothes. His jeans, flannel shirt and fishing vest are all soaking. The old guy’s lips are an odd shade of blue. Beside him on the seat is a black Labrador, sitting in a puddle of muddy water as his master strokes his wet head. Behind me, once again, I hear the lift hiss, then stop, then hiss.
In the next seat, a sort of pretty young woman sits wrapped only in a blue tarp. Her red hair is tangled and her skin is very white. When our eyes meet, she smiles weakly at me and nods in a strange, wobbly way. She pats the seat next to her and I sit down. Up close, I notice that her throat is sliced from side to side. I see that she is looking at my chest, so I look down, too, and see that my T-shirt is blood-soaked. The bus starts moving and I look into the aisle. There, at my feet, is the shattered tortoise. I pick it up and hold it in my lap. The bus picks up speed as we head into the light.