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Starlings, Dusk

The starlings at dusk burst like black fireworks
Against the pale watered gold of the sky, silent
Except when they bank hard and their feathers
Rustle like shuffling cards or the last low rumble
Of a wave exhausting itself on the stony beach.

11 Ways To Get Through The Day
When Despair Gets An Upper Hand

The philosopher conjures misty castles, calls
Them solid rock. The libertine drinks the ready
Wine, relies upon his cock. Scientists cook up
Molecules, declare all meaning dead. Priests
Wave their holy books, offer daily bread. The
Salesman assures just what you need is here
Inside this bag. Surgeons say the magic cure is
Fix the flesh that sags. School nurses wage long
Campaigns to rid the class of lice. Commentators
Rage and rail, indulge in secret vice. Money girls
Check their phones, tweet It’s only pain that pays.
Children say, Come on, Dad. Let’s go outside and
Play
. Artists say our Beauties are the holes that fit
No keys, peek into the locked-up rooms of endless
Mysteries!

The Hermit in Her Retirement

Come sit down dear and have a cozy chat.
Tell me your news. Your news! I kept God’s
Secrets all those years. Do you think I can’t
Keep yours? Listen to that wind. Cold. It
Makes my bones ache just to think of my
Stone hut those long years in that weather.
If we both smile they will bring us more tea.
Now, how are the kisses of your stout man?
I don’t know what makes the young think
The old haven’t heard about these things.
I knew about kisses as a girl though I called
Them Sin – kisses and many other things –
And I ran away to the wild. There is no Sin
In the sea, no Sin in birds, no Sin in the sky.
I believed all I renounced was discipline. I’ve
Come to think it was secret pride, and that
St. Paul did a job of work on us. No regrets.
I would welcome a pair of warm arms now,
Though who could embrace me here without
Scandal I don’t know. I’ll tell you my secret.
I’m not sure if I’ve lost my vocation or found
It at last. There may be as much immanence
In that bag of crisps as the warm riot of the
Stars on a summer night. All that is good is
Good.

Acts of the Apostles

I know you’re a preacher from your black coat,
The lady said and I smiled and told her Almost.
To what strange lands might we fly if I spread
My black wings, from what strange texts might
I speak if I took the pulpit? Would I please her
Dancing my exuberant heresies on the Rock of
Ages? Perhaps. Her face said she might take
My mysteries for faith, my wonders for reasons,
My beauties for redemption. She might grant me
A God who is all whirlwind and no ash heap, who
Suffered so He could say We are the same now.

Or would she ask me What about love dear? and
Smile at my blank look. Love is simple as a child.
You shuffle Her to one side with your words and
Your rules and your thinking. Then I would sweep
Off my preacher’s coat and settle it on the majesty
Of her stooped shoulders.

On Hearing Johnny Cash
Sing “Spiritual” in Old Age

When you stepped into the booth, did
You feel gone from the earth? Did you
Fear even your voice would be lost in
The silence of the headphones? That
Your final fragile fight was exhausted,
Only pain and loneliness enduring in
The human soul? How this mess of
Warm tears spilling through my fingers
While I try to choke them down, from a
Song bought on impulse, with no more
Care or intention than a bag of chips
Purchased with pocket change? Now
Weeping for all deaths since we first
Saw the stars and thought them bright.
When I’m stripped to every nothing but
Ash, sing my pleadings in the voice of
Johnny Cash.

The Lament of Milton’s Satan

Oh where are the noble sins? How can
We tempt to betrayal when all interest
Is self interest? To blasphemy when the
Only curse is canceling cable television?
To blood when the grubby bills of trade
Are sticky with gore? How the dignity of
My defiant hell sold cheap? How comes
The glorious army that threw eternity at
Hazard in their rebellion reduced now to
Game-show hosts and sales-dinner MCs?
How I forced to trade my smoking black
Armor for fire-engine Lyrca? To stand in
Red-hot yoga pants and watch Mammon
Revel on my throne?

The Bigger & Better Inferno 2.0
— in Stores for the Holidays!

In the new ninth circle, the devils make
Us clap wildly for money. They parade
The rich and we celebrate, they drive
Italian racing cars and we thrill at the
Thrum, and when joy turns to despair,
The demons make us clap more. Our
Widest smiles turn rictus and they fill
Our mouths with shiny white teeth ’til
We choke, stitch us into fey fashions
Until we smother, slam baubled rings
On our broken fingers, then smoothly
Praise our elegance and good taste
Before they whip us to the mall and
Scourge our skins until we buy again.

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