PURGATORY LOST

Chicago
The South Side
where the L screams wickedly
through the backyards of Hades, Satan unwanted
chanting sacrilege at a baptism, claiming new souls. The South Side
of Chicago
scraping the powdery soft skin
of the delicate Loop, filling its veins
with the opiate of jazz, shocking its lovers
with mouth music blues, leaving only the scent
of sulfur and ash, to vanish like smoke curls
off a stolen cigarette. Cages drawn down on facades
like facemasks of muggers, the short circuit
of epileptic lights
where rats create choreography
on stages of blight. Politicians rise
on wings of hidden money, speaking in calligraphy, indecent promises
in the language
of renewal. Too much of The South Side. No one comprehends its pariahs, deciphers the accents of tongues
left at liberty’s door.
Orphans who came for candy, then stayed for drinks, stranded on islands
named Stoney and Goose, not islands at all
but ghost ships of live cargo. So unlike the cathedral
of downtown city sidewalks, where stars of functional streetlights
beckon sinners to worship, while those in the South
blast radio hymns of anguish, power and fear hovering like angels. Sirens squeal, the blackened air vibrates, a meteor shower of intensity
declares turf wars of frenzy. There is so much
of The South Side
that repeats and shatters
into infinite fractals. My family couldn’t have known
that I would resurrect them. They lived so guardedly, full of life yet caged, servants of the blast furnace, pockets full of coins, lungs full of disease, the smell of whiskey
coating every breath. Life was balanced
on the edge of a knife
intense, immediate,
ready to cut
and sever the cord. Gwendolyn Brooks arrived,
a visiting seraphim, offering wings and balm

in an ointment of words. But there was too much
of The South Side.
It intimidated the city, bullied its way beyond boundaries, knocked on the bolted door
of staid City Hall. Sprayed pain
on crumbling underpasses, littered names on L platforms
challenged lightning, danced in heat, authored is own bible, forging a new religion
of personal damnation. There was no savior, Only the saved. Progress came,
dressed in scrubs of opportunity, pulling out scalpels, blades forged in law, cutting unbroken skin
down to muscle and bone. Pulling away layers, searching for cancer, offering false hospice
in tones of despair. There was no one left to listen. The cathedral of streets trembled, cast out its sinners, muffled pleas for mercy
People bade farewell
without goodbyes. No tears, such dry mouths. Shackled to false faith, swung low on sweet chariots, pushing past redemption
in glad-rag gospel song, the unheard whispers
of a lost people’s Amen.

Genghis Khan At The Typewriter

Genghis Khan sits down at the typewriter, a portable Underwood.

His tortured soul desperately tries to conjure up a Mongolian metaphor for love.

It is a task of barbaric proportions.

Mongol is, as yet, an unwritten language birthed from bone and mayhem.

The sounds are raw and feral.

No font can cage their nature.

But the Great Khan, Universal Ruler, senses a sonnet steeped in The Steppes coursing somewhere under his leather-laced armor.

Certain tribal concubines have indicated this to be his heart.

They have placed their tiny bird-like hands over his iron chest and summoned forth strange visions.

A heart!

As if the Great Khan, master of Central Asia, scourge of China, has need for a heart.

Empires are carved out of destruction, death.

A heart!

A heart would be a liability, a stigma of weakness.

And yet?

Genghis feels an unknown creature course through his veins and stop to drink at the place where the concubines held their tender young palms.

His coarsened skin tremors at the memory.

And so, Genghis Khan, Emperor of Oceans, sits at the typewriter, a portable Underwood, hands bloodied with conquest, body still suited for war.

He sheaths his emotions in strands of silk and sends them forth like arrows of unspoken words in search of prey.

These weapons are of a language that cannot break, complicated, strong.

And once embedded in the heart, the tender teasing of the twisted silk opens words into poetry and the wound seems insignificant.

Copyright 2013

(For Bryan, who loves history, even when it’s invented)

FAVORITE THINGS (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems 2021)

“Darling, my darling, whatever does the Moon collect?”

When Earth adopted Moon

as her personal pet

she gave the Moon a gift

a shiny gold fanny pack

Inside was the

lingering last breath of

Tyrannosaurus Rex

The Moon was besotted

adding to the gilded pouch

with every revolution

Sonatas of salmon

during a prolific spawn

Unspoken whispers

of certain

Ural Mountain peaks

The third string from

the World’s

oldest balalaika

Unscented dreams

of a Minnesota badger

The final elusive bit of a

Gobi mirage

The aroma of indigo

from the Ocean’s

Mariana Trench

(Copyright 2021)

DISTINCTION (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems – 2021)

“My darling, tell me about the Storm Moon, please.”

February is the

erratic toddler of

the calendar

Immature, irritable

impulsive, irrational

Pitching fits

Napping oddly

The Queen of Satellites

dons her mantle

of Storm Moon

To distract and appease

the imp of February

Showering it with a

weighty blanket

of heavy snow

Radiating storm through

her Prism of Night

(Copyright 2021)

TELL TAIL (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems 2021)

“Who do you think is the Beau of La Luna, my darling?”

La Luna’s Beau

is an exotic enigma

A volatile nomad for

the Queen of Night to choose

It gives me pause

when I ponder the

attraction

Consider all possibilities

in the Cosmos of Love

Yet every four years

without fanfare or failure

the Night is ablaze

as La Luna snags

the Comet’s tail

before Haley

philanders away

(Copyright 2021)

SALVADOR’S DOLLY (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems 2021)

“What does the Moon envy about the Earth, my darling?”

One would expect

it would be water

unique possession

that sustains

all life

But I have heard

the whispers of

poets and madmen

openly reveal

that the streak of envy

in Moon’s ancient core

revolves around language

Gift of words

whispered in the mouth

written in dark ink

The hook upon which

Memory is hung

(Copyright 2021)

MOONOLOGY WISH CAKE (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems 2021)

“Have you ever tried Moonology, oh my darling?”

Pre-heat unseen New Moon

Have faith

It is there

When Waxing Crescent Moon appears

like a paranthesis in the night

Remove your secret wish

from under the bed

Season to taste

Wrap in tin foil

Place wrapped desire

outside your front door

When the Moon is Full

your desire is half-baked

Turn it sideways

Recite your favorite song lyrics

over the top

at the completion of

the Fatted Moon

When the Moon resembles

Van Gogh’s severed ear

mark your wish as garbage

to prevent pilfer or damage

The cycle of Magic is now complete

Open the foil

careful not to lose any juice

Consume your wish with

a nice glass of Merlot

(Copyright 2021)

LUNAR HI (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems 2021)

“Okay, my darling, what do you think the Moon wonders about the lunar landing?”

“One small step

for a man

One giant leap

for mankind”

The Moon chuckles to herself

as she remembers

Armstrong’s pronouncement

Didn’t humans realize

that ever since

the Big Bang

Angels held sleepovers

on her surface

Demons reveled in bacchanals

on her Dark Side

And aliens held

feral bake sales

deep within her craters

(Copyright 2021)

KEEP IT SECRET (“Under A Common Moon” – August Postcard Poems 2021)

“So, my darling, how do you think the Moon feels about her Dark Side?”

The Moon pockets her Dark Side

safely away

A secret tintype of its flawed

naked self

Flaunting instead

its burlesque version

garish in the footlights

adored in reflected spotlight

A mirage of beauty

veiled by the Night

But with wig and makeup off

the mirror

tells her otherwise

(Copyright 2021)