Psalm

The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want

I shall not want for tribulation
For the flock is scattered
Their bleating goes unheard
Wolves nibble at the corners
With no fear of hindrance
I shall not want for tribulation
For the armies of God surround me
They have raised up the banners
Of loathing in every direction
And lo the sheep crawl
In slavish obeisance
I shall not want for tribulation
Even the dogs have abandoned us
As the shepherd sleeps off His cosmic binge
I shall walk through the valley
Of the shadow of death
Eyes closed
Fingers in my ears

My country ’tis of thee

Empty, empty, of good or bad,
all equal before the sea-spattered
horizon, the pastures relentlessly
split open undone forever

I gaze on these at last remorse
the withering vine, the trodden soil
all witness to vanity, to regression

since times untold and form unbidden
horses fraught, thin bones straining
against what flesh remains.

As an infant, I was told how this
was my legacy, my inheritance,
all from the wrong ledger, it seems

The one beneath, the one unsmothered
despite the efforts of a cruel century,
the murder of compassion for fear of pain
the sacrifice of love for the comfort of predictability

Fools’ gold, dross, dust.

Wilderness

An old, recently forgotten story

The bear retreats, licks his unmortal wounds
Sleeps fitfully, sulking, dreaming
If only this had been that
A bit more or less of one thing or another

The fight would have gone another way
Claws would have sunk deep into
Another hide, teeth into
Another neck, just so

The small crack of the cervical vertebrae
Unhealable, would have ended
All doubt and misconception
Made dreams of winter sweeter

Spring comes, and a darker healing
A hesitant thrust, a feint
The bear looks over his shoulder
No one there, a few sheep

He scratches old scars
All the doubt spills out
The fuming pustule opens
It was just a lack of will, after all, he thinks

Out from the cave
Comes lumbering death

Review: Short breve with an extra shot

Just the right amount of insouciance
With earthy overtones, and ripe plump honey
Cocoa orchid cloves, with a clean finish.

Echoes of Bedouin twig fires
A trace of Sheba at the margins
And – I’m quite certain – a hint
Of wild goat on the Ethiopian highlands,
Of pomegranates shared willfully
In the caressing, endless night

Of tribal justice,
Of Bantu, Arab, and Chinese
Exchanging wisdom and profit,
Prophets, peace be upon them,
Be damned, at the trading table,
Of long years of captivity and release,

And captivity again, burning like hunger,
Shining like anger.
Of God and injustice, all blind
To the anguish of the children
He claimed as his own.

Perfect tender bitterness
Exchanged for the bitterness
of slaves on the sugar plantation,
Of generations’ riven ancestry
Evolved into the pathos of poverty.

Then, floating like some cup-bound cloud
Above the serene acidity,
Rich, billows of silky cream,
With traces of Swiss mountainside,

Or the Dells of Wisconsin,
Ancestral hunting grounds
Usurped for pasture,
Where the descendants of wild oxen
Empty their swollen udders,
Raw as a farmer’s neck in autumn.