its talons are for real


We moved through a smog thicker than coal-dust
filled with angry cries.
I couldn’t recognize
my guide, only her humming through a gust

of wind.  The moon was a copper disk
printed faintly rust-green
over that desolation –
like a hovering fingerprint, a mask

for Queequeg, Abraham – a penny
for Liberty, glinting
from the dark well (hinting
freedom, good will, where there wasn’t any).

A doubloon for Mammon flickered so
below shrouds of the Pequod
many an aching tattoo would
echo in blood that talent for woe.

Marine Corps taps (trompette marine).
Memory shapes emblems
like coral wreaths... drums
weave light fleece mandala, copper green

& gold.  Like an iron spring wound
taut into infinity,
one Mendelssohn memory
emerges from my swampy ground –

the ancient plow we found, Heidi
& dragged back home together
through April weather
(iris blooming like a peacock’s eye


out of dead bulbs that never die).
The tarnished metallurgy
Iron Age surgery
some Raven-shaman shall (with high

& fluting Light Warlpiri) bring
might lift our eyes again
to one galactic common
wheel, that voices in Ark-Argo sing –

Hagia Sophias in Yezidi throng
to harmonize their peacock
tongues, & nations flock
to chime each footnote of a brazen gong.

The Word flies backward so, before Babel.
Its talons (like a raptor-
seal of olive-arrows) are
for real – to carry us from Hell

to Paradise, fledged by free will;
its almond eye (above
the pyramid) is Love –
forever fair & kind & true, until

the splendor of infant Creation
shines like Sacajawea
from green Equadoria
justice & liberty combine

in meek Franciscan poverty
to weld the planetary
flora into Primavera
sunlight-gold... bright solidarity.


Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 3.21.17


concrete Cleopatra


The river is calm, like a brown mirror
on the vernal equinox.
Moving through bifocals
of that lovable double oval (dear

Franklin Ave. Bridge).  Gliding
from Ojibwa marsh,
a trickle out of harsh
winters... a fluent continuum (abiding

parchment years, the tides of March).
On this sparse Minneapolis
spring morning, under clumps
of woolly cloud-cover, her twin M-arch

might make a 2-seat kayak for a monarch
(Manitou, Big Wind) –
swelling from wing-finned
goldfish to a whale (or Jonah’s ark).

The flimsy grey wool threads a quipu
knot.  Stravinsky’s right
to be so wrong : the lights
are snuffing out all over Europe...

the little gypsy girl must dance
to death (so we might live).
The crowd roars, GIVE.
Ariadne’s thread enwraps the lance

of Theseus, the hunter.  MINOTAUR
IS RUST (feed him tar-cakes
until he bust).  Stakes
are high – each gets an equal share


or else.  It’s the American way.
So speak plain English.
Royal myth be not the dish
we wish for now – try testimony.

They killed the King of the Milky Way –
lofty Melchizedek
(& his Irish sidekick,
his brother).  Sacrificial hay

for infinite Corn Goddess, maybe?
Don’t think so.  It is
& means to a dead end (his,
theirs, ours)... rewind the anthropology.

Anonymous shadow tilts toward sundown.
Ghost dance under trees.
He coming back, in threes –
the buried man, with his Papillon.

The guy in Resurrection Cemetery
(never gone, still here).
Can’t kill someone who never
died – so let’s undo all this necessary

violence (stand your ground, Hamlet
– until Ophelia’s dead gone).
The Shadow Knows (someone
whispers – my Dad?).  The blood is let.

It’s an old warped story, on the loom
of Time.  Peruvian lamb
sandwich, taken for a ham... a
concrete Cleopatra (equal to her doom).



Willow River twilight


Civilization is a natural good.
Valleys are honeycombed
with anthills – tombed
with moral titans (Lincoln would

live up to his Memorial).
Government’s innate,
then – our pleasant fate
to be so compagnevole,

says Alighieri (after Harry
Woodpecker).  D.C.
marbled with majesty
will have a double Jubilee

this year – May 29th (the K
of Camelot’s birthday);
crowds cry hurray
up to the pint of vanishing

& glory glory hallelujah.
I love my country too.
But pride, you know,
leads oft to suicide – King Saul,

alas, fell on his sword, & Henry’s
Clover (sad antithesis
of photosynthesis) was
mortised into concave penury

(her veil of Isis hoovered out
of Iowa).  Her star
twirls like Ishtar
above a Willow River twilight


where gold prairie meets the far
horizon (at the green
mountain, where shriven
penitents climb to the door).

Pride be the world’s blockade.
Banners of orange black
& green (by Jasper Jack)
are complementary, not made

for nought.  Pete? Smoky Pete’s
still lively, though John’s
jotting paper crayons
with encaustic slivers now.  Wheat’s

blonde for Brother Jim’s Great
Purple Hairstreak – what
a butterfly!  Yet
there’s no sketchy moral shortcut

to self-centered celebrations
for a nation, in this world
of woolly worms curled
into cottonwood canyon-

cocoons.  No idle soul-solace
– an oxymoron in
the China cookie tin.
True penitence proceeds apace,

slowly, like Frank’s old shaky mule
inching to San Francisco.
Sorrow made your child go
sailing.  Grief tacks up another Yule.



the Ids of March

                                the fallow air grows milky

The Rio shines in quietness,
mottled by fading ice.
Cato the Woodpecker is
prince of cottonwoods – his highness

tock-tocks like Railsplitter toward
the taproot of Twin Cities’
canker sores.  He’s
whittling his wooden law – a word

scrimshawn against all takers,
all Caesars of commonweal,
in the court of last appeal –
galactic axle of the makers.

Is this a holiday?  The soothsayer’s
a dreamer (pass, tense).
Cinna lost his innocence
mangled among conspirators –

murdering for liberty (the mob
took it another way).
Is this a holiday?
The Ids are on the march – to Nob

Hill, where nabobs are on fire
amid their books.  Moses
threw tomes into a rose-
bush (ruby thorn in rabid empire)

& King David warped his harp
with smooth rushes & grass –
his humble plant shall pass
anthills of Tyre, the minnow tarp


of Lucifer – the arrogant hare
shall slip behind the turtle
& the dove shall hurtle
like a hummingbird (plum everywhere).

The sea wind washes the shoreline;
she lifts my face toward
her calm sunlight.  The sword
shall pierce your own heart, Minute Man,

little island seeker after Liberty –
her candle glimmers, copper-
green, where grasshopper
& ant both anchor.  Charity

of Chartres, Maid of Orleans,
Spirit of St. Louis
circling toward Paris,
read us what soul freedom means –

infinite mercy & joy
lifting the universe
from snowy ovoidness
into a Shakespeare play –

late Mississippian romance
only the first people
have beheld.  Quadruple
diamond, sapphire expanse,

arc of a Southern Cross above
refulgent rose island –
we expiate... to understand
your ever-brimming streams of Love.


pileated woodpecker


then you shall have some pie


Down by the Rio del Espiritu
Santo, the sun ignites
the pileated woodpecker’s
red-feathered crown.  The sky is blue,

the river flows, a serpentine
spark-shimmer, bending
rainbows to the engulfing
sea.  Dido’s shade will lean

forever toward the perimetric
oxhide rim of Carthage,
choking on her rage
with tears.  Dante’s epileptic

yearning for supernal Grace
paces her transcendental
number round a circle
of circles like Angela Mace

Christian, or a greyhound, hunting
down that palimpsest
of muffled tracks (geist-
hand behind the arras bunting)

to find F. Mendelssohn at last –
well-tuned, unlucky sister
polishing her Easter
song (spliced to her brother’s mast).

& as my poem’s radius inches
toward her hemisphere,
its eigenvalues (fear
& hope) rhyme where it pinches


here in Mendelssohn, where children
in the shade of worlds
their parents made, unfold
a bruised & tender leaf-pattern.

The family circle is a dented
sphere.  Your twin cousin
became a ghost – the other one
a cryptic cosine (marginal)... prevented

on path P to blossoming, somehow
(obliquity of bad faith,
lack-love).  Now each wraith
in Dante’s bowl of wrath & woe

will step into your Mirror Lake
as into Galilee,
so you might slowly see
circumference of eternity – & make

amends.  Dido weeps by cave-door.
Moses goes home free,
his daughters over Lethe
summoned, as in play (Cleo,

Ophelia, Jessie...) by paddle-wheeler
quick, now, here, gone
like a Mississippian –
irrational Thanksgiving number

Guillem d’Orange (not neon, now,
but international,
beneath his Provenรงal
shade-grove) beheld – her wavy prow.



the crumbling infrastructure of democracy


On Coney Island of the West
in Lake Waconia
some paraphernalia
of archaeological interest

has surfaced.  Shards, arrowheads
of prehistoric hunters
peek from beachcombers’
pebble-piles, a gravel shed’s

debris (shale chips, random limestone
scrap).  America
was born of such disjecta
membranes.  Origins are alien.

The poem is gratuitous.
Nature is useless too –
a toy made out of blue
marble, flotsam, detritus.

Ocean is grey as morning twilight.
Clouds, frail shells, gull-
feathers.  Breakers roll
the whole toward a more perfect

Union (not quite).  The whole thing
needs but the slightest
nudge to knock the rest
into a nest of lovable, hurtling

good will... like Roger Williams’
Rogues’ Island – Rog’s
Island – paradox
of durable Rose Lighthouse beams


outlasting slander & contempt
spilled from sharp fork-
tongued human mark-
of-Cain mistrust.  None be exempt,

Pilgrim.  We all fall in the ditch
led by Venetian blinds men.
We have to clamber again
toward mutual forgiveness (each

to each) if we would be free, just
free (happy).  Restore
the crumbling infrastructure
of democracy – liable to rust –

with a sense of gratitude... play!
This is the order of the day
quadratic creatures cry
mounted on the fiery rim of a sky-

born Thunderbird.  Red Wing
was where she landed –
one cosmic six-handed
octahedral diamond bling-a-ling

like a yellow gyroscope   spinning
from the calyx of a rose
aubade   the center glows
with its own light... the winning

smile   an Okie restoration
out of an almond shell
riding her great sea-swell
vast   turtle-dome   Reunion