"The Moon Will Kick Your Ass" and Other Bedtime Stories

 

To Fly So Low 

“You must be insane 

to fly around so low” 

a muffled voice declared 

from under a pillow 

and things busy punching clocks in distant places 

suddenly became aware 

of their own hands and faces 

“You must be DERANGED 

to fly around so low!” 

well, whatever, why not? 

who wants to know? 

my fuselage may blaze and smoke billow 

great black sickly chemtrails 

from here to Amarillo 

and future generations may not know 

what to make of the craters 

why wipe out the dinosaurs but leave the alligators? 

with their fancy goddam purses and their shoes 

so unhappy in their own skins 

they can’t help but sing the blues. 

OUCH. 

“You must be bare-assed crazed 

to fly around so low.” 

well sure, I know 

but I didn’t think you’d know. 

so whaddya want? 

some precocious, winsome ape man long ago 

got tired of living in some land of snow 

and walked across 

some jagged strait or isthmus 

just couldn’t keep minding his own apeman business 

“You must be mad 

to fly around so low.” 

well sure, I know 

but I didn’t think you’d know.

Warbler 

The noises and the marks I make are warbling 
but birds probably don't romanticize it as I do 
Who'd want to listen? 
The whippoorwill may fashion a sad song of his name 
but if a longing lies curled in those marrowless bones 
it is probably a longing for the sky 
This, this is warbling 
Sometimes it's pretty 
though much of the time it's just so hopeless, so goddamn lonely 
that I don't even want to open 
the creaking shutters of my heart 
wide enough to set it free 

But that doesn't sound much like birdsong, does it? 
Not the kind you'd want to awaken you 
Not the notes that could call your face 
home from Dreamland 
to a pillow somewhere near my own.

Old Man World 

When the down, dark, dismal blues set in 

just imagine all the ages 

Old Man World has been 

forever games of cat and mouse 

across the green-blue turning of his spine 

the myriad creatures 

in their lonesome spotlights 

arising of themselves to shine 

all the broken, crippled, lovesick, lungsick, hungdick   

pervert, inert, and deranged 

return in season 

as tall, white, long-winged birds 

casting moon-projected shadows 

over town and mountain range 

and how many mustaches do you imagine old man world has grown? 

every salted, peppered length and style and color 

ever upper lip has known 

silverfox mustaches 

brushing frost from rims of cold glasses of beer 

browndog mustaches 

soaked like ragged mops with lovers’ tears 

when you’ve grown very old 

and you lie down 

with your hurts inside your pockets 

and your stories and regrets 

and it doesn’t quite feel 

like it’s time to close your eyes 

just yet 

Old Man World may smile a weary smile 

gazing down on you 

with myriad shining eyes 

and tell you, 

“Ah, goddamnit… 

oh, you are so young, so young. 

Try hard to remember when you rise.”

Two Songbirds 

Two songbirds live inside my chest 

the night we met they built their nest 

one brilliant gold, one misty blue 

and both live but to sing for you 

sometimes I find their nest a mess 

of weeds and brambles, selfishness 

twisted branches, thorny words 

would you have me kill your songbirds? 

they beat their wings in vain to see 

if your heart harbors birds that sing for me 

some nights I creep to lock their cage 

they flutter, wake, and squawk with rage. 

I’m teaching them to speak, your birds 

may the muses of my heart find words 

to sweeten their songs, quell their fears 

to trust the winds that brought them here 

if the birds in your chest won’t sing me songs 

it’s not for me to deem them wrong 

I would be gentle, kind, and strong 

if now and then, my heart’s sweet friend, 

your birds with mind would sing along

The Disloyal Songbird 

The bird inside my ribcage isn’t mine 

he doesn’t come back to me when I call 

unlike stones weathered slowly over time 

or autumn leaves undamaged by their fall 

a shaking, quaking, breaking, woeful mess is he 

who, though I beg, won’t sing to comfort me 

but overjoyed to send me grief and shame 

sings all night long a song much like your name

The Moon Will Kick Your Ass 

Them’s the breaks kid, oh, you better believe that them’s the breaks 

go ahead and shake, kid, believe you me 

make no mistake 

that moon up yonder, yonder moon 

may seem a whimsical plaything 

but believe me, kid, that’s no balloon 

whose beams yonder hills are bathing 

does that look like the face of a kindly old gent 

peering out of yonder moon? 

that’s not the visage of your sweet grandpapa 

come to sing you to dreams in your room 
you’d best be awake if he climbs down 
that clouded stair from star to ground 
To bedevil your heart and kick you around 
kid, that’s the way the moon cheese crumbles 

he’s pocked with craters deep and wide 

filled with umbral shadow 

that’s where sinister moon goons hide 

watch out for them, me laddo 

they’ll toss you like a wayward tide 

if I were you I’d cower inside 

it’ll feel like that Coney Island ride 

that gives you whiplash, but with werewolves. 

so let moon-eyed lovers rhapsodize 

let troubadours croon lullabies 

about old man moon, but kid, get wise: 

the moon will kick your ass. 

now off to bed 

no, you can’t have a sugar cookie 

sweet dreams.

Uncertain Bedtime Story 

Nightbirds sing melancholy in the trees 

borne up on limbs formed by uncertainty 

uncertain the direction of the breeze 

that blows the notes of night’s calliope 

the stars rest like a crown of brilliant jewels 

atop the balded noggins of the hills 

and light years distant, we stargazing fools 

can only guess if they are burning still 

underneath the moon long shadows run 

to netherworlds known but to owls and stars 

don’t let them haunt your dreams, my darling one 

these things are yours, uncertain though they are

Lunch Song of the Hudson River 

How many tons of gangster bones 

how many tons of gangster bones 

how many tons of gangster bones 

lie down in your deep belly? 

24 tons of gangster bones 

24 tons of gangster bones 

24 tons of gangster bones 

lie down in my deep belly. 

no one shoots up their parties here 

bleached by the brine 

and knocked against the piers 

and no one has wept for them in years 

way down in my deep belly. 

how many golden coins from Spain 

how many golden coins from Spain 

how many golden coins from Spain 

lie down in your deep belly? 

a million golden coins from Spain 

a million golden coins from Spain 

a million golden coins from Spain 

lie down in my deep belly 

a million golden coins from Spain 

that drifted down like shimmering rain 

like gleaming tears from angels’ eyes 

that watch men squander paradise 

for love of metal, greed, and gain 

a thousand golden coins from Spain 

lie down in my deep belly 

how many nameless suicides 

how many nameless suicides 

how many nameless suicides 

lie down in your deep belly? 

a hundred nameless suicides 

a hundred nameless suicides 

a hundred nameless suicides 

repose in my deep belly

traffic cops and jilted brides 

who wept and wandered by my side 

I rippled, shrugged, and opened wide 

the doors to my deep belly. 

how many poets, pens in hand 

how many poets, pens in hand 

how many poets, pens in hand 

lie down in your deep belly? 

I welcome poets, pens in hand 

I welcome poets, pens in hand 

I welcome poets, pens in hand 

to lie in my deep brown belly 

they scribble in their little books 

and take a step without taking a look 

and then I swallow them for good 

they won’t go home to old Penn’s Woods 

they’ll lie beside the gangster bones 

and Spanish coins, and suicides 

the traffic cops and jilted brides 

will welcome them with civic pride 

‘cause this is New York City, baby! 

even on the river bottom 

savoir-faire, panache: 

we got ‘em 

make ‘em, break ‘em 

eat ‘em, rot ‘em 

man, I’m getting hungry 

I’d welcome poets, my curious lad 

melancholy, wild, and mad 

the sweetest lunch I’ve ever had 

to lie in my deep brown belly

A Riddle 

It howls like the high wind 

It goes and comes back again 

and doesn’t tell where it’s been 

But what is it, dear? 

It acts out the fools part 

It beats like a warm heart 

It creaks like a horse cart 

but what is it, dear? 

It whispers, it fumbles 

through dark ages tumbles, 

and down dark roads stumbles with low lantern burning 

It lives and loves dearly 

prays for light sincerely 

treads silently, weirdly a small planet turning 

  

It loses you, finds you 

forgets and reminds you 

Its radiance blinds you 

but what is it 

dear? 

  

It riddles, it rattles 

It rants, raves, and prattles 

and chooses its battles by tossing a dime 

flaunts childish behavior 

forgives like a savior 

and rouses poor poets to rally their rhymes 

It plays every angle 

ensnares and entangles 

It maims and it mangles, but what is it, dear? 

It’s something that hearts do 

and struggle and live through 

though it batters them bruise blue 

So now is it clear? 

I think you know, dear.

Ode to the Pigeon Man in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires 

Surely it is the mark 

of a character true and fine 

to wear winged vermin 

like a shroud of goodwill 

keep your amigos closer, amigo, 

feed them on kindness 

and never will they fly from you 

pausing in shining magnanimity 

for a bite of ice cream to cool the throat 

while the heart ever-warm remains 

encircled with winged things 

halos with dirty feet

Song of the Holocene 

Peace in the Heavens 

makes beauty on Earth the more 

for all small things of movement 

to be sure 

should dusk and dawn bring death comets 

to make an island of this night 

then all small things and good 

to whom there abide