This Prophet Speaks the Rhythm




Copyright © 2015 By Scott A. Kelly and FIERCE ELECTRIC DOG PUBLICATIONS

All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher, excepting small portions quoted for the purpose of critique and/or review, provided that such excerpts do not constitute a substantial portion of any individual poetic piece.

All artwork and photographic material is the property of Scott A. Kelly. All Rights Reserved.


beauty in the black hole, Star*Line, July/August 1987
why we don’t want cybersoldiers, Star*Line, November/December 1987
sound and the electric ear dream, Amazing Stories, November 1987
motion is the only constant, Beyond #14, 1989
vacuum genesis, Star*Line, May/June 1988
inspiration, Byline, November 1988
eleven years after the fall of the astronomers, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, January-June 1989
fever dreams, Beyond #14, 1989
rhea’s lament, Star*Line, November/December 2007 — Dwarf Stars anthology, 2008
the grass spider, Star*Line, September/October 2007
phantasma en la poema, Byline, May 1988
art, bitch, online @ Author Scoop, January 26, 2009
the green reich, Star*Line, April/June 2011
the strange attractor, online @ Astropoetica, summer 2009
saigon, Star*Line, January/February 2010
pure notes prior to accidentals, Star*Line, January/February 2010
this prophet speaks the rhythm, Star*Line, July/August 2010
giza, Star*Line, July/August 2009


“I have now read Scott Kelly’s Green Reich, and must say that I cannot fathom how it cleared the slush pile.”
—Athena Andreadis via

“The Green Reich is offensive and disgusting and its publication appalls me.”
—Alex Dally Macfarlane via

“So far as I am concerned its claims to being a poem reside in a tendency to hug the left margin, a disregard for conventional punctuation and capitalization, and line breaks–none of which make a poem, in my view.”
—Amal El-Mohtar via

“I suppose there’s been good and witty work lampooning liberal agendas and that it’s possible to have good and witty work using those terms. But this is neither good nor witty.”
—samhenderson via (comments section)

Speak friend, and enter.


Beauty in the Black Hole

Schwarzschild’s child
God’s favorite mystery
sucking starlight and stray radiation
one fat red nebula in the cosmic drain
blood on a black rose

Why We Don’t Want Cybersoldiers

The robot revolution is done.
A bloody insurrection
and only man bleeds;
robot power sources weaken.
Only man wins by accident.

Metallic corpses sprawled
across the nation’s factories
and farms, convenience stores
and fast food restaurants,
with hoes and pitchforks in their hands,
LED readouts flash amber letters across their chests:


Two of my earliest pieces. Anything prior to this was high school and college creative writing class anthology stuff. Nobody needs to see that. I remember being thrilled when, a couple of months after Beauty was published, some other poet in the letters section of that magazine commented that the poem “certainly lives up to its title.” In 1985 I saw on PBS a documentary called The Creation of the Universe, written and narrated by Timothy Ferris. I was introduced to a theory of cosmology known as Vacuum Genesis. The rest (of the 1980’s at any rate) is history.

Sound and the Electric Ear Dream

at the crest of a gentle slope,
hours before dawn,
there is a radio telescope
poised in slow anticipation,
gazing into night’s infinite yawn.

The sky rotates with effortless grace
Above a cool curve tracking
The rhythm of God’s voice
Through empty space.

with sound, by digital reproduction
the big dish probes
the heart of some alien construction
where BEM’s squint at stray images
of old earth shows, “The Lost Episodes.”

Dawn comes in a wave of radiation
That pushes the universe west;
The dish plots a course through the stars
By electronic navigation.

atop a low slope,
deflecting sunlight at the seams,
the radio telescope strains to hear a voice of hope
in the deep blue bowl of random signals;
it monitors man’s dreams.

Motion is the Only Constant

nothing ever stops
this system rocks in time
to the rhythm of gravity boogie
partners twirl in ever shrinking
concentric circles until they collide
at the center of the dance floor
and are blasted back into a unified field

(there to take long hay-rides
through a wonderland of vacuum zero
singing top-ten hits from the big bang era)

and somewhere in the hyperstill
father time imagines
the slow cold curves of mother symmetry
and he wonders how to get up her dress
into her warm moisture void
so that she might bear him
another radio bright child

(he wants, if he can,
to rape that bitch symmetry
right back into beginning)

Vacuum Genesis

man imagines
big bang as the beginning
of reason
and he marvels at this structure,
this design, this balance.

man imagines reason
minus feeling
(plus distance times desire)
in some boson stew,
in some unified field,
and man can big bang
his head against the sky
but he cannot imagine vacuum

or see past believe.

it grows, it grows,
this fragile vacuum
passion for decay
into being every perfect something
from frozen nothing.

the universe is a mess
of touch and see
and if I’ve left you gasping
naked on the shores of fact
it is only because I love you enough
to wish that you never were
and I want you to believe
in balance and in symmetry
and in the beauty of the infinite

and yes,
and too,
the simple luxury of forever nothing,
forever nothing.

not even a dream of darkness
can shatter this stillness.

there is no order
in this void,
only matter
wrapped in seeming.

vacuum genesis:
the superunification of everything
that isn’t
into matter,
into a violation of symmetry
which is God which is not
or nothing perfectly,
which is less in turn than unification
(but most in touch and feel, or imagine)
than the start of dreaming,
or waking from a long night’s sleep,
or just every frozen something
from perfect nothing.


inspiration is a passionflash
of sudden wonder,

one thunderclap in the blank phase.

eightandonehalf by eleven
is an infinite dimension
and every maybe fits on this page.

inspiration is almost magic,
like a waking dream, some
vivid insight into vacuum imagine,
some shiny something out of nothing.

inspiration is sudden symmetry:

God carving His name
in the sand,
on the shore,

with the sea.

Eleven Years After the Fall of the Astronomers

eleven years after the fall of the astronomers
and the night sky is still a vivid velvet mystery
draped over our heads

palomar dreams.

the rigid, unblinking fish-eye lens
focused inward yearns
for another glimpse at the past.

god you’re so dumb
wondering what is the moon
(but perhaps a jilted lover’s heart,
still and hard,
where man stood once
and embraced fate).

what do you care
when you’ve got religion and baseball
and tartar control toothpaste,
x-bombs and short skirts
and light beer jesus
you don’t need stars,
if you’ve got cable television
forget mars.

but i love the way the world is.
when i’m ignorant and dead
then i bet you’ll understand
why reason is a weapon
that batters dreams into facts
and wonder into understand.

eleven years after the fall of the astronomers
the world comes very suddenly
to a flaming conclusion.
the stars can only watch from their vast distance,
the moon can only shake it’s empty head,
and pretty mars can only mourn
the passing of her former lover.

(without warning
everything was very clear
and precisely rotten
until yesterday
when everything was
very newly beautiful,


like forever
like the rain;

i saw a little girl, very pretty,
sitting among the ruins of old palomar,

counting stars).

This poem tops the table of contents in Mark Rich and Roger Dutcher’s Magazine of Speculative Poetry, January-June 1989. Unfortunately, they mistitled it as “Eleven Years After the Fall of the Astronauts.” Luckily, they got it correct on the page where the poem actually appears, and even more luckily the International Science Fiction Database and Locus list the correct title rather than the other. Not that I have anything against astronauts, mind you.

Asteroid Q11-1017 Mine Shaft Collapse, 2120 A.D.

dark and frozen silence:
the shaft,
the asteroid,
a million miles of hard vacuum
in every direction.

We’re on our way!

the shaft foreman takes a silent poll,
reads the data in our frightened eyes
and reaches between his broken legs
to snap the radio off.

the LED mods flicker and fail.
the LSS coughs and stalls,
a dull announcement of forever breathless.
the shaft foreman turns in the darkness,

spends his final breath:

I was gettin tired a’listenin
to that sum’bitch anyway.

someone chuckles and
an exhalation valve clicks open.

stays open

Flatline Inbound

centuries mingle in this permanent instant.

the moment has unwound down
and all the clocks are still.

what lungs
are big enough to breath
forever into this void?

who is left to measure
some aspect of this

i have been
a ragged sailor drifting
in a sea of silent vacuum
without waves or stars…

i have arrived at my destination
one universe too far forward,
one entire lifetime
too late.
[end transmission]

Fever Dreams

I had this dream:
I was running around my back yard
naked at the speed of light
I tripped over the damn dog
and exploded into a bright new star
“Jesus Christ!” the dog said
“Why don’t you watch where you’re going?”
but the star/me only smiled and died.

Rhea’s Lament

it devours,
each as each an hour
or a day from mother’s labor,
the children of every apocalypse.

once there to plant your seed,
back again to swallow the fruit
of her womb.

we know what you are
we know what you are

cronos, you bastard.


The Grass Spider

sitting outside one afternoon,
sipping tea,
a topic arose among the three
that they might study a nearby tree
and measure the difference
between what each would see.

then one of them noted that a spider
was crawling down a sprinkler-spout,
so they agreed to discuss instead
what they thought the fellow was about.

“I think that he,” said she,
“(I mean if it is a ‘he’),
since spring is in the air,
is merely searching for some maiden fair.”

“It seems more likely,” spoke the second,
“he’s headed toward the house
to give someone a scare.
Its their nature, I’m sure you’ve heard,
and as for spider-men and maidens —
spring, frilly dresses,
and picnic baskets laden —
well, I think the very image is absurd.”

“At any rate,” said the third,
“I’ll not have the little nipper
crawling up my back.
Its enough to give one a heart attack
when they do that.”

so, having said,
he walked across the lawn
and stomped the spider dead.
then, bending slightly forward
to confirm his cruel display,
he saw beside the tiny corpse
an even tinier bouquet,
and a little wicker basket that had spilled,
tiny sandwiches neatly wrapped,
dainty pastries cream-filled.

“Well, what kind of spider was it?”
they wished to know.

“Just a grass spider,”
he said with a shrug, annoyed.
then he checked his watch,
made of it an elaborate show.

“Its late,” he said at last.
“I have to go.”

In Black Holes and Barbed Wire I began to experiment with non-science fiction poems while trying to maintain the speculative poetry “edge” that such poetry requires. The darker subject matter reflects a lot of personal turmoil as well as a transition from youth into early middle age. That said, in the interest of full disclosure, a couple of these poems were actually written during the Vacuum Genesis era, weird orphans that had no home until I began to gather the Black Holes material into a collection.


this poet’s work is done

10 dead lesbians are barking
at a blood-red moon

there is cacophony in the event wave

girls are whipping boys for whose pleasure

no one wonders

the grass bleeds your age

I have been many roses at your leisure

my pen is soaked with discontent

let me introduce myself
to the fragrance of your annihilation

or make of myself
various aspects of your fatal desire

whose every century
is one mysterious day

Phantasma en la Poema

my best poem is when I touch you
where I’m not welcome.
when I nakedly-blatantly dominate
the moment we share.
even God holds His breath
when I gently pet your shocked

my best poem is like we’re in bed together
and i’m overconfident, you’re not so sure,
and if it doesn’t work there is only this
embarrassing emptiness between us
forever, the lights come on,
the curtain goes up,
and the whole damn world is watching
us make (pictures).

i think you need me,
like you’re blind but i can see
you naked,
beautiful and afraid.
then you flinch
when i reach up out of this page
and gently squeeze your

my best poem is my fingers
all over your body
while you squirm suddenly
the words on this page are alive,
pink and bleeding and twisting like snakes,
and for one perfect moment we
(strangers) embrace.

art, bitch

amazing fuck-culture gurus
spit in faces furious and old
(gaping monkeys grumble)
naked statues glisten
in a long pale hall
gawkers walk and ogle
camel-toed girls
(giggling cell phone snapshots)
grinning vampires gather
later in a coffee shop smug
and (predictably)

A Jetty on the Acheron

he hears the furious rustling of seconds
that seethe like ants
devouring the carcass of an hour

he hears the tap tap tap
of a woman’s heels
down a long hall

shorter visits
fewer flowers

he hears the sound of rowers rowing
and the water that slaps in waves
against a distant shore

he hears a heavy, sodden tread

death, even,
drags his feet
among the dead,

and then he hears no more.


done with love

she’s in the bathroom trying
to pee

i’m chasing my shorts
under the bed

the toilet flushes

did you yes did you of course

lips touch lights off

love you love you too

moonlight dominates the room


one human hope made horror

an aryan cleansing
a purer breed

barrack x bleeds,
it bleeds!
i bang my head against this wall i
rage against this wall i


nicht offenen

who believes any of this now?



he’s got no place to go

they sent his good job
down to may-he-co

gave it to pay-dro
who will take it up the ass
twelve hours a day
for a burr-eat-o


now the corporate banner flies
beneath hot blue mexican skies

¡vamanos cabrón!

(the workers groan
and knuckle sweat from their eyes)

¡vamanos a trabajo pendejo!
they are paying the burritos soon!

pinche guero
pinche guero
pinche guero


eight months since the factory closed
and still he’s got no place to go,
just a family that grieves
and a beautiful brick barbecue
full of last year’s dead leaves.

The Triumph of Insanity

art thou not a slave to thy desires,
or the sum of thy vices?
thou hast become a victim of thine own flesh.
thy noblest motive is to profane
and thou hast made a virtue of thy perversions;
mistaken thy sins for good deeds,
mistaken sickness for well-being.
how many more souls wilt thou swallow
knowing thou can never quench this thirst
that festers in the dark belly of thy mind?
what horrors hast thou not revealed
in the deadlight of thine own eyes?
thou parchest even an ocean while it rains.
thou art a shadow,
cast in the shadows that shadows cast,
breathing sleep and exhaling nightmares.

i have known thee, encountered thee in glimpses.
thou hast been the jagged outline of branches
cast upon pale white curtains
on moonlit nights.
thou hast been the death of flowers
at summer’s end.
thou hast been the thin gray ribbon
that curls around my hand while i smoke,
the sharp smell of bad gin
and the sound of ice cubes
rattling against the glass.
thou hast awakened me in darkness
with the noises thou makest,
bumping around in other rooms.
thou hast led me, disguised as a friend,
and abandoned me on dark paths
even where fools fear to tread.

what does it profit me
to profit by thee?
i tell myself it is for the sake of my art
that thou might consume me.
who among us would not bow before the magnitude
of an apocalypse such as thee?
but would i wake up every morning
and watch thee shave my face?
would i trust thee with the razor?
even in my desperation,
wanting words on all these white pages
or some sound in all this flat silence,
i am overwhelmed with the fear that,
while painting a portrait of thee,
thou might lurch up out of the canvass,
take the brushes from my stunned fingers
and paint for thyself, instead, a portrait of me.


mixing the powders in the red clay pots yellow
for the day star white
the moon, his shy mistress, green
and brown for earth mother
shaman say do
we do.

elders in smokehouse dreaming stupor
see the white hart with an arrow in his throat
say blood of hart
dominates snow say long winter coming
shaman say pray
we pray.

the gray brothers from the highlands
gather for the blood ceremony
round and round
in a great gray circle yellow
eyes gleaming, pale like the dawn, white
fangs glistening…

glistening dagger’s wicked edge
divides the reality of flesh
from a young boy’s middle finger
held over and drip drip dripping
into the powder pot
bubbling bubbling…

young girl’s first blood:
warm steam rises in the still dawn air
from a small red bowl passed hand-to-hand
in a wide circle of wet red lips
tasting each in turn
the hope of an early spring.

this is big magic,
power drawn
from the rhythm of the land
and the wisdom of the sky,
shaman say sing!
we sing.


moonbeam was a girl
and no one ever gave her flowers
lonely moonbeam loved
the flowers needed
flowers rests
in flowers loved


razor angels kindly swept her up
and then away and
now she dozes
in a dew of blood
a billion cobalt-blue
then wet red roses

The Green Reich

the adjutant provided STATE’S evidence
on an etch-a-page reader
to the adjudicator:
a young black hispanic disabled tri-sexual
manFEM/cybiotic jewslamic skinhead.

everybody in the chamber
(Pure Earth Ministry, 3rd floor, room 316)
squinted in the solar-tube gloom
except for the earthcrimes agent
(who glared)

“what’s the charge”
he/she/it or they
asked in a supercilious tone.

the earthcrimes agent hissed.
everyone in the room gasped,
exposing each other
to each other’s germs
(they were fined).


the earthcrimes agent rose.

“your Whateverness,”
it began,

“the accused has been recorded on Gaiavision
defecating and urinating on STATE property,
specifically a small patch
of STATE protected bermuda grass around the
Grand Statue Of Our Great Chairman.”

the adjudicator blanched.

“don’t you mean the
Great Statue Of Our Grand Chairman?”

the earthcrimes agent blanched.

the dog barked and wagged his or her tail.

“The Green Reich” appeared in the April/June 2011 issue of Star*Line magazine. A vocal minority of speculative poets, unhappy with Star*Line’s tendency to publish more science fiction poetry than politically progressive interstitial feminist poetry, made trumped-up charges against my poem and used that feigned outrage to force editor Marge Simon first to publicly apologize for its publication, and ultimately to resign her position as Star*Line’s editor. They had been angling in that direction for some time, but it took a poem as incendiary, as hate-filled, as clearly misogynistic, homophobic, racist, anti-semitic, heterophobic, misandristic, anti-islamic and as poorly written as “The Green Reich” to achieve their goal. Of course, the fact that it is a poem about a dystopian future in which environmentalism and political correctness have been exaggerated to a ridiculous extreme is beside the point. After a four-year “cooling off” period the only part of the entire incident that still bothers me is Marge’s instant capitulation to those morons. I’ve been publishing poetry in Star*Line since the mid to late 1980’s and I think that I have earned enough credibility and respect that the magazine and its editor should have stood up for me and my work. Instead, Marge facepalmed “Doh! What was I thinking?” and essentially validated my detractors. Thanks.


But Julian, Even Dogs Dream

you’ve coined a phrase
that’s all, and
bicameral sounds
so scientific.

but if we were
our own gods first,
half exalted,
half enslaved;

why did we fear
the Old Man,
how can one god
fear another?

even the neanderthal
buried their dead
with ceremony,
is that so schizophrenic?

give the greeks
their muses,
leave broca
to his sleep.

cold torus

what an amazing view these
particles have!

but how can they know
if (or whether)
they are being shoved UP
and AWAY
from Io’s molten rage,

or DOWN and
TOWARD the wide,
Jovian sky?

they do not know,
these particles,
if they are dying
or being born.

if heaven or hell
is their fate.

some of them move to Europa,
of course,

others are converted
into radiation
on the outer edge
of a hot torus


some just tumble

i wonder after those
that fate abandons.

n dimensional non-euclidean space

the geometer leans back in his chair,
blows copernican smoke rings and
imagines forbidden things he

will never write this paper,
or admit this weakness, but,
what if,

he wonders,

sometimes under toadstools
when it rains,

little people gather?

what if?

The Strange Attractor

a discretely sampled sum of N

the illusion of order
in an otherwise
mandelbrot set

periodic functions
that resist zero

periodic functions
that defy zero unpredictable
is our constant
our refrain
waves of radiation expand
as they contract particles
are birthed from this decay

a bach fugue surges

quantum freeze-tag

heat death God’s
funereal dirge there’s


in always falling forward it’s
a pleasure to collide yes
we will gather at the river

of course we will gather at the river

self similar
and estranged

I don’t actually write poetry very often. Once or twice a decade. Usually once. I published randomly (and infrequently, after the Green Reich debacle) from any of my poetic “era’s” so that my bibliography is only chronological unto itself. It has nothing to do with when any particular poem was actually written. The Void Sprocket was my second artistic breakthrough after Vacuum Genesis, another amazing something out of nothing. All of this poetry was written between 2000 and 2010 and—unusual for me—I started sending it out to seek publication while I was in the heat of inspiration. I began to sense a new clarity in my poetic work, and I found a voice that I liked. There is a hint, at the end of the collection, of where I think I am going next.


beneath an

away from the
ho chi minh

at an angle
to the present

the city reeks
of prop wash
and scarred souls

and the temple

Pure Notes Prior to Accidentals (The Big Bang)

there is a certain
listless urgency
in silence

a complicating
that transcends

i am replete
in this void

by its wholeness

deafened by
the sudden abundance
of sound

This Prophet Speaks The Rhythm

this prophet speaks the rhythm
of old souls.
the ancient resonance of elder gods
foretells a fractured era,
a diffuse age.

the clockwork universe
expands beyond cause;
one Planck distance between
the void sprockets
stalls the surge of aeons;

a universe ends,
not in fire or ice,
but silence.

One of the many criticisms of my poetry is my sporadic use (and intentional misuse) of punctuation and capitalization. I love poetry, I’ve read it all my life, and I have even written the occasional formally structured poem that didn’t make my jaws clench. But I write poetry on my own terms. It is poetry because I choose to call it poetry. It is crafted to sound a certain way in the reader’s head when they read it and I use (or don’t use) punctuation, stanza breaks, line length, imagery, and language to achieve that goal. My poetry is not meant to be read aloud. Listening to people read poetry aloud always makes me cringe. Not saying it’s a bad thing, just not my thing. Watching people act interested while they are listening to someone else read poetry aloud makes me cringe even more.



these fragments

of ages past

cast long sha
dows on the centuries pale


buried in
caverns un

derground a subterranean nest
of aeonsfrozen


trapped in an



a solemn contemplation
of desert sand
and sunsets.

beneath an earthshine moon–
khafre your witness–
what do you dream
while the sky rotates,
full of stars?

maybe the old kingdom

maybe the dull ache
of now

maybe just sekhmet,
and the laughter that precedes
by ages an eerie silence
after the gift shops close,

when antiquity seethes.

Sudden Understanding Prior to a Boson Meltdown at the Large Hadron Collider

a guy
presses a button
and understands suddenly
that ralph baer invented

the end!

i saw a chuck e cheese©®™
get hit by a tornado
once it was awful

nolan bushnell occupies this man’s dying thoughts
monkeys mechanical
keys mech



i was in a classroom
when the machine spoke

mrs. myers fifth grade


my eyes got THAT big around
and I said do it again

billy knutson had it

it made words
when you turned it upside down

then mrs myers
took it away

tossed it in a drawer but
i’ll forever remember that day

gray skies and forever
on every horizon

before the dismal reality
of technology


a machine spoke to me


it’s a shade of orange that
smells like hope, and warm.

a kind of radio you will never know.

I pity you trapped
in this digital age,
never lost in the static flow

of white noise,
dead air,

or the mysterious dark spaces
between the tubes:

a midnight circuit board cityscape
beneath the glassy campfire glow.


the future smelled like new electronics

buzzed on the tip of my tongue
like a 9-volt battery

the styrofoam crinkled

i thought the future
would be bubble-wrapped

we all looked at it
but only they were allowed to touch

i snuck back later to press the switch

it came on and glowed red
numbers floated in the dark

i tip-toed back to bed in awe
dreamt of a universe

digital red and warm

buzzing on the tip my tongue

Another one of the many criticisms of my poetry is that my references are too obscure. I write to an imaginary reader, a person who is a lot like me. He’s an active rather than a passive reader. She never particularly liked poetry to begin with, and if he is going to spend her time reading it then he expects to be challenged, enlightened. This imaginary reader, much like myself, became a full-fledged poetry addict when she realized that there are layers of meaning beneath, between, and behind the actual words printed on the page. Almost like secret messages, and in the case of my poetry, secret messages from other worlds.


summer nights
and the smell
of warm transistors

a high impedance earphone
is my window to the world
while the world around me sleeps

sometimes just a static buzz
or a dopplered heterodyne squall
between distant places


(a summer thunderstorm
white noise surge)

“Catfish on the mound,
two balls two strikes,
one runner on third…”


when there is no more t v snow,

no more late night mystery
bathed in the warm
white noise glow,

what happens to those frequencies?

where do they go?

some percentage of that old screen
echoed the fading energy of the big bang,
or so I’m told.

heat death, I suppose.

imagine static silence;
huge cameras gathering dust
on an empty soundstage,

cables drooping,

fading echoes of canned laughter
haunting a distant, digital age.

the better things get
the less I care.

we are experiencing technical difficulties,
please stand by.

I miss dead air.



the light that filters through the leaves
in rivulets–
(and mottled shadows gathered on
the shining hoar)–
traps mist that swirls up softly from
sleeping thickets,
feigning frozen death upon
the forest floor.

the wind that combs the tops of trees,
that lonely sound,
reminds me by its soughing how
in time the glow–
the light that filters–falls on dead
infertile ground,
while shadows gather in the place
where I must go.

hush the wind will say,
the trees its tongue,
and I will lay among
the thickets, feigning sleep.

The Playground

it is the permanent end of a forever season.
here are the swings were we played.
here is a merry-go-round;
when i turn it, it resists,
makes a tortured, grating sound.

now we are gone, and there is only silence.
a cold wind blows ghosts
back and forth in the swings,
lifts the frayed end of a tether-ball cord
toward the gate as if to say

it’s time for you to go.

Twenty Years Later

one moment in a masquerade
of perfect moments,

an epiphany,

a perfect now.

I remember saying
“I will remember this always,”
and I’ll be damned if I didn’t.

and damned that you did not.

Not With a Bang

such this passion for despair,
never was a life more pondered
than all this sudden absence of hope
nor, in joy, was a moment
so full of empty hours or anything as loud
as a dream when it shatters
and, immediately thereafter,
a silence so final.

the ragged end of days comes
not with a bang
(as if we had hoped, ultimately, to explode)
but with a looming discontent:
a long shadow crawling across
a valley full of wasted years.

there is a fatal stillness
at the end of all things.

Snapshots Near the End of Summer is actually one of my older collection titles, dating back before Vacuum Genesis. Because I edit and massage my poetry and my titles over years—sometimes decades—it has been repurposed for this collection and the poetry that follows. The poetry from that original SNtEoS collection is long gone. Most of it was written when I was around 18 or 19, and most of it involved black-haired girls in tight white bikinis and mirror-lens sunglasses. And a swimming pool, of course. I was heavily influenced by two artists of the time: Patrick Nagel and Steve Leal.

Thirty some-odd years later the title takes on a different meaning. The swimming pools and the dark-haired girls are long gone. What I seem to notice now is the interplay of light and shadow, of water where it meets dry land, and late afternoon sunshine as it darkens into early evening. All of the “dreaded metaphors,” in other words. But I found a few rays of hope still beaming back at me from that darkening western horizon. It may well be that we have yet before us a few more summers to capture those things we think we might have missed, then or now, before we really do take those final snapshots.


i wish my parents
could have kept my bedroom after me.
some comfortable place
that I outgrew over time,
like an old pair of shoes.

i’ve seen that on t.v.

someone looking for himself
might stop there on his way,
pause in that abandoned
way station of his youth
kept on permanent display,
sorting through the mute wreckage
of his past:

a ball cap,
some girl’s class ring
on a chain he never wore,
records in a rack
by the dresser
on the floor.

but we moved often.
the many houses
our indifferent hosts
never became us,
or smelled like we smelled,
we were ghosts.
but no shades of us
linger in those places
or haunt those who came after.
now the bathroom mirrors
are full of different faces,
different people haunt themselves
in passing pictures of dead relatives
hanging in the halls.

if, through all those layers
of cheap paint and spackle,
apartment walls could talk,
they’d cackle:
every intimate moment,
every private thought,
but they don’t.
the standard welcome to this environment
is the sickening smell of damp paint
and pine-scented disinfectant,
empty closets with the doors flung wide,
a spooky, hollow silence.

and when we left we left carefully,
the way we came,
scrubbed the tiles and shampooed the carpet stains,
painted over any stray shadows
that we might have left cast upon the walls,
unscrewed all the light bulbs we replaced
and slipped into the night, untraced.

it is an art,
so thoroughly to disappear.


how lilt thy phrases
through the summer’s gloaming–
like butterflies singing
nocturnes with their wings.

or is it a tidal surge,
whitely foaming?

I have stood in you
and bathed as women do,
shy and quick to swaddle.

frozen in the sepia swirls of memory
you linger,
beneath your cornerless box of sky,
gazing up at the angry candy.

are you searching for a word?

is it lavender?


…why strain forward?
rather fall back into a brighter day

gather shadows for a time
then offer death this black bouquet

sink gratefully into the loamy earth

follow the hollow dead smeared
with the bloody slime of rebirth

made whole
made clean

maybe a dolphin this time
      maybe the wave instead

it was


The Garden,

wet and green…


i was a dolphin
suddenly in that sea

blue the waves
and warm the water
washing on the shore

the pale white shore
the sands of time
that is no more

the music
the mourners
this somber start
to my eternity

i mourn you
that you cannot see


in that sea

Magic Light

burnt umber paints the western sky.
clouds, fat and low on the horizon,
blaze orange but briefly;
the moment fades.

something almost remembered slips away,
glances sienna off the roofs
of these little tract houses
and escapes me again.

then the yard is dark.
a neighbor’s dog barks.
the day stalls
on the tip of my tongue.

Rio Branco, Temprano

a circus mottled
in damp shadows,
just a hint of breeze,
as vivid as my childhood dreams
surreal, it seems
like only yesterday
but it was long ago,
long ago,
before the day became unbearable
there was this:
Rio Branco, temprano,
and a wide, cerulean sky.

Slack Tide

summers come and go,
the ebb and surge
of ages,
life’s tidal flow.

I cast long shadows
forward on the ground;
a thin black strip of me
on the verge
of a greater darkness wages
war against my urge
to stop, to turn around.

I will follow where it leads,
into the magic light–burnt umber–
at the end of a summer day;
I will fade in stages,
fade away beneath a
soft white blanket that will gather
without a sound.

but I would rather
in the sea

The Blonde Barbarian Woman of My Dreams

feral and devoted,
the blonde barbarian woman of my dreams
has almond eyes
and a snarling smile.

when we make love
i smell campfires in her hair,
taste smoke on her skin.

she speaks with a lilting tongue
of better days and fatter kills,
wide blue morning skies,
times without war.

lying spent and naked,
the world pressed hard
against our backs,
beneath a velvet bulge
of night sky,
she names the stars after dead ancestors
and laughs at the notion
of other worlds.

tomorrow we ride to war,
and death.

tonight we cling to the desperate hope
of each other,
breathing deep the musky scent
of the love we made,
and the faint, sad memory of other campfires,
and other nights,
and long ago.

tomorrow we ride into the night sky,
and add our names to the stars.


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