join us every October for the posting of

Ravens’ Cry






“And its eyes have all the seeming
of a demon that is dreaming.”
— Poe









Halloween Nights Lyrics

No, it’s never too much darker
than this dusky side of late October.
The Moon hums sillily on the sides
of slumbering edifices, declaring willingly
the nature of her vamp metaphysics.
The first fog ghosts steal through gorges and under
bridges as our fingers move through
their freshly shampooed hair.
There’s a mischief on this air.
Callow ghouls
stride and stagger
along the crowded
pedestrian streets;
flippant fairies
vivisect the sidewalks;
vampires with plastic
teeth transact
with their bank accounts―
crossing their fingers,
sticking out their tongues.
They curse their invisible gods.
Behind Cheshire Cat
eyes and eyebrows painted to
outrageous angles,
underdeveloped faces hide crack
infested minds.  Lingering
on pouty tragi-comedy lips,
that condemnablest fear– of unknown.



I said no,

no, it’s never too much darker
than this dusky side of late October.
Only they― truly tremulous― dare supplicate
at Alters of Chance and Change, dare
lift a prayer to preserve those shallow memories,
re-live them once more, ever one
time more, and so, ascend
to inalterable Eden.  While we,
the wiser, wisend damned―
left behind this Day of the Dead Eve―
cursed with myth-making arts of memory, will
stumble on and stumble on and stumble on.
While we turn keys and juggle dice, they
dance to an unconquerable, sugar-coated rhythm!–
let them play, I say, at immortality.
I envy them not.
For we know the first tossed spade
closing a close friend’s death, know,
unaccroachably our failures; know of
diving from cliffs into different seas, and
rocketing through and beyond the atmosphere
toward endless numbers of empty infinities.



I said no,

no, it’s never too much darker
than this dusky side of late October.
Dressed as their most disconsolable desires,
ever greedy as first suckled,
candy-gobblers pain unto
the French word for bread.
We know, soberly, that distinction,
possess the instinct to retain,
and aspire to know totally;
our pen ink’s read; our desires
known, if only as unattainable.
Gloaming arises, morning mounts,




Questions often answered then seemed notionless–
lightning remained motionless–
the tide thundered, oceanless:
acorns yet crushed
— underlined twice.
And repeats,

acorns which
have yet
to be crushed

–underlined twice.
Yet how I enjoy their crushing.
Each age of excess
soon descends.
They will soon enjoy
inaccurately remembering.
candles sputter out.
One less roll down
the hill.

Another year,

another night…




The Axeman

The log fell in two, split by the Axeman’s blade.

His scars gleamed on his cheek,
beneath the raven-black, masked hood
— hot during midsummer, even at night.

Setting another log in the first’s place, he hefted
his heavy blade and hew the log in half.
The sweat flew from under the hood.

Lifting high his ax,
he strove it deep into the slice of tree
doubling as a platform, where the ax
rested, angled to the ground.




Secrets of the Black Book

“Oh Hell,” cursed Destrehan to his brother, Destrian in the rain.  “The tire’s burst.”

The two stepped from the stolen Rolls-Royce into the rainy rural by-way and locked the door on the girl in the backseat.

Crossing to the forward-right wheel, which clearly had a gaping hole, the brothers huddled together to plan their next acts.

Inside, Annie Jump-Cannon petted the spaniel in her lap.  With her other hand, she clutched a brown-paper package to her chest.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Destrehan. He walked to the far side of the road, where a gravel driveway spiraled up the mountain.  On either side of the drive, was posted a sign reading:

    Private Property:
No Hunting or Trapping
Will Be Shot

“Then what do you suggest?” asked his brother, emphasizing the word you.  “Our tire has burst, and we have no spare.  Our license plate will soon be recognized by every cop, state trooper and highway patrolman in the county and probably the next two as well.  It is raining, and we have a kidnapped heiress in our backseat.”

I opened the aperture to my house on the mountain at the knock on my door, the first in four and a half months staying there.

“–damn heavier door,” Destrehan was saying under his breath, shaking water from his coat.

“Excuse us, Sir, please.”  Destrian announced, taking off his hat.  “I’m afraid our tire has popped out on the road across from your drive.  We haven’t a spare and were hoping to use your phone, if you don’t mind.”

“Don’t receive too many strangers out here,” I replied.  “Specially not in the rain, at the middle of the night.”  I fidgeted with the door chain a moment before letting them in.  “I’m afraid,” I told them, “that the phone is out of service.  Has been for three weeks.  But I’d be happy to put you up till morning. Could give you a ride to town in my truck then.”

A glance passed between the brothers.

“Yes,” Destrian answered.  “I think we have no choice but to stay.  I thank you again for your hospitality.”

“Think nothing of it.”

“There is a girl in the car, and her mutt.”

They fetched her in, and she was indeed beautiful.  I introduced myself to her, taking her hand in mine.  But the brothers kept their hands in their pockets.

“Annie,” she said.

“Please,” I smiled, “make yourself at home.”  She walked from the front hall—opening to the kitchen on the left—into the next room to the right, past the table—seating twelve—and into the largest room of the house.  A grand fireplace—stretching up three stories to the roof—met her, and across from it a wide stair—leading up into shadow.

Furious, the spaniel’s name, scurried from behind his mistress’ legs to wrestle with the rug.  Across the house’s foremost floor, she clutched her brown-paper bundle, tied with thin cotton string outside the wrapping, and thick leather straps inside, keeping the book securely shut.

“Oh, here,” I stammered, pushing chairs around the fire.  “Sit down, warm yourselves.  Are you hungry?  Would you like some tea? or coffee, maybe?”


“Yes, two coffees—black.”

Annie hesitated.  “Do you need any help, Sir?”

“Destrehan will help you.  Come here, Anne, we need to talk.”  She remained in her chair, but Destrehan jumped to his feet and bustled me toward the kitchen.  There was something in his brother’s eye, something about the way he sat in the chair with one hand still in his pocket, something about the way he stared at her and her bundle, something that made me desperately want to know what those two—the young woman and the tense middle-aged man with the slightest accent—would find to talk about.

I filled the kettle and deposited it on the stovetop.  Destrehan’s bulk kept me from returning from the kitchen, so I gathered the coffee and its press, then sat back, pretending to wait for the water to boil, pretending not to strain my ears, thirsty for every syllable.

They were certainly arguing.  Destrian was adamant about something, cutting her off in mid-sentence and barking at the girl as the dog barked at him.  She seemed calm at first, answering whenever she could find a gap in his ranting tirade.  Soon both their voices were raised, and I could snatch a few fragments of phrase:

“There’s no two-ways about it.  You’re gonna give it too me, and I then I won’t…”

“I’m not afraid of…  You cannot intimidate me…”

“WHAT do you think this is, a game?  You are… ”

“Ha, you couldn’t kill me in the Romanian wilderness; you’ll never have the nerve now.”

“Don’t push your luck, Princess Anne.  My brother and I can fix your pretty looks quick enough.  Hahhahheh, not the sort of facial surgery you’re acquainted to I’ll wager.  Now, if you was ugly like me or my brother here, why then we’d have to kill you.  But something lovely to look at, like you, we don’t have to kill you.  Just carve up your face good-‘n-proper—“

“NO,” she did scream this time running into the kitchen with her arms flung up over her face.  “Get away from me, you–”  Destrian chuckled to himself, pulled his chair closer to the fire, lighting a cigarette.

“Mr,” Annie’s voice still trembled.  “You have to help me, these men—“  Destrehan knocked her to the floor with a single blow, as she tried to rush past to me.

“Hey Destrian,” the brother called.  “I’ve got the book.”  As the girl pulled herself together, Destrehan pulled the package from between her arms and chest.

“What’s going on here?” I sniveled.  “You just struck this poor women?  Who are you men?  What do you want with her.”

“Good, very good.  Give it to me—quick.”  He grabbed the bundle and swiftly tore away the brown wrapping paper.

At first it seemed unremarkable, a black volume, bound in leather, with gold trimming on the edges of its pages.  He unbuckled the leather straps and paused, staring at the cover.  He broke into a wide, toothy smirk, still staring at the book before him.  “Do you realize,” he yelled, “fools?  Don’t you realize what we have right here in our hands?  HAHHAHHeh-hack-hock-cough, cough.”

Destrehan pulled his pistol from a jacket pocket, “we have the book.  Now, we don’t need you.”  His brother was transfixed by the black and golden cover, but at these words he raised his head.
“Good idea, Destrehan.  Take her outside, him too.  Execute them.  They will not be found till thaw.”  As the brother reached out his arm to pull her from the floor, he motioned to me with a nod.

“You too, old man.  I do thank you for the use of your home.  We must be leaving soon, I’m afraid, but first I must pay you what we owe.  You will be rewarded for sheltering strangers from the rain.  Outside, NOW.”  He pushed the girl hard against the door, then opened it.  As I reluctantly stepped toward him, he grabbed me as well and shoved both of us outside, to fall down the few steps and into the wet snow.

The dark figure pressed his gun to my head.  When suddenly he rolled his eyes upward and slumped to the ground, I stared at the pistol falling from his limp hand for a moment, before looking up to see another dark figure where the first had stood.  The masked man looked at his axe, still stuck in the back of my would-be-assassin.  Then he raised his head to stare at the girl.

Inside and unaware, Destrian opened the Black Book to a random page in the middle.





unknown ‘hood
–just one turn would
turn one down a one-way street.

Unfamiliar lines on helpless bus-stop signs, broken glass and AIDed spikes
strike the eye.
Then suddenly, crack, the comic-book cry,
pop-pop-pop, pop-pop
Throw up the black hood, as legs remember how to run.
A cold surprise to split open the eyes, only a moment for me.
For another, as often as sunrise, as eternal as the sun seems.
Another man sleeps without dreams–
or maybe the bullets missed.




Miniature Flightless Bird

Miniature flightless bird— lying on edge
of the sidewalk, by the gutter.
Two grimy feathers bent from her off-white wing
shudder.  Her last breath.

One tiny beak falls open.
Large, black eyes
roll upwards.  I nudge her with my toe.




Playground Graveyard

“Ralphie,” his mother called.  “Suppertime, come on in.”

Ralph left his playground and went inside his mother’s house, on the lot back of the graveyard, to wash the dirt from his hands and knees.

“What on Earth were you doing out there to make yourself so dirty?” his mother cried.

“Just digging.”

“What?  Did you say digging?”

“I’m digging a hole to China.”

“Ralphie, I don’t want you digging back there no more.”

“Why, mommy?  It’s not hard, there are spots where the dirt is soft and brown.  It’s easy digging there.”

“I don’t want you playing out back, Ralph, not anymore at all.”

“But what about my new friends.  You always say I should make more friends.”

“New friends?” the alarm grew in the bottom of her stomach.

“I wanna see my new friends.  There’s Princess Longnails and Mr. Greyface and Dr. Wormeyes.”

“Oh Mercy, child.”




Surreal Scene

The light from a copy machine slides across the surface.  The image it scans is that of another copy machine, upside-down, on top of the first.  That second copy machine is also making copies.  The lights slide across the surfaces.

Unending lines of light curve across the universe, bending along with time-space.  Forever they grow, extending out into the farthest reaches of expanding space.  They spiral through the nothingness like thread around a spool, then as ridged and straight as gravity.  Without reason, each endless strand multiplies into a billion to the billionth strands, all equally endless.

From out of the background darkness a raven appears, so black it is almost invisible.  It lands on the desk and screeches, “Ever wore, achhh, dissevered gore, achhh.”  At this barely seeable sight, the squeamish vomit away all terror, never to be frightened again.  Time reverses and all forces are nullified.

Quills, two, dipped in icy blood, draw images by candlelight in shades of gray, images of concrete underpasses, tunnels under raised roadways, and lampposts next to train track stations.  The smoke and the mist of this moonlit night are captured in those images by holding hands, fearful of all things.  Once each drawing is complete, the hands press the page against another in the notebook.  The residual ink soaks the fresh new page, and the images are duplicated exactly.

Another bead on the abacus slides along the scale, never ceasing its movement, never catching up to the bead before it, never overtaken by the bead behind it.  Another bead, then another slide by, each bead representing an infinity of abacuses, with beads which in turn represent another infinity of abacuses, all sliding so.

A cell divides.  These two cells divide.  Those four cells divide.  Those eight cells divide.  Those sixteen cells divide.  Those thirty two cells divide…




Oldest Nightmare

The oldest nightmare is the night,
its darkness and its lack of light–
indomitable, ancient blight,
the truest terror, fullest fright.

Once darkness curls too swiftly down–
to suffocate us and surround
our infant beds with naught a sound–
till soon we are in darkness bound,

then only does the old fear mount–
a terror rising free of doubt
that something under will amount
to chew our ankles, spit us out,

then pull us down to leave us there,
from whence they came– we know not where–
but agony is great down there,
some hell impossible to bear.

But monsters come, monsters go,
and children seem to grow,
till soon we much better know
than ever trust our dark dreams so.





In the Dark

Click.  The light goes out and darkness floods your childhood room.

Staring up, blind, at the invisible ceiling, rolling over in the bed, trying to turn away from the blackness, unsuccessfully.  The now unknown room– but a moment ago so soothing and friendly– seems weird and eery to you; each shadow lurks large, every bizarre shape is a threat.  Pull the sheets over your head, praying, unsuccessfully, that the close darkness underneath will be easier than the vast darkness without.

You are lost, lost in the bleak black of the night; adrift, adrift in the sea of darkness surrounding you.  Everything you knew and loved is now in question: will the sun ever rise? are your parents still alive? did the girl down the street ever kiss you on the cheek?  Your teddy bear has no answers for you.  Orphaned and alone, you drift along with the darkness’ tide.

These dark thoughts stutter into dreams.  You are asleep.




Dream in the Mist

What goes on?  What goes on, here?  This shy dream of smoke and vapor has taken the twisting and turning road, away from the firm, the concrete, the physical, toward effervescence and evaporation.  The fog rolls in, reality off.

This dream by the side of the stream, by the stone bridge arching over the stream, in this dream from the mist, of the mist, in the mist, this dream of the mist rolling under the bridge arching over the stream, hiding the stones in the bridge of the stream, this dream lasts forever.

Images, visions, illusions appear, made from the fog and the smoke and the mist, comprised of the vapor, the smoke and the mist.

Two mirrors, facing each other, create the illusion of infinite mirrors, reflecting each other, along an endless tunnel of mirrors.  The mist shifts, and the illusion vanishes.

A lantern appears to lead the way, across the bog on safe, solid paths.  But this is a betrayer lantern, and only leads to the depths of the mire.

The clouds never clear, the road is always obscured.  What goes on?  What goes on, here?




Last Hallway

There, the last moving box moved in.  Unpacking over the next months might raise his spirits, as each of his old possessions reminded him that he owned them.  Yes the next few months in his brand new room would lift his mood.

He stood in the doorway of that room.  The nurses had decided to move him to this wing of the retirement home, for he was now too feeble to live on his own.  Looking down the hall, he saw some five rooms on each side, and a small window at the end.  There was a fern on the sill, but either the sunlight from the window was too slight, or whoever owned the fern was neglecting to water it, for this fern was not flourishing.  So the old man filled a disposable cup with water and walked to that end of the hall.  He would help this fern to flourish.

Five or six times daily, as he passed in and out of his room, to eat, or to exercise, or to visit with other tenants of the home, he would glance down the hall, past the eleven rooms to the small window.  As the muscles in his limbs gradually lost their strength, the hall seemed a little longer each time he walked its length.  The plant was a looking poorly now, despite the water the old man dutifully applied twice each week.  The fronds lay limp, and their sickly green color soon faded to a burnt yellow.  When finally all the leaves turned brown, a nurse threw the disparaging sight away.

The old man’s eyesight began to fail rapidly, and he noticed that the light from the window at the end of the hall seemed dimmer than he remembered.  Everyday the hallway became dimmer in the old man’s eyes.  First dim, then dark.  The man rarely left his bed anymore.  All sustenance was fed to him through an IV tube.  His senses were abandoning him now: sight, taste, scent, touch.  Every sense but his hearing, only this did not decay.

One day, he was awoken in the late afternoon by a shrill scream.  Clawing out of bed toward the terrible sound, he stumbled through the door into the black hallway.  He could see nothing, his legs were too weak to stand on their own, and his weak arm could barely pull the IV stand behind him.  As he stumbled down and along the hall, leaning on each of the dozen doorknobs to save himself from falling, the screaming suddenly stopped.

“Who’s there?” he called, panic-stricken.  “Is anyone there?”

The hallway was indeed unending now.  His fading footsteps would hardly move him.  “Who is there?” he was yelling, now.  “Who is there?”  He fell to the floor, and the life passed from him like a rising vapor.




Secrets of the Black Book

The masked Axeman pulled his weapon from the dead man’s back with a merciless noise, Shwonk. I hugged Annie Jump-Cannon to me in an helpless embrace.

“Come on now, you two,” he whispered.  “Up outtah the snow.  How many are in there?”

“Just one,” Annie spouted.  “But if he’s opened that book, he’s already dead.”  The masked man jumped up the steps to the door and threw it open.  Seated there at the table, head lolling in death’s ugly grimace, was the brother of the man now dead in the snow.  With both her kidnappers expired, Annie crept to the dead man outside and picked up his cold pistol.

The Axeman froze in the doorway, then slowly turned around.  Suddenly, he jumped the railing and fled back into the woods.

“Wait,” called Annie, “when will I ever see you again?”

“When the moon is full,” he called over his shoulder, “when the hurricanes howl and the odd equals the even, when the ravens cry.  Look for me, then.”

She turned and slowly returned to the door of the house on the mountain.  I closed the door after her.  “Lady,” I said with some disbelief, “you have yourself some explaining to do.”

“An old friend,” she nodded back towards the forested mountain.

“You don’t say.”

She slipped past me and crouched below the table, quickly reaching up to close the cover of the black book.  She fastened the thick, leather straps just as quickly.  “Hummhemmhummmm” she replied in a sigh.  “It began, not too long ago, on the other side of the world…”





Styx River Ferryman

“A coin, a coin for Charon.  A coin for Charon, the Styx River Ferryman.  His skeletal gaze pierces your flesh, his lashing oar rips the soul from your body.  The Moroccan bone hands of the Dead-River Moor count only coins as each soul soars aboard.  He places the coins in a pouch resting next to where his heart once was.

“He cares for nothing but coins, Charon does.  No matter what value or currency, he ferries the souls of rich and poor alike, of any ethnicity or gender.  But woe to those who forget, those without a single coin, for he will not ferry them.  Those impoverished souls are doomed to roam the earth as ghosts, never finding peace, not for a hundred years.

“Old Charon’s ship holds many a soul.  On days such as these, days when many die, the ferry is weighted down and sits heavily in the water, keeling nearly, so close is the edge to the river.  But Charon is a crafty boatsman, and steers his vessel across the eddy-less Styx, toward that vast dissimilar shore, without a quiver or a sound.”





The Lion Who Gathered Lions

The greatest fighters of our age and ages past are always remembered, but those they fought and defeated never are.  No one wonders to where those valiant, if vanquished, foes disappear after their lives are spared for coming so close to victory.  But I know, and soon you will, too.  Indeed, the whole world will know, all too soon.

“Toro, toro,” the man shouted, waving his golden flag.  The lion halfway across the arena pawed the dust, staring at the man, whose size seemed magnified in the lion’s eyes by the colorful feathers on the back and sleeves of the man’s costume, and by the flag he was waving so vigorously.  No brute beast, this lion had champions on both sides of his lineage, generations of gladiator lions bred for maximum intelligence, size and brutality.  He began to circle the fighter, spiraling slowly closer, as the man spun in his place, staying always front toward the lion, flag waving.

The lion charged.  As he ran, motion slowed for both momentarily.  Only when the man could see the slobber and smell the breath from the lion’s mouth did he sidestep slightly from behind his golden flag.  The lion charged through the now empty fabric, the man let go and stabbed with his sword, with short, efficient strokes, aimed first to slice muscle in the lion’s leg, then to draw blood from the lion’s flank.  Both the crowd and the judges liked to see blood, so once the fighter knew the lion’s movements were crippled, he pulled from a tendon the sword and slashed into his side with a spurt of crimson color.  The lion, still entangled in the heavy flag, buckled his back leg where the sword had sliced him.  He limped along with his momentum, then sprawled on the arena floor, sliding into the wall, bleeding deeply.

The man walked–  with his back straight, hiding his own wounds as best he could– toward the beast and took his stance for the killing blow.  But the crowd began to chant, raising their voices till the judges themselves turned and nodded to the fighter, who quickly sheathed his sword and faced the crowd.  He bowed again and again, as they threw flowers and compliments into the arena at his feet.  Soon, the judges announced the score– 8.8, the highest of the fighter’s career.  His fans stormed from their seats down to the sand and lifted him in their arms, carrying him aloft out of the arena, to the celebratory feast.

The lion licked his side, no longer the bristling, angry warrior, but a pained and scarred, grieving veteran, glad to be still alive.  The arena attendants muzzled the beast, then cleaned his wounds, set his leg in a splint, and released him into the wilderness outside the city.  Homeless and hungry, injured and aching, the lion wandered the wilderness.  He could not run, but it did not matter, for he had no hunting skills.  He had been fed every day of his life by breeders, then trainers, then attendants for different arenas across the continent, where he had defeated fighter after fighter, until today.  He had no pride, taken from his mother shortly after weening from her, and separated from his siblings soon after that.  So he wandered the wilderness, homeless and hungry, injured and alone.

For five days he ate nothing, until he found the last remnants of a yak carcass.  He scared away the hyenas, and set to eating everything left, then chewed and cracked the bones to suck away the marrow.  Such would be his fate for the rest of his life.  The gladiator fans– safe in their cities– neither knew nor cared.  They spared the great lions’ lives, then lost interest entirely.  Even the breeders did not want him, long ago had they harvested his seed.  Such would be his fate, had it not been for the lion who gathered lions.

More hungry weeks pasted before the lion smelled something familiar.  It was human blood.  He raised his nose in the air and and followed the scent till he came to a hollow surrounded by hills and caves.  There was a man whose legs were freshly bleeding stumps, pulling himself feverishly along the ground.  When he saw the lion, he let out a soft wail, and began to crawl in the other direction.  Another lion emerged from a cave, and again the legless man changed direction.  A female lion, and then another male appeared to block the man’s progress.  The first lion was unwilling to share his new found delicacy, so he growled at the three other lions, then slunk low along the ground toward the helpless human.  The other lions sat back on their haunches and purred a satisfied acceptance.  The first lion pounced, knowing from experience in twelve deadly combats exactly where to sink his claws and teeth to kill quickly and without a sound.  As he ate, more lions–males, females, cubs– appeared around the hollow from the caves.  But whenever they made to approach, the first lion would spasm into ferocious growling and clawing, and the incendiaries would back again away.

At long last, the man was nothing but bones.  While the lion sat next to the carcass, sucking away the marrow, an ancient lion of enormous girth strode confidently forward, a femur bone in its mouth.  When the first lion began to roar and scratch, the old lion smacked his paw against the other’s head, pinning him with incredible speed.  The old lion held the newcomer there until he stopped squirming, then dropped the femur on the other’s neck, turned and returned to his cave halfway up the hill.

Some old gambler, deep into his drink, may tell you the legend of a lion that fought over half a century ago, winner of over sixty matches, till finally no new fighters would face him.  This lion was given a hero’s parade through the streets of six cities, fans slipping bones through the bars of his cage.  Then he was retired– still undefeated– and released into the wilderness.  Seven champions were spawned from his seed, three of them saved by the crowd and released.

These very three paced up to the newcomer, who was now chewing on the delicious and flavorful femur bone.  They circled around him, noticing his wounds and his scars of combat.  Then stopped circling.  The newcomer dropped his bone, now quietly alert.  One of the three walked slowly up to him, and they began to wrestle.  After a few moments of intense battle, the aggressor ceased his attacks, lost interest, strode back to join his brothers.  As the newcomer stood growling, a second of the brothers waded forward and challenged the lion to wrestle.  Again, in the middle of the fight, the second brother simply stopped, returned to his brothers.  Only then did the third brother attack.  They wrestled for a few minutes, then he too ceased.  The three brothers began to roar, and the entire pride– almost two dozen lions, a full ten of them retired gladiators– began to roar back.  The cubs scurried forward and rubbed their faces against the new lion’s shanks, sticking him with their youthful scent.  The lion slowly began to realize that he had been tested, and was now accepted.  He was home.

For the next three years, he lived with his new pride, eating when they ate, sleeping when they slept, mating with the females when they were in heat.  Soon, his leg began to heal, and gradually he tested it with more and more of his own weight.  Then he was running across the savanna with his comrades, not quite as fast as before, and with only the slightest limp.

One day the lion was preparing to sleep when he noticed that no other lions were in the cave, except the youngest cubs.  He went outside, and the whole pride was sitting in the hollow of the hill, waiting for something.  The three brother lions paced through the crowd, sniffing for a sign of blood or injury in the group.  Finally the ancient, undefeated lion emerged from his cave, high up on the hill.  This rare occurrence explained the pride’s assemblage.  The old lion’s three sons approached him, and all four began to growl.  The low, throaty tone was soon picked up by the group, till the whole pride of twenty-five lions was roaring with the full strength of their mighty lungs.  The ancient lion then strode down the rest of the hill, through the middle of the assembly, and out of the hollow.  The three brothers followed, then the rest came after.  As they began to run across the plains of wilderness, the lion felt vaguely like he had seen this terrain before.  And he had.  The pride of two dozen was running straight toward the city.

It was the blackest time of night when the lions reached the outskirts of the city, the hovels of beggars and the rundown residences of the very poor.  At first, many of the pride slowed, pawing around the shacks for prey, but the ancient lion and his three sons continued at full pace, straight toward the center of the city.  Those who had slowed had no choice, they must run with the rest, or be left behind.

Soon, the buildings began to show the signs of prosperity.  Gone were the one room hovels, replaced by multistory houses, opulent office buildings and grandiose municipal compounds.  Only here did the ancient lion slow.  The streets were still empty.  It was too late for the barflies and drunkards, who had long ago left their watering troughs for home and bed, and still too early for the farmers bringing fresh goods to market.  They were there, in the very heart of our city, paws padding on its pulsing throat.

Then one by one the humans appeared, milkmen, paper boys, farmers.  Each reaction was the same: a scream of terror, a wild sprint towards safety– followed by capture and execution.  Every scream would awaken a block of additional humans, many of whom were foolish enough to venture outside, only to find certain death at their doors.  They were spread across ten blocks now, the lions– ex-gladiators and wildcats full grown.  The whole city was waking up to find the streets besieged.  A full company of militiamen appeared, armed with swords and halberds.  The wildcats slunk away from the stinging blades of their weapons, but for the gladiator lions, this was a return to the glories of their youth, the blood, the pain and the thrill of killing.  These men were not practiced lion fighters.  They did not stand a chance against these monsters, who were bred and trained as killing machines.  They crumpled and fled before the jaws and claws of the beasts, who pursued them and tore them to shreds.

A great balloon drifted over the mayhem.  It would descend to earth, and the men aboard would lash out against a group of lions, then float high above their attacks.  Men with muskets arrived, and the lions finally began to fall in numbers.  Five units marched from street to street, gunning down the beasts with two syncopated rows of gunmen– one row would fire, then load, allowing the next row to step past them and fire.  Then first row would once again step forward to fire.

The ancient one, alone, pawed up to the arena– high on a hill in the center of the city– and surveyed the slaughter.  He seemed pleased with the terrible vengeance he had reeked upon this city of men.  Only when lines of musket men approached him from two sides, did the oldest, undefeated lion, his back against the wall of the arena, fight again.  Here, at last, was a worthy foe, a pain he could feel through his thick layers of scar tissue.  A broadside of musket balls ripped through his flesh, but he still barreled into one unit and took nine lives, before they shot him down– on his mouth the dreamy grin of a long-sought death in battle.

The few remaining lions immediately fled back across the city into the wilderness, among them the youngest of the three brothers.  He is waiting out there now, waiting to strike, once again gathering lions.




Apple Ants

Empty soup can,
lid still attached–
razor sharp.
Apples plucked from trees then
tossed immediately
to cider tub, due
to vaguest bruise, minimal-est infestation of ants.
This ode to those grotesqueries of filth and ugliness.
Those forgotten; betrayed; far from home or hive;
those rotten; those decayed; those eaten alive.
No lightness or laughter in being, only oppression, aggression, depression–
each ragged molecule a testament to its own poverty and weakness–
while two drunken mourners shudder in freezing horror.
We are quite closely related.






All praise to mighty Eubrontes– known
only by its footprint,
fossilized in solid stone.  True
Thunder Lizard– ancient monster, brainless god,
ruler of all Earth–
eating fuckers alive.  But,

then, Extinction, Non-Existence, Death.
Never again to tremble the earth with those tremendous footsteps, leaving
not even its bones behind.  Just a king of Dust, another sultan of Sand.
Terrible or timid; awesome, acquiescent, powerful pusillanimous mightymeekmonstermouse:
all inherit the same omni-nothing–
a nothingness of nothing, save
a less-than-sleep
for all unknown eternity.





Sanctuary or Asylum

The spotted Snowy Owl soared across the sky on her clipped wings.  Her  feathers were the same shade of white as coconut ice cream covered with large, gooey drops of chocolate syrup.  Once she landed on a branch, she would not stop jerking her head to and fro, as though she were being watched.  As she flew again from one tree to another, the observers on the boardwalk below oooo-ed and aahhh-ed.

As she watched the door, her long, thin knitting needles clicked rapidly.  She could never have spoken of, could never have confessed, barely could even think about her anxieties, her nightmares, her delusions, for thinking more thoroughly would mean admitting to herself that she had anxieties, nightmares or delusions.  So, she watched the door in silence, and as her tremulations grew stronger, ever more turbulent, she could only knit faster, expressing by so doing her growing trepidation and detachment from reality.  Her needles were by now practically a blur.

The portly and overbearing man hoped no one was watching as he pulled down his pants and sat on the toilette to urinate.

“I now call to order this session of the Women with Mustaches League,” said a thin faced woman with a thick patch of hair on her upper lip.  “First on the agenda, Announcements.  I have spoken with the owners of the building, and regret to inform you that our meeting room is now designated as a smoke-free area.  So we will all have to extinguish our cigarettes or take them outside.”
“Shit,” said another woman, with an untamable growth blooming from her nostrils.  She snubbed out her cigarette in-between her fingers.
“Any more announcements?”  the thin faced woman asked.  “Then let us move on.  We will now recite our club mantra for the benefit of all new comers to the meeting today.”  The ladies then rose and began to chant in unison:
“We, the members of the Women with Mustaches League, do hereby swear to honor the true nature of our body hair, swear to ignore the stares and comments of those who would judge us for this indelible right, and swear not to shave, pluck, trim or otherwise alter our upper lips.  To do so is an act of cowardice and a concession to the male-born constructions of physical beauty, and would bring shame upon our Goddess-graced organization.  Amen.”

“I told you,” Telegraph Tommy reiterated, “I can communicate with my mind.  You can hear my thoughts, right now, without me speaking.”
“Tommy, listen,” Melissa said sternly into her cell phone, with only a hint of exasperation.  “I can’t hear you think, you have to tell me aloud.”
“You’re not trying hard enough.  Try again.”
“Tommy– you’ve been drinking,” anxiety was creeping into her voice faster now.  “Just tell me where you are, please.”
“I don’t know.  I don’t know where I am.  But I have a gun.  A shotgun.”
“Oh… Christ–”
“I told,” he cut her off, “all of you, this is how I would do it.”
“No, Tommy, I am serious.  You have to tell me where you are.”
“I’m holding it to my head.  I don’t know if it works or not, though.  I told all of you–”
“Put the gun down Tommy, you don’t want to do this.”
“I told all of you this is how I’d do it.  Whiskey in one hand, shotgun in the other.”
“Oh Christ, Tommy, don’t do this.  Don’t do this to us.”
“The bottle is empty now.  Whoops, there it goes, I smashed it against the tree.  I’m in the woods, somewhere.  But I don’t know where.”
“The woods?  Where did you leave your car?  If you can tell me where your car is we can find you.  You’ll be alright.”
“Dammit, I was gonna shoot the barrel– no, the bottle.  I was gonna shoot the empty bottle.  Then I’d know if my gun works.  Then I’d know if… oh well–”
“Put the gun down!  NOW!”
An explosion rang across the woods and through the telephone.
“Tommy?  TOMMY?”

As she pulled into the driveway, she felt as though her insides were spread out across the car seat, that she had to gather them together before she went inside to talk to him.  She sat in the driveway for a long second, then with one motion pulled the handbrake, killed the ignition and opened the car door.  The walk up the lawn lasted about a  thousand years.  She rang the bell, and instantly the door opened.
“Hey, kidoo.”  There he was, as tall as she remembered, with the same smug, toothy grin.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Oh come now, you don’t have a friendly word for your old man?  Not even a smile?  Haven’t seen you fer six years.”
“We both know the reason for that.  I’m only here now because–”
“Yer still mad.”  He was pretending dejection now, aloof in his drunkenness.  “I hoped you learned a little forgiveness while you’ gone.”
“Forgiveness?  After what you did, you stand there and talk about forgi… never mind.  It’s obvious that you haven’t changed.  But I knew that already, you’ll never change.  I only came here to–”
“Come on in, have a drink.  We can catch up.”
“I’ve been sober for 3 months.”  But he had already grabbed her wrist and was pulling her inside.  The door closed behind her, and she sat down in her little chair by the kitchen table.  He poured two glasses of vodka from an almost empty bottle.  She left hers untouched and began to slowly speak.
“Your right, I’ve been gone six years.  At least you remember that much.  I’ve spent that time fighting what you’ve made me into.  I’ve been in and out of rehab and locked units; I’ve relapsed again and again, I’ve attempted my own life.  At first I failed at everything: jobs, relationships, therapy, even suicide…  But, now I’m sober and I’ve met a man who loves me.  I’m going to be married.”
“Aw, that’s swell.  And you came to ask me to give you aw–”
“THAT’S,” she screamed, “NOT why I’m here.”
“Now, hey now, don’t let a few bad memories from a lifetime ago ruin what we are.  I’m your father… I’ll always love you.”
“I hate you.  If you were dead, I would thank God.”
“Agh, you stuck-up, ungrateful–  hussy.  Why–” he lifted his arm and swung the back of his hand at her, but she knew this was coming and sprung backwards easily–knocking over the chair– out of his reach.
“NOT, anymore.  You cannot treat me like that anymore.  I will not allow you.  I am strong, and I will not allow you.”  But her eyes were welling with hateful tears.
“How you turned out this way, I’ll never know.”
“YOU!”  she screamed.  “YOU made me this way!”  The tears were now flowing down her face.  “YOU…”

The man’s feet slid on the wet cobble stones as he sprinted around a street corner to the left.  To catch himself, he dropped his hand to the ground and stopped himself from falling flat.  Then he began to run once again, down the street perpendicular to the one he had left behind.
The sound of his footsteps pounding had almost faded when another man– of thick bulk and frame– ran up to the same corner.  He looked in all directions, then listened, then followed the first man down the leftward way.  This second man’s name was Hugo, and it was his job to collect debts from those who owed them.  He had a knack for ferreting out from their hiding places debtors gone underground, so earning the nickname the Evictor.  Hugo the Evictor was catching up.
The first man had ceased his flight.  He stood in the middle of an open square, catching his breath, wondering if he had lost his pursuer and looking in all directions at once.  As Hugo came to the square, the other man had turned to stare down a different street, so Hugo stepped into the shadow of a doorframe and out of sight.  The debtor evidently thought the chase was over, for he was no longer shifting his gaze twice a second.  It was not until then that Hugo shoved his leg off the door into a dead run.  He was halfway across the square before the other man looked his way.  The man stayed frozen to that spot for two and a half seconds, before he too began to run, cater-corner to Hugo, toward the dark church looming along the side of the open square.  As he ran up the steps and through the only door– mere yards from Hugo’s outstretched arm– he cried aloud, weeping in overwhelming terror– “Sanctuary, SANCTUARY…”
Hugo the Evictor sat down on a bench in front of the church door, legs neatly folded under him.

“Now I know the gun works.”  She thought she heard him chuckle.
“TOMMY, YOU BASTARD.  You Scared me.  I thought you had…I thought…”
“You should be scared, Melissa,” Telegraph Tommy replied.  “No matter what you say, I know you can hear what I’m thinking.  Now I know the gun works.  Now you know I’m gonna do it.  I’m really gonna do it, now–”
“Listen to me!  If you so much as pretend to point that gun at your own self, well, you’ll regret it, be sure of that.  We love you, Tommy.  Think of the pain you would cause, not just me and your friends, but your family, the people you work with.  Think of how much we’ll miss you.
“It’s because of you that I’m out here.  You said you didn’t love me.”
“Tommy,” Melissa’s sigh was bolstered by exhaustion and pity.  “I’m in a relationship, with someone else, with another man.  If we had met at another time, if I was single, untied, then sure, maybe I’d be able to give you what you want, what you need.  But… if you want to be loved, you have to give yourself a chance.  You have to give someone else a chance to love you, too.  Love takes time, it needs to grow.  You can’t expect every girl you meet to drop her entire life and instantly fall in love with you.  Don’t you see that?”
Another shot rang out across the forest.

“Shuh,” her father spat, staring at her across the table.  “I never gave you nothin’ you did’in ask for.  With your sad, wild, little eyes and your mouth all scrunched up, just enough to make a man crazy.  Nothin’ you did’in ask for.”
She could not believe her ears.  “No.”
“You wanted it more,” he continued, “than I did.  Or else you wouldn’t a-worn your skirt so short a man can’t imagine a thing else.  And all that make-up all the time.  Women don’t dress like that ‘less they want something only a man can give ‘um, and I was only man would give it to you.”
“No, no, NO,” her sobs were uncontrollable now, as she threw her arms over her head.
“You tramp.  You cheap hussy.  Rape you? You was askin’ to be raped.”
Her head was in between her arms where she stood, when he sauntered toward her.  She realized, how much a mistake coming here had been.  He grabbed her and tore at her dress, pinning her to the floor, once again.

“TOMMY? HELLO! HELLO?” Melissa screamed, “Tommy if this is another joke, I’m gonna…” then, without knowing why, she began to whisper, “hello?… hello?!?… tommy?”





An Affliction of Addiction

itch-twitch-stitch-tch-tch-tch-tch.  Something else, anything else, snapping a rubber-band, counting backwards, popping bubble-wrap, anything.  Hum-hummmmm-hum, but tunelessly.  Changing channels constantly and continuously for hour after hour after hour.  FUCK.  $h!#.  Think how much money I’m saving.  Fucking roll up the bills and smoke them, inject them in in my veins, snort them up my nose– no, no, not helpful, nevermind.  Please, get me some methadone, some lollypops, a patch, a puppy, a stuffed animal.  Otherwise I’m gonna start crippling infants, slowly, watching the pain on their tiny faces, laughing to myself.  I’m gonna take old people’s medicine away.  Gimme some more coffee.  Oh no, here they come, the strange delusory dreams and images: books reading people, candy melting, my boss eating ice-cream while she fires me,  my mother strangling me with my umbilical chord, horses on their hind legs dancing a twisted doe-see-doe, chopped up guitars, dogs biting people, and the people biting back, my nephew stealing my wallet– wait, I don’t have a nephew.  Ok, I think it’s passing.  Yes, definitely going into remission, yes, fading fast.  But they’ll be back…





Secrets of the Black Book

Max Jump made good money in the Romanian lumberjack business.  As he walked toward home at night to his house in the Black Forest, to his wife and their new baby, he felt a bubbling, gurgling sensation in his belly, which he might have called contentment.

Out in the forest, one early November, he was surveying the forest for trees to fell, when he came across an unmarked grave, with an unearthed, tiny, miniature coffin.  He stopped in his tracks, then approached the grave with cautious steps.  The lid of the two-foot box had slid to one side and flipped over, revealing the contents, a single, black leather book.  Had Max paused to overturn the fallen coffin lid, he would have seen the warnings carved in the dark wood, the warnings not to disturb the book buried herein, warnings written in 14 languages, old and new.  For it is a book of greatest fears, and all who read in it will die.  But Max did not read the coffin lid.  He brought his find home, to his house in the forest, to his wife and new child.

“Look, Annette,” he said upon his arrival.  “Can you imagine someone burying this in the forest?”

“How queer,” she replied, hefting the book, considering it’s gold leaf, and leather straps.  “Do you suppose it’s valuable?”

“Open it and see.”  She undid the straps and opened the cover to a random page in the middle, before the tea kettle whistled, and she hurried away to mind it.  Max followed her into the kitchen.

The child crawled from her chair and across the table.  The book lay before her, as she sat and toyed with it’s pages, grasping the corners in her babe fists.  Finally, she looked down at the inscription and drooled.






Secrets of the Black Book

“I’ve been meaning to tell you, the baby is not your own.”  Max Jump dug his nails deep into the sides of his face.

Annette left him.  She married Baron Cannon, who raised young Annie as his own.

Because baby Annie could not read when she first looked in the book, she became immune to its power, and became the first man in centuries able to read in the Book of Greatest Fears.  This is not particularly pleasant, however, and she only does so when casting her Astronomical spells.

(wiki that shit: Annie Jump Cannon)






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