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Feb 2023 · 164
nothing about much ado
Wk kortas Feb 2023
We know
the old adage:
he who plans, He who laughs.
Pray the laugh's not too bitter and
mocking.
Wk kortas Feb 2023
It was one of those fussy, fuzzy little epiphanies;
She’d noticed, a little surprised and nonplussed,
That her wedding ring sat on the window sill above the sink,
Its removal necessitated to scrub the assemblage
Of dishes and silverware facing her,
The act certainly of no particular significance in itself
Simple unconscious mechanics,
Like tying a shoe or a quick goodnight peck,
But a thing at one time unthinkable,
Akin to betrayal and other sorts of unimaginable treachery,
Involving the breaking of solemn covenants
Of undying affection and fealty
(Though such vows rendered impotent
By their very nature, their utter lack of recognition
Of life’s winds and wuthering)
When love was a thing close kin to sheer madness,
Hurtling onward without heed to caution or stoplight
(But such emotion also prone to falsehood,
A three-alarm call with mutual aid to boot,
All for some overwrought trash barrel or barbecue)
And she was stirred from such reverie
By his appearance in the kitchen with a late arrival of glassware
Proffered with a bit of a wan smile,
Which she accepted as sufficient apology,
Taking a moment to push the ring a bit more toward safety,
Away from the minor maelstrom of water
Rushing unheedingly into the drain.
Wk kortas Dec 2022
These trips by the county boys,
Being further deputized as burly, armed elves
Tended toward the grim,
Taking them on roads way up in the hills
Where pavement was the stuff of fantasy
And the home-sweet-homes
Were ancient pock-mark and rusted single-wides
Or jerry-built additions uneasily affixed
To some abandoned hunting camp or outbuilding,
Third-hand rugs or tarps covering
Hard ground, possibly augmented with a sprinkle of sawdust,
And you learned not to do more than exchange hellos
With the parents (this just one more minor indignity,
One more for-today-only handout,
The toxic mixture of resentment and self-recrimination
Never far from the surface) and head for the kids
As quickly as politeness allowed, the smiles
(Sometimes positively beatific, others suitably wan,
Knowing that tomorrow would be another day
In a series of just another days)
And upon leaving one such place, a couple of the boys
Heard an incongruous tinkling, this place
Far enough from town and insulated by bluff and pine woods
Where it couldn't be from St, Mary's or Faith Baptist,
And turning the corner toward where they were parked,
They happened upon a black bear,
Improbably wakened and wandered from some nearby cave,
Toying with some improvised wind chime,
Comprised of old graters, 50s-issue percolator stems,
Silverware liberated from some Denny's or school cafeteria,
And as they backed away to seek
Some alternate path to their vehicle, the younger of the pair opined
Must be some angel getting his wings, hey?
To which his partner, who knew these hills
And their sundry denizens all too well replied
You get that bears attention,
You're mebbe gonna find yourself on the waiting list
.
Nov 2022 · 146
the canvas messiah
Wk kortas Nov 2022
As architecture, as artifice
It was an impressive entity, indeed
Rising several stories in height,
The winds at its top leading it to flutter
In such a manner as there was considerable debate
As to the identity of the visage at the apex,
Though there was no doubt that the edifice
Was majestic as it stood implacably *****,
Its folds billowing in an inscrutable silence,
And if one were to inquire as to its origins
Or the nature of the scaffolding it rested upon,
Such questioning was curtly dismissed
As irrelevancy of an unworthy and secular nature.
Oct 2022 · 266
tuxedo junction, now
Wk kortas Oct 2022
Such raiments would be the province
Of those gated and corniced places
Up on the hillside, and even that milieu
Living on residue and recollection,
The glories of the past
Fading like so many past-peak October leaves,
Beautiful in the sense of such colors
They heretofore possessed,
Though in any case, the whys and wherefores
And relative merits of thens and nows
Secondary to more prosaic matters:
The price per gallon at the Gulf station down on Route 17,
Seasonal temps at Bear Mountain
Trying line up some other gig or side-hustle
Once the land locks and the leaf-peepers and hikers go home,
Those hoping corroded propane tanks and curled shingles
Can make it just one more winter,
And if the worried and wondering
Enjoyed the luxury of philosophic musing,
They might ponder upon what those earlier residents
Who had lived at the apex of Manhattan society
(And possibly even those earlier residents,
Jumbles of Patroon and Lenape blood
Who crouched forlornly in the Palisades
As that skyline came into being)
Would think of what became of this place,
Yet as they look up there are no ghosts of the ancients,
But merely the impassive, lazily circling turkey vultures,
Implacable, enduring, constant.
Wk kortas Jul 2022
They’d had him dead to rights for poisoning the well,
Least wise as far as they reckoned,
His fingerprints all over the pail
(Not the only set, but there in a goodly number nonetheless)
And footprints more-or-less conforming
To his boots in size and tread
And perhaps all that wasn’t stitched up as tight
As the sheriff’s boys would have liked it,
But there were other factors,
Things inferred and whispered
It being a place and time where truth
Was a sufficiently malleable thing
(There was also the testimony of one woman,
A lover, perhaps, or at least in her own visions,
Whose sworn statement was punctuated
With wild gesticulations and shrieking denunciations
As to how the accused had shredded all vows holy and otherwise,
The whole thing close enough to madness
That it was surreptitiously removed from the record)
And the trial was a brief, perfunctory affair
The defense attorney literally in shock
From the cavalier manner by his objections were waved away,
His motions for mistrial and subsequent appeal
Disappearing into some void of bored court clerks and paralegals,
The upshot of which was one man
Fitted with an unappealing cravat
Paraded before a sufficient gathering of onlookers
(But a quieter affair than such things normally were,
The harsh cacophony of the cicadas,
String section tuning for some discordant symphony,
Rising above the hum of the attendant mass)
And as the proceedings rambled onward
Towards its unwelcome conclusion,
The guest of honor grimly mused
As to how restoring of the water table and its potability
Would do little to put things to right.
Wk kortas Jun 2022
You learn, and generally to your discontent
That wishes and horses have much in common
Each likely to prove less than obliging
To take to the bit and bridle
No matter how fine the metal and leather may appear
And should the procurer demur,
He may find there are provisos and caveats
Governing that which can’t be recanted
Returns and refunds being frowned upon
As such items, being one of a kind,
Custom accoutrements which only one can don
And regrettably one is apt to find
That you may not have found a perfect fit
And once it breaks, you’ll find you bought it.
Dec 2021 · 321
for absent friends
Wk kortas Dec 2021
Unlike the feted Ebenezer, our intangible visitors
Are not necessarily seasonal in nature,
Nor do they waft into scene
As the result of our direct malfeasance
(Sometimes the case, to be sure,
But more likely they are the stepchildren
Of our omissions rather than our commissions)
Coming among us not through wanton transgressions,
But the upshot of our mortality
And its associated failings,
And as they glide translucently among us
In this season where the darkness comes so early
(Yet the light clutching the western horizon
For an imperceptibly longer time each day)
Their presence may be somewhat more benign
If we are able to undertake the act
Of forgiving ourselves.
Wk kortas Dec 2021
Perhaps, dearest daughter, your continued absence
From these shores is very much a blessing
For even though your corporeal self
Resides an all but incomprehensible
Number of leagues away,
The occasional missive you deign to send
Serve as sufficient understudies for your particular role;
Indeed, one can almost feel the spittle
Rising as blunt instruments from the very pages themselves,


But then again, perhaps it is not so;
Not the odd angry recrimination
Sundry maddening, shrieking tales of woe
Blows which may not reach their destination
Though intended to mar the tend'rest spot
For even if perchance they reach their mark
These scattershot parries are all for naught,
For no matter what pains the barbed tongue bring,
The most **** pointed speech will fade in time;
Though slaps or scratches may utterly sting,
Such violence is not the ultimate crime.
'Tis the lack of your voice, or your foot-fall
Which is the unkindest cut of them all.
The Marquesa de Montemayor returns courtesy of the Thornton Wilder novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
Wk kortas Nov 2021
There were a surfeit of items
Sufficient to raise eyebrows or cause comment
Among the few staid members of the Mulligan clan:
The appearance of siblings or cousins assumed (or at least hoped)
To have preceded Thomas to the choir invisible
Two or three women genuinely surprised
To discover the existence of one another,
One young man with an extremely disconcerting resemblance
To his “Uncle Tommy”,
But the entire affair carried on with something akin
To the requisite solemnity
Until such point that a couple bottles appeared
(The consensus being that the good Mulligan
Had somehow found a way to secret them in)
The end result being the proceedings
Subsequently devolved into an Irish cop wake-esque teleplay,
And in the midst of this fol-de-rol, Tippy Phelan,
Who had framed walls for generic bank buildings
And grunted and swore while cobbling together
Unnecessary cupolas and wholly superfluous cornices
On the McMansions of the small town well-enough-to-do
With Tommy (as well as, on Friday lunch-times
During the slow season, sharing a thermos
Containing a mixture which drew narrow-eyed stares
From lenient if still unhappy foremen)
Stood the final toast for the good Mulligan,
Intoning There’s a land of the quick and the land of the lost,
The trick being to build a sturdy span between them
So it’s only proper that Tommy was a ****** fine carpenter
.
Wk kortas Oct 2021
All of my formal training, all of the years
Of study and sacrifice to hone my craft,
Failures and frustrations that brought me to tears…
I think of how I scoffed at sell-outs, and laughed
At the mere suggestion that I too would chase
The almighty dollar and forsake my art.
Ah, but now…it is painful to view my face
In the mirror, seeing one who plays the part
Of the simple buffoon, the mere one-note clown
Sent to warm up the rubes for the main event,
Performing rude pratfalls to bring the house down,
Animated reminders of my descent.
And now, my vocation a mere joke, bereft
Of merit or value, I exit, stage left
It is Friday afternoon, so do not judge too harshly.
Wk kortas Sep 2021
There was no romance per se,
Certainly nothing which would lead poets or philosophers
To hold their hats over their hearts in reverent awe,
Perhaps one or two de reiguer chestnuts,
But they both were bit players in a milieu
Where the hustle was the coin of the realm,
And the comfort of their pro tem cohabitation
Was strictly a surface thing;
Indeed, she stirred from half-sleep
To see him out of bed, already more than half-dressed,
(Not at all surprising, this being the time of day
Where such young men made their money,
Some package to be delivered or message relayed,
All in service of some crumpled-up tenner
Never missed by its purveyor
But life's blood to its recipient)
And she watched silently
As he sauntered over to the window
To where a group of boys were out well past
What would be considered bedtime out in the suburbs
(It being the last weekend before
They would be corralled into classrooms once more)
And he leaned out the window,
Addressing them with a somewhat paternal growl,
Hey, my little heroes--time for you to get inside.
Gets cold at night 'round this time of year
.
Sep 2021 · 210
what is toronto?
Wk kortas Sep 2021
He was, to be sure, very impressive indeed,
His bearing and carriage not of someone on his way
As much as one who had truly arrived:
Sleek, self-assured, possessing the calm of one
Who fully understands just how powerful he is,
One who has not embraced the company culture
As much as self-immersed in it,
To the point where it has so permeated his structure
That is hard to tell where he begins and it ends.
And yet, there is something unsettling there,
The odd non sequiturs, disturbing enough
In their utter and unconscious wrong-headedness,
But even more so
In the motorized, perfunctory method of their delivery,
As if it were obvious that it is we who are clearly incorrect.

Some three hours of drive time away,
Past any number of Holiday Inn Expresses,
Past numerous faded and shuttered Catskill resorts,
A handful of people carrying standard-issue banker’s boxes
Containing the detritus of twenty or thirty years of work
Exit the vestigial office the company maintains in its birthplace
(Only there as a nod to history, a sop to the locals and legislators.)
We hate to lose good people,
The HR person who drove up for the occasion
Intones solemnly to a handful of reporters
Who slouch nonchalantly in folding chairs
Scattered about a small, Seventies-wood-paneled conference room,
But there are certain market inefficiencies at work,
International incidents, kinks in the supply chain,
Other anomalies the forecasting tools
And business models couldn’t have foreseen
.
And as he speaks, one of the newly superfluous
Wordlessly enters her car, pointing it homeward,
Across the sluggish, ice-clogged Susquehanna traversing  a bridge Commemorating a giant of cash registers and calculators.
Wk kortas Sep 2021
One thought this is how London looked after The Blitz
Although there was no one's finest hour to be cited
Commemorating how these torched shells of buildings came to be,
Standing not in defiance as much as the indifference of gravity
To finishing a job better not left incomplete,
Given they were fit for nothing but rats and pigeons
(And they probably not without their misgivings)
But one night we were driving over to Jersey
To obtain grain alcohol or some other contraband,
I'd observed the odd single-bulb shining out of
What purported to be a windowless frame,
Misbegotten wished-upon stars
Failing to deliver upon the most prosaic of aspirations,
And that evening I'd drank with a taciturn fury,
My companions shaking their heads,
Saying For chrissakes, you're less ******* fun than usual.
Go the hell home, or haunt a ******' graveyard
,
And I did not travel upon that highway again
Until I left The Island for good, grabbing a ride
From a friend who was a fellow native
Of the cold, cow country Upstate
And as we approached the Throgs Neck Bridge,
I turned away from the window, telling my buddy
I'm gonna grab some shut-eye; you can wake me
Once we hit the Palisades
.
AUTHOR'S NOTE:  As anyone who is native to the area will tell you with such vigor and frequency that you'd rather they didn't, it's not "Long Island" but "THE Island".
Wk kortas Aug 2021
What God has put asunder, I have joined together.
He chuckles at this somewhat self-consciously,
His clientele comprised primarily of gentlemen of a certain age,
Most of whom have stepped off to the altar
Twice or thrice, some even more,
Whose wives will be, at least pro tem,
The mistresses of the Moorish bastardizations
Being commissioned by their husbands,
Vaguely Iberian grotesqueries
Christened Sin Cuidado and Villa Tranquilla
Festooned with cornucopias of cornices and cupolas,
Featuring vaulted cathedral ceilings and open-prairie floor plans,
Impossible to cool in the ninety-degree dawn of August
Or heat during the all too frequent cold snaps,
(Such being noted to him by a visitor
From a staid Boston architectural firm,
To which he replied, Save that for the classrooms, pal.
I give the people what they want, dad,
And these folks are first, last, and forever
All about the façade.
)

It is not, however, his effort to turn Florida’s East Coast
Into a giant movie set for the stories of Don Juan or El Cid
Which inspires him to utter his inversion of the marital vow.
He has moved beyond being a mere designer;
He is a man of substance, a builder in the larger, cosmic sense,
And so he is here, in this sticky, sweltering venue
Which disappointed Spaniards named after a rat’s oral cavity,
To make a new Venice, complete with electric gondolas,
Cloisters which would put any in the Old World to shame,
Gesturing, bellowing, and cajoling,
A Prospero of sawhorses and steam shovels,
As displaced Seminoles and colored laborers
Sweat and swear and stumble
As they dredge swamps and hack down stumpy mangroves
In the service of his vision, the aggrandizement of his bottom line,
Arm-twisting the caprices of drought and hurricane
To serve the pricier whims
Of a gaggle of DuPonts and Wanamakers.
It’s not that I don’t believe in a higher power, he will demur,
I’m simply not averse to some slight enhancement of His plans.
Wk kortas Aug 2021
It is rather unremarkable,
Or at least as so as such a pane may be,
Depicting a trinity not mentioned in Scripture,
Though their handiwork would likely merit approval
From any member of the trio cited therein,
As they went forth humbly,
In humble carriages in service
Of an ostensibly prosaic task
But certainly on the side of the angels,
As must have been noted
In each of their respective services
(Closed-casket affairs, one presumes
Given the state of the remains
After they were extracted
From the earthen dam site where they were discarded)
And their particular Caiaphas
Dispensed with sending their cases onward
For further consideration
(He too a man of the cloth, but also a mill operator,
Producing two-by-fours worthy of use on Calvary)
And after he had passed sentence,
Leaving matters to take course,
One assumes he went home, washed up
And made his usual rote recitations
Asking for Him to watch over his and his ownself.
Wk kortas Aug 2021
It makes sense that it should end in this way;
No fingers to point, appeals to hear.
(The critics have spoken, we’ll close the play.)

Tell the dour old priest to go away,
I’ve no time left for repentance and fear;
It makes sense that it should end in this way.

There’s no final role I need to portray
As my whos and whys are perfectly clear.
(The critics have spoken, we’ll close the play.)

No fretting about a life gone astray;
I plotted the course which I chose to steer.
It makes sense that it should end in this way.

Let others live to fight another day;
I’m at peace with all that which brought me here.
It makes sense that it should end in this way.
(The critics have spoken, we’ll close the play.)
Wk kortas Aug 2021
You move beyond the luxury of panic,
Beyond the realm of heroic measure,
To such a point where clarity is superseded,
Itself a linear matter and beneath further concerns,
Beyond cursing yourself for failing to heed
Such self-imposed caution as had taken you this far,
And a life does not flash before ones eyes
As much as thoughts and images
Hopscotch into consciousness
Without a particular plan or pattern:
The party you left early, being under strict orders
To be home at such-and-such a time,
Only to be greeted by your mother
Who seemed genuinely surprised
You would take such strictures to heart,
Sundry boxes carried out of sundry workplaces
Under an equally broad array of circumstances,
Times you'd laid back upon the ground,
Looking at the clouds as or like a child
With no rationale save that it seemed like a fine thing,
Any number of snippets trodding on each side of the line
Separating memory and hallucination,
Wondering at last how a body mostly composed of water
Comes to such a pass,
And then there is nothing but.
Jul 2021 · 266
a small fire
Wk kortas Jul 2021
When that day of reckoning comes
(Hopefully, some light years distant,
As I like anyone else, cling stubbornly if not desperately
To this process of plodding aimlessly along)
Where the book of myself is closed, I have asked,
Though how I plan to enforce the wish remains an open question,
That I am not Cadillac-carted to some incongruous green space
Where some dark-clad and stiff-collared stranger
Bounces pebble-laden soil onto the top of my bedding for the ages.
Much better,  at least to my way of thinking,
That the remnants of my essentials
Are strewn upon some cold Adirondack lake,
Or perhaps if its current residents
Are sympathetic and not particularly litigious,
The backyard of my childhood home
(I have not fleshed out that particular portion of the equation,
As I, like most people, am much less emphatic about my do’s
Than I am concerning my don’ts and won’ts.)

On the odd occasion, I am visited by a curious dream
Concerning my departure from this particular plane;
There is a fire, though not some vast, heroic Viking pyre,
(Even my reveries have a certain reserve about them)
But something less prepossessing,
Like some small pile of leaves,
Such as my father burned when I was a young boy,
And a black-suited cleric stands before the flames,
His face only somewhat familiar, yet still comforting
(A distant uncle or favorite teacher, perhaps)
And he litters the embers with the residue of my corporeal self
With words absolving the folly of my acts of commission
(The stumbling footfalls of the blind; throw them on the fire)
The shortsightedness of my omissions,
(Boorishness of children and fools; throw them on the fire)
The sum of my shortcomings and misadventures
(Victims of our angels and gods; throw them on the fire)
And the trails of smoke drift aimlessly upward,
Toward birds who cackle and twitter unconsciously,
Oblivious to all the machinations below.
Wk kortas Jul 2021
He had, when it became clear
The dog was on his last legs,
Went to a canine memorial concern,
One of those somewhat well-intentioned marketing brainstorms
Which operated under the assumption
That what was good enough for master was good enough for Fido,
And the folks who ran the place dressed in dark suits
Which accentuated the notion that what they did
Was no different than going through the paces
Of sending Grandma to her final reward
(Though the whole thing carried out
With a wink and a nod,
All of which by no means bringing credit to man nor dog.)
He'd been put off by the whole fol-de-rol,
Though he'd sat dutifully through the videos and brochures,
Being possessed of the same damnable politeness
Which made a place like this possible if not necessary,
And he'd ignored the two or three follow-up inquiries.
The dog finally came to his rest
On one of those gray silent November days
Which were the harbinger of the locking season,
And he'd taken him down to the back part of his property
Where he'd had the soybeans in this year,
A spot where three or four of his dogs already resided,
And though there was no markers or such on the spot,
He reckoned that the fact it was a good patch of growing land
Was sufficient testament to their standing.
Wk kortas Jun 2021
There is a certain shock, not from the silence itself
But of its revelations, the laying bare
Of the utter superfluence of language
In all which unfolds before us, the testament mute
But imbued with all the power of an orchestra
In full-throated fortissimo
Delivered through the panorama of the vast steppes,
The bounty of their Junes,
The desolation of their Januarys
The visage of the doomed Strelnikov,
The darting glances of the chameleonesque Komarovsky,
His eyes scuttling to and fro like dark cockroaches,
And most of all by the unquiet, not-of-this world gaze
Of Yuri Andreyevich, a stare which tells tales
Of how fleeting this world's happiness will be,
How final and inescapable its sadness,
And as he stumbles and falls in his mad, final pursuit
Of a grail which is unheeding, unseeing,
Always just a step out of reach,
The dialogue is not a necessity,
For we have a trove of our own words and experience
To attest to the veracity of the scene in question.
Wk kortas Jun 2021
There’s tale upon tale told
In praise of Washington’s Big Train
And the horsehide deeds of Old Pete
Shall be told often and again.
And honest Matty, the Big Six
Hurl’d more than a gem or two,
But they can’t match The Rainmaker
Tossed by Pittsburgh Dan McGrew.

He’d come by train from Keokuk
As green as a patch of clover;
And though he stood ‘bout six-foot-three
Weighed one-forty or just over.
He sauntered up to the owner
Mister Dreyfus? I’m Dan McGrew,
And I am the damnedest pitcher
That anyone has ever knew
.

Old Barney found himself amused
By such a gangly cow-town rube
So the boss man and Freddy Clarke
Thought they’d have some fun with this ****.
There’s Wagner—can you strike him out?
His reply left them in stitches.
I reckon that won’t be too hard;
I should only need three pitches
.

Oh, so your fastball is that good?
Skipper Clarke said with a chuckle
Don’t throw one, so Clarke said aghast
Can your curve make Hans’ knees buckle?
He shook his head, Nope, don’t throw that,
As he grinned like a wiseacre.
Got just one pitch, that’s all I need,
And I call it The Rainmaker
.

They called the Dutchman to the plate
To knock him back to I-o-way
And he swung early and swung late
But couldn’t put one into play
And Wagner grunted, moaned and screamed
But found he couldn’t hit his stuff;
Whatever this Rainmaker was
It sure was plenty good enough.

He tossed the ball twenty feet high
Just a soft lob with a stiff wrist
And a slight twitch of his fingers
To give it just a little twist
Oh, it might swoop like a falcon
Or drift as softly as a dove
And often it would come down wet
From touching rain clouds up above.

The clubs in the senior circuit
Found themselves flummoxed by this lad:
He no-hit the Bees in Beantown
And drove the Cubs and Redlegs mad.
He hasn’t got enough to hit!
They growled in Brooklyn and Philly,
But his ledger said otherwise;
A gaudy twenty-six and three.

The final day of the season
Found the Buccos and Giants tied,
And no one doubted who would be
Taking the hill for Pittsburgh’s side
For New York, Matty took the hill
And both hurlers were simply great
Not one batter had crossed home plate
As the two clubs completed eight.

The Giants bench hooted at him
That beanpole throws like a girlie!
But he got Doyle to pop up
And then fanned Snodgrass on just three
The next Giant to reach the plate
Was the hard-hitting Red Murray
And John McGraw said Now he’s done,
Red will chase him in a hurry
.

But Murray tapped the first pitch foul
And missed the second one outright
The Pittsburgh bench now taunted him
Good morning, good noon and goodnight!
McGrew than tossed one up so high
His catcher swore it clipped a bird
And then Dan strolled right off the mound
As not a soul uttered a word.

The old ballpark is long gone now
And those who toiled the same;
That pitch still lives in infamy
As does the pitcher and the game.
The Bucs have had other heroes
With deeds and feats of great renown
But they still speak of Dan McGrew
And his pitch which never came down.
"Mr. Thayer, Mr. Service.  Mr. Service, Mr. Thayer."
Wk kortas May 2021
I have often wondered
(Though this one time out of respect for the deceased,
I suppressed the urge to ask the question)
Why in hell preachers never seem to own any old pairs of shoes;
Certainly, they must be cognizant
That the when the Lord brings rain
(Though never when, where, or in the proportion we would like,
His way being not our way and all that *******)
The mud is sure to follow, and yet I have never seen a preacher
Who didn’t approach an open grave in shiny new calfskin loafers.
To say that having a man of the cloth approach
The solemn duty of uniting a man with his Maker
Like he was tip-toeing through a mine field puts a burr up my ***
Is to make understatement ******* near an art form;
I have stipulated in my will that I’m to be buried
Smack-dab in the middle of my cow pasture
(The farm itself, sadly, a bit easier to reach
Once the town—over my strenuous objections, I may add—
Decided it was necessary to pave
My section of the Crow Mountain Road)
So when the time comes for the minister
At the Presbyterian church over in Delhi
To spirit me away from this vale of tears to the arms of Jesus,
Hopefully he’ll do so with good honest cowshit
Splattered on his suit trousers.

Car-di-o-meg-a-ly.
That is, apparently, what old Doc Cathey
Scribbled down on Henry’s death certificate,
Though I suspect he simply picked a page
Out of his medical dictionary
And wrote the first thing that looked plausible.
Given that the man was big as a house and soft as a newborn,
It’s **** near a miracle he lived as long as he did,
And he sure as hell didn’t do anything for his longevity
By taking on the cares and worries of every loser and fool
Like they were so many stray kittens.
For myself, I learned long ago where value lies:
You come up to my place,
I can show you an Ithaca Double Shotgun from the 20s
With the blue still on the barrels,
Worth **** near a thousand dollars now,
And Liberty Head ten-dollar coins
That you’d swear were freshly minted.
Now that, my friend, is the kind of thing
Which appreciates over the years,
And if I die alone and unmourned,
Well, that’s pretty much how I came in,
So I’m more or less ahead of the game.
What killed Henry? Well, I’m no M.D, praise God,
But I figure it was his failure to take into account
That saintliness doesn’t pay off
Until a body’s gone and become past tense.
Mr. Loomis and Mr. Soames appear courtesy of the John Gardner novel Nickel Mountain.
Wk kortas May 2021
She had, to be fair, a rather nice voice,
Pleaant in a steamy-shower-and-church-choir sort of way,
So it hadn’t been simply empty patter on his part
The opportunistic language of courting
(Though there was no shortage of that,
But she’d recognized it as such, writing it off
As something she’d deal with later)
And so she would serenade him,
Softly if not just simply humming,
In one of the common rooms
Scattered about the cold cow college they attended,
Or some bench on campus
During the fleeting bits of summer or spring
The land enjoyed before the earth locked-up for the winter,
And later still after the requisite preambles
Involving showers of rice and self-conscious dancing,
Gaily tossed garters and force-fed cake,
Her voice retaining its amiability,
Though often for her sole enjoyment,
As there were late meetings and flat tires,
Out of town conferences and overdue notices,
And in time those nattering bits and bobs
Which required their presence in separate locales
Seeped under the same roof,
Their dinners together brief gulped-down affairs,
The evenings spent in separate rooms
Perched in front of separate screens,
The chasm only breached by infrequent *******
(The process either perfunctory expressions of guilt
Or hopelessly frenetic and ultimately empty)
And she would often don a set of headphones,
Pulling up playlists of the old songs,
Though there seemed to be an emphasis
On those tunes of a rather minor key.
Wk kortas May 2021
The truck was crushed and dented
Almost beyond recognition
When the county boys reached the scene
(Though, as one of the deputies remarked,
Having seen the vehicle tottering around town
For virtually all his born days
Still ain’t much worse than when it started)
Apparently having slid off the Stamford Road
Then down the embankment
Where it had made an unhappy embrace
Of a utility pole near the old Ulster and Delaware tracks,
A rather unhappy ending to what had been
An arguably equally unhappy existence,
Though old Doc Benner had surmised
The junkman had probably been dead
Before the truck had made the shoulder,
Or so he had said at the graveside service
(He being one of the three or four in attendance
Feeling that one who’d been a common thread
In the existence of so many for so long
Should not go without some commemoration
In this already frayed-at-the-edged little town)
And he remarked that the old man had once told him,
When the doc noted the old saw
That one man’s trash was another’s treasure,
The main diff’rnce ‘tween trash and treasure
Is just a matter of expectation
,
And it would have been most poetic if,
After the reverend’s perfunctory hand-off to the Almighty,
The clouds had broken and a thin shaft of light
Had fallen upon the junkman’s stone,
Or perhaps a gentle rain commenced
To heal the disturbed sod,
But the skies remained a slate-gray truculence
As the sexton’s ancient pickup tottered away,
The ropes and shovels tossed higgledy-piggledy
Under an ancient and somewhat watertight old tarpaulin.
Wk kortas Apr 2021
It was tossed in a corner of Bobby Lee’s garage,
A length maybe a couple feet long
And pretty frayed up as well, like it had been strained
By some job that it hadn’t been designed for.
In any case, it was clearly pretty **** useless
Fit for nothing outside of a garbage bag,
Though that was apparently out of the question;
It had come to his dad’s possession through his uncle,
Who’d been a deputy sheriff over in Blount County
And, according to Bobby Lee’s father,
Man was fat, stupid, and mean even by deputy standards.
In any case, Bobby Lee had tossed in the trash,
And when his father discovered it missing,
Came as close to giving the boy a hiding
As Bobby Lee could ever remember,
And when he’d protested that it was good for nothing,
Not worth keeping for any reason, his father had answered,
(Rather quietly as Bobby Lee remembered)
Boy, there’s things I’d rather not remember,
And things I **** well won’t forget
.
Wk kortas Apr 2021
Step lively, now, as good news is not of a mind
To wait upon delay and dithering
Nor to pay any heed to your day's peculiar grace
The ticket for your promised land
Is one-way only, and you need to clutch it
For all you are worth, and travel light;
If it don't fit in a paper sack, you don't need to take it along,
No need for any suitcase
Packed with your yesterdays, your Yes, ma'am,
Your No, sir, your Might I have my pay, sir?
Because your satin-shoes, lose-your-blues,
Done-paid your- dues day comes just once
And once only, so you best move with some dispatch, child.
Wk kortas Apr 2021
You’ve got to be kidding, she said,
Having moved past nonplussed to outright incredulous.
She was, at least in retrospect, not alone,
As we were there, just the two of us,
Having walked up Bootjack Hill
Past the derelict and defunct mills,
Past the equally moribund old middle school,
All the way to the old section of the cemetery
(Rarely mown and less rarely visited,
The markers and obelisks commemorating families
Who, though the names were vaguely familiar,
Had few branches of the familial tree in the area,
And those that remained were generally not of a mind
To see how relatively prosperous and glorious
Their clans had once been.)
She was not a slave
To the disingenuous and de rigueur demureness
Called for in that time and place,
Where a failure to register
A pro forma protest at a cupped breast
Brought suspicion among one’s peers,
And any attempt to navigate
Anywhere near or beneath ones *******
Required an ostentatious and woefully insincere passing out
So the next day could be greeted with beatific and virginal smiles.
She’d not kept faith with such notions, and so here it was
(The big It, the Holy Grail of Its) being offered up on a platter,
But I hesitated, hemmed and hawed, not so much from nerves
(Though they were there, understand,
My pulse ramped up it such a manner
That it played a Babalu which Ricky Ricardo would have envied)
Nor lack of preparation, as my wallet contained a ******
That was reasonably new-ish and theoretically dependable.
It just doesn’t seem right, I stammered in protest,
It’s just wrong somehow, disrepectful mebbe.
She’d looked at me, her face a mask of beyond disgust,
And though her eyes bespoke of soliloquies and angry sonnets,
She simply spat out And these poor **** stiffs got here how?
I’d said nothing in reply, stuck in some adolescent morass
Where I was neither flip nor fly.
At which point she’d fixed me with a look
Residing in some interval between disgust and pity,
And, having ascertained there was no hope for the likes of me,
Simply grunted Oh for chrissakes, just walk me home,
You ******* country-*** bumpkin
,
And we trundled unsteadily unsteadily back toward town,
Footsteps hesitant on the long, unkempt grass,
Dew-soaked now that the procession of dusk
Had reached the doorstep of night,
The quarter-lighted shadows making the stones indistinguishable
From snakes, rabbits, and other living things.
Wk kortas Apr 2021
And so I walk upon this stage of life
Set before this night of a thousand eyes
Sans players and bereft of drum and fife
My given charge to sift the truth from lies,
To extract from the ore of distant past
Some kernel of what the years ahead may hold
And though I know full well the die is cast
My gestures and speeches long since foretold
And I am content with the part I play
In this warhorse my fathers have composed
Though other dramas are now underway,
Sad and hackneyed things which I had supposed
Would proceed, my presence not required.
The director demurred when I sent regrets
And so that preordained was what transpired,
This life no stroll upon the parapets.
Wk kortas Mar 2021
We'd referred to it as The Avenue,
Not because it had any pretense of being
Some major thoroughfare
(Indeed it ran for no more than a half-dozen blocks
From the traffic circle at the school building,
Itself de-commissioned for some years now,
To the small bluff at the end of the village
Where buildings ended and trees and fields began,
The view, in our childlike perspective,
What we assumed belonged to the birds and angels)
But because every other roadway
Had been christened with the more plebian "street",
And as the longest and straightest pavement
It was the venue for racing bicycles, skateboards
And anything else with wheels,
(As we later discovered, much to our parents' chagrin)
And certainly we had sent any number of bugs and beetles
To their makers in our mad rush
To reach the road's crest,
And on one horrific occasion, a tiny bird,
Barely past the point of being nurtured in the nest,
Somehow became enmeshed in my spokes
To be flung unceremoniously to the roadside,
It's wings splayed out in a manner
At once almost seraphim-like, yet clearly signaling
That the hatchling in question
(Its species not fully apparent--a pigeon, perhaps,
Or a mourning dove not destined to be part of a pair)
Would never take flight.
I'd looked at it, stunned beyond word or action,
When Nicky Gesters pulled up next to me,
Whispering into my left ear, Nothing to be done, kid.
Happens all the time.  If it wasn't you, woulda been some cat
.
And, bereft of any rationale of my own,
I simply nodded, riding back down the *****
Not to return to the high end of the road for some days,
And when the time comes where some errant wheel,
Something rapacious and feline, or some other tool
Of life's winds and wuthering take me to my rest,
I hope to retain sufficient grace to seek out that bird
To proffer my regrets for my all too extant humanity,
My sad and insufficient pentinence.
Wk kortas Mar 2021
It’s a ******* good thing there’s no bouncers in church,
(Though your dad’s just the type who would bring in some thugs)
And the lack of an invite left me in the lurch;
All I wanted was one goodbye kiss and some hugs.
I suppose I should have laid off the Prairie Fire,
(Two parts Wild Turkey, and three parts Tabasco)
As the ***** and my broken heart served to conspire
To make the affair something of a fiasco.
It may have been short-sighted to **** in the punch,
Waving my Johnson around like King Arthur’s sword,
And I regret if it ruined the buffet lunch;
I’ve never been the type who liked to be ignored.
Your mouth opened to scream, but didn’t make a sound
(I’ll take that as a sign that you might come around.)
Wk kortas Mar 2021
Life its ownself is powerful fond of the long goodbye,
The process of moving from indispensable to incidental
An incremental trip of infinitesimal steps,
But the upshot is goodbye all the same,
And once upon a time everywhere was a warm and intimate place,
A universe of mobiles and appliqué on the walls,
Somewhere where you were all the comfort and confidante ever needed,
But the world went and got bigger
And though you thought you’d stayed the same,
Fidelity being your stock in trade, you’d become a lesser thing,
Privy to the grim notion
That affection can be genuine and expendable all at once,
And now you are outbound,
Gingerly ******* a coach-class ticket
To an uncertain destination,
And you suppose all things are possible now,
But that is all part and parcel of the cold realm of the probable,
And you rest the ticket in your lap, just to the left of the heart
That is hand-stitched on your rustic gingham
(The patch a bit faded and Hershey-stained now,
And one or two of the stitches are not as tight as they should be)
Which you suppose still beats, but only faintly enough
To be just a sad and mocking thing.
Wk kortas Mar 2021
And so there are things all about us,
Fine things at that:
Hills, perhaps gently rolling, perhaps ending abruptly
Courtesy of the ministrations of some indifferent glacier
Rolling in and then receding with equal diffidence,
The song of some unseen child singing inaudible lyrics,
All tinkling-bell-a-twitter,
Some grand art nouveau city tower,
Festooned with angels on the balusters, gargoyles in the cornices
And they are wondrous indeed,
All with their own histories to relate,
But imbued with the regrettable tendency
To all speak at once, with no inclination to await their turn
Leaving us flummoxed and forlorn,
Shorn of any way to glean what would be precious
From the ore of babble,
But there are those with a certain ear, a certain eye
(Though such eyes may be accompanied by lenses
Thick as the headlight on some ancient VW microbus,
Perhaps without even such limited acuity)
Who can sort such tangles, weaving them together
In such a manner where this cacophony
Becomes something greater than the sum of its parts,
New yet familiar, things we know as true,
As must be true, their presentation to us
Signaled by nothing more than a mere clearing of the throat,
The rustling of some smple garment,
And at such a moment we must proceed
All openness and open to all things
And thence govern ourselves accordingly.
Mar 2021 · 893
The Scarecrow In Exile
Wk kortas Mar 2021
The first leg of our troika was removed easily enough;

Courage is a mercurial thing, waxing and waning

As frequently as the tides--or, perhaps more accurately,

It is like the doomed cell hosting a virus,

Left a barren husk of its former self once the germ

Has gone about its business and moved on.

In any case, he has happily cast off the burden of leadership

So often and unwisely fixed upon our martial heroes,

Content to appear at parades and other events of state,

Answering the roar of the mob in an almost authentic manner

(Though just barely perceptibly less so each year),

Living testament to the notion

That it is easier to be lionized than to live as the lion.




I had convinced myself that a two-headed regime

Would be perfectly workable,

That I could be the yin to the yang

Of my erstwhile alloy colleague

(The intoxicant of power

So dulling my senses that I could believe such nonsense),

The contemplative man of thought acting as a counterweight

To the fiery man of action, the man of the blade.

I had somehow presupposed

(Such was the vastness of my delusion)

That my old brother-in-arms would defer

To the appeal of painstaking analysis and meticulous planning;

It was if I had forgotten that, provided with the genie-like largesse

Of the acquisition of anything he desired, he’d asked for a heart,

As if there wasn’t enough sturm und drang taking place

In that miniature steam boiler of a chest!

While I had buried myself in charts and task-force reports,

He had enmeshed himself in consolidating power.

When his yeomen, huge-hatted and well-armed

Came to my suite of offices to place me under arrest,

I was, at my core, not particularly surprised.




To parrot the line of so many of those who have shared a fate

Much worse than my own,

I am well treated by my caretakers-***-captors;

My living quarters are comfortable enough,

And I can read, write, and research at my leisure,

Provided I don’t attempt to transmit any of it

To the outside world. 

Beyond the boundaries of this small compound,

I am a non-person; neither my name nor image

Has appeared in the pages of the Daily Ozmapolitan

For several years now, and it is whispered

(With the full knowledge and abetment of the current elite)

That I am, in fact, gravely ill if not dead.

I could, I suppose, rage against my confinement,

Shout my grievances and pronouncements against autocracy

To the heavens, but my cottage and the outbuildings

Lie in a thickly forested place, and it has not escaped my notice

That all of these structures are built entirely from wood.

No matter, then; I am the victim, first and last,

Of my own foolishness, my own inability

To resist the nectar of power, the ambrosia of command.

I, of all people, believing the road could run both ways!
Mar 2021 · 226
The Ogre Of Peach Alley
Wk kortas Mar 2021
He'd lived in the remaining house on the little byway,
The place and its existence somewhat accidental
As it was built as the groundskeeper's cottage
Accompanying a rambling edifice
Built by a former president of the mill,
That once-grand structure gone to rack and ruin
Nothing remaining save the odd bit of foundation
Poking forlornly above crownvetch and milkweed,
Though the lot of the man we'd dubbed the ogre
(The notion that he had an actual name
Not occurring to us at the time,
Though, as Nicky Demmer wisely noted
Whatever it might be, it must be unspoken.)
Was only slightly less unkempt and foreboding,
And it is hard to remember what exactly made him
Something to be feared and avoided at all costs,
Perhaps the combination of height
(Though lessened yet somehow accentuated
By a slight yet perceptible stoop)
And a widow's peak at the top of an unusually high forehead
Bookended by wiry and unruly locks,
Perhaps the fact that he rarely appeared in the daylight,
And then squinting as he turned his head to the sky
In the manner of one who fully expected
That it would fall, Chicken-Little style
But in any case his lawn
Was strictly no-man's land,
And any wiffle ball or frisbee,
Regardless of how new it may be
Or the retribution attached to coming home without it,
Remained behind, mourned but forsaken
And at some point we moved beyond our unease,
Too old for such superstition,
Moving on to other totems, other portents
Though some years later I happened upon his obituary,
Laying out the signposts of an ordinary
Though vaguely underwhelming and melancholy life:
He'd worked on the third shift at the mill all his days,
Thus precluding much of the social commerce
With his fellow man, no Rotary or Odd Fellows rites
To be performed at his service
(Of which there was none, burial being private as well)
And the list of survivors was limited to one daughter
Wholly unknown to us, ostensibly taken elsewhere
By an unmentioned and unmourning mother.
The item, brief and unadorned as it was,
Brought me back to that fretful nine-year-old self,
Though imbued with a greater disquiet,
As I had a deeper knowledge of the finality
Of cold, agate type, among several other things.
Wk kortas Feb 2021
He’d been away for any number of years,
Days cascading over the spillway of time
Into pools of weeks, oxbows of months,
And though the town was much as he remembered it
(Though a little more tattered and careworn:
Another broken windowpane here,
A wall in grave need of paint there,
One or two more storefronts gone to plywood)
The cemetery was all but labyrinth to him,
A corn maze of granite and narrow drives,
The plots having metastasized, the stones having spread
Like so much crownvetch overpowering the simple grass,
But he’d been able, after any number of false-starts,
Uncounted instances of double-backs and do-overs
To locate his father’s marker
(The man gone some forty years now,
Taken by…well, who knows what
His mother, stunned by the prospect
Of having to step into the dual role
As nurturer and breadwinner,
Too stunned to even think of requesting an autopsy.)
He’d come, ostensibly, to make his peace
(Whatever that hackneyed phrase entailed)
But he’d ended up, if not as mute as the stone he faced,
No more than a cow-country Caliban,
Haltingly sputtering bits and bobs of half-phrases
Concerning the implacability of accidents, the vagaries of chance
The coffin-lid limits on mere men and women.
He’d given up the ghost, finally,
And as the daylight slipped away on the bumpy old horizon
He’d simply brushed some dried bird guano from the gravestone,
Then picked the dead bits from the flowers
Doing their level best to hold on
In the urn he’d wrestled from his mother’s ancient station wagon
Two, perhaps  three, days ago
Before settling back into the car to try to divine the way
Back to the main road
(He’d found it in surprisingly short order,
And perhaps a quarter-mile or so down the road,
He’d come upon a small rabbit,
Frozen mid-lane by his headlights,
Finding himself in a world not of his making
Not knowing whether to flip or fly;
He’d missed it by mere chance, nothing more,
And he wondered if the poor thing
Would be so lucky with the cars behind him.)
Wk kortas Feb 2021
The fifteen-seater bounced and bobbled on the landing strip
(The arrival delayed a touch, as the single runway
Required one more scrape by the snow plow)
Coming to a more-or-less steady stop
For the brief but brisk and uncovered walk
To the crackerjack-box terminal,
Then, after the requisite tears and hugs,
Tumbling into the back seat of the ancient family truckster,
Driving in the dark past those houses and convenience stores
You assumed were still there,
Those changes to the lay of the land
(Subtle to those still around, downright abrupt
To folks who’d cast their lot elsewhere)
A thing resigned to the light of day,
And after the catching-up small talk
Devolved into the realm of the awkward,
You’d ducked out to head for the Cow Palace,
(The entrance to the bar still festooned with the sign
You must be this tall to drink at the bar,
Probably in its third generation of half-kidding)
For the just-a-couple-but-several-times-over,
Catching up on the particulars
As to who’d hooked up,
Who was no longer a couple
The general goings on in their circle
(But something lost in the translation,
Certain names not coming to immediate mind,
Certain nuances which now escaped him)
And come closing time they’d settled up
Then piled into Cully Scott’s ancient Lincoln
Eight of them all told,
Drunk as lords and high as kites,
Beyond legal or spiritual redemption,
Somehow not barging through some guard rail
And straight into the Kinzua Creek,
Pulling up to his front door just shy of four A-M.
He’d navigated to his room,
Which was spinning more than just a touch,
And when Sunday morning came,
His parents were unable to rouse him
(They’d half-jokingly checked for a pulse)
So they buttoned, zippered and scarfed themselves
In a manner befitting a bright but brisk January morning,
One of those days which moved you to opine
That it looked lovely from the warmth of the couch,
And as his parents departed for a warmed-over sermon
(Preacher’s handiwork endlessly re-cycled, after all;
Likely all involved able to repeat it word-for-word)
He’d remained under mounds of covers,
(Fast asleep, though he’d later remember
Beingly vaguely cognizant of the bells
Calling the faithful to services)
Sleeping the sleep of those
Resigned to lesser, somewhat intermittent epiphanies.
Jan 2021 · 199
last day at shea
Wk kortas Jan 2021
(In memory of Glen Slater)

Ya stupid sonuvabitch, the place is deserted!
It’s gotta be a ******’ night game, ya ******’ mook
,
But though the parking lot had the forlorn look
Of a down-on-its luck strip mall on a weekday afternoon,
There was just the hint of activity and indeed a game,
A friends-and-family affair with the Cubs,
Losers if not particularly lovable,
So we departed the ancient Gremlin
(Ostensibly painted cab-yellow,
Though festooned with enough Bondo and duct tape
To make it difficult to tell
Where car began and slapdash repair ended)
Strolling toward the deserted ticket window
To drop the two-bucks per for upper deck seats,
Knowing that we would find amenable ushers
Willing to let us move down to the boxes
After it became fully apparent
There was no last-minute influx scrambling off the 7 train,
And we sat in the sun-drenched field level seats
(Though its warmth a relative thing,
The rays’ angle and the decidedly April wind
Requiring buttons to be snapped
And collars to be turned upward)
Viewing the spectacle of two clubs
Dutifully and somewhat optimistically
Performing the rites of Spring, each nine knowing
There would be no October heroics in their futures,
Their first-rate plays and foibles
Gathering our appreciation or scorn
Between gulps of over-priced watery beers,
And as we sat in this unlovely stadium,
Looking for all the world
Like some Bunyan-esque chipped ashtray
Plopped down on an unprepossessing landfill
(The hopes and wistful dreams of this children’s game
Perched uneasily atop ancient sardine tins and discarded rattles)
We agreed that we would do this again,
But it never came to pass, as life its ownself
Rolled on like the cap of John Pacella
(Invariably flying off his unruly mop
From the effort of launching yet another fastball
In the all-too-vain hope it would find itself
Somewhere in the vicinity of the strike zone)
Tumbling brim over crown in the swirl of the breeze.
Jan 2021 · 117
the lady in autumn
Wk kortas Jan 2021
She would never dream of arriving at a session
Looking like a first take--not like the bass player
With his shirt collar rising and rolling
Like some unplanted meadow on an Upstate hillside,
Or the trumpeter whose ancient corduroys
Have not seen a pressing in months if ever,
Or the sad young man at the mixing board
With the hair sticking out like wire brushes
Splayed for the softest swish possible.
She would never dream of appearing in any manner
Not fully together, the muted gold blouses
(Accentuated with a bright red scarf)
The tailored skirts of crimson or brown,
Hair freshly salon-coiffed, lipstick and makeup just so.
As she is not a performer as much as the stuff of legend,
And those hunched over traps and cymbals
Or bunched cheek-to-jowl with the acoustic tile
Are utterly bewitched by the sounds,
So familiar yet with all the life of twenty years earlier,
Yet the tape playback seems to file a dissenting opinion:
There is a certain frailty to the timbre,
The odd hitch and hesitation in the phrasing
(She does not betray much while listening,
One headphone pressed to a single ear,
Save for the odd fleeting furrow to the forehead)
But it is something that is paid little mind,
The quartet and singer plowing ahead
Until such time she gathers coat and purse
In a gesture which clearly states That is all for today
And she leaves the studio to walk the few blocks home,
Passing by some down-on-their-luck brownstones,
Their facades recently whitewashed in the vain hope
Of masking the irrevocable cracking in the walls,
The buckling of the edifice's foundation
Wk kortas Jan 2021
He’d found himself restlessly housebound
(All men being the creators of their own comfort,
As well as the progenitors of their confinement)
And as the snow was on the lighter side,
Though tending toward the wet as well,
The type which renders the sidewalks in the town below
A bit, as the local parlance would have it, on the slippy side,
But his boots had sturdy uppers and decent tread,
And a walk this time of year less threatening than most,
What with the bobcats napping at midday
And the timber rattlers under the frost line for the winter,
The only threat to his well-being the potential discovery
Of some heretofore unseen red-ribboned stakes
Announcing the intention of some new **** fool
Who, in service of some desire to get closer to Mother Nature,
Was seeking to build in some spot
Where she offered him little more
Than a future of cracked foundations
And wind-sheared roofing misadventures.
Fortunately, his stroll was uninterrupted
By such man-made foolishness, his reverie undisturbed
Until such time as he happened upon a whitetail doe
Seemingly caught between flip and fly,
Her ilk all somewhat more comfortable
With their human counterparts
As they lived more cheek-to-jowl,
(But black-powder season had just ended a couple of days back,
So a certain skittish wariness was to be expected.)
He’d raised his hands in a gesture of what he supposed
Was non-threatening, knowing such a thing to be utter foolishness
Even as he raised his arms skyward,
But the beast backed away slowly, haltingly,
Before turning and cantering off,
And he figured that made it as good a time as any
To head back down toward the house,
Not to mention the snow had picked up in intensity,
A grainy, sleety issue which had filled in his footprints,
Leaving them barely perceptible in the waning daylight.
Dec 2020 · 145
an untimely cinquain
Wk kortas Dec 2020
It's said,
On Christmas Eve,
The animals gain speech,
But they won't waste it on the likes
Of us.
Wk kortas Dec 2020
We hadn’t seen it for a couple years,
The film being a bit difficult to watch
Without dropping a few bucks
To stream it in all its black-and-white glory,
(A prospect which would have brought a grim smile
To a certain white-haired small-town banker)
Our laser disc scratched, our VCR beyond obsolete,
But there have been enough viewings
That certain tableaus
(Flower petals strewn, the glycerin tears)
Remain as familiar as the views out the front door,
And so on a whim we drove up to the quaint burg
Which espouses its claim to be Capra’s inspiration
With a tenacity which belies the season
(Though one look at the bridge which sits astride
A wan offshoot of the Erie Canal
Is sufficient for a startling bit of déjà vu)
Finding ourselves by ourselves in a restaurant
(The times after all, and it a weeknight to boot)
Surprisingly open, even though the town fathers
Had opted hopefully to decorate, as per usual,
The village streets to be as Bedford Falls-esque as possible,
And as we sipped our soup and munched our salads
We mused on how wonder and anxiety
Could walk hand-in-hand
(As we did on the way in and again on the way out)
And though our laughter was a soft, muted thing,
It tinkled in the manner of such things
Which enabled seraphim to gain their wings.
Wk kortas Dec 2020
I have garnered such wealth as I have
Through, if I may be so bold as to say so,
A preternatural ability to observe and catalogue
The foibles and follies of my fellow man
(This hard-won sagacity not the product
Of what I have learned as much as
The sum of what others do not know of themselves)
Yet, even though I believed
I had plumbed the very depths of absurd behaviors,
The prospect of kings--no, more than that,
Kings among kings-- bearing gifts
And complete fealty to some rank infant
Rudely swaddled and propped upon damp straw
Has brought even myself to bafflement.
Understand, the charms of children
(And the commensurate commercial usefulness)
Are not unknown to me,
But they are mercurial, undependable beings,
As ephemeral as the light of stars
Which allegedly acted as a guide to that trio of sovereigns
As their retinues crossed sand and savanna
(I sometimes chuckle to myself at the notion
That perhaps unwarranted clouds
Could have obscured the object in question,
And that the triumvirate could yet be
Wandering, searching, ruminating in vain)
Such intangibles are nonsense, of course;
Mere fol-de-rol entertained by those
Who would disdain the heft of solid coin,
The grit of good sand and dirt
Providing the assurance of good footing
As one saunters across the landscape
Upon such a night as this,black and unilluminated
As the aftermath of death itself.
Wk kortas Dec 2020
James Sebastian Middlemarch was a prodigy.
No other way to say it in truth,
And those who knew him and his gift
Were in agreement that he was destined to reach
The apogee of the musical world,
Though he, even at a very young age, discouraged such talk,
Sometimes offhandedly, but at other times
Quite insistently indeed, for, even then,
He had the constant, gnawing suspicion
That there was a disconnect between the harmonies
(Mad, excruciating, yet unspeakably lovely)
Which scampered unfettered around his head
And those he could bring forth on the piano or viola.  
Nonetheless, his aptitude pulled him along
Through longitude and latitude,
To Julliard, then Paris and Vienn, maixing with others
Marked by their provincial peers as The Next One.  

Through all this time,
The sonatas, concertos, and full-blown symphonies
Danced on in his mind without restraint or retreat
Yet, when he tried to corral them onto paper,
They kicked and bucked and spit out the bit
In spurious sixteenths and turgid quarters
Which cantered along in pedestrian time signatures.  
These pieces (the “sad imitations”, as he called them)
Were performed on more than the odd occasion,
But on smaller stages by undistinguished orchestras,
And those freelancers dispatched by features editors
In the Rochesters and Pensacolas of the world
(Small-timers themselves, yet wholly without sympathy)
Would cluck and sigh dismissively in their reviews
That the works were derivative,
With easily discernible bits of Strauss and Schumann
(Clara Schumann, according to one acerbic small-town wit)
Scattered here and there,
And they were unanimous in their belief and opinion
As to the minor nature of his presence on the musical landscape.

After some years, he stopped publishing his works
Which made him even less of an afterthought
Than he had been at his low-slung zenith.  
He continued to play with some regional symphonies,
Where he was deeply loved by his colleagues,
As he was modest in the face of praise,
But never sparing in dispensing kindness in return,
And to all appearances the frenzied siren airs
Which had ridden roughshod over his psyche for so many decades
Had ceased at last, but after his death, one of his sons discovered,
Squatting surreptitiously under a mound of ancient antimacassars,
Several trunks containing untold scores of sheet music,
(Updated versions of earlier work,
New pieces abandoned in exasperation)
Which sat in mute testament to the difficult labor
Of unfastening onself from the yoke of being ordinary.
Wk kortas Nov 2020
Our Sweeney nurses his Falstaff,
Joining his hail-and-well-met fellows in mirth
This man of hearty life and laugh,
His fingernails rife with the stuff of earth and labor.
Outside, the moon’s reflection
In the sluggish and slatternly Canisteo
Is a portentous dot-and-dash thing,
Its light here-and-gone
As incongruous evening thunderheads,
Great wavy pompadours rolling off the big lake out west,
Growl sullenly as they move through;
Sweeney pays them no mind, as he has other fish to fry,
Regarding a frowzy pair from the sisterhood of round heels,
One of whom, catching his glance,
Crosses the room, mounting his lap and mussing his hair,
Purring ‘Jus wanna see how your lap feels, Hon.
At which she falls on the floor
(But softly, in the manner of an old campaigner)
Thereafter taking a moment to pull her skirt up just so
To adjust a stocking (black, with a run or two on display)
As her compatriot stands nearby,
Making calculations and considerations,
And with a barely noticeable nod to her co-conspirator
The pair head to the bar
While Sweeney, grinning the grin
Of a toreador expectant of victory and its spoils
Rises to join them and, just as suddenly, pauses,
Perhaps cognizant of the old poker saw
That if you look about the table
And can’t figure out who the mark is, it must be you,
Or perhaps it was the ringing of the bells on the hour
From Our Lady of the Valley
(Normally inaudible inside the tavern,
But the wind had made an odd swing to the southeast,
Allowing the chimes to occasionally outshine the jukebox)
Or perhaps something else intangible, inscrutable,
But in any case Sweeney bids his congregants
A hasty farewell as he saunters to the doorway,
Exiting into the humid, fecund evening,
And as he negotiates the sidewalk homeward,
He notes the odd evening singing of birds,
Their songs, even though he is part and parcel
Of this small city and its streets to his marrow,
Unfamiliar to the point of bafflement.
AUTHOR'S NOTES:  The Canisteo is a small river in Western New York; it runs through the city of Hornell, which is the final destination of **** Diver, the protagonist of Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.  I fully understand this interests no one but me.

Eliot scholars would be, I am sure, most horrified by this piece.  In my defense, I would note a) this is about a man where Eliot was writing more about Man and b) I am more likely to be anesthetized than anthologized, so there is that.
Nov 2020 · 116
calamity apprentice
Wk kortas Nov 2020
Critics
were all grateful
the show "A Braying ***"
was not renewed for a second
season.
Wk kortas Nov 2020
i.

There isn't much light when you're inside,
Or at least in terms of natural light,
And if you're looking for a star to guide you
Through your thirty days, you're even more out of luck
Than you were getting here in the first place,
(In my case appropriating--almost-- a turkey breast
The Saturday after Thanksgiving,
Figuring no tired, overworked checkout girl
Would ever miss it; **** poor luck, nothing more)
The windows too narrow to climb out,
Too high to smash in anger or frustration.
Still, you can catch a bit of the outside world
The sky (this once, at least) more blue
Than mid-December has any right being
In this grubby, hardscrabble corner of northwest P-A,
***** old lake to the west,
Endless logged-out hills to the east,
Never-quite-boomed mill towns due south,
Up north Indian land where bootleggers and number-runners
Holed up once upon a time, the Senecas
Now having gone legit, Beach Boys and Barbara Mandrell
Fronting shell games which bear the Feds' seal of approval.
This is the Galilee to which I shortly return.

ii.

Time gets syrupy in the hole, moving slowly, lazily,
Fighting the laws of Newton and Einstein at every turn,
And when the ******* about lawyers,
The oft-repeated and off-key done-me-wrong songs
And respectful if somewhat impatient
Supplications to Jesus for speedy deliverance
Are no longer sufficient distraction,
A man begins to think and remember.
I met Easy Terry E. (so he called himself)
In the city lockup in Troy, or maybe it was Schenectady
(I have, after all, mosied up and down the Eastern Seaboard,
On both sides of the bars)
And let me tell you, for the only time in my born days
I wished these small-city holding cells had solitary,
As Terry E. not only had a chalkboard-scrape falsetto
Which constituted aggravated assault on the eardrums,
But also a predilection for non-stop yammering
About nothing and everything, punctuating his blather
With frequent high-pitched insistence
That he was a hermaphrodite,
And he would frequently taunt the guards by yowling
Baby, I got a lady's equipment down here.
Maybe you want to strip search me, honey
.
(Such high spirits led to an inevitable outcome;
I heard a jailer up in Utica decided to quiet him down
By sticking Terry's head in a toilet, the swirlie
Ending up a minute or two longer than was advisable)
But I had been able to more or less ignore him,
As to that point he'd concentrated on ******* off
Everyone in the cells with the exception of me,
But my turn came soon enough
Oh, don't worry Peter, darling, I know your type.
Different, smarter than the rest of us

He all but sang in  my direction.
Mebbe so, I grumbled, just a few fluky bad breaks
Here and there, that's all
.
Terry laughed and clapped his hands,
Poor sweet thing, a victim of that old lousy karma.
There was a philosopher

And he stopped for a moment,
Seemingly trying to pick a name from the air
(Not that he could see anything floating in front of him,
As he wore horn-rims with lenses as thick and opaque
As the headlights of a '72 Skylark.)
So you're just taking a break here until your luck turns, mmm?
I laid back against the wall,
Hands behind my head and grinned.
Yep, I replied, things are due and then some
To start going my way
.
Terry giggled once more, Well, you've got things
All figured out then!
Good, evil, right, wrong--just snapshots of the roulette wheel
In some infinitesimal sliver of time, and all we can do
Is put our chips down and hope the croupier is playing it straight.
Well, now that you've finally figured all that out,
I suspect you won't see the wrong side of the bars again
.
And with that he turned his back on me,
Paying me no mind whatsoever
Until they turned me loose the next morning
With the stern admonishment
To trouble the good citizens of the Capitol District no more,
And as I think back to that moment,
I suspect he may not have been telling the whole truth
As he saw it.

iii.

And so I will be released from this small cell
In this small red-brick building
In the midst of this equally small red-bricked town,
And I will bypass the bars
With their potential for a cheap hustle
And various types and flavors of low-hanging fruit,
And I will dispense with a seat on some sad Trailways bus,
Seeking a ride (thumb hopefully, defiantly
Pointing upward to the sky)
On the old Grand Army Highway,
Then north on the Buffalo Road
And I will clamber down the embankment
To the Kinzua Dam and, shedding socks, shoes, and clothing,
And hang the cold,
I shall wade into the water, acclimating ankles and washing feet,
The dive headlong under the water's surface
To arise cold, cleansed, ready to move onward.
Wk kortas Nov 2020
It had been, indeed almost constantly so,
Spotted and dotted with the odd bit of graffiti:
Hastily spray-painted citing of some school’s graduating class,
Irregularly shaped hearts bearing initials of couples
Whose undying fealty would not last the summer,
The odd cartoon figure, its subject occasionally discernible
But what had appeared
Upon the old Buffalo-and-Boston railroad bridge
Was a different animal altogether,
Painstakingly crafted brushstrokes
Crossing t’s and gently rounding o’s,
The entire length spanning Route 20
Marked with a simple admonition—Just Love.
The DOT crew, adequately supplied
With power washers and gray paint
And sufficiently featherbedded with summer help,
Sauntered in after the weekend to restore the overpass
To something akin to pristine condition,
But one of the summer kids
(An accounting major from the state school over in Cobleskill,
Probably knew who’d written this in the first place)
Hesitated before pulling the trigger on a sprayer.
Boss, he grumbled, it just don’t feel right blasting this off.
The foreman sighed (his disdain for the temp help
Bordering on downright mania most days)
I feel ya, kid, but the time to love yer fellow man
Is all off the clock
.
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