‘Little Night Birds’…


Myths, fairytales, legends are delightful, but to soak into the realness of life? — Its rhythms, its discord, its prose, its beauty — life’s lyric is essential.

How can we live in the brackets of this wind-up world?

How can we lift our better selves out of the brackets and into the whirls of joy?

How can one find majesty in a nameless future, a forgotten or pressurized past?

How subject are we to our idealized natures, our realistic present, our momentary profundity (or is it a fool’s masquerade)?

…Hitching up our collective bootlaces, let’s distill life into bite-size curiosities and use the simple tools at our fingertips to decipher the world in ways not yet done.

As little night birds tickling the wind, breeding and hungry, but refusing to fly off till the nest has cradled their growth…

Ear to the Wind…

~PART 3:  …to the woods

The forest is beguiled by a transitory lullaby —
a father, from the depths of loss, murmuring
subtle sounds in the heart of the woods.
The trees harness his voice and crack the sky,
crack the fading light so the night can
hold its echo hostage to a third or fourth degree.
Till the wilds run free, unassailed by reverence,
carried by the night-woods, they texturize his will.
He is crumbling from within…
their echo turns his dewy blood to dust.

•   •   •

Sometimes the rain is silent.
Sometimes it bears witness to violence
without losing its luster.
He wears his bones now like ash
beneath the poisoned grove where roots and
their underpinnings slash their pin-prick tails; —
he is worrying the broken soil in his broken fists
like a mouthless prayer unadorned by beauty,
for there are no voices here within the lyric of the dead.
It fades — the percussive intricacies of wind invade.

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.

O, Babies…

These plump little loves — tiny doves that hatched almost two weeks ago — are on the verge of fledging. They live in a rabbit’s foot fern that hangs in my back garden. Their busy mother was away gathering munchies for the noisy little beasties, but for this moment, they were quiet and I was able to soft-softly snap this photo…🤫
…gorgeous babies.

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.

Honing mercy…

~ “In the noise of hundreds of people, no one understood anything… Oh, how one wants sometimes to go from such…cheerless human wordiness into the seeming silence of nature,…into the wordlessness…of true music, and of a quiet, heartfelt touch grown mute from fullness of soul!” — from Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago

If Life be anything, be it tumbled out poetry — or S.T. Coleridge’s “low voice of quiet Change…doing its work by little & little” — versus dropping into the madding crowd, clamorous as inauspicious residue.

There is delight in living away from the public eye. Charm and dignity when one can hone mercy and kindness without broadcasting goodness when it’s accomplished. Better to learn the rhythms of the “…billion unseen wonders of everyday life”, that Matt Haig — who has a keen eye for the tragedy, humor, and empathy of the human heart — writes about in his Notes on a Nervous Planet, when “…there is just love and kindness and trying, amid the chaos, to make things better where we can…”

Perhaps holding onto simplicity in the “the now that forever is made of,” will grant us the breath of grace-endowed mercy to overshadow the need to be heard, if being heard slip-slides into obsequious salivations for fame. Rather err on the side of solace and joy and practice the art of Mercy in its varied forms:

“The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore,…
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy….”

— Portia, from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice”: Act 4, Scene 1

♫ ♪”…be still with me…”♫ ♪

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.

Of rain, tool shops, and Pablo Neruda

The resonance of the rain today tumbled out remembrances of childhood days spent with my dad visiting tool shops, boggled with awe, while outside the rain pelted its timbre on the pavement.  Now I am older and the mechanical scent of tool shops, like the intangible relics of rain, hold me captive to nostalgia.  Nostalgia and Neruda — who voices many of my favorite flavors…

by Pablo Neruda

“I went into the tool shops
in all innocence
to buy a simple hammer
or some vague scissors.
I should never have done it.
Since then and restlessly
I devote my time to steel,
to the most shadowy tools:
hoes bring me to my knees,
horseshoes enslave me.

I am troubled all week,
chasing aluminum clouds,
elaborate screws,
bars of silent nickel,
unnecessary door-knockers,
and now the tool shops
are aware of my addiction –
they see me come into the cave
with my wild madman’s eyes
and see that I pine for
curious smoky things
which no one would want to buy
and which I only goggle at.

For in the addict’s dream
sprout stainless steel flowers,
endless iron blades,
eye-droppers of oil,
water-dippers of zinc,
saws of marine cut.
It’s like the inside of a star,
the light in these tool shops –
there in their own splendour
are the essential nails,
the invincible latchkeys,
the bubbles in spirit levels
and the tangles of wire.

They have a whale’s heart,
these tool shops of the port –
they’ve swallowed all the seas,
all the bones of ships,
waves and ancient tides
come together there
and leave behind in that stomach
barrels which rumble about,
ropes like gold arteries,
anchors as heavy as planets,
long and intricate chains
like intestines of the whale itself
and harpoons it swallowed, swimming
east from the Gulf of Penas.

Once I entered, I never left
and never stopped going back;
and I’ve never got away from
the aura of tool shops.
It’s like my home ground,
it teaches me useless things,
it drowns me like nostalgia.

What can I do? There are single men
in hotels, in bachelor rooms;
there are patriots with drums
and inexhaustible fliers
who rise and fall in the air.

I am not in your world.
I’m a dedicated citizen,
I belong to the tool shops.”

¹(as published in The Paris Review No. 57, Spring 1974 issue)

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.

Sylvan Storm, or…


Where the meadow meets the earth, vagrant shades
spark nature’s indigo gasp of the soil-drowned
world that plays at the feet of the woods.
Wind-lashed, blood-red peonies coil their ragged
tongues — tongues that steal joy and mimic laughter.
Peonies dishevel the humus. They sing their
sanguine selves an embellished tune.

To oblivion.

Where the earth meets the sea it molts its moss
towering over rock-bruised bones.
It alone knows the night the divine rolled
its wheels out of nature’s dross.
It alone witnessed the grind of stone
on bone and temple-staked massacres —
a seduction intended to kill.

Where the sea met the storm, it wept
(as seas are inclined to do).
The storm shuddered in its red-buttoned boots —
(it wasn’t the crying kind).
Then Sibyl stepped in.
She was more hazel than
sun or sand.
A cat-eyed fugitive, she took her roots with
her when she wandered.

(“Easier this way,” she’d say.)

Her womb is heavy with her extravagances,
her catkins low and ready to drop.
Sibyl, next to Sophia
(her Gemini complement),
takes decay by the reins.
While Sophia, a lingering ash, dusty and ancient,
weaves knowledge into life, Sibyl’s leaves strain
against their inevitable disarticulation.

Where the storm cracks the earth,
it knows nothing of this until it whitens
the loam into birch and aspen —
a truer Gemini than Sibyl’s hazel to Sophia’s ash.
The birch, the aspen are young yet,
Innocence quivers their roots
like the great frost giant it is.

Thirsty. Redolent.

But their branches, like hands, grow black with the blood
of a thousand suns. The thrill-boys, killjoys of deafening
roars slice like lightning through the rain.
The boys thundered a thousand strains of defiance
when the sea swallowed them.
They soldered the horizon to the undertow in hope of
turning the tide against the night.

But it turned itself, tired of their riot.
Eyeless, it slipped back unannounced beneath the clouded
gibbous moon, leaving the hazel and ash,
birch and aspen on the unsheltered cliffs above,
lock-jawed, while dark-needled rain crumbled
the night-sky in thunders of pale punctures, turning the
trees servant to the underbellies of ancient bones.

Fossils. Stones.
. . .

Once upon a time before the rain, before we knew
what walls and ceilings and defamations were,
we wandered the hills in search
of something elusive.
Did we know what it was?
A pale shadow, a rhizome trailing the outskirts
of a cumbersome womb.

We woke, screaming.

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.

from “Sentient Entropy”…

~Part 2:

What was it that imprinted the cosmos into
the beats of our hearts?
The melancholy?
The convalescence?
The inhale?
Its nemesis?
Almost as if Love becomes its own dimension
like time, or a force akin to entropy, but
unlike the spintop-whip of entropy observed,
it carves back into itself instead of out.

The bold one holds a whisper to my ear,
is it you?
A hurricane in the palm of your hand,—
the bishop’s refrain, “What we have,
we have to share,
”— it’s everywhere.
Like chaos complete,
Christ in a riddle,
eternity in a the eyes of a dog,
the loyal grow old but their hearts never do.

You curdled the lyrics of a ditty
so incomplete I had yet to mouth the words.
A sharp tug in the throat
like a burden of souls
washed down with spiced rum or a
snifter of something drier; —
you never were the sage, the mystic,
the one who wrinkled water like
it was a costume for a masquerade.
No. More like silk, or thyme soaked in
fragments of rage.

Yet you lingered over words in your
own language, sweetened in the
nectar of desire for things
you could never own.

And we ran.
Ran into the trees, into the breeze,
the tease of a madman at our heels
in obtuse degrees.
The asylum forgets our sanity,
buries our reason, our honor, our minds
in hubris, where bold men make
mockery of our strange desires,
the fires of bold denials of lies.

The cliff-jumpers catch their death.
They’d rather dare than dread
the outcome. We are not so different.
But history
is more profound than
the tales we’ve been fed.
Silence, the adulteration of reality.
If we don’t speak,
it may yet get the best of us.
O, holy riot of the mind.

Yet, rebels will never hold
their tongues
or actions.
The rebels know better than man’s
inhumanity to man, or beast;—
they know, as do we (for we are they),
that silence must be broken
if men are to be made whole again.

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.

from “Thanatos…”

~From “Thanatos, in Textures” — Part 3:


Where you grow weary,
we grow strong;
along the watchtower,
the poet, thief, the divisor of deeds
keeps watch with hawk-eyes
and talons that will rip the candy-coat
from your eyes, shredding
the shrapnel that’s keeping you blind.
Incinerating shellac, you might —
(if you don’t shy away from the bald, new
look shining out from your eyes now), —
capture the brave, lit allure of knowing
things you never considered before.

It is good, it is old, it is young,
it is reason without need to justify
or fabricate, or hold high in a fist against the sky.
It is being in this place,
at this time, in the better hearts
of our imaginings, bolder than the
shadows who lurk in the corners 
but do not tell.

We are the bony beasts de facto in
your heads, convincing you of your reality
in the refuge of your own existence.

Grey water murky,
falling from the sky
and, rising from the whirlpool at your feet,
reflects the opaque depths of our eyes—
eyes the size of pewter coins
and just as weighted.
Webbed with dust and ash,
the wind, sharp as whiskey
and twice as fierce,
flagellates the ground till it is bald
and fruitless.
Nearest the place we hold our council.—

We hold it close…
in the idealists’ utopia tessellated
in your fingers’ prints.
We hold it until we can extract slivers from
the tips of your prints without erasing anything but
your identity.
Without a hint, we take on your face,
become metaphors of you —
and you,
and you.
Until we slip your skins off to
walk free in the moonlight, or starlit dark
and look for new skins to make our own,
leaving yours disinterred in the
soil at our feet,
leftover, discarded,

©2022: Zoëtrope in Words. All rights reserved.