King of the Beasts

In a house full of cats, strays, unwanted, feral,
a man called himself the king of these beasts.
He fed them and pretended to find them homes.
The whole place stank of ammonia and tuna.

A man called himself the king of these beasts
who made his house their lair and didn’t mind
the whole place stank of ammonia and tuna.
Every day, this king shoveled boxes and sang.

Who made his house their lair and didn’t mind?
He called himself king and lion and Caesar.
Every day, this king shoveled boxes and sang.
He loved them and believed they worshipped him.

He called himself king and lion and Caesar.
He fed them and pretended to find them homes.
He loved them and believed they worshipped him
in a house full of cats, strays, unwanted, feral.

Magpie Tales #215 | PAD 2014 #15: Love Poem

Imagining Rain

Can you imagine the glory
of the crow, a black spell,
a rippled myth? What goddess
broke the simple spiral shell
and carved its powers
on her belly? Children, do
you see green towers in
your tales of water, sun, and
trees? At what temperature
does dancing turn to liquid?
Can you sing a song of rain
and pay the price to bring the
sleeping goddess from her bed?
Do you smell ozone, brother?
The old timers say it comes
just before the pallid rain.

NaPoWriMo #14: 20 Questions | We Wordle #14

The Root of All Suffering

Desire emerges from the spider’s abdomen. Bright
rust-colored wings advertise desire’s ability

to deliver a powerful sting, described by experts
as blinding, fierce, and shockingly electric, it is

second only to the bullet ant. Desire is most active
in the daytime summer months. Desire flies low

along the ground. Desire’s long legs have hooked
claws for grappling with its victims. Desire feeds

on the flowers of milkweeds, soapberry and mesquite
trees. Very few animals can eat desire. One of the few

that can is the roadrunner. Many experts recommend
desire simply be left alone, but kids go for charismatic

emotions, and the beautiful, powerful and deadly
desire fits the bill nicely. When desire is encountered

do not make sudden rapid movements, but softly quietly
leave the area until it is gone. Head to the low country.

NaPoWriMo #12: Replacement | We Write Poems #208: Mythology

An interesting experiment from NaPoWriMo Day 12. The idea was to research something tangible, find some sentences and replace the tangible noun with something intangible. I researched tarantula hawks and replaced them with desire. I rewrote some of the sentences for transitions, brevity, and clarity. My sources were: Wikipedia, Mother Nature Network, Pest Control, Insect, and Durango Nature Studies.

In addition to the replacement prompt, I wanted something that felt somewhat mythic or that suggested mythic origins for the We Write Poem prompt on mythology.

“Fleeting” at Verbatim Poetry

My poem “Fleeting” is up at Verbatim Poetry. It’s a found poem made from a paragraph in the March 2014 issue of National Geographic. It caught my attention because it echoes several of the images and ideas found in my 2010 poem “A Necklace for the Goddess of the Empty Sea” originally published in Poets for Living Waters (Aug 2010) and recently read by Nic Sebastian at The Poetry Storehouse.

Natural History

Maybe it was the medieval
music, the darkness, or your young
age, but when we stood in front
of the Magna Carta in the museum
in Houston, you clung to my neck.
I don’t like the Magna Carta,
the Magna Carta is scary
you whispered. I suspect it scared
King John too. Like you, he
probably would have been much
happier in the paleontology exhibit
with T. Rexes and Pteranodons, their
fossil teeth and mighty wings frozen,
stilled and silent. Somehow less
frightening than the freedoms
that old treaty began, freedoms
I know you’ll someday demand.

Sheltered Between the Rays

Unwrap each mote of dust
suspended in the sunlight

borrowed from a Saturday
spent dissecting almonds,

snakes, and birds. Our books
tell us almost nothing

of this goddess sheltered
in the ripples of the day

but open your palm to the
light. Feel her brush your skin.

Now sing us all the jagged songs
you suddenly can sing.

Magpie Tales #214 | We Wordle #13 | PAD 2014 #9: Shelter

Ripping Off Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams depart
Life is a worn-out athlete
With a failing heart

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams vanish
Life is an iron prison
Bleak walls and anguish

NaPoWriMo #8: Rewrite a famous poem

I like to have my students analyze “Dreams” by Langston Hughes and then write their own stanzas following his pattern. When we’re finished, everyone reads them aloud following the original. If it’s done right, if sounds like one long poem. The kids usually have fun with it, and some come up with some really cool metaphors. Much better than my weak attempt above, which I’m sharing in response to NaPoWriMo’s prompt to rewrite a famous poem.

Why Self Portraits Shouldn’t Be Trusted

Jazz or maybe rock, some country, when they
Ask that odd question about my favorite
Music genres and artists. But my tastes are
Eclectic. There’s always a bit of an internal
Squabble. It seems so odd. How do you

Determine which conflicting tastes should

Box you in? It’s as strange and unsettling as
Relying on physical appearances and style to
Understand anything true or honest about
Someone you’ve only just (or never) met, so
Here’s something that really happened:

I have gray hair, but momentarily forgetting,
I told the nice lady working at the DMV
It was brown. She took a photo for my license.

PAD 2014 #7: Self Portraits

Since Lonesome Dove

Between prairie fires, buffalo
and wind few trees could live
here. The ones that did take root
and survive grew tall over the grass.
We stopped the fires, and the buffalo
are gone. Now fences provide
shelter for saplings to grow.
But when I drive up 183 toward
Abilene sometimes an oak catches
my eye, a tree, hundreds of years
old. Settlers would have known
this tree, Comanches too, I’m sure.
And ever since I read Lonesome
, I can’t help but wonder
what horse rustlers may have been
hanged from its branches, their legs
twitching in the space above
the wildflowers blooming.

PAD 2014 #4: Since… | We Write Poems #207

Sticky Note

I could tell you of the dappled sunlight
shining through thorny green trees,
the acidic soil and maybe a bright tropical
bird that lands in the branches before
fluttering away from some fruit picker’s
tired hands. Then the highways, the gray
interstates and the trucks that rumble
through time zones into the past. Eastern
to Central, the hours passing, the clock
resetting. I could also back up and speak
of processing plants where hourly workers
perform the mundane alchemy of phase
change, the solid becomes liquid. Poetry
is so ambiguous, you can’t help but wonder
what conclusions you might draw from this
obscured message, so I’ll clarify
and write it out in plainer mundane words
on a yellow sticky note: Could you pick up
some grapefruit juice on the way home?
Oh, and some cat food too. Love you.

PAD 2014 #3

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush