Another day in the tooth mines.

It wasn’t a good job, no, but it was a stable one.
“They’ll always need teeth,” his dad had said, and Adam Cavalier had listened.
His fingers sweat and wrinkle inside the rubber gloves,
his hands ache from gripping the pliers.

Bend and yank, bend and yank, eight hours a day.
His back aches, his arms strain and shake, his eyes smart from the haze.
Dropping teeth into the buckets attached to his waist.
4 dollars for every twenty pound bucket he fills.

Rich vein of enamel here; the town is built upon it.
No risk of running dry; sonic imaging shows hundreds of layers of dentition still to grow.
Two hundred years at the current rate, and no point in going faster; the teeth grow as fast as they grow.

Lord, but he hates the way the ground squishes underfoot,
The soft nacreous glaze that coats his gear at the end of the month,
the slightly tacky viscousness of the water running down the walls.
But teeth kept his father under a roof, and his father before him,
and teeth shall lead him home, too.

God willing.

Megayacht Y721

A rising tide lifts all boats…
…into the gargantuan maw of megayacht Y721, the devourer of all lesser boats!

Where it had come from was a mystery.
The bald oligarch who had it built in the throes of divorce owned it, but could not control it.
The workers who had built it had no part in it now.
The workers who had died building it had not lingered over running water to haunt it.
The sailors who crewed it were terrified of it.
The captain who ran it was a mindless thrall,
who disappeared for days at a time into his cabin
where he would take neither bread nor water.

Only the engineers seemed to know anything.
Deep in their oilsweet lairs they would gather,
jumpsuits unzipped down to the top of their pubes,
and mutter of old sea stories, of Briny Maw,
of Llyr the Ever Moving.

Y721 wasn’t picky, but had preferences.
Anything afloat that crossed its wake was fair game:
Tankers, tugs, or whalers;
Cargo ships like floating cities;
Cruise liners ripe with the rich and the dying.
But best of all were other yachts, and
Best of best of all were yachts with oligarchs aboard.

Wildfire Smoke

From nothing comes nothing.
But nothing is powerful, they have learned this.
The empty space that defines where something is.

Defined by negatives, they nevertheless know themselves.
Less strong, less clever, less brave, less loud,
Less rational, less learned, less daring, less wealthy.
The inheritors of every vice, exiles from every virtue.

They live in the waste spaces, the margins:
Alleyways, warehouses, basement bars,
Empty hair salons, unlit street corners,
Power stations, wastewater treatment plants,
The far corners of an arboretum.

Power comes on a crepuscular schedule.
Bleeds through in the grey light of dawn, of dusk
When boundaries blur and multiply, figure becomes ground
Shadows become objects, objects shadows
And all cats are grey.

Yellow Dog Dingo

for Marissa when times are tough

In the bad lands is yellow dog dingo and

yellow dog dingo is hungry-hungry and
yellow dog dingo is dry-dry.

Yellow dog dingo is hunting for days and
yellow dog dingo is running fast-fast and
yellow dog dingo is having no luck.

Yellow dog dingo runs to the end of the bad lands and
yellow dog dingo comes to the plains and
yellow dog dingo is awash in green-green and
yellow dog dingo eats in blue, drinks in green.

Yellow dog dingo eats itself slow-slow and
yellow dog dingo drinks itself tired-tired and
yellow dog dingo makes itself a nest in the grasses and
yellow dog dingo rings a circle round it thrice and
yellow dog dingo sleeps at last-last.


For OW

Michigan has a doctor and the doctor has a daughter that loves him.
“I am going to be a doctor, too,” she tells him.
He and his wife are so so proud.

She is studying.
He calls her home on the weekends, and they talk.
Medicine, politics, world war.
He loves her mother’s mind in her.

War breaks out overseas.
“I am going over there,” she tells him.
He and his wife are so so proud.

There is a picture they have.
She is crisp and brave in her nurse’s uniform.
Weeks later she is dead.
A falling shell has killed her dead.

Michigan has a doctor and the doctor has lost his daughter.
He blames himself.
His wife blames him too.
“You and your politics,” she cries.
“Me and my politics,” he cries.

He can’t look at his wife.
She reminds him of his daughter.
She can’t look at her husband.
He reminds her of her daughter.

First they fight.
Then they grow still.

Michigan has a doctor and the doctor is a drunk.
He moves to the city and drinks, drinks, drinks until he is poor.
He tries to drink himself to death.

A mad man finds him in a bar.
“There is a man,” he says, and shows the doctor a gun.
The doctor sews the man up, his hands shaky, shaky.
The man lives or close enough.
A man pays him, and he drinks, drinks, drinks.

Michigan has a doctor and the doctor is corrupt.
Never rich enough to die, never poor enough to live.