Missionary Work

We have been mountains rising out of the seas, the true gods of Olympus: shaggy-bearded with clouds, potent with rain. Months beyond sight or hope of land, a smooth bowl of water and air and us, moving restlessly upon the surface of the water.

We were mustered out of the navy; driven out, say. Long work to bring us all together again, a life’s work and more, to gather us onto this portless argosy that flies no flags, claims no license. They have seen us coming, up from Olympus, riggings black with sailors in stolen uniforms, spars bare and daring above the white belly of our sales; seen us coming, turned tail, and ran. They fear contagion. We bear ideals like sickness, and they run too late: already we have wormed our way into some few willing eyes, bred a few impossible thoughts, shown a different way for those daring few.

A bloody war, fought among waves the size of office towers, tangled in spirals of plastic and perfume. Hours of mutual negotiation to bring us into conflict. The guns fire once an hour throughout the night, stars ill-regarded fallen to the sea but unresigned. Every death is a new member of our crew, come home at last.

A Generation Born of Fathers


Dreams of children, of a thousand tiny velvet feet dancing upon his back. Broad back, wide as a barn, fifty teams of children could vie at handball upon its smooth expanse. Clever-handed, his children, and deft. Eyes of oil. Builders, like their mother, he hopes.

Watches. City streets and highways like rivers of light. Currentless in the early hours. Speaks to his children, holds them close to his cheek, warms them with his turning blood. Astir in the sac, close to birthing, he sees faces, eyes, bodies, limbs rise to the meniscus. Traces their hands, their clever, many hands.

High crimes and misdemeanors. Murders and treason, betrayal and adultery: compassion, generosity, creation. Sings it to his children, all, all. Let them make their own. Take revenge, make love.

Stays. Watches. Broods. Plans a future yet to be, thread spooling out past his death, a legion of heroes grown fat and mighty on the thick meat of his heroic frame. Eyes milky, but strong enough. Let them eat and run; chance will sort the rest.


We who survive must carry you forward through time, bear your name’s weight against a forgetful gravity.

We have seen you dying, seen you dead; gasping like a fish upon a stranger bed, collapsed among a welter of furniture. We have pruned and pruned again the accumulation of years, cast away the houses and the art, the cities and the water, until nothing remains but life and voice, and then seen those cast away as well.

And still, for one more mile, one more day–

Blood-stained hands and tobaccoed beard. Avacado carpets and smoke-filled libraries. A familiar hill and a moment’s weakness. We have grown adept at mourning, worn the elbows of our blackest suits white with toasting the lamented dead. Smelt and conversation; a high school class grown smaller year by year.

A punchline somehow finished. We, like you, will die alone, and others bear our weight.

A View West Across the Bay

a story for Oakland

Sharp teeth of ships afloat in the harbor. We are long-legged gods come to earth, to pile Ossa upon Pelion, to dispose as we have always done. A spider’s thread above a fire. Jeremiah, speak close, and listen: in the wailing of our joints, hear the owls crying still for Edom.

Long our bones and mighty. We are content to stand and watch, but one day we shall stir ourselves to graceful swaying life. Ezekiel weeps in the dust, sores running down his side, choked on heavy bread; we shall lift our heads and behold. Widows and orphans.

And thus skyward: all of heaven captured and held in our towers. Our hairs strung between buildings, our capillaries threaded through the roofed-over earth. In the tunnels the ocean wash of our unsettled blood. Osiris, pent in his coffins, member sunk deep in the sea. Amphitryon’s second son.

Kings of pigeons, queens of gulls, duchies of rats. An empire of busy decay. We do not sit in state in our brother court, but respect his plenipotent might. Three lots were cast, for sea, for sky, for earth, and we have all come to earth. Sharp the teeth afloat in the harbor, and cracked the skull of the sky; we are long-legged and mighty. Know our works, and despair of our glory.

Electric Sheep

In the streets of Los Angeles, underneath the dead embers of the sky, life goes on. In the bottoms they fry onions, cook noodles, drink cheap beer, screw. They die young, lungs black as tar, skin blotched and spotted with neoplasia, not necessarily unhappy. Music blares from every window, and from the tenebrous pits of bars. They smoke like chimneys; why not? Life is cheap, meaningless and cheap as discarded plastic, but not unpleasant.

Advertisers promise riches, youth and beauty, rejuvenation under a new sun. So much empty noise. They can imagine no other life — why would they want to? Everything is here. They fight with knives and fists and chains, men and women brawling out into the streets, guns long ago sold and melted down and shipped off-world. They burn out on drugs and conspiracy theories polished to a high gloss.