Woe-speaking

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.

Genesis

Revolution makes normal the unthinkable. Folly reigns; darkness is upon the face of society. Over this confusion the spirit of god moves like marshlight, like a bird all wings.

They are trying the old rulers in the cathedrals of the underpasses. They sit on bollards, on broken dividers, perch on stanchions, shoulders pressed together in the dovecote of the beams. The spirit of god comes to them all at once and separately and whispers in their ears. They speak prophecy, and the dissolution of barriers, of fierce egalitarianism. Language dissolves, continually reforms, tongue of Babel. Nouns lose their gender or change it; words may mean anything but what they do.

From beyond their borders, the stable world watches, in anger and in fear, Lucifer raging against the new creation.

Garbage in the streets, and an all-volunteer army sweeping them clean again. They break into empty buildings and create bedrooms, living rooms, water closets. No plans are on file with the city. They grow like coral, in all directions, waiting for the tide to change.