tongue

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Lilith — First Mother, First Lover — you play
roles. Let my tongue find your soul and your toes

will curl deep in the woods. I still search, pray
and call on you. Sometimes I hear echoes

of your pleasure. Sometimes it’s just a cool
light in the green darkness. At the crossroads

your owl took my words. I still think it’s cruel
that you never came, though the complex codes

of your prayers confuse me at times. My grasp
of your Armenian tongue is, “shat vat,”

at best. Perhaps I’ve forgot my own role?
I’m built for faith and pleasure, not grief. Clasp

me to you, love. Spread yourself wide. Now squat
over my face. My tongue will find your soul.

NOTE:
In the Armenian language, the term, “very bad,” is “shat vat,” (շատ վատ).

best

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Today I took my cat back to the vet
so that they can try and save his kidneys.

Three days. They will labor against this threat
for three days. “We’ll try our best.” But kitties

die just like the rest of us and, “our best,”
often isn’t good enough. After three

days then what? For years he slept on my chest.
For years he was my love, my refuge, he

witnessed what no one else has, what no one
else will. Three days of waiting, of patience,

of fear, of, “I did my best.” Is it wrong
when we say that? Grief, not sin, damns us. None

who read this will come in time. Let absence
break me. Today here, love. Tomorrow gone.

Image

moxie

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First I drew her muscles. She had obliques
that would make titans sigh. Her broad shoulders

carried the weight. There are certain physiques
only found in men’s myth, though the daughters

of the gods come in all sizes. I drew
her as she held the world aloft. It’s odd

to call Atlas male. The one that I knew
had no machismo … just mortal, no god,

no false ennui. At her feet I drew her
sisters. That’s who she carried this for, with

a horned-moon on her forehead, storms above
her hips. — I’ve never had a big sister

like what I drew; one made not from men’s myth
but her own common muscles, common love.

without blood

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This blood letting. That itch. You don’t approve
when I slice a burr-hole in the soft parts

of my flesh to extract … what? hurt. The groove
I cut is deep but I don’t need Dark Arts

to count the days before it will itch once
more. Let the bad blood, the stone of madness,

out. You’ve called me savage in the essence
of my faith … but without blood it’s useless

to pray. That itch seizes me more and more
these days. I’d let it out if I could cut

where it crawls under my skin and I’ve tried.
Trust me. I’m squeamish of razors and gore

yet I’ve still tried to cut it out. Cut what
itches me. Cut what runs riot inside.

midway

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“Midway through this maddening life,” you know
how this goes, “I found myself unredeemed

in a dark wood.” The “right road” was wrong. No.
The road was gone, as in, damned. What I dreamed.

What I blasphemed. Lovers of words must name
horror. I have swallowed demons before,

felt their workings in me. “Clock: tock-tock.” Same
shame. Same grief. Damn me with a touch of gore

on the cogwheel. Things slow down. In your heart
there is a murmur. You know how this goes.

X-rays show blood clots. Demons I can’t squeeze
out of you. That is my horror, sweetheart,

I’ll lose you midway … despite all of those
prayers and tears and pathetic “don’t leave me”s.

euripides’ bacchae [prologue]

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[SCENE: Semele’s tomb outside the royal palace of Thebes. Dionysus, fey god of intoxication and beautiful boys, stands alone before the palace gates. He speaks directly to the audience.]

DIONYSUS

They called me a sissy so I destroyed them. I suppose, though, I am something of a mama’s boy. My grandfather, Old Man Cadmus, king when I was a child, made my mother’s tomb (this one here, overgrown with grapevines, I see) a quiet spot. I like grapevines. It’s a good place to return to. For that I might even be grateful. But … no.

Semele’s sisters, my aunts, have all behaved badly. They called Dionysus a pretender and a bastard and that angelic Hera didn’t trick my poor mother into killing herself. They claim that the bull she shamelessly fucked wasn’t Papa Zeus in disguise … that he didn’t then reveal himself to my mother as living fire, burning her alive with me still in her womb. They don’t understand how the gods work and because they weren’t immediately struck down by lightning (where’s the fun in that?) my aunts grew cocky.

Me? O I’ve been here and there. Sowing my wild goats in the Far East, teaching my Mysteries to charming infidels and barbarians out in Arabia and Asia. That’s when I heard they were mocking Dionysus back home. I love stories where hubris and chutzpah gets grossly punished. Especially now, on the day that I have returned to cursed Thebes where I was born, bringing with me derangement—divine and consuming—as punishment.

[Holds up his thyrsus, a long phallic-shaped ivy-covered spear]

Of course this looks like a penis. I shook my thyrsus and made the women of Lydia and Phrygia froth at the mouth and abandon their families to go dancing naked with their mothers and daughters and friends. Why? Because I can. I spread madness everywhere I go, and because my mother’s sisters thought calling me a sissy would be an insult, my dear aunties—Agave, Ino and Autonoe—are fucking more than Bacchic bulls up in the mountains these days.

Sinners must be taught their lesson. Cadmus, being old and wrinkly, pissed me off when he renounced the throne to Auntie Agave’s son, Pentheus. There’s nothing worse than a snotty-nosed prude afraid of his own cock but claiming to know what the gods want. What an odious little shit, Pentheus, who apparently is too stupid to fear divine wrath if the god in question lisps and prances through his city, which will be ironic, I suppose, since I’ve turned his supporters, the proper women of Thebes, into blood-lusting, finger-fucking Maenads … like the kids say these days: burn, patriarchy, burn.

[Enter Lucine, leader of the Bacchae cult, wearing a garland of flowers on her head. She is dressed in ritual deerskin and carries a small drum.]

DIONYSUS [cont.]

My beautiful savage, Lucine, named after the moon. You have followed me out of the kingdoms of Ararat and Artaxiad. We have conquered barbarian lands together. Now I shall go to the valley below Mount Cithaeron and rejoin my Bacchae. Beat your drum outside Pentheus’ palace. Let all the eyes in this damn city see you dance.

that question

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In a way it’s just like loving a ghost.
Even on our “date” you vanished long

enough to be rude. “Only you,” you boast;
but as I read your new posts am I wrong

to doubt that truth? The problem with the dead
is that they don’t change. You can beg, threaten

and wail but it changes nothing. I’ve said
I hate not trusting you, but that question

refuses to die when I read your posts.
Why hire a soothsayer when I know I

deserve better? — Ghosts might even agree,
they just refuse to stop; that’s why they’re ghosts.

That’s why I’ve finished turning a blind eye.
Little ghost, keep posting. I set you free.

sirloin

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I’d hoped I’d have no need to get upset
though I’ve been others’ sirloin before, burned

outside but juicy in. Juice they won’t get.
I stopped being eatable when they earned

all their scorn; insisting that I just don’t,
“get it.” True, there was a lot I never

got from them, which is why they’re not a note
I sing, a name I’ll claim as a lover

who did me wrong. They’re dead space I cast down
like a jealous god; heartbroken to find

out what they did when I wasn’t around.
Odd how the hungry ones get left behind.

I’d say: Tell me that I’m wrong about you.
Show me that’s something you can even do.

doldrums

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I saw him first among the early hills.
It was arousal that drew me. I heard

voices among the brambles and the chills
I felt just then were odd. It’s been rumored

that the lovelorn can love him. He comes, spun
flakes of winter in hues of gray. — He cums

in ways I do not these days. I’d loved one
who loved others. My long sexless doldrums

were a drag but in the hills I heard song
that roused in me what many a Bacchae

before felt, I’m sure. I won’t tell you what
the two of us did, you’ve proven me wrong

to say what a fey goat-god calls foreplay
with a forlorn queen in a bone corset.

][][

NOTES:
The Bacchae were the female priestesses of the Greek god Dionysus. It is from that word we get Bacchanalia, or holy orgy. The doldrums are an old nautical term, now applied to any period of time involving stagnation and depression.

pleasure off

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Without rest, I said. Urgent. I’ve day-dreamed
enough for two. “Yet it’s just you. What changed?”

That’s the thing. Nothing. I had hoped. It seemed
different. Everyone thinks they want deranged

passion … until they finally have to act
on it. Still, no means no. That’s what matters.

“You could wait.” I did. I let things distract
me. I’m saucy, not cruel. This world pressures

us. I won’t add more. Instead I’ll lick dried
pleasure off these fingers. Inspiration

must sleep somewhere else and I have defied
the gods long enough hoping for passion,

frenzy and someone who loves cock and cunt
as well. —Urgent, I say. —This is urgent.