onibaba [i,i]


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A semi-dark room scantily furnished. A sliding door opens and the distant chaos of a battle can be heard as two ghosts enter. The first, the soul of the legendary Hangaku Gozen, is dressed in her full samurai armor. The second, Lady Seishin, wears a kimono that might have been stylish 100 years ago and a kabuki fox mask that she never takes off. At the back of the stage is a small fire pit and a small window. Seishin stirs the embers and then stands by the window, peering anxiously out.


It is a wild night outside.


Help me off with this helmet. Is the rain still coming down?


In torrents. I cannot see the other side of the road.


That’s good.


If not being able to see someone ten feet away is good, then hai. Luck is with us. Should I put the oil wick in the window?


[Sitting down next to fire with her helmet in her hands.] Why? No. Only when we hear her order a retreat. That’s what she said.


But on a night like this she may have pulled the troop all the way back to Kyoto and we’ll never know.


Do not be so querulous, you cranky fox.


This isn’t me being cranky. Something is about to happen. Listen to the wind sobbing around the house … a lost soul that we’re refusing to let enter.


Why would we do that? The wind loves us.


The wind puts up with us. Ever since— What was that?


[Listens.] It is our message, I think. [Listens harder.] Something is coming. Douse the fire.

[The room is reduced once more to semi-darkness.]


Shouldn’t we—?

[This time the sound is heard by both women. Someone or something in groaning in the dark. They stand as the door slides open and Jiutian Xuannu enters.]


Cousins, why are we wasting time here? I was going to call retreat but those stupid Takahashi samurai are milling about right over there and look so smite-able.


But who is going to do the smiting? You?


You look sad, cousin. We’re shadows, azure-

eyed, made from lust and stardust and despise

blood and afterbirth. Fools fear our power

to peel off our pelts. Fools fear change, disguise,

the way floods deform and do not deform

dry earth. But, cousin, what use are nightmares

if you can wake up? Why try to transform

when we can slaughter? We don’t need more snares

fools keep slipping free from. Call Onibaba.

She’s a friend. She has farseeing vision

and short cruel knives. Fools call her, “Hag with Tusks

and Fangs Chitter-Chatting in her Vulva.”

Fools fear her carnage; her love of carrion;

how she sucks both down to their very husks.


Fetch her.

[Jiutian Xuannu exits.]

HANGAKU [cont.]

But first, let’s test her skills. Seishin, you pretend to be me.


I’m not a ghost. I think she’ll notice.

[Jiutian Xuannu, Onibaba and Kijo all enter.]


Ah, Lady Onibaba. Chrysanthemum in the Legion of Flowers. Mire in the Order of Tenacity. Chalice of Malice. Fury of the Divine Crest. It is I, your Lady Hangaku!


Xuannu, I find it odd that the, “Terror of Genpei,” would be both Jiuzhou and alive.


[Aside.] That was the worst Hangaku impersonation I’ve ever seen.


Lady Onibaba, please forgive me for being cautious. Who is this?


[Indicating Kijo.] My daughter, Lady Kijo.


[Incredulous.] You had sex?




[Skeptical.] With a mortal?




[Scandalized.] O my, you nanty narking chuckabog.


I don’t think you brought me all this way to make snide comments about my lovers.

[A loud moaning begins from outside and the wind rattles against the hut’s walls.]

ONIBABA [cont.]

The dusk wails and you pray for Onibaba

to smite souls. It’s fitting that twilight

moans for us, glimpsing our hitodama,

our blue-green flames, as we pass in the night,

searching for the spot where we died; where our

blood touched the earth and our hubris melted

when we found out all our sweet truths were sour,

our faiths false. Who claims to know what’s sacred?

How I don’t know. But they’ll kill for it.

You want me to go out and lay the Eight

Ring Curse on those men? Men who love carnage

and their samurai bushido bullshit?

I’ll do it. Saints say hate cannot kill hate.

I say all we are is gristle and rage.


[Aside.] These mountain demons can be very tempting with their tongues.


Don’t frown, Lady Hangaku. That was you once, too: a butcher. Now you’re just dead and vague.

[The door opens and a little battlefield spirit acting as a messenger enters.]


[Bowing.] My sovereign. Ladies of the court. I come from the walls of Osaka. Takahashi’s soldiers have stormed our outer defenses. We are now fighting in the streets.


What sort of necromancers do they have that can breach our spells?


I heard that Emagami The Blight was selling herself again, but her skills are pitiful.


[To Onibaba.] My lady, do you think that we should give up on Osaka, or not?


Of course not. Only cowards and monks run away.


Yattaaaa! I agree with what she says: we’ll fight it out.


Glory is like the ripples on the water. You have given me the task of whipping the Takahashi then I will beat those waters until they froth.


Lady Onibaba, drive the living daylights out of Osaka. They says the root of suffering is attachment. I say we beat that koan home on the skulls of Takahashi and his men.

[All exit.]



Onibaba is, as her name states, is a red-skinned, white-haired Japanese ogre. She carries a kanabo (Iron war stick) slung over her shoulder.

Hangaku Gozen  was an actual warrior and fought in the Genpei War (1180-1185 AD).

Jiutian Xuannu (Dark Lady of the Nine Heavens) is a Chinese goddess of war, lust and longevity. With long Mandarin robes and her Dadao (“Big sword”) she justifies showing up in this play by saying that she is on holiday.

Seishin kitsune is one of the names used for a fox spirit.

Senjo bozu. A spirit from the battlefield.

Jiuzhou is an ancient name for China.

Hitodama are a pair of blue flames (similar to will o’ the wisps) that accompany a ghost when it manifests.



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You look sad, Auntie. We’re shadows, azure-

eyed, made from lust and stardust and despise


blood and afterbirth. Fools fear our power

to peel off our pelts. Fools fear change, disguise,


the way floods deform and do not deform

dry earth. But, Auntie, what use are nightmares


if you can wake up? Why try to transform

when we can slaughter? We don’t need more snares


Fools keep slipping free from. Call Onibaba.

She’s a friend. She has farseeing vision


and short cruel knives. Fools call her, “Hag with Tusks

and Fangs Chitter-Chatting in her Vulva.”


Fools fear her carnage; her love of carrion;

how she sucks both down to their very husks.



In Japanese folklore Onibaba is a female demon.



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Not Pan, the Goat herder, the Goat fucker,

lover of Goat porn. Nothing sleeps within


the trees here. Those gods died with their timber

hacked from bygone groves. Still, a thing moves in


the dark these days. Even you, as faithless

as you are, feel it. Your limb’s lust each time


voluptuous Plump Rump Callipyge Venus

calls. The other old school booty. Sublime


curves in this cleared land. Venus spreads her cheeks

while I tease with cock and thumb. Rude, sacred


prayers are still out there; just not Pan, the Goat

fucker. Who’ll teach you new techniques


if you’ve lost your faith? Fill my head, she said,

with prayer. I’ll gag on your cock in my throat.



The Romantic poets (Shelley, Byron, etc.) spend a lot of time moaning that ancient Greece’s eden, Arcadia, is lost to us in this modern era of cynicism and technology. According to the Greek historian Plutarch, Pan (protector of shepherds, seducer of nymphs and inventor of the syrinx panpipes) is the only Greek god who actually dies (and with him, Arcadia). According to myth, a sailor on his way to Italy heard a divine voice hail him across the waves: “When you reach the harbor at Palodes, tell the world that the great god Pan is dead.” Why some myths become popular while others don’t (especially considering Lord “I’ll Fuck Anything That Moves” Byron) I have always been fond of the stories about the Callipygian Venus, who the Romans called: “Venus with the Beautiful Ass.” Hers is an Arcadia that will never be lost.



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Next time you’ll count the scars. There will be more.

Grizzled, you’ll think. Frost burn. It takes time


for me to undress. Stitches hold my gore

in place for now. This pain isn’t sublime,


the sort that shamans use. It’s not De Sade’s

doomsday, either. First time I saw someone


tear at their clothes as they transformed gnawed

at me for weeks. I will be fifty-one


in less than a week. If I come back all

grizzle gray and limping will you confuse


me for the Moon? I can read all the scars

on her face. Can you read mine? This queer scrawl


that spells my fate each time these stitches ooze

fevered flames. Heat that grizzles. Heat that chars.



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Mischief-mad, hidden among the cushions,

you guide three fingers under your burqa,


biting back a tell-tale groan. Your oven’s

wet heat, stoked each night from ash to lava


while your husband snores near by, still tortures

you the way faith haunts your thoughts all day long.


When the first wet spot bleeds through your knickers;

when myrrh drips from, like honey in the Song


of Songs, your fingers –– then even mischief

isn’t enough. Mother-in-laws yammer


and whine, but you smolder: wet oven heat,

holy cum shrine. Your longing is as tough


as your soul’s flesh. Faith is only torture

in a world that wants you chaste and discreet.



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Some just loathe Ecstasy; like the Roman

who turned our Gorgeous Boy of Lust and Rage


into some frail sot. To fear masculine

beauty is to fear the divine. That age


that tried to switch Dion-(bow chicka bow

wow)-ysus with besotted ol’ Bacchus


ended bad. This isn’t heresy. My vow

is still to He Who Swaggers With Quenchless


Thirst. The one god not appeased by widespread

worship, sacrifice or floor pie. Altars


do not sooth him, nor prophets who soothsay.

Only madness in dance, in art, in bed.


No priests or holy laws. Only lovers;

we few who obey when we disobey.



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Slick from a randy varmint, your nipples

swell in your strappy tee as I watch you


take the pills that we found on the motel’s

bathroom floor. You taste just like witch’s brew,


rancor, a chloroform soaked handkerchief.

Ill pills freeze time then turn our lust heinous.


You are the color of storm and I grief.

On your back, your head lolls off the mattress


as I grind in. Your throat bulges, jaws twinge

as my balls smother your nose. You gag-retch,


spitting cum, bile and ache down your forehead.

Fuck fiend, you called me, words that made you cringe,


once … like love, or every time that I stretch

you wide; an act that you both long for and dread.



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Panspermia: Life hidden in drifting

space dust; scatterings of queer DNA


awash in the high heavens. Begetting

the ones zealots fear on Earth. Castaway,


satyr, witchling; this would explain but not

excuse my lecherous bursts. The drama


of throat fucking in public. Your distraught

¡Oi!” as you wear my cum like mascara.


There is no ill will in our tribe. We hunt

all who love their carnal but odd essence.


Xenolibido. “Whores of Babylon,”

the saved sneer. No, try Betelgeuse. Try cunt.


Try cock. Try us all. But they won’t. Not once;

their junk genes come from dullest of god-spawn.



Besides being a great name for a drag queen, panspermia is a theory that life on Earth originated from alien DNA drifting on galactic winds, searching for a suitable environment to call home. The plot of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers explains that the pod people came to Earth in the form of gelatinous creatures able to survive in the vacuum of outer space. I tend to fall on the side of astrobiology and ask for some actual proof before announcing that something is possible, but I do like playing with the idea in poetry. People who are very very keen on the idea of extraterrestrials tend to point to Fermi’s Paradox (which more or less states, “Empirical evidence is for Sucka MCs/ P-Funk’s Mothership Connection puts/ the xy chromosome in sexy”) and speculative fiction as to why they got a D- in high school science but an B+ in creative writing (naming no names, of course).

barco (iii)


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Dama de aguas oscuras, last night

I dreamed of phosphor under a starlit


dome. Far above such unending ghost-light

the gales harangued (as gales do). Your half-wit


brat sat in low, loathy dark; wheezing down

the last air in his rust iron coffin.


Lady of dark waters, they say to drown

is abysmal, but if I can return


to you through your blessed sea or ill ocean,

then I’ll slip my box’d boat through opal waves


to rest my grave under high tide and slow

sea-swill. Lay me, if it’s your will, all shrunken,


alone, calling this dream fate. Glow of graves,

Santa Muerte, lost in the tidal flow.



The Bony Lady, Santa Muerte, has many names; “Dama de las aguas oscuras,” Lady of the dark waters, is one of them. The idea of this poem actually came to me several years ago when I was reading about the early attempts of the Imperial Japanese navy to build their own submarine. In 1910 one of their first prototypes sank during a training dive in Hiroshima Bay. Although the water was only 18 metres deep it proved impossible for the crew to escape while submerged. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Tsutomu Sakuma, patiently wrote descriptions of his sailor’s efforts to bring the boat back to the surface as their oxygen supply ran out. All of the sailors were later found dead at their stations when the submarine was finally raised the following day.

barco (ii)


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Santa Muerte, I cannot pluck banjo

strings like Sal, nor compose on a guitar


like my brother. I do have magic, though,

of a different sort. I scrawl in the air


and the words jell and congeal. Even now,

Dama del Mar, with husky, haughty lips,


I reel across the deck each time we plough

through ten foot swells; each time salt water drips


in my eyes while sliding down swales to surge

up each peak. Below, in the engine room,


womb warm and sacred, one of your altars,

heart and cunt of this boat, keeps beat: gale’s dirge,


squall’s lament. Make this submarine my tomb

and I will gladly play shaman to sailors.