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A Death In Madagascar

In Madagascar, the rosy periwinkle is dying

For years the world limped in for mace and cinnamon. Conscripted sailors clawed the shore like men accustomed to drowning. Heat was a walled room-- all the suffocating jungle climbed up and up for air. Rosy periwinkle sighed beneath this tower; sought shade, sought water-- men lay down in her arms; brides lay down with their men. For a hundred years their children cried in white rooms of death until these flushed petals gave them second breath. In Madagascar the rosy periwinkle is dying Barehanded, men hack open the sleeping bed of this flower and leave a grave.
(This flower, used successfully in treating 90% of childhood leukemias is now on the verge of extinction.)

Helen of Troy

Tomorrow you'll stop drinking. I believe you. Tomorrow your memory will improve. Thursday night is garbage night. Remember? Monday night you drive the girls to dance class. And you promised you'd help with the dishes without being asked. I'm not Helen and our insurance won't pay for the broken window--- but once I was beautiful and you brought me gifts.


I am an apple hanging fat upon the sighing limb. Hard as a planet, with eyes enough to drink the sky, I only have to speak and the entire tree listens with all its pointed ears. But one slip and I am face-down, mumbling to myself, beauty gone, with only a worm's tongue.


I gather driftwood, old shoelaces, my wedding dress for a sail. I take fresh water, a compass with its needle quivering. Wind pushes me into the sun igniting the rim of the world then burning out. Stars don't help: not even the big bear growling his little lights. Out here I'll grow a tail, forget speech, find you in a fishes' cove. I'll drag you home, a human boy, lungless, water-sick, grateful.

Pawn To Queen's Four

At least you have a holster and a gun. I just have yards of muslin and tired hands. All day I hide in the corn aching for the touch of silk. In the splintery cabin you eat with cold appreciation; I take down the board, the whittled horses as the eye of the impartial moon checks our moves in buttery light. The pieces speak for me. They inch towards you on the level plain though it's hard to defend myself night after night. My pawns walk boldly to their deaths and I know tomorrow you'll walk behind the plow again and stitch us irrevocably to this long scar.