Eighty Six's Ten-by-Ten Poems

Spring Weather
     written for my wedding

Many of you know what it is, struggle
To explain, but could not survive without.
It happened to me in spring, by the water.
Figured we'd stroll to the park, feel some sun,
Watch sunbolts dart through impatient weather
Crowded, stuck in line over Puget Sound.
I respond: "Doesn't look like rain."  My nose
At your earlobe.  You've been climbing with plums
Or zesting lemons.  Hits me in the brain
Every time.  The clouds pile up like wet socks

And damp blankets.  You say they're more like sheep
Playing in the wind.  The bay grows shark teeth
Or wolves' fangs.  The flock spooks, panics, gallops
Over the Olympics toward Mount Rainier.
Pillows become washrags and frog-sized drops
Start flying in sideways.  Running for shade,
Dodging flash-puddles, sunglasses clouded
Under an awning, breath short, kisses warm
Like home.  Wiping rain from cool cheeks.  Never
Let you go.  Never want to see you cry.

Fake Flowers

I like flowers fake, sewn and glued, nylon
And polyester.  Woven frayed petals,
With coarse grain, plastic stems, acrylic dew.
Never lie nor wilt. Won’t curl or change face.
Sunlight or dark, will be with you always.
In a dollar vase, give me fake flowers.
Unscented, no pollen or honeybees.
Not hungry, always growing at the sun.
Fabricate me twelve bomb-proof pseudo-silk
Injection-molded polymer flowers.


Two dudes walk down stairs, around the bend, bounce
Into a pair of ladies. Eyelashes.
Green eyes and blue. Brunette and blonde. Done up.
Bright smiling teeth, earrings twinkle like ice,
Flowers and gems in their hair, showing throat
And neck, dresses fit right, curving from top
To bottom. They whisper and climb the stairs.
High-heels. Calves. Tassels on skirts, hips swishing.
“Come down off the ceiling,” Will says to Chance,
Slugs his shoulder. “You sprang like a kitten.”

“Those things scare me to death,” Chance says. “Spooky.”
Will gets more beer. “Those things? Explain yourself.”
Chance sips. “What if they don't like me? Say no.
I talk to the next girls. They don't like me.”
Will throws up his hands. “Who cares? Their problem.”
“But wait...” Chance holds up one finger. “What if
It works?” He takes a deep swig. “She likes me,
Wants to have my kids, a house. My whole life:
Me and her?” He looks around at sculptures,
Paintings, dresses and suits. “That's scary stuff.”

The chandelier hangs with glass slippers, lit
With neon tubes. Will shrugs. “I don't think 'scared'
Is the right word.” Chance lifts his eyebrows. “Oh?
Increased heart rate. Sweaty palms. Trembling hands.
Adrenalin. You start hunting for doors.”
He leans against the wall. Looks left and right.
“You're creeping through the jungle. A tigress
Leaps out and stares you down. How do you feel?”
He kills his beer. Hands in pockets, he drifts
Past tasteful male nudes and cryptic abstracts.

They re-climb the stairs, stroll the mezzanine
Over a sea of slick-haired gents in silk,
Ladies with pearls, curls, and plunging necklines,
Pairs towing each other from art to art.
A canvas covered in bright red lip-prints
To form a field of flowers. A collage
Of scavenged kitchenware, pot-shards, hot-glue.
“You know, I didn't meet Jane being scared,”
Will reminds Chance, who laughs. “You got lucky,
Captain Braveheart. Pulled her name from a hat.”

Will shrugs. “So I scored a hot lab partner.
Had the nuts to ask her out.” Chance nods: “True.”
They stop. The brunette and blond have found friends,
Chat and giggle in a ring. One's pregnant.
They rub the bump, coo, and pass ultrasounds.
“Feel that kick?” Chance makes eye-contact, blushes.
“Going for more drinks,” Will says. “Good luck, bro.”
Chance takes his hands from his pockets, freezes
Between the group of girls and the back door:
“Emergency Exit. Alarm Will Sound.”

Harald and Sal

"Coffee's gone."  Sal's cup shatters on the rock.
Harald flinches, rubbing his knives over
And over on a stone.  "You ready yet?"
With one eye closed and the other squinted
He inspects his edges.  "I'm just thinking--"
"Don't think," Sal snaps.  Harald buttons his blades
Into their sheathes.  "Seems the water's rising
And no one's built an ark."  He cracks his neck,
Knuckles and back.  Sal dry fires the shotgun.
"But old Noah'd only take one of us."

Alpha Dog

Tall as the table and nearly as wide,
The bulldog swivels his jowls and muzzle.
One eye is closed, cancelled with a white scar.
The other is oyster pale.  His black hide
Is tickish, stiff, and twitches like a cow's.
A bird perched on his spiked leather collar
Pokes its narrow beak in his tattered ear.
One bright tooth jabs up from his frowning mug.
With sniffing, stumpy steps, he finds the corpse
And begins to crunch bones.  The pack stays clear.

Early Cathartes

Any day off the ground and not in it
Is a good one.  A comfortable rustle
In my wingtips.  Wind polish my plummage.
Sleek silk missile.  Cool air on my belly
And filling my lungs, purging dirt-foot breath,
Grease smoke and horse exhaust, green and humid.
I skate through my morning orbit, pointless
In my circles until my crop grumbles.
I focus my search to gassy odors,
Motionless bodies and sounds of conflict.

Brawl Atop the Rock

The stout man asks the tall: "Which way down, Tom?"
And slugs him in the kidney.  Uppercut
Grazes Tom's ear, who counters with a knee.
"Eliza said: 'No daisies for that Tom.'"
Heels near the edge, Tom ducks a cross and springs
Into the other's knees, wrapping, gripping
But unable to lift the thicker man.
Both are buttery-white, belly and back.
Walnut-bronze from elbows to leathered hands.
"But Eliza likes it in the daisy."

More Early Cathartes

Turning circles over an alpine lake
Blue as a beam, framed with boulders and firs
Turpentine green.  A man in a wood boat
Ripples a goose V through the glassy dawn.
Slow as a shaded rocking chair, he rows.
Smiling like a man kneading yeast and flour
By the warmth of his stove.  I spiral down
And hear Pavarotti from the cliffsides.
Figaro vibrates the needles.  The air
Trembles with song like a tumble of stone.

Post-Apocalyptic Bar

"I could pour you a cosmopolitan,"
He states, squinting through a martini glass.
Buffs the rim.  She bites a sliver of lime.
Pulls her hair from her neck.  Wraps her lips, pale
Yet plump, around a champagne flute.  Drains it
With a swan-like motion and starts giggling.
"You don't pour a cocktail."  Her barstool rocks
And creaks.  She snorts.  "You build one, my darling."
She stands like weaving smoke, smoothes the black silk
Of her small dress, chuckling.  "If you had ice."

Another Brawl Atop the Rock

The tall bald man weaves.  Fists guarding his face.
Right eye swollen blind.  Right knuckles scraped.  Thumb
Broken, twisted like a toy.  Bare feet wide
And balanced on the rock burnished and soft
As an old wallet, familiar slippers.
The stout man bares his remaining teeth, frees
His dark hair from its ponytail, stringing
With blood and perspiration.  Open hands
Darting over his head like birds, like snakes
Coiling and striking.  A stone strikes a gong.

More Harald and Sal

The sun melts, from a golden-wicked candle
Into a bloody purple stump.  How long
Can two men cook one rabbit?  I hop up
To the lip of the dented copper pot.
"Not yet, bird," snaps the balding one, stirring,
Sniffing the simmering garlic, onions,
Fungus and beans.  "I've eaten stewed buzzard."
"That's a vulture, Sal.  A turkey vulture."
Like they're polishing gold, they cook with pride
To have captured food.  "I've eaten them too."