Emperor Norton

Steamcurls from canal surface
writhing in ghost arms around his head -
praying on his knees in the road
before any blood was shed, by blades
of glass electric, silence
holding the striking hand

as before sunrise
a fragile paleness
for building cities
viscera of bulls

scattered into the black bay
sinking into unreflecting water -
trees cold to the touch
leaning and darkening as if for a burial -
deep in the wood,
lucid dreams of a titanic return
only the innocent left unburned

Incarnated once in a hotter land,
nailed into history: the traffic
backs up for miles behind the praying emperor
- haloed in emptiness -
gulls will not fly over the chaos maker
nor clouds form in his sky.

Divine fingers uncurl the roads, spines
shudder under mountain vertebrae,
lakes spill as their eyelid beds grind open
a madness
of hard-dreaming hobo bones
unbroken, the chill of centuries -

Our shadow caster -
sunburned, longing for sleepy rain -
churns blood through river-smooth stone
the ebon pool, angel hands
to encompass stars
flung a hundred leagues
ribcage lightning conductor, judgement
of the heart and nerves -
today only

the stillborn children hug on the riverbed
alone in the morning of the sea

Travelling Home

Lord, when the night falls,
leave me enough light to see
the stars in the water.

When you line the roads
with roaring shadows,
let the house glow in the distance.

Let the sky shine blue for hours
at the fringe of the hills
as the children return from the fields.

When the train slides softly
past endless farmhouses,
ghostly in frost and fog,

let there be a golden wreath
on every bare branch
as your red sun rises.


one day in a blue bedroom
blue flares of bursting light
appeared behind her eyes -
she'd never had it so good

sitting on top of him, crying
wanting to be kissed everywhere
so bad, heartache and skin-hunger
then the novas in her sight, and she was flying

and so was he, voids in his mind
full of baroque music, geometric forms -
outside the bedroom it was a rainstorm
hammering on the window behind

her head, eyes turned up, looking within,
mouth open, "Oh Lord, oh God,"
as her insides poured out
through the pores of her skin

the great symphony, the greatest joke
he laughed aloud at the ridiculous joy,
remembering history classes as a little boy -
Da Vinci’s drawings, the hundred birds that broke

before Bernoulli's aerodynamic science -
before they landed on the moon -
playing golf in the white, dusty lagoons,
waving hello in a frozen silence

that sang louder than hammered bells -
unfathomable, a tiny astronaut
suspended like a Christmas ornament
in a lightless space - and then he fell

into the darkness behind his own eyes,
all of his skin on fire with her
breathless, raging to absorb her,
to inhale her - eyes closed, she flies –

bearing the weight of the moon, and him
over the Earth’s surface. The clouds shimmer,
and she hopes to God that they’ll land together,
his darkness a home for the death-light within her.