The Quality of Natural Mercy


Growls, flashing fangs, thrusting claws,
nicked hooves, drops of blood,
escape---no, not quite,
on the legs of one fawn are fatal stigmata.
Now the leaves rustle, then silence
each time the does stop.
Stop, then hazard a nervous leap;
leaves rustle again---
stop, rustle, silence, leap
as one by one the others choose wiser trails.
Now just mother and fawn, a herd of two.
Something lurches,
and between the leaves a flicker of a vigilant eye.
Now the leaves rustle, then silence.
She sniffs the fawn's blood in the air,
and the ever stronger stench of their pursuers.
She licks her fawn's legs.
She trots away. She returns. She trots away. She returns.
She trots away.
Now the leaves rustle, then silence.
Fawn is alone, a herd of one.
Hobbling fawn under the canopy shade.
Shadows darken its striped fur.
Standing dead still.
Now the leaves rustle. A green curtain parts.
Many white fangs turn red.
Now a requiem chorus is sung in triumphant howls.
There are no ends; there are only means.
For in time, a gnawing hunger will always tease a full belly.
And the stalking fear will again worry the ears of the hunted.
Restless claws, restless hooves,
restless leaves.



Viewed from on high and with a quick glance,
leaf cutter society is damnably perfect.
We see, we admire:
the aesthetics, the smoothness of motion,
the seeming harmony within the corporate,
and above all, the cleanliness.
But a patient, eye to eye view
would discern the chaos in the particulars.
Half the leaves are cut the wrong way,
landing far from the main procession.
The abandoned green treasure rots brown,
as the ant stream winds through invisible banks.
Those leaves hoisted by the society
are not banners parading in linear progression,
but markers of endless cul-de-sacs, wrong way turns, wasted efforts.
Look closely, look long, and observe--
all that matters to this earthbound world
is that the Queen is fed
and drops of rationed nectar touch the sterile workers' mouths.
The exhausted ones are disassembled
and quickly carted away.
High above, we, the highly evolved observers,
of course, have left such systems
far, far beneath us.

Little Annoyances


One roach means a hundred more hidden,
an omen, like that slightest grin on my evil neighbor's face.
More horrors are yet to come, but I've never felt so alert,
aware that rot runs rampant behind these walls.
I hear them softly crawling. If I doze I'll be overwhelmed.
I use roach traps of course, dozens
and poison nuggets for the scout to take back.
Chemical warfare also, the spray can casts its mist across the floor.
A scorched earth policy on linoleum.
Cleanse my piece of the world with a new broom;
if decay is swept away evil will surely starve.
Now patrol, patrol. Afternoon, evening, midnight, zero hundred hours.
Still awake with hammer in hand, I hear them loudly now.
I flip on the light and behold that the wall is very busy with them.
I pound, pound, pound, pound, and soon the wall pounds back.
Crazy, I'm called crazy from behind the wall.
That smirking neighbor, these are his minions.
I should be pounding him. Sirens, now the doorbell rings.
I won't answer. More pounding, walls, door. My door breaks.
They come.

With medication I have been permitted to return. Months have passed.
On the kitchen wall one lone roach greets me.
He must have been very patient.
Sadly I must disappoint him,
for when once I crusaded now I barely shrug.
Zealots are crazy; I must return to the mundane.
I prepare to go to my new job. First the necessary rituals:
shower, shave, brush, dress, and out the front door.
I hear a metallic click. My neighbor patrols his peephole.
Now I'm his obsession. He's scared of me.
That gives me power. I'm cured.
As for my neighbor, now it's his hour
to pound himself mindless
at little annoyances crawling
behind, on, and even through
our concrete world of walls.

Live Free and Die


Never could I win the friendship of the thing.
No, he wouldn't perch on my shoulder
or eat seed from my hand.
That damn bird cost money, plenty too.
I was his master, but he wasn't my pet.
Occasionally, if I held my finger out, real close
maybe, maybe he would hazard a hop
like a nervous bather sticking a toe into icy waters.
And talking?
Polly wanna cracker, ha
Polly gonna bite
and he hurt.
He never understood me nor I, him.
Perhaps something Freudian imprinted on his brain
just after hatching,
or maybe
he just wanted to stretch his wings in a place
where they wouldn't touch iron bars.

the cold would have killed
so I wrapped a blanket around the cage,
I opened the door
one more time
for friendship.
out the cage, he flew atop the bookcase
then fluttered his wings against the wall.
He seized the opening above the top window
and perched there for just a moment,
then he spread his tropic red, green feathers wide
wide into the arctic air.