Category: Prose poems

Tribute to a Classic Monster

Kong

Skull Island wasn’t the same without him. The indigenous inhabitants, denied their traditional object of veneration and sacrifice, disintegrated into sects and internecine squabbling, nearly eradicating themselves. Survivors fell victim to the missionaries who inevitably follow in the wake of white explorers, displacing pagan idols, substituting ones more to their liking.

Robbed of its apex predator, the jungle lost coherence and structure, descending into chaos. And then came invasive species, animals and plants foreign to the closed ecosystem, devastating the pristine wilderness.

It wasn’t long before a consortium of Far Eastern financiers and venture capitalists bought the beachfront and lagoon for the equivalent of some beads and hand mirrors, evicting the natives, erecting exclusive vacation resorts catering to jet-setting millionaires and trust fund slackers.

Gift shops featuring statuettes, t-shirts and keepsakes commemorating the Island’s most famous denizen did brisk business, affluent tourists sporting colorful gear celebrating a fearsome creature once dubbed “the Eighth Wonder of the World”.

Descendants of the original islanders toiled in service industry roles, existing precariously, pining for the days when their god still lived and breathed, uprooting trees, bellowing his defiance, exacting regular tribute for the privilege of viewing divinity in the flesh.

Manchester

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 9.50.20 AM

23/05/2017

The morning after the Manchester bombing
an old grey tomcat sleeps under a white maple
in our backyard, oblivious to human affairs,
indifferent to the harm we inflict on one another.

I wish I had his equanimity, then I wouldn’t feel
so bewildered by a universe that seems to condone
random violence, so disappointed in a species that has
forgotten the simple joy of napping beneath a shady tree.

“A Personal Cosmology” (prose poems for the spiritually inclined)

Recently, I wrote a series of prose poems to accompany six visual pieces I’d created.

The marriage of words and images worked wonderfully and I’m delighted with the result. I’ve always loved collage, combining text and illos, loved staring at a photo or painting and riffing on it, writing off the top of my head, no pre-planning, just letting ‘er rip. “Automatic writing”, the surrealists used to call it.

Here’s one of the prose poems, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about (click on the image below to enlarge for reading):

Years ago I composed a series of prose bits* on the back of eight postcards I found, some of them based on famous art works, others historical photographs. Again, all I did was glance at the front, grab a mood or thought, flip the card over and commence scribbling. Worked like a charm (and a cool way to break an intractable writer’s block, hmmm?).

Just a little tip, o fellow suffering wordsmiths.

…and since I’m feeling especially cheerful and generous these days, how about some new music, an ambient number I call “Atmospheric Disturbance”:

  • You can find these “postcard stories” in my Stromata collection, available from my virtual “Bookstore“…or you can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
  • Update, March, 2017: The Oleander Review, a literary journal affiliated with the University of Michigan, has accepted “A Personal Cosmology” for publication in their Spring, 2017 issue.

A morbid turn: four flash fictions

Dore1

Reprisal

 

An intimacy only death allows.

Forced into close alignment to conserve space.

A press of upturned faces.

Rows and rows, near a field of spring wheat.

Bright sunlight, a perfect cloudless day.

In defiance of this latest atrocity.

 * * *

 

Dore3

The Last Room

Is someone there?

Why don’t you come nearer?

Step into the light…

I can barely see you.

There’s so little time.

Please, show yourself.

I don’t want to be alone.

Approach, stranger:

Take pity on my penitent soul.

* * *

stadium2

Chase Scene

—careening down a narrow path, bucking and weaving through the forest, in headlong flight.

“Hurry! It’s catching up with us!”

Realizing my mistake when the trees around us begin to glow, giving off a vivid, blue light.

The ground vibrating, feeling it through the floorboard beneath my feet.

Oh, Christ!  Oh, Jesus, help me—”

The light coruscating, fierce, accompanied by a blaze of heat, the exterior of our vehicle starting to blister and smoke…

* * *

stadium1Sheep

Reporting as ordered, funneled in with the rest.

Hemmed and jostled, barely able to move.

Exhausted and compliant.

A clipped, officious voice from the loudspeaker, appealing for calm.

Distant shouting, the news spreading in visible ripples through our midst.

The gates are closing

 

 

© Copyright, 2014  Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

“Extinct” (Flash Fiction)

DSC00555Extinct

 

It flutters and at first I think it’s a leaf or a feather.

Run to catch it.

But it moves in my hands!

Drop it like it’s hot.

Go and get Mother.

Telling me to shush as she kneels beside it.

Looking up at me, crying.

“It’s called a butterfly. Butterfly.”

Making me repeat it, so I’ll never forget.

 

 

© Copyright, 2014  Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

Two new poems

Dilemma

 

Let’s say I do it, let’s say, dearest,

I tear down this crummy, old fence

of ours—then what?

 

Do I replace it with another fence,

clean and white and perfectly straight,

the wood treated with poison

solvents to keep it from weathering?

 

Perhaps a higher fence, six feet

or more, the boards squeezed close

together to dissuade prying eyes;

a solid wall to keep others out.

 

If I plant some kind of hedge, caragana

or what have you, as has been suggested,

will I feel suitably secure (i.e. is such a flimsy

barrier a credible deterrent against thieves)?

 

The other option is to leave our backyard

wide open and accessible to the alley…but

I’m not comfortable with that.

 

I agree that our fence is worn out,

dilapidated, something of an eyesore;

I apologize if it embarrasses you.

 

But as I’ve just explained, it’s no easy

matter replacing it—and some of your ideas

involve considerable expense. We must not

act hastily, allow emotion to over-rule reason.

 

I think for now I’ll keep propping it up as best

I can, until a practical solution presents itself

or, more likely, the entire goddamned thing finally

collapses, defeated by a horde of years.

 

Fence

 

 * * * * *

Diagnosis

 

Apparently I suffered from a

“cute anxiety”, that’s what Miss Haynes,

the school counselor, told my mother,

which somehow explained the boils,

bed-wetting and frequent crying fits.

 

I remember wondering if this cuteness

was curable and how I got it when I

was such an ugly child, my sisters said

so, and no one else took my side or

stated a contrary view.

 

boy

Postcard from a future self

A local arts collective, Feed the Artist, distributed blank postcards and asked folks to write themselves a “message from the future”.

I really like the people behind the group so I was happy to contribute. Here’s my offering—you can see all the postcards by dropping by Crandleberry’s (coffehouse & cyber cafe) and viewing the display. And a reminder that the second issue of the Feed the Artist magazine, featuring many fine artists, will be launched at Crandleberry’s Friday, March 15th, 7:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Mars I

Mars II