Yosemite’s Gates

Yosemite’s gates are sealed for good,
all visitors barred.
East of the park at Tioga Pass,
six cherubs block the entrance,
each with a flaming longsword
carved of glacier quartz.
At Hetch Hetchy on the western side,
seventy bison clog the road,
shaggy heads low and silent,
daring to be challenged.
At Big Oak Flat a granite boulder,
round as the moon over Half Dome,
rolled down a cliff on Christmas Eve
and plugs the asphalt passage.
Don’t even bother with the Arch Rock entrance
on El Portal Road at Foresta
where a great woolly mammoth
rubs its sweeping tusks
against the granite blocks,
having emerged, they say,
from a Badger Pass blizzard.
South Entrance appears deceptively open
though witnesses tell of the presence of ghosts
in the shape of leaping bighorns.
As for the thousands stuck inside,
news is sparse; electricity is out,
the trails are full of bear.
This much we know: a woman gave birth
to a child who floats when given the breast
and who laughs at the sight of the moon.

Kitchen Poem

I was in the kitchen washing dishes
feeling sorry for myself
when suddenly I realized
that the Holy Spirit of God
had sauntered into the room
and I said Hey, aren’t you supposed to be
in heaven somewhere or maybe
some dark cathedral in Italy?
And what’s with the baseball cap
and torn leather jacket?
But the Holy Spirit of God just stood there
as silent as a wildflower
and I felt a cool breeze that smelled of the sea
caress my hair
and I suddenly remembered my old friend Gregory
alone in that broken hotel
with just his goldfish and his beer
and then outside my window
a small cloud caught fire.

Airport Security

It is a terrible thing to fall in love
with an airport security screener.
“Please remove your shoes,” she said,
“and place them in the bin.”
I stared at her, unable to speak,
smitten by the lilt of her voice.
“Sir,” she said,
“remove your shoes.”
Outside the snow fell like feathers.
All around me, anxious travelers
divested themselves
of precious jewelry.
I crawled onto the x-ray belt.
“Scan me,” I cried.
“Look into my heart.
See that I am an honest man!”

Smokin’ Zombie Jackson

Jackson knew that if he quit smoking he’d shrivel into the look and feel of a wrinkled sock, so he never stopped, he just kept puffing away until his gums bled and his heart eventually gave out, and so he died, but even then he kept on smoking. He refused to be buried and simply slipped out of his own casket and walked out of the funeral parlor puffing on a Marlboro. Folks around town called him the smoking zombie as he stumbled around the beat-up warehouse side of town after dark, his clothing rotting, his eyeballs rolled into his sockets. He smelled like a dead moose. He didn’t feed on human flesh. He just wanted tobacco, and folks gave it to him, thinking that by doing so he’d leave them alone. He didn’t leave them alone, though. He grew dependent on their cigarettes and pounded on their doors and windows when he ran out, silently screaming for more. Things didn’t improve until Bradley Wordsworth became mayor and persuaded the city council to pass an ordinance forbidding the provision of cigarettes to zombies. Jackson was angry at first and began eating puppies, then department store mannequins. That’s when the city council voted to kill him with Marlboros laced with rat poison. It did the trick all right, and quickly. He exploded, in fact.

Lights Out

“Can a tick talk?” I asked my brother Dave. I was on the lower bunk, he was above me. I could lift my legs and kick his mattress, which always got him laughing unless he was in a bad mood and then he’d say “Knock it off.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Do raccoons breed through their noses?”

The bedroom light was off and we were supposed to be sleeping, or at least pretending to be. But it was summer and the night still felt young, though it must have been close to midnight.

“If the world is round, why aren’t we all bow legged?” I asked.

“If you didn’t pee for a year and you bit someone, would they die?” Dave asked.

“Probably, unless you died first.”

“Here’s a serious question,” Dave said. “After you die, what do you look like after a year under the ground?”

I didn’t like that question. “I don’t know.”

“Does your hair keep growing? I heard that it does.”

I thought about that for a while. “That’s really weird.”

“Yeah. And worms eat up your skin.”

“That makes sense, I guess. I mean, you’re down there with the worms. But just your body because your spirit isn’t there anymore,” I said. “It’s up in heaven somewhere.”

“I wonder how long it takes before you start stinking,” he said.

I suddenly felt very tired. “I have no idea.”

“Am I weird for asking things like that?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Everyone wonders those things.”

He was silent for a while. “When I die, I want to go quick. Like, get shot, or just die in my sleep with a heart attack. I don’t want to feel anything.”

“Me too.”

Off in the distance we could hear a freight train rolling along the tracks, blowing its whistle. Crickets chirped quietly in the back yard. Other than that, the night was very still.

“Well, good night.”

“Good night.”

But it took a while before I could drift off, so I thought about all the girls I liked and imagined myself kissing them. Every one of them.