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Apple doesn't like listing me as "Will Shakespeare (poetry blogger)"
to differentiate me from the other guy, although everybody else does.
They took my first book but now won't take new ones. (Go figure.)
Since Smashwords distributes my books to Apple anyway,
just go to my Smashwords author page and download EPUBs from there.
Smashwords provides samples of my books also.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 28

The town square of Vaxen darkened
As the tree line swallowed the evening sun.
Lilian hurried out of the inn,
Driven by the nameless fear she’d felt inside.
The square was nearly empty now
As the good folk of Vaxen fled the coming night,
Fled the unseen evil stalking the town,
Fled with an urgency even they could not have put into words…
And then she froze.

The Cardinal came across the square, toward her,
Staggering, lurching, wheeling drunkenly,
His eyes wide with terror;
His mouth agape, moving without speaking;
His arm outstretched toward her, reaching blindly
Although she knew for sure
He couldn’t see her.
She raised one hand to her mouth;
Never before had she seen her mentor
In such a wretched state as this.
The Cardinal stumbled at her feet,
Falling to one knee as
She tried her best to catch him.
He slowly lifted his head and then,
His eyes widening in recognition at last,
He clawed at her arms, pulling her face to his,
His mouth forming
Words that wouldn’t come
Until at last, barely above a whisper he rasped,
“L-L-Lilian, please h-help m-m-me!”

She held his face, trying to calm him,
Trying to ease his fear as she pled,
“Cardinal, what can I do? What has happened?”
But his eyes widened again,
Looking past her, seeing an evil
Only he could see,
His voice reduced to gibbering nonsense.

Lilian knelt before him, tears filling her eyes
As she stroked his cheek.
Murmuring softly, a mother to a frightened child,
She did her best to reach inside the prison
She didn’t understand… but to no avail.
She closed her eyes and said a prayer,
So intent upon the Cardinal that she didn’t hear
Him approach.

“What a shame, my dear Lilian.
And what a waste of pity
On such a wasted life as his!”

Startled and confused, she tried to place him
As she saw his face. A glimmer of recognition…
“Mr. Chase, isn’t it?”

He merely smiled. “Hello, Miss Devin.
A lovely evening, all the more so for your presence.”

“Mr. Chase, can’t you see? The Cardinal is ill.
He needs your help! Won’t you help him?”

Again the smile. “My dear, my dear,
I think I’ve helped him quite enough already.”

Suddenly she saw,
As if her eyes were opened for the first time.
She tried to back away but
He merely said, “No, Lilian. Please stay.”
Despite her best efforts, she did.

Chase smiled at her again.
“Lilian, my dear, because you asked so sweetly,
Perhaps there is something I can do to help –
Not for him, you see, but for me…
For us.”

With that he crooked a finger underneath the Cardinal’s chin
And drew him to his feet, with little effort,
Then looked him in the eyes.
The broken man’s stupor broke as he saw
Chase’s mirthless grin, and he tried to draw back;
Chase’s finger was sufficient to restrain him.
“Jarvik, my old friend,” he crooned,
“I have need of a messenger… and I’ve chosen you.”
He leaned close to the Cardinal’s ear
And whispered something that caused Jarvik to flinch;
Then he said, “Hurry, boy. Deliver your master’s message
To the Father and his dog.”

As Jarvis lurched off into the deepening gloom
Chase touched Lilian’s chin and lifted her to her feet.
“We have much to discuss, my love,” he said quietly.

He was stunned to feel the sting of her palm
Against his cheek. A flash of anger crossed his face
She froze as he merely gritted his teeth
And clinched his fist. She winced in pain.

She winced… but still managed a defiant sneer.

Chase laughed. “You have spirit, girl. I like spirit.
Breaking it is so much fun.”
He turned and motioned her to follow;
Against her will she jerked along behind him.
“Come, my dear. Come and await our guests.
They have much to answer for.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hamburger

On Good Friday I'll be posting the next
installment of Dogged by the Curse, so
I'm posting my annual Easter poem today.
--------------------------------

He was given to the butchers,
Little more than a side of beef.
They planned to serve Him up
But He had to be prepared properly first.
The Cuisinart of the time
Used leather blades
Powered by human arms
And they beat Him
And chopped Him
And pounded Him into hamburger.
The head chefs grilled Him for answers
That didn’t satisfy them,
Then they fed Him to
A mob hungry for blood.

The prophet Isaiah wrote,
“He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement of our peace was upon Him;
And with His stripes we are healed.”
It’s a necessary truth…
But unless you’re a butcher
It ought to make you lose your appetite
For hamburger.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parakeets

Inspired by Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees.

I doubt that I could ever eat
A plucked and roasted parakeet.

A parakeet sautẻed in butter
Would only make me squirm and mutter.

I won’t eat parakeet chow mein
Or sausage made from one. That's lame!

I wouldn’t eat one steamed in foil
Nor one deep-fried in peanut oil;

Not pickled, fried or barbequed;
Not shishkabobbed or Brunswick stewed.

A chef might serve it baked, with slaw;
A cannibal might nosh it raw.

To them, it’s just another meat…
But I won’t eat no parakeet.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 27

A cold chill settled across Vaxen –
Not an icy wind off the river
But a ripple of evil that reached deep
Into the town’s soul. Bony fingers
Tightened around its long-held superstitions,
Rarely voiced in the Father’s presence but
Remaining nevertheless, just beneath
The town’s veneer of rationality.
The only visible sign of this fear
Was in their eyes – a look of almost feral
Desperation, a fear defying logic –
Though clearly something had changed for the worst.

But while the town responded to the change
In subtle ways, most people went about
Their lives as usual, afraid to break
Routine, seeking shelter in the familiar.
Just two of its inhabitants were moved
To act, by unexplainable events:

As evil’s tide crashed Vaxen’s helpless shore,
Miss Devin’s room was filled with a bright light.
She shivered as she felt the darkness force
Its way inside… but then, the warming glow
Appeared and, growing ever brighter, pushed
The dark away; surrounding her, she heard
A quiet voice say, “Lilian, my child!
The darkness comes for you. Seek shelter! Fly
Away now, fly to Vaxen Abbey. NOW!”
Obedient, she fled to Benedict
And, more importantly, to Dietrich Bonham…
Though why that should have mattered, she knew not.

Down by the river, Benedict’s eyes widened.
He saw it more than felt it – something from
The pit, a spirit given flesh by one
Man’s lust for power, rising from the depths.
It was just a vision, and yet he knew
The truth of it, that something had arrived
In Vaxen; something of this world, yet not
Of flesh and blood; unnatural, ungodly,
And dangerous. It must be stopped! And then
The shock, the guilt of what he’d done struck home.
He saw the truth he’d hidden from himself,
That he’d refused to face: that he had caused
The deaths of all these evildoers and
Unless he acted quickly, Dietrich wouldn’t
Last the night. This evil wanted his friend!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sprung

Behold the vernal equinox!
It happens only once a year,
Each March, though calendars and clocks
Can’t tell us when it’s REALLY here.

It’s measured by the Sun’s return
To where it crossed the Earth’s equator
Heading north last March. We’ve learned
That’s sometimes sooner, sometimes later.

So Spring starts on a different day
Each year. Ain’t that a paradox?
Don’t ask ME why – I’ll simply say,
“Well, DUH! The vernal equinox!?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Final Fore

With one golf ball left
He steps up, makes his best swing…
And now there aren’t any

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 26

The choice was easy, the will to power too strong.
He fingered a single page, its thickness
Pleasant, reassuring. The parchment felt
Alive somehow, an ancient presence, older
Than man. The script was symbolic, obscure
Yet understandable, as if the text
Spoke directly to him, the very words
Revealing secrets he alone could hear –
Promising words, seductive words; the words
Of truth, the words of damnation and hell.
His fingers brushed lightly across the strokes on
The page, each symbol thick enough to feel
And each alive with power. Was it the blood
Of someone… or some thing tainted with evil?
He shuddered but couldn’t stop himself.
Another page; another page; another.
With each turning he became more its slave.
This power is now mine and mine alone,
He heard himself say. Or was that his voice?
Not that it mattered; he would use the book.

Chase brought it to the summoner’s circle
Despite his never being there before;
It called, he answered. Ritual demanded
He use the sacred blade; he found the box
Containing it, along with all the rest
Of his priestly tools, exactly as he
Had left them. (He?) The candles needed lighting;
He purified the silver blade with one,
Its flame licking unseen impurities
From the serrated edge, the facets glinting
Like diamonds. He felt a slight dizziness;
Unfamiliar aromas filled the room
As each candle added its own fragrance.
The shallow bronze dish was easily cleansed
With holy water dripped in and boiled off.
The candles’ heat grew oppressive to him;
He sweated as he cut his wrist and let
A few drops fall into the dish. He dipped
His finger into it, using the blood
To seal the circle. Instantly the blood
Dried and the bright metal rim glowed dimly,
A circle of light on the wooden floor.
He chanted in a whisper, choked with fear.

A pair of disembodied yellow eyes,
Catlike, glared at him from a misty fog
That filled the circle entirely. He heard
Something speak: “I know you. What do you want?”

Chase swallowed hard. “A wolf – but not a wolf –
Has killed my men and now it seeks my life.
I want you to destroy it. Do it now!”

He heard what might have been a rumbling laugh.
The eyes squinted at him, somewhat amused.
“And what is this service of mine worth?”

“Worth?” Chase exclaimed. “What do you mean? I have
The book. You are my servant. Obey me!”

“I am not your servant, O foolish mortal,
Nor am I a merchant that you may dicker.
Will you pay for this, my service, or not?”

“Can you guarantee your success?” Chase pressed.

The voice snorted. SNORTED! “I have no time
To entertain a child such as yourself.
I deal only with the most ruthless men,
Not pretenders who would send a weak lamb
In their place. If your master has the means
And will to pay for my service, tell him
To come to me. Now run home, little lamb.”

How dare he! Does he not know who I am?
His anger could no longer be contained
And Chase bellowed, “YES! I WILL PAY YOUR PRICE!”

“Excellent,” the voice replied with a laugh.
Then the circle burst and the fog engulfed
Simon Chase. He paid for the work in full.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spirit of 76

Tiger Woods got his 76th career win Sunday
at the 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship.
After a long struggle back from scandal and health problems

– and despite the sneers of his detractors –
it was his 5th win in the last year.
The form of this poem was inspired by

some of those long-lined poems by Whitman.
--------------------------

Nobody expected to discover him… but then, there he was.
He became something no one expected,
Something no one had ever seen before,
Something no one expected to see again.
He became more and more powerful, more and more successful… and then, the war came and took its toll.
He struggled through a winter tougher than either he or anyone else ever expected… but then, the tide turned.
Despite predictions of his demise, he found help from unexpected allies and he refused to give up… and then, he started to win again.
He’s made his declaration of independence from the past few years.
Can the end of the war… and return to dominance… be far behind?

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Hate Sonnet (with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

A parody of Browning's Sonnet 43, which famously begins
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."
(You can read the original at this link to the poets.org site.)
First written when I was in the tenth grade, as part of
an English assignment (and illustrated, as I recall, with 
a sinister Snoopy throwing knives at a nervous female beagle).
I got an A for it. In the eleventh grade I rewrote the last two lines 
and resubmitted it, receiving another A... then eventually
I lost the original. Although I remember a few of the lines,
I wanted to completely redo it; this is my first attempt.
The trick comes in making allusions to the original
while still creating something entirely unique.
Don't be surprised if this becomes a running project,
with occasional rewrites. I really "love" the concept!
------------------------------- 

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways:
Thy charms doth pale beside the hungry gator.
Friends flee in fear, though darkness hide thy face.
Thou hast the wit of half a French-fried tater.
Thy scent is best described as “Eau de Sludge”;
When bathing, thou shouldst use a fungicide.
This much is true, my dog can be thy judge;
He sniffed thy hand but once... then promptly died.

Thine eyes have glazed. I see I needs be frank:
If romance be a ship, thou art the plank.
In matters of the heart, thou art a lummox;
If romance be a horse, thou art its buttocks!
Could death make this love better? ‘Tis a cinch!
So dost thou get it now, ye little wench?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 25

Despite his proclamations, Simon Chase
Believed his operations compromised
Since his encounter with the ghostly wolf…
Though not for reasons some men might suspect.
The loss of men was inconvenient, true;
But flunkies? They were easily replaced.
Nor had the wolf disrupted business greatly.
No, what upset him the most was the fear –
The unexpected trembling in his bed,
The furtive glances cast back o’er his shoulder,
The time lost while he double-checked his doors.
He ground his teeth and pounded his clenched fist
In anger. Something had to change… right now.

Soon after he met with the Cardinal,
Chase returned to his office. There, behind
A secret panel, Simon kept a box.
Inside that box, kept under lock and key,
There was a book, its leather cover cracked
With age and scribed with ancient runes. He felt
It almost hummed with some unspoken power –
Power so repulsive yet desirable,
It drew him like a moth to open flames.
He trembled with anticipation, hope,
And dread. The power of the ages, right here,
Awaiting his command! The power to free
Himself from fear; the power to make a slave
Of those who would not serve him willingly;
The power to kill his enemies at will –
Destruction of the wolf was in his hands!

The price, however, might be high… too high.
It took a man experienced with all
The proper wards and guards and rituals
To get the right results… and yet survive.
His book recorded all the darkest arts
Man ever knew – at least, survived to tell –
And only mindless fools tried summoning
The entities it named without a priest.
But now his priest was dead, an early victim
Of the wolf. He’d have to work his own spells.
He wondered… is it really worth the risk?

The pages throbbed beneath his fingertips.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sonnetwocky

Which is more demented -- the mind that creates
a poem like Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky
or the one that creates a sonnet from it?
The rhyme scheme for the sonnet is unusual:
ababcdcd efggfe.

O manxome foe! O fearsome Jabberwock!
Long time did I seek you, as slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; you mocked
Me then, among the mimsy borogoves.
How brillig! Yea, how brillig were the days
I sought you, tireless, in the tulgey wood;
You boldly whiffled t'ward my resting place –
The Tumtum tree by which I uffish stood.

Your jaws bit air, your claws caught naught but sky;
My vorpal blade struck home. You screamed in pain!
The blade went snicker-snack, went snicker-snack,
And with your head I came galumphing back;
Thus by my hand you, Jabberwock, were slain.
O frabjous day! A beamish boy am I!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Caterlipper

Your scalp’s losing ground but your lip’s getting hairier;
Friends think you look like an old Scottish terrier.
Can’t you just shave? Every day you look scarier;
PLEASE… don’t get any Geraldo Riverier!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dogged by the Curse 24

Finally finishing up this scene.
-------------------------

“Aiden, don’t give in to superstition,”
Benedict said. “Even to the eyes of faith
The truth can be obscured by simple fact.
I believe in things that can’t be explained,
And yet I find that logic underlies
The strangest things more frequently than not.”

A startled cry from one of Garrett’s men
Drew their attention. They found him
Kneeling, crossing himself and muttering
Incomprehensible prayers. He was
A young man, new to Garrett’s force, and he
Pointed at a large rock, his hand shaking.
The Father and the Constable stared, unblinking.

Pressed into the rock were two paw prints.
In each a tiny cross protruded, just as
Mud might squeeze between a man’s toes.

Garrett motioned for another man who
Came and led the trembling youngster away,
Then he and Benedict knelt to examine
The find. He traced the outlines with a finger
And said, “These were not carved, Father.
Feel for yourself; no tool makes marks such as these.”

Benedict brushed a print with his fingertips
And jerked away, then subconsciously crossed
Himself and touched a finger to his lips,
As though lost in thought. “No, they aren’t,” he said.
“May the Lord preserve us! I never thought
To see His judgment fall in this form.”

“What is it, Father?” the Constable asked.
“Have you seen prints like this before?”

“Only in books recording superstitions,”
Benedict said. “Rumors of such beasts
Abound among the country folk, those far from
Towns where logic might explain them away.
Some say the love of God pursues repentants
Like a hound of heaven; still others say
The judgment of God pursues the unrepentant
Like a hound of hell. I thought them merely
Folk tales but my eyes and hands do not lie.”
He shuddered slightly, a move not lost on
Garrett. He too began to tremble.

Benedict looked at him and smiled weakly.
He placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder
And said, “At least your faith is safe, Aiden.
These tracks were made by no earthly creature.
Earthly creatures, even werewolves, are merely
Flesh and blood. Have you ever heard of a
Werewolf capable of something like this?
Fear for the ungodly, my friend. This beast –
If beast be what it is – is no werewolf.”