The strutting, crowing Peakalooster rules a snooty roost
littered with the bones of those it’s bullied or seduced.
Unable to recall the past, an antidote to Proust,
its twitter lips emit miasmic blasts of ghastly force,
plus pearls of wisdom last seen near the south end of a horse.
Its jaw is glass; its balls are brass; a stranger to remorse,
it has the peacock’s vanity, the rooster’s need to boast,
and yet a glaring yellow streak is what defines it most.
A mad, bipedal lamprey sucking blood from coast to coast,
it is the sum of all our fears. It has no better half.
Its soul is soiled; its tongue is oiled. A milk-eyed gilded calf,
it traps its prey in circuses and kills them while they laugh.
Ode on a Commode
Poor relation Augean stable,
tell me, toilet, art thou able
to see what moon, composed of skin,
dares frame thy oval porcelain?
I, uncaring, scarcely noted
which commodes I’ve incommoded,
a human mayfly in a rush
to live, to love, to die, to flush:
yet in thy solitude each stinker
takes the aspect of a thinker,
and I am lessoned by this visit,
until each nose recoils—what is it?
The outing of an inner torment,
the bowel’s volcano long thought dormant?
Yet, ours is not to wonder why.
I read the day’s cartoons, and sigh,
whilst thou, Commode, must hope me clever
enough to pull thy handy lever,
and strive within thy quiet vault
to paper over every fault.
Indebted for a small deposit,
I loiter in thy water closet,
and toil, dear toilet, so none find
the load of grief I leave behind.
The turtle is more agile than the oyster.
Sedately, in an armor-plated cloister,
he minds his own affairs: he doesn’t talk,
is slow, but sure, and steady as a rock;
and as may be with people thick of skin—
tough outside, but warm and soft within—
there might be less for others to forbear
if I were more a turtle, less a hare.
Buy your girl a gun, and show
she’s just as good as any boy
and knows as much as grown-ups know.
There couldn’t be a better toy
for putting paid to playground strife.
It answers every question asked
and turns into a way of life
for robbers who employ it, masked.
Nothing makes the pow it makes—
not chocolate-covered hand grenades
or handsaws baked inside of cakes.
It doesn’t glint as bright as blades,
but you’ll not find a stocking stuffer
to make your little angel tougher.
So, give a gift that keeps on giving,
and separates the dead and living.
The Carrion Flamingo
for Jeff Holt
The carrion flamingo is an undead parakeet
with ruffled feathers shades of earthworm pink, like rancid meat,
whose wingspread is high-handed, while its flapping seems effete;
its hooded glare is overcast with just a hint of sleet.
It lays an addled egg, abandoned just before it hatches.
Its heart looks like a casket or a book of soggy matches.
Its leprous skin is pale and pocked with sores; it sheds in patches.
The smirking beak invites you, though you wonder what the catch is.
Some lair in mausoleums, others underneath a rock.
Their voices shake like rattlesnakes. Men quail to hear them talk
about the corpses over which their sunset shadows flock,
and few sights are as ghastly as their limping, gimpy walk.
They stand as still as statues just before the chase is on,
and make folks blanch on mornings when they see them on the lawn,
carnivorous as hearses with the silken curtains drawn,
their plastic hues a mockery of rosy-fingered dawn—
then with a sudden muffled flap, they’ll perch upon your sill,
to peek inside your window though you think they never will,
and feast those evil eyes upon you till they’ve had their fill,
an early dinner date with Death for which you’ll pay the bill.
He comes in the morning, with roses,
and hints that you’ve nothing to fear
from the vile enterprise he proposes—
his soft breath is tickling your ear—
till you’re roused, and inclined to repeat
what the clock always finds so alarming.
His warmth may be nothing but heat,
but the bastard is nothing but charming,
and his blush holds a promise, it seems.
You forgive him that glint in his eye
while he strips off the last of your dreams:
then he’s gone, with no word of good-bye,
and you start to regret your mistake—
seduced and abandoned; awake.
Readjust your thinking, and suppose
the world is not important past your nose,
your betters don’t deserve to be your equals,
and children are not children, only sequels.
The Cat’s Meow
I am the land of the boot to the hat,
the Siamese twin of the Siamese cat.
A swing and a miss, once the boy with the arrows,
a broadened perspective that ages and narrows,
I’m the glare of a window, the smoke from a chimney,
a hound on my trail and a scorpion in me.
I’m the jack in the box. I’m a corpse on a lark,
the length of my shadow, a leap in the dark.
I’m a pearl in an oyster, the kiss of a petal—
the curl of a lip, or the hiss of a kettle.
I’m the treasure that’s buried, a little brown penny,
the dog with three heads and a man without any.
I’m a stab in the back and a hand used to shaking,
a dwarf, but a star, and a sleeper awaking,
the home that is sweet and the smile that is sour;
a spider that hides in the face of a flower.
An ink blot on paper, defying analysis,
I’m a beggar whose father is said to own palaces.
Often less, nothing more, I am something like that,
the Siamese twin of the Siamese cat.
“The Carrion Flamingo” and “The Cat’s Meow” appear in The Blind Loon: A Bestiary (Able Muse Press, 2017)
Ed Shacklee is a public defender who lives on a boat in the Potomac River. His first collection, The Blind Loon: A Bestiary, was published in 2017 by Able Muse Press. His poems can be found in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Light, and Rattle, among other places. Here’s a link to the Facebook Group “The Blind Loon: A Bestiary,” if you’re interested: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1809119139415406/