Harpies

This week our assignment was to write a myth or dream poem. Since I’m also writing an article on John Waters for our local paper (he’s coming to the Sonoma International Film Festival to do his one man show), I was inspired to write a poem about Harpies set in a mythical trailer park. (This lovely photo of Edith Massey provided a good image to start with.) I must give Dante credit for the last two lines – his Harpies are the most horrible.


HARPIES

The Mind Abhors What the Eyes Adore.
Consider the case of the Sisters Domingo,
Unholy Wingéd Birds of the Double Wide:
A front yard flock of pink flamingos, wading
among the cigarette butts, dry dead grass–

Imagine a string of Christmas lights
strung between the telephone pole and
a half-chopped pine spiked with nails.

You’d know the place by the smell of grease,
the stink of creosote and Salem slims,
by the torn American flag rotting under
the dank, black hollows of the juniper bushes.

You’d see the El Camino on cinder blocks,
the Tennis balls stuffed down old tube socks
for a blind bull terrier named ‘Cookie Jim’
in memory of the Sisters’ meth-head brother
who flew the coop when the rent came due.

Whenever a skittish postman happened by, or
the mute meter reader from the gas company
was doing scheduled rounds in the neighborhood,
the Sisters Domingo would shriek and shout
flap around the yard, foam about the mouth;

With their chipping coral painted talons
they could fire an empty Schlitz or a can
of spray-on cheese like a split-finger fastball.

After Jason finally saw fit to set a match
to the shake roof, a final hush descended; light as
snowflakes, the ashes of a burning trailer fell.
Mongrels, rats and Cookie Jim gathered,
drawn to the acrid stench of stolen meat;

Passersby Beware!
Clawed feet and swollen, feathered bellies,
[the Sisters Domingo] caw their lamentations
in the eerie trees.

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