crossing the street alongside five coyotes

a pack or middling clan

of half dog devils

chests bony

a chorus of panting

knowing open mouth smiles

cheap blankets of fur

and black spotted lips

hunched canine shoulders

swaying gypsy hips

they smell like wet desert

of both the hunt and the huddle

of frozen winter bushes

and howling monsoon summers

of our encroachment

and their struggle

as development snares

new square acres as its own

Now cat alley and dog street

will be coyote clan home

So I demurely defer

and let this nobility pass

but just one pilgrim

catches me in their glance

and across that midnight

black asphalt expanse

he speaks in laughing mute

tongue wagging silent salute

“Move mortal,

We beggar princes are on the move.”

I wrote this poem intially sometime in about 2003 or 2004. I was living with a friend on the outskirts of Phoenix, where the shore of the desert is crashed upon by the rising tide of condos and suburbia. At night, rattlesnakes and javelena and coyotes would invade the neighborhood. Walking back from some misdemeanor or another, I encounter a pack of coyotes in the neighborhood.

This poem sat in its primeviel form in a notebook from that time and wasn’t unearthed until about 2011 when I started read it at several open mics and events. I publish it here for the first time for two reasons- one, so that it has a permanent form somewhere. Two, because my handwriting from the time is so atrocious that the poem has changed frequently. This is the version I like the most.

Sergius and Bacchus

Every Valentine’s day I think about the saints Sergius and Bacchus. Their feast is actually October 7th but the general feeling of the day reminds me of their story, one that is unique in martyrology:

According to the Greek text The Passion of Sergius and Bachus, Sergius and Bacchus were Roman citizens and high-ranking officers of the Roman Army but their conversion to Christianity was found out when they attempted to avoid accompanying a Roman official into a pagan temple. They refused to make sacrifices to Jupiter and were publicly humiliated by being chained, dressed in women’s clothing and paraded around town. Bacchus was beaten to death, but the next day his spirit appeared to Sergius and encouraged him to remain strong so they could be together forever. Over the coming days, Sergius was brutally tortured and executed, and his death was marked by miraculous happenings.

Sergius and Bacchus’s relationship can be understood as having a romantic dimension, and the oldest text of their martyrology describes them as erastai, which can be translated as “lovers.” Some scholars believe that the two were even united in a rite known as adelphopoiesis (brother-making), a lost remnant some scholars believe indicates early Christianity’s more tolerant views of homosexuality.

Don’t forget them.

Encyclopedia Show AZ: Invasive Species

Last night I had the pleasure of showing a few dozen college students giant pictures of wasp larvae bursting from the body of an adorable and helpless baby caterpillar. This was in the context of a lecture for the Encyclopedia Show AZ, but none the less I found the event personally edifying. Filling the Empty Space, a small black box operated by ASU, with a huge glowing projection of a female Costa Rican wasp injecting an orb-spider with her eggs reminded me of why I initially became attracted to performance.

It isn’t the power to shock or disgust (though both these lesser pleasures are endearing to me) but the magical bubble that surrounds all works of performance — the audience is both at your mercy and in your care. I did my best to fill them with obscure and obtuse knowledge about parasites and mind control while alternately disarming and disturbing. I hope they enjoyed themselves.More importantly, I had the unexpected pleasure of sharing the stage with Jack Evans, a storied and skilled poet from Phoenix. While I am not personally acquainted with Jack, I have always taken delight in seeing him perform. He has a whimsical puckishness that his demeanor belies, and is unafraid to experiment. I recall with some fondness a showing of Murnau’s “Faust” presented as a multidisciplinary display of dance, poetry, and music that featured Jack reading over the silent film while the RPM Orchestra played their particular brand of noir-noise-score. The experience of incidentally opening for Jack Evans reminded me that Phoenix is a unique sort of metroplex — one can share space with giants if one possesses only the commitment to simply show up.