An Ode to October

© Joanna Parypinski

October, October:
when twilight falls early
on leaf-scattered duffs
and trees’ spider-branches
creep over the dusk;

when pumpkins grow faces,
alit by the flame
of a thousand lost souls
and a low burning candle.
October, your name

is a beautiful corpse
that beckons from churchyards
where angels weep
in D minor: key of ghosts
and restless sleep.

October, your death-throes
burn life to the wick
and dissolve all the walls
between the dead
and the quick.

Though you’ll grow winter-old,
and your colors will fade,
October, I know
your departed shades
will come back next year

and even if I lie beneath the soil,
I will meet you then,
October, October.
All that dies will rise
again.

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Outliving

© Joanna Parypinski

i. Temple of Zeus, Athens

Stark stone against a breathless
sky—your columns
rusted by sun
and a thousand years of neglect.

You might have been grand
—once—
Corinthian carvings
flowering in old stone,

but now you are in pieces:

two isolated limbs,
one broken in the grass,

braced against
the loneliness of immortality.

You linger, a skeletal god,
king of Necropolis—

splendid in your destruction
like a blind lion
limping through the underbrush.

ii. Six Flags, New Orleans

Years have passed
since you rode my back to the sun
and waited
in winding lines to scrape
the sky—

Don’t you abandon me, too,
in these silent
swampy days, where

skeletons of roller coasters slide
in and out of floodwater
like serpents,
curling in great steel waves

through the fog. The tracks
are rusted steel columns; the trains sit,
disused—awaiting phantom riders.

Swings hanging on their strings,
still. Ferris wheel’s silhouette
reflected in orange water.

Remember me as I was,
not as I am—

cold, rotting, left to the vines.

iii. Imagined Mountain

Up close, the waterfall
is a free-flowing string of piano keys.

The mountain spitting music
crawls with flowering columns

of trees, and
the lake froths white like
cherry blossoms.

That’s where I go when I close my eyes—

a temple of dreams,

still empty and nonexistent
the way Mount Everest must have been
before someone gave it a name:

people make places.

I wonder what will happen when my sleep
turns to dust, and the mountain rusts,
abandoned,

and there’s no one
to hear the music of the waterfall.

Maybe it will be lucky enough to die
with me.

Nightmare

© Joanna Parypinski

Polished rocks like skulls on the shore,
wind-washed,
watch the hull of our dark ship
drifting
on watery dreams,

and I, Captain of Sorrows,
follow the current, watch the curved
moon, sharp
like a scythe slicing
through sea-black.

This is what nightmares eat:
blood of a gutted traveler
gliding nightward,

and I am steering starbound,
waiting for the moon to fillet me,

sailing on the tide,
wailing with the sirens in the gardens
of smoke.
The broken wind-chime voices
of the crashing waves
bear us home, sandlocked
on our island,
nightland—

we sing with the sirens,
shipwrecked,
wretched,
until the pink sun breaks
the horizon,

we sing
until our throats sting with salt,
we sing
until our drowned thoughts
float.

El Vampiro de Moca

© Joanna Parypinski

In fields dry-roasted by the baking sun
that blazes on the lavender flowers
of the Moca tree sprawl four flaccid sheep;
they are not asleep, their glassy eyes gaze
into infinity, and tiny puncture
wounds pierce through flesh and fleece,
now pale, now drained.
There, on the field of dead
yellow grass, slump nine deflated goats
and thirty turkeys bled bone dry. Ay,
Díos mío, ¿qué permitiste pasar?

In the night the Chupacabra slinks
through the shadowland:
reptilian scales on green-gray skin
and spines like knives on its back;
it hops like a kangaroo, with a dog face,
a panther nose, shark-like fangs
and blood-red eyes and bat wings.
Oh, hiss and screech if you will,
go slouching through the city streets
on alien feet, and see who smells
the sulfur rotting on your snakelike tongue.
¿De dónde es el extranjero?
Area 51 was not so ripe.

In Maine, by the side of a well-paved road
lolled the limp and lifeless carcass, roadkill
plowed down by monster truck tires
and a sneering steel front bumper
with flies in its teeth. Nobody could
identify the rodent-like animal
with razor fangs, and by time they saw
it anyway, the vultures had picked it
clean. No tema lo que no existe.
…¡que exista todo! Oh, mauler of
livestock, legend notorious, where were
you when they said el Vampiro de Moca
was a pack of rogue crocodiles?

Igloo

© Joanna Parypinski

When winter drops whitely,
the neighbor-children build igloos:

hunched snow-hills
sag under
the weight of the sky.

A pair of mint-blue mittens packs the skull,
tunnels out the mouth;
inside:
a frosted dome, cozy
as a mausoleum.

They like to pretend
this is where they sleep,
in the Sierra Nevada—
iced mountains peaked white like cresting waves
block the way to California,
golden land—

and they live in an igloo.
The cold bites their fingers
black,
so they chop them off.

The wind shivers

with the Donners.
A boy lies still, eyelashes crusted with snow,
and they swarm like crows
to feast
on corpse-meat, and
they dine on their friend’s fat thighs,
store the scraps in the makeshift meatfreezer

to save for a snack, and pick fingernails
out of their teeth.

The cannibalized boy’s blue hat skips away.

A mother calls lunchtime,
reality breaks—
they scamper off in whirls of white dust

and a laughing echo.
The dead boy
still coated in snow

climbs out of the igloo;
mittens shake free the flakes, which flurry
to the ground.

The stooped igloo broods,
forgotten.
The hat lies flat and

lonely

half-buried by the snow.