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The Transient

The immemorial stroll through cigarette-caked laneways
Whispers outside round the bend
and a shout inside through yellow, valanced windows
counterfeiting safety

Brown corked bottle in a rebar grip and the glossy tar slap beneath a waterlogged shoe
Hollow flask with a shadow cast long and corkscrew fists for every man's foe
Nocturnal wanderings, sliver of a mean mouth
Deserting crimes in the red room on the rotten couch
Blitz attacks on pretentious prigs
and the penetrating air in the drafty-slabbed brig

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

Maternal Forebear

The smooth, blue-white formless sheet drawn up to her crème caramel shoulders, washed and over-washed, used and used again.

The slight, soft frame cradled in a human-sized steel tray.

The spectral stillness of it all. The vacuous void, that basement suite, the acting tomb fortified with sealed granite walls to absorb rogue, echoed sobs, reminding you that the only ears perked to gulp your grief are your own.

Her face, an inanimate semblance more real that it had ever been in life. Full, dusty-rose mouth released into an uncritical serenity, the carping pleats once gathered at her lips' peaks diffused into relief. The freckled skin tags swept across her nose.

Her eyes, milky marbles of aged, clouded glass mercifully veiled from her abandoned mourners, who indiscreetly ransack her visage, convinced that if just one more pronounced second would pass, her hazel gaze would reel into reanimation.

The scrutiny of disbelief as I swing my chin in close to hers and the thin, near-gossamer thread of mucilage sealing her parchment lids shut. Tiny, curled, chocolate-bronze lashes made for a porcelain doll, made to make one wonder if they disappear into the skull at death like the ruby-slippered East Witch's feet of OZ, coiling to retreat beneath Dorothy's home.

And the scent of what had replaced her blood. That saccharine, saltpeter, soured-wine marinade, the faintest tang tactfully mild, barely breaking her skin to forbid reminding my nostrils of what her survival once smelled like.

Her shrunken mortal parts before me, excavated and vacated.
This shape held until a fire in the small hours made powder of her person.

Her skin. Supple, smooth and untroubled, chilled from an Autumn walk along the slate cliffs, beneath my thermal palms.

And all her born days, thawed and melted away. The underestimations and miscalculations, the impounded soul lost to dreams of a life.

My Grandmother.

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved


Oud musk in a whirling steam
Black hooks burrow through red-raised sinews
Snakes in a talking drum, striking while the palm meat pounds
Heart bucks in a hammer pulse, bloodshot gaze from a smoked out skull

Coiled, recoiled, glossy sweat
Boneless backs dance a flamed two-step
Nightshade coat of hickory skin
Fingerbone staff and the rising voice, and the upturned chin
and the roasting prayer

The anvil heat from a soil-caked grip
The calabash rattling hyena teeth

Bellies full of roots and pins
Yak hair wound with cowrie
Gods alight, they blister bright
Clusters in the canopy

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved


“Doughty Fist” rust-inked across the beryl blue wall,
flaking tiles are quick knives for a quick nick in a broken stall

Broad-nosed, backhand Betty with a shiner, running liner and a pink-smear-mouth
thin silk on a thick calf, shredded gone to a blotched knee
and a pin-curled Mable with hoary breath and the upstairs key

Stillbirth, rebirth, afterbirth on a sticky hootch floor with a never-ending toast
as the bare-knuckle boxers boast and the rot-gut drunk
shakes conspiratorial fists beneath the portrait of a Queen
Bug zappers and barflies, sinking sounds, motility sunk,
Ruben with his losing hand and Cian with a gout-hipped lean

Heavy petting in a rocksoul tang, stinging in the alley for a soused release
the filthy finger and the stagger-toothed teeth, stout on stout with an ample breast
for the bourbon coma in the foreign guest, and The Slenderman,
arresting, intense - for The Slenderman, only serpentine feasts… while he drives a point home
to a stew-lit Clarice

Strong-jawed boys with black-marked lust, ruddy brick lips
and a riotous gaze, casually clothed in vulturous woes
lurking loose in the nicotine haze, pipes in palms and powdered pockets
heavy cocks that ache to switch, yard tattoos and starved out wallets

Night steals through while the dwarf grunts Bitch

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

Mario Rota (1917-1966)


Something about the sickness of a soul, when the grass doesn't take.

Children's Lullaby.

Once upon a time there was a pretty fly...

He had a pretty wife, this pretty fly...

But one day she flew away
flew away...

He had two pretty children...

But one night these two pretty children
flew away
flew away...

Into the sky.
Into the moon.


Swollen throat,
blows shoved up from the sternum and a glass too full
threatening to spill within each lashed lid

Collapsed spine with all boughs dragging
a devoted brook dammed dry

Infant affection starved in the shed and everything used
I the field galloped through
I the game hunted
I tobacco sowed and chewed
I the well drunk

And now a bleak wilt in the marrow and a tremor in the mouth
a rising sick and a weight of bricks in an empty chest with a heart propelled south

Astray inside, climbing tattered topsails
Deck-rot through to an incensed sea

Lost outside
Anchor free

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

There are so many little dyings that it doesn't matter which of them is death. -Kenneth Patchen

Liturgical Celebrations.

So today, Sunday April 17th 2016, at 9:00am I attended mass.

Mass at the Guardian Angels Roman Catholic Parish, filled with a stable community of the faithful -albeit a rather thin congregation who all appeared to be in a kind of blatant, passive-aggressive revolt against the age old tradition of worshiping in one's Sunday Best. But I'm sure sweet baby Jesus could have cared less if they paraded to their pews naked as Steller's Jays considering the dismally sparse attendance. Bigger faithless fish to fry.

Everything was in order -the standing, the kneeling, the singing, the sitting, the singing, the kneeling, the sitting, the standing, the droning and the customs (tragically lacking in ostentatious pomp and the deathless solid-gold fanfare of the Russian Greek Catholic Byzantine Rite church) which in turn resulted in wandering eyes and stifled yawns through muffled caroling. Not quite the holy-rolling bible belt revival it might have once been, before the all tiny skeletons tumbled out of the vestment closets.

Of course, I came for something very specific and had every intention of finding a dark, shadowy crevice outside of the Lord's House in which to bide my time until the congregation floated out on beams of light and I could finally get daddy, I mean Father, all to myself... but the endearing, earnest serenade of the lambs proved too enticing, so I crept in.

As I playacted along with the other devotees, a man who looked just about three exhalations from death creaked in, draping his frail body across his wheelie-walker. He then proceeded to lurch about beside me, fighting for the strength to stay standing. A trouper he was, in his attempts to kneel as the shrunken mass did, his spindly frame hovering partially crouched in the air (muscles taut) a few feet above the prayer bench (which I could only imagine must have been infinitely more physically taxing). But he did look as if he wouldn't be able to make the return trip to bipedalism if he actually got his body down to the ground.

On my other side, having already made a nest behind the last pew closest to the entrance, crouched a middle-aged, balding man who was clearly in a state of spiritual inconsolability. Rocking back and forth on his haunches, clenching the sides of his skull with white-knuckled claws and a mouth drawn downward in spastic dismay, he made no sound but filled the church with his awful, silent frenzy which everyone dutifully ignored. Minutes later he suddenly rose with militaristic stiffness, singing along, having beat his episode into a gentle pulse of docility.

Considering I'd spent slightly more than a moment's blink in a Roman Catholic Church in my youth, I was surprised to not recognize a single tune or chant except the Lord's Prayer, which I couldn't seem to muster the faith to repeat. While considering how I might feel if I tried, a few smartly suited young men began filing through the rows wielding the all familiar gaunt, extending arm and gaping wicker mouth of the money basket. I couldn't restrain my broadly-splayed, toothy grin as it edged past my chin. Old church, old tricks.

More singing and then the time had come. A sacrament that had completely slipped my mind, surprisingly, considering it had been my favorite part of mass as a child: Cannibalising Christ. My heart began to helicopter roar as I watched people slowly rise and file up to Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza, mouths open, fingers ready for crossing.

Slipping in near the line's caboose, I inched my way down the spotless red runway feeling inappropriately glamorous, all dressed in black with my red maw gleaming. Lips parted, knees pressed to the plush bench, my eyes stared up into the focused gaze of this shining proselyte while he pressed that familiar dry disk of brittle flesh onto my tongue, which immediately glued itself to the roof of my mouth. Fighting the urge to shove my fingers into my chops and dig around, I uncontrollably dispatched a minute smirk. True to memory, nothing had changed. Not even the baker's recipe.

I was given a tiny thimble of grapish-type juice to wash the gummy mess down with before I sashayed my way back to my wooden chair (taking note of the fact that churches must have omitted the "everybody drinks from the same cup, because we're all God's children" habit, due to the infectious pathogens we all carry that we're no longer inclined to deny.)

If any act was going to fill me with the power of the Holy Ghost Spirit I thought it would have been the Eucharist because I'm a sucker for symbolism, but in the end I just felt like a wolf in a hen house, battling at every turn to contain my gigglefits (which I did, successfully. I'll thank God for that.) And I can only assume that the sanctity of the custom was marred due to the fact that I have a box of those communion wafers at home I snack on with Dijon when there's nothing else to eat. With all of the things that have changed in the church over the decades, it's still nice that they offer snacks and a drink to break up the monotony.

Last hymn and I'm done. Hightailing it to the front doors, I lean against a rack of pro-life brochures and absentmindedly reapply my lipstick like a brazen Champs-Élysées harlot, waiting for Daddy. And here he comes.

The Jesus junkies pour out, shaking hands and spreading good will to thine neighbors, offering exuberant thanks to their fearless leader and finally evaporating into the sun until next Sunday... but of course, not without enthusiastically taking vocal inventory of my unfamiliar face, trying to convert me on the spot and infiltrate me into their after-worship-tea-and-cookies social. I politely decline.

I fabricate a fib (not pure white in hue... more of an ivory tone) and convince daddy to take me to his back room where he proceeds to happily fill my vessel with his freshly blessed holy water. :D

Now, while I (as aforementioned) enjoy symbolism, metaphor and hyperbole, this last statement is in fact, fact -not fiction. Literal, not figurative. If only he knew I had the veve of a Vodou loa tattooed on my back.

Maybe he did.

The point is that I got my holy water. Mission accomplished. And I only had to sell a sliver of my soul to God to get it.

No idea my eyeball could twist that way until now.

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved

I'm Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.

...George, who is out somewhere there in the dark. Who is good to me. Whom I revile. Who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them. Who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy. Yes, I do wish to be happy. George and Martha — sad, sad, sad.

...Whom I will not forgive for having come to rest, for having seen me and having said, "Yes, this will do". Who has made the hideous, the hurting, the insulting mistake of loving… me. And must be punished for it. George and Martha — sad, sad, sad.


Embracing on the sparking fuse, jerking the short circuit dance
Twisting, gnashing conductive love while the sun burns out, the night whips black

It burns, it burns the live wire tango, kicking up wet carmine rust
Igniting rings of a firework halo, looped round flaming skulls of dust

We run the desert out of town and drag the skirt of ocean's gown

Slip our red battery of lips into a charged sea,
breeding typhoons with our thermal kiss, tearing out old matchstick trees

Lightening ripening we ignite and fire rolling like a bitch in heat

The flint is flying
We are pitiless
We are blame

We are the element without a name

Copyright © 2016 by Shay Lhea
All Rights Reserved