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Wednesday, July 30, 2014



Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to come back.
If they had I would have flat out refused.
Why would I want to trade peaceful bliss,
eternity in the presence of Grace,
for a decrepit meat-sack of ills and pain?
I was light, soft cloud-breeze light, made of light,
and before I could beg to stay, I was back -
housed in three dimensions, slowed to a crawl,
with an inescapable expiration date.

How could I then refuse, ungrateful cur,
when I had instantly become both icon and cause,
when He who had blessed me so was standing there,
smiling beatifically with pure love, when loved ones sang
and multitudes cheered with the fervor of the converted?
So I did as was expected of me, as I had been raised to do,
I fell into old habits of fealty and service.

But for a moment, just one shining moment,
I could remember with the sharpness of summer skies
what I had lost, what had been taken from me,
and despite the good intentions of His acts
and the loving embrace of my family’s joy,
there was nothing I was capable of doing
except yearning to return.

©2014 Christopher Reilley
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Monday, July 28, 2014

The Siren Song of War


In a darkened place, composers deep in human thought
move morbid notes along staffs of rhythmic measure,
educating the instruments of war, and once taught
they strike up the band, in infinite jest and pleasure.

The melody of conflict, beguiles, soars and confounds,
denying any attachment to mystery and muse.
Bleeding openly within meters limiting bounds
it can both transfix the soul, and the mind transfuse.

War excites man's soul, with brutal salted tears,
dressing patriotism in horror's bloody rags.
The whistle of missile the last sound a nation hears
razing populations, but raising wind-whipped flags.

Martial harmonies driving the steps of our dance,
propaganda we select and choose to die for,
wrapping soldiers in the lie of heroic romance,
mankind lives and dies with a taste for war.

©2014 Christopher Reilley
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

My City


Walking the gritty gray streets
of my urban homeland,
dodging ruffians
both real and imagined,
the detritus of
so many busy lives,
going whither the wind blows
collecting like garbage in corners,
I stay to myself.

Walking from shops
to stores
avoiding the glance
that could cause conflict,
escaping away to my lunch
I breathe a sigh of relief
exhaling both fright
and blight.

The remains of an industrious city
rot in the sun.
Buildings smile
with broken teeth
similar to those
who lurk in their shadows,
waiting for a victim
to come close.

Pride was the first to fall
when lives were tossed aside
in favor of
the tawdry.
Thrills are cheap.
Safety costs more
than you can afford.
If you do not take
you will be taken.

© Christopher Reilley 2008

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Influence of Affluence


When the city powers down,
as masses fade into the migration
of mass transit,
you stand atop your glass mountain,
the voluptuous blood-beat of commerce
scrolling across your screens
in the form of stock prices,
with a politician in each pocket
and one on the shelf,
secure in the knowledge -
taken in a hostile acquisition, of course -
that every day brings you further away
from the consequences
of your actions.

No matter what lawyers might say,
your hand shaking mine
at the end of the interview
is a conspiracy
of fifty-four bones,
bound by your rules
in which I am empowered
to serve your needs in perpetuity,
allowed to pay for my education
that establishes enough debt
to induct me to service,
ensuring I’ll never leave on my own,
allowed to punch a clock
so you might track
a third of my life’s allotted hours,
while granting me
a meager existence
without the pension you plundered,
or the retirement by the sea
that you promised.

I am afraid of YOU, of course,
because I do not understand you,
your behavior as different
from my own
as diamonds are to ducks.
Still, I would give a chunk of my heart
to be one of you –
the 1%, the golden children
who never have to ask
how much it costs,
the money-bright men
who stand above
the rest of us.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Evolution of Medicine


Twenty centuries ago, medicine was far from astute.
If you were sick your neighbor said, here, eat this root.

A thousand years after, religion supplanted health care
That root is heathen, to be well say this prayer.

A few centuries later alchemy was the grand notion.
That prayer is heathen, here, drink this potion.

Then soon after, science knew what made you ill,
That potion is mere snake oil, here, take this pill.

Not long ago, dispensing medicine became robotic
That pill is ineffective, here, take this antibiotic.

Now chemicals are the enemy, nature’s healing beyond refute.
That antibiotic is artificial, here, eat this root.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dogs Are Republican - Cats Are Democrat


Cats are obviously Democrat.
They live in an urban setting,
they prefer to stay close to home,
and are touchy feely while petting.

Dogs are Republican and far more rural,
they are disciplined and obedient.
They can be natural leaders
but trade long-term for what is expedient.

Dogs love adventure, and are tougher on crime,
while felines prefer staying at home.
Dogs stick their noses into everyone’s business
and redistrict territory as they roam.

Cats live and let live, are socially open,
and are more likely to experiment with herbs.
Left to themselves, dogs destroy the place,
then when one barks, they all get disturbed.

Dogs worship at the feet of a higher power
cats seemingly could not care less.
While dogs seek to serve obsequiously
cats are a good deal harder to impress.

Cats do not follow, they do not lead
sometimes they just get in the way.
Dogs do not demand entitlement
they’re convinced they will each have their day.

So while some have nothing but love for their dog,
and others prefer to idealize the cat,
it is clear that canines are all Republicans
and felines are, as a whole, Democrat.

This was inspired by the brilliant political cartoonist Kirk Anderson.

After I first published this poem in 2009, I wrote to the artist telling him how I had shamelessly put his very clever cartoon into verse, and received the following note:

Thanks, I’m flattered! Please mention that it was inspired by the cartoon, and link to the cartoon here:

While I’m at it, I might as well shamelessly huckster my swag: You can buy a poster of it for $8.99 + $3.99 shipping (regardless of how many posters, shipping is $3.99 – it costs just as much to send 10 posters as 1!). And if you like my work, you might be interested in my new book, which you can find out about here:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Icarus of Craft


Flying high is easy enough to accomplish
if your wings are pilfered feathers and waxwork.
The sky welcomes you,
invites you to drift among clouds
kissed by sunlight,
whispering winds sing your praises
in glad hopes that you will reside skyward.

Seeking the warmth of praise
to bask and bathe in, you beat
wings stolen in bits from others -
pins, semiplumes and bristles from one source,
filoplumes and contours from others,
with down taken at your leisure,
held together with the bee’s hard work.
You soar on purloined support
taking their praise as your own
until you soar too high,
too close to viability
and it all unravels,
the higher they brought you,
the faster they leave you
until plummeting earthward
is your only recourse.

Past mistakes are never so far away
that they cannot bite you on the butt,
yet if honesty were your only policy
you would never have to concern yourself
with recalling exactly what was yours
and what was not.

When you hit the waves
that will mask your grave,
ask yourself if it was worth it
while giving yourself excuses
stolen from somewhere else.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Story of Joe Bananas


“You fellas don’t mind if I sit here, do you?” The big man wedged himself into the booth, pushing the red-haired guy further into the wall, up against the dark wood panels that lined the sides along the length of the Grand Café. Each deeply rich and beveled panel was the color of blood oak, and as hard as rock. Red Head learned just how hard when his left ear smacked against one such panel.

What the two guys - who had only one moment before been engrossed in a private and somewhat ‘sensitive’ conversation – did not know was that they were also excellent conductors of sound, at least at this particular booth. Some time ago, a small fracas on the other side evolved into a donnybrook and then All Hell Broke Loose, so somebody put somebody else through the wall. Everyone but Punjab swears it was Punjab, he denies it but nobody was willing to tell Punjab he was wrong about anything. Even the guy whose face it was that got broken, Mike O., who never hung around much after that, says he can’t remember who it was.

The panels at this table popped out of their enclosure much like Mike’s teeth.

Once repairs were undertaken, these panels popped right back it without much fuss. The other side of the wall suffered more damage, and it was added to the list of things that Owen, the owner’s husband, never got around to fixing. On the far side of the wall where this booth sat, there was nothing but studs and a sheet of cheap plywood.

Red Head looked at his partner, a slow-eyed guy with a very weak chin, and then he looked at the guy wedging him into the booth.

A Guido in every senses of the word.

The newcomer was dark-skinned and muscular; he had arms as big as engine blocks. He wore a Navy pea coat that did nothing to conceal his bulk. Wavy black hair curled around his ears, a little longer than most guys would wear it, his bright smile and obviously false good humor put both of them on edge. They were fairly bad news, but you do not survive being bad news if you fail to recognize much worse news when it sat down at your table.

No Chin, who was not nearly as smart as Red Head, starting to speak, maybe to protest, when the newcomer pickup up No Chin’s beer and drained it. The audacity alone was enough to shut him up.

“You look like nice boys, and I know you ain’t from around here, so I consider it my honor and my duty to welcome you to the neighborhood, see if you need anything, any small way we can go to show our,” he smiled even wider as he signaled the waitress for a full round of his usual at the table, “neighborly-ness.”

No Chin once more looked as if he would speak, but was cut off.

“Naw, I get it, you guys don’t want to feel beholdin’, I understand, a thing of honor, a thing of pride, of course.” They looked to each other then looked to the big man like he was speaking Chinese. “No, see, I was in no way seeking to intrude on you fine gents, when I happen to overhear your conversation.”

Both No Chin and Red Head looked to the door, which was behind the very large Italian man now speaking. No Chin started forward as if he would rise, but the meaty paw of the newcomer covered his wrist.

“Peace out, man, like them friggin’ hippies say. I ain’t here to bust your balls.”

The two relaxed not one little bit.

“Look, you ain’t from around here, so I’m just giving you the benefit of the local color, you know what I mean?” They did not, but he never gave them the chance to speak anyway. “My name is Little Sally.”

“Yeah, I know, but you should see Big Sally, he is friggin’ enormous.” He laughed at his own joke, and lit a Camel with a silver Zippo that had “F*ck Communism” engraved on the face.

“You know how they say some folk are … connected?” He looked from one to the other, Red Head nodded. The waitress arrived with three Schlitz and three shots of Grappa. Little Sally let her serve, then tucked a fifty, which was four times the tab, into her cleavage and sent her on her way with a grope of her bum as she left.

“See that lady behind the bar, the lady that owns this joint?” Little Sally’s voice had dropped in both pitch and volume, and both No Chin and Red Head leaned in to hear.

“She is better connected than it is possible to get.” He let that bit of mystery hang there for a moment, as they both looked at Bernie, a blonde woman of medium build just entering the age of being considered ‘matronly’.

“She hustles drinks from behind the bar, free-pouring and mothering a motley collections of drunks and riff-raff such as us three,” here he drained his shot glass and waited for his table mates to do the same, “and her peace of mind is assured by none other than the man himself, Mr. Salvatore ‘Joe Bananas’ Bonnanno.” This was said over their wheezing gasps of the two, as they tasted their first shot of Grappa at the same moment they realized that their very lives were not worth the price of a phone call.

Everyone knew Joe Bananas. Last year he had basically told a Grand Jury to bite his ass, and he was still walking around, a free man. He controlled the county, and had fingers going all the way to the State house. Joe Bananas lived locally, and was a legend.

“A more potent shield of protection, gentlemen, you would need from the Pope himself, you know what I mean?” Little Sally did not need to hear confirmation that they indeed knew what he meant.

“See, this place is not her only thing she got going. She works for Social Services, you know, Child Protection Services? There was this one kid, she was following a report of an abused kid and she came up against Joe Bananas himself.” At the sound of the name both Red Head and No Chin dipped their heads in unconscious genuflection.

“The father of the kid worked for him or something, and Bernie was working to get the killed pulled from the family who was abusing him, burning him with cigarette butts and keeping him chained to a radiator so he would not go out of the house. Joe Bananas talked down to her or something about the kid and so she smacked him one, slapped him just as if he was nobody. She gave him a ration of shit about how it was a child and he could not fight for himself and so she was gonna fight for him and if Joe got in her way she would shut him down and on and on.” Little Sally pulled on the Schlitz, letting it flow down his throat. “She really ripped him a new one.”

“But instead of slapping her down, or having his boys ‘remove’ her, or just ignoring her, any of which he could have easily done, instead he thanked her.” Little Sally nodded his head. “He thanked her, he did. He said she reminded him of his own mother, and he would be honored to help, and so on. And Joe Bananas was true to his word, too.”

Little Sally smiled that brilliant white smile he had. “He took that kid under his wing, and smacked a little sense into his old man. It took a little while, but eventually he came around, gave up the juice, and became more of a real dad to the kid as he got older, and the kid turned out OK. But there was more.”

“Joe Bananas donated a ton of toys to DSS, and gave them sweetheart deals on trash removal for the local office. The cargo guys and the warehouse union ran regular fundraisers for the foster homes, and Bernie there, Bernie is so protected and covered in Joe’s love that it would take superhuman effort to even get close enough to cause her a problem, and nobody would survive the experience, you know what I mean?” Both Red Head and No Chin assented, their words lost in their beer bottles. “Hey, what time you got?”

“Umm, we got to go, it’s getting late.” This was from No Chin. Apparently, he was not as dumb as he looked.

“Oh sure, I gotcha.” Little Sally stood, letting Red Head ease out of the booth. “It was great jawin’ with you guys; hope you like the neighborhood and all.” Little Sally gave as small wave to their backs as they both left the Grand Café as fast as they could. They would go case some other bar to rob.

Little Sally removed his pea coat, tossing it onto the red vinyl seat, then sat back at the booth. With one hand he signaled the waitress to come back and clear the booth. When he dropped the hand, he used it to circle the small, round, white scars that puckered his left forearm, seven of them in all. Yeah, Big Sally was friggin’ enormous.

He looked at Bernie with love, and finished his beer.

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How Much?


Just how much stuff
can one person hide?

I guess it depends
on the stuff,
of course,
if you are speaking
trade goods,
material things,
only a small amount, really.

Emotional baggage?

Big enough to have
its own
Enough for


One is too many,
a million
is not enough.

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The Wine Within the Blood


Here we were once more,
or was it the first time -
edging the angles,
facing our desires,
locked in an intricate dance.

Drunken sheets and closed blinds,
we giggled into each others flesh
right next to the playground;
the game of night stickball
a soundtrack for sticky-slippery fun,
a long low song above the lee.

"Please..." whispered away from walls,
carried meaning stronger than words.
Melding memories and flesh
to seal over prior scars,
coaxing sweetness from each others breath,
we found humanity in tangled limbs
and bestial rhythms.

Gliding skin and slick licked fingers
held heat between us
with a pulse
that beat two hearts.

You shouted, I roared
and we both gasped
finding the wine within the blood
as we drank of each other.


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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer in the City


Snapshot of the city in summer -
when new lies are being written
and the old falsehoods are displayed
in blinking neon.

Taxi grills snarl in boomerang sunshine
while the fetid breath of the subway exhales.
Sun baked sidewalks give up the ghosts
of piss and dogshit,
winos stripped to the barest strata of sartorial sense
they can manage while still scrounging a buck,
and dun-colored roaches conducting the business of filth
while pot-bellied rats cloak and dagger
through the shadows.

Even the pigeons look like
they have been dipped in kerosene
and blow-dried.

And the people -
frayed wants and stirred tempers,
day-glo hookers smack-wretching into trash cans,
manicured villains searching for prey,
the payrolled in summer-weight wool
barking into earpieces, careful not to spill the latte;
clocks that don't need winding,
the punks, the pukes, the Christian porn starlets,
drivers and dealers and dangerous dudes,
each one looking to step one up
on the next one.

Is this the result of evolution,
the white and the brown and the black or the yellow,
each searching for restoration
on the corpse of the one beside him?

Is this the best that we can manage?

What would we have left if we stripped away
the greed,
the self-absorption,
the politics,
and the derision of those we have wronged?

Would we would have pastures,
floral scents and
bucolic overtures,
would we would have it all?

@ Christopher Reilley 08/29/10

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Darkly Dangerous


Darkly dangerous stockings
linger on her flesh,
the scent of yesterday's love
clinging to them like folly,
making my mind wander
while my hands roam freely
along freshly shaved skin,
tawny skin, creamed coffee,
summoning sinful hands
to probe and pull at the meat beneath.

Whiskeyed breath in my ear,
round and full with promise
cascading across my throat
with whispered sweetmeats
that attempt perfection,
only to find themselves
slicked by perspiration
and lost in the murmurs
of my beating heart.

With a half-lidded gaze
made of butterscotch and heat
you draw me closer, closer still,
until, awash in pleasure,
I am mastered by you,
my faithful supplicant.

And as we love,
truth enters my heart;
a small but familiar pain
echoing through the chasms
within me,
the distant latin chants
of an oncoming train.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Pursuit of Real


Drive a slick ride
the color of fresh pomegranate
or dye your long hair
the shade of a robin's throat.
It will not stop the reaper
from mowing the human fields,
it will not stop the intention of the bullet
from flying true.

Go right ahead, shame the peacock
with plumage bought on sale,
catch a mate from the tidal pool of success.
Reel that doctor in
like a bass
from the filigreed edge
of the mossy lake, then
love him until he can take no more.
Let heresy add spice.

Feel free to tattoo my chest
with raven's wings and
the trills of warblers.
Braid my locks with antimony and rue.
I will dress to impress
and change my writing to left-handed,
allow hymns and chants to take root,
grow from within.

Crack us open, sunder our shells
and let the mustard seed
songs of truth burst forth
from our blood and our minds.
There are mountains that sing,
and glaciers that mourn.

Let us draw no breath
that does not come out as oath.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Independence Day


My Country 'tis of thee,
more so than it is of me.
The Spirit of Seventeen Seventy Six
is looking for problems that we might fix.

In this country we are all living,
our attention turned to our giving,
happy that we have been freed,
and wondering what you might need.

Sure, we have problems right enough,
but we are made of sterner stuff.
Standing up for what is right
is what gives us our powerful might.

In foreign lands and on home soil
we struggle, work, tire and toil
so that the world will look and see
the value of a life of democracy.

As individuals we might make mistakes,
but our nation does whatever it takes
to follow America's patriotic call
with liberty and justice for all.

On this our Independence Day
let us all take a moment to stand and say
“No matter what trials life may bring
God bless America, let freedom ring!”

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The End of Utopia


Rotting trees surround the uneven sidewalks
of the urban blight that is home
to so much pain, crime and despair;
erosion-bared roots threaten tripping,
while boarded & sooty windows
speak of arson, or management assessing cashflow.

The complex, named for the trees cut down to make way for it,
is haven to bugs and vermin, furrowing in
under floorboards, protective of their next meal,
despite not knowing from where it will come,
affording the daily benedictions of vacuums
and feral cats.

Brown longnecks pressed against thin walls
relay neighbors tropes, and sex.
The t-shirts provided to residents
are large lettered;
sewn by the office staff
from paper cutouts:
make-do work that makes work
seem more like work.

From the balconies to the rickety steps
there is heavy traffic.
Reverberations sounding like
elephants dancing in high heels,
hoofers passing through,
transient door-to-door salesmen,
given up on the out of order mailbox
or door buzzer.

In spite of the brownish landscaping,
there is inevitably a call to arms,
from the storm-haired winter soot in apartments,
the fissures cracking up the plaster board;
fountains defunct and clogged with refuse,
the so-called crystal lake filled with debris.

This is a money-lender’s dilemma, a money-lender
with a tin of coins jingling in a back pocket,
representing the small change of improvement
waiting on hearsay’s revelations.
This is a result of economic bob-sledding,
of short-term gains and long time losses.
This is all that is left of a garden utopia.

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