Mudlark Flash No. 26 (2004)

Stephen Todd Booker

Dropping Science | Anno Domini | Medibi
A Few Out-of-Body Lines for Nancy C.
Even Before Starting | Ssh!

Stephen Todd Booker’s interest in poetry began while in prison, on death row, where he’s been since 1978 & where all of his writing originates. His collections of poems are Waves of license, Greenfield Review Press, 1983; Tug, Wesleyan University Press, 1994; and Swiftly, Deeper, Mandrake Poetry Press (Poland), 1995. His poetry has appeared in English in more than one hundred venues worldwide, & has been translated too. Most recently his poems have been published in The Chinese Poetry International Quarterly (PRC), the new renaissance (USA), and Home Planet News (USA). He receives mail at this address:

Stephen Todd Booker / B-044049
Union Correctional Institution (P-3225)
7819 N.W. 228th St.
Raiford, FL 32026-4430

Dropping Science

How to describe two ego-high crows,
Or maybe ravens fattened for the axe,

Who’d arrived at their splendid idea
Of inviting me to a winking chat?

“We’re crows, man,” one shined as he chewed the fat.
"We three be from the same place, ain't square,

And, like, takes things in strides the others lack
Knowin’ we take. We’s old-school crows.

You know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” Laugh. Laugh.
Here’s describing two crisscrossed sons of slaves

Who were sons of warriors or just sons
Of just some poor single moms raising kids

As best they could alone. I’m not laughing
And not likely to wink at slaving

So that any crow can relax, sunning
Himself. I live to not wink. No kidding.

Anno Domini

I will maybe use it tomorrow,
The gift that I have for reviling
In sweet song the adoration of impermanence.
I will also tell the latter woe be unto you...
Screw you.
Think of it, all the cocked ears
That so many learned sighs and hurrahs are,
Heedlessly kicked back in the skins, and hives,
And the passions that they exploit, screwed.
No greased wheels here. The poison-tipped arrow
Of my singling them out
Exposes them. But who are you kidding,
Munching cake from home, being ferried about
By hunter-killer helicopters, believing yourself
Immortal? You'd better get somewhere.
You, too, staring into a whiskey sour,
Aren’t you the floppy-eared bunny
Who my suggesting to that Titan should have
Parted the last veil and come face to face
With butt-naked me holding an assegai
Goes whizzing right by you every time?
As a professional at this, I’ve the obligation
To warn you not to try any of this at home.


“One. What I want and need goes like this:
The dead-center of a mountain-sized diamond,
Covered in layers of lead and steel
That’s overlaid in radioactive bricks”
Is how I initiated the headache, “Ibidem,”

That after over a decade, its umpteenth revision,
And my eyeing its potholes, was still sophomoric,
Cagey, and subtitled as the reconstructed answers
To a survey question said to have been put to ten
Condemned men (changed to read, ten persons).

The question: “If they are guaranteed
To come true, what would be your last requests?”
The problem: it resonated with my every-right
To pick at it too much. Proof is, “Two.
My picks are to have total control over time,

And to show clocks and calendars a few new
Tricks, and to mean no affront when my thoughts
Bump off all of my enemies, as if with cobras
That I’ve trained to peck them with kisses, or
With grand slam bats that don’t know from bunt.”

Next was, “Three. Banish me to an island
On some other planet out in the stellar ocean,
And insure that it is securely privatized,
Hidden under a dome, with the water there
A love potion for my harem to bathe in and drink —

Home-sweet-home.” That’s too effortless-looking,
Even if all about timing, your pupils like nails
Crying havoc on the blackboards of clichés, and “Four.
I’d go for a magic lamp, to make wishes
For a magic carpet, and a magic wand...

And I want three steps, Mister, if you will...
Although my saying as much is like tattling on
What corresponds to or is my wish to leave
No unpaid debt or uncollected bill”; and, “Five.
I demand to do my fifteen minutes famously,

With the dozen inbred fakes who sat on my jury,
The prosecutor, and that sleeping bastard judge,
And I will witness justice done at their being
Impaled upon fourteen burning stakes
For their burbling down into ashes or fudge.”

Style is its own drawback, in delineation.
But rhyme being passé, and “Free Verse Only”
In nearly every ad, is a crock. Who was it said,
Professors of political science, musical theory,
And religion had better man my thorny oars?

Then came, “Six. Well, as corny as it may sound,
I’d like a golden harp, functioning wings,
Plus a virgin-pure angel’s gown, and I want
Out from this secular-humanist here and now
And the feeling of being made to stick around.”

And, “Seven. Later for your game of pretend!
I’ve no plans to go anywhere soon!
The tussle I’m giving is till the bitterest end,
When, if coming to in hell, I will be no boon
But someone with whom the devil must contend!”

Open up, and admit a little something:
Light around your face in a mirror in the dark
Means the room isn’t all that dark; now, read,
“Eight. I am loath to indulge in the folly
Of prophesy about a future that I don’t expect

To be either as jolly or as humbling
As life as my master or me as its pet.”
On to, “Nine. Whatever happens does its do,
With or without my commencement address.
You can list me with however many or few

Who see their own silence as a fitting beau geste.”
Last is, “Ten. Can you repeat the question? A last
Wish, a last request?... how many, and for what?
There has to be some merit in staying squeamish
About inviting the world to bite my butt.”

A Few Out-of-Body Lines for Nancy C.

From court to court, I kept sight of the lie
Of her due being processed and hauled through
Due diligence, long before her coma story
Made it to PBS, and I dreamt her saying,

I have half a mind to show you mine
If you show me yours; for if you dare
Show me that you too have a serrated soul
That slips easily free from its bony handle

And glances back at the diptych image
Of a shattered glass house of cards,
A family framed but not flat on its back,
Not appended to your antiseptic bedding,

To the rod knocking in your idling heart,
Or to your breath that reeks of methane,
I’ll flash you my gorgeous whiteladylegs
(They haven’t any muscles but can glide

Across a homeplate like two phantom limbs
Bluebirding over a Kirlion rainbow); and I have
Sometimes a clown’s scarlet letter of a nose,
That runs, and is my bowsprit and barometer,

And is the first of me in testing the walls
And ceilings through which I go to split.
So, if you are not a scratch-n-sniff decal
Pasted on the side of the alibi

Of someone hearing how everybody knows
I’d rather starve to death than have pizza,
Ice cream, jazz, or onion rings
Somehow piped into my feeding tube,

Show me yours; or accept it that my listening
To nurses listening to radio talk shows is fine,
And living is listening to housewives
Who phone in in the wee morning hours,

Each laying her claim that in a past life
She had been an Egyptian princess —
Never you mind that the night’s topic is divorce,
Female ejaculation, the population bomb,

Or assassination conspiracies. Because
One of these crazy-crazy nights
The nurses will be in a rock-n-roll mood
Or they’ll tap into some sweet soul music.

Living is also the black sister nurse
Who washes me, sings gospels, leaves a mint leaf
Under my tongue, and promises me that one day
I’ll wake up knowing things — things like

Where/when does The Incredible Shrinking Man
Stop shrinking; how far is Up; which way is
Far-out? — Up is there... right there...
Way the heck up. Far-out is when eternally

You come and go as you please.
The Incredible Shrinking Man smothers
Or drowns when tinier than the molecules
That will sustain him. Cruzon v. Missouri,

Up yours! I’m hungry here! Am I
In some kind of a looneybin? Feed me!
What day is it, anyway? What, did I
Do something to deserve this? Forgive me.

Even Before Starting

What magic there is to learn in life
Will out with mysteries as quickly
As our solving them is over and done—
Flesh kabobbed upon incoherence,
Deftness of discernment flown till gone,
And guesswork, once sweetly quaffed
By confirmations, facts, answers we knew
But were uncertain, tipped and emptied
Until fear of doubt has disappeared,
Has to be as terrifying a course,
Left to no shrewd thinker's stratagem;
Tracklessness (as journey implied),
Fanned out (a sojourn in strife),
Why, of course we knew its cost is its price.


As a wretch, ungrateful, I’ve not needed to know
Things without caressing them, at a glance, being told,
Or given them to handle with my stupider look
Than ever I’ve been resolutely stamped
Over this my curse of feeling, seeing, felt.
Do you know what I mean?   —it’s bearing
Hard down, squishing my soul into a corner,

Like when hearing her father’s Daddy home,
As I in long seconds’ ticking hid in her closet,
And how’s my princess, my cupcake, then his groan,
Tasting, savoring, his daughter’s tongue. I knew.
Ssh! Put your hand here on me. Feel that beating?
That’s where my heart’s been sagging ever since.
Some blessing this is, eh, some kind of a gift,

Hemmed in under side by side dresses and GSA uniform,
Hammocked in my gutful of why me and what?
Thirteen-damned-thousand and forty-some
Days and still counting. She bore a son
The spit and image of   —you’ve guessed who.
Pray that you are never blessed with intuitions,
Instincts, with knowings that are always true.

Copyright © Mudlark 2004
Mudlark Home Page