FIRES OF VENUS: “Fear No Evil”


Adolph Hiremy-Hirschl, Ahasuerus at the End of the World


She lifts her head from the pillow and says,

There’s a wind in Jerusalem that carries positive ions;

it drives the people mad in the summer.

Her hair smells like burnt wood.

It scratches my face as if I lie

in a field of grass.

I turn and roll away,

press my lips to the mattress.

It tastes of salt.

You don’t want to hear the truth,

she says from her end of the continent.

Tangled sheets

and pools of sweat

lie between us.

Her cheek rises like the moon

over cliffs of white cloth.

I wait for her to sleep, I wait

for that ebb and sigh

of breath and blood,

certain as the tide

crashing somewhere…

Another plane forgot how to fly today.

It fell in a place

I’ve never been and never wish to go

where four men stand in a circle

waiting for the fire at their feet

to race up their legs

and dance atop their skulls.

They speak not in whispers

but in the jaunty sing song

of old records from

your mother’s cellar…

Boston, 1989




© Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis


Deep under this lake

there remains some vibration

of green and sky,

some summer of childhood

long lost.

I come here often,

slipping from my thin white tubes,

my stained sheets and straps,

the still minute

that inches toward me.

The water is calm and flat.

It knows me well. The

short circuit of my brain

matches the echo

beneath the surface.


this face

beneath the reflected trees

and mocking blue salvation

that stretches so far away

I sense the shape of things

stirring in their sleep.

The shadows are

gathering sticks.

I slip through

and down


there is music

in this descent,

deep earth water


Boston, 1989


FIRES OF VENUS: “Bad Omen for the New Digs”

42-21057941© David Lefranc/Kipa/Corbis


White Horse Tavern

right down the block.

New York, 1993


FIRES OF VENUS: “The Statues of Saints Have Bled All They Can”


Image Courtesy of NASA


Wings down. Swim no more

against this wasted sky.

The hands of Heaven

grow tired, heal nothing,

touch silence.

It is all one can do

to cover these eyes

and paste them shut.

You speak in your sleep

but I know

your dream is dead.

The statues of saints

have bled all they can.


this vaulting arc above us,

let the rain


New York, 1993


FIRES OF VENUS: “Critical Mass”



Finally your timex can no longer take

the pace of your pulse and it pops its gears,

gives itself over to sweet tiny metallic death

so your tear it from your wrist and crush it

beneath the six-inch spike of your heel.

Your eyes become candles. Your skin smolders,

your clothes crinkle.

Critical mass, you say with a moan

and a shudder

then a slow wet killing moon smile.

We can only laugh. About us people stare,

touch themselves and look away and whisper

dirty drunken stinking sex junkies

or something like that.

We sway into the old familiar rhythm,

our lips smash and the crowd goes wild.


rusted pistons begin their

sluggish dance toward scrap,

propelling us into the dark

like mad ownerless engines,

atomic engines of twilight.

I remember when I met you.

But I can’t remember why.

Boston, 1989


FIRES OF VENUS: “demophonic!”



quick quick quick! call the exorcist!

that spiritual warrior armed with water

a cross and black book because

I need his rain dance and wooden wafers

to chase away the insects

that buzz and bite and stitch nests

in my throat it’s their fault

all theirs not mine not me no way

I haven’t always been like this

I don’t like to belch bad breath

and demon wind I don’t particularly enjoy

waking with my head screwed on backwards or

having the pigeons attack me every time

I step out of the goddamn house or

the toilet refusing to flush what I

feed it every morning

not when I dream of clean sheets

and soft voices and guitars that slash

A N T H E M  again and again hey

have you found that number yet?

these days die like broken-backed birds

that tumble from the lips of the corpse on his cross

really it’s discouraging to discover the boxes

on your brand new calendar already chalked off

tik tak tok gone oh well (we sing) another year!

the devil sends his beast with wrath because

he knows the time is short, yeah yeah yeah well

he can get the fuck out of my head anytime

because the bastard hasn’t paid rent since

christmas and the goddamn check bounced

and —wait a second, are you for real? you

found the number? it’s ringing? it’s ringing!

it’s… a recording.


Boston, 1989


FIRES OF VENUS: “After Image”


© Warner Bros


Remember how we laughed at Roy

when he complimented JF on his

mechanical toys? Batty Roy.

Roy Batty. His pale eyes

gleamed through the screen,

the video window we had installed

in your living room only days before.

It rained every day that summer.

The wheels of our VCRS spun slow,

etching the echo from one tape to

the other, sacred shapes and sounds

that would be ours forever,

as the rain slashed

against the glass.

Through one window

the world ran in streaks.

Through the other, in technicolor,

we rooted for Roy and the Replicants.

Great name for a band, you said,

but you weren’t serious.

Down the street

the sky opened its mouth

for just a moment,

slipping a column

of green light

to the Earth.

It was an empty-hearted gesture, really,

because the sky knew you weren’t serious, too.

But for a moment

the grass glowed bright,

the insects ceased their scurrying

and wondered suddenly what time it was,

while the soil began to bubble

with dreams of wild corn and triffids.

We noticed none of this, of course.

We were making copies of Blade Runner!

Roy Batty stood triumphant!

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe

Did our breath catch?

Did we even blink,

or our temperature drop

just a notch? After all,

it was one of the greatest moments

in cinematic history, why else

would we want it forever, forever?

Outside, the soft green light faded.

The movie ended, the video window

went to sleep and the recorders

ran out of tape.

And I knew I would have to

play it back

to see if I would feel the same.

Boston, 1987




Image © Rob Chatterson



is what the voice on the phone said:

“He’s got a gun, he says he’s killed


on Main Street,

and now he says he’ll splatter me on the wall.”

Seconds later we are in the car

pressing 90 down the highway,

eyes cast ahead as if watching

something very serious on PBS.

To say something flip would be a sin.

I wonder, What is this? This

is Friday night, this is nothing, this

is what we do when asked for help.

Headlight beams sweep through us,

bathing the car and cutting the concrete ribbon,

flash away into the dark.

There is nothing on PBS tonight.

We are greeted not with bloodshed

but the sleepy warmth of the kitchen

dressed in checkered pink and orange

with a clock on each wall

and dishes coated with dust in the sink.

It is very late.

The five year old son of the would-be


sits alone at the table and drags his crayons

across the paper spread before him.

Where’s your father,

we ask him.

In the bedroom,

he replies.

Where’s your mother,

we ask him.

In the bedroom,

he replies, and reaches

for a crayon, black.

The bedroom door is shut and locked but

sounds slither out, escape through the cracks.

A muffled plea collides with the squeal of the bed:

Love me, love me, love me.

We sigh, swear, boil coffee

and sit at the table

and watch their child draw.

He never looks at us.

What are you drawing,

we ask him.


he says.

Boston, 1987


FIRES OF VENUS: “Songs of Future Egypt”

84381086 Image © Grant Faint


I wish this were a mirage

woven for our cameras.

But I saw it. I was there.

The old woman blew in from the desert

like a broken-winged bird,

she planted her feet in the Valley of Kings

and managed the levitation of the pyramids,

coaxed them by the power of her voice

to rotate slowly in the noonday sun.

She appeared nightly on the news

to give vent to her demands.

Her eyes smoldered sightlessly

in the wizened folds of her sockets

as she bent toward the camera

and spat words in a soft spray of sand.

At the bottom of our screens the translation:

Egypt has risen.

Behind her stand legions

fierce with the emblem of

the Sphinx on their crisp

new uniforms of brown and gold and white,

faces scraped and shining with saliva

drawn from their once slack lips. They wait

for the word

to strike their camp of diesel and dust,

to throw open the tombs and crack wide the planet.

Their necrotic majesty’s face fills the screen:

This is the war you always dreaded.

Israel is the first to fall,

a warning to the rest,

a nation annihilated in

a single night of white fire

yet not a single drop of blood

on the desert floor,

just gone.

Now days of war and waste

are all we have,

black needles from the sky

and venomous shrieks of victory

from the withered lips of a

4,000 year old madwoman.

Not mad, she hisses from her

crooked hook of a throne. Furious.

She is everywhere, now.

She no longer needs

screens, speakers, translations.

She watches from above,

her empire reclaimed,

a planet conquered

beneath her heel

and she whispers

All will be well

in the coming

fall of my cloak,

be well, be well,


Boston, 1988


FIRES OF VENUS: “Never Land”



I have labored above your grave

for five hours

twenty-three nights

and ten days.

The candles have been lit,

the black birds released to the wind.

Now no jets dare cross the sky.

The sun forgot to come up twice.

I blink at my severed fingers planted in the dirt.

I have three left.

The shtick has been worked to its pathetic finish.

And still you refuse to rise.

I guess I should be grateful.

I suppose the worms make excellent company

sliding through your arteries,

tracking dirt and slime and shit,

touching you where I never could,

no words,

no pressure,

no kisses to crush your sullen lips,

you bitch.

Not real.

This corrosion devours me.

If your mouth could work,

you’d probably say you were made for other things,

better men, other dreams.

The black birds return and curl themselves in sleep.

The spiders tell me your eyes haven’t opened a crack.

The candles sputter, go out.

My love, I am leaving.

I’m going where the moon never rises

to ever remind me of you,

I’m going where the air is so thin

there will never be another sound.

I’m going to the Never Land,

the place with no memory,

the land of no hope.

Boston, 1989