Thursday, April 30, 2020


It’s the pollen,
my friend says on our morning walks.
We share the excuse--
she for the mask, I for the not-dry cough.

At night the excuse wears thin,
troubling my sleep as if
it might be my last,
making each morning the more glorious.

One month to go before such alibis wear out,
when my friend no longer need explain her mask
and my Benadryl must step up
and be my miracle.

                                                                                                                                        m.d. paust

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


It’s the part where we still have trouble remembering the name of the town. We know it’s somewhere in Arizona, and we see the streets are nearly deserted. We see signs in some of the windows saying yes or no, telling us this town is in some sort of trouble, but we don’t yet have a clue what that trouble might be.

We’re seeing all of this through lens of the 16mm camera, which now pans up to the empty highway leading away from town. Our vision distorted by the wriggling heatwaves rising from the sun-baked asphalt, we see a wisp of dust in the distance. Something is moving slowly toward us. It grows in the camera’s eye until we make out the shape of some sort of military vehicle--yeah, a Jeep!--bouncing along and getting bigger and bigger. And now we hear from somewhere, maybe coming from the approaching Jeep, oo-we-oo-we-ooo waa waa waaa
CUT! Goddammit, who’s playing that goddam Morricone theme?
Waitaminute, that angry voice doesn’t have an Italian accent. In fact, it sounds more like a Mel Brooks New York accent, but he’s dead. Simon? Apatow? Dunno, but that director is not Sergio Leone! So what in hell’s going on here?
If I might relieve the suspense for a moment, this screwball scene is a figment of my corona-torqued imagination, set to twanging by the hilariously screwball novel Hopscotch Life, a twisted romp by mystery writer Kris Neri of Silver City, New Mexico.
Our troubled Arizona town, Applewood, is a figment of Neri’s quirky imagination, as is the stranger approaching on the deserted highway in her dilapidated Jeep Wrangler...waitaminute, did I say “her?” I sure did, and thus endeth even the pretense of an oo-e-oo-e waa waa spaghetti western unless we accept Hopscotch Life in the satiric light Neri’s imagination might well have suggested. Add to this the revelation our stranger, who’s presumably here to save Applewood from itself, has a name—in fact it’s Plum Tardy—and we might as well...what? Plum Tardy? OK. OK, the jig is up, but may I remind you I’ve already let that cat out of that bag, calling Hopscotch Life a “twisted romp?” The cat, by the way, called Scrappy, is a stray that takes to Plum like a plum to pudding, if I may, and moves in with Plum in the apartment above the bookstore she buys with cash from the satchel she brought with her in her hopscotch dash from Santa Monica, California, after finding another woman in bed with her schmuck of a fiance when she arrives home unexpectedly after losing her job as an executive chef in a restaurant her boss abandoned after stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down.
Hopscotch. It’s how Plum Tardy characterizes her life of impulsively leaping this way and that, sometimes with nary a thought as to why or where she would land. A vague memory of family friends mentioning Applewood as an idyllic vacation spot they’d enjoyed, and some mysterious empty envelopes with an Applewood return address prompted this most recent hop.
Kris Neri

Leaving behind her flighty, man-hopping mom, who’s in a coma in a nursing home, and a hoity toity lawyer younger sister, she at first welcomes the sensation of being in a strange place, where no one knows her, no one to remind her of the failures she’s always blamed on her hopscotchy self. She quickly makes friends, even the odd, grumpy woman who owns High Desert Books where Plum, who loves to read, stops by to browse, ends up staying in the apartment above the store, and...well, no need to repeat myself.
The town, as we expect, has a bully who’s leading the fight to bring an unwanted shopping mall to town. Naturally, Plum sides with the townspeople who fear losing the laid back charm of Applewood and the competition with their local businesses. Plum lets the opponents of the mall meet in the bookstore, calling the bully’s bluff when he arrives with sheriff’s deputies to stop the meeting. Soon thereafter, during the bookstore’s grand opening, the deputies return, this time with an arrest warrant for Plum, charging her with stealing $40,000 from the woman she’d caught in bed with her fiance. She’s taken back to Santa Monica in handcuffs and leg chains to face the charge.
This is where Sergio Leone would cue up the oo-ee-oo-ee waa waa to heighten the suspense, and it’s where we will leave off so’s not to spoil the tale for all of you waiting breathlessly to click the title cyberlink in the fourth paragraph down that will take you to the book’s page at
And one last plot thickener in case you just can’t stand not knowing a tad more: the race car driver Plum had grown up believing was her father and who gave her his surname, and who died in a fiery crash when she was a child, was, in fact, not. There. Now I will cue up the oo-ee-oo-ee waa waa...while you click one of the cyberlinks embedded above.
Happy reading. 


Monday, April 20, 2020

Our Secret Winner’s Remorse

Oh, how royally grand the celebration
for George the general’s marshaling sensation
and the British abrogation. Oh, how quietly grand
our bankers’ realization they’d won the golden scepter
with George the king’s cessation.

Oh, how sadly odd our grieving fascination
with Diana’s death and implications,
and how frankly queer the enchantment we allow
for every scrap of titillation
from royal family intimations.

Oh oh oh, and how we betray our secret inclination,
shakily insisting irony in Plath’s daddy allegations,
denouncing loudly fascist emanations
lest sheathed in velvet masquerations--
we let the White House rule our nation.

                                                                                                                                           m.d. paust

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Why Our Species Keeps Embarrassing Us

We think our gossamer conceit of civilization
lifts us above the "lower" species,
but scratch the surface with so much as a whisker
and our primal egocentrism squirms out and takes charge.

Ideology is sophisticated denial, no substitute for evolution.
Authoritarian religion provides absolution for our atrocities
and gives us comforting consensus. Laws celebrate power.

It's up to individuals to work toward enlightenment.
We are on our own, and we're outnumbered.

                                                                                                                                          m.d. paust

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Seeking the Big Picture

Missing the forest for the trees has always been a nono,
a metaphor
for dangerous myopia, the Wagner-loving poet, e.g.,
oblivious to predatory aspiration.

Now don’t go thinking, friends of mine,
I claim immunity from this really quite sane approach
to avoiding cerebral hemorrhage or gastric embarrassment
trying to process some unimaginably horrific implication.

I smiled, feeling warm compatibility with John Prine’s
smiling lyrics advising me to abandon commercial news,
let it jabber, flutter away, rediscover simpler living
in a little cabin, starving fears and appetite for titillation.

Signs of encroachment, barely deniable, impossible
to ignore, a laptop my sole receptor of word from out there--
memes and screams and links to links. There’s one I rely on,
Reliably Uncomfortable, Google it. Get some mitigation.

                                                                                                                                              m.d. paust

Thursday, April 16, 2020


In one way I am thankful
the turd-face who belongs
locked in a room infested
with COVID-19 invisible torturing

murderers chose my credit card
to feed its fucking greed, because
I was bereft of ideas for today’s
Corona poem until I discovered

the hemorrhoid-face had ripped my card off
for five hundred dollars, discovering
this after a text message from my bank
urged me to check my account,

which I did, and discovered the
shit-breathed remora had tried
three times to hit my card today
with the first two declined,

while enjoying the charmed third,
after which I managed to speak
with a live human voice in my bank’s
fraud department, and learned that

there was no way to stop the debit
but that the bank would make good the
theft and that I should destroy my recently
updated card and expect a new one

to arrive in about a week, plus some forms
to fill out for their records, which the
fraud specialist said would not necessarily
mean the thief would be identified

and prosecuted, whereupon I expressed
befuddled dismay while remaining
respectful of the fraud specialist’s
undoubtedly Herculean task in

assisting bank customers victimized
during these months of presumably
ubiquitous predation by dead-rat-rotten
offal-souled privy slurping pieces

of...oh, use your imagination, at least
my adventure in digitalic mugging gave me
these lilting insouciant stanzas to further
brighten your already sunny pandemic day.

                                                                                                                            m.d. paust

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Water First

Back in the day, the top page of the
little spiral notebook I keep
next to the microwave/toaster oven stack
on the composite-wood desk-cum-kitchen

utility table would come alive
when I plucked the plastic ballpoint next to it,
placed its ink-wet roller on the aforementioned
page and wrote a cruder expression for

toilet paper upon it, ordinarily hesitating
a heartbeat while my rational prowess wrestled
unsuccessfully with reflexive prudence which
invariably begged me to use the euphemistic

form or face possible unnamed retribution from
the humorless, nagging, persnickety, conditioned reflex
we know as that tiny haloed angel perched on our right
shoulder, finger raised in celestial admonishment.

Well, that priority is history, and we’ve come to regard
shit paper [yes, I hesitated] as a staple from days gone by,
with the promise, if luck be a lady, to strut back one day
in triumph with more prestige than it has ever known.

Meanwhile water has oozed to the top, rising
from second place to leave the pack—bread, onions,
mustard, bacon, hot dogs, et. al.--drifting along
with lesser urgencies among things for which

I am willing to venture into dire risk, homemade-masked
and armed
with 70% [the new standard] isopropyl-soaked Bounty towel
in pocketed Rubbermaid compact plastic-lidded holster,

from which my draw is sufficiently fast to execute
microscopic killers on surfaces I touch or might touch
or might wish to touch or that touch me. Why water,
I hear you thinking to ask?

Think funny tasting anything with tap water
were your palate as mysteriously persnickety as mine.
                                                                                                                                             m.d. paust

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Looking for something to lift my
corona-dampened spirits on Easter
I rooted thru my box of DVDs
and started laffing the instant I spotted

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,
laffing at my memory of Jerry Lewis
grinning maniacally as he swerves
in the street in front of police headquarters

and flattens Spencer Tracy's hat
while Tracy (Capt. Culpeper)
leans out the open window
through which he had tossed the hat,

aiming for the hat rack next to the window--
[pause here to finish laffing]
laffing at my memory of Jonathan Winters's
rampage in a brand new service station,

bringing down the building and knocking
its two uniformed owners senseless
before driving away in their wrecker.
I laffed as my eyes caressed

the DVD’s mad mad mad mad cover,
with its cast of 15—many of them
comics—peering madly at me
through and around the title’s letters

while leafy green silver certificates
rain down on everyone,
and I laffed remembering that scene,
and while I was laffing, eager

to pop the movie into my laptop,
a wee harmless question
bubbled up through my excitement,
and I Googled up the movie’s Wiki site

and, losing the fight to keep from
clicking the next link, I learned
the one thing I didn’t really need to know,
want to know--

I had already assumed the lion
in the MGM logo atop the cover was dead,
which didn’t bother me, but when I saw Mickey Rooney
had died April 6 six years ago I knew

I soon would be laffing at the antics
of an all-dead cast, which, I had little doubt,
would lift my weary spirits,

                                                                                                                        m.d. paust

Monday, April 13, 2020

Answer Me!

Sick of pretending
this is some temporary inconvenience
and that we'll actually some day
have toilet paper again.

No one will say when. No one
can say when
hugging will be safe again,
or kissing or shaking hands

without some documentary proof,
we don't have this or that or some other
microbes or enzymes or...what the hell,
germs, about our person.

And we know they're everywhere,
like Chicken Man
they're everywhere they're everywhere,
some good, some bad, how in hell

can we ever be sure, can we ever
feel safe again? Ever?
Well, then again, we really never have
been safe, have we?

It's just that we didn't have to
be reminded of it

But when will it end?
Rhetorical question, of course,
yet a necessary one

at least for me
to keep my illusion of sanity
somewhat intact, without which





                                                                                                                         m.d. paust

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Plastics is Not the Word

No idea where I was or when,
when the word became my savior,
where it remains, relieving now
corona dread.


Just one word.
Tripped me
with my head somewhere else,
tripping in a way,
were it my feet,
releasing all sorts of words
some imprudent to reveal
even here.

Or was it more than once,
tripping in various ways
or simply showing up
as part of a background
but standing out
in an upstaging way,

All I know is at some point
I took a closer look,
picked it up, studied its
trying to grasp why it wouldn't
abide my insularity.

Now that it had my attention,
showing me its power,
resembling the effect I imagine
of a depth charge on a submarine, except
this impact healed

something I hadn't understood
wanted healing, thinking
ailments were up to me
to feel and know
and try to mend.

But now the metaphor is sticking—
what is happening?

Do harmonic wisps of this word
burrow through layers
of conditioned reflex,
cognitive complexities, fragile certainties,
brushing past teasing tangents
on its rush to the core and into
primal magma?

Does it merge with mystery there,
quieting womb-borne quakes,
bringing them into heart?

Simple intuitive maternal cognate?


                                                                                                                          m.d. paust

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Corona Owl? No Cigar

I should start by saying
I hope it's not clinical insanity
or cabin fever or stir fry or
whatever other nuttiness is emerging
in these cooped up days,

as I'd been hearing Ollie or Olivia
a month or two before quarantines and
masks and six-foot considerations
were all the rage.

(I'm gonna call her/him it, so's to
dispense with potential
him/her tedium—and I WILL NOT
surrender to third-person fashion
also all the rage
these days.)

In the spirit of strict adherence
to factuality, I hereby disclose
only that to which I can objectively attest
is voice.

Whooo...whoo...cooo coo--
yes, might it well be the voice
of a mourning dove? Yet,
as you know, I prefer
owl—in fact
baby owl.

Only when I'm on the can
so to speak
does it call
to me, who else?

Workmen were in the attic
back then, sawing, banging,
and the like—dunno why,
I only rent, share building with
beauty shoppe (are the extra "p" and the "e"
passé or
de rigueur?

Whooo/cooo cares?
Unless it’s it, trapped
like Fortunato, sans revenge motive—
oh lort,
I walked ‘round the one-story
building this morning

saw no opening near the roof
for anything larger than a CV-19
to wriggle in or out of.

I’d love to believe some brushy,
leafy nest
in the neighboring pecan tree
houses my whooo-er or
meanwhile I wrestle
with plausibility
the weakening
of the whooos or cooos
is trapped
in my

                                                                                                                       m.d. paust