Kong Versus the New Dogs

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2020

I saw them first, the dogs
with the eyes gone white,
eye muscles taught with fright
and hunger til they plinked, snap, flapped back
and couldn’t get back
the right way

I saw them at steel turnstiles
teeth bared at nothing,
nothing I could see, look locked on
at anything that didn’t turn back,
show its belly,
tails bristling, breaking brittle, little knuckle cracks
like a laugh
just like in the history books

and I ran

charging, screaming past words, fighting like an ape,
powerful, King Kong pulling back the jaws,
taking in the claws, fresh wire shooting black to cover the scars

and I stomped them down and threw them downriver,
cracked their backs and watched them sink, slack,

breathless and done for
now and forever
and they’re gone

no not really

Caravaggio after the death of Ranuccio Tomassoni

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

A reward for the head of the killer!
The head we can’t see in the black
of the scene. The perfectly honest expression
which is not our focus.

Michelangelo Merisi,
of Porto Ecole, formerly of Malta and Naples
and Rome, and Caravaggio,
has black hair lit by the yellow-white fingers
he thrusts his head at.

But that’s all we can see. Black hair,
black suit, crumpled and dirtied
like nails holding rotten fruits.

A dagger and sword, unlicensed
but blessed by a friend of a friend of a patron.
He runs from a tennis court.

‘Humility conquers pride’
says the sword on the still-moving
right leg. The leg is a master’s but it’s black,
never draped in red cloth like his perfectly human
dying virgin.

The most famous painter in Rome, and a good
duellist, flees the sordid scene at night, the streetlamp
bathing the fallen man and the hot spit still on his body.
The spit still on the monster’s lips
is invisible, for now.

A reward for the hero who slays this sinner
and takes him from this dark world into paradise.