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Poetry by Tom Armstrong


Dog Planet Hysteria


I am the oxygen tank

The pudding salesman

Interior heat and exterior detachment


Swelling like a balloon, my tattoos growing ever larger,

.....coming apart till the bulldog's face disintegrates

.....into a map of atolls.


The grass feels like cat hair

The trees are ladies standing

You can taste sugar in the lake when you lift the water

.....to your lips on a reed.


I say: Let your toes inhale the air

Drink to me only with red-eyed fluttering heart valves

I am the ineffable Tao, barking.

I am the waterslide through the needle's eye

The fingerhat of the taylor's

The haberdasher running after the bowler who missed the

.....Chrysler Building with his wrecking ball.


You are the craggy fiord salesman who drew Norway

.....with a palsied hand.

You like molasses on your steak.

Wine bottles rolling on the carport.


You keep a cider bottle filled with an unidentified gas in

your closet to help you to understand Sylvia Plath.


I dismiss mosquitoes with a flap of my hand, but have

.....headaches on mountaintops and name every

.....undiscovered river Spatula.


Together, we could paint Mars blue. You and I.



Artesian Wells


If water, pure and refreshing,

Was black as onyx

My coffee would be a bowl of tar

Its steam as vivid as a waving hand


Our streams would be babbling flows of ink

with trout blindly falling into the paws of lucky bears


Thunderstorms would clean the air

of all its damnable transparency

so that tapping our canes through the wetness

we could find our way to the local bar

to drink martinis the color of pitch.


The nights, then, wouldn’t scare us so much.

They would be a comforting dive into the enveloping

......blackness of a pool.

The tonic sky with its carbonated stars

Would float like a boulder of ice.


And death would be no more than slipping into a sauna

Warm water gurgling over our chests

The relaxed laughter of a closing circle of friends

would fade into stillness as soft as a kiss.



Oceans of Whales


I don't want it to be perfect. A few things broken.

Withered leaves.

The high sky can be an uglier shade of blue. I might

......even grow fond of that.

I want children on the lawn laughing.

Their tears taken away in the buckets of a firemen's brigade.

Oceans filled by crying that never happened.

Leviathans feeding above coral beds.


I have so many questions. I don't want it to stop now.

I had no idea it would be so beautiful.

Thorns on the roses are beautiful.

Age spots on the old man's face.


Cheese melting on a hamburger while I was trying to be

......a vegetarian: Like a fitted yellow bedsheet landing

......gently on a grey mattress. The corners grabbing hold like

......claws of a cartoon canary.


Asleep not knowing I was asleep.

Awake not knowing I am awake.

Everything no less tragic than it is wonderful.

Painful yearning as poignant as a baby being born.


We live with Oceans of Whales.

I don't want to be pretend poetic.

How can I break through all of that to say

we stand here in the not-far-distant company of oceans.

Oceans in tumultuous activity.

Oceans churning with compassion.

Oceans infiltrated with generosity.

Lively with powerful fins flapping

The surf spray hitting the rocks

The plankton moving like a cumulous cloud

An eye, enormous as a basketball.

A body, extended into the darkness.


We are here and we are all of that.

The Seven Seas teeming with uncountable whales.





About the Author

Tom Armstrong lives in San Francisco working as an accountant for an investment-consulting company. His short stories and Buddhism-related articles have appeared in eDharma, Hundred Mountain, Dead Cabbages, InterText, Bliss and Yoga Newsletter. He also publishes and edits Zen Unbound, which can be found here. These are the first poems of Tom's to be published. He can be reached at thomasearmstrong@yahoo.com.