poems by Richard Manly Heiman

Our Lady of Iliniza Norte


Remember turning the hairpin twist in the trail

and there she was? Mater Dolorosa, alone

at 14000 feet. I wanted to linger near that virgin,

that nude landscape pocked with cracked lava

gullies and lunar chaos. Spirits were everywhere.

Pygmy alpacas at trailhead– 


you walked right up to them. Later

we watched the galactic show. Wolfed down

the last Noodle Roni in all of Quito. It took

forever to boil and I froze all night. Dreamed

in high altitude technicolor. When

humming woke me before dawn I didn’t know


it was her. Do you remember how deep

those crevasses were? How blue,

like deadly cathedrals? Remember the taxi-man

celebrating our return at the bottom,

arms stretched wide like a summit crucifix?




Reflection on Salvador Dali’s The Apotheosis of Homer


History is a marble block studded with heroes.

Gushing axe wounds, river gods and jealous

lords like chapter tablets from a treasure chest.

Heeling-backward chariots crush archers, snap

the cannon bones of pale convulsing geldings.

Some dim recesses we can’t see–how you sing

instead of scribble. This is foreshadowing

of a prince’s javelin, hurtling like

a nightmare phallus. This is the aftermath

of Iphigenia, sprawled out nude and wriggling

on a slab, sublime fat-offering specimen.

And dashed-out brains still splash the children’s

warhorse etchings, somewhere on the floors of Troy.



Klee and Kipling tête-à-tête


Inside every cat’s skull is a bird. Just so, beloved! Hiding, because it’s safer inside the feline cranium than in the cat’s paw, let alone the maw.

One can predict what bird will infest which cat: orange oriole for tabby, woodpecker for the schizoid calico, swallow in Siamese. Ravens lurk in sinuous Bombays. Just so.

Every cat has a canary hiding in its pineal gland, too. That’s why, O best beloved, a purring cat never ravages birds. A purring cat is a safe and cozy cat. A purring cat is a cat with a sleeping bird between its eyes. But if that tail starts to twitch—

Many years past, there was a lady with an American Shorthair. Shere Khan of the backyard, atavistic horror of sparrow and starling. He brought trophies right into the house on Mother’s Day and Christmas and birthdays, five years running. Lizards, mice, and a surfeit of birds. O, beloved! That lady belled that cat and for exactly three days, avians landed and fluffed and huffed and hopped in peace. Then that puss learned. He slunk shrunk and slinked so low the chime made no more sound until—pounce. Too late, just so. Later that cat hopped a moving van to Texas.

And once a grey Persian slept on a warm pickup truck engine for a long, cold night. Chopped and singed next morning, she vanished for two weeks or more. Some said other cats took food for her convalescence. Or maybe it was birds. Just so. Her flesh healed her fur grew in and she never rested there again.

And once was a cat named Orestes, infested with harpies. But what do you say, O beloved? Shall we ask the screech owl? What birds do your cats dream?





A panoply of lights and tubes. In fevered breath

I baptize you. On chin and arm, unshriven.

Invoking ghosts, I call you to remain.

Things I ought not to have done, I did.

Things left undone, because.


And the shell of a girl lay abed. I bled.

And the current in her head said I’m dead.

poems by Richard Manly Heiman

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