Grounds for Divorce


I said I do

promising until death

do we part,

but did not expect

her to start

trying to bury me

during the honeymoon.





I pass illusions in the street speaking in dead archaic tongues:

Celtic, Iberian, Latin, Frankish, Basque.

I let them drift by, move on with their imagined lives

as I stare at buildings and monuments made of sand and mud,

waiting for the breeze to carry the scent of rotting carrion

to the circling vultures disguised as taxi drivers.



Sword Making


The making of a katana

requires the efforts

of two masters.


The master sword maker

melts temple nails

and hammers iron

and steel.


But, the blade

is not complete

until the master


grinds and rubs

the edge to razor



Some books

also require

the work of two masters:

One who wields the pen

and one who edits

and polishes prose

to make the final gem

gleam in full brilliance.



South of the Border


The mountains of Mexico call to me.

Hidden villages whisper my name.

Scrub pines and coyote watch for my coming.

I travel in black but am invisible in the sunlight.

At night I glow like a desert moon

but only when no one is looking.


Shaman and priest, I go seeking

the magicians of the wind

and their hidden nests

in the minds of trees and hearts of rock.



Two Thumbs Up


It is a good day regardless of the facts

and even the fainthearted should smile

and maybe whistle through broken teeth

at this strange sky and stranger sun

that brings us light and warmth

and the wind and the water

that makes it all just cool enough

to abide with.




Red-Headed Woodpecker


The lilac tree is past its prime,

but survives in the garden

half-choked by vines.

Dead branches scratch our heads

when we pass through the yard gate,

but we dare not cut them down

lest we chase off our red-headed friend

who visits each morning at dawn

and drills holes that perforate the wood

making the branch look like a sieve.

Many times I have seen our friend.

Many more times I have heard

him hammering beak through bark

to feed on hidden grubs.

Sometime I have confused his sound

when I am still half asleep

with the jack hammers and back hoes

repaving Theodore Roosevelt Boulevard,

but when I realize the source of the noise

I can roll back to pleasant dreams.


I have caught sight of him

or one of his kin clinging to the trunk

of the storm-broken willow

on the other side of our back fence

at the top of the ravine that plunges

down to where the creek flows.

Where his nest is I do not know,

nor would I seek to disturb his home

by prying into his workman's peace

after his long day's labors.

It is enough to know he is punctual

and does his job the best he can.

Nature tolerates no shirkers

and does not require a foreman.



Augury at Hopewell Village


The iron monger's restless ghost

walks the oak boards of the old house

as the spirits of long dead workers

drift through the old company village

that once turned out iron pigs and cannon.


Overhead, turkey vultures circle,

their featherless red heads naked

in the late winter wind.

They are searching for lost tourists

and abandoned school children

missing from school trips

among the weed-covered slag heaps.


They find only an old pair of birders

with binoculars fixed to the sky

hiking the brown and white landscape

searching for returning migrants

and other sacred signs of a wheel

turning inexorably into a forever spring.



Joseph Farley


Bio: Joseph Farley edited Axe Factory from 1986 to 2010. His books and chapbooks include Suckers, For the Birds, Longing for the Mother Tongue, Waltz of the Meatballs, and Her Eyes.