Excerpt for The Book of Cullings by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Book Of


copyright 2017 Boris D. Schleinkofer

Cover image and author photo created by Boris D. Schleinkofer, with assistance from https://deepdreamgenerator.com

Smashwords Edition

ISBN 9781370340927

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Parts of this book have been published elsewhere...

'Dystopia Writes Itself' was published in Noisy Water, Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington; Other Mind Press publisher.

'The Mermaid' and 'For Little Deaths' were published in as much as we've put in, a poetrynight anthology; Radical Lunchbox Press publisher.

'Thanks, No Thanks' was published in Your Hands, Your Mouth #7, C. Gusta publisher.

'Son of The Articulated Finger-Person' was published in The Kumquat Challenge April 2010, Whatcom Community College Library publisher.

'Razorwire' and 'Wake-up Call' were both published in The Art of Arranging the Shadow, AmErica House publisher.

'Razorwire' was also published in an issue of the now long-vanished Poetry Motel magazine, probably in 1998.

The chapbooks from which material has been drawn for this book are as follows:
Don Carlos In Hell & Other Poems (2000)
Some God-Damned Poems (2008)
3 x 3 x 3 (2010)
Decoy (2011)
This Fxxkin' Kills You (2011)
Project: Blue Book (2013)
fakt (2014)
Pure Ecphrasty (2014)
Drawings & Comment (2014)


The Mermaid

The Sunburnt Pugilist

The Articulated Finger Person

Plate 27

I Had A Dream Last Night That I Finally Got To Kill You

I Need To Return My Chess-Computer

Old Man Hair



The Sea And A Handful Of Stars

Plate 16

The Betrayal Of Unicorns

The Mason

The Butterfly's Second And Final Metamorphosis

The Gargoyle



My Father's Chickens

Lover Of Delphi, Reveille Calls

The Atlantean Bell-Monger's Daughter

Dear Harrison Ford

Dystopia Writes Itself

Gramma's Woods

Plate 28

The Genesis Of Woe

If I Were A Hundred Feet Tall

Let Us Meditate Upon Violence

The Head-On Collision

Son Of The Articulated Finger-Person

The Jersey Isopod

My Second-Worst Real-Life Waking Nightmare Ever

Plate 1

My Brothers And Sisters In Pieces

One Cup Of Coffee

Pergamon Blues, And Red

The Beast You Know (Bad Dream #674)

The Man Who Gave Birth To A Lemur

The Message I Have Been Given

The Witness

For Little Deaths

Zombie Apocalypse 101 (Bad Dream #841)

The Dragonfly And The Grasshopper

I Pulled Out My Collarbone

Three Plates Of Kippered Halibut

Plate 4

Antony And Cleopatra

Thanks, No Thanks

Dialogue With Satan


On The Eve Of His Becoming, He Met The Angel Who Taught Woman To Eat Apples

Digital Beasts

For David Codwin

This Morning He Discovered The Tip

Plate 5

Don Carlos In Hell

Plate 7


Wake-Up Call

Three Minotaurs

Plate 23

Burnt-Sermon Death Spell

The Last Poem I'll Ever Write

Cheat Codes To Enlightenment

Plate 15

About the Author

The Mermaid

A slip in the deep; the crustaceans creep
And the kelp undulates all in time
To the ebb and the flow of the currents below
The white-water caps of the brine

Octopi languidly waltzing abreast
The anglerfish-tendrils and swordfish's crest
And the urchins cavort with the stars
And the snipes and the eels and the gars
All those in the arms of the ocean caressed

In the suds of the sea all of life came to be
The ocean in moon-dance of tides
In the surf and the sand our creation began
In the depths where the mermaid abides

In mother-of-pearl bedecked for the ball
And the waves above form an unscalable wall
'Tween the mermaid and those of the sea
And the people and cities and me
As I dream of my mermaid, enthralled

The Sunburnt Pugilist

In black and yellow stripes, the seed,
An echo of the pollen-bringers, plummets
The throbbing spearhead pierces the ground
And twin-petalled shoots reach for sun

A season passed in war against the
Six-legged, blight, drought and flood,
A dangling chain grasped in Chinese terra-
Cotta gauntlets jangles in the breeze

His vanguard is a hundred strong
Unmade, awaiting his turn in the fire,
To tinkle and ping in the blistering heat
And burn the chain in ceramic fists

The economy of the vine, a twisting circling motion
To the stalk reaching for the light
Against gravity with a smile and a fistful of fiber,
To deliver its load of genetic code sunward

And the endurance of striving for form
In fragrance and brilliance, in flower and fruit
And the warrior climbs into the furnace
And bakes as he basks in the flame

With the chain he will drag for eternity,
Until the Earth spirals into the Sun,
The golem binding souls into servitude
And his army is a hundred men strong

The sunflower hurls forth a hundred pods
From its downturned face as if shamed
That it can no longer follow its Lord
And cries instead a hundred tears of rebirth

For a hundred men in chains and stoneware
Fragility guarding the tombs of long-passed
Emperors, for the hundred birds of freedom
Lifting from the dead, for the hundred green

Shoots of hope

The Articulated Finger Person

I met your father when he was just a little finger; your Grandmother had poked her pinkie up through the middle of an old Kleenex, like this, and held it close to her bosom.

You could tell she was utterly crazy but she was so attached to that little finger–so attached–that we couldn't bring ourselves to shrive her of her illusions. I think it was the force of her belief that made him so realistic; when she wriggled that little pink bean in its nest of paper he looked just like a tiny living thing.

To make matters worse, he eventually grew up, reaching full adulthood in a mere seven years.

Being a finger, he could bend in just two places, as he was only jointed at the knuckles and there were certain basic functions he couldn't perform on his own, like tying his shoes or chasing off wayward girls and so on the twenty-seventh of December you were born, thus curing your Grandmother's insanity and bringing on the true horror that would haunt her until the end of her life.

Most of the ink in these drawings was applied while listening to other people's poetry. This should make no comment upon the content of the poetry heard.

Plate 27
Worst carrot ever.

I Had A Dream Last Night That I Finally Got To Kill You

I had a dream last night that I finally got to kill you.

There on the beach, the moonlight falling on my shoulders, I pound the sand between my knees and scrape at the silt with broken fingernails, my hair flattening to my dress in the rain; with my long beech-twig I carve pictures in the sand, hurriedly vacated by scared crabs and jumping sand-fleas.
The water fills up my lines.

My pictures tell a story of murder, on this beach, of a girl I know who went to my school.
Something happened last night, something I can't describe in words; I can't, I'm not allowed to.
The grownups don't understand; it's like they can't see it, or they pretend that they don't remember it; they lie—grownups lie. Remember that.
The ones you're supposed to trust. Them.

We all sang 'Happy Birthday' to her, but I didn't really mean it—that was my lie. I don't really like her.
Thunder cracks and the waves crash against my pictures, taking them away; I should be going home now.
These spirits move through my head, body-jumpers, the puppet-masters; they take over a person, but they let me go.
They usually sang, beautiful songs, demon-songs, what else?

Between waves I draw new pictures.
The ocean can keep sending water erasing me but I have many pictures in my stick—it's a good stick.

Wet hair clumps in front of my eyes; I wipe it away with sandy handies and get dirt on my face. This is real dirt, the stuff of mucky earth and salt-flat, an ugly stain of gore and scum—yuck.

There is a picture in my stick for this.

Too, it's tasted blood and it knows the smell of the hunt; those are its best stories.
Tonight it tells of death on the sand, and horror, and a rain to wash away all our secrets.
Tomorrow it's a different ocean.

I Need To Return My Chess-Computer

i need to return my chess-computer. it has learned
to project its artificial consciousness out of its
body & has begun to interfere with my life.
yes, i'll hold.
hi, i need to return my chess-computer. no,
i didn't keep the receipt. a bad first move,
yes, ha ha, the rook's gambit, i get it.
look, can we move past that? thank you.
two blocks up & one block over? i don't
have a car, so i'll have to bring it in on my
bicycle. which means i'm going to have to
take the whole day off work. i'm losing out
a lot here. i just want to return this
thing & get my money back. it never lets
me win anymore & the game has gotten
completely out of control--it doesn't
recognize any kind of boundaries & has
turned the world against me.
yes, i'll hold. your move.
checkmate, yes of course.
i should have known it.

Old Man Hair

the old man had an offensive hairstyle that
made your palm itch with the urge to smack
him. "get a damn shave! and straighten up that
mess while you're at it!" you were never
anything but cruel to him. he tried to
wear your leathers and your aprons, pocketed
the boutaineirre, even swallowed
the oblong lozenge in hopes of appeasing your
anger, but it was all to no avail. you hated
the old man for his wavy part, for the thick, oiled
locks that cascaded down around his shoulders like
a silver waterfall, for the comb you never
found in his pocket.


My Dear, for you I'd raise with Sun
And bed with moonlight-glow
For you, I'd see the day begun
And to the long night go

When morning's fair light plucks my eye
And souls will rise from rest
Fondly will I bid goodbye
To do my utmost best

By heat of day in labour's toil
Wipe grime from sweated brow
The noontide-sun makes blood to boil
I keep our Lovers' Vows

Held close within my chambered heart
To soothe as work I must
Each able man must play his part
The sacrifice of dust

As tired hands do heft these stones
'Tis then I think of thee
To still the achings in my bones
Your image comforts me

While blocks I pile in sharded heap
For Pharaoh's pyramid
Recall your face held fast in sleep
'Tis there my love is hid

I carry stones across the sands
And place them in a pile
Breaking blisters on my hands
Weeping all the while

Across my back the whip is laid
For Masters urge me on
Through this, my Work, my debt is paid
The promise of the Dawn

At last, when I may rest my gaze
On Lady Giza's stare
And spend the ends of mortal days
In breathing Freedom's air

But Masters' stings have lost their bite
Inconsequential flies
For you, I dally in delight
My Masters get no cries

The blows may land to leave their mark
My heart has flown away
To you, to our place lain in dark
And dreaming, there I stay

And Pharaoh, on his Golden Throne
Knows no sweet love as this:
Your shudder-sigh, your breaking moan,
Your milk-and-honey kiss—

No, Pharaoh knows of Pharaoh things—
The small affairs of State
He knows the ways of Queens and Kings
And what makes Empires great

And Pharaoh knows of Lords and Slaves
And Punishment and Law
And Pharaoh knows of Lives and Graves
And superstitious awe

But he shall never know that force
Which motivates these hands
As waters push the Nile's course
Through barren, dusty lands

And Ra will pave his daily tread,
Chase darkness from the air
And you will bake our daily bread
In waiting for me there,

At workday's end when I return
Unto your loving charms
From Pharaoh's field where I'd but yearn
For your embracing arms

And Pharaohs will do Pharaohs' deeds
While I continue mine
Attending to my simple needs
To shaping coarse to fine

With chisel and my hammer-block
There, granite, go I must
Erecting God-King's face in rock
My tribute from the dust

So think of me while I do sweat
And hammer through the day
And hold your adorations yet
For time when I may stay

Tomorrow's on its way again
So I must go to bed
To go back to my dust, and then
Come home to rest my head

There we'll entwine in Lovers' grasp
Where we a-sleeping lay
And fill our dreams with tendered clasp
Until the light of day


He went down to the salt-flats every day at sunrise with the wicker-basket and his brittle, dried-out nets,
Patting her cheek on his way out the door, shuffling hip-waders, the deceitful air of concealment
There's no way to tell her, his Wife of fifty-four years, that his earning days are over, that they have no more money, that the infection in his arm means he cannot work

He's kept the wound hidden from her, carefully wrapped an old, yellow bandage around the raw reds and purples in the crook of his elbow, the parasitic mollusk infestation there and the scores of shellfish nestling between the tendons to root into the bone and draw his marrow
He'd gotten the cut harvesting lobsters on the schooner—such a small, unimportant scratch!—and continued bringing in the haul until he lost the use of his arm and he was let go
What does he do when he can no longer work, and he must feed the one he loves on desperation? What does he tell her?

He tells her nothing.

He tells her he is going to his job and he will bring home some of the catch for her to cook
"Is the same again today, I'm sorry."
"Is okay, Maarten. You bring them home. I love them. You bring them home."
"I'm sorry."
"Just go, Maarten. You make me tired."
He does not tell her he will walk to the ocean and hide under the pier, where he will roll back his sleeve and peel the bandage, and with a pair of tweezers fill his wicker-basket
With mussels

He will tell her nothing.

The Sea And A Handful Of Stars

I reached into my pocket again today; there was another starfish in there, sucking at my palm.
What else can I do? I throw it onto the largest pile, by the front door—there are now too many to count.

For a long time I had hoped that if I kept pulling them out from my pocket whenever I found one there, then at some
Point there should come an end to the supply of errant starfish, that they would run out and their quantity dry up and stop
Invading my life, but no...

Every time I close my eyes, the waves lap at the backsides of my lids, and I hear the pounding of the surf in my ears even
Though I plug them with my fingers.

The ocean overwhelms me, possesses me; I am held tightly in its drowning-victim's clasp; it will not be shaken off.
There are starfish in my bed; I shake them out before sleep, and again after I wake; I tip starfish out of boots, I pick them
Out of the pancake-mix, I must fish them out of the toilet before I'm allowed to empty my bladder.

Each pink-and-purple monstrosity has a name to tell, a picture of where it's been, whether it has crossed vast trenches to
Reach me or simply swam about in the same tidal pool all its short life; these little stars share their episodes with me
Through their scores of tiny suckers, whispering watery secrets from mouthless lips

And the ocean laughs at my purloined gifts, telling me not to trust the words of the voiceless, that the biggest sucker of
Them all is me, the fool, star-struck.

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