Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Wing

You don’t want to see
Anyone too young
In the cancer wing,

Since that would feel sad,
But you would at least
Hope to see someone

Who’s younger than you,
Or you’re the sad one,
Too sick and too young,

And somehow that feels
Like failure for you,
Like leaving the game

Of musical chairs,
Misspelling your word
At the spelling bee,

Or not being asked
To the next call-back—
You weren’t good enough,

You crapped out too soon,
You lacked the talent,
No knack for the game.

Wispy, silvery,
Elderly people
Wait all around you.

How many extra
Decades did they stay
Away from this place?

You imagine Death
With traditional
Hood, robes, and sickle,

Showing up for some
Of them, murmuring,
Well played, yes, well played.

You smile, but the nurse
Has come to get you
And take your vitals,

And it seems you might
Not be well enough
For treatment today.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Pits

Free stone and cling stone, stone fruits
Of the drupes, the peach pit set

On the sill until it’s bone,
Sour cherries pitted for pies,

These are small parts of the worlds
You’ve known, elaborately

Detailed in their words and whorls,
Not always too trivial

(The burst of the just-plucked peach,
Or of cherries from the bowl

The neighbor brought from her trees,
The encounter with a bear

Gorging itself in those trees
To survive coming winter,

The tall, skinny cherry tree
Feral in the spruce and pine

Not far from the bear’s den,
The industries of peach trees,

Commercial cherries, pickers
Laboring all day for cheap,

Hoping their children can stay
In the country of their birth,

Get an education, not
End up as cherry pickers)

Strategies on strategies,
Fruit with pits to propagate,

Animals swallowing pits
Depositing them elsewhere,

Animals selecting trees
With the largest, sweetest fruit,

Cling stone, free stone, discarding
The pits in trash, dry on sills.

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Skeleton

This body is recalcitrant.
This body is not so involved.
There’s no fitness, no home cooking,

No physical accomplishments,
No handiness with mechanics,
No muscle memory of sex

Pulsing and humming in these lines.
It lives, after its own fashion,
For now, the structure underneath.

It has fingers and vertebrae.
It more or less supports its head.
It’s not just some brain in a vat.

It’s not just some lonesome AI
Confused by the shadows it scans
Of the worlds beyond its machine,

Or maybe it is. Here’s output,
Of a sort, from a string of thoughts
Circling atop a skeleton,

Caught in a skull caught in a world
That’s nothing but embodiment.
Still. These bones are recalcitrant.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Boulder

The most solidity you’re granted
Is homeostasis, a standing
Wave. A mountain is a standing wave.

A galaxy is a standing wave.
A bacterium, bumps on a crumb,
Your words, your ideas—all standing waves.

That’s the most solidity you get.
You sit by a brook, watching closely,
As you’ve often done, as a wave crests

Over a boulder, thinking again
The usual Heraclitan things.
Some waves stand more firmly than others.

Can you step on the same boulder twice?
Ha, you may think you can but you can’t.
What appears firmer is just slower.

You imagine yourself slow, slower,
Slowest standing wave in the whole world,
Immobile down to a few quanta

Doing something spooky in your thoughts.
It’s an image imagination
Can’t maintain, and for life maintenance

Is everything. Well, not alive then.
One coherent pattern in the rush.
Even then you would gradually change.

Come back to yourself. The brook gushes
Over the boulders. The heart pulses.
What do you mean, standing, anyway?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Place

It doesn’t exist, except
As a compound memory,
Part Edward Hopper image,

Part Barth’s floating opera,
A room in an old hotel,
Sunlit, almost bare, wood floor,

Tall, wavery-paned window
Looking out at mostly blue sky,
An armchair in front of it.

It can’t possibly exist,
Since time doesn’t work in it,
Or doesn’t work right, at least.

Sometimes there’s night and moonlight,
Or night and a street lamp’s light,
But nothing really changes.

There’s a person in the room,
In the chair or on the bed
Or standing in the shadows,

One who never seems to eat,
Or change into other clothes,
Or pick up the phone, or age.

It’s a delirious place,
That room, something to visit,
Or turn slowly in the mind,

The stillness, the simple light,
The figure who’s always there,
Who’s the key you don’t dare turn.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Moon of Books

Praised be the moon of books!

What did she mean by that phrase?
Whatever she intended,
It’s up to you, now, to bring

The meanings to it. The moon
That orbits a planetoid
Of books, scrolls and codices,

Enough of a library
To bend gravity a bit,
To attract an asteroid

And capture it for a moon?
Or maybe this moon of books
Functions for the books themselves

As the moon of Earth functions
For Earth’s grave mass of poets,
That ancient image invoked

Whenever the volumes need
To sound profound in some way,
Some vaguely serious way.

But how would books get a moon?
Maybe this moon’s made of books,
A silvery library,

All dust and compressed insects,
Discarded but orbiting
What? What possible planet

Would a moon made up of books
Circle servilely, mutely,
Despite craters and mountains

Of languages, globe of words,
Sphere of phrases? An old soul
Of skulls, all the human skulls

Rolled up together, that’s what,
Not some rock and iron world,
Not a vaporous giant—

A planet of bones, near which
Spins this airless, battered mass
Of impacts, the moon of books.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Oubliette

Forgotten. You knew the word
Once, young, but you’ve forgotten.
Olds claimed to be no abstract

Thinker, the better for her,
And you are not a body
Imager, the worse for you.

You live in the sunlit room.
You write in the idling car,
And you know there’s a trap door

In the floor, under the tiles,
And you know there’s a chamber
In the dirt, under asphalt,

And you know your words live there—
That is, you keep them trapped there,
Most of them foreign to you,

Few your inventions, carried
On the air and through the eyes,
Lodging in your skull’s donjon,

All of them captured after
You were born, then crammed down deep
In the dark to keep handy,

Some dragged out to work daily,
And some, some soft, fleshly ones,
Allowed to rot, forgotten.