Friday, April 19, 2024

Only Yesterday

End stories concentrate
On the few survivors,
Since that’s where stories thrive,

And, however many
Deaths a story tots up,
Who wants a tale that’s died?

Nonetheless, a bent mind
Imagines a novel
Made udystopian,

Blank of all characters—
Say a huge solar flare
Or nuclear warfare

Did just as you’d expect,
But you focused tightly
On, let’s say, a prison,

Deep in the Midwestern
US, some maximum
Security fortress,

Completely dependent,
Of course, on its systems
And global supply chains.

Inside, emergency
Generators held up
A while, but the guards ran

And/or supplies ran out,
And the radiation
Drifted steadily in.

For a brief while, maybe,
Days or weeks, you’d get some
Trapped survivor drama,

But once everyone died,
Most still locked in their cells,
Your novel settled in,

Not searching for stories
Of horror and tension
Where there were revenants,

Just sticking with the prison
Through nuclear winter
As the bodies decayed,

Writing how bugs wandered
Through each widening crack.
Recalling deaths as deaths—

Suffering, horrific
Deaths, as deaths tend to be—
But just deaths. Just the past.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Mot

What you can’t find to read, try to write.
What you can’t write, try to find to read.
If you grow too suspicious, give up

As long as you can stand to give up,
And then let yourself get back at it,
Searching libraries of amassed texts,

And then, by turn, scrutinizing blanks
The way you used to spend afternoons
Carefully built with nothing to do,

Waiting to see whatever emerged.
There is an arrangement of phrases
Somewhere, mother tongue or translated,

That will click into place in your thoughts
Like the clicks of pins against your palm
Tumbling into a whole you can hold.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lathe in the Ribs

When the kindness of feeling
Pretty damn good for a change,
Not too bad for this body,

Slips in, it glides as subtly
As the proverbial knife.
Contentment, like injury,

Apparently, can be swift.
How often do people think
Of their lives as a series,

An oscillating sequence
Of sensing comfort or pain,
Bodily alterations

Naked of storytelling
Or contextualizing
Social data? You felt bad.

You felt good. You felt better.
You felt worse. Who knows why then.
The shifting has its twilights,

Its sunrises and sunsets,
And is as often ignored,
Occasionally fawned over,

As days’ changing of the light.
The sphere of feeling rotates,
Whether or not you notice,

A slightly wobbly spinning
With no character to it,
No plot, no destination,

Other than that, at some point,
It will stop. The pleasant knives
And the painful alike then

Withdrawn. The body won’t feel.
The enculturated self
Won’t notice feeling again.

In the meantime, how is this
Not as important to life
As any rooting interest,

Any planned accomplishment,
Maybe, even, any love?
Like the days and nights themselves,

If not so neatly balanced,
Contentment and pain remain
The ground your figures pace.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Insufficient for the Surplus

The stories aren’t good enough.
A man drives a truck by you
With a message on the back

That reads, Jesus Is Enough.
The stories aren’t good enough,
Not anymore. The best ones

Present small worlds carefully.
The large worlds implode in dust.
The stories aren’t good enough

To cope with everything known,
To hold half of what is known,
Anymore. There’s a hit show

About aliens, a film
About a galactic war,
And many, many, many

More. There are warnings about
What you’re doing to the world
From new religions and old,

Stories about origins
And ends, systems and villains
And villainous systems,

But they don’t begin to hold
Water under scrutiny—
It’s not that they’re bad stories,

It’s that stories can’t carry
The ore. They crumble to dust.
Stories just aren’t good enough.

There’s a woman half in tears,
Smashed groceries at her feet,
The burst sack still in her hand

When you come out of the store.
These stories aren’t good enough
To carry us anymore.

Monday, April 15, 2024

So Like You

It’s not awful, whispered
The skull voice to itself,

As usual, It’s not
Awful, but it’s not that

Good. And a little flame
Like a propane pilot

Blue light flickers in thought
Not quite reaching to voice,

Pleased at first, the pleasure
Of comparison, of

Self-flattery, snuffed out
By the cold follow-thought,

That’s what you’re aiming for?
Better than not that good?

Fire up hot and bothered
When you find one you see

Is both better than good
And awfully like you.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Unholy Stone

A side of cliff calved
A slab of sandstone
That slid like a sled
Downslope and smashed.

The pieces scattered
In a cloud of dust
That settled over
Earlier rockfalls,

Rubble on rubble,
That’s all. A prophet
Picked up a fragment
Of broken sandstone,

The waves of the old
Wind-built dune in it,
And brought it to town
And hammered it down

In irrigated,
Weeded, manicured,
Soft green temple ground
To make a statement

About holiness
And unholiness
And hypocrisy.
Eventually

The prophet’s new faith
Spread, until the stone
Became considered
The true sacred ground,

Although by that time,
No one was certain
Which stone was the one
The prophet put down,

And competing claims
Divided pilgrims
Among holy sites
Scattered around town.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Project

Some say, Every day
We get a little
Closer to the end.

That’s not true. The end
Isn’t out there. No,
The end is behind

Everyone, something
To be imagined
From previous ends.

The body typing
A poem may, to you,
Have previously

Ended. To itself,
No, never. And you,
Your end, no, never.

The end’s not out there.
You extrapolate,
My dear, you project.