Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Market Is Done

How is this not that?
Yes, stupid question,
I know. I know. But,
How? Two weeks ago
I wrote a poem here,

Not actually wrote,
Not with a pencil
A sheaf of foolscap
And a furrowed brow,
But wrote, more or less,

A poem, more or less.
Now I'm here again,
Having gone away
With wife and daughter
To visit in-laws

In the big city,
Contemplate winter,
Celebrate Christmas,
Be in the present,
Open my presents,

Present my presents
To others present.
What the hell was that?
Whatever it was,
It isn't, nor this.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Please Use the Revolving Door

The great hunter, the great spider,
Her starry egg-sac in her thighs,
Climbs in the south of northern skies.

I see her. I know her. I know
She is more real than I can be
And only a figment of me,

Getting close to the end again,
The miracle of calendars,
The brilliant insight, the cycle.

Ragged, imprecise orreries
Spin brass-wheeled table-top marbles
Representing these lurching spheres.

Damn us that we should have to know
That everything both ends and then,
But differently, begins again.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hell's Half Acre

Stories can only lie
So much before we give
Them up for dead and crawl
In other directions,
Locusts leaving bare fields,
Nothing left but locusts

And indigestible
Truth, all that sweet fiction
Chewed down to dirt. We thrive
On story's inherent
Nonsense, the myth of plot,
Beginning, middle, end,

The plot of myths. Oh yes,
We argue over facts,
But we rarely notice
That the whole arrangement
Of plot is fictitious.
Stories lie by being

Stories, framing the world
In ways we know are false
But irresistibly 
Tasty, as close to true
As honey to flowers,
Fruit to soil, soul to brain,

All that we devour, but
None gone too far from truth,
Lies gnawed close to the bone
Where the meat is sweetest,
Enabling us to eat
Our world as narrative.

To refuel on beliefs,
Digest them with deceits.
We love to fool ourselves.
We live to fool ourselves.
We overrun the earth
Because we fool ourselves.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Were one to worship
At any true church
It might be the church
Of brilliant sunlight
On common objects.

More than one painter
Received communion
And enlightenment
From life's still altars:
Plates, chairs, fruit in sun.

It's worth desert heat
Or stinging sea air
To be close to light
That turns surfaces
Almost to angels--

A cracked stucco wall,
A leafless aspen,
Old clothes on a line,
Moss scorched on a roof,
A broken sheep skull,

Revived by that light
Like a soundless voice
With no signs to show,
And no other means
To mean but to glow.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


When my daughter makes a noise,
I try to guess what it means,
And, if it means, if she knows
That it means and what it means.
I catch myself and wonder,
What do I mean, "what it means"?
What sort of thing is meaning?

As if I were first to ask,
As if there were no answers
Instead of way too many:
This sequence of sounds goes with
This or that sequence of things.
Goes with? Associates with?
Indicates? References?

Is there any better term
For the way words mean than "means"?
Never mind words that mean words
Or words for forms of grammar,
For naming "the stuff of thought."
How does a sound, a symbol
Mean, stand for, anything else?

The link must be in the brain,
Chemical, a thing itself,
Though at bottom are no things
Unless we call patterns things,
And we're trapped. What does "thing" mean,
Anyway, if not pattern?
One is tempted to defer

Like a French philosopher
Or poststructuralist critic,
Call the labyrinth a maze
With no way out, supposing
The maze itself is something,
A metaphor with meaning,
Word for word where we began.

Monday, December 26, 2011


A delirium of ghosts and orphans
Dances around my ordinary dreams,
A masquerade I reel through all night long,
A life in which I am even more lost
Than I am by day when it's forgotten.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Merry

It's a large holiday,
Bigger than religion,
International, weird.
It commandeers fortunes.
It requires conviction 
Not to celebrate it.

It evaluates you,
Makes or breaks your business,
Redefines romances,
Loneliness, families,
Sentiments, happiness,
Nostalgia, the weather.

It can measure status,
Ideology, age.
It can track a person
To the ends of the earth,
To hovels and mansions,
Alleyways and atolls.

It's lyrical epic,
Not a fragment of faith
But a mythology
Of itself, accruing
Story upon story,
Rite upon ritual,

Its own ecosystem.
Supposedly, Romans
Used to hold holidays
Half the days of the year.
Maybe they needed them.
We don't. We have Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Known to the Bone

There aren't any mysteries
Only ordinary facts
Obscured by our confusion--
Puzzle answers, misplaced keys,
Exciting when discovered
But not once common knowledge.
Questions thrill us; answers bore.

The sole approximation
To bottomless mystery
Lies near the core of boredom,
Under forever known things
We'll never lose or forget--
That we tire, things move, days end,
And that words, bizarrely, mean.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wood Woes

"Woe unto him that says to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise..."

Let stilted curses in faux Olde English
Work like highbrow poetics in bar brawls.

Let high-brow poets borrowing old words
From lost vernaculars be hanged as dogs.

Let dogs bred out to the edge of wolfdom,
Tame as men, howl wordlessly as poets.

Let every howling thing that goes around
Keep going, as the moon drifts from the earth.

Let the going moon sputter like curses
On this world lacking foul words for dark woods.

Let sleeping woods lie to their roots,
To the last dead leaf's serrated black teeth.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fanfare From a Common Primate

We hate what we make and admire 
What we make, billions of busy
Monkeys yammering our desires,
Displaying until we're dizzy,

Apes in disguise as prizefighters,
Clowns, whatever's expedient,
Fiercely hammering typewriters
To find encyclopedias.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Overcast Suburbs at Noon

Sequoia snuffles in her sleep.
The clouds redouble their efforts
To minimize the light and keep
Everyone under the weather

Between the mountains and salt lake
This greyest midday of the year,
Their opportunity to make
The longest shadows disappear

Along with the most dazzling hopes.
It's nap time. Our heads are woolly
As lint traps, sweaters, winter coats
And Christmas hymns dutifully

Broadcast, caroled, played and replayed
To blanket us in warm feelings
Of peace and goodwill unafraid
Of winter's lowering ceiling.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Less Pain Is Less Life

Weather churns the world's ultimate conceit,
Endlessly changing metaphors for time,

As, for example, this lake-effect fog,
Precipitated by traffic exhaust,

Blankets the city with particulates
That block the sun and crystallize as frost,

Eventually whitening into snow
That prettifies the cold, grey human minds

Shuffling down increasingly slushy streets,
Treacherous at first, then benign again

As sun breaks through the fallen dome of smog,
Ice melts, mists rise and fall again as rain.

Call it all time, stomping crust from our boots
As we enter and exit the cafe,

Complaining to each other, asking when
It will ever be warm again, knowing 

It will be, and we will be, or we'll be
Gone as this damp day that makes our joints ache.

The journey has got to be the reward,
If we never have anything for sure

That we can't lose, except for the weirdness 
Of never having anything for sure

That accompanies every lost moment
Acquired as the thought that now it's lost,

Perpetual sense of transition
Gone only from satori, surgery,

And the even stranger gift of deep sleep,
States lacking sense of eternal passing.

Otherwise it's not, perhaps, very wise
To try to hurry through, skip, or avoid

Even the most inconvenient feelings,
The exhaustion, the boredom, and the pain

Which are the textures sensing living brings,
Sooty winter solstice pangs, fine as spring.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Highly Improbable House

Poetry pretends
A love of rare, important things,
Beauty and truth and lost causes
Chasing each other like kittens,

But one wonders,
Given the housebound, homely lives,
Given the lovely, venal lives
Recorded for the finest poets,

How much of the blearing of minds
By burning midnight oil
Was actually devoted less
To scritching drafts of verses 

And more to mundane wishfulness--
Less to revolutions, lovers without
Mercy, or the mysteries of grace
In a godless, god-soaked world,

More to common, improbable
Fantasies: lots of money, handsome
Houses high up on hills, paid for
And perfect, endless time to kill.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Weirdness of Now

How many goddam haystacks
Did Monet have to paint
Before he got past his obsession
With getting them just right,

So that whatever was needling 
His brain skipped to lilies and sooty 
London bridges and other 
Distortions of the light?

Now is my haystack, 
My field of moments taunting me,
Always with another variation
On the same weirdness I write

Out over and over, and out
On the umpteenth brilliant blue
Morning or navy-blue moonlit night,
I look up and around and know

This, as momentary as moments get,
But the same forever as itself,
Same as other moments were
Themselves themselves, almost

The same as not being themselves
At all, almost nothing 
In and of itself, but all the moment
I can get, who am the same

As now, and as I am now, almost
The same as not being now,
Being now and nothing and not
Myself, not being a self at all.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Epigram for Beethoven's Birthday

If Ludwig van Beethoven
Had lived only in the now
When he couldn't hear a thing,

What great chords would be broken,
What echoes choked underground,
What odes to joy would choirs sing?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Supra Spem Spero

In the weepy, Evening,
A dying woman tells
Her daughter not to be
Scared. "There are no mistakes,"
She says, and we are meant,
It seems, to understand

She has made peace with death,
With regret, with her life
Of feeling regretful,
And perhaps this cruel world
Knows what it is doing
And all turns out all right.

What if the daughter took
Mama's deathbed advice
Perfectly literally,
Even prospectively?
You will never ever
Make one single mistake,

You can't possibly make
A mistake, no matter
How hard you try. "Try not 
To be so scared." You're good,
No matter what happens.
That's a philosophy

Crazy enough to try
On for size. Crazy as
My ancestor's' motto
"I hope beyond all hope."
Why not? Hope against hope
I can't make a mistake,

Even here in the least
Of all possible worlds;
Any decision works.
Random or foreordained,
They'll all add up the same.
How could I know they won't?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To the Greenwood Gone

The people are the forest
Now the rest is dead and gone.
The middle world is quiet,
Murmuring trees without beasts,
With barely any birdsong.
The invisible still seethes,
But the trees sense only trees.

Woods have never been richer,
Thicker, more light-devouring,
Billions seeding billions more,
Metaphor on metaphor,
Condensing a twilight world
Grown dreary, leafy, hidden,
So confusing, so confused.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Noneness of Oneness

Supposedly, Salinger
Had a keen interest in Zen
And maybe Advaita
Vedanta Hinduism.
No wonder he stopped writing.
When you're one with the noneness,
Nothing's what left to express.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Child's Praise of Doggerel

"three quarks for muster mark!"

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
My parents made rhymes that played on my name,
In lieu of lullabies, so I could enjoy
The tiny boy's sense of adoration and fame
That mother's and father's attention gives
When he is the only named child in the world
And everything he believes is his is his.

Every night, some chanted nonsense rhymes unfurled
Banners for an army of silly phrases,
Strung out in raggedly parallel syntax,
Narrative formations stumbling in places,
Luring me to sleep in dimly planned attacks....

On a lark
We saw Mark
In the park 
After dark
Building his ark
From pine-straw and bark
To protect us from sharks
But just then a spark
Lit up his ark
So Mark
Who was smart
Right away disembarked
From his ark full of sparks
And he made the remark
That bark
Was for larks
Who live in the park
And sleep in the dark
And not for bark arks
Hammered by Mark
In the park 
After dark
When there's always a nice fire
Giving off sparks
A lot more sparks than sharks...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spontaneous Monkey

It's boring to always play
The pensive, symbolic ape,
Head hanging and mouth agape,
Tracking down scampering prey,
Small thoughts in mental landscapes
Who know the thrill's to escape
To chatter another day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Birthday

Three hundred and sixty six days ago,
We'd been sleeping in snatches between contractions
For three consecutive nights already.

Our midwife was growing increasingly restive
About a well past-term delivery
An hour through mountains and snow to a hospital.

So we gave in, loaded the truck and went
Away from our nest, down to the damn hospital 
Timing each interval along the way,

Barely looking out at the Silvery Slocan
As we rounded Cape Horn under the Lid,
Skies like cold blankets soaked in Slocan's black water,

Narrow Route 6 walled by old snow and pines,
Winter-dark farms trailing woodsmoke, towns of few lights,
All the landmarks we loved in summer, dimmed.

We reached downtown Nelson under a light noon rain,
Pulled into the hospital parking lot
And jockeyed for a spot, not being urgent yet.

We had an appointment for a stress test,
But we weren't Canadians and had no health cards.
Our own crappy insurance meant nothing,

And before we could check in for the test,
We were separated, one doing paperwork,
Making various guarantees to pay,

Via credit cards and blood oaths, all coming bills,
While the other was stranded in a hall
Being torn up for renovations, unheated,

In labor on a plastic chair, alone.
By the time we were reunited and upstairs
Things were too far along to go back north.

The home-birth in the cabin by the lake was out.
We made peace with the little hospital,
Dowdy, underfunded, expensive, but friendly,

Kind to anxious first-time parents on edge
And in pain. They settled us in a soft-lit room
Down a hall where loud screams would be okay.

They took the usual measurements, ultrasound,
Signatures, due note of our birth requests--
No painkillers, minimal monitoring, time,

Especially time. And then the push
Began in earnest, hour after hour after hour,
Each featuring its own turn of events,

Our doula arrived, then departed to get soup.
The soup was tasty and soothing until
During one contraction it came back up and out.

The dim day turned into a foggy night
By the middle of the afternoon, and the room
Was shuttered, the lamps and machines muted.

The nurses changed shifts, the midwife and doula stayed,
The one quiet except for instructions,
The other encouraging, crooning, holding tight.

The scene shifted from bed to birthing tub.
A calmer, chanting, almost tranquil phase began.
For a few hours it was almost blissful.

We joked, we sang, we said sweet and endearing things,
Between the contractions and the pushing,
And we thought you would emerge soon, but you didn't.

The midwife was concerned things had plateaued.
Around late mid-evening the tub was abandoned.
Now we paced the room between contractions.

The pain lost its mystic, spiritual distance
And became a beast with teeth and hot breath
Capable of ripping out howls, curses, and real screams.

The nurses changed shifts again. The date changed.
The doula comforted us. The midwife took notes
And shook her head, pursed her lips, and advised

One more hard push, and if the water didn't break,
She would open the amniotic sac
To free you for the hard swim toward your own life.

And then the scene returned to bed for good.
The next four hours knotted themselves into a rose
Of blood, pain, deep-throated howls from shared throats

Mother, father, doula head to head together,
Midwife at the foot of the bed, by turns
Looking pleased, concerned or bored, nurses here and there,

The fetal heartbeat monitor our guide,
Our steady beacon through the small hours of the night,
Your confident reassurance to us

That you were still there, you were all right, you were calm,
Even as you and your mother entered,
Father following, the heart of the labyrinth

From which we must emerge transformed, as three,
When at last a wiser nurse suggested a change
In the rhythm of breathing and pushing

And finally, just after four in the morning,
From the wet coil of exhaustion and pain
You began to rotate your way out to the world.

In the necessary gush of dark blood,
After all those days and nights and hours you arrived
In a rush so quick you were hard to catch.

You glistened in the red dark, your eyes wide open,
And we placed you on your mother's soft breast. 
We were glad, spent, and stunned. And you were here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Something Weird Happened"

You, yes, you
Wake me up
At midnight

Crying out
"Something weird
Happened!" then

Falling back
Into sleep
Leaving me

To wonder
If I missed
Something weird

And the world
No longer
Is the same

And if so
What's different
Now what's wrong?

Then one night
One week on

You do it
Once again,
Waking up

To call out
"Something weird
Has happened!"

Now I think
It must have.
It must. What?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Extra Wise and Far Away

Lady of the wilderness, wife of nomads,
Queen of the desert and scribe of hell, read me 
That bit again about the forest's revenge,

The part you left out of those other stories
Of intemperate gods, lusty goddesses,
Homo affectionate kings and wild men tamed,

You know, in between where the dreams go missing
And where the surviving king screws up his quest
To find the secret to living forever.

How is it the cedars let us cut them down,
Even without gods or demons to guard them?
What secret rarer than life could they save?

I know there must be a tablet left somewhere
Among the kings' crowns piled in the House of Dust
Where you recorded some wisdom cut trees kept

And will keep until the time comes when deserts
And wastes, dominions of scribe and sepulcher,
Have covered the world and been covered themselves.

Then lost, long-buried seeds will stir that waited,
Like the dinosaurs' feathers and mammals' teeth
To make possible the next order of things

For the ageless metaphor, Atrahasis,
God-tricker, shell-builder, code-carrier, life,
To set loose from fresh mountaintops far away.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Too Far from Music, Too Far from Dance

"Music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance...."

Somewhere inside a cold day
Under the big, cold mountains
Professors gather to debate
The world going on without them,

And successfully, strenuously
Reach no actionable conclusion,
But to anxiously, contentiously
Frame their own debate as delusion 

And adjourn for the rest of the year
Amid laughter, consolations, tension
And the usual professorial fears
Mixed of desolation and self-deprecation.

Returning to classes, offices, homes,
They carry out internal revisions
Of the one common human poem,
The verse of eternal decision 

That writhes in the coiled neocortex
Reversing, turning, counter-turning,
Never to rest or stand. At her desk,
The dance professor sits, relearning

Where her agile body fits her mind.
In the stairwell the psychologist
Whistles an effortful, grunting rhyme
As he ascends and gravity resists,

While the elderly archaeologist
Quarrels with a memory 
Written on one wrist
In spidery ball-point summary

Detailing something insightful
About the origin of sin
In the Pleistocene symbols
From which all nonsense stems.

The mountains grow dark.
The campus, muttering, splatters light
In a broken, moon-shaped arc
Around the drowning lake of night.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Night Dreaming Dawn on the Colorado

Day breaks creation
Over and over again

And the wreckage of all
Days' creation becomes 

The landscape it litters
With us and litters

Us with, and us, 
The ones who keep

Shifting and recollecting this
Rubble in hopes of filling

A box we have labeled
"That Which Is Both

Beautiful and True," although
We feel small and disappointed

When we notice the box is not 
Filling, remains empty, mostly,

And tempts us to include
The most abundantly beautiful

But false, or more rarely,
In fits of pique and defiance,

The unbeautiful, to our minds,
But thumpingly true, because

In being so wonderfully
Wrong and persistent we are

Pure, typical parts of this world
Ever striving to improve,

In more hunger and crumbling
Destruction, creation.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Flee, Muse

The ghost that rattles 
At the bottom of the well
And cries out to me all night

Has escaped.
All I have now is a fading wail
Across an unwalled world.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Agency, Choice, & Concentration

"Read words on large billboards.
Drive a car on an empty road.
Find a strong move in chess
(If you are a chess master). . . .

All these mental events
Belong with the angry woman--"
Experience tells us. And why is it 
We mock the experienced drunk,

For, precisely, the fact
Of experience, when
We would never so mock
The experienced triathlete,

Or mathematician,
Or lover, or poet,
Or tenured academic philosopher,
Even given we know nothing

About the self-gratification
And self-sacrifice in teetering,
Roller-coastering imbalances
Any of these experiences take?

But I'm far now from system
One, automaton, and doing 
A poor job impersonating
System two, The Thinker.

Start again, and this time
From monastic sobriety,
That state, which is to awareness
What organic labels are to produce:

I am not learning. I know.
And by that misfortune I learn, 
To my regret, where it is that I, 
Like  you, like us all, in going, go.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Wonderful Things Mr. Brown Can Do

Damned weird sometimes to still be here,
At least as far as here is here

Still, when it's always somewhere else,
And I'm always somebody else,

At sunset, between house and porch,
Spying on the birds on the porch,

Fond black-headed juncos that stuff
Themselves on scattered seeds and stuff,

Overhearing Sarah reading
To Sequoia, also reading,

That is, by turning the pages,
As I've been turning for ages.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Music of Themselves

You have to get near the water
Running freely in its own bed
Deep into twilight promising
A dark, starlit, inhuman night
You'll never get out of your head

If you want to hear them clearly,
If you want to believe they're there,
Themselves, not stories about them.
Let the wind die down around you.
Let the last whispers comb your hair.

This world is not for living things.
However rapaciously life
Craves and consumes it, in the end
Stars, rocks, and water are immune,
While bloodied life eats bloodied life,

And you are among the living
And can never belong, not quite,
To leisurely infinity.
You howl, and coyotes howl back,
Organized predators at night.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Genes, Words, Us

The evolution of life
Cannot be comprehended
By change in gene frequencies.
Life is not that meaningful.
If the measure of success 
Were truly taken by genes,
Life would be data, unhusked.

Genes encode meanings, themselves
Inert and too unselfish
To be the source for so much
Unbridled motivation,
The relentless hungering
To keep going and going
And going that defines life.

Because genes are meaningful,
We like them. We decode them,
Enjoy their cryptography,
Order them, count them, name them,
Chart evolution by them,
Measure life's incremental
Degrees of separation

Mutation by mutation,
And working backwards believe
That, mutatis mutandis,
We can arrive at the source
Commands of all living things,
Perhaps to reorder them
More to taste, lively prospect.

There's little doubt we'll manage
To do some clever damage,
And in so doing we'll be
Executing one more turn
In the spiral of desire
Through carbon and oxygen,
Data and catalysis

That shows no sign of ending,
Inventing death and meaning,
Sex, war, and altruism,
Ruthlessness and compassion,
Waste, consumption, and science,
Means to more means without end,
That which keeps going going.

Products of life, we value
Life for its products, but life
Roars through its products as fire
Roars through the bonds of atoms,
Fire in reverse, making more
And more of what it consumes:
Genes, words, us--these bonds life's fire makes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Commencement Advice for Another Lost Piece of the Puzzle

Go get 'em, kid. It's a big mess,
A big pile of look-alike shapes,
And it's hard to notice one gone,
But at least you know you're unique.

Hang on to that. It's your best bet.
You don't need to reshape yourself,
And you'd never fit anyway.
Trust old Polonius this once.

Know yourself, be true to yourself, 
And accept that being yourself
Is limiting, won't always work,
Won't always land you where you'd like,

And can't possibly allow you
To be both on the cutting edge
And at home in the mystery
That hides the pattern of the whole.

Oh, and one last thought. The puzzle
Has nothing to do with pieces.
We disappear on completion,
Nothing lost, nothing left over.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

House of Bastet

Every day, even the dullest,
Drags its own terrors and rewards
Desultorily as a cat
Deposits prey on the doorstep,

And like a cat, predictably,
Maintains its bit of mystery,
Its scrawny bit of dignity,
That habitual secrecy

Native to the predators' world,
Of which we are either a part
Imagining we stand apart,
Or rats time tosses until bored.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thought Turns off the World

The adoring corpse, snoring now and then,
Turns over, dreaming of daylight, thinking,

It's easier to be here, sun shining
On the dry grass, rocks, rooftops, and red sand,

Or to construct a story for myself
Reconnecting the stepping-stone dots here,

Or to lay my story down in the sand
Alongside other, more famous stories

And spend the afternoon comparing them
As if life were choosing stories to wear,

Or to fantasize more boring stories
In which everything is always the same

Because everything goes exactly as I want,
And what I want remains mostly the same,

Than it is to struggle to understand
How I, a part of a body, passing

Through the scene more swiftly than scenery
(Sun and so forth) that I note in passing,

Could make this dream, could dream this universe.
Why would I make what cannot care for me?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Things Change Prayer

Things don't change. Things aren't things to begin with. 
A thing just a thing would be like a day 
Without pain, a fragment of bone worn smooth
By rivers of words flash-flooding from clouds
Through permanent shapes and firm intentions:
In short, an idea, a philosophy,
And not at all just, in itself, a thing.

Humans have no things. Humans know no things.
What we know and have are philosophies
Of things (and, occasionally, poetry).
No matter what our station, each of us
Holds some philosophy, plus the desire
To share it with others like us, proudly,
As if desire ever changed anything.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It Goes By Itself

No shortage of mule deer, cops, or tourists
Around Moab this holiday weekend,

Despite three or four years of gloominess,
Far horizons churning with flashing storms,

All the usual bellwethers tolling
The decline and fall of America,

The world as we know it, markets, climate,
Civilization, the human species.

Ah, apocalypse, our favorite romance.
Well, perhaps. Pass the beer and leftovers.

The world has ended so many times now,
A prophet hardly knows where to begin.

This inland desert corner of the Earth
Holds its share of fragmentary remains:

Canyon ruins, cliff dwellings, granaries,
Enough to prove human systems can fail.

The world as we know it ended before
We knew it. The world as we don't know it

Remains immune to knowing, immortal.
There never was an empire that was ours.

Friday, November 25, 2011


With all the cheap technology
For storing and playing music
In brain-deceiving perfection,

I crave the sound of radio,
A broadcast playing late at night,
Something classical, through the hiss

That gives the composition depth
The composer never meant to,
A reminder of the distance

That notations, mass-printed sheets,
And the decades of recordings,
Remasterings, digitizings

Joined forces to annihilate
And failed, leaving more emptiness 
Than solace between song and us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Crate Full of Mysteries

Who knows the dark trick that turns the crying of night,
The howl in the storm, sad sounds sighed in bed, 
Too grim to enjoy, into hard, sweet love
Dark cannot destroy must be a poet,

If not quite satanic, not quite a witch,
An engraver confusing blood for ink
And sharp-edged confession for precision
At least. That's what I used to think when young

And squirming to become such a pilgrim,
Not realizing prepositions redeem
More truth than propositions, dangerous
To forget when training to be a liar.

Words turn into other worlds inside things,
The details of which remain mysteries.
Worming inside a crate of poems I saw
That the lost years were good, the found better,

A gift within a gift within a box
Within a pile of forgotten papers
In an office within a library
Housed inside a glass-and-brick cube that stands

At the foot of a university
Within a sprawling suburbopolis
On the slope of a foothill just over
A long, flat lake just under the mountains

White with ice, sharp as knives slicing a sky
Grown feathery soft and thickened with smog
From pilgrimage, for which I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

For Whom It Is Intended

"Good writing communicates the writer's ideas effectively to the audience for whom it is intended."

Know your audience. Understand
What moves them, what makes them bristle
What persuades them something is true,
What makes them charge into battle.

Know their cultural references.
Get into their heads. Deprive them
Of ways to evade your logic.
Counter counterclaims. Deride them.

Rob them of anonymity.
Rummage through their secret desires.
Pick apart their anxieties.
Expose their heroes as liars.

Burrow under their conscious lives.
What fears lurk in suburban thoughts
Of dark forests and falling nights
Where dreams are what the wolves have caught

And torn into visceral shreds,
Expiring in silver moonlight
With no audience at all except
The hungry predators' delight

At not having to starve just yet?
Get all the way down there, writer,
Deep in the root, pith, and brainstem,
The urges for freeze, fight, or flight,

You ghoulish, dream-snatching, stalking,
Leering, puppeteer of the heart.
You're alone in the dark, talking
To yourself, alone, in the dark.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two AM Chinese Liver Cleanse

I have a friend who drinks a little bit,
Maybe a little too often too much,
That is, if you think that the point of life

Is to extend the time that you survive
And minimize your opportunities
For being, to human society,

What a burning fragment of cosmic dust,
Self-consumed in the local atmosphere,
Is to the spiralled backbone of the night,

A silent squib of light caught by rare eyes.
He tells my wife, as she tells me, that he
Wards off the early death that snatched his friend, 

Another captive fiend of fire-water,
Water of life, whatever name you like,
By purifying his abused liver,

Organ of redemption and suffering,
With some obscure, Asian method he knows
That rules waking in the wee hours of night.

Okay. That last part, the night part, I know,
As well as I know ancient, highland malts.
But in my case I wake up around two

Not to save my liver, ungrateful wretch
Of cells the same as blood, heart, eyes, and brain,
But to save my amortal, fictive soul,

Fool of awareness, nothing, and wee hours'
Startled, sudden, waking-from-dreams insight
That we humans are all drunks, all addicts

Falling from flash-flooded rivers of life
Through the constricted slot-canyons of death,
Narrow tropes for all constrained pieties 

Or poetry, or philosophy, or
Any of the named academic fields
Of delirium where sober bores doze.

I wake up around the time that my clock
Calls the darkest hour of the night to write
I am, I am here, but I need cleansing.

Monday, November 21, 2011


"Love Less Ash" reads a shop sign
Visible from the highway
Slightly south of Price, Utah.
Whatever this means is just
A matter of perspective:
Who you were when you glimpsed it,
How you traveled, what you knew,

Whether or not you liked puns,
Whether you liked words at all,
Or ashes, or irony,
Or omens, or mining towns,
Or the Loveless family
Whose kids you went to school with,
Whose Dad once caught you smoking.

It gets darker as you drive,
At least from the perspective
Of earth that spins more slowly,
Which you know, but don't notice.
Above the highway, the stars
And a couple of planets
Offer their appearances

That look like constellations,
Rotating over your head.
The names of constellations
Are as silly as shop signs,
Conventional as pronouns
Preferred by lyric poets,
As real as your given name.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tabby Random

Nothing gets better. It circles itself,
Like a dozing housecat on the sofa,
Imagined by its befuddled owner
As wise, as imagining the sublime,
Although the owner knows, tranquil as cats can be,
That no cat is ever, actually, wise.
The owner, cat, and circle are complete.

Riddle me why coincidence is mere
Whereas meaning and purpose are profound,
And I will be the cat on your sofa,
Utterly dependent, seeming aloof,
Curling my thoughts in one perfect circle
Of sublime, snoozing wisely all the time.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Field

Can confuse itself with the corn,
With the barley, the beets, the wheat,
The grey scarecrow, tattered and torn,
Propped for the sake of convention,
With no hope of scaring the crows,
Rustling in every bit of wind
Through the remnants of others' clothes,
Lisping straw-filled hints and whispers
Of wisdom a field cannot own,
Being an area, barely,
Where more things grow unknown than sown.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain

Mnemonic solecisms work fine
If one really wishes to risk recalling
How music was forced to fit fire.

Horizontal bands of sunlight
Hundreds of humans high
Stripe the mountainsides,

But the weird red helicopter still hovers
In the gaps of the half-dappled sky,
And the mule at the roadside barbed-wire

Stays head down in brown grass
As the gravel trucks go by.
It's a trap to remember just why.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Human Communication

"Everyone knows the rules,
And no one gives a shit,"
Remarks a Navy Seal
I know who's Buddhist now,
Eats donuts for breakfast,
Burns incense at his desk.

We're chatting about pain,
After someone else joked
In an elevator
That pain is never good
Except after feeling
No sensation at all.

"They told me it was good
When I was bleeding out.
It meant I wasn't dead.
But I didn't buy it."
No, me neither. Better
To feel good and be dead.

Not that that's possible,
We suppose, but morphine
By the bucket comes close.
"When we know they're dying,
And they know they're dying,
Screw the rules. Go in peace."

Frosted donuts in hand
He heads to his office,
Returns with a present
For me to share with him,
Rich, bitter dark chocolate
He eats with his donuts.

I try a couple bites,
Shuffle to my own desk,
Rearrange books and files,
Read news, Tomasello,
Meet students. It's Wednesday.
My bones ache. I'm alive.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The ghosts of ghosts float around me
Wearing their old animal masks,
Dreams stuck to scraps of personas
Where otherwise faces would be:

Fox and coyote, elk and crow,
Raven and mouse and confusion,
Wavering, boskish contortions,
The things that are but never know.

The deities requiring trance
And sickness to come in glimpses
Are not harmless apparitions,
Are feral thoughts that, broken, dance

At night on the grave of the day,
At dawn in the dead coals of fires,
At noon sprawling drunk in green shade,
At sunset as time slips away,

Little skittering souls that hop
And plot in the wake of minds passing,
True poems, neither human nor beast,
Showing stories don't end. They stop.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Conversations That Will Never Happen

Dominate my dim imagination.
Bland inanities, half-clever wrappings
Ornament long-winded explanations,
In which I win by virtue of vices,
Ripostes and bon mots, wisecracks and comebacks,
All the tired rhetorical devices,
Uninterrupted catchphrases, thumb-tacked
Neocortical cork-board announcements,
Cartoons of unlikely interactions,
Caricatured opponents, arrant nonsense,
Hazy daydreamed hindsight satisfactions.
Aloud I say nothing. The sky, dove-grey,
Comes down for crumbs. I have nothing to say.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Diamond-Based Life Form

Pencils and charcoal
And it will be worse,
Maybe not before
It gets better, but
Nonetheless, unless

This moment includes
Actual torture
From inquisitors,
Addiction, plague, or
Cancer, as you please,

To the point of death,
Abstract dimension
Acutest at its angle
Of apparition,
Of which I can't speak

And shouldn't compose,
Knowing no better
Than compound fractures
And post-op green rooms
What surviving death

Might demand of me
Before the end, no
Worse than dark carbon
Pentagrams demand.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Poet in a Bottle

Watch him molt, every day crawling
From successive skins shed as husks,
Isinglass exoskeletons,
Colorless and dry to the touch.

Oh look, he seems to be struggling
With yesterday's skin. There's some left,
An itching, irritating scrap
He just wants to get off his chest.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Baby Rocks and Ditty Bops

"Sometimes I want to shoot irony
In the face," Sarah said around dawn
Yesterday after alternating
Nights when the baby slept but not her
With nights when the baby screamed us up
In that relentless unhappiness
Of no clear cause that infants love to share.
"That's good," I told her, "that's really good.
Can I use it?" Oh, the irony,

Poor faceless mug, like Death come for Scrooge
On the day he wins the lottery.
"Oh, well. This will be awkward," quoth Death.
Only modernists loved irony,
Really loved him, made him a member
Of the inscrutably cool kids' club,
One of the Brothers Minor, gave him
A sort of a personality,
Almost, but not quite, a real boy's face,

But he keeps cropping up, the bastard,
Homicidal maniac impaled
On his own prop sword, as for instance
Friday, calendrical oddity,
Binary frippery, Eleven
Eleven Eleven, oh holy
Mother of invention, why the need
To imagine a Gregorian
Coincidence numerology?

There is nothing special in a date
Except we make it so. Our charming
Friends, no worse than Web or TV news,
Had told us to do something magic,
Had spent years orchestrating parties,
Writing grants to subsidize this day
Had discussed, philosophized, and craved
One numerical affirmation
In stoner chit-chat and yoga class.

And we smiled. What could we find special
In a random, arbitrary date?
We decamped from a motel at dawn
And, on a whim, took dim advantage
Of a dark and somber desert day
To use Arizona for Utah
And climb up Zion National Park
The just-slightly-less-traveled-by way.
In medias res we turned the Page.

Oh, and it was almost exactly
11:11 on the dot
When we pulled the car off on a crest
Beside the highway, overlooking
The great, steam-belching power-station
Churning from the Navajo Nation
(Viva Ozymandias!), and danced,
Drunk on cold, grey wind, celebrating
Our silly human power over years,

And talking about what we'd just seen
Pass on our insignificant drive,
Infant at last asleep in her seat,
The backlot of Monument Valley,
Peculiar geographic features,
An outcrop sign-posted "Baby Rocks,"
Ship-shaped rocks that were not the Ship Rock,
While listening to the Ditty Bops
Harmonize charmed loss. "The writing's done."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Well Being

As such, is not the subject,
Nor the great vision nor goal
Of any big religion

That I, the heretic, know.
Therefore I apostrophize
This gorgeous apostasy,

Piquant, epicurean,
Sensuous, ethereal,
Simple sense of contentment.

It's no cause for conversion.
No one needs to be convinced.
All aching humans desire

To feel desire for nothing.
We want to not be in want
And only mock what we want

When we dread we can't have it,
This not wanting anything,
This moment beside the fire,

The right music chiming
In the closest of quiets,
A moon overhead, somewhere,

Shining in the pureness
Of effortless reflection,
Deep, shimmering, well, being.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Money Is a Kind of Poetry"

Money is the least of it.
Everything is poetry.
There's no buying out of it.

This window is poetry,
As is the electric sign
Of the restaurant franchise

That glows all night long, above
Poetry's eight-lane highway,
Under repair the whole year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Too Fast for Me

Can we get fresh hypotheses,
Possibly falsifiable,
That could humble the big questions
By revealing their origins
In trivial conversations?

Let's say language itself evolved
First to talk about the weather.
A guy walks up to me today
And asks me to concur it's cold.
Without this wisdom he's speechless.

I play along, as usual.
Encouraged, his wisdom deepens.
"They say Utah has four seasons,
But two of them don't last a week."
He chuckles, strolling beside me,

Convivial now, a colleague,
A professor, a PhD.
I nod, but look at the mountains,
Where winter's already turned white,
And think how spring climbs the canyons,

Spreading up from the lake's wetlands
To the soft, alluvial hills,
Weeks later reaching the south face
Of each of the mountains' kneecaps,
Before its tendrils climb their falls,

The whole process taking four months,
Ending in July's alpine blooms,
And then how it all reverses,
The long mountain autumn slipping
Month by month to the valley's feet.

I decide to add my wisdom,
Blurting out the observation,
"Well, but it's a different season
That ends up being the shortest,
Every given elevation."

He stops walking to look at me.
Perhaps he's evaluating
My face for signs of Asberger's.
Finally, he shrugs. "All I know
Is, it gets cold too fast for me."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


A world is a word,
A short metaphor,
A painted brass ball
Meant to represent
Nearly everything,

On a brass lever
Sprung from concealed gears
Describing cycles,
A minor device
For table-top thought

Built to entertain
High-born bit players
In low, bitter wars,
Fighters for title,
God, and privilege

Whose title survives
As a name for small
Machines meant to spin
Concentric systems
As if they were worlds,

Pure worlds and not words,
Without spheres or gears,
But sudden and rough
As spots where creeks cut
Years' notches in rocks.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Thoughts are starlings, numerous and common,
Invasive, drab, undifferentiated,
Cumulative as a poem's adjectives,

Selfish as a city's inhabitants,
All-consuming as cannibal locusts,
Noisome as a relentless telethon,

Dark as galactic clouds with black-hole eyes,
Useful as a pestilence at harvest,
A plague in a mob, a mob in a tent,

A tent in a rain of guided missiles,
Guided missiles in a lunar vacuum,
A lunar vacuum in a starling cloud.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oneiric Outlaw

With which would you prefer to live,
The image or the abstraction?

The freight train stuck dead in the snow
Of Emptiness, Utah, that night

Or the observation that this
Is not now, is not this, is done?

You could read the journals for hints
About what else to write, believe,

Listen to knowingly, and nod.
Or you could pull over for lights

Swirling in your rear view mirror,
Make a mad dash across the snow,

And disappear into the train,
That starts up again, leaving you,

Miserable, waiting arrest,
With stars and snow to comfort you,

Singing twelve-bar blues, "This is not
Now, is not this, is done. Yeh, this

Is not now, is not this, is done.
Midnight, cold stars, each one a sun."

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Middle Story

What's going on in there?
Everyone's rummaging
The prefrontal cortex.
The room where the kids play
Erupts in strange noises
And a couple of screams.

The eyes over dinner,
The eyes in the mirror
Go dark and blank at once,
The way water closes over
Whatever's too heavy,
The thick, capacious look.

Mysteries are being
Put together, starting
With a corpse. Histories
Are being taken down
That will stomach our end,
Starting from that dark horse.

Friday, November 4, 2011


"Working on the fly, it furiously reconstructs not only what happened but why"

Can we spare a kind thought
For the interpreter,
The confabulator,
The host of the machine
Who weaves a sense of self
From odds and ends of brain?

So much grief we squander,
Calling our selves liars,
Which they are and must be
For us to imagine
We are things that exist,
When we're stories, not things,

Stories about being
Things truer than stories,
And, yes, it's frustrating
To be what we aren't, but
That a fairy tale tells
A good lie is good truth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Souls' Aftermath

I, whatever that means,
Had a nasty nightmare
About a poem of mine,
Of all things, around three,
The worst of the wee hours,
Dark to mineralized bone,

In which I was scolded
By a bizarre creature,
Part me, part my father,
Part fossil hominin,
Big-toothed, small-skulled, pissed-off,
Beer-consuming biped,

Who gave me a lecture
In Queens Borough English,
On how I made no sense.
I wrote down every word,
Then turned over in bed,
But some thing still dreams me.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And You Know It

Something simple, damn it,
You know, in plain English,
So I can tell what it means
Without scratching my head.

Like, for instance, you say,
Nothing is as slippery
As the idea of "probably."
Ok, so, now tell me why.

Don't go off on some tangent
About saints and snowflakes and lakes
With green waves or whatever.
Tell me what you meant.

Why is "probably" trickier
Than, you know, love or truth
Or some other poetry word?
I mean, I was interested,

You sort of had me,
And then you lost me,
And I kind of feel like it was deliberate,
Like you didn't know how to explain yourself

But you couldn't admit it,
So you covered it up by sounding poetic,
And that's why people don't like poetry
Because it feels like it's just snooty words

And bs, sometimes--
Most of the time, to tell the truth-
You know, just nothing, just faking it,
When it probably won't mean anything, really.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


No concept so elusive
As probably. Every breath
At the edge of this lake of saints
Raised up for generations
To believe the end is near
Is probably not my last.
Probably I will forget

This crushed air, this atmosphere,
This deeply moving cloud bank
Confusing snowflakes with waves
Down uncertain surfaces,
Corrugated green copper
Water roofing shallows
Where probably something lives.

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows' Veils

A poem goes as a newborn
An old man goes as a young mother

A sunrise goes as a tangerine
A breakfast goes as a fruit dish

Affection goes as a brace of doting grandparents
A bittersweet recollection goes as a scenic commute

A silence goes as a self-startled ghost
Noises go as a scholar's marginalia

Cottonwoods go as last week's bouquets of dried sunflowers
Fields go as unmade beds

Mountains go as reclining nudes
Clouds go as ballroom dancers

Time goes as space
Mind goes as a couturier

Sporting a cumbersome tricornered hat
Suspiciously like a blue sky

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Slow Ghost at Daybreak

The room moves
From almost lightless
Almost silent

To a distant,
Mourning-dove grey,

An unnoticeable light
That spreads into the bed,
The empty corners,

The soft snoring
Of mother and daughter
Wedged together

At the edge of something
That never is without,
Turning around within

Itself. Neither anything
Still, nor nothing not
Still, the room moves.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pinhook Burn

Get me out of here, I'm fond
Of repeating to myself,
Although I don't want to get
Away from anywhere but me.

Sequoia's in her car seat
Because she needs a long nap.
We head into the mountains
Where new snow's already old,

And orange autumn hunters
Draw beads from slush-banked roadsides
On rumors of trophy elk,
Bracing rifles in the wind.

I imagine the best elk
Can't resist posing grandly
As the circle of hunters
Closes ranks excitedly.

Every dumb prey animal
Dreams of daring transcendence.
Every escape artist dreams
Of being more tightly bound,

Too many locks without keys,
One more miracle release
From the prison of being
An escapee every time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Fine Mundanity

The Colorado River's running red.
Thick ochre ichor clots its canyon bed.

Long sticky lines start running red.
Thick diction clogs a cracking head.

I take back what I said.
Say something else instead.

Day ends and pops back up again, undone
By cliffs still playing footsie with the sun.

I do my work. It comes undone.
I watch my daughter. Have some fun.

I take back what I've done.
There is no one in won.

Everything sociable gathers below:
Shadows, scribbles, in-laws, murders of crows.

The local pond's been drained so low,
Bellowing cattle come to blows.

I take back what I know.
Earth's the star of this show.

I'm overfed
On doubt and bread,

And what I've done
Can't be undone.

Sun set below
Dirt will not grow.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Man with a Talking Problem

~for Scott Abbott
"Opinions were like kittens.
I was giving them away."

I knew a professor grown tired
Of profession who said, "The more
I profess, the further I get
From knowing what I'm professing.

Humans are beasts who secrete
This horrible, sticky substance
We like to call conversation,
Earth's nastiest ecosystem.

I explain myself to students
Who excuse themselves to me,
Then excuse myself to colleagues
Explaining their complaints to me.

No matter what excuse I make,
They make, you make, anyone makes,
It all adds up to more talking,
More lies, more severe, more sincere,

And this is true when we're silent
As well, when we read, when we write,
When we engage in productive
And scholarly activities

That form further conversations
About the nature of ourselves,
The world, the origins of talk,
Gods' endless apocalypti,

Particles exceeding the speed
Of rules we built to contain them,
Cryptographies, intentional
Or unforeseen, which we worry

For meanings we know they're hiding,
Like cats worrying catnip mice,
Until we're too proud and too bored
With the tatters of our efforts

And become strange and reclusive
By turns, and by turns even more
Loudly, bombastically verbose,
Trapdoor professors who burst out

Of rooms and meetings and hallways
To pounce on hapless passers-by
And harangue them with opinions
As I am haranguing you now,

Despite every voice in my head
(And there are wonderfully many,
Most of them rather unpleasant,
As are, I'm sure, a few of yours)

Begging me to cease and desist,
Reminding me I can only
Make matters worse or, worser, worst,
Me! The last teacher who should talk,

Catfish, hermit, antisocial
Social scientist, telling you
About too much talking, when I
Can't make myself available

For listening to anyone.
I study people, for their sake!
What kind of an ethnographer
Never keeps an open office?

Something must be terribly wrong
With any anthropologist
Who closes the door on colleagues
But wants a window on the sky.

No,  it's not just me and teachers.
Watch how administrators talk,
Mostly ex-professors, lawyers,
Or political appointees,

A few actual CEOs:
They sweep clouds of scat past their tracks
For a few years at each college,
Then they're gone to the next victim,

Leaving just enough of a wreck
For an heir to pretend to fix.
They play the world's easiest game
Of musical chairs, where no chairs

Are ever removed from the game,
Only occasional players.
Well, you know what I mean.
I'm old, or I feel old enough,

That I'm nothing more than dead wood,
A twisted, dried-out talking stick.
If I don't do something useful soon,
And by that I don't mean useful

To this school that will forget me
The moment I'm wheeled out the door,
I'm going to die without leaving
Any legacy to speak of.

I'm talking about cultural
Menopause here, pardon the term.
I'm talking about it instead
Of doing what I'd like to do,

Which would be nothing much at all,
Maybe a long walk at sunset
With no nagging mental chatter
About books, colleagues, or career.

You get me? Years I've lost talking,
And in the middle of all this
Talking, talking, talking, talking,
I realized, I can't feel my life."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No Pictures

The road was open. That was all
I needed to know to believe
In whatever it was lay ahead.

The aspen groves, last month's gold-robed
Angels, had been reduced to ghosts
Like all ghosts, living as though dead.

The soft skies were promising snow,
But glittering, sunny winter
Hadn't descended on skis yet.

Another one of those moments--
Closing tunnels between seasons,
Apertures anxiety threads,

Chasms to fly one kite across
In hopes of bridging metaphors
That carve chaotic, rocky beds--

That in-between nothing of now,
Darker than could be or has been,
Kept playing possum in my head:

"In my end is my beginning.
In my beginning is my end,"
Fall mountains, calm as clouds, as dread,

Were closing in to convince me
My twisted, scenic, looping way
Was about to be barred. Instead,

The road was open. That was all
I needed to know to believe
In whatever it was lay ahead.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wakey Wakey

The body that makes me
Was making me a dream
In which, as usual,
I misplaced my waking
Arrangement of the world
And savored some nonsense

Involving dead people,
People I've never met,
And people not people
At all, poorly lit scenes
Humming with emotions,
Swarming clouds of black bees,

Nuisances, confusions,
Those ineluctable
Toads, unrealities
Of the invisible,
Mindless contrivances
Of a slumbering brain,

All that unrest of rest,
More pretentious even
Than the organized self
Confabulating day
Into thick, gelled mindsets,
Sclerotic clarities

Code-named reality,
When a voice from the crowd
Announced to my dream self,
"From now on, don't take it
So damned seriously
Because it won't last long,

As you know you know well."
And I was comforted,
Until I saw shadows
Of trees silhouetted
On bright afternoon lawns
And thought, "But it's wondrous!"

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Squab Jays and Scrawllows"

Cats'-cradles of contrails, dozens of them,
Weave the only clouds over the valley
This evening. Otherwise it's all blue sky
Rimmed by cliffs so picturesque you've seen them,
Or something like them, in films or motels.

The sound of the creek competes with the road,
The junipers compete with prickly pear,
Cold beers in a camp-chair compete with words,
A sun-warmed cairn competes with a  cold hearth,
An idea competes with a memory.

A memory is never singular.
The nominalization of memory
Must always be a kind of common lie
Occasionally raised to proper tale
Of how something happened as it didn't.

Or it did. You can't beat competition
For arriving at a kind of winner.
It's impossible to tell a story
Without some part of it becoming true
Once any part of it gets repeated.

Birds skitter past, below blurring contrails,
The only clouds over Castle Valley
This evening. Otherwise it's all blue sky,
Purpling as the sun sets behind the Rim,
So picturesque, you've seen it. Someone has.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Functional Neuroanatomy

You are this looking at this,
Thinking of this as you
Looking back at yourself as this.

Welcome to the shifting landscape 
Of a brain, which you believe,
With some confidence, however abstracted,

Might as well be yours. Lovely
Clay or plastic, digitized or 3D
Printed for your tactile perusal,

This model of your human brain
Or, even better, this image made
Inside a humming tube of you

Yourself, thinking thoughts,
Having subconscious urges
Brightly colored for contrast.

Holy cats, that very thought
Can be, and is here, recreated 
To a crude approximation

From this mug shot of your self-
Absorbed, fragmented, physical,
Long-gone and undersold soul.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Poem about This, #2

It's almost quiet here,
Under the cottonwoods
Whose Entrada sandstone
Curvaceously humbles
Back to sand in their roots,
Although there is a breeze

And the rattle of flies
Frantic for anything
Holding on to moisture
Or surface calories,
Plus the much louder drones
Of occasional jets

And of four cars, so far,
Two in each direction,
Shuttling from and toward
The university's
Desert research station
About a mile from here.

Once the cars and jets pass
And the flies try elsewhere,
There is only the breeze
And the hiss of breathing,
The thump of a heartbeat
To remind a present

Observation it is
Not the landscape entire,
Not solemn entropy
Of everything wearing
Down into everything
Under the sun, but one

Crumb of nothing anchored
To something still trying,
Like flies and cottonwoods,
To push life back uphill
Before it can fall down
To other lives, like flies.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What We Call Our Life Is Neither

Eyes open and close on fever.
Life slips in and out of focus,
A lover in and out of clothes,
Green lawn in and out of shadow.

Here comes the end of October.
Vacant skies could not be bluer,
And still awareness is confused,
Neither observed nor observer,

An observation born of both
That feels itself as true as false,
As much all the things not alive
As none, belonging to no one.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cow Pats at Quakey Shake

I have Pema Chodron on my lap
And Steven Pinker on my iPhone
Such the twenty-first century man
Counting down to my half century

The cows around me don't give a damn
The cows around me don't know they're damned
And damned if I know I'm damned myself
Although I tend to suspect I am

Castle Creek runs into this cow pond
Waters collected and then let go
The kind of arrest that lets you know
Someone can stop you if they say so

And someone can always stop you
Something can always stop you
Whether it must let you
Go at last or not

Even here at
Quakey Shake
In bright

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


"That I am what I am, and I am,
I am surprised"

I have failed
All the five monastic vows

I have failed
To forgive myself failures

I have failed
To forgive others' failures

I have failed
To mitigate misery

I have failed
To be more compassionate

I have failed
To be a good example

I have failed
To publish a worthy book

I have failed
To be collaborative

I have failed
To falsify a thesis

I have failed
To keep posted office hours

I have failed
Not to be afraid of pain

I have failed 
To avoid disagreements

I have failed
To choose hard over easy

I have failed
To go beyond pettiness

I have failed
To treat the land as holy
My body as a temple
My career as a calling
My students as my colleagues
My colleagues as family
My family as my friends

I have failed
To be the things one should be

I have failed
I am failing I will fail

I have not
Failed to know I am to be

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Here is a pond a dam built.

Here is a park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here is a tree in the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here is a lawn under the tree grown large in the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here is a baby at play in the leaves that cover the lawn under the tree grown grand in the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here is a mother, down on her knees, photographing the baby at play in the leaves that cover the lawn under the tree grown huge in the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here is a father, smile up his sleeve, watching the mother down on her knees photographing the baby at play in the leaves that yellow the lawn under the tree grown greatly to shade nearly half of the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here is an afternoon, all light and breeze, gilding the father, smile up his sleeve, watching the mother down on her knees catching the baby at play in the leaves that litter the green lawn under the tree that shades the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Here are the shadows, thicker than thieves, edging the afternoon's late light and breeze that gild the father, smile up his sleeve, watching the mother down on her knees dreaming their baby at play in the leaves that carpet the tapestry under the tree that graces the park surrounding the  pond a dam built.

Here is a moon, pale and kind as can be, gentling the shadows, thicker than thieves, edging the afternoon's last sighing breeze that flutters the father, smile up his sleeve, watching the mother down her knees hugging their baby at play in the leaves that create the story spread under the tree that anchors the park surrounding the pond a dam built.

Monday, October 17, 2011


We are not the stories
We tell about ourselves.
We know that, but we don't
Know what that means we are.
So we tell more stories
Of not being stories.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We Put on Our Lives

On her birthday, in our
Nondescript hotel room
With a serrated view
Over packed townhouse roofs
Toward the Eastern Front,
Sarah has a chuckle

When she notices me
Stooping to dress, briefly,
For the minutes between
Our snug breakfast in bed
And my morning shower.
She provides narration:

"And he puts on his clothes
To take them off again,"
Which makes me laugh in turn,
And Sequoia laughs, too,
Because her parents laugh.
This is our mandala,

Our nuclear family's
Founding population,
For whatever birthdays,
Holidays, adventures,
Chances we get. This is
How we'll put on our lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In Theory, It Seems Like a Bad Thing

When you finally get to sleep
And noisy strangers wake you up,

When you finally find the store
And then you buy the wrong item,

Or you forget the right item,
Or purchase what you thought you lost,

Which you find as soon as you leave
The store, or the store's moved or closed,

When you get to your big event
And there's no parking, or you hit

Someone's car in the parking lot,
Or someone hits you, or fights you

Over nothing, lots of yelling,
Or you're pulled over in traffic,

When any number of problems
Thwart, and frustrate, and spoil your plans.

And maybe your theory's correct.
But you know most theories are wrong.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What Do We Have Here?

A woman digs in the desert.
With brown hands and bleeding fingers,
She scrabbles at the cracked red clay.
This is what I dreamed of, early,

At the weird hour of the morning,
Moon setting and baby rising
From a nightmare to cry an hour
While her mother and I took turns

Singing slowly to console her.
As the moon disappeared, the sky
For once literally grew darkest
Just ahead of the ghosts of dawn,

And I passed in and out of sleep
Too brief for any rest, too long
For the brain not to be tempted
To try another sickly dream

In the dying of the moonlight,
An image of coppered sunlight,
Of the woman, curled like a root,
Withering but clawing the ground,

Digging to plant a single seed,
That my brain, tempted to dreaming,
In my head, lolling in moonlight
Beside the crib at last quiet,

Knew would have to become a tree,
Climbing out of the stony dirt,
Immune to the need for water,
And that tree become a forest,

And that forest cover the world,
And the world I knew of babies
And moonlight and weird morning dreams
Disappear among all those things

That were but might have never been
Save for the memory of them,
Itself now buried as that seed,
As that dream, as that moon, as me,

And I wake up, never having 
Really slept at all in my dream,
Of the woman and the desert
And the forest that resulted,

But I am, such as I am here,
By the crib, confused, awake
Where the question will never be
"What was that?" but, "What have we here?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011


"You could write a poem about rabbitbrush,
And relate it back to that strange first time
You saw it, in Boulder, this time of year,
When you asked the locals what that yellow
Flower was, lining the roads," says Sarah.

I could. It's October again, some years
After I was lonely and free enough
To drive for a week around south Utah
With nobody noticing I was gone.
All that beauty and self-pity haunts me still.

But what would I say now, married father
Of this ten-month old playing in the dirt
Under a juniper by the loud creek
Cutting through rabbitbrush and watered fields
Of the farms of Seventh-Day Adventists

Hiding out here, living here, just like me,
Just like the earlier Mormon ranchers,
And, I suspect, just like the earliest
Hunter-gatherers meandering here
In pursuit of big game, bigger game, home?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pop Song Philosophies

Feel like they're enough for me.
There's no rigor of logic
In their gnomic bleaterings,
But when they get one phrase right
It hums under thoughts for years
Inscrutable as that stone
Becoming soup, wisdom, gold.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Dark

The moon is high and full. So there.
The clouds are silver below it.
Mountains glow, one long silhouette
Comprised of rising lines of lights

Delineating shining towns.
Parallel streams of cars that slide,
This way headlights, that way taillights,
Inscribe recursive loops on night.

All these little radiations,
Elaborate constellations,
Form no patterns, just perspectives.
It's too late to redeem the dark.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"You Say That It's Gospel, But I Know It's Only Church"

We do seem to need
To tell each other
What to think, and not
Only from pulpits,
Lecterns, podia,

Or ex cathedra.
The casual group
Practicing yoga
In the neighborhood,
Friends over coffee,

Doing field research,
Pretty much any
Small pack of people,
Children to elders,

Have the potential
To play thought police.
It's an odd habit
When you consider
We're not mind readers.

Telling each other 
How to behave or
What to say makes sense.
Coercion is part
Of being social.

Require some synching.
Membership demands
Matching our plumage.

But why try so hard
To leverage language
Into thought control?
Thoughts are jungles, words
Mere birds in their leaves.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Backbone of Night

Is it important to 
Be able to see this
Mottled pattern, mostly
A vague glow to the eye
Even here in high, bare,
Star-friendly desert air,

A kind of cloud, darkness
Layering against light
Against greater darkness?
We have better pictures
We see with the mind's eye,
Recalling as we look

Up into the middle
Of what some call our home,
Some call our destiny,
And some call our mother,
That huge numbers of stars
Are represented there,

With distances between
The closest packed of them
At least as much greater
Than the farthest we've gone
As the age of mountains
Is than our longest lives,

Scale so stupefying
One can only rehearse
The vastness stupidly,
As if saying something,
As I've just done again,
Or else join Walt Whitman

Exiting the lecture
To take himself outside
Just to "gaze in perfect
Silence at the stars." Yes.
Very nice. Except they
Don't need us to see them.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Etymology of Darling

(For Sarah, Who Guessed Correctly)

No wonder people take 
So many photographs,
Make so many movies
Of their kids. Description
Collapses as quickly
As order, cleanliness,

And plans around infants.
Sequoia Athena
Is reaching ten months old,
Approaching cherubic
Capacities undreamed
When she was a newborn.

Our pictures and movies
Can't capture her beauty
Any better than poems
Anymore. Everything
About recording her
Tends to desperation.

A golden atmosphere,
Ringing, glowing, almost
Supernatural, charged
With that ineffable,
Almost unbearable
Sweetness description fails,

Photography loses,
And moving images
Just hint at surrounds her.
Wordsworth almost had it:
"Trailing clouds of glory."
Except he missed the source.

We don't have it at birth,
However marvelous
Our wizened little selves
Seem at the time. It comes
Months later, it descends
Like Pentecostal flame,

That human magic trick,
Pure, immaterial,
Between mere babyhood
And the joyous sorrows
Of culture and language,
This space she occupies

Now, just now, radiant,
Babbling, demanding, true
To herself, false to none,
All emotions potent,
All expressions lovely,
Alchemical angel.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Poem about This, #1

It's not cold, but it's cold for here,
And the fresh snow on the mountains
Blanketing spruce and aspens,
White draperies dropping down, down

To skirt the top layers of the Rim,
Red rocks and juniper-pinyon
Eco-system notwithstanding,
Reminds me of the winter storms

That will not touch our porch for months,
Barring apocalyptic turns
Far from us, in the Pacific.
And since when has the Pacific

Not been as apocalyptic
As any fundamentalist
Praying, waiting for the world's end?
All climates are fickle and dire

To the species that survive them,
And we have survived more than most,
Although over shorter stretches.
Enough about us. The moon shines,

Gibbous, weak in afternoon light,
And I feel compelled to confess,
That I've long loved a gibbous moon,
Especially one in daylight

Because they are unromantic:
Not new, not old, not bright, not full.
Better poets may disagree,
May claim each generation's task

Is to find new analogies
To marry bright words to faint moons.
Ah. I've heard we have only now.
But I don't have now. Now has me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Chickenhead Was a Bad Design

There's no hypocrisy
Half so rich, half so
Rewarding, half so fun
As finding the hypocrisy
In what others have done.

I can think of a dozen
Contradictions constructed
By my half-assed brethren,
My oh-so human cousins,
But none half-criminal, other than

My own, my glorious,
Ridiculous hypocrisies
Of poetic license and incensed
Ego, my poetic metaphors,
Half science and, in one sense,

Half neotenous theology.
What is wrong with me,
That I can claim that it's the truth
And not the ruefulness of knowing
I disdain? Where's your proof?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Despite our daydreams
And randomized trials,
We know, all in all,
Exactly nothing
About otherwise.

What if everything
We did were as good
As what we didn't?
We won't ever know.
We experience,

And then we complain.
We rail at ourselves,
Rethink every twitch,
Imagining how
This might have been that,

Whatever this is.
Whatever we did,
Whatever we get
From those distractions
Called pride and regret,

This world is its own
Beautiful monster.
We cling to its fur
As it carries us, 
Pretending we steer.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jeff in the Midden

He's not dead yet,
But he's making
Steady progress,

Combing over
Heaps of his past,
Brushing off bits

Of detritus,
These forgotten
Things that felt right,

Things that felt wrong,
Although he finds
Them all right here.

Here's that old song,
The German one
He used to like,

The skeleton
Cuddling the girl.
It speaks to him

Now, as for all
The abandoned
Memory pile,

Sighing gently,
Give me your hand,
I am your friend,

I am not fierce.
Don't mind this mess
I've made of bones.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Can an Ape Create a Sentence?"

"Only after we subdivide 
These concepts into their component 
Mechanisms can we hope to
Empirically address these questions."

Indeed. Indeedy do. The ape,
Social, hirsute, and incompetent
At walking on hindlimbs for long,
Conceptualizes mechanisms

For subdividing components
Of his beetle-browed intelligence
Into flesh: mammalian, primate,
Subhuman, human, and superman.

Hmm. Lessee. Where am I? I am.
At least, I am as much as any
"I am" thing is among those things
That are. Ain't I? I'm not? I am so!

And so forth. That is, I must be,
Since I like to argue that I am.
I'll bet you think that you are, too,
So much so that you needn't argue.

But then, you aren't an ape like me,
Now, are you? No? I didn't think so.
I'm too full of my apishness
To admit you are its victim, too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This  Myth of a Myth of Origins

(For Sarah and Leah and James to Remember)

One night in the bed of winter,
Snowy sheets and cloudy blankets
Rucked up around a drafty house,
The man who passes for this poem
Considered the nature of doubt
And came to the dim conclusion
That everything poems consider
Summed with everything poems leave out

Amounts to no more than the truth,
In this oneness of all that is
And all that isn't the oneness,
In the contemplation of all that could
Be contemplated in one sense
As the act of contemplation:
The act of the poem of a mind,
Which actually must be nonsense.

"I'm too tired to think," thought the poem,
Trying to rise above the snow
Heaped to muffle a winter's night,
"Too tired for a better excuse,"
Then spotted the switch of a light
Lit by the light the switch turned on
And turned on itself, ruthlessly,
"So that's the truth about this light."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nature That Is Ours

Staggering past the bathroom mirror
Just before dawn on a Saturday,
Phrases surface in recognition
Of something like an identity.

Well, it's all somebody else's fault,
That's all I've got to say, whoever
I am saying it, baby over 
One shoulder, not even sure what floor

Of this rented old house I'm on now,
Whether I have to walk up or down.
It's morning, more or less, another
Day, another month, another life,

Another transformation of this
Thing I'm in the habit of calling
Me, whatever it actually is,
Somehow in a kitchen, making tea.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Inchoate in Going

I can't get a handle on it,
This momentary thunderhead,
Too slow for me to follow it
And too quick for me to catch it,

Accruing as it disperses
In blue-bottomed ships with white sails,
Cumulonimbus tenuous,
Promising unpredicted storm.

When I turn my back it puffs up,
Piling grandeur on grander peaks,
Glories on glorious La Sals,
Rock clouds themselves, ages slower.

When I turn back to study it
It seems just about to dissolve,
A Chesire-cat glower, no more,
Not a threat, not a storm, nothing

Much to get exited about,
Until the random wind picks up,
Teasing leaves with apocalypse,
And now and again comes the end.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Schubert and Daddy Long Legs at the Drive-Through Window

Vanity invades me the most
Trivial ways conceivable:

As I crank up the classical
At the taco pick-up window

The daft thought dancing through my head
Is that this makes me impressive,

And it's important to impress
The limp-fingered, pimply teller

Who no doubt must suffer endless
Encounters with country music

And teenaged top-twenty twaddle
Bumping from customers' speakers

As they pull up to her window.
How nice for her to hear Schubert,

How pleasantly she'll recall me
Next time I pick up my taco.

My reverie's interrupted
By shadows scrawling on the wall

Just below the teller's elbow.
A daddy long legs in the sun

Crawls toward opportunities
I can only guess at, maybe

To mate another harvestman
Or to eat a bit of taco.

The teller doesn't notice it.
Its shadow lengthens grotesquely,

Long as the claw of a vampire,
Sliding over the windowsill,

Such a grisly melodrama
From such a harmless little thing

I think, pleased now with my vision
Of life as a bug in the sun.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Experience of Paradox

What is it about koans,
Aporias and paradox
That excites us,

That feels clever,
Like wisdom, like insight
Into this world,

Which calmly refuses
To understand or reconsider
Our frequent requests?

Sophists, taoists, buddhists,
Mystics of every
God-besotted institution

All get off on paradox,
As do grads and undergrads
Of the commonest college

Denominations. Why?
It's not as if Cretans
Are really all liars

Or one hand can't keep on clapping.
They're just pretzels of meaning,
Confections of recursive syntax.

But there's a rush that comes
From painting our brains
Into corners they'll never crawl

Free from without 
A little levitation,
The light-headed sensation,

When the voice that is small
But insistent within us
Reminds us how pleasant

It is to know nothing,
How real it can feel to suspend 
Intuition, to reject

The airily apparent
Facts ranged around us,
Innumerable, insufferable,

Where arrows fly, time passes,
And everything is something
Or other, in the end.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On This Date in History

Nothing happened. Someone discovered
This news in a hotel bed.

Morning filled the white sheets' sails with light.
Newspapers under the door

Reported a former mayor's death
By way of local headlines.

Archaic technology, newsprint 
Inked on pulp, stained the fingers

Turning to syndicated features,
Crossword puzzles, comic strips,

Lingering at obituaries,
Passing over horoscopes,

And arriving at the almanac
Itemizing dates' events.

How poetic. How lyrical. How
Dull this date in history.

A nineteenth-century steamship sank.
A pope wrote a papal bull.

A presidential debate was held.
Poland quickly surrendered.

And that's about it. Two thousand years
At least of written records,

And even such events as happened
On this incidental date

Were mostly turning points in stories,
Wars, religions, industries,

Whose great beginnings, sad conclusions
Managed to avoid this day.

Given there's only three sixty-five
Or sixty-six days a year,

Can there be that many days without
Some great shudder recorded?

Maybe every day keeps a secret
That no news media tech,

Not of the moment, nor reaching back,
Will ever elucidate,

Or maybe that secret is the news
That nothing is what happens.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Grappling  with Meaning

"Any complete model of language will eventually have to grapple with meaning."

I lose in record time,
Thrown, Greco-Roman style,
Slapped flat back on the mat.

One more match with meaning
Ends up down, pinned to ground.
E.g,, what does "here" mean?

Just sitting here, eating
Local watermelon
On the porch, spitting seeds

Into the cracks between
The faded two-by-fours,
I don't know where I am.

I don't know when I am.
A Purcell chorus sings
From Sarah's computer,

Scored centuries ago,
Not now, in an England
That no longer obtains.

How many moments pile
Up in this one moment?
I'm lost. I'm losing track,

Or traction, or something.
The baby needs a nap.
The crickets contest hymns

Scored centuries ago.
I'm lost. I'm losing track.
I don't know when I am,

Slapped flat back on the mat
That no longer obtains,
One more match with meaning,

Or traction, or something
Spit through the cracks between
All the things "here" could mean.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

1 Corinthians 6:12-13

"All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them."

After ferreting out
The kernel of freedom
In that heap of advice

From the frenetic saint
And would-be lawgiver
Squawking "What? What? What? What?

God forbid!" and so forth,
One savors the weirdness
Of the advice itself.

Can it make sense to say
All things are lawful, but
That's not what's important?

The KJV phrasing,
That "all things are lawful,"
Not all "expedient,"

Was popular at home 
When I was growing up,
Where it was given to mean

"I could, but I shouldn't,"
Or, in application,
"You could, but you shouldn't."

It comes to mind often,
Now in my middle age,
Although it feels different,

Closer to, "I could, but
It wouldn't be prudent,
At best, inconvenient."

Neither way of reading
Fits well with the meaning
Of the "expedient."

All things are lawful, but
Not all things are easy.
Put it that way, I sense

Where I stand. Come what may,
It's a tradeoff. Then God
Takes "it" and "them" away.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


We're much smarter than we think,
But we think as idiots,
Relentlessly repeating
The same obsessive patterns
Crediting the universe
For thinking like a human.
That is, until we throw bones.

Our dice, our tea leaves, our runes,
Our tarot, our shoulderblades
Cracked over our anxious fires
Under blind planets and stars
Blinking at our loneliness,
These sages are our saviours,
Ways to think more like the world.

To forgive or seek revenge,
To always search the same spot
For the disappearing prey,
To always pray the same prayer
For lottery or wisdom
Is predictably human.
To randomize is divine.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Fundamental rules apply.
Morning comes, right on schedule,
Even as the earth slows down.
I have to prepare for school,

Even as my brain slows down
After half a century.
There's no hurry in the air,
No autumnal urgency,

Nonetheless autumn is here,
Season of monks and poets.
There's no snow in the mountains,
But trees begin to show red.

Crows congregate around them,
Accumulating murders
At the edges of the farms.
The shadows stretch out further,

Hungrier ghosts, longer arms,
And the mind dreams of decline,
Then wakes to realize, nonsense,
Times change, nothing changes time,

Life's young, life's old, same difference.
The world rolls one bright, round die,
And shifting in its balance
Shows the same face, every try.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Free Range

Jurassic cattle bellow
Through the aspen-packed canyon
And peek around the white trunks
At our picnic in their path,
Huge heads tilted quizzically,
Tags dangling like cheap earrings,
Checking whether we've left yet.

It's the last day of summer
And already some colors,
In the oaks, in the aspens,
In the orange and camo
Outfits of recon hunters
Starting to sniff out campsites,
Hint of the coming of fall,

But for the most part it's still
Hot, buggy, dusty and green,
And even in the high range
Where the rocks are heaped like teeth
And the white towers of aspen
Leave little room for browsing,
Cow patties reek in the sun.

For all their funk and bother,
Seeming so out of place here
In bear and raven country,
Where wolves once and deer still throng,
The lumbering, complaining
Bovine nuisances create
An echoing, dreamy charm,

Trumpeting through the forest
Around our red-and-white checked
Blanket spread on the bracken
In farewell celebration 
Of largely gentle summer,
Our first spent with our daughter,
Namesake of tree and goddess,

Who shrieks with infant delight
At each glimpse of cows huddled
Up the road, behind a tree,
Staring at her nervously
As she bugles, coos, and trills,
Exulting in her own voice
Commanding this fairy farm.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nine Giants

No Quixote, me.
Windmills are windmills
In my world. I don't 
Dream nobility.
I don't go on quests.

But I do commute.
I do get around.
I'm too damn restless,
And my vision's weak.

Therefore, when I pass
My nine wind turbines
(Yes, I call them mine,
Quixotic enough,
I'll admit) each week,

I wave. I greet them
As friends, as omens,
Nine white spinning towers
At the canyon's mouth,

Profiting someone,
Gathering the wind,
Frankly beautiful
Expressions of power,
Pinwheeled need and greed.

I can't understand
What makes them gorgeous.
Perhaps their sheer size
In solemn, graceful
Motion dumbfounds me.

You'd think a being,
An ape who belonged
To such a species,
Capable of both
Novels and windmills,

Would know what he saw
Of his kind's making
As ordinary,
Ant watching anthills.

But they're weird to me,
Magical. I know
How they do their work,
But they baffle me
By seeming to mean.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Earthbound Hymn to Gravity

All things love each other
And all things love themselves
As well, although that love,

Universal in scope,
Uniformly applied,
Still ends unequally

Distributed in space,
So that somehow all things
Clump up or pull apart

And attraction in fact
Is completely crushing
Or trivially weak,

All of which you could say
More or less truthfully,
Any way of saying

Being mired in language,
No more than embodied
Metaphors, all we have.

Gravity, we say, pulls,
Attracts, gathers, and grabs.
We might as well say loves,

And like the sorts of love
Our bodies know, our tongues
Pronounce, remains at odds

With itself and other
Forces, unfortunate
And asymmetrical,

Creative and hurtful,
Often negligible,
Often overwhelming,

And all this we feel while 
Stuck fast to the surface
Of the earth that loves us

More than the moon loves us,
More than we love ourselves,
But less than dark loves stars.