Thursday, March 31, 2011

Out Like a Dozing Lion

I woke up thinking, "You don't know; you can't know.
You don't know and you can't know," as Sarah tossed
and the black sky shouldered a lavender glow.
A flitter of white startled me, a small moth.

I dreamt that our imaginations ran wild,
but they're the offspring of our tame surmises,
whereas every new moment is its own child,
undreamed of and full of its own surprises.

It's brass daylight by now, too bright for moths outside.
Another white fleck, a butterfly, flies by.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hobble Creek Oxbow

This broken tree
and the stream
and mud and weeds

around it--everything
about it is beat-up,
beat-down, scruffy

and accidental. Still,
the wan sun shines down
as weakly on it as on

any rising great palatial
forest, as if saying
there is no failure

or success in striving, only
being in the end, and then
in the beginning, again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Gods Aren't in the Details: The Gods Are the Details (and the Devil, Too)

Our stories are
Our enemies.
Inasmuch as
We are our own

Stories, we are
Also our own
Worst enemies.
We're inficted.

Even the sacred,
Pure gem-like flame

Of the holy
Idiot's dream,
This lyric poem,
Hides a story,

A child's serpent
Gobbling real toads
In the secret
Garden of verse.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lavender Oil, Epsom Salts, and Limoncello

One of the many foolish
joys of being an old
man married to a young

woman is allowing
oneself at last small discoveries
of the vast treasure horde

of lovely feminine things,
like a delicious afternoon soak
in an overfilled tub fragrant

with scents of organic
lavender oil and rosemary,
buoyant with epsom salts

as the steam rises through
the open window into
a windy blue spring.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Doing Laundry in Australia

Is there nothing less
intrinsically poetic
than cleaning one's own
non-metaphorical linen?

Stooped over an errant dryer
with an armful of wet flannel
and a mind full of soggy
sentimentality, I'm reminded

improbably forcefully
of a dull town in the Outback
of Australia's NT,
where we stopped to cram a week's

worth of camping-soiled
camping clothes dumped
out of our rented, red-dusted
deceptively elderly truck.

The proverbial hole-in-the-wall
of that notably wall-free, fence-cut desert
was a cinderblock establishment
run by an Asian immigrant

family marooned behind the front lines
of ancient dark and reddened pale,
where Euro descendants looked
suspiciously at the scattered

sullen Aboriginals who dared
scarcely ever to glare back.
It was hot. It was dusty. It had flies.
So much for the travelogue.

I've been washing my own
clothes and bed-sheets since twelve,
although I'll admit that
I've never acquired the knack

of beating them clean on river rocks
or hanging them neatly on the line.
I'm a lifelong habitue of the worldwide
demi-monde of laundromats:

Long Island, New Jersey, Michigan,
Montana, Georgia, Alabama,
Utah, Canada, Namibia,
Et cetera and Australia.

Yet here I am, reinvented
again, a married man,
father of a fuss-fueled infant
with marvelous irises

like those of her infinitely
(or damn near) patient mother,
and it's time to pull the sheets
and boxers from another


Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Love You (Even Though Neither One of Us Sleeps Anymore)

I have two abstract lines
going through my head
as I lie, concretely, in bed.

One declares that all of my
mind is a theater, shows and play,
the other insists a million years

have passed since yesterday.
Baby Sequoia chirps and stirs,
and I roll her over to me to wake.

You've been up ten times or more
it seems like since we tried
to get ourselves to slumber.

I take our tiny culprit out the door
and change another diaper.
Sun in the morning, clouds afternoon,

while I prep classes, you keep
the chubby little rebel awake,
in hopes tonight she'll sleep.

Finally we get out of the house,
you for a run in the red rocks,
baby and me for a drive.

We make it home more asleep
than alive, but you strap her
to your belly and start to cook

and I sit back down at this
damned excuse for not
writing a book, when you say

"I love good wind chimes"
and my dull brain, ancient
and dazed, spins backward

instantly, to another globe,
the first time I heard chimes, this
boy from suburban New Jersey

where plaster statues on lawns
were the norm, not little bells
that clamor of incoming storms.

It was October in Missoula, Montana--
the night had gone suddenly cold
and mean black as I walked home

down a street of old houses
that was eerily empty by my
East Coast standards, and the wind

whipped down the shabby alley
to send off a glimmering tunnel of small
brass and bamboo wind chimes

on both sides of the barren street.
The memory was sudden and sweet,
and I told you about it in the kitchen.

"You didn't have wind in New Jersey?"
you joked, and I loved you like crazy,
even though neither one of us sleeps.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Embracing the Day Both Ways

Dawning . . .

In the middle of it all
one volcanic plug
of basalt sticks up a cone,

cold now for more forevers
than humans have ever known,
than all the primate generations

behind us. The big picture,
grand and aloof, the great clouds
racing over the gracefully

crumbling stones of eons,
and the small picture
of the wood peewee

with three chipmunks
dashing around the nearest
broken rocks at my feet,

scrambling for just this one
morning's quota of birdseed
the jays didn't sequester first.

. . . and Dimming

When we
like it,
it keeps

When we
do not

like it,
it keeps

it slow,

it fast,
it still,

it keeps
on, still,

still on-

Still, it
does go


one stone

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Darling Buds of March

Another windy morning
and swarming clouds encircle
our spotlight of sun. Storm's

coming. Down the valley,
the peacock screams,
a rooster crows,

two dogs howl back
and forth, a lone truck
rumbles down the only

strip of paved road,
and a meadowlark on a fence
sings full-throated to compete

with the numerous squawkings
of the jays and all the chorusing titters
of Abbey's "Little Grey Birds."

So here we are. On a short lease,
getting shorter quickly, leaning
off the edge of this cliff,

that cliff, and the other,
under the Porcupine Rim.
A rock tumbles

from somewhere high up
the Rim, right on cue, a crack
and an echo like a rifle.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Self-Portrait in a Dim Light

I look wrong for myself.
I'm looking wrong, myself.

I'm looking the wrong way.
I'm looking wrong way round.

Too long won't make a right.
I look wrong, am I right?

Maybe I shouldn't look.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Simple Drive

Before dawn, Sequoia
is already wide-eyed,
dusky-blue irises
watching dusky-blue skies,

so I fumble around,
get her to the front room,
change her, scatter birdseed,
pause outside in the mist

until the wind chases
me back inside to make
tea, turn on some music,
dandle Sequoia while

the dim day dawns. Sarah
is sleepy, up all night
with Sequoia's random
feeds, and by afternoon

we haven't dressed or left.
At one, Sequoia naps
an hour while I rock her,
and Sarah cleans the house.

The wind outside is fierce.
The air is full of dust,
and then, late afternoon,
finally, light, cold rain

strikes down the swirling brown.
Sequoia is crying,
and Sarah needs a break.
I pull on a jacket

while mother loads baby
into the truck's car-seat,
and then baby and I
go for a simple drive.

A ride always soothes her,
and she watches the rain
spatter her window, then
turn to sleet, slush, and snow

as we reach the La Sals
at the valley's east end,
through scrub oaks, aspens, and
giant ponderosas,

until the path goes white,
and we turn in the snow
and descend, heading home,
through the depthless white sky.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hooker Apocrypha

No one wastes her own life.
The world wastes all of us

One way or another.
Some ways fascinate us

More than others, that's all.
Miners' and prostitutes'

Ghosts haunt hard-scrabble towns
In North America,

And imaginations
Run loose in emptied streets

Where brick facades totter
Over boarded storefronts.

Here there was a gunfight;
Here was the bordello.

I've heard tell the Silver
Belle once held a hundred

Hookers serving thousands
Of desperate miners,

Ruled by a black madam
From Spokane who retired

A millionaire and lived
Long after all her girls

And their miners were dead.
I've heard tell that Wallace,

Idaho had legal
Prostitution until

Yesterday and that most
Ghost towns in Nevada

Have prostitution still.
I've heard tell a Dream Mine

In Utah was revealed
In a saintly vision

And that the once-booming
Town of Helper, Utah,

Just over the summit
From that magical mine,

Was named after the whores
Who were miners' "helpers."

We get small thrills, passing
Through small-scale disasters,

Through carious pockets
Of calamitous greed.

We're fond of our stories
Of wealth lost, youth wasted,

Of dreams brought to sordid,
Tragic, untimely ends.

We prefer them to tales
Of pious farming wives

And retired insurance
Salesmen fading away

In their nursing-home haze,
Not because those rough lives

Were wild, sad and wasted,
But because our tame lives,

So carefully conserved,
Wait, destined for wasting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Karl's Memoir (A Novel)

Karl was beginning to feel
that all his good memories
were not at all good enough.

He remembered something he'd read
once in an old poem about
little hedgerows running wild,

something about how the nice,
green memories of being
in the countryside would make

it easier to live back
in the dirty city most
of one's lifetime. Karl worried

that this should be true for him
but was not. His memories
that he tried to rely on

usually made him feel sad,
mildly nostalgic at best,
hardly comforting at all.

Then Karl got the great idea
that he would spend one whole year
carefully remembering

in vivid, flawless detail
every good moment he'd had,
and then write each detail down

in his blog. When he was done,
he would have a rich memoir
of gladness to revel in.

So he did. And at the end
of one year, he had a whole
memoir he managed to sell.

The memoir was well-reviewed
and became a bestseller.
Soon Karl sold the movie rights.

They made a big-budget film
with a famous comedic
actor playing Karl himself.

I read about this online
and mentioned it to a friend
working on a long novel

based on a similar theme.
"Sure," snorted the novelist.
"He made a lot of money.

But I bet he still doesn't
feel happy about his life.
He never reveled in it."

I teased my friend that perhaps
Karl's method worked after all:
memories now made him glad.

"Nonsense," thundered my old pal
whose novel's still not finished.
"He didn't revel in it!

He couldn't! They never do!"
The novel or the memoir--
I'm never sure which is true.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

S.A. Napping on Her Pillow

She smiles, pouts,
and suckles in her sleep.
Her blue-on-blue eyes
open, gleam, and roll

then slip back beneath
the waves, and I wonder
what mermaid have I coaxed
to come up into this dry world

of unsupportive air,
blazing days and speckled nights?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wuntz Oppenheim

Wuntz Oppenheim was a grad
student I knew who had

a thing against too many
rhymes too closely packed. "Any

poem with rhymes that cluster more
closely than two every four

lines, one every five or six stressed
syllables, sounds silly." Distressed

by this news and being young,
serious and high-strung

myself at the time, I went
back to my garret and spent

the hours from midnight to dawn
rewriting every wrong

until all my rhymes were faint,
distant, aloof, and constrained.

Twenty-five years on I've forgotten
most of my poems but not that rotten

piece of advice to dull the fun
of every playful thing I'd done.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fine-Tuning Silence

I am that which is not. When
I return to my true self in deepest
sleep, my body abandons me
to keep busy doing other bodily
things besides inventing me,
and I am not, which is most me.

When I wake, the orchestra
of the body summons me through
dreams and the shaman human
brain reconjures me from the sea
leaves of memory, and I again
become least me, that which is.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Counterfictual Thinking

Language, according
to language, is
a notoriously pointy
combinatorial set,

so people argue, in
language on language,
over whether their words
point to the truth or only

to each other. The arguments
delight and continue because
they are the real wrong right
point about pointing

to the world's real, hit or miss.
Language never hits or misses
the world; it makes a new
world word-created,

a real unreal, not a map
into or out of our prison.
Language will contrariwise
itself, will paradox,

koan, aporia, castle
conundrums in air.
The world world is or is not.
The word world is not is.

Language can do what
it is as it isn't, which is
why it need never not
be Eden nor the flaming sword.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


is last night's crumbs, onion skins, and scraps
of paper at dawn, months of winter cobwebs
clinging to the window corners, plus these
cracked-concrete floors and decades-old,
decrepit brown furnishings, all

come clean and alive in fresh desert light,
the first blaze of morning that creates
a new, open space, gold-flowering embrace,
for whom all dull things glow!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Beggar's Ride

When I find
myself cloud-

about sudden
wealth, I realize
it's generally

to extend one
of two delusions--
either to allow

me to complete
some pedestrian
transaction that sounds

good in the abstract
(buy the big
house down the road,

move to another
friendly country,
begin another

lackluster career
or retirement,
go on another tour

of somewhere
still stuck fast
to Planet Earth)

or to be able
to extend this
moment forever

for as long
as I want, for
instance, this

open-windowed moment
in the house high up
on the Rim surrounded

by empty blue, red
rocks and dusky
juniper-pinyon country.

Why do I lose
this day dreaming
of grasping it tight?

Why, when it's
here, I'm here,
now, and hardly at all?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sweet Nothings

Ready now?
With all puns
intended: One,

nothing matters;
That is, Two,
nothing does

matter; That is,
Three, nothing
bodies forth

matter. For
all things come
from no thing and

return to no thing,
and we are nothings
who know things,

theatres, ghosts,
fleetingly aware
spaces. Argal,

as we are
at all to know,
nothing matters.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rocking Sequoia to Sleep

The mind's not
bad, it's just
what it does,

it exists to compare
and contrast, to
imagine impossible

worlds and label
them Possible to
Probable. If the body

gets happy, the mind
can't resist skylarking,
and off it reels

into the nonexistent
or at least the nonpresent,
into schemes and fables,

dreams and rhymes,
and always, always,
to dances with trickster time.

That's just the mind.
It's not a present
sort of beast. Let

it be, even enjoy
it when it's cute,
but don't follow it far.

No it won't be
such a bad thing, kid,
your mind as it grows.

Just don't follow it
down too many holes,
and never make it your home.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fair Sky at Morning

Why in the full
world are we

or, rather,
am I the only

thing that goes
away and, so

far, returns?
Everything is

replete, ripe,
churning, foaming

without emptying
or diminishing

for me, this ghost
that goes to nothing

every evening,
every coma,

every surgery,
and, yes, will

also at death (which
is just the same

but with, usually,
a worse prequel).

Everything else is
in sum conserved,

so to be losable, I am,
must be, nothing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Life in the Subjunctive

Our pain is all
in the otherwise,

the might, could,
would and should

that exist
never and nowhere

except in our
grammar of longing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day Nothing to Do with the Past

Driving down
the sunset canyon

shadows chasing
red-gold cliff walls

under another perfect
blue sky (and so forth)

the world's so
always full

of everything
becoming everything

you know that any
gain entails a loss,

that's necessary,
yes, understandable, necessary,

but you're a little
amazed and a little

hopeful that it never
lets itself empty,

and therefore every loss
entails also a gain,

shadows snuffing
red-gold bringing

on stars, spring scents
of evening (and so forth).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anonymous Triptych of Witness and Grateful


On your left, at dawn
we have this frame

of a severe hotel window,
looking over heavy grey

traffic to Timpanogos,
great serrated, snowy

blade of cold stone.
O! you are startled

by the spray of starlings,
their quick black specks

across that dense blue
hue of almost morning,

and the improbable
thought they provoke,

that our problem is,
we don't trust death.


Now here in the middle
canvas of lunch hour,

we have this vast
and vacant parking

lot pinned to the
ground like a dried,

gargantuan elephant
hide, good dead

asphalt under pale,
late-winter melancholy,

beside the white box
store abandoned by consumers,

shuttered for months with no sign
now of ever reopening again,

and on the horizon, green
balloons dance in a ring around

bright New and Used Cars,
the next grey lot over.

This the artist might
have called something

dreadfully arch
and sardonic, say,

"The Triumph
of Indifference,"

although we'll never know
whether such artists existed.


Last, late afternoon,
on our right, next

to the Lake, these tawny
stubbled fields, scattered

with robins and sparrows, we
see are here nibbled by ponies

and handsome red horses, right
where the woods are ribboned

with smooth paths for the cyclists
in helmets who waver along under

high clouds and low branches
of thick-tangled cottonwoods,

and you may, just out of
the corner, notice the Creek

shining! chain-mailed
serpent among the dim

paths and the gentle, forgetful,
half-forgotten trees, but

just a glance as you swerve
aside at the wraith

of a memory, so a nearness
to tears can reach your

stubborn, stubborn
eyes, and you realize you

are yourself, still, both
witness and grateful.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Non-Narrative Fraction

We may all be
fictions, we may
be all fictions,

but we could
try for other than
the truth after

all, we could
try to stop
trying to be

our own stories,
we could lie
around, lying

about telling
tall stories at
all, we could

reinvent new non-
narrative fictions
whose truth is

this fire in
the fake motel
grate, the snow

on these silken
spring flowers
that can't fade.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hush, Hush, Wait

Just when we know
something important
just has to happen,

just at the date
that looms importantly,
the great big anniversary

of the last seismic
shift in our landscape
of ordinary living

the sly world goes grey
and quiet, almost
ashen, and whispers

to us, "Not this,
not this time, not
now. Hush, hush, wait. . . ."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Assessing the Improbable Ubiquity of Belief

the world

what you may
neither push nor grasp

try if try
you must
not to understand

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Cricket

We have a cricket
in the house who
chirps day and night.

He has migrated
from under the bed
to under the stove,

to under the bookshelves,
to under the old stereo
system over four days,

and we know this
because he signals,
and we wonder

in the human way,
how he got in,
does he eat our spiders,

and most of all
is he lonely,
does he have a chance

to find a mate,
lost in our world,
will he live?

Our compulsion
to wonder about
parts of a world

with no apparent
need to wonder
for themselves

is as us, as
inexplicable, as
tuneful and monotonous

as the chirping
of our cricket,
day and night.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Broken Sundial

Wind drives great clouds
across the sky, above the valley,

the long, deep solemn valley,
exactly the length and width

of Manhattan Island, but
specializing in emptiness,

as its inverse, the bustling
city island, specializes in plenitude.

We are perched on the Rim
of this template of spaciousness

now, where more mule deer live
than humans, more ghosts

haunt the ruined archaeology
than bodies inhabit the houses,

most of which are second homes
of absentee owners, bare

and almost silent, some grand,
some humble, some bizarre,

where we know ourselves guests
of this house, this land, these clouds,

these native deer, tenants only
among the myriad missing owners,

the ancient and contemporary
people scattered over time and space

like these reappearing, racing,
disappearing clouds themselves,

that rise from the western red cliffs,
tower, tumble, and sink into mists

on the snowy La Sals
heaped up to the east,

the peaky catchers of clouds,
giant hampers of white nothings

whose constant transformation
changes everything without

changing nothing, the absence
that is its own presence, the feeling

of an emptiness more
substantial than everything.

In our rented, also mostly
empty house, an old clock ticks

high on the wall, too high
above our reach to correct,

sounding just like time, except
the hands have never moved.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Still at Any Speed

Remember now,
not to save, but
to savor, Sequoia

sleeping on the sofa,
the chipmunk and the jay
stuffing themselves

on the flagstones
in the sun, the wind
tossing the rabbitbrush,

stirring the tenacious
pinyon pines and junipers,
the enormity of this.

Keep remembering
and returning
to whatever is

happening, as it
happens. It's always
happening, and all

you are, will ever
be, is knowing
the enormity of this.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Like a Lamb

Who are the dead?
a girl asked
in a dream,

a girl who
was herself nothing
but part of that dream,

a ghost, whether
of the spirit
or of the synapses.

We are the dead,
the poem answered
out of the dream,

We are the dead,
and that is the best,
most beautiful thing.