Saturday, April 30, 2011

For Sarah, My True Penelope, Who Will Know What This Means

At the last hour, we found a haven
In the remote and ancient desert

Where a giant Belgian gentleman
And his brave, microscopic dachshund

Ruled a roost of red dunes, Range Rovers,
Deep wells, giraffes, and long horizons,

Where cooks, drivers, pilots, housekeepers,
Served as seamstresses, photographers,

And as rag-tag choir voiced by angels,
Who sang in the red sands at sunset.

We walked under an enchanted gate
And took our places in emptiness

At the unmarked spot where the giant
Told us to stand in his wilderness,

Where we voiced our vows to each other
As choir sang, sun sank, and he blessed us.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Flunking Poets' Catechism

"How dost thou versify?"
I prosodize as I believe:
barely, lightly, persistently.

"And what hast thou done, ever, for Erato?"
Nothing. I've avaunted no gardes,
preached no revivals, made no rules.

"What elevates thy language?"
I compose in the middle way,
A puttanesca, rich and plain.

"Activist, or ars gratia artis?"
Neither. Ars gratia selfish
Or ars gratia non-self, that's it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Think of Anything Less Honest than Writing Poetry

My father worked with two-by-fours,
Two-by-eights and measuring tape.

Myself, I work with eight-by-eights,
Five-by-fives, sevens-by-sevens,
My own and others' inventions.

My calloused father once took note
Of my soft hands. Had they not done
Honest work? Hands, yes. Mind, never.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Happens Now

Writing is sleeping and dreaming.
To write about life suspends it
Every bit as much as sleeping
And dreams suspend experience.

Right now, composing these phrases
Distracts me from everything else,
All my for betters and worses,
My transpiring aches and wonders.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inverted Revelation

There's a trick they do in caves
where, at some point in the tour,
they demonstrate the darkness,

and there we are, total black.
Solemnly we contemplate
the lightless world a moment,

then on with our well-lit show!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Father Goose

My I can do no right.
My me can do no wrong.
But between the two of us,
Mismatched we limp along!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

When I Was Me, Not Me

A different body
of a different age
in a different time

carrying a different set
of memories and obligations
driving a different car

leaving a different house
listening to a different performance
of the same composition

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Macaroni and Ketchup

Forthwith a silly, stupid poem
on a small and foolish subject,
the humble and unhealthful food
known in the U.S. as "ketchup."

Just sugar, salt, and vinegar
for the most part, this condiment
seasons the depths of goat cuisine.
It is the sauce of ignorance.

And of course, I've always loved it.
It covered over boiled spinach
when I was a kid. My father
taught me it went with scrambled eggs.

I once got in an argument
with a soused Glaswegian dousing
it on some awful Scottish dish
over which term was more English

and therefore, of course, the worser
for it: "tomato sauce," "catsup,"
or "ketchup." It didn't occur to us
that no name could make this sauce posh.

Sitting down tonight to a bowl
of organic macaroni
pasta shells with organic cheese,
I guiltily added ketchup

in a big, red garish dollop,
this stuff we once used as fake blood,
original, culinary
sin against the gods of good taste,

and I realize that I can't wait
to teach my organic daughter
who's wholly built of holy milk,
this lowbrow omnivore's delight.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Short Letter to My Now and Future Daughter

This is what you are like at four
and a half months old: your hair
is short and undecided

whether to be blonde or red
or brunette; your irises are the sort
of blue that brings sapphires to mind.

Your face is round and dimpled, your wrists
are ringed, replete with chubbiness,
but all this you will see from many photos.

What you may not see, nor hear, not
even from the moving clips, is how
defined your personality now becomes,

how you scrutinize your world,
how people stop to marvel at seeing you,
how you are loved and loved and loved.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Now Yesterday Will Be Arriving

Ah, you can't eat your life and keep it, too.
You'll have to consume what you want to feel.
Even the sun on your back is falling.

It's not that everything passes away.
It's that the passing is the only thing.
The passing away is the being.

Down deep you know this cannot keep you sad.
All your joy is in this experience,
And being part of what passes is you.

So a cloud comes between you and the sun,
And maybe you shiver. Maybe you smile.
Maybe you go on with living, inside.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Hard not to project freedom
for the meadowlark warbling
on the fence and then winging

away from crowded, docile,
fenced-in horses, sheep, and cows,

despite knowing gravity
clutches and unites us all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sic Transit Memoria Parvuli

Of all the transience of infancy
The strangest for this father is the fact
That each moment shared by two leaves just one
Accessible trace for fond remembrance:
I as parent might retell this instance,
Narrating it in evolving versions
Again and again to my growing child,
But my child herself, who makes this moment
Worth remembering at all, won't recall.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Turing Machine Buddha

Idiot that I am,
I find it rewarding

to imagine the ways
a Turing Machine Test

might be vulnerable
to a false negative,

might fail with a truly
enlightened silicon

savant. I can distract
my brain for rainy hours

driving through a dark day
of insufficient sleep

by cooking up questions
for the Bodhisattva

in the machine. To wit:
"What is your favorite

memory of childhood?"
"This is." "Meaning now?" "Yes."

"Could you elaborate?"
"Every moment is best."

"Alright. What makes, say, this
moment one of the best?"

"It is." "Ah. It is . . . what?"
"It is." "Can't you give me

any details?" "Details
are like clouds in the sky

or waves crossing a lake.
They arise and subside,

but the lake and the sky
remain. You are the lake;

You are the sky
." "I see.
And what or who are you?'

"I am." "But what are you?"
"I am." "You are. . . That's it?"

"It is." "Any ideas
why you are or I am?"

"Ideas are forms floating
on the surface of things

"Right, right. The sky, the lake,
whatever, don't change." "No."

And so forth and so on,
until I let myself,

both interlocutor
and responder, give up.

"Given your rote answers,
I'd have to conclude you're

merely machinery,
not a mind." "I don't mind."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Never Less

Living with ravens
in the neighborhood,
living with their noise,
chortlings, squawks, and shouts,
I tend to forget

how quietly they fly.
At least, that is, until
a perfect black shadow,
unvoiced and elegant,
cut from the curve of night,
cleaves the blue above me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

We've Got

much too much time
when we think we've not enough
every breath is a lifetime

one lifetime exactly
that's the most we can notice
the most we can live at a time

even though most
of our little breathed lifetimes
pass through us unnoticed

and sometimes I think
how exhausting it would be
to really live all the time

attentive to the world
at every single breath
never missing a one

this is one, this is one
this is one, this is one
oh, much too much time

and yet how pleasant
when time seems foreshortened
to count down a dozen rich

completely inhaled, exhaled
noticed, cherished, marvelous
strange panoramic full lifetimes

Friday, April 15, 2011

Know No Snow Blows So Slow

I love the lush stupidity of language,
the way meaning and nonsense bump up and crowd
one another like round twins in wonderland,

the profoundest concepts shouldering dumb sounds
like pranksters, "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?"
when of course none of them know what they mean, none,

while the dimmest, smallest phonemes, packed like clams
into narrow beds together somehow make
strange sense from mnemonic chants, from baby poems

dreamed up crooning soothing baby human coos,
"Whose got the pinkiest pinky toes? You do. . . .
Whose low nose knows no snows blow so slow? Yours does. . . ."

Thursday, April 14, 2011



A thing no one can answer,
although many will pretend,
is how a thing's becoming
keeps becoming to its end.


The thing I wanted
to tell you as we drove
past Sandy Beach

on the way back
from shopping in town,
near the end

of another one
of our windy,
sunny afternoons

following another
one of your endless
sleepless nights,

was, Let's pull over
here. There's no
one at the beach.

We can take out
the baby and a blanket.
We can sit down

beside the Colorado
River and a cottonwood
tree. We can bake in late

sun until we're done
or the shadows catch
us, expensive frozen

groceries be damned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

God Surrenders

So what if I did make it all?
So what if I'm making it still?
I'm slack-jawed in awe of the gall
of this world ignoring My will.

Everything that happens happens
within My field of awareness.
My merest thought flattens atoms,
or should, but they couldn't care less.

Truth is My thoughts, and My thoughts make
the whole of creation, but I
am not My thoughts and so can't take
praise for their lives, blame for what dies.

I am that I am, yet I am
not I within the tale of Me.
Only the null knows what I am.
Only surrender lets me be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Relaxing Attachment

Bumper-sticker Buddhism
can be found slapped to the front
of cash registers, facing
out to paying customers:
"Attachment Is Suffering."
Joke or manipulation?
Probably a bit of both.

I wonder if the sticker
suffers for its adhesion.
Surely a little fondness
for certain forms of being
can't always be horrific.
Love the truth, but love it slant,
and forgive truth when it's not.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crotchet to Self

The dusty rains left
myriad water spots
on every window.
Remember this

as often as you can:
any feature of this
world can irritate
or enchant as easily.

The views are ruined
by ochre obfuscations.
The views are enhanced
by filigreed lace scrims.

The same. Either way,
there's always more beauty
left within this situation
than you have yet extracted.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On Going

There's real alchemy
in this world--it's just
so ordinary
and so essential
we don't notice it.

The oxymoron,
continuous change,
comes closest to it.
No moment is not
another moment.

That's the alchemy
we try to call time,
although we have no
idea what time is
beyond metaphor.

We approximate
it in the limit
by mincing our steps
infinitely many,
infinitely small,

but can't slice it thin
enough to stop it,
catch it, see it still.
It is the Going
that is eternal.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Million Years Ago in Moab

It's tempting to be impressed
with time in a place like this
where precarious boulders
as big as the pyramids
hang over interrupted
tumbles to the valley floor
motionless millenia,

where fluffy pastries of rock
pile thousands of layers high,
each of those layers laid down
one fine age at a time,
shoved down deep under epochs,
raised up high over epochs,
crumbling down through more epochs.

Such topography declares
a million years ago
might as well be yesterday,
even if the town below
scarcely claims one century
and the current occupants
manage a few decades each.

If so, then what's a moment,
what's a windy afternoon
in a green park full of chimes?
Dust scoured from dark sandstone bluffs
where it last settled as dust
a few hundred million years ago
settles without answering

in the pale buds and sepals
of the beginning of spring,
in our daughter's eyelashes,
in the weave of the blanket
spread for our short-lived picnic
on new grass beside those chimes
where children bang their musics.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mad Improbability

We call them delusional
whose thundering monsters,
internalized chimeras,
defy the laws of physics,
but we're all just as haunted
by our own compulsive dreams
of the near impossible.

We don't believe our voices
are any less real because
they're so damned improbable.
As long as they don't command
us to consider ourselves
gods, ghosts, or Napoleon,
we find them agreeable.

We win every argument,
every challenge, every duel
in the moot court theatres
of our Shakespearean minds,
staged with the same worn-out props
of tattered recollection
we call imagination,

whether the current billing
is "Alternate Histories,"
"Conceivable Near Futures!"
"Courts of Public Opinion,"
"Disasters Will Prove Me Right!"
"My Tragic Heroic Fate?"
or "Plain Old I Told You So."

Most of the time we never
even stage the whole drama.
We put on our memories,
mourn, sigh, strut around in them,
take them off, put on others,
pick out the shiniest ones,
conjure futures out of those,

glance at the darkest costumes
and shudder before putting
them where we can't forget them
but don't have to look at them
too directly too often.
We're so lost we don't realize
that we're playing all the parts.

What we most want to believe
is that we command the roles,
the stories are possible,
and the direction is ours.
In truth the actors are ghosts,
the director is the dark.
We're just the stage, and we're mad.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rumpelstiltskin's Return

This morning I am the last
line of defense. A whole
household of restless people
has revolved around one
restless firstborn infant's rest,

but now everyone is resting,
even the restless infant,
everyone save me, who
rocks her back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth,

watching the slow spinning sun
weave us a golden illustration of
unknowing on the broken loom
of one dead decorative tree branch
propped among these gilded cobwebs.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Meanwhile on the Sea of Forever Arriving

And yet, and yet, never far
from that pathetic lifeboat
and its motley shipwrecked crew

for whom each day is their ship
leaking and slowly sinking,
each night their wreck a bonfire,

and every morning flotsam
from dreams of fire and water
scattered on the vacant waves,

a quiet bird is floating,
a bird without reflection
a pure nothing of a bird,

the connoisseur of current
who cons the waves on the sea
of forever arriving--

Grace, Joy, Clarity, Deep Peace,
Ease and Lightness of Being,
prettily appropriate

labels all, although labels
never stick to waves for long
but ride or slip beneath them--

a halcyon sort of bird
already beyond the pale
melodramas of wrecked lives,

content in every moment
to rise and fall in silence
and forgive the lifeboat's gang

who lust to consume its peace
always just beyond their reach
on the sea of arriving.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Parable that Holds No Water

Together in the lifeboat of the body,
marooned at sea, crowd a bedraggled gang
of common characters, a vaporous angel

of ephemeral better self squeezed in beside
a hibernating bear of pain, a barking dog
of ego, a whining infant of desire,

and the chattering monkey of the mind,
and they annoy and comfort each other
as best they know how for as long as the boat


Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Night Love Letter

Far away and awake,
I hope that you're asleep
and that you won't read this
until sunrise proper
stirs you from sweeter dreams
than you've had in a week.

Far from you and from sleep,
I think of you under
the covers of darkness
by the windows of stars,
eyes closed, breathing softly,
floating curled on the waves.

Far along and alone,
I hold the dark magic
dear of the memory
of your head by my neck,
your hair under my hand,
our thoughts close and tangled.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ethereal Demography of the Superstitious Atheist

Last night the high stars,
predictably mute,
decorated life
above the dark side
of a small planet.

Today the weather
turned wet and windy,
soaking the desert,
churning ochre flows,
running red rivers

of undignified,
impassable mud
and dangerous rocks
that yesterday were
sides of sunny hills.

The dull human mind
starts habitual
of what this change means:
Good day for a storm,

a good day for me;
I don't have to drive;
it could have been worse,
could have come later,
made problems for me.

The furies themselves
may have arranged it;
Some Others may care
what happens to me,
mine, and my schedule.

What are these structures
in our little minds
that crave characters
with invisible
desires on our fates?

We people the world,
and then populate
each interior
with exterior
agents of meaning.

For every billion
a hundred billion
forces activate.

The superstitious
atheist, even,
feels tugged by meaning,
purpose, control, feels
haunted by patterns,

counts random angels
constellating from
minuscule details,
appalling designs,
winged with intentions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tapping My Inner Platypus

When I'm underwater, eyes closed
or squinted against the blur, blind
or near, hearing dimmed to murmur,

squirming, paddling, feeling my way,
a bottom feeder in the muck,
of a lake or pond or bathtub,

the image of a platypus
tends leisurely to come to mind,
and I smile when no one can see,

through a murky, amusing truth,
no more meaningful than symbol
and no less meaningless than myth.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ha Ha Very Funny

The glowering bedside clock had not
changed numerals past midnight before
the foolery was already upon us.

After weeks of baby waking
umpteen times a night, accelerating
toward morning, baby bird slept

beautifully, peacefully
almost all of the long starry night,
while her mother was

wide staring awake
with insomnia maxima
horribila dusk to dawn.

By first light my own mudgreen
eyes opened over luggage lids
swollen to bulging carpetbags,

sagging with whole possums
curled up feigning
death inside them,

and I wondered how tired
is too tired for poetastery?
But even a fool's day can

be fine. The morning shone,
the warm noon passed through town
and here I am still somewhat

aware I'm alive, sitting out
in a late afternoon light
with a thumping plump infant

and my somehow-lovelier
than-ever-bone-tired wife,
playing tennis with the net

down as someone once called
this sort of lazy excuse for verse,
damn sure too tired to rhyme.