Thursday, June 30, 2011


Peculiarly common seduction,
seductively common, peculiar,
nothing to do with resting the bones,

once you get down to bare bones of it,
a pause for certain parts of the brain,
but only certain parts, which gives pause,

which lets poets and gurus figure sleep
as rehearsal for extinction, for not
asking why extinction needs rehearsing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lactose, Fructose, Alcohol, Sucrose . . .

Only one set
Of experiences
Is literally sweet:

Sugar. Nothing else,
From first puppy love
To last lingering kiss,

Is anything
More than metaphor
For tasting sugar.

Sugar, sugar,
Sugar! Only
Air and water

Can compete
With that need
For something sweet.

Sex is fine,
And love, we all
Damn well agree,

Is better.
Vitamins and protein,
Various healthy things

Like sleep
And dreams, however
Pleasant or 

Otherwise, are 
Necessary to whatever  
Life we keep,

But sugar, sugar,
And only sugar,
Is actually sweet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Last Church of Old Ghost Highway

"you know what's weird?"
~ overheard overlooking the lake

The cathedral of present awareness is weird,
So elaborately concentrated and sheared

At the sides, where one expects external supports
But finds only the nothing that was and, of course,

The nothing that never will be. For the scary
And the willing to be afraid, sanctuary

Of sorts, a shelter open to the wind and all
Who are able to content themselves without walls.

Still, to say this is sacred is not to say safe,
The present, after all, denotes time, not a place,

The present-perfect present of vanishing storm
And spectral mists in the hills, regathering storms.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When Seeking Stops

" Swim until you can't see land"

How can we live without looking around,
Evaluating our circumstances,
Fantasizing about them improving,
And worrying about them worsening?

The question itself is unsure
Whether it is rhetorical
Or in earnest. In the present,
Nothing is still: how could we be?

Now gives everything and
Gives everything away.
Out in the cold green lake,
I want for nothing else

But more of this
Nothing I can
Keep, everything
I have to lose.

What can't
Be saved
Can save.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Slocan Sunday: The Sky, the Mountains, the Lake, the Village, the Creek, and the Labyrinth....

Why the labyrinth?
Most artificial
Symbol for a range
Of nature's puzzles,
One exit only,

Only one way through,
By rule, by fiat
Tenebrae, how us.
No task not human
Is so predisposed.

Our punctured circle,
Spiraling inward,
And in the middle,
A dead end, full stop,
No way out but back.

We have shaped these signs
In every culture,
From ochre on rock
To stained-glass windows,
To circles in corn:

Perfectly linear,
Symmetrical, false
Problems of escape.
We draw them as we
Draw faith: with no help.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Mysterious Clouds of Slow Lake

They can't be different. They can't.
Clouds are clouds around the world.
In time-lapse photography,
These would boil across the blue
As time-lapsed clouds always do.
And yet they don't. They don't move,
Not in a teachable way.

They can't be different. They can't.
Motionless as palace guards,
Numerous as pin angels,
Solemn as white-wigged judges,
They disappear and appear.
Nothing you notice changes,
And all you notice is change.

Friday, June 24, 2011

So Much Resistance of Things

"so many things seem filled with the intent /to be lost"

The whole damn world is willful 
In every detail. We want
To impute this willfulness,
If not to a sagacious
Deity or destiny,
To large abstract principles,
Basic forces, cosmic laws.

God or a malicious witch
We can believe might have willed
The hard rain, the sudden fall,
But if not them, then nature,
Gravity, evolution
By natural selection.

But cause may not be mindful,
Nor the product of great laws.
Cause inheres in every mote,
In the sub-subatomic,
Each infinitesimal:
Free, mindless wills, all at once,
Universal anarchy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Querulous Sunset

Why anyone prefers dreams,
Even hypothetically,
To incoming sensation,
Aka reality,
Baffles me: most of my dreams
Are either ridiculous,
Unsettling, or both at once.

Right this moment, the last light
Of a sturm-und-drang evening
Gives a salmon pink kiss-off
To the lightning-struck peaks
As a wet summer wind moans
And paces around the house.
It's dark, and getting darker,

But it's always well detailed,
This perpetual present,
Never whole, never not whole.
As for dreams of wonderland,
Tonight I'll probably wake
From some fast-fading nightmare.
Why would I want to live there?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Are Summers

One can't contend
With contentment
From the inside
Of contentment.

Is not lowly.

Are less than this
And less than now.
This now is good.
Let yesterday

And tomorrow 
Shift for themselves.
We swim in this lake.
We sun on its stones.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quincunx Solstice

And home, five twelfths
Of the sky removed
From our last and first
Family departure.

How is the lattice made?
How do we move, forever
Dropping through pinball dreams
Toward something like intention,

Something akin to our desires
But never exactly our own?
Why ask, who cares, today
Is the first day of summer

And we are here, weird dreams
And approximations
Of surprises, more and less
Surprising than expected.

The silly clouds, those sheep
Without a shepherd or a dog
Have scattered and the big
Bad toothy sun grins down.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Quincunx Quatrain  (Now we're in the thick of it)

Thunder rumbles
Over glaciers,
After lightning
Licks the blue air
Of Lake Slocan,

Where the falls roar.
Let those who can
Connect the dots,
As the author
Tumbles the die.

Everything falls
In its own way,
But all that falls
Shapes the same curve
Every damned time.

The curve itself
Says all falls are
Random, only the
Curve determined.
But the falls roar.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quincunx Traa dy-Liooar

Time is the only currency,
Even reproduction is just
One way to time's heaven,

Assuming eternity
Or endless continuation
Is the goal. And it seems

So, given the general
Thematics of most
Human religions

(And is there any other
Kind of faith than human?).
We call this heaven

Of indestructible,
Unspendable forever,
"Timeless," oxymoron,

Never fully realizing,
Whether in faith or
Philosophy (or poems),

That there was always
Time enough, and worlds
To savor it in. It goes,

Yes, and by going
Gets away from us,
But that's a trick

Life plays on us.
We are the going,
And the time we spend

Getting away from
Our own denouement,
Goes sideways, forever.

We trade, therefore,
Meantime, in worthless
Wooden nickels we call gold.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quincunx Twain

Why try to get away?
Why dream of falling
To the tip end
Of God's good random 
Distribution? The supreme

Law of unreason makes it
Unreasonable to wish
To reason one's way
To freedom, never
One's own decision,

But for this one
Evening and morning,
Making the seventh day,
We settle at rest 
At the far end of the scatter,
Having driven

Ourselves into another
Almost empty haven,
Having driven
Ourselves almost
To distraction to get
Here, high in the tall

Forest between the burn
And the lingering snow,
Where the only music
Comes from the framing
Streams twinned on 
Either side of our site.

All night, no one,
Not even a bear,
And in the morning,
The few, slow passing
Vehicles on the road
Below us, hours apart,

Still feel too much
Of a neighborly intrusion,
Although we too are too,
Too in need of comforting
Companionship, being family
First, and human.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Quincunx One

And . . . we're dropping
Through the middle
Of Nowhere, Nowhere,

And I notice I have
A few bars of service
At the last-chance service bar

And Sarah says, "Quick!
You should post a poem
Of the day, some poem of a day

At least, just write
That the word of the day
Is something something!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Sixteenth

of June, and I find myself
such as I am, whatever
I am, wrapped in a woolly
baby blanket at the end of the day,

perched in an armchair
at the top of an improbable
hotel in Bend, Oregon,
I didn't know existed

when the day began.
The baby has left
for a bath, and Dvorak
is tumbling from

somewhere by the bed,
ah, the hotel bed in good linen,
when we meant to be tented
down, up in the high woods tonight,

and I have a moment
when I feel sheepish and
a moment when I feel wolfish
for having found this haven

on an evening when the forecast
warned of sudden, unseemly frost,
no weather for babies, even in woolen,
under thin tents in the deep woods.

So. Dovish twilight settles
her feathers over Old Bend's
squat buildings huddled
against whatever weather,

and the very certainty of walls,
the stout solemnity of concrete
cubes reminds me, clustered under
one lone remaining, towering cedar

that spikes up seven stories
tall, that it's all woods and weather
in the long, long run, and the sheep
and the wolves are all small.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Three Years On

"Nothing has changed; nothing's the same"

We revisit a curiously themed
Motel among high desert hot springs
That steam, copiously, in bronze sun:
Our "pilot room" has a poster for Wings,

Amid a vaguely thirties motif,
Biplanes and LIFE magazine covers,
A crew lounge sign by the kitchenette,
A wooden model plane that hovers

Over the decrepit swamp cooler,
And, bizarrely enough, framed postcards,
Of early twentieth-century writers,
An old Mark Twain, a young Evelyn Waugh.

Those covers from LIFE are what gets me.
Over the toilet, from 1939,
A "girl guide" grinning at the World's Fair
Who, if still living, is about eighty-nine,

And, across from her, a handsome airman
In uniform, just home from the war,
Only a few short years later.
The covers look so similar 

They could be for back-to-back issues,
But in between them lay a world deranged,
And it haunts me for no good reason,
That so much of nothing has changed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ode to Surprise Valley

It's not like joy, exactly,
Although joy's wrapped up in it.
It's not as easy to praise
Surprise--surprise goes both ways.
There are people who hate it,
And that feels appropriate 
In this valley named for it,

Where mountains reveal themselves
To be sand dunes, the dry floor
Becomes a great lake in spring,
Basalt cliffs are picture shows
By the abandoned pit house
Whose stones make a faery ring
Around their ancient pinyon.

Everything here is replete
With sharp opportunity,
From the seasonal wetlands,
The steaming plumes of hot springs,
The high ranch ponderosas,
To the huge pipeline project
Being dragged over the pass.

There's an old schoolhouse here
In which some folks from 'Frisco
Have planted King Lear's great chair
And announced the house a home.
The memories for us here,
Are as peculiar, wondrous,
Human as that, as surprise.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Serendipity Gypsy Hotel

Is an inexpensive tent
Camped for the moment

In high grass and cottonwoods
Beside a stream near flood

And chortling with flushed bravado
Through high-desert sagebrush Nevada.

Not far off, great trucks drag ore from mines,
Churning peaks to dust, but here feels fine,

Here in this small green find, unguarded, leisurely
Echo of the first garden's luxury,

And we bunk down, the three of us,
Hoping for a little rest

In our looping long migration
Free from any fixed destination

As lost and found as anyone
Who dared to leave that first garden alone,

Giving up attachment to the allowed, safe and peaceful
To sample these fruits of the knowledge of strange woods and travel.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Heraclitus Sits by a Stream

"the river won't stop because you stopped paying attention"

I've been here
Before and
I've never

Been exactly
Here. Someplace
Almost this

But transformed.
I'll never
Be right here,

Not again.
All right then.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hurry Up Please, It's Time

We have so many means of measurement,
Not one of them close to adequate.

Can you feel even a minute as such,
As single, unique, solitary, whole?

Try paint, try language, try photography,
Try film, scent, virtual reality,

The happening of things can only be 
Remade as yet another happening.

Count the millions of moments you have lived.
They are not beyond calculating,

And you experienced every one of them,
Or an awareness you assume was you

Experienced all you've now forgotten.
That's it. We can only enumerate

All that we just felt, all we already
Forgot we felt we could no longer feel.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wake to Sleep

Now here is nowhere,
Where the road ends in
The middle of things
And you begin from
The Outsiders' Inn.

You've never been here,
And you've never been
Anywhere but here.
This is your country,
The one real country,

This hazy landscape,
These forests of sleep,
Not aspirations,
Not fantasies but
The real life you live

Without knowing it,
That life you forget
As soon as you think
You've reawakened.
You may, if you wish,

Imagine yourself
As an alien,
But citizenship
Is already yours
If you but claim it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"The Mind of a Child is a Dark Wood"

It's so hard to grasp
Watching her
Seeing how alert she is
Observing her learn
From scratch
At speeds no adult can match

That she will remember
None of this 

Not as herself

That for all the obvious
Personality she already has
And possibly always will be

She has not yet started
Being an awareness of self
As self 
Observing itself

An awareness that counts 
Her episodic memories
In the miserly fashion of all of us
Carefully hedging our stores
Against whirling oblivion
That ineluctable cyclone
That vortex
That ever-approaching storm 

That right this
Moment is
All she already
Ever knows 

Of exactly right
This moment
That she knows

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Baffled Praise of Transient Being

Dreamed I was a live dream
In a world teeming with dreams
Both wonderful and strange,
But with one ironclad

Law: that every dream dies.
The peculiar thing was,
Before my dream ended,
I dreamed that I was glad.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Third-Hand Anecdote of a Poem of an Anecdote of a Third-Rate Movie

A fan of puzzle poems once read
A poem exactly opposite
The nature of its creator.
It was a bad but honest poem
By a good, dishonest woman.
It was, like so many bad poems,
Part memory, part confession,
Yearning to attain to wisdom.

It set a scene of the poet
Relaxing at somebody's farm
On a sleepy, hot afternoon,
Reevaluating her life,
And concluding it was wasted,
Then deciding she didn't care.
Defiance triggered memory
Of a movie seen in childhood

Which the poet then proceeded
To explain in useless detail
Lingering lovingly over,
The precise terminology,
The facts, and the actors' real names.
It was just a kid's movie aimed
At the pangs of adolescence
And the triumph of underdogs.

It seems that the crux of the film,
Involved lead actor Bill Murray
As the childlike adult-in-charge ,
Rallying the underdog kids
With a speech before the big game
That he was allowed to ad-lib
As an anti-rallying chant,
With mildly anarchic results:

"It just doesn't matter! It just
Doesn't matter! It just doesn't
Matter!" went the climactic cry.
Of course, this being Hollywood,
Even not caring for results
Only helped the underdogs win.
But down the decades, the poet
Became nostalgic for that scene.

She acknowledged its silliness 
But wrote that for her it meant
The truth: "It just doesn't matter!
It just doesn't matter! It just
Doesn't matter!" Then she returned
To the theme of life on the farm,
Trying to tie a lazy day
Into knots of philosophy.

Me, I suspect that she wanted
Relief from the constant burden
Of calling herself a failure.
Truth was that everything mattered
Very much, to her, after all.

Monday, June 6, 2011


The honest solipsist admits,
Although he is the world entire,
That nothing is to do with him
Nor happens as he might desire.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Green Thought in a Green Shade

High up in the oak
And aspen slopes at evening

Out of the plagued house
Out of the hot valley haze

At some risk to life, limb
And undercarriage

Next to a cold stream
By a pond near the road's end

We perch for an hour
And listen to the frogs

And I notice one oak 
All black gnarl and orange lichen

And am seized by the wish
To not be a cowering mammal

But something statelier
More like a sentient rock

A haunted tombstone maybe
That could remain here

In all weathers all the year
Watching how that oak holds up

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Waxing Crescent

All day I had in mind
Something convoluted
I wanted to tackle

A bit of drollery
About solipsism
That the moon rerouted

With the slenderest wand
Of reflected starlight
The uncanny pallor

Neither silver nor white
Found only in the glow 
Of poems about the moon

In the eyes of poets
Falling out of their boats
To kiss the faint mirror

The last echo of light
That started out as fire
And ended up as night

Friday, June 3, 2011

No Pinyon Thoughts, No Juniper Dreams

Life fights itself; I don't know why.
Collectively, life is ruthless,
Unstoppable and immortal,
Hurling countless forms at the world
And each other, a tournament
Perpetuating tournaments.
Lives are not the ends but the means
To no end but continuing.

"All nature is at war," opened
Darwin and Wallace's gambit,
But war's a narrow metaphor,
However apt, to carry through.
Life is matter motivated
To motivate matters further
By thwarting the motivations
Of more matter to do the same.

Life is hungry; I don't know why.
All life consumes, churns, and excretes,
And this must somehow be decreed
By physical laws that won't let
Matter enjoy being unless
In competition for that joy.
Life is fierce, frail, and strange--to me,
To living things. I don't know why.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Is Getting Old

Mutters one corner
Of my muzzy brain
As I drag myself,
Aching, out of bed
To face the morning

And find I'm facing
A wall of crawling
Grasshoppers as well.
So they've invaded
The bedroom now. Great.

A couple of hours
Later, my karma
Is wrecked forever
By the massacre
Of a hundred bugs,

But I've decided
A few short lifetimes
As a bug myself
Can't be worse than
One covered in them.

By the time we leave
The house, the outer
Walls are on the march
And I head the car
Into the mountains.

We picnic below
Geyser Pass, above
Spanish Valley, where
Reassert themselves,

As do the lizards,
Bobbing their shoulders
At us in their shade,
But mercifully
It's grasshopper free.

Under a giant
Spiraled juniper,
We relax, we lean
And loaf at our ease,
Observing the breeze.

The high, dry country,
The warm late spring sun
The sweet company
Rhymes in memory
With a long, fond day

Some decades ago
Glowing down the years,
And it startles me
That moments, all brief,
Are no briefer now.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Above the Humming House

Surrounded by a popping,
Hissing mess of grasshoppers,
I think of Stevens' "one thing
Remaining," "no greater than
A cricket's horn," and wonder
Once more, why is this world this,
And why can we imagine

It might be any other,
When we can't imagine what
That other could be, whether
Real or no, conjectural
Or final. This world depends
On nothing I can affirm
Yet seethes, as it is, as is.