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.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Sophomore's Dilemma

Because you admit you don't know
Doesn't mean you know anything
More than someone who thinks they know,
Even though you know they don't know
Anything at all. Not at all.

What dawns on you, slowly, slowly,
In your darkening theatre
Of mind is that your profession
Of ignorance itself presumed
Too much. You don't know you don't know,

And you won't know whether you did
Or didn't know ever, only,
Maybe, whether or not you felt
Like you knew that you didn't know
Or really did know after all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nor Better, Nor Worse

Every thought in the marriage
Of news and mind readmits
Impediments, memories,
Confusion of what occurs
(Which is only in the mind)
With what occurred long ago,
(Which is only in the mind).

The planted sapling outside
The motel window last year
That was lit by the sunrise,
Green-gold beside a highway
And a muddy vacant lot,
Suggesting its own wisdom
Not at all to do with it,

Lights up again in the mind
Remembering through the dark
On a cot beside a crib
Containing a shadowy,
Inconsolably wailing
Baby who must be outside
Of the mind, occurring now,

Really needing attention,
Not a dream but destruction
Of the dream of that sapling
Glowing in the memory
Illuminating the thought
That any choice of branches
Leads to more branches, then twigs,

And every possible path
Is more or less the same length,
The same beauty, the same end,
None of them better, none worse,
Choices burnished by sunlight,
Bright burning bush in night's mind,
As I sing us back to sleep.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Was Never There, Not That When Where

The calendar converged on wind,
The wind snatched up a chime of mine
And rang it on the porch for all
I might almost ever be worth.
My god, now what was that about?

I'd like it to make sense before
I go, but I'm afraid it won't,
Or worse, afraid it will, but be
Boring, dust-devil of cliche
When wind should be like poetry,

As if you cared, and why should I?
This exact, damned lonely moment,
Ridiculously beautiful,
Beyond the pretty powers of words,
Wraps itself in going away.

It is because it goes. I am
Because I go. You are because
You go, disappearing within
The qualia of your batty self,
Mother, aha, you thought I'd skip

Over you, sleeping on the breast
Of Abraham, singing your hymns
To your old friend, the only God
Of anything and everything,
Oh no, this wind picks up and gongs

My silly, pseudo-Buddhist chime,
Shaped like Japanese kanji
But loosed to capture music's truth,
Fits for human ears from that brash
Aeolian brat called the wind.

Friday, September 16, 2011


"Two names from one origin--
Both are called 'mysterious

The last of the grasshoppers
That covered our porch in June,

Giants grown long as my thumb
Stridulate in the bushes

Beneath the dead white birch where
The hummingbird feeder hangs,

Its sugar-water half black
With a floating crust of ants

That crawled in service of their queen
And drowned before they crawled home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Gathering of the Ravens

Garrulous descriptions gather
In these latter days of summer,

Meaning nothing to each other,
Masking everything they cover

In convocations of black wings.
Hidden in their conversations

A carcass starts to disappear,
And clouds like those that painters tried

Depicting, before photographs
Blanketed the land exactly,

Ride up and over the mountains,
Stately, palatial as galleons,

Ephemeral as the notion
To do something new with one's life,

As a boy sits on the shoulders
Of a man in roadside sunflowers

Watching the long train rumble by.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another Truckload of Values from Nothing

So that's what this is,
The fool thinks, staring,
At a white-washed truck
In a parking lot,

It's bright-red slogan:
Nothing. A white smear.

The fool can't resist
Assigning meaning
To this. Oh, of course,
It's a metaphor

For our existence.
It captures that sense
Of the present tense,

Coming from nowhere
And going nowhere,
This rich moment, now,
Truckload of something.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"There's Always Some Killing You Got To Do Around the Farm"

The evidence I've read suggests
Every great and trivial death
Brings to an end four billion years
Of continuous surviving

Unless that all-consuming torch
Has already been handed off
To some fucked or budded sucker
Now burning with eternal flame.

Sunday I crushed eight black widows,
Three females and five males who lived
Their well-adapted spider lives
In our convenient, shadowed shed.

I didn't spot their spiderlings,
If any, so it's possible
I did my part to bring an end
To lineages long as mine,

Long as boasted by blades of grass,
By each wriggling bacterium
Home in the corners of my eyes,
Thriving on my every eyelash,

Long as that longest tree-top twig
Tipping the highest canopy
The thickest rainforest can brag.
As you live, you can brag the same.

Every twig tip has the same trunk,
The same roots, in the deepest end,
Digging down through the same hard ground.
Choose your own implications, friends.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grandma Cottonwood

If faith is arbitrary,
Let it be. I'll choose my own.
I'll make it ridiculous,

I'll make it feckless, shameless,
Pointless to proselytize,
Too damned absurd to believe,

And serve as my own martyr.
Why not? I'll worship a tree.
Not just any tree of course

But a grand, unusual,
Great tree, personal to me:
The cottonwood up the road.

I'll anthropomorphize her,
Treat her as both family
And all-knowing matriarch.

My prime article of faith
Is that She listens to me,
And responds to me in signs.

She watches me and helps me.
She created my whole world.
Her shade and my faith are one.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What a Waste

Of daily poem number two thirty-three
I feel like I have too much and nothing
To say. My mind keeps returning to waste,
A compulsion itself likely wasteful.

We're not choosing whether or not to waste.
We're only choosing which waste we prefer.
If I don't eat the hardboiled egg I dropped,
It won't end up in a human stomach.

Does that mean I wasted it? What about
The gallon of high-octane gasoline
I squandered to get Sequoia to sleep
And give Sarah a couple hours of peace?

Was that wasteful? Is it worse to waste time
Than money, money than love, love than time?
Is wasting Earth's resources worst of all?
I can't think of a save that's not wasteful.

The hour I spent sorting our recycling
I could have heaved in the Moab landfill.
The income I lost or forwent to cadge
Opportunity for travel, the oil

I then squandered as means to that travel,
The friendships lost to save some time alone,
The time alone tossed to save some romance,
The romance overlooked for principle,

All the cut corners, discarded towels,
Words hoarded only for poems, energy
Wasted collecting change I never spent, 
And by not spending, somehow, still wasted.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gum & Coe

Gum and Coe, attorneys outlaw,
Specializing in whatever
This is, whatever's happening

However it's happening now,
Becoming so unbecoming,
Arriving in time to depart

Right at the exact same moment,
They're slick operators, they are,
And you'll never catch them napping,

However often they catch you.
They're the essence of what you know,
What you can know, why you know it,

And how can you ever argue
Against what you know? They'll beat you
Every time, that's all I'm saying.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ariadne's Retread

"Got stones in my pathway, and my road seems dark at night"

Driving through Utah behind
A Dakota from Kansas,
Down Mormon desert Zion,

That symphony with a storm
In it, that place for every
Sin and every sin in place,

Save this commuter, rolling
As a pebble in God's shoe
Of righteousness, underfoot,

Uncomfortable, and stuck
In the groove of his making,
Out of place and turned around,

Again and again amazed
At returning to no end.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


All genes are junk,
Luggage, books
Dragged along

The long voyage,
Clogging the hold
Of each vessel

That lugs them,
A traveling library
Of tragedies,

Histories, adagia,
Accumulated damages,
Natural disasters,

Such a soggy, complex,
Boggy mess,

That tells us
How to be what
Our ancestors

Might have been,
That worked at the time,
For them,

And still does for us
When we're not sinking, 
Now and then.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

But from the Tree of Life, Thou Shalt Eat and Eat and Eat

Is what we want 
What we desire?
I don't think so.

What we desire
Is not for us
But for making

More Life from Life
At the expense
Of each small life,

While what we want
Is peace of mind,
Our little peace,

No matter what
Desire demands.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Supposedly, Jack Kerouac

Once opined that "happiness
Consists in realizing
That it's all a great strange dream."
At least, that's what the greeting

Card I've carted around for years
Proclaims. What dreaming made me
Think that was a profound statement, I wonder, 
Coming as it did from so unhappy Jack?

Or am I being unfair to my younger self,
To him, to ask that? The realization
Could have been certifiably true,
The happiness unsustainable.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day

Now that's what you do
With a hot afternoon
Back home in nowhere

Eat local fruit
Drink local beer
Dance in the sprinklers

Screw the unpacking
Scratch the parade 
Doze as you please in the shade 

The Odd Letter to an Old Friend

Sarah sometimes marvels

At the weirdness of male friendships.

"You go without talking

For years and then start up again,

Like you've never lost touch,

With no apologies, hardly,

Just the briefest catch-up,

Like nothing has to be discussed."

It's not quite that simple.

No longterm friendship's effortless.

Even old frat-boy pals

And comrades-in-arms can bicker

Anxiously as any

Insecure middle-school girlfriends

(And countless, complaining

Presidential memoirs prove this).

For myself, I sometimes 

Wondered whether my good friend James

Had perished in those years

He was around one side of the world,

I around the other,

Old traveling companions lost,

Thanks to more traveling.

Men are sentimental that way.

Then we're in touch again,

Quickly recapping our updates,

Professions, illnesses,

People and places gained and lost,

And back to the real news,

What are you reading and writing?

What do you think of this?

Do you still maintain that theory?

This, that, and not so much.

As little as I can these days.

The President? So-so.

The theory? Dead in the water,

Even if mostly true. 

The news? All traffic accidents,

Difficult to avoid,

Sickening to look at closely.

Yeh, man, I did that too;

Gave my televisions away

Years ago, even though

I still can't kick the Internet.

Our ordinary thoughts

On our extraordinary lives

(Now there's a talking point!

Are all lives extraordinary,

Given that no one can

Escape one's singular viewpoint,

Which must, therefore, be rare,

Of necessity?), here and gone.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Endless Abacus

My daughter has a toy with beads

That zoom along a spiral wire,

An M.C. Escher abacus

That allows for no accounting.

I watch her push the beads around.

I push the beads around myself,

Convinced I'm entertaining her

But really entertaining me.

The beads that go around come back,

But never in the same sequence,

And no one cluster can be forced

To go all the way together.

A stupid trope occurs to me

One bleary-eyed dawn play session,

That this is the true wheel of fate,

Contorted, asymmetrical,

Arriving at no summation,

But as with energy and mass

Constantly coming up the same,

Defying the dichotomy

Of argumentative humans

Who seem to prefer to believe

In the gods of Would, Could, and Should,

Or the God of It-Is-Written.

Here twirls the law of nothing lost,

Nothing to be gained: decisions

Can only move things along,

As good either way, right or wrong.

Friday, September 2, 2011

P.S. 49

Sweetness seizes and surprises me

With a grip as vise-like and sudden

As any sorrow: the sight

At twilight of Sarah laughing, running 

Toward me, our baby Sequoia over one slender shoulder,

Baby giggling madly, fat arms out flopping,

Like some chubby cartoon airplane,

Flying down a canyon road, 

A  vision brief but overwhelming,

That this is my life, a simple birthday celebration

In dragon mountains' dark blue air

Where my wife and daughter play.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Evolution of Souls

The recipe for our success

As homo sapiens contained

Countless toxins to contentment

As self-referential beings:

Elaborate theories of minds,

Storytelling, anxiety,

Conviction, cooperation,

Imagination, and regret.

All of the social games we play

(And all of our games are social,

Including those games in our heads)

Are intricate conspiracies

By life against its instances,

Convincing us to carry on,

Creating ghosts from the pure urge

To keep on living forever,

And it all ends up trapped inside 

We flickering nothings, we souls,

Who now serve as our own cages

For prisoners we can't control.