Monday, December 31, 2012

The Poet's Stone

"Do not disturb me now. I have to extract
A creature with its eggs between the words."
- WS Graham

Late afternoons, late in the calendar, early
In the icy winter, I want more than ever
To write something stupid and call it poetry,

To write something foolish that transforms poetry
By being the first such foolish thing to be called
A poem, redeeming another generation

From learned belatedness and popular verse.
How's that for nonsense? Every day we wear our clothes,
Changing them unless too poor, too sick, or too dead,

And the fact of being ornamented beings
Impresses us with ourselves, aesthetic species,
But it's only the habit of changing our clothes

That matters, that has anything to do with life.
Houses are clothes, paintings are clothes, temples are clothes,
The supernatural beings there worshipped are clothes,

And poems, too, are clothes, ornaments at least, tattoos.
It's not that we make them, it's that we make new ones
That tells us we have our way of being alive.

The horses painted in the caves were important,
The horned figures pecked out of the cliffs were as well,
The gothic cathedrals, the renaissance frescoes,

The zen haiku composed at the moment of death,
All also, but not so much because they were done,
But because one day we forgot them and moved on.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bring Being

"In life aboard ship, boredom is an ever-present problem."

It's us. We generate it.
But it's wholly alien,
And we control none of it.
We are composers with wands
And podia, conducting
Orchestras that can't hear us.
It's our own noise ignores us.

Talking to each other helps.
Including each other's worlds
Generously, grudgingly,
The way we include partners,
Offspring, poorly chosen words,
And so forth, each quid pro quo
A mutual forgiveness,

Also helps in the short run,
But never satisfies us.
Truth tempts us to ignore it,
There being nothing human
To it except what others
Bring as the truth of others,
Having none to bring ourselves.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Whole Six Yards

"People are drawn to colorful etymologies. But they are almost always wrong."

There's a kink in the way our brains work
That shows up in the collective mind
Of culture contemplating itself.

Our love for pure prosody is crossed
By our yearning for a good story,
So the latter obscures the former.

It's not just the world we want to work
Within preferred narrative frameworks,
We can't believe ourselves without them.

How is it story feels rewarding
When it's so bad at explaining things,
Even our own fondness for a phrase?

We have this all-purpose telling tool
That helps us remember the wrong thing,
The wronger, the better remembered.

My head hurts to clamber up this slope
Where reasons are at odds with fables,
And we know it, and crave knowing, but

Crave the fables all waltzing away
From the knowing more than the knowing.
Whose fires are we fueling if not ours?

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Parable of the Cat

A feral cat forages
Where you live. It gets things done.
It solves problems in feeding,
Keeping warm through bitter nights,
Narrowly avoiding death
In the jaws of cars and dogs.
It survives at the thin end

Of long continuity
Shared with its competitors
And prey, with humans and rats,
Coyotes, fleas, fish, and grass.
The great world won't far revolve,
Fondly or maliciously,
Around one grey, feral cat.

The cat's not irrelevant,
Nor without impact. It's small.
It gets some of what it wants.
Everything else gets the rest.
The world does not dislike cats.
There's more to the world than cats,
Less than cats desire. That's all.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Stocking Stuffer

"Marc le marque-page adore le poids des pages..."

A small, blue flat man with my name
Stands upright on his plastic feet.
He belongs in a book. He holds
Ones place in bricks of printed sheets.

He has a cheeky cartoon grin.
He came taped to French instructions.
In a hand's span he links whimsy,
Marketing, anachronism,

Global industrial complex,
And marginal utility.
He smiles at me on backward feet.
Light snow fills the picture window.

I will not keep him in a book.
I will give him to my daughter,
And we will imagine him lost
In our doll and beast haunted woods.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

News of the Old

There's a carousel in Paris
Older than any human being.
Rilke was enraptured by it.
Wars and invasions have spared it.

Why does this feel significant?
An arrangement of wood and steel,
Nineteenth-century novelty,
Rotating, hand-cranked nostalgia,

It's just there, like anything else,
And just as undefinable
Around the edges where it joins
Everything by a different name.

A contraption can last forever,
Like a Galapagos tortoise
Or a Utah aspen cluster,
As long as the nouns stick to it,

However nouns are coats of paint,
And languages pass overhead
Like fast weather. White elephants
Grey. Allez, les enfants, allez!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Above Thy Deep and Dreamless Sleep

We pass through the tail of this comet,
Always missing the comet itself,
Always counting the silent squibs
We get all worked up about, bright pins

Expressing the fine scrollwork of right now
As a thin quickness. Blink, we say,
And you'll miss it, although we miss few
Due to inopportune nictation or tears

And most just sitting inside, tightly focused
On human things. Some such years
We miss the showers altogether,
Swanning through the Southern Hemisphere

Through pearl and marble clouded nights,
Palmy, muggy afternoons annoyed by flies,
And the peculiar phenomena of a cold culture
Flourishing in a balmy, tattooed trompe l'oeil.

Some years, we stay far out in the desert
And warm ourselves by the frequency
Of the rotating cold calligraphy, the signatures
Of inevitable coincidence, warm omens

Of the meaning of everything
Inscribed on the backs of our eyes,
On the backs of thoughts about the inexhaustible
Beauty of the infinitely inhuman night,

The kindness of inhuman divinity,
Each quick careful stroke
At the edge of our rituals
Kissing us so well we could cry.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Prevent the Snow

In a genial mood, in holiday season,
Elderly pop songs pretend to embrace weather

Cheerfully. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
Yes, let it. It's our call whether it snows or not

On Christmas Eve in the ballads and the movies.
Magnanimously, we wave gloved hands at the sky.

What a charming species, this imaginary
Angel, this orchestrator of small sequences.

This is the way the story goes. This happens next.
Should stays preferable to did. The snow won't stop.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fidgety Buddha

Sufficient to the hour
Is the day thereof.
Sufficient to the minute
Is the hour. Arrange
Your arcana and your cushions.
Shift from flank to flank.
Scratch what itches.
Let not a little stillness disturb
The great swirling of the world
Come to stir each little stillness.
The big belongs in the middle
Of the little uncomfortably too big.
Chime your bells.
Check your clock.
Bring a vast mindfulness
Down into a coughing detail.
Or do whatever you want.
Let this be your method.
Sufficient to the lyric
Is the epic thereof,
Sufficient to the mind
Is the theater of the sun.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


The simple stays in disarray,
The loose dust a sunny empire
Of hovels and broad boulevards
On a hospital windowsill

As on a desk in a study,
On chipped tabletops in diners
As on the feet of the bronze lamps
In old velvet hotel lobbies.

Bright light and direct attention
Create the visions, not the dust,
But a love of the disordered
Brings the gold-leaf to the waste.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Return of the Magi

When the end comes it will not be
An end to anything but words.
The conjuror's tiger will go
Without a whimper or a glance,

Only so the conjuring stops.
The end itself is a fine trick,
Even finer than beginnings,
Performed in more variations,

But it can't be the end itself
If it really ends. The magi,
Pure products of humanity,
Have said they've seen another star.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


That we could create love
When love is not what we're given
To work with, not ready to hand
Like lust or fisticuffs, is lovely.

It's the making of the stuff,
The ache from pulling it out
Of thin air, out of its natural
State of nothing, that's amazing.

We only betray the beautiful fiction
When we pretend to nonchalance
At finding it in ourselves, forgetting
It is beautiful because it is made.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Etymology of Possession

The snow that is falling now
Will keep falling yesterday
Even if tomorrow clears.
The clock that ticks properly,
Like a clock's supposed to tick
Has already been replaced
By its own propriety.

The house that looks as it does,
As if it were the same house
It always was, never is.
When quiet like this, it's more
The quiet house years ago
Than the noisy house last night.
The disposition is this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Luckiest Unlucky Bastard in the World

Even the undesirable
Can seem like it's taking too long
To get here. Who wants the scalpel
Who isn't sufficiently sick?

Sometimes the harshest medicine
Makes the anesthesia taste sweet
In anticipation, sugar
Plum visions dancing in the head,

And the thought of recovery
As magical as a lottery,
A dream home in the wilderness
An end to any need for work,

The unguarded praise of nations,
The admiration of colleagues,
The contentment of a lifetime,
The exact family one has.

Monday, December 17, 2012


"How body from spirit slowly does unwind
Until we are pure spirit at the end."

Spirit bodyish I am.
I just don't know what that means.
If being spirit were good,
You'd think more folks would try it.
And why the prefix "psycho,"
Meaning crazy dangerous
Or possibly wholly faked?

But it fits my frame of mind.
My body suffers for it,
House that cannot shake the ghost
That was never really there.
Seat of emotions and soul,
Puff of invisible air.
Nothing can do such damage.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Simple One

Breathe in, breathe out,
Cough convulsively.

Breathe in, breathe out,
Cough convulsively.

Breathe in, cough
Convulsively, breathe out.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in,
Breathe out. Ah, as pleasures go

A simple one. As pleasures go
Running in all directions,

Breathe in, breathe out,
A simple one, please, a simple one.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Egg Root

Rummage through the overgrowth
As much as I may, I can't
Find detritus from this day
The roots saved from dissolving
To wrap in their slow embrace
The way they sometimes wrap rocks,
Bricks, bottles, or foundations

So tightly as to add them
To the trees' architectures,
Like skulls in cathedral crypts,
Time capsules in campus gates,
Or the egg in a kiwi,
Intrinsic to the nature
Of the things store-housing them.

Some dates are destined for loam,
Not because nothing happened
Or they deserved devouring,
But because no memory
Loved them enough to clutch them.
What started as alien
Disappears or becomes us.

Friday, December 14, 2012


"What's the word for a female hermit?"

She has to be the remotest
Person in the world. Women must
Prove their equality with men,
It seems, by doing more than men.

So it is with her. If her sect
Of eremites never used words,
She wouldn't even use gestures.
If they conversed only with birds,

She would converse only with trees.
If the hermits lived in the woods,
She would live in desert wasteland.
Whatever it took to be one

Among the self-chosen lonely.
As it is, she belongs to none.
No sect claims her or knows of her.
Not even the moon can find her.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Importence of the Mind

At eleven-eleven on twelve-twelve-twelve
I drove from the courtyard of my motel.
This world bears no relation to itself.

All afternoon I drove along long roads
Where giant trucks churned up snow and stones.
No journey knows how it will go.

This is my mumbling meditation in the dark
Valley quiet enough to coax out the stars.
The whole cannot coordinate the parts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


"I headed for Missoula like a homing pigeon." ~ G. Wright

Consider the poetry of layers,
If you don't mind the imperative form:
Stacked like pancakes for cartoon appetites,
That which we have now learned to call the past,
Gravitating down to countable lines,
Is all there, in front of us, all at once,
Whatever's left to us of what was once.
One is tempted, if human, to narrate,
And if the story's a compelling one,
Tempted to forgive the breaks and fault lines

That have nothing to do with narrative
Or time--or space, except in the absence
That reminds us our reminders are bits
Piled high like plates, newspapers, old notebooks,
Stone slabs we meant to cobble together
Ourselves one day into a wandering
Line we could call a passable story
Of our own. We were there once, we insist,
Reading between the fossils and the lines.
We are part of this, part mysterious.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


There is no looking out from within.
There is the fond rearranging of the furniture
By children one rainy day, hanging a blanket

From the backs of chairs, then hiding
Underneath the magic tent to whisper
And peer out at the familiar, imagining

It all wild and different, unbounded,
A strange prospect, a haunting
Form of secretive delight. It's not there.

It's in here. Old writers conversing
About what makes the better corner
Free from external distractions,

The cafe, the closet, the cabin,
The bare desk in the cork-lined attic,
The anachronistic stone hut in the forest,

Forget themselves in their little tents
Of words woven by long-dead aunties.
Bone is the roof of the world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wind Wakes the Child

A runty young four-point buck, all alone, browses the ground under the fruit trees for anything left over by early December. A pile of cardboard and detritus burns orange and smoke from a barrel. A plug of volcanic lava cone shoulders a new scrim of snow, through which you can still glimpse time moving in pantomime whenever the darkness shines.

One family (one mother, one father, one daughter) play one more game of letters, tiles scattered around the dining table, strategies and scribbled drawings on scrap paper interrupted by small squabbles over who will play outside, who will play inside, and who is willing to collect the balloons. One low morning glare of white-gold desert light flares on their faces, one by one, to paint them all as angels around their tabletop Christmas tree.

The fastest poet in the west fails to draw on the sun that shoots him a last glance from the cliffs until morning. The best intentions to be better prepared tomorrow forget that it's already today. Today is your birthday. The wind wakes the child.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vishnu Schist

For Jake

The great unconformity
Is the not-there above it.
The marble lenses compact
What used to be colonies
Along it. The one-armed man
Who floated wooden boats down
Riparian lengths of it

Believed that water alone
Sawed eras to reveal it.
The frighteningly foolish
Woman your brother married
For inconvenience claimed it
Could only have resurfaced
Thanks to earthquakes. The lost soul

You would like to think you own,
Despite that long-ago sale,
Would like to out-foolish her,
Would like to thank the gentle
Man who scavenged hunks of it
For introducing its name
To you. This is it. Behold.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Not Really Myself Anymore

“Maybe the parasites can teach us something.” -S. Adamo

Who knows who's going on in there?
It's me, of course, but not my flesh,
Not my ancestors plotting fresh
Variations on spiral heirs,

Just some spinning corkscrew, unseen,
Weaving that wicked plot called life,
Some endlessly whittled device,
Some fine, fierce redoubling machine

That does nothing but use my nerves
To redirect my behavior
So as to do it the favor
Of perishing as I deserve

And as it needs to reproduce
Properly in another host.
I will not be scared by my ghost.
We've already been introduced.

Friday, December 7, 2012

One Way of Awaring

The smallest visible cloud
Makes a dot near the tower.
The mind commands, "let this stand
For the one present moment
That is vaporous enough
To detect as a difference
Against the indifferent blue

But not large enough to feel
Less than instantaneous."
Oh mind, I love you, but please
Could you once see your way clear
To a completed silence
Without a commentary,
Confabulation, or cloud?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Army, I Am Being

The secret truth about the secret truth
Is that we all know it, all hide out in it,
All distinguish it from the play,
The show, the scenery, the game,
The theatrical simulation that is not
The secret truth, as we all know,

And we all, being you and whose army
And I, know something else we don't know,
Or don't notice, which is that freedom
Must for us exist only in the unreal,
The play, the pretend, the game,
Because it is, we say, in the end,
Only illusion, which is the truth of it.

We may fight to the death over the rules
And over where the boundaries of the rules begin.
We always do disagree, and preach
Disagreements as being not games
About whether the secret truth we preach
Begins in our heads or outside our heads,
In language or before language,
In genes, in stars, in matter, or in divinity.

But we don't disagree that there's
A difference between what's not
Important and what is, between
The serious, secret truth (this is
The secret truth) and the not-to-be believed.
And it's only in the former we place
The distinction between fair and foul,
And it's only in the latter we are free.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Veil Is Gone

Anything can not happen
Good or bad, when themselves
Know that you know
They know they don't exist.
That's dangerous. That's fun.

Clever wisps to vanish
Upon inspection into thin
Glare of the light all around
That shines when none's to be found
And nothing's left without a within.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Things to Carry with You When You're Crossing Soldier Summit

A small child and a rifle.
A luxury car and a milkshake.
A newspaper and a smart phone.
A robotic guru and a pair of crutches.
A crucifix and a broken tooth.

These are the clues and here is the riddle:
What do such clues have in common, if
They're words and they're objects,
They're phenomena and they're nothings,
They point to and from this instant,
Neither new nor ancient, and they're
Real items you saw in passing, and they're
Imaginary responses reading, and they're

Monday, December 3, 2012

Xugh and Mug in Plain Sense

I'll do xugh and mug another day,
Said mug to xugh, toggling to read poems
Liberated from "missed connections,"
Such as that from "the drunk Irish guy"
To "the girl in red tights" on the train.

Philosophers in serious tones
(And when are philosophers ever
Giddy?) were intoning about poems,
Including poems found on the subway
As if philosophers knew something

About poetry poets didn't
Know about philosophy, certain
As everyone is about poets
Being easier to understand
Than science, harder than plain sense.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Poem about This #3 (You Are Now Here)

The first morning of December
Opened freakishly warm. The sun
Rose cowled in a fine gauze veil
That shone the strange light of eclipse.

Glass broke, sand blew, things fell over,
Moving from morning to rock fins
Dividing the moments in air.
There is no beginning or end,

Only the middle and nothing
All the way into town's twilight,
Everything perfectly awry,
In time for the parade of lights,

Which proceeded perfectly through
The thronged roads of holiday town.
The warm air held, from peace to peace,
Sandy light, pearl cloud, dance lights, dark.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On the Relative Insignificance of All Forms of Information

Sense what you sense, do what you
Do: that's you. Maybe there are
Other worlds, and certainly
There are potent hints of them
In the aspects of your world
That insist they are themselves,
Including that part that calls

Itself yourself, and that which
Calls itself myself, but
These parts are no less compact
With you for all that. The tree
Over there, the truck parked here,
The day and the age, beauty,
Conflict, and accomplishment,

Whatever it is, is you
Being you, no matter how
Badly you want to keep one
Corner of your world your own,
Your self, belonging to self
Alone and orthogonal
To the rest you fear and crave.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Infinite Being Wanting To Be

Here it is, up from underneath
The shoulders of the rocks
Resisting and supporting
The forest that roots into them.

The secret hangs as mirrored fruit,
Rolling slowly, shining inside
Out from under the unique drop of dew
That drips from every tip

As the whole world incompletes a reflection
In the eye of a swift, caught diving
Through the reconstructed sunlight
That causes it to shine within itself

As though it were coming from outside
Itself, as though it were itself,
As though there were no outside about
It, as though it had been once.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Paradox

We remember the passages we savor.
Our fullest attention alone makes
The merest moments momentous,

The lazy hours, the drifted afternoons
That otherwise slip into the sun
And vanish, remain glowing only

When we forget all the rest
Beckoning to be recalled likewise
And dig down into the incoming.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gatha Parasomnia

"Reassuringly, the texts people send when asleep often make no sense."

The small cry
Of the dark
Of the night

Rimmed with light
Keeps me up.
In this state,

Neither poem
Nor a prayer,
The long dream

Of a fall
From the small

Of not quite
A planet,
Dim grey ice

In distant
Orbit lost
To the fire,

Home as light.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


"a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years"

I live in the roots of me.
I die each fall from my leaves,
Sporadically branch by branch,
And am reborn out of fires
That send me back underground
To consider why I am
Not one, not many, not gone.

Fantastic monsters scrape horns
Against my skin and flay me
With their short-lived teeth. Holes cut
The heart of me where trolls squat
In their huts made from my bones,
Wanting to be close to me,
Not one but many, soon gone.

I tremble as I perish,
And I tremble as I thrive.
All the smaller lives within
The smaller lives within them
Hum one dream of profusion,
Almost individual,
Mostly many, mostly gone.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Here goes nothing
Looking like leaves
Pushing like wind

Scattering clouds
Driving fast cars
Up scenic routes

Picking up pace
Idly twirling
Contrails around

Its long fingers
Like cool tendrils
Of now you see

It as being
Perfectly clear
As the blue sky

Over here right
In front of you
Now no you don't

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Lost in the forest somewhere,
Just lost enough to be glimpsed
Now and then at a distance, wanders

A flawlessly mythical creature,
The last perfectly normal life,
Horn growing out of its head.

It's annoying really. A beast
Should have the decency to go
Into proper hiding if it doesn't exist.

All the nasty, stained, wasting,
Rutting, confused, and ravenous
Trunks and backbones of the woods,

Mottled with chancres
Veiled in the leaves, must
Pretend we had a choice

To be these undignified, bitten
Fruits dropped to the ground.
Finger the serpent, the woman,

The man, the maker of the man,
The tree that sprouted us out
To manipulate the bees, whatever.

It's still got to be that satin-sided
Gold-chokered ungulate of genius
Prancing in the shadowy tapestry

That haunts all our living and dying
Mistakes with its snowy sinews,
The ideally real and therefore not.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

An Exorcism for the Dispossessed

Experience, my dear, is the most
You will ever own of anything,
Including yourself, the experience of memory.

Disown everything else about everything, including
Yourself, including your memories. You can't
Have them. You can't keep them,

And you may not much savor
The experience of always trying hard
To grab what's too precious to hold.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Three Bar Blues

People care less about
Stories than people think.

Just stop telling stories
About yourself and see

How many people ask,
"Why the hell did you stop?"

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Let me just say up front
That the preacher was correct.
There is nothing, nothing
New under the sun. But,

He caught you napping
If you thought he meant
By nothing, not anything.
He meant nothing.

Oh nothing, nothing,
Nothing is new, nothing
Is forever, is new forever,
Under, around, and deep

Inside the hard-hearted core
Of the burning, burning, soon
To be swallowed by darkness
Too heavy to escape sun, son.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The deep strangeness of the ordinary--
Water in the shallow lake,
Words in the head,
Birds running across the road
As shotguns pop over the marshes.
A boat in full camouflage paint
Goes by behind a chittering truck.
Seagulls keep to themselves,
Screeching like bickering children.
The clouds sneak up on the eyes,
Fly away, sneak back and close in.

How does any of this happen,
Always being and always gone
In order to be something being at all?
The nouns and verbs themselves
Are not themselves, are haunted.
Time is the barefoot ghost stepping
Through the middle of us, the spirit
Everyone human names
In order to worship and appease the unnameable,
A joy to observe,
An ache in the bones to survive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The hour, as Suka might say,
If wheedling for more time, is
"Just a little." So it is:
Half past one in the morning
Of the day after the date
One hundred and forty nine
Years since Lincoln's best address.

I can't sleep. Or if I can,
It's thus I'm not doing it
Of a splintered night. The moon,
That sphere composed of impacts,
Is somewhere past the highway,
Telling me something I can't
Wait to hear. Just a little.

Monday, November 19, 2012


"write a 300-word letter to someone who changed your life"

I must admit I am
Who I am, insofar as I am,
Because of you, lusus naturae,

Not a person but legion,
Not a name but all the names
And the beast within them.

Where did you come from?
Where will you go, roaring as usual,
Into the dark when done?

The birds outside my window,
However hungry, however alive, don't know you,
Nor do their favorite branches,

Nor the stones under trees,
Nor the precious things hiding under stones,
Nor the greedy ball itself

That we all spin around
Hanging on desperately, pulled down, even you,
But all this is you.

You've eaten so many gods,
Devoured so many civilizations busy hymning you,
And made all you devour.

You are the invisible boundary
That an animal's brain imagines is there,
But not the fiery tongue

That babbles from the tower
Of darkness, "fools, your reward is neither
Here nor there." Only words,

Only meanings, only prancing bestiaries
Every sinew and gene now gone under,
And neither sound nor paint,

That's you, empire of nothings,
Elaborator of all explanations, interpretations of dreams,
Not the poet, the poem,

Not the sweating, bearded man
On his back on the rickety scaffolding,
The angels on the ceiling

That he daubs, that's you,
You, the only true maker of things,
Artifice the artificer, the sign,

The nongenetic transmission of information,
The information transmitted, the tower of madness,
God sprouting children to eat.

I want to thank you
Because my thanks are slaves to you,
Because you are my thanks.

Every pattern that I reccognize
As encoded, as meaningful, as a tool
For describing and understanding worlds

Is you. I am only
The recognition you've made of your self,
Vortex spiraling into the night.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Almost Poem

For Gary & Deej, in two voices . . . 

I know I can't be
The one good thing
Personal to each
Anguished identity,

Much less comforting
To those who need
Someone exemplary
Of their own to feel

Less alone. I'm not
Of almost anyone's
Own, and disownably
Non-exemplary. But

I want you to know,
If you care to know so,
That if you stink,
If you're unkind,

Or supposed so,
If you're the last creature
Your neighbors would want
To admit as their own,

For whatever reasons
Your particular age
Finds despicable,
I love you. I may

Be wholly afraid
Of your violence,
If violence defines you,
But I love you, anyways,

And I wish you well
And hope and comfort
From the welling-up depths
Of this almost poem.

(Although, I feel
Compelled to add
As postscript: screw you
If you think I'm sentimental.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Rest

Well, it ends, of course, and it goes on as well.
Depends on what you mean by it. One life
Or the whole mangled, each-other-devouring lot,
Your own life, as you introspect, or the rest.

I haven't been able to quite quiet my own
Restless thinking about this blank wall
Since I was first tangled enough to read
The translucent writing spidering over it.

I was a child then, and because I haven't moved on
I'm a child still, the offspring of all the rest
Of those poor children, little nested dolls
Never growing littler, except in perspective,

Back to whatever vanishing point you wish
You could imagine. I can't. I don't care
For origins much anymore. They're not the same
As endings. They always yield to more,

Whereas endings have each a tiny side door,
Like the kind weird rodents make into trees
Or, more sadly, like that next to the piled-up bones
In Herculaneum near the last shaft of air.

Friday, November 16, 2012


It is not dark, not yet--
So much has to happen,
Always has to happen,
The promise, not the threat.

But it's true, one sun's set,
And down in the green woods,
Becoming the black woods,
Twilight collects its debts.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Nothing recedes like the seasons. The geese
On the sandbar in the temporary
Middle of a stream pattern old enough

To have sawed through a million years of stone
Breathe dragonish atmospheres and repeat
Their honking mad narratives of return

To palmier times in balmier climes,
Except that geese do not narrate narratives,
They dance them, and even then not as rites

But as patterns older than most rivers.
It's not a lack of words should worry them.
Words are not the stories storehoused in them

Any more than bricks are architecture.
Words are fripperies flippant poets make
Portents by showcasing them like stacked dolls

With brick-red lips painted on porcelain smiles
To smirk of universal betrayal
Artifice makes of our physical need

To sink, to cut, to embody pure want,
To keep embodying all the way down.
Oh what should it mean if it means nothing?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The face glimpsed in the broken tile, half lost
Under river water and memories,
Shading two parts Baudelaire, one part Freud,
And three parts malignant elf, does not smile.

He's still in this game, and he's still cheating,
But these are not his gods, not his rulers,
Not his rules. He lives in the woods and lies
In the teeth of each Götterdämmerung

That aims to spit him out. I still love him,
Even though I know his old deviltry
Is no good for me. We all need devils,
Most of all ourselves, to play pranks on us,

But the day moves on, until I lose track
Of that trick of the light created him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Before All This and After All That

The emptiness was comforting,
In that, like zero, it wasn't
Odd, only strange. There was no time

To spear, nothing heavy on hand.
The sky blurred with the little bits
And pieces left hanging fire. Smoke

Comprised entirely of water
Steaming out of contact with earth
Hung from the mouth of the canyon.

The wanderer's reflection passed
Over the wanderer's shadow,
An elliptical commuter

Scripting the vortex of this fall
Down to the last gold rivertree
In the first old snow. I'm in here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Culture the Monster

You are not you. I pity
The tale of you, the window
In your artificial cave

That lets in the slant of light
That oppresses you. Lovely,
These afternoons as you age.

I'm happy to torment you,
And I thank you for your home,
But I am not what you think.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

You Have to Be Good to Find What Isn't Hiding from You

The owl, who is not wise,
Who is a dim bird, said

That's the privilege of being God:
You're always laughing.

And the branch on which
The owl sat shrugged

Off its unusually heavy load
Of early November snow.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Neighbor Understands Mountains

Pull up a bit. Drink the fire
In the clouds. The canyon walls

Are simple things, cracks and stones.
Nothing inside of them wants

To help you or to hurt you,
Even if they enclose shells

And bones of desires as keen
And unkindly as your own,

And as pointless. Take a breath
On the small ledge of this poem.

Everything around you falls
Together around a star.

There are no natural laws,
Only crazed, cracked tendencies.

Friday, November 9, 2012

As You Are Part of It

"omnis cultura ex cultura"

A recent sort of beast is roaring.
It has no belly but it eats,
No shape but it takes many forms,
No species but it brings legion.

Where it bellows, life and death
Startle up and fly in all directions,
Although it is not alive, not dead.
Explain this wood sphinx to itself.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Whatever experience was,
Memory makes better, better,
And worse, conversely, worse, until
Nothing's left but a golden cloud
Or a pitchy smudge in the mind.

The past is a constant dreaming
Comprising everything altered
And everything that is present,
Exaggerations vanishing
Together into the blur.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


The inscrutable face of the god
Who has neither face nor divinity
Peers from the clinquant surface

Of a lake in a late autumn sun.
Nothing belated about that glance
From the hard world into the dark

Heart of the mind without one thought
Capable of diminishing the glare
Reflected from the shrug of the god

Who tosses the mane of the world, which is
Why the mind welcomes and retreats in the face
Of its own confusion from that look.

And yet, nonetheless, but still
Stammers the songbird on the bare
Branch of the tree near the lake's edge,

Out of that emotionless shimmering,
That sum of too many minuscule waves,
From above and below and across

Comes occasionally a mercy,
The appearance of a mist, gentle
Rain from heaven evaporating

On contact with the certainty
That it was not meant to be,
Was too kind, too generous, and yet,

Nonetheless, but still, it is.
It has taken its place in the happening,
This wink of the shield-bright countenance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


We're playing games in the woods,
Hide and seek in root and trunk,
Toads, chipmunks, crickets, and stones.

The sun is low but brilliant,
Shafting through the buttresses
Of memory, supporting

What? A crown of mere twig tips,
A sky that doesn't need help?
The fabulous monster prowls

Among ordinary beasts
And orchestrates our small lives
As games that are that monster.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Need for Disenchantment

When things grow dense over the land,
The odd thicket or coppice meant
For quick cropping hardly stands out
As being just right for stopping
Forward progress through enchantments
That keep us from our place of rest.
But the secret of enchantment
Is that we can't quite resist it,

Can't recognize the barrier
To home is this magic we prize,
Can't keep our thoughts from rooting down
Through the tangle of what is not,
Can't see the trees for the forest,
The frost harvest under the leaves.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Endowment

"There is no known cure for the ills of ownership."

I will go down with this damn it,
Because I made myself from it
In the first place. These woods are mine
My commons, my comedy, mine

By the divine right of effort,
Unstinting tilting, assorted
Sawmills and hollows, open glades
And small brooks babbling in the shade.

I'm not far enough gone in thought
To deny that these woods are not
Intrinsically more valuable
Than anyone else's baubles,

But because they're mine, I made them,
That poor thing, my mind, parades them
As if it were them, which it's not,
Although they are it, as it thought.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hoodoo Sunrise

Shadows stepped out
Of the trees and approached
The cliff as the light grew.

Despite some red,
Clouds blocked the glory
And dawn came cold and grey.

The shadows grumbled
And conferred, whether
Any hope of magic remained,

Some having traveled
A long way for this, before
They rejoined the stones.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Shape Is a Word

"What shape is a mountain, a coastline, a river?... Questions once reserved for poets and children."
~Benoit Mandelbrot

What shape is an equation
Describing a dark forest
Torn here and there with questions
Mathematicians have left
Behind them, empty with light?

The rough and complicated
Repetition of edges
Aphorisms generate
Approximate a known world
That I know is not this world,

Just another pretty park
Contrived of regulations,
A fraction of a whole song,
A metaphor of a bridge
Insisted in wilderness.

What shape is a word, our ghosts
Veiled in the down pouring rain,
Legs and wings in constant drone,
Tangled singing from pure throats?
Frantic signals hide the sign.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."

This sky can't possibly be,
Horizon to horizon
Blue that only I can see,

Whittled to the bare untruth
Of an elegant wisdom,
A sharp, polished serpent's tooth

That slices in so neatly
To deliver its venom
So infinitely sweetly

It feels unfair to complain
That a beauty so common
And plain as the sky brings pain.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What Was That

The trees retreat. A scrap of mind
Is a bird, a bit of tissue
Tossed from branch to branch.

Wings help. Words help.
But there's such a thing as being
Too small to negotiate open storm.

The blue bird tossed between
What was a thought, what
Was not a thought, was not

A perch a bird could grasp,
Fears nothing, fears it
Is the only growing thing,

Knowing it is itself forgot,
The lack that tumbles away.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Questionably Moonlit Suburb

You with that extra light sketched
Out over your local glare,
You ignorant, owlish town,

You streetlamp, neon, arc light
Conglomeration of shines
Made graceful by this moonlight

That only reflects what's left
Once its dust has collected
Whatever light it can keep,

Returning, humbly, the rest,
Can you see your invention
Of day under domes of night

Dooms you to a kind of lie
About your look that only
Overlaid moonlight forgives?

Ignoble, subtle rebel
Who hasn't the wherewithal
To challenge your own deceits,

What will you do when your moon
Decides it's had enough sun
And spins out into the dark?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Under the Rim

Sunset before the sun sets,
An odd privilege of life
In the shadow of a cliff.

Sunset before the sun sets
Bears repeating every evening,
Merciful in summer, cruel

After some strange line
In the late afternoons of fall.
Sunset before the sun sets,

And the far cliffs gloat
With red that will suffer
Darkness late into the morning.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


The stream runs so low it splits
On either side of the stone
Of weighty obligations.
One stranded thought wants to dream
In the gold light and cool air
Of an empty afternoon
Like a girl braiding her hair.

The other strand is tangled
In the detritus washed down
By tempestuous events
Far upstream and long ago,
Lodged, irritatingly, here
Where their ugly rot threatens
To block up happy progress.

But head downstream just a bit,
The weight of the world insists,
And so long as there's water
Not gone entirely to ground,
Something will reach beyond this,
And something grow on its banks
To shade a sweet reunion.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Meteorologist

In autumn the old gongs chime in the wind.
The rivers run the lowest and clearest
Since at least the last fall. Our daughter learns
The first real rules she must internalize,
And everything in this hemisphere breathes
In sharply, now and then, to own the cold

Even though the incoming moments show
Finer blues, more various greens and golds
Than any we've seen anywhere all year.
Sequoia, clinging to her creaky swing,
Watches a fawn follow after a doe
And explains, "Winter is coming, and snow."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Though They Seem Tame

The deer are out there in the dark
Doing whatever deer must do
To make it through another night
Without falling asleep for good.

Tomorrow, those that have survived
And not been blindsided by light
Or pulled by hunger to the ground
Will be back to stalk the gardens

Belonging to rightful owners
Who have tended and abandoned
Various invented Edens
In the mountains, in the desert,

In all the places where the deer,
Big-eyed, grey-hided, cloven-hoofed,
Forever on the move for food,
Each briefly graze eternity.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interpreter of Daydreams

The smell of the wet desert,
The moon's egg on top of the tower,
The wind in the dying tree

That lets its leaves chuckle like pebbles
Pulled down by the waves, licked
With the taste of the sand,

Everything good and dangerous
Makes it a little more complicated
To understand anything at all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The cosmos is icy,
Empty in more places
Than intense where it is

Burning, brilliantly hot.
What is is mostly cold,

Dark, vacuous, senseless,
Occasionally fierce,
And only what isn't

Seems bearably bright,
Comfortably warm,
Cyclic, reassuring.

The stars shine out to us
To try to explain this
Before we freeze our tears,

And for this we thank them,
Tat cautionary tales
Fit to constellations,

And kneel by our bedsides
In the dark of our nights
To pray, our souls to take.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Failure, Forgiveness, Farewell

The forest suspects the last darkness
Weaves through the leafless aspens
And slump-shouldered spruce
Ready for winter, their specialty.

I need to go, thinks the wind
On behalf of the clattering branches
That, thanks to the wind, can
No longer hear themselves think.

The winter promises to be mild,
The following fire season dangerous,
But the brown ferns on the ground
Don't know what promises are for.

There's something wrong
And looming between the ordinary
And the gradual disasters typical
Of difficult survival, something

Quick, too quick to catch glimpse
Of as it passes through the gaps
In the wisdom of the older trees.
Not a beast, not a shadow, the end.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Other Half

The race started late, but the weather
Cooperated with a warm wind
Out of the south and plenty of sun.
How many runners were there, in all?
How did each runner define success?
What did a runner's toddler daughter
Straying in the piles of copper leaves
Think to her emerging sense of self
That had nothing to do with the race?

It takes awhile to care about rules,
About the measures of performance
Abstracted out of who made who cry
And who got left behind and was sad.
The abstraction itself is a veil
Fine and high as noctilucent clouds
Draped down from one extreme or other,
Invisible in the sunny day
But important, somehow, way up there.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Afternoon, and the silence crumbles
In the shovel of someone's machine
Grumbling around rocks, making a trail.

The right kind of noise calls attention
To the other, unnoticed noises,
And whenever the grunting shovel

Stops to chunter, the bird wings get loud,
The annoying fly drones chummily,
A motor home purrs down distant roads,

Dry leaves clamor for a bit of wind,
The neighbor dogs' barks become anguished,
And there is no silence after all.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nearly Perfectly

The bar of light that crosses the wall
Has as much mystery as the life
Of a saint. It's history before
It can be named. I'm already gone

Somewhere else in my borrowed world, paused
On another time, another spot
In the garden of things I forgot
Are incapable of a real pause.

The photographs of the house before
The renters' relatives have arrived
For what promises to be motion
Enshrine light's miracle of stillness.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Flower Clock

Ten minutes in and what can you
Do but peel back the roof and lean
Back in your seat, asking the wall

Of falling rock across water
How it could be so broken down
But motionless while the water

Glides around you reading your poem
That you got free with the cartoons
And the fiction and reportage

And all the rest that will not let
Your petalled head down in the drink
To drown in time with the sunset

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meditation at Speed

Passing the baskets of houses
Of the subdivisions in the hollow
Showing only their roofs,
Chimneys and shade tree crowns
Nestled beside the highway,
Midday of the fall, spinning
The stuff inside them of generations

Of builders and fillers who will covet
Homes among the tree-arched lanes
Now speckled with saplings tied to dirt,
I feel there is peace in the valley
For me somehow today, but I'm not
Capable of using this busy vault
Of heaven for prayer

Or proper meditation. What I need
Within this mass of moving parts
Is poetry devised on the fly
While driving with one eye
On the moon--what solemnly robed
Monks with perfect posture
And quiet minds can't teach you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Language Is a Lover Who Abandons Every Lover

White birds move through the mountains.
Before dawn, when the sky shines,
The mountains are in the dark
And the birds surprise the dreams
Of someone who doesn't know
He is awake already.
What are those fluttering wings?

Coming down to the water
As hesitantly as moths,
They don't seem like birds at all.
His overgrown mind wants them
To be ghosts or confusion,
Delicate, twitching eyelids
Rising and falling in thoughts.

Surpassing the silhouettes
Of the peaks, they are shadows
Themselves, black cutouts in air
And confident as ravens.
He's certain now they're real birds,
His perspective only tricked
By the Escheresque setting

Into seeing pallid wings
Against the darkness, black wings
Against the light. He struggles
Up out of dispersing sleep
Through memory's underbrush,
Stumbling in search of the name
That would make sense of these things.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mynddaeg, for Sarah

The turn of a year. It goes.
The mindful day. It reflects.
The middle of October

Holds a candle for my love,
Lights weird lanterns on clear nights,
Anticipates everything

Adults wrap in gauze costumes,
Morning fogs and smoky fires
To confuse true beginning

With what we pretend to end.
In a fortnight, childhood goes
Abroad as a prankish ghost.

Scarce days ago, the orchard
Gorged itself on sun and gourds
Swelled green bellies on the ground.

Here is neither here nor there
But when we choose to recall
We are what could not have been.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Muttering Overhead

We refer to the stars
So god dammed easily

As in, you know, those dots
Of lights that rule our fates,

Those metaphors for fame,
Science fiction settings,

Dim bulbs we never see,
And we forget how strange

It is to be small things
Looking up at nearly

Infinity each night
As if it were a bed

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tree of Ledge

First it erases everything
That was here before it
And then it begins to die
Leaving nothing in the gaps

The secret is in the network
Of roots ripping under
The stones to find water
And then flowering

In another desert and another
Breaking open the planned
Metropolis and the unplanned
Suburban nightmares

Until stars arch a cathedral
Small creatures can traverse
Twig to twig stopping at
Nothing without falling

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sort of Immortal

The mysteries of the forest
Remain a river and a road
Wound right around the heart of it
That, no matter how well explored,
Have never led me out of it.

I did find Atrahasis once,
Old man still living in his jug,
Washed down from eroded mountains
And lodged in a cutbank for now.
I was young and eager to learn

Of the world outside my own neck
Of the woods, so I begged advice
From someone so old he seemed past
The limitations of his mind,
From someone made before these woods

Had reseeded and colonized
The ground he'd seen through fire and flood.
But he didn't seem that impressed
With being three thousand and three,
Or even all that wise to me.

One thing he did say sort of stuck
All the way downriver to here
Where I'm circling down the road home:
"I don't know why we celebrate
Survival when all of us know

The last one alive dies alone."
He looked pleased, like he'd said something
Clever and now wished to conclude
Our chat with that neat epigram.
I shrugged and I left. Here I am.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rabbit Brush in Storm Light

Electric desert wires
Itself the communion
Of ground and atmosphere

So much water and ice
And clay to relocate
For Prospero's golem

The careful circuitry
Of fire ant colonies
And kite-flying humans

The entangled zeros
And pheromones scrambled
Near obliterated

That there was a sharp flash
Cried the junco to branch
Save me from this wind fierce

The roaring all around
The butter flowers blanched
As ghosts in the fury

Will it all calm it will
When what is not alive
Takes life in convulsions

Takes to life-like rolling
Percussion erasing
Fields of repercussion

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moons Are Not Philosophers

When you were young enough to be
Proud of being grown up, you stood
On a winter's beach in Scotland,
Watching a cold moon rise above

Black waves dividing you from your
Previous conception of home,
And you noticed, and you marveled,
For not the first or the last time

At what is wholly obvious,
That the alien moon that shone
On the alien shore where you
Felt wholly at home and homesick

Was the same pocked rock reflecting
On the overgrown leafy sprawl
You more or less, lost, grew up in,
Besotted with divine insight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Best Slogans Are Coined by the Wickedest Minds

Parts of me I have nothing to do with,
That I cannot possess, rush forward
To offer me their thoughts on who I am,
And what I should be doing,
And what is happening to us.

Their magic is in themselves
And not in what their selves describe
So terribly incorrectly, like the bees
In the fading lavender, the bees
Returning with waggle dances.

They can't help themselves. They do
Amazing things to help the hive,
Fly through twilight thrown by trees,
Discover siren sources of nectar,
Die defending, die trying.

But their buzzing makes me sleepy,
Makes me think I am not them,
Makes me want to ignore advice,
To let the sun slide, to drink
What's left of what
They've gathered inside, inside, inside.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dozing Basilisk

Heat gets rare, sooner or later.
The closed window seat in the sun

That was soon insufferable,
When all worlds were younger, feels good.

The brilliant sun still burns the eyes,
And catches them more easily

In the glare, now that it's lower.
But basking with closed lids is sweet.

The paraphernalia of rocks,
Re-emerging from under lives

So eager to recover
The furnace from complications

They glowed with fire almost their own,
Reminds the lizard of absence

Of a sun in its own lithe frame,
The alchemist of subtlety

In the way metals part their bonds,
The wanderer of borrowed hearths.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Winds whisper endearing half-truths, hinting
Knowing that the falls approach will not help

Avoid them, although it might enable
You to miss the beauty of the river

Before. You lean back in tranquility.
Downstream from now does not exist. Upstream

Has no place in this glossy reflection
Of infinitely branching thoughts afloat

In constant, wavering hail and farewell,
The echoes that are simultaneous,

Cumulative, the images never
Quite clear, but clearly gathering number.

Why not appreciate the gliding force
Of the song both seduction and warning?

Here is the river, en plein air, scattered
With leaves, you among them. There is nothing.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Castleton Tower

A rock is not
A rock. It is

A collection
Of old sandstone

That spent too long
Being compressed

Under the earth
In the same way

That so much stone
Lies underneath

Me this moment,
My own fly weight

Added to tons
Of younger rock

That will someday
Be washed away

To expose some
Heroic shape

That reminds bugs
With buggy thoughts

Of a bug priest
Or warrior bug

Or whatever
Bugs believe rules

And looks noble
As a tower.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What Do Trees Think of When They're Trying Not to Think of Trees?

The desert in the forest is all blue sky and storm warnings this morning.
The leaves of the half-dead, drought-tolerant cottonwoods rattle
Like pebbles in a dry wash lifted by their own unforeseeable brightness.

Rumors from the neighboring planets, wanderers, conglomerate as dreams
Of life and water and weight in a place as cold, dry, and springily light
As the sounds of these coppery, clattering leaves under contrails

Of dry ice crystals. Well, isn't everything apparently solid dry,
And everything in motion wet? Ask the basalt stones that wept their way
Out of the liquid core and still, now, sit dully, duly waiting, under our roots.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Tremulous Nimbus

What's the point of urgency in the trees?
Their tales won't survive a twig-tip longer
For all the anxious quiverings of leaves.

The urgency, in any case, belongs
To the wind, which can never live nor die,
Which makes an absurdity of its songs

About what might have happened otherwise
And about what yet might or not occur,
How quickly, painfully, contrariwise.

All trees have are roots exploring what was
And therefore is, and nothing that will be.
Their veils of leaves and needles are sheer gauze.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Gods Are Stammering

Stray, ambling wavelets of the river shallows lap
At either bank, indifferently. This does not help

The shambling, unnameable beasts make up their minds
Which shore is better for hiding from the light wind

That afflicts cloudy thoughts with ambiguity.
They hang their shaggy, heavy heads uncertainly,

Turning their damp noses this way or the other,
Trying to glean decisions from leafy flutters.

That they have ventured this far into the sunlight
From penumbral haunts among the shades surprises

The brightly lit birds used to singing at the top
Of the canopy of glories unforgotten.

The unnamed beasts in their dark coats know nothing but
How much they keep forgetting, the when, where, and what

Detailing the origins of birds and flowers,
Of winding streams and wandering breezes, the hours

Before the forest held anything but itself,
Bare trunks with nothing episodic yet to tell.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cauldron of the Giant

When the woods are calm enough
That even the leaves hold still,
The hermit hears underground
Stones shifting in discomfort,
Grinding teeth and cracking bones
On their molten iron beds.
Dreams of being gored and torn

On burning pikes of lava
Torment their everlasting
Sleeplessness within darkness.
This is what he imagines,
Listening to the ground groan
So faintly, so remotely,
So directly moving him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Through Autumn

Only what plans on dying
On its own schedule becomes
Increasingly beautiful
As the inevitable
Comes closer: blushing salmon
Leaping falls, rustling foliage
Flaring color, fallen fruits

Carrying rumors of life
Into caves and compost heaps
Of deaths that have to decay
And wait to be reconsumed
To come into light again.
The rest, we take our chances
On living through the winter,

Are miserly with beauty
And do our decaying now,
An internal smoldering
Familiar to the black bears
And humans who haunt these woods,
Inhaling the scenery
That doesn't belong to us.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Repository of worlds,
The forest grows forgetful.
Relentless minor tremors
Open fissures in the ground.
The roots are still connected.
The branches tip together,
But the paths are disrupted.

Only the more cumbersome
Inhabitants seem bothered.
From a distance, the breezes
Move the same ways through the leaves;
Birds and whispers sound the same.
But there's no distance from the thought,
Illogical, thought's leaving.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Ambulance Talker's Confession

The last place the candle
Goes out is in my mouth.
Not everyone's last words

Are anything like words
At all. Supposedly
The billionaire who made

So much of our current
Cyborg lives possible,
A year ago, in awe,

Died gasping "Oh wow! Oh
Wow!"  I'm willing to bet
His last words were, "ow, ow!"

Still, deep in the forest
Tonight, knowing I won't
Get out of myself soon,

I'm willing to gamble
That, as the forest dies
And burns down, twig and root,

The last thing I'll manage
Will be some foolishness,
Less than prayer, more than "ow!"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Full Moon Durango September

What is this? Harvest? Hunter?
Art Walk Moon? It's warm enough
To rule out Frost, Hunger, Wolf,

Eerie enough to rule out
Weddings and Buffalo Gals.
Let's say it's the Sidewalk Moon

Old enough for the fiddler,
Long-bearded and homeless,
Who plays a reel on the corner,

Young enough for the toddler
In her plastic pushcart car
To give the fiddler a wave.

Friday, September 28, 2012

For Natasha Trethewey & Tracy K. Smith

These are the women who teach
Poetry today at the places
Where I was once proud to attend,

Women with attractive, tilted
Faces smiling from the backs
Of their Pulitzer-Prize winning

Volumes of acid-free verse,
Replete with the exquisite
Prose-verse encomia of poets

My own and my mother's
Ages who taught me ages ago
Whatever I was wasn't going

Ever to be this appealing,
This winning, this gentle,
Forgiving. Forgive me. I love this.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A God in the Dark

Supplies are running out.
They might yet be replaced.
They might not. At a stop

Over the interstate,
A silver-bearded man
In leather ten-gallon,

Ponytail down his back,
Sharp black lizard-skin boots,
Mauve shirt loose in the wind,

Stands by the pruned ruin
Of a dead cottonwood,
Leaning into black clouds.

He holds an antenna
That he points at the clouds,
Piloting a glider

That he flies in circles
And loops around his head,
A steerable halo

To tempt the lightning with.
A long way from safety,
From home, one admires him.

He twists and turns and steers.
His green t-shirt flashes
When the sunset strikes him.

Someone watching asks him
The name of his toy plane.
He says it's Caedmon's Hymn.

Someone else wants to know
What that name means. He shrugs.
I have to go home now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Will with the Wisp

What you need night to see seems how
The tiny city and all its little lights
The great amazing metropolis and all its mighty lights

Hide in the magician's black glove
At the end of a sequined arm
Reaching out from the trunk

Of the tree for which all forests
Are hardly more than brittle whisks
Burnishing the far tip of one branching

Opposite illustrated night
Where the city dwellers
Cower in the covered fingers

Of a hand they hope resembles
Their own curled monkey paws
Trembling with knowing

That it does not
That it is something else
Entirely under lovely velvet

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Are we singing or striving?
The wood birds demand to know.

Frogs and crickets contending
Ask the same thing in reverse.

Each chorus raising its own
Ruckus harmony requires

From uncounted hungry throats,
From uncounted rasping wings,

The desperate signaling
Every intention to win

Over the undecided,
However underhanded

The means, the mode of combat
Barely distinguishable

From the possessors' duets
In the middle of their dreams.

It's a contest. It's a hymn.
It's the voice of a forest

That has no voice of its own
Except the wandering wind

Condescends to give the leaves.
At least the creatures singing,

Whatever their forever
Unknowable intentions

To them, create together
A thing that is not beyond

The things their private longings
Need. The leaves and needles

Stand the wind as the grazing
Of the unvoiced butterflies

In their uncontested youth.
Their music is nothing to them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Are You Mad Enough to Celebrate

The funny physicality
Of lyrical poems on the page:
Ugly, skinny, scrawny musings

Scrolling down in stumbling stanzas,
So pleased with their own sound effects,
So far from music, so near prose,

So oblivious to their shapes,
The homely black-and-white letters
Straggling, zig-zag, down the blankness

Toward closing-in conclusions
Cornering clever prosodies
And daydreams of revolution

Mercilessly as leg-snap traps,
Clumsily as riot police
Catching strays under veils of gas?

No? Go away. We don't need you.
We've been cultured for culture's sake.
We're legless by design, like snakes.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

God for Bones

It's almost rain, almost a storm
Aligning with the barren gaps
Red and dun for lack of water.

Detritus keeps reappearing
From somewhere outside the known world,
From somewhere underneath the mind,

Hints of a shortcut through the woods
Straight across the solemn desert
Paved with the fossils of mistakes,

The granaries and treasuries
Of misplaced civilizations,
The pillared bones of dinosaurs,

Of elephants, camels, horses,
Anteaters and saber-toothed cats,
A solid floor of minerals

Laced with forgotten instructions
For making the stones rise and move.
You'd never guess a continent

Of green from the sunburned temples,
The bleached calcium carbonates.
You'd imagine an oasis,

Some time when the world was lusher,
Never guessing this is that time,
Now when the god of bones is hushed,

Before the storm you're hoping for
Draws each interlacing tendril
Up from the broken white-tiled floor

To reconnect the continents
Of might have been and has to be,
Devouring every splintered never.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Upper Rimshadow

The hollow in the ridges
Carefully described by years
Carving the rocks to create
Gossip in the lavender,
Laughter in the early hay,
Face to high clouds, back to earth,

An alert and wary grasp
In the outer air, the need
For here humming everywhere
On the first noon of autumn,
The beech tree in the meadow
That reveals a softer shade
In the shadow of a stone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to Forget

"Taia o moko, hei hoa motenga mou."

Inscribe yourself, so you have
A friend and ally in death.
If you are fierce and daring,
Inscribe yourself near your mouth
And around your eyes. No one
Who pauses to talk with you
Will miss your ferocity.

If you are even braver,
Inscribe the cup of your skull
So that your thoughts can be gleaned
By the harvesters of life
And polished by anyone
More daring than you, eager
To wear the trophies of ghosts.

And if you are so lacking
In fear for the world's dangers,
Respect for other beings,
And need to be remembered
That you disappear inside
Your inscriptions, you can leave
Leaf litter in the forest.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Fall

"as if the goal of the best poetry is to flirt with the nonsensical, to see if some suggestions of meaning – maybe just some mood or personal association – will be sparked by the centrifugal force created by a bunch of words wildly spinning"

We wheel up, settle in drifts
Rustle on over to the sticking place,
Pile up against it and ask

How is this any different
From hanging together
As well-expressed clusters,

How are we any less true
Than we were when we unscrolled
In regular, predictable patterns

From whichever branches
Of thought produced us?
Isn't this whispering skelter

Closer, much closer, to the actual
Arrangements of most things,
Predictable in a hilly way, if not

Especially informative
About what the things strewn
About used to have to say?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Give Him a Mask and He Will Tell You the Truth

It's a peculiar feature of trees,
Unknown to other sorts of beings,
That they rustle together to name
The things that they believe are not them,

Including their own outstretched shadows,
The arboreal academy
Of secondary existences
That are cast to the ground as their dreams,

Tertiary phosphorescences
That carry the weight of narration,
Which is nothing and massive as night,
Full of the long breezes rippling leaves.

The shadows that inhabit these woods
Probably glow no less than others,
A little more diffusely than stars,
A little less brightly than the moon,

Enough to cast shadows of their own,
To which they give names like Wanderer
And Hermit, Confusion and Thunder,
Irrelevance, Forgiveness, and Storm.

I am, whispers one, not of this world.
I do not belong to these echoes,
Another replies. I am myself,
Alone, the many sing together.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sawmill Hollow

In addition to small lives
And miniature kingdoms,
The forest floor hides houses

Every wanderer looks for
When certain of solitude,
When no one else is looking,

Searching for the cellar door
That turns the world inside out,
The underground opening

Like a cape to hide the real
Sepals of the black poppy
Peeling back and blooming gold,

Revealing the veiled expanse
Of the chambered memories
Excavated by the roots

And the always falling streams
Carving in caves from above
To deposit their treasures

That proved too heavy to bear.
These the wanderer can't leave
Alone. They open and glow,

They appear unbreakable,
Marbled, however fragile
And altered by being found,

They ring with oracular
Riddles and misdirections
The wanderer interprets

As simple imperatives.
Lift the stone. Reach for your heart.
Rummage around. Find the child

In the empty room, smitten
By sunlight on slow dust motes.
Put him aside. Keep looking.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sleep, the Mindless Philosopher

Asleep, the brainy vertebrates
Taste the lives of trees and corals,
Complicated, thoughtless beings

Who have no mysterious need
To dream in order to function
As sufficiently hungry things.

Asleep, the long evolution
Of thoughts and their entanglements
Pauses between avalanches

That shouldn't come to rest at all,
The night storms of the winter woods
Rattling the near-frozen branches.

Asleep, deeply asleep, below
The thresholds of contemplation,
The slumbering astronomer

At last allows luminous clouds
To pass without explanation
And measures no phenomena.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Dragon of Spears

The bones of the world are scalloped
Curves bending against gravity,
Cut by all weathers, delicious
Elaborations in the mind

Of the horizontal forest
Incompletely covering them,
Their crumbling, stoic resistance
And beds of lives barren of trees,

Slopes prone to hold snows until ice
Builds for them to throw, crush, and feed
Things whose branches reach toward them,
Whose scurrying quarries their rocks

In the wake of the cycling clouds
That have everything and nothing
To do with the breathing of leaves
That so want to forgive themselves

For being alive, aspiring,
Aware of their own tiny greeds
That nibble at the spines of stone,
Bone spears too beautiful to bear.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dinner Party in the Deep Woods

(for G & M, who know, although they'll never know)

It's nice to be social. It's hard.
It takes much more preparation
Than an avant-garde novelist
Describing the scene imagines.

It requires being someone
Other than whatever's inside
The someone who's busy being
Someone other than whatever.

And then, after all the good-byes
And promises of other nights,
There's the clean-up, the aftermath,
The consideration of souls

As, for instance, this one, lacking
In the finer social graces,
Who dozes in spill-over lights
Outside the sleeping house tonight

And remembers being a guest
Among small cabins in tall trees
Somewhere north of being the host
Who can barely stand for hello.

Friday, September 14, 2012


At the black hem
Of the comforter
Speckled with stars,

The light from the cabin
Lays down its head
On its own halo

Of gold circles,
Cool earth and crickets
Singing, we are never

Too late or too tired,
Too low or too far
From each other to try

To hymn the end of one light
In our need for each other
And singing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Humbaba Guards the Cedars from the Wars

It's all the world that holds me,
Wild woods porcelain bones contain,
With me the sleepy monster
Wandering around inside,

Watching each shadow detach,
Stretch, startle off, recombine,
As if I could live stalking
Shadows instead of fat beasts.

I can. I do. All I am
After all is a shadow
Myself thrown by the sun cut
Into confetti by trees,

And shades are all I can eat.
I'm no less a predator
Of the forest's worldly thoughts
For having unworldly claws,

But every kill reminds me,
When I bite down on darkness,
That the creature whose twilight
I gnaw growls far beyond me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Let There Be Effort

Life was a pump. Not a fire,
Not a vortex, surely not
An architect's library,

But a pump with a filter,
Priming the iterations
Of hunger and preference,

Of selection and symbol
And arguments about life.
A pump that squeezed energy

Out of its hiding places
In boring clusters of things,
That hauled in and then spit out

What before had only burned,
Blown, or tumbled to a stop.
Not, first, the word. First, a pump.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Conspiratorial Siesta

Birds, streams, and breezes
Weave the tapestry
Of green concealment
Through their differences.

No one sleeping tree
Can twitch the story
Draping all at once,
The billowing tent,

The wolf settling down
To investigate
Its own bed, circling
Sleep before dreaming.

The birds sing cycles
Of how songs began
With a breath, a spring
Chasing each other,

Catching something else 
They used to catch more,
And lost, caught, forgot
To leave the forest.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Dawn

Try again. Don't veer off
Into abstractions, dark
Implications. Stay here

Where the bedroom curtain
Sails inward from morning
Arrangements of orange

And blue ephemera
Already dissolving
In roostering noises,

A child's squawk here, a jay's
Over there, a dog's bark
At a far car's whisper,

Everything singular
With enough space to be
Revealed for the moment

Crisp as nearly clean sheets
Sweet as the desert air
Arriving and going

Clearly at the same time,
Always at the same time.
Quit it. Get out of bed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Four Million Switches for Twenty Thousand Lights

One entanglement creates another, 
Lives, meadows, forests, cities, circuitry 
All derived from the same mess of wires spooled 
Out of the furnaces of attraction. 

In sleep, the thing that is not me dreams 
Until I rouse myself to mistake it 
For some sidereal commentary 
On an existence that it only rings. 

And what it dreams of, recently, begins 
In a mansion of innumerable rooms-- 
Could be a king's palace, could be a tree-- 
Where there is never enough light to see 

But every cavernous wall is covered 
From dark floor bottom to dark ceiling join 
With bank upon bank of dials and switches 
That modulate the flickering story 

Fluttering down from a roof that might be 
A planetarium or actual 
Stars too far away to be convincing. 
And any one switch could turn off the lights.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


It has, at the least, a mind of its own,
Always to be found within it, never
To be found in any one part of it.

It grows as it rots to shade its own thoughts
Working with and against that downward pull
That organizes all variation

Into expansive horizontal bands,
Vertically convoluted and constrained.
Some years it flourishes. Some years it burns.

It is wholly lacking in character
And surfeit with fragmentary selves,
The most elaborate form of boredom

An inventive universe could devise,
Trackless, redundant, wild, flawless
Hideout for all things adapted to the twilight,

The most domesticated emptiness,
The beyond that keeps everything inside,
The rain on the leaves that never hits ground.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Yesterday, I Think, Whenever

I won't remember this day,
Not as clearly as others.
It passed in a serene haze
Made of the odd mindfulness,
Glee, and mild anxiety
That accompanies childcare,
In and out of sun and house.

What we did in the morning
And repeated at evening
We did in the afternoon:
Wake up, eat, play, change, clean up,
Toys, bath, books, toilet, dishes,
Find the ball, find the shade, sing,
Console, shout no, laugh, explain,

Or try to explain, all things
Easy and taxing to do,
Requiring strict attention
Alternating with dreaming
At the speed of a toddler,
For whom one day is many
None, now, and forever, gone.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


You can't leave anything alone in here.
Without outside influences, it will grow
Into a creeping vine, a mushroom ring,
Whatever shapes an unconstrained thing takes,

Becoming so little like what entered
The woods all alone one fine summer day
That any contact with its former self
Would not only transform it but kill it.

Even unpeopled locations run wild.
Here is a red-brick suburban campus
Someone spent years rebuilding in the trees.
It was a matter-of-fact, present place

With daily updates, once upon a time.
Students and teachers with heads of their own
And, presumably, wilderness inside,
Wandered around and scuffed the moss off things.

But that was a great many nights ago.
Nothing but dreams have troubled the pathways.
They're overgrown, dark, and glowing at once,
Grottoes for frail species that don't need eyes.