Tuesday, January 31, 2012

As Chimney Sweepers Must

Young men grown old, now dead, parade
Across the hotel TV screen,
Throwing footballs, catching footballs,
Bellowing at their opponents,

Celebrating with their teammates,
Gesticulating to their fans
To roar louder, to exhort them,
But not to beg them to survive.

Under each clip, whether grainy
Duplicate of old film footage
Or garish wash of video,
Run the tombstone years, birth dash death.

Enough of these, it dawns on me,
Though they were not true warriors,
To put it euphemistically,
Came quickly to grave nonetheless.

They died to their sport, then their fame,
Then their ability to move,
And at last, young to the world,
Ghosts to their own names, they left.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Time Is Up

Down around Castle Valley we have
Our share of the wild and the feral:
Skunks, deer mice, pinyon mice, scorpions,
Black widows, coyotes, and foxes;
Ravens, turkeys, mourning doves, magpies;
Early summer plagues of grasshoppers,
Interlocking colonies of ants,
The weird scream of a mountain lion
One cold night, floating down from the Rim,

All sorts of creatures that frighten us,
Annoy us, delight us, disgust us,
Uncontrolled or uncontrollable.
None of them seem stranger, in context,
Than any of our domesticates--
Cows, goats, horses, peacocks, dogs and cats--
Except for the grazing herds of deer
Wandering the valley by the dozens,
Big, scruffy, insolent and mule-eared.

They're wrong, somehow, for any context,
Bred placid from decades without wolves,
More numerous than the goats and cows,
Big as mares, pestiferous as mice,
They crowd the road's shoulder, fill the fields,
Look almost beautiful in half light,
Prick their ears at the hunger of life,
Pack shadows into silver moonlight,
Startle me with hooved thunder at night

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Leave Me the World to Bustle In

"he is not capable of bustling, he hobbles.... he casts away his cane and immediately lurches forward, falling flat on his face"

"bustle (1) 'be active,'mid-14c., frequentative of M.E.,bresten 'to rush, break, from O.E. bersten (see burst)"

Insert your own personal anecdote
Of physical disability here. (Yes,
Norm, a story of a friend or relative
Will do.) One: was King Richard

The Third a moral villain because
Of his physical defect? Or, was
He a defect because of his twisted
Soul? Two: was the young William

Shakespeare an astute toady 
Of the Tudor monarchy, casting
An hereditary enemy of Elizabeth
As a monstrous, hump-backed

Toad? Or, was he an artist trapped
In a nascent police state, wriggling
His way to free, remunerative
Expression on the hillocky back

Of his Plantagenet marionette?
Three, does it matter whether real
King Richard was able-bodied and
Or good, albeit ill-served by history?

Four: answer every possible,
Previous question in both 
The affirmative and negative, as
You wish. Leave me the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pavanne for a Small Breakdown

Wisdom is a drop of oil
Spread on the churning ocean.
It soothes the local turmoil
An instant, then it's broken,
Ripped open by currents coiled
In the deep and unspoken
World of hunger, wisdom's foil.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Moonlight Is Sunlight

Edward Day Pheeks, who signed himself E. Day
And went by Day, couldn't get around

How everything was always leaving him
In exactly the act of arriving,

How so many things managed to come back
To haunt him, when nothing remained the same,

How the light on the river was the green light
On the river yesterday, an old green

He knew from day after day, and a new
And blue now that let him know green was gone.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Big Blank Book Made of Paper

A why never moves.
Even when you think
You've answered one,
Look closely. All you've done
Is shifted a new how.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lying as Metaphor

For telling the truth
For laying it all out
For not standing for this anymore

For loving
For the little death
For delivery

For fiction
For gossip
For drama

For language
For being human
For believing

For in the beginning was Word
And Word was God
For a metaphor

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You Are Rest

Shotgun casings lie in the straw
Beside the marsh, below the lake.

The parked car hums and heats itself.
Yesterday's snow retreats uphill.

One greyish bird, which has no need
For whatever names one could claim,

Preens in a dead tree's protection.
A larger bird dislodges it.

The marsh reeds are potted in ice.
Occasional contrails link clouds,

And pick-ups pulling horse trailers
Roar, singly, down the potholed road.

If you read enough of these things
Aloud, slowly and precisely,

They start to sound like poetry
Of the kind best left to fragment.

If you observe the restlessness
Of enough of this emptiness

Glimpse by glimpse, you begin to think
You can catch and release the world.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Wait Too Long

Or at all. By the time
That time has changed your ways,
You'll be long gone. Your ways

Are you. The BBC
News, Mozart, late-night snow
Embellishing old snow

By twirling in lamplight
To settle on asphalt
And dark slush, now whose fault

Could it be that you're here,
Collecting memories
To grace old memories?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I had a dream like any dream,
Broken memories shuffled,
Nothing too significant.
We were playing in the dirt
Somewhere in winter desert
Unearthing piles of flaked chert.
In one pile was a beer can.

What was wrong with that beer can?
I remembered it was mine.
Twenty-seven years ago,
I was picnicking with friends.
In my dream, I'm there again
Sitting on a sunny bank
Thick with green beside a stream.

My friends, their faces blurry,
Golden with youth and the sun
Sprawl in the long meadow grass
Debating the sin of trash.
The majority opinion
Is that it's a shameful blight
And humans ruin the Earth.

One argues trash is nature.
Encouraged, I toss my can
In the reeds. Then I panic.
Back in the desert, the waste
Reemerges to taunt me.
I try to rebury it.
Then I think of an excuse.

It's been in the ground so long,
It's an artifact by now.
Oh no, not quite long enough,
Just a quarter century.
To count as an artifact
Trash needs to stay in the dirt
A half century or more.

I pray that no one finds it
Too soon. I feel embarrassed.
Then I was on the highway,
Driving through a foggy storm
Beside the Colorado,
Down the canyon roads last night,
Watching light die on the cliffs

And tossing one piece of trash
After another, out, out
The window, into the dark
Swirling, pristine wilderness.
Beer cans, paper bags, wrappers,
My terror rising to prayer:
Hide forever in the dirt.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Arches in Thick Winter Sunshine

Everything has made itself new.
There's nothing you need to remake.

The sand at your feet is as new
As the sandstone cliffs that shed it.

The teeming cultures in your brain
Are new as foragers' ochre.

You will never make a copy,
No matter how exact your map,

That is not itself a new thing,
No matter how derivative,

How slavishly contrived. There is
Nothing not new under the sun.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Telling You This in Confidence

Feels familiar, feels true,
Feels good, feels effortless--
These are the components
Of a cognitive ease
That lets us know all's well,
Perhaps, or perhaps not.

"When you are in a state
Of cognitive ease," writes
Dan Kahnemann, "you are
Probably in a good
Mood." You like what you see.
You believe what you hear.

So you're ripe for trouble,
Naturally. Nothing is
Dangerous as comfort,
No mistakes as awful
As those made when you're safe.
No wonder awareness

Evolved to hone our sense
Of terror, even if
It's most often asleep
When we should be wary.
Life's waking dream first put
The con in confidence.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Floy of the Desert

What women sometimes call "The Change"
Is metaphor enough for me,
The continuity, the loss,
The sundering of the cycle

That linked living to reproduce
More lives to living just to live,
A stage of life men should envy,
Free from the chance to reproduce.

Would that our minds, male and female,
Our souls if you wish, anima
And animus, experienced
A phase adjacent to striving,

When the trajectory of life
Carried past opportunity
To project indefinitely
Into some heavenly future

And found all the free-falling joy
Of knowing success or failure,
Trivial terms, were behind us,
And now we could only travel

To our ineluctable ends
Without any further detours,
That is, if souls were like bodies,
Women's bodies to be exact,

And put aside eternity
While there was still time to be this,
To be moving, sprightly, along--
Grandmother's sly hypothesis.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eternity Passes Away

Only movement persists.
This is always not this
But this, which is always
Not that but this, which is
Not this anymore. Past
And future are framed fakes,

And the frames are the fake.
Modest Heraclitus
Had everything moving,
When nothing also moves,
Every bit of rubble
Hanging in imbalance.

The real question is not
What's real but rather why
We want what's not, being
Incapable of calm
Without begging stillness,
Without craving stillness.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Finding a Note Scrawled Two Thousand Days Ago

Clinging to the top
Branch of the dead birch,
Two little grey birds
Brave the wind. Hundreds
Of days they may live.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Immoral Ponderosa

"Amoral" or "indifferent"
Would probably be better words
To carve the ethics of this tree,
Properly, into human terms.

Somehow, "immoral" feels better,
One more anthropic projection
Flickering over the immune
Green of this avatar of pine.

Its isolation draws the eye,
Gives it a private character,
Removed from the sprawling forest,
Equally green and amoral,

That covers steep slopes below it,
Despite the fact that character,
As the eye and its mind well know,
Has nothing to do with a pine,

Everything to do with the eye
And its mind caught on pine branches,
Dendritic mirrors of dendrites,
Entangled memories that like

Similes cut to metaphors,
Life, knowledge, good, and evil shorn,
Hacked, split, stripped of complications,
Sanded down for home furnishings,

This comfortable bench and rocker
Under the beams of this ceiling,
Under this cedar-shingled roof,
Where a rolled-pulp sheet of paper

Serves as the eye's construction site,
Snowed imagination's playground,
Space to defy the tree of time
By sketching that pen-and-ink mind.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

White Dragon Tea Room Durango

Sequoia's reeling off the firsts
This weekend: first train ride, first naan,
First antique store, first museum,
First afternoon in a tea room,

First steps in the hotel lobby
To a round of applause from guests.
Thirteen months and change gone by now
Since her first first on arrival,

Followed by my first intentions
To keep a record of all firsts,
Both unusual and mundane,
Something a grown child could savor

When the parent could no longer
Reassemble the memories--
First camping trip at six months old,
First toy keyboard a month before,

First spontaneous rolling trill
Between songs at first jazz concert,
Seven months old, and first handclaps
After a free children's concert,

First true crawl, nine months to the day,
First tooth not until the tenth month,
First unassisted stand, one year,
First wave hello around six months,

So many more than remembered
Already, when they're still so fresh,
So many unrecognized now
That might seem important later--

First act of kindness, first drawing,
First tune, first time working a crowd,
First moment of serenity
Contemplating silence and light.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Undocumented, Unconfirmed, and Unrecognized

Demon angels of light beat time
Around the steam-train's carriages
Carrying tourists up canyons,
Day-tripping to nowhere and back.

There's the rainbow in the ice mist
Over the midwinter river.
There's the boy's face framed by yellow,
Peering from the next car's window.

There's the cinder-heavy billow
Of the vintage steam engine's blow
Curling in grey-white wings worthy
Of Renaissance realism.

Everybody's been recorded--
Emails, phone-numbers, credit cards
Addresses, tickets collected--
No one will go missing today,

Nothing will go unphotographed
And very little unremarked,
Except those sneaky characters,
Long angels of light, loss, truth, now.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Long Hollow

At first, when everything else stopped,
I thought of course I must be dreaming,

Imagining a bronze enchantment
Resculpted dismembered memories

As unreliable narrators
Of my own ongoing existence.

But I was wrong. I will not wake up.
I am loose in this moment forever.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cataclysmic Catechism

Can an anemone drink too much?
Can a black hole overeat?
Would you know it if it did?
Would you wear your wonderful life 
Around a medium star, flaunting it on
A life- addicted planet like Earth,
Where even the dead get back 
In the business of reliving themselves
Being consumed and all-consuming?

What have you done wrong
To me? It's alright. 
Don't ask forgiveness,
Even when we're both mad about it.
We're the anemone, we're
The black hole, we're earth
Vanishing into a cloak
Of our lives' making, so 
Dense that nothing escapes
Because nothing went into it
And nothing invented it
And nothing will swallow it whole.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Words My People Uttered

God borrowed more phrases
Again and again, creating,

But outside, the stolen woods
Offered a spindly, stippled

Erotic paradise, as if
There were any other

Kind in this world where
Thousands of lengths underneath

Vicious antipodean seas
Seven-armed, predatory

Sea stars are eating 
Ghostly yeti crabs

Who harbor gardens
Of bacterial mats

On their hairy chests,
The better to feed themselves with.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Part Heading Home to Parts Unknown

Huzzah, the Unarmed Man,
Sprawls beneath the fury tree

Lamenting, "Those who can't
Forget the past remain condemned

To repeat it." Memory,
Inventor of every future,

Near and far, he knows, he knows
Has disarmed him, but he won't

Get up without a fight
To dissolve in shade, moldy thought

In a moldy grave. Every knight,
Arms crossed in the Lazarus

Reflex, would wish a great stone
Carved in his bodily likeness

To slide its crushing weight
Over what remains of him,

Every night, dreaming over and 
Over the final instant that memory

Can never teach, the knowing
That nothing guides the beauty

Of the weapon slicing, neatly
Nicking into and between

His thought of being a thinking thing
And him himself, a hymn.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Loop Road

Glory in your ephemeral nature.
Wonder at and celebrate that you are
No more than a fragmentary phantom,
Byproduct of an overheated brain,
Itself produced by a competition
Among multicellular colonies
To see what lineage of madness wins.

Why not glory in being much nothing?
It won't hurt. It might help. Not in the sense
Of gaining an edge in that blasted race
To keep on racing, but in the sense
Of enjoying these moments in this sun.
And if you can't savor them, then go on
Racing. My congratulations; you won.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ok, Ok

Blackout. Time to forget
Time, to give up pretense
Of keeping track of things,

Machines running on time,
Scheduled TV programs
Waxing sanguine on time,

Physicists explaining
Time to TV viewers
Who missed experiments

Hiding events in time
From physicists who made
Theories to fool themselves

Then made experiments
To prove theories fooled them,
Then made explanations.

Time to find the wormhole
Where experience meets
Pure math in the theory

Of humanity's love
Of explaining the world, 
To put one world to bed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Eremite Addresses the Self Conceived as a Dripping-Wet Hostage

If you're trying you're failing.
You're not here if you've got here
Clutched in your fist. Or

You're not here, period. Or
You're here but not you. Or
If you're not failing, you're not

Trying. Prisoner tied
To the bowsprit of life's
Imperial, colonial armada, you

Would love to surrender, you 
Peruse pithy sayings of mystics,
Monks and philosophers of surrender

But find yourself still borne forward
Into the salt foam and headwinds.
Here has got you. How trying.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Gypsy Laughter

Why aren't we more disturbed 
Our dreams are so detailed?
Bad enough that our brains
Are mostly unconscious.
Why do they generate
Night worlds to scare us with?

Last night Sarah woke me
When I was deep enough
In a dream to hold on
To the richness of it
For one waking minute.
What a frightening glimpse.

A dream world is as rich
As one awoken, but
Lacking all rules except
That the self is helpless,
Emotions run riot,
And it's always darker.

What is my brain doing?
How can I trust daylight
Given the detailed night?
If the night world can feel
That vivid in the head
How substantial is day?

I dreamed I heard singing,
A pretty chorus with
A pretty melody,
Somewhere out in the dark.
The melody escaped,
But I've kept the chorus,

"Welling up from midnight,
Welling from the night,
Clear, bright gypsy laughter.
Welling up from midnight,
Welling from the night,
Clear, bright gypsy laughter."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Everything Eroded Away But That

"I think we crave animism. We miss it."

The last stone standing wonders
How it was whittled from bed
To shape a separate thing.
When it first stood free and clear,
Sculpture let loose from the rock,
A pillar among pillars,
Was it already itself?

And now, after so much wind,
Reduced, is it still itself?
Had any other stones cared?
Were any of them aware,
Spilled so far down that slope there?
Ever? The stone on the hill
Listens closely to the wind.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stone Drunk on the Desert (and Fistfuls of Sarah's Cornbread)

Oh gods, the sacred
Desert, no wonder
Humans, inventors
Of so many things,
Here invented djinns.

It rises, it sends
Itself over me,
Over everything
Born not of barren,
Nor simplicity

But of the heavy
Hanging abundance
Of green oases,
Tropic plantations,
And English meadows.

This is not our ground.
This is Vulcan, Mars,
A place to believe 
In bone-dry spirits
Truer than wet flesh.

It will kill you fast
If you tempt it, if
You walk waterless,
Coverless in it.
Who knows that you're here?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Every afternoon I'm treated
To a total solar eclipse:
Long before the sun sets for real,
It drops behind Porcupine Rim.

Sitting on the stoop of the porch
In the cold bright light of winter
When the lower sun seems whiter,
More precise about its shadows,

I get the full show from the start.
I see the curtain of the Rim
Slipping over the valley floor;
I watch the neighbor's house go grey.

And then my own eclipse begins.
In front of me straw fields still glow
And behind me the sun remains
Too glaring even to glance at,

But the shadows of the bare trees
In my yard, like my own shadow,
Hesitate, becoming lighter,
As if darkness were vanishing

Not gathering mass for the night.
The light is wrong in that weird way
That has nothing to do with clouds
As the disc slips down by degrees.

My house and I in penumbra,
The other side of the valley
Glowing red with late afternoon,
The snowy Rim already dark.

It's day, and the sun's still shining,
But falling apart, piece by piece,
On the stone facts of perspective.
A flash, and dimness commences.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Collector

There were artworks on her walls
With personal histories
Dear to her that she rehearsed

Daily, in part or in full,
Depending on how much time
She spent home alone with them.

She imagined narrating
Each cherished acquisition
To whomever might enquire.

That no one enquired did not
Constitute a tragedy,
Nor even disappoint her.

She enjoyed her private game,
Sanding smooth the difference
Between facts and narration.

To say that this photograph
Or that painting had been made
By such and such an artist

Using such or such techniques,
Completed and then purchased
On a particular date,

For a particular sum,
Was not really a story
But joined seamlessly to one

By the magnification
And detailing of sequence,
Rich in adjectives and verbs,

Richest in relationships:
"My late husband bought that piece
Some years before he met me.

He was traveling down South
When someone deluded him
Into thinking he could judge,

And profit by purchasing,
What he called 'Outsiders' Art,'
What most people call 'Folk Art.'

What a lot of foolishness!
When he died, I gave away
Most of his monstrosities.

But I kept this one, you know?
I love the figures in it.
I love knowing it's worthless

And that he gave it to me 
On our honeymoon, saying
It would be worth a fortune,

Some day, it would be like love,
Like our love, worth more and more
With time. He had a sweetness,

But I could tell even then
This anonymous 'Garden
Of Eden' would never sell

At auction or end up hung
In a museum. Still, look
At all those silly creatures

From Genesis, the tropics,
America, you name it,
All jumbled up awkwardly

Like the guests at a party
Where no one knows anyone
But the host. God, I suppose,

In this instance. It's not art
To brag on, but I like it.
It's like Genesis itself,

Anonymous and awkward,
Not really pretty, and yet,
Somehow, you know, compelling.

I keep it for its patterns,
Colors, what it means to me,
And because Adam and Eve

Look brown, and small, and naked
As if they've already sinned,
But are still in the Garden

Like all good sinners, hoping
Not to get caught. Some evenings
I'll fix a drink and ponder

Art, artists, and collectors.
I'm no collector, myself.
But I can imagine one."

Sunday, January 1, 2012


To make no resolutions,
To compose no lyric poems,

To offer no predictions,
To perceive no patterns,

To repeat no offenses,
To return to no crime scenes

Recognizable as such.

To discover the never
Hidden inside the always,

To neglect constellations
And forget about the stars,

To reinvent prosodies
As mystical narratives,

To sack the Roman calendar.