Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The mind flops around in the brain,
Smacking back and forth in the skull,
From a camelid in Utah
Browsing in snowy junipers
To nostalgia for a cafe
Near a busy intersection
Where a conversation took place
About mining towns and tree poems

The last time today was today.
It flips, it sprawls, it smears the walls
Of its mossy cavern with streaks
Of thoughts about peculiar things
That mean nothing at all outside
Its small circus of memories,
Kindergarten Batman, balloons
In ICU, fourth-grade bow ties,

Hockey flag-waving on TV,
Bicentennial wallpaper,
Insurance office cubicles,
Frozen milk outside the window,
An Irish voice over the phone
One afternoon in Atlanta,
Fog on a Birmingham hillside,
All those hurdles, such a small pond.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Guess She Nicked Her Heart

No idea where this came from
In the middle of the night,
In the middle of Orem,
In the middle of Utah,
At the edge of what used to be

A whole lot of nothing
To most human beings
And an ordinary home
Full of the usual sacred landmarks
To scattered hunter-gatherers.

I suspect it was something
Sarah said to me or I
To Sarah, a few days ago,
That I woke up to jot down
As snow fell around last night.

What is the life of a phrase,
The peculiar existence,
More than a mere word,
Less than a composition,
Haunting a language?

Part of the culture-drunk mind
Attempts to parse it tightly
Term by term--guess, nick,
Heart. It all makes sense,
Except that it doesn't at all.

Somewhere near the part
Of the brain that raises alarms
To wake the multi-trillion cell
Body's community at night
Words still weird work, like runes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What the Ghost Wrote on the Wall

I'm just going to try to breathe
Until I'm dead, said the mouse
In the tunnel of the trap
In a corner of the house

While the long night came and went
With the hunger and the piss
Until dawn winked in the trap
Smiling, You will die like this

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Cow of Death

Appears in the dark
Of the brilliant headlights

Giant, gleaming, inky
Slab of disaster

Missed, just barely
By a lane's width

Had the car
Approached the cow

From the other lane

That breaks regret
Into recyclable morsels

For the ravens
And the ambulance

Would have ended
This rumination

Under the moon

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The first time Sarah
Got out of the car
To study the ground
For rocks, we were here
Near Factory Butte.

She moved like a bird,
Like a sandpiper,
Over what had been
Shore epochs ago,
Stalking her quarry.

We've carried the rocks
In my car, our truck
Almost four years now.
I can't picture them.
I still picture her

Scrutinizing them,
Revealing herself
To me the first time,
Today as I watch
Our toddling daughter

Not fifteen months old,
Scrutinize what looks
Like pure sand to me,
And pick out chert, shells,
Basalt, memory.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sexy Gimps with Masks in a Futuristic World

My wife has her way with
Phrases that make me laugh,
Too good for poetry,
Too oddly fragmented
For novel or memoir,
Too true for religion.

In the midst of Scrabble
Games, I scribble them down.
Over early morning chit-chat,
Toddler bumping our knees
And assaulting our ears,
I tap them in my phone.

A man with a muse has
An advantage over
Other poetasters
He should never neglect.
Humbly he should borrow
What others cannot steal.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Nonsensical Fable

"Thus the spell was broken"

A scholar drove along the road
That led past the river, to town.
Along the way he hummed a song
About the fine dinner he planned.

Out of the corner of his eye,
He saw one of the crumbling cliffs
Of naked rock that lined the route
Begin to quiver in the sun,

As if it were undecided
Whether to collapse or stand firm
Or hitch up its rock skirts and run,
Which made the scholar stop and think,

As scholars, like opossums, will,
Thoughtfulness misidentified 
As feigning death,
And the scholar stayed motionless,

Waiting in case the cliff could prove
It had indeed begun to move,
And debated within himself
Which was the cliff and which his mind.

All afternoon he waited there,
Past the time his body grew bored
And left him to drive into town
And have that fine dinner itself.

Everything in the scholar's mind 
Began to waver with the cliff.
Dreams slowly shifted off ledges
And settled in memory's dust

That floated up in the sunlight,
Obscuring the sky and the cliffs,
Wheeled and settled slowly, trembling,
Confused, dust of life, light, cliffs, mind.

The scholar was not forgetful.
He had become disorganized,
So unbecoming a scholar.
When the cliff shifted, he was gone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rain, Snow, and Nothing Much at One AM

We are what creates terms
For what we cannot know.
We are what invests years,
Lives, universities,
Libraries, centuries
For explicating that

For which we have nothing
Except what it is not
To tell us what it is.
We are what determines
Something requires nothing
For it, for us, to be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Slither of Goodness

Infests the worst of us,
Attempts to keep us true,
Reminds us we are weak,
Offers us shining fruit
From the tree of sanctions,
Sweet toxin of Eden.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Doesn't Have to Me  Like This

No tyranny remotely
Painful as the tyranny
Of syntax. Brutality
Isn't even brute until
Proper grammar makes it so.
Those bipedalists who first
Spoke invented law and crime.

All of us since are lawyers,
Lawyers, and court recorders,
Duly noting boasts, ripostes,
Bon mots, blood oaths, and the hosts
Of losers loath to conform,
Recidivist solecists,
My nonsensical forlorn.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Flying Dutchman's Lament

I have memories
As a galleon had sails

Numerous, copious as clouds
Blindingly bright by day
Glowing in moonlight

But shot through now
By corsairs' cannons--

Still wide, bright, catching at
The slightest breeze
But ragged with irreparable holes

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Advice for the Advocate

The courtroom of internal
Conversation must adjourn.
There is no judge or jury,
Nor lawyers for either side.
There is only the plaintiff
Railing at the gallery
Of forgotten spectators.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Resource Holding Potential 

The first of prayers, 
Best known at all the temples, 
Is for riches. Seeing this then 
Do you not commend 
The one sage for laughing
And the other for his tears?

Is there nothing more
We wish from the supernatural
Other than a tasty bit
Of resource holding potential?
That, or eternal youth--
The earthliest, least
Supernal of terrors.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Evening's Chair

A soldier, returned home from foreign wars
That had never properly concluded
And probably never would, changed his clothes

And, dressed once again as a civilian,
Hiked up into the mountains of his youth,
Where dark forests still crowded the canyons,

Where no shots other than those of hunters
Had been heard for over a hundred years.
He climbed the green slopes to his favorite place,

A natural meadow of summer wildflowers 
That had, in bloom, entranced him as a boy.
He lay there in the sun and dreamed of sleep.

So he stayed all day. No one disturbed him.
Whenever he opened his eyes, the sky
Was blue and empty, fringed with brilliant flowers

At which he sighed and closed his eyes again,
And whenever he felt a surge of fear 
It subsided in sun and insect hum.

At last, evening came. The sky turned purple,
And the soldier, sitting up in the chair
Of blue flowers, waited to watch stars rise.

He had just about made up his mind to go,
Seeing Venus shining past the far ridge,
When a grunt, like something clearing its throat,

Rasped in the grass an arm's length from his head.
The soldier stopped breathing, caught in ambush.
He guessed from the snuffling it was a bear.

He waited for the bear's outraged surprise.
He watched the sky produce its golden eyes,
Glittering with being, alive, not lives.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Desirous Pragmatist

Can't say he's ever been scared
By thinking he saw a ghost
Or a shaggy, clawed monster,
Although he's been petrified
By a menacing deadline,
An inky black police car,
An enormous past-due bill.

A real ghost, ethereal
But substantial, convincing,
Would be such a great relief,
Making all the scary things
Cramming grim reality
Between awareness and death
Seem mercifully unreal.

"If you flourish by your wits, 
What could be more therapeutic 
Than trying to scare yourself 
Out of them?" Silly question.
If you'll perish by your wits,
There might be some therapy
In losing them, true enough.

But he's the sort knows too well,
Flourishing or perishing,
His wits themselves are the worst,
Ghastliest shades of terror
He's ever experienced.
They whisper he must perish
As they shriek he must flourish.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For Sarah, on St. Valentine's Day

Only now do I begin
To understand the concept
Of a true muse. She makes you

Wander, most often places

You had not yet wished to go.
She makes you question, yourself,
Why you had not questioned you.

She makes you work to create
What you had not intended,
Love what you had not known, go

Down into the depths of loss,

Old, nostalgic grief. Lose it.
She should not always be soft,
Who's always true. She loves you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

No One Ever Saved a Life

A life can never be saved,
But a death can be postponed.
Where's the dishonor in that?
Why hype it as salvation?
The quality of mercy
Is strained but not without grace.
More life to those who want more.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Social Graces

It's better to make mistakes
Than to listen too closely,
Articulate carefully
Or educate too wisely.
Which is handy, since mistakes
Come easily, perfection
Being impossible. Good,

I will make do with better
And forgo best that earns worse.
The old story of the fox
Declaring unreachable
Grapes sour was cruel to foxes.
The grapes, poor vintage, declared
Themselves sour and so saved face.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Time Licks All Wounds

I come around a corner of the road
That winds through the Colorado's canyons,
The sort of mostly empty, scenic route
One can drive on a February day
With the red cliffs and grey skies to oneself,

And I'm brought up short by a line of cars
On a hairpin curve behind flashing lights.
I park and wait. More enterprising men
Get out of their trucks and walk to the front
To ask the police what happened. Not me.

I prefer not to start conversations
With uniformed men who wear guns to work,
Especially not near blue and red lights.
I sit and wonder how bad the wreck was
Too far up ahead for my line of sight.

I'm in no hurry. I'm driving alone.
Still, I'm eager to ask the ones who asked
What, if anything, they found out. Not much
Except the slightly disappointing news
That it's a spilled load of hay blocks the road,

Which is both relief and anti-climax,
Not to mention curiously rustic.
So we wait as hay gets cleared off the road
And my mind rummages through its own past
For prior accidents and near misses,

The car that clipped me as a teen driver,
The nasty thwack at an intersection,
The fender-bender as a passenger
In the front seat of a too-cautious friend,
The heart-pausing slide off ice into snow,

The truckload of vegetables overturned
At twilight in the Nevada desert,
The white-tailed doe that jumped into the road
And frightened me badly in Wyoming,
The moose missed on the Yukon logging road,

The dog that ran out in Namibia
In the doggy belief I would speed up,
Then  got tangled in a tire when I braked
Hard, out of panic, trying to miss it.
In my rear view I saw it limp away.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What Just Happened?

As it was now and ever shall have been,
I used to think that I was almost here,

When there never was any here wasn't
Already passed over me there. Moses

Knew what I was finding out, what he spent 
His own forty years finding out himself.

The promised land would always be there, just not
Quite here. I got all the time in the world.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Blue Light

Every moment dug a well
By the shore of the white lake.
The man who noticed this fell
Through his own dream by mistake.

"It's hard to predict what's passed,"
He thought, as he caught the light
From yesterday, falling fast,
Outlining permanent night.

"Never more is, only was,
Always was, as this blue spark,
This well, this memory does
Itself done down in the dark."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Haunted Orem

The skateboarders are out again
Under the full moon at midnight
The trio of long boarders are out
In the Hampton Inn parking lot
Under the full moon at midnight

They were out there last night
Turning and weaving in the arc lights
They were almost soundless almost
Ghosts in their nondescript hoodies
Flipping and sticking their landings

They will be there every last night 
That I ever remember their shadows
Riding shadows over shadows over
The brilliant grey light of the empty
Long past abandoned parking lot

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Watch Closely

Absolute surrender corrupts
Absolution. The past is now,

The thisness of always, this sun
That the past lets me recollect

Without too much terror: I have
Pulled myself clear in time,

Where everything that happens means
Nothing ever happens again,

All gone and here because it's gone,
Clouds of dust by the gravel pit,

By the marshes, by the white lake,
By the mountains that were islands

When the lake was an ocean, when
Imagination was nowhere

To be seen: this afternoon, this
Sun, dust, grass, ice, this lake of was.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Home Is Freedom and Freedom Is Free

Everyone's got a slogan,
And everyone's brother's too busy
Making up a batch more.

Even the paltry poets coin
Their catch phrases, coy and sly,
In the pages of rare magazines,

And theology students
At mostly Mormon universities
Debate advantages of religious branding.

If it's not a slogan,
Then it's an acronym
Or an abbreviation someone's selling,

Sometimes a mere misspelling,
A copyrightable neologism,
Short on the neo, long on the gism.

Well, I can play, too,
Mock it and mimic it hopefully,
Sign all my emails with vague tag lines.

"Every day is strange in its own way."
"Today is the tomorrow scared you yesterday."
"It all goes away but the going away."

"Everything is nothing and nothing is everything."
"Life is a force that feeds on its forms."
"Now is the time for no time." Believe me.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jackpot, Nevada, Center of the Universe

I dreamt I woke up in a world
Constrained by probability,
Where nothing was impossible,
And nothing was a miracle;
Where what was most predictable
Was what, predictably, happened,
So almost exactly always,
It might as well have been a law.

There were big prizes for living
In this dream world of statistics,
But in the nature of things there,
Only a few could win prizes,
The rest filled out the circumstance,
And if one found oneself to be
One of "the rest" from the get-go,
It was best to let go of hope.

Still, it was entertainment to watch
The rolling blue clouds and lightning
Of the extremely unlikely
Thundering on the horizon,
The great, blue-grey veils of virga,
Rain sweeping the edge of the dream,
Always present, always falling
Somewhere, but never arriving.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Someone's Got to Get Lucky

I'm one of those many things
Filled with intent to be lost.
Happiest when forgotten,
Set aside, mislaid, not missed,
Most myself when loneliest.
From whom or what I'm trying
To shake loose I'll never know.

All I know is that craving
To disappear completely
Without ceasing to observe,
A ridiculous idea
I know is ridiculous
But suspect is adaptive,
Like a mouse craving tunnels,

And, like the mouse's craving,
Also opportunity
For the world to set its traps.
Each night in our rural home,
Ramshackle, lovely to mice,
I set out tunnel-like traps,
Designed to capture, not kill.

In the morning, I check them.
Often there's a big-eared mouse
Caught in the snug box, ready
To be trekked far from the house,
The warm and abundant house,
Then dumped out into sagebrush,
So I can feel merciful.

My favorite spot to drop them
Is near the cemetery,
Disused, small, by the roadside,
Unkempt, more scrub than headstones.
Seems like a good hiding spot
For a cowering rodent,
Grassy, seedy ground cover.

But I know their odds are long.
Life's like that, a lottery.
The odds for any one mouse
Are atrocious, but the odds
Of many mice in the house,
Despite those I trap, are good.
Someone's got to get lucky.

Even the cleverest traps
Won't change mouse genetics soon.
Small holes and tunnels still work
Often enough to appeal
To further generations.
I wonder where my daughter
Will go to escape the world.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another One

The cycles continue
Even as cycles change,
As cyclists come and go,
Small empires rise and fall.
Sarah goes for a run.
I watch Sequoia walk,

Staggering and plopping
Down, waddling up, plopping
Down, struggling back up,
Wobbling over to me
On the uneven planks
Of the sunny mud room.

There's a box on the floor
Holding a few items
My mother left at death
That my sister mailed me.
A Hummel now broken,
Bookends I made for her

As a boy in Dad's workshop,
One of those Christmases
When we economized
And made all our own presents.
The face of a small boy
Stares at me from the box.

Sequoia toddles by,
Investigates the box,
Pulls out wrapping paper,
The headless Hummel's head,
The bubble wrap that failed
To protect the tchotchkes,

One bookend with my face,
45 years ago,
Black and white, serious,
Cut with careful jigsaw
And glued to the cut pine,
Which she tosses aside.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Lexicide's Shadow

What if I were
To drift away
From words--I, who
Am only words,

Am only I,
The word for self
Which is itself
A word for same.

You see the game,
Of course. You can't
See out of it,
Unless you're not

In it, and in
That case, you can't 
See it at all.
There are no words.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ars Photographica

Perusing fine-art landscapes,
We don't usually savor
The photographic value
Of intervening power 
Lines in the composition,
Anymore than spiderwebs
Hanging across our windows.

They're not so unbeautiful 
In themselves, scalloped contours
At intervals, festooning
And inverting gravity's
Otherwise invisible,
Infinite, cursive rainbows 
That hold all landscapes tethered.

The problem's the camera's 
Honesty that we can't bear.
Our brains elide power lines
From the grandeur of the scene,
Seeing what we know we see,
Instead of everything there.
We'll Photoshop this later.