Monday, April 30, 2012

The Nap at Mason Draw

Who knows what weariness
And exhaustion are for.
There may be worlds out there
Where life is never tired
And dances to the end.
Here even spring needs sleep.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

We Don't Believe What We Believe

I don't believe it.
I'm dreaming again
Of doing something
With nothing
Of getting back in the game
I was really never in.

Silly brain. Dreams
Are for kids. Adults
Should have learned by now
Lala land is not
Such a very nice place,
Mostly somewhere scary
With happy endings for escapes.

What do we really think
Is really real, if we aren't
At all confident in our brains
Nor all their fine simulations?
I haven't met anyone yet
Who didn't espouse some convictions,
But when we dig underneath

Each others' conversations,
When we turn from our own opinions
To excavate the opinions of each other,
Again and again we discover
We don't believe what we believe we believe.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

And That Is This, and This With Thee Remains

Son of a bitch, I forgot about you.
At least, I came to believe I forgot.
Forgive my crude English. I've nothing new
To say about your genius, your argot
Compounded of neologisms coined,
Apparently, by you, low local speech,
And the loveliest rhetoric purloined
From your own age and the Latins (less Greek).
This is just to say your patterns amaze
Me here in thickets of empiricists
Where songs are lost in mumbling numbers, dazed
Recitatives. Your nightingale insists
On arias of invention that are
Nothing less than intimate, more than far.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Part of the Dance

Glancing around the human world
It seems we have an overplus
Of monotheistic beliefs,
An excess of sole deities

Whose followers accept no gods
Other than their singular own
Queer creator of everything,
Being nothing we can point to,

Anything for which we have rules.
And therein, in the paradox,
Lies the secret of gods' success:
Nothing ourselves, behold our rules.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Biped Laity

Surrounded by academics
Of a variety of stripes,
It's easy to make a mistake
That looks foolish in black and white.

Professors fear looking stupid
Like millionaires fear looking poor,
Like athletes fear appearing slow.
We hedge our bets, score points, count coups.

And what do our strategies win?
What cultural reproduction
Tips the cost-benefit trade off
In favor of publications

Over a quiet contentment,
Much less some extra grandchildren?
We are not in charge of this show.
We live to make what makes us more.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gate B10, Ten AM

Nothing is richer
Than the wonder of becoming,
Than the boredom of becoming
Each moment richer.

Here is an airport,
For which the future has no words,
A fen of nostalgia for words,
Eternal airport.

The end is so far
From this half-pleasant waiting room
This heaven of waiting, this room
Where nothing so far

Has happened except
That passenger with the guitar
Practicing blues on his guitar,
Strums to no effect.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It Is the Moon

Barely up there,
Silver sliver
Under Venus,
I claim to be

A metaphor,
A this for that.
Cynical me.

Truly earnest
Romantics want
To speak the truth
And nothing but.

There is no truth.
There's what we know
To be untrue,
And there's the moon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Location, Location, Location

What does it matter
Which speck of this speck
I'm sitting on when there's
That out there, not
Only the stars, not
Hardly, but all the vaster
Incomprehensible distance
Between them? Why wonder
About the most exotic
Spot to live on earth?
Might as well agonize
Over which side of a crumb
Would be better to butter.
Might as well advise
A retrovirus on the best
Part of a parasitic bacterium
In the last drop of pond water
In a long-neglected petri dish
To parasitize. The difference
Can only matter to life
And its ridiculous descendants,
Which will not outlast this,
Our hungry little planet,
Our whole history, whole
Prehistory, all of life
We know exists at all,
All the only way life exists,
Our speck of dust,
Too small and dark
To reflect much borrowed light
Even far as the nearest star.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Time, or the Lack Thereof

He's a bastard I can't figure out
And ought to leave alone. He's not
Important in any tractable way,
His existence is existential,
Not humanly useful, even though
Humanly made. He's not natural,
Or at least he's not normative,
Or at least he's not gendered
Or relevant in anything but
A pragmatic way to any religion,
Revolution, underground movement
To organize us properly, the better
To save us from ourselves, you know
The sort of thing, the human need
To save humans from humans,
Humans from the world, the world
From humans, exactly the effort
That dooms us all to being led
Around by the hopes by each other,
And thus to the opposite of saved.

I saw a holy piece of digital movie,
Shot in the Frank Church River
Of No Return Wilderness in winter.
A mule deer doe had taken herself
Into frigid river water cold enough
To kill her if she stayed there, but
She stayed there because the wolves
Who were beautiful and hungry
And organized and threatened
With extirpation by furious men
Had trapped her between them
And the bitter rapids. For all
Her valiant swimming, for all
The fear in her eyes, the adrenaline
In her bloodstream, she could not
Avoid them. She struggled, they
Stalked, the filmmaker tracked
The drama, as humans will.
In her end, she was ripped
From the icy water by her throat
And still flailing legs, and torn
And gutted, dying, in the snow.
And that is what enough time
Will do for you, the bastard,
Who lets you film the suffering
Of the hungry in the jaws
Of the hungry of the world.

The filmmaker's colleague
And wife in the wilderness
Had just been diagnosed
The year before with rheumatoid
Arthritis. "My immune system
Has gone haywire," she explained
Of her swollen joints a month
Or two before her husband shot
The wolves devouring the deer,
Just a few weeks before they cut
Their year of filming short because
Her self-consuming joints became
Too awfully inflamed. That bastard.
He wears away, he wears away,
And though he is not real, he's not,
He will not let us be.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gob of Mud

Among the popular topics
Publications have forbidden:
The evolution of language
And the wreck of the Titanic.

Not that anyone stops trying
To write about the forbidden.
Too popular or too wicked,
Writing itself is temptation,

Each effort at composition
Driven by desires to attempt
Things unattempted yet in words,
Although we know they've all been tried.

There's always possibility,
Angles concealed in blank spaces;
There's always a revolution,
An injustice, an untold tale.

The combinatorics of words
Are infinite, of narrative
Infinite upon infinite.
Oh, what the hell. Here's this blue-eyed,

Round-headed, waddle-legged toddler
Bringing me fistfuls of wet mud
To accept, examine, approve.
No, no, no. No more mud, I say.

But still she trundles down the porch
And gathers more mud in the shade
And trundles back, wet, squished fists clenched
To offer me more, quite convinced,

By herself, or by me somehow,
Or by heaven knows what command
Come down the long generations,
That the right gob of mud will work.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Empathetic Fallacy

How have we become
So obligately social
That we feel a debt of gratitude
To the world for being

Beautiful, as well as vague
Resentment at the unfairness
Of the world when it hurts?

Seated by the window with a view
Of recently leafed-out fruit trees
Partly obscuring the severer beauty
Of the monumental red mesas,

I feel my body as a sack
Of heavy sand and broken glass,
While my daughter naps upstairs

And my wife goes out for a run.
I want to apologize to the day
For not doing enough to savor
Its mid-spring perfection

Of picturesque, painterly clouds
Framed by the blue and sun,
Of green things nodding in breezes,

And I want to castigate
The day for being wholly part
Of the world that has framed me
To yearn, wobble, and die,

Until I remember a baseball field
I saw once in the deep woods,
A collaborative labor of love

By scattered local agrarians
In the far north who banded together
One summer to hew a ballfield
From second-growth spruce and fir.

It was growing over already,
But the boundary, blurred, still
Showed: inside here, the game,

With rules and handshakes,
Self-consciously social conventions;
Outside, over there, encroaching,
The world that is not in the game.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Outside Consultant

One morning, the two-bit criminal,
Cowardly scofflaw and all-around
Peripheral male finds himself

Unaccountably central and surrounded
By law-enforcing, sidearm-sporting
Growly-voiced males who do

And have done the real male work
Of defending and protecting
And bringing down outlaws.

They ask him for his opinion.
He does not hesitate to answer,
Though he hesitates to think.

One part of his weaselly mind
Can only see the badge on the chest
Of the officer seeking his approval.

Another part, the prideful
Artist of the minor con
Is pleased to be here, hard at work.

Lucifer, he thinks, listening
To himself fake gravitas,
Was not a great and awful angel,

But a little, barely tolerated figure
Among the hosts of heaven
When he was betrayed as a watcher

Not a true team member, a lurker,
A low mushroom of divinity,
Not even rebellious or sneaky,

Just contrary in his heart,
Bifurcated, observing himself
Playing at being one with them

Offering advice on how to shelter
The reality of human weakness
In the rumbling of thunder god.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chance Plays Chess

The fictional first mover
Makes her fictional first move,
And the cards are dealt, 
The game is on, board set.

Can backwards induction
By a computer with more teraflops
Per second than electrons
In the universe tell us whether

A pure strategy exists in which
White or Black will always win?
Not in poker, baby, but
If this is only Go, Hex, Chess, 

Then, yes. And yet. No one
Knows or could know
Without such miraculous
Machinery what that strategy

Would be. Experts guess
That at least in the case
Of chess, there is only the hope,
The minimax of eternal draw.

But chance suggests,
In the usual, whispering
Bayesian rattlesnake voice
Chance prefers, no,

There's a better bet than that.
Somewhere in the infinity
Of games, rules, regulators,
And tickets issued for trivial

Infractions, lies the theorem
Of the purest, winningest,
Guaranteed strategm.
No, not God. Not gods. Guess.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Whale Fall

They're out there right now,
Sarah reminds me during
My morning phone call
From the road. Whales

Are living their watery lives,
Diving, surfacing, hunting,
Grazing krill, socializing,
Fluting their long-distance songs,

Getting on with the strange
Business of being giant,
Lunged mammals with giant
Brains, guts, and organs

Of reproduction, sheathed
In sleek shapes for swimming,
As like and unlike us as if
Wolves became submarines

The size of houseboats.
They're out there, right now,
Bizarre and somehow comforting
Thought as rain falls on the suburbs

Of this inland mountain town,
As humans packed into cars
As sleek and wet as metal
Dolphins cruise around macadam

Thoroughfares, thumping music
Sent through long radio waves,
Mostly not thinking of whales at all,
Thinking only of getting somewhere

Late again, overtaxed, anxious,
Calculating nonexistent futures
Conjured out of schemas, human
Stories about humans being judged

Severely by human peers and gods,
While they're out there, in deep water,
Presumably not praying
To float upward when they die.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Two hours of thunder,
Blue clouds and old wind,
No rain.

Five heartbeats of spattered
Wet and worse wind,
Then hail and hard, hard blown rain.

Where is my lightning?
Out in the yard, in the green,
Weedy grass, red dirt, and stones,

I collected lawn chairs,
Opened a metal gate, carried
A satchel of electronic gear

To the car for work next morning,
Just taunting, begging for a flicker
To give me that last lick.

Not yet. I can ache,
I can groan, I can lug my bones
Like barbells through the storm,

But nothing wants me,
Nothing comes to take me
Quickly. I am too slow

To die just yet.
I'll have to rot and crumble
And grumble a bit more,

Which I do, upstairs,
A crooked man who sits
In a crooked chair,

The batting coming out of the seat,
Ensconced in a crooked house,
By a drafty, crooked window,

Wishing, peeking through
A crooked curtain at skewed rain,
For, one day, the clean, quick end.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Wind sings, and we're quiet.
She sings. We don't.
It's late in the era of empires
But the wind has been through
This before.  And she's not

That kind. Tonight, America
Battens down the heartland
For another round of spring
Tornadoes. A few more small towns
May more or less disappear.

Here, it's just another flustered,
Gusty weekend full of dust
Blowing from goat pens, rock cliffs
And chewed up trails and roads.
We have our monuments to time

All around us in these parts,
Lately settled by humans of any
Kind, and they remind us
With their flash floods, canyons,
Tumbled slopes and fault lines,

That the wind singing through
Them constantly is not
The greatest voice, not by
A long shot. But she seems
So much more personal,

More like us than water,
Earthquakes, or gravity,
The true titan. She bellows
She howls, she makes music
Among the bells we offer her.

And through her singing only
She does destroy and recreate
Mountains and empires alike.
She sifts it all in her husky throat
And powders our endless chuntering.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Was

Quick as you can say it,
It's already true:
This was, this was, this was.

The presence of the past
Is all the present is.
We are after the fact.

After the fact, we are
Like infants in car seats
Peering at scenery,

A perpetual blur
Before us, while we're spun
Backwards into the dark.

Friday, April 13, 2012


They don't exist as we know
Them to exist in our minds,
On our rocks, tablets, paper,
Or glowing screens, each alone,
A certain sound, some symbols
Tightly clustered and distinct.
They're shaped patterns we abstract

From continuous buzzing,
From the mumbling of nature,
The daydreams of deities,
The stone-crammed mouths of the muse.
They're everything about us
That gives us fits and spasms
Of genius. They don't exist.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Night Watch of Orion

No, it is not one, not any
Of the many patterns
(Hunter, Spider) we've named
It, not a nameable, not an it

At all, but legion, an infinity
Of immeasurable distinctions
Infinitesimally approximated
And atomized by calculus.

It's a myth not even one myth,
A collection, not even
The same avec meme, a name
Among names, meaning

Whatever may be meaningless.
I see it rise in fall, fall in spring
Of one hemisphere, then turn
On its head in the other, stand

On shoulders, bow in hand
To my eyes, above the mother
Land of all of us as us, damned
Namers and ropers of random

Patterns into human stories,
Of this hunter seen in the stars,
Of this great spider made of stars,
This animal, this monster in the dark.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mean As Little As You Can

Rip van Winkle is still sleeping.
The storyteller only pretended
He woke up so that the storyteller
Had enough story to tell.

Might as well let him sleep forever.
It wouldn't be so cute now,
With much too much changed
For a ghost to survive the shock of it.

Maybe Rip and all ghosts are real.
Maybe all of them are just sleeping
Like Baal; they whisper, snoring
Faintly the secrets they keep

From the ardently living and believing
Inheritors of their vanishing dreams.
Listen, if you truly seek contentment,
Listen to the lazy wisdom of Rip.

Stop striving, even for contentment,
Even for laziness, even for escape.
Just do as little as possible,
Mean as little as you can,

And embrace forever
Arriving late.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Under a Windy Tree

I'm free, I think
In my chair by the tree,
Sipping a drink in spring. That's fair.

Do I care what I think
When I'm under a tree,
Do I care what is fair?
I pour another drink
And rearrange my chair
And pretend I am free.

A gust of wind shakes the tree
And spills the rest of my drink.
Nothing physical is free.
I depend on solid chairs.
I can't walk, and that's unfair,
Or at least that's what I think.

Stubborn, I pour another drink
And settle myself in my chair
And swear I don't care what you think
About cripples, booze, or what's fair
When it's spring and sunlight is free
And young leaves scroll out of old trees.

I hate this uncomfortable chair.
Like everything built handsome and fair,
It's useless to use. I hate that tree,
Dripping sap and poking out thorns. Free
Thinkers end up feeling forced to think
They're freer, while wiser folks pour drinks

For friends indoors, even when weather's fair,
Knowing that nothing enjoyable's free
Nor durably enjoyable. Here, drink
Another, relax. Very soon, I think,
This game's going to be done. Poetry
Is fine for greeting cards, but an armchair,

Beer, and TV-show stories will set you free
From your worries faster than what you can think
To compose in fine words in a straight-back chair,
Drunk on fancy wine under a windy tree
In spring.  Anyways, wisdom's dumb, right? I'll drink
To that. This world can't be outsmarted. That's fair.

Monday, April 9, 2012


The gentleman in black and olive loves
The elegant lady inside the house
Printing affectionate views of the world
She spies decaying into complex life:
Broken-down trucks, crushed appliances, joy
Effervescing from lost layers of paint,

Each poured to obscure even older paint,
All reemerging, the way weather loves
To reveal backwards, the way years enjoy
Carefully disassembling the house
Of existential truths, of time and life,
Old magazines insulating the world

Against cold erasure, as if the world
Cared whether records were kept. Peeling paint,
Crumbling foundations, cracked joints, it's all life,
Rich and inevitable, and she loves
To catch it living in each canyon and house
Where time leaves its tracks of dark, secret joy.

Her man outside on the porch stoop enjoys
Being treated to her view on the world,
Her discoveries of fresh beauties housed
In the wreckage where he conjectured pain
As the architect, one reason he loves
Her who makes it possible to love life.

He had cultivated a view of life
In which all the satisfaction, the joy
Came from complete renewals, and he loved
Floods, obliterations, the way the world
Could remake itself with snow for paint,
Burying pasts to the eaves of the house,

Promising to seal him inside that house.
Glaciers and sandstorms that mummified life
Appealed to him, although he knew fresh paint
Could never seal tightly enough to joy
To keep it from decay, he dreamed a world 
Preserved that she has now exposed and loved.

He is her house now, open to her joy,
Shedding layers of life, bare to the world,
Weathered paint, exposed and exposing loves.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

To a Vulnerable Bookworm in Spring

Just look out the window.
Your world is turning green,
Feasting on Easter's light
With fresh, wet appetite
To be and to eat Her,
The dawn of abundance,

Of hunger and abundance,
Of life. Perched at your window
You may feel shut off from Her,
Amused and immune, or green
With envy, your appetite
For eating what eats the light

Still quiet and your bones still light.
You have your own abundance
Of wintry notions. Appetite
Lies past that double-paned window.
In time, you'll eat what eats the green
That eats the gleam that shines off Her,

But you're withholding. You don't want Her.
You have your bookish wisdom to light
Your nights of colorless green
Ideas dreaming sleepless abundance.
You try not to look out the window
And turn to work with no appetite

For that moveable feast of appetite
Celebrating outside. You resent Her
A little when you open the window
Just a crack. She is the goddess of light
And desire, and you crave the abundance
That makes your craving possible, but that green

Bursting into leaf out there is the same green
Of death and decay, sickening appetite.
The surplus of life means death in abundance.
Again and again, you pick quarrels with Her,
Asking why there's no other way to use light
Than that glorious war outside your

Waged by all those ravenous green offspring of Her
Tangled banks of appetite. But you too love light,
And abundance, and lean out the open window.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The Ideas We Pay For"

Most, like plots of land,
Hope chests, old hair combs,
Ceremonial beads, came free
From our parents. We keep them

Because they came free
From our parents. A few,
We're willing to pay for,
Usually too much, usually

For feeling familiar as
The ones we already own.
A rarer few we fork over
Our lives for, strange

Though they may be, alien
To our patrimony as
They are unsettling. Why?
Can strangeness ever be

A virtue to a human trying
Hard in the human way
To think exactly the one
Right, true valuable thing?

Perhaps only rebels buy
Into such notions only
Because rebellion, however home-grown,
Always needs outsiders' help.

Perhaps the species hit upon
A nice distribution of mass
Conservatism seasoned with fringes
Of radical opportunism

A million, a fifth of a million
Years ago, and so fresh notions
Are themselves deeply conserved
Strategies in our genome.

I, nothing, or at least
Nothing much, which is worse,
Don't think so. We rebel
When we do, which is rarely,

Because we are angels,
We are all on the side of angels
And angels, the best ones, the most
Beautiful, as we know, must rebel.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"All His Songs Are Stolen, Sweetheart"

The devil wrote all the good tunes
Before churchmen thought to steal them,
Not that there's so much difference
Between churchmen and the devil.

We live our lives, but by and large,
We never feel them. Lord knows this,
And his adversary as well.
Each signs numb soldiers to his side.

So what are we supposed to do?
Sing the sacred hymns? Go marching
As to war? Rebel? Fall? Be glad
That we are fallen to this world

Of battle hymns and sacred chants,
Monastic groans and gospel songs
And beer hall revels and dance halls
Thumping with desire to forget?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tunc Pro Nunc

Driving all day,
Listening to too much
Recorded, repeated
Music, you need
A rest to catch
Your breath, adjust
Your dress, restrain
Your spinning brain.

Here's a spot.
Too late. Here's
Another, OK,
Pull over, stop.

Time was that which
You experience still,
Never what you
Thought to measure,
And your bottomless
Nostalgia for the ever
Fleeting present never
Brings you back.

Here, have some
Of this was that,
The light from the road
That reached you
As your eyes approached
Is what you think will
Happen next already
Shifting memory.

Everything is static,
Nothing ever changing
But the past, the you
That feels each then
As now for now,
Then for now again
In your hot seat
In the sun, denoting
Random observations
As sharp conversations
With yourself as if
With someone else.

The family that got out
Of their camper van
At your rest stop
And looked around
And stared at you
Have climbed back
In and gone.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Las Jeepas Strip

In winter it was almost
Empty and the emptiness
Was homey and you
Almost felt at home here.

Now it is spring and
Your jokes at the liquor
Store about tourists
Grow risky as the Jeeps

Descend for their safari,
Thousands strong, stronger
Than you will ever be, every
Last damn one of them,

Young and toothy, sunburned
Already with the joy
Of living as if the point
Of living were to deny

We could ever die,
And some will, some
Always do, and that
Is why their smiles

Remind you, solemn,
Self-righteous, reckless
Old you, bent over
Your yucca walking-stick,

Of the rictus on each
Fleshless fossil that
You teach far north
Of here, in the 'burbs

That these boys and
Girls and grown whatevers
Are fleeing in their guzzling
Jeeps that eat the landscape,

Clog the Main Street,
Fatten the tills of the shopkeepers,
And keep the name of Moab
Resonant enough for you

To boast about it to
Total strangers never been
Here, once you are far
And away from home or here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Purpose of Cooperating

The great pyramid of competition
Piled upon prekaryotic foundations
Grows in the starlit desert of the night,
Each successive layer adding pressure
To the fissures faulting up from below.

On top, priestly castes in conical hats
Make an interlocking web of their prayers,
Trying to raise a new point above them,
Denying and muting their warring selves,
The better to help a new game emerge
That will weigh on them in turn and crush them
Until they crack and defeat the purpose.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Wandering Lights

What if we didn't know,
Didn't presume to know
That planets were planets,
Planes planes, satellites ours?
The sky holds only stars,
The stars are only lights,

The lights remain themselves
And us as we see them,
Different brilliances, but
Without explanations,
Without stories, without
The need to speak our names.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wind Whistling

In our foolish calendar
It's nice to see there's a day
Specifically devoted
To the likes of clowns like me,
Fellows of infinite zest
For dreaming harlequin dreams,
Always vulnerable to pranks.

This is my high holy day.
Whatever happens today
Might turn out to be untrue,
Which is just how I like it,
Barring only one sure truth
That today you love me more,
As each day I more love you.