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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Sleep, Second Sleep, Dream

The whole point of pastoralism
Is that the idyll realizes 
It is unreal. It is a world,

Definitely, an entire world, 
But that world suspends
From an indefinite article,
And, being complete, is complete
Enough to include a sense
Of other worlds, its own incompletion.

The city and city extensions fail
To invade that last peculiarity
Of the forest of evolving dreams.
They have their footpaths, they landscape
The architecture of their claustrophobic parks
Full of persons from all walks of whatnot,
But only seem to ingest and surround. Here,

Let me show you. The town too bright
To see anything but the moon at night
Holds bosky scraps of courtyards,
Murmuring, as if captive. The lion

In the fountain where the couple
Pretend to understand each other's lives
In the guise of lovers beyond their bodies
Thrumming to succumb is quiet,
Metaphorical plaster that growls
Because it does not belong to the town,
The couple in its fountain, the lights, 
Or the moon, such as it is among society,

But to the forest dreaming all of these
In the round realization that what is not
The darkness unadorned must have come
From somewhere else or, if not, must dim
In estimation like the solipsist's mirror, sad

To dream of reading something new,
Then to find only blanks and memories
Among the mushroomed roots.
The woods grow back and bring
Their foolish, bark-peeled pan pipes
With them, deeper and deeper, down and down.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A New Made Thing for Leah

Every creative effort
Confounds the found and the new.
There never was a making
That wasn't a borrowing,
And there are no origins
Without other origins.
God has a belly button,

The primeval is ancient,
Yggdrasil was an acorn
That fell from something older.
The past is a new made thing
At every point, a collage
Of other points conjuring
Nothing, novelty, nonsense,

The three fates of creation,
For more backwards revision,
The magic that's not magic,
Rearrangements of stones, trees,
Skeletons, galaxies, thoughts
That today is a good day
For collecting heart-shaped rocks.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roll Credits

You know, there are such things
As professional storytellers, people
Banking on stakes, arcs, and elevations,

People who work in teams to sell
Team-crafted stories with time-honed
Precision to the wallets of the rest of us.

We like their stories. They're well told.
They target parts of us like hunters
Target hearts. They slay us.

We lie down gasping, our own
Tales in our mouths, wondering
Why we can't be among them, can't

Sell our stories with blood and guts,
But no clear arcs, no pots of gold,
No way to connect to the masses.

We are the damn masses. We consume
Stories by the lead-shot bucketful,
Never realizing we are not what we like.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


I can't begin to add them up,
The borrowed words and phrases,
From ten thousand other minds
In other times and other places

Who borrowed most of their words, too,
Nearly all of them, there and then,
From borrowers of borrowers,
Back past barrows and wild men

To that Eden no one talks about
Of the blurry, harried garden generations
Where talking in metaphors began,
First instance of each iteration

Spiraling through the ears
Of someone listening, for what?
A useful understanding, entertainment,
The one thing the garden forgot?

A Ripe Calm

When the woods are this deserted,
Ecstasies and furies settled
Back underground in caves and springs,

Only the slightly anxious wind
And the usual hungry beasts,
Horns on their heads, time in their thighs,

Wander through the quiet branches
Nibbling at the leaves and sighing
For the heavy fruit of boredom,

Exquisite, ripe, just out of reach,
The reproduction of the trees,
The overplus of memories.