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.