Monday, December 31, 2012

The Poet's Stone

"Do not disturb me now. I have to extract
A creature with its eggs between the words."
- WS Graham

Late afternoons, late in the calendar, early
In the icy winter, I want more than ever
To write something stupid and call it poetry,

To write something foolish that transforms poetry
By being the first such foolish thing to be called
A poem, redeeming another generation

From learned belatedness and popular verse.
How's that for nonsense? Every day we wear our clothes,
Changing them unless too poor, too sick, or too dead,

And the fact of being ornamented beings
Impresses us with ourselves, aesthetic species,
But it's only the habit of changing our clothes

That matters, that has anything to do with life.
Houses are clothes, paintings are clothes, temples are clothes,
The supernatural beings there worshipped are clothes,

And poems, too, are clothes, ornaments at least, tattoos.
It's not that we make them, it's that we make new ones
That tells us we have our way of being alive.

The horses painted in the caves were important,
The horned figures pecked out of the cliffs were as well,
The gothic cathedrals, the renaissance frescoes,

The zen haiku composed at the moment of death,
All also, but not so much because they were done,
But because one day we forgot them and moved on.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bring Being

"In life aboard ship, boredom is an ever-present problem."

It's us. We generate it.
But it's wholly alien,
And we control none of it.
We are composers with wands
And podia, conducting
Orchestras that can't hear us.
It's our own noise ignores us.

Talking to each other helps.
Including each other's worlds
Generously, grudgingly,
The way we include partners,
Offspring, poorly chosen words,
And so forth, each quid pro quo
A mutual forgiveness,

Also helps in the short run,
But never satisfies us.
Truth tempts us to ignore it,
There being nothing human
To it except what others
Bring as the truth of others,
Having none to bring ourselves.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Whole Six Yards

"People are drawn to colorful etymologies. But they are almost always wrong."

There's a kink in the way our brains work
That shows up in the collective mind
Of culture contemplating itself.

Our love for pure prosody is crossed
By our yearning for a good story,
So the latter obscures the former.

It's not just the world we want to work
Within preferred narrative frameworks,
We can't believe ourselves without them.

How is it story feels rewarding
When it's so bad at explaining things,
Even our own fondness for a phrase?

We have this all-purpose telling tool
That helps us remember the wrong thing,
The wronger, the better remembered.

My head hurts to clamber up this slope
Where reasons are at odds with fables,
And we know it, and crave knowing, but

Crave the fables all waltzing away
From the knowing more than the knowing.
Whose fires are we fueling if not ours?

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Parable of the Cat

A feral cat forages
Where you live. It gets things done.
It solves problems in feeding,
Keeping warm through bitter nights,
Narrowly avoiding death
In the jaws of cars and dogs.
It survives at the thin end

Of long continuity
Shared with its competitors
And prey, with humans and rats,
Coyotes, fleas, fish, and grass.
The great world won't far revolve,
Fondly or maliciously,
Around one grey, feral cat.

The cat's not irrelevant,
Nor without impact. It's small.
It gets some of what it wants.
Everything else gets the rest.
The world does not dislike cats.
There's more to the world than cats,
Less than cats desire. That's all.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Stocking Stuffer

"Marc le marque-page adore le poids des pages..."

A small, blue flat man with my name
Stands upright on his plastic feet.
He belongs in a book. He holds
Ones place in bricks of printed sheets.

He has a cheeky cartoon grin.
He came taped to French instructions.
In a hand's span he links whimsy,
Marketing, anachronism,

Global industrial complex,
And marginal utility.
He smiles at me on backward feet.
Light snow fills the picture window.

I will not keep him in a book.
I will give him to my daughter,
And we will imagine him lost
In our doll and beast haunted woods.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

News of the Old

There's a carousel in Paris
Older than any human being.
Rilke was enraptured by it.
Wars and invasions have spared it.

Why does this feel significant?
An arrangement of wood and steel,
Nineteenth-century novelty,
Rotating, hand-cranked nostalgia,

It's just there, like anything else,
And just as undefinable
Around the edges where it joins
Everything by a different name.

A contraption can last forever,
Like a Galapagos tortoise
Or a Utah aspen cluster,
As long as the nouns stick to it,

However nouns are coats of paint,
And languages pass overhead
Like fast weather. White elephants
Grey. Allez, les enfants, allez!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Above Thy Deep and Dreamless Sleep

We pass through the tail of this comet,
Always missing the comet itself,
Always counting the silent squibs
We get all worked up about, bright pins

Expressing the fine scrollwork of right now
As a thin quickness. Blink, we say,
And you'll miss it, although we miss few
Due to inopportune nictation or tears

And most just sitting inside, tightly focused
On human things. Some such years
We miss the showers altogether,
Swanning through the Southern Hemisphere

Through pearl and marble clouded nights,
Palmy, muggy afternoons annoyed by flies,
And the peculiar phenomena of a cold culture
Flourishing in a balmy, tattooed trompe l'oeil.

Some years, we stay far out in the desert
And warm ourselves by the frequency
Of the rotating cold calligraphy, the signatures
Of inevitable coincidence, warm omens

Of the meaning of everything
Inscribed on the backs of our eyes,
On the backs of thoughts about the inexhaustible
Beauty of the infinitely inhuman night,

The kindness of inhuman divinity,
Each quick careful stroke
At the edge of our rituals
Kissing us so well we could cry.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Prevent the Snow

In a genial mood, in holiday season,
Elderly pop songs pretend to embrace weather

Cheerfully. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
Yes, let it. It's our call whether it snows or not

On Christmas Eve in the ballads and the movies.
Magnanimously, we wave gloved hands at the sky.

What a charming species, this imaginary
Angel, this orchestrator of small sequences.

This is the way the story goes. This happens next.
Should stays preferable to did. The snow won't stop.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fidgety Buddha

Sufficient to the hour
Is the day thereof.
Sufficient to the minute
Is the hour. Arrange
Your arcana and your cushions.
Shift from flank to flank.
Scratch what itches.
Let not a little stillness disturb
The great swirling of the world
Come to stir each little stillness.
The big belongs in the middle
Of the little uncomfortably too big.
Chime your bells.
Check your clock.
Bring a vast mindfulness
Down into a coughing detail.
Or do whatever you want.
Let this be your method.
Sufficient to the lyric
Is the epic thereof,
Sufficient to the mind
Is the theater of the sun.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


The simple stays in disarray,
The loose dust a sunny empire
Of hovels and broad boulevards
On a hospital windowsill

As on a desk in a study,
On chipped tabletops in diners
As on the feet of the bronze lamps
In old velvet hotel lobbies.

Bright light and direct attention
Create the visions, not the dust,
But a love of the disordered
Brings the gold-leaf to the waste.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Return of the Magi

When the end comes it will not be
An end to anything but words.
The conjuror's tiger will go
Without a whimper or a glance,

Only so the conjuring stops.
The end itself is a fine trick,
Even finer than beginnings,
Performed in more variations,

But it can't be the end itself
If it really ends. The magi,
Pure products of humanity,
Have said they've seen another star.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


That we could create love
When love is not what we're given
To work with, not ready to hand
Like lust or fisticuffs, is lovely.

It's the making of the stuff,
The ache from pulling it out
Of thin air, out of its natural
State of nothing, that's amazing.

We only betray the beautiful fiction
When we pretend to nonchalance
At finding it in ourselves, forgetting
It is beautiful because it is made.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Etymology of Possession

The snow that is falling now
Will keep falling yesterday
Even if tomorrow clears.
The clock that ticks properly,
Like a clock's supposed to tick
Has already been replaced
By its own propriety.

The house that looks as it does,
As if it were the same house
It always was, never is.
When quiet like this, it's more
The quiet house years ago
Than the noisy house last night.
The disposition is this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Luckiest Unlucky Bastard in the World

Even the undesirable
Can seem like it's taking too long
To get here. Who wants the scalpel
Who isn't sufficiently sick?

Sometimes the harshest medicine
Makes the anesthesia taste sweet
In anticipation, sugar
Plum visions dancing in the head,

And the thought of recovery
As magical as a lottery,
A dream home in the wilderness
An end to any need for work,

The unguarded praise of nations,
The admiration of colleagues,
The contentment of a lifetime,
The exact family one has.

Monday, December 17, 2012


"How body from spirit slowly does unwind
Until we are pure spirit at the end."

Spirit bodyish I am.
I just don't know what that means.
If being spirit were good,
You'd think more folks would try it.
And why the prefix "psycho,"
Meaning crazy dangerous
Or possibly wholly faked?

But it fits my frame of mind.
My body suffers for it,
House that cannot shake the ghost
That was never really there.
Seat of emotions and soul,
Puff of invisible air.
Nothing can do such damage.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Simple One

Breathe in, breathe out,
Cough convulsively.

Breathe in, breathe out,
Cough convulsively.

Breathe in, cough
Convulsively, breathe out.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in,
Breathe out. Ah, as pleasures go

A simple one. As pleasures go
Running in all directions,

Breathe in, breathe out,
A simple one, please, a simple one.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Egg Root

Rummage through the overgrowth
As much as I may, I can't
Find detritus from this day
The roots saved from dissolving
To wrap in their slow embrace
The way they sometimes wrap rocks,
Bricks, bottles, or foundations

So tightly as to add them
To the trees' architectures,
Like skulls in cathedral crypts,
Time capsules in campus gates,
Or the egg in a kiwi,
Intrinsic to the nature
Of the things store-housing them.

Some dates are destined for loam,
Not because nothing happened
Or they deserved devouring,
But because no memory
Loved them enough to clutch them.
What started as alien
Disappears or becomes us.

Friday, December 14, 2012


"What's the word for a female hermit?"

She has to be the remotest
Person in the world. Women must
Prove their equality with men,
It seems, by doing more than men.

So it is with her. If her sect
Of eremites never used words,
She wouldn't even use gestures.
If they conversed only with birds,

She would converse only with trees.
If the hermits lived in the woods,
She would live in desert wasteland.
Whatever it took to be one

Among the self-chosen lonely.
As it is, she belongs to none.
No sect claims her or knows of her.
Not even the moon can find her.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Importence of the Mind

At eleven-eleven on twelve-twelve-twelve
I drove from the courtyard of my motel.
This world bears no relation to itself.

All afternoon I drove along long roads
Where giant trucks churned up snow and stones.
No journey knows how it will go.

This is my mumbling meditation in the dark
Valley quiet enough to coax out the stars.
The whole cannot coordinate the parts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


"I headed for Missoula like a homing pigeon." ~ G. Wright

Consider the poetry of layers,
If you don't mind the imperative form:
Stacked like pancakes for cartoon appetites,
That which we have now learned to call the past,
Gravitating down to countable lines,
Is all there, in front of us, all at once,
Whatever's left to us of what was once.
One is tempted, if human, to narrate,
And if the story's a compelling one,
Tempted to forgive the breaks and fault lines

That have nothing to do with narrative
Or time--or space, except in the absence
That reminds us our reminders are bits
Piled high like plates, newspapers, old notebooks,
Stone slabs we meant to cobble together
Ourselves one day into a wandering
Line we could call a passable story
Of our own. We were there once, we insist,
Reading between the fossils and the lines.
We are part of this, part mysterious.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


There is no looking out from within.
There is the fond rearranging of the furniture
By children one rainy day, hanging a blanket

From the backs of chairs, then hiding
Underneath the magic tent to whisper
And peer out at the familiar, imagining

It all wild and different, unbounded,
A strange prospect, a haunting
Form of secretive delight. It's not there.

It's in here. Old writers conversing
About what makes the better corner
Free from external distractions,

The cafe, the closet, the cabin,
The bare desk in the cork-lined attic,
The anachronistic stone hut in the forest,

Forget themselves in their little tents
Of words woven by long-dead aunties.
Bone is the roof of the world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wind Wakes the Child

A runty young four-point buck, all alone, browses the ground under the fruit trees for anything left over by early December. A pile of cardboard and detritus burns orange and smoke from a barrel. A plug of volcanic lava cone shoulders a new scrim of snow, through which you can still glimpse time moving in pantomime whenever the darkness shines.

One family (one mother, one father, one daughter) play one more game of letters, tiles scattered around the dining table, strategies and scribbled drawings on scrap paper interrupted by small squabbles over who will play outside, who will play inside, and who is willing to collect the balloons. One low morning glare of white-gold desert light flares on their faces, one by one, to paint them all as angels around their tabletop Christmas tree.

The fastest poet in the west fails to draw on the sun that shoots him a last glance from the cliffs until morning. The best intentions to be better prepared tomorrow forget that it's already today. Today is your birthday. The wind wakes the child.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vishnu Schist

For Jake

The great unconformity
Is the not-there above it.
The marble lenses compact
What used to be colonies
Along it. The one-armed man
Who floated wooden boats down
Riparian lengths of it

Believed that water alone
Sawed eras to reveal it.
The frighteningly foolish
Woman your brother married
For inconvenience claimed it
Could only have resurfaced
Thanks to earthquakes. The lost soul

You would like to think you own,
Despite that long-ago sale,
Would like to out-foolish her,
Would like to thank the gentle
Man who scavenged hunks of it
For introducing its name
To you. This is it. Behold.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Not Really Myself Anymore

“Maybe the parasites can teach us something.” -S. Adamo

Who knows who's going on in there?
It's me, of course, but not my flesh,
Not my ancestors plotting fresh
Variations on spiral heirs,

Just some spinning corkscrew, unseen,
Weaving that wicked plot called life,
Some endlessly whittled device,
Some fine, fierce redoubling machine

That does nothing but use my nerves
To redirect my behavior
So as to do it the favor
Of perishing as I deserve

And as it needs to reproduce
Properly in another host.
I will not be scared by my ghost.
We've already been introduced.

Friday, December 7, 2012

One Way of Awaring

The smallest visible cloud
Makes a dot near the tower.
The mind commands, "let this stand
For the one present moment
That is vaporous enough
To detect as a difference
Against the indifferent blue

But not large enough to feel
Less than instantaneous."
Oh mind, I love you, but please
Could you once see your way clear
To a completed silence
Without a commentary,
Confabulation, or cloud?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Army, I Am Being

The secret truth about the secret truth
Is that we all know it, all hide out in it,
All distinguish it from the play,
The show, the scenery, the game,
The theatrical simulation that is not
The secret truth, as we all know,

And we all, being you and whose army
And I, know something else we don't know,
Or don't notice, which is that freedom
Must for us exist only in the unreal,
The play, the pretend, the game,
Because it is, we say, in the end,
Only illusion, which is the truth of it.

We may fight to the death over the rules
And over where the boundaries of the rules begin.
We always do disagree, and preach
Disagreements as being not games
About whether the secret truth we preach
Begins in our heads or outside our heads,
In language or before language,
In genes, in stars, in matter, or in divinity.

But we don't disagree that there's
A difference between what's not
Important and what is, between
The serious, secret truth (this is
The secret truth) and the not-to-be believed.
And it's only in the former we place
The distinction between fair and foul,
And it's only in the latter we are free.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Veil Is Gone

Anything can not happen
Good or bad, when themselves
Know that you know
They know they don't exist.
That's dangerous. That's fun.

Clever wisps to vanish
Upon inspection into thin
Glare of the light all around
That shines when none's to be found
And nothing's left without a within.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Things to Carry with You When You're Crossing Soldier Summit

A small child and a rifle.
A luxury car and a milkshake.
A newspaper and a smart phone.
A robotic guru and a pair of crutches.
A crucifix and a broken tooth.

These are the clues and here is the riddle:
What do such clues have in common, if
They're words and they're objects,
They're phenomena and they're nothings,
They point to and from this instant,
Neither new nor ancient, and they're
Real items you saw in passing, and they're
Imaginary responses reading, and they're

Monday, December 3, 2012

Xugh and Mug in Plain Sense

I'll do xugh and mug another day,
Said mug to xugh, toggling to read poems
Liberated from "missed connections,"
Such as that from "the drunk Irish guy"
To "the girl in red tights" on the train.

Philosophers in serious tones
(And when are philosophers ever
Giddy?) were intoning about poems,
Including poems found on the subway
As if philosophers knew something

About poetry poets didn't
Know about philosophy, certain
As everyone is about poets
Being easier to understand
Than science, harder than plain sense.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Poem about This #3 (You Are Now Here)

The first morning of December
Opened freakishly warm. The sun
Rose cowled in a fine gauze veil
That shone the strange light of eclipse.

Glass broke, sand blew, things fell over,
Moving from morning to rock fins
Dividing the moments in air.
There is no beginning or end,

Only the middle and nothing
All the way into town's twilight,
Everything perfectly awry,
In time for the parade of lights,

Which proceeded perfectly through
The thronged roads of holiday town.
The warm air held, from peace to peace,
Sandy light, pearl cloud, dance lights, dark.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On the Relative Insignificance of All Forms of Information

Sense what you sense, do what you
Do: that's you. Maybe there are
Other worlds, and certainly
There are potent hints of them
In the aspects of your world
That insist they are themselves,
Including that part that calls

Itself yourself, and that which
Calls itself myself, but
These parts are no less compact
With you for all that. The tree
Over there, the truck parked here,
The day and the age, beauty,
Conflict, and accomplishment,

Whatever it is, is you
Being you, no matter how
Badly you want to keep one
Corner of your world your own,
Your self, belonging to self
Alone and orthogonal
To the rest you fear and crave.