Thursday, January 31, 2013


The glass cracks, the rear wheels
Fishtail, the day comes down as gauze,
Arrives as ice and grinds to slush
Heavy as buckets of mud, slippery

As duck shit on ice. Hallelujah,
It's a long way home, and who knows
What home will be like once we get there?
To the extent that I can still move,

While I can still move, while the wheels
Still have a little traction and before
My vision gets too dim to see the road
Lines between the soulless beauty

Of the weather's vengeance on us
And the heavy hanging dangers
Of the rockfalls and deep woods,
It's time, there's still time, time to go.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Hermit of Hampton Inn

I'm going to have to do something soon.
I'm an agent. I have to at least pretend
To decide.
                         I can hear the snowplow
Grunting in the half-white, half-slush
Parking lots that surround me.
I'm hiding.
                         Even in this small, warm
Space I could be doing something more.
There are chores that don't require
Navigation through the constant calm
Of the sweetly descending, ruthless
                 Bills and envelopes on the table,
Terrible choices considering careers,
My own and others, more immediate
Notes and assignments in the satchel
Dumped beside me on the common couch.
Whose rumps have been on this couch?
I wonder, and when will it wear out
And be replaced by another standard
Couch for other rumps, and be sold cheap
Used and passed down over and over
Like the hideous floral sofa that somehow
Ended up as my daybed for a year
Back when I was already flunking adulthood
In college?
                            When will it all go to the dump?
Time, which I sometimes doubt exists,
Goes by in the whiteness blanking
Out the outside world vanishing under
My favorite, fearsome veil, while I
Waste all the ever-falling nothing
On musings as minor and futile
As this.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Songs to Shrug off Husks of Your Lives by

Where there's a road, it's so amazing,
The beautiful future I drive on,
Where I find everything amusing
And never need shoulders to cry on.

Fine haze disguises my plainest poems,
Hopes and horizons merge seamlessly,
The scenic route's the only way home,
And surrender, you're a dream to me.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What Sunset Means

The light on the far side
Of the long valley glows
With the red it borrows
From the rocks it covers.

Fog no bigger than town
Hangs around the near side
Of that red-rock mesa,
Throwing off gold haloes.

The kid kicks up her heels
Beside the glowing stove
In the low adobe
Home of juniper beams.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


The shape of the vessel is wrong.
Somebody wanted to use it
For something or for something else
Entirely. Where's the masonry
To join the timbers of these words?
Stone. Who has any use for stone
Who's not a dead geologist?

The world goes on as worlds will do,
At least if they're worlds of their own.
Oh, I'm sorry, I just got tired,
Suddenly--really, really tired
All of a sudden. I'm tired.
Rhyme? Conceit? Kennings? For Christ's sake
(Or whomever's).The poem is done

Saturday, January 26, 2013


The ease with which we imagine
The impossible, the obsession
With which we imagine

The improbable, and the imprecision
With which we imagine the actual
Are all right here. I could be wrong

There, but I'm sure I'm right here.
A couple years back on a black night
On black ice, I spun my small crèche

Of old father, young mother, and newborn
Around and back-end first off
Remote interstate into deep snowbank.

That moment when imagination
Falls behind the speed of current events,
And we sail into what we feel

Is highly unlikely to go well but coming
Too quickly to picture or discuss
Is also, actually, always here, right here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Four White Lights (Two Red Ones)

Who are you talking to now to yourself
At temporary stoplights in the dark
Cold pockets of a deep river canyon?
Fatuous moonbeam, old rhetorician
Struck on the head by the horned god of verse,

You're stuck, and idling, and on your way
All at once, at once almost home and here.
This is the sort of century when cars
Like yours, propelled by fossil cunning, glide
Into the maw of black ice and rockfall

Only to slide and grumble to a halt
At the unsurprising surprise, roadwork
In the wilderness, or on the crooked
And narrow path stripped from the heart of it.
You chuckle and compose in your cocoon

Of wandering artifice, arranging
Disarticulated bones of debates
Exhumed from bogs of memories. You fail
At first to even notice what's in front
Of you and your inner desecrations

Of the ancients, under the massive walls
Compressed of yesterday. The moon is up,
Dim compared to the three construction lights
And the red stoplight eyes of the serpent,
But shines the length of icy scales and waits.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From the Library of Book Cliffs

Just tell the truth. Yes, do. Too bad
The truth is so contrarian
And more easily done than said.

Tuesday diamonds frosted the snow.
A little warmth and by Wednesday
The surface was a hard, slick glaze.

Beautiful things seem to do that.
They pass in and out of themselves
As restless as the rest of us.

A full belly and a warm seat,
A little extra idle time,
And something pretty to look at:

What kind of useless truth is that,
When it's so wonderfully bleak
Out there, knowing the snow must change?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Commuter

Charon is life. You can't remember
Getting in the boat. You've forgotten
Most of your time rowing back and forth,
But you feel the rush passing under
Sideways to the pulling of your oars,
And you know you want to pull some more.

It's not, as you thought, a one-way trip.
It's a lot of to and fro until
You finally pull your aching neck,
Sore arms, and sleeping legs out of it.
This is the ferry you've been aboard,
Nearer, farther, nearer either shore.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Every Poem I Write Is for You

I love you. I couldn't stand up.
You love me. You let me sit down.
We lived together in the snow,
Sun and shadow of a high house
That would never belong to us.
We had a child. Astonishment
Ruled us from her open-eyed birth.

We were tired. The light slipped below
The Rim earlier in those days.
Those days. Now there's an odd turn.
We were sleeping in faint fragments
Before we paused altogether,
So much already stored in us,
So little sense of what was next.

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Elephant

A giraffe. A chimpanzee
Named Jubilee. A human.
A confusion. A person.

Another book. A hedgehog
And a hen fool a Tomten.
He goes hungry. The chicks hatch.

Another book. A white day.
Two pigs who are best friends ski
Through a transfigured forest.

Another book. Carefully
Posed and photographed vintage
Toys illustrate how to count,

How to recognize letters,
Shapes, and the combined colors
Of a palette never grey.

Another book. A small child
Hops wearing ladybug wings.
A sun porch. A chickadee.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Over the Starlit Credenza

"Something Virgilian emanates from it: an apprehension of suffering to come, but set aside for one beautiful night."

How long do we have to be,
To be happy with these lights
Nothing more than stars to us?

By what should we measure time
When distance is all we can
See to measure by our lights?

Oh, god my god, stop asking
So many questions of me,
A man, and hardly a man

At that. What can I tell you
In response that you don't know,
If you could ask the question?

I'm happy here, or could be
If you could only let me
Be without a dialogue

Rolling our thoughts like marbles
In the amphitheater
Of my black and quiet mind.

It's perfect to be this now,
When the sweetness has no teeth.
I am content. I could sleep.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Ruined Irony

The sand blows in
And buries everything.
Are you sad? Are you
Sad yet? No? Good.

We are so weird.
What were we thinking
When we were building
These painted columns?

Here's the pretty porch
We worried so much
We'd lost and now
We wish we had.

Don't cry. It's all here,
Just hard to find
Under everything once
Everything's occurred.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Monkey Book

The day you feel overwhelming joy
At the thought of escaping is
The day you'll be able to escape.

The moment you're truly content
To be done is the one moment
You'll know you can be done.

It's a tale told by the miserable
That explains away the happy gone
As groaning malcontents. It's wrong.

I'm not there yet. I still clutch
My world and thank it and beg
For additional mercies daily,

As if it were a magic dispenser,
Which it is, although not always
Fond of dispensing what I want.

Just often enough, though,
It holds me with diverse delights,
Especially those from fatherhood,

As for example, this morning:
Our small daughter has a new easel,
A whiteboard she calls her "weasel,"

And she drew on it for an hour
In her inscrutable fashion, blonde
Monk in pigtails making mandalas.

I watched entranced and commented
As the low winter sun and Domenico Scarlatti
Honeyed me in one jointly calming harmony,

At which point, as if I weren't charmed
Enough, she wiped the board clean
Handed me the marker and requested

"A sad octagon, Papa." It's true,
Although she's only two. She knows
The sunny porthole on our porch

Is called an octagon. She's been
Intently examining expressions
Of emotion recently, especially

When we read her a book titled
"How Do You Feel?" (A cartoonish
Monkey provides the illustrations.

She calls it "the monkey book.")
So I wasn't entirely startled
By her emotional geometry,

And I did my best to do as she suggested,
Drawing a sad, octagonal face as,
Helplessly, we both were laughing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Numbers fit everything so well,
It's as if we live in a bespoke universe
With a mathematician for tailor.

On closer inspection they're nonsense,
Although the transparent stitching
Is fit for any emperor.

Try your mind at teaching a toddler
A little arithmetic. Scrutinize
The things you are counting.

Here is a picture illustrating
The number ten: ten green frogs.
The toddler might see something else,

Even you might. Two of the frogs
Are large. Eight of the frogs are
Tiny. Four small and one large

Have open mouths. Six small
Are apparently hopping,
The other two and both big are sitting.

How are these ten of the same?
We're counting by traits and the traits
Are infinitely enumerable.

The toddler might count a mama
And a papa and babies. The toddler
Might narrate frogs trying to eat

Each other. We have some innate
Sense, it seems, of countably similar
Things, up to at least a few.

The rest is learned application
Of algorithms for infinite
Itemizing and rearranging items.

There's no real two of anything.
There's no real one of anything.
There's no zero thing, no minus,

No nothing of things, just everything,
Which is why the nothings of numbers
Are so eerily beautiful, as if

(And everything's always as if
In this world) flocks of ghosts
Had settled their invisible, weightless

Tulle skirts and veils over each
And every aspect of experience,
Empty nets to press against our skin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Half of an Equation Equals Nothing

Gnomonic, it's
An amazement and an absence,
Unsullied by stained glasses,
Angle in a church hulled over a church,
The subtracted piece of an abstract
Whole. Do with it what you can
Redouble, and rejoice, lovely Anna
Lemma, shadow of the map maker's
Sun, ribbon of time floating
Somewhere over the empty
Pacific, not far from far Easter
Island, a dial for the north's
Passing over painted over the other
Hemisphere, parallel
To whatever was taken

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Write quickly, the air
Around you is getting
Thicker, solidifying
So fast a word you loathe

As much as the taste
Of crushed medicine,
"Gelid," comes to mind.
There is no time

Like the absent
For inscribing this air.
You could skate it
And sign it with blades

If you could move.
Seek shelter, slowly
Darkening traveler.
The wind is dead

That used to whisper
The shushing refrain, "when
Skating on thin ice
Our safety lies in speed."

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Gold Museum

Nothing has ever been, nor will be,
As precious as the arbitrary.
From minuscule votive offerings

In anoxic muds of crater lakes
To cloud-caressing cathedral gilt,
It's never what we need that matters

But what we need what we need to be,
Sufficiently immaterial
To mete out justice, not just metal,

Just incorruptible. The gold dust
Of myth is the existence of myth.
Any myth, however fact-alloyed,

Will serve. People, not gods, are choosy.
Find any lovely thing you can't use
And tell divinity to take it.

No cavern, volcano, or sea bed
Will refuse you. Only your people
Must sanction gifts by acclamation.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


My persistence feels less than dynamic these days.
A sluggish river can last as near forever,
I suppose, as any canyon-cutting chuckler,
But it seems like a poorer use of scenery.

What is it about slack-bellied middle-aged men
That our melancholy and pride swell together?
(Guts, melancholy, pride, and little enough else,
Sings the tiny bank-side bird of innuendo.)

We find ourselves meandering between stories
Of how everything came to be, best stowed away
For now, and discoveries we thought we would make.
What are we? Molecular rivers of the same

Pattern, whatever pattern is, but different
Substance than we were yesterday or ever were.
And that's just it. All the substance of the pattern
Is changed, but the changing's substantially the same.

What in this transformation is worth complaint?
I was something that never was stable, changing
Stably into something that couldn't be the same
Except for continual change. Wait. Where was I?

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Tint burins,
Twig ends etched
The snow's crust
In steel-tipped
Shadows thin
And pretty
As the lines
Of a poem
About sleep
I engraved
Once on clean
Bone I lost
When printing
In charcoal.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Whatever I said was gone
Is probably still alive,
Including you, me, and the old guy
Who showed up with the lost
Wildlife tonight to help us get by.

I say it, and I forget it,
And I say it all over again.
I'm no good at prediction,
And I tend to encourage
Myself to think it's the end.

Here we are. Fire in the grate,
Wood in the pile, and a moon,
Or a sliver of such, high
In a wintry black sky, as the stag
I wrote you would die

Curls up next to the double-panes
With a new-found doe, planning,
I'd guess now, to make out like us.
Find dumb lucky love, be happy
At last, and thrive, I bet, thrive.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Notes on a Wednesday Just Gone

Predawn, a Dream, Literally

I saw a single light
High on a cliff cut
Up on the side
Of a rounded, dark
Mountain, and I

Felt an ache like
A crush for a girl
To live in the little
House by that light
Even though it was by

The side of the road
The cut made room
For, where cars shot
By its windows. I longed,
I craved it, I can't see why.

Midday, through the Woods

I bump into a young man whom I know
To be mentally ill, and he asks me
How I'm doing. I say I'm well
And ask him the same. "Getting
Through," he shrugs. We smile.
It's all getting through, isn't it?
The snow melts, the clouds go over,
People do kind and awful things,
We lie in bed and count the breath
Getting through our nostrils,
First one way, then the other.
An honest answer, then, although
I know he meant it to suggest less
Than ordinary living, a tough time,
No better than the obvious fact
That for the moment he's still
Going. I of course interpret this
Wrongly. I detect encouraging
Sanity in his wryly delivered
Bit of grin. Were he to have kicked
Up his heels and grabbed my hand
In both of his and shouted
"I'm great," it would have been
Scarier. So it goes and goes
Through all of us, just as we go
Through all of it going and are
Our sense of the going. Getting. Go.

Evening, Home

All the langsam, long, lonesome afternoon,
The repetitive, plaintive choruses
Of Lang's Match Girl Passion
Weave themselves through and encircle
My chattering thoughts, as if the sad waif
Herself were begging me and entangling
My legs as I walked--help me,
Help me, have mercy,
Have mercy, stay
With me, stay with me.

In the evening, then, my own reprise
Beside the banked-up fireside:
Can it help you then to think
About it now? Can it help you
Then, to think about it now?
How not to think about what might
Occur then, being helpless now?
If only the going of this went through
Soothingly smoothly like this cup
Of purple "Passion" tea passed to me
While the snow grips itself
In fresh blankets of hoarfrost
And the deer gather around
Our small, borrowed home in the dark
Without a sound, without pleading,
Just breathing, help me, help me,
Have mercy, have mercy, stay
With me, stay



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Corbies Reconsidered

-for Athena's bright-eyed namesake

Every flash-winged magpie knows,
(Vide Trivers) the smarter we are,
The cleverer, the more deceptive,
The more alert to deception
As danger and joy we must be.

The brightest of the ancient
Greeks, no, not Plato,
Not Pythagoras or Heraclitus,
Not Aristotle or Archimedes,
Odysseus was a complete fiction

Within a partial fiction,
Telling exaggerations
While disguised by his ally,
The clever, dissembling goddess
Assembled with shield, spear,

And owl. Even the owl
Was a brilliant appropriation
And feint. Having a raven,
A crow, or a magpie on her shoulder
Would have given the game away.

An owl! Every corvid knows
A scrub jay has the wisdom
To outwit anyone or anything
Fooled by the gaze of that owl.
Owls have no appreciation

For the shinier, finer, inedible things,
Like the outside of a good story,
The empty wealth of night skies,
The truth kept safely for later,
Or an owl as a wide-eyed disguise.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Imperatrix Inferni, Miserere Mei

Mother of god, she's out there
Tonight in gowns of frozen steam,
The struggle to rise that settles
In ranks of vague lights under
The mountains containing hell.
The city gets its cold reward
For fueling itself with the dead,
The stink of commingled exhaust,
The exhaustion poured into
The stony, fuming basin of cold.
Old texts, hymns from the plague
Generations of the little ice age
Knew how to celebrate her, knew
A queen of heavenly forgiveness
Does not always move through
Gowns of royal blue. Empress
Of hell as well, her rule is a skull
Of rock-solid mercy in the deep
Confusing winter, even now
As long ago. Let the rows of trucks
And weary midnight shifts adore her,
The arc lamps, dreams, and boilers
Confirm the chill. This eroding circle
Of crushed-up mountain plateau,
Patch of light, hub of humans,
Can burn but never connive a way
To escape her cobwebbed glow.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Cutting

Patience can be wistful,
Pragmatic intelligence,
Given winter's tmesis.
Tiny slices of pulses,
Hearts of house finches
Inside split-log piles
Under icicled picnic
Tables glazed solid
With frozen seeds, fit
Neatly past cracks,
Pecking bits of before
And what could be
Construed as not
After but possibly
Later, maybe later.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ghost Desert

Today, the angels are closer,
Weightier, a blanket of wings
That never have to beat or fly
Covering lives in frozen light.

Scintillation from the hubcaps
Across dunes to the horizon,
Overwhelmingly white on white,
Floating up into pale heaven,

That's what we've got here. Inversion
Has brought the upper atmosphere,
The true desert of thin gasses
Down as a sterile reminder

To the living, complaining soul
Of the earth that every dry ounce
Of burnt-red, barren-seeming dirt
Is a luscious jungle of love

Compared to what's always up there--
Crowding angels of vacancy
Peering with their blank, saucer eyes
From their vast and abstract faces

Filled with incuriosity
Down at the crawling existence,
The near two-dimensional wars,
Of our hearts that keep on going.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Custom Handmade Porcelain Dolls"

Litter the landscape
Around the canyons:
Courthouses, rock art,
And roadside lodges
Are haunted by them.

Lovely, painted clay
Hands, arms, and faces,
Churn cash registers,
Fill up their gas tanks,
Greet themselves with smiles.

Gleaming surfaces
Turn up everywhere,
Happy, malicious,
A mischievous glint
For each handmade eye.

You can, in season,
Stop beside the sign
In empty valley
And buy yourself one.
But it's not required.

Even if you're just
A tourist, even
If you can't see them,
You can take one home
With you, you are one.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wisdom the Risible

"At every age we think we're having the last laugh, and at every age we're wrong."

The seven ages of wrong
Wheel by complacently. First
(Or finally, the sequence
Can't matter, each stage being
Equivalent) come the wrongs
Of infirm dependency,
The sweet, toothless confidence

That enlightenment is now
Or never, the bracketing
Exceptions being the null
Years, the happy second stage
Of private serenity,
Public humiliations
From which we gather wisdom

That enables us to view
The foibles of our younger
Or our older selves with calm,
Droll mixtures of amusement
And chagrin, knowing we are
Not now what we were then, but
Later will be as we are.

The funhouse stages mirror
Each other as otherness,
The lover, young, long, drawn out
On racks of bitter regret,
Opposite the high justice,
Wrong to a prophetic pitch,
Satisfied by defining

The fine things the future holds,
The age of optimism
For captains of drowning ships.
Ages of hazards have dreams
Like the dreams of railroad tramps
Predicated upon luck
As a reprieve from ashes.

The soldier cocooned in all
The armor of other wrongs
Nobly serving to set,
Wriggles like a hermit's thought
Messy, obsessed with pattern,
Groggy, will not find the key
God gave poets to be won.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Winterview

A little warmth with
Cool edges to burrow
Is a forgiving thing.

The palm trees at sunset
Waving just above freezing,
The guests at the inn

Blown in from the north,
Swapping human narratives
And measurements of the cold,

The real cold, the savannah
Ape killing cold of the mountains
Left behind, are gleeful.

We're here now. We're free.
Let's come back here, let's
Get welcomed to come again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life under the Stars

A sorry young mule deer buck
We've taken to calling One Horn
(And even that one crooked)
Has adopted our house
As his last redoubt. He thieves
The bird seed, curls up under
The window, and will not scare.
We assume he's sick, maybe
Dying. The cold has come at last
With that transparent vengeance
Only high desert winter midnights
Can make so serenely spiteful,
Spitting stars, cracking the bones
Of the tall red rocks, not bitter,
Just merciless, like a killer
In a movie where the strangeness
Of the sociopath is his charm.
"It's a beautiful space to die,
Too bad it's killing you," I say
To the deer through the window
Before we skid down the slope
Into the quiet valley for a party
At the house of a friend struggling
Under the crushing rock slides
Of lonely alcoholism. The snow
Squeaks in protest against
Our tires, our boots, my crutches,
As if everything come in contact
Must be unbearable to the molecules
Of water and whatever fell with it.
Around the wood stove, grizzled
Men in flannel and various whiskers
Get grisly, muttering surgeries,
Joking about death. Hard to believe
This was the youth generation,
But as one sixty-something snorts,
"Age. It's happening, man." Another,
Boasts no fear of dying. A third
Disagrees.  "It's exactly dying
That scares me. It's not the death.
The arrival's the only easy part."
A fourth pats his large stomach,
And under a white beard chortles,
"I've been working on my arrival
For seventy-years." That gets
A small murmuring laugh.
The women stir and move
The conversation elsewhere.
By the time we squeak back out
Again to go home, our host
Is quietly, solemnly soused, his guests
Concerned, the deer is gone
From his nest by the wall, the cold
Even colder, the moon is up,
The snowy valley is a white sweep
Of uncountable phosphorescent
Diamonds deep basketed in night.
It's a beautiful space, too bad.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Standing still, staying at home,
Racing the Red Queen to work,
Defying dissipation
To get to nowhere at all,
Life, the conservationist,
The nostalgist in defiance
Of getting it over with,

Hungry little bugger, world
Of food and scavenging,
The dream of each cell to be
Two cells, the gaunt and growing
Tree of it, eating its own,
Never content just to lie
Down and be washed by the sun,

Resilient pattern, riddle
Admitting no solution,
Headwaters of stubbornness,
Contrariness, foolishness,
Original Sisyphus,
Pushing thermodynamics
Uphill while falling, the same.