Thursday, February 28, 2013

Owl Project

Muslims wearing black sit with Hindus wearing orange
When the pagan of the grey but shining eyes lifts up

A thought about why seafaring peoples like hers
Could fail at promulgating lasting orthodoxies.

Watch out, my pir, priests, sadhus, abbots, and assorted
Holy men, assembling as Etta James warned you would--

The goddess with spear in hand and owl on her shoulder
Is no more ancient than any other cattle queen,

But she's unique among the mess you've made of your rules.
She doesn't exist anymore. That makes her wicked

Powerful in a way that only a deity
Lacking any gospel spouters to keep her temples

Sacred and polish her altars can be. She doesn't
Exist. Chew on that bit of prayer before you pretend

To know what she's going to say next. Her hypothesis
Is that wanderers' lies light what believers believe.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Ants Are Giant Worlds with Stars Inside Them

Every mirror
In the long haul
Through the arched, green
Tunnel of trees

Down the mineshaft
Through the mountain
Where the answers
Never alter

Says the same thing:
Beware what's here.
Try to be kind
To what can't be.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Where Does My Attention Lie?

The garden in the woods
That grows beyond itself, grows out
Of the damp soil that sprouts

So many other, finer things,
Such as the shade-giving,
Snow-shedding, rain-dissuading spruce.

They mat the ground with spines
That, when green, made air from the sun
But now only lie there

In heaps of preventive measures
Fanned out to guard against
This very possibility.

Something will find a way
To send a runner to the light,
Calling it, called by it

To respond to the difficult
Question of what is not
Itself, blossoming, everything.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ego Flora

"There is no present moment, only present movement."

A man grows old and indolent
Or gardens crammed with squash and yams
Or bookshelves thick with spiderwebs
Or other things that men may grow
The day they cease to grow themselves.

The rhythm is relentless. Age
Consists of every thing that youth
Attempts to do in disregard
Of aging. Those surviving long
Enough to feel embarrassment

Apologize to everyone
For being present anymore
At all, or grumble no one cares
To learn the lesson of their years.
I'm hoping to throw out my books,

And unlike father, grandfather,
Or other males of my humble,
Anonymous line, I can't grow
A damn weed, much less a garden.
I can't fish, cook, paint by numbers,

Or spend decades painstakingly
Labeling the branches of trees
With my other irrelevant
Ancestral trivialities,
And I'm already indolent.

Who knows what I'll grow before
I give up trying to keep time
On the beat I set out for it
And can't manage to keep myself,
But I've grown awful fond of now.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Fury Tree

Those who can't forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
Memories are the only ghosts declarative poets
Will ever know. They grow in the soil in the far garden
Not far from the fury tree, whose roots have found the compost,

Long worms, old middens, mushrooms, forgiveness, sorrows and all.
There was a time when bears would have snuffled through this debris,
When Ratatosk the chattering squirrel would have dug gossip
And carried it out of the teeth of decaying dragons

To scamper up the high branches and natter at eagles
In that curiously cheeky way of well-evolved prey.
But now the best stuff is picked, the rest hardly more than duff.
Even the fungi and slime molds have fruited and blown on.

I'm so far from equilibrium, it's a miracle
Anything could be precariously alive as me,
Patch of dirt so deep in the woods, only the long roots
Of the tree that was never supposed to be can reach me.

Even the warm, decomposing narrative bits I was
Are so small now they don't depend on hope of consumption.
I'm so alive now, so buried, so little left to tell,
Tap-root rotted at last, nothing fine snails could buy or sell.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pavant Pavane

"It's wrong to view a samovar with an eye to making it pound nails . . . or to write books so they will make a hotter fire." -V. Shklovsky

Another hesitation step,
Proceeding down the corridor
In the shadow of mining camps,

Each effort to absorb what is
Becoming a pause in what was,
So we gradually go on.

The Spaniards proceeded near here
On some defunct mission to save
The dancing souls of the pagans

From Lord knows what conveniences
Life in these rocks once provided.
Jesuits, Mormons, and Baptists

Hold the keys to eternities
Like the suites of cheap motel rooms
With adjoining locked, bolted doors

To be had for a song not far
From this hesitant, resistant
Wilderness ready to be dust

Again to everyone. Humans
Don't really belong in Utah.
Not one stone here was carved for us.

Friday, February 22, 2013

There, There Then

Words, we say, are the worst way
To apprehend the world. Words
At best are fingers pointing
At the moon, at worst mislead us.

Words take us away from being
In the fullness of the present.
They lack the truth-telling rigor
Of well-applied abstract math.

They distract us from the universal
Power of pictures, the primal
Sublime emotional thrum of music.
Words don't even really mean

Anything: when serious they're just
Semantics, and we name their purest
Play nonsense verse. Words,
We words say, are the worst.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Rock Monster in the Trees

Somehow someone snatched up
All the pebbles caving
Under an overhang

Surrounded by aspens
Or by one aspen's clones
And scooped them in a cairn.

That was a human thing,
The cairn, but the monster
Was made only in mind,

Being coincidence
Or at least not social
In shape, an overhang

That only to the mad
Ape out of Africa
Could suggest a great face,

A giant's open maw
Made up out of balanced
Dirt, stones, and erosion.

No beast that dimension
Ever waited in woods
For food. Why perceive it?

It gapes, waiting to bite
The imagination
That gives tongue to its teeth.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Relatively Roadside

What I can, what I can't
Remember, what I can
Or can't collect again

Scatters itself around
An early afternoon
In intermittent wind.

Scale is irrelevant.
The dumped chunks of sandstone's
Tumbled topography

Lie heaped along the cliffs,
Bigger than battleships
But looking no different

Than the flakes of the same
I crumble in my hands
Rehearsing yesterdays.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Swim While I Sleep

One lamp is lit in the rough-wood paneled
Motel room of the Bluff Recapture Lodge,
Unexceptional, unnecessary,
Forty watts of incandescent hot glow
In a room already filling with sun.
Good morning, glad you're here, not sure I'm here
Entirely myself. I've read dolphins swim
With half a brain asleep, half still awake.
I'm not sure which half of my brain contained
Me, haunting my thoughts, half-drowned ghost, all night.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Happy Escape

Aren't they all? I mean, not
Always in the final
Analysis, of course,

But in the moment sprung
Like lions from cages
At the Colosseum,

At last! At last! At last!
I'm free to find my own
Something, zebra, gazelle,

Pronking, stotting, something!
Here we go. There's sunshine
On that empty canyon,

Never mind the vultures
Hovering around us.
Sure, there's a lot of them,

But look at that: open space.
Are those baboons running
Around out there? Let's eat!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Wind of Tiredness

It's the desert. We don't get waves,
We get red dust and maybe smoke,
Old snow on north slopes in the shade
Of the juniper trees. We're tired,

This afternoon, tired and quiet,
In the way only three people,
A family without excess
Friends or superfluous siblings,

Picnicking on a truck tailgate
In the sandstone and prickly pear
Well off the road, one or two jets
Way up high in the air, can be.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dr. Dolittle's Revenge

"It doesn't mean anything at all."

The lizard is a little-known
Lover of language. It says things--
Not wise or original things
Of course, but the odd sorts of things

Poets say who pretend we don't
Care if you can read us or not
Because we're too lazy to care
If we meant anything at all--

For instance, "oh to be be thin, warm,
And naked but safe in the sun,
With an unreproachable thirst
For the cold, pale ale on my tongue"--

That sort of thing, where you can tell
The lizard is pleased with itself
And would throw in a quotation
About dogs walking on hind legs

If it knew one, which it doesn't,
Being only a small lizard
Fluffing its green scales in the sun,
Foolishly, unseasonably

Out and about early, where crows
Could only fail to pick it off
From the rock out of perfect shock,
Like the human who heard it talk.

Friday, February 15, 2013

There's Nothing More Cheerful

Than an artful Marianne Moore
Poem that comes flying from its title
In precisely measured arabesques,
And descending, down, down the page,
More like a tumbling sparrow
Evading a shadow of hawk
Or a paper airplane thrown
(On which is drawn an arch,
Exact caricature
Of the human as ocean
Or animal) from the bleachers
Over the elegant players' heads
At a ball game,
Than something we'd call lyric.

She doesn't even have to like
What she's imagining to make it
Unimaginably likeable,
Too much
Unlike a swart swan, pangolin,
Or caster-wheeled jerboa,
Modest, but furnished with fine legs,
Too much akin to fables
That name beasts like cultures,
Local as crinoline
Skirts flounced or Roman togas
Flaunted when senators feasted
Over storehouses emptied out for
Sheer abundance
When trading panegyrics.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ash Before Valentines, Moab

Why be in love
With the names of
Days and places?

I love faces,
Which I can see
Much more clearly

Than the labels
They win. Fables
Are charming for

This: they ignore
Proper nouns when
Pronouncing ends.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Synaesthete's Garden in Winter

How can we improve the color grey?
The still-footed serpent in twigs
Could imagine it apple red
With a switch of the "e" to an "a,"

But he doesn't think he could sell it
To anyone in the ash woods
Wandering by dully today.
He curls his paws. Well, to hell with it,

There are some woods one never escapes,
Not even by instigating
Other inhabitants' jail breaks,
Not even when one's willing to scrape

Into eternity belly first,
Vestigial hip tips tucked away.
Are burning deserts so much worse?
How can we improve the color grey?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Problem with Proprioception

I am all equally you,
Including that view and these words,
And I am all equally not you,
Including these words and that view.

What seems outside is inside entirely.
What seems entirely inside is outside.
Asides are where words meet our bodies
To discuss their opinions of the view

That inside is not just inside me
And outside contains as much me as you.
Today, which was not me, but outside, I saw
A world now me, a new stitch in my side.

Today, which is now inside me, but no longer
Today outside, I saw a term meaning dreaming,
Cloudmongering everything, and without dreaming
Within everything I wanted to hide.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Silly Unsung Pop Song Number One

I can't turn around
Without a song
To turn myself around in,
Without a tune to take you
For a little spin in.

And all that I want from you
Is a whisper in my ear,
Something blue and almost true
Before we disappear.

I don't want to know what you're thinking,
I think you don't want to know what I am.
My mind's eye is unblinking,
And your timidity's a sham.

All that I want from you
Is one whisper in my ear,
Something blue and almost true
Before we disappear.

All that I want, this may even be true,
Is a good lie whispered in my ear,
One lovely, haunting hint from you,
Before we disappear,
Before we disappear,

Until we disappear.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Colorado Peaches in Aztec

There's not much real roof left,
Just a stretch in the back.
There's a rebuilt kiva,
Built to speculation,
And many open-walled,
Honeycombed, low-doored rooms.

It's carefully maintained
At this stage of ruin,
Neither rebuilt nor wrecked,
By the national parks,
Like Tintern Abbey,
And about the same age,

But not on a green lawn,
Not on tour coach schedules,
Just in New Mexico,
South of Durango
And the famous steam train
Chugging to Silverton.

Apparently, someone
Was reminded of those
Much later arrivistes
Of Teotihuacan
And labeled these "Aztec
Ruins." They're all ruined:

Petra, Mesa Verde,
New York, Las Vegas,
Jerusalem, London,
Beijing, Machu Picchu,
And the Hanging Gardens.
Happier than any

Of these grand, cruel kivas,
Outposts, cities, dream towns,
Was the charmed, laughable
Moment when my daughter
In the "Aztec" office
Learned of water fountains.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Imperative Shuffle

Teach me how to walk in the dark.
Sooner or later, someone whose opinion
Matters to you, very much, will
No longer cross your mind. Sooner
Or later, you will no longer annoy
Anyone either. Sooner or later,
                  And don't you go saying
I'm dying on you now. There's a lot
More nevers between now and then
And in every now and then than
In being dead alone.
                                          It's not
As easy as leaving for good and all
All at once. There's a lot of stumbling
And oops, and mistaking the floor
For an easy chair in the ordinary
Black of a backwater night.
I'm not saying you, I, or anyone
Has to go right this moment.  But
I've already forgotten the names
Of half of those who remain.  Let me
Shuffle the cards in my mind a while,
Pretend it's all the fault
Of that knock on the noggin
I took from the wall.
                                        Let me enjoy this
Thing of mine, even as I despise it.
The greatest delight I have is in being
Happy with what cannot please me.
Let's just see what happens next.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Vice Column

Do no more
Than you would
If you were

Rich. The rest
Is just wage

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Isle of Mind

Just as the Manx man thinks
To himself, "traa dy-liooar," a gong
Chimes, calling the monks

To robed attention and away
From their desultory prayers.
There is time, to be sure,

But only in the sense of something
Else in the place of what was always
Just a placeholder being meditated.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Irrational happiness
And dreamed serene contentment
In the middle of nonsense
With no hope of improvement,
No prayer, no plan for escape,
These are the finest moments
In the long fall through nothing

To nowhere thoughts can follow,
No place you yourself can be.
A pianist interviewed
On playing with dream partners
Said music feels like flying,
"If you can get there." Let's try
Flying, getting there or not.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Why is it so rarely really
Comforting to know the truth? Why

Are we more likely to prefer
A variety of stories

Served with sidecars of arguments
About which stories are truer,

Even when the truth is simple,
Knowable, and painfully clear?

A few weeks ago a woman died
In the hamlet we inhabit,

In a pretty place with a view
Of beautiful rocks and sunsets,

And her body was found three days
Later, crumpled, frozen solid

At the bottom of her porch steps.
Stories differ on how she died.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fragments from Small Hours

In the dark of a star's shadow
The unsinkable, single tune
Of a sunny day in a meadow
Spent dreaming with the likes of you
Brings back the whole gold afternoon.

On the deck of another riddle
Strolls the unthinkable, shrinking hope
Of ten thousand days left to whittle
Into words, lacking songs, for boats
Floating down dawn's heliotropes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Big Chunk of Something

"When _we_ think of poetry, most of us think of lyric poems, printed texts in which rhythmical monologists express strong feelings as they struggle through problems to achieve moderately satisfying resolutions. Yet for Aristotle . . . poetry was not a thing . . . but rather an activity, a 'making.'"

Experienced awareness revels
In the gentle sensorium
Of a sumptuous bed. Whatever.

Keep going. The groundhog
That I was woke up for once
Too early to see his shadow
And limped around his house
Naked in front of all the windows,
Feeling tired and shy but bad.
That was a past that is what
It never was. Here we go.

The sun, like Aristotle, is out
To describe every kind of making,
Good and crappy, except this
Or that he never knew about
And therefore never saw. Always,
In the brightest most brilliant
Minds or sunlight, there is shade
Somewhere, even if only on the other
Side of things, a kindness
As well as an inevitable confusion.

My wife leaves all the doors ajar,
The caps on her shampoo bottles
And toothpaste tubes off and open.
Because of this, because of
My wife, my life is always open.
Her heart is the Colorado Plateau,
Her arteries its long rivers,
Always open, even in canyons,
Even when she wanders the dark
At four in the morning, searching
For the sleep that left her long ago.

And I'm pouring a glass of dark red
Something while our toddler draws
With washable markers henna colors
On bare feet, arms, and hands. Haze
Settles around our windows, clocks
Click, Sarah tries to nap on the sofa.
What are we going to do with this
Who has nothing to do with us?

"I got a lollipop! Looks like an onion!
I got a big, big sucker!" sings out
Savage, the burgundy-painted one.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Eagles on Highway

And we're not warning you again.
Keep your hands inside the car
At all times. Do not offer mice
Or other small mammals or fish
From your windows. This is not

Much of a joke, nor very reliable
An assertion. You may pass this way
A thousand times without once
Finding this true. This is not
A happy thought. This is a sign.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fog and the Dog

We took so many pictures.
There is no other reason
Why we'd remember that day.
To tell the truth, despite them,
We still don't. I scrutinize
The screen of my computer
As the rafts of them unscroll,

Showing views of the valley
In moving fog banks, the moon
Overhead, snow and sunset,
Three years ago, different house,
Different hopes, jokes, and worries ,
No thought of family yet,
Just the dog we're dancing with.