Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ancient Camels in the Arctic

This train wreck of a railroad town
Where the narrow, false-front PO
Still fronts a row of mailboxes
And a handful of single-wides
In the desert looks deserted,
But it may not be entirely,
Since it's not entirely quiet,
And since an empty whiskey jug
Sits in the middle of Main Street
With a painter's face mask attached
As some weird huffing contraption.
Someone is still trying to die here.
Someone still comes to get the mail.

Down the torn-up road, the river
Wanders past gravel pits, Fish Ford,
And various barbed-wire cow paths.
Tie-dyed rock formations erode
Random bits of dinosaur bone.
You want to know this why? Because
As the Arctic was dense forest
Once, and this once was wet jungle,
As the railroad once cut edges
Through percentage-grade barrenness
To re-people stones with cow towns,
So too, whatever's ever left
Will be left bereft of context,
Including these, including this.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Worm Moon Fragments

A pretty good Friday in Moab,
What with the sun shining on the Jeeps,
And one who is none can find oneself

Wondering how the ordinary
Can emanate from untouchable
Underpinnings, gravitational

Tugs weaving through tragic and magic,
How humans on holiday emerge
From our ritual observances

Of the mysteriously unkind
Acts we have done to one another,
To men we admired as gods, to gods

We admired for what they'd done to us.
A kind of water, blued purple thread,
Rushes on under us as we float,

Drawing sustenance from mysteries,
From every curse and blessing coursing
Downriver from the turn of the moon.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Raven, Pronghorn, Lizard, Ground Squirrel, Deer

And so forth. Everyone's trying
To cross the road and aspiring
To some immortality rare
And strange. Even the rocks are scared

From their nooks and crannies by spring.
Every trembling thing is tumbling
Down out of their quiet, winter lairs,
Except flies rising in the air

To screw and argue. Encircling
Our bed with their constant whirring
Through sunlit gaps, up holy stairs,
They buzz hosannas. I don't care.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Between Meadowlarks

Clever little knot,
All shape and no rope,
Quietly waiting
Silence I live for,
Not really silent

But uncannily
Close to the vortex
Of actual change
While barely humming--
There it is. At last.

Ah. Eleleleu.
Eleleu. Alas.
Eleison.  Yes,
Mercy. Have mercy.
Sorrow and rejoice.

Another spring comes
To cattle and grass,
Fence posts, cottonwoods,
Rushes and ponds--
Honor and mercy,

Herald and angel
Of lengthening days,
Warmer, windier
Weather and the heat
To come in its turn,

Soon enough, but not
Yet. Later. Today,
Winter's denouement,
Unfolding as long
Whistling, nests and wings.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

He Lets It Go As It Will

Bare shade trees lined the edges
Of dead orchards. The sedges
Lined the lake. Migrating birds

Spoke to me in my own words,
But sweetly, even the geese.
Out of the sore body, peace

And surprising ease replaced
Maudlin discomforts. I traced
The gaps, the wonderful voids

Between a note and a voice,
The grace and the resonance
Of the gray and dissonant,

Mysterious roadside air,
And I forgot to despair.
Give roads their roar and whining.

Time for every singing thing,
For whatever comes along,
To make music for its song.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Linear A

What Homer couldn't know was this:
For years before Odysseus
Left home, Penelope, and joy
For the long horror that was Troy
And the hallucinatory,
Waterlogged witch worlds of story,
He wrote notes.
                                  He knew the secret
Of the script already dying
Before words burnt and all writing
                   He scratched out his life in lines
Of dead language, a double code,
Too subtle for suitors to know,
That a seer couldn't chant aloud.
Before his wife began his shroud,
Before the waiting game commenced,
He inscribed loss in present tense.

For himself, his child, and his wife,
He curved the surface of his life,
Shadow and light, insight wrestling
With foolery, fear, everything
He thought to observe while he could,
Before Ithaka's cliffs and woods
Sank in the turning of the sea
To the west as the wind turned east.

Who knows if his notes told the truth?
Reading the lines to trace his routes
Can't decipher his intentions.

Time is the only dimension
Anyone's ever traveled in;
His lines are time unravelling.

Whether near to or far from shore,
Because of monsters, gods, or storms,
Or because sailors misbehaved,
All his ships sank in the same waves
And only appeared to scatter.

Sifting place names hardly matters.
It's lost script. It's finished. It sleeps.
It's the fish rising from the deep.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Archaeology of Ants

"In a dry year...The restless and the hungry follow the seasons."

We don't really know
What we think or feel.
Therefore, let's be pleased
With ourselves, content
With that which finds us.

Let's read happiness
As given, not built
Crumb by crumb, or snatched,
Antennae flailing,
From life on the run.

I like being calm.
I like the bright sight
Of a tired morning,
Of any old moon,
Of my own eyes smiling

Back from a mirror
That could use cleaning
But works well enough
To tell me I am
A busy creature

Who has kept moving,
Somewhat randomly
Apparently, but
With purpose. I like
The sun on the cliff.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


     Enlightenment is entanglement. Samsara is nirvana. This is how the hermit hooks big fish. This is the way of the toad. No missionaries to suit up here. No exquisite robes to dye. The beginning of spring may be grey. Peasants make fools of sages. Folks prefer hell scrolls and tabloid news. They gossip about themselves, duck punishments, observe rituals, and compete for happiness. They like what they like. They're animals. The end of the world may never come. The first day of winter may be green. The way of the toad is prosaic, visions wrapped in warts and all. Dreams without toxins are delusion. Nirvana serves samsara. Entanglement is enlightenment. This is the way of the toad.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tough Guy

You think I'm afraid of you?
Let me tell you. I may be frailer
Than a crumbling mummy,
But I've done a few things.
I've known water, snow, and sand.

I've stood at the Bay of Fundy
When the hundred-mile tide turned.
I've dropped from a sheer rock face
Into the Middle Saranac Lake.
I've swum the lead and silver waves
Of the Slocan in blustering spring.
I've slid down a muddy jungle bank
To skinny dip in the Temburong
At midnight by lamp and starlight.

I've driven across a raw plateau
In Utah in a white-out where no road
Could be seen, wife and infant
Asleep in the back seat. I've skidded
Across black ice. I've been stuck
In a freak three-foot snowfall
In a cabin in the Appalachians.
I've spent a sub-zero Fahrenheit
Christmas in Missoula in a brown
Inversion, alone and trying to find
A pay phone on the frozen streets.

I've seen dried-out husks of cattle
And lost dogs in the Kalahari,
In the flat sand of the Outback,
In the dust of Death Valley.
I've stood on the Skeleton Coast
Between the bleached ribs
Of fishing boats and the dessicated
Carcass of a brown hyena
And watched the death-dealing,
Life-giving South Atlantic
Fog roll down toward Swakopmund.
You think I'm afraid of you? I am.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Put My Heart at Ease

Why not? The valley of recollection
Can be raw, can be windy, but it's spring

And the river that runs through it is free
Of snow banks and ice jams for the first time

Since whenever was when you could relax.
So relax. Remember what felt good then

As part of whatever feels right right now.
Stare out into the fierce blue afternoon

And think of the green days gone and to come.
Nostalgia's so unfairly, cruelly mocked

By those who hold the world condemned and vile,
And seethe, small volcanoes of redemption.

When I'm like this, I like it as it is.
My days have held a sweetness I still taste.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Yama from Heaven

Monster man, somber shadow
Wheeling up through the smoke,
Why does no one love your ghost
When everyone is anxious
To confide in you their plan,
Their happy plan, to tell you
How the world goes well with them?

Why dream of your redundant,
Permanent impermanence?
Why make you lord and villain,
Paint you into burnt corners,
Rolling eyes, flames, and blue skin?
It's your forgiveness we were.
It's your forgiveness we want.

Our small world presses its face
Into an abyss of stars,
An infant with a wet cheek
Sinking into the pillow,
Turning away and into you,
Dream. Mercy will be morning
Burning smoky blue as you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Croaking Contest

"It's a fun little debate,"
One homunculus opines,
"Nice, circular, and empty,
A container, like zero,
A notation for nothing
That behaves like its own thing.
Peepers and birds sing inside."

"Metaphysical bullshit!"
Belts out another, put out
About having to hole up
Between the jug-handled ears
Of eternity. "You can't
Fit something into nothing.
Nothing's indivisible."

Their absences rotated
In this way for hours, puffing
And posturing, each hoping
To occupy vacancy,
Each afraid of becoming
The other. Around the round
Reflecting pond they wavered.

The fish burbled to itself
In the depths while this went on,
Resentful of the shouting
Back and forth over its head.
"If you were a scientist,"
Sniffed the first homunculus,
"You'd know why you don't exist."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spy Milk

"the causality that distinguishes flames and waterfalls from organisms and ideas"
Toad bridges the gap. Hop, skip, and squaddle,
He squirms between the hedges of mistakes
Made by the hermit and evades the fish.

He does not exist. He's of no concern.
His outward shape expresses inner frames,
Bone senses of wonder and well-being.

He is what he isn't. His nature is
Incomplete, unintended, and perfect.
Keep him away from highways. Listen well.

He has a sharp, piercing call. It won't stop.
He's the most unmusical muse. He's not
Allegorical, but he's a close cousin.

Halfway between the catcher and the catch,
More ancient than either of them, he sees
Nothing you don't. Come back to him later.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Inscrutable Brilliance of One Person

     The big fish didn't like hooks,
Rusty barbs in the bellies
Of bright, hyperbolic flies.
The big fish didn't like tricks,
Didn't like being sneered at,
Mistaken for stupid, slick
As snot but dumb as the weeds
That sheltered him in his stealth.

The big fish wanted a name,
A name, not a description.
But the only name he knew
Was the name of his rival
And tormentor, the wily,
Wit-soaked, fat-lunged fishing thing
That baited him. So he asked
To be called by the closest
Thing to a truth and a name
He could lisp without choking,
"One Person." That suited him.
He preferred to be alone.

When I tried contacting him,
He feigned sleep. I admired him,
So minimalist a beast,
The waves themselves bypassed him.
I was patient. I tied flies.
Of the best of these I spoke
Lovingly and crooningly,
Calling it "Parsimony,"
Repeating that name out loud
But in a whisper, as if
I hadn't meant to say it,
As if I were dreaming it
And muttered it by mistake.

The big fish rose, alertly,
Sensitive to the slight tug
Of a lovely, well-loved name.
He appeared to me no more
Than a circle in the calm,
And I, pretending to doze,
And to be in awe of him,
Of the legends concerning
Him, One Person, one brilliant,
Parsimonious person,
Muttered more and flicked the fly
Repeatedly past his lips.
The big fish rose. Once I caught
Him, I would not let him go.

Still, he moved in directions
That I would not, naturally,
Expect him to move. He was
Alien, shimmering, rare.
More than just another fish
And nothing at all like me.
If fish wore Eton collars
And spat out golden proverbs
And could spin string like spiders
Or worms, he would be such.
And yet he was more. My luck
Was to guess he could be lured
By patience and flattery,
By the exquisite profile
My substanceless shadow cast
On his cool, brooding waters.
Our interview went like this:

"No quotes," was his first request.
(I assented, ignoring
Any literal meaning.)
"You may speak to me by name,
Or, for convenience, O.P."
(A nickname! An acronym
And a pet peeve all at once!
I knew I had him then.) "Sir,"
Said I, "One Person, 'O.P.,'
If I may--Why are you, you?
From whence comes inscrutable
Brilliance like yours, given you
Are not like me?" His eyes rolled.

"Odd," he said, addressing me.
("Odd" was his prerogative.
I didn't challenge the name.)
"Odd, I like you more than most
That cross my pond to bug me.
I will humor you. Ask me
As you wish. I might answer."
Then for a while he vanished.
Even his ripples unwaved.
I cleared my throat. No response.
The profound meaning of this
Refusal to answer me directly
With anything other than silence
Was uncannily profound.
I tried again, flicked my wrist.

"Sir, OP, you never said
What you meant." (Ah, that was it.
A little jig of meaning
Brought him back to my surface,
And he bit.) "Are you," he asked,
"Any kind of satirist?"
(He god-damned nearly hauled me
Into the drink with that one.
But I recovered.) "Are you?"
He tried to swallow the thought,
And then managed to choke out
The line, "I'm not one to mock.
I arrived to randomize
What our ancestral creatures--
Persons, of course, in the case
Of you or me--said before,
In prosodies watery
And deep, so delightfully
Brackish no analogies
Apply." (I was so impressed
By his heft and his frankness
I fell back in the green shade.)

"One more question, One Person,"
I pursued once recovered
(Tying fresh flies as I spoke).
"Living under still waters
Long as you have, have you found
Truth in the adage they run
Deep?" "How do you mean?" he asked
(Warily, it seemed to me.)
"Does what's happening on land
Interest you anymore?"
Something snapped. "It never did."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Toad Hiding

When one is smaller than
Slower than frailer than

Anyone one knows
One tends to evasion

May even eschew
Acronyms and anagrams

In favor of unpunctuated

But to be furtive
It is not enough

To camouflage
One who is rare

Must be tough as well
Or sudden or quick

The slower than most
Of the smaller than

Thinks a spell
And stews

When the witches
And hungry are not

Looking down wells
It moves

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Buddha of Do and Done

Those are the biggest blue eyes since Sumeria
Our daughter fixes onto us this ashy noon
When retreating winter throws a cowl on the sun
And then runs, leaving us confused and almost warm.

How long has it been? When did we really begin?
This is our civilization we made ourselves,
The bridge we sprinted and limped across barefooted,
Our own intentions, architecture as sculpture,

Sculpture as knowing wisdom, as goddess, as time.
This is what we use fancy phrases to describe:
An arbitrary atmosphere that rules our lives
Like the bug-eyed, perfect dragonfly that arrived

In my mind. It would be better if we could sing
Of archaic angels and Saxon kings listing
Who and what we came from to the last single snip.
And we can, but we can't, not with great confidence,

Never mind who it is we should become. She stands
Between us as we extemporize on ideas
Not our own, not like her, whose very energy
For talking, for drawing on life comes from us, whose eyes,

Metaphorically mixing volumes of our souls,
Converge on points so widely spaced, so far ahead,
And so far in the distant past of us that time
Itself, in her, is just a metaphor made just.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Small Lucky Song

I have a constant lover
Who cradles me in her arms
And, when she can, protects me
From my reckless love of harm.

And, when she can't, I love her
The way I love sun and air.
I keep the faith she worlds me
When we despair we're not there.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Note on Lost Notes

Each threaded arrow arched

Over a chasm to begin a bridge
That is not a thing yet but an effect
Still a rainbow, still in the air--

That's the thing,

That's the thing about being
Alive: it seems like once you start
You've got to finish.

That's the hedonist's lament,

Not, how much is there left until I leave?
Since I won't need to be left when I'm gone,
But how much is there left that I can enjoy?

That's the cry of the lost notes
Of the composer too frightened
To let anyone else opine,

Tossing paper airplanes
Without any threads attached,
Without any arrowheads,

Watching them twist and dip
Into a cloud of the thin white air,
Never seeing them disappear,

Never feeling the tug
From the other side of the eventual
Bridge that's the nothing--

That's the thing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Window Door

To joy--to your arrival
In damp air through the window,
The breeze along the road to spring

That can turn a corner
Even on a brick and cement,
Tarred and weathered street.

Among the recorded musics,
The printed books, the clicking
And the conversation

Of everyone alone with themselves
And together, you, joy,
My perfectly irrational personal

Fling, hide your dewy glances,
And linger in the breathing
Of the outer world returning

Home, come home to me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Imagine the kingdom of spiders in wartime,
Their lines intersected, their spinnerets billowed.
They festoon their silk routes with prayer flags and standards,
Announcing the presence of this or that faction.

The battered and bartered detritus of corpses
Of allies, combatants, and flies consumed flutter
And tumble on windy blue mornings.

The winners and all the irrelevant armor
And hubbub have already gone off beyond us.
We are the insignia woven through pennants
That tear and recapture the prisoner dust motes.

For instance, the moon represented the Beacon
Encampment. The green leaf in white field announcing
The Wanderers, lost by design, was my notion.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fog on Alder Wood Road

Why want to tell people things
For no reason other than to be
Divested of the telling? Be plain,

Be ornate, be utterly inscrutable
As the bird without any name for me
Singing compulsively in the big trees.

There is no good way to get past
The gate without slipping, without
Ending up telling things to no one.

I want to believe in my planet,
I want random accidents to make sense,
I want to have names for the amazing

That knits itself together this way
Or that way, by god or by thought,
To end up as restless, framed tapestry.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


We raced a loop of time to the coast.
The stove cooled. Sarah
Sipped tea in the pillowy rocker.
The cabin fridge came back on,
Grumbling. The whole nation
Played musical time zones,
Which the tides of course ignored.
The cliff birds started morning-song.
The breakers undercutting the cliff
We'd perched on for two quick nights
Returned and returned. I kept
Coming back all night and dawn
To this verse again and again,
Eating away bits, adding bits
In a fog, making it worse. I thought
About what May Swenson
And Marianne Moore and Robinson
Jeffers wrote about ocean coasts,
Around and around, hinting
And haunting perpetually.
The waves drowned out the sound
Of me thinking through them to the sea.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

To No One But You

"the quotes that are quotes to no one but you"

Come back to tease me at odd hours of night,
Tickle my thoughts with thrush-feathered whispers
Of what we are now and what we were then,
The hints, the hopes, the long hours on the road,
The between where I am, the radio,
The alkaline lake, the vortex, and you.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fingernail Sketch

The body looks at itself and says
Within itself, this is me, this is what
I do, then turns around to disagree,

This is not me, this is not what I do.
This is entirely outside of me, this
Is only a little bit of what's within me.

All the other things I see and say
Are and are not me, almost equally.
And so it goes, another quick sketch

Messing up the unfinished mandala,
A little scratching of a drawing
Right through the elegant patterns,

A cartoon of one more tiny idiot
Grappling with the giant
Experience, one more Jacob

Half-asleep, starlit, wrestling
The unassailable angel of unsayable.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Field, Later

"What I don't know doesn't matter."

The side of the empty mountain
Looks speckled with old snow
And cows, scattered properties,

One cow so weirdly piebald
That it looks like two cows moving
In lockstep together--a white one

Behind a black one, bizarre silhouette
Unbeknownst to mountain or cow.
You can see it, see the reasoning

Lumbering ponderously down roads
Constructed for access to owners
That someone could borrow

For poems when no one cares:
If the mountain is unaware
Of the cows, and the cows are

Unaware of their weirdness there,
Then the human must be unaware
Of something or other, other

Than what it already doesn't know.
That's the kind of careful wording
Poets step in all the time, muttering

In circles made by the muttering,
Tracking themselves in the snow,
Quoting themselves, "Lo and behold,

Now I know I know all this nonsense
For three or four or more
Dimensions simply descended,

Confusion working its way down
Through mathematical conventions
Like a flash-flood cutting snow--

There are no dimensions, just one
Direction through which we fall,
And the patterns we elaborate

Are not those we perceive and are
Concealed within us, from us, always
Falling through the long-fallen all."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


"flockes were / imeind bi toppes & bi here"

Ok then, ask the crows mobbing the cows,
Sounding nothing like nightingales or owls,

What if our amassing and sundering
Human provisioners are wandering

In every wrong direction from themselves?
There is no space and never was. They fell

Because they couldn't tell what seemed between
Wilderness and that grey heave of the sea,

Between the forest around their gardens
And the dry hills around their fenced-in farms,

Was actually moving only one way,
Time-ward to now, never once changing place,

Never arriving or leaving at all,
Like black to a crow, like soil from the straw,

Just a change, just an exceedingly sweet,
Note-less song from the throats of all who feed

Temporary beasts of various kinds
On the happiness of devouring time,

Neither here nor there, neither brief nor long,
Presently fond of the recently gone.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I'll Say Hello to the Bees for You

"Some people can do something
And nothing," says Sequoia
Who builds straw nests in the yard

On such an abruptly warm
Late winter afternoon, I'm
As distrusting of the sun

As Sequoia's grandmother
Was distrusting of any
Good news not from the Gospels.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Loon on Sandy Beach

In your old age, I'll have to rise
In murky waters in spite of yourself,
Your damned wild diving bird to show

You your own blue skies yourself.
Music is what we need if we want
To blame silence for this. Sorry.

I'll have no choice but
To foist my red-eyed, sleek-billed
Silhouette on your blurry eyesight.

Oh quit it, now. You won't know
What the language you collage
Even sounds like anymore

When one of your few crooners
And laughers among the literary
Ruffs and pigeon feathers croaks

Into song. Your eyes, your ears,
Our memories, if thinking
Any of this was anything

To do with me, are closing. Here's
A cry and a shot of faith
And a meditation bell. You're not

Paddling out away forever
From the last bird left mad enough
To banter of being with angels and you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Toad Spring

~for takers and leavers alike

Let's back up
The poems or let's
Write one with index

Fingers in the damp sands
Time carries to the river.
Enough about time, already:

Existential category,
Who cares? There are no givers
Among grunting pens, sans

Freedoms. Rules index
The broken. Let's
Back poems up.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Give the Monk

Seven minutes, drunk,
Or seven months, Zen,

Or seven years, yogic,
Or seven dogs, Christian,

And then ask him
(He being someone

After all not fond
Of females as of

Dogs, desert,
Or rhyming gongs)

What he learned.
Don't be sad, you

Unbeliever, if without
Donations or devils

Behind you by dozens
Your question's spurned.

This is the rhyme born
Of assigned convictions

And gardened over
Convicts' spans of time.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Penny Violet

A speck of the wild
Flowers that work
To be humble
And attract bumblebees

Sleeps on my knee
In a clangorous dream,
Somewhere far
From meadow stars.

A penny, a violet,
A veil that hides worlds
Of its own within
Its summery, thin

Blue and felt petals
Brushed by our fluttering
Eyelashes, dust, centuries.
Flowers are mysteries

Good as any
Of the running strawberry
Galaxies, pin and pinwheeled lights
That clearer nights

Tend to smooth out over
Whatever is under their rumpled
Black cotton picnic blankets.
I'm here, but I thank it.