Friday, May 31, 2013

Guess What Rock

Moab recedes in the mind of the guy
Who used to live there and made all the stuff
That lots of people in lots of places
Besides Moab identify with life:

Love, parenthood, money, debt, work, mistakes,
Those long joys and sorrows that each seemed brief
Whenever he was gripping the other,
Except for the few things that can't be dreamed.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Drive Safe

Safe home. Homey, humble
Sometimes earnest, sometimes fierce,

Chunked phrases from which we build
The pre-fab conversation

Of modular social lives.
Enough is enough, we say,

Although it's not true enough.
I sat while you collected

Wild geraniums, but then
I couldn't drive fast enough

For you to the library
And you had no patience left

To listen to anything.
Then I waited once again

As you returned your
Growing away present

To the kindly couple
Who tolerated our toddler

And embraced her fun and funny
Ways the way they had embraced

The broader world all their long
And genuinely helpful lives.

And then I watched out
Of their picture window,

Out of the corner of my eye
In the muddled middle of small

Talk about the end--the end
Of this beginning we'd made

To a friendship now we were
Moving again, hundreds of miles,

The end to our time in this valley,
The end to meditation,

And I scribbled a poem in pencil
While everyone chatted and waited

And I left it on the table. Enough.
Never enough. Drive safely. Safe home.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

At First and Final

At first and final
Readings, the sutra
Appears unusually
Cryptic, even for
The mystical
Christian, Sufi,
Kabbalistic, or Vedic
Traditions, even

Among the earliest
Cuneiform, hieroglyphic
Oracular nonsense.
What is this? The sensible
Reader on encounter
With such reeking,
Lung-choking, tent-filling

Incense, might ask. Fair
Enough. We must uncover
If we hope to discover.
Here, literally translated,
Word for word, in the five
Word verse of the old school,
Following the strict rule,

Perhaps mnemonic for oral
Recitations, of noun, verb,
Adjective, preposition and other,
Is the original hymn in English.
Punctuation has been avoided
As interpretive and anyway
Nonexistent in the petroglyph

Of the gnomic prayer itself:

"Time be good to the
Person have new of and
Year do first in a
Way say last for that
Day get long on I

Thing make great with it
Man go little at not
World know own by he
Life take other from as
Hand see old up you"

How do we interpret
The strangeness of these
Common terms arrayed
In implausible, not to say
Impossible formations?

One line of thinking,
Extra hungry, hopes these words
Hide clues to buried treasures.
Somewhere in the nearby mountains
A tomb, a chest of precious metals waits.

Others have interpreted them
As messages from advanced
Aliens, extraterrestrial,
For puzzles, for good or for ill.

I know they are exactly
The words you know best.
Be content with that. Escape
Bewitching speculation
And narrative. Be at rest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Here's the Thing

Sometimes you'll know
What the phrases are
Saying, sometimes you

Won't. You'll wait, wondering,
Ok, when is someone going
To explain this bullshit to me?

That's ok. That's good. Don't
Get down on yourself or anyone
Else. You got a long wait

Coming. That's all the phrases
Are saying. Buster, you got a long,
Long wait coming. Got it?

Monday, May 27, 2013

It Winks at You

In the waving grass
Between the house
And the deer-worn,
Rockslides and dry
Wash where the snow
Fell like communion
Wafers that melted
Into the true spring
Flesh of the god of another
Religion than the first
Ones practiced around here.
I regress. Supposedly,
I'm meditating
On the illusion
Of any being but this
Interbeing winking
With every breeze
Brought from the far
Slopes of the small
World to wave
Bodhisattvas at
These tasseled heads
Of invasive grasses
Visited by those nearly
Unaltered, unalterable
Perfections reiterated
In the predatory patterns
Of the glittering, visiting,
Hover and whirr of recurring
Dragonfly wings.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hide Out

In the almost open,
Somewhere out of the line
Of sight but not bunkered,

Not positioned to spy
On others, draw a bead.
Just behind the fence

Behind the house
That doesn't belong to you
That you have to leave soon

And should be packing right now.
Take a moment on a stump
To enjoy the breeze

That does what you are
Doing, on its way around
Invisibly in the open.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is Not Enough

A pretty world
Of familiars.
A terrible
World of complaints.

A fantastic,
World of fancy
And invention.

A dreary world
Of work and chores.
A prayerful world
Of holy light.

The last real world
Someone programmed
As antidote
To all the rest.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Out of the Dream of Time

Into the stunned, dreamless state
Of being awake in fixed
Stupor.  What's the word for it?
Oh please, what's the word for it?
They're all stolen anyway.
Would it matter to take one
More? Yes. You want words? Make time.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

So Much for Shame

What good has it ever done anyone
To get caught counting lizards in the sun?
Almost anything a song sings about,
Almost any parable worth its salt,
Almost any story about almosts

Would be less embarrassing than this thing,
You know, when you put together some words
About some things you just happened to see,
And try a whip-tailed arrangement of them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Dawn lets you know
It's all still changing,
And you can be aware

Of this, serve your rituals,
The things you do as simple
As prayer, pulling on sandals,

Pouring black tea, unlocking
The rattletrap shop windows
Checking the news of the whatever

You consider your world,
Feeling possessive and weary
And wanting to share it all

With each other, the baby's cry,
The news in your prayers,
The lemon in your tea, the edge

Of light that's not the same
As the light all night long, now
Like a butter knife slipped under

Your windowsill, trying to pry
Something open that will not budge,
The stuck thing, the hymn.

Who knows what it is to wake up
In love with a poem you don't know
And may have to quit to understand,

The praise to decay you can taste
And swallow, sweet, acrid, lark's
Song, breakfast. You couldn't stay.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We Stopped Mocking Regret

The chair fell apart.
We left it outside
All fall, winter, spring.

We liked it outside.
We were out of room
For any more chairs.

It was an old chair.
When it broke, it went.
A good use of it

We thought afterwards.
Only when we found
An old photograph

Of the sweet, young chair
As it looked, polished
And unstained once

Upon a gone time
In an all gone house,
Us curled up in it. . .

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why Do Bunnies Like Pink Medicine?

True loves are fatal. Fake loves are fine.
Poetic loves  are finer than hairs
Yanked from the violins of mice.

Oh, love me, love me, love me, love me
Please, my oh so exquisite conceit.
I'm old and in an old tradition.

No one will claim me as radical
Influence on their imitations.
I'm not even agrammatical.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On the Market

Some damned little part of me's concerned
With the fate of the damned little tree
Caged to keep it away from the deer
And fed by drip irrigation

That stopped dripping, I suspect for good,
A few years ago when the owner
Of this particular property
Stopped caring about his orchard

And began confining obsession
To finding renters and harassing
Prospective buyers into buying
Property no prospector would buy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dandelions, Humans, and Spurge

The dynamical equivalent of zero
Has nothing further to guess about worthlessness
That's any more than infinitesimally
Closer to the same clean arc we saw earlier.

There was a lawn that did not belong to the sun,
Dandelions that did not belong to the lawn,
Tranquility all wrong. Humans that did not belong.
Fresh spurge flowered in the neglected flower beds.

The first-order derivative moans invasions.
Second-order, botanical hypocrisy.
Third, the original thin divisions of things.
Beyond that, zero grows so close, the rainbows ring.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Roar of the World

for Galway Kinnell

Point for point, I take your noisome
Hymn to silence, and I crush it,
Drag your dream all the way to hell.

You want to imagine. I want
To remember, wholly reverse
The amputations of your verse.

Bring back the loudspeakers' bad jokes,
The three human beings I knew
Who actually loved Billy Joel:

The frosh Ivy league teenager
From Queens, circa 1980,
The monolingual German saint

And hair stylist who confided
To me, sotto Deutsch, he would cut
My grizzly hair and beard for free

If only I'd explain to him
The meaning of his favorite song
Translated into German rhymes.

I couldn't help him. But I did
Console the Italian woman,
Decades later, for whom the roar

Of the world could only be drowned
In persistent tinnitus
Brought on by Billy Joel concerts.

I laughed at her and was ashamed
And bought her a concert album.
I laugh at you. I am ashamed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Instantaneous Telos

While I was resting, in joy
In a space of time, while
I slept, while I stretched,

I had the ability to forget
What I meant without fear
Of faith, fact, or contradiction.

No one could speak against me
While I remained, prone in prayer
And of no conquest since the Fall.

Here I make a mistake. Here
I pretend to a nobility no
Lord knows. I am not that

In the trees where branches sing
In the storm that has no reason
To be impressed previous

Trees survived worse so these
Which may or may not survive
Could thrive, a human voice

Trained by centuries of mountain
Generations to carry a tune
In a message while a storm

Causes those same breaking trees
To compete for song, yodels
Down to a servant soul, remote:

"You are not allowed
To while away your time,
Because your time belongs to life,

To body, yours or mine, to voice,
To survival, to lust, to mistakes
Wise or foolish. You are mine."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

La Fin du Monde

I found it. I made it. I'm here.
Not at the edge of your map.
Not beyond any stratosphere.

I'm gone. I'm past all that.
I made it. I found it. I'm here
Where there's no horizon

Not even for what you might call
An event. I found it arising
Like the wheel of stars that fall

Through the material guess
That someone less intrepid
And brighter might call dark.

You know you know the rest.
I've given up being vapid, hopeless,
In medias res. I hit it. I hit the mark.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Small

Poem is not
Has nothing

Much to say.
But it's pleased
With itself

All the same,
And laughs at
Your dismay.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Moment that Culture Discovered Itself

The truth is a pretty, tame equation.
Fitness times the change in a trait
Equals a Russian doll of covariance
Nested within covariance, never
Reaching the end that began it.
No? You don't think so? Ok, tell me.
Go for it. Show me your big bad recipe
For saving the rest of us fools,
Saving the planet from itself
Stopping the sun before it explodes,
Putting a god you like, the one god,
Your god in charge of black holes.
Now explain how this all turns out
In favor of your own devout behavior.
I'm sorry. I don't know what I'm whining
About: the little, covarying dolls are turtles,
The little turtles go on down forever
Or until whatever clean, short, sayable
Concept like god or dharma or bang,
Like zero or pi or the beginning of life
We can concoct to say to ourselves, stop, stop, stop,
Whatever knotted symbol we carve on the rocks
And let stand for the mystery at the bottom
Of the well that is deeper than the great chain
Of being, not being, conceiving and forgetting
That we let down into the dark, whatever bucket of rhyme
Serving as imaginary container for the truth that climbs
Out of any such rickety bucket, green-eyed, hungry, time
Come to eat the closure we hoped would rescue
Our compulsive human brain from this algorithm,
The loop we can't ever control once started. Oh god. The end.
Good. Beautiful. Terror. Thank you. Let's worship.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Be Known Only

From the inside. The outside
Is either another
Inside looking out for
Another inside looking out,

Or it is neither, something
Else entirely other
And immune to looking
Even at its own hard stare,

Something complete, never
Nothing like the knowing
Of the inside looking out
From the inside, the nothing

The incomplete, the eyes
That might mean something
Lovable, frightening, scared,
If only they get glimpsed,

Wide behind the narrow
Slats of the visor, the iron mask
The barred hint that someone
Nothing cries out to nothing,

Take my side, see my side,
Believe me, you can know me,
You can know me as I know you
Only from here, from only inside.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Weird

Unpleasant smell of old-fashioned ink
From the New Yorker's weird, old-fashioned
Print version fills my nose as I doze,
Face down on the financial page. Lord

Have mercy  on those of us who dream
That what we read is what we will be.
Snob that I am, I try to avoid
Reading at all assiduously,

As if never committing truly
To any one rag or blog at all
Kept me free of any of their dreams
For marrying one reader at all.

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Shoes Are Dead

"You can't tell who's living and who's dead."

Why doesn't any one claim
To have figured out themselves
Sufficiently to claim truth

As feature of someone else?
I'm a genius. I know all
Plebeians ask politely.

The world, you, me, will end. Peace.
The taxi-driver poet, paid, opines,
"You are doing the right job."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Our Houses

A fool and his house are never parted.
Ok, here we go, gin in hand,
Straight into the art of darkness.
(Heart my eye. There's nothing true
About a pump besides the fact
It pumps. When it's not broken.)
Follow me? I'm almost beyond
Caring anymore if you do.
What happens to the sweet child
In the wheelchair when the others
Grow into their constructed
Cruelty and leave? Write an essay,
Right a wrong. Melange adultere
De tout, you. I was a homely soul
In an unspeakably handsome frame.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Monkey Golf

Play it where
The monkey
Dropped it. Damn,

You're the one
Thought you craved
A challenge.

Play the ball,
Your good walk
Spoiled. Whack. Thwack.

Ball in paws.
Drop on green.
Hole in one

Or two, three,
Four, five. Aren't
You grateful?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Revisiting Gear Store

Buildings have some of the virtues
Of mountains as well as molehills.
A person with a memory

Might stand in front of some brick box
In a suburban parking lot
As in front of a childhood home,

Or a crumbling sacred temple,
Or a cow path up a foothill,
Or a bird-nested sea cliff,

And in any case see nothing
That didn't belong to the mind
Always in exactly this form.

Everything of that past person
Except lingering memory
Might have already gone away,

But the building, dull as it is,
Pulls the dream of being aware,
Alive, here, back into the light.

When buildings and memories go,
The person left waving so long
Stands awake in a dreamless sleep.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sun Wing

The psychiatrist hypnotist aviator
Has a plan to fly around the world on one wing,

A feathery thing, wide as a warehouse but frail
As a taut sheet of rice paper, a sort of kite

That catches the sun as well as the wind and serves,
At least for him, third-generation explorer

Of inhospitable realms in extravagant
Devices, as a metaphysical conceit:

Life is a kind of flying in a delicate
Creation requiring constant readjustment,

Patience, exhaustion, daring, the ability
"To drop your certitudes, your common assumptions,

Your convictions sometimes, to be more flexible
To adapt to the unknown." Fair enough, although,

However exquisitely beautiful the plane,
However unprecedented the flight it makes,

However intrigued and even in awe we are
Of the realization of such a strange dream,

Do we really need fine wings to be hypnotized
By pieties of survival under this sun?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Last Word

Last this, last that, last
The other thing. When is the last
Time I, in this truck, will drive
Down this road? When is
The last time I will drive down
A road in this truck? When
Is the last time I will drive?
When is the last time?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gossip the Teller

The world has one good story.
We are the world's good story.
Good stories are what we crave.
Good stories are what we do.
God, we hate the lyric world.
How we like to blame ourselves
For being too much like it,

For betraying stories, or
For giving us what we want.
I knew an academic
Forged her data to pay bills,
A plumber who made air blue
With elaborate cursing
Narratives. Who have you known?

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Man Can Do That

A young academic with early onset
Something similar to dementia
Who actually hated academe

And played it for all he was worth
Began to contemplate the end
Of play that way, that day.

He piled a stack of magazines
And compiled a list of web links,
And he began to read and read.

He knew by the end of the week.
He was exhausted. He had watched
Middlebrow trade fire with highbrow,

A thousand rounds over his head.
He was the lonely gunman now.
He remembered nothing they'd said.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Now that the dog's dead, it's better,
Nicer to fight with the landlord.
It would be better still to be

God, if only so that there was
A dossier worthy of trust
To look at whenever the truth

About someone, say, a landlord,
Appeared in doubt. Then, you could check
And see who was worse, him or me,

And punish or forgive the worse
One of you two, accordingly.
No. I've got to get out of here.

I need to compose a goddamn
Poem, a goddamn good poem, maybe
A gosh-darn, golly-gee long poem,

One of those epics chock full of
Cockamamie shenanigans,
Malarkey, macaronic rhymes,

Allusions to fratres minor,
Moronic messages, battles,
Catalogues extensive and dense

As the 1976
Sears and Roebuck doorstop model
I pawed through in adolescence,

Searching out bras, watches, chess sets,
Swiss-Army knives, obsolescence.
Yes, I knew the latter was there,

Yes, prescient in my little self
Among crowded rags and home shops
Where all the obsolescence starts.

My aggrieved and aggravated
Conglomerate, egoic self,
Grandiose bric-a-brac shelved

For a few days, hours, or minutes
(Or, if we mean to be honest
In this most dishonest art form,

A few moments barely noticed)
Seeks redress now, to lawyer up,
Sue the future, sue the ages,

Sue God or goddamn poetry
Or goddamn landlords. Maybe own.
Lease or lien. You must pay the rent.

You must pay the rent. But I can't
Pay the rent. I can't pay the rent.
Then I'll pay the rent! My hero.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Luna Moth

Flying through the park one evening,
The weary, wary moth of May
Settled near the scholar's lantern
Took a hesitant step and said,

"It's not that I am unafraid.
I have some fuzzy commonsense
And I can feel flames might be bad.
I'm dim and dull. In my defense

However, I don't live for sun,
And my antennas have been tuned,
Inexactly, over eons
By desperate love of the moon.

I'm not at all fond of candles.
Those infernal things frighten me.
I want to be brighter. I can't
Surrender drab consistency.

But, unlike you, I only make
My moon-hungry, colorless flights
Toward the hot-headed mistake
Once." The scholar nodded. "Or twice."