Sunday, June 30, 2013

Every Revolution Spins a Wheel

Radical is as proverb does.
There's no lining up the armies
Of the night in neat, shining rows.

The truth is routed by alarms
And rumors of patterned events.
Look up. Every light sprawls about

Burning at ease. Commanders' tents,
Unfurled clouds of glowing gas doubts,
Are scattered so haphazardly

No crumb-telescope-wielding ant
Could perceive, even hazily,
An original battle plan.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Still Life with Mussels and Shrimps

A Van Gogh reproduction
On a bathroom wall cheers me
For ridiculous reasons.
Something in me is relieved
To be reminded failure
Is an ordinary part
Of extraordinary art.

I am immersed in failure,
Like a fish in water, or,
More appositely, a whale.
I take my meals in its depths
And surface only for words.
I've been a long time drowning.
Bone worms and scrimshaw seek me.

Friday, June 28, 2013

This Is New

"The scroll is made of soft sheep leather, measures 39 yards by 25 inches, and is about 800 years old — which makes it the oldest complete Torah in the world...."

News. Item:
The oldest
Scroll ever

Found complete,
At least since
We've kept score,

Under heaps
Of mistakes,

Within the files
Of mislabeled
Purities piled
In libraries

Ancient and rare,
Like that of the
Learned scholars
Of Bologna,

Has been dated
With precision,
To the decades
Before the height

Of gothic love
For misery,
For suffering,
Twelfth century,

Whatever that means
To the Christians and
Jews. I'm here to write
That meaning is not

Everything. God,
It's not anything.
It's what the readers
Of poetry, God
Bless them forever,

Say it means to them.
I only count breaths
Necessary to
Of truths others wrote.

It's June. Vancouver,
Dourest city, shines
In the borrowed light
Of midsummer nights'
Dreaming. I'm so done

I'm barbecued. I'm
The last professor
In the business men's
Cafe.  Here we go,
Into the woods, now
And forever--gone.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Camper of the Week

New Life Island, 1973.
I've memorized far more Bible verses
Than any other born-again camper.
I'm ten years old, ready for my reward.

The Delaware River parts around me.
On dress-up night, some demon possesses
Me to compliment a girl with Q-tips
In her hair as part of a weird costume

Unfathomable to me by saying
I like how she wears "tampons" in her hair.
I know it is wrong but I don't quite know
How wrong or why.  She grimaces. Given

The prize for camper of the week despite
My faux pas, I, who know more than a boy
Should know about the dictates of Bronze Age
Deities attended by young shepherds,

Get ready to go home to New Jersey.
Some New Jersey awaits every camper
And every shepherd, this world or the next.
Why do I know this, who knows so little?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Truth to tell, I like the smell
Of a smoky campfire. So long
As I'm not soaked or snowed on,

I'll take the stink of woodsmoke
Over the bites of bugs and cleanliness.
I never wanted to be next

To godliness, thanks. The crab
We bought at the pier alive
Boils with applied life in death.

We're going to eat the damned thing,
Even though we don't how
To safely, properly cook it.

Just keep it boiling long enough,
Until every shell's red as fire,
Until the edible corpse floats,

And you might survive your instinct
To tear apart some plant or beast,
Some combination, to survive yourself.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sonnet for the Stranger Who Saved My Little Career

We're the last of the middle class
North Americans, in hock
Up to our eyeballs, seeking
Yet another mortgage, yet

Another loan, so that the people
Squatting leech-like on the veins
Of depleted capital love us,
Count us among the reliable

Worth lending more disaster
To. From here they don't appear
So awesomely terrifying.
Bank clerks. Ha! What banker

Ever wrote a proper poem? Oh,
Right, the man in the four-piece suit.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fire Poop

"The literal, physical fragmentariness of these objects..."

Is just smoke.
Tree poop is air.
Yeast poop is booze.
Are we getting anywhere?

Bug poops are specks
Bacteria love. Bacteria
Poop something pure
And invisible as God above.

Poets poop words. Natural
Historians poop facts.
There's no unsaying.
There's no going back.

The second law follows
From the last as the first.
What to one thing was useless
To another is better. And worse.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When We Left

How many quarrels, scary hurdles
Have we drawn and quartered, five years on?
When we left that one time, we had friends

As different from our friends these days as we
Have become different from our former selves
And just as exactly the same. No shame

In doing what the world does just as it does
Everywhere continually and at once.
We become more languid as we unwind words

From the spool of ever-gathering thread.
We become more and more entirely us
As we were not when we were what we've lost.

We're aging. We've grown strange. Just five years
Since we left for here, back, here, back, here. . . .

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I can imagine a reasonable
Interlocutor agreeing with me.
I position this

                              Short poem at the end
Of a quire because it subtly echoes
The preceding text, but also because
Here it was, at hand,

                                 Fitting the space.
Either interpretation works for me.
Any interpretation works for me.

Feel free to read these

                              Lines as all betweens.

I am forever beside a campfire
Under the water, under the given,
Burning whatever

                         Drifts down to my world.
Time's my manuscript

                                   My compilation.
Mine are grizzly words

                                  Heaped up together
Below the levels of vision, of fact.
I am the monster solely to myself.

I am the being of what I consume
And the breathable

                                 Magic of islands
Covered by rising

                               Tides of forgiveness.
Laugh at my solemn, lugubrious tone
As much as you like.

           Beached waves bring my growl.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bless this Underworld Mess

"Take me back, oh take me back
To the long grass and the shadows."

Elk Falls viewing platform.
"Erected by the Young Men's
Forestry Training Plan 1936."
Mist rises through old growth,
And a steady roar reverberates.
The end of all our exploring
Is to know nothing. I forget.

Somewhere, a town named
Gold River remains unvisited.
Other towns, better known, too.
You can't make this stuff up.
You can't even get it down.
The scent on the air haunts you.
You've been somewhere here before.

I've been thinking about noises,
Noises and sounds. There are
Sounds that comfort the ear
With the steadying rhythms poets
Long for as they long for drink,
Sleep and rhyme. There are noises
Only the profound can drown.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Quadra Island in Retrospect

"You wait too long, you never know, eh?"

Stuck again in chagrin,
We negotiate now, too late,
For a place to replace

Longing with strong liquor--
Fantasy, memory, hunger,
Tall, dark-needled cedars

By the water. Daughter
In the back seat, compressing flat
Fruit strips in her fingers,

Talks to a thrush, enthralled
That she can see what she can hear, here.
"Hello. Oh! He helloed!

I like the way he sings.
We like the way you play!
Papa, let's stay today."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Are the Ballerinas Clean?"

The gardens are full of tourists
Full of imaginary gardens
Roughly corresponding
To each other. Butchart,
I mean. You and me,

Baby Sequoia, a tourist
Attraction at tourist attractions,
Not much baby anymore,
An imaginary soul of her own
Now, posing for pictures

In her stroller and sun hat.
Me and you. It could have been
A million years ago in Moab
By now. It could have been
A book or a lifetime. But,

It's a lifeline, a baby, a circle
We've traced differently
But similarly enough, enough
Times it rhymes. Sequoia leans
Forward to ask us a question.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bunny and the Wand

What can you do? The perfection
Of June afternoon reflection,
The choke-collared dog in the sun,

The girl with her hair in a bun,
The baby asleep in her seat,
The office workers gossiping,

Never were. The geese, their goslings,
The mother napping on the beach
The understanding, out of reach,

That up next could be anything,
Another of the many things
That itemizing can't caress,

A proverb in butterfly dress,
Popcorn and a movie, the hope
Beyond hope, beyond hope. You dope.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Victoria Saibara

A good day for a kind poem
From the gentler under-soul
Of the easily exhausted world.

Do you recall the day you had tea
In Oak Bay, green tea
After a tired morning, listening

To seigaku, accepting mercy
When your family took pity
And walked through the shops

While you sat, heavy and weary
In the tea shop, barely noticing
The details of the swirl?

Is there anything more lovely
And haunting than a voice
Singing in an unknown tongue?

That's all. The moments
Are traditionalists
From the most alien culture

Of the actual world. You may
Feel their gorgeous distance
Through the smallest rooms inside you.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Correction and Guidance

People don't care whether
They can reach you. They care
Whether they can hurt you.
If not, they'll find you too
Remote and strike harder.
No one likes a captive
Audience immune
To correction and guidance.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This Is the Place You Might Be Able to Get Out At

Every link is scary.
Every rope is taught.
The smoothest moment bears
The burden of the knot.

The boat, if you make it,
Rides high in the water.
The clock, if you break it,
Can't not stop forever.

There's the panic, the sun.
There's the calm, the scramble.
There's the deck race you run.
There's the temptor's gamble.

The word for arriving
Is one, pure metaphor.
There's floating, surviving.
There's no actual shore.

Friday, June 14, 2013

All in the Same Boat

Over and over and over and over
Again, you tell yourself, as others
Tell you, as you tell others, this is
The world. Get used to it. You are
Sinking soon. But the telling is not
Any better than a band aid in a storm,
And it flies off into the wet and the wind,
And there you are, clinging to the spar,
Still determined to stay in the boat.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Sum

This is it. You're looking at it.
Whatever it is, the world,
The tide chunking into the mouth
Of the minor bay, the tourists
And locals huddled here and there
To try to catch a memory,
A sunset to brag about, a buzz,
A belief in being an important part
Of what belongs right here,
What really belongs, what is
Good, what is this, what is.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


“I have no idea what it means or why it’s this or why that way. Words are ambiguous, and dance is more ambiguous than words.” -Yasuko Yokoshi

We all remain defiant to the end.
The little farm girl who was punished
For not pumping water for the dishes
Is the woman in the elder hostel
Who flings her cup of water back.

The daughter of that woman,
Always made to eat Quaker Oats
For breakfast and never
Allowed television, is the mother
Of three daughters raised
On sweetened cereals and unlimited
Viewings of Cinderella videos.

The third husband of three wives
Who were never happy with him
Or his endless puttering at chores
Is the old man who takes an hour
To run an errand around the corner,
Always stopping to chatter with strangers.

The strange serving girl in love
With the nobleman priest
Who rejects her, is the burning
Serpent curled around the bell
In which he hides until he dies,

Defiant to her as she to him,
As child to parent, spouse to spouse,
Young to old, old to young,
Defiant for no known reason
To the end.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Like a Poem

Sukha: "I feel a little bit sick, sad, and sore."
Papa: "'Sick, sad, and sore'? That sounds like a poem."
Sukha: "It looks like one. But it isn't."

It's alright. You can be embarrassed
By what you've done, but understand

That the swirl of everything happening
Around you is part of what you've done.

If you want to surrender a moment
Remember this mantra: only one.

Only one everything. Only one nothing.
Only one breath. Only one everyone.

You get the idea. If you're feeling
Sick, sore or sad, like a poem,

If you just realized you were part
Of some doing that could break your heart,

There's still only one laundromat
Where you and your daughter sat.

There's still only one spider descending
On one thin line. One day descending

All around you as you forget
What that mantra was. Not yet.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Crush the Sweater

The zipper remains an imperfect contraption
However many decades after its invention.
Every day I try to outwit the world.
Every day the world outwits me.
That's the message, that's the part
Of this art form that's enlightening.

The zipper remains an imperfect contraption
However many decades after its invention.
The human obsession with fashioning fastenings
Of like and unlike, holy and unholy things
Is ancient and intrinsic. One of us
Can't get a button holed, another one dies.

The zipper remains an imperfect contraption
However many decades after its invention.
We stitch, thread, weave, velcro, and nail
The bits and pieces of our coverings
And shelters together. We're good,
But we always get caught on one thing,

One infinitely recurring thing, which is
That we want to get out of it as easily
As we got in, while still guaranteeing we remain
Securely within it forever. It breaks.
The zipper remains an imperfect contraption
However many decades after its invention.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Miso Torpedo

The man with the excellent shadow said,
"He's sort of a service dog. I came home half dead

From the hospital, and there he was,
My daughter's dog really, but he saw

I needed his help, so he stayed.
I looked like death. He wasn't afraid.

He took to me. Took me seriously."
The man smiled, half-toothed, half-mysteriously.

"He doesn't really have a name. He answers
To 'Buddy,' but it's an honorific, like Mr."

That was morning. Evening evolved
An eternity later. We tried to revolve

As fast as the sun and failed miserably.
Sunset caught us in confusion and drizzly,

In another, more westerly mountain range,
Horrific Boschean campsite, strange

And loud and much too high
Into the clear-cut sky

Near by a reservoir
Where almost local teens poured

Into swimsuits, pickups, techno,
Booze, ashes, each other, a wreck no

Family man could humbly, sadly understand
Anymore. Dionysius, madness, perfection, ampersand--

The gods of gore and glamor, of all the sorrow,
Are best served by any clamoring tomorrow

Peasantry of pieties, forced rhymes,
Sex, sadness, longing, good times.

The American teenagers, all imported
From continents where apes disported

Among the trees more quietly,
Surprised me.

And what am I? I took my group
Of father, mother, daughter, trooping

Back down the mountains to the nearest
Motel with that, of all signs, dearest

"Vacancy." We checked in. A rainbow
Appeared over head. Pain goes.

Pain comes back again. Miso soup
And a Torpedo IPA on the stoop

Of someone else's dream vocation,
An old motel, means only, again, vacation.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Latest News

Lily begins her soliloquy
As the greasewood blossoms.
The more mobile you can be,
The less gear you can carry

The more time you must use making
Your own kit from whatever's handy,
And, believe it or not, the more
Wasteful you will be. It's true.

Debitage from nomads scatters
Like nothing on the rocks,
But a thin, flaky sheen of it
Covers the landscape. It's true.

Percentage-wise, the lighter
You travel, the more you make
Your own little kit daily, the more
You waste over more time and space.

That ridiculous pyramid? That tower,
Those subdivisions within subdivisions
Viewed like pharaonic necklaces,
Inlaid with turquoise and lapis lazuli

Private backyard swimming pools
Seen from the air, elaborated
Like the endlessly earnest irradiations
Of naked mole rats, ants, and termite queens?

That whole shimmering shake
Of trash they generate and food
And water they take in are mere
Efficiencies, finely tuned. It's true.

Symbionts hunker down among them.
Aphid dogs that have had all the wolf
Bred out of them except the discontent,
And bark. But the greasewood blossoms. It's true.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Guide to Identifying Venomous Events in Utah

The past keeps changing. It's the only thing,
And it's no damned thing at all. Past's the snake
Curled up, slender as a toddler's finger,
Delicate as a Chiluly tendril

In a ball at the bottom of the stairs
Of an unfinished hotel near Zion,
Grey and perfect, ashed twig with a red tip,
Sign that it's time for a fresh Exodus,

Although the staff worker staring at it
Was just trying to figure out a way
To get the damned thing out of there without
Having to test if it was venomous.

A small man leaning on a yucca cane,
Limping by, offered a non-Biblical,
More pagan allegorical option,
Guise of fool meets trickster in wilderness

And trickster offers to help fool escape
From some perilous, absurd dilemma.
He used his cane to nudge the viper,
Who moved like wind-blown water when provoked,

Away from the stairs and out of the door.
The snake, energized to still be alive
Disappeared back into the desert scrub,
Not to be seen again. The end of that.

But the past keeps changing. The next morning,
The trickster overheard the fool boasting
To two young women about the grim snake
And how he used a stick to banish it.

Pay attention. This is where the story
Inevitably departs from story
And loses those readers baying like hounds
After narrative prey they smell as there

Once the fable itself has gone to ground
Leaving nothing behind but fools and hounds.
The trickster never deigns to curse the fools.
He makes no evil riddles of his name.

He does muse a little on the way lies
Are all we are left with once we begin
To want to get closer to the wonder
That everything we believe is a sin,

And the place that is now a finished inn,
Full of guests, children playing at the pool
Today in the open, serrated jaws
That shape the aging maw of wilderness,

Dark trees, bright red-and-white mountains, black sands,
The banded ash of the changeling hiding
Beside the emerald rattler brood in rocks
That will never do anything but fade,

Occupies the once-promising moment
When a small man and a woman made plans
To intertwine lives. The past keeps changing.
There was a story, once. Fire tailed. Ash eyed.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


How totally enough it is to be tough--
Not phony tough, not dangerous,
Not I-want-to-be-your-worst
Mutilatory gangster, fascist, nightmare
Terrorist, revolutionary, cop tough. No.

It's beautiful just to be perfectly,
Indestructibly, indubitably tough.
There's no more boasting, bombing
Threats, or rhetoric necessary, no saber-
Toothed Gatling guns then, men. Just enough.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Zion Pizza and Beers

The desert wants you thirsty,
And the chef wants you hungry.
The looming rain forest wants you gloomy,
And the coast wants you moody and distressed.

But god and the gangster, the thief,
And the fantastist terrorist
Just want you to believe that they're
The real poets, to hell with the rest.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pretty Picture Anyway

There was one poet
Parent to all the rest,
And his name was
Something pretty close

To what the word Narcissus
Might translate through to you
And yours, if translation
Were not poetically impossible.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ghost Rock, Black Dragon, God

Things that don't exist except
As names for things that do
Have demonyms as well

For the inhabitants of such things.
There are the black flies at Ghost,
Tiny, determined, parasitized themselves

To no end, biting your ears and eyes,
Known to some as the Hangarians;
The heavy coughing attacks at Dragon,

Known as the Converserials;
The unmentionables who swarm
The outer precincts of divinity

Known as the Impardomites.
None of these words or phrases
Are simple enough to get the job done,

Common enough to belong to everyone.
Someone with a chip of something-not-a-thing
On the shoulder, maybe just a bit off

The old block, maybe just a pick cold
Shoulder padded with care to turn
And shrug so effortlessly away

The coarse girl and her décolleté could capture
That essential residential pun
Of the we are, there be, the not, the undone.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lost White Men

Not many of them really,
Not considering the long,
Slow shift of population

Replacement that was the west
American genocide.
Other than Custer, who knows

Exactly how many names
Of men on the "winning" side
Came to their violent end,

Their corpses emptied of dreams
Of conquest and future farms
Heavy with blossoms in spring

Belonging to them and theirs
Deservedly for having
Exterminated heathen?

Enough of them lie scattered
About this landscape to be
A part of its tragedy.

In the middle of a burn
That turned a canyon lovely
That had been covered in scrub

Hiding the square white stone fence
Containing ten men's remains,
Eight of them whites and two Utes,

A visitor, for a while,
Until green recovery
Over the next few decades

Hides it all again, can see
From the gold-miners' ruins
At the top of the canyon,

Down the broad sweep of bleached oak
Skeletons green at ankle
To the battlefield gravesite

Of this very last skirmish
Over which people would live
How they could in these mountains,

To the farm cemetery
Filled with the graves of infants
Of the post-miner settlers,

To the contemporary grid
Of empty vacation homes
Irrigated from deep wells

On the valley floor that was
A ranch a while, a campsite,
A blank. Have mercy, my god.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Events, Homes, Spouses

Some people, I expect, grow
Closer to other people, to love
And the love of loved ones, as they begin

To die, to know, to accept
Fully the knowing that they're going
To die. Others I know and know

I will never mention, grow
More remote from the threaded
Human fiction and the squinting

At the beautiful details of Bayeux
Or whatever their loves most resemble--
Unicorns, bedrooms with trees in them,

Delicate forgiveness holding hands--
And closer, closer, closer to this
Plateaued, unscrutinizing, atmospheric