Saturday, August 31, 2013

Select Your Avatar

Can you solve this puzzle? Try again!
Can you build this train? Good job! Awesome!
Put the toy back together. Uh oh!

You're superior! Pick a sticker.
Can you tell what time it is? Correct.
Put the dirty clothes in the basket.

Touch your surprise egg.  Pick a letter!
Learn to imagine all your choices
Real, risky, and limited. The same!

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Tube of Toothpaste and a Tuba

"To enter upon such a description is like trying to capture the uncapturable. Its only purpose can be to flatter the vanity of the describer."

We were camped in the heat in the wash.
I was taking our daughter to pee
When a woman appeared in the trees,

Tall, thin, freckled, wearing pink glasses
And white slacks, feet vanishing in sand.
She asked if I was part of the band

And pointed to a car in the scrub
Behind us, bottomed out on bald tires,
A tuba tied to the top by wires,

Gray, overloaded with guitars, drums,
One tube of toothpaste, no empty seats
Save for the gone driver's. A slight breeze,

Fluffed the woman's sweat-drenched hair. I said,
No, there's no band. That car's just stuck there.
Her head dropped with despair like a tree's.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Picture I Wish I Had

Is of Sukha near sunset
Off the Kolob Terrace Road
Hunkered down the sandy slope
Among the ants and lizards
Above the purely purling
Creek where we camped for Lord knows
How long, trying to breathe free.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Life of a Flotilla of Ducks

There's never no wave. The trough
Is a part of the preceding,
Receding crest and also
Part of the gathering rush.
The wave hits and it passes.
Afterwards, they say, just ducks.
No after, just between us.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beer and Bananas

The serious subjects that shift lives
Have a habit of seeming silly.
Take beer or bananas, for instance.

Suds and slippers for comedians,
Billions of lives removed or added
To indifferent Earth as a result,

Nobody takes them seriously.
The silly subjects that mean nothing,
(Apocalypse, Truth) seem serious.

Monday, August 26, 2013


I assembled this pattern
Of letters in pre-fab words
And learned English conventions,
The same old boring language,
The world was changing within
And without me for a space
Of time. The dictionary

Confirms that use of the phrase,
"A space of time": Old English,
Old Frisian, Gothic for "while."
Go back further and find "rest"
Was an earlier sense of the word,
While I resist both senses.
No rest left, no space in time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Text as Message

Sometimes I just feel better when
I write dumb things down that won't fly
With anyone, not even me.
The world's enough to make me cry,

Read that however you damn please.
The hours that crumble in my bones
That crumble under me insist
There's more to names than sticks and stones,

But they're wrong. There's no more to names
Than scaffolding for commonsense,
Nothing that pain resists or stains,
Nothing that wasn't, even then.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Quiet Evening at Home

"Put your acorn in the right spot or you will get in trouble." ~ Sukha
"It's hard to know when you don't know." ~ Sarah

Ah, family. Board games, bored games,
Gossip, family dynamics.
Whom do we know, naming no names,
Whose love life's too slow, too manic?

Who might break up? Whose move is it?
Who will disappear in the fog
Of dementia, death? Who to visit?
Who adopted man, child, cat, dog,

Or bought a house they can't afford?
Who just sent me back ten spaces?
Where's my piece gone to on this board?
Here I am. Here's where my place is.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Outer Inner Echo Chamber

The cathedral couldn't give up the ghost
Of the choristers' last note, floating
Around and making sweet moan.

The cave continued the keening complaint
Of the huddled witnesses, as the painter
Finished one last torchlit sketch of the fearsome mane.

The fire followed the runners down
The hills the drought had browned,
A roar their inner ears forever carried around.

It still goes around and around, without
Ever really escaping. The louder the shout,
The longer it will linger before the word gets out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Poem Topics

On, the top five
Searched poem topics are,
In this order: "Rape-Funny-

Perhaps some of those topics
Could be combined into the world's
Most searchable poem. How about
A poem about chocolate as

Inspiration for rape and suicide?
Funny lines about all four?
If these are readers' favorite topics,
My god, who are we writing for?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

After the Shrieking Comes the Silence

"That's actually a funny line," a friend
Told me when I said it as a promise
That a toddler would soon be off to sleep
And done with stumbling over his guitars,
Demanding he only play the big one,
Not the ukulele! "It could apply,"
He added, "to the whole deal of our lives,
Everything summed up in miniature."
We both laughed. He cleared away some dishes.
The toddler jumped off the couch. Our partners
Took her outside, into a green evening
Lit by paper lanterns and fairy lights
And eased by a light breeze off of the lake.
"You sure have a mordant sense of humor,"
He said, as we left. I wrote the line down.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nov. 4, 1977 Happy Birthday Linda, Love Mary

The book that Mary inscribed
For Linda is hardcover,
The 1971,
Third Edition of Modern
Short Stories
, edited by
Arthur Mizener, revised
From the 1962

First edition to contain
A few more Black and female
Authors, one sign of those times,
Published by Norton and aimed
Of course at textbook markets.
Questions appear at the back,
With Mizener's bona fides.

This particular copy
Hints at more personal use,
Given as a birthday gift
Six years after its printing,
Used but in good condition,
As now, a generation
Later, largely undamaged,
Taped dust jacket still on it,

As Sarah bought it, I think
At a used bookstore somewhere
Between Utah and BC,
For us to read this summer.
We've sampled items. We share
A fondness for worn copies
Of minor anthologies,

Obsolescent selections
Of out-of-fashion writers,
Writers wholly forgotten,
And still-stamping war horses
People pretend to know well.
They make good late-night reading,
Conversations, collage, dreams

And household objects we keep
Or travel with for a while,
Until we've donated them
Or they've fallen to pieces.
Last month, when I felt poorly
One afternoon, Sarah left
This one on the porch for me

To browse between fitful naps.
I didn't read much, just two
Or one-and-a-half stories.
Mainly I looked at the thing,
That inscription, trying hard
Not to feel too nostalgic
And sad as well as sickly

Near the end of vacation
In the green and pretty world.
Bees buzzed. Breezes stirred porch chimes.
'62. '71.
'77. All years
I was a living child. Who
Was Linda then to Mary?

The same questions always asked
About the anonymous
And semi-anonymous
Inscriptions that sediment
Like lost feathers, bits of moss,
And shed skins at the bottom
Of the small pond of a life.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Novelists Infuriate

Novelists infuriate family and friends,
Not to say colleagues and students
And superiors as well, all spied upon,

By revealing homely details of them
And their conversations that they now wish
They'd kept to themselves. Poets,

On the other hand, infuriate by parading
Details of their own selves that family and friends,
Not to say colleagues and students

And superiors as well, all wish
They'd never, ever had to read.
It's a sin, but at least I'm not a novelist.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Cat's Paw Remastered

Pink! Pink and baby blue splotches
Specked with white spots of stars. Why
Does that surprise me? Why not

Pink and blue with white polka dots?
Whatever disposed the night sky
Doesn't bow to the aesthetic crotchets

Of a primate raised on greens,
Loving fine, wide sheets of blue,
Billowing, pillowy whites and pale greys,

The long vistas of those savannah days
When lions slept. Preferences accrue
Over generations, which means

The patches of stars, finely
Or tastelessly arranged,
Occasionally helpful, but always

Inedible, tangential, fall away
Continuously, beyond the range
Of our beautiful hunger for beauty, divinely.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Done with Should, Revisited

I wish.
Every person who tells me something
Flattering or snooty about my poetry
Production rate forgets
That terms like "chiseled,"
And "laborious,"
And "adamantine,"
When applied to verse or, worse,
To poetry in toto, are totally
Metaphorical after all.

The hardest sentiment
To ne'er so well express
Is soft wet sand contrasted
To the difficulty of living
The principle of the thing.
Another metaphor, yes,
That's easy. I should
Not indulge myself anymore
With easy metaphors. I should,
If I could, be done with should.
I wish.

Friday, August 16, 2013

11:11 PM The Middle Distance

If, and I'm only saying if, we could
Delight always in the unexpected,

Even the slightest or the traumatic,
Life would have so much charm,

Because every damn day twists
Some way unexpectedly,

Usually before a body can fully wake:
That strange, howling dog in small hours,

The toddler's nightmare and demand
To share a bed with her parents,

The way the coffee tastes, the way
The weather forecast turned out wrong,

The thing you were sure would work,
The thing you were sure wouldn't,

The injury that turned things upside down,
The chance meeting that averted a crisis--

Most often, the places you pass through
Or activities you do that aren't so strange,

Just not what you would have guessed,
And then of course, that one twist, death.

You don't know what you'll be doing
By 9am tomorrow morning, no,

Not even if everything goes
According to schedule, rare enough.

Look up at the little bend in the long rise
This moment as you read and, maybe,

Think of some old poet ascending
To heaven by the staircase of surprise.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bigger Works Harder than Smaller to Be Simpler

For Diana Hartog

Ask me to stop being
Complicated. I'll stop.
I'll stop dead in a pinch.
My heart leaps. There! The fluke
Of a blue whale's quick tail,
So disproportionate

To all my shrunken limbs
In the context of boats.
My heart, my heart, swollen
Too many dimensions
For geometers' lines
To topologize them,

Beats me to death for this
Whooshing complicity
With shape-shifting oceans,
The disheveled, fish-eyed
Depths I shouldn't explore
With nothing more lungs

To bring the oxygen
To its great pump of blood
To fuel the rest of me,
Restlessly, without rest,
Even where no air comes in,
Even in the darkness.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fridges and Cars in the Desert

Some people don't like sweeping
And vacuuming, you say, but
I only have a problem
With fridges and cars.  Fridges
Smell so bad, you add--I hate
Having to clean them. I hate
Having anything to clean,

I respond, knowing the truth
Is that, occasionally,
I like washing up dishes,
Often like small tidying,
But abhor dusting and fear
The bigger jobs I can't do.
Who likes cleaning endlessly?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Parents Never Lied

My parents never lied
About petty things: how many cookies
Were left in the box, how many hours
Until we got to Grandma's house.
When they promised a treat,
That was the treat we got.

But my mother hid her emotions
Like a cat, and could bury
A dark secret like a dog buries a bone,
Like a dog contented with knowing
The bone is buried somewhere,
Long after forgetting just where.

And my father, emotive and sensitive
And comically irascible when he tried
To be patriarchal, as he supposed he should be
Because it was the role normal men played,
Was not normal, neither of body nor brain,
And built a little kingdom of privacy
Around his actual longings, which
Were not of the sort safe to express.
Whenever my mother discovered
A piece of this mess, she buried it.

They're both beyond buried now.
I imagine they took a few more
Secrets with them into the crematorium.
The children, long grown, have scattered,
Struggled, died, succeeded,
Or raised families of their own. I try
To keep my promises to my daughter,
To not elide, hide, or lie.
I have faith that consistency and trust
When given in childhood, when unbroken,
Make for better grown-up lives.
But I still consider my parents,
Grandparents, siblings, genetic
Nieces, adoptive nephews. Who
Did well or not. Who knows what lies
We have accumulated altogether,
Generations at a time, which
Were foolish, hurtful, scary, or wise?
Who knows what could possibly be better,
The effort to be honest about every
Little thing, the effort to be big
But true, the effort to survive
The inevitable surprise?

Monday, August 12, 2013

We'll Keep It Just For Us, and the Bees

Even the flies can have a little bit,
Sukha says to me about some yogurt,
A fleck of which has been left on a plate.
It's sunset, some time ago, and too late
For bees, kids, poets who feel belated,
Not that that fact has put any of us
To bed. We stay out instead until ten.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Sukha counts the bees and hours. I lean out
Over a railing, absentmindedly.

My old nemesis, gravity, lures me
Down below with the soft green promises
Of tamed high-country meadows at twilight.
I'm not buying. Not yet, not quite. Bugs bite,
To remind me of the hazards of life.
I half distract myself from temptation
By considering etymology.
Supposedly, graves came from verbs "to scratch"
While the weightier gravitas derived
From its earlier self, itself alone.

Good old Proto Indo-European,
Mythos of my myth-resisting old age.
No one's as old as in middle age,
The last medieval, the last in between
Of all the ages from cradle to grave,
The last transition that isn't to bed
Or sometimes is. I scratch my heavy head.
Sukha draws a scrawling of a beehive
To convince the last of the honeybees
Awake away. Long ago, as I said.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Some Days

Some days, Satan said, I just want to tell
Someone that I had no desire to rule
In heaven or in hell.  I never thought
That I was beautiful among angels.

I knew that I was a bit of a troll.
I never thought anyone would follow
Me down. I never thought a single soul
Would follow a thing so small as it fell.

I knew that falling was a novelty
Among spirits immune to gravity.
Condensation alone made me the first,
Earned me the phrase, "Son of the Morning Star."

Train your telescopes far enough behind
The spinning backside of your collection
Of endlessly tumbling spheres. You may see
A smudge gathering strength for that first swoon.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Other Thing That Is Neggh Forlorn Also

Maybe, if I could just sum up,
I could just move on. Here is no now.
There was no then. In the dullest,
Stillest moment, the only constancy
Is the change, the ever-going
Change. Nothing exists and abides.
I don't understand it. I don't, I can't,
And I never will. I'm a dog
Contemplating the moon. It's not
Romance. It's not romantic, when
All I can offer are long forlorn howls.

Friday, August 9, 2013

We're Never Casual, Please. We're Humans.

One afternoon this passing summer
I stumbled across a lawn full of party
Guests under blue skies, and mistaking
The colorful, casual attire and bright balloons
For a birthday celebration, I inquired
As to the occasion and was corrected.

"It's a wedding. The bride and groom
Are big believers in informality."
So I was informed. But I noticed,
As I left that green zone in my swim trunks,
With wading shoes and crutches for accessories,
That the strolling, departing wedding guests,

Male and female, were carefully dressed.
The young men who wore baggy shorts,
Showed tanned, bulging bicyclist calves,
And the young women in sundresses
Were cinched in at the waist, form-fitting
Only if or at the shapely busts and hips.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fool's Epigram

Us folks forget, in all the time that we waste
Trying to impress each other, that feeling
Superior's more to one another's taste,
And the inferior sorts intoxicate.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Im Munich Ist Ein Hofbrau Supermarket

And silliness,
Twin jesters of
Our existence,

Are like frothed beer,
They don't smell well
Against the walls,
Or on bookshelves,

But they do sit
Well in the guts,
Sometimes, of those
Who consumed them

And are giddy
For a glimpsed bit
Of Galilee,
Freely foaming.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


"It is the kind of object you get lost in, and such wandering has a way of yielding unexpected discoveries and connections, as any number of chivalric knights discovered."

The long procession shimmers
In a haze of contexts, far
And near from your perspective
Where you watch it ignore you,
Unaware of you, even
As it drums drums, blares its horns,
And performs its gymnastics

To attract your attention,
In hopes of enticing you
To inspect it more closely,
The whole elaboration
Of borrowed junk and fine parts,
To get lost as it unwinds
And opens coils around you.

Topological inverse
Of the known Ouroboros
(Suffocating constrictor!),
This serpent that parts the leaves
And draws in by opening
The view, knocking down the fruit
Worth chewing, hard to digest.

You pick up that fruit because
The jugglers and the jongleurs
In that long snake they parade
Are tossing fruit and candy
And baubles mixed together.
The truth is in there somewhere,
As Eve found by accident,

But it's not really the point,
Is it? Not even the prize
You're really hoping to catch.
Who wants to know what God knows?
Omniscience! What a burden
That would be: every damned thing
Locked into place forever.

You want mischief, diversion,
Entertainment without end,
And the long, dusty parade,
Indeterminate, wearied,
But still full of surprises,
Encourages you to keep
Paying attention, begs you,
With its antics, keep reading....

Monday, August 5, 2013


Sweet, suave, hedonistic pleasure,
Appealing to the senses,
Changing little through the ages,
Meaning quiet and leisure,

Freedom from aches and visitors,
If you ask me. A soft hour
Of uselessness, for stories dour
But romantic in plot twists

And denouements for underdogs
To read of alone and laugh,
Parodic selves as epitaphs,
Wanderers' wondering thoughts

As they traverse gothic forests
Unsuitable for real lives
But out there, far out past the mind
That does its chores. Sweetness rests.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Resistance

"If you are reading this, you are the resistance." -Aleksei A. Navalny, texting at the moment of his sentencing

My treasured friend, the artist
And costumier, midway through
Her eighth decade spent in two

Cultures, two languages, two
Halving-the-world traditions,
In neither of which she was

Wholly native, both of which
Claimed vast empires at her birth
That fought each other to death

As part of a global war
When she was a child stranded
Under bombs on the losing

Empire's side, having been born
On the winning empire's side,
Family left on both sides,

Said to me, not long ago,
That her acupuncturist,
Diagnosed as terminal

With cancer and determined,
As my friend put it, "to play"
With whatever time she had,

Had gotten "a little bit
Crazy" in their last session,
Reasoning out loud with my friend's

Aching hip, talking to it
Like a recalcitrant child,
Finally telling it, "Fine!

I'll leave you alone!" My friend
Turned on the table to ask
The woman just what she meant

By getting upset at her,
And was told, "It's just your leg
Has got so much resistance

I'm going to have to leave it
Alone." And then she left town,
To spend her remaining time

In this world with her cancer,
Camping with dog and partner,
Somewhere way up in the woods.

The anecdote was well told
With a wry smile, a chuckle,
And eyes wide with that true smile

That implicitly says yes,
There may be something to this
Nonsense, you know, resistance

Is something that is out there,
Even when it's coming out
In some invisible way,

Some crazy way out from you
That no one can verify.
Resistance demands respect.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


It thins again. I know
What this means. A chaos
Of dark swans beats their wings:

This is the white, falling,
Passage of passages,
Drenched in unexpected

Rains that roll into fogs,
Storms of pure blue skies
And scorching surprises.

Take it all in. You can.
I know you can. You have.
This is it when it's thin.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sometimes, Dark at Night

Sometimes, dark at night,
When I hear my heart beat
In my ear, it sounds like your footsteps
Down the narrow hall of Shelly's
Trailer home in the Kootenay forest
In the wee, warm hours of June and July
When the late-night runs of wood chip trucks
Down the winding, wooded highway
Rumbled by. That hollow hall,
That holy passage of convenience in the mountains,
Thin wood over empty crawl space over slug-dotted lawn,
Could make the small tread, our toddler's pitter-patter
Thump around like tympani detuned
After a long orchestral vacation.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Process Fractionalization

Mosquito hour. The hunger
That doesn't share its torment
With consumer and consumed
Can't be called hunger at all.
Bless this pest. She's all that keeps
Drowsy me alert tonight
When I most need my wits kept.

Sleep waits to take us apart.
No, not that sleep. That's hunger,
Death is. Ordinary sleep
Is the process that divides
Awareness into pieces
And removes them, as does drink,
Bits at a time from the mind.

I said something to someone
Last night. I forget until
A mosquito reminds me.
I might say something tonight
Except for a well-timed slap.
Oh, no bees have ever buzzed
As loud as starved mosquitoes.

Bless them, but they won't succeed.
The ones I don't kill myself
Will drink their fill, die somewhere
Else as I collapse to sleep
By stages, losing ego,
Senses, hunger last of all,
And God slaps away at dreams.