Friday, January 31, 2014

Undertaken As a Means of Investigation

Why not consider China in Utah
On such a misty afternoon
The sheer pillars vanish
Into calligraphy? I am not

Native. Not here, not there,
Not anywhere, and least of all
Where I was born to two natives.
I am misbehaving. I am

A synecdoche for society
And a society of such synecdoches
As would make your hair stand
Up on the back of your alerted neck.

Sukha, queen of this little
Egg of a world in miniature
In a miniature galaxy (yes,
"Miniature" galaxy, as if you hadn't guessed)

Asks me, "What are those? No!
Those! What are those?" She points
Until finally I follow the point
Toward wisps of fallen cloud

Hanging artfully as debutante shawls
Around the shoulders of the cliffs.
"Those are fogs, sweetie.""Frogs?"
"No, 'fogs.' Clouds come down to say 'hello.'"

When I retell this conversation, I mix
Roles, and later excuse myself
In my mind by thinking the cuteness
Was cuter in her mind than mine.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ritual As Regulation

Hsun-tzu had no love for Rousseau.
He was an empiricist moralist of vice.

Back up, Yankee. Keep it simple, stupid.
The rules of the game are clear.

If there are no rules, no game.
If there is no game, no love.

If there is no love, no us.
If there is no us, no rules,

No game, no ritual, no broken rules.
To break the rules, that is vice.

To observe the rules, that is ritual.
To play by the rules is fair.

To be fair is the only thing
That makes us breakably human and afraid.

No, you can't possibly believe that, Superman.
To be fair, we are always afraid.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Such Obvious Structural Anarchy

God send me. God, my
Weapon of choice. Try
To find one better
Than, well, that letter
You could just erase

From the furrowed brow
Of your living clay.
Rabbi, save this day.
The end that we fear,
We fear is near. No,

My children, the end
Waits, and is patient.
Haste, and you will waste
Yourself and your chance
To wait for the dance.

The world won't grow old
Waiting for your youth.
Your youth will grow old
Waiting for the world
To end without you.

I'm wasting my breath.
I have three lines left.
One for you and one
For our daughter. Done?
Leave none, none unsealed.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let It Go

At some, unspecifiable
Something or another, the time
For being overly impressed
With those far distant days and nights

Is done. Their heroes weren't so bright,
Their dictator literature
(Ahem, "wisdom literature")
Was mostly dim or atrocious.

"You should not buy an onager,
It only lasts until day's end,
And don't have sex with your slave girl,
She will chew you up." Oh, culture,

Like the lives it preoccupies
Took some time complexifying,
And the age of bacteria
Will never end for either one.

The simplest concepts must digest
The food of the most capacious
Appetites. Dinosaurs, that crust
Of flattened aeons between stones,

Are gone. The bugs that bothered them
Still bother our onagers' guts.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Why Why

Given we are the inventors,
The dispensers original
Of advice, is our advice
So much goddammed

Bad advice? I write
This query to you, madam,
Or, possibly, sir, from
My desk in my office

In the former grocery store
Butcher shop of a campus
In the desert in the rain.
It's dark. No sun left here.

In the desert, unlike
The Arctic, the sun,
However mighty, nasty hot,
Does not ever burn all night.

So I pull my blinds
And blinders on, mostly
To avoid any reflection
Inward on me. You see.

You may not be amused.
You should not be impressed
With either yourself or me,
But down deep, hard, you know

You see. I, on
The other sense,
Hearing the hammering, flee.
Time to go no home from here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Instructions

"In this text, the wise old Shuruppak . . . counsels his son, Ziusudra. . . . who survived the Deluge."

In those
In those far remote
In those
In those faraway

In those
In those years
The wise one who knew
How to speak

With elaborate repetition
Words lived in the land
Gave instructions

To his son
To his son
Never his daughter
The wise one

My son!
My son!
The instructions
Of an old man

Are specious
You should try
A little
To comply

Don't buy a donkey
That brays
It will split
Your sides

Don't locate a field
On a highway
Don't dig a well
People damage those

Don't build in town
There's always a crowd
Don't vouch for anyone
It makes you responsible

Don't let anyone
Vouch for you
That one will
Despise you

Don't inspect
Anyone's wisdom
The flood will give
Spit back at you

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Burnt Cabins

For some years now, one
Of my adoptive
Brothers, the strangest
Of them or any
Of our strange family

Has lived in a town
Not really a town
At all, a few stores,
A couple churches,
A small post office,

That goes by the strange
Name of "Burnt Cabins,"
Down in southwestern
My brother likes guns

And has tendencies
One associates
With, say, Howard Hughes,
Such as mason jars
Used as chamberpots.

So, when our sister
First told me the name
Of the place he lived,
I mistakenly
Thought of a motel,

One of those
Scruffy, sad places
Old roads abandoned
By highways harbor
As final redoubts

Of the beginning
Of the auto age.
I thought I misheard
Her first word, that's all.
"Wait. Did you say 'burnt'?"

"Yeh," my sister said
In her amazing,
What-the-hell grumble,
Amazing because
Her faith precludes "hell"

As ordinary
Speech, reserving Hell
For brimstone sermons.
"Really?" I replied,
Brilliant as ever.

"Yeh." She sighed, starting
Into the story
For my benefit.
"A long time ago,
Settlers built cabins

Smack in Indian
Territory." "And?"
I prompted, knowing
How she needs prompting,
Heiress of Pilgrim

And all those stony
Centuries trying
To farm New England.
I missed on that gene,

Caught our father's
Verbose frailty,
Not our taciturn
Mother's resistance
To answer past asked.

"And the government
Burned the cabins down."
"The government? Ours?"
"No. Colonial.
They were too afraid."

"Of what?" "Indian
Uprisings, I guess."
Her tone shrugged as well
As her shoulders. "Things
Don't really change much."

I have learned better
Than to too closely
Ask her anything
About government,
God, or our natures.

"There's a plaque there, now,"
She added, startling
Me with that tidbit,
"But no more cabins."

And that was the end
Of that inquiry.
Our brother lives there,
Alone, guns and all,
Burnt Cabins, PA.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Recension 1,099 (Doubt Is a Bad Rhyme)

"Pockmarked by the clutter of brackets
And ellipses," individual
Recall for episodic tchotchkes,
For linguistic kitsch and bric-a-brac,

Includes a lot already expired
(Those foolish rhymes about finity,
Maids, friendships, seasons, divinities)
While leaving out much to be desired:

The valuable antiques of childhood,
The priceless first editions of facts,
Whatever it was the first godhead
Said that actually prized wise and good.

Perhaps because we can't answer back,
Half the con-artist gods of the gaps
Have descended, condescendingly,
To allow how we should be allowed

To make mistakes, so long as we're clear
That the ancient experts, like nature,
Ambiguous by necessity,
Don't have to tell us why life is dear,

Death is both real and illusory,
The fault is (more or less forgiveness
Excepted) ours, faith breeds certainty,
And real, deep doubt breeds calamity.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Well, let's confess arithmetic
Was never the strong suit of bards
Unmoored from finger-tapping counts
And the thread-count of guitars.

Fair enough. Three is twa, twa thee,
Thee my heart's last stop-and-start awe
At life's insane fecundity.

Sae, we were twa, wan? Now we're three,
Thank indeed thy braw, bonny een.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I don't care.

Bossing around
The fresh, damp ground

Is not quite enough
Miraculous stuff

To be worth assigning
Numerate divining.

What's not randomly seven
Hasn't come down from heaven.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Let them go
With something simple,
So they know

Their lives were ample.
Let them go
On count of one,

As if to show
Life's not begun
Until we go.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Patching the Palette

(For my late nephew, Nate)

Still, grey blue morning around
The green gold autumn of a red rock town,

The brown and white ponies, strangely, gone
From their usual feeding place by the fence.

They never were absent from there before,
And they've never been absent since.

Even in black and white frosts, steaming
And stamping, they're reliably, hungrily here.

But then again, no given color came around
That one necessary morning, nothing but plain air

To paint through all that gentleness
Why some days something disappears.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Bog Cutters' Desertion

All the media reported his death.
Said, "The greatest Irish poet since Yeats,"
Noted how beloved and widely read
Around the world he was, all his awards.

But at the close of his acclaimed career,
The most widely quoted words he'd written
Were the last of the first poem he'd printed.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Tablet House

The borrowed, free-rider thing
More like an ecosystem within
The ecosystem of the brain
Is at it again, remonstrating

With the brain to pay attention
To the tiny, sensual details
Of time just passing, as if
The brain was off regaling itself

With any distractions that were not
Of the borrowed ecosystem's
Devising (admittedly, with perhaps
Some complicity among the minions

Of the neural kingdom), first among
The dark webs meant to sense
Sensation and oversate it. Since
Then, the sun sets. Pay attention!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cedars Glad to Mean Nothing Again

No one comes to cut us down.
We grow. No one sets up stelae
In the slopes of rotting stumps.
The time of buildings is done.
Take away quickly has gone,
Taken to the house of dust.
It's all our slow world now, then.

Dressed like birds in feathered coats,
We were always far away.
We survived apocalypse,
First our own and then your own.
Now the wind in our branches
Is the last voice of your ghosts,
And our roots have found your homes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Matter

"Everyone's at a loss for ideas, and they don't have any context to work with." -Matt

Welcome to forever ago. You're new
Here, which means that sometime recently, you

Realized you weren't young anymore. You're old.
You're dispensing advice. The print is cold

On the antiquated lamb-skin parchment,
Calligraphied: name, degree, department.

You're telling someone fifteen years younger
That the trick is to relinquish hunger.

Gratitude's not bad. Gratitude is good.
Worrying is nothing anyone should

Spend gratitude on. Like Eve and Adam,
Garden behind them, whole world before them,

The matter at hand, the life-giving grace
Of the young remains, "where to choose their place."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Library of Doubts

"We're making a balloon party conversation monster"-Sukha

According to David Damrosch,
The first organized collection
(That is, I should add, that we've found)
Of texts ever made in the world

Was built by the Sumerians
Almost five thousand years ago.
"Knowledge is supposed to be power,"
Writes Damrosch, reviewing letters

Among the greatest library
Of Mesopotamian build,
Ashurbanipal's Nineveh,
Bureaucratic monstrosity,

Two thousand years making, "yet it
May only breed uncertainty."
I found William Carlos Williams
On a shelf in a Carnegie

Library built for certainties,
Only to read him celebrate,
In free verse, library burnings.
That bred uncertainty in me,

Growing in me for decades now,
For longer than most kings have reigned
Over their kingdoms, that maybe,
Just maybe, participating

In reading and writing, tablets,
Scrolls, books, screens, and now, cyberspace,
Is itself marriage to madness,
Participation in something

Better burned than excavated,
Better cracked than put together.
Too many quotations piled up
And composting other fragments.

Perhaps, notes Damrosch, we owe much
Of our knowledge to Nineveh,
Despotic Ashurbanipal
And his paranoid ancestors,

"But it is worth reflecting that
We are also indebted to
Nineveh's sudden destruction."
Quick, but it was it complete enough?

Meanwhile my daughter can recite
And recognize her alphabet,
And her figurative language
Grows like the Garden of Eden.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Something Empties

An unusually cold morning
In southwestern Utah brings out
An unhappiness among dogs.

On each corner around the block,
A charming, well-lit coffee shop,
Locally owned and proud of it

Does a brisk business for locals
And the more durable tourists,
Proud of camping in off-season,

But all the pride and joy is lost
On the dogs, whether left in Jeeps
To stay warm, whining through windows

(One shih-tzu wailing mournfully,
One massive Newfie pawing doors),
Or pegged on leashes to stay close

Like the whimpering Beagle
Curled around her silver muzzle
By the door of Deep Creek Coffee.

I sit outside for my own pride
And listen to the dog noises,
The clatter and chatter inside,

The clattering wind in black twigs.
A faint sun alters the dark peaks.
Among caffeinated campers gone out

And blear-eyed cheery locals come
From across the streets to the shops,
I spot one ragged, solitary man,

Shoulders hunched in his dirty coat,
Beard matted, ball-cap stained, head down,
Keeping clear of the louder dogs.

When he reaches the street corner,
However, he pauses, swivels
His head both ways like a school kid,

And when there are no cars at all,
Goes on his solitary way.
Time to get philosophical,

Nearing the end of a cold poem.
Consider how cautious of life
We are as our prospects dwindle.

Consider that we never die.
We die to each other, we die
To our awareness of our selves,

We vanish, as such, gone for good,
But we never were anyway.
Still, we howl like abandoned pets

Abandoned or not, and shiver,
And look both ways and are careful,
Because, as beasts, we want to live,

And, as us, want our beasts to live,
And as collective entities
We want, well, most of us to live.

But dying or going away
Forever and altogether
Aren't the same sort of nothingness.

I used to be almost convinced
That the use of "I" in a poem
Was arrogant and old-fashioned,

But, as you read, now that I'm old,
I'm so arrogant, old-fashioned,
Crotchety, and unrepentant

That these days I'm I half the time.
Still I will grant part of the point.
The ego's eye is a phantom.

Beasts can live full lives without it.
No one beast ever owns their own.
You can take it, love it in bed,

But it will take off during sleep.
It's not real. It's too beautiful.
Still the head swivels, looks both ways,

And social animals gather,
Bringing each I inside the shops.
Outside, whining, something empties.

Monday, January 13, 2014

After All, You Gotta Ask

"Since the passages are poetry, one must ask at this point, where are the pauses and accents that mark the rhythm in such text?"

"Yes. I have come to Zion often. But only since the Millenium."

In those far-off days,
In those far-off nights,
In those far-off years,

The gods were already gods,
The gods were already debating,
The debating already recorded,

The metaphors already distance,
The distances already blurred,
The blurring already conflated

With ghosts and justice,
Those grimacing twin posts of all gates
To every gated community's Netherworld.

Well. We could still keep this simple.
It was before we have a story for it
That this story really happened.

There was a server, named Cassidy,
A good Mormon boy working
Hard for the National Park Service,

Somewhere in the Netherworld
Of Zion Lodge, handing out menus,
Explaining the spirited laws of Utah.

"No spirits without food, sir. Here
We feed our hungry ghosts
Before we risk any livers.

No sir, I'm sorry. Animal sacrifice will not
Be necessary nor suffice. I misspoke.
You have to have salsa and chips with your beer."

At this point, the distinction
Between points, pints, and laws
Gets confusing. "You can eat

A sandwich on this wintry day
That you brought in your backpack,
But that will not pay taxes

Like the purchase of an appetizer,
And therefore I can't serve your beer."
Poor Cassidy, I overheard him

Explaining this to a European.
Poor Cassidy! Two-thirds LDS
But one-third Scandinavian!

Cassidy! If even one of mankind
Burst the trick of rules asunder,
Sending all the One Gods under,

The game, as a game, of being
A beast believing a beast
Can be a player, a game maker,

Goes game over. Now look here,
Cassidy Jacobsen, we can let you
Rule, on condition of surrender,

Forever as king of the shades,
Chief of this Netherworld. Allowances
Can be made. But no beer

For that Frenchman, hairy-armed,
Under-perfumed, fresh from that wild
You got him from, here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sheep May Safely Whatever, Unfazed

Is there anywhere on this whenever
You happen to be as I have to ask
You this question, anywhere wherever

On this sphere that was never the bottom
Of some "prehistoric sea"? Is the past,
Plumbed, always as boring and unfathomed

As the deep that James Cameron shot down
In his one-man submarine, rocket fast,
To go where no one's gone before, a brown,

Crushing desert by the light of his lamps?
Only rarely the real monsters will pass
Up through accidental view, fossils stamped

As splayed, contorted grotesques on the rocks
Raising bluffs in some future Nebraska,
Crushed submarines high above grazing flocks.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lives of Angels, Human Bodies

Welcome to Utah, home
Of the Latter Day Saints.
(No jokes please. We're Mormon.)
Somewhere in Don Quixote,
An offended character,
Caught in a frame in a frame,
Exclaims that saints are people

Who try to live angels' lives
Within their human bodies.
Without being ironic
Or insulting, but honest,
I wonder if we aren't all saints,
All angels and all bodies,
Hybrids struggling to live at all?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ergo, Romance Yearns After Utopia

"As Patricia Parrinder reminds us, romance is the yearning after the unattainable; utopia is the unattainable."

I'm caught. There was a sun, two months ago,
That set so fast outside my window

I thought my racing, jostled heart would fail,
And I begged out of this portable jail

That goes, on my passport, by my full name
But is, after all, all part of the game.

Why wouldn't souls yearn after something pure
And luscious that promises to endure?

Names are souls, aren't they? Why can't names want things?
Every name's a kenning for diamond rings

Or for another slow-changing brilliance.
That sun returned in mortal resilience.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Human Beauty

Here's one thing I remember
From the morning of fourteen November.

An enormous man with a big gut,
A big hat, a big beard, and a big brown mutt

Was lumbering directly down
The sidewalk in the halfway town

Of Hurricane, Utah, where the wind
Blows hard, the sun shines, and it's a sin

Not to believe in real sin of some kind.
The irrigated willows were yellow in mind,

The odd palm trees bothered by the breeze,
But the great man never bent his knees.

The hat never flapped on his head,
And he seemed both redneck and well-bred

As he strode, with his dog and his stick,
In his old overalls, back straight, perfect.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

At Least I Can Try

No more big words, no more tricks,
No more dictionary head-scratchers,
At least not for a little while. I wasn't

Trying to be the cleverest boy, at least
Not all of the time. I do think time
Is all we have and everything we don't

Know. I do think poetry approaches
An eerie fact that nothing, actually,
Causes anything. I do feel confused.

I do want to map the black world
Of dreamless sleep, which is absurd,
Or at least see a true transcript of dreams.

I do adore putting poems together.
I've put them together in the bath,
In my head, in gas station parking lots,

In the wilderness, in bed. I do love
Strange words. I do distrust my self
And the moment and everything

With a narrative in it. But I can try
To compose in topics people might
Like and in a likable way. I can try

To put a few phrases together
That might be kind and embracing,
To savor, to be generous, to be better.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Life

And does death mean sunset as well?
Strauss wants to know before he goes
Straight down to hell. Wait? What?

Who gets dragged down to hell these days
Or back in those Viennese days
When a waltz called could be swift

And the blues themselves, southern, Black,
American, had yet to be
Debated: unique idiom?

Or backward glance toward Uncle Tom
And gratitude surpassing ice
For riparian undergrounds?

The Holland Tunnel from Jersey
(New) to New York (old) opened up
About the time my grandparents

Prosaic, uninclined to rhyme,
Married themselves in Passaic
Then drove their Ford to Niagara.

What should we hold each age of ice,
Fore or aft, responsible for, anymore,
As we warm and suffer and know?

The last question of an honest soul,
However embodied and discombobulated
Is when can I get out on terms something like my own?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Under Another Juniper Tree

"And no clear answers of course
To such an intractable
Problem," says the BBC
After interviewing three

Perfectly reasonable
Sounding people debating
Mutually exclusive
Perspectives on another
Horrific human bloodbath.
Parts of the brain, thoughtlessly,
Wordlessly direct the arm
And hand to complete the act,
Practiced to subconscious art,
Of flicking silent the car

Radio knob. Other parts
Of that brain become enmeshed
In two self-absorbing thoughts.
One knots up the probable
Truth that no particular
Conflict is intractable:
They all dissolve in true time;
In the end, only conflict
Itself is intractable,
Yelling, "I myself am Hell!"
Pump and piston of the heart,
Sad, enduring downward part.

Meanwhile, that topology,
Noodling skein of reasoning,
Has snagged on the tangential
Thought that bulletins may be
The closest non-poetic
Exemplars for gemlike flames
A foolish, gifted mystic,
Who thought fairytales were dreams,
Once identified as pure
Poetry. Here's why. That same
Newscast contained an update
On how many thousand lives,
Human lives, were feared deceased
In an expected but still
Startling, eye-storm, overkill

Disaster, followed by notes
On reports of quite rapid
Evolution on remote,
Grassed islands of páramos,

Plus progress of a rocket
With an Indian robot
On interplanetary
Business to discover life
(On Mars, of course, surprising),
And, actually surprising,

Fresh, digital evidence
Of a species thought to be
Extinct, in the wild, pictured
By remote sensors showing
An example, alive, caught
Browsing in the wild. One ought

Not to be so easily
Surprised by surprise, although,
Perhaps survival's secret
Remains vulnerability,
Which would explain one species'
(Our own, you saw that coming)
Perfecting perpetual
Wonder as a holiness,
Faith in surprise. I digress.

The jumble of these reports
Breaks up, interferes somehow
With the very same impulse
To perceive all happening
As cause-and-effect parade.
Pure poetry abandons
Causation altogether,
Leaving only metaphor
Or metaphorical shells,
Scattered along long beaches
Commingled with other shells,
Such as, say, "the sun rises,"
Or "she gave the breath of life."

"Let us be perfectly clear,"
Politicians like to say
Prefatory to launching
Any particularly
Obfuscatory remarks.
So let us be clear: the pure
Poetry of poetry
Has no causes. Things happen.
More precisely, things have just
Happened, rearranging pasts
In passage. We find the past

Always, here, now, rearranged,
No matter how fast we catch
At it, a weirdness we call
Our present, while our future
Remains a human habit
Of uncovering lost pasts
Of memory rearranged
Ways impossible to fit
To external arrangements
We call strangeness, dementia,

Thanks to prediction or, no,
Our imaginations.
Nothing causes anything,
And poetry is the one
Genre of culture that comes
Armed da cap-a-pe before
The moon that raises its sharp
Scimitar over red rock
(You do know the moon rises,
Unlike the sun that moves us?),
Over the approach to truth,
Confessing that approach true

Or approaching close to truth,
For which weird joust it gets called
Irrelevant, timeless, or
Dying. The news. Poetry.
Paramour of Páramos.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"Story Is Not Going Anywhere"

(With no apologies to Bryce Christensen)

Joseph Epstein claimed that poetry
Was killed by poets not writing
On topics ordinary people like.

I.A. Richards wrote in 1926 that poetry
Depends upon a magical view
Of the universe that science is killing.

Pope would disagree. (Blake agree,
At least judging from angels on trees,
"Single vision & Newton's sleep!" )

But air itself can't empty haunted air.
Keats, poor boy with nose on glass
Of sweet shop window, radioed

As well as Marconi, although not
With the self-correcting algorithms
Shannon could have used to fix

The poor boy's confusion re Cortez.
Oh dear, more murdering to redact.
We've lost the topics people ask.

Topics! Is there any topic story
Can't sell, provided a good cast,
A conflict, a faith in causality?

There's your rub, rich boy, fiction,
Sad upon your merchant-class
Imagined, epic-haunted ramparts.

"I have tried lately to read Shakespeare
And found it so intolerably dull
It nauseated me," wrote Darwin,

Recognizing that he was in peril,
Although mistaking his loss as loss
Of Shakespeare's poetry per se. No,

The toxin for the sixty-seven year old
Scientist Darwin was his sense
That contravened a love of fiction.

Causality remained, still his muse, all
The more, all the same. The truth,
Contra either Darwin or Wallace

With his own "little heresy,"
Still adoring and copying verse,
Has nothing to do with rhyme or line.

(And there I got in danger of defying
God, Darwin, Wallace, Blake, Keats,
Pope, Hamlet, toxins and my own,

Unowned and and mythic younger
Self, never my own.)  Causality alone
Is the story, for the story, by stories

Forever advocated. A lack
Of faith in causality, a last,
Zero-point atheism, is the poem

No one, not Darwin confessing
His murders, not Blake hopping mad
At Newton, not Epstein, sad, can own.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Excerpts from Damrosch

"'The truth is that the combative instinct . . . seems to be as constant, if not quite as active . . . now as in the days when the oldest of the mummies led his armies to victory or defeat.'"

"'The Garden Party,' c. 645 BCE. King Teumman's head hangs from the tree on the left, suspended by a rope through his jaw, while a harpist plays nearby and attendants bring food to the king and queen, who are cooled by a pair of fans as they relax under a grape arbor."

    How to live, how to die, how to fight or flight, how to run-on sentences, certainly. Our bodies have it all right. For starters, nothing about them behaves as if under any delusion of singularity. The gut cultivates its communities, DNA differences be damned. The immune system wages an endless war of intelligence, complete with moles, double-agents, secret police, the works. The heart just works, but even then with the lungs, to feed everyone: home cells, friendly resident aliens, cancerous traitors, omnivorous squatters. Once again, no one thing about any of this living. Just the works.
     We, nonetheless, we co-creators of our much-discussed anthropocene, we know how to ask the absurdist questions of our selves, as if we were selves: "What is the value of one life?" Do we know it's not either one or a life, we're asking about?
     What we fear the most is more like amputation, our heads swinging from trees, suspended by stout, triple-threaded ropes through our jaws. What we fear is the fleeing of the circulating self from circulation, the flight of the miraculous awareness from the body that momentarily housed it, or
     What we fear is more like starvation by loss of habitat, no more grape arbors under which a mind reclines. The soul is driven out of doors, a refugee from a combat zone, a deluge, or
      What we fear is what we are. Compound beings that make a magical, burning whole, metaphorical, flame-like, for a time, but do not inhere in either the fire or the smoky, evanescing light it yields.
     We can fight over this. We can order each other to wrap our corpses after wars, drive the countless lives out from our remains, bind our tongues with spells, the future selves with incantations not to despoil and loot the loot of our despoiling campaigns. It won't work, except for the spells themselves. The seals and cylinders may murmur quietly a great long time along the fallen rows of torched, smashed shelves. Or not.
     I have a terrible secret to tell. We come and go, we're never whole. We never die, but what we are is not anything that actually survives. We're never going to turn into hungry ghosts or angelic choirs. We're already as godlike as we might get.
     Or worse. What we really are, hunger and dying aside, is neither energy, nor matter, nor gravity, nothing more than the passing of signs occasionally noticing, like dogs growling uncertainly at mirrors that do not smell at all of dog, that we are the crazed thing at which we bare our cruel, our murderous, our word-honed canines, time. Or,

Friday, January 3, 2014

How Does One Survive Oneself

How does one survive oneself
When all oneself is doing
Is being done to survive,
In one sense or another,
By pulse or by grandoffspring?
(I'll leave aside for one day
Cultural commentary.)

Funny of us to worship
Ancestors when ancestors
Got us into this business.
(Sorry, scratch the reference
To our ancestor worship.
I said no culture today.)
Here, in the sun, with a beer

And a belly full of bull,
I can spot that paunchy man
Over there with his bald stare
Into mostly fallen leaves,
Surplus, over-billed, nonplussed,
Running empty, gut to bust.
He's a strategy. He thrives.

He's alone on a park bench.
Pity would bypass the view
Of canyons, cliffs, and foliage,
The blue sky, sunshine, and beer
That made him turn aside here,
Made him need to be quiet,
Contented if it kills him.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

There's Always Another Fragmentary Perspective

But have you seen the way they order things
In this netherworld of yours? No, my lord,
I've seen no things you might term "ordered things."

I've seen the addicts, the lonely and bored.
I've seen the hungry, those you created.
Quiet! I knew you as a wild thing, gored
By desire and shameless to be sated!

Oh my lord, I was created to twin
Your madness with my own wild sanity.
Now that you're restored, how can I begin
To answer, deer-like, such inanity

As would ask me and blame me together
Why I sated myself on the heather...

No! You broke the rules! You broke the pattern!
I am the walled king! You screwed my slattern!

(Here the text breaks off. A century plus
Of dense archaeology's not enough.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Despite prognostications that this day must dawn, who knows?
It's nice to see a new year coming that hasn't been sold
In advance as the next candidate for apocalypse.
I don't have to be more cheerful, but death is off the lips
And billboards that decorate midwinter darkness. How nice!
Something new for the Gregorian new year. Once or twice
Before I've felt the weird world this wide open, but never,

Nor now, because a general possibility-fever
Generated by some flower children, some fallen wall,
A tyranny relocated, an accomplishment tall
Enough to justify enjambment stretching across years.
There's nothing obviously significant, certain years,
And such nothings, all sweet nothings, deserve their perfect rhyme.
Oh, you know the word stealing through, stealing true minds. It's time.