Monday, March 31, 2014

"I Loved You Then, and Ever Shall"

I appreciate a darkness
Coming toward me, even
As I fear its slow arrival.
When the tide goes black, my black eyes

Are terrified but not surprised.
Surprises are for life and rhymes,
Not for sinking down and drowning.
The woman or man who drowns knows why.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Book I Never Wrote in New Zealand

Unbidden, everything from nothing
Falls continually back again. Novel

Desires, fantastic notions, and plain
Observations toil their way into view

By the vast lavender hedges,
The English hedgehogs and lawns

Edged in manuka, eucalyptus,
The tootling of tuis, little fantails,

And the impossibility of narrating
The sunshine on the meadow-roofed

Maca house near Wanaka, naked
Summer of nothing to do

But write the one book to secure
A future of nothing more to do.

Unbidden, the sweet honey creeps
Into the veins, the book falls to hand

That someone else wrote about
Someone else writing, not writing

But wanting to, the picnic of forever
Fading as the smiling eyes close.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Welcome, You're Here

If there were such a thing as a lie
That gave joy, which, even wavering,
Never snapped back as pain,

Wouldn't that lie be finer than most
If not all of truth? I believe I have
Found a silly philosopher possessed

Of such a sweet lie. I won't name
Him or his foolish philosophy.
I'm still too vain. But I have found

A curious pattern: that listening
To his nonsense nudges me to joy,
And, although I lose it, it never hurts.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Exercise Courage

"In Middle English, used broadly for 'what is in one's mind or thoughts,' hence 'bravery,' but also 'wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,' or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant 'zeal, strength.'" -Online Etymological Dictionary

Any sort of inclination
Could tilt your life over a cliff,
Into a ditch, into honey,
Love, calumny, happiness, peace,

And that's only counting your own.
All the tendencies of others
Interacting with you make you,
And all the interactions past.

The whole world pounds one beating heart,
Infinitely chambered torus
Thundering and whooshing inside
Each least knowable interval.

Have courage. It is what you are,
And if you believe yourself small,
You aren't wrong, but you are also
Infinitely large, lusty, brave.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wood Knowledge

My father had a sliver.
I have barely a splinter.
But I can kneel before it
On my inherited knees
With all their unique fractures
And feel the mythic Druid
In the oak groves chant with me.

No natural tree or bone
Bears cross arms over itself.
Not that natural means good,
Much less nice, but I can see,
The resemblance of word trees
And my own, much-broken knees.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Considerable Body of Bereavement Literature

He only needed to risk a shameful disaster.
He hid out where no one could find him and wrote all night,
Cranking the heater up to sauna levels at first
And then turning the noisy apparatus full off.
I'll write until I'm too cold to write anymore or
Until someone or something else stops me, he boasted
To no one. Then he started his roll call of the dead,
Unscrolling line after line of his grief for the world,
For everyone he knew was losing ground to the thing
That ate at them after losing a one thing too dear
To them, however tragic or trifling to others.
It tore him up. It kept him warm. He knew how useless
His decision was. He wrote to the last memory.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

That's How My History Is

Back last December, Sukha
Woke us up three times between
One and five am, granting
Sleeplessness to all of us,
Finally forcing me up
For good with a true tantrum.
She and I went out and sulked

In the front room in the dark,
Slowly, slowly warming up
To each other as light broke,
Finally, on the cliff walls
At half past seven or so,
The world its cold, lovely self.
Sarah, who'd not slept at all,

Remained in bed. Old snow dripped
From the roof in the sunrise.
We negotiated shows,
Breakfast, hair brush, pigtails, clothes.
We made it, just, to preschool
On time. It was my first time
As the parent who drops off.

I made my introductions
To the teacher, dads, and moms.
Sukha gave me a jump hug,
Then went to join the others.
I drove home, thinking of things
To tell Sarah when she woke,
Feeling strangely ambitious

After such a simple task.
Half the night I had counted
Breaths to distract me from thoughts
Of what I could or should do
With the day. The subjunctive
Will not cease from troubling me,
However I disdain it.

Now, there I was. At the stone
Dining table, determined
To make something of myself
That would not erode. The day
Shifted in its subtle way.
The light was soft. I composed
Myself and waited for it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fixed, Foxed

In the soft minds of earth,
Everything unalive,
I will write a novel
Someone could memorize.

It won't be obvious.
I don't need it to rhyme.
No epic catalogues
Or formulas: surprise

Will keep it newsworthy
Down the echoing lines
Of subtle poetry
Prose missed. What might arise

From this improbable,
Jammed fist of sound design
Would have to be more than
Characters with black eyes:

Plots as dark and fertile
As mycorrhizal time
Exposed to the plain light
Of sandstorms, hopes, and lies.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Old Tom Sawyer, Cynic

The point of faking your own death
Is to attend your funeral
And get to hear one or two fools
Strive, honestly, to extol you

And all your endless foolishness.
It's a crime, like stealing crown jewels,
Because all want badly enough
To live with guilt to wear the crown,

But it's so delectable, too,
To fantasize what might be said
In favor of miserable you.
I knew of one such who, stupid,

Faked his death to pay his bills, then
Found himself locked in the attic
Listening to memorials
Floating up, tear-filled, from below.

He got caught. He claimed the worst part
Was realizing how much he,
Miserable loser and sinner,
Meant to those who, sorrowfully,

Eulogized him as a winner.
Sucker! Prison is not enough
For thee. The world will weep and weep,
But for itself, effortlessly.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Me and Mine at the Time

It was back on Monday
The sixteenth of December
Twenty-thirteen, revised
Gregorian calendar,

Beethoven's birthday.
Joan Fontaine and Peter O'Toole
Were just dead. The sky
Was rosy as the frozen rocks,

Rosy as Homeric dawn.
We were alive. We rose
From our beds with minor
Complaints and hugs

To begin another minor day
Under the perpendicular
Canyon walls we'd chosen
To be where we wanted to be home.

The news was the usual
Spies, crimes, and coups.
The house held the usual
Worries, expenses, and chores.

Time and I, thick as thieves,
Blood kin, never wholly
Contented but forever short,
Prospected together,

Back and forth across
The ordinary impossible,
The delusion of somewhere
To have been, somewhere

To go. However blue
The sky grew, I fell in love
With being what we were,
As what I was observed

We were all one family,
Daughter, mother, father,
Time and I. Stephen Fry
Author of The Liar

Was reported to have said
In honor of O'Toole, just
Dead, "Monster, scholar, lover
Of life, genius." Time. Mine.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Little Brown Study

Pine cones, acorns, and old moss
Fill curled birch bark trays on stones
Under buff stone walls. The couch
Is a knapped, dark brown. Tables
And chairs rescued from dumpsters
Run the gamut of beiges
Sun-weathered woods accomplish.

Straw baskets, papery lamps
With eggshell shades or bare bulbs
On cracked oak stands, books, boxes,
All the worn, recycled, dried
Remainders of a forest,
Down to the tan, split-leaf blinds,
Construe my wife's bright office.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Many Illusions

They're the best. They rhyme in end-stopped lines. Fine.
I don't need your bloody couplet to let
Myself out of your chimney flue, thank you.
My spirit burns for the fire life desired.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One True Magic

The only witchery is self.
Thought sags with pleasure in the thought
That sunlight on a book-lined shelf
Is fine, is proof I can't be caught

By any mistakes not my own,
By any malevolence not
My divinity's. (Bookshelves groaned
With the weight of their own dry-rot,

And the digital citizen's
Pride deteriorated as it got
To the point where the decision
To store culture in self forgot

Change.) Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme
Chose. Ah, see, the self remains the same
However self itself condemns
Spells dependent on using names.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Pilot Study

You are having the greatest experience of your life,

sitting in your car, parked on the side of the road

next to broad snowy fields, in strong sunshine,

listening to music you love, sipping an illicit beer

on Friday the 13th, contented that everything you do has rhythm.

How would you answer the following questions:

(The questions must be randomized to control for possible order effects.)

What do you think of this planet?

What do you think of humans?

What do you think of crows cawing, cows lowing, and wet tires on asphalt?

What do you think about politics, conservatism, and revolution?

What do you think of that mysterious truck parked up on the hill?

What do you think of people who prefer to drive everywhere?

What do you think of that horse?

What do you think of literature?

What do you think of anyone named Archangelo Corelli?

What do you think of me?

No one can take this joy away from you.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bond Gets Back to Work

"UK health scientists calculate that in real life James Bond would have been 'an impotent drunk.'"

You can't miss it.
You haven't missed it.
It's just this.

Let's just go from here.
So long as we're here,
Let's just keep going.

No point in trying to live
"A pure and industrious life
All of a sudden." It's okay.

Who will find peace
Who has not found forgiveness
In a world of one's own?

You are so foolish, Mr. Bond.
"A little. But I won't consider myself
To be in trouble until I start

Weeping blood." Well.
You're never in trouble.
Trouble's in you.

Here it is. "From exhaustion
To exhaustion, the final triumph
Is what the language can do."

You can't miss it.
You haven't missed it.
It's just this.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Let's take a little walk, shall we,
While the Earth and Moon roll around,
Big dot, little dot, sorcering
That furious visage of a star?
"Provincial old fool!" my microbes
Think, as I think about our Sun.
The deep tap of one word's nothing,
Compared to shallower species,

But rooted in the underworld,
Compared to any given beast
Of one species' separate life.
I am one of a shallow race
Who labor to unspin the work
Our ancestors' labor had spun.
Let me be plain. Let me, a wart
On that spotty gold face, complain,

Which discovers and hides some things
To some and others to others.
"We want only," my microbes wail,
"To influence fate or fortune!"
You are, all of you, every one
Witches, I reply, so sternly
Even I am abashed and want
To cast my staff and robe aside.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Emptied Museum

The human sees half-human faces
Staring back out of the trees.
The trees only shake their leaves.

If one imagines the magical alien,
Then why pause at the ever-green
Frontier of anthropomorphism?

The faeries in the woods are trees.
"Come in! Come in!" human ears
Hear them whisper. Well, go ahead.

It's dark and weird enough inside,
And all the more wonderful since you
Can't see the forest for the faces,

Since the forest has no faces,
Once you're in deep enough, under
The signless spell, not even yours.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bury the Bitu Riges

"Bitu-riges means 'Kings of the World.' In that self-effacing landscape of pasture and hedgerows, it seems a wonderfully immodest name."

The kings of the world,
Whatever the world,
Are always whining,
"I shall die like all my friends!
My heart is filled with sorrow."

The kings of the world,
Whatever they're called
Are always wondering,
"If I do the right thing, and I am
A good king, why not be a god?"

The kings of the world,
Whatever their world,
Are always wearily warning,
"I don't think there are true formulas.
Be wary of predictions."

The world of the kings
Whoever the kings,
Is always warmly consoling,
"Take heart! Take heart!
Your cold bones are my clothing."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

University of Malta

There are some fools, sunk now
Off Antikythera,
Who thought they knew something
About how our world works.
I hereby refute them!

Not on parchment or bronze,
Not on silver or gold,
Not on titanium
Gas-jetted to the stars
Do I sign this degree.

Upon the beating heart
Of heartless history,
Among dead and dying
Languages, I consign
Thee: Master of Maltese.

What? Not yet put at ease?
You want proofs to disprove
Your proofs the world began
With you and yours, not me
And my fond progeny?

Enough! I understand
What you can never know:
I and my kind are old
At birth, you and your kind
Young when you die, you fool!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One Never Knows, Do One?

Random longhorn browsing snow,
Contrail over the moon roof,
I am whatever you are
Busy surprising me with,
And I am the sensation
Of surprise, helpless wonder
At the ways I am surprised.

A truck pulls in front of me,
Having just hesitated
Long enough to make me think
The driver was sensible.
Apparently not. I am
That driver and this driver,
Blaring horns, the morning glare.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Green Vest, Red Cap

The vultures circle like experts
In the art of statecraft. The world
Turns on their axis, carefully
Rearranging the air below

Their wizened heads so they don't fall.
The clues, therefore, are not the clues
One thought they were but upside down,
All gravity fleeing outward.

Who knows what the story is now?
Gaunt Don Quixote rests in bed,
His madness apparently past.
He discourses without belief,

Which his auditors take to mean
He believes whatever they do.
The scene changes. It was never
A scene. Nothing ever so still.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Post-Script to Triskele, for Sukha

On the morning of that poem
Composed for your third birthday

You woke me up at the exact minute
Of your birth, and would not sleep

Until I placed my hand on your head,
The same head I caught in the same

Hand, both wreathed in mother blood.
Later you woke again to balloons

And decorations that Mama set
Out in the night, as if your birthday,

So close to Christmas, was a kind
Of Christmas, or to commemorate

Her own long struggle through
The midnight of labor. You asked

To hold one of the balloons.
I gave you a cookie as a treat,

And before I had to leave for work
You had me retell you the story

Of your birth from Mama's belly,
And you and I howled together

Briefly, head to head, to reenact the part
When Mama and I howled you home.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Good Morning

You are I am. You are the here now.
Everything else is recently arrived
To the act of departing, but you

Are the arena of your awareness,
As cultured crowds in conversation
Strain and compete for seats

At the spectacle of memory's
Immemorial sensations. You are
I am, and I am always here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

One of the Milder Heresies

     One finds oneself in the middle of mysteries, surrounded by clues, just recently, ever presently, just now then, entangled by hungers and passing wonders. What is one to make of it all, when one already makes it all, is it all, and is an ephemeral nothing in the midst of it? One is God.
     One is many gods and Gods. There's one clue. They swim in and out of one's view, as with the whole floating universe of shows within awareness. One doesn't have to believe in any of them, nor in any one of them. There they are. There they go. The reviled ones, the admired ones, the blessed ones, the feared but beloved ones, jealous or winged with awe. The consorts and the cohorts of divinity trouble one like a teacher's many passing schoolchildren, shy or imperious, often bright, always contradictory. All teachers learn there is nothing to teach, only something to learn. But none of the many little ones easily bears remaining peripheral: each seems to burn with mild and often angry desire to be or become the special, cherished, and truly adored one.
     One is incapable of deciding among them. One tries. This is what makes one aware of one's limitations. But there is only the trying. The whole opus of creation rises on a tide that seems beyond one's control and yet never exists except insofar as one notices and then always as one with the creation. There is no work. That's one clue. There's nothing but work, an endless round of regularly scheduled rites and maintenance. That's another one.
     Everything tilts and bends toward one, as if one were the eye of the storm, the neck of the hourglass, the last thought experiment in the museum of light. But one is not any of those things. One is not. One is not what one is. One is.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Dreamy blues nestle beside the cyan
And violets on the table I have
In mind. No small thing, this nothing at all,

Sickle-wielding, saturnine, pre-Shabbat
Gem of the dark of almost night, with rings
To set it in and sigh. Cessation comes,

The richest, darkest wine before sorrow,
The intoxication between orange
And melancholy, my happiest hour,

When I'm alone, taking in the evening,
Knowing there's nothing about this I'll hold,
Nothing about me this can hold, naked

To systems requiring fixed counts of things
That have no number, only mnemonics
And algorithms to follow them by.

I'm going back to where I've never been,
To the seam too small to be visible.
To mind, to India, my names recede.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Likely Site of a Celtic Necropolis

"But how much excitement did you need if you were dead?" -Ozeki

Slightly more than a quarter-century
Ago, slightly less than yesterday,
One waited for then unimaginable,
Now unrecoverable information.

The world arrives equipped with time,
And poetry, basically, is the warp
Of world through a working mind.
As the forest thins to scrub, so words go.

Careful, boyo. Wash your hands and mind
Your poems. . . . The worlds revolve
Like fashion models, starving to death
As they twirl. Welcome to entropy.

Welcome, again, to forgetfulness.
Like an ecologist monitoring effects
Of poachers on forests primeval,
You can be the witness of despair

As the witnesses' recollections
Are devastated and decay. You
Are the scribe who unwrites
The underwritten universe. Erase.

But carry on. No one will know.
Least of all you, collaging borrowed
Phraseology as if quotations could buy
Life and time. You're gone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Malgre Lui

"While Wendlandt's verses are facile and readable, they are not memorable as poetry."

"Desolation meets desolation, a feeling of awe succeeds to wonder."

The wonderful particulars lie under
The general, soft-sloping piles of dust
Like mountains too old to have any outcrops,
All the edges worn. The faces of old coins
Are buried not too terribly far below,
But good luck to you guessing which emperor,
Already a god-king when they were minted,
Already dead while they still circulated,
Had some cut-out likeness of his greatness stamped
On these slugs of burrowing metal. Mottoes
Sometimes last a little longer, often not.

These compacted compost piles, these grassed-over,
Over-grazed but moderately bucolic
Hills that out-gassed culture and authority
As the slag-heaps that fed them then gassed out fumes
Poisonous to anything that got started
On hunger before the globe saturated
Itself with death and dying, with oxygen
That burns even copper and iron to tints,
Once held the palaces of the darkest dreams,
By which we mean, yes, dreams, same as yours, the same.
Alchemists were close. But gold ages downward.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How Will the Hermit End

If he cannot find his hermitage
But stays in town like a social man
With an office, family, and mansion,

If he confuses fiction, drama,
And poetry with sighs at the moon,
Art with politics, joy with metrics,

If he sits in a chair with a sun
Carved into the back of it, watching snow
Drape receding veils past his window,

Waiting for the electricity
To come to life again, wondering
Why did he stoke the fire, hold the gold?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day and Night Will Crack

"Only in the moment of green is there time"

Let's stop here and rest awhile,
So we can feel the word "awhile"
Washing over us as if we were

Pebbles in a parched stream
Barely running in dry season
But year-round, almost dry forever.

What does it feel like to come to rest
Without any sense of when
The coming to rest might end?

One encounters, tumbling down,
So many stones from eras
So utterly far from one's own

As to render them alien.
A few may, in fact, be
Alien to this planet, this world.

Random bits of beautiful black
Rock knocked off and out to land,
Darkly religious, in our dun sands.

Let's stop here and rest awhile.
Every pilgrimage will complete
Itself or its pilgrim. There is time.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Far from the Otago Frost

Clever phrase, bit of poem,
Dropped into a massive tale.
Oh the joy of writing young,

For least and most successful
The same, less or more, a spell
Before age rimes resentment

Of reviewers, of readers,
Of the lack of reviewers,
Lack of readers, whatever

Presence or absence galls, scalds,
Or freezes the satin sheets
Of language made for word sails.

But no more of this. I quote
Anonymous and famous
Nearly anonymously

Because I still love the words,
However words betray us.
Is it not kindly, bestial

To be devoted to that
Which has so often failed us?
Casanova loved satin.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ascending the Breakdown

Anterograde amnesia
Opens a little window
So that we can peek inside
And get a glimpse of the source
Of our delicate lamplight
Encircling the whole of night.
One story starts with a man

Named Clive Wearing who woke up
To his loss of memory
Once every thirty seconds
And wrote down each fresh triumph,
"At last, I'm truly awake!"
Crossing out former entries
Claiming the same as he went,

Thousands and thousands of times,
Thousands of lines protesting
Against all those preceding.
There is no god in those gaps,
We think, no one and nothing
Other than terrifying
Loss of continuity.

Another story begins
In "the world with all the marks
Of antiquity" at birth,
So that continuity
Had a point of origin
Sometime before forever
And humans had a story

Starting with a man, midway
Through life and midwived by God
Needing no explanation
Prior to that fact, just so:
Omphalos hypothesis.
The first story was tragic.
This one was the comedy

Pursuant to eternal
Law of continuity.
The third and final story,
All the drama of science
Attendant, the heroic
Success of experiments,
Starts from confabulation

Revealed by the ease with which
We can lure the conscious brain
Into making up stories
Eliding contradictions
Stemming from selves assuming
Continuity of self.
We watch machines watching us

Make up our minds, and we see
Our minds don't do the making.
The waves below awareness
Move first, up from the deep dark
And heave the phosphorescence
That shimmers with the belief
That it stays on top of things,

And is, metaphorically,
Allied with the glittering
Luminaries of night skies,
When it is not. We are not.
At last! We're truly awake!
We see ourselves as we are,
Little liars to ourselves.

The mystery has been solved.
Or Mr. Wearing was right.
Awareness is always right.
Mr. Omphalos was right.
Every moment springs full grown
From deeps of chaotic night.
Imagine this reeling thought---

That the drunkard who blacked out,
The ordinary sleeper,
The victim of amnesia
Have all felt the well of truth
That is inverted lamplight.
We are only what we know,
And we know stories are lies.