Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Locked Nest

In time-lapse photography
From remote wilderness sites,
You see it for the dragon,
Spiny monster that it is.
It is not milky, it is
Not like a spinal column.
It is the original

Devouring serpent in night,
Poised with its mouth opened wide
Over us, a falling sword
With a black hole in its hilt.
Comprehend mythology
Only when standing under
The eye of our galaxy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


"[P]sychologists from the University of Virginia . . . found that introverts prefer the mountains, extroverts prefer the ocean."

"As a hobby, mountains appeal to those people who in normal circumstances are said to have a great deal of time on their hands."

We are in sum an
Extroverted ape.
Look at the coastlines
From orbit at night.

Concentrated light
Attends bleak cities
Outlining the plates
Tectonic. Oh well.

Tsunamis never
Did betray the heart
That loved beach. I am
A poem composed here

In the mountains where
Disaster reaches
Stonier fingers.
I like loneliness,

Aloneness: I make
No fine distinction.
I admit I crave
Cold lakes to swim in.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Drier, Hotter, Quieter

Truth. The desert deserves you.
There are no stars otherwhere
Can light up dimmed brains like this.

You come home from dreaming home
To discover you were here,
Well outside of anywhere

When you were you, blue, and true.

Reverse it, and it is news

In the echolating
Ear of the era of bats.
How about that!? I'm going

Where I've never been before,
When I've never been before,
Where bats eat bugs by starlight.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mares' Tails and Trumpet Flowers

The road to work bestrews the blue
Skies with silly clouds repeating
Patterns, bewitching similarities,

The one aspect of the infinite
Differentiation that fools us
Into believing some things

Are, stay the same. They aren't.
They don't. Nothing is coterminous
With itself, much less identical

To anything else. Hence,
No time like the present is
The present. Likenesses, never

Identical likenesses, are receding
And shifting into an infinity
Of finities, indignities forever,

All you, always, except when none
Of you, ever, were. The road
Home or to bed, at least, from work

Shows emptied skies
Of different hues. Explanations are
Easy. Predictions are harder.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Monstrous Sunflower

I want more. I want a line
Of them, all monsters, all tall
Enough to make one believe
In incredible shrinking

Men technologies. Giants
That sway above my rooftop,
Peer big, round, eyeless faces

Over my cracked backyard wall,
Nodding in the heat, doubling
In the wind but not falling,

Elephantine, comforting,
Jack-and-the-Beanstalk flowers,
They would confirm the absurd
Hope magic towers our hours.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nothing Is Something

A man I barely know and rarely understand
Happened to observe to me that on the sixth day

Of January, seventeen-nine, The Great Frost
Of Western Europe, coldest winter in a half

A millennium (do the math and pity peasants
Of the High Medieval century even more),

Began. Four days later, in a bitter cold world,
Abraham Darby made cast iron in a blast

Furnace using coke fuel. The Industrial Age
Had begun. Will it ever be so cold again?

Will the Thames, the Rhine, or the Seine ever freeze hard
Enough for those who are not dying to skate them?

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Don't try to fix everything,
Is what my muse said to me,
Just try to keep it going.
I will, have, not, won't. Trust me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Alexandrines Mistake

If I could, I would compose in monorhymed couplets
Ad infinitum. I can't. I rant syllabics.
I'm an old, nude, crippled dude gimping in the dark:

If I were good, I should improvise daft paeans
To the gods of goods and man's impotent hard-ons.

But I am bad and not afraid to declare it
Would take a bad God to make life, grin, and bear it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lone Pine Cafe

"Those in the know can leapfrog to the naming of parts."

One American dies, mean,
Every ten to twelve seconds.
Somehow, that seems low to me,
But I blame the media.
I am an American,
After all. I rode shotgun
In a Westy van driven

By my stepfather-in-law
While my mother-in-law dozed,
Prone, snoring, and unbelted
On the mattress in the back.
She had called him a liar
When he claimed the van couldn't
Reach interstate speeds, wanting

In his subtle way to take
The back roads through Idaho,
Past the Nez Perce surrender,
The salmon-free salmon town,
Into the vague forever
That had become what was left.
Left, left, I said, take the next.

He did, not wanting insults
About his veracity
To betray his confusion.
We passed a bad accident.
Another American
Thrown from his pickup truck, dead,
Outside the Lone Pine Cafe.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lake Missoula

Bonneville, Agassiz,
The prehistoric
Late glacial giants
Built up the future
Behind their ice dams

Until they collapsed,
Roaring to the past,
Ripping out gorges,
Hemorrhaging fish,
Depositing bones.

When they gave way, they
Went fast, more than once
Pooling, then tearing
Down the bouldered world.
Who knows what was lost

No one knows was there?
Doggerland, Black Sea,
They flooded and filled
Rather than emptied.
Levees burst both ways,

But the torrent tears
One way, destroying
Our past it creates.
Little trickles still.
We'll know when we don't.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Failure to Take the Scenario Seriously

"The medical school at the huge London hospital where I now work uses role-playing . . . to select the doctors of the future. The nervous candidates must show their ability to break bad news by telling an actor that their cat has just been run over by a car. Failure to take the scenario seriously, I am told, results in immediate rejection."

I am your doctor of the future today. 
How are you feeling this yesterday evening?
I am not a counsellor but a huntsman,
And the wilderness of the future's my woods.

What big pets you have! What big houses you have!
Yes, you got it. Red Riding Hood ate the wolf.
All along she was the huntsman, he hunted.
Reverse he and she if you like, no matter.

It's the doctor, who's made of ticky-tacky,
In the boxes, little boxes, and they're all
Just as mean as me in violent ganglands
Of late nineties Moscow. The nineties tried it,

And died trying. Boasts aside, no one captures
The zeitgeist, which is the haunt of the future.
We absorb the body blows as the blown waves
Absorb the winds of change. It's all wilderness.

That's why your cat was run over by a car.
What hadn't happened, ever, became what had,
And that was the signature of the future
Autographing the tragedy of your past.

I'm so sorry. Your approach 
Was truly original.
But doctoring's not for you.
The future changes the past,
Resistlessly and always,
And that's all we ever know
Of change or beauty or death.

What pompous jerks you people are. I'd be glad
If your cat was dead not half alive instead.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Tin Bender

Space is only another kind of time.
The last time I visited
The Harold Bench, it was hot

And I'd done too much talking
About the nature of things
In a crowded hall the night

Before, mugging for the crowd
In the muggy summer air.
I've been aging. I needed

Notes to keep myself on track.
When I said Aristotle,
Newton or Einstein out loud,

I was wandering within,
Thinking of a profession
I'd never heard of, bending

Tin. A friend told me of it
The day before that, same friend
Told me, some years ago, now,

That a vagrant might have wrenched
The brass memorial plate
Away from the Harold Bench

To sell for a little change.
Seemed hardly worth it, to me,
Back on the bench in the heat,

Seeing the scar, the lake, boats,
Fish jumping, a few tourists,
The stream turning into space.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Song Dogs

Someone wrote ghost trees weather
As if they had their tombstones
Paled all their lives inside them,

A fond bit of imagery
For the seawater-poisoned
Forest sunken in silver.

Coyotes are the poets
Of the raven-haunted world--
Not the eloquent ravens

Themselves--gaunt echoic yips
That trick the believer's ear
Into thick imaginings

Of how the forest was home
When the northernmost monkeys
In water-proof furred jackets

Jumped from cedar to cedar,
Close to the ice-mouthed mountains,
Never dreaming of exile

From the twilight, the glaciers,
The song dogs and longer-toothed,
Carnivores, all howling things.

We belonged to ourselves once.
We recognized our voices
As the voices of shadows.

We were not always talkers
Bunched up at the equator
Where every soul remembers

The same damn day forever.
The song dogs growled and warbled.
We wanted to believe them,

Believe our speech came from bones
As lifeless and silvery
As moonlight after drowning,

Although we leaped easily
In our downy snowed mantles
Through the ghosts we surrendered.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


It's a long time coming, this going.
I still have Anthony's paint bucket
As a mystery phrase on my phone,
Along with a note that "we are slaves

To something we'll never understand."
All that was eight years ago and change,
Not a single piece of this sequence
Yet composed. The rain on the truck roof

Blows in from the lake of yesterdays.
There's a wheezy, squeezebox arrangement
Of the ballad of the privateer,
Largely unsuccessful Captain Kidd,

Hanged for crimes while better criminals,
Some named in the ballad, evaded
The noose and completely disappeared,
Playing on a file from my laptop.

My note had something to do with time.
I had stolen a seat on a plane.
No one ever really disappears
As everyone really disappears.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chaos Terrain

The moth in the airport. Sarah
Saw a small, brown moth. This was years
Ago before the just gone now,
Salt Lake City, two-thousand eight.

Interrupted from time to time
By the faint, hallucinating
Mathematician's objections,
Even a poet may eat lunch,

Even a philosopher may
Be correct twice a day, even
A cosmologist may step back
From an untestable vision

Elegant, unforgivable
As the impossible serpent
Who speaks and has not lost his legs
To the story creating them.

We're almost to Jupiter's moons,
Speaking of mythology, we're
Almost to where a brown moth, lost
Might not have to mean anything.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Never Shoot an Armadillo

I was working on a talk
About time, getting nowhere.
Time is a human madness.
The season then was summer,
Melancholic, nostalgic.
Trying to philosophize,
I was also counting days,

Counting the waves on the lake,
Counting summers at the lake,
Counting bank account burn rate,
Counting in and out of sleep,
Counting lake crossings, paddled,
Swam, motored, sailed, and pondered.
Counting the strokes, the feet deep.

There's only one anything.
When you break it, other things
Are their own things. Nothing breaks
Down. The angle of sunlight,
The shifting breezes, whitecaps,
Portly swimmers, bathing caps,
Ants milking aphids, chasing

Away hungry ladybugs,
Wasps chewing pulp to paper
Nests in the gathering shade,
It was summer, Canada.
The lake was immaculate,
And I thought about Texas,
Where folks have shot themselves by
Armadillo ricochets.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Old Grand Pianos

Worrying takes up cognitive capacity.
He was neither a worldling nor a struggler.
Atropos of nothing, he smiled

At the dappled sunlight on the cherry-strewn
Lawn between the dark cabins of light
And decided to worry no more, to surrender

To chanting the old poems that said
Everything to him, made no sense
To anyone else, waking him in the night:

"Explain what is not.
I am what is not
Dead, and the world
Explodes with metaphors.

Magic negates itself.
The moment it happens
It ceases to be magic,
And the whole world's else."

By these and other foolish forms
Of deflorestation, the days proceeded
To shower him with curled petals. Soft. Soft.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Language Is the Event Horizon of Awareness

I am no photographer, no recorder.
I'm caught between the desire to remember
And the duty to erase, not the other
Way round. I'm poised where time

Both dilates to infinite stillness
And accelerates into oblivion.
I'm a beautiful idea with real mass
That can never observe itself observing,

An observer that can only catch
The act of observation, never
Anything outside of the act itself.
"I really want a little hut

That you can sit up in, with blankies
And pillows underneath, where you can hide
And no one can see you, but how
Do I do that? How, Papa, how?"

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Safest of All

These damn poor limbs are all the limbs
He's ever been acquainted with.
The fact bemuses him, reading
Of other lives in other forms,

More familiar to each other.
For every grim tale he absorbs,
He thinks, not, "what a sad story."
That was all of life for them,

For him, for her. Biography
Has only single destinies,
Destined or not. Alternative
Temporal topographies (wait

For it) dreaming eternities
Comprehend how the opposite
Of any deep truth is also
A deep truth. He had no such luck.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Life Is a Really Bad Movie

Gravity is the ultimate trump card
Because liars and hysterics don't know
Who they aren't unless there's an audience
Of anti-gravity's small elves, laughing.

Old times, they are changing into presents
For old times always changing. Or that's wrong
Because even the perception of change
As more or less continuous is false.

Enough with the true and false already.
If anyone claims anything's a lie,
One's just as good as claimed one knows the truth,
But the only truth everyone knows is

No one knows the truth. Everyone's fronting
And lying; ergo, nothing is a lie.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fractions to Go

Before I wildly speculate
(My hands are warm; my thoughts are cold)
About the meanings of measures,

I need to consider whether
And how badly I want to speak
Out the contorted thing I seek.

If you timed your featured life,
You would have to conclude your life
Was too long or time was too short.

There are no intervals. Movements
Have no moments. Trees in the rain
Have no reason to be growing.

The three-minute egg is a poem
To the nonsense of three minutes
Depending on life's atmospheres.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Sorrow is, in itself,
The completist virtue.

We don't live by what we breathe
In, mornings when predawn sun

Announces this penumbra. I
Was only whatever passed me

By. By the way, the evening
Sinks into Kohan Gardens

Like the thought of a dance
In the legs that won't walk.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Last summer in the Slocan
I said to myself, if this
Place is hard, everything's hard.
A woman, mother of three,
Ex of three local men, burned
To death in a cabin fire
One day while her oldest child

Was at the lake with her dad
And the two youngest children
Were at the house of their dad.
The cabin was on a farm
Gardened collectively. No
Other houses on the farm
Burned. Volunteers stopped the fire,

Which had apparently spread
From a wood stove. The woman
Herself was listed missing,
Unaccounted for two days
And a hush fell over talk
Around the lake villages.
Then her remains were announced.

A pile of belongings heaped
Outside the house suggested
She had died going back in
To rescue more of her things.
Folks said predictable things.
The literal atmosphere
Was volatile that week. Storms

Sun, showers, winds, and wildfires
Alternated. Some people
Were on evacuation
Alerts, but the choppers doused
Enough wildfires for the rain
To do the rest. No homes burned
Except that one from within.

The lake remained breathtaking.
Motorcycle tourists toured
The motorcycle tour routes.
Children went to music school,
Dance camp and theatre camp,
Performances at week's end.
In the ghost town of Sandon,

The museum was open
And Gary Wright, ex-mayor
Of one village by the lake,
Volunteered as curator
And explained the miners' lives,
The fire that burned the boomtown
Of five thousand to the ground

A century earlier,
The avalanches, earthquakes,
The unions, brothels, saloons,
Showed my daughter a tunnel
In the bedrock and then played
Her "A Whiter Shade of Pale"
On the antique pump organ.

Cole and Muriel Harris
Had us over for dinner
Up at their historic ranch
And at the end of the week,
While camp kids were performing
In one village, Cole lectured
In the other to grey heads

About the early boom days,
The "hard, hard lives" of miners
Who mostly moved on or died,
The smallpox epidemic
That had obliterated
The native Sinixt people
Before the miners arrived,

The Japanese internment
Camps of the Second World War
When 1500 displaced
Japanese Canadians
Were housed among 300
Remaining white citizens,
Sandon already a ghost

Town high in the dark mountains,
The little lake villages
Barely hanging on,
Mostly logging and farming,
A few local services.
While Cole spoke this history
The children did their dances

At Memorial Hall, down
The road, and, after debate
During the peculiar week,
Went ahead with performing
The ladybug song's gestures.
"Ladybug, ladybug, fly
Your way home. Your house on fire,

Your children gone, except one
Named Ann, who crawled underneath
The frying pan." The next day,
The sun high on the glacier,
We picked garden raspberries
And my daughter delighted
In a yellow ladybug.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hope the Numbers Help

Mona Chalabi signs off cheerfully,
Concluding another quantification

Exercise in punditry. I like her.
I liked Marilyn Vos Savant. I liked

The maddening and delightful
Monte Hall riddle's answer. I like

The comforting sense numbers give me
That the cosmos is, if not

Knowable, at least explorable, maybe
Even exploitable, albeit not by me.

Numbers permit a bit of synchronicity
Within the infinite divisibility that makes

Everything from nothing to nothing,
Permit that gush of fellow feeling

That in humans is tied to reward
Centers so tightly that, for instance, a joke

Understood or a sentence completed
In a foreign tongue sends a rush

Of neuronal accomplishment buzz
Into the heart of the marginal mind.

Numbers feel like the rough, original
Feral tongue of God, the she-wolf

Licking us foundlings in her wilderness
Preparatory to rearing or devouring us.

To be sure, we remain inept, the most
Adept among us purely paranoid

As Kurt Godel, refusing all sustenance
At the end of his incomplete timelessness.

We are not really feral. We are hopeful
Past hope or help, but we coordinate

Tricks well enough to want to be wild,
To want to howl in unison the end of time.

Numbers produced the fly-by of Pluto,
Our wink and a nod to our Charon.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Yellow Kayak

Like a lurking banana peel, a world
With a dim-witted sense of humor,
Overturned on the gravel beach
Of a month gone gone with the sun

That lit the lake when it was summer
And it had rained, and the crows
Fell out of the spruce trees laughing,
And the mice avoided every trap.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Third Degree

Imagine that you're a dolphin
And all your friends and relations
Are flying fish or coelacanths.
Imagine that you're an eared seal
And all your pals are dolphins.
Imagine that you're an otter
And all your intimates are seals:

How do you explain your need
To come up so quickly for thin
Air, source of none of your nourishment,
Utterly unlike the sea in your blood,
Alien for aeons to all life ever knew of life?

You crave something that enabled
A new kind of craving once, among
Ancestors who could not possibly sense
Where air and lungs would lead, how hard
Life could be on land, terroir noir, terror
Firm, the longing to go back to sea.

Aren't you happy to be back where you
Belong? They ask you through gills
And blowholes, variously. You hold
Your breath, effortfully, and burbling
Reply, happy I know has nothing to do
With what I have always had to need.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Annus Vagus

The year itself has always wandered,
Before calendars caught at its hem.
The light growing less in the west
Has never grown less exactly
As it ever did even once before.

The aporias of presocratic Greeks
And poststructuralist English professors
Form little swirling vortices at twilight,
Evaporating when it becomes clear
In the dim there is no place, just change.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Still More Ways of Going Home

What has to be lost
Can't be saved.
What must be lost
Can't be wasted.

"Momma's gonna make me
A little guy. Then we're gonna
Sew on a little smile. It's a girl.
That's why it has a skirt on."

All in one rush, verbatim.
The recording instrument
Allowed to drop on the couch
Monocle eye to the ceiling

Recorded several minutes
Of what looked like a still
Shot of a blank ceiling, some baroque
On the radio, voices, then silence.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Factual Parable

In the morning, after the usual ridiculous,
Quickly and best forgotten dreams,

One dream vision fragment remained,
Waiting, for the small child and her father

To discover beside the rented bathroom sink.
A spoon left on the vanity was a bed, black

With carpenter ants, crowded like sleeping
Children in a communal loft, like prisoners,

Like refugees in the shallow bowl of a boat.
The daughter noticed them. The father lifted

The spoon by the handle. The bedded ants
Did not stir. The little girl laughed to see

Such sport, a cluster of ants like raisins
Run away to sea. Motionless. The father figured

They must be dead. When he set them down
On the counter again, the spoon exploded

With calligraphic scurrying in every direction
Away from the spoon, thoughts scattering.

The girl shrieked with delight and chased
The evacuees with finger-thumb pincer nails,

As some ran up the walls and some ran down
The drain of the sink. Another minute, gone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Equation of Time

Take a smart device with you
Down the trail to Wilson Creek
Falls in high summer and pause

At some movement where water
Runs across the trail and sun
Spikes the gloomy second-growth

Conifers while a raven
Sounds a chortling cuckoo clock.
A squirrel responds, gibbering.

There are hikers on the trail,
Some with walking sticks or dogs,
Pick-ups parked at the trailhead,

Deer scat near the running streams,
Dirt bikes growling far away,
Piled thunderheads overhead.

Forget the meaning of the phrase,
The insect trying to draw your blood,
The extreme inconvenience of being,

And take a panoramic photograph
Of the path beaten through green from light
Through black woods, to light at the end.