Monday, November 30, 2015

Nor Am I Out of It

Let's say Dostoevsky earned a stay
Of execution that afternoon.
Let's say the endlessly intricate
Atavisms favored by journalism
Never did other than worsen
An existence in the cell of a skull
By hastening its extinction.
Let's say nothing. The world,
Forever shrinking and expanding 
Again, new frontiers, less Lebensraum,
Refuses to behave our selves
More basely than our selves behave.
This is nonsense. The night descends
The way a curtain raises to reveal
The real actors, still in costume, out
Of character, sweating and grinning
To our sustained and envious applause
So close to the untouchable stars.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The End of the Dream of the Universe Existing

Neither what I know nor what I am
Deeply curious about I write
With one eye closed, hemisphere sleeping,

One eye open, hemisphere hungry,
Diving dolphin, dozing crocodile,
The whole that's only ever half there.

This is a recipe for failure,
But few among the wholly alert
Realize energetic success

Is equally failure's recipe.
Brutally terrible disaster,
To quote the cosseted teenager

Standing and peering precociously
Down the precipice of history,
Looks like a lesson for the future

When the future was still capacious,
An adolescent future, as dark
And overstuffed with odd bric-a-brac

As any sadder old man's attic.
The whole, if it were to come to life,
Would catch fire and disappear tonight.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

First Self

"Their looks tell the whole story,"
He told the Associated Press.
"You can't describe looks on people

That are lost. They look totally
Lost--shocked and lost."  A lamentable
Feature of institutional culture

Is that cooperation entails murder
Of one kind or another, as you may
Recall reading here before.

Sleep is the personification
Of rest but it is no second
Self, no self at all. Seneca,

Scoundrel, knew best that holiest
Loyalty is the mother of death,
And he practiced daily, but he lost.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Unbuttoned Bellies

A man had three sons
And the middle son
Was only a tiny bird
That shocked everyone

When he flew from his mother
Fully fledged at birth without
An egg to protect him
An egg to chip.

Then he broke and he
Broke and he fell and he
Broke and fell and broke.
The real meaning of fell,

Dark and old as the dark
Even in the bones of a bird
Born from a woman shocked
To see her sun fall from

Her own morning. Now
Commence explanation.
Slide down into the first
Indentations between

The bones and press
Down hard and think.
What does it mean
To be a wonder tale

With plenty of glass
And mystery to scatter
But no magic? The bird
Boy grew up, a bit,

And married a woman
Who didn't mind conversing
With a bird. They nested
And had one bird and one girl.

The rumors that their bird
Had to be raised in a Skinner Box,
Fed on lizards and Greek myth,
Are false, and thus it was that

Odysseus was a mower in hell.
And if I have not yet died,
Then I am still living
Happily to this day.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Benediction

When I was young, an old kids' tale
Said that a ring around the moon
Like that betokened morning snow.
Oh, how fucking ardently I

Believed. I wanted it to snow;
I always wanted it to snow.
I wanted snow enough to swath
The world in quiet white for months.

I've learned, since then, that snow can trap
You without food or company,
Hunkered in the mountains,
Waiting for spring to set you free.

I've become acquainted with snow's
Terrifying witch sister, ice.
I know now, I know. But I wait
In the unlikeliest Zion

And hope the unlikeliest hope
That tonight the haloed full moon
Promises tomorrow the snow
On snow on snow on snow on snow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beth's Four Boys

The first time she talked to me
About it, I thought she'd never
Come to term before. I know

A few small things about the small
Things that can go wrong in utero.
I worried for her and for outcomes.

I didn't know she'd had three boys
Already, one of them halfway
To being his own species of tree,

Tall and weedy at fourteen. No,
I thought she was hanging on,
Hoping to finally be a mom,

Why ever and for whatever
Billion years of reasons that was.
So, the day she stopped by

My office to tell me she was going
To have a boy and name him
Jacob, I rejoiced, albeit wrongly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pink Clouds over Pine Valley, Dinosaur Tracks on Johnson's Farm

Pretty, ordinary morning commute,
No Armageddon in store or in sight.
"Who knows what we're doing
Or why we're doing it," a coworker

Asks, rhetorically, of course
Once the office work has begun
As if nothing would ever end
Recycling normal and strange

In the strangely normal course
Of all happening, the endless
Reconstruction of the ramifying past.
But then it was all never been

Never could be again, never
Anything having ever happened,
No such person, no such thing.
There were no clouds left over Zion.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Dandiprat's Confession

So, how could a self be built from scratch?
The beginning of all deception
Lies in self-deception, in the lie

That I am I and that it will be,
Because I am I, different for me.
No, it will not be different for me.

I am neither beginning nor end
Of any new thing, anything old.
It will be the same with everything.

An infinitely divisible
Prerequisite for a universe
In which things have ever existed

Is change, continuous change in all
Dimensions, starting from any when
Extending, no when, ends without end.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thus Ended Assyria

Bit of dirt. People crawling
Like the flies crawling
On the people over it.

The territory
Is a terrible trembling.
We will die.

We will all die.
In the calm lands
Observing the end

Of the old, tortured patch
Of eternally resurrected
Torment no one thinks this.

In the calm lands,
Nothing as serious
Could happen,

Which is why
It is so lonely when
What can happen arrives.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


She pulled out a god.
She pulled out these three
Things from this boy's throat:

Wool. The poor. Chastity.
Together they gave her
Opportunity for ecstasy,

The divine communion.
She shaved all her hair,
Wore only horns

And a loincloth, transforming
Herself from a woman
Into an animal capable

Of diving the future.
It did not please her.
It did not give her pleasure.

She knew herself
A part of the things
That must end, again and again,

And found her magic
Insufficient to save the boy,
Herself, belief, the god.

Friday, November 20, 2015

But Come, Let Us March Confidently Forward!

We're not going to nag you about it. No.
We're not going anywhere, not really.

We're a fiction in search of characters.
We're the remains of juniper branches

We burned in the hearth on the cliff ourselves,
Never doubting someone would come notice

Our damp, discreetly ashen black remains.
Here we were, bunked down with the pack rats, glad

For a bit of temporary shelter
We could pretend we could stand forever.

Every ant, every amoeba, every
Bacterium is an army moving

On its stomach, every stomach as greased
In its own fashion as the fat-slicked scales

Of well-evolved snake bellies whispering
Questions we pretend the Great God did not

Want us to answer or hear over here
In the heart of the garden we knew well

Enough to name in terms betokening
Wonder that any garden grew from stones

At all. Come. We must arise and go now,
If only because all nows disappear.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Don't Bury Me"

Fareed Shawky was everyone of the one
Hundred billion or so humans gone before
Him, not into the unknown, into unknown

Unknowns of smug and ordinary old men
(Of which, however many go, we have more
On the way, and even more old women, too),

And into the unknowable unknowing.
This isn't fair, not to him, poor little boy,
Little living creature trying not to die

And afraid as any old man or woman
Leaving gates of ivory behind for horn,
Not to any of us who know we will be

Abandoned by the living because we aren't,
Abandoning selves because we never were,
Abandoned to the jackals of memory.

It's the sweetest, most horrifying request
We make of each other, the most desperate
Honesty. I am not dead yet. Fight for me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Though Its Advance May Be Slowed

I'll be right back. Thanks. You're welcome.
The messages keep arriving
From the messenger who has left

The long, lingering suspicion
There were only messages there
Ever, or that messengers live

Alone, receiving and sending
Letters that will evaporate
Like disappearing lemon ink

But without the capacity
To be re-read by anyone
Again, there being nobody

Ever, except the messengers,
Each observing the others
Vanish into messagelessness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On the Utility of Long Codpieces and the Convivial Drinking of Beggars

The worst was that his writing
Kept compounding the banal
With pitch-dark inscrutable,
Which was highly suspicious.

Had it been only banal,
It would be easy to read,
Easy to dismiss. Readers,
If any, would feel secure.

Had it been inscrutable
In every line, it would be
Hard to read, hard to dismiss.
Readers would reserve judgment.

Had he been writing in times
When writers could be sentenced
To death or torture, to life,
He would have been funnier

For camouflage, and at least
Secret readers could chuckle
Private chuckles in the dark.
But he wrote as lives are lived.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Philosopher's Stone Offering Plate

Panurge had nothing on him as a kid.
Once, when he was barely seven or ten
He noticed that at the back of his church

The polished silver and scarlet velvet
Offering plates the congregation passed
On their way out the door were often filled

With ostentatiously loosely folded
And uncurling large denominations
Of what wasn't rendered unto Caesar,

And this in a true Baptist church no less.
He perfected his own palming technique
And then asked his father for a dollar.

On his way out of the cinderblock nave
The next Sunday he targeted a ten
And deposited a one in its place.

He got good at this. He became better
At recon, scanning the plate on approach.
Each Sunday another one for twenty.

But where to spend the pirate's treasure chest?
It accumulated in a sock drawer.
His mother found it, and he was well whipped

For all his dexterity and wisdom
About the ways of resources and men.
He never prospered gainfully again.

Here endeth a lesson.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

I Desire to Dispute by Signs Only, without Speech

There's not a single human
So far who hasn't been
Conceived somehow and born
On this planet, so I can't think

Of why anything we've left here
Would offend it, except insofar
As we are ourselves offended
By our earthy selves. Our messes

Might be construed as offensive
And undeniably invasive on Mars,
But what are we invading here
Except our evasively invasive cousins?

We are not nice. Gaia, our mother,
Is not nice. The question worth
Asking twice is whether night's backbone,
Anywhere, were ever, ever nice?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"While Mediocre Ulysses Was Preferred"

Arithmetic growth introduces
A division that leads to doubling,
Rather than simply getting bigger.

If we were not prone to growth, we would
Never have been forced to come apart,
To divide and attack each other

For what? More growth, more divisions,
More problems with wars and appanage,
Counting coup by probability,

So all that's natural is at war
And quick to use nature as a means
To supremely unreasonable

Laws and ends. Dissembler! Who can trust
You over the brave face of Ajax?
If you win, you won because you lose.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Sea Permitting Further Passage

One more evening, one more day.
Scan the horizons and hope
For a sign that's not a sign
But the miracle itself
That breaks the ripe world apart,
The pip bursting out of the waves,
The island of tomorrow

Emerging like a solid
Country that could sustain you.
Grasslands are oceans, deserts
Are seas, night skies are the deep,
Permitting further passage.
It's the persistence of change
Disheartens the mariner

Seeking a constant shore. No
Amount of exploration,
No matter how intrepid,
Can promise to carry you
Far enough to safe haven,
Voyage beyond limits, past
Resupplies of loneliness.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chronic Inflammation

And what else would life be?
Matter inflamed with pain,
With want, with faith, with change.

A tiny swimming pool
Beside a brown hotel
Under the sandstone cliffs

Is ringed with aching souls,
Swollen, gravity-struck
Flesh easing flesh one way

Or the other, sauna,
Swim, conversation,
View. As good as it gets,

Observes one visitor
To another stranger,
Rubbing an injured knee

And soaking in the sun.
I can't trace the accent.
No matter. No answer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

At All

Let's, shall we say, personify
Him for a bit, for the sake
Of irrelevant allegory. How dark

Is the center of the place
No light can escape? And if
No light can escape, what is

Light in such an escape-proof place,
Except another variety of the dark?
Is there variety possible, there, at all?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Am No Scholar to Catch the Moon in My Teeth

A soul is a thing in the sense of a word.
A word is a thing in the sense of a sound.
A sound is a thing in the sense of a breath.
A breath is a thing in the sense of a life.
A life is a thing in the sense of a lie.
A lie is a thing in the sense of a soul.

Let those who are without souls
Make noises with their mouths.
Let those who have no words
Breathe as if they meant it
Although they could not mean it.
Let those who cannot breathe
Stand for the facts, fall for the truth,
For mere being. Let them be. Let them
Alone. Let those who've never lied confess
They have no soul. Not one.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Piper at the Gates of Gone

One more flash-flood mark on the tangled bank,
Mud and grasses hanging from bent branches
And the odd archaeological scrap
Deposited, another faerie flag

Of intricately tattered human hopes,
The page of a paperback book, a skein
Of toilet paper, a bit of plastic
Clothing manufactured so far from here

The oceans could not conceive of a world
Dry enough for destruction by a  flood.
What water lifted and carried down, wind
Will rearrange more gradually. All gone

Except for shepherds' carvings in the bark's
Torn strips, qui cum sapientia cadit.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The I of Each Is to the I of Each

A kind of fretted speech, like a grill or a guitar,
A wee dram of unexpected
Complications near a small, unpointed  star.
You can get carried away with your wanton

Comparisons, your allusions to worlds
Of fervor you never, will never know.
But strum a chord and feel self-gratified.
The world is cruel enough. Be glad before

You sigh.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Swimming for Shore

Every human life's an occurrence
At Owl Creek Bridge, the timing
Between the knowledge, the hallucination,
And the snap barely variable,
Although there's no denying
The hallucination was richly detailed.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Glad in It

"This is the day that the Lord hath made!"
Harriet Bond Wetherbe Jeffreys
Would chant to wake her many children,

Mostly to rouse them by annoyance
And by her own bombastic pleasure
In having a righteous thing to say.

"Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"
Yesterday, rejoicing in being
Still around under the sun, her son,

Mark Edwin Jeffreys was explaining
To his quizzical child how many
Members of his family had died.

She stopped him on Grandma Harriet
Because their lifetimes had overlapped
By a few months but they hadn't met.

Sequoia Athena Jeffreys asked
For more information on Grandma,
And in the manner of the era,

Sequoia's father typed Harriet's
Name onto a gleaming piece of glass
And was gobsmacked to see photographs

Of his own mother he'd never seen
Before, floating out there named and tagged.
Of course, they were low resolution

And he'd have had to buy membership
In this or that ancestry service
To see the higher resolution

Reproductions of his mother's face
In a bad bob in the Depression,
Smiling shyly on a World War farm.

But it was enough. He could hear her
In her forties and fifties, singing
To wake up the kids in New Jersey;

He could see her whiskered, edentate
Grimace of a smile near the finish.
"Oh let us rejoice, let us rejoice,

And be glad! In! It!" All that we are,
Every song, every verse, every word,
Every image, every memory,

Even our hoarded, reconstructed
Own, comes from, or heads out, outside us.
But we can't escape our locations

Within each passing frame of mammal.
His mother was everything she was
Not. Him, too. His child, too. Forever,

A village audience attending
To the circus performers passing
In alien tents, the opera

Singers left over from somewhere else,
The circuit preachers, the lecturers,
The love that visits, inhabits, leaves.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Barbisol and Brylcreem

When I was a boy, men smelled like men,
Which is to say they smelled like products
Of artificially made perfumes.

They put products on their faces, they
Put products in their hair; their razors
Scraped along their snowy cheeks, nethers

Were scraped in discrete shapes by spouses
Known as housewives who birthed wet children
In clean rooms under brightly lit tubes.

When I was a boy, we drew faces
On our notebooks. The basic idea
Was to start with something like Kilroy,

Then add increasing amounts of hair
Until you ended up with something
Like Charlie Manson or John Lennon,

Spectacled, sauntering Abbey Road.
The idea of young boys is to slowly
Transform into what their fathers hate,

But no generation quite succeeds.
My father spent his last years bearded.
My beard looks suspiciously like his.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

We Murder to Connect

Cooperation is another kind of competition.
The inside of the shuffling circle of Emperor Penguins,
Starving and carrying eggs on their feet in Antarctic dark,

The outer periphery of campfire tales of Noah's Ark,
And everything in between, remain ways of drawing strength in,
The better to conserve and amass and send it out again,

"Excretion of waste to pay down the debt" owed to entropy.
Cancel that. Without cooperation, no competition.
The concentric rings grow ever outward, inventing life, death,

Predation, parasitism, the total wars of humans
And eusocial superorganisms, exquisitely tuned
And prolonged, euphonious, harmonious, polyrhythmic,

Symphonic orchestrations of sacrifice on the inside,
Pitiless, fiery walls of chaos and random cruelty
Approaching, dissolving every luminous calm from without.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fable of Fables

The abundance of expensive,
Exotic raw matériel
In fabulous lands, lost, broken
Bow in hand, souls bowed down, broken,

The royal seal signing defeat,
Compact cylinder made to roll
Over the clay of a new day,
All these lost, apposite clauses:

Together we were meant to slip
Past the horned gates of meaning made
And maintained by brainier selves,
Ourselves, the council of the gods

Ensconced in dull billions of skulls,
Contesting, commiserating.
She saw a skull. She washed it clean.
As she was about to go home,

The well-washed skull called out to her,
"May you become queen, even if
You are first turned into a snake."
Gratitude overrules thunder.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Aspens and Orange at Navajo Lake

Repetitions reassert
The atmosphere of wonder.
Humbaba's forests regroup
And regather, in tatters,

True, but not in surrender.
This lake was, after all, trapped
By all-consuming lava
Long after Gilgamesh ruled,

And even now the basalt
Boulders are ink, almost bare,
Except for the strange aspens,
Small gold pennants fluttering,

Colonizing black-bricked rocks.
But forest birds bring songs back,
And human hunters clamber,
Blazing orange everywhere,

Following their horned monsters,
Lust, bellow, rut, and batter.
The names are all wrong, altered,
But the game's beyond words' range.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Hominid Libido

Makes no sense. Wears pants.
"Skepticism is the chastity
Of the intellect, and it is shameful

To surrender it too soon." Pretend
That any animal remains a mensch
When the animal's pulse is wrenched

By naked embarrassments. The hand,
So delicate, so used to all kinds of tools,
Fumbles at the entrance of the real.

You rub up hard against the raw world,
Wanting the miracle, the meaning cooked
Up out of nothing more than the want.

Miserable, darling medium-sized ape
Hunkered down in a shadow, hoping
To be or not to be caught unseen.

Want cover you cannot recover.
Other mammals must musth or musk.
You mist or miss. Muss your misplaced mane

Of extravagant hair against some naked skin.
What you wanted was some idea of what
Was want, once done come and gone again.