Saturday, December 31, 2016

Become Like One of Us

Burn the libraries, erase the disks,
Clean off the epigenomes. Get wise.
Outside our observable patch, things

Could be very different. I don't know.
Neither does any other pronoun.
That's where the rhetoric got clever.

Wasn't that knowledge was dangerous.
Wasn't couldn't become one of us.
Was we were already one of us.

Friday, December 30, 2016

What Is Not Here Is Found Nowhere Else

Years ago, on the Monk's Bridge,
I threw in with the Faeries,
Said my hellos to Themselves,
And have lived with the strangeness,
Sweet, terrible strangeness, since.
What I mean: one embraces
Randomness, calls all twists "World."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

One-Daughter Dads

Are common in New Denver,
Old ones, no sons, faint careers.
We show up with our daughters
Skipping, solo, around us
Shuffling through late middle age,
To birthday parties, dances,
School, market, swimming lessons,

Marsh, his daughter Aurora,
Miles and his daughter Della,
Ray, in straw hat, with Jasmine,
And me with my Sequoia.
None of us know what to do
With our coincidences,
Save fold our arms, shrug and smile.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

This Is the Work of Memory When You Are about to Die

Unsystematic, idiosyncratic, serendipitous
Events are all your life consisted of, all life consists of now.

In the middle of early morning dreams of murky failure
You rise, gills laboring, trying to surface through memories

Terrible and insubstantial as early morning air.
You push them aside, those clutching gasps that wish dreams, forget.

It's okay. You have been reassembled from nothing
Once again. You open your eyes with another gasp.

The fiction of you reassembles, the workshop
Of memory below the photic zone churns up

Semirandom, crystallized aspects of you.
You remember yourself, recount your events.

You've no idea if all of them are there,
But too many of them remain to count.

It's okay. It's another day. You
Have to remember enough to live,

Remember those thoughts still in play,
Whatever's new about today.

The music you hear whispers
That a world goes on out there,

That there's nothing in here,
That there's nothing to fear,

That more events come,
That nothing's undone,

That you're aware,
You hear music,

You don't know
What kind, nor

From where.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

An Almanac for the Year 59

Three wooden strips inscribed in ink
Two thousand and seventy-six
Orbits past predicted events
Celestial and otherwise

For the forthcoming rotation
Somewhere in the Tarim Basin,
Wild West, in those days, of the Han.
Without being able to read

What that oasis almanac
Forecast, I'd be willing to bet
A few predictions proved correct.
Mind, they were found in a midden.

Monday, December 26, 2016


One who came from nothing, one
From only speech, I am one
Of those creator mischief
Makers, not the ones behind
The curtains, not the humbugs
Who float away on hot air,
But one of those washed ashore,

Signifying other lands
Might exist unvisited
Or anyway might exist.
My every word has purpose,
If only to keep you close,
Clutching the pulse in your chest,
Anxious for what happens next.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Book of the Watchers

Every angel ever invented
Fell to ground wanton and whispered
Into the mind of a maiden
Or many he was her intended.

Sex and apocalypse are dancers
Pulsing thoughts never untangle.
Here let me help you. Your tango
Serves the needs of inhuman pranksters

Who want you to forget that your flesh
Is rope with which they mend their nets,
Replenishing weirs with fresh souls.
Forlorn, unto lust reason is born.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Meadow Fish

The same way the sea has fashioned
Boats, the lake itself has fashioned
Our strokes. We swim as best we can,

But that's never the point of this
Exercise. What is was what won
But will have to lose in the end.

Even the green lake surrounded
By apparently stately clouds,
Calm as it could be in summer,

Meadow bright, reflecting wildflowers,
Was never a place that we were,
Only glass rhymes slowly turning.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Root Key

Forest hides the woods. Quiet,
The birds sing out noisily,
The eye is a metaphor
That signs for itself. I see
When the wind moves through the leaves
But not when the downward search
Grasps life microscopically,

And all life's microscopic
When it comes to intentions.
I want dreams to answer me.
I want to pose a query
When I'm sitting in the trees.
But I know I can't ask them.
Talking woods hid the tongue's key.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

On the Fourteenth Day of Abu

Sometime around twenty-four hundred
And eighty-one years ago, summer
In the northern hemisphere, Xerxes,

King of kings, Emperor of Persia,
The largest empire the world had seen,
Was killed by his son. That's how it goes.

You're a god until your kid kills you.
Then you're five or six feet of remains,
Rapidly dwindling, bones of a name.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I wake up like the day itself,
A thing that gradually gathers
Some existence through ending some.
It appears I've not disappeared

For good and all just yet. I bet
I'm ready for another life,
One in which I cross more bridges
Than I burn. Away from others

In whose conversations I rot
Away, I decay more slowly,
And one could almost catch my breath
Like an insect out of the air.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


My wife, like many Utahns,
Pronounces it zero-scape.
I like the implication,
Turning lawns into nothing,
Cultivating absences,
Painting emptiness as is.
The null set's not so easy.

Let the desert bear forth zilch,
The mulch be rich with nada.
Let the rose fly with the worm,
Be gone in the howling storm.
Given the universe
Is expanding, what is it
Expanding into? Nothing.

Monday, December 19, 2016


The Earth, his foot-stool, is
Entirely ruined.
Ah, Adam, 'adamah,
You're in love with the sky,
The blue infinitive
Absolute. To be been.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nascimento Mori

I've been where you're going, but
You've never been where I am.
I can't report back to you,
Which makes both of us sorry.
Over and over, writers,
Painters, prophets, and doctors
Squint to compose the unknown,

Which remains, nevertheless,
Unknown. Imagination's
Forever Moses, peeking
At a promise. No, not that.
Imagination studies
How darkness falls where it can't
Go. It's the falling that's hard.

I went to sleep in the small,
Blank house of Senya Mori,
Under broad green leaves, green roof.
What he himself might have said
As to how similar sleep
Might be to what he does now,
He couldn't, I couldn't say.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Illud Tempus

The dynamics of poetry
Are the same as the dynamics
Of dreaming. Not just rhythmic, but

Choppy, abrupt, as ocean waves
Are rhythmic and choppy, abrupt.
We only seem, and only we

Seem, to return, return. What
Turns below whatever little boat
We float is the never, never the same.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Wood Route

What road is this? I asked her.
The root through the wood, she said.
All the way through? I asked her.
The only way through, she said.
I scanned the trees overhead.
Surely there's no single root
Shared by the whole wood, I said.

Think these are trees? she asked me.
Competing species, I said.
Think the twigs talk? she asked me.
As much as we do, I said.
Then you go on up ahead,
She laughed, and ask them the way.
I'm going under, she said.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Sauquoit Yeah

Wolf's dog DNA and gods flow
Through the lineal veins of culture,
Milleniums of carpe diems, subfossil
Capuchin stone hammers and anvils.
Of botany in the apostolic age, all I can rage
Is, Madam, I'm damn metaphoricious. Alu!
Alu! Alu! Hallelujah! The human genome
Makes no sense. It resembles us.
Nearshore. Nefesh. Tech bogey
Technology is driving its own iron
Car to the costume ball and the green
Evolution's absolution, simultaneously,
A good talking to, spoiled.
Let me tell you something, something
Secret. Nothing's truly simultaneous,
Truly it is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Those Not Imagined Are Carefully Observed

Deer stones, griffins, flying stags:
We never quite caught the soul
We so wanted to become,

The pure representation
Of the symbol as symbol,
Too impossible for us.

Like the so-called face of God,
Like the so-called nameless one,
The symbol cannot be seen

In a representation
Of itself, being wholly
The power of representing

Something else, as nothing is
Literally represented,
Everything is imagined.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Aphros Noos Sema

An account very authentic,
And yet unaccountably faked,
Public, unfulfilled ambition
Simultaneously trickled,
Oblivious of its failure,
Down priest's reed, historian's pen:
I was meant to go home again.

Home being unknown origin
Or unknown destiny, the same,
I've been getting mostly nowhere,
Stranded and sandwiched in between
Two enormous, shifting deserts,
Hunger and signification,
Want and meaning, lust and seeming,

My parents. They made me. I am
A brief transit through which they pass,
Love and lying, flesh as the past
Posting its tricky messages
Like these fresh declarations nailed
To the rafters proclaiming, I
Have not consumed all, so spare me.

Monday, December 12, 2016


"Such a search for the place of ultimate
Inexpense leads to either paradise
Or death." Or both but somewhat earlier

Than otherwise. There is no otherwise.
Also, ultimate expense likewise leads
To either paradise or death. I will

Either find paradise before I die,
Or I will not. Fortune vanishingly
Unlikely will come to me overnight

Or it will not. I'll get away with this
Habit I have that spends what I don't have
Or I won't. We're immortal or we're not.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sucker Hole

"I got lost inside a dream
That left me captain of none
And nothing." Making a world
For myself, oui, qui est bien,
I waited in a meadow
Surrounded by conifers
Where nothing seemed to happen.

Occasionally, the wind
Picked up enough to whisper
Through the compliant branches
And tease apart sodden skies
So that a blue sucker hole
Could let through a shaft of sun
That turned woods and meadow gold.

Occasionally, a grouse,
Murmuring and harrumphing
To herself, appeared briefly
Along the path through the grass,
Or a territorial squirrel
Would madly exert itself
In convulsive chittering.

That was it. No mammals showed,
Other than me and the squirrel.
The storm never broke. No trees
Blew over. Even the bees
And the flies rarely bothered
To bother my attention.
I wanted never to leave.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Back when your Mama launched me
On this weird lyric sequence
That I gradually fused
With the equally hoary

Forms of the commonplace book,
Diary, and short essay,
All this sheer wool gathering
And idle navel gazing,

Your navel was still glowing
From when I'd neatly tied it
With the help of the midwife
Just a few weeks earlier.

Today you turn six years old.
I suspect it won't be long
Before you can understand
What I've struggled to compose

Better than I can myself.
For now, you interrogate,
Glancing over my shoulder,
Miffed when I tap on my screen.

"What are you doing there now?
Put the phone away, Papa!
I want you to play with me."
By the lakes where you were born

A people once lived that fixed
Importance to the number
Six. Not even descendants
Keen to remember know why.

Why do we find importance
In any abstract notion?
There is no absolute six,
No one left to worship it.

There will be no poetry,
No me, no such distractions
As time and identity
Soon enough. You're right. Let's play.

Friday, December 9, 2016

What Animates the Otherworldly Dead

To impress the observer
With the power of the dead man
And, therefore, his lineage,

Stratified societies
Specialized in well-built tombs,
Kurgans and mausoleums,

Pyramids, that sort of thing,
Which, once the lineage ceased
Or ceased to be powerful,

Served as no more than targets
For grave robbers, pasturage
For nimble goats, holy grails

For the archeologists,
And so forth. See what I mean?
Power is always symbolized

By the powerless icons
Of the living descendants.
Dig deeper. Symbol's power.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What Followed Is Part of a Later Narrative

The final sealing of the tomb
Never preceded burial
Of as many slaves and horses,
Chariots and charioteers
As the lineage could afford
To lose, compel to sacrifice.
What does this tell us about us?
I don't have that much confidence

In the applicability
Of any form of righteousness
Beyond local ability
(Temporally local, that is)
To coordinate disparate
Organisms of our species
In elaborate productions.

The bodies we scatter behind,
The remains we ourselves become
Are . . . What? Ghosts of coral polyps?
Topmost film of stromatolites?
Our story never ends with us.
The story never ends for us.
The ending is always a trick,
A pause for breath in the burning.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What You See Is But a Sample of the Secretary

The blood that lit this mind was raised on sugars
From the gut, oxygen from the fiery air,
But you will notice its lusts are incomplete.

The pulse comes from the relentlessness of sun
Dragging chains of local, artificial light
Through narrow corridors of zeros and ones,

And any pulse, by feigning repetition,
Making it seem as if moments could return,
Filters time by changing its pace, breaking it

Into edible pieces. The rest is waste,
Glorious, inevitable, howling waste,
The sluggishness of dusk, the cry in the mire

That divides the infinite into what's read,
The cloudy day's sudden shafts of misleading
Revelations, and what's left out, rotten nights.

A diary is to a life as fossils
Are to a species, and this you see, old friends,
Offers itself to you as type specimen.

Laugh if you like. Disdain if you like. You are
Courtiers of daylight, tall as trees, well-dressed.
The complete secretary will come later.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


Who is triumphant hesitates to say.
Makir is to maker as fakir is to faker.
Something has happened. Something

Has shifted. But who will draw me out,
Now that I have nothing more to say
For myself? I saw a sign that I misread.

It was a pyramidal book title. In English
Numbers and names can exchange clothes.
"One / a.m. / no one," I thought it said.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Desire for Line

How sad he, Iskander, must have been
To die without having established
A permanent line around the world.

I have never had the chance to go
Visit the land of wolves and tigers.
I'm lucky to see elk, moose, or bear.

I'd be disappointed anyway
By the actual countryside named
With words suggesting more terrible

Woods and more magical denizens
Than any forest actually holds.
I want a line I can step outside.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Scythian Triad

Space is a fiction that time generates,
Or, more directly, that change generates.
Tombs are the stories we read in reverse,

Reminding us how change changes with change.
Once someone's dead, we can try to keep them
Still, giving them all of the goods they had,

Packing them in armories of weapons,
Wardrobes of fancy clothes, mansions of graves
Rich with animal art, suggesting life

Itself can be stylized, rigidified,
Immortal for being thus arrested.
But the times change around the grassy mounds

Concealing the slowly rotting remains
Of the temporal imagination.
Brother, without me, there'd be only charm.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Dzungarian Mirage

The city was a strange spectacle, morning
After the storm. Gods had become parasites
Rather than hosts. All the imperfect things fled

Themselves and the westernmost bent and crumpled
Into the lake of heaven's deserted shore.
We are almost at the end of the endless

Repetition of the beginnings of things.
Compassion demands we feel for each other
What the shipwrecked, storm-tossed, and drowned never feel.

I have heard persons who pretended to give
A faithful account of that terrible night.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Darkness of All Allegory

Sweet Dreams is an actual business,
An inn on the shore of the Slow Lake.
I know the couple who own the place,
And they're nice enough, although they want
An awful lot to let you stay there.
And who would not pay well for sweet dreams?
Those who know they can't be guaranteed,
Those careful not to characterize
Anything good or bad beforehand.

The darkness of all allegory
Lurks in the shadow selves of meaning,
The way a word can turn and cut you
With irony for holding it fast,
For pressing too hard. Ask Goody Close
Or any others in the forest
Following a pastoral devil.
Ask yourself why you had that nightmare
Asleep in suddenly hungry waves.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Word, User of Freaks

Concept, idea, norm, meme, phrase,
Script, behavior, mimesis:
The predators name themselves;
The prey practice camouflage,
And vanish into the hides
That they would appear to be.
Is that shadow me that stalks

Or did that shadow eat me?
I watch myself carefully,
Notice how my daughter mimes
First one friend then another.
The smallest stereotype
Intrigues me. They are moving
Through us, ingesting. Hide me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Earth and Water

Every metaphor wants tribute
In the form of substantial facts,
But only the fact of tribute
Transmigrates, transubstantiates.

Traces of each story are left
Ghostlike in all subsequent tales.
That's what geographers are for,
But we don't need geographers

Anymore. The explanation
Our mind has supplied in the course
Of reading about boundaries
Will have to be enough for us.

I sat on the surrender bench
Watching the lake's waves, half-hoping
To see a selkie's dark, sleek head
Emerge from the snow-shouldered surf,

But I saw nothing, nothing new,
Nothing but the ordinary,
Strangest and hardest to forgive
Implausibility of all.

Or I never sat on that bench.
In fact, I slouched inside my car,
Collecting quotations to maim.
The rest of my memory's truth.

I saw what you might call water
While placed on what you might call earth,
And I was so sad I offered
Tokens of mud for forever.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dead Cat Bounce

Concepts compete for resources,
For reproduction and survival.
Who would crave a black butterfly
Born too soon during a mild winter?

One soul, divided by grammar,
The synthesis of culture and flesh,
Each instructing and correcting
The other, birthing hypocrisy,

Logic, rationalization,
Immortality, divinity,
Desire as an explanation.
We want to live. We think about death.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sixteen Letters to Senya

1. Ghost Cave

"Let the poet sing his long, lovely epic; it is still the harried, inarticulate, much beleaguered guy in the white coat who will be cementing the transactions."

Why 'guy'? All right, let that go by.
I live in your home with your ghosts
With no idea, actually, who
You were. Are is too strong a word

For any of us, any genes
Uncemented by transactions
Between the poets in white coats
And the heroes in the aether.

322 5th Avenue,
End of Kildare Lane, New Denver,
British Columbia. We are
Here if ever we're anywhere,

Your Honor. Can we discuss this
Matter of who is entitled
To occupy a dead man's home,
Interloper or ghost himself?

2. Mori Bench

When I spell genes, I don't mean genes
But something like heredity.
It could be yours. It could be ours.

There's a bench with your name on it
And a chair in your former house
That my daughter tumbles out of

Scratching her back. My wife says hi
To you, impromptu, during deep
Meditation by your fireside.

You're around here, somewhere, still, but
I know that, to you, you never,
The world, the universe never

Was, none of it, never will be.
You, memento of another
Age, never were, never will be.

I you if you remember me.

3. Rain on May

In your own life, nothing ever
Comes out of the blue. Take a broom
And sweep the countless green inchworms
Hanging from threads from your fruit trees.

Your daughter, returned, lives next door.
Remember when you flipped breakers
In the basement, switching off heat,
Switching on one bare, lonely light?

That's all right. I'm remembering
For you and me alike in here,
Little closet of English lines,
So unlike your Japanese youth.

On May Day, after weeks of sun,
It rains. Your home remains well-built,
Twenty-odd years after you've gone.
My thoughts are not so watertight.

4. The World, the Other Books, the Mind of the Cartographer

Your daughter greets me as I leave
To crutch up to the big parade,
Relatively speaking, for May Days.
It is raining in the Slocan

Again, and she's wryly cheerful
Standing in her puddled green lawn.
"Going to see the floats, hey?" Yes.
My own daughter's on one of them.

The same when you were mayor,
No doubt. A short parade, a few
Floats, crowd evenly divided
Between friends and kin on the floats,

And friends and kin lining the route.
Every little one is a world
And none of their worlds are little.
Who could map the trails through all this?

5. You and I

Positioning has no regard.
We leave the world. The world leaves us.
I know near nothing about you.
You know nothing about yourself,

Not even your name, the story,
However fragmented, I write
These lovely, hopeless letters to.
Nobody, nothing ever was.

Down by the shores of the deep lake,
An otter rolls under the waves.
My daughter says it's a selkie.
Your daughter says it's a problem.

"Oh, it won't be good if they den
Under the marina. They take
Too many fish and scare the rest."
Senya, are we fish or otters?

6. Hashish to Calm an Old Man's Nerves

Never cared for the stuff, myself.
I have other, wetter, weakness,
Uisge beatha, the Slocan Lake.

Still, I understand old man nerves.
I'll bet you did, too, when you were.
The sun comes out belatedly.

The sun! Enormous, spherical,
Collapsing into helpless fire
All those millions of miles from here.

It doesn't "come out." I know it
Doesn't. It dances the dozens,
Alone with mediocrity,

Small star out on a spiral arm,
And yet the center of all life
In the universe that we know.

Did you ever think on these things?

7. The Studio

"He nods. He nods in a way that I never could--with complete certainty. He nods like someone who doesn't believe in God, but who believes in something that won't give way in the face of accident or disease."

My wife has made a studio
Out of spare tables, the red chair
With your name stenciled on the back
That you had, perhaps, since childhood,

And a couple of folding screens
On your front porch with the north light.
It's a small space, cold when it's cold,
Hot when it's hot, but she likes it

Better than the tranquil bedroom,
Two small windows, one facing east,
One facing the sound of the creek,
Where I like to sit and write you.

I wish I could brush-stroke kanji.
It would feel more literary.
My wife's in the studio now,
And I am at home with a ghost.

8. The Plain Room

Southeast precisely, the corner
Between two white windows.
This is where I imagine you
Would have kept your simple household

Shrine for deities and demons.
On either side, the plain white walls
Divide, recorner, and reform.
The handsome, mature cherry tree

No one fails to recollect when
Remembering you or your house
Embraces both of the windows
With seasons, bud, blossom, fruit, bare.

My wife and I embrace as well,
This cornering moment in space
Where all blank possibilities
Join past to myth, body to soul.

9. Johnny Jump-Ups

I wonder if your daughters ate
The bright little Johnny jump-ups,
Prettiest of weeds, that pop out
Out of your lawn after a rain.

My daughter loves to snack on them,
Cramming their blue purple white gold
Petals as small as her thumbnails
Into her mouth, colored candy,

Healthy as a salad. Mama
Doesn't mind. I don't mind either,
Although it seems like a fairytale
To this polluted 'Jersey boy

That a blonde pixie could walk out
The back door and feast on flowers.
Where I grew up, nothing was safe,
Not the water, not the jump-ups.

10. Cherries in June

Were they ever ripe this early
When they were your trees, your cherries?
It's been sunny for days, dace fry
In the shadows of the shallows,

Glimpses of trout and kokanee
To be had on swims further out,
Darker green cursive signatures
In the golden green, upside down

Sanctuary of the lake. Rain
Finally returns but the fruit
Already bursts from the branches.
My daughter leaps to eat a few.

Yesterday, in a kid's kayak,
She drifted into adventure,
Blown to deep water at evening
When fish leap. I swam to save her.

11. Sun and Games

We had Koko and Paul over for tea.
Koko was struck by how your descendants
Had renovated your little homestead.
Does it still have the Japanese bath? No.

She nodded approvingly at my wife
When told of visitations by your ghost,
Picked a few cherries, peeked into the shed.
It must be maddening to live alone

In a home once your own when you are dead.
We served side dishes of berries and nuts
In pretty porcelain cups, "Made in Japan,"
And gave each other fierce hugs at the end.

Koko is nearing eighty and wants to see
The famous light of Taos and Santa Fe,
Grace of painters twenty hours south of here.
Next day, surprise, you broke our porcelain plates.

12. Hikone Castle

There's one small print of a fortress
On your otherwise bare wall, near
The entertainment cabinet
In the corner of your main room,

Plus lines of fine calligraphy.
My daughter's an enthusiast
Of the flicks of Miyazaki,
As are her parents. We watch them

Together on rainy evenings
Beside the big picture window,
All those cartoon kids and spirits,
Kiki, Ponyo, Totoro.

The fortress lacks a voice-over.
When here, Koko studied the print.
"That's Hikone Castle!" she said,
"Shiga prefecture. I've been there."

13. Compost

Your daughter borrows a pitchfork,
She says to dig a compost hole.
I find this curious but learn
From someone this was your habit.

Instead of creating a pile
Somewhere more or less safe from bears
And later spreading well-turned mulch
Around among your garden plots,

You preferred to dig holes, fill them,
Tamp them, and then, much later, plant
Potted flowers, shrubs, and fruit trees,
Each in its unique compost hole.

I survey your lawn with fresh eyes,
The cherry, plum, and chestnut trees,
The regular clumps of flowers.
A ghost is a habit's own life.

14. Tuesdays

It's got to be coincidence.
Nearly every Tuesday evening
We've spent at your house, some minor
Magic of social happenstance

Converges around your back lawn
Framed by the fruit trees and the creek.
The midsummer sun angles in
Between the banked afternoon clouds

And children appear from nowhere,
Running down the path, bicycling
From town with a mom, play fighting
In the flowers by the back door.

Pensioners wander by with dogs.
The RCMP officer
From next door laughs with his daughter
On his shoulders. This your doing?

15. Giving Us Grief

After midsummer's day had gone,
The past tense gripped the narrative.
The cherries were on the ground; rain
Pounded the roof of your small home
Until the renovated tin
Began to leak reluctantly.
The breakers in your locked basement
Were tripping, one by one, again,

Your daughter off on vacation,
And no one there to let us in.
After Akido, my daughter
And I ate at Cup and Saucer
And watched the lake's long clouds roll in,
Implausibly wintry-hearted.
The hot days would return, immense,
But first someone had to mourn them.

16. Canada Day

It was almost here. June had fled
In a flurry of scurrying
Without really that much to say.
Your daughter, back from Calgary,

The sun back temporarily,
Hanging fire from mountains and clouds,
The end of my daughter's pre-school
Era, everything said almost,

Almost on top of us, almost
Gone as you. But not quite. Not yet.
I decided I shouldn't wait,
That it was time to leave you here,

Before you had really happened.
I like the thought of future ghosts,
Senya. We haunt before we are,
Kotodama; voices make waves.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Here Lies Sir Ender

"The common human impulse
To entertain, even in
A hospital room," obtains.

I am flirting shamelessly
With six forms of disaster,
Abusing body and bank

Accounts while coyly returning
To temporary safety
Each time disaster flirts back.

I'm cheerful on a gurney,
Polite before surgery.
Even in a prisonhouse,

I'm the amiable sort.
If I could be a good host
After giving up the ghost,

That would suit me perfectly.
I'm saying this now so that,
When I finally elope

With disaster, you have this
String of self-deprecating
Chat to remember me by,

In the hope, eventually,
You'll think of genial me
And smile when I haunt your dreams.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Noon. The light was dim
Through a clouded scrim
Of birch. Pretty grim
For June. On a whim
Then, humming the hymns

His faith had taught him,
He walked to the rim
Of the falls, the brim
Spilling, the spray limned
With angel's wings, prim

Divinity's slim
Outline between them,
The shapes of her limbs
Gleaming where light skimmed.
The angel said, Swim.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Now Let Us Shout Down Xenophanes

He had a particular
Preoccupation with clouds.
Sun, moon, lightning, shooting stars
Were epiphenomena
Of clouds, moving and burning.
He was less impressed with gods.
We say, "few fragments survive,"

As if his words were pieces
Of his living flesh, as if
He, too, were risible god.
We've taken naturalism
And run with it, can forecast
All sorts of weather quite well,
Have even walked on the moon

(Not, it turns out, burning cloud).
But we're still God-besotted
Despite that, sticking fingers
In our ears, stubborn, chanting
Like kids refusing to hear.
Nyah-nyah-nyah! I can't hear you!
Then off we rush for our guns.

Doesn't matter. Matter does
What matter does and we are
More or less, like clouds, matter.
We arise and we dissolve,
And we mutter about it,
Which makes us atypical
Among the life forms we know,

But we're not happy as such.
We run in rings, singing things
Both true and truly nonsense.
Eeny meeny miny mo,
Catch disaster by the toe.
Soon you'll falter. Soon you'll go.
Eeny meeny miny mo.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


I live in a world where everyone dies,
And although that's the only salient fact
I've spent most of my life ignoring it.
I've lost my way with a ways still to go,
And now I don't know if I'm going it.

The old, lovely, warm, cedar Harold Bench
With the blank spot where the brass plate had been
Is now completely gone. It's been replaced
By a new, taller, fake-wood and steel bench
With a more informative, brighter plate.

The original bench's plate had
Specified no surname for "memory
Of our son Harold," mysteriously.
Now I know that Harold, for whom this world
Now never existed, was a Bayford,

And I feel less for him, nonexistent,
And nothing for this hideous new bench,
Though clearly it shows someone cared enough
To more carefully commemorate him.
Sun that will never return burns again.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


I love I'm aging.
Wish I aged faster.
Aging is shifting
Appearance, escape.
It's not being dead.

It's one step ahead
Of where I used to
Be, no going back.
If you're not aging
You're already dead.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

To Meet My Bear

"We're going in the forest.
There's not bears or anything."
Little Charlie, two years old,
Said this to three older boys
At the Barkers' farm in Hills
On the edge of a forest
Home to quite a few black bears.

It was a rainy June day
Just past the summer solstice.
Children visited the farm
In their slickers and Wellies
To feed the chickens, llamas,
Lambs, and goats. Said I, myself,
I'm going in the forest.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Not Now

Once I saw the future and understood
Birdsong. This pleasure existed before

Morality reared its well-bred head. Then
I learned that everything I learned would go,

Including that. I interrupted Death
Itself in the act of copulating,

Which meant my life was forfeit instantly.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

To Be Discontinued

I have issues with narrative.
Scientific or not,
Stories have a structure
That feeds us like the saddle clasp

Of hemoglobin molecules,
Delivering the fuel
With which we burn our lives
In precisely bite-sized packets.

Offloaded, stories float away
To go grasp more fearful
Oxygen we can gasp.
Their delivery is perfect

And their content keeps us going,
But there's no difference
Between any intake
Of breath, however desperate,

And any other, first to last.
The message is the same.
Carry on as you were.
Never fear. Back with more later.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


The origins of humanity
Have not seemed to interest poets much.
We love the how of our perception;
We love the what. We shy from the why,
As we should. When we grow arrogant
Enough to think we can unravel
Our correlations to origins,
We tumble from what we can observe,
From the heaped-up ten thousand things sung,
Down into darkness, understanding.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Under a Sign

What a vague and flexible
Concept a God is,
A trading post for ideas
Where treaties are made

Under one protective sign
That means many things
To the negotiators
And the horse traders

Sheltering their business there.
A dispute burns a post down,
A post is abandoned

Or besieged, becomes a fort.
Less business gets done
In the palisades' shadow,
But still, some gets done.

It's the desire to transact
But get the better
Of the transaction that makes
God flexible, vague.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Over the Volcano

Death wears a cape from the Sun,
And the Sun throws dark shadows.
Not even a volcano
Will remain a volcano,
Cold plug subducted under.
A healthy mosquito, free
Of human-killing disease

Won't quit begging me be still.
If I am still, her babies
Built of my mammalian blood
Will return to haunt this place
I'm wandering aimlessly,
Will try their luck on deer hides
Or me again, if I'm still

Alive, which seems unlikely.
The abducted minerals
The carious mines have culled,
Various holes in the ground,
Witness the way rock ages
As life dies to break it down,
And the Sun throws dark shadows.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Runners of the Woods

Do our hopes deceive us? Will we ever know?
Snowdrops are enemies to all other flowers
Because they gave away whiteness to the snow.

Matter can compute, can be disappointed
As the moon in a fairytale once composed
By the conjoined material anointed,

By itself, of course, variously, as soul,
Mind, ghost, the thing that lives outside and inside
Alike and not at all, the hole of the whole.

Flitting through the gloomy forests of the brain,
These flowers, moths, inescapable scraps of mist
Escape us and give our brightness to the rain.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


It's high time I left for the margins.
The law, solemn and absurd, at home
Is that no one escapes or explores

Anymore, unless the emperor
Sends them to the edge of what is known
To chart and plant monuments to power

Exactly where power ceases to be.
I want to slip between the pillars
Raised to mark our empire's boundaries,

Without any grant or permission,
Without anyone knowing
I'm past the point of anything known.

I want to be free to look over
My shoulder, as I vanish inland,
At the emperor's ships in the sea

Still conning the shoreline for some place
To land and claim or reclaim and leave.
If you help me, I'll remember you.

Monday, November 14, 2016

All Day Eddy

Material's mysterious, not mere.
Spirit inheres in it, never leaves it,

Never lives apart from it, but somehow
Arises continually, as if

Whatever is is tasked with producing
Eternally whatever never is.

In Utah, in the Professor Valley,
What's left of the Colorado River

Flows continually, often bearing
Rubber rafts of silly people seeking

Thrills and beauty and something to boast of
Later in an office building somewhere.

The river guides have nicknamed every spot
From wherever they start to Takeout Beach.

One location, slightly less than certain,
But a lot more reliable than rare

Consists of a large, leisurely vortex
Known as All-Day Eddy. If you float in

And don't know how to paddle out,
You could spin in large, slow circles for hours.

Varied materials interacting
Along the way from lower to higher

Entropies generate All-Day Eddy,
The rafts, the rafters, their voices, these words.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


The captain of the men of death,
Porta fenestella, fate's door,
Opens wide, like a gracious host

And salutes the lost wanderer.
Come in, come in, make yourself home.
So the wanderer does just that,

Becoming at one with the hearth
And the rich, heavy tapestries,
One with the bedroom and the bed.

A little packet of letters
On the nightstand is all that's left
Of the story of the last host.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fire Shaping

A firecracker makes a bad candle,
A candle a dismal firecracker.
What do you want life for?

I do not imitate others like you do.
I have my own way of imitating things.
I take them.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Incomplete Tales of Mother Ghost

1. Orfeoyote

"The very bone of my existence,
Knowledge and belief always at war
With each other, since what I know I

Can never manage quite to believe,
And one thing I know is that that's so,
And still I refuse to believe it."

Coyote began to cry because
He didn't know what to do. He tripped
And fell in the river. The current

Carried him away. He sang, "These are
Words to conjure with. Fertility.
Adaptability. Aerobic

Fitness. Disease. I can't come closer
To simple natural selection
Than that." But the fish weren't listening.

Along the shore, the nonexistent
Fairy women hawking on horseback
Included Coyote's kidnapped spouse,

Who couldn't hear him singing either.
"I'm hungry," Coyote sang sweetly.
If you're so clever, eat the river.

2. The Yoke of a Whip-Wielding Ape

The poetic oddity
Sat behind two oxen yoked
To the oddity's success.

A tree, dynamic, frozen,
Computed the power of sun.
The oddity cut it down,

Built a home out of its bones,
And sang songs through the oxen's
Horns by the hearth, counting verse.

The oddity ate and drank,
Shit and pissed like anything,
But edited the latter

Out of its long, heroic
Song about a whip-wielding
Ape who prayed invisibly

Over the bones of oxen
Burned on the bones of the trees,
Eating the fat of the gods.

3. Talking Animals

Search in vain for the parents of us all.
Our progenitors were the ghosts that smoked
Out of the mouths of terrified monkeys

Huddled tightly around one invention,
A pinched little ratchet made of nothing,
Called by later, ghostlier descendants

Various animal names for species
That will never smoke ghost names of their own:
Monkey King, the Serpent, Rat, Soma,

Raven, Coyote, and the rest of them,
The ratchet really being none of them,
Not a trickster but a trick that taught beasts

How to play with fire, weave worms and spiders,
Capture fish, sail across the seven seas,
The sex of reproducing spoken things.

4. The Singing River

Music, too, wanted to remain.
Wandering aimlessly one day
Music bumped into a sad ape

Who had fled back into the woods
From the palace where apes with whips
Serving the Monkey King mocked him.

The ape had sought out Coyote
But Music told him Coyote had fled,
Singing sorry songs for himself,

Far down the river, to the sea.
The sad ape brightened. Coyote
Gone meant an opportunity.

He offered Music a bargain.
Come sing with me and be my love
And I will place you on a throne

And make your bones ivory gods
So that all who sing and play you
Will worship you by doing so,

And I will be your humble priest
Preserving and protecting you,
If only you will come with me

And never abandon the shrines
I will have raised to enshrine you.
Music agreed and the sad ape

Became the first priest, but Music,
Immortal Music, grew restless
And fled the temple every chance

To run with creatures in the woods,
Laughing and dancing foolishly.
One day the priest found out a trick

For cutting Music's heart and soul
Away from Music's ghostly voice,
Which the priest threw in the river.

Ever since, all rivers sing, but
Even those who love their songs know
Temples hold the souls that haunt them.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Standard List of Professions

Foragers and herders have
Plenty of time to observe,
Whether waiting patiently
In a wooded glade for game
Or sitting long hours guarding
Flocks grazing the mountainside.
From them, folktales and lyrics.

Peasants have plenty of time
For planting and harvesting,
For endless, back-breaking chores,
Storing hopes, scaring off crows.
From fall fields, winter firesides,
And dark cellar holes, wonder
Tales, fairies, trolls, and witches.

Priests and their aristocrats
Have plenty of time for death,
Ritual sacrifices,
Blood-letting, off with the heads,
Regicides, intrigues, incest,
Beating the bounds of conquest,
From them, the hymns and epics.

Bureaucrats and scholars have
Plenty of time for failure,
For petty little squabbles
And fantasies of a home
Somewhere in the countryside
Far away from each other.
From them, poems as lists, like this.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


There is not one fairyland.
There are two, neither of which
Belongs to you, although you
Hang and drift in the weather
Over the borders of each.
In one, only tales are true.
In the other are no tales.

Although you are neither, both
Make claims on you. Part of you
Declares allegiance to one,
Insisting myth dreams the truth
Or only what counts are facts,
But you'll vanish with either
And neither will forgive you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Body of the Lake Gives Soul to the Clouds

I am easily misled
By thinking about ourselves.
I see for the first time I
Am not ourselves, not tissues
Such as bone, such as the brain,
That cannot regenerate.
I am themselves, the language

Of the ghosts continually
Coursing through the hosts of us,
Flesh of ourselves to which I
Am tied when I am I, not
When I am the ghosts themselves,
Rising as wisps of fog rise
Off the surface of the lake.

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Don't Mind

All hypotheses need to be tested
Formally, and by whatever methods
Available to keep the interface
Between hungry culture, implacable
World from closing up completely to us.
That's the actual portal that opens
The parallel fairyland of the real
Where events are as they are and never
Only as our whispering, greedy words
Would like to make them mean, to keep us mean.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Live Forever

Like an echo, not the voice, not ever,
Abheder dosh, osteogenesis imperfecta,

The unhappy trait dissipates almost
As quickly as the life projecting it

But not quite. Echo, echo, echo, no
More echo. The shout itself had perished

Even as the first weak effort returned.
In theory, a happy trait, however,

Could live for good as forever, a trick
For perpetuating self through dying

Instantiations, how to make blood food,
How to bind the energy of the light,

How to make a sound between tongue and mouth
That means everything that ever there was

Will return, faintly and more faintly, then
In memory, then never home again.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Anthrodependent Commensals

All of time, thus this universe,
Is aperiodic crystal,
Structured, never repeating, but

Chiming long-range correlations.
The wolves' crystalline DNA
Shading into the feral dogs

Dependent on the garbage dump,
The African cats becoming
English biddies' dozing moggies,

The bacterial free riders
Dividing their undivided
Attentions to the byproducts

Of an outbreak species of ape
Until, lateral gene transfers
Aiding them, they become the homes

Their hosts share with them. All of time
Illustrates its passing in all
Phenomena; everything rhymes

And nothing is ever the same.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Peine forte et dure

When time rhymes we call it space,
A run of changes that seem
Sufficiently similar
To be one thing, one building,
One landscape, one character,
Only, of course, slightly changed.
Nothing slight about that change.

Gradually it presses us,
While we resist, refusing
To admit nothing's a thing,
Laboring to our last breath,
Wheezing out, "more weight, more weight."
There never was a timeless
Instant, never was a thing.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


A lot of stories used to start
With "once" or "once upon a time,"
But now we're not so confident.

A lot of stories still begin
By assuming we'll surrender
Common sense, facts, experience,

The knowledge death's a certainty,
To indulge in certain nonsense,
Fairies, monsters, mythology.

We excuse this by claiming truth
Of a metaphorical sort
Exists within our fantasies,

Although we can never explain
Why we would need to recode truth
As libraries of balderdash.

A lot of stories never start
Because we already know them.
Let me, who is without sin, cast

The first stone.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rules Are Written from Below

Kindness never goes far toward
Dislodging the unwelcome guest.
So the farmers decided
To kill the boy in the darkness.

Wind fueled the flames in the ruins.
From two o'clock the storm increased.
Even the ships in the river
Were sunk and their moorings with them.

In the process of this story
That arrived when there was nothing
To worry about anymore,
The boy killed the farmers instead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

First Yfound and Forth Ybrought

I tested time, divinity, and death,
Asking each abstraction which could best
Acquit itself of any existence

Other than a given sequence of rules
Spontaneously derived from the fields
Of games minor living things had bounded.

I am the apocalypse I survived.
Of course I believe in ghosts--in ghosts, ghosts,
And holy ghosts. All of culture is ghosts,

Their parallel world prancing and hawking
Within, beside the bodies occupied
With making more and more ghosts all the time.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Seven Eulogies on the Death of a Hangman

1. Before he died, he wrote in his journal of things that, like his journal, did not exist, "The sandwich shop's sound system plays a hammered dulcimer recording of 'Love Me Tender.' I poach its wifi hotspot to read a middlebrow review lauding a YA fantasy author who launched her remunerative fairy series via an audacious Kickstarter campaign with simultaneous web publication. In my fairy world, I've been generating a fresh poem a day for two thousand and some days, also littering the web, or a tiny cross-stitch of it, with my flies, but with no coherent narrative and no fundraising campaign to attract attention to them. My accolades thus far include scattered compliments, quite too many."

2.  Oceanic and wickedly perceptive, whirlpools disappear suddenly and even the smoke of cigars loses its elaborating beauty as it diffuses into haze. Thom Yorke's implausibly pure, floating legato unspools as an effortless syllable of cry, burning the witch. Hunger. Time. Sex. Breath. Dying. Not death. Death has no desires. Death isn't part of it. Death is the not of it, nothing, and nothing was his sworn occupation. Who could he possibly be parodying among the dying, even including himself, puff of smoke, dissipating?

3. Freud dreamed he was landing at Pevensey. If a grazer ate the brain, it would mean death. I have three weeks or so to live, he told me, and I knew he meant me as well as himself. Riley Lee then played an interchangeable flute piece with the interesting sobriquet, "Whispers of Eternity." Now, if eternity were a thing with whispers, what would those whispers be? Stage whispers, I should think, hissed from under a villain's handlebar mustache. Sometimes an eternity is just an eternity. What panache. It's not something we have to worry about, as a practical matter, but it's there.

4. When is prizewinning prose implode-worthy poetry? When it's implausibly prosody. There's that word again, penultimatum. Nothing is. Impossible, never, but implausible eternally. Divide infinity in half, again and again and again, infinitely. That's reality.

5. He loved his living. He was a craftsman about dividing the moment from the never as minimally as possible. I'm sorry he's gone. He was only a ripple in the waves, but he was the best little ripple he could be. When the moment came, it was already gone forever, thanks to him. I'm sorry he never existed and neither did the lake. Oh, sure, it was a breeze.

6. He was the last person thought to have read all the writings ever written, also the first. He must have been. He wrote it first. Nearly two centuries gone, Hippolyte Bayard used light to etch a kind of photo of himself as a print that he titled "Self Portrait of a Drowned Man." The image survives. For Hippolyte it never was. Nor were any of the hundreds of millions of people, global total of those born in the sixty years after he made his print, every last one of them gone now but maybe one, world's oldest person, woman in Brooklyn or Italy, taken away from him, each other, and themselves forever by his self-same hangman and soon enough never nothing to themselves even before that. Never will be, either. He was just that efficient, wasn't he? He wasn't, was he.

7. What haunts us is that he can't haunt us.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


Where there's fire, there's smoke, thin
As a skiff of ice, hot
As Yellowstone geysers.

My thoughts are in my chest.
They grip me when I swim.
I count my way to breaths

Sipped from the edge of air
That clings along the waves
And then down again, light

Haloing my shadow,
Heat in my heart, ghost ice
In my swimming, swimming,

Waiting, waiting to gasp
I have been listening,
I have nothing to say.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bye, See Ya in a Couple a'Years

I do not eat. I have become, I am
Heavenly. I am free, free of hunger
And its consequences. Limited food

Does not tease me. I have no appetite,
No need for any taste at all. I am
A word in a human mind on a rock,

Dreaming a rock can be a mind of words.
I have made myself proud, too proud to live.

It is not that I must die. It is that
I need to become something not alive.

Friday, October 28, 2016

When Power Is Discovered

We turn to it, blossoms to sun,
Warned Bateson. The imptree awaits
Wild Merlin, the years of power
And sorrows to follow, the real
Turned faery by fresh sorceries
And thus the wreckage that follows.
In this case the myths are not myth,
But simple shorthand, simple code

For the ordinary sequence
Of humans hoisted by our own
Petard of each discovery.
We are ourselves the trickster gods
Caught in our traps, burned by the fire
We stole from the gods of this world,
Aka, the laws of nature,
Aka, the land of faery.

The sorcerer's the apprentice.
We should remain lost in the woods.
We should stay inside our despair.
But should has no understanding
Of the thrum of natural law.
The narrative's invariant.
We will discover. We will see.
The magic we wield will rule us.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

About the World From the World To the World Within the World

Alice Munro says, "the past
Needs to be approached
From a distance," which makes sense

To me, for whom time
Is the only dimension
And who always needs

To change more to imagine
Anything has changed,
Anything ever was there.

Whenever folks write
Of the annihilation
Of time or distance

By faster transportations,
Communications, I grin.

Ratios of change
Are always changing, that's all,
As is change itself.

You can't annihilate change
By increasing change,
And distance is its offspring.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Empty Intervals

There is no timeless space
Just as there is no paradise
And we cannot manage
To imagine either fully
For that reason. We try.
We use our filter trick,
Trying to furnish the scene
In our thoughts by keeping
Some phenomena while
Eliminating others. Close,
But no. We can't animate
The place where nothing
Ever happens. Our memory
Fail to retrieve phenomena
But the events we retain
Still carry the traces of those
We've strenuously forgotten.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

As Far From This World As This World Gets

In contests between earth, sea, and sky,
We tend to prefer the sky. Marduk
Vanquishes Tiamat, Teshub kills
Illuyanka in a comeback win,
YHWH fishes for Leviathan,
Zeus mutilates Typhon, buries him
Under mountains, volcano monster.
Still a lot of lightning and fighting
Goes on; monsters never really die

Because of course they are not alive,
Nor the sky. Our immortality
Beliefs stem from attaching lifelike
Agency to the deeper aspects
Of nature, those violent events
That are not living forms, never die.
Gods and monsters, names for winds and waves,
Earthquakes, volcanos, dragon-haunted
Caves, tell us, breathless, so much happens

Without parentage, without dying,
Without evolving, a static world
Of constant, recurring turbulence.
Give those orphan phenomena names,
Conflicts, back stories, motivations,
And like all actors they yield drama,
But because they cannot ever quit
They also generate byproduct
Belief in living immortally,

Fighting forever. But why the sky?
Could we not prefer the teeming seas?
Are snakes and eels worse than lightning bolts?
Lights and clouds are richly ominous
As sudden rumblings from underground. 
The sky is emptier than the earth,
And even the lives that float in it
Come to ground. We think we are the sky,
As far from this world as this world gets.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Spare Me Over

Ask the runes, can I survive another
Year without catastrophe? The runes say
Warrior, Disruption, Signals the Trickster.
Thus for that question. Pretend it wasn't
Answered. Pretend the answer could matter.

Why humans would feel the need to invent
Such a thing as Trickster in the first place
Seems no more obvious to me than God.
Runes, turtle shells, straws, dice, floromancy--
Efforts at solving the unsolvable

By randomizing the improbable
With the probable, those I understand.
We face the One Certainty hedged about
To the last moment we experience
With uncertainty. We just have to ask.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Shack at the End of Bellevue

I am a bald and unconvincing 
Narrative. Broder le canevas 
Time. Last spring I began to covet

A battered house on Carpenter Creek, 
End of the road, woodshed and seedy
Garden sprawling around what would be

In another context just a shack,
Despite the jaunty satellite dish.
Every time I walked by on my way

To the lake to swim, I would notice
The south-facing location, the green
Sombrero of Goat Mtn rising

Over the hundred-plus year old roof,
The copse of mature woods, the quiet
Of a dead end just three blocks from town.

Between the shack's old split-log fences
And the constant rush of the river,
Plush green lawn and meadow, wildflowers 

Fronted the far shore's birches and firs,
Beyond which more green and snowy peaks,
A canvas on which to imagine

Painting gazebos, sunrooms, studies,
Gabled windows, a bit of stained glass,
The kind of dreamy country cottage 

That might get printed on a tea tray
Mass-produced in some dark factory
A million miles from my sunlit mind.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the Hills Where Once the Towns Had Been

It's happened before. It's happened often.
Human populations build to a point
When densities later unthinkable
Carpet the prime ground, and then we collapse.
That big arc of the local narrative
Remains forever too small, forever
Too grand. Civilization doesn't end.
Individual lives end, end, and end.
Later lives can't comprehend why pastures
Drowse on the hills where once the towns had been.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Hungriest Ghost

I like battlefields. I enjoy them. "There is
A deadening nihilism at play here."
No one ever calls nihilism huggy.
A words sneaks in an asymmetry in time
By privileging earlier times over
Later. For whatever reason.  I'm hungry.
Our bands were swept up together for the kill,
Possible only for hunters who themselves
Were hungry and on horseback. I escaped them.
I can't encounter collections of people
Without devouring the nothing that is us.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Old Wine No More Beer

Red Pine sips bourbon and discuses
The standard punishment for rebels
As he leans into the podium
At the Langham Building in Kaslo.
The Reverend Mealey can't approve
This blatant display of tipsiness
From a translator of the Chinese
Who's also a fellow westerner.
Once Stone House and Cold Mountain are sung,

And the final explanations wrung
From comparison of Mandarin
And English prosodic tradition,
The Reverend wades into Q&A
By pretending to question "baggage"
And "bias" in Red Pine's translations,
When really he's pissed about whiskey.
Those poets wrote about drunkenness.
"But, but, but from different grains!!" he roars.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chariga Muqam of Turpan

Uighur musicians from Xinjiang
Speed up the beat, nearing the end.
There's less than a minute left them

On the other side of the world
As the mist curls cold smoke tendrils
From the mountains' shaggy green heads,

And the stream under Robb Creek Bridge
Accompanies their recording.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Con of Uncanny Cunning

Possibility is uncertainty.
So is hope.

Skepticism is deep uncertainty.
So is faith.

Anxiety is uncertainty bared,
Flesh and fangs.

Mercy is uncertainty rewarded
By justice.

Knowledge is uncertainty deified.
So's a poem.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Some Third Thing

Neither predator nor prey,
But some third thing, he defies
The death he has outsmarted,
As he knows death will outsmart
Him when he's no longer smart
Enough to dig up the trap
He set for himself, flip it

Over, and execrably
Behave about the whole thing.
He snarls and licks his muzzle
As if he'd eat his own mouth
If he had another mouth
To eat it with. He's in debt
To the thought other is more.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


By the time you turn thirty-four
Another northern summer will be done.
The energy gathered and ordered
And stored will litter the quieter ground.
There are transitions that swell us
Slowly, transitions that let us go

Tumbling thoughtlessly through blue air,
Holding no attachments there.

By the time you turn thirty-four,
The color already down in the Slocan,
Yellow aspens mantling south Utah mountains,
We may know the answers to a few questions
That puzzle us mightily now, may have
Forgotten much, much more. Every thing

That spins in celebration carves the air
And leaves a question hanging there.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Secret Society of Dishwashers

We watch from the window, hoping for darkness.
The cook gets the credit, no matter the mess.
We're up to our elbows in grease and grey soap.
We try not to drop all our clattering bones,
The slippery glasses that fracture when rinsed,
The thundering copper that won't fit the sink.
We're proud and we're lonely. We're wet and we're bored.
We imagine all the arguments we'll win
When the world becomes suddenly fairer, when
We're no longer the ones who lose every war
Over who is worth more and who is ignored.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ivar the Boneless, Revisited

My voice itself is lost, was always lost,
Subsumed in the chattering of others,
The nurses, doctors, and parents around
My childhood bedside. Asserting myself
In forcefully, improbably grown-up
Elocutions became my strategy.
I would speak for myself too much, so much
That you couldn't easily speak for me
Without being forced, somewhere, to quote me,
If only because I'd said it better

And you needed me as authority
To win in your argument with others
About what best to do next about me.
I became the voice each thought a weapon
In the arsenal of good decision.
I was not. There were no good decisions
To be made about a body like me.
But at least I got to pretend I was
Involved, instrumental in what happened
To me. It's a skill to rule helplessly.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Findspots of the Inscriptions

The man was an epigraphic menace:
Major rock edicts, minor rock edicts,
And quite a few pillar edicts survive
The illustrious reign he thus transcribed.
His words beat the boundaries of his lands;
His lands were defined by the signs he'd carved;
His truth was coextensive with his lies.
Every time he tried to start, he started
Again: graffito upon graffito,
The carefully carved runes of the trickster

Emperor of all he dismayed, bereft
Of any ability to proceed
Much beyond an ordinary lifespan
In an ordinary physique. Monster,
Sport of nature, sport of culture myself,
How I pitied and envied the king, him,
Man not defined except by behavior
And the good fortune chisels vouchsafed him.
I left no edicts on any gravestones,
But I found every stone you'd forgotten.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Shore Fit for Pandemonium

Every human nonsense has its palace,
Every human notion an origin,
However false, ridiculous. Humans
Can't think except in ends and origins,
Despite inhabiting an endless world
With no actual full-stop origin.
As a result, we peer around dimly,
Keen of vision but dull interpreters,
Provisionally identifying
This or that bit carrying on as fit

For the location of the beginning
Or end of all our exploring, Eden,
Hell, Home. Darwin's Galápagos Islands,
Nightmare Pandemonium for Fitzroy,
Now serve an enduring tourist fiction
Like the Sepulchre or the Bodhi Tree,
A little pilgrimage to imagine
Here is where all that wonderful began.
All the demons we've ever imagined
Congregate around the first or last act.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Horizon hems the forest.
If you look left, the long road
Continues. If you look right,
It continues. People have
Vanished by the dozen here,
Without a plague or a war.
Step into the woods, you're gone.

I am the kind who belongs
To the middle of nowhere.
I would stay here forever,
If I could, far from crossroads,
In motion against the edge
Of the trees. But I will veer,
Or I will spend this night in town.

Monday, October 10, 2016


My own hands, diving into
The water in front of me,
Trailing bubbles, are gannets,
Foolish, lacking fear. They pull
Me forward repeatedly,
Leaping and pulling through waves.
I do not so much control

Them as watch them, admiring
Their beaks, how they are at home
Plunging into cold water,
How they rise, invisibly
Behind me and reappear,
Brave birds, braver than I am,
Taught by me but leading me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I Am Not a Place

I am a road. Blue highway,
At best, badly tended; worst,
A logging road in backwoods,
Uprooted soil unstable
In mud time, a choking cloud
Of hopeless dust in summer.
Given a choice, I wouldn't

Drive me. You shouldn't even
Glance down the ruts through the trees.
That's not me. I'm what happens
When you find out for yourself.
There is a killer searching
For you, the killer searching.
I'm empty. I'm you. It's true.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mercury Dreaming Saturn

I'm swift. No one can catch me.
No one really wants to try.
They chuckle when I fly by.
They shake their heads and mutter,
Yes, sure, but have you ever
Done anything durable?
They prefer Saturn, dreaming

Of me eluding his grip,
Chewing his cud, his children.
Oh, Saturn, he knows story,
That mason of chiseled lines.
He can turn out a novel,
An epic, slowly, slowly.
What can I do but escape?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Donatism and Pelagianism

Sin is not solid but atomic.
Call me only by my secret name.
I have begun, as colonial
Offspring often do, with some omens,
A comet and a plague of insects,
A vast flock of pigeons never seen
Since the heretics refused to give
Their holy relics to the Empire,
Their responsibility to God.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Poem

Is a novel
Of equations
One a poet
One a mumbler

One the main site
Of concoction
Pivot balance
Between delta

And the ocean
Of life that is
Life that isn't
Infernal fire

I am I am
Who never was
For one moment

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Rich Can Pay With Coins, The Poor Pay Nothing

These poems are not words transformed,
But I am shaken by them
As the Earth by giving birth
To life and death is shaken,
Eventually, to its core.
The chemistry never changed.
All the rocks were rearranged.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mushrooms & Cows

You met a little man who seemed to be
In a big hurry and you asked him why

He ran so fast, only to hear him say
"I am Night. Behind me you will see Day.

I can't, I can't let him catch up with me."
You were lost in dreams and you looked lovely

Asleep in your own faith of better hours.
Outside the window, fields, mushrooms, and cows

Carried on with their own necessities,
But you did nothing more urgent than dream.

Whoever understands me, whoever
Understands can wield the voice that woke you.

Monday, October 3, 2016


On the impossibility of fathoming
What his aesthetic criteria were, he said,

"It's an odd feature of rituals that allows
People to believe they are experiencing

Divinity, when they know that the mechanics
Are conjured by humans." Thanks. That was a big help.

It is the whole picture presented by a myth
And not any image of a god that matters,

That the Deluge being universal, that Wind
Which blew the waters from one part must blow them up

In another. The big picture then, no escape,
No way to pile up your excesses somewhere else,

Out of the way, that's what you need to accept here.
Thus aesthetics deep enough to cover the Earth.

In the meantime, the fire had gone out in the waves.

Sunday, October 2, 2016


I have lived in my dreams
In the forested steppe
Where horse bones outnumbered

Wild aurochs, deer, and bear
By 99 to 1.
What does this mean? Nothing

We can count tells the truth
About what we can count:
Wild aurochs in my dreams.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Mama, There's Books in my Bed

I think they're alive. They shed
Pages like I leave stray hairs

Tangled in your favorite brush.
No, wait, don't leave in a rush.

You're not my mother. Who cares?
I dreamed you rowed me out

To sea and left me without
A life jacket or an oar.

I went to where Papa snores
And woke him up to tell him.

He forgave me. Now he's dead.
The chances of resurrection are slim.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Past chaos, there is information,
If you keep the heat on high enough.
Stably dynamic vortices form
Around the mess cooking in your pot,

Where the rich stew must copy the poor
And the middle must copy the rich.
Just enough coercion is being
Applied to eventually ensure

The triumph of forgetting the rest.
Prune enough options, you reach the point
Where the remaining connections reach
Information's max inflection point,

And from there on out, it's all decay.
Why is it always the middle way?
I'm an outlier in that middle,
Insider out under those street lamps.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our First Visit Home

2 July 2008

We quarrel. We are too hot.
We have been on a road trip
With no known destination
For weeks. I can't walk. She can't
Pay her own way through a day.
Having savored adventure,
Now we resent each other.

Our hotel room is hotter
Than the Nelson BC streets
Down which we push, sometimes me
But mostly her, my wheelchair.
She leaves me to go shopping
And buys a little black dress,
Defiant dependency.

Back in the sun oven room
We peruse places to stay
We could reach, cooler than this.
We find the "Dome Quixote,"
Online, looks cute, north of here.
She calls. A woman answers,
"Sure, we'll leave the disabled

Unit unlocked, key inside,
And leave the light on for you."
We back out of the sultry
Hotel parking lot and clip
A black Mustang's back bumper
But never stop, not past deer
Or sunset or Silverton

With the strings of Christmas lights
Decorating the defunct
Roadside hotel at sunset.
We drive until we make it,
In the dark, to the open
Door of the ridiculous
Dome among domes, and go in.


Last night, before we dozed off
Under the dome's cream ceiling,
I stroked her hair and she said,
"You don't do that anymore,"
As if we were long married,
Not just three months a couple.
It made me smile. This morning,

I climb into the wheelchair
And roll out onto the porch.
I'll be damned. The air is cool,
And what looks like a glacier
Caps a mountain towering
Over the end of the street.
One stoplight blinks placidly.

I grab the wooden railing
And pull myself to a stand.
I haven't walked in six weeks.
Leaning and clinging, I shift
My weight, hands, feet, hands, feet, hands.
I shuffle ten steps and back,
Then collapse into the chair,

Triumphant. A good day's start,
A memorable day. We
Spend it wandering the street.
She takes photographs: the lake,
The giant chess set, old walls
Flaking paint, children and trees.
She wears that sexy black dress,

Casual but form-fitting,
Clingy hemp as thin as crepe.
We visit a gallery,
Make friends, buy a small painting.
At The Raven's Nest they have
A wheelchair-friendly washroom.
All day the distant sky glows.


We've been making enquiries.
How do we stay here longer?
We're besotted with the place.
The domes are booked up solid
For weeks, starting on Sunday.
The Friday farmers' market
Has booths with cheerful vendors

Happy to speculate. "Hmm,
Isy is building a place
On Bigelow Bay, cabins
She says are wheelchair friendly.
Join us for dinner tonight."
People like we like their town,
Which feels to me like a set

Built for a location shoot,
Meant to look historical
But a little too perfect.
Hippies, loggers, internees,
Miners, second-home owners
From Vancouver, Calgary:
Tensions feel real but faint, blurred.

On a summer day, there's joy,
People strolling the few blocks,
The lake, the postcard mountains,
And an energetic calm
Unique to Slocanada.
So we let a strange woman
Have us over for dinner

On the lawn behind her shack.
We listen to her daughter
Torture a fiddle a while.
We roll my chair to the shore
And look out over the waves'
Million-eyed lenses of light,
Out to the houseless green wild.


Not long after we wake up,
Comes a knock on our dome's door.
Isy, short for Isolde,
Introduces her tall self:
"Our cabins aren't finished yet,
But one will be by August."
We discuss alternatives

With her, as she generates
Names of places we might stay.
We go to see her cabin,
Maybe ready in three weeks.
How, until then, shall we live?
We drive up north, to Nakusp.
Another lake, not as nice,

And an accessible inn,
Ugly, renting by the week.
No magic here, but, across
The street from the hideous,
A cafe called "Middle Earth"
Serves organic Tolkien
Sandwiches. Too delightful,

Too strange. We eat and make friends.
In a year we will send them
A postcard from New Zealand,
The far side of Middle Earth.
But that's neither now nor here.
The weather has turned. We drive
Back in the rain to realize

We've already decided
On a narrow stretch of shore
By a blackishly deep lake
As the place we want to stay.
Showers patter on our dome.
We believe we'll find a way
To stay near to Brigadoon.


We check out. Anxious and calm,
We work through our list of tips:
The chiropractor renting
A room the next village down
Who asks me if I need help
Taking a pee. B-&-Bs
Further south, Slocan City,

Passmore Road and Vallican,
Offering monthly rentals
A wheelchair could roll into,
The woman loathe to let us
Test her freshly made up beds,
Et cetera, and so forth.
We lunch in a logging camp.

I wait in the car. It rains.
She stalks docks, her camera
Up, my lovely sandpiper.
I listen to the music,
Bluegrass introduced to me
By her, that seems to soothe me,
My feckless stupidities.

"Tomorrow, like yesterday!"
Ok. I can take the bait.
Let's just roll with this as if
Every day were already
Yesterday. My cell phone trills.
There's a place up past Nakusp,
Another lake, "Inn for Two,"

They could accommodate us,
My wheelchair and all, five nights.
Close enough. We head on up.
When we get there, it's perfect.
But as soon as we roll in,
Happily scheming, we plan
To live at our lake again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Improbable Prayer

I ask not for an actual miracle
But to be a statistical outlier.
There is a covering of moss on my heart.
On the shore of the lake, the mind turns to home,
To the impossibility of a home
For long, to the remote possibility
Of a few peaceful, comfortable decades,
Relief of debt, surcease of toil, decent health,
A small but well-made, adequate house quite near,
In view of the waves, a house, stone's throw from home.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Unpunished Death of Hypatia

"The nurse tells Susan she wants to read more of her books. Susan says she can't breathe."

Deformation is itself evidence.
She has committed some serious sin.
For her extremity we punish her.
Who could ever question our righteousness?

We don't. Not in this instance. In our dreams,
Of course, like Augustine, we must obsess
Over the drenchings that prove we are wet
Beings dragged out of the seas and bereft

Of any understanding that we are
Only water understanding itself
As a shocking violation of truth
Within a local reversal of law.

The law itself adores tepidity.
Because death is neither hot nor cold, she
Must die for being too much of either.
I will spew thee out of my mouth, soul said.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Victor of Tennono

In the year of our lord, something
Around his seventh century,
The habit grew of using him

As a calendrical marker,
White stone sunk in common green ground
To indicate fore and after.

I have a love of calendars
As temporal maps placing me
Within the only grid I see

As belonging, ineffably,
To something purely greater than
Me. Who's singing under the sea?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Place There Is None; We Go Backward and Forward, and There Is No Place

At all. The world falls
Through experience
Like a dream lightly
Touched and lost for good,
Like experience.

I wish I were I.
I, the best of me.
I, confidently
Convinced I am not
I nor me. The world

Is a fictional
Masterpiece. The ant
My daughter gave me,
Determined that I
Should not throw away

The weird miracle
Of a clone alone
In the world, alone
When not in contact
With the colony,

That ant dismembers
Me and my ideas
Of delicacy,
Which once were alive
With a lunacy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Martha Siddhartha

An end was depressed about being an end and only an end, nothing special. It is the wish of every end to be the end, but no end is ever the end, so every end must come to terms with its indefinite existence and accept that it is only an end among ends. But this end couldn't bring itself to come to terms with anything, and so it took small but deliberate, defiant comfort in being, if not the end, then at least this end, which is specific and deictic and not amorphous, common, or indefinite. Yes. This end.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thoughts End

The brain is a pond. The mind
An invasive species of fish
Or mollusk. Why invasive?

All species are invasive.
The mind is not a species.
The mind is an ecosystem,

Poor or rich, inhabiting
The pond of a brain, and seeking
To get out into another

Pond again. There is no
Difference between body
And thought, except

That some of these thoughts
Have become involved in intrigues
Of their own designs, own ends.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Soul's First Job Is Nutrition

I am an envoy of renunciation,
And this is both a historical fact and
A rhetorical choice. The soul needs to eat.

The body needs to surrender to the glass
Fragments that culture shatters, shards, teeth of souls
That tear at the tender flesh to render thought,

The eyes, the black eyes, unseeing and seeing,
Always dying from the top. Who can tell how
These images are formed, notwithstanding that

The wilier, wishful soul of the novels
And notebooks chews its cud, ruminating
On what it is consuming, as if it could

Be said that a body destroyed to transform
A few ideas and transmit them to others
Were not a waste of life. Life is waste of life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Carry Proudly and Harken Not

God has never finished
His controversy with the land.
God serves only proxy
For what we, victims, understand.

He also serves who stand
And wait on his unvoiced command.
Service is his nature.
Pitched against nature, he seems grand,

But he is us, and we
His puppeteers, his merry band
Who prop him up, costumed,
To command the waves as time's sand.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bum Knee Poetry

You and I have been making poetry
Like this for quite some time now, immortal,
The melding of cultural elements,
Ideally one high and one low, smugly
Clever, utterly meaningless result,

A kind of hapless, slapdash recipe,
An algorithm. Like all of its kind
It works by turning a crank. Anyone
Can do it. It's Andy Warhol's pop art
Factory. Magnetic words for your fridge.

No it isn't. It's a trick, a trick knee.
You hop along, reading, ignoring it,
And then it seizes, immobilizes
You with pain, busted crank, cranky, thankless.
You have nothing to say. You hate the pain.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Crows Are Crazy

Sukha says this. Can I tell you a poem?
Crows are crazy as can be. They
Fly over me. They are so silly.

I keep seeing all these butterflies.
I have known my soul and the body
That lies upon it. They have been

Enemies since the creation of the world.
No, Sukha didn't really say that. Mani did.
But they're both right. Crows, butterflies,

Bodies and souls flying over, through me,
They're all crazy. To be is to be
Crazy. Ask any living, light-dark thing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Black Faith

The khan needed an oceanic teacher
To represent his authority as faith.
Thus the Dalai Lama was born. Shamanists

Outside the city of Urga had to flee.
They might have understood the arctolatrists
Of Finland, the totemists of Canada,

The witches of Salem, but they had to find
Their way to survive, their own troubles in mind.
Let us not romanticize these shamanists.

They were not possessed of a unique insight.
They were never innocent of cruelty.
But let's not pretend the Black Faith was all sin.

We all hold out for explanation until
We give in. My sister somewhere has her truth
And would loathe be forced to lose it. Her daughters?