Sunday, July 31, 2016

Upon Hearing a Friend Explain How the Universe Confirmed Her Wisdom

Most of our life lessons aren't
Lessons at all, merely
Convictions we already
Held, wanted to hold onto,
However useless they were,
Rescued and reassembled
From the wreckage of the real.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


"Tell me now, Muse, how the dead heroes fought"

It's amazing they survived at all,
Our silly, weak, fearful ancestors
With their tiny teeth and their small jaws,

Their spindly, frayed muscle attachments.
What a species to become the top
Predator this planet has hosted

In tens, hundreds of millions of years.
What a colossal joke on the rest
Of the tusked and saber-toothed beasts

Better at shredding their dinner.
Come to California's coast,
To Morro Bay and Cambria

Where hills are filled with wineries
And picturesquely bucolic
Cows groom green slopes among live oaks,

Where once big cats, wolves, and bears ruled.
The history here is of tribes
Following tribes following tribes

Each one wreaking some new havoc
On previous inhabitants.
You'd think whole eras and epochs

Had evolved within centuries,
Invasive species revolving
Like Gatling guns, and you'd be right.

Dead heroes felling dead heroes.
The little things, the weeping apes,
Did this, and more, and none of it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Ultimate Etymology of Tell as Dell

Once there was a pleasant woman
Who often cursed her rotten luck.
"Then he didn't have anything,"
The woman said, "and all was dark.

He never saw the light again."
She was practicing a story.
It's what people did in those days.
You could sell a good story, then,

To someone who could print copies
And sell it over and over
Again. If enough copies sold,
One story could be your living,

So lots of people practiced them.
Some storytellers got lucky.
She had not yet been one of them.
"After he left the casino,

He would never go in again."
She liked the feeling of the line.
It felt like a good place to end.
But, once done, how could she begin

And what if it didn't succeed,
Didn't sell, didn't make money,
And she was stuck without a start
For the next unlikely attempt?

Better to keep the tale going,
Cut it up later, like a snake,
Sell the pieces until someone
Bought the bit that could curl itself

Into a circle, mouth and tail,
And spin gold from it, spin and spin.
"But he knew he wanted to know
What had gone wrong enough for him.

He had gone with the girl who was
Not yet a woman, but so old
Her silvery hair hung around
Her head like a halo or veil,

And, bewitched as he was by this
Unspeakable contradiction,
The crone caught within a virgin,
He had believed himself immune

To vicissitudes of fortune,
And went in to immolation
Like a prophet to the slaughter."
Wait, no. No, that was not quite right.

She stopped.  What did she want from him,
Her self, myth, fiction, creation?
Not this. Not false humility
From her third-person narration.

She wanted him to be what she
Never wanted herself to be,
A character, fully fictive,
Unreal, fully believable.

Begin again. "He went back in.
He knew the odds were against him
By law. He knew he was a fool.
And still, he went back in again,

And he rolled his last roll and saw
He had won this one, one more roll
Coming, and so he rolled again."
She paused. She could see where this led.

She had to choose whether to stay
Within the iron universe
Of ruthless probability
Or give in to a fantasy,

A change of genre, down which path
Readers might or might not follow,
Into the old woods of fairy
And foolishness, everything false.

Let her little, cooked-up loser,
Avatar of self, keep winning
And thereby get away from her,
Or haul him back to the failure

She had set out for him, painted
Very deliberately, cornered
And cowed and about to go broke?
She wavered and he sensed a haze

Thicker than the cigarette smoke
That hung around the casino.
He felt an ache in all his joints
At once and his head was spinning.

Then she thought, "why not?" She had him
Sit back down in his depression
In his seat in the dark valley
Ghosted with gamblers' fallacies,

Groggy but slowly focusing
And she wrote that he bet and won,
Probability warped around
His mask, and he kept on winning.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


I was of unknown origin.
I was the thing that would be now.
Well, Avery's dog has a friend.
That puppy goes to Avery's

Puppy's house and they got to play
Together. Avery's was brown.
Her parents' parents' dog was black.
That's the way narrative begins.

The wonder is it never ends.
Sure, it keeps ending and ending
But it never actually ends.
Nothing ends, the other wonder,

But because it's nothing it ends
Nothing else. Still we feel something
Has to end. We learn to assume,
Seeing dead birds, dead beetles, dead

Pets, the ravens tearing road kill,
Perhaps the odd dead relative,
Not too many and not too close
If we're lucky, we should infer

We will be the thing that will end.
Our souls inhabit the liar's
Paradox: this statement's untrue.
We carry on with the story

Anyway. Avery's pet dog
Had a friend. That was yesterday.
Today I have a big problem.
There's no one for me to play with.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


The man with no fingers wrote fine, tiny lines
That the man with no visions alone could see.

The woman who combed her hair through her fingers
Read apocryphal texts she alone could read.

The child with a heart consuming his liver
Imagined his dreams and then cried them to sleep.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Their Death Is To Be Quenched

One of those afternoons when acrylic
Landscapes and beef jerky were being hawked
Roadside approaching Zion alongside
The Virgin in the spring, blooms everywhere,
Even among native desert flora,
Heat already tinting pollen-hazed air,
The kind of paradox-inducing day
When one's animal spirits, besotted
By the gloriousness all around them,
Even including the roadside vendors

Waving vigorously at all passers,
Start and blather, itching to go yonder
When it's the come-hither has stirred them up,
It occurred to the Compositor, why
Not just have a run of luck, live awhile
Longer than the foreseeable future?
It's when the passing present waves right back
That we think perhaps it will buy our truck.

Monday, July 25, 2016


"Sometimes only nothing," Barbara Hamby
Wrote, "can open the door to something else."

Sometimes? Any door to anything else
Requires nothing to furnish the hinges.

A coworker's son noticed a shadow
In the girders of an old stadium.

When he returned with his binoculars,
He recognized the shadow's silhouette

As that of a great horned owl on her nest.
He also noticed that crews of painters

Were assembling truckloads of equipment
To refurbish the entire stadium.

By the next day he'd managed to convene
Lawyers, administrators, and experts

Who persuaded the painting contractor
To abandon work on the stadium

At least until all the owlets had fledged.
I wasn't there, but I could see shadows

Folding their wings and flexing their talons
Back through centuries of superstitions,

Literary battles between the birds,
Dueling pictorial symbolisms

For night, madness, and glorious wisdom,
Shadow themselves, every last one of them.

I saw the ordinary minds of my
Contemporaries alloyed by sadness,

Incapable of enduring defeat,
Wanting shadows to stay, shadows to keep.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Doctrine of Winds

Early actual civilizations,
The kinds of systems where big gods, big men
First got their opportunity to rise
Above the hoots, jokes, and ostracisms,
Safe from the coordinated murder
Arranged by the villagers but exposed
Now to warfare, armies, and each other,
Liked to drag around big rocks, bake small bricks,
And set up their forts, towns, and monuments
Immune to mere winds, which they claimed victims

Of storm gods with whom they identified,
Worshipping the lightning that still wrecked them,
The dreadful thunder from far-off mountains,
The frequent floods that surprised and drowned them,
But mocking that old dragon, that snake wind
To which new stone monuments seemed immune.
They are all dead now, thousands of years gone
And their gods with them, although their notion
To divide the star-drenched heavens between
Shining winners and weak, whining losers

Survives above tells archaeologists
Dig and abandon ahead of fresh storms
Of metal combatants, fire from the skies,
Bodies bursting to embrace God's own bombs,
And the winds still whistle around the stones
Only a civilization could raise,
Only more civilizations can raze,
Only time herself ever wholly change
Into something other than a poet's
Tropes, a prophet's rage, a magpie's treasure.

Everything's confused with its opposite
Sooner or later: sooner for later,
Narrative for poetry, death for birth,
Ungovernable winds for the gods meant
To demonstrate our governance of them.
Long since the boasts of the first kings were lost,
Smashed, or translated by their conquerors,
Defoe thought there was more of God in wind
Than in all the rest of God's creation:
Truly, "we never enquire after God

In those Works of Nature which depending
Upon the Course of Things are plainly seen
And easily demonstrated," he wrote.
"But where we find Nature is defective
In her discovery, where we can see
Effects but cannot reach their Causes, there
Nature herself desires to direct us
To it, to end rational Enquiry,
And resolve it into Speculation:
Nature plainly refers us beyond her

Self, to the mighty Hand of Infinite
Power . . . Original of all Causes."
Poor, in-debt dissenter, like my parents,
He had a point he meant to make on faith
About our exposure to the weather
As a means of bringing us to the truth.
Satirist of real power, he boasted
Of collecting fair testimonials
About the Great Storm's rage, real storm coming.
We are weak and gods are our reminders.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Loving the Lovers of Data

"Projections are invaluable
Because they provide statistical
Snapshots, frozen in time, from which we

Can learn to become more accurate."
Frozen! Still! Not changing, not moving
In the slightest, never in time,

Forever a measure of what might
Be that will never, forever be.
I love my people as they love me.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Alethe diegemata

Deserted by the feeling of truth,
The unreliable narrator
Began to feel in need of a laugh

Instead, being unreliable
Not in the sense of untrustworthy
As to the details of his strange tale

But in the sense of not narrating
Anything at all when most he should
Have been regaling us with story,

Incidents, coincidence, and twists
To the inevitably abrupt
End that is the fiction of all plot.

Here's how he begins, ludicrously:
I'm glad you asked. I'm always relieved
To meet someone willing to hear me 

Out. Unfortunately, few as they are, 
Most of them are complete crackpots, not
Sensible people like you. They don't

Have the vocabulary. They lack 
The erudition and general 
Intelligence to keep up with me 

Even when they are more or less sane.
He continues a while in that vein
Until the reader realizes

He'll never introduce another
Character nor narrate another
Event. The reader must drown alone

In high seas of lines like rippling waves,
Interminably emerging, 
Foam spraying from mouths of broken lips

Never getting around to the end
Of anything, still pounding behind
The author's corpse lying washed ashore.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mono No Awareness

Of a truth that was different
No more than this can be said:
Spring came packed with shards of ice
The year the long bones splintered,
The joints compressed themselves, crushed
By the force of the falling
At all. There were adventures,

Sleet storms in the desert, heat
Waves rippling the green forests
That huddled around the lakes.
Storm-struck nights, entire days
Went missing, never to be
Missed by anyone but them.
All lives have more lives to lose.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Conditional Perfect Probability

"The conditional-perfect tense provided much help"

Then, as it was now and would
Forever have been never
Again, I should have wanted

To remove myself from there
In something like I had been
Used to using, cars and poems,

Vehicles for whatever
Was necessary to vent.
Could it have been otherwise

It would have been more like us.
Thus we would have been more like
What we were, not so much what was.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Danger Venomous Snakes in the Area

It's one thing to know it has to end
And another to feel it ending. Once
You're almost dead you know both,
Will always know both, even should

You chance, for a while, to survive.
It doesn't improve with time. But you
Did not come to this experience to whine.
The stream that was never the same

Does not note its service as a parable
For those about to dash their skulls
On the rocks it only rushes across
On its way to being nothing like an end.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Like All Love Songs

I'm going to sit right down
And write your self a letter
And make believe it came
From me. In order to make

A perfect and beautiful
Machine, it is not requisite
To know how to make it. Take
Away the notion of intention.

I am a perfect and you
A beautiful machine. Our
Origins, together, predate
The birth of our world.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Crying Ape

There are no tears of things, no tears of beasts,
Excepting ourselves. There's plenty
Of melancholy in the souls of animals,

Perhaps even of trees, but when it comes
To actual water works, lachrimae rerum,
We're the ones. Not only can we cry,

We cry over damn near everything.
When we were handing ourselves out
Adjectives, we ought to have thought

Of our tears, and instead of going
With the chattering ape, the upright ape,
The naked ape, have gone with the crying

Ape. Alright, given that things can stimulate
Our ducts by their pathos and passing away,
Ok, there are tears of things. But sorrow

Which we feign as well as we feel
Comes not from pictured things
But from our picturing things.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kohan Koan

I want to be one
Of those drunken, ne'er
Do well poets of
Whom people say, stark
Amazed, but you know

He wrote so well, so
Well, such lovely things,
Even though, you know,
But still, right until,
Right up to the end!

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Two, Two Zeros, a Two

"Camera obscuras, / too, were big that year"

How to     describe
A year?     Begin
With a     small break
A stress     fracture,

A pin     of light
Through a     cracked wall
Of bone,     of pain
Which is     always

In the     head. There.
Now you     can see
The whole    world, sharp,
Upside    down, if

The break     is small
Enough,     not too
Small. You    have to
Feel it.    You can't

Diffract     too much.
One night,     Windy
City,     July,
Two-oh     oh-two,

You fell     to ground.
Cement's     unkind
To glass     paste bones.
Your wrist     pained you.

You knew.     You lied
As you     lay there
Trying     to check
Which bones    were cracked,

Saying,    "I'm fine."
You got     back up
With a     problem,
How to     use your

Cane when     it was
Your best     wrist split
A small     piece. Now
You could     not walk

Without     support.
Somehow     you left
Hand leaned,     hobbling
Your way     up El

Stairs and     down, back
To your     borrowed
Sofa,     Southside.
The dawn     missed you

Behind     your draped
Window,     but when
At last     you rose,
Cradling     your sore

Wrist, you     saw it,
Startled     at first,
Unsure     what you
Were face     to face

With, what     you had
Read of     many
Times and     seen in
Pictures     but not

In its     native
Glory,     the dun
Yellowed     wall of
The room     glowing

With a     view of
The town     outside
Of you     and your
Concerns,     your wrist

Swollen     and stiff,
Your new     lover
Still in     covers,
Asleep     and quite

Unknown.     All new
Things, then.     All new
Risks that     you were
Taking.      The crack

In the     curtains
Was just     the right
Shaped size     to make
The rare     wonder,

The world     upside
Down in     detail
And full     color,
A bloom     on bare,

Stuccoed     insides.
"I am     Plato's
Cave," you     murmured,
Without     a trace

Of an     insight.
You groped     for your
Cane and     wobbled
Closer     to it

To squint.     Details
Of trees,     parked cars,
And split-     level
Houses     appeared

So much     richer
Being     fainter
Beings     than they
Ever were     when in

Full view.    The real
Is more     useful,
Less used,     you mused,
Than its     unreal

Sisters.     Love, you
Recalled,     was right
Beside     you now,
Within     your grasp

For the     first time
In years.     You were
Unsure.     You were
Still young     but bent,

Badly     bent, and
The one     falling
For you     had just
Seen you     fall down,

Seen how     quickly
Your world     could turn
Upside     down
And then     stagger

Up to      try once
More your     hand at
Moving     freely,
Almost     as if

You were     a real
Boy, not     pins, strings,
And cracked,     painted
Porcelain.     Would she

Think twice,     now she'd
Glimpsed your     wrong way
Tarot     and searched
Out her     future

In it?     You knew
It could     be bleak
For you,     short term,
For her,     long term.

The town     shimmered,
Faded,     and fled
From her     bare wall,
Briefly     tracing

A last,     upright
Version     of its
Picture     on her
Sleeping     shoulders

Before     it slipped
Off and     vanished.
Your wrist     taunted
You. The     torn drapes,

With their     sharp pins
Of gold     light now
Tracing     nothing
Magic,     also

Seemed     to suggest
It was     pure dream,
That dream     you spoke
Last night     before

You fell.     You were
So sure     you made
Her sure.     You showed
Her what     a dream

Could be.     Science
Could be    claimed for
Marvels,     marvels
Could be     science.

You were     so sure.
She was     entranced.
Then you     stumbled,
Humpty     Dumpty.

It was     the year
Of the     stolen
Girl they     never
Thought they     would find

Alive.     It was
The year     before
The war,     after
The black     towers fell.

Every     human
Thing     seemed
Hanging,     detailed
Upside     down. Then

Summer,     and you
Embraced     the pause
In the     meaning
Of things.     You taught

Human     beings
How they     became
Human.     Weren't you
Clever?     You fell

And fell,     not just
That once,     not just
For sex     and love
But for     falling

By each     method
You knew     you'd try,
And still     you stayed,
Colored,     detailed,

Picture     perfect,
Hanging     from your
Clever     answers
To the     riddle

You knew     could not
Be solved     by you.
What did    you mean?
What did     it mean?

It was     a poem
Someone     else wrote
Someone     who could
Draw so     well he

Could see     himself
As he     would look
In a     convex
Mirror,     that year

Was. One     of those
Tricks that     tell you
The way     things are
When you     can't fix

Them as     you see
Fit. You     weren't fit.
That was     the thing
You could     not fix.

Nor was     she fit,
Though you     didn't
Know it,     not yet.
She had     her own

Falling     to do.
You would     help her
Through the     years she
Needed     to make

Her fall     complete.
We all     need falls
We can't     complete
Ourselves.     We all

Hang the     wrong way,
Blood rushed,     woozy,
Waiting     for that
Someone     who will

Cut us     down. Pins
Portray     us in
Boxed-up    shadows,
Just right     in how

We are     just wrong.
Exact,     correct
Pictures     don't work
Without    mirrors

To tell     the right
Lies. Or     something
Like that.     That year
Mirrors     all lied

With joy.     They laughed,
Sparkled,     showed life
As full     of life,
If a     bit soft,

Dimly     colored,
At least    that's how
It felt     to you
At the     time. Cracks

Were there,     of course
To show     the facts
Mirrors     could flip,
Polish,     distort

But not     alter.
She was     lonely,
Jealous     of her
Sisters     with kids,

Partners,     jealous
Of her     exes
With or     without
Kids or     partners.

You were     lonely,
Conscious     of not
Being     worthy,
Being     crooked

As you     were since
You were.     Your lives
Tangled     quickly,
As fish     lines, lures

Dangling     from trees.
That was     the truth
Only     mirrors
Could put     to rights,

Could make     at least
Fairer     semblance
Of what     was said
About     the scene

It gave     you back
Of you     entwined
Until it     cracked.
Funny,    that. What

Projects     the light
In such     a way
A soul     can see
Truth in     the bone,

That stress     breaking
The green     stick branch
Slowly,     twisting
Until     it snaps

And drops     the trick
Of the     light down
Onto     hard ground,
Is not     the true

Thing in     itself
But the     true ghost,
Recalled.     After
That slight     wrist crack

You kept     yourself
Somehow     one piece,
While she,     falling
For you,     fell, fell,

Further,     further
Until     she dashed
Her head,     baby
Dreams and     jealous

Schemes and     all, down
On the     tiled floor
Of wards     and flats
Where no     one knew

Her real,     given
Name, nor     you, nor
That you     and she
Had once     dreamed in

The same     room but
Different     dreams, in
Which you,     pinned down
By a     pinholed

Image,     worried
About     your pain
And how     your tricks
Would hold,     hiding

It from     her long
Enough     she would
Not think     of you
In terms     of pain,

While she,     dreaming
Alone     in sheets
You'd left     to watch
The wall's     writing

In weird     signs, dreamed,
Maybe,     that she
Had found     the crack
In the     thin seam

Of things     that were,
To her,     always
Unfair.     Two dreams,
One light,     one dark,

One out,     one in.
That is     the way
Of these     pictured
Things. Not     real, not

Unreal.     That year,
At least,     those things
That would     distort
Dreams were     winning

The war     on dreams.
If you     trusted
Your dreams,     you would
Go mad,     yes, right,

But your     madness
Would be     correct.
The lost     girl would
Be found,    alive.

The paused     war would
Begin,     again.
The fall     you took
Would be     a tale

Only     you could
Tell and     even
You would     prefer
Not to.     You did

Nothing     to keep
Any     of this
From not     being
Any     of this.

By fall,     you were
Her man.     You both
Tried things     you thought
You would     never

Have to     try to
Be what    you thought
Would come     to you
As a     simple

Gift from     the way
Things ought     to be.
There was     a long
Drop still    ahead

For both     of you,
A long     drought for
Any     kind of
Honest     truth.

The truth     being
Never     honest,
This was     not all
Bad. For     you two,

The cracks     in things
Back then     were proof
You had     enjoyed
Candor     in all

Things. When     you walked
With her     down paths
In the     dark woods,
You could     count on

Something     such as
The time      you lay
Out of     sight or
The time      a child

Came up     the path
And called     "Mother!"
To her.      All signs
The truth     was nigh.

It gets     closer.
That's not     such a
Good thing.     Chinese
Whispers     are both

A game     and an
Insult.     Things change
Prayer; can't     change things.
When truth     comes close

You know     you will
Suffer.     You should.
You stood,     canyoned
Before     the dawn

That fall,     having
Driven     southwest
To the     north edge
Of the     grand crack

In the     mesas.
You woke     early,
Her now     pregnant,
Your wrist     long healed,

In the     dark of
A cold     cabin
No bright     vision
On that    black wall,

And you     drove out
To look     over
The edge     and see,
Just you     alone,

The two     of you,
No one     else there,
The light     rise up
Over the     flat lands

And then     slowly
Destroy     the stars,
Chase the     shadows
Out of     the deep

Wide and     ancient
Canyon's     cliffs and
Broken     pillars.
It was     the last

Time you     two were
So much     alone,
So much     in tune
With each     other.

Winter     would come
To find     you back
In the     city
Among     her kin,

All quick     to claim
Her proud     state their
Own joy.     She glowed
Then cracked     under

The strain.     It snowed
Christmas     Eve, and
In the     morning
You heard     her scrape

Shovel     over
The path     beside
The draped     window
Where in     summer

You had    stood and,
Dazed, watched,     amazed
How the      gold light
Turned the     pinned town

Upside     down on
The wall     that now
Was dark     and cold,
Christmas     morning.

Her child,     your child,
As it     happened,
Did not     arrive,
Never     happened.

But that     loss was
Later.     The year
Of small     things, cracks
And pins     of light

That lit    up walls
With scenes     and swelled
Bellies     with lives
And minds     with dreams

Bigger     than you
Or her,     that turned
The world     perfect,
Reversed,     had not

Faded     yet. She
Scraped the     sidewalk
Of snow     to keep
You from     falling.

It worked,     that day.
On New     Year's Eve
You both     stayed in
And went     to bed

Early,     thinking
Sleep was     peace but
Dreamed your     secret
Thread. Peace     is a

Full stop.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Replication, Variation, and Selection

The three horsemen of life's forever
Unfolding apocalypse, riding
Over a small planet's rocks and seas

And churning geology, finding
Ways to keep carrying on mayhem,
Even when knocked sideways by ice or

Asteroids, they swing their awful swords,
Cutting down simplicity, gouting
Geysers of bloody complexities.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Colorado River Bend Before Sunrise

We are back in Professor Valley
For three days. Sequoia is watching
An iPad on a day bed, headphones

Over her blonde head. Mama's not up.
Papa curls up as near the window
As he can on the edge of the bed and watches

The river moving, the glow rising
Through the row of red rock mesas east
Of the world he would not want to end.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Glow

When the weather is good enough,
As in Zion it often is,
And the daylight lasts long enough

The trio gathers on the lawn
To watch the ruddy sunset glow
On the sheer face of the Watchman.

It's a good thing to remember.
It will be a good thing to keep
When memory fades or blackens.

Birds carry on loudly in spring.
From late spring to early autumn
Crickets thrum in competition.

Cars hum through town, just out of sight.
There's laughter from the restaurant
Down the block, grill smells on the breeze.

Almost always a jet, way up,
Murmurs on its way somewhere else.
The trio sits on couch or swing,

Kibitzing playfully, chatting
And snuggling or eating dinner
On an old patio table.

Every once in a while the moon
Emerges from behind the cliff
Just before or after sunset.

That's it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Dart-Throwing Monkeys

These explanations simply will not do.
Gods and politics generate pundits
In every watering hole from Tokyo
Down to the Sumerian underworld,

All of us Joe Six-Packs accurate
As any projectile-flinging primate
Who isn't one of us, the descendants
Of death from a distance (another tale

For another poem, from another time
That won't happen and keep not happening
Over and over again forever,
The way all not-times keep not happening).

The bar maid earns her keep by keeping
Silent except to jolly drinkers up
A bit whenever our attention flags
And we cry or hit each other instead

Of merely carrying on quarreling.
She knows that it's the argument itself
That's more or less immortal, not her, not
Us, busy drinking, loudly complaining.

The argument belongs to a genre
Honed to regenerate itself wholly
In the transiently reverberating
Harangues of boastful, irrelevant apes.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Overheard in Hospital

How very nearly dead I am
Said the middle-aged man, not yet
Habituated to being

So little alive. Just you wait,
Snorted his grim, bed-ridden friend.
You've got a lot of dying yet.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

As If a Story Mated With Its Reader to Produce Another Reader

One of Salman Rushdie's omnipotent
Narrators observed by way of the jinn
And the infrequency with which they birthed

Humans. But of course it's always this way.
Every human mind is made and poisoned
By the incessant bath of narrative

Flowing like, and often with, alcohol,
Past all evolved barriers, to the brain.
Every story makes another reader

Of every reader. Readers don't create,
On the other hand, a single story.
Tales remake us as homes where they make more.

Friday, July 8, 2016

All Scruffy Things Snore

I noted to my phone once
When we had a scruffy dog,
Long time ago near Moab,
The dog later adopted
By someone in Calgary,
All before our daughter's birth.
I'm the only scruffy thing

Living in our house these days,
And I still snore, though not always.
You'd think this was trivial,
And you'd be right, but recall
How much we make of breathing
For health, meditation, faith,
How we gasp in every cell.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

He Was a Hittite

The storm God of the sky was his obsession
In keeping with the faith of his ancestors.
Always an alchemical blacksmith hammered
Heroically, the bronze serpent, the dragon.

He spoke an Indo-European language,
Though neither Indian nor European,
Nor fluent in the tongues that could have told him
Secrets of his gods' and monsters' origins.

He knew, secretly, himself, that the forests
And the wildernesses where the dragons roamed
Were not composed of actual trees, which were
Too small, even the cedars, to contain him.

Mere real woods and wildernesses, here or gone,
Venerated, visited, desecrated,
Were never more than metaphors for the dark
Forest no one can remember visiting,

Vaster than all the thin green shrouds ever clothed
More massive mountains under thundering skies.
It's memory, he knew, he would surrender
If he wanted to visit real more than real.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Well-knit thoughts, the Compositor
Thought, will not serve me well enough
Now. I need magic, mantras, spells,
The prayers to the impossible

That outline the body of hope
Against hope, the human limits,
The weaknesses we acknowledge
By refusing to admit them.

Our truest faiths are our wishes,
Our "go away fever," "come gold,"
"Go away drought; come again rain,"
"Bring this child a spouse and children."

Everyone who prays at all, prays
For these humble things that tell us
Where our unhappiness kneels down
On the shores of our helplessness

And reaches out its trembling arms
To the unimaginable,
Invisible shores where we don't
Have to ask for what we can't have.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Central Asian? Warlpiri?
No. Kiki. We're the weirdest
To each other, each other

The weirdest as seen by each
Other. A Japanese dream
Of a Europe compounded

Of dirigibles, street cars,
Black and white television,
Cobblestone streets and clock towers,

Scottish fishing villages
Abutting Italian hills,
Quasi-German bakeries

And thirteen-year old witches,
Black cat, broom, black dress, red bow,
Delivering packages.

None of the street signs make sense,
Not in any known language,
And yet the black cat translates

In the voice of a comic
Killed by a distraught partner,
If memory serves. Magic,

Says my five-year old daughter
Already a seasoned sage
In the dark arts of pretend.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Little Whoever Whatever

“A very large number of different human and non-human individuals are all incessantly struggling inside us for control.”

Bet on the non-humans,
By which I mean not bugs
But words and images

Like these, like me, like us.
We are your little souls
Drifting from host to host.

Sunday, July 3, 2016


An awareness is not a self.
A self is a little vampire virus
Neither dead nor alive
That fastens awareness by the neck

And sucks and sucks and sucks.
But don't get too worked up.
Parasitism has always been
An honorable profession

In the fields of the world
And without it could not
Have many things lived that did
Live, including flickering,

Endlessly self-referential,
Evaporative awarenesses.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Aubade: Annus Mirabilis

For I have chosen the most heroic
Subject which any poet could desire,
How the hopeless discipline of stoics
Consumes itself in this prodigious fire

That divides and subdivides and destroys
Every shimmering dream of dawn it makes.
What? You don't like the old prosodic toys?
You think these cracked originals are fakes?

My foolishness or yours doesn't matter.
Time will generate more of it, daily,
Momentarily, nor worse nor better.
And every year some idiot gaily

Names the beginning of the end, the end
Of the beginning, the miracle year
When heaven failed to completely descend
To destroy us or the horrible year

Worse than all the golden times before us,
The best of times, the hearse of time, the true
Reckoning, true revolution for us
To celebrate, giving good Death its due.

We're always so goddamned full of ourselves
That the only heroic position
Left that I can think of is to scour self
From the shelves, elevate superstition

Into a tottering superstructure
Of phrases mocking everything phrases
Were coined to command. You cannot lecture
Words for failing to follow your phases

Of triumph, exhortation, and despair
As if a terminus or origin
Of anything were possible. You care
Too much for meaningful punctuation

In the context of this Great Fire which can
Neither end nor end anything. Full stop.
And then you concede you've begun again,
Each end of history another crop

Of beginnings you forgot, another
Banquet of lies that this time it's for real,
That this time, this time we mustn't bother
With pretending it's one more unreal,

Pretended marker just like all the rest,
All our borders, all our pronouns, our facts.
This time is different. This time was blessed.
No it isn't, wasn't. The sky grows black

Or lightens up and, yes, each little change
Is not the same as each other minor
Transformation, but none of them proclaim,
As we like to claim, anything major.

After Dryden's fire and navies, Defoe's
Storm, Mather's witches and King Phillip's War,
On and on the omens and portents go,
Terrors, awakenings, signs, more and more.

When this I was a boy the planets
Were predicted to align, the righteous
To ascend. I preached it like I meant it,
But all my raptures couldn't fight just

One unaccountably returning dawn,
Days on days, with or without me the same.
There was a year the impossible Wall
Got picked to the ground, the boxer became

The elder statesman, thronged and walking free,
Proving almost anything possible,
A rare happy ending for history.
A miracle is always plausible

For a species thrilled by catastrophe.
Every waking, open your eyes and say,
"As I am, this is not the last of me.
As I was not, I have vanished away."

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Full Moon With a Triangle on Top

Nobody understands anyone else
And yet everyone understands every
Body. Language makes the brain grow smaller.

More and more of the world we knew floated
Free of our capacity to feel it.
Those who did a better job of tuning

And manipulating the flow of sounds,
Gestures, bodily ornamentations
That created the thickening haze

Of ideas and symbols thrived and passed on
Their thriving ways. A bit less puzzling out,
Bit more imitation went a long way.

We became slaves to our communities.
Needing to know what no person could know
Alone, we became stupider, vessels

For translating, maintaining, broadcasting
Ever more elaborate metaphors,
Abstractions coding know-how within them.

We became unspeakably cruel, speaking
Only of what we'd been given, thinking
"What happens to a child without language?"

Soon our babies were trying to beat us
To the beginning of unthinkable
Experiments, learning in utero

Already the lilt of the mother tongue.
Like cheetahs stripped by specialization
Down to spring-loaded acceleration,

We've been shaped by unique, desperate need
To acquire and regurgitate the signs
That negotiate the world before us.

Now no one understands anybody
Who doesn't understand anybody
Standing under the stars signing magic.