Friday, September 30, 2016

Strangenesses

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.

3rd

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.

4th

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.

5th

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.

6th

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?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Outline

"Why was I doing this to myself? Because the mind keeps working, uncontrollably." 

It's just a cup of water.
Why count what has drowned in it,
How many fish flit through it,
How many postcards show it,
The number of invasions
Have entered and died in it
Since it was a cup of ice?

Sun stirred lake or sun stroked brain,
No who in the end in it,
Nowhere that persists as it,
Lines cast in the deep of it
May pull up monstrous sturgeon
Living since the god-knows-when
Of it, but that can't be it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Gone Dark

Not so ominous, the future
When I perch on a stony shore
By the side of the Slocan Lake
Well past my expiration date

And wonder how I made it here,
Another year, another spin
And another, twenty thousand
Nearly now since first I gasped breath.

Who sits in fine weather in May
At the intersection of light
And craving, the center of want
That wants for nothing, nowhere else,

And thinks, "this too shall pass"? Shouldn't
We save the calm stoicism
For the fall and winter, gone dark
Afternoons when May lakes are myths?

I used to think I'd be gone now,
And now, perhaps, I really am,
But the passage of light across
Washed-up logs below Valhalla,

When I am alone and sunlit
And full of the spring behind me,
The cold, clear lake in front of me
Is not the dark I'd counted on.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

And the Word Was With Us, and the Word Was Us

"There are many great poets, but not all of them alter the ways in which we understand the world we live in; not all of them suggest that words can be held responsible."

Words can be held responsible all right.
Words are the way we yank each other tight,
Breathe heavily, right

Up nose to nose, and tell each other what
We should be doing differently and what
We've done wrong and what

We owe each other, the world, the poet
Of the words compelling us. We know it.
Word says we owe it,

And it's the rare worddict who can resist 
Exploiting delicious chance to insist,
To shake a word fist,

To tell other humans how to behave,
But I blame the words themselves. They can't save 
Us the sin they crave.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Relentlessness & Craft

I can't stop me. I can only be
Stopped. I'm a madman for my craft, me,
And like all madmen I disbelieve

The obvious and conventional,
However correct. Dimensional
Dementia in me's intentional.

I am determined to chart the curve
By which atoms of memory swerve,
Tapping fingertips against the curse

Of certainty nothing much is left.
After nothing's taken, I'm bereft.
Emptiness is stunning in its heft,

But remove emptiness entirely
And terror radiates, bizarrely,
Post nothing, nonexistence, fiery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sparkle Laundry

The world likes to play its jokes on the mind,
Offering phenomena that become

Memorable merely seeming stable
When what's more cherished and feared disappears.

A good thirty years ago, Mark and Matt,
Two unusual young men we shall name

M East and M West, M2 and M1,
So as not to embarrass living ghosts,

Used to make a minor social event
Of schlepping their clothes to the laundromat

Down the brown ice sidewalks of Missoula
Once a week in winter, sacks on their backs,

M2 helping M1 with treacherous
Passages, M1 always promising

To pay for M2's frozen yogurt cone
Once they got inside. That was the gimmick

Of that near-campus laundry in those days,
The eighties: offering frozen yogurt

With innumerable candy toppings
At a bar beside the washing machines,

And MTV played continuously
From several large cathode-tube TVs

Hanging strategically from the ceiling.
It made sense at the time. Yogurt was thought

Magically better for you than ice cream.
MTV was what all the shrewd kids watched,

Tribes dismissing their least-favorite genres
Of pop while waiting for a haloed band

To drop a new sensation. And laundry
Ran the needy gamut of the campus,

From undergrads in dorms without washers
To hippy kids and grad students bereft

Of the suburban maternal support
Systems most of them had been raised within.

M2 could have done his laundry at home.
But his well-off mother, professor's wife,

Lawyer's wife, was a vaporous addict
Hooked on nasal inhalants who haunted

Their handsome brick home near the old campus
And never gave her son a moment's peace.

He himself had become notorious,
Tall, thin young man with Andy Warhol hair

Wearing black leather pants to emulate
His hip hero, the late Jim Morrison,

Not that anyone but him thought it cool
For a long, scrawny dude to dress in black

And greet everyone with "Hey, groovy cat!"
And peruse Loompanics magazines.

M1 didn't mind. He was alien
In each environment he occupied,

A crooked little hairball of a man.
He was happy to have the company.

They discussed the meaning of everything,
Including time, yogurt, and MTV,

Then hauled their canvas sacks of clothes back home,
M1's rented room, M2's dark brick house.

Thirty odd years on, everything is gone
But Sparkle Laundry, offering wifi.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Camouphage & Subtlefuge

War and hunting wear the same clothes,
The sort that stick out anywhere
Except a wilderness distance

Where the motion of the hunter
Armed with death-dealing projectiles
Blurs against the backdrop of life.

Our ancestors began to learn
To throw wicked points at targets
And then began to learn to fade

To depth perception precisely
Equivalent to the killing
Range of whatever hurt they threw.

Get up close on us feeling fierce,
We're blatantly ridiculous.
But at the edge we disappear,

Fresh angels in the endless fight
To acquire or deceive a world
Tattooing night with pointed lights.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bigelow Bay, the Tenth of May

A nude nouveau hippy couple
Have parked their Westy and sunbathe

On the rocky shore while breezes
Toss shades of green. I have joined them.

Behold, I am still a Baptist.
Again, I have been born again.

Against hope and any semblance
Of the reason that I pretend to possess,

I have decided to survive
Another four months and no less.

Here is the fantasy fueling me:
Some miracle will have resolved

The worst of what's afflicting me.
I'll smile at this when I arrive.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

When Does Totalitarian Become Utilitarian?

What I like about being
Older is that I can count
Decades backward

Confidently. I knew
When the world you
Know was differently.

I have been teaching
Myself old tricks I never
Bothered to learn. At first,

I felt foolish, but then
I remembered that genius
Is the breath of the

Almost dearranged.
Put twenty two clich├ęs
In a lovely kicking row

Together, then a hundred,
Then a thousand or two
Or more. I'm out the door.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mum's the Word

Who knows the universal mother is
The universal mother, none other.

What was birth before she gave birth to it?
Galaxies, birthed, give birth to nurseries

Of stars around which planets coalesce.
At least one tiny grain of a planet

Gave birth to life which gave birth to the same,
Even birthing some fathers, which feels strange,

Eventually gave birth to culture,
To words and metaphors for giving birth.

All metaphor, all the way up and down,
Birth from mothers, mothers from birth, worlds, stars,

Nurseries, galaxies, infinities,
Universe in which you hold your daughter.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Drinking Beers Behind the Kmart in Butte, MT

I wonder if I'll be one of those old women
With upper lip wrinkles. I wonder if I'll be
One of those wrinkled upper-lip women.

Every time I squint I get frinkles.
I've spent most of my life mostly dead.
Sukha, don't wander on to the golf course!

I can hear the thrum of engines, some
From the building behind me, some
From the highway unseen, past the green.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Quiet Nature with Various Charms

"What's the point of living if we don't
Die at the end of it?" My mother
Insisted that death was a portal,

A one-shot either/or if/then gate,
Sort into heaven or into hell,
No more decisions ever again,

Happiness/suffering forever
And ever and ever and ever.
In her evangelical high school

Yearbook, there's a black-&-white picture
Of her, rich chestnut hair looking black,
Poor dentition touched-up to look white,

1945, world's end somewhere,
Beginning of adulthood for her,
"Quiet nature with various charms."

It's painful to look at. I feel like
The parent, aching to find some way
To protect and defend this poor child.

She found her own way, and then she died,
Sixty-six years on, officially.
But that sweet, anxious smile and the cruel

Pseudo-compliment of the yearbook
Editors trying to find something
Nice to say about the quiet girl

From the backwoods Massachusetts farm,
Raised dirt poor by her widowed mother
And nine older brothers and sisters.

She was at least as skeptical as
Me, but behind that smile she kept hid
A fierce need to cling to her mother's

Faith, however easily she fled
Her mother's rocky scrap of pasture.
What's the point of dying if we don't?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

HERC2

"on the altar; your daughter 
lives; the wind is still;
and your father
is mortal." ~ Schiff

A haplogroup was present and was
Subsequently lost. Know what that means?
Many people left no survivors.

Many of their revenants are so
Ancient that people today are not
Relevant for understanding them.

This is the way. The most successful
Lineage is only what's present
Of the recently past. All the rest 

Were lost. Thus the future reaches back
To remind us we too have no future
Sooner or later. Something else will

Appear to have been right in this past
That we are, and we will have been wrong.
That is, if anything considers

A past at all in those brilliant days.
Considering the past may be why
We were wrong for the future they'll live.

Shakespeare, that consummate technician 
Of human contemplation, artist
God modeling social dynamics,

Left behind two surviving children.
Turn the crank a few generations
And there's nothing left but words, words, words.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Every Once in a While

Someone will drop dead while I'm fiddling,
Singing out at the last, "This is all
Very good, well becomes a pulpit,

But what's this to a philosopher?"
Today an earnest woman told me
The world would be a better place if

There were more people like me in it.
I doubt it, although I think I know
What her strenuous compliment meant.

Something ethical was implicit,
However mistaken. I get it,
But I wonder re the rest of me.

Would the world be better with more frail,
Glass-boned humans in it? I don't doubt
My skeleton played some role for her

When evaluating bravery,
But would human society be
Enhanced by more cracked citizenry?

It seems unlikely. The human race
Could be put in danger of going,
Despite billions at present, extinct.

If not extinction then constriction,
A severe genetic bottleneck,
Would be visited on a species

With too many mutations like me.
Not good, not for humans, but who knows,
Maybe better for the world. Maybe

Even a new, much-altered species
Of bright biped, also successful
But not so detrimental, might breed.

Taken holistically, more like me
Would not be likely, howsomever
Compounded of grave integrity,

Linearly to enhance existence
For her, however much she praised me
In my singularity. I'm rare,

And humans so cherish rarity.
She's likely never met another
Soul kitted out with glass bones like me.

She may never meet another me.
But if we were increasing smoothly
In her neighborhood's demography,

I doubt diligent integrity
Would save us from becoming a threat,
Alien beings with different needs

Consuming medical resources
And parking disproportionately.
No, the world is not better for me.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

White Mulberry

Depending on one's priorities,
This poetry gig I've been playing
For a paying audience of none
Can seem a form of nihilism

Or a form of idealism.
Nothing but the raw ingredients
For this relentless conversation
Between a body dreaming a world

And the world that may or may not have
Dreamed up the small body dreaming it
Exists. A silkworm has to be boiled
Before it escapes and wrecks the threads.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Autonomous Automaton

"Caliban is destined to remain a genetic automaton, a windup ghoul—vastly more pathetic than anything human. He experiences the world, but he has no capacity to be changed by it; he has a genome that lacks an epigenome." ~Siddhartha Mukherjee
 
Turning into an animal 
Can endanger the human soul.
Dark though it is outside flesh,
Only our bizarre gratitude

Keeps the candle from guttering
Inside that flesh. But I am proud
To pretend I'm automaton,
Grateful I am not I, although

I wish I could float here freely,
Aware as that liberated
Toady of vapor, Ariel.
I never served. I always lied.

And when I die, I'll gutter out
And go nowhere, which means, at least,
No longer here where the magus
Who winds up the ghouls is a ghost.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sparagmos

Sit in a cafe.
Anywhere. Just look.
Everyone's dying,
Most obviously
The feebly grey-haired,

But also the lined,
Middle-aged faces,
The tired young parents,
Even their baby,
Fat cheeked and bright-eyed

Looking around so
Synapses are pruned
Appropriately
And the right cells die.
We emerge and fade,

Never wholly not
There before, never
Wholly not after,
Except to ourselves.
Here I am! Going!

Sit in a cafe.
The gods will eat you
And everyone there
Bit by bit, alive.
That's how you're alive.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Meaning of Urbanity

The people on the sidewalk
Look in the windows at
The people in the restaurant and
The people in the restaurant look out
At the people looking in. Yeats said
Keats was a boy with his nose pressed
Against the glass of a sweet shop.
Yeats said a lot of dismissive things.

I'm looking, I'm looking, I'm looking,
And everything and everyone's connected
But that stops no one from dying,
And damn few from dying in the streets.
2006 I tried to get into Keats' last
Misery beside the Spanish Steps.
What a pretty, touristy destination,
The young in one another's pants
And pockets as buskers played,
And I was too late and the sweet
Shop was closed forever to outsiders
Dying to get in. I want to look
Out at them, want them to look in.