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.