Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Doxographer's Muse

All we know of most we know
Lost are the doxographers'
More organized, surviving
Summaries. Originals,
Gone as Alexandria,
Were anyway fragmented,
Inchoate start to finish.

But as dunes become sandstone,
Then shore sands, then stone again,
The thoughts of the lost thinkers,
Compressed, warped, scraped and released
In the wind again, pile drifts
In a mind original,
Ready to whisper, get lost.

Monday, January 30, 2017


Spirit aspirational,
Inspirational, expired,
Conspiratorial breath
Drags on the convulsive lungs
And counts the spiral staircase
Rung by rung. It's not much fun,
Nor very meditative,

When the most painful thing done
Is to suck in atmosphere
Past narrowing obstacles
And then cough it out again.
Maybe the spear in the side
Of the crucified was breath,
Gasp more redundant than death.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Perfectly Normal Midnight

We should say it's a dark day,
A partly dark day at least,
When the world is behaving
Normally. Start with our own
Little darknesses, the deeds
We've learned to do to others,
Then scale up to dictators,

Always some strong man somewhere
Playing at cruel demigod.
There's natural disaster,
The lotteries of hunger,
And the fact half the planet
Is always dark. Dark right now
Near me; more darkness coming.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Map Gives No Answers

The ghosts gave meaning to lives
They never lived, were stories
Covering over the gaps
In walls bricking up the facts.
Absence is all that haunts us.
We scream at invented haints
In hopes there's not nothing there.

There is. We can't banish it.
It's not a map's blank spaces.
No exploring fills it in.
Memory cannot get there.
Memory cannot come back,
Not even a scrap. The lack
Into which all worlds collapse.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Snow Retreat

Here peripatetic monks
Use for return and retreat.
It is deep January.
The sky is hard when clearest
After many little snows.
The housebound monk must decide

Is it time to go outside?
It's the walk to the water,
Not the thought of the water
Makes him shiver. It's the thought
Of being terribly cold,
Having done this terribly
Cold thing, not nothing, shakes him.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Kiss

Why this? Why the pressing lips
To lips or foreheads or feet
As the seal of a deal, fate?
Andersen's Ice Maiden must
Buss her choice three times, as boy,
As jealous lover, as groom,
Head to toe to keep and kill.

The handshake and the mating,
However binding, are not
As intimate, magical.
Only death, the last embrace,
Has the same strength as sealant,
Yet kisses are betrayals.
God suffered death for a kiss.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Faith in the possibility of self control
Is the fundamental human madness
That enabled our cultures to evolve
To control us, to make us both
The masterful destroyers and remakers
Of all ecosystems and also the most
Agonized beings on the planet. Pah!

We are slaves. We were freely helpless
And now we have only shame. No,
Probably we were never freely helpless,
Only helpless without knowing, without
System. Or that's wrong as well. Let it go.
What we are now is strangely deluded.
Culture's gift has been to let us become

One within greater and greater pools
Of skills and information, now oceanic.
Along the way we evolved partial
Immunity to what those deep seas tell us.
Had we not, the feed-forward process
Would have ceased, as perhaps it did
In some of the cousins we assimilated

And annihilated. Now we are to truth
What cetaceans are to salt water.
We can dive, dive deep and long,
And hunt and thrive, even sleep
With half of our mind open. But we can't
Inhabit the deep entirely. We surface
For lies and one of the first gulps

Of mistake we take, all the way down
Into the empty pits of our hungry lungs
That burn for nonsense and narrative,
Is the sweet belief, sweet poisonous relief,
That we can take responsibility for what
We do and thereby what becomes of us.
Somewhere facts like osedax wait our falls.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lincoln Park

What would it be like, if I
Could arrange phrases neatly
In perfectly constrained lines
That, for all their perfection,
Said something unexpected,
Something as barely contained
As a tiger in a cage?

That's the pretty world I want,
A kind of circus or zoo
For insights out of context,
Mangy and pacing, deranged
But absolutely contained.
Once, in Chicago, I dozed
Over the roar of lions.

Monday, January 23, 2017


I was never the hero.
This was never my journey.
I was never the wizard
Throwing down his magic staff,
Never the villain plotting
Empire, revenge, the world's end.
I was never part of this

Monster that infected me.
I failed. I failed to resist.
I failed to be mute and pure.
Trickster lived inside of me,
And I played the bandy fool.
Take me and break me open.
What escapes will never know.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


The haunted car sat in the tall grass,
At rest by the side of the road.
The rain rolled down cracked windshield glass.
The rain was turning to snow.

The shadow inside the car turned
To peer at the face at the door.
The face was long. The dark eyes burned.
The face was the face of a doe.

The doe was startled and turned tail
When she noticed the shadow move.
But the shadow remained in its wrecked jail.
The shadow had nothing to prove.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

I Have to Go

When you stand in the middle
Of the road I'm thinking of,
You think of the disappeared.
However many they were,
Each one went away alone,
And it's doubtful anyone
Joined up together later.

As you see, the road bisects
The available landscape
Neatly as a boundary
Or an arithmetic line
Indicating ratio,
Difference, and long division,
But either side looks the same:

Dense, coniferous forest,
Pointed, dark, indifferent,
And appearing to swallow
The parallels of the road
At both ends in the distance,
Monotonous to your eyes.
Is this when you disappear?

You could already be gone.
You don't remember yourself,
But you see you are alone.
It occurs to you you can't
Remember how you came here,
But it doesn't trouble you.
You smile, thinking the living

Believe the ability
To recollect one's lost life,
At least the good parts of it,
Should be considered a boon,
That nothing is so welcome
In death as imitation
And recollection of life.

Does this mean you aren't living?
Then how could anything mean?
The landscape makes no reply.
You start walking down the road.
The sun is apparently
Straight overhead, behind clouds.
You don't see any shadows.

The density of the trees
That hem you in comforts you.
At some point you'll enter them,
You think, maybe, but not yet.
You hardly feel you're walking.
You're glad of a little rain.
All you ever are was this.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Seven Steeples Quite Blown Down

I have made the reckless choice.
And now we'll see how it works.
All dies off quickly, strangely.
I'm going bush by myself.
I stop myself from writing
Down every line infects me.
I sit in the morning sun

Before it gets too damned hot
And I think of the skylight
A suicidal woman
Said she used to teach herself
To meditate, stay. You're here
For a reason. People want
You to stay, she explained.

In the first meeting of fall
One high window in the gym
Where professors assembled
Showed the leaves of a plane tree
In bright sun as the meeting
Dragged on under fluorescents.
And I stared and stared at it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's Just the Room That's Dark, Papa, Not the World

Robin Dunbar swears our brains
Grew large as our ancestors
Increasingly depended
On appraising each other
And judging successfully
Whether to give or withhold
Our calibrated support.

There are plenty of other
Hypotheses for brain growth
By natural selection
Culling our lineages.
It has to have been something
Our species needed to do
More than another species

Might have. No hypothesis
Yet compels universal
Support, but the part I like
Of Dunbar's explanation,
The part that rings true to me,
Is this business of judging.
Humans can't do anything

Without evaluating
How other humans would judge
The judger, can't even look
At stars or imagine gods
Without some social judgment,
Some brain-deep conversation
With ourselves, without taking

Shame, glory, and indifference
To be our reasoned measures,
Our compass, our heuristics.
Have we slighted the fairies?
Have we insulted the gods?
Even quantification
Comes from social calculus.

I'm not a sociopath
So, lonesome, I'm not immune
To studying meteors
And mountains in human terms:
How do I look in their eyes?
What are they saying to me?
Have I done right by the world?

I know you also judge me,
Even when you're only God,
And find me wanting. Come on.
You can do better than that.
Now that our brains are so big,
Fattened on generations
Of judgments, trials, and gossip,

Why not use them to conclude
Nothing but us gives a damn.
You need to judge this? Come on.
Come tell this lonesome liar
Come tell this midnight writer,
Gambling, rambling backslider,
Tell me God Almighty go'ne

To cut me down.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


"The story becomes one of persistent loss,"
Quoth Henry Gee, considering vertebrate
Evolution. Rudimentary succeeds

More highly derived and complexified traits.
Life pulses up the taxonomic levels,
Up the ratchet of invention and breaking

Down again, advancing new simplicities.
There is a kind of breathing to everything
Living, even ideas and technologies.

When we were young we learned best by forgetting
We'd become simpler and remember again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


"Homonymy kills the king."

We wish too vaguely. The day
Is an animal that knows
Destiny searches for it.
Death's a return to being,
A mixture of excitement
And despair, leading nowhere
For those emotions themselves.

I am watering the lawn,
Moon high in warm desert sky,
Cliffs like red radiators
Glowing a little with loss
Of the sun that made them glow.
This was last summer, of course,
Summer smoldering, dying,

When starlings came to the lawn
And I thought how I admire
Invasive species. I know,
They've been introduced by fools.
But to a rat or a finch
What was the difference between
Reaching an island by boat

Or being blown there by storms,
Misdirected by currents?
I'm all for diversity
And mourn native species' loss
Very hypocritically,
But still I'm struck by the pluck
Of marauding berserkers.

They've beaten long odds, you know.
Natives mostly win the day.
But once a few maniac
Breeders get going, they can
Crash through whole ecosystems.
Us, too, of course, all of us,
First or last, sailing nowhere

Or poking along the coast.
A few of us, enough, thrive,
And then we seem dangerous
To ourselves. Mm. Never mind.
With oracular hindsight
Any way coming to grief
Can be claimed for destiny.

The king heard the oracle
And carefully avoided
The wrong place with the same name.
Two thousand years later, truth
Sounds easily: Loss was lost.
That was back in the summer.
Who knows where we nowhere now?

Monday, January 16, 2017


How to make sense of this account?
The evening gathered to discuss
The events of the afternoon.
No one really wants to get out.

Everyone wants to get better.
The creek, mute from meaning's standpoint,
Added commentary, to wit:
It's better to be than to mean,

But only if you're a meaning,
And there's no escaping being
Anyway, except for meanings.
A girl not yet schooled considered.

What do you mean, "mean"? I'm not mean.
"Mean" has many meanings, meaning
Answered, ruffling them like a deck
Of tarot cards, mute as a creek.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


My memories, cemented
By spittle of fantasy,
Detritus of quotations,
And quicklime of amnesias,
Have formed the walls of a room,
A honeycomb around me.
I lie in trails I've laid down.

Creation is division.
Division is destruction.
Change is changing everything.
The mystery is the myth
That keeps emerging from this,
That there is, was, or could be
A whole that nothing divides.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Let's rest a moment in the compromise
Position of avoiding cruelty.
It won't last long, but it buys us some peace,

Some pretense we can stay alive and choose
To behave in a way that won't haunt us,
Though snuffing striving out at an instant

Isn't possible and wouldn't feel right
Now, would it? In the dance of life on Earth,
Cruelty's the first position, the rest

All extenuating circumstances
Pirouetting from that opening stance.
But there's no need to go around stomping

Death into things feebly scrambling away.
I, for one, have seen more reenactments
Of the Rite of Spring than necessary.

It's not life's only choreography,
Although, come to think of it, I couldn't
Say for dead certain that it is crueler

Than all those downy swans' and doves' descents
That seem to extend life so gracefully,
Lotos blossoming the face of the deep.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Fey Tale

Eh bien, it's only the first step that counts.
Hello to themselves with hazelnut shells.
You people say the weirdest things to us.

We are, to be honest, not unalive.
We were, to be dishonest, not undead.
You who were never neither salute us.

Well, why not. We haunt you. We mislead you.
We lead you to think you really exist,
Allow you to think we really exist.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

To Keep, to Make

"There's a part of me / that's like a kite cut loose, like Noah's raven / that know's it ain't going back --"

To leave. As far as we're aware
There is no etymology
In any language family

In which the word for poetry
Meant anything like departure.
The Greeks had their architecture,

The Scythians had their archers,
The Chinese their power and their way.
Who would name poems for what they say,

Their forever going away?
When we weld chains of words we square
Air with iron doors of nowhere.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Have Had Less to Say

--Sometimes, I decided
I have nothing to say
And I'm not going to say

It, Wendy Harlock said,
Talking about writing
Her editorials

Every other week for
A number of years for
The 358 Exchange.

Who can say nothing who
Has been lucky enough
To have nothing to say?

The lake glowed in the light
Of that long afternoon
And it was long ago,

Longing for homecoming
Hours before leaving home
Began, but I was gone.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Crack Across the Pane

"once the glass had cracked three times it didn't crack again"

Because seeing will always feel
Just a bit of an illusion
(It's actually more of a gloss,
An annotated summary

Of the light), and seeing through things,
Water, glass, scrims, transparencies,
To other things we can't see through
Haunts us with the ghost of a trick,

A mirror's a demon window,
And only a cracked window feels
Honest, sorrow fairly come by,
Distorting candidly, a thought

That things can't go on much longer
Although so far they somehow do.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Obtaining Water in the Underworld

"Even the Inuit dead ask
The living to give them ice, 'for
We are suffering from thirst for
Cold water.' I can't imagine

Why so many societies
Would imagine the dead thirsty
Enough to announce they're thirsty
To inhuman gods of the gate.

What about death could be so
Dependent on a need of life,
Unless death mistakes lack of life
For just another frustration,

Just another lack of something
Necessary to keep living,
As if being dead were living
Under direr circumstances.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Picking One's Way Back Through Time

Is, as it unhappens, the only way
We move through time, we who are memories
Tagged with the labels that stabilize us,
The memories of metaphors themselves.
Every day last July we visited
The bend in the dirt road swarmed by wildflowers
That we discovered and rediscovered,
That we continue to rediscover
And replace with our rediscoveries
As the Meadow of Nothing Happening.
Every visit was another goodbye.
Every visit is another goodbye.
We thought when we began this with a phrase
We liked we wouldn't have to, but we do.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

That Readeth This Book, From the Beginning to the Ending, Pray for Me While I Am on Live

Hawk woman sent me back to Wart,
Wart threw me back to Malory.
The road down into the abyss
Runs as quick and narrow as faith
And those slipping, keeping balance
As we leap like goats, stone to stone,
Are prone to think the broad highway
Is not the road of the sinners

But of uniform hordes of saints.
I'm happy for the descent, I
Am, happy for each next step down
That I stick, nimble, or at least
Do not slide clean off completely,
Not an end in myself, never.
Only the living dance with death.
We're most alive who dance to death.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Smith and the Demon

Metallurgy magic marks the moment
Artifice started directing itself.
No such moment of course in the chorus
Of sparks showering air from the anvil.

The most ancient wonder tale is the one
In which the artificer of metals
Makes and then breaks a peculiar bargain
For supernatural power with a trickster.

How did the potter avoid infamy?
How did the maker of fire get to be
The trickster God ogre personified,
The coyote, weasel Prometheus?

The fire before the kiln, kiln before gold
And copper and weaponized lost-wax molds.
It's the smith who meets Mephistopheles;
The alchemist's tempted to become Death.

Demon was the idea of deviltry,
The idea that annealed in the alloy
The moment smith passed success for success
Of a design, that moment birthed design.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Earthworms and Wings

Sun showers stipple the meadow
Where the blue truck lies in wildflowers
And the birds aren't so numerous
As the woods would lead one to think.

But that's only for a little while.
Rain stops. It always does. Rain starts
Again, almost always as well,
Although the ice winds off the poles

Haven't seen rain since before us.
Where were we? An earthworm wriggles,
Unhappily, it seems to me,
In sun, then the shadow of wings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Every body buried here,
Except maybe the horses,
Knew shame and disappointment,
Knew what it was to approach
The living and the lifeless
Cosmos as a supplicant.
Probably the horses, too.

The Griffins and stags, antlers
Flowing back impossibly
Like waves, like curled locks of hair,
Flew from imagination
Into three or four thousand
Years of future, immortal
For never having lived, lied.

Sometimes there are no bodies,
No drugged, strangled concubines,
No murdered charioteers,
No horse sacrifice, no king.
Sometimes, below the deer stone,
There's nothing but more symbols
Created to lie alone.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Papa, Is Mama a Light Sleeper or a Dark Sleeper?

Mama is a light sleeper; Papa's in the dark.
Or, Papa is the light sleeper, with his eyeshades pulled
Against Mama's reading lamp. She reads in the dark.

Or, you are the light sleeper that we hover near,
Your fitful, imperfect parent lamps, small circles
Of glowing footprints echoing down through the dark.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Death of Odysseus

Doesn't matter if Tiresias was right
And the Telegony was wrong. An end comes
To an end, and only the prelude bothers
Anyone. There's no one to be bothered next.
This is old song that will not declare itself
And yet one keeps repeating: an old sailor,
Old liar, old escape artist died on deck.
He might have slipped under whispering, To strive,
To find, so forth and so on, and not to yield,
But one doubts it. People don't say much at death.
It's remarkably hard to speak without breath.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Autobiography of God

I am.

I am. There's nothing else. Wait. Now. There. Darkness. Darkness is something. Is the darkness also me? No. It's inside me but not me. I am; the darkness is. That's something, at least.

The darkness is moving. Or am I? No, the darkness is moving. Against what? Compared to me? Yes. But I'm around it. It's moving over something, something else. It's like a well inside of me. A huge gap, deep, falling down within me. And darkness moving over it. The darkness is something moving over nothing. Deep nothing, well below the darkness. The darkness is only on the surface. The surface reflects nothing. In me, not me. In me, not me. I am breathing.

I am breathing. Can I speak?

Light. Oh, that's good.