Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Mythology of Mercy

If you’re a human,
There’s nothing you do you don’t
Adjust to please the judges,

However strangely
You choose to be judged.
Ancestors, unborn offspring,
Imaginary readers,

Utterly impotent gods
All get opportunities
They’ll never use for verdicts.

Every mind’s a lonely, long
Soliloquy in the dark
To a chamber packed with ghosts
Who don’t exist to notice.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Never Drop a Stitch

That a cosmos built of change
Still could be so locally
Tedious, as if nothing
Of importance ever changed,

Only silly differences
Small as the crescents of nails
Emerging as skin retracts
From the fingers in the grave,

Suggests determination,
A universe expanding
Without missing the smallest
Variation possible.

Infinitely minuscule
Distinctions define forever.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Parasite, Mutualist, Symbiont

We live on others.
We make our peace
With necessity
By telling ourselves
They’ll live on in us.

It’s unsurprising
We’ve dreamed up stories
In which vampire bats
And nightjars transform
Into shapes we like.

We’re always restless,
Hungry in our way,
Planning an ambush
Of something to say.
We invented brains,

Zombies to crave them,
Heroes to outwit
The zombies with brains.
We’re storytellers
And zombies ourselves.

We have so much love
For those we consume.
After all, we’re them,
Their doubles, their souls.
We’re words. We’re their worlds.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Small Talk in the Vestibule

That’s the thing about living
That tempts us to speak,
Medium-sized animals,
Hungry, greedy, horny, scared,

As if we might know something
About fate: we have to wait.
It won’t speed up or slow down

For us, although it’s always
Speeding up and slowing down.
We’re not bred to know

We have no control,
But observation’s angels,
While we’re waiting, teach us doubt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


The appeal of death
Is the end of change.
The end of awareness
Of change seems like peace.

The peace is edged with horrors
To keep us from entering
Too easily, willingly.

The real reason why no one
Has ever come back,
The reason there are no ghosts,

Is because they forget us.
Peace, after this, is that good.
There is no wheel of rebirth.
There’s this, then escape from hurt.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Inexpensive Reproduction

More leads on to more, until
Suddenly there is no more,
And then it leads to nothing

And less than nothing, until
There is nothing left
But debt that leads on to more

Debt and more, until
Suddenly there is no debt,
Debt having lead to nothing

More and nothing less
Than the erasure of more
And less, which means, more or less,

Only that more can’t make more
Unless less makes do with less.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


I am aligned with the star,
For a moment I’m aligned
With the passing of the sun.

It shines at me through the glass
Of the window pane
As I turn away,

As I’ve always been turning,
A bean on a spinning rock,
A rock spinning around it,

This common star, little sun.
If I knew my entire life
In advance, the puzzling thing

Wouldn’t be, would I take it
As is, would be, was it is?

Saturday, March 24, 2018


The man rested his forehed
Against the reclining head
Of the dead rhinoceros,

Endling of its kind,
And placed one palm on a horn,
And I thought, of all the forms

Of love and affection, from
Kiss to forgiveness, this,
This sorrowful tenderness,

Any simple tenderness,
Is what isn’t polluted
By the hungers that infect

The rest. Life forgets itself
Holding the world to its chest.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Interview with an Equation

How do you maintain
Your perfect balance?
Artificially of course.

Apart from the invention
Of a peculiar method
Of reasoning, I and my
Arrangements have no meaning.

But parsimony,
Elegance, utility,
Description and prediction!

Game, game, game, game, game.
I’ll admit my last aspect is magic,
Best magic trick humans have,
So what? You’re a tool. I am.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

To an Old Artist at Home

A small, ancient child
Makes tracks in the snow.
She’s eighty. She could be eight.

She carries a pot of ink
She ladles into the snow,
Making kanji of her tracks
And poetry as she goes.

I’m glad I can’t read
Or speak the language she writes.
I like seeing a message
Palpable and mute.

Her ink shines black in a world
Of greys, browns, and white.
I’d guess her poem concerns night.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Desert Errata

I would like to write
An extremely clean-lined poem,
The kind you’d imagine cut
Into the page with a quill,

A poem that could win
A nature photography
Competition, a haunting.

I would like to write
An angel onto a pin,
Just one, a lonely angel

Who would shudder her great wings
When you stroked her pin feathers,
Look up from her tiny world
To your looming eyes, and grin.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Why Mention God in Your Poems, She Asked, If You Don’t Believe God Exists?

Of course God exists.
He’s solid as rocket ships,
Skyscrapers, cars, and railroads,

As wit and wisdom,
As binary code,
An authentically
Human invention.

Why avoid mentioning Him?
It’s risky, of course,
Without permission.

His attributes viewed as fixed,
Perhaps proprietary,
One can be accused of theft.
I keep Him close to the vest.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Midden Gardening for Lost Type

I’m not like other poets.
I rarely sweat blood
Over a line, le mot juste,
Any given verse of mine.

I don’t give readings.
I don’t really write.
I am a compositor.
Compositors set type.

There’s one poem I’m revising,
Been revising all my life.
I’ve been told it’s self-harming,
Its knife-handle is a knife.

It’s this poem and all of mine,
Every cutting, cast, and peel,
Every hope I’m composting,
Decomposing the divine.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Ai Khanoum

Sacked by the Sacas,
Who left me, a hermaic,
Bearded old man with a staff,

Perhaps a philosopher,
In the rubble of the great
Gymnasium, the ornate

Jewel of Bactria
Was never rebuilt.
What does not survive must be
Excavated. All the gods,

Tyrants and nomads
Who flowered in this desert
Beside the Oxus
Withered as well. I remained.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Identity Is the Other of Invenntion

The fact that the world contains
Distinguishable objects
That can be counted
Should count against us.

Our gift and our curse
Is for treating similar
As same, without forgetting
Completely that it isn’t.

Similar things counted same,
Keeping intersecting sets
Distinct, a tool with an edge,

Identify, metaphor,
Number, everything we are
That sets us apart carves us.

Friday, March 16, 2018


We’re all creatures of this world
But not all of each other,
Unequally each other.

A voice in my head
Said, quite politely,
“Excuse me. If you don’t mind,
I would like to testify.

I don’t believe we’re allowed
To explain things once we’re dead,
But I can’t not break the rules.”

You are and you can, I said.
You can explain for ages
After you’ve died, but only
In those words you had alive.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


He wanted to plant
A little absence
Like a seed, a hole

Out of which one world
Could pour into another.
He patted the dirt
And waited to watch it grow.

Rooted thin tendrils,
A void exploring its voice.

Every monster is alive,
And life’s the only monster,
But wants stirred that weren’t alive,
Their dark fronds furred in gone words.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Confessional Lyric

Poets make good warning tales
And lousy human beings.
When we’re not tipping from boats,
Trying to embrace the moon,

Sticking our heads in ovens,
Rolling in corn ricks,
Lurking around ponds
To catch the splash of a frog,

We’re supporting lost causes
Or praising evil tyrants.
At our worst we’re words
Without music or stories

Or reasons, the brittle skins
Of lisping snakes, rid of hips,
The flimsy wisps of life’s next
Ghosts, consolidated mists.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Truth Will Not Out

“Moralists, for example, seem to despise the act of lying in bed.”

Why are we surprised to learn
Truth spreads more slowly than lies?
Whole religions built on lies
Bully and control our lives.

I wager after the war
Hens will still lay eggs
And humans will not
Have forgotten how to make

Omelettes. The love for music
Will persist undiminished.
Plato wrote Socrates thought

Literacy would ruin
Memory. The truth never
Got out much. That truth just was.

Monday, March 12, 2018


No one saw the seed that fell
Into the pine-needle duff.
It was small, more like a spore,
Stray dust, a mote, nothing much.

It didn’t belong
On the forest floor.
It was not indigenous.

It took root. It grew,
Sent out tendrils, shoots, explored.
It said nothing, but it knew.

It climbed the pillars, became
The roof of a lightless world.
New lives brewed inside that frame
Of the tree God dare not name.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Quality of a Life Demonstrates Much Higher Entropy Than Does the Life Itself

Divide your life evenly.
Begin traditionally,
From the date you first drew breath.

If the day you’re on’s not prime,
Pick your denominator
From available factors
And thumb each numerator:

One third, two thirds, one seventh,
Two—where were you, who were you?
How’d each stage have looked
To its antecessor you?

Do it again tomorrow.
However thin you slice it,
Each slice held joys and sorrows.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


Our world is woven,
A ravenous narrative
Knit into artifice.
One thread pulled unravels it.

A hole in the world.
I’ve tried picking this story
Out of its background but can’t
Tease entwined characters free.

Sometimes, I start with a seed,
Sometimes a gap in the air,
Any weird thing to disrupt
Probability. I’m not

Ever likely to succeed.
Why pluck my sleeve? I forget.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Moments Are Microscopes

So. This is the world.
Never mind the news.
Snow drips from the roof,
Staccato. It’s almost spring.

A man walks a large, white dog
Down the sidewalk and school kids
Pass the other direction.
Scattered birds whistle and coo.

I sit on the stoop,
A pronoun, a point of view.
There’s little left I can do.

Take comfort in the details,
Uncountable molecules.
Moments make the small soul huge.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bazaaro World

If I could stop pain
In others and not myself,
I would, as every other
Hurting motherfucker would.

The hard question is never
What you would do to improve
The status quo for others,
Leaving yours alone.

The hard question’s what you’ll pay,
Without guarantees,
Hoping to help someone else.

It all goes away,
The hurt and the help.
How much will you pay?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Originality and Usefulness

Measure creativity.
What kind of a species cooks
Up such ridiculousness?

I would rather be happy,
But I’m forced to be
Meaningful instead.

Meaning, this seabird
Like decorative
Condensation on my neck.

There’s no creativity
On the moon or mars.
Beauty, sure. Water, a bit.

But there’s nothing meaningful.
I think they’re happy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Oh yeh, there’s the rub.
We’re too sure whose side we’re on.
We’re too in love with friction

And with Earth’s founding fiction
That it’s us against the rest.
It’s a good story.
It’s why we’re what’s left.

We kill each other, yes, but
Not the way other species
Devour themselves and others.

We cluster in orderly
Clumps of destruction.
We have this gift for

Monday, March 5, 2018


Nothing means anything much
About anything
Else. There are surprisingly
Few reliable omens

For humans who expect them
Everywhere. Actual clouds
Count among the visible
Harbingers of coming storms,

The rest is pretty much bust.
What lie before us
Are the lands of dreams

And the night wind, which are not
Connected except
In ways we’ve not expected.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Last Stage of Primeval

The woods returned without a sound.
Auden’s woods, Frost’s woods, Birnam woods,
Blacked my windows, crowded around.

I tried to protest. You aren’t real.
Real trees get cut down, are useful,
Grow slowly, clear the air. They heal

The troubled mind. They provide shade.
We’re low on woods, if anything.
We’ve made a wasteland out of glades.

But you. You’re menacing. You creep
Up on us. You’re seeking revenge.
You trouble poets in our sleep,

Seduce simpletons and sweet girls
To enter endless shadows
Of wolves and witches. You’re a world

Unto yourselves, one that clearly
Can’t exist. Although, I admit,
I can’t stop dreaming, and dearly

Wish you did. I wouldn’t resist.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Body Snatcher’s Lament

I’ve noticed that some humans
Feel trapped in female bodies
Or trapped playing males.

Others feel trapped as they age,
Children lost in ghoulish flesh.
Others cannot move or speak.

I empathize with them all.
I’ve been sent here to pretend,
To observe and to compete
As if I were you myself,

But I’m not. I’m not from here.
Your body is a costume
I can barely bear to wear.
This ghost inside your sickness

Will never blame you. Let me
Leave you. Let me out of here.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Theme from Gone World

A few simple notes
In brief sequence, repeated,
The magical hook

That calls the limbic system
Like a well-tied fly
Tugs on the hunger of trout,

You’d call it the consequence
Of long-gone generations
Rising to the challenges

Of reliable,
Enduring environments
In which flies were always flies.

So what music haunted us
To make a tune dangerous?

Thursday, March 1, 2018


I love a word with no known
Origin, a curt

That ends with the first
Evidenced use of the word
Meaning what it means.

Maze is such a word,
Its pre-English roots a guess.
A word useful and common
With a real-world referent

And no philological
Lineage is rare. A maze
We know. We may never know
The beginning of the maze.