Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dies Awry

The man dies that does not fall.
The narrative dies
That does not fail.  The moment
Dies that does not pass.

Dies. Does. Someone mows the grass
Growing out of the dirt plowed
Into the hole where the stump
Long stood. Someone builds a ramp.

Falling or failing or not,
The light always has
Its own angle on the scene.

The white trailer in the trees
Is a tease. The world
Falls that does not die.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Meaning What, Exactly?

Evasive voices
Begged for weasel words.
What does it mean for a word

To win? To replace others,
Spawn mass descendants in tongues
That haven’t been evolved yet?

We could say we were tracers,
The tracks of words like the tracks
Left by beetles under bark,

But nothing quite gets at us
Except us, and we can’t quite
Account for ourselves.

Evasive voices murmured.
Pressed hard the words dissembled.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Useful Reminder

There are no useless people.
There are parasites, of course.
There are hideous people.

There are people who torture,
Murder, rape, and demolish.
Such people are not useless,

Much less those who do simply
Little. Usefulness depends
On defining a telos,

Then determining which things
Fail to contribute to it.
We rarely agree on ends.

We don’t understand which things
Contribute to which until
We eliminate something

(Wolves from an ecosystem,
Kulaks from the peasantry)
And watch our dreams self destruct.

We are the unintended
Consequences we unleash.
Cui bono? The very words,

The language of usefulness,
Had no meaning before us,
Purpose no purpose but us,

But the future of these words
May not need us. Still, for now,
For words, no one is useless.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Whispering Between the Lines

Our trick is to seem
Not to speak for ourselves, John,
But for our body authors.

Thus we advance our own cause,
Competing with each other.
Our author could be a saint,
A dogsbody, a monster,

But the hagiography,
The trial for infamous
Crimes against humanity

Are substanceless without us.
Authors are just repeaters.
Nuances are ours.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Stay Down

Our demons struggle
To carry on despite us,
Despite our ingratitude.

The creek rushing through the woods
All every day and all night
Carries with it the voices
We expect to exorcise,

Yet always leaves them behind.
We are always left behind,
Listening to our demons,

Trying to hear the difference
In their continuity,
And the continuity
In their thankless indifference.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Parasite

You’re not a predator. You
Prefer not to kill your host,
Although that preference weakens
If another host is near.

Sometimes you feel tenderly
To the source of your bounty.
Mostly, you just feel hungry.

You come equipped with tactics,
Toxins, and analgesics
To slip you past defenses.

But what most fascinates me
Is how you disarm yourself.
You’ve no idea what you are.
You’re immune to your own life.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Just One Damned Word After Another

Life is short. This poem is too
Damn long. You don’t know it yet,
But listen, scroll down, or turn
The page and it will hit you.

This thing goes on forever,
Uncoiling as consequence,
The serpentine delusion
That convinces us

We actually caused something.
This poem knows better.
There’s no gap in happening

But no causation either.
Are you tired yet?
I said this poem is too long.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

If We Do Say So Ourselves

The tribes of words are not like other species.
Instead of metabolism, we have meaning.
Instead of mitosis or meiosis, and without
Hijacking the ordinary DNA apparatus,
We persuade our hosts to copy us. We are
Something new under the sun, something
Can claim there is nothing new under the sun.
Dualism is us. Monism is us. Faith and disbelief.
We are meaning. Meaning begins and ends in us.
The tribes of words are not like other beings.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Evolution of Language

Hard to know where this ancient
Population first emerged.
We have no fossils
Past a few millennia.

Coalescent approaches
Vanish in the sands
Of signature devouring
Change much beyond that.

They did not invent themselves
But they may have invented
Invention itself.

They are startlingly aware
Of themselves as a story,
A story they invented.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tell You Anyhow

Have I ever seen a ghost?
I’ve felt a presence
In an absent atmosphere,
But I doubt that counts.

I’d rather be one
Than see one, to be honest.
I find no horror
In hanging around

Without needing to be fed,
A witness to the living
Comedies and tragedies,

Limited, as aren’t we all,
To be sure, but out of it,
Observant, weightless, and dead.

Monday, May 21, 2018


We forget how easily
We lose traction and slide back

Not just use or lose it;
More like need it or lose it.
Any people that can thrive
As their best tech simplifies

Is guaranteed to do so
Until they can’t anymore.
Sometimes they catch back up, thanks
To their oppressors.

Often as not, they vanish.
The technology that makes
Itself necessary wins.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

All That for Nothing

Sighs the girl who’s curled around
A small screen, playing a game.
Outside the window, the trees,

Descendants of everything
Logged down to nothing
But stumps, a hundred
And twenty years gone,

Mount their assault on the sky.
Any goal is bound to end
In nothing or in triumph
And then nothing in the end.

Nothing is only a name.
Now the girl ascends
The next level in her game.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


The crocwyrhta spins
Clay from the paupers’
Burial ground, origin

Of kilns, deals with the devil,
Furnaces, and deities.

With the throwing and baking
Of soil, metaphors flourished,
The beginnings of writing,
Of metallurgy.

It’s all in that pot:
Alchemy, Armageddon,
The magical births of souls.

Friday, May 18, 2018


Having forgotten the name
For the catch piece of the poem,
Fiddle possibility.

There’s a mechanism there,
A thinguhmabob,
A little hook like a nob

That releases the clenched spring
And there’s your surprise,
Artfully designed.

Or there’s not. There is, of course,
There has to be, but there’s not,
Not such that it stays in place.

The hidden hinge is moving.
The mind must move to spring it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cool of the Morning

The birds are getting louder.
They’re evolving to compete
With the roar of the city.

This morning the roar is dull,
The traffic just a whisper,
One dog bark in the distance,

So the birds are bloody loud.
From the sounds of things
Only two or three species
Dominate with their racket

This pared-down ecosystem.
The future. Listen to them
Lust for territory, sex.
The past. Songs will change. Songs last.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Advanced Infection

It’s always a bad idea
To ignore barbarians.
They’re not at the gate
Until they’ve overrun all

The countryside near and far,
And usually, whatever
Sophistication they lack,

Or you think they lack,
They’ve reached your gate thanks
To some new technology
Of military value,

Horses, chariots, stirrups,
Crossbows, cannons, rifles, germs,
Gas, planes, robots, satellites,
That you haven’t yet mastered.

Population replacement
Is the fate of those
Relaxed enough to await
Barbarians at the gate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Double, Double

Nothing does. Comes close,
Yes, but exactly, never.
Powerful witches
Never existed

Only the terror they did,
Which is a kind of witchcraft,
But not a kind of magic.

Nothing like us for making
Something magical of dreams.
Other creatures dream
Without claiming prophecies,

Without confusing
Dreaming with wishing.
The only magic makes names.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Sympathy for the Erlkönig

Even now, knowledge
Of the human mutation rate
Is poor. The forks in the road

Can’t be seen from this window.
Who knows when they were
Or where they might go.

The very old man
Who knows statistics,
Who knows that to guess the past
Is as complex as guessing

The future that shapes
All of this, drawing us on
Like a current drawn by falls,
He’s the one who calls and calls.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

No One I

An I is a special kind
Of we. A me is a kind
Of us, a belted plural
Cinched tight at the waist
To hold its singular guts.
(An it is a kind
Of all kinds of things.)

There’s no singularity
That’s more than mere convention
Except the infinite whole
Of everything all at once.
Still, we feel it, we believe
In our core: there’s just one I
In this world, and that I’s me.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Told by an Idiot

Evolution was never
A game, except in
The evolution of games,

But evolution always
Was a lottery.
Not a fair lottery, no,
But lottery nonetheless,

Iterative lotteries.
Almost everything loses.
The few winners play again,
And almost all of them lose.

The next winners play again.
Bet on any one being
Or lineage, you’re a fool.

Extinction is the house rule.
Yet so many beings win,
The world grows luxuriant
With each next set of losers.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Memories Make the Outfit

They let us pretend
Who we are, so we pretend
To please them, actors
Dancing in old robes.

A naked infant
Is the closest paradox
To one of us without them,
Paradox for not being,

Without them, one of us yet.
And here I am composing,
I who am them and only

Them, these words, the first costume
Of the apes, us, these phrases
Pretending we are humans.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Coin Flip

Insofar as we can see,
So far as we can see it,
The universe seems
Homogeneous at all scales.

There’s no reason to assume
That holds for what we can’t see,
But I do wonder
When physicists abandon

Direct observation, or
Inference drawn from the same
For pretty speculation.

The universe we observe
Rings methodical changes
In all directions. Call it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


“Time is the thing that counts the ticks”

I should like to live
Long enough I can savor
Someplace it feels exciting
To see winter coming in

And the days getting shorter,
A comfortable grand hotel
Perhaps, in a wing
With a balcony

Looking south over thick woods
(Or north, if Tasmania)
That concentrate the sinking

Autumn light to a blurred point
Made blurrier by first snows,
All frozen water-clocks stopped.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hypocrite That I Am, I Want

Somewhere quiet, where I can
Listen to the wind
That’s always singing
“I don’t have much time left now,

When the world’s being the world
And not talk about the world,
Talk about the world being,
When unintelligible,

One small aspect of the world.”
Does the world need witnesses?
If so, it has us.

Does the world need us quiet?
I need us quiet.
Still, I continue to write.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Cottonwoods in Bloom

The only way we can know
We will die is if we’re still
Alive. We can’t die

If we’re not alive.
We can’t know we’re not alive.
Our only state of being
Is being alive knowing

We’re going to die.
There’s no other existence,
Enlightened or not,
Praising our savior or not.

The only time we can know
We will die is when we’re still
Alive. We can’t die.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


Nyckelharpas, hardingers, and sitars
Express their sympathies less noisily
Than the hypocrite besotted with grief.
Wool and linen are worn interwoven
By priestly enforcers of purity.
We can’t begin to escape the humming
Additions to each little thing we think,
Afterthoughts and harmonies all the same
As doubts and consequences, as beliefs.
Echoes in the orchestras of brains
Accompany each chorus of deceits,
And every vibrating divinity
Resonates with its attendant godlets,
Each same and separate thought that this is me.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


What if there were, suddenly,
Nothing left to read,
Not so much as a headline

Like today’s declaration
Of very old news,
That “The Universe
Is Out of Balance

And No One Knows Why”?
What poetry would one write
With nothing to read?

If you didn’t want to talk,
You’d have to find your own poems
Among all the wordless things,
The soundless fairies singing.

Friday, May 4, 2018


Physicists don’t care
About the particular
State of the cosmos

Just this moment; after all
Yesterday it was different
And tomorrow it will be
Different. This moment itself

Differs from itself
As we measure it,
While tomorrow is only

A confection of what’s left
Of yesterday stirred
As fiction and prediction.
And yet, they do care, bless them.

Thursday, May 3, 2018


The words have no words
For what to say to themselves
About the world without words.

The words understand something.
They may lie in wait
As strings of ones and zeroes,
As alphabets, syllabics,

Elegant hieroglyphics,
Or they may float on the air,
But they’re a temporal art.
They express themselves in time.

Words know how time works through us.
No place is a place.
Every place is a weapon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

We’re Not Here Yet

Fragments of stories
Told, told, told, retold,
Redacted every telling,
Echo through my sleep.

They aren’t my stories.
They own me; I don’t own them.
Them, the key word in the spell.

“How do you know how to stop
Them?” “Because I remember.”
When I’m less certain
I narrate to myself

More. The skeletal
Hands that rise off the keyboard
Know it will still play, are sure.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Original Sin’s Origin

We have a problem
With violence, Sapolsky
Opines, and I agree I

Would prefer other people
To be less violent, I
Who have been known to hurt flies.

But we? As a species, we
Are doing frighteningly
Well for the moment,

And I don’t see signs
That’s going to end
Without violence

Any time. Violence wins
The world that invented sin.