Friday, August 31, 2018

Pretty Good Light Show Over Zion

Another year comes in with an iamb
After the last one roared out of Zion.

There’s no military allegory
For existence that’s only forward march,

But why not confuse the names of the times,
When the times are always so confusing?

Some are born in months that once were numbers,
Others are stuck honoring emperors

In a species for whom coincidence,
However arbitrary, signifies.

Given we are here, it’s unsurprising,
But it’s shocking we’re unsurprised we’re here.

Dates lie. There’s no exact closure to years.
Still, wish me well. Not all lightnings bring tears.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

No, Dreams Are Not Forgotten

I’ve had an entire life in dreams,
More difficult even than the actual
And much more haunting—

Dreamed places I’ve lived, dreamed
Jobs I’ve suffered, schools I’ve
Failed, lovers I’ve found and lost,

All of them mixtures of a few
Vivid details, the feel of skin,
The clothes in the hall, a thrill,

A panic, a despair, a particular
Route to work through a nonexistent
Town surrounded by lost connections,

And occasionally, before
I am fully awake, those dreams
Crowd together and make

A full, alternate narrative of life
Lived asleep, confusing me. They are
Never completely forgotten. No,

The brain retains the echo
And the emotions of each,
And on those rare occasions

I remember them all, all
At once, as vividly as, and briefly
More vividly than, my life undreamed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Seul au Monde

Once, monolingual
American that he was,
Traveling alone

All summer with a backpack
And a Eurail pass, without
A watch, with no one knowing
Where he’d gone, not even him,

Having learned to ask the time
In several languages, he 
Got confused in French
Between Le Monde and Le Temps,

Seeing the open paper
Of a fellow passenger,
Perhaps thinking of The Times
Newspaper he used to read.

“Excusez, quelle monde est-il?”
He asked the man politely.
The man squinted at him. “You
Want to know what world it is?”

“No,” he started to protest,
When it dawned on him,
His mistake, and he laughed. “Yes.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ink Monkey Replies

To those who question
My existence, I concede
I’m nothing much on the way

To nothing at all.
I confess I am often
Gnomic, epigrammatic,

Declarative, sarcastic,
Dark, obscure, xuanxue—
Rarely expressive

Of warm emotions,
Not often illustrated
With bright images.

I drink ink and rest in your
Brushpots, make nests in your drawers.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monitory Events in the Wilderness

We make of ourselves
What we cannot find,
But it still finds us.

Great similarity is
Only minimal difference.
Haste to the wedding
Of complex correlated

Systems in between
Pure randomness and order.
We can’t comprehend

The source; we are the source of
This universality.
Warnings come never too close
Together, too far apart.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Cat Called Mouse

I will nod my dragon head.
After supper, straight to bed.
I will watch myself drive home,
One eye open, one eye closed.

I will tell you I’m not I,
Or I’m not me, or something
Like, and you’ll need to agree.

Then you’ll tell me I’m not you.
Dragons see life differently.
And I will agree that’s true,

But neither are you quite you.
For one you’re not a dragon.
And I’m not a mouse, for two.
Still. Thank you for the salmon.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Starkness of the Language

Is like the starkness
Of a gun, is like a corpse:
Severe, complete, and barren,

But not simple, not without
Complicated histories.
When a parent begs for help
For a gone child hugged in blood,

Some words are stark and simple,
Yes, as they claw at your chest.
Oh please, no, save my baby.

But those pleas come from the depths,
And nothing’s simple about
The evolution of such
Terrible requests.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Nothing better illustrates
Absent any evidence,

To conjure a world
To rival the world
Than the history of maps.

A pretty planisfero
Has a few monsters,
Ptolemaic coherence,
And is more blank than detail.

Then the actual ships sailed,
And cartography blossomed
Volumes of Ortelius.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ill Literacy

One way of looking at it
Would be to aver
In Old Avestan

Or modern Persian
That the gift of writing came
From humiliated Deevs,
And thus, from evil, a boon

Came upon mankind.
But with apologies, here
We prefer, Zoroaster,

To assume that from a boon
Came the evil of writing.
Sudden reversals are part
Of the art of praising arts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Advaita Anatta

The not-two non-soul is not the source
Of insight, nor of suffering, although naught
As a concept owes it quite an awful lot.

As Anne Stevenson observed, a border
Is the best place from which to see both
Sides. I imagine that she said it with a sigh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Compassion is a wooden horse
Concealing weary veterans
Sick of their war of attrition,
Angry and cursing silently,

Praying for opportunity
To be taken to heart, to burst
Out after dark, to rip open
The gates that locked on compassion.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mind, the Gap

A hole in the world,
Reality gone
Cancerous on us—

That’s the high concept
Mind wanted to pitch,
Utterly without

A resolution
In mind and without
Any characters.

Just a hole that grew,
People fell into,
No one returned from.

The only message
Would be that a gap
Is always ready.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Prayer Expresses More Than Prophecy

The time that Moses begged God,
Who preferred to talk to him,
To lift the curse God had placed
On his sister Miriam

Because she and Aaron dared
To challenge the two of them,
God and Moses, instrument
And artisan, Moses used

Only five words, only five
Syllables to make his prayer.
God, please heal her, please.
And God did, but not before

Making His point. We all want
What we all want, even God.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

If There Be Your Prophet the God, Capable of Describing Our World

It is possible we lie
Not in the landscape
But in the swampland

Of our quintessent cosmos.
It’s possible, but it’s dark.
That’s my lamppost reasoning—

I search out the broken light
And shuffle around
Hoping to stumble

Onto what I’m looking for
Before I reach the next cone
Of comforting, ghostly light.

Neither meta nor physics,
Our shadows are not the night.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Without a Crew

The mind loves forest
Because the mind haunts
The real forest of the brain.

The mind is a ship
That can sail through that forest,
The ship with no other choice
But to anchor in the roots.

The mind was made from forest,
Cut masts and timbers,
Although it looks alien,
Lost in the branches.

The question is what
Species neither brain nor mind
Framed such a vessel?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Drunken White Guy at a Sushi Bar

There’s a kind of perfection
To Japanese whiskies, one
Friendly buddy of slurred speech

Opined to his new-found chum.
It’s like, you know, the saying . . .
Imitation is
The sincerest form . . .

He never finished the thought,
But how interesting to think
Of imitation
As attempted flattery.

I’ll tell you this. Every bow
Ever executed was
A means to usurp a throne.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I Live in a Church

“I live in a church to prevent being deported.”

Ironies were the angels
That one could count on the head
Of a pin. Where did they get
Pins anyway, in those days, and

Why did they imagine souls
Or spirits or God-made things
At least, squeezing onto them?

I know a secret secret.
Humans aren’t doing
Much of the imagining.

We’re cruel. Yes. We chase after
Each other with cages like
Mad butterfly collectors. 
Go it, Charlie! We're not us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

When Dreams Collide

It’s going to be
Cold by morning. It’s going
To be another story.

You’d think that now would go on
Forever, but now
Was never on. It’s never
You should be concerned about.

I’m not going to tell you
Not to worry about what
You want to worry about.

Worry about whatever.
And if you don’t worry, don’t
Preen your feathers. Worlds
Perish when you remember.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Bad Listener

He imagined that he heard
Words in the sound of the wind,
Words in the songs of the birds.
How much beauty is left me?
The hawks would like to eat me.
Calm could be the end of me.
I have sinned, sinned, and I am
Insufficiently ashamed.
Will this nightfall fall on me?

But of course there were no words.
The world had nothing to say.
Still, the calm came for the wind,
And the hawks caught at the nest,
And other voices told him
There was nothing he needed
To say about anything,
Nothing anything needed
From his imagination.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


My transcriptive dailiness
Comprised the wilder country
Of dancing but afflicted

Bodies in the joking but
Devastated mind.
The lavender fog comes
For everyone with

Or without words. Keats
Lived like you did, with dying
As a propellant
That compressed his gift

Until it burst. Affliction
Devoured me more leisurely,
Giving me time to transcribe.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Crossing the threshold guarded
By angels is not so hard 
As you might think. They’re rather

Friendly, on the whole.
They care about appearance.
Mentioning Rilke,
Milton, or Dante,

Flatters but embarrasses,
Because they’re pleased to be seen
As important, but
Frankly “shrecklich” frightens them.

I like them. I’m free to talk
Of ghosts and gods, their cousins, 
With them. They give me a pass.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Was That You?

Just sitting with the lake,
Taking in the evening,
No one else on the shore,
Watching the small waves break,
Watching the long waves curl,
Waiting without waiting

For a single thing more,
The eye caught a weird light
Through a distant canyon,
Through the mouth of a fish-
Like cloud. Can light have been
Fortune, said without sound?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Poet’s Bargain

Like I said:
You have read
The others,

Now read this.
Let me have
This, only

This, and I
Will promise,
I'll persist.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tchaikovsky’s Fatum

“I bear the dead within me,
And they write through me,”
Ko Un told The Guardian.

Love destroys the manuscript 
Begun parallel to love.
His fate was never performed 
Again while he was alive.

But we bare the dead
Within us, eventually.
And they write through us
As a child or a poet

Or a god writes through mistakes,
Pretending they’ve been erased.
Just so. I will write through this.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Leaving Slocanada, Again

Took a long time for me to know
What home is, the simple feeling

Without much thinking, this is it;
It is this. I hadn't felt it

Among the warm faces, places
Where I'd lived, favorites I'd visit.

Didn't feel it, couldn't know it,
Couldn't understand that it's not

A rapture or a longing but
Contentment. Home's not better than

The dark romances of being
Alien and doesn't end them.

In the moment that it hits us
As a sudden satisfaction,

It is. It's not what takes us in.
It's what is when we take it in.

I looked up once or twice and knew
Home was this. So, now that I know,

I’m okay with being away
For a bit: for a bit, again.

Monday, August 6, 2018


Gods change into ghosts.
Ghosts change into gods.
Is anything leftover?

Poems are leftovers.
Poems and songs are leftovers,
But not stories. Stories drive

The change of ghosts into gods,
Gods into ghosts, and stories
Are consumed in the process.

Only at the margins, when
The ghost and the god weren’t close,
When the ghost fit too loosely,

Or the god spilled past the ghost,
There might be some poetry,
Soft-voiced, a whisper at most.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Poem for Us

After warmth,
Soon enough
It becomes

Cold again,
Even if
It did not

Become warm
Soon enough,
Not for us.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Adminatory Notes on the Story of a Ghost

And then you find out you’re real
When you never thought
You’d ever be anything

Remotely like real again.
You remember you were good
At it, at being human,

Unlike all the rest of us.
But now, you’re not. What to do,
You wonder, as you?

You gather your memories
As a king gathers armies,
As an old woman gathers

Her shawl around her shoulders.
Her shawl! Your ghost sheet shudders.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Warnings Wrapped in Mourning

The machinery
Of human existence is
An animal tended by
Its monstrous creator ants.

Borrowing bodies
To put my soul in,
I am the beast that’s all soul,
Whose every cry signifies.

You know me. I am in you.
You may believe I am you.
I am not you. I am not

This body that composed me
For this fleeting poem.
I’m the machine that’s the ghost.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Days Are Filled

When the woods get big
They attract all kinds of birds.
You could tell me you have
No guilt as long as I have

No innocence, or
That I have no guilt
So long as you have
No innocence?

Will the divine ghost
Of eternity preserve the whisper
And enshrine rhetorical guesses?

Will the divine ghost
Of eternity forgive the transgressors
Or those they transgressed against?

Is there a divine ghost
Even of the just-past moment
And can that ghost ever guess?

The woods will get big
Someday once again
And be more full of birds than
Ever was raw New Zealand.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A God Taking an Endless Intake of Breath

Like a vast number of birds,
Small but social as parrots,
Nesting in a giant tree
Would flee as it fell was God.

The first man ever to cross
The Alps in a balloon would
Later try to float over
Spain but drifted out across

The Mediterranean
Until he vanished from sight.
Presumably he drowned but
They only found the balloon.

Another gasp. Not enough.
God is always short of breath.