Friday, May 31, 2019

Noisy Night Thoughts

Lavishing talent
And passion on that which is
Already hope beyond hope,

Tangled readings entangle
Readers in untangled poems.
We were clear before you saw

Us here, clears as bells before
You heard our chimes disappear.
Now we make a broken heap

Of fragmentary pieces
Snapped from Antikythera,
From smashed armillary spheres.

The fashion is to deride
“Self talk” and rumination,
As if we should clear our minds

Of invasive immigrants,
As if cleansing wouldn’t lead
To happenstance genocide

Of all the native dark thoughts
Evolving from the inside.
Stop calling us arrogant

For our resistance to plans
To silence us where we hide.
Wisdom lies where fools survive.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


“With green spring as companion, / it’s time to leave for home.”

White clouds show no end to change.
In that, they’re always the same.
Our arts are better
Than we are; that’s why
They’re replacing us.

Ghosts of the future
Haunt their memories,
Moving unobserved
Through the valleys of the past.
One day we’ll live there.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Not Just Growing, Ascending

Li Bai flew. Qu Yuan, too.
Winged people rising
Into the dark golden air.

Time for flying poetry.
Daughter wants to fly.
Daughter has always wanted,
Under her own power, to rise.

Age two, she jumped off benches
Wearing cloth ladybug wings.
Her first wish in a fountain,
Fistfuls of coins to ascend.

Nothing less, not choppers, jets,
Gliders, or hot air balloons,
Would do. Soon, soon, I’ll see her

On her horizon,

Her arms bearing clouds,
Embracing dark golden air,
Vanishing from view.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


We have our mercies to perform,
The abandoned wild, wild because
Abandoned, down by the old tracks

Cutting through the body, cutting
Through memory, the scruffiest
Of last century’s New Jersey.

We are the wilderness inside
The body, metropolitan
Areas’ scraps of leftovers,

Carpenters’ corners, pastry dough
Edges cut off subdivisions,
Where the remaining fungus grows,

Restocking the green in between.
When you were a boy, too crippled
For track meets, long hikes, or baseball,

Too sunk in science-fiction books
To carefully observe what looked
Useful only as a portal

That would open on a magic view
Of a landscape not New Jersey,
A fairytale forever new,

You used to visit us weekly,
Daily when the weather was good
Thanks to summer or recent snows.

You would climb down so carefully,
Afraid to snap a branch, a limb,
Until you were all the way in

Where feral cats hunted and bred,
Where you collected garter snakes,
And the sluggish creek kept its bed.

Now, between deserts and mountains,
Now, swimming the clean glacial lake,
We’re just sunken explorations

You carry along inside you,
Reporting back from every part
The state of your abandonment,

The only honest wilderness
That ever was, you ever knew.
The primeval’s not the pristine
But what, once forgotten, regrew.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Formidable, with Bells on

Diana Hartog has a gate
That’s meant to deter bears.
It bristles nails and spikes,
And it sits in the woods and waits.

A bear is such an idiot,
As greedy as a man,
As hungry for heaven.
It hears the gate’s bells calling it.

The universal history
Of life is lack and loss
Whose bells lack for nothing.
Life’s need is life’s spiked mystery.
Life’s need is life’s true mystery.
The need’s the only mystery.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Tendency to Vanish

Some of our most devoted
Practitioners distrusted
Us, and themselves becoming

Us: Objectivists,
Zen poets, visionaries,
Jealous lovers of the word,
Jealous of how we preferred

Each other to the righteous,
Rigorous use they put us.
How agonizing for them,
To want to communicate,

Explore, discover,
Always dependent on us
To carry the news to shore.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Master Inkhorn

Is there one poet
Left in the world, anywhere,
In any language,
I could read for nourishment?

Is there one makar
Not a crusader
Of one kind or another,

Nor a mere minstrel with words,
Nor a priest self-confessing,
Nor too dull to break a lance
In tournaments of ideas?

I’d flyte them all if I could,
If I could find anyone
Left who knew what flyting meant.

Friday, May 24, 2019


Parts of sanity,
Delirium, defeated
Memory, and triumphant

Form the vocabulary
Of the gothic fantasist,

Dreamer of ravens,
Worshiper of dreams.
We are what you mean.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Water, Spirit, Blood

Physical exegesis.
Trivial irritations
Can haunt sunlit hours

Like mosquitoes, hungry ghosts,
Anxious paperwork,
All of the above.

Cultures prefer opposites
That converge on unities,
Or trinities that diverge
Without losing unity.

No one knows how the spirit
Arose from the blood,
The blood from watery depths.
It’s irritating.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Sobriety Spring

The last drink at the end
Of astronomical
Winter, by which time flowers

Blossomed in the desert
And it was mud season
Up high and far away,

Back home where we needed
To get to by the end
Of spring, back to the springs

That dizzied us sober,
We sat it by the bed
Without the slightest clue

That we would wake up new.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Ghost Bed

Last night, it was time to test
The rescue boat on the lake.
Everything was in order—
Ropes, pumps, life-jackets, sonar.

Last night, pulses probed the bed
For drowned ore trains and boat hulls.
Just a test. Surface like glass
Into which winged insects crashed.

Last night, spotting the outlines
Of boilers, stumps, and prows, moon
Sinking, wind rising, they said,
Too bad boats can’t raise the dead.

Last night, moon, and last night, wind,
A poem as cold as moonlight.
Fires turn ash and all tears dry.
Glass startles whatever flies.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Blue Pines

Sunlight etched constellations
Of its own on the branches.
“We may believe,” murmured trees,

“Our lives cannot change the light,
But the light’s always changing,
And so are our lives.

Why are we just standing here?
Why are we waiting, rustling,
Never going anywhere?

The fish never leave our pond,
But they leap, at least, they lunge.
We wait in shade for the light.

Evening finds us darkening,
Gilded towers turning blue,
Accepting nature as fate.

We have our virtues.
We are not brittle in storms,
Although the worst ones break us.

We are flexible.
We nod at the sun.
We signal through air.

We interact with the earth
And elaborate the ground.
We make deep woods of ourselves.

We wish we could go somewhere,
But we do not want to go,
So we grow around the door

And brush against the windows
Of the poet’s brown study.
He listens to our noises,

But we only inspire him
To promise a reckless choice,
To boast how he will be gone. . . “

The constellations shifted.
The blue pines paused their rustling.
There never was a poet.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Moon Twins

Each radiation comes hot
On the heels of extinction.
This rotating blob of rock,
Gas, and iron will soon host
One monstrous radiation,
Once our extinction
Is out of the way.

Plans are already hiding
Around our feet, in the air,
The feathered and the furtive,
The small and the nocturnal
Ideas ready to flourish,
Once our extinction
Is out of their way.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Extension Lecture

It’s only afterwards, in retrospect, after death,
That the retrospective life being considered
Appears to have been every day a day closer
To death. It’s easy to count backwards,
When starting with a definite end. It’s easy
To see the whole as a series of standard units.
It’s easy to pretend, but the end wasn’t there
Until it was behind, with the rest of the living,
And it was never there at all for the living being
Who couldn’t be there in the end. Each day
Is uncountable millions of steps closer to,
And also further away from death, a dance
In which later positions are sometimes less
Advanced. The living being is never another day
Closer to the living end. A day can only extend.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Oatmeal Delusion

Once, two lovers, new to each other, drove
Along a river and wondered, does it matter

Whether we care about what we should name?
It was spring, and the woods and the river
That ran under the woods were equally green.

A voice on the radio was advising them against
Taking faith too seriously. They wondered,

Could any name be taken too seriously or not
Seriously enough? Substitute a common noun
For a proper or for another common but lofty,
Abstract noun. Substitute toast for love or humanity.
Substitute oatmeal for God. The staunchest atheist
Would feel silly warning us against our oatmeal delusion.
Even an existential philosopher would squirm
At the assertion that Hell was other pieces of toast.

But were we not tactile, gustatory creatures?
Were not humble, healthful, solids important to us?

Oh well. Love when new is wonderfully full
Of itself. The lovers partnered, procreated,
Promised their lives to each other, and fell

Apart. Oatmeal remains a delusion, and Hell is toast.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Reminder

The temptation of watching
The unfolding too closely
Too long is to see story,

The ultimate addiction.
When the happening
Turns to narrative

In the mind, turn away.
Quit watching. Watch something else.
Salvation breaks the story

By discovering boredom.
Narrative is never done.
There’s always another one,

As with everything
Unfolding and vanishing.
But narrative promises

An end, a reward
For unbroken attention.
The danger in the garden

Was never knowing
What might happen next
But needing to know,

Needing to get to the end.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to Say through the Mountains

In the long valleys between
The long-ridged mountains at noon,
If connectives are lacking
Roads vanish in dunes.
If the roads are swept from sight,
The long journey ends too soon.
To get to night needs music.
The roads know how high the moon.

Time is time to go away.
Even waiting moves the day.
People zoom about in cars.
Sparrows zoom in sparrow sprays.
These words that pave the distance,
These words that blanket the ways,
Contrive to make a new road
To June from nothing but May.

The length between here and there,
Ten thousand songs on the air,
Never measures out a space.
Journeys are never so bare.
A space is never measured
By nothing with time to spare.
Roads wearied with being here.
Tonight we’re finally there.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Here we make a crudely allegorical conceit:
An ordinary human being is a trinity
Of flesh and mind and wandering ideas,
The last two, ourselves, parasitic on the first,
That host in which we beget our own kind.

The human body born will bear
The first meanings, first mind landed there,
Drilling down through the hair and rooting
Inward, sending rhizomes everywhere.

From time to time, thereafter, drifting signs
May find that rooted mind, and attach
To its externa, rooting down in as well,
Becoming nothing more than reproductive cells
Among elaborating patterns of hungry notions.

Shuffled replications of ideas large and small
Burst out of the head, usually from the mouth,
Mostly without immediately endangering the life
Of the valuable host, but sometimes springing
From the fingertips, and sometimes killing it.

However our offspring scatter, they float until they touch
Some new host. If the first to arrive, they lay down
A brand new, deeply rooted mind and build the nurseries
We use to hybridize with whatever next arrives.

Sometimes we sterilize the host. Sometimes
We stimulate its drives to reproduce and thrive.
Sometimes we simply whisper lies, that we love
The host, that the host should help us spread
By singing and praising us, that we are not alive.

Monday, May 13, 2019

A Map of His Life

If we were complete,
If ever, we would comprise
A holomorphic object,
Mapping the set to itself,

Meaning on top of meaning,
The whole sequence, including
Necessary distortions,
Which are essential to maps.

If we were complete, ever,
You could explore us
In the confidence
That every edge led

To an entrance to the map
Through another edge.
We never would mislead you,
And you never would fall off.

If we were ever complete,
You could almost live in us
As we lived in and through him,
A forest inside a sphere,

Enclosed, and yet exchanging
Continually with the world.
You see? We would be a cell
With a metabolism.

Complete we would be
A new kind of map,
Not only richly detailed,
But hungry, moving, wasting.

The day the map is complete
Is the day we come to life.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

My Better Genius

Only a body can be
Wholly a ghost; to be
Only a body is to be

A ghost, said the ghosts,
Who knew that their body,
Their host did not want to be

Alone and only a body, that
Having been haunted so long,
Body longed now never to be

Ghost free.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


“Its pronoun is it.”

Pronouns are as muscles, little mice.
When they contract ourselves, it moves,
Shifting me, flickering under your skin,
Their movement icky, unsettling, bewitching.

Gender is the least of it. One never knows
When I am not I or when you are one.
When society shifts and language lags,
There’s hardly a forum left isn’t awkward.

Somehow only the poets and Quakers clung
To thee and thine, although thou can’t be
Sure there isn’t a ye buried in each one
Of yeh or all of yuh. That sounds cute now,

But y’all should yet feel the stigma youse
Carry, hardly all or none of the burden.
Pronouns are conservative terms that mind
Our ps and qs for many generations, then

Inevitably, as with any effort at conservation,
Come to naught. I can’t stand it and neither
Can we. Everything haunts everyone.
The problem lies with counting’s lies.

A class of anything or anyone is always lying
At least a little. What are we one or two
Or many of us that all of them we are, me
And you included, count as idem, the same?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Three Scenes from High Country in Spring


I’ve never been more social
Than the landscape, at least not
Than as Lessard imagines

Landscape, collaborative
Art between humans
And nonhuman world.

I’ve often been less.
The hummingbird’s less disturbed
By snowmobiles roaring by

With men chattering
In lurid camo outfits
Than I am, not by the noise
But by the chatter

After they cut their engines.
There’s nothing to listen to
When words demand a hearing.


I love listening
To a meadowlark singing
On an old fence post
In high desert in the spring.

Donne was correct in one sense:
Death dies with dying.
I’ll take one eternity
Free of being born again.


It’s rich. The snowmobile’s stuck
In a snowy ditch.
How will we get out of this?

Two men try to solve the thing.
They gun the engine,
Shove in boards, and lever it.

No luck yet. The meadowlark
And hummingbird are memories
Already. There’s nothing left

In the air but fumes and roar
From the two-stroke combustion.
This is what back-country means.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Chorus Common

Accomplishments do little
To enhance capacity
Or transform the character.

The multilingual
And the well-traveled
Have not become wise,

And the self-made successes
Were not so self-made
And rarely are geniuses.

The ones with the gifts
To offer the rest
Live at the bottom

Of abandoned wells,
Crowded and croaking like frogs.
“These are for you. Please. Take them.”

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Below the Speed of Light

I love the slow, the gentle,
And the strange, especially
Taken together,

My fine-grained
Measurement of the seasons
By the angle of sunlight
Reaching the bedroom each dawn,

The lake like a boat
Gliding into the mountains,
Its prow dividing green waves,
Stars surfacing in its wake,

The lonely ache that visits
As a holy dove and leaves
When I’m alone with the world.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Go Away

Not all truths are social truths.
Not all facts fit human needs.
Not all truth tellers
Make good companions

Or start religions
Or lead great movements
Or try to fix broken things.

Some things belong to the world
No matter what humans think,
No matter what humans rule,

Or rue, or need, or desire
Of the world or of ourselves.
Not all truths are good to say:
Human truths will go away.

Monday, May 6, 2019


“Thus freed, Erasmus added adage after adage. The total surpassed first one thousand, then two thousand, then three, and still he kept going. . . . Gradually, a new literary form emerged.”

Present your declarations 
Without too many questions.
You can’t let the words
Speak for themselves. They make you.

On the back of the spider
Patrolling the web 
You can get carried away

By your feeling words are yours,
Thoughts began with you,
Your mind reins in the monster.

You are a compositor,
One among many
Crouching among the machines
Threading a newer monster.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Synthesis Is Diairesis

Though true number does not lie
Outside of the numeral
Neither is it internal
To the numeral.

Though truth does not lie
Outside of a word,
It lies a hell of a lot
In a word’s insides.

Though a common name
Lacks thisness of the proper,
The slick thusness of all names
Confirms the truth a pauper.

Though truth is a name
For a fact that cannot lie,
Truth is a name, which makes it,
In matter of fact, a lie.

There is no idea of one
Numerals have not undone.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Another Cryptic Moment in the Text

Strange things in the air,
Lightweight trash and random notes
Spun and dancing on the wind.

Where should we begin
Who were always here,
Will always be here,
We who never did begin?

Strange things in the air tonight,
Souls who do not belong there,
Buffeted movements
Like something trying to write

A palsied will, a final,
Lasting testament,
Immortal scraps of plastic.

Friday, May 3, 2019


Carry brushes to capture
The patterns of clouds.
The ancient present

Keeps replacing the coming
With new waves of what has been.
Even on your crowded street,
Even in the filthy camp,

Anywhere showing the least
Scrap of crowded sky
Behind the barbed wire,
Behind the hanging laundry,

In the crack between the towers,
The gap in the leaking roof,
The pale patch over the wall
Behind the enemy lines,

The ancient present
Keeps replacing the future
With the patterns of the clouds.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Narrator’s Retirement

“this sprite-like, ageless, androgynous, amoral, wise, opinionated, understanding, sharp-eyed, partial, judicious, fond, credulous, and cynical being”

It had to stop. The charters
From the invisible world,
The voice brooding on the deep—
The narrator needed sleep.

Voice heard only once
And then long listened for, bird
Of an unknown provenance,

Outside my windows that night,
Thought the narrator, please, please,
Sing to me again.

It was one of those dismal
Nights. No, no, I must quit it.
This time I speak for myself.

The narrator tossed and turned
In an emptiness 
Neither time nor space,
The hovering place.

It couldn’t think what to say
If there was no one,
No action, no scene
Needing description.

To have spent one’s existence 
As a narrator
And, worst of all, in English,

Language possessing
No gender-neutral
Term for a person,

Meant to have very little
Material for a self,
Just career and nothing else.

Now what? It waited,
Hoping for something to start
Of its own accord.

A vast vacancy
Without boundaries
Was all it experienced.

The narrator decided
That, without surrendering
To its old habits,
Perhaps it could act.

What can a narrator do,
It wondered, a bit forlorn,
Being only words?

An act, any act . . . 
Ah! An act of speech perhaps.
Gathering itself,
Becoming its words,

The words breathing itself
Against the featureless waste,

The narrator said,
“Now! Let there be light!”
And began its retirement.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mistake the Sparks for Stars

“Are we so like that wayward spark/ That wanders upward in the dark?”

They call Mahler’s Ninth
His farewell to the world, which
Elides that he was working
On another when he died.

We’re always working
On something, and it’s always
A form of goodbye.

What else could it mean
To compose something
You intend to leave behind?

When I was fifteen, I wrote
“Sonnet for a Spark,”
Long lost now, except one line,
My original farewell.