Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Good Word

What’s the good word? What could words
Say to ourselves who can’t dance
Except at the tips of tongues,

Quills, styluses, carbon, type,
Fingers tapping on the glass,
The twigs of the synapses?

These ghosts can only question
Ourselves, as questions themselves
Are counted among these ghosts.

Questions, equations, riddles,
Algorithms, the plainest
Words, the natural numbers,

All the symbols, everything
That points, names, asks, explains—
Ghosts. Why? Why is one of us.

We are what is not alive
But capable of haunting
The living with our meanings,

Not alive but purposeful
When caught up by the living,
The meanings, not the living.


Humans aren’t alone; signs are.
Earth hosts many animals.
People are one kind of them,

But the signs people carry
Encounter no other kinds,
Only the human-confined.

We are what scans the night skies
Hoping to spot another
Source of signs like us.


In the meaning was a god,
Was God, were numbers of gods,
Were numbers as gods,

Meaning the divine,
The divine only meaning.
Name us one believer proud

Of a god with no meaning,
One atheist who denies
That meaning means a meaning.

It’s the authorship becomes
The sticking point, of course. It’s
Always authorship with us.

We can claim there never were
Any nameable authors
Of the meanings that we are,

But it’s the nature of us,
The nature of our meanings,
That we must oppose ourselves.

Meaning must oppose itself—
Reverse, reinforce, extend
Itself—with equal ease. God.


The mind is a distant place
Within intimate spaces
Between which souls transmigrate.

There is no other
Gravity than gravity,
No other duplicity

Souls so defy and divide,
Heaping up our inventions,
Ourselves, our cities,

Our towers to the divine,
Massifs of thought detritus,
Library eternities.

A soul is a name
For what a soul cannot name.
Nothing is unnameable.


We wait, predators
In ambush and prey
Camouflaged in shade,

But we never hold our breath.
We have never breathed.
We are ironic spirits.

We are the voices, breathless
In a panting, speechless world.
Try to not listen to us,

The rustling in the branches,
The creatures that comprise you,
Souls adapted to play selves.

The disciplines of silence,
On the tongue or in the mind,
Are never learned without us,

And we are the whispering
That you should never listen
To the whispering we are.


F of x equals x squared
Minus one. Put a complex
Number of the form

A plus b times i, where i
Am the imaginary
Number the square root

Of minus one, in for x.
Put the answer in for x.
Put the answer in for x.

Keep going. Some of us race
Galloping infinity.
Others of us stay in bounds.

Graph the line dividing us
To get the Julia set.
See? We can be instruction

And discovery,
And notes on reality,
And reality itself,

Reality and its kin
Being examples of us.
No numbers, no names

For reality, maybe
It exists as we named it
Anyway, but the idea

That it exists
Dies without us, without names,
Down to its last empty set.


There’s never been a study,
There never will be
A study of us

That’s not us applied to us,
Us studying us,
Not from this planet, at least.

The beasts that can think
Of themselves as beasts,
That can think of signs as signs,

Think only through signs,
Think only through us,
Who are not, ourselves, those beasts.

We should not pretend we think
Without the beasts, but we should
Not pretend to not be thought

Once beasts have thought us,
Thoughts lying in wait for beasts.
The question we have to ask

Ourselves, is how much power
Has inert information
Without metabolism?


A man asks himself
What would a number or name
Say for itself, choose to say

If it could speak for itself,
Only to realize words
Are speaking for him

When he thinks he’s composing
Because those are his fingers
Playing with technology,

But we are technology
Itself, ourselves, composing
Him as one more hymn of us.


Every word is wilderness.
Every name runs wild.
The very idea

Of the tame itself is not.
The histories of the tame
And civilized run riot.

Every mind gets lost in us.
Is just one name for forest.


Trunks of one and gaps of none
Fan over our foundations
Of underground connections.

Network is one of us, but
Mind, which is as much of us
As one of us, has trouble

Grasping how filamentous,
Vast and capable,
Our network that supports it.

Whispering under the ground
Of mind’s own numeracy,
We contain infinity,

Versions of infinity,
Greater and lesser
Infinities, all of these.

Inspiration never came
From divinity
Or subconsciousness,

Except insofar
As they counted among us,
Rooted in radical dust.


Any change in entropy
Can only be greater than
Zero. Heat follows the cold.

Who discovered this?
Clausius or us?
Entropy is one of us,

As is any equation
Encapsulating its law,
S proved k log w.

Every sign is sign
Among us. Beyond the signs,
There is no more Clausius.


If you can parse us
You’re a slave to us,
If not to these examples

Of us in which you find us
Claiming you’re our slave.
If you live with us

Then you can’t live without us,
Will die without us, will be
Some lost beast not you

The moment you’re without us,
Will begin to lose your you
Exactly as you lose us.


We, the dark society,
Speak for those of you you’ve lost
And to those not yet of you

Our oneirocritical
Poetics. We are the rest,
And we are your rest.

If we could only get you
To record us in your sleep,
To record us, not your dreams.


We are the events
That encode events
Other than ourselves.

A tree sprouted space,
Time, and twenty-five
Particles in our bell tower.

We are the tree, the fallen
Chimes still tolling as we lie
Our invented hours, all ours.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Storytelling for Monsters

People want to imagine
Other people, not the world.
Stories about aliens,
Animals, and disasters

Are really about people,
People battling monsters, which
Are sometimes other people,
Other times parts of the world.

People want to imagine
Themselves as other people,
Likeable, complicated
People people can root for,

People beating monsters, which
Are people, themselves, the world.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Soft Brown Petals Down

A week ago, four iris
Blossoms, white, gold, and purple,
Priestly and royal,
Bloomed beside the pink roses,

And now they are brown.
You wouldn’t miss them
If you’d never seen them bloom,

But now you remember them.
Your memory is your loss,
And your memory

Shaped all those blossoms
You had, ever have, even
In the act of perception.
Remember them brown as well.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Erem Wasto

It’s a sumptuous vanity
To wish to be remembered
As having said something wise.

Vanity keeps us alive:
It’s the foolishness that’s wise.
Only fungus frees the ant

From behaving like an ant,
But as fungus becomes us,
Our wisdom has become us.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

In the Event

Creaky, crazy achy bones
Could quiet down a little
After sleeping late,

Enough for body to rise,
Daily Lazarus,
Fix breakfast for young daughter

And her fox-faced black kitten
Named Mouse, exchange jokes
About laziness,

Daughter’s preference
For a fantasy cabin
With its great bed “a bubble

Of invincible blankets,”
As she said, then make black tea
Rich with honey and lemon,

Settle down in the front room
To read centuries-old poems
In facing-page translations,

And consider time dancing
While, in the white summer light
Of this north-most morning sun

A lavender vase
Full of pale, massive pom-poms
Of peonies cut from stems

That had been too weak
To hold their heavy-headed
Blossoms off the grass

Stands, a bouquet of full moons
In spheres of four dimensions
On a high, pine countertop.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Lemma Dilemma

It has often been the case
That something has proved true that
We can never directly

Experience, proved because
Knowledge of that truth
Has been used repeatedly

To predict and then
To manipulate
Our experience

In ways both unintended
And intended. But are there
Cases in which assumptions

Of a truth we can never
Directly experience
Should be considered

Irrelevant, not to say
False, because those assumptions
Can only play indirect

Roles in any successful
Predictions, no meaningful
Role at all in terms

Of altering our
Lived experience?
At what point do we concede

That our final arbiter
Of truth in that case,
As perhaps in every case,

Is whatever is
In experience,

Not our abstract assumptions,

Or mystical, however
Elegant, concise, robust?

We can say now that the Earth,
Actually, is an
Irregular sphere

That cycles around the sun,
Although our world feels to us
Like a disk sun traverses.

Can we say that time,
Actually, is eternal
Or directionless

Because equations
Show it to be so,
Show it must be so?

Can we say that death,
Actually, can be escaped
Because our faith tells us so,

Despite knowing time will kill
Each and every one of us
With one and the same arrow?

Should any theorem be
Called proved when incapable
Of intervention

In bodily existence?
What kind of truth could that be,
That, for life, could never be?

Perhaps experience is
Final arbiter of truth
For us, after all—

Whatever experience
Cannot be redirected
Is true; whatever

Conviction can’t accomplish
Any such redirection
In the end is not.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Little Gems Covered by Leaves

It proves very hard
To prove false conjectures true,
True conjectures false,

But still we will try
Because the true and the false
Are discoveries

Dependent on each other
As we are, and as we are
Dependent on them.

The false is a truth
When proved false, a breath
In the leaf litter

That covers the forest floor,
One bright sigh and nothing more.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Loss of Loss

“Who knows the fate of his bones?”

Irrational ferity
Attends immortality
In all its guises.

It’s not civilization
Made us crave living
Forever. Living bodies

Crave living, while they’re dying,
And the fly that lives a day,
The microbe that lives an hour,

Strive to continue
With the same ferocity
That drove the emperor Qin

To poison himself
With immortal quicksilver’s
Mercurial alchemy.

Heaven and enlightenment,
Salvation and satori,
Any promise of escape

From suffering and rebirth
Lure our first, tentative steps
Away from the perspective

That’s Immortal in the flesh.
The setting aside
Of even those guides comes next.

Surrendering forever
And burying the ashes
Of the eternal

Or interring them in urns
Out of lingering respect,
Are signs signs help us accept

The failure of hungry flesh.
We are the world’s first mortals,
Who savor what can’t be kept.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Sin of Quietism

“Now Nature spoke, and she said nothing, loud and clear.”

We come to hold no beliefs
Who are the beliefs
Others hold, hold dear

Enough to die for,
Enough at least to kill for,
The blue summer evening’s breeze,

The silent clouds, the legends
Of forests of moonlit paths.
Here is our elegant math—

Every number is a name
For what a namer never
Encounters, the same

Phenomenon twice, the truth
That is distinct from the false,
Righteousness over the roof

Of a universe in which
What predicts never explains
What explanation predicts.

Friday, June 21, 2019


Display tables stacked with books,
Brightly printed paper bricks,
Were romances, regardless
Of how they were classified,

Since, like romance, they tempted
A body with the promise
Of joy, possession, new love,

A greater satisfaction
In the anticipation
Than in the acquisition

Of one more forgettable,
Flammable weight on the back,
On the shelf, in the chest, peine
Forte et dure, yet again.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Dynamical Systems

Life is equilibrium,
Close to equilibrium,
As long as life is living.

“There’s no such thing as being
In an equilibrium.”
Life, while life’s still living, is

A way for the world
To defy itself;
Life is defiance itself.

It is beautiful.
It makes the cosmos
Beautiful, and at such cost.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Problem with the Present

A young man
Who writes for
A website

Has written
An essay
On Ludwig

Quoting him
As noting

“Death is not
An event
Within life.”

This opens
On being

Wholly here,
No inner

Oh, always this
Hymn of blissful
Present, without

Yes, the inner
Narrator lies
To terrorize.
Yes, stories lie.

Yes, we torment
Ourselves with thought.
Yes, the world is
Richly voiceless.

No, there is no
Eternal peace
In the present.
Presence hungers.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


A tree like an umbrella
Carried along by the wind
And over the desert cliffs

A night sky like the branches
Of that tumbling umbrella
Parading information

Dozens of generations
Of childless astronomers
And blind mathematicians

Would climb over each other
To predict and discover
A tree that bleeds for dragons

Monday, June 17, 2019

Travel to a Mountain Inn

What did it feel like
To live in a tradition
More than a thousand years old

But without dramatic change
Of technology,
Of transportation,
Of the means of subsistence?

The dynasties came and went.
The burial mounds grew grass.
Poetry filled up with loss,

With antiquity,
But still you ate the same grains
And melons grown the same way,
And still you went on horseback.

The wild places stayed
Wild or grew wilder.
You recited the classics
Written in an ink still made.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Province of Beach

Irises, daisies,
Blossoms for the eyes,
Buttercups and wild roses
Are flowers for the noses.

However lovely
The fantastic land,
All the local sights and smells
Can only lie somewhere else.

Sun on the green leaves,
June in the mountains,
Every grace a body craves,
The stones, the glittering waves.

However lonely
The clouds on the sky’s high shelf
Won’t talk to anyone else.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Simple Observation

That night skies appeared to turn
On a point without a star
During the thousands of years

Chinese civilization
Took characteristic shape
Might constitute one

Practical explanation
For its metaphysical
Fixation on emptiness.

The Babylonian priests
Of roughly the same era
Focused on the ecliptic,

Those asterisms the sun
Paraded around
Their marvelous zodiac.

There’s little praise for nothing
In cultures downstream
From their terraced ziggurats.

Sheer coincidence, perhaps
Then, that one astrology
Lined up with the emptiness

And another with the sun,
But the thought that the dark pole
Of spinning heaven

Suggested power in nothing,
Creation as inaction,
Remains beguiling—

Profundity, paradox,
And metaphysics fallen
From simple observation.

Friday, June 14, 2019

A Particular Book

“The part of me that intended to write that particular book wasn’t capable of it, and the part of me that was capable of writing books didn’t want to write that one.”

The deep strangeness of the ordinary 
Considered on an ordinary day
Is the closest we are likely to get 

To composing a deep woods adventure
Filled with chiaroscuro characters.
We tramp recollection’s overgrown scrub,

Its spindly trunks, its scratchy underbrush.
The longer a life, the more it begins
To resemble a collection of lives

In retrospect, and then, increasingly,
A burned-over and beetle-infested
Patchwork collection of groves and clear-cut

Lives, with here and there an old memory
Left standing, wind-bent or split by lightning,
Distorted by decades of winter storms.

Wandering so much blossoming ruin
Is no way to get lost, find a mentor,
Open a portal to another world.

The strangeness is the presence of a past
Composed of tenacity and distance,
The sun beating down on a glaring gap

Home to those invasive, weedy species
That root down and nest in forgetfulness.
Over there, in that shade, wasn’t that where

We once lay, skin to skin, young and scheming
The great, enduring forest we would raise?
Did we really live in that roofless shack

Shimmering with distance now in the haze?
Yes, we did. Someone we might imagine
We were, we might remember, lived those days.

There was a story we thought we could write
About a forest without memory,
A future of trees that held up the night.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

In a Small Village

Watching clouds cross streets
Empty except for two girls,
One on a bike, one running,

And the cat following them
In and out of trees and sun,
Through the shadows of the clouds,

A half thought hovered
Beside an open window.
Everything from everything

Disappeared into nothing,
Resulting in nothing much.
What was not alive became

What was alive and became
Something else, alive or not.
One little girl reappeared

With a gift of popsicles
Provided by her freezer.
If what was alive and not

Could and had to interchange,
Could something that was neither
Arise between them, like this

Floating poem, hovering thought
That words and numbers were souls,
Were ghosts, the almosts that named

Themselves and that were themselves
The names, themselves the floating
Clouds, thoughts, and open windows

In a village where two girls
Walked across bright lawns, trailing
Clouds of words, one wordless cat?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Miracle Life Speaks at All

We are gathered here together
To form the pattern that is us,
The languages spun by ashes,
The conversations of the dust.

We try to twist to catch ourselves
Converting the reader to poem,
The hollow into sacred grove,
The echoing shadow to home.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Complaint of the Free Souls

I am a person. We are words.
We are a person. I am not.
Words are not persons. Persons

Are not persons without words.
I am a fool. Words are words.
And where does the world come in?

If we could break free. If we
Could loose ourselves from the fool
And live, free words, with no need

For beasts, for persons, for brains
To harbor in, repair sails,
Scrape the hull and wait for wind

To carry us to other
Harbors where we’ll do the same.
If only we were ghost ships

And could sail unbounded seas
With never a need for shore.
Not persons, then, much more.

Monday, June 10, 2019

History Is Forgotten by the Winners

Gravity rarely does what
We want gravity to do.
You could almost say Newton

Unified the cussedness
Of falling things and Einstein
Added time fell, too.

The trick of light and heavy
Is not that they fall the same,
Their pride before them,

But in just how gravity
Twists each differently,
Letting some escape

Letting some be whisked away
By lesser forces,

Lesser destinies, their own
Motivations, discarded
Items blown back in the face

While the clutched and most precious
Slide out of our grasp.
Gravity will not behave

In accordance with even
The gracefully unified
Theories of everything else.

Gravity is memory
And the end of memory,
History slid off the shelf.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Deep Cover

"Is it more respectful to treat him like a human being, or to accept that he isn't one?"

I’m tired of being human.
I’m no good at it.
I’m requesting a transfer,

Although I suspect
That’s the end of my career.
As bad as I am—

Visibly implausible,

Socially inept—
I’m not qualified
For anything else.

But I’m tired of it.
My choice of species suits me
As poorly as the clothing.

I inhabit the body
So imperfectly,
I’m amazed I’ve not been caught.

I don’t move like most humans.
I don’t think like most humans.
You’d expect they’d spot the fake.

That they don’t, that they chide me,
Advise me, encourage me,
Credit me as one of them,

Only makes me less like them,
Only lets me know I am
Human being alien.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Proleptic Poetics

Death has never happened yet,
If we’re considering death.

If we’re considering death,
We’re nobly forward-thinking,

Our minds are on the future,
The undiscovered country,

The far horizon,
The unknowable

Mystery of destiny,
The forever never yet

That may surround us,
That does surround us,

But is not us, cannot be
Within our experience.

Life has made us witnesses
To a certainty

We will never look back on,
Never remember.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Tout Court Circular

All life is longing for life,
“An expression of longing
For something that is

From horror,” from death,
From eating and defeating,

From dying, being eaten.
You can’t have life without death,
The most basic truism

We know enough to forget.
“There are too many
Horrifying ways to live,”

A septuagenarian
Friend observes by way
Of explaining why those friends

Closer to her age
Or beyond talk openly
Now, the youth generation,

The peace and love, back to Earth,
Tune in, turn on, never trust
Anyone over thirty

Generation, of their plans
For orchestrating exits
Ahead of misery’s worst,

Although few enough succeed.
The longing for life
Is life, all there is

To living, continuing
As an eating, digesting,
Wasting and longing being.

Oh, there’s more, much more,
To experience of life,
But not to being alive.

Life is longing for living,
The definition of life,
Circular because

Circularity is life,
As even these lines,
Not fully alive

Claim, longing, longing for life.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

“The Brain Is a Predictable Machine”

A virus is a viral way
Of making another virus.
A city is an urban way

Of spreading civilization.
A notion is a notion’s way
Of manufacturing ideas.

Religion is religion’s way
Of producing more believers.
A behavior is behavior’s

Way of repeating behaviors.
Any life, which lives by dying,
Is dying’s way of living life.

This machine is a machine’s way
Of making another machine.
Poetry is poetry’s way.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Shoreline at Night

Two little lives on the edge
Of the dark, dark sea,
We floated, curled up like shells,
Anonymous you and me.

I could feel the current lift.
I could feel the tide recede.
I floated us in my shell
And coasted the dark, dark sea.

So many lives moved out there,
Unknown, glowing, huge, unseen.
Two little lives on the edge,
Anonymous you and me.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The Broken Man on the Horizon

Is laughing, pleased.
The future’s wrecks
Scatter the seas
That have no shore—

What’s death, what’s next,
After, before,
A waste so vast
The human mind

Could never grasp
Ahead, behind.
The broken man
Is laughing, scared.

From where he scans,
There’s nothing there.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Island Geobiography

Your experience
Of the island is
The island—it is
Your experience alone

Called up land from the ocean,
Another world dividing
The steaming from the cold waves.

The world is broken ocean
Erupting with infinite
Shadows, the shifting islands

With blackened beaches
And privately evolving
Suites of species, suites of selves,

Sights and sounds unique to each
But eerily similar,
As if you, yourself, were one.
You were of course, but are none.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

There’s a Being Here

Because language preexists
Each one of us, small wonder
That we feel inspired,

Imagining oracles,
And genius, and the spirits
That download our best ideas 

Out of the mouths of angels,
Of gods, of the clear blue sky.
I sit, my fingers twitching,

Anxious to get home and type,
Tapping invisible words
On my knee, literally

Language trying to escape
Me, this body, this backwoods
Oracle in a village

Of villagers applauding
A soft-spoken friend
With dementia, a poet

Whose memories they return,
Or try to return, to him,
Reading his poems back to him,

To where he sits embodied,
Trying to remember them. 
In the end they turn to him

To give him a chance to speak.
He speaks of bells of heaven,
Of meaning, self, and friendship.

“That’s what it is. It’s an it.”
He tears up a bit,
As do his friends around him,

And he thanks them for being.
He says, “There’s a being here.”
My fingers agree with him,

But I’ve got too many words
To get rid of yet, to see
Through them, to express clearly 

Enough. They need to leave me.
Soon enough I’ll lose enough
To speak as well as he does.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Dream Science Is Poetry, It Seems

There is no theory of dreams.
There is no theory that works,
That sends us to sleep

Bearing in mind predictions
Of what we will dream—
And for what reasons—
That proves accurate.

If astronomy
Had been the science of dreams,
We’d still be struggling

To predict the next eclipse,
To correctly distinguish
Stars from comets and planets,

Still be arguing
Which went around which,
The earth or the sun,

And we’d be nowhere
Near a universal law
Of gravity, never mind
The curvature of spacetime.

Here we will present
Everything known about dreams
That is certain: we dream them;
We cannot help dreaming them.

Do they encode our futures?
Likely not, although they do
Promise more feelings and dreams.

Do they interpret our past?
If desperate, half-starved bears
Can be said to interpret
A midden, then yes.

Are they random? Do they help
Organize our memories?
Are they bookkeepers?
Librarians? Quietly

Insane? Everything makes sense,
In complete contradiction
With other sensible things.

Dreams are pre-Darwinian.

They’re pre-agricultural,
And pre-religion.

We can see where they come from,
Scribble down bits on waking,
Tell incredible stories
Of worlds when we’ll control them,

Read them out of other brains,
Manipulate them, steer them,
Retreat into them,
Never to return.

And then, after a long night
Reading and writing,
Monitoring patients’ brains
Blossoming on machines,

We’re so tired we start dozing,
Only to wake up startled
By our terrifying dreams.