Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Firs and the Souls of Firs

Blurred blurr, wasted waste,
The bewildered wilderness,
Civilization’s
Most civilized invention,

Lurks inside these creaking firs
That click, groan, and squeal like whales
As the wind pushes through them

And makes loon pond a contest
Of contending patterns of waves.
If you have to speak

Of a horror or a bliss,
It’s tedium you’ll convey.
One loon ululates
Across the shivering bay.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Thimbleberries and Saskatoons

No thorough guide can cover
All the wilderness out there—
Not in the landscape, dummy,
In the future, the future,

The wilderness that conquers,
That’s always growing larger
As you start to disappear.

No book, map, or trailblazer
Brings information from there,
Has ever even seen there,

But you will. It will eat you,
Your personal wilderness
Of your forever future,
Hungry for you, adventure.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Triumph of Reason

Reason remains on both sides
Of every conflict. Reason
Is by nature a waffler.

Endless equivocation—
Going on forever is
The reason reason survives.

Reason will never produce
Definitive victory,
Which is unreasonable,

A vicious, marvelous dream.
But no triumph of passion
Wallowing in gore occurs

Without a shred of reason,
A little pride in reason—
That’s the triumph of reason.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

As in Stories It Is

“He has not passed, he is not gone, he is not lost: he is dead.”

Have you ever considered
What even one miracle,
One honest resurrection,

One impossible person,
One actual immortal
Would do to the world, would mean?

You know a number of tales,
May well have been encouraged 
In your childhood to believe

In one or a few of them,
May fervently believe still. 
But you can’t produce a soul,

A tangible Lazarus,
A demonstrable person,
The blues walking like a man.

You can’t and you know you can’t.
If you could (or when you can)
The world would break (or it will).

Until then, you can only,
We can only, imagine.
Imagination is weak,

Rebrewed tea, the dog’s breakfast
Of recollection. It fails,
In most cases, to capture

The least of the deep weirdness
That would attend the rebirth
Of a sentient being

For no natural reason,
Flouting the elemental
Parameters of physics

All other lives depend on,
Not subject to the trade-offs
Death wrings from biology.

And yet we tell our stories
As if immortality 
Was something we knew about,

An understood condition,
Perfectly ordinary,
Dull, as in stories it is.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Plastic, Pig’s Knuckles, and Lead

“Philip Larkin famously proposed that what will survive of us is love. Wrong. What will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead-207.”

Well, that’s Larkin done.
So much for broken “Untruth”
And the historical fact

A Victorian
Restoration carved the hands
That so bemused him. 

Wrong. And what is wrong
With that far future
Seamed with its nitrogen-rich

Layer of plastic,
Intermixed with the fossil bones
Of domesticated beasts

And spent isotopes
At the end of our decay?
Any descendants around

Of us or our swine,
Or of our machines
Come, at last, to their own minds,

Seem unlikely to complain
That their ancestors 
Were too disgusting for them

To want to survive
The shock of their origins.
Call it love, if anything,
If anything’s still alive.

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Few Days in the Summer of 2019

After the gods left,
The wild old man, the foolish
Irredentist patriot

Who just wouldn’t let it go,
Was free to make as many
Poems as his remaining days.

Lu You, muttering
In your cups, recluse,
Because what else could you do,

Unlike you, I’ve never dreamed
Of reclaiming an empire
Through brave civil service,

Raving patriotism,
And passionate penmanship;
Still, I salute you,

You sword-clutching, wine-guzzling,
Poetic old coot.
You were not ashamed

Of nine thousand poems
Among the ten thousand things,
And the older you became,

The more your art suited you,
Wild old man who knew
Each day brings fresh profusion.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Commonplace Poem

Clouds and thunder last all day;
I have nothing to convey.
We are born to arrive
As we are born to leave,
Crowded with poignant 
Little messages,
The soul remaining
Evidence of life
We have borne to leave
As it was born to arrive.
I have nothing more to teach.
Clouds and thunder shroud the beach.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Science of Crying

We don’t know why we do it.
It comes with our signs and faiths,
Our storytelling beliefs.

Other mammals use their glands
To track and signal presence,
But we’re possessed by meanings
That make their own announcements.

Meanings don’t need glands or scent
To get their messages sent.
Meanings make the world

Meaningful, make metaphors
For meanings from gasps and sighs
That weren’t meant to mean a thing.
Meanings make us cry.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Stray Ghost

In the little village by the deep lake, someone
Found Gretchen one morning, not long ago,
Dead in her bed. She had wanted to be
Drummed on her way out of this world, so,
Although there had been no one to drum
Beside her bed the night she went away
To stay, a drumming ceremony was called
For the following evening outside Al’s place,
Which happens to be backyard from here.
By midday, Al and helpers had arranged
A circle of chairs, stumps, and benches
Around a large, impromptu hearth, piled high
With raw brush in the shadows of the maples
And birch. A table was set, spread with red
Cloth and heaped with assorted cutlery,
Plates, and food, pizza included. By six, Al
And a man I didn’t recognize sat and chatted
Quietly, occasionally thumping on a drum.
An hour later, the drumming picked up,
And a peep out the back window overlooking
The scene showed a dozen and more locals,
Some logical, some with no known reason
To be attending a ceremony for Gretchen,
Some with bored and somber small children,
Most seated close around the smoking fire,
Listening as the few who held drums,
The two smaller children among them,
Thumped monotonously, and occasionally
One of the older voices said something kind
Or funny about Gretchen. We retreated
From the window, so as not to spy on them,
The solitary mother who spoke poor English
With her tall, thin, quiet daughter, standing,
The seated photographer in his Panama hat
Who shows up at damn near every event,
The dour old woman from Manhattan who,
For all we knew, might have been Gretchen’s
Best friend, and the various others, familiar
And random. We closed the windows then,
So that neither their smoke blew in nor any
Random domestic noises from our side
Floated out to disturb them. We are human,
Sort of, and ceremonies are serious business
For humans, we understand. Just after dusk,
Long July twilight glimmering from the lake,
The group could be heard breaking up like
People saying goodbye after regular church.
But then, once all had gone quiet again, one
Drum and then a second set up a pounding
Rhythm, and someone, possibly Al or the old
Friend, started a howl that rose and went on
For some minutes, setting off a dog or two
In nearby houses, until we wanted to go out
And shut them the hell up already, and then
Nothing again. We re-opened the windows,
And any stray ghost could wander right in.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Central Wars

From the Nile Delta to Balkh,
From Tigris to the Levant
And, well, once we start

Expanding, we might as well
Add the Black Sea, the Ganges,
The Mediterranean,

And then, before we notice,
We’ll pass the Yellow River,
Skip over open ocean

And wind up in the Andes
Or the Yucat√°n.
Let’s reel it back in.

East of Tyre, west of Zagros,
North of the Euphrates swamps,
Something like that: the Near East,

The Europeans called it,
But the west beyond the west
To the Han Chinese.

Catalogue it, beginning
With the earliest cities
Of Sumeria, battling

For supremacy,
Building and boasting their walls.
Enumerate its sequence,

From the Enuma Elish
To the current vicious war
Dragging corpses through the dregs

Of the corpse of Syria.
Include everything,
Every war ever was here,

Whether out of the cities,
Riding in from the desert,
Or invading from afar,

From lands of foraging bands
Without counting or writing
Or priests for astrology

Back when this navel of war
Already kept lists of kings,
Recopied old lists of kings.

If the sequence were detailed
Enough, precise enough, down
To atomized description,

Would it tell us anything?
Would it explain anything
Other than the uselessness

Of conquest for explaining
The violence of meaning
Which lusts for blood and weeping?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A Few

We do not honor the dead
With our rites and rituals,
Our eulogies and weeping.

Ceremonial closures
All come to an end
And there we are, unended.

All the drumming, all the poems,
All the anecdotes,
All the ululating hymns,

They end before the living,
And then more of the living
End, and they begin again.

We honor death’s survival
In the rivalry of ends.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Of Unknown Origin

We are cursed by this
Unfortunate dearth
Of meaninglessness.

Of course, we contrived the curse,
Pronounced the curse, invented
The very idea

Of curses. Curses
Are anything but
Meaningless, which means this curse

Is part of this curse.
We find fewer and fewer
Moments to listen,

When we are forced to listen
To the lack of anything
The day has to say.

Signs and voices everywhere,
Every moment assail us.
The world’s not too much with us.

The world barely touches us.
Thousands of generations
Ago, ancestors vanished

Into this ecosystem
Of meaning, other humans.
But now we’re so encysted,

We’re not merely dependent
On meaning, we’re lost in it
With no metabolism

Outside of it, obligate
Mitochondria,
Carried along by our host.

Just once in a while,
We get a glimpse, just a hint
Of the inhuman,

The bare sense of pointlessness,
Some sweet hour without meaning,
And it bores and frightens us.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Skinny Sinner Sonnet Trio

1. Shadow, Form, and Inspiration

In my early twenties,
When poetry was news to me,
I did a lot of tinkering
With content as a kind of form,

Content as shadow of form.
It was my inspiration,
My elementary thing.

We are a series of scenes
Whose connections are unclear.
The crosshatching draws me in,

A glow of incredible
Well-being described by light,
Hard in spite of blazoned lines,
Informal but contented.


2. Baal Refused to Allow the Installation of a Window

Ancient urbanites believed
Death enters through a window.
My mother, who liked howlers,
So long as they weren’t dirty,

Used to repeat a dark pun
From the days of Spanish flu:
“Someone opened a window
And in flew Enza.”

That was forever ago
And was only yesterday.
In New Zealand, it’s strange, but
Despite the biting sandflies,

People live so unafraid,
No one installs window screens.


3.  Quick, Write that Down

Insights make a fine hobby.
Collect them like bottle caps.
Heap them like beach glass
On windowsills. They’re worthless,

Every last one, but they’re fun,
They’re a pleasure to collect.
Each small foolishness delights
Wisdom, sparkling in the light,

Bright as a gem in the sun
Each one, including this one.
An idea is an object,
Not a life, cracked or correct.

Objects can’t help perfect life,
And perfection can’t be helped.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Mysteries of Solitary Dragons

Dragons are peretive, wendic verses,
Flying foreign coils unfurling, thoughts caught
In transit, grave sages, monstrous serpents
Forever ruminating, wanderers.

Dragons are winged paradox—satanic
Horrors as children’s allies, rain bringers
As creators of drought. They don’t exist,
But when they breathe, we can see the results.

Every dragon dreams an aspect of fact,
An aspect that suffers for proving false,
A necessary enemy of myth,
The truly unknown, hic sunt dracones.

There are those dragons that know we love them,
Want them, draw them, tell them, sail them, sell them,
And there are their mysterious sources,
The solitary dragons, ten in all.

~The dragon of random surfaces hides
An intricate order, a treasure map
Among its scales, stable but on the brink
Of rippling gold muscular destruction.

~The dragon by the name of Azazel,
Inventor of weapons and cosmetics,
A wilderness in culture that culture
Wished back into wilderness, one thick book

Crawling along, library still attached,
A giant sand worm churning, returning
To swallow every sin-filled scapegoat sent,
Dwells in starred deserts, docile between meals.

~Wavlen, the dragon that lives in night’s sea,
The dragon that is the sea, the ocean
Whose teeth and scales alike are waves, nothing
Much but waves, has anchored more than one god,

Cannot be slaughtered or subdivided,
But rejoins its waves after every cut
And ruins every sword, Leviathan 
Of everything, infinite finities.

~The dragon of invisible masses
Hides in spinning galaxies and snickers,
Too dark to be seen in the brightest fires
Burning quanta can make, a fantasy

For the most serious philosophers.
Oh, to find that invisible dragon,
The dark that holds the cosmos together,
The black pulse puffing out our universe!

~The dragon of answers gnaws its own tail,
Consumes its own ejecta, fresh questions: 
Ourobouros, loneliest of dragons,
Metabolic solipsist, life living.

~The forest dragon named Humbaba guards
The cedars from the wars. It hugs the trees
And blunts the axe, and if the god who rides
The cloud is thundering in the mountains,

You may be sure it’s Humbaba he fights,
Monstrous Humbaba still resisting him,
Humbaba brought low by a godlet king
And companion, first knights to slay dragons.

~ The farmers’ dragon named Long, glittering
Serpent, horizontal asterism,
The river dragon swimming the seasons
All night, announcing the spring and autumn,

Much prettier than Litan, much less fierce,
Still watery although composed of stars
For scales, night for limbs, xian mount, auspicious
Peregrine, shines on fields and blesses them,

Long, the torch, the boat, the parade, the proud
And cheerful cousin of the crocodile,
Dragon of cornucopia, culture’s
Colorful haul, yang to Azazel’s yin.

~Treefold, three-headed, trialist dragon,
Fierce, flames and fury, the dragon of theft,
The one who swoops down on battening sheep,
Hideous, always up for innocence,

Never dreams and is never the dreamer,
Is the dream, rainbow-scaled, studded with teeth,
The creator and destroyer serpent, 
Sleep itself, whose eggs hatch selves, ghosts, and souls.

~The dragon of light, the enveloper,
Ancestor of every known form of fire,
Blinds its victims, who are its worshippers,
With the obscuring gift of prophecy.

The body of light consists of angels.
It rises like a ladder in the night
And is the dragon most responsible
For concealing its invisible kin.

~ Last, the evasive dragon of enough,
Which neither flies nor swims nor crawls from caves,
Is not a colorful form in the sky,
Not a pattern in the stars, not a light,

Not discoverable in underworlds,
Not enveloping, not invisible,
Without hunger, without any answers,
Nothing, the empty set, which is enough.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Lutheran

Bright sunlight on plain objects
Is the most comforting grace,
The closest to forgiveness
From the ordinary world.

Sun’s on the skin of your hand
Resting lightly on the wheel
Of the abandoned
Vehicle parked in the trees

That shadow the anyhow
Creek rushing down to the lake
Because that’s all it can do,
By rule, the sun, shine on you.

For we are free of all laws
And slaves to making new ones.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Thirty-Million Minutes

No mind can comprehend the ordinary
Temporal riches of a bodily life,
Can grasp all its minutes, memorize the days.

A hybrid monster born of genes and lies, mind
Must do what it can to make the sense it needs
To survive, although, like its ideas themselves

It’s never quite actually, itself, alive.
It rides. Not the body, or not the body
Only. Waves of thoughts produced by the bodies

Infect each other, brains barely particles
Caught passing through measurable points in time
While the probabilistic waves pass on.

But the body lives so much the mind never,
Never notices, the waves of thoughts never
Note, the memory never captures, never.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Allegory of the Story

A story well told is only the lost,
Evil twin of the story told poorly.
We know this, who are stories told poorly.
Our world is more capacious than is thought.
See? Having done as much damage to this
As we could manage, here we are again,
As if we hadn’t done damage enough,
Still stuck in our dark, familiar forest,
Still lost, still caught up in dreams of strangeness
Conjured by myriad similar trees.

Having no plot planned past getting off track,
Of course we keep losing track of the plot.
Containing no character more profound
Than our collective personal pronoun,
We find ourselves alone as well as lost,
With not one entertaining companion.
This is how we know we are poorly told:
The only echoes we hear are our own,
Or our own among the sounds of our world
Of woods without speech or signs, only sounds.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dream Words for a Sunny Sunday Morning

A Churchillian chant chugged
Through the half-sleeping morning,
“Never, never, never again,

No breathing, no eating, no
Reading, no pain.” Brains
Love nonsense, would roll in it

24/7
If society let them.
Daughter greets the day

By telling groggy father
“Pa, I had the weirdest dream.
I had to collect band-aids,

And the band-aids were children,
And then I was a band-aid,
And I won.” The dream went on.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Private Autobiographies

We are both. As change
Has an aspect mistaken
For stillness, we have

An aspect no more than self,
Easy to mistake for whole,
And we have these words.

We have both—the I, given
To us by learning language,
Personal, inherited

As the patterns in our cells,
But in a different manner,
And we have ourselves, the thoughts

That even our thinking cells
Can’t think by themselves.

Friday, July 12, 2019

More Complicated and Less Dramatic

“as actual events always are”

To want, really want something
Utterly beyond
Any pretense of control,

Either to effect
The event or to desist
Wishing the event,

To covet what can’t be made
Or pretended to be made
To occur—that’s real longing.

I’ve both scorned what I have sought
And been annoyed without it,
But what can’t be earned,

Scorned, made, mocked, or bought 
I’ve never doubted.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Sameness in the Change

The order in this chaos
Needs the nameless mystery
Of a sameness in the change.

Partial sameness, partial change,
Comprise every last aspect
Of everything that happens,

But whereas change and stillness
Have many names, where’s the name
For the sameness in the change?

Perhaps it belonged
To a long-ago pattern
Of rhythm and rhyme.

Perhaps it escaped
The slavery of being
The name for the hidden heart

Of change, of the on-going.
I wish I knew what it was,
The name for change’s remains,

That ancient rhyme scheme,
Song to sing, pattern to touch,
Everything in nothing much.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Entanglement

Death said symmetry’s secret name—
Entropic correction.
“A melted snowflake looks the same
In every direction.”

It was an accident to say
Truth is necessity.
There is no invariant Way
To parse reality.

Not even cause is guaranteed
To prove causal in fact.
There is no cause that nothing needs.
Nothing remains intact.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Cliffhanger

“So it’s a very interesting time right now.” ~Justin Khoury

Symmetry is to the truth
As time is to change—
A bewitching, regular,

Unusually useful
Subset of an actual
Slice of nothing much,

Essential to everything,
Not the whole and not nothing,
Never nearly the whole thing.

It’s not as if this tells us
Nothing worth knowing.
From seasons to water clocks,

From rotating triangles
And falling objects
To the omega minus,

Time and symmetry,
Rhythm and invariance,
What does not seem to alter

When it alteration finds,
Have been the true loves
Of pathfinding minds.

Whatever works so often,
So well, becomes a beacon
Lighting imagination,

Drawing it deeper
Into the forest
Toward that hidden cabin,

Mysteriously homey,
The welcoming windows lit
By firewood cut from the heart

Of the forest that goes on
Forever until it ends
At a drowned coast’s cliffs.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Quantum Math Relies on the Premise that Information Is Never Lost

Count me in the minority
Convinced information gets lost.
I don’t dream it would reappear
Like cosmic magic, “if you fed

The entire radiation cloud
Into a quantum computer
And ran fancy algorithms.”
Math has never prevented death

And I don’t trust its advocates,
The children of Pythagoras,
Who claim that loss cannot persist
Since death, in math, does not exist.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Adjudge Dread

Dread’s an unpleasant feeling.
Is it inevitable,
Necessary, valuable?

Dread of suffering
Drives the evaluation
Of events as good or bad.

That it’s possible to see
Terrible events devolve
From the finest, the finest

Derive from the worst,
That it’s possible to have
Pessimists and optimists,

Hints that bad and good
Possess no essence
Beyond interpretation.

But dread’s an unpleasantness,
Not an interpretation,
Not an evaluation,

Unless in the flesh.
Is dread good or bad?
That’s an evaluation.

Then can dread be evaded
By refusing good and bad
Evaluations?

You can see why so many
Focus on fate, prayer, God’s will,
Stillness, living in the now.

Cut interpretation off
At the head, refuse
To evaluate, to guess,

Event by event,
What will lead to what’s dreaded,
What will turn out for the best.

Dread’s an unpleasant feeling
We would prefer not to feel.
Good or bad have no meaning
Dread has not revealed.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Villagers of Dreams

There’s no need to tell
The people outside.
Day won’t dawn again

In any number of years,
And what can human wisdom
Do about that fact?

Day won’t dawn again
In any number of years.
We’re contented to stay here.

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Secret Swimmer

Each of these compositions
Was composed to be
Apotropaic,

A poem to paint a fierce face
On the world, against the world,
A poem to warn away harm.

That the compositions saw
The world from their own
Perspective, glaring at it,

Only meant each poem witnessed,
Down through clouds and leaves,
Down past demons, ghosts, and gods,

The secret swimmer’s shadow
Crossing the dark green meadow.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Poets Vulnerable to Poetry

For some poets love,
Others war, revolution,
Others pained identities

Ascribed, suffered, and reclaimed,
Others faith, others beauty,
Bent autobiography,

Others pure experiment,
Memory of a rebel
Lover in the jade moonlight,

Sweet vows and deceits.
For this poet change and game,
The signs that speak for themselves.

The revolutionaries
And the devout may despise
The lovers and the aesthetes,

The autobiographers
And genuine sufferers
May bleed authenticity,

But I think we all agree
We exist and should resist
Words’ claims we’re ventriloquy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Nearly Recent

The austere sweetness of dear recency
Scarcely has a chance against the poison
And chocolate truffles of recollection
Among the white clouds of poems on these walls.

What just happened? Start again. A few leaves
Stir in the evening breeze. Is it not worth
Your life to pay close attention to these?
The recognition of tiny motions.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Fragment of an Underdone Potato

We attribute our well-being,
Whenever life overwhelms us
In deep, glowing satisfaction,
To our faith or metaphysics,
Our actions, our accomplishments,

And we attribute misery,
Any sense of unworthiness,
Similarly to our failures,
Or the harm others have done us,
Or to the place we feel we’re stuck.

Seems like we rarely consider
We’re bodies before we’re stories
About bodies being stories.
Well-being and misery both
Might be infection, lack of sleep,

Some imbalance we’ll never catch.
Still, we congratulate ourselves
For accomplished satisfactions,
Mutter mantras, exhort ourselves
To do better when we suffer.

Bad enough to be embodied,
Worse to believe belief stronger
Than pulsing metabolism,
But worst to trust our own advice.
Let’s pretend we never wrote this.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Now Means Nothing Much

“‘Now’ means nothing”

So you synchronize your clocks
And send them off at different speeds
In opposite directions 

To bring them back and compare
Again to confirm Einstein.
There’s no universal now,

No universal timepiece,
No constant, perfect rhythm.
And this tells us what?

No point we make or measure
Can be more real than others,
Can ever be quite the same.

That’s not the same as nothing.
Oh the excitement 
Of cosmic insight!

Collect them by the dozens!
We were the beasts said time was.
Who else would say it wasn’t?