Saturday, August 31, 2019

Each Architectonic Aphorism

1. McGurk Effect
Has the akratic taken the tastiness of the cookie into consideration or not?”
Could a philosophical,
Ideational effect,
Analogous to McGurk,

Exist, such that, when reading
Of one idea, another,
Dissonant, idea usurps

The head space staked by the first,
Using a more dominant
Modality to be heard?

A thought articulated
Through solemn modalities 
Might thus be read as nonsense

In the ineluctable 
Modality of absurd.

2. Carefree

Do with this text as you please.
I won’t invite perusal
And then demand the last word.
I won’t fake love of silence.

Let your hermeneutics be
Willful as a pregnant mule,
Inscrutable as living
Tombs, and equally carefree.

Claim these phrases mean
Whatever you yearn to mean,
But claim them as if
They held real authority.

This virus I’ve sneezed needs you
As vector. Breathe easily.

3. Their Language Is Silent, Their Gestures Motionless

I only resent the past
When I don’t like the recent
Or am particularly 
Dreading the ever-looming.

If I can find a sequence
That suggests some decision,
Mine or anyone’s
Had something to do with this,

I’m pissed. But most decisions
Fizzle, insignificant,
Sequence without consequence.

Zoroaster had a cow.
We have screwed up everything!
How is Zoroaster now?

Friday, August 30, 2019

Single Regret

Memories do not
Accumulate as stably
As possessions, so maybe

The people who collect stuff
Are more correct than fiddlers,
Idlers, and adventurers.

Of course, nothing is stable
In the sense of permanent,
But we must invest

Our given experience,
However haphazardly,
And some of us are intent

On doing it right. I wish
I remembered every night.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Praise Us

Oxytocin, the luv hormone, makes us more prosocial to Us and worse to everyone else.”

On an Adirondack pond,
In a summer camp for boys
From evangelical homes

Forty years ago,
A few of us teenagers
Who worked as camp counselors

Started jokingly praising
Each other: “Praise you.” “Praise you!”
We were told to cut it out.

Bonding is a wheel with spokes.
Yes, Ezekiel saw the wheel
Within the wheel, but beware: 

When you make a new inside,
You become the new outside.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

His Algebraic Carnage

“Sometimes a scene will be even redder if we use no pencil at all.”

Change mostly erases work,
But change can befriend 
A lucky body of work,

Even if change never helps
The work of a body long.
Change is the Prime Narrator,

The sculptor of addition
By subtraction, the reason
Good narrators look away

To suggest the worst,
Leaving imagination,
Not just to provide the rest,

But to gasp in blank terror
At worst worse than it can guess.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Away from the Horizon

1. Hand to the Heart

The problem with arriving
Is that we can’t. We’re pulsing,
Constantly, literally,

Beating and throbbing with life,
Each and every one of us,
Whoever is now alive.

The sage is throbbing with life,
Unless he’s a piece of jade.
No saint is ever at peace,

Not even smiling skyward
And tied to the stake
As the flames lick at her face.

No wisdom’s ever at rest
While a heart beats in the breast.

2. Word to the Wise

As bodies, we get to die,
Be conserved, and reënter
As something new and other.

As selves, we don’t. Selves
Are never, themselves, alive
But come along for the ride.

In the right kind of body,
A self will not be denied,
And the right kind of self will,

Albeit only partly,
Often go out of its mind
To seed survivors outside.

But selves don’t circle with lives.
If your self panics, that’s why.

3. Five Minutes under a Maple

The Master had it backward
When scolding his disciple,
“You’re not yet able to serve
People—how could you serve ghosts?”

People are harder to serve,
And I think whoever spoke
Through Kongzi knew it.

People are more whole than ghosts,
Substantive, stubborn
Combinations of desires.

Ghosts are residues
Happy to inhabit you,
As Kongzi inhabits me
And a billion other hosts.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Existence Is a Waste of Time

Ideally, time is
Good for nonexistent things—
Life after death, nirvana,

Divinity, perfect math,
All eternity.
Timelessness, of course, needs time,

Doesn’t have a speck of it,
And would only, finally,
Be something once it got it.

Some claim time itself
Is nonexistent, making
It impossible to waste,

But lives that feel the rhythm
Know they waste it, and it them.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

0 > ∞

Nothing is greater than infinity.
Infinity plus nothing
Is infinity,

But that has nothing to do
With infinity. Nothing
Plus anything is the thing.

No thing can alter nothing,
Not even all things,
Not even infinity.

As if the waves at last were
Broken, as if languages
Had left all words unspoken,

Infinity is nothing
Like something once it’s nothing.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Aftermaths, Authentic or Imagined

1.  Discontinuous, Repetitious, Unfinished

Missed my exit, not sure where,
But now I am a phantom
Flying Dutchman of far roads
And mountain byways,

An apparently parked car
Glowing from inside,
Opera lights haloing
The sole occupant’s bent head.

I look like I could be dead,
But should’s not the same as could,
And I can’t. Ghosts are breathing

Bodies that overshot fate,
Missed their turn, misread the map,
Not quite there, no turning back.

2. He Knew As He Prayed That He Did Not Believe

The day the ordinary
Perishes, the day
Ordinary power breaks,

I will make a piece of toast
And butter it, and chew it
Thoughtfully as I observe

The extraordinary lift
Its formerly captive head
And cross the little plank bridge,

As I listen to the sounds
Of a dull world terrified.

It will not be my triumph.
It might be my disaster.

But it will satisfy me.

Friday, August 23, 2019


Humans must exist
In a multitheoryverse
And only somewhere

In a multitheoryverse
Can humans exist.
In a multitheoryverse,
The rules come after the game,

And the game is called
Finding the rules of the game,
And one of those rules requires
Denying there’s any game

That just generates new rules
And theories of games. That rule
Permits humans to persist.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Patricia Goedicke

“Though it looks like a throat, it is not.”

I never knew that she’d known
Both Frost and Auden.
She once told me that I spoke

More poetry than I seemed
To know how to write,
That my use of metaphor 

Was all in my talk.
She said this in her driveway
On a winter day

In Missoula, Montana,
Between piles of dirty snow,
As if to say, “how bizarre,”

And I can’t say I blamed her,
And I never forgave her.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sonnets Saying Nothing Much

1. Porch Brown Dragonfly

Fulgurant wings caught
At sun-sleepy attention.
Too far from water, too dry,

That movement looked out of place,
That chopper shape hovering
Under diamond-flashing wings,

Over the weather-beaten
Wooden steps of this porch, that
Military dragonfly

With desert-camouflage sides.
That’s why it caught at the mind,
Mind that never can decide

What’s natural, actual,
Allegorical, or lie.

2. Not to Worry
“This goes out to all my people.../ Life has no sequel.”

You can’t have another, if
You never finish the first,
And none of us will ever
Be here when we finish this,

Not as us, finishing this.
When the bear consumes the fish,
It’s only the bear who looks
For another dish.

Doesn’t matter to the fish,
Nor will the end of the bear.
If there’s a wheel of rebirth, 

It belongs to matter, calm
Until life takes hold of it.
But I’m not singing that song.

3. Forest Apples

Every word feigns weight
In this grassy ditch 
Of Devil’s Club where apples,

Yellow-green, smallish,
A bushel of them,
Unbitten, were dumped,

Animadverse multiverse,
Eden where apples
Grew out of the ground,

Abundant, the tree,
The one, untouchable tree,
Untouchable here

Because nowhere to be found.
Evening bit and disappeared.

4. Simplicity, Duplicity, Triplicity

A serpent of short sayings
Sprawled, digesting in the shade.
Lacking anyone
To interpret them,

The sayings remained hidden
And couldn’t escape,
Which added to the patience
Of the belly of the snake.

The snake’s name, Simplicius,
Referred to the linear way
It swallowed all knowing things,

But its tongues, Duplicity,
Belied all knowing by names.
Tongues laid eggs: Triplicity.

5. Attempt Nothing

Nothing much.
Nothing mush.
Nothing muck.

Nothing mugh.
Nothing muh.
Nothing meh.

Nothing mmmmm-mmmm...
Nothing mmmm-mm....
Nothing mmmm....

Nothing mmm....
Nothing, mmm?
Nothing, huh?

Oh, just fuck it. Fuck.
Nothing much.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

In the Beginning’s Beginning

One: The Long Dead Kings

They reigned so long ago, so
Early in the invention
Of kings reigning over things,

Their sun was female,
Their moon was a dog,
And why not? Death was the son

Of the highest god,
His darling and his hero,
The high god himself a drunk.

They sank so deep after death,
Those groundbreaking kings, they took
The name for sinking with them.

Hell was open country, then,
Where anything could happen.

Two: The Lovely Gods

Had to be born. Had to be
Fed by sacrifice, by men,
Those ravenous, lovely gods

Always roaming the desert
Back then. Those gods invented
Divine cannibalism,

And when invited to feasts
Often took their hosts for meat.
Being a god was intense

And lovely competition
For the hearts of men, the souls
Of fresh civilizations.

Those lovely, lean gods in tents,
Hid their faces, grown immense.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Shadowed Sun Sonnets

1. Description of a Shadowed Sun

People don’t like to be told
An occultation’s coming.
Daily, seasonal changes
Offer enough slips and shifts.

A darkening perspective
Is grim, pathological,
And generally no fun.

But my point of view is just
A pinhole poked for viewing
That total eclipse.

It darkens my world
But it makes it possible
To stare at the shadowed sun.

2. Wonder Chambers

“The hodge-podgery
Of it all—diversity,
Miscellany, plenitude—

The aim is to overwhelm.”
The world is a museum
Of a manifold fullness

From which we distill
The most wondrous and bizarre,
Trying to repeat the world,

But also to make it small.
If we can touch the extremes
And gather them in a room,

We can call ourselves bespoke.
“Nature is allowed to joke.”

3. Teaming

And competition
Are not exclusive options.

Cooperation inflames
Competition, scales it up.

Gathers competition, as
Oxygen lets cells amass

Burns fuel that pushes them through
Scale’s escape velocity.
Cooperation transcends

Competition as blue whales 
Transcend krill and krill plankton.

4. Rigor Combined with Ghoulishness
Strike! It is allowed us!”

History suggests,
Among any group
Of humans given
Power and permission 

To attack and kill
Other humans as they wish,
Many of them will.

Never forget we are beasts
Within beasts within a beast.
The words we think we are, are

Only the late arrivals,
The inner wings of outer
Beast roaming free of the rest,
Ghoulish, rigorous, repressed.

5. Knowing More Won’t Help You Now

People don’t really
Control anything,
But superstition

Haunts us when we really know
We’re in the realm of something
Over which we’ve no control.

Superstitious behaviors
Are not performed for foolish
Attempts to control

What’s beyond us, but are strong
Mnemonics, reminding us
We’re somewhere where we’re helpless.

The person who knocks on wood
Knows more knowing does no good.

6. Mysterious Tower Calligrapher

Still, I must not forget that
Writing once put these monsters
Into me, that we

Were never certain, the words
Or me, who were the dancers
And who only puppetry,

When these ideas, those monsters,
Executed our

We had to let the monsters
Be themselves and do their thing,
Catch our fingers in their strings,

Look past seeing words to see
Thought’s writhing calligraphy.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Slocan Farewell

1. Ancient Airs of Abandonment 

Wallace, perhaps truth depends
On a lake at vanishing.
Every drop that leaves the lake

Breaks at singularity.
We are singularity,
Rushing to infinity,

Awareness breaking ashore.
We know waves are never still,
And still, we try to wait, still.

I’ve said it before.
I’ll say it again. I will.
If a little knowledge is

A dangerous thing,
Wisdom is surely fatal.

2. Voyages of Recovery

There is something to be said
For poems that fit in the head,
For stones small enough to cram
Into the stonebreaker’s mouth

On highways of macadam.
There’s something to be said
For forgetfulness as well.

The future, because
We’ve forgotten it, beckons.
Stones, poems, and roads behind us,

We’re off, this very moment,
This every very moment,
In search of what chance
And Tupia might find us.

3. Sundowner

It’s August. The sun
Is dropping behind
The peaks by seven,

And I’m not there to see it,
To feel the katabatic
Wind coming down to the shore,

Like a thirsty animal
Come to drink its full.
I will never drink my full,

Not of the waves of that lake.
And by drink I don’t mean drink.
By full, I don’t mean I need

To be in the waves. I need
Waves to keep moving through me.

4. Lone Stone on the Lakeshore

Orphaned solitaire,
The dream of the alchemists,
Unknown to geologists,

The unstated wish
Of every child and adult
Combing through rocks on the beach,

Yes, something unusual,
Maybe something beautiful,
An artifact, a fossil,

A gem, another gold strike,
But not really—the real wish
Is to find the singular,

Unimaginable thing,
Miracle all waves will sing.

5. Irreversible World (after Yang Wanli)

The mountains question the lake.
The lake examines the sky.
A man leaves shore for the waves.
Wind turns the evening waves white.
A wader fishes the creek.
Trees enclose fairy portals.
A beached kayak bobs one tip.

One kayak tip grips the beach.
Fairy doors close in the trees.
Creek fish shadow a wader.
White evening waves spin the wind.
The man leaves the waves for shore.
The sky examines the lake.
The lake asks the mountains why.

6. Let Go of Me

Μή μου πτου

A digital recording
Of a lone trumpet
Belting out the final notes
Of Ma Vie En Rose

Floats down the mostly empty
Center street of the village,
Faint on the fine summer air.

A holiday Saturday,
Early in the evening, light
Still pinking the sky,

And there’s everything
And nothing special
In this memory 
Resurrected. All of Me.

7. The Last Hot Day of Summer in the Slocan

“Time is, above all, this counting of days.”

Waves as small as children’s hands
Make small, soft hand claps
On the stones. The days

Have come ashore with light claps
Also. Someone says,
“Beautiful day. Can’t complain.”

No complaints. It goes away,
Creating an aching sense
Something should be, must be done,

Something to commemorate,
Celebrate, appreciate, 
Something that’s appropriate.

The rhythmic can’t be escaped,
Thought one aching space it shaped.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


“A racehorse used to catch a rat
Will never match a crippled cat.”

Mouse the cat has caught a rat—
Smallish cat and largish rat,
Up and down the porch and back.

Crows are cluttering the skies,
Raucous spectators that dive
And shout, “Fight rat! Stay alive!”

Bite down, cat! That damn rat’s done!”
And then, crack, the cat has won.
Rat’s neck has snapped. Rat is gone,

Down the hatch of Mouse, the cat.
Mouse’s owner, crippled cat
Himself, tilts his porch chair back,

Grunts, and hobbles back inside.
Crows bid everyone goodnight.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Wood Chipper Trio

~The Analytic Continuation of Change

We dream of finding meaning
In the meaningless,
Since it’s the only place left

We haven’t planted
With crop after crop
Of harvestable meanings.

We worry about
Meaninglessness as farmers
Once worried about the woods,

As cartographers
Worried about blanks, as wasps
Must hunt down ripe, empty figs.

A cosmos carrying on
Without meaning is just wrong.

~Reeking of Angels

Hardly wise, hard to be wise,
Says the wit who knows what’s hard.
What a cowardly bastard
A wizard, a wise one, is.

The magic of mathematics
Works well but stinks of demons
And metaphysicians,

And too many scientists
Weaned on prediction
Conjure unaware

Prediction is just the best
Magic magicians minted,
Lost wizards, staggering drunk
On stars, reeking of angels.

~Something’s the Matter with Dying

God’s darling, death, life’s bastard
Offspring of hunger and waste,

Inevitable constraint
On how far beings can change

Without losing the desire
For more, without becoming

Once again part of the world
That desires nothing,

Consumes nothing, makes no waste,
Are you any more real than breath?

Life’s darling god, creator
Of good things to eat,

How did matter come longing
To become what you could seize?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Chipper Trio

~Every Poem Is Overwhelming

Forgive me for misquoting
Jane Hirshfield. She was talking
About life, not poetry,

But I have a fractal view
Of experience,
And if life’s overwhelming

At the universal scale,
I’m not surprised at finding
An overwhelming couplet.

The grander epics, of course,
Anything praised and obscure,
Will do, too, but I have been

Overwhelmed by small bad poems
Who begged me to take them home.

~Well Being

Said the kitten by rolling
On the warm boards of the porch
Then dancing on her hind legs

To play-fight her old owner.
Well being, said her owner,
Blue sky and straight sun

And a good night’s sleep,
Greenery in the garden,
Strong lungs drawing in clean air.

Well being, cawed the sleek, fat crow,
Declaring that the day was on,
That every life was on the make

To eat and keep its kind of cake,
Back in summer, by the lake.

~Wayside Wildflowers in the Mountains

Whenever I notice this,
Whatever this is, I think,
“All my life has led to this.”

Rather often, this is bliss,
Or at least better
Than anything worrying

About what might happen next,
Which is why I’ve noticed this.
So, I get the fans of Now,

Those despoilers of context.
If better than expected,
This, why waste time expecting?

But this is only thinking back
On how this came from all of that.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Confirmation of Others

“The confirmation of others: a sickness the entire race will die of.”

Not a sickness, not at first. 
At first an adaptation.
When conspecifics
Became the environment,

Became selection,
Selection favored
Those successful at getting
Some confirmation from them.

So far, that’s meant more of them.
More and more and more of them.
For many generations,
Some of them have seen the end

Coming, but it’s slow coming.
Wishful thinkers, most of them.
What’s good for the lineage
Is misery for the soul.

Ah, the soul. An invention,
One of many inventions,
Built from the confirmation
Of the sickness of others.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

We’re All Out of Context

You have to know the future
To understand the past, friends.
I’ll let you decide

Whether that means you’ll never
Be able to understand.
Charm and consideration

Correlate about as well
As beauty and genius.
They’re not antithetical,

No, but you’d be wise
Not to expect one keeping
Company with the other.

There’s always a frame
That contains the right context
In which each decision counts

And all your outcomes matter.
But if you zoom out. . .

Monday, August 12, 2019

Bananas Are a Bad Example

Of objects as nouns
That can hold up poems—
Twentieth-century jokes,
Sight gags from vaudeville,

Flicks, and musical reviews,
From cartoons and TV shows
To the one-liners printed 
High in The Paris Review.

Captive gorillas
Died from eating them.
(The objects, that is,
Not the nouns, although . . . Koko.)

Banana guns, boners, food,
What a century for fools.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Jonah Contemplates Leviathan from the Inside

I have a foolish habit
Of imagining
How this will look,

What sorts of stories
They might believe about me,
What pointed morals they’ll draw,

How I might come out of it,
How I’ll appear when it’s done.
Can it matter from inside?

Inside, it’s just a surprise
To be breathing and aware,
Incompletely digested,

Contemplative and restive,
In the dark, but still alive.

Saturday, August 10, 2019


Life’s the fact of a river in flood.
Wisdom, faiths and philosophies,
Are fine ideas about bridges.
Living’s the fact of more floods.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Dirt

Examine the best humans closely enough
And you will find a fine selection of embarrassing
Sexual peccadilloes, bone-headed financial
Decisions, casual inconsistencies, ironic weaknesses,
And uncontrollable sorrows. You can choose
What to do with this information, if you believe
You can make choices: either none of them
Was wise, or it is wisdom, the very idea of being
Wise, that has some explaining to do, foolish
Species, meanings all marble and sages all clay.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Music Itself Has Disappeared

A badly damaged body
Can still conjure awareness
If it’s been fed enough ghosts.

The brain has no barrier
To music once it hears it.
A house must change a little

In the sun. That the future
Contains nothing explains why
There’s gravity in the past.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Snake Looking Back

Ah, Marina, I see our old bright skins,
Yours shed before I slid out of my egg.
Look at them both, gold on the sands, snake ghosts,
The gift of maintenance, the need to molt
That makes for life, our immortality.
It’s that, isn’t it? The ancients weren’t wrong,
Even if they were sadly mistaken.
Snakes do die, no matter how many skins,
But that’s life, isn’t it, successive deaths
The only kind of immortality,
The ability to maintain ourselves,
The capacity to outgrow our youth,
To devour, struggle forward, and look back
At shells of selves through widening sunsets.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Energy Content of the Universe for People Who Don’t Like Pie Charts

with apologies to Sabine Hossenfelder

Nothing explains gravity.
Four hundred years since Newton,
The apple still falls.

A century since Einstein,
The curve still curls on its tail
And swallows us all.

Another dragon,
Larger, darker, broods that one.
Gravity, at least, we feel,

But the imagined dark one,
Or dark twins coiling around
Everything we’ve said is real,

Keep their kingdom far from us,
Muscled, invisible dust
Of pure inference we’ve drawn

From the movements we can see
Of mystery, gravity.
I say, bring them on.

I say, nothing brings them on.
The name of the dark is Gone.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Clear Water Lake

This is a good time
To go for a swim.
There’s nobody here

Knows me; nobody
Who knows me knows that I’m here.
No one cares how I appear;

No one might worry
I might disappear.
It’s the freedom of the swim

Means this water’s truly clear.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

What Our Devotions Offer Us

“Other concoctions
To secure the children, love,
Wealth, or power we desire.”
Check, check, check, and check.

We pretend to each other
We care about God,
Consider our ancestors,
Practice the Dharma,

Love Mother Nature,
Crave social justice,
Want to be good citizens,
And all the rest. But, Jesus,

Check out any faith healer,
Ask any fortune teller,
Eavesdrop on anyone’s prayers.
You’ll know what we care about.

God understands this,
And so do the gods.
They can’t help our desires, but
They pretend right back to us.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Spot of Light

It’s not for us. Can’t be caught,
Can’t nourish us, can’t serve us.
Can’t make us content.

It’s nothing to do with us.
But we chase it, and
It’s highly entertaining,

For a while, as well
As frustrating, confusing,
And, ultimately, boring.

We crave other things to chase.
Sometimes delight disappears.
Sometimes we wander away.

Here lies the philosophy
Of a soulful cat.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Signs for Strangers

“Only a question can be trusted.”

This is a body
Now containing more than half
A century’s memories

Dancing and decomposing,
Changing partners, making room
For others, disappearing

In despite of the belief
Of mainstream cosmologists
That their calculations prove

Information’s never lost.
When men landed on the moon,
A six-year old boy

In an evangelical 
Family in New Jersey
That spent all other Sundays

On at least two services
Of hymns, prayers, and long sermons
In a white, cinderblock church

Sat all afternoon 
In front of a box
That flowed with shadows.

It was exciting to be 
Allowed to stay home from church,
Allowed to watch the TV.

It was overwhelmingly 
Boring. The shadows
Were blurry and made no sense,

All glare and pitch-black contrasts.
Men’s voices droned on and on.
The boy waited all day long.

This was important.
Something would happen,
Had to happen soon.

This body holds no
Memory of when
It was over, it happened.

Later memories
Saw the steps replayed 
Over and over again.

Maybe the boy that became 
This body had gone to bed,
Had fallen asleep

In front of the flickering.
Half a century later,
A motorcycle backfired

On a hairpin turn
In the regrown woods
Near the campsite of the man 

The boy had been, the exact
To the synchronized minute,

UTC, of the landing.
The man looked up at the trees.
Half a century,

And now a couple of weeks.
Last night, the man dreamed
Two astronauts arguing

About nothing on the moon,
And, in his dream, thought,
As if it were an insight,

“That’s what makes humans unique.
It’s not where we go.
It’s the signs that get us there,

The signs we leave for strangers.
It’s the arguing.”
One of the astronauts turned

A faceless visor to him,
The earth’s reflection swimming
Into its center, gleaming.

Despite airlessness,
The astronaut spoke to him.
“If you enjoyed this poem, why

Not read?”

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Leave Here

Breath by breath, we’re leaving this,
Leaving this behind, a gift
As well as a departure,

Breath by breath. We can’t help it.
We can’t improve it, although
Every breath believes we can.

This is for you. We’re leaving
You this. This is you, and you
Are already leaving this.

Leave us a little. Leave us
A little, as we leave you
A little of what we’ve left.

Breath by breath, you’re leaving this.
Breath by ragged breath.