Thursday, October 31, 2019

Yankee Meadow Halloween

There are no true claims
About what happened,
Only about what
Will have to happen.

Nothing is both past
And present, while all
Presence is the past
And is thus nothing,

But nothing cannot be,
Only be coming; indeed,
Nothing is what the past is
Presently coming to be.

In the past, before I see
This sentence return to me,
As a posting from others,
As words on a page or screen,

The meadows in the mountains
Became inaccessible
To me, snowed, closed, and wintry,
And I will think of nothing

Again, unless, by that age,
Nothing has already thought
Of me—in the event,
I have nothing to say, but

Forgive me old pine,
I have to take the song
Your traveling wind
Earned away from you.

Once, in a green world,
On the wayside, by a stream,
I looked at the sky
And saw burnt cliff’s mindless clouds
Rising behind me.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


What good do big doors do?
That seems like a question
For causal inference:
What probability 
Of good follows, given
The choice to do big doors,

Or, P of (G | do (D))?
Red Pine has translated
A thousand year-old poem
Alluding to a tale
From the Han dynasty
In which a man who built

A big door to seem grand
Died young from overwork.
Big doors did him no good,
But think of the lesson
For all the good it did.
Causation is its myth.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Far into Autumn

Listen carefully, when it’s quiet: this stream,
This little, murmuring mountain creek,
Has a backbeat, an under drum, a bass beat.

It fooled me once: I felt it, heard it, barely,
And assumed it was some punk in a truck,
Unseen somewhere, woofers in his trunk.

Noises can be hard to figure, deep in dense,
Narrow canyon woods, where winding roads
Have tired windy tunes but so do the woods.

Now I sit in quiet and green-a-day, thinking
Of worn phrases for the velocities of change,
But a fall wind is in the branches, tip-toeing,

Moving things just enough so that they say
Dendritic things they never meant to mean,
While boulders thunk together in the stream.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Jupiter Set in September

Snug in our web of astronomy, of centuries
On centuries of individual human lifetimes
Spent before us carefully observing night
Skies for regularities, changes, and signs,
For patterns inferred from patterns inferred
From inherited measurements, personal
Years of patient calculations, conferring
With the already-then ancients, conversing
With contemporaries over the latest events,
Maths, error corrections for uncertainties,
Controversies, technologies, telescopes,
Observatories in the deserts, on mountains,
Lens-grinding techniques, new wavelengths
Invisible to the keenest eyes in clearest air,
On and on, this legacy in place at our birth,
Given to us like language, a mother tongue,
The ongoing research, enormous projects,
Telescopes in space, robot probes, massive
Arrays spanning mountain ranges, enormous
Underground tunnels smashing subatomic
Particles in circles larger than metropolises,
The primary, secondary, tertiary training
Of each next generation, the calculators,
The computers, the career opportunities,
The interconnected hives of universities
And libraries, the heaped-up metabolisms
Of information so well-insulated, so intricate,
That they have their own nervous circulations,
Their own trophic layers, whole ecosystems,
Including commensals, parasites, viruses,
Infestations, outbreak species, conspiracies,
We forget. We forget what night sky is like,
What it looks like to our little, feeble eyes,
And we have no respect for the gone minds
Who had to guess, couldn’t help guessing,
Being us, being our kind, what those lights
Could possibly be or mean or intend for them.
I went out to the Nevada desert the weekend
After the internet conspiracy fans had planned
To celebrate aliens, maybe storm Area 51,
Maybe free the visitors from captivity, mostly
As an excuse to book-up remote motels, party,
Give the police a practice drill and the military
Instillations a minor fit, have a good time.
They were gone. The clerk at the cabins said
The locals had been mildly disappointed.
“We were sort of hoping for really colorful
Characters, y’know, but they were mostly
Just cheerful and curious. Never saw so
Many cops and troops around here, though.”
Myself, I was there for a mere moonless night—
Clear skies, mild temperatures, barely a breeze,
Almost no chance of a passenger-jet contrail
So near the closed airspace over military sites,
Nothing listed on the night-sky schedule
But the ordinary business of rotating stars,
No meteor showers, no planetary line-ups,
Not even Venus or Mars. Just Jupiter, Saturn,
Medium-high and far apart in the early sky,
Both setting before midnight. Quiet, quiet
And dark a night as I could find nearby on Earth
And in Earth’s atmosphere. I parked in brush
On a sandy wayside far from highway lights,
The only interference after twilight a smudge
On the low, southernmost horizon, not quite
A glow, almost like zodiacal light, the faint
Reminder of showy Las Vegas at two hours’ drive
Or more by shortest route, just about the time
It took for the stars to come out completely—
Bright, nearly evenly scattered, just slightly
Patterned, as if spilled, poured dots of light.
Over the top arched a long ribbon of cloud
That wasn’t a cloud, the river of heaven,
The pathway of milk, the backbone of night.
I shifted, tilted, readjusted my perspective,
And thought of the familiar names and tales
I had ingested over decades, of polestars,
Bears, dragons, hunters, twins, archers,
Virgins, monsters who devoured their own
Children, punished lovers freed to be lonely,
Stuck as shining specks forever in the night,
All the human melodrama, all of the omens
For aligning the hall, storming the palace,
Starting a war. I thought of fancy phrases,
Of the supermassive black hole at the heart
Of that one ragged ribbon of star cloud,
Of the invisible bubbles of radio waves from it.
I recalled going out to fetch a few splits
From the woodpile outside a drafty house
On the floor of Castle Valley, Utah, in winter
One year, night after night, hobbling, hurrying,
Only to get transfixed, shivering, legs aching,
Arms aching and scratched by the wood,
Neck sore from being bent back at an angle,
Trying to take in all of the stars. As always,
I don’t know why, I thought of Whitman’s dig
At “the learn’d astronomer,” and his boast
Of looking “in perfect silence at the stars.”
I grew aware, with a hammering awareness,
How numbingly many, wordlessly inscrutable,
How baffling all those flecks and pins of light
Would be without anyone’s prior astronomy
To tell me what I should make of them,
Without poetry or mythology, with just them
And this body staring back at them, wondering if
I envied the bats in their shadows around me.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

To Do With Us

Having been fifty-seven
For fifty-seven days, whole,
October twenty-seventh

Found me watching the shade trees
Tossing in the neighbors’ yards,
Horses bucking and bowing

In the bare-skied, fearsome winds—
Sunday morning, so I could
Pretend to begin again.

Think of all the beginnings
Living humans have counted
Since counting began. Begin.

Roughly one hundred billion
Humans, including this one,
Have, it’s estimated, lived.

But who we’d call the first one
No one has ever agreed.
I doubt the first one counted.

That’s the thing with beginnings—
We invented them, but when
Did we create beginning

Out of the sort of living
Trees live, tossing in the winds
Passing again and again?

More than forty years ago,
A poet, Peter Payack,
Wrote a poem imagining

Everyone who ever lived
As the “ultimate party”
At his apartment. Alas,

His party was a failure,
The earliest human stabbed
In the kitchen, and the rest

All quickly following him,
Leaving their host, the poet,
With billions of dirty plates.

He ended humorously
By putting off the clean-up
Of dishes “until morning.”

Another morning, decades
And billions of lives later,
Mr. Payack lived online

In the form of a website
Touting his anarchism,
His “Stonehenge Watch” invention,

His poems and science fiction.
I, who was a boy back when
He imagined his party,

Admired him for remaining
Among the billions living
Among the dirty dishes

That no one has ever washed.
The trees bucking in the gusts
Want nothing to do with us.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Advice to My Selfish Eyes

When in conversation, turn your partners
From you to their worlds, and then you can gain
The benefits of shifting perspective.
Mirrors tilted at the eyes are prisons.
Mirrors tilted away: magic windows.

Friday, October 25, 2019

More Dead Words

Once we spoke, we knew dead
Words led invisible
Lives. We lit a candle

For you. We dug a pond
For the moon. The mountains
Are just mountains again.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

An Allegory in Need of a Target

Bright blue patches of dead lizards
And sacrificed tails speckle the concrete
Of my rented back porch where the cat
Brings her kills to play with them, although
She has no taste for the scampering lizards
With their cyan-colored guts and scales.
There are no rodents in this subdivision, not
So far as she can find, and the lizards, which
I love and which give me joy to watch, just
As she does, if not as much, do scamper.
Their trick of the breakaway tails, effective
For distracting and escaping birds, works
Not at all on her. She tosses the lizards
In the air, ignoring the tails and the blue,
Until they stop twitching and she gets bored.
Then her black shape glides away, to find
Some other twitching thing, preferably
One alive, ideally one edible, a mammal
Like her, or a fluffy little bird, but anything
That seems to move—a leaf, a spot of light,
A dead cockroach shifted by a team of ants—
Will do. She’s not hungry. She’s well fed, but
Her ancestors survived by feeling this need
To hunt and practice hunting, even when
They had no particular urgency to feed.
I come home, sigh at the carnage, and sweep.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Head Wind

I’ll crawl on a limb and say it—
One thought I think all humans think
Is, Oh, what will my others think?
That thought on a limb can sway it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Four Raindrops

“a tiny little area of bone at the base of our skull called the otic capsule. . . . immovable and therefore truly permanent, remaining locked in our bodies as irrefutable evidence of our biological identity from before our birth until after our death. . . . about the size of four raindrops”

I tell a double story,
The play of my wandering
Within the narrow confines
Of the life within a skull.

I am, of course, not the one
Who wanders, the wandering
Being done has always had
A playful mind of its own.

I am self and I am bone,
The never known part of me
I can’t perceive or forget,
Signature under the desk.

Black cows, black aspen shadows.
Hard to tell in high meadows 
What’s too solid, what is air,
And who’s the wanderer there.

Monday, October 21, 2019

What Is Better

The game whose rules are unknown
Beyond uncounted guesses,
The knowledge broken . . .


It hints at something
That a general

Is reliably
A better bet than
A radical difference,

That there are more ways to be
Almost exactly the same
Than to be very much changed,

That the world seems determined
To explore exhaustively
Every last similarity.

But what it hints at
Is inscrutable as waves,
Horizon to horizon . . .


The great work of nothing much,
The great spirit of the plants
That will make you like Itself,

Whispers in the windy trees,
If you let me lie to you,
I promise you enough truth

Will go rustling through these woods
That you’ll be glad you listened.
Now, pay attention when you can.


The forest of influences
Considers causality
And comes to no conclusion.

When it comes to it,
The forest of influences
Can neither cause nor conclude.

What then is an influence?
Only a past prediction.
Things go together.

Always joined tightly
Are mistaken for causes,

The earlier influence
On the latter,
So the forest grows larger,

But should it be called
The forest of confluences,
Or ramifying river,

Where everything drifts apart
And branches until
Nothing much comes together?


In the dark palace,
The motions reverse.
Lights run backwards through the halls.

A poem can do whatever
Language can do, and is not
Restricted by character,

Plausibility, or truth.
Thought lies before and after
What language and poetry

Can do, and there will be thought
That exists outside
Of any actual poem,

But that leaves a lot of room
For the lights of poetry
To play through thought’s dark palace.


Saint Clarity: the whole time
Of continuous changing
That I sat by the waters

Rushing down to join
The Santa Clara,
The sun was rising higher,

Illustrating why Einstein,
Like so many before him,
Was seduced by the subtle,

Scalloped symmetries
Of geometry,
The math that time cannot move,

Font and origin of proof,
Of perfection, of the curve
As preexisting

The changes tracing its routes.
I left before it could fall
The whole of the afternoon.


I can’t stand long, by nature,
But I intend to stand here
As long as I can stand it.

Going round, merely going
Round, however redundant,
Is never the same,

Is always going.
Merely standing, finally,
Is going, eh, old planet?

Once, circular time
And linear change were lovers,
Not knowing they were

Sister and brother, bastards,
Both of them, one and the same.
Every morning, every night,

In the deep woods, they embraced,
And each became the other.
The final good is going.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

“Shut up and Calculate”

Stop calculating and think. Some of us
Don’t work well with mirrors. Some of us can’t
Tolerate symmetrical reflection,
Can only waver continuously
Outward and ongoing without being
Outgoing, because being outgoing,
Whether socially or reflectively,
Entails increasingly exact returns,
As the light bouncing back from silvered glass,
The light interacting with self-regard,
The self-regard interacting with talk,
Manners, notions, pretended positions,
Self portraits of increasing precision,
Retrospectively makes us sick. Stop. Stop.

Think of what you’re doing to the cosmos,
You, human, peculiarly curious
Aspect of it. You are it, reflecting
On it, interacting with it, ruthless
And calculating. Maybe this cosmos
Doesn’t want to know what it’s really like,
Who it really is. Stop figuring it.
Stop up your radio telescope’s ears.
Close your eyes and put away your lenses.
Just the thought of the flaws your equations
Must eventually discover in it
Is enough to make this universe sick.
Stop triangulating the face of God.
Oh, let us expand without measurement.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Hurricane House

We are never predicting the future.
We use our past to predict our next past,
The new past, a better, worthier past.

The future has nothing in it, always
Had nothing in it, and always will have.
Awareness of that nothing carves our past.

“What matters is not the past history . . .
But what might happen in remaining rounds.”
That’s only true if the past determines

The exact number of rounds remaining.
Determination stays trapped in the past.
There is, to borrow from Anthony Lane,

Who only meant to review a movie,
Something small at the core of human time,
For all the power imagination vaunts,

“The smallness of cramped and dissatisfied
Souls, who don’t like where they came from and aren’t
Sure how far they should go.” Not for nothing

Does Mr. Lane end his essay crisply,
“Darkness is their home.” Darkness is something,
However lost, however frightening,

And the future, which is not human time,
Is not, like spacetime, filled with echoing
Waves of nothing much, bright, dim, dense, or thin,

Is nothing to do with any something
We, frequentists and Bayesians, predict,
Is not what might happen to what remains,

But is what isn’t and will never be,
The same, the Zeno in Parmenides.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Woods

“There’s no room for emptiness”

It goes the way it ought to go.
It goes the way it should.
How it goes is something awful,
And awful generates the good.

There’s never any emptiness.
There’s always something new.
There’s always something vanishing 
So the fullness can make room.

Whatever remains must go.
Whatever came once goes for good—
The fossils of a million snows;
The ruins in the woods; the woods.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Crooked Ass

The poetry of small talk
And tasteless family banter:

Mom says you think you’re badass,
But she’s more badass than you.

When have I ever said I’m badass?
I’m the opposite of badass. I’m goodass!

Actually, you’re more like crooked ass.
Exactly! I like that. Call me that. That’s good.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Waiting in Pocketville

It’s kind of weird in Pocketville.
The structures are all DIY.
The summers are brutally hot.
The winters are bitter and dry.

A month ago,
When the aspens and big tooth
Were starting to show
Fall colors on the mesa’s green roof,

Pocketville was still baking dust.
Irrigation sprinklers kept it down.
ATVs and ponies stirred it up.
The oddly shaped buildings browned.

It felt like it was waiting for something
Other than fall or winter, something more
But maybe unincorporated Pocketville 
Was made to remain a waiting kind of town,

The kind of place where the actual end,
Whenever it comes, will be neither ironic,
Nor tragic, nor even very weepy, just
Disappointing after waiting that chronic.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Witch, a Hermit, Innocent Young Lovers

Deep in the woods, the witch and the hermit
Were innocent lovers, clear as water.
Of course, water doesn’t always run clear,
And water that looks clear can be toxic,
Or unfit to drink, or just foul tasting.
But when water is clear, it’s the image
Of purity as sweet simplicity.
When I say these two were clear as water,
I just mean their affection was simple,
Love empty of anything except love, 
Which is as hard to find as pure water
In the deep woods, where water runs denser
As a rule, emerging from mountain springs
Full of unseen minerals and wonders.

And so the witch simply loved the hermit,
And equally the hermit loved the witch.
Through the empty lens of love’s perception,
Which, when pure, distorts no more than water,
The witch was as lovely as she was young,
The hermit handsome as he was lonesome.
The hermit lingered, waiting in his glade,
For each visit from his witch, who wandered
Constantly, searching fresh ingredients 
For the potions that earned her the name, witch.
She counted on him to be there for her,
And he counted on her to come for him.
They met every day, and each day was bliss.
But the deep woods had a problem with this.

An old ghost inhabited the deep woods,
Haunting the patterns it swirled into words.
It moved in a mist, formless, borderless,
In which an unseen presence could be heard
Whispering of treasures lost in the earth.
The old ghost took exception to the clear,
Watery love of the hermit and witch.
The old ghost preferred affections obscured.
One afternoon, when the witch flitted past
A dim marsh where the old ghost was lurking,
Humming on her way to the hermit’s glade,
Its mist gathered and followed behind her.
When she reached the sunny patch of meadow,
Her handsome, basking hermit asked, “What’s that?”

He pointed at the haze that had gathered
Behind the witch, a vaporous shadow,
A silvery, watery miasma 
That was anything but clear. The witch turned
And felt each hair of her flesh stand on end.
The fog caught at her eyes and blurred the light,
And a dreadful, circular whispering
Wrapped her clearest thoughts in grey, muffled words
First uttered by hermits and witches dead
For hundreds, thousands of years. They whispered,
Love is never pleasant long, and longing
Creeps into every faithful lover’s ears.
This crystal stream you drink will turn to tears.
Now turn your head. Your love’s already fled.

The witch wrenched around, and in the distance
Saw her hermit, going grey, receding.
You see? The ghost’s words whispered, He’s leaving.
But the witch didn’t see. That was the trick
Of the wisps greying and obscuring him.
While she’d listened, the haze had captured him,
And now the words were in his ears as well,
Explaining their ancient wisdom. You see?
Your witch has brought you misery. She wants
You to be more than you can ever be,
And now she cries, see? Horror in her eyes.
She is receding. And so she was. Love,
Grown vast, damp, and menacing between them,
Hid worlds within it, and the woods grew dim.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Enough Time

To get out here early
And stay here until dark,
Yes, but I kept thinking

Of what might happen next,
What I wished would happen,

And the dread, expected,
Scheduled things to happen,
And now it’s getting dark.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Mega Biblion, Mega Kakon

To hold the limits of the stars
Is impossible: measure them.
Or, it’s easy: imagine them.

I’m the shipwreck with spectator,
Dreaming that I’m the spectator
Of the shipwreck that I’ve become,

That the spectator spots sinking
Beyond the limits of the stars,
Thinking, glad I’m not on that ship!

My timbers, at least, less solid
And of lighter matter than most,
Might float, might find themselves ashore,

Well-scattered for the beachcomber
To gather and nail together
And add on to his fishing shack,

Where he keeps his wrack and tackle,
His toilet-paper almanac,
And my tattered family bible,

All of my ship’s library left
That he found, all my rarities
Sunk, damned evil inheritance,

Onionskin thin pages sandy
And curled but mostly legible,
Far from the limits of the stars.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Pedantic Aphorism

Academia is a ceaseless civil war
Of the qualifiers and the quantifiers,
Engaging the qualified and the quantified.

Friday, October 11, 2019

c ∋ s∧t, c ∉ s∧t

The spacetime continuum is contained
Within the set of change, identical
To the set of all differences, ever.

Space and time are peculiar heuristics
For the myriad ways of differing,
Recombined when viewed as continuum.

That continuum is not exhaustive
Of the set of all change, identical
To the set of all differences. Nothing

Alone contains the set of differences,
Identical to the set of all change.
Once again: space and time are special kinds,

Partial sets within the set of all change,
Incomplete, peculiarly defined,
Separately or as a continuum.

The unknown and undefined differences
Outside of the spacetime continuum
May combine gravity and the quantum,

But if they do or do not, they remain
Changes beyond our spacetime as defined.
We might want to look into finding them.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Wayside Discourses

An incomplete perfection
Completes an imperfection.
Stay the course and lose your way.

Every word is a ghost plant
Blossoming without sunlight.
You’d be surprised how many

Thrive in the wayside shadows,
Epiparasites of mind,
Borrowing the life of you,

But never giving it back,
Except as shapely petals,
White in the understory,

Violet in the purple—
Gentians, orchids, fleurs du mal.
Self speaks the language of spores,

But endlessly threading thoughts
Surrender to these flowers
Blooming from baskets woven

Of roots that tap thoughts for food.
Courses, paths, and roads may have
Destinations, at least nodes,

But waysides are not crossroads,
Do not lead to anywhere,
Are not on or off the path,

Are not wild explorations,
Are not stirring narratives.
These weedy opportunists,

These seeds the sower scattered
Assuming they’d never root,
Thrive in broken happenstance,

Untended, unintended.
It’s impossible to tell
What does or doesn’t belong.

There is honor among thieves,
The code of wayside bandits.
They lurk and steal what they can,

From others and each other,
But they have no other plans.
Their world eats your accidents.


I once spent a year as Silenus,
Possibly three or four years, or ten.
It’s difficult to remember them.

Hollow as a cornucopia,
Once I was broken, my guts disgorged
A box of rudely carved deities,

This menagerie of small angels,
This collection of dragons and ghosts.
Statues like me were common enough

Once, found in half the shops of Athens,
But not one surviving example
As described by Plato has been found.

Maybe the statues were made of wood,
As one scholar suggested, and burned
Or rotted. I suspect pottery,

Cheap clay, made to be broken, like me,
More piƱatas than matryoshka dolls,
Smashed at drinking parties by silenes

Like Brits twisting their Christmas crackers.
Mud they were baked; to mud they returned,
Art as Socratic party favors.


Past and future traffic on the way,
And when they meet they trade,
Comparing colorful notes, worthless

In each other’s countries, exchanging
Estimated coins and currencies
Issued by their rival treasuries.

Wait by the side of the road and watch.
You’ll see some peculiar deals get made.
Hop on the edge of one tree’s shadow,

Tracking it closely as its gnomon
Points in the direction of exchange.
Listen for the rumbling of unseen

Motors bringing tourists to the trade.
Their futures are bags of yesterdays,
Photographed, sacked, and salted away,

Their pasts they present their most recent
Experiences, clinking, rustling
Trunks of fears for the futures they meet.

Everyone’s nervous, if not afraid,
And as pasts and futures strike bargains,
They stick to the middle of the road,

They look straight into each other’s eyes,
With occasional furtive glances,
Side to side to shade, then on their way.


You can be lost or you can get lost.
Just off the unmarked edge of the path,
That passage in the middle of things,

Neither a direction nor a loop,
Neither branching nor intersecting,
You may find creatures who know nothing

Other than others passing them by.
This is the foolishness of the wise.
This is how wayside trees live their lives.

There’s a trailhead not too far from this,
From which you may enter deeper woods
Whose trees spread the wisdom of the fool.

Either on or off the way, you’ll think
You chose, but still you’ll get lost or you’ll
Be lost, soon or further down the way.


By the way, even the ghosts have ghosts.
Once upon a time there was sighing
From aquatic mammals in a poem

About a large, bad picture, published
Back in April, 1946,
At or just past the end of the world,

Which is forever around the bend.
Poor sighing animals. Poor picture.
Someone hunting poems killed the sighing,

One supposes erroneously.
The ghost of the sighing was sizhine,
A wayside word if ever there were.

Passers by did not fail to gather
That pallid, haunting blossom, sizhine,
Lightless ghost of a word never seen.

An artist painted a periscope
To peer at the breath of the sizhine.
A journal published a faint review.

One botanizer explicated,
“Sizhine, loosely rhyming with crying,”
When sizhine rhymes exactly with mean.


Clever persons who seem ill-informed
Often accuse the better-informed
Of caring more for information

Than for actual experience,
That odor and crunch of sensation
About which the informed have only

Some ill-formed and bookish opinions
Spoiling all the joy in sensation,
To hear the ill-informed explain it.

I doubt the facts of this position.
Astronomers enjoy their visions.
Philologists much prefer fresh fruit.

The beast who recognizes a scent
On the wind as insignificant
Inhales no less deeply, sensing this.

There is no safest place in an age
Of superstition and suspicions.
A wayside has concerns of its own.

A quiet and idle existence
Of few events is not without care.
If not a complete philosophy,

Then a considerable fragment
Persists in this dusty lonesomeness,
An eroded milestone’s broken plinth

On which the plainly stated numbers
Still mark a relative position,
A pine copse tangled in climbing vines

Whose leaves are only hungry for sun,
Like all leaves, but whose cursive cordage
Contributes a kind of wayside script.

Even the individual  blooms,
The moonflowers and strange invasives,
Have something to say for thinking back

On how all this came from all of that.
Every wayside has its mirror side,
Every empty edge its empty fetch.

No one can live on both sides at once.
Your imbalance brings balance to this.
Nonetheless, you can’t help scrutinize

The blossoms, the numbers, and the script,
Wishing that you could exist through them
And return when no one, least of all

Any part of you not awareness,
Was on the road, to learn what persists,
To be the way with no one in it.


Along the roadside, basalt cobbles
Remind earth’s cognoscenti of fire,
The ignorant of stones in the way.

Nothing began as an obstacle.
Everything is turning to something
Turning into something else again.

Best to wait in a bend of the way,
A stray dog, Diogenes, social,
In being close to the common course,

Antisocial, in standing aside,
Stand-offish, cowardly cur growling
Discursively sarcastic curses,

Preferring the road when it’s empty,
But preferring not to leave the way,
Piling hearths for the end of the day.


A wayside hides the oneness of things.
A wayside shows the oneness of things,
As well as the twoness, and so on.

When you’re done cutting your way through things,
Out of the way things still surround you.
Maybe they seem part of the way, the scene,

Maybe making your way creates them,
Arranges them, brings them into view,
The oneness of the ten thousand things,

The ten thousand onenesses of things.
A wayside is no place to begin
The never-ending counting of things.


Another year, I spent a season
In the guise of forest guardian,
Wordy hermit of the deepest woods,

Matted hair with a crossbow to bear,
Firing lightning bolts of prophecy
Into the mountain air, a gargoyle

On a mission to anticipate
Nothing in everything threatening.
Anticipation is a burden,

Like any self-defending weapon.
I didn’t have a name then, nothing
At least I could locate by reading.

I had a little bit of monster,
A little bit of madman in me,
But none of the monster names fit me.

I grew weary of my weaponry,
Tired of solitary prophecy.
Why defend against what happens next?

These woods of memories don’t need me.
Guardians care for pure and impure,
How to stop invasions of the woods.

I sat by the road, crossbow for chair.
Nothing’s worth more than a wayside lull
Because no lull can ever endure.


Demons of prediction haunt the way.
It’s impossible not to wonder
What’s beyond either one of these bends,

Who or what might come down the road next,
And if who, what will they think of you?
And what has already spotted you

Through the trees screening them from your view?
So much passes the quietist spots.
So much is expected that does not.

Rows of ghost blooms are singing to me,
“We used to consider many things.
Now we merely consider them all.”

From this, as from that mile-marker plinth,
I take the hint that someone has spent
Considerable hours considering

This way before me. Someone haunted
The grass and left notes for the fungus,
Perhaps even camped out for the night.

Sleep, in the excitements of silence,
Is nothing much beyond staggering
In and out of elaborate dreams.

Once day is definite and traffic
At any moment more probable,
The dreamer in the trees at road’s edge

Concludes there’s nothing left to be gained
By keeping one’s eyes shut in hiding.
Rise and shine and consider the world.


A wayside’s all about the absence
Of now in the presence of what’s next.
What if you hid all the charming clues,

Knowing no one would ever seek them?
I made myself a secret codex,
Composed in an invented language

Known to no one beyond Eanna.
Then I waited in my hierarchy
Of irrelevant expectations.

Kephalonomancy can cost you
Your head. Once a future passed me by
And once she had passed, I overheard

Her note with satisfaction, “I met
An angel on the side of the road.
I’ve never been religious,” she said

To whatever past she bargained with,
“But I know what I saw.” An angel,
Believe me, is easy to believe,

But it’s postdiction and prediction
Mark the weakest joints of religion.
If that future had any idea

Of the treasures this wayside angel
Had creatively hidden from her
In hopes she would ask, she would have asked.


A scatter of small, talkative birds
Passing through amounts to an event
By the wayside, as does a dump truck.

If you could accurately predict
The traffic, you could do as you pleased,
As far as you were able, you could

Call yourself priest, call yourself magic.
Your futures would shape a kind of past,
If your pasts predicted your futures.

What a roadside wonder you would be.
What a wayside legend you’d become,
Angel, dragon, god, trickster, monster,

Seen only when you wanted to be,
So rarely you’d be hard to believe.
Look around this quiet wayside now.

The wonder may already be here,
May have always been here watching you,
Dragon with nothing better to do.


Every supernatural
Being is a name, a ghost,
A mycoheterotroph.

You can find them blooming here
Where wayside shadows rotate
Over half-rotted debates

About the road of two ways,
The discourse of the logos,
The moderns and the sages.

Go ahead. Examine them.
I can wait for what you find
Hidden just outside these lines.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Minimum Requiem for an Era

Hard not to think, days like these,
Of Keats’s ode "To Autumn”
And the lines about the bees.

All our hustles still bustle;
All our roads remain busy,
But extending our summer
Has just made us uneasy.

So hustle bustle harder.
Don’t let the quiet begin.

No patriotic orchestra
Wants a first chair air violin.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Day No Worse Than Perfect, No Better Than Not Quite Right

The flawed is one ideal.
Its goal is the problem
Without a solution,

For which no solution
Has ever been desired.
Perfection’s never good

Enough, never achieved,
And, like salvation,
Wisdom, enlightenment,

Would be better eschewed,
Better still forgotten.
Imperfection’s relief.

The best moral’s absurd.
No lesson to be learned
Would be the lesson learned.

I like these invasive
Blossoms in high country
Meadows by the roadside.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Yet, of Unknown Origin

Here’s a thought experiment:
Imagine the opposite
Of an event horizon,

A phenomenon
Nothing can enter
From which everything
Escapes forever.

That would be the origin,
The rush of all becoming.
I have five lines left
Before I end these sonnets,

But the rush of everything
From nothing keeps on coming.
Nothing’s always finished, yet.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Et in Utah Ego

1. All to Tell Their Dreams

I’m fond of shadow selfies,
Landscapes in which my presence
Is only this distorted
Silhouette, this bit of shade.

I prefer these poems like that.
I’m in here somewhere,
A dark outline I’ve amused
Myself with posing,

Elongated, off-center,
Lantern-jawed and broad-shouldered,
Crutches jaunty buttresses,
Hard to decipher, skew-whiff.

I pose to front that challenge
The oracle posed for us.

2. Minimism Revisited

Think of duration
As continuous,
Infinite eternity
Infinitely divided.

A minimum interval
Will never exist.
I’m sorry, Professor Planck.
I’m sorry, Dottore Loop

Quantum Gravity.
All particles are compact,
Ever-changing waves,
All patterns arborescent.

Confucius chomping wild rice
Is Confucius slurping broth.

3. Gamblers and Astronomers

Hungered to be more precise
About their uncertainties.
It was a matter of wealth,
Death, and vanity.

Now we’ve probability,
But who breathes more easily?
There’s always that fear—
The moment we stop thinking

Of weird possibilities
Is the moment we’ll be seized
By death’s disembodying.

Stop thinking. Ambush
Awaits even the sleepless
Who watch night without blinking.

4. Stromata

I spread my patchwork
Coverlet, studded
With embedded spores.
It’s singular, extensive

Tapestry, intimately
Connected, the quilt
Itself as the quilting bee,
The unicorn as dragon.

When burying arguments,
Remember refutation
Is certain to preserve them.

As Savonarola sensed,
The only sure interment
Learns to burn all terms of them.

5. The Old Person’s Friend

I grasp; I appear.
I hide; I let go.
Recall, get, gone, forget.

The gain of loss is the loss.
The loss of loss will be gain.
I am lost once I know it.
Once I lose my loss, who’ll know?

What is held wants to be known.
What is hidden wants release.
There is no freedom
In remembering freedom.

Erase my secret with me.
Bury this without a map.
Freedom wants no coming back.

6. Smitten by the Wonderful

Is a bad painter
A mediocre talent
Or a talent out of touch
With the needs of its species?

Elizabeth Bishop’s aunt
And anonymous uncle
Understood without
Commercial contemplation

There’s scant reason for perfect
Waves to resemble
Anything if not timid
And unseen sea animals

Under them, breathing,
One niece, at least, listening.

7. Of Earth and Starry Heaven

We want heaven as the truth
Of our lineage,
Rejecting our humble earth.
Teachers lurk in the shadows.

Instructions lie on the tongues
And around the necks
Of initiates’ remains.

Avoid the ghostly cypress,
They say, remember
To go to the guardians

And tell them you are the child
Of starry heaven.
How few of us will admit
Earth was intermediate.

8. Bobbing Along

Other humans fragment time.
Every coordination,
Every meeting rearranged,

Chews up the changes
The way the mud of flash floods,
The gravel and silt,
Tumbling stones and torn-up trees,

Make a stream seem like a beast,
An angry, smashing monster,
Intent on breaking
Everything into pieces.

But free, diverted, or dammed,
There’s no breaking down the stream.
I am not this broken thing.

9. Desiderasmus

Poems of others are easy
To collect, if not to read,
To thread together like shells

Or pearls on strings.
But to write by the thousands?
That’s another thing.

Strewn among shell-midden mounds
Of humans, carved monuments
Will weather to brevity,
Loose and soft words eroded.

The hard terms will compress to gems.
Gems will be cut to facets—
In the end—of all the work
Of earth—just sparks from waves then.

10. Death and Breakfast

Jonathan Franzen
Has decided it’s over:
No stopping apocalypse.

But it’s hard to think of death,
He says, when there is breakfast,
His own, delicious breakfast.
The world isn’t listening.

Oh, the human world, okay,
Why not, perhaps. Not the rest.
It turns, with or without us.
It shifts, with or without us.

Silly little bunnies, us.
Our death is a part
Of this nutritious breakfast.

11. Inseparable

If I could knot them
Together, enough
Of the words from the shadows,

A shadow myself,
Outline occluded
By intermediaries

Between me and the same sun,
If I could smell the warmed earth
Under the ponderosas,

Hear the way the wind
Was composed, as Zhuangzi claimed,
Of the responses of things,

I could become part of it
No one winnowed out again.

12. The Immortalist

No death. I’m done with writing
About dying and all that.
Skeptical of poetry’s

I once fled to math,
To science’s cleanliness.

Now that I’ve returned to these
Nomadic tents, where words burn
Their nightsoil for warmth and light

And are, if not magical,
Still useful, I understand
The worth of dust, dung, and stench,

But I’ve burned enough
Of the poetry of death.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

But Why?

We’re wrong and we know we’re wrong.
We’re wrong and we don’t know why.
What is real in the absence

Of observers, observers
Who care, deeply, what is real?
What is this thing, this notion

That we have labeled
For knowing, the real?
How is it so distinguished
That it lets us know we’re wrong?

If nothing is more real, or
Nothing is more or less real,
Can we know? Can we be wrong?
We’re only sure something’s wrong.

Friday, October 4, 2019


1. Time-Binding Animals

Those were stars they were birthing,
Or the stars were birthing them.
Heaven it was, that birthing,
Pausing for breath each solstice,

Bleeding with every eclipse.
Strange things were important then,
Strange to us as we to them.

Snakes were immortal.
Owl chicks devoured their mothers.
Clouds came out of pines.
Salamanders savored fire.

Those nights were the most open
We ever were. Most bizarre.
We felt enclosed in their dark.

2. A Steam Engine Behind the Event Horizon

It’s all about forgetting,
Said Craig Callender
In an unintentional
Echoing of Lewis Hyde.

I keep working in the dark,
Amidst the rubble of thoughts
Lured to each other
By the promise of nothing.

You see? wrote young Joshua
Mehigan, Everything I
Know is from a book.

Same! I cried, reading
Those lines, forgetting
Where I first heard them.

3. Delphistorical

Outside is inside yourself.
Turn away, outside yourself;
Turn the inside out.

Exposed to the open air,
The self will blister and dry.
What is the soil to the air?

Nothing. And what is the air
To the soil? Nothing much, but
Necessary for living.

The mind’s true roots lie
In the enigma
Of language, ruthless fungus.

Time is relative, changes.
Space is absolutely not.

4. Summer Cottage, Winter Cottage, Caravan

She and I are green and lie
Down in weeds, sunny and dry,
Under our blue, youthful sky.

We whisper to each other
About dream homes, like secrets,
Before we kiss and undress.

Ah, yes. Fecundity breeds
Fecundity. We know this.
But emptiness alone is

Future mother of us all,
And every almost-vacuum,
Every womb and home, the whole

Is an echo wavering
Back from the nothing at all.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Thursday Evening

Sunset and hundreds
Of buzzards, dozens at least,
Literally dozens, circled

Low over the fields
Below Pine Valley.
There was a storm in the air,

Flecks of virga, gusts of wind,
But no clear reason
For the conglomeration
Of the scavengers.

I parked the car in the dust
That swirled from the yellow grass
And watched them circling, slowly,
On unambiguous wings.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Few Notes on the Many Ways That Culture Can Be Defined

1. Implausification

Definitions that adore
Concision rarely
Can be falsified.

A testable equation
Miraculously beyond
Tautology is condemned

To heavy use as a tool,
A common weapon,
Something that can split the world.

It may not want that.
Pure proof turns a wheel of prayer.
Souls that love tranquility

Consider rebirth better
As yams than as Maitreya.

2. Decommissioned Dispersed Campsites

Is culture ghostly?
Consider Plotkin’s
Definition: culture is

Non-genetic transmission
Of information.
Gravity is physical.

A wildfire is physical.
The black and white, burnt-over
Woods are physical.
But to say so’s mystical.

The maimed, half-torched pines that live
Trigger human sympathy
In a way the scorched ghosts don’t.

3. Stelae Sequelae

Once in third person, a life
Turns cultural artifact.
When we fantasize
Postmortem stories
And addenda to our lives,
We turn them into objects
That story lingers outside,
Rooting in their ruined walls.

When I was little,
I thought it was sad
Good stories had to finish.
But now I know a story
Never quits. Only readers
And storytellers finish.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


1. I Can Listen. You Can Wait.

A few weeks ago, high up
By a creek in the aspens
In a place I’d never been

(Like any place, but more so),
I was reading and thinking
This weather can’t last.

The high-country foliage,
Barely three months green,
Had that look on it,

About to flare and perish.
It was September,
Summer functionally done,

But we hung on together
For hours, small rains, large thunder.

2. Characteristic Inclinations

What saddens me about all
Those fine diagnosticians
Among the ancients,

From the Buddha to Zhuangzi,
Is how, after laying waste
To common aspirations,

They then lead one to believe
That in perceiving
Delusions one becomes free,

Affirming some things as right
And others as wrong, telling
Tales of consummate beings,

Inviting aspiration,
That sickness, to sneak back in.

3. I Am a Different Ballgame

The mind has never once died.
The mind is just the moment.
The timely is in the mind.
Spring is always in the mind.

This season springs from the mind.
This emerges in the mind.
The mind is nothing but this.

This is difficult
But not for the mind.
There’s no such time as the mind.

The two-footed often set
Off on the wrong foot.
The one-footed don't.

4. Dreams Are Not Episodes

Dreams are emotions.
The poet of winter dusk
Watches from behind a screen.
The ghost forest on the cliffs
Encircling Yankee Meadows
Reminds itself with thunder
How lightning brought it to this.

Wake up with your heart pounding.
Where is your philosophy?
Where did you set your reading
Glasses, your science, your God?
Waking life you’ve organized,
With help from ghosts, as stories.
But dreams are not episodes.

5. Never Mind

The mountains come back to mind,
Like alumni to the poem.
Yes, mind is another name

For the poem, as is soul, ghost,
Parasite. This one,
For instance, hooks in your flesh,

And releases its mountains,
Its aspens and pines, its creeks,
Its mutant variations

Of old ghost philosophies.
Here’s an angel, a shy one,
Hiding in these words, the trees,

Mouthing thoughts not thoughts as such.
Nothing must cause nothing much.