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.

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