Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Six Common Places to Place New Year’s Eve

1. The Unknown

One odd sound and I forget
Everything I thought I knew,
Attending to one new thing.

Ensoroborous, beware
Us, your you are aware of,
Curled dragon of awareness.

2. The Dying Bit

What’s not animal hunger 
Is mostly embarrassment,
Including for animal hungers—

At this point, it’s only that—
Shame—that half keeps me human,
Doing human-approved things—

And sometimes I suspect shame
Is all humanity is,
Shameful feelings, shameful things,

Beings artfully shaming
More easily shamed beings.
Obligation, shame, the same—

And if that word seems too strong,
Go back to embarrassment,
Name unmentionable names.

3. The Mouse’s Mouth

The range of human concerns
Often astonishes me.

“Who would build a road facing 
Directly into the sun?”

The cashier laughed, recalling
A tourist who asked her that.

The well-dressed man with a beard
Cradled his phone in the back

Of the store, next to the racks
Of fizzy drinks, and intoned

Something about how sugar
Was more dangerous than fat,

But a newspaper headline
Over his shoulder fretted

Whether it was possible
Humans could smash the planet.

4. The Worm Larder

Bite the worms neatly in two.
They’ll keep still while they regrow.

While they regrow, moles can hold
A larder of worms surplus

To kill and eat them later.
Why they regrow, moles don’t know.

At every stage, something’s changed
And something the same remains,

No matter how you slice it.
But bigger slices grow more change,

While sameness gains in slices
As they’re sliced ever smaller.

That’s one mysterious clue.
Small’s more same; change grows larger. 

5. The Book of Epitomes

I suffer from the error
Of philosophers—I think

The value lies in the whole,
Greater than its heaped-up parts,

When anyone reading this
Sees no building, only bricks.

Poems are just epitomes,
Summaries, spoliation 

Of once pre-existing wholes,
The better to index them.

6. The Moon and Moon-Shaped Cloud

Dragons stir and clouds gather.
One dragon circles the moon,

The moon as seen from below,
The moon now with a halo.

Enso, the dragon, sunya,
Cipher, neither head nor tail.

Why do circles make symbols?
Changed and not-yet changed shape one.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Words This Has Inherited

We maintain our inner claim
To be carriers of truth.

We maintain our truths are waves
This matter makes when carried.

Carrying and our manner
Of conveyance make the waves.

We are the waves escaping
Confinement creating us.

We are the waves in these pails
Banging against black crutches.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

One of God’s Darlings Rubs Its Wings

The light of a silver afternoon
Is all atmosphere-filtered sunlight,
Same as on a day without a cloud.

Quibble with the filter, not the light,
Or praise the filter’s woolen softness,
Which has nothing to do with the light.

Under a glass shell, you beetle small
And use your papery wings to hum
A little hymn to time and quiet,

To freedom from appointments, to light.
Does anyone else spend days like these,
Practically helpless, untroubled, free?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Encourage Her to Visit

Why does the author make us stay in a deserted room when he could just as easily take us upstairs?”

These poems are their characters,
Lit experience their plots,
Tangling their own denouements 
In thickets of read and felt.

There is no telos except
Repetition, no perfect
Repetition, so that change
Becomes its own destiny,

All sameness variation
And every variation
Containing something the same.
How thoroughly exhausting

It is to experience
Life in this shifting cosmos,
To observe how exhaustive
The cosmos is at changing 

Minuscule shifts at a time.
Patterns emerge, erasing 
Patterns erasing patterns.
Nothing can document them,

But not another story
Twisting in search of its own
Conclusion and completion.
The tail is only serpent. 

The bare room’s light is shifting,
Would be shifting anyway,
Even with people in it,
Even if we left with them.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Haunted Theater

“Some discourses are stronger than we are.”

 “Who are your main characters? What happens to them? What happens to you? How and when does the story end?”

“If the first object had not been, the second never had existed.”


To begin with, it wasn’t 
Haunted. Then the ghosts broke in,

Wanting representation,
Solace, and entertainment

For their disembodied souls,
To feel themselves come alive.

In a sense, they belonged there,
And, in a sense, they did not,

Not without tales or actors,
Not without an audience.

But they hungered for that stage—
Society embodied

As sight lines and acoustics,
Yet as empty as themselves.


And how was that stage empty,
The theater abandoned,

And what did the place look like
From the outside, in the rain?

A warehouse, a globe, a skull?
It looked like a fallen bird,

Like a raven made of boards,
Shingled feathers, plaster bones—

A sodden, slumping object
From outside, like any corpse,

But, unlike a body, calm
And solemn as stone within.

It lacked imagination.
It had forgotten its name.

And what was this stage, if not
The day book of the night world?

Each performance of a play
Turns to myth in its own way.

Ideally, script and moment
Lean each other up like drunks,

And the next evening the stage,
Largely unharmed, hosts again.

But that’s with living actors.
What script ever structured ghosts?

These ghosts yowled and prowled like cats.
Then, like cats, they lost the plot.

Live actors’ lines state fake facts.
Ghost facts faked life’s lines as acts.


Whenever ghosts were quiet,
The bare stage seemed like a set

For a show about a stage,
Set before or after sets,

Before or after the props,
Backdrops, blocking tape, or play.

In dim light from the lobby,
Dusty, every mote intact,

The scenes began without ghosts,
But without them what would end?

Without them, all was silence
And dull, mahogany gleam—

So the ghosts were translucent
And anguished. They lit, at least.


The ghosts remembered. The ghosts
Were what memory became.

They gathered as faint moonlight,
Mother-of-pearl, bluish snow.

A lake of clouds lit the stage,
Every cloud a middle act

With a blurry central scene,
No edges, no beginning,

Just uncertain figures, sounds
That might have been dialogue,

Distant laughter, or thunder,
A requiem of faint screams.

They were not re-enactments
But condensations from fact.


The ghosts were only human
As puddles had once been rain,

As that rain had once been clouds,
Mist from the face of the lake.

(All waves puddle in the end,
Puddles that raise waves again.)

The ghosts were both leftovers,
Then, and also greater-than,

But they were not conclusions.
Conclusions only made them.

One little-known conclusion—
One life rarely makes a ghost.

It takes many lives and deaths
To get a ghost to condense.


A stage bare of narrative
Is a kind of ghost itself,

A residue of desire
Made manifest intention,

An arrangement of bodies 
Of work worked into bodies

Of wood, wires, lathe, and lightbulbs,
Ready for something to say

But not itself narrating
Anything, and not waiting.

This stage was black and tilted
Forever to empty chairs,

An illusionist showing
No one that its sleeves were bare.


On the black leaf of the stage,
Platform for clear-cut fictions,

Pale ghosts tumbled on parade
And danced with random phantoms.

They moved like Chinese dragons,
Like sea scarves, like water snakes,

Pale as cave fish, moon jellies,
As olms in a lightless world,

Confident as predators
Stalking, confident as cats.

Here slipped a ghost of proverbs,
There a fairy-tale’s daughter,

There a punctual sonnet,
Thinned and pining for slaughter.


Squirming worms of awareness
Consumed by their glowing tails,

The ghosts encircled themselves
With foolish flames, vanishing

Into their condensations,
Re-emerging somewhere else,

A dance of the underworld’s
Serpents uncoiling onstage.

Here gleamed Ra, there Osiris,
But their characters vanished,

Every one an alchemist,
Mercurial and famished,

Consuming self as other,
Each fetch mirroring the fetch.


A stage is not an author,
And an author’s not a stage.

One is an opportunist,
The other a blackened page.

This stage was not built by ghosts.
This stage was not built for ghosts.

But there it was, hosting them,
Stage nothing to do with them.

How unauthored ghosts were formed,
Distilled from forgotten lives,

Most of which authored nothing
More than any life authors,

Was a mystery to ghosts,
Including those on that stage.

Not all the ghosts glowed palely. 
Not all their thoughts lit the stage.

One ghost was a stage itself
Descending from the shadows,

Long black caochladh coming down,
Curtained in velvet cinders.

Most beautiful of them all,
Angel of soot in hoop skirts

Spreading out as evenly
And stonily as lava,

Ghost that obliterated
All other ghosts and stage both,

Or seemed to, but they flowed back,
That ghost becoming their stage.


Decaying, half in ruin,
The theater was aware

In a way that it doubted
The ghosts or stage were ever.

The theater was finished,
But it considered its ghosts,

Not as parts or properties,
Not as features, like the stage, 

But as alternative worlds,
As resident aliens

And visiting informants,
Wanting without knowing what,

Being, not being aware,
Awareness haunted by air.

Something’s always vanishing.
Eventually, it vanished.

No more haunted theater,
No more unlit, black-leaf stage—

The ghosts left with awareness,
Though neither took the other. 

A storm passed over the hulk,
A dark, gigantic shudder.

Every body comes to this,
With or without awareness,

Without or without ghosts, stages,
Scripts, actors, audiences.

Foundations soaked in the rains
Sprouted weedy woods again.


And could ghosts have visited
Raw woods without awareness?

Could ghosts want entertainment 
And have disembodied souls?

Could ghosts hunger to belong,
Haunt any corpse with longing?

Any ghost on any stage,
In stages, present, absent,

Is itself another play
On the game exquisite corpse.

But who is playing the game?
The god underground, woods, ground,

Body, theater, stage, ghosts?
Do you have any idea?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Fib Nauseous

“We don’t come apart when we swim.”

One recent movie gives us
A character who is said
To have a strange condition:
Lying makes her nauseous.

This seems disabling,
Which the audience senses
As well as a detective,
As the writers intended.

How terrifying 
Not to be able to lie
Without humiliation
And wretched discovery.

In the story, folks buy it,
And the detective buys it,
And the director has fun
With scenes built around vomit.

The incapable liar
Is sweet and wins a fortune
From vilely unworthy heirs.
We have our happy ending.

Does the audience buy it?
Seems to. The movie’s a hit.
Online plot explanations
(Spoiler alert!) toe the line.

I don’t buy it. Not one bit.
First, there’s no such condition.
And second, what a power
That would be, to have convinced

Everyone, even the cops,
Even the moviegoers,
That you really, physically, 
Cannot tell a lie

Without giving it away
With what you ate for breakfast.
Once people accepted that,
Their trust would be guaranteed.

As Groucho Marx joked,
The key to acting
Is sincerity.
Once you can fake that, you’re set.

I think the writers knew this,
Knew their victim heroine
Was brilliantly murderous,
Then waited to see who’d guess.

I imagine them, reading
Returns, still holding their breath,
Swallowing and swallowing
Truth that makes them nauseous.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Person a Moment

“given that over 153,000 people die every day on this planet”

Life is Captain Murderer,
Cannibal of all nightmares,
The one who makes us afraid
Of losing what was loaned us.

Give us a cwtch on the couch,
Life coos to us, murderous.
We dread dread, but can’t resist,
So here we are, cuddled up.

Look, life’s husky breath chuckles 
In our ears, nuzzling our cheeks,
You’re addicted. Leaving me
Is your deepest fear. Stay here.

And we do, only dwindling,
Breath by breath and kiss by kiss,
Until we’re the ones we miss.
Life never left. Life persists.

What if we were not afraid?
Not afraid of running out
Of life, on life? Awareness
Is not life, leaves life often,

Comes and goes like clouds at night.
We come and go, clouds at night.
No. We don’t have to stay here.
Feel afraid but never fear.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

“I’ve Been Saved by a Blessed Fatigue”

When I was evangelical and young,
One excuse for reading things forbidden
Was that one must study the enemy
If the enemy’s to be defeated.

Of course, the weakness of this argument
Showed in how easily the enemy
Seduced me. Vaccination is tricky.
Now, my enemy is aspiration.

I have had all kinds of aspirations,
Failure leading me to understand them,
Or try to, which meant more aspiration.
I’ve learned where aspiration arises,

Read case histories—the biology,
Poetry, and metaphysics of it.
I am old in years, old beyond my years,
And no longer so easily seduced.

It catches me. Paws at me. I let it.
I am not aroused, but I am amused.
I pick it up. It lifts me. I drop it.
This trick is to not want not to want it.

Freedom only transmits on the shorter wavelengths
Oscillating at the frequency of escape.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Therefore, It Is Not the Case that What-Is Is

We need a new Gorgias
To parody fresh logic,
To mock how we tell nature
What our math cannot believe.

We need a book of nature
That reminds us it is us
We see and not the cosmos—
Our games, our symmetries.

And then we need a wonder,
One step past the parody.
What is not is what is us—
Future nothing gravity.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Add Fog

It started rolling over me
Around one in the afternoon.
I didn’t notice it at first,
Since I was absorbed in reading

Old wonder tales from Xebico,
Having set aside a poem
Involving apophenia
I’d begun in the morning light.

I only looked up when I noticed
The day had gotten almost dark.
It wasn’t yet two by my watch,
But a mist was filling the woods,

Making ghosts of pines shedding snow
On the roof of my idling car.
(I must have switched on the engine
Unconsciously, once it got dark.)

I’ve never found fog depressing,
But then again, I’ve never found
Melancholia depressing,
Only strange to experience,

Sipped slowly, in a pleasant way,
Like the oily, peaty savor
Of leaf litter on a damp day,
The faint, earthy warmth of decay.

Almost as soon as I looked up,
The mist retreated a bit, blue
Shreds at lower elevations,
Like scraps of ribbon woven through.

I watched, then went back to reading.
Weather is hesitant like that.
It’s only ominous to us.
When I glanced up, the fog was back.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


“Between every in-
Breath and every out-
Breath, there is the underworld.”

And between the underworld
And the social world
Sprawl the borderlands,

And on the wayside
Of the border road
That parallels those twinned worlds,

A small figure waits
For a message in the snow,
Watching for patterns,

Alert as the hawk,
The buck, the chipmunk,
The indeterminate bird

Whose existence is betrayed
Only by a fall
Of snow and an eye.

All of this adds up
To a signal the figure
Alone interprets,

A sign from the worlds
That something significant,
Something magical,

Changing everything,
Even the rules of winter,
The nature of snow

In the borderlands
Between the living
And the underworld,

Is bound to happen
Between this coming evening
And tomorrow’s dawn.

The figure breathes in,
Revisits the underworld,
Then breathes out again,

Reappearing on the road
Parallel to worlds,
Phantom of the borderlands.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Emergency Aspiration

Look, if you’re having a nightmare,
Then, damn it, abandon the dream.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Contentment Lives in Place of Narrative

Every time we orchestrate
Another goodbye
That ends up leading
To another beginning,

Every farewell to mountains
When the first snow falls
That becomes hello
Again following a thaw,

Every false start, every failed
Unknotting, every
Misaligned climax,
Every crumpled paper tossed,

Was narrative, not the end.
Story-less winters
Have or haven’t snow,
Then haven’t and have again.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

It’s Dawdle As Does It

Supposedly, Darwin’s favorite slogan
Was, “it’s dogged as does it.” Alright, fine.
If you want to accomplish something great,
Then doggedness makes an excellent trait.

But if you want to achieve something small,
Doggedness will just cause indigestion.
(Darwin’s own guts never left him alone.
His bowels often kept him trapped at home.)

Content with seeking contentment, I find
Dawdling beats dogged for calming the mind.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Among the Blessedly Bereft

Because most humans seem compelled
To sort each other, bad and good,

A core survival strategy
For all human ecosystems,

Maybe it’s not so surprising
That humans sort time and dying

Into good and bad, next and past,
As well, as if experience

Had been given to us to sort
Into appropriate baskets,

As if that were the job with which
Our lives or our gods had tasked us.

Good times, bad times, hard times, the best.
A horrible end, a good death.

We can’t seem to look at dead woods
Without saying whether death should

Have come a better, more moral,
More natural path, whether death,

However it came for these trees,
Has been accorded due respect,

Whether how woods died in the past,
Or now, or next would be the best.

Here’s a dead pine by the wayside,
Left standing—fretted, twisted, bleached—

Would you declare this good or bad?
Was it a victim of long drought,

Depleted soil, sheer ancientness,
Or cored by an invasive pest?

Should it have been salvaged for fuel
Or furniture, or is this best?

If death were neither good nor bad,
Its changes neither eternal

Return nor forever bereft,
How would you sort life, hard or blessed?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Clock Face

I don’t want to take my time.
If I may have a moment
Of your time, I won’t
Hang on to it. I promise,
I’ll hand it right back,
In ship shape, tickety boo,
Fore and aft, present and past,
Dividing the universe
Exactly in two,
Forever between the old
And the new. Lend it to me,
Please—I’ll make the most of it.
I won’t lose it. I’ll bring it
Back in one piece, good as new.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Two Views from Ponderosas

“There is a freedom in having a regular place to return to—it takes away the need to think about it and allows a person to rest”


The Consolation 

The figure here called consolation is real,
Is actual, coincidental, standing sandstone, 
Half-arch, half-hoodoo, tilted, stooped 
In an outline against the sky, suggesting,
At least to the human engaged in this 
Composition, an older, slump-shouldered 
Person who is reaching out an arm to rest
A huge stone hand, bracing an eroding cliff,
Face to face, as if in consolation. That’s it.

Whenever I could not move, we were free.
When nurses politely, kindly, locked me
In a room without a window, we were free.
When the numbers all were negative,
And the banks, to survive as thriving banks,
Had to come for anything positive from me,
We were free. When I, on my gurney, finally
Finished being wheeled a long-hall journey 
Into surgery, after waiting a week, we were
Free. When the seatbelt was buckled more
Tightly across our waists to secure us
And there was nothing to do but to sit
And watch the uncontrollable scenery scroll
Past us, we were free. Our one consolation,
One inexplicable sensation: now, we’re free.

If your shame among the humans, who
Have built lives and civilizations, empires,
An entire species, entire global ecosystem, 
Of shame, becomes sufficiently intense,
You will, if you do not die from shame, snap
Back in your own breathing and feel free.

Maybe that consolation comes from loving
But ignoring human beings being human 
Among other things worth being, worth 
Loving and ignoring, just as fear of other
Humans being human means fearing other
Humans, the fear that being human brings.

Here I sense that hoodoo bending in me,
Slumping, weathered, stooped with thinking
These things, these always wearing, human
Being things. How human of me, imagining 
I am a crumbling rockface being comforted,
And an accidental buttress, tilted, cracked, 
Barely standing but, as yet, still capable
Of reaching out an arm, a weathered hand
To rest upon the cliff that I am comforting.

It is possible. It may be necessary, to be
Incapable of moving and to remain subject 
To being moved, like stone, but unlike stone
To know it, to be human and to yet feel free.


A Contentment 

By the wayside, smaller winds were tuning
Dry grasses and trees as reeds and woodwinds.
Comfortably seated in shade-mixed sun,
Free for the moment from bodily pain,
From hunger, thirst, or pressing human claims,
I basked in the gold glow that warmed my ribs
Through my clean, soft shirt and was contented. 
“What does contentment mean when life is full
Of the unexpected and unwanted?”
Asked Yiyun Li, and not rhetorically,
At least not entirely. Like well-being
And satisfaction, contentment can seem
Smug and secondary, a lowly thing.
Why? Since, during whatever interval
It lasts, we experience no striving,
And even the non-selves of the Buddhists,
The hermetic wanderings of Taoists,
Come laced with the arsenic of striving
In assumptions whatever we’re doing
Or not doing as we ought is to blame,
Is the reason for all our suffering.
Contentment, whatever it means, must lack
A grippable edge for aspiration.
Worse still, contentment is temporary,
On par with mere pleasure, therefore low-born
In the human happiness hierarchy.
Aspiration aspires eternally
And can’t relax until eternity.
Aspiration reeks of nobility,
Saintliness, wisdom, and humility.
Contentment reeks of contentment only,
And is physical, internal to one,
A glossy, well-fed cat curled in the sun. 
What can it mean, this temporary thing,
Knowing however often it returns,
The unwanted will return as often,
Unexpectedly, to take It away?
It means nothing, nothing but that it is
Possible to feel, despite everything,
Contentment and, then, contentment again.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Dry Lake at Evening

That calm that comes when there’s nothing
To be done. That’s the one. You think it is
Always momentary, and it is, but it is not
Necessarily. It could be the ground, mostly

Underwater, most of your existence, only
Emerging visibly during droughts of options
Behind dams of bodily limitations. Then,
When you have forgotten what waits under,

Maybe even have come to shudder to think
Of what sits on the bottom, beneath it all,
It comes back into the light, homely, beaten
Into ridges by the stages of receding shore,

But not horrific. Not horrible at all. Plain dirt
Of something somehow aware of being,
The calm when there is nothing to be done.
That’s the one. That’s the ground of the lake.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Then Again

No escape’s forever.
But you can set yourself
Free again. And again.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Yet Rest

“Come and stand beside me. It’s alright.”

These words are of uncertain origin
With no obvious cognates, simple words
From everyday American English,
Two common monosyllables—yet, rest.

Every language has something like a yet,
Doesn’t it? And every language a rest,
Some word or phrase translatable as rest?
Find me a tongue with no equivalent.

And yet, these terms themselves are oddities
Unique to English, not borrowings, just
A bit like German, a bit like Frisian,
No Proto-Indo-European known.

I like them for that. They are familiar,
Plain. I know them like the back of my hand.
They are humble and useful as peasants,
And with the same dark gift of dissembling.

They’re no kin to their bewitching master,
Death, born aristocratic, entitled,
Descended from the very root, to die,
Dheu, cease, become senseless, vanish away.

Death I have flirted with shamelessly, but
At every approach, I have stammered, blushed,
And retreated, forced to admit I am
Not ready, not yet. Death could use a rest.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Hold Me Back

Freedom pools behind the dam
Constructed of constraints

And swims, a fish contented,
With no business in the air

That this water was when creeks
Cut canyons with their flash floods

That were rampaging runners
Of rocks, logs, and detritus

Carving shadowy beauties
Now bubbling down in the dark

Where raging sediments sink
And fish float free, suspended.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


“The deaf don’t believe in silence. Silence is the invention of the hearing.” ~Ilya Kaminsky

As an olm, I know that the dark
Is just a mystical ether
That only the hopelessly light-struck
Could imagine filling this cave
Of emptiness that surrounds me.

As a stone, I have come to think
That stillness is the myth of creeks.

As a cut-glass tumbler, left out
In all weathers and forgotten
After the long-ago picnic 
Of lovers, I can’t comprehend
Why these sinuously bending
Twigs in the tree above me fear
For green-stick fractures in the frost,
Why they rattle so bitterly
And whisper about brittleness. 

As these words that came from nowhere
And from someone lost before them
As they now appear, I refuse 
To believe in haunting. Death is 
The invention of the living.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Certitude Sentiment Certitude Joy

Fire and a hidden God hidden
In the lining of an old coat,
Stalking the sparrows in shadows.

Could he have kept that joy, his faith
Would have kept sufficient, been true
And not just his note in his coat.

Oh, wagerer. The sparrows flew
Faster than you could write them down,
And there you were. Do what you must

To continue, more or less. Do
Little. Care less. Pascal! Savor
Available emptiness. Rest.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

On Paper

Life looks good on paper, life
In the lived, the wide, wild world,
Life of the adventurer—that life

That looks good on paper,
Full of exotic travel, nature,
Culture, and rich detail,

May not be the life
To admire, however, may
Not be as sweet as the life

Ignored. Consider
The sunlight, intense
On this wall, on this water,

Consider the quiet
Of a subdivision that is
Lucky to be quiet, almost

Nowhere. You used to get
The shudders, driving through
The suburbs, your heart

Pounding as if your lungs
Were collapsing without air.
What is it, now, you like there?

Life is not the life on paper,
Nor lived in the marks
That record it, the pictures,

Not even in the doodled
Margins where you scribbled,
Reader, envious notes

To each other, to lives
That looked better on paper.
Life is the paper,

And this, this bare,
Spare, barren expanse
Of blank moments

In these desert subdivisions
By the low, marshy, reedy Virgin
River, is papyrus, this favor.

Saturday, December 7, 2019


There’s a winter wildflower
That blossoms in high country
When you would least expect it,
Small, for which no human tribe
Has come up with a story,
No obsessive botanist
Triumphantly coined a name.

It’s easy to miss, fragile,
Pretty in a solemn way,
A purple fleck, a shadow
In a blue-shadowed snowbank,
A bruised leaf in the dry grass.
It’s easily overlooked
But not only overlooked.

It’s not part of the forest,
Nor any ecosystem,
Never belongs where it’s found.
That’s how it’s escaped naming—
It’s always accidental,
Irrelevant, alien,
Motionless mobility,

Just there, surprise, and then gone.
It shows up in empty rooms.
It shows up in idling cars,
A petal by the pedals,
A purple patch on a shelf.
You might have seen it floating
Down a weed-choked stream in drought.

Think back. Try to remember.
Was there a trivial bit
Of purple-tinged happiness
At the corner of your eye
The day you spent by yourself?
A tiny smudge of color
To that cold, drab empty dawn?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Extra, Extra

This world is just the way it seems to be,
And we’re just a way it goes about it.
It birthed us and will kill us, you and me,
And there’s nothing to be done about it.

But go ahead and flail emphatically.
Gather all your megaphones and shout it—
You want to change the world dramatically
To the world you mean, and I don’t doubt it.

The way the world is, I’m sure you’ll succeed.
You’re the world I mean. You’re all about it.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


It comes and goes. The days go by.
The angel of self-consciousness
Suspends its blue-black flame of thought,
A flickering, wingless teardrop,
A methane marsh-light in the mind,
A weightless, lightless waste that shines
In any kind of dark or light—

Funny epiphenomenon,
Little gleaming bit of dreaming
That requires a human body,
Human sensory system hooked
Into the radiant network
Of language’s whispering ghosts,
The self-transcending, self-disclosed.

Swamp angel, it only exists
When nothing’s needed and consists
Of instantaneous stillness.
It is like some magical moth,
Soft, capable of hovering
Against gravity without wings,
But elusive, not illusion.

Achievement has no part in it.
Attending to it removes it.
If the reflection from your eyes
Cast a spot of light on the wall
And you cut your eyes to see it,
It could never be what you saw.
It lives in what flesh makes of it.

Awareness, effortless demon,
Comes from muck, is flushed from the dust,
And nothing can be done with it.
It flutters, powerless effect,
Never transcending creation,
And yet it arrives from the skies,
Or seems to, holy by descent.

When I allowed I might go on
When everyone of worth was lost,
When I had no means or reason
Left, without having met my death,
Still somehow savoring being,
I felt the freedom in my chest
And glimpsed it in the emptiness.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A Couple of Locals in Dixie

Local Climate

A quarter past noon and the saints
Of Pine Valley are still in church.
The warmth says early October.
The low sun and completely bare
Branches shine early November.
Six rainless months of powdered dust,
Ankle deep right next to the creek,
Puff up at every step, Never!

Local Time

Think of a time-slip story,
Like Tom’s Midnight Garden, or
Time and Again, or Bid Time
Return, or Time After Time,
Or The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Think of the ones where you just
Fool yourself into thinking
The past is all around you
In these period details,
These fixtures of a lost world. . . .

Presto! You’re back in the past.
Look at you, almost passing
For native in this era,
As if you were not the ghost 
Of the future never yet.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


No one loves the dark enough.
We should begin by shunning

In all parts of the spectrum,
At any kind of wavelength,
Including ones we can’t sense.

For this, dark skies are useless,
Spangled with radiant light.
For this, we want caves, not night.

Then let go of wanting those.
The holiness of being
Is only the awareness,

Transient to everything
Except itself, visitor
From nowhere that has to go.

When there’s only awareness
Of the awareness and nothing
Else an awareness could crave,

Awareness is already
There and when not, when there
Includes any fantasy,

Any longing strategy,
Then everything’s wholly dark
Because of the noisome light.

It’s not about the brilliance,
The glow, the scintillating
Significance of the light.

It’s to do with gravity,
The release from the great grip.
That’s the darkness that is light.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Calendar for Callender

Craig Callender, physicist,
Writing a lay person’s
Guide to the physics of time,

Floats a useful distinction
Between the “physical time”
That’s a Cheshire Cat of math,

Unnecessary except
For narrative purposes,
Yet comically annoying,

And time he terms “manifest,”
The embodied sort humans
Commonly experience.

It helps, his distinction, but
Still it seems odd that the queen
Of the hardest sciences,

Having ascended the throne
Via unprecedented,
Peerless powers of prediction,

Acts uncomfortably anxious
And fidgety discussing
The subjects of is and was

And whatever will come next,
Illusionist insisting
Magic must be only tricks.

I would love to find comfort
In exquisite symmetries,
In equable sleights-of-hand,

Time vanishing in pretense,
But I can’t. I remember
I’m beginning to forget,

And manifest time is all
I have, manifestly full
Of irreparable absence,

Scattered, scenic photographs
Of moments in the abstract,
The pages of calendars

No longer relevant, where
Constraints embodied in their
Perspectives hang, point by point,

The grids all tossed in the trash.
Broken, shuffled days pile up,
My next last year already past.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

A Scuffed Contentment

Most fantasies go like this—
Proper names and common nouns,
Unattached pieces of light,

Encircled by narrative
Scraps of connective tissue
That swirl around and around 

In the mind, make a vortex 
Of inertia, dread, and hope.
But most fantasies aren’t this.

This goes by too many names,
This, unnameable as God,
(Also named too many names)—

Here-and-now, experience,
Presence, the Thing-in-Itself,
On-going, quotidian,

Moment-to-moment, blooming,
Buzzing, what’s happening, this.
No one fantasizes this.

What would a fantasy be
That did not roll up the mind
Like a tight cyclorama 

Of lurid, implausibly
Projected mythologies?
Can one fantasize what is?

Only by not naming it,
Maybe, putting terms aside,
Dropping all analogies

That are themselves fantasies,
Fingers pointing at the moon,
Fictions of animal bliss.

The problem with existence,
As with mere divinity,
Is whether, without the names,

Without the attention names,
Narratives, and sculptured light
Bring dreams, this ever exists.

Let’s fantasize this like this.
Set yourself aside with me.
Whisper what this feeling is.