Friday, January 31, 2020

Was This the Day?

She dared not follow the sound”

What feels rare, real, and detailed 
Should feel valuable, as well—
The cold, clear, empty desert

Sky bared of contrivances,
Barren of engine noises,
Barren of human voices—

Wet scents of sun melting snow.
The shifting, matted grasses
Surrounding the creaky oaks,

Surviving through subdued days
Of low light, the frigid nights.
Deer and small birds scraping dirt.

One, two hundred years ago,
Maybe boring. Boring still,
But hard to come by, these years.

A long pause, home to no one,
No roaring, no narrative.
Maybe an axe on the wind.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Black-Headed Juncos and Blue Piñon Jays

So says the beast to the hidden,
Yes, that’s how it actually is.
That’s what always fascinates us—

The first battlefield photographs,
The video in utero,
The pink skies robots show on Mars—

Oh, so that’s how it really is.
I want to dwell a while on that,
Experience what I haven’t

And may never experience
Explicitly through my senses.
Later, I meditate on them,

My moments among other worlds,
Mediated revelations,
While considering qualia

For these familiar little birds
Within my senses, foraging
In wayside snowbanks beside me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Note: Ah, the Peach Tree

Below the short contrail of a quick jet,
Wind whipped night mists over neighborhood roofs.
No one is ever more idle than me.

The boring world is weirder and vaster
Than the most imaginative epic.
It is also, mostly, empty of death.

Both are reasons it’s called unpoetic,
But what if we avoided temptation
And forgot about counterfactuals,

Dropped those melancholy evocations
Of world-and-self that make a single life
Loom large, and focused on experience?

The clouds are never the same in the sky.
The sky never stops altering its light.
Despite all that, there’s only day and night.

Underground, cavers say, not even day,
From which they deduce there’s also not night.
They’re not wrong, but they’re also not that bright.

These lines are all I have left of not-night,
Its mist, its contrails, its neighborhood roofs.
No one has ever experienced proof.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


The autosarcophagous souls
Of forever hungry poets,
The freedom a crooked oak knows,

The fantasist’s forest shadows,
The shapes that lived only in coals,
The words that were lost in the snow,

Grass letting go of the loess,
The hermit’s cracked ceramic stove—
Inexact sameness, incomplete

Difference, no matter how closely
Confined inquiries we proposed,
Emended as soon as composed.

Monday, January 27, 2020


Wide to the sky, thrown open
To the day, to anyone—
Who wants to take an idea?

This morning, I watched the sun
Destroy something delicate,
An accidental sculpture

Of lacy ice projecting
From old snow into the dawn,
Prettily formed, quickly gone.

Don’t you mourn. Or, if you must,
Embrace memory mourning
What loss created loss lost,

Wide to the sky, thrown open,
The same sunlight making us
Taking us, mysterious.

Sunday, January 26, 2020


Although nowhere near being
A universal
Bodily function,

Poetry functions as one.
It’s surprisingly like sex—
A desire, a compulsion,

An embarrassment—
An excitement, a wonder,
A shame, a trauma—

A distant and glittering
Constellation forecasting
Immediate disaster.

Then, after that disaster,
There it is again,
A tiny bud disturbing

Burnt ground, once more a desire
And compulsion, the wonder.

Saturday, January 25, 2020


My childhood was permeated
By the highly cadenced phrases
Of a three-hundred-and-fifty

Years old translation of a set
Of two-to-three-thousand years old
Texts composed in three languages

Spanning bronze and iron ages,
Languages dead or unspoken
In my world, narratives derived

From even older, other scripts
Of older, other languages.
Yes, you may say I’ve been possessed.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Tenser’s Dreams

While never losing
A sense of wonder,
I wonder about
What amazes me,

Full wolf moon setting
In an afghan pine.
I ask entropy.
Entropy declines.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Small Words, Bright Walls

“There’s some peace in this but it’s prolific, too.”

High ceilings washed in sunlight
From tall, south-facing windows
Golden winter afternoons
In the Northern Hemisphere,

A comfortable tree stump
In the mountains in autumn
Beside a tapestried creek
Swirling its patterns of leaves,

A chapbook of poetry
Printed on creamy paper
In a chair by a cabin
Above the deep summer lake,

Or whatever you prefer—
The best world’s light and texture,
The happiest descriptions 
Floating along and away.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Ereshkigal Suggests

“Here in the abyss we make romantic science.”

One, the Fourth Option

You have some options, even if you should not pretend that they’re actual choices. There are no actual choices. You know that. You just don’t like it. It would feel better to believe in the luxury of actual choices, many actual choices, choices that truly belonged to you, just you, for you to make on your own. That would feel good. But no.

Here are your options. You are only reading this or hearing this or watching someone, an actor perhaps, mouth these words that someone else wrote. That’s option one. 

Or, you are making this up yourself, making it up as you go along, out of nothing but hand-me-down rags of language and scraps of your own memories, arranged in a pattern suggesting a continuous narrative, pure confabulation, which is you. That’s two.

Or, you are dreaming all of this while asleep at this very instant, unable to command yourself to wake up or to exert the least little bit of control over what weird event, compound person, or overwhelming emotion rushes out of these shadows at you next. Of course, that means you would have to be dreaming this directly. You could not be dreaming of reading this. That’s not an option. No one can read in their dreams. You’d have to be composing text as fast as you could read it to do that. You can’t do that. You know that. Anyway, dreaming is three.

Or, you are dead. That’s four.

Let’s go with number four for now. Bet you’ve never been dead before, not really dead. Who has, right? This will be fun.

Here’s what you can learn from accepting this last option as the true one, as the truth. For starters, even the dead get older, and even a ghost must grow up. See? Learning new stuff unavailable to the living makes accepting death much the best option. Not that you had any actual choice.


Two, the Smell

You’re not really, truly dead, of course. But you are actually down here in the land of the dead, you and these words that brought you, these words that want a dance. If you are experiencing these phrases, yes, you are already among the dead. You must be. Where did you think words came from, anyway? Your friends? Your own head? Don’t be stupid. 

You are as you are, however, hardly changed from a moment ago. That’s how the dead, the really dead, know you’re not really dead, not one of them, well, us, but alive. You’re you, still yourself, pretty much, as you’ve always been, confabulation, option two, close enough to continuous. You’re not a baby ghost. You’re not fooling anyone. That much we know about you.

Ghosts have to start all over again. The cone of light defining time’s perspective for them has pinched in, and now it opens out again. That ancient relative of yours, the one whose wake you recently, reluctantly attended? Meet the baby ghost. Was this how you imagined it? Doubt it.

Look at this thing, this little blur. Not like a baby life at all, this ghost. Not cute, not a pudgy, wide-eyed little critter, not even an anthromorph. Just a glow, or the idea of a glow, a notion, size of your thumb. Ignis fatuus, your old uncle, foolish Will o’the Wisp. 

Those little people whom various cultures were always inventing stories about—under the hill, hid in the hearth, out in the fields, those fairies and elves and huldufolk and yumboes and domovo—maybe they really were penates of sorts, words, names, ancestral spirits, household gods. Maybe that movement you half-caught at the corner of your eye, that trick of the light just now, was Grandma or your stillborn sister, dead the same month, still bashfully hanging around the house, not quite grown into themselves as yet, no bigger than tears. Ghosts are only ghosts, not living beasts of any sort, but if you had to pick an analogous life cycle, just for pretend, think of something marsupial, some pouch-born animal, something that starts squirming in the air while still absurdly neotenous, vague and helpless, hardly a shape at all. That’s a ghost beginning to grow.

They do get bigger. (We do.) And much, much cleverer. That’s how they already know you’re here. That’s how they know what you are, you living creature, probably still with your culturally predictable outfit on, pretending to have accepted option four, pretending to be dead. You stink. You stink at this, you really do, and meaning no offense. You’re flesh. They’re not. They’re only patterns, however real, not pumps and pistons. Not pulse, consumption, and excretion, like you. Real as this sentence, true, very much so, real as you, insofar as being at least, at the very least. But not breathing. Not like you.

So, they’re here. Then again, they belong here. They want to know, why are you? They want to know, and you can’t answer them yet. Don’t you dare—you’ll never escape, you’ll die for good if you try to—but you’re safe here for now, we’ll hide you. We need you for ourselves, we do, and to us you don’t yet smell, not that bad. We’re already sort of used to you.

Three, the Potion

Maybe you don’t even know yourself. Don’t know why. Don’t have a clue. Look. You’re here because you’re sick, sick to death, sick of fearing death, sick of fear, and you need healing, or at least you crave it. Immortality, really, is what you crave, what you think you need, Ah, sure could use! Oh, no. Don’t be greedy. Everyone out there, everyone alive like you, everybody in person you’ve ever met—except maybe for a while that pastor you so admired until he was exposed, and then perhaps also that charming guru—seems sick, too, similarly. So let’s go visit the ghosts, yes?

You’ve heard the dead have secrets. Ancient, whispering wisdom and secrets. Oh, quite. The dead indeed have all the secrets, all the wisdom, buried down here in the depths. Maybe you can find a few secrets out, secretively, just between us. Maybe you’ll get away with them. Maybe they’ll know. Maybe they’ll spot you. Maybe you’ll run. Maybe they won’t hunt you down.

The one you want is the potion. That’s the one. You’re not the first. You won’t be the last. But as you are at all, you are the only one. What? Only one wants the potion. Only in this version, this story, this option. The potion that can save one but only one, that can keep the ghosts from keeping you. (You don’t want the ghosts to keep you.) Go back and come back as a ghost, as you’ll have to, but don’t get caught down here alive. That’s what we mean by “don’t be greedy.” Nobody hangs around, alone with the ghosts, and survives or simply dies. It’s not immortality. It’s merely unreality, on and on, and it’s not nice.

The ghosts like to keep the potion to themselves, but it’s not for them. Weirdly, although only a miracle that has never yet happened nor been narrated could make the potion work for you, it’s made for you. Here’s what you do—


Four, the Keeper of the Ghosts

The ghosts will offer you many things. The older ghosts will offer you rivers to slake your thirst. They will tell you the potion you want is in those rivers. Wait. Those rivers will only make you sleep and forget.

They come. Look at them. Look at them all. Death makes a forest out of people lost, these glowing pillars, far theatricals. Don’t be fooled. They are tall and young and beautiful and have begun to look as gods generally tend to look to living humans—that is, angelic, superhuman. Blue and wavering, but still. So madly beautiful, sniffing for something new, a new mind to inhabit, new pond to swim in naked, you. Young as they look, don’t forget, try not to forget, these ghosts are the ones most spectacularly old, as old as ghosts of humans go, yet. Whatever is left of whatever your ancestors ever did know, they know. You want to know? You think you do.

Now you have to ask yourself, why in this blue hell was it you chose option four? You did not choose option four. Remember. You never actually had a choice. Don’t forget. Death and a trip to this Forest of Ghosts was always meant for you, always the way this was going to go. But you’re not quite gone yet. There’s still pretend. Oh, yes, you’re here, down here with us, alright, in this ghastly, bluish light. But you’re still breathing, aren’t you? We are still hiding you. We are hiding you well, that’s what’s keeping you. Time to take off your culturally specific and locally acceptable clothes. No! Not those. We mean what you think you know, you goose—we mean only what you think you know. Let the ghosts follow those by the nose. Now you can slip through.

There’s only one ghost you really need to meet, one ghost you must meet if you want even to approach the miraculous brew, never mind hope to become the only one in several thousand runs around the sun to get away with this nonsense and get safely out of the words and their netherworld. We need to bring you to the oldest ghost, the keeper of all the rest, that is.

This part’s tricky. You need to keep quiet. We need to be smart. Imaginative, even, not easy for us. Prepare yourself for judgement and an accidental death. Not just here, not just for now, but generally. It’s always best.


Five, the First One

There are no true instructions, but here are a few, crucial clues. By a simple, invented name, universally pronounceable, however fictional, the keeper, the oldest ghost, should best be addressed. Her actual name was the first name, which even she forgets. Ah, or Ee. Oh, or maybe Eh. Don’t snicker. This is not a playful game, although, yes, everything ghostly is a game of sorts, a game of names and rules, correct. But you know games can, and do often, end in death. Or begin. Or consist of, almost entirely. If there’s even one rule and a cost for flouting it, well, that’s a game, then, yes. So. Behave your best. We’re still making our descent.

Oh. See her? Down there? Or it, if you prefer? See it? The keeper of the ghosts? Ah. Yes, you see it. We can sense you, and we sense you do see. Dread. Your ancestor, that. Monstrous fungus, monstrous tree. Thousands of years growing under the earth, never once taking a breath. Young, compared to caverns, but older than any sign you’ve ever seen, any meaning you’ve ever heard personally. Now, ask. Not us. Not it. Yourself. What is it, actually, that you’re looking at? Where, precisely, is the wisdom, the secret, the magic in that?

Lichen. It’s like lichen. It’s the first, but it’s not one. The first word, first meaning, first name, first sign, mother of cultures, was not singular, could never have been one and been one. Ee. Bridge. Symbiote. Multiple symbiote—breath, gesture, referent, schema, connection, mutual function, synaptic leap between the fingertips, between the tips of the tongues. Lichen. That’s the idea. That’s the one, not one. Look at it! It’s huge, branching, fractal, glowing in acid self-defenses, linked single thing of many, many selves. Thing of naming. Tree-like, not a tree at all. Mother of God, precisely, Imperatrix Inferni, Queen of the Forests of Ghosts in the House of Hell. Now, you. Go ahead. Address it. Try.

Oh. Too late. You’ve been caught. Here you are, little body, swinging from the branching tips of this, this very pattern, first idea. You didn’t even get close to the potion, much less snuck a bellyful out within you. Now we have some rescuing to do. Oh, good god, just look at you.

Six, the Cause

Because you believe in causes, you do, you do not understand the ancient mind, you cannot read the early signs, you get strangled and hung up in the parallel compound likenesses of this spreading lichen’s branches. Now what to do?

Nothing happens in the earliest accounts of nonexistent events because of what happened first. At first, there is no cause. There is only then and after. Next.

My sister visited me once. Us, we should say. My sister visited us. She came down here to be the boss. She wasn’t the first, anymore than you’ll be the last. But when she was, she was the one. She was the only one. She wanted the throne. She wanted the potion. Actually, it wasn’t clear what she wanted. She didn’t really have a reason, anymore than we had a reason for testing her, for stripping away her magic in stages and hanging her raw corpse from the first word. Eh. But she wanted something. That was for sure.

So this is what happened with her. Maybe you’ll find it instructive. Maybe you will not. One way or the other, we’ve got to get you down from there. Can’t have you eaten by ghosts. Perish the thought.


Seven, the Last, Lost

She prepared well, my sister. We thought her armor was all in her magic accoutrements, her culture, Ah, me, the predictable outfits of her day and station, specific and locally acceptable, the lapis and mascara, the fine skirts and breastplates, that sort of thing. But no. She had taken thought beforehand, before she came to the gates of the forest, before she squeezed past the oldest, greatest ghosts, looking for me, looking for us, wanting something. Before she ended up a helpless corpse, judged and hanging from the tree of likenesses, Ah, she was wise and left instructions.

She told her most loyal person to suffer for her. She instructed her most loyal person to ask for help if and when there was clearly no triumphant return for her. We ask you—have you told anyone, anyone loyal to you, anyone willing to suffer for you, any duplicate willing to supplicate on your behalf, that you’re down here, that in the midst of your usual confabulations, option two, you have found yourself caught on option four, so similar to three but more permanently impermanent, wanting something, down here among the growing ghosts, with no magic potion to swallow, no one to free you, hanging helplessly from these likenesses, ghost words glowing all around? No. Not you.

My sister’s loyal person suffered and asked for help, again and again. She suffered well and asked politely, but was rejected. Why was she rejected? Reasons were given but they were rote reasons and always the same. Because, before there were causes, there were rituals. Before anyone needed a good reason, there were phrases, easy to repeat and memorize. Ask any fairytale. Ask any catechism. Ask any enduring religion. 

Three times my sister’s loyal, suffering friend asked for help. Only on the third try was help given. No reason for the difference, no reason for the help was given. Just enough repetition. Remember that. If you want to free yourself from this tree of likenesses, the oldest of the ghosts, the tree that is not a tree, know that it’s too late for any magic potion for you, was always too late. Don’t be greedy. Count on repetition, not on reasons, and with luck you may reascend, transcend some of this, come away with something, with luck and a loyal, long-suffering friend.

My sister had help. Her most loyal person got her help in the end. Help was sent as magic creatures, twins, mysterious names, made of a god’s fingernail dirt, casual, supernatural fingernail scrapings, no reason. This story is ancient. Because is just because in it. They played some tricks on us, those twin magic fingernail beings, and never fell for what we offered them when we were playing our own tricks of forgetfulness and thirst on them. No, they rejected tricks. They refused a drink from our underground river. They struck a bargain, instead. You will have to trick us, too. You will have to reject our tricks (too late, too late). You will have to strike your own bargain. Not the same bargain. Not the same as for them. No reason.

My sister escaped us, got out of the ghosts, out from being a helpless, hanging corpse among the ghosts, at least for then. Got out until her time came to become one. Different stories, different repetitions then. 

Your friend is not coming. You don’t have a loyal friend. You never thought to ask a promise of a friend before you started in on this, started considering your options, as suggested, before you began.

You are lost, my friend. You’re staying here with us, among the ghosts, among the most ancient compound names, all aglow without a reason. No reason. You won’t go. You won’t go on to be a ghost, either, not even when it’s your turn. Tangled up in likenesses, your story can never finish. Merely unreality, but at least you’ll never end.

Welcome to the exhaustion of options, my friend. Be glad and give in. That’s the last, lost suggestion. Be glad when giving in.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Lost Reader

Small words fallen in the dirt,
Neither agile nor inert,
Only little, dull to touch,
Wayside gravel, nothing much—

If your thoughts can rearrange
Scattered matter, find it strange,
Feel gravity fusing stars
In a word as weak as “far,”

It’s you who’s genius, not muse—
Life, not language—fire, not fuse—
Soul, not angel—ghost, not poem.
You will never make it home.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Music Is Not My Trade

Once I read a book
Pretending to be
From the point of view
Of the last woman—
The last anyone—

The last animal,
She seemed to believe—
Left roaming an Earth
Turned global buffet
And vast museum

For her memories—
Unlikely, except
Exactly correct
Spelling high-brow names.

I wanted her real.
I wanted her sane.
I wanted her world
To be as empty
As her typed words claimed—

But I knew a man
Among reference works
Wrote her up for show—
An automaton.
And then she was gone.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

A Road But Not to Town

“So winter progresses. The woodpile shrinks.” ~WH

Waking people like to say
Dreams are something to achieve.
Dreams are magic. Dreams escape.
Dreams are wishes made beliefs.

Dreaming people have no choice.
We do as our dreams demand.
We cry out without a voice.
Night’s an ocean. There’s no land.

Dreaming people will forget
We existed, once we wake.
Be glad dreams leave no regrets.
Dreamers only make mistakes.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Full of Impossible Things

“There’s no dust to sweep on a mountain.”

You have to be awake to be in the world.
Asleep, you can only rehash the human,
One reason dreams are weird.

The faintest, finest snowflakes
Blow out of the bright-blue skies,
Downy as feathers, and melt.

You are always daring the world,
And the world is always ignoring your dares
Because it is the world, unaware of being

Dared, and you always blink, since animals
Blink, and the world never blinks,
Since the world does not blink.

Little thing, little thing, at least you know
You are small, so small, and soon to go.
But do you have to risk it all always at all?

Friday, January 17, 2020

Wet Desert

The wonder’s in the bedrock,
Slipping from indurate cliffs.
It’s not something to achieve.

It’s not for your redemption,
Won’t depend on your belief.
You never have to go there.

If you do go, there it is.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Half a Bouquet

At some point, you learn
There is nothing left to do
That needs to be done.

Still you want to do
Something, finish the problem,
Accomplish something.

Still you keep writing,
Pretending to be human,
You, brute in a cage.


It is a strange cage—
No lock, no bars, open sides.
The floor looks like snow.

There is a table—
Simple flowers in a jar.
Nothing is moving,

Not so you can tell.
Well, and what will you do now,
If this is your world?


Parts of the world want
The rest of the world to give
Them what it does not.

Parts of the world want
For nothing at all, until
Other parts eat them,

Turn them into lives,
Worlds in worlds in worlds that want
What the world does not.


If there were a world
Where no life ever ended,
Nothing wrong with that.

If there were a world
Where every wish was granted,
Nothing wrong with that.

This is not that world,
But why defend it, when there’s
Nothing wrong with that?


If everything is
As is, where fantasies cease,
Deep wonder begins.

Change is relentless
In every direction, but
Directions remain

Where nothing has changed.
How can this be possible?
How can these be facts?


The world of mountains,
Whose lives spin flowers from light,
Spins on, day and night,

This cage and a home,
The changing you cannot change,
This wind in your ears.

Come to the unknown.
It is not that hard to reach.
One thought and you’re here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Live small. Spend little. Do less.
The world expands, regardless.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Cat Happy

Although some of these foliations
Are known for being badly behaved,
Affection for certain familiar
Circumstances shapes a type of love.

Pandektes—aware of awareness,
An awareness all-receiving, is
Everything, complete unto itself,
And nothing much, a filtering wisp.

To be comprehensive, it must
Deal with the incomprehensible,
But not always and not just by law.
Peace is incomprehensible, too.

We make stories; events upend them.
We make more stories of those events.
Fresh events we could not have foreseen
Set to work at once upending them.

If we contemplate time unmeasured,
Nothing ever arrives in the end.
We nap, twitch, or look for distractions,
Like something to read, to write, like this.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Cousin in the Moon

The most terrible magic,
Most mysterious wonder,
Most unacceptable truth,
Is to see that this world is

Just exactly as it seems,
While we, among its children,
Cannot help imagining
And wanting it otherwise,

A wanting that is a part
Of the exact way things are,
This way we imagine changed
Into something never was.

All the evidence suggests
That prior to the first word
The world was thick and gorgeous,
So why do we speak of this?

Animal human recall,
Even with language, stretches
Five generations at best.
Words are the ghosts of the rest.

Human fantasies are just
More ways the world produces
Differences within itself,
Contradicting selves of self.

From those who suffered the most
The fewest of us descend.
The ancestors we condemn—
We still look the most like them.

Sunday, January 12, 2020


Throat is the road to nothing,
The pathway life cut for breath.

Everything comes to nothing,
Nothing calls everything home,

And papyrus will decay
In two centuries or less,

So here, this is yours, have this.
Take this body and cut it,

Lovingly dissect these lines
And cut these words to pieces.

These throats no longer draw breath.
They might as well never had,

Might as well have been left blank
As crumble in codices.

Oh no, no one likes reading
Anatomy anymore

Who isn’t interested in
Crimes of disintegration.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Another Round

Life is a mistake rocks make,
Introducing death.
Love is a mistake death makes,
Introducing sex.

Song is a mistake sex makes,
Introducing art.
Praise is a mistake art makes,
Introducing lies.

Don’t panic. This can’t go on.
Play along. Keep cool.
Run and you’ll arouse those ghosts
Coming after you.

Truth is a mistake lies make,
Introducing trust.
God is a mistake trust makes,
Introducing us.

Friday, January 10, 2020


It jumps out of me
Whenever it jumps

Out at me, salient
Surge of happiness,

The body pulsing,
Head to toe, all heart—

A bright, empty road
In winter sunshine,

Crisp wind on old snow
In the long grasses

Of a high mesa—
Not one vehicle,

Not even a horse,
Only the body

Hosting awareness,
Fully contented

At being outside,
Alive, and alone.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Beasts and Hungry Ghosts in Hell

We are almost happy here,
Exactly as contented
As to how far we are free

From all you saints and angels,
Gods and givers of advice,
The violence of all rules.

Yes, we are contrarian.
Contrariness defines us.
Impurity becomes us.

No, we are not enlightened.
We have not found salvation.
We are not here to witness.

We do not think you should be
More like us, like our ideals,
Anything we might achieve.

If you wonder why you’re here
In these strange woods among us,
Never fear you’re one of us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Note Closet

Night, and I need a white road.
I’m not nocturnal enough
To find my way in the dark.

More than I walk, I linger.
I wait while the moon comes up.
I listen to all the notes

Shelved in these woods around me,
More information, more ghosts
Than I could ever notice,

Cerebral phosphorescence
Few poets hunt anymore,
Knowledge no one needs to know.

My woods are booke-invention,
The arca studiorum,
Scrinium literatum.

Real woods were cut to make them.
They are the woods of wonder,
Words of unknown origin,

Lovely, silent in themselves,
Often deep, each one a trunk
Rooted, surrounding their tarns

Pooled in the lap of the hills,
One kind of a magic trick,
The closest to real magic,

Meanings from meaninglessness,
Terms used to describe events
No one yet experienced.

Starlight makes the mountains strange,
Just absences in the night.
Their lesser darkness looms huge

In close and small perspective
Against the spiraling show
With greater darkness in tow.

If you could kindly find me
The moment when the white road
Starts and set me on my way,

I will unlatch this closet
And display all the labels
Of every starlit wonder,

My botanical garden
Of esoteric knowledge
About the ghosts of meaning,

The darkness in the mountains,
The woods in the swirls of stars,
The white roads out of nothing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Shadow Boxer

Daily feints and floryshes
In the forest of mirrors,
In the black woods of words—

We are practicing our moves
For when our partner is real
And evenly matched to us,

Not a mirror, not these woods,
Not the blank page, not the lines—
A reader, fabulous beast,

One familiar with the moves
And looking to add a few
More to wicked repertoire.

When monster faces monster
For an audience of ghosts,
First move to the wanderer,

Second to the hermeneut,
Who knows who will land more blows,
Whose glaring eyes glaze over

Where they fell in bloodied snow?
We spin and throw our punches,
Long form, in close, side to side.

The wind tunes the trees in sighs,
In sliding scales, whispery
Breezes, gusts, chorusing gales.

But the wonderful monster,
The shadow that matches us
For heft and reach, runs from us.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Crazed, As Craquelure

“who knew how terrible was
wisdom when it knew itself useless”

Unlike wordless song or dance,
Poetry can only be
Art humans evaluate,
Unless you believe gods think.

This kills me. This just kills me.
Sometimes, I wish for the rise
Of the robots, ones who read,
Or for words that read themselves.

Mostly, I try not to think,
Not to think too much myself,
How poems could only matter
To one trivial species.

Other poets enlarge this,
Either by giving us gods
Or making us half the world,
Architects, foes of Nature.

Some pretend we’re the whole show,
Human wars, human villains,
Human victims, human sins,
Revolutions, redemptions,

Players, stages, audience,
The whole black-box theater,
Self-sustaining as the globe
Floating through the night outside.

Then, all our names and costumes—
Tiny, symbolic details
Used to tell ourselves apart
In our masks and our makeups,

Uniforms for teams and tribes—
Our winks for audiences,
Whispered asides, cutting eyes—
Lend the poems significance.

This was my experience.
Perhaps it was also yours.
Never forgive who did this.
Never forget it was us.

Some poems aren’t human enough,
Their humanity’s blurry,
Indistinct, hard to label,
Too vague to identify.

I think I’m in there, somewhere,
Possible therianthrope
Outline under minerals,
Smeared, cracked, and calcifying,

Hard to make out, not quite right.
Do you know that weird torture
American teenagers
Were sometimes made to suffer

To keep them from casually
Screwing each other, the game
In which each teen was given
A raw, thin-shelled chicken egg

They were required to carry
With them everywhere, always,
For a set amount of time,
A week, maybe a fortnight,

Without breaking the damned thing,
Just so they would learn how tough
It is to care for something
As frail as a baby’s skull?

Unsurprisingly, research
Suggests it had no effect,
Didn’t stop kids from screwing,
Didn’t make kids good parents,

Was briefly crazy making,
That’s all, scared one’s egg would crack.
Imagine an actual 
Body, your body, that egg,

Which you will have to carry
Around with you forever,
For as long as you are you,
At least, probably longer.

That’s the body of this poem,
Bad pottery, badly glazed,
Egg-white pigmented rock art,
Encrusted, fading with age,

Carefully carried around,
Keeper of all the ashes
Any misstep could scatter
As any misstep could break.

However named or renamed,
It’s always this fragile shell,
Delicate, crazy-making,
No name can ever remake.

Sunday, January 5, 2020



Nothing begins.
Everything else
Begins again.

Epigramedias Res

“Respect for causality
Is the behavioral goal,”
But usually what happens
Behaves itself so badly

That it ends up summarized
As what can be summarized
Without respect for reasons
Of causation: it happens.


Life’s a threat,
Death a promise.
Longevity’s a threat multiplier.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

The Burning Epitaph

What are humans to humans?
One noted publication
Quotes a Kashmir shop owner—

“We have lifted bodies with
Our hands, lifted heads that are
Separate, lifted legs that

Are separate, and put them
All together into graves.”
Humans make these tragedies.

Humans are these tragedies,
Not all uniquely human—
Ritual, contempt, and love,

The burial of our dead
Dismembered by our hatreds
Then tenderly collected.

Human love scrapes out a grave
For what human contempt claimed.
Human love, human contempt.

The sorrow of human love
Sinks through depths of ritual,
Aching to find more meaning.

The strength of human contempt
Strips itself of human love,
Leaving only ritual.

The ritual burns all night
For love and contempt alike,
All together in our graves.

Friday, January 3, 2020

First Light on the Mesa

Quiet, grey desert
Morning in winter—
One black cow grazing,

Four skittish mule deer,
No trucks on the road—
Which means poetry

About what humans
Have done to humans
Feels foolish right here.

I like foolishness
Better than wisdom,
But neither right now.

And what else is there?
Beyond feckless groans
And sage pronouncements,

The ordinary
Business of a day
Turning in the light.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Oh, Pshaw! Go On

Some people write “nakedly
Darwinian” to suggest
Life’s competitive aspects

Should be cloaked in modesty,
As if there were a polite
Form of life that was loving

And kind, not trying too hard
To advance its own interests.
I agree life is loving

And kind as well as leaving,
But I suspect such loving
Kindness of false modesty.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Astonishing Accomplishment

Fantasies vanish
Who can be like this
Contented and quiet

Creating so much time
With so little
Work or effort

That person
Who is your failure
Such a shame

Has succeeded