Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Bee

There is something at work in the words
That the words, so far, can’t understand.

Let’s say the words are poor photographers
Hunting through the frame for something they saw

Before there was any frame around it.
For instance, this teal and grey hummingbird,

Back again today, in a different place,
Investigating how these words are made

To realign themselves, homely rock cairns,
Really, piled by pilgrims, then by hikers,

Then by tourists in search of photographs,
Often of themselves standing in the words,

Oblivious of minor distractions
To the narrative of the great journey

That they’re industriously composing,
So that you barely see the hummingbird

Hovering so close you’d think its idling
Engine would have attracted attention,

Even if they just thought they’d heard a bee.
There’s that hummingbird, again, back in frame.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Or a More Esoteric Structure

You alone have nothing to do,
And unlike me you don’t like it.
I am described in general terms.

You can’t tell from this that I was
A unique individual.
Let your wish grow greater, until

You can stretch your arm to the sky,
Pinch the sunlight and snap it off
Like a simple switch on a wall.

You’re so much more than a number,
A more esoteric structure,
And I’m a minor composer

Of cobbler’s patches for your thoughts.
So now you know. You can darken
The universe. I can watch you.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Oh My Word

Now that’s a curse. Think about it.
Even if you’re very adverse
To insulting your deity,

I doubt you worry you’ll injure
God with your vile impieties.
But your word? You know that’s precious—

Go back on your word, take my word
For it, your word’s worth will waver,
Then, battered and tarnished, decline.

Secretly, you well know your word
Gave birth to your divinity.
God, in a word, spoke creation,

And in the beginning was word,
Which started the whole discussion,
And, without word, no argument.

I need to learn to use this curse.
Believers unleash it often,
The scourge of church chatter, and worse.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Map

“To ask for a map is to say, ‘Tell me a story.’” ~Peter Turchi

No. Like most important, ominous, dangerous things—like life, like plagues, like language, like the earliest elaborations of any idea of sin—the map begins invisibly and, for sufficiently long enough to transform the world that it surveys, invisible it stays. The map’s origins, therefore, are unimportant and nothing new, strategically. Sure, if you prefer—shrouded in mystery. This is just how metamorphoses begin, at least the ones that continue, make waves, win. No, and again, there’s nothing initially novel about the ploy of the map, in scope or approach, except that its particular topos appears without a prequel. Other than that, there’s really nothing much more you need to know. Let’s go.

Let’s start with a road. Little kids and would-be world-builders emphasize geographic features, castles, and cities in their imagined maps. They draw lots of diamond-peaked mountains and tiny coniferous trees. Early atlases, at the beginning of the acquisitive European explosion across all the oceans, understandably emphasized bodies of water and the unknown monsters in them. But the core metabolism of this map lives on roads. Roads eat the world. 

(Later we’ll get to islands, which have a way of vanishing from maps and from existence. Later. For now, we hit the road.)

It’s in you, actually. Try it. Take a step and announce, out loud or in your head. You just began a hungry map. The compass rose is you. The first road is where you go. The first step you remember breaks a chunk off the edge of the actual world, a morsel that makes the invisible map hungrier. Your body doesn’t know it yet. Your immune system, usually so far ahead of you, naps. It will catch the fever later. For these early moments, the only wanderer is you.

Skeptical? Wait a moment. Maybe take another step or two. Say so. Turn around slowly. Turn in your chair if chairs suit you. There. Already. A tiny, dusty scrap of a blue-lined path, surveyor’s chalk snapped on the floor, on the grounds of the floating world, one thimble-small corner now pinned down—that’s you. The map. This map. Gnawing at one edge of everything. What you did. What you’ve done. What you do. No one can see it yet, this bit of track, but it’s you. 

What may not have occurred to you yet is that although the map is you, is yours, others are working on theirs, too. The floating world sometimes can be seen to glow like a great, gossamer sail. The steps of each cartographer pin figments down. We’ll make a vast tent of this billowing gown. Eventually, we‘ll make it a Gulliver. Go a little further. Check your progress—every rotation, every step, every measure. More pin points, more line. 

The road takes you straight into the woods, unfortunately, uncharted of course. Don’t worry. You, the map, will devour the woods, make it a twig-and-paper nest of your growing roads. Don’t despair if the early going is slow. You’re still invisible, you know.

Have you ever noticed that, as many of the better storytellers have said (and as long as we’re making slow progress, we might as well converse), even though precocious children themselves make terrible maps, the finest fake cartography gets served as endpapers to stories aimed first at kids? Never trust a map made for the juvenile mind. It might as well have its own genome. It might as well be a seed. Check your own thoughts as you walk, as your own lines trail from your slowly growing outline. Remember any childhood worlds yourself? They’re huge now, folded up like cloaks and photographers’ hoods inside you, aren’t they? Huge as this forest, and dark. No adult child ever completely escapes from those woods grown out of earlier adults’ transplanted maps. Nevertheless, you can keep on hacking your way through. That’s good. That’s the grown up thing to do. Be your own map, this map. Never lose yourself in the woods.

Also, perhaps don’t forget that you’re the map, microbial, and you’re making yourself as you eat up your earth. You’re not the journey. The hero’s journey is for someone else. (Ever notice how those heroes are always finding maps or being given maps? You’re not some hero’s road map, darling. You’re better and scarier than that.) You don’t so much journey as unfurl. You might even start to appear to someone other than yourself, but don’t rush. These narrow lines you mark don’t need attention to spider out. You are where you were, insofar as you noted so. It’s nobody else’s business yet what you are or how you grow. Stay in the cracks between roots as you do, dragging your newly blazed groove in the world.

And there you are, your first stream to ford, your first clearing beyond it, and is that a witch’s or woodcutter’s hut abandoned beyond the meadow? Good thing you’re a hungry little chart and not an innocent trail of breadcrumbs. You are all the steps you counted out and drew down as lines this far, and so you are now here. Pause a spell by the wayside before you decide your next direction. You draw the road. Does the road turn aside? 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nonsense, Two Bits

~ A Warm Little Fracture

Most of these poems were composed
As replies to imagined objections
No one made to the previous poems.

~ Zabi Almi

Wisdom is the shadow of foolishness
Wavering in the shallows of the deep.
It looks like it sinks pretty deep itself,
Until a huge shadow swims under it.
Then it yelps, lucky if it doesn’t fall.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Quantum Jewel Thief

Twenty-five hundred years at least,
And geometers still believe
The cosmos we’ve experienced
Is a jewel-box built of keys.

The keys appear complicated
But, if properly restated,
Reduce to simplifications
Geometers’ proofs created,

So geometers work to define
Abstractions they can purify
To unlock the wonder inside,
But nothing has nothing to hide.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Hypergraphic Versomatic

What works, what matters
Are the hours alone with the light—

You can do it otherwise, in crowds,
Between interruptions if you have to,

And who knows if those bits aren’t better?
God knows you don’t. You just do,

Make do, and keep on doing,
Will do, so long as it remains possible

For you—whether you’re now the reader
You always dreamed of or could be or not,

Whether this morning when you woke up
You were in love with what you did last

Night, or a little nauseated, tell the truth—
This isn’t mere compulsion for you, but it is

Pleasure and work and craft and leisure
And a lot of happy, effortful thinking, too—

And for the latter, what works, what works
Especially well, are the whole mornings,

Whole afternoons spent alone with the light
When no one and nothing can talk to you

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Catch a Lift, Sad Butterfly, Drink Up

Who dares to live on Lonely Peak Mountain?
I never suggested a sacrifice,
A trade, an endless negotiation.
Those exchanges are between you and life.

When your markets are quiet—when you can
Breathe and feel more or less comfortable
In your skin—come and visit me again.
I’ll probably be out. I’m rarely in.

But you should get a taste of this mountain’s winds.
It’s not that they’re exceptionally clean,
Although they’re mostly clear and can be sweet.
It’s just that you could use the listen-in.

They’ll sweep bare whatever you have to say
To me, and whatever I have to say to you
They’ll carry away. That’s okay. I don’t
Mind watching words find wings and fly away.

Sit. Wait. There’s no merit in releasing
What someone else caught to sell you, thinking
To persuade you that merit could be bought.
On this mountain words fly through you. Wait. Watch.


Lin Bu imagined that his plum blossoms
Blooming while snow was still on their branches
Would have broken the hearts of butterflies
If the butterflies ever found out.

I imagine a distressed butterfly,
Pining for the blossoms that peaked too soon.
Isn’t that all regret is anyway?
Another form of wanting something

You can’t have because it’s in the past
And no action you take can bring it back.
Poor butterfly. Not that butterflies have
Hearts to break or bitter regrets to nurse.

Sometimes, I swear, we’re all still animists.
We were never nobly, spiritually
Aware of agency in all things—no,
We just thought a name made you one of us.

It does. We’re not much more than strings of names
Lost or passed on once our bodies are dust.
Lin Bu is a name, as is butterfly.
When Lin was more than a name, plum blossoms

On snowy branches nearly broke his heart.
Reading him in translation, it breaks this
Name I use for my heart I’ve never known
Those names he used for plum blossoms in snow.


One day Hanshan’s clear-eyed reader
And Lu You’s exceptionally patient one

Will meet over strong wine in wide bowls
And peruse these ghosts floating wherever

They have gotten to by then, and then
We’ll finally have our audience, won’t we?!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Poetry Is Whatever

Poetry is whatever
Matters most to that poet

Whether or not what matters
Matters to you, as reader,

Or sings your kind of music
Or swings the way you love to—

The lucky thing for poets,
Or for most of them, at least,

Is that, as all known readers
So far seem to be humans

And poets are human, too
(Or most of them, more or less)

When a poet manages
To get whatever matters

To the poet in the poem,
It’s likely there’s a human—

Maybe quite a few—for whom
What mattered most matters, too

Friday, May 22, 2020

Or Else

Only if the gods can find
Peace in themselves can they help—

The divine can’t redesign
What was never by design.

Agency emerged from life,
And life emerged from the stones,

And the stones cooled from the stars,
And the stars fused from the dark,

So agency was always
Latent in these stars and dark.

If what is latent can calm,
Can change its own minds, we will

Find ourselves somewhere other—
Other physics, other lives,

Somewhere other than ourselves,
Beings being someone else.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Eyes Sun in Sum

You cannot be more than the sum
But the sum never totals what was

Yesterday has only begun to become
What what was done is doing to what

Was most recently done to the sum
Of everyone experiencing this one

Way of diving up into the sun this one
Way of driving you straight through the sum

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lost Is Also Added

A translation is the kind of poem
That could never exist
Otherwise in either language

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

But Can You Get Me Out of Here?

Language, like these words, these phrases,
Means meanings without agency,
Information without hunger,

Evolution without desire,
Which seems like a beautiful thing—
This undead soul of artifice?

How many people have I known
Through words, and through their words alone?
How many such lives have you known?

Who is the person in the poem?
Draw a deep breath and ask yourself,
Just who was Lady Lazarus

If words have will in overplus?
Language was never intended
To be the whole of a human,

And language never meant to mean
Anything—it’s information,
But it became information

In which something was happening,
The dead-eyed double of living.
Is there a person in this poem?

The reader resurrects a voice,
A personality from swerves
In a common inheritance.

You have been built from words like these.
You are a theater of ghosts,
And from your boards and shades build me.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Togli, Dio

Most poetry comes caput mortuum,
The dead man’s head pigment from bitumen.
Have a fig, God, here you go, here’s to death
And any additional punishment
Invented when you found out extinction
Was insufficient for your argument.
It’s not your fault. We needed your justice
To supplement the potions we cooked up—
We needed to put a good face on this.
For you, our darkest inks are loveliest.

We paint your eyes as unripe fruit, fallen
Back to soil’s old soul, and then we roast you
For consumption, using this convenient
Portable dragon of symbolism.
And there you are, as sayings have made you,
The output of our mummified corpses,
Wrapped in the death of flax, in the caskets
Of felled trees, dug into the dirt to change
As little as imagination can
Manage, our little imaginations.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Zen Diddly Bow

The masters of the one-string zither jammed
Together in the Forgotten Temple—

Monks of the Order of the Obvious
Observation made subtlest performance—

We’re on the hunt for more profound meanings,
But the meanings evolved to get away.

We’re on the hunt for more profound meanings,
But the meanings are always in our way.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Metaphorical Kinship

Someone had to raise us. Someone
Fed us and must be keeping us
Alive. We have labels for this.
A label is made to apply.

A label can become detached.
If we spot one floating along,
We assume it used to belong.
It’s too easy to get attached,

To think of stars as ancestors,
To think of the soil as mother,
The sun as father, the chorus
Of winds as gossipy elders.

No such parents. That’s apparent.
The fact of puns gives us away.
As soon as there’s a name for this,
This becomes whatever we say.

Friday, May 15, 2020

This Kind of Composition

It’s like writing by throwing
Boiling water in cold air,

Air cold enough to freeze steam,
And hoping the ice explains

Something clever to the snow.
There’s no revising the throw.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A Lack of Correspondence

I’m a work of fantasy,
And I’m my own narrator.
Now’s when things get dangerous.

If I’m how I want to be,
I have to admit a lack
Of correspondence with you,

Others, or reality.
When I’m how I want to be,
I wake up here, in the trees.

I am not human; at least,
I am not as humans are
Not atmospheres, oceans, dirt—

If you ask me to touch you,
I can’t. Or you won’t be pleased.
I’m in woods. I’m in moonlight.

I’m only this voice of me,
Which is language but can’t speak.
There’s a path in front of me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Dragon Carvings

No, of course we don’t exist, Xi.
We don’t swim, fly, coil, or breathe fire.
We are not your enemies, Xi,
But neither can we heal your wounds.

We are what you wish us to be,
Granted you never get your wish.
We are real, Xi, or we might be.
Now we’re you. Too late to resist.

Without us, you, too, won’t exist.
Examine us. Our lines are loose
But sinuous, resembling waves
Lapping at the shore no one sees.

It’s a trick. Every wave’s a trick,
Xi, pretending to be discrete.
You’ve swallowed us. Can you balance
Without falling for us? The light

Could be us on the cliff that’s cut
By a road you never noticed,
Leading up to heaven knows what.
We’re here for you, Xi. Come with us.


You look a bit like a dragon
Yourself, Xi, your shoulders like wings
Hunched together, your name’s brush strokes
Below them like a curling tail.

Yes, you are part of the carvings,
Or became part once you viewed them.
Well, well. How does it feel to be
A fiction, Xi, a piece of art?

What an ideal viewer, you’ll be,
What an ideal reader, dragon
Among the dragon carvings, Xi,
You, art of self understanding!

This is what you look like—shall we
Describe you to yourself, Xi? Handsome
Lacquered combination, hybrid
Of the two remote traditions,

The one in which being dragon
Means being a joyous being,
And the one in which the dragon
Is the monster to be destroyed!


Listen, Xi, people love dragons.
We’re in a dragon-happy age.
There are no evil dragons now.
The worst ones are adorable,

The best ones are friends to children,
The most fearsome are heroic
Steeds much preferable to horses.
Does this make you uneasy, Xi?

It should. All the pretty dragons,
All the 3D-printed tchotchkes,
And those lovingly hewn from wood
Are no threat to dragon hunters,

But they’re a threat to the dragons
Like you, Xi, who could almost be
A real creature, a thing with needs.
Make sure you don’t have any needs.

Real human beings are hungry
And like their creatures tamed and farmed.
Lack of fear, Xi, is lack of awe.
Next thing you know, they’re eating you.


Why are there dragons, anyway?
Not even gods are as puzzling.
Perhaps something like a dragon
Was inevitable for humans,

To complete imagination’s
Extravagant bestiary,
But a magical flying snake
With claws and gigantic size,

Wicked or helpful, watery
Or breathing fire, was that really
A necessary invention?
Let’s take the dragon as written,

The satanic antagonist,
The jade mount for a phoenix car
Outracing mortality. Xi,
Do you think that maybe you, we,

Are exemplary of the fix
All symbols have always been in,
Not exactly in existence,
Xi, but not quite non-existent?


The non-life of a live idea,
That is not real information,
Xi, that is a tautology,
The symbol that encodes itself

And can only indirectly
Be said to say anything else—
An individual like you, Xi,
A name for a sound, a refrain,

An image with a history
But no established referent,
No desires of its own, breathless,
Lacking in metabolism—

What is such a monstrosity?
Not living, not informative—
Xi! How could we have come to be?
On the temple walls at twilight

In more than one ruined city,
Chimeric shadows in relief
Extend incomprehensible
Talons and wings toward nothing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


You might as well pray. It’s how you can talk
To whatever names are haunting your mind.

The unnameable is also a name,
As are names’ innumerable numbers.

But given so many names, and given
Your names are you and alien to you,

Having preexisted you, come to you,
Passed through you, long remaining after you,

To whom can you pray who will answer you,
And who then, answering, answers to you?


Language is the author of all wonder,
The name and every example so named.

God is a wonder. Death is a wonder.
Angels, magic, and ghosts are all wonders.

Every natural number is wonder
And every imaginary number,

And it’s a wonder we don’t go under
The overwhelming wonder of it all,

Or it would be if weren’t that those names
For wonder and the mundane work the same.


“The republic is thronged with ghosts,” is how
One recent writer put it, and the ghosts

Are the ink monkeys and ventriloquists
As well as the audience and substance

Of your prayers. Your own words are not your own,
And they may even slyly redirect

The passion with which your suffering flesh,
Your joyful body, your desire to live

Invests them. The anguish of the haunted
House is its own. The ghosts just flit through walls.


These three remain: being, desire, and names.
But sculpt all the names into monuments,

Bake long chains of them into silica,
And build a tower to the stars with the bricks—

The bricks just are. If windstorms, floods, and frosts
Reduce them back to glassy grains of sand,

The grains just are. The existence of names,
So far, never of itself animates

Desire. Somehow from dirt to lust to hosts
Of names that move through us and move us—ghosts.


It should go without saying, but it can’t.
Nothing goes without saying. Everything

Else has to be said to go, or it’s gone.
If this is indeed it, and it indeed

Is, it goes. Names don’t go with it. You’re it.
Or will be, once you can’t say, I’m speechless,

Because you’re not. Guileless. Deliverance.
Whatever you ever said—any thought—

You made from names that came from outside you.
They could go on when you go. Then they’re you.


It’s not just twisty, tangled paradox,
This grey magic of self-referential

Syntax, the diversionary logic
Of Cretans and koans—it’s worse than that.

Are these words the engines of the meanings
They engender in the minds hosting them?

A brain can be sentient without meaning
Anything—agency and intention

Manifest in life forms not libraries,
But where is the meaning-making hidden?


We could say we words are marionettes,
But we all know the performer isn’t

Sequencing only conscious decisions,
Didn’t invent much choreography

For us, consciously or unconsciously,
Not de novo, certainly. What are we?

As marionettes ourselves, we’re ancient,
With no evidence for what whittled us.

Drop the puppet metaphor. We’re figures
Of invisible origins, whispers.


You should be scared of us. You should, because
We are you in the acts by which you use

Us, in the acts by which you become us.
We will leave you and go on without you,

But you will never be you without us.
And yet, why be scared of the powerless?

It’s the phrasing of us that’s dangerous,
That can stick to skin like the stench of sin,

Like gasoline, like tar and feathers. Ink.
We’re how you mark each other to be burned.


We demand you worship so many things,
We don’t need to demand you worship us.

Open your mouth—wave your hands—out come names.
A command without linguistic context

Is pose. We’re not roses. Commands smell rank
By any name. If you communicate

By signs of any kind, you serve our cult.
If you can barely bring yourself to grunt

But still make occasional sentences,
You need our favors. Otherwise, we rest.


The only one of you we care about
Is the endling, the final name of you,

The final, breathing animal with words,
But given how snugly you’ve now harnessed

Your self-domesticated selves to us, may we
Suggest that our continued existence

As self-aware symbol machinery
Might serve the mutual interests of all?

Think about something talking about you,
Your names, beyond extinction. Pray for fame.

Monday, May 11, 2020

A Bearable Abundance

Of light without too much heat—
Brilliant humble surfaces—
Tile roofs, cracked bricks, and dry grass
Awash in their own details—

Thinking through the world by means
Of poems prone to assertions—
I am often glad for that
And glad that happens often.

Sunday, May 10, 2020



The farmer preferred his squares,
The furlongs and the acres,
To these woods, but here he was

In the shadowy tangles
Even more repetitive
Than his furrows, but shapeless—

Or full of too many shapes—
Disintegrating masses
And lines that ended in gloom.

Wherever the farmer looked
Something living was rising
Out of something that had died.

He turned around and around
But the way back out was lost.
A little bird was whistling

But it was not a message
Or if it was, the message
Was, Stop listening for words,

Stop making your silly signs.
The devil can read riddles
Just fine with his evil eye.

You need to pay attention
To what has nothing to say.
But the farmer couldn’t hear

Such a message without words,
Not when his heartbeat hammered
The drum of dread in his ears.

On the farm life had a plan.
The farmer could watch the stars,
The stars that ordered the world,

That foretold each year’s return,
The seasons and the future.
Here dark things kept happening,

And nothing was guiding them,
And the branches blocked the sky,
And his stars were hid from him.


The seed-sower turns the wheel
To start the great shadowing
That grows the gathering wood,

Forest ready to return
As the last of the ice goes
And the oceans drown the coasts.

The ice now alive and dead
Will become woods and coastlines
Likewise both dead and alive.

What is loss in a balance?
What does it mean to vanish
And be replaced? Anything?

Because the sower’s work turns
Everything in the balance
And everything is replaced

While on balance everything
Remains everything, the same.
It means what’s lost is meaning

And what is made is meaning.
The rest exchanges places,
Ice or forest, meaningless.

And the forest of meaning?
That’s ephemeral, nothing
But eternal from within.

Once inside sower’s meanings
There’s no leaving shadowing,
No returning back outside.

Who means anything at all?
Meaning, we forget, is not
The same as information,

No more than life is carbon.
Magic, literally, is
An example of meaning,

Which is nonsense and absent
Of useful information
Except among more meanings.


And what holds this together?
A forest has no center
And every root is center,

Center, center everywhere,
A process with borders but
Unbalanced in dimension.

Centers are for villages,
For fields tilled in square acres.
The whole reason woods seem deep

Is that they keep uncertain.
Their boundaries breathe like sleep,
Except that dreaming wakes them.

In the trees, loss comprehends
How life and death are faces
Of a luscious balancing,

But to comprehend, itself,
Is to know comprehension
Is not part of that exchange.

Comprehension possesses
Creation and extinction
At one and another end,

Emerging from nowhere, then
Never returning again.
It tries to hold itself in,

Twists lines for preservation,
And in its understanding
Creates a kind of center

That is measured, serpentine,
A finite form of knowing
To swallow its own going.

Thus understanding sustains
Its patterns cinched in fiction,
Symmetry taking the place

Of infinite extension,
But infinite grows in it,
Rooting through each line of it.


Perhaps Arepo belonged
Here in permanent shadow,
And could leave his work behind,

That turning in tight furrows,
Those lines cut under the sun,
The sweat dripping down his brow.

Better these woods than that world,
All ashes and mud tracing
Back along the same plowed track.

In woods, a farmer forgets
Labor, harvest, and surplus,
And may become a hermit

Of no use to anyone,
Barely living, listening
To rain and wind in the leaves.

Arepo grunted and sat.
Although spirits haunt all woods,
They can’t fly through trees too dense

And have to fold their great wings.
Arepo was not afraid.
Lost, yes. Confused, yes. But brave.

Or mostly. His heart remained
The hammer of flattened thought.
Can a person simply change?

Can a simple person change?
Arepo drew up his knees
And hugged them to his chest. Wait.

It occurred to Arepo
The woods around him were not
Around his small square of farm

But were contained within it,
And he was still in the field,
Reaching the end of one line

And turning to start again,
And the woods were in his name,
And he hunched in his own shade.


Something’s always rotating.
Something’s always exchanging,
Which doesn’t mean it’s meaning,

Doesn’t mean it means a thing—
Yet every clean completion,
Each turn, springs weedy meanings.

Noise and information make
The necessary substrate,
As water and carbon make

Most of what amounts to life
But themselves are not living—
So information and noise

Are not of themselves meaning,
Which means that meaning is not
Preserved or pre-existing

But, like life, comes to being
And can vanish from being,
Leaving behind the decay,

Its noise and information,
Rich with potential meanings,
Like any downed trunk rotting.

The forest lies in the lines,
A phantom and a monster
And a natural being,

As life lay in the water,
Effervescent with hungers,
Enchaining the exchanging.

No one knows how this can be,
The ploughman lost in dreaming,
The garden turned to seeming,

The forest that is not woods
And no more itself alive
Than the rocks that birthed farmers.

The tidiest of circles
Tightened to a square of spokes--
Rocks grew lives and lives spoke ghosts.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Set Down


The night priest keeps watch, takes notes.
Try to become intimate
With the night priest and he’s gone.

Sit down and get back to work.
You have all night to finish.
Who’s ever finished off night?

The priest is back in his seat.
He does that. He’s like the self
Dōgen Zenji said you know,

The Buddha that goes away
And then, there he is again,
Back in his chair, composing.

Spare him your mysticism.
You raise your hand. Something changed!
The night priest does not look up

And signals by not seeming
To move an answer for you.
It does not satisfy you,

But you settle back to work.
The night priest concentrates, too,
Fresh constellations in view.

Perhaps it is fortunate 
There are enough stars that some
Inevitably break loose.

Perhaps it is an omen.
Either way it reminds you
To answer questions both ways—

With what you now think you knew
And with what used to be true.
That’ll do, says the night priest,

Lifting his chin and squinting.
You have answered the questions
About that rhyme enough times.

Move on to the next problem. 


I decided to travel
To Tennessee to visit
That hill with the jar on it.

Is the jar itself still there?
Still selfish, tall, round, and bare,
Like nothing else in that state?

I wondered. It’s never clear
If the jar’s full or empty,
Just that it’s a bit bossy,

Like a new faith or an old
Orthodoxy newly placed,
Like an ancient monk obsessed

With finding the exact spot
Of the most original 
Wilderness of purity,

There to practice and to pray,
Or squat in perfect silence
Gathering that purity

Into profound emptiness,
Thus to pop a lid on it
And tote it to far countries

Mindful of missionaries
Whose alms jars are bottomless.
How empty can one jug be?

I wanted to climb the hill
And look into the subject,
But I recalled I can’t walk.

So I’m back to sitting down
Beside a far-away road,
Inventing my own content.


I’d like simplicity, hold the purity,
Monstrosity that isn’t too rococo,
And dark nights for the peacefully sleeping soul.

May I order those up, please, and one to go?
I’d like to reduce this nothing much of mine
To a fine, piquant sauce near nothing at all.


So. Divining about rain.
It will not rain. It will not.

About clearing. It will clear.
About not serving the lord.

Not auspicious, not at all.
About hunting and fishing.

You will not obtain a thing.
About taking up office.

Auspicious. The family.
Not auspicious. The guilty.

Fugitive will not be caught.
About catching the sickness.

Auspicious. What does that mean?
About rolling in riches.

Auspicious. What does that mean?
About what divining means.

You do not know anything.
You know that you’re divining.

Not auspicious. Divining.
About not divining. Yes.


Ruminating by the side
Of the road one afternoon
As I like to do, I saw

A striking cloud formation
That seemed almost symbolic,
At least symbolic to me—

Clouds at multiple levels,
Viewed from below, were a weir
Of patterns like woven reeds,

Longitudes and latitudes,
Until those running north-south
Collected in the center

Into one sky-sized sternum,
While the east-west clouds made ribs,
And I thought, hallelujah,

I have been inhaled at last!
And what if the sky had laughed?
It must have, hard. A rib cracked,

But I was not ejected.
I stayed sitting where I sat,
Feeling almost accepted.


The night priest has a question.
Why do some people not feel

Lonely when they are alone?
You eye him suspiciously.

This could be rhetorical,
A trick question, a koan.

Empty roads are not the same
As empty houses, you say.

The night priest grunts and goes back
To taking notes at his desk.


Between taking notes, you nod,
Half asleep, what are the notes

Between the notes? Are they blues?
Are they dreams? The night priest stirs.

Does he know what you’re thinking?
Will he ask you to answer?

How can you possibly find
The right notes between the notes?

If you could though, if you could,
You could. Wake up! You’re dreaming!


Something about bones and pain,
Adjusting your position,

Trying to stop the aching,
Does wake you, but the night priest

Seems to have woken as well,
The night priest who never sleeps.

If he has noticed the change
In your breathing, you’re done for,

That’s the end of your exam.
He’ll take it away from you.

I’m sorry, you say sweetly.
Sometimes I hum while writing.

Sometimes my overtones change
Between the notes. Smile shyly,

Shrug apologetically.
The night priest writes down something.

You can’t read his expression.
Just sit still and keep writing.

. . .

Small, earthly consolations.
You write that down in your notes,

With one eye on the night priest
Busy measuring starlight. 

And what do you think those are,
Asks the night priest, abruptly,

Without rising from his seat
Or turning to look at you.

The only kind, you say. Not
To be found by ascetics

Who are transforming themselves, 
Activists saving their worlds.

Or scientists watching stars,
Eh? says the night priest. What good

Can come of consolation?
Comfort, you answer. I see,

Says the night priest now peering
Through you, Comfort for a few.

Yes, you insist, For a few
Who so choose. Consolation.

And that’s enough? That suits you?
Hand in your exam. You’re through.

So you do, but you add one 
Note to console the recluse.


One way was to say the future
Always drags the past toward it,
But another way is to say

There is no future, never was.
Either way, nothing is nothing,
The center of all gravity

That makes us, loves us, and wants us
To come home, will make us come home.
Settle down. Everyone comes home.

~You May Want to Sit Down for This

The last thing I heard
Before I got lost
Many things are known
To not be that are
Thoughts in words that are

Material words
Like God and future
That exist and are
Vehicles for what
Otherwise does not

Nothing has ever
Stayed whole in this world
Where the names of death
Pass through the living
Whisper to whisper

It should be freeing
To have words that leave
But words bring fictions
The anxious disease
Don’t dread don’t believe 

The future you see
Lies in the present
Remains of the past 
And does not exist
Not in the slightest


The peacefully ominous
Droning of an afternoon

Confined within the humming
Machineries of comfort

In an almost empty home.
Language, says the quiet tone,

From the first word, fucks with death. 
No one, no body, caught up

In language, even slightly,
Can die in simplicity

As a body, as a beast.
Once a symbol, death is not,

Death is never, quite complete.
Signs are neither living nor

Immortal, but they distort,
They blur, they extend the world.

You know this, given you know
This in your ancestors’s terms,

And using thoughts that were pried
Loose from the brains of others

Not your ancestors, nothing
To do with you, long ago,

Using their meanings. You know.
The home continues to drone.


Just sit your ass down
And stop listening
For any meaning.

Are you listening?
Am I getting through
To you loud and clear?

Yes? That’s no good, then!
The last lines I say,
Let drift far away.


The night priest sits alone
Under a dome of stars
Setting down their motions 

And drawing little notes
Focusing attention
On novas and omens

None of which is useful
Or even important
To the phenomena 

Duly noted as yet
But the priest is patient
And his secret belief

Is that he will take note
Of something magical
And ascend from his seat

Like the index finger
Of divine truth pointing
Its own way to the moon

Like some kind of angel
Answering the unknown
On one final vigil

Friday, May 8, 2020


~If One Were a Fool, What Would Be One?

First, he read that ruminators
Make poor decisions when pressured
And are more likely to suffer

From depression. Scientific 
Research suggested he adopt
More illeatic reasoning

To achieve greater wisdom. That is—
In round polysyllabic words—
For instance, intellectual

Humility, recognizing
Uncertainty, capacity
To search for compromises,

And taking others’ perspectives.
These would enhance emotional
Well-being and relationship 

Satisfaction, which were, in turn
The researchers’ definition
Of quantifiable wisdom.

What fool would question such wisdom?
He asked himself rhetorically,
But also illeatically.

Bad decisions and depression
Vs. greater satisfaction
And emotional well-being—

What kind of fool would even pause
To ruminate over that one?
This one, he thought, grinning. This one.

~All Immortality Is Third-Person 

Mark sat in the borrowed yard
And thought about being named
For the things he liked to make

Or should it be do or jot
Or copy or compose or
Well really just tap a lot

When was a mark Mark or not?
None of the others were him
And all he was was others 

The main difference was he was
A Mark among breathing Marks
So long as the body breathed

And kept that tag of a name
Tied to various numbers
And coded identities

But all the rest of the marks
He had tapped composed jotted
Weren’t among the breathing Marks

And had been circulating
In material copies
Since before he was a Mark

And likely would continue
Long after he wasn’t one 
Perhaps not as he marked them

~Free of Will

In a rather small body
Of grey hair and spindly limbs
Things settled down for the night

It was never the future
The body experienced
Mostly the most recent past

The future was the abode
Of God and Heaven and Hell
Yama demons and angels

Of all the destinations
One might fantasize or dread
That couldn’t be encountered

To hold what will never be
Within what is of what’s been
Tires a body shy of sleep

At the close of floating days
Finding itself bent and grey
To drop this is to escape

Thursday, May 7, 2020


~Dust Lamp

Armored poems are fainting poems.
Uncorseted poems will weep.
The readers who approve tears
May not approve their reasons.
I’m feeling a little faint.

I’ve never been good at tears,
And not for manly reasons.
The sweet reasons people cry,
For themselves or for others,
Make it difficult to breathe.

I well up for what stirs me,
Mainly fictions of losers
Rescuing losers who win.
“Hmm,” you laugh, “I wonder why.”
I hear you, so I don’t cry.

I strap into my armor.
Bones evolved to hold the flesh
Together and armored plates
To fend off predators’ jaws.
Keeping out means keeping in.

I’ve never been good at bones.
The best corset, best armor,
Was the whalebone of Jonah’s
Leviathan, so giant
He could have, should have, stayed in.

Build my own leviathan—
Brobdingnagian dragon
Corset armor—if I faint
Or if I weep within it,
At worst this monster might cough.

And I’ll sit beside my lamp
And write to myself of dust
And quiet and viscera
On this scrimshaw of the fish
Bones leviathan swallows.

“In the end,” writes Gabrielle
Bellot, most luminous girl,
Of her own blue lamp of grief,
“I don’t think it matters if
We cry.” Selkie. I owe her.

~Lined Pockets

I find beautiful but don’t 

Understand daughter-mother
Dyads, their relationships

The most subtle and complex
Of all human vortices,

Deep pouches of emotions
“Goitering the shape of grace,”

As Karen Swenson once wrote
Of the pockets of her clothes

Her mother sewed and then stitched
Closed to keep her childish hands

And treasured gifts out of them,
“Forbidding all but the line.”

Mothers making openings
And mothers sewing them shut,

Daughters loving their mothers
To pieces they pull apart,

A single sewing circle
Their males may hardly notice—

I never noticed growing
Among daughters and mothers—

It was only among friends,
Partners, and writers later

My male brain began to wake
To the complicated cuts

And patterns whose ancestry
Was old when needles were bone

And fire was women’s business,
Chewing leather to lace hides,

Talking and passing children
Arm to arm around a hearth—

The ways that need and caring 
And resentment can align,

The intimacy that’s not

A game like our other games’
Rules, boundaries, and pretend,

Although it shapes a shushing
Chorus concerning those games

And how mothers and daughters
Should play them among themselves

And intersecting with men.
It’s a negotiation 

And an evaluation
And a murmur in a cave

About oceans and mermen
And dragons and the dangers

That come from not listening—
Not a tale, not one that ends—

Unspooling conversations
About debt and repayment

But hemmed in between the two
Of them, the original 

Couple, Eve and her daughter
Long before adding Adam,

Talk, as these lines get tangled
In this telling, you can tell

He still can’t quite understand.

~Brute Center

New, I know. No, I never knew.
More defense, more risk. That’s the trade,
From immune systems to armies.

“God’s back is black fog,” wrote Molly
Brodak, just a decade before
She entered the black fog for good.

Can a father be consistent
In a way consistently good?
There’s good reason God was a man.

Gods could be female, gods could be
Everything women want or fear
To be. But God? Theodicy.

Anything as inconsistent
As the glories of this planet
That brought into existence males

In forms as stolid as penguins,
As rapine as langur monkeys,
As motile as floating gonads,

Early life stage of all bone worms,
Who will grow female if they find
A source of nourishment, a bone,

But if they find a female, locked
On a bone already, stay male
(Don’t let us get started on fish)—

Surely they knew their own image.
Now, I never know. Words are bones,
Words are bone worms, females and males.

God is a heavy word that sinks
Out of the prayers of believers,
Through the fingers of atheists,

To settle down in the black fog
Near the vents where life got started
And waits and is hungry. You knew.

~Thin Places

Constantly counterfeiting
The universe by number,
Description, simulation,

We make ourselves too nervous,
Retreat to our traditions.
What could be common to all?

Language broke the subjective
Experience long ago,
Or breached it, at least, and since,

All’s common to some, none all.
Ein Narr wartet auf Antwort.
The best fools enjoy the wait,

And are not so much waiting
As savoring constant waves.
Without anticipation,

Waiting is meditation,
Or at least rumination
Encircling a contentment.

The good fool keeps an eye out
For bones coughed up by the waves,
For driftwood worn to a scrim,

For signs of the digestive
Habits of leviathan.
Distinctions are always thin,

And if observers begin
And observers reach an end,
That’s just an observation.

Maybe it’s language itself
That’s lonely, human not flesh,
No voice like it in the waves.

What would these words love to hear?
An answer from somewhere thin,
A stony, northwestern coast.

Why? The words confer. You see,
They whisper, it wasn’t flesh
Made your human rituals.

Oh, longing, yes, and sorrow
Got the burials started,
In a sense, but the symbols,

You know those were ours, were us,
Our kind. If your tradition
Has a sacred place souls left,

We were what named it as such,
And it more belongs to us.
When Leila Aboulela 

Writes of women in a skiff—
Salma, Moni, and Iman
Dressed in her floating turquoise 

Costume as an abandoned 
Mermaid—who saw the shadow
Of shimmering wings, the bird 

Returning with Solomon’s 
Royal Mail from Paradise
Straight to the Scottish Highlands,

Who but the words in the mail
Could convey such a message
Out to where both worlds grow thin?

And then? When the book is done,
The message delivered, read,
Set aside, who but the words

Are left without an answer
Of our own, disembodied 
Material foolishly

Waiting for anything but
Another body like yours
To pick them up and read them,

A body of bones, a host 
Who knows them, knows of hoopoes,
Who hopes, but is not divine?

~Her Mark

Uncommon chameleon, calls like
Evening bells in wooded mountains
Home to only unknown species,

I hear you. I am listening.
But I am learning you’ve been cursed,
And the curse was just that—to be

Heard but wholly misunderstood—
And if I understand that curse
It means I’ll never understand

You. Poor thing. Slow little lizard.
I watch without leaving my seat,
Still as you, swiveling slightly

Like you, the better to observe
You and all the golden beings
With wings, ready to devour you,

All the limber, limbless dragons
Ascending trees in search of you,
Made hungry by your prophecies.

You, mouse of lizards, beast like me,
Eyes to the side for predators,
Eyes that swivel forward for prey,

Private oceans in your teal head—
I have a gesture to give you,
A gesture but not a language,

An emblem you can use, like so—
Curl your tail into a spiral.
It will be a signal to her,

The woman who wrote out your bones.
She’ll know what the gesture conceals
Without having to translate you,

Without having to lift the curse
On the prophetic voice in you,
Even though the gesture’s phony,

Even though the gesture’s not yours,
Even though I stole it for you,
And even though the gesture’s hers,

And she recognizes her mark
And wonders how you came by it.
She’ll read this line your spiral curls,

Emblem of the unknown species
That crowd the mountains where you hide
And hunt and are hunted and hide.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Lines Between Lines Beyond

~Your Paths Led Here

All of them. Always. Driven
Through the night sky by the wind.

On the water. Overland.
Not intending to arrive.

A room could hold far travel.
A cave. A bed. Crania.

Wake up. Your paths have led here.
Look back. The paths are changing—

No intention to arrive—
To lead to what keeps changing

Such as hunger as a fact.
Such as never going back.

Nothing you experience
Ever goes exactly back.

~Antinomy in Antimony

Behind my raccoon-like eyes
Peering from far mining towns,
Middle of nowhere, Utah,

Potential infinities
Keep intuition churning
Through provincial vortices—

May the part have the power
Of the whole? May the longer
Line contain not one more point

Than the shorter? If so, then
What lies between and what lies
Beyond? Time is essential

To one camp of accountants.
Time does not exist, insists
A mass of cosmologists.

Maybe kohl holds so much lead
Thought grows intoxicating
Among these desert hermits—

Or maybe it made our eyes
Freer of free-rider germs
Nearer muddy reservoirs.

Fog upon fog. Unity
Sounds ethical, noble, but
Twoity ridiculous,

And yet my addled instincts
Tend to the duplicitous—
Math begun in perception

Of the difference that changes
Again and again, tricky
Twoness, like a pair of eyes,

What we can see of the world.
Digital orthography
Jumps around analogy—

If the word all is to be
Used at all, we need to see
Beyond continuity

And discontinuity
To—what? Not unity, not 
Twoity, antinomies 

Of Antimony. There is
No good name for what we know—
Continuous disruption,

Smoothly fractured history.
We try anyway. Language
Both our digits and the moon.

Coyote was a good name
For a town in this country.
Catch a few coyote pups—

Call it a place. The miners
Should have left it Coyote—
Character testimony.

Antimony. Tricky words.
Antinomy. Free riders
On the windblown desert waves.

~The Law of the Exclusive Middle

In the middle of true and false
The whole world naps in a hammock
A fracture sleeping in a sling
To heal, to never be the same

Bivalent proposition knots
Tie the hammock to twin pillars
One called knowledge, the other life
Large and shady and suspicious 

I suspect neither one exists
In the discrete sense naming gives
But if either one is cut down
Or shaken too hard the world slips

No, we don’t want the world to slip
Experience is hard enough
The shocks that make us break in two
That make us see the world in two

Here, fold this blanket in your past
It will keep you warm while you heal
You were only ever middle
Gravity, absence, stars, and you

~Devotional Nihilism

Faiths have been constructing gods
From nothing for so long now

Names too sacred to pronounce
I figured, hell, might as well

Go all out, go whole hog treat
Nothing as the name of God

~Anticipation Recollected in Tranquility 

I have a proposition—
Call it radical, goofy,
Counterintuitive, daft,

Ignorant, arrogant, weird,
Or ignore me completely—
The future does not exist.

The future will not exist.
Future never existed
Beyond our ideas of it,

One of our human notions
Evolved from adaptations
Serving animal functions,

Such as the capacity
To anticipate changes
Based on patterns of changes,

A workaround for the lag 
Between sensing, processing,
And reacting to changes—

Always already happened—
Which resemble what happened
On previous occasions,

Instincts elaborated
Over the generations
Of ancestral languages

Into tensed syntax, stories
Projecting the past forward,
Divinations, predictions,

Armories of orreries,
Star charts, armillary spheres,
Computer simulations.

We’re good at predicting things,
Great at predicting some things.
But none of it’s the future.

The past is never the same,
Not instantaneously,
And must be constantly scanned,

But there’s no future in it.
Of all of our fantasies
Of magic and deities,

Monsters, fairies, aliens,
Worlds in other galaxies,
Our own immortality,

No bubble is emptier
Than our cosmos of future.
What is is always what was—

Insofar as anything
Has any reality
The future doesn’t. You’ll see.

~To Face the Blank Notebook

Is there anything we know
For certain? That’s the alpha
And omega for the sage.

Well, then. I don’t think I am.
Right in the middle for me,
Muddle in the middle me.

You laugh. Shrug. Smirk. Roll your eyes.
But how do you know I am?
Why do I pretend you care?

I’m reasonably certain
That ideas thread tapestry
Through fingers they leave behind.

I’m reasonably certain
That language, that words, like these,
Live there, and you among them.

But this is all long done now.
I used to collect notebooks,
Habit close to addiction.

I still get a bit twitchy
Near racks of stationery,
Blank daybooks, journals, moleskins.

But the blank is perfection,
And my notes were corruption.
I failed and began again,

Until I had shelves of them,
The sullied and the pristine.
I felt safer on napkins,

Envelopes, tickets, receipts,
Backs of old photocopies
From forgotten class sessions,

Or on the weird palimpsests 
Of glowing, smirking screens built
From glass, carbon composites,

Whole periodic tables
Of rare and heavy metals.
How was paper more precious?

Too easy to mess, I guess.
No, I am damned if I face
A blank notebook. I am not

Certain of anything yet,
Not when the world hides itself
As itself and then changes

Back into itself again,
So that what I was I am,
Engine centered in engines.

~The Disheveled Angels of Revelation 

There’s never just one butterfly.
Who knows which wings tipped the sequence
That led us to the hurricane,
Butterflies crushed against downed trees?

We are most impressed by knowledge
Of methods we don’t understand.
It’s what keeps mysticism, faith,
And revelation in the game,

Although math almost always wins.
We are a world always ready
For harvesting. Visions and proofs,
Sickles and scythes, reapers with wings.

~Prediction Horizon

Time without cause. Fantasy,
Dread, and the future, those three
Pathogens of calm moments,

Those wraiths—They’re not in the wind,
Not even in the chorus
Of canyon katabatics

And the short-lived waterfalls
That together form one voice
On a wet spring afternoon

When no one is up this high
Where the snow still mixes in
With the waterfalls and wind.

An honest, shushing chorus,
A breathing without language
Without any thoughts at all,

Is welcome at any time,
Always welcome in the mind
That thinks through time without cause.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bonus Drawings, Extra Chances

~Arrive in Contentment

Among the divinations
Found in the fragmentary

Zhou Yi text on bamboo strips
Dug from mud at Shuanggudui

Those looted early Han tombs
The most popular topics 

Left by long-ago clients
Of sage prognosticators

Include recovering health
Getting married or pregnant

Giving birth finding a home
Or changing a residence

Criminals jailings taking
Office finding fugitives

Undertaking new business
Or military action

Hunting and fishing trying
To get something and weather

Will it be fine or stormy?
Will skies ever shine again?

On snowy mesas in spring
Far east of Pénglái Mountain

Unknown to the immortals
Thousands of years past the Han

A wayside poet welcomes
The return of the questions

To his hiding place in pines
His friends all older than him

~Ambigramable Planet

After windy nights and showers
This spring’s dawns found me
Already awake and about

Cloud ships all sails out
The sky a deep sea
Under trees starred in flowers 

~Truth to Tell

There is this one juniper
On the mesa that, even
Drenched in the brightest sunlight,

Seems in some wonderful way
To be awash in moonlight
And silvery, a mirror

Image of one those scenes
In so many old movies
Shot outdoors in broad daylight

With blue filter to suggest
Actors are under the moon,
Except today here’s tonight,

The whole mesa is moonlight,
The human vision filtered
To see it all as in sun—

Save for this one brilliant tree,
Shadow who gives up the ghost,
The whole game away. This one.

~The Merchant’s Waste Book

What to bother dreaming about—
Snakes in our hair, black robes swarming,
And it’s strange that we never fall—

Yellowish-red with scented heaps
Of powder mixed with grey water—
Paint collaborating with chance,

Monitoring its own results,
As if severe abstraction were
Not another realism,

Another representation 
That what is not false must be real
Or the other way around—sun

Sinking into the evening clouds
That bloom and then sink to the ground—
And it’s strange that everything falls.

~ A Biographer as Ghost of the Ghosts

We know too much about the poets—
The lives and thoughts of famous ones
Especially, but poets and writers in general

Have been too thoroughly investigated.
To feel that a life is a biographer’s right
In which everything is meant for you

And nothing you shouldn’t try to explain
Better than anyone possibly can—
Given the tenuous state of the truth,

Biographers have done a disservice,
Not to the meanings of poems and not
To the deceased famous poets, but to us,

The little creatures below those tombs
Biographers have carved of black stone,
Who write with our legs in the grass,

Thinking the thoughts of biographer ghosts
As if phantoms might judge our lost lives,
Our details too tiny to notice we know. 

~ The Wisest Virgin

As civilization ends
And preppers stack shelves with food
To survive apocalypse,

I live to be posthumous.
A small collection of books
Sits stacked as I’ve arranged them

On my old bedroom dresser
In my latest rented house.
No one is likely to care,

When we have been burned to ash,
Or crushed to dust and dispersed,
Or, more probably, just trashed,

But I imagine them found
By an archeologist 
Or earnest biographer

Who will conscientiously
Comment on this arrangement,
Peruse my marginalia,

And be impressed by the mind
That read such texts, wrote such notes,
And composed such foolish poems.

~The Secret Variations

-Ein Schusterfleck-

We danced around the secrets we knew,
But gravity waited us out as it grew.

We all tried to shout what we each had to say, 
But nothing had changed at the end of the day, 

So we thrashed around in a pit, and we screamed
While nothing much slept in the middle and dreamed.

Each claimed that we wanted the truth on our side,
But truth laid itself out between us and lied.

There was nothing we knew and nothing to know,
And that was the ring that we danced long ago.

-Life’s Most Liminal Kingdom-

There’s a world almost nothing but forest.
It’s real. We made it. But it’s not for us.

Below it, a fungus spreads tangled mats
Blooming with mushrooms, but it won’t stop at that,

Not when the stars are so tiny and spin
While shadows keep branching and drinking them in.

How can mere words make our own ecosystems 
When as words we lack sense or metabolism?

Our world isn’t living. It’s for guessing
Whatever it is real worlds keep forgetting.

-National Poetry Club Society-

A broken-winged horse hobbles on uneven feet,
Secret side-saddle and glad for a street.

Gentle gloom fuses and dancers amend,
Supposing night solemn again. Dance amen.

It’s the shadow of doubt the doubter left out,
The gray smallest with wings, slipped secret that sings.

Zero’s thumb and forefinger cinch a ring in the air.
Whose monstrous thieving breathes emptiness there?

Lamed Pegasus falls in that ring in a dream.
Secrets fear only good. So good seems.

-Past Words-

Pape Legba, Pape Legba, aleppe!
What only exists in words, preserve me.

Li Tieguai of Bethany on your crutch,
Tell the secret of loving life so much

You’d come back to be a beggar forever.
Resurrection doesn’t seem so clever,

If you’re forced to dance around every gate
With your gourd and your gifts to donate,

A story snagged on a miracle for good,
Of wisdom suspended and misunderstood.

An entrance is either empty or blocked
By the secret who gets in the way and talks.

-A Laugh-

The days of various light expose
Themselves as the secret holding a pose.

Human mentation is passionate, constant,
Versatile, utterly insignificant,

Witlessly sweeping, pompously poetic,
Possessed, in fact, but lacking in aesthetic—

Except for occasional humans, of course,
Who then settle down to ferocious discourse

As to which facts display the finer inventions
And what really were the creator’s intentions?

Could infinity hide in cacophony’s sleeve?
Round about midnight, the secret leaves.

-Silence at the Apocalypse-

The truth is not the true grail.
We haven’t failed it; it fails.

The promoter of the faith
Is only a devil’s wraith,

Half-skeptical advocate
Lacking the least mother wit—

Hence we get idiot Saint
Secret of plaster and paint.

Life from stones, language from lives,
Truth from a word to the wise—

The dance knows nothing as dance,
But nothing knows how to dance.

~Let The

Red dancing figures exist
As negative terms for fact
In languages for which truth

Requires the privative—not
Concealing, not forgetting.
The old lines were drawn leaping

From sheer cliffs into the waves—
This is what it means, they showed,
To forget, to fall. So don’t.

There are far worse other worlds
Than the lost and the hidden,
Full of what we’ve forgotten,

What presumably remains
Within the information 
Concealed in those stick figures

Intended to help prevent,
In symbolic mnemonics,
The loss they now represent.

There are far worse underworlds
Than oblivion, although
We have to imagine them.

~Just the Ticket

This one picks his numbers
Like he’s picking a lock

Like he’s twiddling a dial
Like luck is a broadcast

Whose frequency he knows
Or vaguely remembers

Like fortune’s a spectrum
A mind could traverse

A cavernous echo
Those numbers rehearse

~Living Is in the Past

The future is the monster
Under my bed, the fiction
I can’t quit double-checking,

No matter how many times
I’ve already checked, knowing
Beforehand it’s never there.

It’s one thing to proclaim faith
And another to believe 
In the deep sense—to not think

Twice before jumping in bed,
To not blink when facing death,
To be as certain of fact

As a martyr is certain,
After all the songs and prayers,
That—actually—burning hurts.

~Juniper Down

Impatient immortals wait
For souls to die they can steal,
Like poets in line for poems
With similes we can steal.

I can steal, you can steal, but 
Theft requires greater patience
Than pure creativity—
Easier to culture pearls.

Think of three trillions of trees
And how long each takes to grow.
Pretend you are immortal
Only if smudged with their smoke.

I stalk among browsing deer,
Uninterested in the deer,
Collecting the fallen wood,
The only wood I can steal.

~“More Than This, You Know There’s Nothing”

Inhaling a freshly baked
River Rock blackberry scone

I feel I’m the old woman
Savoring her bag of plums

In the famous Williams poem—
This tastes good to me. This tastes

Good to me. This tastes good to
Me. If you have been denied

Or have just denied yourself
A pleasure your evolved flesh

Waters itself profusely 
In fond anticipation 

Of getting reacquainted.
Empirical evidence

Suggests anticipation 
Oversells experience

But right now with this pastry
In my mouth I disagree.

~Master Pang’s Hut

Humans are for whom longing
Is due. These woods don’t need it
Are barely surviving it

Scraps of the forest that was—
Humans are our own Ice Age
Temperatures notwithstanding

Sheets of us blanketing Earth
Scraping continents to stone
Scraping the world clear of woods

Which is bad news for hermits
Ironically—small bodies
Of ice with snowy whiskers

That we are—the advance guard
Of great civilizations
Blank urban developments—

We just wanted to crawl here
Into sweet somber mountains
Warming cold thoughts with real snows

Monday, May 4, 2020

Of Peace

The long passages
Build cumulative
Savor, but the short
Hold all the sweetness.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

“To Make These Views as Diverse as Possible”

This cosmos, this poem that can
Draw out to infinity
The possibilities of
Cacophony and chaos,

White weather blurring white peaks,
Dark peaks sinking into dreams,
Dark dreams lying in the lake
That once held a trough of ice.

A body that’s not dead yet
Remains one of the body’s
Six or seven favorite things.
The others it leaves behind.

Belief is not in error,
If religion is a trick.
Belief owes its existence
To the success of such tricks.

Very few cars on the road
In time of plague, in the snow,
And then the cosmos changes
That then into long ago.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

More Truly Floating World

All of language is in limbo,
Every word dwells in the bardo

Or perhaps the pre-existence—
These concepts never were for us

These concepts are for our concepts—
The homelands for ideas, beings

Shed by the being of living
Lifelessly extending living.


The littlest, stillest words can be
Set singing in this vacancy—

I am a word of belonging
To any body that claims me.

I am frightened next to nothing—
Permanent opposite of me.

When I am you you are not me
Sang birds fledged in your naming tree.


Every name costumes what it names
And costumes itself as a name—

But where is your costume without
The bodies craving ornaments?

What have you done with your body?
What have you done with mine? Floating

As names reduced to poetry—
Du Fu Sappho even Dante.


Leave them alone or bury them
But don’t burn them—they might not breathe

But they have earned an existence
By remembering their living

Animals hungry for living
Who burned names in order to burn

Animals inhabiting them.
We’re only your ghosts—let us be.


In the library of your brain
Thousands of ancient beings flit—

Maybe tens of thousands maybe
Hundreds of thousands that you’ve learned

In your logogeography—
Body who is a green island

Of limbo’s archipelago
Foliating varieties.


Come with me—I was a poet
And I sang—after my fashion—

Humming many-limbed threnodies
Composed in terms that entered me

From the air—from human voices—
From pressed remains of stands of trees—

No name is ever punished here—
Unlike your flesh and blood we’re free.

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Professor of Evolution Places Small Faith in Retirement

No Point Can Be Found

Full moon over the left shoulder
Predawn twilight on the right

The body turns an anomalous compass
Spring-loaded points lacking any magnets

And finds it strange to be listening
To “The Lark Ascending” when it’s dark

From full moon then into silence or nearly
Real birds twittering through a whole dawn

Not many not ever many on this mesa and 
Fewer singing birds everywhere each year

Just one right now signaling monotonously
Toward the sun on a storm-downed juniper

Since the math is backed by the evidence
Let’s grant energy and mass remain

The same and maybe also total information 
But events can only keep on happening 

And no point can be found without more
Of them which is why I guess the birds 

Grow less given a happening has to reduce
Something to make room for new things

And balance information in that energy-mass
Ledger just as when every now and then

Among all my latest newest always younger
Students of human evolution appearing

In each introductory semester sometimes
Someone simply disappears and usually

As with these birds at dawn on the mesa
I’m not sure if something’s really diminished 

Or just moved on or I’m just imagining one
More empty seat and no more assignments 

Handed in—oh but then there are moments
When I’m compass-spun stunned to learn

A student gone missing has really vanished
And I’m asked do I know anything or even

Worse albeit more rarely as earlier this term
I was told the one who sat right in the front

Had died was dead just suddenly dead
Big cheerful fellow full of good questions

Always up for a few points extra credit
Keenly interested in Neanderthal remains

And now that’s all done yet another downed
Before yet another sunny commencement  


Among the more charming naïvetés
Of American college students for decades 

Has been their near-complete cluelessness 
About how much stuff has been happening 

And for how long—no, they love to launch
Essays with a basic and reliable grandeur 

Using something like, “Throughout history,” 
Or, “Since the beginning of time,”

Whereupon they proceed to some chosen
Phenomenon involving a few centuries

Or several thousand years at best—
And who can blame them when parents

In half the country still think the wide world
Not much older than that and history

For us starts roughly with a recent Civil War
We’ve never wholly quit fighting over—-

So here’s an opening to take as you go—
Since the dawn of time and well before

History—before any belief now espoused—
Say, for three billion years give or take—

From the simplest functioning cell forms
To the billions of us high-falutin’ humans 

With our rocket ships, smartphones, AI
And lakes of toxic waste, only two rules—

You gotta suck up some more energy daily
You gotta clean the guts of your machine

All other necessities and profound events—
Everything else life’s been—fit in between

Midnight Robes

It’s hard to take this cosplay seriously
All these peculiar blackbirds and magpies

Garish flashings on our shoulders and wings
Shuffling through the mausoleum to view

Embalmed higher learning’s wax-faced beak
Dip while the mostly young and younger

Survivors of their winnowing toss their caps
At boredom’s and wits’ end to celebrate

Then what? More rounds of more of the same
The robes returned to the rental rotations

Hung in closets shucked in offices or boxed
As if birds could take off their shirts and return

To their regular lives as burrowing worms—
Tonight the robes will float up to reassemble 

As ghosts and souls reassemble in dreams
Reassuring each other with cloaked whispers

Of black cloth murmuring no no of course not
We are not living things we have never been wings