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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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-
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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,
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”
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.
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
Sheets of us blanketing Earth
Scraping continents to stone
Scraping the world clear of woods
Which is bad news for hermits
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