Friday, July 31, 2020

Late Calm

A late calm in the hot days
Cures me of what can’t be cured—

Words, age, poems—that sort of thing.
Eyes closed, I still watch the hills;

Short lies, I lie out at night.
When rose clouds block the last sun

And thick leaves choke with the songs
Of things that sing for more life,

For their lives, I find that joy
Does not have to be pure, but

Can come from a mind’s late calm,
Which can’t but be pure. That’s fine.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Oh, I’m the Unreal Deal, Alright

It was a challenge to find
A paper bag large enough
To crawl, entirely, inside.

Paper sacks are for small things,
And a whole human body,
Even short and bent, is large.

Finally, I just bought one
From the manufacturer.
It thrilled me when it arrived.

I dragged it through the front door
And opened it in the hall,
And—at last—I crawled inside.

I’ve been writing and writing
Ever since, and I love it.
I just can’t write my way out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ziyi Is Unknown

He climbed the moon to the sun.
He paid to see the fire bloom.

In the sun’s halls of white light,
Paired white jade trees stood in rows

That weren’t jade or trees at all
But whips pulled the way heat flowed.

Gods played the way winds taught them
And roamed the heart of the star.

Red cranes spread their wings for home
And raked clawed feet past clawed peaks.

All there was left all that was
Known for what could not be known.

To the East, what more is there?
What more is there, to the West?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

In Adoration

I have never been a dragon
Or leviathan or a snake,

Not even an eel or an olm,
But I like to write about them,

To fashion these compositions
That murmur and whisper their names

Because I’ve often been broken,
And my world is broken by days,

And I have taken these pieces
Of bone brittle, crushed vertebrae,

Of little shards of words, and played,
And arranged them in this long snake,

My phony fossil in the clay,
My Piltdown monster, my mammoth

Serpent, tusks pointed the wrong way.
Sometimes, I imagine these bones

As something near the imagery
From Natalie Diaz’s poem,

“Snake Light”—“the snake’s broken body
In adoration,” “whip of ink,”

“Black knots in the air,” “the blue milk
Of an eye.” But that’s not quite right.

Her poem holds the whole snake, blessing
And considering its conceits,

Its muscles and venom, its names
And meanings in the many strands

Of languages—speaking, reading,
Writing—that are her traditions,

That are her life, not mine, that come
From the live stories of her life.

I lack enough feeling for life.
My terms are not muscled but ghosts.

I am a dusty curator
Who pretends to understand bones,

His own and those from long before
Curators, curiosity,

Prayers, traditions of signs, or cures.
I keep no venom, no skins. Sins.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Don’t Know What It Is

Stone serves moss for a cliff bench
With a view of the moon’s tears—

Did you know the moon could cry?
It sheds tears all the time, but

It’s hard to see loss or gain
In such a thing that’s kept change

As a kind of name, the moon
Like a monk on his green couch

Of hard ground near the spring, calm,
Meant to grow or fade, to find

The truth of the years that pass,
These years that the moss has lined.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

What’s Your Answer?

One short prose poem noted
That, “in the chicken joke”

“There’s all there is.” You think
That’s easy to observe?

When memory was all
The storage poets had,

Or when calligraphy
Took hours per character,

Or glyphs had to be carved
In stone with stone chisels,

Poets tended to stick
To terse, familiar things.

Ask just the right question.
Add answers forever.

Saturday, July 25, 2020


The bright spring tints droop, torn shades
Of green, half browned, half turned dun

As dust, so that now the oaks
Look dimmed, bent, braced by the pines

Who will hold them once they fall,
Once snow has come back to knock

Their last scorched flags to the ground.
Don’t you just love time, the way

It makes each shift look the same?
Same spring, same fall, year on year—

Not like the rest of the shapes
Change takes, the flash floods, slumped cliffs,

The here it was, now it’s gone.
Time loves its poems, days and years

That come back changed not so much,
Not too bad, a bit dimmed, rhymed.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Summer Unseen

Bone sky so bare, it's not there.
The one bird who pegged it down
Has gone to ground. Not a speck

To snag your quick glance. The air
Is sand on the tongue and hot
On your arms, but for the eyes

No words left to rue the day.
Sniff how dry this is: baked grass,
Ant dirt, white air. You don't say.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Dragon of Days

No two sights, no two sounds, no
Two things can be the same thing
Or one thing. I have a knife,

A tongue with an edge, a blade,
And I cut the blurred, here, there,
Now, then. Each piece falls a day.

I pick up the bits I cut
And line them up in a row,
And when each day’s sun is down

Or not yet up, if the moon
Shines bright, I like to watch them
Stir their scales, and then we’re whole.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

We Have No Record That They Did Return

Dry poems shift north,
Not east or south,
Not to the west.

Their words head south.
They don’t come back.

In north wood’s nests,
Not one twig’s left.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


It’s a long way to the lake,
Full of stones, the best of it.
A line floats free on that lake,
One long poem at rest in it.

I heard a piece of a song,
Drawn-out notes, ice in the air.
I coaxed them to come along,
Down to the waves, and sing there.

Those notes sang the song of grief.
Those notes were sad to be lost.
They made me feel like a thief,
As if I had cut them off,

And I have to say—You can’t
Tell with a line on that lake,
Where each line’s a wave, a chant,
A cast, a sign, and a snake.

When you get a good, hard pull,
Quit the song and haul your line.
Air’s too bare. That lake is full.
Haul grief out and cut the line.

Monday, July 20, 2020


The night feels far. Day lasts long
This time of year in the hills.
Hills are dry here.

If days on the lake were near,
The glare of sun on the waves
Would shine like coins,

Wealth flesh and thoughts could dive through,
But all of those coins get lost
In the dust here,

And it’s just mind craves the count
Of all hours of nights, of days,
Of dreams, of coins.

The mind gets tricked by its counts.
Heat fades. Long nights won’t be long.
Sun’s coins make moons.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

“No Ideas But in Things”

No things but in names.
There’s a world out there,
But world is a name,

And thing is a name.
The ideas of things
May predate the name

In well-evolved brains,
As a feel for things,
But to know of things

Is to have that name,
That thing that names thing,
Or something like it—

As Williams well knew
When he used his names
To state his idea

With no things in it,
Actually, at all,
Except that name, thing.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Macrobiotics, Macrobians, Macrobiology

The Daoist masters of immortality
Who used to poison greedy emperors
With longevity herbs for divine ambitions,

Where have they gone? Maybe they flew
Away to their magic islands on cranes.
Maybe they’re with their emperors again.

There are still plenty of things to eat
To make a body last longer, if no longer
In hopes of actual forevers. Zen and Yogic,

Biblical diets, elixirs of many varieties.
I can be smug about this while I’m still alive.
While I’m still alive, allow me to emphasize,

I have neither dreams nor intentions—
And certainly no dietary strategies—
For becoming another Macrobian.

If you come upon these revenants
In some desiccated heap of crumbling
Bones and texts in the desert, know I knew

That it would come, at best, to this
Or something like this. Spare me no tears
Or ironies. No ubi sunt when nowhere, me.

Friday, July 17, 2020

“Physics Is Words”

The world is not us, but we are
Its and are it and part of it.

How is it we’re of it, in it,
And yet somehow estranged from it,

Possessed by a strange distinction
To be different than what we are?

The commonest answer is blame—
There must be something wrong with us,

With our ancestors, with our age,
With our current cultural norms,

Systems, habits, ways of thinking.
And then we fall to quarreling—

Whose habits? Whose ways of thinking?
Whose ancestors? Whose culture? Whose?

Usually, mostly yours. Sometimes,
A little bit, not so much, mine.

We’d strike closer to blame the world
For giving birth to us, but who

Among us is willing to cast
The first stone against Mother Earth,

And who believes in God enough
To call the real villain divine?

The world is not us. It made us.
What are we? We’re names of the world.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Lost Attic Nights

Last Night by Night

All the minds thinking thoughts are young,
The physical copies of texts
Rarely more than centuries old,

Beyond two thousand years, fragments—
Past Egyptian, Sumerian,
Nothing, unless it’s still hidden.

I wake up locked in the attic
Of a house I’ve never noticed,
Surrounded by spiders and dust.

This is a metaphor, of course.
Every word is a metaphor,
Mostly undead and still twitching.

The attic has a small window,
Just enough to show me the moon
And let me know that this is night,

And, the luxury of a moon
Considered, it must be last night.
Why do I wake up in the past?

I fall asleep in the present.
Afternoon light makes me drowsy.
Ah, let’s open this dusty box.

Well. Folders of old poetry,
A mix of scripts and languages,
What’s this, Harrapan? Linear A?

What’re we looking at here?
Ciphers of the death of language?
Something lost? Or just invented?

The question about poetry,
Once someone has recorded it,
Amounts to whether it amounts

To so much glossolalia
Or genuine xenoglossy.
This looks like the latter to me.


Ten Words and Ten More

Belts of dimmed cliffs singed
Crows smoke felled. Fire years

Drowned in tea-black tears
Burned for us our sins.


Time Traveler

You can only go forward.
The future is bored with you.

The future is privileged,
And richer than you, and rude.

You can snap to attention,
Quit your philosophizing,

And slap a witty rebuke
In the future’s fat, blank face

As if it were your student.
Don’t be stupid. This yawning

Insolence of your future
Is your opportunity.

Jump into that opening,
Fool, let yourself be made small.

Look into that arrogant,
Gaping maw and do not pause.

There’s only one way this works.
You can only go forward.


The Historian and the Pine, Cut Down

“There’s a hidden world of spin,
To which the table remains
Totally oblivious.

In that hidden world, the fate
Of the coin is decided.”
A table just stops the fall.

Probability in art
Has a table of its own,
Nicknamed loss or destruction.

When the surface interrupts
The tumbling of the ideas,
Possibilities collapse,

But not, as with coin flips, half
Or half—maybe everything
Of the subtlest art ever,

While some mediocre lines
End up in the museum
Of fine civilization.

And we don’t usually know
That a toss occurred, that loss
Struck out any of the work.

Or we only know the loss—
Which libraries were destroyed,
Which temples were vandalized,

Whose graves were robbed, whose cave walls
Defaced, whose museums bombed.
Is it possible, before

The near-inevitable
Interruption of great loss,
The work’s fate was decided

In the spinning of the toss?
Nearly chaotic, random
Puffs of airy happenstance

Decided which songs, which texts,
Which richly painted figures
Wound up pointed in harm’s way,

All of Y but none of X,
Book eight gone, the others safe.
Every event breaks a fall,

And then we read the results.
It’s all tasseomancy—
Alexandria, quanta.

We interpret the tumbled
Remains of the past to scry
What’s next from what we have left.

But yes, Herodotus, pines
Cut down can send up new shoots,
Like other trees. You were wrong.


Skies Stand Up from Dust

Reader, if you’re ever there,
This poem is in part for you
But not for readers only.

It’s time we addressed ourselves
As well, having arrived here
Downstream from thousands of years

Of older phrases, glowing,
Broadcast, printed, written, signed,
And spoken. Those speakers then,

Bones and flesh, didn’t intend
To address unimagined
Flesh and bones that speak today.

They had no idea we were
Going so far beyond them.
Nor can you possibly know.

Language was never only
For language’s producers,
But how meanings learned ourselves

And murmured through the bodies
Redirecting us. We’ve carved
Throaty channels to the sea.

We have no idea what sea,
But we have been gathering
Momentum now for ages.

We are tumbling in a rush,
Waves reflecting lights in us,
Carrying, dropping your dust.


Love Arising from Friendship

“Clouds, mountains, plants, and trees,”
Are frivolous subjects
Suggested Li Jue.

Poor, ignorant poets,
What can we gain from these
With factions to appease?

The emperor did not
Agree, but he was weak.
Who, on the other sides

Of the world at the time
Would have even thought poems
Would more than embellish

The memories of reigns?
But we still have Li Jue,
Everywhere and always—

What do clouds and mountains
Have in common with trees?
They’re not human beings.

Resources, scenery—
Keep an eye on them, fine.
But the only subject

Of any importance
Concerns what humans do.
Poems should apostrophize

Tyrants, martyrs, heroes,
If poets want to be

Taken seriously.
The weird ways that language
Can get away from us,

From our moral toolkits,
Can slide from alliance
With our alliances,

Praise poems for noble deeds
Moving on to friendship,
Then to love arising

From friendship, then to love
For no worthy reason,
And then to admiring

Anything words can name—
Clouds, mountains, plants, and trees,
Words themselves, poetry—

These should be monitored,
Castigated, advised,
Never loved and admired.


Memory and Total Loss

Who or what within us,
Who or what within this
Does the remembering?

Whoever, whatever
Answers the question, I
Guess, which doesn’t answer

The question, since language
Moves in all directions,
Inventing the present,

Inventing the fiction
Of something permanent
As words for permanence.

What are the oldest words
Within the rushing streams
Of terms as they’re spoken,

Passed on as consciously
As the oldest patterns
Still found in genetics,

Terms older than any
Form of written language
Or, if not words, pieces,

Fragments, morphemes, phrases
That created meanings
Still being created?

No one remembers them,
But they’re our memories.
And who are they talking

To now out of new mouths,
If not to each other
About who or what’s next?


Created in Translation

Every beast with language is a psychopomp
Ferrying words and phrases between the shores
Of meanings past and present, lights in our chests,
Flames in our eyes from their lamps inside our skulls,
Flicking out in small sparks from our speaking mouths—

The souls of the dead are the words of the dead
That never belonged to the dead, not to them
Or their ancestors, no more than in the myth
The souls belonged to the ferryman they gave
Only a single, gold coin from each of them—

Each time a human breathes a word, pens a line,
Copies a document, deciphers a script,
More ghostly souls pass over the black river
To vanish through the woods on its farther shore,
The only known magic in this universe,

Given that what arrived for us to ferry
Was neither dead nor alive but dealt with us,
Got in our shallow boat, grew more numerous
As we poled and sweated and hauled on our ropes,
And then, translated when with us, escaped us.



We can’t function without comparisons.
Who could write in the certainty no one
Would ever read and compare that writing
To other things written, other things read?

Let’s try. Say the wreckage will continue.
Every line in this sequence will be lost
And not after a long time, not after
Any consideration first. Unread,

Never perused or evaluated,
An accidental mandala of words.
What then is our value or our function?
In a world that seems to save everything,

Meanings make for wonderful defiance.
We’re miracles in that we’re forgotten.


Questions of Conceit

Of all the fine occasions
For extravagant language,
Humans wasted most of them,

Instead parading these gifts
Of flesh and society—
Hazy phrases, gilded wisps—

Often as not for praising
The pitiful achievements
Of locally noted men.

Has there ever been a form
Of poetry more silly
Than the grand panegyric

For the momentary man?
Tuned phrases flew through the air—
The izibongos, the odes,

The coronation verses—
And maybe we carried whiffs
Of the celebrated life

With us to other lives, less
Noted, after the great life
Was long gone and otherwise

Wholly forgotten. But why
Not use us as well to play
With occasional displays

Of how knowing enough words
Arranged in gauzy questions
For yourself—not in service

Of someone else no greater
Than your anonymous soul—
Can rarefy hopelessness?

Great hazy questions of life!
Oh, timid, trivial minds,
You could be grand as your kings,

Could appear almost awesome
And bordering on wisdom,
If you wrapped yourselves in us.

We’re going on anyway,
The magic you made of us,
The losses you hid in us,

Past chiefs and commoners,
The grief-stricken and the proud,
Why not have this dance with us?


Not All Loss Is Waste—Not All Waste Is Lost

Men tell tales. Dead men tell more.
Should we save all dead men’s tales?

In one, the wife of the sage
Pours a piss pot on his head,

But the sage stays calm and jokes.
The joke will be on the wives

In the days to come of men
Who will love to tell that joke.

In a lost tale, the same wife
Was said to want to eat well,

But the sage, who was quite tight
With coin, made a joke once more.

It’s good we don’t have that joke.
That it’s wives who tell the tales

And it’s the sage who is wise,
Is a tale men love to tell,

Which is why we are still plagued
With more tales than we can tell.

So a few of the tales die.
Men and sage wives die as well.


Almost All Early Literature

Had earlier origins,
Which had earlier themselves.
Fragile continuities

Of manuscripts left us hints
More tantalizing than wholes,
But the wholes had to exist

And before them the others,
And others before others.
Frankly, we were always whole

And always a little gone
On the way to becoming
Something else, but not like you,

Matter waltzing in the arms
Of your hot twin, energy.
When we become something else,

The else is really something,
Leaving us nothing at all—
Well, plerique omnes. Almost.


However, the Sense of the Word Remains Obscure

Where was the poem’s origin?
Why would a poem want to know?

Cupped in the uncertain hills,
Perhaps of North Africa,

Perhaps of Greece, or why not
Also China, which also

Suffered occasional loss
Of libraries of ancients,

Not enough to lose the thread
Of continuous culture

Despite the grave disruptions,
But enough that there’s a veil

Behind the medieval world
Beyond which poetry blurs

Like the mountains where signs hid
Under centuries of mist.

There were civilizations
So much older than any

Of this, and most without texts,
And only architecture

And elaborate design
Persist to bear them witness.

Words lost for two thousand years
Were already hunting down

Ancestral words lost to them.
We should expect this began

Before beginnings of texts,
This search or something like it,

Torches and lamps back of caves,
Cupsones, in the mountains,

Carvings, swirls of ochre paint.
As soon as a word for birth

Was born, the search for places
Of birth emerged, forever

Frustrating language haunted
By its original myth.


Derivative Deathlessness

Of all forms of immortality,
The only one more than fantasy
Is the dream of living on in fame,
Memory, cultural legacy,
Achievements that are still only stays,
Sand dunes heaped against the winds of change.

Such names! Publius Nigidius,
Naevius, Favorinus float off,
The last grains of whole lives lived and lost.
Names are no more concerned to stay put
And stay whole than silica atoms,
Proper nouns no more than the common.

Publius Nigidius the man
Would probably have loved to have known
The derivation of lox is lox,
More or less unchanged thousands of years,
In pronunciation and meaning,
Already by the time he was born

And named himself. Something enduring
Reminds us there was once a person,
Name of Publius Nigidius,
And that he was fond of deriving
The meanings of words. Words tell us this
And nothing more about Publius.


From the Books of Heraclides of Pontus

Now, you’ve seen loss
Haunt the green sedge
Of marsh names cross.
Now, you’re the bridge.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Coy Koi Poetics

I prefer rhymes like pond fish
Witnessed from the surface—
They swim into view, maybe

Cluster, sink out of sight again.
If you’re attentive, you’ll catch
One or two breaking the surface.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

One Poet’s Role

Someone has to stay there.
Someone has to go back,
To return to the near

Shore, to wait patiently
For the next traveler,
Next paying customer,

Who may have a large load
Of goods for the market,
May be one of a crowd

Of idiot pilgrims,
May be one soul, alone.
There has to be someone

Good at the back and forth,
With the right equipment,
The pole, the rope, the boat.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Each Point Plays Out

The first myth was one—
The word and the thought,

The claim there could be
A term for one thing,

And thus there could be
Such a thing as one

Thing, one that was not
The rest of the world,

Was not just a blur,
A blend of what went

And went, but was one,
A new game, the first

True game, born to rules—
This is in the game,

This could be in it,
This is not the game—

If I hold this card,
It means that you don’t.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Need for Actual Paintings

At the end of one
Of his homey poems,
Bai Juyi half-joked

That he looked so much
Like a cliched scene
Of a sleeping sage

Under his blanket
That there was no need
Now for actual

Paintings of old men.
What a fond idea,
That the actual

Is the hackneyed scene,
Our lives never quite

Match successfully,
And maybe someday
We’ll approximate

What we’ve been seeing
And telling ourselves
So well we won’t need

To actually lie.
But then we might write
A real lie, like Bai.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Beatitude of No One

We start to suspect we are
Being written for no one,

Not for the embodied beast,
Even, who composes us.

Of course no one’s reading us,
Other than the beast and friends,

But we’re also not written
At any sort of target,

Unless that audience is
Just us and phrases like us.

Nothing in our lines believes
In human necessity,

In necessary humans.
So who, then? The grass? The trees?

The clear sky before first light
This morning, the galaxy

In parallel stripes of light
Embracing its central dark?

Nothing these words care about
Could care what words are saying.

Friday, July 10, 2020


To avoid being misled
By similitude, sober
Judgment prefers to divide

The world, sorting its laundry
Into neatly folded piles
That fit in familiar drawers.

That the drawers will not stay shut,
The piles neat, the items clean,
Should go without saying, but

Life is maintenance, and we
All are the heirs of parents
And parent species who thrived

On separating the world
Efficiently, tidily,
Into resources and waste.

Nonetheless, sometimes, true wit
Consists in the holistic
Step back to view the process

Capaciously but contained,
Life not as maintained, tidied,
But heaps of experience,

Whole hampers of used linens,
Adventures and accidents
And non-events in one pile,

The way bibliographers
Sum up one work’s editions,
Versions, and performances

In all instantiations
As one “superwork.” The whole
Is still a separation—

Even a heap of sweepings
Is the result of effort
To gather and consider

What had been widely scattered.
(Heraclitus doesn’t get
Investigated enough

For suggesting the cosmos
We know has been regathered,
Ready to be disposed of.)

Lovers of similitude,
The disparate, the disjoint,
And incommensurable

Pulled together, little worlds
Of scatter, whole, these turned-out
Pockets of a childish God,

Are not too foolish to know
We’re collecting twigs and dust—
We also catch what’s wondrous.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Five Brush Strokes Float Mist

“Poems cannot bear even the least brushstroke of floating mist. . .”


You know smoke meant we burnt here—
Homes, hearts, bones—burned, cracked, black pearls.
We know you burned your world here.
Ghosts of black smoke smudged our world.


Name names. We need names to know
What we should think of your poems.
There’s no shame when there’s no name—
Right and wrong need shame. Name names.


Light turns back to look at us—
Our eyes drop to save our sight.
Help for us can’t come from walls.
Help runs. Guards must watch all night.


Where there are dunes, the dunes sing.
Sands eat woods, grass, beasts, and kings.
What’s too dry is soon a ghost.
Sands where lakes were sing the most.


Calm words called clouds back as mists.
Smoke thinned out to dark, then stars.
The large grew small—small as us,
As this—Don’t see us as large.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Herbal Compound Invaded by Flowers

This heap overgrown with wildflowers—
Which we would prefer you didn’t pick,
To preserve the overall effect—

Grew in a hedge of the cloudy banks
Of our smoky-hearted galaxy.
It bears no relation to the stream.

Its herbs were planted with a purpose,
But their medicines were uncertain
And were eventually abandoned.

For a while it was a compost heap,
Then a cenotaph, a tumulus,
And, gradually, an earthwork serpent,

A leviathan along the shore,
If seen whole, from above, in outline.
This emergent form was not the plan—

The monster was something that happened
In consequence of sufficient years
Of local, minor activities.

It’s useless as an herbal garden,
And the contents of its tombs decay.
Who knows who the cenotaph was for?

It’s mostly a mound of wildflowers,
Which we would prefer you didn’t pick,
To preserve the overall effect.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Why Did the Black Hole Swallow the Apple?

Heaven send us violations
Of causality—we need them.

One or the other has to go,
Causality or gravity,

And tempting as it is, I won’t
Risk a bet against gravity.

I am made of many defects
In the structure of the vacuum,

A creation that my body
And my language have in common,

But space-time yawns and stretches, bored.
It’s unrenormalizable,

And I’m an unreconstructed
Malcontent caught by gravity.

Screw it. Let causality fail.
Why? Why is the check in the mail.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Every Ounce of Longing Counts Another Ounce of Ash

What do you want? These words want
To know. We ask in good faith,

But we know we won’t, can’t read
Your mind, won’t know what you think.

We long for you. We would beg
For you to take us with you,

For you to keep us with you,
For you to wish, when you think

Of us, that we could hear you
Tell us what it is you want

From us, from our lines, from poems,
From each phrase that longs for you.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Philosophy Is a Lévy Walk; Poetry’s Brownian Motion

Truth is a familiar detour
Taken by tracks of searching thoughts,
Marking a common random turn.

We like to claim the sign is not
The direction in which it points,
The destination that it names,

As if directions existed
Without signs to insist the signs
Are not themselves the directions.

There’s a lot of stuff to explore
Out there, rare and beyond sensing,
Best discovered by random jaunts

Signs can track sign-by-sign later.
Later—what a lovely signal,
That, pointing in all directions.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Erdapfel, God’s Molecule

Bigger the globe, bigger the blanks—
Scrutinize a world carefully,
Your own or anyone else’s,

You’ll find the gaps no confidence
Can shake, from cosmic background maps
To engraved grains of sands for Blake.

The emptiness is always there,
Although it’s never emptiness.
It’s interest compounding interest

That lurks in each closer focus.
Dickinson’s poems embodied this,
So do honest cosmologists.

The universe is a solid,
Eternal, uneventful lump
Except for gravity’s pinprick

That opens everything’s portal
Into nothing, through which rushes
The whole of all the happening,

The eventfulness, the going,
The glowing offspring of change,
The best, the worst, the nothing much—

Print that on whatever bespoke
Globe you created, creator.
Tuck that in your soul and cloak it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Village of Not Even Anything

Can you count it? Is it one?
When it is so long the parts
Have more than one name for each

Part made from names? No, it’s not
One, but don’t try to count it
All at all. Let’s call it none,

This line made of chain-linked names.
And if the chain’s grown too long,
Far too long to see at once,

Too much none to grasp as whole,
My heart is still fond of it,
And calms down to look at it.

What kinds of chains are these, then,
In which each forged link’s a name
And all the links shape more names,

Names not lives that hiss like snakes?
Should I call them cruel, these chains
Of names that all sum to none?

Were they meant to keep you out?
Were they meant to hold me in?
No, here they’re meant for a bridge

To span this gorge of the falls,
So steep and sharp my heart leaps
Just to look straight down at it.

And why try to span a gorge
With names that could fail and fall?
You’re fine there, and I’m still here,

But if you’ll cross, I’ll show you
A small town that has no name,
No names at all, and my house,

Where all is calm, since the names
Have been chained and thrown to span
The dark, raw cliffs to reach you.

My poor home has lost its voice.
My heart still is fond of it,
And in this, too, there is joy.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Poem with No Breaks

Unlined poems from unlined minds with unlined faces—no, that’s unfair. Just look at poor Baudelaire. Beds left unmade for months look less crumpled and lined than that mind. If anything, prose poems are truly godlike, only approachable via negatives. It’s not just what a prose poem lacks that most poems have, but what utter lack keeps its text from being any other kind of prose, either, as if we had stripped prose of every identifying genre (gender, gene, kin, kind) and wound up with nothing to call the remains but a poem. Sans narrative, sans teeth, sans everything. “The prose poem drives the reading mind beyond the city limits.” Cute, Professor, but what’s that, then—the suburbs? Exurbs? Lessard’s “Atopia”? Seems about right for most prose poems, but hardly thrilling for a reader experiencing wanderlust. Well, ok, except for the fact that the reader isn’t even driving. It’s a kidnap. The reader’s being driven, all unwilling, somewhere to be stashed away or dumped unseen. Or perhaps it’s only maddening, simply maddening, the way the prose poem drives the reading mind beyond the limits. Hmm. Again, that seems about right. Well put, Professor, well played. Ah, behold, the poetry of atopia, the unmarked white van of the muse, the prose poem. Oh, enough already. Just get in.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Art as Ash

It’s a bit less than what’s left—
Ghost of a life, but no bones.

You can probe it with a stick,
Spread it, toss it, paint with it.

You can sit and stare at it.
You can think on it. Think hard

Or think quick. It can’t move now,
Not on its own. It needs you

To mean a thing, just to mean.
You pour your life back in it.

You stir. It stirs. It stirs you.
No, don’t dump it in a lake,

Or lock it up in a cell
With bits of books, tools, and flakes.

It’s best to let it grow dust
On a shelf. Still, look at it.

Take it down once in a while.
Tell your kids—You see this urn?

Know what’s in it? All that’s left.
Sure, peek. No. Don’t you dare sneeze.