Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Highway, Wind Chimes, Birdsong

Music for the apocalypse
Sounds like lots of other music—

It makes waves and repeats waves—
Rumbles, tinkles, calls, answers

Rhythmically, melodically—
Not necessarily loud,

Nor even too ominous.
Daily hymns. Then it’s on us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Pallid Blue Quartet

An Expanse of Sea Is Mostly Dabs of Blue

Dreams aren’t imagination.
Dreams are far more destructive.

Ask your sleeping hours. They’ll tell
How dreams break memories

Down to recyclable bits—
Pellets, cardboard, powder, ghosts—

Or dump them in steaming heaps
The screaming seagulls circle.

Waking is reclamation,
The Freshkills Park of day.

The quieter birds return.
Sun is winking on the bay.


Blue Woad, Indigo, Dead Blue, Haint Blue

The plants the peoples used to show
What kind of people they could be
Have mostly fallen in disuse.

Colors are for factories, now.
Beside what we have synthesized,
The rest of the world seems dimmed.

I still like to look at the skies
On cloudless days, no jets in sight.
Who am I, eh? Dead blue, alright.


Blue Jargoon

Humans are a matter of opinion,
A matter of taste, even to ourselves.

Do we like us? Like us who? Name your hue,
The name you would be proud to claim. Or name

The completely fictional entity
Of a particular state or kingdom,

The mother land, the father land, your land.
If you show me your flag, I’ll wave back mine—

Then we’ll know who’s human and who likes who.
You’re suspicious of this? Of me? Me, too.


Not Quite White All Afternoon

You can look it up easily, these days—
The Proto-Indo-European *bhel,

Suggesting something shining, bright, and white,
Somehow gave rise to the English color

Terms for both yellow and blue. Primary
Colors, equally, but on the spectrum

Not a lot in common—not as wavelengths,
And not in terms of cultural baggage.

Squint at the sky and wonder—given all
We’ve done and will soon do to each other,

Given the limited capacity
Of the world, except through us, to wonder—

Do you think it was inevitable
That some people, culture, or another

Would look at the sky between plagues and wars
On brilliant, early autumn afternoons

And see the bright white, the gold, and the blue
All bells, chiming notion, and confuse them?

Monday, September 28, 2020

Dump Truck Chickadee

Ruminating’s a good word
For it, really—don’t blame brains

For working a little bit
Like multi-chambered stomachs.

Thoughts, language, explanations,
Memory-made fantasies—

We evolved to process these.
It’s all part of the breakdown,

And why should ruminant brains
Switch off to reduce methane?

We can survive on stubborn,
Well-defended weedy stems

Of patterned information
Most animals would starve on,

Thanks to our ruminations.
From birth, human baby skulls

Get stuffed with words and syntax
That set up ecosystems,

And it’s all symbiosis
From then—the environment

A human needs to thrive in
Is made of other humans

As much as an ant’s real niche
Is not tropics or grasslands

But a humming colony
Of conspecifics. The price

We pay is rumination,
Regurgitating language,

Scenes, social situations.
It’s cumbersome. Human heads

Are heavy weights, and our minds
Are sluggish, complicated,

And tend to outgas nonsense.
Worst of all, our parasites

Include devilish ideas
Capable of tricking us

Into giving them shelter
At the expense of fitness,

Even proselytizing—
These we have as well as bugs

Caught by other animals.
But stop trying to switch off.

The mind may have its toxins,
But our brains need to digest.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Winter Willow

What’s not considered virtuous
Always slides sideways into vice—

Anywhere where people are rare
Visitors, I like being there.

I like being light, easy
To float away on a breeze,

And then I see tumbleweeds
Blown up against barbed wire, trapped,

And I think, maybe better
To find a patch of pasture,

Root down and risk exposure,
Anywhere beside a creek,

Or anyplace halfway green,
And stay there, if I can stay,

Even if it means winter—
Not my vice, if I can’t leave.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Nothing Special

Don’t get invested in this.
There’s just no comparison.
The moon keeps drifting away.

The earth’s rotation’s slowing.
One day the sun will explode.
There are no immortal poems.

Sure, you’d love to be well-loved.
Not to worry—you’ll forget
And be, in turn, forgotten.

So, why are you doing this?
Look, I can give you a glimpse
Of a chipmunk on a rock,

A lizard doing push-ups
On a green-grey lichen patch,
A poet pleased to keep notes.

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Explainer

Venus rising in the East, Mars
Setting in the West, Orion
Hunting the Southern Sky. Moonless.

I doubt most of the commuters
Out on the highway this morning,
Notice any of this. That’s why

I’m here for them, their Explainer.
I don’t see anything human
About it, this cosmos, although

Humanity, obviously
Popped out from possibility.
How shall I explain this wisely?

Astrologers paid attention
To the lights, their patterned movements,
Any matched happenings on Earth,

And where did that get us, beyond
Excuses for violent men,
Chiliastic hysterias,

And silly newspaper nonsense
About what today will be like
For humanity, sliced by twelfths?

Oh, yes, I guess—astronomy,
And, eventually, physics,
Calculus, moon landings, space probes. . .

It may pay to pay attention,
But not in your lifetime. It takes
Generations, millenniums,

And so long as observations
Keep going, you should keep going
To work. Someone will explain things.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Orion in Branches

The childhood of your child is a strange kind
Of loss—there’s the infant you knew a year,
Gone for good, and then the chatty toddler—

Those were whole, rounded beings you’ll never
Encounter in the round again. Some days,
You’ll be surprised by how you ache for them.

You have a reward each time, the new child
Emerging gradually from the lost ones,
The kindergartner, the grade-schooler,

The surprisingly tall, thoughtful pre-teen
About to descend into the maelstrom,
The imago as anticipation.

But, if you happen to rise at dawn, leafing
Through memories while the stars disappear,
You may catch yourself mourning the living.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Word Genius Word of the Day Is Finite

What a strange experience it is to live
As an organism certain it will die,
Awake and aware of itself part of the day,
Dreaming and forgetting most nights.

What a strange experience it is to live
Among sun-eating trees and calling birds,
As a creature that consumes lives to live,
A being made mostly of arguments and words.

What a strange experience it is to be
Enumerating the strangeness of things,
As if one had prior experience of worlds
More familiar, no strangeness to things.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


Every song ends incomplete,
Every tale fakes the ending,
Every joke is a version
Of the crack nothing begins
With an ”n” and ends with “g.”

Time to try to just accept
This weird world, to ride it out.
Nothing special’s going to change
About the ways change happens.
Start with an end. Ends in G.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Falls Kill Summers, Still

Spira Mirabilis

Whirlpooled logarithms, patterns
Repeated in unexpected

Places—heavens, we’re all infants,
Shrieking startled and delighted

At seeing anything at all
Wasn’t what we were wired to see.

Just look at that nautilus shell.
Now look at that galaxy. See!

As if the whole cosmos weren’t set
Permanently on the cycle

Of almost repeat. Chip a bit,
Dissolve a piece, spin a little

Angle just slightly differently.
We’re audience participants

In a Big Top demonstration
Of how to sieve through every piece

Of piecemeal possibility,
Until it’s all gone, dust the hands,

Tug the cuffs, nothing up the sleeves,
Audience, too, eventually.


You’ve done enough.
Fine whenever it ends.
Fine if there’s more.

Meanwhile, muddle through.
Minimal planning and fret.
Minimal work and effort.

If it’s good, when it’s good,
Then it’s good. Enough.
You’ll be done before you know it.
In a Few Days, or Few Enough

From now on, that’s my motto: muddle through.
This tag of skin, this sack of bones, these views—
They’re so small and unimportant a dent
Dug for old roadkill could swallow them whole.

Let roots and fungi get a meal from them.
In a few days they’ll be hungry again.
Why should these word-haunted, word-taunted thoughts
Expend the best hours in imagining
Better or more dreadful futures for them?

Muddle through. Maximize the minimum.
Mumble and stumble and savor the end.


If games all end the same way,
What should we gain from good play?

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Moon Over Under Canvas

Perhaps muse on the possibility
That we are never better than the world,

Nor the world any more moral than us—
Although whatever we mean by better

Or more moral may be unique to us,
The odd forms of violence among us.

Perhaps because we can never accept
Morality smoothly distributed—

Any more than trees can negotiate
Perpetually equal shares of sunlight,

Despite intertwined camaraderie,
Each twig so dependent on a forest—

Moral inequality being how
We allocate and justify our lives,

Especially our most successful thefts,
Our most violent appropriations,

We have to assess our surroundings’ worth
Compared to our sense of ourselves—better?

Worse? Mother Nature as “an old woman
Who has some nasty habits”? Our species

As noble overseers put here by God,
Or rapacious changelings who don’t belong?

Sometimes we draw up the unbalanced sides
So that some of us can be natural

And that nature can be good, while others
Most unnatural, most foul, must be bad—

Although it’s curious how we then paint
The wicked among us as venomous

Or verminous, inhabitants of bogs.
As we divide ourselves, so we divide

Our world, and, as our world, divide ourselves.
This mode may be ours. The pattern’s the world’s.

Saturday, September 19, 2020


Conviction and judgment precede
Awareness it’s a life sentence.

Oblivious, the paragraph
Begins anew. Life is wanting

More life. Desire can never be
Satiated, never—in monks,

Saints, sages, black cats fast asleep
On a red rug in pooled sun,

In anything breathing, growing,
Reaching, feeding, feeding, wasting.

Begin again. Oblivious,
The next paragraph advises

Calm in the face of dread, restraint
In the hollow stomach of need.

The quest is futile, but without
The repetition of excess

Of desire, continuation
Of the quest for more of the same

Futile, temporary relief,
Being stays uninteresting.

Oh, completely oblivious
To this, the next paragraph sings

Hymns in praise of brief existence.
Look. It’s good when it is. It is

Good enough, or could be, without
Having to live. Oblivious.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Sad Songs End Long Summers

These Metameric Lyrics

Fragments may be evidence
Of hidden ruins. Fragments

May be ruins, or may be
Shored against someone’s ruin,

Or may point past all ruin
To find what lives in the cracks

That didn’t exist until
We piled fragments up in stacks.


On the Moral Cost of Cats

A tiny, crooked man
With a huge, woolly head,
Wrote cats out of the bag.

Never call natural
Good, fixed in place, he said.
Cruel can be sweet and sad.

All summer long, he winced
As nestlings turned up dead.
Would you have tied that sack?


For Some Reason, the Memory of Sitting in That Chair One Sunny Afternoon . . .

There was a woman, named Nicki,
Gave me a haircut once in her kitchen,
Where she’d installed an ornate barber’s chair
Bought from some antique store, as I recall,
Enough to set herself up in business.
This was by the lake, in the Kootenays,
A number of years ago. A couple of years

Later, her child was one of a foursome
Of teenagers who fell into the lake
Out of their overloaded canoe
One breezy, sunny day in early May,
Suffered hypothermia, and drowned.
Not long after, Nicki left town. I don’t know
Where she went or whether she ever visits

The memorial set in the woods by the shore.
I know a young couple with two small boys,
New to the village, moved in to her cottage
And then split up. The mother stayed
In that little house, while the father moved
Just a tiny bit up the road. Another story.
I don’t know. Where could a barber’s chair go?


Take a Quiet Life

All the goodness of an unspecial day,
Lacking in any miracles, any
Unexpected graces, unless one counts

The torn corpse of a gorgeous male goldfinch
Left on the lawn beneath the pink sunrise
As a miracle of grace. The doves coo,

The traffic rumbles out of sight, sprinklers
Hiss reminders of Joni Mitchell songs
From entirely other millenniums.

A small dog barks somewhere beyond a wall
In the calm. “Stop it, Charlie.” I can see
The young moon with the old moon in her arms.


This Violence That Is Ours

Explanation and defense
Occupy the waking thoughts—
Why aren’t my poems about this,
And why haven’t I done that?

In the center of serene
Stellar swirls lurk the likely
Huge, harrowing black hole beasts,
Spinning plasma, eating stars,

But why can’t I seem to write
Well about strong emotions
And human relationships,
The violence that is ours?


Respondebat Illa

Decrepitude’s the price we pay
To gain a long perspective.
Once it’s more than flesh can pay,
We lose all perspective.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Pillars of Nada

What’s considered a cause is more often
Snugly beaded strings of correlations—

We can see the intermediaries,
Count them, name them, recite them, so we say

We have modeled a chain of causation.
When confessing the fault’s not in our stars,

We’re saying we see no actual chain
And admit astrologers are guessing.

But confession of causation is not
Causation. Nothing causes anything

And everything, by enabling changes,
The hole in the sky through which the whole drains,

To which we sometimes give more awkward names,
The Face of God, the Future, Gravity.

These events we placidly bead on strings
Are all patterned waves, where some look like things.

At this point, it would seem wise to inquire
How a few words in a poem could know this.

Well, we don’t. We’re words, just names humans use
For all sorts of speculations and lies,

Including about what names are and where
We come from, uncaused, changes that don’t die.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Astonishment in Angels

Are sorcery and sanctity
The only means of withdrawal
From the common life? The hermit

Of dusty waysides wants to know.
In old, orogenic ranges
Worn down to serial foothills,

Life’s crimes against humanity
Settle like spores in the sepals
Of returning wildflowers each spring,

While crimes against wildflowers, foothills,
And assorted ecosystems
Writhe in human dreams. But up here,

Where the mountains are still growing,
And the wings of the rock wrens rush
Right past the wayside hermit’s ear,

A kind of traffic, excited
With life and by the reflections
Of sun in the valuable pines,

It’s hard to say what is to blame
For the beauty of aggression
When a nuthatch scatters the wrens

With its manic, head-down pounding.
No. Sorcery and sanctity
Are only short-term distractions

From the self-evident answer,
Which is hunger. There’s hunger here,
And hunger where the world’s more tired,

And hunger in crimes of all kinds—
Hunger in peaceful withdrawal,
In the whispers of wings through air.

Hunger was an astonishment
To angels. Why introduce this?
Lucifer asked before he fled.

This morning, from a hungry tree
Being eaten by hungry beasts,
The morning star shines visibly,

Which isn’t a star, not really,
Lifeless, reflective, not hungry,
Lovely, withdrawn, astonishing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

And That Will Have To Be Enough

If you can love this awful world,
Love by all means, love it to death.
I rejoice when I’m glad in it,

And don’t care how it came to this,
And don’t dread where it’s headed next,
And my candle of awareness

Of awareness is contented
Just to be here, burning clearly
While it’s burning. Just to be clear,

I wouldn’t say I’m loving it,
Or that it’s deserving of love,
But some hours I spend glad in it—

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Inner Partisan

Comforting it doesn’t care,
If what you dread is malice.
As they said of Bai Juyi,
There’s extreme simplicity
In lessons apparently
Impossible to apply.

The world unfolds as the world
And will kill you but intends
No harm. It would be simple
To be at peace with it all
If you weren’t human, in pain,
And fuming from inner fires.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sun Dagger Dragon

“When home is not where you are born, nothing is predetermined.” 

Tiny omissions, those syncopal kicks,
The way some lives depend on sun daggers
That just happen to be there, in the rock,

Coincidence that needs to be noticed
And marked for later, a strange kind of art,
Inverse of the sundial set in the yard.

We can only choose what we didn’t make.
Let me rephrase that, we can only choose
To notice, to note, to mark, to remark.

The things that we thought we made from nothing
Were the most predetermined parts of all.
But we chose to make a sign when we saw

A surprising alignment, part of us
Recognizing that the sun drew a line
When lowest that lit us. Art for that wall.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Carriage with Varnished Sides

The monsoon season
Sputters in the drought
Decades’ gold summers,
But sometimes a storm

Still pulls together
Above the mesas
And muddies wayside
Crash memorials

Like this well-tended
Cross without a name
Planted in the shade
Where there’s almost none.

Winds that blow brief rains
Blow out the votive
Candle left under
The cypress and pine.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Protasis Apodosis

If you read this, you will learn.
Fantasies are bad enough,
But explanations are worse.

If you read this, you might ask,
Why would any human think
Any other human wise?

Look at us—the size of deer
Left to bloat by the roadside,
No longer-lived than parrots

We capture and weary of,
A bit smarter than dolphins
We use for our amusements.

Sure, we’ve a cumulative
Technological impact,
But any one of us wise?

If you read this, you could sigh
That nonetheless we believe
In righteousness, cause, and god,

That we look for their prophets
In all the fools among us—
Or fake some wisdom and nod.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Human Hatched Out of a Platypus Egg

Palace, landfill, compost heap—
What becomes a memory?
I’ll take the compost heap, thanks.

The palace gets too dusty.
Landfills can’t be digested.
Good compost heaps end in blooms

And more food, and all the things
That make gardeners live so long.
Core me, acorn, count my rings.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Couple of Thoughts for a Wednesday in September


Well, poetry is probability,
Chaos, and quantum all rolled into one,
As is breathing—the lungs just don’t know it,

Nor do they need to know, nor do the poems,
Although I have a sneaking suspicion
Some poems might already be on to this.


All the Same

We all have the exact same number
Of ancestors, whether we know them
By name, history, race, genes, or not,

And they were equally successful—
Perhaps not compared to each other
But in leading, equally, to us.

In fact, we have all the exact same
Ancestors, reaching back far enough.
Is this good enough? No, it is not,

Not for us. To care for ancestors
At all, to take their measure, recall
Their names, requires lust for distinction,

Fine discrimination, possession,
And competitive comparison.
Ancestors aren’t here—they’re kinds of ghosts,

And we want to be haunted by them.
This business of saying they’re the same—
That’s not a story. That won’t tell us

Anything. That’s mere declaration.
That erases their glory and shame.
Ancestors themselves would have agreed.

And there you have it—it’s the telling,
The endless, competitive stories
We crave. Ancestors just fit the sheets.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Go On

News: another novel virus
Has now reached jackrabbits as well.

Should the jackrabbits be worried?
Every jackrabbit for itself.

Viruses rarely extirpate
Entire species, while species can

Create havoc for each other,
All part of life’s great unplanned plan.

Our own, ultra-generalist,
Uniquely havoc-prone species

Universally infected
With foaming-at-the-mouth disease

Has extirpated so many
Other ways of carrying on

We’re prone to looking around us
To ask, Where has everyone gone?

A terrible outbreak, we are.
But will culture kill everything?

I’m not even sure we can kill
All our selves. Living likes living,

I say when I pass jackrabbits
On these desert waysides at dawn.

They swerve, and I swerve in my car.
Not too sick, yet? Good luck! Go on!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Repeat Until Happy

“‘Change’ really means ‘redistribute and modify.’”

Could you be redistributed
And yet remain unmodified?
And if you have been modified,
Have you not been changed, regardless?

Is there really any simpler
Term or definition for change
Than change? The littler words are vast,
And cast windy, starry meanings,

And if they can’t be made littler,
They pack compactly and can stack—
One and none span a cosmic range,
And change, in change, can change and change.

Sunday, September 6, 2020


1. Thrilled Ancient Literatures

To be free of life
But without dying!


2. Remember This

Imagination’s just
Memory busted up.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Hard for a Robe to Talk Back

There’s really precious little
Secret knowledge that is both.

Knowledge kept esoteric
Is mostly gormless nonsense—

Philosopher’s stones, potions,
Homemade glyphs, funny handshakes—

While knowledge of any worth
Makes itself known as weapons,

Swiftly reverse engineered,
Dragged out by espionage,

Smuggled out in long-sleeved robes,
Spreading along the trade routes.

There’s a small in-between space
Where mice of real knowledge nest

And sing work chants and hone tools
Made out of the robe’s excess.

This knowledge is not so much
Hermetic as traumatic

And, while highly predictive,
Predicts what can’t be altered,

And is therefore not valued,
Facts only mice can’t forget,

Say, the wickedness of death.
Shake your sleeves. Take a deep breath.

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Lyric of Leaping Labyrinth

Reproduction is movement
For trees—reproduction is
How the woods move. Otherwise,

They only die or regrow.
The nuts and seeds, though, the blooms,
They can really move, and do.

Poems, too. If words were pollen,
Lines would be seeds and poems fruits
Or at least wind-blown cotton

Infected with worms and grubs
But sometimes still capable
Of seeding new waves of woods.

If life itself could suffer
As lives do, life would grow old,
But life just renews and moves.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Nothing Means Everything to Me

“The road must be open and winding, and you can’t be headed to work.”

Why is it so hard to choose
To do what makes us feel most

Contented? Partly because
So much that makes us feel fine

Shortly leaves us broke or sick.
But that’s only part of it.

For instance, I like silence
With no one to disturb it,

Just wind in the pines, the waves
On a lake, pre-dawn quiet

On an emptied city street,
Even in suburbs, any

Place quiet, any of it,
Best of all quiet in mind.

But mind’s hard to keep quiet.
There’s so much to think about

Perusing a cloud, whether
Through windows or under it—

The news, food, “relationships,”
A sudden roar of traffic.

Next thing I know, I’ve lost it.
The cloud disintegrated,

The wind’s picking up a bit.
Forget the old argument

Of dualists and monists.
Let’s admit we’re torn to bits

Between the creatures we are—
Hungry negotiators,

Wholly interdependent,
Sly hunters and foragers—

And the contentments we are
Between deployed strategies.

Sturdy breeds gave rise to us,
Put the much in nothing much,

But nothing’s still everything
Nothing much can never be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Orion Rising out of Sunrise

To myself, I am various bodies
Of distinct but interrelated lore,

How Zhuangzi’s windy, mocking Daoism
Ended as potions and poisons at court,

How Zoroaster’s anger at abuse
Of priestly power ended up wearing crowns

And carving imperial boasts on cliffs,
How martyred carpenters were carved in gold—

All those charming stories of challengers
Corroded, schemes for immortality.

Well, who can blame those little men? I can’t.
They made me as I am, and now I sink,

Heavy-starred, narrative of narratives,
How creatures who begin to know themselves

Can’t help but try to squeeze out what they want,
Eternity, from what they’ve learned from days.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

A Shadow of Consolation

“Come August’s wilt, you will praise my random flower.”

And then, just like that, it’s September,
And what happened to the pretty weeds,
The random flowers of summer? Deserts

Like southern Utah, Arizona,
Keep some of their best wayside displays
Through the crescendos of fire season,

Moonflowers, Black-eyed Susans, rabbitbrush,
When most days are still hotter than hell,
So ask ubi sunts of the woods ashed.

The difference between weed and wildflower,
As between DIY slum hovel
And charming ruin, is, as always

Location, location, location,
But also what they rarely mention
At realty conventions—the timing.

A weed shows when you hoped for something
Else, something more, while a wildflower glows
Just as you got used to less. I guess.

I’ll throw in with anything that blooms
When and where it shouldn’t, but love best
What blossoms when you said it couldn’t.