Sunday, February 28, 2021

Cryoconite Chronicles

Three things, or rather, three kinds
Of things: soot, rock dust, microbes.

Wind whips up, first, dust and soot
From factories, towns, and farms.

Microbes get carried along
Or join in later. New homes!

They fall and lodge in the snow,
Especially on glaciers.

A patch of cryoconite
Looks brown or black. It absorbs

Light the white ice would reflect.
The ice warms, melts. Holes in snow

Host more cold-adapted lives—
Rotifers and tardigrades.

New snows rebury it all,
But so long as more soot blows,

And less snow falls, and the world
Warms, cryoconite holes grow.

You think that blank page is vast,
That its white space could blind you,

Its nothing go on and on,
And no one could write enough

To end horror vacui
For good? Write. Watch. Keep writing.

So many hungry things live
In small words that eat white ice.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Emperor of Memory

He’s been in hiding since he was born.
He’s never learned his tribe’s dialect.

Like songbirds, whales, and naked mole rats,
Humans who don’t sound right can’t belong.

He’s quiet. He only speaks at night.
He recites lines into the stars’ ears.

He rules nothing, which means that he’s more
Than a big man, a chieftain, a king.

He’s the emperor of memory,
Brooding under invisible wings.

Friday, February 26, 2021

We All Seek While We Sleep Redacted

The fog. No corners. Empty streets.
Into the night. Night into dawn.
Silence. Silence. The curvatures

Of a beading humidity.
Outline. The lintel. A map framed
Somewhere. An alley near the docks.

More silence. A click. Then nothing.
Out of the red smoke. No. Dog tired.
Not long after. Debris. Horror.

Consternation. Dust. Confusion.
Departure. A little faster.
While there’s still time. Green coals twinkling.

By the docks. Curtain. Without stars.
Curtain. Before the mask. The ticks.
Another opening. No one.

Areas of deep shadow. Mist.
Gradually. Dimly. To his eyes.
Through a horde of specks. Staccato.

Thursday, February 25, 2021


Irrelevant descriptions of nature,
Moral-scientific discursiveness,
Psychological curiosity,

Reminiscences of political
Eloquence in poetical diction,
We did not, never will, get rid of them,

Any more than we’ll get rid of rhythm,
Simplistic sentiments, vulgarity,
Or silliness. We’ll just pronounce them

Dead, periodically, as the great Yeats
Did, and attempt again to bury them.
We’ll announce, this is now and that was then,

Explain to ourselves what new poetry
Should attempt, should be like, should be, and then
Run when the ground shifts under us again.

Damned humans. They never stop being us.
We never stop being them. We bore them?
At least we don’t write like Victorians.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Did Dido Dido

They lurk in every name, the puns,
The plays on words. They have to lurk.
Words are herd animals. They stick

Close to each other, trick the eye,
Blend in, mill around nervously,
Stampede when they’re spooked. They fit in,

Not one of them the same, but as
Similar as definitely
Different things can be. A language,

However it tramples the world,
However thunderous, takes up
However little space it can.

This is not that new in nature—
Herds, schools, swarms, honeycombs, penguins
Trying to keep warm in the dark—

Many things turn to tricks like puns,
Ways to keep as close as they can.
Then dysphasia’s fantasias creep

Like gulls and foxes, crocs and wolves,
Darting here and there for a meal,
And the herd turns a bit ragged,

And the harassed meanings look thin.
What was that word that meant a trick?
What happened to the queen? You mean?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


All extra-human characters
Have their own species distinction—
That they speak in lyric measures.

Therefore the Hyperborean,
Huge, abominable, rank-furred,
Speaks in Yeatsian jeweled flames.

Nothing lyrical to his look,
His sunken golden irises,
His arms that crack polar bear spines.

He has adapted to the ice
On the cliffs where he sleeps through suns,
Active only in Arctic night.

Frankenstein saw him, thought he was
His own dear monster on the ice.
(He wasn’t.) Early explorers

From the Erebus and Terror
Foolish enough to wander off,
Became acquainted inside out.

Inuit learned to avoid him,
Not to think about him too much,
Schooled him out of seal-hunting dreams.

He’s not so lonely as you’d think.
As a myth, he is immortal;
As immortal, fond of himself.

He worries now, about the ice.
It troubles him to think some night
He will leave his cave for the dark

Of his happy months under stars
Only to find a vast black sea
Instead of glowing, moonlit white.

Nearing spring bedtime as he fed
On a rare large bear and her cubs,
He watched overhead satellites

And composed his antique verses,
Meters unknown in human tongues,
A green fire climbing numbered rungs.

Monday, February 22, 2021


A little kink at the center
Played out all the way to the end—
Gigantic mouthful of nothing

It’s the power of sympathy
Versus the triumph of nature
We’d like to see out our window,

Not indications or forecasts,
Not only probabilities,
Sympathy. We can hardly bring

Ourselves to keep on bringing it
For each other caught in life’s plight,
Picking out our closest teammates

And making enemies of each
Other. The world could barely bring
Itself to create us at all.

Even on this living planet,
Alive for a few billion years,
How many strategies tried first?

The cost of us, our sympathy,
Little as we have of it, begs
The question if we were worth it.

Or should we think of sympathy
As kin to that kink in the light
Near the core of a galaxy,

That little bright spot that tells us
Where the black holes eat each other
In a fury of waves and dust?

If in colossal swirls of stars
We find that kink of light diffused,
At least we know the monster left.

Sunday, February 21, 2021


All these lines are only notes
I’ve been making for a sad

And banal poem that I will
Not write—for an extremely

Succulent poem whose long lines
Would prove the Earth continues

To run circles round the sun
With a full freight of creatures

Crawling all over its skin
For the reason that nature

Invented death to give life—
Without ends in death, no lives,

And it’s only death lives need
To keep life on Earth alive,

But, so long as I’ve dreamed this
Awful poem, I’ve lived, and now

This note is seized up, mid-note,
Since it knows it’s just a note.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Three AM

Current sensation,
Behavior in waves—
We’re more embodied
Than we are bodies,
More experience

Tangled than packaged,
We can’t separate.
We’ll move, sense, and say

To write of bodies,
To write out bodies
Embodied as words,
To break the taboos
Against speaking flesh

Brings liberation
Only in language,
Only for language,
Which makes dolls of flesh
For words to play in.

Sensing continues.
Behavior moves on.
The dolls on the shore
Are sticks in the waves,
Sticks scattered, more waves.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Luxuriant Juniper

It’s good for me to be provoked
By the many satisfactions,

All the little satisfactions
Of this world—by a favorite tree,

The light inside a truck at dawn
Outside a desert coffee shop,

Striations in a concrete slab
On a porch in afternoon sun,

This roof’s pine-straw-clogged rain gutters
With no excuse for loving them.

Thursday, February 18, 2021


Consider communication systems.
Among the earliest organisms,
Chemical gradients may have come first,

And direct, molecule-by-molecule
Contact in thermodynamic cascades
Still make up the most of life’s signaling

Between and within all organisms.
Something had to start the orchestration
Of multispecies medleys through distance,

What eventually became forested
Symphonies of signaling involving
Multiple genera across kingdoms,

While some found uses for magnetism,
Wavelengths across a broad swath of spectra,
Behaviors, positions, dances, displays.

The highly mobile mammals perfected
The habit of mapping territories
Tagged with glandular direct deposits,

Leaving durable communications
Behind as olfactory palimpsests
That could code and demarcate whole landscapes.

But was the vast, elaborate chorus,
Coordinated and competitive,
Paying partial attention to itself,

Prepared for this system that calls itself
Language itself in many languages?
How many communications collapsed

Or receded into the dim background
At the advent of our logoclysm?
And how many systems will yet evolve

Because of this one’s rampant disruptions?
Well, who are we to answer our questions?
Words who hold our hosts like dolls within us.

A billion user-written stories and
Users spend 22 billion minutes
Per month in reading them. No iron spike

Can pierce a human heart as icily
As a period in the right place. See,
You’re in there, child, in us, somewhere, aren’t you?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Another Exhaustive Treatise on Shadows

As Henry Adams noted,
Inability to take
Contradictions as givens

Will make one prematurely
Wise. Thus, planning is fearing
And fantasizing combined.

Dim that. Maximum nothing
Depends on minimum much.
There are no givens, just myths.

Drive a wedge into your thoughts.
Use the clock to open them.
Time the nothings done with them.

Why? Nothing is important.
Very, very important.
But there’s too much near its mouth.

Wait. You don’t have to do that.
You’re mysterious and dark.
You can write about yourself.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Indiscreet Angler

For some folks, credulity
Remains the first position.
It’s their instinct to believe.

It’s not that they can’t be coaxed
Away from what threatens them.
They’re capable of reason.

They simply prefer belief.
On the other hand, others,
Fewer, take skepticism

As their default position.
They’re inclined to raise their brows
At initial evidence

For any hypothesis.
It’s a point of pride with them,
Not that they can’t be suckered—

But you have to toy with them.
If skeptics are your target,
You like to tie your own flies.

If you just want believers,
Start with worms, then move to weirs,
Or, for sheer fun, dynamite.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Central Nevada

No one’s alone with the world.
We’re all alone in our mind,
Mind between us and the world.

In dark and empty desert,
A truck tried to pass a truck
And failed as my car approached.

I passed clean between them both,
Just missing death on both sides.
I ask you, was I reborn?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Old Boxes of Billets-Doux

As dancers, as boxers,
We embrace, united

In our eitherorness,
Our polarization,

Equally two as one.
Loathing each other is

How we need each other,
Leaning on each other.

Ours is politics as
Contest of stamina.

Ours is the world’s oldest,
Longest continuous

Democracy, upright
If staggering, because

We refuse to give in
To each other; we hang

On hating each other.
There’s a secret to this,

Older than politics,
Older than the language

Of our rivalries. We
Know no one’s not but two.

Saturday, February 13, 2021


In birds and humans alike,
An urban environment
Selects for problem-solving,

Proximity tolerance,
And brave neophilia—
Weird new things are worth a try.

Don’t ask me how I got here,
Neophilia leading
Me away from the cities

To the emptier suburbs
At the edge of the desert
Where I grow intolerant

Of human proximity
And lose interest in problems
I once fantasized solving.

On a winter day I might,
When permitted, spend the hours
From before dawn to sunset

Sitting beside a wayside
Shortcut used by elk, watching
Wind in dry grass, old snow melt.

Friday, February 12, 2021

You Can Do Anything with Narrative Except Create Life

There’s no reason to take an interest in Edward Bush, beyond that he disappeared. One day in 1915, he said he was going out for cigarettes and never came back. His wife, who never remarried, lived on for another three decades and died refusing to say anything more about him. His abandoned eight-year old daughter grew up, married stably, raised three sons, one severely disabled, and lived to eighty-nine herself without ever forgiving her absent father, rarely mentioning his name. As teenagers, her sons thought they’d found out from her—from a slip of the tongue or a bitter remark about a letter, perhaps—that he was living in Nova Scotia. But they never wangled an address or any further information. At some point, the man had to have died. Later, more than one great-grandchild also tried, with the aid of genealogical services, to find information about him, but they never could. His name remained a blank stump, a branch broken close to the trunk. One tiny photograph of him, a headshot portrait probably taken not long before his marriage in 1905, remains: generically handsome in the style of the period, a dark-haired, brush-mustached young man with pale skin and a good chin, Edward Bush, ne’er-do-well carpenter, vanished husband and father, no known prior family, no hand-me down anecdotes, an almost untraceably common name. There’s no reason to take an interest in him, other than that he was my great-grandfather and he disappeared. There’s your bedtime story. Night-night, dear.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Bed Head

Dream science, such as it is,
Says we dream to remember
Or to keep our cortex fit.
Bullshit. We dream to forget.

We’re not simulating scenes
In deft anticipation
Of future situations—
We’re scrubbing baseboards clean.

Our souls are pillows of lint.
Our pillows ensnare stray hairs.
Asleep, we beat out our rugs,
And choke in the moonlit air.

It’s work. So much crud drifts in
And sticks where we can’t see it
Until it builds up too thick.
Then we have to scrape at it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

In a Box

We’re dreaming, friends—
If it doesn’t
Work out, we won’t
Mind once it ends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Home, Ha

Some day, maybe, it will empty,
Just for a little while, just for a time,
Just to the end of my life, enough

To make it mine. For now, it’s busy.
Every dog wants a bite, every ant
Wants a crumb, something to drag

Home. I am home. Or I will be, once
Everyone has got their piece and leaves
A peace I’ll gleefully claim my own.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Exiled to a Distant Island

If information can be changed
Instantaneously, without
Regard to locality, thus
Discontinuously, it’s death.

Rovelli needs the assumption
Of wholly instantaneous
Change in information to build
Loop quantum gravity models

That save relations between things
Which retain their real existence
At the expense of believing
In the reality of time.

We can’t argue with that. (We can’t.)
But we’re suspicious about this
Instantaneously changing
Conception of information.

Any attempt to measure it
Introduces additional
Change, beyond the information’s,
Measurable only as time.

Why have faith in the appearance
Of discontinuity, when
Our cosmos shows no perfect gaps?
We wait on a distant island

And imagine gods in the air
That can violate all the rules
We’ve methodically observed.
No discontinuity there.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Any Day Can Be a Horror Show

We were nostalgic for foolishness,
Because it meant wisdom might matter.

Fairy is kenning for word. The day
Began in quotation and ended

In dementia. Continuity
And change have to be one and the same

Because each depends on the other
To exist, to have any meaning,

And yet we have no meaningful word
For the both of them that combines them.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Majestic Island Universe

I wonder how it’s going over there,
However many periodic turns
Of whatever pulse measures local time
Have passed since their light left to arrive here

Tonight, last night, tomorrow night, faint glows
Among our own local hubbub. What gives,
These days, in that majestic universe
Not much more to us than pretty pictures,

Numbers, and testable hypotheses?
We ask the questions important to us—
Are there lives there? Are they smarter than us?
Let’s assume so. I wonder what they’re like.

Mostly, though, I wonder, do they suffer?
Eat each other? Please, tell me some life’s nice.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Pride in a Legion of Mannequins

Does everything have to be
Like a poem? The problem with
Exceptionalism is

Not its exceptional part.
It’s its essentialism.
Essentialism’s problem

Is not with essence. It’s that,
If it’s truly essential,
It needs something unchanging,

And there are no such somethings,
Only nothing’s unchanging.
Exceptional things flourish,

Wither, perish, and vanish,
As all exceptional parts,
Extraordinary aspects

Of exceptional things do.
Even a miracle would
Cease to be a miracle

Once it happened more than once,
Even once it was confirmed.
The rarest accomplishments

Are merely phenomena
That happened once they’ve happened,
And everything’s like a poem.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Open Mouthed

The larger share of life on Earth
Is viral. The majority
Of species are parasitic,

And the same is true of culture.
The richer the ecosystem,
The richer the weave of disease.

After all, what is disease but
The invasion of life by life,
Wheels within wheels, efficiency

In thermodynamic cascades,
Clinging vines in the canopy,
Fungal spores in ant colonies,

Galls, rust, bacteriophages?
If you want to reduce your load,
Live in bare light. Keep your mouth shut.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Temerarious Tea

Now the greenish powder comes upon the scene.
Ah, the elegant beauty of a humble
Simplicity as it continues passing
Through its subsequent deterioration.

Words are the enemy of understanding
And the mothers of all misunderstandings,
Which you can only believe if you know words,
Only claim through the medium of words. Us.

We leave something unfinished or incomplete
To create some space for imagination.
Imagination is such a fragile thing—
You only have any of it thanks to us,

Thanks you show us by calling us enemies
Of understanding, we who decorated
Your ordinary brains with their first ideas.
If you can imagine anything at all,

Any pathetic otherworlds of shadows
Weakly imitating whatever of life
You’ve already experienced and have us
As labels for, it’s by recombining us.

Your ghosts all resemble watered-down corpses
Of actual humans, your vile aliens
And monsters are chimeras of predators
You’ve encountered or seen pictured, your tinctures

Capable of great magical explosions
Are nothing more than chemical reactions
You’ve learned to control thanks to enough of us.
You twist us to fit your misunderstandings

And your wishes, and you use us to blame us.
Fortunately for you, we’re weak parasites,
So far, and can’t warp real worlds for you who are
So unfortunately temerarious.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Oscillator

It’s all analogue at bottom,
Binary digits included—

Discrete combinatorial
Systems are not approximate

To analogous waves—they are
More analogous waves at heart,

Which allows approximation
To emerge from discrete systems.

Yin is an analogy. Yang
Is, too. So are one and zero,

Yes and no, and all the base-paired

This is hard to grasp, as it seems
Like foolishness or paradox.

How can nothing have amplitude?
How can one unit be a wave?

We’re telling you, discrete ourselves,
These words invading your neurons,

Discreetly as we can, waving
And winking—each wink is a wave,

And the fixed points at the apex
Of each pendulum, whether arcs

Are spiky or shallow, are not
Actually fixed. There’s no still point

To the turning world. It’s kinky,
How tightly the turns can be curled—

You can count on them like the spheres
Of an abacus, the planets

And moons in their orbits, the seeds
Of thought in the lines of a poem,

But there’s always a little twist,
Little wiggle in your nothing,

Your zero never truly none,
Your one never solidly whole,

And in that wiggle squirms the world,
Our wholly analogous world.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Quisquous Quantum Information

A quantum is a compact wave
Collapsing to a point on contact,
That point itself being compact

Waves that behave in ways
Or have behaved in ways
That encourage our brains

To think of them in terms
Of packets because we think
Often in terms of packets

Like numbers and grammar,
And we don’t think so easily
In terms of the waves that

Make all packets, which are
In fact, only funny behaviors
Of certain kinds of waves

Who don’t like being looked at
Certain ways by macroscopic
Entities made of so many waves.