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.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Three things, or rather, three kinds
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,
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
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
Behavior in waves—
We’re more embodied
Than we are bodies,
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
Only in language,
Only for language,
Which makes dolls of flesh
For words to play in.
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
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Another Exhaustive Treatise on Shadows
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
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,
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,
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,
And brave neophilia—
Weird new things are worth a try.
Don’t ask me how I got here,
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
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
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
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
Conception of information.
Any attempt to measure it
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
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
Thursday, February 4, 2021
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
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
It’s all analogue at bottom,
Binary digits included—
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.