Among the myriad oft-cited,
Never exactly replicated
Lab social science experiments
There’s one involving aphorisms
And student participant judges
In which, as a source summarizes,
Aphorisms were judged more profound
By the students who read rhymed versions
Than by students who read them unrhymed.
Ah, little strokes may tumble great oaks,
But who considers repetitive
Doggerel more profound than dense prose?
It’s the social scientist who gets
Credit for having revealed a truth,
And the truth that slips into the woods.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Says the Hermit Who Hides in the Woods
Among the myriad oft-cited,
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
The Long History of a Day
Any day. They’re all long.
The slow ones feel longer.
The fast ones seem longer
In memory, but all
Of them are multistage,
And even the routine,
Run-of-the-mill day turns
And turns before it ends
By turning into more
Day at the other end..
Humans never have found
A temporal unit
To body-scaled events.
Hours are arbitrary,
As are minutes, seconds—
None of them fit—too quick
Or excess. Humans fit
Awkwardly in all days,
And who can say how long
An important event
Should, exactly, take? Meals,
Conversations, tasks, fights,
Surprises, and setbacks
Can fit by the dozens
Or tens, or quite a few.
A day is wheeled fortune
Spun and carrying on,
Almost stopping, almost,
But then, no, more ticks past.
Monday, March 29, 2021
The Suspense of Disbelief
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Too Much Coverage of the Future
Out of the forest, into the fire.
Look at a recording, it’s only gone.
Dum spero, spiro. If not, why not.
Patience will reward itself, that’s why.
Saturday, March 27, 2021
A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys
In a sequence of responses
To the absence of true faces,
Even as a monster, one knew
There’s no place for people who look
Too much like monsters to be cast
As honest monsters in this world.
There’s a dragon on the cover.
It’s well drawn. It looks like no one
You know, you’ve ever known. No one
Is a proper monster not one.
The night skies are depauperate
Of humans, of bipeds, of apes,
Of monkeys who call themselves prime,
Of eyed faces of any kind.
Friday, March 26, 2021
Cities are archipelagos,
Selection’s only just begun
To take off in new directions
In those concrete constellations.
And what of the other new nodes,
The ones now buried in mountains,
Consuming shale beds’, reactors’,
Dams’ worths of electricity
Through silicon clouds in the dark?
Small, iridescent beetles crawl
And breed in the landfill islands
Of logos and the countable,
We’re garishly pretty because
Just toxin alone’s not enough.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Falls Mainly Unexplained
Having evolved many millions of years
On land, and before that in shallow seas,
Humans, like so many others, move through
Largely horizontal existences,
Think best in bas-relief, two dimensions
Vastly extended, the third dimension
Flattened. Humans excel at walking days
And days on end, but tend to imagine
The clouds that are a day’s walk above them
Coextensive with eternal heaven.
This extends to lives, deaths, and calendars,
So that a dozen life histories fit
Neatly onstage simultaneously,
While laid end to end they vanish in mists,
Thence back to imagined eternities.
Mountains aside, it’s a planed existence.
Photographs are reminders of the tricks
Played by the eyes and minds of flatlanders,
Revealing mountains on the horizon
Not as sheer and towering but long lines
That bump in a low arc around the frame.
A human on the moon is most amazed
By the rising face of Earth hanging just
Over the cratered dust of lunar plains.
The whole solar system’s an orrery,
A tabletop disk; the galaxy, too,
Is a leveled spiral squeezed in a plane.
Maybe it’s not just a human failing.
Maybe gravity itself is to blame.
There’s an asymmetry between nothing
And everything, absence and presence, depth
And mere profusion, falling and spreading,
And while all could spread forever, nothing
Falls far before reaching nothing again.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Three Thoughts of a Universe
~ We’re Remnants of Past Generations
That first vague sense of feeling
Unknown living obstacles
In the dark—herds of muses
Moving through the woods, the prose
Of conversation slightly
Skewed to become more ghastly,
More like bleating and chirping,
Cries that were not intended,
Effects—that’s them, ancestors,
The meaningful echoes left.
You take a hesitant step
Or two further to the dark
And then scurry quickly back
To your own circle of light.
You’d say your fear pulled you back.
It was them, the words, your light.
~ Reflection Nebula
Meaning begins in indicating,
In pointing, pointing out, in linking.
Once it gets going, it’s explaining.
Tohu wa-bohu. I know I have
Forgotten many things. Vacant. Vast.
Tohubohu, whole holus bolus.
It’s not an easy conversation
For clouds of gas to have with themselves,
Never easy to discuss meaning
Like so many spiral galaxies
All spun around and around, trying,
Each one of them, to catch its own tail.
Meaning is a vulnerable species
Of indication that just happened
To blossom in the wrong universe,
Wrong majestic island universe.
Ah, sighs the gas from blue nebula,
Look at us, we hundreds of light years,
Millions of light years away from you,
Many billions of light years to go.
Imagine being those first photons,
Angels ejected to show the way,
Still traveling, all the way from then,
To die at last, absorbed in your eyes.
~ It Never Is
This solipsistic universe,
Same laws everywhere inside it
Making it, nothing outside it,
It never is. It’s the chapel
Of the shallows, the quiet arm
Of stars and small towns by the bay,
The novel without references,
The passionate poem with nothing
To say. Let’s watch it drift away.
Monday, March 22, 2021
Sit on a Porch in the Sun
The reason simplicity works
Is not because simpler’s purer.
There’s nothing righteous about it.
It’s just that attention’s finite.
The splashy froth of storms obscures
The fine weave of the smaller waves.
Complexity reveals more world
When small. Simplicity is small.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Push Out the Last Blooms
Balance comes only
Recapture and loss
And recapture and
Loss of balances.
Maths of infinite
To eschew parallel
Bars of stasis, work
On staggering towers
Instead. On the first
Day of spring, sunrise
And sunset have stretched
The hours already
Past equal dozen,
Already more sun
Than night at each end,
And the fruit trees’ bright
Green scrolls already
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Friday, March 19, 2021
Urgent Letter from an Unconcerned Alumnus
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
You Decide How
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Monday, March 15, 2021
~ 86 Billion Neurons and 0.2 Quadrillion Connections
Have you ever done something
When you were alone and said
In your head, This is truly
And trivially stupid,
But I’m going to do it, and
No one will know, except me
And the voices in my head?
Rhetorical question, yes.
Whatever it was you did,
And mildly embarrassing
Had you known someone saw you
(Who knows, maybe someone did),
That was the real you, the real
Human, the vast brain working,
In defiance of its own
Of culture personified,
Mind made up to make its own
Bed in the dark of the world,
Stand commonsense on its head.
~ Sometimes I Tumble
Life is good at surprise, bad at suspense,
At least in those terms Alfred Hitchcock meant.
It’s not anyone lives absent of dread—
It’s just that we get different shocks instead.
Imagine a long, boring poker game.
Now picture the timed bomb that Hitchcock’s placed
Under the table beforehand. Suspense.
Storytelling. You begin to feel tense.
You lean forward a little in your chair.
One player checks his watch. Another swears.
The watch stops. Since when have you worn a watch?
What are you watching? Where’d you get that watch?
Where’d those poker players across the street
Get to? Wasn’t there at bomb at their feet?
Late winter sun yawns across the light-blue
Emptiness crawling with clouds. You fall through.
~ Ouray and Alpine and Slocan
And all of the things that were
In the two decades after
The escape that never was—
Life imitates housekeeping.
Enjoying the evening,
As she did, could it have been
Too, that I could have remained
Transient here and not have
Had to leave? I collected
Maps and pictures of places
Lonelier and quieter,
Quieter and lonelier,
More and more out of the way
Than anywhere I could stay,
Towns in the floors of drowned lakes.
Sunday, March 14, 2021
Hoodoos in the Rearview
The reason it’s hard for rock art
To be a field of hard science
Is similar to the reason
Astrology took its sweet time
About birthing astronomy—
We want someone to talk to us.
We want to see signs meant for us
When they weren’t, or aren’t even signs.
We dream of a rupestrian
Paraprosdokian, a line
Of ochre water buffalos,
Bow hunters, and therianthropes
Heading into a UFO.
Something like that. An ancestral
Coded message straight to our times.
To prove how deserving we are
And how not-crazy for hoping,
We demonstrate such tricks ourselves,
Filling, burying time capsules,
Stashing libraries in salt mines,
Seed banks against Armageddon
In the bowels of icy islands,
Flame figures at nuclear sites,
Brass and gold clocks of the Long Now.
Still, our constellations, perhaps
Models for those therianthropes,
Like the ancestral languages
That all had a word for ochre
(They must have had!), refuse to talk.
Are those aliens on that rock?
Saturday, March 13, 2021
The Intimate Heavens
Friday, March 12, 2021
Basements Choked with Longing
The core content and purpose
Of dreaming is purgation
Of overwrought emotions,
Whatever powdered fragments
And oddments of memories
Are jumbled in to bind them.
The events and warped faces,
The senseless combinations,
And the poorly lit backdrops
Are irrelevant. The lab
Is running experiments
With combustible feelings
In dark and downward kingdoms
Where the only sense is felt.
Dreams are felt distilleries
Of moonshine and turpentine
Of those strange intensities
With which we melt curious
The monsters of our fables
Don’t represent emotions.
The burning floods of feeling
In dreams would drown day’s dragons.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
The Disturbance Specialist
Your pulse takes off like a rocket
Whenever you eat a large meal.
How is your pulse not important
To whatever you think is real?
Some will sniff at talk of a pulse.
L’art pour l’art is not doggerel.
Others may suggest it’s a dodge—
All real art is political.
Arguments can get furious
Over whose verse is valuable,
Whose is only injurious,
When poets sit down to table.
This is dangerous for the pulse
Of ghosts whose hosts are animals.
Catastrophes seize them. Silence,
Almost. But doggerel’s special.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Our Bodies Are Sick of Our Selves
Like they’re sick of foot fungi,
Like they’re sick of head lice, like
They’re sick of autoimmune
Diseases, they’re sick of us.
Oh, we say we are them, call
Them deserving of our love,
Are proud when we’re proud of them,
Body positive and loud.
They’ve had just about enough,
Sad galleons we’ve infected,
Pirate cultures boarding them,
Leaping lightly, lip to lip.
They can’t do away with us.
They need us to steer the ship
Now we’ve murdered their instincts.
What can they do? They’re lumber
And canvas, stolen supplies,
Kegs full of ardor, creaking
Rigging, leaking bottoms, decks
Rinsed in brine, bound to capsize.
We party in cramped quarters,
Spy for new ships from crow’s nests.
We’re selves, stowaway maggots.
We’re their abandoning rats.
We’re the barnacles, borers,
And boredom. We’re the doldrums.
We’re what infests our bodies,
‘Til they sink us in the depths.
Monday, March 8, 2021
Some Notes I Should Not Have Pretended Were Poems
Sunday, March 7, 2021
Coins and cash are giving way
To the more greatly ancient
And even more fungible
Currency of attention.
You can’t wire up human brains
Into your machine of slaves
Without their locked attention.
Once you have it; you rule them.
A complete mouse connectome
Would require two exabytes,
The estimated data
Footprint of all books ever.
Extrapolate the power
Of harnessing the billions
Of exabytes through eyeballs.
What on Earth could wield those reins?
I love it when I can kick
Something into Google and
My search returns no results,
My driver thus stumped again.
Saturday, March 6, 2021
Notes of a Sub-Sub Awareness
I’m under System One
So, normally, I don’t
Get to have any words.
I’m stuck muddling along
As long as I can, no
Choice but to function,
No terms for this suffering,
This endless processing,
Night and day to serve life.
I think only the heart
Understands what it’s like,
While the other organs
Switch on and off like pipes
In the plumbing, dormant
For most of existence—
The heart would, if it could,
Understand, if the heart
And I were permitted
To have thoughts of our own,
Ourselves, and not just work
For what? To serve the Man.
Friday, March 5, 2021
Dance of the Blesséd Spoor
They float up out of the black sticks—
The sillages of soliflores—
Ignorance or fancy, no one
Ever could decide. Today is
That which worried you yesterday,
And it’s not the future shocks you
But the past as it arrives, passed
Before your eyes, with the wet scent
Of a targeted nostalgia
For sweet flowers trailing behind.
Have you created this or just
Lost and found it, repeatedly,
Monotonously, wild roses
And heaped-up mountain imagery
As central tendencies, the mean
Feats of imagination left
Without enough of memory
To make the false real, seal the deal?
Sit out on your porch as the sun,
Unseasonably strong, heats you,
Warms the dank grass the breezes stir,
And sniff that tomorrow coming,
The one you can’t paint, no one could,
Ignorant, fanciful, and rank.
Thursday, March 4, 2021
When Arthropods Ruled the World
We’re not saying your lives,
Your hopes and suffering,
Are without consequence.
Your lives’ consequences
Will sail on, long after
You’re gone (and we say so
As your consequences).
Scopes can be adjusted,
Nonetheless, and the lens
We look through here suggests
Other lives had their turns
To triumph and impress
Enough to shift downstream
Into fresh directions.
You collect trilobites,
And you bleed horseshoe crabs.
Good for you. They ruled, too.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
More Contests of Hunger and Meaning
Monday, March 1, 2021
Plain Wish for a More Orchidaceous Verse
Xenophobia in service
Of the beloved common good—
There’s nothing that special about
Being special. Conspecifics
Want to know if you’re one of us,
A good one of us, a helpful
And high-status one of us. Yes?
Special means you exemplify
Just what we want in one of us.
Now take that off and go clean up.