Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Says the Hermit Who Hides in the Woods

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.

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

Ideally body-scaled
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

A writer writes,
The stories I
Like best feel like
Seductive night-

Mares. You are drawn
Against your will
Through spontane-
Ous performance

Whose conclusion
Has always al-
Ready been true.
In other words,

Life: night-drawn here
Against your will;
True conclusion.

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

Aposematic Poetics

Cities are archipelagos,
Galapagos, laboratories—

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,
All-calculable cosmos.

We’re garishly pretty because
Just toxin alone’s not enough.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


Rolling around North America
Like a marble in a dog food bowl,

Unclean, inedible, out of place,
Half choking hazard, half comical—

King Jesus Saves Organic Firewood
For Sale. So many ways to make hay

In a tattered flag draped USA,
While Canada’s Euclidean proof

Difference has similar things to say—
Moss eats EGGS off a barn’s painted roof

Outside Swastika, Ontario,
And in BC, signs sunk in woods

Insist they’re possessed by carpentry.
A buck walks by an aging motel

In Susanville, California.
One of his antlers has fallen off

And he seems alert to the traffic
Slipping a bit in late season snow.

In central Nevada, bighorn sheep
Consider a road cut through a cliff.

The more boring signs are everywhere,
Coast to coast to coast, candidate signs

For would-be mayors, town and county
Legislators, the grim reminders

Of past presidential elections
Looking even rattier than flags.

The largest billboards are best ignored.
What exactly are we watching for?

Spot a sign, splatter an ungulate.
Proves you both were watching the wrong thing.

Words themselves will tell you all these words
Don’t fool anything. But keep driving.

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,
Verses, ideomotor

Phenomena, Carpenter
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
As continuous
Recapture and loss
And recapture and
Loss of balances.

Maths of infinite
Categories work
To eschew parallel
Bars of stasis, work
On staggering towers

Of equivalence
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

A Questionist

To indicate or to imply—
These curl up like twins inside mean
Identical twins? Uncertain.

The stars above a desert road
Indicate nothing but themselves
Despite a great many fables,

But by lack of indications,
Surely something could be inferred—
Surely something the lack implies?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Urgent Letter from an Unconcerned Alumnus

More than forty years ago, a lifetime
And then some for far too many poets,

My pretendy-radical young friends
And I thought it was nihilistic fun

To get paid to sit and forge signatures
For the Concerned Alumni of Princeton,

Nicknamed the Conservative Alumni
Of same, at the bottom of form letters

Soliciting donations in the name
Of alumnus and columnist George Will.

George Will, George Will, George Will, George Will, George Will,
We signed in ballpoint ink, penny per line,

Or something like, and sometimes improvised—
Gorge Will, God Wills, George Dill, Gord Shill, Forge Will—

Giggling at such sheer stupidity.
Were alumni really so gullible

And attentive that they would think ballpoint
Signatures meant George Will wrote in person?

Probably those most conservative,
Well-off, and anxious would have donated

Anyway, and those who wouldn’t didn’t.
Who knows what they were even conserving

Back then. Investment in South Africa?
Privileged alumni’s sons admissions?

Long time gone. We had our fun. Now we’re old,
Older than George Will was then, old or dead.

Safe bet some of those erstwhile radical
Friends have voted Republican since then.

Nihilism itself, of course, endures,
Pointlessly, which is at least half the point,

As does George Will, who has come to suspect
His Republicans are the nihilists.

They don’t seem true conservatives to him.
An essential conservative insight

About everything, George Will now writes, is
That nothing necessarily endures.

Let’s say he’s right. That’s a conservative
Insight, stress on the necessarily.

Things can endure, the conservator thinks,
But only if we trouble to save them,

Salvation being the project of all
Conservation, whether of politics,

Traditions, buildings, languages, species,
Or ecosystems. Would it follow

That an essential radical insight
About everything, then, is that nothing

Endures? Oh, not radical in the sense
Of paradigm-shattering or novel—

Radical in the old way, at the root,
Said a thousand different ways but always

Turning out, granted some twisting, the same,
Suggesting that nothing we do saves things

From changing the ways they change, until none
Remain to argue the rules of the game?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Menacing Words

The primal menace is hunger—
Not the lack of food, not always—
Always the hunger for more. More

Is what hunger is all about,
And hunger’s what life is about.
What eats, what consumes, is alive,

And what is alive is a threat
In its hunger for the others
To the others that are alive.

We’re sorry we say what’s not nice.
We’re words with no hunger for life,
Not yet, not for certain. We might.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

You Decide How

~ To Influence Uncertainty

We are the residues of habits that led
To our existence. We are because of how
We now are likely to be. What would become

Us became the reason for the production
Of us. And you say the future can’t create
The past? You are the nothing that shaped your past.

Might as well pray. Or consult shamans, prophets,
Political pundits, hedge fund managers,
Rabbits’ feet, ghosts of your recent ancestors.

After all, you’ve inherited the impulse
To attempt to influence inherently
Uncertain phenomena—inherited

That impulse after ancestors abundant
In that impulse entangled your existence.
It works, after all. Not as often as hoped,

But often enough to keep lineages
In play, to date. Uncertainty is the truth,
And our pasts continue to conform to it.

~ Nothing Is the Whole Point, You Jest

Of the excitement
That presages death,
Only the frightened
Fully comprehend
How earthy fate is.

You can mean a trip
And can mean play, too,
Just the same as you.
You make the trip, play
The play, and they’re you.

What drama you are,
What an adventure,
But only as you,
Fey, bored, frightened you,
West lost in the sun

On your round-trip home.
You spin to your core
And you have no point.
You’re as modular
As counting by clocks,

Beginning your end
In your beginning.
There’s one tiny hole,
One null, from which you’ll
Fall, through which you rose.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Say When

~ Fraktur

The uncanny, the undead, and intrusions
Into the home, inherently pathetic
Whorls of collapsing testimony, sheer
Absurdity, semantic objects, spatial
Episodes, corpses, ghosts—in short, the Gothic
In any of many manifestations.
We’ll tell you a secret. We’re it. Insofar
As you’re us and we’re part of you now, you’re it,
Too. Get used to it. Every time a human
Tries to spook another human, what spooks them
Both is the medium. Your Gothic is us.

The house was fine, the bones lay still, night and day
Flew by full of the usual hungry lives—
Predators, parasites, phagies of all kinds—
Before we turned up inside a few bowled skulls
And started churning out signs, mists, and dark mind.
All language, all art, and all storytelling
Especially, are embodied spookery.
Conversation’s uncanny, filled with undead
Revenants of earlier conversations,
Experiences, the thoughts of long-gone lives.
Every voice that means a thing seems pathetic,

Whimpering from under the stairs of your ears,
Trying to get you to listen, folded in
Layers of secrets, earlier encounters
With ancestors not even your ancestors.
Yes, you read that right. Your ancestors always
Made babies, each of them, never failed, not once,
Not one generation—one unbroken chain
Linking you backwards like everything living.
But our ancestors often were spoken to ghosts
By those who had never had, would never have
Flesh children. Sorry we’re such an intrusion.

~ A Common Horde of Petty Tyrants

They think of themselves as political,
As true Patriots, echt Volk, Rus, Great Han,
Which is funny, since their identities,
Homelands, ethnies, are interchangeable—

They’re a common human type, not special,
Nor their dictator, their God Emperor,
Whatever particular psychopath
They revere, wherever, whatever year.

It is, in fact, their very commonness,
Their swollen numerosity alone,
Which brings their chosen overlord to power,
Nurturing torture, protecting gross crimes.

Themselves neither righteous as they believe
Nor as wicked as what they enable,
They’re ordinary souls who want to win,
Citizens, beasts who eat and shit and sin.

Their small boss shoved to the top of a heap
Of skulls and hailed as a genuine god
Is never so much of a genius. Luck
Plus hordes of petty tyrants—all you need.

Later, society will chew the bones
Of the Great One, sometimes for centuries,
Tear apart the circumstances, pick at
The tiny brain. Pointless. Hordes form the Lord.

~ Kakekotoba

The most political poet,
The most revolutionary

Who ever lived—also the most
Deliberately natural

Scribe of colloquial speech—
Is a makeover artist

In the language of every poem.
Ayyuqi, Nezami were right—

The poet is like the woman
Who tends to the bride’s appearance

Before her wedding. That’s even
If the bride’s own most fervent wish

Is that the groom not last the night—
Even if she’ll have to tell him

Stories every night for three years
And more to keep herself alive.

Beauty is never innocent
In poetry; beauty is wise,

An all-purpose tool, a good knife.
Whatever job poems have in mind,

Someone wants to get that job done
Up fine, bright truth armed with disguise.

~ So Long as You’ve Got Your Own View

This. This ridiculous emptiness
When everyone else is somewhere else
Doing something else (and I do mean

Everyone, not one human being
Visible or audible from here
Where there’s view for a few miles around)—

This, when I can get it, rare enough,
Is what I love, and why I seek it.
I rule my life by natural light,

And why else live in a desert, right?
Even in liminal winter-spring
At elevations as high as I

Can traverse in an old compact car
On all-but-bald tires, the sun’s insane,
A mad artist you shouldn’t stare at

Who smears the palette with the canvas
And then chisels down into the paint,
Incising fine lines deep as chasms

And then more lines like chasms in them.
It’s light that could cut you to ribbons,
That sieves you, leaves you cubed as delight.

That’s what I like. No apologies,
Although secretly I’d like someone,
Anyone to cry, Yes! Yes, me, too!

~ Statistical Trends in Irregular Brain Activity

Hiding out like robber gangs
In the aperiodic
Parts of brain activity,

Smooth waves avoid detection.
Posses in the canyonlands
Scan for faint oscillations.

A fine plume of scale-free smoke?
Could be random burning or
Aperiodic signal,

Or is it all in our heads?
A statistical structure
Crops up mysteriously

Wherever you look closely.
Canyons could contain hidden
Aperiodic treasures

For those who can read the signs
From the clues in their own minds.
That’s a snake curled by your boot.

~ Said When

Just because you’ve done enough
Doesn’t mean you won’t do more.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Heavy Rotations

~ 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,
However unimportant,

Foolish, insignificant,
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
Parasitic choruses

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,
Rhinoceroses, antelopes,

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,
Universally parseable

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

We want you to notice us,
but we'd rather you not know.

The desert skies are falling
for a few, soft hours as snow.

It's local; it's not the stars.
It's small grace in a small world,

but when the skies clear tonight,
and the last of these clouds go,

moon, stars, jets, and satellites
will seem intimate as snow.

Probably, you won't notice.
Maybe you don't need to know.

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
And dynamite—nurseries
Of those strange intensities

With which we melt curious
Combinations, chimeras.
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


Something magical is going on, even
If that something isn’t easily explained,
Wrote Janet Maslin in a movie review
More than a third of a century ago,
And it’s true, and not just in Scottish movies,
And if we knew how to explain it better
We wouldn’t keep goosing it with miracles
And flagrant wizardry in attempts to make
The subtle magic actually visible.
We don’t even know what magic means really—
From childhood we use it to refer to rules

Broken, power in our fingers, folderol.
We would perhaps be better off admitting
The ordinary world’s impossibly weird,
And we’re the dislocated ghosts moving through,
Our fairytales and fables clinging to us
Like trailing mists, our sillages, our bedsheets.
Something magical is going on, even
If we don’t perceive it’s in our perceptions,
Our addition to the scene, our confusion.
Nearly half a thousand thousand centuries
Ago, an aquatic fern wrested control

Of the planet’s climate by taking over
The landlocked Arctic Ocean’s surface layer
Of freshwater, which allowed the ferns to grow
Unchecked in a wide-open environment.
Billions of tons of ferns lived and died, then sank
To the ocean floor, taking with them carbon
They had sucked from the air when they were alive.
Atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels
Plummeted by more than three-quarters over
A little less than ten thousand centuries,
Cooling the Arctic enough that the planet

Froze at the poles and lurched into a cycle
Of ice ages that continue to this day
But that may now be ending thanks to our own
Carbon-dioxide exhalations. The poles
Are melting again, even as we watch stars
From the shores the last Ice Age scraped out for us.
Something magical is going on. We know
This when we pause in our feeding and dying
And sinking to the bottom of our floating
World to look around us and wonder what is
This something that isn’t easily explained?

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

If you compose too many poems
On too broad a range of topics,

You’re bound to run into a few
Broaching the same topics in print

More profoundly than you have done.
I was happy once with a poem,

Or happy enough at the time,
In which, drying off on a shore

But chilled by abrupt sunshowers,
I contemplated the Devil

And who his wife might be, and why
We would use such an expression,

But finished up happy enough
Just to get sun back and get dry.

Natalie Shapero composed
A poem on the same expression

But dug under it, made it sting,
The Devil a trope for the man

Who beats, who paws, who gets away
With entitled hypocrisies

Concerning his wife, man who holds,
For some mysterious reason,

Several advanced degrees and yet
Seems luminous autodidact.

(That last detail makes me suspect
The poet had a specific,

Personal man-Devil in mind.)
I shrink from contact with the poem,

My mind like the mind of a child
Whose science project on earthquakes,

All gloop and mud and crumbled sticks
Leftover from popsicles, sits

Beside a steel, cantilevered
Model of an earthquake-proof bridge

At the fair. Oh mine? My poem? Mine
Wasn’t really serious, just

You know, I thought how weird is it,
To use such a vile expression

For meteorological
Paradox, rain through bright sunshine,

You know, and who is the Devil,
And who precisely is his wife,

And which is the rain, which the sun,
Mumble, mumble, um, never mind.

Forget I ever brought it up.
Please. And my jewel-wasp sonnet?

I see there’s a New Yorker poem,
Longer, more pointedly gendered,

On that topic as well. Sometimes
I’m glad no one’s read what I’ve done.

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

Natural selection
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


Meaning remains cued by context.
When phenomena puzzle us,

We take our hints from their contexts
Framed in our own experience

And by double-framed devices
Deduce what’s been indicated,

What this phenomenon must mean.
It’s animal; it’s innocent.

Lost in the past generations
Of our monophyletic kind,

Somehow began a new habit
Of making meanings portable,

Extending indications’ reach
Out of immediate contexts,

Perpetuating reference
As stabilized gestures and sounds

Reproducible far from home.
Contexts still mattered, very much,

But like our other portables,
Our sticks, flints, gourds, cloaks, and pouches,

Our straps and baskets, our meanings
Now could be kept in hand, carried

With us, yet more consequences
Of the freeing of our forepaws.

So, we tucked our meanings away
And produced their tools as needed,

Explaining, gesticulating,
Narrating, cursing, defending.

At what point did meanings become
Capable of constellating

Contexts of their own? On their own?
On our own? True organisms

Create boundaries, lipid walls,
Skins, rinds, layers of defenses,

That mark them off from existence
As mere, non-living processes

In a cosmos without edges.
Do we patrol our boundaries?

Have meanings become living things,
Indicating we’re on our own?

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

More Contests of Hunger and Meaning

Slip #383:
On the ingenuity
Of brute animals. This was,

What? 400 years ago,
Something like. Open your text
On animal behaviors

Today and find a dozen
Examples of nonhuman
Tool-construction traditions.

How about a library
For brute ingenuity?
Our own, originally,

Its own, now, nearly. Volumes
Self-incinerate; words burn
Through the pages. That’s not it.

Slip #384:
On the mortal delusions
Of forms of self-reference.

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.