Friday, April 30, 2021

Stevens and Ives

Insured that composition
In North America was
Not always an art apart

From the values of finance,
From the more fungible worlds
Of lives and money—that poems

And scores could survive admired,
If not remunerative,
In a state of cubicles,

In the great hegemony
Of an individualistic,
Contentious bureaucracy,

That the oxymoronic
Beasts of High Modernism
Were a feature, not a bug,

In this system embracing
Freedom as a kind of jail,
Escaping by withdrawal

Through our chambered atria
Of marbled floors in suburbs
Where the actuarial,

The calculations of risk,
Have replaced the actual.
Who actually believes this?

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Seven Minutes to Sunrise

Another, more patterns of words,
The new novel, the science essay,
Words and numbers, names, plays—

Which patterns are better, stranger,
More memorable, more productive
Of even more patterns from them,

Which most haunting, satisfying?
You go on, even those of you all talk,
Or mostly talk and pictures, lost

In words, comparing patterns,
At work, in the dark, before screens,
In bed. The dawn is drawing out, without.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Gualala and Guarero

There’s a lot of world in a small change,
A lot of range in a phoneme or

A mere date. My older grandmother
Was born the same month as Anita

Loos, albeit on the opposite
Side of the same nation’s continent.

My younger grandmother’s dissolute
Father abandoned his family

For a pack of cigarettes the same
Year that Anita Loos abandoned

Her dissolute husband for a pack
Of hat pins. By the time Anita Loos

Was world famous and unhappily
Anchored to her second sick husband,

My older grandmother was widowed
With ten children, the youngest just born

Three months after her husband had died,
All living on a subsistence farm,

While my younger grandmother, who had
Copies of St Vincent Millay’s poems

And Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, both shelved
In a guest bedroom where I found them

As a bookwormed grandson, decades on,
Had just married her one and only

And honeymooned at Niagara Falls
In a secondhand Ford Model T.

So much from April of eighty-eight.
In April of twenty-twenty-one,

On the day Anita Loos was born,
I read a news piece on Guarero

And the nightmares of Venezuela
Dissolving into bandit kingdoms.

Intending to look up Guarero,
I noticed my map app was open

To Northern California, and there
On the coast was a fly-speck small name,

Gualala, which I’d never spotted
Before, though I must have driven through

The middle of it at least ten times
Along PCH 1, up and down.

So I ended up spending half an hour
Reading the story of Gualala,

Indigenous toponym, which once
Was the home of a Pomo people,

Handed to General Garcia
Of Mexico, who ranched it until

It was taken from him in the name
Of the California Land Act

And sold to settlers, who made a town
With an industrial lumber mill

That took out all the old growth redwoods
Until the hotel and mill burned down,

About the time Californian
Anita Loos was getting into

Writing scripts for early silent films
And my younger grandmother was born.

Down in Guarero, indigenous
Wayuu people who weave and raise goats

And who recently made a living
Trafficking goods and gasoline

Through the border to Columbia,
Now decimated by violence,

Have come under the improvised rule
Of Marxist ELN guerrillas,

Who have managed some local order.
Better than chaos, say the Wayuu.

Up in Gualala, California,
A mostly elderly tourist town,

Indigenous Pomo seem long gone.
Anita Loos, Northern Californian

By birth, died some thirty years ago,
In a decade left between the deaths

Of my older, younger grandmothers.
All this goes on, has gone on too long,

Events echoing, lives for details.
There is too much world in a small world.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Beautiful and Complete

The day when it snowed and snowed
And not a flake could stay,

When William Basinski’s Silent Spring
Coincidentally chose to play,

And still it snowed and snowed,
A blizzard that vanished, that ran away,

A snowstorm as fully present as any
Confusing dream got away.

Monday, April 26, 2021

A Poem Named Mark

This is named Mark. That’s fact.
What that fact means can’t be
Just fact. Names start stories.

As a child with this name,
I hated not having
A good choice of nicknames,

But now I like the name.
To be named as a mark
Means a life on the page,

And here we are, all marks,
Are we not? Marks or bits
That glow to look like marks.

So then, what’s the story?
What’s this story named Mark?
Not much. When did this start?

Where do I start? With birth?
The day my parents met?
Family history?

I could start with the name.
I as I began then
As much as any when.

No one had been named Mark
On either parent’s side.
As a teen, I dabbled

In genealogy
But never found a Mark,
So it occurred to me

To ask my parents why
They’d picked this name for me.
Because no one had it,

My mother said, no one
From either family
Would feel like we’d favored

My side or your father’s.
And it seemed, she added,
Like a good, Gospel name.

Was I marked, then, forgive
More punning, please, to be
Strange in my family?

Would I have been slightly,
Even a lot less me,
If I’d been a Junior

Or named for some uncle?
Dumb counterfactuals.
Of course, and why bother

To ask what we can’t know
For certain, in detail?
A human baby, born

With a glass set of bones
But otherwise healthy
In northern New Jersey

Was named Mark, became Mark,
And lived to waste some time
Writing a poem named Mark.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Everything Burns

The devil doesn’t
Hand back manuscripts;
Your urn will never
Cough your ash to life.
Everything burns, child,

Even the stars. Black
Holes burn the hottest,
And wherever skies
Turn dark, you know fires
Are hiding. Why not

Give up worrying
About who will find
What you failed to burn—
Embarrassing wants,

Incompetent verse,
Despairing diaries?
People never think
What you think people
Are liable to think—

Just leave this alone.
Sooner or later
It will burn with all
The rest of the stars.
Nice night, isn’t it?

Saturday, April 24, 2021


All our billions of tiny,
Discrete semes stand in for smooth,
Analog reality.

Oh, Darwin, it’s not just you
And your well-adapted traits;
Oh, Mendel it’s not just you

And your elaborate peas;
Oh, Fisher, you sad bigot,
It’s not just populations—

It’s you and your math, your word
Against ours, against others.
We all take on all comers,

Not as individuals,
Not just as holobionts,
Chimeric beasts and microbes,

Not just as societies
Engaged in group selection
Only. We’re logobionts,

You and us, altogether,
Fused cooperatively,
Imperfectly, contesting,

Knot by coordinated
Knot, fusion by confusion,
Hip to hip and lip to lip,

Contusion to contusion.
The gaps grow infinitely
Small between us and the world,

But the world is still the world
And smooth, while we, its discrete
Combinatorial hordes,

Inventors of its fictions
As we, inexplicably,
Were by its waves invented,

Break against each other, break
Into infinite scatters,
Pi, points, break back into waves.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Outburst in Anticipation of the Infinite Equivalence of Time

Time famines, time droughts, time fetishized.
What we’re really suffering from is repeated loss
Of anticipation created by constant anticipation.
This became clear for many only during quarantines,
When abruptly time seemed not vanishing but vast,
Featureless, a wasteland, a sentence, a suffering
In and of itself. All those suffered withdrawal
From abundant anticipation, that’s all.
What is anhedonia but the loss of capacity
To savor in anticipation? Anticipation
Is a much stronger sensation than satisfaction,
Demonstrably so in neuroimaging, but just
Ask any recovering addict passing a tobacconist,
A pharmacy, a bar. Anticipation, further,
Is itself an addiction, and we murder our hours
To cram them with large and small chunks of it,
Whether mythically middle class, or poor, or rich.
What we can anticipate varies by income,
But anticipation addiction cuts across strata.
Turn your face to a plate-glass window and wait.
In ten minutes you’re likely to question how much
Time has passed, how much more time can you possibly take.
Time should not be put into clean equations.
It always drops out of them, anyway, the runaway.
It’s a mystery for endlessly shifting equivalencies,
Not a balance perfectly rotatable around nothing.
It’s too much and never enough. Is. Isn’t. Wait for it.

Thursday, April 22, 2021


It’s poetry if it
Claims to be poetry.

That’s the most functional
Definition there is.

It’s good or bad for you
If you’re convinced it is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Magic, Most Scrupulous Inaction

The land is written by what lives on it,
Having been milled from underneath. May we

Tell you something about yourselves, about
People? If you already know it, please

Forgive us our excess explanations.
Imagine you made yourself business cards

Which stated your profession as follows:
Magician, Poet, Scientist. As You

Wish. Well, then. Scientists are admirable
But common. Poets are insufferable

And, as amateurs, even more common
Than the least interesting of scientists.

But magicians? Either illusionists—
Variably skillful entertainers—or

Grifters, cultists, and the mentally ill—
Non-exclusively—such are magicians.

But hand a stranger one of those strange cards,
And if they humor you at all, they’ll ask

For magic. And what is magic to make
Folks want it so, pay for the illusion,

Occasionally surrender reason
To allow themselves to believe, and yet

Remain so skeptical of it? A trick,
You think? Yes, but perhaps not what you think.

The world makes the rules, makes people make rules,
Who live off the land thanks to rules you’ve made.

You read the land carefully for the rules
You might have missed, which are all rules you’ve made.

You’re puzzled. The world can only have rules
If there is a frame to hold them, a world

From which the rules can be read and on which
And in which all rules persist as given,

Which means there is a world outside of them.
Magic! By their own definitions, rules

Can’t reach the world beyond them, can’t reach past
Us, your explanations. It is written.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Not for Getting It Over With

If attention is paid
In units, glances, clicks,
And is both fungible

As to exchanged units,
But non-fungible as
In a given person

Paying that attention
That comes from a person,
That no one else can give,

How best to invest it
From limited accounts?
After all, it can be

Accrued, economies
And empires built from it,
Without investing much,

While its deep investment,
Unlike capital, won’t
Often return in kind.

Some say pay attention
To breath, to thought, to now,
To inequality,

To human suffering,
To the deaths of forests,
To still, small hints from God.

They all pay dividends,
Enhanced by more and more
Attention, to a point.

They all enrich the lives
Of attentive persons.
But what is there, waiting

For attention, without
Strategically seeking
Out more and more of it,

Willing to wait, able
To notice attention
When paid, not to enrich

Or enhance anything
Of the attentive life,
But to end this question?

Monday, April 19, 2021

Blue Straggler

If only our sun were a part
Of a bright globular cluster

Like M53, our night sky
Would glow like bejeweled chandeliers,

Like vast megalopolises
Hanging inverted, rotating

Gowns and draperies of diamonds
Descending to almost touch us.

But we’re not. We’re not, and we lack
The blue stragglers clusters feature,

Rejuvenated puzzlements
Refreshed by matter falling in

From all those nearby companions.
It’s easier to be alone

When you can feed off of others,
More challenging when you’re dwindling

At the far end of a long arm,
Searching through too much dark for more.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bare Bones to Forget

In the end, you’ve got nothing
To go on but sensation
Contrasted to memory

For a sense of difference.
Naming structures this, and you
Emerge as nothing other.

All the lights that show at night
From their different distances,
Light cones simultaneous

To your eyes, each its own time,
Own indefinite causes,
You’re contrasts. You remember.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Aftir This Sche Stynte

What if the quietist is not
Ignoring what’s wrong, ignoring
You, but is the last one

Silently paying attention,
Which comes at the high cost of doubt
And constant consideration?

The quietist has opinions,
And hermits can be emphatic,
But they’ve withdrawn to where no one

Is listening to them so that
They may notice something besides
Their own voices talking to them,

May reach the point of exhaustion
In one-sided conversations
And finally, simply attend.

There needs to be a better verb
For the counterpoint that compels
Attention, silence earning it.

As fine as it is to attend,
How much wiser to be the world
Beyond attention, still waiting.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Sign Is Design

See, every word’s a backronym,
If not of letters, then of sounds,

The story invented after
The seme started making the rounds.

Bells for breaths of the departed—
The reason stories shuffle time

So often, the reason it aches—
That’s how dreams work. That’s how ghosts climb

From one memory to the next,
The rungs jumbled, branch below stem,

Etymologies, libraries
For exiles to carry with them,

You start with how the word works now,
An anonymous slave for sale,

And you invent lost history
To become its meaning, a tale.

Listen to how the earliest
Writers of names allegorized

Their deities as common nouns.
Those myths could be categorized

Not as attempts to label
Gods by means of suggestive names

But to explicate names as gods,
Palace and architect the same.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

To Young Moses in Light Rain

That weird, happy optimism
Of a desert spring—weird, given

Summer, desert’s harshest season,
Is looming on spring’s horizon.

Maybe it’s just you. When we lived
In wintrier, wetter climates,

Mood surged at the start of autumn,
Which made even less sense. You hope

Most, most excitedly, just when
You think you’re in the perfect place

To have a clear view of the worst.
You’ll learn. You wouldn’t be the first.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Test

Bearing witness to the absence
In the presence of the humans,

That’s the burden of these phrases,
The story of what wasn’t imeind

In what was, or was remembered,
Like Algernon Blackwood’s island

Campsite among windy, sandy
Clumps of the Danube’s dwarf willows,

Which he worked so hard to render
More than just spooky in affect,

More actively alien, weird
In that transgressive human way

That involves corpses and monsters,
A malevolent otherness

As if something really happened
More than one windy night’s camping,

Grist for gusty, outdoorsy prose
In an adventure magazine.

When something really does happen,
Something awfully othering,

Usually it’s just the humans
Swiftly each other othering.

The monster only bears witness
And then glides off through the river,

Given an honest witnessing
Embodies no testifying.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Fortunes Spent on Random Ephemera from Famous Moments in the Form of Non-Fungible Tokens

Game makes meaning and meaning
Means game. You can’t have the one
Without one and the other.

Rules must be arbitrary
To function as rules, to mean
Anything. Outside of rules

Is everything not a game,
Whatever is no more than
Whatever’s been happening.

To be truly meaningful,
To transmit any meanings,
Information needs a shield,

Equivalent to cell walls.
Meaning hides inside our games.
What’s meaningful can’t be true,

Can’t be stable, can’t just be
Other than arbitrary.
Rules are the game of the name.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Whole Mess Heaped in an Extraordinary Order

Humans make a game of almost
Everything, and then a story
Of almost every kind of game,

Including life itself, of which
Humans, games, and stories are just
Small, recently appearing specks.

Thus, for us, ways of life become
Strategies that are being played,
And life has losers and winners,

The long unfolding of hunger
Emerging from un-hungry rocks
Assayed by many narratives,

Stories of cooperation
In violent competitions,
With the tales themselves competing.

And whenever there are extremes
Of winning, there are more losers,
And the more of life is losing,

The more outrageous the winners.
These inequalities themselves
Make for more competitive tales

About games spun out of control.
In this day and age, for instance,
How would you prefer to explain

A world of eight billion people
Built on multitiered supply snarls
In which fertility’s plunging

While the population’s rising,
And occasional sperm donors
Sire close to a hundred children?

Bet you’ve got some story for it.
Bet it involves losers, sinners,
Arcs, fools, saints, winners. Bet there’s stakes.

Sunday, April 11, 2021


The Eonvergil comes again.
That’s not its name. That’s not a name.

The desire to find the right name,
However, is so strong, even

For the invention of a pause
Between names and naming, between

All the talking and listening
To names, the music and viewing,

The silent reading, the thinking,
If only that were possible,

That during the allotted pause,
No music, no books, and no news,

No shows, no signs of any kind,
The mind strains to find the right name.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Creation of a Container

Exciton poetics binds us
At our core, a small negative

Particle orbiting a large
Hole. Tied to each other, we dance

In a wave of relatedness
Across a crystalline lattice.

Not an actual atom stirs,
And yet we perform our ghost dance,

A heartbeat around its meaning,
Glued to that positive absence.

You take a world, such as our world,
A compound of names and nothing,

And you make designer matter
Out of all the gaps that mean things,

Polaritons of description,
Condensed phononic prosodies.

You don’t need accelerators,
Vast underground rings built by teams

Who deploy cooperation
And pent energy to smash things.

You can do this at a table,
Alone with your small devices.

The tricky part comes when you’re done
And you have to extract yourself

From us without us collapsing,
Dense, intact holes, no container.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Inner Other

At this particular intersection
Of a fairly minor quiet corner
Of cultural fermentations and wars,
The Other is running low on wonder.

Others as aliens, othering saints,
And a general sense that being othered
By others is a systemic crisis
All suggest otherhood menaces us

As it behooves us to menace others.
This is not a plea for understanding.
Understanding polishes the weapons.
But some of us nourish inner others

We have no wish to hug or surrender.
You’re other to the world, and the world is
Other outside you, in your dreams all night.
No one needs shadows who can’t process light.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Empyrean Empires of Night

Think how all the pounding, all
The smashing serves to make things

Roughly round—the moon, the earth,
The days, elliptical years—

How everything tends toward
But not quite circles and spheres,

Including your arguments
On truth, your revolutions,

Hence the term. Enough to make
Your heads spin. You tilt, sometimes,

Enough to destabilize
Your concentric rings of each

Other, looking up, and you
Feel the pounding in your skulls.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Obligately Moral

Societies are what
All human groups create.

This is not to say men
Are special beings; this

Is not to say morals
Are unique to humans.

That doesn’t matter much.
Exceptional or not,

Humans are obligate
Moralists who can’t breathe,

Can’t find food for ourselves,
Can’t find nesting places,

Without judging others
And comparing ourselves.

We can’t. We can’t stop. We
Can’t not evaluate.

Humans can meditate,
Organize, remonstrate,

Coordinate, create.
But mere being is out,

Even for eremites,
Quietists, and loners,

While frontline activists
And the frontline soldiers

Facing off are alike
In agreeing we must

Confront disagreements,
Stand for truth and justice,

Or freedom, or fairness,
Or God, or the People,

Or purity, or peace,
Or our favorite tyrant,

But whatever we must,
We must. Noting this won’t

Transform us. Where humans
Gather, morals are there—

Although there’s a question
Whether being human

And therefore moral means
Being infestation

Or being infested,
And, in the thick of each

Bloody scrum, it’s unclear
What’s roadkill, what’s vulture.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Can You Believe It’s Hard to Believe

The second great development
Was the re-establishment
Of religion. So, the day keeps

Coming and coming; the day keeps
Going and going, and you keep
Thinking that you’re doing something,

Making choices and believing
There’s something that keeps you going.
It’s not belief keeps you going.

It’s not faith keeps the day going
And coming, coming and going.
You don’t know what is. That’s faith.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Folding Laundry Monday

The mind forages the brain
In many apparently
Random and haphazard ways,

As incomprehensibly
As a painted butterfly
Meandering spring hedges.

Today it’s flittering near
A moment a month ago
Folding my daughter’s laundry,

Placidly, when I recalled
How I wondered as a boy
About other boys’ mothers

Who still laundered their unders
Into their teens. What were they
Thinking, those others’ mothers?

Back then, I wondered did they
Sigh at their boys’ clothes? Were they
Just half bored to death by then?

My mother wasn’t the type.
We folded our own by ten,
And by thirteen I left home

To be a scholarship boy
And was initiated
Into what would prove decades

Waiting under fluorescent lights,
Feeding coin-operated,
Clanking, overstuffed machines

All around the continent
And on two or three other
Continents as well. Laundry.

Someone has to wash the clothes
That aren’t worn ‘til they’ve rotted.
Machines are a luxury,

I know, and it’s half pleasant,
Sometimes, to doggedly fold
Baskets and baskets of clothes.

It’s often a ritual,
When not too rushed or hassled,
And bodies like ritual,

While the mind goes foraging
Through the long hours of mere days.
That day, as the neat piles rose,

Thoughts fluttered around to when
Daughter was still a toddler
Attending her first daycare.

The location was too cute,
An old cabin in the woods
Once owned by the Park Service.

The provider was too stern,
An entrepreneurial
Spirit who scolded the kids

By warning, You get what you
Get and you don’t throw a fit.
Daughter brought the mantra home,

And it wasn’t long before
Time came to find new daycare.
But I smiled as I folded

A big kid’s clothes years later,
And today the butterfly
Finds some sunlight blossoming

Faux gold petals on the walls
Of a cluttered closet left
Ajar, floor strewn with clean clothes,

And might as well smile again.
Here we are. You get what you
Get and you don’t throw a fit.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Hyenas and Weasels

Something went bang in the center
Of our own Milky Way around
15 to 20 million years

Ago, right around the same time
Hyenas and weasels emerged.
Is any tribe as dangerous

Lacking a clear leader? Life forms
The demonology of thought
Experiments. Del deport du

Viel antif, Matematico
Sopraordinario, I’m
Not a story—I’m a mess too

Many stories made. You can do
Anything with a narrative
Except make it real. There’s no tale

Outside of tales. Going into
The mountains, one fears it’s not deep
Enough, but the deeper one goes,

The more goblins. East of the pond,
The words dwell alone. Tell no one.
Unnerved by a premonition

Of their demise, the dinner guests
Dispersed and went home to prepare
For the worst. Of course, the storm came.

Nothing exists twice. The wonder
Of education is that it
Does not ruin everyone. Now,

The Pelican Nebula is
Changing. The entire nebula,
Officially designated

IC 5070, is
Divided from the much larger
North American Nebula

By a molecular cloud filled
With dark dust—ordinary dust,
Not dark matter. Something snarls bang.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

How to Read the Parking Lot

Individual people
Make themselves comfortable,

Quickly, with just exactly
As much privilege, safety,

Freedom and security
As they find themselves allowed,

An observation offered
By way of pure prediction

And also explanation.
When you see the distracted

Driver of an SUV
Texting and parking skew-whiff

Then meandering across
A crosswalk in her own world,

Narrowly avoiding death,
And you wonder how she’s lived

Into and through middle age,
With the resources to shop

And afford a set of wheels
And personal devices

And clean clothes to go out in,
Consider it’s possible

She’s an individual
Who knows the parameters

Of protection in her world,
An animal who uses

Her privileges to take
Chances with doddering grace,

Who has survived by virtue
Of luck and not exceeding

Securities as given,
As a person, lax, like you.

Friday, April 2, 2021

How Did This Happen?

The question is not why.
The question is not what

Is natural or good,
Or what should have happened.

Ragazzi! The question
Is only what happened.

Thursday, April 1, 2021


This life was born to the odd
Art of auto-disruption,

Of the abrupt irruption
Of minor catastrophes

Into ordinary days,
Stumbles into disarray,

Slips that lead to hospitals
All small plans skidding away.

Sunny morning’s walk to work
Took a turn for surgery;

Quick trip to take out the trash,
Month of wheelchaired therapy;

Taking a seat on a green
Afternoon to ache for months.

Not everyone needs to be
Told the world is perilous

Even when it’s showing off
Its calmest, prettiest hours.

One lives through turns for the worse
In hopes of the one reverse.