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,
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?
Friday, April 30, 2021
Insured that composition
Thursday, April 29, 2021
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
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Monday, April 26, 2021
Sunday, April 25, 2021
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—
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,
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,
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
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
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
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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
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 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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Or being infested,
And, in the thick of each
Bloody scrum, it’s unclear
What’s roadkill, what’s vulture.
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Monday, April 5, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
Saturday, April 3, 2021
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
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.