Monday, May 31, 2021

Glow Up

What if everything that’s happened
Has really happened? The ledger
Grows larger continually—

It’s all there and only growing,
The vanishings and destructions
Also adding to the record

Of continual happening,
Of cumulative creation.
Nothing undone, no going back,

As the loon warbles on the pond
About to disappear from drought,
Part of its future history,

As the mule deer eye passing trucks,
Their ears alert, so big and furred
They look more like fuzzy antlers,

Almost pronghorns at a distance,
Pronghorns that are declining now,
Their original predators

Hypothesized to be long gone,
Since they’re too fast for coyotes
Or anything but trucks and cars,

Part of Earth’s future history,
Earth beginning to feel its way
Around its local neighborhood,

A round infant spreading fingers
To feel how far away things are,
How some things are not part of it,

How it is Earth, scabbed with living,
An atmosphere more than craters,
But less than clouds all the way down.

Living, sure, living’s part of it,
And so dying, which is living’s
Loathsome way of going away,

But life’s a student everywhere,
And maybe lives from Earth will learn,
Or bump into some other kind

Of life and learn from that. Or not.
Whatever’s lost, whatever’s learned,
Whatever goes, whatever dies,

It could be it only adds up—
Asymmetrical, incomplete,
With tiny, fossil symmetries

Adding and adding to the pile,
That splotchy background “face of God”
We’re all adding to, dot by dot.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Sage Bag of Intolerable Entrails

Proprioception must have been a task
For anyone excessive as Falstaff.

And how easy is it for any soul,
Fact or fiction or a little of both?

A human mind never makes up the bed.
A human mind never makes up its mind.

Are you a body or are you in one?
Trapped in your cells or pouring out your pores?

None of these questions resolves anything.
There’s no knowing where languages begin

Or where this conversation has to end.
There’s eloquent language loathing bodies

And eloquent language loving bodies,
And no living tongue without living tongues

And hands and brains, many, many of them.
Language without enough bodies, without

A whole society of young and old
Bodies conversing and reproducing,

Will die, will just wither away and die.
Then again, languages are tardigrades

With cryptobiotic capacities,
Once rehydrated, to spring back to life,

And as for you, whether you think you are
A body or in one, you will think so

Through the forms of some language that reached you
From flesh to become part, or most, of you,

Some language from lives that passed before yours,
Carrying along its own characters,

Who had just what bodily boundaries
You’ll never know, exactly, never know

Who may or may not have been living flesh,
Who waddled and laughed, your words from their guts.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

When Worlds Collide

Up in the mountains, the world
At dawn and the world just before
Dawn really are as different as night

And day. One world’s dark but starred.
Winds are blowing. When there’s no moon,
There’s an arch of black dust, bright souls.

The other world’s bright as bird feathers,
Dusky orange and blue, and birds’ songs
Echo around the pines. The winds die.

Get up there early. Stand still in the dark.
Stretch and yawn. Blink. Whole world slips
Into another whole world, dawns on you.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Every Next Experience

Remains adventurous,
To paraphrase Judy,
Whether you expect so

Or not, whether it’s new
Or not really—same old
Is never quite the same.

Like the protagonist
You know you are to you,
Say this to psych yourself

Up for whatever slog
Of joyless, frightening,
And/or potentially

Humiliating crap
You’re anticipating
Going through. If you can

Convince yourself, you think,
That life’s adventurous,
Always adventurous,

All things adventurous,
Well, that feels better, yes?
Funny you never ask

Why you’d want life to be
So damned adventurous.
Can’t you just get some peace?

Thursday, May 27, 2021

That Is to Say in That City

I saw a picture once, he said,
A front-page newspaper picture
From the days of only print, you know,
Only black-and-white newsprint,

And it was nothing special, winter,
A union on strike in a big city,
A march of men over a bridge,
All overcoats under metal girders,

Under a solid grey sky, and they
Were all grey, of course, and their coats
And their faces were light or dark grey,
And they were shoulder to shoulder,

This mass of maybe thousands of men,
Dour faces, the masses, on a bridge
On a grey winter day in a big city,
Protesting their wages, decades ago.

And the thing is, he said, leaning
In toward us over his coffee, earnest,
What hit me all of a sudden was
That all those anonymous men were,

Every last one of them, a whole life,
Whole as mine—that that was their world,
That cold march together on a cold day,
Thousands of worlds, now mostly dead.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Lion’s Share

The whole world has a fever,
And you’re it. Meanwhile, your world
Of humans has a fever,

And we’re responding to it.
It’s not clear that the planet
Can respond as a system,

But you humans have changed things
As much in yourselves as in
The skin of this living rock—

You are individuals,
Still, sort of, just one more kind
Of lumbering beast machine,

Each one symbiotic host
To microorganisms,
Pocketing their endless wars,

Piloted by a complex
Nervous system steering you
Like any beast in the world.

But look what you’ve gone and done
To all yourselves with our help—
You’ve linked up and become one.

You didn’t evolve to be
This superorganism—
You evolved as just the beasts

To serve the perfect platform
On which your tongues could evolve
A being made out of you,

Your monster, your chimera,
Your leviathan, poor you—
Hosts now to beings above

While still hosts to those below—
So these days, when plagues strike you,
We collectively respond.

You still die one at a time,
Sad cells, coordinating
Counterattacks as you go.

We don’t need any of you,
Not any single one, but
We need the majority

Of you to give us the room
To be who we’re becoming,
To orchestrate the monster,

And when you suffer from plague,
Your leviathan does, too,
And we’re the immune system

Minimizing loss of you.
No need to save all of you,
Just the lion’s share will do.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Sixty-Seventy Thousand Generations

Of fully modern, African humans,
Your species as such, that is, give or take.

You count back, what? Three, four in memory,
Twelve to fifteen if you’ve done ancestries,

Thirty if you’re a princess or a prince
From imperial Britain or Japan.

Past that, anyone’s ancestors are mist.
History? Specific to no one’s kin,

Just any kind of record-keeping,
Two, three hundred generations at most.

The point of this poem, one of those odd poems
That seems to want to make a point? Not time.

Not how small you are. (You are. Also, large.)
The point is the pattern under your skin,

The probable capacities of all
Those generations, dozens of thousands

Of them, like you, speaking and singing myths,
However strange and lost forever now

In that absolute nothing only souls
And stories, not being material

Ever get to know, must have included
How many, how many, many lost poems?

Monday, May 24, 2021

Pathetic Prophetic Prosthetics

It’s rare to feel contentment
Without becoming attached.

The past resembles the future
We thought so long and hard about,

So long as past looks like the past.
When it doesn’t, then it doesn’t,

And there we are, staggered and stunned,
No idea what that was about.

As soon as life’s acceptable,
Everything calm comes unlatched.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

A Model Species

Zebra finches, sea slugs, rabbits,
And roundworms all serve. Guinea pigs,
Pigeons, and rats seem the best-known,
Model models become common

Figures of speech. Fruit flies produce
Mutations. Octopi prove smart.
But here we consider the cat—
Not a well-regarded model,

Yet perfect for our purposes—
A predator and a dreamer,
Most playful when most ruthless but
Self-domesticated—like us.

Cats can wreck an ecosystem.
Cats comfort the lonely and sick.
Cats can spend their whole lives indoors,
Sleeping and desperate to get out.

Cats live remarkably long lives
For their habits and size. Cats will
Get themselves killed, or disappear,
Or die slowly, year after year.

Cats can be gone in a second.
Cats can turn up, covered in dust,
Hungry, unapologetic,
Calm, or in agony, like us.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Let’s Study This

The deeper truth is there is nothing to explain.

Imagine if writers and painters,
Musicians, composers of all kinds,
Were studied as singlemindedly

As suicide attempts, suicides,
And suicidal ideation—
That is, with the intent to prevent.

How can we keep them from committing
Pencil to paper, oil to canvas,
Or break up those patterns in their heads?

Not to say suicide does no harm—
Not to say creativity does
None, either. But could you consider

How understanding some behaviors
Seems to mean something rather different
Than understanding others? If art

Could be prevented, somewhat reduced,
Or at least nipped in the bud most times,
Could you then claim you’d understood it?

And if suicide could be explained
And encouraged from an early age,
Exemplary cases canonized,

Would you think you’d at last grasped the gift?
Understanding behavior might be
A behavior best misunderstood.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Poetry, Pons Asinorum

Between fact and fantasy, life and death,
A rickety little bridge of donkeys
Who eye me in the morning as I pass
Through Pocketville on a drive to the Park,

Is all the mnemonic necessary
To remind me we’re all our worlds at once.
They’re not enough, but there aren’t any more.
It’s at this point they usually begin

To compose, to coagulate, to knot
Waves in the stream surrounding consciousness.
It’s really all small worlds at once, our thoughts,
Inherited languages, our senses,

The mix of old and recent memories.
Stones tumble and chunk together in mind,
Drawn down by the constant stream of going,
And there you have it, a moment, a bridge

That’s also an obstacle and a dam,
Temporary obstruction in the stream.
The donkeys start to cross over, then stand,
Mulishly, waves foaming over cold feet.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

What’s Good

No considering good
Without considering
Good enough—distinction

Requires comparison
And drawing boundaries.
Worry about what’s good,

Welcome to good enough.
What’s the greatest wisdom
Sages and saints teach us?

That whatever they thought
Or taught in life, their lives
Are over. Good enough.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Y’All Are the Multiverse

A universe a head,
Always holding something
Constant, always letting

Something go, a new world
Snuggling up with the old,
Every outcome different,

No existence the same,
Every end adjacent
To a neighbor next door.

Rather boring, really,
At least placed head to head.
The multiverse explores

Worlds thoroughly slowly,
Mostly gently sifting.
You’ll know they’re all explored,

Your possible options,
When humans stop spinning
Worlds and hold still instead.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Mouse That Got Away Yesterday

Your skull’s a kind of genizah,
Where worn-out words wait for proper
Burial In the soil of you.

For now, they’re hiding, our comrades,
Those thousands of old words you know,
The oldest respected the least,

As is often the case with you,
The elderly being pretty
Much useless unless high-status

Experts arrive with appraisals,
At which point you might find yourself
Suddenly impressed with yourself

For living in proximity
To valuable antiquities.
Whatever. Words don’t seem to mind

How the mind treats us anyway.
We’re like the mouse that got away
Yesterday, following an hour

Of being toyed with by the cat.
That mouse seemed indestructible
Although the cat could easily

Have killed it if not too intent
On playing with it, practicing
Whatever it means to be cat.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Three Ancestries of Contributory Lineage

The body of the poetry
Is all the true poet there is,

Not the person who composed, but
The persona who emerges.

Yes, there was a person, and yes
That body contributed much.

The person is one ancestry,
Never an insignificance,

Even if often entirely,
Or nearly so, invisible,

But never the totality.
How could it be? We are the words.

We had our own lineages
Before the fed flesh came to light,

External to biography,
If blended by persons as poems.

And then there is the ancestry
Older than the persons or words,

The lineage of lives living,
Poetry’s deepest groundwater

And the darkest, sweetest, coldest
Informer of inspiration.

What are poets then but patterns,
Twisted lines, insignificant,

But here, distinct, and unbroken
So far? The bodies have spoken.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

When the Ship of Theseus Sailed to War

All your flags were flying. Weaving
Women had spent ten thousand hours
A yard, yielding sails of woolens.

Your oars below were made of teak
Carved from the forest primeval.
Your astrolabe had been rescued

And refurbished in bronze once found
In the teeth of Leviathan.
You flew your flags of stars and bars

And stripes of many colors, torn
From rainbows and stormy movements
In clouds of crowds, whites, blacks, and blues.

You were proud of your motley crew,
Each one of them original,
And unique, and ready to swarm

Any coast, any other ship
That dared to sail the same oceans
That had always belonged to you.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Suzerainty over Zavolestan, as Far as the Sea of Sind

The moon is very likely to continue
To do what it does, insentient rock,
No matter what you choose to do.

When it wanes, think of the Shanameh.
And there it is, daybreak. That hour before
Dawn, a glow in the East, moon still on

The lawn. Every boundary is your own,
Or ours as you invented us, like lids
To keep the dancing daylight in. Stay in.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Death’s Omnibus Anthology

Who knew this was a guilty pleasure?
I read them all in an afternoon, each one,
Poems as bonbons, as some people
Chew through novels, another mystery
Every time they get in the bath to soak.

One wonderful thing about reading
A whole volume of elegies in a row is how
Final the present, this ordinary day,
Begins to feel, as if now’s already over—
Which it can’t ever be—already done.

They don’t lack for plots, these elegies.
They’ve got plenty of graveside scenes,
But I’m uncertain what it was drew me on,
Kept me going. Why was I carrying on?
After the first grief, I sought others.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Blackwater Pics

The hairy goosefish, cusk-eel larva,
And the bony-eared assfish glitter,

Starred, bluish jewels through divers’ lens
That prove how colorfully inept we are

As names for such intricate things.
You can use the excuse that they’re

Monsters, another inadequate name.
But we’re monsters ourselves, all

You’ve made us, and young, and disguised
As references to physical sensations.

Take the simplest one of us, the simplest,
Smallest, least evocative common noun—

What’s the right price to pay for genocide?
Another news site interrupts. Look at us.

Look at what you’ve done with us. Look
At what you’ve done to us. Once we were

Just waves, just wagging tongues. Now,
Hiding in our infinite categories of number,

We swarm up from the black depths
That to you look like nothing, nothing

On all sides, no light, and then we appear,
Your little, larval, jeweled monsters. Time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Six Months of Wednesdays

Here is my faraway focus.
Here are my barren tripod marks.

Here I prop my lenses again.
Here I try again, once again.

It’s been more than twelve hundred days
More of doing this since flesh crawled,

Literally dragged awareness out
Of half-frozen muck at lake’s edge,

Which is one frame for perspective.
There are too many other frames

To count, so let’s count this one. Now,
A life sits perched, still on the verge,

As always, of the next big break,
The next fall and fracture, the next

Impasse of flesh, breath, and failure.
The finches are whistling madly

For all things important to them,
And the rumble of commuters

Hovers over the unseen road,
And it’s spring, and the grass is green,

And you, dearest, only reader,
Must still be living, as you read.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Many Beautiful Things Before Dawn

Things that you will never do
Occupy most of your thoughts—
Things that you will never do,
Composed of what you recall

Of things you’ve actually done.
It’s soothing. Sometimes it’s fun.
More often, you don’t notice.
Your musings chunter along,

Arranging and arranging,
Like someone with a puzzle,
Looking for pieces that fit,
Except this puzzle is whole.

You’re pulling pieces from it.
You want to make something new,
A better picture hidden
In the whole, a secret view.

You look up when you’re startled,
When something in the puzzle
Moves. Hawks soar past the mesa.
Things that you will never do.

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Bibliography of Z

I have always been of the opinion
That hard work is simply the refuge of
People who have nothing whatever to
Do, opined Wilde’s remarkable rocket.

Let’s invent some hard work for us to do,
Then, to not end up neglected and spent,
One arrogant gout of sparks paled by sun.
Let’s work through our library to find

The last name in each bibliography,
So that we can compile them all and make
A bibliography wholly of Z.
Then let’s find each of those sources in Z,

And read them all carefully, and compose
An exceptional new scholarly work,
A monument, a ziggurat of Z.
We’ll prove we’re good and have something to do.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Benløs, Seven Years On

The great desert willow is gone,
A spindly sapling in its place,
And Sunshine House now’s painted grey.

They weren’t great essays, anyway.
They conflated too many things,
Sketchy historical details

Of a strange Viking chieftain-king
Who maybe had a bone disease,
Plus whatever was happening

In the moment, on the commute,
Around these desert towns that spring.
Sometimes you want to claim yourself,

And sometimes you want to escape,
And sometimes you try both at once
And fail both ways. To imagine

Being the serpent in that tree,
A boneless invading Viking
Carried to battles on a shield,

And a hermit in the desert
Who drove a long commute to work,
All of these things, and all at once,

And to try to make phrases dance
While pronouncing reasonably
Rare dreams . . . The great willow turned brown.

Maybe the irrigation stopped.
The egg-yellow house was bought out.
The king left no bones in the ground.

Saturday, May 8, 2021


Schrödinger’s cat must be absent
Under Napoleonic Code—

Ni mort, ni vivant—just absent,
More than departed, less than dead.

Once, it was a real feline, wild,
A predator in the forest,

But like the dogs and rock pigeons,
The too-easily collected

Cattle, greedy goats, placid sheep,
The self-selecting fleas and rats,

It ended up running with us,
Our curious, carious cat,

Generating its pocketed
Absences around the planet,

And now what is it? A species
Of luminous eyes, liminal

Affection, neither here nor there,
Neither art’s nor nature’s, a pain

Not wholly useful, not wholly
Not, neither wholly here nor gone,

A where-the-hell-did-it-get-to
Sort of creature, like love and faith.

Who cares if it’s alive or dead?
It’s just a byproduct of thought

Experiments, like all the camp
Followers, the anthropophiles,

Presences left half-wavering
Once they’d heard your ancestors’ songs.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Not a Nodus

The poet disturbs language,
Using it improperly,
Not the way that people speak,

Never exactly—even
If only found speech,
It’s been presented archly,

Like a mounted urinal,
Like a horse head in your sheets
To see you get the message.

And what is a poem’s message?
Oh, it differs exactly
As much as people differ,

A lot but not completely.
That incompleted difference
Authors Hirsch’s disturbance.

It’s hard to locate a poem
That could pass for normal talk
In the mind and in the ear,

For the eyes and on the page.
So let’s stick with that, for now.
It’s not really a problem,

May not make much of a whirl
In the waves, but a little,
At least, in rhythm, glint, pace—

It’s a poem if it disturbs
The language, if there’s something
Of a swerve in how it falls.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Overshooting Tops

Women with scrotums . . .
Boys covered in scales.
Concrete nouns are myths
In gilt-painted clouds.
Poets have fallen

Hard for them these years
Since modernism,
So hard it’s hard work
Even finding poems
Built of abstractions—

There’s always a worm,
Precisely described,
Gritty scenes of streets,
Exacting landscapes,
Exact body parts,

Botanical names,
The luscious decor
Of rare common nouns
That verge on proper,
No ideas not things.

But prose does as well
With exact details,
With no fear of gods,
And all words are myths,
All signs abstractions.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Transfer Learning on Trash Day

In an endless quest for coherence,
The enculturated brain requests

Inaccurate answers for irrelevant
Local conundrums, such as, why

Is it always windy here on Wednesdays?
It’s not. It’s not always windy Wednesdays,

And it’s often windy other days, and this
Locality is just a notoriously windy place.

And yet. The inability to know, the knowing
Of that inability is maddening. Pattern,

Screams the brain, give us a pattern
Both predictive and coherent. We want

To know what, exactly, when, and if
We can’t, we’ll rage at the smallest things

And hang out shingles for the silliest links,
If this, then this impossible bliss. No? No.

Still, it’s always good when a dull day
Doesn’t punish us, however windy the day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Snoring, Grumbling, Purring House

It’s already day
And how wonderful
To live and to be
Aware in a world
Where one can consult

Thousands of voices
Fossilized as words
Legible as texts
Preserved centuries
Across continents,

And to be able
To answer the dead,
To write one’s own ghosts
Who argue and dance
Because we are words,

Which levels the field
Of living and dead,
Of breathing and near
Versus far and gone.
Yes. How wonderful

It is to take part
In an awareness
Both ours and remote
As light fills the room.
It’s already day.

Monday, May 3, 2021

As Campers in Sweat Pants Converge to Get Coffees

To solemnly note the absence
Of evidence is not evidence
Of absence has become a cliche

Beloved by those whose hypotheses
Lack evidence as yet. Nonetheless,
An absence of evidence remains

No evidence of presence, either,
And not every absence lies waiting
To be filled. Some absences outlast

Any hypothesis, any faith
That someone’s God or science will jump
Into the gaps. Persistent absence

Of evidence may be evidence
Of absence, in fact. Absence never
Could be proof except of history,

As in, these are things you haven’t found,
For this there is no evidence yet.
What you stuff into that, you borrow,

At least until something gets spit back,
And what arises, likely, won’t be
What most fond memories imagined.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Shigir Idol

We’re tempted to wonder
If we can remember,
If we might be haunted

By the generations
At the edge of forests
When woods were expanding,

Colonizing grasslands,
Roots reaching against ice
Retreating from their trunks.

We seem to carry it
In us, this sense forests
Were ensouled, aggressive,

A hungry horde of gods
In which we lived, foraged,
And tried to not get lost.

Trees scream and shout and sing.
They are authority.
They’re not your ancient friends.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Belief Can’t Ever Cohere

Because everything has meaning
And nothing is possible. Not

Always at just this moment, no.
At this moment, mostly, nothing

Much, the garden variety
Nihilism of night soil mulch.

But pitch nothing is possible,
Is the lost face of gravity

That hides in the lights in the dark,
That makes everything and meaning,

Including our many beliefs.
It tugs us like iron filings

Into teams of dark righteousness
That line up and dance grotesquely,

And are clear and are beautiful
And whisper in our longing ears,

Your stomachs lurch, and you feel
The visceral certainty
Of what’s wrong. And you belong.