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—
With tiny, fossil symmetries
Adding and adding to the pile,
That splotchy background “face of God”
We’re all adding to, dot by dot.
Monday, May 31, 2021
What if everything that’s happened
Sunday, May 30, 2021
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
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
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,
Going through. If you can
Convince yourself, you think,
That life’s 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
Calm, or in agony, like us.
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Friday, May 21, 2021
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
No considering good
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
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
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
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
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
Friday, May 14, 2021
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
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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
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
Sunday, May 9, 2021
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,
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
Thursday, May 6, 2021
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
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
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
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
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
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,
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.