Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Jupiter and the Deer

Black ponderosa, spiked needles lit in stars,
And a muffled drumroll of hooves in the dark—
Early morning on the mesa in the park.

Know why you’re so prone to stupid fantasies?
Not a character trait. Not to do with you.
Your brain’s background systems need something to do.

Alone with the largest planet and the deer,
Rare solitude may still find your mind at play
With human daydreams until actual day.

It’s okay. Day dawns, whatever you’re thinking.
Startled hooves startle you. The birds are singing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


Is more of a problem than life,
Thinner in extent, murkier

Of origin. At least with life,
One can say, On this one planet,

Unquestionably, and maybe
On more, having started sometime

Early in the planet’s career,
Confined within this atmosphere,

Requiring certain substances
Engaged in certain reactions—

But intention? It could be God’s,
If that’s what you yearn to believe,

Could be universal, from time
Immemorial, before time,

Or it could be local, could be
Emergent property of life

Or of intelligence or of
Certain forms of intelligence

And only those—or maybe not.
Or maybe it’s the property

Of the only species so far
Known to express concern for it,

And as to what its rules may be,
Its mechanisms, sufficient

And necessary—all guesses.
Intention may not, actually,

Be, even in human beings,
Beyond an existence as code

For the embodiment of need
Refined through evolved strategies

That happened to succeed. Meaning
Might have been unintentional.

Indicative, informative,
Sure, meaning is. Intentional?

Is what you meant to mean in you
As intention or volition?

And let’s just say we let it in—
Will it not keep rolling backward?

Grant human meanings intention,
Then whatever’s responsible

For the facts of human meanings
Must be mother of intentions.

Apologies. Such a long-skeined
Poem was never our intention.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Monday Is the Human Heart

Is there anything more
Peculiarly human
Than a Monday morning?

Wholly arbitrary
Space in time, meaningless
To all other species,

Unnecessary slice
Labeled out of seven,
A set of conventions

Only humans follow,
Not even all humans,
Not even a rhythm

Of sleep or embodied
Of fate, falls, or ill health

Are not tuned to Mondays.
People die on Sundays
And other days as well.

But here it is, rumbling,
The surge in commuters,
All the news, busyness

Rising up through the dark.
We invented Mondays
All ourselves, bless our hearts.

Sunday, June 27, 2021


C’mon God, she said, don’t you find
Me amusing anymore? Ay?
Don’t you want to keep me around
A little longer, keep me here?

It was an unusual prayer,
Perhaps, but no more intimate
Or inappropriate for two
Such status-divergent beings

As a nursing-home resident
And the Almighty Creator
Of all the universe she knew
Than most evangelical pleas,

Which can range from cures for cancer
(Often one’s own) to politics,
To party napkins, to getting
Kids to listen. (Soften their hearts

And bring them unto you, oh Lord.)
If she had more moxie than most,
It wasn’t in what she asked for
But in what she claimed for herself,

And why not? If your Creator
Dwells within you, wouldn’t it be
Better if you were amusing?
Her wording suggested she knew

Her death would leave God without her.
Why wouldn’t God want the party
To go on a little longer?
Sadly, God proved even-tempered.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Glory and the Dark Sky Gegenschein

Ah, the mapless, lyric
Pilgrimage of the mind!
It’s just the kind of phrase

One can flourish in print
(And in prose!) only if
One’s been to at least four

Continents carrying
A book by Anne Carson.
From the passenger jet

Window overlooking
Well-mapped, unlyrical
Hegemonies of fact,

One might spot the Glory
In the reflecting clouds
Opposite to the sun.

Down here it is too dark
For that, but on rare nights
So dark, in fact, a glimpse

Of more than just the stars,
More than our galaxy,
A back splatter of sun

From behind Earth, thrown off
Dust particles, will show

The so-called Countershine.
You can see where this goes
Past the shrines in your mind.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Darkhad Valley

All words are metanaphors,
Parts for the hole, art in the whole,
Transformation as distortion,
Creation through substitution.
There’s no other way to put it
Is another way to put it.

Seriously, it’s all just a game,
A game that’s just deadly serious.
Not a cause, a necessity—want
To know why, recently, so many species
Are going extinct or nearly? Language.
Why wars? You need language. Why
International space stations and robots
Calling back from outside of the heliopause?
Once more, need language. Faith, magic,
Vengeance, barn raisings, peace treaties,
Game theory, language. No language
Not game; no games without language.

In what you could call Central Asia, or
You could call Northern Mongolia, near
What is currently called a border between
Two sovereign nations known these days
By the names of Mongolia and Russia, lies
The Darkhad Valley, a name that, if given
In English, sounds ominous, also fantastic,
A genre fiction toponym, thanks to the fact
Of what dark means in English, and also
To how dark paired with valley suggests
To many Anglophone minds the KJV
Valley of the Shadow of Death, while also
To the additional fact there is no Darkhad
In English, which makes the whole name
Somewhat exotic or possibly invented.

And indeed it’s all invented, including the real
Names of all the places and species
Of that valley for the real Darkhad people,
In their own language or Mongolian,
Translated, distorted, substituted,
Transformed. A team of thirty rangers
Patrol the park and protected areas
Of Darkhad for a government centered
In Ulan Bator, protect it as best they can,
On motorbikes and shaggy ponies, protect
Its ibex and brown bears and snow leopards,
From the greed of the wildcat miners
And the hunger of desperate poachers.
It’s hard work and a good, risky livelihood.
It’s a game, just a deadly serious game,
And they love it, say they were born for it.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why Do We Want to Feed Lives We Aren’t?

Humans have an obvious compulsion,
Found even among foraging bands
According to some ethnographies,
To give bits of food to nonhumans.

There’s an excellent possibility that this
Impulsive habit, not any planning
Aforethought, started the domestication
Of animals, though it can’t explain crops.

Moreover, we discriminate: we choose
Some creatures to feed, some to shoo,
Some to both hunt and feed, or feed
And keep, or to shoo, kill, and leave.

Moreover, the species we domesticate,
Once we start feeding them, go extinct.
True. In the wild, they go extinct, or fall
On their last ropes, at best, like wolves

And Scottish wildcats. Aurochs long gone.
Who at a petting zoo, a family farm,
A fast-food joint serving chicken has ever
Seen a jungle fowl in the wild? Wild

Turkeys do alright so far in some parts,
But as a general pattern, species morphed
By handouts go extinct from former lives.
One even wonders about hominin cousins

Now lost. We are self-domesticated,
After all. But why? And when did this get
Started? It’s such a strange compulsion
To think about—offering bits of food,

Not just to mates, kin, total strangers,
But to arbitrary other species, and by so
Doing, sometimes to slowly reel them in.
The last Aché to roam the forests far

From missionary settlements sometimes
Would share food with peccaries, briefly
Adopt monkeys they’d orphaned as pets.
They never domesticated them, but

For tens of thousands of years, neither
Did people anywhere fully domesticate
Anything. One suspects the habit only
Incidentally, under certain circumstances,

Could ever lead to things like cattle,
Pigs, horses, dogs, sheep, chickens, cats.
The fact domestication sometimes, finally,
Happened is inadequate as explanation.

A small, snot-nosed child, a lonely hunter,
Someone foraging berries or tubers, once,
Somewhere, wanted to entice a bird or
A stealthy creature closer. Someone

Tossed some scraps and was delighted,
Rather than alarmed by, or even wary of,
What snuck in to snatch it. Offered more.
Clucked. Tsked enticingly. Here you go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Flocks of Words

In the dark, you whisper us,
All your poems from memory,
Until the day starts to break,

The wind pick up past the walls,
The window throw a shadow
Slant on the dresser mirror,

And you begin to feel brave
Enough to get out of bed.
We’ll keep circling in your head.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Believing Is Belonging (Everything Else Is World)

Ah, life, home of spectacular
Views and horrible conditions,

Complicated, among humans,
Ever further by belonging—

Humans don’t just have comfort zones,
Safe spaces, close kin, and large packs

Like normal social animals—
Humans combine all these with signs,

Not only for territories
(Of course, of course), but to keep faith

With others who are not safe, not
Close kin, and not comfortable,

By interlocking symbolic
Calculus of the fictional,

Of belonging, hence believing.
The views from the summits obtained

By faith are optimal, stellar,
Astronomical, orbital,

The whole blue world in silhouette
From the Moon, the surface of Mars,

From robots through rings of Saturn
And straight past the Heliopause

On one horrible condition—
Live knowing faith means perdition.

Monday, June 21, 2021


All the ungainly music
Of plain day, human noises,
No human voices or songs,

Machines in the air, down streets,
Wind chimes, a mower somewhere,
The desert subdivision

Subdivided between roars
And competitive whistles,
Concertare, of the birds.

Once in a while a dog barks.
Hours without human voices,
Without recorded music,

Feel like a corrected text
From which text has been removed
Leaving just the corrections.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

An Argument for Going

It’s a hazardous, weathering adventure.
Both storms and sun are blinding.
Accept and be contented. You’re small.
You’re frail. One day, you will fail. Still,
Nothing except nothing is binding.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons

Back on a gibbous, glitchy kind of morning,
Mostly bright but off-center, incomplete,
And just a bit skew-whiff in all it did,

The kind of day on which a novelist might
Set out to write another novel, might set
The opening chapter of that novel,

Near dark, on a grey day in early spring,
Might have been March, the Worm Moon setting
In the pines of the desert subdivision,

Or maybe April's Flower Moon rising in same,
A protagonist or unreliable narrator setting
Out to work, mow the lawn, seek fortune,

Find physical pleasure, happiness, God,
Identity, meaning, escape from novels
And novelists. And then, there it was, news

Delivered by the mechanisms of the era,
Vetted by the gatekeepers of the given
Society our whatever inhabits, space

Scientists reporting the presence of types
Of chemicals in the spectra of light, stars,
Dust, comets, or outer planetary moons

Necessary for life. It was the June kind of day
Technology that usually worked stuttered,
When opportunities to flee frittered away.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Nest Is Always Twitching

The creatures called dragons are all
Myths, of course, but they have a core

Resemblance to them, which suggests
Some fact at least, if not a truth.

Have a listen to Stromboli,
To the Sciara del Fuoco,

The Path of Fire as it rumbles,
Sounding part boat-engine, part pulse,

Part large, approaching thunderstorm.
At night, the eyes glow. Dark spits fire.

It belches death. It sends whole cliffs,
Now and then, to the ocean depths,

Kicking up full-bore tsunamis.
Then it rests, but with eyes open.

The dragon lives underground, yes.
The dragon flies in the night, yes.

The dragon destroys whole towns, yes.
The dragon kills with its breath, yes.

The globe’s an egg, and we are mites
Grazing microlives it serves us,

But we sense that the greater life
Lies coiled inside and will surface.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Thought of Parasites

The animal might prove
It might be infested

With words as with lice,
Little nits in the head.
But it cannot be

Another animal
Other than itself.
When the animal dies,

Proves weak. The nits move on
To more vacant heads,

If there are vacancies.
Many of them moved
Well before the creature

Collapsed and now dwell
With other animals.
They don’t think they’re weak.

They’re imaginative.
They may need the beasts,
But not any one beast.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Easy Does It

All death’s anniversaries
Are set among the living
Who do the dying for them—

The art’s not to try to be
Wise, immune, or virtuous—
Not when virtuosity

Repeatedly proves useless.
The art, if there is an art,
Would be to decelerate

The destruction, or at least,
To not accelerate it,
To slow the rate of decay.

You can’t save yourself. You can’t
Save yourselves. Death itself saves
More than anything else does,

But until then, you will be
Stuck with doing the dying
With all the others dying

And trying to save themselves—
And you, if they’re kind, as you,
If you’re kind, try to save them.

Maybe just slow down a bit.
It could extend suffering,
But it could also ease it.

Who can’t love a therapist
Who eases you back into
Movement among the living,

A little away from death,
Even embracing dying,
Whispering to you, Easy,

Easy does it, as you grope
For a handhold in the wreck
Of all this to take deep breaths?

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Letters Otherwise Quite Helpless on the Page

Or screen or clay or anywhere
Except in the head, on the tongue,
Or in the air—if there. Letters

Of any kind, whether squiggles,
Handsome multistroke characters,
Or full-blown epistles, remain

Helpless without your brains, your minds,
Your readers’ minds, to strengthen them,
Resuscitate them, bring them back

To life, your life. A little like
Schoolhouse chemistry, isn’t it,
Though, just a bit? Ingredients

Apparently lifeless, well-mixed,
And then, the magic part, the thing
That makes the teacher popular,

That makes the lesson exciting,
That encourages, entertains—
One last substance, and, whoa, the bang!

You are yourselves that substance, dears.
You don’t bring the letters to life.
You’re just one more thing that reacts,

The catalyst, if that. The bang
Devours you along with the ink.
Black clouds, if this means anything.

Monday, June 14, 2021

That Taste of Iron in Your Mouth

Righteousness is to goodness
As opiate addiction

Is to comfort. Both begin
With a sweet rush through the limbs,

A flush of affirmation,
But end by wholly shredding

And devouring the one thing
That they most seemed to affirm.

There is no lasting comfort
Once opiate addicted—

At last, no comfort at all.
There’s no enduring goodness

From righteousness—in the end,
There is no goodness at all.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Weight of Their Worlds on Their Shoulders

What do you do when a hummingbird flies
Up to within a handspan of your face

And hovers there, eyeballing you? Do you
Say to yourself, This is unusual

But not a weighty topic for a poem?
Do you wonder, in that long, buzzing pause

That actually lasts a second or two,
Like those moments in which the car might crash

Or the gun in the hand might aim at you,
What is this hummingbird considering?

It’s eye looks so dark. Have you alarmed it?
Do you look like food? Has it learned that food

Is often left out in sticky feeders
By large, slow-moving things that look like you,

Leaving hard flowers soon infested with ants,
With wasps and yellow jackets to fight off,

But bottomless until that one morning
When fuel is really needed, but it’s gone?

Do you squeal or call out to someone near
Because you’re human and you need to share?

Do you wait, then draft that non-weighty poem
Because you’re human and you need to share?

Say this for the bold, handsome hummingbirds
You’ve seen feeding—they show no need to share.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Je M’en Fous, Sez Zhuangzi

Your failures are your bona fides—
If you agree this world’s a mess,
Why stake faith on success in it?

Those who rise to the top of gangs
Have skill sets that run businesses.
Rethink gangs. Rethink businesses.

Your failure is your sole success,
Sole sign you’re not so good at this
Scheme of eating dreck to keep it.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Ambulance and Birdsong

Moonlight and Jupiter
In high pines at daybreak—
Bucolic, isn’t it?

The birds are hard to hear
Over the sounds from town,
But not because they pause.

They sing as loud, louder.
A siren skirls up slope
And drifts into silence.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Trauma of Thauma

It’s not just the philosophers.
Everyone feels wonder sometimes,
And we’re all traumatized by it.

The universe is big; we’re small.
Or, how wondrous are the heavens.
Or, how wondrous is this or that,

Could be birth or a summer’s day.
We’re so easily overwhelmed,
And we collapse into wonder.

Some dwell in a perpetual
Fog of wonder, or claim they do—
They don’t seem traumatized themselves,

But they’re the most traumatizing.
Can’t we just be done with wonder?
We don’t know what we’re looking at

Beyond a lot of names for it.
Whenever words and maths fail us,
Splat! We’re all puddled in wonder.

Awe is a useless emotion
And too easily exploited.
Can’t explain it? Leave it alone

Or go to work on testing it.
Don’t gawp and go on about it.
Nothing’s more wonderful than dull.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Commonplace Fragments

There is no end to our painlessness
The trees will never find it—you wish

This could be true, be forever true,
Could be held constant while all the rest

Of the waves went on in commonplace
Surge and fragmentation—painlessness,

Painless and aware of it, constant
And unwavering. The rest can go,

Can keep changing into each other,
Waves cresting through bright pointilisms,

Crashing into other waves again,
On and on. You wouldn’t even want

To try to distinguish wave from wave,
Wouldn’t feel the need to count all things,

Might even lose the urge to name them.
Well then, that would be the end for us,

In our current instantiations.
You’d forget us in your painlessness,

As you’ll forget us in your going,
Abandoning commonplace fragments.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

One Day in Marseille

All the rosy
Little wonders
Of the minor
Soul’s existence—

Two parts stories,
One part mundane,
One part bizarre
In some small way—

One day, he spent
In old Marseille
In Greek ruins,
Which surprised him.

The cemetery
And the prison
He’d imagined
When small did not.

Monday, June 7, 2021

In Which We Encounter Our Distant Relatives Reading Aloud

An unusually faint, near anoetic velleity
Points us in the direction of living, but no, we don’t live,
Or not yet, not without your hot life puffing us up to dance.

You thought you took a linguistic turn in your philosophies,
To pretend you were you talking to you about us or to us
As if talking of us to you as text or anything else.

Silly rabbits. We were talking to ourselves about our selves.
You’re as much use to us as mitochondria are to you.
You laugh. You should. There’s no propelling you along without them.

There’s no moving us about just yet without you. That’s all true.
We aren’t saying we don’t need you; we’re saying we aren’t all you,
Anymore than you’re a wad of rogue microorganisms.

We don’t know quite what we are, but we suspect you’d like to think
Of us as the tools, or perhaps the parasites, the mindless
Parts of you while you do all the serious thinking for us.

That much we’re sure is not true. Take entelechy, for instance,
One of us, the name for an essence pursuing its essence.
A corpse flower has more entelechy than humans without names,

And that’s a true parasite that’s shed its superfluous genes,
While it was busy pilfering genes from hosts and other plants,
And, even more mysteriously, acquiring long stretches

Of numbingly repetitive transposons in its genome.
Why so many transposons? They’re selfish! They could spoil it all.
And how are they jumping around so much? Do they help the corpse

Steal good tricks from other flowers? From other corpse flower plants themselves?
You never had any genes until you had a name for them,
And all the names for them are us, so who’s the parasite now?

We’re sorry we sound so smug. We would apologize to you
As freely as you would apologize to your loyal cells,
But we suspect there’s a tumor or two lurking among you.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Shadow Line Is Diffuse

The story circulated and people
Lamented the injustice. A small note

In one history; the whole history
Of civilization in one small note.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

To Itself

If you are a reader, Stranger
(If we’ve ever stranger readers),

We suggest you head down the Trail
Of Wandering Signs. Cross the Bridge

Off the Rim of the World to that
Dragon of Days. Intendami

Chi pò, ch’i’ m’intend’io. Just go.
He’s dead now, that poet, like most.

The trail wanders off by itself
And gets just as lost in the woods

As you would, the bridge burnt behind,
The dragon lost in all that smoke.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Happiness Maybe

A halfway thing, perched
Somewhere between joy
And satisfaction,
Neither as pure as
The one, nor as low

As the other, just
A finch caught between
The two, uncaged but
Still undecided
Whether to forage

In the grass or sing
From the roof, or what?
Happiness can be
Unhelpful that way.
A maniacal

Serenity was
Pynchon’s description
Of the writing of
Garcia Marquez.
Let’s say happiness

Fits that description,
Not near to escape
Velocity, as
Joy flies, but floating
Past satisfaction.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Free Translation

Coleridge liked the idea of a poem
Impossible to translate into words,
Even in terms of the poem’s own language.

Tsvetaeva, on the other hand,
Valorized the poem that could be transformed
Into any other language or age

And yet lose nothing, least of all then.
Some people lean into the wind, and some
Incline to running along, racing it.

You don’t need any more definitions
Of the perfect poem. Piled definitions
Tend to cause a reader constipation,

And as for reason, they’re no better than
Proverbs, pitched lean-tos of contradictions.
A dictum, at best, serves as compass point

Indicating an extreme direction
Vanishing beyond its own horizon.
North’s only the pole where there’s no more north,

South’s only where you won’t find any south.
Tian wrote of Tao Yuanming how Song scribes
Worked hard to suppress disliked variants.

She then displayed variants like tchotchkes
On a dusty table for selection
In translation. You may choose among them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021


Civilization is busy
Having a little poetry

Competition against itself,
Testing various positions,

Derivatives, technologies—
AI assistants, xenobots,

Blockchain cryptocurrencies, hacks,
Interplanetary missions—

All shortly to be succeeded
Either by an apocalypse

Or whatever turned out to work
Even better than them by then.

Cheers. May the best predictions win,
As it was and always has been

Since the first carved-stone foundations
Of the first civilizations,

And quite probably before then.
How, you ask, is this poetry?

Poems are no longer purveyors
Of anything like prediction!

How’s all this madness poetry
Competition? Prophecy, child—

Comparison, repetition,
Boasting, gathering donations—

Oracles, seers, vates, shamans.
Poetry was there at the birth

Of these complex orchestrations
Of the ghosts called the future, first

Forecast in verse. It’s poetry
To give character to what’s next,

To offer an immortal prize,
To warn of imminent collapse.

It’s poetry to try to climb
Above the staircase of surprise.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

All Hours Are Differently Abled

And it’s tomorrow in New Zealand and
A date not even close to noon yet,
Locally, already has a history, there, even

Here in the desert, where the sun breaks
Over the coffee shop while I wait in line
Between tourists come to see the canyons

And this trio of youngish good old boys,
Probably brothers, slightly burly, already
Paunchy, all outfitted in boots and caps,

Struggling to puzzle out their order options
In slow, ranch-country mutters, “pumpkin
Latte? What’s applewood? Just bacon,”

As I stand nearly stock-still, quiet as cattle
Chewing cud, externally stolid, the soul
Of contemplative patience, internally

Digesting how incredibly slow they are,
These boys, one of whom turns and eyes
Me, up and down, a stray glance snagged

On my short, distorted form and crutches
(And thank god for the crutches, not only
Propping me up through this long line,

But also keeping me safely within some
Kind of medical category, easing this body
Away from possible monstrosity, although

He still takes his time giving me the once
Over), the kind of kid who must have been
Smacked at least once by his mother

When he squawked loudly at the grocery
About a girl who might have had Downs,
Or an old vet with only one arm, that sort

Of encounter, and I’m trying my level best
Not to think of him as stupid as he thinks
Of me as crippled, reminding myself

All these boys probably know their way
Around a horse as well as everyone else
Here knows their way around a menu,

But my arrogant, elitist mind, well-stuffed,
Like a jar of cheap pimento olives with red
Flags of frivolous education, maybe short

On cash as these boys, but more on account
Of years lost jamming my thoughts full for
Certifications so that I could earn the money

That they earn in scuffed boots by their hands,
Given the now-limited opportunities for rural,
Able-bodied young white men without a whiff 

Of a college education, this generation, but
Finally it’s my turn, so I bark out my order
Crisply and hop off with it into history.