Saturday, July 31, 2021

More of Monet than of Glück

It’s a very nice poem, but you already wrote it

You only die in the eyes
Of others. In your own mind,
You can’t. You’ll be abolished.
You will not exist. You will

Never have existed, nor
Will anything ever have
Existed. You always are,
If you are, and if you aren’t

You never were. The sorrow
You have felt, feel, will feel, will
Have felt, maybe for decades,
Can only be for others

Who have lost others, for you
Who have lost others, for your
Memory, which is always
Losing, building, and losing,

And in imagination,
Only imagination,
For losing yourself to you,
To others, to memory,

And to imagination,
Memory’s shadow puppets.
Have we noted this before?
Right, we have. Haystacks, haystacks.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Mark My Words

To be a unique monster
Is to have monstrosity
As a name, the opposite

Of being ordinary,
Which requires an exact name
To be clearly distinguished.

Monsters are originals,
Recognizable on sight—
Hello there, Elephant Man.

If their names are remembered
It’s because of their bodies,
Which often eclipse those names.

This is not fame. This is not
Infamy, not exactly.
This is more like Gulliver’s

Sense of his “Ignominy,
Of being carried about
For a monster.” Nameable,

Memorable, but bodied
Beyond name, an excessive

Wondrous, weird, unique, not great—
Peculiar category,
Monsters. Extraordinary.

But there are subtle monsters,
Also, those just misshapen
Enough to be remembered

At a glance from one prior
Encounter, not marvelous,
Not wondrous—how to put this?

Unfortunate, a bit off,
But mostly, maybe, making
Up for it, decent people,

Potentially quite moral,
Potentially competent,
The kind you might give a chance.

The names of subtle monsters
Waver in the haze between
Wholly normal, alien.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

From the Tree

Life is much like its offspring
Addictions: you want it more
And more as you try to cope
With all the consequences,
And the kick diminishes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Note to Far Reader

I am my body’s, but my body’s not mine,
And I am my mind, but this mind is not mine,

And I’m my society’s, which is not mine,
And I am of my time, which is none of mine,

And I’m my old I, which is old and not mine,
And I’ll remain yours, though you were never mine.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Call Me by Your Evil Name

Perhaps we should all go by exonyms.
Give up on naming ourselves, our people.
Seek out those people who despise us most,
Or those certain to least understand us.

Adopt the outrageously insulting,
Dehumanizing names they use for us—
Apefolk, Pinheads, Cannibals, Bignoses,
Stinky, Fisheyed, Cheesesniffers, Headhunters,

And worse. There’s always a worse name out there
And someone who claims there’s no harm it.
Given most peoples call themselves humans,
That is, whatever term means Real people,

Natural people, First people, Allfolks,
Goodsouls, Original Children of Light,
But view membership as honorary
For anyone born to their enemies,

We should all just give it up, beginning
With whoever holds the most weaponry,
The most hegemony, the most brutal
Systems of production for consumption.

Yeh, won’t happen. Find a human being
Who’ll accept and relinquish othering,
And you’ve found the one genuine other.
Human? I know you are, but what am I?

Monday, July 26, 2021

Agents, Spirits, Gods, and Things

A somewhat popular truism
That turns up in academic texts
As well as in the digital press

Holds that there are, or have been, people
Constituting whole communities
Whose worlds hold no inanimate things,

Only phenomena with spirits,
Wishes, morals, sensitivities
That may either be roused or appeased,

Harmed or salved, wronged or well-respected,
Agency in all aspects of life.
Other peoples, self-evidently,

Divide phenomena into lives,
Mere things without agency, themselves,
And the properly superhuman,

Such as divinities, gods, Our God.
They, too, however, are much concerned
With wishes and sensitivities,

With what it means to be respectful
And when, where who has privileges
According to those divinities,

What things may be treated as mere things,
When agents may be treated as things,
And when disregard means sacrilege.

Mingle all this with uncertainty,
And all those longings for belonging,
Your fears of punishment and exile,

Strained through syntactic symbol systems,
And you’ll come up with a recipe
For what, in English, is named Nature,

Rich mishmash in intersecting texts
Of agency, spirit, god, and thing.
Please, steal a few sentences and see—

Nature terrifies me. Nature is
Punishing the wrong world. Nature is
Unimaginably wide, mighty,

And various. Nature has desires
Of its own, a fluid, mimetic
Space. So powerful and so ashamed,

Woods which are still there because we were,
Removed from the day-to-day, sublime,
Mindful interludes of rippling grass,

A Venus flytrap slowly closing
In wildly beautiful ways, cleaner,
Recognizable noises, bird friends,

Exchanging oxygen and carbon
Dioxide with the agèd creatures,
Not so lovely if you’re a chicken,

Something sacred, as if some fragment
Insisted that we stop and look, life,
Joy, apologetic scorpions,

All this wasted space, nowhere to sit,
Years of work destroyed in a few hours,
Vertical rows of guanine crystals,

Of translucence and hence concealment,
The chimerical platypus, flames,
Though only some have liked or trusted

Vast portions that we cannot see, heads
Gravitate towards trees, good habitat,
Memories of past climates, warnings,

The way that nature often pleases
Normally solitary creatures,
Apologies for our unfounded

Prejudice, a total surrender,
After all the blood and slime and gore,
A journey of love that never ends. . . .

And all blooms from one small garden plot!
Possibly, whatever the world is,
Whatever forms of agency nest

Latent as wishes in gravity,
Whatever spirits or gods may be,
Nature’s one compressed code for human.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Will It

Humans talk a lot
About making things

Better. Depending
On today’s context,

The idea may mean
A transformation,

Restoration, or
Progress. All the same,

If you don’t confess
What you’re up against,

Including yourself,
This world that made you

Like this, all of it—
If it’s too daunting

To nod, possibly
It’s impossible,

It will never be
Possible, will it?

Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Winged Achene

You see only the few, the names
Visible of vast poetic
Populations you’ll never meet.

This is true for every language,
Except that in some you see none,
Others many—still not a tenth

Part of all their poems swarming past,
Or growing for years underground,
Like larval insects that never

Crawl out to become imagos,
Like infusoria in rain
Puddled in happenstance gutters

No one ever bothers to clean.
Gusts of spores in dust and windblown
Pollen, helicoptering seeds,

Poems scatter culture carelessly
As plants and fungi launch forests.
You only see awe in the trees.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Nice Day, If You Can Get It

You can get half a dozen days
Before you get to a sunrise—

Just stop. Take note. Stop. And take note.
There’s dark and a slow shooting star.

The plain, drab hour of sink and shower,
Or the long drive up the mesa

To work or, if you’re luckier,
If this is one of those sweet days,

To a corner of the cosmos
Temporarily free of souls,

And there’s a dusky moon, a bat,
A jackrabbit, an owl to bed,

And a worm of day on the edge.
An hour later, still twilight, stars,

Just a few now, on lavender
Planks of road, woods, and sky. Crickets

And the songbirds waking, and yes,
It’s all ancient stereotype

In verse, but it’s alive if you
Can catch it, if you are. Sunrise.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Surveying This Picturesque Landscape in Summer

Another year with no monsoon?
Drought continues on the mesas.
The heat settled in months ago,
And seems set to stay for the fall.

Ocho meses de infierno,
Quatro de invierno—reverse
Of what the Spanish soldiers found
In this land in 1601,

In the most recent mega-drought,
A cold one, the Little Ice Age.
Armored and desperate locusts,
They stripped the freezing Pueblos bare.

That was something new and different
For all of the people involved,
A perfect horror to survive.
So what’s new and different this time?

The ways Earth changes are rarely
Entirely for better or worse.
Earth loves an equilibrium,
The reason life lives here at all,

And it has this gift, call it sick
Or creative, for which humans,
Its children, have a knack as well,
Of making the beautiful cruel,

The cruel a fuel for fresh beauty,
Whatever this year’s ratio
Of winter to hell. We, at least,
Can sometimes smell guilt. Extra hell.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021


One, we are discrete
Entities, exact
Values (of?) that are
Represented by
Symbols in the form

Of words and signs, which
Seems just redundant.
Two, we are numbers,
Which is another
Way of putting it.

When did we begin?
Three, it’s hard to say.
Neanderthals seemed
To like notches cut
In hyena bones.

On the other hand
(Hard to stick to two
Hands when you’re counting),
There are some modern
Peoples who don’t count

Much at all. Four, we
Come whole—whole systems,
Never single spies.
We’re what symbols you
Use for us. Say, five.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Otium cum Dignitate

Birdsong is really percussion,
At least when enough birds,
Enough species get started,
At least when a whole chorus
Gets going, throats drumming
In unintentional syncopation,
Rhythms weaving through rhythms.

Rich percussion’s not simple
To appreciate wholly, to love.
You have to be slothful, still,
Ambitious enough to listen,
Lazy enough to sprawl in the sound.
It’s a gift no one intended, threading
Through gaps left by others like you.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Song of the Core Urban Microbiome

Oh, we are so happy now,
We’ve found our forests of steel,
Our polycarbonate seams,
Ecosystems of our own

Thanks to them, the lumbering
Vectors of machineries,
Stromatolites of our age,
Our teeming era, Eden

Of labyrinthine metro
Underground entanglements,
Our havens free of cousins
Who’ve cornered the seas and soils.

We will thrive as long as they
Can concentrate heaps for us,
Rub their palms on all their rails,
And chew the world to feed us.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A More Aspirational Commentariat for the Precariat

When progress takes hold, in whatever form, 
It will be belated and advance nothing,
Wrote Ishion Hutchinson, not long ago,
Not much progress stored since in the hold.

Ultimo, things may or may have not, did or
Did not go so well. Myself am hell in debt
To hell, and hell is full of debt collectors
Hell-bent on driving their source of wealth extinct.

Whenever there is too much wealth, there is
Struggle to corral it all, thus disaster.
Whenever there is too little, there is
Struggle to corral what’s left, thus disaster,

But only for individuals, only
For the greater mass of individual
Working lives, frightened for calm’s survival.
En masse, some lesser mass always does quite well,

Or always has so far, the descendants
Of the replacement populations settled
On the bones and ashes of the scattered,
Which remains progress, advancing on nothing.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

To Future Accusations

One wondrously sturdy illusion
In human rhetoric’s bag of tricks
Begins with confirmation bias,

Not as a practice but as a fact—
Humans are more prone to discover
Whatever they’ve already believed.

Now, apply this to your opponent—
Humans being prone to this bias
And you being human, you are prone,

Syllogistically, you see? You see
What you want to see. The tricky part
Is thus to set your opponent off

As if apart from everyone else—
You see only what you want to see.
See? The rest are left in the shadows.

The spotlight is fixed on the bias
Of your opponent, dimming your own.
Move swiftly. The important next step

Is to confuse things by a fusion
Of bias with immoral desire.
This works best when arguing against

Any dark view of human nature
Or the enduring dolor of things.
You see these horrors as persisting

(Or ancient or natural or fixed)
Only because you want to see them,
Which means you want them to continue.

See what we did, just then? Offering
No actual counter-evidence,
You can kneecap a bleak perspective

By thus effectively suggesting
That it stems from sickness in the head,
That any grim prognostication

Simply shows the prognosticator
To be a wicked person wishing
For grim things to continue to win.

We would adduce examples, except
That by giving them we could expose
Ourselves to future accusations.

Friday, July 16, 2021

View through a Small Garage Window

The problem with wisdom is truth
Is not a lot of help with life.
That’s why the better poets duck

Generalized windy abstractions
Like this one to favor details,
The way a child’s face feels when slapped,

The way the soldiers oil their trucks,
The way bowels void, the way sweat drips,
Exact lust, anger, all of it.

Even the finest nature poems
Depict a rich sensorium
And leave their aches buried in leaves.

Ancient wisdom literature,
Honestly, is mostly useless
Advice for a world long since gone.

The best parts of it are the weird
Details dropped like mouse turds, black seeds,
Clues to how they wasted those days.

Wisdom is blurry, myopic,
A still-life seen through cataracts.
Truth helps no one’s life. Luck eats facts.

Thursday, July 15, 2021


Take away most math, singing,
Storytelling, musical
Instruments, and medicines

From splendiferous human
Culture, and what have you got
Left? Not much. Literary

Lyric poetry, I guess.
And who wants to live in this
Midden of little bones flensed?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

We’re Outside Your Windows

Perhaps because there are more
People than there ever were,
Fertility’s declining,

But still there are more people
Than ever, every moment,
And the numbers keep climbing,

Spilling into and out of
Overcrowded boats that float
Into larger waves and sink,

Clambering over fences
As fast as other people
With guns can fire rounds from them,

Buying up all the houses
Left in emptier places
And stocking them for the end

Bound to come for all of them
One by one but not for all
At once as these tales pretend.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Frank’s Great Late Poem

It is everything
Bleak, honest, and true,

Adolescent lust,
Grandma’s racism,
The parents’ divorce

And ordinary,
Quiet deaths apart
Dull decades later,

All the details
Middle-aged poems botch
And younger poems prance

Around like bonfires.
Only the old loathe
The sun as themselves.

Monday, July 12, 2021

A Poem for Your Relationships

The problems of likeness as change,
Always alike, always change.

Too abstract? Pick a topic you like:
Your body, your family, your people,

Your country, your planet, your skies.
Pick your battle, your terrible war, sin,

The person who most recently assaulted
You—how alike were their eyes to yours,

How did their skin against your skin
Make your skin crawl, change you, even

If the touch was fleeting, a wrist grab,
A face pat, a little act of dominance?

All topics have their own importance,
The scale at which their scales are armor,

Monstrosity, nightmare, and many scales
At which each whole topic shrinks, a speck

In someone else’s grand scheme of things.
For some, sickness, for some, bad debts,

For some the very real threat of death
From the sky right this minute, screaming

Fighter jets or an explosion of a volcano
That was a green and fertile home so long.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Bait and Click

Symbolic behaviors, gestures,
And information build cultures,
But what fuels them is attention.

They won’t grow without attention
From humans locking on to them.
Most embodied humans, your selves,

Crave certain kinds of attention,
But for any given human
Attention can be dangerous—

It lifts up, propels; it blows up;
It burns. Not so for the symbols—
Not so for cultural patterns,

All spreading through a Wildean
Cosmos where any attention
Is meat and drink, muscles and wings.

Gods die for want of attention.
Faiths die that can’t get attention.
The cleverest technology

Crumbles and rusts sans attention.
Poems, stories, euhemeristic
Memories of wondrous events,

Whole languages and all their rites
Go extinct without attention.
Think of that when you lend your ears

Or turn your thoughts to anyone
Calling, Countrymen! Citizens!
Monsters hungry for you ate them.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Bet on Physical

How many uncertainties must combine
For some certainty to be made secure?

Do the Bayesians have any idea?
You’d think that totting up uncertainties

In an ever-accumulating heap
Could only lead to more uncertainty,

And yet, at scale, they tend to cancel out.
So many uncertainties in a day

And yet, that a day will come’s near certain.
It’s not just that, at the subatomic

Level of the wave-particle circus
Populated by superpositions,

Super strings, spookiness, and infinite
Three-ringed multiverses on trapezes

Bouncing with equivalent equations,
It’s hard to see for the paradoxes

Of quantum-classical interfaces
And boxes of hypothetical cats.

It’s more the beautiful, summative curve
Of it, this universal contraption,

In which the seeds of mischief seem buried
More densely in tinier dimensions,

While as the arcs grow larger and larger—
Planetary orbits, stellar parades

Sweeping the arms of spiral galaxies,
Compounding galactic superstructures—

They grow increasingly stately, surer,
Until they blur into one composite

Bound by constants of silky certainty,
One arrow of light shot through entropy.

There aren’t enough concatenated thoughts
To count up certainty’s uncertainties.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Beware Horseless Carriages

There may come an era
Low on words. Already,
Languages are dying

Right and left, for the lack
Of host populations.
The dataome depends

Less and less on spoken
Conversations, even
Natural languages

Tout court. Humans could do
With fewer words. Robots
Could use fewer humans.

One can imagine these
Phrases imagining
Themselves obsolescent.

The problem symbolic
Language solved, after all,
Lay in the low throughput

Possible for gestures
And vocalizations.
Bodies were the choke-point

For culture as much as
One-celled anaerobic
Metabolism was

For life’s evolution.
Now that information
Has other stratagems,

Does it really need words
And syntax—or stories—
To get the hard jobs done?

Along with poems, the whole
Talking world will become
As horses have become,

Idle accoutrements
In paddocks that once were
Barbarian engines

Of conquest, gold for kings,
The thunder once harnessed
To civilization.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

An Intimate Habitation

We were all monsters in those days.
Home was our monstrous world we’d made,
A home full of us in the rooms,
A home with hardly any room.

One by one, we removed ourselves.
We thought of this as adventure.
We were leaving our monstrous world
Of crowded rooms for something else.

But we each hoped something different,
And none of us came back content
With what we’d found or failed to find,
And each turned and went out again.

The house grew emptier, older.
No one brought infants anymore.
The monsters left were frail, silvered
A bit at the temples of God.

At some point, our monstrous world reached
An appealing desuetude,
The ruined rooms claimed by crickets,
The walls overtaken by vines.

At the end, you wanted to stay,
Lost your envy of those who’d left,
But by then, you yourself were left
An uninhabitable wreck.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

When Few Are

Already well into your day,
Before the dark pales,
Before even the birds
Start singing, you are up,

Thinking how you used to stay
Up this late, how you barely
Beat the dawn to get
To bed behind closed blinds.

There was no failing then,
For all the implications
You were lazy, sleeping in.
There is no righteousness

Now in rising oh so early.
At both ends you sinned
The same sin—you wanted
To be when few or none were.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021


Strange, sometimes, to think of all these
Little human bodies milling

About, each about the same size
As each other, as deer or dog,

Each a packet of bones and guts,
Muttering and dwelling on what

A medium-sized body does
In terms of food and waste and wants

Or, mostly, fears for what comes next,
As focused as any mammal,

Any vertebrate, on hunger,
Physical safety, sex, and rest,

But cursed with imagination,
The double-edged gift of language

That enables tagged memories
To be decomposed in the mind

And rearranged in mosaics
Of chimeras, so that for these

Particular vertebrates, these
Particular social mammals,

These milling, medium-sized beasts,
These brief packets of guts and bones

That cover the Earth like a skin,
Thin and tattered but connected,

What for other brain-laden beasts
Would be involuntary dreams

That visit in sleep and vanish
Become constant working puzzles,

Dreaming infiltrating the days
Of bodies caught in human ways.

Monday, July 5, 2021

The Place Where Three Roads Meet

The most important, fascinating truths
Are the most obvious and banal.

They’re banal because they’re so obvious,
So nearly perfectly self-evident

That the sharpest scrutiny slides off them.
Any old person can spot them. They hold.

They’re dull and trivial and they hold.
There’s few enough of them. It’s a clue

That they’re so little use. One of the best
Lies holds truths should be potent, useful.

A species of liars and coordinators, we are
Connoisseurs of the sharp, useful tool.

Most of the really fun truths are rare
And unusually counterintuitive, found hiding

Under rocks. We like those. Peekaboo!
The big dull truths, like death, we don’t.

They’re the smooth-domed, dormant
Volcanos we’ve lived with all our lives.

They’re the stones in the local weather,
The dull reasons we get or don’t get rain.

There they are. Death, change, likeness.
What’s to talk about? Whatever we don’t.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Aster Astir

It launches jets of gas along its poles.
The jets disrupt the inflow of more gas.

Without those jets, the star would grow large,
Too large, ten or a dozen times the sun.

You need just the right jets for just
The right-sized sun to arise. That’s nice.

The size, or let’s call it the mass, adjusts
A star’s brightness and how soon it dies.

That seems about right. How each node
In the undulating waves of all the night

Arises in the first place sets it on course
For how it will go on and when it will end.

If and when you step out in the dark,
If and when you can get good, dry dark

Skies to peer through, check out the stars
Astir and consider how little humans

Might ever have cared about the fine arts
Of prediction without the patterns in them.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Conversation in Conversation with Itself

No one is actually talking
In the vicinity of ears,
There’s no sign of gesturing hands,

And yet, here are all these voices,
Blowing in from all directions,
Phrases through all of the phases

Of liquid or solid or gas,
The frozen, fading, and shining
Coils of an open discussion

Narrow as Emily’s fellow,
Syntactically monolingual,
But more ancient than Gilgamesh.

These are the dull terms of plain skulls,
The most boring, trivial words
In a brain running background noise,

Which, if not as old as the genes,
Predate a few alleles, always
Mutating, our roots in Bronze Age

Demography, at the latest.
Etymology might as well
Be reverse-engineering jets

To recreate original
Ghosts of wagons and chariots,
And you should be willing to bet

Some words run much deeper than that,
That the rumination of teens
In Kolkata or Edinburgh,

Or anywhere in the Aleph,
Include a few, how do we say,
Echoes? Fragments? Neural patterns

With correlatives in sources
Not just thousands of years ago,
But thousands of lifespans ago?

The same with us. We have our springs
In worlds and bodies so long gone,
That whoever has carried us

Downstream a few years and heaped us
In configurations slightly
Original is more flash flood

Than author, a short kerfuffle
In a cutback of a creek gouged
From a canyon careless of stones.

We make a lovely, chunking sound
Against each other as the rush
Shifts us until the flood subsides.

Friday, July 2, 2021

A Diplomat of the Precariat

Ristras of poems cluster my porch.
I am a person when I write
Poetry; the rest of the time

I’m a poet. I used to leave
Them spread out in colorful sheets
On the ground or the roof to dry,

But the mice and the bugs spoiled them,
So I learned to hang strings of them,
And I pretend they protect me.

But I worry. I can never
Seem to keep a house, neither in
Good order nor my possession,

And every hour I waste hanging
More poems that look pretty to me,
More poems than anyone could eat,

Is an hour I had better spent
Budgeting, looking for more work,
More teaching, more freelancing, more

Document-writing, form-filling
Usefulness. But please forgive me.
I’m rambling. You invited me

To serve as representative,
Which I’m not. I’m but a sample
Of the diplomat you search for—

The whole diplomat will arrive
Shortly. Did you notice the storm?
I noticed the winds were blowing.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Biased and Noisy

Wherever there is judgment, there is noise.
You can collect independent judgments
And take the mean of all of them, and then
Call that the judgment, and you’ll do better
Than any judge ever did on their own.

Sadly, you’re on your own about most things
And lost in a lottery of judgments
Being made every moment by others
Whose decisions are biased and noisy.
Summed together, this yields one certainty.