Saturday, July 31, 2021
Friday, July 30, 2021
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—
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,
The kind you might give a chance.
The names of subtle monsters
Waver in the haze between
Wholly normal, alien.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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
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
Sunday, July 25, 2021
Saturday, July 24, 2021
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
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
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
One, we are discrete
Values (of?) that are
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.
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
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
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
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
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Friday, July 16, 2021
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,
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
Perhaps because there are more
People than there ever were,
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
It is everything
Bleak, honest, and true,
The parents’ divorce
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
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
Saturday, July 10, 2021
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
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
Tout court. Humans could do
With fewer words. Robots
Could use fewer humans.
One can imagine these
The problem symbolic
Language solved, after all,
Lay in the low throughput
Possible for gestures
Bodies were the choke-point
For culture as much as
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,
In paddocks that once were
Of conquest, gold for kings,
The thunder once harnessed
Thursday, July 8, 2021
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
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 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
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
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,
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
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
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.