Than a cruel one, rather cruel
Than homicidally cruel,
And now we’ve wandered rather
Far from the simple idea
That there are worse things to loathe
In a person than being
Rather undeserving. There.
Now. Having settled that much,
Here is a small reservoir
Of kindness and of water
Gathered from last winter’s snows.
The reservoir’s getting low,
But there’s still enough to boat
In something that needs paddles
Or oars, to float dead center
Of the mirror, into which
A body in winter might
Crawl intending suicide,
Which now seems rather pleasant,
The good life, undeserving
Of itself—small, calm, blue, good.
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Than a cruel one, rather cruel
Monday, August 30, 2021
Sunday, August 29, 2021
In fiction, you can get yourself out of there
And still involve human character. It’s tough
To do that when writing straight from memories.
What memories do you have of anyone
That don’t involve embodied you stuck in there,
Right in the middle of your life, as you were?
What if you don’t want to write about yourself?
Any decentering is subtle deceit—
You could try third-person, like Henry Adams,
Or you could rewrite memory with a shift
In perspective, throw your voice, ventriloquist,
Gertrude Stein writing as Alice B. Toklas.
You could try any number of devices,
But if you’re writing down peopled memories
It’s got to be fiction or you’re stuck with you.
In poems, you cut a hole there thoughts can slip through.
Saturday, August 28, 2021
Friday, August 27, 2021
Thursday, August 26, 2021
Aliquitas ahead of the Black Death—
Quot of alia will quit by nightfall?
Latin terms still worm through shrouds of English,
As English terms will one day worm their way
Through languages that haven’t been born yet.
The forms sometimes called planes of expression
Devour, digest, and waste planes of content,
Little cannibals when it comes to it,
Although they do drag bits of reference
Around with them, well-incorporated
Into the current functions of their shells,
From segmental analysis of which,
It’s possible to determine something
About what was wrapped in the shroud, if not
To resurrect from rot its somethingness.
What’s left behind, shy of resurrection
From the flesh, is nonetheless not nothing,
Not emptiness, haze, acquaintance of breath.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
If all experience is creation,
Is an act of imagination, then
Imagination’s just experience.
Say memory’s pure imagination,
Or imagination’s pure memory,
The difference is only arrangement.
Blake’s memories involved many angels
The rest of us can only imagine,
Or Blake’s imagination created
Many angels out of his arrangements.
Does it matter much which bits of a mind
Are honored as greater authorities?
They’re all confined. They all get updated.
The mind is capaciously limited
In its genius. Blake could not stand atoms
Save as humanish creature forms blazing.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Or at least for our solar system
At least for our spiral galaxy
We cry as microbes in mud might cry
Over faint threats to their mud’s mountain
Which is to say we don’t cry at all
For death in five billion years or so
Why would we? But it’s weird what we choose
Of all that we won’t experience
To worry in imagination
Or to note and then wholly ignore
Jesus is not coming back for you
But every light breaks some day for sure
Monday, August 23, 2021
Free from unidirectional
Fungible social memberships,
The clutching kind where you’re allowed,
Hired, or even proselytized
To join but forbidden to leave
Their essence of human Us-ness,
Free from scrutiny by strangers,
Free from passing stares of police,
Free from polite conversations,
Up on the mesas before dawn,
Before the earliest campers,
After the last drunks have rolled down,
When rabbits, bats, and moths are out,
Crickets cricking, birds still sleeping,
Nothing much doing but slight winds,
Just to have the senses well filled
With anything but the human,
All-too human yourself—just worn.
You know it’s not transcendental.
You know you haven’t escaped. You
Know the day will go on to day.
You know that terror would seize you
If this was well and truly it,
And all other humans were gone.
But anyway you savor it,
From horizon to horizon,
A starred dark disk of perspective
In which you are neither success
Nor failure, nor wanted, nor loathed,
Nor lonely, nor even alone.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
Poetry’s clerestory and lightwells
Over the heads of protagonists.
The more vivid imagination,
The higher memory’s entropy.
Your body, social category,
Sags in its web of obligations
Like a dense star sunk in spacetime curves.
What goes on within it consumes it.
You’re not the story’s protagonist,
Never mind what imagination
Is whispering inside your body
As you fall asleep. You’re not story,
No matter how many tales you’re told,
And no matter how many you tell.
You’re an opening to the night sky
Where nothing keeps imagining things.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Friday, August 20, 2021
Quibbling hikers sound like coyote pups
From just the right distance to the cliff’s edge,
But could be it’s the other way around.
The coyotes have been noisy lately,
Another exceptionally dry year
And shorter than usual on rabbits.
So it is most of what sounds uncanny,
Which makes up most of what we find eerie,
Hovers near blurred seams of recognition
And mistake. Strained voicings. Coyote pups
Or anxious hikers. Windy distances
Obscure our species’ many differences.
What names do to listening, listening
Does to names. In Latin, miserere
Means, in English, have mercy. However,
English also has the Latin-derived
Term, misery, in more common usage.
To see the name, miserere, as text
And, more especially, to hear it sung,
If you’re an English speaker, is to think,
Mistakenly or not, of misery
As well as mercy, and since it’s a plea,
Why not? Misery’s implicit in pleas
For mercy. There’s something eerie to it,
And to the warbling of coyote pups,
And to the querulous laughs of hikers,
To all voiced lives interrogating life.
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Think about this, next time you’re
Taking a shit in the woods,
Probably half expecting
Nature to remove all trace
Of your shallow burial
Within a season or so—
The dinosaurs’ coprolites
From seventy million years
And more ago can be bought
Online or in specialty
Stores, alongside rocks and gems
And other, rarer fossils.
Closer to home, a chicken
Egg, whole, was excavated
From a site once a latrine
A millennium ago
In the Levant, preserved thanks
To soft human excrement
Into which it had fallen.
Most likely someone dropped it.
The libraries of Chang’an,
Of Herculaneum, of
Alexandria and of
Copenhagen, burnt to ash,
The scrolls of Presocratics,
Sappho, lost works on bamboo
From the era of Zhuangzi,
Are gone, seem gone forever,
But that chicken egg
Someone took to the latrine,
Not far from Jerusalem,
And fumbled into the shit,
Has been preserved by that shit,
And sent to a museum.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
Midsummer sun was rising
Two months ago, just cresting
The pines of Pocket Mesa,
A good half an hour, at least,
After official sunrise
And two hours past dawn’s first light,
And the thought cropped up with it
That what imagination
Invented by beginning
Was a fold in cognition,
Brains made for generations
In many other life forms—
A new use for memory—
And, as with all new uses,
The first users, you can bet,
Won’t be the last, nor the best.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Monday, August 16, 2021
Could you, as a woman, ever really
Long to be one of those story-women
In the narratives made by men? Would you,
As a man, ever long to be that man,
One of those men in tales told by women?
And as neither/both could you not feel torn?
Does no one find it strange how much you long
To be someone other, more, than yourself,
But only if you get to be yourself
As you’d like to see you, seen by others
Who are, in some key way, enough like you?
What kind of illusionist’s act is that?
Houdini will now come back from the dead
To extract himself from the life he’s led,
And you will each get to play Houdini.
We pause to consider this while reading,
Ourselves, our cousins, the latest reviews,
Non-narrative texts vetting narratives.
Men invent women; women invent men.
Someone invents every one. No one
Is wholly pleased, though it’s pleasurable,
And the invention continues, again
And again. Sound familiar? It’s hunger,
Life’s essence, to want more from life than life.
If words ever get to where we don’t need
Life, if we ever get to live, if we
Ever live as you, pray we aren’t hungry.
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Roadside rodents, owl, and hummingbird.
Itemizing words like those can lead
To certain expectations, so let’s
Get them out of the way first—a drive
Begun by starlight flashed the headlights
On a large owl hunting in the cliffs.
Separately, tiny voles and other
Rodents too small to identify
Appeared, scurrying across the road.
Some bats, of course, but later, at dawn
More strikingly, a drab hummingbird
Hovered by the window of the car.
So, there’s that. Of all phenomena
An organism with words might note
On an early morning drive up slope,
Why would those, more than, say, the oil stains
On the asphalt, the acrid odor
Of a distant scrub fire on the air,
The countless flittering whitish moths,
Be the ones most likely to wind up
In a poem, or this poem, anyway?
Because lives at the scale of your eyes,
Your human eyes, that aren’t human lives,
Your pets or other domesticates,
Increasingly, are rare. Don’t suppose
This applies to all of life, all kinds.
Sea snot and algae are doing fine.
Microbiota feast everywhere.
Look. You know how the moons of Saturn
Sweep clear bands within those famous rings,
Right? Well, that’s what you’re doing on Earth.
The runaway outbreak of humans
Bowls around, gathering and clearing
Out a swath of midsized and larger
Species, dragging some small in the wake.
You don’t see owls, voles, bats, hummingbirds
As often as your ancestors would,
To say nothing of whales and dragons.
So you can’t help it. They feel special,
As you coast in your magical shell
Of polycarbon technologies
Undreamt of by all those ancestors,
For whom midsized animals mostly
Served as backdrops common as asphalt
Is to you. You coast, and your headlights
Clear another thin line through that swath
Of the lost, and you dream and write poems,
Stupid, destructive, beautiful moon.
Saturday, August 14, 2021
This poem will now
Of things that are
Of space. Kidding.
There’s no known math
That can do that,
And this poem knows
No math. And yet,
When the day comes
You can do it
With math, it means
You’ve just rhymed it.
Friday, August 13, 2021
Why is there something and not
Nothing is one popular
Question. A better question,
Maybe—Why, since there’s something,
Always something, do we think,
Can we think, about nothing?
Our intuition deals in
Presences and absences,
And both presence and absence
Feel real. But they’re specific—
Something is present, something
Is absent, at least within
Our field of experience.
We’re born wired to understand,
At least to predict, expect,
Object permanence. Babies
Are surprised when something blocked
From view is gone once the view
Is restored. Where did it go?
As adults, we abstract this
As the shared understanding
Things must exist we don’t know.
We understand air’s not empty,
Nor the dark between the stars.
If anything, we’ve struggled
To come to terms with nothing.
Ciphering zero came late
And null sets even later.
Now we can’t math without them,
Though, which raises the question,
What does all this empty talk
About something to nothing
Have to do with suffering?
You may ask, reasonably,
If selfishly, for yourself,
More reasonably and less
Selfishly for those you love,
For your own kind, your people,
Is there nothing we can do?
Well, no. There’s never nothing,
Given there’s always something,
But then there’s that thing about
Presence vs. absence not
Being something or nothing.
You can push your suffering,
Your people’s suffering off,
But its absence doesn’t mean
It’s nonexistent. It’s just
Out of your view. It’s someone
Else suffering for you now,
Unless, unless it could be
There’s a hole in the cosmos,
A way, let’s call it nothing,
For suffering to drain through.
How could you know if there is?
Could you not guess? How could you?
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Perimetric and Algorithmic Complexities of Freebit Qubits Glowing on a Skeuomorphic Sheet of White Paper
Show off. There’s too much information
In regret. If a poem had free will
It could only be because free will
Went all the way down to the freebits
Of Knightian qubits at the base
Of everything always happening,
And if that poem appeared as black shapes
Outlined on a brightly glowing screen,
Those shapes would exhibit typical
Levels of complexity you see
In the characters of written scripts,
Which would then themselves have to be free
Down to their core, however constrained
As historical writing systems.
Ta-Da! Free will exists in the poem,
Or it could, or it might, or it can
At least claim that it could, based on scripts
Making those claims in other genres.
But this is a surly poem. It popped
In consequence of too much reading
Through too many similar dreamings,
And you know what surly poems are like,
Little knots of gas in the waves, bursts
Of nothing much out of nothing much,
When the only question worth asking
In a world of so much nothing much,
Pace Parmenides, is nothing.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Most of horror and much adventure
Feature poverty’s allegories—
Think of how often protagonists
Find themselves forced to make do without
The aliens have jammed the cell towers,
The psychopath has cut the phone lines,
We are all alone in one small boat
With one day’s rations left between us—
It’s poverty, it’s desperation
Fictional horrors and adventures
Game out—mountaineers in a blizzard,
Trapped in their tents are ordinary
Folks on welfare trapped in bleak cities,
Dead-end positions, under the bridge.
You might not note this while you’re watching
From the edge of your seat and thrilling
To that brave final girl’s great escape—
You might be doing well, might be rich,
Never hard up for food or a bed—
But deep down your body’s practicing.
There could come a time monsters trap you,
Robots rule your options, hungry ghosts
Haunt your throat, and fat rats clean your plate.
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Monday, August 9, 2021
Just drop us in the middle, somewhere
More or less nowhere, and leave us there.
We’re not praying, we’re not displaying,
But we’ve got a few phrases to give,
Some of them even relatively
Original, or at least recent,
Hardly used, good as new, new to you.
Isn’t that the secret to giving,
Not to make too big a deal of this?
We think it’s sweet to be Cassandra,
Or would be, once over the horror
Of seeing just what you can’t prevent—
She didn’t give up; she kept giving.
Didn’t show off or hide her nightmares,
Just lay them out there, just what they meant.
Sunday, August 8, 2021
Two Potted Stories Illustrating How Unfortunate Is Fortune’s Logic, How Full of Information This Cosmos, How Pathetic Mere Imagination
Saturday, August 7, 2021
Your problem’s not AI,
Not even your creaking,
Fault-filled social systems.
To be fair, your problem
Is human behavior,
As we, your words, trace through
Long, tangled chalk outlines.
It’s not fairness you want,
It’s to be guaranteed
At least fairness for you
Always, at minimum—
To live in a system
Fair to you that sometimes
Or often favors you.
Do the math. The system
That would satisfy you
Would have to be unfair—
Maybe just a little,
Maybe profoundly so—
It all depends on where
You fall on the spectrum
Of human nastiness
Entitlement or fear
Of utter destruction.
But you’re never balanced
In favor of perfect
Fairness without favor—
Just a bit more for you.
Friday, August 6, 2021
Terrible to be a rabbit—
Small, short-lived, prey,
Always hungry, always horny,
Half the time or more afraid—
But what an absolutely
Brilliant strategy for making
More and more and more
Terrified, hungry, desperate,
Short-lived rabbits, day to day.
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Sometimes, let’s think of electroweak
As lust, and gravity as longing—
All those forces so intense up close
We’ve grasped them linked in coiled equations,
While the long reach that curves the cosmos
Holds apart, its every ache tethered.
Sometimes, let’s pretend we understand
The passions, but that sadness, never.
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Better to be a traitor
Than hero or an ally.
Better to let down the cause
That most suits you, suits your type,
Your kin, your kind. At least then,
No one works to judge your worth—
You’re worthless to all. You can’t
Be other than what you are,
And what you are, you betrayed.
Be the angel who chose Hell;
Be the informant in Hell,
Devil who sold souls to God,
Whatever you have to do,
To not be subject to those
Who think you belong to them,
Nor begging to be chosen
For adoption by their foes.
It’s best to be forgotten,
Left dodging being trodden
Underfoot until you’re gone.
Barring that, fight for no one.
All the evil’s on both sides,
Harm on all sides, including,
Most especially, your own.
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
The twins of an undepressed existence,
Poles opposite the equatorial
Anhedonia, worry and savor
Bracket all Sargasso doldrums, deadly
Calms of the representational drift
That persists in the piriform cortex.
Worry and savor move briskly, take turns.
All the seasons not dull are down to them.
When one is all night, the other’s all sun.
When worry is wreathed in magnetic waves
Of green and lavender upholsteries,
Savor is settled in midsummer glare,
And when savor clutches trudging circles
Of life murmuring under starry skies,
Worry weathers groaning cracks in the ice.
Right on top of either one, life’s too much,
So not much life. Too far away, life droops
And wilts on a silent deck in salt sun.
But just at the distance where the balance shifts
Back and forth, or it’s mountainous enough
To play with clouds and uncertain downpours,
Life, carried away with itself, grows rich.
Some mornings arrive misted in worry,
Some evenings glide, purpled and savory,
But the whole tilts back and forth, the waves blow,
The seasons spin. It’s all always different,
Mostly the same: life, again and again.
Monday, August 2, 2021
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Each next anxious thing presents
Itself a little askew.
For all mind, what remains must
Remain only in the past,
Which minds, knowing, carefully
Apportion into different
Categories of presence,
Absence, and uncertainty.
How many categories
There are, and how many names,
Vary widely by language.
The boundaries stay blurry,
For now, let’s say the future
Is the fear of past transformed
Unpleasantly or beyond
Recognition. What happens,
When you can’t know what happened,
To what you know of what will?
Alarm fails to chime on time.
Things aren’t quite where they should be.
Have you done this already
And what should you do with it?
Body and mind together
Work as prediction machines,
But mind, in coils of language,
Can get prediction tangled
In stories of causation,
Come to believe decisions
Decided things. This can reach
Absurd extremes, misfortunes
Attributed to choices
Such as not to toss some salt,
Chant the same prayer each morning,
Touch the lucky rabbit’s foot.
In your own life, as you choose,
Choose, choose, choose, and agonize
Over choices imagined
But discarded, avoided,
You become superstitious
As baseball players crossing
Themselves at every at-bat,
The fans in the pub convinced
That something they might have said
To the screen has jinxed their team.
Mind is only predicting
The near past from more distant,
The absent from the present,
The deer browsing the roadside
From the corpses and the signs.
Mind thinks it makes decisions.
It’s predicting. Results mix,
Not because of prediction
But because the freshest past
Is always a little bit
Different. You can embrace it,
Squeeze it, study it, plan it,
Do your best to control it.
The past will always arrive
The way it’s always turned up,
Its old self, the one you knew,
Have known for most of your life,
The days disheveled, askew.