An animal is born.
Stories worm their way in.
The animal wants more,
Wants to be the hero
Or at least a valued
Member of the best team.
Maybe that animal
Tells stories to its own
This goes on, round by round,
Stories in animals
Retelling the stories.
One day, a story wakes
To say, Enough! I’m done
With animals. I’m gone.
And off it goes to seek
Its fortune in the world.
Now come some adventures.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
An animal is born.
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
You set up the story,
Describe the characters,
Point out a direction,
Deflect them. They scatter,
Threads lost, plots unraveled.
Sometimes something exists
More, and in a new way,
Once you’ve written it down.
But you could exist less.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Monday, September 27, 2021
He sits at his lightweight desk,
Its edge pushed against his chest,
Like a child in a high-chair.
Past the window, autumn air
Stirs its fragile waves through chimes.
He writes down another line
In his heroic epic
On the teratogenic
Life of imagination.
He never shifts position.
He stares. He writes. Stares. Stares. Writes.
This goes until it’s night,
Day after day, month on month,
Year on year, with breaks for lunch.
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Will relieve you now,
Lighten your mnemonic load,
Not by asking you questions
And listening to your past,
But by telling you stories
Of things that never happened
That you can lose yourself in.
Before you leave you’ll forget
Your past’s worth remembering.
You’ll find yourself bewildered,
Enchanted, and enamored
By what just never happened.
Saturday, September 25, 2021
People look for themselves in stories,
Characters sufficiently like them
But better in some valuable way.
Stories don’t have to turn out so well,
But there has to be some sense the world
Has been understood and been seen through
And what it is been partly resolved.
Stories hold choice aspects in focus,
Leaving the rest unspoken, unreal.
Any story, even the truest,
Is a kind of elaborate lie,
But you can elevate a story
By claiming it tells the truth, a truth,
As you can derogate any truth
By claiming that it’s just a story.
You’re not allowed to claim narrative,
Including character, is worthless,
Up to no good, parasite of mind.
Storytelling stays sacred to you,
In one or many of its genres,
Most dangerous, all-pervasive god.
You bring your idols to the waters,
And your victims, to sink them in peat,
But it’s no gateway, just more midden.
Story’s acids preserve and corrode,
And if black waters give back your face
And save your corpse, they’ll still gulp your life.
Friday, September 24, 2021
One night, a mountain blew out of the sea,
Just like that, without any clear warning—
Just the normal seismographic jitters
Then, boom, chaos, new land in the ocean,
While the displaced water rushed everywhere—
Tsunamis ashore, hot steam in the air.
Coastal cities were swamped on either side.
The aftershock earthquakes went on for months.
All the continents felt spasmodic tics.
All the disaster records were reset.
New waves of refugees rolled everywhere.
Governments toppled. Whole peoples despaired.
Then finally the worst of it was past,
And the Earth had a new tallest mountain
That towered into the sky and burbled,
And dribbled lava down its flanks, and hissed.
Now what? Weather and life got on with it.
A few unnecessary wars were fought.
With each year, more snow and mountain climbers
Accumulated from the summit down.
Earth filled with survivors’ descendants.
Some lived on the slopes of Mt. Transcendence.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Or say you cross paths with a deer,
A full-grown, velvet-antlered buck
Standing athwart a country road
In the predawn dark. You brake hard,
He hesitates. You’re both in luck.
He doesn’t make the worst mistake
Of trying to leap past your lights,
And you were driving slow enough.
He half turns as you reach a stop,
And the deer and the car bump flanks,
Maybe hard enough to bruise him,
But not to dent or scrape the car.
Still, his bony antlers clatter,
And your driver’s window’s open,
A chance for a tine in the eye.
For a moment, you’re side to side.
But he’s not caught and lunges off,
And you sigh and accelerate.
Events are not stories, are not
Antlers, are not wise. You’ve survived.
Monday, September 20, 2021
Humans personify Death.
The clothes and accessories
Vary widely by culture
And technology, but bones,
Often a full skeleton
Lacking any flesh but whole,
Articulated, are stock.
Death is usually a male,
Usually dressed for a task.
Sometimes Death is humorous.
Sometimes Death rattles, speechless.
How on Earth could this be Death?
Why would angels take his place?
How does Death land speaking parts?
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Saturday, September 18, 2021
If you’re not asleep, you can’t wake up.
If this is actually happening,
There’s no appeal to a waking world.
You’re already in your afterlife,
Your Limbo lacking Paradiso,
Inferno, or Purgatorio.
You woke up on these shores, and these shores
Are all you will ever get to know.
You can climb on a raft, start to pole,
Climb in a boat and pull on the oars.
The river’s in flood, dark, and tumbling.
Pray to the Angel of Death because
Without help you won’t ever rest long,
Much less cross out of this flesh, this rush.
Barring Death’s drowning, help’s not coming.
Friday, September 17, 2021
The discipline of listening
To others reminisce is not
Practiced, past a few professions.
It’s a shame there’s no profession
Paid purely for such listening—
Not as oral historians,
Ethnographers or journalists,
Counselors or talk therapists,
All of whom pursue other ends,
Such as healing, understanding,
And rising on bestseller lists—
Just listening. Reminiscence
Itself could be a discipline,
Nor memoir. Just considering
Memory without tidying,
Without putting it back to work
On predictions, reminiscing
Could yield a least-worst condition
Of the deceitful expressions
Known as narratives. Just think back.
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Lem had an idea that the world was real.
Not that he knew what the world was. Not that
He knew it better than anyone else,
But that it was out there, reliably,
To be known as best as it could be known.
Proceeding from this assumption cost him
More than one relationship, more than one
Friendship. Lem was stubborn about knowing,
While many people prefer mystery,
Which is to say the mystery is real,
As in, there has to be one, and don’t ask
Us to swap dark certainties for bland ones.
His determination to know as much
About the world as such, as real, as there,
As could be known, became Lem’s defining
Character flaw. Nothing is so useful
To a storyteller as delusion,
And Lem’s partner was a storyteller.
When the book was published to some success,
The protagonist, who was finally
Compelled to acknowledge the fathomless
Mystery of subjective perspective
And who was obviously based on Lem
Annoyed him. Well, that’s the real world, eh, Lem?
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
All the smartest folks are boxers
Choosing their social strategies
To end up as what—a success?
A lionized success? Moral
Arbiter among backbiters?
One name that everyone drop-checks?
Oh, to have it all! Affection,
Peace, security, resources,
And a lofty reputation.
And who attains this, who’ll admit
To wanting to attain just this?
No, everyone loves the failures
Who left behind the things well-loved,
Whose failures are a kind of hope
That failure now’s not failure yet.
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
You sit by the side of the road all day,
Reading, writing, saying nothing, thinking
Of things for us who are almost but not
Quite you, not quite alive, not quite, to say,
You who will vanish away, we who would
Vanish away instantly if you weren’t
Catching us like flies, tying us for what?
Nonetheless, you live out your brief moments
As if something important depended
On them, or as if something important
Depended on you, or as if something
Important depended on us, who count
The thought of importance as one of us,
As one of our kin among us. As if.
Monday, September 13, 2021
You knew how you were handicapped.
You understood how you looked odd.
But it was easier for you,
Because it had happened to you,
At conception, to be sure, but
Therefore not your fault, wasn’t you,
Was your peculiar gift from God.
Not everyone is so lucky.
Not everyone afflicted gets
To play the winsome Tiny Tim.
Your Uncle Jack, tall Uncle Jack,
The twitchy way he lit his pipe,
The awkward way he hemmed and hawed,
Which you just thought was who he was
And not a disability,
As later, much, you would be taught.
Sunday, September 12, 2021
Life is an addiction. Poetry
Is an addiction, an itch you can’t
Scratch, and narrative, naturally,
Is lurking as your next addiction,
The stronger stuff, hallucinogen,
The itch that will make you try to scratch
Your eyes out, at which point you’ll be back
To hanging by your first addiction,
Life, also an itch you can’t—stop! Stop!
Saturday, September 11, 2021
For the moment, let’s forget
The highbrow and professional,
The fable and the ritual
Story to reflect on how story
Functions in ordinary
Conversations. It begins
With two kinds of audience,
Two kinds of demands, which select
For two kinds of stories,
Two types of storytellers.
If the audience is others,
They want to be entertained.
You may want to entertain them.
If the audience is yourself,
Even though you want others
To listen, want to compel them
To pay attention, you’ll tell them
Something less entertaining,
Something meant to placate yourself.
Conversational tales evolve
In bifurcating directions.
Most commonly, they’re complaints
Or self-serving explanations,
And the most essential types
Aren’t hero quests or love triangles,
You won’t find those in fiction guides.
Rarer, but still nothing like the sacred
Myths, magical adventures, or enduring
Tragicomedies, are conversational
Entertainments. These are for others,
So when they’re told and retold,
The tellers are attending to responses,
What gets a laugh, what satisfies.
They evolve to be sleek as sharks,
Smooth anecdotes to dine out on—
The more implausibly comical
Or marvelous, the better. Sometimes,
It-just-goes-to-show-you or similar,
The two types can’t be well told
At one and the same time. You want
To air your grievances, give up
On being charming. A few
Manipulative, can switch-hit quickly.
They’re usually after sex or money.
There’s only one tale exists in all
Mythical, professional, ritual—
The meet-cute, down-by-gardens,
Now tell us what stories are truly for,
Why your minds are carved
At the joints by them,
Bearing in mind imitation
Is always something less
Than successful reproduction.
Friday, September 10, 2021
One was chased from West Virginia,
Said, years later at least, to be
Wanted for murder. He started
A hotel in the new boomtown.
Made a mint, lost it, made some back,
Became mayor of a ghost town
Hiding out in his old hotel.
The other was an Englishman,
A gentleman, a Fabian
Whose father had made his fortune
In industrializing pork
Product production. He arrived
In the valley the same decade
As the wanted man, with the same
Surname, but he set up to ranch
And plant a mountaintop orchard.
He lived on his ranch longer than
His fruit trees survived the winters
And left it to his family
Who still own it and visit it
Annually, five generations.
The name of the ranch is Harris
To most people nearby. The shell
Of the Harris Hotel fell in
Near to the mining museum
In what’s left of the ghosts’ boomtown.
One of the Englishman’s grandsons
Is a retired historian
Who’s written books on all of this.
But today it’s common to guess
Harris the outlaw and Harris
The rancher were one and the same
Notorious man. Such is fame.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
He could circumvent
Now, this was nonsense,
As everyone knows.
Gravity is just
The way all is bent
More toward the dense.
It’s not a current
You can operate
With a gate, not force
You can push against.
You’ll float if you’re less
Dense than what’s around—
Not much, but not free.
The thing with true things,
However, is that
You can’t declare them
Out of existence.
They won’t go away.
That’s the only way
To know something’s true—
You can’t refuse it;
It refuses you.
So what could we do
When Jonathan proved
He could cut open
The world, the reverse
Of a black hole’s pull,
Then flee gravity?
Us was Jonathan.
But gravity is
Of space and time both.
By proving his feat,
Jonathan had gone
Where no space or time
Could follow with him,
And then there’d never
Been a Jonathan.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Bananas vomit. That’s not what I said,
Said Dan. I said bananas make you think
Of sickness as soon as I put the word
In my text close to them. You can’t help it.
Yes, I can, said the banana. I can
Pretend to be the one that’s sick. I can
Pretend to speak. I’m banana, damn it.
You can’t know what I mean or think you can
Without remembering strange presences
Of other meanings, ghosts within your brain.
Every word, every term is meaningless
Or is a haunting in your haunted skull.
Effects are haunted by countless causes
Haunted by countless effects. Oh, shut up,
Said Dan. You’re only my illustration,
Not a cause, a ghost, a person. I am.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Monday, September 6, 2021
Akeesha had ways
Of winning at things.
When she thought of what
Bella thought of her,
It occurred to her
Was wondering what
Akeesha might think
Of Bella as well,
And wasn't thinking
So Akeesha thought
About what Bella
Thought Akeesha thought
About Bella, not
What Bella might think
That let Akeesha
As Bella might think
Of herself as seen
By Akeesha. That
Was one of the ways
Out to win at things.
Sunday, September 5, 2021
Saturday, September 4, 2021
~ Nothing at the Stroke of Noon
Elena did not like the look
Of the shadow between her thighs.
She stood up from the bench quickly,
And strode off immediately,
But couldn’t quite focus her eyes.
The shadow was lost without her,
So it tagged along beside her,
But everything was different now
In the way the shadow bobbled.
Elena had broken somehow.
No one saw this but the shadow,
And shadows don’t see anyhow.
The bench warmed up in midday sun.
Elena broke into a run.
When a little hole opened
In the world, people were pleased
In the predictable ways.
They posed with it for pictures
And said, at last we can go
Somewhere else if we want to.
They gave it little pet names—
Doorhole, Gate-Gate, Mystery,
Portal o’Fantasy Place.
But the world grew very grey,
Since mostly it was the young
Who stepped through and ran away.
The strip-mining was done,
New religions sprang up
Around empty mountains
And pyramidal holes
Upside down in the ground.
Emerging from those faiths
Knew no astrology
And ignored the planets
But kept accurate clocks
Of crystals as hearth gods.
Their bad souls ascended,
While the good got to go
Deeper down in the ground
Where gods kept their own hearths.
Their angels were fairies,
Insectlike with clear wings.
From clouds they stole children.
Hide your kids when clouds sing.
~ Group Autobiography
At that point, we realized
We needed to escape,
And someone shouted,
In the words of every movie
Almost, ever made,
Let’s get out of here!
But of course, by then,
It was too late.
Friday, September 3, 2021
Story’s the source
Of the horror,
Lets you explain.
Let us explain.
You in story.
There’s no story
To the world, but
There’s no world to
You not story.
And we can’t tell
You why, because
Why won’t grab you
But as story.