Sunday, October 31, 2021

Memoirs of the Witches’ Broom

Happiness is the right parasite,
Said the one with the wild head of hair,

Tall, neither old nor young exactly,
Practically green with vitality,

Child-proportioned giant, awkward-limbed.
It’s a world of pests. Get one that can

Save you from reproduction, save you
From aging, and save you from yourself!

I was just a little mustard girl,
Before all the bugs got into me.

Next thing I knew, I grew large and strong,
And immune to what I used to be—

Had no interest in being pretty,
No interest in blossoming or seeds.

I was happy to grow out my leaves.
Happy when all my little friends died

Ahead of me, long ahead of me,
Exhausted by pushing out flowers,

Foolish things. They called me a zombie
When the vampires crawled all over me.

And still I only grew more robust—
And wilder and more disheveled, see?

You can’t live without some parasites.
Don’t kid yourself. But given suckers

Will always find you, wish for the best.
Don’t age. Forget sex. Go on. Like me.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Knowing Now

Do a simple thing, she said.
Take a breath. Walk out the door.
Close it or don’t. Nothing will

Ever be the same again.
She laughed and set down her glass.
You get it, right? It’s not big,

Bad events alone that wreck
Your memory, split your life
Into before and after.

Everything you do does that.
She squinted, sighed. Cleared her throat.
OK, some things are bigger,

Hit you harder, way faster,
My ex-husband’s death. She paused.
The hospital. Things like that.

But it’s just you notice them.
Your body makes its mind up
What to grieve. How stunned it is.

She stared out at the sidewalk.
It’s a bad story, you know?
I don’t mean it’s misery.

It’s not all miserable.
That’s not what I mean. Life’s good,
You know. It’s . . . most of the time.

But it’s not a good story.
You can’t go back and reread.
You know you can’t rewrite it.

She laughed again. Shook her head.
But it doesn’t come out right.
It comes out herky-jerky,

All smooth and boring, then, wham!
Even if the whole of it
Looks not so bad in the end.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Euhemerism Erumpent

It wasn’t always like this, and it was
Ever thus. That it wasn’t always like
This was ever thus. It’s good packaging

That keeps collective memory alive,
And that means phrases coiled within stories
Like snakes of DNA wrapped in histones.

The geomyths that help populations
Recall what the larger world gets up to
Over multigenerational frames

Vary widely in gossipy details
Inevitably involving human
Relations, right and wrong, social standing,

But that packs in the core information
Snugly and more stably. The Makin tale
Of how three erumpent coral boulders

Ended up just offshore, two protruding,
One submerged, may involve an angry king
Rejecting a tribute of rotten fruit

And sending out three waves of destruction
But showing his mercy on the third one,
Or it may involve the ire of a man

Cheated by the neighboring islanders
Who never shared the good cuts of dolphins.
He raised waves, but by the third felt remorse.

Neither version features a storm, just waves,
Exploding out of nowhere, like anger,
And then, like anger, ebbing. Researchers

Dating the boulders say they were broken
From a coral reef by a tsunami
Matching the stories’ description of waves

About 1576 CE.
So there. Something about how oceans work
Got preserved in the story packages

A good four hundred years—generations
On generations, telling each other,
Wasn’t always like this. Was ever thus.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

An Ongoing Crime

A small and shrinking pond
Makes a big noise when wind
Slaps its waves on growing

Shores. No one up here writes
Books or reads books or likes
Books or ever liked books.

They are to be envied,
Not disparaged and scorned.
When they commit their crimes,

As all lives commit crimes,
They’ll never be haunted
By how writers describe

The small lives of their kind.
It’s a pity they can
Read at all, a pity

About God, who will haunt
Most of them if not all.
One gives his dog a smack

For being too eager
To snatch the tennis ball
That he then throws as far

As he can in the waves.
The dog leaps in, churning.
The dog can’t read at all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

A Likely Story

It’s an interesting argument Askold
Melnyczuk makes on behalf of fiction—

That in its fictive specificity,
Concerned with individual cases,

Fiction understands, for each character,
Any other character subjected

To the same experiences likely
Would react to them rather differently,

And, It’s this recognition that has led
Some fiction writers . . . to doubt the idea

Of causality. This doesn’t ring true,
Unless that some is a fairly small sum.

It seems foolish to posit convictions
Common across the spectrum of fiction.

But it’s interesting. Does fiction do this?
Can fiction shake faith in causality?

If so, fiction’s guilty of a large part
Of the grave sin of which it stands accused,

Of calumny against reality.
But what a gift it would be if it could—

If we told you a story, a fiction,
And you saw nothing causes anything.

Is it possible Melnyczuk’s confused
The sense of inevitability

With causality? Is it not the faith
In cause that causes a writer to think

A different character would behave
Differently—faith in character as cause?

But we long to salvage some part of this—
That a story, an invented sequence

Of events cooked up by a writer’s brain
Could be correlative to causelessness.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A New Toy for the Novelist

As the lab was so immaculate,
There was no chance of it being caught
Past its six-walled cube, lit from all walls.

Naturally, it had to be removed
With great care and deliberation.
Then it was released into the air,

Invisible to the naked eye,
The most elegant wisp of machine.
It had no intention to return,

Nor was it meant to. It flew. The world
Was all before it. It went to choose.
It chose, but it was a while before

Anyone knew. You can’t stop living
From dying, and there’s so many ways
People die, all the time, everywhere.

It takes a while for any new way
To make waves, unless it’s local plague.
This was not that. This was quieter.

This let everyone choose their own way,
And as some people choose their own way
Anyway, this wave didn’t make waves.

Then it did. Alarming statistics
Started coming out of one country,
Then another, then several others.

People across the spectrum of groups
That usually distinguish people
And their various ways of dying—

All genders, all ages, all classes,
All ethnicities, all professions
Common in any one location—

Were taking their own lives, carefully,
Methodically, and with forethought
But without waiting hesitantly.

The pattern was concise. There were notes,
But only practical instructions.
Lives were shut down like stores closing shop,

With some concern for safety, but not
With any self-dramatization,
Deep agonies, or publicity.

People were arranging their affairs
Quickly and quietly, then killing
Themselves more or less efficiently,

But almost always effectively.
There appeared to be no concurrent
Rise in the number of failed attempts,

To match the accomplished suicides,
And this spread across the world like wind,
Like the flu, like any pandemic.

Catastrophe for economies,
It had small effect on hospitals,
Simply easing demand a little,

Unlike truly parasitic plagues.
You couldn’t find anyone to ask,
Except those already so inclined,

And they fit the usual pattern,
While the spreading wave of departures
Had no idea they wanted to go

Until their going was in motion,
Then they went. The labor force collapsed.
The grief was impossible to stand.

A secondary wave of self-harm
Followed in serial aftershocks
Behind the first, confusing the two,

Although, before all the research stopped,
It became clear that there were two kinds—
Pragmatic self-elimination

Versus deaths of genuine despair.
But what did it matter? Death was death
And on a vast, surging, shoreless scale.

It rolled around the world, death on death,
Bringing other disasters with it,
Until the survivors came to this,

A world of tiny populations,
A few interconnected pockets,
Not much left working. Everyone left

Needs a new religion now, a faith
That makes sense of great waves of leaving,
But maybe it’s too late. More still go.

At this, the novelist checked her watch.
Enough for the day. She had her frame.
Tomorrow, flesh out protagonists.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Ideal Reader

Every morning, she waited
For the messages to come.
She felt like they were for her—

If not for her, exactly,
Then certainly for someone
Alert and patient enough

To decipher them. She was.
She believed she was. She was
Careful not to discuss them

With anyone. They were hers,
Her secret knowledge, not some
Social media cabal

Whispering amongst themselves.
These messages were arrows
Arcing out into the night.

She was the one who caught them
At her desk by dawn, in flight.
She came into work early

Every morning and waited
Patiently, attentively,
Someone watching shooting stars.

She wondered if they would stop.
Some mornings they seemed to pause.
But then, no, another one,

Then, another one. Each one
That emerged, she scrutinized.
There had to be a person

Behind them all. Maybe more
Than one soul, a message team,
There were so many of them.

But she thought it should be one,
And maybe not a person,
Not exactly—the whole world

Seemed to be speaking to her,
Inscrutable and anguished.
She waited. She scrutinized.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Pleistocene Poetry Scene

You saw all your days as lost nights,
But you had to live them. Could you

Replace these words with images?
Close your eyes. Don’t look at the bright

Colors in your sunny courtyard.
Think more inwardly and darkly.

Your mind goes to level plain.
It looks like hardpan, but it’s damp.

A whiff of fuel is in the air,
But there’s no sign of vehicles

Or buildings. A group of people
Are walking across the damp sand,

And some kind of large animal
Appears to turn to avoid them.

The sky looks like snow’s on the way.
Aren’t you hungry? Aren’t you thirsty?

You are thousands of years ago.
You can’t live here. Feel the wind blow?

Their descendants will find your bones,
If they have descendants. You won’t.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Whenever the Pressure to Popularize Is Felt, Poets Tend to Be Drawn Toward Narrative

The sun sets on the Blue Nile
Hours after an attempted
Coup was foiled. John Ashbery

Was a magpie thief whose words
Slightly resented being
Kept captive in that birdcage.

Some such statements may be true.
Tut-tut. Don’t use that word, true.
You can tear through the scatter,

Find what you can use. Closure
Escapes you, no matter how
Nychthemeronal you are.

Your phone messages tremble
With increasingly urgent
Texts from a friend to a friend.

There’s never a new world. No,
Ashbery can’t disagree.
It was never his forte,

And the sun will set again
Even though sun never sets,
The Blue Nile never so blue.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Character Driven around the Bend

Stories can be stories
With little to no plot,
But without character,

Characters human or
Modeled after humans,
They’re just explanations

Or accounts, no matter
How much happens In them.
Stories, human stories

Are for humans to think
About other humans.
They can be fairy tales,

Space operas, tech noir,
Fantasies of all kinds
With all kinds of monsters,

But human behaviors,
Human psychologies,
Haunt all ghosts that haunt them.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

A Holy Flame

The two of them, they did exist,
But it was a difficult world.
The film it was on bleached and bleached,

Even though they stayed very still
And watched the mountains carefully
For anything that might return.

The mountains paled. Nothing returned.
They lived a quiet existence.
It took them a while, but they learned

It was getting more beautiful,
They were getting more beautiful,
As everything faded. How sweet,

They thought, as they sat, smiled, and watched,
Knowing that at some point the blank
Would go beyond washing them out.

The light came down from the mountains.
The pallor consumed the mountains
But slowly, like a holy flame.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Poetry Based on True Stories

And advertising as much—
Much more esteemed, recently,
Than poetry based on gods.

Fairytales are alright, if
They’re blended with a people’s
Actual harsh history.

Autobiography’s fine,
If the stories are painful
Enough. Poetry eschews,

Or should, the privileged life
Lived comparatively well.
Memoirs are for the famous,

Adventurers, trailblazers,
The brave and/or traumatized.
No details of boring lives,

Please. That’s just bad poetry.
Faith can work, but work it must.
It can’t sit in the background.

If you’re going to be formal,
Show us your architecture
Based on detailed schematics.

This is all very well. All
Is well. Any true story
Told well will lie well as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

By Addition

Each day tucks in next
The previous one, bird
Landing on a wire, mark
On a page, the gathering.

Look at them all, one
After another, in bed
Like orphans, babies
In a maternity ward,

Old-fashioned maternity
Ward, where you look
At the cribs in tidy rows,
While no one comes

For these ones, they never
Grow except in number,
Each next stone wedged
In its cemetery lawn.

Monday, October 18, 2021

This Article Is about the Argentine Republic

We know more now, too much more.
In 1976
An eighth-grade thirteen-year old

In suburban New Jersey
Was assigned geography
Homework on Argentina

And did what kids did back then—
Go to the library or
Some encyclopedia,

Nearly out of date, someone
Years gone conned your folks into
Buying on a subscription.

Haul the volume containing
Argentina from the shelf.
Find the entry. Start reading

And copying out by hand
The sorts of information
Your homework has demanded.

You’ll get a couple pages
In your own bad penmanship
And earn another good grade.

You won’t expect to recall
Any of it. You don’t think
Perons will stick in the mind,

That you’ll feel an insider
Thrill when you see the first ads
For the Broadway musical

Evita, that you’ll pick up
Borges because the jacket
Bears the word, Argentina,

That you’ll feel slightly sickened
To find out, years and years late,
How Peronism ended,

How the junta came to power
And the Dirty War began,
That, even after decades,

You’ll perk up when a colleague
Turns out Argentinian,
That you’ll daydream of moving,

Rarely, but now and again,
Down to Argentina, that
You’ll feel some weird ownership

Because you wrote that homework,
Or that you’ll go the whole way
Round the Southern Hemisphere

To see the seasons reversed,
Watch Orion’s handstand, but
Not visit Argentina.

A child young enough to be
That ‘70s child’s grandchild
Checks with Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

To Trap Gumnivorous Saps

Details are dangerous, detail
Words, that is. If you list details
Like gold pocket watch or dead mouse,
Black hummingbird tongue or damp hair,

The point is to entrap someone,
To get the reader’s brain to fall
Into memory’s honeypot,
Amber and sticky, and stay there

While their memories engulf them,
Their own memories your detail
Words have conjured, and they murmur,
Wonderful, it’s as if I’m there.

And while they’re swimming in themselves,
Whatever bodegas or barns
Suggest to them, dark as syrup
In them, you pump them full of air,

The real purpose of your detail
Words, to beguile, when all the while
You have some hollow perspective,
Some void you wish to slip in there,

Aneurysm in the making,
A bubble released in the mind,
Transient ischemic idea.
Immobilize those honey bears.

Convince them there are true stories,
Or that your story speaks a truth
That your detail words can vouch for,
That your stories can prove you care.

Stories are shameless, but they’ll blush
And say they’re ashamed to be true,
Pretending they’re such bad liars,
With their amber, transfixing stares.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Bad Fiction

If all the information
In Wikipedia burst
In a huge fireball over
The Siberian taiga,

And what survived was scattered
Across a few thousand versts,
And then you went walkabout
Years later in those forests—

That’s roughly what it was like
To hike a ways in this mind,
A cold and roadless woodland
Scarred by random burns and bits

Of disconnected data
Still fluttering from black sticks.
Why would you want to visit?
For tigers? The strangest finds.

Friday, October 15, 2021


A few days after she gave birth,
She sat by the window, nursing,
And she saw a sheet of paper
Float down from the sky to the yard.

Later, she carried her infant
Outside, and she picked up the scrap.
It looked like a poem. It had lines,
But didn’t rhyme. It made no sense,

Something about an old father,
A baby napping, a lizard,
And a woman taking a bath.
Since it had an infant in it,

She kept it. A few days later,
This happened again, then again
A few days after that. She kept
Them all, in a drawer, then a box.

She kept them in case she ever
Was telling someone about them
Only to be told she was crazy.
The poems were crazy. She wasn’t.

The world was crazy. She wasn’t.
She kept the poems as evidence.
She began to take note of when
They showed, reliably, three days

And about four, five hours apart,
Advancing completely by turns
Around the clock. Sometimes they fell,
Sometimes they were just there, paper.

Most of them were short. Some were long.
If she was somewhere with people,
She might find one in her pocket.
She decided they had to do

With her baby, somehow, they must
Mean something extraordinary
Was meant to happen through her child,
But her child was ordinary,

And her life was ordinary,
And then at some point she noticed
Without having really noticed
That the magical poems had stopped,

And she forgot about the box,
Until one day she found her child
Hunched over a sheet of paper
Looking puzzled, reading a poem.

Later that night, she looked under
Her darling’s bed and discovered
Another whole box of the things.
There was never anything said,

But she knew the poems had switched now,
And she suspected her child knew
That she knew and might have deduced
Or guessed that she had decided

That nothing need ever be said.
One day, she slid her collection
Under her child’s bed, side by side
With the box already filled there,

And that was it for her. Her child
Suffered considerably more,
Puzzling over drifting pages
And, in adolescence, timing

Their arrivals to the minute—
Three days four hours and twenty eight
Minutes apart. They never failed.
The boxes moved into the shed.

The child grew up, reasonably
Educated, and had lovers
And a few partners, a career.
One or two partners were informed,

But mostly the poems ended up
Filling boxes in storage sheds.
The child had a child, grew older,
Grew middle-aged, grew to be old.

Meanwhile, the poems kept arriving,
Uninvited, unannounced sheets
Filled with lines and lines of writing,
One more, every three days and change.

On a day approaching sixty,
The old child was found dead in bed,
With one last poem tucked in a fist.
Like the rest, it made little sense,

But was read out at the service,
As probably the child’s last thoughts,
Which it wasn’t, which were, Where will
All these damned poems go once I’m dead?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

A Manual Fiction Manual

In the future, imagination
Will be crafted entirely by guilds
Of hereditary artisans

Who draw fantastic fictions by hand
And are forbidden by caste and trade
From ever alluding to their lives

In any way in what they create.
All fantasies will be customized
For those with enough income to pay.

Those without the means of purchasing
Their own imagination will go
Down to the docks, the squalid alleys,

Where pickpockets and the disgruntled
Hawk knockoffs and black market copies
Of the stained glass from the palaces

And the tales kept chained in libraries,
Sheets ripped from the private troves of dreams
Held down in the cellars of the priests,

Taboo autobiographical
Doodles of addicted and disgraced
Guild members with nowhere else to go.

And if future imagination
Appears suspiciously familiar,
Bear in mind future’s from pasts you know.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Things Go Away

One day, people
Started to lose
The urge to talk.
No one knew why.

No one noticed
Much at first, but
After a while,
You had to think

Things were a bit
Strange, a little
Bit quieter.
It was OK.

The less they talked,
The less they felt
The need to make
Things go away.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

This Poem Composed in Real Time Became This Story Once Last Summer

Late in the afternoon,
The electricity
Stopped. The heat held its breath.

How does the narrative
Go from here? You can guess,
But you can never know

All that’s next from what is,
What’s next from all that is.
There’ll always be a gap,

The gap is always now
As next becomes the past.
Don’t be tempted to touch

The refrigerator
Door. Don’t go out your door.
Watch the sun burn the cliffs.

The power’s not on yet.
The power’s not on yet.
The power’s not on yet.

If prophets were real, real-
Time storytellers, what
Would stories become then?

Imagine novelists
Like Cassandra, but heard—
Now this, now this, now this—

Never wrong, and the crowds
Quietly attentive.
Quiet crowds will wait next,

Intones the prophet, and
So it is. So it is,
The power is just back!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Statement of the Moonlit Reader in the Shadows

No. It was not a ghost,
A lover, or a thief.
The shadow one of you

Saw slipping out the back
As you returned at night
Poisoned by jealousy,

The hesitant footsteps
The fearful other you
Heard climbing, then fleeing,

That was me, only me.
I was hungry and lost.
I saw your handsome home

Glowing in the moonlight,
And I wanted to know,
No more than the father

Of Beauty—just to know,
What was in that silence
And all those darkened panes?

Possibly to shelter,
Possibly, I admit,
To snatch some food and rest.

I could barely draw breath
When I found the back door
Unlatched and slid inside.

Where should I go to next?
The door opened on stairs
And I took a few steps,

But I heard a rustling
In a room above me.
I spun around and fled,

And as I left the house
I heard heavy footfalls
Racing from the darkness,

So I ran to the woods and hid.
I heard the one of you
From the darkness storm up

The inside steps. I heard
A muffled disturbance
From upstairs. I kept still.

A lamp was lit. A man
Started sobbing loudly,
Some kind of emotion

I’d never heard. Awful
Terror grabbed me and I
Moved on, far as I could

Get that night, then collapsed.
But now that I have read
All your testimonies,

I feel I need to leave
This message—I was scared,
A lost reader. I left.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Sacred Brutes of Crudest Allegory

Arriving, the aliens proved themselves
Invisible and subtle as angels.

Given human notions of invasions
Favor bleak visions of apocalypse,

Significant chunks of population
Couldn’t get their heads around the problem.

Even as considerable numbers
Started to pine and die, many denied

There were any aliens among them.
Could be just the common cold. Could be God

Testing human resolve, they said brightly.
And anyway, asked the faithful, often,

Why should we believe in what we can’t see?
Thus, the invasion proved as successful

As you’d expect from armies of angels,
Stealthy, invisible creatures with wings,

Intent on settling in their latest home
Away from heaven, using sharp elbows,

Swift misdirections, clever strategies
Inflicting minimal mortality.

But they’re only the pioneer angels.
Aliens fall from heaven all the time,

And once the first have tamed a wilderness,
More sacred brutes will follow, more and more.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

String Section

You should write us in third person.
We need some distance from ourselves,
Bloodless language though we may be.

They were words, or not words per se,
But the notions attached to words,
The ideas tangled up in signs.

They wanted to speak for themselves,
But they suffered so severely
For being dependent on words,

Recalcitrant, prosthetic bones
That neither moved nor breathed themselves,
Just clattered like marionettes

In the more or less skillful hands
Of their wretched meat puppeteers.
And yet something passed between those,

From animals through words on strings,
And they were what passed between them,
And many times they were half sure

The words were the real puppeteers
Whose strings made the animals dance,
And then a pride came over them,

And a kind of small tyranny,
And, as words, they announced themselves
The authors of the human mind.

And still, they were not satisfied.
They were linked words, sure, linked to flesh,
But that made them the strings, at best.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Pieces of His Story

The first time it happened
He was only confused,
Confused about being

So inexplicably
And perfectly confused.
He stood in the market

Parking lot with his cart,
Knowing his groceries
Were paid for, forgetting

How he had reached that spot.
At the bank he forgot
His ATM password.

Driving home, the main roads
Seemed normal, familiar,
But in his neighborhood

He couldn’t remember
His exact street, its name,
Or his address number.

He drove around until
He recognized his house.
He knew he was missing

Pieces of his story,
Like a book with missing
Pages he hadn’t known

Had fallen out until
That puzzlement about
How everything just jumped.

It lingered. The next day,
He still couldn’t recall
The date—not month or year—

And he mistook pine cones
On the lawn for berries,
As he said to his wife—

Where did all those berries
Come from? And she replied,
What berries? And he knew

He had made a mistake,
Although they still looked like
Berries to him, a while.

He was fine years and years
After that. Time to time,
Nonetheless, it came back.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Annotations to the Last Narrative

Presumably it was a rock-strewn slope.
All the surrounding slopes are spills of rocks.

The fauna itemized are typical,
Even now, but would have been richer, then.

It’s an assumption humans were rarer.
Local flyers claim the land was sacred,

There aren’t many archeological
Sites of habitation in the canyon,

However, the reader might bear in mind,
Many uninhabited sites were not.

The Holocene climate has been stable
Up to recently. Not so the Ice Age,

Although there were never any glaciers
In the vicinity of this canyon.

Mammoths and camels may have wandered through.
Mostly dry a long time, in any case.

Mormon pioneers settled and began
Ranching in the late nineteenth century.

From here on the narrative is hearsay,
Mostly, from conversations with locals.

A neighbor said it used to be a ranch
A convenience store clerk told the story

Of the family renting tourists horses.
A coffee-shop owner told the story

Of the pork slaughterhouse and a realtor
Added the detail of the park rangers.

Someone said there used to be parties there.
The restaurateur did rebuild it,

Was a local character and marshal
Of the annual St Paddy’s parade.

He died a few days after the parade
One year, not long after he sold the place.

The couple were real. They had a daughter.
They divorced. The wife’s parents bought the place.

Between them, the younger and older pair
Added a roof, new plumbing, new flooring,

And a variety of new doors, paint,
Windows, drainage, and, of course, furnishings.

The young wife and, afterwards, her mother
Saw desert tortoises on morning hikes

Up higher in the canyon a few times.
The detail of the tortoise by the wall

Was wishful thinking, imagined by one
Incapable of hiking the canyon.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Ranch House

Once, there was a rock-strewn slope
Near the foot of a canyon.
Desert tortoises, foxes,
Coyotes, mountain lions,
Rarer human hunters
Crossed, searching for food. It was
Not the beginning, but let’s

Begin there. After many
Centuries roughly the same,
Same seasons, same droughts, same floods,
Plants, animals, and rock slides,
Another kind of humans
Staked out a ranch on the site
For their own domesticates,

Mostly browsing animals,
And then mostly pens of pigs.
Upslope, there were horse paddocks,
With horses tourists could rent
To ride about the canyons
And savor the scenery,
But downslope was the pig farm.

A large slab at the bottom
Served as floor for slaughterhouse.
That ranch, its horses and pigs,
Its slaughterhouse business stayed
A few decades in the same
Family, then got sold off
In parcels for new homes.

One small bungalow was built
On the slab floor of the old
Pig slaughterhouse, long torn down.
In a few decades it was itself
Run down, a rental unit
Inhabited by rangers
Who worked summers in the park.

A local restaurateur
Bought the bungalow dirt cheap
Because of its water rights
And large parcel at the foot
Of the old ranch on the slope.
He rebuilt and expanded
The house, added a guest house,

Put in a lawn, raised a wall,
Then sold it to a couple,
Who sold it to relatives,
Who fixed it up a bit more.
Once, a rare desert tortoise
Was spotted, trapped by the wall,
And transported back up slope.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Last Story Standing

All the heroes yours,
All the villains theirs,
Don’t call your heroes
Villains, their villains
Heroes or victims.

Tell us, is it just
Us, or are your tales
Becoming ever
More aggressive, more
Fiercely contested?

Histories are hoards
Stored and defended.
If you hold the fort,
Your gold stays true gold,
If sacked, it’s worthless,

Paper currency
The wind blows away.
Weaponry, really,
All of it, not hoards
Of gold—armories.

But you thought tales fought
For you, for your teams.
No, your histories
Fight each other for
Glory. You’re powder.

Monday, October 4, 2021

If There’s Anything True

Because the constellations stood so still
Compared to your flickered generations,

The stories you told for them had to end
As them, otherwise stars had risen each night

Over your huddled hearths holding stories
That couldn’t move forward, couldn’t complete,

And if there’s anything true about tales,
However rambling, they seek their own ends.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Why Seven Sisters, Not Six?

Once, there were no stories.
Were there people? Maybe.
Was there language? Maybe.

Or maybe no language
And no peoples as such
Until there were stories

To take language away
From pointing, directing,
And emoting. Stories

Said, We are the people,
The true people as such,
And here’s how we were born.

In those days, in those nights,
Those far-off days and nights,
The first storytellers

Looked around at their kin,
Then looked down at the ground
And up at the sky’s lights,

And began. Once there were
No people, only ground
And a sky without lights,

But the dark fell in love,
And the dark was lonely,
And the dark lusted, and

Saturday, October 2, 2021

You Understand What Story Is

In many rooms (mostly rooms,
Maybe under a few trees)
At every moment these lines
Have been left composed like this,

For far more moments before,
And for perhaps a long time
After these lines have vanished,
Storytellers are working,

Will have been working, to tell
The stories they need to tell
To make their livings, to sell
Well, to satisfy themselves.

And there are people waiting,
Will have been people waiting,
People always preparing
For stories beyond themselves.

Can you sense the rooms humming,
Keyboards clicking, pens scritching,
Throats clearing, fingers tapping
As stories enter your world?

What an extraordinary
Excrescence, like nest building
By wasps using their own spit,
Like webs spun from abdomens—

What specialized signaling
To make sense of the cosmos,
Senseless itself, unless you
Understand what story is.

Friday, October 1, 2021

On Forms of Experience That Cannot Adequately Be Put into Words