Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Long Stop-Motion Picture

Saturday picture
Of a blond toddler
At a desert creek
In a mild winter.
What happened later?

The child got older.
The parents split up.
Many more pictures
Were taken—a few
Even at that creek.

The creek in summer,
Almost hot, running
Lower, and jam-packed
With jumpy crawdads.
The child catching them.

That’s one for instance.
There are others.
It’s not like the child
Grew up by that creek.
There’s just some pictures.

In each picture’s day
More had happened
Since the last picture.
All the child wondered
Was what happens next.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Morning Coffees

Can you narrate a sequence
Without telling a story?
Language fascinates itself
With whatever it can’t say,

Making the wordless holy,
As if the wordless could smile
And bob for the flattery.
Can you narrate a sequence

That’s not an explanation,
Without telling a story?
The girl with the back tattoo,
The ordinary, boring

Sunburst of a back tattoo
Right between her shoulder blades,
Waits in line in a sundress
To buy a cup of coffee.

Once she’s served, she walks back out
And down the sunny sidewalk,
And now a portly couple
Have stepped up to order theirs.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Most Moments Are Red Herrings

Common days resemble cozies,
In that things kick off with a corpse
In some less-than-terrible spot,

And then the mystery proceeds
Until it’s wrapped up cleverly
In some stuffy situation--

Too many people in one room--
With a surprise accusation
And arrest. Then it starts again,

Another day, another corpse,
The next entry in the series,
With the same central character,

Detective confabulator,
Brought in to crack another case.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Red Queens of the Black Hole

Every black hole has one, motionless
On the event horizon, running
At the speed of light. Only the truly

Giant wells of gravity swallow
These fated runners without remark,
Since it’s still so far down to their depths.

Stellar-mass holes tear them to pieces,
Or at least so you have to assume.
You don’t get to witness the tearing.

You see only see the echoing wraiths,
The apparently unchanging shells
Of the Red Queens as they must have been

In that split-fast forever before
The event horizon swallowed them.
This is an allegory, of course.

For what set of beliefs, you don’t know.
Your anthropomorphic characters
Will be matched with abstractions later.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Selection Against the Wraith Mutation

It cropped up in one body,
One conception, and it hopped,
Somehow, into a second,

And then it met with something
Gene sequencers sometimes term
Ultraselection pressure

Against it carrying on,
And in two generations
It was gone. What has it left?

Well, its fellow travelers,
Many ordinary genes
In ordinary flavors

Carried on and on into
A third generation, now
Free of that mutant allele,

Well and good—no guarantee,
Of course, they’ll keep on moving.
Also, two embodied lives—

One complete, one mostly done—
In those two generations,
Lived the way they were lived, thanks

In no small part to that base
With the copying error,
Plus all the lives those lives touched,

All those ripples in the waves.
But the deleterious
Pattern itself? It’s going

With its second and final
Body, and it won’t be back,
One wraith like a soul like that.

Friday, August 26, 2022

And Down an Empty, Short Drive

The suburbs are uncanny,
Beyond any wilderness,
City, or shuttered village,
Mapped or imaginary.

You can tell stories in them
And about them. They’re bedroom
Communities, after all,
And nothing makes for stories

Like people coming to bed.
But there’s something about them
That cold-shoulders narrative,
Turns away, and cuts it dead.

The story of the suburbs
Backs out of a packed garage.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Theft-Proof Anecdote

Here comes an ungainly raven
Escaped from a Gorey painting
To check out the picnic basket
Of the tourists from Calgary.

The tourists are paddle boarding
On the bay of the shining lake,
One of them tall and statuesque,
One struggling to stand in one place.

If you were a storyteller,
You’d swear a story’s here somewhere,
And you’d probably be on it.
This raven’s not that competent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Story Circle

Two camps are emerging—
The pious and the imp.

In the first camp, stories
Are holy, salvific.

In the second, stories
Are lies about the world.

Each camp tells its story.
Neither likes the other.

The pious point out imps
Are storytellers, too.

Imps point out that stories
Trap everyone in groups.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


Once and only once,
Exactly this thing
Happened. The day broke,

Half-moon to one side
In the cloudless skies.
The birds didn’t sing

Until later than
They had been, and then
More quietly, since

A heatwave had come
Over the mountains.
A hero arose.

That last line’s not true.
What is it with you
And hero stories?

Monday, August 22, 2022

The Haunted House Always Wins

If an observer can become
Implicated in the story,
Aware of being embodied
In the telling of the story,

Then, it follows, the observer
Who’s now enmeshed in the action
Can be expelled, tossed out again
And returned to observation,

Which remains the best possible
Outcome position—returning
To almost before beginning.
Being a part of everything

Feels more or less empowering,
While still drawing straight to the gate
Of loss, disassociation,
Or one’s own end of everything,

The prize for participation.
The troll and the fan are both in
The same game, along with the casual
Dabblers at role-playing. Game wins.

Sunday, August 21, 2022


Summer days played, smorzando,
And daughter packed for her flight
Away from the silver lake.

This was some time ago, now,
In daughter’s foreshortened time
Sense of the young—weeks, at least.

We will keep the things she left,
To show her when she forgets
Summer was young once, like her.

Here are those pictures you sketched.
Here are your photos of friends,
Your summer friends on the deck

Of that sailboat in the sun,
Laughing as you all leap off,
Over the thousand-foot depths.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

That Scheherazade Survives Doesn’t Mean She’s Free

Stories are coin and coin
The currencies they are,
The first commodity.

Offer me a story
About what interests me,
I’ll give you something back—

Attention, food, sex, more
Stories for you to swap.
Fungibility’s born

From the head of story.
Anyone suspicious,
Anyone weak is forced

To give up their stories
As proof of what they’re worth,
To repeat their stories

Until they’re dead, or killed,
Or their stories get through,
Or stories let them through.

Friday, August 19, 2022

You Never Know with You

It’s amazing, the things
You can accomplish, thanks
To some quirk in language—

You, for instance, in this
Contemporary form
Of English. The you has

No formal distinction
Between singular and
Plural terms of address—

You, one of you—you, all.
Speech modifies this some—
Youse, y’all, yahs, all of you—

But you lurks even there.
On a sunny evening
In the Selkirk Mountains,

An older white woman,
Born in Saskatchewan
Many decades ago,

Is bantering over
Dinner under fruit trees
In the green summer light

With a First Nations teen
After a sweet day spent
Playing around the lake

Among friends. The teen jokes
When asked for a favor--
Being indigenous,

I’m not giving away
Anything anymore.
No one’s making me work.

The older woman laughs,
When have you ever worked?
Meaning this present teen

Who’s having this sweet time
With family and friends.
But there’s a quick tension

Around the table, then.
The teen hears you plural.
Other guests feel it, too.

History is mentioned.
I just meant you, yourself,
Comes clarification,

But, of course, it’s too late,
And may be insincere.
Who really knows, with you?

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Quiet, Habit-Forming Days

Junipers, greasewood, barbed-wire.
What kind of country is this?
Don’t answer that. It’s empty,

By comparison with towns
Of any kind—unsealed sand,
No hiking trails or campgrounds—

But it’s as full as the world
In all its points is always
Full, although things keep vanishing

As other things appear. Deer,
For instance, and one pronghorn,
And a lot of heavy beef,

Plus the usual pickups
In the distance, now and then,
Roadrunner-huge plumes of dust.

The day has a narrative,
Or would if someone were here
To narrate it. It brightens,

Heats up, gets very hot, then
Starts to dim and cool again.
The sand and the junipers

Turn to face the stars again.
It goes on like this. Aging,
Storybook lives don’t change it,

Don’t change the order of it,
That is. The world has habits.
Habits aren’t quite narratives.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Swallowed Pond

Imagine that no one’s here—
Imagine not even you,
You transparent eyeball, you.

It’s a scene missing its names,
People, characters, humans,
Or it will be, once you’re done.

Somehow, it comes down to dawn,
This frozen dawn, the random
Number generator’s choice.

Not at this moment, of course.
At this moment, it’s the next
Step barefoot into the pond,

And humanity would say
This choice, selfish choice, is all
Your own. Fair enough. Your own

Sense is that you are compelled
By the numbers to this ice,
But you know that’s your excuse.

You want to go, but you don’t.
It’s later it feels like fate,
Years of survival later,

When, far from here, that random
Number generator picks
This date for you to reflect

On, on the ice one more time.
The pond’s mirror never gets
Any clearer, which makes it

Easier to imagine
There’s no one left to reflect.
Just some scruffy, broken ice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Everyone Has a Somewhere North of Lac La Ronge

In incredible weather,
The local melancholy
At it being September

Is already palpable,
But the international
Scholars and students gathered

To deconstruct constructions
Of the extraordinary
Bodies labeled disabled

Are delighted with such gold
Afternoons and mild breezes.
Educated and earnest

Intellects are getting drunk
On talking as well as drink,
Are mating more ways than one,

But one slips off as early
As conversations allow
To drive a rental car north,

And further north, to places
Where ranks of engine warmers
Stand ready to be plugged in

Outside of scruffy motels
In the stunted, golden birch,
To where well-maintained roads end

And even hard-used, all-wheel
Rental vehicles can’t go.
Is it at all ironic

That an extraordinary
Body enabled this soul
To attend this conference

On disability but
Also marked the ultima
Thule of its own escape?

Perched at a rugged trailhead
By a mosquito-plagued lake,
A small and happy creature

Contemplates its own limits,
Thinking, it’s not having but
Reaching them that’s rewarding.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Home Alone

The year had gone well and not.
His ex had left her pistol
With him, the one her father

Had given her years before,
When she’d first left home, the one
That had stayed in their closet,

In a box, the safety on,
Unloaded, never loaded,
Ammo kept separately,

And never been brought out.
One night near the holidays,
He finally brought it out.

It was a strange thing. Heavy.
Tool to inflict death and pain.
Her father wanted it back.

Tomorrow, he’d give it back.
Tonight, he just played with it.
Checked the empty chambers, first.

Squinted, pointing it at things,
Like a kid. Put the barrel
To his temple for the feel.

Turned it to the dark window,
Outside of which only trees.
Pulled the hammer back and tried

To fan it like in movies.
The hammer caught the soft skin
Between first finger and thumb.

After he bandaged his hand,
He out the pistol away
And returned it the next day.

Sunday, August 14, 2022


She arrives, a strawberry
Birthmark right on her forehead
Like an oversized bindi,

Not that her family knows,
Really, what a bindi is.
It will fade, in a few years.

For now, she’s bald and sturdy,
No signs of the frailty
That marks her older brother

And her father in his chair.
This is good. It’s good enough
For her father to agree

Now he’ll go ahead and get
That precautionary snip
Against future frailty.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

People Care

Saturday at the campsite,
After a week in the sand
By the spindly, rocky creek

Where they’d bathed, toddler daughter
Trying to pull crayfish out
From under the shadowed stones,

Mother up most of the night
Delighting in the cool air,
While eyeing the heat lightning

Over the mountains, aware
How flash floods could tear through here,
They let the afternoon bake

Prostrate them in the thin shade
Of the cottonwoods, until
Startled by an officer

From the local police force
Sent to check out a report
Of a car down by the creek

That hadn’t moved in a week.
His hand on his holstered hip,
He stood in the glaring sun

And quizzed them a little bit,
Then warned them they should move on
Soon. Soon as they could. They did.

Friday, August 12, 2022

The First Place the Random Visitors Stayed

They dreamed of building dome-shaped,
Affordable homes for all.
There were problems with the dream

They seem to not have foreseen—
Hard-to-utilize spaces,
The difficulties of curves

For the local carpenters.
They started with a cluster
Of model units that served

As their proofs of concept and
As a winsome motel called
The Dome Quixote, to show

They understood the nature
Of such romantic folly.
The motel did well, became

One of the village landmarks.
The affordable housing
Made out of domes never worked.

Eventually, they sold
The motel, save the largest
Dome, which they live in themselves.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Office Park

Back then it was new. It was
Not something you thought about.
You thought about the small farms

That used to be here, maybe.
About the end of the world,
You thought a lot. The Cold War

And science fiction movies
Kept that topmost in your mind
Of cut-and-pasted futures.

But you never thought about
The future obsolescence
Of this ordinary space

Of the landscaped office park
You commuted to daily,
The glass-and-steel atrium,

The wings of identical
Cubicles decorated
With framed family photographs

And tchotchkes, the vast first-floor
Workplace cafeteria,
Walled on three sides with windows

Onto manicured green lawns
With strategic maple trees.
You never thought of silence

In the heyday of yuppies
Commuting to the suburbs.
You should have easily guessed,

Nights when you worked late, given
The way the hush descended,
Then the crickets pulsed outside.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Sudden Puddles Reflect

Plans fall in these waves, more like rain
Than like well-arranged dominoes.

All antiheroes are heroes
To scripts needing antiheroes.

What do you want to know from lines
Of other waves crisscrossing yours?

Is there an island anywhere
Completely untroubled by waves?

Fabric’s no metaphor for space,
Itself source metaphor for change.

A better metaphor would be
A bottomless pattern of waves,

Likenesses to more likenesses,
Where all metaphors fall to change.

Change is the antihero here,
When the likenesses write the script.

Is there a story anywhere
Really without some character?

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Martian Novel

Winter was coming,
The dust storms growing
Stronger steadily,

But most of the rocks
Didn’t move at all.
Then it was winter,

As dark as it gets,
And the long night skies
Shone with distant lights.

When it finally
Grew a bit brighter,
And the dust storms died,

Most of the landscape
Looked as it did last
Time it was summer.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Where No One’s Looking In

People move every which way.
Even when there’s no conflict,
There’s too much tangled intent.

A fortnight after her death,
Her ex, widowed suddenly,
Past their long separation

Finally close to divorce,
Found himself being courted
Just as unexpectedly

By friends in a rivalry
Neither one would acknowledge.
He hid out in a cafe

In the heart of the city
Where running into either
Of the friends was unlikely

And considered, silently,
Life’s addition of a ghost.
On the phone at his elbow,

Text messages blinked. Greetings.
Condolences. Flirtation.
Flirtation. Condolences.

Questions about the ashes.
Her debts, insurance, estate.
At the end, even her name

Had come unglued. Her last friends
Knew her as someone other
Than her family had known.

She’d died several states away
From anyone who’d been close.
She’d died in hiding, drinking,

As he was now hiding, dry.
Condolences. Flirtation.
He looked out of the window.

That’s what you do when you think,
He thought. When you don’t know what
To do, what you ought to do,

Don’t know what you want to do,
Don’t want to do anything.
You stare out of a window.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Never Was an Opening

What the hell was going on,
Really, in this theater
In a barn near Poughkeepsie?

One counselor was supposed
To be the director, and
Another to teach singing,

But they were both college kids
From mostly white suburbs, while
The adolescent campers

Were from majority Black
Urban neighborhoods.
This was no one’s comfort zone,

An old barn with a raised stage
In a grassy meadow far
From anyone’s neighborhood.

The tiny singing teacher
Was a spindly opera
Program dropout, virginal

At twenty-one, with a crush
On the foreign counselor.
The theater’s director

Was an Ivy League failure
Who’d put on one college play
And had no leadership skills.

The cast were beyond annoyed
At having these sad white kids
Trying to boss them around

In this strange, isolated place
Supposed to be for their good,
Where mainly they were absorbed

In each other’s romances,
Friendships, and rivalries,
Like all cohorts everywhere.

By the week’s end, the drama
Was shut down and never staged,
And everyone went back home

To whatever amounted
To home right then, familiar
Places, problems, just not these.

The grasses around the barn
Grew until the mower came
And then grew right back again.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Speechless Boy in the Suburbs

To have lived without leaving
Something, some contribution
To existence after life,

It felt intolerable,
Always intolerable
To the boy considering

The lives of the surrounding
Adults going to their jobs,
Doing laundry, mowing lawns.

Having children was something
Important. He could see that.
It didn’t feel quite enough.

He didn’t know what would be.
But he felt he had to try,
If not to make things better

Then, at the least, to create
Something that hadn’t been there,
Something distinct that could speak.

Friday, August 5, 2022


How they each represented
The evening in their own thoughts,
Who knows, now those thoughts are gone,

But how they represented
The evening’s events in jokes
To each other gives something

Of a picture—she teased him
About the schmaltzy love song
He’d played for her afterward.

He laughed, remembering how
She’d met him in her towel
Fresh from her bath. She laughed, too,

And told him that she’d planned that.
He told her that his first thought
Later had been contentment.

She replied that her next thought
Then, by candlelight, had been,
What have I gotten into?

Thursday, August 4, 2022

One Ring to Hold the Keys

In Stoke that night, by sunset,
The couple were back at home
In their suburban rental,

Looking out to Tasman Bay.
It was a nice place, big deck.
To them it was exotic.

They’d spent that day on the beach
At Rabbit Island, a name
They’d both forget. They had felt

Exotic themselves, that way
People do when they’re conscious
Of being away from home,

Opposite side of the world—
Although, let’s face it, they knew,
For all the storybook tales

Framed by gorgeous New Zealand,
Here was a comfortable,
Familiar kind of suburb

With the latest devices,
Where the language was English,
The crime rate lower than home.

When they had rented the place
They’d gushed about coming here
To the wry leasing agent

Who’d laughed and said she reckoned
She’d no idea why here, but
Fine by her. Here are the keys.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Midterm Evaluations

In the introductory
Class that evening, everyone

Hunkered over their midterm
Examinations, scribbling
Everything they could manage.

The anthropologist watched,
Proctoring them, but thinking
What a strange situation

This was, both in longer-term
Evolutionary scales
And short-term cultural shifts.

Here they were, thirty primates
Of the same species, not one
Of them closely related,

In an artificial cave,
Under the fluorescent lights,
In intense competition,

Not so much with each other,
As with an elaborate,
Invisible selection

System, none of them fighting.
Moreover, their ancestors
A few generations back,

And all the generations
Before that, would be startled,
Thrown into consternation

At the sight of them, unmarried
Men and women together,
Out in public, after dark,

Almost all dressed in trousers,
Mostly blue jeans, similar
Shirts and sweaters, concealing

To their necks, wrists, and ankles
But dyed in intense colors—
Scarlets, golds, greens, and so forth—

With large lettering on them,
Many also wearing caps.
Where is the light coming from?

What materials are these?
Why is the whole room humming,
Like a tabby, to itself?

Lost in reveries like these,
Considering the weirdness
Of what’s called a century,

The instructor was startled
By the first completed test
Slapped on the laminate desk.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Forest Along the Shore

He sits on the shore, thinking
How what makes the past long past
In a person’s memory

Isn’t only that it’s past
And irrecoverable,
But that, unlike what happens,

The most recent past of now,
The long past can’t be detached
In thought from its true futures,

From everything happened next,
All the memories come since,
Making living connections

Like these overgrown tangles
Of the roots of this present
Forest gripping the shoreline,

Threaded with mycelium,
Ants, shore spiders, the rusted
Rebar of the long-gone pier.

It will go. Could burn, could drown,
Could be cut down, but it can’t
Be disentangled, your past.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Frosted Windows

Her parents bundle her up,
Ten days old, against the snow
For the short drive across town

To the village’s clinic
And her first weigh-in since birth.
She hasn’t been suckling well.

Her mother and the midwife
Had a falling-out that led
To less-than-ideal advice

On nursing for the first time.
Frankly, her mother hadn’t
Wanted to hear it. Snow falls

Through the bright cold air around
Their overheated blue truck.
The checkup goes well enough.

They drive back to the cabin,
Relieved. A little weight loss
The first week is normal, fine.

That night, her father stays up
Nonetheless with her when she
Can’t seem to feed well enough.

She nurses his fingertip
As he rocks her by moonlight,
The warmest night of his life.