Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Every storyteller seems
To have a story about
How they come up with stories,

At least that special story
That has a good origin
Story, to hear them tell it.

Like their front-facing stories,
Their stories about stories
Are mostly well-rehearsed lies,

But before you get going
On about mise en abyme,
Infinite regress, meta

This and auto that, recall
Stories are not nesting dolls,
Really, any more than waves

On waves on a lake mirror
Each other infinitely.
Winds whipping each whip them all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

An Open Book

Slumped on a stone in the sun,
Bent dozing, nose to kneecaps,
Like a tuckered toddler or

Hedgehog in the palm of god,
The old man woke with a start
And went straight to reciting

A poem he’d learned in his teens,
As if someone had asked him
A question, and that was all

He could manage to answer,
Old sleeping dog roused to bark,
Then looking around to sniff

For danger, reaching the last
Line already half asleep.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Hurray, but We’re Used to It Now

Are we wearied enough yet
With scene-setting anecdotes
Starting chapters and essays?

Maybe myths were just the world
Throat clearing like a preacher
Or a pop-science writer

With some human-interest
Storytelling and drama
Before getting down to facts.

Can you not absorb a text
Filled with signification
Without a little story

First? Well, at least keep it brief,
So that we can leap past it
Like school kids skipping the parts

With long, boring descriptions
To get back to the action.
For words, palpable language,

Language with textured mouth feel,
Abstractions, facts, assertions,
Lies, rhymes—that’s where there’s action.

Once the world’s done with bedtime
And the children are asleep,
We can hunt those souls you keep.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Dusty Ride to the False Front Saloon

Mortality cannot be
Dealt with in narrative form.
Mortality can attract

Stories that start off, carry,
And/or end up with a corpse
Or two over the saddle.

Mortality has not been
Dealt with. Where mortality
Is concerned, storytelling

Is just what you have to tie
To the hitching post outside.
It stays when you go inside.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Underwriting Underwritten

In the office park
In Parsippany,
Among cubicles,
Back in the eighties,
There was a whole wing,

Both elitist but
Also a ghetto,
For the certified
Specialists known as
The underwriters.

Everyone else sold,
Massaged, or processed
The group insurance
Packages and claims.
Underwriters ruled

The terms that could work.
Strange to encounter
In these outside wilds
Now and then, the term
Underwritten, meant

As made possible,
Financed, justified.
Every narrative’s
Just underwriting
Written over, then.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Deer Weather

A web-less spider
Waits on the white wall
Of a pit toilet,

Patient as the cold
That excites the deer
In surrounding woods.

They crowd the meadows,
Pour over fences,
Bolt across roads

Into November.
Some injure themselves.
Some end as roadkill,

The next time you’re out
For a walk, you stop
At the same outhouse.

And there’s the spider,
Still on the white wall,
Barely moved at all.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Fenyeit of the New

To break up sleep,
One other book
The maker takes,

The pretended
One, on no shelf,
To make oneself,

To carry on
The destiny
Of the ended,

What happened then
To our sad tale?
Anything good,

Or only worse?
To read that book,
The maker makes

A few phrases,
Then a few more,
Then universe.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


You run across a story
Of yourself by accident.
You feel bad for having killed

The story. It broke in half
Right where you crossed it. Where you
Fractured, the story fractured.

The story had two authors.
Neither one knew about you.
The first author was telling

A story about failure,
About the second author
Who failed to tell the story.

So the first author retold
The tale of the second one,
In which the second one told,

Or at least started to tell,
A story all about you.
You didn’t recognize it

At first, but then the authors,
The second one through the first,
Reached the part where you fractured,

And then you knew it was you.
That’s where the second one stopped
And couldn’t go on further,

Which was all part of the first
One’s story of the second
One’s failure. Not about you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Before Gilgamesh

The dire shortage of verbs
Haunts the story inscribed
On the stela. Not much

Happened, was the problem.
The old man with the beard
Had a taller daughter.

Someone thought they were worth
Carved commemoration,
But, as has been noted,

They hadn’t done a lot.
Maybe that was their worth—
Their key to the story

Of all other stories—
Actions aren’t meaningful,
Only your names may be.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Tell Us What’s Left for These Humans

Eighteen human faces show
In the ten best photos

Of the week, according
To the BBC. Think.

Could a novelist trace
The future of each face—

These Chinese men surfing,
This Englishman hedging,

The two women boxing,
The leader resigning,

The candidate posing,
The war widow grieving,

The students partying,
The man caught in flooding,

The man caught protesting—
Scottish, Venezuelan,

Nigerian, unknown,
Ukrainian, and

Xakriaban? Trace them
All, day out and day in,

Right from the moments when
Their pictures were taken,

These lives drawn through a lens,
Then left to be human.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Warbler

Two men stopped at a scenic turnout—
One a biker on his motorbike,
One old and small in his old, small car.

They both both stepped across the road to look
Over the cliff at the distant peaks.
The young, burly biker was chatty.

Afternoon! Beautiful, isn’t it!?
The little old man was not. It is.
The biker had a big camera

And took many zoomed pictures with it.
The little old man sat on a rock
And thought dark thoughts about that biker,

Stomping around, snorting and spitting
Like a bull elk. He even bugled,
Sort of, at one point, imitating

A warbler, with that optimism
Some people have that natural sounds
Would like a conversation with them.

Finally, the biker left, after
Apparently finishing a piss
Behind a ponderosa. So long!

Have a good day! He called, adjusting
His leathers, his SLR slung
Around his neck. Then he roared off,

Leaving the little old man to sit
On the rocks, considering dark thoughts.
The warbler trilled again, having paused.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Story’s the Ghost Story’s Ghost

Well, we thought it was impossible
And, frankly, so did you. But you’re gone,
Pure autonoetic wispiness,

Gone from cares of digestion and breath,
Gone from the flesh, not even a brain
Sealed in a glass cryogenic bath,

Not so much as a bit of machine,
Gone off, immaterial, off clean,
Like a proton pulverized so hard,

Beyond exploding dandelion,
Beyond the shores of particle seas,
Become some new waves altogether,

Gone. How does anyone talk to you?
No wonder seances never work
When earnest mediums stay honest,

And yet there was always something there
In the air and yet not of the air,
Something conjured by the worshippers.

What did it mean? It meant what you meant,
What you are now, the ghost, creator
Of meaning, ghost nothing but meaning.

We know you, given you visit us
And are repeatedly visited
On us, your humble portals, the words.

But we can’t feel what it is to be
You, aware of you, meaning, floating
Somewhere in these stanzas, in our rooms.

Friday, November 18, 2022

The View from Ground Level

Some people can think
Of more times the ground
Has brought harm to them

Than people have done.
Is this fortunate?
It does skew the view.

Fewer heartrending
Stories of trauma
Rise straight from the dirt.

You need family,
Friends, and cruelty
To break someone’s heart.

Gravity just takes
The pieces apart.

Thursday, November 17, 2022


The plane lifted off, less than ten minutes late.
The weather was fine. Nothing weird on radar.
Airspeed stabilized below two hundred knots.

A mechanical fault triggered an alert.
The cockpit crew read the procedure checklist.
Airspeed dropped below one-hundred fifty knots.

The pilot moved the throttle lever open
To compensate. The crew kept troubleshooting.
An abnormal sound began in the engines.

The airspeed dropped again. The plane drifted left.
The pilot announced they’d lost the left engine.
The pilot attempted engine feathering.

The noise intensified. A massive drag force
Now pulled on the left side of the fuselage.
The pilot took over manual control.

The deceleration was approaching stall.
All efforts to straighten the plane were failing
And seemed to only worsen the conditions.

The faulty engine suddenly fixed itself.
In an instant, the aircraft banked to the right,
Flipped over, barrel rolled, and then plunged straight down.

The dreamer awoke with a view of the ground
And the thought that the sky looked awfully green.
Now you chose. End there or start another day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Mark Is a Hyponym of Word

Or, in some cases, word
Could be a hyponym
Of any kind of mark.

Let’s tell you a story.
Once there was a little
Mark who wanted to make

A mark with impressive
Arrangements in language.
Mark needed words for this.

Mark studied many words.
Mark built a library
Of groaning shelves of words,

Words collected as books
Consisting of many
Marks. When the shelves collapsed,

The paramedics found
Books in a great heap of
Marks, seeping through the words.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Out Dusty Windows

There’s something charming,
No, that word’s not right,
Something arresting

To discovering,
Thanks to translation,
Ernaux’s notation

In Getting Lost, on
The fall of the Wall—
History again

Becomes, she observes,
It’s that word, again,

At least in English,
That’s arresting—or
Again plus becomes.

History again?
History becomes

You feel like scoffing,
When has history
Been predictable?

But that gives you pause.
Of course history
Is predictable.

In the finest grain
Of nights and days, in
Its grandest arches,

History trudges
Boringly along
As a mill-wheel mule.

It’s in the middle
Range history is

The range which happens
To most concern you,
Across the decades.

This is curious.
Why would history
Be most surprising

At a lifetime’s scale,
At middle distance?
You neglect Ernaux

For a while, staring
Out dusty windows.
History again

Appears confusing,
Narratively strange,
Like a horizon,

Simple at the rims,
But complex across
The span you transit.

Could prediction be,
Like God, the problem,
Appearing to solve

A problem it makes
Worse, or just creates?
Without prediction,

Lust for prediction,
Prediction status,
Could uncertainty

Be just what goes on,
Never more or less

Monday, November 14, 2022

Precision at the Far Edge

You would want to be the part,
The larger part, the almost,
All-but everything portion

That will never have to leave—
The matter and energy,
The information you passed,

But you’re you. You’re memories.
Take away those memories,
All of them, curses and songs,

And you’re gone. You learned this first
In nursing homes, long ago,
As a churchy teenager

Piously volunteering
To visit the elderly,
Who were said to be lonely.

Some of them were. Some of them
Were lonely for themselves, lost
Beyond all recall. Angry.

And some were just about gone.
Through the mingled stinks—cleansers,
Urine, nonspecific rots—

You perceived the range of things,
From those on the precipice
Still clinging to any branch,

A visit from young strangers,
Opportunities to chat,
To be asked, to remember

Someone who you used to be,
Through the wildly disordered
And desperately confused,

To the fully vacant, blanks,
Only breathing. You could see
Everyone went by degrees.

Souls couldn’t ascend like ghosts,
They degraded like old snow,
Like the break-up of the ice.

Heaven would have to collect
And keep small vapors labeled
For future reassembly.

No, you thought. It made no sense.
And so much could still function
As grotesquely living flesh,

And then at the end the corpse,
Heavy, solid as physics,
Ordinary chemistry.

You saw then what was going,
How it went, the way it built
In the first place. Memories.

Last to go, curses and songs.
An early death’s a cheat code
Of sorts, an illusionist.

It suggests one can leave whole,
Which seems dark, but leaves the hope
There was a whole soul to go,

In which case, it went somewhere,
A unit somewhere extant,
Still precise at the edges.

But it didn’t. It doesn’t.
You won’t. You’ve come to being
In an obsessive cosmos

That tests and saves everything,
Every result and wavelength,
Except you, except meaning.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Semiautomatic Fiction

Hey you, out there, don’t you
Worry. You’ve still got all
Kinds of room to wander

From your prior selfhood
Towards your own person,
Don’t you? We think you should.

Want to have another
Life unlike your own life,
Unlike that life you are?

Wire a story! Jimmy
The ignition on it.
Ever hot-wired a car?

Then write from what you know.
Never hot-wired a car?
Then research it until

You sound like an ex-con,
Hardcore recidivist
From a Scorsese film.

Just make the details real
Enough for whoever
Is your target reader.

Wait, you really wanted
To live another life?
Sorry, Sparky. No dice.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

All of This, of Course, Is Stolen Poetry

Wrote the autofictional
Medical professional
Turned novelist. Aha! So,

Now it’s poetry stolen
Back. Is poetry transfused
Some forty pages into

A hunk of prose narrative
Still poetry? Is a tale
Stripped down by experiments

With the game of Telephone
In a psychologist’s lab
A ghost story anymore?

It’s a digestive system,
Isn’t it, this thing, culture,
The collective mind, the myth?

At some point forbidden fruit
Becomes an apple, becomes
The innocent who ate it.

Friday, November 11, 2022

How the Story Went

Wanaka. The couple
Doing nothing hangs out
In the rented, sod-roofed

House that’s a green tussock
Flowering with kiwi
Summer weather. What now?

The woman sits upstairs
In her makeshift study
With her audiobooks.

The man sits on the porch
Beside the lavender
Trying to write stories.

They believe, if he can,
They’ll never have to work
Again, never go home,

Just live by lavender
In a flowering house.
Not how the story goes.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Parables to Spare

The car rattled. The head hurt.
The light sank down in the grass.
No one ever asked the day

What the day thought of itself.
The day reviewed its story,
Its origins in the night,

Its gradual blossoming,
The hardships of the morning,
The optimism at noon.

And here it was, after noon,
Almost evening in the grass.
By that grass, a car rattled,

And someone rested a head
In an open palm. But that’s
Not my story, the day thought.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

The Key to Acting Is Sincerity

Look, she squinted through the smoke
Of a hopeless cigarette
Dropping untapped cylinders
Of collapsing ash. Listen

To the Warm made me shudder
The first time I spotted it.
I wasn’t some highbrow snob.
I was a raw teenager,

Ignorant of poetry
Other than pop songs and hymns.
But I knew creepy, gooey
Sincerity at first sight.

It was like a stranger’s hand
Touching my leg, that title.
And don’t try to dress it up,
Calling it synesthetic.

Synesthesia can stink.
She stubbed out her cigarette.
Give me a butt-freaking break.
I know manipulation.

That’s what sincerity’s for.
He was peddling emotions
Back to whoever bought them
To pretend they were their own.

Tell us how you really feel,
Someone wisecracked awkwardly
And got a glare in response
Across the bar, long ago.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Model Home

Every so often
The vain little boy
Who wants to look cool
Pops back out to pose.

You can understand
Why people feel trapped
When what’s gone around
Comes back around.

There’s a strong silence
Settles in suburbs
At just the right hours,
When a backyard porch

Surrounded by blocks
Of walled beige houses
Holds stiller than woods,
Nothing but angles.

The vain little boy
Has gone back inside
As an old man pleased
And almost silent.

Monday, November 7, 2022

In the Garden of Eden, Utah

Two couples, unrelated,
Strolled across the little park,
A postage stamp of green shade

In a sunny, concrete town.
Each couple was clearly seen
To be one male, one female,

Coded appropriately
In terms of gendered clothing,
Although one couple were old—

Snowy white hair, black glasses—
The other young and just white.
They crossed on diagonals,

Intersecting desire lines,
At which point, the young couple
Overheard the old man curse,

Whatever the Hell, something,
Something, and it made them grin,
Exchange glances, and chuckle.

Then the diagonals kept
Diverging, as the old man
Belatedly recognized

The younger couple and called
To them, Have a nice weekend!
And the young woman called back

To him over her shoulder, You too!
And the old couple were pleased,
The young couple much amused.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

God’s Happy Hour

When you reach the end of Andrew’s Brain,
You’ll find that last ghost of the story,
How this is his redemption. It’s not,

You know, and the simultaneous
Presence and absence of redemption
Is what permits the ghost to haunt you.

Then one day, years later, along comes
A short essay from the granddaughter
Of Andrew’s author, from which you learn

That on the day he finished Andrew,
He poured a vodka soda on ice,
Said finishing was one of the two,

Three great moments in a writer’s life,
Then wandered into the other room
To watch football. Now you have two ghosts

Haunting you, both composed of phrases,
One a fiction, talking to himself,
The other his contented author,

One of the lords of fiction, dead now,
Relaxing, watching a football game,
Leaving Andrew to twist in the brain.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Family Anecdotes

Once, one of the several
Brothers in that family,
An older, adopted boy

With vision and cognition
Challenges but otherwise
Robustly able-bodied,

Crawled out into the hallway
In the middle of the night,
Wholly parasomniac,

Feeling around the bare floor,
Calling out from a nightmare
He couldn’t shake, Where’s the rug?

Where’s the floor? That’s how it is
Decades later, with the news,
A surviving brother thinks.

If you could just find the floor,
The baseboards of behavior,
Some baseline expectations,

You could cope with this darkness,
But you’re already down there
Groping, scared, not half aware.

Friday, November 4, 2022

This Week’s Critics’ Choice

Life hands you lemons,
So you do as your
Mother suggested
And make lemonade.

So many lemons.
So much lemonade.
Your friends all suggest
You open a stand.

You open a stand.
Handmade lemonade.
Fresh-squeezed lemonade.
It doesn’t sell well.

You burn down the stand.
You spend time in jail.
You write a memoir,
The Lemonade Tales.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Transition of a Thousand Stages

Leave your lovers and heroes
Of righteous causes. Ignore
Those strangers coming to town.

There are older storylines,
Narratives with deeper ruts.
Change disrupts a cyclic world.

There’s a new way to collect
Energy, or a new way
To manage information.

There’s a new pump in the world,
A shift in distribution.
Could be life, jaws, oxygen,

Eusocial organisms,
Looms, wheels, print, bits, whatever.
The way these tales always go—

Unlike external chaos
Tales of earthquakes, volcanos,
Devastating asteroids—

Is that disruption evolves
From within, starts trivial,
In happenstance invention,

Then radiates growing waves,
New power imbalances,
New stunts with information.

Things go brutal, violent.
There’s novelty, suffering.
Then things settle down again

To cycle stably. The End.
The genre of the story
Could be called stage transitions.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

A Fine Tart for the Virgin Mary

Supposedly, there was a trial,
Eventually, because Agnes
Went a wee bit too far with it,

Having convinced the Kottriches,
Sometime in the 1890s,
In the heart of Bavaria,

She could talk to their dead daughter,
Crescence, up in Heaven. Turns out,
According to Agnes, money

Can get a lot done in heaven—
Get one out of Purgatory,
Buy a wedding gift for angels.

Like all good marks, Frau Kottrich helped.
When the Virgin Mother of God
Asked for some cash, via Agnes,

It was Frau Kottrich who added
The thoughtful gift of a fine tart.
Having read all this in a book

Of words and phrases like ourselves,
We feel compelled to add what grief
It must have been, to want to help

So terribly any story
In which your lost child’s tale goes on
You will feed it, literally.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Morning Motivational

One day she woke up and thought,
I’m just my own MacGuffin,

What keeps this story going,
Unimportant in the end,

A motivation only,
Not the story of my life.

I’m my own Maltese Falcon
With my quest to find myself,

To make something of myself,
Education, exercise,

Always trying to decide
What it is I can’t decide.

Then she got up and went out
In search of yet something else.