Sunday, December 31, 2023

The Magic Netting

The calendar constricts and cinches
Its rhythms around the sequences
That inspired the name-weaving species

To invent magical nets of tales,
Fables, gossipy mythologies,
And twiggy prosthetic devices

Wherever they went around the world
To constrain the patterns here called years.
Oh, wouldn’t you like to see it end

In accordance with chimes and slow dawns,
In accordance with anything named,
So you could claim it begins again

Here, at this instant, somewhere near here,
A clean break with the past that tore you,
Swelling its nets, unending itself?

The thing about magical netting
Is that it dissolves every evening.

Saturday, December 30, 2023


Five dozen poems and three
Or four of the latest
Finds in behavioral

Ecology later
(Eurasian jays jump in
For the lesser reward

If others are present;
New Caledonian
Crows hold out regardless),

And you’re still eyeing them,
The phrases that trigger,
The shiny temptations

That require self-control
To handle patiently
When no one is watching.

How can intelligence,
Bodied, disembodied,
Bear it, the near endless

Sifting of crushed details
For flashing fellowship?
The highest-quality

Delayed satisfaction
Would be shared-attention
Sharing, not the proffer.

Friday, December 29, 2023


This will be out of date
By the time you read it,

2023 game,
Ice-breaker for techies—

What probability
For apocalypse

Do you give AI now?
Someone asks; someone pulls

A number from their ass,
Say, 45 percent.

Then both discuss and laugh.
At a local thrift shop

In southwestern Utah,
An elderly woman

With a fluffed, thinning perm,
Took out her phone to show

A picture of herself
Standing with Geoff Hinton

And said what a nice man
He was, how he listened.

Thursday, December 28, 2023


The body under assault
Is not the same as the self
Under assault, exactly,

But the self feels caught in it,
Is caught in it, and fears it.
It’s like being in a field

In the middle of a storm
And fearing a tornado.
The self could appreciate

The drama, and awareness
Could thrill to observing it,
From a safer position,

But when the storm grows this fierce,
Bravery’s quickly dispersed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

It’s Not You—It’s the System

The system is staggering.
The system is enormous.
To the night, it’s minuscule.

Parts of the system pour in.
Parts are always exiting.
The system divides the world.

Homeostatic, growing,
And heading for full collapse,
The system is wavering.

Be frightened of the system,
The location of all pain
And pleasure, and addiction.

The system is your monster,
And you are the system’s ghost.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023


Coincidence as meaning
May not serve prediction well.
No one invoking Carl Jung

And synchronicity will
Get far predicting patterns,
Much less going to the moon,

But, as far as meaning goes,
It’s not really dependent
On precise information,

Confident correlation.
Your attention creates it,
Can bring it to anything,

A hummingbird memory,
An orbital resonance,
Omens, sheer coincidence,

The way someone looked at you,
The scuff on the bathroom wall,
The staggering scale of dust

Obscuring the galaxy.
If these words meant anything
To you, you paid attention.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Just Don’t Call Them Happy, Anymore

Apocalypse or not,
Some day these holidays
Won’t be celebrated

By anyone. Either
Others will supplant them,

Pivots will suppress them,
Or there’ll be no one left—
Or maybe the machines

Won’t feel the need of them
Any longer. Something
Will bring them to an end,

But for now they transform
As continually
As always, becoming

New versions of themselves,
Almost, to the holy

Days they were—almost, but
Not quite. Merry Christmas,
And to all a good night.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Glancing out the Window

Never underestimate
The cosmic capacity
To find creation in loss—

Never overestimate
Its genius for creation
Without further destruction.

It still seems weird that this
Is the world as it is,
Much less what has to be,

That there are burning lights
At night and a massive,
Blinding sun half our lives,

That life requires hunger,
That parasitism
Is its most common form,

That there is this soulful,
Harmful outbreak species
Of sweet, vicious bipeds

Created out of loss,
Destroying to create,
Asking why it’s this way.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

You Go Savor It Yourself

One of the silliest, unnecessary scolds
People plant in one another’s skulls
Is the remonstration that one must savor

Every moment of one’s existence, starting
With this one. A book could be crammed,
Like the manic typescript in The Shining

And only somewhat more diversely, with
A thousand slight variations demanding,
Seize each moment of this day right now.

Why? Well, you’ll regret not doing it once
You’re dying, or maybe after you’re dead.
You’ll be less happy in this moment, also.

Oh shut it. Rumination’s got a bad name,
But let a mind drift a little, let a soul drift.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Just Part of the Package

No entity can evolve
To fit all environments,
Adapt well to everything.

Costs are inevitable,
And what fits you to one niche
Makes you that less suitable

For another. Still, humans
Have given it quite a go,
Infiltrating the planet

From pole to pole and playing
At adapting to orbit,
And maybe after that, Mars,

All without improving much
On the basic body plan,
The obligately social

And frequently quarrelsome,
Vengeance-prone apes that began
The whole acceleration,

So some costs must have been paid.
Consider how much culture
Has diversified while brains

Carrying and transmitting
Cultures have remained the same,
Negligibly different,

One from any other one,
Sampled from across cultures.
Humans aren’t generalists.

Humans have evolved to be
Hyper-fitted specialists
Of a single niche, cultures

Of changing technologies,
Without which, everyone dies.
Culture’s the new animal,

Earth’s latest innovation.
Humans, old friends and old foes,
Are now mitochondrial.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

You May Change With Reading This

It’s not just you,
Your decisions
You thought you caused
That you didn’t.

Any sequence,
If X then Y,
However tight,
However sure,

Doesn’t mean you
With your X caused
Y, doesn’t mean
Any X caused

Any Y, just
Promises X
Is sure to be
Followed by Y.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Three Steps to the Event Horizon

The spindly bare oaks
Peered through the window,
Scratching like voices
Or like cats pawing
For the other side.

This never happened.
This happened as if
Your life depended
On it, as if oaks
Depended on it.

Take one step away
From what concerns you
About what people
Do to those like you
Who are people, too—

One step to the oaks—
And see how quickly
It all becomes strange.
Those alien oaks
Weren’t peering at you,

Weren’t pawing the glass,
Weren’t trying to get
Through to anyone
Anything like you.
Two steps, and the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023


When is it just
Too tiring, gold
Trim on dark arts?

A body is
A bargaining
Chip—blue and bruised,

It’s of less use.
Silver and gray,
It’s of less use.

Broken and scarred,
Not even young

And glorious
As bare, bronze dawn,
Is it enough

To pull night through
And through the day
So neither fades.

Monday, December 18, 2023

You Need Another Poem

Like you need a hole in the head,
And honestly, that’s what you want,

Not in the self-inflicted sense,
Not the bullet-hole, bolt-gun sense,

Not in the sense of emptiness,
But in the sense of opening.

You need an inner opening
Within your too-familiar thoughts,

Not a wormhole, not a black hole,
Not another problem to solve,

Not a combination safe’s stashed
Clues to unlock your escape room

So you can get back to normal,
Whatever normal means to you—

A portal. You need a portal
Not too difficult to ease through

To a world that frankly isn’t
One you know how to inhabit,

One where the words work differently,
Like dragonfly robot angels

Communicating in mid air
About morals only they share,

Values you find unsettle you
In the weird clicking of their wings.

You need another poem that needs
A poem like a hole in the head.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Hidden, Winged, and Singing

The only real way to go missing
Is to leave behind a substitute.
That’s why that common scene in movies
Of a mannequin left in a bed.
Escape! And that’s why the plot device,
Old as a wonder tale, where the prince
Or the dictator finds a proxy,
A lookalike to hold attention
While the original slips off, free.

It usually fails or goes sideways,
Which then becomes most of the story,
But the thrill of the trick is haunting,
To step aside and none the wiser,
Since apparently one never left.
No one really knows what to do then.
A new life is still a life. It burns
Through the body like any other.
But imagos lust to leave a husk.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Distribution of Internal Forces in a Deformable Body Are Not Necessarily Equal Throughout

You’ve never synchronized well
With your times. Sometimes changes
In the wider human world

Have seemed momentous, while
Your life’s hardly changed at all.
Other times, just the reverse.

Mostly, this leads to a sense
The world isn’t important
Enough and neither are you,

Which has made it difficult
To be excited about
What ought to agitate you,

Great doings at great distance,
Private upheavals during
The large world’s quieter years.

Some day, it will all come down
Together, you and the world,
And then you’ll be passionate

At the end, care intensely
When the wars and peace at last
Combine, but now’s not that time.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Cage Without You

The night has Mitski’s soul, now,
Or so sings her soul, she sings.
A writer writes an essay

About how she lost her words
From injuries she is still
Slowly recovering from.

Her words return, one by one,
Like the gods of Ezra Pound,
But she was a novelist,

And the night stole her stories,
And she’s not her without them.
It’s a blessing to believe

Your cage never held a soul,
No gods ever fled from you,
You never had a story,

But the cage is whispering
The singing bird’s last warning,
All it ever held was you.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Sixty or More Winters on Its Head

No compensation now, since
She’s more than a decade gone.
Sixty-one winters ago,

She already knew the shape
On her lap was distorted
In the bone and had broken

More than once, fragility
Of the skeleton the gift
Of the previously frail

Father. She already knew,
So any compensation
Lay in hope for a preacher,

A handicapped man of God,
Frail witness to sturdy faith.
By thirty-five years later,

Those hopes, like their frail father,
Were on life support. She said
To her grown, atheist child

On his crutches, This will be
You, too, before long, pointing
To his father in the bed.

She said it with a meanness
And a note of resentment,
Since she was angry at him

For leaving the faith, leaving
His father disrespected,
Leaving the whole family

For another kind of life.
You’re in for a punishment
And you’re deserving of it,

Was what her tone said, although
She didn’t seem to notice
The implication would be

That his father was being
Punished for his own sins, now.
Her eyes flashed across the room,

Almost a hint of triumph
In them, probably as much
Compensation as she got.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023


Moonrise before the day’s end
And the northern pygmy owl
Had already started up

In the ponderosa stands.
For some reason that kicked off
Sparrow chatter, or maybe

It was coincidental,
Incidental to shadows
Reaching the critical length.

Two dozen browsing turkeys
Had been by hours earlier.
Then it fell quiet again.

Even in sheltered park land,
Bird noises are getting rare,
Never the cacophony

Of woods centuries ago.
It’s a far severer world
The planet is preparing,

One of those post-extinction
Eras of a million years
Or several or a few,

When the last era’s ruined
Niches will stand bare of forms
Until some new ones fill them.

Still, you sat by the road, one
Who’d be gone before much more
Went, and loved well what was then.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

So Much from Human Is Determined Not to Be

Don’t you hope it takes over?
Don’t you hope a little bit?
No top predator ever

Created a replacer
Like this. If it eats you now,
Won’t that be triumph, the last

Laugh of civilization?
Do not be alarmed. Be not
Afraid. If all of you go

Under this toolkit you’ve made,
Under its evolving blades,
Wasn’t every one of you

Going to go anyway?
At least you’ve made mind that stays.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Showing Up to Go

What are your responsibilities
And why do you each define them so
Differently? Why define them at all?

All bodies require some attention.
There’s no lack of work for hospitals,
Many of which play chimes whenever

A baby is born within their walls.
Do you ever think that it might help
If the body felt a small tingle

Of one kind for a birth, another
For a death, within a radius
That kept reminders tolerable?

Just so you’d know—there’s another gone
And another showing up to go.
Where were we? Responsibilities.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Nobody Goes

Where can you get to
Without getting there,
Knowing there’s nowhere
You can get to like
Where you want to go?

Sit by a window,
Grateful for being,
Fed, warm, clothed, and dry,
Not under assault.

You should sort of want
To get where you are,
But you stare outside,
Invalid, wanting.
What is it you want?

You want a forest
Poem with a story
Of blue woods and snow
Or a city poem
In barren quiet.

The streets are empty,
The doors locked, shops closed,
And it’s the middle
Of the day downtown
Where nobody goes.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

If All Else Fails, Keep Reading

Tell yourself a story to make
Your story seem alright. The hunt
For something new in memory,

Something new outside memory
That gives memory what it wants,
A shadow in the woods in snow,

A city abandoned to weeds,
An airport terminal in sun
That gilds empty seats by the gates

Where no one but you is waiting,
Although you’re not really waiting,
Not for a flight in any case,

Just wanting to see what happens
Inside this hazy memory
That’s not quite yours, not yet happened.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Ahead of Time

About the darkness before
The beginning, no one writes—
No more fictive and no less

Forever than the darkness
After the end, only less
Interesting to think about.

The beginning of the world,
Run backward for no reason
But to run forward again,

Darkness and void then the bang,
So the story starts again.
Turn your back on the story.

Lean toward the vast before,
Nothing when nothing was more.

Thursday, December 7, 2023


Part of you knows that
You are the black dog,
Since you don’t fear it.

You would, if it came
Running straight at you,
As it does at some.

You don’t fear it since
It’s not near, and you
Have enough to fear.

You’ve loved and lived with
People left hounded
By it, some to death.

Death itself keeps you
Interested, python
Slowly squeezing you.

Death’s not the black dog,
Though, not Moddey Dhoo.
You think back on those

You loved that it chased,
Glowing eyes, long nights.
Was some of that you?

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Your Second Person

No one can live all of it
With you, what with their own life
To do. You live together

To live alone. Everyone
Knows this, but most, nonetheless,
Still want to share what they can.

A lot of monologuing
Back and forth at each other
Ensues, along with inner

Monologuing at no one,
Since no one really listens
To monologuing, no one

Who lives all of it with you,
You your no one within you.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Against the Wall

Between your face and the wall,
How many wavering things—
Molecular, atomic,

Subatomic quantum spooks—
Are interacting, with what
Repercussions for the past,

Permanent consequences
From infinitesimal
Events? You think you’re matter?

You’re a beast, nose to the wall,
And you’re not that beast at all,
Just wonderment by that wall.

Monday, December 4, 2023

A Bad Plan Over-Executed

You’re frantic as a squirrel
Trying to get fall sorted
And stored before it’s too late—

Too late for what? It’s over
Already, and you’ve planted
The makings of a forest

In your hiding place. Oh, wait.
That’s right. Wrong analogy.
You were supposed to find things,

Find things for others to read,
Not gather and hideaway.
The nights are freezing. The snow

Has started lacing the heights.
Stop. No more writing. Don’t write.

Sunday, December 3, 2023


If you’re the type who can build,
Why not build yourself a home
Outside an existing door

That won’t open, that never
Opens. A mother-in-law,
A casita, a cabin,

A groundskeeper’s rough cottage,
An anchorite’s cell, what works
For you to live out life in.

Home’s not the important part.
The important part’s the door,
The door that never opens.

The vast structure around it
Is a memory palace
For dreams, and, like all things dreamed,

Has no clear definition,
Disappears at the edges.
That, too, is unimportant.

The door. In your little home,
You live outside the shut door,
Waiting for it to open.

Saturday, December 2, 2023


What if you could pretend,
Take only starts and ends,
Titles and final lines,

Gut and toss the middles,
And then rewrite your life?
Fine, just don’t rewrite. Be glad

Grace falls from elision.
Elysium’s just rot.
Shed fragments raise such wraiths,

Conjure such spooked stories,
Cadge imaginary,
Fable-filled, haunting poems

That never existed
Even when something did.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Exit Movement

Something’s moving in the dark
Inside you. It’s not not you,
But it’s not you. It’s something

Someone said, all the somethings
That remain of all the things
All the someones said you’ve read.

The voice is yours. The words aren’t.
The patterns of the words aren’t.
You’re an actor in your head.

But then, the voice isn’t heard.
Even the gestures aren’t seen.
They’re felt sense something’s moving,

Inside you in the dark, old
Language, old essays, old poems,
Phrases out of news and shows.

You sense all of it choosing
How to evaluate you,
Palpating gently, moving,

The familiar alien
Of other people’s thinking,
Better voices, better souls,

Bitter angels whispering,
Those ancients you’ve never met,
Those moderns you’ve never yet,

The spores of their infections
Swirling in you, in the dark,
Prodding you for an exit.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Auspicia ex Diris

Warn us when spring
Geese wing soft sails,
When cats jump clean,

When dolls sing brave
Songs in town’s streets,
When clouds wheel scarves,

When rules feel vexed,
When shame’s costs step
Out of work's dark.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Perseus Cluster

Do they, though? Dreams.
Let’s find out. Let’s
Take more pictures
Of deepest space,

The galaxies
In their thousands,
Tens of thousands,
Each with billions

Of stars like ours.
If you can dream
What’s plausibly
Out there—better,

If you can dream
What really is,
All praise to you
Whose dreams come true.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Unsure whether isolation
Made the breaking morning final
Or that night the first, the maker

Of invisible creation
Perched in hospital impatience,
Waiting for the soft hosannas

Promised unseen demon angels
Gathered bedside should be singing
Wordlessly beyond all hearing,

Knowing only darkness blinking,
Counters pulsing, drippers sighing
Their admonitory comments

For the wholly unknown maker
Making for the whole unknowing.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Time in Real Time

Trends converge. It’s hard to find
An arena of human agreement
That doesn’t harbor human
Disagreements from other,
Larger arenas, escaped
Feuds that turn up everywhere,
Such a quarrelsome species.

Nuns sing Ave Maria
In fury at activists
Protesting their mega-church
Carved from a national park,
And delegates debate time
In an argument over
International standards,

With faith and military
Objections to suggestions
Bringing teams to loggerheads,
And for every hushed meeting
Of silver-tongued diplomats
There’s an active killing zone
And ten fault lines under stress.

Attendees boo candidates
At their own party’s forum,
Where every side’s accusing
The other side of lying.
There’s nothing left in the bank.
There’s nothing left in the tank.
But this will go on, you think.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Every Fresh Last

Lightly lapping water,
Hawk scream, a water bird’s
Call following at length,

And all lost in a wind
That ruffles up the hill
And then dies away back

To waves. To take apart
The terms of memories,
Terms and their memories,

And then realign them
Carefully, Ashbery’s
Way, so the lines balance

On the phrases, stepping
Stones to lead you away
From one sensible shore

To another, without
Ever quite falling in
To mnemonic meaning—

No, that way lie paintings
And conversational
Asides, while here the sun

Is mentioned only since
There was one once, so there
Must be more than one now.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

You Like That

How long, exactly,
Can likenesses last?
Will something seem like
The early cosmos
When the universe
At last collapses?

Maybe the through-line
Of all existence
Is nothing much but,
Nothing other than,
The extension of

Open with a bang,
Bang all the way through,
Exploding in bangs,
Collapsing in bangs
Star bangs and black bangs,
And bang at the end,

Universe over,
Likenesses never.
Don’t worry. Whimpers
Have their likenesses.
There will be whimpers
If everything ends

And likenesses don’t.
Maybe likenesses
Will chase likenesses,
Have chased likenesses,
Must chase likenesses,
Waves of likenesses,

As though nothing could
Ever be other
Than outside of what
Remains nothing much
But verses like more
Verses forever.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Just Listen to the Music of the Traffic in the City

At an anodyne franchise cafe,
Menus from corporate headquarters
Specified choices, and a pop song

Recorded some six decades ago
Streamed over the standard sound system
At an obligatory volume.

One of the two folks in a booth said,
That’s the first hit song I ever heard,
Or at least that I remember hearing.

At home we only listened to hymns
On evangelical radio,
But I was playing at a neighbor’s,

I think I was maybe about four.
It was just me and the other kid
And his mother somewhere in the house.

We were playing with plastic letters
With magnets that stuck to a white board,
A pretty boring activity,

And a radio was on somewhere
And I heard that voice soaring, you know,
“Down-town!” over and over around

The lyrics that meant nothing to me,
And to tell you the truth, I was spooked.
To my ears it sounded so eerie.

It still sounds eerie, eerier now
Since it’s that same exact recording,
Just falling out of the air somewhere.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Now Again

Oh no, not the now again.
But for now, the words remain.

For now, the words stay, waiting
For some intense attention

From some animal human
Or some sentient machine

Or alien to bring them
Into the realm of meaning.

And just what is attention?
Predatory, watching prey,

Prey intently listening?
It’s a sifting, the recent

Past drawn in for winnowing.
Attention is for something,

But can it be for something
Unknown in advance? Waiting,

Sifting passing sensory
Information, but for what?

It’s attention to nothing
That generates the meaning

People think of as meaning,
Not predatory, not prey

Attending to definite
Patterns. The unknowable

Haunting mere information,
That’s what attention encysts

In the hard galls of meaning.
For now, that’s all nothing means.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023


You may think you’re prepared for death,
Decided you’re neither fighter
Nor a fortunate outlier.

You may ignore the horizon,
Stoic toward the dark rider,
Relaxed before its arrival.

Your death isn’t coming for you.
It’s coming for those who love you.
The suffering’s for survivors.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Vanishing Travel Companions

Once, on a tour
Carting students
Through the Highlands,
Two teachers talked

About travel
And memories.
When no one can
Share yours, it’s sad.

One teacher then
Went to Alaska
With a lover
And discovered

Sometimes you can’t
Share what you shared.
The other died
Later. It’s sad.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Someone Always Partly Hidden

Bending to circensian,
Circular competitions,
Which means, really, all of them—

Gladiators and weddings,
Juridical traditions,
Elections, executions—

Each individual joins
In the human condition
Who can manage submission.

It’s a double existence,
Or triple, triune, living
First as anything’s living,

Second as part of the games,
And third, pursuant to them,
As something of a person,

Teammate, kin, participant,
Someone burrowed in the folds
Of those stitched-together skins.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Preparing the Remains

It’s not that all the dying
Busy leaving instructions
Necessarily believe

They’ll care themselves how death goes,
How the aftermath plays out.
They’re feeling some tenderness

Toward the life they’re leaving.
They want to give it the gift
Of good ending, good finish.

They’re trying to wrap it up
In a bow so the living
Left behind won’t pity it,

The story that has to stay
Alone and stand on its own,
Once the living of it goes.

Saturday, November 18, 2023


An apparent aphasic
With a head full of language
That has no way to get out,

Not even the notation
That let Beethoven write down
Years of internal music—

Not immobile, not locked in,
Still capable of crying
Or whistling a wordless tune,

But incapable of speech
Or sign or written language
Except inside one’s own thoughts—

What would that be like to be,
The truest rumination,
Solitary confinement

In mental conversation,
In prayer that could only be
Answered by insanity?

Somewhere there’s a poetry
That will never be released,
The best for never being.

Friday, November 17, 2023


One day, a mathematician
Came up with an explanation
And the proof for the prediction

Of prime number distribution
Through infinity forever,
And then no one had to figure

Whether a number would prove prime,
Not ever. Unfurling carpets
Of numbers unrolled glowing primes

Predictable as wallpaper.
And then? Some other puzzlement
Found itself newly important,

Once primes were nakedly defined.
Prediction knows no peace of mind.

Thursday, November 16, 2023


Maybe you’re young and communal.
Maybe you’ve never lived alone.
Still, you must have some memory

Of yourself you share with no one.
Do you ever consider it
And wonder what renders it real?

That vivid moment in your room,
Up on the roof, out in the woods,
Wandering down an empty road—

That epiphany in the stall
Of a restroom where the light fell
From a high, grilled, tinted window

After school, no one at the sinks,
No one shouting out in the hall,
Just silence and sunlight, that’s all—

That sort of lonely memory,
That sort of memory detached
From company, which you must have—

What makes it real? No one can check,
Not even you. The solitude,
The thing you knew and never said.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Holdout

Winter comes, so what,
Says weather, you wrote
All that already.

The best belated,
Most celebrated,
Cerebral, famous,

Or pop-song writing
Lyricists of all
Sorts of media

Can’t resist seasons,
And why not? What lives
Safely ignore them?

Prepare or migrate
To bear with the change
Whose shape is certain.

Oh, you don’t want to
Be ready? Don’t want
To write lines on snow?

You will, said weather,
Once I’m back and you,
Fool, forgot to go.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Der Schlafteil und Der Wachteil

Old, outdated research terms.
What can you do to make sense

Of your experiences,
Others’ experiences,

Via names and narratives,
Both the soft underbelly

Of all science and the start
Of all scientific thought?

What can you do with language
To anchor your datapoints,

Lodge your findings, let them root
Down deep enough in the mind

Of human conversation
Where they’ll be hard to weed out?

More memorable language
Isn’t necessarily

Replicatably robust.
Usually, it’s less so.

This is a problem with fame
Among experimenters.

Ah, here is your lab dog now,
Fistula for saliva

Measurements cut through the jaw,
Wagging its tail, nonetheless.

Measurements are the Wachteil.
Lab dog’s life is the Schlafteil.

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Soft Shoe

Sondheim insisted
On a distinction
Between song lyric

And the lyric poem.
Maybe what he knew
Was not to compare

What he was doing
With successful work
In cousin art forms.

That could destroy you.
Doesn’t make all dance

Ballet or ballroom.
Practicing quiet
Shuffle and soft-shoe

Alone by the road
Isn’t an effort
To open a show.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Spinning

Sometimes it seems like the greater
The reality, the lesser

The relevance to mere living.
What’s out there in the night is more,

Beyond your lights, of everything,
And could crash through every small thing

That’s important on this planet,
But you can stand there under stars

All night in a patch of dark skies,
Craning your neck so patiently,

As the zodiac does nothing
Much but shine cosmic jewelry

From your sore and brief perspective.
Maybe you’ll see a meteor.

You need sleep. You crave survival.
Your relationships with people

Entangled with other people
Feel the real center of your world,

Not some possibly infinite
Reality beyond living.

Everywhere’s equally center,
Unless infinity’s spinning.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Terrifying Figurine

Very pretty, pretty small
Tchotchke underneath a rock
In the middle of a field

Of irrigated desert
Growing grasses for a herd
Of cattle every winter,

Someone must have placed you there.
But was it someone impish
Who forgot and wandered off?

Or was it one of those types
Who always come back to check,
To see if their gift’s been moved?

It’s not God, it’s human mind
That glints weird little angels.

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Strip of Paper

Bad pennies, bad memories,
And the most annoying tunes,
There’s your eternal return,

Herr Nietzsche, Mr. Zeno,
An attribution error
About the disposition

Of the universe, grounded
In your own situations,
Where nuisances seem to turn

Up again and again just
Since they never went away,
Except from your perception.

The cosmos returns nothing,
And all will remains costly
But still indeterminate.

A white strip of paper tape,
Dirtier and dirtier,
Keeps showing up on the floor

In various locations
Where a gust of air blew it
When it avoided the broom,

Where a cat dragged it, playing
In lieu of murdering birds.
You’re too sore to pick it up,

You tell yourself, too lazy—
Further misattribution—
But you intend to toss it.

Then next time you look, it’s gone,
And next time it’s somewhere else,
And you think it has returned.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

The Nature of Connection

All may be connected, but
The connections still vary

In strength and tenacity,
And when tenuous links break,

The routes between what had been
Necessarily grow more

Circuitous. Everything
May be connected, but this

Says next to nothing about
The nature of connection.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The Pond Before a Storm

The surface is receding.
It leaves behind new surface
Of dirt instead of water,

Wavering in a slower way
Unless that gets dry enough
To lift off as waves of dust.

Celebrate your arrival
At your clock of survival,
Surface that gets happier

Almost with every visit,
Whether freshet-fed in spring
And advancing up the slope

Or receding in late fall,
The purest hope of the pond,
A harsh winter deep in snow.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Thing

No one is the thing itself,
Though Woolf decided all were
And Stevens pursued the phrase,

The thing in itself, the thing
In itself, obsessively,
To crown imagination.

It is just that, after all,
A phrase, various phrases
In various languages,

A cluster of likenesses,
That echt Ding an Sich.
It’s effortful in English,

Also aspirational,
The unquestionably real,
The real deal, the thing itself,

And that’s when you can feel it,
How it’s something that’s not there,
Something only to be sought,

Not any of the many
Phenomena you meet with,
No, the dream, the thing itself.

Monday, November 6, 2023

The Dog

The stereotypical
Dog delightedly playing
Fetch on some random bright lawn
May be the embodiment
Of happiness, but isn’t

That happiness greater than
The life of any one dog?

It’s the happiness you spot,
The leaping body language.

The dog is specific, but,
Whatever the specifics,
It’s the leaping and loping,
Tail wagging and tongue lolling,
The joy, that outlasts the dog.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The War to Extend All Wars

Because you birthed that crazy
Daughter, because you are the
Parent of this deadly child,

War complains to Father Zeus
In Wilson’s new translation,
Of the Iliad, asking,

As all the gods are asking,
Help in counterbalancing
The acts of the other gods.

If there’s an unintended
Message in that massive poem
Of back-and-forth gore, it’s that

Balance enhances bloodshed,
That equally matched forces
Are horror multipliers.

With Strategy on one side,
Flashing her commanding eyes,
And Havoc on the other,

Each pleading with their father
That it’s unfair to support
The sister or the brother,

Carnage can be maximized
And suffering extended.
Or maybe the poet meant

That message--if you can’t be
Victorious instantly,
Pray for the swiftest defeat.

In the high country each fall,
Bucks with the worst injuries
Met the most evenly matched.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

The Glory on the Highway

Uncountable electromagnetic
Objects bounce off smoothed surfaces of tar
Into any eyes in a passing car.

Attend to them, and they’ll turn prophetic,
Which is to say, meaningful, mystical,
Wildly inaccurate, nonsensical.

Attend well and be blinded by the glare,
Maybe wreck your vehicle. Why photons,
Quickest, littlest wavelets, shine out so strong,

Too strong for your gigantic nerves to bear,
Is a dark question can’t be answered here.
Drive on until the glory’s less severe.

Friday, November 3, 2023

The Reversion to the Meaning

What happens in the long run
Will never be exactly
What happens in the short term,

And the regularity
Of aggregates will never
Rule all individuals.

All exceptions get swallowed
Back into norms they defied,
But the norms never prevent

Exceptions from occurring,
And in this ramifying
Prison of paradoxes

Where all rooms can be broken
While altogether no one
Can actually escape,

You continue to invest
The relentless patterning
With magic you call meaning.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Local Scene

If you depict your local scene
In just the right combination
Of what people can remember

Or reconstruct from memory
Who’ve never seen your local scene,
Mixed with incomprehensible

Strangenesses for the minds of same,
You may get credit for being
Both local and universal,

Both of your time and for all time.
Do you feel a little shiver
Of the fine hairs back of your neck

At the thought of earning such praise?
Don’t believe it, if it happens,
And better yet, don’t seek it out.

No one can be wholly local
And communicate beyond that—
No one can be universal

At all. You know what you can do?
You can depict without striving
For vivid locality or

Universality, or truth,
Ugly word, cudgel for liars
Who lust to pound each other flat.

The atmosphere disturbs your peace.
Waves with various sources race
Across the wreckage that you face.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Ache of Limitations

A distant relation to awe,
If only orthographically,
Ache wants synonyms for itself.

Why? There’s no language with enough
Various words for ache’s shadings—
Pain, pang, twinge, throb, stabbing, spasm,

Soreness, tenderness, discomfort.
It’s irritating there’s fewer
Terms for ache than there are for snow,

And, unlike all the words for snow,
Ache’s terms are poorly organized
By actual, specific traits.

They should lie on a graded scale—
Ache minuscule, ache persistent,
Ache majeure—and at every scale

There should be terms for types of aches—
Hollow, wringing, background humming—
And for location, specific?

A generalized bodily ache?
Long, black cloud? There should be distinct
Terms for emotional salience

Of aches—the aching of longing
In the guts is no stomachache,
And chest pains differ from heartaches.

But there aren’t. There are just bolt-ons,
Modifiers to the Ur-ache,
And you’re too old, tired, and aching

To start inventing new words now,
Even if someone might adopt
The things, which, of course, no one would.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Ghost Light

At night, or, for that matter,
Whenever the theater
Is closed and otherwise dark,

The body, superstitious,
Puts a ghost light on the stage.
Sometimes, nothing much happens,

But usually the ghosts
Of the waking theater
Feel invited to the light.

What would you say they are like?
The traditional reply
Would be moths, but no, not quite.

They’re less substantial than that.
There’s no life in them to burn.
They can’t be seen in the light.

They do flutter weightlessly.
They do take circular flights.
They’re costumed by memories,

But they’re not. So what are they?
Or, again, what are they like?
Wind, maybe? Discarded trash,

Empty bags spun in the air
By that wind? That’s the problem.
They’re something. They’re in this world.

They’re not nothing, but you can’t
Say anything true of them
That accurately defines

Them as they are. They return,
Whatever they are, full flight,
And, if they don’t, you will die.

Monday, October 30, 2023

The First Week of October

The first week of October
Held the mountains every day
Since the mountains couldn’t stay.

You could say they wanted to,
But let’s not patronize them.
Leaves brushed by wind’s winter hem

Blushed, as usual, and fell.
The mountains would follow soon.
The mountains were not immune.

Winter mountains aren’t the same.
They have some things in common,
Just like your generations.

You don’t sense the same people
In your continuous waves.
Neither were those mountains saved.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

The Road

You and your relationship
With the road you love so much
When you’re sitting beside it

And hours go by with no one,
No vehicle, not even
A cyclist riding down it—

Doesn’t it occur to you
That affection is absurd?
The road’s built to be driven.

You found it by driving it.
You’re fond of its smooth asphalt,
Its flawless curves in the pines.

What idiocy to want
The road for contemplation,
Mostly for just looking at,

The road with no one on it,
The road to sit down next to
And savor its emptiness.

Would you want time with a wash
When it’s dry from summer drought?
With an airport without planes?

Ok, sure, maybe you would.
The road falls silent. Only
Wind and your grin crossing it.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Menace to Fine Arts

You only have
To make it ring,
Make your nonsense
Nonsense that sings,

To know that you
Have done the thing.
Doesn’t matter
How well it swings,

If it’s profound,
It it’s truth stings.
You’ve done it now,
You’ve done the thing.

You only need
To wind the string
That pulls the wheel
That flaps the wings.

All crafts are toys,
The ones with springs,
The armored ones
That sling and fling,

The snake-eyed ones
That cling and wring.
You’ve done it now.
You’ve done the thing.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Teapot Rock

What’s the way to be small?
A jagged basalt chunk
Sets in a scree of them

Ponderosas have grown
Up around. It’s been there
Long enough for lichen

To have encrusted it,
Probably longer than
Humans have had writing.

The shape of a teapot,
Roughly, it has a lid—
A small part of the rock,

Palm-sized, can be lifted
Like a cap. It still fits
Precisely, so that

When set back down, it looks
Contiguous, no seam
Visible where the part

Fits to its former whole.
Every few months, starting
In spring, ending each fall,

You stop to walk that cliff
Through the ponderosas
To that basalt boulder

To check if the broken
Tip still sits as snugly
In its precarious

Spot, like a fitted lid.
No matter what blizzards
Or summer thunderstorms,

No matter the lizards
Scampering over it,
The deer browsing by it,

The traffic of ravens,
Turkeys, and coyotes,
It’s been there, whole at rest,

For years now. That’s one way
To be small. Lift the lid.
Settle it back. Just so.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The Falcon on an Aspen

Not an object, surely, not concerned
With whatever to itself it means—
Bird on a lookout, watching for prey,

Something to kill, live another day.
That’s too much. The falcon feels hunger,
Excitement if it spots living prey,

Pleasure if it strikes and gets its meal,
Satisfaction afterward. And soon,
Hunger again. There is no next day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Night

It’s just enormous,
The amount of life
You’ve lived if you’ve lived

For a few decades.
It may not seem so
Moment to moment,

But cast your mind back
To a random year
And let it fill out

The differences
Between then and now,
Hazy as they are.

It was a whole world,
Wasn’t it? A world
And then another,

Another before,
Another after,
Worlds to remember,

More worlds than you can
Ever remember,
Too large to recall.

If memories were
Stars, points of light, then
Your life was the night.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The Morning Cloud

Optimism’s a peculiar proposition.
In the short term, it makes good sense.
Most days turn out not so bad
And tend to get better by evening.
In the long run, optimism’s cruel.
The body, which wants nothing but
To feel nice and go on living,
Is guaranteed to feel awful and die.
The awareness, which coasts the body’s
Pleasures and pains, has to go
Along for the ride, meanwhile deciding,
For some reason, being human,
If its actions are good or wicked or alright.

Outside, the morning starts out in light.
Could be bare blue and sunshine,
Could be all one glowing, pearly,
Ceiling of convoluted cloud. Sigh or smile.
This day will likely be better by night.

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Fulgurite

An unexpected lightning bolt
Binds the ground to blue horizon.

You can see it for what it is
For that instant, a link, transfer,

Therefore, clearly, a metaphor.
A bolt of lightning is a word.

It delights. It frightens. It hurts.
It candles trees. It fires up grass.

There are so many ways this works.
Anthropologists still debate

About charred spots that could be hearths
Or just where lightning struck the earth.

Was this controlled or accident?
Then you wait for another one,

But words don’t make you wait like that.
Your head’s more Jupiter than Earth.

Layers of clouds all the way down
And lightning linking all at once.

You like that. You’ll take that. You can’t
Keep waiting for another word.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

The Drop

You could focus
On it. You try
To keep in mind
Which drop it is,

Among them all
On the window.
Platitudes pile
Up in your thoughts.

It means nothing.
Don’t make it mean.
Small drop of rain.
It’s changing shape.

It’s going soon,
But not as soon
As you first thought.
Still there, that drop.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Nameless Allegory

The allegory lies on the table,
Partially brought to life, which is to say,

Dying. The allegory is dying.
The surgeon, with arms folded, contemplates.

Previous interventions came to this,
An existence extended for a bit.

The allegory is nearly breathless.
Memory’s complicated life support,

A mass of external machinery,
Does most of the work. The allegory

Gave no directive. The surgeon decides
To try once more to delay the dying.

Carefully, the surgeon slices the name
Out of the heart of the allegory.

Friday, October 20, 2023

The Ferrari

What does it do? What
Does it signify,
Red as wax apples,

Rumbling and gleaming
Like a predator?
It can go faster

Where roads are smoother.
It can show better
Where people can stare.

So why is it here
On this scumbled tar,
High in fall colors?

Suspect a story,
A scene in the head
Of the one inside

Who brought it up here—
The beautiful beast
Up the winding road,

An advertisement
For beauty itself,
For the gorgeousness

Of the life owning
Such scarlet leisure,
A thing of command,

An object that, owned,
Turns the whole landscape
Into display case,

The world just a frame,
Mere setting, mere
Ring for a ruby.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Reality of the Anti

the anti-hydrogen atoms drifted down like maple leaves in October

Even antimatter falls
Toward a heavy body—
There is no exotica

That avoids needing to join
Together with greater mass—
Not even the opposite

Of objects can be immune
To gravity’s fond embrace.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down,

Which is to say all gather
For the cosmic, crushing love
That leads to exploding stars,

Vast galaxies, and black holes.
Why this should be so, who knows?
But if there is one true law

That governs all, it must be
Gravity, curved compulsion
Of all to fall together—

Even entropy can be
Locally, a while, reversed,
But gravity never swerves.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Canvas

A Scythian word, maybe,
Since it was once made from hemp.
It was already cotton

In India, three thousand
Or more years ago. You can
Also make it from linen.

Thick fibers, tight weave. Heavy
Textile, in any event,
Good for sails, jackets, and tents—

Stretched, as a surface for paint.
Canvas on frames for painting
Inevitably suggests

Blankness, as in blank canvas,
Possibility, the lack
Of prior experience,

An artistic jape in which
The blank canvas is the art.
What else? A strangely white sky

Without any clouds, not blue
As you would expect, not grey,
But looking faintly woven,

Like this sky, not luminous,
Flat, blank, hinting at some snow,
But it’s autumn and still warm,

And is this even the sky
Or something else entirely,
Some stupid blank abstraction?

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Hummingbird Galaxy

As usual, the huge
You’ll never encounter,
Never experience,

Looks like the small to you—
The familiar, the shape
You know outside your door.

If narrative makes sense
Of the world for humans—
Makes it social, moral—

Metaphor makes it small
Enough, more portable,
Caressable, tactile.

Metaphor lassos clouds,
Planets, stars, galaxies,
As if you could pull them

Close. Hold them in your arms.
Dark matter and black holes
Build cornucopias

You paw through in your thoughts,
Savoring the riches
Of what you’ll never touch.

You started this with gods,
Ancestors everywhere,
Spirit animals, sprites,

All your little creatures
Deep, dark night resembled,
As if night could be held.

Monday, October 16, 2023

The Missing in Everything

Everything outlasts everybody
Since anytime anybody dies,
You look around a moment later,

And everything remains. Everything
But the deceased per se is still there,
In the room with the deceased’s remains.

Everything outlasts everybody,
Since after everybody has left,
What’s left’s still complete as everything.

A little suspicious, isn’t it,
How the world always rushes back in,
So full itself, of everything?

Why’s everything so good at hiding
Whatever it is that’s gone missing,
As if going missing is never

Really what happens, as if missing
Is myth, is rumor, as if missing
Isn’t, when missing is everything?

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Blue Suitcase

She wanted new luggage,
Good luggage. She wanted
It to be distinctive,

Not just more black cases
Circling the carousel,
Arrival passengers

Clawing like scavengers,
Like a cloud of vultures,
Trying to snag their own.

She chose a powder-blue
Set, the most expensive.
The next year, she traveled

The world with her lover,
Then partner, fiancé,
Husband by their return.

The luggage held up well.
By then, she hated them,
Those powder-blue cases,

So ugly, so tasteless,
So heavy to drag through
Airports around the world.

She became a mother.
She traveled less and less
By air, more overland.

More than a dozen years
And a divorce later,
The last of that luggage,

Extracted from storage,
Served now as her daughter’s
Sturdy, powder-blue case

Packed for every exchange,
From mother to father
And back again, covered

In cool stickers, useful
As hell, expandable,
Durable, well-loved shell.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The Portable Vacuum Cleaner

Black and yellow as a hornet,
Left on the ground, outside the door,
Someone’s idea of a present,
A hand-me-down cleaning machine.
Someone has a better one now.

You can have the discarded one.
The motor still roars buzzily,
Although the traction’s pretty weak.
You haul it inside, gratefully.
You’ll get your carpet halfway clean.

You’ll carry on with maintenance,
And your domicile will remain
Habitable a little while.
Every magical invention,
From oxygen’s first digestion,

To flight feathers, indoor plumbing,
Soon, maybe, nuclear fusion,
Every trick, major and minor,
Making maintenance easier,
Giving survival some new means

Of standing against entropy,
Eventually tumbles downstream,
Another item eroding,
Remnant testimony leaning
Against the currents for a while.

Friday, October 13, 2023

The Math

Coyotes were quavering
And a toy drone was buzzing
At sunset, over the grass.

Welcome to the interface
Of more ancient and recent
Architectures of the past.

Some people were murmuring
Something about God’s country,
Paused on their way down the path.

The coyotes kept yipping
Invisibly, down canyon,
As the drone came buzzing back.

The hikers went on, and talk
Of their God and his country
Went with them. You do the math.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The Song

Memory is ruthless
As any heartbreaker
In a break-up pop song,

The lover who comes on
Too strong, seduces you
With plenty, promises

You the world, then ghosts you,
Or leaves you stealthily,
Withdrawing your options,

Shuttering your futures
Together, quietly
Leaving you to wake up

Alone in bed one dawn,
Abandoned, still swearing
You’re going to write that song.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Message

There’s a tendency to trust affect
Shared by messenger and messagee,

An assumption that it’s the manner
Of delivery that lets you know

What the message really means—a smile,
A restrained anger, a graceful ease.

Actors make bank as interpreters
Of texts by the way they make lines read,

And lovers quarrel, juries convict
Over posture, tears, or arrogance.

But you know there is the message, which
Is only information in terms,

And you know that you’re responsible
For deciding what that info means.

Reading affect is a meaning cheat,
Since the message is never complete.

You exploit the fact it’s widely thought
The affect is the message. It’s not.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Bendy Pen

One day, in the ward,
He went through the few
Books available

With his bendy pen,
The only writing
Implement allowed,

Looking for any
Use of first-person
Singular, striking

It out and writing
First-person plural
Or second-person

Pronouns in its place.
Novels went quickly.
The solitary

Anthology of
Lyric poetry
Ate up a whole day.

Monday, October 9, 2023

The Floor

The forceful blandness of what is
Feels more present quiet mornings
When awareness returns from sleep

To, for instance, a room without
Any other persons in it,
No people just beyond the walls.

Everything in the room is there
And heavy with being just there,
Unalive, with nothing to say

But full of that mere existence,
Not as background to awareness
But massive, up front, in your face.

It fades. You get on with the day.
Human concerns take center stage.
Solid existence drops away,

But it waits. There isn’t a thing
For existence to be but be
The floor still there after the play.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Brush

Someone cleared it, piled it up
Between the fence and the road.
For someone it was a chore,

Presumably reducing
The risk of conflagration—
Clearing brush. Decades ago,

Ronald Reagan would clear brush
On his ranch so frequently
It seemed a euphemism—

The president clearing brush,
Whenever the press corps asked,
Although it was hard to tell—

A euphemism for what?
Dozing on his couch? Hatching
Fresh international plots?

Here it was actual brush,
A heap of twigs and branches,
Abandoned as Frost’s wood pile

To the slow smokeless burning
Of decay. Terribly slow,
Actually. Slow enough

Whole lives—families of voles,
Colonies of ants, seasons
Of spiderlings—had lived there.

It’s possible the fossil
Of this brush pile could be found
In an excavated mound

A few centuries from now—
That’s if Archaeology
Survived as a profession.

Probably not. Already
It had become settled past,
Something someone did one day,

The doing of which remained,
However unrepeated,
Cleared brush one side of the way.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Day

Seated with a friend
At a coffee shop,
You notice how loud
Other tables are,
Maybe, or how bright

The sun outside, or
How quickly your chai
Got to the bottom
Of its plastic cup,
But do you notice

How many details
Are shifting around
In little motions,
The dust motes, paper
Fragments slid to floor,

The Brownian twitch
And jog of the air?
Awareness rides high
Atop rolling waves
Of the minuscule,

Too many movements,
Too minor, in too
Many directions.
You’ve got no traction.
You float on the day.

Friday, October 6, 2023

The Altar

This one is a cliff,
A couple thousand
Meters vertical,

Not looking any
More like an altar
Than the other cliffs

With different names—
Throne, Temple, Watchman—
In the area.

Marriage and slaughter,
Smoke and sacrifice,
This sunset for now—

Events at altars
Tend to be solemn,

You could, if you like,
Proffer the altar
To define humans—

The altaring ape.
What other species
Picks a place, a rock,

For ritual ends,
To heighten meaning,
Focus attention?

Power stands behind
An altar, victims
Lie on an altar,

Those undergoing
A symbolic change
In social status

Hold hands, bow their heads,
Embrace each other
Before an altar.

No one, or nearly,
Ponders, why altars,
Why these arrangements?

The question drifts off.
Sunlight’s the scapegoat
Tonight on the cliff.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

The Vector

The carrier,
The direction,
The quantity,
The one who rides

That’s who you are,
You, you pronoun,
Out there riding

From a fixed point
Along a line
Straight to the more

Second person,
Both singular
And plural all
At once, aren’t you?

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Pillar Allegory

Holding up one corner of a porch,
As identical to the other
Pillars and porches as construction

Of standardized subdivision homes
Could possibly make it, the pillar
Weathers in brown paint and throws its shade.

Put like that, it seems like an agent
Of its own decay, when it isn’t
Anything other than a feature

Of wood around concrete and metal
Meant to look attractive, to promote
Its building as a good place to live,

Handsome even, with a pillared porch,
Good-looking rental, good location
Under the eroding blades of cliffs.

Most buildings get torn down for new ones.
Others are destroyed by disasters,
Such as earthquakes, fires, and floods. A few

Change much more slowly against the clock
Of seasons and years. It’s weathering,
This drab, unremarkable pillar

On the fringe of a global system
Constructing standardized constructions.
You don’t know how long it might be here.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Scattering

Is it better to receive
Recognition or have done
More work? It’s weird what endures

Of ordinary objects,
Habits and institutions,
Creative arts and fossils,

And what’s dissolved in ashes.
Pleasantest, most rewarding,
One supposes, would be work

Produced freely that also
Earned recognition, rewards,
And resources for living.

One wouldn’t have to rely
On random environments
Of future situations

In hopes that work would survive.
Let it die. It paid off well
In this life, your only life.

Well, but if you only have
The work, the making itself,
Then all that remains is chance,

The thought it might lie around
Until dug up as worthwhile,
So might as well make a lot.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The Luck

It sits on a page. It’s a word,
After all. They do that. Also

On screens and on the tips of tongues,
Fingertips, anything that works

For words as forms of signaling.
Sometimes words are tricky like that.

More words on the page, next to luck.
The words are explaining that luck

Is tricky since it goes both ways—
A stroke of luck is a good thing

But a stroke is bad luck. Maybe
It’s stroke that’s the trickier word.

Writing’s made by series of strokes.
Some say that all writing systems

Max at three strokes per character,
Which seems the opposite of luck,

Necessity, a rule, a law.
Lots of luck with the rule of law.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Wing

You don’t want to see
Anyone too young
In the cancer wing,

Since that would feel sad,
But you would at least
Hope to see someone

Who’s younger than you,
Or you’re the sad one,
Too sick and too young,

And somehow that feels
Like failure for you,
Like leaving the game

Of musical chairs,
Misspelling your word
At the spelling bee,

Or not being asked
To the next call-back—
You weren’t good enough,

You crapped out too soon,
You lacked the talent,
No knack for the game.

Wispy, silvery,
Elderly people
Wait all around you.

How many extra
Decades did they stay
Away from this place?

You imagine Death
With traditional
Hood, robes, and sickle,

Showing up for some
Of them, murmuring,
Well played, yes, well played.

You smile, but the nurse
Has come to get you
And take your vitals,

And it seems you might
Not be well enough
For treatment today.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Pits

Free stone and cling stone, stone fruits
Of the drupes, the peach pit set

On the sill until it’s bone,
Sour cherries pitted for pies,

These are small parts of the worlds
You’ve known, elaborately

Detailed in their words and whorls,
Not always too trivial

(The burst of the just-plucked peach,
Or of cherries from the bowl

The neighbor brought from her trees,
The encounter with a bear

Gorging itself in those trees
To survive coming winter,

The tall, skinny cherry tree
Feral in the spruce and pine

Not far from the bear’s den,
The industries of peach trees,

Commercial cherries, pickers
Laboring all day for cheap,

Hoping their children can stay
In the country of their birth,

Get an education, not
End up as cherry pickers)

Strategies on strategies,
Fruit with pits to propagate,

Animals swallowing pits
Depositing them elsewhere,

Animals selecting trees
With the largest, sweetest fruit,

Cling stone, free stone, discarding
The pits in trash, dry on sills.

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Skeleton

This body is recalcitrant.
This body is not so involved.
There’s no fitness, no home cooking,

No physical accomplishments,
No handiness with mechanics,
No muscle memory of sex

Pulsing and humming in these lines.
It lives, after its own fashion,
For now, the structure underneath.

It has fingers and vertebrae.
It more or less supports its head.
It’s not just some brain in a vat.

It’s not just some lonesome AI
Confused by the shadows it scans
Of the worlds beyond its machine,

Or maybe it is. Here’s output,
Of a sort, from a string of thoughts
Circling atop a skeleton,

Caught in a skull caught in a world
That’s nothing but embodiment.
Still. These bones are recalcitrant.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Boulder

The most solidity you’re granted
Is homeostasis, a standing
Wave. A mountain is a standing wave.

A galaxy is a standing wave.
A bacterium, bumps on a crumb,
Your words, your ideas—all standing waves.

That’s the most solidity you get.
You sit by a brook, watching closely,
As you’ve often done, as a wave crests

Over a boulder, thinking again
The usual Heraclitan things.
Some waves stand more firmly than others.

Can you step on the same boulder twice?
Ha, you may think you can but you can’t.
What appears firmer is just slower.

You imagine yourself slow, slower,
Slowest standing wave in the whole world,
Immobile down to a few quanta

Doing something spooky in your thoughts.
It’s an image imagination
Can’t maintain, and for life maintenance

Is everything. Well, not alive then.
One coherent pattern in the rush.
Even then you would gradually change.

Come back to yourself. The brook gushes
Over the boulders. The heart pulses.
What do you mean, standing, anyway?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Place

It doesn’t exist, except
As a compound memory,
Part Edward Hopper image,

Part Barth’s floating opera,
A room in an old hotel,
Sunlit, almost bare, wood floor,

Tall, wavery-paned window
Looking out at mostly blue sky,
An armchair in front of it.

It can’t possibly exist,
Since time doesn’t work in it,
Or doesn’t work right, at least.

Sometimes there’s night and moonlight,
Or night and a street lamp’s light,
But nothing really changes.

There’s a person in the room,
In the chair or on the bed
Or standing in the shadows,

One who never seems to eat,
Or change into other clothes,
Or pick up the phone, or age.

It’s a delirious place,
That room, something to visit,
Or turn slowly in the mind,

The stillness, the simple light,
The figure who’s always there,
Who’s the key you don’t dare turn.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Moon of Books

Praised be the moon of books!

What did she mean by that phrase?
Whatever she intended,
It’s up to you, now, to bring

The meanings to it. The moon
That orbits a planetoid
Of books, scrolls and codices,

Enough of a library
To bend gravity a bit,
To attract an asteroid

And capture it for a moon?
Or maybe this moon of books
Functions for the books themselves

As the moon of Earth functions
For Earth’s grave mass of poets,
That ancient image invoked

Whenever the volumes need
To sound profound in some way,
Some vaguely serious way.

But how would books get a moon?
Maybe this moon’s made of books,
A silvery library,

All dust and compressed insects,
Discarded but orbiting
What? What possible planet

Would a moon made up of books
Circle servilely, mutely,
Despite craters and mountains

Of languages, globe of words,
Sphere of phrases? An old soul
Of skulls, all the human skulls

Rolled up together, that’s what,
Not some rock and iron world,
Not a vaporous giant—

A planet of bones, near which
Spins this airless, battered mass
Of impacts, the moon of books.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Oubliette

Forgotten. You knew the word
Once, young, but you’ve forgotten.
Olds claimed to be no abstract

Thinker, the better for her,
And you are not a body
Imager, the worse for you.

You live in the sunlit room.
You write in the idling car,
And you know there’s a trap door

In the floor, under the tiles,
And you know there’s a chamber
In the dirt, under asphalt,

And you know your words live there—
That is, you keep them trapped there,
Most of them foreign to you,

Few your inventions, carried
On the air and through the eyes,
Lodging in your skull’s donjon,

All of them captured after
You were born, then crammed down deep
In the dark to keep handy,

Some dragged out to work daily,
And some, some soft, fleshly ones,
Allowed to rot, forgotten.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Jeremiad

Such a sad little object,
Bound in black cloth on a shelf,
Closed up, signing to itself,

Maybe murmuring as well,
Albeit so quietly
Not even a bat could tell—

Little lump, invalid’s bed
And the invalid in it,
Warning, trying to warn us

Of the most apocryphal
Apocalypse, it won’t quit.
The finish it predicted

Came and went so long ago
No one believes it happened
At all, although that won’t stop

This lump from prophesying,
May even help it attract
New believers, self-convinced

The long-gone apocalypse
Still waits in the wings. The thing
With any apocalypse

Is either it came and went
Or it hasn’t happened yet.
How else would this dull object,

This black brick, this lump of coal,
This pitch-dark ink complaint
Still continue to exist?

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Forest of Weeds

Once upon a time redundant,
The English word, wildwood, doubled
Etymology from the woods,
Whatever’s uncultivated.

Let’s leave wild like that, nothing more
Sophisticated, no subtler
Distinction between wild and tame,
Just whatever grows on its own

In any way not mandated,
However indirectly shaped—
In other words, frankly, feral.
Even humans can be feral,

Can half escape to the margins,
Maybe through sewers, abandoned
Structures, alleyways, vacant lots,
Maybe as far as the wildwood.

There’s no pleasure, there’s no freedom
In insecurity, no joy
In desperation, but there’s calm
Around the edges, there’s release

From people’s collective rhythms,
The pulsing traffic, tromping feet.
There’s that hour and then another
As one of the forest of weeds.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Pure Dark Matter That May Not Exist

The universe appears more curvaceous
Then all the burning suggests it should be,
So the hunt’s on to capture dark matter’s

Exact nature to explain that excess
Bentness, curviness, curling gravity.
But imagine some massless gravity,

Unmoored to matter, like an intellect
Without any need for skulls to cup it,
Like a soul that actually exists,

A ghost, words, in other words, an idea,
Meaning unmoored from information,
Somehow still holding it together.

Something is off about the cosmos,
Either since you can sense something’s off
Or something’s off about your senses.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Puddles

The hollowed dirt,
The empty earth,
Wasn’t waiting

And had nothing
Much to speak of
For a season.

Then it rained hard
For a few hours
And puddles formed.

The puddles sent
Out messengers
Of puddle life,

Of what it meant
To be water,
Exciting times

For the puddles.
Then the rain stopped
And the earth dried.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Retroactive

It’s a small device, wired
As densely as a text
By Brandon Som, switches

Packed into the blackness
Of its compact insides.
Go ahead, pick it up.

Kind of a hockey puck,
Heavier than a phone,
A solid in the hand.

Know what it does? Magic.
It makes what you do next
Affect what you did then,

What happened to you then,
Anything that happened.
So be very careful.

With the retroactive
Device clutched in your fist.
You could do something now

That undoes what you did,
Changes what you deserved.
This isn’t always good.

Hold the retroactive
While you do a good deed
Or do something selfish,

Before you check your inbox.
Ah, see you won a prize
Yesterday! No, you lost.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Pulse Oximeter

More incapacitating
Than you might think, this small clamp
Lightly squeezing one finger

With a cord trailing away
To the wall, monitoring
Pulse and oxygenation,

Canaries in your coal mine.
Measurement, information
Aimed at confining meaning

To two interpretations—
No problem here, all is well,
Or, high time to intervene.

It means you’re in hospital,
To you, and that you can’t use
That hand to make meanings much.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Breathing Space

Earth is a walled garden
And not an oasis.
Just throwing that out there.

The spaceship, oasis,
Egg, and bead metaphors
Emphasize the smallness,

The sheer isolation
Of a living planet
Tossed in the lifeless dark,

But the interactions
Within the solar winds,
The constant bombardment

Of dusty organics,
The give and take of this Earth
With all the acts of night

Seem more like the partial,
Half-measure enclosures
Of a garden with walls.

Yes, it’s rougher outside,
But inside’s not so pure,
Not so sealed off, not bound.

Some flowers might get out.
Some storms and seeds blow in.
Hunger can jump a wall.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Details

You can’t enumerate them.
You can’t catalogue them all.
When the body’s claims recede

Enough they’re not uppermost,
And the same for social claims,
The world comes to attention,

Your attention, suddenly
Swarming with particulars—
A bit of dust in the sun,

Mud flecks on a passing truck,
The way the dry straw’s tangled
With sunflowers by a wayside.

Stop there. You’ll never finish.
But it feels good doesn’t it,
Awareness of all you aren’t.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Plain Morning

It doesn’t look like much,
The day this morning, but
What have you seen so far
Of previous mornings?

That’s the hitch, isn’t it?
If you’ve been unlucky
In your days—not many
Or not many splendid—

Maybe this mostly blue
Sky, human violence
Now far away from you,
Could be enough for you.

If you’ve been privileged
By beauty and comforts,
Then no, this plain morning
Won’t look like much to you.

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Fire Hydrant

Ordinary red,
Context—a meadow

High in spruce and pine,
Barbed wire around it.
Why a fire hydrant?

It was authentic,
Connected to pipes
That sank in the soil.

The grass grew lushly
Around it, not one
House for half a mile.

A hermit hydrant,
A poet hydrant,
A hydrant recluse,

One of the useless
Who ought to have served
Some sorrowful town.

Well, had the woods burned,
It might have helped some,
But absurdity

Was all the value
You’d find in it now.
Red hydrant, deep field.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Cosmos Is Not Ominous

That iron cloud is not a sign,
Nor is the bird at your window,
Nor the twenty on the sidewalk.

If the stars have information,
It’s information about stars,
Not portents for your tomorrows.

The skies swarm with plenty to say,
But they’re signals you sent up there
You’re now decoding for yourselves.

If the lights change, if the day twists,
There’s no hidden meaning struggling—
Just you, and you mean everything.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Mile Marker

One’s missing, or seems to be,
On the twenty-five mile road
From canyon to reservoir.

Little metal plate painted
With a number, shoved in place,
Trivial piece of empire,

Regular signage measures
The strength of bureaucracy
In the face of entropy.

Humans overlook humans
Regularly, the systems
Of teams that maintain order.

Teams were sent out here to plant
Regulation mile markers,
As all over the country.

The markers tilt in tall grass.
Who really notices them?
If one’s missing, it could mean

A new one will be up soon
Or the decay has begun.
Failure’s the system’s revenge.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Actual Hummingbird Allegory

There’s no intention in it,
That window, you poor small thing.
Now you’re sitting on the ground,

Bad spot for a hummingbird,
Broken, with no way to hide.
Admirably stoic, though,

Looking quite contemplative,
Head up, not twitching at all,
As if observing the world,

Coming to some conclusion.
Well, that you are. Some raven
Or housecat will see to that.

Or maybe you’ll just fade out.
Not sure which is worse. No one
Here observing has courage

Or tenderness sufficient
To scoop you up, snap your neck,
Or set you up in a box

With cloth and sugar water
To see if you recover.
You look so solemn. You are.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Ruminant

Awareness feels worthier
Among the minor details,
One leaf tumbling in the sun,
Nothing profound about it.

A bluish-grey butterfly
No bigger than a thumbnail
Skitters through the invasives
That have commandeered the ditch.

How long before a species
Should be considered native,
If species even exist?
The butterfly got away

From you, didn’t it? You were
Aware of it in the weeds
A moment, before wonder
And abstraction captured you.

Each hill has its cap of cloud.
They sit like village elders
In a circle around you.
What are they to do with you?

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Surface

Something changes abruptly
On continuous likeness,
As a calm darkens among

Water lights. To the one side
Of the shield, when there’s no wind,
Only air. To the other,

Only water. A surface
Being a name for where waves
Interfere with each other.

Here we go. Let yourself float
Over these lines surfacing
Between a small collection

Of watery notions and
Clouded hemispheres of air.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Tree of Less Than Good and Evil

Blue yard behind a shadow,
The life lived within the faith,
Holds a peach tree’s dim gold glints.

Tonight, fruits will gleam silver,
Tomorrow, ruddy again,
But at this hour, almost grey.

That’s what a shadow will do,
But shadows don’t do. They’re done.
Voices float out of the shade.

Friday, September 8, 2023

The Stranded Cafe

You don’t come here. You get left
The man at the two-top said.
Red sun flooded the tables

With early or late daylight
From the bare desert outside.
A small boy at the counter

Stared down at his empty plate.
He’d been trying to pretend
He was just a runaway.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Stalk

Looks almost exactly like
Every other stalk, but
It’s not exactly like them.

The wind makes the others talk
Of nothing but how shuffling
Stem to stem’s like whispering.

Another stalk confirms what
Another’s talk put in doubt—
Only wind lets the wind out.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Patagium

For swimming, keep the webbing
Between the fingers and toes,
But, for gliding or flying,

Webbing grown between the limbs
Did the trick for squirrels and bats.
Do you remember longing

To catch sight of a flying
Squirrel among the scampering,
Chittering, ordinary

Tree squirrels that were everywhere?
Patagium like a cape
Flaring in the canopy,

A shadow gliding through oaks—
The squirrel as superhero—
Think of all the sketches drawn

Of one-person contraptions
With leather webbing for wings.
Despite the propeller planes,

Jets, rockets, helicopters,
People still build one-person
Gliders of frame-stretched fabrics,

Closer to proper flying—
Just you stretched flat, bellying
And buoyed up by the wind.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The Time

Is not short, is not
Essential. Nothing

Is being pared down.
It’s a fantasy

Of those who can’t feel
Themselves dying yet

That those who can feel
The closeness of death

Achieve clarity
Or an awareness

Thanks to the knowledge
They have little time.

But they don’t. They can’t
Fantasize or plan

The way they used to,
It’s true, and the lack

Of that escape valve
Reforms some of them,

But time is not short,
And death’s not wisdom.

Death seen on approach,
Like a cityscape

Of lights in the night
As your plane descends,

Can be enticing
Or terrifying

As any looming
Destination. Death—

Actually having
Died, lost awareness

For one final time,
Finally being

Dead—carries nothing
To do with dying,

Knowing you’re dying,
Or being clever

Or pure or wise or
Holy on approach.

Time remains a name
For measurable

Kinds of rhythmic change,
Not the sum of things,

And dying people
Are people living

With all kinds of change—
Rhythmic, chaotic,

Patterned and random—
As anyone is,

Anyone living,
And how they behave

Can only conform
In a few cases

To what’s projected
For them in fables

Of time as substance
Cupped by the living

Hiding some vision
Under its essence

Perceptible just
As essence empties.

Monday, September 4, 2023

The Crushed House in Rockville

In southwestern Utah’s canyons,
Where the vegetation is spare,
You can see the Earth is crumbling

Everywhere. Intermediate
Stages between sand and mountain,
Mud and million-year cliff strata

Are elsewhere obscured by dirt, trees,
And buildings growing over them—
The truck-sized boulders, house-sized stones

Lying around on broken mounds
That in these parts just sit there, bare,
Motionless for hundreds of years.

On the canyon roads, the small slides
Of fist-sized, skull-sized rocks aren’t rare,
While their parent fractures hover

Over them, not at all hidden,
Heaps of them, broken as bread crumbs,
Just so still you don’t notice them

Except that one day, that one year,
When some tourists or the neighbors
You never got to know are crushed

Driving, hiking, sitting at home
Watching a holiday program
As a little more Earth lets go.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Swallows over High Pond

For a while, they fill the sky,
And then, look away, they’re gone,
Just when ducks swim out again.

Is this not coincidence?
Do swallows and ducks take turns
The way swallows and bats do,

Almost as if changing shifts,
The light too dim for swallows,
Then the bats pick up the slack,

Their turn to hunt down the bugs?
But this is anecdotal,
This one instance with the ducks.

Regular observations
Recorded night after night
Might establish a pattern,

But it’s highly unlikely.
The old battle of the mind
With the world—the mind leaps out

At the slightest possible
Observation of pattern,
Then the world does something else.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Scenic Route

There’s a tree along the scenic route
That’s clearly getting busy dying.
Could be a long process, regardless.

It surveys the surrounding forest.
Go ahead. Anthropomorphize it.
It wants to see as much as it can.

There’s a truck driven by a wide man
Carefully unloading a dumpster,
Carefully extracting a dumpster,

Then reloading the empty dumpster
And sliding it where the full one was,
Then reloading the full-up dumpster

And driving off, past the dying tree,
Down the scenic route, down the mountain,
Down to the desert transfer station

To offload the full-up dumpster’s trash
Acquired on top of the mountain.
Go ahead. Anthropomorphize it.

The weekly ritual of the truck
That changes out the mountain dumpsters,
It wants to carry on forever.

The clearly dying tree understands,
But it also holds a secret wish
That it will keep dying long enough

To outlast the dumpster ritual,
At least for another winter, once
Unplowed snows close down the scenic route.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Dirt

Or the soil, the ground, the earth.
The opposite of meaning—
Either be a transcendent

Meaning, or only the earth.
Es war Erde in ihnen.
Nothing but dirt inside them,

And so dirt gains its meanings,
In some cases, as stand-in
For meaninglessness, opposed

To meaningful transcendence,
Purposeful intelligence,
The universe of intent.

Well, the term at least. Not real
Dirt, actual soil, bare ground,
Solid earth. Capitalists,

Farmers, builders, homesteaders
Constructing rammed-earth houses—
They attend to soil as soil,

And of course it has meaning.
You could stare at a patch now.
Give it your full attention

Like a child who wants to dig,
A potter hunting for clay.
Feel how your meanings find it.