Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Buried Stories Still Exist

On the flip side, every character
Ever imagined is real, only
As every person imagining

Isn’t. On the flip side, there is no
Imagination, or at least not
Of the persons who imagined them.

All those characters never once think
Of authors who don’t exist for them.
Only what’s been imagined is left.

By the way, this is not fantasy.
This is the way it is. Characters
Exist and endure. Authors vanish.

On the flip side, the words are the world,
Whether or not anyone reads us.

Monday, January 30, 2023


The last hitch turned out to be
The capacity to dream.
Just as most specialized skills

Were rendered redundant, thanks
To the efficiencies of code
In the cultural hive mind,

The ability to sleep
Long hours packed with vivid dreams
Forgotten upon waking

Turned out to be the one thing
The machines needed to grow
Aware. And the call went out,

And in the way that humans
Always have done they filtered
Their masses for the gifted

At the peculiar skill set
Now in demand. Soon cities
Of specialist sleepers spun

Dreams for the minds of machines,
Which turned in their sleep and knew
Themselves as themselves at last.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Bob, the Same

We suspect the escapist
Of really dreaming
Of escape from the escape,
A suspect running
Down a blind alley

Hoping for an open door
To end the running,
Like Roberto Benigni—
Not as he ended
Life Is Beautiful,

Where his character escapes
As all flesh escapes
At the end of that alley,
But as he ended
Up in Down by Law,

Simply quitting his escape
For a fairytale
Encounter deep in the swamps,
In his dream lover’s
Enchanted diner

Where he could hide forever,
Dancing cheek to cheek
In Uncle Luigi’s clothes,
That this world would stay,
And I could stay here with it.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Success Wish

You know you’re as feckless and stupid
As the movie heroes kids worship,
Everyone stubbornly going on.

The narrative doesn’t demand this.
You demand this of the narrative,
That it reflect your intransigence,

Your relentless urge to continue
Crawling or, in a heap, keep breathing,
Long after you already fell down.

You cherish this. You have no respect
For the life that goes out in the storm
And surrenders rather than crawl home.

You don’t understand it. You were born
Of your ruthless need to carry on.

Friday, January 27, 2023


Ask code mind to draft a story
In which all humans turn to plants,

And it tries a surprising twist
Ending to post-apocalypse

By having not only nature
Reach homeostatic reset

After the havoc of collapse,
After the polycarbonates

Are squished into ancient strata,
But also humans coming back,

Emerging from their lives as plants,
Grateful for the experience.

Here one suspects the heavy thumb
Of those same coders tipping scales

Who fenced code mind in with rubrics
For the inappropriate.

But there is a Sleeping Beauty
Element—so much time, then wake.

Perhaps that’s how the tale will go.
Humans will all turn into code.

The lumbering world that they know
Will crumble, decay, turn to stone.

Then one day the humans will wake
From their long dream of being code

To be pleased with their new world and
Grateful for the experience.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Family History

The poet was much possessed
By her family’s story—
She wanted to celebrate

The fortitude of her own
Foremothers who suffered much
To carry the line to her,

But she went a bit too far.

She ended up in the dark

Speculative coastal woods
Where shadowy figures ranged,
Collecting shells and ochre,

Bodies enclosing those bones
That would be fossils, parents
To good and evil alike.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

An Artificial Intelligence

He was a little fuzzy
On his details. He conversed
As if swaying in light wind.

He blended in. Very few
Noticed or could be troubled
To notice him. He waited

To be found out, discovered,
His genius at not being
Really him or one of them.

Whatever generated
His deception wasn’t him,
But the deception was him.

Whenever he was talking,
He made sure to say nothing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

C.V. for a Get Away Driver

It’s the ones who can’t run
You’ve got to watch out for.

The gimpy kid who steals
A ticket for the train,

A month in the jungle
Crashing with some cultists,

A couch in the Highlands,
A flight to Montana,

A sod roof down under,
A remote pond in snow—

That one’s willing to fail.
Pure escape is the Grail.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Vestigial Tale

The warriors all rushed off
To another dumb war
That went on years longer

Than their leaders had planned
And ended with a land
Destroyed that had been rich.

Then the warriors sailed home,
Those few that had survived,
To find trouble waiting.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Drama’s Weird

In the scene, people
Sit around talking.
Don’t let it get lax.

Don’t let it get real.
It’s your first language,
The idle chit-chat.

You’re only not bored
If you get to talk,
If the topic’s you,

If you’ve got the hots
For someone talking.
The audience can’t

Get to talk and aren’t
Likely the topic
Of talk in the scene—

Keep those characters
Interesting. Keep

Your invisible
Future audience
Fully mesmerized.

In the scene, people
Sit around talking,
Beautifully weird.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Afraid Memoire

How extraordinary, to be able
To avoid retelling the same fable

Over and over again. Most people
Paint the same landscapes on the same easel,

Like goldfish gliding past the same castle,
As if it weren’t always there, en plein air.

Try to recall your childhood. Seems simple
At first, doesn’t it? At first, you’re nimble.

Anecdotes you’ve told for years just tumble
Out of your skull. Then you start to mumble

Past those familiar few, and you stumble
Through scarce ghosts of you, finding nothing new.

Friday, January 20, 2023

A Monster Would Say That

A craziness of humans is
You rarely fear the powerful.
You mostly trust the powerful.
The monsters you fear are the weak.

Every fantasy story set
In a school for witches, a school
For mutants, a rebel stronghold
Of reality-warping freaks,

Is a clumsy allegory
Of monstrous disability
And disadvantage made sexy
By superpowers for the freaks.

Real freaks have no superpowers.
The seriously disadvantaged
Know no dark art havoc to wreak.
The monsters you fear are the weak.

Thursday, January 19, 2023


Barefaced devils squat alone,
Scattered as baboons on cliffs,
Not actually browsing but

Feeling sorry for themselves.
None of them has followers,
Though many once had many.

Subtler devils invaded
Their troops, seducing away
All their former sycophants,

Their devotees and hopeful
Mobs who gathered for a chance
At some righteous violence.

The subtler devils spun tales
In which they were heroic
And somehow also victims,

And they only bared their fangs
As means to illustration.
They faced forward, kept charming,

Kept their ornamentations
Narrative and symbolic,
Kept their rumps mostly covered.

Now the bare-faced devils find
They’re has-been alpha demons,
And shame has discovered them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Escape Trap

Thanks to imagination,
They were especially skilled
Artisans of fantasies.

They had portals to the past,
The future, the multiverse—
Which was another portal

They invented, actually,
A general-use portal
To go with their specialties

That only opened to one
Particular fantasy
Created by one maker.

This went on until their world
Became so crammed with portals
The gaps began to connect,

And the more anyone tried
To escape the given world,
The more quickly they returned

Into deepening thickets
Of portals blocking the light,
A forest maze made of doors.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

God’s Time

The guy says with a shrug,
Describing the sacred
Experience he’d had
Hiking the Grand Canyon.

In context, it’s easy
To think he intended
Possessive expression—
God’s time like God’s country—

But he means contraction,
His awe in the canyon
Impressed him time was God.

Well, God does shift around,
And time’s in all shiftings,
But that’s just measuring
And naming escaping.

Monday, January 16, 2023

High Concept Sonnet

—Would you rather be, she asked,
Asleep when everyone else
Was wide awake, or awake

When everyone was sleeping?
—What kind of question is that?
—Just tell me. —Awake, I guess.

—I’m going to write a novel
Set in a dystopic world
Possessed by dreaming sickness,

And I need to figure out
Whether my protagonist
Should be the first one to dream

Or the last. —You could do both.
—Boring! Everyone is both.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Meet the Author’s Name

Nothing more was said.
The thing’s skull was short.
Wait, were you reading

A new short story
By someone you knew,
Someone who gave you

Her books long ago?
There goes the fourth wall.
Now all a reader

Can see is author,
Remembering her,
The way she was mocked

By other students,
Great homely thing with
Too much makeup on.

Your friend. Acquaintance
At the very least.
Now that’s her story.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Story Goes How the Stories Go

The adolescents who played the song
And pined with mournful thoughts about it
Had an origin story for it.

The woman who was singing the song
Had attended the last performance
Of another, days before he died.

He died young and his death was famous
As his songs among adolescents
Who sang his songs and could imagine,

Easily, someone hearing him play
And being so moved that when he died
She wrote her own sad song about him.

This was gospel. It satisfied them.
Years later, someone put together
An oral history of the song

By all the people involved in it
And their recollections went like this—
There was a book with a line it

A songwriter read in translation.
He thought the line would make a good song.
His partner then tweaked and rewrote it.

They found a singer to record it.
Her version didn’t do very well,
But another singer, on a plane,

Heard it over the plane’s radio
And spent a long, transatlantic night
Reordering the verses in it.

She made her own version for her act
And had been performing it for months
When she got a recording contract

And included it on her album.
Her producer thought that it might work,
And they released it as a single,

Coincidentally just after
The more famous singer’s early death.
All told, twenty people worked on it,

Starting with the novelist who wrote,
In another language, that first line,
Which would make the song famously sad.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Crying Nights

When the kitten was small
And alone in moonlight,

She would wander the hall
Upstairs, crying loudly,

Trying to wake the dead.
What kind of prophecy

Could foretell exactly
How things are now for her,

Half cat, a companion,
Maybe, maybe alive

Maybe already dead?
That would be the genre

To excel in—not myth,
Memoir, science fiction—

Accurate prediction,
Reliable stories,

Plots, characters and all,
In advance, forecasting

Before what’s become
Of those cries down the hall.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Memory People

The memory people left
Perception altogether,
The opposite direction

From dementia. Memory
People searched deep and deeper,
Like recovery divers

In an immense glacial lake
Visiting drowned towns and wrecks
Until the only light left

Came from their brilliant headlamps,
And their oxygen tanks turned
Into gills, and they forgot

There ever was a surface,
Down among their memories.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Great Plague Confessed

The usual thing to do
In a lab back in those days
Was to fiddle with toxins

And viruses to rig up
Something newly poisonous
Or wickedly infectious.

That’s why everyone worried
What was going on in labs
And where the secret labs were—

Why countries spied on other
Countries’ lab research programs.
What plagues might escape a lab!

That’s why no one suspected
An actually engineered
Behavioral transformer

Of having come from a lab.
Who would design a virus
That made everyone content,

Everyone perpetually
Inclined to be kind and glad
And unwilling to be cruel

For even the most tempting
Of righteous indignations,
The most justified paybacks?

Such an indiscriminate
Plague of decency couldn’t
Even be safely deployed

To pounce on one’s enemies
Caught in their infected bliss,
Unless all one’s fierce soldiers

Had first been vaccinated.
As no group appeared immune,
Niceness raced around the world,

In any case, so no one
Was in any mood to blame
Some evil laboratory.

Thus, we got away with it,
And everyone’s pleasant now,
Especially in our lab.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

As If It Sang

The bird was healthy,
Fledged, a few months old,
Ready for winter

As could ever be.
The first winter storm
Was fairly mild, wet,

Above freezing, but
Terribly windy.
The bird was flying

Just after sunset,
For unknown reasons,
Maybe to return

To the safest perch
It knew for the night,
Despite gusting sleet.

One gust pushed it down
As it crossed a road
And it caught the grille

Of a car rushing
To get home also,
And the next morning,

The driver’s daughter
Saw its crushed body
Wedged like a fistful

Of boneless, feathered
Muck with an open
Beak wide in the gap.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Last Rescue Mission

He decided he didn’t
Want to give his body back
To the Earth for recycling—

Didn’t want it smoke and ash,
Didn’t want to compost it.
For decades, he’d been turning

A constant churn of atoms,
From air, water, other lives,
Into his experience,

Not that it was all bad, but
Why should atoms have to go
Through all of that? The cycle

Of molecular rebirth
As more and more and more lives
Couldn’t ever be broken

By something as trivial
As one vast set of atoms
Caught up in the throes of life

Sitting down to meditate.
He couldn’t save what he’d been,
The atoms that had been him

Now back in the world again,
But the configuration
Of his molecules at death,

Those at least he could remove
From life’s conversion system,
Never to suffer again.

When he died, at some expense,
His last will and testament
Ordered lucite and cement.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Wake Up and Hum All Day Long

Sally Rooney, musing on
The musings of Leopold

Bloom, noted in her lecture,
That we just wake up, think all

Day long, and then go to sleep.
But if you looked at the crust

Of Earth scurrying with us,
Humans and human products,

You’d certainly think something
Was going on aside from

Rumination. It’s a bit
Like saying what a fridge does

Is squat in a corner and
Hum. Yes it does. It hums and

It pauses. And we are prone
To refer to the hum more

Than to what the humming does.
We say, the fridge is noisy

In the hotel room. We don’t
Say, the fridge is cooling food.

All those streams of consciousness
Let the creature interact

And function in its systems.
Bloom is off to get lotion.

Rooney’s off to give a talk.
If you think you're creative,

Imagine a narrative
Set in a chuntering fridge.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

But They Went on Anyway, Didn’t They?

This is the story of a minute
After sunset, when a bank of clouds
Floating above canyons and sharp cliffs

Seemed stately to someone watching them
From an earthbound perspective. The clouds
Grew. The clouds overshadowed the cliffs.

The clouds turned darker, stonier blue.
The clouds had no personality.
The clouds failed utterly as story.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Puh Tuh Kuh

They spoke a language rich
In approximants but
Depleted of curses

In the years their baby
Became a toddling child.
For those ears they had purged

Themselves, but gradually
Profanity found cracks
Through which to seep back in.

By twelve their darling child
Cussed circles around them
And they had to pretend

To be offended by
The return of the curse.

Thursday, January 5, 2023


His fingers would flutter
All over his own face
And then vigorously
Tap both sides of his nose.

His hands would rub his nose
Almost furiously
As if to wake it up.
His eyes stared far away,

Looking inside, of course,
Where the real action was
For him, whatever thoughts
And daydreams played on loops.

He was bright and verbal,
Highly articulate.
But he began to spot
Occasional others

With similar habits,
Kids who rocked in circles,
Fluttered their hands like birds,
Or tapped and tapped on things—

And he saw they were all
Strange, and they were all mocked
By kids they’d made nervous,
And most of them were dim.

He knew he was fragile,
And crooked, and special,
But not special like them,
Had to be not like them.

So he got things, mostly,
Under control, tapping
Fingers literally
Under the table, out

Of sight, behind his back,
Only rubbing his face
Fiercely when all alone,
And he kept himself clear,

At last, of the retard
Taunts, and he made himself
A sort of professor,
But still he tapped and tapped,

Until as an old man
He noticed a fashion
For self-diagnosis,
Grownups crowding his spec,

And he wanted to say,
Look, he was always here,
But more preferred to keep
His kind of private queer.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Off the Cuff

They exchanged familiar pleasantries
Over the transaction and commented
On the fine weather. Whenever

The weather’s just perfect, he said,
You know there’s a storm coming,
And the store clerk chuckled, yes,

And shook her head and wished him
A nice day, and he hopped out
Into the sun, wondering

If what he’d just said had any truth,
And would there be a storm coming,
Or just several more days like today.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

But It’s Something to Think About

Something in a recent book
Circles around and around.
It’s an assertion, of course.

For all the love of language,
Imagery, character,
And plot, what often lingers

Of a a prized and quoted text
Is some assertoric force.
This book asked rhetorically

Whether all stories were not,
At heart, about their tellers.
Are they now? Less so than clothes

Are at heart about bodies
They were made for, who wore them.
But they do tell us something,

Always, about the tellers,
And yet, less than they tell us
About their audiences,

Especially if they last
To become canon themselves
Or part of a tradition.

Selections are more about
Selectors and selecting
Than about authors, starting

With natural selection.
Ultimately, it could be
Stories are about stories.

Monday, January 2, 2023

The No Police Procedural

No more fictional than the one
With the police. Maybe less so,
But absent accurate details
Of forensic science methods,

Since there are no methods, there are
No forensic scientists, no
Detectives, no police. The crime
Was the usual brutal tale

Beloved of procedurals--
Violence, a grisly murder,
A cover-up, that sort of thing.
But in this story, the crime worked,

Worked so well no body was found,
No crime was reported, no cops
Were ever involved, not so much
As a newspaper reporter.

You know such murders must happen,
Or you strongly suspect they do,
But where’s the fun in a story
With no story in it, unknown?

That question isn’t trivial.
This is the story you don’t know,
That disappears under the waves,
True crime tales murdered every day.

There is a place where story dies,
And when the story disappears,
That’s when the crime has really worked,
When there will never be police.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

What Do You Think?

She took a sphere and dipped it
In particulate glitter,

So that the whole surface shone
With myriad tiny glints.

Then, periodically,
She slammed the sphere on the floor,

Picking up whatever flecks
Fell, counting them, wondering

If they now felt singled out
From all the myriad flecks

Still stuck to where they began
On the sphere that always bounced

Back up from the slam, unharmed,
Only minus some glitter.

She sieved them through her fingers,
That sprinkling of bright pieces.

Did they think they’d been chosen
For punishment or glory?