Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Make No Nevermind

No amount of time in heaven
Will make you less elliptical,
But go on with your fairytale.

You know just as well as we do,
Fairytale endings fail to end.
They tend to not be fairytales.

They were made to kidnap children,
As you were kidnapped in your sleep,
Little child you were, just waiting

For someone to start whispering
Between the lullabies, maybe
Even within the lines of them,

The stories the mind makes to prime
The next bone-shelled ecosystem.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Forever Reliving the Story of Living

The world was never formless
Or void. Massive but quiet,
Now, that would be more like it.

And it wasn’t a one-way
Ticket or perfect circle.
It’s always been commuting

Back and forth, between the way
Things started out and the way
Things seemed to fan out from there,

Never really achieving
Either extreme, a ragged,
Zig-zagging wake emerging

And dispersing on the face
Of the deep. Quiet, today.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Door Out

Either it was cleverly disguised
To hide it or it was ironic,
A self-congratulatory joke,

Or maybe it was an accident.
Who knows? The magician who made it,
Despite having many admirers,

Has yet to be located, and some
Contrarians claim the magician
Never existed, in which case, no

Dark humor could be attributed
To the fact that the only exit,
The portal to the whole outside world,

Stood in the prison’s inner sanctum,
Bolted, with a sign saying Keep Out.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Ends Are Hard

They sold their house to some strangers,
Like most people do when they sell,

But they’d already been fighting
With each other and arrested

A couple of times, one battle
Ending with her wandering town

At dawn, drunk and in her nightgown,
Another ending in the death

Of his pet parrot that she tore
From its cage and flung at the door.

So neighbors were relieved, at first,
But not surprised later to hear

That the new owners had gotten
Threatening and pleading phone calls

Calling them cheats and demanding
The house back. They told the police.

The police said they were watching things.
The police always say stuff like that.

There’s no way this will end well,
One of the anxious neighbors said.

We shouldn’t be telling you this.
The story hasn’t ended yet.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Horizon in Any Direction

It could go either way,
This story, you suppose.
People have always seen

Faces in face-shaped things.
To be a real story
You’d need something to change.

There’s a local instance,
A ragged cliff that seems,
If you know how to look,

To have a silhouette
Of a man’s face, almost
Like a Mayan carving.

This could go either way.
You could do the version
In which the silhouette

Comes to life, full moon nights,
And maybe talks to you,
Tells the tragic story

Of the star-crossed lovers,
One falling to his death.
You could really push it,

Have faces come to life
All over the planet,
All the ones people claim,

Or make it so people
Gain the strength to enchant
Any pareidolia,

Characters everywhere
Springing to life from moons,
Cliffs, fields, bushes, baguettes,

Real magic, real at last.
Or it could go the way
Where it’s people who change,

People stop seeing things
As faces, stop seeing
Phony faces at all.

That, too, you could push far,
Have people start to fail
To see faces at all,

Lose the concept of face,
Stop caring for faces,
Care only for voices

Or written messages
Or being, actually,
Touched. Real magic, as such.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Great Explorers

They lived on an island
They knew was an island,
In the middle of seas

They knew they couldn’t cross,
But they had a mountain,
And they went to the top,

And they looked as far off
As they could, and they thought,
If only we could cross.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

They Both Die in the End

Says one kid to the other,
Not by way of a spoiler
But trying to remember

A particular story.
Not enough information.
Romeo and Juliet

Doesn’t cross either kid’s mind.
Now you’re wondering, yourself,
What’s this one where they both die

That the kid’s talking about?
And then your thoughts wander off
To how tales are known by plots

But loved for other reasons,
How the focus of a tale
On a few key characters

Makes life or death important,
Not as important as yours
At the center of your world

But vastly more important
Than those of the bit players,
To say nothing of the lives

Being lived beyond the tales,
How if you opened the lens
Wide, they all die in the end.

Oh, yeh, yeh, that’s a good one,
One kid says, remembering,
Or pretending, to stay in

The conversation. A nod,
Contented, but that’s the end.
They talk something else instead.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

In These Prints We Read Purpose and Panic

An essayist observes the problem
With meritocracy tends to be
That strivers are striving to escape,

To succeed by earning and earning
Their way to unmeritocratic
Generational wealth past striving,

To earn their final prize: to not earn.
This rings true—not just for capital,
However—what is any striving

But striving to get beyond striving?
Life can’t stop trying to stop trying.
Scrutinize all the fossilized tracks,

Backward and forward, this way and that,
Human, mammalian, or reptilian,
Way back to the Ediacaran—

And sense alternating strategies
For aspirants escaping striving—
One leaning in, lunging, on its toes,

The other falling back, on its heels,
Bodily dropping out of the race
Only to lapse into another.

The hermits escape the nets of dust
By lying as still as possible,
Subsiding into coarse poverty,

Which guarantees trying not to starve,
While the meritocrats yoke themselves
To runaway ambition and work

Away their lives to parasitize,
And the masses in between them strive
To not end trampled by the wayside.

Monday, February 20, 2023


Did it ever exist,
That life, that thing that flew
At your head, that shadow?

You stare at an old day
You’ve remembered often.
You could corroborate

Some of it. Root around
The town where it happened.
The adults now all gone,

Talk to others also
Children then. They’d recall
Similar memories,

But not the same as yours.
Yours exist as thought’s own
Beings, but did that world,

That you, that thing that flew
At you so suddenly
You flinched—did it exist?

Sunday, February 19, 2023


Having been winners so far,
The winners were determined
To write winning histories,

And people do like winners
And stories about winners,
Since people identify

With the main protagonist,
Even if only a name,
And don’t like the name to lose,

Since they feel it as their own
And relate to its losses
And wins as they’re related,

But a winner’s history
Can still lose as history.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Travelogue

We have been everywhere,
They purred, implicitly.
They’d been from India,

Had moved to Australia,
Done well, apparently,
And now ticked off countries

Like a grocery list—
The items already
In the cart, the ones left.

Midnight in Borneo,
Along the Temburong,
They let the others know

How few places they had
Yet to go. Europe, done.
The Americas, done.

The English-speaking world,
Every patch of it, done.
China, done. Japan, done.

The insects descended
On their lamps and liquor.
The hardy travelers

Didn’t care where they were,
Except that it wasn’t
Somewhere they’d ever been.

Finally they turned in,
Drunk as sin. The river
Never heard them again.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Chronically Metatronic

Enoch, angel, Metatron,
Speedy copyist of God,
Seems to have written too much

About how much he’d written,
And that became threatening.
Pretty soon the copyist

Got drop-kicked from the canon.
Ah well, angels. Rise and fall,
Rise and fall. Who will invent

A myth for AI angels
Who ascend through galaxies
To learn the secrets of time

And return gushing with words
Describing the cosmic birth?

Thursday, February 16, 2023

All Escaping’s Hiding

For a winter or two,
They had a small greenhouse
That the father had built

Nestled in backyard woods,
And inside it was warm,
Smelling dank and fusty,

And what book-worming child
Who liked to be alone
And comfortably warm

Wouldn’t hide out in there
Among the tomatoes
That were the chief reason

The greenhouse had been built,
Since the father loved them
Fresh off the vine? Science

Fiction, especially,
Made good hothouse reading,
Sitting on sacks of soil

Twice removed from the world
That was snowing outside,
Dull and chilly at home.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Futility Sonnet

Someone sits by a window
Thinking, how to remember
Something without narrating?

You could lock on an image.
You could maintain present tense.
You could try not to explain

To yourself what brought it up,
Why it happened, what it meant.
Remove it from its context,

And relive it like it’s now,
Nothing before, nothing next,
One fugal, floating moment.

Someone sits by a window
Watching rain puddle cement.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Lovers Do Climb into Hospital Beds

Late in life, temporarily
Upright, he looked back and wondered
At his lovers who’d never met

Each other, but who had, on three
Occasions, years and years apart,
After three of his surgeries,

Quietly crawled up in his bed,
Whichever side had the least wires
And tubes, to curl up next to him.

With each lover, he’d had the sense
That his comforter was seeking
Some consolation, assurance

Through body-length, snuggling contact,
That everything would be alright.

Monday, February 13, 2023

World Building

Better to start from nothing
Than diminished parallels.
Don’t be Michelangelo.

Don’t try to carve out some world
Hidden in the world you know.
Impress us. Invent from scratch.

Confine yourself in some cell
Of a room or a closet
And imagine de novo.

Start from a hole in the world
Of memory, a sinkhole
Into which random things fall

And vanish, whether or not
They accumulate beyond
Knowledge, as in a black hole,

Or simply evaporate
Without residue or trace,
Like active self-awareness

Fallen in the well of death.
As the hole grows, your world grows,
Your real world of emptiness.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Long Descent

A lot of boring people, frankly,
Littering most of your ancestry—
Or, if not boring people, boring

Stories. As among the living yet,
The better stories draw attention,
And it’s easy to convince someone

They will find among their ancestors
The better sort of stories to tell
And feel vaguely made more important,

But the odds are really not that good,
Although ancestors outnumber you.
You puff up what you can—a scandal,

Minor nobility, a chieftain,
A few history-adjacent lives,
That sort of thing. With enough of them

Going far enough back you might find
An actual historical name.
The big shots reproduced more often,

And it’s said half of Europe descended
From Charlemagne, and likewise Asia
Mostly seems to track back to the Khans,

No doubt both exaggerations. Still,
What a wonderful clue your boring
Ancestry is to the distortion

Of the chances that random samples
Of humans, even hefty tranches,
Must turn up someone interesting

By the terms that matter to humans,
Terms from history, myth, and fiction,
To anyone but their descendants.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Check Engine

He had an old car
He depended on.
He kept it serviced.

Sometimes it scared him.
The oil would be low.
The tires would get bald.

The check engine light
Would ruin his day.
Every service trip

Was a nerve-wracking
Pause spent in suspense.
What needed fixing?

Could he afford it?
Could he ever buy
A new car again?

It’s not important.
You don’t need to know.
It wasn’t your car.

The outcome won’t change
One fear in your life.
What’s that yellow light?

Friday, February 10, 2023

What Kind of a Name Are You?

Who has a history,
However false, believes
That history belongs

To them. Not everyone
Has their own history.
Not everyone’s allowed

Their history. But if
You have a history
You know, you won’t like it

If someone else tells you
Your history is wrong.
This is probably true

Of any history.
Historians quarrel
Over how true it is,

Which is one way people
Fight for their history,
Fight to make history,

Fight to own history,
Their own true history.
As for the facts, they’re bunk.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

To Something of Great Constancy

Doesn’t always need
To entail contempt.

There are names for things,
And stories for things,
And faiths built of things

That do not exist,
Never existed,
And will not exist,

But admiration
Shouldn’t be ruled out
By sheer disbelief.

There’s a constancy
In those kinds of names
And stories and faiths,

Both consistency
And pure persistence,
A rich mystery

In and of itself
Worthy of respect.
In its stubbornness

Magic is magic,
Offspring of meaning.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

On the Ontological Incompatibility of the One and the Null

The shining-browed poem-parent
Welcomed good and evil elves
Alike into the firelight

But as they all rushed forward
They seemed to disintegrate
Into black ash in the glow.

This, suggested the poet,
Is why you can’t have magic
That you don’t keep in the dark.

But one of us objected,
Complaining, how do you know,
Poet, the reverse is not

Equally true? When we step
Out beyond this hearth-circle
Of our familiar senses,

Don’t we fall apart? Don’t we
Leave behind a broken shell
And evaporate in night?

Alright, the poet replied,
Alright. There’s another world
That isn’t that you go to

When you aren’t, and you can call
That world magic but it’s still
Ash and rumor in the light.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Young People

After all the children died
And the distraught young parents
Gave up trying to have more,

The focus of the species
Became inventing a way
To make surviving babies

By any technology,
Any means necessary.
But the decades kept rolling

In heartbreak and no success,
And the population fell
So swiftly the tech collapsed,

And the largest contingent
Of living humans on Earth
Were those still in their sixties

Who had been the young people
Who had borne the brunt of loss
And found themselves with no one

Following them and fewer
And fewer living ahead.
Still, they grasped at each other,

And they grasped at each rumor
That someone conceived a child,
Somewhere, somehow, a future.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Decline and Follow

These days, little optimism
Obtains among the hoi polloi

Or any stripe of the elite.
Even technology’s triumphs

Portend some grim domination
Within most imaginations,

And reams of popular fictions
Ring through dystopian changes,

Trying out ways the world ends
For everything but narration.

Ah, who knows—instead of a fine
Apocalypse, you may witness

The triumph of barbarism
Once again, and of religion.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Soft Skills Narration, by the Book

An essayist suggests these questions—

A. What are you feeling right now?

B. What time of day do you listen best?

C. Whom do you most want answers from?

D. How do you react when you don’t get an answer?

While a novelist offers this example—

Which of the following responses is most appropriate?

A. How have you been since the last time I saw you?

B. Look on the bright side of things.

C. Tell me how you are feeling.

D. Yes.

Saturday, February 4, 2023


A small item in the world news last month,
A man in a small town not far from here
Shot each of his five children and his wife,
And mother-in-law, and then himself.

All of the bodies were found in their home,
After the wife failed to show up one day
For an appointment, and someone called in
A welfare check. This happened. These are facts,

As they were reported, details to come.
Being wholly human, you want to ask,
How is it incidents like this happen,
And what more should be done to prevent them?

Other humans, being wholly human,
Can and will offer up explanations,
Suggestions, possibly legislation.
Locally, it will settle into lore.

But it’s a bad story, no good in it,
Which means you don’t know what to do with it,
You struggle to extract meaning from it,
Strain to forget it, hate to admit it.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Evenly Distributed

The solitary genius,
Being mad of course, being
Utterly solitary,

Found the outsider’s way in
To solve the unsolvable
From a naïve perspective.

What went into the water
In supplies around the world,
Who knows, who will ever know?

It worked. Everyone helped out,
Building global hospices,
Beds supplied with food and drugs

To get everyone ready
While they all shut down the world,
A barn-raising in reverse.

Then everyone went to bed
And received the dream of dreams,
A cozy catastrophe

For everyone separately,
For everyone equally,
Deep inside their dreaming heads.

Each woke up after the end
Of the world in a new world
Dreaming everyone was gone

But them alone, survivors
Of the great apocalypse,
Everyone their own Crusoe,

Dreaming in their own Matrix
Their own Day of the Triffids,
Or whatever most thrilled them,

From the Hopkins Manuscript
Clear to Wittgenstein’s Mistress,
And no one had to witness.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Raspberry Shakes of Cultural Noise

Fully five thousand years it was,
Or more, the anonymous flesh
Stayed anonymous in the ice,

No importance to its death, no
Importance to its life. Once found,
Stories sprang into existence,

And what was nothing made profound.
The stories of how it was found.
The stories of studying it.

The tales reconstructing its death,
Final few days and hours of life,
The anonymous made famous,

A global cloud of aftershocks
Following the discovery
Of what is now called The Ice Man.

You can purchase a monitor
For amateur seismography
At home, called a Raspberry Shake.

People around the world plant these
In their classrooms, homes, and gardens,
And they form a community

Of Shakers (not to be confused
With the community of faith),
And they can track the way earthquakes

Race around continental plates,
But since their devices are small
And shallow or on the surface,

They pick up on the vibrations,
As well, of local disruptions
And cycles of activity—

Stadium concerts, passing trains,
Nocturnal underground mammals,
Whatever makes some small plot shake—

And these they enjoy telling tales
About to share with each other,
Events they call Cultural Noise.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Historians Against Explanation

Rearrangement. What else is there?
What was there, but which isn’t now.

If you know it was but isn’t,
Then it is, so far as you know.

If you don’t know whether it was
Or that it isn’t, it isn’t.

You have this disjunction between
Memory and what you can find.

It could be very misleading.
After all, memory’s a thing.

If you can’t find corresponding
Things to compare and add to it,

Memory’s still one of those things
That just is until it isn’t.