Friday, March 31, 2023

Discontinued Product Line

The matte-black lampshade
Looks stylish by day,
Offering contrast

In glowing sunlight,
But ugly later
When the lights are on.

As for when it’s night
And all lights are off,
It looks like a bat

Or like a vampire
Caught halfway morphing
Back from being bat.

How many of these
Were manufactured,
Shipped around the world,

Picked as standard gear
For cookie-cutter
Furnishings in flats?

Who sat down to draw
At a pad or screen
And designed this bat?

Who bought the idea?
Who sourced the metals,
Designed production,

Assigned the workers?
There’s a catalogue
Somewhere, and no doubt,

Displaying thousands
Of lampshade designs.
Does anyone point

To this one and say,
To impress someone,
That’s one I designed?

Thursday, March 30, 2023


Could you, if you wanted to,
Pick out one fractured cobble
Of decorative gravel

In xeriscaped landscaping
And study it to the point
Where its uniqueness killed you?

Scrutinizing arrangements
Of broken black, dun, and gray
Making variegated

Swooping patterns surrounding
A desert subdivision
Punctuated by saplings,

You doubt there’s any fossils,
And you know that there’s no ore.
The sandstones and basalt chunks

Are as homogeneous
As repeated processes
Of extrusion, weathering,

Layering, and eroding
Can manage. But pick one up,
A palm-sized, porous gray lump

Like all the others around.
Peer at it like Yorick’s skull.
Try to make some sense of it.

Keep trying. It’s just a rock.
Get beyond labeling it
Igneous, metamorphic.

When it starts speaking to you,
When you could recognize it
From across a crowded room,

That rock will be meaningful,
Abiotic as it is,
And meaning will just slay you.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Pay Attention Before It’s Too Late

Bottle of lotion, bottle
Of soap—eye them thinking don’t

Mix them up, don’t wash your face
With the lotion. That’s nothing

Much, though. Recall the anecdote
Loved by your long-deceased spouse

About the time her roommate
From Australia mistook cream

For some malady—itching,
Yeast, hemorrhoids, one of those—

For a tube of toothpaste. Yuck.
Consider how much better,

How much funnier your spouse
Was telling stories like those.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Unfulfilled Ambitions

You eat a small bag
Of potato chips,
And that’s all you do.

No music’s playing.
No one’s in the room.
No book is open.

No screens are glowing.
You’re just attending
To slowly eating

The potato chips,
Attempting to give
Them full attention,

Although, as soon as
You think of that word,
Attempting, your mind

Wanders off to things
Unattempted yet
In prose or rhyme. Tempt.

Attempt. Temptation.
To handle, test, try.

You stop noticing
The potato chips
Long before they’re gone.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Redirecting the Light

The binoculars
Rest so quietly
On the corner shelf

Accepting the dust
That settles skin cells,
Fine sand grains, dust mites,

It’s almost startling
To think the lenses
Are always working

No differently than
When held to your eyes.
Photons wander in,

Pass through, bounce back out.
If the shelf had eyes
They would see the world

As from the bottom
Of dolly zoom well.
Those lenses won’t quit.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

A House of Mute Rebuke

Two mops and a broom
Lean against the wall
Of a room that looks
In need of sweeping
And mopping but soon.

What, no closet? No
Utility room
To stash them? Or did
You plan to use them
And now leave them out

To remind yourself
You shouldn’t forget?
Your life is littered
With such reminders,
The DIY scolds

And nags of a soul
Who’s mostly alone
With no one to poke
At you to do chores.
House of mute rebukes

Is what you call home.
Well, not really home.
Roof over your head.
You’d prefer an inn,
Each day swept again.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Fabled Ghost Chair

White paint’s been flaking off the straight-backed chair.
No one living here remembers from where
Or when the chair first appeared. It’s just there,

Just a mass-manufactured wooden chair
That might have been bought with a set somewhere,
Maybe with a table once, but who cares?

It sits in a corner now, solitaire,
A match for the white and off-white wall there.
Careful! It will smudge whatever you wear.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Where’d You Go?

The beheaded stress-reliever
Squeezie toy sat in two pieces
By this window a month ago.

Where have the parts gotten to now?
You could still squeeze head or torso—
One in each hand. Still functional.

But there’s something about the torn.
Someone never wants that around.
There’s ugliness in the broken,

Even inanimate, even
Functional, and maybe more so
Toys. And do you really miss them?

No, maybe not. But by the time
You do or don’t, gone things are gone.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Interior with a View of Homework

There’s a sketchbook on the table,
Melusine drawn in pencil
As a symbiotic woman

Fish in mutualistic
Relation to fairy cleaner
Fish who feast on parasitic

Sea lice in her radiant scales.
It’s art for a science project
On interspecies relations

Drawn by a fairy-minded girl,
Practically an allegory,
Not so much ecological

As for how humans dream a world.
The sketch is elegant, detailed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


The stuffed bird has a plastic eye.
That somehow stares out beadily,
Probably thanks to the crescent

Of dust settled on it, so that
It seems to be swiveled to look
At you slightly suspiciously.

What would you do, what would you be,
Without so much seeming of things?
Every time you look up at it,

Before you disabuse yourself
Of your pathetic fallacy,
That black plastic eye’s staring back.

That half-shell of black plastic bead,
No part of life, in you’s alive.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


It’s filled with air and only
A few drops of the sparkling
Water that you bought it for.

It is now a container
With a misleading label,
But you could repurpose it.

Make it a planter. Fill it
With tap water to water
Other plants in their planters.

So much manufacturing
Went into producing it,
So much engineering and

Marketing preceded it.
Now it’s just air-filled plastic.
Maybe you’ll recycle it

And hope it gets recycled,
Which probably it will not.
It could bob in the ocean.

It could lie in a midden.
It could be an artifact
Of your civilization

Or food for a form of life
That doesn’t, as yet, exist.
It could rise with the mountains

Long after your bones are lost
And your species forgotten.
You’ll never know the ending.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Drawn Out

The last or latest
Baby tooth sits there
On the countertop

In a ziplock bag.
The Tooth Fairy now
Is just foolery,

Here’s my tooth. Oh wait,
Here’s a whole quarter.
Oh, wow, a quarter!

Laughter on both sides.
If you could outgrow
Other rituals

While still going on—
Oh look, more hair fell,
More wrinkles arrived,

Ha ha! You’re aging
So slowly, you’ve been
Old half forever,

And still you’ve got more.
When will you ever
Be done with the job?

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Let’s Get on With It

Exactly one marcescent leaf
Has made it through the winter whole
On the old tree trucks rattle past.

It’s like a last flake of dead skin
To be shed from a long-healed scar,
That last fleck of old nail polish,

The last yellow tip of dyed hair,
Anything like that, anything
About to be pushed out by growth,

Any crumpled ugly old scrap
That achieves a little pathos
In the eye of the beholder

Simply for being singular,
For hanging on long past its time,
But you’ll still appreciate spring.

Saturday, March 18, 2023


A length of white irrigation pipe,
Lay at the edge of a green meadow,
Not far from an irrigation ditch.

It looked like a broken plastic straw
Fit for the mouth of a dinosaur.
It had been manufactured somewhere.

Someone purchased and brought it here
To route precious runoff to cattle,
But on this afternoon only deer

Took advantage of the green meadow,
And the old, overgrown ditch still ran
With snowmelt from off of the mesas

And no one had done anything yet
With the broken piece of PVC,
Although maybe some lives lived in it,

Possibly a snake, possibly mice.
Set yourself a watch. Refuse to leave
Until meaning shows its empty sleeve.

Friday, March 17, 2023


A set of kitchen knives
In butcher block, purchased
Years ago, following

A divorce, look how clean
They are, still sharp enough,
And if you imagine

Tales they could tell of what
They’ve cut through time and how,
You know you would tell them

Without confirmation
From knives gleaming clean
Of old information.

Now, the knives they replaced
Were another story.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Darkening Windows

They have to and will,
And then they’ll turn light.
You can mess with them

With electric lamps,
Throw on indoor lights
Before it’s quite night.

You can close the blinds,
Adjust drapes, place chairs
And tables that block

Or catch and shadow
What the windows do.
But the windows, glass

Whole or broken or
Never installed, will
Darken in some way

Even in urban
Glaring walls of light,
Darken every night.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Universe on the Rocks

The stones are warm in the sun.
The cosmos is in your head,
Maybe just the bits that fit,

But, for you, those bits are it,
Including the signs that say,
Warning, this has been compressed—

You should expect some losses.
But even expectation
Has to be compressed to fit.

The stones are warm in the sun.
You rest your cheek against one.
Just about ready, you say

To your harried social self
Inside your cosmos. Almost
Done, the stone sings, almost done.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Between Finger and Thumb

All the little, broken bits
Of nondescript stones, like this
One with blood-red veins obscured

By pulverized sandstone dust,
Fragment smaller than a dime
Or arrowhead debitage,

A half-thumbnail of veined quartz
Churned up with random gravel
By repeated local floods—

What’s a nongeologist
To make of such stochastics?
They say the Earth’s the biggest

Rock in the solar system,
And rocks this small are called Earth.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Not Everything’s a Story

There’s one thread of spider web
Between two lava cobbles,
Just the one, shining in sun.

Maybe it’s a leftover,
Maybe a failed beginning,
Maybe a belay device.

It shimmers in small breezes,
Lifts, then sags for gravity.
Do you know of any myths

Or cautionary fables
Involving a single thread
Of spiderweb caught on rocks?

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Light Is the Brand of the World

You want to rip the light
Out of the world sometimes.
No, not rip. Tug on it,

The way you try to get
A snugly glued label
Off of some glass item,

Reluctant to soap it,
Carefully peeling it,
Hoping it doesn’t shred.

The sun on the park grass
This evening as it sets,
For instance. It’ll go,

You know it will, but you
Itch to lift it up whole
Off the grass while still gold,

Roll it up, contemplate
The neatness of the job,
Before you throw it out.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Throw Pillow

Which one was the first?
Shall we look it up,
Let code mind find it?

No. This one’s dusty,
With a leaf pattern

In green relief. There.
Tuck it under you,
Make yourself at home.

A folded blanket,
A folded cloak,
Some kind of cloth wad

Must be ancestral
To throw pillows.
Who invented them

As decoration?
Chinese? Scythians?
Egyptians? Romans?

Something for the eye
That was for the spine,
Repurposed pillows

Scattered on a couch
Just so. So many
Items lie around

Cultures like asides,
Almost inside jokes

Might puzzle over,
Although we suspect
No future research

Will be conducted
On most. Surely not
On dusty pillows.

Friday, March 10, 2023

You’re Not Really Trapped Until You Try to Drag Others Into It with You

This undiluted blue
Can’t be undiluted.
There’s the sound of a jet—

No sign of a contrail,
Though, yet. The weak eyes see,
The weak brain interprets,

The whole shell as pure blue,
Nonetheless. Color terms
Vary by languages.

We can’t pretend this sky
Blue is anything close
To universal blue.

So we’re stuck. In the snow.
With this body looking.
With this language naming.

And why are we sharing
Or pretending to share
Our confinement with you?

It’s only confinement
In the act of sharing.
Alone, it’s perfect blue.

Thursday, March 9, 2023


Something keeps things
From not being
One solid lump,
And if not time,

Call it something
You like better,
Some term you like.
The day expands

In afternoon
Sunshine and wind
In a desert
Coffee shop, and

The baristas
Are playing, Ain’t
No Sunshine When
She’s Gone in bars

Of the bright light
Stretching cat-like
Across the floors
While you wait. You

Pay attention.
You pay. You wait.
It’s not all one.
It gets away.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Car on Its Side

Not quite snow, not quite
Sleet, a melting snow
Falling and falling

Apart into rain
At the last moment
Before it hits ground—

The wind in the pines,
The car on its side,
Other tumbling flakes

All alter the fall,
And, come on, was there
Ever one flake whole

In weather like this?
Maybe at their starts
Each one was unique

And symmetrical,
But in this cosmos
Commingling’s the law.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023


A scientific
Would be to question

How many species
Entangled themselves
To yield this green splotch,

Spongy and springy—
Is this lichen, moss,
Both? Is the lichen

Two or three species
In symbiotic

And really what is
True symbiosis?
Whatever it is,

It’s plush to the touch
After the snowmelt,
However many

Confusions you bring,
However many
Symbiotic lives—

Plus mutualists,
Clones, and parasites—
You are, touching this.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Outside the Story Gardens

Would you accept a signed invitation
To live inside a storytelling mind?

You might as well have. You were born human,
Weren’t you? Have you ever not been story?

Can you escape enough to remember?
You can see the world from your walled garden.

It looks unkempt and weedy doesn’t it?
No pacing, no narrative arcs, no rows,

A lot of other walled gardens scattered
About but outside of them

Not so much as a single character,
No one to take a rooting interest in.

You can’t survive out there, human, you can’t,
But you can lose yourself in attention.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

We’ve Reached the Penultimate Episode of Your Metaphysical Show

The writers stayed behind
To destroy their stories,
Wrote the story writer

Finishing the story
The writer could not
Destroy, having sold it

To the storytelling world.
There will be more. There will.
Each story writer drops

Out, sooner or later,
But others will turn up,
If not writers, tellers,

If not tellers, singers.
If you want it to stop
You have to stop it all.

Only the world can stop
The stories, since it’s not
The stories, just the world.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

To Ground Them in Things in the World

There is something. Hard to say
If it’s a bit of a leaf
Or a piece of string. It twists

From one of the barbed-wire twists
In a barbed-wire cattle fence.
It could be a tassel of grass.

It flutters like a pennant.
Doesn’t seem to be deer hair,
Although mule deer jump this fence

To browse in the cow pasture
Frequently. No other barbs
Have caught anything like it.

It trembles like it’s alive.
You just have to look closer.

Friday, March 3, 2023

The Power Is Out

Frozen daylight, all lights off
Anyway, so that at first
You didn’t notice. Quiet

Snuck up on you, unaware.
When you realized the screen
Of your laptop had locked up,

You thought it was the Wi-Fi.
Then you saw the vampire lights—
Dishwasher, stove, microwave,

Power strip, toothbrush charger—
All gone dark, and nothing hummed.
At least you weren’t showering

In the windowless bathroom
Or busy in the kitchen.
So you sat, tapping your fingers,

Figuring you’d wait it out.
The power always comes back.
That was a month ago now.

Thursday, March 2, 2023


The problem with education,
One professor of dead wood said,
Isn’t the training or teaching.

It’s a self-selection problem—
The kinds of people who study,
The kinds of people drawn to teach.

You believe med schools and law schools
Make doctors and lawyers that way?
Think of who wants to be a cop,

Or of who wants to teach college
To escape from a cubicle
They clock into every damn day.

Their professions select them
By appealing to sloth or greed,
To god complexes, violent dreams.

You want to find a good mentor?
Good luck finding someone like me,
Someone who’s lost the will to teach.

He laughed and shook his hoary head.
Forget what I just said. I’m not
That jaded. But his eyes looked dead.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Of Dead Poets Dying Again

Every time the living exhume them,
In a year, in a millennium,
Breathing beyond the strength of monsters

And the indifference of the world,
Poor ghost poets have to die again,
And this is a terrible sorrow

Dragging them down, almost staggering
With grief, phrase by phrase. They had no wish
To return. They’d wanted to go on,

Which isn’t the same as coming back.
There was a crumbling stone embankment
Beside the cemetery named Hope

In a desultory desert town.
The children said, if you went at night,
On a night when the long canyon winds

Fell on the town like knives from the cliffs,
And the trees were miserably whipped,
You could see them sitting up there

On the embankment, huddled like birds,
Pages for feathers, black ink for souls,
Anyone from that graveyard who wrote,

Dying all over again, moaning
Softly, recitations in the wind.
What were the steps by which they’d transformed

Starlight into the substance of life?
They’d forgotten, busy being dead.
Now buzzing out of their boundaries

They are trying to breathe through their words,
And the wind almost convinces them,
But they can’t. Children will bury them.