Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Inn at the Pass

It helps to think it exists, even if
The writer exaggerates the kindness
Of the innkeeper and the villagers,

The charm of the tea and bread served on rugs
To travelers caught in high country ice,
Everyone pitching in to get them through.

It helps to think that, somewhere in the cliffs
Between adversarial militias
And warlords backed by nation states killing

For dominance, there is a low, blue inn
In the mud and the snow, goats in the street,
A shed filled with spare mechanical parts,

Locals helping strangers get crossed over
The pass, get trucks patched, get some food and rest,
And then, on you go, never to come back.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Encounter with an Orphaned Hour

An accidental pleasant hour
In the midst of obligations,
Is the finest, least human thing—

You didn’t plan this moment out.
You aren’t basking in your reward.
The surveillance state recording

The twitches of the citizens
Won’t be triggered by your quiet.
The body has put away aches

For some inscrutable reason
And rests, contented, in a chair.
There were no negotiations,

No answered prayers, no rituals,
No discussed coordinations—
It happens things feel nice right now.

How inhuman. Unaccomplished,
Insignificant, and artless,
The accidental pleasant hour.

Friday, April 28, 2023

The Organism

Rooting for it gets
A bit like rooting
For a winning team,

A side in a war
Well out of control.
You can imagine

Fairly plausible
Scenarios where
It survives setbacks,

Where it recovers
And things turn around.
The organism

Scarred but still living
After near misses,
But you know you’re not

Making that happen,
Any more than you
Create the comeback,

Snatch the victory,
Terrified rabbit,
From the slavering

Jaws of hot defeat.
You can imagine
Living and winning

High in your cheap seats,
But the outcome turns
On nothing you think.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Your Morning Chyron

The best thing about the news
Is that it is not your life.
That’s why you follow stories—

All those lives that have to be,
That can only be those lives
And not one of them is yours.

Imagination couldn’t
Possibly overproduce
Detailed tales like the news does,

Although it steals what it can
And resells rearrangements
Branded based on true events.

Gossip, too. All the lives lived
Around you you couldn’t live,
Wouldn’t live, didn’t have to.

They’re not you! That’s not your life,
And, unlike the life you live,
They always come with sequels.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Late Medicalism

A numerably enormous
Set of interactions lasers
From around the spinning planet

To this single, functional room
Of paper and plastic, alloys
Of lightweight and rust-free metals,

Drawers, wires, elaborate plumbing,
The permanent, disposable
Self-scrubbing lungs of hospital.

There are people who suffer here,
People who suffer to get here,
People who will have to suffer

For lack of here, people who died
Suffering for this to cohere,
People who make a living here,

People who make a killing here
Who will suffer somewhere not here
Or maybe here. Something like here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Letter to a Moment

Roam your senses.
What’s going on
In range you won’t

Likely ever
Inhale again?
The room’s objects

Ordinary.
The lights and smells
Ordinary.

And none of it
Will be here when
This reaches you.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Sayings

There’s no unspeakable
Waiting to be spoken.
The world’s not a wood pile

Cut and stacked into cords,
Enough to get you through,
Enough to feed the fire

Of language all winter,
Politely valuable
Splits tied down with blue tarps,

Waiting to be consumed
By words roaring to life,
Words as yet unspoken.

Nothing wants to be said.
Nothing needs to be said.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Sleep Work

Now that would be some genius,
Not to steal ideas from dreams,
But to carve from deep sleep

Art, the work of resistance
To the underpolitics
Of breathing and surviving.

Medium wouldn’t matter
To an art emerged from sleep.
You sleep, and something happens,

The world shapes a new embrace.
When you wake up, there it is.
The poem in the place of rest.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Ground

It’s not an object really,
The strip of blue atmosphere
At the top of the window,

A lot of waves not a wave,
All those points without a point.
It is framed and circumscribed,

Which suggests, appealingly,
Art, games, all things that are not
Things except in that they’re bound

And bordered, which creates them.
To be crossable, to have sides,
To be finite and made whole.

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Waste Basket

Little vacuole, little
Soul, homely bardo, wicker,
Light wire, pre-fab plastic,

Look how well you do your job,
How humble you remain, yet
Charming. The waste isn’t yours.

You accept it—crumpled notes,
Used tissues, the trivial,
The gross. Then you tip over,

And you’re light, and you’re open
To whatever’s next, gesture
Of empty non-emptiness.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Hiccough

It arrived like a letter bomb
A small innocence exploded,
A percussive illness,

Wrapped in more specific sickness,
Almost comical when it started,
But proving relentless.

It would sputter like an outboard,
Chugging without turning over,
Then end in a splutter

Of coughs that wrenched and shook the frame,
Pause only to start over.
It splintered attention,

Made all the other illness worse,
Could not be moderated,
Hiccough, hiccough, hiccough.

The only mercy was to give
Over to it the remaining
Thoughts about it. Hiccough.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Sketch

The room has many
Objects. It appears
Like the sort of room

Where people do things
Most people value.
There are tools,

Advanced and simple,
There’s an unmade bed.
There are racked supplies

And, beside a sign
Of aspiration,
A pencil drawing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Dispense

The tubes connect
You to the bed
And to the cart
That bears your meds.

Without the tubes,
Without the meds,
There’s a fair chance
You’d soon be dead.

That’s how it is
With words as well,
With lines spun out,
With things to tell.

Language links you
To the system
That dispenses
All your wisdom.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Holding Pattern

You were the one
Who remembered
The rocking chair.
Now you’re in it,

Soothing yourself
As best you can.
A small motion,
Bird on the waves,

Hoping rhythm
Can settle you,
Motion without
Leaving, leaving

Being what you
Are avoiding,
Rocker of days
To hold you here.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Go On

All your days you pan for gold,
Sifting the dark sediment
For a fortunate glitter.

This is a figure of speech,
Of course. You’re not all miners.
But panning for gold figures

Pretty well for your approach
To patterns of likelihood.
You’re smart enough. You don’t dream

Of a stream sedimented
All gold. You sift through your lives
Expecting mostly gravel,

But you’re fixated on hopes
That you know are unlikely.
The rare outcome shines in mind.

You keep going, fixated
On what you know’s unlikely.
You know. You know. On you go.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

The Spigot

They fixed you up
With a little spigot
Right in your barrel chest,

And the tap turns,
And you pour yourself out
In small amounts, then stop,

A neat solution
To holding too much in,
To slopping too much out.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Arkansas Christian in Utah

Yes, literally from Arkansas,
Christian name literally Christian.
He spent the whole day at the cafe,

And every time he bought a coffee,
He’d share a table with someone new,
Boldly asking if he could join them,

Striking up inquisitive small talk,
Practicing his witnessing technique,
Proselytizing as cold calling,

Tail-wagging cheerful, full of questions,
Attentive, quick to pay compliments,
Working to get that guard down, searching

For an opening to testify
To his relationship with Jesus,
Transformative, thrilling, fulfilling.

He didn’t seem intimidated
By being on mostly Mormon turf.
It didn’t seem to occur to him

That among all the tourists there were
Not a few returned missionaries
Skilled in the art of cold call themselves.

Somehow he ended up conversing
With an amused exvangelical
About forty years older than him,

Who seemed to positively enjoy
The whole dog-and-pony show
As if it were all a novelty.

Christian was happy to be allowed
To pray over this old gentleman,
Who had been weaned on Pilgrim’s Progress,

A book young Christian hadn’t heard of
But promised to look into. Do that,
Murmured the old gentleman, smiling.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

This Is Your Life

You may not like it.
You may be too pleased,
Too proud. But you live,

While you live, the life
That is yours, this life
Where now you notice

The words are naming
A table, a plate
With some greens and meat,

A kerosene lamp
Just for atmosphere,
Apparently, sun

Still pouring light
Through the window.
What do these words want

With you and your life,
While you live, the life
That is yours, this life?

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Scalable Importance

The bathroom scale sits collecting
Dust as its owner grows too sick
To care what it might register.

The far-flung tools of the empire
Of hegemonic measurement
Often come to this. Quantities

Invented to coordinate
Are never stably important.
Who cares how many cups of beer

You need to produce per diem
Per laborer when you’re finished
Overseeing the pyramids?

Measurement never goes away.
It just moves on to something else.
One day, the gods have souls to weigh,

The next, doctors count your blood cells.
The point of scales at any scale
Is to synchronize those details.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

On to the Next

Repetition, soul of symmetry,
Aesthetic of so much carpentry,
Such as these three supports, three boards each,

Jigsaw cut, assembled, and painted
Near perfectly identically,
Nine pieces of wood cantilevered

To bear a projecting countertop.
So ordinary. A repeated pattern
In every kitchen in this building.

It’s suggestive of segmentation,
One of life’s favorite strategies,
Something you don’t see in galaxies,

But it’s not quite that. The segmented
Tree, the segmented caterpillars
That eat through its repetitive leaves,

They segment by growth, from inside out,
By the timing of development.
These repetitive pieces of wood

Were cut to a plan for a function,
And the symmetry is to look good,
Or good enough for these apartments

Thrown together by an investor,
Builder, and teams of subcontractors.
Maybe even the practical arts

Imitate life. Maybe life, which makes
All the arts, takes its cues from itself.
Nine boards, three spandrels, another shelf.

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Slab

The fragile monolith
Gleams grey on the table,
An object of immense

Density, but also
Complexity, fragile
As temple deities,

As ancestors’ spirits
In shrines—needing feeding,
Needing tending, needing

Careful monitoring
And treatment with respect.
All powerful magic

Is easily broken
If not cared for just so.
Propitiated, it

Provides you benefits,
And you sit at the screen
Like a cautious old priest.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Pet Project

A narrow copper strip
Of tiny fairy lights
Fixed to the underside

Of the kitchen shelving
For a decorative
Effect switched on at night

Is dangling and broken
Where it’s meant to attach.
Underneath it, a cat

Appears dedicated
To ripping down the rest,
Committed to the work

Of dismantling this strip
Of copper fairy lights,
Dedicated in fact.

You could chase off the cat.
Let it out to kill birds.
Or just let it remain

Content with obsession,
Given domestication
Has rewired it like that.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Drop Box

How well does it work?
How well do any
Drop boxes function?

You’re only supposed
To drop a certain class
Of items in each,

Mail, suggestions, cash,
Library books, gifts,
Holter monitors

(In the present case),
But they’re accepting
And hollow, tempting

To the sort of punk
With a wad of gum,
A handful of trash,

And the point of them
Is that they don’t need
Constant attending.

Come to think of it
Your average poem
Is one for meanings.

Friday, April 7, 2023

For Real

Is a robin an object?
Are you an object to it?
It eyes you from a fence post

In that side-eyed way birds have
That gives them the appearance
Of skeptics considering.

Neither of you belongs here
In the human sense belong—
No ownership and no rights,

Just hanging around this fence,
Each pausing in your circuit
Across other creatures’ turf.

If it weren’t alive, it would
Be an object, you suppose.
You scrutinize each other.

What the robin’s checking for,
You’re not sure, but for yourself
You think of a bit of fence

Just down the road, where ravens,
Big ones, perch on corner posts.
You drove past it a few times

Before you realized those birds
Were objects, mass-produced props
Meant to scare something away.

And here’s a real raven now
In the field, strutting, horkling,
Fluffed, the whole raven routine.

Real. If it’s not fooling you,
That makes it real? The robin
Swoops away and disappears.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

The Clinging Fracture

Trees don’t drag their broken
Branches. A branch breaks and
It hangs until it falls,

Which could take months or years.
All I know, wrote Abbey,
Is a juniper takes

A long time to die. Here,
A splintered branch hangs off
A healthy-looking tree,

No parasitic wreaths
Of mistletoe on it.
Who knows what accidents

Count as part of dying?
Sometimes you lose a branch
And outlive your neighbors.

Nothing breaks cleanly from
Junipers, however.
Their arms are bark-skin sheaves,

Twisted, ropy, fibrous.
You couldn’t just snap this
One off, as tenuous

Connections the strands left
Are to the branch’s base.
Leave it. Check back next spring.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Hand Soap

The bar was well traveled,
A travel toiletry
Carted around for years

In a carryon case,
Emergency back-up,
Never used or unwrapped.

First day in a new place,
Everything in boxes,
It finally got used.

Now it sits by the sink
In the little bathroom
Next to better gel soaps

And lotions in dispensers,
Since it can’t be put back,
Dwindling allegory.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Yūrei-zu with Hitodama

Don’t look now, but there’s a painting
Hanging over your left shoulder.
Works of art are stealthy like that.

This one’s kind of blurry. Don’t look!
It’s a little bit ominous.
It’s been painted into a box

Instead of on canvas and frame.
It’s mostly black and green, wispy
White almost like waterfall mist

In the middle, and the mist is
Tumbling with kanji characters,
Disconnected and faint but there.

The painting’s trying to whisper
Something in your ear. Don’t listen!

Monday, April 3, 2023

American Eagle

It’s a black ball cap
Mass manufactured
In Vietnam, sold

On a retail site,
Shipped to the US,
And worn on the head

Of a man who seems
Vaguely proud
To say it was made

Someplace that wasn’t
China, at least. He
Doffs it to show you

The tag, then slaps it
Back on his bald head.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Spotted Whelk

Chipped shell on the dash,
Bought from a gift shop
In Costa Rica

By somebody else,
Never having been
To Costa Rica

Yourself. It belonged
To an old species
Never left ocean

Not in a hundred,
Not in five hundred
Million years or more.

It’s a pretty shell,
Even with that crack
And no life in it.

After all those years,
Those generations,
It’s information,

Doesn’t need feeding,
Which means that it can
Go anywhere now.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Thirst

There was a well
In the meadow—
It wasn’t stone,

Wasn’t fitted
With a bucket
Or a windmill—

A PVC
Corrugated
Tube like a straw.

Maybe at night
The giant sank
Down from above

To close giant
Lips around it
And drain the ground.