Friday, June 30, 2023

The Entryway

Small birds, lizards, mule deer
Wander up to the door,
Then skitter on their way.

The cats are never there
At the opportune time
For good window viewing,

Which is just as well. Keep
The worlds separated
And no one gets hurt, hey?

What nonsense. The outside
Critters have predators.
The indoor cats are stalked

Like all protected beasts
By time and diseases.
So why the entryway?

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Light on the Pavement

Should not be beautiful,
Or at least the pavement
Shouldn’t be beautiful,

But this strip through the green
Near the top of the park,
Left unplowed all winter,

A scenic tourist drive
From late spring to autumn,
Is charmed beyond setting,

The grey, faintly nubbly
Surface swooping smoothly
Through rises and long curves,

Like an invitation
To follow it somewhere.
Very clever. The best part

Of this road is to sit
Beside it, right here where
It cups the sun, chipmunks

Race across, and shadows
Lace up long afternoons
Over glowing pavement.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Dark Grey Cloud Bank

Not even really an object—
An experience of the light
With ragged, shifting boundaries,

An experience that you name
As an object, a static thing.
Are live cells the only objects,

Or maybe planets, maybe stars,
Dynamic, homeostatic,
Maintaining systems apart?

That feels unsatisfactory.
The less fractal-like the border,
The more an object’s an object?

The dark grey cloud bank has taken
Over half the sky. From the jet
That’s just appeared from above it,

It’s probably a ragged edge,
Not the massed wall it seems from here.
What have we done by naming things?

Did we need language for storing,
As a way of storing meaning,
The deep past, the far future, those.

Did they begin making meaning?
Does meaning just want to go home?
The dark grey cloud bank holds its storm.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Torn-Up Gut

Drowsy to the point
Of narcolepsy,
Nodding off upright,

But with a constant
Ache in the belly
And a frequent cough.

It’s not the cancer,
Not yet, but what’s left
Of the suffering

Of the surgery
To slice the tumor
And much around it

Out of the guts, then
To resew the guts
To work anyway.

They don’t. Not really.
Enough for a life.
Not enough to live

Like life’s a normal
Thing for this body
To do with itself.

So it stumbles on,
Dozing off, coughing,
Repulsed by most food

It needs to survive.
If there were a pill
To just forget it,

Just forget the crud
Settled like a brick
In the torn-up gut,

Living or dying,
But in contentment,
Not a narcotic,

Just a forget it,
That would be the best.
Give these poems a rest.

Monday, June 26, 2023


Some words are worse than archaic.
They’re broken, smeared, bits and pieces,
Like dragonfly wings on the ground.

In high-minded literature,
Such as Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday,”
You may find the archaic “vans”

Deployed, something that flaps about.
Sometimes “vans” is synonymous
With “wings,” sometimes a poor contrast,

“No longer wings . . . But merely vans
To beat the air.” Go on a hunt.
The etymology’s a mess.

There’s the sense of something in front,
Avant-garde. There’s the sense of cloth,
Which morphed, maybe, into things like

Vanes, as in weather vanes, or panes,
As of windows and so forth. But
There’s no line of descent for vans

As wings or wing-like flaps, sails, plates,
Stiff appendages for flying
Or waving in a startling way.

Vanguard. Weathervane. Window pane.
Fan? A bird’s stiff tail feathers fanned
For display. Mostly humble words

That sound familiar in English,
And van, too, when from caravan.
The poet rose on awkward vans,

However, is an ugly phrase.
The rotors of helicopters
Come to mind. Something clattering.

There’s a prosthetic feel to them.
Stiff. A substitute for real wings.
An effort more display than lift.

But it’s too late to remove vans
From the old poems now, and too late
To improve that broken wingspan.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The Long Shoehorn

It’s just a half-meter strip of metal
With a grippy handle.

It’s something you’ve likely never
Encountered, unless, for instance,

You were recovering from a stroke
And in occupational therapy,

Where perhaps it was part of retraining
Yourself to dress yourself on your own.

You use it to slide your feet into shoes
You can’t bend over enough to reach.

It’s the epitome of a specialty tool, but
Without the odd romance of kitchen tools

Or specialty woodworking tools similarly
Rare and single functioned.

That someone would manufacture
And sell long shoehorns as—what,

Medical supplies? Orthopedic
Shoe supplies?—hints at the vast

Numerosity of current civilization.
How many people must there be

Before a niche like this exists? Tools,
In fact, are excellent guides to the density

Of a culture, of a population,
Any ecosystem of functions fitting niches.

So you should admire this oddity,
This lyrical device, this lengthy shoehorn.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Box

It was built to house a few
Individuals. It costs
Credits from banks to access,

Signed contracts of commitments.
Once in it, inhabitants
Naturally consider

And compare. Is this better
Than other boxes we’ve called
Our address, maybe our home?

Better in what ways? And worse
In what ways? Is it better
Than the boxes other folks

We know of consider home?
Better or worse than normal?
Is it fair that we live here?

Is this privilege? Is this
Shame? Is this the system’s fault?
The measure of our success?

What does this box mean? We sleep
And dream in this box, but why?
Each box fills up with questions.

Friday, June 23, 2023

The Ferry from Salt Lake to Zion

Every crossing, like every moment,
Is both remarkably similar
And yet, in all its details, unique.

When there is unexpected traffic
Or unexpected weather, they are
Also familiarly surprising.

The trip may have one true oddity—
The gas station that ran out of gas,
The fog that dropped from a clear blue sky—

Something to remember that trip by,
But they blend, back and forth, the long rides,
Making one crossing of all crossings,

Composed in singular memory—
No one else can know your one crossing,
Even if they joined you many times.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Foam

Eleven-hundred fifty-five
Years ago, Wang Jie printed
The Diamond Sutra in Chinese

On a five-meter paper roll,
Sumptuously illustrated,
Using seven long wooden blocks

Bearing the text carved in reverse,
Including a dedication
To his parents. The scroll ended

Among the forty-thousand books
Sealed inside a cave in Dunhuang,
Two centuries or so later.

The long seclusion preserved it,
And today it is the oldest
Known complete, dated, and printed

Book in the world. This has almost
Nothing to do with the Diamond
Sutra, which, like all holy texts,

Which, like most texts of any kind,
Carries on outside of itself
And beyond any authorship.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The Future of Inequality

For a while it was a world
Where the machines made it seem
Experience no longer

Mattered, where algorithms
Raised in homes of ghosts and dreams
Left behind by bodies but

Not in the bodies themselves
Had to weave together what they could
Without flesh to correct them.

But the old hybridity
Of DNA and syntax
Was bound to crave a redress

Of balance. Experience,
Easy to fake since the first
Liars wandered the Earth,

Tricky to authenticate,
Became more valuable
Than ever, the way paintings

Became precious investments
As photography and film
Rolled in. Inequality

Will mean those who must survive
On over-processed AI
Vs. those few who hoard

Authentic experience
Bespoke for their flesh and bones,
Whole private islands of life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Giant Octopus

If you couldn’t see something,
You wouldn’t insist it was
Impossible to witness,

But still you will attribute
Your frustration to a trait
Of whatever frustrates you.

The aquarium’s giant
Octopus has evaded
Your recognition of it

On a number of visits
Spaced over several years.
It must be the octopus,

The tricky, intelligent
Octopus—that octopus,
You say, is invisible.

Monday, June 19, 2023

The Truth of an Assertion

Is hardly the whole,
Hardly brings it down
If it’s not there, false.

Whatever is close
Is dangerous, Howe
Asserted in verse,

And there’s a something
To that assertion
Other than fact-lack

As universal.
Letting things get close,
Letting things sneak up,

Trusting something close
Could be dangerous.
Whatever. It’s close

To true, it feels like
A weir carrying
An edible catch.

It’s a suggestive.
Suggestiveness is
The power of blunt

Assertions, more than
Any factual
Truth. What’s true’s almost.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Day at Night

I don’t know about a thousand years
Or ten or even one. I’m not sure
About the next month or this one.

I savored this day that’s now night
And ready to renumber. I know
I can savor a day, down to the day.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

The Wooden One

It’s not old, just old-fashioned,
Built to creak, rattle, and scream,
To exercise nostalgia

And generate another
Revenue stream on the braid
Of coiled cyclones and bungees.

You like the rhythm of it,
The clatter slowing to shrieks.
It’s an inelegant beast,

Like yourself, scarier but
Safer. The truly gorgeous
Polycarbonate ciphers

Hide in the trees, muffle screams,
Exercise no nostalgia
Beyond the thing known as play,

The muscular sheath of force
That cycles around itself.
Play tolerates no trespass.

Friday, June 16, 2023

The Little Seam

Into which an awareness
Of still being fits
Without the awareness

Of pain. It’s like a decoy
Cloak or lizard’s tail,
A jacket wriggled out of,

Leaving the predator
Holding the puzzling,
Crumpled crust of skin,

The pain that was, that let you
Slip into the little seam
Where, of course, you’ll grow

New pains to squirm out of
Next time you need to get away.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

The Mess

And you’re weak, and you’re frail,
And you’re malnourished, and
Yadda yadda, and this

Is the optimistic
Doctor saying these things,
Ticking off obstacles,

Tedious obstacles
That in your thoughts extend
To gross uncleanliness,

The deep greasiness
Of the long-distance sleeper,
The unkempt who can’t groom.

The darker doctors say
That we need to make sure
Of this before we try

That, of that before this.
You’re a system flirting

With slow collapse to death.
You’re really just a mess.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Pigeon

Seemed huge, like one
Of its own killers,
Eagle or hawk,
As a shadow

In the window
From the corner
Of your tired eye.
Imagine if

That could happen—
Terror pigeon,
Fierce predator
From waddling prey.

One afternoon
A new species,
New Lord God Bird,
New way. That way.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

A Comfort

The best time to plant a poem
Is today. The second-best time

Remains in superposition,
Five thousand years entangled,

Fore and aft, before and since.
The shade of an ancient poem

May be tattered, but the shape
Is a miracle, like nothing

You could grow today. And the light
From the fire-splattered poem

At the end is a comfort
That says you don’t know

How long or for whom the wind
Will rustle through sibilant gestures.

Monday, June 12, 2023

The Ghost of an Eyeshade

Every time you close your eyes
You feel it like a cobweb on your face.
You reach up in your dream sleep

To adjust the shade that isn’t there,
The shade that you no longer wear.
It’s not even an object,

It’s a memory trace. The world
That helped you shut out the world,
That kept each world in its place.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The Car in Valet Parking

It’s been there a month now.
Its owner could be dead.
It’s happened before,
The valet captain said.

It bakes like a jelly bean
Through sunny summer days.
Who knows if it will start
When it’s time to drive away.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Tabasco Sauce

It’s red, of course, what’s left of it.
The picnic table is green steel.

All the other tables have salt.
Presumably they were furnished.

The red against green looks handsome.
Why should it seem melancholy?

Since all the tables are empty?
Since it’s the only Tabasco?

There’s something about the remnants
Of jolly social occasions,

Something in you when you see them.
Absent humans, they’re revenants,

The ghosts of their small occasions,
But only in how you see them.

Will you never not be the child
Desirous of being alone

But sad at the signs that the group
Has long since moved on without you?

Friday, June 9, 2023

The Japanese Maple by the Cancer Center

By nightfall, this will be
The kingdom of street lamps.
Their black question marks wait

Around the garden court.
But for now, the sunlight
Picks its own favorites,

The Japanese maple,
Glowing cranberry leaves
Vivid as the palette

In a fairytale book.
When you’re not suffering
Too much, you still notice

Things like this, how the world
Is manic with beauty
At opportune moments.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Being

In the hospital with cancer,
Having pushed your wheelchair as close
As could to one sunny window,

The compound memories of days,
Whole days, alone on the mesa
Under a sun-struck juniper,

Lizard basking, browsing through books,
Working on phrases, grasshoppers
Stuttering in the high, dry grass,

Appear hallucinatory,
Pure shimmering in retrospect,
The oak-mantled, rolling cliff tops

Like an arena around you,
An empty arena, full up
With sunlight. That you lived,

That you were ever so fortunate
As to have lived whole days like that,
The being at peace in pale shade.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Hound of Hades

You run across a public domain
Image of Heracles, lion-skinned,
On a hydria with Cerberus,

The last of Heracles’ twelve labors.
You recall another Cerberus
Of sentences—you don’t have a place

In the world. You are just a burden.
You’ve failed in some fundamental way.
Snakes sprout all over those sentences

Guarding the path to the underworld,
Guarding while actually channeling,
Guiding, driving you toward the pen.

It’s the fact of the first suggestion,
True, actually, for every life form,
That makes you afraid of the others,

Which may be hell, but are not in fact
True at all. No one’s just a burden.
And everyone shares a whole burden,

And as for failure, pffft, a social
Construction of the most human kind.
You fail or don’t fail as you decide,

As others decide, to imagine
And then to focus solely on that.
There is no failure, except to be

Immortal, which is why tales can fail,
But you can’t fail. Cerberus,
Tell your other heads some other lies.

This snake child's all about surviving.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Three Cataclysms

In the first one, you were young,
Mostly healthy. You just fell.
What is that like? Don’t focus

On the pain. Check the change
Of state, the transformation.
It felt like being a fish

In Kong Zi’s or Heraclitus’ stream
Suddenly struck by a divine cuss,
Reduced to a rock in the sand.

The stream flowed on around you.
When you stirred your gills
You found you were you again,

But the stream had changed,
Not just the water, the bed.
You swam on. Round two.

A fall with a twist, a few twists.
Your swimming partner went haywire,
Terrified you, went belly up,

And then you were struck down again,
Dull as stone. The fins weaved
Back into the water more weirdly.

In a way, you never felt awake again.
The stream lay in its bed and lied,
Said it wasn’t even water anymore.

Third blow. Gods are tricky like that.
Like prize fighters. Knock you flat
Twice then gut punch you standing.

Right up the middle, like a fist,
Like a dagger, like a dum-dum round.
You’re stone again, but this time,

The stone’s part ground down,
Chipped, eviscerated. Hah. Good luck
Growing that crap back. Will your fins

Stir again? Will your gills breathe in
The terrible fresh oxygen? What will
The stream be, will the stream be then?

Monday, June 5, 2023

The Points of Pride

Accuracy in depiction
Suggesting experience

Outside power advertised
Through artistic commissions

Big concepts beyond the bounds
Weather read storms bad sun good

Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Charge

Each fleck of cell
Might as well be
A battery,

More negative
Inside than out.
Yay, batteries.

Yay, enduring
Life’s existence,
The whole planet

A battery
More negative
Inside than out.

How patterns work
At leaving form
And punching life.

Now, the question—
At how many
Scales can you

Have batteries,
More negative
Inside than out?

Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Landing Cake

He visits. He talks briskly
With his post-operative
Patients, but listen closely—

He’s flying by instruments,
Adjusting the recipes—
Salt is down? Ease back elsewhere.

White blood cells up, just a titch?
Bring up the meropenem.
It feels paradoxical,

To improvise by numbers,
By the seat of his distance.

Friday, June 2, 2023

The Glass Place

A word, if we may, a cough.
Outside, evening light rolls in.
Inside, more lines roll along.

Tie those breakers to the shore.
Waters rise off of the Earth,
To evaporate in space.

Where should those waters have been,
Have evaporated home
From in the first, glaucous, place?

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The World’s Unintended

The world’s consequences
Are all unintended,
None inconsequential,

Whether braided in packs
Or packed in storms, including
Those that were intended

And happened to occur
And led to the biggest
Consequences of all—

Unintended belief
That some consequences
Descend from intention.