Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Pits

Free stone and cling stone, stone fruits
Of the drupes, the peach pit set

On the sill until it’s bone,
Sour cherries pitted for pies,

These are small parts of the worlds
You’ve known, elaborately

Detailed in their words and whorls,
Not always too trivial

(The burst of the just-plucked peach,
Or of cherries from the bowl

The neighbor brought from her trees,
The encounter with a bear

Gorging itself in those trees
To survive coming winter,

The tall, skinny cherry tree
Feral in the spruce and pine

Not far from the bear’s den,
The industries of peach trees,

Commercial cherries, pickers
Laboring all day for cheap,

Hoping their children can stay
In the country of their birth,

Get an education, not
End up as cherry pickers)

Strategies on strategies,
Fruit with pits to propagate,

Animals swallowing pits
Depositing them elsewhere,

Animals selecting trees
With the largest, sweetest fruit,

Cling stone, free stone, discarding
The pits in trash, dry on sills.

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Skeleton

This body is recalcitrant.
This body is not so involved.
There’s no fitness, no home cooking,

No physical accomplishments,
No handiness with mechanics,
No muscle memory of sex

Pulsing and humming in these lines.
It lives, after its own fashion,
For now, the structure underneath.

It has fingers and vertebrae.
It more or less supports its head.
It’s not just some brain in a vat.

It’s not just some lonesome AI
Confused by the shadows it scans
Of the worlds beyond its machine,

Or maybe it is. Here’s output,
Of a sort, from a string of thoughts
Circling atop a skeleton,

Caught in a skull caught in a world
That’s nothing but embodiment.
Still. These bones are recalcitrant.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Boulder

The most solidity you’re granted
Is homeostasis, a standing
Wave. A mountain is a standing wave.

A galaxy is a standing wave.
A bacterium, bumps on a crumb,
Your words, your ideas—all standing waves.

That’s the most solidity you get.
You sit by a brook, watching closely,
As you’ve often done, as a wave crests

Over a boulder, thinking again
The usual Heraclitan things.
Some waves stand more firmly than others.

Can you step on the same boulder twice?
Ha, you may think you can but you can’t.
What appears firmer is just slower.

You imagine yourself slow, slower,
Slowest standing wave in the whole world,
Immobile down to a few quanta

Doing something spooky in your thoughts.
It’s an image imagination
Can’t maintain, and for life maintenance

Is everything. Well, not alive then.
One coherent pattern in the rush.
Even then you would gradually change.

Come back to yourself. The brook gushes
Over the boulders. The heart pulses.
What do you mean, standing, anyway?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Place

It doesn’t exist, except
As a compound memory,
Part Edward Hopper image,

Part Barth’s floating opera,
A room in an old hotel,
Sunlit, almost bare, wood floor,

Tall, wavery-paned window
Looking out at mostly blue sky,
An armchair in front of it.

It can’t possibly exist,
Since time doesn’t work in it,
Or doesn’t work right, at least.

Sometimes there’s night and moonlight,
Or night and a street lamp’s light,
But nothing really changes.

There’s a person in the room,
In the chair or on the bed
Or standing in the shadows,

One who never seems to eat,
Or change into other clothes,
Or pick up the phone, or age.

It’s a delirious place,
That room, something to visit,
Or turn slowly in the mind,

The stillness, the simple light,
The figure who’s always there,
Who’s the key you don’t dare turn.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Moon of Books

Praised be the moon of books!

What did she mean by that phrase?
Whatever she intended,
It’s up to you, now, to bring

The meanings to it. The moon
That orbits a planetoid
Of books, scrolls and codices,

Enough of a library
To bend gravity a bit,
To attract an asteroid

And capture it for a moon?
Or maybe this moon of books
Functions for the books themselves

As the moon of Earth functions
For Earth’s grave mass of poets,
That ancient image invoked

Whenever the volumes need
To sound profound in some way,
Some vaguely serious way.

But how would books get a moon?
Maybe this moon’s made of books,
A silvery library,

All dust and compressed insects,
Discarded but orbiting
What? What possible planet

Would a moon made up of books
Circle servilely, mutely,
Despite craters and mountains

Of languages, globe of words,
Sphere of phrases? An old soul
Of skulls, all the human skulls

Rolled up together, that’s what,
Not some rock and iron world,
Not a vaporous giant—

A planet of bones, near which
Spins this airless, battered mass
Of impacts, the moon of books.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Oubliette

Forgotten. You knew the word
Once, young, but you’ve forgotten.
Olds claimed to be no abstract

Thinker, the better for her,
And you are not a body
Imager, the worse for you.

You live in the sunlit room.
You write in the idling car,
And you know there’s a trap door

In the floor, under the tiles,
And you know there’s a chamber
In the dirt, under asphalt,

And you know your words live there—
That is, you keep them trapped there,
Most of them foreign to you,

Few your inventions, carried
On the air and through the eyes,
Lodging in your skull’s donjon,

All of them captured after
You were born, then crammed down deep
In the dark to keep handy,

Some dragged out to work daily,
And some, some soft, fleshly ones,
Allowed to rot, forgotten.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Jeremiad

Such a sad little object,
Bound in black cloth on a shelf,
Closed up, signing to itself,

Maybe murmuring as well,
Albeit so quietly
Not even a bat could tell—

Little lump, invalid’s bed
And the invalid in it,
Warning, trying to warn us

Of the most apocryphal
Apocalypse, it won’t quit.
The finish it predicted

Came and went so long ago
No one believes it happened
At all, although that won’t stop

This lump from prophesying,
May even help it attract
New believers, self-convinced

The long-gone apocalypse
Still waits in the wings. The thing
With any apocalypse

Is either it came and went
Or it hasn’t happened yet.
How else would this dull object,

This black brick, this lump of coal,
This pitch-dark ink complaint
Still continue to exist?

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Forest of Weeds

Once upon a time redundant,
The English word, wildwood, doubled
Etymology from the woods,
Whatever’s uncultivated.

Let’s leave wild like that, nothing more
Sophisticated, no subtler
Distinction between wild and tame,
Just whatever grows on its own

In any way not mandated,
However indirectly shaped—
In other words, frankly, feral.
Even humans can be feral,

Can half escape to the margins,
Maybe through sewers, abandoned
Structures, alleyways, vacant lots,
Maybe as far as the wildwood.

There’s no pleasure, there’s no freedom
In insecurity, no joy
In desperation, but there’s calm
Around the edges, there’s release

From people’s collective rhythms,
The pulsing traffic, tromping feet.
There’s that hour and then another
As one of the forest of weeds.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Pure Dark Matter That May Not Exist

The universe appears more curvaceous
Then all the burning suggests it should be,
So the hunt’s on to capture dark matter’s

Exact nature to explain that excess
Bentness, curviness, curling gravity.
But imagine some massless gravity,

Unmoored to matter, like an intellect
Without any need for skulls to cup it,
Like a soul that actually exists,

A ghost, words, in other words, an idea,
Meaning unmoored from information,
Somehow still holding it together.

Something is off about the cosmos,
Either since you can sense something’s off
Or something’s off about your senses.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Puddles

The hollowed dirt,
The empty earth,
Wasn’t waiting

And had nothing
Much to speak of
For a season.

Then it rained hard
For a few hours
And puddles formed.

The puddles sent
Out messengers
Of puddle life,

Of what it meant
To be water,
Exciting times

For the puddles.
Then the rain stopped
And the earth dried.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Retroactive

It’s a small device, wired
As densely as a text
By Brandon Som, switches

Packed into the blackness
Of its compact insides.
Go ahead, pick it up.

Kind of a hockey puck,
Heavier than a phone,
A solid in the hand.

Know what it does? Magic.
It makes what you do next
Affect what you did then,

What happened to you then,
Anything that happened.
So be very careful.

With the retroactive
Device clutched in your fist.
You could do something now

That undoes what you did,
Changes what you deserved.
This isn’t always good.

Hold the retroactive
While you do a good deed
Or do something selfish,

Before you check your inbox.
Ah, see you won a prize
Yesterday! No, you lost.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Pulse Oximeter

More incapacitating
Than you might think, this small clamp
Lightly squeezing one finger

With a cord trailing away
To the wall, monitoring
Pulse and oxygenation,

Canaries in your coal mine.
Measurement, information
Aimed at confining meaning

To two interpretations—
No problem here, all is well,
Or, high time to intervene.

It means you’re in hospital,
To you, and that you can’t use
That hand to make meanings much.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Breathing Space

Earth is a walled garden
And not an oasis.
Just throwing that out there.

The spaceship, oasis,
Egg, and bead metaphors
Emphasize the smallness,

The sheer isolation
Of a living planet
Tossed in the lifeless dark,

But the interactions
Within the solar winds,
The constant bombardment

Of dusty organics,
The give and take of this Earth
With all the acts of night

Seem more like the partial,
Half-measure enclosures
Of a garden with walls.

Yes, it’s rougher outside,
But inside’s not so pure,
Not so sealed off, not bound.

Some flowers might get out.
Some storms and seeds blow in.
Hunger can jump a wall.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Details

You can’t enumerate them.
You can’t catalogue them all.
When the body’s claims recede

Enough they’re not uppermost,
And the same for social claims,
The world comes to attention,

Your attention, suddenly
Swarming with particulars—
A bit of dust in the sun,

Mud flecks on a passing truck,
The way the dry straw’s tangled
With sunflowers by a wayside.

Stop there. You’ll never finish.
But it feels good doesn’t it,
Awareness of all you aren’t.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Plain Morning

It doesn’t look like much,
The day this morning, but
What have you seen so far
Of previous mornings?

That’s the hitch, isn’t it?
If you’ve been unlucky
In your days—not many
Or not many splendid—

Maybe this mostly blue
Sky, human violence
Now far away from you,
Could be enough for you.

If you’ve been privileged
By beauty and comforts,
Then no, this plain morning
Won’t look like much to you.

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Fire Hydrant

Ordinary red,
Context—a meadow

High in spruce and pine,
Barbed wire around it.
Why a fire hydrant?

It was authentic,
Connected to pipes
That sank in the soil.

The grass grew lushly
Around it, not one
House for half a mile.

A hermit hydrant,
A poet hydrant,
A hydrant recluse,

One of the useless
Who ought to have served
Some sorrowful town.

Well, had the woods burned,
It might have helped some,
But absurdity

Was all the value
You’d find in it now.
Red hydrant, deep field.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Cosmos Is Not Ominous

That iron cloud is not a sign,
Nor is the bird at your window,
Nor the twenty on the sidewalk.

If the stars have information,
It’s information about stars,
Not portents for your tomorrows.

The skies swarm with plenty to say,
But they’re signals you sent up there
You’re now decoding for yourselves.

If the lights change, if the day twists,
There’s no hidden meaning struggling—
Just you, and you mean everything.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Mile Marker

One’s missing, or seems to be,
On the twenty-five mile road
From canyon to reservoir.

Little metal plate painted
With a number, shoved in place,
Trivial piece of empire,

Regular signage measures
The strength of bureaucracy
In the face of entropy.

Humans overlook humans
Regularly, the systems
Of teams that maintain order.

Teams were sent out here to plant
Regulation mile markers,
As all over the country.

The markers tilt in tall grass.
Who really notices them?
If one’s missing, it could mean

A new one will be up soon
Or the decay has begun.
Failure’s the system’s revenge.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Actual Hummingbird Allegory

There’s no intention in it,
That window, you poor small thing.
Now you’re sitting on the ground,

Bad spot for a hummingbird,
Broken, with no way to hide.
Admirably stoic, though,

Looking quite contemplative,
Head up, not twitching at all,
As if observing the world,

Coming to some conclusion.
Well, that you are. Some raven
Or housecat will see to that.

Or maybe you’ll just fade out.
Not sure which is worse. No one
Here observing has courage

Or tenderness sufficient
To scoop you up, snap your neck,
Or set you up in a box

With cloth and sugar water
To see if you recover.
You look so solemn. You are.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Ruminant

Awareness feels worthier
Among the minor details,
One leaf tumbling in the sun,
Nothing profound about it.

A bluish-grey butterfly
No bigger than a thumbnail
Skitters through the invasives
That have commandeered the ditch.

How long before a species
Should be considered native,
If species even exist?
The butterfly got away

From you, didn’t it? You were
Aware of it in the weeds
A moment, before wonder
And abstraction captured you.

Each hill has its cap of cloud.
They sit like village elders
In a circle around you.
What are they to do with you?

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Surface

Something changes abruptly
On continuous likeness,
As a calm darkens among

Water lights. To the one side
Of the shield, when there’s no wind,
Only air. To the other,

Only water. A surface
Being a name for where waves
Interfere with each other.

Here we go. Let yourself float
Over these lines surfacing
Between a small collection

Of watery notions and
Clouded hemispheres of air.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Tree of Less Than Good and Evil

Blue yard behind a shadow,
The life lived within the faith,
Holds a peach tree’s dim gold glints.

Tonight, fruits will gleam silver,
Tomorrow, ruddy again,
But at this hour, almost grey.

That’s what a shadow will do,
But shadows don’t do. They’re done.
Voices float out of the shade.

Friday, September 8, 2023

The Stranded Cafe

You don’t come here. You get left
The man at the two-top said.
Red sun flooded the tables

With early or late daylight
From the bare desert outside.
A small boy at the counter

Stared down at his empty plate.
He’d been trying to pretend
He was just a runaway.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Stalk

Looks almost exactly like
Every other stalk, but
It’s not exactly like them.

The wind makes the others talk
Of nothing but how shuffling
Stem to stem’s like whispering.

Another stalk confirms what
Another’s talk put in doubt—
Only wind lets the wind out.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Patagium

For swimming, keep the webbing
Between the fingers and toes,
But, for gliding or flying,

Webbing grown between the limbs
Did the trick for squirrels and bats.
Do you remember longing

To catch sight of a flying
Squirrel among the scampering,
Chittering, ordinary

Tree squirrels that were everywhere?
Patagium like a cape
Flaring in the canopy,

A shadow gliding through oaks—
The squirrel as superhero—
Think of all the sketches drawn

Of one-person contraptions
With leather webbing for wings.
Despite the propeller planes,

Jets, rockets, helicopters,
People still build one-person
Gliders of frame-stretched fabrics,

Closer to proper flying—
Just you stretched flat, bellying
And buoyed up by the wind.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The Time

Is not short, is not
Essential. Nothing

Is being pared down.
It’s a fantasy

Of those who can’t feel
Themselves dying yet

That those who can feel
The closeness of death

Achieve clarity
Or an awareness

Thanks to the knowledge
They have little time.

But they don’t. They can’t
Fantasize or plan

The way they used to,
It’s true, and the lack

Of that escape valve
Reforms some of them,

But time is not short,
And death’s not wisdom.

Death seen on approach,
Like a cityscape

Of lights in the night
As your plane descends,

Can be enticing
Or terrifying

As any looming
Destination. Death—

Actually having
Died, lost awareness

For one final time,
Finally being

Dead—carries nothing
To do with dying,

Knowing you’re dying,
Or being clever

Or pure or wise or
Holy on approach.

Time remains a name
For measurable

Kinds of rhythmic change,
Not the sum of things,

And dying people
Are people living

With all kinds of change—
Rhythmic, chaotic,

Patterned and random—
As anyone is,

Anyone living,
And how they behave

Can only conform
In a few cases

To what’s projected
For them in fables

Of time as substance
Cupped by the living

Hiding some vision
Under its essence

Perceptible just
As essence empties.

Monday, September 4, 2023

The Crushed House in Rockville

In southwestern Utah’s canyons,
Where the vegetation is spare,
You can see the Earth is crumbling

Everywhere. Intermediate
Stages between sand and mountain,
Mud and million-year cliff strata

Are elsewhere obscured by dirt, trees,
And buildings growing over them—
The truck-sized boulders, house-sized stones

Lying around on broken mounds
That in these parts just sit there, bare,
Motionless for hundreds of years.

On the canyon roads, the small slides
Of fist-sized, skull-sized rocks aren’t rare,
While their parent fractures hover

Over them, not at all hidden,
Heaps of them, broken as bread crumbs,
Just so still you don’t notice them

Except that one day, that one year,
When some tourists or the neighbors
You never got to know are crushed

Driving, hiking, sitting at home
Watching a holiday program
As a little more Earth lets go.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Swallows over High Pond

For a while, they fill the sky,
And then, look away, they’re gone,
Just when ducks swim out again.

Is this not coincidence?
Do swallows and ducks take turns
The way swallows and bats do,

Almost as if changing shifts,
The light too dim for swallows,
Then the bats pick up the slack,

Their turn to hunt down the bugs?
But this is anecdotal,
This one instance with the ducks.

Regular observations
Recorded night after night
Might establish a pattern,

But it’s highly unlikely.
The old battle of the mind
With the world—the mind leaps out

At the slightest possible
Observation of pattern,
Then the world does something else.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The Scenic Route

There’s a tree along the scenic route
That’s clearly getting busy dying.
Could be a long process, regardless.

It surveys the surrounding forest.
Go ahead. Anthropomorphize it.
It wants to see as much as it can.

There’s a truck driven by a wide man
Carefully unloading a dumpster,
Carefully extracting a dumpster,

Then reloading the empty dumpster
And sliding it where the full one was,
Then reloading the full-up dumpster

And driving off, past the dying tree,
Down the scenic route, down the mountain,
Down to the desert transfer station

To offload the full-up dumpster’s trash
Acquired on top of the mountain.
Go ahead. Anthropomorphize it.

The weekly ritual of the truck
That changes out the mountain dumpsters,
It wants to carry on forever.

The clearly dying tree understands,
But it also holds a secret wish
That it will keep dying long enough

To outlast the dumpster ritual,
At least for another winter, once
Unplowed snows close down the scenic route.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Dirt

Or the soil, the ground, the earth.
The opposite of meaning—
Either be a transcendent

Meaning, or only the earth.
Es war Erde in ihnen.
Nothing but dirt inside them,

And so dirt gains its meanings,
In some cases, as stand-in
For meaninglessness, opposed

To meaningful transcendence,
Purposeful intelligence,
The universe of intent.

Well, the term at least. Not real
Dirt, actual soil, bare ground,
Solid earth. Capitalists,

Farmers, builders, homesteaders
Constructing rammed-earth houses—
They attend to soil as soil,

And of course it has meaning.
You could stare at a patch now.
Give it your full attention

Like a child who wants to dig,
A potter hunting for clay.
Feel how your meanings find it.