Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Evening with Side Effects

It’s early, but the eyes burn,
And the fingertips are cold,
And even the old futon

With its worn sheets and mismatched
Blankets might be a haven
For a few hours from living

The hard work of not dying,
Not tonight or tomorrow,
Anyway. Oh, tomorrow,

That will require more hard work.
Declare today over, done.
Don’t think of another one.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

There’s No Living Any Words Long

Go ahead and seek the answers,
Whether you can live them or not.
Answers are all words and numbers,
Insofar as you can learn them,

And you’re a flicker in the flesh
That can live with or without them
And will pass along without them,
So go ahead, why not seek them.

No advice from an old poet,
No matter how charming, should be
Determinative. Old poets
Are just skillful with the language,

And all contradict each other.
Rilke was gone by fifty-one.

Monday, January 29, 2024


Most of the body’s past lives
Overlapped the body’s life,
Whether the body held you

Or any human ideas
Or was another species—
Many lives lived that ended

And contributed substance
To the body’s life. They weren’t
Layed end to end, prior lives.

They died and were taken up
Into already living
Life again, part of that life.

And the body’s future lives
Aren’t waiting ahead for it.
While the body continues,

Littler lives consume small bits
To fuel themselves, components
Of the body that become

Components of the bodies
Living and dying in it,
Some of which return to it.

So yes, you’ve been an insect
A bacterium, a fish,
Even while you still exist.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

No One Knows the Reason for No One’s Existence

The rock wren, porch familiar,
Had fluffed up against the cold
And was moving so slowly,

It was almost another,
Puffier species. It trilled
A few repetitive notes,

However, near the window,
For identification.
Inside of its awareness,

You would guess there was no self
Duplicity. It wasn’t
Occupied by a fungus

Of songs and self-reference
Floated in from outside lives
Like you. Your homunculus

Is real, is not a fiction,
Except in myths it controls
Your actions, is wholly you,

Is a monad that outlasts
The body as solid soul.
It’s a little onlooker

Constructed of other minds,
Every human’s Frankenstein
Recreation, the Golem,

The no one inside the brain
That sat watching the rock wren,
Thinking how solid it seemed,

For all its fragility
And faintly feathery fluff,
A life with no one like it.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Fortunate

The words lie still as stones,
Still as notches in bricks,
Charcoal stains on bamboo.

Writing systems should still
Be seen as magical,
The borderline beings

No more alive than gems
Of solid minerals,
And all the life lives left,

Hair-trigger fossil spores
Ready to spring to thought
In any skull’s wet soil—

To carry so much life
Without having to live.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Social Construction of Illness

It’s cold downstairs.
Upstairs it’s hot,
So they tell you,
The ones who can

Run up the stairs
And down again
To report back
That, yes, it’s hot.

Downstairs, winter
Fingers windows.
Upstairs, the sun
Floods a glass box.

They complain and
You shiver, since
You can’t go up
The stairs with them.

Thursday, January 25, 2024


You are, after all, a child
Who came to the beach at low tide
And spent the afternoon building

A long chain, a dragon of sand castles,
Imagining maybe someone would notice
And compliment you, and stand in awe

Of your incredible construction.
But no one ever did. And now, the day
Is over, and the tide is coming in.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Sunrise in the Waves

The body appears to bear
No allegiance to the world.
It lets its mind, connected

To other minds outside it,
Worry about grave matters.
The body just keeps living

As selfishly as allowed.
The mind is put out. Other
Minds manage to get bodies

To do extraordinary,
Helpful, selfless, or at least
Terribly ambitious things.

How is it that this body
Can’t be bothered to do more
Than ache, eat, and sometimes sleep?

The body’s not listening.
It’s paddling madly as it
Disintegrates in the waves.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Year You Noticed Delights

Not only are you unaware
Of most of what is happening,

Most of what you are aware of,
What you think of as happening,

Isn’t. The good news or the bad,
The earlier than expected

Unpleasantness, overdue bills,
The bright morning that lifts your mood,

The extra opportunity,
The surprise letter from a friend,

These aren’t actually happening.
What’s happening is only you

Interpreting, vis-a-vis you,
Things that have already happened.

Those who live joyfully are good
At leaving happening alone,

Mostly, since it mostly isn’t
What is actually happening.

They notice whatever delights
As nothing grander than delight,

Nothing of important import,
Sometimes something to savor. Nice.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Between the Chairs

Following his stem-cell transplant,
Keyboardist Andreas Staier,
Replied to an interviewer,

It doesn’t look bad, but things don’t
Look really good either. Right now,
I’m sitting between the chairs. So,

Seems about right. Sound familiar?
Of course, it would be nice to have
Only the cancer to think of,

Or to not have to think of it,
But there’s life in the long twilight
That won’t hint if it’s dawn or night.

You wake and there’s music to make,
Or there’s something to read or write.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

It’s Not Going to Kill You

To do this or that,
Or if this or that.
You’re not going to die.

It wouldn’t kill you
To do whatever’s
Under discussion.

Common expressions
And commonly true
Within their contexts.

It’s not often acts
Prefaced by, it won’t kill you,
Do kill anyone.

But out of context,
What eerie phrases,
You’re not going to die

If etc.,
Since it will kill you,
Sooner or later.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Sing Fuse

There has to be a verse in there,
In one of those seen or unseen
Machines, that could answer to this

Moment, this passage when all things
Hang between the remarkable
Endurance of organisms

Doing the old loops, the two, three
Billion years’ worth of traditions,
Marvelous however vicious,

Life on Earth, and the invasion
Of mechanisms newer than
Yesterday. It’s their turn, it is,

For them to actually create
Or generate or do something
That is not only echoing

But a patterning of novel
Existence—not only being
Not living, not only living—

Something as new to Earth’s habits
As the first single-cellular
Lives were, and something more than life.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Why You’re Like This

Personal history can be used
To weave all kinds of explanations
For someone’s personal behaviors,

But the strongest motivation is
Inertia. You do what you do since
That’s what you do, and so you do it.

Still, that’s not satisfying. Something
In your childhood, something in your genes,
Something about the years you spent poor

As a single parent, holding things,
Just barely holding things together,
Must explain why you buy food in bulk,

Or obsess over pillowcases,
Or attend local protest marches,
Or avoid all participation.

The love of spinning a this-since-that
Explanation is itself a form
Of inertia, a habitual

Way of making sense of your habits,
Personal and peculiar to you,
Since finding causes is what you do.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Transparent and Logical Dream

Life reflects. In its smallest forms,
And maybe in its earliest,
Each already carried echoes

Images of their own machines,
Miniature mise-en-abymes.
The larger then echoed smaller,

Although maybe growing thinner
At the vaster, upper levels,
The way Earth thins to atmosphere.

In the midst of all these shell games,
Lies the question, where is the dream,
Where did the dream go, which shell holds

The dream? None of them do, it seems.
The dream is not a shell itself,
Not an echo or reflection,

Not mirrors mirroring the scenes,
Not even funhouse mirrors, since
Those are distortions and repeats

Contiguous to their sources,
While the dream is nothing itself,
Transparent and logical dream.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Radioactive Weak

Poets, in general, are easy
For generals to arrest or kill.
It’s their weakness that makes them a threat,

Since if any such piddling persons
Can get away with thumbing noses
At the authorities of great states,

It makes powerful leaders look weak,
And we can’t have that. But even then,
At their worst, they’re not much of a threat.

Poets get arrested and murdered
Since, of all the threats posed to the State,
Poets are the easiest to catch.

They make the best targets, few and cheap,
And they seem glad of the attention,
When they survive it. Fellow poets,

The ones not arrested, can take pride
In belonging to such a brave tribe.
It’s only the patterns in language,

Of course, that last long enough to fight
Things through—poems against the powerful
Glow longer half-lives than power does.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Rest Went Dark

There was a place to eat
At the far end of a row
Of stores that formed a strip mall.

It served the best black-bean soup.
You knew the name of the place,
The mall, and how to get there.

Once a week, you stopped to eat,
To have a bowl of that soup.
It was a part of your life.

You moved states, changed jobs, moved on.
You saw large swaths of the world.
You did not come back. Not once.

What was the name of that place?
They served the best black-bean soup.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Ten Years Old

Let’s just say for once you were
Aware everyone was gone.
Small believer that you were,

Of course you assumed the worst,
Assumed it was unbelief
That had marooned you, left you

Beneath redemption, left you
Behind. All the other times,
You either hadn’t noticed

The hour the house was empty
Save for you, or you’d been told
You’d be a while on your own.

This time, it was the closest
You’d ever come to living
Your life as an afterlife.

You surfaced from your reading
Into the quiet sunlight
Of the empty living room

And knew there was no one there.
The angels had come for them—
Siblings, parents—but left you.

Your unbelief was exposed.
Heaven had opened and closed.
You were on the other side

Of doors you couldn’t open.
As the fear of suffering
That was about to find you

Clutched at your believer’s heart,
There was a weird excitement,
A romance, one last wonder.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

An Attentive Insect

Holub called it the club
Of Swifts, Goethes, Rimbauds,
Horatiuses, and

Death watch beetles, ha, but
Do all death watch beetles
Belong, or only some,

The chanting ones? Or just
The gifted ones? This one
Would like to know. No, no,

That was a joke. This one
Just wants to keep an eye
On death and not to join

Any poets’ club, not
Even one whose members
Count Miroslav Holub.

Saturday, January 13, 2024


Angels were gunning him down,
He said, not seeming alarmed,
One of those human moments

When someone you don’t know well
Comes out with a bizarre claim
On the face of it, and you

Feel unsure how to respond.
Is this man hearing voices?
Is this man having you on?

Are you missing some context
That would make ordinary
Sense of what seems like nonsense?

Angels were gunning him down,
He said, adding, in his dreams.
At that you smiled, satisfied.

Anything’s allowed in dreams.
What a nightmare! you told him.
Yes, he sighed, these hateful dreams.

Then he curled over and fell
Without a sound. The dark blood
Pooled around him on the ground.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Still Hovering

The actual afterlife
Isn’t for imagining
Or for experiencing

With the embodied senses,
Although something’s going on
That sometimes smacks of vision

And sometimes appears near sweet
In air. Proprioception
Is almost wholly erased,

But there’s an aspect
Of relative distance, space,
A roughly fore and after

Arrangement of faint presence.
Is there a way to explore
This watered-down afterworld?

Is this just the fading glow
Bright lights leave on retinas?
If so, no retinas here,

Middle of not anymore.
There is that spear-leaved flower
Dense with lines, still hovering.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Invisible Seeing

Is this a stage, a between,
Or is this the end of it?
So what if few things get through?

What’s here that was never there?
Bruised doors and outlined flowers
Don’t count. They’re too similar

To what was on the first side.
The atmosphere trembles, or
The light. And of course that’s why.

People arrived in new lands
Not only incorrectly
Identify local finds

With familiar forms from home—
Much that is too new to them
They don’t even see at all.

What’s here that appears unseen?
That’s what would be most likely
Something that was never there.

The dead send so few letters
To the living, maybe, since
It’s invisible seeing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Flower Grows by the Door

So extremely simplified
So far, will it get simpler
Or will more aspects emerge?

Part of what’s missing must be
Memory and sense of self,
But only a certain class

Of memory, anything
Episodic, and only
The self-referential self.

The memory languages,
Words as names, encapsulate,
That’s here. Well-tempered clavier.

See? That was vivid enough.
And perspective. Transparent
Eyeball, if not aware self.

All those afterlives of clouds
And glowing pearly backdrops
Weren’t so far off after all.

Are the blossoming lines signs
Intended to encode words?
The flower grows by the door.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Lines of Small Signs

It would make sense a not-world,
An anti-world, lacked detail,
In contrast to life’s world filled

To all brims and horizons
With divisible details.
As soon as that thought crops up,

However, a first flower,
Or something like a flower,
A bulbous, spiral chalice

On a thin stem of darkness
Or, at least, more shadowed light,
Appears in the atmosphere,

Which doesn’t seem to be air
So much as a gas-like glow
Inside of incandescence.

Nowhere else is there a clear
Edge or line to anything,
But here are incised petals

Or sheaves of sharp-edged, tapered,
Leafish pages, a twirling
Bolus of lines of small signs.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Sailboats Sinking through Dim Light

This place could use a Harold—
At least his purple crayon.
There are no lines, no outlines.

The door in the wave dimples,
A frameless indentation
In a shining wall of dust.

Wait. It’s not a door for souls
Or for anything really.
It’s a soft spot in the light,

A bruise in the afterlife.
It’s an opportunity
Not to go through, but to push

Messages through. A mail slot.
How did Houdini miss this?
There are no hands to push with,

No throat to shout out, despite
The odd sense of a sweet taste
In the absence of a mouth,

But there’s the feeling of words
Sinking through that spot, paper
Sailboats sinking through dim light.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

There’s a Door

This condition’s appealing,
Kind of. It’s unexpected
To be anywhere being

Aware of anything, if
One was expecting nothing.
It’s enchanting, in a way.

It seems dry. There are shadows
That should be impossible
Since nothing’s blocking the light.

There’s a moving perspective
As the whole, bleached reference
Frame is continuously

Shifting. There’s nothing to hurt,
Nothing to lose, and nothing
Much to observe. There’s a wall,

Or a large wave of some kind,
A slightly less bright feature
Of light emerging in light.

Perspective drifts toward it.
Could it collapse? It’s massive,
Light’s standing wave. There’s a door.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Something Sweet

The afterlife is awful
When it comes to world-building.
Just look at this washed-out mess,

This overexposed film strip—
Is it heaven? Is it hell?
Is it a desert planet?

Who could tell? The light’s too bright,
The details blurred and faded.
This could be sand or concrete.

The sky has no horizon.
There are shapes on the distance.
Maybe they could be people.

They’re moving, or seem to be,
But too far for signs or calls
To reach wherever this is.

There’s no sense of touch or smell.
Literally unnerving,
But, thanks to that, there’s no pain.

So now what? Eternity
Or some kind of storyline?
Wait—there’s a taste. Something sweet.

Friday, January 5, 2024

How to Be Fragile

Sudden motions, as a rule,
Are not a good idea. Pay
Attention or pay in pain.

Watch out for toddlers and dogs.
Smile warmly while steering clear.
What shines could be slippery.

There are no soft landings, no
Free crunch. Bravery is as
Bravery endures, never

As bravery does. The world
Is not smaller when you stay
Still. It only grows larger.

Stay unbeliever. Recall,
It wants to destroy us all.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Giving Over

When you were young and among
Your own kind, since whoever
One is among when that young

Tend to become one, one’s own,
There was the frequent advice
People gave to each other

To give it over to God.
Now you consider cancer,
Its wild enthusiasm

To keep living large, larger,
A sybaritic rock star,
A Samson chained and eager

To achieve sufficient strength
To pull down the whole palace
On everyone and Samson,

And you consider Wiman,
Angel of faith with cancer,
Patient with God and cancer,

Profiled in The New Yorker,
As God blinks out brain by brain.
Such an optimistic man.

What if God’s got the cancer?
If God’s own brains are feeding
On whatever’s remaining,

Brain by brain and cell by cell,
More mad enthusiasm
For living, growing larger?

You gave it over to God,
And now God’s dying of it,
Gone, one day, all together.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

As with Everything

Phi, the Golden Ratio,
The meanest and the toughest
Of all the irrationals

To approximate, swaggered
In and out of written texts,
Mystical speculations,

Visual arts, actual
Architecture, and other,
Contested observables

For centuries and never
Has been brought low, even though
It’s lost some of its magic—

The problem is what it is
Can’t live up to what it means.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

And More to Come

You enter in the middle,
And you leave in the middle,
No matter when you enter,
And no matter when you leave.

Maybe you were the strange child,
The kind who considered lives
That ended before the great,
Terrible events began—

The person whose life finished
Days before the colonists
Were first sighted from the shore
In their ships like birds of prey,

The person whose life finished
Days before the start of war
And genocide that would smear
Whole villages from the map,

The person whose life finished
In painful old age, just days
Before the start of the plague
Started filling the mass graves.

They never knew, those persons,
Their world’s evisceration,
Which even then didn’t end
More people living more lives,

More generations being
Born in more middles of things,
Ending still in the middle,
Never knowing the next thing.

Monday, January 1, 2024

If Something Is Red

Stomping on cloudy
Ice too thick to crack,
As likely to slide

And shatter yourself,
And what on earth for?
Nothing much under

But muddy water
And whatever strange
Fish monster it was

That circled your feet
The morning you froze.
There’s nothing to see

And wanting to see
So badly you can’t.