Sunday, March 31, 2024

Manifest Cacophony

If you’ve been human, anytime,
Anywhere, since the invention

Of ways of writing requests down,
At least, you’ve likely conflated

At some point spiritual forces,
Political, military,

Or socioeconomic
Outcomes with your own personal

Desires. Have you not? Not ever
Begged higher powers to ensure

Things go the way you think they should,
A helping hand for you and yours?

Even if prayers were effective,
You’d all cancel each other out.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

That Moment You Are

Sometimes, living inside of you,
You forget what you are and are

Startled when a glass reminds you.
Outsiders neglect some persons.

Some persons forget their outsides.
What a strange shape in the mirror.

More and more, odd whiffs delight you.
A diesel smell from a highway

Leaves you smiling. You don’t know why.
You don’t like the smell of diesel.

Then it occurs to you you were
Young once in various cities

Adventuring, wired, and that whiff
Fools some part of you that you’re back,

You must be, young and wide awake,
Alert to the moment you are.

Friday, March 29, 2024

The First Person Always Returns

He’s out there weeding again.
It’s not even his garden.
The neighborhood ignores him,

Given it’s no one’s garden,
And he doesn’t seem to be
Doing any harm to it.

He’s got it in for tall stalks,
So the garden looks leveled
But otherwise not much changed.

Why is there a garden there,
Anyway? It’s property.
Properly needs an owner.

But no one thinks about it
Really. There’s that guy again,
Pulling all the tall stalks out.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Poor Tree Allegory

This tree’s so inconsistent.
It messes with perspective.
At night, it’s next to a lamp

That creates its own versions.
Maybe we’ll get back to those.
By day, well, it’s either green

And apparently growing,
Or gold, growing beautiful,
Or so bare lopped branches show.

And the weather! The weather
Intersects all the above,
Windy, rainy, sun-drenched trees

Of this tree, in all seasons,
Each with day and night versions.
It’s an epic catalog,

Poor tree, stuck in a lyric
With no real music to it,
Sighing, creaking, and rustling.

You don’t want to look at it,
But it was planted for you
Or with you, something like that.

It could come down any day.
In winter lamplight, after
A snow, it mimics a ghost.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Not What Is the System, Who?

Whenever there’s a picture
Of people somewhere public,
Gathered to make a statement

In support of a hero
Or in protest of crackdowns,
And they’re being arrested,

Study as much as you can
Of the faces of police,
Often physically obscured,

Carefully blank when exposed,
As if they’re playing poker,
Not cuffing a protester.

A police apparatus
Is the backbone of a state,
And the cells of that machine

Are breathing human bodies
Who wear the body armor,
Monitor the monitors,

Obey the orders, go home
Or to their barracks to sleep,
Eat, clean themselves. Tomorrow

Is another day, next week
Another paycheck, next month
Maybe a small promotion.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Wood Shop

Sawdust, wood glue, varnish, turpentine,
Table saw, band saw, nail gun—the suite

Of the garage-cum-cabinet shop
Anchored the rhythms of the ranch house

Never intended to shelter work
That now kept the house from being sold

Out from under the children it held.
Built deep enough into third-growth woods

That the din remained an annoyance
No more unbearable than the planes

Flying from the recreational
Airport built over swampland next door,

The transgression of residential
Zoning laws had been half-forgiven.

Everyone knew about the children,
Adopted, disabled, most of them,

And the carpenter in his wheelchair
Who built cabinets to support them.

And somewhere in there was a fable
About strange roaring in the deep woods.

Monday, March 25, 2024

What Are You Doing Here?

The real deal crosses your path,
A truly black cat in sage
Wilderness down by the creek,

Not a cougar or bobcat
Or something vaguely cat-like.
A black domestic shorthair,

Medium-bodied, solid
Shadow, crosses, left to right,
And vanishes in the brush,

Miles from any residence,
Any trailer, cabin, house.
If the supernatural

Ever intended to send
A message via black cat,
This would have to be the one,

Unmistakable omen,
Where a black cat wouldn’t last a night
On coyote’s hungry ground.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Where Does the Story Begin?

There’s a map of infinity on the wall,
Compressed and distorted to cover it all.

The landscape’s so jampacked with categories,
There are no boundaries to territories.

In fact, from a short distance, the map looks white,
A white gap, a blank expanse, glowing at night.

Get some darts. Throw one at infinity’s map.
It might bounce back or vanish without a gap,

But if it sticks, start with that. Begin from there
Where the story begins. There were storms in the air

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Literature

Ash and silence might be better
Than any arguments, but still

If you found a book carbonized
In old ash you’d crave translation.

Any writing becomes worthwhile
If fragments endure long enough—

Ritual prayers, divinations,
Palace accounts, sheep exchanges,

Even indecipherable
Languages, seals, rows of scratches.

Etch anything on anything
Likely to outlast your era,

Your corrupt civilization.
Your cri de couer may awe someone.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Grave

The tenderness with which people gather
Human remains, delicate reverence
Reserved not only for kin but strangers,

Even strangers whose remains are ancient,
Surfacing from grassed tombs, dunes, and black bogs,
Lies in striking contrast to the fury

With which people may dispose of remains,
Piled up, mutilated, as in the case
Of those ancients found in bogs, for instance.

Revere the dead, fear the dead, handle them
Gently or use them for fertilizer,
Jump scares, and mockery, it’s all the same,

At least in that the same species does this
And just that one species. Yours. You did this.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

In the Dark Room

Does the white guitar require a whammy bar?
Get a hanger and abort the toilet duck.

Translation’s where it lets you down—not from words
To words, not from languages to languages,

Not even from the imaginary world
To words, but from the world just now arriving

In the past. The saplings haven’t budded yet.
The dusk is settling as upstairs a toilet

Flushes. Can you recall that Kodak pocket
Instamatic you got when you were thirteen,

How the beautiful stuff you tried to capture
With it never looked as you remembered scenes,

And yet somehow the snapshots always dragged in
Some ugly details you hadn’t seen at all?

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Null Finch

Hermit who works on nothing,
A bird who chirps for nothing—

No verses in your garden
Can be as terse as nothing.

The heart will burst with living,
While your notes thirst for nothing.

What could be less worth loving?
What could be worse than nothing?

Thoughts warp themselves unknotting
The love-knot quirks of nothing.

There’s no first-place for wanting,
Hurting the worst for nothing.

No verses lined in longing
Will leave their mark in nothing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Milling

Every head in here is grey,
Which is a good thing, since it’s
A cancer treatment center.

Kids with cancer go elsewhere,
But you’d notice young adults.
Young adults would look like kids

In this context, even those
Fortyish or thereabouts.
Here, there are the elderly,

Far side of the recent plague,
Most far side of retirement,
Many far side of mean age

Of death, all here to survive,
The pile-up of reluctance
At the last lip of the cliff.

These are not those who sail clear.
These will stumble down the slope,
Bump and tumble off ledges

Before the fall. Look around.
Which do you think, in this room
Waiting, will be the last one,

Last body, self mostly gone,
Clinging to a twiggy branch,
Floating above the abyss?

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Watercourse of Ghosts

In ghost stories, the dead
Are generally not nice
To the living, but are

Usually excused
On the basis of some
Sorrow or injustice

They’d suffered when they were
Living creatures themselves.
Want to know a secret?

That injustice derived
From cruelties of ghosts
Tormenting the living

With their moaned messages,
A suffering those lives
Carried once ghost themselves,

Haunting and afflicting
The next generation,
They the next, they the next.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The Devil’s Still

You think of your world
As incredibly loud,
And it often is,

Most often in ways
Where older worlds were
Much quieter—less

Machinery, no
Jets overhead, no
Percussion thumping

In loops out of cars.
But the countryside
Itself is weirdly

Quiet, when no trucks
Or jets are passing,
So much quieter

Than it used to be,
Fewer birds, fewer
Bees, almost no beasts.

Even the peasants
Are gone. No one works
At foraging. No one

Lives in a village
Here or hikes to cut
Wood to survive.

This world’s emptier,
However noisy
In most of its parts,

However many
Times as many heads
There are as there were,

Altogether. You
Don’t want to say so,
To say this barren,

Artificial wild
Is to your liking,
But you know it is.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Nameless

Whenever you can, you go
Looking for it, wandering,
Trying to get close, although

It always surprises you
That when you do, you drift off,
Losing what’s in front of you,

Back into language static,
Silent language, like the kid
You were once, in the attic,

Ruffling through dusty bookshelves,
Ignoring your surroundings
Until the coyotes yelp,

And you look up from reading,
As if you could see the howls,
And there it is, the breathing

Of the unmagical world,
The just-there mud, stones, and air,
Earth, the disenchanted world

The coyotes are singing,
The language of everything
That doesn’t spell anything.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Epea Pteroenta

They had a little shop
Where they were artisans,
Their specialty being

Tying flies for humans,
Words cleverly kitted
Out with delicate wings.

By day, they worked in sun,
By night, under their lamps,
Always at the same bench,

Picking out all sizes
Of words and tying them
With strong, translucent wings.

Every few hours, some words
Had recuperated
Enough to fly away,

And out they went in sun
Or rain or moon and stars
To find homes in new skulls.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

There’s That That You Lived There Is That

What is the value of anything good,
Once it’s been followed by anything bad?
The happy afternoon before you knew
The unhappy evening that followed it?

It will happen, it does happen, it has,
And one path is just to get to the next
Good clearing, to go on, get past the bad.

What is the value of memory then,
Just something that steers us along the paths,
Nosy little creatures tracking the good,
Avoiding the turns that shocked us with bad?

The good can do, should do better than that,
Should be there, soothing the trembling creature,
Humming, yes, there is this, but there was that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

None

Can there be any between
Nulls, any infinity
Between zero and zero?

Thoughts skip to finite vacuums,
Separated vacuoles
Of space-time continuum,

Which seem intuitively
As real as bubbles in froth,
Each empty and each distinct,

But one null and another,
Nothing distinct from nothing?
Those finite nulls aren’t wholly

Empty, are imperfect naughts,
Prone to invasion, collapse,
And endless subdivision.

Infinite infinities
Bloom between zero and one.
The instant anything’s not

Nothing, not zero, it is
Divisibly infinite,
And finity only marks

Changes as if boundaries,
Arbitrary as you please.
Nothing’s only unity.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Slip Under

Furmanski’s correct,
And not only for
Mothers. Fathers, too,

And even children
Know, although they can’t
Articulate it

As well as she did,
Every lullaby
Has the elegy

Blowing through it. Each
Generation hears
Bedtime whispering,

This sweetness could fail,
Mit N├Ąglein besteckt,
Schlupf unter die Deck.

Monday, March 11, 2024

You Can’t Change Your Mind

Once someone spots you,
Once someone’s noticed

You, what you do, or
Are about to do.

Of course, you can freeze,
Turn to fight, or run,

But being noticed
Cannot be undone,

And once noticed, what
Has been on your mind

Will have always been
On your mind, will be

Whatever was on
Your mind for all time.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Full Head

The past has plenty of time

All the time in the world, odd
Cliche, once you dwell on it—
Metaphor’s classic mistake,

A concept as a substance,
A resource that can be spent,
Time as something can be had.

And yet, given time as kind
Of rhythmic change, its sameness
Periodic, countable

Waves not wild, the past contains,
Must, all the time in the world.
Even if time’s only God,

Concept uncorrelated
With material something,
The concept’s material

And all in the past, the past
That has all of it, along
With any everything else.

The past has plenty of time,
All of it and all of you,
And you have a little past.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

After Osip Mandlestam

Too honored, too richly dark,
Loam in clover, coveted
Since stallions stampeded out

Choired chariots and wagons,
Earth’s soils of power aren’t freedom.
The plow is never freedom,

Labor’s never without tools,
And gutting rumored riches
Only proves fecundity

Depends on compost music.
The limitless has limits.
You were one of the recent,

Irregular invaders.
It’s sweet you felt joy, but dirt
Turned returned desperation.

Friday, March 8, 2024

What Do You Think of God and What Does God Think of You?

Your grandfather’s sermon
Printed as a leaflet,
Photograph of his face

Smiling on the first sheet
Right under the title,
Saved by your grandmother

For the half-century
Of her widowhood once
He’d died at forty-five—

How devoted of her,
And how cheeky of him,
Sermon title like that,

What does God think of you?
To presume you don’t know,
But he, country preacher

From rural New England,
Knows what God thinks of you
And will enlighten you.

God’s mind’s a drafty manse
To rural Protestants.
Anyone can wander

Inside, Bible in hand,
And start speculating
On the moldy contents,

Then get down to preaching,
Arguing, and splitting
Splintered congregations.

He farmed a few acres
To make ends meet when tithes
And donations couldn’t,

And you never knew him—
Not even your mother
Could ever have known him,

Dead three months before
She was born—but you think
You can imagine him,

Milking the cow, working
The plow, composing thoughts
Knowing the thoughts of God.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Taking Care of the Waste with Complete Sincerity

Ai Weiwei wrote poetry
Is against gravity. He
Then went further, suggesting

Poetry’s transportation
To another place, away
From the moment, away from

Our circumstances, soft praise
Common for storytelling,
Sometimes any kind of text.

Let’s get back to gravity.
Let’s pretend he hadn’t meant
Some escapist fantasy.

Let’s take him literally.
Poetry doesn’t escape
From gravity. Poetry

Remains against gravity
On principle, which would be
Brave and helpless. Poetry.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

You Stay Out of It

Were hoi polloi
The gods, they could
Crowd in the house
Of Zeus to watch

Hotshot warriors
Battle it out
Down below them,
A Super Bowl

Where the viewers
Controlled the view.
In short order
They would group up,

The many, pick teams
And off they’d go,
Just like the gods,
Combatants all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

To Be Poor in Gorgeous Places

Beware of imitation
Of the lives that you admire.
You will not live them. You will

Live your own. Admiration
Of ideas is fine. They help,
Sometimes. But when you select

Ideas to admire because,
You think, you admire their lives
As role models for your own,

You forget the disconnect
Between what to think and what
To expect. Some of the best

Ideas come from those who fought
To wrestle out of train wrecks.

Monday, March 4, 2024

And Yet It Fools Everybody

You have a cowlick mind
That stubbornly resists
Whichever way combs go.

It’s ridiculous. You’ll think
One twist’s your position,
And then someone’s words brush

In just that direction,
And your hair stands on end,
Suddenly offended.

Try to flatten your thoughts,
They’ll point helter-skelter.
Grow them out; they fall flat,

Still swirling but oily,
Surly eddy, vortex
Plastered around your skull.

Someone writes, illusion,
You think, how could you know?
Someone means to listen

To the world by taking
Humans out of landscapes,
You think, that’s not the world.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Not a Few Crimes Led to You

Which of your ancestors do you choose?
Careful now. You’re telling the story
Of you. Watch writers open closets

On family past. The lurid tie
To the recently dead patriarch?
Beloved mother’s favorite dress?

Further back, people get blurrier,
Skeletalize, turn into fossils,
More of them to choose from, less to know.

The bottomless back of the closet
Is less portal than a projection.
Strain to picture the ghosts that please you.

How do you want to define yourself?
Maybe don’t dwell on their binaries.
Maybe don’t dwell on their moral worlds

Or on how you would count some of them
Among your enemies, some your saints,
And most, sadly, petty and boring.

You can pretend ancestors made you,
But you’ll probably want to make sure
You know how you’d like to remake them.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Warm Body

Living is the process
Of becoming aware
You’re only postponing
The end of awareness.

You woke up with the phrase
Death body in your head,
Having just dreamed someone
Sweet slept on your shoulder.

Why would anyone sweet
Snuggle themselves against
The frail catastrophe
That is this death body?

That’s how your thoughts phrased it
As you surfaced. But then
You thought, no, it's not death,
However death hovers,

Or you wouldn’t be here.
It’s breathing, pulsing life.
You’re still a warm body.
And you thought of the joke

Phrase that means, to settle
For anyone, any
Warm body is enough.
Morning postponed the end.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Of Being Left Alone

If you were in shadow,
Had always been immersed
In shadows, would you then

Risk detaching yourself
From the shades to walk out
Where people would spot you?

Judge not, that ye be not.
Be not, so no one feels
Their desire to judge you.

In the shadows, you may
Remain a sacred wood,
A gap without a god,

Perhaps, but not trampled,
Sacred in the small sense
Of being left alone.