Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Good Use of the Damned

Possibly, the Earth
Could be forgiven
For not foreseeing

Inventing bipeds
Could lead to chaos
Inside selection.

It was a long time,
Sort of, from the first
Tools to extinctions,

To reorderings
Of ecosystems,
To tearing Earth’s flesh.

Of course, some insist
Earth would have been fine
Left only to them—

It was the others
And their peculiar

That led to this mess—
Not our ancestors,
Not our equipment.

We had it sorted.
We remained cautious,
Small, reverential.

We were Earth’s children,
Some still say—polite
And harmonious.

And maybe they’re right.
In any event,
It’s a human thing,

Whatever goes wrong,
To pick out persons
Whose wicked misdeeds

Were responsible.
Could Earth have known this
Would make matters worse—

Rules-obsessed passions,
Punishments, hubris,
This love of the curse?

Or was it in fact
All part of Earth’s plan
To finally get

Freed from life again?
Humans, Earth’s agents,
Earth’s humans, the damned.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Answer Yourself

The answer is
You don’t know. You
Are far too small

To know, so don’t
Bother to ask.
Out of the storm,

The great voice roars,
I made it all,
Including you,

And who are you,
And where were you
Then, to ask now?

Smile a small smile.
You wrote that voice.
Someone as small

As you produced
That voice and roared.
That’s you. That’s who.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

The End of Eloquence

To your surprise, the name conceals
A reference to another name
You knew before you knew the first,

Which makes you reconsider grief.
The name covering the other
Had been, in grieving, eloquent,

But you hadn’t known it was grief
Gifting the eloquence. You’d gone
Searching for further eloquence,

And instead you had uncovered
The hidden name, the source of grief,
Like a burst pipe warming the floor

Before it pushed apart the tiles,
Like the lives boiling underneath
The fallen fruit, so that it moved,

And you were sad, not for the name
The other had been covering,
But for the end of eloquence.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Wind Outside the Prison Hummed

The poem is not lost
In translation, since
The poem is never

Translated. The poem
Is the translation,
The language that’s not

Really the language
Of the world the poem
Is about, the world

Of the body, say,
Or of the heart, or
Even of people.

They’re so close, of course,
People’s languages
And their translations

Into poems, almost
Dialects without

Translation. And then,
The other extreme,
The beyond-human

World, not a language,
Hardest to translate,
Most often what’s lost.

Friday, April 26, 2024

For Lack of Supporting Character

The protagonist takes the stage alone.
There are no furnishings. There are no props.

The protagonist hesitates, glancing
Around the bare boards, ignoring the dark

Beyond the cone of light, despite rustling
Of clothes and playbills, despite muttering.

So, the protagonist is pretending
To actually be alone. Is that it?

Are we to believe the protagonist
Has no idea we’re all crowded in here,

Politely breathing each other’s odors,
Trying to keep quiet, as if we could

Accidentally give ourselves away
And scare the hell out of the pretender?

Thursday, April 25, 2024


The imagery around
The unimaginable,
The torque of magnetic fields

Encircling present absence
As pictured by telescopes
And enhanced reproductions,

Isn’t it reminiscent
Of the way the creators
Of fictional characters

And first-person narrators
Will dance words up to the lip
Of where awareness leaves them—

All is darkness and silence,
Something huge and merciless,
Plunge, and Finished knowing—then—

Leaving an outline
Of where awareness can’t go
As where awareness had gone?

Wednesday, April 24, 2024


How many words do you need
To stitch together a ghost?
A case can be made for one—

Ghost, or any synonym.
A better case for just one
Can be made by countering

The first. Just as you can say
The word ghost isn’t a ghost,
Only a label for one,

The way the word chair is not,
Definitely not, a chair,
An actual chair, you’ll note

That the word chair is the ghost
Of any actual chair,
And now there’s an argument

That any language label
For any tangible thing,
Anything experienced,

Is a ghost of that thing, that
Experience, as Plato
In the dreaming of ideals

Both suggested everything
With a name carried a ghost,
Or just was a ghost, because

It wasn’t the real ideal,
And meanwhile, the ideal real,
Never quite experienced,

Was the ultimate haunting.
Let’s say every word’s a ghost,
But that’s dissembling. The ghost

Isn’t the word. The word God
Is a most material
Thing in every offering,

And yet, if used as a name,
It drags a ghost, many ghosts,
All its possible meanings.

No word does that on its own.
The ghosts that words can conjure
Are infinite as meanings,

Infinite in every word,
But the whole system, the whole
Method of making meaning

Must be in place for one ghost,
Any ghost made of whole cloth.
Words haunt you. You must haunt them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A Little Tisane at Bedtime

Proto-weeds from the Last Glacial Maximum—
Including wild barley—at Ohalo II,
Already in small-scale cultivated plots,

Perhaps—certainly in dense concentrations
Around grinding stones at the site, but it takes
More than half of all the years from then to now

To get to Jarmo farmers in the foothills
Of the Zagros and find primitive barley
Varieties among emmer and einkorn

Wheat and the bones of domesticated goats,
Sheep, and dogs, along with sickles and pottery.
The nonshattering mutations of barley,

Reducing the brittleness of hairy spikes—
Latin hordeum, horrere, to bristle—
Rendering barley grass helpless without us,

Then spent the next few thousand years being spread
In combination with various other domesticates
Through increasingly agricultural worlds—

Useful for beers and whiskeys, of course. Also,
Here and there, barley-water drinks, kykeon,
Agua de cebada, or jau ka sattu,

Robinson’s barley water at Wimbledon,
Which brings us to barley-water teas themselves—
As pearl, that is, peeled, barley—the origin

Etymologically, of herbal teas,
From the Ancient Greek ptisánē, peeled barley,
All these worlds held in this tisane you sip now.

Monday, April 22, 2024

This, Clearly, Isn’t Language

Any communication
That can say what isn’t is
As easily as saying

What is isn’t, and be known
To be communicating
A state that isn’t the case—

To the communicator,
To the receiver, to both—
That can propose p, not-p,

As easily, regardless
Of the experienced state
Of p or not-p outside

Of any statement, isn’t
Simply communication
Or effort at deception,

But is language. The presence
Or absence of some agreed
Complexity of syntax,

Symbolism, or abstraction,
Is not the criterion
To vet a proposition

That the communication
Is or isn’t echt language.
Can the proposition state

Of itself or anything
The opposite of the shared
Experience of the case,

State p when not p, not p
When p? That proposition
Is a statement in language,

Not a communication,
Not only one. Every poem
Is genuinely language.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Getting to Do Stuff

That’s really what you live for,
Isn’t it? Not getting stuff
But getting to do the stuff

You, whoever you are, think
Is important stuff to do.
Raise your children. Lead people

To Jesus. Write a novel.
Tend your garden. See Tibet.
End late capitalism.

None of it’s unimportant.
The importance comes from you.
You think that Mars gives a damn

About peace or war on Earth?
About who holds the record
For the longest-lived human?

But somehow it bothers you
To be told what’s important
Is what’s important to you.

You want importance to stand
Above and apart from you,
Like that peak you meant to climb,

One of those things you may not
Ever get to do. Stuff shrinks
In importance in your mind

If it’s only important
To you, even if it’s just
Important to everyone

Else in your important boat
Of a species arguing
Over what’s most important.

Imagine the sun wishing
All the light from its planets
And from all its planets’ moons

Wasn’t its light bouncing back.
You live to get to do stuff
You find important to you.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Evening Reading

Sweep the room and clear off the table.
Palm leaves, birch bark, papyrus, vellum,
Bamboo, baked clay, acid-free paper.

This is a dream, and everything’s blank.
No, it’s only imagination.
Dreams are like falling, falling itself.

Imagination is like lifting,
Carrying the images uphill.
Entropy’s in favor of dreaming.

They’re out there somewhere. You know they are.
You know this is lying to yourself.
It means you want them to be out there.

Palm leaves, birch bark, papyrus, vellum,
Bamboo, baked clay, acid-free paper.
Why do you care that they’re written down?

Inhuman. That’s what you really want.
You aren’t expecting ancient wisdom
And won’t mind any lack of beauty.

You want something your small mind can read
That won’t remind you of anyone,
Which is impossible, inhuman.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Only Yesterday

End stories concentrate
On the few survivors,
Since that’s where stories thrive,

And, however many
Deaths a story tots up,
Who wants a tale that’s died?

Nonetheless, a bent mind
Imagines a novel
Made udystopian,

Blank of all characters—
Say a huge solar flare
Or nuclear warfare

Did just as you’d expect,
But you focused tightly
On, let’s say, a prison,

Deep in the Midwestern
US, some maximum
Security fortress,

Completely dependent,
Of course, on its systems
And global supply chains.

Inside, emergency
Generators held up
A while, but the guards ran

And/or supplies ran out,
And the radiation
Drifted steadily in.

For a brief while, maybe,
Days or weeks, you’d get some
Trapped survivor drama,

But once everyone died,
Most still locked in their cells,
Your novel settled in,

Not searching for stories
Of horror and tension
Where there were revenants,

Just sticking with the prison
Through nuclear winter
As the bodies decayed,

Writing how bugs wandered
Through each widening crack.
Recalling deaths as deaths—

Suffering, horrific
Deaths, as deaths tend to be—
But just deaths. Just the past.

Thursday, April 18, 2024


What you can’t find to read, try to write.
What you can’t write, try to find to read.
If you grow too suspicious, give up

As long as you can stand to give up,
And then let yourself get back at it,
Searching libraries of amassed texts,

And then, by turn, scrutinizing blanks
The way you used to spend afternoons
Carefully built with nothing to do,

Waiting to see whatever emerged.
There is an arrangement of phrases
Somewhere, mother tongue or translated,

That will click into place in your thoughts
Like the clicks of pins against your palm
Tumbling into a whole you can hold.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lathe in the Ribs

When the kindness of feeling
Pretty damn good for a change,
Not too bad for this body,

Slips in, it glides as subtly
As the proverbial knife.
Contentment, like injury,

Apparently, can be swift.
How often do people think
Of their lives as a series,

An oscillating sequence
Of sensing comfort or pain,
Bodily alterations

Naked of storytelling
Or contextualizing
Social data? You felt bad.

You felt good. You felt better.
You felt worse. Who knows why then.
The shifting has its twilights,

Its sunrises and sunsets,
And is as often ignored,
Occasionally fawned over,

As days’ changing of the light.
The sphere of feeling rotates,
Whether or not you notice,

A slightly wobbly spinning
With no character to it,
No plot, no destination,

Other than that, at some point,
It will stop. The pleasant knives
And the painful alike then

Withdrawn. The body won’t feel.
The enculturated self
Won’t notice feeling again.

In the meantime, how is this
Not as important to life
As any rooting interest,

Any planned accomplishment,
Maybe, even, any love?
Like the days and nights themselves,

If not so neatly balanced,
Contentment and pain remain
The ground your figures pace.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Insufficient for the Surplus

The stories aren’t good enough.
A man drives a truck by you
With a message on the back

That reads, Jesus Is Enough.
The stories aren’t good enough,
Not anymore. The best ones

Present small worlds carefully.
The large worlds implode in dust.
The stories aren’t good enough

To cope with everything known,
To hold half of what is known,
Anymore. There’s a hit show

About aliens, a film
About a galactic war,
And many, many, many

More. There are warnings about
What you’re doing to the world
From new religions and old,

Stories about origins
And ends, systems and villains
And villainous systems,

But they don’t begin to hold
Water under scrutiny—
It’s not that they’re bad stories,

It’s that stories can’t carry
The ore. They crumble to dust.
Stories just aren’t good enough.

There’s a woman half in tears,
Smashed groceries at her feet,
The burst sack still in her hand

When you come out of the store.
These stories aren’t good enough
To carry us anymore.

Monday, April 15, 2024

So Like You

It’s not awful, whispered
The skull voice to itself,

As usual, It’s not
Awful, but it’s not that

Good. And a little flame
Like a propane pilot

Blue light flickers in thought
Not quite reaching to voice,

Pleased at first, the pleasure
Of comparison, of

Self-flattery, snuffed out
By the cold follow-thought,

That’s what you’re aiming for?
Better than not that good?

Fire up hot and bothered
When you find one you see

Is both better than good
And awfully like you.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Unholy Stone

A side of cliff calved
A slab of sandstone
That slid like a sled
Downslope and smashed.

The pieces scattered
In a cloud of dust
That settled over
Earlier rockfalls,

Rubble on rubble,
That’s all. A prophet
Picked up a fragment
Of broken sandstone,

The waves of the old
Wind-built dune in it,
And brought it to town
And hammered it down

In irrigated,
Weeded, manicured,
Soft green temple ground
To make a statement

About holiness
And unholiness
And hypocrisy.

The prophet’s new faith
Spread, until the stone
Became considered
The true sacred ground,

Although by that time,
No one was certain
Which stone was the one
The prophet put down,

And competing claims
Divided pilgrims
Among holy sites
Scattered around town.

Saturday, April 13, 2024


Some say, Every day
We get a little
Closer to the end.

That’s not true. The end
Isn’t out there. No,
The end is behind

Everyone, something
To be imagined
From previous ends.

The body typing
A poem may, to you,
Have previously

Ended. To itself,
No, never. And you,
Your end, no, never.

The end’s not out there.
You extrapolate,
My dear, you project.

Friday, April 12, 2024

You Are But Yesterday

And yesterday refuses
To stay still for one moment,
Being always yesterday

And never itself again.
You’d like to think you’re just slow,
Too slow to catch the changes

In the exact act of them,
As if you experienced
Now, but just caught it a beat

Late. There’s no now, not like that.
You’re not approximating.
Now’s past, with or without lags.

You sit in an unlit room,
Nothing but how twilight bloomed.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Somewhere Along the Way

Someone in earshot
Notes, All journeys end,

And first you think, yes,
While imagining

Repeating that phrase
By way of last words.

But then you’re bothered
By the thought, It’s wrong.

Journeys never end.
They decelerate.

They change direction.
They lose companions.

You’ll say your last words,
Probably a gasp,

An incoherent,

Air-hungry gargle,
And then the journey

Of everything else,
Of everyone else,

Even the body
Still shedding its cells,

Will continue on
With and without you.

Would it be better,
You muse, if journeys

Really did all end?
But then, if they did,

With everything still,
Who would know? Nothing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Job Lite

The details of the fable—
How many cattle he had,
How many children, so on—

How everything was taken
From him, including his health,
Everything except his life—

All of that, even the fact
That he was a patriarch,
Really don’t matter, nor do

The details of the doubling
Of everything on return,
A whole fresh set of children

To go along with double
The cattle, etc.—
Wondertale mathematics—

Once he proved he was faithful,
So God could win his throw-down
Against the Adversary—

Not once the unknown poet
Interpolated the poem
To make it universal,

So far as humans can be
Universal. Anyone
Can feel the anguish of Job

In those verses, and decide
For themselves how much to trust
The Voice out of the whirlwind,

And who hasn’t had to bear
Sanctimonious advice
About tolerating life,

Sometimes from interpreters
Of Job’s poem itself, as if
These pains were only Job Lite?

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Living

Lives end lives,
And it’s rare
That lives end
Are alive.
Are alive.
Are alive,
And tumors
Are alive.

An earthquake,
A flash flood—
Can end lives.
No surprise,
Having fed
Yourself on
Others’ lives,
If others
End your life.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Poem of the Weirdly Weak

No one that you know of carries
Your identical mutation,
Although surely someone must have.

Estimates of mutation rates
And of global population
Together would put, at random,

Maybe half a dozen living
People with a point mutation
At that same location. Given

Negative selection pressure
For such a deleterious
Variation, random seems right,

And of course, the substitutions
Of that nucleotide wouldn’t
Likely all be identical.

So, here you are, in the decades
Since your father died, possibly,
Perhaps probably, the only

Possessor of this tiny quirk,
This one base-pair alteration,
Changing one amino acid

In the chain of one long protein,
Among your thousands of proteins,
The bricks of your bones turned to glass.

You’re like some thought experiment,
In how different one life could be
With only a minimum twist.

You’re everything ordinary
A human can be—desirous,
Affable, humorous, feckless,

Greedy, conniving, generous,
Hypocritical, hard-working,
Corner-cutting, conscientious,

An all-in-all typical mess,
With minor characteristics
Producing your particulars,

Similar to anyone else,
Typical given your priors,
Maybe, tangled variables

That mostly add up to human,
Largely unsurprising human,
Impossible to correlate

Precisely with that mutation
Since there is no, and will be no,
Set of lives for comparison.

Well. Unique but ordinary,
How ordinarily unique.
And yet you pour twelve thousand poems.
And yet your bones are weirdly weak.

Sunday, April 7, 2024


Granted, everything’s still
Quiet on this spiral

Arm of a galaxy
With a nice, black-hole core,

But something’s a little
Head-popping, no matter

How many times witnessed,
About being aware

Of even one other
Spiral island out there,

NGC 1055,
For instance, in dark space,

Large as our galaxy
With its billions of stars,

Just sitting quietly
Out there, like what . . . like what?

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Exhaustion, after Saadi Youssef

A shadow never falls
Not at your feet

Not in the corner of the room
Not from the trees

Not between the towers
In the narrow cities

Never at noon
A shadow is always a lighter

Version of whatever light
An interference pattern

Reminding everyone
Light travels light

Is always traveling
And not all the light

Makes it back from reflection
Light travels until it gets absorbed

And interrupted
By fascinating digressions

Like you there standing in it
With your shadow that’s the light

The light left after you
That went around you

To stop at something else
To sink down somewhere else

Friday, April 5, 2024

You Had a Dream of What Dreams Are

Dreams are other people’s lives
Intermingling with your own,
Fused emotions overblown.

That explains the certainty
As well as the confusion.
They’re memory perfusions,

Recall passing through itself,
Your own mixed with substitutes,
Hybrid to the very roots.

It’s someone’s experiment,
Someone’s or something’s project,
Mixing up lives as you slept.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Impossible Happenings

Are what—what can
Be told but not
Witnessed, or what

One group believes
As a matter
Of ancient faith

But another
Group dismisses,
Or what no one

Can be unearthed
Who does believe,
Or what can’t be

Told or thought of
At all, and thus
You’ll never know?

Wednesday, April 3, 2024


Used twice in one short article,
A word like granular will pop
Out from among the other words
The reader is registering.

It will trouble the illusion
That the reader peers through the text
Into another person’s mind
Or into a far-away landscape.

Now the text looks more like a hedge,
A thicket of words, abstract black,
And the reader will be reading
Aware of that, granularly.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024


On this pebble, peculiar
Equalities carry on—
There’s life, but no lineage

Is more ancient than others.
All have extinct ancestors.
No organism survives.

Lines go extinct all the time,
But the remaining make more.
At any moment, all lives

Have a common ancestor
And all will die but only
Some will leave offspring behind,

And any given being
Is likely a collection
Of such equally ancient,

Equally doomed storylines
Competing, cohabiting,
Parasitizing themselves.

Whatever they leave behind
Will be increasingly changed
And go on equally, the same.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Meanwhile, Lives Tick Over Regularly

One kind of Apocalypse
Rushes after another,
Flood or fire. It’s tradition,

And not of one religion.
Everyone has their vision.
No one runs out of new ones.

The glory of God rises,
Promise climatologists,
When the sea that is right now

Will be filled by fresh waters
That cover that sea. Long time
It’s been since there was no ice,

Maybe a longer time still
Until there is ice again.