Sunday, June 30, 2024

Early Domestication

Every time you close and drift,
The phrases sneak up on you
Like eyes reflecting firelight.

The poems start to assemble,
Hallucinatory, weird—
Then your own eyes fly open,

And in your waking moments
All the reflective phrases
Darken into ashen glitter.

You breathe evenly, softly.
You start to doze. The phrases
Approach the firelight again.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

But There’s Canopus, Old Man, Right on Time

The pressed paper planisphere,
About which you’ve shaped poems
Before, rests hidden somewhere.

After lasting twelve decades
Intact, its alignment string
Has been clawed loose by the cat,

So you’ve stopped displaying it.
It could be repaired. It should.
Often the only charming

Item in whatever dump
You were renting at the time,
An out-of-place artifact

Redolent of libraries,
Edwardian gentlemen,
Academic collectors,

Antiquarian tchotchkes,
No value except their charm,
It did orchestrate for you

A pas-de-deux between clock
And the coincidental
Origin of rhythmic time

That wouldn’t have existed
Except for the world’s spinning,
Focusing life on the beat.

All nights you didn’t forget,
You turned the black paper wheel,
And, whenever skies were clear,

You could check. Clocks can’t do that,
Nor calendars, for all their
Très riches heures, pretty pictures.

You can’t see that three-thirty
Matches the clock face with sky;
There’s no ploughman in the air.

Friday, June 28, 2024


The best life to look at goes on
Like suffering as understood
By Auden’s Old Masters. That’s not

To say that it is suffering,
Only that it shares the aspect,
Seen from the human position,

Of happening in a corner,
Some untidy spot, while someone
Else is opening a window.

The best life to look at, in fact,
Could be in that very window,
Mosses growing behind the glass.

You’ve seen it, some idle moment,
Some pocket scene, macroscopic
But minuscule, tableau vivant

Of seeds and gnats, a rotting scrap
Of orange peel, something like that.
Viewed by a child or an inmate,

Another world, original
Of the concept of other world,
From fairy land to multiverse,

But not other at all, humble
Ancestor of mythologies,
Terrariums, and space stations.

The best life to look at shows
Scale invariant to challenge
Or complexity. It’s still life.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Team Leader

In the horse languages,
Thousands of years ago,
They made a metaphor.

The domestication
Of horses, after all,
Isn’t just the riding,

Although that’s image
Uppermost—the centaur,
The warrior on horseback.

Full domestication
Means coordination—
Can you bundle your beasts,

Get them to follow you,
Align in directions
You point them, sync in groups?

So, along with riding,
Forms of the verb, to lead,
Became linked to horses.

Words for bridle were made
From the verbs for leading,
And bridle came to be used

As a metaphor for lines
That linked and controlled, steered,
Coordinated groups

Of humans themselves—lines
Of descent, lines linking
Extended families

And fictive kinship groups.
So, for the horse peoples,
Human society

Kept that ghost metaphor
Of the bridle, steering,
Signaling, aligning,

Primarily as terms
For kinship, brood, and clan.
The bridle’s descendants

Today are mostly words
For team. Remarkable
Semantic persistence—

Raw rope of coercion
In domestication,
Strap linking mouth to hands

From horse to human, team,
Teams of horses pounding
Into battles, welcome

To the team, team-player,
As bridled as the rest,
Taking one for the team,

That leather strap tugging
Your tender lips, can’t wait
To have you on the team.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Frozen Stacks

Most microbes are starving, so
At any moment, most life
On Earth is waiting, dormant,

For the good times to visit
When they can divide and grow.
Until then, pause, and lie low.

Most ideas, likewise, exist
In a state of want, waiting,
Metabolizing nothing,

But ready to spring to life
As soon as it’s warm enough,
Soon as opportunity

Glides wide-eyed beside, as soon
As someone picks up a book.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024


You’ve got to admit you most
Crave what what Gogou most dreaded—

Locking myself in the room
gazing at the sea
and forgetting

But it’s too late for that now.
There’ll be no room with a view

Of the sea and forgetting.
There’ll be pain medication

And maybe a big window
Allowing natural light

That you no longer notice.
Something like that, most likely.

To have had a bright corner,
Safe, quiet, and dry, to watch

Something not being human,
Not needing to be human,

Until you forgot being
Human, yes, that would have been

Something like the word, poet,
But honestly, how many

Poets of the sea but not
Humanity have you seen?

Monday, June 24, 2024


It takes a few seconds, but
You come to realize that
The voice from the speakerphone

Squawking across the hallway
In the Emergency Room
Is speaking in Navajo.

Rina, the interpreter,
Is on the line to smooth things
Between elder and doctor.

It’s getting close to midnight.
As it happens, you’re reading
A book about occasions

Translators serve as fixers,
More than literary work,
Nearly psychopomps of sorts.

Are you hurting anywhere?
Do you have any questions?
We’re sending blood to the lab.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ever Once at All

The hills aren’t rumpled,
But they look rumpled,
Olive drab blankets

Under desert sun
Setting soon enough.
It’s the smallest thing,

The most obvious,
Maybe stupidest—
Everything’s setting

Soon enough. You can
Make anything stand
For the end—the sun,

The quiet city,
Your crumbling body,
The clouds that gather

To discuss and judge
Whether the humans
Spoke adequately

On this occasion
About the weather
Or flubbed it again,

And at the same time
The same afternoon
Of clouds and olives,

There’s nothing setting,
Everything’s going
On and on, whether

Sooner or later,
And all your making
Things stand for the end—

The spider means death,
The stranded seals mean
The decline and fall,

The olive hillsides
Bathed in low light mean
A long-gone era—

Means nothing at all
Will ever stop, not
Ever once, at all.

Saturday, June 22, 2024


A voice announces quiet time
In the hospital, as the sun
Leaves the windows for good for now.

In each honeycombed room, someone
Lies entangled in bodily adventure.
All the little signals beep and wink,

Coordinating all the teams
In their coordinated scrubs.
The tasks will carry on all night,

Although most major plans will wait
Until just before dawn to jump
At the sun, to see who survives.

Friday, June 21, 2024


You have what you’re not given
To wanting too much to keep,

Which has two categories—
That which you know you don’t want

All that badly, and that which
Would devastate you to lose

But you don’t worry about
Since you’ve never felt its loss.

Either way, it’s not your choice.
You just have to try to choose.

That’s the true torture of it—
The necessary pretense

Of choice where there is no choice.
You have what you’re not given.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Done It

Which event deserves fine words,
The lizard discovered dead
And decomposing to stench
Within the laundry hamper,

Or the rich man on trial
For using his wealth to spin wealth
Through the keyholes of locked laws
That can’t seem to contain him?

Which event more deserves words,
The day spent household cleaning,
Or the year spent finishing
A lifespan in last decay?

No event deserves words, none,
Except events words have done.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Of the Chaos

The final book of Porta’s
Natural Magick, published
1658, other

Sections covering beauty,
Alchemy—All the Riches
And Delights of Natural

Sciences—the stuff people
Would love to control themselves,
Seems almost abstract, modern.

People still want to get rich
And be beautiful. Chaos,
As an object of study,

Seems a more recent concern,
One for quantum physicists,
Infinity theorists,

But a leap year of Sundays
Ago, it was already

Awarded the closing act
Of a tour of natural
Magick in the sciences.

Chaos. A bizarre concept—
Covering the range from mere
Messiness to specified

Degree of patternlessness,
From the unpredictable
To the pure entropic soup.

Isn’t it miraculous?
If you understood chaos,
The science of the chaos,

Would any of the other
Technologies of magic
Matter, anymore, to you?

Tuesday, June 18, 2024


As soon as you doze, you dream,
Not even a pause, just gone
Into counterfactuals

Then jolting awake again,
Slumped over in a wheelchair,
Uncomfortably aware

Of being a drooling heap
Of unwashed clothes and grey hair.
And what were you dreaming of?

You can’t remember. Not this,
That’s for sure. If you could stay
Alert, this would be better

Than dreams anyway. Mild breeze.
Birds sing. Try hard not to dream.

Monday, June 17, 2024


The phrases feel estranged,
As if estranged themselves,

As if each text were boxed,
A folded cube of home,

A model house to set
Among the other blanks

Without doors or windows,
Without interiors,

Making up the city
In which people pretend

To be living to get
Some kind of perspective

On not really being.
You step up to a cube

Of neighborhood phrases,
Place a palm on smooth blank.

You’re obviously here,
But you still can’t get in.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

The World

I knaw the greit unstabilnes
Brukkill as glas

Cresseid referred to character,
Her own, and fate from the fickle gods,
Who rewarded her with leprosy

For daring to complain. But you know
Those phrases, the great unstableness
Of things, brittle as glass, your own way.

This is not the world. This is a poem
On the origin of frailty.
You could never drag the world in here,

Not even as a simple model.
And yet, you can’t keep frailty out.
You have to presume it’s pervasive,

The world’s frailty, its brittleness,
But unevenly distributed.
Cresseid must be exceptional

To make so many bad decisions.
You must also be exceptional,
To break over and over again.

Glass must be exceptional to crack,
To have become the type specimen
For brittleness. But it’s in the world.

It all begins in the world, the great
Unstableness that demands all change
And then the places where change is slow

And builds up to an unevenness,
Potentially discontinuous,
As when a bone breaks or a poem ends.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Inside the Building Cut into the Cliff

Yes, you may enter.
This didn’t exist
Until you got here.

In that sense, it’s yours.
Nurses making rounds
In moonlit wings

Of a stucco matchstick
Building someone built
To generate wealth

Off recovery.
Everyone in here,
After visitors

Are done for the day,
Is already old,
Either customer

Or certified staff.
What else can you say,
Asks the moonlit nurse

Looming with plastic
Cup of pills in hand.
We waste so much stuff

In here. Everything
Is a single use
Serving. The patient

Nods in the silver
While considering
How that only means

Each dose vanishes
But deliveries
Pile forever.

Friday, June 14, 2024


All life has to end by dying,
But if you could be a story
And select a spot for stopping,

Would you look back on what you’ve lived
So far and see you’ve passed that spot?
Or would you gamble your ending,

Your ideal place to wrap it up,
Hasn’t been quite located yet?
Hard to say, given the body

Is not a story, and is built
To keep on going in the teeth
Of increasing unhappiness,

Gambler scrounging for anything
To put down on another round.
Happy endings are good enoughs—

Let the narrative wrap up here,
A good point with a bright future,
A vague one at least, the crises

Settled and behind you for you now—
You can scan your past and find some
Moments where a story ended

Well, maybe told them yourself.
Then, like any good novelist,
You added your acknowledgements.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Restoration Commission

Take whatever
Crumbling body
Sometimes allows.

If bones feel fine
In this moment,
If the belly
Doesn’t quarrel,

Consider this
Earned halcyon
On the calm waves
And don’t question.

Around the globe
At each moment
Some old bodies
Forgive themselves.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Community Room

All the ways anyone
Can end in the corners
With the rest of the dust,

A body living through
Whatever life it has
To keep on living through,

A little past the point,
A bit beside the point
Of trying to figure

Retrospective purpose
For all the behaviors
Of that life in context—

There are so many paths
That end in little heaps
Of this is what you did

And these are who you’re with
Now, quietly cornered
As the world carries on.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

As It Is

If someone told you
To your face you weren’t

Real, and you knew it
Was true, would you feel

Differently about
Dying, persisting?

Could you say, I’m not
Here in the first place,

And mean it, and not
Care if you went on

As something unreal
Talking to itself

Or just stopped right there?
Wouldn’t it feel like

Freedom from ceasing
To know you never

Were any being
Here ever at all?

Monday, June 10, 2024

Bit of Craft

Relief or incision,
Which is the condition
Of your identity

Following surgery?
Is your character now
Riding on the body

As its cameo or
Cut in as a pattern,
A soul in intaglio?

You don’t know. You suspect
What’s left is cognitive
Illusion either way,

The dual patterning
Created by carving
With a viewer in mind.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Little Flames of Language Floating with Them

A human body,
An ecosystem,
A city of cells,

Collection of lives,
And yet one machine
Processing living,

The crank keeps turning.
Material in,
Material out,

The vortex anchors
The machine as such.
Other vortices

Mark other machines,
Their interactions
Too complex for them

To master themselves,
Each ecosystem,
Each city of cells.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

A Real Love Poem

A real love poem would be composed
By everyone involved,
The lovers snuggled head to head
At a cafe two-top,

Or in the chaos of their bed,
Finding words together
To say exactly what they share,
To explain to the world

Each other’s virtues, each other’s
Touch, strokes, gaze, skin, hair,
Delectable necessities,
How they are devotees.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Angel at the End of Sleep

The messenger whispered, Don’t dig too deep.
The cosmos is a scratch-off, not a mine.
Wake early enough and you won’t see dawn
So much as feel it growing around you.

It comes all the way to the surface, waves
Where other waves rasp in transformation.
Whatever’s going on down there, far off,
In the heart, reports as the skin of things.

The near is always here, in the friction
That announces what’s happened can’t be changed.
Want to pursue this further? Remember,
The dawn is here. The messenger withdrew.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

View without You

There’s no view from inside sleep.
You wish there were. These are paired
Observations you’ve written,

In one way or another,
Too many times. What would be
The value of perspective

From within sleep anyway?
Sleep is sleep since no one’s home.
But then, that’s another one.

To be the observation
In a wholly empty house,
Wholly empty, no one there—

To be watching in the room
Of shadows since you’re not there.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

It Felt Like the Middle of the World

Sometimes, drifting along
Through ordinary days
When your life’s a wreck

And the wide world’s a wreck,
But the neighborhood’s fine,
Functioning, going on,

You think of how people
In local disasters,
Say, the storm, quake, or bomb,

Say it felt like the end
Of the world. What would be
The inside-out of that?

The world, at least your world,
Really ending, except
It feels like these plain days

Will go on forever,
Are immortal, no end
To the ordinary.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Nothing That Night

It was breathing.
Everyone swore
It was breathing,
And we were camped

In rare canyons
Beyond waving
The comet rode

In that still way
Of all fast things,
Just smeared up there,
As expected,

Except it breathed,
In long slow breaths
Of light. We slept
Nothing, that night.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Dreaming Satellites

If it hurts too much to sleep,
It hurts too much. Otherwise,
Carry on without complaint,

And count yourself fortunate
In a world where people shoot
People or simply ignore

The unfortunate to death.
It’s a strange planet, this one,
No matter how many times

You observe that plaintive fact.
Life has found a way to blend
And perfectly commingle

The marvelous and awful.
Your ancestors adapted
By evolving an impulse

To sort experiences,
Naming and narrating them
Into their separate bins,

But here you are unsleeping
In refulgent evening light
Reaching you through pearled cloud banks

From the same source that tonight
Will expand the auroras
Of the greatest solar storm

In decades, creating risks
Of mistaken dreams among
Military satellites.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

On Numerology

If math were magic,
That is, powerless,
It would mean it was

All lovely pattern,
Secrets and taboos,
No applications,

None matter of fact.
A small paradox,
Perhaps, due to ways

Humans want magic.
People want magic
To be powerful,

To accomplish things—
When that’s included
By definition,

Math’s the most magic
Language for magic,
Making predictions,

The one true magic.
People also want
The impossible—

Impossible things,
The impossible
As such, for itself.

That wished-for magic,
By definition,
Stays wishful thinking,

Which may include math
As pure elegance,
Chasing in circles,

No applications.
That kind of magic
Math really isn’t.

Math is and isn’t
Something named magic,
Which is and isn’t.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Hard Floating World

The hippocampus travels westward.
The amygdala heads for points south.
The hypothalamus forever

Chases the ever-receding dawn.
The finest point to which a needle
Can be seen to point, so to define,

Owns some named neuroanatomy,
And if it doesn’t, it can get one.
This illustrates a point about names.

This points out pictured geography.
This names the way points can illustrate
The pointlessness of the quantum field.

Maps is maps, is what we’re painting here,
All of them sprung from a world of waves.
The waves on the maps are fictional,

Since a map can never catch a wave.
But the maps float on a field of real
Waves underwriting myths made of names.