Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"HOW CAN YOU STAND TO LIVE IN A CITY?"

It starts with the steady
daily comfort
of cars—

hundreds
of them glinting, perhaps
thousands, in

far light. All
so similar, all parked
strangers' cars,

ordered in penitent
columns and hugging
every serviceable curb in sight.

A sweet constancy—
quite unlike that
of the stars

burning in their
fixed points
out in the country—

whose cloyingness
is tempered
by the salty indeterminacy

as to
which cars, specifically, on
any given morning.

Monday, July 22, 2019

THE EXISTENTIALIST'S TRIP

Nobody else besides you
seems to know—the real value
of vacation isn't memories,
souvenirs, or entertainment;

it's the momentary compression
of the whole agonizing world—
all the purposelessness
and politics, the goal-

seeking and codependency,
all the cold- and hot-
running lust, hunger, dread,
and work/life stress—

into the neat strip of wood
and concrete they
succinctly refer to as
Main Street around here.

And boy, oh boy, wouldn't you
like to shake
hands with this mayor?
For a few soothing days' worth

of saunters, it's: never mind 
the bullocks and the dregs;
never mind the low back pain,
memory loss, and constipation.

Instead of detailing these
internal feelings, you'll catalog
the scenery; and in lieu of periodically
ducking conversation,

you'll duck a little quicker
into corner wine and cheese shops;
and instead of a bad loan, a
long grudge, a struggling marriage;

you'll take some coconut fudge, please,
hold the string of a glossy red
kite in the park, or heck—
maybe simply dose off for a minute

in a warm canvas chair near the pier,
secure in the knowledge
that if it all has to end, at least it'll
all end right there.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

MACKINAC ISLAND WILDFLOWERS

On a rag and bone specimen
of Great Lakes limestone,
between cedars, lining
buggy paths, blurring the bed

and breakfasts' backyards:
lambent shaggy pilewort clusters—
sun-mad, puddle-thick
low-growing buttercups

swirled around everywhere—like
tobacco smoke, like husky
flute notes, like the ancient Native
American narratives

now breezily used as tourist lures.
Or perhaps,
like Apollo
as an unkempt senior citizen—

Eternal Sunshine himself
come to roost forevermore,
to rest anonymous at last
one July afternoon

on the sleepiest,
most wonderfully
outmoded—and forgetful surface
of the Earth.

Friday, July 19, 2019

VAULTING AMBITION

          I have no spur 
          to prick the sides of my intent, but only 
          the vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, 
          and falls on th'other...
                —Macbeth Act I, Scene 7 .25-28

While hopefully not
quite at Macbeth-level, I admit
to being driven

by the vaulting ambition
to someday write
the greatest poem ever

concerning the heights of human folly.
With each new stab
of the rhetorical knife, I feel

I'm getting closer to
glimpsing the top,
though strangely, not any better

equipped to explain
after the fact, the path by which
I marched up there—likely because

the worst trait in the world
keeps changing day to day
and minute by minute

(not to mention
those inevitable handicaps
of subjectivity

and translation; character defects
being so disparate
person to person

and place to place).
My latest strategy, though,
is to approach the mood

obliquely—not face to face,
but through a glass
darkly. That is: taking a few sips

of iced coffee each morning
on the back patio while
perusing a few tragedies,

purloining certain key phrases
then re-triangulating
their inclinations. In fact,

as the great Thane of
Cawdor himself probably
discovered fairly quickly,

the whole endeavor
seems to boil down
to a solitary game

of keeping the plates spinning
and explaining any
cognitive dissonances

not as madness,
but as part of life's
dynamism—for example,

privately plotting
to rid oneself eventually
of those indwelling gremlins

which one hates most,
while still staying faithfully
married to them in the interim.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

PATTERN RECOGNITION

How familiar is this feeling
that it's about to rain; how
dead simple to go and look out a
west-facing window and
watch this ominous thing approach—
less like some work of tragic
flash fiction than like the surfeit of
bad dreams you've been having—
which are, you must try and
remind yourself constantly: terribly 
real, but not at all true.
How normal for your little corner
of the world to go so
intermittently dark and strange;
how comfortable it is to dislike
what you're seeing
when you're able to surmise
you're not alone in your views;
and how encouragingly consistent
with your poor tired body—ever since
you first took a breath of Earth's
air—is the entire manifest planet
around you: continually getting
rinsed, then dried off a little,
but never again offered the
chance to start new.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

It's a lot to unpack: whether
the little collective

of coffee beans I automatically
pulverize each morning—

then sluice
boiled water through—

then throw in the trash
and distractedly

sip the resultant brew
while reading a few Tweets before

dashing out the door—
was heretofore treated equitably

on its journey
from Ecuador to Chicago.

Most days, I'm too distracted
by my ongoing lack

of contentment, too worn out
from last night's argument

at the bar, or else
I just find it a little too convenient-

ly early to contemplate:
whether there is really

such a thing as
a good person,

a better thought,
a noble action—

or if it just feels that way
by comparison

when one tends to go around
thoughtlessly extracting

only those bits
which are most useful

from one
bitter assemblage—

one shit-
situation—after another.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

MASSES

Astounding—the dark clouds
which have gathered
this morning

could only have come
from nowhere,
could only be going

nowhere. And yet,
here we are
beneath them again—the believers,

sipping our coffee
a bit more devotionally,
letting our eyes wander

that much more slowly
over a few extra columns
of the day's first reading,

wavering a little longer
in the dimly lit front halls
where the rain jackets

and umbrellas are reverently hanging,
before diffidently opening
and closing our large doors

and beginning the gravid procession,
to and fro, past one another
without candles

or crosses—but because
we recognize
the damp feeling of being

audited
from an alter
somewhere behind a screen—

with our heads bowed
automatically a little
closer to our arched shoulders.