Tuesday, April 30, 2019

SANCTUARY

While it rains
and rains
putting the alley sparrows
and the cardinal who sings in the
park out of work
I am grateful
to be employed at all
let alone so gainfully
building a vast new city
of expressivity
or at least a whole district
of rhetorical churches
or at least a neat
row of simple
dwellings made of words
or at least
adequate shelving
in the dry narrow galley
kitchen of my mind
for those
birds to perch on.

Monday, April 29, 2019

AVOCADO TOAST

Buttered bread
is buttered bread—
someone's
charged you double

for the recherché decadence
of assonance instead
of that plebeian
lip-circus of plosives

charged you triple
for a congruently
smoothed-out fat on a
charred bumpy carb

charged you quadruple
and you
have paid it—now who
is this asshole?

Friday, April 26, 2019

POEM FROM LAST NIGHT

Open one eye
to the drool-blotted paper

to the goldfish swimming
through the weak light of morning
in its sterile spheroid bowl;

see how it moves, always
in the same direction—always turning
away
from something.

No wonder—
you so often presume
to be riding

all night
across the subtle breadth
of some
profoundly smooth corner

and wake up
confused to be
right where you were.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

SO FAR

I have stayed inside today.
Like the nimbus
cloud sliding
sluggishly by my
living room window
which has no idea
what its true shape is
or where on earth it
came from—I too
am having a hard time
with beginning
with knowing I was born
with picturing
the ocean—all its
unnamable colors
which nonetheless must exist
which have always existed
which
even now must be
reaching blind in the wind
to rustle a few leaves
outside this window
as if it had my next breath
in mind, as if
it had us all completely
surrounded.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UNLIMITED ENGAGEMENT

In the universe's world-renowned
downtown cultural arts center,
time is not even a spectator.
Time's just a pillar.

And although distance
attends regularly
and velocity is a major donor,
neither plays an instrument.

But rhythm
sure does. In fact,
rhythm is the star vocalist,
and guess what—its larynx

is us: you and me
and our old high school clique
vibrating ceaselessly in
and out of sync with one another.

Eternity, however, still has the best
seat in the hall, not to mention
the clearest perspective among the
whole orchestra;

so we've all
kind of decided—by default,
it's the only thing really fit
to conduct us.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

FUNCTIONING AS INTENDED

Once liberty bells
as huge and everlasting
as the sort their great
grandfathers and their commanding
officers intended

finally got swinging
hard enough and went
peeling out blind
from the amber waves to the seashores
in all four directions

the freedom they unleashed
was so complete, the
new spaces created by their resonant pressure
were so perfectly empty, so ubiquitous

that no child
who came along nine months later
could even tell the difference.

They grew up confused
about who wrote which protest songs,
forgot the significance
of the betta fish brooding
alone in his undetectable tank water—

and later, one or two
even scolded their own toddler
for not understanding

that they way
she construes the fish's
world is all wrong

and that those special corrective
lenses they bought her
to help her see it better
cost well over three hundred dollars.

Monday, April 22, 2019

TIME LAPSE

Ideally, time
would never really lapse—
time being too clever
and too quick for that.

Ideally, it's just you
and me—losing little bits of it
grabbing coffee,
breaking up, falling

down drunk, signing
contracts, planting trees, eating
pizzas topped with
hot-dogs in front of the TV—

and not often enough, it's
a few lazy photographs, never taken
by either one of us
to whichever abandoned photomat.

Ideally, it's just
my trusty built-in camera
running out of batteries, it's only
your imperfect lenses

whose apertures
like to close at random
or else open halfway, then stop;
in between which

the Giza pyramids
appear to be quickly needled
away by erosion, or all
at once, the great cathedrals

seem to groan
and collapse—into celebrated
museums, with inglorious
gift shops.

UNRUNG BELL

O tacit metal
o infinite odds
o fire without color, brightness, or smell

oh shapely goddess
of fictive music—don't ever tell
us a hint of the riddle.

Disregard even this, as you dispel
all that trembles.
If you've been listening—don't even nod.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

THE CRUELEST MONTH

     What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
     Out of this stony rubbish?
     -T.S. Eliot 

Must be April—when the
daffodils smile
and wave at you
guileless from across
the new sod,
the puckered tulips' gentle
nodding feels strangely
contagious,
even the frowzy dandelions
all seem to curtsy
as you promenade past;
but still, those bony
old sticks of rose bushes
just stand there—
stern as queen mothers,
bloodless as witches—
to puncture your confidence
and berate you for all this
lazy perambulating
with their thorny twisted
middle fingers.

Friday, April 19, 2019

RENTED ROCKS

On Mackinac Island
there's a small art museum.
It consists almost entirely
of maps of the region.

Perhaps this is fitting
as maps are best appreciated as
the shadowy abstract
expressions they are. Functional

as the cardboard
display models in the adjoining toy
and gift store, and accurate
the way a cave painting would be

misshapen as the clay
grave markers
dotting the perimeter
of the cart path out back—

they serve a curiously
chimerical purpose
in a world this ageless, this self-
contained and total.

For a few dollars, though
trickles of visitors
fleeing the sun
will stumble in and frown at these

reasonable parchments all afternoon
looking, as the cartographers
were, for measured answers to
confounding questions—

how many words
for turtle shell were there
before the trappers got here

what were the taxes
on those limestone bluffs
before they were feted

with military canons, then
missionary houses, then finally
gold-roofed summer apartments

how far does the lonely
wind off the straits carry

what color—really
is Lake Huron water?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

HORMESIS

What is this?—the church-sick
people ask, glowering out
their high-rise kitchen
windows on an Easter morning.
Long ago, they were promised
a big deal—
but what they get now
is the distant sound
of a few mellow bells tolling
pastel colored light
and the very small fact
of a cup of tea left out
on the table from last night;
they get last night's rain
still bunched up like grapes
in the Sweetgum branches
and those ghostly dry marks
on the asphalt underneath
where the widowed neighbor's car
was recently parked.
What access
does this barest perception
of objects grant them
into the nature of
possible worlds? Heaven
might be everywhere
but it's far too small
to ever be entered.
Still, are they prepared
to surrender
and let it enter them instead
one line,
one slow tendril, one poetic
spore at a time?
And is that rhizomatic action
fast-acting enough
to inoculate them? To teach
their blind bodies
how to bounce back, how, at last
to save themselves?

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

FEELING WORK

Pay close attention—and
what looks at first
like youthful exuberance

is later unmasked
as a protracted stubborn
teenage phase

what seems like contentment
is only contempt
for the hard labor of expectation

often when we wish we were
somebody else, we will say so
only in the third person

or else
unconsciously sub-in
the word someplace instead

whenever I can't make
a feeling work, for instance
I'm quick

to punch it up with
rhymes, aphorisms, clever
turns of phrase

and those I can't be with
because they need love
kindness, displays of affection

I do my best to replace
with machines
which need simpler things

such as—service
maintenance
preservation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

DIMINUENDO

After around five
o'clock, six, at least
seven—comes the sound

not of silence, per say
but the rush of city
traffic going down

trading places, maybe
with a dawn river rising
somewhere in Myanmar.

As today's newly
minted flowers, now drowsing
in the heavy dusk

and for whose
inaugural yawn there were
no witnesses

so too, stooped shadows
have mysteriously gathered
under the tall door frames

two, three, at least
four hairs grown whiter,
perhaps to match that

formidable peak
of the tallest mountain
in Nepal.

By eight o'clock,
one by one, the robins'
last calls are

disappearing,
and you and I
must now listen softly

to each other's
music in the
dark for a while.

Monday, April 15, 2019

GRADUAL

Whether or not you're
there to notice
first thing in the morning
there is mist—

low on cold hills
always somewhere in the distance
outside your door
in between the city you live in
and the rest of the
world which purportedly exists

blue as the first church bells'
dull round ringing
still lying heavy in its furrowed beds
shrouded by mazes
of dark woods, and dreaming—

just as you were a minute ago—
of being

touched by warm light
made gradually
unafraid, and rising

one more time to
become the entire air.

Friday, April 12, 2019

SPEED OF LIGHT

late
morning
light hitting
and quick out of
bed and out of coffee
and out of breath running
meditation medicine buzzing
through the dog park and shower
for distraction open up the computer
photo of a black hole on google so godlike
GIF-like historic and a-historic all at the same
time separate tab open shoot quick email to Xfinity
then into the beyond look got to get where I am going
so let's pull out and check the smartphone one more time
to be sure there is still time or speaking of beyond, let's pull
out the smartphone one more time to be sure—time is still there.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

DIRGE

Forgetful as I am, in the
space between movements 
I've had time

to memorialize
the post-its
the photos

the fish tacos
the Dr. Mario
all of it.

Forgetful as I am—and
spent—every
day I wake, I recommit;

I repurchase 
what was known
by knowing it all again—alone.

I might as well
say it in my own 
voice now (since 

this is still how 
I learn things best):
everything we did

and didn't—was melody 
and rhythm.
Anything we could

or couldn't—
different fingerings
for a chord.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

CLOTHESLINE METAPHOR

A poem is a clothesline—
full of words washed clean

and hung up to dry
in the cool breeze

of forgetful eternities
and the antibacterial

gaze of virgin sun—
clean of those old usages

circulating for years,
clean of the stains

of school and work
and church—

exotic and bohemian sizes
billowing back and forth

of familiarly styled signifiers,
some nearly shapeless

from the stretching
of centuries, others seemingly

never even worn before—
and some invisible

thread of love, spiked
here and there

with the stiff pins of longing,
holding the whole

gently swaying
apparatus together—an eerie curiosity

to find while walking
past a haunted house's backyard.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

JUVENILIA

Only April—but already
this nascent city
park is a crazy
patchwork quilt

of ratty actual quilts
doublewide
strollers orange
cones and skittering cleats—no picnic

for the tender
blades of
grass underneath—
or the

shy young Narcissus 
pseudonarcissus 
out on the fringes
shivering in dog piss.

Monday, April 8, 2019

BABEL

Maybe it wasn't a typo.
Maybe the world
needs all its
bad people—the sharks
help the minnows learn
how to swim faster;
a pony who's depressed
finally gets
some privacy
and rest; and those
old insecure deities—
who didn't want us
knowing things,
who fused us together,
but still didn't like to
see us touching,
who never even seemed to
want to hear us
talking cooperatively
amongst one another—
are the ones
we have to thank
for towers
and towers of self-
similar books
full of scrappy blind
poems like that one.

Friday, April 5, 2019

MEETING FRIENDS IN OLD CITIES

Anyplace in the world
where now we might
push a few buttons and easily meet
could hardly be a former
tormented graveyard, could it?

Still, when you laugh
at the size of the soft pretzel vendor's
sidewalk umbrella, you do it
a little uneasily;
and I am having a hard time

ordering bubble tea
because I'm unsure of how
recyclable the container is. It's nice
but a lot of hard work
not to realize

that all around us, these
enlivening feats
of architectural genius
contain many locked doors that
require special keys—

and that
over and over again, we have to
keep paying
if we wish to remain
contestants in a flimsy game show.

Things are like this now, we say
to each other.
The world isn't fair, we acknowledge.
But walking southwest
as the sun sets spectacularly

on all these svelte
monuments to the gracious dead,
we can't keep from feeling
a little exhilarated—and perfectly free
to imagine that it used to be.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

MIXED FEELINGS

You keep hearing—
the gray light of sunrise
is far and away the
best kind of light. but you'll

never be able to say it
like that. For that matter,
what was it the fog rolling
in off lake Michigan

was trying to call out to you
this morning? What on earth
did the black coffee afterward
actually taste like?

So many things
you'll never be able to tell
that have to be told anyway.
It's just business is usually

how the businessmen put it.
This is the province of science 
claims a dental hygienist.
But the poet says—maybe

this is just how it is. Maybe
you only have mixed feelings
about everything
because there's no such thing as

a pure one.
All you can say is—I love this 
too, and wait around
for the emptiness, which

chokes closed the last
line of every poem
to rush in and confabulate
the rest of the details. Maybe it's

pure selfishness
which first drove the mute
soul to dream. Maybe
each new story that's told

is only there to help us
make sense of our own.
Maybe the stars are fading
because it's finally morning.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

EVERYTHING YOU OWN

Isn't it kind of annoying—
you're never alone
whenever you're alone.
All your life
there's been someone
in the other room—
someone with no job
who's always home.
In the late afternoon,
over the muffled blare of 1980s
sitcoms on a television,
you've heard her voice calling—
everything you own, isn't it 
ridiculous—how much does a 
word weigh, what does white
light cost—at the end of the day
everyone loves best 
the things that nobody can.
And when you close
your eyes at night, you often fall
asleep to the sound of her murmuring
over and over, like a
faucet dripping
out in the kitchen:
in this whole universe, 
those titanic engine-room stars
must be the most 
and least real 
things in existence. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

WHAT HAPPENED

God, we are all such assholes—
every one of us, so greedy
for plot lines and the nine o'clock 
news of our lives—so eager

to keep making 
new things occur—

just so that we might 
wear their learned lessons 
sequentially stitched 
across our bodies in public,

like keen-eyed little cub scouts 
obsessed with earning badges.

But how often
do we ever 
walk up to another in our tribe
and say—

sit down, friend, gee whiz, I can 
see it in your eyes, 

I can hear the sirens, blaring out 
there in the dark 
corners of your mind.
Please relax,

take a deep
breath, and

tell me: what 
happened.

Monday, April 1, 2019

THINK POSITIVE

Beautifully, cruelly,
day or night; everything we do—

every discontented
face we make, each false move

and every negative gesture, each hair
we carefully slick back in place,

each border we tug on
and tighten like a bootlace,

each graceless moment spent contorted
in the honorable distraction of prayer,

each cruel guillotine
ceiling fan cycle we bear

before knocking more softly
on that closed bathroom door—

every one of these carefully
choreographed negotiations

is cast in the ambient light
from every single star

which has ever existed
and which ever might.

So I'd think peace on earth—I mean
the real kind—might require

a little more
than the end of war.