Monday, April 22, 2019

TIME LAPSE

Actually, time
would never really lapse—
time is too clever
and too quick for that.

Actually, 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, once) in front of the TV...

and not often enough
a few lazy photographs, not taken
by either one of us
to whichever abandoned photomat.

Actually, 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
seem to get bulldozed
by erosion, or one
by one, the great cathedrals

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

o shapely goddess
of fictive music; I hope you never tell
us a hint of the riddle—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
wan or pastel colored light
what they get now is
the very small fact
of a cup of tea left out
on the table from last night—
and of 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
ever 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 a churchbell's slow
cool ringing
still lying in its furrowed bed
shrouded by mazes
of dark woods, and dreaming—

just as you were a minute ago—
of being

touched by light
made gradually
unafraid, and rising

to become the entire
air one more time.

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 again
alone.

I say it in my own 
voice now (since 

this is still how 
I listen best):

everything we were 
or weren't 

was melody 
or rhythm.

Anything we did 
or didn't—

different fingerings
for a chord.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

THE CLOTHESLINE AS 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
in a haunted house's back yard.

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
is someone's tormented graveyard.

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

ordering bubble tea
because I'm unsure of where I'll
recycle the container. 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
need 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,
you and I can't help
feeling a little exhilarated—and perfectly free
to imagine that it used to be.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

MIXED FEELINGS

You keep hearing that
the gray light of sunrise—is far
and away the best kind
of light. but you'll never be able

to say it that way.
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
and women put it.
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—
real peace—would require

a little more
than the end of war.