Saturday, June 15, 2019

LOVE IS ALL YOU GET

All you need is love—
which is good, because after
all, love is all you were

going to get, anyway.
Devotion is contagious
(as are smiles and laughter);

it replicates without being told
until it's everywhere
like the spores of a mold.

And hope floats
only on its own notion
(if you ever looked over

the edge, you'd see nothing
but little hope boats
all the way down).

But the same way in which those
positive emotions
just love to build stuff,

there are oceans of other ones
(indifference, doubt,
isolation, for example)

which love 
just as much, to come
hollow it all out.

Friday, June 14, 2019

LOCUS

Funny—any sunny Friday
afternoon in Chicago,
I'm still able to feel far-off
and murky as the Sargasso.

I can walk by restaurants
chumming with people
clinking bright beverages
on outdoor patios, trying to

find myself in that scenario—
surrounded by mirth,
buoyed by coworkers—
instead of locating

the only sea on earth
which no lands border,
churning circles alone
in the north Atlantic

with algae and muck
welling up from its
center—but no luck;
My focus is garbage,

my rudder stays stuck
on its opacity trick.
Okay, maybe that actually
isn't so funny.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A POEM A DAY

It's like you've got
an open-ended 
apprenticeship 
with Sisyphus;
steady work 
designing stasis—
lifting and dusting 
under air pockets, 
dropping rocks 
precisely where they 
were already, and
parting the waters 
for a nanosecond 
with one frothy swab
of an index finger.
It doesn't pay, but it
makes you feel
busy—and trust me 
when I say this: 
maintaining any feeling 
is a full-time job.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

IN SPITE

Somehow,
in spite of everything—
everything
is always reconciling.

In spite
of what you did,
than didn't
do right after that

taupe skies lighten, then
clear before sunset,
proceeded by a harvest moon's
copacetic light.

In spite of those things
you said that night
and all the times
you failed to be there

in the morning, there's still
the smell of lilacs waiting,
a sparrow's simple song, rolling
dew-bright sod galore.

In spite of your entire
personal history, every
flash flood and furious blizzard
ravaging your background

a holiday weekend
keeps nosing back around,
like the wet snout of
some mute little animal

who's decided
it needs you, regardless
of how stony or
deadpan you act.

No matter which closet,
which attic you've chosen
to sit in with two index
fingers jammed in your ears

the three-day forecast
still seeps in there
from a portable radio
on the neighbors' back patio

and damned if it doesn't
still sound pleasant—or
at the very least, terribly
unremarkable.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN

Hearing a sentence like this
hurts. But I think
by a large margin, the worse
sensation is the seeing
that which we never saw
coming—leaving
again just as suddenly, taking
with it every color,
every outline, every tint or
semblance of the picture
without even giving us
so much as the chance to
scribble a few bullet points
concerning its most
threadbare general description
in the vainest hope of
remembering it for next time.


Monday, June 10, 2019

THE ORDEAL

I can't look around this
deteriorated world anymore,
with its overabundance of
chintzy floral patterns.

Even at their best,
these prints tend to look
pointless—but the ordeal
is much worse

when they're faded.
Take the bedraggled
poinsettias on your
dishtowels, for instance,

or the mauve roses
in their mauve rows
on those two dusty
armchairs they

found in your attic;
or the discolored daisies
in a picture I'm not
so sure I want languishing

here in my memory
much longer—of your
hand-me-down backless
hospital gown.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

INQUIRY

One by one
the burly sun
hauls in
each derelict morning.

Hours
and hours later—
pure darkness
and a little moonlight

take their
turns interrogating
the wearied
deadpan sky:

Just like that—
a whole day—
stolen.

Or perhaps—
gone missing—
by sheer coincidence.

Friday, June 7, 2019

ALTERNATE ROUTE

People don't say: All roads 
lead to Rome much anymore—

not because the import
or accuracy is moot,

but because Rome 
no longer means

just one thing to everyone.
Right now, it's more popular

to declare: Love is love—
but I don't think that one's

exactly true either.
I've been there, and believe me

I tried to do as the Romans do.
I stripped nude and called out to you

from the dark Romanesque shadows
cast by that word,

but I still felt ugly and vulnerable
which only made you feel stupid.

I tried to love you
every other way I could think to;

I explored every avenue,
tested every alternate route.

But it was no use. We both knew it.
When I tried to explain

these strange new directions—
they didn't make any sense to you.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

THE THINKING BRAIN

     Why do the phenomenon and its preconditions 
     exist in the first place? Why not a different mode 
     of evolution not present on this planet that might 
     have produced a different kind of thinking brain?
     -Edward O. Wilson, The Origins of Creativity 

Ingenious though it is
the thinking brain
has the hardest time conceiving
of its opposite:
a simple star-shaped lump
of flesh
which moves around a lot
but doesn't
accomplish much.
To the mind
the blind utility of muscle
is inconceivable.
And it's probably best
it remains so.
How we could come
to love one another
with just the prerequisite
of taking up space
is a hard enough
puzzle to solve as it is.
If we truly believed
these bodies were real
we wouldn't want
anything to do with ourselves.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

GOD COMPLEX

The ego,
I think, must not be
a temple, since

not even Christ—pissed off
though he is

with a little
harmless competition
from teamwork
and local business—

would willingly wreck his
in the name of salvation.

And really who
could blame him? Look at
how magisterial! the thing is.

But then, think
of all the patents—
held in the name of
somebody else—

that must have been needed
in order to erect it.

No, I think
the ego is more like
one of those
tiny pointed paper cups:

a disposable cone
which can never stand up
on its own

and which gets
overfilled easily—

yet it's always
so startling
when it starts to spill over.

On our best
days, we might feel
humbly blessed

by the sensation
of so much runoff dripping.

On all the questionable
rest—anointed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

CAUTIONARY TALE

In the future—public space
has been banned as
too dangerous 

for nakedly
showcasing the species
at its worst;

without a license, with no
credentials whatsoever,
any creature

in earth's vicinity
who wants to
can observe

the way in which
humans
unfetter themselves

use it
to pieces, like
it's theirs

then—amble off
before the three
bears return.

Monday, June 3, 2019

THE N OF RAIN

The last blast of a storm
hurts less
than the first,
the final drops
nourish more
than the torrents that
came before,
herald the rest
and protection and
quenched thirst
which must precede
all concentration on
hunger or sex—which
in turn, are both
needed to precipitate
growth. Thorn bushes,
dirt, even those inanimate
cracks in the sidewalk
would all assure us
from experience,
if they ever got the chance
to talk: no matter how long
it rains, it stops—
no matter how much
it blows, it won't.

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST-AND-A-HALF CENTURY

Soberly surmising
upon arriving
that he can
never again go home,

Williams, ever
the consummate
doctor, rolls up his
coat sleeves

and proceeds
with his ministry—knocking
with even
greater civility

before entering
each door
in this infinite ward
known as

Public Domain.
So much depends,
he intones—
end of poem.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

AFTER DOUBT

     [A hatching chick] can't afford doubt. Who can? 
     Doubt uses albumen 
     at twice the rate of work.
     -Kay Ryan, "Doubt"

I doubt very much
that brawny doubt
would choose to consume

so many calories
from water and crude lean protein.
At least

for me,
worry and concern
tend to feed on the juicier stuff;

they go straight for the crystalline
confidence of minerals
warmly suspended

in the reassuring bulk
of fatty acid molecules—not those
jittery bean-pole aminos.

When I overthink, it's the yolk
of me that shrinks and pales in color
from its former hale yellow.

At length, though
the poet is correct: all this quibbling
only gets harder

and harder to abide—
while all the while, suspiciously
easier to admit.

In fact, by now simply observing
my own hesitation
is such a catabolic process

that, in order to conserve lean body mass
I must try my best
not to look inside like this.