Monday, December 30, 2019


build a pyre
three hundred
sixty five
assumptions high

all the moves
and shadow poses—
you didn’t make

sentences left
in fragments
deeds you only halfway
hoped to do.

for a second—see
every letter on the
pages waving
so clearly

as it flares brimming
and then sighs
bows in gratitude
and is consumed.

Friday, December 27, 2019


As long as everyone who cares is still
charitably huddled 
around this old wooden 

metaphor of a table—
dog-tired by now, and dying 
to know 

just how much longer 
a correspondingly metaphorical 
coin will go on spinning—does it matter,

when it finally falls 
flat, whether the vacant silver
face that stares back

elicits their thoughts
(as the abject and silent 
majority hopes), or if 

it comes down the same
way as before—in accordance 
with the gut-hunches of the most

experienced onlookers:
on the mythical magic tails
of their prayers?

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Too much beauty all at once
is perturbing to the eye and makes
no sense; we must think it's
expendable—that all along it's just
the ether versus us—

but of course we're dead
wrong; it's this whole disturbing
place—this blotchy chaotic
and concussed fever dream of a
universe—that's essential

and the poor human actor
who fritters and struts
that's eccentric and
superfluous—born uncertain, gone

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


there is glitter 
on the tips
of my fingers—

there are wires 
hidden in the tree limbs—
this morning

I feel both 
more and less 
than ordinary.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019


Tender and mild is
the forecast tonight, incongruous

the amenity and abundance
now inhabiting

even the sparest interior spaces.
So this is where

all of your hope
and fear, your greed for knowledge,

your hoards of experience
have finally dropped you

off and left you—so undeserving,
with nothing at all solved,

resolved, or discovered—
delirious swirls of wan light,

gentle words, simple strains
of music repeating: all falling now,

less like snow
than the oils of anointing

on your brow. You could never
have earned such a blessing—

such a preposterous invitation,
so very near the end

of everything—to stay
just as you are a little longer.

Monday, December 23, 2019


Only a few days
later—skyfuls of quiet shadow
brood without menace

over the half-empty
city, it's darker panes
of high-rise glass, ashier

than usual limestone edifices, ruddier
expressionless bricks.
Semantic knowledge

of comfort and joy
(comfort and joy) languishes
in primary-colored dumpsters

behind each closed shop,
emboldening rats—
while stickyheaded pigeons stand

hoo-hooing on the rooftops,
all huddled together
around the true meaning—

like next of kin
gathered in a
dim hallway somewhere

who aren't sure
how to use their voices
or what

they're supposed to do
with their hands while they

Saturday, December 21, 2019


O merciful attrition
of a wholly
deterministic universe—
I suppose
I have no choice
but to worship
the prior conditions, to reify
the mechanistic
paths and the
friction coefficients
you've already chosen,
to love this
sunken face
of the globe that I live on,
even though it's tilted
so off-balance, so
plunged into
darkness and frozen—because
any minute now,
the whole
show—each face I know,
every mountain, any last
mote of
dust which has ever
floated past—all of it
is just
only now fixing
to turn back around.

Friday, December 20, 2019


Last night I had a dream
the old condemned church
had its roof cave in

by morning
its dominion had unbuckled to contain
the few birds
the chalky blades of grass
the unconcerned air thick with
clouds threatening to rain overhead

the sky was the whole ruthless
free and instructionless
gospel truth

the transient attention
of every pitifully lapsed passerby too
was declared sacred
because momentary.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


So unexpected—
how accurate
the instructionless beauty
of seasons marching on their
invisible paths,

the wordless dignity
with which each year suffers
unto death and is replaced,

how lost I am
in the process of all this bigness,
on and on,

trying to describe
and sort it,
to synthesizes something of these
wandering threads—

only to chance upon
the remaining winter animals,
poor sparrows
and small brown rodents;

their secret caches,
their puffed-up looks of threat,
their bare bush fortresses
so worthy of defense

I don't even realize. I want
to apologize.
Let this be my
peace offering—I won't
say anything more about this.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


O lucky me—a deviant servant
to thee, arcane master 

always, the more I committed to these 
strange handcuffs you offered, 
the sweeter 

it seemed the plainest thoughts
would be—of coveting
your keys.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Looking up,
for the rough-
ly thirteen
thousandth time,
at the inexorably
pocked and
cruelly battered
face of a
cockeyed three-
quarter moon—
as it placidly
sits there,
glowing away
and treading
the infinite waves
of this goalless
onrush of universe—
I am still thrilled
to believe
there must be
something left
to praise in me,
to wish for you,
to rescue—even if
it's lost out there
in the blackest
most boundless
of all possible
there aren't any
words, or breaths,
or rules.

Monday, December 16, 2019


It's about four
in the afternoon by our watches
when the starved winter solstice
light starts to shudder
and collapse;

beneath the eclipse's
shadow draping main street,
some are insulated from that disaster
by the loveliest patterns
of color, music, and incantation

and delicately conditioned
to love all those
who are not with them at the moment,
albeit under some very specific
terms and conditions.

Later on at home,
some find themselves inexplicably
swiping right
on a few princes
trapped in the bodies of grotesque animals

or princesses who swear
up and down it was
just an accident
when they pricked their fingers on
their sixteenth birthdays.

Somehow, all of us manage
to fall asleep
as ourselves—each having
our own separate piece
of the loneliest dream.

Saturday, December 14, 2019


Hang it accidentally upside-down
and the shape of life
looks so charming—the way

eternities of redundancy
collapse, cash-out,
and cancel;

the way the morning
makes its dazzling
victory out of evening;

the way only one
easily tractable
detail ever changes—slowly

snapping into greater focus
over the span
of something which

even the most discerning mind
would be reluctant
to call time.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Maybe it's not a feeling.
Maybe in the morning
the whole thing
really does start over.

Maybe those are new birds
content to sing
in the cheap seats,

unclassified iterations of cloud,
whose shapes are drifting,
then breaking apart
without a whisper,

and indescribable
patches of shadow
tangled up in bushes and
in between the parked cars,

slowly dissolving
in patient antiseptic sun.

And maybe none of these things
are metaphors
for anything of ours—

no emotions, however
flighty, dark, or terrible;

no thoughts of regret
or last night's abject failures
need be displaced by these
clean tugs of wind.

All of that
seems to come later,
when one of us
finally blunders out there,

so newborn
as to be oblivious to
the very newness
of the universe we're in.

Thursday, December 12, 2019


This particle
of love I carry
is not platonic,

but it isn't very
romantic either—
it can't decide

whether it's positive
or negative-
ly charged—

it must be some
third kind
of charmed and

unnamed matter,
which, here
in the present,

utterly refuses
to be observed.
At night,

when I'm still
I can just barely feel
the ripples

of alternating
and fervor

as it swerves
all over my room—
first pursuing, then

turning some
theoretical corner
and disappearing—

in the alley

behind the street
where you're living,
where your dog

is content to piss
when it's raining,
where you toss

the trash bags
from last night's party
in the morning—

while, simultaneously,
I'm tossing
and turning in bed

feeling upset
about some calamity
on the other side of the world.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


We've almost gotten
used to this thing—we,
the arch-
shouldered, wind-buffeted
incumbents of Chicago—

the head of this great
and furious
giant of the ancient Midwest—
now sleeping
drunken, with its tongue lolling.

But looking out
and down
from the bewildering
vacancy of the winter harbor,
if the night is still

and the air is cold
and clear enough,
we can see
the inside of its watery black
mouth is filled with stars.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Getting up
and ready again
in the brittle
stillness of pre-dawn

when it's chilly
and the bluesliver
frost is lagging on the ground

making grass into straw
made of bitter glass
and clinging on
dark somnambulant cars

like vague imprints
of departed spirits—
like the ghastly nightmare details
you still remember for a minute—

like it always has
this time of year
since you were a kid

lost in that cornerless
suburban world
in which certainty
was a gilded prison—

you cried
and swore you didn't
want to go to school anymore

even though you knew it wouldn't
do any good.
The grownups
would always know best

how to subvert emotions
like distress—how to force
the right things.

The measured clocks
would go on striking
even in a darkness as still as
this morning's. Probably

it's a mercy
to remember
so little of the life you've
already lived.

Monday, December 9, 2019


We had come here
each of us
so incomplete

so desperate—so
we screwed up the guts
to dance all night

wild and exhausted
angling and weaving
some semblance of soul

into existence—
this pretense
this shadow

in truth
was a stranger
pure miasma—

less constructive in fact
than the bluish
light which surrounded it

but we desired this—we craved
the matter
much more

than the fact
and we knew that

we didn't think—
we didn't
have the capacity

to realize—
the moment
we ceased

we would lose
completely the need to
stop feeling.

Sunday, December 8, 2019


how much of
our anger
gets confined

inside language—how
out it busts

and then starves

and then dies

Saturday, December 7, 2019


These fingers I got
are too skinny—they are always
the first part of me
to go numb when it's cold out.
They don't know how to knead
or to sew, these
fingers I'm holding. They punch
letters on keyboards okay,
but they don't like to play piano
all day anymore, or
even a little bit. These fingers
don't snap very well, either,
even though they are stiff, they don't
bend and firmly refuse to go
crossed behind my back
when I talk. These fingers I was given
are too cryptic, I don't get them.
These fingers are so
stubborn, they have minds
of their own. I have known them
to send out some
very specific messages
which I'm certain I never
intended them to send.

Friday, December 6, 2019


Wavering light—
anemic and ancient 
city star or 
arcane technological device—

you give me neither 
strange courage 
nor prosaic dissatisfaction,

just the routine 
kind of wonder 
whose weakness is 
its very strength. 

Could this be the famous 
vicissitude of nature? 
Or is it, rather 
it's opposite—

this pulsing skyline 
nothing, then 
taking it away. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019


O the miraculous utility 
of cigarettes 
and mellow jazz 

music, of bourbon 
splashed over perfect 
cubes of ice,

of tight jeans, terse bible 
passages, and black
mirrored sunglasses—

it's the little things 
like that—tiny touches,
mini mercies—

which make 
every scene shot 
look cooler, feel hotter: 

him and her 
wounding each other 
with a vengeance 

which neither one owns 
over the custody of 
some common-law MacGuffin;

that TNT look of hers 
tunneling through him, 
blasting off chunks;

him getting-off 
on walking away from it all 
feeling lighter, looking thinner;

both of them ignoring 
the scars for a while, then 
playing them up 

for laughs—until 
eventually, the entire cast 
comes to despise 

the puritanical thought 
of having to act this 
out forever. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Buy One 
Get One 

Apple Pay 

take an additional 
30% off

spin the big prize wheel 
without going over


Who or what is
all this?

It is still the same

the hard way

from the archaic plays
of William Shakespeare

the inexplicably muddy
gears of the actual?

Or could we be
gliding now
on a more boundless source
of pity

which we suppress
(resulting in
a clean-energy lift)

whenever we
pass one another
darkly on the street.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Is it me, or do
powerful intimations
of dread seem

to flow naturally
simply from the
order of things—

all my grubbiest
daily activities
collapsing and folding

like pup tents
into clean, portable
existential dilemmas,

each one hard
as a single diamond
which is buried

in an obsidian
prison of mountains
to express—

and yet so easy
to approximate,
clone, and broadcast

via this naive, tried-
and-true, workmanlike
triangulation of

poised image, de-
stabilized image, and
cutting observation.

Monday, December 2, 2019


Under the strict ancient discipline
of December skies,
headstone gray
and just as heavy,

it is growing
more and more difficult

to recall the faces
of erstwhile companions—

the iridescent jetliner starlings'
and glowing
cardinals' sanguine singing,

those faithful rosy
churchyard perennials bowing
humble and drowsy
to uncomplicated wind—

than it is
simply to recite
in alphabetical order

rigid lists
of all of their names
in Latin—quick

as we can—
before we get a frostbitten rap
on the knuckles again.

Saturday, November 30, 2019


Mostly, we are still just
in shock—
after all this time

how few
have disappeared, turned

gone molten,
become stones.
Alone, and increasingly

more than alone,
but measuring the increase
more and more accurately,

still in shock
at the prospect
of becoming newly shocked,

still hearing in the echo
of the same strings
of numbers repeating

the deepness of externalities,
the richness of
our tilted simplicity,

still respecting
for bygone reasons
the old grandaddy feebleness

of what was long ago so
grandly termed
gravity—each body's

invisible faraway breathing
learning like some miniature
shoulder-blade demon

on the heavenly trajectory
of every makeshift, every
would-be Jesus.

Friday, November 29, 2019


What sense
is there in studying
only one insect—
a discrete bee

of a swarm? Even
as a kid, I was taught
to imagine myself

as a jet
instead of a fleet—
instead of a company
that makes jets.

Today, I still look
from a second
floor window

and think of
the physics of flight—

not the frontiers
of the possible, but its

how there is no way
to measure
the space between units.

Last night there was
so much grown-up talk
of edges and distinctions,

and yet
here I am on the fence.

The vastest extents
of my littlest bits
are anyone's
educated guess.

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Give thanks

with or without

a table

a home

day or night

this coiled morass

this labyrinth

of fear

and delight

you know it

as yours

not alone to

never untangle

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Gazing out
the apartment window—

past water droplets
gradually stiffened

by freezing wind
and glowing

in the light of the unseen
streetlamp below—

to the farther-off

nestled on the swaying wires,
pigeons on a wet copper cornice;

all huddled there
of their own volition.

No fear
like mine

of heights
(how very like

a bird) no thought
of this

injustice—being turned
to words.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


Never mind decent food
for worms, birds,
trees, pretty

flowers—or even
the ghostly
future of human thought

when I die, I'd like best
to be turned
to a brick;

to be
so ubiquitous,
useful, part

and parcel of the growth and
spread of a
brilliant civilization!

And yet
to transcend all of it
after the fact

with my
perfect little soulless ignorance—

would be the
most magnificent and
terrible gift.

Monday, November 25, 2019


I swear, if left entirely
to my own devices, most
of the time, I'd be fine

to slaughter
a whole filthy pitch-dark
labyrinthine penitentiary

packed claustrophobically
close to bursting
with the unfortunate

dinosaur mutants—eyeless
and shivering
and covered in dried shit.

I wouldn't sweat; I'd just
spit a little chewing tobacco,
deadpan as I moved

to pull the ostentatious
red lever for the screeching-
loud conveyor belt.

With a detached nose,
I'd boil their bones in vats
the size of Apollo moon rockets,

next calmly strain
and add rice, then bless
and seal each

compressed acre of carnage
inside a uniform
tube of aluminum

designed to stack nice
on a shelf and stamped
with illustrated pictures

of the creatures themselves
roaming a cute barnyard printed
on their labels—all of this

I would piously do,
all in the name of soothing
your latest or littlest

existential boo-boo.
You wouldn't even
have to ask me to.

Then I could come over
and heat a can up for you.
Think nothing of it,

I'd instinctively coo,
just open up, sweetheart—here
comes the spoon.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


Eternity exists—
but it comes
with a catch.

What you wish
is to be
together again;

what you get
never separated.

Friday, November 22, 2019


          Since the development of particle 
          physics and the Standard Model, 
          we have accumulated a great deal of 
          knowledge about the relationships 
          among various subatomic particles. 
          However, this knowledge has not 
          significantly aided in our understanding 
          of the fundamental nature of any 
          particular elementary subatomic particle.
               —Kevin H. Knuth, Cornell University 

In short, it's because
of the nuclear forces—

those strong
and weak prefixes

to oceans,
to land

bridges, to huge world
wars and gas

which carried the light,

if not
the word, forward,

messily, uselessly, crucially
in time—that I'm

here now talking 
(though I can't say

to who
without spilling

the milk and
splitting in two),

unfolding truth,
wave by vague

wave, line
by blind line—

thus far redoubtable,
courageous and

shitty at the same time,

and, of course

as you, or

as dead
empty space, or

as the terrible

of this
very sentence. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019


As November
nears its
inauspicious collapse—

fermented leaves
clogging curbs and
turning noses,

the white menace
of frost boldly creeping
out from every spurned corner,

and the piteous chalk-
grayness of clouds dulling
the edges

and muffling all sound
like a dirty makeshift
bed sheet pall—

even our prior sense
of disbelief
seems to soften,

caving in
in time with the moldering
jack-o-lantern skulls.

And it is only then,
finally, when even the most
trivial of gifts

would feel like a miracle,
that we are able to believe
anything is possible.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


The end of November
is the absolute worst.

The word summer 
sounds in the ear now
like cold distant Church Latin,
like a terrorist's trigger word;

and even the spectacular
failure that was autumn—

the bittersweetness of colors
running, the dead moons
hanging low as loose teeth,
the flocks of crisp geese retreating
giddy through the lunatic air—
fails to stir the heart any longer.

All is simply brown and gray
and braced for the full-body
cast that is winter—a terrible lot
of pressure

as we collect one another
and prepare to obliterate
ourselves on the brink
of some wandering anniversary,
to ask—

Who here
have I recently offended?

Did I slow down for a second
to actually taste the stuffing?

Am I sure I love this
person I'm sitting next to?

Am I supposed to learn something,
or am I supposed to pass the test?

Did none of us savor those bygone
seasons of the year enough?
Has anyone ever

truly appreciated
one trivial grain,
one liquid syllable

of earth correctly—
just the way
it was intended?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


contrary to popular belief,
the poets
are not so quiet;

the poets
are the loudmouth
stand-up comedians—

doing such necessarily
frowzy impressions

of the unspeakably majestic
that they sometimes
bear repeating:

when the wind's 
high, those songbirds 
are all-like—

and the flowers 
have those looks on their 
faces where they're just—

and the shape 
and the color 
and the aspect 

of the water 
were never really
the same after that...

Of course,
in the heat
of the moment

no one is laughing;
the audience is barely listening.

And so the poets, those
rare idiots, feel
all the more

to just say what they're thinking.

Monday, November 18, 2019


We have it
on good, albeit
tacit authority;

we can taste it
in the fear
drizzled lust

on the tips
of our tongues—
a little blot

must rightwise come
to the end
of every sentence.

this limit
is a stunt

which none
are in a hurry
to rehearse, yet

listen to all of us—
just dying for
the practice.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Just think of all the things in this
life there aren't words for—

the smell of brewed coffee
being different from its bitter taste

or the lonesome color of every
wet maple leaf mixed together

after being compressed beneath
the eager feet of trick-or-treaters

and pulped by grudging commuters
two weeks or so into November

when you can hear them start to
mutter back and forth on the platform

so much for a good long autumn 
because they can't find it

in their stony hearts to say
here comes another hard winter.

Friday, November 15, 2019


by photon,

light infiltrates everything.

It doesn't take,
it finds

the average.

It doesn't
discover, it

defines the boundaries:

in the shell;

on earth as it is in heaven.

But then,
such invisible hunger—

an internal space

that's uninterruptible—
what in the

hell could this mean?

Thursday, November 14, 2019


A writer is
one who revises

whatever he or she
is waiting for.

Slow and
with great care

by letter

coffee and breakfast turn
carefree and steadfast

true loves
become tea leaves

now that is

a tough one.
Some hint at

dying flowers
and leave it there.

Many others
have simply written

to say they're
still working on the problem.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Over the years
I have churned
out so many poems

I can't recall how
any of them go. Urgent
as they were

most were about
girls I'm sure now
i'd rather not remember

engendered by metaphors
that didn't compare much
with the world of sense

set in locations I'll likely
never see again.
Yet—I'm not sorry.

I won't be held responsible
for emotions whose postcards
I no longer want

for mutt feelings I've let out
at the curb on the street
or regrettable versions

of persons now-retired.
All that amnesty I must
hold on reserve

for the reason itself
which I can't afford
yet to forget—

and for the one person
who in the interim is
still required.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


O nameless untamable
joy of bright morning—
unpopulated white light

wasting inexhaustible time
playing in the mazes
of silent faceless ice—

please excuse humanity's
abominably late
entrances, they

cannot help it; please
break them off a piece
of your eagerness

to mind not a bit
of scarcity or lack.
When they wake

they inevitably
wake feeling dark
blue and starving.

Monday, November 11, 2019


        how did this haste begin this little time 
        at any time this reading by lightning 
        scarcely a word this nothing this heaven
             —W.S. Merwin, "Just This"

Even when living
in the moment
I am still afraid

the moment
is me. I do not want
to see it leave

though I never
saw how it
came this way.

Tomorrow I will
likely say
I believe in nothing

outside of today—
not even
the last time

I came to this place
and professed the same
belief. I know

the stars we use
to steer by
have all burnt out

long ago
but still I rush
to look up

an answer
to the question—
who invented zero.

Saturday, November 9, 2019


It's true I still think about you
at least once a day

but I've never thought
to pray.

Except for that one time
you asked me to

with the look in your
eyes—far away

as unnamed planets
all clouded over

with roiling atmospheres
yet stubbornly

refusing to rain—as I lied
and shouted

and swore
I could change.

Friday, November 8, 2019


He's not what you'd call
flighty—it just so happens

staring distracted
out the window comprises

his very small area
of expertise.

What he sees
there abstracted—the mangled

trees, crooked dismal
stacks of brick—you couldn't call it

disaffection, exactly;
it's more the artistic process

by which the labyrinthine city
becomes the living manifestation of

his cracked and hypnagogic logic.
As a matter of fact, do-right

pedestrians like us, so unimaginative-
ly late to the party

would be just as comfortable calling
this waking world surreal 

if everything we saw didn't appear
so likely.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


Every day
before the stories
of sirens

before the fictions
of backfiring eighteen
wheelers yellow diesel
busses cranes jackhammers

new light—

gray as water

then the color
of pale roses

then of jarred honey

spreading from the great lake's edges
without any interest
in boundary
or intent—

must awaken
the sleeping
authors from their measureless

reality of dreams

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Like thin pencil
flourishes of high birds
churning wider

and wider
circles in the gray
emptiness of morning sky

every day
every hour passes
gradually turning

into something
so slow
and simple

and inevitable it
surprises no one—
even though

they squint and stare
at the squiggles

of letters which are
all familiar
but which

together form
a signature
a word that no one

on earth dead
or living has
ever read before.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Even though we act 
like it doesn't,

youth disappears
like an April snow;

like the way a huge July sky
plunges over water;

like good will 
and cheerful music 
dry up every January;

like the voice of the wind 
bellowing apples
down from  November trees;

but mostly—
like nothing else 
we know.

Monday, November 4, 2019


Even as they're crying
the poor November
birds form flocks

even the little ones
who were born here
in the rich light of late summer

which is still burnt
into the shrunken Oak leaves
and the rock-

hard crab apple berries
resist but
are helpless

to keep from remembering
for the first time
how to fly

not in the direction
of safety but all the way
back home.

Sunday, November 3, 2019


How is it the few drab
gray brown birds

still left here in the naked
gray brown limbs

are the only ones now
not singing

songs about things
that already happened?

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Many people have stood here
before us and fallen—names still
sewn in the same gray ground now

that was once the province
of spring and its effervescent
kingdom of blossoms.

When we look at a thing, we think
we are seeing it always; we forget
the word for rain, deny the black eyes,

the savage humiliation and abuse
of the still-living Jesus, behold nothing
in those still-blank pages

to which the slightest wind
has blown our notebooks open—
whose song have we been singing

along with all this time
without even realizing?
what malevolence was it

that tricked us into swallowing
those cyanide seeds
of purpose and belief?

How did we ever
come to imagine these
moments belonged to us?

Friday, November 1, 2019


Nonsense only yesterday—
sweet sepia breezes,
fat bees grazing
on tufts of wild aster

this morning are
headstones, even
road signs frozen over.

No names left now
but our true ones.
Suddenly, we have come
all at once—

starved saints among us
to their ledges; the rest
of us, tomb-less ghost soldiers
building makeshift bridges—

to rush the perilous
mountain peak of
all prior knowledge
and experience.

Thursday, October 31, 2019


The scientists are afraid
to speak in absolutes. They say

the configuration of matter
is one half

of a conversation
we were never supposed
to overhear

over here
between the ghost
and the machine

between the haunted
and the haunting

between who's left
and who is leaving—the details

are fuzzy and all the riper
and juicier for it.

has always been a gamble
and a gambler is always
a little unstable

like those invisible bits
arrayed like chips

on the blackjack table which
we think we can read.

We think we can earn luck.
We think—we won
this kitty once

and we believe absolutely
we can win it again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


They say the past
is all in the past, but see
how densely

the present is stacked
on contingency—
what could it mean

to invoke fate
in this moment,
to witness certitude

or magic in the starlight
without knowing from experience
the chaos of explosion;

to hear truth
in the babbling
waters of a rock-strewn river

and forget to account
for glaciers'
dark impassivity?

The dizziest thought
could not fail to launch straight
from the steady scaffold

of anatomy: the imprints
of every hand I used to hold,
held lightly in my open hand.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


How on earth in such
limited space
are we supposed to both
be ourselves
and know ourselves

for eons the pious
and faceted moon has shown us
only one face

a knifeblade refuses
to cut another knifeblade

even the arms
of operative scissors
cleave close together

but are sworn never to
exchange information
let alone embrace

Monday, October 28, 2019


Hang it, I will bless all this
food myself
by ingesting it—

let greases
smear a little, like
oil for anointing this pitiful

hunger for significance,
let juices dribble
and quench

the absurd thirst
for ritual—no silver, elbows
sprawled akimbo on the table

like galactic arms spiraling
with black
holes at their awful, visceral centers.

May I too starve
so majestically, become a body so
ruthlessly ecumenical.

Nature dabs
with no napkins; it abhors
only ceremony—

and our best sense
of eternity, which glows from those
faintly haloed edges

from the very places
where it vanishes.

Friday, October 25, 2019


You can be certain
of seven times seven
or memorize the square root of four

but you can never know
whether even one line
of yours will survive

its first night in the wild
let alone more.
This is just how it goes.

The serpent called The Long Run
will glide out between
your desktop and the sun

every morning;
you'll have to write in the shadow
of its fame, never asking why,

and die content
to be consumed in the
flame of not knowing

what it is you were setting
down all that time—never mind
how come or what for.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


After thirty-something years
of abysmal nights' sleep, I
strongly suspect

the days are not passing—
which neatly accounts for
the observable fact

that I haven't been aging—
the way a final chord of "A Day
In The Life" decays,

the way moonlight moves
in gradual spirals
around the closed fist I hold out

through the window's bars,
the way you always
tend to look different

from the very last
person I kissed—these things
are very clever user illusions,

when really it's the question
I've been asking
over and over again

which keeps growing older—
and slower, and more worn
with deep wrinkles of astonishment,

and of course sleepier
and ever-sleepier—waiting
for its answer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Dog, why is it you pretend
to like me at all? Surely you could
get along just fine without my
tugging on the line, and from
the way that you seem to keep
ruthlessly seeking it, the quality
and quantity of comfort I provide
must be less than satisfactory.

Admittedly, I do try my best
to make up for it daily
by serving up breakfast
and dinner on a veritable platter,
but this makes me nothing but
a glorified restaurateur and his
lone awkward waiter both rolled
into one. This cozy little corner

of the world I've fixed up for you
might be a lovely (and somewhat
exclusive) place to dine, but
you're no sucker; you must be aware
that nothing in this criminally short
life comes for free, and you're
secretly paying me
so much for this privilege.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


It's pure Associative Property,
profundity by proxy—
the way I
can bite my bottom
lip and stand
tall in the autumn's raw
Midwestern wind and feel
so small, yet
so heavy for my size,
so coherent-
ly divided by
the fractal shadowy underside
of that which would so willingly die
in order to outlive me.
A bit Blander
maybe, than Christians'
gilded crosses, but it's
no wonder
around here, there are so many
tulip poplar trees.

Monday, October 21, 2019


I've think I've finally
got it: all these fancy
flavored seltzer waters 
taste less like a dream 
than a dream the next 
morning—one which we 
barely remember having 
but feel unusually desperate 
to describe later. 
All we remember is that 
we were seven 
and washing down pizza 
and sheet cake with 
Orange Slice, 7UP, 
50/50, or Upper 10, 
something like that—
at a pizza party 
in the loud neon arcade 
of throbbing black-
lit bowling alley.
Everyone there 
was equally poor
at bowling; everyone's favorite 
band was Salt-N-Pepa, 
so no one argued;
and the grown-ups, too
were like friendly ghosts or 
sentinels in the corner,
the way they were hanging 
back and chatting and really
getting into their cigarettes.

Sunday, October 20, 2019


Autumn in the city
is handed off to you faster
than a crumpled paper bag—
no chrysanthemum

without its price-
tag dangling,
no slow rustication of perpetual
rows of grain, of tangled

patches of squash,
no valley slowdance
to Vivaldi of
barn shadows at sunset;

instead, you get
one discreet couplet
of an end-
stopped poem by Sandburg,

one pumpkin-
spiced cup
with your cursive first
name on it from the Starbucks,

one chance to gamble
at the bustling
Sunday afternoon outdoor
commodities exchange floor

in the tiny square
of public park
that borders the cold blade
of elevated train.

You grab it,
hold tight,
and imbibe—slam its heady
brew of oranges,

reds and pale pinks, quickly
before passing it
to your immediate right

and stumbling back
bleary toward
another black
and white work week.

Saturday, October 19, 2019


It was a pretty
tough task. But
I finally managed

to close the lid
on that particular
box of memories,

turn the ornate
key that locks it,
and place it on a high

shelf out of sight—
with some other stuff
that's all used up

but still feels a little
too precious to ditch.
It's a very mixed feeling—

like the silence
after the end
of the First Act, or like

lingering at the table
after the most
incredible lunch

and daydreaming
about when and what
you'll eat next.

Friday, October 18, 2019


This is how
every animate body
we know
about gets made—

a long time ago,
and its opposite met
in a headlock

and began to spiral
around; and out
of the centripetal pressure:
the whole of creation, slowly

but perpetually—
which is still to this day
the way the living
talk to the dead.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Christ's sake—
from one measly
to the next,
why not
just relax?
Take a bath, read
a good book,
or both. Heck,
nothing beats
a little candlelit
Yoga by the river
Styx, and you'll
never reach Valhalla
without taking
a quick dip
in the Lethe
first. So forget
about running
around 24/7;
turns out those
ancient Mayan
calculations were
off a bit—from
a modern Astro-
physics perspective,
it's just as effective
to sweat every
threat to your
chosen ideological

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Even if all 
you ever recorded
was the getting out 
of bed in the morning,
let us say, thirteen thousand 
one hundred and forty, or so
times by now—
all in a row, 
without ever questioning it—
you'd already be sitting
on an epic 
more impressive
in scope than Homer's,
more quixotic 
and lofty 
and wild than Cervantes's,
and several hundred pages longer 
than the number 
of days even 
Jesus was afforded.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Just so you know
there really is a book in which 
everything is written 

but the catch is 
you're not allowed to read it 
until after

for now I'm afraid 

the muteness 
of touch 

the silence

of the voices calling 
and calling in the dreaming 
interior of the mind 

and of the doubt
that rises 
obediently to follow 

the peace 

the kind best exemplified
by still
water in light 

the unfalsifiable claims
to beauty made repeatedly 

by each burning daybreak 
and every irreversible 
immolated night—

for now 
only this much 

is safe
enough to be 
underlined and annotated

as true beyond reason
beyond purpose 
beyond question.

Monday, October 14, 2019


O, conspicuous
fleshy pink

still waving to me
on increasingly crisp,
persuasive breezes

and foregrounding
now, from the threadbare bushes
nearest to the avenue,

the neighborhood's
canniness of
Halloween decor—

how I wish
you could tell me
what it is I don't notice

about the moments
in which I am
truly contented

until the colors
have shifted
and the whole planet

tilts—and they're
so out of place, it starts to look

Sunday, October 13, 2019


Believe me, I'd love for the words
which we've already got
to work. But it's no surprise
they don't; you know that, and I
know it too—there will
always be this flimsy sort of
something between us, some gauzy train
of see-through stuff, some tailor-
made fabric smartly furled,
and yet routinely stretched to a
shape we can't name
and a color we've never been able to
label. We can't explain
the ritual; we've glimpsed it
in dreams, but it blazes
up way too quickly. So now,
miles and miles from that hotbed
of emergency—and safely wide awake
on a cold dazzling Sunday—
the best I can do with these
prefabricated phrases
is just to say that it's
life-size, enact a swooping dance
of pure gesture with my
hands, and leave it at that.

Saturday, October 12, 2019


It's hard at first
but once you're bent
you tend
to bend there again.

After a time
you might
even start to arc—less like
a yogi

than a wizened
ray of light
on its way through a filmy
glass of water:

still play the lottery
just skip
the ticket; more than once
let your kid come

with you to the
convenience store
dressed in her
Halloween costume.

Friday, October 11, 2019


If you can when
you're old,
think of this:

loss itself
is a kind of flaw-
less memory;

a cognizance
which, at last
is yours alone

a blissful sort
of looseness
you can hold—

the only gone
you ever get
to own.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


There is a reason
we cannot think back 
before we could talk

we didn't know what to call 
anything we saw

this morning 
the light by which I recall 
you sitting across the breakfast table smiling 
lying on a couch petting the dog 

is simply older than can be known

before it I am still as an infant 
to the whole of the universe 
in which there is no shadow or sundial 
no aurora or gloaming 
no picture or sound or concurrence

I do not dare ask 
such fierce radiance 

should the air I inhale now 
somehow have
anticipated me

then how could any exhalation be 
expected to remember

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


At the twenty-
four hour grocery
store: putting
whole things
in a squeaky-
wheeled cart—
one at a time, night
after static and
cleft, discrete night—
has, by this point
really started
to inspire me.
A whole apple,
the ideal
box of Cap'n
Crunch cereal,
one very conclusive
of peanut butter—
I have come
to appreciate this
clean moment-
ary world. I like
being invited.
And I've even begun
to warm up to
the thought
that I'm being
realities which are
so gratuitous-
ly themselves, so
redundantly in-
dependent and
entire—that no
prior concept
of the flawed
and incoherent
shopper is required.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


again bluebirdies
and leave
the sweetgums stark

naked in your

limbs posed
so illuminatingly

when snow's
white coma comes.

Monday, October 7, 2019


Two and a half pounds' worth of chuck roast,
salted and slid into a low oven for
over seven hours. A combination-probe-
and-investment. A bold investigation
into tomorrow.

Important work otherwise
disconcertingly minimal. Out of your hands
though, is the way you'd prefer it. On trial,
you'd have been willing to settle
for Leopold Bloom's verdict: more sinned-
against than sinning.

Cutting your hair and shaving
felt like paying back a loan. Taking another
walk around town, to help shake off
the anomalous feeling; your favorite
way of seeing
football. On other people's televisions.

The clouds gradually overtaking the sky
while you were dozing after lunch
in the muted living room, trying not to
think, trying not to move. Just in case
none of this really belongs to you.

Just in case that was someone else's
day-to-day life-
situation bleeding through.
Just in case that was
your Monday morning, plainly feeding
back into this derelict Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, October 6, 2019


Hunting for
positively any redemptive
epigraph I could uncover

and still not finding one
after half an hour—I start
to fear it's useless,

that I'm all on my
own on this one—
the debauched page

billowing, pulsing
with menace like a soiled
padded room—unless

those two crows—perched
on a cornice, and cawing
over the grayblue confusion

of the street after sunrise
with a glee that's
unusually magisterial—

were to suddenly
achieve perfect enlightenment,
swoop down

from their neo-Gothic
roof crown, and rescue this
tortured sentence.

Saturday, October 5, 2019


A long time ago, your soul
was a new penny loafer. You were
so afraid to ruin it
that you never even wore
it outside of the house.
After a while, you found it transformed

into the perfect running shoe; so snug,
light, and quick in those days—your feet
were clouds of fire, which never
touched ground. Right about now, though
your soul is some old and worn-out but
miraculously decent-fitting boot

scrounged by a homeless person
before gratefully leaning back on the
street corner trash can for a nap.
But don't sleep—eventually it's going
to morph one more time, to the polished
black wing-tip of that

beat cop drawing nearer—
chip on his shoulder, baton and
mustache twirling—who claims he never
believed in souls, and who won't
abide any street-preaching
derelicts or loafers.

Friday, October 4, 2019


When you need a few
minutes you
plainly do

not have,
this is the poem
I want you to find waiting—

like the robin's egg
blue dress hanging
clean in the closet, or

the Kit Kat bar
in the grocery
store checkout line—

these are the words I'd hope
you would memorize
even though you weren't required to

and the light you might use
to someday recognize
my face by.

It's terse
and compact enough
so as not to be

a burden; it works
like a constellation: just enough
data points to function.

It has fine rain
at a graveside funeral, cherry pie
on the windowsill,

Christ's blood as perfect
relationship metaphor—
and exactly one cedar waxwing.

Really, this poem
has nothing
to do with anything;

actually, this poem has
something to do
with everything.

Its take home message
is just that,
if you're still reading it,

you haven't completely
wasted your life yet.
That last poem which you read

on the subject
must have been mistaken:
there is still a little time.

Thursday, October 3, 2019


The domed ceiling of evening
closes down pretty fast now—at least
the rain can no longer pester us;
the wind, not so tough a
bully as we thought.

It feels late. We must have already
been affected. Left alone. Truly. But
we've been expecting this—
we've got cans of split
pea soup on hand, men with helmets

on the HD television. Soon (we reason)
a commensurate pea-green glumness
will come to both cradle
and cover us like coffin satin. Not bad.
This season was long overdue.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Since you're the one
asking, I admit—
I'm a flat 

maybe half
of the time, sure.

it gets dark, say. 
Those nights 

after you drop me 
off. When, in my
mind, the first

lonely impulse 
is to take off
my clothes

and put on black
tennis shoes—
I own several 

pairs of these 
just in case—
it might feel 

so amazing—
it might just be 
crazy enough—

to walk 
and to only 
keep walking...

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


O to just have faith
enough to wake
and get dressed

exhilaration but
nothing to resist

none of this
syntactic spun-

how many lines
have burned
in my earnestness

skill and hurry
having murdered

between birth
and death how many
unarticulated poems'

flattened tongues
mouths closed
around headstones

useless and end-
order beauty simplicity

no organization
other than
by date

no justification other
than appearing
to exist

Monday, September 30, 2019


          [Winston] Churchill perpetually demonstrated 
          enthusiasm, determination, and optimism—
          if not at all times in private, then at least 
          always in public.
               —International Churchill Society

Whatever else—always charismatic,
dawn sun hitting
the red wet
brick beautifully

on row
after determined column
of shabby-but-
decent apartment buildings—

That I should be
awake to see this!—so often
I admit I don't
often notice.

Sunday, September 29, 2019


Look at it—does
this nearly translucent
luminescent seashell glow

from the secretive
center of it
out to the edges

or is it
the other way around?
Is that cracked

but serviceable
bowl on your counter
for putting junk in

or pulling it out?
Where the movement
ends and the

willingness begins
is no stance
you can take, not a concept

you're taught;
it's just something
you get.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


In misery, them
leaving you.
Them leaving

you in misery. Then
time lapse: suns
setting, moons

rising, that kind
of thing. Seasons.
Blackened bananas

and avocados rotting.
Maggots writhing
in the kitchen. Then flies.

Then nothing
but starlight. Not bad,
you manage

eventually, you
see it: everything
that leaves—returning

just never to stay.
The worst of it
realistically, then

is the days.
Their empty
interminable passing—

only to come
back the same
way again: terrible

but so familiar.
Like a bad dream
in which you

find yourself becoming
aware of having
had it already.

Friday, September 27, 2019


Listen how
even the sincerest damn

birds can't stop clamoring
at once

for more and more
worms and yet

and sunnier weather.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


O that tender voice, the prim
lips and smooth cheeks, the warmth
and softness of fingers touching
other compliant fingers—how luxurious,

how beautiful it is
to desperately need
those things which we
cannot afford to need.

Sunrises, sunsets, swaying
gardens of late roses and
lollipop dahlias—all those classes
of prize are different;

not prerequisites, exactly
but novelties, gewgaws—free upgrades
to your basic Food-Water-Shelter-And-
Warm-Someone-Else Package.

Though of course, you
still wind up paying
for every single one of those
too—the presumption being

that you'll find yourself desperate-
ly happy to do so
once you've seen and
handled a few.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019


While I'm here,
when I speak, I must speak
for everything:
the blood and the body, the water and dirt—
which, for their parts
all take their
silent turns wearing me;
not with precision
as earrings of laser-
cut diamond, but with a certain nonchalant
yet elegant equanimity;
a maternity dress—just one
of the many hung
in a redolent closet, perhaps
billowing slightly in the evening air.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


It's a traumatic thing to witness
the lush and lively thickness of summer
inexorably getting thrashed
and winnowed. We'd have to be
forced, not coaxed, to reckon with
the evidence; and in truth, it goes so
much smoother when we don't notice.
It isn't just that the light bends to
obscure it; the whole planet tilts, and we
tilt along with it. Saturdays, we're very
busy bagging leaves, digging out
the slow cooker; Sundays, folding
clothes, cleaning windows, putting
elaborate lattices on crusts of dough as if
by the charmed wink of a candle, which
we know—but again refuse
to acknowledge—if used to its fullest
is doomed to dwindle. We do not think
twice. We are complicit. We light
it, and we burn it—then, we force
ourselves to squint a little in order to
perceive: there's still just as much
as ever that needs doing before the chili
depressurizes and the big
game kicks off. Even though of
course there's really ever so much less.

Monday, September 23, 2019


Outside my window, a lone
crow's desiccated
rasp of a caw,
first of autumn—like

bugle Taps for the bygone
season; like a callus
that's thickening. Well, what's one
more, I guess

in the grand scheme
of this jointly tender
and excoriating world—or do I
mean, one less?

Sunday, September 22, 2019


          One day, we will put it all behind. We'll 
          say, that was just another day on Earth.
                    —Brian Eno

Dear God—please, fuck this
tyrannical math of the
thirteenth Pope Gregory.
Here I am, deigning again
to wake in good faith;
and again, I see a traitorous
digital calendar display
has slithered and shape-
shifted and clawed its way
forward another day
to the dearth of my consent,
belief, and understanding.
This is the last straw—so
help me, I will not accept
one more of these abstract
numerical premises on
behalf of your allegedly
esteemed representative.
With You as my witness, I
hereby no longer agree
to shave the graying beard
of my finite existence
off like this: for all intents
and purposes blind, with
the needle-sharp point of
an Italian stiletto, and one
uncountable hair at a time.

Saturday, September 21, 2019


How are we expected
to square the fact
that a good romantic novel
makes a piss poor history book
written in reverse?
Any way you choose
to look at it, fractal and confused
is the spot where the juiciest
plots merely start,
while their rectangular ends
are so neat and Newtonian
that it's more than a little perverse.
In the threads I've somehow
managed to pick up
and follow, the characters
bend and the situations alter,
but divergence is the longer-
term rule of thumb.
In as many of the world's
pages as I've fumbled
through so far, loose ends
never wind any tighter, monuments
and gravestones only
crumble in one direction,
and it's not like anyone
down there ever ends up
more in love
than they were.

Friday, September 20, 2019


          Past the pits where the asphalt
               flowers grow
          We shall walk with a walk that is
               measured and slow
          And watch where the chalk-white
               arrows go
          To the place where the sidewalk
                    —Shel Silverstein

I don't know,
Silverstein—mostly it seems,
hours after I've dreamed them,
my desires, hopes, and
fears are still sleeping
measured and slowly in tight
neighborhood flowerbeds, while I
blow right by them
distracted and daily
on these neverending conveyor
belts of milk gray concrete.
My mind might be
an intergalactic band
of time-traveling space aliens;
my body, perhaps
a harmonized tangle
of vibrating proto-conscious superclusters—
but in any case, everyone in here's just
fissuring on
in his limitless way
to someplace definitive,

Thursday, September 19, 2019


Those first hateful days
that follow are more obliterated
than they are recognizable—let alone
believed-in—and so
can hardly be
counted as such. Then

for a month—
and the bleary compendium
of months after that one—it's just
too hard
to talk about much. But

once years pass, it becomes
so difficult
to rekindle any sentiment
or recall really any
details at all—it feels trivial, if not positive-
ly dull to discuss.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


O September—the boughs
are getting heavy now,
and the stalks are growing
brittle. There is a meanness in
the flowers' faces. The yellows
are bronzing more than a little,
and white pillows of clouds
are flattening out. Though
all around the tall dry grasses
lie softened nectarines, plums
glossy with rain, and faintly
rotting melons; the bees
have grown listless, the song-
birds strangely terse, while
invisible cicadas whisper
more and more anxiously—
this secret of yours can't be
kept for much longer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Like a gladiator, the late
September sun returns
a little more battered each morning,

a little less warmth
and a little more color.
But which spectator among us pauses
to consider—each time

our own voice rises
in anger, lowers again
in despair—how many Olympians
are summoned and spent,

how many golden days
ransacked, rarest hours
blitzed from the air—how much summer
do we really think we have left?

Monday, September 16, 2019


In the mornings, when it's still kind
of dark out, I'll get up, and I'll go
for walks around the neighborhood.
It's early, but I'm eager
to take in the empty park, the motion-
less street, and the dark trees, still vague
and damp with droning insects.
I'm always hoping the weight, the dead
calm of these sorts of things
will displace all the thoughts,
the duties, the debts, and the memories
that invariably creep in
shortly after each new day begins.

Often though, while I'm moving,
a sudden invisible something
will brush my face or forehead. Unlike me,
of course, the spiders
have been very busy during the night,
but it's always hard not to get
taken aback by the strange sensation
and immediately begin brushing
my face and my hair with both hands.
Naturally, this is worse than
useless. I can never see
or even find the damn thread. Some things
are just too fine, too delicate for the size
of a person, I guess.

So I press on. Though for a second
or two, I confess the invisible
stickiness of these threads
gives me the urge to turn around and head
back inside, back to bed.
You couldn't really blame me for that,
though, I suppose. In fact,
more and more I find myself supposing
one day, you won't really
blame me for anything.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


I should just be grateful
for the whole thing. I am, too
really. I should say so. I should
tell you. But I won't

risk ruining it. I can't decide what I'm
supposed to do instead, though,
so I'm waiting. Just gazing
hard at quiet light on the floor.

Sunday morning. No music plays,
no Velvet Underground or anything.
Books on the table. But all
are closed up now. My voice is gone

and the coffee's gone too. I regret
that, as usual. But you know
how I always think it'd just be
a waste to make any more.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


So many dis-
things have happened already

that I don't think twice now
when I walk past the sunflower
on the edge of the sidewalk

which was just a stalk
yesterday morning.
A slight roil of wind—

no big deal—
blowing another little
swirl inside the mind. What about

the gardens of churning stars
we used to see as
kids—whose big idea

was that, I wonder—whose
dizzy distortions
of children were those?

Friday, September 13, 2019


It's what they call
an elegant (read: deceptively
simple) equation:

a loss
over time

a sort of distributed ratio
known as losing;
e.g. a knot

becoming such
and such a size—
and me

still waiting
around independently
for its loosening.

I just want to tell you
how much I've
enjoyed your company,

but even that
I can't seem to
do yet.

Which at
least makes
more intuitive sense:

can't divide two
prior things
and expect

to get something completely
new, now
can you?

Thursday, September 12, 2019


Those lights in the sky—
we are told
to call them stars—they burn
though every last atom
of matter in their bodies
until they die.

Until the slag at the center
of their hearts
explodes. Until
their starving invisible ghosts
go sucking and tearing
searing holes in the universe.

But it's alright
we tell ourselves. It's okay
we'll say to someone else
who loves us—this has
always been the plan. They are supposed
to do that.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


          —September 11, 2019

Would anybody
today in the world trade
no hope
for no despair? I would. I wouldn't
care whether
the two were equivalent

either. Tomorrow
is such a gratuitous balm—
I mean
it seems to cost nothing
to keep
slathering on. But

the past—
feels so jagged
complex—so inevitable
to me when
that's what we keep calling it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


Like a sunflower
that follows every
moment of the sun—I

am a slave
with no brain
who cannot even

see you're the one
in charge.

Monday, September 9, 2019


When I say this,
does the papery half-
moon make sense to you?

Could an inkblot
cloud oozing dirty across it
cause it

to make any more
or any less?
My guess is

they were wrong
about a universe
made of grammar; but maybe

there is
still a hierarchical order,
a syntax

of all the hidden things out there,
which—and here's where
I always struggle

to complete that thought,
and where you continue
to find it

so interesting,
even though by now it isn't
at all unusual.

Sunday, September 8, 2019


Each day, I'm so busy—
I think 
and I think, until every
niggling thought is gone. Believe me, 
it's not easy

constantly racing 
to the bottom 
of plots; so furious 
to get to the end of things. And yet 
the nights

are so empty—nothing left 
in these 
drained containers 
except: that inhospitable vacuum  
of memory.

Saturday, September 7, 2019


Look—I don't want to
tell you my life story; I am not
curious about yours or
what exactly happened back there.
I just want to take
one minute of one single day and
make it a little bit
sweeter to have wasted:
a nervous kiss, half
a cigarette, a morsel of chocolate—
the word morsel, for
that matter, or the word resplendent
deployed right at sunset.
Listen—the succor of hiatus 
is what I solicit. Long term, no way
could this ever work.

Friday, September 6, 2019


Year by year, our complexions
seem to worsen.
Every pockmark or pimple
is a jot we should have written,
each new wrinkle,
some metaphor we've failed
to explore—or an image
we'd barely dirtied our minds on
before abandoning for the sake
of a cleaner-cut conversation.

Every line which hasn't been
elongated successfully
is another ligament tightening,
until we begin to feel
whole stanzas still inside us
one by one, shuttering their doors,
cooling down, getting dusty—
the way joints get rusty,
cartilage hardens, and breathing
and bloodflow begin to slow.

What are these statues
we're all turning into? What
grotesque creature (and from
where?) do we slouch toward?
Which crumpled object, cracked
nationalist symbol, club-footed
iamb, or hoarse-whispered word?
Maybe things don't fall apart;
maybe they just harden,
and harden, and conserve—until

all life is
is arches and serifs;
some are just slightly
ahead of the curve:
from Abraham and Sarah,
to Binkie and Herb—
everyone on earth
who has ever existed
sooner or later
is a word.

Thursday, September 5, 2019


for bread—you must
pick yourself up
by the bootstraps;

for roses—quit
pulling yourself
up by the roots.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019


Ten a.m.—must be the first
Tuesday of the month: time
to test every emergency
siren, all at once. I wonder,

Has someone determined
that Ten a.m. on Tuesday
is the least likely time for an
actual disaster? Is it just

too soon in the week
for the great apes
and the lions to escape?
Too early in the day perhaps,

to incur the rage and mania
of a battered mother
nature? Am I really so sure
that I'm sitting too far west

to finally anger Zeus
into reanimating the Gorgons
for having picked the wrong
religion all along? (Although,

would that one really
be so bad, anyway? To be
stone-still, to be spared all this,
and to last?) Just ten or so

more seconds to go now—until
the shrill whistles finish blaring
their counterfactual bulletins
of Warning, Warning, Warning;

This Is Your Imminent 
Emergency Warning 
That There Currently Is No Such
Imminent Emergency.

And then: on a dime at
one minute after—that feeling,
not of relief, but of something
which is nothing,

something which it seems like I've
only been rehearsing feeling,
something I can't quite
put our finger on—I can

only say for sure that it must be
a feeling I feel routinely
relieved to have failed
to feel for real.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


I've got a girl who comes
around every night—
no matter what
her day has been like.

I bask in the glow of a
bride who's dependable. After she
binges, she purges—
so she never really changes.

This woman worships the very
festering earth that I walk on.
But she's clean. And careful
not to give in to those urges.

She's an angel, ghostly pale
and powdered smooth.
And so she prefers me bonesmooth
and bonewhite too.

We don't have to talk. When I
blink, she blinks. When I wink,
she wobbles. She doesn't drink
but doesn't mind if I do—as long

as we continue to dance
wild tarantellas on this
lawn by the heaving
sea until dawn. And as long as

the shimmering night tide
is jealous, keeps snapping its
million little pictures each second—
I'll look smug and satisfied. I'll lie

at night, my chin raised, my
gaze fixed to that one certain
place in the sky—like the most
requited dead man alive.

Monday, September 2, 2019


Thank goodness
for a whisker

for the few
coarse copper hairs—

little stowaways
still clinging

to the disconsolate
underside of cushions—

all these
lazy days

all these harrowing
years later.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


Once you're an adult
and you're living alone,
you'll finally do whatever
you want to do—just
because you can. You'll
wear the same clothes
and eat with your hands
and work on poems all
morning, then take naps
in the middle of every
afternoon. You'll never
have to talk to anyone
you truly get along with.
At night, you won't
go out—you'll just lurk
around, or lounge;
you'll loaf on the couch.
You could smoke
indoors if you wanted
to—but you don't.
You'll get to watch the shows
you want, then throw-
out your television
the moment you suspect
that you've begun
to outgrow it. In fact,
you'll throw out most
of your furniture
while you're at it—
and your books
and your dishes
and your coats
and your shoes
and those old pictures
and most of the food
in your refrigerator—since
no one you love is coming
home expecting dinner.
Not ever again, as far
as you can guess. So it's
burgers again. Hell—it's
burgers for breakfast.
Nobody's perfect. This is
so much simpler.

Saturday, August 31, 2019


It's probably
true, the soul
likes its strictness—yes,

it actually desires
its tightness
and its rigor.

it longs to be stiff,
wants to stick
to the classics—it insists

on complete
silence in the library,
on reading (by candlelight)

canonical literature
mistrustfully and critically,
on going straight

to the Sanskrit
or ramming Derrida hard-
as-it-can at Saussure.

However—the soul
is also smooth,

and invisible. As such,
it must also crave

to be mistaken,
to feel stupid—and often

to get taken
for the proverbial
ride and even get

called a little son
of a bitch, now and then,
by courtroom men in

tailored suits or brimstone-
eyed priests
in identical robes.

It has no mother, either,
so it must be used to
being overlooked

by heroic
women in white
coats or blue uniforms

who routinely check
the body, not for a soul
at all, but just

for a pulse,
for a heartbeat,
for a certain rhythm

that resembles—
which perfectly
rigid military

march, what turgid
German symphonic
masterpiece, exactly?

Friday, August 30, 2019


The thing about living
on planet Earth is

the Sun
always seeming
from this perspective, to rise

of its own volition—
each morning
glory petal uncurling

the same way its
light arcs and turns dreamy

through the green glass
which is strewn
around everywhere:

Rolling Rock, maybe
San Pellegrino—

domesticated German, wild
Latinate words combining,

disposable shells
of desperation
and sensibility,

all these trivial
husks of hard money—

all divorced, but
each kissed into glimmering
in the same decisive way;

coerced to cohere—
to mingle
in this loamy alley

like Rothkos
in their gallery.

Thursday, August 29, 2019


Don't worry—the little awkward
silences you encounter
are nothing at all

like the cracks
in a load-bearing wall.

And—though they thread
and filament through the fabric
of your prefab interactions
and artless attempts at cooperation,

conspicuous as the spider
veins on the legs of your grandmother

or the capillaries
inside your eyes every night
when you stare for too long
at the bathroom mirror—these pauses

are not empty gaps.

is much sturdier, much
stronger than that.

Think of the rebar
under miles of concrete
keeping the road you must one day take

to the hospital from falling
into complete disrepair;
think of the mortar

which holds tight to the bricks
of all the mausoleums out there
built to contain the remains

of each bygone day—
which, like it
or not, we are tirelessly building,

every minute,
every second—stone

by inane little stone—whether we're
doing it alone
or together.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Strange feeling to get—

a certain image: not shit

like certain feelings.

Image result for lost

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Ghostly-paler nights, closer-
and closer-away disasters—

this is no Disney park;
no handholds, no boardwalk of nations,

no lanterns—visible stars, like
lights in the harbor. Far too dangerous

to be seen, to get caught
thinking—let alone to just imagine

the thought
as: only the post-conscious representation 

of a prior neural-chemical action 
over which we as agents had 

no control. 
We had no idea.

Why would we
listen—why lay down our arms

with intent
to become weapons instead?

Why come, increasingly, with user
instructions and warnings, why bother

to refashion ourselves next time
thinner, lighter, smaller?

Why no longer try to conceal ourselves
in order to carry

one another across certainty's borders?
Ghostlier and ghostlier,

smoother and smoother—over time
we might come to trust ourselves

not as guns, but as their
hair triggers—if we are moved to act,

it is because we got bumped, not
squeezed by an omnipotent finger.

Monday, August 26, 2019


          The absence of the imagination had
          itself to be imagined.
                —Wallace Stevens, "The Plain
                     Sense of Things"

Make it new,
make it plain,
make it sing, no ideas

but in things—now
who am I?
And how is it right to talk

in a future
where I'm
seeing digital pictures

of those things
instead of originals?

Like, just this morning—
the towering
figure of a guy

so prim in his black
and white suit and tie,

so shy—so 1945 New-
England-buttoned-down, he'd likely
never have said fuck at all

the way I do so
casually today,
whether out in public

or mired like this,
in a much plainer poem
(sketched, by the way,

in pajamas on a smartphone)
about far less plain things—
such as my own disillusionment

with images. Or else, the way
I've taken all these
pictures for granted.

I've never really known
the full weight
of physical media,

felt the fineness of excess
or correctness of old

let alone
straightened my dour tie and
proceeded to imagine, somehow

much more wildly
impossible things:

the bronzed edges of space
where golden birds sing
their wordless songs

of thought, perched firmly
on a palm

of a hand
which might be mine,
or might be

the frond of a tree
still growing, even now—
still blowing

in the same slow wind
at the end of the mind.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


Clean rows
of colorless cemetery
stones, hard-edged

at the end of the day, stabbing
all their shadows
uniformly eastward—

already stark
in that part of the world;

somewhere beyond
that—already tomorrow. Pinks again,
oranges, yellows; a light

tasting just thoughtlessly
alright to someone.

First, grace: a life
never seems neat until it's
bound and finished.

Then, mercy:
the reassuring smell
of wet grass dissipates

once you round the bend
and realize—you don't have
time for this.

Saturday, August 24, 2019


This is a collection of verses
scrawled to your self in the future
by homeless men—

a few sprawled on benches,
one or two in smart nooks
between tree trunks—

all strewn across the park
in the late
August dawn.

It was first sounded out on the breeze;
it whispers of adversaries,
wails of the sort

of contention which
the conspicuous
absence of women portends—

it warns you:
every morning (so far) is similar,
but it could have been very different;

it ruins the old lines,
stale soup queues now not even
worth standing in;

it trumpets: the gold rush is over
on compassion, there's a run
on cooperation. The foliage ringing

on the outskirts is still
green, but it knows:

all is nourished, is kissed
by vague sun—but
by and by, every island paradise

in the city will be fumigated,
then cleansed—if not by a flood
of rain water, then

by the bitter
certain cruelty of the coming
season's wind.

Friday, August 23, 2019


This morning:
the early clouds—soft

swathing last night's
dreams, still-raw—

harmlessly now,
out past
the veil

of existence
by cool pulses of wind—
an impression

sky moving
outward forever;

a suspicion
of never
having been

more certain
about blue—less sure
of the word for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Try this—
place a smart little
gift shop bouquet

of red local flowers 
on the table
near the window

in their
hospital room 
at the right time of day—

then watch
for a minute (though they
aren't yet awake)

the auroras cascade:
the amaranthine import
of Loveliness itself

as it floods in
to drench the tedious
and inconsequential—

the antiseptic gray
space in which 
Commonplace must exist;

and then 
come home and tell me
you still don't know

what forever 
is, or today
was for.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


From that first catastrophe of dawn,
the liturgies of sun, of wind, or
of rain; the driving, idling bit
by bit in this or that room, consuming
sacraments until they're gone—

to the inevitable slouching,
the slow bowing-down and the
penitent crawl toward reconciliation
with twilight and night as they play

out on television—no one we would
shudder to recognize as formerly living
ever comes. The miracle: there never was
a minute of perfect blameless silence
all day long. Not even one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


       Though leaves are many, the root is one;
       Through all the lying days of my youth
       I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
       Now I may wither into the truth.
              -W.B. Yeats, "The Coming Of 
               Wisdom With Time"

How many drafts 
does it take 
for a wild poem to atrophy
into its spare and abiding truth? 

How many 
barely differing iterations 
for its flashy lines to stiffen 
and darken, 

for its wettest words to dry, its dazzling 
images to soften 
into such well-defined textures 
and restrained colors 

that any artistically-inclined 
eye in the future 
could easily reproduce them, as if 
painting by-numbers? 

How many nights 
to name 
the full moon titanium- 
or maybe dove-white 

such that, 
in the mind of a person 
whom I don't even know 
that I love yet, it never wanes; 

or to define the morning 
light which streams 
through my window simply
as yellow ochre—

and, perfectly satisfied 
with the very certain kind of longing 
I've conveyed, just turn away
and leave it at that? 

Monday, August 19, 2019


That almost cloying sweetness
of summer—
all the blossoms
spinning spare sugar
out of the extra hours of light,

the blue lusciousness
of water and the
candied stripes of tree shade,

our skin, and the skins of our
daughters and sons, like peaches
and nectarines blushing
pleasantly darker with
the slow simmer of each passing day—

these things make it possible
not to endure, but to ignore—
or obfuscate for a little longer—
to mask the bitter tang of death which
always smolders in the background.

Idle afternoons induce in us daydreams
not of stingy bees' stingers
but their generous amber
honey soothing
the backs of our ticklish throats;

we forget
how true it is,
and how telling

that whichever holy specimen
of fruit we are handed—
however ripe and juicy, bewilderingly
redolent, immeasurably round—

the most perfect thing
we can think to do
is bite into it;

to destroy that integrity,
to take every fraction of its cool
sweet perfection, reduce it, and
lock it away deep inside—

as if somehow, we could force
even the smallest truth
to be ours and
ours alone.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


          "Hope" is the thing with feathers—
          That perches in the soul—
                    —Emily Dickinson

So, wait—but which
particular bird
was Hope, again? The dark
raven, no,

the white dove—
doesn't matter
much, I suppose, since I haven't
seen either around

here for a while—just this one
slight silver crane,
made from a carefully
folded old gum wrapper

which lies belly-up
and gleams for a second each morning
when I open the flooded top
drawer of my desk;

but I think it's safe to say
this one's given up its quest—
which was never for Hope, anyway
but of course, for Peace and Love—

in the name of bestowing its
little specious branches
of Peace and Quiet, daily, upon this
shabby ark, instead.

Saturday, August 17, 2019


the lights are still
on somewhere—
There is nothing

at their center—
at the boundary

Friday, August 16, 2019


Astonishing how
the impetuous morning glories—
their fluted violet
petals near-translucent
in the onrushing
light of the dawning world,
their young tendrils heroically
messy and untamable—
are still so eager
to drape their spry substance
around the perfectly
ordinary: wrought iron fences,
long rows of tall black,
machined en masse
for the purpose of keeping
one particular stripe
of life in each neighborhood
separate and abstractly
protected from the others.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


It's all the daily floating
irritations in your eye 

which blind you to the beauty 
you may somehow yet be 
making from their shavings

for the sake of a beholder
whose tastes and purpose
your nervous system 
was never built to imagine.

What is a pearl anyway
but thankless work
done in secret around some 

a little tenderness, perhaps 
over time growing
too unwieldy for the oyster.