Thursday, October 31, 2019

EARNED LUCK

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.
Relationship

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

SUPERVENIENCE

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

ROOM TO MANEUVER

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

REAL GRACE

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

emerges
from the very places
where it vanishes.

Friday, October 25, 2019

VOCATIONAL

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

I HOLD OUT

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

AT YOUR SERVICE

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

MIDWESTERN

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

LA CROIX

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

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,

effervescent
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

INTERMISSION

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

DOUBLE HELIX

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

a long time ago,
hope
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

SHABBAT

Christ's sake—
from one measly
sundown
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
mathematicians'
calculations were
off a bit—from
a modern Astro-
physics perspective,
it's just as effective
to sweat every
threat to your
chosen ideological
provenance
twenty-four-six.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

ACCEPTANCE LETTER

Even if all you recorded
was the getting
out of bed,
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
than Homer's in scope,
more inventively
quixotic than Cervantes',
and several hundred
times longer than the
number of days even
Jesus of Nazareth could afford.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

PROOF

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 
only 

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

ANACHRONISM

O, conspicuous
fleshy pink
hibiscus

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
ridiculous.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

BESPOKE IDEA

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

REHABILITATION

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

OBLIVION

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

ASKING A LOT

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

NOUMENON

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
container
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
proffered
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

OCTOBER

Flapaway
again bluebirdies
and leave
the sweetgums stark

naked in your
tumultuous
wake;

leafless—
unsuited—yet
limbs posed
so illuminatingly

penitent
when snow's
white coma comes.

Monday, October 7, 2019

MANY WORLDS INTERPRETATION

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

POSTMODERN FRAGMENT

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

OUTGROWN

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

DAILY POEM


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

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER VS THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

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

...AFTER YOU

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

earther—
maybe half
of the time, sure.

Whenever 
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

COGITO

O to just have faith
enough to wake
and get dressed

without
exhilaration but
nothing to resist

none of this
syntactic spun-
sugar

how many lines
have burned
in my earnestness

skill and hurry
having murdered
purpose

between birth
and death how many
unarticulated poems'

flattened tongues
mouths closed
around headstones

useless and end-
stopped
order beauty simplicity

no organization
other than
by date

no justification other
than appearing
to exist