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.