Wednesday, December 30, 2020

NEW YEARS PARTY

Like everyone else here, 
I have practiced 
speaking gracefully  

about the myriad ways 
all life on earth
will cease.

The lakes of hard clay
and black holes 
born at CERN 

trip off my tongue 
at the New Years party—
as if

preempting 
my own absence 

will save me 
some face.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

AXIOM

They say—Light 
is uncatchable
weightless

ageless
incorruptible. 

But without an observer—
a serpent 

to proffer 
the choice—all this 
becomes nonsense.

If I never needed 
to say anything again
would I?

How would I 
decide?

How would I 
make clear that I haven't 
decided?

What could it mean 
for an axiom 
to vacillate

between 
higher—or even alternate 
dimensions?


 

Monday, December 28, 2020

LACUNA

When I think 
back on all 
the objects 
I have worshiped—

many spheroid, 
others cylindrical,
all of them 

hollow now, black 
and white in 
the photo-
book of memory—

I experience not 
the loss 
of quintessence, 

but the paradox
of hope;

it might yet 
be possible—
for a substance, 
for a presence 

to represent 
its own total 
lack.



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

NEVERTHELESS

Even while we cry 
for help—

pinned and seeing 
neon in a car crash,

dangling and superfluous 
in a pitch black elevator shaft, 

from every strained cell
of our body mass, 

in our weaknesses, 
in our sleep—

we nevertheless remain 
those rightwise 

and bright-eyed optimists 
of myth. 

To have a taste 
for anything at all—

any form of subsistence 
we may yet deign to eat—

is an article of faith. 
Every day,

to wake, 
and to rise—surely

these are two kinds
of belief.


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

AT THE END OF THE DAY

Even the astronaut—
decorated veteran,

so fond 
of silence, 

so near
to heaven—like everyone 

else here, just 
wants to go home.



Monday, December 21, 2020

SMALL TALK

What if there 
were an ominous 
pleasure 

simply in calling 
a thing 
by it's name?— 

This 
is called a "ghost note."

that 
requires exquisite 
"control." 

Each recalled term, 
the guest of honor
at a banquet, 

long toasts recounting 
all the places 
it's been.

Overstimulation
would come merely

from teeth 
touching tongue; 
a fatally 

decadent self-
indulgent feeling

as air
abandons lung.


Friday, December 18, 2020

SURROGATE

From here on in, 
to help avoid any 
unnecessary confusion, 

every day will cancel
the previous 
one out. 

Like voices 
cooing "nothing 
compares to you" 

just as the marvelous 
synthesizers 
kick in, 

this place you're in
and that place 
where you came from, 

will both signify—
significance.

True, with no endings 
and no new beginnings, 

you'll never uncover 
the source 
of your sadness.

On the plus side,
if you ever thought

you'd rid yourself 
of that nuisance 
"once and for all"—

now you're only
half-wrong.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

THE PRODIGAL

Me and my satisfaction—
how appallingly like 
the prodigal.

The moment I catch it
staggering back, 
I'm out there—

slitting fat throats 
of nicknamed calves,
chainsawing

timeshares
and 401(k)s 
in half, bleating 

appeasements, 
tickling its feet, 
and babbling 

of rash feasts (gold leaf 
on the appetizers, 
knock-me-down cigars,

60-year apertifs)
in its
pussyfoot honor.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

UNEQUIVOCAL

Across the graying snow, 
my hound dog 
bounding lightly, nuzzling patches 
with her nose 

and going crazy with delight 
to feel the cold wads of it
clinging to her muzzle. 

Despite my reluctance,
she had wanted to come out. 
Naive to grumbled curses,
she resolved to bow 

and splay and curl her body 
in curious service
to this hostile environment

while I stood back on cold heels,
frozen toes, watching
with slow growing interest

blooming to amusement,
and genuflecting 
imperceptibly now

to her and to all that is 
still unavoidably 
wonderful in this world.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

PHYSICS LESSON

Given enough time, you say 
whatever flies forth 
from an once-opened hand 

is statistically bound 
to come back.

With one 
palm pressed firmly 
into the other—

so much the better
to conceal 
the dull ache there—

and the light of oblivions
at play 
on my face,

I nod my understanding
and falsify 
the case;

I must be decades away 
from believing that.


Monday, December 14, 2020

ARTIFICE

There's a graceful
way, this time 
of year, 

that the bare branches bend 
with each sharp sprig
of wind—

and are coaxed 
even more so
by snow's repetitious angles

and the permanence of evening 
to bow slightly 
downward—

which may make you feel like 
letting things be 

just as I begin,
temporarily, to reexamine 

my usual ploy
to gain pity.


Friday, December 11, 2020

RESOLUTION SHORT LIST

To eat less. 
To move more. 
To make your peace 
with decaf. 
To stop snoring. 
To half-ass-
learn French 
to pad out a profile 
on a dating app. 
To avoid going senile 
by making daily anagrams 
out of random 
AdWords letters.
To smile at more faces
and read fewer poems— 
in order to remember 
both of them better.
To get sacrificed 
in the name of 
one thing
in lieu of getting laughed at 
by all of the others.
To feel safe in the arms 
of a spiraling galaxy 
with a black vacuum lodged 
where its heart should be.
Or at least 
to keep your skin farther 
apart from your bones
than a soul is close 
to its body.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

RHYME OR REASON

You've learned—if not reason, 
at the very least, rhyme 
is required. But it's no use; you 
can't make either work. 

Your lines are not catchy,
nor are they terribly 
instructive. But it feels 
when you speak the words—

a jumble of phrases 
about the glow behind trees...
and the mentality of morning...
and wishing you were younger—

all of which seem to glide 
like an iridescent fish 
in the deep and soundless 
trenches of your mind—

that a third thing is happening. 
A third kind of mattering. 
That perhaps feeling, at its purest, 
neither entertains nor teaches.



Wednesday, December 9, 2020

CUSTOM ORDER

Like the words to a song—
today, I woke 

and took the dog out 
to the dew-silver park

and worked—but not long—
at the one thing I love

until noon, when I stopped 
to cook, then slept hard 

and dreamed 
again, of a conversation 

we were having. 
Only this time, It was me 

saying how the stars 
didn't look so impossibly far,

but really, it was alright here;
there was nothing I needed.


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

THE SCARCITY OF WANTS AND THE MULTIPLICITY OF MEANS

Even if this 
might get a 
little bit awkward, 

it'd be best 
if we practiced 
saying goodbye.

This is not an argument 
against the primacy 
of heaven. 

Only—it seems, 
after hours spent glimpsing
the moon out the window 

during decades
of cold nights 
inside warm secure houses, 

we must admit 
to having tasted 
so many paradises;

each one, 
its own delicacy—
a leftover 

hors d'oeuvre—
from its own
private party.


Monday, December 7, 2020

POTENTIAL ENERGY

For a minute, when we 
first wake 

and all is first light
and mists
and innocent,

We feel so, so 
very lucky.

For what 
is each 
untrodden morning

but a new 
and earnest 
conversation?

And we think—if I just play it 
smooth enough, 

I could totally
worm my way into this.


Saturday, December 5, 2020

DOTAGE

The fiercely accommodating 
taste of old age—to reject 
as inadmissible 

the rudeness 
and the sour gall 

which wreathe and tinge 
the recollected 
vigor of its youth.





Friday, December 4, 2020

FOR BEGINNERS

Perhaps it's too late now 
to turn around in failure;

perhaps no providence 
but the one we make in words.

So we run on 
like proverbs,

like a newspaper horoscope, 
like Ecclesiastes did— 

each last breath, 
which once was all life, 

presently a memory—
eventually abandoned.

What do you think of 
when someone says repetition

Exercise regimens. 
(You can't sprint a marathon.)

Amateur hour. 
No big loss. 

A knock at the door.
A lack.


Thursday, December 3, 2020

MUST BE DECEMBER

Between row homes' 
little cold 
sigh of a railing
decked with green wire

and that curious 
"city version" of dirt
which collects near the road verge
made of bare concrete, 

three robins—
former rakes, to be sure, 
now all uptight
and pointed and sticky—

darting absurdly 
back and forth

and squawking nonstop
about Easter.



Wednesday, December 2, 2020

CONTROVERSIAL THOUGHTS

Without trying, you'll look out 
and see the sun shining 
down on your city, 

knowing—but unable 
to bring yourself to believe 

that it truly has no 
alternative.

You won't even have to search 
in order to find 

that which seems 
to want to define itself 
as beauty—

the amber light 
on antique heaps of brick, 
the streaks of dried dog piss 

that mottle the street, 
each nearby 
grass blade in high relief.

An unwilling witness—
amid depression, 
amid poverty, 

despite sickness, 
despite depravity.

Perhaps, then you'll say
there's something 

to not fighting 
for our consonance 

when every scrap of this 
wretchedness 
is compulsory 

and every stitch of love,
unearned. 



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

CASTLE IN THE AIR

You swear 
what keeps you going is 
the prospect 

of tomorrow:
a contemplation 
of the rosy 

taste of clover honey, 
the mouthfeel 
of good milk. 

But what is hope, really, 
but a certain kind 
of fear 

that's been perverted 
and turned 
on its ear? 

When you leave here, 
how will you know you were 
free in this moment—

this moment of sorrow  
which must precede creation—
regardless 

of that thing 
which was destined 
to happen?


Monday, November 30, 2020

POETRY

From the white 
obvious sky, 
the white obvious wind 

blowing all 
the big feelings out of me; 
blowing me 
to a cold smolder.

When the 
tips of us numb 
a little, they move easier—

harder to cease 
than it is 
to continue.

It must have been 
an hour now—unspecified 
and serene.

Right now, 
I'd put treasure down; 
I mean,
I'd wager dollars—

there's nobody out there
saying my name.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

CASHABLE

Spate of birds 
in a white sky—

dark curling signs.
An endorsement 

on the slip 
of the universe 

that I might be here 
to verify.




 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

KNELL

In cold wet late 
November, everything says—you too 
must end.

But our bodies, stiff 
and soggy though they are, 
keep on

lurching 
to the mailbox, slouching toward 
the grocery store. 

The grim cadaverous 
limbs of trees, the bloated wreck 
of leaves 

clotting each gutter,
the bleak iron 
fences, the toneless concrete;

the souls of everything here
keep whispering— 
like us, soon, you too shall be

Yet we go about our tedious business; 
we have duties 
to attend. We may be 

frightened, but we, the living 
shall heed no injunction 
from any thing which is dead.


Monday, November 23, 2020

TERRIBLE FATE

With a slap 
of congratulations, 

you are told—
congratulations.

You are 
contestant number  

7.1 billion.
You 

will be upgraded. 
You will be made an 

experimental soldier. 
Your unprecedented 

science-fictional endeavor:
to spend your life's remainder 

hurtling headlong 
into the future—

one second 
per second—and then

look us up 
when you get there.



Friday, November 20, 2020

BEHOLDEN

Hush. Listen. 
Hidden within each 
new pulse of breath 

exists the next 
line to a 
memorized prayer.

You cannot simply 
quit; there are 
no words 

to mince here.
You are not 
a volunteer 

army; 
this is sheer
conscription. 

Every day, every instant, 
it's the same old 
device—

a grizzled drill sergeant 
shrieking
repetitious numbers;

his mission: 
keep the pace of your life 
the same at all times 

without any regard 
whatever 
for its direction.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

PROGRESS

Old as I may be, 
intelligent 
and free, 

I still hold my breath 
over bridges 
and whistle past the cemetery. 

Since I know in my heart,
in my 
innermost soul,

I am still just 
a beginner, a student, a kid 
for whom 

sighing 
doesn't sound all that much 
different than singing—

and whom I just know 
would much rather believe 
than insist 

on the existence 
of what he was taught 
to believe 

by a troll
long ago
about innermost souls.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

INSPIRATIONAL

Feels like I have been sitting here 
a long time, 
laptop on a card table, 
kids out the window squealing
in the park just out of sight.

Feels like I should know by now 
what it is I'm writing, 
which keys 
will waltz the drowsy blinking cursor 
a little farther to the right.

A curled crescent of a dog is snoring 
on the couch behind me, 
and the light is changing color 
as the ember of afternoon disintegrates 
into the cool ash of night.

Perhaps that's why I haven't moved 
in an hour, let the music in the next room finish 
and start over. Perhaps 
the congealed residue of lunch 
will stain its white bowl forever.
And perhaps that's alright.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

UNTENDED

That wanton abundance 
of the previous season,
having given way 

only recently 
to a veteran autumn's
spare skinny elegance, 

all of us 
who feel unloved, 
unknown, unsure, 

and unconsidered
can relax
in a palace of pallid splendor 

made of of colorless leaves
and chimneys' smolders.
As if finally, lost 

on the great lawn of decay—
its withering gardens 
and overripe apples—

we are protected,
flanked by bare bulbous limbs 
on a carpet made of cinders, 

well represented
by nature's squalor—instead
of neglected.


Monday, November 16, 2020

LIKE IT OR NOT

The way we roam 
without burden
around it, as if 

we couldn't be bothered to stay 
and attend.

The way we often stop, 
and sit 
and sip quietly before it, 

so assured 
by the taste of its honey.

The way we gather, 
lean in close to speak 
to one another,

always saying goodnight
no matter how horrible.

Mostly, the way 
we continue to write 

and read 
and warm our cold bodies 
by its light—

all these 
must be our ways 
of praising 

this world
in effigy, as it splendidly 
burns.


Friday, November 13, 2020

INDEMNITY

Once, I know I 
didn't weigh pounds 
but ounces, 

and before that, 
not ounces, but eye-gleams, 
mere appearances, notions.

Just like 
one day, I will cease 
to weigh atoms, 

and instead comprise actions, 
sentiments, burdens.

Which is why, 
in between, I shall 
set down on paper 

that it did not matter 
what I chose 
to believe—

the ardent 
or the flammable, 
the glistening 
or the sepulchral,

the terrorists
or their witnesses, 
the hemoglobin or 
the chlorophyll—

so long 
as I only strove, 
before the 
ink ran out forever, 

to lift and kiss all 
that is furious, as if weightless—
and forgive.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

PRAXIS

Skin, bones, arms, voices—
everything made 
to contain,

in the course of time, 
will break open.

The eyes, by contrast 
will not; they intend, 
they make choices, 

they hold back,
they close.

The hands 
do not, either. 

The hands are always 
for wanting.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

SHORELINE

You, who say you do not
believe in hereafter, 

whose mortal soul genuflects only
before the infinite long 
division remainder—

wherein 
even those who are old 
will grow tender,

even those who are fed 
will grow cold 
and fearful, 

even those who were drowned 
will climb gleaming towers, 

and even those paper-pale ghosts
who don't know 
will finally reconsider.

Simply 
wade out deep enough 
into this moment

and witness 
the equation 
that cannot be solved 

transform, in perpetuity, 
to the only one 
that must be.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

SILENCE

Eyeless. Tongueless.
Skinless. Earless.

The place 
where snow comes from,

the inside 
of O.

The moment you realize
the facts 

are not currency—
the one 

whom you wait for 
will never appear.




Monday, November 9, 2020

DARE

One day, one minute, 
one instant, 
a certain structure, which 

someone somewhere 
once was immensely proud of, 
collapses—

no demolition, no thunder,
no hurricane—just 
collapses. 

Perhaps 
due to humidity-induced
cellular expansion;

perhaps
when a sandpiper's sand-dappled
wing flaps 

three thousand miles 
northwest, on the coast 
of Alaska.

Now, go ahead; 
try to convince the council.
Tell us which words 

from which 
chance encounter we'll remember. 
Tell us 

whose action 
will matter
the most.




Friday, November 6, 2020

DESPERATE TIMES

Is a hole 
that comes out
somewhere 

on the other side 
of the world 
still a hole? After all—

desperate times 
don't call for 
pleasurable symmetries;

desperate times 
call for 
open ledgers.

If a bounty of
ten million- 
year-old bones 

crushed into muck
and siphoned up from deep 
beneath the ground

can still be called 
a treasure,
how come 

what really counts 
when we, the living
talk

is always called 
priceless,
immeasurable?



Thursday, November 5, 2020

LIEBESTOD

Yes, even for you,

who thought 
you could use 
the hunger 

(instead 
of the hunger 
using you)

a consummation 

is looming;
a payoff is in store.

Were there one or two 
things you still 
needed to do? 

Look around—

the leaves 
all feel similar 

after falling 
off their limbs;

they do not wonder how they got there 

or care 
what for.



Wednesday, November 4, 2020

CRACKED

Even in your craziest dreams
most things
still seem sturdy—
the cities    the buildings
the treelines    the streets

You'd never expect 
the sky    the sun to be 
cracked
like an egg in an earthquake 

You'd never see 
a species    a nation 
dissolve all at once in 
villainous acid rain

You might expect 
to lose the respect 
of people you love 

or wind up in bed 
with the ones you 
ordinarily hate 

But curious:
even in your most 
debilitating nightmare

you never expect anything 
or anyone  
to break.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

CASUALTIES

Kaleidoscope 
of tangy leaves—

lying erratic 
in wind-
sighing reams,

wet
and then dried, 
and then wet
and then dried—

the stems
the edges
the hearts of our lives 

should be 
crisp 
and pointed 
and clean

as that original fate 
which has fallen 
on thee.


Monday, November 2, 2020

THE RACE

Alas, I was not the first 
to feel,

in the space 
behind my eyeballs, 

the tension 
of a bitter vs. sour nation 

growing so incontrovertibly 
stronger—

to long for a moment
(or an hour) to hold 

my poor ungainly 
face underwater. 




Friday, October 30, 2020

GLOAMING

Words 
cannot catch it

the littlest hairs 
in an ear 
cannot miss it

the larger-than-life shadows 
of the gaunt noisy crows 
careening west over scabrous 
land cannot save it—

the opacity 

the density 

the trueness of the day 

the moment just before 
it starts to be called
night.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

REST

Only once 
it was over 
did life come, 

as a teeter totter,  
to be hung 

at its
simplest equilibrium.

In the midst 
of the jostling 
and the opposition 

and the leverage, 
was it much
too much fun?

or just too difficult
to admit—

I was much closer 
in position

to the 
rest of us
than I wasn't.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

BESIDES

There are so many things 
I only think 
I understand

until I stop and consider—
this life, 

overexamined, 
overrefined, 
overdetermined.

These trees 
I brush past 
in a flurry every morning 

which have stood here 
unafraid of the ignorant
wind for much longer,

never wondering, 
when will this rain end—

where does the sun go—

what else is there?



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

LEADING TONE

If you spend 
a minute to think 
more about it, 
no minute 
is ever the last
minute, since  
there's always 
another minute 
waiting behind it. 
Every last note 
in the scale leads back 
to the tonic.
So what if 
the fate of this 
planet is definite?
time is still 
infinite; new ticks 
will kick old ticks 
off the clocks 
for the rest of it. 
Even the last moment
of your life 
is not the end of it:
what you think 
of as "terminal"
is really just
penultimate.


Monday, October 26, 2020

INCUMBENT

Though you say 
you want nothing, 
you continue to wait—
like a refugee waits.

Though you maintain 
that you're finished, 
that you just want 
to leave, 

you continue to think
that a shape with no center
is a Cartesian waste 
of Euclidean space.

Though you cannot sleep, 
you still could not dream 
the half of this harrowing 
state if you tried;

its expressways, riddled with 
their nondescript exits 
are so familiar 
you could drive without eyes, 

but the great and gripping 
strangeness 
of the place you were made 
will beg you to stay.


Friday, October 23, 2020

MOUSETRAP

My eyesight now—
and my conviction 
that it's never too late 
to be taught;

the light of October
as I trudge on, lost in thought—
all bound-up and shrouded 
in swaths of cloudy gauze;

the sweetgum trees 
at the end of the street—
weeping without discretion 
their yellowed spears of leaves;

their faint shoulders passing 
my bleak eyes in the rain, 
slumped already with the dolor
of a thousand grim winters.

This world 
is a mousetrap. 
A wily seduction—

things seem weaker than they really are. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

HOUND DOG

Whatever chills your warm-
blooded heart, 
stiffens the lithe little 
shadow of your soul,

I have caught you 
acting bold
now and again on our
walks around town—

as if you cannot 
help but follow 
the lead of your 
misbehaving nose;

as if bravery,
for you, were less a compulsion
than an instinct—
a default rather than a goal. 

As if, though 
many bright and strongly-scented
leaves adorn the ground, 
you somehow prefer 

to gaze into trees—
to lift your snout 
and search up, and over, and out 
instead of down.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

ONLY THIS

I once fed my head 
to the mouth of a well—
deep and strong and round and empty;

I hollered something 
elemental 

into the black 
depths of Earth, and I 
waited—straining to hear the reply:

now, only this 
life matters.



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

LEISURE TIME READING

Like nondescript 
words scrolling 
by on their pages, 

the pattern and significance 
of leaves outside my window 
keep changing. 

That I am perusing an adroit story, 
I never even question.
And yet, deeper 

and deeper into October, 
no one moment 
is like any other.

No particular morning 
of drizzling gray, no crisp afternoon 
or raw honey sundown,

no certain bird 
pecking at the decorative 
flint corn in the park

can distract me
from the extravagance 
of what has come before—

or the importance 
to the big picture 
of the sentence coming next.


Monday, October 19, 2020

CERTAINTY

Somehow, 
I am always so sure 

of those degenerate doubts
which I do not want 
to accommodate—

so certain 
that my longing 
and despair 

are a pair of grifters, 
famous con artists, sticky-
haired bandits—

who must be run out 
of this fragile frontier town.

And yet,
my desires, 
my hopes, my convictions? 

I know they, too, 
must be holed-up here somewhere—

living in our midst,
opening small businesses, 
slithering through church crowds—

and I am much less confident
what sort of men  
they are.


Friday, October 16, 2020

ALLOWANCE

There's a message 
for us, written perhaps

in the shapes
of old elm trees—

who never grew 
their limbs so sturdy 

intending to harbor families
of starling refugees;

whose uppermost branches 
were never conscientious 

with regard to the fragility 
of a fledgling bee colony;

whose proud trunk 
was never so determined 

to unburden the squirrel 
in her private den of rest. 

And yet? 
And yet, nevertheless—


Thursday, October 15, 2020

MAKING THE BEST OF IT

What do you say 
when it's 
not even gray out

but blank—
as if 
the destitute landscape painter, 

in her mad rush 
to make windblown autumnal trees,
forgot to give the sky a color?

You may discuss it 
with the neighbor,
or the florescent grocer 

whose volubility 
is automated 
as the wind in those trees;

or, you may 
say nothing to anyone, choosing 
to remain

undeclared on the subject, 
honing your inevitable 
inaudibility,

practicing craving 
this muteness— 
as the day does.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

ON A DARE

How do we, even on a dare, 
call this everywhere?—

as if we're not still 
all trapped in here 
with the double-edged stars. 

It's as if each of us, 
burning after privacy,
has built our own house—

our foreordained blunders, its 
inviolable walls.

Each of us, for once, 
wants to be
the only one who does the wanting;

who feasts on the night air, 
on the integers, on tomorrows. 

We have risked the keeping of a secret ledger, 
an unscrupulous balance 
of doubt and contentment,

apprehended the fealty 
of its dog-eared corners
to our present-day predicaments.

We have learned to take snifters 
of liqueur in our coffee—

to insulate 
the incoming bitterness  

from the imminent 
underlying sorrow.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

LIKE MAD

          Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
               -Søren Kierkegaard


Happiness is not 
what you thought it was 

the moment 
you first slithered up 
from the dross.

The security 
you sought bartered 
courage as the cost.

Now you're most surely 
as alive 
as you're lost:

hopping—at best, 
rock to rock, 
lily pad to lily pad, 

hoping to stick 
the next slimy landing;

ecstatic when you manage,
every pore tingling with the zest 

of once again having 
skirted 
certain damage—but only 

for a second, 
and never 

having done so
in the same manner twice.


Monday, October 12, 2020

CRITERION

Ceramic cup—
you whose wherefore is
to be filled-up;

you who deigns 
to contain 
whatever we say you contain;

you who were built 
to capitulate, 

built
to be scalded, 
scrubbed, and hung 

upside-down until you've forgotten 
any traces of 
yesterday's freight;

you who never gets 
to keep what is given,

whose finitude 
is all of you, 

whose limit 
has been built right in—

how is it 
your capability 
never wanes,

and yet you still refuse to hold 
our trespasses 
against us?


Friday, October 9, 2020

NUCLEAR OPTION

The implications
of some things  
stubbornly persist, 

while others we wish 
would remain 
considerable, diminish.

The birth dates 
of lovers who have 
long since departed 

are filled with turmoil every year, 
yet we cannot recall 
a grandmother's eye color. 

This is just the way 
significance works:
It does not care if you support it.

Somehow, with every new 
earth-like planet 
that's discovered, 

scientists 
grow a little bit 
less enthusiastic,

public opinion,
a little more certain—instead 
of the opposite.


Thursday, October 8, 2020

THE DAY

From dark gray 
to pale robin's eggshell—
the day 

slides into view 
like an empty ceramic plate 
across a black granite table.

It is made (if it was made)
to contain within its edgeless 
and unblemished perimeter 

the delusory errata,
the sloppy aberrations,
the fine-toothed regimens 
of billions.

(If it was made), it is made 
of one, single, solid, 
finely-machined material;

an impossible material
which cannot be mishandled—

cannot be dropped, melted,
smashed, frozen, or 
otherwise destroyed.

Although it is continually 
replaced, each one 
is ageless;

it will never tarnish 
or rust,

could never by mislaid, 
or lost,

or, least of all, 
thrown away.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

CONSTITUTIONAL

Lately, as the dried tips 
of everything 
sharpen, 

as the orange things 
turn vermilion 
and the coppers 
grow browner, 

the ellipses
in which I wander 
have been growing commensurately  
wider and wider.

Combing through 
the honed decay of old streets 
is a grim sort of pleasure, 

though I am not really out there 
looking for anything;
I am merely rehearsing 
(and trying to memorize)

that feeling of finding 
precisely what you're looking for—

so that, if my chanciest meeting 
with the vivid color of awareness 
I'm so hungry for

should finally occur,
I shall find myself 
so well prepared 

that I'll keep walking past it 
like I don't even care.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

THE PICKLE

I know how badly 
you just want to take 
the gamble
and grab onto this fiercely
with your own bare hands; 
to cup the thing 
tight, to feel its 
full weight 
and cool slimy girth 
in the center of your palm.
But the truth is, 
it's best to remain calm 
and dispassionate.
If you don't want 
to startle it—
or compromise the safety 
of your own skin
in the process—
you must proceed 
with caution 
and a sidelong glance—
and only once
it's been given to you freely—
and never forget 
the supreme importance 
of holding it always
by the handle.


Monday, October 5, 2020

DAILY YOGA

Forget the tall mountains 
and the sun salutations—

sometimes, the tension 
of another slab of morning 
following the last

already feels  
like a pretty large stretch; 

sometimes you pose 
like an obdurate child 

when the shower sprays cold 
and the internet's out; 

sometimes 
you can balance on that 
sword-tip of a moment 

before floss pierces gums
and razors hits stubble;

and sometimes, the most stable 
thing in your life—

is a while bowl 
filled with black plums 
in the middle of the table.


Friday, October 2, 2020

REFUGE

Restless at dawn, I abandoned 
all the stray thoughts I'd been hoarding, 
ventured outdoors, 
and followed the sound—

and soon found 
the robin 

flitting from deep within 
a small, frost-coated boxwood. 
The Implications 

of words
became superfluous; she was 
at home.




Thursday, October 1, 2020

WISH FULFILLMENT

Dry sidewalk leaves 
crunching brightly beneath 
beat-up Chuck Taylors—

what sweeter reminder  
could you need?
Destiny 

is neither 
distant nor profound; 
the world to come will come

for free—it's grandest mythologies 
will lie about you 
everywhere.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

VENTURE

In the gingerly cooled
and stiffening air, 
it has become so clear—

the bronzed sweetgum leaves
gently streaming 
from their slender trees, 

mellow and lonesome 
as the strain of a distant 
solo violin,

have wended down here 
just to rehearse with us—
in a generous preview 

both of loss and 
of unsought accumulation—
the spareness 

and the mortal grandeur 
of winter's quietly 
coming dream.


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

WRONG SPEECH

You say 
words cannot wound—
this is part 
of your business model.

You insist that they last 
only in as much 
as the moment endures 
in a photo.

And it's true,
one by one, the odd syllables 
are spoken, 

with only the most current note 
striking in our ears.

And yet, somehow the last 
does not quite vanish (as it should) 
to make way for the new;

each becomes a stitch 
in a funereal suit 
you are sewing, 

a gaudy swoosh 
in the corporate logo 
which now threatens 
to outlive you.


Monday, September 28, 2020

THE SLIGHTEST

Remember, dear passenger—
it's never the huge gusts 

that maneuver our vessels 
ever closer to their shores;

it's wasn't those monstrous 
atomic blasts, 

or the exhalation of gargantuan 
authoritarian breaths 

that smashed and fused vast 
tectonic plates together, 

or ruffled-up the sea foam
of all seven oceans, 

or ripped to shreds 
every flag on the planet. 

Rather, it has always been 
the humblest puff 

of patient explanation  
that got us where we were going;

the kind words, delicate whispers 
and quiet, inconsolable sighs 

which have cracked granite mountains, 
stirred hurricane-winds into action,

and caused cumbrous hearts 
to fail—or else, rise to such occasions 

as would seem to the common chests 
which dared to contain them 

as far too enormous, 
too convoluted, too labyrinthine 

to have been the plain, inevitable results 
of such tiny perturbations.  


Friday, September 25, 2020

VOYAGER

Spider on the ceiling, 
encroaching 

on my brooding—
I have decided
I will let you live 

since you remind me, I too 
possess the ability 

to stay silent 
and remain calm 

in this upside-
down world,
which has taken it for granted 

that some would be willing
to risk everything.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

SEPTEMBER CHORALE

The triplet caw
of a crow,
conducting from somewhere
in the gaunt September shadows,

keeps ruthless time
as our daily routine marches
into the ragged and
dwindling scenery.

We are not afraid
to take part in making
this wraithlike elegiac music.
We had rehearsed this;

cessation was expected—
the swelling 
of the vines foretold,
the acrid smoke of bonfires

as the cool dusks clamped down
harder and faster,
with the thud of a grand
piano lid.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

THE COMPRESSOR

After spending the morning 
dawdling in the kitchen, 
you cannot help but 

come to resent 
the frequent engagement 
of the fridge's compressor...

How many of these things 
are running in the world, you wonder 
and quickly Google the answer—

1.4 billion plugged-in refrigerators;
1.4 billion spinning motors, 
cooling milk, meat, raspberries, cucumbers...

savagely burning 300 million year-old coal... 
perhaps to preserve the priceless medicines
which save the lives of countless strangers.

How is it, then, 
that you could still think 
one off-day, or one idle hour— 

one unclean utterance, 
or even a single undisciplined breath—
doesn't matter?


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

MY SHADOW

I am not bragging, 
but the self-thrashing 
exercise 

which I still find 
the easiest 
is

staggering west 
beneath sun around 
noon, because 

no one 
around me is 
likely to notice

how huge 
and how ponderous 
the burden of sin 

I've always been 
dragging behind me
has grown since 

the last time I 
managed to 
run across my own grinning 

skinny black 
corpse in the 
road—but ignore him.




Monday, September 21, 2020

MANIC MANEUVERS

I woke this morning groggy 
but surprised at having, 
sometime in the night, opened up 
an old cut on my pinky. 

Small dribbles of dried blood 
smeared my cheek and pillow case, 
made uncomfortably sticky my sheets and bare 
chest, even my hair and underwear. 

What sort of ungainly 
or manic maneuvers 
had my unsupervised body 
undertaken? I wondered. 

As I began to run the shower, 
I shuddered to think, while I sleep, 
of all the unpopular places 
my unpoliced, renegade 
fingers must travel—

all the old faces, the awkward, 
sentimental, silent embraces 
these foolish hands must 
dare to reach out for, 

which, upon waking, 
I'm certain they'd never 
wish to be caught dead holding.


Monday, September 14, 2020

SPECTRA

Greedy for pastimes
and clicking through all of the options online,
I'm wondering—where do I fit
on this spectrum?

We like tell ourselves life is long
But really, desire is so much longer.

So many days, I have sat quiet and still 
as an idling car, helplessly watching 
its frightful tail of quaking black boxcars 
thunder through the crossing.

But it's no use wondering 
when I might be free 
to unite with that dream 
in the vanishing distance.

Every morning, I have one motivation,
and by evening, quite another;
and I've never once gone to sleep wishing for 
the same virgin soul with which I wake.


Friday, September 11, 2020

NO OCCASION

All my life, I've made things 
for no occasion, 
without giving a bird or bush 
for their practical use.

Thinking back on it, 
so much abstract ideation 
sounds perverse.
Has any one particular poem, 

one song, one sentence, 
or one verse
ever really improved the world?—
as opposed to 

merely improving 
a few of their perceptions—
say, for instance the color 
or cultural-historical significance 

of the flower 
they were holding 
out to that world in question?
But now, I'm confused;

for it sounds, 
in my recollection, as if
even the most ambiguous 
or off-season of these symbols

has shown 
how there's really no difference 
of substance
between the two.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

THIS IS NOT THE LIFE YOU CHOSE

Outside, it is raining. 
It isn't yet evening; 
but to you, the hour feels thick
and inevitable, like evening.

Weren't you going to leave the house?
Groceries. Good bread and soup
aren't just going to show up—

at least, not nearly 
quickly enough—so 
as always, sooner rather than later, 
you will have to choose.

Dryness. 
Satiety. 
Two forms of comfort.

By pining 
over either, already you realize 
you are losing the crux 
of them both.


Wednesday, September 9, 2020

IN THE END

What if you saw your most 
difficult choices 
packed like pickles in a cloudy jar? 
Slimy, wart-pocked, shriveled by salt-brine, 
they too have not seen the light 
of the sun for a long time. 
See how you almost pity these catastrophes, 
now that they appear weightless 
and harmlessly sour, now 
that they no longer remind you 
of who you are? 
Notice your mouth even start to water a bit
as you consider their time-accrued flavor—
balanced up tight against 
savory meat and sweet carbohydrate,
and no more harmful to you at this point
than a little too much garlic 
on this last summer night.




Tuesday, September 8, 2020

PERFECTLY AT HOME

Waking up cold 
and alone in the morning
to the rumble of trash trucks

as they belch and clamor 
their way through the 
too-skinny alley,

I keep my eyes closed 
and feel, for a moment, as
perfectly at home 

as a mirror does 
while it's hanging 
in front of no one. 


Friday, September 4, 2020

HIDE

Under sun 
under stars 
under rain 

root vegetables—
fields of them, 

hideous things—
hide 
in the tremulous cool September soil 

like the face 
of a master 
inside his painting 

growing, siphoning, absorbing, 

waiting—
like you have 

and I 
did—as schoolchildren

for the soon-to-come time 
when we might meet 
the sky 

and their hands
unafraid

and finally 
be worth more 
than our weight.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

INSIGNIFICANCE

These days, 
I hear a lot of voices, 

all of which sound
a bit like mine, 

saying—hush,
it is not trivial 

to let your hair grow 
just a little while longer, 

to reuse this Ziploc 
a thirtieth time,

to give to the spider 
a push to keep living 

by placing a sheet of notebook paper 
beneath its spiny appendages. 

I am not alarmed 
by the bleak minor key 

of these directions, finding it easier 
and easier to listen; 

The catch is—
there is only one lifetime 

and yet, there is 
so much of its vastness

to excerpt 
and to favor.


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

FROM AUTUMN

Chalk it up to bitter-
sweetness—how

end-of-the-line, 
for the green things, 

always means 
a flowering.



Tuesday, September 1, 2020

IMAGINE

Setting aside that song 
of John Lennon's, 
let's imagine (for a second)
there is a heaven—
one hundred and seven 
billion individuals: 
blissful, well fed, 
well met, and well protected; 
no crying at parties or 
sexual tension;
no one undervalued or 
starved for affection;
none struggling 
to thrust spears 
tipped with pressure-
heated viewpoints
against the pallid weak flesh 
of ignorance, nonchalance, 
hate, and discrimination;
no misanthropes striving 
against existential 
doubt or cultural oppression 
to create meaning 
for themselves or inflame 
their generation. Go ahead,
imagine it. I wonder
if you can 
without feeling upon 
your lips and your hands 
the cold kisses 
and limp handshakes—
without seeing and hearing
tasting and smelling
all the beige paintings 
and slow boneless dances, 
the bland food and sad flat 
champagne in glasses, 
all the tuneless
songs they'd be playing, 
and the pages and pages 
of flowerless, moonless,
childless, useless 
poems about amity 
you would get.


Monday, August 31, 2020

SCRIBBLED IN THE CUSTOMER RECEPTION AREA

How long have I been here? 
Have I been here before? Presently,
I find the distinction itself
confusing—the ontological trick 
between coming and going. 

I attempt zen—to sit noiseless and still, 
indistinct as the wallpaper.
But my mind will not relax; 
it waxes, as a moon does, to engulf 
in blue scorn, this slim pretense of a room.

Yet for all of this righteous aggression,
I do not know (and cannot fathom)
why each minute slips past me
as slowly as an open 
parachute descending,

nor would I even begin to suspect
the hostile nature
of the territory below, to which 
each precious one of them is now
prayerlessly falling.


Friday, August 28, 2020

REASONS TO KEEP WRITING

Because words 
are dull, 

heavy, 
old as stones—

but stone 
can be cut 
and formed 

and used 
to make bridges. 

And those bridges 
which connect us, 

our best instructors 
taught us 
to call metaphor.

*

Because there, 
in the shadow, 

in the shade 
of our doubt, 
grows

the carrot
we will follow 

through another day's 
wasteland.

*

Because 
the light which bathes the world 

comes in curves 
tens of millions of years long,
so complex 

and absurd
it'd ruin us
to perceive it. 

Yet—
the derivative of light 
is heat, 

and heat's 
is scent, 

and scent's, capricious
taste in melody; 

for instance,
the accelerating velocity 
of birdsong.

*

Because all the great music 
that exists 
in the world 

to us, still isn't nearly 
as good
(or as much) 
 
as the music 
that, as of yet, 
doesn't.


Thursday, August 27, 2020

RIVERWALK

Early in the morning, and
the sun's begun singing,
her rays, tangled up in 
coagulant clouds;

and the breeze by the river 
feels to me more like 
bad breath than mere air

as I walk along the wrinkled planks 
repeating without speaking 
old bits of conversation—

and thinking how words 
are too small, or too dense, 
or too disjointed;
they are like calcified fossils 
of the feelings 
which once walked,
and talked, and pointed.

But still I lope, greedy 
and shameless as a convict,
keeping those words both 
intimately close 
and deviously hidden 

like contraband 
underneath my tongue 
on my way back in 
to some solitary prison. 


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

ABSOLUTION

Mere words 
on the air—what 
could be frailer? 
But 

just to have 
such thoughts as this 
must be proof 
of your existence.

Maybe, poems
say things, 
and maybe prayers
are things; for here

your sentence 
becomes my jail,
your sin, my penance—
isn't that a coincidence? 


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

THE AUGUST ENDING

Heavy—presently almost too heavy  
with every enviable 
kite-soaring memory 

and each tiny rain spatter from
tenderest June through this 
blessedly pregnant pause of a moment—

a bloated, swollen, 
torpid finality;
its attendant musk mantle

settles and clings
to the drooping tomatoes—
all roped to their stakes now, like 

crucified deities 
on the brown mounded Golgothas 
of neighbors' back lawns.


Monday, August 24, 2020

MEDITATION AS A STRATEGY

Thinking back on it, 
the being 
in the moment—

the movement 
of the breath 
on the face of the water;

the double-helixed ecstasy 
and terror of no tomorrow, 

the pure synchronic 
collapse of infinity, 

and the man 
with no head left 
smoldering on the alter;

no swirling fragment, 
no rainbow-colored 
shard of that fantastic incident—

in fact, no such trial 
or encounter whatsoever—
ever truly mattered 

nearly as much as 
the story
to told about it later 


Friday, August 21, 2020

ORDINARY INSIGHT

If you could ask 
the great monk 
at the top on the hill
who won't speak, 
who's stick-thin;
the one
with the serious-
ly mutilated skin—
so pure, it 
bleeds steam—
why he thinks it's 
so fundamental
to yolk one's life to rigor 
and masochistic exactness; 
you might be pleasantly 
taken aback 
by the logic, direct-
ness, and banality
of the answer:
the best reason 
to come 
so fully committed 
to the cuffs, 
he insists,
is because it makes it 
so much more fun 
to covet skinny wrists 
and fetishize keys.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

AT THE FARMERS MARKET

Smashed 
into those
fuzzy cardboard plats of 
medicine-bottle-green,  

the blueberries—
the very last of the season 
lying on the table,
shrunken and bloodied

like promises I have neither kept 
nor broken yet,

like the people among us out here
who have already come through 
too much 
this summer.

I long to take them home;
get them out of the sun, 

to plunge them deep 
into the back of the freezer

and halt their decomposing.
I would pay anything—

but no,
I should keep walking.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

YES, YOU

Just think, 
out of all the billions 
which have ever existed, 

I wrote these words 
only for you.
The consequences of this

are swift
and automatic;
right now, you 

are not you;
You are a vestibule, 
a gateway, an antechamber;

and I 
am in love 
with the whites of your eyes

for receiving, 
and holding, 
and reflecting these letters.

For it's true—
when our souls flutter out 
past their parts, past their matter

love 
is the only reaction 
that is possible.

Maybe transmission 
sparks enough 
for understanding;

maybe 
this world 
isn't so awful.


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

OPPORTUNIST

We've been taught 
never to make 
a simple thing complicated—

get to the bottom 
of it quickly, always 
praise the core.

But maybe,
time doesn't just accumulate 
like rain;

maybe time burrows 
and surfaces 
like a mute and blind earthworm.

And maybe
the way we love 

is contradictory 
and feeble 
as a skinny brown bird—

razor-eyed 
but patient,

demure 
(from the binoculared 
eyes of the beholder),

but cursed 
with a dinosaur's 

entrails inside—a rash 
compulsive carnivore. 


Monday, August 17, 2020

FOR NAUGHT

Last night, I awoke 
from the dream 
of a poem 

whose music was so 
candid 
and complete

there was no need 
to write it down.
I should have known 

this morning, 
when I bounded with
the all the speed of a mountain

to commit it;
it would simply come out 
as a jangling thanks

and straightforward 
recognition—
that I now always have this

sweet, unblemished 
memory 
to recount.


Friday, August 14, 2020

NOT A LIFE STORY

By the time it's over, I hope
to have made of my life 
a painting, 

wide 
and tall and
hung at eye-level,

so as to be viewed immediately
upon entering through the doorway—
such that 

no one 
may come
to see what I've done, 

since I will be always 
in the midst of doing it 
suddenly, totally, all at once.



Thursday, August 13, 2020

STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT

Perhaps, this love 
we've so often demanded 

was never minted 
to sustain us.

Perhaps love is no form 
of currency at all;

but rather, a process,
like nuclear fusion—

that life-giving suicide 
which powers the sun—

in which two individuals, 
breathless and speeding, 

collide and expire,
in the name of creating 

not just a rarer element, 
but enough heat and light 

to make the lives 
of billions of others, 

however imperceptibly,
a little more survivable.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

RECIPE

One grain, one syllable, 
one breath at a time:
the dead become words—

and words, over 
centuries, change  
to information—

and information 
is the catalyst which
ferments questions 

into theories—
which congeal 
to prescriptions 

before eventually, 
under tremendous pressure, 
dissolving into legends.

Meanwhile,
the temporarily-alive  
are starving 

and cannot survive 
on the juice extracted 
from disaster,

or on the hopeful fumes 
of stories—even those of loaves 
and fishes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

HOW TO RAISE KIDS

First, you admonish them 

for having filthy hands, 
for crawling on their bellies, 
and never wearing shoes.

Then—after they learn to stand up, 

to clean up 
and suit up,
and say they believe you—

then, you sell them sanitizers, 
autonomous cars, 
and mink oil polishes—

all with no doubt 
as to the cleanliness 
of your conscience. 


Monday, August 10, 2020

GIVEN

Let us not, in the red face 
of the heat 
and our struggles, 

say nothing at all 
in the service 
of reverence;

let us instead quest
for the generousness  
to admit—

that beauty 
should exist 
far beyond its utility

in the hideous way 
our pangs are made manifest; 
this 

is what they
would have meant
by grace.



Friday, August 7, 2020

BAPTISMAL

Long ago—
perhaps 
the first time 

we were carried 
kicking inside—we should 
have realized

this cannot be right. 
That the truth 
was a sin,

and the sin 
is was truth.
That our bodies

were all weight 
and fat heat 
and fierce light.

While hell, 
on the contrary, 
felt like cold 

chrism 
and listless rooms.
Like asthmatic organ tunes,

and that cruel 
and repetitious symmetry 
of hymns.



Thursday, August 6, 2020

WHAT THE TREE TOLD ME

Roots deep 
in hell,

branch tips 
scraping heaven;

trembling 
with the littlest wind, 

stiff in the pose
of perpetual giving;

impossible
to kill,

but willing enough
to die 

again—
that is what it will take,

as season blunders 
into season,

if you ever expect 
to keep living.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

ENDURE

Day after day, 
rainstorm after rainstorm, 
afternoon 
after humid bluegray afternoon—

the avocado in the kitchen
(tough green, in memory, as 
the skin of an alligator) 
has been growing imperceptibly 
softer; 

but the large pit 
ensconced away at its center is 
hard as ever
and poison to eat. 

Take note of this, I think
to my own aggrieved species—
keep your composure;

there is nothing we can do 
in time 
but yield 
to one another,

but never 
will they take 
our dark heart—that small enraged oval 
that none would dare conquer,

that is the part
which is ours.


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

CONGRATULATIONS

We did not want
to be the raindrops 

falling 
on the plain—

same color
as the background,

so amorphous,
too mundane.

So we made our lives
complex

as the snowflakes—
delicate latticeworks

built around 
dirt specks; 

and now, none 
is like another—

just like 
every other.


Monday, August 3, 2020

STRAY

Little drifter, 
you've been a stray
a long time—

why not keep still, 
trust the gravity
in laughter, 

curl up 
on my scale 
and see what you weigh?

You've made oceans
of byways; why not 
spend the night? 

It is not true 
that you don't know 
what you want;

what you want 
is to know 
what it is you require,

to ripen into love 
with this thought,
or that one—doesn't matter;

what you need
is to grow 
a heart pain can poison

before you can fertilize
that heart's 
desire.


Friday, July 31, 2020

CHORUS OF NOTHING

Last night in a deepest 
ocean of sleep, 
I thought I
heard a brand new vowel—
a phonic so huge, I found
myself completely surrounded 
and pulverized 
by its reverberant sound,
the way one who 
had never seen the sun 
would certainly 
crumble to their knees after 
a lifetime underground —
a sound so complete, it listed 
all the nameless things 
which had never existed
in a code which broke itself 
even as it executed. 
I shuddered. It was like 
nothing the living have ever known, 
a death rattle
which persists for days
after the funeral. When I awoke, 
my apprehension 
was immense; I knew the voice
which I could no longer place
had been the 
remotest hope: a genuine
silence.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

THERAPY

How unbearable
life would be, if we 
were not free to 
rove pharmacies! To cruise 
aisles in grocery 
stores, choosing our favorite pre-
fabricated remedies. 
To hold in our fingers 
these objects of desire 
and crinkle the plastic 
while we read the smooth, reassuring
words on their packages.
Then, without any doubt
or delay whatsoever, 
to make them ours outright 
by transacting money
at a high sterile counter.
How giddy are we 
to take them home 
and bring them inside these weird 
slots where we live—
where we turn on a light 
(but not too many)
and begin to tear into them 
with everything we've got,
like a harried and desperate 
single parent 
whose ungovernable child 
cuts a more exquisite reflection 
then they'll ever feel ready 
to admit in a session.