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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

THE SAVED

In heaven, 
everything's great. They 
flit around saying 
congratulations, 
you made it 
to your destination.
Finally, there really is no 
tomorrow; nothing
comes later.
the light 
in the sky is so 
pure and eternal—
like it's always 
10 a.m; the sun
will never set.
The streets are gleaming; 
you quickly notice
there's no litter—
because there's no shopping bags,
and there's no such thing here
as yesterday's paper.
No one drinks coffee, 
because everyone's 
awake. 
If you'd like,
you can still close your eyes 
and imagine 
being happy, but 
you're never quite sure
if you've done it correctly,
since you're no longer able  
to make a mistake.



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

SAKURA

Only there, in the wind-painted
cloud-stained plein air
mute to reason,
conscious of everything

may the soul be released—
untethering from the body
like the dream of a memory 
in our memory of a dream:

the landscape artist, in
branding his canvas,
excluding Mount Fuji 

if, and only if, he 
is standing on 
Mount Fuji.



Monday, July 27, 2020

HESITATION

And then, 
when I looked once again 
at the whole presentation—

at the boundless light
and the thing with feathers, 
that creature 

who's freakish
visage I'd hated—
with just a second's 

more hesitation, 
a space opened 
up in my ossified acuity,

spacious enough 
for the thrum 
of ambiguity—so spacious 

I could no longer see 
the thing I was seeing, 
but instead, 

all I could see was the act
of my looking. All along,
I thought I knew 

what it took 
to alter one's outlook, but
only then realized 

to rewrite the future, I must have 
already 
redefined the past. 



Friday, July 24, 2020

A PATTERN OF NONINTERFERENCE

The clouds today 
look faint and 
far away as abstract concepts 

for which 
the listless living
have no uses—

the way their great
and beige-white plumages  
edge without care 

or consternation over boundaries 
into that opaque 
inconsequence of blueness, 

for one everlasting moment, has 
nothing to say—
which says something great 

about the shabby significance 
of the piece of that air 
which I've been using.



Thursday, July 23, 2020

BARRIERS

Suppose for a minute, 
you were 
one of those people 

who believes different 
truths on each
day of the week—

one night, the full moon 
would be 
made out of brie;

the next, the starlight 
would strike you 
so harshly, 

you'd be scared 
to so much as undress 
in the dark.

Would you know
the difference between 
love at first sight 

and life  
in a silo?
Would you be more

or less 
well-
contented than 

your counterparts
never to recognize 
the devil you know?


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

GREAT PAINS

In late July, when 
five o'clock is high noon 
and the sun on the blacktop 
is a sweaty mirage 
glimmering off in the vanishing distance,

the honey bee 
must be the only one working—

from the shade, I can see her
plumbing and scouring the 
depths of a sunflower 
tucked between wild dill 
tufts on the street corner. 

While everywhere about her, 
huge titans and terrible monsters 
stew in their own torpor, 
she spirals ever-closer 

to the sweet center 
of the gently oscillating flower—
the perfect still point
a swiftly-turning universe—

and there, in the bruised heart
of all delicacy 
and nature's fragility unfurled,

spitting and sucking 
and needling her pincers, 
assiduously makes the most of our 
overused world.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

IMPOSSIBLE JIGSAW

When you were little 
you believed in
as much as you were given, 
but the rest 
was left to clenched 
fists, uneven glances, and
secretive curses.
Whether the universe 
unfurling 
without much direction 
in your tender imagination 
was built by 
brute forces, or
(per the fancier verses)
finessed into place
by a fussy designer,
the only thing
that mattered 
at night when they 
snuffed out the candle 
was not 
how many more pieces 
you'd discovered 
today were missing,
but how on earth 
you were ever 
going to make it 
until tomorrow
without a quick peak
at the puzzle box cover.




Monday, July 20, 2020

A GREATER REPUBLIC

No paradise 
all by itself, but 

no Utopias 
without it; 

brutalize 
those friendly saints, 

unfreeze their 
faultless minions,

and open wide the death 
row gates—

The Poem 
is no one's enemy.
 

Friday, July 17, 2020

ANESTHETISM

To the ears 
of the world-weary, the 
ascetic life 
sounds wonderful, 

but something horrible 
is smuggled into 
the perfect love 
of the angel.

Upon closer inspection, 
the saint's meek austerity 
is a bit too severe; 
the blazon martyr may fare better. 

You may say 
you grow tired 
of arguing til dawn
or fighting war with gusto,

but you'd never dare
disavow the passion 
and the feeling
and the ardor. Truth is,

in the bid for perfection,
it's the devoted 
who risk going abstract
and toothless; I suppose

one must be more
than a touch ruthless 
to wear the crown they
call the halo.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

UNSPOILED

In the gilded precious 
future tense 

where every day 
is still 
a good day—

the mountains 
and rivers of our lives 

somehow mean more 
than they do
from our windows;

and yet much less
than they signify in prose.

On that unspoiled day
which is not 
today, nothing 

is the same 
as before 

and everything 
is the same as before—
except 

we scald the teapot
and steep the leaves, 

and even the dregs 
are poetry.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

HARMONICA TUNE

I am no catch—stony as I am 
and stuck 
for the increasing duration 
in this lonesome prison made 
of unrequited destiny.

It's not as if any of this 
is your fault;
you are not the judge-and-jury, 
nor the one who 
carries the keys. But still,

each time that you speak, or 
so much as knock 
against my friendless 
ingress with your eyes, somewhere inside 
me, a lock releases.



Tuesday, July 14, 2020

QUARANTINE REDUX

From innocuous corners, untold places 
in the hundreds 
of millions

the wind's shifty whispers wash 
over the cities, 

spinning 
and blurring and 
turning these long days

to the rhythms 
of the rumors 
which are 

slowly 
eroding our lives.



Monday, July 13, 2020

PUTTING ON THAT OLD ALBUM

How is it 
that there is still a word for this?
The quantized width 
and depth of your bits 

entering me, explicitly,
at many 10s of 1000s of cycles per minute,
eliciting a unique chemical response, 
depending

much less 
on the fragile and windswept vagaries 
of your erstwhile intent 
than the metamorphosed truth of 

my present situation; what it feels like 
to listen, again and again,
to the exact same missive
amid hundreds of disparate 

days of this sprawling, unorganized 
mess of a generation, I am glad 
not to be able to express.
As is so often the case, I try 

some of your lyrics 
on for the occasion—breathlessly 
moving my lips around, feeling
your words in my mouth. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

THE BRAVE FISH

Remember.
The exact 

way in which 
you matter 

could never 
have been imagined 

by the genius 
of the past.

There was 
no way to know 

which minnow 
would be the brave fish of evolution

or into which rivulets 
each droplet would flow.

Just like now—
at the bleeding-

skin thinness 
of this moment—

how there's no profit
in diminution, 

no sense 
either in disavowing

or wriggling back 
to the ocean.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

PERFECT KNOWLEDGE IS A DEATH SENTENCE

You think 
you want 
to know the truth, 

but you haven't 
thought it through.

When ambiguity  
becomes exhausted,
potentiality 

is also lost.
Does the color blue 
have an origin story?

Could the universe 
in which 
all possibilities are bound

compound 
in meaning
on top of itself?

I would not keep  
my fingers crossed.

Hope is 
being tossed

down a pit 
which is infinite—

fear is 
that it's not.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

ECLIPSES

Remember how disappointed 
you must have been to learn
that the orbits of the planets 
are elliptical, not circular—

that the backyard bees don't really
hibernate, they just 
freeze to death in the winter—
that heroes and villains exist 

on a post-hoc spectrum, 
and not as some good-verses-
evil dialectic? With what perturbation,
then, do you think you'll react 

when you once again find, 
at the end of the line, that actually
nothing you ever believed in 
was wrong?—your most stubborn 

superstition, your lighthouses 
of love for those ships long gone—
none of these fictions were destroyed 
or disappeared; they merely 

became blocked from view 
by some mutable purpose 
which was either larger, or emerged 
in closer proximity to you.



 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

POEM FOR 3 PM

It might be coming to pass 
even as you read this—
in this hottest and waviest 
season of dearth,
when all your intentions 
lie around the backyard in piles 
like construction materials
coated in dust 
and the fecund smell of dill is hanging
like a sticky net in the air—
this is the late-afternoon 
moment you realize
you're not going 
to get anything useful done. 
Your brains are turning
to coils of sprinkler hoses; or else, 
they've just been swapped out 
for the last two old nectarines 
left at the market—
so bruised, they must 
be kept artificially 
cool at all times 
to slow the spreading 
blush of their bruises
before the sweetness rots
from the inside out,
and even the smell of it 
is hell enough 
to ruin you.

Monday, July 6, 2020

MEANWHILE IN GUYVILLE

Even after years of feigning
exile and alarm
waking up outside bodegas  
on blocks where he doesn't belong 

he still can't resist hiding
exactly where he's hidden
riding out the verse and chorus,
waiting for the coda.

In math, he's the inverse 
of what you'd call an absconder
sticking to the same path he's
already beaten

and waiting, half-hearted
for his turn to repeat 
the line that he's never done 
anything wrong—

not like those fuckers in 
the Liz Phair songs. And yet, 
he's the one still going
up on his tiptoes 

superstitious and secretly 
past your old mailbox, 
because he's too self-conscious 
to write anything longer

than an open mic poem about 
never sending letters 
or drinking your brand of soda again—let alone 
something stronger.


Friday, July 3, 2020

THE COST OF LIVING

It is only the righteous
who survive 
long enough 

to watch 
their luscious goals 
and the ripe sweetness of deeds 

ferment 
over time to 
the spoonable mush 

they may keep in a mason jar
and call
hopes and dreams.

Wealthy 
and sectarian 
though they may be, 

they still understand 
the universal 
value of a bargain—

those featureless angels 
who watch over their children
day after day 

may work 
without pay, but they've 
still got to eat.




Thursday, July 2, 2020

SOLO GYMNASTICS

People will say 
I'm dreadful-
ly boring 

and dry 
as a newspaper 
strung on a clothesline 

and only willing 
to paint inside 
the lines with 

proprietary utensils 
the color of eggshells. 

I would retort 
that they
must not consider 

the hell 
that I suffer 
every day 

to keep every moment
precisely the same. 

Trying to maneuver 
and manipulate 
one's body 

into all the same places
at the same times of day 

over and over 
without falling back
on the nets of despair 

requires flair
and some remarkable 
poise under pressure. 

In short,
no game demands
greater concentration 

than threading 
the needle
of remaining unchanged. 

It may not be glorious 
or attract 
many spectators, 

but mine is a sport 
full of high-wire balance

for which 
only the chastened
have got enough patience.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

MISDIRECTION

Let this poem stand 
in relation
to the truth 

the way a mirror 
in a magic act 
can apprehend 

reality: as a fiction, 
as a fantasy 
which distorts me

and conceals you
while it gleams
in the quiet wings, 

slanted off at
forty-five degrees 
to validity. 

No stanza is there
to explain 
how the things work—

each was manufactured
to bring you 
where you would not go 

ordinarily. The words 
are quartz and silica;
the sentences pass 

and dissipate 
like smoke.
And the premise 

isn't even happening—
now you see it, 
now you don't.



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

LIGHT CONVERSATION

The question 
is always:
does a whole thing 
exist? Or 
is everything made
of pieces? 
Those photons 
(in the billions)
lightly flitting 
against your delicate 
skin right this 
minute, for instance—
are they just
an extension 
of the sun?
Do all the stars 
in the heavens, 
for that matter, 
as buttons 
on the same jacket, 
really deserve 
to be called facets
of the same thing 
which, 
by its own volition, 
of its own 
good graces, 
and ceaselessly 
in its entirety, simply 
reaches? 


Monday, June 29, 2020

LATE JUNE POEM

with a shadow that grows 
like mold
and a shudder that passes 

quick as snakes 
through the dingy buildings 
and tired piles of construction dust 

the sharp cold rain, 
for one stupendous moment
peels sideways through the city streets

and soaks you 
cleanly 
through your shirt―

and after, under clammy hair 
and orange-yellow skies, 
you're surprised 

and delirious to find you're 
alive 
and unhurt.

Friday, June 26, 2020

FLAGELLATE

Somewhere inside, you know 
the ground 
you meander around on

is practically vertical—
but you 
don't really.

Really, you think 
you're on top of things, 
you think 

you can hide, you can run;
you think you're stuck
or sinking. 

But none of these 
circumstances 
makes a lick of sense from 

the superior perspective—
where, 
no matter what you do, 

no matter where you go
or how you live, 
you're an infinitesimally 

tiny protozoan 
faced with the prospect 
of certain grim death—and yet

there you are clinging 
to your crucible's face 
and lashing your flagellum 

with the strength 
of a billion 
neutron stars exploding 

and to the amusing—
perhaps maybe even 
a little inspiring,

but highly illogical—
thought
of surviving.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

THE PROBLEM WITH LOGICAL POSITIVISM

Would you be 
surprised to learn 
that every furtive freckle 

held like a secret 
in the innermost petals 
of one particular pink-white lily 

might map exactly 
onto the stars 
of a certain distant constellation 

visible to seafarers 
in the Arctic Ocean each December
and born nine billion years in the past?

Or would you be 
even more impressed 
to know that 

no one has ever inspected each one 
in a wretched attempt 
to rule it out?


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

AGE OF REASON

It's inevitable, practically 
iron-clad as gravity: 
one day, you 
will speak the truth,
and nobody will listen.
We tend 
to call this kind of 
lawful obsolescence
senility—but really
you're not crazy;
it's just that the words 
you'll be using 
to compose your confession
won't mean anything 
to the creature 
who's guarding you—
let alone to the warden 
of the prison.



Tuesday, June 23, 2020

STAY SWEET

They say it can only pay
to stay on the sunny side 
and always assume everything's 
going to go your way. 

Why even think about that day 
when your car will not start
because, last night, the rats moved in 
and chewed your engine wires to bits?

In just the same way, 
you've got to keep waking up 
and insisting on using your 
heart to make the key decisions,

always presuming
it hasn't yet rotted—like a June peach 
shrinks around its 
pit—in your sleep.

Monday, June 22, 2020

NO END TO THE ENDLESS

Just when you think 
you can't lose 
any more luck,

when the worseness 
of things 
cannot be increased—

when you're as soaked 
to the bone 
from the oncoming storm 
as you can possibly be—

when you think you've lost count 
of the number of pain receptors, 
multiplied by the versions of you
in alternate universes—

something as simple 
as the distance 
between 0 and 1 
verses 1 and 100 
expressed in integers  

rises 
like another moon 
in your brain
to remind you: 

there's no end 
to the endless;

infinities 
can yet be added 
to infinities.

And even though the realization 
doesn't go 
any deeper, 

you cannot help but 
realize it again 
and again,

as you gawk 
at the endless sky 

and the boundlessness 
of your hopelessness 
increases.

Friday, June 19, 2020

AUTHORITIES

They used to say—
surrender your life 

and your life 
will never end.

Now, we know better 
than to let the feckless 
speak for us. 

We have leapt into being 
like the tip
on a match,

taken back 
the present tense, 

and perished 
the thought of living 
forever.

I don't know how I should 
feel about this yet,

says the militant head 
at the tip of my neck. 

Or—I don't want to go. 
Or—let me say that again.

I trust this oracle's 
intimations are correct

though no part of me as yet
can say how.


Thursday, June 18, 2020

ANXIETY IS THE DIZZINESS OF FREEDOM

So what's the matter 
with a will to live 
which is fixated only 

on the very 
next thing?

Would it really be a shock 
to discover 

your heart was a horde 
of butterflies?—
No wonder, 

the way it lusts 
and flutters 
and longs to play

(even though it knows 
for now, it is still 
on the clock).

I have always 
had a hunch 

that my mind 
is lopsided—but
in that primly aesthetic way,

like the limbs of a tree, 
which are perfect for climbing—

and that my attention, 
when gone astray, 
is thrilled

to be so out-to-lunch,
counting the trills 
of leaves in its branches, 

getting up to 1,
losing track—and then
starting over.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

STATUTORY

At this juncture, 
the thing in itself—
without smell, taste, or color 

may be genuine, 
but it 
just seems improper. 

It's like reality 
is that despicable defendant 

who says, maybe 
our particles 
were asking for it:

the way they gave up
their positions 
and velocities 
so easily!

*

We can't go on like this, 
seeking clues to the case
on brand-name tags, 

reading metaphors
like fact-checked newspapers,

with our collective sense 
of wonder so 
plainly exhausted.

We give up! 
Dear doctor, dear expert,
just tell us, already—

what is the spin 
of the electron 
responsible for this tantrum?

Who's odorless, tasteless, colorless physics 
are at the center 
of this intractable catastrophe?


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

NEW JOB

With little else to do 
I still choose to look 
around the city 

at condos, cars, 
concrete, 
wires—all repeating.

If all of this is a construct,
that's not so bad; 
at worst 

it's replaceable, 
and at best it's all mine. 
The responsibility 

is that of a 
solitary oyster, but the reward 
is that of a pearl.

Each word I form
is its own moment, 
poised at a starting line—

I touch my mind 
to the earth and originate 
the world;

then, I move my body 
through the space, and it organizes
time.



Monday, June 15, 2020

IMAGINARY

O, how we all like to talk 
in low voices
in front of large paintings—

or gawk at mountains 
burnished with sunlight
and exclaim 

we've been struck
by the elegance—
but this cannot be right.

For true beauty 
would not ever 
put words in our mouths 

or smiles on our faces;
It could not look
so familiar.

When it appears, 
it must appear
for the very first time;

it is not a construct 
bridgeable by simile. 
Neither could it be recognized,

for it is not returning here.
Beauty is as stardust—
it belongs only 

where it has come from—
never our midst, 
always somewhere else.

Friday, June 12, 2020

MEMORY IS A SKILL

Perhaps the sparrows
sitting up on the sagging 
wires above us

are neither praising 
nor blaming the day; 

maybe they 
keep making noises 
which are incomprehensible to us

because 
we keep expecting 

criticism.

*

For me, it's fun to talk 
about the weather 
with a neighbor

the way it's fun to play a game 
of Simon:

every contestant 
down here 
is in a fierce competition  

to put abstractions 
such as 2 and 2 
together—

just like every 
brutalized animal's 

pleasure center 
is still a sucker 

for a little pattern 
recognition.


Thursday, June 11, 2020

PASTORAL

With humidity 
on the decline, 

perfectly occasional 
cumulus clouds linger 
like doubts 

in the purest blue skies 
of a PG movie afternoon.

Not so far away, 
from fire and rage 
and fierce needles of rain

every man-made angle on the street is 
kissed and gleaming;

even the oncoming faces 
seem as if 
they have only just now appeared—

yet still, they look so familiar 
I'm afraid

I must be dreaming.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

SELF-TALK

There are mornings 
when that wild flutter 
of breeze 

which ruins the most delicate flowers 
defines for me 
the whole situation—

I shudder to think 
of my humblest requests 
being rejected, 

of such beauty hinging 
on such finitude.

I want to say 
to the bluster—
do your worst 

and 
I'm no prude

but I too have these lapses 
where I talk a streak, 
black-and-blue, 

but I'm not sure 
what I'm asking.

It's like I become my own 
colonial power 

and my body
no longer understands—
let alone

respects 
the mother tongue. 


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

CATCH 22

The teacher who said—
never begin 

a poem with 
"I remember"—

must have been 
exaggerating;

since now, all you can recall,
having ran 
rings around the world

and understood nothing 
as profoundly as ever, 

is waiting 
for the day's shadows to come

and completely cover 
your losses.

You were desperate 
to record
the exact syncopations 

of bricks and flowers, 
sidewalks and foliage, 

rising and falling,
almost like a language

in which someone had been
trying to pronounce your name correctly. 

In that moment, 
you only lived 
and breathed to preserve, 

so that another 
might understand in the future, 

how, just before 
the evening storm,  

those incessant bird calls 
sounded 
all the sweeter 

for having nothing whatever 
to do with you
or your urges.



Monday, June 8, 2020

PROCESSION

Life, the particle 
physicist says, 
is really just a process.

For the novelist, 
it's more like a faulty premise 
that goes on 

for as long 
as it can sustain 
an audience.

But both parties 
will insist, 
for a process to be real 

it has got to be 
witnessed. 

*

The truth is 
we don't want any so-called 
god-particles to exist; 

we don't want people 
to be made of pieces.

It's easier to posit 
god-forces 
and believe only 

in the invisible absoluteness 
of uncorrupted action.

Generally, I agree with this. 
Most days, 
I feel a lot less like Jesus

and a lot more 
like the force 
of Inertia itself—

so determined, 
no matter what 

I'm processing
(or not),
not to be interrupted. 



Friday, June 5, 2020

WORDS WITHOUT DEEDS

When what you took for angels 
were really made of pixels, 

it is probably time 
to wipe the drive and start over. 

When immediacy  
has been recruited, 

the present moment 
must be in retrograde.

Now, the shining algorithms blaze forth 
with a light that can never be extinguished,

curating all the white 
space that remains.

Was that last swipe an unconscious choice? 
or merely one of desperation?

because there no longer is any 
in-between. 

"Behind-the-scenes"
now describes a way of feeling.

Everything feels deliberate, 
even when it isn't.

Everything, even the present
document included, 

once came from the same 
fatherless nothing.



Thursday, June 4, 2020

TOWERS OF BABEL

Now, the last chapter 
has finally come; 

last chance to grab an arm 
and dance 
to the last song 

before the DJ
hauls the milk crates 
back to his van. 

Standing silently 
off to one side

and feeling  
self-conscious is
no longer a plan.

*

Every gesture has been inverted; 
all forms of inertia 
are now being called-out 

as bullshit 
or subversive 
or complicit 
or performative.

Turns out, collusion, 
not creation
has invented this world;

even the Prime Mover 
has been caught 

on that space telescope camera 
with his hands in his pockets 

and designs 
on some girl.

*

And to think—
all humanity 

once 
spoke the same language

and
was punished 
for its insolence.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

UNDESERVED

In lieu of flowers,
it might be 

gracious enough 
to consider how

right now, 
pure light 
from the end of the universe—

weightless waves
from nowhere—

are on their way 
here 

through the nothing 
that's there.

And yet, 
you and I can 
still get distracted 

by the words
like ads 
for what we don't have;

we will quibble 
about the shape of space 
like the fit of a new shirt 

and refuse to die 
without having first 
equivocated  

about the pedigree 
and color

of the nectar 
that's refracted.


Tuesday, June 2, 2020

IGNORANCE

To put the matter 
delicately, 

this world we inhabit 
is an out of work actor

that can itself 
no longer afford 

the price of the bliss
in which it has been living.

We are guilt-
stricken tenants 

who insist
we've tried everything—

talking in circles 
darting our eyes—

still this terrible 
hunger persists.

When the churches 
were still open, 

they used to tell us
we're being tested; 

now it's as if 
we're being bitten 

and tasted—eaten alive
from the inside.


Monday, June 1, 2020

MISCONCEPTION

Somehow, the flames 
when viewed 
on a screen

look even 
more listless, but 
even more reliable;

they seem both 
frenetic 
and discretionary 

at the same time. 
It's as if 
we're remembering

that suffering 
wasn't invented; 
it had to be invited.

We might well 
have been thinking—
If only our bodies 

were as plastic as fire! 
if only our minds
were that pliable.



Friday, May 29, 2020

MEMORY BOX

To think—I am now sitting 
thoughtless
in the same kitchen 

in which I 
will have been standing 
then 

after I have deciphered 
my very next words.

*

These strange loops 
and chickenscratch x's 

may take on a prescient significance 
as imperceptibly 

as a snail 
secreting its shell. 

*

After the frame 
is in place, 

it's so difficult 
to remember 

It hasn't always been like this.

How do we expect to compete 
with the nostalgic stillframed past? 

Looking back, 
even every failure and deficiency 

was just so easy,
so precious,

so perfect.



Thursday, May 28, 2020

DOING EXISTENTIALISM

It's hard to resist.
Watching the news 

makes us go stiff—
makes us feel serious 

in the way 
stark poems 

or a Bartók quartet
used to.

Serious—
but not sober, 

like a sublime encounter 
with the terrifying existential 

power of the ocean;
the post hoc rationalization 

that nothing 
is personal, 

nothing is 
goal-directed,

nothing
is shocking

shocks us—
shocks us just 

hard enough 
to get off.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

EQUIVOCATION

Are we not
appeased

by the flutters of melody
coming from the 
parks and gardens—

by those peeling-
open faces 
of the peonies, 

the savvy darts of spiderwort
foxglove, lily of the valley, 

by the broad flat open 
palms of red hibiscus 

rippling in the spree 
of late May light 
and breeze—

are we not so
completely relieved

and reassured 
by all of these

that we've 
utterly forgotten 
why it is we need

such a repeated
and urgent
reassurance?


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

THE WORK IS STRANGER

I used to think, 
along with most: we were simply 
playing our roles.

We were dynamic characters 
surviving hardships 
and changing for the better.

Lately I have come to suspect 
the work is stranger 
and less glamorous than that—

we are living in the time 
after the movie has ended; 
that moment 

when, up through the field 
of uniform black,
the credits come scrolling.

Suddenly, we are not sure 
which one of these strange collections 
of symbols we were,

and the audience all have different ideas   
concerning when it's appropriate 
to get up and go.



Friday, May 22, 2020

FEELS

If I'm being honest 
it feels like 
the end game 

has already passed us
but time is still 
of the essence. 

It feels like 
I've never been more 
self absorbed 

or less attentive.
Like, if I'm not 
at least trying

to control 
my own thoughts
I will probably be seen

as more than a little 
gauche—so 
in lieu of meditation

I've been practicing 
my penmanship 
in reverse: 

first I write lost
followed by is 
and then all


Later on
I take a picture 
where I'm standing outside 

listening to traffic 
and feeling conspicuous—
it sounds less 

like applause 
than I had expected 
and more like 

the murmuring 
of an internet church—
how many followers do you have?


Thursday, May 21, 2020

THANKS SO MUCH

On behalf of myself and the rest 
of the crestfallen,

I would like to say thank you 
to the faded sprees of sidewalk chalk 

and the banana-yellow bouquets of balloons 
calmly deflating on front railings.

Thanks so much 
to the homemade posters 
hanging in the floor to ceiling windows 

expressing, in turn, their thanks 
to the others 
with rainbows and hearts and five-pointed stars.

Thanks to the brightness 
of the caution tape on the gates of the park, 

the minimalist art style 
of the new bus ads and billboards, 

and the soothing piano music 
playing in the giant 
conglomerates' internet commercials. 

Thank you for helping us 
come unstuck 
from our hamfisted grip on the statue quo—

because of you, 
it feels like we are finally giving up 

on those cumbersome beliefs 
we had carried around since childhood 

that life was eternal, and we 
were invincible.



Wednesday, May 20, 2020

BINDING WHAT OUGHT NEVER BE BOUND

I've been trying to picture
after I'm gone,

a beautiful day—the
sun and wind and clouds,
the boundless light;

a kid 
in a field of 
overgrown grass, 

face knotted up 
in fervent delight,

holding tight to the 
string of a kite.

But it's no use; 
the harder I try, the worse 
it gets. The kite 

is not really a kite. 
The kite is a bird.

And this kid 
is not delighted; 

his face is contorted 
into a grimace, 
as if he's being forced 

in the absurd eye 
of an untamable storm 

to keep holding on
to my burden.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

REMIND ME AGAIN

which scene is this? 
What famous movie 

is it we're recreating
each time we take the stage 

to feign 
such oscar-worthy 
ignorance of our situation? 

In order to succeed 
we each must think:
I am the lead,

and everything else 
is background information,

subject to being modified 
from its original version, 

formatted to fit screens 
and edited for television.   

Over the phone, 
conversation feels safer—
by which I mean

more clandestine:
I quote lines 
as if they were my own creations,

and you quip back 
as if words were 
raw ingredients 

for making 
years' worth of shared experiences 

and not merely 
their bleak 

fermentation containers 
stacked up deep
in the basement. 



Monday, May 18, 2020

RIGHT BEFORE YOUR EYES

When you first looked 
ahead, did you notice? 

The difference 
between being 

and being something 
is enormous;

it's the difference 
between fire 

and whatever it is 
that's burning. 

One is an obdurate shadow 
tightly constricted 

on the sun's surface;
the other is yearning 

to live on 
in perpetuity

as it waves
back and forth

in the noose 
of present tense.



Friday, May 15, 2020

SHELTER-IN-PLACE

On either side 
of these neighborhood streets, 
the once rag-and-bone 
branches of trees 
are now growing long 
and brawny with spring rain;

soon enough, the tips 
of their fingers may grow 
to touch over the center of these roads, 
forming a thick dome 
over the homes and apartments below—
so much the better to cradle and hold 

the fragile expectations 
of all those who dwell there,
to protect such heretofore 
unexampled frustrations, to keep
such extraordinary solitude from escaping 
or being exposed. 



Thursday, May 14, 2020

CO-OP

Gradually, the agitated 
bustle of the grocery store 
gives way to a kind of 
quiet communion—
obscured faces and precious things 
lining aisles and display cases, 
boisterous kids and their 
watchful, tight-lipped parents 
contemplating both 
the senseless damnation 
of life in a pandemic and 
what makes sense for this week's lunch. 
Gradually, we become more 
than customers; we react as war generals, 
mature as statues, resolute as pack animals. 
We move as one finely-tuned implement 
of desire and love, humility 
and imperfection. 
In line, we watch one another 
shyly but without guile, 
blandly but courteously, the old 
and the young, the overly-
cautious and the overly exhausted—all
the representatives of this world, 
knowing we are here 
for the same reason; we are going 
home to different places; 
like never before, we are aware 
of the slender existence of one another.



Wednesday, May 13, 2020

RELENTLESS

Go ahead—dismiss me, 
or tune me out 
toward those frequencies of 
wayward influences, 
carve me black-headed 
on a staff, and then
lose me in a digital flood of 
disregarded melody 
like a bad penny down 
an impervious well.

I will still go on making my
irreducible music
day and night endlessly, 
and you will remember it 
by its defenseless simplicity—
by the restless stillness 
that lives in the pitch-black 
trenches of your mind
like rings live 
inside the trunk of a tree.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

UMBRAGE

Alone and unseen 
on another empty street, I 
can feel myself swaying 
in the gathering breeze—
like an insect 
who's trapped in the intricate web 
that is this dim and suspicious city—
its many sticky absences 
all strenuously crossing 
over and under each other while I 
wait in the center 
for someone or something deceitful 
to return home and claim
my shadow as its own. 


Monday, May 11, 2020

PHOTOGRAGH

After Lucille Clifton (sort of)

Oh antic multiplicity 
of universes, return to me 
the young man of my 
early twenties—
unkempt hair billowing 
out from underneath a 
thrift store ball cap, t-shirt 
breast pocket bulging 
with Winston Lights soft pack, 
smiling ironically at the photograph 
he never expects to see again.

All of the atoms in my body have left me
at least twice since that moment.

My hands don't remember 
what signature patterns 
his were so practiced at, 
and I can no longer recall 
what he worked such long hours for, 
who he loved 
more that he thought 
it was safe to admit, or 
which absurd counterfactuals 
he'd sit around and dream of.

I wish he was standing before me 
here, just for a moment 
so that I could hear him insist
(however noncommittally)
that none of these details 
really matter that much.


Friday, May 8, 2020

ADVICE FOR NEW CHILDREN

Listen.
With every new iteration
of the world that gets created
I'm starting to worry

we might
keep getting placed slightly
farther apart.

A few more of these
universe branches
(following some close-call decision
about to eat for lunch or something)

and I may not even be able
to leave you
with advice—like:

don't be too eager for love,
but don't take
what comes, either.

Try to speak your mind, but
never say I'm sorry
when you're trying to be polite.

And when the ones who
are in charge start
to spurn you—only to turn around
and ask for your support;

when they try to remind you
you're dust 
and to dust you shall return,

try not to look
directly in their faces
when you laugh;

be a little graceful
and just say thank you 
before you turn
and walk away.



Thursday, May 7, 2020

MAY

Late spring is mature and kind
and eager enough to chaperone
pink dogwood
wild plumb and lovely
cherry blossoms
to this outdoor formal ball

just so that you and I might stroll
idle as the air
thick as marscapone
past them all—feeling debonair
and breezy wearing
last week's gym clothes.



Wednesday, May 6, 2020

FACE THE DAY

Heads up—here comes
that invulnerable hero: the sun;

demigod, sparkplug, revisionist,
exalted one;

enemy of criminals, drunks,
philanderers, card sharks;

the one who gets things done.
Unlike that liminal coward, the moon,

he has returned just as he promised,
luminous, and as always,

in the same platonic, circular
oracular form.

He can now be seen from your window
riding in his glorious chariot, post-battle

toward that reassuring press conference
in the sky called high noon.

And you are so relieved to see that man,
you can feel it in your bones

like a heat; so relieved,
it feels undeserved—it's like

those dreams, those precious hours
like pearls on a necklace,

which were stolen last night
as you slept have been returned.

From your ligaments to your fingertips,
you feel whole once again

as you realize—you do not have to
do this alone.


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

ALL OVER THE PLACE

The thin needles of cold
rainwater this morning
can go on pelting the lilacs
outside my window as long as they

like for all I care; I am no longer
offended by the relentless,
the indefinite, the endless, or
the all-over-the-place.

Perhaps the world's sadness
is a kind of sustained prayer,
an expression of our gratitude
for the time it took to get this lost

and for the generous time
which is still on offer
to pay off the interest
on the opportunity cost.

Yes, there must be much tenderer
planets out there than this one—
so small and so distant, it would
exhaust these bodies to get there;

but there are also those thoughts
which we know will never leave us
until we've become so
thoroughly exhausted.


Monday, May 4, 2020

THE FIRST FEW SECONDS

Right as arithmetic
you roll out of bed—
another day, a blank

page, a clean slate
(except with your
particular head on)—

at least it feels that way
for a few seconds,
until that strange terrifying

alien computer brain
kicks back online again
and begins recalculating

frantically, everything
that has ever happened
in your life until now—

adding up how much
of it was all your fault,
then subtracting off

all the stuff you couldn't
do anything about
if you had tried. Luckily

by that time, the bed
you lie down in
has been made

and it would only
lengthen this sequence
to crawl back inside.


Sunday, May 3, 2020

DRIVING FORCES

After the fact, some brick
walls start to look like
lucky breaks—

dead-ends, like acts
of crash test
dummy mercy;

breaking their hearts
may have kept the reckless
safe from broken necks.


Saturday, May 2, 2020

THIS IS NOT THE POEM

It is actually all of the poems
other than this one
which have saved me—
those beautiful gems
wrought by hands I haven't met
with the blood and sweat
and fetid smell of their own
hells, or the sweet pure
simplicity of their daydreams,
bound and collected
by still yet unseen others—
those mystical squalls
of torrid imagination
which have snapped my last
resistant traces, or else
deftly recombobulated
some dead node in my mind
at the very last moment
before the breakage could occur.
Those are the poems
that matter. This one is written
merely in participation—
like a nod in response
to a life-and-death directive,
a sober and sapless 'amen'
uttered upon the conclusion of
a transformative sermon.


Friday, May 1, 2020

PLAYGROUND

The grass in the park
across the way
is overgrown again
and needs mowing.

I can see battalions
of dandelions
creeping steadily
inward from its mangy edges.

Silence—neither the silence
of peace, or of complete despair—
now occupies the square
patch of ground in the center

where squealing children
once would clamber
over ropes and bars
and rusty swings,

eager to launch their
small world wars.
Now I wonder what sorts
of unsuitable spaces

are filled today
by the voices
of those brave and
impatient soldiers—

what impassioned
political speeches
must be pouring from
their indoor throats

like the mash of torn-away
treebuds and rainwater
that's gushing from the mouths
of its vacant army-green slides.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

MINISTRY OF PEACE

If there's a god,
I hope it's not a being;

I hope it's a sprawling, well-run
administrative building

with plenty of large wrought-iron
revolving door entrances,

polished silver elevators,
gleaming marble kiosks,

and an elaborate network
of cordoned-off lines

which any person
(who's appropriately dressed)

can enter
(during regular hours),

perform as directed,
and then leave again

lighter on their feet
and feeling ever so relieved

for having gotten some
troublesome business done.


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

CALL TO DISTRACTION

Desperate for comfort,
bereft of all certitude, if one
or two are soon compelled

to leave their dry houses
in the middle of the
storm, so what?

Amid the white noise
of rain, perhaps, and
watching the haunted maw of sky

as it rips open wide
with forked
tongues of warm lightning,

these abstract few
might find themselves
compelled to count the seconds

waiting for the illimitable voice
of thunder to rejoin—as if
growing by increments

closer to the answer,
and farther away from blind
faith in explanations.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

OVERDETERMINED LOVE POEM

I had often thought—
it's just enough
to be walking
shoulder to shoulder.

I didn't want to talk
about work, or go out—
I only wanted
to get where we were.

How I wished I could touch
your wrist
with just the tip
of one finger—

as if
the heat transfer initiated
would validate
the deeper reality of our situation.

How much work, I insisted
it would take
to explicate the pledge-
of-allegiance-way that I care;

I swear, to this day
sometimes I just sit here—
for half an hour,
maybe more,

tolerating
the acceptable feeling
of knowing you
are out there somewhere.


Monday, April 27, 2020

CONVALESCENT

It's the tail end of April, when
the greens begin to deepen
and another salvo of white
dogwood flowers
discharges on Chicago.

Inside, I fidget or pace
or press a warm forehead
to cool rectangles of glass—
then stand back again
and watch the small oval

of condensation
wane and disappear,
giving way to distant
asymmetric skylines
gleaming in limpid daylight.

How I'd like to to fling
this window wide open
and set free on the breeze 
that small wounded bird
who's been trapped here all winter.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

FROM WHERE I'M STANDING

Every view, at last
has been slowed to such
a dramatic impasse—

the quiescent dew on the grass
in the morning,
the rubicund plumage

of the evening sun,
and the obsidian silence
of motionless night—

are sober still-life paintings now,
spaced out and hung
along the walls of my apartment.

Every so often, I might
walk up and study each canvas
by the weak lamps of the past,

struggling to recall
the calm forces
that once animated them,

to explain to someone who's not present
the chiseled deliberateness
of their composition,

to prevent my own
lucidity from drying out, chipping
and fading to gray.




Saturday, April 25, 2020

BORDERLINE

When you're walking
slowly along the road
all alone, and you're
not at all sure where you're going,

and over the next hill
is a quiet, still, and well-
manicured neighborhood
which you're sure you've never visited,

but the flowers in bloom on
the edges of the lawns
are the very same ones you'd expect,
this time of year, to stumble across—

the same tenacious tulips
and antiseptic hyacinths,
meek minnow schools of crocuses
and ditsy yellow daffodils—

you're tempted to think
maybe this all that is meant
by home: the sure footed stroll
of your own peculiar imagination

set on the even keel
of the tacit familiar—maybe
the pleasure of being
in agreement with your own notions

is the closest you'll come
to belonging.

Friday, April 24, 2020

SEA CHANGE

At first, it was a few vacant looks.
Then, the black space
behind the masks.

Now, it seems the whole planet
has filled with the same
unpronounceable lack.

When we first heard the manic
preacher's sermon, the words sounded
so fantastic,

but when we look now
we just see the empty robes of a
raving hobo Jesus—

his vast and urgently
flailing sleeves
of depletion

and insolvency—snagging against
the splinters of panic
and loose nails of greed,

until the prospect of our emancipation
has been shredded to pieces
in front of our faces,

but we can't turn away—
because there is no looking
back.




Thursday, April 23, 2020

TWITTER POEM

In pinch-doses, it's grating
as free jazz—too many melodies,
not enough harmony;

anything larger
becomes a rickety stadium
groaning beneath the weight

of it's oversold audience,
all stomping and singing their
endless individual anthems.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

TO THE CARDINAL

To the cardinal in the tree—
what will happen
when you run out of sonorous melody?

Will you try to praise the mundane
in its place? Are you already
broadcasting memos of lowly routine?

Or perhaps have you begun to complain
about the austerity
of domesticated life in a dogwood,

or hung around this late in the day
to proclaim your dissatisfaction
to your less ruddy partner

with an living so plain and repetitive
we passersby all nonetheless
still find the speech appealing—

because all of us
feel in our breasts we might
just as well have given it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

PROVISIONS

In late April, the people
are still faithful
as priests who don't dare leave
the dark railed alters
of their houses and apartments.

They pray it will be alright,
and mostly, it is: holing up there,
still feeding and growing,
and learning all they need to know
without much trouble

mostly from the surfeit
of screens—though now and again,
more bitter-sweetly, from out
past the veil of an ordinary
rectangular window,

where they can see the sweetness
of summer beginning to be remembered
by the greening lawns
and the lilac bushes growing bolder
after last night's storm.

The people aren't sure
of much anymore, but
all can understand—that life
may be maintained with
security, comfort, and pleasure—

but it is only made outdoors
by that sweetness and boldness
which risks all to exist
and is nourished with brightness,
clarity, and warmth.


Monday, April 20, 2020

OSMOTIC IMPERATIVE

Now, the concentrated mirthful
loveliness
of this gentle season—

which, this year, has inexplicably
once again deigned
to exist—

must seep in
from outside
our impotent eyes

to keep us
preserved where we lie—
like fermented fish.



Sunday, April 19, 2020

WEATHER REPORT

The empty city this morning
is nonetheless filled with the kind of light
which explicates the very air,

the kind of breeze that makes flowers
pucker and preen,

the kind of atmosphere that hails each
cirrus cloud drifting by as perfect-
ly mysterious—

no passing sailboats or
circus animals here,
or crude parts of human anatomy—

not when none are permitted
to linger and lie
in any park, field, or meadow nearby,

gazing up and pointing and laughing,
heads pertly propped
on a backpack, or maybe

some blithely divested
and rolled-up old sweatshirt.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN

This is the only process I trust—
every day
I don't know
what I'm doing

or whence
these slender figures before me
that frighten me so much
have come;

a window is always cracked open
a door is ajar
and the air is still
though I can't recall the season.

Always
I keep forgetting all this;
Always I must keep
realizing I've forgotten—

I am not the gears at work; no
I am just the turning.
I am not this speaker
from his throat to tongue to teeth; no

I am just the biting.
I am not the vanishing-
yet-ever-present past; no
I am just the hope

of learning.
I am not this
poem—or that; no
I am just the writing.



Friday, April 17, 2020

WITH MY EYES CLOSED

Will I still exist,
but like a shadow exists—
in the absence, yet still just
because of the sun

will I fear that brave shining man
who is above
all surprises, who never makes promises,
he simply acts—

the look on his face,
one of love beyond measure
that can never be denied, hidden from,
or obscured

the sound of his voice
like thunder cracking, splitting huge blocks
of the past
and the future

into slivers of a present moment
which are difficult to use
and far outlast my capacity
to measure




Thursday, April 16, 2020

COMMUNICATION THEORY

Science now suggests
a whole planet's
simultaneous bereavement

might be how
its rings are formed.

Think of the thousands
upon thousands
of satellites

swarming
all over and around us right now

like bees
safeguarding hopeless
narcissus flowers;

the sound of their gliding
in silence through space—

even as we use them to speak,
meet, and grieve—

must be
so thick and cold,
so bright and enormous.





Wednesday, April 15, 2020

DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION

At last,
when all you have

left is
the view from your window

comes the mealy soft
bluff of a mid-April snow—

to wash
all the colors off,

smooth
over nascent textures,

and roughly
undo you.



Tuesday, April 14, 2020

REVERIE

Today I haven't written down
anything profound. Instead I've
sat around, trying
to listen to the sound of humility.
I've had coffee, given in
and read the news, marveled at both
the boldness of power
and the obduracy of conspiracy.
I've walked around systematically
and seen the clouds,
dense and deep white, keeping vigil
over a haunted neighborhood—
its buildings like busts
of pagan idols with craven
looks upon their faces,
its tulips and daffodils, only
mid-april, already learning how
to hang their callow heads in disgrace.
I've watched a few buses
and delivery trucks
diminishing down the monochrome avenue
and imagined somber cold-cave echoes
of Gregorian Chants playing
simultaneously on all of their radios.
And of course, I've head the birds,
timid at first, then growing
gradually louder as the day crescendos,
as if pleading with the half-hidden sun
for salvation—not for themselves,
but on behalf of the rest of us.



Monday, April 13, 2020

NOT THE POEM WE NEED RIGHT NOW

The poem we deserve
is perfectly worthless.

it won't support ads,
it has nothing to sell us,
and needless to say it won't
pay for our lunch.

its words are furtive,
foreign to follow,
explosive to mouth;

its structure is
like a church which is
loyal to no one—

all its shapes and sounds
are the most frivolous
kinds of pleasures

with no past relation
perishing now
and refusing later.

The poem we deserve
wasn't built;

it resists all systems,
pre-existing structures,
acceptable modes of power.

In other words—
the poem we deserve
is pure revolution:

once it exists,
it always has
been like this—

after its over,
nobody notices
no one remembers.



Sunday, April 12, 2020

ON ALL SIDES

If the middle of the continent, a city;
in the center of the city, a park; 
in the heart of the park, a dying ash—
with its gnarls of grieving branches.

Nearby, a Park District worker, leaning
and chewing on a bruised apple, 
tells me—it's diseased 
and due for removal. 

I shut my eyes and try to imagine—
a million fugitive beetles 
panicked and writhing 
in those cursed branches, 

a confused and desperate colony—
destruction in the name 
of survival. 

This infected tree, 
that rotten 
piece of fruit, these brownish 
grass blades underfoot—everyone out there 

must belong somewhere;
every broken thing we encounter 
is someone's desperate 
attempt at a universe. 

Saturday, April 11, 2020

EUDAIMONIA

Are we behind the times?
I mean, If there was
a lag—

would we know?

Does each mortal
moment represent
another ancient

star in the sky that's gone critical?

Could heaven
really be so
tacky, so archaic in translation,

so unconscionably far away—

that every chintzy bulb in the place
has exploded in its socket
a long time ago

like the set of some haywire gameshow—

while from our point of view
it still looks as though
it's been ages and ages

since anything has changed?


Friday, April 10, 2020

LOOKING FOR WORK

      Well, while I'm here I'll do the work—and 
      what's the work? To ease the pain of living.
           —Allen Ginsberg 

What is my work—
sitting cross-legged on the
floor for ages

being still or
turning pages
before a stubborn low table

seeking both excitement and oblivion
with equally stable
concentration

seeking an obligation so great
it is my hope to attend to
as little of it as possible

seeking a word
which is study
but weightless as a light beam is

seeking an image pure and eternal
but transient like the melody
of a vanishing bird

seeking
one sentence—so perfect
it helps you persist

even though it
doesn't exist.


Thursday, April 9, 2020

FORCE MAJEURE

For some, the times are not so tough.
Despair and isolation, they say,
has never brought us closer.

An unprecedented new chapter
in over-analyzing
the sound of every exhalation

artfully locates
the words delinquent and
centenarian on the exact same page.

The very air,
which once was ubiquitous,
empty, unscientific

is now peculiar,
agentic, and potentially
teeming with invisible royalty.

Formerly adversarial neighbors
now seem to coordinate
with clairvoyance

their modern dances
of creative avoidance
in the aisles and gangways

with grace and aplomb.
In fact, it has become the definition
of conscientious

to wonder
how little we can get away with
offering one another—

instead of a shake, perhaps
just a hand,
indeterminately raised,

in a gesture that's
half-wave—and half-
stay away.




Wednesday, April 8, 2020

PURSUANT TO COVID-19, STAYING HOME AND WORKSHOPPING YOUR OWN LOVE POEM

I can't help but wonder
if it's still showing
off a little

to declare you don't
care about
craft anymore; to insist

you don't need
to cough up thesauruses
of spurious words,

let alone softball-
pitch a prosaic
slew of images right down the middle

to some huge rhetorical
stadium of radiant
hall-of-fame batters

just to further elucidate
the purity of whatever
purport it is you were going for—

which, up until a few stanzaic
distractions ago,
I could swear

was to tell someone
you know
that they matter.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

LEAVES

          "[I]f Poetry comes not as naturally 
          as the Leaves to a tree it had better 
          not come at all." 
                    —John Keats 

There are times when the staggering
awe of the sublime
would only impair our
ability to function;

when painlessness
and clarity
and the inconsiderable pleasures become
the rule of thumb.

Just now, it is April
all across America—as we watch
the dense ruddy buds
and delicate gauze-white flowers

gradually grow to
overwhelm the branches;
and like it or not, all of those
prim little poems they promise—

so predictable, decorous, basically
dime-a-dozen—are not just
our most equitable hope;
they are the only option.


Monday, April 6, 2020

THANKS

In the beginning
was not the word,
in the beginning was the relation—

out of silence, speech
plain air
and aspiration;

out of isolation, merely
the judicious
use of solitude;

out of the huge
ineluctable gulf
between humans,

an I
who is talking
directly to you—

even though
that can't possibly
be true—

and of course: you, sitting there,
having
just woken up

like a god
who dreamt for light years
in a hall of gleaming marble

and for a second
couldn't remember
the full extent of their power

but now, without any effort
is constituting truth,
reifying the beautiful,

effortlessly winding spiral
after spiral
of light in the vacuum,

making
my little
universe happen.



Sunday, April 5, 2020

IN-BETWEEN

Uncertainly, season quivers
into season, disturbing
the stagnant imagination.

In private—or behind disguises,
some have already begun
to wonder

what mass
reenchantment might
possibly look like.

But when the the answer
cannot be found
inside,

yet it refuses to be
depicted outside either—where else
might it lie?


Saturday, April 4, 2020

QUIT WISHING THINGS WERE DIFFERENT

Again and again—
and again, let us wake up

and do what has got
to be done; let us stretch

and bend down to touch
the rutted toes of civilization;

let us tuck the pale sheets
of our stray thoughts, tensed

syntax, and go and rinse
the wistful sheen of last night's

dreams from our grave faces.
Let us remark without bitterness:

how priceless nevertheless are
the grim objects staring back;

how stark, prim, and cleanly
the spaces that contain them—

how momentous it is now
to find ourselves the previous-

ly appointed curators
of everything that remains.




Friday, April 3, 2020

APPREHENSION

I know this is not the first time
you've felt things

so huge, it was difficult for you 
to distinguish them 

from the force of gravity counterbalancing 
the spinning of the world.

All of the pain we're in now 
is similar; 

it doesn't have to be worth anything 
on paper 

but when we choose to consider it 
that way, it is.

If you can understand that 
you have seen through the trick—

you have just put yourself 
into the universe 

and then put the universe 
into your pocket;

and if you could manage 
to walk around like that 

for one minute of your existence
you could know everything 

and still not be able 
to do anything about it.


Thursday, April 2, 2020

THE DIAMOND INSIDE THE MIND

Despite the dark waves
obscuring our position

the wintry winds of
turmoil blurring or plain erasing

the boundaries
between our realities and fictions—

the simple symmetry
of spring still arrives

like a diamond that gleams
inside the mind

none can doubt
the primacy of the image

or mute the message roaring
from awareness's periphery—

one day it will be okay
it will be fine

and pure
to balk and cheer

those in attendance will rise
in observance of who's not here

the white simplicity of chalk
will fall heavy and cover dirt—

first and third
then the foul lines

and of course
that glad paradise known

as home—all of those
crisply re-identified.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

OVERCOMPENSATION

These mornings
as I sit strict and reflect
in the church of austerity

in silence—the plate
invariably come around.
And each day I give

a little bit more
than I was comfortable with
the day before.

I watch my private
empty spaces get
handed off—

mingling like garden pebbles
with all the bits
of silent reticence

of the others
gathered far away
in shrines

of their own design
who are doing the same
at this moment

and feel at once
both humbled
and fortunate—

encouraged and
deeply afraid
that together we may be

repaying a debt
which is too enormous
not to exist.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

DO NOT FIGHT THIS

Come let the violent
spring rain
again

from the inviolable clouds
to bewilder wrecked field edges
foggy lakesides
drab embankments

to the mute
slate gray pools
eclipsing dank park lawns

the indistinct
dross gathered
penitent in street curbs

the piles of rot and
aborted treebuds
clogging up the sewers.

From every heavily devastated
bit of nothing special

a new force
waits in its benevolent
artifice to emerge—

so undeterrable
it cannot be doubted
co-opted bailed-out
reversed or contained.

Come
let the violent spring
rain again

its benediction
that absences
can be generative too

proof
that even our conspicuous
lack
is productive.

Monday, March 30, 2020

ODE TO WHAT NOW

I guess try
to praise what's left

praise the kindling spring,
the warm wind
and increased light

praise the silenced
alarm clock, the rolling
back over, the balled-up slacks
and dusty gym bag,
the dormant blender (and instead)
the slow soaking of egg yolk
into the holes in your toast

praise the free video
conferencing app, the not-too-
steep learning curves
of home school and home cooking,
praise wax candles, bathtubs,
and yoga mats

praise the masked neighbors
waving right back
at you holding hands and
wearing matching track suits

praise the quiet highways
like the newly emboldened birds do,
praise the clean air, the poverty
and wealth of distraction,
praise your cool stubble
and scruffy long hair

even try your best to praise
the lagging instantanaeity of news,
those experts who pound their fists
and argue, the voices of fear mixed
with those few of complacency
who together illuminate
the most judicious middle path

praise the simple sound
of singing in harmonious agreement,
praise the very strange thought
of shared truths and a common ground
praise the discombobulation of fate,
praise this united state of our solitude—
and while you're at it, I guess

try to praise your tenuous,
ever-changing
hold on this existence—unless
or until that moment
when you can't