Friday, January 31, 2020

ACCUMULATION

With each passing week
of winter, it gets harder
to live with, harder to
live without

waking before seven
to find once again
the primly
coated neighborhood—

white
branches and cable wires,
all the status-
symbol and the beater cars

equalized.
As if
everything that was
last night has been

killed. And then raised up
one level of attainment—
younger,
but more wizened;

lighter, but increasingly
solid as carbon;
faster and looser, yet
ever more devoted

to its rigid discipline:
evincing a razor-
sharp purpose
in this imprecision.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

FOR GLORY

Some day I'll have to be
braver than this. I'll have to learn
to work even harder.
Some day, it'll
fall on me
to found the new religion—

the one in which
I, in my
solemn maturity, permit things
to matter

as means
and not simply as
ends in themselves—
to admit

Sunday service is the reason
one slim brittle
widow keeps enduring
the weekly twisting of her hair
into such ruthless and
impeccable flowers.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

ROUTINE HURTS

A year or two ago, I unplugged 
even the radio; all those small 
pleasures of yesterday

now a thousand routine hurts—
like a mild allergy, another aunt 
dead, a trick hip—impossible to forget

yet
simple enough 
to live with.

A quiet life is one 
in which the joyous things 
are the moments that ask for nothing—

they don't even remind: 
If I had cared more, 
would I have fared even worse? 

This is called grace. This silence 
is a mercy—

anything's possible 
is an incantation rattled-off by 
astrologists any mystics. 
If anything, 

the reverse: 
obviously, this is not 
where I hoped 
I'd be—but it works. 
 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

THE INDIVIDUAL

At the back
of the store, in a
frosty glass case,

steelheads—laid
tail to head
to tail, in

edifying sequence—
each face
aghast-

yet-serene;
each frame,
a proud silver tear-

shaped muscle,
streaked pink and
flecked green.

Moving closer,
my own face, super-
imposes on

the transparent window—
the individual,
floundering

for freedom,
always striving
for greater and more personal

modes of expression—
while these simple iterations
of the same animal

glisten eternal
under the florescents,
proud and stoic

as monuments.
When I die, I think
I will leave behind

a distinct lack;
no more reflection,
no way to preserve

or to sample
exactly who or
what this was

that once
would stop in a store
like this to wonder

which of us, person
or fish, has had
the worse luck?


Monday, January 27, 2020

TRUANT

Coherent yet bewildering—these abiding
vast gradations
of January brown
and gray

gentler than persons
passing through them—the deep black
shadows rushing
down to trains

softer than
the shoulders lipsticks
wingtips on the frosted platform—steeper
than their reasons.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

ONCOLOGIC

Exponentially more
and more,
certain cells of ours have
one track minds.

If only you and I
could synchronize
our efforts like that.

Who could deny
the passion synthesized—
the heat and the sparks,

the gravity and attention
generated by
blind automaticity—

the power
exerted by
even the smallest secret alliances,

however inconsequential,
however innocent,
however soft
and wet the Judas kiss—

when multiplied
by the number
of our constituency who are innocent
and divided by a lifetime.

Friday, January 24, 2020

LESSON ONE

After X begets Y,
which is, over time
consumed by Z,

nobody ever thinks
to suspect W—
let alone A B and C.

As you're about to see, this world
will be filled with monuments
to those three.

It's only afterwards,
when everything outside of
the circle
has been eliminated,

when you are finally
not anyone—even less
than the bits
which you've been

broken into—that
some disembodied sense
will realize it
already knew

how to recite
the complete Shakespeare
from memory.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

MERCURIAL

If you were just
a massless photon
barreling
toward the Earth

from across the hopeless
absolute darkness
of frozen
interplanetary space,

your entire experience—first,
of being
lost and alone;

and then
finding me, staying,
learning to say
I love you—

would be completely
instantaneous.

However,
if this thought experiment
were to be
perfectly inverted,

where I was the one
moving now

away through
those mazes
of countless infinities

at the absolute
limit of light-speed—

from your point
of view,

I would be telling you
always.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Overall, I'd say it's been a rough
month, trying to play it all
capricious and moonwalk
back from the grim obliteration of
another winter solstice.

But research suggests, if we're
galvanized by anything
it's pattern recognition amid
the novelty of challenges.

Last month, we had resolved
to be stoic
and static as the adamant ice;

but once we had the chance
to thaw out a little bit
we got desperate, felt

heavy as the rain pelting
the surface of the Earth
as it spins and revolves
and brightens all at once.

But I, for one, don't care at all
how the planet looks
from the outside;
I long to stand still

here and now, as a puddle
of meltwater on the ground,
feeling around
for the gradual tilt.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

SELF-CARE

So certain days, you don't get up early
and leave
the apartment building,

exit to the street, glutted
with frozen-over slush,
and breathe
the exhaust of the blue garbage trucks

as you walk past the windows
of the buttoned-up
businesses on the block, hardly believing

the truth of expression
in that stretched-out and stained
reflection brooding back.

Some days, you stay in
instead. You make coffee
and sit by the living
room window, trying to contemplate
the steam,

like a dissipating dream, repeating
little snippets of last
night's conversation, make-believing
you're smoking like the old days.

You swear—the harder you try
to keep sill, remain calm, take care
of your heart, and all that—
the more anxious and steadily self-
obsessed you get.

You try to insist, you don't see
any damn poetry out there
anyway; at the moment,

just a silhouette
of a mysterious guy
in profile, driving briskly by,

and vaping
like mad in a shiny, black Audi.

Monday, January 20, 2020

ABSTRACT TRAJECTORY

Following intensive
bombardment—

from infancy
to decency—

to impotence
to infamy—

the shape of this life
is so beautifully

irregular
and complex in its structure

that metaphor itself
has lost

not only
its allure, but all power

of fluidity; see it
lumber as it cools

to a stubborn boulder
of sheer dumb perplexity.

Simile's design
turns out to be

even worse
than powerless, since

by now there is
just nothing

else like it in the
visible universe.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

THUNDERSNOW

Suddenly, clouds like bleak hands 
overhead, clenching and
blowing seismic saxophones,
knitting a million prickling
holes in my fingers, toes, jawbone.

Mad crowds dispersed abruptly
as bombs slow-
motion bursting into soundless
outer space. I turn around, no memory
of where I thought I was going.


Friday, January 17, 2020

THE REJECT PILE

Tasteful poems
are obviously not these
trifling, day-to-day

things you've been writing;
at most, they're the
once-a-week, Sunday-

best variety—
forged from the clearest
crystalline nouns

each one mined slavishly
from a dark
participial tunnel

and adorned
with the finest
custom adjectival inlays

which gleam
with a rare heavenly
adverbial filigree—

all of which
are then delicately suspended
along precision-length chains

of dangling
prepositional phrases
like beads

along the latticed length
of a flawlessly perfect
symbolical circle.

These are priceless
Tiffany necklaces we're
talking about here—not your

church basement
crates full
of plastic topaz rosaries.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

CONFIRMATION BIAS

     Everyone believes himself, a priori, perfectly 
     free... But a posteriorithrough experience, 
     he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, 
     but subjected to necessity, that in spite of all his 
     resolutions and reflections he does not change 
     his conduct, and that from the beginning of his 
     life to the end of it, he must carry out the very
     character which he himself condemns...
          —Schopenhauer

          *

Good news—
you might think
in passive time

with the rhythm
of a drab lackadaisical

hammock swinging:

I have wasted my life. 

But you might
not have

chose to.
And that
thought might

have just changed it
from deep

in the center
on out—one vowel,

one lonely syllable
at a time.

          *

This just in—
sexy new pictures

of the cosmic
microwave

background radiation

have proven
to the stunned providers:

the complete emptiness

you were feeling
is both

a complete system—
a sign unto itself—

and
no longer counts

as a pre-existing condition.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

THE VANITY

It's no contest—every morning, light
fills this room much better
than I do,

makes even the cold tile
patterns look more
familiar

than that copy of me who
slowly enters, avarice
still numbed;

who always woozily refuses
to be the container,
even as

he grows larger, sharper-
cornered, and more
vacant—until,

slightly confused, he'll start to pull
back a little from
the mirror.

He usually does not look
quite as shocked as I
think he ought to.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

NONVIOLENT PERSISTENCE

Does anyone know
the names
of these strangers—

who make
the most unique and
uncontainable music

huddled in the bleak
zigzags of twigs
by the gate

which rims
the drab park perimeter—
who sing

as if nothing at all
was amiss in the
frozen fog

that keeps
this feverless winter
coma going strong?

I can only determine
they're often referred
to as sparrows—

but to that crass
collective slang word
they never turn to answer;

nor does it sound
nearly specific
enough to accommodate

each one's
individually
persnickety song.

Monday, January 13, 2020

BAD GASH

January sky, empty sky,
gray-as-dead-eyes
sky, formaldehyde skin or mouth-wide-
open sky—

how do you remain so
agape all the time?
So exposed, so susceptible.
How could I too

resist healing over, welcome
supersaturation
with flying impostors? The sheer
tolerance, the lack

of pressure feels impossible.
I make a poor
open sore—after a while, I grow
uncomfortable speechless,

impatient crying out
only in waves,
not of nervousness,
joy, or pain—but of luminous

electromagnetic radiation—
obscured light
and useful rain.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

THE RIGHT WAY

I hear you say—
the sky today
in every direction

is a loveless dreaming-
eye gray

and the winds are blowing
cold rain.

How can I ever be lonely?
I know

when you wake
and you go
from the window

you will not take any of that
away from me.

Friday, January 10, 2020

BLINK OF AN EYE

Even in total
darkness, we still know
the weight
of that shadow—

that fact of the matter
always prevailing,

that something in the room
which drives even that
which it manages
to suspend.

We do not understand, exactly
but it feels like we're
onto something
big when we say so.

"I see" makes eternity fit,
chopping it
into ponderable intervals;

but still we intuit—
an "is"

with eyes closed
or blinded

must function
different

than an "is"
which was always

eyeless
to begin with.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

BEFORE LANGUAGE THERE WERE NO EXPLANATIONS

Somehow, our building
blocks themselves
never run out.

The electrons don't
get dirty
careening around;
up and down

quarks don't get scars.
The bosons and photons
don't have memories
or future plans or prior
conditions or ages.

And yet
here we are—afraid of
that experience

which cannot be touched
or counted or
accounted for—
more often than not

believing in
something very similar.
Before the end
we'll practically declare we knew

it was there:
we knew
everything we felt
must be true

because of the meaningful way
we looked all our lives

without ever seeing
one thing
that meant anything.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

IMPROMPTU

If you have ever
walked south
by southeast down
a diagonal avenue

and come to a sudden
ramshackle clearing
in the freezing brightness
of a 10 a.m. January

and seen—above the few bare
sycamores there, the triangular
rim of bedraggled building cornices,
and the boarded-up fountain lying
dormant in the center—

dazzling dozens
of undulating pigeons, all
graywhite and frenzied
and swooping in clusters,

all flecked iridescent
with the high-angled light
and perfectly synchronized
in their ad hoc pantomime;

then you might
have understood
for a fraction of a second

at once, both
the thrill
that must lie beyond a word
like spontaneity 

and the rarity
(bordering on magical)—
anywhere on earth,

let alone the universe—
of such a thing as
a single
unified gesture.


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

STING


Slowly and carefully
year by year

I've set up
the perfect perimeter

refined the edges
groomed the green deputies
built and maintained all the equipment

mirror shades
teeth clamping
down on a toothpick

any minute

I'll catch the man

I'm afraid of
becoming

(a look-alike
fiendishly clever)

talking funny
acting off or

getting everything wrong.


Monday, January 6, 2020

JUMP THE SHARK

So here we are—
our post popular series
of big-
budget nightmares

has been greenlit
for another season.
Which is good
since I'm still trapped here

under that avalanche
of my own first
draft pages
of the narrative—

hogtied and lips blue,
praying
to be rescued
by you, same as ever—only,

this year,
in order to bolster ratings
and dash
all expectations,

I'm guessing—
in a much more spectacular,
reckless, and
improbable fashion.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

IN THE DETAILS

It seems
no matter
what the situation—

waiting rooms, dinners
out, hikes through the forest—
there's always

the most punctilious
devil
on my shoulder;

life-and-death
talons clenching
sensitive skin

bright red
wingtips urging, change direction 
again, go faster go faster

or tweeting
out to his legion
of followers—as if I was no longer

counting myself among them—
is it over yet? god 
this is boring.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

SAME BOAT

O the simple rules
obeyed by ocean waves.
O the difficulties

complexity faces
trying in vain
to mimic those movements—

the smooth morning rolls
and the unabashed afternoon sighing;
the silent fortitude

ordained by the moonlight
and the painless breaking
away overnight

of form from its
inevitable function.
So this then

is the crest
and the pinnacle—
the refusal of flow

to relinquish
the edges of itself,
to register the pressure,

the largess
of all of the others
who have broken before this—

our fathomless
vast unwillingness
to depend.

Friday, January 3, 2020

A POET

is hardly an author 
the way 

a maker 
of forests is—

black squirrel 
carrying, spitting, shedding,

a few finches 
shitting indiscriminate seeds.

But it's a relative cinch, 
I think, to grow 

something complex 
as an oak tree

from a blueprint 
or sketch—

and it's hell 
collapsing 

it back
to the acorn again.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

HERE'S WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING


Perhaps
it actually
isn't that abstract—

you look out
and see your own
ignorance

rippling
through anyplace
you don't exist.

The edges
between you
and it

glint—so sharp
and sheer
they could cut anything

living
logical
or symbolic

to shreds
so subtle as to be
impossible

to grasp at all
meaningfully as—back
from the dead.