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


Sunday, March 29, 2020

NEVER TRUST A SECULAR HUMANIST

In times of crises such as these,
they say never trust 
a Secular Humanist 
who professes no allegiance 
to a religion or a nation, 
who seems little more than an
undocumented alien 
rapping a strange mix 
of apoplectic adoration
on street corners, or else 
spray-painting eco-friendly sci-fi 
superheros known as
ex-men on the chapel ceilings—
mutant power: bootstrapping 
spirituality—abracadabra,
kingdom-phylum into 
genus-species, thumbs and fingers 
into the shape of a W 
and used as an implement
for digging up the patterns 
in our fetid dumpsters of statistics 
in order to make lurid
apocalypse art, using
all the smuggest numbers
and most disobedient words.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

LONG PAUSE

Once I told you I just wanted
what everyone else
was afraid to—to be both
narrow and deep,

slender and bold,
less a shape than the path a solitary
arrow takes—a straight line
with an admirable slope.

But it's been such a long time since
I've taken up space,
and now I'm sure nothing is left
of that inclination—

even though so much of its math
will always remain
in the sound of my voice wavering
on the phone. Tonight

I wish I could just stand back up
and ride those waveforms
into the glow,
the bright ranks of code,

the strings of positive numbers
I still have memorized—and hope
are still written
all over your face.


Friday, March 27, 2020

OCCASIONAL POEM

With so much out of reach
now, I reach for simplicity

Don't want to say any 
more than I need to 

Don't need to be Tolkien 
to imagine all is not lost

Now is not the time to weave 
a complicated plot

Now is the time to ration 
all the skillful means I've got 

Only the melody 
ought to get a solo 

Only a splash 
of Scotch for these rocks 

Only the sharp keys 
of small words to pick 

the padlocks 
on the big thoughts.



Thursday, March 26, 2020

STANDS TO REASON

When we cannot kiss
but we can choose
to walk about and listen

when we can talk
and sing about
the extent of the doubt
and mistrust we must be oozing

when it seems like there is
no room left
for the size of the thoughts
we must keep holding in

but there are still open windows,
mellow sun, cool rain,
wind blowing

who needs touch,
as long as there is still feeling?


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

SOMEDAY SOON

When early light streams
through the trees, spangles
cold sidewalks, forging fresh steam;

when robins, sparrows,
church bells, all singing the hour
carry much farther
on the still, silken air;

when the mulish dogs pull
their stiff sleepy masters faster
and farther across empty intersections

in which no meek child
is being tugged by the arm
or herded by green-yellow guards
to the yards of their prisons

and no overdressed-yet-
disheveled men and women
are rushing to catch up
with insensate trains and busses—

all of this may yet be welcomed
as one chooses to greet
a special occasion

replete with ripping
arrangements of blossoms,
cool thin mimosas, gossamer strains
of traditional song:

all the carefully curated trappings
of some universal day
of easeful celebration—instead

of what we encounter today—
the habitual triggers
of daily anxiety,
dread, and suspicion.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

ALMOST APRIL

Whether pierced by sun
or stabbed by shadow, no piece
of this place is ever ruined
completely. Shredded
to ribbons and spread around—
either like shrapnel or
parade confetti—no city
or town is deserted; no tree-
lined street is not
the province of its robins;
no block devoid of
squirrels practicing
balance on the power lines;
no empty neighborhood
park baseball diamond
not using obsolescence
to prime extra green.
No part of these bodies
will be unmade so easy;
no promise of the peace to
come could be more lovely.


Monday, March 23, 2020

TOWARD RESILIENCE

Unnaturally stunted and
silent city—what can I say?
Where can I go? All of your shops
and offices are closed, and the
noisy nonchalant spirit of your millions
has been frozen, distilled down
to a hard bullion of wearied tenacity.
Like a few others, I still find myself
out this morning amid your repeating
patches of snow, grass, concrete,
and shadow—I have been listening
for the music of my own voice;
but without the din, I don't expect
to find it. It felt almost natural:
the impersonal patterns of motion,
the generous friction of this close-
quartered existence, the obnoxious
excitement of your traffic—
the concatenation of car horns
and police sirens, truck belches
and train groans—I'd like all of this
commotion to speak for me
again this morning, the way it
has so often—but it won't, I know it.
So I take a cue from you, inanimate
fortress. I hunker down and make do.
I cash a little hope in for resilience
and try my best own it—for a bit,
I'm going to have to do this alone.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

QUITTANCE

Suffering is
a neverending clench—
freedom
is just enough-
ness.

when it comes true
that you
can do nothing—
what else
really can you?



Saturday, March 21, 2020

ANTIMATTER

Eventually, you may come to see
the mystery—your life
was the one gift which
you could not have been there
to be given.
Nonetheless, you were
its only recipient.
somehow you received it
without ever having accepted.
Like fire from lighting,
invisible waves of radiation,
the radical fringe theory's full implications.
Nothing was destined, but now,
so much is supposed
drastically on the back of each
last supposition—questions ricocheting
off of questions, like white light
in a closed circle of prisms:
what are you going to do
with this present,
this deep and soulful pattern
of absence still dancing,
now that it goes
by a name that you know?


Friday, March 20, 2020

FROM OUR ISOLATION

After the storm,
birdsong crescendos

The ripe scent of mud comes
reaching for our windows

Empty streets gleam
like the cheeks of newborn children

The rest of our lives now
reveal themselves

as massive clouds riding out
beyond illusory horizons—distant

and intangible, tumultuous
and free

Thursday, March 19, 2020

COUNTERMEASURE

Spring is upon us,
and so, accordingly,
stalk all these mysterious
shoots and buds—
soon to be proudly
individual leaves,
hardy stems, or
delicate flowers of
profligate texture—
perhaps daffodils,
creeping jennies, or ivy
tendrils, red then green—
redolent blasts
of lilac, magnolia,
musk of crab apple,
dogwood, and pear branches,
all quaking in rainstorms to
make their return.
And with this recurrence
resurges our belief
in balance, routine,
process, remedy, faith;
each new petal, frond,
and leaflet blooms
as a new vowel sound
in a rustic and obscure
sort of prayer—
that every injury out there
currently festering
for lack of care,
every poison, pestilence,
canker, infection,
every malady on earth
may come to us perfectly
paired with its cure.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

THE JUICY PART

It's the middle of March—
when everything in nature

is frail, under-confident,
dingy, immature.

The trees are not ready.
The sky is dingy gray.

Wind gusts are obliterating even
the sparrows' rainy praying.

If we are lucky, they're saying, tomorrow
we may still be here to remember

today, and just how instrumentally
we treated each other. But

if life were an allegory, this
would be the juicy part—right before

whats feel like a hard dead-end
turns out to be the porous middle,

the abandoned well we've fallen into
is revealed to be a magic portal,

and all that surplus gunpowder
hastily manufactured for the war

gets ingeniously re-purposed
to make frivolous fireworks

so that little children can clap
while their grandparents sigh

because no matter how black
and dispassionate the night,

tomorrow, our orientation
to the rest of the solar system

will shift on its own
ever so slightly,

and this whole place
will be angled just right

for a change
toward the light.



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

AT LEAST

it's okay, because
I don't need much
anyway. Maybe just

this morning—to walk out
among the smirking mud,
the purring bare branches,

the glad right angles
of brick and limestone
apartment buildings—

each one perfectly etched
in that promising kind
of light from the east

which causes you
to squint a little,
forcing a half-smile

while you inhale
the enigmatic air
of a not-quite-yet spring

and say to yourself
(and mean it
more than you don't) that

it's okay, because
you don't need much
anyway. At least

not right now—
and maybe
not even today.


Monday, March 16, 2020

STILLNESS IS A DIFFICULT MOVE

when even the crocuses are
fastidiously working;
the snowdrops, drop by drop,
keep making steady progress;
the proud arrowheads
of soon-to-be tulips, already piercing
the stiff barriers of their soil,
have hit their marks perfectly, or even
slightly ahead of schedule—almost as if
the rest of the planet's odd affectation
of doing its best to keep perfectly still
for the season's duration
were preferable to its ordinarily
violent rotation.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

RELAXATION TECHNIQUE

Settle back—you, having
split once again into
doctor and patient,
are attempting to council your
patently worse-off half—
think of each breath
as a good-willed flame
which serves humanity
before extinguishing itself politely;
or, if that doesn't work, maybe
it's a new species of bird—
a hugely important
missing link to the dinosaurs—
which has yet to be discovered.
Or maybe—this breath is just
shit and trivial, but the next one
is sure to be super special?
Pinning down the winning analogy
is proving more difficult
than either of you imagined;
but eventually, you both agree
that each breath is definitely
a round in a game called
Let's Pretend We Can 
Keep This Up Forever
and that all of your friends
are playing too, and, for once
everyone is happy to use
the exact same rules.


Friday, March 13, 2020

SOME ASSISTANCE

Just now, it might help 
to think of some 
enormous objects—

planets, for instance,
and their frozen moons,
jagged mountains in the distance,

even the fridge 
inside the apartment—all as 
effectively weightless, 

because 
without some assistance, 
it might never even cross your mind 

to imagine the possibility
of everything, at some point,
having been lifted.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

MY FIGHT

These hands will not
prepare for war,

or censure or
impeach for peace;

these hands
touch pages,

dog fur,
piano keys—

handling secrets
neverending,

straightening
and wiping clean

those treasures
first brushed by others,

and thereby worthy
of preserving.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

ALL IN A DAY'S WORK

Each day, to preempt 
disappointment, 
I stand and renew 
my vow to renounce 
all satisfaction;

I shove my hands 
in the empty front pockets 
of my pants 
whenever I talk or go 
walking around. 

such baffling knots 
of aversion 
and amelioration 
can unclench and relax 
only in their apparent lack,

warmed by the friction 
of amicable dissonance, 
by the obvious 
and the oblivious heat 
of concealment. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

EAVESDROPPING

On a cold March morning,
when downtown skylines are
not yet apparent and the rooftops
still frosty in the feeble sun,
a few pairs of legs besides mine
are trudging to reluctant trains or
columnated cars still frozen
in last night's shadow—
but no one in their right mind
is speaking, let alone singing
quite like the sparrows
all congregated naked in the
tight-budded lilac bushes.
They sound deliriously happy—
just to be cold and conscious 
and hungry. In fact, though,
the constancy of their chirping
unsettles a little; it is difficult
to ignore, and I find myself
trapped between resentful
and jealous: how foreign it sounds
to celebrate a lacking, how
unnervingly strange and perfect
is the pitch of awareness
which is borne on the breath
of absence itself.


Monday, March 9, 2020

THE LIVING SITUATION

It's understandable.
I guess I must just have
fallen in love
with your most ungovernable parts—

the teenagers raging
in their locked-door bedrooms
at the ends of each
of the tips of your fingers,

the note in your face
that bends blue in defiance
whenever you say yes—
as you always do—to everything
everyone asks of you,

the ghost inside your
terrified mind machine,
moaning something about being
a political prisoner
who was hanged long ago by
your turncoat convictions,

but mostly, the séance
that is your rogue tumescent tongue
when it speaks its messages
to me in tremors, with none
of the rest of your
body's consent, and dooms me

again and again, to a life 
of asceticism 
locked in the dark 
basement of your heart, 

and yet, still manages 
to charm me with its 
provocative dances into paying
my half of the rent.


Saturday, March 7, 2020

PRACTICE

I watch the light move
slowly over the painting,
the sparrows darting quickly away—

so certain,
so unnecessary—each morning
I renounce my fortune

in the name of touching
even a thumbnail
to fortunes far greater than mine.


Friday, March 6, 2020

MOTIVATED REASONING

I know it's only a trick—
your mouth
does not actually talk,

your ears are not hearing this,
your eyes do not see.
After years,

your face still looks
the same to me,
though I could swear

I am so much older
even than I am at this moment—
old enough, at least to comprehend

the parts of us
that still interact
are far from the obvious suspects;

just like the organs responsible
for the wood thrush's loneliest singing
are themselves perfectly silent,

and the mechanisms by which
a whole universe longs
to linger on and listen,

though very simple,
could be invisible—or else
very cleverly hidden.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

THE POINT

8:57 a.m.
and still you haven't written
a goddamn thing;
instead, you have been pensively reading
the poems of other people
(most of whom are dead now)
with only the light of the stingiest window
in your woozy apartment to
illuminate the pages.

Yet, you wouldn't dare
change this. You don't want to
stir and risk dissipating the
air of quiet fullness.
You don't want to have to
stop in a few minutes and
attend to other things, because
you're getting it—really
getting it—that invisible thing

which you hope to someday articulate
is standing, for once, in the
very same room with you;
and though you could never
work up the the nerve
to say hello, you also know
you absolutely
cannot let it leave.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

THE FUTURE MIGHT NOT DEPEND ON YOU SPECIFICALLY

One morning,
how would you like to be
lifted up

as one of a million
haphazard v's
of northeast-bound geese—

those ordinary but unmissable symbols
of no luck or promise,
innocent but hellbent.

Who could regret
not being born demure
and delicate as a swan

when there is so much ugly
work to be done.
No promised land,

no such thing as heaven,
their days spent leaning
into the weather,

or else bending determined
around another ridiculous
cloud, and shrieking—

one season,
in delirious despair,
the next

in celebration
of the same insignificance
you fought against.


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

LENTEN POEM

In early March,
the small shock
of a cardinal

appearing
like a flame before me—welcome
but undeserved.

I watch as his dart-quick
perfect angles
of arrow-sharp red
and yellow

maneuver onto the uppermost branch
of the still-bare catalpa 
outside my window.

But
when he starts to sing
in his foreign language
the first refrain
of a long responsorial,

the rest of the congregation below—
all tooth-aches
and scar-tissue,

all still dressed in their
somber brown
and gray graveclothes—

look puzzled, at best
by the echoing missive.

The groggy, the undead,
those fiercely unprepared 
for a sermon

would inevitably mistake
any gospel
for braggadocio;

What earthly utility 
could exist,
they would wonder,

in crowing like this, 
so early in the morning, 
about something only he 
was made to know? 


Monday, March 2, 2020

THE TRUTH

Some days
even the chalky emptiness
of sky that fills the window

can strike you
as so tricky and complicated
it becomes
overwhelming to describe

rates of change
so certain and specific
they cannot be legally gauged

a real honest
to goodness person
could never simply
state a feeling

this is the lie
that got baked inside
every sweet bleached
morsel of the language

there are politics involved
and certain things just
aren't discussed

lips must have
first evolved their
plushness for the biting

even in private
we are embarrassed
to mention this

the poets
are as peasants

standing before the procession
of their emperor

the page
which
may not be blank

but it is still
always naked.