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.