Friday, December 30, 2022

POETRY: A USER'S GUIDE

In truth, I do not 
even know 
what it means—

much less
how to make it.

It's just something 
you wake up and 
find yourself always 

in the middle 
of have been doing 
already. 

But it's a lot 
less like speaking 

than like
singing in your sleep: 

in rhythms 
with no histories

and melodies 
left suspended;

and without that
grammatical net 
of guarantees—

and of course, 
on an instrument 
which is only as valuable 

as its capacity 
to be left, every night, 
unattended.




Thursday, December 29, 2022

AT YEAR'S END

At the terrible mercy of so much 
austerity, everything manmade 
collapses—or else 

hastily crouches to 
simplify itself, like some 
ungainly fraction. 

No more jingling sleigh bells
or mottled Appaloosas—only 
the simultaneous contraction 

of all the quiet, snowy roads
and all points of time's circle joining 
and compacting. 

Even the dazzling smokewhite 
of daybreak and the shimmer of yellow-lit,
 late evening windows 

are, here at another 
bleary year's end, just as remarkable 
as they are incidental. And yet, 

what remarkable freedom 
must exist 
to be reached 

now that all time and place
and every habitual 
path we might take

have just been so forcibly
but mercifully 
erased? 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

MORE OR LESS

From the far-off 
gleam of jet planes
maneuvering around 

the snarling jigsaw 
of towers downtown,

to waking dream 
of each singular flake 

of fat December snow 
landing and mercifully 
blotting out the details  

on row after row 
of old granite headstones—

everywhere you look,
things keep proceeding 
on their own—as if

the music 
which first inspired 
the dance of our lives 

was concluded 
by the orchestra 
quite some time ago,

but someone out there 
vaguely still remembers 
how the words went: 

there's nothing 
you can say;

and nothing's 
out of bounds;

and nothing 
ever has to
be a certain way.


Tuesday, December 27, 2022

THE TIME BEING

Perhaps 
the past 

is a strike-anywhere 
matchstick 

crammed inside its 
stiff little box. 
And 

the future is 
pure sandpaper—

or the grainy 
brick mortar 

just waiting 
to annihilate it.
And you—you're 

the addict, 
with his sulfur-

tinged nostrils and
nicotine fingers 

who delights 
at how quick 

and how hot 
and spectacularly 

the two come together  
to engender 
the fire 

which you jones
to take hold of 

and hold deep 
inside you 

before setting 
loose to get 
lost in the world—

every time 
anything 

happens 
at all.



Monday, December 26, 2022

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH

You should never say grace 
for the things 
you've been given, 

but instead, pray to 
all of those things 
for their grace;

and resist the urge to speak 
or to write of your freedom, 
lest you risk describing, 

through negation, the depths 
of another's isolation. 
But the most important 

move you must make, 
if you really want 
to know the truth, 

is never to stroll 
the perimeter of your life 
in order to fathom its shape;

but instead,
to trace the outline 
of that faint apprehension 

that the shape of this life
is not the only one 
it can take.


Friday, December 23, 2022

CHRISTMAS STAR

Of all of the gifts 
man has ever
been given, 

this was, unquestionably, 
the greatest 
and the cruelest,

as it seemed, 
most perversely, 
to do the most good 

in curing the sicknesses 
which had heretofore 
driven him: 

his belief 
that there is any such thing 
as true knowledge, 

instead of that
black sea of 
fascinating glimmers;

and his addiction 
to confusion which impersonates 
complexity—

both of which were easily 
and unsympathetically 
subsumed

into that baffling 
pool of immutable 
simplicity 

which the shepherds 
called
night sky.

 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

VEDANTA FOR SKEPTICS

To say it
out loud, it may
sound a bit odd,

but here in
The West, we don't
really disagree

with an old Hindu premise
that everyone
is God. It's just—

we count our chickens
before they
can squawk,

and we like
to proceed in a single-
file line;

so we keep off 
our knees until
something bad happens,

and we only let one
dead man walk
at a time.


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

MIRAGE

Have you ever noticed how 
that confidence 
which is wrought 

by our greed 
for sanguineness

and our future-expectation 
to live out
our aspirations 

is so alluring 
and diffuse 

as to be 
downright useless? 

How did we ever become 
so obsessed 

with scanning the distance 
through short lengths 
of pipe 

for some rose-colored bright side 
faint horizons might suggest

that we lost all sight 
of the much more 
pressing mess 

into which had so absent-
mindedly stepped 

and are up to our shins in 
right here 
in the present? 



Tuesday, December 20, 2022

ON THE CONTRARY

Putting ice on bare skin 
is a pretty neat trick:

after just a few seconds, 
the exposed flesh 
turns pink—

but interestingly, 
this is actually because 
it's gotten hotter

your heart has responded 
to this insolent stressor 

by beating just a bit harder 
to send lots
of fresh blood there. 

If only the same 
dynamic were in play 

with regards to you 
and me. 
Just think 

where we'd be
if my coldness 
drew you in,

if that grimness and rigidity 
had attracted your heat.



Monday, December 19, 2022

MORE THAN YOU BARGAINED FOR

Humor in a poem
is a strange
midnight gift 

bestowed 
by an arcane 
blue fairy.

What you sought 
above all in your
sleepless desperation 

will conjure, 
at first, such a 
pleasant sensation

of waltzing down
the lines delighted, light 
as air, and laughing—

but sooner or later, 
all parties come
to a close; you must 

haul this witch's gaudy gift 
home to the slum 
where you live—

and that's 
when it suddenly
turns scary. 



Friday, December 16, 2022

SHAKY PREMISE

What if it's 
our uneasy, smoldering 
dreams  

which leak and rise
into the night 

like curlicues of smoke
from some 
phantasmic cigarette 

that repopulate anew 
the great hanging archive  

which we all know, 
upon rising, to call 
the veil of sky? 

What then, is the difference
in regretting a thing
or desiring it?

Would we still long 
to relive the quaint 
feeling of a kiss,

or clumsily desire 
fewer screams than laughter?

If it's dark, fretful nights 
that engender 
the day, 

what on earth's the use in 
being afraid?


 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

DIAGNOSIS DEFERRED

What is this 
great energy that's buried
deep inside us 

which we struggle
all our lives 

not to clear, but 
unencumber? 
Is it not

that light 
by which we might 
love one another  

so much 
that it's painful-
ly counterproductive?—

and the heat 
of we, the living 

who have looked upon 
the dying 

yet have managed 
to turn back toward the life 
of this world, 

daunted but preternaturally 
alert forever after

to how greatly 
this weight and its 
shadow only serve to 

explicate 
the sky?


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

PLUCK

When they tell you 
there's nothing 
more you can do;

when they take you out 
into the hall 

just to sit you back down 
and say
all is lost;

when you find 
you've inherited only 
the goneness, 

the shape of oblivion, 
the complete lack 
of trust,

and that everything 
and everyone you'd thought of 
as precious 

will wind up 
as ashes, 

as sediment, 
as dust—that's when
it is best 

not to wince 
or raise your voice 
in protest. 

You must keep still 
in order to 
gather all your strength

and focus on the clarion 
sound of your voice 

as you hear it say, 
incredibly: Okay. So, 
what's next?



Tuesday, December 13, 2022

COUNTERMEASURE

There's no loss 
like the bloodless, 
perennial 

remembrance 
of the lost—if only 
because 

there is no loss 
except it. 

You can try to surmount it
or get around it 
all you want, but 

in order to receive it, 
you will have to
open up—

and I don't mean
"empty out." 

I mean: pollute the world
with talk. 

Speak without thinking;
say all 
the wrong things; 

speak to keep 
your lungs breathing 

and the frozen air 
warmed up;

speak til your words 
span the black, 
barren gulf 

which hazards to sequester
all of you from
all of us.


Monday, December 12, 2022

CONCESSIONS

Body, I know you 
don't see me for 
who I am half 
the time—and we 
grew up together, so 
we argue about everything. 
But there's so long to go 
from the middle 
to the end, and you
keep turning up, 
and that's all 
that I've got. So 
I'll take you as far 
as you're able to go
if you laugh 
and my jokes, and I'll 
listen to you sing.
It's not a lot, but it's 
something—like feeling 
lonely when you're 
really not.



Friday, December 9, 2022

AD-LIBBING

Weird how they say—
it's not until 
your soul is full 

that it's finally light 
enough to fly 

and dance away
all the torment 
and dolor 

which you have amassed
in this
infamous life, 

often at the whim or 
displeasure 
of others—only 

this time, 
when it dances, it 
dances alone, 

because it's been 
blamed for so long, it's no 
longer ashamed, 

and it's finally 
racked up enough practice 
and poise 

that it isn't afraid 
to improvise.


Thursday, December 8, 2022

NEW GRIEF

Though this pain which 
now blooms like a 
purplish bruise 

is both 
indescribably yours 
and new, 

rest assured 
that the black mouth of woe 
from which it sprung 

is everyone's
to plumb, and is
terribly old—for none

are loved more 
than those lost 
to our sight, and 

no truth bites
the living quite 
like: everything dies.



Wednesday, December 7, 2022

THE PACKAGE INSERT

When you pass 
by another, it's 
probably best 

to avert your eyes 
or keep them 
downcast—

that way, 
you'll miss the slight 
tremble of presence 

which you'd be 
almost certain 
to glimpse there—

and which might, 
in turn, fill you 
with an urge to possess  

all of that clemency, 
love, and 
benevolence 

you have been 
heretofore 
highly successful

and almost 
content to be 
living without.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A THING BEGUN

The burden of grief
would be easier 
to bear, I think

if only it were a little more 
exhaustive 
in its slaughter;

if the knife blade 
were longer 
and a little bit sharper,

then the agony would be briefer
and the torture
might be over. 

But alas, 
as it stands, it's just
too incomplete; 

there are lapses 
where we sometimes sing
from hymnals in the evenings, 

or find ourselves undone 
by some small 
accomplishment hard-won, 

or loose track of the strain 
which was placed 
on our shoulders 

while we're marched 
through the detours 
of loveliness and laughter.



Monday, December 5, 2022

REVOCABLY YOURS

When mornings 
start wavering 
out of existence, 

not yet gone, 
but long since 
in going, 

why do I
keep my mind fixed 
on their glimmering 

as a watch stopped dead 
at set 6am—contemptuous 
of noon? 

Would I starve in the wilderness  
to spare the strange, wonderful
plumage of its birds?  

Will I try to impose 
such a static thing as 
beauty 

on the aggressive-
ly protean
soul of this world?



Friday, December 2, 2022

SLOW CLAP

Too coolly, the hours 
drift past while you cogitate, 

inaudible, colorless, 
and unable to be named.

The sound of nobody's voice 
ignites jealousy 

as you talk,
like a stone might, 
to the gravity of the situation: 

How the hell did any of us 
get to essence 
from before?

Was there light 
before breath? Your heart fights
to remember. 

Or is no one 
led back home 
by the slow claps and low talk 

which they heap on 
fallen heroes 

as they're cast into 
the after?


Thursday, December 1, 2022

THRENODY

Stone-blind, we carried you 
past the boundaries 
of our apprehending,  

trying, still, to recognize 
some sense 
in the invisible.

Oath-deaf, 
we dug tunnels for dark hours 
under sympathy, 

emptying our heads
of its ringing 
significance 

and filling them 
instead with the glory 
of its grief.

Then, mutely, we agreed—
there are still songs 
left to be written, but we 

won't know how they'll 
go until we catch 
our children singing. 



Wednesday, November 30, 2022

JITTERBUG

The unmappable 
stars,

the unshakable 
sea,

the unspeakable, recalcitrant, 
irrevocable things 

that jitterbug in the vacuum-
space between 
you and me—

such barren 
and rootless 
and vain names we give 

to things 
which have sung, for 
so long now, in pitches 

which extend 
far beyond the highest edge
of our existence.



Tuesday, November 29, 2022

IT'S COMPLICATED

When we still feel
so sure 

about who 
we should love, 

it's the loss 
of all we knew about 
how 

that most
crushes us.



Monday, November 28, 2022

DEPARTURE

Again and again, 
what is gone 
tumbles forth 

in the drum of our minds
as a stone
to be polished;

it rolls off 
our uncluttered tongues 
so discretely 

that we measure 
its weight, and then call that
the truth. 

But what persists 
cannot be 
parsed or counted,

or owned 
any more than the air 
that fills the room; 

while we mill around
and think and speak, it wafts 
between us invisibly,

evocative as perfume
or the taste of good honey
to our taciturn senses,

and so inexplicable, 
even to our voices, that we 
fudge it slightly 

in our recollections 
and judiciously call it 
the beauty.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

BAD ANALOGY

Even though 
it would be more 
straightforward,

we don't want to believe 
that grief works
like a street, 

on the other side of which 
are all the places 
we need to be.

That would mean
that all we had to do 
was wait patiently 

for the traffic to abate 
before we take 
our opportunity. 

But really, we don't dare 
venture across 
until we're ready—

and we're loathe 
to be ready 
(even going so far 

as to resent the conceit 
that we will be 
eventually)—since

readiness suggests 
we've accepted 
the premise 

that an absence 
could infest us 
in the first place. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

READY OR NOT

It seems now, in 
everything 
still to follow, 

nothing at all 
will rigidly follow.

We've been told
there is so much light 
we can't see,

but none 
that won't use us,

none 
that we might not 
someday be—

and that 
where words would never
dare to go, 

feeling 
still remains.

But nothing will change 
the feeling of dismay 

that the weather today
would dare be 
so fair 

or shame 
that food still tastes 
pretty good.

We think: if we could 
hurl ourselves hard 
into that wall of all experience 

and burst, in an instant, into 
frenzies of pigeons...

but no. Only you 
could do that 
and get away with it.




Monday, November 21, 2022

ALL THERE IS

There ought to be
no such thing
as culmination,

for there aren't any limits 
to those things 
which stay hidden. 

All of the options, 
all of the spurs 
and passions that we weigh 

are measly little bulwarks 
against the pure flood
of confusion. 

So I guess it must be 
true, then—

there really is 
no extent 
to what is possible;

there are just a few
prerequisites. 

Firstly, that the beautiful 
must stay shackled 
to the temporary; 

and second, 
that an absence, the instant
it is felt 

must then remain 
unbearably 

present 
for the duration.




Friday, November 18, 2022

AFFIRMATION

Do you still wish 
those errant, 
ungovernable parts of you—

that uniformless 
gray 

which sometimes 
smears the blue 
sky of your body,

those bottle caps 
and six-pack rings 

and rusty left boots
in your oceans
in your brain—

would submit 
to your rule 
and keep themselves contained?

Is the Earth 
the raison d'ĂȘtre
of the moon?
 
Does the sun 
ever seem to be 

ashamed 
of the rain?



Thursday, November 17, 2022

PORTENT

By this point in autumn, 
the moribund sun 

has begun to take its 
own appearance 
a little too self-consciously—

draping itself 
in stiff muslin of clouds 

so that none can see 
how pale, how 
slight it has become 

and keeping even lower 
as it lopes its daily rounds 

to avoid being 
spotted—or, heaven forbid, 
adored—

by stark, starving crowds 
of finches, for instance,

who, instead of singing it 
sumptuous hymns,

are compelled to dart and argue 
on the dusk-
darkened grounds

over cold, hollow husks 
of yesterday's bread.



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

MASTERMIND

I guess I can only 
believe it 
when they tell me 

that eternities 
of time 

and all 
of vast space 

had to converge
like a car crash 
and congeal 

just to create the rough, 
serrated edge 

of my milky-white, 
brittle right-
hand pinky fingernail. 

And yet, it makes me 
nervous enough 

to chew the thing 
clean off 

to know that 
there ought to be 
so many melodies—

discriminate 
and ancient, and all 
bundled up inside of me—

which only some set of fingers 
distant and opaque to me

knows how 
to choose from—and to truly 
play well.


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

SEMIPRO

No poet 
worth their salt 
would ever tell
the truth—

that everyday's 
epiphanies 
are little more than 
consolations, 

or that passion 
and fervor 
are handy tricks
of rhetoric 

but are hardly 
prerequisites 
and are no one's 
responsibility. 

They withhold 
such thoughts not 
because they know 
that they ought 

to come across, 
above all, as both 
conceptual 
and real—but 

because 
they've been told 
by low murmurs of, 
prosaic wind 

that just being there 
to misapprehend those
is a feeling 
so much bigger 

than any thin 
description of 
experience will 
ever feel.


Monday, November 14, 2022

LITTLE TROUBLE

It's there—
in those disorienting 
little white blips 

which appear 
and dance zigzags 

when you shut 
and clench 
your eyelids;

which seem to flaunt 
consequence 

and silently 
push back 

against your mind's 
own disorienting- 
but-steadfast denial 

of what you 
could never call 
absolute black

that's where 
the very last and 
as-yet unexplained 

mystery that's left 
in all of modern 
physics lives: 

that tiny 
but stubbornly 
irreducible constant, 

that little corpuscle 
of troublesome 
noise in the signal 

which laypeople 
still call their sense 
of intuition. 



Friday, November 11, 2022

EVANESCENCE

Our beliefs are not 
the crystals 
we would think; 

they don't accrete slow  
until they're sharp, hard,
and beautiful. 

Rather, they 
are bubbles—

mysterious dirigibles 
borne by the wind 

and birthed from breaths 
which we blow 
though magic wands, 

resplendent 
in the sun and streaked 
with magic colors—

but none of them 
built to withstand 
the mildest altitudes 

or suffer the slightest 
external pressure—

and which bequeath 
at their deaths quick 
felicitous pops 

built to make a child laugh
and then flee
from its memory.





Thursday, November 10, 2022

BOUND

When the day's at its end, 
get as still
as you can, 

and you may hear, 
hidden within 
each pulse of breath, 

the very next line 
to a pledge 
of allegiance 

which you must have 
somehow memorized 
very long ago 

right down 
to every last syllable 
and inflection. 

And you know 
you can't quit while you're 
still in the middle; 

you are no volunteer
here; this is sheer 
conscription. It's like—

every instant 
you're alive, there's this 
frantic drill sergeant

shrieking at you 
with his 
repetitious numbers

to keep 
the production and pace 
of your life 

moving smoothly 
at the very same
speed all the time—

with no regard at all
for its length 
or direction. 



Wednesday, November 9, 2022

AUBADE

Maybe, our love 
was not a gift
made for us.

Maybe it doesn't function
like a service 
or product, but 

more like a process—
like nuclear fusion 
in the sun,

where everywhere 
you looked, you'd see tons 
of doomed couples 

breathlessly speeding 
head-on 
toward one another, 

colliding and expiring, 
to create 
something rarer,

something heavier 
and just a little bit more 
precious than they were—

not to mention, 
a tiny fraction of heat 
and of light 

which might make 
the lives of some
billions of others 

far, far away from there 
a little more 
possible.




Tuesday, November 8, 2022

SPECIFIC CANDLES

The best love poems
are always 
trying their best 

not to come across 
as too dull 
or too clever.

They often involve rhyming 
the same words together, 

over and over 
and over 
and over. 

The truest ones 
don't settle for 
"patient" and "kind;" 

they describe love 
as "sucker"
and "enabler" 

and are not scared to show it 
waiting forever 

in parking lots 
scanning all the outbound 
faces from the car

or sitting alone 
in darkened kitchens, long after
specific candles have dwindled. 

But most importantly, 
the best love poems
don't reveal much;

like our lives, they're over 
far too abruptly
for that—

besides, even if 
they saw something,
they'd probably lie—

or talk around it 
on the sly—or just 
never bring it up.



Monday, November 7, 2022

END TIME

By November, 
any hesitation has been drowned
in early shade; 

anywhere you look, all life 
has begun 
to uncomplicate.

All feel 
the centripetal pull—

irresistible 
as the center of a 
famished black hole—

from clock hands 
that whir toward 
their end time, invisible. 

Some can even hear it: 
that imperative 
of the thinning air 

daring them
to carry their coherence 
for much longer. 

While the deaf 
are unceremoniously stretched 
and bent, squeezed and rent 

of even their unutterable 
concept 
of halcyon. 



Friday, November 4, 2022

MISSION IMPROBABLE

With that first slap 
of existence, 

you are told
congratulations;

you are contestant number 
eight billion 
and one—

you are 
the chosen one—you 
will be upgraded.  

And just like that, 
you're an 
astronaut, 

an intrepid explorer 
of inscrutable territory. 

Your experimental endeavor 
(which you cannot 
decline): 

to hurtle, in this 
gangly vessel, headlong 
toward the future—

flying at the fantastical 
rate of one second 
per second, 

each and every second—
and then, 

when, at long last 
and terrible cost, you 
finally arrive, 

to promptly check-in
on the status 
of the rest of us.


Thursday, November 3, 2022

PREORDAINED

Kaleidoscope 
of colored leaves, 

tumbling erratic
in shifting streams
of wind, 

though such 
an obvious 
fate has befallen thee—

collapsed,
soaked in torrents,
then dried 
by the breezes—

would that the stems, 
hearts, and edges 
of our lives 

come through it all 
so vivid, 
so crisp, and 
so clean.


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

GOSPEL

The good news is—
Eternity 
does exist;

the bad news 
is—you're in
the middle of it already. 

Not to mention,
as rewards go, it's less  
a cash settlement 

than it is 
an inheritance 
which is marred by stipulations.

What you want 
from such a heaven is 
to finally be together again;

what you get 
from it instead is: an utter lack 
of separation. 










Tuesday, November 1, 2022

THIS IS IT

Even if I were able 
to live 
in the moment,

it would still feel 
like suicide 
when the next one arrived.

And even though 
tomorrow, 
I will just as likely say 

that I shall trust 
and heed nothing 
outside of that day, 

I still cling to the fate 
which has found me in this one
as if to slow its passing by. 

By now, I know the stars we use 
to find our position 
have long ago exploded, 

but still, I 
can't remember 
what I've lied about last, 

or the child I must have 
been before I ever 
got the chance.

Monday, October 31, 2022

CONSOLATION PRIZE

At last, this city's over-
zealously verdant 
parks and private gardens—

which, heretofore, were rich 
with their fulminating 
yellows, greens, and oranges—

have finally 
lost purchase 
on every last leaf 

and been stripped 
without notice 
of each pleasing flower.

What a bittersweet, 
almost punitive 
relief 

to see their great 
tiaras start to slip 
and fall to rust—

to watch lush fields crumple, 
and wither, and dim—
to finally begin 

to look as stricken 
as the rest of us.


Friday, October 28, 2022

SHARP RELIEF

Walking past, it is 
oddly 
consoling to see 

how the scant flowers 
still clinging 

have begun to look 
ridiculous:

raffishly waving 
on increasingly crisp 
persuasive breezes

and offsetting now,
from their frail 
and threadbare bushes, 

the garish Halloween decor 
which besots these 
nonplussed neighborhoods. 

How I wish 
all those other things 
I always fail to notice—

the moments 
when I'm standing 
right where I'm supposed to be, 

or feeling (mostly) 
contented 

with the small things 
I'm afforded—

could spring 
from the dregs of my 
mind like this

and make themselves 
conspicuous. 






Thursday, October 27, 2022

THE INCUMBENT

Something very much like 
treasury mounds—
fortunes of wood chips 
and gold leaves and cinders 

over which 
a last few worker bees 
and rodent sentinels scurry—

are piled up high 
beneath this throne 
of the last remaining 
queenly robin: 

a bony
upturned hand of oak—

her sticky bare head, 
which once humbled her 
in spring, 

now her majestic 
autumn crown;

the trilling intermezzos 
of westerly wind, 

which once served 
as scourge of her 
balance in this place,

now flow about her 
in decorous folds: a royal 
byzantine cloak.




Wednesday, October 26, 2022

LATE OCTOBER SUNSET POEM

Think of it: 
"redness" isn't even 
a thing that exists.

And yet—there it is 
(or has 
got to be, anyway),

darkening your mind
with its 
quiescent images:

this defensible suicide 
every evening 
around six; 

this florid vermilion 
of courage—
not panic—

as half the planet 
placidly 
turns its back 

on the face 
of that slowly 
asphyxiating man.



Tuesday, October 25, 2022

GUESSWORK

When it's time 
to pry open 
the fissure between 

the fierce buttress 
known as 
how it works 

and that redoubtable mainstay 
why it is

the trick 
is to use only the unconscious 
tips 

of those devious fingers 
your mind must employ  

to cover the eyes  
while it tickles 
your soul; 

anything less 
than bewilderment

is useless—it is 
far more enriching 

to suspect 
than to know.


Monday, October 24, 2022

EN GARDE

One must learn to be cautious 
in knowing 
what one knows 

never to swing it around 
too judiciously, 

for the known 
forms such a smooth-worn, 
hospitable hilt

that the deadliness 
and weight 

of all 
to which it's 
invisibly attached 

are about as salient 
to the hapless wielder 

as the mythic holy spear was 
to a naive boy 
like Parsifal. 

One likes to think 
one can cup the situation 
in one's hands—

or grasp
the thing in itself 
on demand, 

but the truth is that 
none of us can ever reach 
to touch the tip 

or finger the edge 
of the blade unscathed; 

all we can do 
to the facts of the matter is 

grab for their 
ready-made 
handles.




Friday, October 21, 2022

ASKING TOO MUCH

Those very rare 
moons, which ought to be 
waning 

but instead 
go on, wraithlike, unmercifully 
hanging, 

all distorted 
with the somnolent haze 
of pollution 

til you'd swear 
they were fuller, and much
nearer by than usual—

only prove to me now, 
as I pull the shade down on this 
last apartment window, 

how I've never loved those 
whom I've lost 
half as well 

as I do on the nights 
when I know they're not
close.



Thursday, October 20, 2022

A POSTERIORI

Only after 
it's finally over 

does a life come 
to rest at its 
plainest equilibrium—

like a seesaw in the park 
in the stillness 
of night, 

long after it's abandoned 
by its heedless 
young riders. 

In the midst 
of all that 
contrary motion 

and jockeying 
for position, 

it would have been 
too difficult, too confounding  
to admit: 

one will soon be
much closer, more dependent 
in his mission

on those forces 
which oppose him 

than he's able 
to predict.


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

ARCHETYPE

With the chance 
of precipitation finally 
in decline, 

only the occasional 
cumulus cloud lingers—

like a doubt 
in the mind of an 
innocent child—

in the purest blue 
sky of unblemished afternoon.

To think: a mere 
smattering 
of miles away 

from fires and riots 
and torrents of rain, 

every right angle 
in this stainless city 

is kissed 
with the promise of light 
til it gleams; 

even the streams 
of oncoming faces 

seem so refreshed 
as to have only just 
appeared—

yet, the look 
in their eyes is so 
perplexingly familiar, 

I must have seen it before 
in my dreams.




Tuesday, October 18, 2022

AMOK

Of course, 
all of life's little 
hideous particulars 

stubbornly refuse 
to refine—

just like legions of cells 
in the womb 
don't distill themselves;

instead they 
break loose, run amok,
and divide.

But what's still kind 
of nice is: those hard, 
stubborn clots 

(in which everything 
that happens to you 
soon becomes fused 

to your biased 
and fearful and 
vague recollections)

eventually combine 
into something like a spine—

which then winds 
its way thickly through 
all that is you 

to support,
and to nourish, 

and, ultimately, 
to design—

refashioning 
into the highest 
kind of art 

all of the shit which 
fashioned it first.


Monday, October 17, 2022

EVENTUALLY

Technically, there's room 
and time enough 
in this universe

for any foolish thing 
you could do 

to begin 
to ring true 
eventually. 

For instance, 
instead of calculating 
and folding 

the vast edges 
of longing 

in on one another 
to create wings 
for all the captured, 

you might instead 
confine yourself 

to the wearisome limits 
of the infinity 
which exists 

by sheer definition 
between 0 and 1.

True, you'll never be 
remembered for your toil, 

but its toll might resound
like a pledge 
to the forgotten

that it's meaningless 
to place limits 

or choose 
between distinctions 

when the unbounded truth 
which infuses 
all of time is:

we are always both 
spending 

and earning
our lives.


Friday, October 14, 2022

STOPGAP

It's a pretty 
tough task: getting rid 
of old memories.

After years, you 
might manage fitting some 
into boxes 

and folding closed the lids—
or turning the keys 
which lock them in—

or closing your eyes and 
spinning the knobs which 
scramble up their combinations; 

but the sensation you get 
is so confoundingly 
mixed—

like sitting in the silence
between Act I
from the next, 

or the sensation 
of dreaming about 
what you'll eat for dinner 

when you haven't yet 
swallowed the last 
bit of your lunch—

that you cannot ever bring yourself 
to truly 
get rid of them.

The best you can do 
is place them 
on the highest shelf in the closet 

with some other old stuff 
which is broken, soiled, 
or all used up, 

but which somehow, you still 
sense is too precious 
to ditch. 



Thursday, October 13, 2022

WHERE I'M FROM

I'm sure it's 
pure kneejerk 
Commutative Property, 

but the way 
I can stand in the raw 
Midwest wind 

and feel I'm 
so tall and yet 
trifling for my size 

as I'm fractionally 
divided by spangles of light 
and shadow on the underside 

of something 
which seems to
so willingly die 

every Autumn 
in order to outlive me 
in the longrun 

makes me realize: 
they're a bit blander, perhaps 
than the ornate gold crosses 

which have hung 
about the chests of good 
Christians for centuries,

but it's no wonder,
where I'm from, our saviors 
are the poplars. 



Wednesday, October 12, 2022

QUANTUM LEAP

At the end 
of the day, 

when appearance 
and reality lose 
their distinctions—

when concealment 
and distraction are
priority one

and there's nothing 
but news scrolling 
across our TVs—

we may be too numb 
to pay attention 

to the scientists' 
breathless declaration 
from the podium 

that they've finally 
utilized the latest technology 

to chop up 
that tiny 
inscrutable thing 

(the thing that comprises 
the bulk weight 
of all of us)

and discovered, 
definitively, 
once and for all 

that it really 
is made 

out of:
much smaller pieces.



Tuesday, October 11, 2022

ENJOY THE RAIN

So often, your own motives 
feel vague 
and in doubt,

but in the gray 
haze of rain, there are just
so many mirrors—

flickering 
puddles, glazed shop 
and car windows, 

and the diffident looks 
of strangers streaming past 
with glass eyes—

that each step away 
from dry home 
that you take 

might finally reflect 
something true, 
undeniable, 

which you, if only for 
these few examined moments
can epitomize.


Monday, October 10, 2022

DISINTEGRATION KIT

Unceremonious, but just 
as efficient

as bile—
that's the way 
we like to work, 

no matter 
how unconsciously, 

at distilling 
and dissolving all our
large, hard problems

down into burdens
our stomachs 
can handle. 

It's like—we know 
it's not pretty now, but 
after a while, 

we'll only have 
to worry about 

begging decomposed, 
broken-down 
parts of one another 

for what used to be 
forgiveness 

but now 
has crumbled 
into pardon.


Friday, October 7, 2022

INCOMPLETENESS THEOREM

We know that 
relationships 
have always been a gamble, 

and a gambler 
is nothing 

if not 
more than a little 
unstable. But still, 

we think 
we can play smart 
and win 

the full kit of another's 
invisible bits 

arrayed like loose chips 
on a blackjack table.

It's like we're only hearing
one half 
of a conversation—

not between 
who's left 
and who's leaving, 

but between a ghost 
and its hollow machine,

between the disappointingly 
gritty concreteness 
of matter 

and the abstract 
song of its animating 
energy.


Thursday, October 6, 2022

IDYLL

They say Love 
conquers all,  

but they've got it 
slightly wrong—

for although it may 
prevail in the end, 

it's too blithe  
to override 

and far too irresolute
to vanquish. 

It would seem 
to prefer 

not to do that 
nasty work;

for it's much 
more romantic 

too look nice
and take credit—

like the lusty 
white moon 

which derives 
its cachet

from a sun 
which burns 

tirelessly bright
just to light it.


Wednesday, October 5, 2022

PALLIATIVE

From now on, 
in order to help minimize 
your confusion,

every day 
shall cancel out 
the one that came before.

This way, 
the middle-grade 
place where you are 

shall always be 
the same as the place 
where you came from—

and yet,
marvelously 
new to you—

and yet,
dripping wet
with significance. 

True: with such 
a barrage of new 
beginnings to upend you, 

you'll never uncover 
the source of your 
discomforts;

but henceforth, 
you'll find yourself 
compelled to agree 

that bewilderment 
at your pain 
is a small price to pay 

for the chance 
to forget: you both inflicted 
and deserve it.


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

FOR OTHERS

Last little 
threadbare mauve 
zinnia of the bunch:

it's enough 
to give me courage 

watching you flaunt 
the first frost 

with that kind 
of pluck—but also 

more than enough 
to get me thinking: 

wouldn't it just 
be amazing 

if there wasn't so much 
stiff competition 
out here among us? 

That way, 
the last man standing 

wouldn't be 
haughtily declared 
the winner, 

but instead 
viewed devoutly as 
totem of grief

who must 
hold this poignant vigil 

over all his lost 
brothers.



Monday, October 3, 2022

POWERLESS

Imagine: despite all 
the bright self-
assurance he gave,

even Superman 
couldn't stop the sun
from going down.

Where does that old fire 
go? he must 
have wondered; 

why won't she 
stay with us? Why won't 
she wave?

Imagine, though, 
the bravery 
inherent in such impotence:

what good 
are all the flints 

and the wicks 
and the matchsticks 
in the world

when there's no longer 
any day left 
to save?


Friday, September 30, 2022

ALL THE TIME

Everything 
about each moment 

you could even 
notice:

tough to list without 
forever—

isn't that 
enough? 




Thursday, September 29, 2022

DESPERATE MEASURES

Felt like, for 
a while there, every day, 
we could rely 

on such cheap 
and plentiful 
wooden reminders: 

one plus one 
is equal to two; 

fair and fowl 
always cancel 
each other. But 

when the desperate 
times hit, the first 
orders we got were 

to ratchet-up 
the abstract, 

restrict access 
to the rational.

Overnight, belts 
grew tighter, skins 
thinner, blood redder; 

while, outside 
in the cold, all the poor 
devils' kids 

had only dry sticks 
to learn basic 
addition with. 

And to make 
matters worse: 
stick-plus-stick 

wasn't always 
two sticks; 

for one or two 
minds, starved and 
crammed into a corner,

stick-plus-stick 
equalled fire. 



Wednesday, September 28, 2022

GOAL SETTING

How can you ever hope 
to get clear 
on what you want

when even the birds 
in the yard
outside your window 

don't seem to know 
what they're after? 
Though their songs 

sound sincere, 
they're naive 
enough to ask for 

more and more worms 
on the lawn 
from a rainstorm 

under neverending 
skies full of bright 
sunny weather.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND MY CONTROL

After some years 
disavowing my failures,

I have come to believe 
there is beauty 
in futility— 

mostly because 
it makes the rough going 
easier. 

If I fail to describe 
the formal 
pleasure of a flower, 

or the zest 
of arcing birds, 

or the secret 
things I've heard 
the treetops whispering

as the feeble end of summer 
fell asleep 
on autumn's shoulder, 

is truth 
not reaped from the lack 
of result?

If I should take on 
the responsibilities of god

and find each moment 
swamped with all 
the labors I most hate,

have I not found 
my own heaven 
in passivity?

At last, won't I 
love the patchy 
worlds I create?


Monday, September 26, 2022

FIRST SHIVER

All across most 
of the northern hemisphere, 

dead leaves 
start to fall near the end 
of September, 

exerting, as they land 
on the cooling 
earth around here, 

a certain quiet, 
even pressure, 

a distinct but insinuated 
coercion 
of that solitude—

of that placid desolation 
and patient 
loneliness ahead—

that no man or woman 
who walks out 
amid the scene 

can realize—
or realistically 

could ever hope 
to bear to—  

how exquisitely 
but tenuously 

all the rest 
just felt it too. 


Friday, September 23, 2022

THE SLIGHTNESS

For most of your life, 
you think you're hip 
to what you're listening to—

then, one day, 
it isn't 
the music, 

but the silence 
that falls at the end 
of it all 

which inflicts on you
the goosebumps of something 
to confront: 

that absence 
which feels so 
audaciously exposed 

but which has, 
in fact, been adroitly 
composed by 

the full blast 
of all that has 
not come to pass—

by the slightness
of every last 
moment in your life 

when you didn't know 
what you could do 
or say next

playing back at 
full volume,
all at once.



Thursday, September 22, 2022

AVAILABILITY BIAS

Ever notice—
the implications 
of certain things persist,

while the purport 
of others is considerably 
diminished?

With each new 
dead-ringer for Earth 
they discover, 

public interest 
in "the scientific" 

grows less 
and less certain; 

or you can't forget 
the favorite actor 

of the juvenile bastard  
who last 
broke your heart,

but you couldn't name 
the eye color 

of the woman who 
named you and 
fed you for years.

But of course, this is 
just the only way 

for significance 
to persist, and yet still 
remain endurable:

if you do not 
support it, it just 
disappears.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

LOOSE ENDS

Look around 
the park grounds 
near the end 
of any September—

the pale leaves 
all look similar 

and utterly 
replaceable 

once they've fallen 
from their 
homes in the limbs;

they cannot wonder 
how they got here, 
and there is no answer 
to the question "what for?"

But what about you—
the pale, foolish person

who's still holding on 
to the arms 
that once sustained him—

do you still think 
you'll use your hunger 
before your 
hunger uses you?

Is that separation 
looming, after which 
you won't 
exist? And if so, 

aren't there probably 
one or two 

things around here which 
you still need 
to do? 


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

UNPROVEN

Somewhere 
on Earth, in a garden 
near a path, 

the freckles 
which spangle the inside- 
petals of a lily 

might correspond 
exactly 

to the positions 
of stars in a 
distant galaxy 

observed  
before dawn
on the half-frozen ocean 

by a desperate crew
of Atlantic explorers 

as a celestial highway 
guiding them home.

Even more 
impressively, though

no one now living 
will ever make 
the discovery,

and this hallowed, 
symmetrical code 
of the universe 

will shrivel 
and die 

when the first 
cold wind blows.



Monday, September 19, 2022

SECRETS

In the soup-
thick fog 
of early morning, 

the "next right thing"
might collide
with opportunity;

a cool, wet crow 
might swoop down
from a lamppost 

to make a poem 
of the worms 
she extracts 

without care
from the sopping 
ground below;

motions might 
well be the cause 
of themselves

and consequence 
might be their 
only purpose. 

In a world 
where reality 
looks so uncouth, 

signification 
might be ripe 
for the taking,

and there's 
nothing wrong 
with stealing it all

when nothing 
outside of ourselves 
belongs.



Friday, September 16, 2022

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT TO KEATS,

sometimes this 
is how it goes: 

although 
you do not need 
to know, 

you look again 
at the clock 
on the wall 

to confirm 
that it wears the same face 
of disfigurement 

and genuine 
torment it wore 
just before; or, 

perhaps because 
you can't resist 

you triple-
check the distance 

between 
derelict here and 
unrealized there 

and find 
that its path appears 
just as perilous, 

uncivilized, 
and austere as both 
places put together.

And that's 
when it hits you 
right between the eyes 

that the truth 
of each moment 

is so savage 
and entire 

that even if it 
throttles you 
to near-exhilaration, 

you could never 
mistake it for beautiful—

not even by the poetry-
in-motion 
of a long shot.




Thursday, September 15, 2022

NEW PHASE

A touch blander, perhaps, 
than the Christians' slender 
gilded crosses, 

but I tend to feel best 
that mix of agony 
and grandeur 

when I'm biting my lip 
and passing beneath 

the yellowing branches 
of a primeval tulip poplar

in the barely-there 
newness 
of midwestern autumn—

feeling so small, 
and yet heavy 
for my size, 

and always so 
piecemeal-divided by 

the fractal shadows cast 
across my body
on the underside 

of this tall, 
stoic being that's so 
willing to die—

at least 
for a little while—

in order to outlive 
and outgrow 
us all.




Wednesday, September 14, 2022

PARABLE

I often stay up late,
and I always 
keep a light on—like some 

pushover dad 
for his prodigal son—

waiting in distress 
for the fleeting return 

of my wanton, 
self-willed 
satisfaction. 

And the second I catch it 
staggering back:
I'm out there 

over-zealously slitting 
the fat throats 
of calves 

and chainsawing possessions 
and bank accounts in half. 

But no matter how 
gently I bleat 
my appeasements, 

or tickle 
its feet, 

or sprinkle gold leaf 
on every offered appetizer, 

the last thing I see 
at the end 
of the night

is the apathetic light 
from the small, 
glowing cherry 

of the Cuban cigar 
it was happy 
to lift from me 

fading, like the plot 
of a dream, as it 
leaves.



Tuesday, September 13, 2022

THE DIZZINESS OF FREEDOM

Happiness is 
not what our 
ancestors thought 

the moment 
they first slithered 
up from the dross; 

the abandon, and 
the leeway 
and facility they sought 

could not be 
bought with grit, but demanded 
certainty as the cost. 

Soon, we were free
to the extent 
that we were lost: 

leaping—
without even 
the savior faire to look 

as we stuck 
each slimy landing—
from rock, 

to rock, to rock. 
To this day, with each random
pivot we manage 

our fish brains still tingle 
and reel with 
the delight 

of having skirted certain 
death and damage—but never 
the same way twice.









Monday, September 12, 2022

FIRST THOUGHT, BEST THOUGHT

Basically without fail,
every single morning, 

through thick gunmetal 
clouds of your own 
unknowing

which billow 
like mad past the mountains 
of your shoulders, 

that first white-electric hot 
forked tongue 
of insight

leaps forth
to flash its arcane,
pliant pith 

and sets something 
thundering 
deep in your body; 

and then: every rogue 
wind blast 

and each zigzagging 
torrent of rain blades 
that follows 

are just 
the patterned mess

of words 
that precipitate 

as you bend 
toward a notebook 

and attempt
to express it.



Friday, September 9, 2022

THE ARRANGEMENT

In this particular 
paraphrase 
of the narrative, 

just about 
all of the time 
there are days—grave, 

or engrossing, 
or just 
frivolous days—

when no circuits 
are tripped 
by that surge of imperatives, 

and I 
have absolutely 
nothing to say.

Whenever this 
happens, I just sit
for a moment 

and sift through stray 
words I find caught 
beneath my eyelids—

and arrange them 
into reiterative 
shapes 

too simple, 
too insistent, and too 
true for explanation. 

And whether or not 
the arrangement
is great, I'll share 

what I've made in the dark 
with you anyway—
because just that kind 

of blind exchange,
to me, at least,
 is poetry.



Thursday, September 8, 2022

COMEDOWN

We were told 
going into this 
that Eden sank to grief,

that going to seed 
is inevitable, since 

evergreen is 
rare as gold—

but still
we like to think 
our ideas will last,

that this human fruition 
will pass 
through maturation  

without its succumbing 
to rot, heaviness, 
and stink

when even the genius 
of dawn 
is arrested

every single morning, 
in thirty minutes 
or less; 

and the charge 
isn't arrogance, 

or even 
significance—

but merely an existence 
sailing past its 
expiration.







Wednesday, September 7, 2022

TABLEAU

When I write, it's like 
I can sense 
without seeing 

my shadow 
in here with me—

not helping, but simply 
idly sipping coffee 

in a spare Ikea 
kitchen chair and 
staring our the window

while I sit across 
the table and winnow, 
by curving lines of light, 

the weapons he uses 
to hold me accountable 

and thrust my ego 
flush against the wall. 

I know this because 
I can feel his presence—

but only as 
that warm dark absence 

that prods imaginations 
to attend to concealed things

and which makes, 
through his unreal-
yet-substantive scrim 

this illumination of my 
waking thoughts' 
strangest inversions possible.




Tuesday, September 6, 2022

AD WORDS

When I see a new billboard
broadly proclaim

its succoring 
claim: that Beauty 
is everywhere—

part of me can't help 
but think 
it's a shame 

to normalize exhilaration 
simply by naming it. 

Do we not plot to deny 
the uniqueness 

that lives 
(for dirt-cheap) 
inside of ubiquity 

with each sly 
caprice we command 
to creep out 

from beneath every 
creased-up corner 
of the obvious? 

Is it thoughtless 
or insidious 

to universalize 
the sublime? 
They might as well 

try next to advertise 
the sky.




Friday, September 2, 2022

PARITY

How strange it is
to realize
we're familiar

with the feeling we get
in the tips
of our fingers

just before it
starts to rain.

How comfortably blasĂ© 
as we peer 
from a window

to watch as a few more
ominous clouds 
approach; 

how normal it is 
for our prim little corner 

of the world 
to go intermittently dark 
and askew;

and how amenable 
we can be 

to disliking 
what we're seeing 

when we deem it coherent
with our poor, 
tortured bodies: 

these consistently abused 
but tenacious lands
within us

which periodically 
get soaked, and then 
dried off a little, 

but will never be offered
the chance 
to start new.
 


Thursday, September 1, 2022

PROXY POEM

The poem I just deleted 
before I cobbled this one

was constructed 
like the elegant folds 
of a rose—

complex in all its frailties, 
perfumed with allusions, 

and yet, unmistakably 
simple and direct 

as its scent 
on the wind 
to get.

But now that its rash 
demolition is finished, 

you'll have to agree
that what's left
is much better, 

since, even though 
the substandard 
words here presented

express no sterling 
answers to your 
metaphysical questions, 

the sheer availability 
of extraneous information 

somehow short-circuits 
the demand
for counterfactuals 

and makes our 
sad lots 
feel superior. 


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

LAST DAY OF AUGUST

Like the first time 
it weightlessly 
tugs on your mind 

that perhaps you've been 
hunched at one 
task for too long, 

the last day 
of August comes 
nosing around

to quicken the pulse 
of this shaggy, 
wistful midlife. 

Like a gentle, loving prod 
from a cool, 
wet muzzle 

it provokes 
a quick shiver—that first 
twinge of September, 

and a portent, 
without any basis 
in memory, 

that Death, 
in her glory, is certain 
to return here—

not as the heiress 
of this mild, 
mangy beauty,

but rather, once again, 
its hospitable 
mother.



Tuesday, August 30, 2022

GOLDBRICK

That blindspot 
on your retina; 

those pimples 
you deplore;

that stiffness in your hip 
which you stoically 
ignore—it's like: 

long ago, 
all at once, 

and for a 
limited time only, 

your life 
was a sweepstakes—a grand prize 
you were awarded.

After all the glamour 
and the wonderment 
of which, 

you realized,
to your horror, you'd be
totally stuck 

toiling, day 
after day after 
day, 

just for the means
to afford it.



Monday, August 29, 2022

BEST SELLER

By now, even if 
all you recorded 

was the tally 
of times 
you woke up in the morning 

and managed 
to heave your full
weight to the floor

without any 
insubordination—

or really
even questioning it—

you'd already 
have written 
a towering epic 

more impressive in scope 
and fidelity 
than Homer's, 

more fantastic
and lofty and bizarre
than Cervantes', 

and certainly 
several dozen, 

if not hundreds 
of pages longer 

than the number of days 
even Jesus
could afford.


Friday, August 26, 2022

BENEDICTION

Our days are infused 
with so much 
that's righteous

it'd ruin our ability 
to continue 
if we noticed. 

Doesn't matter 
who you've hurt

or how 
many times now—

morning birds will 
sing to you;

when you're driving 
through the night 
to escape from the truth, 

the impossible soup 
of atoms in the air 

will part 
to let you through 
and salute; 

and just when you think 
you are finally living 

on the last line 
of a prayer 
at the tail-end of time, 

tomorrow arrives 
without help, 
on a dime—

and there's nothing 
you can do.



Thursday, August 25, 2022

RANDOM RULES

What if, 
in the beginning,
that first word 

which spoke itself
was deaf?

And the face 
that moved out across 
the surface of the ocean

was blind 
as a stone 

and couldn't feel 
the motion? 

After all, the trick 
with pure light 
is that it cannot 

be highlighted; 
it can ignite
or illuminate, 

but can never itself 
be lit. 

What if you live
in a universe 
like that—

where a thought 
(even the first
best thought 

which ever existed) 
could never 
be caught

and would have 
no idea, even if 

it could be, what 
it was 
on about?


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

EXIGENCY

Eventually, 
it must be alright 

to stop 
the irritable reaching, and just 
enjoy the night; 

to soak a while in Epsom 
and put balm 
on all your blisters, 

then tan 
for far too long
in front of the television. 

A few scented candles 
might 
be appropriate, 

and a little soft music 
to drown out the sound 

of all the innovations 
you dimly know 
you should be making, 

even as you feel 
the internal untying 

of thousands 
of taught, soaking strands 
of gray rope.

You think: 
who am I to reach 

for more 
than I can hold? 
God knows—

even Bach, 
despite all his 
brilliant leaping, 

sooner or later 
would always 
fall back

on the same old
dozen notes.