Friday, January 21, 2022

THE EXCEPTIONAL PERSON

Isn't it strange
how there are so many
things in life that hurt

but are commonplace enough 
to go right on 
living with? 

Perhaps, in the end, 
all the people 
and words

which are impossible to forget 
are really a curse;

perhaps the best moments 
are the ones you 
can't recall:

the ones which gave nothing
and asked the same in return;

perhaps it's a mercy 
to remain distant,
unconcerned;

perhaps if you had 
cared more, you would have 
fared worse.

Perhaps 
"Anything is possible" 
is the province of astrologists—

a refrain 
sung by dodgers
and foolhardy mystics.

If anything, 
in the end, 
the exceptional person

is the one who would posit
the inverse:

"this is nowhere near 
where I dreamed I'd be—
but it works."



Thursday, January 20, 2022

OVER THIS WINTER

Amazingly, somehow
a whole flock 
of comets—

or the ice and dust rings 
of some massive 
exoplanets—

have crash-landed 
recently
on the streets of Chicago.

Now, it seems 
everywhere I go, 

odd bits of gravel,
salt cinders, snow

have blotted every curb, 
sidewalk, underpass,
and gutter, 

hindering breathing 
and impeding travel.

Who could have guessed?
All this beyond-ancient
jetsam of space—

all of its ghostly, 
beguiling debris

(which I used to only
see on TV 

or splashed around 
in glossy
school textbook photographs),

when it's piled up
in front of me, doesn't seem 
so special.



Wednesday, January 19, 2022

ZENITH

That first day 
when I'm quiet, 

but the sound of the world 
still hums—

when my pen lies still 
and this page 
remains empty, 

but the truth 
is completed,
and the inquest is done—

let it be because 
there is nothing left to seek;

no loose earth 
and quick-
drying cement 

to plug and cover 
the holes, bore-in deep 
by the forceps of grief;
 
no gauze 
to wrap over these 
implausible scars; 

and no one 
who needs to see 
for themselves to believe 

the face I am wearing 
that day 
will show up there,

for they,
on their own, will have 
finally realized

for once, how 
contented—how at peace 
I truly was. 


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

ABLUTIONS

The very first time 
we were lugged inside 
the sacristy, 

swaddled and screaming, 
then paraded 
through the nave—

it was then we should've realized
that something 
wasn't right: 

how our truth 
was a sin, 

and our sin 
was the truth;

that our bodies, 
which were heretofore 
made of perfect ratios 

of fat and heat
and light 

now felt constricted 
inadequate, and tight—

while cold chrism, 
drizzled listless
in those echoey rooms,

and the grave-like indifference  
of their cold marble pools,

and the cruel, fearful symmetry 
of responsorial tunes
repeating—

these ordeals ballooned
to a wretched eternity,

just the way 
hell might.


Monday, January 17, 2022

THE STRANGERS

No longer contented
to be 
the rain falling 

steady on the plain—
same gray color 
as the background, 

each blade indistinguishable, 
as they're all 
shaped the same—

we decided to make our 
selves more complex 
and elaborate; 

so we got our 
core temperatures 
quite a bit colder,

whipped our loose 
molecules into 
scrupulous crystals,  

and built brilliant white 
latticeworks 
around humble specks of dirt.

Now, as we fall 
through the air, 
it is clear: 

that none of us 
is exactly the same 
as any other—

just like 
every other 
snowflake that's out here.


Friday, January 14, 2022

EXPLANATION

Have you ever noticed 
how electrons 
don't get dirty 

no matter how hard 
or fast they go 
careening around—

how photons almost never 
have plans 
for the future—

how bosons don't have 
bad memories, and quarks 
don't get scars? 

Nevertheless,
here we sit anyhow,
under the same old stars, 

unwilling 
to make sense of
what can't be accounted for,

without ever realizing 
what poverty
that brings.

It's as if, all our lives, 
we have looked 
without seeing 

that each part
individually 
was perfectly sufficient—

but, left to its 
own devices, never
meant anything.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

THE MISSION

Some day, I must be
braver than this

and establish my own religion—
one in which I
permit things

which amaze me
to exist.

And perhaps, while I'm at it,
I'll allow what's amusing
to matter a little bit.

And who knows?
After careful consideration,

maybe I'll even be
hard-pressed to admit

that the reason
its passé Sunday services
should persist

is to give all our grandmothers
a halfway decent reason

to remember to videotape
the figure skating competition,

to lay out smart shoes
and to powder their noses,

and to keep their short
blue-ish white
hair coiled-up

in those perfectly
tight little
beautiful roses.




Wednesday, January 12, 2022

WORSE THAN USELESS

Perhaps our ignorance 
isn't just abstract;

if we really
looked close, perhaps
we'd see it rippling

in waves from the ends 
of our fingers
and eyelashes

outward to anyplace 
our bodies don't exist. 

But suppose 
the bright edges
which separate us from it 

are so sharp 
and so thin 

that the slightest 
careless twist
or overzealous maneuver 

could shred 
any stray opinion, 
narrative, or wish 

to ribbons 
so thin 

as to make it 
worse than useless 

to endeavor 
to stitch them back 
together again. 



Tuesday, January 11, 2022

COVENANT

From the sweetly obliviating 
embrace of our sleep—

from beneath 
the huge weight 
of our dream-engulfed bodies

and the pleasant completeness 
of our sense-
deprived weakness—

each morning,
we nevertheless manage 
to persist

in our rising up 
and striving toward 
uncatchable light

like the bright-eyed 
optimists 
of age-old heroic myth.

That, despite the perfection 
of dark's edgeless neglect,
 
we still willingly 
swim back to the surface 
and yearn, 

still volunteer freely 
to hunger 
and to thirst;

surely, this speaks to some
unshakable belief.

That day after day,
we still find 
that we wake 

and edge
toward the bathroom 

or the kitchen 
with a taste 

for the dully corporeal—
for anything 
at all, really:

this is our greatest profession
of faith. 



Monday, January 10, 2022

OUR PAST BECOMES OUR FUTURE

Little by little—
molecule by molecule—

our past 
becomes our future

like a shell 
which keeps accreting; 

like a bone 
that fills with marrow;

like a black speck of sand 
blown by destitute wind

which promotes 
fallow hill 

up to 
sovereign king mountain;

or the mollusk
that secretes a fluid

turning irritants 
to pearls, 

which—once glimpsed 
by the desperate 

men aboard the trawler—
cause every eyebrow

and possibility
to narrow. 
 

Friday, January 7, 2022

THE QUANDARY

Instead of the me
which is bent 
in half writing,
 
I could come back 
as the lily 
of the field 

whose full blossom 
signals the beginning 
of the end;

the bird of the air 
who, if her children are 
to eat,

must make a leap
and leave their nest
undefended;

or perhaps, the grimy rodent 
who scrounges your alley 
in search of a feast 

because his habitat 
has been upended by 
a luxury condo development.

That there would be 
no words 
to describe

my rudimentary  
grief and 
primordial anxieties

would then be 
the quandary 
of the poet on the street,

for it wouldn't impress me—
wouldn't bother me 
in the least.



Thursday, January 6, 2022

SURPLUS

Due to a 
profitless surplus 
of data, 

the fact of the matter 
is no longer
eternal,

and your belief
is an option 
just waiting to be chosen—

like a message
from a corner of 
an origami fortune teller: 

"Don't count on it,"
one says.

"It's your destiny,"
reads another.

But everyone's favorite is
"Ask again later!"

*

The full implication 
of your will 
to exist 

is bound-up in 
the significance
of whatever happens next:

God-as-momentum 
exerts power 
over time, 

and moves without friction 
across the face 
of the waters—

or else,
two single cells
consent to share a nucleus, 

multiply
from floor to ceiling,

then come 
to a consensus

about what to name
the thing 
they're feeling.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

TYRANT

Archaic 
as it is childish,

nebulous, yet 
painfully explicit—

the January wind 
starts its
bellowing again;

shellacking right angles 
onto ice-
embittered avenues,

lambasting me
(and the rest 
of Chicago)

right here 
in the street

for things I didn't do
last year—but 
meant to.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

POEM FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY

Once in a while, 
we may restart
from zero

counting all 
the days 
we have lived through;

we can return 
to those moments
our hearts still remember—

all the whispered warnings 
whose words we 
didn't hear—

as if dusting 
the artifacts 
in a natural history museum.

We reexamine ancient wasps,
now trapped in chunks 
of golden amber,

but we do not appraise 
or fear their 
sheathed stingers;

now we simply 
lift them up,
polish them with interest,

and place them 
respectfully
back in their containers.


Monday, January 3, 2022

GOAL SETTING

What would I want most 
if composure 
were a sport—

if detachment 
was somehow a thing 
you could own?

Perhaps just 
to sleep more—
like an old deserted road;

like a field 
long since fallow, 
now blanketed 

with snow—to abandon 
every cowardly
thing that I've done—

to be whole again; lonesome
for nothing
and for no one.