Saturday, November 30, 2013



“Try,” said the sun
to the autumn tree,
and draped harvest warmth
on its withering.

     And nothing was changed
     in the tree’s sinking.

“Try,” said a brown-backed      
bee in spring,                              
scrabbling to sip
from a threadbare bloom.

     And nothing was changed
     in the tree’s slow ruin.

“Try,” said the summertime
child who played,
climbing crooked limbs,
dreaming dappled shade.

     And nothing was changed
     and the child grew away.     

“Don’t try,” said a star
a thousand years burst.
“My afterlife’s gleam         
ignites the frost.” 

     And nothing was changed  
     by duration’s boast.

“Don’t try,” said a root
in the secret soil.
“When green, you split rock.  
Now lean with the gale.”

     And nothing was changed
     and the tree toppled whole.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Western Union

Western Union

At a certain level of stress
and constant beleagueredness                
only telegrams arrive from the self.
Just telegrams, which you have never
seen except in movies—not
letters, emails, texts or phone calls.       
It is the form need needs to take
when it is urgent and oracular,
dauntingly declared but not                         
easily or adequately answerable.
Brevity is constricted to a code
and delivery is by a series of discrete
stages, rapid and laborious
as disaster in the Golden Age: 
lips in a lamplit circle 
in an otherwise darkened room
speak haltingly into a mouthpiece,
down a wire to an ear
and fingers striking keys, again
in that aura of soft glow claimed from shadow,
and so on, down more wires, pulses of
meaning pass, changed but preserved,
until they become the slip of dire
handed to you at your own door         
by a uniform without a face.
Standing at the kitchen sink, you read
in your hands under soapy water
what flashed up from your hands in the hall.
Ten typed words ending in STOP.
STOP is what holds you, what you keep
coming back to. The rest
is a cipher whose solution is STOP.
But stop what? Stop this? Stop that?
Stop everything? Answers but not
the answer rise up as the water
turns tepid and the bubbles pop and flatten.
This message, you decide, means mainly
that another message will arrive. STOP,
you recall or contrive, with relief
or the start of dread, comes
in the middle, not at the end.
Soon, you hope. Wish. Fear. Wait,   
since you cannot pray. What
is the point of such a telegram?
you think, then say in an indignant mutter,
trying if confusion and dismay can
grope their way to a hard shoal
of bitterness, someplace to stand.
You know that you are informed
only of certain stark essentials
and by this that you are only a little
informed, and only from great distances.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Skin of Things

The Skin of Things

Why did they tell me
and I told myself
that what I needed
must be hidden
at the very bottom
of life,
a secret compartment
or treasure chest
only years of commitment    
—work, books, cheques,
tears, vows, dearth—
could hope to unearth?
All wrong. Like an angel
harping at a grave
when it could just up
and fly. Because it’s here
at the skin of things—
this skin, this this, this now—
the surface I’ve been
missing with my digging.
It’s more obvious
than air. (Too obvious
to see.) What air
might surround or be
surrounded by
everywhere. And I
breathe it without breathing.   

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Balloon Vow

Balloon Vow

Eat nothing today
until you are very, very hungry.

You are starving
from unnecessary meals.

Snacks of the superfluous
hang from you in folds.

And undelighting feasts
have puffed you beyond sailing.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bumble Bounce Rag

Bumble Bounce Rag

One bee’s
weight makes
the sprig
of goldenrod

dance: prance
in air
of life’s
scatting chances. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013



Being a student
everywhere impairs you
for a life
surrounded by graduates.
It declares you
to red pen stares        
as something                     
unfinished, perhaps
Unfit or a slacker,
you haven’t mastered     
beyond thinking             
even the rudiments:        
Person, Place, Thing.     
Your wide-eyed            
fidgeting invokes
something terrible:
perpetual First Day.
What at six             
annoys or charms      
—the ardent frowns,
endless cross-outs and 
sixty disconcerts          
or alarms. Alumni       
ask peevishly why        
you don’t just quit 
or hire a tutor      
but you know (having
learned this much) that
neither is the point
or could make it better.

Saturday, November 9, 2013



Balanced isn’t equal
when you’re past a certain plateful.

To work, add play.
To carbs and sugar, fiber.
Thumb-rule metrics scan
in primers for everyday,
but fall apart utterly
when real shit hits the fan.

With vigils and disasters
it’s the rush to reinstall normal
that’s most apt to topple
the precarious possible.

In sickrooms and typhoons
only a cartoon mariner           
locates a private Ararat           
from which to salute the wreckage.

You have to be swept away first.
Tacking back from ruin, you may be of use. 

You can’t let yourself
be sucked down, the well-meaning
explain. But their own un-sucked-down
serenity is obscene. 

Getting through
in one piece
is much, very much. Not      

Motion studies show
any walk a staggering fall.

A cup that’s brimful
avoid spill.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013



A hornet in
the car’s drastic
when you’re hurtling
through traffic. It
can’t exit for
the rush any
more than you
can. But pull

over to a
curb and it
finds the world
of signs it
longs for or
you just open
the door and
leave the vehicle.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Behind Nichols'

Behind Nichols’

So many things not going as they should
erodes could.  Vision becomes inelastic.
            Time miserly.

Behind Nichols’, Labour Day 1963, we pitched pennies
at the scarred stucco wall, tasting bright
            jujubes as they fell.