The Unending Work

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nose Down, Tail Up

Poised like an underweight boulder flexing
its undeveloped apex at the milk and honey below,
a turtle promises an avalanche, intends
an impending spread of consequences
heavier than a hundred butterflies flapping
their catalysts at the future. His shell is poised
to invest all the slow-motion promise of his start-up
in the dividends of his momentum:
ripples that swear to sever the reflection
from what it reflects and ravage those pebbles
content to populate a pond’s unprotected coastline.
Soon, says this still frame to the next, soon
we will be a picture made of motion.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Late This Morning

The clouds abandoned their high ground for a hilltop,
stooping to peer down until their shoulders poured out.
Their thousand faces fell like falling was freedom.  
A troop of infant thunderheads toddled from the front,  
Left their lightning leaning against the posts they deserted,  
Left their license to kill picnics and bride’s big days
In yesterday’s poorly forecasted pants, and wore
fog-face to play hooky with our troubled solids.   
A plumage of wet tongues toured the neighborhood angles
hoping to scour their softness off, scrape away
their skinlessness, rub an actual elbow, test
the limits of the privilege of formlessness
on our abundant corners. To a sheltered cloud
our rooftops might seem a field of caltrops worth
stomping on, to see if their feet can feel, if a wisp
could ever know a thorn’s love, if the mists could learn
separation that cuts like loss, not just drifting apart.
These empty giants have no heels to leave undipped
in the river of invincibility, and
maybe they long to confess a secret weakness
they’ll never have. So these clouds have come down to squander
a strength older than inheritance itself for
a few gropes of grass and tailpipes and plastic flags,
they forsake the divine right of physics that floats
their wandering lifestyle for a chance to touch
dirt and die the death of a dewdrop. 
These clouds must despise the immunity earned
by grandfather sky, the wisdom of separate beds  
learned by falling hard for the first mountain he saw.
Her motherhood is a debt they cannot forget
as easily as their shapes or gratitude.  Again
one cloud strains his head through the pin oak,
in hopes the grasp of green exceeds the leaves’
rules of engagement, that they’ve grown sharp enough
to punish the wind for cutting in, but the cloud
only feels another fearless unclasping of hands,
another joyless reunion on another other side.
Escape is still not enough.  They needed to prove they’re not
proud, defrock the stratosphere, bare the sky’s limits.
So this morning they blotted out that bloodless
blue, they tossed their first-class tickets for the jet stream,
diverted the burning baggage of sunlight into
each other, puffed-up prisms that they are, and spread
that wealth of white like Jack Frost burst a vein,
blurred the sky back to the color of canvas, and
then forgot which philosophy they were teaching.
When the chance of rain came to collect, they danced
like girls unable to imagine the cost of lust,
they held bits of world just long enough to wet them
and let them go, like boys who never lost a toy
in an ocean or a forest, they can’t imagine
how susceptible they are to all that endlessness,
and then the show was over. The clouds were driven
back to their mansions, and the story of their morning

wasn’t even worth telling to each other, up there.

Hypnagogic Gallop

My hands are full of fire,
My feet are stumps of blood.
I have been climbing this mountain
Since Noah rode the flood.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Heels Off

That naked heart of hers is sharp.
She's showing it to her sisterhood,
one at a time, private showings,
like a gun, a drug or a story.
The boys round the corner and she
sheathes it in her eyes. Stillness
is her signal they should keep loping,
a cold snap held like an arrow
on the string, or she simply has
neither guile nor energy for playing
some inbetween scene and that's
his fault that walks on uncued.

Her hello is a polished hollow,
like a barrel, burnt powder
from the last overblown perfunctory
greeting scrubbed with a sexy
she's scraped clean of hooks,
one thin needle of hug and leg
and pressure blowing through and
then she's through it, too, moment over,
mission accomplished, happily
a woman in a room, a proper
object of desire, seen and heard
and that is all. Soon she will
sew in her closing, the same
short sweetness at her parting.

At night I imagine her anger tames
her, rides her around her bedroom
like a show-horse while she bucks
under the covers. In the morning,
she can't remember her dreams or
why she feels better only after
waking up. That's the first thing
to hurt her, and her day begins.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No Scythe Required

That grandstanding hand,
each fingertip a beacon,
his palm gripping every eye,

that unopposable thumb
granting boon or doom,

his empire is the man
he makes each man into;

oh, beneficent sanctuary
of purpose, oh safety
of the gargantuan body

of the work his arm
raises all our arms to,

bless us this day of days,
so named for it is the same

day's worth of necessity,
the same span of tasks
his hand grants our every

hour of our burning,
so much like the light
he shows us, but hidden

in us, in fear of losing
the fuel used to earn
our right to buy more fuel;

oh, time, you are the father
who's hand never leaves us,

even after we must let go,
you drag us ever deeper
into our empty future.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One Up, One Down

The new year is like a baby
being beaten into shape.

The sun burns in her heavy
height, as blind as any light,
nuclear bubbles burst like
laughter at the gratitude
she earns from an earth
that rounds her table, not
too hot, not too cold, but
just right. The black

between dreams his length
is time itself. Sat center
in his rings, like a king
whose throne is for his court,
Saturn sells himself again
as the original purveyor of
duration, while his daughters,
the only lovers he made
for himself, know him only
as the progenitor of endings.
He has a poet who pretends
a pretty logic proves
the sire of the final must
be the father of the start,

but that is a song sung
in a cycle, not a circle
fit by the compass of the
real. Somewhere another
word crowns itself.
The calendar buys a new
dress. The cups fill up.
The books open to page one.

The old year dies like a man
who everyone wants to forget.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

repeatably unbeatable

someone says
the heartless speaks little,
although i'm sure
the heartless speaks too much.

someone argues then
that by my definition silence
must be full of heart,
which is ridiculous, since
as they say, we all know
emptiness is empty.

although I'm sure
i should have said something

in answer, so the sword would say,
i didn't. i know the blank

is burgeoning with all the
beginnings that the pinprick
present is ready to let burst,
or as i often tell myself,
i should be sure that space
is as full of spirit as we
could wish, but here's why

i don't speak. correction
never yet helped an error.
better said, i know that
the heartless is loud,
but that the heart is as loud
as every mistake it makes.

that's not an argument,

it's the truth, and nobody
can talk truth without being
a tyrant. so the proud

mouths itself until it is
as quiet as the heart
it's shouting over.

the repeatably unbeatable
rises and falls
like a rhythm clobbering
time into a mind.

the speech completes,
satisfied that a self
has spoken from the
center of some unknown
but important something.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


The littlest pains are creeping,
a slow swell of blind weight piling,

crying brings no giant, earth
mother has shrunk to sibling size,
and her after-image, sky father, is
as thin as any infinity is.

The dirt asks the rain
to pelt it back together.
All that far-flung dust
that never dreamed of flying

wants to sleep, or die or do
whatever verb can still make peace.

The big pains are stalking
bigger fish in the big-boy pond,

frying with the skin and bones still
in, for the line of heathen homeless
begging for better than loaves,
more than wall-eyed, stinking protein,

the water asks for quiet.
She's been writing this song
a century, and she'd finally like
to hear it. She plans to fall

and cannot stand how she hits.
She does not end in the noise,

that is the rain's mediocre, everyday
pain. She never gets to the ground.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Time may merely be the instrument set
to play the tyranny of a tempo
engraved around the sole sphere ever let
roll from the roar of the first crescendo.
Perhaps fate is also a slave, and only
made to play our master, a uniquely lonely
puppet without even a parallel
to imagine one day touching, still,
time harbors no stillness for us, the galley's
oars must stroke without hurry or delay.
Time breaks no pace nor makes provision for
weary foot or head. No pause for the poor
hearted wanderer to tour the treasured
storehouse of doorways all inherit each
night by dint of dreaming, no moment for
the lost to go once more unto the beach
to beg a place in history's shrewd net;
never waiting for the unfortunate
to ford even the shallowest occurrence,
or explore the shores of lesser horrors;
no stoppage of the plodding of the plot.
Not even the full-blooded patriots
of the practical may woolgather before
the glory exchanges their headlong rush
for another present in prettier wrapping.
Never a rest, never a step unlocked,
the scores of the recklessly hopeful must
give their war-march the same and only drum
that every atom of existence hums to.
No nameless thing, no spirit, no one and no two
are spared their seat in the dark, hurtling core,
that blind, piercing line that must ride
the unbending track of the unending next.
We all ride the rocket which stops for no star,
each full hour of ceaseless thrust is ours
to sit or stand or rush through, the only trust
given is the debt each passenger must
pay for their perpetual endowment of now,
for the privilege of being billed.
Time honors no breadcrumb trail of science,
promises no sanctuary to sound
planning or the savage magic of music,
no, the only truth that holds time
is the same, constant, inescapable
speed he lets beat down on every being
that began after him. The counting set
by no chanting demiurge, no angels' chorus,
no dragon's wingflap, no mathematical
constant, that rhythm will never let loose
of the ears of men. Those hands that pull
toward the only forward we know, those hands
gripping the silver thread no mind nor
body can ever break or break stride from,
they are the same hands that hold time
to his one coursing of the universe.
Destiny is held a great success by this.
Every dictator is measured by the stricture
he makes on earth, as it is in his heaven.
Time takes us through the only image
there is, the sacred resurrection of
occurrence, the same glass-thin second
come again to shower their scattering
and their sharp upon on us until we are
the same as our gifts, always shattering.
The word can wish it otherwise,
but the word has yet to learn the secret
of being true. Time has leave to travel
undescribed, unenforced, unplanned, to unravel
its secret self in plain, ignorant sight.
The words make treaties with us, but have no might
to defend us against our marching orders.
Time gives us no country, only borders.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Regular Trip

Morning stumbles over the hedge, sudden
dump of yellow splattering the clean gray,
the yard's crisp uniform of cold cluttered
with lukewarm shards of a day already
dropped into the hopper. She steps down hard,
hoping not to wobble her one chance
to perform a perfect orbit. Except she catches
her toe on the greasy thorns of some man's
scalp. As he scratches out those loops and spikes,
teasing strands of self to their wakeful place,
she tumbles over his ticklish wisps, thumps
thick into the tree roots. Her abrupt slump
smears his yawn into a pool of buttery
sun, crushes the flutter while still in his
shell, spreads him out like chalk on a line.
The shock knocks the last requests of dying night
from the sanctuary granted by the black
cassock of a dreamer's pupils, forcing
the dark to march out from the close comfort
of a face in the shade to the far fence,
where one upright line holds the shadow
of his head as ransom for the riches
morning demanded for landing on his space.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Atop the mountain sat the place,
man-shaped and rare of atmosphere,

the vacuum held overhead
called my head to face it.

When it was my turn to sit,
mouth open so that wisdom

would fall out and run down
to the earth it was raised from,

I would say: the world is fair.
And that is what is wrong with it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Do or Not to Do

She knows you have to do things.
She doesn't like knowing,
so she says it when she can,
to make sure she doesn't forget
just because she doesn't like it.

Love isn't nearly enough, she says,
the world is only work.

A few years after she says so,
someone else demonstrates
that work is not enough, either.
Nothing is. She remembers she
used to say the world is what
we do to each other.

She says she wonders if she knew
what she meant, but she knows

now she knew better then, before
knowing better was something
she had to do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Making It

Faster, faster, says
the spinning. Beat
me around to myself.

Monday, March 22, 2010

If It's Not Sensational, It Isn't News

The American Dream is not dead.
Evidence: his most wanted
status is undisputed, and he
hasn't been caught in fifty years.
The most efficient and highest grossing
killer playing the field today,
he is still on the loose.
There's a reward for information
that leads to his capture,
but that's a one-time, flat rate,
there's no profit-sharing.
The Dream goes by aliases,
steals identities, and dresses
according to the fashion,
so be sure. False reports
are a tax on us all.
Plus, he's wanted alive, not dead,
so remember to shoot to wound.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Where's the Neighborhood?

Two empty birdhouses,
with no reality television crew
to spruce them up for sale.
Two empty birdhouses,
no sparrow can afford,
no finch can land a loan for.
The hummingbirds ignore
the dark decor, the crows
refuse to see the exterior
color from fifteen seasons past.
The bees say build your own.
The falcon watches to see
if a squirrel can help
remembering where the seeds
sat freely in the open.
Two empty birdhouses,
and all around them, life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Miracle Work

The rosebuds always increase,
like entropy.
They promise to open as other
things close.
It's like that saw about doors
and windows.
Whenever something shuts,
something else is forced
by someone to open.
Or from heaven's point of view,
what goes down must come up.