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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

That's Not Even Irony

Time is perfectly fair.
Even the physicists say so,
time has a place
in all their equations.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Two Takes on a Minor Occurence

Like a greasy-lipped child
leaning over the fair-ground rail,
profligate with quarters, the tree
drops leaves toward the glass,
one round mouthed, empty glass,
the only game in town.
Each leaf wends the unseen warp
and weft of the meters down
the yard of air to bounce
on brick or dive through
the hedge to wait for the earth
to collect it, until one plinks.
Except there's no prize for the sunlight
grubbing fingers that let it go,
no doll, no candy for the spring-green,
rich-green branch whose unnecessary
yellow was shed for his
one-way mission, no one
counts the score, one in the glass
from twenty feet up, no bonus points.
The woman whose water it was
doesn't even smile.
The leaf is just dirt that hasn't
crumbled yet. The chance of landing
in the mouth instead of out, she calls
inevitable, that's just what dirt does,
land in her cup.
The man drinking tea, as near as
she needs him to be today, he rejoices.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Still Life with Book about a Painter

First necessity, the table,
flat field of play for things,
those next necessities, things
for the picture to picture,
but first, the painter sets
the table, now as empty as the canvas
he's to make into a mirror.
He'll paint no realism, of course,
he builds his reflections
in the shiny side of his style,
he leaves the job of honesty
to factory-cut quicksilver,
his mission, should he receive
a commission to do so,
is to seek to show the sort of distortion
physicists have yet to measure
in refractions,
and this is practice, this table.
The painter sits reading and drinking
and thinking and breeding baby dreams
he'll only ever really feed one of,
he's getting read to prepare
to layer up a display
no light-fingered device ever
captured and abandoned
to their memory storage,
to their eclectic ghettos,
where now and now and yet another
pile up like the wings
the angels never get since
bells have all been synthesized.
Yes, he says to the table,
yes, you await your burdens
so faithfully, a phalanx of laterals,
lines alongside their brothers,
a table with four equal legs,
angles all right with the world
and a top as squared away
as a meal in an army mess,
you are a table ready to hold
objects. So the objects
appear, or are arranged,
or are arranged to appear
by a hand or the co-ordinating
mind behind the eye that hands
the objects to their places:
perhaps a clock, freshly wound
or melted over a slab of real
perspective, perhaps a glass,
half full of glints and highlights,
or perhaps a dead game animal,
motion stopped, body quietly
gaining the momentum of putrescence,
or the royal colors themselves:
flowers proud their flesh
is the only alchemy to extract
the proper spirits from the earth,
happy to challenge the clever
paste of oils and minerals
to duplicate their results.
They might sit in a vase
decorated in vain, say the
narcissists, or perhaps some
other variation on a cornucopia,
a ceramic collusion of glazes,
a pewter mug composed of crannies
and protuberances. Of course,
any fruit will do to play
the part of hue receding
from surface to shoreline,
but no, this table has none,
this table has only his feet
on it. Soon it will have a book,
closed upon the packet
a tea-bag once was wrapped in,
a book he has finished with,
for the minute he's sitting
still in for now, at least,
a book framed by the table's ends
for and to no pictorial purpose,
which is lucky, since the pages
may have closed their legs,
but the cover their pimp
wanted them to be judged by
is a garish thing men would
never hang on their wall,
but seem to enjoy blown up on billboards.
This book the painter
has stopped reading is about a painter,
or more precisely, it is about a girl,
who happens to have the painter living
in her background, or more precisely,
it's about a girl some author has imagined
alongside the painter she's sketched
into a foreground he never lived in,
and what's funny is, he's dead
enough that he can't live his life
any better to spite her pretense
to depict him. At least he asked
his subjects to sit for him. She's
just dead enough to need corpses
to flesh out her dumb-show,
she needs to rub better nametags
off of gravestones for the sockpuppets
she's hiding her hands in.
The painter looks hard at the table,
but the table has no opinion of the book,
the table doesn't even care
that the book is as flat as a family
member or lighter than some fat candle
or unlikely to leave a ring,
but the table doesn't know how
to do its job unless it's told.
So the table would need more
things to answer the painter's
question with, much more
than a paperback cut to fit the poster.
Maybe a magical artifact
some tomb-raider's financier
can claim copyright to,
maybe the keys to a car or a house
so hotly contested by their former
owners that their children
have made up new last names,
or a fork that comes with a camera
and wireless internet,
or a travel mug with spill-proof
lid some time-traveler claimed
he let Christ borrow,
or the coffee he turned to wine in it,
or the blood on the tine of the fork
the time traveler used to take a picture
of the cross taking over the man.
But after the painter picks up his feet,
after he picks up the book,
the table is empty. He can't
remember what he had decided
should be in the picture. The table
is also outside, which feels
wrong now, there isn't some
wall where windowlight
could write slanted commentaries,
it's a whole yard, trees that
are never, ever still. Landscape
with empty table, the painter
will call it. Except the sun
goes down. He loses the light.
The scene becomes about something
else and he cannot remember
why he has unfolded his easel,
why it was so important
to find the long lost tube of blue,
what it was about these things,
which after all,
weren't ever really on the table.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This Message Was Sent to You Free of Charge

Raise your hand before you ask
what dreams you are allowed.

Yes, there are stupid questions.
All the fantastic lands
have hotels on them already,
and homesteading is against
the law, you imperialist.

You cannot sing a note
that is not owned. Just
try to invent your own octave.
You cannot make a wish
we have not wrapped
up in a gift you need
to give someone if you
really love them - if you
don't believe us, you
can open them all and prove
it, just remember to pay
first. Make sure not
to sleep without your
ticket to dreamland,
we take our responsibilities
at the border seriously.

If you wake up and tell
what you saw there,
you may be in violation
of the confidentiality agreement
signed for you in absentia
before you were born,
don't go digging in
yards that aren't yours,
don't endanger the hard-fought
peace that protects
the sanctity of imagination.

We own the language
you use to think with.
Please don't steal from
the well we inherited
as your appointed guardians;
please, for us,
don't make us charge you
for your own muzzle.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Comes to Hand

She speaks sentences with sawteeth.
On their way out they tickle,
on the way back to her they rip.

He spends hours forging old butterknives
into battleaxes. His first sword
twanged and waggled against the stone.
Since mountains do not bleed
he needs a blade that does not quake.

She collects her ideas like needles,
two to knit or a whole pincushion salvo.
She pairs up her statements like handles,
two for a balanced tray or hooked
to a fulcrum for some nice scissors.

He steals spoons to arm his fairy
army with brickbats, sent to troop
over carpet and concrete to swat
flower petals and the interstices
that keep the sensible world
from collapsing back into imagination.

She gives him a golden spear
forged from all the sharp
tacks she's had to take.
He gives her a golden spear
hammered down from the tower
his dream makes him build
while he sleeps. They
promise not to stab each
other, but don't know what
else to do with such
sacred, unnecessary weapons.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Writing on the Ceiling

The birds are happy their alphabet owns
consonants the meat-lipped cannot pronounce.
The speech of the sky is frittered freely,
but without symbols for twitters and kree,
man's memory remains catch and release.
The vowels range from reed to brass on one
axis, with unnumbered counterpoints along
round to sharp, also known as shrill to sweet,
and the phonetic dimension of craw
to beak, which some men know as caw to tweet.
The hawks have their own script, curlicues sharp
as a reminder of the employment
proper to a beak. They descry the straight
peck and cluck, the chicken-scratch the fat-bags
scribble into the symphony. The crows
know their songs are ugly, and draw
their secrets with the same rough crosshatch.
They do not mourn a range of trill and coo,
but proudly recite their black syllable,
the selfish metronome of whenever,
the same note naming both and never,
one sound written with flap and swoop on blue,
a sign stamped on the sky-high wall for all:
that darkness flies as fast as light can fall.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Perchance to Wake

Last night, an angel in the guise of an alien
explained that hyperspace is easier to swallow
than faith and that there's a very easy way
to stop dreaming.

She said there is work that wants doing,
greater work than the moneychangers pay for,
and the first step down the ladder,
into the trenches, is
to stop the dreamers.

I voiced my concerns and she promised
there were stronger things than bombs,
better tools than weapons for leading
the horse to water and work.

She promised I would see the way.
She promised the work would ask
for my hands. She said the master
would come with the plan,
and the cash and the worker's comp
insurance and it would happen soon,
as soon as I stopped dreaming.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another Squeak from the Rocking Chair

I'll tell you why the world
is smarter than you.
It knows that death is no
reason to stop working.

I could also tell you why
the world has no wisdom in it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

To See

A life breaks like foam on the beach.
Someone calls that ending beautiful.
Then they look away.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I have hired a hunter to hit my target,
so I can see it. A wounded future
leaves a trail, and a dead maybe
is easier to mount on the wall.

I have hired a liar to draw me maps,
so I can pretend to go there. He says
I get a commission on tickets
he sells to my wilderness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

There's No Business That's Not Show Business

Two producers sit on their names and watch
the budget bloom and bust. Having planted
money, they need their trees to grow, or
at least the hedges they were betting on.
The older one is afraid bottom lines
are cutting it as close as tanlines do now;
but the younger one sees opportunity
like conspiracy nuts see aliens.
He watches the one dancer he's hired
to play the part of all the dancers,
replacing her whole union with one paycheck.
Then he asks his second second assistant
to write down the insights he's just seen:
Her layer of fat is sufficiently
thin and appropriately placed but the
jiggle is still inefficient. And all
that meat in so much motion, when the bones
are the real show. Meat is meant for eating,
that's its thickest margin, while the dancing
is done best with wires. Tell you what,
carve her up. Her eyes are worth more than her
performance, and she doesn't need them to
feel the music. There's another angle:
she can play her own accompaniment,
one-woman, self-sufficient, that I can sell,
so hollow her ribcage into a xylophone,
let her feet tap happily fleshless,
take the rest of her to market and buy
me another skeleton to threaten
to replace her with.

Monday, March 8, 2010

All These Futures Cost the Same

I want to be ruthless,
but I don't have a reason.

I want to be as naked as orange juice,
no pulp.

I want to sell my eyelids
like the rest of the audience,
but for a better price.

I want to wear a hood
like a villain or death,
blinkered into scythe-eyed focus.

I want my sleepy seeds
to grow their own gardener;
I want my wishes
to play baby gladiators in dreamland,
I want to wake up pruned for a purpose.

I want to be angry without earning it.
I want to be comforted
without having to hurt.

I want the world to stop being selfish,
so I can own it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Contradiction is Boring

There are no secrets.
Everything is a secret.

There are no ways out,
there is only the work to be done.
The only work worth doing,
is finding the next way out.

The truth is a box of bombs.
The truth is a carton of eggs.
The truth is half a carafe of tap water.
The truth is sugar on the floor,
waiting for the ants to carry it
to the new tabernacle.

There are no keys that do not cost.
No one will pay you for making a key.

No cabinet or closet yet
has produced the horrible doorway
it promised. The dark under the bed
is so shallow that dust makes
ships of the line to rule it.

There is no exchange rate for love.
Even timeless loves have to pay rent.

The laws of physics cannot be broken.
Physics itself will rebel next week.

You cannot own a secret.
I can let you know this one,
as long as I get my commission.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dwindle, Dwindle, Little Star

Inspiration is eating carrot sticks,
having snuck into the movies
to steal some of her ideas back.

Her sisters are sleeping
with the television on again.
They haven't learned their lesson
since History left the news on
and slipped into a coma.

She wants to save her tongue
for exploring a chocolate egg,
but she hasn't sold enough self
to afford to feed the self that's
left and the candy is a solely owned
metaphor for an idea incorporated.

Her daughter, since hired
to be her mother, tells her
sadness is not her bag.
Remember what I told you, she says.
Obedient inspiration recites her line:
All I am is amusing.

Friday, March 5, 2010


The pain also wants to live.
When the ache ends,
it forgets itself.
Dead it waits to wake
to crawl on its knees again,
to invent new syllables
for self-expression.

The synapse has legs to stretch,
no matter what the treadmill
does with the wheel-spinning.

When the suffering is done,
it's not like sleep.
It is gone, and the next
hurt, however similar,
is not the same.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sick of Medicine

Where I last touched her,
a cutting of pain sprouted up,
under skin and around bone
to flower her crown
with a headache.

The last thing I said
surrounds her stomach
like the Midgard Serpent,
an all-consuming clench
growing only longer in the tooth.

The last thing I wished for her,
she quietly returned to the air.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Keeping Time

The background is louder than us.
From conversations to cars,
construction to cosmic radiation,
our own reverberations swamp us,
the echoes of creation dwarf us.

Webs our grandparents wove to sustain us
throng and sing while our feet scratch graffiti
upon a wall of sound so loud we've
told each other to call it silence;
strings set humming by hands held high
upon the shoulders of fellow dead men
thrum and hang while our seats pick a place
to sit and pluck a complaint that the orchestra
was invented before we got to pick instruments.

Those high seas compounded of a hundred unknowns,
pre-physical rhythms
find their tides without our tables,
we dream of swimming while we climb
the slow, gigantic crests of a note
played two thousand years back by
a giant calling wayward children
in for dinner. Diving under
is a fantasy called knowing, the depth
every surface seems to promise in our youth,
where the currents slow to cold,
heartless beats, where what matters
is a long, shuffling, slither
scuffing up mud at the far end of a thump
that's been slumping through
one month of blue moons'
long pump of purplish blood.

We have it set down somewhere,
that we are the thing that makes
the measurements.
Since leaving school, the compass
and the ruler lay as forgotten
as any worker who has done their work.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Under the Good God's Foot

The monster in the box does not want out.
He has seen the wonderful world waiting
for his teeth, his feet, the ravenous heat
his heart breathes upon everything he loves,
tongues, kisses, eats. The box is dark to eyes;
the monster lives inside older senses,
inside an emptiness full of himself.
In his weakness he may dream of better
cages, but never of escape. Awake,
he knows the hated edges mean safety,
assurance that the beautiful world will
endure his hunger, the only thing he
has to give it. He remembers when he
almost broke it, once. That remains enough.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It Is All True

East on Ventura, seven-thirty,
driving at the moon, full,
bone white so bright
that becoming a skull
seems like a step up
Jacob's ladder.

The road is full of hurry.
Pushy taillights cut in line,
trump every yellow with
the ace of self-importance.

Somewhere else, the earth
quakes a country. In another
place, the ocean asks
for its share of the land
value, but homesteading
is a form of terrorism now.

Everyone on this road
has their errands.
I am free to look up
at the moon. The gas

tank is carried along.
The stomach also never
has to think. It just
digests and dies.

A walking woman is
beautiful. A man unlocking
his trunk breathes so hard
cars swerve from the sound.

The sky is a cleaner,
colder black than the road,
but the stars are still there.
Nothing is perfect.