Hammer Nail Nail

What kind of house takes so much
relentless hammering, long months of
straggling whacks and taps, titanic
wrenching and that endless jet engine?
Yet lounging at the site for lunch
those guys could be philosophers
tossing empty cans in the street and
contemplating, one of them finally saying
look, if the world is all that is the case,
let’s nail this fucker down.

Where we rested

Where we rested in green shade,
graveyard crickets like alien visitations,
now thunderstorms, rain marching slant
across a broad tin roof, drumming
in your head—no one stays to listen
now, always only passing through
not to pass the time. That smooth
water you bend down to—things
mysterious from a former life appear,
it feels suddenly as if we’ve forgotten
the use of simple tools or discovered
we have tails and wonder what to do
with them or with that instinct to
climb and hide instead of run. Alarm
thrills through you to think perhaps
that memory may be anticipation.
There’s that flat sky bearing down—
there we are out in the wide day
striding about upright like creatures
with no natural predators, or squat
on some beach idly drawing galaxies,
our first implements, sticks in sand.



the series ends

the series ends we ride off into
another life where none of the
scenes of our formerness or our
former faultfulness remain we
still have our little knives and
all our little dreams with their
fences and sluices we have
carnival rides and erudition so
the same same same in the
end end end O but this new life
after all that tar and pilfering
those vendettas and innuendoes
whence money now that other
life is done now that we’ve been
freed from our a cappellas and
contracts in what green room do
we now wait to tell our captive tale?

Where do you live where

where do you live where you look
your desert from a satellite or
what heat hides inside itself
how easy malice circumnavigates
all additions to the convex you
and your nimble earthquake lights
independent of your gravity
a great wind blew & they dispersed
the squandered armada like that
other one we await the return on
mile-high rockets or lost shoes
frankly we’re so tired we’re ramified
meandering tourists after lift-off
miscellaneous numinous weapons
they break into your heart your
dark room and poisonous ring
the mystery to parse and pace


spinga History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658) cmpr 1

In the beginning there was a
small door,
but escape was
less attractive then
than forests full of
undiscovered species
like yourself, you thought.
So many things
you did not think,
things you did not hear–
monkeys for example
not so unlike you
screamed alarm
from tree to tree–
you thought such dangers
did not apply to you,
lounging on beaches
where the sea
drags pebbles out and in
and out, your mind
entangled with
the flow of things.
Back at your campsite
a god disguised
as some random someone
passing through
prepared a dish you tasted
only once
and now forever
long to taste again.
Why were you so busy dodging luck?
It took such work
to find the wrong places
and love the wrong men,
the ones you crowded,
the ones who crowded you,
the one you found
to leave you
to your solitude,
the one you found to leave.
Free of all encumbrance,
now you know
nothing burdens
like the want of love.

image: The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658)http://publicdomainreview.org

Little Cake

 16th-century Prosthetics (1564) PDR HAND reszd

Oh for a special order of operatives
who could manage the routes of pain, tricking
it perhaps into circumnavigating
the center in you where you are holding out
with only a rag and a butter knife with which
to defend yourself. But pain travels its own
tricky path, arrives but never really leaves,
from time to time relents to let you see
its absence only signals its return
with fresh armies and replenished supplies
to fortify its occupation, to pull up
the bridge over its moat, meanwhile
that twittering outside about who feels pain,
how pain feels, how they feel about having pain–
as if it’s something one has when anyone
who knows can tell you that pain goes inside you
and locks the door, makes you its little cake,
burns up your life to clear a way to
the cupped edge of its inside world.

image: http://publicdomainreview.org

Noisy Birds


Noisy birds–hollering,
iterating, so loud and close
they’re in your head: wake up.
If no one hears,
does it even matter how you
squeeze the interval
or sweep the yard?
But what do I know,
it’s the bird’s world.
In my dark wood,
birds too far up to hear
make nets to catch
the stars and weather,
but down here there’s
not enough air left for
the middling get-through
when the future’s done,
just the sound of not listening,
the buzz of mere medium,
so no matter what you say
it’s just the meme
passing through you,
phatic static
and a lot of hailing.
Not that anything is
wrong with that of course,
now the freeway’s louder
than the birds.

Image: British Library 13th century, Sloane MS 3544, f. 24r http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/illuminated-manuscripts/page/2/

up down up

dover tarot la torre mod 5

transmissions from my somewhat life-like current life

this morning every morning

birds wake me up before I’d ever want to wake up in the world first the usual formal hollering of

the one-note bird just outside the window then the more complex one out there iterating five minutes here five minutes there then doing it faster and faster not like the mourning doves I’d hear later on if I were here later on and I’m thinking

wherever he is he cannot hear you or he isn’t listening, didn’t, wasn’t

but here now this closer down-here piece of that collective twittering one hears that’s like an invisible net between weather that’s all way up there when you’re walking in the woods

down here where there’s not even any wind in this dark wood you’ve been wandering since past the middle but you’re still alive knowing you’re down here because you know you’re not up there where the birds are

you can’t see them you imagine they are making a place with sound

a full place maybe, maybe not like the big empty incessant human twittering makes after awhile it’s all just sound no message only medium no matter what it says it says I am here or I am here you are there or stay there or come here, or we are here, or here we are or are we here? or where are you?

or hear me hear me hear me here here here 

no matter what song comes out of you it’s just the meme passing through you and a lot of hailing and bystanding

sometimes from outside it’s like the scene lovers make in public places transported by feelings for the otherness of each other that transcends eachness

though later on you know it’s just the only oneness the imperative of our species makes of all of us but there they are close to doing something the concept of private was invented for we think we’re bugged by what? their lack of decorum or thinking they think their rapture has conferred invisibility upon the proceedings or even that we know

from having ourselves been inside where they are that it is we who are invisible in this tawdry sublime we’re in that everything else is in that we have no measure for

we are big in it even when it makes us small though perhaps I am thinking from the old world still inside me not the new one in which everything is public and it’s all just the same

so I’m recording the birds and now the birds are gone and I’m just hearing the freeway but I know that later when I listen the birds are there still I just don’t have ears for it and I’ll also hear what sounds like interference

probably just the grinding sound of my usual morning hope that I can postpone the way work locks down on my mind before I even get there despite everything the birds say about being in your day and I’m looking for a pen and paper and thereby

forgetting whatever I needed to say that was what really woke me or maybe it was something the bird was saying or wanted me to say

all long gone now back to the dream pool or to outer space where it makes lonely orbits around dying stars and says only I was here or rather

I was it and now it is some other thing

how looking for a pen has become my person from Porlock who gets here earlier and earlier each day why the fuck do all five million of them become invisible when all you want is just one, I glance at the keyboard and think nah it’s just not the same

though that’s probably just the little peeping sounds of my nostalgia for what I learned from my first real friend–Marcia Hodge wherever you are that’s you though you probably didn’t know it

we’re in your dorm room you show me a poem you composed on your typewriter and I say you can write poetry on the typewriter?

and you say why the hell not?

what a discovery that what you think for yourself didn’t always have to be thought with a pen, that you could also think what matters to you on that portable manual thing god I am so old you took to college thinking it wasn’t in a way really yours because it had to be dedicated entirely to the abysmal papers you would write and now

in one of the several nows that are thens where I am from time to time thinking where is that old thing

it made you do physical labor for words and that seemed right and so many worlds away from all the subsequent pocka pockas that aren’t yours even if they are having been like everything else requisitioned by work stealing all the real words from your day because work and work wordage chews so much out of you you know

it’s true what Trevor said it kills you in the end . . . it’s no joke

it’s all just endless killing documentation of documentation and the endless easiness of spectacle the documentation the spectacle the spectacle the documentation Skinner box dribs and drabs of sugar the furious lever checking of intermittent rewards

it slips in and roughs things up until

now I’m thinking of another recording one misplaced in the jumble of the former life I live my somewhat life-like current life in

Thundering Rainstorm cheap cd from the drugstore checkout line it was the lightning on the cover that got me oh where it took me when I listened to it

the thing about summers of breathing thunder and rain you can’t explain to someone not from there the way thunder and rain and lightning put scattered things and selves in places they belong like something talking to you from underneath the racket of intention

not the crisp peace of the thundering rainstorms of faraway home but enough to rock you to sleep

after months years maybe of sleeping through the endless loop of the sound of rain that would leave stinging marks on your skin if you were out in it

suddenly hearing in it an artifact of its recording the sound of someone moving the microphone

feedback so ephemeral I replayed it ok obsessively replayed it to see if I was really hearing it and then since nothing is too slight to tell a tale I started hearing

all the other sounds in it that weren’t weather

something homey and slightly creepy about it little creaks like the ones your feet and the floor make when you are trying to keep quiet you tell yourself you’re just imagining it

loud rustlings the sound of reading newspapers patterings that aren’t rain but things on the roof probably squirrels and some kind of exhalation maybe a sigh or somebody smoking a joint someone gesticulating why not fuck yeah

so then I start listening for things inside thundering rainstorm sounds that have become someone on a porch in a place where the sound of the rain is the sound of it hitting leaves that I estimate to be about the size of those on mulberry trees and the sound of gushing gutters and then the sound of someone settling into a chair and lighting a cigarette and sometimes two people on that porch playing cards or embracing or just sitting side by side

looking out past the porch where rain is erasing the rest of the world and we think we are seeing the same thing or that what we are seeing is making us feel the same thing thinking things we know not to be entirely true

I loved you anyway

the Grand Canyon when we were moving out to the left coast your crazy self dropping acid and getting me to and I go back to the car to get the camera through a parking lot that has metamorphosed into time itself

then can’t get the door to lock so I’m stuck till finally  through a long process of thought fraught with long moments of something other than thinking I assess the worth of the property in the car as being less than the worth of getting back to you

back through the parking lot again that has now started to yawn then snagged in a crowd of attractive excessively cheerful tourists getting back on the scenic bus

and then the place has emptied out and the sun is going down and I find you and there you are like some natural thing a tree or a cactus but translated into cartoon goofiness and I say what are you laughing at? and you say

just the way it does

I’m thinking holy mother it’s a long way down

thinking everything is just the way it does, that the world indeed is all that is the case if at least for the moment that can mean that as soon as we know it we never again belong where we are because we know we are not what we think we are

when we’re in this world we imagine that makes us alive by virtue of the magical powers of trees and rocks and words and other people

the world we make that is not the world that’s all the case is

but it’s all the case we have.


lancelot british library royal ms 14 e iii r133v strtch

A pilgrim, a penitent. A forest.
Ruffians, blades, cudgels. Then
a kind family passing through.
Their tired horses and tents. He bathes
in a freezing lake. The lass behind
a veil of snow, watching. The next day,
a wrecked village. Bodies. Smoke
still hanging heavy in the damp air.
The head magician wears armor.
The wife wears a cap. The dreamer
wears someone else’s clothes.
The captives become chattel as the
wagons plow along. There are crows.
Lots of them. Then more blood and more
murder and more ubiquitous mist.
They’ve taken the girl, of course, and
all the food. But a quest is just the thing
to quell misgivings. Our hero rides hard
toward his death. Briefly deterred by
monstrous reanimations and lots of
growling. Volcanoes on the horizon.
Lost companions found. More beer,
more weapons. Thunder. A bridge unrolling
over a gray river. Arriving never
happens.  Later on a house built
where bones and broken cups crop up
whenever it rains–things left over from
this one life we get as the us we are.
How hard to believe oneself loved,
every dark place subdued by light.


Along the streambed with its deep blue spot,
russet trees open up like a door
into a room where clouds and the moon
hang on the wall. Meanwhile, near Tucson,
a lone jaguar. Hunt, eat, sleep. Roam.
That nagging yearning. How you must have felt
transformed, the last of your kind at the end.





Something to Love

The sadness of the family goes away when
you give up on your parents’ happiness.
Not far at first, it just moves in with
a family down the street–you see it
on their doorstep waiting for the dad
to get home. Kids at school think it’s your
cousin, looks kinda like you, you say
so what. Later it seems gone for good,
but then one day you’re riding in that
swaying endless station wagon, counting
phone poles and potholes and there it is:
looking all lonely, kicking weeds
in an empty lot. “Look, look!” your
mother hollers backing up and
looking back, and you see it
big as sunshine on her face:
she misses it, she misses that sadness,
she wishes it would come home.
Now you know that if it did,
she’d have something she could love.

pontiac ad pontiacsonline bw flp fin



We are desperate for suspects.

A girl is not in her room, her father’s alarmed,
unless he’s just worried he’ll be late somewhere.
He’s on the phone in his bedroom now,
saying something frantic or grim–it’s dubbed,
so when he moves his mouth, it sounds like
someone’s in the next room mocking him.
He’s ignoring the naked woman who is dressing
one slow stocking at a time, surely not the mother.
I turn the sound way down.

A young woman’s pale body, floating in a canal.
Intercut with shots of cabbages in boxes.

The mother has arrived, they don’t embrace,
she almost faints, they are distraught. A priest
appears suddenly, as if he’s been shadowing
them, then a stern but distracted police chief and
two detectives who look like juvenile delinquents.
They eyeball the mother’s derriere as she leaves

We’re in Venice. It’s 1965.

We are riding in the black boat in the past
or in the future, leaving perhaps or perhaps
returning, going to or from a dock that isn’t
a dock in fog that isn’t fog. If we could
call you back to us, we might hear what you
hear, we might understand what you are
saying just by looking at your eyes.

A neglected garden. A ping-pong game.
A madman. Not looking mad at all, but rather
avuncular, carefully tying someone to a chair,
saying things that must be mad, but mildly,
polite interest on his face, as if he’s asking
where the melon came from this time of year.

These people the police are interrogating–
they are afraid of something, looking at their
faces is like watching rain down a rain chain.
If they knew anything, they would be telling.
If they knew each other, they would be
keeping secrets, there would be betrayal,
there would be a morgue.

Someone we’ve never seen before and will
not see again says “go away, leave me be.”
In English. I read his lips. He’s looking at a
water fountain in a plaza, speaking to no one.
I turn around to see if someone’s there.

The father and the mother, faces mirroring
each other, accidental touches, glances, we
know where this is headed–know the daughter
had to disappear to make this reunion possible.
If they had been together when it happened,
it would have driven them apart. Forever.

An enormous birdcage full of canaries in an
airy modern birdcage of a house, the furniture
a mélange of spartan things no one will ever
love. A vast floor. Not a door in sight.

A hand in a stiff black rubber glove rips out
a phone, opens a door, turns on a fussy
bathtub tap, turns into feet leaving the scene.
As if censored in a dream, what happened here
will never be revealed, but that water will keep
running at the back of the movie’s mind,
even after it’s over, flooding everything.

Miscellaneous shots in miscellaneous weather
of places where no one is going. Things damp,
in disarray, narrow walkways that look imported
from some industrial city where everyone has
died or is dying from some insidious gas or
the nefarious doings of angry vegetation.

A shop window. Monstrous gewgaws.

Suddenly a face on its way to a door. This man
has the absent look of a man whose mind is
always on his stash of porn–why are we not
surprised but still uneasy. He invites the parents
in as if he wants them to go away already.
The father is now shouting. Unperturbed, the
man is serving cocktails. He’s not hiding what
they think he’s hiding, he’s not hiding the girl.
Maybe they are hiding something. Maybe they
are not even talking about the girl.

By the way where is she? Even we have
forgotten her, having seen her only once
early on in a photograph that could belong to
anyone, even the gloved hand or the excessively
jovial man who waves to the parents as they pass by
on their way to somewhere else. He later appears
in a chicken costume, grinning, snapping a whip.
She was wearing her confirmation dress.

A church. A static shot that lasts so long
it starts to mean things.

Cage door open. Birds flying out. Extreme
close-up of an envelope. Maybe that’s a name
on it, or maybe a note, “key inside,” who knows.

Here’s the secretary, no longer the woman in
the bedroom getting dressed. It’s late, she’s
touching up her lipstick at her desk. A man’s
looming shadow, she looks up, then he’s
up next to her with whatever that is in his
hand, the requisite sacrifice of the not-wife
who has no information or has too much.

Someone has hit you, poor thing, you are
washing your face at the fountain. When you
look up, it’s so close it’s hard to tell if it’s
a ship or a house or a flock of goats.

A café as featureless as a hospital corridor.
No one has ever been here but this one person
sitting outside and the one other person now
sauntering out with a smirk and a cup of coffee.
We are desperate for suspects, it’s the only way
we will ever maybe know the nature of the crime.

My sister passes through eating ice cream
out of the carton, wags her spoon at the TV,
I saw that, isn’t it the one with the giant frog
that traps people at a party in a labyrinth and
eats them or something?

The young guy looks like an earlier less young
guy wearing the same glasses. By now it’s possible
they are the same guy, but this one is wearing a
white suit and has the look on his face of someone
amusing himself with his own mind. Or someone
who has gotten away with something and is
pleased with himself. Maybe he’s our guy.

I am thinking where have you gone. I am
thinking how can I live without you.

An empty plaza, a sudden wind, trash tumbling
about, a page of newsprint flashing by that
we apparently are not going to see. The city is
shrinking to a few redundant blocks.

Joyous children running through the streets,
knocking down an old man with a cane. Nearby
people, not helping. Tsk-tsk on their amused
faces, oh to be young again, heedless of
the suffering of others, and the suffering we
cause, and all the other suffering to come.

A crazed woman in a veil.
Take us with you wherever you are
taking your crazy self. These other people–
these other people are scaring us.

A man napping, or dead, on a chaise on a
rooftop. Not much in the way of entertainment
now the birds are gone.

Another naked girl body in the canal, or
maybe the same body from an hour ago, now
being winched up by her feet. Somebody’s child.
Somebody’s jilted girlfriend.

A crowd. Thin coats, everyone in hats,
looking like people waiting for a shop to
open, anticipating perhaps a closer view
of the corpse. Or maybe the corpse will now
speak in the language of the forlorn dead,
words no one would dare dub.

altered image; original image: Xanthorhoe montanata, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Xanthorhoe_montanata.jpg.