Tight Ship

arabic machine ms PDR crop

Notes for My Successor–Welcome Aboard

Avoid grappling with sentient cargo.
If it tries to escape, just back down the
oscillation and see what happens.

For the spin things will inhabit, cold stars
will do if they can follow instructions
and are disarmed. That last part is important.

Unlike the improvised sealant, the
official sealant is unstable
even at modest speeds.

Permission has not been granted to enter
the tunnel. Nonetheless, at night we hear
someone in there making an infernal
racket rearranging the ephemera.

The “questions and suggestions are welcome”
box outside the cafeteria is
management’s early warning system
for insubordination. Don’t ask. Don’t suggest.

The ergot problem has been acknowledged and
will be monitored. Volunteers are needed
to ingest sundry foodstuffs that may or may not
be contaminated. Volunteering
is mandatory.

Blowback trumps everything but weather.

Ignore gossip about the cook and the
entertainment. Even without all their
sockets, they are lovely to observe
operating their frilly appendages
and chasing the good-natured scullions.

In open air, measures quicken and may
skew penumbral estimates. Use the slide rule.

You will not get a raise.

No matter how you engineer it,
the scatter will show which stations
to abandon. Ten seconds.
BTW the timer is broken.

By the time we get there, our love will be
so far away its light will have panned out
into sectors to which we have no access.

Asking for additional orbits will only
make them laugh. Go ahead. Try it.

The key to the plasma storage cabinet
was already missing when I got here.

Regardless of what the gauges indicate,
nothing in the universe loves a lock.



image: detail Arabic Machine MS Public Domain Review http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/arabic-machine-manuscript/


We cannot contain the things we’d ask
now our own selves are not the sole objects
of our wonder, now we can’t see the future
for the past, and futures we imagined
seem already passed, the planet a house
we once lived in going on without us
while our terrors multiply. We know how
the next thing happens: the road we’re on threads
through us till we are no longer us, till
there’s just the drift, the float, the between that
comes with disaffection, the hole we wear
in the world that makes saying giving up.
No signals yet not meaning all’s benign,
the sentence we don’t know is counting down.





The place where

The place where you sat in the sun is still
sunny. The yard still bristles with chimes
in strong wind. My bad eye still lives
in a world with two moons. Our room is still
a mess. And the malaise is still here. And
I still expect to see you in every
waking moment and every dream. And
everything’s exactly as you left it
but you’re gone.


The letdown you feel when you discover
the character was only dreaming or
only deranged or only dead, the whole
scintillating phantasmagoria
collapsed–arbors, ships, and telegraphs
your mind with its delicate hammer nails
recognition at last of someone once
vaguely known or a terror circumscribed,
scribbled instructions to unearth and then
unwind the spaceship idling in a secret
tunnel with its hooded eyes, and yes, yes,
sympathy for the monkey now you know
only paint held everything together.

The Mad King Unbound

His smug or furious face is everywhere

He dreams of ruins, cloying smoke

Bones thrown on a fire

War is coming–he wants it, he wants,

Inside the wants, the maw

Of his emptiness, infinite, dark

The destroyer in him wants to break

Everything, his small hands with

Their prissy gestures, the bully

With his hand on his cocked hip

We know him from every schoolyard

In the world, one who has to make

Others suffer to feel his win, without which

He is nothing but the lust of vengefulness

His coiffure askew from the great wind

Of his ignorance, inside his head

Vast plains, air thick with the sound

Of cicadas, his will to harm like some

Malign deity with a thousand arms, admired

By those he pays to reflect back to him

His massive and fragile self-regard, he is

The dark thing we dreamed into existence

The chaos of his words and deeds

Written by his own hand on every public

Wall, his signature like a prison fence.



The Same Three Steps Over And Over And Over


Two monkeys at the Braneshire Zoo have become psychotic from living their lifetime in captivity with each other. Mikey, 25, and Neena, 30 have been napping long hours and trashing their toys and walking the same three steps forward and backward over and over again. Dr. Rob Robb, animal psychologist and erstwhile marriage counselor has a plan for psychotherapy to save the primates from their madness. He plans to “vary their menus and give them unbreakable toys.”

vary their menus give them unbreakable toys vary their long psychotic unbreakable naps give them menus vary their together give them unspeakable boredom vary their psychotherapy save them from captivity

the       same       three       steps forward and backward and forward and backward same         three         steps same         same         three steps     steps     steps over over over over over over over over

save the monkeys from madness vary their menus and unbreakable toys save the monkey madness vary their primates and madden their menus save the monkeys from psychotherapy vary their madness and save the toys from the monkey step madness



Two psycho monkeys at the Braneshire Zoo are the subjects of a novel form of therapy. The primates’ psychologist—who has already varied their menus and given them unbreakable toys—is now training them to thread needles in the hope that learning to sew will lessen the tedium of captive togetherness.

rhesus reversus mod 5    Neena (l.) and Mikey (r.) learning to sew!

vary their menus give them captivity toys vary their  l     o     n     g  monkey napping hours give them unbreakables vary their captivity give them umbrellas and psychedelic menus the same three steps over and over and over     and  over again and again and again

S1: I feel so fuckin’ bad about this. You know, we really were negligent in not noticing their distress sooner. I thought they were fine until people kept asking where the ‘dancing monkeys’ were. I guess despair may look like dancing to some people. But it’s not dancing. S2: I kept trying to explain to the reporter–yes, the one with the whole-body reptile tattoos–that Neena and Mikey are not “psychotic” and that interventions for stereotypy are not “psychotherapy.” But she said, “Look, nobody will read something like “Monkeys Lose Hope,” but everyone will read “Psycho Monkeys.” S1: Do you think she’d go out with me, I mean, if she got to know me better? S2: She also asked me if the obsessive stepping thing might be some form of primate culture, like yam-washing. Oh please.

____________________________ Inspired by an article about three polar bears by Steve Newman, “Earth Week,” 1 April 1989 The San Francisco Chronicle altered image; original from http://awionline.org/lab_animals/rhesus/pho80-92.htm

Alas the captain

Alas the captain
the last late asteroid flies past
that swarm of clicking drives us.
Anything to save the herd. He says.
If the core overheats.
Bypass the vessel and all its vessel-like,
retrofit the avatars.
We do the future.
We made Mars.
Our ray guns light up
while the reptoids.
An enormous hole on deck five.
But our outfits more stylish than.
We are the partial humans,
We have names, we weld,
we meld, we hang out in wormholes
and hotels. We love tubed nutrients,
our plasma bomb.
Inside outsiders
we’re an underground.
Not lightning on the horizon.
antennae anomalies, warheads
and pranks, institutions
and airy boats the size of
dinosaurs blocking out.
Breathing up.
Separated we guess
the other’s mind. The engineer
has moved the plate,
our window not a window
but a gate.

Anywhere Anyway


way home sky crp

just you, just passing by which you are always only doing anyway

Looking out over the bay, black water and shimmy of lights on the freeway, the hills on one side, the city on the other, like some impossible place, I was struck with a thought the certainty of which was so intense that it was exhilarating: you could be unhappy anywhere. I said it aloud and laughed. I might not be happy anywhere, but I could be unhappy anywhere. I didn’t owe it to a place or a person to try to be happy, and all that trying always only means that happy is always not happening.

But if you could be unhappy anywhere, anywhere would do, any series of anywheres would do, no need to confine oneself to the imaginary places of cities or tick-tock suburbs or the don’t-imagine place of trailer parks, although perhaps some indefinitely prolonged tenure in one of those pull-in-here- we-got-a-pool places where tired dads finally give up the wheel and there’s a lounge of some kind nearby with those knobby teardrop candle holders the ones waitresses light by holding the safe end of a match between two fingers, lucky if it lights the first time you’re always going to burn a finger now you’ve done it.

Some guy shows up, you thought he was already dead, and there’s this faraway low bank of godforsaken hills like denuded things, something about them that you really shouldn’t be seeing like that time you saw your boss in an unlikely place actually sitting no shit at the feet of her boss with the mooney look of worship on her mean face, don’t look now but then you can’t undo seeing, and the lowlands stretching out to the horizon like a, like a I-don’t-know-what, and you’re alone in the pool at night, floating in a sky where you can’t land on anything. There might be something to that, or nothing.

Or you could just be on a plank road headed down into something hard to get out of or in a boat stitching into little ports along the southern coast of some island, some world. Or a little sticky place above some small-town shop the walls the color of old newspapers out in the sun, always smelling like newspaper, too, or cold toast, the window up there open, the sound of the typewriter reaching across the road up there, no one else awake, just you, just passing by which you are always only doing anyway, just wondering what someone is typing on a manual typewriter, maybe someone just a tad mad or just some forlorn someone wording and rewording something for someone who will never love them, the words barely holding off knowledge of the kind that cuts a lonely space around you that will never go away or that you always carry with you like something you can’t put down, you can’t let go, the thing you arrive at the party or the port with and no one anywhere knows where to put it, not even you, jackrabbit.

Anywhere, at least not some place where it’s winter almost all the time, but somewhat textured weather, maybe even occasional hail and a tornado or two, but mostly warm now that all the sexy parts of you have melted not that anybody anyway, nobody phoning up for you or mailing you a letter, like you care, but you don’t, you know, what a relief that finally you really don’t anyway. In some anywhere where you could be unhappy all that could just be over with, then maybe you or someone could say come over to my place, don’t have to be happy unhappy, don’t have to do anything say anything, don’t have to anything, just be.

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?

So Fast and Errant

So fast and errant, an ungulate going its way did not pause
to greet us.
The atrocious backlog was phoning again at all hours.
We felt special the day of the flood as if we had long prayed
for disaster and it had finally come to deliver us.
The backwing of the spectacle was briefly stabled.
Anything he said elicited loud guffaws and spectral tapping.
My god, she said, were they drinking broom juice? What
were they thinking?
The blast aroused ancient fears of woeful neighbors.
Still, the rightful owners of the cave might desire these
toggled satellites.
The guy sponsoring the coconut–yes, that guy.
Lakes of oil slid through the cities like sloe-eyed harlots
searching for dibs.
But our endless novenas infiltrated even the most arid
Uncommonly agreeable, the cat spoke in couplets.
Copper spattered the walls and ceilings.
We were certain the moodling was responsible, but we
could not say so.
The horizon drifted despite endless nailing.
Such warrants as they pleaded were robust and defiant.
The most formidable pinprick, like solar wind.
The absolutes had already been eaten, alas.
Look, he said, I need lulls and biscuits, not this mojo.
But we protest your furious telescope and abandon your
The messenger collapsed.
There’s nothing left he cried. The paws. The paws!
Deserted aquifers and mendacious crustaceans.
And all their icy feathered singlets.


eisberg fr felt mod 3

Nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan
minne durre
sweotule asecgan.

you’re seeing

something out there
springing up: a waterspout
its listing shimmy far away
from windows deeply shuttered
like the ones you hid behind
when storms came or trouble
you always knew that things
that can’t be seen are only sound

places you go into with nothing much
in mind, so necessary to have
nothing in mind, to have a mind
with nothing in it when lightning comes
the hardest thing to do

pushed first this way then that
this boat is going over

the pleasure of
things without words
water running over a rock
or that day you stepped out
into that rigid cold
and shrugged in your clothes
something like a skin you
could move around in, some
shape you entered into then
discovered as your own

the first time you heard
the baby laugh, the only thing
in the world always like
the first time

you never imagined you’d die
the way you did
it teased you first
knocked you around a bit or a lot
let you sleep it off while it
cooled off in a close café
or in another hemisphere
got on a bus headed your way
no matter where you were

in the end, it would invite you
into a little room
not as cramped as a
confessional, not as luxe as the
ladies’ room you peeked into
in that hotel in Havana
warmth coming from somewhere
inside those marble surfaces
the stuffed tight couch and chairs
the deep mirror where
women leaned into their own
reflections, that look in the eye to eye
like someone distracted by
a thought not enough
to hang onto

watching them

feeling the things you felt

you stepped out for, say
a pack of smokes or idly
followed something that swayed
you were already falling
when it came, one small
searing point inside you
suddenly big as the world

even if you could have made a sound
even if you could have screamed
like a tornado,
you could not have matched
its everything, it had no other side

my friend, this is as far as I can go
from this world that’s not
the one you’re in, the one
where you arrived when you
were on your way to someplace else
with your tired luggage
happy, sad, trying
to find a place where
someone would be glad to see you

if hope can have an object
in the past, I hope that in the end
you weren’t alone, that some hand
touched you with kindness, hope
that if you had yearned for someone
it never crossed your mind
hope you didn’t think you’d lost
the things you couldn’t have
hope you knew you always had
all the things you had to leave behind

epigraph from the Old English poem “The Wanderer”
modified image; original at U of Washington Freshwater and Marine Image Bank http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/fishimages&CISOPTR=53714&CISOBOX=1&REC=14