This is the part where no one

This is the part where no one stands up or
someone does but can’t think of what to say,
tongueless bell—see, like that: all the words
already used up. We leave, who knows where
we go or where we’ve been when we return.

Who will stand up for us? No one at those
impromptu concerts of the past where the
things we thought we knew approximate just
about anything else–stars, lace, something
that flew out of someone’s breezy red car.

That’s what you get for listing off to the
side, it taking forever to get out
of bed or creep down the block . Nonetheless,
If you were here for an eternity,
you could wear this old slow rock away.

This is the part, isn’t it, where you call
your own bluff and don’t confess to the
particular things you had in mind, the
part where you discover someone’s
silence wasn’t the reserve of deep thought.

The god who strolls in this garden we tend,
has some bad news about the weather plus
a few things we’d forgot we’d done or not.
No use in that was then—it runs down
into the earth for ages, this stacked ruin.

What did anyone feel in any new
place with all the dead underfoot, living
much as we do except for their patience
and obdurate good cheer, except that we
love them as we do not love each other.

Even in this late limning of our hearts,
the abandonment procedures require
amnesia about the part where we were
staking listless roadside trash and our
future—already aflame—barreled past.





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.


polar bear watch

who is that one inside you you know
the one that can’t get out but does
the one that bangs-out all your love

still after ever you are not as bad
as you feel in other people’s dreams
all that water leaking from your heart

all those phantoms lined up at your till
all that clawing just beneath the grate
cicadas shut inside your ears to stay

twenty million years and still it tastes
the way it tasted when they locked it up
when homicide still counted as a date

we disregarded side effects like death
we tried to fool our predators with paint
what didn’t kill us never made us strong

that lashing girl where’s she at now
we miss her amplitudes and autoclave
god-a-mighty how we miss her little dog

image from University of Washington Digital Collections

Mostly Outside

How we loved the high style we wore
for vanishing occasions
though its warrants wore us down–
logic’s such a drag on
transformation—it just can’t match
the dark unwieldy charm of living
mostly outside yourself.

They later said a feeling
like a sorrowful trance
overcame them all at once–
they could not resist or run.
Mr. Billy found them
wandering his winter pasture,
called the sheriff to take them
home. Even hypnotized
they were unable to account
for the remote location
of their car.

That overgrown yard
I pass by after work–
rusty lawnmower abandoned
not even halfway through the job,
everything there already over,
everything already undone.

Was / Not

How could I not hope
when that was all there was–
at worst or best
(so fine a line)
I ever after knew
that good wasn’t
if I was?

Such a seller’s market
no one bought,
though everyone
looked and looked,
until things underground
rose up and militated.

It took such a long time
to be over,
and then it was.
Everyone was pretty
much undone
and I was way past
and hardly
and was.

Long Ride

a long ride to the next world
neighborhoods sere and foggy
a bridge over a canal
an impatient bride
a lost child’s small worn shoes
another quest for the invisible
what cannot be recalled
knows nothing of despair
things ended, not begun
who can resist a dark corridor
or not let out at night, brine
mist, a mere spot of yellow:
sunshine, roses, rooms
somewhere up ahead
this ocean of feeling
subterfuge, requests
the long ride to the next world
already written over
already ridden past



At Noon

When the sadness comes
its shadow can’t be found,
not that you’d know to look
for it, not that it could
find you when nothing’s
behind things but
their own iterations,
joy having gone where
all shadows go at noon.


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

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

The Center Is Only

The center is only fabulous:
say (or even think) lover, ring
and the iron filings in your brain
flock to the groove that goes
on and on without you.

Try abutilon, prion, quark and
the packet handed round
that no one penetrates
becomes a dressy carapace
patrolling places you fled
long ago, carrying away
the things you tried to
protect from words.

And you did. In that
heart-shaped box
you left behind:
a fifty drachma coin, a tiny
gold and silver knife, a lock
of bright hair, a skeleton
key, a button made
of bone.