Monday, February 22, 2010


A thousand ptolemies
        lie dormant in my breast
    comfortable false conjectures
        that conveniently fit the facts
    universes so reasonable
        and yet so wrong
            at their heart.

Where is my observatory?
How shall I perceive it?
How can I know what is real?

O Show me the true center of things
    and show me the real order of living
    and let my ptolemies
        be left in their medieval dungeons
        where they belong.

Friday, February 19, 2010


(originally written in foot-high letters 100 yards across a beach)

ebb and tide
    wind and wave
        must surely steal these words

    yet I will
        for a moment
            steal the silence
                from this sand
    as sure as this wisdom
        will surely fade
    as strong the force
        that drives these waves

I must speak.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

real life

the dozens of living swans
seem amazingly like the real ones
I know from Disney
    from plastic and concrete in the old woman's yard
    from childhood picture books
I had never seen a real swan
    aren't they supposed to be in a lake
    don't their necks form hearts?
    where is the music
        the symphonic swell?
And here they are digging for slugs in a field
    they are lovely
    but not like the real cartoon.
The snow tufted evergreen trees
seem amazingly like the real ones
I know from childhood holidays
    they look green
    they look cone-shaped
    and they are even flocked!
I had never seen a real living tree
    with actual snow
    with green needles
    the shape isn't as perfect
        as our artificial tree was.
Yet here they are laden with snow
    thousands of living trees
    but not like the real Christmas ones.
My actual wife
seems almost like a real woman
I know from magazines
    from movies and television
    from adolescent fantasies
I never had a real woman with me
    wasn't I supposed to chase her at the last minute thorugh the airport?
    somehow our arguments don't seem as funny as the TV ones.
    who knew it would go on for 20 years?
Here she is and she loves me
    the feel of her real lips
    is like nothing I could have imagined.
My life my day to day existence
seems very different not at all like
the real lives I know
    the action hero lives
    the buff and brilliant shirtless guys
    the rich and powerful who never work.
At a certain point
    all my potential
    had to become a real decision
    in a real house/job/marriage/friendship
Here I am laden with history and mistakes and successes
    none of which have I ever seen
    in the life of a celebrity.

The philosopher steps out
    has a look
    with a look
        of astonishment
    steps back in
        arms waving
        feet stomping
        singing talking crying laughing
    the crowd
        irritated and interrupted
        turns and twists
    to see the flickering shadows
    on the wall.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

moving mountains

the desire came
  by my own derision
  or the inevitable scorn of
    and even God
a mountain that stands unmoved
      against wind
      against storm
      against time
  all my doings
    are the fuzz of green trees
    around its base
  I am powerless to
    move it
    change it
    touch it
  where does it start?

In a hidden cleft of rock
  there is a wild tiger lily
    impossible and exquisite
    orange with brown spots
    and long yellow pistils
  the next time I am there
    it is gone
for it
the mountain
has moved.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


orange twilight
    glows over the waters
    fir silouettes stretch
    across the horizon
    along the island mountains beyond

beyond metaphor
beyond story
beyond discontent

the shaded path meanders
    mile after mile
the silent and persistent
    life of the forest
        moss and fern and wood
    scientific explanations
    the seeking of poems
    the need for exercise
    the hunger for epiphany

up the mountain
    a spray of young alder
    paper birch
stand playing in the wind
    in a secret glade
    a huge fallen redcedar
    hosts explosions of moss and lichen and fern

silence and life and ancient secret
    brood over this place
    simplicity and wildness and beauty
        fragrance the air itself
    quietness quenches my mind

A gunshot shatters the stillness
    and I remember
    the call of the civilized
        demands and chores and bills and worries
        contentions and conflict
        entertainment and snacks
    other distractions
        unaware of this poetry so near
        demand my presence my joy

I linger then turn back
    carrying unspoken secrets
    simple plotless stories
    of quiet fragile enduring life.