Friday, January 18, 2019

Notes for the Volume Left Unfinished

*Albinius says otherwise. He errs.
His sources for an ill-conceiving creed
Are elderly ex-chamberlains and eunuchs,
Village crones and plods deprived of the sense
Announced to a scarecrow, those who took their cues
From discount chickens, virgins secondhand,
And scholars from the farmhouse provinces.
As every schoolboy knows, the archers filled
His orifices with their arrows. Pray
For him, but do not emulate his art.
He burns in Hell and weeps black tears of ink.
(It is no sin to benison the damned,
Whatever El Chimayo says, the damned.)

†Persona Claus claims 273,
Year of Our Lord. Persona Claus, who loved
Boys best, then men, was skewered, a flaming bowl
Of apple cores inverted on his head.

°Albumen, King, who found that history
Irenic--they had lied, the scribal tribe.
The Church Pacific strewed its road, on donkeys,
With palms and psalms; and all its paths were peace.
Albumen, King was thrown into a pit
Of Bulgars, Albigensians, and Swedes.
No fragments of him ever were retrieved.

•It sounds absurd, and yet proved true. I went
Myself, with native guide, and saw the place,
A dog to follow and a wife to heel.
I touched the Rock, the Rock was warm. My sense
Of touch is unimpeachable. What else
Explains the errors of the Early Crypts?
Deceived by Occam’s Razor Blade, they shaved
A world away and found a Heaven there.
I recommend The Liber Book, ƒ. 2.

§Cf., op. cit., to-wit, to-woo. Tra-la,
The placard on the temple wall proclaimed,
In Greek first, Latin after, sing tra-la,
The angels have been with us from the first
And bless the martyrs in their shattered state
And bear their broken bones away and praise
The bearded monarchs who have made it so.
Nevertheless, Albinius was wrong.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Goön Folk.

Their pilgrimage began before the light,
Before the squabbles of the little birds
Pilgrims forswore. And they were going where?
To where the road concluded. Since this was
Their latter days, that just might mean the sea,
The culmination, surely, of strange strands,
Pounding a plainsong once, twice, dot, dot, dot.
They’d rather it would end against a wall
Invisible to those of little faith,
Studded with jasper, joined without a joint,
And crowned with fire or with Dagon’s roc
In chains, something spectacular, without
Curios at the exit, something none
Knew substantives sufficient for. They brought
A change of shirt, a charger for the phone,
And water double-filtered to remove
Impurities. They sang car tunes without
The words, not all the words. They thought they’d left
The word behind, the first rest stop enclosed
By plastic fence. The map said, You Aren’t There.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

As Numberless As the Stars

Hagar didn’t care for the manchild much,
The one whose dam she wasn’t.  In the star-
Personable nighttime sky she reckoned
The number of descendants he’d been promised,
And every one an uninvited guest.
Me, I try to avoid the sin of counting.
It leads to lust and envy.  I have named
More women than I knew, and they are glad,
Or so they say, when they imagine me.
They think about the child who isn’t there,
The period they never missed, the pain
Promised them, that they passed on, and they smile
And smooth their hair and think about the days
When boys would gasp because they happened by.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Laird and His Manner

The word is out that Laird is back in town,
Or maybe not-—he doesn’t advertise.
Cagey as always, full of little bits
Of wisdom-lit and recipes and still
A handsome highwayman, he’s double belted
With bullets, bone-knobbed pliers, and a compass.
He sings too loudly, talks too loudly, eats
Peculiar combinations. He won’t lodge
With those who need him; he won’t go away,
Not before night. Or autumn. He makes rules
As need requires. Once he wouldn't budge
Until the last pin-oak leaf had detached.
One of us climbed the tree and shook it down,
Unable to face any more of Laird.

Tonight we wait for resurrection men.
We’re told the sod will open in the park,
And frontier mamas, babies dead of croup,
And gambling dudes in rotted vests will rise.
There are agnostics, certainly, but Laird,
He has his ways. Leastways, he keeps things warm.

Even the trees have changed since these were laid
In certainty of dark and dank. I shall
Fulfill some promise, Laird says, or I’ll bear
Witness to unfulfillment. There are new
Stones since then, most likely trucked in from Creede.
Do you believe in Everlasting Life?
He asks me. I do not. What I believe
Has not changed much since I was 17,
When I first said that absence was a gift.

There is no sound, except the trucks that leave.
The park is closed. The turf lies still. And Laird
Is nowhere you can find. He’s been and gone,
The cartilage of stories. What a waste,
The scent of pine borne past us on the breeze.

Friday, December 28, 2018


A foot of snow descended on the house,

All fall at once, and we pretended joy
At such a purty fluffiness, and broke
Our backs and shovel blades, and prayed for spring.
Spring would arrive; but not because of us
The snow grows grass and lubricates the bulbs
Stripped from their husks it promised and delivered.
Summer, which disbelieves in snow, will swear
Sweat is the moisture agriculture named;
But summer lies, and winter lasts: within
The master bedroom wall a cache of snow
Waits and concedes no melting, never melts.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Noel, Noelle

As I wrote here in April, 2008, I found this poem in a drawer a while back. I don't remember when I wrote it, but it must have been a long, long time ago. It's pleasant to observe that my facility with blank verse has improved: this seems stiff to me, and the blank verse I write now is more limber--it can do tricks up on the balance beam that this can't. On the other hand, I'm also pleased to find "Under the snow the dead are staying dead/again this year," lines I've often quoted without remembering that I was the one who wrote them. 

You claim that you live in Montana, somewhere
undisclosed but big, since it is Montana,
with dogs of course, under eponymous
big skies. It may be like The Ponderosa.
It may be just a little 50's house,
brick and right angles, all the rooms too small
for all the children's scheduled occupation.

Regardless, this is where you claim to be,
vacuuming dogs, shampooing your fiancé,
writing good prose, and waiting for the eve
of someone's savior's birth to change your world.
The eve will come, if not the savior.
Under the snow the dead are staying dead
again this year. Achieving the right tone

to talk about the still dead dead would tax
the festive certitude of anyone.
Your coming roster of visiting kin,
expecting nogs and cakes, presents and pizza,
won't want to hear about your doubts. They know
what Santa does and what he never says.
They like a creche. They like a mistletoe

above their heads, a Baldur's dart. You can
foretell what's coming, you and absent friends,
alone in your fashed kitchen, late late night,
toasting a yule, whatever yules may be.
The dogs asleep and snoring, dreaming dog,
you in your underwear and hoisting bourbon,
know what you know and not a nickel more.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The First Hotel

The first hotel
Where the angels did stay
Was a Holiday Inn
On South Broadway.

They brought their own myrrh.
They brought their own gold.
The frankincense was
The stories they told.

They phoned out for shepherds,
They prayed for an ox.
It’s a Wonderful Life,
They watched on the box,

But the straw in the manger
Projected a blaze
They could see from their room.
And it burned days and days.

They never got close.
They sang from afar.
And they spent all their myrrh
On drinks at the bar,

Till their halos dispersed
Like the peal of a bell,
And the stories flowed out
From the First of Noel.