Tree of Knowledge

This is what happens
when you start making up
your own mind:

the tree drops its tantalizing fruit,
sheds its leaves, & the woodlot
shrinks around it

until it stands alone in a line
of fence posts & telephone poles,
trembling neurons sifting the wind for sparrows.

You become as gods,
endlessly bifurcating,
simple as stinkhorns.

In place of paradise
there’s a field, a pasture,
a dishy blankness of sky.


In response to an image prompt at Read Write Poem. Other responses are linked here.

Photo by camila tulcan, licenced under a Creative Commons license.


rock oak and beeches b&w

I am not ready to let the colors back in. The sky in black & white retains a pleasing uniformity: it’s either a wall of light or the nightly well. Shadows have authority, making a man appear as solid as a tree and a tree as stolid as a gnomon. I am not ready for brown & green & blue & the grievances of noon. I am not ready to stop being white & seeing white as blankness, the default setting. The kind of self-effacement that ennables is still so comfortable. The old ways might have been wrong but it was a wrongness that required careful attention, like the shape & set of a fine felt hat. It was ugly, yes, but it fit. Now we have such a crowd of proud misfits, loud in their ain’ts & their complaints, shrill as the shills who killed their appetite for books. I watch their hands shaping the air & think, what if someday we all switched to sign language & to Braille? What would that do the hard cell of self? Then perhaps we could free ourselves from the shame of misbegotten speech: the N-word, the F-word, the C-word, the S-word. Then we could all luxuriate in a world of scent & soft outlines — a touchy-feely city on the hill. Then only those without any hands would still stand on the wrong side of the wall, their unbranched shadows inching across the snow.


The furnace stops and I hear the refrigerator. The refrigerator cycles off and I hear the computer. I power down the computer, turn off the lights, and now I hear nothing but the buzz in my head…

This evening’s buzz was all about the Obamas. I didn’t watch. I was busy making something new: a blogsite devoted to videoetry called Moving Poems. Nothing fancy — just a place to put my growing collection of cool poetry videos from YouTube and other video-sharing sites, with minimal commentary. The very first video I posted was a clay-on-glass animation of the Emily Dickinson poem that begins,

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

It’s only my 43rd birthday, though. I’m not dead yet! Not as long as I still hear that buzz…

Psalm for the Rapture: the movie

I’ve just been reminded that it’s Oscars night. I was very pleased to discover this afternoon that the Internet Archive has a movies and film section, which includes some classic films (I just re-watched my all-time favorite comedy, His Girl Friday) and a lot of Creative Commons-licensed stock footage. I lost no time downloading some of the latter to illustrate an old poem — which I see I illustrated with snapshots the first time around. (For a straight-text version, see here.)


Brent Goodman has just dipped a toe into the videoetry waters as well. Check out Meat to Carry Our Minds.

Book Arts

inspired by the work of Luz Marina Ruiz (hat tip: Natalie d’Arbeloff)

I entered a book tall as a clock tower.
Its pages all had timers set to self-construct:
bird, leaf, crescent, an orogeny of stairs.
The seasons were orderly as line dancers.

You can make a book from anything that folds.
Waves & breakers, for example, with
the ocean for a text: the reader bobs
like a boat with a shark’s-fin sail.

Books can be small as wallets bulging with bills,
those go-betweens everyone thumbs through
but nobody reads. (This, by the way,
is why money always smells of sadness.)

Books can be rooms completely taken over
by feral wallpaper, patterns unavailable
in any store. Some books can’t be opened
without changing all their contents.

That’s how it is with dreams, too: they change
in the telling. Night falls, & the words
merge with the black paper. You need
the moon’s red monocle to make out the stitching.

25 Random Things About Me

If there’s anyone in all of Facebonk who has yet to do this so-called meme, I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t like doing things that everyone is doing until no one is doing them anymore. That way if I can’t be original, at least I can be retro chic.

  1. I have the head of a rat, the tail of a snake, and the body of a lawnmower.
  2. I am the direct descendent of the lost tribes of Friesland, who were quickly found again after a perfunctory search of the premises.
  3. My favorite philosopher weighs fifteen pounds and lives behind the furnace.
  4. I like sandwiches better than life itself.
  5. When words fail me, I have them fed to the geese.
  6. I channel a mute spirit with autism. Let’s just say that channelling isn’t either of our idea of a good time.
  7. Whenever I can’t sleep, I recite acronyms to myself. I always nod off in the middle of a C.
  8. When I was six, I grew a third penis in the middle of my forehead.
  9. The internet changed my life! I forget the details.
  10. Cardboard is my middle name.
  11. My favorite color is not in the visible spectrum. It’s shy.
  12. Angels disgust me.
  13. At 18 I was a drug mule, the offspring of a drug horse and a drug donkey.
  14. I shot the sheriff.
  15. Nobody can tell when I’m blushing with this goalie mask on.
  16. I have never actually dated a sheep.
  17. I believe that children are the future — at least for embryos. For the rest of us, old age and death seem more likely.
  18. I know Jack shit, but only in passing. It’s not like we’re friends on Facebonk.
  19. There’s a dog-shaped hole in my heart. Or at least I think it’s a dog. It could be a coyote.
  20. When not fighting crime, I use my powers for morally ambiguous purposes.
  21. I am music, and I write the songs.
  22. When I was your age, I was grateful just to be unemployed.
  23. Everything I need to know I learned from studying prestressed concrete.
  24. I’m not wearing any lederhosen.
  25. If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution. And believe me, I can’t dance.


The high priests of poetry glitter like silver toothpicks. Don’t think about where they’ve been: the closets, the lavatories, the confessionals. Don’t mistake their laughter for genuine mirth. I remember our free-range chickens, that so-called flock of birds too fat to fly, how the roosters crowed at awkward hours and how every morning the hens would announce their new-laid miracles to the world in keening monotones, the first one sparking the others like a parking lot after a minor earthquake — all the car alarms going off at once. I remember how brutally they enforced the pecking order. Some winter mornings we’d find half a hen in the hay; bug season couldn’t come quickly enough. To be fair, though, their cruel stupidity was inbred, and may have been triggered by paranoia: almost every week two more members of the flock went missing from the shit-caked roosts, until spring when a new crop of chicks appeared in the rat-proof pen in the middle of the coop. Broody hens and second-rank roosters heard that EEP EEP EEP EEP and got excited. They’d wander up to the pen, tilt their heads as if taking confession, and go AWWWWP.

Operation Restore Hip

Prostration had become impossible. I needed a less-demanding god, one I could repair at home with duct tape, a little pine tar, or a well-placed screw. Someone had begun making sandals out of antique plastic Coke bottles, & down at the cafe the kids had learned how to draw a crowd with their impressions of the dialogue in telenovelas, which were the only thing still being broadcast. No one had seen a terrorist in years. I took in a small income in bets, dissassembling & reassembling my rifle in under a minute — nothing wrong with my fingers! The last time the execution bus came through, we all felt a little sorry for it, still on the road at an age when most buses are getting ready for retirement at the edge of some meadow full of goldenrod. The MP driver asked the crowd if we had any volunteers, & I caught my hand twitching in my lap. That’s when I decided I needed some new fire to raise me from my wheelchair, once & for all. Faith is more than what you believe; it’s how you see, & I was seeing too many shades of bruise. It’s what you hear — that murmuration — when you sit in the middle of a crater on a clear night & wait for the artificial stars to inch across the sky, infallible as scalpels. I realized my infrared goggles still work, & sometimes even the heat-seeking missile in my pants. I’m a self-made man.

Looking for monsters

Video link.

My niece Elanor had a great 4th birthday on the mountain this past Wednesday. It was the warmest day of the thaw, and everything was extremely exciting. Earlier in the day, the honeybees flying around the veranda had frightened her and she went back inside to read books and play with her Nanna. But somehow as soon as her daddy showed up, she wasn’t afraid of anything anymore.

As for the “monster” mentioned at the very beginning? The one Elanor is being encouraged to “go get”? That would be the guy with the camera for a face.