Supremacy Ritual

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Rituals


nine knuckles are gathering
in a room appointed for sleep

theirs are the only shadows
not checked at the door

nine claws are judging
the entrails of a suit

flies have been eliminated
but still there’s a hum

nine knives are carving
a number into a bare back

even under the eyelids
it’s white as a cloud

Homo allegheniensis

i compose myself
for the sniper

the hundred-year flood
the flint of winter

like a mountain rabbit

i could be the type specimen
for a new extremophile

hardy as a tardigrade
tender as an endolith

the laundry basket holds
all my changes of heart

still warm
from the late Carboniferous

like the wood lice
that wander under rocks

i am crepuscular
my sky is stern

Self-Censorship Ritual

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Rituals


this fragile midnight
its rich veins of blood

let a tooth take root
in a soft skull

at the end of the earth
this very crescent

a high C
guttering in a puddle

or lodged like an eyelash
under your island

at another end of the earth
a drone army

firing tree seeds
into clearcut mountains

if you have a price
you’re not a prophet

go self-censor
for the bathroom mirror

between sleeps
knowing they no longer knock

Bad Faith Ritual

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Rituals


you rise and then what
whose hand will throw your stone

there’s a shape in the sand
that’s got your name on it

a cartoon heart perhaps
or half a castle

let’s snort the headlines
and see who sneezes first

play a game of hashtag
among lifeless bodies of evidence

and collect our empties
for deposit only

five cents for a jack boot
ten cents for a child’s shoe

twisting our tongues as she sells
spent shells by the seashore

i’m not waving but droning
unmanned and wired
to go off


so what if the labile moon
becomes your emblem

the half-shell upon which
your camino is served up

sew it into the lining of a coat
for use in emergencies

a subway token for the underworld
or an owl’s limitless eye

stirring up the birds
in your bedroom tree

its screen will sell you nothing
in glowing detail

it claims one egg
from every clutch

it brings out your darkest shadow
once a month

White Phosphorus

a found poem from the WHO

What is to give light must endure burning.
—Viktor Frankl

a white to yellow waxy solid
with a garlic-like odor

ignites spontaneously
until it is deprived of oxygen

used in grenades and artillery shells
to produce illumination

used as a rodenticide
and in fireworks

exposure to white phosphorus
can cause severe burns

affected areas of exposed skin
may appear yellowish

may show necrotic
full-thickness burns

death may occur from shock
hepatic or renal failure
central nervous system or myocardial damage

particles that have penetrated the skin
may start to burn when the wound is opened

white smoke may be seen
emanating from wounds


Our lives are an amnesty given us.
William Stafford

meanwhile the trees
are relaxing their grip

turning toward sleep
in a kind of hypnagogia

vivid and hallucinatory
against the gray


though the sign itself is yellow
as are many red maples

it’s the most primary
that school-bus color

meanwhile children play tag
outside an Amish school

in clothes so plain
it marks them as exotic

one of them rooted to the spot
scrunching up his face

a hole opens in the clouds
but not for any missiles

meanwhile skeletons
are unsettling in front yards

one pushes a lawnmower
towards several bony arms

like barked sticks
sprouting from manicured grass

in the distance some engine
i don’t notice until it stops

and i’m left with the sound
of my footsteps in fallen leaves

walking the empty bed
of a former coal country railroad

past pastures and high hayfields
up into the autumn hills

just below the clouds
a raven gives his voice box a shake

and out tumbles
something like a child’s cry
crossed with a horn

18 October 2023

No Angels But

a great grey worrybird
chirping in my ear

the key to a sugar maple high’s
downward spiral

or white lightning bugs
going on on on off

these are the winged agents
of an implacable cosmos

the scarlet manager
on vacation in the tropics

chickenhawkers online
flipping whispers

engorged hornbills blowing
for a credulous newscanter

shock-jawed death heads
emptying their payloads

till no unfallen
angels remain

and it’s back to the fire
and brimstone age

don’t look
you pillars of assault

New videohaiku: the future…

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

Watch on Vimeo

What does it mean to look forward to something any more, in a world hurtling toward ecological collapse if not thermonuclear destruction? There was a bestseller back in the 1970s called Future Shock about the social and psychological damage incurred by modern society’s relentless drive toward progress… or so I imagine, having never actually read it. But it’s been on my mind lately despite that minor detail. I’ve also been thinking a lot about ignorance, both in epistemological and sociological terms, and not coming to any firm conclusions because I rarely do. That’s a poet thing, I suppose. Not knowing the future, though, seems essential to mere survival, let along progress, as the Rene Char quote in the sidebar here says: “How can we live without the unknown before us?”

This has been a horrific summer in many parts of North America, but here in central Pennsylvania we went from a severe spring drought to a very wet but relatively cool summer. Trees went from nearly dropping their leaves at the beginning of June to massive growth spurts in July—aided, I’m sure, by all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. And part of what kept things cool for us was the haze from burning forests elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned in various poems. But one of the pleasures of haiku is being liberated from having to explain things. They can just lurk in the background, mostly inaudible to the reader. Distant flashes that can mean whatever you want them to.

The fireflies, who had been scarce early on, had their highest numbers toward the end of the season. I shot this 30-second clip of them on my phone at dusk last week, just as the weather was turning from muggy to cool. Three nights ago the katydids started up; in a week or so, their throb will be all we hear. I look forward to weeks of good sleep.

On the Rocks

the way boulders come together
to make a mountaintop trail

like a puzzle with missing pieces
into which a foot might fit

or a yellow birch root
or a plush runner of moss

it becomes a sanctuary
from the sicknesses borne by ticks

the rashes fevers and nausea
fatigue and brain fog

all the gordian knot holes
untied by death

just off-trail where the fallen
collapse into themselves

and an alarm call passes
from red squirrel to red squirrel

among conifers where the wind
can’t stay still

but the trail rejoins the road
there’s no escape

the bumblebee at my feet
has a fling with some wild basil

dance partners in a small hell
of roadside weeds

the ecological consequence
of a war of each against all

hermit thrushes conjure
a melancholy sweetness

in one key after another
a sob catches in my throat

overhead a vulture banks
on heat rising from the gravel

blue stone gouged out
of adjacent valleys

where the pits someday go back
to shallow seas

wave upon wave of blue ridges
vanishing into the haze