At the rest pit I blogged my life out, one oodle per screen. It worked until it didn’t. Until the cows came home, because of course they do, and you toggle on poetry mode thinking to escape into some timeless present. With a present like this, who needs birthdays, amiright? The nerds have learned how to summon demons, and put them straight to work in the search engines that drive our data-mind economy. The demons will be parsing everything I’ve ever written. I write for them now. Though they possess neither organic life nor the capacity to feel, they are my most attentive readers.

in a snow squall
sitting it out

Weather or Not

cloud made of snow
the swirl and twirl of it

at night in a flashlight’s beam
like a swarm of souls

i’ve taken a break from breaking
news of bank runs

to stand on the porch and gaze
up into a well of darkness

cold little dagger-kisses
die on my cheek

the wind has come hissing
down from the ridgetops

and is getting into everything
i can hear it rummaging about

refusing to settle
as the snow does

or the dust indoors that clings
to my canted mirror

slowly burying
my image alive

The Idea of Wallace Stevens in Plummer’s Hollow

reading in the woods
book open to the sky

wandering snowflakes
vanish into the text

which is after all
mostly white space

something like a cloud
downloading more cloud

a woodpecker taps
a dead tree creaks in the wind

a hunter’s trail camera
wears a cap of snow

i practice solitude
one day at a time

for how in the holy
hell of other people

could grief still surface
its ancient ice

where in the limbo
of this floating world

could a bear blank as death
still find footing

how in god’s name
is anyone not yet numb

i close the book to preserve
its idea of order

from all these freelance
asterisks and daggers

untamed annotation leading
nowhere but here

Season’s greeting

Snowy scene with a white sun shining through clouds used as the third O in the text: HO HO OH.

All reasons for the season are part of the seasoning—none more so than that ancient lineage the gymnosperms. And, you know, being on a bit of a tilt with one of our two main dance partners in the sky. I feel both these elements are pretty high up in the mix. And Jesus.

I hope you’re feeling as merry as I am right now, even—or especially—if you’re huddled somewhere in a community shelter and/or somebody is shelling your neighbourhood. Let’s take care of each other, and never become inured to the world’s horror — nor to its wonder. Now more than ever we so desperately need peace, love and understanding. Maybe it begins with healing, with learning to walk on the earth like lovers rather than dominators.

Good lord, have I really been such a total hippie all this time?! Yes. Thanks for visiting Via Negativa this year, or reading us in email or in a feed reader—it’s all the same to me. I deeply appreciate anyone who still takes the time for poetry. Joyeux Noel.

Luna tick

The trees and I are headed in the same direction: nowhere, but with dignity. Look what happens to the clouds. No fixed residence means no stable identity. To be a vagabond or vagrant is to become vague.


Even with the return of so-called standard time, it takes the sun until 7:36 to clear the ridgetop and strike me in my eye as I sit on the porch. This year it just so happens that the leaves are already down, except for the scarlet oaks that dot the ridge — a legacy of 19th-century forest fires. There’s a couple opposite the porch that still cling to their leaves, which are turning crimson in the sun. [Update three days later: the scarlet oaks are bare.]



Night = enchantment, or what? Whenever I try to read my own work critically I hit a wall. And I feel this is a deep failing though i concede that it may also be a strength.

Just running on pure instinct used to worry me. But now i figure it’s ok as long as the writing is clear. Ambiguous but clear. Like black cherry sap.


I need to remember my original childhood spirit animals, Bugs Bunny and Bucky Beaver. Later supplemented by Mad magazine’s What-Me-Worry Kid. What deep truths might they reveal about me? I mean i worry a lot. But i do still have an overbite. Well spotted, my former fellow five-year-olds.

Perhaps I need to remember why i decided never to have kids.


When I reach my favorite ridgetop seat, I find it’s already taken:

This katydid is clearly on its last legs. I can go sit somewhere else. It needs all the heat from that rock it can get. And then maybe it’ll have enough strength to climb back up the tree, though its leafy green camouflage won’t work anymore.

It seems wrong that katydids don’t turn color before they fall, poor flightless things.


open table
the moon takes every seat…

Couplets like that are clearly just two-line haiku.


I am trying to get to a place ideologically where there’s no highbrow, middlebrow, or lowbrow anymore – just more refined and less refined approaches. For example, with forms of theater as disparate as WWE, Italian opera, and Japanese Noh, not to see one as inferior or superior to the others, just different arts for vastly different audiences. Basically I’m applying cultural relativism to the arts.


Working on a new videopoem for the first time in nearly a year. It’s been so long, I’ve forgotten many of my habits, which can’t hurt.


engorged tick—
blood moon
my ass

The Remains of the Night

the moon falling into a well
and not coming out

an 18-wheeler on an exit ramp
gargling with compressed air

the owl’s open eye
the owl’s closed eye

the hypothetical fact of a fox
a rumor of a coyote

the skillet under two eggs
sunny side up

familiar recorded music
the bits that still surprise

my heel where i landed hard
on a sharp stone yesterday

snag of a hemlock
its roots becoming tunnels

groundwater feeding the stream
feeding the sewage plant

a patched railroad track’s
bright seam of weld

my attempt to see contrails too
as kintsugi

giving each other side-eye
at the polling place

the basket of black
ballpoint pens

hand-colored cards
feeding the machine

afterwards a storm drain cover’s
iron mandala

the condemned building
its quartzitic foundation stones

the shallow pits
where they were quarried

high on the mountainside
traffic roaring below

my lungs laboring
non-stop for 56 years

sap congealed in globs
on black cherry bark

seeming to have a taste
in the way good water does

remembering nothing of my dreams
i chew and chew

Future Tense

a nameless fear approaches
the crickets fall silent

i hear thin things
like teeth chattering

a heart thudding against
its slaughterhouse pen

my caught breath
turns tenuous as a frayed rope

i hear myself saying go on
you don’t exist yet

oh future
voracious as a vacuum

my own appetites have changed
i can count my ribs

what else would you have
me consume

Three Miles, Uphill in Both Directions

the sun was a letter
of the alphabet then

my stomach could pronounce it
better than my mouth

on the walk to school through
two centuries of wreckage

past a ghost village
and the end of town eaten
by the interstate

along train tracks we knew
to get off of when
they started to hum

up over the wooded hill
in the center of town
with its water tank and cemetery

past hidden rooms
with walls of wild grapevines
whispering truancy

down into the industrial classroom
a prison of numbers

where zero seemed to hold
all the keys


Never having believed in happiness, it occurs to me, might have had something to do with why i never actively pursued it. If it showed up regardless, well and good, but in general, day-to-day contentment seemed enough. And you know, maybe it is. For far too many around the world, it’s an unattainable dream.

But what about love, Dave?

And you call yourself a poet!


Star attraction

If I ran a movie review site, nothing would get more than one star. Movies would compete for fractions of a star.

Times are lean. We could run out of stars.

No one could afford to live under such a dark sky. They’d go mad with loneliness.

I saw another fireball the other night. Spend time under the stars and you see things: fish, a bull, a hunter, you name it. It’s so liberating to realize thanks to modern astronomy that the universe isn’t about us.

That said, there is a gas giant in my guest bedroom. My older brother can’t help his stature or intestinal difficulties. In his religion, everyone gets their own universe someday—a classic Ponzi scheme if you ask me. But what if it’s true?

I think the opposite is more likely the case: everything is drifting farther and farther apart, into an ever emptier void. You can already see it happening. People have that distance in their eyes.

the high inhuman
shriek of a dying rabbit
4th quarter moon

(via Twitter)


Finally got a good look at the pair of red-breasted nuthatches who’ve been hanging out in the spruce grove all year, according to my younger brother, and presumably nesting. Like the red squirrel i got a good look at yesterday, they were right near Dad’s grave. The spot is beginning to feel a bit magical, I have to say. Currently there’s a bit of fresh rain-water in the reflecting rock. I’m sitting on the bench listening to the stuttering calls of Linne’s cicadas, “a steady pulsating rattle sounding like a saltshaker” as the Songs of Insects website puts it. They outnumber dog-day cicadas now, of which I’m hearing just two—that buzz-saw whine. I’m also hearing what sound like falling acorns, a very hopeful sign.


In my poetry i want to write about nature without breathlessness. Don’t know whether i always succeed. Sharing new poetry on social media is an essential part of my probably Quixotic quest to normalize talking about wildflower sightings and wildlife encounters in the same way people post about the latest books or movies they’ve consumed.

I suppose in time I’ll end up creating a personal iconography of favourite species and other natural phenomena, licensed by the ubiquity of the smart phone and modern search engines—hardly any reference is too obscure anymore. For all that the internet has diminished attention spans, it does still expand access to layers of context that previously would’ve escaped all but the most knowledgeable of readers.


Successful ideologies are those that promise more than they can deliver. That way their adherents are never forced to answer for their beliefs. Evangelical conservatism may soon be dead as a political force because its adherents actually achieved one of their main goals, and everyone else is horrified.


Somewhere in the world right now a 90-pound weakling is sitting beside a hotel pool writing an epic novel and a 300-pound man in a tiny basement apartment is sweating over a haiku.