Some Facts About Paradise

paradise never sticks
it’s too purpose-driven

the first wings lacked feathers
the first feathers lacked wings

i used to love the idea of giving
my body to medicine

now i’d rather go back to dirt
and grow mushrooms

paradise in the sticks
may require some assembly

the first godhead went nova
the second is a donut hole

i used to be content
as a content creator

now the cold creeps in
through my hobo coat

paradise on a stick
would taste of oppression

the forest pool in new ice
is a thing with feathers

it goes away in the autumn
a blessing for the frogs

whose eggs would be eaten
if it had year-round residents

wood frogs are wise
and live under rocks

paradise sticks
to the script

Reasons for the season

can seem threadbare
down-right holey

a door opening in a tree
nothing coming out

nights when frost gets lost
in drawing ferns

a fly on the windowsill
rubbing the dust from its eyes

a feral cat hunting voles
the fear in their fur

a joy glossy as bitumen
playing for small change

on one roof two dishes
set out for the same satellite

above the hospital
a cemetery angel

stone wings growing
a new green coat


what do the eyes know
about touching

or the ears about this precipice
of a yawn

whose designer feet
elude the water

you squeaky cleaners
fighting for your lives

even your signatures twist
into moth or rust

my electric heater
may be possessed by demons

but inside my lungs
there’s a city of light

even at the edge of the forest
limbs reach out

such is the hunger
for god’s own sun

i hold the holy book
against my chest

it sits between my nipples
like a little black dog


burning some old barn
beams for fuel

the 19th-century knots
pop like pistols

and my train of thought
goes off the rails

forlornly blowing
its figurative whistle

into a night bright
with fallen snow

we’re all fugitives
from the present moment

in our distracted states
of america

no wonder it takes gunshots
to wake us up

i hear footsteps
in the kitchen

and find myself
in the bathroom mirror

happy to dwell
in this icy stillness

it’s the future
i’d like to escape

a choose-your-own-
doom story

we picture as a shining city
on a hill which once

might have been more
like a mountain

Beyond Belief

ravens have come to out-
number crows here

so we have fewer murders
but more odd cries and gurgling

the October sun glows
in a dull white institutional sky

but in the small hours
how the stars had glittered

Taurus’ V was no bovine face
but a wolf sharp with purpose

clear antagonist
to the well-hung hunter

while Astarte the morning star
had gone over to the morning—

stories to convert a sky
into the heavens

even beyond belief
to be at home in it

this cold milk
curdling overhead

On Pilgrimage

a morning-fresh aroma
from the compost
steaming in the cool air

i descend the mountain
just so i can climb it
yet again

through fog
as soft as the moss
acorns clattering down

the sun’s already out
in the valley for
the annual farm show

and above the gap
the first broad-winged
hawks of the day

spiral high around
a column of rising heat
then hurtle south

while a long rumbling
line of tractors
snakes through the fields

they used to say
rogation was good
for the crops

even bullshit walks
on six legs
bit by bit into the earth


Another day, another poem. Thanks to my brother Mark for the bird info and the Sinking Valley Facebook page for the farm show info. Rogation was/is a Catholic ritual with parallels in folk religions around the world, a form of annual pilgrimage in which a priest leads a procession of local residents in a circuit of the fields.

Basket Case

No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.
Luke 11:33


night forest restless with autumn
and insect chants

the sound of distant drums
from band practice

overhead the dark canopy
glittering with stars

a train horn’s one-of-a-kind chord
returns me to myself

under an old mother oak
wind paging through the leaves

before moonrise in a woods
as dark as a womb


look what the moon has done
with borrowed light

recycled from that workhorse
with its quotidian round

a light that savors
instead of swallowing whole

oh little white pill
what visions will you precipitate

so this tendril of wakefulness
can corkscrew inward

a reverse heliotropism toward
whatever resists illumination

the unexamined life
like volcanic glass

lightweight and porous
a stone that floats

God of Wednesday

A picture-stone from Gotland believed to depict Odin (top right) receiving sacrifices (photo by Elena on Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND)

sacrifice yourself to your self
that ruthless cabal

and of course you’ll call it
wisdom won’t you

with birds of slaughter
muttering into your ears

father of frenzy and panic
poetry and the unspeakable

i saw your red eye
glimmering through the night

and a sudden fear
floated up like ice

what’s changed since the death
of your death cult

wolves and bears have dwindled
into plush toys

doom is called
by new names

your day has worn down
to a barren hump


Note: I stole the title from author Nancy Marie Brown’s excellent blog about Iceland and Old Norse-related things.

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.

Hot Planet Summer

Realizing that one of the things I really like about Facebook and Instagram is the mundanity of much of the content. As far outside the mainstream as I am in how I occupy my time and what I like to read and think about, it’s useful to be reminded of normal things that people do, such as attend sporting events, cook on backyard grills, dance to music that nobody loves but almost everyone can tolerate, go on family vacations, etc. Especially at this point in my life, when I know that everyone else is just winging it, too, and that some of the most organized-seeming people are also the most terrified. (And considering the state of the world, if you’re not terrified, I don’t know what to tell you.)

Normality seems precious, now. Many actively debate its existence. I want to commit as much as of it as possible to memory. What we were like. How beautiful the planet still was.


mosquito wading
through my arm hair
her caress

stump water
a jake-braking truck’s
thunderous stutter

roadside diner
a vulture walks the last
few feet

stick insect
the wings you can’t grow
would be so green

mossy log
an old lightning strike’s
glossy char


How many times can an axis mundi be destroyed before the concept of the sacred becomes completely nonsensical? In the book of death all will be unwritten, but in the name of Life. Those who pray for the end of time and champion the destruction of the planet claim to speak for the unborn. For whom do you claim to speak?