All the layers of sediment
watch from the hills;
a reel of sandy tape,
rusting red in the ever-steady sun.

The same life dramas played out
eon after eon, predator and prey,
predator and prey..

stretching back to lives lived
without skeletons or spines
livers or eyes.

Only now do the hills
record new dramas;
predator and prey
and jury duty,

Our town is built of sandstone.


The Idea of Order

In a house painted by Hopper,
in a town built by Whitman,
lives the lady of Wallace Stevens.

She turned to me and she whispered,
"Poetry has failed. Poetry has
failed because we have no way
to build poems out of silicone.
We could barely build them
out of steel and glass"




I began, "we could live
in the octave-work
of night and day,
understand rush-hours as
biblical events,
or we could live on the scale of weather,
knowing that foothills are museum pieces:
mountains in transit from
monument to emptiness."

"But we must always remember that glass
is sand relegated to the borderlands
of the house, remember that ice
is fragile water."

Allow me to break for a moment,
because this is important
and I have no other voice.

We have found planets in orbit
around other stars, stars that you can
see from your porch in the evening,
and when you look from your porch
at these stars in the evening
a little bit of the light from these planets
orbiting other stars strikes the back
of your eyeballs and registers somewhere
in your brain (think of the language,
ganglia, vitreous fluid, optic nerve,
egocenter, cerebral cortex!)

This has always been true but now
it is known and now we might
call it planetshine and now
it registers in a different part of your
brain and perhaps you are thinking
of martians, or perhaps you are thinking
of me sitting here with a beer,
taking a break from this poem to
tell you something maybe
you didn't know.

I continue, "do you remember
the color of the sky (absinth)
on the evening of the big bang?
and sitting atop that cliff,
in the green autumn light,
how you watched me play with
these words in my scrawny hands?"

"One solid tension of skin pulling
my thin fingers towards my
esophagus, rubbery tendons
inside pulling at intervals;
calcite and carbonate
histories of our universe,
past stars exploded, future stars
waiting to coalesce
around this language,
around our choices,
before exploding again
and again."


Once God was a child,
all hydrogen, helium, and heat,
no gravel, no granite,
no soil for the breathing.

His early warmth fills this room still,
three degrees from absolute zero,
in the gray snow falling in
the broken television screen,
in the static hissing on the radio
in-between stations.

Young God is all things random,
and all things are random.
Young God dies the great heat death,
all filament freezing; igneous!

And as we go about our own adult days,
we too are dying the slow way,
letting our thoughts turn to


For James Baldwin

Be forever a keeper of signs and symbols,
Know that we have left this mote and flown,
Go and tell them,
there are no names in the street!

There is a dead dog at my bed; night is afoot.


From Thomas Merton To Boris Pasternak

For a long time I threw faces
to the world, waiting
for the stuccoed arrival of evening;
now I hear the ping ping ping
over in the camp of night
where they've been holding my breath.

In the public square men with
wet cheeks build a machine
that runs on milk and it leaks milk
and someone's aurora borealis
struts down Alaska Avenue.

These are difficult mathematics-
we're forced to solve with
our limbs and fingers.

I need a drink of acetylene,
wicked and laced with alpenglow,
to rid my nights of this restlessness,
to forever end metaphor and semaphore,
to just once say it out loud.

In a Tent

In a Tent

The universe is gifted and waiting out front
engine idling and mountains roaring
sharp quartz gathering into fingerprints
tearing identity from the guts-
gay boys at work in the alley
forcing the perfect symmetry
of awkwardness to governors
too drunk and fucked to know better.