21 May 2017

a poem

for Kevin Burt.

A plant bends toward the sun.

When light is not symmetric,
the hormone auxin,
from the Greek word αυξειν, to increase,
moves to the shaded side of the plant, elongating the cells on that side. 
For those cells to be so pulled,
the auxin must stimulate elastins.
The elastins loosen the cell wall
on that dark side of the plant. 
In this new flexible context the cells there then stretch,
and the plant curves,
exposing more of it
to the light that is
its life force.

It seems counter-intuitive.

I long assumed that it was those places in contact with light that reached most for it. 

In order to survive, or to thrive even,
the dark side must be loosened, and then stretched. 
And the commanding agent of that survival
is unevenly distributed within,
always found most in the darkest places.


19 May 2016

some poem.

Tucker sits on his porch.
Every Thursday night he eats a spanish hamburger
and drinks an old fashioned, sweet.

His wife is dead two years.
Cells grew that shouldn't;
made her as thin as a Horicon Marsh reed.
Goddamn the more that makes you less.

There's a battery powered candle on her gravestone -
changes colors every few seconds.
The baby stared at it as we made our evening rounds in the cemetery tonight.
But he did fall asleep.

Tucker's yard has the most wild violets.  Damn near
more violets than grass.

You walk on that, you mow that,
it don't matter.  They don't crush or chop much.
The purple will still droop.
Some sort of poor king's honor.

We nod to each other, Tucker and me.

I look down, for sake of deference,
stare at the space between us.
What small beauty as the sun goes thin.
Right there, in that weave of grass and little scalloped leaves.

I look up.
Tucker is looking at me.
Neither of us smiles.

So what?

We trade in our eyes
a recognition of glory.

22 April 2016

remembering rhythms

The sound of the jackhammer interrupted us.

Damn project that will never end in the room below.

We'd been washing dishes and shooting the shit.  

He went from relaxed to nervous.

He noticed that I noticed.

I was never good at war. 

I'm glad to know it, I'd be worried if you were good at it.

He laughed, a bit.

There's people who are good at it.

I'd rather not meet them.  They don't sound like my kinda people.

Ha.  No Mat-chew, they's definitely not your kinda people. 

I put my hand on his shoulder.

The only battle we have to deal with today is piles of trays and plates.

Maybe for you.

I looked down.  How stupid. 

Okay, yeah, that was a lie.  I wish I could just wash dishes.

Me too.

He looked straight at me. 

We both felt the vibration in the floor. 

He grinned.

A'least now it's not just my hands shaken!

I laughed. 

16 April 2016

who art everywhere present and fillest all things.

I was looking in the eyes of a violent man this week.  He had just been attacked and he responded in kind, and in the aftermath as he was shouting his curses upon everyone and everything and shoving away those whose job it is to officially Calm Things Down and then record Paperwork about it, his eyes met mine.

Superficially, there was anger there.  An old therapist of mine likes to say that expressed anger is, at the very least, the manifestation of a sense of injustice.  Well, sure, of course.  Beyond that basic gloss we have all heard that anger is the active manifestation of fear.  True.

But what struck me as the overwhelming knowledge borne in those angry eyes that night was that of loneliness.

For all of our electronic and suprasocial connectivity, we always technically connected ones are the most alone people in human history.

I think that Lazzarato's thesis on the mass production of subjectivity as the primal work of capitalism is perhaps the most straightforward explanation of how we got here, and where we are, but one need not take Lazzarato's critical reading of Guattari and Deleuze on late modern alienation to recognize the basic truth here: we are apart from each other, and even our sacrosanct individualism is a truncated fabrication, leaving us feeling not complete in ourselves, even divorced from ourselves (some or all of the time), just as we find pathways to solidarity, communion, fellowship, community, neighborliness, and a camaraderie deeper than wearing the same advertisement for a multi-million or billion dollar sports team, to be things which are harder and harder to create, and even more difficult to maintain.

We are so awash in ever more uniformed from-god-only-knows-what breads and pixelated right to our fingers circuses that until we each have a crisis which breaks through the heavy eyed lull of this corporate pax delusionis we assume ourselves to still have a grasp on our basic human faculties, like friendship, or the capacity to truly help and to truly be helped, or the ability to listen.  Or we don't assume that, because we have never had it or known it, as can be seen among those woeful cases of lumpenproles and bourgeois who have never known anything stable or real in their lives.

Those eyes were terrified.  But not of pain.  The eyes were in the strongest man in the room, far and away.  And he knew he was among official Calm Things Downers who were obliged not to hurt him physically and to try to protect him from being hurt by others.  In fact he knew he was capable of inflicting a lot more physical pain than he would ever receive in that room.  The terror was, it seemed to me, that of a man who had no allies, no comrades, no comforters, not now and not ever any cavalry coming from around the bend, no one.

I've suffered, since a joint laced with something smoked in my early teen years, from anxiety, in acute and chronic forms.  This has often enough been experienced as a very intense fear of impending death.  The terror is indescribable, but I can parse what is feared.  It is not the process of dying - not pain or suffering in and of itself.  It is not hell as hell is popularly conceived - I've long felt that if a god was going to torture me, or anyone, eternally, then I didn't want to spend time with that god anyway, and I would rather be tortured by such a god than benefit from his graces.  It is not nothingness qua nothingness that I then fear.  I have no basis upon which to conceive of an absolute nothingness.  What I fear in those moments is being alone.  Of forever being away from those I have loved, from the possibility of communion, from the dynamic quality of my own inner conversations and remembrances, from any awareness of presence -- entering instead into a state of complete and static isolation, And the most terrifying aspect of these moments is that they do not feel like a mental fog or an aberration of rational thought - rather, they feel like a pristine moment of clarity -- that this is all that there is, all that ever will be, and that in this universe I am utterly alone, and that my final, pure, and true state is this aloneness.

This soul entropy, this undoing of connection, that pulls us away from each other also pulls us away from ourselves.  The all-is-permitted-within-the-confines-of-processed-and-regulated-hegemonies universe won by the actually existing Übermensch, the human as consumer and consumed, leaves us in a state where even our self is existentially undone, if we can notice this in all the commotion of Everything Traded - So Fun - Yet Sucks - Look, Cats!, such that nothing remains ours or mine in any meaningful sense.  To borrow from quantum physics, no thing exists outside of relationship to another thing.  If you lose others, you lose yourself.

The natural, rational, response to such a loss is suicide.  Suicide is the apotheosis of this lonely state of things.  It is the recognition that one cannot ever connect under the terms of this universe, or that we will at least all ultimately unconnect.  It is the acceptance, whether bitter or resigned or furious, of things as they are.  The prayer of which is, it is what it is.

In the literature we are told that suicides are usually impulsive, which corresponds to the house always wins game of craps universe described above.  But we also know from survivors of serious suicide attempts that suicides are usually regretted in the moments after the act toward death is committed.  It seems that in those final moments before a presumed death, persons are drawn back to a desire for the order of connection, and to love, and to, astonishingly, hope.

Another curious thing, and I have seen this firsthand over and over again in my strange life --  suicides usually don't want others to commit suicide.  Why?  This is where the game begins to become undone.  The terror of a universe wherein I am in a static state of horrific aloneness is something that, in acute moments, I experience for myself.  But I cannot experience it, and I sure as hell will not allow it or condone it, for my little girls and boy, for my wife, for my brothers and parents, for my friends, or even for that girl in every end of the road of safety nets who was raped repeatedly as an infant and now is a cutter and eater who tries whenever she has the chance to kill herself.  I will not allow that universe for them.  I rebuke it at every moment, as do many folks I know who work with the Walking Lonely who want to be relieved of the burden of breath.  You learn things in foxholes, and I think many who have been in my sort of foxholes will with me attest to the wondrous phenomena that is a woman or man who not long ago had a barrel in his/her mouth trying to talk a person whose life has been nothing but hell and misery into fighting for life, and rebuking the urge to death and disconnect.

There is a mystery there.

I can't explain it, but it is something Pauline, a willingness to accept a hell for one's self that one will not accept for others.

This willingness, too, is revealed in impulse.  Where does this impulse come from?


The sun was orange fire going down tonight.  Families were getting ice cream at the village gas station, and then while walking home yelled at their kids on bikes to slow down.  The two taverns seemed to be full, lots of motorcycles parked outside.  The moon had been out since mid afternoon, now an afterthought even as it was finally making its move toward prominence.  My wife's old first grade teacher limped down the sidewalk while shouting a conversation into her cell phone.  The bay windows in the houses revealed TVs showing cartoons, with kids jumping on couches and moms back in kitchens.  Two boys were headed home with fishing poles and a bucket.  An old man looked through me blankly as he smoked his cigarette.  When the middler girl and I got back home from the gas station with the microwave popcorn my baby boy said, for the first time, "me Paulie, me Paulie."

Yes, you are son.  And you always will be.  Because you will always be loved, and you will never be alone, no matter which of the universe's narratives is loudest in your ear.

11 April 2016

The Cost of Light

I look west
across Lake Butte des Morts.
Fourteen rays of light break through a cloud.
Why do I count them?
Would Phanaeus be foolishly gratuitous to give fifteen?
Would thirteen have left Helius a hording miser?
Only one born under the sign of the making of titanic turbines
and the splitting of the smallest things
would be so first inclined to
count the cost of light.

A ring-billed gull,
perhaps here too early this year,
works hard against the wind
to remain in one place.
Moving to remain unmovable.
How she struggles for stillness!

I cannot count the waves.
My eyes a crude tool.
This crest the same as that one,
and while moving, they too don’t seem to be going anywhere.
But I do discern a meter,
which is a start.

Where the cloud piercing fires of Phanaeus hit water,
ray to wave,
there is a bleeding of color,
not numerable.
Simply there, but also moving. Alive.
A portal
to my own uncounting.

I laugh as I think, 
you smart lake,
life is found in the low places.

02 April 2016


Tattoo shop 
passed a thousand times
minus once.

Told the bearded man to write the letters
on the palm side
proximal chunks of four fat fingers.

I mean it in the intransitive I said,
taking measure.

He said that makes sense
since he didn’t take me for an entertainer.

Well, shit.

You got any tattoos?
This will hurt.

His girlfriend in the corner asked,
why live
I reached for death with that hand, ma'am.
Her eyes looked me over with woman's burden toward life, and they knew enough, God bless her.

He buzzed his ink machine a bit more,
then said,
sooner or later, we all need to be slapped by our own hand.  

29 March 2016

things I love, part one

I love dusk more than dawn.

Not because it anticipates nightfall;
far from that.

because of its unready strokes of color
making the most of what light is left.
Because of the translucence conveyed,
revealing darkness to be at worst a fib
and at best the pause of a lover.
Because come dawn I head away from home,
and come dusk I am going home, or already there;
away hurts.
Because when you are east of Eden,
you naturally look westward,
head slightly bowed toward remembrance.
Because of the reflections of clouds
in the puddles between corn rows,
not bright,
certainly not glamorous,
not emphatic.
Stayed, benedictory,
water wedding sky and earth.
Because it is the hour when the words come to mind:
"take from me the spirit of... despair."

The birds are quiet, nestled.
I still sense their hum.
The palomino quarter horse at the end of Metovale
stands still, not even chewing,
The neighbor walking with his wife only
need barely nod
in greeting as I make my last turn.
Inside the baby is nursing;
I kiss his head,
and the lips of
his mother
who is reading.
The girls are just into bed,
waiting for a father to say prayers.

This is the hour
wherein more motion is superfluous.
The gentle is king over the hard,
even if just for this slowed time of
last turning glad illumination.
all is revealed to be some
quality of light.