Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Friday, 28 August 2009

All Souls Night


File:Mother lion and cubs.jpg

Tears in the rain

for the sickly lioness with AIDS

and her scrawny, starving cubs

the final understanding too late


emotional need to affiliate

with the rest of the living world

as it disappears

vs. shrinkage of nature everyday abetted

by cognitive disconnection


sprawled asleep sleek

silky & fat as the night jungle

maybe the last

big cats would make better gods

& goddesses

than men & women

by the shores of the lakes

of Africa

emaciated and covered with living sores

File:Maneless lion from Tsavo East National Park.png

Mother lion and cubs, Kenya: photo by Sam Stearman, 2004

Maneless male lion, Tsavo East National Park, Kenya: photo by Mgiganteus, 2007



Ideology dates back to the veldt,
Blood in the dust, the lion's rage against
The antelope it's about to have for lunch.
For the luckless prey prayer's all that's left,
No ideology's yet been known to incorporate
Mercy as a feature. But of course all this is irony.
No lion's yet been known to subscribe to a noble lie.

File:Serengeti Lion Running saturated.jpg

The Hungry Lion Throws Itself upon the Antelope: Henri Rousseau, 2005 (Fondation Bieler, Basel)
Lioness hunting warthogs in the western corridor of the Serengeti: photo by Schuyler Shepherd, 2009

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Ghost of a Chance (after Mallarmé)


File:Bird at Claremont, Surrey.jpg

A fling of the dice even when cast for good or ill into the eternal

contingency of a shipwreck of which the only trace is the bubbles

will never abolish the Abyss bleached to pure white beneath its simulacrum sail

blown back in takeoff by ineffable headwinds ghost bird

swooping wingspan and depth the hull of a vessel rocked from side to side

in gaping sidereal questionspace rolling toward declension

shining and meditating before stopping at some last point it crests

All thought ejects a cast of the dice into the infinite Chance


Stephane Mallarmé: Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (1897): freely remixed into English

Bird mid-flight at Claremont, Surrey: photo by Paul Friel, 2005

Dados cubicos (dice): image by Maximaximax, 2005



File:Rose champagne infinite bubbles.jpg

Rex Whistler -- or is it Joe Isuzu? -- stretches
out half naked on a rock and pretends
to be a river god, while Sylvia Plath -- or is
that Edith Sitwell down there among the ceramic cherubs? --
lies down on the floor and pretends to be dead.
That's Society. "Reality" is an unmade bed
full of champagne. "I was the first (burp)
to interject my own persona between the lens
and the frilly circus ladies of the human psyche."

A smart model in a Digby Morton suit steps
confidently through the rubble of the Blitz.
That's Society, "her poise unshaken." Hearts
of movie stars and duchesses expand life-jacket style,
Marilyn Monroe's nerves are refused entry to the studio,
and the royal family, from the Super Mum herself
down to Snowdon, Lichfield and Andrew,
parade around in cloud cuckoo land in funny hats
while Douglas Fairbanks falls out of filigree windows
and persuades Mountbatten to play Lear in mid air.

Now Mountbatten too is falling falling,
gazing up at their reflections in the mirrored Star Ceiling
Mickey Mouse as the Sheik of Araby
alongside Madame Pompadour as Cassandra
are spinning and flailing, tumbling through space,
berserk boxers doing a minuet in weightlessness,
yet the polystyrene suspension net
slung underneath the scene by Cecil Beaton
somehow makes it all make sense though not really.

File:Rose Champagne Bubbles.jpg

Rose champagne infinite bubbles: photo by Gaetan Lee, 2006
Rose champagne bubbles: photo by Gaetan Lee, 2007

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

In Water World


Distant rain, Ocean Beach, San Francisco
: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2006

The sea repeats itself in dreams, a green-grey world of water
Calm boats frozen in shade
Pale blank clouds, pines, rocks and kelp shrouds
Like woolly fish in mist pink distance floating
The beach stretches as far as the sand bar
Clean detached waves wash over dry stone, tears of rain drift
The water is perfectly still, restructuring everything




Before the light radiates, where do you place it,

back there or out here in the pre-world
of street riot and armed detachments
grown commonplace, where the beam rotates like a mars light,
thought is as cautiously leashed as a bungee cable jumper

entrusted to a body beyond your body -- is there
a body there, is it real, can you touch it
through the dark fire of the pre-world
that closes in? The presence of energy within
the elastic net fate weaves is the reckless

daredevil of the pre-world; fate allows it three
leaps, two snaps back, causing suffering,
causing hells; creating the body of desire,
suspending it in the vastness of space,
expanding it, disrupting it, offering it intense

resistance, whereof it can know itself.

File:Bungee jumping outside Macau Tower.jpg

Bungee jumping in Viaduc de la Souleuvre, Normandy: photo by Chmoeul, 2005

Bungee jumping outside Macau Tower: photo by Ellanor, 2007

Tesseract (Hypercube in Rotation)



I don't have a single complete suit of clothes
In my intellectual closet. Unsystematic,
I beat up a little game and leave it to
Knottier and more robust heads to track it down.

The germs of my best thoughts hatch ab ovo.
Under questioning, I'll throw out a word or two
Merely to be suggesting something,
Just don't ask me to say anything under oath.

To mature a proposition till it's ripe
Is beyond me. I bring my corn to market still
In the green ear. Superstitious sprite
Psyche spills ink into my dreamlife, all

I can recall upon awakening is a blot
And an odd odor as of thought escaping.


3D projection of a four-dimensional hypercube performing a simple rotation about a plane which bisects the figure from front-left to back-right and top to bottom: Image by Jason Hise, 2008

Piper: hyperelastic girl ("Due to lack of sleep, Piper becomes like a zombie"): screenshot from Different and the Same: Ryangibsonstewart, 2008

Superior Orders (October 1789)


File:Santisima Trinidad.jpg

"Haro: I have departed Nuca by superior order to San Blas"

--Esteban José Martínez

The long love that in my thought doth harbor

How far from port with how much longer to go

For that matter how far from sherry or madeira

All that is lost and fallen ought to be

Who’d explain loyalty to fate and brandy

Indians among our crew dispirited by the cold

So much harsher than autumn in Mexico

Days of obscurity and foul prevailing weather

Rain fog and the progress of worm in planks

Closing off whatever had appeared our goal

We’ll abandon everything we’ve built or meant to

Though the rice begins to produce the wheat is planted

All through the long New World shadowed afternoon

We warp out of the cove preparatory to sailing


Santisima Trinidad: Spanish ship of the line, launched 1769 (author unknown)

Arrival of vessels commanded by Capt. John Meares in Nootka Harbour, Vancouver Island, 1788 (from John Meares' Voyages, 1790)

Poem from TC: Empire of Skin (a poetic history of the Northwest Coast Fur Trade)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Vallejo: Dolor



Roll cloud, Las Olas Beach, Punta del Este, Uruguay: photo by Daniela Mirner Eberl, 2009

So that's that for the Stranger, with whom, late
nights, you returned parley for parley.
There won't be anybody waiting for me now,
nobody to look after me, good bad.

Finally done with: the overheated afternoon,
your great hue and cry, the small talk
with your exhausted mother finally over,
the tea steeped in the coming of night.

Finished and none too soon: the holidays,
the head leant obediently upon your breast,
your way of making me stick around the house.

And over and done with at last as well the diminutive
lion's share of my endless dolor,
and our having been born like this for no cause.

Trilce XXXIV: César Vallejo (1922): translated by TC

Roll cloud over east coast of Yucatan, Mexico: photo by Sensenmann, 15 July 2005

Wrong from the Start



The path of least resistance
is a straight line
but once you deviate
even slightly
the path of least
resistance becomes
that of greater
and greater

Thumbnail for version as of 14:08, 27 January 2007

Egg of Columbus
: photos by Jacper "Kangel" Aniolek, 2007

Friday, 21 August 2009

Baudelaire: The Albatross


File:Starr 080614-8923 Scaevola taccada.jpg

Often, to pass the idle hours of the voyage,
Sailors will capture that great slow follower
Of their gliding passage over the bitter depths,
Proudest of sea birds, the albatross.

King of the azure the sailors call it, with a wink --
For once the great ungainly wings are stretched
Out and trailing across the briny planks
Like abandoned oars, this vast being's suddenly

Helpless, maladroit and embarrassed,
Vaguely ridiculous. A sailor pokes its beak with a pipe,
Another acts out the fallen bird's distress,
Dragging a theatrical game leg across the deck.

The poet is very much like this Prince of the Clouds,
Floating above stormy waters, mocking the distant marksman;
But once brought down, a laughable figure, stranded,
Broken wings swim-flipper-slapping the wormy wood.

File:Cloud over yucatan mexico 01.jpg

Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) flying at Old Fuel Farm Sand island, Midway Atoll: photo by Forest and Kim Starr, 2008
Roll cloud over east coast of Yucatan (Mexico): photo by Sensenmann, 2005

L'Albatros: Charles Baudelaire (drafted 1842; final quatrain added for publication, 1859): translated by TC

Tear (after Rimbaud)



Far from bird noise and lazy cattle and chatty girls

I knelt in a drowsy glade to drink
As the purple mist of the afternoon closed
In on the green growing things around the lake.

Was there something in the water there
Under those phantasmal mist-cloaked trees,
A golden liquor, barley colored, jewelled,
Under shrouded skies, that caused me to break out

In a strange feverish sweat? You could
Have made a Motel sign out of me I was so lit up,
With half the neon on the fritz
Spelling out VA*AN*Y into encroaching evening.

Then storm changed the sky: dark nations,
Poles, columns, shelves and terminals of cloud
Blown in a vast wave across the blue night.
The stream escaped away through the woods

To white sands. A sharp wind came up.
Sheets of isinglass spilled across the lake. To think
That intent as a searcher after Eldorado or a pearl
I persisted still in stooping to imbibe!

File:Wall cloud with lightning - NOAA.jpg

Larme (Tear): Arthur Rimbaud, from Derniers Vers (1872): freely rendered into English by TC
Geothermal steam fog, Yellowstone, Wyoming: photo by US National Park Service, 2005
Wall cloud with lightning, over Miami. Texas: photo by Brad Smull (NOAA), 1980

Night Sky



to Blanqui

The universe as the site of lingering cosmic
catastrophes – points of conflict in the text,
Nablus, Jenin,
through which it’s impossible to see the stars.

Dark spots that shade the eyes. “This eternity
of the human being among the stars is a melancholy
thing… There exists a world where a man follows a
road that, in the other world, his double did not take.”

The routinization of the suffering that comes with
having a soul. The martyr’s pain is repeated in
the same moment over and over again at infinite sites
scattered through the universe, pockets of darkness between stars.

Life as the monotonous flow of an hourglass
that eternally empties and turns itself over, teaching
yes, but always the same lesson, the new sand is
always old the old sand always new.

Early morning Cumulonimbus incus, northeast of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
: photo by Bidgee, 2006

Thursday, 20 August 2009



Asperatus cloud: Over Cedar Rapids, Iowa, US.

The smashed weirdness of the raving cadenzas of God

Takes over all of a sudden

In our time. It speaks through clouds and the voices of talk show moderators.

It tells us in a ringing anthem, like heavenly hosts uplifted,

That the rhapsody of the pastoral is out to lunch.

We can take it from there.

We can take it to Easy Street.

But when things get tough on Easy Street

What then? Is it time for realism?

And who are these guys on the bus

Who glide in golden hats past us

On their way to Kansas City?

Asperatus clouds over Cedar Rapids, Iowa: photo by Jane Wiggins, 2006

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Vallejo: The Vedic Fiber


If it rains tonight, I'd withdraw from here
a thousand years.
No, a hundred, no more.
As if nothing had occurred
I'd believe I were
in a state of becoming, still.

Or without a mother, without
a lover, without
the unending feeling
for a pulse
on a night like this, I'd be
combing the Vedic fiber,
the Vedic wool, diabolical
indication, having pinched
by the nostrils
the two clappers hidden
inside a single bell.

Toting up my life
or claiming I've never been born
won't release me.

What hasn't yet come along won't, but
what's already come and gone,
but what's already come and gone.

Trilce XXXIII: César Vallejo (1922), trans. TC
Asperatus clouds, Schiehallion in Perthshire, Scotland: photo by Ken Prior, 2007

Monday, 17 August 2009

After the Deluge


As soon as the Idea of the Flood had subsided, caravans set out. And the Hotel Splendide was built in the chaos of ice and polar night.

Waters and sorrow, rise and unleash the Floods again.

Because since they rolled away... oh, so disappointing... the Sorceress who tends her flame in an earthen vessel no longer relates to us what she knows, and what we do not know.


The next world, so near and yet so far away.

(One does not ask the clouds for directions/answers.)

Muelle en el cielo: photo by Lucy in the Sky, 2009.

Lago Lácar, a lake of glacial origin, at 40 degrees southern latitude, 277 m. in depth at its deepest point, enclosed in a mountain range of the Andes, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. Lucy in the Sky: "...I am enclosing some pictures I took this morning. As soon as I woke up, I looked through the window and saw the lake covered by a thick fog. I dressed up quickly and went out with my camera. It was amazing..." (July 14) "Doesn't it look like a ship ready to sail into the clouds?" (August 12)

"Aussitot que l'idée du Déluge se fut rassise...": Après le Déluge, from Illuminations: Arthur Rimbaud, 1874



Mammatocumulus clouds, Iraq: photo by Mbga9pgf, 2007

In my youth I thought I possessed a magic touch.

Now, though I can't feel anything, the grey bulbous numbness of the sky makes me oddly uncomfortable.


Sometimes in the the heavens I see endless beaches swelling with white nations of joy. A great golden ship high above me flies its multicolored flags upon the morning sky.

I've created celebrations, dramas, festivals; new flowers, new stars, new tongues and new kinds of bodily tissue.

I called myself magician and angel, exempt from all the rules of common sense. I thought I'd acquired supernatural powers.

Instead here I am back on the ground, with work to do, and a shriveled reality to embrace.

Was I an idiot?'

Did charity, upon her visitation to me, switch identities with the sister of death?

Now, for having swallowed lies, I beg forgiveness. Let things go at that.

Yet no friend extends a hand. Without it, how can I go on?

File:Arthur Rimbaud by Vallotton.jpg
Arthur Rimbaud: Félix Valloton, c. 1878 (from Remy de Gourmont: Le Livre des Masques (Vol. II, 1898)

"Quelquefois je vois au ciel des plages sans fin...": Adieu, from Une Saison en Enfer: Arthur Rimbaud, 1873

Night in Hell


Strange weather we've been having lately, said I to my friend.

This is only the beginning, my friend said to me.


The hallucinations are innumerable.

Indeed this has always been my problem: no faith in history, total obliviousness to the principles on which it's based.

I'll say no more about this. Poets and visionaries would be envious of me.

Look, the clock of life has just stopped. I'm no longer in the world.

Theology wasn't kidding: hell is certainly
down there.

And the sky is up.

Ecstasy, nightmare, sleep in a nest of flames...

And I will now strip away the veils that conceal all the mysteries: religious, natural; death, birth; future, past; cosmogony, nothingness. I will make the phantasmagoria dance.

...The flame rises again, with its damned soul!

File:Arthur Rimbaud rouge volcan.Png

"Les hallucinations sont innombrables..."
: Nuit en Enfer, from Une Saison en Enfer: Arthur Rimbaud, 1873

The sky after tonight's storm: photo by Barry Janowitz, June 26, 2009
Freakin' weird weather (mammatus clouds, New York City): photo by Jason Kuffer, June 26. 2009
Montage en rouge: Arthur Rimbaud et éruption volcanique: image by PRA, 2007

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Elephant Cemetery


File:An elephant herd at Jim Corbett National Park.jpg

To feel a sense of loss is our next assignment. We zoom in on an elephant graveyard. The red baked earth of the plains, the dry, withered foliage. The great beasts are taking turns paying last respects, pawing with heavy gravity maybe just to stir up a little ceremonial dust. A kind of halting inquiry, tentatively caressing the remains of the loved one with a tenderly lingering trunk. Gentleness perhaps masks the quality of interrogation in this process. Ah, dear gone one, what do you know now, is there any of it you can tell us?

Elephant herd at Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, India
: photo by wribs, 2007



File:Dunkler Cb mammatus.jpg

"I am at no loss for information about you and your family," said Demosthenes, "but I am at a loss where to begin. Shall I relate how your father Tromes was a slave in the house of Elpias, who kept an elementary school near the Temple of Theseus, and how he wore shackles on his legs and a timber collar round his neck? or how your mother practised daylight nuptials in an outhouse next door to Heros the bone-setter, and so brought you up to act in tableaux vivants and to excel in minor parts on the stage?"

There had never been any need to be unkind.

And so the days went by, and then the nights, and the wig bubbles drifted.

Doubtful coves with a heavy plundered cargo but only an empty heart to hold it in, not copper stripped, and subject to the worm.

Bewilderment and embarrassment make poor allies in a storm.

The sounds of the old argument come out of the past to haunt, and then like a briefly recollected passage of music are lost again, released into the grey slipstream of unretrieved memories, to flow back to wherever it is that everything that's ever been forgotten is stored.

We tuned in then to the Shipping Forecast. From Finisterre, intermittent rain, visibility one mile, and rising slowly. Dover, visibility ten meters, and falling rapidly. Spindrift vision, a minute twitch of the imagination. A state of puzzlement, as the Captain felt looking into the fog.

File:UK shipping forecast zones.png

Dark Cumulonimbus mammatus
: photo by Simon Eugster, 2006
UK Shipping Forecast Zones (Fitzroy formerly Finisterre): image by Emoscopes, 2007

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Movies as Natural History


File:SCEhardt Pop-Tart Mixed Box.jpg

What freezes us into the frame like this?
Petrifies objects wherein life's congealed
Secrets lie like sleeping beauty preparing
For the awakening of the living moment's kiss?

The blood camellia blooming vivid in the syringe
To dissolve with blue heaven in a white cloud
Which as his thumb depresses the plunger
Roars like a train wreck into Vincent's arm;

The still-life aura -- natura morte -- that lights up
The compact numinous Czech M-61
With huge silencer which Butch now espies
On the kitchen counter, just as, setting down

The milk carton, he drops two Pop Tarts
In the toaster; the rabbit trapped in cabbage patch look
Frozen on Vincent's vacant kisser, as, surprise
Melting into sudden understanding, he enters the kitchen.

Pop Tarts -- mixed box: photo by Scott Ehardt, 2005

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Motion, 1953


File:Red-billed Streamertail 2506104129.jpg

And they came into the New World.

It was 1953. The name of the tune was Motion.

The reeds were hard and soft at the same time.

At sunset beyond the bows of the beached ships the streamertails were flashing.

They resembled blue and green trick semaphores, light signals rising and flaring against a seaward deepblack glory.

Rita Hayworth and Stan Getz were dancing in a West Coast airplane shack made of thin porous wood, everything looked laminated, aerodynamic, in the painted hangar.

Takeoff into conflicted breezes, moving through a baffle of bamboo, gangway rolling slightly.

The ghost of a change happens to you if you let it.

Swaying bodies come apart, tropic clouds race a paper moon, a hot wind, paper palms falling down.

Some fragile coral green undersea thing is haunted by your breathing, the gardenia of your mouth, the jasmine of your skin, the fragrance of Negril, spices cast upon the night to fathom the remembered impulse of your inner life.


Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus polytmus)
: photo by Dominic Sherony, 2007
Football at sunset, Negril: photo by Listgod, 2006

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

5 P.M.


File:Mimus polyglottos1.jpg

A seam opens
in the traffic
flow I
hear this
mockingbird in my
and when it's gone
played by
on an antique FM
down through yellow plum
against the blue rush
hour sky

File:Wang Mian, Plum Blossoms in Early Spring.jpg

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottus): photo by Ryan Hagerty (US Fish and Wildlife Service), 2005
Plum blossoms: Wang Mian (Yuan Dynasty, 14th c.)



The ego is
to become aware
of the chance
it has
to leave
the realm
of self
but this
does not
to realize
that chance
and what
you get
is just
what happens
after night

Downtown Chicago Loop: looking north from "L" station, Adams & Wabash
: photo by Dschwen, 2009

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Life Notes


Mount Tamalpais, Marin County, California: photo by Brent Peters, 8 July 2008

Like a big tired buffalo
or ox
Mount Tam kneels beneath
a glittering ceiling
her blue and green
flanks rest, her shaggy
head settles
and drinks from the lagoon.
The fur of her underbelly is burnt and brown
cars wind down it
like ticks. The top
of her head is yellow and balding
except where a few squiggly redwood tips
crest it. She rests, in the blazing
light of a June afternoon, as I do.

Life is not conditional. IF
is only a
A whole life –- yours, mine, anyone's –-
can pass by in an instant. Hers
continues, like a music without notes,
unless you really strain
your ears to hear them, and maybe even then.

Whistle Buoy


File:Gray ocean surf.JPG

That grey droning note

I’ve heard every dusk

Neither owl nor foghorn

But similar to both

The low fluted “day-is-done”

Of some unknown warbler

Atonally breathy memo

Of universal mysterioso

Tucks misty roses away

In the dark’s soft envelope

Safe under a lion’s paw

Of starry numerology

Whose silver figures

Flecked by receding surf

Otherwise float unfathomed

Into the liquid night air

Receding surf, Pacific Palisades: photo by Downtowngal, 2009

Monday, 10 August 2009

Three Easy Pieces


File:Blue Turkish Tiles.JPG

The Anarchist

When it got dark, a girl began to sing. She sang in Russian, and, with the wind sighing in the trees as accompaniment, it sounded very sad. A chill crept up the lawn from the lake, where a mist had started to rise off the water, creating green, blue and red halos around the lanterns of the piers. Across the lake, lights danced in the windows of the big estates. Stars gleamed overhead, notes on the musical score of the dark. When the wind went through the trees it made a sound like the strumming of a vast harp. Suddenly the girl stopped singing. The night crouched on all fours, poised to spring; then a clear peal of laughter rang out.

Core Sample

The continuing overtaxing pressure to adjust to the administered world leaves people no time to do anything but bore into the material clay of their lives, as though their destiny had been to evolve into drill bits, boring deeper and deeper, moving vertically downward forever, indexing, storing, scooping out new data, the important questions met along the way drowned out by the roar of the earthworms.


One wants to be able to reach out without looking and touch death on the shoulder; but when one's hands encounter something cold and hard in the alien dark, like a touch of the marble statue's arm, with bits of loam still clinging to it, one draws back, realizing this is not the way.

Blue Turkish Tiles: photo by Khalid Mahmood, 2009