a poem is novelty, love, or pain

novelty is clever the way
papier-mache is.
colorful, young
but empty if you pick it up,
filled with hollow

love, always perched at the tip of the pen,
is fragile,
trying to slip away behind a hiccup
and hide inside

pain. dark wells of it.
lapping against walls of lonely quiet.
at once novel and lovely,
and a poet's repast.

i ask
is there poetry beyond pain?
-- love.

beyond love?
-- novelty.

and what is beyond novelty?

My, my. Aren't you clever.


not sci-fi, our attic

someone climbed into hyperspace
and left a notebook there.

just a dusty 70 page spiral
filled with poetry so

now it waits in the stale plenum air,
nestled between broken plaster and
scrawls of "all work and no play..."

someday another set of gruff hands
will pick it up, flip through to see it's
just poetry,
and drop it back in the plaster.

but I know. I know
the last page holds a plea
that wasn't so carefully penned,

and the first page an inscription
never meant to be read.


hopefully yes, yes, yes, yes, no.

Do they ever park their minds in empty lots,
let all the thoughts scamper out,
and sag with the slightest mechanical ticks,
yearning for stillness?

Do they ever shut their eyes to the colorglut,
and match their hearts' beat
to the murmur of far-off leaves?

Do they ever question?
I'm very anxious to know.

Do they ever forget?

Or is it just me that thinks I think alone,
silent perhaps, even in the company of fellow silences?



They told me
understanding was not beauty.

Heedless, I conflated
knowing with feeling,
as if having more of one
could show me more of the other.

But every time I thought I knew something,
its beauty vanished, and all I could feel was

Thus went
old fantasy novels set in rich worlds,
fresh eggs sputtering on a pan,
the first breeze atop a summit,
brisk Autumn apples,
soft laughter.

Curiosity soon followed,
then without curiosity, discovery,
without discovery, understanding itself.

I pondered for a while,
asked myself,
"What use is knowing
if you can't appreciate it?"

but I didn't know the answer.

--perhaps I exaggerate.
(It's easy to get lifted by delicate idea-wings,
you know.)

Maybe I see a pattern
where none exists
and the only relation between
understanding and beauty
is this one I have imposed.

Or maybe,
unlike Romantics
I do not eschew learning
and unlike the Enlightened,
I do not distrust raw sublimity.

For now I understand that
I do not wish to understand
nor see beauty in
everything I understand.

And in this thought, I find



At first I threw my back into it,
bracing all my joints,
concentrating all my focus
on the stubborn clay beneath my palms.

And for a while it was a true battle.
The unruly tug and jerk of the clay
pitted against my steady pressure.

But slowly, as if lured by the electric hum,
everything settled,
spun so smoothly that I could not tell
the world was not still.

Now I coaxed and urged,
gentler, since we both spoke
the unspoken rhythm of the wheel.

The soft clay feeble and forceful
like the muscles of a heart,
a heart whose 200 rpm throb
sped faster than any human's.


Carriage Return

I can imagine you
(the nebulous, not-yet-found you
of love poem fame).

I can imagine you
asking me someday
what makes you different from
all the other women in the world.

And in response,
I will not say
“You are pretty
and you are smart,
and you’ve got so much (so much) heart.”


While I’m up for it,
I’ll cajole what poetic soul I have left
to give me a poem to tell you
that lists your quirks and your beauties,
everything you are best at,
and all the tiny details you thought I would miss.

Like a shopping list,
but prettier.

Then you will smile to yourself as you hear my poem,
while I pause and realize
that this is not at all why.

You would not want me to love
for the reasons I will list.
And I would not love
for the reasons I will list.

(Imagine someone
good in every way you are not
and better in every way you are good.

What would my poetic soul do?
And what would I do?)


You are special because you are,
and I will love you because I love
(the nebulous, not-yet-found love
of love poem fame).


Metaphors, 42 (reprise)

Don’t ask me what a metaphor’s for.
I couldn’t tell you, not without looping back
or leading you to mirrored mirrors—
Well, there I go again,
symbolizing symbols with more symbols.

I’ve thought of finding the root, the source.
Just can’t do it.
The more I try, the more I’m moored,
rooted to the source of my thoughts.

The thing is,
I suspect there’s something hidden,
something entrenched in the folds of self-reference.

Is it Literature? Art?
The Meaning of Life (as espoused by self-help books)?

I’m just fermenting meta- (meta-) metaphors.


For the longest time, I used to dismiss the arts.
Allusions and other ‘devices’ were too effete
for my taste.

Cold and crunchy formulas
held more meaning in their wrapped rigor
than fleet wit or staccato stanzas.

I know better now.
Both artists and scientists are trying to answer questions—
questions to which we can’t know the answers
or even the actual questions.

It’s a sympatric search for stasis
(that sensation of soft understanding).
They reach for senseless knowledge
and meld it in a synesthetic cacophony
of sweat-dropped beats and slimshod scuffs.




I don’t know what brings me back. It’s certainly too infrequent to be habit, so there must be some other reason. Inspiration does not just strike at regular intervals, handing out a monthly paycheck of creativity. Or if it does, I’ve got a pretty volatile wage. There are months when I truly think I’ve thought of something original—but then there are also months like this.

                Pay up, it’s time to collect.

I don’t derive any benefit from stringing words nonsensically. It doesn’t seem like anyone else does either. But maybe I believe that writing somehow helps my self-esteem, or raises my standing among others.

                Oh, he’s a poet. Not was—is. That makes him a better person.

Or perhaps this small spark, this pilot light (so to speak), links me—binds me—to the timeless procession of poets and bluffers, somehow coaxing and preserving the essence of humanity in fragments of phrases.



Life Unlived

Recently she had begun to forget
All the breaks that sheared between
The seas of memory and nostalgia.
Her life stretched back smoothly to
The hazy pure sky, one blue
Blurry day forgotten in soft swells.
There was a content to recollection,
Some halcyon wist in sailing—
Or had she left already?

Had she plunged down, ready
To chase the glimmers she’d
Skimmed from above?
In the mirrored mercurial depths
She saw her twin, who, looking up,
Sought solace in droll dreamclouds.
They both dived—one up, one down.
Both yearning for flight, they merged
And disappeared into nothing.


Rosa asor

Little rose on the table,
how lonely you must be.
Bought and sold, accruing mold,
you are but coin in trades of love.

Suitors see your crimson flush,
rush past, pass laughs, leave one last touch.
Much love their eyes descry
as yours cry petals from lack.

Petals fall from this wilting rose,
a flaccid feminine flower unfurling.
The thorns have long since been snipped,
and its luster has all but vanished.

Bees will never pollinate this rose.
Thrushes will never hold its hips.
But the rose has no feelings.
It’s just a rose on a table.



What makes one life goal better than another? It irks me that I can’t find an entirely objective justification for preferring the thrill of solving a puzzle over, say, the artificial euphoria of heroin injection. If it’s all just the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, then why does it matter which form of hedonism I pursue?

Granted, you might say that puzzle-solving increases long-run utility, whereas drugs have detrimental withdrawal symptoms, but this merely evades the principal question. What is utility and why do we aspire to gain it? Why do we call something detrimental? You could continue like this for a while, justifying the search for Beauty or Truth or sustaining Life or whatever idol you’ve managed to prop up, but the crux of any such reasoning is circular: quality is just what you like. There is no objective justification for life.

Is there anything inherently wrong with having no ultimate meaning? It seems entirely counterintuitive, but the answer I’ve been approaching is simply “No.” There is nothing wrong with having no objective goal because the entire question is predicated on the existence of some objective definition of “wrong.” It’s a meaningless question, just as the meaning of life holds no meaning.

But, you say, how can right and wrong have no meaning if I can intrinsically feel them? “Feeling” purpose, though, has nothing whatsoever to do with absolutely justifying it. I can feel the pull of Truth, but that does not mean that pursuing Truth has any meaning outside of what I assign it. It’s a beautifully simple conclusion. “I like what I like” because I like what I like—I don’t have or need any impersonal reason to be that way.

If you’re still reluctant to accept this, then ask yourself the equivalent question, “What is the meaning of a hurricane?” It’s absurd, right? A hurricane is just the complex aggregate of a bunch of simple atmospheric phenomena. There’s no purpose to a hurricane’s path. It doesn’t have a vendetta against humanity or anything remotely resembling a desire at all. It just is. In a similar vein, we can just consider ourselves highly developed hurricanes. Our beautifully elaborate search for purpose—and for purpose behind purpose—is just as inherently “human” as the counterclockwise rotation of a northern hemisphere hurricane is inherently “hurricane.”

Take what you will from this. As for me, I’ll stick to my puzzles.