Cardinal Rules

At the very break of dawn
they rouse us from our bed

Their calls addressed to everyone
awake, asleep or dead

You know us in the daylight
by our bright and piercing red

In the dark you know us
by the noise we make, instead

Dealing with thick stands of bamboo is a new birding experience for me. The property here is surrounded by them. Birds enjoy excellent protection within the maze of vertical shafts: no Sharpie is going to swoop in there, that’s for sure. No telephoto lens will penetrate either.

I hear cardinals all the time around here, but rarely see them. I was on the fourth floor, the roof of the stacks, when I caught this one, and still I’m aiming up its skirt as it sways on a bamboo pole some 20 feet above.

The Arbiters of Moonlight

An amortization as periodic table
        as a protractor stabbing pinholes
        in the charts of a then comes wonder

These are the geometries of heaven
        the wavelengths of moonlight

The scholar studies it, a merchant
        ponders its returns, a poet
        lurks in its blue shadows, scribbling
        charcoal rubbings from the reliefs

These are the trade guilds of heaven
        the arbiters of moonlight

What seeing saw, the feelings felt
        are the joins and fittings
        where everything that comes together
        in congregation, parts


(Graphic: Selectively tinted photograph of temporarily arranged steel scraps.)

Check

Winning Texas Hold’em against robots
with imaginary money is no substitute
for a full and productive youth

But the days are as long as
as a life is short, and the cards
gaze up at you from your hands

See right through that poker face
and catch you thinking of something else

The Economy and Me

It’s a burden we all lug around, yet
imaginary so it’s weightless, and held
oh so fast, so it fetters and constrains.

It is universally agreed upon as necessary
by those who control it, and by those who can find
no alternative but to participate in it.

Unspeakably cruel to those who cannot
or will not apply themselves to its rule.

It is almost tangible like anticipation
like the footed ground of our paths, or
the open expanse of our atmosphere.

Floating omnipresent in the air
between the hand that wins bread and
the guarded, vaulted bakery.

It grinds away at the bottom
where the toil in steerage trickles up
as privilege to the luxury suites above.

And life itself is unimaginable
without it, indeed, how would we buy
how could we pay, or without it, even be?

And thus, on we sail
from sea to shining sea.

The Sky is Falling and I Want My Mommy

I pressed my claim on this bind
and seized a few of your cells

In the privacy you freely lent
so deep inside of you

And by a little push from papa
formed in borrowed flesh

I came to you, a frightened hare
fresh from the rigors of the bardo

And you received me, gave me flesh
fed me, taught me, released me

Prayed for me as I made my way
into the vices and struggle

Of this craven carnival, with its
barkers and masks

—But first, I came to you

This is all of it your sunshine
where we all warm our faces

It is all of it your day, and
my gratitude should outshine

That cartwheeling sun, for what
you gave, for what you’ve done


Margaret Mary Kubasta Randall (1919-2012)

Title respectfully swiped from Jello Biafra, and NoMeansNo.

Serpentine

Not dapper, not dishevelled
newspaper under arm, he fits right in
a dog pauses to sniff his heel
and registers no concern

There is a long meandering esplanade
vendors, walkers, lunching networkers
someone is feeding pigeons
as readers lose themselves in books

There is no choice, no selection

If there was intent there would be
motivation, and in that, a vector to intercept
a bench to approach, to make appeals

What monster lacks the will
to be monstrous, is all the more so
all contrition and deference
with a merely fanged jaw

He brushes against a shoulder
in an envelope of lung-pressings, close, as
steam exhaled from the hot dog vendor’s cart

How indeed do the protein spikes
bind to these receptors—oh, but they do

A breeze cares not for weather vanes
but finds them, each and every one

The lunch hour wanes, and
the plaza begins to clear out, and later
will be quiet as a cancelled rodeo

Sādhanā

The abiding air seats
the few who knew to come

Gated hollow surrounds
them, within the gateless silence

No congregation, all path
no catechism, other than fixation
and its release

Appearance, thus
with a fetish for self-sensing
this sighted-blaze, this occult

They open into it
and touch the blossom
that cannot be fetish-kept

Sādhanā (Sanskrit) – a means to accomplishment.

Subterranean TP Blues

The toilet paper aisle is void
of anything to buy

The hoarders came like locusts
and we had to wonder why

But now we see the auctions up
on eBay rising fast

I’m down to one thin precious square
I’ll have to make it last

Stay well everyone, and for now, stay put.

Signed: Quarantined in Galveston