Excerpt from Return of the Moth: Still More Porridge

“Why are you looking so jubilant?” said Owl nastily.

“I stole this ancient artifact from Grim!” Cat held up a carved wooden bowl. Everyone crowded round to examine it.

“This is porridge,” said Sir Ontzlake after a moment.

Endless porridge,” corrected the Cat.

“Exactly what will that be useful for?”

“Well, say that we wanted to build a castle. This would be invaluable!” They looked at him blankly. Cat elaborated, “For mortar, you chumps! Cold porridge sets up just like rock. And this ancient porridge happens to be exceptionally sticky.” He paused for a moment. “They don’t make porridge like they used to.”

“It’s true,” said the Owl, “When I was an owlet they used to grind boulders—but why on earth would we need to build a castle?”

Cat rolled his eyes. “Details, details.” Still, there was a contemplative silence. What could be done with the artifact?

“Maybe we could… eat it?” suggested Icarus. They all looked at the bowl and discovered that they were quite full. Sir Ontzlake turned faintly green. There was nothing disugsting about the appearance of the bowl’s contents per se, but the thought of sixty or seventy squelches of a spoon into that heavy, endless slop was enough to make him sick.

“Well,” said the Cat. “Why don’t you carry it.” He handed it to Icarus before there was time to object. Then they set off marching again. Everyone who could took care to stay upwind of the bowl.

“Couldn’t you have discovered the Endless Bowl of Diamonds and Gold?” asked the Owl peevishly.

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Babel

i see the firs gesticulate
rough as cossacks gathered round
some shouted anecdote
unintelligible in the storm
stern and snow crusted
the last giants, perhaps
towers of babel built by poets

i hoped to speak truth to you by them
but each of us understands only
his own wild language
her own wild words

The Present is Enough

She was incredible in the same way as Jupiter, the way it’s there, six hundred million miles away at perihelion, right in plain sight which isn’t plain at all – no, it’s miraculous, the fact that we inhabit a space so infinite, that we can see something so distant just by looking up, but never reach it. It makes a kind of roaring in my ears, knowing that. Sometimes the Universe is too much.

But under the hard blue skies of summer days at work (when I remember I miss her), a baby junco chirping up at me, the heavy smell of horses and creosote, my stained hands and a smushed brush, and miles of weathered fences planted in the thick of irrepressible creation

will do just fine.

A Good Think

Times like this,
the words stay wound tight in my head.
I find myself hunched over old guitar strings
and unravel their language instead.
Under the soft dark of ending days
thought is worth so much.
On the reels of instant replays
I trace the places God has touched.

I Am the Sandman

Your dreams were like Japanese characters,
each one strange to me, elegant and angular,
delicate, difficult strokes, all
the flutterings of sparrows, snow, and leaves in fall

and they were haiku, too:
composed of love like cool morning skies,
like quiet, early moons,
shy in the purple-gray of fading afternoons –
I grew to love you.

But I am the sandman, and all I know is sand –
the stuff of dreams 
slips forever through my shaking hands;
I lie awake and only others sleep.

Reaper Man (or, The Book of Life)

Swish. And in this the last page, an illumination: Death at work in a billow of black, his robes wind-filled and dramatic, flapping dark against the bright sky and grain, blue over gold leaf, field under firmament, and the old scythe, sharp as sadness, flashing still, slashing a swath over and along the rolling hills.

The figure is at once distant and immediate: the picture is not like the narrative, with its inexorable logic, which proceeds page by page from the certainty that its unknown is contained by beginning and end. In this page plot goes missing, caught in the grasses by the thing with the freezing eyes – how can you face the end before it comes? in the end you will shut your eyes.

Crickets, crickets. Sweat: the smell of it, and the listening grass, like late summer. Every day a clay pot baked again by the sun to be shattered, and all the shards the same. Crickets, crickets. Give me combines! Give me thunder! Not the quiet scythe, not this straining to hear! Somewhere that may yet be near, something rustles. Swish.

Saying What You Mean

in the sopping fields
the rain sweeps by in sheets
and i like the rain
and the rain understands
but it is you i want words for

where is the lightning sword
crackling and keen to shear the cobwebbed curtains
from their places at the mind’s windows?

has it shattered? the shards
may be blazing among the bones
buried under this big old empty house –
i will dig up dead poets to find them

because beyond the window
it is just possible to see what you mean
(something more than fields and showers
clothed in silver for the spring)
and i love you, and want to say it