May 182013

It has been a very long time since I posted a Sunday Poem. I am about to get on another airplane in the morning, so I am posting it a day early.

This one’s bones came to me on a return flight from up the California coast, seeing the marine layer hovering at the edge of the ocean. It sat tall, far taller than any of the hills or cliffs. It looked a cliff itself, a glacier, maybe The Wall from Game of Thrones, overhanging the land. It looked like a shoreline in an inverted world where everything we are was lost in the dark except the little twinkling lights.

Seeing the clouds as an ocean is hardly new, of course, but it stuck with me as we descended. I thought about the liminal perspective a plane affords, an upbringing affords, and recited phrases to myself, trying to commit them to memory before they darted away like nervous fish. It has seen minimal revision from that version, scribbled onto an iPad in the airport parking lot.

Continue reading »

Jan 042009

Between Left 4 Dead, and The Last Guy, I think something got into my head. 😉

Since the Zombies Came

Since the zombies came, you can’t get decent sushi;
Zombie sludge, it spoils fish like nothing doing.
And all the second hand stores, they had to close up shop…
Stains just don’t wash out the way they used to, do they?

Stuff that’s better – well, the horror flicks, of course. Duh.
Extras just show up. And don’t need paid, or credit.
Watch at home, though! Darkened cineplexes…
Real bad news. Though crowds are thinner at the malls now.

‘Sides, the zombies, mostly peaceful, right? Like yoga,
Tai chi, meditation, all that shit. OMMMM, then
Nom nom BRAAAIIIINS. They mostly stand and stare in corners
Seeing into places we cannot with jelly

Eyes and dreaming of the sushi and the clothes, the
Pay and credit, ordinary hungers (BRAAAIIIINS), good
Posture, faces still intact, more moods than one… sad.
Pity them; resent them, for the sushi’s sake.

Worse? It could be worse, sure. Aliens are worse, right?
Zombies get you, BRAAAIIIINS, you’re dead, undead, whatever.
Aliens, you live on screaming, tentacles in
Awkward places, slaved. I’d rather eat my friends, thanks.

Continue reading »

Nov 162008

…The highway between Kabul and Kandahar was supposed to be a success story. Completed in 2003, it has instead become a symbol of all that plagues Afghanistan: insecurity, corruption and the radical Islamic insurgency that feeds off both.

Aryn Baker, Time Magazine, Oct 31, 2008

“This is my road,” Saboor says: a dust
Track gone the long way through the desert rocks.

He drives the bus, two times a week, trusting
Life and face to dirt he smears across

His lips, a beard to baffle Taliban.
He wears mechanic’s clothes: a claim the road

Then makes on him, a thieving in the sand,
The way last week the robbers burst and stole

The crates with chickens, goats a-leash, the wealth
That masquerades as dirt itself, the greens.

I ask him, does he fear insurgent’s stealth,
The bark of guns, the bullet’s code, the dream,

When east Sarobi’s tea shops dish fruit cold and sweet,
Pomegranates, porcelain plates, nuts and honey treats,
The scent of lamb in stew, the simmering of the meat –

He shrugs. Stolid, fleet. He says, “This is my road.”
It is a dust track where the accent makes the meaning.

Sep 142008

I am here in Austin for AGDC, after a difficult day of travel. My last-ditch attempt to make it to Rudy’s for some BBQ before they closed missed by 20 minutes thanks to various flight delays. So here I sit with Sonic cherry limeade, melancholy, a Marriott substituting for a garret, to write a Sunday poem for you… 😉

When is a rhyme a rhyme? A pair of words
Vibrating twain and twin, a homonym
A scanty, scarcely fraction time, a blur
Of vowels assonancing on a whim…
Half verb, the penult, higher ante, quill
That sometimes speaks in halves and sometimes sprung,
And in the clumsy piling on of syll,
The ables and alliterate undone.
Is all it is the music? Nothing else
applies? The quatrain’s break, the plosive sound,
The prayer on the couplet’s open verse?
The sense of it, the consonance profound?
The algorithm elegant, the twinning still sublime,
Is it still a poem, if we forget to rhyme?

Jul 202008

This week’s poem is a meditation on good and evil and faith and logic via Principia Mathematica, based on the news this week that some genes for violent antisocial behavior have been identified.

It turns out that up to one percent of the population may have these genes. But they do not always express, because nurture and life circumstances are just as important in whether or not the person’s  actually going to turn out antisocial, or dare I say it, evil. And yet, we have so often ascribed these behaviors, throughout history, to the Devil, or to other supernatural causes.

I ended up linking this to the notion that religion exists in our mental space in a position analogous to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, which in its broadest layman interpretation states that a system cannot prove its own consistency; wasn’t there something religious, in the end, in Russell and Whitehead’s belief in complete systems, in the ability of logic to put everything into order?

OK, so either you come to this blog because it sometimes leaps from game design to poems linking genetics, theology, and mathematics in rhyming hexameter — or you are wondering what the hell (no pun intended) I am on about. Shrug. Here’s the poem either way, annotated for your (in)convenience. Continue reading »

The Sunday PoemThe Sunday Poem: Apples

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May 262008

In Latin, the words for “apple” and for “evil” are similar in the singular (malus—apple, malum—evil) and identical in the plural (mala).

– Wikipedia

This apple from Tajikistan gave birth to all the fruit:
The red ones, gold ones, tart ones, green and russet hues.

Each branch was mated to a branch carried over miles
And honeybees deployed in ranks to stoke the woody fires.

The names themselves are everywheres: from Fuji to Orléans,
Grannies, Coxes, McIntoshes and countless other brands,

Which carry in each half-cut star and in their very style
The memory of Kazakh slopes where first they grew in wild.

The blossoms spread, pink and pale verging on the blue,
Until we had the legends: the gold ones Hera grew;

The one that Eris tossed to Paris, causing wars in Troy;
Immortal orchards grown in eddas, Idun’s deathless joy;

A snow white princess poisoned; Atalanta’s race;
Johnny and all those orchards over which he traipsed;

The tree of knowledge, good and evil, our original sin.
This is quite a burden for fruit to bear within.

We have made the apple ours, and on it grafted history,
And yet the breed runs on, profusions to a tree,

This fruit humanity resents, but loves and needs.
Every apple carries still inside those bitter seeds.

The Sunday PoemThe Sunday Poem: Building the Globe

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Apr 272008

We heft the oak beams, one two three, each count
A sturdy truss; smooth hewn and splintered, blunt
And heavy, painted gaily marbled, dun
And costumeless. By numbers shall we know
Their place, when Southwark greets our lumber load;
The Theatre is no more, and soon we’ll have a Globe.
In Shoreditch now there stands a hole, on lease-
Land Burbage didn’t own. And past the trees,
By open fields, his Men will have a Streete-
Built O, wherein proud Oberon will prance
And Lear cry out his woe; where faery dance
For groundlings’ sake, and Puck plays out his pranks.
We’ll sift the straw and lay it straight on top,
And paint anew the spangled sky aloft
Above proscenium’s boards. We’ll stop
The crowd with good stout rails, so high-pitch boys
Can stain their lips and flounce their tails, and raise
A ruckus to the skies, the center of our noise.
But first, we must dismantle, first we take
Apart. If all the world’s a stage and planks
Are how it’s made, then for our Good Lord’s sake
I hope he spent his seven days as well,
Assembling worlds in beams of thirty ells,
A Shakespere for his script, Queen Bess, and all
A-toiling midst the sound of London’s bells.

Annotations: Continue reading »

The Sunday PoemThe Sunday Poem: Peace

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Apr 202008

Peace shouldn’t be quiet, clouds soft and pliant,
A mellow sky scene in blue.
Peace should be blaring, a jazz band past caring,
A squabble of children and you.
The clangor of pots, your eyes full of spots,
Buttercups growing in dew.
Peace is invention, it’s sustained attention,
It’s chemistry going kaboom.
It’s racing of go karts and artichoke hearts
And farming in Kalamazoo.

It’s silence as well, but the silence of bells
The moment they still for a few;
An aftershock sound that echoes around
And gives way to rush and to hue.
It’s not smug inertia, safe from what hurts ya;
Pain is what gives us the glue.
It’s temperate intemperance, all quantum events,
Mosquitoes buzzing canoes.
A whole raucous party, that’s peace’s priority:
Space to be scattered and true.