Winter Term XV, from Underworld Lit

Admittedly I may be blowing my <6 mm mole somewhat
out of proportion in the general scheme of things. At my
last follow-up, Dr. Song gently reminded me that we
entered the “catabasis” phase of my journey through
dermatological oncology some time ago. 

Cata-, from the ancient Greek κατά, or downward, prefixed
to the intransitive form of the verbal stem baínō, to go. It
means a trip to the coast, a military retreat, an endless
windstorm over the Antarctic plateau, or the sadness
experienced by some men at a certain point in their lives. 

In a clinical context, the term may also refer to the decline
or remission of a disease. So why do I still feel a ghostly
pinprick along the crease of my arm where the needle went
in before I went under? I suspect that I am not quite out of
the woods yet. Then again, maybe the woods have yet to
exit me.

Burial Practice

Then the pulse.
Then a pause.
Then twilight in a box.
Dusk underfoot.
Then generations.


Then the same war by a different name.
Wine splashing in a bucket.
The erection, the era.
Then exit Reason.
Then sadness without reason.
Then the removal of the ceiling by hand.


Then pages & pages of numbers.
Then the page with the faint green stain.
Then the page on which Prince Theodore, gravely wounded, is thrown onto a wagon.
Then the page on which Masha weds somebody else.
Then the page that turns to the story of somebody else.
Then the page scribbled in dactyls.
Then the page which begins Exit Angel.
Then the page wrapped around a dead fish.
Then the page where the serfs reach the ocean.
Then a nap.
Then the peg.
Then the page with the curious helmet.
Then the page on which millet is ground.
Then the death of Ursula.
Then the stone page they raised over her head.
Then the page made of grass which goes on.


Exit Beauty.


Then the page someone folded to mark her place.
Then the page on which nothing happens.
The page after this page.

Then the transcript.
Knocking within.

Interpretation, then harvest.


Exit Want.
Then a love story.

Then a trip to the ruins.
Then & only then the violet agenda.

Then hope without reason.
Then the construction of an underground passage between us.

Untitled [Is is]

Is is.

There is no distinction between ideology and image.


He records his name on a gold medallion.


The philosopher must say is.

The world is legion.

The self is a suffering form.

Is is.

Waves rise and fall, but the sea remains.

Related Poems


Inside this grave
womb that drums
and groans
as it takes

of my spine

I hear it
seem to say

go             /              you go

don’t       /             you go


don’t go               /                 don’t

go now                  /                 don’t

I’m 52, inside
this calibrated tube, this
picture box
and singing machine

that will tell
my doctors if
the drugs and

marrow have
been killing
the tumors set
on killing me

go             /                 don’t grow

don’t       /               go

The droning
chant of this
temporary tomb
returns me

to Junuh at the ocean
only four
and screaming
into the waves

the two of us
charging, arms
flailing like
the fleshy swords they are

the water beating us
back before
we Charge! again,
roaring the whole time.

We can’t give up. We
have to fight, he says.
And back in we go
wild into the wake.

don’t go               /                 don’t

go                             /                  don’t

go now                   /                grow

grow    /                 you

grow    /                 no

don’t      /                   go

don’t      /                   grow

go                /               no

On the News of Your Illness

The slivers run their course,
And the bad eye can now burn with accuracy.
The cough? What cough?
What stinging rubber band against your wrist?

The sneeze moves the leaves of the potted plant.
A dab of lotion solves the scaly hand.
The knuckle accepts the rap,
The knee goes only so far
And walking is so overrated.
Heal yourself, daughter. Kisses help,
Handholding, snow caught in your hair.

Daughter, lovely daughter, be with us.
Let the thing inside you pass without warning.
Don’t be like the cloud, thin and sailing away,
The dark birds like commas,
Then ellipsis in the far distance,
An uncompleted life.

I guess it was my destiny to live so long

Death chase me down
death’s way
uproot a breast
infest the lymph nodes
crack a femur
rip morale
to shreds

Death chase me down
death’s way
tilt me off-kilter
crutch me slow
nobody show me
you make a cup of coffee
with no hands

Death chase me down
death’s way
awkward in sunlight
single in a double bed at night
and hurtling out of mind
and out of sight

Don’t chase me down
death chasing me
death’s way

And I’m not done
I’m not about to blues my dues or beg

I am about to teach myself
to fly slip slide flip run
fast as I need to
on one leg