Archive for January, 2010


Because in the country you do not live

there are no ponies

A black horse is a nightmare with hooves

his mane is obsidian thistle

& you must hold it

though you never choose

your destination

His eyes are green

& they see everything

You can’t unhear his voice

You will always dread

settling into slumber

to wake to what black is

leaning over your bed

his glistening hide

his hot breath on your face

his shuffling animal happiness

to have found

after so many nights

his rider



My wife says to me
(we’re in bed
& she’s trying to cheer me up)
She says We’ve never been mauled
by a polar bear & a brown bear
on the same day
I look at her with one eye
So I think that means
the odds of us winning the lottery are good
I nod
I say It also means the odds of us
surviving another bear attack are good


Never say: “Surrender, for I am encroaching on your domain.”
Encroach first. Brag second.

Your domain is most encroachable when you are least vigilant.

Only a fool says: “Encroach me if you dare, for my domain is impervious.”

Once encroached, your domain remains vulnerable.

No domain is above encroachment.

Entropy encroaches all domains.

Tyranny’s domain is mighty, but encroachment needs only a crack.

“Dormant though my domain may be, it is not susceptible to encroachment.” So fall the mighty.

All domains fall; all barriers are encroached.

Do not say, “My domain has withstood the encroachment of time.”
Time has a long memory.

The weakest joint of your domain—there encroachment will press first.

Time is the chief weapon of encroachment. Its patience outlasts even the most entrenched domain.

The safest domain is the one with no boundaries to encroach. But then it is no domain.

Domain is illusion. Encroachment is all.


In the thin air below the Rockies

I fought for every breath

like a deep sea diver


My lungs collapsed

My joints ached

& all the blood ran from my face

My stupid mouth hung open & grew parched

as I panted around Denver

like a man with the head of a fish

& yet I was so happy

to be with my daughter

my heart turned infinities

in my aching chest

like an exotic fish trapped

in an aquarium


We are like old puzzles

full of missing pieces

stashed in a closet

If someone took the time

to drag us out

we could not be finished

–Patrick O’Leary

I Began the Day in My Sixty-fifth Year

I began the first day in the new year, my sixty-fifth, by having a long conversation with myself—aloud and alone. In a wind house, I suppose the paddy wagon would arrive soon to take me off to where I could be made, with drugs and counseling, better suited for capitalism and American life. But I’m safe; my house is old, ramshackle and unwinnable. So I babble away to myself, always in crisp, parsable sentences, adorned with the sizable word hoard I’ve filed away from reading these thousands of books for well over a half century. I ask myself questions that nobody else has bothered to ask—though they are, I’m convinced, the only important questions: then I answer myself firmly, wisely, and (I hope) with wit, clean thinking, and no trace of indulgent sentiment. I address myself always formally by name, for fear there’s some interloper inside, waiting to fool me. I give myself orders—for work, action, behavior, generally the only orders I bother to follow. If you want to know what I am really like, at bottom, what I think—of you, god, or the state of the world—arrange to hide (very discreetly so early in the morning) and listen. It’s my own Song of Myself, and I will tell you more than Walt Whitman ever did (though not, I’m afraid, so lyrically).

Where does this voice come from? Is there more than one? No, I’m afraid it’s my ordinary voice, the one I use to actually speak to you, or to a thousand people in a room, though now the diction and content are untailored to a particular audience.It’s the voice I had from birth, and used even in the ’40s to interrogate myself in my own bedroom when I was sure my parents were far away, otherwise occupied and couldn’t hear a word of it.What would they have thought of such internal dramas—rather, dialogues—going on in the childish voice of their treasured son? Or maybe they knew, and had such conversations in solitude themselves. Maybe we all do—we owners of consciousness.

This is no soliloquy, but a continual interruption—often saying No or Don’t Be Silly to myself when such measures of verbal negation are called for. It must be aloud; mental dialogue is too easily shaped by longing and practicality. This voice requires currents of air to resist and carry it, to be present in the concrete world. Maybe it’s a form of internal music being composed by an improviser as great as Beethoven was said to be, that Beethoven who, though stone deaf, howled and raged and babbled to himself while he entered into conversation with the patterns of notes banging their way into his brain. Maybe this voice explains why humans even make works of art, rather than sensibly dying with them still inside.
January 2, 2009

Bill Holm The Chain Letter of The Soul


It looks sunny & crisp

a steady wind shudders

the tiniest branches

& the stray leaves

that have somehow

clung beyond their deaths

past the first snows

the freezing rains

the hard winds of November

& still they hunker down

like an idea that won’t be shed

a page that can’t be forgotten

a melody that finds some empty

corner of your brain & settles

never to be dislodged



it is someone forgotten

wasting on a clean bed

in an empty room

whose only view is mine

a bare tree

& a few brown leaves