in crosswoods, march eleventh, six o’clock

some people think it
is the doom of a generation—

this speck on the face of a speck.

some people say they see
a cleansing flame—this

thing that punishes the rich
and the old first—and the travellers

and the republicans and the chinese and it shows
that we were right all along about

everything. this speck on the speck
of a speck

sword aflame and raised

and some people pray for a return to
the law as they thought it was—

science and experts and the man
from hope playing saxophone they

tremble that we would continue lurching
towards the abyss—

but never was there any law like that—
we can’t go back to where we never were.

the virus is an angel oh
the virus is an angel

so many of us wish it
to the core of ourselves—

fear and uncomprehension
and extraordinary signs—

takes come in their thousands every day
but no one knows shit

and no one was ready
no one is ready oh

we will hear soon enough.

april, wherever we are

you become so aware of the trees
the flowers change daily hourly minute by minute even
and the woods have their own agenda

the foxes you know think of us plenty
we throw all our bones off the deck
all the old things sit

not long in the wild onions
before the foxes come mute
neighbours we know well

they spend the day coming and going
up and down the stream where we cannot
in a pandemic but we still eat

and they must find it rather strange
to find the courts and places and drives
not deserted by day as usual

but full of vigorous couples and children
on bicycles almost ceaselessly
almost as if we had only just noticed spring

for the first time in history and thinking
it solemn and wondrous cancelled all our normal plans
to focus great concentration

on the miracle.

at montecasino

if all it took to
make Johannesburg a normal city
was a teenager in an ill-fitting jacket
wanding everyone—my God,
is it that easy?

or maybe what it takes
is a few million dollars
and some paving stones and Vespas you can
chain to fake light poles,
some canvas to paint like permanent Italian sunset
and a judicious use of neon.

maybe the whole nation could be like
Montecasino: we could put the food court
in Bloemfontein and convert Port Elizabeth to toilets;
Cape Town would be nothing but gelato
shops and underwear boutiques—basically unchanged, and
we could hang shabby-chic bulbs
from the blikkies we’ll repurpose
into craft gin bars

(the shack dwellers will all be working
at the famous Fourways Mugg and Bean
which will have five million seats,
or at the Spur next door
in Hartebeespoort).

all will have jobs this way, you see,
and none hungry.

matthew 25:14

the bonds are all we have in the end,
prone to forget how empty is emptiness,
how silent is silence

tangle up in what you can
so that when the judgement comes
your train stretches to the far horizon:

hermit crabs and bad poets and nude
lawyers woven in it, a mighty haul,
all the mad frustration you provoked

in your infinitude, matchless in their
beauty, such that when the light hits
it will sing and stink with color

like an endless trellis of orchids.

the curse of great beauty [for eef]

there should be an instagram for unpleasant things:
ranch stuck in beards and bikinis from poor angles,

blurry pictures of dead squirrels and row on
row of dirty dishes in sinks rarely washed

legal disclaimers and rejection letters photographed
on resume paper in artful lower case

indexing the minor miseries of the era in a
hot harmattan wind of dorito dust and anxiety.

grid upon grid of the floor behind refrigerators
covered in little mouse shits, with saturated colors,

badly parked cars and wilted spring mix; oh,
leave it for our children as a monument, a windblown

antidote to the dulcet fascism of san serif fonts and
negative space, of making yourself out better than you

are, or saying that you aren’t, which in
the world’s deep cruelty amounts to

much the same thing.

NEW POEM: dimondale friday afternoon (et intravit israel), in a New Journal!

Hey all!

I have a new poem out, but it’s not here! It’s been published in a journal of poetry and literature called Vessel.  It’s spearheaded by Mike Breger, a friend of mine from high school now in graduate school at Stanford University.  You can read my poem here, alongside all the other excellent contents of Vessel, issue 1.  I’m really impressed with the final product, and I wish Mike all the best with Vessel.  Long may she sail.

sirach 43:8


having walked sixteen miles into the grey abyss of november
across sycamore creek bottomlands, then turning wrong and

finding pockets of the city where streets are not even paved
and where the houses match the streets,

i startled some deer as the night gathered;
i always like it, where else will i

ever be taken for a wolf? leaves upset and blurry kicking,
white flags and a buck in profile, five points melted

into the grainy woods beyond, you know how, no
noises past our little discourse there.


i always thought of you on walks like this
when the shadows used to get long and catch me

like your face still would, if i saw it,
but i will not have that calamity. i told a certain one not once

but many times that i would lie in the middle of richmond road
for you—to demonstrate what, you might well ask—and i would

say it’s all i could do to keep from exploding then and there—
the weight of events would catch such fire, oh,

if i ever saw you in that way. and it still is, probably,
but i think about you less, all by the great manna of being busy.

if i ever saw you again, i would confess my love to the
soil i was buried in, bruising my wrists on the mahogany,

gesticulating. but i am increasing wonderfully in my changing here,
you know, even in a land i hate.


i will admit that when it was really getting dark
after willard avenue; when i had to cross the cemetery

i did feel pangs, the air no longer breathing for a while
as i made steady for aurelius and mt. hope, stifled moonlight

making cobblestones of the leaf litter. suddenly the dead rose
and i was back downtown bawling my eyes out like no one could see,

canned rihanna piping down empty streets like it usually did,
sure before the supreme deity of the universe that i

was the most unfairly killed of all prophets,
the most cruelly beaten down, here in nineveh

where nothing green can thrive. and then a new voice:
but oh, robin, it was three years ago,

oh, oh, oh, look what has been
made to grow here in nineveh.


slain demons flash in the dark like phantom limbs:
oh, i am not used to their absence.

do you remember hitting that deer on penn? how hopeless
in that moment all you felt? or the bullet-pointed

ypsilanti sleet on the day you felt it was all over?
and a hundred-odd mundane evasions of company of people

you might have let in on the squalor of davis avenue? the night,
driving one back home down collins—i think in the first month

of this adventure—boring her and yourself talking about moravians
and deciding you would do best to forget them all? the calm

bitterness of twenty thousand hours walking shoeless
through the rain down from the m.l.k. bridge—no,

you will never forget. but what will we do now
in victory and freedom? oh, robin, oh;

i wish you would see
what has grown in nineveh.

dimondale highway


i don’t know what it is about dimondale
that makes me feel so far away;

i don’t know if it’s the fall wind blowing me
across these long dusks that reminds me of places

i barely ever was, the tygart valley, say, or
bee hill road. it is like hiding in a fold of

the universal garment, like an addendum
shrunk down of the wide emptiness

stretching north to the manistee, where
you can see a blinking yellow five miles

ahead of getting there. but in dimondale i
can walk the world from end to end in a couple

of hours and be satisfied,
having seen everything.


oh, they say there is life outside of windsor
charter township—south africa, say,

they like soccer a lot more. but why
would you want there to be?

dead possums and winter wheat and sky:
these three categories

are the whole of
creation: nothing lives

that is not one
of these.

twenty-nine verses for chipia


now that i’m here, what
is there really to say? i
can hardly presume

to write about a
place so holy to my best
friend: i cannot go

dedicating a
poem so inadequate;
i am ignorant

of the narrowest
jot of this small place
with its rocks and tree

roots spread like melting
wax over a thousand boulders—
the holy of holies

desires no lines
on its own behalf, being
perfected in se.

twenty-six years of
sedimented memories and
learning how to be

who he is. and i
have been a decade in his
mind; only now with

eyes uncovered, can
i see its grounds and waters,
the noise of its limbs

and its shining like
mercury in the thrall of
a blue dancing moon

at once gentler and
more convicting than any
foreign monument.


the best feeling in the
world is to be given
what you did not seek

as i was, my friend,
last night and this whole week; i
had no foreknowledge,

surely, eleven
years ago that i would be
drunk with you on the

blue-black night, the eye
of God in cool late august
brightness lighting up

ossipee and the
mountains like a photograph
negative, all greens

now spiritous and
ashen to see, a cleansing
vapor to feel in

new lungs for new men,
reborn for as long as we
refuse the land and

its inevitable
ruin; its roads to greater
roads and greater roads,

its soft damnation
of choices. here, a decade
having passed, we watched

midnight come and go
talking about people we knew
and how a war

might be conducted
here with small craft: to each war
lord a small island

from which to conduct
their fleet, fantasies of far
youth spent menacing

foes and taxing the
peasants to revolution
with fallen branches.

out in deep water
the loons hunt and your darkness
must be so humid

with memory, as
august passes everywhere
to fall, evergreen

waif, the one who is
always dying every year.
it has been a great

momentous thing, you
know, to have these eleven
years with no end yet

in sight.

wisdom 7:12


it costs so much to understand
just a little of this world,

some part you slipped a paper under
and a glass, a spider on the face of

infinity, for what feels like the price
of life itself. i know i lay awake

for months in agony memorizing
the contents of the cage they prepared

for it, peering gravely into corners
knowing they would ask about

details when the time came
to make my account, provided our

hairy little friend still lived
and the house didn’t burn

and the sky unfallen,
et cetera.


soon i was full of heaviness and
walking in trenches, discerning

narrow ways through kind loam.
i was driven into desert places

by my heaviness and thought my soul lost
on a poor wager; i thought of

callaway and the start i almost made
there, and my grief deepened

until it seemed i could go nowhere
but stay and learn the rocks inside

the dry kloof, but i
was wrong about that.


there is so much to learn in this world
but not much to understand, not much

that’s worth trying to, is what i mean;
in any case, you don’t need to know much

to finish well in this life:

only mostly the love of God
and the faith to take one step

a thousand thousand times.