“The poetic word is no longer someone’s word. In it no one speaks, and what speaks is not anyone.” M. Blanchot, “Approaching Literature’s Space.” A. Smock, trans.



On a frosty autumn morning Gaia wraps the mountain’s peak in a scarf of red light.
Facing East, wearing UV 400 sunglasses, I offer a pinch of pollen to the rising sun,
and make three deep bows to the Unknown God.


First thought to be the paw-prints of a bear, using the latest scanning devices
anthropologists are tracking the faint paths walked by a small, cross-stepping
hominin who lived millions of years ago. Reflecting on finitude, what is human
conflates into pockets of impossibly isolated beings.


With predictions of another dry winter, immigrants of pebbles and stones
slid down the mountainside, scattering on the road below until “I couldn’t
tell where the United States ended or Mexico began.”
(1) A work of high art
isn't complete until it questions its boundaries.


A species that was prey sharpened its clever teeth and evolved into a predator
of an entire planet, stripping its resources like meat flensed off bone, throwing
the world into rages of hurricanes, tornados, excessive heat and drought. Had
this species evolved to cannibalize itself?


One morning before dawn, Nakagawa Soen entered the sodo, and woke us up.
Seeing a broken handbell he cradled it as if a bird with a broken wing. Then he
glided back into the darkness, intoning in an impossibly deep voice, “Everything
breaks, everything breaks.”
(2) Death is a human concept that nature creates with-
out thinking.


From above and below, the din reached me, shivering as if Boreas himself
was blowing gloomy predictions into the swirls of my reddening ears.
The sun glared from a frigid horizon, and CO2 continued puffing from
my nose. Even if we could reach net zero emissions of greenhouse gases,
we’d still be guilty of breathing,


The rocks had just reseated themselves on recently watered earth when
a man emerged from where there there was no longer a path.
“There’s a foot of mud down there,” he said, sounding slightly annoyed.


That deer is a psychopomp guiding me to the Wall of Gods, whose faces
are crumbling sandstone masks. All the gods are outcrops of a fractured
human soul. Here we approach the mystery of why the deepest galleries
in Paleolithic caves were decorated with significant signs and symbols.


Soon after the new year the river began raging again. There is no crossing
over, except to Hölderlin’s madness. The river is a sentinel between non-
existence and every conceivable alternative.


Beneath land sacred to indigenous people lie minerals critical to modern
technologies. Gold, copper, uranium, petroleum, now lithium essential to
rechargeable batteries. At the end of the canyon’s path comes a clearing
where the sun lights tall weeds and the dense scent of living rises. There
clumps of fur are parts of prey not eaten.


Recent showers scoured stones into slippery pebbles, trees huddled
within an overcast sky. “The first poet of a civilization that has not yet
(3) jogged past me, fangs gleaming, as if the Anthropocene
had never occurred.


For the physicist the cat sealed in a box is either dead or alive; for the Zen Master it’s
neither dead nor alive. Sauntering downhill, negotiating stones loose and skittish the
landscape dreams a ken of wispy clouds. Stripped of its integument, a stone lectures
its student: "The cat’s fate is in its inconsistences."


What were the initial conditions in Upper Paleolithic societies that led their people to
create some of our greatest cultural achievements? Ice and snow driven by whips of
freezing wind? Short summer days and long winter nights? Huddling in shelters by
the entrance to caves too dark and damp to live in, in which the rank smell of bears
still cuddled lungs? Crawled into and dropped down, walked through, hunting animal
spirits, what was imagined on scabrous walls gallops into the latest initial conditions.


Twenty-one ancestral lines have so far been classified as becoming human,
meaning “90% of cells in the human body and 99% of genes are not human!”
One hand held up means two hands are held down.


The red tube and its black rubber grip is the handle of a bowsaw whose steel teeth
bit through fallen limbs and their nubbins the old sycamore had suddenly dropped.
Bang on the hardwood deck, awoke trees and wooden fish alike. On a night “made
of doors and witches,”
(5) the End won’t be a bang but an interrupted dream.


The Higgs field substantiates particles, yet the wind has no mass until its riotous
air sings through bushes and trees. Far below an unseen river sends its choir up
a mountain on whose summit the God who will enflame Posthuman Minds sleeps.


To say there has not been a drought like this in the American West for 1200 years,
or that the planet hasn’t been heating this much in millions of years, is to see this
water racing between rocks as a sweltering summer day, when my feet dangled
in a freezing Yuba River, on a dusty road to Kitkitdizze more than fifty years ago.


Man-made and natural disasters coalesce into an epoch in which humans
join to exploit, aggress, defend, then mourn their exploitations. If we could
grieve for all life we have driven to extinction, a shout would be heard from
the future: Great Pan Has Returned!


The path is versed in glossy red leaves of Poison Oak. Nearly dry, the river
has spread long fingers feeling their way to the sea. As I descend the ridge
a turkey buzzard lifts on a breath of warm air. “Lew!” I shout. "Is it you?"
Or am I dreaming of “the duende which seized the heart of Nietzsche”?


The artist seeks a way for one’s spirit to recover the depths of its painted cave
whose exterior is popular culture huddling beneath a shelter near its entrance,
where, “absolute knowledge is no more than one knowledge amongst others.”

In puddles of yesterday’s storm. the earth is transformed into mud, so familiar
it does not go unnoticed.


Most accounts of mountaineering relate the ascent; rarer is the descent,
where life is slippery and is frequently frozen into dark crystals of blood.
Since the "Great Acceleration," deadly emissions have mimicked
a spikey route
passing through death zones in which everything
is nothing again.



1. T. Miller, “Visions of a Borderless World.” The Nation, Dec 16, 2021.
2. Revised from, “Two Words.” Shambhala Sun, March 2002.
3.. R. Char. Quoted in, J.R. Lawler, René Char: The Myth and the Poem. Princeton, NJ, 1978. p. xiii, n.4.
4. J. Turnbull and A. Searle, “Anthropo(s)cene."
5. Adonis (Ali Ahmad Sa’id). From, "Day’s Twin.”
6..“Snyder built a house that he named ‘Kitkitdizze’ in 1970..The name was taken from the Wintu Indian word for Chamaebatia foliolosa, a low-growing, spicy-odored shrub.” K. Yamazato, “Kitkitdizze, Zendo, and Place: Gary Snyder as a Reinhabitory Poet.” ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. Spring,1993. p.51.
7. F.G. Lorca, “Theory and Function of the Duende.” Frederico Garcia Lorca: Selected Poems. Northumberland UK.,1993.
8. 7. J-P Sartre, Situations I. Paris, 1966. p.182.