Pat Nolan


I want what I have
each triumph prompts a withdrawal
a step away from the awful flame
yet persist to play with fire
the self remains intact at the core
to face up to the maw of notoriety

etched darker on the pale gray mist
the leafless wild apple I was once
wild and young now all that’s wild is my hair
ici c’est la (here is there where I mostly are)
the rigors of prose like a permanent wedgie
barnacles of flesh niche warriors a good
wash flattens the nap of the flannel sheets
prose is monologic poetry (speech) is dialogic
a moment of consciousness made into language
as the stroke of a sumi-e brush on paper
with all its impressionistic ambiguity

the demons have moved to the periphery
what was past is trying to reassert itself
the long gray mornings of early summer
sit in my lap like an open notebook
yet I can’t see past the tip of my pen
and ink is no substitute for blood
if I’ve failed it’s because I tried too hard
a turn of events inevitably wrings anguish
the sleepless ceaseless spinning narrative
aged a decade with that single sigh
the singularity of being plots a crooked path
through the labyrinth between two points
to have lived as variously as possible
knowing every moment’s a fleeting spark
and connecting the dots to shape
a glittering guttering image of myself

who have I become
based on a shoebox of snapshots
a visible arc traced
as development to disintegration
innocence to corruption
framed by technology
think outside the box
curved lines instead of straight
the contours of a shapely mind
the push pull of indecision

days piled one on another like unpaid
bills how did that happen week passed
then month before long it’s time to set
the clock back or forward only in dreams
does any of it not seem to matter and not
lacking in mystery rather than ungraspable
sands of every waking moment a glance at
the clock orients in time and the space
the neighbor’s barking dog defines
my concept of time is irreversible
I can’t turn back the clock because
each tick a measurement in only
one direction toward the event
horizon I’ll never reach the stasis
of my being bathed in the honeyed
future of my thoughts a non-polarity
where the binary is neutralized and
the utopian nowhere is achieved


Bruised kidney crystal burr
backup back pain’s nausea
tossed and turned by
the salad forks of life

I can’t address the blank page
with meaning in mind

gray shark against
gray background
the splash of color

pretend intellectual
lacking the syllogistic
rigor of anal neurosis

phasic undulation
this dialogue with myself
                               consistent in
its inconsistency
the post thought

approaching the frayed
edge of a generation

myth is symbolic narrative
the monoliths of Gobleki Tepe
the rapid oxidation that is fire

coffee tells me
                               it’s morning
later in the day
                coffee tells me
I wish it was
                               still morning

the real world
                is out there
but I’ve categorized it
                to such an extent
that I’ll never know it
                as it really is

language is thought’s
poor substitute

a conflict of neurochemicals
                drives me crazy

nature wings across my view
in variegations of green
from which in sleek flight
morning’s messengers launch

I’ve rationalized
myself into so many
dead ends

power out
                but fruit
                               on trees
                ripen still
fog will
                               lift and
                day transit
                without any
help from

I’ve created my own little universe
from the very tips of my fingers

ink and coffee
my life blood

someone went into a pole
and didn’t make it

acorn woodpecker
the oaks shelter

who am I who
am who I am
I who am who


The wide spiral of my trajectory
inevitably turns inward ensuring
a comfortable yet constraining
confinement when suddenly I
understand the genius of what
I’m doing and have to sit back down

the multiples of tragedy as
an exponent of fear to stand back
and watch the days drop off
the calendar in swift succession yet
stuck in the molassticity of time

the later years where the focus is
on health and money how poor it
is and how little of it there is

acyclovir methotrexate orencia
remicade a chemical symphony
in the orchestration of a semblance of
well being prednisone hydrocodone
a perceptual edge dulled or put
in a different fainter light

the illness has its little victories
the meds staving off the catastrophe
for the most part happy for the ceasing
but with no way of knowing for sure

death is the oldest news there is

consciousness is a discontinuous flow
as much as that’s a contradiction in
terms of numerous surface and subterranean
streams one taking up where the last one
left off to perpetuate the illusion of progress
through time in the same continuum

here where there is only here

“Civilization, creating new forms and
expectations, is a form of mass suicide”
like Balzac with his coffee I savor
a bitter pleasure refilling the pill caddy
a jeweler sorting gems it’s also my calendar
how else will I know what day it is

now a light drizzle patterns the puddles
unlike the asphalt pocking downpour earlier
the puppet is always the last to know
that there are strings attached
as I get older I have to admit that I’ve
been wrong as much as I’ve been right

I know there are good people and
that there are better people yet
it’s the good people it’s wise
to cultivate as the better are always
too busy with their betterment

Cosmic Background Radiation aka
“the surface of last scattering”
only 40% of the universe is visible stuff
so easily blindsided by the unknown

in that case I am but an essence
pollution as one physicist put it
from the vast industry of eternity

trying not to be too awesome
writing with a pen encourages the scribe
the romantic notion of contemplating
the graveyard that greatness there lies
undiscovered but a blink in obscurity

a breeze attends afternoon
muted buzz of mechanical wing high above
leaves flicker a synaptic dapple of light
on anything that stands still for it
with the juncos and chickadees and
stalking felines in the empty lot across the street
it’s a regular Serengeti Plain out there

self-involved caught up in the act of
acting up a dog passes pleasantly the old cat
climbs the stairs like a gray whisper


My father was a university professor
my mother was a lawyer
my grandfather was a congressman
and I decided I would be a writer
but what about the guy who says
my father was a mechanic
my mother was a housewife
and I decided I would be a writer
it is not the same thing
one is genteel success
the other is the struggle to rise above
a common domesticity
recognize class as the ultimate oppression
the field is overpopulated
everyone pregnant with thought
and the desire to birth through words
and words like children go off on their own
to avoid ultimatum and proclaim some of their own
how to rise above the condescending treacle
a categorization takes less than a tenth of a second
and follows the length of a lifetime
in a hierarchy that can be sniffed at
what metabolism propels me on the balls of my feet
to seek nothing but repeated footsteps
in one direction or another in the so-called
solace of the vast emptiness of self knowledge
I know I can go from here to there
and what crosses my mind crossing
the bridge is siphoned from behind my eyes
as the resistance of my passage through time
on the way back home that electrical field that is me
attracts and repels a vast quanta of wavelengths
the weave of what I am all wrapped up in


That brief bit of electronic sentience
that signals the end of a routine or
that a point in time has been reached
but from which device the mundane chores
all alight with morning the tyranny of pets
their insistent demands trump my desires
what clings to me as the luster of language
the grind of churning and the residue
of a cast off detritus as remembered
memory stop to consider the spin of wheels
there are no problems of meaning when
meaning is absent until after the fact
the lush loyalty of words always returns
to the making of some sort of sense with
every walk I take I appreciate what
the changeless landscape says about what
has changed about me since last time
to inhabit this old skin to wear these same
old clothes with some measure of comfort
“our years together has to mean something”
an ancient gold reflects off the distant trees
and marks a darker green the shadowed ones
upon waking slightly askew from fleeting dreams
time squares itself to the known universe
I’ve placed myself where I want to be
to catch at least some of the light

Pat Nolan’s poems, prose, and translations have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in North America as well as in Europe and Asia. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry and two novels. His most recent books of poetry are So Much, Selected Poems, Volume II, 1990-2010 (Nualláin House, Publishers, 2019) and the thousand marvels of every moment, a tanka collection (Nualláin House, Publishers, 2018). He also maintains Parole, the blog of the New Black Bart Poetry Society. His serial fiction, Ode To Sunset, A Year In The Life Of American Genius, is available for perusal at odetosunset.com. He lives among the redwood wilds along the Russian River in Northern California.
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