> poems


by Nick Montfort

[My computational poems are linked from my main poetry page.]

Several of the following appear with many more poems in my book Riddle & Bind, published by Spineless Books and available online and in select bookstores.

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Poem · Next poem...


The stars are so big
So shallow the street
The moon is so small

Never touching the wall
Walls do not meet
The stars are so big

The elm is a twig
One continual beat
The moon is so small

If half were all
Watch now, repeat
The stars are so big

Skull is my wig
Wheels and root feet
The moon is so small

In the thrall
In the retreat
The stars are so big
The moon is so small
Stay as you are.

["Poem" was first published in In Medias Res, Spring 2008]

The Exhaustion of Libraries · Next poem...

The Exhaustion of Libraries

Adenoidal Alexander
Barking brachiatic candor
Clinches dictionary deals.
Every epidermis feels.

Fiercely grinding gravitation,
Hopeless, heaving integration:
Inner jocularities
Jangle kabalistic keys.

Lockstep lexicography
Mutters more necrophagy,
Nibbling open older pain:
Prose's quiet queenly reign.

Rotting signifier's sign,
Tome to urn, up voided vine,
Withered with xerography:
X yields you zero's zealotry.

[First published in Boston University Arts & Sciences 12, Spring 2003]

Riddles · Next poem...



They come down from the mountain,
stretch out, are thoroughly impressed
and stand, spines straight, all around,
once the voice of the wind,
now the voice of the dead.


A kind of heaven, an afterlife
of thought once fluid, bound. Yet
those here partake in mere pleasures.
They open themselves to eyes,
angels, desirous, liberal.


Emissary, wooer, the name
you are called is also borne
by those many things within you.
You salute, offer your body, you close
where your lord has placed his hand.

[First published in an interactive format in Cauldron and Net 4, Autumn 2002]

Another Hole · Next poem...

Another Hole

Head wounds. Many
of the passersby have them,
hands raised to clutch, necks
straining to the side,

talking alone, either
addressing their damage
or trying to reassure
themselves, I think.

"I am walking down
Commonwealth right now."
"You didn't read it? But
you did get it?"

"I'm finished at
six." "Can you repeat
that?" "Hold on. You're
dropping out."

Heal them, please,
please press their
heads together,

[First published in Passager 37, 2003]

Top Row Retort · Next poem...

Top Row Retort

I tore out type ere I wrote, to type up top:
upper typewriter row, pert repertoire.

Reporter, I quote to you: To write, pop type out.
Retire typewriter row two. Your tri-row?

Rip it out, too. Tour your top row territory.
Queer tip, you retort? I worry your poor typewriter?

To torque it out — typewriter terror?
You require row two, your tri-row prop?

You pout, try to quip. (Poor etiquette.) You titter.
(Poorer propriety.) You utter uppity output?

Quiet, you! Quit it! You purport to write.
I tire to peer to your rot, your petty writ,

to eye your wire report. You write pyrite,
terrier to torpor. I pity you, preppie yuppie.

I tutor you, tyro, to uproot your trite tree,
put type to pyre. Rupture type. Write to write.

I erupt. I riot. I prototype pure power
to write. I, upper typewriter requiter.

I outwit you, too. To perpetuity, I write poetry.
You, to put it true, putter out rote poop.

[Originally appeared in a different form as "Upper Typewriter Row," Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics 33:1, February 2000; This version, with this title, was published on, 2000]

The Unrelenting · Next poem...

The Unrelenting

Toil is in us and rest. We, on a wheel,
 are seven hundred and thirty in all.
We light and lull, spin four times
 and stutter once. In us all roads,
galleries and games, feasts and solemnity.
 We are holy and unholy. One of us
will empty the district of a city, the next
 fill it again. In us fire and further fire
and reflection. The child growing in us
 and in us the old one who weeps waiting
that we may end. Between us that shifting
 of color and cold, one to another
to another again. Merciless are we,
 with every human mercy. Out of us what?

[First published in Crowd 2, Summer 2002]

Soyuz · Next poem...


It's cold as war today. You must
have been a beautiful Pioneer,

your Lenin pin, your red kerchief.
You made me feel like Finland, crushed.

I saw an after-school special, before
Chernobyl, before the Challenger,

that showed the country occupied.
The commie teacher gave the class

a flag, our precious flag, and had
them cut it up and each take home

a piece of it, because it was
so special. A star or stripe for each.

Sometimes when I'm asleep alone
and sometimes when I'm not alone

the image comes, and you are there,
the desks in columns, scissors working,

and all of you are there, aligned
and at me like a valentine.

[First published in Welter, 2000]

Tichborne's Lexicon · Next poem...

Tichborne's Lexicon


All am, and are but cares.

Corn crop cut.

Day: death.

Die, dish done.

Earth, fallen feast, field for found frost.

Fruit, full gain?

Glass: good green heard hope.

I, in — is it joy? — knew leaves, life; live; looked; made my no not now! of old pain, past prime.

Run, saw.

Seen shade ... sought ... spent.

Spun sun ... tale ... tares.

The thread told: tomb.

Trod ... vain was womb, world ...

Yet, youth!

[First published in Horse Less Review 2, Spring 2005]

Sheik of Poetry · Notes

Sheik of Poetry

 for Harry Mathews

A narrow fellow in the grass
without no pants on

And then went down to the ship
without no pants on

Batter my heart, three-personed God
without no pants on

Do not go gentle into that good night
without no pants on

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
without no pants on

If I when my wife is sleeping
without no pants on

I have been one acquainted with the night
without no pants on

I met a traveller from an antique land
without no pants on

i sing of Olaf glad and big
without no pants on

I wandered lonely as a cloud
without no pants on

I've never seen a purple cow
without no pants on

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
without no pants on

Let us go then, you and I,
without no pants on

Of man's first disobedience and the fruit
without no pants on

Our father, who art in heaven
without no pants on

She sang beyond the genius of the sea
without no pants on

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
without no pants on

That's my last duchess painted on the wall
without no pants on

The first of the undecoded messages read: "Popeye sits in thunder,
without no pants on

They flee from me, that sometime did me seek
without no pants on

They fuck you up, your mum and dad
without no pants on

They sing their dearest songs —
without no pants on

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
without no pants on

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
without no pants on

We real cool. We
without no pants on

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie,
without no pants on

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon
without no pants on

When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai
without no pants on

[First published in Speakeasy, 2006]



"Poem" is an expanded villanelle. The repeating lines and the extra last line are supplied by a poem that was written, according to Marshall McLuhan's 1961 essay "The Humanities in the Electronic Age," by a second-grade student, presumably North American, in response to the launch of Sputnik:

The stars are so big
The moon is so small
Stay as you are.

This poem is quoted again in McLuhan and Quentin Fiore's The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, with different punctuation and with one word changed: "The stars are so big, / The Earth is so small, / Stay as you are." A global information network informs me that the poem was also used by the English band Pram as the title of their first album.

"Tichborne's Lexicon" consists of all the words Chidiock Tichborne's poem "Elegy," arranged alphabetically and punctuated.

[My computational poems are linked from my main poetry page.]