Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lists, The Raven

Lately the creativity has been spreading from blog to blog, similar subjects, and borrowing or replying one to each other more than usual. I am really happy for that. I believe I do much better work this way. Thank you all. You know who you are.

Here is a poem about distance and how intimacy can still happen.


Standing still, reaching
In my heart across the flow
Of far light from me to you
Wonder of day's end
Wonder of warm dreams
Wonder of true life.

Lists of thanksgiving
Lead to peace, tranquility,

Lead to you near by.


You get your help where you can find it. This is a poem about waking up. Charles Tart is one among others who points out that we live in a consensus trance, that we don't know it for a trance because it is normal to us, and that breaking away is quite uncomfortable for most of us. I am not going to argue whether this is all true or not, but I will point out that this is one way to describe the challenge laid at our feet by every mystical tradition on the planet.

They all agree as well that the solution happens only in solitude at some point, because in order to see you have to wake up and make peace among the dreamers. They mostly agree that you need a guide. That guide might be a guru, as in the eastern traditions, a spirit guide as with the vision quests of the First Nations, or the Holy Ghost as encountered within the Christian monastic traditions. Every tradition as well allows for the possibility that the spiritual heart of the world can erupt in you at any time, should there be a need for that to happen.

This is nothing to fool with. There are people who do, though. Be careful who you might choose to follow. One of the worst lies is the one told by the false prophet. And not fundamentally different is the person still asleep who claims he is awake.

The mystical traditions also claim that if you waken unprepared you will try your best to go back to sleep but once awake this attempt and every attempt thereafter becomes more and more unhappy and miserable. You can run but you can no longer hide.

Oh yes, and as Zen says of this business of waking up, when you achieve enlightenment, what you do next is the next right thing, like chopping wood for the fire, like carrying water for the bath. Like loving and forgiving as many times as necessary.

The Raven

You perch on my head,
Pluck at my eyebrows and talk
To me like my Lord.

I am shaken by your voice
As you speak clearly to me.

I mean you shake me.
My eyes are clean. Parasites
Eaten, you depart.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Hell Of A Life, Pausing On My Way

Here are two poems which seem to be talking about keeping still from different attitudes. These poems were written with 47 hours between them. What happened in between? Thanksgiving day happened in between. Giving thanks happened in between.

So the earlier poem is not as serene as the second poem. This poem may well have the Tarot's Hanged Man in its background. But perhaps it is the pair of gym shoes that is hanging from an overhead wire at the next intersection east of my house that is the model. These shoes were already there in 2001 when I moved in and noticed them.

A Hell Of A Life

I'm all hung up,
Thrown high up over a wire,
The butt of a prank.
I am upside down,
Hanging head down and dangling
And I can't get down.
Come back years from now.
I'll still be here, just grayer,
A hell of a life.


That's an awkward and sad vision of keeping still. Here is another way of keeping still.

Pausing On My Way

I release like this,
Go all loose, all rubbery,
Then begin to float.
All I need is fire.
I would inflate and then rise,
A heart full of grace.

I take all that, and hold it
In loose arms outstretched, rounded.

I forget my feet,
My knees, myself, forget you
And all my true hopes.
I simply stand here.
I wait, breathing in and out
Pulsing as I breathe.


Keeping Still is one translation of the title of the 52nd hexagram of the I Ching. Keeping Still is the Wilhelm/Baynes translation, but Stephen Karcher translated it Bound, or Stilling.

As one might surmise, this hexagram is speaking of the use of meditation, staking the claim of meditation and similar activities or states as one of 64 primary phases of human circumstance on the planet. Attached to these phases of life circumstance are predictions of a sort and each of these circumstances can lead to other circumstances in various combinations of six constituent elements or lines of power. Each of these six lines are expansive or contractive powers, placed in six positions which are also expansive or contractive, and thus enhance the power or tend to neutralize it. As you can see, this system of interaction of 64 primary phases of human circumstance is complex enough for a long and systematic study if you are motivated. What would it mean to pass from this phase to this other phase? How does that change them both? And so on.

That book, I Ching, is one of the five traditional classic books of learning that formed the literate foundation of an educated person in ancient China. In it's basic beginning form it is over five thousand years old. In it's more or less final form it is over two thousand years old. Everyone educated knew these works intimately as well as others. There were schools of thought that grew up around the book, mainly but not only Confucian, Buddhist and intensively Taoist/alchemical, and yet others. Go to the right sort of bookshop and you will find dozens of modern commentaries which have all appeared since the 60's. When I started looking at I Ching there were three for me to look at, Wilhelm/Baynes, Legge, and Blofeld. In my estimation, Ritsema, Karcher, Whincup, Schklovskii, Cleary and the younger Wilhelm are the best of the European moderns, not in any particular order.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Love Is All You Need - The Beatles

"I believe that we are put here in human form to decipher the hieroglyphs of love and suffering. And, there is no degree of love or intensity of feeling that does not bring with it the possibility of a crippling hurt. But, it is a duty to take that risk and love without reserve or defense."
- Allen Ginsberg

I saw this quote at Whiskey River, a beautiful site, and I love the quote so much, here it is. I did exactly this at the turn of the century. I did it knowing, oooohhhh, this is going to hurt, and did it anyway. I would do it again. That was the most remarkable two years of my life. And yes, it really, really hurt.

Loving like that is a duty. I can't hope to walk the spiritual path that I pray I do walk without offering that capacity to love, laying it in gratitude directly in God's lap. I cannot know I have that capacity unless I know I am willing to love like that again, having already loved like that. If I have loved and will love like that, then I am already loving like that now, as the world allows.

I could not write a poem yet today, and then here is this quotation from Allen Ginsberg. I am breaking training today, no poems, just this. It follows yesterday's post about contrition and forgiveness. Contrition, forgiveness, and love saves the world. Only in this sense, as we walk in the spirit, can it be said as the Beatles did, "Love is all you need."

Yes, love is all you need, once pretense is shed, knots (R. D. Laing wrote of knots) untangled, and courage taken up, once the eyes see both the mundane and eternity in the mundane, once the right sized hope meets the right sized truth. It turns out there are prerequisites to a love which saves the world. This kind of love is voluntary and must be. You can tell when you are in it, and when it is over you can tell if it was the real thing, when you can say, I would do that again, when you can say of your former lover after it is over, thank you for that opportunity, it was worth even this.

The Way of the Spiritual Warrior cannot be walked alone, cannot be walked at all without a love like this. All else is preparation. Once you can love one like this the possibility of loving others raises out of wish fulfillment for a nice life into the possibility of saving the world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not This One, Having Stubbed My Toe

Here comes another odd case. I don't know. I see these pictures. My imagination starts sliding sideways, and then out of this world to some other where things go differently from here. It's a little embarrassing to do this in the middle of an engineering office, but I seem to get away with it here in poetry land. Sort of.

Not This One

I hate it. You get
All weird like an octopus
With haywire hot eyes.
You come right at me
Like that. I don't deserve this!

But maybe I do.
I know I'm confused,
Don't see real straight, not like you.
I thought I would win.

Not this one.


I am impatient and impulsive. Back in the last century, closer to its middle than it's end, I knew everything. Well I knew I didn't know everything, but I sure wasn't going to listen to just anyone, especially the guys in authority, because I certainly knew the fix was in.

The fix actually was in. It still is. I am not happy with politicians, but at least as a corporation parasite I see a great deal more that slows me back on the harshness of my criticism. Most everyone is pretty much along for the ride, not in a position to do squat about the important stuff.

Very few of us actually have sufficient degrees of both freedom and power at the critical moments that they actually can act rather than react. And do not be deceived by pomp and circumstance. The obvious "movers and shakers" aren't the real movers and shakers, very much like the apparent rules of professional wrestling are not the real rules. I understand the posturing much better. So many people have such a need to feel in control they are willing to do most anything to keep the illusion alive. It is very sad that this is part of the fuel that feeds our engines and twists our results into disappointing shapes.

We could die of this, and the only solutions are actually spiritual, very much like the spiritual solution required in AA. That is because our situation as a whole is similar. We have multiple addictions to self defeating cultural behaviors, attitudes and postures, and this worldwide. We may not succeed and if we don't our failure will be spiritual. We need help. We lack sufficient power to get to a low risk stability from our too high risk instability. This predicament cannot be solved in a sectarian fashion because it requires a world wide change of heart. Conversion is not the answer, not to capitalism, not to Islam or Christianity, not to the New World Order, not to any other "system" or philosophy or religion. Something more like waking up, contrition, and forgiveness is what is required.

Having Stubbed My Toe

I come back contrite,
Having stubbed my toe on you
And your predictions.
How did you get so wise?

I shall walk your path, go to
The dancing waters,
Sit within their song
So long my beard will grow down
To my empty heart.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Deforested, Not Good Behavior

Here is an allegory, I guess. Or it is a story of a forest lost, but, I think, not from the actions of men. Maybe as a story this took place aeons ago. Maybe witnessed by the Saurians in some way, or perhaps later because I think this forest was originally deciduous. But then in this location some kind of change created a swamp...then the swamp dried up too...The uprooted comment in this story is in fact something that can happen to a tree more than one people too. The way this gnarly one is speaking of it - the forest deserted him, leaving him without roots, and without love.


Once there was forest
Where now dried out swamp and me
Standing here, gnarly.
Old before my time,
Cut short except for one snag,
I was uprooted
Far too long ago.
I miss the mists and tall green
Trees, the growth beneath,

And most, I miss you.


I have ivy living at the base of bamboo. Who the hell did that?? They both love to spread. Also in the ivy in two different places in my yard I have had to take out yellow jacket nests. They really like to live under ivy. I actually have the one kind of ivy but two different kinds of bamboo. This stuff came with the house when my mother bought it. She bought the house to get old in. She succeeded. I bought my sister out and sold my old house because this one has a rental in the back yard, roofs tied together with a breezeway to keep the worst of the rain off the backyard tenant. I have the income, and also the doubled property tax of a duplex in a neighborhood zoned for duplex. I am really itchy (grass allergy) in bamboo. The dust of ivy makes me sneeze when I work in it. Alot. But at least it doesn't make my immune system go haywire. So here's a whimsy.

Not Good Behavior

Like ivy clinging
I will not let go of things.
When I'm pried away
I let loose this dust,
To make you sneeze your brains out.
Then I wilt, despair.

This is not good behavior.
I'm a little bit ashamed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ancestry, First Plants

There is a part of me sure I am misplaced here on the planet. There's another part of me sure I am in a direct line of descent from the very first living thing that led to this line of descent. It is one of the advantages of accepting evolution, to understand that fundamental connection, unbroken because it has to be, with every form of dna based life on the planet absolutely and unequivocally related one to the other. It cannot be otherwise...well. Perhaps there are five ancestors, five lines of descent, but the incredible sameness of dna coding suggests only one.


Plants know more than me,
More than you too. They love green
More than anything.
First plants are tiny,
Still tiny after aeons,
After birthing giants.
First plants know the way.

Low murmurings from first plants
Tell my ancestry.


I had a moment like many others that led to this poem. No matter what it is about, no matter I am in the right or not, when I get agressive and antagonistic, I am in the wrong, in the wrong in this puts me at risk of my life in a self destructive way. I know this through a long history of self punishment episodes that result from resentment and anger. The price I pay is simply too steep. It is as if I am allergic to my own hormones and other secretions that happen under the stress of anger. I could call this, probably should call this a disadvantage. On the other hand I live a more peaceful life than many do. This does not make me a better man. It does however make me still alive when I am at risk, and still living fairly well when I might well be very much worse off by my own hand. It is not that I always turn on myself but that it leaks out in consistently weird luck - have a fight with the wife, and then a hit and run in a parking lot bangs my car. That sort of thing.

I Am No Master

I don't wish to fight.
In the middle, holy war,
Red flame in my gut.

You wrong me with your demands.
This twists me around myself.

I dream of a place
Where no one steps on my toes,
Where I disappear.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'm Still Hungry, The Smell Of Cold Rain

Shape shifting again. I ask about changes from yet another perspective. This changing stuff is big stuff, no? Really want to change? Well, probably not, since I go kicking and screaming into so many of them. Want to stay the same? Well, probably not, because I get bored if nothing changes. Hmmm. Restless, irritable, discontent, no matter what... I have had big changes in my life, some really life saving, some really life threatening. But I am still me in some real sense, some sense that I can't even conceive will not stay with me no matter what, even death. I even kind of believe the whole spiritual thing rises out of the inconceivability of death. Maybe. Or maybe I am built like this simply because it's true that something of me won't die, something that I would recognize as me. That's a very big starting point for all this above so below. Reversed, as something in the heart of below, so above. There has to be that thread or nothing makes sense.

That, my friends is a statement of faith. The disciplines of science tend to use it too. They say it more like no matter how strange it gets, the universe remains intelligible. Something in our thinking and senses accords with what is really out there. That's really the same statement of faith about connections.

No matter how big the changes are that I have gone through, I will not experience the insectile experience of total metamorphosis. That is rebirth, being reborn in a way far more radical than any religious conversion. Or is it? I think so. How will I ever know?

I'm Still Hungry

If I crawl down here
Using all my legs, ambling
My way past your house,
Is it true I will find you
Spinning your cocoon
Like you tell me that I will?
I don't know about
Cocoons and if I have one
In my true future.
I have so many strange dreams
I don't know what's real.
If there is a change coming
Will my body itch?


Here is a poem about practicing. What if I go blind? So I practice walking around my house in the dark, remembering and trying to sense where things are. I want to be a musician, so I practice being a musician. I want to be a poet, so I practice being one. I want to be a decent human being. There's a practice there too. I want to leave you? No. Not really. But I might have to. Here's a poem about leaving you.

The Smell Of Cold Rain

I look back at you
There beyond the tracks I left
On this wet hillside.

I didn't think I could leave,
Not like this, and not your life.

It's changed how I feel
About the smell of cold rain
Falling around me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dollars As Folded Art, Incense And Smoke

This is a poem that tells its own tale. It has nothing to do with anything, not that I know of. I saw pictures of dollars folded up cleverly and marveled. The various parts of the dollar, front and back can be utilized as part of the sculpture, and the paper is stiff enough to work with. Truly imaginative and complex shapes can result. Maybe you have seen this stuff. Mostly I marvel at the patience involved in working out the ways to fold the money. Who would take the time, I think.

If you have ever been responsible for a collection basket and have some dork out there who knows how to fold money in complex knots, you will like me see why this kind of moment suggests lobotomizing Mr. Dork as a solution. Unfolding the money is a pain in the ass and the art of it is not then very interesting at all.

Dollars As Folded Art

I took my dollars,
Folded them sidewise and more,
Found the eyes and ears.

Found the ways to make them stand
On their own, upright and strong.

I've got a problem
That bugs me, dollar master.
My wallet's empty.


I went to college in philosophy and psychology. I don't usually get lost in complex thought. I have a poem, Bird Dog Like Cunning that speaks about my capacity to navigate according to maps that I keep in my head, that I make as I go. I could already do that at four years old. I make a living making a kind of map, graphical instructions for the performance of work. Here is another example from yet another world, the world of ideas and knowledge. This next poem is about that. It is also about knowing what that world is.

Incense And Smoke

A scatter of views
All find their way to corners
Where they start new homes.

The trouble with letting go
Of them is how they part ways
Even though they come
From the same complex of light,
From still deeper sound.

I find I clasp them
As if I owned them
But they are incense and smoke.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sad Is More Real, Rising Above

Here are two poems written half an hour apart.

Here is something I learned in music, slow and minor is easier to play than bright and happy quick major stuff. That is just simply true. Then I noticed that some of my favorite music is the blues. And the reasons are just too many to go into, having to do not only with the simple structure but some of the attitude too. There is a strong outlaw element in the blues that appeals to me greatly...

It was thunder and thunder and lightnin
The day this po' boy was born.
Ain't had nothin but yer trouble
And yer hate and yer scorn.
My daddy, he died in a train wreck.
My momma, she died o' th' booze.
My first name, it's natcherl born trouble,
My last name, it is the blues.

Damn, all done in Em with a certain riff to it, and then the B7 to break it open, hold it, hold it, (on last name) tumble back down to the Em. A two chord song. This is somehow more real...

Sad Is More Real

Why is it still so?
I have come to you, asking
For the path to joy,

Asking for true compassion
To flower in my warm heart.

I want happiness
To flood all my nooks, crannies.
Still sad is more real.


This poem is about being a spin doctor. I don't really have to say I can't really rhyme stuff very well. I write poetry controlled other ways, these days mostly haiku syllable count lines. I have done other things. Sometimes I do rhyme stuff just to show you (me) that I can. Well. I can honestly say I usually dislike rhyme as much as I dislike really tightly structured meter. But not when a real master does it. I want my forms to disappear if you don't want to see them. I want a poem that speaks really well without being forced into meter. When I perform I deliberately converse and dramatize rather than orate. I am pretty good at it too, both trained and coming through my mother from dramatic stock. So all of that glosses the simple fact that I just don't rhyme very well. So do I really have to say so?

Rising Above

I've no room for rhyme,
Too busy, too fast, that's me.
(I don't think I can).
I'd never say that,
Never say I lack some skill.
No, I'm just busy.
Can't be bothered, me.
I'll stand aloof from it all,
Rise above on gas.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Heading South, Caterpillar Life

I live a life of happy accident. The word for that is serendipity. Or another take on it. I live a life of sloppy good luck. It comes out okay even with all the disasters and reversals. The sloppy good luck is a family idea but actually came from an old science fiction/fantasy story. It might have been Robert Sheckley who wrote it. The story was about a man who attracted little people into a cage that he had, where they built a small home, very nice and upscale, a high class family of little people, and he started having great luck. They asked him to leave them utterly alone, the cage covered, and to respect their privacy. But he couldn't. Meanwhile his luck was just great and he was having all sorts of things go right in his life. But he couldn't resist, and he kept sneaking peeks at what they were doing. He never saw them. But pretty soon there was a for sale sign out. Then they were gone. Then some others moved in and the place started to deteriorate. So did his luck. No longer quite so good, and so the house began to look kind of like a slum and his luck got sloppy. That's where the phrase comes from. I have gremlins but they are quite low class and so I have a low class grade of good luck. My mother actually coined the phrase for us.

Heading South

I fell in the stream
Head first, awkward, and I bounced
Off the bottom stones.
Head sore and bruised, I got slimed
From the mossy stuff that grew
At the stream's edges.

I tried to stand up, dizzy.
Then began to swim
With the current, south.

I thought, "Just like my whole life."
Again headed south.


And like so many people, most of my defenses are bluffs. And I am not very brave. But unlike this next critter, I do have some principles even if they are skewed. I am not a snitch, have never been a snitch and worked very hard to avoid being a snitch when it loomed. There was a period when it was a really big possibility that pressures to snitch might overwhelm me. It turned out that I would sooner self destruct, tear everything about my life apart and start over. I realize that good citizenship apparently allows for snitching under certain conditions, even requires it, and in fact you can go to jail for not snitching. In crime, not telling what you know makes you an accessory. But something in my core is appalled at that idea and I do NOT really want to participate in a society that thinks like that. Ultimately, I claim, that slope is slippery and leads to some form of fascism. I really don't know why I am like this. I don't live a secret life myself but I deeply believe in YOUR right to secrets, pretty much no matter what they are.

Caterpillar Life

I have curled tightly
Inward around my whole self,
Showing you the spines
I grew to threaten you all,
All you damn fools who bug me.
My fuzzy black soul,
The yellow shows too. I quake
To think you hold me.
If I get away
I will go and tell on you
How you grabbed me up.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Sting, Clean This House

This first poem is a remarkable thing. I was amazed to write it and thought I was quite outside myself doing it. Has there ever been a poet who wrote from the point of view of a wasp? I can't imagine anything other than a feeling very good if I'm a wasp releasing venom into a wound.

The Sting

I land on this thing
Doughy pasty white and stinks!
So I sting it. Hah!

I plant me deep and I squirt.
May I say this feels so good?

I hear a distant roar
That shakes the place I've landed.
So I take off. Hah!


I resist being told what to do. I know I am not the only one. I might be more extreme at this than some and have paid big prices for it. Here is an example of tremendous serendipity happening to someone like me under the tutelage of someone a little further along the path.

Clean This House

I sat beside you
Looking for right direction.
You said, "Clean this house."
I said, "I'm no slave to you."
Your eyes changed, shone so brightly.
My heart broke right then.
I stood up and bowed to you
Then got the straw broom.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Wish To Sit Near, Red And White

This first poem is about worshipping in a form we know very well. I don't know for sure but I suspect that when this form of intimacy works out it feels very good.

I Wish To Sit Near

I wish to sit near
So that my tail when wagging
Taps you a little,
So that when your thought begins,
You reach down, scratch in the fur
Between my two ears,
Stroke down my black nose, grabbing
My muzzle, thanking me.


I am often clumsy and ashamed for it. Shame is something I wish I didn't know so well. Back in 66-72 when I lived shamefully I was quite busy running ahead of the wind. I got fairly good at building walls out beyond me so there were people nearby who knew me and were okay with it but a very large world of people, places and things, that not only didn't care about me but if they got wind of my life they had designated persecutors to chase me around. I am not lying. My contribution to all that, among other counter culture things and political things I was a dope dealer. Then they almost caught me. I didn't really care about that, except for the shame of it and the shame that would continue and the suicide I feared would come of it. So I got out of town and came back later to a life that did not include any dope. But I couldn't stand sober either. I became a drunk, got my boundaries around that part much smaller and started living a true double life. So I think shame has a handle on me, me having sacrificed my life for it at least once. How far will I really go to avoid the consequences of shame? Change my whole life.

This poem is of course not about dope dealing or running ahead of the wind or anything like that. It is about being arrogant and the consequences.

Red And White

I got a big stick,
Stirred you up, found someone else
Inhabiting your eyes.

But this is like stirring white
Paint and getting red from it.

So I have this odd
Problem to explain to you.
Why would I do that?

Monday, February 16, 2009

On The Road, Perilous Holes

Two different takes on being on the spirit path. These poems were written a few hours apart and things had happened in between of course, so there it is...two different attitudes with just a short time between.

This is one big reason I know I can't ever say it all. Even if I were to write a long book under an intense spirtual discipline, I still would be unable to cover what happens next. That's pretty precise too. What happens next in that case means what happens next after I successfully complete some magnum opus. There's always a what happens next as far as I know. It is the nature of this place. It is said in some paths that there is a way out, a real way out. To me that means a way out of what happens next.

When I look at it like that, I hesitate. I know that I have the Bodhisattva sentiment, that it would be good to go beyond what happens next if you all come too, but only if you want to. So I will wait until you both want to and can go at the same time, at least that's what I will do in this lifetime. That's what it has come to, a commitment of sorts, but not because I have arrived. I connect up to Bodhisattva in a similar way as young in spirit Buddhists do, making the commitment to follow the path (that's what they do, I follow my own) but being nowhere near that state. That Bodhisattva term is used in a similar way in some Buddhist circles as the term saint is used in some Christian circles. It signifies intent and commitment, not realization.

Suffering is the price of presence here. But suffering is a technical term that Buddhists use. I know people like my last lover who loses patience with all that suffering crap. She just dives in. She so fully loves this world and I find I envy that. I cannot do it. She goes through all the yucky stuff like I do too. She gets up and dives in again. She did Zen in her youth, reads Krishnamurti. Her motherhood, garden, music, and her devotion to the people she chooses is the heart of it for her. So I also know this, that my Way is not the only Way.

And that my friends is another really big reason I will never be able to say it all.

On The Road

How can I choose you
Among all the wise displayed
Along this strange road?
Coyote lopes beside me.
Owl flies above, so too cranes.

The dust of my feet
Shows on me. I've passed the stage
You built over there
To display the truth.
I trust you yet go further,
Don't know when I'll stop.
Owl and cranes fly on.
Coyote yips. He grins - tongue
Dripping, tail wagging.


There are days I feel I have lost my way. Then occasionally, like what happened this weekend, I know the Way is really close by no matter how far I stray, that sometimes in just the right simple way I am gifted with the signal, the way station post, that I am following after all. But this poem is about getting pretty nervous about straying.

Perilous Holes

The holes in the ground
Fall through to the Southern Sky,
Perilous walking
For me and my pal
And we would take another
Way if we could find
The path you promised.

Must have taken a wrong turn.
This just isn't right.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Elevated Position, House Of Slaughter

I come from arrogant stock. I was given that directly by a boss many years ago who reviewed me, told me I was pissing his crew off even though I was qualified to say the things I said. I was a design group leader and had earned my position by my experience. But I was getting the team close to rebelling against me and my boss pointed out I wasn't so well placed as all that. He called me arrogant. It was true but so foreign a concept to me that I could hardly understand. I was just crushed, almost quit over it. I do shame really well and work hard to never put myself into a shameful position undefended, but this time I had stepped in it unconsciously.

I know through and through that I suffer from the delusion that if only I know it all I can save myself. I also know that self knowledge is virtually useless in most cases of salvation. There is a big difference between delusion and actual power. Knowledge is power, it is said, and that is true but if there are delusions present the chances of dismay and disaster rise to intolerable levels.

Humility is essential. Humility means being right sized, someone said that. Here is a poem about resentment.

Elevated Position

How can you be so?
Rude is what you are to me!
You give me answers
As if I asked those questions!
As if I don't know what's what!
As if I'm not king
And you're not a commoner.
As if I'm still lost.


Life eats life. There is no getting past this. Not at our place in the food chain. There are critters on the planet, really small and hugely numerous that feed on raw materials that are not alive as we normally think of alive, or nearly so, but they are at a distant place in the web of life. I am radical about this. Where I see life I also see sentience. I suspect the whole universe of being alive in some sense that we haven't seen yet, that there is a within or center to things that lies very deep along a hidden line, that the difference between living matter and inert matter is a kind of emergence of sentience along this line. Just my opinion. But I am indeed committed to a spiritual life that includes that kind of thinking. In that case life even eats the deep life potential found deep within an inert material.

Notice please that I tried to avoid hierarchical words about the food chain, and I am serious about that too, ever since I read the ethologists like Loren Eisely and Lewis Thomas who have been careful to point out that the human viewpoint on things may contain delusion in it, what my dad was fond of calling the illusion of central position. In many living systems hierarchy and levels of control are strategies. This is far from actually calling the web of life itself hierarchical and better trained people than me question the assumption natural to us that we are at the top. Instead perhaps we are off to the side ;) Hmmmm. Arrogance again. Who wears the crown of creation?

This House Of Slaughter

It's in the middle
Of nowhere, reeking of death
After all these years.
Cruelty feeds us all, yes.
Make peace here, now if you can.
This house of slaughter
Made the best beef steaks nearby
Juicy, full flavored.

The herds remember.
I was driven to slaughter
In a former life,
So I remember.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Bird Sanctuary, How You Are

I am posting early because I have something to do quite soon that will take most of the rest of my day.

Sometimes I feel like this. Can't you just leave me alone? Sometimes I feel like I have blundered into places I shouldn't be. Sometimes you, sometimes me. Life invades life. My renter in the back has been down with strep throat and an ear infection, on antibiotics. She says, "Can't you leave me alone?" And the bugs also say, "Why can't you leave me alone?" This is so serious that sometimes I hurt when I go to the bird sanctuary nearby.

The Bird Sanctuary

You guys keep watching
And I do my best, ignore
Your constant invasions.
I high step shallows,
Fishing for my next feeding
And you guys disturb
All the little ones.

They rush from me as if it
Was all my own fault.

Can't you mind your own business?


I saw a flower and meditating on it came up with a small poem on how beautiful you are. You know who you are :) Happy Valentine's Day.

How You Are

I found you peering
Out of the heart of my life,
Out of the flower
Found there, pink and white.

I, beyond myself with love,
With you seeing me -
You claim your bright eyes
Belong to all in this world.

That's just how you are.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Abandoned Lighthouse, Poetry Heals

Here is a dream of how the world ends.

The Abandoned Lighthouse

The end of all things
Consists of one long shallow
Stair to a closed door
In the abandoned lighthouse
On the rocky crag above
A frozen dead sea,
The wind at my back as I
Stare resigned to fate.


And here is a poem about truth telling and what I actually think about this poetic neck of the woods (all you poets offering up your work and love) in the complex world of blogging:

Poetry Heals

Sometimes I must bow
Before the people who come
With me on this trail.

I discover words
I never thought, lives not mine,
Truths I can’t say
By myself, not even now
That I know you said them first.

If poetry heals
Then we need all we can get -
That’s how rich it feels.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exceptions, Making Things Right

Every life has its worries and often these affect outcomes in quite significant ways. How do you keep a lover? One worried way is to make sure you are always available because what if you aren't? Hmmm? But of course you can't let your lover know that or else she might think you are a pushover, and the guys, if they find out, oh, oh. There's a pithy phrase for that state of affairs. Worry all the way around.

I lived for many years with one arm tied behind me (so to speak), making sure I didn't risk too great a success. I got into my career late, at a lower level, and then was really pleased with myself that without training I succeeded so well. But if I had trained up on the front end, I would have easily doubled my salary and more all the way along. And if I had trained up successfully in something I wouldn't even be in my career.

I returned to college and brag on myself that I actually finished in this odd way that I did (perhaps to be told some other time) Or maybe I did tell that. I would have to look. But I finished far too late for it to make any difference.

That's what I mean. One hand behind me. I have modest success, perhaps even remarkable considering alcoholism, but then again, that's what I mean. Anxiety about success stopped me.

So here's a poem about living like that.


I would slay dragons
Except for the tears they shed
When they have fallen.

I would go on quest
But I think you might then come
To find me at home.

I would answer you,
Say yes if you would hold still,
But you never do.

So I ride dragons
Never far from home in case
You come to take me.


But then there is the more positive spin. I am not all that concerned with worldly success and that I am sure is not compensation for my holding back. My interest belongs more in this world of poetry, or if you will, it is spiritual in nature. Here is another poem about this same spot, about not being oriented to the typical worldly success. It is about spiritual success.

Making Things Right

So I have gone in,
Deep into the hut to sit
In the center spot
Where the power is,
Where we sit to move the world.

I have risen up
Toward the sky hole
To meet the angel. She comes
To take the message.

I plead all be right again.
She nods, a kiss. She ascends.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Travelling West, Portrait

In 1967, for complex reasons, I found myself on the far side of the planet, well south and considerably far west from here, which of course crosses the date line and because of the European bias on things is actually considerred the east. I landed with my parents in East Pakistan twenty years after partition. I was there for 2 years, during which time the long time ruler of West Pakistan was deposed and replaced. There was at one point a skirmish (shooting) down the street that kept me from returning to work, and of course it got a lot worse than that not long after we left to return to the states. Bangladesh is the country with the highest population density in the world.

Here is what Wiki says:
East Pakistan was created from Bengal Province based on a plebiscite in what was then British India in 1947. Eastern Bengal chose to join Pakistan and became a province of Pakistan by the name East Bengal. East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan in 1955 and later became the independent country of Bangladesh after the bloody Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971

Not many people outside Bengal (which includes West Bengal, part of India, where Kolkata (Calcutta) is, and neighboring Burma track what happens in Bangladesh. I don't really either. The US Govt maintains an embassy. The country straddles the Tropic of Cancer, and is tropical in its weather pattern. The weather is extreme, with seasonal monsoons, cyclones and tornados happen regularly, and because most of the country is less than 12 meters above sea level, when the rains come there is no drainage to speak of. 40% of the country is under water seasonally. Global warming is a serious threat to Bangladesh because about 50% of the country would return to the sea if its level rose a meter. This country is an ancient river delta formed by the confluence of three major rivers and over 50 lesser rivers. One of the three major rivers is the Ganges, the sacred river of India, and by the time it reaches Bangladesh, completely polluted. However the primary river is the Brahmaputra, which is Sanskrit for Son of Brahma (the most high God). The Brahmaputra is modestly less polluted. The soil is of course alluvial. It goes down 200 feet or more, has been lived on for much of that distance, and so the soil is itself polluted by human business. There is no rock. One of the thriving industries is brick making and then brick breaking to create gravel for concrete. There is lots of mud, lots of disease too. Bangladesh is however really fertile. I could go on. You are already bored.

Travelling West

I flew over once
From Tokyo where uncle was
To Hong Kong, beyond
To Taipei, Thailand,
To Bangladesh where I stopped.

I stopped in monsoon,
Banana fritters,
Bugs and heat, baby taxis,
Gate guards and glass shards
On the tops of walls
And me there to find myself
Behind those high walls.


Here is a related poem but a different place I saw in a photograph, or was it when I was astral travelling the night before?


In the empty house
Old and broken, wide open
To anyone now,
Against one wall a long frame,
Mirrorless, a cracked backing,
To the side, lightless
Socket hanging as if on
To show me myself.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Choices, Hospital Halls

Here's a piece of whimsy but it's actually not so whimsical to really really not want to be me today. I have spent whole decades sure that I needed a respite from being me on a daily basis. "Don't you know I have to drink in order to live in this world??" How dare you not know that and not understand. I wrote that quoted phrase to my wife at the start of the last two weeks of my drinking when she lowered the boom, said basically if I wanted to drink I had to go away. Or she said I could try alcohol treatment. And the thing was I knew she meant it and would not back down. That was the worst two weeks of my life, the time before I capitulated and then got sober.

I can translate that phrase now into more precise language. But this is 26 years later and I have never actually said or written this until just now, this 26th anniversary of getting sober. What I was really saying was "Don't you know I have to drink in order to live with my head??" And that my friends is the exact same statement.


Now it's a hard call,
Thinking bird, fish, man,
Which is it to be today?
I like to fly, to swim, walk.
I like them all, but walking
Means thinking. This head
Still hurts from too much thinking.
So swim or fly, which?


Fast forward about twelve years and that's what this poem is about, what was going on about twelve years later. And then at poem's end, what happened in 2001.

Hospital Halls

The hospital halls,
Wandering, meeting nurses
No longer strangers
Now I've come here so often.
I know the way here
Like I know the way to you
And to you is why,
The only reason I would.

I know what to eat.
Only because I have to.
Back to you after.
Year after year, me,
And you gone now, it's all done.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Poet's Truth, Again And Again

I believe I am in a tradition. Back at the turn of the almost makes sense to write like that now...back then, I realized that my poems were songs in the biblical sense, sort of, or psalms. That sense of the holy is still with me, but deeper now. It often surfaces, sometimes straightforward, sometimes kind of off to the side, sometimes in all tongue in cheek humility and excuses for missing the mark. I believe I have been at some time or another all the things I write about or at least near when they happened to others. I am fearless in this sense, that I can identify with those spaces unashamed. So the tradition I am in is the one where we poets and seers are so familiar with god that she is lower case and lover as well as UPPER CASE and REGNANT, and in other shapes well known to be pantheist or panentheist as well as immanent and transcendant and not even here at all but still holy. So this is a guide to my symbols, that god often lurks in my poesy, or that my poems express a holy but familiar and approachable universe. If you can't be really really pissed at God, then who?

A Poet's Truth

I am pasting skies
With poems of clouds and stars,
Of suns and bright moons
In vision and ink, papers
That flutter on winds, that rise
Higher than I can,
Higher than I am allowed,
Can't write the last line.


So if that's the universe that I inhabit, then I have a responsibility to measure up or down or sideways. I think I am basically here by permission, and at my own request, a highly irritating position. What was I thinking?? I don't know but I am pretty sure I pressed the issue. So this next poem is a typical argument, really familiar. I get into this alot. Not only with God.

Back when I had a lover, she would irritate me sometimes and I would have to press my point. She would be maddeningly above it all until I finally wore her down. Then I would go home, and by morning I would be able to see my part and stop the righteousness which just never works for me anymore. This all said, she was still on the wrong side of the boundary. But so what? I had to make right on what I said to her and how I left. I guess I did okay with that because that wasn't the issue involved in our separation. We got along really well I think. Still do. So for that matter does she and former lovers before her husband, and her husband, and her kids. And the old folks she took care of for years. She is the common denominator in all that, an odd duck in her way but the most generous woman I have ever known. I often told her so.

Again And Again

In the thicket, caught,
Sure the thorns on all sides
Are meant for my hide.
I'm looking for you,
Sure your work grew this tangle
That's right in my way.
I feel it rising
Hot in me, this urge to strike,
At least to wound you.

It always starts here.
Then it goes inside.
I remember how it goes.
My goddam mirror
Right in front of me again.
How discouraging.

This takes too much time.
I wish it really was you,
Just once, but still me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Red Leaves, A Tramp On The Road

Both of these poems happened according to the time stamp within twenty minutes of each other. Two different takes on the same deal, perhaps even, since I am posting in order, the second actually follows the first in poem-land, a before picture and an after picture, just in different costumes, different scenes... there was a scene change between the poems :) Action!

Red Leaves

Red leaves on the grass
And me kneeling here
Among the autumn colors
Waiting for God's arrival,
Hoping for His attention,
For the touch that will
Feed my empty heart.

Red leaves stir nearby.

All the crew scurries furiously... "sweep up the leaves, get the set clean! You there, cue the effing box! ...and Action!"

A Tramp On The Road

I shall now stand up,
Get out of this cardboard box
I slept in last night.

Kicked out of my own small mind
By your vertical forces
That I must obey,
I'm just a tramp on the road,
Ragged, dusty me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Broken Heart Floats, Onion Song

So last November on my birthday I was cleaning up, putting fresh sunflower seeds out for the finches, house and gold, who like them from the hanging tray in the corner under the eave, just outside my kitchen window. I love this. I go to the sink and these little ones (the house finches are bigger than the goldfinches) are there doing that complicated jockeying thing they do while they dine and throw the seeds everywhere. Earlier and later they sit on the wires above my car in the driveway and poop in a diagonal line across the roof and hood and a little of the trunk of my car. Or else they roost in the top of the dogwood, waiting for me to get the hell out of there.

But as I was cleaning up the water dish I also have hanging there, here is what I found,

My Broken Heart Floats

I didn't know my heart floats.
I found it in the beaten copper dish
I fill with shallow water for visitors
Who feed on the seeds I put out.

I didn't know, face up or down
That my broken heart would float,
Nor that I could stand it.

I was on the short stepped stool
Looking into myself, past myself
Into the water holding me,
Into the endings of things,
Of small feathered things,
Into the price I pay for inviting
Wild birds into my life.

Later I noticed no apparent change
In the population of visitors to my station.


For a very long time onions have been a favorite of mine. There is a fine dining steak house in Portland called the Ringside. Years ago they expanded and added the Ringside East, which I have gone to more often through the years. These guys have a salad, the only place I know that lists it on the menu. Slices of beefsteak tomato and slices of Walla Walla sweets. That's all it is. A big plate of them, by the way. I love this beyond what I can say. I am very fond of tomatoes, eat one of them or more every day. Lycopene is man food :) What I do is put fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper on them...Damn! makes your mouth squirt doesn't it? I just love that salad. Then of course there are the onion rings the way the Ringside does them....ohhhhhh. I have no room for the steak. But of course it's great too, and of course I roll out of there. This, I think, might be better than even great sex. Well maybe not great sex.

But what has happened :( I have a belly has lost the capacity to take raw onion. Oh nooooooo. I get backed up in a most unpleasant way. This really sucks! It is as bad as being told no more sex. Worse perhaps. Wait a minute. This is not funny. No laughing. At least cooking the onions takes out the sting for me and so I still get to eat onion rings. I really like onions.

Onion Song

I have onions too.
I know you do. Ain't it grand?
Put the blame right there.

Walla-Walla Sweets.
Golden layers squirt their juice
Every which way.

Eat them like apples.
But then I get all backed up.
It is how things are.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Self Involved, A Tired Old Shack

This quatrain quite literally came from "I still need to get my quota and I have nothing to say". The poem is self explanatory as well as

Self Involved

I tried for a poem and wound up with a scarecrow.
The straw is scratchy and makes me sneeze.
I get frightened when the words don't flow.
Then I back up and write about that.


This poem came the next day, but I was still dragging. It was written last November on my birthday, when I turned 63. I feel a little like this tonight as my right shoulder gives me fits. But to give the circumstance its due, I didn't make this poem up from inside but from the photo on the blog site I was visiting. So it's a role play, a what if.

A Tired Old Shack

There's holes in my hide
And holes in my head to boot.
There's holes in my shoes.

I came to this tree
Hoping for shelter, no leaves.
It looks like hard rain.

I feel like a tired old shack.
Who knows what it was built for.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ending, How Long Is Now

To the autumnal theme again. This first poem follows on yesterday's post. Sometimes great beauty has its consequences. Here is one.


My back is damp, cold.
I lie here flattened, fallen,
Let go, no home now.

I recall bright sun, warm days,
Spring rain, green brothers, sisters.

I am brown, spotted,
Feel my edges torn away.
Critters feed on me.


Have you ever decided love was worth it even though you were going to crash and burn? I have. And I did. And I would again.

How Long Is Now

Now is the moment
That I notice a fair wind
Has brought you here.

I love your gray eyes
Gazing at my face.
I've pledged my life to you.
But now you say goodbye.
I stumble, shaken.
Tears blur my broken sight.
I release my heart,
Love you as you go.

Now is the moment
Angels permit me to see
My life's long arrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Picture Of Me, Contemplation

I was once a diver, back a hundred years ago, a pretty good swimmer, liked it under water, just floating around down there, worked on my breath so I could stay longer but never trusted scuba gear or snorkel. I am totally backed up about inhaling when I am under water. I have never felt like I wanted to crack that barrier. This might have something to do with being a very bad childhood asthmatic.

Anyway, I have never feared, always loved the water, and in diving learned to do a passable swan, jacknife, a survivable flip, and then late on a pretty good half gainer. Now that's a counterintuitive dive. You go deliberately against your somatic instinct to accomplish that dive and it taught me something irreplaceable about commitment, because if you waffle at the critical moment you will end up with a back flop, a belly flop only much much worse. So you either do the half gainer or you don't. No effing around. And you have to approach with a forward motion that is well formed too, or you might hit the board like your body says you will.

This Picture Of Me

I dove, perfect form,
Into the deep pool of worlds,
Into air and stones,
Into the broad spray of life
Everywhere around me.

I took it all in
Then made this picture of me
On your mountain wall.


So what would it be like to be the autumnal tree? Many years ago Anne and I had friends (once her best friend) who lived in Putney, Vermont. We went to see them, flew into Boston and drove a rental up from the airport, is it or was it Logan? I think we spent the night in Boston, actually because I think it was that trip we went to Anthony's Pier 4, but that might have happened on the way back. Anyway, we went in fall for the turning. I fell in love with Revolutionary War vintage graveyards and the way the countryside was, and we both marveled at the mystery of how these people made a living. It was way too far to commute.

But the turning was magnificent. We were early for that part of Vermont, but over in New Hampshire it was well along.

One night we went to a special restaurant, that Slicker and Dow (our friends) had reserved for us. We had the place to ourselves, it was a place like that, run by a ski bum from Denver, and it was near the ski resort, whatever it is, near Putney. After a great dinner he came in and got drunk with us telling us great stories of the ski bum life while I told my "war" stories and so did the others. We laughed and laughed, and when it was time to go home, he tried to get us to stay, wouldn't charge us. But we felt as good drunks do, that we should go home. And God generally loves drunks because most of the time, like that night, we make it just fine, though driving like that is insane. When I wrote this next poem I was looking at a photo of the Idahoan deciduous forest, not the Vermont, but still I had memories of the turning in New England in mind. It seems to me that we have many more yellows, many fewer shades of red in our forests.


If I turned to gold
Like that tree, I would accept
My fate, so happy
I would be to show myself
For just a season, a time
Of contemplation,
Of preparation, of peace.
Then I'd go to sleep.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Need To Cool Down, Breathing

I'm not sure if these are nonsense or really deep :) The first one seems to be about taking advice.

I Need To Cool Down

My friend just told me
I need dousing in a pail
It's for my own good.

I have filled the pail,
Big enough for my whole head,
I'm ready to go.

But he's not here now.
I'm left alone in the lurch
Just when I need him.

I don't know how long....
He always does this to me!



I'm up to my eyes,
Drowning in your deep regard.
I'm holding my breath.
I fell in this pond
Willingly, my life jacket
Lost somewhere as I
Shed unnecessaries,
Found my way to this new life.

I'll have to breathe soon.


Or will I. I mean, if it's a new life, maybe I don't have to breathe...or maybe I shouldn't have trusted the one who holds me in "deep regard". My hair aches. My tongue itches. I'm losing sleep...

If anyone gets a revelation, please let me know.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Scar On Me, Like A Bug

I know I'm supposed to be spiritual and all that. I know I have had the vision, know where I am going, where I've been, that I'm a human having a spiritual journey, that I'm a spirit having a human experience. I even have stories that I am comfortable with (though the stories aren't that comfortable) as to why I would be in this particular fix with these talents and these liabilities, and this way of viewing things.

Sometimes I think I have reached a pinnacle. I know I was once not only on the top of the mountain but much further than that. All this is true.

It is also true that I am a serious alcoholic, now in recovery for a long time and that my life has paid that price, not only for my own, but as well for the alcoholic I married. So sometimes I simply am not present in my own life. Just not. I am sensitive to shame (not so much guilt, far too criminal minded for guilt). Really sensitive to shame. I have good ducking and weaving skills. Really had to work to get even a little less blame avoidant and arrogant. Oh well.

A Scar On Me

I looked down. I found
A scar on me I never
Saw on me before.

It seemed old and on it's rim
There was a bright red tattoo.

I'm avoiding it.
I don't want to know its past.
I'm just moving on.


I was still in that kind of mood a couple hours later on this day...

Like A Bug

I scuttle about
Looking under things, looking
For other dumb things.

I wonder if this is how
A cockroach feels, at a loss,
Looking forward and
Backward all at once, looking
For stomping feet.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Some Other Way, She Reminds Me

The way is never so straight as to seem some true highway. The way is more like a country lane, and when it crosses rivers, then the bridges are not stout but more like rickety handmade efforts, perhaps my own, standing and in use in this life though I have not knowingly built them.

Some Other Way

I wonder what route
I should now take to reach you,
Now the bridge's washed out,
Now that the horse came up lame,
Now that I must limp
Some other way to your house.


I am still married in my heart, though I have had two lovers since our divorce. I still have places in my heart concerning Carmen and Katy before and Maire and Francesca after too. I was with Annie from 1971 through the completed divorce in 1997. Annie died in 2001 after a difficult eight years. I don't turn away from my past loves. They never turned against me. When we divorced, Ann got a lawyer but I did not. It wasn't necessary. I don't know if I am really blessed that way, skillful, lucky, or what it is but I am pleased about it. I believe I get karma points for avoiding horrible relationship breakups. Probably you would too.

She Reminds Me

The sun sprays white light
Through the great Sycamore leaves,
Through my eyelashes
While I lie here by Annie,
By our creek, on our sweet grass.

I reach for her heart,
Then she reminds me of time
And of her passing.

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