Sunday, January 31, 2010

Returning To Work

I rejected three poems in a row, not suitable and the next one is marginal in my eyes tonight. I think I am not okay with my own work right now. I think I am right on those three poems, which lacked heart, or coherence. The first one had a good theme but the poem was garbled and I don't have the time or heart to fix it. Maybe someday. My pile of rejects might be salvageable. I so rarely go back over territory I have already crossed, though. That is one thing about me that I know very well. I don't go back.

I return to work tomorrow from four months off. I had to take medical leave and then I had a bad car accident which added another month on. More medical leave. I am okay now, I hope.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

At The Zoo

Here's my take on that old Simon and Garfunkel song. I don't think animals are very happy unless you give them the stuff they like to do. That stuff is hard wired, at least a great deal of it. The big cats are supposed to hunt. There are many other examples of that. I imagine most of the animals are disgruntled.

At The Zoo

Peering through steel bars,
grasping hold, shaking them with
sweaty hands, gave up,
no way out of here.

I'm all twisted up with it.
If my face looks strange
and my fur all wild
I suggest you go look at
someone else, okay?

March 24, 2009 12:14 PM

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Truth Tonight

I am not sure what this poem means. I guess it is true enough, that I think you women are more courageous than men when you get your shit together. I think you are more pain tolerant too. On the other hand, I also think you get a built in connection to the planet that lies deeper than we men get. I don't think you live longer on average than men because of your grit, but because of the connection. This alignment of woman and earth is on display when you give birth as the umbilical chord. When it is severed the woman child can find it again within, but the man child has lost something and he seeks it the rest of his life.

He will project it and invent patriarchal religion. Women tend to keep the mysteries when freed of patriarchal societies. But just as gay society shows now, there are men with enough woman in them that they don't fit the mold. I am not gay, but I do have enough feminine in me that I do not fit the mold. Somewhere in my twenties I stopped caring about that.

What I do care about, the yearning that I am left with ever since they snipped the chord and my foreskin, has bedeviled me, forced me to make up all sorts of crazy shit. At least I have gotten good at it and write a pretty good poem now.

Oh by the way, you women are not exempt. But if you yearn like me, that means you have enough man in you. :D

The Truth Tonight

If I had courage
I would have been born female.
I bargained carefully
and came out a male
in this timezone, for this work.
If I had more grace
I would honor you
with crimson flowers to match
your deep warm red blood.

March 23, 2009 8:33 PM

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bad Cess

Here is a disgruntled poem. Where I came from, bewildered rebel driven by spirit, sure how wounded, how wrong it all must be, hoping the awakening was true enough to actually mean something, from this stance on the board, I've been scudding before the wave of mortal terror, hanging ten in defiance, hoping to make a difference somehow, calling us all back home.

One of my musical mentors is Bruce Cockburn who has figured out how to make music from the disfigured visions of war.

This is too big for anger.
It’s too big for blame.
We stumble through history
so humanly lame.

So I bow down my head,
say a prayer for us all
that we don’t fear the spirit
when it comes to call.

That’s the chorus from “Postcards From Cambodia”. Jesus.

Pray for Michelle, my Australian friend. She has had to say farewell to her mother. I weep.

Bad Cess

Not original
sin, is not original
blessing either, no.
It's original
sanity that drives me on.
This yearning within
me is wanting worlds
that match my earliest sight.
Since that sure won't fly
I trim me away
until I fit what they say's real.
This gives me bad cess.

Now I feel crazy.

March 23, 2009 11:23 AM

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another Song For Spring

Now this is just spooky. Here comes a linguistic poem. After all this linguistic writing here comes an irregular verb. *Spring* is both a verb and a noun. It is one of those words. It is very old and mostly unchanged in its form.

As a noun, it reaches back to *gispring*, Old High German for a spring, probably as in a flowing spring of water, as in melted, as in not winter. As a verb it reaches back to Old Norse as *springa* meaning spring in the sense of to jump.

Then in this context the linguists draw in a Greek related word (this is a not at all the same language group but also comes from the ancestor language, showing that *spr* is the ancestor root of the idea of *to jump*. To anchor this, the *spr* connection to *jump* is also found in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India) as the thought behind what we desire. Jump is behind what we desire in the sense of how we are drawn to what we desire and may jump toward it or across something to get it. Thus movement demonstrates and stands as proof of the presence of desire.

The word has been around a really long time, and linguists will tell you that this means to jump is a core concept, so important that our cultural memory keeps the word basically intact. Spring jumps forth from winter. The earth desires the return of life and melts the ice to this end, and the spring flows. This means that the parent Indo-European language of over five thousand years ago or longer comes out of sharply seasonal annual cycles, connected to the ice melt. I just love this stuff. *Spring* is what you would call a conserved word, which is why it is now an irregular verb.

*Spring* is so old that it has a very large number of usages and meanings now. It takes a full dictionary page plus another full column and a third (my dictionary has three columns of very small print per page) to deal with every form and context of spring. I need a magnifying glass to read these words.

I swear to you guys, I did not plan this.

As for towhead, I was born a blonde, with straight hair. It turned brown and sharply waved and almost curly as I approached puberty. Then it slowly lost the wave as I aged. I had lost the wave by the age of 38. Now it is thinning but at 64 still a full head of straight brown (no red in it, not auburn) hair with only a few gray hairs. However my beard is almost completely gray. Never mind about the rest.

Another Song For Spring

On the trampoline
as if I could do these things
now, now, now, no more,
far too gone (said right
don't quibble with it, nor with
springs springing, sprang sprung)

In the sun like that,
like the child I once really
was, a true towhead.

March 22, 2009 9:47 PM

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That's The Fact

Er…I don’t really have to say much about this one, do I?

That's The Fact

I am getting old-
that's the fact, Jack. I shall say
my piece, write my words
and watch things grow like
spring's best work headed toward
grand orgasmic bliss
and let you know how
I remember what that is
Oh YES I really

March 22, 2009 8:07 PM

Monday, January 25, 2010

I've Kept My Feet

Here is another whimsy. There is an underlying truth. I don’t really like being practical. I don’t have the instinct for it at all. My astrological natal chart places everything in all the signs but the earth signs. I of course was born to a Taurus woman with the same birthday in May that I have in November. She was my earth. I do have good logic and math. I reason my way through the practical things, and that is why I can survive in engineering. But I truly don’t have the instinct for it and so I am a terrible mechanic.

On thing I heard in the AA meetings a long time ago: My head is out to kill me and doesn’t worry about it because it is absolutely certain that it will survive the death of my body. That is the kind of thing an alcoholic thinks. I got sober, came back down to earth. Still don’t like it.

I've Kept My Feet

I write poems about
floating, flying, might as well
be footless, rootless.
I was getting to
just chopping my feet clean off,
dead weight, not needed.
Then you said this book
would change my life, maybe has.
I laid down my axe.

But I still hate socks.

March 22, 2009 9:20 AM

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Something Happened

I have no idea what this is about. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday’s poem was so, well, limpid. Today’s poem is anything but. I think it’s about anger and fear. Or illusion. Possibly this is humorous. Humor is another great word, a word in transition, I think from the old meanings to the new. A humor is a fluid? Not any more. Or is it that laughter which arises from one’s sense of humor is a moistening of the dry heart? That feels right to me. Humor used to be black bile (that which colors shit), yellow bile (that which colors piss), blood and phlegm. How the hell did it get to mean a matter of character? One had a sanguine character (bloody…sang is French for blood) or a phlegmatic character, for examples. How did it go from there to comedy? This poem then could be humorous but not comedic. Jesus. I do go on.

Something Happened

Whenever you stare
at me with eyes slid back to
the sides and your hair
all strange and bubbled,
when your color gets cartoonish
and your nose severe,
that's when I get wired
myself, electrified, head
straight for the front door.

March 22, 2009 9:02 AM

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Limpid Path

Here comes a complex post. You guys speak of favorites among my poems. I have my own of course. This poem is one of them.

This word Limpid is one of my favorite words. I also love the etymological thread of the word limpid. Limpid is related to lymph and through lymph to nymph and to nuptial. Limpid means clear and serene as in a limpid pool, but also as in a limpid style of writing. Lymph once meant pure and clear water, and then the sap in plants, and now the colorless off white fluid similar to the plasma of blood but filled with the substances and the white cells of the immune system.

Nuptial is related to wedding and to the primary point of wedding which is procreation, and thus as a fluid would be the potent sexual fluids. To say Nuptial Fluids might be unusual but would be obvious. This is a bonding of light as in how it passes best through transparency and sex. The sexual light might be an unusually clear light that can penetrate deeply and change things.

This word complex also demonstrates several linguistic substitution rules. The L of limpid is similar to the N of nuptial. Notice in sounding the L and the N, that the position of the tongue in the mouth demonstrates this similarity. The I and the Y and the U are related this way too. The MP in Limpid is the MPH in Lymph and Nymph, is the PTI (pch) in Nuptial. The MP takes the closed lips of M and adds the plosive of P. This is transformed to the fricative F in MPH. Finally the M is dropped, leaving the plosive P joined with the soft CH sound spelled ti in Nuptial. These transforms are all "legal" and commonly used in linguistics to trace the evolution of a language.

Finally, while Limpid comes through French from Latin, Limpa or Lumpa (water), alternatively Lympha, all of this is a modification of earlier Greek Nymphe. A nymph is a semi divine figure evoking the rise of life fluids in men and women both and also meant bride. Nymph is also connected to feminine sexual parts, the labia minora, which are also called the nymphae, nymph in plural latin form. The labia minora are the inner lips of the vulva.

Wow. It is this kind of connection which reveals the wisdom inherent in language, why it is there is magic in words, even when you don’t know it. This is one rich example of the interconnections, clarity with light and with water and with life fluids and with sexual bonding, and the very gate of love. Using limpid brings this all to the sentence, to the poem.

Before getting to the poem itself, I want to add something written by Natalie Goldberg.

The Importance of Illusions

In the beginning, our illusions are important. In some ways, those illusions bring us to practice. Hopefully, in the process of practicing, we wake up to how things really are. But it's not bad to have some dreams at the beginning. When I started writing, I didn't know what it was to be a writer. I didn't know what basic hard work it is. But my dream to be a writer brought me along, and then I met the task.

In betrayal and in failure, there are some real jewels. But wouldn't we much rather have a relationship in which we mature slowly? For instance, isn't it better to have a relationship with your parents in which you grow up and move away from them in a natural and beautiful way? Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. And in spiritual communities, it doesn't always happen, either. So what do we do? We take what is in front of us and wake up from it.

- Natalie Goldberg from "Beyond Betrayal", Tricycle, The Buddhist Review (Spring, 2005)

The word Limpid evokes the kind of clarity Natalie writes about.

The Limpid Path

At a loss for words
about the broken winged
bird who flew away
except to say one
small word of true love above
all others set free
to fly after her
along the limpid path still
high above her pain.

March 21, 2009 9:33 PM

Friday, January 22, 2010

Draining The Swamp

In AA we say, avoid then the deliberate manufacture of misery. Remember that God didn’t do it. If trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize on it…

That is not so easy to do, for guys like me, anyway. It is neither easy to avoid self created disasters, nor to cheerfully navigate my troubles. I would feel especially miserable about this except I know I am not the only one, not even close, not even among the worst of them by a long shot. Staying alert is part of the solution. Defusing the inner turmoil is also part of the solution.

However, I am leery of outright positive thinking. I am not sure I am qualified to take it on, fairly sure that I am too susceptible to fantasy for the positive attitude stuff. I used to be sure positive thinking was just wrong, but I have watched it work for others and so have come to the conclusion that it is my quirky challenge. Positive thinking when it works is a tremendous tool. I guess it doesn’t work for everyone. Nothing does. So I am left with how imperative it is that I know myself and what works for me. It is my survival that is at stake.

I am not sure about the rest of you. I know about people like me. We never get far from mortal risks and are in the business of remaining alert to the unkind and implacable parts of staying alive. People like me seem to lack the capacity to distance themselves from the territory close to outright disaster. I admit it is a little more exciting to live near alligators. Lacking that capacity to achieve sensible distance away from alligators is not really that serious, certainly not hopeless, but it does sober one up.

Draining The Swamp

I keep forgetting
and this is no joke
when alligators lurking
are just inside me
waiting to burst out
through my freaking skin and turn
snapping at something
precious I might hate
to lose - need to stay alert.

March 22, 2009 9:14 PM

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I'm Stuck With You

Not much to say tonight. This poem might not be about what you think, though.

I'm Stuck With You

I thought that was you
touching me so deep. No one
else could, not like that.
You warn me I'm stuck
with you. Oh boy. This is sweet.
If you expect me
to try to scrape you
off me by diving into
the dirt, think again.

March 20, 2009 2:45 PM

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Tattoo

Vietnam is the legacy of my generation. When I graduated from high school I had somewhere to go. I had received a Congressional appointment to West Point, the United States Military Academy (Army). Immediately after graduation, my family took off for a vacation, traveled across country from the west coast (the left coast I hear it called these days) to the east coast. There were stops along the way. They left me at West Point, just a little ways up the Hudson River. West Point was established early in our nation’s history. Generals on both sides of the the Civil War were graduates of West Point. I marveled at the little things, like the marble stair treads worn out by the feet of those who had been there.

I failed at West Point. I was too young. I survived the summer and the first month of the first semester and then couldn’t do another day. This was 1963. I left in October, at the very last moment and got into Santa Clara University to finish the semester. I nearly flunked out of there too, but continued to the end of that school year. I had been assigned to a signal company in the army reserve. In the summer of 1964 I went to boot camp. Just before graduation I fell to the meningitis epidemic that was alive at Fort Ord in California. After a month in hospital, I was assigned as a supply clerk to that same signal company.

I went to meetings and summer camp until 1966. In the fall of 1966, I found drugs and quit the army. Heh. There is of course no such thing, but if you stop going to meetings they don’t hunt you down, or they didn’t then. For that matter I quit everything, let my money run out, and started living on the street. I went from 185 pounds down to 148. My mother came back and masterminded a way to keep me out of jail. She stuck me in a mental institution. Then she pointed out that I suffered from brain damage due to the high fever of the meningitis in 1964. She finagled that argument into a way to get the charges against me for desertion not filed. This was a difficult thing to do. It took the four months that I was in the institution, probably no coincidence of timing, that I got out after the case was settled.

Then we went overseas in 1967 right after I was released from the hospital. I spent the next two years in East Pakistan. In the summer of 1969 as I was returning home to the States, I received my Honorable Discharge from the army upon completion of my six year military obligation.

That’s my military history. It has taken me most of my life to get it that when my mom stuck me in a mental institution, I actually qualified for it. But I still think my mom was “God with skin on” on this one. That’s what I thought then. What a remarkable skate. When I quit the army I knew what I was doing. I said to myself, I don’t care if I spend the rest of my life in Leavenworth. It was really literally beyond me to keep going to those god damned meetings.

Decades later in AA, I ran into the walking wounded still fighting the war in Vietnam. This poem is about me coming home intact. On the way to Bangkok from Hong Kong, I found out that we flew a route directly over Danang. That put me at 35,000 feet above the war. That is not very far. I marveled that everyone on the plane didn’t seem to care. This poem is also about one of the walking wounded. It is very hard still to keep them sober.

No Tattoo

I thought I escaped
the war when I came home whole,
intact, no tattoo.

I thought you came home
with me but I see you there
still among paddies
and pain, the click of
Bettys, nowhere to go now,
or the bamboo pits'
pointy shit smeared stakes.

How can I get you away?
I am too far gone.

March 20, 2009 9:29 PM

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Fountain Of Youth

I read a book recently about the experiences of the early European visitors to the New World. There is quite a bit to it. Especially the Spanish had quite a time trying to get a handle on the expanse of things. Coronado made it all the way to southern Kansas. That surprised me. De Leon’s expedition started in Florida and made it all the way to Texas. This was all happening before colonies were established in North America.

They were chasing gold. There were other fantasies driving the chase. Because the Spanish had already found two really civilized and rich Native American groups, it was easy for them to expect another just over the next hill. I wrote this poem months before I read the book.

The Fountain Of Youth

My eyeballs are fried
over hard and my head aches
from all this watching.
I'm asleep on feet
not made for all this standing
around the fountain
of youth as they say,
waiting for it to bubble
up, waiting to drink.

March 20, 2009 12:55 PM

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Replied

This moment goes back to the few days before everything changed for me. It is the heart of what actually happened in the afternoon of a fall day, in November of 1966. The setting is the living room of my downstairs bachelor one bedroom apartment in a fourplex upstairs/downstairs southwest of San Jose State. This was before the state system upgraded the college to a state university. The setting is in contrast also a golden fog lit with inner light, a place with no definite edges, corners, walls, or floor and a consciousness that was bodiless and singular. There was no one else, nothing else in that nowhere place. There was no thought, no narrative, no self, just awareness. My return to my living room holds this memory of awareness as clear as the room is. This is what Bruce did and said. This is what I said.

I Replied

When I came awake,
flat on my back with sore head,
you were laying there
on our ratty couch
laughing hard, hysterically.
Your freckles glowed red.
Your eyes flamed ice blue.
You asked, Did you get the point?
I replied, I died.

March 20, 2009 12:24 PM

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Erotic Certainty

For I am old now...

There is nothing to say. I was a lover but now no longer equal to that task, no longer on the quest for dragons, no longer willing to stand my ground and hold the dark at bay. What I do, I do in story and fable and poem, do with cleverness and delegation. I give way to the young bucks who know everything and then I watch how it turns out. It is ever thus, always this way. I fell short of independence. I do not have enough. I am in the position of the elderly who go out on the ice to save the tribe the burden. This is nothing to grieve, not in the best of worlds, just what is. Most days I am okay with it.

While this is still a story at this moment, it is really there in my near future. That is the point. This is not far away for me. It is easily right next door. If I pretend otherwise I begin to be pathetic in my denial. I watched a dear friend who tried desperately to deny his mortality while it trimmed his edges piece by piece. I vowed I would not let myself be in that position. I have carried death on my shoulder for decades, ever since Don Juan Matus (Casteneda) made that spiritual gesture so obviously right for me to do. Now I am reaping the benefit.

Erotic Certainty

You have given me
words, ruby flames rising
higher than I can
for I am old now
and you hold the true arrow
of the time to come.
Still we both know words
with erotic certainty
given as we love.

March 19, 2009 8:14 AM

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Redpoll Meditation

This one I believe is a result of pictures posted on Lucy’s Box Elder, or Jozien’s KEEPER OF WILD PLACES. There are no redpolls around here. I liked the name of these rather plain little birds. I took a quick look and think there could be redpolls nearby. They like birch trees. There are birch stands in Oregon, I think. I like finches best. That’s what I get here the most, House Finches and Goldfinches.

A Redpoll Meditation

I sit on my branch
amused at the two-footed
all bundled below.
She, yes I know it,
is unable to ruffle
feathers with all that
stuff on. I wonder
how she can scratch her itches
with her mittened hands.

March 18, 2009 8:26 PM

Friday, January 15, 2010

Embroidery Art

This is a true story about a lover who knew how to draw using embroidery art. She created a remarkable lion’s head on my tee shirt. I did feel just like this. I would have married that woman. How God pried me free of her is one of the primary stories of my life. Why do I have to nearly die to do the right thing?


I am a hard head. The truth, it wasn’t only her, not even by half, but a whole lifestyle and livelihood that expelled me violently, projectile vomit. That was when I stopped being an outlaw and got a day job. I got another girl friend, a new town to live in, eventually a move to Oregon, a career and a wife. When that woman visited me in Oregon, one time, just passing through, I saw her very differently, but my own heart was still torqued sideways. It was only two years passed.

Embroidery Art

I watched stitch by stitch
as you built the lion's head
in many colors
over my true heart,
embroidered on my black tee
just as if I earned
this special warm care
from you, as if you knighted
me into love's realm.

March 18, 2009 11:47 AM

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Oil Spill

Sometimes help comes in unacceptable packages.

I have been tricked into accepting help before. Worse, I have been the recipient of intervention. Once I was basically kidnapped. I was given an ultimatum one time, and it was a very close thing whether I would accept the help or not. In each case I accepted the help but I had to go against my instinct to do it. I still preach against the “kidnapping” (I was 21 at the time). I would never do that, even though it worked in my case, even though the one needing the help might die without it. It didn’t work that well, not from my side of things. My part in that one, I could have walked away any time in the next four months.

The alternatives at the time would have been possibly starving to death, military prison, some other kind of jail, perhaps help in some other form a little later down the road. As the dust settled, I knew enough about my situation to know these things, so I stayed in sanctuary.

I have been the one who had the oil cleaned off my body. You would have to trap the gull, kidnap it essentially. The other choice, wait for the gull to be so ill that it might be too late. That was the dilemma my mother faced with me, when she kidnapped her 21 year old son. I would be unable to do that. Even though it worked, it should not have. Most times it doesn’t, not with us humans, and not with gulls either.

It is, however, a choice the rescuer makes. I spent ten years in Alanon over the pressure of a drunk and dying wife. I learned in the fire. I discovered that intervening is a matter of doing for me about someone I love, not doing for them. Since the intervention almost never actually works, then the motivation must be mine about me. I intervene because I must or else lose my integrity if I leave the situation alone. That’s where it actually landed with my wife. I would not let her die on my watch, not if I could help it. At that point I didn’t care any more whether Annie wanted to live (about half the time she did). I was dialing 911 to save my soul. That’s what the 1990s were about for me.

The Oil Spill

In the sand a gull
struggles with the goo that coats
her and now the sand
coats her too. Tarry
oil from the damaged tanker
going south has killed
her, is killing me.
I try to help but she runs
fighting for her life.

March 18, 2009 12:30 PM

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Downstream Guy

This is a troublesome poem. My old hippie sense says you go with the flow. That seems so self evident to me. Back in the day we wrote songs about that. It was a goal. Don’t strive, don’t push the river. Then I got sober and there has been a challenge from that direction. It is all packaged in the thing so many of us in AA will say, “My best thinking got me to AA.” That is not a really great thing. It means my best thinking is out to kill me, and in an effort to save my life I was driven into AA. So what seems easy to me is probably not very trustworthy. Going with the flow will mean getting drunk. Not good.

I want to just drift downstream, just like the Beatles sang of it.

Even so, I have lived the upstream life for nearly 27 years now. I have gone against the current. I have chosen to believe that the current eventually leads back to some kind of addiction. I cannot afford that.

A Downstream Guy

You tell me to swim
upstream against the current.
I am not so sure.
You say swimming down
the stream I'll stay unaware
of the way currents
control my pathway.
I hope I'm more sensitive
than that. I hope all
I need is to tack
side to side a little bit
to tell the currents.

I'm a downstream guy.

March 18, 2009 11:04 AM

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rejoice And Rejoice

Love is lost, love is found again. Love is lost again. I believe it is fundamental to living well that I master this beginning and ending of love. I have learned that I am passionate and want to be. I do not wish to learn to use the sanding tool of experience on my highs just to avoid my lows. I want the highs. I want to play the music.

I must be born into love and die out. My love thrusts in two directions, Eros, and Theos. There is sometimes no distance between them. Other times passion becomes the basis of the world and I can all but forget God. Once in my life passion became the basis of God and I all but forgot the world. It was made plain that would not be my walk.

Remnants remain in my dream, my music, my poetry, my magic.

The Hindu story of the world says that the beginning was a song. Really, the beginning was a chord, an arrangement of uncounted pure sounds in a divine and infinite harmony that formed the whole of all possibilities. It is this sustained chord that holds us up right now. And God Said, Let There BE SOUND. And it was good. They claim that our speech is the most sacred thing we have, especially when we speak spirit, when we sing our hearts. That is why certain syllables are sacred, and chanting is one form of effective prayer.

The Moola Mantra

Om sat chit ananda
para Brahma
purushothama param Atma
Om sri bhagavati sametha
sri bhagavate namaha.
Hari Om tat sat.


Rejoice And Rejoice

I remember that.
I remember the goddess.
I was saved by her,
Though it did not last.
In the ending a sound ripped
through me and beyond
to the farthest reach.
In the beginning was sound,
so also the end.
I was born in sound.
So I also died, and lived
again, loved again.
I will not predict,
cannot but hold you up now,
rejoice and rejoice.

March 17, 2009 8:31 PM

Monday, January 11, 2010

Why Snakes Have No Hands

I was talking to Brother Snake last year and I asked this question. I asked what was going to happen to us. He didn’t say but he told me this story. It soured my lunch. He slithered off and I swear his scales whistled.

Why Snakes Have No Hands

Snakes once had two hands
but didn't want the burden,
so they gave their hands
to children of men
so we could shoulder the blame
for the end of things.

In fact they gave us shoulders
also. We thought this a boon.

March 17, 2009 12:33 PM

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Mage Of Winds

If you don’t like the poem so much the way it is written, then try reversing the voices. Don’t say, “You are a wizard”, say “I am a wizard.” And so on. It is easily done and works just fine until right at the end. But I am not the Mage of Winds. I am the Man of the Northern Wall. This Mage was my first teacher.

The Mage Of Winds

You are a wizard,
a mage of winds, of the wand.
When you stand upright
your bones are revealed
as dark emerald. You warned
me I would see this
before you stood up.
Now you tell me fire blooms in
a cave in the air
behind you, secret,
not available to any
but you and the wind.
You say poets might
know what you mean when you say
such things. I wonder.

March 17, 2009 11:18 AM

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just How It Is

I don’t think I have to say much about this one. I think this is really common among those of us who have gone through it. It seems to me that women can let go of men easier than men can let go of women when you sieve out the game players and only talk of the ones who really try for love. That has been my experience. So maybe this poem is more for men in the aftermath than it is for women. This is serious stuff. Sometimes we men die of it.

Just How It Is

I have let you go
again, again, and again.
There is still a thread
of you left in me
that will not depart even
though that bit of you
that extends beyond
me hooks, catches on odd things
and tears holes in me
as I pass on through,
minding my own path without
you. This is just how
it is.

March 17, 2009 8:56 AM

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bone And Dust

Here are the edges. All the rest is filler. Here is the cross. Here is the viewpoint of all the rest, in the center of the cross.

Bone And Dust

The cross of life, deep
and true, birth begins and death
ends, crossed by lovers
and adoration
of the heart of god reaching
beyond sense and sight,
the fourfold nature,
the edges of our journey,
it is here I watch
you crumble to bits
of bone and dust, you having
gone ahead of me.

March 17, 2009 7:41 AM

Life Eats Life

I have a complaint about predator/prey relationships because I too easily can identify with the prey. I suspect there is not wholehearted agreement among the prey as to the manner and timing of turning from a living being into a food source. I suspect they might feel interrupted and preempted. I cannot imagine feeling less free, less in charge of my own life. I just can’t help taking this a little personally.

As a child I hunted as little boys do. I have watched creatures die at my hand. Even darker, I have toyed with them, as cats will. There is more; so many of us have these experiences with killing and more. I have not been to war myself, only through the experiences of my close friends. Killing and eating are very close together. Farming is the harvesting of life. It is so completely necessary. At the heart of so many kinds of farming is a death moment imposed on another life form, a living being is turned in that moment into a food source. Those that have the power kill, those that don’t are killed.

I have no solution. When I enjoy a steak (and I really like a good steak) I try not to think in this way. I appreciate that I don’t have to butcher my own meat. But I have been here in this mood eating most things, and it troubles me that I have no solution. I believe it puts me at a disadvantage spiritually when I want to think of myself as all pure and ascended that I participate in killing many creatures so regularly and so often, creatures who would surely refuse me if they could. I don’t think there is a way to live as a human without this loose end.

It is one facet of humility to know that I live at the price of other life. Others have to die so that I can live.

Life Eats Life

I know it is hard,
that life does eat life.
It is expected of us.
All we get is choice,
what life shall we eat today?

Why should my orange
be okay with my
hands stripping its skin, pulling
wedges, little squirts
of juice, cast away
seeds that were meant for planting.
Why not grieve that?

March 16, 2009 12:52 PM

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Royal Path

Ocasionally (like yesterday) I find something so intriguing that I jump the queue and bring something out that is fresh. I have touched on the idea of Royalty before, because it figures in my stories. I say I was once a mage to a queen. I don't know if I have ever shared this:

My mother used to wonder how I came by certain traits. One of them was my displayed sense of "to the manor born". She divorced my father when I was two. Already some characteristics of his were mine. More appeared in me as time went on. She marveled at how aspects of my character seemed genetic since my father was nowhere around to drive them. This drove her crazy, since some of these characteristics were the ones she didn't care for in my father. Oh well. Some of my character seemed to skip generations too.

My paternal grandmother came from the south, from a line that included landed gentry, plantation owners. She herself was not rich, not land rich even but she had certain Southern attitudes. Robert de Bruce of Scotland (remember the movie Braveheart? That movie about William Wallace is fractured history but history nonetheless, and Robert is the son of the ailing and devastated king of Scotland, a large part of that story as told in the movie) is a reputed relation in my grandmother's line.

My mother thought there was a genetic thread carrying this sense of inheritance that seems to always have informed certain parts of my character coming up through this lineage. We were university student, post depression poor in my early years, me a child of a single mother, and I was raised up in the liberal and egalitarian leftist politics of the post war forties, nearly socialist. Yet here I was a scion of the realm even so. I carry royal blood and in certain ways, not all fortunate, I act like it.

The true person is an active participant, engaged in her environment while remaining unoppressed by it. Although all phenomena are going through the various appearances of birth, abiding, changing, and dying, the true person doesn't become a victim of sadness, happiness, love, or hate. She lives in awareness as an ordinary person, whether standing, walking, lying down, or sitting. She doesn't act a part, even the part of a great Zen master. This is what Master Linji means by "being sovereign wherever you are and using that place as your seat of awakening."
--Thich Nhat Hanh, “Simply Stop,” Fall, 2007 Tricycle

The Royal Path

You tell me I am.
You say I am sovereign
anywhere I am,
anywhere I go.
You say I can use myself
as the throne you left
me, the legacy
of my gracious royal birth,
the seat of my loft,
my awakening,
my victorious return.

January 5, 2010 2:16 AM

Here Are Stones

My friend, Liz, is fond of stones. She is teaching me to think of them, cherish them, let them appear in my words. She says words are stones. Her stones are not cold inert things, not like a heart of stone. They are not to be thought of darkly. They are the bones of the world. The bones of life. When we eat, we eat stones leavened with solar energy and lunar gravity.

The oldest stones in the world are in Australia and on the Canadian shield. Australia is the most stable surface on the planet, and that’s why the stones are so old there. The Canadian shield has been scoured by the ice. Newer stone has been scraped away. I think that is how it goes. I believe that geologists claim that the entire surface has turned over at least once, that there is no stone that reaches back to the beginnings of the earth. The earth was molten for a long time, once enough of it coalesced.

Then as many scientists claim, something major happened. The History Channel explained it. I believe it’s the right story. A Mars sized body hit the early earth more or less head on.

The iron core in that Mars sized body sank into the center and so the earth has a bigger iron core than would be normal. The reflective bounce back put a large amount of material into orbit. That’s where the moon came from. The rest of the material settled down, all molten and so forming a spheroid with no wound in it, with the iron at the center because it is so heavy. The extra large core also includes heavier radioactive elements that heat it, creating currents that continue to this day.

They say that radioactive heat and the way the moon worked the planet through gravity is what started plate tectonics, and plate tectonics is a recirculation device that has played a major role in making life possible by renewing the surface periodically with fresh minerals. This is evident by observing how life loves the ejecta of volcanoes and returns in profusion to volcanic slopes in remarkably short time frames.

The moon has played as well the primary role in stabilizing the earth’s rotation, also making life possible by slowing down the planetary climatic and geologic changes to a time frame that evolution can handle. Thus the old astrological vision of Father Sun and Mother Moon is fundamentally correct. No life is possible without the energy of Sun and the stabilizing recirculation of Moon.

To know stones are holy as the source of all nutrients, all food, is as basic as worship of Sun and Moon. This is not an error, not at all. It is the wisdom of the ancients. Scientists are telling this story in new ways, but the human soul already knew long ago. It is our soulful heritage.

Here Are Stones

I have kneeled in front
of you and placed myself on
an altar of hope
amidst the garden
that perfumes the fact of love.
There as well I have
placed three stones, each old,
older than time I suspect,
so smooth, and each is
different, and so
I've offered a trinity
to mirror the world.

March 16, 2009 11:58 AM

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Quality Of The Heart

Holy cow! Down on the Feedjit widget I track in a broad way who visits this site. Today is a red letter day. Africa showed up for the first time. Welcome, Africa.

Lost love really hurts. We all know that pain. Some of it is true loss. Much of it is tangled up in other spheres of mental and emotional anguish. I can’t help knowing many things related to my lost love, stories of how it has come to be. There are always at least three stories. There are often many more.

When I love you, if I am truly mature, some of it will really be aimed at you. If I am truly mature then enough of my love will really be given to you rather than to some vision I have of you. Even then what that really means, if you are really mature, then the “really you” I know matches up with the most mature vision of the “really you” that you hold these days.

When we lose these tangled knots there is a genuine chaos of pain but much of our loss is less than real, more than real. Look closely. Some of it may be hurt false pride. How much? I only bring this up because a hurt to false pride requires one kind of healing and genuine grief quite another.

If we didn’t desperately need these connections, then we wouldn’t do this. It is much too complicated.

A Quality Of The Heart

I thought I lost love
when you left me here alone,
moving on, you said,
time to go roaming
with the boy you found next door.
Such a cliche, that.
Why couldn't you choose
someone more interesting
to run away with?
I thought I lost love
but found it wasn't in you,
my love, but in me.

March 14, 2009 9:37 PM

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Out In The Night

I have had to run before. I have had to get out of town, leave the state and stay away awhile. To my recollection, I have never run as far as this poem says in this lifetime. In general I have been taught that I should be careful with the tool of geographical change, or extra-galactic change for that matter because I need to be clear where the real threat lies. No matter where I go, there I am. I take the vultures in my head with me.

As this poem suggests, it is better to run to something than from something.

Out In The Night

I left this place in
a hurry, aimed at open
space, at the old dust
found outside clusters,
outside galaxies where dark
matter stirs to tunes
emitted by dark
energy, out in the night
where stars are so sparse,
where solitude is.

I have gone there to weave spells,
to sing the old songs.

March 14, 2009 8:59 PM

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sun Stealing

I was born in California, in the Bay Area as they call it, across the bay from San Francisco. I am used to the seasons as they happen there and further south. It turns out that I am used to that all the way to my bones. I am still surprised by how dark it gets here in Portland in the winter, still amazed to have snow as we do at least once each winter. We would have snow in the Bay Area maybe once a decade. The surprise I feel at the seasons in Portland remains despite the fact that I moved here in 1973.

I have friends who live much further north than I do. I imagine what that must be like. One friend remarked not long ago that the sun set around 3:30. It wasn’t the winter solstice yet. I try to get that, what it must be like to live in the dark. For that matter, what is it like to live in the light of the long summer day? How about the winter cold? Last spring, it was still winter up north.

Sun Stealing

It's just five below
zero centigrade, nearly
shirtsleeve weather, hey?
Pioneer spirit
by God. I'll lay myself down
on this black cleaned off
trampoline, gaze at
the sky, at the dark ravens
while I take the sun
and run off with it
in my wandering fine mind.

The ravens speak out,
have something to say,
consider my sun stealing

March 13, 2009 8:31 PM

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