Monday, December 20, 2010

Course Correction

A steady climb, even a superstitious logic brought me to a place where I stopped. How many hours had I been walking? Was this the right place? I had been talking to myself throughout my journey, mindless of my steps. What about the more basic question - Should I turn around? Was I lost?

Stay, I heard myself say. Not as in a fairy tale where each event speaks in rhymes to travelers like me. Nothing magical. Just a stubborn insistence to hold still. I stood there in a clearing, alone, and let the my mind shed its noise.

Then, a second man came to the clearing by another path. He stopped at the outer ring of trees, but came no closer. In the darkness could he see me? I could smell him see his soft shape in the twilight- furtive, cupping his cigarette with his hand. He waited, and turned back. Quiet returned. I thought I was onto something.

I walked on a bit farther because I didn't know how to go back. No clever twist, hidden message, or big lesson. My random encounter with a smoker proved inconsequential. By most definitions I did not die and in fact did not need rescue. Instead, I found my way back by accident after hours of panic stricken running combined with horse trading in search of some divine intervention. There was none at all.

Since then, I have stayed closer to home.

December 20, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How You Tell It

Here are my notes:

Your account includes fragments - dozens of rough gemstones - pulled from the pocket of your baggy jeans, tossed in the air between us, and permitted against the rules of physics to float while we banter over which five or so can connect to create the truest line from then until now.

You select stones for their sharpest edges - your mother sold you to another woman who, finding that she could not keep you, gave you to a third woman, who came away with you from war fire, charred homes, missing limbs, fallen lives. She, then, hit you and called you by names to make you small. In the story you tell, you survived but now float, lacking root, bleeding, lost and lonely. In repeating this sequence each day, you have established it as a form of stubborn proof.

I would have wanted to hear a different account – a polishing made possible by time, distance, age. But to ask and to ask brings nothing new. As before, you designate the ending by the click of your tongue and a slap that sends the unnamed stones to the ground.

By now, I know you will have it your way.

December 16, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I stood next to the schoolyard fence, looking down the sloping stretch of wet street. Black band of asphalt cut between two rounded hills both green with short grass that followed three days of rain. Cold wind rode along the fence line snapping through the flag overhead. To the left, project apartments sat tucked into the slope, each cut at a different angle. Through these cinder block buildings three boys ran pulling shirts and jeans from clothes lines. A woman leaned from a window to call out.

While this little sequence occurred, I did not arrange the sights or attempt to distinguish one sound from another. I didn't move. I waited. Then, in that quiet gap between the what now and the what next, impact, weight, scale, sequence, even where I was lost an edge of specificity. Just for that instant, the one or two loud sounds, the rising glow of street lights, gaping ditches in the hillside, further tumble of boys in the wet grass, my internal discourse fused into softer shapes. Reds, and whites, denim, cotton, skin, and geometry blended to a single color and a simple shape.

For maybe a minute but no more. That’s how I felt just before I left.

December 14, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Journey by Light

Simple light took me: gold, white, intended, fluid. Will I steal its shine by speaking of what I can still remember? That, once taken, my forward momentum increased to become an arising as present as the emptiness that opened its mouth in the light’s wake behind me?

Let’s say without debate that I was a flying thing, humming low, an insect of spark and photon, following the black band of river water that twisted through twin rock faces. I was powerful. Small. Fast. Out of my body but closer to myself. Speechless and honing into a twisted, electric spiral - a speck caught in a jet stream.

I directed the nose of my flying shape into improbable transit through the river's bends. I stoked an image- a flicker of a circle where other small beings had set aside a place. I could see them gathered and waiting. They were waiting for me.

I can also remember that by this journey I found my way home. I traveled in perfect darkness through much of the night.

December 3, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quiet Place

I find myself in a room, warm, flooded in blues and oranges. Friends come and go and there are some others I do not know. I notice that when the door opens, someone closes it each time. I see no one making any sudden moves. We are at ground level, no stairs. Soft fabrics hang from the walls. Sounds of voices glide in major scales, but they do no echo.

No one asks for money or tells uninvited stories. The how-are-you's are not followed by complaints or any other form of twisted words. No one asks for anything to be fixed. I, myself, have no need of repair. No rule in this quiet place other than as-is.

Each of us moves across the wooden floor and not once do we collide.

October 24, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day by Day

It comes through as a blast of emotion, face reddening - tears squeezed forth - I am knocked out of a day to day procession into a recall of sequence, unimpeded from inception to finality - a reckoning of my precise vectors combined with recollection of how I have come from you - your sudden emptiness the result of my shining, screaming shape. I am born.

Here, now, you come to me (though miles away), touch me through a short message, declare that you were imagining me just then, getting up, going to work, doing nothing special. A moment out of your rush for an inhale and a pause within mine. This fact proves sufficient to bring me to a stand still - to bring forth a memory that my body holds - that, through you, I exist, separate in some small way from all the many others - distinct for as long as you hold that thought.

You do not need to send me an answer. I do not need more.

October 4, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Swimming With You

I am floating in a backyard swimming pool when a memory comes back to me. . .

That you and I swam together in a pond formed after big spring rains - that I floated in the cool black water, and then I fell silent, listening to your strokes rumble in water-bound echoes. I can see you popping up from below the surface, bright brown-eyes, blinking sunrises, locking with mine.

Then you went under again. In the wake of your movements, I bobbed and sank a bit, moving just enough to hold position. I spoke after your submerging body in words that swam from my mouth like aimless fish.

A more complete quiet interjected itself as a witness that watched me as I watched you. You surfaced and called my name, making the sound of it ring from your full pink lips, telling me that the pond was deep. Your words tugged on me. What did I want to tell you? To ask you?

I know how water thins the membrane between body and mind. I can see backward into that time and feel its scratching pass, a subtraction, the drift of something escaping. Your wet skin- an image that shimmers. I can see you pausing for an instant. Then, gone.

This swim proved to be our last for that year. Weeks passed and, by August, we couldn't swim the brackish pond. Grasses choked even the deeper parts. And floating here today, I have come to find what I had wanted to tell you.

I let the words lift up to the sugar blue sky.

October 1, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Untying the Knot

What if I cease the anxiety? Give a rest to the focus on the yet-to-be? Or quiet the cringe that grips me when I rework old stories?

What power can words have to capture where I am now trembling between substance and dissolution? Can I, through silence, give myself an instant of peace?

But the noise seems not to end.

I went with you when you talked about a place called nothingness. Colorless gray - non-existent, empty. That beyond what my senses allow, that is what is!

No timber bamboo clacking in warm Hawaiian breeze. No blood red skin glowing when I put my hand before the sunlight. No bite of salt air or crunch of soot black sand. Not even the crystalline sparkle caught in a single suspended drop of moisture at the tip of a single leaf hanging inches above my head.

None of it! Not even me, myself, standing here before this thundering surf. Not now and now not tonight sparkling pitch night sky hangs in a dome over my upturned eyes.

You have told me I have made this moment within the fluid of my own mind. It is nectar then! Let that be truth as well. Let me absorb the blaze of this dream and shine in on you!

Can you join me in this creation of my own imagining. A moment for you, too in an unsurpassed present that owes and obligates no one?

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Place Is This?

I look into the small mirror, mouth three or four words, and then meet a particular silence. Vacuum passage. Cotton quiet. Skinless bubble. These unvoiced pairings fluff, inane, where the many nothings go - in a gap just off of crescendo’s peak. Dimensions here are explicit and absent. They contain want without action, a dry impulse to cry, eyes widened into two white flares, reflexes anticipating a jolt but met with stillness.

How did I find this place?

By intention or accident? Before or after? Am I here or curtailed, wiped away in a smudge of half thought? Who can I talk to? Why does substance less than air continues its piling on? How could I describe little more than scratches left by the cross up of these used-to-bes and wish-I-hads?

I am paused. I know not which way to turn,

September 13, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Campaign of Silence

No, I can’t prove the existence of your silent campaign. Is it passive resistance that you have chosen to promote your position? Are we fighting right now and how would I know for sure?

No, I can’t prove zero. If you do have thoughts you do not name them. You respond in empty space to my requests to know what you want, reject even the smallest offers. Polite, polite, but sustained in your semblance of non-preference.

Instead, the silence pushes it all back to me to sort out a path, to give shape to who we are and how we do. But your aims ooze anyway in all that you omit, neglect, claim to forget, delete from mention, fail to acknowledge. I infer the shape of what you seek by reckoning with the undone.

No, what I am is confounded and near defeat. Hear me that silence is cowardice. Abdication of responsibility. Deferral of the simple obligations of interdependence. So what if you compel my acquiescence to some unstated wish or set of choices you concealed. If you defeat me in this way, what will you have?

No, dear. Your semblance of invisibility, your faux-positioning of non-preference is a precious and caustic pose- a lie attaining no greater glory, no benefit, nothing. This strategy forsakes the broader field in the shitty smallness of stubborn, smiling, un-speaking spite. Then end we must from my lopsided throwing out for your non-catch. You are not even on your own side in this silent campaign.

Speak up soon please. Through my loss you have nothing to gain.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I could see as he swept his broad hand from left to right and back an expanse- a capacity to hold the intangible as if it were tattooed in spirit ink in the bones and tendons of his fingers and palm - And more still - that he knew me and stood not only in front of me but also inside of me. He knew the city and state and nation that I knew – black, white, brown, man, woman, child. He had in his bones the mountains that I had, strong rivers, sweet clouds. These were not his to keep or mine, nor ours to own and clench – but ours to acknowledge .

In that same sweeping gesture I knew, I felt the thousands he had touched when he traveled the states. I knew that he stood before me and all of the rest gathered on feet that had walked in the same dust I knew. I felt a lifting in my being that said to me I could trust him to understand and carry at least a piece of my wishes and battered dreaming. This king, magician, warrior, healer – could he be a man who would walk great and not from his talk and his entourage, but from his connection and his grounding to the moment that we occupied together.

I looked as he spoke and I could see myself, and more than myself flickering behind his skin and his brown eyes – as if I lived in his body, thought his thoughts, dreamed through his arms into an unfolding, resolute action that I hadn’t the power to attain for myself. I heard my thoughts shift from the why-can’t-he to the when-will-we. When will we stop our frenzied stuffing of our faces, or rushing, our ripping down the ancient, our chasing of the get-what-we-want endless road to unhappy empty buckets. No I knew that he know what I know that it was never about the getting and the grabbing or the pressing of buttons and the clicking of icons to change the subject to something that scared us less.

I saw in him that he could stand with me in this time. Time of consequence, realization, time to contend and confront the impact of thousands-of-years delusions that had brought us to this place. Could he see with me beyond this dream born of fear? With him I saw a way to walk a different path To become whole, brilliant, calm, grounded, linked in the work ahead and the implicit energy of now.

In that moment, I understand that I had always had what I needed and that we could find a way.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Wildwood's Edge

Imagine that you have filled a bucket, a wooden bucket, scratched and marked from its frequent uses. You have carried it and filled it with what you could find, dropped into it what you could from your hidden places. The bucket is filled with bits of you – good wishes, pretty smiles, dreams of flowers, sweet memories, and sweat squeezed out by the muscle and bone heat made through your reaching for the ‘might be’s’.

Let all of these offerings gel together, marry their tastes and scents, sparkle in the electricity of potential. Pour the bucket out onto the salt-baked earth at your feet – that circle of earth within your view and purview, your realm of impermanent dominion. Then wait.

Wait because you are spent, because the cause of your pouring out must await its effect. All expectations from the realm of ‘might’ now must suspend and the rule of ‘is’ will enact its certain truths.

In talking to yourself, ask about what you placed in that bucket. Was that all you could find? All that you could spare? Did you hold something back for yourself because you had to or because you were afraid to stand on this baked earth with a bucket and a body now filled with nothing but nothing?

Withholding is itself a cause. Giving, for its part, brings no sure thing. Every precedent ends in its own emptying out and the eventual growth of trees (or not) is well beyond the reach of even your most eager, most extended finger tips.

That fact is an inflexible part of what is.

July 16, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Returning at Night

I could feel you, your sniffing along corners, behind chairs, coming alone this time. I lay flat in a closet, dark-hidden, waiting, ears wide and mouth shut. Just rafters and floorboards between us- the simple structure of a stick-frame house. I held, biting my fingers.

Then came your stairway ascent, the smell of Marlboro and Channel, the sound of your pause. Just a moment, your stalking, followed by your exit - an exit announced in your ripped-throat exhale, the percussive thud of your each step landing, stopping, resuming, diminishing. I opened my door to yellow dimness- the press of silence poured in.

What had you touched? What had you taken? Would you be back? Were you close by now? The house shook in its emptiness, chilled in its quietness. I calculated. Reckoning with your nighttime returns, my remnants shrank to half. Withstood your taking of whatever you wanted as I had since first you started your night hunts. This night confirmed my smallness. I knew I was not ready to face your gray skin and sour breath- or the orange glow of your half-burned cigarette.

May 13, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Past the Clearing

We walked up on a ring of redwoods-surprised the trees and surmised a wordless interaction had passed in this clearing just an instant before.

You tugged me on a few steps to the ring's edge where the hillside dropped away. I felt our intrusion and joined the towering company in quiet presence. Silence invited sight, sound, and smell to increase.

Warm gusts moved rich and sweet perfumes up the slope - nudging, suggesting, penetrating. Then a chill, calm but definite, passed through me, through you- bringing a slight tremble and shifting shadows to the grass below us. I watched you lean forward like a pointer to hear more.

How could we know for sure that a presence entered us there, worked like faith in our bones, brought a oneness to your body and mine. Our sideways glances confirmed a shared sensation, for me the dissolution of distinction, and through this brief possession, a deeper drop into the gaping, mist-filled mouth at the center of the ring.

Wind gave voice to the trees that reached out above us. I heard the word 'grace' though I could not name the source of the voice that spoke this word. Then sky deepened in purples and smoke-blacks, and the ring of trees closed tighter.

Was this witnessing? What wonder, this concourse with an expanse of what existed before. That would reconvene in our departure!

April 17, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Talking to Distance

If I propose an equation – that talking to you equals talking to distance, I can show my work and provide proof of an aching gap that divides my questions and your answers. Empty sets, omissions, or the absence of an outside or an inside to our attempt at geometry.

In response to my near whimpers can you measure what it has meant to stand opposite your silence, to throw bits of myself away, away, away? Where do old trapezoids go?

When I asked for evidence that you had heard me you asked for proof that I had spoken. What brought me rage was the presence of zero that close to me - that zero that was me.

Shall we proceed in our fact finding and our measured disclosures of evidence and implication? I am suggesting that there is a less mathematical path - an opportunity to consider an exception, a variable, a reworking of the numbers. My invitation is that we join in a beneficial set of algorithms and recalculate our practiced norm.

April 14, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

While Flying Home

I am in an airplane among many distinct people, all coming from separate starting places, having, by record, no formal connection, when the experience begins:

I feel a warmth enter my body - an intense kiss of pleasure – not mine to keep but like lips full and present - I turn my palms over to inspect my fingers, their tendons and veins, their etched skin. I have an instance where I cherish them.

Instead of retreating I grow quieter - I hear a voice, mine, telling me that though not myself I am still intact- I open as the plane tilts and a low ray of sun pierces the west-facing windows, filling the cabin with west, west, west. Quieter still, I acknowledge that light is reaching out from the core of my body – I want to request a witness to see me and help me understand.

I am calm, still, harmless to self and others. Children and adults continue as before.

I deduce that I have had a private experience, a brief collapse of boundary where I may have sweated and appeared odd to others observing. No one is observing!

I feel urgent in my need to talk to someone, to put into words what I have seen and felt - To my right, a young man presses his call button.

Drinks will arrive in a minute or two.

March 26, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sorting You Out

Notes, letters, scraps, two pictures, your house keys. I have arranged your things at my feet, in piles. We collected most of what we were able to sort out, and then applied the process creating a plot, establishing order from the stumbling heaps.

I lay pieces out on the wooden floor of the old house, sorting them into beginning, middle, end. This big room was quiet now- No distractions to prevent me from hearing a bit of what you once said:

Why do people keep silent about the kinder and nobler things they witness? Why is it only the hard biting story that gets shared?

You spat at the stupidity of waiting until afterward to give voice to that heart-glittering bauble tucked beneath the pile of off-cast debris. You told me that we are all misfits, cast-offs, hippies, and rednecks. Moths circling our own flames. But we are gems, too. All of us.

Your sermon: Lift the man up while he can still hear you. Do what you can blunt the edge. That was your gift -to redirect careening steps and set drifters right. Each day amounted to a succession of made-up initiatives. Don't force it. Let it be what it is. That's all.

How I want your voice to speak to me now as I pick up your pieces.

March 20, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Firefly Spell

When we got to a clearing - beyond the point where we'd left the highway- you tugged my elbow and whispered “look”-I lifted my head looking up to a near absolute blackness.

Then I saw the fireflies. Fast spirals in and out of sight- I watched them tuck into the silence of trees to return, spin, tumble and increase. Tens became thousand – I could not count them.

A second time you whispered- "Breathe" I exhaled and let my feet root to wet earth and my eyes expand to blue-white sparks that came close enough to touch-

I can't say why but I grew anxious and you took my hand, asked me to give it just a moment longer, to open up just a little bit more – Then I felt a release-

A succession of slips, phosphorous ghost glows twisted from within my skull and out through both eyes. memory and lies, bits of laughter chains of events and voices of long dead friends, all gone and out!

Then your third whisper lifted me up, held me suspended, and brought me back down to your side. How long had we been here? And what issued from me into this night's wet blackness. . .

Your silence told me that now was no time for talking. Not just now.

March 13, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Exploding in Silence

First an image of the opposite
Of the Buddhist’s hungry ghost
A full-bellied prisoner who instead of begging for more
Must expel, exhale, exude, reach
A spirit full, not empty, with infinite juice –

Then the second -a diver
And his descending in an arc from a cliff -
Toes pointed, arms extended to grab clouds
And in this image I find even a vulture who circles
Waiting for the diver’s next move. .

I am tossed to a memory –
three years of fighting with someone I loved.
We can’t speak now and can’t touch
And I am my only witness to the fact
That I will not forget.

I feel these rushes - body medicine
Coming on strong and in waves.
No one to talk to
Since the calibration is off
And what would people say?

How can I help you?
What else can you tell me?
Are you still seeing a counselor?
I would guess it to be like bleeding out
In front of bound and gagged witnesses.

Then comes the third image - rush of salt water
Shooting through my body and out my pores.
To the no one watching I want to say
There is nothing you can do but stand back. . .
I really can’t explain.

In all of this rush I know
That the explosion happens on the inside
And the outside remains still.
Passers by see nothing and maybe feel less.
Maybe it’s not happening at all.

And what of the accidental empath
Who happens by in this moment,
A misplaced intuitive
Who stands within range
Of the explosion and its subsiding?

Then silence returns.
I see my atoms returning and re-integrating.
The expanding and incendiary starfish contracting.
Body intact and the eyes glassy.
Crosswalk says go and I cross to the other side.

March 7, 2010

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Truth or Dare Tree

In the tree you and I grew from seed, leaves trembled in spring-shifting sky- took in the late day sunlight and shown in black mirror quiet of the cold pond there just beyond the fence.

There the property line met with an open pasture of ranch land. That’s where you and I met to play a child’s game of truth or dare, where I stepped out of my knee-worn blue jeans and the red diamonds of my shorts and you pulled off your thin T-shirt.

In my memory now I see that we were more than skin naked, untouched, both actors and witnesses in a turn of seasons that moved through our bodies, shaking us as it shook the leaves.

I can’t speak to what came between that time and now, but when I returned to the land where we once played, I could feel our old language in my body -far away, hard to hear, lifting the way birds depart when winter closes in.

On our tree, someone who came after us had carved in the trunk, and on the hills where the ranch had been, tractors guarded hilltops in the dusk, silent, claws high.
Wind ripped through empty branches. I asked what would happen if I saw you now where we had once stood.

When I came back to the land for the third time, at the point of sale, I took a barefoot walk on baked and broken soil. Water had left this patch of land but I stood in the dirt and gave permission to myself to invite old spirits to seep in through my feet, to rise into my arms and legs.

I stopped, looked down, saw seeds seeking to sprout, dozens there at my feet, amber and brown, tiny, expectant, still capable. Picking up a fistful, I shoved them in my pocket. Then it was time. I turned to go.

Our place was at my back. Old branches and roots now left to take their own course. That's how I had to leave it.

March 6, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010


They called the meal a celebration!
A lunch for 500 friends and tag-alongs.
Several women who had outlived the man
Had come to arrange pictures among the flowers
All of us could see who he had been as we walked by.
On a slide show over the stage they flashed pictures –
One in particular of him stripped to the waist
Brown skinned, lean,
Khakis looped to his small hips
By a brown belt pulled to its last notch -

Two men stood to talk of him:

Still flickering memories from decades before-
When the first man spoke
He wove together the patches
Of himself and his best buddies,
Bonded by nicknames but now separated
In the afterword that death brings -
Recounted when they rode bikes by the river,
The river that flowed in its banks
Before they built look-alike houses
And dead-earth levees -

Then the second man stood
To finish the first man's story -
Of how that night they rode together
To deliver a letter to a brown-eyed, black-haired girl,
The letter was the impatient scrawl of true love,
Testifying to the everlasting and the forever-
And before this old friend stepped down
He managed to take his story all the way to the end,
To his last days when Gordy rocked in his chair
Eyes wide open in tired sockets –

That ending looked nothing like the beginning
When a younger man kept his hair combed
And wore blue v-necks
And kept his teeth white -
First broad jumper, then tired ancient,
To dust and a shrinking circle of friends -
Who brought him back in words,
Who kept their eyes open,
To could hear him, see him, smell him -
Kiss his wrinkled cheek.

Just this once, stop long enough
To take in this wanderer one more time
The entirety of him who came to an end –
Don’t step to the side
When he reaches for your arm to hold him up.
The old soup, too, asks to be tasted.
Listen and push nothing to the side
He will only need a minute
So stay, sit
Lets talk of days long gone.

March 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Just Stars

Small burst of light, stars, most of them named,
Bounce with the rhythm and rise of this night walk -
Punctuating dots for tonight’s long cloaked sentences.

Vast and beguiling, sky chilled and huge
Beyond any eyes' capacities to see
They ask me to fly out light years beyond imagining’s chase

Just stars, I describe them that way to myself -
They start in small ways
Collections of energetic particles

Light fused in bright twisting points -
Sustained through nuclear interface,
United till the implosion and even then, grand.

They spin to sing in chimed notes overhead
Inviting me to look up and begin to leap
From one to the next and farther away.

Clusters lead in light pocked chains to an enormity
That pulls me closer to the ground
And to the small warmth of my mammal's body

I feel my ribs rise and my back arch
Taking in the air
And some of the particles that reach me here.

Just enough of the night-spark to light my brain
And ignite a flash of a dream that hints
At a body and mind beyond these dim, small aches-

And some steps that take me beyond
All of these memorized endings
And well worn rights and lefts.

March 3, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Instead of Sleeping

When I woke up my head filled with an old and jagged story. A night spawned phantasm of a forgotten school friend-a short boy who often got caught reaching for the high-shelved honey, a boy who later became red-faced and chubby, squeezed into snug slacks with lint at the pockets.

The unsettled piece came one day when he lied to protect me after my theft from the corner store. I gave him over without flinching- Quick and painless. He was just the fat kid. We did not speak again. It was done, I thought.

Last night, instead of sleeping, I dream-chased him down, twisting the story, adding a deleting words to soften the ending. To bend consequence, to step out of time- to adjust impact with adverbs and passive voice. No trick of language could staunch truth's red flow.

That I was a traitor to that forgotten friend, that he must have forgotten me as well and if not, had he forgiven? Oh, please, please, this was years ago. I paid my dues and I am not that cowardly boy from decades ago who once sold his nobility for convenience! But the old lie bit hard.

I dipped in and out of fitful sleep and unsuccessful re-considerations. Each bend opened onto more unresolved ebbs and tributaries and these sought a bigger river of action linked to reaction and of truce coming in the calm of black solitude. Even in surrender I hugged my pillow close and let the river flow as it would.

February 19, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Rhyme of Little Slights

Tall lean boy faces off against the smaller-
Grabbing his shoulders and pushing him down.
Small pink surrender, collapsing, kneeling-
Winner flashing big teeth and sucking in air.
The first boy runs off with his hot breath steaming.
The smaller boy sits on the ground in his dust
Then rises, brushes off, and turns away.

Marcus peels off his filthy white tank top.
His skinny black frame shakes, lips spitting
As he swears in wails of what he will do
When he catches the boy who just tagged him raw.
Kill you, your mother, and your sister, three times -
He stands still, gripping with one hand his sagging blue jeans
Other hand wiping down his ashy streaked face.

Andrew, always it, out, chosen last, every day-
Smacked from the start or whenever he plays-
His blue eyes turn in his rash-blotched head
As three girls jump close to taunt and then flee.
He shouts out then that he's got the plague
And says that it’s catching with one single touch.
Jumped in by jumping out he maps out a plan
To choose ‘out’ as an ‘in’ and to keep it that way.

Angela, fattest girl, sits red faced, puffing.
Playing no more with three girls who laugh
At her the from tire swing and pointing
And calling out slings about her big pink thighs.
She sits on the bench and watches them circle
Watching, watching, counting time, and waiting.
Would she ask for a day for her chance to ride?

You are a stick and I, the stone.
A child throws names that cut to the bone.
Mighty one slaps his little friends down
Points  fingers right back with nothing to own.
Rise up this morning to sweet tin rhymes,
Of Jack and Jill tumbling in cuts of time.
One child cries and a second one bleeds.
Even small seeds can grow up to be trees.

February 15, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010


One of your photographs leans back on tripod display in the front of the church. In that picture, you wear a safari hat and stand in front of a building heavy with roof snow, before an unnamed mountain lodge cut against a stand of Douglas fir. You look on to a point beyond the picture. Your hand is raised to your brow as if in salute and a glint in your eyes hints at adventure pending, an expectation, an inside joke.
I can remember the priest putting his hand on your shoulder before mass started. He looked over your head to the vestments that hung in the sacristy. He asked for your help. You stepped on a stool so that you could lift the fabric onto his stooped shoulders. Both of you moved in silence. I filled the cruets with water and wine until you, with a nod, signaled that mass would begin.
Afternoon sunlight comes through wood smoked skies to warm the white painted fa├žade of this church. I stop before going in to take my seat. In my front pocket, I have an old bit of scrawl on some note paper – a piece of a letter you wrote to me when you traveled as a boy, asking me to write you back. I have no proof that I ever did. I hear my own breathing, and watch my hands, as if from far away, fold your note, returning it to my pocket.
If there comes a next time, made through the calculus of life after living, I want to believe that I will find a way to remember you, feel your imprint in that next life as I feel it now, and that the fact of your journey will be with me though I may not remember your name.  I reach to touch what I can't know for certain. Who am I beyond my body and does the answer to that question come in words?
I feel the bite of a rule that says everything must go and that all even the sweetest things will be left behind. Is that the truth? Is that the truth?

February 13, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

In the Hills

We drove up the hill a bit faster in the older kid’s car as he passed around smoke that took us to the not-know as in do-not-know-what-to-expect – pressed tight with new friends piled arm on arm, hip on hip, front and back seat on a black ribbon pass that split into hills stacked up at the top of our town - banking left then right, making up jokes that matched the motion.

He pulled off the road and skidded in dust until we stopped and hopped out following him where he led us through this run-off tube that cut about 30 feet through the side of a hill, popping out on the shaded side into a river bed long before chopped off when they cut this highway between these old brown-black mountains.

We stood in the dry river sand and I could see how the dryness made things stretch here as they waited for water that might blast through once a year if even, and it was here that we stood in a circle letting it come on and looking back and forth across the distance at faces, young like ours, looking back, letting go enough to start a journey that this kind of freedom provides – we were blessed.

I never said thank you but I know a gift now and can remember the sequence like a brain carving: coming down from the hill with my hand out the window picking up the wind like a wing that came into my body and blew back the hair on my arm – the same arm that slipped under the short white sleeve of my t-shirt and flew with living light over and under the granite, sage, and blue that popped among the dwindling hills.

We wound down black paved road, traveling maybe 10 or 15 per, six or more of us in this small car, side by side and the word I heard was peace as in the peace that precedes an explosion or that comes just before fusion – a kind of edge, empty as in the present- paused as in vignette – we could have dissolved into a full crotched approach of bruises and kisses with mouths wide open.

I could see in my mind the lightening of naked-on-naked and hear bending waves that twisted our tongues as we spun out speaking in erratic non-sequitors of the surprise of the present, the discovery in eye-contact jumbled with some long-off kenning telling us we are not new, that we do not survive (no one does)– that all of these awakenings would roll into a sunrise that would, unflinching, come.

February 11, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010


When I say hero, I know what I do not mean:
A horse rider, a loud noise, gallant bastard,
Public servant, honored and seen.
Not the man who leans to snatch
Small child from crocodile’s mouth,
And not the soldier stepping before
A small Iraqi woman to block
The off-throw of an improvised blast.

The hero I call up rises each morning,
To the talk in his head shouting him down,
Crosses wood planks of worn floor
To face a small mirror for the first encounter.
He is older by a day and full of his lists
Of must-does and the-thousand-tasks
Met by a chorus of silence,
He contends with the invisible:

Advance of the virus,
A slight loss of sight greater than yesterday,
A capacity to stand under bright light
Accompanied by no back-fill of strings,
Not one volunteer to listen
To the tedious litany
Except for the plentiful paid ears
In the ubiquitous 50 minute show and tell.

Persistence makes its case for bravery.
Action, absent acknowledgment, adds up
To a sequence of steps taken
Without the comfort of plot or the assurance
Of a receiving line to greet you with a "well done."
See the child then add the years and stand as witness
To a tenacity that sustains him all on his own.

February 4, 2010

About Being Afraid

I waited, holding the strap on the bus,
Steady, smooth skinned, hair back -
Then a sharpness rose to scratch me
And I heard a single sentence - a message.

“You are afraid of just about everything
And you are afraid almost all of the time.”

For example, afraid that the house will be robbed,
That the people who love me will leave,
That the boss will call me in to share
That it’s not working out. . .I could go on.

“It could all be taken away,couldn’t it?”
Said the voice just before I said shut up.

In present tense a dear friend asks
How these fears and taunts, self generated,
Given that they are not based
In objective fact or observable evidence.

Years ago, my father would raise two fingers,
A stump of a bludgeon aimed
At a place between my eyes asking
What are you thinking?

I am thinking that it will all fall apart
That flight will amount to curtailed wing spread -
That I will contend with assaults without defense -
That I will never have answers for the "Then what?"

My fear is:

Pervasive in its smell and sensation -
Penetrating, going deep in the way of vapors-
Persistent, staying for hours following contact -
Putrid, held as it was in darkness for years.
With an index finger
Placed over tight closed lips.
I ask for there to be an end
Sparked by a crucial discovery
That leads to silence.

February 4, 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

She Asks

Last night I watched you undo what you had done a few hours before, wiping with a warm wet towel that face that you had applied to the surface of your own. You splashed water on your clean skin, dried yourself with a second towel, and looking to me said, “I’m back.”

The room is dark when I awaken. You are still sleeping. I move to your chair and take your seat. I ask my thoughts to give me a moment without closing in. What happens when you take this seat? Give me the name of the man who sits at this table, selects from these danglers, knows red from cinnabar, and who turns to me some moments later declaring “I’m ready.”

I said to you the word “can’t” as in you can’t have that sixteenth pair of boots. I said that your last pair had taken the last space and I heard the nighttime in this curtain-less room echoing back, bringing me a rider that mocked me telling me that space was plentiful. The tightness came from a different source.

I am driven to ask for the root of resistance, and in this beginning the exposure of the nets of thought that cast tangles over this moment. Small canisters of powder, blue dust, oils and ointments, black pencils seen by truer measure were only clasps on small doors that led into dusty chambers long asking for air and light.

I remember my promises: to believe in passages and learning, in the power of honesty to lead toward exponential weightlessness, in the chance to see to the limits of light, in the benefit of borders unfettered. Let me be by your side when you walk streets in heels, awaken through the slapping of second takes, hold my gaze when you ask with your eyes.

This morning, you may begin by wiping your face clean of sleep, by moisturizing, by hearing her voice ask you simple questions. She wants what each of us wants, to be among us, to be held, to be left alone, to dance when the music comes, to walk head up under open sky.

January 30, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Karl's Ashes in May

You and I stood where waves ended,
Fingers interlocked and mouths closed-
A speechless reverie for him
Spoken in a succession of questions
Unvoiced except for your squeeze of my hand.

Then you handed me the box
Where you had kept Karl’s ashes
And asked me to walk into the water
To let the evidence of his soot and gray
Mix and dissolve in the cold water.

Water rose as I walked deeper
Digging my hand into the box,
Finding more of him as the water
Took more of me.
You had told me that he wanted to go.

When I came back, you held me
To steady yourself and to cover me with your coat.
A covenant passed in pulse-defined segments
And nothing more than a couple words
That said come in.

So, from that I know
That essence resides in nothing we own.
Spirit lives in and beyond the skin.
Nothing that I can say and nothing written
Draws a sufficient circle to hold the promise

All that he ever was
And all that we will ever retain
Comes from how the time we carve-
Takes us, eyes wide
To wherever we might go.

July 26, 2001


When Whitman pushed out to the then frontier
How could he not have felt the union
With spring grass and sap rising
And soil upturning beneath his bare toes.

He saw a wet land glistening
And heard the choir of the young voice
Bringing strings to match his song
Singing now, now we have this moment together.

Could he also see this second time
A mirror to the first
Vile in exact proportion to the former sugars?
Would he have fallen into slack jaw silence if so?

That first kiss of blue
Now the vinegar of these bleeding sores,
Ranges of detonated mountain peaks
Blood screams that pass in acid river songs?

He might ask me to make no more of what has passed
Than the reflection of his young pan dance
And warn that to erase this bitter sting
Might steal the pristine of that former blessing.

I don’t think he would ignore
A dependent link between his and ours –
Or refute that I write to him now on recycled paper,
Calendar dates for the day after day after day.

January 22, 2010


When Marco fell into the river pool
(Falling by way of swinging from a tree-tied rope)
He pulled into a ball,
Knees to chest
Then the slight concussion
When his taught brown body
Collided with cold.

Pressure rushed up into his nose
And except for the rush of white water
He sank in silence,
Currents asking his clench to release
Moving between and beneath his limbs
Tilting him over in a slow spinning roll.

How long to hold he asked
And let one eye open,
Saw the blurry silver and sunlight over,
Surface and shimmer calling him up.
He held seconds more,
Sinking, hold, hold, hold.

Above the screech of two neighbor girls
Making story in noise
Eyes wide with the question
Of what happened to Marco.
Marco slipped in the secret hold
Of just a moment alone
In the privacy of the river pool.

January 22, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jim's Politics

I saw Jim’s jaw tighten when he sang about a growing movement- larger circles of men joining together to bring light into the darkness, to bring sweet nectar into the upturned open mouths of gaping need. Now is the moment. Capture this will-never-come again day. Take back what was before. Don’t you know this is the last chance?

A candle burned in a small bowl that he had placed at the center of our circle, a deliberate placement, slow, silent, to say we are starting here, today, together.
For my part, I sank into the chair and lowered the bill of my hat as Jim pulled farther out front. A man to the left of me shifted and a second tipped his bottle to his lips.

I sang back to Jim from my inside voice- a soft caress of contradiction. You want and others want and everyone needs and no one can find the nectar that will forever quench this thirst. Momentum comes without brave horns and clatter of campaigns.
Momentum that precedes change accrues through the little by little, instant by instant, small one-day-at-a-time slips toward the fault. We will both be surprised at the shape and instance of its arrival.

What I wish for, Jim, is a singer who sings of beginning and end as points in a much longer line, who sings in a gut-punching chant as they must have back and back, before memory and on past even the inception of language, where words and concepts make no attempt to instill an illusion of shape-

Do you know any songs like that?

January 17, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meeting the Big Teacher - A Hiking Story

Memory as a boy
Set out for a pre-dawn hike
To my secret trail with secreit wish
To come face to face with the Big Teacher-

Left the house through the backdoor,
Pulled it shut with my right hand
Walked out into wet black
Of the empty pre-dawn streets.

Found the head of the trail,
Crawled left between dark hills-
Left rooftops just then waking.
Pounding pace, sweat wetted.

Left the trail into low brush
Ducked branches and thorns,
Moved faster to the edge point
To a ridge to wait:

Just the whipping sound
Of birds sliced above me-
Mosquitoes found my skin sweet,
Sucking as I stood

Shivered-just a minute, two
For sunrise to burn fire streaks
On two peeks there above me -
I leaned forward to hear.

That day you came to me
In a cold brush to my lower back
In cool nips to my arms outstretched
To the middle of me-

I stood with eyes and ears open
And with my mouth shut.
More than all came through that way
More than all got in.

January 12, 2010


On the bow of the boat I stood
Leaning into the shock of wet cold wind –

Ahead the island grew larger in black,
A recumbent body of a night-sleeping mammal.

Through my nose and into my head I sucked in
Sea spray and wind slaps that watered my eyes.

Smoke from the stack on the boat pumped in an arc
Wind driven behind us toward the dusk glitter of shore.

Structures there lost mass and took shape in lights,
Ahead, the next shore, dark except for a lighthouse.

Captain cut the engines and the boat slid on slick,
Silent as the night began impenetrable

Moving first in the cold thick air
And then in the pit of my bowels –

To the new shore where tomorrow would begin.

January 12, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ring of Elders - A Dream

I am motionless at the center of a ring of old people.
Each wears a robe of deep red, sparkled black, purple –
One, the oldest, invites me to step toward her
And take her hand
Then she says ‘look up’.
It is night.
I see blackness without stars.

She squeezes on my hand
To bring my eyes back to hers.
You will be mine, she says
And I feel pushed to confess something.
But I say nothing.
I feel churning in my gut
And an imprecise increment of time elapses.

Something scurries across the ground
Near the old woman’s feet.
She stands still and takes hold of both my hands.
Then she steps back into the ring
And I see the many others
Offering signals that enter my eyes as symbols
And exit from my mouth as smoke.

I turn as if to depart
My head throbbing at the temples
And I, weighted by a sense
That I have misplaced something essential.
Behind me I can hear the ring of women
Laughing and speaking to one another
In words I have yet to remember.

July 26, 2001

Friday, January 1, 2010

Little Love Poem

I close my eyes and I see you.
I open my eyes and there you reign.
Above me you utter words that are new to me
And as you sing to me I am dazed by your white teeth
Then comes trembling, rising, falling.

Who are you and why can't I,
Who never fails for words,
Find a way to move my tongue?
You ask who I am.
I am you I say
And I believe myself as I speak.
Touch me, touch you.
How can these things be?

Erase ‘us’ and even the 'you' and 'me'
By what means could I explain to anyone else
That we have become one of God’s tears.
Let me witness and remember this much:
An infant’s hand reaching from its soft bed
Just a slight touch to your cheek
To assure me that you are real.

Wide eyes locked to yours
I extend arms and feet,
Without doubt or shame I lift my voice
To sing, to howl, to dive and rise up.
Taking this moment in its total
I deduce completion in the transient.
Even in flight I can grasp
That we will be here just this once.

I love you.

September, 2003

Empty Church

Silent soft face of a woman shaped from gold leaf
Turns to me from the apse of my church.
But for her I am alone within this stone vault
And feel her presence move in my joints.

Then comes the slicing of sunset
That ignites blue and red stained panes above-
A thin film of glass separating the sun outside
From the dark wood and damp stone here.

I am a boy under knit cap
Wearing round glasses
Hands tucked in the pockets of baggie black pants
Over-sized coat upturned to warm my ears.

I am a man deep in the blue of atonement,
Touched in caverns by spirits who have no voice-
Ancients mingling with youth in this cool quiet,
Pointing to a place where I will be partisan and witness

To an approaching expanse,
Of upheavals unrelenting
And of nights and days without
The safe calm of these stone walls.

January 1, 2010