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