Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Journey Home

     Many weeks ago, I started posting the first of a projected series of thirty prose poems which I actually began writing early in February. With "Home" this series is finally completed. I'm not sure what will come next--probably a creative rest for a while. But please check back periodically. I'll likely be starting a new writing series again soon.


    but which?    there have been many    there'll be more    and what kind?    some had roots    others were just makeshift    I remember the yard where I buried a toy soldier    my bedroom window with a view of the cemetery    the big dining room table Mom chased me around -- she was ready to box my ears!    and what about that dreadfully dying girl?    her ghost's haunted every home since then

    home's been the refuge I couldn't survive without    the prison I had to escape from    the womb world of my greatest need    the ground zero of my harshest pain    to wander homeless is hard    but to feel like an exile in what pretends to be home -- it's worse    this home where I sit now and write is a haven    a blessing    yet it's only a tent I've pitched for a while    only a camp in the wilderness

    a huger home's waiting and I'm getting closer to it    after my ashes are scattered in the ocean I'll have no more good dreams or bad dreams    I'll sleep deep and sound and long    the primal sea will be my next-to-last home    my last will be my first    the one I knew before I came here    the one I carry like a Diamond in my soul    I've been journeying back to that Home for a thousand lifetimes    I'm almost there


     Since I'm on the subject of "home," here's another piece addressing that theme, one approaching it from a different angle. This poem is from my 2009 book "Black Butterfly."


Rolling up my pant legs above the knee,
I stand by the great Atlantic, gazing out
over breakers to that unbroken horizon.
For the first time in more than 25 years
I'm drinking this glory with every pore--
surf streaming noisily against my calfs,
a brisk, salt-tasting wind, the play of sun
on foam, gulls' audacious cries! Amazing!
How did I think to live without the sea?

And how alive will I feel after I leave?
Yes, it's always there inside me, ebbing
and flowing, its primeval flux as vital
as the blood sluicing through my veins.
But these senses strain to know it too.
This spirit aches to savor its immensity!
Now I see. I was in exile all those years.
My true home is here, facing the ocean,
one with fire and water, earth and sky...



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Book For The Road

     It seems the days--the centuries--of the book are numbered. Facebook, Twitter, et al, increasingly rule. Kindle and its ilk digitalize the written word, yet compromise the contemplative heart of reading in the process. But I don't believe that the choice of holing up and getting lost in a real, live, actual, compelling book can ever be replaced. It's an activity as essential to our complete humanity as breathing.

                            A BOOK

    In my vision the Angel's always holding a book with the left hand    pressing it close to the heart    by this I know a book is more than simply a human invention    it's an eternal archetype    a potent symbol for wisdom teaching    the computer can't replace it    the computer thrusts me out into the hustle and distraction of the marketplace -- I'm a click away from a billion seductions!    but the right book spirits me off to another world

    inside me there's a special breathing space    a watchful and listening solitude    high up on this inner mountain nestles a secluded meadow where I drink from an icy cold and crystal clear stream    here is my secret haven for reading    the right book not only teaches and inspires me    it's an enlightening guide sent to lead me back to my own boundlessness    the right book distills a bracing elixer for my soul

    I don't think we'll stay fully human if we abandon the palpable book    a book of real pages we can turn with our hand    a book of a certain heft and feel -- one we can also see and taste and smell    a book we can carry off to a private room or tote into the deepest woods    if we lose the intimate companionship of great books we lose more than just their enthralling wisdom    we lose an irreplaceable part of ourselves


     Whether we realize it or not, we're all walking on a certain road--the road of our destiny, a road that never ends. We don't really have a choice about this. But everything depends on our growing consciousness of the journey!

                          THIS ROAD

    this road I walk along    sometimes it's wide other times it's narrow    sometimes it's crowded other times it's solitary    sometimes it's easy other times it's hard    yet always I'm walking on some road    coming from one place and going to another    now and then I stop and rest for a while    here or there I wish I could stay    but then a dawn breaks which seems to widen outward forever    and I know I must walk on

    this road stretches back before I was born    it leads forward beyond when I will die    it's as new as my breath    as old as my blood     as primal as my bones    meeting a stranger on this road we might pass without a word    or decide to walk together for just a day or even a lifetime    parting on this road can hurt like hell    it's better to stare at the horizon and keep walking    it's better not to turn around

    this road sometimes crosses other roads    then I stop and wait and ponder    which way should I go?    each direction's equally unknown    if I veer left there could be danger    but if I pivot right it might be worse    yet marching straight ahead is no sure thing either    when there's not even a signpost to guide me I do what I always do    I listen for the still small voice within    I follow the compass needle of my soul


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Chair In The Sky

     Part of the point of this series of prose poems is to explore the multi-layered personal meanings of everyday things through discovering some of the multiple associations of the everyday words we use for them. Here, for example, is a mini-meditation on an indispensable comfort and convenience we may take for granted most of the time--a chair. 

                           A CHAIR

    hello chair    thanks for being there    I need a pit stop right now    you fit my butt and match my mind    yet you're more than just a practical convenience    you're a way station at the intersection of time and space    a welcome oasis where I can pause    rest    drink deep from a well of inner reflection    standing up I defy mortality    lying down I surrender to it    but sitting quietly    I bridge the worlds of life and death

     some chairs are minimalists    they say "stop here for a few minutes but don't get too comfortable -- you've little time and much to do"    but others croon a siren song    they seduce me to sink into their cushiony cocoon and never come out    I want an in-between kind of chair    one that gentles me down but also props me up    I want a chair that's humble    modest    serviceable    that says "I'm ready and waiting just for you"

     what about all the people who don't even have a chair to call their own -- no safe corner anywhere with its familiar frame to comfort them and take them in?    ignore me if you must but don't steal my chair!    you're not just messing with my body    you're slapping my soul    there might be many other places to sit    but there's only one where I know I belong    finding the right chair feels a little bit like coming home


     I've always been a sky junkie. Wherever I am outdoors, whatever I'm doing, my eyes invariably lift upward to gaze at the sky. It reminds me of that other Sky shining inside me -- an infinite Spirit which will never die.


     so much of me's stitched together from all the skies I've breathed    never have any two shined the same    it's as if I owned an infinite number of priceless hats:    transcendental blue    cloud-mottled gray    dawn-streaked lavender    rich velvet black -- spangled all over with diamonds!    what if this day I finally broke the last shackles of gravity    soaring higher and higher    until heaven's splendor and mine became one

    some things can't be measured    such as the height of the sky towering within us    dust we are and to dust we return    but not entirely    not what's never been born and so can never die    I have a thirst for boundlessness    I have a hunch there's more to me than just this shrinking brain and aging bag of skin    as certain as the sky inspires the earth    I know an Immortal Spirit animates my bones

    one great thing's needed to heal and transform our fractured world -- if only every human being could rediscover their innermost communion with the sky!    this hope seems impossible but I'll hold it in my heart nonetheless    wish on a cloud    walk on a star    launch your soul like a rocket blasting off into the blue!    the sky's limitless horizon is just as blindingly intimate as your next life-changing breath


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rain Break

     When I started this current series of prose poems I planned 30 of them, including the title of each, and I've now posted 25 so far. But even though I already had many written before I started posting, I've only been writing them at a pace of one per week, while I've been posting them at a pace of two. So, temporarily, I've now caught up with myself and need to take a prose poem break until I crank out a few more.  Considering the searing drought we're still suffering here in "the Heart of America," what better kind of break could I provide than these two older poems, each evoking blessedly rainy days from the past.

              THE DARK, HEAVY CLOUDS

     When the dark, heavy clouds roiled low
     and then the slant wall of rain struck,
     my heart went out of me into the world.

     Neither here nor there, this nor that,
     I became anything thirstily drinking,
     became a landscape receiving it all.

     My heart went out of me into the world
     when the dark, heavy clouds roiled low
     and then the slant wall of rain struck--

     went out of me, but did not return;
     although, one night, as I waited alone,
     an owl hooted from the nearby trees...


                           RAIN CHANT

Can a poet still chant with delight about the rain?
Or is that cornball, cliche? After months of drought
thick grey clouds crowd in, loom lower, darkening,
until the first cold drop suddenly stings my face.

Then another, and another, plucking at dusty leaves,
splotching the sidewalk, trickling down windowpanes,
smacking a squirrel square on the nose, nudging worms
where they quiver like squirmy fingers underground.

Can a poet still be a mouth of the Earth, drinking?
Or is that old hat, passe? Yet my tongue's a root,
my hair drenched grass, my heart a glistening boulder,
my thighs tangled with the thirsty bones of the dead.

Rain has Intention, and Voice. My ear becomes night,
listening. Who can state absolutes, rigidity, limits?
I'm simplified to this elemental choice--grow, or die.
I'm a planet and its weather, a seedbed and a storm.



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bones In A Glove

     Some things we can lose and replace--but usually not a glove. A glove is one of a pair, and when it's lost the other's useless. Which is worse: to be the lost glove, or the one left behind? Either way--loneliness...


     just one glove    lost    pointless without the other    searching for a hand    it's useless now    yet still wants to serve    two gloves together meet a need    make a difference    every finger slips snugly into its fleecy pocket    each hand sports its own mini parka    but the lost glove -- fallen into a dark corner of the closet    absently dropped on the sidewalk    left behind in a theater seat -- it has no meaning    no future    no hope

     many people are like this lost glove    no matter how hard they try or what they do it's already too late    they've plunged through the ever-widening cracks in our splintered world    with seven billion souls now and more on the way how could it be otherwise?    think of all those who never have a chance    children battered or abandoned    babies born only to starve    I'm not a lost glove like these    but I might have been

     we should be careful with our gloves    we should be careful with each other    the worst thing is to be created for a purpose we can't fulfill    I long to discover the reason for my existence -- why I seem made to offer a hand of compassion    of service and belonging    if you wear the glove that matches my own    for even one day or just a lifetime    we'll suffer that much less loss    savor that much more love


     Our bones are with us every second of our lives, and last long after our deaths, yet most of the time we're hardly aware of them. How would I be--who could I be--without my bones? 


     even while still wearing this suit of threadbare skin    some days I feel peeled right down to bare bone    as if time and eternity played dice for my soul    I live splayed in those cross hairs now    at the bull's-eye of exacting transformation    once unconsciousness was my sandbox    I conjured such intricate castles in the air!    but they've all been swept away    what's left are just these blabbing bones 

     yet a bone has beauty    meaning    purpose    it endures and witnesses -- a gleaming link in the stringent architecture of the cosmos    no more disguises    no more costumes    only an austere purity where form and function fuse as one    I hanker for what's lasting    what reconnects me to verities unmutilated by fashion    money    fame    pettiness    I'd rather be a simple bone than a cunning fomenter of complication

     my skeleton keeps whispering    reminding me to make each hour count    to manage carefully this infinitesimal kink in space and time    do you hear your own bones crooning their insistent song?    don't ignore them    listen and learn    grow and change    your bones are saying there's another Reality    one deeper and wiser than you know


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Knife -- With Wings

    Depending on the kind of knife, it can be a life-saving implement. But it can kill too -- sometimes without justice or mercy. As such, it's both artifact and symbol, a freighted metaphor for the divided soul of our species.


    but what kind?    dagger    machete    butcher    switchblade    scalpel    stiletto?    what about that Hopalong Cassidy pocket knife I gave away long ago?    this tool's a parable of our humanity    or our inhumanity    it can slice save hack heal defend kill    we started with a sharpened stone    now we slash with laser beams!    I love the uses a knife can have    yet the mere thought of a paper cut sends shivers down my spine

     among other meanings the gesture of open hands says:    "I hold no knife."    but a knife can be hidden away in the heart    a knife no one else ever sees can leisurely slice us into bite-size pieces only fit for feeding the crows    I've walked around for days before realizing a knife was stuck in my back    looked at another way though a knife can divide the corrupt from the healthy    the false from the true    and this is good    a necessary thing

     when we meet for the first time please bring no knife and I'll do the same    it's important we possess one but dangerous for it to possess us    I knew a knife once which couldn't decide whether it wanted to help or hurt    like many mercenaries it was pulled this way and that    finally I said:    "I'll carry you at my side    but only if you consecrate your blade to carving more Light into this world"


     Once I had a dream in which I said to my mother: "You will never understand me unless you accept that I'm not just a human being, I'm also a Winged Being." This might be the single most important truth I've had to discover and actualize in order to continue to spiritually evolve.


     today I feel stripped of my wings    I'm earthbound and flailing    whenever I try to take off I scarcely rise before the inevitable nosedive and crash    I know I was born to fly but I've suffered too much damage    also there's the clumsy weight of all my faults and stumblings    wings are meant for airy creatures    light-hearted beings    not battered old warriors    my scars make me heavy    they drag me down

     yet Angels attend me    arriving through some chance angle of starlight they suddenly stroke my face with their scintillant wings    always they remind me I'm more than just my mortal hungers and fears    that the impossibility of flight isn't thwarted by how relentlessly time corrodes my bones    flight is the pure signature of Grace    it's given only to a naked    empty    and surrendered soul

     a day will come when I'll inherit my wings forever    if not in this life then surely the next    all our flightless groping is a hard but necessary school    truly I'm never more aware of my pinions than when they're useless    when strain as I might    I can't spread them wide and take to the sky!    one morning though the last freight of shadows will fall from me    the last feathers of darkness will drop from my wings


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Choosing Red


     I'm choosing to write this now even though a lost part of me doesn't want to    a heavy part of me is tired and discouraged and doesn't see the point of trying to quarry inadequate words to express unpalatable feelings    a defeated part of me just wants to turn away    lie back down on the bed    and stare at the ceiling    instead I'm sitting here hunched over the keyboard    reporting for duty once more

     committing to a choice means walking alone into the desert carrying little water and no map    it's not meant to be safe or comfortable -- not if it's about important things    the thirsting body must soldier on nevertheless    the needing heart must still endure its neediness    I don't even know where I'm going    but I'll recognize my destination when I get there

     no definition of being human makes any sense if it excludes responsibility for choosing    choosing with total consciousness    even choosing at times against the fierce headwind of my own resistance    the brute negation of the world's    by writing this I choose to keep exploring    I grope toward a Reality beaconing beyond what's human    but only by plumbing the depths of my humanness will I find it



     like these sliced strawberries on my cereal    or the agitated flag that enrages a bull    whatever it's up to    this color's flagrant -- shameless!    unless it's mixed thoroughly with the browns and grays of earth    otherwise this color says  "stop!"  "pay attention!"  "danger!"  "be careful!"   but not always    sometimes it just means that Love's thrown on her most extravagant finery    she's itching to step out and strut her stuff!

     there's no way to forget this is also the color of blood    nifty to imagine -- coursing out of sight through veins and arteries    but then there's blood which should stay inside but insists on bursting outside    there's all the bloodshed from all the atrocities committed in a cruel and barbarous age    that red's so numbingly pervasive it's nearly invisible    except to those who've already been wounded awake

     my favorite character from the whole world of red sports wings    he perches on a high branch and lets loose a cascade of piercing notes -- downright ear-catching in their outrageous crimson!    no wonder we call the most saliant issue "the cardinal point"    I think this messenger's sent to remind me:    every color is grace made visible    a sacrament refracted by the prism of my soul


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Point Of Flames

     Most people most of the time don't get the point. They don't get it because they're too busy brooding about the past or worrying about the future. But the real Point is only, and always, in this immediate, unrepeatable instant--here, and now.

                          THE POINT

     what's the point    that's how I feel this morning    facing the not quite blank computer screen    what's the point of struggling to wrestle    coax    conjure these words into a work of art which few will read and even fewer care about?    if I stop now    balked by the price of commitment    what could it matter?    why do I come back again and again to the same departure point    forced always to start over from scratch?

     except    there's a point I haven't reached yet    a truth so clear    so simple    my words would finally grow transparent    their meaning's incandescent core blaze through    I know I'll never attain such perfection    but if I stop trying I'll shrivel up inside    I'm not just a thing or process but a sort of breathing window    a living prism angled to refract the rarest wavelengths of Light

     I'm also a troubled creature who's slipping and sliding toward death    whatever the point is    this too is part of it    both eternity and time are part of it -- two worlds reconciled only in the stringent play of paradox    facing a nearly filled computer screen I return once more to this day's essential labor    what's the point?    the point is the choice I make each unrepeatable instant to say yes    Yes


     "What is to give light must endure burning" wrote Victor Frankel. And Rabindranath Tagore wrote: "Evidently the only way to find the path is to set fire to my own life." Have you set fire to your own life yet?


    still haven't learned    when I touch fire it burns    still believe next time I'll have asbestos skin    or else the flames won't be scorching but cool like a lover's fingers caressing my face    we're always burned alive by something aren't we?    lust or rage or terror licks at our heart and we shudder    knowing we're defenseless    knowing we could sacrifice our last hope to that devouring inferno    adoring it    shameless as straw

     I'm a breathing bundle of flames searching for a braver reason to burn    I'll wind up crisped to a cinder anyway    the kicker is Why?    back and forth I waver    here and there    sampling this addiction    that obsession    dithering over a compulsion or two    I'm a magnetized compass needle    a vector lurching every conceivable wrong direction before surrendering to true north

     so there's burning    and there's burning    a burning that's slavery    a burning that's freedom    I've tasted both    I can tell you about temptation    possession's a vile old hag yet she knows just how to stroke me    such bitter ecstasy -- writhing in lava's oblivion!    but some other burning's grabbed hold of me now    the purging flame which consumes all ephemera    until nothing remains but my incandescent soul


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Thorn Of Meeting

     A long time ago I learned that I can't glory in the rose's blossom without also accepting the rose's thorns. The one is as essential to the wholeness of my life as the other. Here's a meditation about this truth.

                          THE THORN

     I don't try evading it anymore    the thorn's always been there    always will be    just when I think it's gone    that's when the fierce familiar point pierces my skin    I don't know why this keeps happening    maybe it's the sadistic amusement of a bored adolescent god    stick--moan    stick--moan    actually I think I extrude the thorn from somewhere inside    I realize it's as much a part of me as hunger    pain    death

    today like any other day I want to be happy    I was drop-kicked out of Paradise before I knew it and I long to go back    I want to joyride the only car on a six-lane superhighway    to gorge down seven-layer chocolate cake all the time but never get sick    to be adored by a sex goddess half my age who's forever blind to my feet of clay    in other words I still don't even understand what true happiness is

     so it seems I must be grateful for this inescapable thorn    must grit my teeth and moan "thank you!" each time I flinch at its bitter little puncturing    thank you thorn for once more pricking me awake    thank you for goading me once more from my obtuseness and egotism and complacency    without you thorn I'd follow my snout into the nearest gaudily camouflaged snake pit    thank you thorn for the sting of your Grace


       Our days are filled with fateful encounters. We meet someone or something just about every waking minute. Yet how awake are we to the depth of potential meaning in each?


     there's only meeting    meeting you    or meeting the self who refuses such meeting    meeting God or else the void of God's absence    meeting my life as new and unpredictable each moment    meeting my death in countless big and little rehearsals    like this rash on my right foot that's flared and faded over and over for a dozen years    I can't exist without relating to someone or something    and all relationship is meeting

    when I meet you it's always for the first time    neither of us are who we were yesterday    nor who we'll become tomorrow    there's that same familiar face and voice    those same unique quirks and gestures    yet beneath them    beyond them    always    lives an impenetrable mystery    who are you right now    this unrepeatable instant?    who am I?    who will we each become before the next first time we meet?

     you could say everything boils down to a crucial choice    I can risk all with radical openness    meeting the Unknown at the core of each authentic encounter    or I can pull in    wall out    shut down    I've done both and can tell you they define the difference between heaven and hell    how do I experience the essence of meeting?    naked    empty    exposed    vulnerable    I turn within    bow to the Sublime


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brushed Awake

     What do we brush against--with our bodies, with our souls? What brushes against us? Sometimes it's invisible. That's when existence touches us most deeply, changes us most.


     a hand brushed my arm once    it was as much as I could bear    that's the way sometimes when the heart's connected to every cell of the body    one touch capsizes a world!    but what about all the years no hand brushes against my skin?    what about all those moments the void instead caresses me?    then the faintest stars leave livid scratches    you can't tell but they're there    through them my heart's blood slowly leaks away

     I can't read the map of my own loneliness    I have no compass needle pointing beyond    no beaten path stretching ahead to follow    maybe it's a reality hardwired into my DNA    what I brush against I can't predict    what brushes against me might mean nothing or life and death    more likely I'll wind up with dozens of chigger bites    they inflict a certain kind of love but I'd be happy to live without it

     a Wing brushed my soul once    it was as much as I could bear    that's the way sometimes when the soul's connected to every atom of the universe    one touch capsizes a world!    but strangely enough this wasn't the only instance I've felt brushed by that Wing    more and more I feel lifted     as if an immense and invisible Ardor now envelopes me!    surpassing even the tenderest human touch     an Angel's wing-beats guide me home


     I long for the day when the human race finally wakes up. Some individuals already have, but most remain fitfully asleep, tormented by bad dreams. The common denominator of these nightmares is the delusion that we're inherently separate and divided beings. But those who are awake know otherwise.


     the sleepers tossing and turning in their scratchy cocoons dream they're awake    I know    that was me once    I won and lost many battles but sleepwalking all the while     so much still had to die!    those hypnotic self-images parading across the blaringly lit stage set of my mind     those famished eyes glaring from the pitch-black cellar of my fears    I dreamed I was a hero doomed to tragic fate     and what I dreamed came true

     real waking isn't the fitful glare that spasmodically shoots out from a lurid clash of phantoms and shadows    real waking's almost imperceptible    a radiance barely tinting the soul's horizon    it's not even noticed at first    mesmerized as we are by the glittering labyrinth of fun-house mirrors    seduced as we are by the appetite's endlessly gyrating merry-go-round    real waking comes soft    and silent    and slow

     but like an x-ray    penetrating every slightest crack and corner of being    until nothing's left except an emptiness that sings and shines    then everything living finds a home    what does it mean to be awake?    just this!    no more separation between us    no more barriers dividing heart from heart    suffering from compassion    grief from love    when sleepers awake we rise up joyously    freed at last of our old splintered shells


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Leaving Walls

     I feel like I should have something profound, or at least interesting, to say about the following two prose poems. But really, whatever's worthwhile to communicate I've already said in the pieces themselves. Please take from them what you need today.


     whenever I show up I'm also leaving    there's a gaping hole of no-longer-me left behind somewhere    birth was like that    what an exodus!    but did I have a choice?    since then I've been expelled bloody and squalling from womb after womb    leaving and arriving    two different sides of the same coin    when you find me tossed dumbstruck between grief and joy    you'll know I just lost one world and discovered another

    looking back it seems every moment's been a step in a dance of leaving    even now    though we're so close we almost breathe a single breath    some part of me's already three fourths gone    the pull of the horizon!    the tang of the unknown!    like a shark I must thrust forward or I'll die    leaving's how I experience birth and death simultaneously    I realize I'm never static but a sort of dreaming river    my vector's forever changing as I flow

     leaving's moving on but also leaving behind    one day you'll read this illuminated by the void of my absence    yet right now I'm pouring my whole being into these words    I'm taking your hand in mine with these words    I'm gazing deep into your eyes through these words    so leaving's letting go but also holding dear    I'm leaving you to enter a wormhole in the night    I'm leaving you this tracing of my soul


     Most of us are living inside a maze of dividing and constricting walls. It's time for them to come down.


     I think of an old stone wall in a field at night    it's like some long low creature scarcely breathing    the crickets don't seem alarmed though    now and then a bat flits and dives noiselessly above    these stones set apart grass from grass    dark from dark    space from space    I wish more walls were this humble    mottled with gaps and holes where starlight finds passage    I wish more walls were chastened by time    rendered harmless and beautiful

     I didn't know I was born into a labyrinth of invisible walls    they were all around me and some where already inside me but I didn't know    all I knew was a shadow blocking where the light came from    and the unappeasable wailing of a thing abandoned    a thing imprisoned and desolate    trained by this harsh curriculum I learned to construct my own walls    I became a world-class prodigy at walling out    and walling in

     but I'm finished with that now    "Tear down the walls!" is my new mantra and I don't apologize    tear down the walls cementing primal wounds to fresh horrors    tear down the walls dividing the kiss from the lips and the lover from the beloved    tear down the walls that shut minds    petrify hearts    blight souls    tear down the walls which command us to believe we're anything except    One


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Breaking Waves

     Here are the next two prose poems in the current series I've been writing.


     they say it's better to bend and bend so not to break     the green branch does this but the dry one snaps in two     yet sometimes breaking's the only way to change     how would the chick get born if the eggshell didn't break?    and what about that glaze of ice splintering on the pond each spring?    if I can't break with ghosts from the past I won't grow     if my heart was never broken I couldn't offer you safe haven there now

     on the other hand some things shouldn't break but they do and we can't always fix these     friendships for instance    I remember one that shattered into a thousand bleeding pieces     no matter how long I searched I could never find them all     other treasures we wished stayed whole are bones    vows    dreams    fine crystal    castles in the air    families    certain toys    and the human spirit

     then again a break can be a gap in time or space which let's us rest and opens up to unexpected worlds     when I take a break I stop pushing too hard and plodding grimly ahead      freeing my soul from the constricting carapace of cause and effect I come back home to the reality of here and now     a break can be a widening crack in my prison cell's wall     it can lead to a breakout     a hairsbreadth escape as liberating Light pours through!



     heaven and hell and everything between course through me in waves     yesterday I danced on the foaming crest     today I founder in the turbulent trough     I'm not a granite cliff but a sort of walking ocean through which ceaseless waves rise and fall     much is lost in those waves     much found     when a wave takes me it engulfs like my uttermost reality      when it throws me down I splinter into shards of yet another shattered world

     I think I was conceived smack in the curl of a breaking wave     there's this rawness in me     this need to thrust onward     this oneness with the surge and tumble     it's a rootlessness     a restless becoming     don't be fooled when you watch me standing quietly or sitting still     I'm cascading wildly somewhere     far out at the glittering edge     nothing but towering sky above     unplumbed depths below

     One day you'll wave as I pause briefly     silhouetted alone on the glowing horizon     and I'll wave back     but I won't return I'll keep going     I'll keep going until only my absence remains     just an empty space filled with the rising sun     I'll keep going    borne by that final wave which carries me beyond all others     beyond even these breakers of love and grief     horror and gladness     I'll keep going     until I find you again



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Turn And Smile

  I was in a dark place when I wrote "Smiles." Mostly (not surprisingly)  smiles have a happy association for me. Yet everything has its dark side too--even light (shadows), and there are times when I become more aware of that aspect, and have more need to express it. It's all part of the Great Dance.


     so many smiles I've drowned in    then they went away    like a beached fish I flopped around on the shore of their absence gasping for air    other smiles stayed but I didn't    I pulled back so far inside not even a bloodhound could find me    when you smile my buried wound might gape wide again in response    it looks like a smile but it's not it's a cry for help or pity or just the lament of an animal knowing it will die

     somewhere there's a smile which never stops -- the primordial smile of the universe    life and death are submerged in it    cruelty and kindness    the deepest trust and the worst betrayal    that's why a human smile can mean anything    that's why when I smile at you you should open and shut at the same time    we often mean well but when a predator bares its teeth you better be wary you can't be sure

     the withholding of a smile can be a weapon sharper than the keenest blade    children get sliced to pieces though they still walk and talk and pretend to be whole    if only we could recover the unsullied truth of a baby's first smile!    if only I could splice your smile and mine into a changeless and serene embrace!    I can't escape the smiles that enthrall my soul and the smiles that plunder it    every day    every day


   On a happier note, I never stay in a dark place too long. I arrive at a "turning point" -- a moment of truth when I'm able to change course and turn back toward the Light. Sometimes this metanoia can be a terribly hard rite of passage, but it's alway possible. All that's required is my soul's total and unconditional surrender.


     turn I tell myself    but saying and doing are two different things    I want to go on the same way as always    even though it always leads to a dead end or worse    turning means surrendering the known and risking the unknown    turning means letting go    dancing clueless    pivoting my fate on a wing and a prayer    there's no growth without turning    without turning I'd calcify into a breathing corpse

     how effortlessly the swift turns    skimming over a pond     and the oak's branches    they're parables of zigzag becoming!    no straight line calibrates life    what can't twist and turn petrifies    what won't open out to possibility clenches    a denying fist    turning's the way I incarnate my love    turning's a kiss I exchange with the universe!    turning and turning I align my soul with the wisdom of the stars

     turn with me now though every fear screams "march straight ahead!"   turn like a river's course    like the tide at its ebb    like this Earth as it spins through an ocean of space    turn to face me then turn away then back    I see now there's really nothing but turning    I see now a single changeless direction doesn't even exist!   when a butterfly emerges from the cocoon and spreads its wings    that's the way it sings "I'm turning!"


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dreaming My Toes

     "We are such stuff as dreams are made on," Prospero observes in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "and our little life is rounded with a sleep." Perhaps these words were echoing somewhere in the back of my mind when I wrote the following prose poem.


     is this the dream of a dream of a dream or am I awake?    maybe I'm more awake when I dream    bit by bit I peel the Infinite Onion    each peeling fascinates    yet its only the tiniest shred of a Reality that's boundless and inexhaustible    I feel the sunlight on my back but I know the night's deepening inside me    if you're dreaming me dreaming this please wake up    or sink further into your dream to where I keep watch for you

     perhaps there are countless universes cupped within each other like nesting dolls    each is the dreamworld of the next    every word every touch matters yet differently each time    our altered heartbeats echo strangely down scintillating corridors of mirrors from dimension to dimension    we're intergalactic time travelers    half asleep half awake    a million light years divide us    but we grow so much faster than light!

     when people no longer drink thirstily from roots webbing out like subterranean antennae through the loamy sediments of their dreams they begin to sicken and die    or else go crazy    programless cyborgs crashing helplessly against the sterile walls of cyberspace    I carry my dreams in a wind-colored knapsack and take one out to wear whenever cold calculation threatens to freeze my soul    here    I brought an extra dream-coat for you


     I never wrote a poem to my toes before. But now I wonder how I could have lyrically ignored them for so long. Viva my toes!

                           MY TOES

      thank you little piggies for hanging in there all these years    forgive me if I've ever taken you for granted as I know I have    you line up so alertly by size places    flex so eagerly as if trying to grip the earth    wherever I go you thrust right out in front    even willing to be stubbed just to get there first    remember that warehouse job when both big toenails were crushed?    they turned black and finally fell off    you guys are my heroes!

     I think of all the times I stepped on a land mine    blundered into a quicksand bog    or recklessly waltzed where Angels fear to tread    yet you never complained    never cringed in abject surrender    never begged to be let off the hook    no matter how rough the going or how long the march you always showed up and did your best    with ten more friends like you I'd be king of the world!

     not only that    you were my earliest playmates:    this little piggy went to market    this little piggy stayed home    this little piggy had roast beef    this little piggy had none    and this little piggy...went "wee wee wee" all the way home!    look    you can still wriggle and splay and I realize that's how you laugh    one thing's for sure -- whenever my toes curl I'm in heaven!    we've been loyal buddies for a lifetime and even death won't part us


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Stone And A Breath

     Here are two more prose poems from a series of 30 I'm currently writing. Each turns out to be another discovery. Beyond the title, I never know how one will start or how it will end. Even simple words like "stone" and "breath" have multiple meanings, connotations, associations, interconnections. All these in turn converge with what's going on in my heart and mind and life at that moment of creative expression. Finally, there's an inspiring Spirit, or Muse, which I hope will infuse and transform my efforts. But this visitation can never be assumed, only supplicated. As T.S. Eliot wrote: "Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,/Every poem an epitaph."

                          A STONE

       a stone is a point we can start from     return to    is there someone home inside?   the space there could be huger than a universe!    many stones arrive as messengers   small   smooth   polished    others are almost heavy as boulders    I've sought solace in their shadows    if I give you a stone I offer the part of me living within it    if you give me one I'll keep it for those times I can't be alone

     here's a small heart-shaped amber-colored stone    translucent when held to the light    you can see faint striations embedded    this is the only stone I'll never part with    this is the stone containing five deaths and five rebirths    while hidden deep is a hologram of the Milky Way    if everyone cherished a stone like this the killing would stop    the companionship of stones is greater than the violence of nations

     find the stone you won't part with    and the Furies can never abduct you    find the stone that nestles in your hand like a tiny beating heart    it will grant safe passage through all nine circles of hell    a sacred stone trails an invisible thread connecting to a secret star    all the news we need to know hums back and forth between them!    the whispers of stones and stars we've never imagined crisscross at the crux of our souls...



     breath after breath I'm paying out my life    many more have come and gone already than remain    what the sum total will mean I can't say    nothing at all if I go just by the numbers    less than the barest whisper of a whisper among the infinite worlds    yet there are no other breaths sweeter than these    I'm absurdly attached to them!    although every one I draw must inescapably be given away

     I want each breath to count for something    but thousands go by while I'm off on a comet    clueless    or possessed by all-too familiar demons    what could be richer    rarer    than each individual breath?    how do I make each one matter    taken and returned with impeccable attention?    when I can do that my own breath unites with the breathing of oceans and mountains    it's only then my soul comes home

    when you and I meet and our breaths mingle    who can calculate the consequences?    the rhythm of the births and deaths of stars transforms us!    one day this truth will be known everywhere and lived full out    each breath will be treasured--a gift more precious than bushels of diamonds!    when I breathe my last breath I want to breathe it with total conviction    to know I'm connected unconditionally to All-That-Is




Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Branches And Faces

      In my previous post I concluded with the first in a series of new prose poems, along with its companion drawing--a vision of an Angel holding a lamp illuminating the good green path of life. This is my Spirit Guide and Creative Muse. These prose poems represent the next evolution of my writing, but only as that literary change corresponds to the further evolution of my soul. With these earliest prose poems I was still tentatively feeling my way into new territory--which is why "A Branch", although already in the three stanza form which characterizes each poem of the entire series, is so brief. But in the second prose poem presented here--"Facing It"--I began to expand the size to nearly what it would be for the rest of these pieces.

     This commitment to continuously "make it new" is the only way I know to prevent burning out and drying up as a writer--keep growing, keep changing, keep reinventing my creative self, keep starting afresh with Beginner's Mind.

                          A BRANCH

     forking this way but not that   it's my life    both green and dried out    fruitful and barren    once the buds crowded and jostled for room    now I carefully tend each    never knowing if there'll be more

     certain olive branches were extended but I refused them    others I offered were spurned    I craved peace but feared touching    the branch of my being angled farther and farther from the rest

     but still    a branch    still connected to something immense    unknowable    with roots that plunge deep    beyond sight or hearing    when the wind takes me I dance    not needing to understand why


                           FACING IT

     face it    that's what we say about death    truth    facts    the music    even as our face itself breaks apart    sags down    splits up into creases and fissures    I try willing my words to crackle with the fire of twenty years ago!    but something's missing and won't come back    a billion brain cells    or maybe just the delusion that what they thought actually matters

     little by little    like it or not    my face turns slowly away from this world    my attachments here     my craving for another body to hold and be held by    another heart to break with my going    faces that once were fixed stars gradually disappear    long forgotten names stare blindly from an old address book    I release them all    they fall through my hands

     turning slowly away from this world    what is it we face into?    what new world compels our attention    requires our gaze?    I can't see it clearly yet    but certain contours are forming    certain shapes emerging    their meaning seems to be this:   what we call "love" is only a fraction of the Reality    we must be emptied out and cracked wide open to receive it!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mandalas And Angels

     Last December I was going through a tough stretch. I felt strung out, anxious, depressed. So I took some creative time off and started a drawing. What came forth was a colorful, balanced, luminous mandala--the very antithesis of all the difficult issues and emotions with which I'd been struggling! Working on it was the perfect mental, emotional and spiritual therapy. As I pondered the mandala I'd just created however, I realized my artwork needed a chaotic, Dionysian Yang to counterbalance the mandala's harmonious, Apollonian Yin. The completed drawing below is the result. A few days later I wrote "Genesis" its companion poem. This poem articulates my own interpretation of the meaning, relationship and dynamic involving these two contrasting elements in the artwork. But that doesn't exclude the validity of other interpretations as well. What does the interplay of these two contrasting energies mean to you?



I stake my soul on a Light I cannot see using just
everyday eyes     I gamble my bones on a Birth
that's impossible     yet keeps happening anyway
these are harsh times to be playing the Holy Fool
nevertheless I bet the farm     no going back now

which doesn't mean I don't stare into the abyss
don't hear there a howling that craves to destroy
horror's in me so deep it sucks ecstasy from death
but having a choice    I choose the serene Shining
a voice in my heart unclenches    shouting "Yes!"

then a wild universe of green worlds bursts free
each spawning life    abundant life    infinite life!
everything dark and raging inside's only a womb
its fierce emptiness aches to be filled   so I fill it
I nourish it with the radiant manna of the Divine


     A few months ago I hit a creative wall with my writing. This has happened before. I realize whenever it does it means I must change, must once again reinvent myself as a poet. This is the only way I know to keep my creative spirit green and growing. The direction of change this time pointed toward the prose poem--a tricky, ambiguous, unfamiliar form occupying a shifting borderland somewhere between the airy flight of poetry and the earthy stride of prose. So one day I spontaneously jotted down a list of 30 short, basic, commonly used words, such as "lamp", "branch", "face", "stone", etc. These words each provided both a title and a theme for one or another of the prose poems. And since the first word which came to me was "lamp," that word became the title for the series as a whole. A few days later the poem "The Lamp"  inspired the drawing which concludes this blog entry. As has happened at other key turning points in my life, a guiding Angel appeared in a vision to show me the good green path of the way. 

                          THE LAMP

     it's held aloft in the right hand of an Archangel     one who stands silently    expectantly     I don't know what this Messenger wants     but those unblinking eyes never leave my face     the enormous distance between us!     the impossible closeness between us!     the beams from that Lamp penetrate like an x-ray     every thought   feeling   desire   mercilessly revealed

     I can turn away     walk away     run away at any time     but I can no longer not realize I'm doing this     no longer not know that each step farther from that Lamp     from the Sentinel holding it     means more cracks splinter my heart     more phantoms poison my soul     my freedom to choose is devastating and unconditional

     so I endure the staggering intimacy     though this nakedness leaves me exposed   defenseless     I know I am seen    encompassed    transcended to the innermost core!     it's almost beyond what I can bear     but what I cannot bear is worse     if an Archangel no longer stood at the crossroads of my being     holding out a Lamp to drive back the dark


"The Lamp"


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More Companion Poems/Artworks

    Usually my companion poems and drawings are created very close to each other in time, whichever comes first. In the following instance however, the poem "Nectar" (which appears in my book BLACK BUTTERFLY: Poems For A Muse) dates from over three and a half years earlier than its companion drawing, "The Music From On High." I can't explain why in this case it took so long for the drawing to join its companion poem.


To hear the music falling from on high,
you must climb alone, without a lifeline,
to the highest place. There is no other way.
And this ascent will cost you everything.

To sip the nectar of the gods, you can't
still be what once you were--self-obsessed,
walled up behind the ego's armor, terrified.
Only nakedness and emptiness will serve.

At first, there's silence--serene, immense,
profound. Listen. Every wind has stopped.
Breathless beneath that dome of solitude,
you no longer doubt. Finally, you know.

Words cannot describe this music. Even
thought is pointless now. You've become
the melody--it inspires every part of you.
Soaring free, nothing remains but praise!


"The Music From On High"


     Last year I did a series of eight co-created collages with a friend, four of which we then supplemented with co-created companion poems. It was one of the most amazing creative experiences of my life! Sadly however, shortly after this we had a falling out and she chose to make that estrangement permanent, abruptly severing all contact between us. This left me stuck in grieving and struggling for closure. Thankfully, another friend suggested I create one final collage by myself as way of finding both personal and artistic closure to this intense collaborative communion of souls. This I did with the collage "Finding The Final Frontier" below, then quickly followed it up with a companion poem with the same title. The poem is dedicated to my friend Cara, who understood what I needed to do to heal.

"Finding The Final Frontier"

(for Cara)

when the pain suddenly erupts and you're splashed
with its fiery lava you stand stunned for a while in shock
disoriented    not even realizing your soul's on fire
till your own shadow points to the blaze of the wound

then you grieve so hard your face feels like it's cracking
as your hands grope helplessly among the wreckage
but they don't really look like your hands anymore
just occult symbols splayed on some prehistoric wall

eventually though a kind of hushed formal dance begins
cooling your cindered brain    spreading its healing balm
soothing the still-scorched synapses    out of nowhere
a face-painted shaman chants a prayer and casts a spell

now a violet anemone blooms from drowned ashes
that exotic bird with bright blue beak squawks its news
surely there's welcoming haven somehwere in the world
a primal hearth waiting    its dooryard swept clean

when a woman presses her cheek against a pony's neck
she's saying "I love you" in language deeper than words
when a panda smiles with a stalk of bamboo in his mouth
he's saying "everything that lives is born from joy!"