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!"