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