Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Naked In The Blast

                         CRACKED OPEN

this poem isn't about the looming extinction
of African elephants     now being slaughtered
at an even faster rate than they can reproduce
what can I do?    I've never set a foot in Africa

my cringing brain just won't stretch around it
anymore than I can save that newborn baby
thrown away in the dumpster    or get there
before the suicide slices deeper into her vein

yet ever since my heart cracked open I can't
not hear    not see    not know the enormity
of suffering in the world    I can't block it out
stop it    or twitch my horrified self to stone

I try "Be Here Now" and "Follow Your Bliss"
but here and now is each instant everywhere
my soul's bound together with all that's alive
I'm the elephant I kill    I'm this grieving man


      Keat's wrote of the poet's "negative capability", by which he meant a kind of creative empathy that can identify with, even imaginatively become, everyone and everything the poet encounters. This is a blessing, and a curse. As the last line of "Cracked Open" shows, it means I can identify both with the slaughtered elephant, and with the poacher who kills it. Once our heart is cracked open, the whole world pours through.

                     ALMOST NOTHING

no matter how I slice it    I don't want to die
what comes after    if anything    I don't know
life itself is so wild    funny    horrid    strange
I stare into the mirror    but who stares back?

sometimes I'm exhausted    it hurts to breathe
where's the point in my blabbing on like this?
among infinite multiverses   an almost nothing
sits at a computer   pecks doggedly at the keys

I do what I do because I do it   that's all   "why"
is a lost glove in a blizzard    it can't find home
too many directions won't explain themselves
too many walls won't shatter or sprout wings

once a Light--piercing! unimagined!--capsized
my soul    my inner world shuddered on its axis
I'm still chopping wood    lugging pails of water
but awake now:  awestruck    clueless    blessed


     While at my most hopeful I believe the soul transcends death; that death is a portal into another dimension of consciousness, I'm not always at my most hopeful. At these times, I resonate more with Shakespeare's description of death: "That undiscovered country, from who's bourne no traveler returns..." Yet my soul has also been "capsized" by a piercing, unimaginable mystic Light! So I'm spiritually awake now, which doesn't mean all doubt disappears. Rather, such doubt becomes the crucible for a more stringently tempered belief.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015



they were gathered around her
the old women    converging on
the eldest one    she looked lost
frail    shrunk in her wheelchair

they were gathered around her
worried by her sudden faltering
spinning a warm cocoon of love
hands    eyes    voices    presence

they were gathered around her
the guardians    all ministering
their solidarity primal as night
each heart a stay against death


   I observed this scene in a senior living community, where I work part-time as a security officer. On one level, it was commonplace, everyday. In a deeper, more universal way, however, it seemed almost mythic, an archetype embodying how the Old Wise Women of all times and places draw together in a protective circle of love to care for one of their own. 

                                CARPE DIEM

juicy blackberries and banana slices over granola
soaking in a bath of milk and cream    along with
half an "everything" bagel    a glass of apple juice

morning slants in stripes through the mini-blinds
capping a good night's sleep and a luminous dream
about a sacred child and a father with cobalt eyes

an old man can feel like a flea under death's armpit
yet alive and still kicking on this sun-drenched day
what else can I do but slingshot my voice in praise!

outside my window a cold wind racks the branches
inside raggedy slippers all ten toes curl and uncurl
heartbeat by heartbeat I kiss each second as it flies!


     Just being in the moment, here and now, truly, deeply experiencing through all our capacities, fully awake--the heart overflows with praise! As long as we can still revel in such simple, humble pleasures, the only response must be an unequivocal Attitude of Gratitude!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


                           THE MUSE

                                 "Are you the one who came
                To Dante, who dictated the pages of Hell
                To him?" I ask her. She replies, "I am."

                                                                       -- Anna Akhmatova 

across ninety years    half a world away    I'm
there    that singular room with Akhmatova
we wait beneath the towering Russian night 
until    tossing aside her shadow-riddled veil
the "beloved guest" overwhelmingly arrives

Akhmatova receives the stringent messenger
she can't know    although she already knows
The Muse will dictate to her the harsh pages
of another hell    keening the cruelest agony 
a mother who cannot save her doomed child

when the austere Invisibles command a life
the soul ignites    ravished by that reckoning
we remain small    fractured and incomplete
but some Power--vast   unafraid   imperious!
possesses us    cascading through the cracks


                             The Muse

     Browsing in the poetry section of a book store, my hand happened to pull from the shelf a selection of poems by the great 20th Century Russian lyric poet Anna Akhmatova; and the book "happened" to fall open to her 1924 poem "The Muse." The poem stunned me, especially the lines I quote at the beginning of my own poem "The Muse", which I wrote in response to hers. A few days later I drew my vision of Akhmatova's Muse, and in the process had another revelation: Dante's Muse, and Akhmatova's, and my own Muse, are one and the same. 

                       Night Comes On

one bright star glitters low in the west--
     caught at the fringe of a long dark cloud
         the sky deepens from blue to indigo

two dark clouds sprawl low in the west
     a vee of geese wings toward the horizon
         the sky deepens as night comes on

the sky deepens    night comes on as Earth
     peers like a watery eye through the void
        one bright star glitters low in the west

seven wild geese arrow toward the horizon
     over the streetlights and crouched houses
        the sky deepens from indigo to black

a last faint glimmer of dusk drains away
     cold wind splinters into a thousand stars!
        the roofless sky deepens    night comes on


                   Night Comes On

         One night, as I left work, I looked up as a vee of geese winged across the evening sky. That vision stayed with me, until it found expression in the poem "Night Comes On." Then, about a week later, both vision and poem inspired my drawing. Too often, we look, but we don't see. This time I did both, and so was reminded how astonishingly beautiful our world can be.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015



clinging to the underside of a leaf    fragile wings
folded    as raindrops strike its surface    my soul
lies low in the magical darkness     far removed
from timetables   deadlines   checklists   agendas

if there's some secret passage to another world
it's this    where time dissolves into timelessness
here every splash of rain is rare    strange    new
listen    our sentient planet's murmuring to itself

have you a safe refuge for the absconding soul
a holy place beyond the clutch of life or death?
without one we drown in obsession and illusion
go now    take flight    your hideout's in Eternity!


     Any moment we can Wake Up and tune in to the Divine and Miraculous which is always here, all around us, hidden in plain sight. But most of the time we're asleep--too caught up in brooding over the past; too distracted by the present, or too anxious about the future. A couple of Wake-Up catalysts for me have always been trees and rain. In this poem they come together, and the epiphany is magic!

                 TOUGH LOVE

intimate    elemental    a cold wind
stalks outside    agitating branches
just beyond my flimsy windowpane

winter's coming it warns    and one
will break you    will be your last

of those close companions I trust
it's the wind that pulls no punches
unsentimental    straight to the bone

tough love    taking my breath away!
but hugs and kisses don't always work

strange    to feel comforted by chaos--
the sky's slap!  emptiness with attitude!
a rough bodyguard named The Universe

some night I'll plunge into its gusty void
and keep going--star after star after star...


     This poem can be considered the macrocosmic Yang to the previous poems microcosmic Yin--with wind the elemental agent, rather than rain. As "Hideout" expresses how the Eternal is secretly present in the smallest discoveries all around us ("To see a world in a grain of sand..." -- William Blake), so "Tough Love" evokes the Awful Sublime of the Infinite, that undiscovered country on the other side of death.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015



"May it be a light to you in dark places,
when all other lights go out."

we see merely a fleeting refraction of that Light
glowing sometimes in the eyes of lover or friend
or glistening briefly at dawn just before the sun
edges its fiery rim slowly above the horizon
or lacing the deepening shadows of dusk
as those brightest first stars begin to shine

I've heard rumors of that Light now and then
a refrain sung so piercingly sweet   so aching pure
my heart could no longer fit inside my chest
but broke free   opening out like a radiant blossom
expanding till it encompassed both earth and sky!
yet no such image can possibly contain it

my mind strains mightily but can't find words
for this Reality reaching forever beyond words
a Beacon that's guided me through living hell
inspiring hope when every hope was blasted away
infusing courage though I stood paralyzed with fear
a dazzling shaft of Eternity bursting into time!

found and lost   found and lost   found again!
the greatest wisdom isn't gleaned from any teacher
it's only learned through being--all other knowing
trumped by our soul's transcendent revelation!
everyone's a sacred vessel--a Phial of Galadriel
the Light that saves us    is the Light we are


     "The Phial of Galadriel" is, of course, from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings. It's the sacred gift Galadriel, Queen of the Elves, gives to Frodo when he and the other eight members of the Fellowship journey through Lothlorien on their way to Mordor. Frodo later fends of Shelob, the horrible giant spider (for a time) with The Phial. It seemed to me Galadriel's Phial could be used as a symbol for the Divine Light of our own souls, and that's how I deployed it in this poem.

          SWEET CLOVER

I'm back inside the fold today
munching sweet clover again
grass of blissful coming home

yesterday I thrashed about
oozing self-pity and bitterness
turning away   blaming God

Divine Light won't gutter out
Grace cascades unquenchable
yet I felt splintery   bereft

how could it go otherwise?
how could I be safe or whole
estranged from my inmost Self?

today though I scoured my soul
tearing down its rigid walls
flinging wide the brittle gates

my stubborn ego caved to One
Who envelops like atmosphere!
I breathed in   opened   bowed

now I munch the sweetest grass
holy sustenance grown for me
clover of blissful coming Home


     The gleam of Divinity is always there, at the core of my being. But I have a thousand ways of blinding myself, alienating myself from my Eternal Source--self-pity, bitterness, fear, rage, etc. That's what I know about hell. Yet I'm never "damned" unless I choose to be. And when I finally choose not to be "estranged from my inmost Self", then I find I'm back inside the fold again, munching that sweetest grass--"clover of blissful coming Home."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


                 ISN'T THIS THE TIME
                 (for Charles Stonewall)

isn't this the time--right now!--when you
can no longer keep yourself from dancing
since every molecule's bursting with soul?

isn't this the time--right now!--when bliss
breaks out all over     and the nightmares
snaring you release their strangling clutch?

you leap up suddenly     both arms raised
splayed hands harvesting fistfuls of Light
thrum!  go your bones--they will not stop!

isn't this the time--right now!--the waking
when doubt disappears     when the faces
of flowers beam     swiveling to greet you?

O this is the time--right now!--that heaven
ignites a vision in your eyes    and you see
through every guise   the exaltation of love


                               Handfuls of Light

     Virtually all my drawings either inspire a poem or, as here, are inspired by one. In this way, two sides of my creative spirit--apparently the masculine and feminine--come together and dance as one.  Expressed through companion pieces, each then helps to illuminate the other, evoking together a larger visionary synthesis.

The City At Dusk

             THE CITY AT DUSK

visible from space    the city at dusk
scintillates    a capsized constellation

or it may be the galactic mother ship
arriving in splendor to gather us home

drugs    knifings    drive-by shootings
still plague    devour    but camouflaged

with enough distance even the worst
goes veiled in the bedazzle of miracle!

stark silhouettes braille against the sky
set aflame by sunset's guttering glow--

bare trees    the crisscrossed branches
stitching together twin firmaments

glyphs that spell  "as above so below"
arteries binding the city to the stars


    In this instance, the drawing inspired the poem. There's a paradox here. So much crime and violence go down in our cities every day. Yet viewed from a distance, in the softening, luminous light of dusk, the city appears magical! I allude to both realities in my poem. But the drawing especially evokes the magical dimension. Here's an example of how companion pieces--poem and drawing--together can express a greater richness of meaning and experience.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

River Of Love

                    DICED VEGGIES

like a finely calibrated antenna attuned
to a single exquisite frequency I receive
the most delicate nuances of your soul

even those tiny bright earrings you wear
glitter in my thoughts--scintillant as stars
while the silver polish coating your nails

matches precisely my raptest admiration
you express more shades between white
and black than Eskimos perceive in snow

this world spreads many gaudy banquets
cakes gussied up to deceive blinded eyes
and ensnare groping hearts     no matter

I'd rather taste your artfully diced veggies
--bits of love you prepare so impeccably--
than gorge myself on that feast for fools


      In matters of love, often less is more--at least that's the way I experience it. In style, I'm attracted to subtlety, nuance, refinement, originality, understatement, elegance, the minimally indispensable. Such qualities engage both my senses and my soul. When sufficient time and space leaven a relationship, enough room is left to savor what's unique and beautiful.


did you ever wonder
why love can be so blind
such a hit-or-miss type thing?

Jack's pining away for Jill
too bad--Jill yearns for Jane
while Jane worships Joe!

and how forlorn a dog acts
abandoned by its human
it will never find a home

sometimes a rushing river
bursts upon us--but we're
too flimsy to contain it

we can't control when
it overwhelms our banks
or predict where it will flow

if even the tiniest runnel
of Love's elemental torrent
cascades through our heart

we've got all we can handle
keeping our head above water
just snatching a breath or two


      I've been swept along, swept away, by Love's "rushing river"; and even though I wound up bruised and gasping on the rocks, I realize, for a time, I was flooded by a God. Anyone who's felt this irresistible power of Eros pouring through them toward another, knows what I mean. We only can say "yes" or "no" to election by the God. And if we say "yes", then love's river possesses our hearts. Wherever it takes us, for better or worse, there we must go...


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Declaring Love


we don't need them around anymore

the logic choppers    the bean counters
and hairsplitters    the control freaks who
snuff out our joy and pin dead butterflies
to the rigid straitjackets of their pride

we can't permit them access anymore

those traffickers in still-beating hearts
the users and takers who worship nothing
except their own insatiable appetites

it's time to throw off that brainwashing!

I've rediscovered a Universal Grammar
and the only pronoun it recognizes is "we"

there's a Holy Light irradiating everything
It can never be bought    sold    possessed

so we won't listen to the frauds anymore

the hawkers of glitzy trinkets and gewgaws
the pushers of money and power and fame

now that I've seen the real Treasure blazing
those counterfeit glories are worthless to me


  Where's the real Treasure? Our materialistic culture screams every day that it's in "money and power and fame." But this is a destructive, consuming lie. Once we've seen, experienced "a Holy Light irradiating everything" we realize that the Divine Source, the Pearl Beyond Price, is always present and available within us, and shining forth as well all around us. There's an open, empty, waiting place inside which can only be filled by God.

                               HYMN TO GAIA
                             (for Rob Amerine)

I hear your voice this morning    so quiet and small
whispering through the tiny clusters of white buds
on the asparagus fern    their delicate almond scent

of course it's just one of your numberless languages
another roared in that F-5 tornado! yes-devastation
is also you speaking    yet you sing to us in birdcalls

how many nights I listen while you kiss the leaves
with rain    how many days your winds compel me
you go your own deep ways    destroying    creating

Earth Mother    not a single instant rocks my world
when every naked atom isn't thrumming with you
I'm your flesh your blood your creature your child!

teach is to dwell here always in a sacred manner
to understand even a pebble is imbued with soul
teach us to realize--each breath we take is a prayer

I suffer from a primal wound that will never close
unless I align my whole self harmoniously with you
I hunger for justice transcending the ego's appetite

in the still small voice of fragrant buds blossoming
I come home to you    receive the balm of your love
nothing less than our total union will heal me now


     As a species, we're lurching headlong down an unsustainable path, and climate change is just one of the many warning sirens blaring in our ears. Ultimately, our only hope to change this, is to transform our consciousness; to return once more to spiritual balance, to sacred communion with all life and with the living Earth herself.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Soul And Heart

                INEXPLICABLE JOY
                     (for Vic Martin)

the noon sun the blue sky the cold wind
                 and this inexplicable joy
cannot be separated

                             I'm in awe by how
everything's connected         by what free
wide-open directions
              shoot forth from my soul

don't tell me it can't be true
                I know otherwise
           I've parsed the hidden maps
                             cracked the secret codes                           

two and two don't always make four
     what goes up
                        doesn't always come down
it's just a complicated excuse
                             for the side effects
                                                       of miracle

the noon sun the blue sky the cold wind
    and this inexplicable joy
                        cannot be separated

I'm flat-out tipsy 
       to be born a living   breathing
                             dumbstruck part of it all


     Sheer Joy is the fountaining Source of the Universe, and that Source is the quintessence of each of us. When we're at home inside, one with our own Divinity, then we know Joy as our birthright--not a treasure we hunger for from this world, but a miracle we pour forth into the world. We're not born to be consumers, but Creators! Embracing and expressing our own Joy is the crux of our creativity.


you don't choose it    it chooses you
quietly as a feather dropping   or loud
as the roof collapsing on your head
either way you'll know    just wait

all is the same   everything's different
you never surrender   yet always yield
yes   be ready for paradox   it becomes
the air you drink    water you breathe

nothing seems so ordinary
nothing could be more bizarre
one day an earthquake can't move you
the next--a simple touch rocks your world!

each instant arrives sans instructions
you must assemble them all from scratch
the sky and earth will help a little
the moon can explain a thing or two

you lose importance    gain meaning
every hour your footprints get smaller
but your cracked-open heart expands
until there's nobody left outside it


      If Joy is the Source, Love is the Path, and Love is always the "path with a heart"--different in its particulars for each of us, but universal in its summoning of the highest purpose and deepest meaning for our lives. At the same time, our path with a heart is inescapably paradoxical. Why? Because it begins and ends in the unfathomable mystery of God.