Blue Cliff Record #99

"Jesus died to save you," say the Christians.
Buddha, also, dies to save you.
The twist, though, is you must kill him yourself --
And know you haven't been saved from anything.

2016 Jan

Gateless Gate #17

Calling calls and stands alone, complete.
Answering answers and stands alone, complete.
Thus do you and I, each other's attendant, each other's master,
Disappear into solitary completeness.

2015 Dec

Book of Serenity #5

I went down to Luling to buy a bag of rice.
I paid something for it: the essence of Buddhism, I guess.
Even though the bag proved to be empty
I have been living on that rice ever since.

2015 Dec

Gateless Gate #29

So wind, flag, and mind all move.
So neither wind, nor flag, nor mind move.
Both are true.
Indeed, they are the same truth.

2015 Dec

Gateless Gate #23

Ming's primal face, without thinking good or evil, was thinking good and evil.
Maybe he knew. If so, what then? Softening? Hardening?
To become dry, dive into the lake.
Steadfast attention to the grip
Is the only release.

2015 Nov

Blue Cliff Record #67

Other masters of the time opened their mouths, spoke at length,
Polished and clarified the Diamond, edified audiences.
Today we speak of Fu, who spoke not,
And speak not of the masters who spoke.
Were not Baozhi's ghost whispering the poisonous question, "Have you understood?"
We would not distinguish chatter from silence.

2015 Nov

Gateless Gate #41

No one's arm was lost,
No weapons, no defenses, cut through;
Thus peace and disarming mutually entail --
And both are always already established.

2015 Nov

Blue Cliff Record #1, Book of Serenity #2

The deep meaning of the holy truth is that there is no holy truth.
Therefore, not knowing pervades everywhere
Like a mountain mist, like a speck of mud on a trouser leg --
Like a sincere and pious prayer.

2015 Nov

Book of Serenity #3

Every dharma is dharma.
Realizing realizes.
He can recite the suchness-sutra
But can he shut up?

2015 Oct

Blue Cliff Record #78

Just find fifteen intimate friends,
And follow the rule.
The water takes care of everything.
Nothing to pierce. Nothing to break through.

2015 Oct

Blue Cliff Record #84, Book of Serenity #48

Watch them play, Manjusri and Vimalakirti.
See the one's chatter enact the other's silence.
The one's silence enact the other's chatter.
Watch them play, Xuedou and Hongzhi,
Recapitulating the ancients.
All the words there ever were are contained in your silence.
The vast and void silence is contained in your every word.
How then will you speak? How remain silent?
How enter the gate of Not-Two?

2015 Oct

Gateless Gate #22

Breathing in, Ananda. Breathing out, yes, Master.
Breathing in, yes, Master. Breathing out, Ananda.
Breathing in, flagpole knocked down. Breathing out, flagpole raised.
Breathing in, flagpole raised. Breathing out, flagpole knocked down.

2015 Oct

Gateless Gate #6

If you are genuine,
like a running brook, like a crow,
Or like that weed in Buddha's hand,
Then the treasury is transmitted to you
Every time you smile, and
Every time you don't.
If you ask, "how can I become genuine?" then you are lost.
Sit down, shut up, and see
That you have never not been.

2015 Oct

Blue Cliff Record #97, Book of Serenity #58

The people hate you, of course.
They know you for the liar, the thief, the murderer that you are.
Can you be saved? Redeemed?
Maybe. Just tell me this:
How deeply grateful are you for their hatred?

2015 Sep

Blue Cliff Record #94, Book of Serenity #88

When the beloved's smile lights up your world, you don't see it.
Isn't it just you, through and through: smile, light, beloved?
Later, groping for the memory, you believe you saw it,
And the world dims. Also you.

2015 Aug


Gateless Gate #42

Buddhas gather so they can return to their original dwelling.
They return so they can gather again at the next Buddha party.
She, unnamed and untitled,
Her light and its snares one,
Surpasses their backing and forthing.

2015 Aug

Blue Cliff Record #92, Book of Serenity #1

Each moment, a gavel bang.
Each moment as sharp as that whack.
This is the Dharma of the Dharma-King.
Birthless, deathless, thunderingly silent.

2015 Aug


Gateless Gate #32, Blue Cliff Record #65

Such earnestness and no asking.
Miles and miles beneath the sun and under the moon
Climbing mountains, crossing rivers, getting lost in the woods:
A long journey for nothing.

2015 Jun

Book of Serenity #4

Mountains, rivers, God’s green earth
Spring sanguinaria, autumn moonlight,
Lightning flashes light up the pines.
Indra would have more quickly built the temple
Had he left the grass stalk where it was.

2015 Jun


Meditation 17,514

"If a clod be washed from the shore, Europe is the less....Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." -John Donne, Meditation 17

Though I am, and perhaps you, too, are, weird,
though I am, and perhaps you, too, are a bundle of idiosyncratic brain chemicals and neural circuitry that render incompetent and useless,
though my thoughts which seem to be insights and important are neither, are trivial or trite or false,
though I cannot grasp an original truth of interest,
though I am a clod washed from the shore, as, perhaps, are you, too,
still I am strangely necessary. You, too. This weirdness
is not ours, but the universe's, or God's.
Can this be said?
I think: not like this.
I am (and perhaps you, too, are) here to love, and that can be said.
The bell that tolls for thee, for all of us,
tolls for me, too --
for my grief and loss,
and for my death and passing, though my every pass
is incomplete.
I can still sometimes catch yours --
just get it somewhere in my vicinity, OK?

White Plains, 2017 May


About Both

Flapjack, garnish weasel,
Ace of space,
Lost and found beside himself.

Gristleburger, condimentarily,
Chewer of numbers.
Bar graph barracuda, pie charts like sly darts.

Flappie and GB hang on edges.
It's not about Harlem, they say.
It's about fecund and fatal
Versus neither
Or just one.

Charlotte, NC, 2015.08.07


Black Tresses Still

Reflections off bedsheets
On white bodies spill.
   Her long fingers curling,
      Strong, lost eyes there burning . . .
Black tresses still.

Lips quiver their redness
To swallow at thrill.
Neck pulsates, throat gestures,
In vibrating drill.
   Her whole body gasping,
      Arms constantly moving . . .
Black tresses still.

Years later I found her
As death sent its chill
Her pallid eyes open
Revealing no will.
Now here she lies rotting
'Neath this very hill.
   Lips of no redness
      Eyes merely hollows
         No breath at all . . .
Black tresses still.

Carrollton, GA, 1980

Epistle to Dr Mathews

(from an American Lit student)

Dear Sir, I have a strange complaint
You do not often hear.
It's just me, really, not your fault.
I've been this way for years.

I have an ailment: I'm fertile ground
And words in me plant seed.
Thus, whether, then, for good or ill,
I must act on what I read.

Last year I read some pastorals,
And had to rent a farm.
And once, while steeped in Beowulf
I near tore off my roommate's arm.

In pretty pots I sought the truth
And all else I need to learn
For two weeks after I had read
"Ode On a Grecian Urn."

I'm awfully glad that these effects
Are not forever fixed,
Else 'tween Rod McKuen and Jean Genet,
I'd be a soul most oddly mixed.

Well, now I'm living in a shack.
I rise each day at dawn.
I have no heat, 'Twas cold last night,
But I'll be no one's pawn.

For the past 10 days I've been transcending
And I've communed with the woods.
And, of course, I think for my own self
As I'd never thought I could.

But I'll be glad when this is done:
To in my car once more go.
So when will we at last be through
With Emerson and Thoreau?

Carrollton, GA, 1980



". . . speech does not only register or express a traumatic psychic life; the entry into speech is in itself a traumatic fact. . . . speech does not simply express/articulate psychic turmoils; at a certain key point, psychic turmoils themselves are a reaction to the trauma of dwelling in the 'torture-house of language.'" (Slavoj Zizek, "The Poetic Torture-House of Language." Poetry. 2014 Mar. 566)
Speak, tell, say.
What can I say? What can I say?
What did he say, she say?
He said, she said.
What do you say?
Is it something I said?
Say, now.
You don't say.
Or do you?
Let the witness speak. Tell us what you saw the night of the twenty-third.
What do you have to say for yourself, young man?
Speak up.
Who can say?
Who am I to say?

Some masters of old, so it is said,
whacked their students to jolt them into awakening --
Knock away ego
Reveal that death is impossible
Because the thing thought susceptible
Is an illusion
A brief eddy in the river of being, or not even --
A fleeting ripple
Given a name and spoken
into a flash
of delusion of
Other masters, or the same ones on different occasions, grabbed a student by the collar,
shouted, "speak!"
And tossed them aside when they stammered, faltered, could
Not in that moment injure being, shove it into the torture-house of language.
Hence, the point.

Join me in this dungeon for putting the thumbscrews to each other.
Speak, which is to say, scream the pain of screaming.
There's nothing for it.
"Life," "speech," and "dukkha" are synonyms, co-referential.
I could say:
"Touch the silence. Shut up and sit still and be with silence until you feel it around and within all the chunky flow of words."
But that would just be me talking,
Prying out your/my last

White Plains, NY, 2014.03.07

So What If?

Finally upon the edge
Mud on my shoes
And maybe blood
I have reached the moment I was made for.
It was no easy thing to get here
Across the gravel of yesterdays.
So what if I've never been anywhere else?

White Plains, NY, 2014.02.26

Tuesday's Gone

This morning Lynyrd
Had not begun to pray
Train roll on
Just the jangle of kneeling and throat-clearing
When I reached in sleep to off the iPad,
To honor the roomie's sleep.
Tuesday is already gone.

White Plains, NY, 2014.02.25

Earth and Air

Walking is like this
The thaw comes from underneath
The next freeze hardens from above
The suspended uneven crust
Crunches and holds
For a few steps
Then I'm in past my knee.

White Plains, NY, 2014.03.04


Terminal Illness

That year I turned 20
I had a lover, a friend, and a class to teach.
Penny was the lover, April the friend, "10th Grade Indep Studies" the class.

Aug 17
Went to see April at her apartment this evening.
We were silly and giggled for an hour or more.
Then we got all morose and despairing for even longer.
This is a pattern we've followed before.
Last time, by the time I got back to my apartment, I felt better.
This time the rottenness coagulated and stuck.

Sep 2
Penny says all I talk about is my students.
April says all I talk about is Penny.
My students say they don't know what I'm talking about.

Sep 24
Penny and I celebrated the one-year anniversary of our first date.
We drove into Atlanta, which Penny has never liked, to see the specialist, which I don't like.
We sat in the doctor's posh plush office.
He was exceedingly polite.
He said the test results would be in in a week.
Penny and I didn't see a movie.
Both of us had head-aches.
Night bright lights, the smell of the car.
The pressing of the gas, then brakes.
We ate at a Holiday Inn, then went home.

Sep 29
When I'm older will I be wiser?
Or will I simply find I've settled?

Oct 3
I'm having less and less to say to my class. I've talked about how to research, what to footnote and how. And they're doing it. I answer questions.
Penny moved in.

Oct 7
'Terminal,' echoes over and over in my brain.
Terminal, terminal, terminalterminalterminaltermin altermin
Altermin altermin, al.
Concentrate: give the odd sounds meaning.
As in 'bus terminal.'

Oct 26
My students stopped asking questions. They come in and go straight into their books and scribbling notes.
I submitted my resignation to the principal.

Nov 10
My skin is electric with worry and fear for Penny, and I haven't seen April for more than a month.

Nov 24
Penny, pretend that I am alive.
Pretend that I am eating saltines and you are visiting me.
It's that old gray house in Hoboken
And my clothes are fine.
A light bulb hangs by a long wire from the ceiling
And the barren wood floor is noisy under hard heels.
You whistle at me, but I can't whistle back
Because of the saltines.
Pretend that I am alive.

1979, 2014


Thank You, Earth

Thank you, Earth.
Thank you for air.
The sunshine:
Morning rising beauty of hope,
Evening setting grace of gratitude.
My brain processes the light that comes from the sky as blue –
I’m not clear on why
Or how a bunch of neurons does that.
And chlorophyll is green because, I don’t know.
I just know the blue sky and the green grass and trees
Are home.

I don’t know why blood is red, either,
The vivid aliveness motion inside me, and us.
Or why flower blossoms are so variously, brightly colored.

Thank you, Earth,
For ants, worms, beetles, spiders, jellyfish, squid.
Thank you for fish: shiny, darting;
And reptiles: gopher tortoises, bright little lizards, dark green gators.
Thank you for birds, and the unignorability of the fact of flying.
Because they are, and I am they, I, too, fly.
Thank you for other mammals: foxes and alpacas
and manatees and rabbits:
The things with hair and milk-making bodies.
All the funny, weird animals – the different ways that life can be.

I imagine living on a space station,
The view, so deep the black, and vast starfields,
Filling me with infinity every day.
It takes ground to be grounded.
I was made to be among your colors and life and limited horizons, Earth,
Even when it is dangerous.
Even when it is too hot, too cold, too rainy, too dry,
I was made for you, Earth.
All the millions of species, each was made for you
Out of dirt and water and sunlight.

Did you make snakes able to be thankful?
Have blue jays gratitude? Lobsters?
Maybe they are always grateful – and what they aren’t able to be is not thankful.
This is a wonder to me, who am sometimes ungrateful and who other times,
Like today, am
sky-blue thank you and leaf-green thank you and blood-red thank you
And lavender and fuchsia and goldenrod thank you.

Grateful feels good,
Dear Earth,
And you offer so much for which.
Sometimes I forget.
Then I remember again.

Gainesville, 2011.05.22


Armistice Day

"Armistice Day
Armistice Day
That's all I really wanted to say."

- Paul Simon

It's Armisice Day

I would have no arms

Eleven eleven, like the first Armistice Day, 1918,

One one one one, we

Won won won won

Yessir, yessir, we won one, won one

How many did we lose?

On the other hand, every birth is a win, isn't it, so we're all right?

On the other other hand, the planet can't handle all those wins?

I would be done with the back and forth of hands

I would have no hands

I would have no arms

I would live in Europe, Asia, America, south and north, Africa, Australia, Antarctica,
     and all the wide deep blacken blue oceans

I would have no Western front

I would name myself Peace Among the Nations

Finally undisappointable,

Hanging over the beleaguered of nations like a happy gracious fog, I would

Penetrate everywhere

I would weigh you down with uplifting serenity

I would double you four times, Woodrow Wilson World War

All ate of you, consumed by love, would have a thousand arms each reaching and
     embracing every dying soldier every wailing mother every broken-legged horse,
     enfolding them in doesn't-change-a-thing compassion

I would have no arms.
Gainesville, 2010.11.11
Revised, White Plains, 2013.11.11
and 2014.11.11



Hey, you, on the island of Ometepe, among the twin explosive breasts of conceiving and wood
(the latter petrified),
You, among the tourists farmers plaintains parrots
(counting any of the last whose napes are yellow)
You, the weird, wired Amazon princess,
You, with the out-of-season breeding season, standing in the feeding area where divergent cycles coalesce,
Winging it
Conversing with the devil
Rising predawn
Drinking coffee damp
Swimming to get dry
Uniformly recounting accounting:
I cannot open my mouth to preach a single word.
How does your sermon flow effortlessly endlessly?
How can the rain reach land?
How can anything be missing?

White Plains, NY 2013.10.27


Sunday Night

Dark night outside airport windows.
48 hours in Minneapolis --
Now a memory.
Charlotte again: awaiting
The flight home on schedule to depart at 21:19.
Fatigue economizes my motions.
Another couple hours or so,
tireder still,
bag-laden, keys-fumbling,
I'll arrive at the chill and silent house.
If this is life,
But, life, let me ask you:
What else can you show me?
Charlotte, 2013.02.17


I went to the shoe-shine stand at the Charlotte airport,
Got the works from a man with quick hands, and a Jamaican accent.
Today I'm lookin' sharp in my shiny, shiny shoes.
And I'm comfy warm in my longjohns.
All a waste, I guess --
Like humanity.
Let's all the humans get in spaceships and leave
this planet to the parrots.
I'd go too
In my longjohns and my shiny, shiny shoes.

Minneapolis, 2013.02.16

Prayer to the Rabbit God

the night is dark and this I know:
the rabbit god herself made the foxes.

she put bunnies all over
gave them a green planet to eat
made them love to hump
like rabbits
and love their babies.
bunnies make bunnies faster than plants grow, she noticed.
so the rabbit god made foxes.

predation is kinder than starvation, she said.
and foxes will give my lovelies
sharp ears
beautiful speed
a touch of cleverness.
let them be grateful for the red fur death
and the fear that makes them bright alert.

thus the rabbit god became the fox god too.
bodies are made of nutrients,
there being no other way to make them,
how could there not be carnivores?

dear god of hunter and of hunted
I, too, a body of walking food, pray
to be eaten rather than starve
to love
the beauty of this fear.

San Francisco, 2011.08


When I roll by on my bicycle
my noise is too small and random
to register as threat.
The gopher tortoise by the sandy road home
Doesn't flinch until I am some yards by.
I round the house, pedaling to the back shed, and
A pileated is on the ground, working a stump.
I watch him as I coast by, nearly bump a tree, swerve.
Only then does his magically red crest
swing up and his vast obsidian wings lift.

Tomorrow something will scare me.
I will react in fear and flinch or fly
From some beast-machine already past and receding.

Gainesville, 2009.04

Sister Golden's Hair, Surprise

"I keep on thinking about you, Sister Golden Hair Surprise"
- Gerry Beckley, America

Sister Golden's hair, surprise,
Is greyer now and beautiful.
The skin around her eyes, looser, creasey, lovely
The blue of the iris maybe a touch faded.
The light brighter than ever.
Intently she saves the world, again and again.
I know -- I have seen her do it.
Or was that only me she saved?
It seemed to be the world.
"The brown ones are the young cranes," she told me once,
Thus rescuing all of earth and heaven.
Just yesterday we sipped coffee together and bowed.
Surely in that moment the universe was set right.
Today she counts loros' nest trees,
providing God with salvation once more.
Sister Golden's hair, surprise,
Her face, her body,
Manifest the transformation, the eschaton,
Herald the reign of heaven.
Is it only me?
It seems to be the world.

Gainesville, 2009.04.01

Philosophy Class

Freshman philosophy student
Standing before me after class
Says his thoughts go off in wild directions
When he tries to explain his way through one of my questions.
He hasn't the skill -- and half-doubts the possibility of it -- to tie
Much of a knot
Or to weave the colored strands into coherence.
In his eyes I see the facade of frustration about this.
Under that: wonderment,
And the birthing of a brand new baby hope.
We old professors who have midwifed a thousand such
Can still gasp.

Gainesville, 2009.03.31

Blue Cliff Record #6

Forlorn spring!
The leaf buds in bereaved and stricken multitude of golden green but frame
The azalea’s unconsolable magnificence of fuchsia.
The waxwings, warblers, and woodpeckers’ percussion
Fill the vernal morning light
With a clamoring din of death.
Everywhere you turn in these lengthening days
You hear and see and smell again and again
That there is no hope at all.

Gainesville, 2009.03.25

Nov 4

It felt like church: sacred, moving.
Gathering at the temple/precinct with my neighbors
I say hello to the greeter, am known, identified.
I receive my order of service, the ovals to fill in.
My neighbors and I have come together because we, the people, have work to do.
This is our liturgy, which means “the work of the people.”

The sacramental power is stronger in conjunction with scripture study.
For this worship, the assigned scriptures are newspapers, magazines, candidate records and statements.

I go into the confessional booth and pray.
Before I pick up the felt-tip marker,
I bring my palms together,
take a moment,
feel the touch of god.

I am aware of my expansive vastness,
My tiny smallness,
And the sacrament before me,
this paper wafer transubstantiated body politic of christ,
this marker-ink wine, the black blood of the people, chosen, choosing.

This is the difference a vote makes, no other.
I know the math:
the chances I’ll die in a traffic accident driving to the polls
are about one hundred thousand times greater
than the chance that any candidate I vote for will win by one vote.
Determining an outcome cannot be the reason I take this communion.
A vote is a prayer, and changes things the same way: by changing the one who does it.

I cast my ballot bread crumb upon the waters, causing no one’s victory or defeat, merely
Joining with something larger,
Participating in the infinity of history,
Lifted out of myself into the shared soul of
130 million voters,
6 billion humans on the planet,
all life that ever was or ever will be.
World without end amen.

Gainesville, 2008.11.16


A patient on an addiction-recovery ward asked the chaplain, “How can my family ever trust me?”
“Exactly,” replied the chaplain.
- Marion Thullbery’s dissertation

I sat up in bed, said,
God, I disappoint.
Ticking clock answered: Ex-act-ly.

Stood at the window to the dark outside. Said,
God, I'm still gone so much.
Nearly-full moon, setting, said: Just so.

Blearied to the kitchen, rattled coffee makings. Said,
God, the Earth groans, and I consume so much.
Faucet gushed: Yesss.

Stood on the driveway, hesitating to bend for the paper. Said,
God, this war, my government's corruption, my country's coldness to the poor or anyone who needs healthcare, its mania for wealth and stuff; and, God, I spent most of yesterday, same as the day before, forgetful that I am enough.
The newspaper shuffled: About that first bit, right on.
Then, probably around the obit page, whispered: Yes to the second bit too.

The wind blew through the trees,
and I heard the morning birds.

Gainesville, 2008.08.07

For Morris

97 percent of a century
and an equal percent pure.
97 years old
97 years young
97 years thin
and tall so tall.

This man,
This tough string,
This class of ‘33 Yalie
Rotsee’d himself just to ride the horses
he loved.
Clip-clop, clip-clop.

Pulled willy-nilly, like the world, into war:
Dubya Dubya Two,
This lanky port engineer
Saw such action as Boston afforded.
Then, later, Korea.
This man, too gentle-hearted for the body bags
Of death piled so high, by the hundreds.
This resilient gristle of a man too decent not to be overwhelmed.

This music-lover
Selling tuxes to dapper musicians
Dancing to their music
Clip-clop, be-bop, da-da, da-dum

God said:
“Morris, people should not be wearing body bags.
I mean for people to wear fancy duds –
Threads with life in ‘em.”
This slim haberdasher – he served his God.
97 percent of the time, or thereabouts,
He served his God.

Gainesville, 2008.06.12


Ecclesiastes was Shakyamuni's book too
All those seasons -- be born, die, plant, pluck up, kill, heal,
break down, build up, weep, laugh, mourn, dance,
throw away, gather, embrace, refrain, seek, lose, keep,
tear, sew, keep silence, speak, love, hate, make war,
make peace.
The seasons preach one thing.
Quite a list, this one-item preaching.
Now preach!

Dallas, 2006.05

Snow in a Silver Bowl

That summer when I had but 20 winters:
snow in a silver bowl.
My senescence to come:
snow in a silver bowl.
When intellect's blade was sharp and swung so careless-quick.
When wisdom slows, takes skillful aim
Each is snow. Each the other's bowl of silver, silver.
Silver: the excellent conductor
Of heat
And cold.

Dallas, 2006.05

Sticks in the Yard

I am a stick
I've lain on the ground beneath the
tree I came from
For a year.
Before, I spouted leaves,
the little leaping greelies
Took in the light, the sun
Synthesized it.
I held up leaves
And bore their energy back to the trunk
that still lives.

Dallas, 2006.05

Lines at Sesshin

It's always right there.
How silly to have built all these monasteries and all these busy fretting monks
Trying to find their mind.
Nothing to find but searching itself.
Do you find searching, or do searching?
If you find it, be sure to put it back.
Quietly ticking over in a metaphysical sort of way.

* * *
We need differentiation, even as we see through it.
We are full up of emptiness, and also must see through that.
From differentiation see through to emptiness and farther through to differentiation again.
Always come back to the fact
Not its meaning
The meaningless fact is all.

* * *
A stick is not a stick
When it is just a stick
In the dawning light
The call to breakfast.

* * *
The wild bird settles on her nest
And feeds down the gullets of her young:
What you have is given
And lackingness itself is taken away.

* * *
With information ethical particular and logical
And comment that is moral less so than it's ontological
I am injunctured not to do what anyways impossible
Aren't we the very models of some modern Major Zenerals?

Dallas, 2005.12


Dwell in an Artist's House

“Let the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us, and the work of our hands,
establish beyond us; yes, establish the work of our hands"

--Psalm 90

Live in an artist’s house for a time
If you can
Dwell among the strange ceramic on display
in small groups and singly in each conceivable nook
they spot you at every turn
textures remind you of a dim possibility
shapes sing a Psalm of hands
colors give your eyeballs breath.

Yes, live in an artist’s house for a spell
If you get the chance
Gaze over the books on the artist’s shelves
take in these shapes and titles
the thick ones and the thin
the smell of their unsettled settledness
the scope of restless interests
Someone here has wanted to know everything, everything important,
And could not stay in one place too long.
Pull down a volume of poetry you never heard of,
with a style half-way between familiar and exotic
And limn the pages, a few each day,
Leaf through the art books, Gauguin, Wyeth
Let these be your companions for the week.

Live in an artist’s house a while
And on Sundays stroll down to the artist’s church
and take worship with the small besieged band of freethinkers
vaguely wishing they could believe more than they do in salvific things:
love, justice, redemption.

Feel the artist’s lifelong care, the slow-swift passing of his years, in the shape of his house,
Mold yourself to that shape
Sleep there with infected dreams
For a week or two at a time
And recurrently, if at all possible.

Dwell in an artist’s spare fecund space
And when you leave say, “Thanks again”
Surprised by how much you mean it.

Midland, TX, 2005.09

Gateless Gate #12

Always the Master calls
The voice of the green turtle,
Always affirmation answers back, screaming yes
In every soundwave, every lightwave-photon, every particle's
Stillness, the origin of every vibration.
Silence calls. Heed!
Stillness answers. Heed!

Dallas, 2004.12.05

As Good

Shivering in the night
and in the fog of sleep, trying to find you,
And in my dreams make love to the warmth of you
beneath too-thin covers.

When the morning sun throws our bedframe pattern on the
Slowly, slowly descending as your blond and peaceful
Dozes on my
I know this chill has passed.

Soon I will put on my boots.
We will walk the stony upward path
To the dead hermit's abandoned house, and
say a prayer to his
and ours.
Then we'll visit Betty's sisters -- they
will bring us eggs and coffee.
It will be as good
As the morning sun that throws our bedframe pattern on the

El Paso, 2004.04.12


What resurrects save falling?
This rainy day in the desert
     Muffle-grey cat lies down on us.
And I am a rumpled lotus bud.
Opened enough to see a little.
     Down in the valley, those others live
     Up on the hillside, those others live
The poor, not like me, and the rich, not like me.
How can I tell them what matters to me?
How can I hear them, know them, be with them, when
     I am so different?
To ask the question is to begin to see the path
Like a rumpled lotus bud
Opened enough to see a little.

El Paso, 2004.04.11



The moon is almost full, I say.
She's about to say, No, just past full
When we turn down the last alley to home:
the darkest stretch
A furtive wispy motion, the shape of a sneer
Halts us dead or alive
The wild maw of someone else's escaped fantasy
Is ready to swallow us
In our own backyard alley.
It is seriously tempting, this lure to be
     taken in, taken to where
     there are no more arguments
     about the moon
     taken beyond this dangling dull familiarity
     simply taken.
And though she feels it too,
Our hands find each other.

El Paso, 2004.04.10


The book of wounds, where we inscribe all our hurts
She does soul-shifting into the bodies of her friends
Falling is the voice of the rain
Use broken things to see ourselves
The moons of insomnia
Days of the week are characters
And some of our energies are refrigerated
Paper boats floating on a dirty river, and the
Body parts of dolls.
Some poets, our dearest friends, die frailly.
The City of Rock Walls: El Paso.
That's Gabriella.

El Paso, 2004.04.10

First Anniversary of US Invasion of Iraq

Remember the springtime
     that always comes in every desert
The perennial grace of beauty
     as a bright blossom on a harsh hillside
     as a soldier of an occupying force
     pausing from duty
     crouching in some act of kindness
to a native child.

Remember the events unfolding one year ago
     Wanton death comes sometimes
     Vast destruction born of foolish pride,
          or fear
     Oceans of suffering washing the desert.

Remember everything in which you are in community
     which is to say everything
     is your community of memory and hope
So remember.
     what part of that community
     called our country
     unfolded in another part
     called Iraq
     one year ago.

Remember the springtime
     Wanton death comes sometimes.
     So does wanton life.

Though vast destruction and suffering is sometimes born of foolish pride
     or fear
Yet the springtime comes in every desert
A perennial grace of beauty
     as a bright orange blossom on a harsh hillside
     as a soldier...

Humanity may end war someday.
Not in my lifetime, or my children's, but
Maybe someday. I don't know.
In the meantime, I know what I remember.

El Paso, 2004.03.24


The Cycle of a Breath

Finally the sun comes up
Bright and glad
It will soon go --
and won't be gone long

Snow on the mountains
Gently melting to water
And more snow falling

The silk handkerchief
Pulled out through my nose
Cleans me out, wipes my window clear

The peace that flows through me flows
Through everything
It is only that
Only what is common as dirt
It is all of that
the everything itself
I can't help it.
The luminousness of objects is a mistake I made
An accident, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it,
I slipped, I stumbled, the sun

Was in my eyes.

I see my whole journey
A spinning bobbin.
Threads wind off, flying away
Pulling themselves loose and
Loosening the whole
While also threads wind on
become tighter wound.
It must be the mites:
Tiny, black, a few thousand programmed neurons
Mindlessly digging into the center
Inadvertently loosening it
So threads are thrown off
Even as the
Winding on winds on and on.

Albuquerque, 2004.02.27


Rocks and Leaves

The cool texture of granite
Moist. And so much green around.
I must be back east.
The forests of my childhood, with the large rocks I clambered on.
Once I was especially loving the stone and
my own boy energy carrying me over one,
then another in delighted
My grandmother was along, on this particular Appalachian excursion.
She waited with some patience for me to return to the trail
Until the patience ran out, as I'd been waiting for it to, and she hollered me

She did love this earth -- whatever part of it she found herself living in.
The histories of its people, the feel of its rocks against the hand
and leaves between the fingers.

 Albuquerque, 2004.02.26

I Have Known Parrot Love

He was surely a part of the dance of your eyes
The first moment I looked into them
Not knowing what I was seeing.

The first time I visited you at your house
It was that place in Bellwood
You came to the door, opened it four inches
Your face in that narrow frame
Your blue eyes, glad to see me,
Glance askance, attending to another life,
You said, "Bird out."

Another time, another visit, you instructed,
"If he flies at you, go down."
He did, and I did:
Spread-conure on the floor.

With February snow lying white across our Minnesota yard
I phoned you at work where the others there heard you exclaim,
"He took a bath with you!"
So, yes.
I have known parrot love.

El Paso, 2003.10.24

Wednesday 9:23am

80 miles north of El Paso
on I-25 headed for Albuquerque
my bus pulls into a Border Patrol checkpoint.
Weekly, I participate in this ritual.
The green clad agent steps aboard.

"If you are a US citizen, state the city and state of your birth
If you are not, show your documentation."
As far as I can see, the green agent and I
are the only Anglos on this full bus.
Border Patrol makes her way down the aisle,
frowning at papers of widely varying size, shape, color,
sometimes also asking for separate ID, sometimes not.

My head bows under the world's weight upon this spot.
This posture cues me to a whispered prayer.
"May there be an end to invidious distinctions
including those based on whether our mothers,
when we first peaked out from them into the world,
were north or south
of a line
a few politicians and generals drew
more than 150 years ago.
May I find ways to help bring
justice from my unjust privilege.
And blessed be all of us on this bus, including the Border Patrol agent,
as we all struggle in our diverse ways
to realize the fullness of our humanity."

She gets finally to me on the backmost seat.
This week no one has been hauled off.
I look up from clasped hands in lap
For a flicker our eyes meet.
My voice says, "Richmond, Virginia."
This only is asked of me, no papers, no ID.
Pale skin and the right sort of accent clinch it,
if I will but utter the name of an approved holy city
as the weekly sacrament of transition
from El Paso husband to Albuquerque minister intern.

I only have to say out loud my condemnation.
Richmond is a city much farther away than Mexico,
and memory recalls only a few passings-through,
none recent.
Of Richmond, I vaguely know a view of a skyline from the interstate, nothing more.
Not that it matters.
What I'm saying with those two words is:
I am on your side, Agent Green Jump Suit.
I deny Yahweh's call for a preferential option for the poor.
I deny Buddha's call to live compassion rather than fear.
I deny my faith profession:
the unitarian commitment to the unity of us all
the universalist commitment to universal community
From my lips, this two-word Peter's denial: "Richmond, Virginia."

Peter, having spoken, saw in a dizzy flash, as I do:
We who long to be merely good,
Are revealed as rotten with complicity with the empire.
And what could show more clearly than that
That the world’s brokenness and mine are one?

Between El Paso & Albuquerque, 2003.09

Sadlack's Heroes

On the corner
Where Hillsborough meets Enterprise Street,
Where perhaps we boldly go where we have not gone before,
An orange and blue sign, “Sadlack’s Heroes,”
Declares baldly,
We are sad, we lack,
And we are heroes – all there is of heroism, at any rate –
Despite our unhappy incompleteness, or because of.

I passed a dusty woman, and something brought me back again.
I spent a couple dollars on fries, blue cheese dressing on the side, and a diet coke for Caroline,
I spent a couple moments sitting on a rock wall by the sidewalk,
The evening traffic bustling by
The bicycle locked to a No Parking sign
Beneath the larger sign, Sadlack’s Heroes.

Caroline declined my offer to get a bagel,
Showing me the molars she said could not chew it.
Between bites of fries, she peeled off her left shoe and sock
Showing me the yellow and red reasons that it hurt so much to walk.

At last, the bicycle and I rolled away from Caroline,
And the sign of sadly lacking heroes.
Later, in my house, as I ready for bed,
Standing on pink feet, toothbrush in hand,
It occurs to me to that I might think I am so fortunate
Compared to Caroline.
It is clear that I am not.

Raleigh, 2002.06

A Bird in Boots

To carry such prodigious footwear
Her wings are very strong.
She is ready, just in case
Soaring ends and landing's hard.

Born of and borne by air,
The rain plays on her feathers happily as sunshine.
Through blue skies, grey clouds, and before rainbows,
she flies
As though she might be hiking the next moment,
if wings fail, or if she chooses.

Minneapolis, 2000 Fall

Wedding Poem

Our Whole Lives

We said we would
Call the OWL:
March down the I'll,
Ring the bell and each other's
Vow ourselves into oblivion, wholeness, etc.
And die.

The OWL has special wing feathers that quiet its flight,
So the prey never detects the predator.
One noiseless flap, two, and the small mammal is caught.
As out of the soul’s dark night, love is suddenly there, upon us:
Talons and beak.
We succumb,
And turn our bodies over to the nourishment of a grander thing.

Imposition on Dr. Lantry II

AUTUMN, by William Lantry, 1995.02
"...we come by love, and not by sail..." -Augustine

Whether the evening stopped what little wind
had driven me, or if a sudden change
in pressure slowed the bow, as, smooth, it made
its way around the cap d'ail, towards
the esterel, with its red peaks suffused
beneath the red dust of siroccos, I

will not attempt to say, but I do know
progress was slowly ended, and the drift
of that small boat became the same as waves'
slow movement toward the shore, where I could see
her skirt, at least, grown luminescent in
final reflections, blue, the slender words

inaudible, I voiced then, seemed to fill
slack canvas, only seemed, since the land breeze
recirculates in autumn, still, the bow
was moving, and I heard before my own
her voice, and knew that song from memory
but changed now, as I drifted to the shore.


Years ago
Saint Cuthbert and I were at the edge of consubstantiation.
She left me teetering there.
But she kept writing me letters and sending her love.
"...we come by love,"
and laude, laude, cum laude, we love to come
"and not by sail..."
as much as by sale.
It's all prostitution, one way or another, said
the Hippo to Anselm the Giraffe.
Yeah, yeah, I'm a ho, you a ho, everyone a ho, ho, ho, Mr. Santa fey indemnity clause.
But was my price too high for Imogen Autumn, or hers too high for me?

Then, as philosopher's apprentice with Willard Quine, I kneaded the status of sentences as,
"The morning star is the evening star."
(The question: just how to characterize the difference between that sentence and "The morning star is the morning star.")
Venus is both, thus dawn and dusk are female.

Last night the latter visited me.
Whether the evening stopped
by for a beer so the two of us could keep each other company
or because she meant to stir
what little wind
of sentiment
had driven me
before to my defective Volkswagen to go in vain search of Imogen
or if a sudden change
of plan just happened to bring her my way, the increase
in pressure
was just enough to send me packing, though I was
the bow
ties, polka-dotted, paisley. Which to take?
Running my hand over a fuchsia and gold striped one,
as, smooth, it made
my hand describe the arc of Imogen's dimly recalled rump.
Such a tie as this could wrap
its way around the cap d'ail, towards
sundown at a cocktail party for elderly Republicans. I discard it.
The esterel, with its red peaks suffused
--despite the best efforts of the good people Playtex.
Beneath the
tires, the red clay dirt roads of Butts County, Georgia.
I drive this Volkswagen toward the coast, trailing behind me that
red dust of Sciroccos, I
will not attempt to say
to what this embarassing passion amounts.
But I do know
progress was slowly ended.
Five years have gone by now since my brother Benjamin died.
A letter last year told me Geoffrey, friend and colleague of Imogen's, was dead.
Are there any but insulated morons whom AIDS has not by now left bereft?
Beautiful Mapplethorpe lies cold, and twisted Helms glows on, incendiary bright.
Too many Gramms of Newt spoiled all affirming witches' brew everywhere.
In the spaces between the funeral parlors and the ballot boxes,
belief in progress ebbed away.
and the drift
of that small boat
the ship of state
became the same as waves
of despair on sands of negation.

Yet I drive on.

Ten hours, and right onto the night beach, where I walk.
A mile or so north. Nothing.
Making my way back, the tide's
slow movement toward the shore, where I could see
her skirt
not far from the parked Scirocco, hidden in the dune shadows.
The skirt lies abandoned next to her blouse,
at least, grown luminescent
as my radio dial was at 2:00 AM midway between Macon and Savannah;
luminescent as my bowtie, which I pull off and drop beside the signs of her.
final reflections,
love is
but so is failure, so is decrepitude.
A little further on, I find Imogen Autumn for the first time in twelve years.
She is not ashamed in moonlight and surf and underwear;
she's just nervous about seeing me again.
the slender words
and the broad inarticulate noises
I voiced then, seemed to fill
slack canvas
pants with newly erected hopes
only seemed, since the land breeze
billows even where flaccidity reigns. An hour we are there. Two.
I get no clue about how much of the emotion washing over me
recirculates in Autumn, still, the bow
tie's smiling garish dotted arms reach out, one toward blouse, one toward skirt,
while mine hang limply, awkwardly, mutely at my side.

Whether the morning stopped by for a cappuccino so the three of us
could keep each other company,
or because she meant to climb into the Scirocco with me and leave Imogen, I
was moving,
driving away
and I heard before my own
her voice
the morning, telling me I'd forgotten to get my bowtie
and knew that song from memory
because the landscape over which I have traversed my life
is fairly littered with bowties announcing
"Meredith committed another fashion violation here."
but changed now, as I drifted
down inland back roads
points far from
the shore
and farther from the sure.

Nashville, 1995.07

Imposition on Dr. Lantry I

RUNWAY, by William Lantry (@harpo), 1994.11

Last night I, indolent, thought of free verse
almost as an escape, but knew my wrong
was near intentional: I thought of trees
whose branches lace together, holding up
a twelve-tone structure. Does each limb
relate to laws of chaos, or is any free?

Tonight, I think of fashion shows: how each
designer looks for some material
of advantageous difference, and the crowd
of mostly journalists looks on, then writes
a note on each. Their models, slimmed and coked
half-dance the narrow runway, and the lights

background essentials, bringing out stringed heels
and shadows echoing each other down
twelve-boarded planks. A choreographer
finds movement in their chaos, while I lean
half-languid, near the back wall, noticing
our darkened exit doors are bolted shut.

Last night I, indolent, thought of free verse
flowing like Aunt Jemima's Lite Imitation Maple Flavored Syrup onto a replica of the Statue of Liberty, damnit
almost as an escape, but knew my wrong
was not the product of two wrights, Orville, Wilbur, and the escape of cerulean yonders to which far too many yesterdays lighted us.
was near intentional: I thought of trees
especially those Imitation Maple trees
whose branches lace together, holding up
crystals, sugar crystals on the edge of Tuesday morning's blue plate breakfast special, constituting
a twelve-tone structure.
And she turned to me then and asked:
Does each limb
relate to laws of chaos, or is any free?
And I said this was a false either/or. Not because it was possible to be neither, but because it is possible to be both.
Tonight, I think of fashion shows: how each
time I look at her, I'm struck (like a plastic bottle of syrup on cool-colored linoleum) by the falseness of her cloven dichotomy. The creator of the universe, she said: A
designer looks for some material
dialectic, but since God is infinitely more indolent than free verse, history is left lawless, just one more gaddamned fluke after another. And the classes -- the elite
of advantageous difference, and the crowd
of disadvantaged sameness -- are no more plagued by contradiction than I am when I can't decide whether to fuck or nap. Indecision looks like contradiction only when a group
of mostly journalists looks on, then writes
its gray on gray, signaling the senility of a way of life. Karl really was, as the old joke goes, the funniest of the Marx brothers. Can it really be coincidence that you speak through Harpo as you speak for Karl? The gods, they plink
a note on each. Their models, slimmed and coked
don't represent reality the way they used to. I can't full-dance the wide, wide world, and you can't
half-dance the narrow runway, and the lights
of reason go out, one by one, until finally we manage to get along just fine. With those lights gone, there are no more essentials. No central essentials, no foreground essentials, no
background essentials, bringing out stringed heels
and other assortd low-lifes.
and shadows echoing each other down
twelve-tone structures, twelve apostles, twelve days of christmas, the twelve members of the O.J. jury, and other
twelve-boarded planks. A choreographer
she was, before going into the syrup business. And each Marx, whether making "Das Kapital" or "Animal Crackers,"
finds movement in their chaos, while I lean
half-dancing, half-trying, half-assed making it,
half-languid, near the back wall, noticing
our darkened exit doors are bolted shut.
We'll have to go out the same way we to came in.

Nashville, 1994.11

Jeffrey Wilson

Today I spoke with Jeffrey Wilson.
We knew each other
     when I was young,
     and he was younger still.
I had been at judo in the gym;
     had just changed clothes and was leaving
     when he hailed me at the door.

Jeffrey Wilson had been at lifting weights
Wanting strength and muscle
     just enough to compel
     certain people to leave him alone.
"Girls like muscular men, too," he said.

Jeffrey Wilson told me about someone he hated.
A classmate of his
     seems she made him nervous
     when he drove in driver's ed.
He mentioned other people he said he hated.

And one girl he'd wanted to go with all year.
He'd written notes, tried several times
     to go up to her
     to talk to her.
"But when I do, she just walks away."

The evening air at the gym door mixed with the small of sweat and chlorine from the pool.
And Jeffrey Wilson talked about a bench press he wanted to buy.
     It cost seventy dollars.
     He'd decided he needed new clothes more.
Maybe he'd get it next year.

Two years later

It is now two years since I last saw Jeffrey Wilson.
I found him today here on the page.
I have written him, and he is immortal.
     He only aspired to be an electrician.

Carrollton, 1979, and Dallas, GA, 1981.10

Some People Just Don't Like People Sleeping in Their Back Seat Anymore

Pulled off Exit 43
She shook me from my back seat sleep
With one bare arm reaching over the wall between us.

Seeing me awake, she turned back to facing forward
And broke the silence of the drone of passing cars,
"Go on. This is as far as I'm going your way." she said.

I considered how she knew.
I had not told her my way,
Nor had she asked.

"Get out," she said again.
So I reached to the floorboard and gathered my clothes
Into the knapsack I have had since I was seven.

Dallas, GA, 1981.09

One I Love Changes Her Size

One I love changes her size.
I awake mornings to find her quite larger
than the nights before.
I know she is the same
--she has not left and been replaced--
The eyes, the face, the hands -- all are so familiar
that identity is not in doubt.
Yet, incredibly, this human enlarges --
wholly, in even proportion.
It is unsettling.

Cartersville, GA, 1981.02

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Desk

Waiting to be come to, looked at, worked with,
     turned on, moved from, changed by...

A yellow residue of ice cream
     in yesterday's bowl
Sticking a poor spoon to the bottom.
An impossibly balanced stack of books up to the clouds,
     to the right, there,
     precariously looming over bowl and prisoner
          (is there no brave platter to
          rescue this utensil in distress?)

Papers scattered all across:
          ditto purple,
          typewriter black,
          handwritten blue.
Renegade books like boulders on this steppe.
A ceramic, shade-less lamp, brown glue displaying
          base's cracks
     to the left, there,
     a monument light-house rising beyond the clouds.
     A cracker.
          Unnumbered hidden pens,
          hypodermics for an inky soul.

Waiting to be come to, looked at, worked with,
     turned on, moved from, changed by...

Or, as in the case of yesterday's ice cream bowl,
     Simply washed.


Only Silence

Blank-brained we
Forget and Understand.
Stand under love,
Beyond metaphor.
Nothing has meaning because we mean everything.
Earth knows us.
Crying for what we have lost.
Innocence becomes not-guilty.
Language sticks with half-accuracy,
So only silence will do.
The red gets deeper as the valentine shapes move together,
But so does the green, and it has no shape.
Beneath emotion: human beings loving.

'Twas there, 'twas stopped, 'twas stillness, it wavered, and then:
Gasps for air
And the things of the world returned to former status.


Reached Today

I know the way you laugh
When you sometimes mean to cry
I'm what's behind you sigh
     Together we've been to the sky.

When we came together
Each others caring was the all
Now we've traveled some ways
Til the road reached today
We still answer each others call.

You know the way I laugh.
You've been there when I cried
You know the way I sigh
     Together we've been to the sky.




Semi-deserted 4th floor of a classroom building.
Light brick outside
Light painted cinder block walls inside
Light wood doors with a glass window
Its night outside
Ther is carpet on the floor of some of the classrooms


I'm standing outside the door of such a classroom.
Inside Matthew and Ashok
Are trying to pull out a close one
In the last round of the night.
With their 4 advantage case.
I'm wondering if Gibson will call me a fool
For having my team
On dropping an advantage or two


Another room. No carpet. I sit. Observe.
Lee and Paul's round is hours behind schedule.
C'mon, Paul. Do well, Lee.
I worry my worries in a detached sort of way.
The judge arises after 2NC
Gathers things together
Says "I have to go to class."
The debaters and I look at each other
It's horrifying, astounding, appalling.
Shrug shoulders
There's nothing for it but to go to bed
And do the rebuttals in the morning.



Marjorie Me

I was in a crowded room
The lights were bright inside
Outside the dew shone in the gloom
I leaned against a bar.

Was there a glass in my hand?
If so I was not drinking
There was a noise -- was there a band?
I was not listening.

I observed the way I do;
Followed paths of my own thought
Then Marjorie appeared in moods of blue
To speak to me of truth and depth

People, people everywhere
Let's go outside to talk
So out we stepped to fresher air
And paused upon wet lawn

"Oh you!" she screamed "Let me be!
You slick-voiced, wise-fool fraud.
With gentle, sage advice you've seemed to counsel me
But all you know are lies!

"False understanding, flee from your eyes
There's nothing that you see
Your ears are deaf to my soulful cries
Yet you pretend to hear.

"I want no more of your deceit"
She then battered me to the ground
I did not soon get to my feet
The dew seeped through my pants.


whatever be do

i can be whatever you want me
to be
i can do whatever you want me
to do
i can not be whatever you want me
to be
i can not do whatever you want me
to do


So You See

Guitarist, Fred, on grassy bank
He plays alone, he gets no thanks.
People on a break from jobs
Pass on by alone in mobs
His music's pleasure reaches no one's ear.

Machinist on a lunch break, Ann
An honest living best she can
Wants peace and quiet off working
But some weird outcast pounds on string
Noise just for himself, must he come here?

So You See
Ann's aware unconscious she silent wars with Fred
Fred don't know
He only go
Being pushed inside his head
Ann has home where she's content
Fred plays blank-eyed his lament
     (people craving something more)

Rag-dressed long-hair with a flower
Those with money, those with power
Try to make themselves deserve
Love's bliss kiss to towards them swerve
Adolescent with complexion curse.

Everybody wants it, needs it
I don't know why but naught exceeds it
We hoard it like it's something rare
And fight for it midst tooth and hair
Bumper sticker says to "love a nurse'

So You See
For person's finding, must another lose?
For everywhere
There's an affair
Does a third one turn to booze?
The woman waiting in a car
The old neurotic movie-star
     (They'll care but cannot share)

There are many sometimes lonely
Because of gods like "one and only"
But that's twixt you and those you know
Machinist and guitarist, though,
Forever lunch or play in separation.

So You See.



A Christmas Poem for Jackie

It hangs always on my wall.
Scant attention paid, it is important.
A cousin made it last year to compensate my own forgetfulness.
This yule it is my chosen stocking.

The first green precursors of love have wrought
From what was once a bedsheet
A symbol.
Roughly foot-shaped, it bears my name.

Mother stifled spontaneity perhaps,
A stubborn, innocent sense of what should be,
And little fingers, caring to please.

Here is Christmas,
Santa Claus come home.
Before its light
The grinch in me must smile.

What have I to offer in return, young cousin?
Just this. Some scrawl you have no use for.
But from my heart it tries to match
The sewn linen that hangs always on my life.


A Letter In My Pocket

Afraid of seeing straight through the window of my box
To the busy bowels of the Post Office
I stealthily approach the tiny cubicle
A bit of love, perhaps
Or nothing today?

White envelope visible. Smile playing now upon my face
Calmly I twist the dials of this misplaced dollhouse door
And like a gleeful pirate make off with my treasure
To some deserted classroom there to give my booty full attention.

A letter in my pocket!
I walk, hand feeling, the paper crinkles to my touch.
Grinning like a schoolgirl with a secret I pass by people
Nod and say hello
They know not what warm anticipation
I carry concealed in my jacket.

External me moves with control, determined destination.
Inside I leaping, excited, dancing, swirling joyous celebration

The envelop opened, letter read, words consumed
Rapidly at first, but slower further on
Sincere, loving words. Careful, loving scrawlings in the margin
I am peace now
The letter spread across the desk-top
I look around me,
Gladdened to inaction.


Awe In

We are
Golden spheres of glow
Spitting yellow dashes of self.
In all directions wherever we go.

Thus we meander through time and space
Leaving behind us a little of us.
And picking up bits and pieces of others.

We come, in time, to each other
And discover beauties; marvelous that make us gape in awe
In each other
And in ourselves.



Let's love our living.
Won't you come and celebrate?
We're young
The earth
Bears fruit
Be glad!!!
C'mon you're invited to the party
In your honor
Refreshments will be served:
Nectar of love,
Peace on the rocks
Freedom on Ritz crackers...



Love, Trains, Stomach Ulcers

You picking me up on a drizzly gray morning.
Wasn't that just yesterday?
It seems so long ago.
It was my whole world.
You driving me to class.
Me always late for class.
Things change so fast.
The past has passed.
It cannot be recalled.
It's gone.

The future waits.
Ready to proclaim this moment as irretrievably over.
Existence is so transitory.
I tire
I sleep.

The morning light comes pouring in
The window with its shutters wide
The day begins -- it rained during the night.
I left the car windows open.

Holding you was so good yesterday.
My imagination seeks to make then now.
We rush so fast; very fast; incredibly fast; at the future.
Snatch an hour here, perhaps a whole day.
But it's always: Gotta...soon,
T.V. ad says "slowwwwwwww good" and is over in thirty seconds.
It's ridiculous.

Occupations, duties, chores, responsibilities,
Call and tug at you
And me.
The business man rushes off to work
The scientist labors to increase man's knowledge.
More bullshit to study,
More schools to keep folks studying it.
But the students know it's worthless.
They only want to be like the businessman.

My gramma taught me well: Don't dawdle.
The sign downtown says: No loitering.
And that T.V. again.
No wonder there are so many aspirin commercials.

We've taken the present's preciousness,
The illusionary, all-important series of instants in which we exist,
Given numbers to those instants,
And chained ourselves to the numbers
Schedules, Time cards, clocks,
Clocks! (What an absurd sounding word.)
Fastened onto prison walls
Strapped around our wrists like shackles.
clocks, clocks, clocks, to number now.
Do it by eight thirty.
Must hurry to finish by three fifteen.
Now exists only to prepare for eleven oh five.

High speed trains whistling through the day.
Side-by-side, I yell "I love you" over to the Kaye express.
You hear. You love me too. I'm the Steven express.
Our tracks separate, then reconverge, separate, reconverge.
All at breakneck speed.

I'm always leaving you too soon.
The world yells: Move!
Like flotsam I'm carried along in the flow.
Mind vaguely starts to formulate: NO!!
Can't we possibly take it slow?
When the moment is gone it's gone forever.


I'm Afraid It May Be Blue

An old man with a three day beard
And whiskey on his breath
Leaning on a lamppost outside a bar
On a night as cold as death
"Hey kid, can you spare a dollar?"
I gave him my coat and moved on.

The whores and junkies beckon me,
The muggers beat me up;
And the blind man on the ground down the alley
With nothing in his cup
Can be heard clearly stating:
"My daughter is a movie-star."
I said, "I've seen all her movies."

An aluminum and plastic office
With a sign above the door
Proclaiming that the one within
Is County Coroner of the World.
The typing is fast-efficient,
But the machine always skips "V" when it comes after "O"
That's the way it's done.

Standing in a deep, bright valley
There's a lot that can be seen
For miles around, the hard part is
To make the grass look green.



It's always there.
I look eagerly to the cold earth.
But presumption keeps me here.


Sixteenth Autumn

It's 5:00 and I'm on the steps oat my old school,
And that's funny, because
My old school doesn't have any steps.
The janitor's telling me his problems.
Seems he broke up with his girl.
Everyone's gone, we're the only one's left.

Except for the band, I can hear them if I listen.
They're out behind the building,
Practicing for nothing
"What makes a girl do things like that?"
Queries the janitor, and I say, "I don't know."
I don't know his answer. I don't know much of anything.

My mind takes leave of this dreary setting
I see a figure in a suit, talking for all he's worth.
He thinks he'll win the argument.
Wait'll it's my turn, and he won't stand a chance.
That's over now and my mind moves again.
To a subject my thoughts forever frequent.

There she is. There she is again.
I remember exactly what she said.
And then she had to go.
She was back the next day.
We laughed and we sang and I have a bad voice.
I told her I lover her she said "oh."

I reached out and touched her golden hair.
To move it from her eyes
But it fell right back where it was
I was sitting in bliss.
Just watching her make music
And listening. To all she does.

She's gone now and I'll never see her again.
I tried to cry when I first knew,
But no tears came.
My friend the janitor says "things just aren't right"
"I know, old pal, things really stink,
But life must continue, just the same."

Carrollton, GA, 1975.10
(Titled 2013)

Wake Forest High School Debate Institute

Up against walls,
High in a tree,
Out third story windows.
Who else but me?

Up in a tree,
I catch someone's eye
Then they all look at me,
And one asks me "Why?"

The one down below me
Puts words to my thoughts
But I do not Know "Why?"
And my answers are naught.

But my questions are many,
So I reach in my mind.
I am seeking out truth;
But there's nothing I find.

Why is the prison
that always holds me?
Why is the blindness
that won't let me see?

I'll ponder such questions,
And as long as I do,
I'll continue to continue
To do what I do.

Winston-Salem, NC, 1975.07