Tag Archives: meditations

Excruciating Detail

Into excruciating detail we go.
We approach any fire focused on the embers at the edge.
We can describe the craquelure of each coal.
We can say whatever we want of shades and gradations
as long as we don’t speak of how close we are to being consumed.

Into excruciating detail we go.
We see haze and make up numbers to explain its depth.
We see smoke and metaphor it as dragon, as mushroom, as column.
We can say whatever we want of thickness and color and height
as long as we don’t choke on the constant approach of disaster.

Into excruciating detail we go.
We smell every singe on each hair currently on fire.
We speak of sweet and sour and acrid and my God, no words.
We can say whatever we want about the length of any given flame
as long as we ignore how bright and how hot we have become.


Aubade

Start the day by greeting
all the creatures in the house: the people, cats,
ferret, fish; the ones in the walls
and the ones in the cracks;

the ones who come out at night
and the ones who sometimes scurry past
at daybreak; the ones we do not even know
are there who would chill us into screaming
if we could see them.

This day brings so much to deal with.
Every day brings so much to deal with.

Start with acknowledgement of all the good and terror
that lives within our walls. Take that as your banner
when facing the burning world beyond them.


Tiny Movements

I keep catching tiny movements
in corners of the house. I look more closely
and find…nothing. But I’m sure of what I saw.

Something is here that stays only enough out of sight
to be elusive and yet comes into view often enough
to make it impossible to ignore.

Perhaps I’m losing my mind from seeing
all the demons we always knew were there
in the outside world coming out from under rocks

and crawling out of the garbage. Then again,
I’m assuming bad intent here. Maybe these are
benevolent? Then why hide? I could use a friend.

Maybe they came here
to hide from the demons
only to find me, and that is why they hide.

All I know for sure is that I’m getting used
to the idea of the unseen appearing in corners
I never used to look at

and in spite of myself, I’m beginning to think
that it might not be safer to keep my eyes closed,
but it might be more comfortable in the short run.


The Liquid Inside Stars

There is a fluid inside
at least some stars,
I’m certain. I can feel it.
I can feel it falling onto me
from on high on clear nights
with no moon. I raise my head,
startled by a drop
from the dark above. Can feel
nothing on my skin afterward
but the pinpoint of impact shines
for a few seconds and I am
temporarily celestial as well.

Once back inside
when I fall into darkness again
I stare at that once star-bright spot
and remind myself that all I need
is to go back out there and lie down
(perhaps forever) naked under the sky
and eventually I shall become
a pointillist testament to an odd hope
that might be based in illusion but
then again, there I would be to silently refute
the doubters from death as I could not
from within my life, saying

look, I did shine; look, I am shining now —
whether from the soaking of stars
or the drenching of the sun, I shine.
I told you of the liquid in the stars
and here I am: proof.


Shabby Time

none of us expected
a time so inflated
seams expanded almost to bursting

no longer a flow
instead as shabby
as a failing bridge

distance between seconds grown
nearly insurmountable
far side less and less certain

our history seems
more and more a series
of false supports to a span

over a gap
where those on each side
believe their ground

is all that is solid and
crossing it is folly
unnecessary madness

time being
at its essence beyond us
will eventually deflate

pull itself together
once we stop waiting for it
to tick just for us

instead let us stand
dead center upon that bridge
and whether we fall or rise

or hang suspended
let us accept what happens
in that perfected time

with full understanding
that from there truth
may look different depending

on where
you choose
to stand

but never is
in fact anything
more than truth

like time itself
forever beyond our belief
of what it should be




In Memoriam

When light was snuffed. When we
couldn’t see in darkness.

When wind took our power. When we
lay there like infants.

When storm was voice, was all we heard, all
we could hear. When we
waited for other sound: water
rising, trees tearing free, rising on wind
or water.

When fire loomed beyond our vision. When we
could feel heat from such a distance
it would have been as far as fantasy
if we did not know it was real.

When more was clearly going to happen,
then it did. When it happened, and
again when more happened. When we
grew old, grew tired of it happening,
grew inured to it happening.

When it happened at last;
hugely, completely. When we
became exhausted from witness.

When we chose
to move in darkness, fire, storm,
wind, and flood.

When we
did what we could far too late
but did it anyway.

When we
grew up at last.




The Road Taken

Now we are at remarkable.
Passed intriguing and interesting
long ago. Deep into ourselves
we’ve gone and look at the time:
how we marvel at the long run,
at how we fascinate ourselves with ourselves.

Around the corner is obsession.
Around the corner is a track that will take us
off into the trees on the hills above the lake
on the down side of the road. There will be
no turning back once we’re there.

We took this route not expecting we’d be
so into ourselves that we’d be unable to see
others. That we’d be stuck on a road
between drowning and tumbling over rocks
and have to follow it right to the end
into whatever abattoir might be sitting there.

If you sniff the wind, you can tell
how close we’re getting. You’ll call it
perfume, of course. In your head it will smell
like the colors of the flag. Like an eagle
not tearing at your back.


Stuck Inside

Like they woke up trapped
in a Bob Dylan song
between a stack of rickety rocking chairs
and a small band of musicians playing
sad accordions and clarinets

Like they fell back into the Sixties
as if it were a tie-dyed mattress
upon which they’d learned
to screw and sleep with select randoms
Like they can’t get up without groaning
from the broken springs
but that’s the bed they chose to lie in

Like they hoarded money
Keeping it in bags woven from hemp
trimmed in beaten-up motorcycle leather
then crawled in and forgot to come out again

Like they put their hands over their ears
and said it was all alright

Like they heard some fancy blues
and said it was authentic tonic for the times

Like they’d
once upon a time
traveled the whole white world
seeking redemption
found a facsimile
called it good
and stayed stuck
in a rocking chair praising St. Bob
to the sound of wheezing
as they began to drown
in the new morning flood





Fractures

Fractures
are natural
after a fall
from a height.
Putting pieces
together again
is also natural.
Letting them remain
separate, also
natural. Scattering
them about, also
natural. There is
so much history
for all ways of
dealing with fracture;
when confronted with
breakage there is choice:
knit, spread, or let fall
to ruin, let others
find shards years from now,
try to reconstruct
what happened.
They will get it
mostly wrong, hit on
some sharp edges
and snag some small truths,
but never take it all in.
What it once was
will be called broken
and what it will become,
a new kind of complete;
some knitting of
disparate parts
into new pictures of
what is natural;
some discarding
of what is inconvenient;
some fragmentation
into what they will call
a multifaceted world.


To The Summit

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
On this path the journey is all,
and all the work put it is work
toward the highest point attainable.
Rest is a step, detour is a step, falling
to the rocks below is a step.

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
Steps taken along this path are not counted
unless they advance progress; minimal dawdling
and meandering are welcome but are considered
time wasters when overindulged in spite of
lip service given to the importance of
dream, fancy, and inspiration.

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
On this path one must climb and only climb;
the only thing worth noting is the upward motion;
the calculation only runs upward and one wrong step
resets the count to nothing at all. There are masters
along this path who keep track of the track,
endlessly repeating the mantra: grind, grind, grind.

This is only one of many paths to the summit.
On this path, one turns each corner expecting
a sage will materialize to announce your arrival.
Even now, you are expecting someone to tell you
you are already there no matter where you are on the path.
That someone will not be me. I’m in the mist off the trail
myself, waiting for directions or at least for a sign
that I’m near to my path, or that I should keep sitting
for a while or an age, as if there is still time
or any summit at all ahead.


The Lost Tapes

Somewhere there must be
an archive that explains
all the mysteries that underpin
the truths we collectively accept
as bald and obvious
as sunrise coming
after or before sunset
depending
on where you stand
and how calm you are
about your beginning
either being forged in the dark
or germinating in the growing light
and your end either coming to you
in a dawn blaze
or the dimming
before night slides down
over all you are and
where are the tapes that explain
why you are one way
and others are another
why you are day
and others are night
and why when you meet
you cannot forge wholeness
from your separated selves


Dark Villanelle

Poem from circa 1995. I believe this is the first time posted.

This night of stars that have tunneled through the dark

has kept me up so much later than I should have been up.

A cloud across the moon fills my eyes with tears.

 

Watching the sun vanish opened up a night of dread.

I sat by the river fearing the dead approach of

this night of stars that have tunneled though the dark

 

and thrown a wink of infinity against my hope for closure.

I wish I knew who to call. I wish I knew what to say.

A cloud across the moon fills my eyes with tears.

 

If there were any distance to travel that would take me past the lights

to places where I could not see the open sky, I could say less of

this night of stars that have tunneled through the dark

 

and kept me up so much later than I should have been up.

In an hour the sun will rise but it cannot dim the memory that, like

a cloud across the moon, fills my eyes with tears.

 

Night, day, the cycle repeats with no hope of a change

until the day the fist of God slams down upon

this night of stars that have tunneled through the dark.

A cloud across the moon fills my eyes with tears.


Tastes Like Iron

I bite the inside of my mouth. Tastes
like rust, like the inside of a long-uncleaned
tank —old blood, more iron than liquid.

Then I take a picture of my wounded face
and imagine who I’d be if I had better skin,
if I had better eyes and better hair —

you ask, who decides
what better means? If I had the face of another man,
is what I mean by it. A face born in another time,
better suited to another time.

You say I don’t know
what I mean by that, that I look like a man
at rest in his era, but you can’t taste
my antique blood. You can’t understand
how mournful, how wistful that I was not born
in a day unlike our own I can become. How broken
my own face makes me feel.

Lastly, I take a sip of water.
Shake off the messy moment.
Step back into these blowback days.


Uncle

Uncle says he loves you.
Holds it together for you
in spite of his tornado brains.
Reaches out to pull you off
the diminishment track
ahead of the demolishing train.
Go to your dream space, he tells you. 
I can’t save you but you’ll be safe there.
I have to stay here by the track 
and play bait and bail out songs
to bring the train down to a crawl
that could still kill but you should be able
to get out of the way with only mangled limbs.
This is what Uncle does. He was
never father but was a son, a brother
of sorts at some point, knows
what he expected and never got. Can’t
do it all but has wrestled blue dragons, 
black dogs, and accountants in charge of 
finding you deficient; has beaten back fire,
thrust his arm into snapping jaws, paid debts
all for you. Uncle loves you,
asks nothing more in return than you
bring your own fullness to battle
and be what he wasn’t. Be one thing
he wasn’t and call the account square.
Be more than that and call it paid
with interest.  Be all you can
and take the overpay back,
slay new dragons, tame new dogs,
and even if you don’t
recall Uncle 
forever after
it will be more than enough.


Families

1.
Inside a classically
tinfoil-windowed apartment

Armand sits and broods
over tangled news,

teasing out threads that lead
to other threads, pointing out 

omens that predict
future omens.

Armand, his family says,
has always had the gift and the curse.

Which is which from day to day
they never know.

There’s not much distance 
between the two.

2.
He’s two animals away
from having a full zoo,

is what the family
has always said about Erik

who can’t seem
to hold onto himself

for very long, thus
establishing a pattern

of strange footprints
left behind in an odd 

and broken path. It’s not
even clear that

Erik has always been alone
on the journey if you 

examine the tracks closely,
which the family thinks

is not at all
a good idea.

3.
If only there were
clear reasons for Daryl’s 

monosyllabic insistence
upon standing so close

to the table
at Sunday dinner

that it becomes hard
to set and serve. Almost as if

he thinks the family
eats too much or

that he must block
their formality or

that Sunday dinner itself
could still be as deadly

as it was when he was
a youth.

4.
At eight AM
a baby skunk runs by

my front windows
with a yogurt cup on its head.

I try to catch it and yank it free
but my fear keeps me

from investing too much
in that effort to care;

I think maybe it will bite or
I will end up stinking 

and blinded. It runs around
like madness itself trying

to get free
of what has happened

through no fault of its own
as it attempted to find

sweetness, sustenance;
as it attempted to live.