Tag Archives: meditations

Mist Or Mystique

In these eyes, either
mist or mystique
but not both:
either tears or a veil,
blurred vision or second sight.
You ask how those modes

cannot stretch to include one another?
Can you not cry while seeing the future?
In response, I turn from you
and refuse to answer.

I cried myself out about the future
long ago; if I cry now, it is only because
of the moment’s touch upon me.
I cannot allow myself the luxury
of pre-mourning that which I foresee;

there is too much to be done before then.


Barnwood

Don’t you love the look of barnwood
in your home? Wide boards dented
from hooves and heavy boots, or (more likely)
from chains dragged and slammed upon them
in industrial furniture mills until they meet
a mythic standard for anything made to look
as if it once had some harder use. 

Don’t you love the smell of incense
in your home? Sandalwood
pressed into decorating the nostrils
of your guests in your barnwood home
instead of perfuming the temples
where it once praised Lakshmi and Shiva
in its rising from soft flame. 

Don’t you love the dreamcatcher
in your home? The Assiniboine
net framed perfectly on the charcoal wall
over the bookcase, centered, empty of specters 
as far as you know, merely here to let folks know
you appreciate authenticity, found some
on that last trip out West,
and brought it into your home.

Don’t you love sleeping
in your home? Lying at night
on the cotton sheets, on the
bamboo pillow. Your partner
is a shadow on the other side,
more memory than solid figure
in the dark. You wish they’d wake up
and touch you. You wish on invisible stars
for that to happen. You cannot wait 
for the day to begin and fill the house
with light so that you can look at all
the pretty things you truly own.


Ain’t That America

1.
You arrive, there’s
a church ready made
for you.  A grand car lot.
Sign spinners
and blinking neon.
Plastic pennants point shaking, 
acolytes rump shaking.
Come on down, step right up,
huckster gospel hour of power,
walk on in and be approved,
drive away in your holy wreck,
come back soon for more new shiny.
Like that song says,
ain’t that America. 

2.
Stick here long enough
and someone
may slip you a whisper
or maybe you find out
for yourself 
not to trust deities
who keep eight decks of cards
up each sleeve. Who invert
at dusk to hang inert 
in their Paradise, ignoring
desperate prayers
so they can wake up 
refreshed for their new day
at the expense 
of refreshing yours.
Who play you when they play.
Who made this house that always wins.
Ain’t that America?

3.
You leave feet first,
they always say,
unless of course you don’t
and you depart while still
upright, walking around in debt
to those gods of the house
with the church and the holy tables
where you laid your life out
and kept betting chunks of it
in pursuit of happiness.  Midnight
prayers unanswered except
through the last radio left on
all night in a tired coffee shop 
full of other mesmerized folks 
singing along. Ain’t that America?


Goth Villanelle

Poem from 1996.

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 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.


Jeffery Lee And Skin Guitar At the Open Mic

he carried it in like a wound
he had learned to live with

sat with it infantile
wondering at untutored wisdom

then struck it 
and drew forth unfiltered stream

as he played Jeffery Lee
changed himself to be Jeffery Tree

then Geoffrey Spree
exposed his nature first in slow touch with wood

then how reckless with speed
Jeffery Lee and skin guitar a blur union

the listeners sat before him in chairs
and talked of elsewhere and otherwise

Jeffery Lee stepped out from behind the mic
went outside into the night 

at that point the host paused the list
for short applause and beer 

no one went after him or saw
Jeffery Lee dissolve or his skin guitar

rising away
to the star


Shrug It Off

Amid the shock and awe at the final arrival of the long-inevitable,
at burn patterns already veining surfaces, at cities that smell like mistakes,
at villages cowering, at collapsing sea walls in hot rising surf, at isolated farms
where life’s winking out as flames consume…you’re here

where deep down you believe all that mess can’t bother you. You’re here
where you can feel the heat and think it’s…nice. You’re here
where you can watch and shake your head in time to the crackling
and you’re here where you can tell yourself that at least the art

may soon be as good as it always is under such stress.
It can’t be helped, you say.  It’s the way of things, you say.
Forget the bucket brigade, forget the hoses, forget
pulling livestock and children from the flames.  Their owners

and parents should have known better — but they aren’t yours.
You now may wring your brutal, soft hands. You need do nothing more.


Starving Artist Whimper

When at the end
a summary of my life
came down to a soft trumpet flourish
as I fell away from it,
a quick tattoo
on someone else’s marching drum,
I felt no disappointment, no
deep pain; more an appreciation
for how artfully drama may enhance
a simple, nearly-squalid demise. 
All I kept thinking as I sank was

where are you,
choir of disapproval?
Where are you,
angels of warnings unheeded?
Shouldn’t this be your moment?

Nothing came of that.
I fell away from this life
with no mass requiem. I dropped
into ooze below like a stick,
sat on top of it held up by tension 
for a while until I finally sank
and vanished into near silence.


Man Without Qualities

Originally posted 2013.  Revised.

There is a man
who has 1500 friends
on Facebook.

When he counts his friends
he has to use

everyone’s hands to do it.

Of the 1500 people
this man calls friends

he has met approximately 800 in person.

Of those 800, he’s had
more than passing conversations

with maybe 200.

Of those 200, he’s had longer
and more intimate conversations
with perhaps 40.

Of those 40, there are perhaps 15
who are “friends” in the sense of the word
that existed prior to the year 2006.

1500 friends — 800 he’s seen,
400 he’s spoken with in meatspace,
200 he’s connected with,

40 he would tell this story to,
15 who would agree that they are friends
if they were not vanishing into a cloud.

He no longer sees friendship
as a solid object. No rock upon which
to build. No seawall against which

the ocean can pound. He stares
at screens where all he can see
is a storm on the way.

One day he decides to read
a three volume unfinished novel
titled “A Man Without Qualities.”

He opens the first volume, closes it,
opens it again. He struggles to understand
how there could be

a story three volumes long
of a man who is nothing
beyond what 
he is asked to be by others.

The book sits on his bedside table
unopened for long spells
as he talks to 1500 friends online

where, if there is a Quality to “friendship,”
it has been absorbed into a cloud.

It is being absorbed. It shall be absorbed.

1500 friends — 800 he’s seen,
400 he’s spoken with in meatspace,
200 he’s connected with,

40 he would tell this story to,
15 who would agree that they are friends
if they were not vanishing into a cloud.

If he desires to hold on to those 15 friends
he will have to learn a new word with which
to draw them forth from the hurricane.

 

White As A Ghost

they said to 
a frightened man

you are as white
as a ghost

he said nothing
but thought

about the paradigm that after existing
in the skin

he was born to 
for an entire lifetime

the fear of death
would render him as white as the ghost

they thought he would become
after dying

thus negating at last
all else he was and had been

in this notion of the afterlife
fear and death bleach all

and the goal of total assimilation
is thus achieved 

but the frightened man
did not say any of this

instead silently resolved that
when at last his term was ended

if he could come back 
he would come back

the wraith he would become
would haunt all of this

and his ghost
would be dark


Indoor Weather

no one ever speaks of
the weather inside buildings

people pretend
they’ve come inside from weather
to no weather

they misinterpret
the sensation
of a single drop of water
landing on their skin 
from an invisible source

call it a phantom
call it imaginary
dismiss it

in fact rain happens indoors on a small scale
what you felt
was a monsoon in the break room
or spring shower in the kitchen

we are never told this when we’re young
among all the mysteries held back
this may be the greatest of all

that we cannot escape

the cool season of the closet
the mutable climate of the front hall

the terrible inevitable
that is the dark freeze
of the bedroom


Forty-Five Minutes

Forty-five
minutes lying awake
after rising briefly 
and returning to bed
where nothing happened

so I rose and
sat with water and smoke
waiting for pain to subside
for another forty-five minutes

At forty-five
I would have brushed off 
a broken night like this one
as merely a test
of the preservation
and evolution of my energy

but at fifty-nine
frozen in the living room light
wanting nothing more
than oblivion temporary or
otherwise 

it is hard to imagine
that once upon a time
twice forty-five minutes ago
I had it

as it feels like I will never
have it again


Jalopy

After he’d rolled 
for a full lifetime

between fear
and anger 

driving always
through shame

to try and get
to where he was going

hoping to end up
at peace

his jalopy body
finally failed

Then part of him laughed
at the possibility of dying

between the poles
without reaching

what he’d thought
would feel like home

while part of him wept 
at the same thought

But a larger part
went still and began to steel

understanding at the root
that this was home

and he could park
or wreck there

but this was where
he’d stay


Music And Rapture

We say

day by day,
minute to minute,
now and then:

no more. 

Instead let’s say

day by hurricane,
minute by 
lava flow,
now and riverbend.

There is no reason
cliches become cliches
except that they are true
and express something
we’ve all agreed to accept

so let’s make time
flex from concept to 
solidity, make it 
tangible, even surreal;

let’s accept that today
is casket, tomorrow
is rotted eyes, next year
is dust; let’s agree
that passage is 
fruit, that aging is 
white cracked leather;

that day in fact precedes hard wind,
second is best followed by cobra,

and now and then?
Now is ecstasy
of drunken hands
on an antique keyboard.
Then is a fumble, a mistake
in the stream.
Now and then:

Now music,
rapture then.


Henge

You were told 
once and then again
that there are no rules
to this art and 

shortly after were scolded
about how many rules you
were breaking
They knocked you down and

made it hard to continue through
all those ghost rules that
were not to be found in one book
but were engraved instead upon the panes

of a henge of glass
Some you saw through and slipped past
while others cut you and some
were long broken but still standing

In the end you saw in them
what you needed and (as you
should do with any sacred space) you
gave of your blood and walked away

having changed it and
yourself by seeing
how the edges of the rules
were the center of the path through


A Stone In My Shoe

There are words in print
that I am not certain
I know how to pronounce;

they are stones in my shoe.

A dry patch of skin
high on my left cheekbone
that come and goes,
is more gone than here
but which worries me
all the time — is it back,
is it there, is it visible,
is it hideous —

it is a stone in my shoe.

Trying to replicate
a lightning one string slide
in a Robert Johnson song
that I’ve played well exactly once
and never again to my knowledge,
a note I pursue and fail to catch
so I lay my head down
and weep over it when no one’s here —

a stone in my shoe, a stone in my passway.

I am a prisoner of these shoes
that crack me from sole up.
When I tell you I’m hurt
you sit there and ask me
to grit my jaw 
and grind my head to dust
to get past this and produce.
To walk for you in spite of the pain,
speak some words I don’t know how to say out loud,
flaunt skin I cannot heal,
put my hands and voice to a song I cannot fathom.

Your insistence
upon such things is
a stone in my shoe.

My joy demands
that I tell you
that none of that 
is ever going to work.