Tag Archives: meditations

Immigrant

Where you come from
the people speak the language
of eyelids: all messages, direction,
and mission revealed
in hints of motion visible
behind shuttered faces. 

You can usually 
get past the noise level here,
but some days, you come home
and lie in the dark wishing
for someone to read
what you’re thinking.

Such a loud land
you’ve landed in: news
a broken set of bells
echoing every minute, opinion
half screaming angry,
half screaming in sorrow.
You wonder if it will ever
fall silent, then fear that moment
is coming soon and no one
will know what to do, 
except explode.


Chosen

World outside is greasy
with nonsense 
today; that wind
has some throat to it.
Had to get up early; no sleep

to be had with that voice
slipping around corners, 
through windows, along eaves.
Anyone would prefer

to stay in bed with that
chaos blowing so hard; rather
keep sleeping, keep screwing, 
keep blank and dark and quiet

pretending it’s going to end
as quickly and silently as it began,
but it doesn’t work that way; this same
scouring windstorm has blown

from first day to this one
and all that changes is who is here
to confront it and build new shelters
among its teeth. No matter how slippery

life gets, someone always finds a footing.
No matter how loud and dirty life gets,
someone always whispers
something clean enough 

to break through it. It might well
be you: uncomfortable you,
frightened you, present 
and dawning and perfect,

born in this time for this time.


Feeding The Birds

He’s feeding the birds
before putting out the trash —
making sure they’re fed,
making sure the recycling’s done
right, making sure of his own little circle.

He will not watch television this morning
because they’ll be showing the funeral
of a villain, and after all the funerals he’s wept at
he does not want to see 
the weeping at this one.

He’s feeding the birds
before putting out the trash,
before anything else he might do
to avoid the prattle and rattle
of ceremony.

He will not stop thinking
“rot in hell” today
because it’s the only way he can assuage
the horror of knowing the funeral means
the bastard got away with everything.

He’s feeding the birds. He’s putting out the trash.
He’s amazed he made it this far
and after all the funerals he’s been to,
he’s glad he lived to see this one although
he’s sorry it took this long.


Prayer To The Daymaker

Let there be one moment
exactly like the last one.
I dare you, Maker of Days,
to repeat yourself. To copycat
time, plagiarize yourself 
just this once — or twice.

It wasn’t perfect, I suspect,
although I was not paying attention
all the way through it; still, a perfect moment
isn’t perfect if it’s recorded, I suspect.
It has to live memorialized, static
in its recalled context. So even if it
had been perfect, there’s truly no way to know.
Only you, Maker, can in theory recall it entirely
and could in theory reproduce it. 

So I dare you, Daymaker: 
give it back. This was a learning day
and that was the capstone. I’m 
nearly educated to the point of tipping
and I need to be sure of what happened
to be sure of graduating into
the next unknown moment ripe
with potential perfection.
No one beside us will know it’s a glorious
rerun. No one beside us will know
I begged you to slow down and let me
have more out of the day than I strictly
deserved. Let me have the chance
to savor it or fear it correctly. Let me
be anything other than a man in despair
of aging into the dark.


Wedge Setter, Swinger Of Weight

Dear settler, dear pioneer spirit:

once the log is freed
from the rest of the trunk,
look at the grain, look at 
the potentially stubborn 
knots.  Pick your

spots, set the first
wedge, tap it in lightly
with your sledgehammer
till it’s upright and ready.

Step back.

Raise that hammer high –
your hands sliding apart,
then together, letting the natural
gravity bring it down

onto the hard, mashed-up
flat of the wedge, driving it
into the natural faults of the grain,
tearing it open until that piece falls away.

Reset, repeat

until it’s done,
until it’s all 
stacked and waiting
for its time to burn.

Dear settler, dear
pioneer spirit. Dear 
all-American sense of destiny
made manifest in brawny moves:

this has nothing to do with the wedge
and everything to do with the fire.

 

 


The Trailer

I have fretted
over not recalling my dreams 
until tonight
when I had one in which

two magazine-handsome white boys
laughed as they told me
they were going to steal the trailer
I was dragging up from the ditch
where it had rolled after detaching from the car
when I took that too-fast turn

up the hill;

this after I’d done all the work
of searching for it in the autumn brush
of the ruined industrial park
where it had rolled long ago

into near-invisibility
among the bittersweet

and wild grape vines
whose color almost matched

its rust and dents;

I had not yet decided how to use it
or even to scrap it or sell it but
I had had a small vision of it becoming 
the basis for a small side business to help me
survive, no clear plan really, just an inkling
that something this usable and abandoned
shouldn’t be left to rot;

so when the laughing little men
in polos and good jeans from some
ungodly expensive store laughed at me
and said they were going to take it, and what
could I do about it against them, and how did I think
this was going to end, I did not bother to ask them
why they were doing it;

they were doing it because they could, because 
they had money, because they had family to back them,
because they were whitely empowered, because nothing
had prepared them to hear no, to believe in no, 
to even understand no; this was just a game to them —
to steal the most broken thing they could from someone
as broken as the thing they were going to steal
and to laugh as they were doing it;

and as American
and as low-down
and as modern

as all this was,
as much as I wanted

to walk away
from the trailer and the boys

and maybe even my car
and go drop my shame

into the nearby river
and drown with their laughter

in my dying ears,

I could not.

The knife from my pocket
was now in my strong hand.
The pepper gel from my pocket
was now in my other hand.
I had enough, enough, and I sprayed first
intending to slash right after —

and then I woke up
wringing wet, lying with the covers
kicked off as if this were still
the Fourth Of July, as if this were still
August the sixteenth

when it was still warm in the outside world,
when I wasn’t yet fighting for scraps,
when it seemed like I might yet win.


Full Stop

I sit more and more
with my
diminishing
presence
as the 
long-predicted end result
of a long-game genocide.

I feel like a full stop.

The Tribe doesn’t want me.
Why should they? I am only
a member by history,
not by presence,
not by physicality.

The Whiteness cannot understand
why it feels like a slap
that I’m seen as a full member.
Why should they? Who doesn’t want
to win, they ask?

I don’t.  Not that way.
I’m not, I whine. I’m not.

Dumbass. Of course you are, 

everyone else says:
the Tribe, the Whiteness,
all the individuals within and without;
even the chosen family,
even the ones I thought I loved and honored.

I think they are more right than I am.
Something in me doesn’t know how to listen.

I am the full stop.
The end result. This is what
the founders,
the original sinners of the nation
wanted — my simple

surrender to the default
once I’ve been 
denatured. 

What should I say,
what should I write
about wholeness in a place
that cannot use my wholeness?

What should I say that offers 
my entirety
when I do not have any evidence 
of it being real?

I sit more and more with myself
as a ghost to myself. Someone else’s 

proof of concept.


Harvard Square

1.
A Tarot reader
off Harvard Square
 
startled me
when she said she saw
Native spirits behind me
 
and then asked if
I had any Native blood
 
I did not speak but nodded that
indeed I did
and she nodded back
 
and said,
“Wolf Clan?”
I nodded inside
 
but not to that
 
2.
Leaving the parlor
I stopped at a 7-11
 
to buy cigarettes
a yellow pack
 
of American Spirits
which burn slower and longer
I liked the taste
 
not the package
 
3.
I smoked my way over
to Au Bon Pain and sat outside
with a coffee black
 
staring at a street performer
a living statue
a Bride
 
who’d be famous one day
 
but was not just yet
 
4.
Class was starting soon
so I got up
and crossed Mass Ave
walked to the gates
went in and learned
something
I’ve since forgotten
 
but I think the class
was on either
the psychology of religion
or the madness of crowds
 
but I could be wrong
 
5.
I quit smoking years ago
Got tired of looking at the packages
and sucking that death
 
I quit going to Harvard Square
after seeing the Tarot reader
had been promoted from
occult appropriator
to manager
of Urban Outfitters
 
Au Bon Pain
closed sometime after
The Bride
quit all that standing around
got moving and
got a little famous
 
6.
There are still crowds rushing
all around the Square
 
The gates are still there
along with keepers
who don’t bother with masks
any longer
 
7.
A different card reader
told me the other day
she couldn’t read a thing
in me
 
and I nodded inside
but not at that
 
If I learned anything at Harvard
it was how to hold myself tight
against the madness of
the marketplace
no matter how cleverly
it disguises itself
 
as wisdom

Hypnic Jerks

I have often had the dream
of falling and the startling snap
of finding myself awake, 
panting, just before
hitting the ground.

There are those who say
falling in a dream
is only fatal if you 
hit the ground in the dream,

which must mean you’ll be dead
when you wake up after impact
and not before,

which only makes sense
if you don’t think about
how anyone knows all this

if those who struck bottom
died and did not come back to tell
the rest of us.

Sleep disorder researchers
claim that instead
of it being a just-missed death
that jerks you awake 

it is instead
a sudden oxygen deprivation 
in random muscles
causing a sleep twitch
called a hypnic jerk

and that is how the startled waking
at the bottom of the fall
is created.

Hypnic jerk or narrow escape:
either way, in the aftermath
of the dream I find myself 
awake with fading memory:
rushing air around my ears.
Face up, falling from a great height.
Anticipation dashed. A longing
to slip back into sleep, just to see
where I might have landed,
what that country 
would have been like.

Perhaps the myth of it being fatal 
not to wake up from the falling dream
was created and spread by those
who feared the masses’ discovery

of solid ground waiting
to catch and cradle and exalt 
those who fly in dreams
in spite of the fear of falling;
after all, who could say 
what might come from people
with no fear of their own dreams.


Wordplay

Heavy tongues laden
with brutal, baroque words;
I lose time among them,
must heave them to the sides
of this trail I’m forced to build.

I don’t have
the breath for this.
I don’t have
the heart to tell the language
to shorten and purify.

Not to suggest that
there is no value 
to the thicket. 
Not to suggest
that there are no spells
that work better magic through
extension and complexity.

As much beauty as I can find
from time to time

in that tangle

more can be found
in the spare land
beyond it;

I am older now,
weary from wordplay,

and what I seek most
from a journey now

is destination.


Awash

When we
get to the end
we likely won’t even notice.

We have been waiting
for so long we have forgotten
that tides often come in

slowly. If you do not
pay attention you will
find yourself far from shore

on a rock awash in danger
and it will be done
before you recognize it.

This swamp
will become lagoon and then
open ocean so gently

that we will see it
only when we are
almost drowned. 

We expect a tsunami 
but it will be erosion
that drags us fatally down.

In the end we will not only
not see it coming, we will not admit
we are in fact gone.

In fact,
let us say it:
we are in fact gone. Notice

how hard it has become
to breathe. Notice how cold
and dense the world has become.


A Bitter History

A bitter history
floats stinging in my mouth,
the back of my throat tightening.

When I can finally choke down the truth
of how long and hard I have worked
to get nowhere

it sits in my core burning 
and freezing: heavy 
mistakes of ice and molten lead.

You would think I’d be used to
starting again, just cycle back to my first
bite of the apple and do the next round

differently, but I end up
here, full up with pain,
swollen in regret every time.

In my ears a different pain
demands repair
in an old song:

grow up, move on,
old man, 
old mess. Nothing 
about you is more than

temporary. A generation
of broken boys just like you
mourns itself 

while the rest of us
stand waiting for you 
to be lifted
from the earth, lifted 
off of us.


Anti-matter

They will blow me up
because to them, I don’t matter.

They will cut me up and down,
and to them it won’t matter.

They — who are they?
If I name them, will it matter?

Abbreviations, nicknames, designations —
none of that will matter.

This is old, bedrock-old, and so cold;
glacial ice at the heart of this matter.

They showed up here as ground-down losers.
Where they’re from, they didn’t matter.

One by one, those lost boys and girls
grew up to think they are all of matter.

The rest of us — the rest of me — insubstantial
to them; that’s the core of this matter.

To them I am a crude ghost from past conquest.
To them, I am anti-matter.

To me, I am solid and they are smoke.
To me, to us? None of them matter.

Their world will burn as ours once did.
Nothing left but the hardest matter.

I have proved, we have proved how hard we are.
In the end, what will last is all that will matter.


In America

Originally written late 1996, early 1997.

In America there are drive through liquor stores
and cream corn wrestling pit strip joints
I am a child of the modern vacuum
and I am eager to be American
so I listen to television news
describing huge American pistol
throwing lead into a 14 year old

his ten year old companion screaming –

we didn’t know anyone lived here
we were getting wood for a fort

his ten year old companion screaming –

I don’t want to die

into 911

The dispatcher telling him –

Sweetie, you won’t

and him replying –

I might

and the whole time
the 76 year old killer saying

I gotta right they were stealing
they were on my property

In America there are Elvis churches
and spy shops full of surreptitious cigarettes
I am hearing our property come to life
I am hearing the country die

They say

that the Electric chair in America doesn’t work too well
They say the mask blew up into flame and
solid citizens got to see the head of Pedro Medina burn
I bet someone somewhere said it served him right
and someone else started a drive to switch from Old Sparky to
more humane and less confrontational lethal injection
so much easier on the witnesses
in America

In America there are head shops
peddling pseudo-Rastafarian hokum
and flea markets of Congressional loyalty
and it’s better to have the innocent die
or better that we become beasts to the beastly
than to let ourselves be fooled
by the modern ghosts of evil

(you can see evil in their eyes
but I’m confused: is it supposed to be all grey in there?
or should it look like Miami Beach
full of fun and pastel?
or does it look like the Everglades
full of gators and rare birds?
or does it look like me looking out?)

In America there are bridges
that flake until they fall
and rhyming monsters beneath them
waiting to invade the nurseries

I am a child of the modern vacuum
eager to become American

Ponce de Leon came ashore in Florida
hundreds of years ago
looking for
a Fountain of Youth
but what he really wanted was

Hooters
manatee blood
bison hide
passenger pigeon extinction
bales of weed wasted on the shore
drunken gropings resolving into violence
rootless numbers adrift on crazed ozone wind
immigrant massacres in the dark

flames leaping from the head of Pedro Medina
old man gunfiring into childhood forts
cream corn wrestling pit strip joints
drive through liquor stores
and a horizon as flat as a mouth

The center was empty
when Ponce got there

the Fountain of Youth was a booby prize

and today the center is still empty
but the vacuum is filling rapidly
with mystery boxes
full of cheap ripoffs of

Voudoun
Santeria
Wicca
Krishna Consciousness
Holy Rolling
Lutheran
Catholic
Buddhism

all swarming in ecumenical floods
around our true faith

Evangelical Consumerism

all molded by Television
into a spectacle of death
through satiation

I am a child of the vacuum
I am an eager American
In the absence of anything solid
I will believe whatever you tell me


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to you
who I will not see today,
or tomorrow. Happy Birthday
to those whose birthdays will come
tomorrow, or the day after, 
who I will not see on those days.
Happy Birthday to all whose birthdays
came and went and I did not
see, have not seen since, will not see
again soon. Happy Birthday is how
I say to you that I am sorry and yet
I still feel joy in knowing that you
made your circuit and are here still.

Happy Birthday to those
I should have known but did not,
whose birthdays passed unnoticed
by me as there was no tie between us
except for the Unknown that ties us all,
that we are born and pass
and never touch one another, or 
may have touched without knowing
and it is much the same as if we lived
in different eras, on different lands.
Happy Birthday is how I say to you
that there is something in the world —
a pulse, a beat humming under all
that contains you, that I feel, that is
joy I am not familiar with but love anyway.

Happy Birthday to those
whose birthdays I will miss because
I will not be here to see them. Happy Birthday 
to those unborn, waiting in the wings for me
to pass, or to come into a better world
than this one I am part of. Happy Birthday
to those of you I will not see again 
due to the vagaries of life and distance
and death. Happy Birthday to those
I will fail with bitterness and anger,
who will slip from or flee me, who will be
set aside or dismissed.  Happy Birthday
is how I say to them that I know
I failed you. You did not fail me.
Happy Birthday 
is how I say
that I hope you are well

and that the world keeps you, holds you
as it spins. How I say that you are missed
and that wherever I end, it will be incomplete
and emptier for not having seen you.