Tag Archives: meditations

Haunt Song

You have refused to acknowledge
that you are the guitar,
and that the guitar is broken.

The missing pieces somehow
still right there in your body —
the dead end hand, the wilted neck,

the scrambled music within
that clots and clogs
when you attempt to let it flow.

Ghosts, but not ghosts.
Solid flesh that nevertheless has still
vanished. A haunt song playing

loud and obvious, yet no one
believes you when you
tell them what you can hear

or when you say: this is not
me, this broken guitar of
a man you’re seeing.

You’re wrong, of course.
You are as much your damage
as you are not.

You could try playing
what you hear: that haunt song.
See what comes from that

that might be the melody you were
once again or might be
some song nearly brand new, or some

admixture — one ingredient
dominating, then the other;
harmony and melody swapping

primacy. Whatever: you
are the broken guitar trying
to play. Still making music

while you can, whether
haunt song or anthem. There is surely
at least one note left.


The Path Without

I have learned to walk
the Path Without.

For years now
my body has scolded, “Student,

do what you are told.”
I’ve resisted for a long time and

my stubborn frame
has backed me up

but no more. Now I walk 
the Path Without.

A path without 
a place to rest. Without

peace, without 
freedom from pain.

My body scolded. 
I whimpered and yes, surrendered,

but not without a struggle.
Now I walk the Path Without.

Without the chops I once had
that made my living sing. Without

the skills I once had
that led me through love and art.

My body tells me this is
a lesson I must learn,

but I feel dumbed down, numbed
and muted, unenlightened

by being made to walk
the Path Without. What,

I ask my body, is it
that I am here to learn

in this stunting class you offer now?
My body says, you are learning

how to be diminished in one place
as you grow in others. Learning

that wholeness is not 
a flawless circle but sometime

is a process of living through
a twinge of pain, a bad footing,

over and over until you begin
walking again as you first did

long ago – a step followed by a fall
following a long slide down an incline

This is the Path Without. Slow down,
my body says. Do what you are told.

 


Stone

I was careful with the care
of my gigantic aspirations 
once upon a time, 

based on their size,
irregular borders, and
fragility.

No more.  I’ve made them
smaller and harder. No more
are they built upon

some improbable dream of
fame; not focused upon legacy.
They’ve lost the glassy

shine and brittle
enormity of grandeur.
What I’ve settled on instead

is a longing for invisibility.
To become a stone underfoot
in Evil’s path, kicked aside

after breaking its stride;
better still, to be tossed through
a mansion window

in the Last Battle; best of all,
to be one small piece buried
in the foundation of the Next World.

I aspire to be forgotten
but sturdy. Absent,
indispensable. Insignificant, solid.


Hearing Problem

It has taken me
nearly sixty years
four thousand glasses of whisky
uncounted pounds of herb
pills upon pills
a taste for killer thrills
bodies held close whose souls
I kept at arm’s length

and bent decades of lost hours spent
chasing words into caverns
and trash heaps 

to realize
I might have a hearing problem


I might have misheard my mother 

when she said

don’t have kids they will ruin your life

What she must have really said was

don’t have kids
you will ruin
their lives

but thank God I followed her advice

for surely
surely
surely

either way
she was right


Imagined As Animals

We imagine ourselves
as wolves and owls, hawks 
and lions, sharks and 
deep-eyed jaguars.

They do not think of us that way,
I suspect; never see themselves
in the pale hikers, the secret lovers
naked and earthbound,

the villagers in their encampments,
the accounting manager 
fly fishing in a mountain stream,
dressed to the nines, failing

at every other cast. We never say
I am the worm that endures in darkness,
I am the hard shelled crab that opens 
to vulnerability often yet survives,

I am the trout that escapes death
but hovers nearby after fleeing.
So hard for us to be human. So hard to admit
we are not comfortable beings.


Sharks

Near the close-by ocean 
folks are terrified.
It’s brand new,
it’s unheard of:

sharks.

Once in a while
they break surface
in front of oily tourists
and apprehensive natives.

Blood in the water,
the warmer water,
the transformed water.

The fear
is not only about them
killing picturesque seals.
Not any more.

Look at them.
They’re here and that means
we’re all over;

soon the sharks
will learn
how to leap, then fly.

When it happens,
if you look carefully
at the shadow under
a jumping shark
you will see faces
you’ll recognize.

Even if that
particular animal

is not feeding
and has other places
to go, when it lands
upon something you love,
that will be death.

People on the beach
sit in fear of what’s out there
in water that used to be 
ice, their heads tumbling with
movie possibilities, scent
of blood, empty hips
and shoulders, chunks
of identity swallowed
and gone.

Sharks, they know
better. They prepare
to jump, to fly. 

Calling out to all:

water’s poison,
air is fine.

For now.


After The Orgy Of His Ending

he was laid out
like a meal
on a picnic table.
How swiftly he was
torn and butchered!

If you lay a feast
before some folks
they settle right in
and devour it.
I’m certain
he was spoiled,
spoiled early,
spoiled rotten;
I never could have thought
to drag a tooth over him. 
Seeing him
picked clean like this,
I worry most about those 
who consumed him, that they
are what they ate, that they
will turn rotten deep inside
if they were not already. 
It’s not their cannibalism
that shocked me as much
as, knowing how dark
his meat was, how readily
they took him in and made him
a part of their very bones.

They live
right next door
with their bloody jaws

and their endless,
deathless hunger.


A Giant

Long ago,
a giant

somehow
fell out of me.

I don’t have
a face or name
to give you,
but can say
the space inside me
where the giant was 
is specific,
individual, 
and huge.

I can sense
a being in the world,
a being I should have been,
moving 
in a manner as vast

and expansive 
as the planet.

Inside me
where the giant

was born and raised
there is only
a void with an echo
of my own small voice.

I’ve done pretty well
as a shell, I must admit;
have moved the earth
in my own small way,
left footprints,
made some noise,
been a small presence 
nearby and faraway.

That knowledge, though — 

that deep knowledge
that something
dropped out of me
long ago: a void inside
shaped like a larger,
stronger version of me
that I never had
a chance to become;

that knowledge
is a near-fatal wisdom,
a numbing poison
shaped like regret,

a giant named regret.


Write A Continent

Prompted by a misreading of a Facebook field that actually said, “Write a comment.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Start with a mountain range,
or a single peak, or a ridge
on the peak, or a string
of boulders, or a single boulder,
a stone, a pebble, perhaps 
a clump of a few grains of sand.

You could do a novel on 
a few grains of sand.
Multi-volume, intertwined plots,
unresolved conflicts — get these handled
before you move up to the continental
challenges. In your lifetime
you may never get there,

and woe unto you if ever the words
“compose an ocean” swim into
your field of view. That’s how
you die unfulfilled. A recipe for 
drowning. A death sentence
you’ll never be able to appeal.


Adjacent

I’ve got a friend 
who weeps when called out
for racist words and actions.

Who sobs out loud
when tapped on the shoulder
with a simple, “excuse me, but…”

Who appeals to the masses
for absolution from
wee slips of the tongue and 
itty-bitty sins of omission or,
sometimes,
commission. 

I feel so bad for them
I’ve created
an easier term to use.

I say,
“You’re not being racist…
friend…
it’s more like…
you are…

racism-adjacent.” 

As in, of course
you’re not,
but you share a fence
with it.

As in, of course
you’re not,
but your apartments 
share common spaces
where racism
plays Kid Rock so loud
you can’t hear
that nice Justin Timberlake.

As in, of course 
you’re not, 
but you work
a community garden together;
racism grows weed, you grow
cannabis.

As in, of course,
racism doesn’t know any better.

As in, of course,
you certainly know better.

You’re not racist,
just racism-adjacent.
Sit near it at work.
Talk to it at lunch.
Engage it in debate
online, listen to it
respectfully, indignantly
at PTA meetings,
tut-tut it in private,
slip into silence
when it’s next to you
in the elevator, 
the supermarket,
the voting booths.

Of course, you
are not like that.
Of course you would never

although you sympathize
with how hard
it must be sometimes to miss
falling into that
what with all the 
provocations
and you know better
but the economy pushes
people and 
you would never sacrifice
anyone’s right to speak —

Enough. Friend, listen:
I’m so sorry I called you
racist. It must have been
the lighting, the darkness,
the nearness of
the real racist
in the room — sorry, 

I meant to say
“racist-adjacent”
of course but somehow
I forgot. Sin of 
omission on my part —

I forgot the word
I’m supposed to use.


Routine

Five days a week most weeks,
I hear a radio

playing out front
around seven AM.

Last notes of a current hit drain
away; another one starts.

A car horn insists from the curb
that someone is late

meeting someone. Hard footsteps
down the back stairs from

the third floor. A soft exchange of
Spanish. A van door

slides open, closes 
quickly with a deep 

chunk. The motor pitch
rises, the tires hiss, and then

all of it fades away
till tomorrow, same time.

It is torture on some days,
comfort on others, depending

on how the day before felt,
how my bed treated me last night,

what I expect from the rest
of this day and the day to follow.

On any day I do not hear it,
I awake as if I had. That is

torture some on days,
comfort on others.

Now and then I only hear
the radio and then fall asleep

again, or wake to the van
pulling away. I wonder then

if I have missed
a variation

that might have
changed my life,

then
I stop wondering

and my life
goes on unchanged.


Plans

If I had died young, 
before high school,
you’d speak of me
as you might speak of a bird call
you hear outside your window 
at dawn in spring
when it’s been a long time
and you don’t know
what you’re hearing but it seems
familiar and you feel 
a tug of joy and sadness
at the passing of time.

If I’d died young but older,
say in high school, 
you’d speak of me
as if I were a storm 
a whole town
had endured
that had torn out
monumental trees
and wrecked landmarks
but all sign of it
having happened
is now gone.

If I’d died 
after high school,
years later perhaps
but before now, 
you’d speak of me
as if I were a flash,
a meteor you heard about 
from people
who heard about it
from other people, 
and you’d regret
not having seen it
when it passed.

If I die tomorrow,
how will you speak of me?
As the unknown bird song,
the faraway, long-gone storm,
the fireball rumor? I’m here still.
I’ve no plans to go anywhere, 
but plans have a way
of manifesting unaided.

Are you going
to speak of me
at all?

If so,
what wild moment
will spill from your mouth
after you’ve said
my name?


Apex Predator

In spite of
His reckless
and eccentric
reputation.

In spite of all the rumors
spinning out
in a wake behind Him
as he proceeds.

With no regard for 
how He steps upon
smaller beings or 
fragile footing. 

With a wink
at His handiwork 
and a smile for 
His damages.

Whistling 
His songs,
reading His books,
watching His shows.

Everybody knows
His name. No one knows
what He does 
behind the screen it provides.

Or everyone knows.
Or enough know and
they keep it to themselves
because He is good

to them. Good for them.
Good enough
that His walk

is its own excuse.

His work
is justification
enough. After all
this is how 

all of this was built.
Built by Him.
Built for hunting.
Built to drain away any blood.


Tired

tired. tired of animals,
their smells and wants. 
tired of the anguish of feeling
I have failed them.
tired of feeling like 
I have failed and failed
at satisfying any need.
tired of sobbing when
I can’t find the remote.
tired of anger at myself 
when I find it
where it should be,
where I thought I’d looked.
tired of my reliance
on this petty wordplay
to hold me together.
tired of white perfume
screaming in my head
every minute of every day
covering the scent
of a brown world.
tired of the shame
of knowing
my very existence
was the end result 
of a genocide
when they lifted babies
from their mothers’ arms
and sent them to their 
erasure factories.
tired of headlines 
and comments. 
tired of feeling.
tired of waking 
then spending the day waiting
until it is safe to become
unconscious again without
anyone thinking me odd.
tired of having to talk
to anyone who would think me odd.
tired of suspecting
that everyone thinks I’m odd.

the belief that
I am a tendril of something
growing all the time
into a new being
is all that keeps me
from succumbing to
fatigue and its mastery
but the stretching and 
cracking of old shells 
and cages is excruciating
in spite of its necessity.

tired of how obvious
and weary the house feels.
tired of my weak garden
and the way it fails under my care.
tired of my body’s vast
and prolific history of mistakes.
tired of animals
and their scents and wants
and how I bury my face
in their fur to weep over 
the lost control I never really had
in spite of all the illusions
I did not see as illusions
until I was one with them
and as dangerous
as any other deep ache
felt by those 
who somehow manage
to get by
while remaining awake.


Awakening With Apocalypse

Dead fish float
on the surface of dead waters.
I wake up suffocating.

There’s a presence
in the room. 

Is this what it’s like
to die? To be alive
as the world dies?

Whatever is in the room with me
won’t explain.  Won’t say why here,
why now. 

I roll over to try and sleep
on my side.  I’ve been told
it’s better for me. I don’t recall
who told me.  It may be a lie.

The One in my room lifts its arms.
All that has died blazes back to life.
Fish swarming silver across
a pulsing sea. Vanished birds

overhead. My grandparents,
their grandparents.

All that has
vanished — or is this also a lie?
Once gone, always gone.

Forget languages,
customs. Viewpoint,
the taste of smoked salmon, 
love-touch.

The Presence tells me

I’m dishonest,
mercury-souled, foul as sodden cashmere
neglected in an unemptied washer.

Is this also a lie? The world is
ending, to be fair. Truth seems to be
going with it, to return at some point
when it matters again.

I roll over
on my side as I’ve been told to do
and try to get back to sleep

in a room filled with
the fragrance 
of lilies
without a lily in sight.