Tag Archives: meditations

Balloons

In a park, I recognize
a family in tears 
as they release balloons

for a son killed a few days ago
in a confrontation with
police.

I hear someone near me grouching
about the environmental impact
of a balloon release

and no one talking about
the environmental impact
of a boy being dead

as the balloons rise away.


Tenor Guitar

I owned
a tenor guitar
once
for three months.

Four strings
over six seemed a 
novelty, a downgrade 
back then.

It tickled
something in me
to think of mastering
the antique. Soon enough

I gave 
the guitar away
to someone more excited
than I was to try.

This morning
found myself humming
Ani’s “Little Plastic Castles”
(which is played on a tenor guitar)

and memory,
all this memory, came
rushing back
and now I want a tenor guitar again,

longing for
four strings I can’t play,
rebooting since
I can no longer play six:

my hands
full of recall
but unable to execute;
the desire for music

stronger now
as a way through this 
to something
newly perceived as fresh although

I have
been here before:
more than once, with old guitars
and fancy pens, blank notebooks

and blank people,
things I bought or faces I found
that seemed to promise
surprise, any kind of surprise

that might
break the hard walls
of the hole within and give me
a chance to climb out and be new and free. 


Strike Anywhere

wooden matches in
cellophane-sealed packs
three boxes to a package

found when I pried open
a cabinet drawer on the back porch
unopened for years

wrenched it open
with brute force and
a big screwdriver

that was all
that was inside
how old could these be

as the fireplace was sealed 
decades ago and
the wood stove was removed

when my father
could no longer cut wood
and my mother didn’t want

to pay someone
to do it when the kids were too
far away to do it for free

this is why
the house has seemed so
cold for so long

they couldn’t get
to the matches
and there was nothing

and nowhere here
to set a safe fire
and make the home warmer

strike anywhere
printed on the boxes
but why test it when there’s

no reason and no hearth
when all you can do
after one test match is lit

is blow it out


The Whiskey And The Snake

“I always keep some whiskey handy in case I see a snake…which I also keep handy.”
― W. C. Fields

It’s a philosophy I can get behind —
carry the danger
and the defense from danger

with you in a deep pocket or 
sling bag, easy to access,
within reach at all times —

poison and counter poison, 
which is not to say poison
and antidote as that’s not quite

how it works.
Which comes first, the venom
or the liquor? No reason

to make a hard rule of it. Thirsty?
Peek into your bag
just to see the snake. 

Take a few belts
of whiskey and soon enough
all you taste is snake.

Does your snake have
a name? Is it Daddy?
Is it Mommy? 

Does your whiskey have
a name? Is it Money?
Is it Jesus?


Bipolar II

…congratulations,
you’ve done it,
expanding, blowing out
your walls, creating space,
going higher. Cresting
above your previous
high water mark. 
A new pinnacle,
a renewed sense of
what’s possible. Listen
to what might be a fanfare
over there, a crowd
barely seeing you from
where they stand apart
on a small hill to your left,
eye level to you; the band’s
not playing for you, you ask
how that’s possible
when you’ve just risen
so far? How far down
were you that you are just now
leveling up to the yawns
and shrugs tier? Turn back
to your right and see 
that where you’ve been
looks exactly like
where you are now.
From here you see it was dark,
it’s still dark, you seem to be
on the edge of a valley
and so once again
you slip and slide 
down, down… 


the body is fighting

this body is fighting

i say die
it says no

keeps wanting

it says
no
eat instead
drink some water

it says
ask for 
kiss 
for fuck or

for the sake of argument
ask for life

for seeing it through
(aren’t you
curious?)

i say 
no

in the left side of my big dreams 
there was sunlit order.  in the right side
there was mist and if there was order
i couldn’t see it. why wait to find out 

if it in fact made sense in there? i did
well enough in the time i gave it to get
this far. i did well enough to put to rest
worry for the future: whatever is there

is beyond worry. in the left side
the steps up are straight and narrow
and i can turn around anytime i want.
in the right side i’m not sure if the previous

step remains intact. maybe i can’t go back
without falling into nothing. maybe that’s fine. 
and maybe the next step is missing. maybe
it’s all falling from here. maybe i’m falling now.

everything is a maybe 

to this body being asked
to die

except for one certainty

it keeps wanting

to spite the dreams 
it contains

my body
maintains left side order
maintains right side fog

all i do
between them

waiting 


Three Minutes At Twenty-Two

there were three minutes 
in my twenty-second year
when I think I had a decent ass

that might have been
second glanced by anyone
half-seeking such a thing

or such a me
if they’d taken the time
to look past it and see me as me

and not consider my ass
which I did not think much about
back then and had forgotten until today

when the entirety
of my crumbling body 
overruns my thinking

if you ask me now
what I think about 
how others view me

I will shudder
fall to my agonized knees
and as if looking down upon myself

from the heights I reached 
in my twenty-second year
I will not be able to answer 

as this 
is nothing
I ever considered 


The Worst House On The Street

There is little
to love here:

wreck of a house,
rotten driveway,
neglected garden laden
with young vegetables
that will not ripen in time
to beat this fall’s killing frost;

everyone who lives here
pushed to residency,
thread hangers holding
skin of the teeth tenancy;
the worst house on the street,
the neighbors always say —
though the kids from the first floor
seem happy enough,
greeting everyone out walking
from the driveway where they play,
bouncing a dirty ball between them
in spite of the uneven pavement

that too often sends it
off into the wilderness
by the failed tomatoes

and sends them giggling
after it. 


American Halloween

Let’s get on down to the Liquor Mart
before we start our good old
American Halloween. Paint our faces
red from inside with Fireball Whiskey. 
Prepare to dance the drunken stagger
of our barely-demon forebears
and fake evil till we make it. 
Lust for bodies naked underneath
their polyester shrouds. Taste
the solemn origins underneath
the blood on the stained receipts.
We can walk all hammered and commercial
through the rain falling thick as a screen.
It’s just the way it goes 
on American Halloween.

Then let’s head off to Walmart
to buy our way into
that good old American Halloween. Buy
matching costumes. Become
sexy pirates — no, let’s both be
Sexy Death and we can
split the workload. You take
the soft ones. I’ll take
the hard ones who don’t want to go,
the ones you have to tie up first.
We can split those who fall somewhere in between.
It’s just the kind of thing you do 
on American Halloween. 

At last let’s head off to the cemetery 
to close out this American Halloween. 
Stand among the stones
in smeared makeup giggling
at names we pretend we know. 
Recognizing some and avoiding those
because we are afraid of what they know.
Smashing our heads on the hard ground,
rousing the uncompromised ghosts 
and banshees who refuse to let us
off our blasphemous hooks. Saying not again
when the wind shakes the trees 
with a mocking rattle. We thought
we were pirates or two halves
of Sexy Death. What we are instead
are consumers in scenes tailored to
the falsehoods of American Halloween. 


The Best Stories

First of all
in the best stories
there must be a dog,
a noble hound.

There must also be a cat —
scruffy and streetwise with
mystery surrounding it.
And in many there will be

a bird, often an owl,
that is perhaps
not as smart
as it looks.

You will
pick your familiar
from among them —
almost no one takes the owl,

more’s the pity,
unless they make an assumption 
that its apparently slow intelligence
hides something more profound; let it be

dog or cat for you if you wish.
There is not a wrong choice
if truth be told, as it always is
in the best stories.

Now that you’ve taken leave
of your prosaic self
for a while,
you can begin to quest

as a dog might quest – eager
to find the end of the trail
no matter how many distractions
tug you aside during your journey –

or as a cat might quest —
tiptoe prowler, sudden stopper,
sit down to contemplate
the whatever of the moment –

or, if by chance
you slipped into
the owl’s cloak
before the journey,

you will soar at night
above the others
and rest at dawn,
maybe calling to them

as they quest to suggest directions
or warn of hazards, using riddles
or ruses to test them, or perhaps
to clown them?

It’s in the telling
that the best stories
do their best work
but it’s hard to deny

the part each listener plays;
whatever form they choose
to take in the telling
has its own point of view

and in the best stories
the hero shifts among the listeners
until all are one or none,
until the tale is done.


Mummy

1.
The queen
dies.

The ancient white storm eclipses
colors on the horizon.

Who will come rejoicing
from behind those clouds

to see the coronation
of the new monarch, 

to come holding up the past
as proper future?

2.
Some of those who’ve been
struggling under that storm

for so long must now and then 
dream of the mummified queen 

on display in one
of their museums.

It’s not hard
to imagine the long lines 

of the curious, wringing wet
as they come in from the storm,

filing past the case
she’s in, whispering 

that they’d like to touch it
just to be certain.


No Games

The only dice I use
come in pairs, have six sides,
are cubes, and a bad roll
could get me killed.

The only dungeon I know
has no secret doors or prisoners
other than me and the only way out
is feet first. 

The only dragon I know
is the dragonfly that will come to you
one day with news I send
from the country of the dead. 

I have no time now
for any game in which
my life is not on 
the line. 


Revelation

It is short
but intense.
A deep
prod lingering
just long enough 
to increase your wonder
at how little
you really know
about what
you are capable
of feeling. 
When it happens
the air you’ve
been breathing
all along suddenly
tastes like
animal spirit, 
cinnamon
ghost. You sit up
straight looking for
some explanation
or at least for some
elder to interpret
but they all vanished
long ago and you
will have to fashion
the meaning of this
into a framework
for the remainder
of your time
all on your own. 
Whatever the rules
are from this point on
you won’t know 
until you break them,
the taste in your mouth
growing stronger
with every breach
until a longing like
cinnamon swirling
inside is all, is
everything. 


One Last Taste

At this end of your life
you should take the cups 
you’ve been offered 
and pour a little out of each
for all your much regretted
lost relationships, all of
your ruptured lifelong
conversations, whether
they died untended or
were killed on purpose
as mercy killing or for spite,
whether they ended
with no explanation 
or were left to die quite
consciously; however they failed,
take the cups you have left
and spill a little for what 
those who vanished offered you
in your shared time.

Tomorrow it will be your cup
lifted to someone else’s lips,
and you would want
to be honored for whatever
you brought to the tables,
bars, and counters
you once shared with them.
As you slip from memory
you’ll hope
they too will savor
one last taste
of how it was when
you were together. 


A Bit Of Fat And Seed

I often spend my time here
in darkness because 
too often I am compelled
to it but then again 

I have never been good
at doing what I’m forced 
to do or tortured into
doing, so for a moment instead

I’ll celebrate how
that squirrel is eating
the hot suet in defiance
of the packaging

that swears they hate 
such flavors and even though
it means I’ll be refilling 
feeders more often 

than I should
and spending
money on
something I shouldn’t

if it makes me recognize a fellow contrarian
and offer them a bit of fat and seed
in solidarity, then I shall do so
and be, for one moment, content.