Tag Archives: meditations

The Approach

The approach is through a field of nettles
on fire, crows rasping away from the woods
at the edges of the field, locusts shrilling
behind them, hunger in full cry 

over all. You must run out among those thorns
tugging you through whatever path
seems softest though no path here is soft
and the noise carries a still-greater sting.

That amplified voice of your choices, soundtrack
of the hard film you’ve made of your life, shall draw 
more blood than the nettles and more sweat
from the back of your neck than the fire behind you

ever could. The approach is in fact likely more important
than the destination and will long burn and echo within you.
You hope the arrival makes up for it
in all significant ways, even as you know

you’ll hear the soundtrack until you have no more life
to surrender to hearing it. There’s hope of a song unlike it
in the air of whatever’s beyond the pain. So:
will you go, lassie, go?



Adjusting The Woke Curriculum

They live for 
their children
only through their

All they will grow to know is
how to love a bullet and 
how to scorn what a bullet
can cut.

They say we’re in a shorn world now,
skinned of warmth and softness.
No learning to be found in anything now
but tales of flame and steel.

So what’s with
that sobbing kid 
poking with a stick
at the just killed rabbit in the gutter 

in the front of the neighbor’s house?
Must be queer. Must be damaged.
Get him out of sight, root through
his books, then shoot or set fire

to what ails him.

Cures For Imagined Illnesses

the most common side effect
is nickels in your blood

other side effects may include
eagles overhead

metallic responses to stimuli
wooden responses to the scratch of dug-in heels

the most common side effect
is a darkness flavored dance step

other side effects may include
nausea and irrational amusement

thudding banging on love locked doors
creaking banging on basement couches

the most common side effect
is an inability to love as you once did

other common side effects may include
uncommon scents blowing through the neighborhood

thoughts of kissing a leaf or knife
thoughts of how to resuscitate a Sphinx

Couple At The Corner

Couple parked at the corner, 
lights off, big gestures;
arguing perhaps, speaking of
love perhaps, or perhaps of money, 
talking loudly of how one
may stall the other, how love 
conquers money, how money 
straps down love.

A newer model car,
which means nothing. A younger
looking couple, as far can be told
in this light, in this darkness — which
means nothing.

Perhaps instead
they are older 
and reliving their shared past,
or their unshared pasts.  Maybe one’s 
had the love, one’s had the money
till now and they’re looking toward 
whatever comes next
and not between them.

perhaps — old song
in someone’s head. Old wounds
singing to new ones. The world
surging on beyond whatever
they are gesturing toward.

The streetlight 
sputters, then goes out. 

The Blessed

“then we move like tigers on Vaseline”  — D. Bowie

Guitars waiting on stage:
trees around a clearing,
glorious hazards
waiting there. 

a forest rife with
stealthy predation,
camouflage, danger on ice.

the existence
of a treated 
jungle floor, 

big cats
disturbed but adapting, 
beginning to enjoy
gliding about.

Regret nothing,
pray for no one here.
Sliding about in darkness
is freedom.



Activist Chic

I’ve punched up. I’ve punched back. I keep
punching though every blow busts my hands a bit more. 

I don’t much care about direction. All I feel
is a need to punch. Swinging is 

patriotic. Connecting is manly. Walking away
to seek a new battle is as natural to me

as a storm disappearing after shredding
everything, heading off to look for work elsewhere,

as staying home to rebuild is work best left
to those who won’t punch hard enough 

to level a field that needs clearing. I level up.
My home’s a bad place now; no one’s willing

to do dirty work. Dirty wet work is how 
I have become what I am: alone. Advancing

toward the next battlefield, then the next.
Making my way away from what I thought was home.

Out West

I wish I could get back to San Diego
where the breeze is full of distant danger
as it comes in off the waves and warships
sit forever ready, but for the moment I was there
all was at peace and all I had to do was sit and watch
the light and the water and the bright promises
of what was ahead, and put what was behind
out of my mind.

I wish I could get back to Seattle
where I slept on a hotel roof and raised hell
with all my friends on streets in the shadow
of the Space Needle. It pointed up, I lay there
looking up, it barely rained that week, but I had my cot
under an overhang so what if it did? They say
it’s all gone, all I learned to love in a week, all the dirt
that made it lovely, all the night that made it brighter
in the safe corners of the hotel roof. 

I wish I could get back to a carnival I loved
as it was when I was eighteen — 
to any of them, really; terrifying workers
in the booths, terrifying rides in the midway,
a field full of games built to seduce and rob us
of our last dollars under the bright lights —

then I wish I could get back to how it was
in the dark field behind the carnival,
beyond the last slat fence; the field where I lay
on my back, her long hair framing my face from above,
the moon visible behind her and above us both,
as our hearts at last began to slow down. 

The Nicknames

Five-thirty AM, a couple of days after Christmas. 
The street is grinding awake again as always,
as it did every day before the holiday pause.

Across from us the neighbor we call
“Jeep Lady” (to distinguish her
from “Escalady”) is trying to figure out

how best to pull her Grand Cherokee 
out of its tight spot into the road.
Her wheels grumble in the gravel

left by the sanders and salters
as she twists them back and forth
until she can pull out and drive away.

The black Escalade won’t be moving 
until later on when “Escalady” comes out
to take her baby to daycare before work.

Next door the cabbie on the first floor
gets his motor running long before he leaves
for the long day ahead. We don’t have

a nickname for him yet. They just moved in
in early December and there’s been no storm
thick enough for the bonding ritual

of pissing and moaning to each other
while shoveling out
our driveways. 

The junkie who lives upstairs from us
(who we unaffectionately call “Shithead”)
has already gone and come back from the clinic

as he does every day before dawn. His rotten 
Hyundai makes a sound when it turns over
like the slide whistle from a circus act. 

Here I am, at work before any of them,
my old but solid Subaru cold in the driveway,
my love’s Beetle parked until its repair appointment

next Monday. And nothing is moving here
but my fingers. What do the neighbors
call me? A bum? A writer? How would they know?

That fat guy with the fallow container garden along the fence
and the frozen solid compost tumbler?
I doubt that they think much of me at all,

as I don’t think much of me — one of those
who sits and observes and then talks about
sitting and observing and doing it again tomorrow.

New Year’s Day soon. 2023 looming ahead.
Gotta feeling ’23 is gonna be the same year
as ’22. It’s almost like the Who said years ago

in that obscure song from “Tommy”
except in the song they expected a good year,
and I’m not expecting anything anymore.

Not a nickname from a stranger.
Not a change in the view from this couch.
Not a chance in hell of avoiding a storm.

The Invisible Man

I once knew a man
who existed so completely 
within his own invisibility
he lived a lifetime
not as much in the shadows
as in the light which gave them birth.

He could go anywhere
and be anything. Often enough
that meant he’d be standing
in the halls of power, so to speak,
and being invisible he was able
to whisper into power-filled ears 
and make the ministers think
they had brilliant ideas
all on their own. 

Just as often he’d stroll about
among common folk
and listen to them, now and then
easing their minds with advice
and offering insight into their problems
which he’d gleaned from listening
to their loved ones complaining
about their foibles and faults. 

Now and then, 
he would push an evil one
into suicide. Called that
their due but never 
cheapened it with
pretending it came with 
glory for himself.

Acting as such a God
gave him a certain gravitas
he always tempered with wit
and a touch of sorrow.
“With great stealth 
comes great possibility,”
he’d intone.  And then
he’d vanish again
and I’d be left
to make sense of and act
on what I’d heard,
which was only a chore
if I forgot how easy it was
for him to be completely present
without being unduly seen,
and if I forgot
all he had ever taught me
about how to do the same. 

I Got Things To Do

I got things to do
and I can’t get up and do them
It’s too late to begin in this time zone
Too early to begin in others 
and the places where it’s the right time
are too far away to get to in time 

I have many things to say
and the time I have left to say them
is running short
Some of them I need to find the words for
and some of them I need to invent words for 
but most of them are likely to remain unsaid
and people will wonder
for at least ten minutes after the end
what was so important that I died
from choking on those stiff syllables

I missed looking into eyes
as much as I should have
I missed listening to undertones in other voices
and distinguishing them from my own head-voice
I should have picked fewer pockets for love
and laid my own meager holdings out to more people
We would all have been the richer for it

But now I got things to do
It’s snowing nearby and getting closer
Warmer is better than freezing
I’m freezing though the house
is warm and there’s little threat
that anything about that will change
The shiver within is from knowing
what won’t get done and said
before I slowly come to a full stop
staring at a finish line no one else can see

Wake And Bake

Wake and bake kinda morning
as I’ve tried everything else
I can’t stand the thought
of walking into dawn
unguarded within

Sweethearts of the Internet
see love messages in their oatmeal
and tarot callouts in the way the storm
has tossed my bird feeders to the ground
strewn around for the picking

like a Tarot card
like the Five Of Swords

Wake and bake this morning
as I’ve tried religion and atheism
in equal measures overnight
and I still can’t understand
the dark gifts I carry to my day

Sages on the Internet
claim everything’s so obvious
it barely needs explanation
If the windows don’t hold up in this gale
the shards will surely open me

make me readable
make of me a pigeon’s innards to scry

Wake and bake this morning
as I have nowhere to be
that requires patience and balance
neither of which I have in any amount
worthy of calling upon today

Tricksters on the Internet
will tell you what you want to hear
I want to hear shovelfuls of earth
trenches and moats being dug against
whatever may swarm up from within

the horde liberated and seeking to feed
the horde with opened mouths and here they come

Wake and bake so
I will feel less of it
when I fall


Toward The Summit Of Your Favorite Song

have you danced 
too much already, beloveds?
did it all when you were young
and had the legs for all night music,
the lungs to scream and raise your arms
toward the summit of your favorite song?
haven’t you aged into rest and being satisfied 
to have the dark bright memory
of how you moved along the walls 
of the basement club with the dirt floor corner,
the college bar with the lights out
on the long unused top floor,
the unlocked stairway up,
the corner full of the mushroom scent
of lovemaking and trepidation? 
haven’t you danced yourself to a point
where you don’t need to dance any more
than maybe one more spin 
through one more memory
of fresh human touch 
filled with the expectant danger
of rejection, or maybe just your body
not being able, not being close
to able to shake your leg or your ass
as you once did, the ecstasy of fast,
the ecstasy of slow, the ecstasy of 
memory, the replacement of current
sorrow with a memory of sweat?
beloveds, don’t you wanna dance
all the way to the end of your time?

Coal Tar Blues

Revised, from June 2022.

As if to spite my being human, 
I’m rusting. 

Age, diabetes,
long lack of self-care —

I soak myself in coal tar
for flaking on the surface,

the scent filling every space
in all my rooms; then

take pills and talk for
my internal disrepair,

each breakdown with unlikely odds
for repair.

Nothing about any of this
is temporary or acute.

Chronic is my name,
now — we speak of conditions,

not illnesses; talk of status quo or
increase and not of progress.

Coal tar and skin creams —
odors of one failure

to treat myself
correctly, or so I tell myself.

Others say buck up, it’s not
a fault or a punishment, you

needn’t club yourself with that one,
no matter how good it feels

to feel that bad at times — 
and indeed, there is a sort of blessing

in the hours after
I step out of the shower

onto an apparent path
to normalcy;

but then I lose my way as I start
the day. I tell the others, 

you think so? Then come live in here
and tell me I’m not right

to feel such guilt for becoming hollowed.
I need something to come alive 

in my old center, to build
there as I fall apart.

Comes a point when everything done right
is still not enough, and hope

becomes not a right but
a privilege, just a way

of passing time before time laughs
and then kills; as the scent

of sulfur becomes so strong
you can’t tell

whether it is coming from inside, 
outside, or both. 

Obligatory Christmas Poem, 2022

The signs
they hold up


Many include a sketch
of a Christmas tree or say
Merry Christmas as well

They stand upon
the entrance ramps to
malls and big box stores

where shoppers have to wait
to get into the lot and when 
a signer passes their car

they look away or discard 
a quick buck out the window
then roll it up 

to keep private heat
and the hallelujah chorus 
in the car

and no better than that look at me
dropping a heavy metaphor obviously
onto this from on high

as if it ever matters what parallel 
anyone draws about jesus
blah blah blah

joseph and mary
blah blah blah
no room at the blah blah blah

merry christmas
or whatever you got
to offer

in light of the sight 
of her wet blue eyes
above her sign

his beard
combed out for the season
above his sign

the people
queued up
below commerce’s sign

tomorrow never comes
without posting a sign
of its arrival

of hopeful prophecy
blah blah blah

Play It As It Lays

The bones
were rolled for you at birth.
They chose your great adversary:
maggots, melancholy, militia…?

You decide
what’s next:
double down 
or bow and fold. 

How you come
to your war
once you’ve chosen
your battlefield

is the battle.
Is history’s gamble, not yours.
Listen: the house
is snickering.