Tag Archives: meditations

The Man Who Could Not Remove His Hat

A stage set
for a performance
of an obscure play
based on the life cycle
of a psychoactive fungus.

It is called 
“The Man
Who Could Not
Remove His Hat.”

We are still trying to decide
how to read the script
as it’s in a strange cipher,
and no one has a clue.

It looks a little like
an Egyptian code,
says someone from wardrobe —
which makes sense,
as they were obsessed with hats
in the days of the Ptolemies.
Cleopatra was known
for her lamb’s wool toques
decorated with the skins
of asps, hence the myth
of her demise by one;
in truth she died of hat poisoning,
died young but toasty warm.

No, you’re wrong,
said an understudy
with some mystery in their
face as if they had been
somewhere far away for a long
time and refused to think about it —

that code looks like something
I learned in high school
where we studied things like this
to prepare us for — well, for
life where we were. My uncle
in particular was skilled in such things
and he’d buy me beer when I was young
and help me with my homework,
letting me sip from his flask as well,
saying, I should keep all this
under my hat if I wanted to, well,
live where we lived back then. 
But it’s not one I’ve seen. Not one
I know. It just looks like one.

Several of us are beginning to rethink
our roles in the play. Most of us
have taken off our own hats now,

except for the lead who pulls his down farther,
tighter, over his forehead, down to the bridge
of his nose; a broken fedora in mottled yellow,
a damaged face under felted wool,
and when we step away to form a circle
around him, the lights come up 

and we are in a full house
with no idea how to act

but there are flags flying and 
secret knowledge wafting,
anthems and trumpet flourishes
as the Man Who Cannot Remove His Hat
rises above us, above us all;

hail, hail, cries the audience in the dark,
and for those trapped on stage

nothing stays real
for more than a second
at a time. 


Coco

Eyes on
every move 
of the never moving white van
parked before
the white apartments

until something else
rouses her interest

The big
tuxedo cat
comes out from behind
the building and
approaches our yard

Coco tenses
Wave of black fur rippling
across her shoulders
although she knows
she isn’t going out there

Something defensive
and deep angry in the way
she jumps down from the sill
to huff away to the kitchen
to eat


Not With Gold

Originally posted 4/10/2013. Revised.

Some have, some have not.
Those who have, keep;

those who do not have
do not see that they likely never will.

Occasionally someone who doesn’t have
will be allowed a taste

on behalf of a lottery number, great throwing arm,
or stupendous singing voice.

They let you think
you can get some too — 

hard work, they say, hard work
will do it and anyone can rise.

Those allowed to rise do,
and those allowed to rise

learn that to keep 
the little they’re allowed

to keep, they must keep
their mouths shut.

Your job leaves you
jealous and striving;

your leisure’s a stunted ration
of your small time here;

when you come home
to cradle that son or daughter,

you whisper to them
that it will be 
better for them —

but it likely will not be.
All that gold

will blind them as swiftly
as it blinded you.

Everyone thinks they’ll be rich someday.
Everyone thinks it’ll be better someday.

Meanwhile the oil runs out,
the seas lift from their beds,

the bridges fall sooner rather than later.
A whirlwind spins a noose over our necks.

Some of you still think love
will make it better.

You will be fooled again and again
into believing that love will win,

but love cannot win
in the long sunset of this age.

We have exhausted ourselves.
Love is nothing more than a gesture now.

You’ll still sit back and say it was better once.
You’ll imagine a time when love was enough.

But love has never been enough
to conquer this.

What’s always been needed
is a terrifying justice

and Gaia is preparing
a terrifying justice:

one swipe of her hand,
and we are gnats full of blood

who cannot rouse themselves
to fly.

You want a golden age?
Get rid of the gold

ahead of that sweeping hand.
Learn to fly for your life.

Land in something new.
It will not be called America.

If when you land you want to try love,
then by all means try it,

but do not expect it
to grow in this soil

so full of gold,
blood, and lies — 

not without
a cleansing fire.


Movies

In this movie
you play a decrepit man
driving a rancid silver car
through the thick old towns
on the spine of Cape Cod,
your neck cranking side to side
as you exclaim over all
the colonial homes
you will never be able to enter, 
let alone own. 

In the sequel,
you are
an arsonist.


Autobiography Of A Bad Dreamer

I was always told
to follow my dreams
I am lucky I did not 
for if I had 

I’d be walking around
carrying an unconscious seagull
into parties I’d not been invited to

A seagull who always
revives as I come through the door
into a room of beautiful people

and raises her head
to look me in the eye
(her head that is now

the head of a woman
with features from a classical 
statue of Greek or Roman origin)

She says something
recognizably human
in a language I don’t know

but loud and clear as a 
buoy’s bell as if she was
in my bedroom in the dark

and as the lovely party people
(none of them as lovely as the bird)
turn to drive me out the way I came

I wake and stare at the far corner
hoping and fearing the bird woman
will be there — but to this day

she has not been 
I then spend a few minutes 
trying to translate for myself

what words she gave me
before falling back to sleep
to seek her

but I never find her
until the next time she awakens
in my arms

and who could live
like this on the day to day
without falling to ruin

upon some bouldered shore
while stretching his hands toward gulls
who will not be caught


Binge Watch

I’m sorry
it didn’t work out,

says a character 
in the television

through the mouth of 
a dead actor. 

If the character remained
in the television after

it was powered down,
it’s undetectable. The actor’s

remains are probably
real enough to find

if one were
to seek them out,

but those words
resonate long after

the driving breath
has dissipated.

I’m sorry
it didn’t work out.

Nights
marathoning shows

with dead actors speaking
live words. Days 

spent restless
before the TV 

with no idea what to do 
besides that, other than to dread

the moment the shows
ended and the TV shut down.

Lost character,
dead actor;

the fiction
is over.

 


Countdown

Ten more or
fifteen more
hours, days,
weeks, months,
or years: someone
offer me
one more hand
to give me
an outside chance
that I will need
more fingers
than my own
for the countdown.

Luckily for all of us
looking for hope, 

it’s nearly spring. Daffodils
poking up. Downy
woodpeckers are
constant and frenetic
upon the feeders —
have been all winter,
really, but it’s nice
to see them taking
turns upon the suet:
gorging for tomorrow
but so solidly in the moment
that ten or fifteen more
of whatever units one uses
to break down time
matter not at all to them;
there’s only now.

I will try to emulate
their joyful presence
though I’m compelled
to count down:

fifteen more,
ten more,
five more;

bathing in sighs,
buried in breakdowns;

two more,
one more,
now; the whole time

praying more
for the birds
than for myself.


Another

Sowing joy
for another.
That’s the life.

Who was I
to think I should matter
more than another?

Bag of fragrant seeds,
soil, sun and rain —
planting for another.

I’m nothing but someone 
else’s another — is it 
the person I am working for?

Does it matter
if it is not, as long as
another lives because of me?

We carry water
for one another. Stop
to sip from offered cups.

The fields we work
for one another
stretch to the far line

bordering sky and earth.
We can never know another
field than this one. 

So: out across the waiting rows
we go, laden with possibilities
meant for another.

We are more than vessels, though.
In the Other we see who we are,
who we can be if we turn to one another.

See how far we’ve come 
together even if we never meet?
We are one another; that’s our only hope

against famine and drought.
Sowing for one another,
we become joy like no other.


Fault Lines

Fault lines
and other wrinkles
more or less 
shaking me 
more or less daily
until I can’t see
the mirror reflecting me

What’s there
is more like refractions 
or fractures 

I’m trying not to speak ill
of my face in the mirror but
some of those cracks are so deep
I can see other people in there

I don’t like them


Last Apology

So much to apologize for
and soon enough,
no one left to accept the apology. 

No one to care
about good intentions
or consciousness of impact. 

A shrinking crowd
in the graveyard waiting
for this funeral to end

so they can go home
and wait for the next one,
whispering “sorry” the whole time

until they are silenced
and buried. When the last one
is ready, they’ll say it a final time;

after, the word will no longer exist
and the long stubborn dialogue
between us and our damage

will be over at last. It will be
a relief; it may serve 
as acceptable penance.


Dissolution

To become as small as I can get
in their presence. That’s my goal
for when I see them at last.

I want to stand before whatever survived
the slow dissolution of flesh and bone
and look up to them.  I want them 
to feel like the giants they are to me

as I kneel 
and fold myself up
and call them grandmother,
grandfather;  

other names beyond those,
names for the distant ones.

I want to know those names
so badly I would 
give up my own.

 


Terraformed

Do or stop all doing,
be dead or be changed into
another’s expectation;

I’m in awe of how far
they’ve pushed me
into their pattern.
They’ve killed part of me, 
believing death will spread
and give them life.  

I’ve been made
into something useful 
to another…yet

under the alien soil
where they’ve buried me,
I’m still alive, opening space
around my feared body, and

soon enough
will come raging out
into their smug faces
and remind them

that the surface
they prize so much
is just that.


BigDumbNoise

The lure of 
that which is meaningless
to my larger concerns

is that there could be 
relief
available for the
weight:

a jack to lift
what’s crushing me
off my chest

So therefore bring on
the dumbest TV and 
the loudest three chords
you’ve got

as now and then
the Big Dumb Noise
is all there is
to ease the pain

of complexity 
ambiguity
and the solid leaden
grays 

that seem to be 
my ruling principles
my heavy core


Neuropathy Blues

A guitar neck just feels
like more of my nerve-drunk hand.

The strings burn graves
into my dead fingertips.

The volume knob turned too far
spikes my fear of exposure.

If I sound insecure to others
about how it feels to play,

it is because these raging nerves
are what I know of my hands lately,

and lately my guitar is where they go
to fail and (soon enough) to die.

The pain on the day after:
history informing the future.

Music comes from
the place between those things.

All my apologies flow
from how every broken arpeggio

climbs a ladder leading 
to a day when I will have to stop

all of this, or when I am
at last stopped. 

Till then, though?
Till then, I am yours.


Death By Metaphor

Originally posted April 2010.

This morning
it feels like my heart
is knocking against my ribcage.

I mean that
in all sincerity. 
Heart, in this case,
is muscle and not metaphor. 
Ribcage is
a common descriptive term for the arrangement
of the ribs. 
Morning is when this is happening;
these words should be seen
as carrying no figurative weight.

I mean to say just what I say:
it’s morning, and it feels like
my heart is knocking against my ribcage.

Note that I did not say, “trying to break free”
from my ribcage.  That would be stupid.
The heart has no will of its own. 
It doesn’t know freedom and it’s not
going to leap from my body
leaving splinters of bone
and a huge hole behind it. 
That would invite metaphor again
and I’m trying to avoid it
as my breathing’s too shallow
to use so much oxygen
on creative thought 
right now.

Did I mention my breathing was shallow?
Don’t assume I meant something else. There’s
nothing hidden there;
my breathing 
is shallow, meaning I’m taking
smaller breaths than usual, higher in my chest,
more quickly. I could add that they do not
expand the ribcage as much as normal breaths.

You should get the picture
though I’m not trying to paint one:
just the facts here. I’m wincing
with the effort of staying in the moment
with the pain in my shoulder. 

Yes, I’m in pain.
For a full description of it,
I’m going to have to dip a bit into
comparison. 
Forgive me.  It’s what 
we all do;
I don’t know how else to say it, so:
it’s like something’s cutting me at intervals.
Sharp pain. We call it that because it explains it
to another. We’ve all felt it.  Right now,

it feels like my left shoulder’s being slashed
from clavicle to pit; a rod’s being shoved in the wound
and shoved down my left arm from the inside.

That’s accurate as a description
even if it’s not a fact. 
No wonder
my breathing’s so shallow. 
No wonder my heart
feels like it’s knocking on my ribcage.

I would feel safe
in having you assume
that these are the signs

of a heart attack, which itself is a metaphor
used to describe a myocardial infarction
or some other cardiac event.  Heart attack
is a bad description: as if the heart
were capable of hostilities. 
It’s not attacking me. 
It’s doing what it is supposed to do
in response 
to my not taking care
of it properly.  Fatty foods, 
no exercise, pack a day habit.
No metaphors there, just facts, though
I suck at self care contains a metaphor
that works, 
even if the sentence
makes no objective sense.

This morning, then,
let’s just say that it feels like my heart
is knocking against my ribcage.
Let’s say, further, that my dumb heart
and my ribcage
and my arm are in some kind of distress
and as a result

I am too 

although I don’t know
what I means, who I am
distinct 
from awareness
of my body. 
If I did,
would I be writing this
instead of calling the ambulance?
If the heart dies I’m sure I’ll find out.
No metaphor in that, either. 

I suspect there will be a moment
when I will understand
the meaning of I 
if keep writing instead of calling.
I won’t come back to tell you about it, though.
You will have to draw conclusions
from the poem and the pain and the heart
and the dying.  You will say

that stupid bastard died
writing a poem while his heart was failing,

and you’ll be correct.

I’m sure someone
will make it into a metaphor,

though in fact it isn’t.