Tag Archives: meditations

Barnwood

originally posted 2/19/2019.  revised.

Wouldn’t you love the look of barnwood
in your home?

Wide boards dented
from hooves and heavy boots, or (more likely)
from chains dragged and slammed upon them
in industrial furniture mills until they meet
a mythic standard for anything made to look
as if it once had harder, honest use. 

Wouldnt you love the smell of incense
in your home?

Sandalwood
in the nostrils
of your pampered guests
in your barnwood home

instead of perfuming the temples
in praise of Lakshmi and Shiva,
rising from soft flame. 

Wouldn’t you love a dreamcatcher
in your home?

The Assiniboine net
framed perfectly on the charcoal wall
over the bookcase; centered, empty of ghosts
as far as you know; 
merely there to let folks know
you appreciate authenticity,
found some on that last trip out West,

and brought it into your perfumed,
barnwood home.

Wouldn’t you love sleeping 
in your home?

Lying at night on the cotton sheets, on the
bamboo pillow.
Your partner
a shadow on the other side,
more memory 
than solid figure in the dark.

Wishing they’d wake up
and touch you.
You wish on invisible stars
for that to happen.

You cannot wait 
for the day to begin
and fill the barnwood house with light
so you can dismiss bad dreams
in a puff of smoke

while looking
at the pretty things
you truly own.


Guidelines For The Summer Of Corona

Admit that we are stopped cold
Say that and acknowledge the pain of cessation

Turn away from one another and into ourselves
Resist the longing to touch and hold

Fall to your knees and demand something from above
Speak as if nothing was needed except a bluff to survive

Run with the smallest beings in pursuit
Act bewildered with the first cough, fever, moment of fear

Ask and ask for certainty from fog
Dismiss fog as a hoax from behind a bitter mask

Hold a gun and imagine it will be enough just to hold it
Put it down to take a shovel and lay an elder to rest

Roll dice any number of times and boast of your glad numbers
Pretend snake eyes are not as powerful as boxcars these days

Remember scenarios with strangers, historical figures, family
Demand of your mirror that it say something unexpected

Stand at the window crying for the ten thousandth time 
Turn from the window and square your shoulders again

Forget and remember and forget and become aged
Spring up new but then again still be your old failed self

Hold your breath
Hold on to your breath for as long as it takes

Loosen your tongue
Loosen your tongue until this hard moment breaks


Morning Departure

Old poem, heavily revised.  Late 90s, perhaps?

Dew burdening a distant lawn.
Sudden crow drops from grey sky.
Chilly air gooses our flesh.

Last hardy songbird on the wire.
An old dog on point.
Yellow grain waving.

The city is so far away 
we have forgotten
it exists.

She turns left,
away from the sunrise.
Autumn does this –

turns a body
to face the cold
as astringent,

as protection,
to build immunity
for what’s coming;

she says, “I know it’s early
but we ought to think about
heading back.”

I swallow hard, disbelieving.
The rhythm of this day
slows down, swaps

waltz time for
funeral march.
I can’t think of what to say.

We will have to be
on the road
for hours. She is

right in that way, 
but I can’t imagine
leaving this place

that’s glowing
beneath a halo of almost icy
dew.

Looking across the fields
for a tree with fruit that,
once eaten, 

will let me hold my knowledge of her
after we’ve left
this perfect place –

but she knows that story,
gets a jump
on its ending:

“You can always come back,”
she says, brushing something
from her eyes.

“You.” Not “We.”

She is wrong. I’ll never be back:
I know what a sword
looks like

and there’s one now,
burning its way up
over the horizon.


United

You could just pretend
it’s a united country.
That has worked for you for years.

You could tell yourself everything
from the ice cream truck to the singer at the ball game
was singing our song.

You could admire the colors in the flag
without ever conjuring the words
“bleeding out,” “erasure,” or “suffocation.”

You could stay home just long enough
to claim it’s a hardship not to work
at the job you whine about seven days a week

but you’ll do it for your family
and your country — and what
are your neighbors’ names, anyway?

You could watch the gunners and bombers
and sigh about how the country’s fallen so far
and never even think of bounties placed on scalps,

a Klansman serving in the Senate for decades,
murderers laughing at their trials while in the courtroom,
everyone forgetting all of that happened

because that’s what “united” means.
United in memory loss. United in the hope
that this too will pass. One nation under a fog.


Piano On Fire

Piano on fire
in the courtyard of this old mill
where the train used to roll right inside.

How the piano got here we don’t know
but now it’s on fire. Seems right.
The finish bubbling, the big strings snapping.

This calls for a chaos pianist.
The bench is over there,
not blazing;

a brave musician could do something 
with all this: play, perhaps,
a train song on fire.

Pull the bench up,
not too close, hit those
scalding keys,

the piano detuning the whole time.
Whoever knows 
how to orchestrate melody

from such destruction
is going to do fine here.
We don’t know how the piano got here

but until it’s consumed
we know exactly 
how to make it sing,

how to bring the ghost train
back to life, smoke-strung,
resurrected long enough

to fly off the rails
and tear them up as it goes;
how to call that an anthem

and build a nation around it
as we warm our hands 
on the last of the piano’s embers.


Worthy Of Suspicion

Longtown Larry
and his big-headed friend
with the unknown name
(though they’re always together)
sit talking in the town beach parking lot at sunset
in Larry’s blue Dodge Ram truck
parked at an angle to the lines
far away from the remaining few cars 
again

They’re talking about 
White supremacy or maybe sandwiches
hunting dogs or muzzle velocity
or how to dismantle the colonial state

Either that or they’re in love
and this is all they ever do about it
in this beach town where everyone
knows Longtown Larry
and his truck and the friend
with the big head and no name
who isn’t from here

It’s worthy of suspicion
on so many fronts


The Holy Land

One of my gods lives
off Pound Hill Road
near the overgrown source
of a spring. I could drive you there
in forty-five minutes.
We can get there by sunrise
if we leave now, 
and we should leave now.

Another god stays
out behind my shed
where they sit centered
in a ring
of mushrooms. 
(You call it a “fairy ring?”
I don’t.  No fairies here —
they didn’t come over with you,
no matter how you hope for that.
I have another name
for what does live here, and
I’m not telling.) 

I only go there 
when passing
from this side of the yard
to the woodpile where
there may in fact be
another god who’s squatting there
until I burn it all up. 

Neither god
seems concerned at all with me.
That suits me just fine.
I give them the space
they deserve and need;
they stay happy.

None of these gods,
in fact, care much about
what I do. They are
non-interventionist.
I pay attention to them
because the landscape 
demands I know them
and that ought to be enough.

I know your God — a singular
God, a capitalized God —
lives elsewhere. You get around that
by saying God is everywhere at once.

I’ve asked mine about that.
They say they’ve never seen your God
around here and having known them
for years, I think I’ll trust them on this.

The car is warmed up.
Are you coming with me?
Maybe you’ll see something
worth seeing, maybe not;

maybe you’ll deny everything
from your God to my gods
to the sacred nature of red ripe
tomatoes. Maybe you’ll be right.
Suit yourself. I’m leaving now.


No Fun

I don’t want fun. Fun’s 
for the done, the no more
joy in the work
so let’s cut and run bunch.

I do want joy. Joy’s different —
a place at once inside
and outside self. A light over all,
warming from within, a change

to air itself. Fun blows though
like a boat cutting calm apart.
Joy is the lake itself
before, during, and after;

even when disrupted, even
under attack, joy holds up. I could
sink into that.  I could drown 
in joy for real. Death in joy? Perfect,

normal, natural. There are those
who would disagree, would say pain
negates joy, death its ultimate enemy —
no. If I fall before the bullets

I won’t be having fun, but closing my eyes
on the site of struggle, shutting down
at the end of a battle knowing others
will fight on? What joy in that!


Waking From Arithmetic Sleep

Four months now
of arithmetic sleep
instead of rest. Doing

the math of rent and
utilities, his own food
versus the cat budget,
chewing on his 
inadequacies by the numbers,
his heartbreaks by the score,
until just now. 

Hard to say why;
maybe a nightbird’s call
heard during
his meager sleep
pierced his dreams
and changed them;
maybe yesterday’s storm
purged his atmosphere;
no telling. Not our place
to know for certain,
as he did not. 

All that can be said
is that he woke up
without a spreadsheet
in his head for the first time
in four months and 
while he knew it was 
just tucked away
for a moment and not gone,

he felt light enough without it 
to step out on the
soggy ground before coffee
and look at the washed streets
and the fearless sparrows
on the feeders. 


Forensic Love Song

Originally posted, 2008. Revised.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“the answer is always in the body”
— heard in passing; a line from a TV crime show

1.
licked and prodded,
it still refuses to express
a secret

2.
in the dark, lit blue,
misted with laden rain,
our signatures revealed:
clouds on our still skin

3.
the mottled shapes
of shared blood can be read
as a novel: here the plot
is thick, here thicker;

here is a second theme;
here, the pooling, the co-mingling,
so confusing to the outsider

though we understand
what has happened here

4.
cooling happens
at a predictable rate
once all factors are accounted for

something unknown to science
must be holding all this heat

5.
the answers
are always in the body

the body is always
asking


Losing It

Losing it —
colloquialism for 
a break in your
social equilibrium

which rarely was more
than a mask on
the face of your inner
disaster zone

What you’ve lost
is the mask and 
when you examine
the world

you might be
better off as a
screaming
representation

of what
the proper
reaction to the world
should be

More should lose it
More should scream
More of us should shed
these shells

What we’ll be left with
Soft faces
Mouths open
Howling en masse

Losing it
Losing so much
we used
as armor

Fear must precede 
the new
that must replace
what we must lose


You Should Be In A Band

If you look like you should be in a band,
you should be in a band. 

You may already be in a band, or maybe
you are in camouflage, in disguise as a member

of a band. If someone asks if you’re in a band,
whether or not you are

you’d better be able to tell them
the name — 
and if they ask what you play,

you’d better say you are a vocalist —
unless you play something?

Do you play something, play well enough
to be able to comfort the eagerness of the questioner?

They’re going to ask you if there’s anything your band does
they might have heard. Shrug it off; be modest.

Be the band member you’d wished you had met at fifteen,
the one too cool to boast. Be the one who answers

all questions and maybe you give an autograph, 
a hard to read scribble on a stray napkin.  

After the encounter, get back in your car.
Write a damn song, would you? The band is depending on you.

If you aren’t in a band,
you know where to start.


Flowers Of An Unknown Species

First day of summer,
yard work, looking at
flowers of an unknown
species.  Yellow, dainty,
on long stems springing
from the abandoned bed
where we once grew
early salad — mustard
greens perhaps? I have
forgotten what was there
now; it was years ago
that we grew
more than weeds 
in those beds.
This may not
even be something
descended from what
we planted. I take one
into my mouth — bitter
as ironweed, astringent
bright on my tongue;
spit it out praying it’s just
distasteful and not
poisonous.

Back inside, out of the heat,
I turn on the television
and turn it back off again
at once. Astringent and 
dark, the visions there,
and surely poisonous
as that weed was not. 
This news growing from beds
we abandoned long ago —
was it something we planted
or an invasive species? 

A god’s voice says,
eat of this and know
the truth. I bend a knee
to the floor, hungry,
terrified, and not sure 
I’ve got the strength 
to rise. 


Belonging

The greatest longing, always,
has been to belong, to find
a place to belong, or even
to belong in whatever place
I was in.  Whatever place

I found myself in, I decided
I would belong there. I tried.
I tried to belong — not fit in —
I could always fit in — I wanted

that lived-in look, that perfect
archetype look. Sometimes I’d get
close, but then I’d wake up at dawn
or before and see the dim street
and say, this is not a place for me,

I do not belong. I’m too — elsewhere
for this. Too off-world origin story,
too mystery parentage
for this settlement. Whatever,
I’d then say, that’s all too much
romance for a potato-man like me,
and I’d move on. 

Moving on is where I belong.


Selfie

I take close up photos of my face with my phone.
I discard several of them, choose one, manipulate it
into a more sullen shading that feels more me tonight;
cartooning it, making a graphic novelization of a man.
I take this changed photo and with the power vested in me
to do what billions of others have done, I transfer it to
the world-shrouding cloud and place it or some link to it
where others can see it so that they may identify my words
by my face. Some offer approval at once, others ignore it.

I am disappointed that this is my face tonight.
I am disappointed in how I see myself.
I am disappointed that this seems honest and accurate
and somehow, the best picture I’ve ever taken of myself
or even of anyone else, or anything else. It is so —

ugly. Ugly is not considered a valid word and someone
will likely contradict me upon reading this and say no,
this is you and it is beautiful. All things are beautiful.
Every face, every person, every, everything — except
Evil of course, that’s ugly. Always ugly. 

I look at the photo again. It’s honest. It’s truthful
about the current state of a man with multiple illnesses
and a graying conscience. The light manipulation I did
was as honest as the framing and the lighting. I did it
to grow and accent truths worth noting about the face
and no attempt at hiding the changes has been made.
The face hides nothing, and I am here to say
ugly is a truth as strong as beauty, and more common.

If you must insist on all things being beautiful,
if you must call this face beautiful, then I must ask you
to consider what you may be denying
about the ways of the world. You aren’t doing me a favor.
I’m fine, or at least at peace, with not wanting
to stare enraptured into that face that was never anything
but a deviation, long before I took this picture,
long before I started making this face my own.