Tag Archives: meditations

Lightning Haired Star

Calling the lone white pine
in the neighbor’s yard 
white pine, but also calling it
lightning haired star;

naming the nightly skunks
Lucius, Stripe Priest, and
the Defiant One;

pleading with
the omnipresent sparrows
to step back from
the young cardinals 
on the old feeder. 

We pray on Wednesdays
to the garbage truck,
the recycling truck, call them  
thunder servants
carrying the worst of us away. 
(When there is actual thunder
we misunderstand and think it is
a train. We say, is that a train?
Where is it going, and why is it  
empty handed?)

In the suburbs or
the richer neighborhoods
call us desolate and poor 
if you must speak of us at all,
scorn us for living here
in our dense little enclaves.

We know better. Close as we are
to each other without knowing 
each other by name, but we know enough.
We call the neighbors
the slow walking people up the hill next door
or green house baby girl’s mom
or stay away from that one.

This morning Lucius 
was dead on the street. We 
call for the city workers 
to come pick him up before 
the day’s heat takes his scent
to new levels, although they
won’t come soon enough,
we know.

We watch as the father of 
the slow walking people up the hill next door
comes out with a shovel,
scrapes Lucius up from the pavement,
and puts him in the ground
at the base of the lightning haired star.

Stands there for a bit afterward, staring up,
leaning on the shovel.

Goes, slowly,
back into the house. 

The Atheists Come Around The Corner

The atheists
come around the corner

and walk up to the scene of 
multiple crimes. Mostly

they’re OK. A little 
too sure of themselves

and somehow they
don’t care, but

when it comes to a choice
between their certainty and

that of the worst of the 
believers, I’ll take them

any day. And most of the believers
are OK as well, of course.

That said, anyone standing here
rubbernecking these

particular bloodbaths
is pointing such a loud finger at

the others that the dead
are probably glad to be rid

of all of them. They know
who is responsible for the way

they’re sprawling crooked
and fly-blown on their own ground:

it was those fingers that did it.
The pointing at others, the creation of 

others. Whether or not God
was involved is irrelevant

to a dead child. To the flies
and their maggots. To the scent

of death on the wind. All you need
to get here is a finger and someone

to point it
at someone else.

Good Vibes Only: The Rebuttal

has to stare back from the dark.

has to volunteer
to hold the keys.

has to open the door and look in
now and then to check on
what’s in there.

has to describe it for us
although the nature 
of what’s within is, allegedly, 
well known. 

has to be there 
in case someone else
stumbles into the dark
while the door is open
and can’t find their way out.

has to go to war
when now and then someone else
calls the dark terrible
and tries to pretend it’s not worthy
of consideration and suggests
we seal the door to it permanently.

has to become what’s within
and the keeper of what’s within
and the guide to what’s within
and the fortress of what’s within
and now and then the caretaker of those within
when someone else needs to stay there
and make a forever home in the dark.

The Search For Meaning In A Storm Of Guitar

To think that all this
could be described as
what happens when
a stoned guitarist
plugs in every pedal available
stomps them all at once
and starts banging away
to create such glorious mud
that no one can hear 
a song within this 
so they invent one 
like a boat on a sea of meaning
waiting to be brought to shore
and toward that end we stand around
looking for the Player so we can ask
for this profundity to be opened
and plumbed in public and help us 
see the revelation therein
when in fact the meaning of it all
is that a stoned guitarist 
just wanted to see
what happens
when everything
happens at once
in a bleeding cacophony and the illusion
of this being a song 
is one imposed by those
hungry for the sound of
one clean line
buried under all
a boat seeking port
while a good old jazz standard
or ancient folk tune plays
somewhere under the storm
but in truth the guitarist
has struck one last blast chord
and walked away
across the water 
to find another place 
to play while
the crude wash of sustain
hangs on and on
and the feedback
is killing us

No Mouse

Inside a box
where I am fated
to punch the walls

for this lifetime.
I can’t see through 
the walls I punch
because they’re walls

and I’m weak; been punching
so long and the holes I’ve made
look small. Like mouse holes

from old cartoons. Inside
the holes mice lived
comfortable lives till

they went outside
but then again
what was out there

was spacious and they had
plenty of room to run
from death by cat.

Outside these walls are more walls
I won’t punch through
in this lifetime, I’d bet.

I’m too weak to run
from anything if I did
break through. So

back to punching
weakly at the walls
before the walls. 

It’s all I know
of all there is. 
I’m no mouse;

there’s so little
in here
that comforts me. 

Surge Capacity

There are some who claim
it’s all going to shit and others
who say everything’s
coming up little wings and 
flowers full of life and tiny song

It’s September and in these parts
we look out the window and
pretend we aren’t terrified of
how bad what’s coming is going to be
so we watch for a few white wings
and black and orange patterns and we say
maybe some good’s going to come of 
all this after all as nature
makes a comeback and we’ve all 
learned our lessons except

we forget that nature is why we’re here now
and organisms we don’t romanticize are
turning our artifice to shit but
whoo hoo for the lessons we are learning
and blessings on the butterflies who are teaching
and meanwhile something is bubbling
in the thawing tundra and that’s nature too
and something is churning astride the Gulf Stream
and that’s nature too and who are we to separate
ourselves from the butterflies and viruses
and claim some lessons we are learning are more vital
than the ones we learn from the shit we are 
leaving behind and no one asks the butterflies
or viruses what they think of us and 

while we are rapidly going to shit
devoured and digested by overclocked
surge capacity
we never think of ourselves
as anything but geniuses who
will get it all straightened out in time
instead of being like the butterflies
sucking the last sweetness out of it all
before falling unthinking down
to decay somewhere unloved and unobserved
as everything does
as everything is

Whales Praying In Secret Places

There must be secret behavior
in the world of whales;
it cannot be otherwise; 
traditions they carry on
that we either do not see
or do not understand

when we do see them;

perhaps a convention they follow
when they begin an ancient song,
similar to saying, “once
upon a time;”
a convention that does not
shift from bowhead to gray to humpback;

do they all slow and stop
wherever they are in any ocean
upon hearing it, as if it were
a supplication to those who knew of
Better Times?

Think of whales praying 
somewhere beyond the discernment
of humans. Other beings
suspending themselves in the deep
nearby, hoping the coming grace
will envelope them as well,

holding them
in a place we cannot see
or know.

Listening To Rain

I  cannot describe
the sound of rain
without referring to rain.
So I can tell you nothing
about the sound of rain 
you don’t already know
except that to me,
rain sounds 
like Friday night
any time or day I hear it.
Rain feels like a prelude
to something expected,
centered and endless,
might be cleansing,
might be flooding,
might never end or
might depart leaving brightness
behind. But what it
sounds like? It sounds like
rain. Like the smell
of how a week ends 
and another begins, even though
there is nothing primeval
about weeks or weekends.
We made those up long after
we learned to recognize
the sound of rain. We made
a lot of things up
once we couldn’t be bothered
to listen, really listen,
to the rain.

Cat Food Piracy

Little Kitty
eats almost all
of Big Kitty’s food
before I have a chance 
to fill and put down her own plate
which I always do first
and not with my back turned 
to the two of them
except for this morning 
when I forgot. 

Big Kitty 
sits there staring at me
while the piracy
is taking place. 

I always cringe
when my soft brain fails me,
ashamed of what I see as
my cruelty,
intended or not.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,”
I say as I put Little Kitty’s
plate full of her preferred
mush before Big Kitty,
which she tucks into
as if nothing much
has happened.

I feel
more upset than is warranted,
I guess. My forgetfulness, 
more and more common these days,
leads to these small harms
no one much cares about,
but I gather them and 
hoard them in secret places
until I am rich with self-blame.

The cats make do.
I make mistakes, then coffee.

before coffee,

no one as bothered
by my failures as I am,

and me piling up words
about all of it:

a pirate stealing meaning
from a sinking ship.


Revised, from 2005.

Ghost, you call me. Not the ghost, but
“Ghost”, making that my proper name, not (of course)
my Christian name, but the older kind: one

that tells something about you 
that remains true. There’s nothing new
about me being a ghost,

only that I’m called
by that name now, and I’m finally
comfortable with it.

Back when I was just a guy,
long before I leaped off
that bridge to get here,

I used to daydream about flying
and walking through walls.
I used to wish for the power

to blow through a window
so everyone knows you’re there
and you don’t even have to show up.

I never had impact, and didn’t want risk,
so my fantasy became impact without risk:
that would be the life, I thought.  A good joke:

I’ve got the life I wanted,
now that I don’t
have a life.

As a kid I cringed when they told
scary stories at summer camp.
I remember that later on I laughed

at horror films, pretending bravery.
Once you’re here, you find
it’s nothing like the movies. It’s all so – routine.

You show up at regular times,
whistle a little in a dark hallway,
provide a moment of clarity

to someone who’s used to being
safe and warm. You become a lesson
no one needs until after it’s been learned.

But it’s not all bad.
This is a beautiful world
when you can’t really feel it.

It takes your breath away sometimes
to see the way it moves.
I spend years just standing

in front of the strangest things:
not sunsets, not rainbows,
but garbage trucks and fires

and drive-by victims.
It’s all so beautiful, the way
disposal has become an art form.

So, Ghost is what you call me, and I’ll take it now 
the way I’ve always taken it:
with a bowed head.

Before, I would always
come when called
because I had no place to be

other than the place I was called to.
Nothing’s really changed:
I blow through, bother you,

maybe I’ll be remembered
in your children’s stories.
Maybe we’ll see each other one night

on the landing, where you might call me Ghost,
or you might call me imaginary.
No matter. I’ve always answered to either one.

Sun After Rain

Sun after rain,
they say, is inevitable.
Why should we believe that?

The trend of history,
they say, is forever upward.
Why should we believe that?

Trust in the system,
they say, it will right itself.
Why should we believe that?

We’ll get them next time,
they say, if you stick with us.
Why should I believe that?

Because I can see
I believe there are fewer birds here
other than settler sparrows and starlings.

Because I can hear
I believe there are more people
screaming than singing.

Because I can touch
I believe there are waves coming
that will soon swallow entire mythologies.

Because I can smell
I believe in fire and how warm
the perfume from the Arctic’s become.

Because I can taste
I believe there is blood in our food,
on my tongue, in my distended belly.

We’ve got a plan,
they say, but it will take time.
Why should I believe there is time?

Because we decay and have decayed.
Because I am not alone in what I sense.
Because I have seen how little of what they say

ever comes true. 
Sun after rain begets rain begets
weariness, history drowns, the system is just

a way of praying
that I do not believe 
was built to do this work. 

I Am Here

Some people actually are serene; 
self actualized, purely aligned.
They are legends of contentment,
sit daily with their pain well in hand, 
and are still.

I am glad for their existence.
Their stories give off such hope
and if they feel such hope themselves,
then truly, I am at peace with these stories
and what can they do for others.

I sit too, on and among bricks
rubbled up in bone-breaking piles,
blackened by a long fire that started
before I was born and continues
to flare from time to time, 
but I do not move.

Tell me where I am supposed to go,
I ask the ones at peace. They say I need
go nowhere, that peace is found within
or nowhere. 
This is nowhere, I respond.
Come sit with me where I live. They do not come.  

All life is suffering, they chide and chant
from a safe distance while the fire
I live with is licking at their walls. I could teach them
how to stand the coming days of sitting in rubble
while alternating screams and shrugs, 

but they won’t come over here and I can’t
get there, no matter how I try, no matter
how I try to rebuild this house to look like theirs
it burns again. So I sit here. All life is suffering.
Easy to say from over there, but I am here.

The Lilac Bear

Let the great bear of my history 
come seeking me by intuition
once I have put enough into the world
that my trace is pure, strong, and available.

Let the great bear of my history
come to me some August night
as I sit on my porch and imagine 
the scent of next spring’s lilacs.

Let the great bear of my history
stand before me, stinking of my past
mingled with the past of the world
beyond this one until all smells of the future. 

Let the great bear of my history
raise me in its arms and crush me
into the void, and let my body
be buried and forgotten soon after.

Let the great bear of my history
grant me the gift of the scent of lilacs
as a final memory, sparking the desire
to return by spring. 

Let me come back as a bear
foraging for history since that moment,
running up and down hills
in rejection of myths, flavoring the air.

Let me be the bear for another,
a wonder-filled being on a porch,
thinking of some good thing yet to come;
let me become the Bear, the Lilac Bear.

Not All Boomers Love The Beatles, Man

Regretting time spent considering my teenage years
when I was compiling 
banks of music, art, and literature
the world could use to define me.

Unlike so many boomer peers
I’m mostly no longer
in love with all that. Instead 
I’m somewhere I’m not

supposed to be, forever chasing the new.
I’m a bad example of my peers — 
nostalgia is for the easy
to please and I’m not that,

never have been. But
there are times when by chance
something from ages ago
stirs a new feeling, or someone

from long ago stirs a new pot,
and instead of disdain I feel
small hope that I might have
a final twist in me too,

or will at last be able to unlock
my one true thing, my one
best offering, and all the rest
of why I ever loved those artifacts

might make sense and I’ll at last
be unafraid to reclaim all of it
without looking down on the love I felt
as a relic to be left behind. 

This Man Is A Hospital

He has lived from the start
as a hospital
taking in all
sick arrivals

Lining them up
so deep in his hallways
he can’t help but stumble
between chronic and acute

Rough way to live
he tells himself whenever
the crush of illness inside him
becomes nearly intolerable

Followed at once by
a sigh and a shrug
Reminds himself
it was his choice to let them in

and his fault entirely
that he’s so damn full
of such pestilence that
he can’t walk straight or think 

healthy thoughts
Looks up at the pictures
of his family on the walls
The founders of the institution  

The ones who set the mission
on its path
He trips over an old corpse
and chokes on the facts

It’s not their fault I’m a hospital
he tells himself
I ought to be used to this
by now and the fact that I’m not

is my fault too then he
pulls himself up by the gurneys
and bounces on down the corridor
answering pages and praying

he will code