Saturday, April 9, 2016

The next iteration...

Giving the thread its length, let go
the tip, a shallow breath, and watch

the air, without question, carry it all. 


What better way to want to be
than more ready to be more 


Words might well be forgiven their shortcomings.

They don’t hold much or for long, but most do
suggest another word to follow, or to take their place.

And for free.


whether wanted
or not, what’s next 
is always given


doesn’t make
any sense.”

Sandino, almost 4


Student:  what is this,

that I apologize to spiders
when walking through their webs ?

Teacher:  manners.


Four days after we start saving light,
waking in the dark, under thick layers of fog,
feeling strikingly unburdened,

clear and settled, like when things falling
into place make you aware, for the first, 
they’ve not been in place at all,

as if a question is answered 
before you’d thought to ask,

and so you just get on with it,
just get up 
and live.



the planet in the south that glows
its special glow just after dusk
just above the horizon, holds tight 
to an off-kilter clutch of moons 

invisible to the naked eye, yet 

mirror-dancing with their host 
and the telescope, 

here on the roof.


Poetry happens because 
the innate capacity of words
coming together 

can somehow take us where 
words can’t go—or, from the beginning, 
perhaps, that which moves words 

continues well after words 
reach their limits.

Either can bring us to poem, 
and the next one may lead us
to peace.


And if the point of it all is to feel,
feel our way back to feeling, then 
none of the vast range of feelings
ought be rejected out of hand, ever.

Then yes, everything ever is yes.



Catch a glimmer, even the slightest, 
then good, that’s it, to go with 

or to leave. Too much more said, 
is an altogether different direction.


He’s an older man now, as am I.
The clearest memory I have of him 
is with Kerouac’s “On the Road”

in his back pocket at a party—our kids played
in the co-op nursery. Never more than acquaintance,

we meet at a memorial. Two grey beards, smiling 
over coffee in paper cups, friendly
in memories strikingly warm.

Neither of us work for money anymore, nor
commit too full a calendar—footloose, is the way
he puts it.

And I wonder, this shared sensibility as we age, 
a warm anticipation, that here on out is open-ended, 
currents extending in light, trusting everything.


Time with a teacher
is not always
except maybe
over time.


Stars call me to the back deck tonight,
calling out their names.

In an hour or so, glass and chart
set aside, 

I light incense and call Buddha’s name,
or is it mine?


Saijo says somewhere that it’s the writing
in its totality that sustains—I tend to agree
what reaches the page is good enough
of itself, even if tinkered with, is 
the writing too, as so with the breathing
they speak of, that breathing I think is
here tended to, too, as is the singing,
chanting and speaking, those warm, 
welcome extensions.


Before clearing the horizon, morning’s sun
splashes salmon through low stretching clouds 

streaked pink—deep bedrock promise, 
a grey to bluing sky.


Darkness doesn’t speak
its night-long hold.

The sun, simply touching.

These words, a same
but different weight.


The heat goes on
just as the grandchildren begin to stir,
the dim light heavy with chill. 

The youngest whines, then calms 
under his sister’s comforting tones,

while his elder brother sleeps,
deep in undisturbed indifference.

With all this warmth readily available,
why we continue to turn to the men

remains utterly inexplicable.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

final pages

The truth of the matter
of this living and dying we do
together while alone
is not one of thought, which is
itself but one of the myriad puffs
of passing living  
that delight and confound,
as all expressions 
of this marvelous mystery do,
but rather, just that,
the mystery 
that is.


Words work best 

in bunches let go before breath runs out…


There’s only one song.
Words change with the winds,
the moon goes full to gone. 
But there’s only one song.


To the very end, well past the time the lighter
lit its last, my mother kept it and her smokes
within arm’s reach.

What the empty pages of my journal don’t say
is that I carried it and a pen, from bed to couch, to 
bed again, mid-morning to middle of the night,

right there, at the ready, every one of the four days 
the flu took most everything else of me 


I’m not so sure at this point what I’m looking for 
when pulling an old teacher off the shelf, to read
what I’d written in margins long ago, or to find now
something missed then.

Some say past impressions have already done 
whatever their work; however helpful a dialect 
learned along the way might have been, 
what remains are only echoes.

Disoriented once on the trails in Zion, the map 
became clear to me only when I’d calmed enough 
to remember what really helps—hills and valleys 
forever speak only in present tense.


The afternoon sun catches in the bowl
on the low table in the living room, throws light
from the shallow cup to the ceiling,

luminous shards of molded glass, a fractured rainbow
of spotted colors moving in angles at odds with the sun’s 
arc through the open picture window.

At the bowl’s center, a pair of wooden hands, ebony,
found in a Bangkok market along side the elevated tracks
of inner-city train lines.

Pinkies touching, palms open, 
thumbs slightly spread, 


Keeping its focus,
keeping its beat.
The heart.


Morning’s walk

into the mist amidst
swirls of change.

This endless count giving 
this only quiet,

this culling voice living
and dying

its own singular joy, this 
breathing this, 

this walking home.


prayer has voice

even in silence

it listens too


Stand centered
in the stream’s flow and drift,

let its taste
determine direction,

let its rush
tell of your wish,

let its flow speak 
the how of how we all go

and its name
tell of all names.


Usefulness is one
of the many petals of
human flowering, identified
only when reflected upon,

such reflection also being just one
of many formless, colorless petals 
unfurling there in natural 

Flowers do not help, nor cooperate, 
nor interfere, but just reach 
into life’s light with all they have, 
all they are,

this one 
turning back 
to its own 

March 15, 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

Almost March

Not nature as thing, but the nature of things as

never repeating patterns remembered

as the call home.


Wrinkled paper speaks the vernacular
found in notebooks

scratched with ball point pens
anyone can afford,

though pencils will do 
quite well too.

The old ones spoke
of “plain wood.”


I recently read where older folks
sometimes begin to feel a sense
of disconnect, of loss and loneliness,

but have come to see this as the sensing 
of room, finally the space 

within which self and ego stretch

into that silence 

that has carried it all 
all this while. 


Spider webs drip last night’s rains
into air held still by doves.


That the telescope in the corner gathers dust
while pens routinely run dry of ink
speaks volumes.


Each rain drop,
every cicada,

going its own particular way
among all the others.


To let go of the need
need not mean to let go
the practice—every gesture
ever carries its perfect weight,
even when we can’t tell.


I travel lighter these days,
take fewer notes and 
shorter poems.


The almond tree is full snow,
and fragrant cuttings grace the vase
on the altar next to the wooden Buddha
found in the market in Bali—the blossoms
speak well of this.


If the renegade is simply unique,
then the world is full of us.


This too, this dis-ease,
perfect practice 


Friday morning before feeling light
and let’s face it, I’m seventy-two—what place
can new possibilities really have here? And yet, 
here we are.


Many things, most perhaps, run better
when things run through them. Body, for instance,
forests and streams. And wind, what would be desert
without wind ?


Too many interruptions
turns your story
into mine.


Breath: even when lost is still wind.


At the risk of seeming contrary,
from where I sit, there is no “other side.”
But there are horizons.


One absolute:

ocean works waves,
not the reverse.

The other: change.


I’ve lived too long now for philosophy.
Point me to the poets.


What makes us think it is we who penetrate 
the world—who do we think we are
anyway? Let’s vow to return 
to trembling readiness…


At my age, my grandfather had lost
three of six sons, and his wife. Though
my uncles were beside themselves, he
bought a VW camper and wandered 

the southeast seaboard alone, looking,

he said, for family clues. On his visit to this coast,
he asked us to take his picture alongside “Pigs Off Campus”
graffiti at Berkeley. He chuckled when he laughed, chewed 
when I was a kid and always wore a fedora. 


We grew up in blue-collar, suburban New Jersey.
The bus ride across the river to Manhattan 
might well have been the other side the continent 
from the last block on Rosewood Terrace 

which was mostly duplex, lined with maples 
and dead-end at the back fence of the local factory. 
Tall hedgerow hid us there when we smoked. 
My dad did all the work on the family car 

in the driveway out front. In high school, we moved 
to Livingstone Road, nicer, with a garage. He stayed 
with the driveway, but neighbors there came over to watch.
Saturday afternoons in the fall were devoted to college football.

My dad’s day always ended in front of the television, 
with a cold beer. Pabst Blue Ribbon, I think. But all of this 
was before color.


End notes: 

1. Sheetrock nails take best to a measured hit—always hold.

2. We didn’t know our bikes were second-hand
    till other kids got new ones—chain guards

    keep grease off your pants.