Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Losing You

I am most days okay with the fact I am like this. I am trained. I have the psychology, the philosophy. I even have big chunks of the theology. More than this, I have been in the trenches in AA, quite intimate with realtime recovery as it plays out day to day. I have watched and experienced and can advise and consent with effectiveness.

All that I have written is in place and still I grab hold tightly and must enter the discipline to actually let go. When I lost my last lover, a big piece of me was pretty sure I would not have another. That’s what happened to my mother and I believe she was close to my age when it happened. It is now several years later and I have discovered I neither want to put myself out to get a partner, nor am I willing to settle for less than what I had last, and finally that I am okay living alone even though I believe I wish a partner. If I had another lover, I know that I would grab hold even though I know better. Hmmm.

Losing You

If I look at it
straight on I can often let
you go. Instead I
stuff my cubbyholes
full, in this room and that one,
pieces and things, sure
I dare not let them
leave my space or leave my heart.

But when I get square
with the world I know
I will not lose you like that,
not so easily.

April 28, 2009 3:43 PM

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Crow Story

This I swear is a true story of a tree near the condo we rented in Lake Grove, a wooded area of Lake Oswego in the greater Portland area. Lake Oswego is an upscale community focused on the lake, a largely manmade and man controlled body of water that can be totally drained for maintenance and is volume controlled in all but the worst drought years. There are mansions on the lakefront.

Lake Grove is a little lower in the scale in many neighborhoods. My wife and I moved there when we returned to Portland from Newport on the Oregon Coast, moved into the condominium. It was there that I sat and used my electric typewriter to write my way into my BA degree, sat at the dining table.

There were tall evergreens everywhere in and around our condominium complex. One of them on this particular day in late spring collected a huge number of crows, literally hundreds at least, with many coming and going. I have never seen anything like it, have no idea what it was about, but it made me a little nervous to have those crows so near, so many. They were definitely noisy. I don’t know when they left or where they went when they did leave, but they were no longer there the next day.

We liked living in Lake Grove so much that we put earnest money down on the condo when the landlord decided to sell it. Then we found the house in Willamette that had everything we had listed on our wish list, a fireplace, an attic, two baths, a garage, a small but landscaped yard with not much grass, a master bedroom big enough for the king sized water bed, a deck and a covered patio, and a study off the kitchen, away from the main part of the house. So we bought it and gave up the earnest money.

A Crow Story

A murder of crows
appeared one day in a tree
across the back street
and down below from
my balcony where I watched
in true awe as they
came and left, and came,
a circulation of crows,
convention of crows,
an entire city
of shiny black beaks, yellow
eyes and discussion.

I felt they were there
to judge me, to speak of things
I mustn't ever

April 27, 2009 7:58 PM

Monday, March 29, 2010


What is it about me, I want to be involved in these things? I somehow think I have something to contribute. Maybe I do. As a young man I was beat up by a distraught husband, but he was not very effective and that mainly because he was in the wrong and he knew it. He broke my watch. I was pissed. Actually over the years, I have gotten some practice and some wisdom. Mostly when I get in the middle like this it more or less works out. I do not cross intimacy lines without invitation.

Here I watch myself perhaps.


I walked in to see
you and found you engaged,
serious effort,
I could tell, you pale,
eyes wide open, hands like claws,
you receiving her
embrace, while she cried.

I had no notion what that
was all about but
I was sure I had
no business in your place,
not at that time.

April 27, 2009 3:56 PM

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Scavenger On The Beach

Here’s a slice of life. I have things in my life like this. We all do. Some of us have lives that might seem more interesting to some. Here’s an example, my rock musician friend, who travels so much because that’s where the work is. His home is here. His band was a Detroit band in those days and some band members are still back there. He goes back to write music with them as well as they fly in to Las Vegas for shows and stuff like that. There is a seasonal aspect to this because while they make a living, they are no longer big names. Really for him it is same old, same old. The way he talks about it, I know this is true.

You could be the guy who chose to make a life following the surf. After some time at it, I know it would be as hard to get out of that as it is to get out of anything else. I was really lucky to find a relatively interesting way to make a living. Most of it is grinding work though, just like everyone else’s. I am completely grateful for the part where there is no time clock. That didn’t use to make a big difference. Now it does.

If I lost this thing I do, ready or not, I would be forced into retirement. I have no way to start again. The energy just isn’t there.

The Scavenger On The Beach

It's the way of things
to make choices and live them
for years after that.
No do overs, no,
not very often. Look back
then and see the change,
how it locks you down
and now you feed family
as if you want that.

April 27, 2009 12:28 PM

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Have Met My Match

Life is difficult. Water just wants to join with itself and seeks a straight path to that. Unfortunately for water, there are serious obstacles and demands along the way.

Most water stays ocean bound. Some water gets sucked up, drawn away from itself, shanghied as it were. It is forced to travel high in the air and fall someplace it might not choose.

If it is really unlucky water descends in the far north or south, or high enough up that it might get stuck, perhaps exiled. If it is more fortunate then it falls where there is more chance to find the ocean again. That is what happens so long as some crack in the earth doesn't catch it and store it for aeons. There is some water that gets waylaid by biology and cycles through the interactions with complex hydrocarbons. Some water may actually spend some time in the hydrocarbon cycle or even get stuck in petrified bones for aeons too.

I think water prefers staying in oceans over all the alternatives. If it is taken up by the heat of the sun, then I think it prefers a quick return.

Maybe this is an ecology poem.

I Have Met My Match

I am a river
that met its match at the cliff.

I have fallen off,
turned to a cascade,
a mist drifting on the wind,

can no longer float
your boat as I wish.

Consider this your warning
to get off my back.

April 27, 2009 12:03 PM

Friday, March 26, 2010

Standing On One Foot

Sometimes I feel really different. Sometimes I just want to come home, even on Friday night, even though my friends have gone out, even though I would enjoy it. No. I just want to come home. Actually I am accepting two things. I am older now and I am required to take six different pills every day around the five o’clock hour. That is the consequence of needing an angioplasty and a stent placement in my heart last May. By Friday, I am too tired to really want a gathering of 8 to 12 people. That would be too harsh, too hard to track. So they all feel the need to huddle and cavort. Me, I feel the need to quiet way down. I can’t find more energy, it seems, no matter what I do. I will be resting tomorrow, pretty much what I always do on Saturdays, basically nothing. This is not a complaint. It is acceptance. I have to work, so I have to get this tired. To recover, I have to rest.

Standing On One Foot

You tell me to use
imagination, and how
that happens, I start
to sprout stork feathers,
keeping one foot down, standing
on wet river ice,
drawing my other
foot up next to my belly
to warm it, thinking
"Should've stayed south, yup."

April 27, 2009 11:28 AM

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Watching For Hawks

I love this power, these words, the true incantations found deep amidst the raw red of the hot rocks as they lie poised and waiting for the next eruption, the next ascension into air, into light.

An Icelandic volcano is demonstrating right now how to make new land, fire and ice. The Americas and Europe are getting ever further apart at a stately pace. No words are needed there. The evocation there needs no words, and stating protection in the face of that fire will not work. But here, here the words are singular and stout, present and deep and they rattle my bones until I find a new shape.

My brothers in Siberia read the maternal line, the mitochondrial code from a finger bone and found out that another man came out of Africa earlier than we did, and drew away from us a million years ago. This is too new for Erectus and Heidelbergensis. They drew away 2.5 million years ago. This man was not like us in his lineage but we might have known him anyway. He continued on the planet to at least 40,000 years ago, perhaps later. So now there are four different groups of Homo coexistent 40,000 eyears ago. Sapiens, called Cro-Magnon, Neanderthalensis, Floresiensis, and this new fellow we have just learned of and not yet named. All tool using, all probably speaking, all living in tribal societies and wearing jewelry, all probably burying their dead, but all coming from Africa in different migrations and reaching far away lands on foot. I pray it wasn’t us that killed them all off. I am afraid it was.

Watching For Hawks

I am riverine
watching for hawks when I see
you walking the bank.
My old heart catches
at the sight of your long legs
and my scales glisten.
I remember you
sister from before and yes,
that's when I leap out
to see you better.

April 26, 2009 3:55 PM

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Counting Pile, 1981

Here’s a knocking indeed. That’s a line from Shakespeare. It’s the Porter’s line.

A steam hammer rigged up on the leads of a crane sufficient to lift the hammer above eighty feet of composite steel and creosoted wood or full length steel pile. The pile used to nail the dry crust to the compressed mud beneath after twenty feet of the mush of the Yaquina Slough, tidal water in the the Yaquina River upstream of Yaquina Bay. The steam hammer chuffs and blangs, driving a multi-ton hammer head against the giant nail we used to nail the land together. This is required to build any structure on that land, land you can drown in if you dig too deep, about eight feet. When the pile hits this layer it just drops for twenty feet.

Chuff, blang, chuff, blang, chuff, blang…and me, I stand right there in the spray of the steam and in the horizontal wind and rain. I have a stick for measuring a constant height by swinging off my foot against the pile and a piece of chalk. I watch the foot marks already scribed on the pile cans until the pile comes up and slows down to less than an inch per blow. Then I start marking and counting, looking for eighteen blows per inch. I get that and I cut off the driving. If I don’t and we run out of pile, they have to drive another beside it. That’s about one in fifteen.

When I was scribing foot marks on pile cans I was very near the welder. That night I got flash burn reactions even though I didn’t ever look at the welding directly. The day that I write about here, I was in a full blown gale, a winter ocean storm come ashore, just eight miles inland. It was very cold and very wet. Everything was wet no matter that I was in full slicker. I went in to the engineering office and sat at my desk on morning break and wondered how I was going to go back out there. I had no one to spell me. Wearing hard hat and steel toed boots and hearing protection, none of which would really matter if things came apart, so I am trusting the contractors and closer in than the pile bucks except when the setting the pile for driving. That hammer is in my face, literally at the critical time, and that means the pile is resisting the most, so everything is at its most explosive. Shit.

I never had to do that job again. I am proud I did it though. I created the record that proved the foundation for that building was going to be safe. That’s the kind of thing comes up when you work in engineering for a paper mill.

Counting Pile, 1981

Winter morning with
sideways rain, in full slicker
with my tools, a Write
In The Rain pad, chalk,
and mechanical pencil,
with hard hat and ear
protection, many
layers hoping to keep warm,
I stood next to steam
and noise so big it
hammered me and the pile cap
equally. I froze
in the winter rain.

April 26, 2009 4:03 PM

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

their attitude toward me has not changed

This is the feel of it. I argue with my silent partner and try to get a rise out of him. I poke and prod. I have been known to misbehave badly just to attract notice. I have quit that for the most part, though I am still capable. I still misbehave for somewhat better reasons these days. I try not to argue with the half wounded, though.

Today was not a good day. They were too fast for me and I lost my cool. Twice. And then the primary asshole wanted to know why. That is a useless exchange. I have tried before. He does not see it my way at all, will never see it my way, thinks my way is beneath notice basically. I have been that guy myself before. I know. End of story. I am powerless in this situation. I run preventative maintenance on it, but as I say, it tightened up far too quickly this morning. I was left raw and bleeding and angry. I was quiet but it was not over this afternoon and there it was again, different issue. Jesus.

My twisted beady little head actually believes that I am such a nice guy everyone should recognize how freaking valuable and wise I am and they do not. Amazing.

their attitude toward me has not changed

But I have changed, yes
changed so long ago, my bones
rattle loose in me
and take me along
for night rides, caught unawares
until I'm too high
to now call a halt.

Consider my shaky verse
as cries for release,
as arguments. God
knows I argue, keeps silent
as I continue.

April 26, 2009 12:41 PM

Monday, March 22, 2010

We Come And We Go

This poem speaks for itself, plainly enough.

We Come And We Go

Shall I be strong here
among the few of you who
shift and grow today
and hold together
in this odd bog of good words?

Will it change so soon?

Someone comes, then goes
for sound reasons could I know
but I am not told.
If this is like love
then war is closer to love
than I care to know.

There are so many
places to go in this swirl
of light, as just now
I found another
circle like this gathering
with their own true glow.

April 26, 2009 11:48 AM

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Modern Magic

This is not a poem about all of me. It is a poem about a part of me. This part of me held sway for awhile…Dances With Words. I was smart enough to not attempt the thing I did with music though, thinking music would somehow save me.

I remember how that was, how I would go to the coffee house and Paul Zeigler would be singing and I learned all his stuff because I wanted so desperately to be him. I sat there night after night and learned his repertoire, not only the basic song but his phrasing.

That desperation was the source of the determination I had to learn the guitar, so I could be him. I got there. I did it. I still didn’t have his life and knowing his music didn’t work for me. I was blocked. I had powered my way in and pushed past the tough parts and I was at professional grade in the things I did know. There was a universe of music I knew little about. I realized I would have to deconstruct and start again. I didn’t have the stomach for it.

I had worn my guitar out, literally. The frets of a brass alloy needed replacement because the steel strings over six years of intense work had worn grooves in them. I had torn the finish off the face of my guitar around the pick guard learning to use a flat pick. My cigarettes had burned a couple holes in the guitar finish too.

I put the guitar down. Back when Frances fixed my guitar for me, in gratitude, I picked it up and recovered the music to a point. I started learning new things too. But I had the keyboard and that is what I work with now. During that time I had returned to singing in a church choir, how I met Frances and through all that began singing in community college choirs too. We had the opportunity to sing with professional orchestra and the Christmas program was challenging and wonderful.

The point is I forced it and believed I could turn into something I am not and in the end it caused me to walk away from the music for decades.

Now these poems come from Dances With Words but I know better. When I began blogging a blog friend called me Johnny Applepoem because I was dropping poems into the comment sections of other people’s blogs all the time.

Modern Magic

I chase the learning,
modern magic of this age,
the incantation
in the deep of me
rising out of my hunger
to know all, all, all.

I believe words will
save me despite all the wounds
of my raw old life.

So I dance with words,
with so many pages, forms
in the teeth of things.

April 26, 2009 9:44 PM

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Holy Shock Of The Kill

I return in some sort of cycle to all these subjects of mine. This is rather bare bones here. I am beyond my depth when I face certain parts of life. I want to step out of myself and stand aside. I want to travel to the throne of God, and there wait for audience. I want to demand an answer to the “WHY!!” that tears my throat and throws me against the wall, there to slide down sitting on the shit fouled rug of the drunk’s bedroom.

That last sentence is an actual place in my life, as I watched my life being torn apart.

I have holy rage, how it feels to me. I know I can kill from there. I have traveled across the planet and there is nowhere truly safe on it. I say sit anywhere and draw a radius out to maybe ten blocks. Then sweep it around and make the circle. Everything that can happen is probably happening to someone inside this circle if you include all sentient beings. Life preys on life. If it is in the city you do this, then all you need include is other people. Someone is for this moment happy and someone else so sad that their life might be threatened. People blithely say feelings won’t kill you. Wrong. I have witnessed that. Feelings do kill, and it can take years of suffering for feelings to succeed at it.

This is all one side. But it is real enough just as it is. I made a vow many years ago that when I am happy it will not be because I have swept this part under some ragged and dusty rug. Real happiness has to survive this, rebound, and rise up again and not in spite of it, neither in spite nor because it is now gone, hi ho the witch is dead. That is because this place is never that far away no matter what you do. Real happiness keeps full awareness of this so that the pain and suffering of others is not slighted in the least when you encounter them in their moments.

They are never far away. Suffering is never far away.

Neither is the beauty of the sun setting within the clouds of the clearing storm far away, nor the beauty of the woman singing to her newborn.

The Holy Shock Of The Kill

What happens in my ancient
blood when I see the young
chicks or pups or kits, see spring
delicacies of color rise new grown
and all fresh things, what happens then
is the memory of the fires and the paint,
the preparation for the hunt, and the eyes
of the newly killed - for we have to eat.

What happens is
the holy shock of the kill,
knowing this pleasure is so deeply right
when you're the cat, the bear, the wolf,
and eagle screams in holy triumph.

But rabbit screams differently, as does doe.
Fish flops and gasps on the bank.

When I was a boy I would kill like this, practice.
No one becomes hunter without practice.
This is not and cannot be clean. I remember.
The play of it is real, more real than food,
I realized how close killing is to sex that way,
the holy shock of the kill.

What happens as I remember, my bile rises
at the shape of my own heart.
I cannot hunt now even though I still eat.

I have become the man who would break the perfect
predatory pounce if I could, desperately sad,
even sadder that I would be wrong to do it.

March 24, 2009 12:59 PM

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Artist's Dream

“On the night of the Buddha's enlightenment, he is said to have understood that everything is completely interconnected and interdependent. Therefore it is impossible for anybody to go on retreat from the world. Everybody knows that when you go on retreat, the whole world, no matter how tiny your retreat cabin, is there, in terms of your experience. And the purpose of retreat is precisely to transform the world.”
- Richard Reoch, "The Path of Complete Engagement" tricycle (Winter 2004)

I saw the interconnections once. I tried to find my way back for several years. There is only going forward, what I have done for decades, ever since I realized I was not allowed back. There are ways that moment is still with me. Some people are saying lately that I have an unusual mind. I say, “Not really, but I did have an unusual experience.” That changed my mind. I am still interested in transforming the world, as I have always been. Like God, I honor free will. I would never compel anyone, not ever, not for any reason except perhaps saving them from immanent death. I have dropped the dime in that situation before and would again. I will let others take on the burden of the coercer, the trickster. It is not wrong to coerce or trick people into their own good necessarily but it may add to your future karmic debt unless you are simply impeccable at it. I know I am not that skillful. I have no interest in adding to my karmic debt unless God commands it.

An Artist's Dream

When East knows spring comes
she gives crocuses to North,
purple ones and gold,
sends the Western man
into fits of bearded glee
to know the kindness
of light and song, sun
and fine Southern exposure,
all an artist's dream.

April 24, 2009 11:02 PM

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Offering

The Core of Practice

"The core of Buddhist practice is the transformation of suffering (dukkha) and its roots into wisdom and compassion. As the Buddha pointed out, we all experience physical and emotional pain. We all get sick, lose people we love, and each of us will die. Our practice is not to try to get rid of this pain, which would be impossible. Rather, it is to avoid constricting around our pain, or blaming ourselves or others for it, or lashing out when we feel attacked-somehow believing that by so doing we will get rid of or resolve the initial hurt.

This cycle of reactivity is called suffering. The task of our practice is to transform such reactivity and the greed, hatred, and delusion that fuel it. It is to realize that it is possible to experience pain without suffering, without passing on the pain to ourselves or others."

-From Donald Rothberg, "Present Moment, Urgent Moment" tricycle, (Fall 2004)

There are so many I would be willing to sacrifice for. There are so many others I can barely tolerate. I search through my soul and must confess that I do not find it in me to love everyone. I am simply not built right for the notion of universal love, of agape. I do better with the part of love that is called compassion. I can wrap myself around that and feel fairly sure I am not disguising pity. I am fairly sure I am not aiming at some kind of codependent overprotection or something. Love your enemy as yourself. This is not possible for me. I can however show mercy.

There is a man in my local circle. I have had trouble with him for years. I cannot seem to express myself in a way that he doesn’t take offence. He usually goes away and stews awhile. He carries a grudge. In my last real conversation, it ended with him informing me that I had judged his ability to choose his investments wisely. What he was talking about was at least a decade old. I really don’t remember. He never brought it up until a few weeks ago. I am amazed that his stuff lasts that long, amazed that he is that touchy about such a subject, when, if I was in that area with him, I am sure I was joking or at least light hearted in my intention.

I cannot love this man, not after at least fifteen years of this crap. I have known him for most of twenty seven years. It is best for me to hold my distance peacefully and wish him well from there.

Situations like this give me the signal of how far I have to go. If I am to get out of here with a little added elevation, then there is much work to do. I follow the Bodhisattva ideal. The only hope I have for coming close to that ideal, I throw myself on God’s lap in a radical way and work with His Presence and Power. There is no other way open to me. I am starting too far back in my own rebellious spirit.

The Offering

I shall offer for
the moment, for you, golden
petals joined by stem
and scarlet center
by count fifteen and five more
all a dream, a song
calling you from pain,
from the chemistry, the ache
of your emptiness.

April 23, 2009 1:18 PM

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Curtain Rises

Have you ever been with Taurus? I don’t know about the men but the women seem to have drama, something like you would expect from Leo. I was raised by a consummate actress, Tony Award caliber, one who could direct as well. I mean this literally. She acted and directed. There is something about it. You just sit back and watch sometimes. Trouble comes when such a woman enlists you, demands that you perform. It’s for your own good, you know. I wound up defending against it on all sides. Finally my mother figured out that she didn’t want to test our relationship that much and she backed way off. She didn’t have any choice. I made sure her choices for me turned out terribly. I was a really unpleasant teen.

I have matured. Now when I run into a woman like that I just enjoy the show. I notice however, that I am not about to easily follow suggestions that come like stage directions. My last girlfriend is a marvelous example of a lady capable of producing a show. She possesses the endearing quality of not usually demanding participation. So often, what she was doing was wonderful and I freely wanted a part of it. She became the choir director for a time of the church choir we were in. She also bought for her house a Playel grand piano, in part because I can play. I loved having the chance to play that. Her best gift to me was to go into my closet when I didn’t know she did that, pull out my guitar, a 1966 Martin O-18 (parlor guitar) and go get it completely refurbished so I could play it again. She did that for my birthday in our first year together. That is the best birthday present anyone ever gave me. I had stopped playing in 1973 when I had no money and had worn out the brass frets over seven years of hard play. This gift got me to return to playing and it pushed me forward into other musical things too.

I should say about this drama thing, it might mean what we call a drama queen but it doesn’t have to. For the most part my mother was not a drama queen, just sometimes. My last girlfriend was nothing like what you would think of as a drama queen.

The Curtain Rises

The brightness reveals
you, not so bright that my eyes
shut tight in white heat
but more like stage lights
and make up would help reveal
your dramatic truth.

You are dramatic.

I hold a box seat, season
tickets to your show,
purchased at full price.

April 22, 2009 3:45 PM
March 17, 2010 7:07 PM

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I am very pleased that I can write like this. When I sit at the keyboard and play my music, that too pleases me. Sometimes I am sure I am only a channel, that I really am not able to do any of this. If not this, then as a channel, I am pretty good. Pretty good for a bozo on the bus. This was another unfinished poem. The last half took extensive rework in the middle of the night.


A rhyme and scheme, scheme
beyond meter to story
and beyond that too,
my liege, my lady
sets her intention within
the words to build it,
to build the walls and
seal the roof, ignite the fire
blazing in the hearth,
and quicken my words.

April 22, 2009 12:45 PM
March 16, 2010 2:44 AM

Monday, March 15, 2010

Divine Predicament

Occasionally, the Whiskey River blogsite publishes passages by writers who express one or another of the cores of my spiritual walk, gifting me with the understanding that I am not alone on the planet. I am not alone even though I have gone my own way. Here are today's quotes on the truth of things. Amen.

"There's a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that's a perfect zero you can go into. There's a rest point between the heart's muscle's close and open - an instant of keenest living when you're momentarily dead. You can rest there."
- Mary Karr

"The gaps are the thing. The gaps are the spirit's one home, the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound. The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God; they are the fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through, the icy narrowing fords splitting the cliffs of mystery. Go up into the gaps. If you can find them; they shift and vanish too. Stalk the gaps. Squeak into a gap in the soil, turn, and unlock - more than a maple - a universe."
- Annie Dillard

This is my opinion. Don’t read it if you have your own strong opinion.

The gaps are essential and are central to the notion of the presence of God in a world filled with free will action. We live in the main on the surface of things, only dimly knowing of the deeps unless something special happens or else we enter into disciplines designed to change normal consciousness in fundamental ways. The gaps are those kind of doorways.

We tend to complete things, finish them, close the circles. This means we tend to enclose ourselves in the self will of our freedom. We value this. However the gaps in things are so fundamental that no matter what we do, we cannot completely close things. Even so, God has a covenant with us to not violate our free will.

We can’t succeed in closing things off but we can refuse His Presence, unless something is so important to His Work that we are disregarded. This can happen but it is really rare that any one of us is so essential to His Work that He cannot find anyone else to do it. In a world of alternatives, He does not have to violate free will.

The more of us there are on the planet, the more completely free will is the rule. That will be true until there are too many of us and we begin to limit each other in overcrowding. The gaps are still there, not far from us no matter what we do. That is the special privilege that the Buddhists refer to when they say we are in a special privileged position in all creation. We are in the position where we can actually access the gaps in things and enter them. This is not true for other sentient beings. It is a matter of spiritual scale. Some beings are metaphorically too small and others metaphorically too big. This does not mean that getting access to the gaps is an easy task, just that it is possible.

And my poem for this day is about some of the stuff that could be happening in the gaps…

Divine Predicament

When two goddesses
meet I hope I'm not the one
they've decided to
discuss in minute
detail, as if I lay on
some forensic slab
divinely opened
to precise judgmental view.

Perhaps instead I'm
bathed in vinegar,
curing and marinating,
being readied for
next week's stewing pot.

April 22, 2009 12:25 PM

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our Planetary Doom

I have posted before that C.S.Lewis wrote that our planet is a quarantined planet and a receiver of rebellious souls in an otherwise peaceful universe that lives in accord with God’s plan. I don’t think current astrophysics bears out his vision but I certainly understand his sense of things. I believe that he was more than half serious writing like that.

Welcome to daylight savings time, all you to whom this applies.

Our Planetary Doom

Look what happened when
I finally took courage
and said it to you,
not the damn questions
but the fact of them, always
lurking as they do
near the stars' night roads
to our planetary doom,
to the fate we earn.

April 21, 2009 3:32 PM

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yaquina Bay Gale

This is a real moment in 1976 or 1977. The central part of the Oregon Coast is subject to high winds and horizontal rain. They would call it gale but the winds actually reach hurricane force in the gusts. Our apartment was the upper floor of a duplex apartment in a line of four. Our view was facing south, the direction most of the weather came from. We were on a hillside overlooking the bay, a magnificent view. On the day of the boat parade people wouldn’t bother to ask, they would just show up at our place.

This particular wind was blowing across from west to east some of the time. At those moments the aligned apartment buildings acted like the top of a bottle, only the hoot was really deep in the bass range and actually shook things. Then the wind would shift and coming from the south would push and flex the walls in its force. Ann thought it just meant that the wind got in past the windows. She was partly right, it was leaking in also.

I pointed out to Annie that the wall was actually bending in enough in the wind force to cause the curtains to come away from the wall and then swing back as the wall straightened up again. She paled, went, “Ohhh…” and then went to bed in our bedroom that was at the back, the north end of our apartment. That was as far away as she could get.

Yaquina Bay Gale

Watching the walls breathe
with the big gusts that blew past
the side door entries
creating bass notes
that just shook everything.

When the curtains fell
away from the wall
you thought it was wind getting
through. I said it was
the wind bending walls.

You went to bed then, escaped
the gale force, dreaming.

April 21, 2009 1:00 PM

Friday, March 12, 2010

Like A Shattered Glass

I shall let this poem be without much comment. It is very close to a true story. I know it belongs to someone if not quite to me. I added to it for posting, replacing the last original line with four other lines. I found I had not finished it. I wish I could have a special place to put such things, don’t you? - like storing nuclear waste. Instead, my stuff tends to leak out of any container I devise and cause deflections. Windage is required in my aim. I can still strike the target but I must constantly check how the sightlines are skewed today. This is tedious and since I don’t always check, there are lost opportunities for better precision in my life. I guess I might do better if I tackle things more straight away. This is good advice. I am terrible at taking advice, even my own.

Like A Shattered Glass

Like a shattered glass
I reflect indecision
found at my crossroads,
the spot where I keep
such questions unasked as this,
Will you marry me?
Shall we emigrate?
Will I die before, after?

I keep these questions
in holes in the dust
left by the plague of rabbits
who once came this way.

April 20, 2009 12:59 PM

Last 4 lines added
March 12, 2010 5:15 PM

Thursday, March 11, 2010

They Went Back To The World

This is a real world poem. There are enough stories. There were many people who got caught up in all the different attempts to humanize inhumane situations. This is what we do. This is of course my generation’s war in Vietnam. I have no real clue if things like this are happening in Iraq but somehow I doubt Islam makes good street women. This poem came about in sympathy with something Cat shared about a Thai girl last year if I remember right. There were many street women in Thailand too. Are? Probably. I wonder and don’t know much about what is happening in Vietnam these days.

They Went Back To The World

There were men intent
on saving the young street girls,
saving the beauty.
They would begin like
all the other customers
but then pay the rent,
play with the children,
figure ways to get them out,
usually fail.

I wonder too what
happened to those men when they
went back to the world.

April 19, 2009 11:26 AM

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Faith's Remembrance

My mother never packed me a lunch with something special in it. We were poor, then we were under tight budget and such things were not budgeted. I remember other kids getting such things in their lunch. What did happen, I failed to observe anything to get all envious about in that scenario. The kids took their little presents so much for granted that they were bored with them. I never put it together that that should be something to cherish. I imagine now that the kids who did cherish such things kept it to themselves. They would have been teased otherwise. That’s what I remember so clearly about childhood in my neck of the woods. We all were pressed to avoid the possibility of being teased. For my part, the first two years of high school were bleak because I was a target. The last two years I got my growth and stopped being an overt target but I was not well liked by any means. I never had a real girl friend in my school. Instead my girl friends came from the church group I was associated with, or neighboring schools.

In this poem, I would point out that “turning to depart” doesn’t have to mean for good, perhaps just for the day, and “journey” the same, maybe even as small as going to the store, or like a kid going to school.

Faith's Remembrance

To find particles
of your passing through my life,
like finding kisses
left under my cloak
when I take it up to wear
on my next journey,
I remember you
as you stood in the doorway
turning to depart.

April 19, 2009 11:05 PM

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

After Lift Off

I still hold hope for lift off. I know how it is though. The hope is all tangled with the fantasy of desire. The reality will perhaps have in it enough to sustain the dream. I still practice music, still write poetry. I wrote my first serious poetry in 1967. I was invested in serious music earlier than that, singing in challenging choirs, musicals, barbershop quartet and madrigal in 1962. I had to quit singing two years ago because my bronchials and allergic nasal drip are not letting me control my voice any more, especially in the winter, which is the heart of the performance season. That broke my heart. At least I still have my keyboard. I fear the approach of arthritis.

After Lift Off

More than glass between
my shadow and yours, gleaning
as we do, distant
worlds with the cold void
that beckons the last breath out,
no inhaling left,
not after lift off,
not after giving notice
of our departure.

April 18, 2009 5:24 PM

Monday, March 8, 2010

Approaching The Holy

On the way back from East Pakistan in 1969 we traveled west. First we hit Karachi, then Beirut, then Istanbul, then Athens. We stayed three days in Athens and on one of them we went out to a Greek Island but I don’t remember which one. On a small day trip we went a little ways out of Athens to Delphi. I asked a question but I didn’t get an answer.

In those days I weighed 155, my dope weight. That didn’t change until I hooked with Annie and she started cooking for us in 1972. Annie was a good cook and she believed in it too.

I wrote a poem way back then, trying to do justice to some of what I felt climbing up that slope. I recall the broken shaped columns on the grassy slope. It was quite steep and there wasn’t much to see at the top, just a little indent in the ground. I think big changes took place since Delphi was a going concern. I wish now and know I wished then on that summer day in 1969 that I could have rolled back the time 2300 years or so.

Approaching The Holy

At Delphi, climbing
from the road, north and then east
up the slope devoid
of all but grass, all
but weary gray toppled stone
and me so thin then,
looking for the next
thing to do in the late sun,
searching for the truth.

April 18, 2009 4:58 PM

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Making A List

This is real enough. Often I pray about my single life, asking God to interpret my need for me. The result is I live quite nicely, me and my old cat - yet I sorely miss the high of new erotic love. I miss the long term settling in. I miss the conversations. I miss the partnership. I have the chance for pieces of an old love from time to time and I think it amazing that I can settle in within minutes as if we never stopped being partners. I am grateful when it is time to part once more that the parting is easy, as if we were never more than friends.

Making A List

Each year I wait, count,
list your appearance nearby,
wonder if you will
come to me again.

I write cryptic notes like this:
-in the garden, and
-again under tree
I add the time and date.

Then I search the place
where you were, looking
for some sign, feather adrift
bent twig, a footprint.

April 18, 2009 1:45 PM

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What Holds Me Back

The erotic part of life is not logical, or rather, it has a logic all its own. I don’t really know what to do with it all except to move through it as it comes. That was then, this is now. Then I was a philosopher, all disciplined, later an engineer, patient with the needs of the design, then a member of the club, playing on the team, and now, now I am transported with the presence of your scent.

Sometimes I lack courage.

What Holds Me Back

I am aware how
this is so messy, a herd
of cat-like desires.
If I were to touch
you right there, I fear you would
turn blue hot flame, sear
my soul from this near,
change me to a dry dead thing,
show me as I am.

April 18, 2009 9:11 AM

Friday, March 5, 2010

Telling Lies

This would be the Gray Jay I met in Canada who tried to steal my sandwich as I was sitting there with it but looked away for a second. He did a fly by and missed but not by much. He did not look dangerous at all before he tried. This would be the raccoon on my roof. This would be the possum who lived in my garage for quite a long time until I figured out how he did it. I knew he was there, just not where. I was cleaning up his poop all the time. This would be a basic strategy amongst all the kingdoms. It is only we humans who put great stock in what we call integrity and think there is a code. The rest of our partners come by integrity in very different ways. And they have integrity. There is no question. I love them for it.

The magician is a liar in his way. So are all the fantasists who entertain us. The carnies name us marks and take our money and we don’t seem to mind. I love pro wrestling for the blatancy of their shtick. One of the more fun sites on the internet is the one where you get to learn the lingo, the way they talk about their stuff and about their fans.. Once you learn the real rules, you can relax and enjoy the tremendous gymnastic display. Those guys work really hard to make what they do look dangerous in one way when it’s not but avoid the real danger that is there. You can’t be a pro wrestler unless you can take the pain. If you get that far, listen to them talk. Many of them are actual educated men. I guess I have this attitude because my uncle was a pro, may he rest easy now. He was also an artist, a good one. So when you look at lies and liars be careful. There may be areas in your life where you really depend on the lies people tell.

It may actually be true that we cannot live without at least some exaggerations and minimizations, white lies, we call them. I think they are quite necessary in most marriages, but in the best marriages they are tools of last resort.

Telling Lies

I love telling lies
to you, great windy pillows
where you rest your trust
while I stroke tender
places you've left in my care
for my purposes
for my advantage
as I keep my eyes ever
peeled for more chances.
I keep your eyes off
my plans with my distractions.

Don’t you find me out.

April 18, 2009 8:35 AM

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Am Peeled Back

I am caught in the mystery of change, how it approaches, how it recedes. I have been studying lifelong ever since that singular moment where everything changed for me and I was given life. I was intent on philosophy and psychology, so when I returned to school that’s what my major turned into and along the way I found other things that needed attention. Two of them, astrology and I Ching also became long term works. I came back to the states in 1969, and returned to school. In 1970 I started the study of both astrology and I Ching along with my college work. While overseas I had studied both philosophy and psychology on my own so I was ahead of the game in school.

Then early in 1972 my world exploded. I had to upend everything in order to stay alive and I left college behind with about 24 credits left to graduation. I took astrology and I Ching with me. In my flight, I ended up in a hotel, where I met my future wife. She was desk clerking there. Later I moved in with her, and still later we went to Oregon so she could get her Masters in Social Work. I began my career in engineering design to help fund her way through school. I also met a man, a clinical psychologist in private practice who was fascinated as I was with astrology and I Ching. He was teaching an astrology course and we quickly found out I knew as much or more than he. We decided to partner and started a group therapy setting where we would practice and teach astrology in Dane Rudhyar’s Person Centered format. We developed a way of using astrology as a tool for exploring consciousness. We began going to conferences and offering our work both to psychologists and astrologers because we were doing actual work that straddled both fields. We met several serious astrologers including Dane Rudhyar himself as we brought them to Portland and put on our own conferences.

Later, I turned all this and my work with I Ching into the rest of my college degree.

I did all this chasing change. I did all this as a way of looking at time and timing. I am a musician and music relies on time in essential ways. In poetry the way words flow also have fundamental connection to timing. I know for a fact that in order to really “get” a poem you have to read it aloud. I am not much into word art. I am too musically oriented, too time oriented.

I hardly touch astrology any more. I don’t know many people who have a degree in it however. Heh. I Ching is still in my life.

This next poem is about that weird moment of change and its departure.

I Am Peeled Back

I listen to you,
your high keening lululu
at departing fate
and within the spin
lowering sound of your loss,
within the oily scent
you found spilled nearby,
I begin to fall away,
peeled back like onions.

April 17, 2009 3:22 PM

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Holy Waters

I guess I was in a mood. This poem was written on my wife’s birthday, though she died in 2001. I don’t think I was consciously thinking of her, and I have no idea if I had thought that day her birthday. Now it seems sort of obvious.

Huh. My internet connection is really sluggish tonight. I have not yet been totally driven off, even though this often happens at home. At work, I have a real 56k connection. I could live with that. I am frankly really turned off by the pricing of high speed. I simply don’t do enough computer internet things to justify the price. I also go for cheap cel phones. I have texting blocked on my phone because I was getting spam and it cost me money. I make my living using the computer but I really don’t want that much to do with it as a lifestyle. As a man who has written a book length document (283 pages) on an electric typewriter and many other school documents on a manual typewriter, I will say that word processing is without question progress. Now I can write very close to the speed of thought. The editing is beyond priceless. I do not have a problem, not even a little one composing a poem at the keyboard on the fly.

In my work life as a designer, I have both won and lost in the switch to computers. I was a damn good hand drafter, able to organize and scrub my errors as I went, so that very little red ever showed up on my check prints. I had peripheral vision for errors that bordered on psychic. The computer wipes all that out because the screen is tunnel vision. I can’t use my eyes the same way. Editing power probably makes up for the loss and then some. I got laid off today after a month back. There is a problem with the money flow.

Holy Waters

My insides take shapes
just like the symmetry found
in crystal faces
joined to each other
in the soft light of your eyes,
washed in morning dew,
in the hope of day,
in the holy waters love
gives to ease the way.

April 17, 2009 12:14 PM

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm Already Taken

Here’s a poem about commitment. I wonder how many other things it is about.

I'm Already Taken

The wind and earth fought
over me but I belong
to the pale moonlight,
to starry rivers,
to the morning shine of sun,
to your warm rose heart.

April 15, 2009 12:58 PM

Monday, March 1, 2010

Midnight Encounter

They said that Robert Johnson, one of the greatest bluesmen of all time sold his soul at a crossroads in order to get his licks. I imagine an accidental encounter. As for me, the biggest decision in my life concerned my own accidental encounter. It did not speak for itself. I had to decide what had happened. The immediate experience was overwhelming, but the aftermath was mute and the challenges were quick to appear. I was neither permitted a return, nor any reassurance. I was left with the need to learn and learn quickly if I could. I was left on my own. Doubt and fear and the clear fact of others’ disinterest combined easily and grew my distrust.

It is a famous challenge. Was that God or demon? In modern terms, was that divinity or insanity? A decision was required of me. Should I choose to follow or choose to defend against this immersion? It was far more than vision, this movement of heart and soul.

I made my choice. I have kept my faith. I have done the work. What is left are my sunset years and my passing.

This next poem contemplates how I might have come to some other choice.

Midnight Encounter

The bright moon reflects
off his high top shiny shoes,
black like I'm told of
his empty sour soul.

His eyes too glint in the moon's light.

What am I to do
confronted this way?
Questioned intentions and hopes
fall shattered by his
presence in the night
found between the beats and breath
of my frantic life.

April 15, 2009 12:31 PM

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