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The sea was once our prehistoric home.
O how we adapted to its dark currents,
to its India-ink infinities,
chasing seaweed, driftwood and coral,
before belly-flopping onto dry ground.

Now, the sea threatens our ancestral home,
the sea that falls from the angry skies
with their charcoal-smudged infinities.
A swelling flood, chasing red alert,
destroying houses and lives; raining grief.

Once sea-bound creatures now drown at home,
ill-adapted to meet the flood's malevolent intent:
to purge the Earth of all who cannot resist
the rushing, rising mountains of waters,
before proclaiming its final conquest of India's ancient lands.

Now, only prayer will be our home, built on deepest despair.
Now, only God's omnipotent infinities
circle the mud-brown rapids of sludge
choking all who helplessly cross their path.
Only God can make Kerala and Tamil live again, as one, on dry, holy ground.
4.8k · Aug 2018
Homage to "Skunk Hour"

Minds break apart at midnight,
piece together in dreamless sleep.

Robert Lowell poaches pen-and-ink
drawings for Life Studies.
Sylvia Plath dons Ariel’s red dress,
but loses Ariadne’s thread.  

Lowell raises For the Union Dead,
mythic monument to his family’s best.
Pigeons decorate it with their ***** mess.
Plath pins a ******* to her chest —  
shockingly pink —
and stands beside the kitchen sink,

Stirring a *** of poet’s gruel.
Madness and death the golden rule
no artistry can break. Not even the careless
reader can take leave of these senses

Once they’re rendered on the page.
Confession doesn’t age well,
as Lowell knows oh so well,

unless it suggests more substantial fare,
say, a flannel bathrobe for him to wear
in a Boston psychiatric ward — if he dares.

There’s something wrong with his head.
Crown him Caligula; his lineage has fled.

“What does that have to do with me, Daddy?” Plath artfully whines.
“Fill the tulip jars with red water, not wine,” he replies.
“The bridegroom cometh. Turn off the oven.”
But it is too late. She has met her fate before it predeceases her.

Like a teacher’s pet, she bets her life on a recitation
of Daddy, a term of endearment,
a term of interment in a stark, loveless miscarriage,
a dark, masculine disparagement of her freedom. O Daddy dearest.

Lowell shoots up to salute the younger poet, guessing
she has given the year’s best reading by a girl in red dresses.

At this stage, what does it matter that his “mind’s not right”?
What can he do but give up his right to pray, as every insight
       slips away?

But no Our Father for Plath. For her, the Kingdom comes too late.
Colossal poetry cannot save; the poet raves and raves and raves
       into that dark night.
Turn off the oven, turn out the lights. Daddy, too, is not right.


Blake fired his Proverbs of Hell
in the dull, damning kilns
of England’s Industrial Age.

A poet’s no sage, but Lowell earned
his wings when he doctored Blake’s phrase:
“I myself am hell.”

A stone angel directs his descent:

Fortune favors the bold.

Never discount the power of chance.

Affliction of the senses is a gift.

Invisible seeks invisible.

Darkness obscures our limits.

We carry darkness within us.

Anarchy breeds spirit.

Artistry breeds no merit.

Appropriate beauty, at all costs,
whether, man, beast or angel


Poetry births an artifact of words; we unearth them, and they adhere.
We bury them, and they fall flat — hollow sounds, futile splats,
       prehistoric grunts ground into the ground.

Bathed in lithium and alcohol, here bobs your calling, Robert:
Everything matters; nothing coheres.
Build a shell of a soul on this maxim, a notebook of negation.  
       Grind your axes.

Sanctuaries may crumble, gates may close. Press on. Press on.
Corkscrew your identity into the iambic line; rouse the reader to find
the misleading promise of Eternity in the sonnet, the sonnet,
       the endless sonnet.

For minds lost in madness, tree limbs dangle like kite tails in the wind. No one flies here anymore. Gather reddened kindling while ye may.

What exiles you from the ancients — Homer, Virgil and Horace —
springs from vision, not technique: You lack the requisite blindness.

Absence absents the soul. Here, now, forever, shimmers only presence,
only the present, only Presence: divine, human, animal, marmoreal.
       Skunks, sails, cars and pails. Sing on, O son of New England!

Day by day, failing all, fill your void with fiery
hieroglyphs of verse. Then call your duty done.


Behold: You are not the favorite, after all, but Camus’ stranger,
trapped in the blinding sun, stumbling on the burning sand.

Only what dies in you endures.

“Is getting well ever an art,
or art a way to get well?”

The skunks scurry, scavenge and survive far too long for you to answer.

You lie down beside orange fishnets, facing the shore.
At midnight, you will dream of dreamless sleep.
To follow the development of this poem, it's important to know the works and lives of the confessional poets Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath. If you are unfamiliar with them, I suggest you first read "Skunk Hour" by Lowell and then "Daddy" by Plath. Short biographies would help, too.
3.6k · Sep 2018
A View of Riquewihr
The vines have turned the color of the season —
as red as the wine their grapes will spill.
I peer back up the hillside into the circling sun,
an infinite swath of yellow. Below it surges
Homer’s wine-dark sea, repeatedly, endlessly, effortlessly
spreading. Except the sea is never red in Greece or Italy,
or even in France, where I stand amid a sea of wine-red leaves,
in silence, under the sun, holding back the flood of invaders below.

From the crumbling wall of the vineyard,
I survey the village of Riquewihr in all its medieval splendor,
gorged with tourists like an unfortunate goose
gagging on grain forced down its gullet:
foie gras for the shopkeepers, who crowd the cobbled courtyard
in all its chaos and cacophony.
“Sample a macaroon for free under the ramparts.”
“Buy a reproduction of a one-of-a-kind watercolor of the bell tower,
built in 1291. (Only 400 Euros for the original),” the artist says.
“Reserve it now for Christmas.”

His stocking cap needs cleaning, I think.
I eye the village fountain, the half-timbered shops, the claustrophobic
stone houses, brightly painted, squeezed into walls like tiny fortresses.
The artist tells me how hard it is to make a living —
the global economy his impenetrable wall, which holds back a flood
of buyers from Germany, China, New York.

I decline his offer to buy and climb the steep hill out of town,
the wine-dark hill of the vineyard.
This is what it means to inherit the world:
to stand apart, high, distant, above the sea
of other tourists, just like yourself, who yearn to stand apart,
just like yourself, laden with bulky guidebooks,
just like yourself, looking for the perfect souvenir, just like yourself,
the one that will sit perfectly on their mantle. Just like yourself,
they seek a memento that will remember for them — remember
all they could have had if only they had had the village to themselves.
If only you had had the village to yourself, to make it your own.

On this sunny afternoon, the village is my own — for a moment,
from a distance, awash in gray-blue shadow. Only the vineyard beams:
isolated, fecund, teeming with dreams; ever gaining on the harvest;
angling closer to the giant wine press that will spew the scarlet juice
at my feet, the earth turned the color of blood.

I resist the urge to pluck a baby cluster of grapes, nestled safely
beneath a leafy wave of this wine-dark sea, these purple berries
springing from the ground: so many earthy bubbles, born to burst.
Le terroir in French: The dirt makes all the difference.

A handful of soil would prove the perfect souvenir, nest-ce pas?
sitting pretty on my mantle. The dust and debris would blow away
day by day, like ashes spilled from a funerary urn,
the sacred remains of my travels.

Let me be buried, then, in memory of the fertile furrows of Alsace.
Let me push up this hillside, along its ample paths of abundance;
its ripening rows of fruit; its wine-red passageways through leaves
and vines, steep and luminous; the sea of blood yet to be pressed
from the soon-to-be-crimson grapes.

“Does this vast vineyard hold any secret worth journeying halfway
around the world to find?” That is the question I scribble in the dirt.
“Does this village? Does this vision? Does this ancient, failing wall?”
Even if the answer is “No, no, no,” I shall reply, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Yes, let me be buried in Alsatian soil as a lasting souvenir.
Yes, let me lie here, as I stand: free and upright,
lighted by the autumn sun, unchanging, set apart
to revel in the marvel of red blood seeping into the soil
Yes, let me make this stained patch of dirt my own.

The vines have turned the color of the season —
wine-red, wine-dark, blood-red.
And I have turned the color of the vines,
in silence, under the sun, holding back the flood.
3.0k · Aug 2018

A star-shaped
patch of snow,
achingly white,
rests against the base
of the little white
pine, wrapped
in glittering
golds and reds, gifts
for the Christ Child.

No claw or paw
or beak or wing
has touched the snow.
Only a hidden pitch
of grass pushes
it skyward.

It shirks
its shrinkage
of the pine.
It will not
winnow until
the bright star burns.

I pass the snow
and think of nothing


Lightning split
the hide
of the 80-year-old
oak that shaded
our little tan house
each summer.

Its bark ripped
apart like
life leeching out
of its crooked limbs
in sap-soaked
streams of sorrow,
making room
for the little white pine
to thrive
in the dead of winter.

Nature is not
our friend


The pine prays to preserve
some piece of the oak
I used to love. Its needles,
like shark’s teeth,
fend off friend and foe
alike, granting it
the right to grow
wherever it likes,
even here,
at the foot of giants.

Dead, the pin oak loans
its beauty to no one,
boasts only of its hard,
straight wood,
an abiding abode
for birds and squirrels
and barking boys.

I climb to its top
each Christmas,
straining toward
the Epiphany star.

The tree sways, and
I think of nothing


The burgeoning pine
pines for such power.
You cannot cut it
without exposing
its darkened knots,
like aging spots
on my hands
and face.

It rises bright with
anemone-like cones
dappled on its coat
of single color:
      ever young.
      Ever gone,
my pilgrim oak.

I stretch toward the star
of Bethlehem,
dreaming my way
to Heaven, saying No
to the punishing
star of snow below.
Hanging high
above the Earth,
I sense the Christ Child
in my branches.

Wet, wild grasses
brush His cradle,
push me skyward,
His star my home
Written on a rare Epiphany Sunday.
2.2k · Sep 2018
Chichen Itza
Like a stroke of genius,
of just plain blind luck
rising from the jungle floor,
the majestic rubble of the Maya calls,
at once the founder and judge of all Time.

First as the serpent whose plumes turn to wings,
then as the eagle boldly eyeing its prey,
and en fin! as the jaguar, sinewy and sleek,
El Castillo looms
against the hardened, sun-baked sky --
the shifting citadel of Kukulcan,
its shadow splayed across my days.

All of them numbered,
all of them too short,
all of them fading
in the cold
, hard light of distant failure...

built and rebuilt,
like the Church,
El Castillo stands
to meet the need of holy obligation,
to meet my need for initiation,
bounded only by the firmament and the underworld,
final triumph of the dead.

And so I stand,
alone upon the sacred causeway --
enervated, unenlightened,
the bitter taste of dust in my mouth.

Until I, too, will be turned
to stone --
the languid chac mool,
sated in sweet repose.

I will drift toward the sunken cenote,
drink deeply from its oasis of evening cool,
where the memory of man and grain and god is sung:

An anthem of order, power and vision,
the great Mayan hymn of meaning.
I will hear, at last, from the porous depths of Yucatan,
what it is to be called human.
2.1k · Aug 2018
St. Teresa swoons to herself.
The angel’s impish face laughs
At her pain.
Bernini’s operatic sculpture bound
Behind bars.
Perfectionism, restorationism,
Outside, a gypsy woman begs
For centimes.
Inside, scaffolding dims Teresa’s glow.
Art sacrificed to the future,
Content to die in darkness.
A monk dozes in his rosary.
Recitation of dreams.
No legend in the sacristy:
Teresa’s book remains
Unread, dull behind glass.
Ecstasy of love: her path toward God.
"Ecstasy of St. Teresa" is Bernini's great sculpture of the Catholic mystic swooning as an angel pierces her heart with arrows of love. It is in the Santa Maria della Vittoria Church in Rome. I made a special pilgrimage to see the splendid work, but found it behind scaffolding, virtually impossible to make out any of the parts. A big disappointment for me. But it produced a poem.
2.0k · Aug 2018
Mexican Still Life
The human sacrifices begin at noon. I must hurry to prepare the ruins.

Good: The pyramids retain their purity of line; the hieroglyphs balance out the skulls, more or less. Let us say, oh, two to one.

A Diego Rivera mural stretches from wall to wall of the Mayan ball court. (Are those blues really from nature?)

Heads will roll! I predict.

I need more coffee — any style. Bring me the big, steaming bowls of France that you must slurp two-handedly. Bring me the tiny espresso shots of Italy, bitter and inadequate, always calling for another cup.

Bring me café in an ornamental Mexican jar painted in bright ochres and reds. Set it on a geometrically designed serape with just a hint of purple on the fringe.

I will sop up the last drop of caffeine with my tortilla, while dining room tables multiply like serpents.

I must hurry. The sacrifices begin at noon.

Already, the humidity clings to my skin like a cheap cologne.

How stupid of me not to have worn a white linen suit, huaraches, and a Panama hat  (straw, of course).

In any case, I am the expert. My art criticism begins now.

Rivera’s human figures roll in a wave of revolutionary fervor: too rounded, too cherubic, too pastel. Industry, agriculture, fraternity, socialism. Hand me the hammer. But no bare *******, as in Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People.

A careless oversight. ****** always adds a pleasant focal point to a painting.

Suddenly, bad news breaks. The sacrifices have been called off; the ballplayers  have converted to Communism. Viva la revolución!

                                                 + + +

Frida Kahlo twirls her mustache to match the flair of Salvador Dali’s.

Her heart flutters for the Spanish surrealist, who has bug-eyes only for Gala.

Kahlo deigns to paint his portrait, which turns out to be another of her
 self-portraits. So many selves. So many portraits.

This one sports ample ****** hair and a monkey on her shoulder, who leans across to eat the gardenia behind her right ear. Or is it a carnation? Ah, carnations only calcify into clichés. Let us call it a hibiscus, and be done with it.

(Still, are those lurid colors from nature?)

I must hurry. The exhibition will begin at 2 a.m., the hour when all the wine shops close, and the retablos disappear from the churches. No respect for authority after la revolución. Only the self, the self. Always the self.

Kahlo twists her mustache into a braid for her next self-portrait: Liberty Leading the Mexican People. She squeezes into an orthopedic corset, bare-breasted.

I pull out my droopy Dali watch to eye the time. The hands cross at midnight.

I must hurry. Yet Kahlo insists I sit.

She paints my portrait with a spike through my spine, a shattered pelvis, and partial paralysis of the legs. I can no longer walk a straight line.

She thinks I am she, in trousers. The self, the self. Always the self.

My moustache grows heavier than hers, however, and I painstakingly pluck out the unibrow.

But I adore her monkey, with his close-set eyes. He eats a carnation for penance each morning, then primps before the mirror. The self, the self. The primate self.

More bad news: Dali cancels the exhibition. He has been demoralized by the retablos, which radiate beauty in six dimensions: height, breadth, length and the omnipresence of the Holy Trinity.

A genuine milagro: The streets fill with gardenias and hibiscus. The Mayan ballplayers convert to Catholicism.

A white skeleton dances with Kahlo in the moonlight. He wears her leather-and-steel braces.

No matter. I am the art critic, and I declare all Mexican colors indigenous, naturalistic, and caffeinated. Then I turn out the dining room lights.

A starry, starry night. The humidity sinks into the cenote.

Tomorrow, I shall buy a monkey and teach it to paint. All colors from nature, of course.
This is an imaginative riff based on a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula. It's also a poem where the reader has to judge whether the speaker of the poem, the "I", is the author. I'll leave the answer to you. It helps to know the works and ****** portraits of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, Mexican self-portraitist Frida Kahlo, who was impaled and had her pelvis shattered in a bus accident, and the Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dali. You can Google all of them.
1.7k · Sep 2018
The Beloved
Who knows what losses
this infinitely rich
and resilient heart has suffered?

The sorrowful splendor of the Earth --
its endless cycle of gestation
and bringing forth,
its eternal season of becoming
and decay --
inspires and beckons her silent musings.

And her muted passion,
burning with the
mesmerizing ardor of the innocent,
awakens a diffident adoration
in the bickering brood that surrounds her.

How beleaguering they are!
these driven ones, so eager
to possess the elusive beauty
that stirs the dark, enigmatic
depths of their harried souls.

*** unwitting they are!
those dreary ones...
Destiny has drawn them
to the shimmering, diaphanous aura
of her breathless presence.

And destiny will drain them
like a brimming chalice,
so full of their impetuous blindness.

For they will never see
how she is set apart
by the wandering, restive vision
of the chosen.

But I see her,
standing alone on the fringe
of the tumultuous herd.

She gazes at me with
that subtle, sacred smile,
and I feel the threatening,
familiar forces of the universe descend --
wrestling with the angel of authenticity.

She gazes at me,
and in the still light
of that impenetrable look...
the silence speaks!

I tremble in anticipation.

I listen and am fed.

For Laura.
1.6k · Aug 2018
I had forgotten the way to the hut that I had traveled to so many times,
so many days. So many moons, I would say. But no one marks moons anymore, except hunters. And I am not one of them. Nor a gatherer.
I listen to old men tell how they felled the stags. I do not believe them.

I am a wayfarer, to use the archaic words I used to love, the words
I had forgotten, the words of time in eternity, the words of orange leaves
on towering pin oaks, the words of circles of shadows settling on Gavarnie, of snowfall in the Pyrénées. Sever Spain from the Continent.

I had lost the language of the *****, spray-painted sheep scampering
over gray-bouldered cirques on mountaintops, boulders turning into mountains in the shadows, in the fog, in drifts of snow. There are no words for this now. Bleating sheep drown them out, and yapping dogs.

There are no words for the radiance of transcendence. “Climb higher,”
I hear them say. Higher into the haze of clouds. Cirque: circle, circus. Acrobatics on hillsides, balancing acts on rockslides, skimming streams in hard-toed boots. I had forgotten the way to the words, far behind me.

I have come to a gate, a steep stile in shadow. No sheep can pass. Nothing looks familiar; nothing looks strange. I saunter in a cloud
of unknowing. I had known the words: worn, smooth as stone unscuffed by hard-toed boots, slick as snowmelt. Slide from France into Spain.

This is the path of Santiago de Compostela, the route of St. James, who said, “Do not be double-minded, brethren.” I cannot remember if I have been double-minded in my travels. I had forgotten the way. If the words do not come, which mind sees the threshold; which mind circles the fog?

What passes, what begins when we travel? I do not look backward.
The way lies ahead, waiting, wandering away from the words. Splotches
of lichen sprout orange and green. “Go no higher for safety.” No higher.
They do not mention exile or ecstasy or the straight path of radiance.

The cirque circles my words in mountain shadows. I must unlearn
the art of travel, adrift in broken fields of stone. I had forgotten the way to the hut. Rocks obscure the path. Light ensures the path leads upward. Nothing is lost. Words hold their weight. Stags dance above me in fog.
1.3k · Aug 2018
Dirty Hands
I have dirtied my hands
with the agony of faith.
Digging deep to find commitment,
smoothing soil to hide despair,
heaping mounds as facsimiles of evidence.

Add water, and dirt turns malleable.
I squeeze a human body out of the black clay,
breathe life into it,
then write my name in the residue;
mud covers all but the letter "A".
835 · Jul 2019
A Poet's Fall Into Grace

Diaphanous dragons disgorge a deluge of diamonds
into the shadowed crevices of cumulus clouds.

Ruby-red sapphires overpopulate the glistening sky
like carbon-hardened locust: gorgeous messengers of the gods.

The Earth wears a crimson helmet, shielded from
the odious absence of ozone above the North and South poles.

Near Minneapolis, John Berryman's wizened body shatters
on the frozen riverbed below the Washington Avenue Bridge.

Angels weep to see him jump, as he waves a vaudevillian goodbye.
The sapphires blanch, then turn an angry, violent violet. Black holes ahead.

Shakespeare and Mr. Bones **** on mortality's skimpy
skeleton of life. Will this broken body be resurrected?

Does it deserve such distinction? Better yet, does its daring,
drunken destroyer? Four hundred Dream Songs nod yes.

Berryman toddled ticklishly toward the last traces of transcendence.
Love & Fame broadcast how terribly his faith failed to trade

daily delirium tremens for the mysterium tremendum.
The God he prayed to demanded a syntax pure, plain.and perfect.

With jolts of jest, He jimmied paradoxes into koans. Berryman
howls for the sound of one diamond scratching the outline of his body on ice.

He left a legacy broader than liquor, lechery and the love-struck ladies.
Lust seeded his fallow lacunae and lazily broke his wife's heart.

Scholarship scooted him to the squeamish, secluded top
of his Shakespearean class: Signal student turns trusted teacher.

Poetry cloned the Oklahoma clown in him. No successors,
no schools, no savvy peers, save Lowell. his fellow manic-depressive.

He dreamed songs of hilarity, humility, history, dehumanization.
Poetry proved serious business until it learned to laugh at itself.

Sapphires crackle under the weight of the creaking sun. They spin a kaleidoscopic rainbow of colors onto Berryman's obituary. Somehow, he has won:

An irreplaceable jewel of the sky.
769 · Oct 2018
Pax Ostiana
The Czech travel guide slumped in his chair, hair disheveled, eyes distracted, sipping a beer, then coffee at the Ostia Antica bar and bistro just past the tiny railway stop. He was tired, he said, of leading groups through the maze of Europe’s famous sights, explaining history, significance, value. His 42-member entourage would soon return from dissecting the massive ruins of the excavated Roman city — avenues, therma, fast-food kitchens, masks. We needed no guide to make our way along the brick-lined streets, stopping to stare at frescoes, mosaics, the sprawling theater. Ostia dwarfed Pompeii in size, if not drama. No contorted bodies, no brothels or sewers. Only a meticulously gridded urban sprawl. Headless sculptures heralded the humanity of history. Crumbling sarcophagi held water like broken baths. Few others like us tread the slick-stone path: The grimy chaos of Roma replaced by Ostia’s bucolic Pax. Its stone-masked ghosts, spent from wandering, embraced the resurrected statues in the stately museum. Peace in Apollonian beauty. New life springs from eroding stone. We needed no guide to show us where the tired spirit rests. Here, in the shadows of Ostia Antica, brick by brick, history was explained.
Prose poem.
Ostia Antica is a suburb of Rome, with Europe's largest excavated Roman city.
"Pax" means "peace.."Therma" are baths.
755 · Sep 2018
My World
Mysteriously, like a seed
growing underground, consciousness
spreads into the world
seeking a presence to devour.

Like a lion lurking in the Kalahari bush,
consciousness crouches, hidden
within the body, not merely the brain,
waiting for its prey to emerge
from a field of nothingness,
to reveal its essence.

An act, a desire, a pure intentionality,
consciousness pounces on its prey,
embracing its whole presence,
filling in the many sides unseen,
teasing out its eidos.

In itself, consciousness is nothing,
a darkened grain of wheat
buried in the ground. It awakens
only at the stirrings of
the next manifestation.

Always, eternally
a consciousness-of,
it roams my room,
zooming past the myriad
items cluttering my gestalt,
fixing on the single form
it has come to inform.
Consciousness waits
for no one.

Uneasy until it grasps
the one thing necessary,
consciousness expands
and expands, actively roaming
among the wonders of my world.

It acts, but I cannot take hold of it.
It has me in its reflexive spell:
All consciousness is self-consciousness.
And I, in myself, am nothing.
716 · Sep 2018
The Whole
A single leaf,
nearly two-thirds torn,
floats idly down a mountain stream,
passing from light into darkness
into light again.

Refracted through the crystalline currents,
a bed of smooth, staid stones
cries, "Eternity! Everlasting!"
but the leaf drifts on.

And I, splashing my way upstream,
thinking myself the keeper
of this shadowed domain,
bend hurriedly
to pluck the leaf from my path.

Then, for just a moment, I hesitate,
to listen as the rivulets
lap against my legs,
longing to hear in them
Heraclitus' lonely, elegiac lament:

"All things are in process;
nothing stays still.
Upon those that step
into the same rivers
different and different waters flow."

But only the rocks sing on --
their same, unchanging song
of the stream's secret source.

And though I,
still deaf to the cry,
hear but the half-uttered echos
of my fleeting thoughts,

I can see,
as the radiant flux of the night
again turns the leaf into light,
how at last we, too, shall step
into that same river twice.

At death --
when in the new-found kenosis of time,
all will be one.
"Kenosis" is a theological term that means self-emptying. It's usually applied to the Incarnation of Christ. But I mean it in a more existential sense, of our -- and time's -- self-emptying at death.
706 · Oct 2018

Kinderdijk stands like thimbles in the dusk.
The sky, thick with grey, settles on the ****.
Holland is its stereotypes, we trust.
Windmills sail in the breeze, near canals tight
With straight, flat flows. Tulips bloom in the dust.
Great wheels of cheese roll through the streets at night.
Bridges rear up over canals, can’t rust
From the waterways thirsty tourists like.
Here, life is keenly measured, never brusque.
The Dutch pursued this pace since thrifty tykes.
Their simple, ordered pleasures do not rush
The spirit of progress, shining in light.
Turning, ever turning, the windmills must
Show the elegant face of Kinderdijk.
658 · Jan 2019
Ca n'existe pas
It is not a pipe.
It is not tobacco.
It is not a match.
It is not smoke.
It is not smoking.
It is not a man smoking.
It is not a painting of a pipe.
It is not oil on canvas.
It is not paint at all.
It is not an image.
It is not three-dimensional.
It is not two-dimensional.
It is not brown.
it is not black.
It is not a bowl of smooth wood.
It is not a curved stem.
It is not readily at hand.
It is not to be bought or sold.
It is not an object of desire.
it is not an object of perception.
It is not not.
It is not.
Ca n'est pas quelque chose.
It is. Not.
It is naught.
It is not to be trusted.
It is no man's art.
On Magritte's painting of a pipe titled "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."  (This is not a pipe.)
606 · Feb 2020
Oedipus Rex
My mother hates me!
My father hates me!
Oedipus screams to the
stealthily silent Sphinx.

He scatters riddles like laurel leaves
waiting to be braided into
a playwright's crown. It is too
grandiose to fit his cracked. cramped cranium.

His unconscious mind flies open
like the Sphinx rocketing to the sky.
Sacred haunches soar. Wings beat
steadily to reach titanic heights.

Blind to his murderous fate, Oedipus
cannot know himself. Before the
Delphic Oracle, his life shrivels,  
unexamined by his bleeding eyes.

Freud exults in triumph.
Maternal love births eternal love:
endless comfort and affection
for the newly bloomed beloved.

Soon, comfort metamorphoses
into feral eros, unspeakable, unthinkable,
beyond the bounds of catastrophic evil.
Submerged desire sullies the chastest kiss.

Jacosta embraces her son
as her new living king, her husband's
royal blood bubbling brazenly
on the bitter road to Thebes.

His hands stained, Oedipus strives
to transmute his trauma as our own.
We become him when Freud deigns
to interpret our darkest, direst dreams.

Blindly, we mimic him: carnal union
with the mother, lethal rage against
the father. Mourning Becomes Electra
beckons to the wary second ***.

The Sphinx belies its own riddle:
How can prophecy spring from
the sculpted, smooth stone
of these perfect *******?

Only blind Teiresias plumbs the depths
of Oedipus' fate: Judgement lies blinded,
action lies blinded by the ventricles of
violence, the twisted telos of the mind.

Humans sin against the world, against
nature, siphoned of joy. They sin without
a sacred perch to rise from. Blood and *****,
mud and blindness fashion their Oedipal souls.
567 · Oct 2018

Sasquatch stalks
the Washington woods.
I lope through low-lying
bushes in search of huckleberries.
The purple-reddish stains on my fingers
are as real
as the grumbling in my stomach,
or the solidity of these mighty pines.
The “small rain” begins to seep
through the atmosphere.
It will not wash away my stains.


I do not believe in Big Foot.
He towers, an outsized legend of the forest.
A Nessie of the woodlands.
A mythical creature created
to satisfy our impoverished imagination,
atrophied by the ever-encroaching
artifice and sterility of the human world.


Soon, the mist turns to big rain.
Clouds blot out the sky.
Dusk turns to night, hours early.
Thoroughly soaked, I
will seek shelter alone.


Mountain folk recite encounters
with Big Foot like happy-to-be-frightened
children around a campfire.
The scariest tale is always the next to come.
Twigs snap, branches break, pine cones are crushed.
We all listen, acutely alert.


Gorged on huckleberries, I will sleep tonight
beneath the pines, solitary,
curling up safely in the contours
of a giant footprint.
I can hear the leaves hit the forest floor.
Dare I dream of conversion?
Dare I dream of belief?
495 · Sep 2018
Always Time to Wait
Shivering, I stand alone
inside a sleepy railway station,
looking for a train that never comes,
watching as my spirit comes undone

From the ceaseless clicking of the clock,
the senseless ticking of the watch
that weighs my body down.

Behold how the mortal earns his fate:
There is always time to wait.

No sooner does time expire,
than it rises up to sire
its progeny again.

Shamelessly self-seeking,
it wrecks our days reeking of narcissi.

Gaze into its plate of polished glass
and watch your phantoms pass.

They punched their tickets late.
There is always time to wait.

The Flame of Life arrives on a second-class coach.
He eyes me, careful not to reproach my sensibilities.

He comes to cauterize my wounds of time,
but worries I might swoon or mind
the excessive heat.

Perhaps he’s right; I’ll change the date.
There is always time to wait.
443 · Mar 2019
The Lost Generation
His first novel was his finest:
American expatriates partying in Paris and Spain,
looking for a life of authenticity,
fighting for a life worth living.

Wine, women and writing fill
the hero's days, a doppelganger
for Hemingway, hobbling with
his World War I injury: emasculation.

The idea of progress died in the trenches.
The Lost Generation on the road
to nowhere and back. Travel of the soul.
Dark night of the soul, lightened by *****.

Bullfights encircle death, a ritualistic
killing of innocence, which had already
died for the travelers. Look away from
the horses
, disemboweled for not being bulls.

The sun also rises on the saint and the sinner,
the writer and the boxer, a fresh clutch of trout.
There is no path to salvation, even for those
who pray, grasping for meaning in ancient practices.

Living and drinking prove enough. The room
spins; seek shelter on the hotel's hot bed.
Love lingers as a way out of this hedonism,
this nihilism, this petty life. Isn't it pretty to think so?
405 · Mar 2019
W. S. Merwin
He rides the waves and waves
of consciousness, mimicking
the movements of the mind
with vital, kinetic energy.

Nature has been his mentor.
He lives in an ancient bamboo
forest on the island of Maui.
He cultivates towering trees.

No punctuation mars his poems.
Only the natural pausing
of breath, visceral rhythms,
all in one, a fluid dance down the page.

He has won every prize except
the Nobel, for which he is long
overdue. He studied with Berryman
and translated Lorca. His poetry transports,

an exercise in Zen. All is fleeting
for him, yet he preserves the past
in the present. Love, joy, serenity
permeate his poems. He is a master,

awaiting his students. He does not
have many years left. Now is
the time to read him. Now the time
to climb his trees in search of wisdom.
386 · Sep 2020
I cling to the rigging
of the sleek, black ship
as it speeds toward
Crete, seeding the waves
of the wine-dark sea
with my hopes of heroism,
with my desire to refine
my strength in battle,
my cunning in pursuit
of prey, my courage
in the face of inexorable death.

Immortality awaits
the victor, or so
I profess. It is my Greek
code of honor to turn
glory into deathlessness,
to sow the whirlwind
and reap calm breezes
of brotherhood with
the gods, to revel
in repose at their table,
to feed on the sweet
satisfaction of becoming
who I am.

I am favored
in this relentless
struggle to prove
my prowess and
resolve, my power
to subdue my foes,
to dominate --
in this, my seventh
labor -- the sire
of the Minotaur.
I arrived on Crete
because King Eurystheus
of Tiryns has imposed
this labor to try to
assuage Olympus’
Queen Hera's
irrational hatred of me.
I must continue to atone
for the sins she caused me
to commit. With my entire
family slain, she owes
me everything.

As the muscular
offspring of Zeus --
Hera's wily, randy
husband -- and an
ordinary mortal, I stride
through the world
half-man and half-god,
a living mockery of
the Olympian purity
that Hera so hysterically
cherishes: a mirror
that reflects nothing but
delusion, nothing but
a buzzing hive of grandiose,
self-comforting lies.

The gods don their
pearl-white tunics
to convince themselves
they are made
of nothing short
of pure glory, pure
eminence, despite their
blatant self-indulgence
and moral laxness,
despite their privileged
violation of cosmic laws,
despite persisting
in their perverse ploys
without the slightest
twinge of conscience --  
drunk on the ambrosia
of boundless power,
the ironic gift of my
unheralded birth.

I know I possess
the cunning to have
the Minotaur
from ever pawing
the plowed-over earth,
from ever charging
some unwitting
victim frozen in fear.

I could have
kept this monster
from being born,
from embracing  
the rosy-fingered
dawn of existence.
I could have
saved Theseus, my
fellow Greek hero,
from his backbreaking
battle with the bull-
headed mutant.

Indeed, I could have
stopped altogether
his labyrinthine
struggle to **** the mighty
Minotaur, to curb its
cannibalistic tastes
for maidens and
young boys, to undo
its enormous
lusts and tame them
into docility,
dissonance and death.

If only I had arrived
in Crete sooner,
before this, my latest
labor, stuck in the stream
of imperious judgments
against my fatal fit of madness
that ended my innocent
family’s all too precious lives.

I proudly claim my
birthright as a son
of Zeus and a worldly
woman. Call it the outcome
of Olympian adultery,
an act that ignited
Hera's intractable
jealousy and rage
until she inflicted
insanity on me
and perverted my
innate powers
and strength,
turning them  
against my wife
and daughters,
as I attacked them
as if they were
the Nemian lion.

Torn by grief,
I quietly returned
to my right mind,
mourning my foul
deeds and crying
out against the divine
injustice of Hera’s petty
interference. And all this
because of Zeus’ calculating
dalliance. All this to satisfy
a moment’s passion
that swiftly spawned
eternal consequences.

Now I am bound
to capture the
Cretan Bull, sire
of the Minotaur
and source of
endless chaos
on the fertile
island of Crete.
In its own species
of madness, the bull
has uprooted crops,
and torn down
walls. All semblance
of order has
vanished in its  
destructive wake.
King Minos of Crete
demands that it
be immediately
removed and
from his sight.

So my strategy
is simple: use
my secret stealth
to wrangle the bull
from behind
and strangle it
to the brink of
death. Unconscious,
it proves such an easy
package to dislodge
and ship back
to Tiryns, where
King Euryhtheus
plans to sacrifice
it to Hera. But she
refuses such piety.
She seems sworn
to deny any
trace of my glory,
to devour any shred
of my pride.

If only I could cut
her out of my name.
I would wander
the world incognito.
I would gladly deny my
identity, happily
forsake my fate,
and in the depths
of dark anonymity
unbecome who I am.
378 · Aug 2018
(After Cavafy)

The sun flattens your vision
   to a wavering point.
      You search for a different sun.
         There is no other.

The wind stymies your breathing
   to an asthmatic wheeze.
      You search for a different wind.
         There is no other.

The sea shortens your journey
   to an anonymous port.
      You search for a different sea.
          There is no other.

The sky opens its vistas,
   vast, beyond your reach.
      You search for a different sky.
         There is no other.

The city blots your horizon
   with soot, smoke and ash.
      You search for a different city.
         There is no other.

The day dissolves in hours
   without number or name.
      You search for a different day.
         There is no other.

Beauty upholds its ideal
   like a statue without wings.
      You search for a different Beauty.
         There is no other.

The word pollinates the page
   with a frail, feeble sense.
      You search for a different word.
          There is no other.

The self mirrors the cosmos,
   a contracting black hole.
      You search for a different self.
          There is no other.

The poem laughs at your yearning
   for Art’s Eternal Form.
      You search for a different poem.
          There is no other.

So you write the same poem
   from the same shrinking self,
      with the same weakling words,
         seeking the same ideal Beauty,

On the same day after day,
    in the same ***** city,
      under the same endless sky,
         beside the same aimless sea,

Into the same stifling wind,
   blinded by the same soulless sun.
      And you call it a different life.
          But there is no other.
359 · Aug 2018
Apollo's Song
I stripped the gold from Agamemnon’s mask.
I scoured Clytemnestra’s black heart.
I wiped the blood from Orestes’ sword,
and made Mycenae’s throne room my own.

I promised Achilles no mortal man’s life,
then I felled him at Troy by my hand.
We gods turn out fickle; we heedlessly maim
man’s fortunes, his women, his land.

Do not trust us.
337 · Aug 2018
Orange, Blue

I will baptize the sky
with new waters,
washing the Birger Sandzen pink
from the clouds.

Cattle reject their reflection in farm ponds.
Trees turn their backs to the horizon and bow.

Indigo night. Angular lights in the distance:
Freight train roars. Empty cars
headed northward.


I will baptize the Earth
with new fire,
scorching stubble and sod
from the Plains.

Cattle nudge clods of dirt for sweet tendrils.
Trees shape words, but can no longer spell.

Charcoal cairns point the way to deep furrows.
Growing pains. Orange flames
headed nowhere.


I will baptize my heart
with new poetry,
spilling villanelles
into my veins.

Cattle low for soft yodels from cowboys.
Trees sashay to the solos of birds.

Rosy-fingered dawns in my songs? I sail elsewhere.
Orange, blue. Twilight hues
headed homeward.
326 · Nov 2018
The Wall
Rows of lavender lunge
against the plastered stone wall
that sequesters the brilliant,
purple bushes from
the ancient Provencal farmhouse,
standing stoically on the Plains.

The wall, almost as old as
the farmhouse itself, keeps
utilitarian flora in
and extravagant varieties out.
It knows no other function.

Lavender, in all its aromatic,
purple plumage, doesn't mind.
It will seek out each crack,
each empty space, each low
spot in the wall to slither through
to the other side.

Lavender knows, as the wily
farmer cannot, that beauty
will always prevail, no matter
what obstacles stand
in its way.

Beauty thrives, stronger than
the building of any wall.
It knows that all its fellow
plants think likewise,
stretching toward extravagance,
their whole life long.

Beauty is their destiny.
319 · Aug 2018
Prairie Images

The cold winter moon
spills its luminous
jewels of fire
past the edge
of the road.

The night wind shudders
at the sound.
I turn my head.

A woman’s lovely,
shadowed face
ignites the plains
in silence.

In the distance,
wings light upon branches.


The long sad bones
of my hands cut deep
into dark stones.

I walk alone, listening,
among white fields.

This time, I have left something behind me.

In the open grasses
I will dream of placid water.
309 · Dec 2018
The New Year looms,
a blank page
awaiting the first
wondrous words of winter.
The poet sheathes his pen.

The poet sheathes his pen,
an instrument of imperfection,
awaiting the first
incisive inspiration
of the looming New Year.

The New Year looms,
the depository of the past,
awaiting activation.
The poet sheathes his pen,
practicing a passive role.

Practicing a passive role,
the New Year awaits
consecration: December 31st
whitewashed of all its sins.
The poet unsheathes his pen.
306 · Nov 2018
I lie down to dream
but see only images of you running.
In my sleep, my feet will not move.
278 · Oct 2019
Sunshine guides my vision

away from the shadow play
of giant cottonwoods and maples,
as a north breeze gently unsettles
them. Clumps of swaying branches.

Shadows, like portrait paintings,
fall onto the pavement. Such marvel.
I must write about it -- an ode
to darkness, yin to the sun’s yang.

But soon I see the face of Pablo Neruda.
Wise, whimsical, a piercing gaze.
Of the ode, he is all-knowing. I follow
the sunshine back -- today, empty-handed.
256 · May 2019
Flint Hills
The tawny ridge bulges above the tree line:
sleeping serpent too sly to strike.

The road swerves and curves and dips and rises.
I must stay off balance to survive it.

A chorus of desiccated trees prays for rain.
The earth laughs in repose. Stones of pain.

From a fence post, a falcon thrusts into the wind,
clutches my heart as prey, flings it past tall grasses.

A white-rock trail angles hard toward the clouds.
The slightest breeze will tatter them.

The serpent stirs, stretches, slumbers still,
as I lumber north to Council Grove.

The road straightens on its own.
Who dares call these hills his home?
255 · Apr 2019
Notre Dame de Paris
Ile de la Cite weeps
like a fire hose dousing
dancing, infernal
flames to no effect.

Our Lady dies in her sleep,
dreaming of resurrection.
Gothic buttresses hold up
charred timbers and gloom.

The spire crashes into
nothingness; miracles
asphyxiate on fumes.
Still, the Rose Window

blooms. Memory resists
the flux of time.
Eight centuries snuffed out
like a wooden match.

Wait for it: the coming light.
Paris will reclaim its own.
241 · May 2019
stones rise to the sky
red canyon walls box me in
sated on colors
239 · Sep 2018
The Tide
(After Cavafy)

Do not let your life get so far
ahead of you, busy and distracted,
that you meet it on the way back
a stranger, an alien.

Your years are long and vigorous.
They curl upon the sand
like S-shaped tidal waves, as the bay
itself seeps out of the vast, gray sea.

Tomorrow, if you meet yourself,
burdensome and strange,
you will have lost
your one chance for glory.

You will have lost your way
in a dark wood, as another poet put it.
You will have lost
the mothering protection of the sea,

whose gentle tides are always
taken away, never to return the same.
233 · Dec 2018
Buddha Haiku
Buddha peace blossoms
beside quivering koi pond
suddenly, Satori
224 · Aug 2018

A delicate beauty creeps
Along the summer horizon.
Clouds refracting the setting
Sun in a bounty of pinks,
Oranges and purples.
The sky is no longer blue,
Except from a bird’s-eye view.
Birds sing a paean to
The rainbow hues;
Their scattered voices
Blending into one.
Theirs is Apollo’s song
In declension.
Theirs a wavering praise
Of all that is brilliant
And warm.


Cool colors mark
The horizon now,
And still they sing.
Is it instinct or
Emotional response?
Who has studied
The emotions of birds?
Who the motions of their
Ululating throats?


All is serene as the sun
Plunges past the horizon,
Indifferent to the Earth.
Who can measure beauty,
Or even say what it is?
The sun shines in spite
Of itself.
Solar flares flicking the
Radiant atmosphere.
Tongues of fire — from
Hell or Pentecost?
Helios can answer;
Apollo remains mute.
Why must the gods be
Invoked at all?
Is this nature or
Supernature at work?


Colors fade; clouds
Disperse; beauty sleeps,
Blanketed in dark.
Let us be wary:
Heat grows cold.
224 · Apr 2019
The collective unconscious sustains
our humanity, creates life-giving
archetypes and myths.
It floats free of the brain, eager
to be probed by the thirsting ego.
220 · Feb 2019
The Second Self
"Art is born of humiliation."
-- W.H. Auden

Art is the second self.
The first lies battered
by humiliation and rejection,
by wanton disregard
of the human.
The first self carries few ways
to defend itself. Power
begets power; strength
begets strength. But they
last only for a day, dying
into empty possibilities
in the night.
The will grows weary.

Art builds an eternal shield
from all malevolence, all
violence to the soul. Art
regenerates, capacitates,
reaches for the infinite.
It hammers out metaphor,
the bleeding heart of poetry.
It fashions a second skin,
thick with pride of accomplishment,
thick with the afterglow
of creativity. The second skin
clothes a second self, safe
from insult and harm..

The second self climbs to
celestial heights. It soars
above the earth, laughing
in new-found freedom.
220 · May 2019
(for Jim Harrison)

poetry is no great solace
alone in my montana cabin
with my faithful hunting dogs
who still don't know me by name
a bottle of 1976 Chateau Mouton Bordeaux
at my left elbow
a meal fit for a gourmand prince set before me
my back blisters in mutant patterns
of unease
there is no sun to burn them away
outside a three-day blow rattles
the hinges
a razor sharp mountain trembles
the wind yearns for my undoing
i have unraveled my medicine bag
beads of healing scatter across the floor
one more manuscript blossoms
is the desiccated orchard
my heart gives way
slumped over my ancient typewriter
i fail to complete the final phrase
205 · Oct 2019
Blind to the beauty of the world,
he tenderly takes her hand
and brushes a kiss across it,
then blushes at his boldness.

Whatever she cherishes, he pounces
on to rationalize away into the ether.
It is Mars vs. Venus of the spirit.
But when blindness drives him
further inward, Venus invariably wins:

Her love cannot abide the boor,
the bore, the shamefully bold.
205 · Jan 2019
Alice tumbles
into wild wonderland
looking glass stares back empty
204 · Jan 2019
Widower Fisherman's Lament
I have burned myself out
in the struggle
. I am no longer
a man and it is right that I should die
-- Albert Camus

casting the mended net forward
what will i find? you ask

some woman who has visited me
in this dream
where is she now?

in this dancing dream/play of dharma
she has opened her hand to me
she has offered

yes, i have seen it

some woman who has touched me
with her silver shining palm
and i did not turn aside

she does not wander --
somewhere amid the swelling,
crashing tide she is waiting still

perhaps i should only listen

again you ask, casting the broken net forward
what shall i find?

only that there is no longer darkness
in burning oneself out
203 · Aug 2020
The Dark House of Death
Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
— Federico Garcia Lorca, “City That Does Not Sleep”

Sporting white top hats, the Sierra Nevada mountains
**** up against the new dawn's Andalusian sky, casting
craggy shadows across the quiet calles of Grenada.
Restlessly, the darkened city churns in its sleep.

Federico Garcia Lorca strums his yellow guitar,
tuning it to a cante jondos, a deep song of duende,
dark heart of flamenco and the bullfight and his own
fatalistic poems: moans of his inexorable execution

at Franco's hellish hands. Fascism fears the poet,
the ferocious oracle of duende, who rips out the
roots of authority, the dark clods of captivity, who
vows to dive underground, digesting bitter earth

like bullets from the firing squad. They shout, Victoria!
as Garcia Lorca's listless body slides along the bloodied wall.
Duende, he once told a lecture hall, haunts death's house.
It will not appear until it spies that fiercely angled roof.

                                        * * *

In the branches of the laurel tree
I saw two dark doves
— Federico Garcia Lorca, “Of the Dark Doves”

His mother bellows on the spirit's wind, over the hobbled
heads of the dead, in search of an inexpressible "new,"
the endless baptism of freshly created things, as Garcia Lorca
loved to lecture. Ending and refrain burn blood like glass.

Few mourners cast a spell over the public patrons gnawing
on his books, seeking some taste of destiny, identity, some
word of the eternal voice of Spain. I am no Spaniard, yet
I claim to be a poet. Garcia Lorca gifts me with his song.

Its maudlin melody marches up my spine, scorches
my eyes, which smolder under the noonday sun, spewing
ashes to ashes, igniting dust to dust. The dark memory
of the buried ruins of saddened Spain steadily seeps

through wilted wreaths tossed at Franco's feet. No
offering for the conqueror, they exude a sickly odor
of offal, of ordinary flesh rotting on shattered ribs.
Gunshot mixes with marrow, smoke fumigates the poem.

                                        * * *

No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.
— Federico Garcia Lorca, “City That Does Not Sleep”

No one is sleeping, yet the world will not awaken.
The slain poet merits no notice. We bow our
heads in humiliation at the philistine ways
of savage, civilized societies. All cultural wealth

but poetry suffocates in its bed. Duende sends Garcia
Lorca’s poems soaring above feeling and desire,
above the consecration of form. How many enjambments
mire in dark waters? How many stanzas lay bricks

of marble and salt? Garcia Lorca sings of hemlock and
demons, of Socrates and Descartes. But the profane
choruses of drunken sailors shatter any hope for his
new poetic style. They reject all the sweet geometry

that maps the darkened heart of southern Spain, where
Moors and Gypsies set up camp, pulling sleights of hand
on gullible gamblers, assured that Andalusia knows no
other artifice than the machine-gun-fire flights of flamenco.

                                        * * *

In the branches of the laurel tree
I saw two naked doves
One was the other
and both were none
— Federico Garcia Lorca, “Of the Dark Doves”

Garcia Lorca lies on the floor to fence with the phantoms
of his future. His black boots shine in the saddened sun.
The fattened face of Franco appears: an anxious cry for
more water, for dousing naked doves in duende’s black pool.

Writers live and die like newly created roses. Aromas
rise from vast yearnings, inured to the penance of suffering.
Above duende's golden serpent, a crooked soldier salutes
the fruit of Fascism. Dawn's lemons dangle at the edge of time.

Only 19 years embody Garcia Lorca's high-strung calling.
An awkward teen at his writing desk, he scribbles notes
about his mellifluous malaise. Modernismo flourishes in the
shadow songs of caves. Dark doves coo. Duende never lies.

His mother wails, wrapped in her mantilla of Spanish black. Head
thrown back, heels clicking hard, she swirls against the fiery flanks
of flamenco. Prancing like an epic stallion, she nudges her anguished
son: asleep, asleep. Today, duende has entered the dark house of death.
194 · Dec 2018
Find the divine point of contact
within you. Reach out for encounter.
It comes in many disguises.
You will recognize it
by its self-revealing presence.
188 · Jan 2019
Love's Full Bounty
carry your heart
with love's full bounty
feed everyone you meet
184 · Aug 2019
The Great Migration
Before the monsoon descends in feverish
torrents, and The Great Migration begins,
the earth crumbles, crackles and slides
into tawny showers of sand and stone.

Parched prey pray to elude their nemeses,
who scour patches of brown grass,
their noses low and quivering, sniffing
the dust for the faintest fragrance of food.

Baboons heckle crocodiles, whose eggs they've stolen;
female lions pounce on defenseless gazelles. Necks snap.
Life looms for all in the gathering rain clouds.
Yet death will follow, stealthy as a leopard in tall grass.

We ***** the globe like a shaky-legged newborn
giraffe, awkward and vulnerable; dewy-eyed and gulping
the heavy particles of air for the sure scent of sustenance.
Our prey carries no smell, no taste, no movements.

It is sheer spirit shaped from the eternal whirlwinds
of dust that dance around our path. How else shall
we advance? Rain, when it comes, only splatters
in our eyes. We await The Great Migration of Souls.
175 · Apr 2019
The dead cannot pray.
They molder in their graves
awaiting resurrection,
the force that creates
the soul’s yearning for

We yearn for happiness,
satisfaction, comfort, rest.
We yearn for meaning,
purpose, a cosmic path.
We yearn for self-consciousness,
preciousness, an open heart.
Death cannot extinguish them.

Our days are strung together
like letters in the sand.
We see the message only
as it disappears.
Night divides the light
into fractal pieces.
The firmament flattened by
the weight of stars.

We rise and recline like
mechanical banks.
Shoot a penny in
the lion’s mouth.
Hear the hunter roar.
Death stalks the living,
sticks its finger in our
ribs: a holdup,
but we carry no cash.

Remember Ozymandias.
Memory sculpts
memorials that crumble
in the sea.
Waves lap the pieces.
Epitaphs erode.

Death be not proud,
John Donne proclaimed.
But how can the fallen
take pride in their downfall?
Extinction awaits around
every corner.
there is no defense.

Death is a theater with
its curtain half-drawn.
Below it, you track
the actors’ shuffling feet.
Above it, only oblivion
and empty stage lights.
173 · May 2019
Brittle branches claw
the blue-gray sky.
No figs wiggle in the tree.
Barren like Old Testament
women, clinging to their ancient
age, bereft of an heir to bless.

Jesus curses the tree's
emptiness: Bear fruit
of die! Who sinned?
the disciples ask: the tree
or its seedlings
? Neither,
Jesus, proclaims. I curse

to show the glory of God.
As always, his hearers stand
amazed, not understanding,
stomachs growling for figs.
None to be had, they march on,
hoping to evade God's glory.
173 · Sep 2019
Do not succumb to restlessness.
Another journey will not drain the ocean
or clean the sky.
Another mountain will not reveal
the rooftop of the world.

You have your own mountain within.
It pierces the sky, buoys on the sea.
Climb it in solitude, in inwardness.
Rest in exertion.

You will find adventure, joy --
a pilgrimage to heaven's gates.

Climb, and you will find the face of God.
173 · May 2019
in her perfume
like a bee nuzzling pink roses.
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