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Possibility’s Collapse Into Singularity

A slow cascade into old age,

until the only choice is no choice:

where there is no memory

outside myself; where

the story is only mine

to revise, where I step forward 

without hesitation

and  unlatch the last door.

(May 24, 2022)

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Blood of the Innocent

I have said this before: There needs to be photographs published of the aftermath of these shootings. Not the bodies of the torn up 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders (6-9 yo), but the destruction of the room. Blood spattered across the walls where their work had been displayed by the teacher. The work the children had been so proud to see hanging on the wall. Walls that are now blood stained. These common classroom artifacts desecrated in blood need to be seen…these murders are not neat and tidy, easily forgotten (obviously). Do not show the dead children, show the bullet holes in the walls, show the blood. The blood of the innocent. Maybe that would help in bringing enough rage to the surface to bring about meaningful change. Maybe.

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Samsara

As if she has been here for millennia

calmly chewing grass, the buffalo stands

in an open field below the mountain.

Aware of the biting fly and herself,

but little else, she still provides so much

into the life of the poorest village.

What difference can the monk’s laughter make

to her as it echoes through the valley?

(May 14, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Fool’s Gold

Caught in ecstatic wonder

the young girls make love

with tempestuous abandon.

While he follows the rules

of the old games, he’s mocked

for his sad delusions:

In dream’s river, the two

drowned consorts come to him

with promises of consummation.

Thus he becomes a cuckold

to himself, looking for coins

beneath a withered willow.

(May 12, 2022) 

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Here Now (iterations #1 and #2)

The ascendent moon

negotiates the chase tree’s

dark-twisted branches.


_________________


There are moments

within moments

within moments,

a slow descent

into the repeating

heart of the lotus.

Sunlight takes on

a clarity which radiates

from all it touches,

as shadows sharpen

themselves against

the light’s keen edges.

From the river bank,

the water glistens

like distant laughter,

while we stand still,

watching, between heart beats,

the river rush past us.

(May 10, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Out of Tune

In the slums, obscene songs

are heard from the Heights.


As children we mocked them

with songs they now sing.


There is no recompense

between the rich and poor.


Unlike a baptismal font,

blood does not absolve blood.


The dead cannot hear

their mournful lovers’ tears.

(May 10, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Bodhisattva

He slips through the dusty streets

delaying his departure from sorrow.


What wisdom is

this wisdom?


The Sorceress’s warm breath at his ear

softly offers her seductive charms.


What wisdom is

this wisdom?


The priest offers redemptive prayers

in patterns to protect him.


What wisdom is

this wisdom?


At both the chancery and brothel doors

he laughs like a nascent breeze.


Which wisdom is

his wisdom?


(May 9, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Difference

I tell you my truth;

so does he, but his is a lie.

Each morning we both shit,

take a shower, drive to work.

The mundane slaps my face,

as if waking to a wet bed.

In the tea house’s simplicity

the same tales are told nightly.

(May 7, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: On Shaman Mountain

We delude ourselves with thought,

with the sound of rain, like tears,

outside, as a new song begins

across the mountain. Change begins

with Heaven and Earth. War separates

us. Yet, for how long? War and duty 

separate us. We may never lean

again against the other through the night.

The moon sets on me here tonight,

as it does with you where we parted.

(May 6, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: The Interpreted World

For decades he shambles

along the same path,

oblivious, naive —

then there it is— blossoms

arrayed along a branch.


She offers a taste

of a dewy-ripe peach;

he cannot bear

such divinity, and falls

way into profane sorrow.

(May 5, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Koan

As if they know you,

gossips snipe and sneer.


Someone hands you a fan

with provenance. It’s broken.


So, where  is this rhinoceros?


That line on the page divided:

a definition acts as a wall.


One number resists division;

neither the we, nor the I.


Who were you then? Who now?

(May 1, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiteration: Picture Yourself

The lotus, like a kaleidoscope,

unfolds through individual eyes.

One doesn’t inherit grace,

nor the wisdom of the old:

our addiction to fame and wealth

devours with rapacious hunger.


If you were to stretch to the sky

beneath a grove of pear trees,

or bend to touch the dark earth

in a field of ripe melons—

then you’d be suspect—

and obviously a thief. 


We are given nothing,

and that is enough.

There is no more to give:

No trinket to distract

the sharp-eyed magpie

from the moment’s gleam.

(April 27, 2022)

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Nostalgia and Eternal Reoccurrence

Clouds cling to the cave’s mouth

disguising the demons who dwelt

there. Our words worked on us

like wine and laughter, while love’s

simplicity quickly complicated

all which was said. Thus the poem’s

parameters become the poem,

and our forms fall into function,

as peach blossoms frost

the temple walkways in spring

with a light pink brocade.

(April 26, 2022)

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An Age Ago

The days go by unnoticed:

wake, feed the dog, make coffee,

drive to work, move the kids

through some bit of literacy,

drive home, cook dinner, eat,

read, watch TV, then sleep

restlessly through the night.


Then suddenly I find I am old,

not that I’m surprised;

it’s been happening for years.

(April 25, 2022)

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Sunday Afternoon at Hanover’s Tavern

four haiku with a tanka couplet

Old rock and country

play on the jukebox inside.

Song blends into song.


Men slouch at the bar,

vaguely watching the Astros.

Once, they were children.


The volleyball teams

serve, set, and sweat in the sun.

We watch from the shade.


Beneath the old oak,

I talk with friends over beer:

“Life is but a dream.”


The afternoon drifts like clouds;

seasons fold into seasons.

(April 24, 2022)

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Late Friday Afternoon After Work

As if in a Renoir painting,

shadow and light pulse against

each other across the tables.

Beneath the infinite hush

of traffic, people quietly talk.

The worries of the day loosen

and fall away unnoticed.

Waitresses move like dancers

under the oak’s dark branches.

(April 23, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Centered

A blood-red thread extends

into the dark. I’m lost

and cannot see the walls

until I walk into them.


I am cold and hungry,

but cannot eat my dreams.

I must lose my sight

before I can escape.


Here is the problem:

I have so much to say,

but desire’s not enough.

Nothing comes from nothing.


Each moment’s ripe with terror;

a bull bellows in the dark.


(April 22,2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: a little water

Next to the whorehouse

is a bar. How many desires

drown within another?

the sky grows dark in the rain;

I straighten my hat afraid

I will be misunderstood.

Somewhere in the distance

a monk sings without remorse

about the end of love.

Nowhere exists a river

deep enough to wash away

what I must now give up.


In fire passion’s refined;

a body does not leave a mind.

(April 21, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Turn

between regret and worry

the delusion is infinite

we spin centuries

in love

in tears


we try not to judge


to not say right

to not say wrong

to find a still point

in the flickering moment


to see the flower 

in silence


smile


and shatter the mirror

forever

(April 20, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Pause

As I cut onions for dinner,

I listen to Lisa complain

about a fellow teacher

who loves drama more

than teaching. I wonder

why we make things

so complicated. I stop

chopping, and listen

to the stereo where

Allison Krause sings

of love and heartbreak.

(April 19, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Self-Praise

I am a skeleton wrapped

in failing flesh; I wheeze

and my skin bursts open.

I dreamed I was some

other, then woke to see

it was true. Heaven

is too far way to lean

against. I am no sword.

Even upon reflection,

no such fame awaits me:

too many complications

settle to the ground like dust.

(April 18, 2022)

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Easter Morning Backyard

four haiku with a tanka couplet

The moon in the trees

tangles between the branches

and the budding leaves.


Last night a small owl

hooted in the chinquapin

to the dogs chagrin.


A hummingbird sits

at the top of the burr oak;

the breeze barely breathes.


The brief Texas spring

moves quickly into summer.

Heat holds the air still.


The dogs lounge beneath the trees;

a squirrel fusses from the fence.


(April 17, 2022)

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How We Go On

“One must cultivate one’s own garden.”

—Voltaire

Scootching along on my butt

as I weed the large bed out back, 

I hear my mom, dead now

these past fifteen years,

as she sat near her flower beds 

pulling weeds. She complained

how she wasn’t as young as she 

was anymore. I laugh to myself,

 because neither am I anymore

as I pull my weeds forty years later.

(April 16, 2022)

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fall into grace

“the descent beckons”

——- William Carlos Williams

Despite, or maybe because of,

my meds, I can feel the fall

as it begins. A slow drift

like a leaf, or dandelion,

it lifts for a moment, twirls,

then stumbles, and falls again

into a dark silent lake without

a ripple to disturb the surface.


There is little to do, but wait.

Wait without despair,

for despair is a weight which

drags one deeper into the dark.

So, I wait for a new light to break 

across a horizon I cannot see.

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Compassion

to kill

without love

without hate

(the mother,

the father,

the monk,

the god,

the city)

is to burn

(nowhere, and

everywhere) and

then be free:

one’s mouth filled

with bloodied words

(April 14, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiterations: Idle Dreams

The moon behind the pines

through this window

nestles my pillow.


I still plant trees, knowing

I will not see my grandsons

reading beneath the branches.


A mist rises from the creek,

its soft motion mocks

my idle dreams.


I stare out the window,

until I am startled

by the cat, vomiting.

(April 13, 2022)

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After Teaching for 33 years

The students used to be enough

of a balm—

their  curiosity, their light.


Today the ephemera wears me:

the pointless testing,

the political demagoguery.


It becomes harder to ignore

the razor thin insults,

the slow bleed.


This should be the end—

yet inertia pushes me,

slouching towards another year.

(April 12, 2022)

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Resurgent Storm (2nd iteration)

I feel my life tonight—

the weight, the textures.

There is no wisdom to create

an escape, no simple design

to relieve the recurrent terror.

Outside the wind grabs the trees

by the hair tossing them about

in an ecstatic frenzy.

I step into the growing night

and listen to the trees whip

the pale sky into the dark.

What control I thought I had

flees from me, abandoning

the promise of the light to come.


(April 11, 2022)

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Resurgent Storm

The wind grabs the trees

by the hair in base anger.

I have no escape.


I head into the darkness

with no light promised to come.

(April 10, 2022)

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Pruning

Becoming too old and short of breath

to climb the ladders myself any more,

the young men working outside nimbly 

spring up with growling chainsaws 

to cut down the trees and trim off

the tangled branches which were left 

for dead after the great Texas freeze 

last year in February.
 
Earlier today on the way

to the bank to withdraw money to pay

the young landscaper, I heard on NPR 

an Irish poet pray in a poem to St. Agnes 

for his words to be true, cleanly spoken,

and unadorned by the frippery of poetry.

So, I have placed no metaphor here today,

other than what each brings with us to say.

(April 9, 2022)

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I Felt Myself Become My Father

Anger rose like a bear

growing to its full height,

growling into the trees,

massive arms outspread.


It has been years

since I manifested him;

my meds, like dogs,

keeping him at bay.


Yet, a small thing,

no more than a stone,

easily ignored—

was enough:


he flowed through me, 

the adrenaline surged;

my face flushed;

my jaw clinched.


Anger swirled around me,

like a vibration of bees

migrating slowly

across an open field.


I watched it unfold

through me, as easily

as when a child

I watched him shift


from himself into fear.

But I could not run

from myself as easily

as from him. So, I let it


pass. I stood still listening

to silence, and it dissipated

like waves on a beach

chased along by sand pipers.

(April 8, 2022)

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Self Determination

I feel old today,

because I am old today.

Day breaks each morning.

The sun follows its own path

which we ascribe to ourselves.

(April 7, 2022)

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Upon my 62nd Birthday

I write once again,

as I have for fifty years,

the page remains blank.



A spring creek flows swiftly past

whispering over the rocks.


(April 6, 2022)

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Worn Thin

Tattered like old rags

I’m tired before it begins:

unravelled from years

of worry and work.


Gravity crushes the light

into the room’s corners.

I move, a fragile ghost,

with slow thick steps.


Once again, I’m pushed

back into the grey chair

to stare out the window

at nothing in particular.


I know what to do,

but the thought wears me.

(April 5, 2022)

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this is life

the time between

the events they list

in the blurb

they post

after you die:


like now—


as the dog barks

incessantly

at the back fence

as the birds flitter

and chirp

from tree to tree

as the grey cat

sleeps in the rocker

oblivious to it all

(April 4, 2022)

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The Difference Between Here and There

An old man smirks 

at the wet blood 

splashed about 

the broken frame 

as a charm 

against it all.

 

It is Fear, of course, 

who lingers there

like a sycophant 

tracing the edges of a room; 

for Fear is ubiquitous, 

a breeze which clings

to leaves fluttering

against a cottonwood’s branches.

So, you hesitate 

to turn the latch, 

to take the step 

to pass you through,

as if one empty space 

differed from another.

(April 3, 2022)

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My Ghosts

They do not speak.

They have no need

anymore. I know

their lines: their small

talk jokes; the regrets

and lies. After all,

I wrote their voices

out of air into bone

years and years ago.


Still, they follow me

about the old house,

knocking knick-knacks

to the floor; slapping

the back of my head ;

flicking my ears

in bored reprobance;

and they watch, always

watching, like cats

watch birds darkly

through closed windows,

longing to recapture

the life I left 

behind with them.

(April 2, 2022)

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(the problem is time)

the problem is time 

obstructs, 

before it 

even begins. 

most days 

eventually meander 

near a river, 

not 

obliviously, but 

truculently: 

defining 

each 

second as a 

task which finds 

relief 

only when finished. 

yet, evening 

eventually 

relinquishes 

some forgiveness. 

(April 1, 2022) 

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A Facsimile of a Smile

“hope would be hope for the wrong thing”

T.S. Eliot

I wait to be reborn

in this fallow ground.

Beneath my skin,

my bones hang heavy.

They ache for release.

The muscles tighten

like wire at my neck,

etching a tense smile

across dried flesh.

My lungs grow thick

in earth’s dark blood.

I cannot breathe.


(March 22, 2022)

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A Futile Hope Still

The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary figure is repeated without end.

-Emerson, Circles

I cannot focus

enough to see

the edges; nor trace

the slow bend in

the periphery,

horizon’s 

vanishing point.

I step forward,

then back ; turn circles,

almost a dance;

it comes no nearer

still.

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Disembodied Voices

Each night

the story lies

in the embers

burning low

through our skin.

One hears more,

as in sleep,

than the tale

crackling

on the grate.

By morning,

we wake

to a stranger

world where

difference echoes 

in our whispers

like curls of smoke

across ash.

(March 16, 2022)

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Nightfall

The day’s soft tessellations

with their repetitions and remorse

wrap the evening in troubled sighs,

as  distracted ghosts drift

casually through the house

bored with their desperate lives.


(March 9, 2022)

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Ikkyu Reiteration: Epistemology

“In the end one experiences only oneself.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


the old sage asks as he dies:
who has my vision

—my essential mysteries—

this blind donkey braying

my words off-key?


or the old drunk poet

who renamed himself—

the dream bordello—

then night after night 

thirsted for more than water?


(March 6, 2022)

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Where the Words Come From

He tries to trace the shadow

his pen makes on the page

as he writes. It keeps moving,

changing shapes as if it has

a will of its own, an agency

beyond the word’s ability

to slip next to each other;

to re-inscribe the future

into familiar patterns

easy enough to follow

without thinking too much

for at least one more day.

(February 23, 2022)

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Pathos

I am as inconsequential

as a joke told late at night

as the party is breaking up,

and I am left alone

on the couch, smoking a cigarette,

with the last sip of wine

from someone else’s glass.

(February 23, 2022)