Friday, November 11, 2016

You have to feel the fire yourself

As much as I love the Sufi poets, I'm not very well-read as my brain simply can't take in more than a just little poetry at any given time. But maybe that lets me love a single poem a little bit more. Here is a small salty, bitter, sweet and sour poem from Rumi (1207-1273) that I really love right now. 

As always, take it with an extra grain of salt, as this is merely my very subtle reworking of Coleman Barks' 2001 reworking ("Sour, Doughy, Numb, and Raw") of translations by John Moyne, Arthur J. Arberry, and others from the original Persian. My hope was to try to get a little closer in English to what I felt was the heart of the theme.

Holi Festival of Colours

If we're not together in the heart,
what's the point? When body

and soul aren't dancing, there's
no pleasure in wearing colorful

clothes. What good are cooking
pans when there's no food in the

house? In this world full of fresh
bread, amber and musk—such an

array of fragrances—what are they
to someone with no sense of smell?

If you stay away from fire, you'll stay
sour, doughy, numb and raw. You may

have lovely, just-baked loaves all
around you, but those friends can't

help. You have to feel the oven's fire
yourself, crust to core. I would never

have known the truth of what love is
had I never felt this boundless longing.

Anything done to excess becomes boring,
except this overflow that moves toward you.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What would the past say?

Cliff Grego : Study in Pizzicato .

It would say that it
does not mock you.

The past is always sober
in its gaze. The past would

say that you have lived, that you
never knew how many trees were

planted in your honor. It would say that
your backbreaking work was thwarted only 

as in a Noh play, as in a surface war; air between
the motions of force set against you, your fight what

built your muscles into grace that became dance that became
a sword that cut precisely. That could winnow the grain in a single

motion, that could slice a mountain from top to hollow and send its
halves rolling into the sea. It would say that even now you are unaware

of how you appear to the unseen world, how the arc of your life is pages,
pages longer than any schedule you had mapped out, any diary of your failure.

It would tell you things you know nothing about; it would bring up the precious
scrolls in jars you left in caves and ran from. The past would say it knows you

better than you begin to imagine you know it. It would trace those lines on
your body with a blinding needle till you saw pictures emerge that would

throttle your regret without mercy. It would call you out—crescendo
of beats rising with the tension—and you’d have nothing left to

say so that you’d finally hear the single string plucked that
would give the answer for you. It would tell you what

was stored in caverns as you squandered your
poverty, thinking it gold you threw away. It

would say, raising its voice, that it does
not know what you’re talking about

when you say waste. It would say
it cannot feel sorry for you, you

who rides the wind without
knowing your own wings.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Now you must face the truth because it is facing you

Finally, the flood has risen to your front 
door and finally you regret the way you 
dismissed the last one with a flick of the 
wrist and a click. We’re all lost now, rising 
one level up at a time, wind shrieking all the 
terror we feel, toys now gurgling underwater 
with the pilings and levees that once kept us afloat.

No more running from the catastrophes of humankind,
thank you very much, acts of God! Lost! All is not lost!
Better yet, you could’ve moved north, up to the Arctic Circle, 

up into the sunless day, where no rain ever balloons into obese 
deluge. Miracles fall by the millions from the sky, shocking no 
one, seen only by wind some days. But you never thought this 
day would come, when batteries go cold and the music 
washes down the river into death, no longer 
commodity but something like salvation.

So yes, you did not run far enough from 

home. Your shadow stuck on you like a 
faithful, unthanked bodyguard. You 
couldn’t get away from the rumble 
of meaningless words, the cackle of 
the hags that track you, determined to cut 
out your eardrums and sew your heart shut.

Now your only hope is climbing the world’s 

tallest tree, from where you’d see your timeline 
as the city glitters in ancient amber. Pure in its 
dreamtime. From here, you might see my house at 
a tiny distance only, see me on the roof waving, when 
I could be in the basement watching you drown on TV.  
From here, you only watch the rubble swirl away. Here, 
you can sit with hawks and swallows, watch them 
run their messages from tower to tower.

Choose this day what you will lose. 

I can’t send my sea kayak down 
your way. The saving will be 
up to the providence of 
thunderbirds and whales 
working in conspiracy to 
redeem your life in a number 
of dramatic missions. Your best 
hope is to hang on to this uttermost 
branch till kingdom come, or just plunge 

Because oh no, karma is not in the water. 

Only grace and destruction.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


Hubble Ultra Deep Field .

I am not interested
in describing what you
already think you know in
a more interesting way.
I want magic.

You want answers.
Or a system, a grid
to run variables through
so you can say Oh, that.

But mystery wants you.
It stalks your quantifiable
dreams which can so
easily be explained by
chemical and instinct.

It goes for the kill when your
heart swells over your sleeping child
or when you lose electricity for a few
night hours and no one’s there to
whittle away at the expanse inside.

Doesn’t truth beget questions
beget truth beget questions with
answers that are not answers that
unravel questions that dive into
the heart of an answer to find yet
another vast yet-unnamed universe?

Yes—no—love is strange
and unsayable, which is
why we toss it around
in one small word.

It makes the miles of our old intestines
as electric a puzzle as the path of each 
tiny handprint long before birth.

It burdens us with
words that tell who we are 
and a game of subtraction 
that, with such patience,  
closes our distances.

You don’t know what you want
and so you keep dissecting.
I once did that, too, yesterday.

Today I’m ready to
chase down a supercell
in true belief of my smallness,
the probability of death, the
impossibility of telling you
how it feels to be caught up
in that churning cloud.

Tomorrow I may be pulled apart
by that mysterious power to feel
anything at all and be moved
by it—whatever it is.

That we’re not hurtling through space—
that we are—that we’re not suspended
in chrysalis—that we are—
that we reach for each other here—
yet never quite know for sure—
and yet something wholly new yet
of us and our ancient backstory
comes of our not-quite-touching—
it is a miracle.

It is as plain,
as common,
as usual as the
next singular
act of being.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Riddles for an Unknown Love Triangle


It is deep in the mines where no one goes.
Everything is hidden. You say it’s nothing
but imaginary creatures, even yourself. You
are a vision, you are a brown man’s myth.

It is an awesome madness. You should want to
kill, to simmer your organs in poison, to see
everything in black opacity. Yet you are freer than
that man up on the wire between two mountains.

It is in the whirlwind that’s snatched up the car
in front of you. You desire it as a man called
to be king by the heavens, even amidst terror,
amidst destruction. It is a glory you cannot name.

It is a soft current that reminds you of good drugs.
In your blindness, you love even the molecules
of water that pass you without touching.
You don’t know it, but you are glowing.

It could be above, not on any side of you.
The imperative is to run, and that is when
you will transform. Your speed will cover you
like a cloak of a million nuclear threads.

It could be the most powerful magnet in the universe.
You thought it would be a quiet existence, simply
playing the solitary song you know, yet it turns out you
are really a silver fox who lives deep in the middle of the
Arctic Ocean, pushing through ice every summer solstice
to carve glaciers with the sound of your holy voice.


It is in tandem with the thing you said to God that night on the mountainside when you were just leaving childhood. It tracks you as an undetectable scent every time you climb back through your bedroom window and decide that this is all there is. It seeps into your follicles as you sweat through the worst of your sleep cycle, whispering to every cell that the time to rebel is coming, is coming.

It could be fear, it could be control. It could be the skips in the skating cable you hang from as it propels you across the ocean sound every night. It could be the blackness of water, the rising heads of what could be seals, what could be demons from the waves. But you couldn’t know that your hands, so precious, will be your salvation on the other shore, and hanging on is like throwing them away.

It is what you never asked for. It is surprise to the degree of a ship’s brow carved in the center of a cherry pit. It is behind the loose brick no one thought to tap in the right sequence of rhythm; in the courthouse fire that burned away the ultimatums of your secret ancestors, their recipes for wilder rice, their best flying machine blueprints. It is never just up to you, and the time to emerge from the clefts of the rock to show your face has yet to run out.

It is stitched into your invisible bone breastplate, at the unseen base of every feather shaft. It pierces your marrow whenever your eyes scan that last missing element unaware, even in passing. You think you have to search every volume in this lab that once apprenticed you, but—believe the coded words you dreamed last night—you were born knowing the answer. All the strips that fell in ribbons on the cutting room floor held the frames for the symphony that need only be spliced together the old way. Yet even now, to you alone, they murmur song, light, speed.

It could be what waits for you the first time you deboard and your first foot hits the black, the red earth and every link finally locks into place. It could be carved at the bottom of the seawall, waiting for you to swim down to it and be astounded, be made new. It could be what the angle to which this bent bone must be set really points to, perhaps in the corner of the room, perhaps out the window, down 14 stories, and shot out onto open road. If only you knew now that for you, in this hunt, to be alone is to be loved, and the most beautiful dress awaits you, suspended in thin air.

It is what you came to discover. It is as tangled as the undersides of this museum’s fading tapestries, unseen bright and crossing, crossing, crossing. And again. It is etched panorama on the butt of every civil war rifle; it is exquisite gunpowder horn masterpiece. It is the gold of every worn bullet in the artillery, the left treasure in the grid of the traveling salesman’s showcase now under glass. It is a sewing chest from across the continents, displaying all you’ll have to work with in your art that is to come. You're surrounded by rarities, yet you are the one who brings a hush of solace to the gallery halls in the middle of the night, whenever you break in.

Thursday, June 2, 2016




Do you know how much sage I need
to cleanse this place? How much smoke
needs to travel the north wind upward
to adequately say this prayer?

I never seem to have the right words.
I can never just walk away.  I can’t accept
this world and its ever weeping wound.

I’ll let my fingers burn first.
I won’t let go of this last leaf.


Despair is the demon you create then

throw your last precious black stones at to defeat;

rat poison in iodine masquerading as black whiskey

it swallows you whole saying all will be undone;

take comfort in that, in hungering no more.

>>> SALT<<<

If I just focus hard enough,
my mind will melt that gun in your purse.

I’ll flush away the crack that flips the switch
just waiting to tie an old family knot in your brain.

I’ve tapped a hundred trees in this forest
searching for the sap that will heal your wound.

In my dreams I roll all your burdens into the mud like a laboring dungbeetle 
and push them over a cliff into the wide arms of the ocean below. 

It catches our tears.
Its salt envelops.

I have no other answers.
I have no cure.

>>>> LIGHT<<<<

In the old tales, there’s always a journey to
be made, a key to find, a secret trial to pass
in order to heal the unhealable fracture.

Because a fracture is not
one of these things you say
will just work itself out.

So unless you leave your bomb shelter—
stagger out into the blinding yellow light
and embrace the pressure threatening

to collapse your veins—this whirlwind
will never pick you up, never set you down
bruised but with your pit-dark hunger arrested.

The old stories never lie.
There is a way.
Anything can

Magic holds
your hand.

>>>>> BREATH<<<<<

If this is all there is—what
more do we have to say?

If the stardust we’re made of
is nothing but cold fire, cold dirt

then where does this warm breath
come from that turns snow into spring?

Why do we tremble when the sun rises over
the mountains and our hearts ache for home?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hope is the smell of water

Simpson Desert :  
               Hope is the smell of water
               A magnet on the plain
                         of desert, city, lost in the

                                       It says all is not lost
                            After the loss of everything
                     That God is love and wants your love
               after the night you betrayed each other

                                       That you belong here in this country
                                                 Even in your alien deportation
                                                       That the cold is your salvation in a blizzard

                          And the only way out of this terror
                          is to go right through its dark tangled thicket

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Sudden Silence in the Middle of a Mob, Etc: All Acts of God to Be Determined

I want to know that 
someone here in the crowd reads minds.
That someone saw the seal 
rise with the waves
and swim straight toward them 
with a message from God.

I want to see 
the whole terminal break down weeping 
when the light hits the silent asphalt 
after the electrical storm.

I want my heart to 
break a gash in the wall 
and see water pour out,
glimmering waves to lift us, 
drown our inner feed, 
make us play or fight for life.

I want you, unknowable one, 
to know that you are known.
And seen.

This earthquake, 

was for me.
And for you, 
if you looked up and out.
If you let your core 
be shaken; be held; 
be moved by the unseen lover
that came to Psyche in the night.

You walk in a myth, 
but do you believe its stricture?
Why is flight only possible as you sleep,
sweating out your gravity?

I will not tell you what to do.
The body next to you on the bus, in the line,
heading toward you on a suicide mission 

can give you the words.

Their syllables shimmer 
in the grand halls and crannies
that lead to your hiding place,
calling you out.

To get up, 
to open your mouth.
 To say nothing
and be fed.
 And be known.