The Shape of Love

IMG_5389Sometimes the way love abandoned you
takes the shape of a shimmering lake
in the desert

miles from safety, miles from reason

But you must go anyway
in order to find the final tear.

In order for the final tear to fall
you must fall
further than the times before.

So you walk step by step
descending dry
descending deeply

you walk hand and hand with death
your first ally

you walk tenderly
with regret and forgiveness
with love and release

You tell all of them goodbye

You keep falling
further than the times before

until you discover the lake is a mirage
and always has been

And the desert takes its due
and the sun is not your ally

The ways love abandoned you
comes in the shape of a parched throat
and parched thoughts

but the truth wants to form a syllable
inside you
and it whispers your name

and you know now:
You abandoned yourself

And it hurts.


Everything is on fire.

You are so thirsty.

The fire says, die here or climb.

It is not a koan. Die here or climb.

If you abandon yourself now
you abandon everybody you claim to love

You can’t love
without taking yourself
into the big heart

So you begin.

Your body moves up the mountain
and there’s nothing pulling you up
except one thought—
you have too much love to give
to lie down here forever
under the big hard sun

The way love finds you
comes in the shape of hot heart rocks
the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen
that appear as you climb your way out
hand over fist
over hand over fist
claiming your life with everything
that still is alive in you

They are screaming your name
with a strength beyond muscle

and finally
you reach the rim of the world

the desert and the mountain
and the heart of the world
have tattooed the shape of love
in you

and you know now you will never
abandon yourself again


The Old Beauty Born of the Pulse

IMG_0645Do you believe in liberation?

Think about it hard.

No, don’t think at all. What shape do the lips of your fourth stomach make?

How you answer determines which direction
the face of your slippery heart turns
when the birds wake you from slumber

You don’t have to choose between the sky
and the dirt.

The green was built from sunlight for you.

Raven sits on the tree-top telling the other birds
and ground creatures when the stranger is approaching.

But the red-shouldered hawk above
cuts an arc of light
with his invisible scythe
catching the currents
telling the world there are no strangers

He IS the stranger to whom nothing is strange.

Those feathers that tickle your heart in the morning
are the same feathers that poke your eye out
when the black spot descends on your back
and the great scream is liberated from your warm body

They are the same feathers
you dip in the ink to write your life

They are the same feathers
that adorns the wild wings
of a surprised world
the ones it borrow to be the new beauty
which is the old beauty
born of the pulse.

The pulse in that fourth stomach of yours.

The Last Poem of The Last Poet

IMG_0436In the way summer never catches up with fall
and fall never catches winter,
and spring is a dream of winter
that winter never lives

In the way that
each unfolds an invisible season
from within,
she went up to unfold herself
into the mountain
one last time

to paint the sunset of her life
with words of affirmation

and share some unadorned moments
where the sky has eyes
and the rocks breathe fathomlessly.

She felt the lichen on her skin
before she saw them

arching her bare back against
a great granite boulder
bronzed belly
sipping the autumn sun

“There were so many I never got to,”
she whispered into the mountain’s ear.

“All my ahitas, the little aha moments
and sounds begun but never sung
barely sketches, mere glimpse of notes
could not be caught, will not be rung.”

“A title is all they have.

A memory of a True Account of a Conversation with a Worm
Got her musing about the Secret Chord
that the Sun-Eater plays, always
One Shore Beyond Desire
in his Wounded Vision
Drinking Water From A Wooden Bowl
Until the Bright Logic Is Won
and the Carefully Calculated Collapse
evokes all the Sextillions of Infidels
and we shall all be Moderately Immortal.”

“Perhaps a future poet
will find them scattered on this mountain
and make of them what I could not.”

From below in the mist
it had all looked so grey,

But now, above the clouds
atop Mt. Parnassus
there was nothing that was not
overflowing with color
there was nothing that was not

Including the splendid cerulean Sierra sky.

“What a great word,” she thought,
as sun bent seaward.

Turning her body over in wide embrace
her cheek pressed softly
against the hard rock
warm from late afternoon
flecked with silver, green, and pink
like stars trapped within.

“The moments I fully met are enough.”

Her breathing slowed
to match the mountain
inhaling and exhaling
in the marrow of her bones

“All is sound and color and texture,
a great coming together
and pulling apart
when we come to this place.

Have I been brave enough to feel it all?”

The great western eye closed its lid
as it sunk into an unseen sea

and with a tremendous sigh of love over fear,
she too closed her lids
lending her final syllable to the Deep Breath.

All the Great Syllables

IMG_7587.JPGWe don’t see each other often
yet in my time here
through the laurel leaves
that even winter doesn’t claim
I’ve seen on their sun and moonlit faces
all the great syllables of loss and hope.

For this morning there was a birth
and this evening there was a death.

And they keep walking soulward.

Who keeps walking?
You know who.

And on the bright true path of broken things
The red-soaked wings of banded dove remains.
And her veins flow dirtward.

For at dawn there was a hunger
and this afternoon there was a feast.

And they keep flying.
Who keeps flying?
You know who.

Through the slanted sun
A brightest green unstoppable
Like a stubborn fertility god
Drunk on rain and light.

For in the summer there was a drought.
And in the winter there was a torrent
flowing swardward.

And It keeps growing.

What keeps growing?
You know what.

Lament For the Makers


Hamlet and Horatio in the graveyard, by Eugène Delacroix.

This poem is dedicated to Ursula Le Guin, who died this week. RIP, Sorceress. I adore her EarthSea series, and have enjoyed many of her other novels and essays. This poem’s theme and form is modeled after 15th century Scottish poet William Dunbar’s Lament for the Makers. Dunbar ends each stanza with the phrase, “Timor mortis conturbat me,” translated as “The fear of death disturbs me.”

In is interesting to note that the word ‘poiesis’ is derived from the root meaning ‘to make’, and extrapolated, means, “the activity in which a person brings something into being that did not exist before.” So the subject here is poets, writers, musicians, all creators and their creations juxtaposed with death, or that which returns all to the nothingness from which it rose. And in particular here I honor recent artists that great mysterious sea has recently drawn into her fold: Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, Maya Angelou, Tom Petty, Ray Manzarek.

The strong unmerciful tyrant takes
All that will and desire makes
Down to that great and dark deep sea.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

What’s built up must come down,
The ruin of all laurel crowns
The fall of all pageantry.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

All the songs sung in the day
Will in the night be swept away
And embrace the fate of darkening.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Sorceress of EarthSea told
A suite of magic new and bold
Now to furthest shore carefree.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Beautiful Loser sang Hallelujah
He sang it dark, but not to fool ya
He rang the bells that could be rung
And sung with dark but golden tongue
And then the end as meant to be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

She knew why the caged bird sings
And sang of all the beautiful things.
But in the end the bird must flee.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He sang to us from afar
The vision of his rising star
But Ziggy rises and Ziggy falls
And in the end the black star calls
Reclaiming its space oddity.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

A heartbreaker who loved to toke
‘Twas his heart that finally broke
He’s still working on the mystery.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Purple One played his part
The doves will cry and break your heart
An artist formerly known to be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He took us for a wild ride,
Led us through the other side
Come on light our fires, please.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

When the tune’s done, the fiddle’s set down
Where is the ear that can hear to be found?
Perhaps beyond all what we see.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

When every third thought shall be the grave
And all that we attempt to save
Will be sunk in the unknowable sea,
Timor mortis conturbat me.

All the art and artifice wrought
Falls to the ground to finally rot
And fade into the Big Dream.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

All of the songs by beautiful breath
On their way to the dusty death
Perhaps a memory yet may be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

There’s more we want to hear and see
More we want to make believe
Much more we want to love and be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

But the end is built into it all
The makers’ splendid fires fall
To ashes and the embers cool
With death as the final school
A hard and ruthless finality.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Conversations With An Emperor of Dust

black holeAmor vincit omnia (Love Conquers All)

“Rust may never sleep, but then, neither does moss.” – Brian Awehali

Emperor: I am Conquest.

My dark army vanquishes all
with its settled presence,
The wide world yields before my dusty scepter.

What I don’t cover with my relentless rind
I break and tear and dissolve into me–
my appetite knows no end.

All to ash, I say, All to ash.

I: Pin not your proud imperial hopes on me,
for I’m the rebel to thwart you, Dust.

You may fall, I’ll sweep you clean.

Emperor: What you build, I devour,
for at last you and it and I are one.
I will fade your brightest colors.

Call me King, subject!

I: You may tear down my citadels,
rend each wall and roof asunder,
but I shall thrust up once more
a sparkling edifice, refulgent

with a heart beyond your dark fingers,
my lineage is indefatigable
its coat-of-arms bears the Phoenix
on whose feathers no dust remains long

Emperor: Look around, what pitiful Phoenix do you see?
I’ve ground each beak and wing to dust.

My soldiers have thrown to their tasks well
rewarded with their own unending meals
Nothing is beyond the vast reach of my march,
All submit to my…

I: NO! All do not submit!
This is the voice of the one
who does not.
My head you shall cover,
my feet you shall sully,
my works you shall dissolve,
with Time as your conspirator.

But No, ‘King’, my heart slips through your grasp.

‘O King, O King, O King’,
the word mocks itself
on the tongue of my fierce beat.
I’ll make of your crown a tiny watermark
within my ferocious design.

Whatever power you usurp through the eons–
from the imperial center of decay
to your outposts of dirt–

I defy it like a riot.

My heart is no subject of yours.
Its riotous root runs deeper than your Rome,
where your empire has no purchase.

Should your mindless soldiers
dare ask its name, it’ll reply,

“Tell you master, my name is Defiance.
My task, Creation, my motive, Love.
My will be done.”