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.

The Blink Uncomprehending

starthe blink uncomprehending

yes, and then I understand
why some of the Masters turned

into the waters

as perhaps the god would
when the world blinks

or the world would
when the god blinks

but I will not turn

because it is not all
blank blinking
dashing away

and some eyes glitter
gold and giddy
like the freshest dawn
that wakes you up

to everything.

It is not a right
to be understood

but to want to be is
the original sense

like sex or seeing.

We want to be
inside and seen–

the original urge
forged through the umbilical cord
of time.

Why we became two
is a mystery
that feels so good
to live inside of

once you slip into
your most vulnerable

Give Up

kiteThe hour of giving up has arrived:

Give up chasing

Give up proving
and approval

Give up on the stories
of others
and those of your own
that aren’t really your own

Give up on your mind
figuring everything out

Give up on unworthiness
Give up on shame

Give up on saving the world
Give up on saving him/her/it

Give up on all the worlds
to which you don’t belong

And once you have given up
on every last unworthy distraction

Pick up the keys
and enter your true home

“It Was Good Seeing You”

two pelicans“Don’t threaten me with love, baby,
let’s just go walking in the rain.”
– Billy Holiday

“It was good seeing you”

doesn’t mean my eyes
took pleasure in seeing you
though it includes that

it means
when we walk and you say
what brings you alive
what you’re afraid of
your thoughts about
trust and rivers
and justicia
baked beans and herbs
and joke about kink
and artificial intelligence

it is real

meaning, I enjoy watching your face
shift like the phases of the winter moon-
from laughter to pain
and back again

meaning, it’s meaningful
to be in your presence,
as opposed to your image
or words on a screen

our eyes meet meetingly

meaning, your existence matters
to me

I like knowing you
meaning, I love you

It was good seeing you.

The Desert Teaches Me Thirst: Three Cheritas

blue desertI recently discovered a poetic form called cherita from poet Annie R. Ray. Cherita [pronounced CHAIR-rita] means ‘story’ in Malay and was created by poet ai li in 1997 in memory of her grandparents. It arises out of the English-language haiku and tanka traditions, but allows for a micro-narrative and is slightly more flexible in form and style. It consists of a one-line stanza, then a two-line stanza, and ends with a three-line stanza. This is my first fling with them.

cold blue night

beside an abandoned cabin
I lay like an orphan of the world

the desert teaches me thirst–
thrusting in my throat
like a murderer

(inspired by a day and night of being stranded in the desert last August)

a quiet laurel grove

you’ve stopped running
I’ve stopped chasing

you crown me with leaves of bay
I crown you with what I say
an ancient royal ritual

(inspired by my relationship with my anima, the forest where I live, and my adaptation of the myth of Daphne)

still black cow

on a hill,
a mother’s cry in the mist

the first was the last breath–
baby bovine,
you did not make it

(inspired by seeing a stillborn calf on a hill on a misty winter day)