Sunday, July 31, 2011


We want to know
Who does the things
That make the world
Shudder sideways.

We want to know
What's wrong with things,
Where things went wrong,
What we can do.

We want to know
It's good to know,
That knowing things
Will help us out.

We want to know
We know more now,
That we have sought
What can be found.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Swim and a Beer

My body, being me and
Infinitely more than me, does
As it pleases, and sometimes
What it pleases surprises
Me by pleasing me.
Just as often, it just hurts.

And that is that,
The whole mad romance, 
The convoluted partnership, the dark
Chocolate and bitter
Brown beer, the triangular
Tragedy of we sweet three,

Oh  life,
My body
And me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Second Kenning (Selkie Eyes)

Mermaids have mermen for fathers,
Who strand ashore just like their daughters.
Once tricked, we learn to talk and totter,
While yearning to return to water.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ghost and River

Not that I'm not
Sometimes grateful,
A little bit glad
For this world, filled

With sheer, dire grace.
When I'm driving
Along, alone
With my daughter

Babbling in back,
Down the Ghost
Highway or down
The River Road,

I can see why
God would desire
A little note.
"It's lovely. Thanks."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Unpardonable Sin of the World

Please, please may all 
Kind gods and buddhas,
Good prophets and true 
Moral sages forgive me 
If I've got this wrong, but

Humans are a peculiar social species,
A peculiarly social species.
We're a bit like wolves, a bit
Like ants, a bit like chimpanzees.

We are not fixed into our roles,
But we are fixed into having roles
And rules to orchestrate them.

As cultures of peoples, thus, we are well 
Adapted to the whole shebang of climates,
Generalists who can be as particular as you please,

But as individual organisms we are wired
To one and only one true, 
Human-specific ecosystem: 
Other people. Which is, I beg

To plead, perhaps 
As well the reason why
I have never yet encountered
A spiritual point of view
That didn't advise aligning
Oneself with the nonhuman
Universe as if it were
An important human
Personage or population.

We teach each other that the keys
To right living, even
Salvation and enlightenment,
Consist of proper attitudes
Toward the world, affects we believe
Effective, as though the world were all one 
Extension of our fireside fellows
And village elders in concentric circles.

Sometimes we urge
Each other to humility
Toward that enormity not us,
As if it could feel the need
To put us in our place.
Other times we advocate
Gratitude, as if cultivating
Friendship with a superior.
Affection, gift-giving, loyalty, respect,
Calm, trust, all the social 

Virtues are the solutions
We try out on the rocky 
Shores and distant stars,
Having been so far
Successful at making our own
Species our principal
Environment, we can't
Stop ourselves from treating
All things as our own species.

Old news, I know, and plenty
Of skillful apologists to handle it.
What's amazing is not that we do it,
Not that we know, more or less,
That it's a bogus approach, that
God would have to be too big
To get hurt feelings, that the loving
Oneness at the core of all must
Also be greater than social emotions
As we can construe them, forcing
Us to build our holy opinions
Into nests of paradoxes 
For which we blame language
And our own poor social skills--
Too selfish, too hateful, too
Egotistical we say we are. No,

What's amazing is that we can
Be horrified by the notion
That the nonhuman universe
Is simply not human, not social,
When here we are convinced
An uncaring world must be unkind.

Has it occurred to no prophet
Yet that it's a mercy
Not every thing 
Is us, is like us, 
Nor likes, nor dislikes us?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Should We Do Now?

To the extent that something's good,
It's good. It doesn't mean all's well

With the world or everything else
Is false. It holds no ironies

That some things are good but not all. 
Nothing's done, nor needs to be done.

I'm done with declaring I'm done,
Or at the least, I'm done with should.

Monday, July 25, 2011

One Harold Bench

Has been
The summer
Of counting things.
You've been counting breaths
In your meditations;
I've been counting strokes per swim,
Steps to push the baby stroller
Over the hillside drive each morning,
Minutes to go before waking up.
Together we count the days, weeks, 
Months of our daughter's first year,
Our pieces of summer,
Days since we got here,
Days we have left
At last count,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

MacDougall's Psychostasia

I'm not sure why 
The one thing we know
To be ephemeral,

To not transfigure
Continuously, phase
Shifting into other

Things, to disappear
Without a transformation,
The awareness of awareness,

Is the one thing
We anoint as holy and eternal.
The human body makes this stuff,

God bless, damn, or be praised,
But when body transubstantiates,
The awareness of awareness is

Nowhere to be found, and it must
Be found by itself to be
Itself, the knowing of being

A knowing of being
Something that can know it is
Something that can suppose.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wring out the Owl

I could almost believe we are almost smart
And become stupid the more
We rely on each other
To tell us exactly what is not smart.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Observing Spears of Summer Rain

The awareness of Walt Whitman
Loved to contemplate life's return,
But life is not awareness, Walt,
And you, however beautiful,
Have left us and will not come back.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quartet Near a Bend in Time

"It doesn't appear that the writer was thinking of eternity, but of events about to take place without interruption."

1. That Last Echo Is Always Off-Key

Now is the time
All things descend:
A simple claim,
Easily penned,

To comprehend.
I'm fine with words.
I can pretend

They mean a truth
That I intend,
But I don't know
Where meanings end

And time begins.
Quick minds can spend
Lives lost chasing
That begin again.

2. Transcendentistry

"Another save. It outlasted him."

Maxine Kumin,
The first person
I ever met
Who earned her keep

Through poetry,
The first teacher
Of poetry
To consider

A poem I wrote
To improve it,
Herself wrote poems
About dentists

Who died before
They could convince
Her to repair
Her failing teeth.

3. Skylight

Who can ever
Name all the things
Moving at once
In this moment?

Whose words could frame
One pearl-dark sky
This skylight frames
When branches glow?

Trust the reader,
Is one reply.
Let everyone
Keep their own world.

Silly writer.
Tricks are for words.
The game is not
To be a game.

4. Noneness

Every moment
Overwhelms me,
Rinses and drowns
Me in noneness,

That weird no thing
That is all things
All happening
At one gone time.

I went swimming
In the cold lake.
Once and again,
The waves carried

Me back to shore
Before I knew
I had gone through,
Around the bend.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


These last ghosts--
Two red shacks
And a boat

In the woods--
Are what's left
Of the age

Of silver
Where dark trees
Crowd around.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Folly by the Lake

"a great useless structure, or one left unfinished, having been begun without a reckoning of the cost"

The brain struggling
To represent
Its self in words
Like these returns

To conundrums--
The container
Of everything
That shapes nothing,

The memory
That is present
To make the past
Pretend future,

The social self's
Follies rotting
Beside the lake
In all weathers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Believe

Horse and rider,
Ant and aphid,
Mind and reptile
Limbic system:

All the little
Bugs astride bugs,
As if any
Little bugger

Ever rode hard
Any other,
As if control
Were possible

For who torments
Ours and other
Selves but not
As we would like

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'd make the worst sentinel.
My mind appears magnetized
By its own information,
Bent, rusted, and corrupted,

Prattling, rattle-trap claptrap.
Mesmerized by my own junk,
Convinced each thing-a-ma-bob
Links to whatcha-ma-callit

And could make some fantasy
Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang fly,
I'd burrow in the debris
Between my ears and forget

To look up, scream "incoming!"
In time to save any lives.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Aedes desideratum

I want to kill mosquitoes,
and I want not to kill them.
If I just brush them away,
it's no more stressful, nor less
effective than if I slap
at them, frantically, and yet,
I slap! at them, frantically.

Friday, July 15, 2011


The world is thick:
So many things
Are moving in
So many ways

At the same time
In the same place
For the observer
Who is half there

The air has clouds
The sky has stars
The towns have lights
Some lights are homes

The bees want theirs
The fish want theirs
People want ours:
The world is thick.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Plato's Cave Art

We who style ourselves
Composers of words,
Including these words,
Composers themselves,
However awful,

Practice a damned art
In a smoky light
In a labyrinth
That may be a maze,
A church or a cave,

But except perhaps
For calligraphy
And hand-chiseled glyphs
Has no art in it
Beyond how it sounds

And what it might mean
To someone well-versed
In the given tongue.
Language can't be left
In the dark alone

To signify life
Or death without lives
To interpret it:
Can't be left to be,
To mean, but be mute.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Just How Much

Should you care about your life?
It won't last; you can't keep it,
And the way that you'll lose it
Can't be promised in advance
(Nor matter to you once gone,
However dragged out the loss).
Is it what you do with it?

I suspect we only care
For what we do because
We think that what we do
Will fix or foul our universe,
While each of us has the hold
Of a whole world over which
No one holds the least control.

Relax a moment. Count breath.
Can you pause your beating heart?
Can you edit all your thoughts?
Can you order gods around,
Your own, anyone else's?
You will, must make a difference,
But you won't know what it was.

So just how much should you care,
Given you're in love with life,
Or in love with what's your own,
Or with a dream of changing 
Some other lives around yours?
Care as you can. Whatever
Can't be kept, can't be wasted.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Body Inside

Therese, steeping tea, teases
Sequoia, who is cooing
In her stroller, practicing
Protolanguage prosody,
"Isn't it something, being
In a body? Isn't it?"
Sequoia laughs and stretches.

Or the reverse, it occurs
To me, could be true, if you
Construe yourself, less as more,
An empty vessel, and your
Body, your world, not as spheres
That your whole soul inhabits,
But things ringing within you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Danse Libre (Theme and Variations)

"All poems trail behind them images that are part of them but can't be fitted in."

Unless of course we are what isn't,
In which case we've got nowhere to go,
Ourselves themselves comprising nowhere.

There can be only one empty set,
Only one null, one naught, one zero,
But my mind prefers to imagine

Bounded sets of various sizes,
Identifiable as our souls,
Vacuoles devoid of surprises

But presenting a certain presence,
To each its own unique emptiness
As if two nothings could be something

Other than the same preemptiveness
Subsuming boundaries and content
Alike, by definition, into

The space for everything that happens.
If we're nowhere, we've never been to
Anywhere and yet hold everywhere

And everywhen within us because
Only the empty set can contain
Room for all, with nothing to explain.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Magicians Don't Exist"

The obsolescence of spoken presentations
Approaches that of the old-fashioned magic act.

There's nothing a speaker can offer to tell you
That you can't discover more quickly on your own.

(And the speaker is far more likely to be wrong.)
The famous and the infamous still go on tour,

But it's only the lure of flesh and blood nearness
To these embodiments of fame and infamy

That packs people in to hear what they have to say.
It's not as if the content can't be found elsewhere.

If both Mark Twain and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Were to barnstorm North America together,

People would refinance their houses to see them
"Live!" and hear what they had to say to each other,

And not so much in any anticipation
Of learning an unknown story or a new dream.

The anonymous speaker has nothing to say
That can't be found elsewhere, better illustrated,

No more than an illusionist makes deceptions
That can't be demonstrated somewhere on the Web.

No repercussions now when a fool like me talks
Through my hat. The rabbits have all left the building.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Giving a Talk about Enlightenment

Must be like giving a talk about sex.
You'd want people to assume you've done it,
And if indeed you've done it, done it well.

Well enough you'd not want them to want you.
You'd rather they worked it out for themselves.
And all the while you'd have to be thinking,

Is it possible there is no better
Prophylactic against the actual 
Experience than talking about it?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Advaita ad libitum

"the unreality of Birkin, Inspector of Schools, who sees the world as a book he isn't writing"

According to the latest avatar
Of universal knowledge, sanskrit sage
Adi Shankara was falsely accused

Of teaching a version of Buddhism
In the guise of Vedic Hinduism,
As his espousal of advaita

Could be confused with Buddhist emptiness,
When more truly his Atman was full up
With Brahman, never empty anywhere.

I chase advaita around the Web,
Unsure of whether I am the spider
Or the gracehoper or the struggling fly.

I find there's a guy, a guru sort of,
In, of course, Sedona, called Nirmala,
Who is fond of quoting himself, to wit:

"I often say, the truth is whatever
Opens your Heart and quiets your mind." Ah.
Somewhere the dour shade of Karl Marx chuckles.

Even he would not have gone quite so far
As to define, not only religion,
But truth itself in terms of opiates.

I cast my mind over hospital beds
In which I felt, singularly, not one
With everything else, but floating, detached,

My heart wide open, my mind so quiet
Every pin drop was a noisy insight,
And opiate memories remind me

Of that other, recent floating, the lake
In which I swim whenever the weather,
My child, my spouse, and circumstance allow:

Another, presumably healthier,
Form of floating awareness, a mind full
Of deep, cold water, green in northern light.

There swims my sometimes oneness, weirdly real,
Weirdly unreal, where awareness meets a
Kindly wall. I am that; advaita.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ursa Minor

Hunger is the predator
That preys upon the black bear.
Up ahead a car is parked
In the middle of the road,
A zoom lens through the window.
A sleek, medium-sized bear
Forages in the margin,

Close enough to paw the lens
But not even looking up,
So unlike the countless deer
That bound in all directions
At each vehicle's approach.
Methodical as it seems,
This calm bear is in full flight.

Winter is ahead of it,
And winter is just behind.
Eat enough, it may survive
To eat again next summer.
Otherwise it will be gnawed
To slow death from the inside.
For now it ignores the lens,

Indigestible nuisance,
Worthless as the purring car,
Stones in the Way of the bear
Unless it smells food in there.
Mind is nose is tongue, are one.
Thus the bear's enlightenment:
Emptiness is never done.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Danse Libre

"We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows."

There are no portals to the infinite
the unmeasurable, the source, the one,
the unmanifest, pure being, the end,

I am sorry to report. There is none.
You and I can't go there, or can't come back,
the same. What we so avidly discuss

as if it were a state to be attained,
a good goal, only exists without us,
that which has no speck of us within it,

and what's odder, we've defined it that way.
Deep sleep, the divine, stillness and silence,
the timeless, are the names we say to unsay,

namers in awe of the unnameable,
are beams of photons we fire to outline
the vertiginous edge of emptiness

so we can feel the black hole's hunger defined
by our illustrations, as if the end
of all our traveling were to disappear

into our knowing what's around the bend.
We want what's not us to want us in it,
but there are no portals to what isn't.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Having Forgotten the Question

"They told us that 'the poets have the answers,'"
Sarah tells me when I return
from a considerable ramble

with Sequoia in the car seat at twilight,
past a parade of muledeer and whitetail,
assorted ravens, a cow elk, a black bear,

the nesting pair of bald eagles near
Fish Lake, and so forth, a good drive,
curvaceous, green, and glimmering.

Sarah hands me a flyer that the instructors
in mindful meditation had passed around
to the practicing meditators, a poem

by Mary Oliver, titled "Mindful,"
though I might have called it
both clever and joyful, as well,

and as I often am, when I am
anything at all, I'm contentedly
envious or enviously contented

to read her submerged opening
couplet rhyming "more or less
kills me with delight" with

"a needle in the haystack of light."
Outside the window, the moon,
frail crescent lacy as spun sugar,

decorates the rich creamy light
of summer sunset on the glacier,
the whole scene hanging over us

like a trompe l'oeil of the Face
of God, or worthier, and I wonder
how it would feel to be a needle

in that haystack of light--not
the light itself mind you, not
perhaps even shining at all,

this needle, just lost, buried,
aware of how unlikely to be found
thanks to the marvelous beauty,

the disheveled, tossed-together harvest
of sumptuous living and dying, turned-over,
tumbled heaps of light, light, light all around.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Gardener

"It's not work. It just requires
Constancy," she says, perhaps
Being allusive, perhaps
Not. I prefer to think not,
To let our conversation
Remain as seeming artless
As this bear-country  garden

Beside the meltwater creek
Drawn from the ringing mountains.
Knotted, fecund cherry trees
Left behind by Doukhobors,
Dot a flowery greensward,
And a hand-hewn driftwood fence
Encloses rampant fruit rows.

Billowing sheer white curtains
And vine-heavy trellises
Circle the umber cottage
That gives the scene a center.
The effect is fairy book.
"Someone magical lives here,"
Suggests the illustration.

The suggestion is correct--
A proper gardener lives here,
Enhancing what the mountain
Ice and rain and snows allow,
Invisibly maintaining,
Season by season, what life
Demands to shade its underside.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Out on a borrowed back porch
Quiet conversation turns
To bears: how many have you
Seen so far this year? Have they
Done your gardens much damage?
One ate all the strawberries.
One wrecked half a root cellar.

No funds for relocation:
One or two will end up shot.
That sends talk to past bears,
Post mortem, the goat killer,
The carjacker, that one bear
Who could turn unlocked doorknobs,
The one who shit on a bed.

All too smart for their own good.
All soon dead. "It's sort of hard
When you see your problem bear
Draped in a tree for a nap,
Looking cute, but then they're at
Your windows on clawed hind paws,
And you know that this won't do."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rough-Hewn Runes

"With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life"

I killed an ant. More precisely,
I failed to fully kill an ant.
Stomping was easy, watching hard:
There's a divinity that can't

Stand to watch us chainsaw and whack
The boscage of our decisions:
Even silly little choices
Grow vulnerable to revisions.

The ant kept going, in circles,
Struggling, be she machine or clone,
To carry on with maintenance,
Which is life, which is life alone.

Stupid assemblage. I could not
Watch the struggle go on for long.
I had to put an end to it.
I stomped again to right the wrong.

It was as trivial a choice,
In human terms, as humans make,
To finish off a struggling bug.
Riddle me how it was my mistake.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Ready for it? Here comes Cape Horn
under a contrail crossing over
the shining scales of the long lake at sunset.

For your first Canada Day, Canuck,
we gave you a dawn walk by a labyrinth,
a dog show, a town stroll, a crazy service road

clambering rock-fields into high pines.
Life is a fast machine in this slow valley.
Good luck, kid, it's gonna be a long, short ride.