Thursday, October 12, 2017

I Sleep in Providence

The first line was accidental poetry I heard someone say at a recent meeting, much like these two.

I sleep in providence
            always.
            most days.
            although, when I wake, I find myself
                        elsewhere.
                        nowhere.
                        here.
            when I am done visiting your version
                        of Charon.
                        of Cerberus.
                        of love and Lethe.
            despite the brightness of the ambient city lights.
            where the streets are so narrow.
            and sometimes I lose
                        my way.
                        my sight.
                        you.
            at least, I wish I did.
            but I’d rather sleep with you.
            even though, sometimes it seems like Hell.
            or Purgatory.
            for no good reason.
            hoping I’ll become worthy
                        of the place.
                        of your wanting.
                        of myself.
            beside some vast ocean I can’t name.
            until someone finds me out and I’m
                        ousted.
                        castigated.
                        deified.
            forever.
            never.
            on the occasion of your latest heartbreak.
            listening to autumn leaves fall
                        in a coffee shop.
                        in my head.
                        in another time.
            in a coffee shop.
            during autumn.
            wearing nothing
                        except sorrow, mine.
                        except sorrow, yours.
                        except a lonely hat.
            feeling only desire.
I dream of you.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sunday among Redwoods

Redwoods. Every time I see them they blow my mind. It's like looking into the night sky and seeing the light of stars hundreds or thousands or millions of years old, except you can touch a redwood and feel what ancient means. Time stands still in forests.

I drove down to the redwoods today on a whim, then hiked four miles with my notebook but no water. Now I'm sitting on a fallen tree, writing, thirsty. The car isn't far away, and soon I'll make the hour plus drive home. But for this moment I'm sitting, breathing deep, bathed in the dull flow of fading sunlight in this narrow clearing near park headquarters.

It's quiet here. Still. Even when branches crack or the wind blows through the low leaves or you hear a bird titter or a nearby group of people laugh. It's quiet. Still.

When I was in college I once meditated nearby two talking friends. One came up to me when I was finished and told me a story. It goes like this:

"Once there was a monk who got tired of meditating in his monastery on a mountainside, so he came down into the city, found a street corner by a busy market, sat down, and meditated there. Someone asked him why, and he said, 'It is easy to meditate when your surroundings are peaceful. True enlightenment can only be achieved when you can silence your mind even surrounded by chaos.'"

Could that monk have ever learned to meditate in the chaos, though? In the woods, you may not find your Buddha nature, but you maybe do come closer to the Earth's.

Forever and forever
   everything's alright
Midnight woods
     - Jack Kerouac

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Poem

Used the same writing process as this one from 5 years ago. Hence the formal similarity.

Impossible dreams
  echo through
    memory, whispering
      desired names,
        each syllable
          a plea,
            each want
          denied, each
        Rose only
      a tease.
    Devious moon-
  shadows, sanctify
unrequitable loves.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Poems

Just a few of what I think are my better poems from 2016.

Haiku
(January - December)

Your turn, Rose
   tell me how
You don't love me

Some couches
   aren't even
All that comfortable

Write your mountain poems
   sing your valley songs
Gaze across the desert

The sun rose
   and I loved the shadows
As much as the light

The moon rose
   and the echoing darkness
Lightened

Dogs under blankets
   hiding from
The cool fog

Bodhisattva bodhisattva
   why do you stay
In this broken world?

A Buddha climbed a mountain
   at the top he found
So many roses

Read my book
   - lonesome and tired -
It has good words in it

A whisper
   is a part
Of silence

Tea shop in Fairbanks
   clouds gathering
Midnight sun

Mountain haikus
   the mountains laughed
At my writing

It takes a mountain
   a long time
To laugh

Share my tea
   it tastes like
Bitter flowers

Using the armrests
   as footrests
My mother

The smell of decay
   roses in a vase
Four days later

Escher on the wall
   fish in the pond
Impossible waterfalls

Gloom
   never seemed
So cheerful

Kyrie eleison
   it takes ten minutes
To say correctly

Her red dress
   the smell of candle
Wax hot on skin

Who needs
   punctuation

There are no secrets
   in a family
Of sisters

White sky
   ice on the pavement
Walk carefully

The fireplace
   its heat inconsequential
Compared to hers

Piano in the morning
   silent love songs
Don't want to wake anyone

Still filling pages
   rather than letting
Their candid truth live

The Rose and the Bee
(January)

The rose and the bee that gives it life
The thorn of the rose and the sting of the bee
My own scorpion tail and its impotent sting,
Power only to poison, to harm, to destroy.
In a rose there is some power, some efficacy,
Some beauty like the beauty of a life well-lived.
In a bee there is some industry, some determination,
Some grace like the grace of a dream well-dreamt.
In the thorn there is but a prick, the gentle reminder
That not all pain is unwelcome, a lust well-earned.
In the sting there is some small swelling, the stinger
Stuck under the skin until it is released with care
Or else wantonly scourged so the emptiness of its removal
Stays with you as a memory of the desire
For the sting to be gone.
In a scorpion there is some weakness, a hard exoskeleton
Only a ruse to protect the damaged innards.
There is some strength, some base, unrefined purpose,
Some cruelty like the cruelty of a love well-loved.
The rose and the bee that gives it life and the scorpion besides,
The thorn of the rose and the sting of the bee and the tail of the scorpion.
All these are, invincibly, one.
All these are, inevitably, sundered.
All these degenerate, dying, they decompose.

I Dreamt About You Last Night
(April)

I dreamt about you last night.
I actually dream about you most nights.
I wouldn't say they're good dreams,
But what's a good dream?
None of my dreams are good,
Usually they're strange, complicated, uncomfortable,
Surreal allegories for living.
So my dreams about you are also
Surreal allegories for loving.
Last night I dreamt of our love,
How we wanted each other
But as we came together
We were beset on all sides
By people, watching,
And while we were not ashamed
So ardently did we wish for some private place
So impossible seemed our desire
That we were frustrated in our wanting.
When I dreamt of you
I dreamt of a lover far away
Not just in distance, but in mind.

Mother and Son
(April)

My son:
   He's not feeling great today, but
   He is still going to school.
   He doesn't have a fever, I feel
   He is not contagious.
   He has allergies, bad
      Santa Ana winds,
      Sore throat, raw.
   He is not comfortable talking.
   He has a mug and tea bags and honey
      (Sooth yourself with my hot tea, my son, my honey).
   He will clear his throat, step outside.
   He will suck on throat soothers.
   He will make it, I hope, today
      Without me.

Write me a Poem
(October)

you said write me a poem so I took out my pen and
started to write but you said not like that
as if poetry obeyed some kind of rule
you are not my queen or even my muse
I wrote not because you asked but because I wanted to
or even because I couldn't help it
that feeling when you have to write
that feeling predated your edict by a few seconds
and made it seem like I was obeying you
when really I was just obeying the Universe

Montessori
(November)

You may know your pedagogy and
You may know your content and
You may even know how to put them together.
You can write a paragraph and
Show a child to write one.
You can add four digit numbers in your head and
Teach a student to do the same.
You can place an idea in its historical context and
Model that process for a teenager, so she knows how, too.
But you are spiritually deficient.
You need to bow to a new idol.
You need to teach the One True Way,
Because no matter what you know and
No matter what they learn
It doesn't count unless it fits the brand.

Untitled
(December)

As I've lost my words
I've rediscovered my silence,
The silence of attention,
Breathing in, out, om,
Listening to the void,
Hearing not truth nor wisdom,
Nor lies nor foolishness,
Hearing no thing.
When I was younger I learned
To listen was easy
As long as you shut up and
Open your ears and close
Your eyes.
Then words words all the the time.
I spoke so much even when
I did not need to.
As I've lost those words
I'm rediscovering the silence
That undefined me.

After the Party
(December)

Winter morning, the day after the party.
In the kitchen the family patriarch
Rearranges wine glass and beer bottle.
His children sleep silently.
Downstairs from their childhood bedrooms
A circle of chairs, remnants of
Late night games, victory and defeat
Still palpable in the furniture.
I'm sitting in one of those chairs,
The brown leather one, squeaky,
The one she sat in last night.
I wonder when she will descend
Down that stairway, look me
In the eye, confuse my jaded
Heart.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mercy

So I've caught the Overwatch bug. It's a fun little game that's perfect for a teacher who can't play all the time, but can catch a match here and there. The main character I play is Mercy. What follows is, I guess, fan fiction? It's silly, but I had fun writing it. Enjoy.

It was with some surprise that I awoke on a brisk September morning in a dimly lit forest. I was surprised that I awoke at all. The last thing I remembered, before the damp, rotting leaves and the swaying branches that greeted me as I regained consciousness, was my death. It wasn’t a dream; it hurt way too much. I had been shot during the battle. The bullet went right through my stomach. I collapsed, and I could feel the strange mix of pain and detachment that comes with the end.

I sat up slowly, looking down at my blood-drenched shirt, but unable to find the bullet wound. I probed the area gently with my hands, but felt no pain there, and no other sign of the wound. And yet, there was the hole in my shirt, and the blood. I could see no one else, no doctor, no way of accounting for my miraculous survival. I guess revival might be a better word. Or resurrection.

I stood up, expecting to be weak and woozy, but I felt strong, aside from the thirst and hunger that I always feel after a battle. But I was very confused. How was I alive? Where was I? What should I do?

I tried to focus on my memories of the battle. We had been fighting in a hilly plains near the planet Julen’s largest city. There were no forests that I knew of anywhere near the drop zone. I hand’t spent much time studying the planet, but as far as I knew there weren’t any forests for miles.

Judging from the scant light piercing through the branches above and the long shadows on the ground, it was late afternoon, but that didn’t mean much to me. It could have been the day of the battle, still, or it could have been weeks later. The dead don’t exactly have a good sense of time passing.

The dead. I was dead, right? I mean, had I woken up in a hospital in intensive care I could have understood what happened. But this forest made no sense. The more I thought through my situation, the more questions I had. What day was it? What planet was I on?

I thought back to the battle. The briefing had said we would meet heavy resistance from the colonial rebels. The Empire was sick of this foolhardy attempt at independence, so they were sending the elite third division – of which I was a newly minted member – to occupy Julen, and to locate and raze the rebel base. We were to land outside of Julen’s capital, then to fight our way into the city. It was a straightforward operation, and the battle had been in our favor when I took the bullet.

As I wondered idly whether we had succeeded in our mission, I heard a voice, “I’ve been watching over you. Your people took the city, but the rebellion fights on.”

Startled, I turned to see a beautiful middle-aged woman emerge from behind the largest nearby tree. “Who are you? What am I doing here? What happened?”

“One question at a time,” She said, laughing, “And I get to ask first. On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your pain?”

“I’m not feeling any pain, just confusion.”

“Good,” she replied, “I prefer to keep this painless, if possible, though sometimes it can’t be avoided. I’m not a miracle worker. Well, not always.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m a doctor. Or I was, before the rebellion. My name is Angela Zeigler.”

“And you, you rescued me?”

“In a manner of speaking. I took you from the battlefield, yes, to these woods.”

“Uh, where exactly are these woods?”

Dr. Zeigler shifted uncomfortably, “I can’t tell you that, actually. We’re on Julen, and we’re near the rebel base.”

“I thought that was in the capital?”

She smiled, “It’s not. But I’m glad to hear you think it is.”

I started to understand, “You’re with the rebellion?”

At this she stiffened, “I abhor war. I wish the rebellion had never happened.” It wasn’t an answer. Not really, anyway. But then again it seems this woman had saved my life, so maybe she wasn’t a rebel. She continued, “When the rebellion started I was in the middle of some fascinating research, research that has particular applications in a war like this one.”

“And this research,” I picked up the thread, “Saved my life.”

“It did. And it saved the life of the man who shot you. He died in the battle as well. I won’t get into the details as to how, but if someone dies, I can revive him if I also revive someone killed by that person. I’m not sure I understand it myself. Stills seems like magic, to be honest, but so far it works.”

It was hard to believe what Zeigler was saying, but then again it was even harder to believe that I was alive.

A man emerged from the same direction I had seen the doctor come from. “It’s time. I have to get back into the fight.”

Dr. Zeigler sighed, “If we must, Jackson”

“We must. You know that better than anyone,” the man, Jackson, replied.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m a hero buddy. A hero of the rebellion, and thanks to you I get to keep being a hero. We’re going to win this war.”

I spat at him. “You’re just a bunch of hopped up idealists who think you can beat the empire.”

“Boys,” Dr. Zeigler cut in, “This isn’t the time to argue. Jackson, he only just woke up, I haven’t even explained everything to him yet.”

“I don’t care. I’ve got to get to the front lines,” the man replied.

I looked on in confusion. Dr. Zeigler looked me in the eyes, resigned. I saw sadness, and also firm resolve.  “I’ll explain more next time. For now, just know that Heroes never die, for a price.”

“I’m no hero,” I replied.

“No,” she agreed. “You’re the price.”

Terror grasped me as I finally understood. Jackson looked into my eyes, pulled his gun, and aimed it at my torso.

“Mercy! Mercy! Please don’t do this.” I screamed, falling to my knees.

Dr. Zeigler kneeled down and grabbed my hand. “I’m here. I’m sorry.”

Jackson pulled the trigger and I felt the pain of dying for the second, and not the last, time. As I collapsed, consciousness fading, I saw Jackson walking away. Zeigler was still by my side. “How barbaric,” she said. Jackson had shot me in the stomach again. My death would be slow. Mercy took out a pistol and aimed it at my head. Again, she said, “I’m sorry.” Then, “It has to be done.” She aimed at my head and pulled the trigger. I suppose that was her idea of mercy.