Monday, August 9, 2010




Not return

to some moment of happiness

that ran out to meet you at the gate

or some state of imagined innocence

that’s just one more myth

behind the parting curtain.

Not return to a yesterday

that’s as impossible to know 

as the future

because everything’s estranged

by the time it takes to get back here.

Ask any quantum mechanical physicist.

The only thing you can say

about the nature of things

is they’re not certain.

Why take refuge in history

thinking it’s fixed and finished

when there’s no more stability in the past

than there is in the present?

Any attempt to get right down

to the bottom of things

to master the world

with numbers and names

because numbers have guile

and names have power

will end up trying to define chaos.

The mutable maculate world as it is

is the definition of chaos

and order’s just a passing gesture

of inchoate sensory mayhem. 

Your obelisk is standing

on a cornerstone of quicksand

the moment you say I am

and mean it as if you were

an isolated monad

of self-contained sentience

and not the wind blowing

through the window

of another abandoned house

like a skull

to see if you still live there.

Not return

but transcendence.

Embracing the uncertainty

as a door to change

that opens from the inside out.

You’re the biggest obstacle in the way

of what you will become

as you go your own way like water

but one key of doubt

is enough to undo a thousand rocks

the way the sun undoes all the flowers

without prying them open

by forcing the issue.

The point is

to keep enough confusion in your clarity

to stay human

enough chaos in your cosmos

to keep your wet cells from turning into crystals

your sad eyes from believing

they’re just drops in an ocean of mirrors

that is smudged by whatever appears

like you with your black sail unfurled

like the skull and crossbones

on your own event horizon.

Not return

but transcendence.

Allowing yourself to grow beyond

your own expectations

without meaning to.

Keeping just enough

madness in your method

to justify your sanity.

Enough absurdity in the sage

to keep the truth happy

and the Buddha laughing out loud

at what we’re all trying to get away with

when we take ourselves so seriously

we ask what it’s all about

as if there were never any room

for darkness or doubt

in the infinite abyss of enlightenment.

Darkness is the ore of light.

Suffering is the ore of bliss.

Ignorance is the ore of insight.

The meaning of life

isn’t a kiss on the cold forehead of the dead

before the coffin slides like a Viking funeral ship

into a propane sea of fire in a carpeted crematorium

as if the dead were offended by the sound of the living.

Live intensely enough in the unknowing

and one of these lives

that’s just as good as another

the gold will come pouring out of you

like a secret you kept to yourself.

You’ll pull the magic sword

out of the philosopher’s stone

like King Arthur and Alexander the Great.

You’ll live up to yourself as you are this very moment.

You won’t hesitate.

You’ll know the light isn’t divided

into night and day

and when you’re called upon

to be wise and compassionate

you’ll know what to say to Shakespeare

between the lines of his best play

when he asks you not to think about Lear

shaking his fist at the gods

as a sign of defiance

that dignified anything.

Learn to love well enough in life

to justify the sorrow of your separation

and accept the way things change

away from us sometimes

and leave us looking for fulfillment in their absence

and the moonlight on your skin

won’t burn like lime

on the corpse within.

You’ll stay human

even in this

and your grief will flow like a local river

into an oceanic abyss of blissful sorrow

that makes no distinction

between yesterday and tomorrow.

You’ll discover that it’s all the same day now

like time in a dream

and recover what you lost

a long time ago

like something you looked forward to in passing

when the moonlight was urgent

with white waterlilies on the nightstream

and enlightenment kept you guessing.


















Things I cared about yesterday

don’t care for me today

in the same way they never did

but that’s okay

it’s probably better this way.

People come and go like themes and topics

that have talked themselves out of their solitude for awhile.

Who can blame them

when the narrative finally takes its own advice

and puts its tail in its mouth

and tries to finds its way back

to the headwaters of the truth

by trying to flow back up the mountain

like a snake that finds everywhere it goes

is the path it didn’t take.

Take nothing from nothing.

It’s still nothing.

I don’t see what we ever had

that was ever anything to lose.

Free to choose.

But then if you really were

as free as all that

you’d have to choose to choose to choose to choose

in a long hall of inter-reflecting mirrors

with thousands of eyes and mouths and ears

with something to see and say and hear all at once

and you’d go mad.

You’d be paralyzed.

You couldn’t keep up with appearances.

Lucky for us things move on of their own accord

without meaning anything in the way they do

however we interpret events

like fish trying to find a definition for water

when they’re it.

Solitude’s a small human matter

compared to the vast impersonal loneliness of death.

A little fire to warm a night on earth

as if thousands of ghosts were summoned

to every breath we take

to tell sad stories to the stars

in a language of smoke

that was already dead before they spoke.

Scars in the fire.

Cracks in the heartwood.

And it’s important to see things

from the star’s point of view as well.

Even when the phoenix

rises from the ashes in the urn of its heart

and spreads its wings like flames through a forest 

to renew the mindscape with seedlings

at that distance

it’s still just a firefly of existence

compared to the creative cremation of the universe.

Even if you were to rise up out of the oceans

like the peaks and pinnacles

of the Himalayas and Rockies of thought

the higher you climb

the deeper the dark valleys of the emotions

you’re trying to transcend.

One mile east is one mile west

so no one needs to ask for directions

when you can take all roads at once

that lead everywhere

you already are

by walking one road well.

Ask any star.

There’s no highway to heaven.

There’s no lowroad to hell.

The thing about light

is that’s it’s invisible

until it falls on someone’s face

and opens their eyes like loveletters

from a stranger with a passion for clarity.

There’s a lie in the heart of the truth

that is the truth in the heart of the lie.

The first is insight.

The second’s compassion.

You need both to see right.

To the stars

it’s darker by day

than it is by night.

And deeper than the white

there’s a black mirror 

that reflects being with a mind

that doesn’t bind the stars to the their light

or the blind to their lack of seeing

or leave any traces of the lunar birds

that silver the words

we mistake for the meaning of water

but frees up a huge space

for things to come and go

as if the true face of time

were an insight

into this moment now on earth

lightyears beyond

anything that could be measured in mirrors.

No birth.

No death.

Nothing appears or disappears.

Nothing of worth.

Nothing discounted.

You walk barefoot to enlightenment

across a burning bridge of stars

with the shoes of delusion in your hand

like intimate things you ignorantly understand

have no place in the house of the spirit

that demands you take your homely self off to enter

without tracking the world in like starmud.

You get to the other side.

You step inside

only to discover

that life’s a river with only one bank

and you’re not even standing on that.

You meet the Buddha.

He squats on his tatami mat

like a tree frog on a waterlily pad.

Free of violence like yesterday’s news

he sits in silence

without changing his position or views

about not having any.

You see the one in the many

and the many in the one advaitistically

like a mantra meant to put both your feet

into the same shoe

like a mouth

as you tuck your bruised heels into a full lotus

and sit like a rock in the road.

You’re just another lump on the log

but you keep thinking

if you can’t be a frog

maybe you can make it as a toad

if you try hard enough.

And then it comes to you

like a whisper of dirt between your toes

a soiled parenthesis of earth

slipped under your fingernails

like a black sail on the horizon

take delusion from delusion it’s still delusion

and all you’ve been doing

is trying to wash mud and water off

with water and mud

blood with blood

and there was never anything false or foul

about anything in the first place.

And you slip the duality of your feet back

into the infinite spaces of your newborn well-worn shoes

and the Buddha walks a mile with you back to your place

like the shadow of something greater than light

older than clarity

and deeper than the night

that summons the stars out of its dark abundance

to flesh out its insight

into the nature of itself

with your life and light.

And it whispers you into its own ear

and pours itself out

like a great ocean of awareness

into the tiny mooncup of every tear

it takes to squeeze a tide and an atmosphere

out of you like a pet rock

and smears the mirror like the Milky Way

or the silver trail of a garden snail

or warm breath on a cold windowpane

where someone is writing a name in their solitude

like a secret that can’t be told to anyone

without waking them up

from a long dark sleep

in a world of their own

to someone they already know

is no stranger to what they dream of

when they’re alone.              

Things that are rooted in heaven

have their feet in the stars

and their head on the ground.

Cataracts in the eye.

Flowers in the sky.

There’s no need to go barefoot.

There’s no need to undermine

the foundation stones

of this house of flesh and blood.

There’s no need to sweep

autumns of spiritual junkmail

off your stairs

like the dry leaves

of the deciduous myths behind the stars.

They know what season it is

and time doesn’t stop

to ask the calendar for advice

on how to get to where it’s going.

The full moon is full to overflowing

and the harvest isn’t late.

There are no secrets

in a secret garden

that’s got a sundial for a gate.

The flowers opened up

like New England asters

with nothing to confess

long before you stopped to interrogate them

like the willing accomplices of an emptiness

that talks in its sleep to the stars

about cosmic wounds with earthly scars

that make it all real.

The effect has a feel for the cause

with blood on its claws

and the healers keep the pain at bay

by killing you deeper into life

than the infinite spaces

the stars plunge through

like agonies of light

on the edge of a knife

that cuts through you

like the crescent moon

through the heart of a hill

on the horizon of a distant sacrifice

to a god that’s never even heard of us

and doesn’t know what it is we’re asking for

that could impossibly be missing.