Tuesday, December 7, 2010




Why do children of the poor die so readily?

By the age of five

they’re already disarmed for life.

Is money a gene they’re missing?

Or is their suffering

just a diminished immunity to the rest of us?

The gluttons of knowledge

discuss James Joyce in a loud voice

in well-lit universities.

With great nuance and finesse

they enumerate the seven kinds of ambiguity

and the mean diameter of the vowel O

in the context of neo-Chicago Aristotelianism

in the latter plays of Shakespeare

where the commas fall like worms

out of every page of his art

as if he couldn’t punctuate

the death-rage in his heart

with the subtler points

of the neo-critical literati.

I think Shakespeare would have seen

the sterling irony

of debating proto-Nostratic linguistics

while living children all around him

can’t read their names in their own mother-tongue.

If the same word for oak

was the word we used for door

when we all learned to speak the same language

millenia ago

it’s not hard to imagine

given modern advances in communication

that the word for child

that we used way back then

is the root of the word we use for atrocity today.

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?

Nature or nurture?

Is it because the children of the rich

are taught that wealth is longevity

and the children of the poor

who can’t read the fine print

bleed to death like expired medical plans?

Why do the rich think that the poor

are the reason their children suffer

and the best thing to do is make orphans of them

by sending the poor of one nation

to war against another

to keep the economy growing

and cut back on the unemployed

like deer culled from a budget in hunting season?

If you’re a child born from this womb

and you grow up fat and cuddly

you’ve still got

a back-up heart transplant in the bank

but if you’re a child born from this one

to thrive on nothing

you look for lifeboats

and see nothing but rocks.

You reach out to the watching world

like a camera

with big questions

in your unaccusing eyes

about what is happening to you

in the arms of your helpless mother

and the world looks back at your tiny corpse

swollen with hunger

like the uninabitable planet

of your empty stomach

as if it were all just part of your bad luck

that you were born at the mercy of flies

clustering like first world pharmaceuticals

on the black market

of your third world eyelids.

Why are the children of the rich

born into health and favour

and the children of the poor

are slaves to sex and labour?

Have you ever thought about

how many children had to die

to make your running shoes?

Like all those who died

giving birth to the blues

so you could put your suffering

to their music

like the lyrics of the squeamish rich

to the heart-sick voices of the poor?

Why do the children of the poor

die so readily in bad neighbourhoods

where the steets are named for strangers

who all live somewhere else like slumlords?

Insane waste of light and love.

Desecration of heart and mind

Of genius and compassion.

Of cures for cancer

and violins that can play

like willows by a river in the wind.

There’s nothing unfinished about a child

as if the green apple

were any less than a ripe one.

Growing up among the living means

that at every moment of your life

you’ve reached your full potential

and you realize that nothing’s ever missing.

Everything is whole and beyond perfect just as it is.

That’s innocence from the inside out.

And then someone steps in

and teaches the child

how much it must suffer like the rest of us

just to be itself.

That’s the beginning of a rich man’s religion

from the outside in.

This child’s afraid of losing face

and this child’s not allowed to have one.

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?

Why do some children go to summer camp

the way others go to prison

to earn their tats like scout badges?

Why are the children of the poor

turned into baby rattlesnakes

like seven year olds with AK-47s

that are as poisonous as the adult ones?

Why do the children of the poor go to war

while the children of the rich go to college?

There’s nothing in the world a poor child can take for granted.

Life is a wound

that deadens the mind in time

if you’re alive enough to endure it.

There are young girls in Afghanistan

who are risking their lives every day

just to learn to read.

Omar Khayam says

The moving finger writes

and having writ moves on

nor all thy piety nor wit

can lure it back to cancel half a line

nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.

So the Taliban are resorting

to splashing acid in the eyes

of their sisters and daughters

to see if that works better than water.

And the National Rifle Association

inside the classroom

and outside the hospital

is defending the right

by force of the second amendent

as it’s written in the Constitution

for every child to pack a lunch

the way their teachers pack guns to school

in pursuit of American happiness

and higher learning

with a competitive edge.

Why do the lean children of the poor die so readily

like one of the seven plagues of Egypt

in backalleys and abandoned buildings

with needles stuck in their arms

while the obese children of the rich

are having the fat of the land removed surgically?

Why do the rich spend twenty million dollars

on a painting of a child

with impressionist skin by Renoir

while a real child lies torn at their feet

in a surrealistic abbatoir

signed in its own blood

like the masterpiece of an unknown genius?

Why is so much squandered on the rarity of things

than on their commonality

like children and green oxygen?

Why are movie-stars and football players

paid more on a yearly basis

to live out our fantasies of sex and violence

than it would take

to keep all the children in the Sudan

healthy and alive for a year?

Is it better in this world 

to be born a corrupt politician

with a command of words like maggots

than it is to be born innocent

and have nothing to say for yourself

because you’re too young

to speak for anyone else

even when you’re murdered?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?

How does it come about

that the United States Supreme Court

accords an oil corporation

all the rights and privileges

of a genuine bigger-than-life individual

backed up by a birth certificate

from a lapwing government

though it’s a succubus among humans

and twenty-five million children a year

die anonymously in misery

right at the peak of their suffering

like the fame of the nameless logos

on a generic death

where one size fits all?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?

Is it because the poor are waiting for lung transplants

that have been inflated into footballs

to score political points

for a ghoul in a governor’s office

to balance the budget like death

in favour of the rich

who are waiting for yachts?

Is it because the road we were on

just suddenly got up one day

like human evolution

and walked away from us in disgust

to go look for the lost children

we left like the wings on our heels in the dust?

Is it because as Basho says in a haiku

for those who say

they have no time for children

there are no flowers

and we’re so blind to the peach blossoms

we can’t see the depth of the curse in this

that we give so little mind

to what we have uprooted from the garden

as if the children of agragrian Adam

scratching for a living in the dirt

weren’t as legitimate as those

that were sired

by an industrial

Johnny Appleseed?

Is it because the children of the poor

are born first

to be thrown into the mouths

of corporate Moloch and Wall Street Baal

like a blood sacrifice to a cosmic monstrosity

just so Carthage doesn’t fall again

to the venture capital

of down-to-earth Romans

like the price of salt on a sterile market

or the soil of the Love Canal?

Is it because the children of the poor

are the expression of a death-wish

to raise our own assassins

as the only way of finding forgiveness

for what we did to them

before during and after they were born?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?

Is it because we think of the children of the profligate poor

as the repeating decimals

of a future that goes on forever incommensurably

like one generation after another

or a clepshydra of blood

or a tiny thread of a mindstream

trickling down from the top of the world mountain

like a loose thread of life

that we think we can sever their lives anywhere

or pull down the pillars of pi

by cutting their legs out from under them

like the fundamentals of life

without drawing the knife across our own jugular

like the intestate balls of a castrated ram

or the throat of a wedding bell without a womb?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?

Is it because . . .











































































And now the fleshy downside

of all my spiritual exuberance

for getting high on the charisma of life

even as it’s sitting right here with me

wishing it were someone else.

My eyes are sick of reading windows

and writing books.

I’ve dipped enough flightfeathers in ink

to turn a morning dove into a crow

and whatever I think

however deeply I feel

I still don’t know

if illusion is any less real than enlightenment

or deep in the center of my galactic soul

there’s a blackhole

like a pupil in the eye of God

the light pours into

and disappears into an abyss

that can’t be illuminated

by a good guru with a sad guess

however many excruciating extinctions he’s endured

to secure his happiness.

I’ve always considered it a flaw in my perception

if the world didn’t look right just as it is.

A cataract of chromatic aberration

around the lense of the telescope.

A cinder in the eye of the mirror

none of my tears could wash out.

Or as the Buddha said

Cataracts in the eye.

Flowers in the sky.

And even when it’s the stars

that give birth to your vision

as they did in my case

on lonely mountaintops late at night

outside the city

Flowers in the sky.

Cataracts in the eye.

So I said to myself

maybe there’s nothing wrong with this

and bliss is

delusion in a happy relationship with insight.

But the sky didn’t suddenly wake up

and see that it was dreaming

and no veil was lifted

no gold came pouring out

of the ore of a philosopher’s stone.

My eyes didn’t shed their scales like rose petals

and this most intimate issue of life and death

didn’t clarify itself

like the life-sustaining atmosphere

of my shrinking breath

on the mirror of my perception

trying on various deathmasks.

The sun still sported sunspots

and the moon’s complexion

was still pocked by the craters of meteor impacts.

All my life it seems

I’ve been stopped by my own extremes

one breath shy of perfection

as if I’d murdered a man back in Egypt

like Moses

and wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land

or was some warrior bodhisattva

of Zen compassion

in another lifetime

who refused to enter Nirvana

until all the homeless children

went through the gateless gate before him

with passports.

Now I sit here by myself

on this Ellis Island in my afterlife

and everybody is

gone gone gone gone beyond.

I move my fingers

in front of my lantern mind

and I slay giants on the wall with magic shadows.

The pen is only mightier than the sword

when it loves people

who can’t read or write a word

of what’s been written in their own blood

on the doors

of their mud-brick hieroglyphic homes

by the vampiric ideologies

of blind bloodless literate humans

throwing acid in the eyes of far-sighted children

trying to read the writing on the wall.

I don’t know how many years I told myself that

to justify the absurd futility

of labouring at this effortless discipline

of rolling an avalanche back up the cosmic mountain

like spiritual cornerstones

that keep falling to pieces

like planets in an asteroid belt

after every nervous breakdown

wipes out life on earth.

I wanted to find a way I wasn’t wasting my life

thinking it didn’t matter

that I was born lucky enough

to know what a failure success is

and how little fulfillment there is in an abundance

that isn’t shared.

And so many weren’t.

I lay down whatever I had in my hands at the time

like gifts at the eastern doors of the dead

before their ghosts left

with the geese in September

to let them know

at least I cared enough

to say farewell

before the first snowfall

wore white at the funeral

like a widow at a wedding.

Like the mourning weeds of words

on a page as white as this

that leaves no tracks in the snow

to say where it’s going

for fear the lost might follow the lost

when there are no other signs in sight.

So I looked to the stars

in the cold nightsky for guidance

thinking I was off the path

I was meant to be on

but their light went off in all directions

and I realized

that when I took my own eyes

for north on a compass

everywhere was the way home

but in the time it took to get there

I was already somewhere else

lightyears ahead of myself

like the rest of the universe.

And I concluded providentially if nothing else

it was my demonic way of shunning the good

for their own sake

and that maybe just maybe

even deep in the negative space of black matter

there beats a dark heart

that takes pity on the innocent

by deflecting their light away from it

like fireflies at the window of a starless night

inside an unlit furnace

ruminating in its own ashes

like a phoenix in an urn

as it bends its thoughts

of what to burn next

like space

and pours them out

like the hot clear glass

of gravitational lenses

into the eye-sockets of a diamond skull

with a commanding view of the universe

that doesn’t take things out of context.

But if you stare too long

into the sun that shines at midnight

your eyes will turn into eclipses

that will black out illumination

and you’ll see nothing more

than you did before you opened them.

You’ll never come to know

that blind people want to be understood

while those who can see

are trying to understand.

A pair of eyes to be sure.

But looking at each other

through opposite ends of the telescope.

Myriad images don’t make a symbol.

Verbal expression is not thought.

Most of your emotions

don’t take any notice of you.

A straight line is the quickest way

to miss the point

if it’s got one to come to

like a Q-ball at the end of a long shot.

Space is time

but it’s light that goes the distance

when time stops.

Seeing is being

and sight is a kind of love.

The future is as full of potential

in the emptiness

of the beggar’s cup

as it is in the expanding void

of the rich man’s enterprise

to keep it together like a universe

that isn’t goal-oriented enough

to stop reaching for stars

grasping at straws in oblivion.

Understand any one of these things well

and you’ll stop demeaning

the wild horse of your life

by trying to stick a bit in its mouth

whenever it spreads its wings.

Fathom any one of these things

like a fact to its very depths

until you run out of thoughts

like knots in your spinal cord

and you’ll stop wasting your time

trying to measure

the bottomless wellsprings of space.

You’ll sit down on the ground

like one of the sacred clowns

of providence

and have a good laugh

at the universe’s expense.

You’ll grow immense with intimacy

in an alien universe

that makes you feel right at home.

You’ll stop being the dark genius

who doesn’t recognize

the brilliance of your own star

and realize

that you might be the one who’s saying it

but it’s not your voice.

You’ll stop telling yourself things

you stole from everyone else

like spit out of the mouths you drink from

as if they were holy grails

and not the moon-scum

your prophetic skull leaves on the waters

like Orpheus bobbing your way to Lesbos

on a dark night sea

holding your head out before you like a lantern

to see where you’re going 

after your dismemberment.

Things will start coming true ahead of time

and you’ll be a lot happier than you are now

if you’ll shut up like a dead language

without a muse or inspiration 

and start listening

to children playing in the distance

as if illusion didn’t lie to their eyes

or reality impair their vision.

The universal hiss of creation

like a water drop

scalded on a hot stove-top

or the afterbirth of an innocent snake

that laboured to give birth

to a cosmic mistake

not of its own making 

will turn into a cool background bliss

that is always there

because once you return

to your beginnings

beyond the Big Bang

before you had a face

fourteen and a half billion years later

all of time is dwarfed

by the immensity of a single moment.

When you take away yesterday

and give up on tomorrow

it can be no other day than this

forever and ever and ever and ever.

And you’re spontaneously happy about it.

You don’t need to repress your sorrows to express your joy.

The green bough blossoms

and the dead branch sheds the moon

And you won’t know what to say about it

because neither meaning nor choice

however sublime the view

from the windows they’re standing in

know how to play creatively with your voice

like the children down below

right under their noses

making themselves up on the go

like all forms of life in the universe

one world after another without end

as if they were imagining things.

And yet you’ll still know somehow

whether you’re lost in the labyrinth

of a stolen starmap

that’s trying to second-guess where you want to go

or you’re blazing like a lighthouse on a stormy coast

just offshore from Egypt

you’ll sense 

the supple absolute of change

that burns in the masonjar of your heart

like the firefly you’re trying to see by

when your blood walks alone with you at night

is the whole of cosmic enlightenment in a haiku of insight

that delights in the profundity of your darkness

when it breaks into stars

that look into your eyes for guidance

and see for themselves

where everyone is hiding in Orion

waiting to surprise the pharoah

with an afterlife

only the crazy wisdom of a child

could imagine getting lost in forever.



















































that stared too long into midnight sun




seeing being











































I like the flux and flow

the turn stand and turn again

the strophe antistrophe and epode of my mind

looping back on itself like the retrograde motion of Mars.

I like the way it steps on my toes when it dances.

And the sudden flashs of lightning insight

way out over a dark sea

that doesn’t depend upon life

for its creativity

or night for its dreams

that’s how praeternaturally old they are.

Dogen Zenji said learning wisdom is learning space.

I’ve lived six decades

and I still don’t know the face I had before I was born.

And I’ve spent years in a library of mirrors looking.

Nada. Zip. Absolute Kelvin.

Not a negative space but always the same nothing.


My favourite simulacrum.

But if you add me to one

it’s ten times bigger

and if you do it twice

it grows by a hundredfold

but if you take me away

nothing’s ever diminished.

Have you noticed yet

that who what when where why

all begin with the pictographic letter for water and waves?


It was a small clue to a big question I had asked

and that’s why I flow along with the mindstream

and let it make me up as it goes along

like the lyric of an autumn leaf

that delights in the supreme eloquence

of not knowing where it’s going.

And just as a straight line in calculus

is only a special form of a curve

don’t forget that ice has a way of flowing too.

I’ve seen glaciers in tears

and silver droplets running from the eyes in the mirror.

I’ve been on nightseas that heaved with emotion for the moon

like providential tides sweeping across a flood plain of shadows

that didn’t lead on to anything at all.

A little bit of matter in a lot of water.

Fleshy vegetables in the primordial soup.

A bag of water carries a waterclock in its womb

and gives birth to us.

Water learned to walk on land

long before the fishers of men set foot on the sea.

So I am exalted by the fleeting harmonies of the riverine voice

that keeps calling my name out in her sleep

without expecting anyone to answer.

But I haven’t the heart to wake her up and romance her

when we’re already as close as we’re ever going to be.

That’s why meaningless relationships have always made the most sense to me.

Because they’re as free as a river after it makes the sea

to be whatever they want to be.

They can be clouds around the mountain.

They can be a rainbow or a moondog.

They can dance under chandeliers of tears.

Or they can overturn the torch

and put the fire out like a dangerous passion

in a flammable season

trying to find a phoenix in ashes of a church.

You can waltz like a synthesis of a thesis and its antithesis in three four time

as if you were dancing with yourself like water

trying to keep pace with your flowing

or you can mistake a dry root

for a stairwell up to heaven

and transcend yourself like a bucket

that broke into blossom

like an oasis on the moon

that’s just raised you up to its lips

like the original language of life

that gave us a voice

and said learn to speak for yourself

as if you were saying it to me.

And it’s one of the sublime joys of a playful life full of sorrows that I do.

I say it like rain in the mouth of the waterlilies

gaping like dry grails

to be green again

in the eyes of an autumn lover.

I follow myself down like a watersnake through a rain gutter

and foul myself with the corpses of the cherry blossoms in the sewer

like Orpheus singing for Eurydice in Hades

looking for a way out of here

that doesn’t shun them like mirrors

that haven’t learned to recognize themselves

in their own reflections

for having no back to turn on any experience.

No dark side that wasn’t part of a perfect whole.

Even when my spirit rises empty-handed from the dead

like the last breath 

of vaporous stars on the Road of Ghosts

that runs through the constellation of Lyra

like a wishbone between the Eagle and the Swan

I am still this afterlife of water

pouring myself out like a nightbird

ruining my voice on an old song that no one can sing twice.

Look how Zeus slaps Rhea’s tit away in a cave in Crete

and the Milky Way streams through the firmament

like holy oil on the foreheads of those who look up to their mothers.

What do you see that’s ungodly?

What do you see that’s divine?

You were born from that ocean of star-brine

like a comet from the sign of its coming

to fulfill your own prophecy

like a water-snake swallows the moon like a cosmic egg

and a dragon flys out of its mouth

as if the healing fires of inspiration

were the only way

to answer the wounded silence

of the sad birdmother who gave birth to us

like wings and words 

in your own voice.

Do this

and a shorebound swan of stone

will swim out to midstream

like a third extreme of water

and without leaving a trace

shake its feathers off like moonlight

and disappear into the night

as if it were following its own calling

as life is summoned by life in this

like summer and Cygnus

into the darker realms of an innerspace

waking and sleeping

where we whisper into our own ears

as life does

as god does

as the dark abundance of the abyss does

waiting for the light to wake up

to its own bright vacancy

or a shell speaks of the ocean

like one half of a starmap

to the mystic lustre of a hidden treasure

without measure

where X marks the spot

like a secret worth keeping to yourself

like a parrot with an eyepatch on your shoulder

keeping an eye on things like a security camera.

Infinite riches in a little room!

Understand this

and you’ll experience the original bliss

of knowing that your life is

the whole of this expanding universe without limit

in the eye of the primordial atom

that knows it had it made from the very beginning

like a rumour of light in the distance.