Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Ambition and aspiration.

Ambition is running around looking for votes.

Aspiration is a glottal fricative.

A breathing out.


Aspiration gets more things done

because it’s got a verb.

You can ambire in Latin

but you can’t ambish in English.

Ambition is an accountant

who cooks the books

for money power wealth fame

and tracks the harvest from grain to bread

as if its head were an oven

trying to keep one step ahead

of the rise in inflation.

To ask someone what they aspire to

as if it were the same as winning an election

is like asking the wind what it wants to be

or where it’s going.

The wind is its own destiny.

As are we.

And just like the wind

we’re always looking for the easy way around.

But when you aspire

you grow like fire.

You’ve got one aim.

To set everything aflame

and let everything out

as if you were an emergency exit in hell.

The cure is in the heart of the disease.

Forgiveness is the consummate genius

that masters the art of hate.

Wind and fire creatively conspire

to keep the candles burning

on Van Gogh’s scarecrow straw hat

until he finishes painting La nuit etoilee

or three cowpaths in a cornfield with crows.

A crossroads

but no gate.

He aspired

but he wasn’t ambitious.

He didn’t assign a destination to his fate.

It’s like the stars

that burn themselves out

without knowing what it is they illuminate.

Ambition wants to put a bit in the mouth of the mindstream

and ride it like a waterclock

at a brisk trot.

Aspiration lets things flow their own way.

Ambition hasn’t got any time for music

unless it pays

but aspiration knows how to play like a lark

for the sheer love of it.

Ambition gnaws like a star-nosed mole

at the roots of the covert truth

underneath the beauty of the word

because it’s flower-blind in the light.

Aspiration doesn’t know what to say

when the stars take its breath away

and a cosmic silence

enthralls the night

with a small inner voice

that’s only got one word ah for radiance

and the rest of its vocabulary

amounts to forty thousand ways

of being left speechless in the light.

As an enlightened man once said.

Intense heat.

Unusual sprouts.

I was germinated in fire

in the West Coast creative seed-bed of the sixties

like the broom pods everybody tried to smoke

to get high

just before grass showed up from Mexico

and the angels and the demons

both turned to dealing in spiritual elation.

As an ignorant man once said.

Let it all hang out

and what don’t hang


Buttons replaced zippers

and I dropped out of astronomy

to get deeper into the stars

than the eye of a telescope

that had lost its passion

for what it was looking at.

The only way to embrace the night

is with wonder.

The only way to add your shining to the light

is with a creative insight into the mystery

without expecting it to explain itself.

I followed my heart.

I didn’t abandon my mind.

I aspired to paint and write poetry

and left my astronomical ambitions behind.

I aspired to an earthly excellence

that would expand the spiritual dimensions of space

like inspiration going supernova.

Success if it came at all

could follow me like a seagull in my wake.

Or the crumb of an old dream in the corner of my eye.

Everything was poetry.

Everything was metaphor.

Everything was images converging

like the wavelengths of endless lifelines

into the radiance of sidereal symbols.

Sunsets moonrises and roadsides

taught me how to paint the picture-music

that haunted me day and night

like the ghost of a lost moodring

it used like a palette

on the other side of the mirror

to contact me in colours

that expressed its mixed emotions.

I practised a revolutionary discipline

as a way of life

a do

an enlightenment path

and I stopped listening to the light

like a radio telescope listens to the stars

and started hearing what a sunflower hears

when it turns its ear toward the sun.

Sight is not seeing

just as life is not living

knowledge isn’t knowing

and art isn’t beauty.

I stopped treating my thoughts

and feelings

as if they were my personal possessions.

You can take notes in a dream

but that’s not the same thing

as understanding the music

like daylilies and wild irises

growing along the mindstream

like the treble clefs and semiquavers

of a visionary symphony of stars

with the wind as first violin

fireflies on timpani

and the moon booming out tides

like a gigantic pulse of light

on the hide of a kettledrum.

It’s harder to make something

out of your own inner resources

than it is to break it.

It’s easier to do what you’re told

than it is to do it for yourself.

People too lazy to work get jobs.

Their conscience adjusts to a paycheck

like a standard of living

they’ll kill to sustain

like a tapeworm

in the bellies of the poor

for more and more and more and more.

Indifference is fossilized innocence

and their innocence was only following orders.

Millions die.

Children lose their eyes.

And the poor live like asterisks

and wry asides among movie stars.

But the double helix of my chromosome

is a stairwell with bannisters you can slide down

two snakes copulating

not an anaconda crushing my lungs like accordians.

Nietzsche wrote

that you’re not really working

until you’re working with the same intensity and focus

as a child when it plays.

I’ve written and painted that way for years.

Ambition arrives.

But aspiration leads on to aspiration

and creative fulfillment is never complete.

I have an appetite for that kind of hunger.

I have a longing to be consumed by life

without being mistaken for food.

If my life has been a demonic love affair

with the earth

it’s only because angels don’t eat.

But the dark abundance of a full silo

is as good

as the bright vacancy of an empty cupboard to me.

New moon.

Blue moon.

What’s the difference?

The reality remains the same

though interpretations change with circumstance.

The void looks upon the plenum

the way a poor man looks upon the rich.

If I weren’t hungry you wouldn’t eat.

If I weren’t a sinner you couldn’t be a saint.

If there weren’t confused losers like me

how could you be the clear winner?

See what I mean?


I set the table like a canvas for mine

and sing as I paint on the table-cloth

knowing it’s worth the same cup of coffee now

as it will be later

though the world thinks of value

as a function of time

and makes much of nothing

that can’t be assessed.

Everything’s as up to date as space.

Like a mirror is

or the features of your face.

You sit down like a market share

with a stock portfolio for a napkin

and wait for the waiter to attend to you.

A hungry man breaks bread with friends.

You break yours like dividends

and leave the crumbs for the poor

espousing trickle-down economics

as if you stepped out of a public john

where you shook your peg

but the last little drop

when has it ever not

went down your leg.

Aspiration moves on like a homeless threshold.

Ambition hangs on like a door.

Aspiration is objective about its subjectivity.

Ambition thinks of its ego as a logo

and stamps it like a trademark on everything.

That’s how the identity of objects

is verified.

Bona fide.

But I’m not trying to shove

a polluted atmosphere up anybody’s nose.

You don’t have to huff the air

to be a rose of blood that blooms

with swords for thorns

in a dying bull’s nostrils

as the sunlight wounds the moon

because you always kill the thing you love

the way a matador murders

then makes a bow

and throws a rose and an ear

like Van Gogh in the brothel to a lady.

There will always be suffering.

Bad news for the Buddha.

Worse for the bull.

I’m just trying to clear things up

by letting the light fall where it may

Aspiration is into wildflowers.

Ambition likes a bouquet.

But I don’t think a ray of light

that falls on the pate of St. Peters

or the Dome on the Rock

or the Temple funds that were ripped off

to build the Colesseum

is any more divine

than the ray that illuminates a fly’s wings

with olaceous rainbows.

Sometimes you just need

to try and get a fix on yourself

like an atom of anti-matter

to remind yourself it can’t be done.

I take Picasso at his word

that art is a sum of creative destructions

but nature does that better than anyone

and there’s no artifice in it.

Nature isn’t a cubist mirror.

In nature as in the mind

nothing that appears is deceptive.

Nature doesn’t lie to itself.

Just as it hasn’t lied to me once

in all the lightyears I’ve been writing poetry

about what’s human

and what can’t be otherwise.

You can see it in your own eyes.

And that’s what my life’s work amounts to.



And be happy and sad as you like.

Be a fool.

Be deluded.

Be a black lightning bolt with bad wiring.

Be a fat buddha denuded of existence.

Be a good nun that holds God up to your head

like a handgun

with her finger on the trigger

of your spiritual G-spot.

Be the anti-climax of an aging poet

who found his voice

in the mouth of a consumer society.

Nothing that appears in nature or the mind is deceptive.

Consummate clarity

doesn’t stand on the far side

of what’s divine and mundane

what’s petty and profound

about this human love affair

with the multiuniverse

that’s been going on a lot longer

than the stars have been keeping journals.

Enlightenment isn’t grain.

Ignorance isn’t chaff.

Ambition might be a baker.

But aspiration isn’t a wind

that sorts things out.

I’ve seen it drive

as many loveletters

down the gutter-grate

as it has cherry blossoms

and lottery tickets.

Wisdom takes the low place

like the sea below the salt

and everything runs down into it

like a river in its own way

in its own good time.

The clarity of an enlightened insight

into its mysterious affinity with us

is a space that doesn’t try

to put corrective lenses on the light.

And the creative genius of it all

is that all its works

without exception

are an ageless rite of passage.

Nothing that appears

in nature or the mind

is deceptive.

Not the blind.

Not the window.

Not the ego.

Not the enlightened tiger in the zendo.

In everything you do

and everywhere you go

nothing’s true.

Nothing’s deceptive.

Just be honest with your own face once

and it’s easy to realize

the full potential

of the presence behind it.

Just to show up with eyes is enough.

Like the geni that lights the lamps.

Three wishes.

Ambition and aspiration are two.

Even when you get everything you want

nothing’s come true

nothing proves false

because nothing was ever missing.

As it is now

so it will be then.

It’s all you

from the unborn beginning

to the undying end.

And time may well be

the death lyric

the rhapsodic aubade

of an enlightened inspiration

with eternal overviews

that makes each of us in turn its muse

and being a poet

I’d be tempted to ask for that.

But the last wish has got to count

or you’ll be eating

your face with your eggs in the morning.

So all aspirations and ambitions aside.

I choose space.

It isn’t selective.

It embraces everyone alike.

And of all the things I’ve come to know

in a long creative life

before and after everything else

this jewel of an insight

like a star from the ore of the night

within and without

if you feel the need to put a gate on it.

You don’t need to defend it

because it’s at peace with everyone.

It doesn’t need to be healed

because you can’t wound it.

You can’t lose it.

And you can’t win it.

And whatever path you walk in life

your always in its presence.

It can’t be disowned.

It can’t be possessed.

It doesn’t try to perfect

or reject anyone

because it isn’t selective.

Space is love.

And everything I know

and am ignorant of

everywhere I go

above or below

all that I’ve ever experienced

because space is as effortless as love

and just as spontaneously unselective

is intimately impersonal

and generously receptive.