Mirrors At War

Mirrors go to war armed with glass 
and glossy bullets. Perfect aim, 
lust for fame, long pained memories.  
Effortless strategy, clear risk assessments.

Armies stare at each other
before battle begins. They recognize
themselves in the enemy lines.  They
charge certain of who’s over there.

Mirrors at war break as any glass breaks.
All those silvered knives littering the ground
of battle. All those tiny, sharp reflections; civilians
will be shredding their feet and shedding blood

for eons after. Both sides ever
unable to walk straight. It won’t be forever
till someone angers up and takes up the charge,
and then it will be mirror, mirror once again.


A Little Something

Originally posted 9/15/2012.

A little something to chew on:
I’m neither Italian nor Mescalero,
and also both.  

A little something no one wants to hear. 

A little something:
this big paleface isn’t.
A little something:
I have no card to show you to give you government-level proof.

A little something:
you can gut yourself
bending over backward

to prove your value
to people you could care less about.

A little something:
the family was divided, but that doesn’t show.
A little something:  
it came up every time
I looked at my father and knew he would say
I was one thing one day, the other on the next.
A little something my mother never spoke of.

A little something:  my grandmother
called my dad a thief
every day.

A little something:  I am a lot of poison.
A little something:  I don’t trust. 

A little something:  on the rez I’m just another eyeroll, another shrug.
A little something:  to my Italian family, I’m not quite there.
A little something:  to supposed allies, I’m easily forgotten.

A little something:  I have had White friends
openly reassure me
that it’s ok with them
and being Indian does not matter,
it’s not the same, it’s not the same as if I was…

A little something in my clenched hand.
A little something with talons in my shoulder.

A little something:  you don’t have a clue 
what’s behind the eyes of anyone, what they recall,
what they went through, what they go through.

A little something:  
sometimes I don’t mention it
for months to new acquaintances
just to listen to them talk without knowing.

A little something:  
sometimes I mention it at once
to new acquaintances 
so I can get the stupid out in the open.

Sometimes I am surprised.
Sometimes I wish I was surprised.

A little something in my eye.
A little something behind me, whispering.

A little something:  I can tell you are bored with this.
A little something:  I can tell you think it’s overblown.
A little something:  I can tell you think it’s not huge pain.
A little something:  I never said it was,
but you can’t hear that
over your own damn noise.

Don’t deny it.

I can hear you. 

You all say it,

you all say it straight or slant
and somehow
you wonder why I keep 
a certain distance, keep 
a little something 
back. 


Note Well

writing another poem
is as pointless as
taking another breath

 

 

 


On The Varieties Of Religious Experience, Part 2

The Great Mysteries
aren’t fiendishly difficult to solve,
which is why they are rarely solved;

too many search for 
keys to the complex locks
so visible on the door,

when all they need to do
is push upon them and
walk right through;

the Greater Mysteries
have their solutions
written upon

the welcome mat
at the feet of the frantic
sleuths fumbling there;

the solution to
the Greatest Mystery 
Of All

isn’t even on 
the other side
of the door

but don’t expect to hear
anything about that one
if you refuse to put down 

that key and turn away
from the door
that was put there

for the sole purpose of distracting you
and getting you to walk away
from the truth.


Chant: Emptiness

Considering the empty plate before me

Considering fullness of all our plates
Considering lack of nourishment there

Considering the Buddha-nature of a plate-maker
Considering the plate-maker creating emptiness

Considering broken plates that can hold nothing
Considering meals un-plated both good and bad

Considering a bowl of seeds
Considering it inedible yet so many meals to come there

Considering space that appears to be full of stars
Considering distances between them that hold next to nothing

Considering the pan my brain sits in
Considering the mind cannot be found there no matter how long you look

Considering an open door with a broken lock
Considering this a joyful damage as the room has emptied of its prisoners

Considering the words filling this page
Considering the silence in which they’ve been written

Considering my voice and its origin from deep caverns within me
Considering how I might never speak again and have no choice in that

Considering Death the great emptier that yet fills the world
Considering an empty place setting at a holiday table filling with presence

Considering hunger for its ample gnawing filling me
Considering a meal that empties the body of its hunger

Considering the empty plate before me


Wildest Dream

Never have had wild dreams.
Most of mine

have been quite mild.
There was the one, though, where

I carried the drowned body
of a large bird

into a room full of people
and it transformed

into a woman
who raised her head

and spoke to me, her face
like a Greek statue,

pale and bloodless
though she’d come

back to life,
her stone-gray eyes

restless upon mine.
What was wildest

about it is that now
and then to this day

I hear a voice
in the dark of the bedroom

and I know it is hers
though she never spoke

in the first dream
and I cannot make out

what she is saying;
what is wildest 
is how

I only dreamed it one time 
and still recall it

and still wait for her
to speak and explain

how she drowned,
how she transformed,

why she did not fly away
instead of drowning,

how I found her,
how in death she transformed,

how she has stayed with me
for decades now —

how wild her voice,
how wild her granite eyes.


Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

Originally posted 4/27/2013.

I turned around 
at the end of a long corridor
to seek contemporaries. 
Found a few.

Craned my neck
to find peers. 
Found a few.

Looked then for friends.  
Found very few. 
They were distant,
at the far end of the hall,
whispering.

Little of what they said reached me
but from tone of voice I understood
that they felt I’d left them and
for me there was no way back.  
No matter the clear corridor,
no matter the direct path — 
there was no way back.

Edith Piaf’s voice rings out,
non, je ne regrette rien.
“I Regret Nothing.”  

Her last words?

“Every damn fool thing
you do in this life,
you pay for.”


Fingerpicking Before Dawn

“John Barleycorn Must Die”
comes on the radio before dawn.

I play the guitar
because of that song;

when I was a boy I heard
the fingerpicking before dawn,

and I could not die
without having at least tried

to play like that before dawn,
sitting alone in growing light, 

imagining I could pull the sun
closer toward the horizon 
with every note,

then break
into a hard and glorious strum

as it cleared the distant line
looking just as glorious.

It took me years to even come close,
and by then I knew how foolish

it was to think that I could make
things happen. I’d been like

the men in the song
who thought themselves strong

but ended up vanquished by 
what they thought they controlled.

Like them, though, I’m still drunk on
the myth, and this morning

my fingers woke before the rest of me,
before I fully knew what I was hearing,

and they moved
as the light in the bedroom grew.


How The Dirt Accumulates

Sweeping floors
with a new broom
one finds debris and
is occasionally shocked
to recognize how old
some of these minute scraps
are, to recognize how long it’s been
since they first fell from their sources;
take for instance the corner
of a candy wrapper
from a few months back,
consumed in anger
while you muttered
at your body’s refusal to shrink,
after which you tossed all the candy
into the trash and haven’t bought 
any since, so this is without question
from that wrapper you tore off
and that scrap is angering you
again, or your weight is, or
your sloth and slovenly habits are,
it never ends, a new broom
can only sweep so much clean,
why bother, why bother to sweep
at all, everything leaves its dirt behind
and underfoot it makes a sad noise
as it cuts into your sad feet,
needling and whining
remember, remember
as if forgetting was an option.


Good Night, Good Night

Good night,
good night. Off
these painful feet
for a while — 
sleeping, dreaming
(maybe, it happens
so rarely). The bed
won’t hurt much 
till morning;
the best part
of this day will be 
spent unconscious, 
darkly numb
in matching darkness,
soaking all night in that
without being aware of it.
Good night,
good night; no need
to say it again.


Smokyhead

Smoky in that head of yours — 
can’t see to think, right? Can’t think
about what you see?
Right. You can smell it
through all that haze.
All that fragrance
of roasted cells and spent fuel
with the weight of 
a wildfire out of control, the kind
they give names to;
the Canyon Burn,
the Summit Fire,
the Gully Blaze.
You’re waiting for
the name of this one
to manifest while choking
on its smoke. You need to
adjust your expectations.
Might just miss it if
you stay in there.
Might suffocate
if you don’t break out,
dummy up, admit defeat
at least for now, 
smokyhead,
burnt bauble, ore without
value, trinket
on the blackened floor, 
dead man from the neck up
with nothing and no one
to Lazarus you back
to bright.


Polytheist’s Lament

Originally posted 6/8/2013.

67,000 perfectly lovely
gods out there,
67,000 facets to the diamond
of God-Being,

yet here is one facet that insists the light’s
coming out of One and only One.
Care to guess which one he claims
is the only true source of all light?

Try to be serious!
That one must be
the God Of Cosmic Jokes,
or of the Ego.

67,000 perfect little gods
out there,
and those are just the ones
we can see.  Probably

another 67,000 at least,
invisible to the poor
human eye, that we could call on
if we knew of them,

yet one god
in that crowded field of stars
demands we believe
in Just One, claims there is only

One God, a God of
Umbrella and Blanket
covering every possible
need for Deity.

Listen to this world screaming from its roots
to its crown canopies, abyssal waters
to rock peaks; listen the old way,
the way we listened

before we stopped listening to 67,000 gods
and started listening to that One
with the blanket and the umbrella
and the sword and the plow.

67,000 gods: at least that,
perhaps twice that
or even more than that.
They remind us that

before we ever heard
that insistent One,
they were talking directly to us
all the time. Remember how that sounded?

Like whales, like crickets, like wind, like water,
like fire: the 67,000 voices of the Gods
of our particular patches of Earth. A chorus of Divinity.
Every one singing along. Every last one a harmonic of Light.


Need

Need to cross
a crazy, busy highway,
twist an ankle getting 
to the other side.
Need to break a window, cut myself,
enter a forbidden place. I miss
that kind of pain — that adventure pain,
that how’d I get here pain –anything but 
this salty wounded routine 
I live now.  I know how this happened.
I know what put me achingly 
here. I know what keeps me
cowering here: the calendar, the clock,
the skull-grin ahead of me I could always see
but far off, far off…Need to invite 
that boneface valet
to come closer. Need to let it
brush me when I reach for ripe fruit
on the farthest, thinnest branch
I can get to. Need once again 
to blow that smiling mistake a kiss
as the bough breaks

and I fall.


Big Joe Turner

Originally posted 6/13/2012.

Big Joe Turner

could palm a jump blues
like an egg,
handle it rough,
never break it. 

“Shake Rattle And Roll.”
Big Joe Long Dead smiting us
with the soft club
of his voice.

Big Joe I Wish To Have Seen You Just Once,

how it must have been
back then: discovery
followed by imitation
till the fakers squeaked out loud that

they think they sound as good as you did.
T
he shell fragments
and the sticky yolk on their hands
say no.

Big Joe Founder,

they are starting
to forget you
and all your kiss curled
imitators too.

Big Joe Turner,

thank you for
the musical ache in our bones,
the unbroken eggs
still hatching.


That Bowl Of Smoke

Go at once to wherever you keep
your coffee cups and take one down.

It needn’t be your favorite cup; perhaps a gift cup
with a chip in the lip that you can’t toss

because of who gave it but won’t use
because of the hazards involved; maybe

something left by the previous renter,
long in need of a purpose, 

a cup never used because you don’t trust
a particular stain inside

but it’s hung around the shelf
“just in case.” (You’re poor. You don’t toss

things you get for free — at least,
not until now.)  

Take that cup and go somewhere
far away from the usual people.  

Pray over it, or do whatever you do
that’s a prayer for you;

pour whiskey into it, burn a bill in it,
it’s yours to do with as you wish;

when done, hurl it into the distance
and listen to it break. 

The next time you have a coffee 
first thing in the morning — gray-lit, still tired

and dim headed
as you sip the weak automatic brew —

remember that sound.  
You put it into the world,

that prayer, that bowl of smoke.
You filled it and broke it open.

You made sacred
what had been profanely 
useless.

Whenever you recall that sound
you will know what you’re capable of.


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