Tag Archives: meditations

St. Vincent

“…there is a certain amount of writing that can only come from a monastic space.”  — St.Vincent

 

Alone. A lost tree
seeking a forest — thing about
trees, though, is they

can’t move so is it lost at all
if it’s living where it’s 
been planted? Perhaps

solitary is a better word
if it is a happy tree. It stands by
itself, seeking best words.

All of its time caught in a web
of slow growth and searching.
Speaking of best words,

happy doesn’t enter into
a lone tree’s vocabulary. 
Say instead it’s self-contained

and always fixed upon 
what it grows from: it grows
from matins through lauds

to vespers, morning prayer
through to night prayer. Speaking of
St. Vincent, musician and not

saint, it is always possible that prayer
may become song. Speaking 
as man and not tree, I refuse

to see difference between those
words. Speaking as a solitary,
i am not ashamed to grow bark,

resolve to be rooted,
settled without patronage.
St. Vincent non-musician was

patron saint of poor people and vintners.
Never an extra word for poets. I am
poor and I am drunk on my assets:

I speak of course of words, prayers, 
songs, monastery walls,
vows, oak, bark, and bite.

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The Depths

Take the Grand Canyon, for instance.
It swallows your head. It breaks
your dimensions apart. If
you’re on the edge of it and
you toss a stone here
it may travel over a mile 
before it stops. Where else can you 
say such a thing —

except perhaps when 
anchored above the Mariana Trench?
A stone dropped over a ship’s rail there
can travel seven miles straight down
with no effort on your part
other than whatever it took
to get there in the first place.

Get to the right place 

and if you just let go,
you can watch it fall away
as far as it’s possible
for a burden to go.

Skip climbing.  Everest
is only five miles high and
it’s not strictly, purely vertical.
You feel stuck? You feel low?
Here’s the totality of what I know:

the depths can offer 
all you need. If you’re
already there, let go.


A Closed Eye

A closed eye, shut tight
by choice, fallen
comatose or dead,
having willed itself blind
or having shifted suddenly,
involuntarily, into
darkness.

A hand gone limp,
crossed over another like it,
resting on a chest
which may or may not 
be moving up, down,
slightly.

A body, small enough
to be overlooked if one
were to walk by in a hurry,
lying covered in dry leaves
by a main street but in a stretch
where there are few homes
and few who walk by.

How I know
this is my hometown:

I reach gingerly down
to the body and touch it,
almost tenderly, and when it
stirs and raises its head,
I look closely into the face
and say,

“Hey. Joe. Getting 
cold out here. Go home.
You need a ride or something?
I can go get the car.”

How, when this improbably
happens for the second time in 
my life, I know I have come
very far from home:

I reach into my pocket
and pull a phone from it
and call the emergency number
and stand to one side
and wait there for someone to come
and raise the body up and 
see how the person is,

and never get close enough
to see for myself, 
to touch, to feel.


Flaws And Mistakes

My flaws
are built in.
They refract —
might distort
what’s inside
but also might
throw rainbows
at your eyes.

My mistakes,
add-ons all,

cover the facets.
They obscure, they
block. They will
make you think
of shadows and
you will start thinking
of what may lurk
in here.  

I’ve had 
the flaws
from inception.
You will
have to get 
used to them.
The mistakes 
I took on, 
were all my own.

Some of them
might wipe off. 
Others left hard stains.
I’m sorry for those.

I promise you
in the right light
I’m still brilliant,
though I admit it’s often
too hard to look
for that, even for me,

so if you turn away
I will be
at peace with you
and your choice,

though I will never
get there myself.


The Leonard Cohen Poem

When I lose myself
in sleep while writing
I will sometimes
find upon waking one odd line
in an otherwise perfectly
coherent paragraph or stanza.

I call those the cracks
where the light leaks in,
a concept I admit I borrowed
from that Canadian poet
I never liked, the one
I feel guilty for not liking, the one
everyone loved right up
until he died and then
they loved him even more. Anyway,

upon waking I’ll sometimes find
a single line, a crack full of light
in the middle of work I’d finished
in a fever, trying to get my point across
before darkness fell, and I’ll look at it
and scratch my head and chin
and try to decide if the light’s
from a window or a fire, and if

it’s from a window I then decide
if I should close it and keep that light
out of this poem, then decide if I should see
if the line belongs to another poem
and go to the room where that one lives
and make the line comfortable there instead;

and if it is from a fire I then decide
if I must extinguish it, bask
in its warmth and try to contain it
within this poem, or use it to burn
the whole poem down so I can sift its ashes
for something on which to build anew
that starts with that line as a cornerstone.

Whatever I do, before deciding
I stare at the crack and the light inside
and the older I get the more I feel
like a baffled king composing, one who knows
not everyone will love what I do
or how I rule, but the light’s still there
and the line’s been let in, and
regardless of what I do with that line
it’s holding me hostage until I choose.

Someday I too will die, and some
will remember me fondly and some 
will shrug me off and say
I never made much sense to them
in the first place, the way I feel

about that croaking Canadian
who I must admit had some 
damn good lines that made me
sit up now and then and put
my distaste on hold and say
Hallelujah, that light’s
indeed glorious.


All Comfort Is Promised

All comfort is always promised
to the boy with the broken mouth
who himself was fractured in the street
by shadowy thugs in service to the rule
of order imposed in place of righteousness.

All comfort is always promised
to the girl coerced, the woman coerced, to those
cajoled and coaxed, captured and crushed
by some masked in privilege and others
who simply took what they wanted and left behind 
whatever they did not.

All comfort is always promised
to those displaced now housed
far from home, to those
who’ve made the best of it and those
who’ve made nothing from it,
all of whom nevertheless dream
the same homegoing dream every night.

All comfort is promised
in every book of every scripture
to every one of these oppressed and violated,
every one of those seeking refuge
from acts driven in some cases
by the double dealing tongues of those
who hold those same scriptures up
to ward off the guilt of having led us all here —

when willl it begin?  When will the night be 
safe, the coerced free to walk away,
the unhomed free to rehome themselves?
When will the last violation be redressed? 
When will promises be kept at last? 
When will 
all this promised comfort 
descend like a blanket
upon all who need it,

and when will we
have learned enough ourseves
not to question
anyone who in fact
truly needs it when they ask?


Remembered

Remember that
crucifixion only became theology 
with time.  Once it was
just somebody’s job and 
somebody else’s brutal
entertainment; some
avoided such spectacle as that
due to delicacy and others ran
like hell to avoid being the targets
of the ones with the hammers and 
the nails.  Remember that
it only became holy
with time; some say it took
as little as three days,
others say it’s still not all the way
there. Remember
that it was cleaned up and
that you’ll really never know
what it was really like; remember that
the next time you’re looking up at
the bare cross on the wall of your church.
Remember that there are some places in the world
where on Good Friday
some try to replicate it,
dragging crosses 
through the dirt streets,
hanging themselves bloody
to bring it home again; remember
how you knew of them, the penitentes,
once upon a time and had forgotten them
till now? Remember how it sobered you
up to learn of them? To learn of people
who preferred to recall it was once
routine and mundane and bloody
and vile, and maybe it should have stayed
that way; if it one day makes you uneasy
in church, if it pulls you down to your knees
in sick wonder, maybe that’s what you get
for forgetting that it did not start
in purity and that they only capitalized it
once they made it into capital.


Dead Photos In A Red Wallet

I obsess these days 
about how often now I forget
important names,
places: do not recall
any taste of her
skin during sex, or
how long we held it
together, or what we called
our firstborn. My wallet’s
a red, dumb tongueful of
photos I don’t recognize.
My house is a delightful,
frustrating maze becoming
new to me daily after 
thirty years here. I’ve got to
get out, I guess; I must,
I presume.

I don’t think
this is dementia. To be honest
I believe it’s a case of
having worn certain ruts
in my head so deeply that
I’m down to bone and there’s
nothing soft to get hold of.

I think
if I could get outside of this
I’d learn again. I’d forget
all these scattered bits. Start
new paths, be different, then 
meet my old love again. She
might not know me anymore
either. 

We could go over
these photos together. Trace
faces with our worn-down fingers,
one at a time, until one of us
shouted out a name. Maybe it 
would be right, maybe not, but we’d
be happy to have anything
feel correct enough for us to grasp,
a straw against our shared twilight.


The Rest Of The Way

Remind me of how
a Toblerone tastes —
it’s been so long since I
was able to have one.

Remind me what silk feels
like when drawn across the hand,
how feeling that elevates the mind
in blessed ways.

Remind me of my memory,
of senses long denied
expression and stimulation.
Is our best world still out there?

Somehow I’ve felt locked away
from it all. I feel nothing much
other than that. Those pleasures
I once held have slipped from me

and I’d love to gather them to me
again so: remind me. Remind me
of luxury and indulgence. Get me halfway
back to myself. 
Let’s see

if memory, once roused,
can open its arms enough
to carry me 
the rest of the way.


Relentless

On a mission to take down
the pain in my leg
took a pill and a drink and one more pill
and sat my ass down
to take off the weight

On a mission to maybe
relax for a moment 
took a drag and a sip and a drag and a sip
and dozed right off
for a whole ten minutes

Tried to wake up for good
with remote in hand
flipped around checked for movies thought about finding
a music channel
but that didn’t last

When I woke up again
a little bit later 
stretched my neck and my shoulder and damned if the leg
wasn’t still a little tender
after all I’d done

On a mission of comfort
for pain and fatigue
Pain of body and soul and fatigue from fighting them both
it’s a daily routine
and it’s Friday again

so it’s been a whole week
of pills and sipping
smoking and sitting and running the word “relentless”
over my tongue and teeth
till it’s all I can taste


Tough

Your second hand rugs,
worn thin where someone paced
before you got them.

You windows that get washed
once a year. Your car in need,
always, of something out of reach.

Clothes that never
measure up to how
they were pictured before purchase

because they were pictured
as solutions or answered prayers,
when they were in fact just clothes.

The few things of substance
you cling to: an heirloom cup or two,
one sturdy chair, good pots and pans

collected piecemeal
at Goodwill, at the Sally store,
at the perpetual yard sale

two blocks over, every Sunday
morning; the same place you bought
your warmest overcoat.

You do your best though
every bill feels like
a wound and lately

blood has been seeping through
what you’ve dressed them with.
You stay home, away from friends,

from your past life,
as much from fear
of being seen this way

as because you can’t afford
to step too far off the path
you need to walk just

to stay here, to keep
the little bit of an address
you’ve got. Instead you tell yourself

those rugs aren’t going 
to wear themselves transparent.
You’ve got all night and all day,

all of tomorrow and next week. You’re tough.
Plenty to keep you busy. Plenty
left to be ground down.


No Religion, No Scripture, No Prophet

1.
How is it that so many of us
can stare into the same abyss
and see different things?  

There’s nothing there
when I look into it. One sees
the authority of star charts

while someone else sees
a bloodstained cross of gold
and another, a rune hanging

in the sky above a gigantic tree.
It seems the abyss is a master
of sleight of hand. Magic

runs deep in there, as deep
as the pit itself perhaps. That’s 
why we have mystics, I suppose:

there are always people
who will try to explain
how the trick was done.  

2.
If I am to be honest
I don’t really see nothing
when I stand before it.

There’s something there,
certainly.  I just can’t tell
what it is and I’m too old

to waste any more time
on being certain before
leaping in.  If it’s a raven,

I’ll find out when I strike it
as I fall.  If it’s a coyote
let it take me in its jaws.

If it’s something I can’t name
I’ll fall into it or fly by it
and that will be that.

3.
When I peer into the abyss
the one thing I can say for sure
is that it’s not me in there.

Whatever is there
is not staring back
at all. Not so far.

It seems unconcerned
that I’m even here.
It seems to go about being

the abyss regardless
of anyone’s gaze. No use
wringing your hands about this,

it seems to be saying.
It’s not yours. Maybe 
you’ll understand someday,

but don’t give up your sense
one day sooner than you need to
thinking it will help:

no one 
has ever
gotten it right.


Food’s Just Fuel

Food’s just fuel. For me, at least. 
Little pleasure there
beyond that of having
no more hole in the gut.

Taste’s something, sure,
in the moment but 
I don’t savor memory
of what’s good over

what’s good enough.
I know how freakish
that might seem to the 
artisanal masses. I know

you may think I’m exaggerating 
or that I am somehow compromised
or stunted because of this,
and perhaps that’s right, but

you’ve never felt how large
the hole yawns in me or how
it sucks the flavor away
from anything I might use to fill it.


Cold Stars

In cold weather
there is less twinkle in the stars
and if cloudless
the night will be colder
and offer even more stars
to burn almost as steadily
as the planets, and if
you stand outside
and look up, you 
will be more aware than usual
of each breath.

Each light will feel
sharp, and each will clean you 
from the nose all the way 
down into the lungs. If starlight
was oxygen you might be able
to feel how much was contained
in a given breath,
feel it long enough
to recognize what was being 
scoured out of you
as you inhaled and exhaled.

In their places in space,
in their true fiery forms
far above the posturing
and wonder of humans,
the stars burn far above
our symbolism

and meaning,

but until then, you and I
and everyone else
will stand out here
with our heads back
watching them burn,
feeling it as pure cold
with every breath 

while hoping
that this one time
something we can feel
being pulled out from us

will be replaced
by something better.


To Sit At Home Alone

To sit at home alone
and wish you were at home but
in a different home that looks
much the same as this one
but which feels instead like the starry center
of the spiritual life
of a distant world

is to open your mouth and speak
a dead language few people ever understood
and which has long been considered extinct
though it captured dreams and nuances 
not recalled since, things known then only to adepts 
and native speakers and 
now considered to be myths.

To sit at home alone and imagine
that you are not alone at all
and that the home instead is cozy
with others and the laughter and warmth
of bodies and souls are a fire
of fusion like a small sun
over a fertile land

is to fall upon a bed of salted snow
under a dim moon and pray 
for it to turn to sand and a full bright night
on an island no one comes upon
without a blessing from some deity
known to all, unnamed by anyone.

To sit at home alone
and create a song of that same home
growing full to the walls, the ceiling,
the roof and above with a sacred hum
of joy and satisfaction and all the angels
of a commonality not yet in evidence

is to wait for someone, anyone
to come to your home and make it
a home of dreams 
you’ve been dreaming, dreams
no one knows of except you,
dreams no one can translate except you,
dreams no one can enter except you.