Temple of ribs or
cage of the heart?
Breath comes, the bellows fill
jellyfish diaphanous, the diaphragm
pushes off its root stem
along the spine to pulse towards
the soup of organs, leaving a vacuum
for each breath to begin.
Inspiration happens whether we mean to or not.
All the little muscles,
the thin contractions between
each rib on exhalation
as the breath itself lets go.
Each of these hushed prayers,
the body cannot help itself,
it longs through surrender, it wants to try again.
Spirit invited rides along the coat tails
of attention, softening the rigid lines
the mind will draw, blurring the edges
so the water can dissolve
even the hardest hurt, the sharpest
tug of history, caught firm in the tissues.
From the sternum shield, a lifting –
the heart beneath calls out for room to move.
Its primordial protector, the pericardium
has shrunk and hardened with ache
and doubt has set in, with its chill suspicions.
To protect from without
or to fill from within?
Under the collarbone, where the scalenes pull
the neck forward each time I decide without asking,
there are pockets of rage.
Here is the well that the tears draw from.
II. foundational ground.
“How do you feel about fooling around,
down from your head to your toes?
There ain’t nothing realer than right here and now,
and that’s as far as it goes.” – Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson
what soil is this that your roots go into
and how deeply do you know its fertility, fecundity?
do you feel your future extending out through the tendrils
of your past? into the dirt from some suburban backyard,
or the ravine where you walked sometimes when you were just
getting your legs under you? is what happens next going to spring
from the ground under the window you looked through to dream it?
can you find the thread of your fate by trailing back, untangling the knots
and beginning anew, as if it were a hat, you were knitting?
does it work that way?
where do the choices come in? and how will you remember which important
was the most; how will you prioritize your epiphanies and choose the dream
with the most chance of which kind of success?
when at odds with yourself, what perspective heeds you?
And which you does it heed?
these are drifters questions, the body that moves around.
Dynamic, a sentience emerges, responsive.
Dnd there was no magic in the suburbs, so what emerged from that soil
was only slightly a soul.
Drawing back deeper in time, pigeon chasing and those triangles of grass
behind the bus stop on 15th and East John across from the hospital.
The building is going soon, now gone.
And once beyond, a succession of apartments in old houses,
long trips in cars and vans. Easing the roots out of a birthplace,
seeing far and wide.
and once the going starts, what stops it? that’s where the choice
comes in and for a while i chose another town, a medium sized pot
to stick my feelers into, and i did i commanded my plant to grow.
Dunk a tumbleweed in water what happens? well sooner or later
it begins to sink. or if by chance some gust of wind lifts its branches
out from the mire and wet, it rolls
flinging drops of water all across the land. lumbering until
the wood dries out, less fragile and weightier.
i got unstuck and went swinging for a bit:
other countries other states of mind lots of silence and now
arbitrary possibilities of magical potential still linger
at the edges of my vision. I am a seer, stopped in a city self-conscious
to do this thing which involves beginning again, involution.
there is a channel through us, heaven to earth if you like:
spirit to matter, logos and sophia, feeding the energy
up and down the central core. the sushumna some say,
and this cord that links us,
sky and earth,
all the home ground I need.
The cat in the afternoon sun makes a spot on the softest blanket to groom,
makes himself perfectly at home where he is.
they who remain open at your side during times of sorrow, they who do not
retreat from your defenses but stand firm and dare to tell you that they love you,
those who remind you when you have lost touch through their very presence –
those are your compadres. The fellow workers, who see when you are groping
and respect your struggle because their own backs
are shouldering the tools of unmasking: pick and plow.
firm hands, fierce hearts, kind eyed wonderlings wandering past
the new age madnesses with their own wild privacies. The lineages
intermingling in us and we greet as warriors greet – each of our own.
lightness of trust is obliviousness trust is all and is not to be
extended lightly. Except when it is innate and then it is
to be trampled all over occasionally.
much of where you extend yourself has to do with
how well you can protect yourself, and whether
any one has got your back.
Just to know that there are others – who may not use your methods
or know what you know, but who own themselves, own up
to themselves – others who recognize you and see the reason in your
actions. This keeps the actions sane, it keeps the work real, it keeps
whatever spirit is speaking through you alive and valid and worthy
of service. The mark of cain perhaps is what distinguishes us.
we are people, struggling for and finding joy in our elbows
out, faith in the firmly set heel. Those moments when you stand
your ground and speak your peace are the risks
and those moments when you meet the eyes of a kindred
and know that you are seen for what is strong within you
and for what glows, those are the rewards.
IV. pelvic floor[deep feminism experiment]
there is this that we do not talk about.
there is that which we do not discuss.
“Don’t tell me” you told me
with your words and the meaning beneath them.
i am walking around hurt, moving wounded.
in spite of this because of this I have abandoned
all the old rules that kept me pent up
and still i am finding that I am not allowed
to speak. it could be you it could be universal
it could be the taboo at work.
you did all that you could to avoid this.
I persisted with myself, I tried to mediate
the rush but I did not plug the stream entirely.
not anymore these feelings full force
move me like tides coming up
high up the beach to greet the moon.
this is the female in me. here is where
your male mind wants to shut it down.
the intellect has no use for the heart.
it gets in the way of the good time vibe
with its wanting. the women are catalysts
by their nature. They are called, and unless
they spend a great deal of effort in controlling
themselves, or giving themselves away to the dream
of happily ever after, this force that moves them
must move them. And their current
integrity speaks many tongues.
this is what i know.
strong women require courageous men.
and the men are tired of it,
they want easy or they want another.
maybe their minds are occupied with all
the high-faluting violence in the world
or the endless competitive opportunities
in this capitalistic quagmire of electronic
electives. maybe they’re feeling desperate to amend
their past positions, but ashamed to
open the door.
who knows to speak for men in general
as general has stewed so long it’s burned
on the bottom of this melting pot. i know they like
pussy, and sports, and knowing facts.
and there have been flashes of feeling
amongst them, an occasional articulate
and developed understanding of the self.
Some of them are brave enough to feel
publicly, for reasons that aren’t furthering the cause.
Some of them have been brave enough to lose face.
Some of them with women who didn’t rush to catch
that pride before it hit the pavement – some women
who didn’t retreat to that old familiar victim trench.
we can all hurt each other just as hard: the blow
physical and the terrible spite. when done sentient
these wounds we deal are their own balm, long
festering and deep: the egos call each other out
on the carpet and the slicing of that sword
is sharp and clean sometimes and if
you follow the hurt back to its source, it will
have much to teach you. but you must be willing to listen.
“because i know when you grow up surrounded by willful ignorance. You have to believe that mercy has its own country, and its round and borderless. And then you just grow wings and rise above it all,
like there where that hawk is circling, above the strip mall.”-Ani D, animal
where is the company kept?
i have longed for the meeting of minds and have over
and again been rebuffed because my feelings are
a part of my mind and I love people and of the men
I expect. Not much, but engagement.
And i have been hurt and i have been looking
for the help to heal. but it is not friends i have met with.
this wound moves with the moon and i cannot help
but notice how out here on the coast it is mostly
women, bundled in shawls and staring resolutely
at the approaching sea. This paradigm shift
is rising and i cannot help but think there could be
partnership among us, strangers alike
to welcome the revolution of mercy through
the house of shame. we have been cruel
to each other for so long. we have not helped
what will it take? the union internal first.
it’s bodhisattvic and feels like a miracle,
the balancing of principle within. we need
the soul to step up and sit in on this session
humble us with its presence, and soften our skins
so that when we rub against each other
we remember how good it can feel.
enough with the heart and mind, let the body and soul
have their day. I know the ship is sinking
and desperate people rarely go magnanimous all of
a sudden, but what would happen, if the long ancient
part of you were to step forward one pace
and begin to choose? How would you be different then
and could you do it anyways, as if
you had a soul capable of taking the helm?
raise your chin to the horizon, look long out across
your future. Feel the breath rise in your chest
and your feet on the ground and the inside of your knees
tingling, and your thighs alive and the floor of your
pelvis flexing like you’re ready for anything.
this is the body responding to the challenge
to become itself.
[poem for one, widely applicable]
having an Ani Difranco time of it
with your greg brown fatalistic cool.
i want you to burn for years wondering
which of these words points true.
you never did tell me anything, in the end
you fended me off for months there
and I like to believe I am patient
so I waited for you to come round,
or own up or come clean or any of those phrases
which might lead to the air clearing
in between us.
it is possible that I am still hooked
on something that never happened/ignorance
is everybody’s favorite defense these days
but it doesn’t suit you simply, it makes
you seem slimy and I still want to
believe better of you.
but I’ve felt the slow burn of your casual
discrepancies, the excuses that
never quite get made, and what the fuck
am I supposed to do with you if you won’t
take your mask off and tell me who you are?
It’s been a long time now since I hoped
for the best. You had a way of bringing it out in me
and I miss that maybe most, the light
of communion feeling in my eyes, when the words
come bubbling forward because finally
they were called for and could be heard.
you took my hope with you when you
drifted off, like a balloon trailing along,
and slowly it slumped at the ground and you
were busy elsewhere anyways and never noticed.
I screamed inside: “I saw the god in you!”
and you caught my look
and shrugged as though you just worked here.
One moment though – in the wee hours of your birthday,
after some host-felt seranades by greg brown and prince
dj fundi, put in the new ani d. named evolve and we sat for a listen.
And it was late and we’ve been eating baked goods
and one of you asks me how close to my edge
I am living, and I say pretty close, and it’s there
in everybody’s eyes, finally, the gods unveiled
and gazing, starkly, freely – there is that moment
of communing and in that moment I believe
that I am understood. And for that, my dear friend
I thank you.
That it was not a sustainable feeling,
is nobody’s fault, but a damn shame, anyway.
One story goes
that after you slide through
the moment unscathed,
the cusp extends into a flow,
the practice of
[You will leave people in the dust
and come round after
to find that you have been
bushwhacking a path
no one follows.
The people are all on the road.]
We people – the energies collide
like galaxies, spinning discs that catch
and mingle space dust, morphing
amorphous into form:
bags of water, strands of fibrous
[We followed each other,
in the pitch black womb of the buddha
there was only the sound of shoes
meeting earth, the feel of wood beneath
our fingers in the dark.]
What composes us makes up
much of same story with plants,
and cats, and monkeys even more so –
The jaguar-eyed understanding of
what a universal medium
[the Purr is healing,
there’s a frequency to it
that hums in the blood water
and bone juice, it keeps
the hard stuff from sticking.]
And we keep rolling through it
like galaxies pulsing, dna
that sentient link to all that comes
before and after, so that
before and now and after are not
[and at the center of the dark
path, in to the heart
of the womb of the buddha,
there is a stone
spinning slowly, lit from above
in soft orange light.
and the sanskrit carved
into the stone is not the oldest word
for womb, but one of the first
we wrote down.]
We people, just now and
the story goes on and on,
still always poised on the cusp
of transition, becoming infinitely more
It isn’t up to us to stop
the patriarchy from
It’s up to us to act
as teachers for each other
to share our contraband
gifts of song and craft
to keep each other laughing
with the stories
spilling off our tongues.
So that during the end
of the world
we will not be afraid
to grow like gardens
like dandelions and alder trees
clover and wild grasses
to become of ourselves
the first volunteers
to warm the ground
for the coming trees
to seed in.
not a wilderness aug 12 2005
Grief is not a wilderness today but a great plain,
like a sheet of antarctic tundra to wander,
wrapped up against the wind, walking where
water and ice change places.
[Emperor penguins, every March form a caravan
4 feet tall and waddle or slide on their bellies
for 70 miles from and to the sea across this jagged
shifting platform up at the bottom of the world.
The mothers leave first, as the fathers begin to huddle
together en masse, balancing the eggs on the tops
of their talons, warmed inside soft pouches, while
the southern lights roar over head, all winter.
Once the mothers reach the ocean they are graceful hunters,
quickly filling their gullets with fish, which they waddle
back 70 miles to feed to their freshly hatched chicks; while
the fathers, freed to leave and starving, make it to the sea to feed.]
Not a wilderness but salt flats, dunes at the edge of sea
and a windswept figure traversing, stalwart and small,
while an audience of driftwood silver giants greet
the streaks of perseid meteors with silent adoration.
And oh how glorious are the trees once
the fog has burned off and freed their green
feelers to stand against a brilliant backdrop of blue.
Bright landscape emerging, this too
is a part of grief – the burgeoning joy –
catch-able like wind in the sails, the boats along
the coast moving at the pace of tide and breeze;
such lovely tacking laughter takes us through.
And I am a sailor after all, I shall not stop here either.
The days that grief is a stool at the counter, a song
repeating “every little thing, gonna be alright”, a story
we told in the bath, the peculiar punch line of a joke.
The morning when the bay stays socked in and the boats
ride like ghosts in the lingering mist, so slow – each day
bears its own fruit and the moment When sometimes
doesn’t come when you’d like it to, but arrives in its own time.
Grief is not a wilderness today, but a wide-mouthed wail
I have been waiting to unleash, a hitch in my singing
streaming free, a heart large in my chest. It is gone beyond
personal into galactic. All the mourning is going out
into this global wilderness of souls, all suffering
horrendous losses and unable to comfort each other well.
We are missing what we hoped to become, what we thought
we knew, what unfunny tricks of fate we saw too late.
The wilderness may be anyplace we are alone in
and stumbling afraid. And so the wilderness is now
mostly confined in the colonizing mind. For it is this
mind which is afraid of death, unfamiliar with its customs
and this mind that denies the wilderness within
in civilized tones, as though the heart were tundra
far away up at the bottom of the world, and only penguins
traveled through there and after all what sort of love
do penguins know? Together taking turns for the span
of a year on ice, it is the sea which they call home,
and will return to, solo, leaving their chicks to grow and molt
and learn to swim the waters on their own.
XV. Mt. Bakery, returning home
[whenever 2 or more are gathered]
the church of us
long pots of tea in the sunshine
skywriting the starry crown
the lights of all these people constellated
make the earth bright too.
Our mothers call
to tell us about how they can feel the energy body
and how we are made of stardust.
XVI. beginning And ending
“It’s the way that he sings/not the words that he says
or the man
I’m in love with his song/the meaning that I understand”
-My Morning Jacket
Let’s build a small fire
and every once in a while
throw logs on it
and grow it bigger.
Ease was what he wanted
at last, after fighting so hard
against/for so many things,
he loved his people. simple.
Young oak of a man
grown mighty and challenging
I would use the timber of him
to build a craft, quietly bedraggled
with ebb tide barnacles, adrift on
the calm sound.
[The story for Adam of the dog named Tim
who sets off on a small sailboat
looking for more life
and how he gets lonely sometimes
and needs an anchor at port
some company, some nourishment, some love]