an essay perhaps
says Fern about her house (from better days):
It was just a company tract house. Actually, it was special.
We were right on the edge of town and our backyard looks
out onto this huge open space. It was just desert, desert,
desert, all the way to the mountains.
There was nothing in our way.
Fern (by Frances McDormand) from the movie, Nomadland
Ways to navigate. There’s Sun then Moon then Sun again. Stars too, from ears to toes. Wind whispers near. Breath circumnavigates in response. There’s how waves move above a slow nesting sea. Fish too, swimming deeper than restless sight. My hand in the water. Does skin taste the salt? Ripples, the ones you keep and those you let pass by. How Moon becomes the limber sea. Oh yes, and the smell of dry land.
And the scent of you.
Wayfinding. I like that word. Isn’t that what we’re doing here?
There’s the warm pulse living inside my chest. Amber hills that seasons reflect. And there, there, another like me and I see the curve, the way a hand would appreciate shape, and what also beats inside, how we measure near and far.
More than a compass reveals.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
What I got wrong.
Mother said Presbyterian, but from the shallow end of the pool, and then, “my choice”. I looked. I didn’t believe, except that they looked colorless to me. No home. Later, my first, my only, high school girlfriend, she was Japanese. A small offering shrine in their home, toast for the ancestors. So I studied Buddhism, not that she cared in the least. But the dye was cast and no removing it. How’s that for brief history?
Not that history says why, rather what and how, maybe who, and as such always seemed fair and right questions to me. Mostly, no real teachers so imagine a patchwork mess. Oh yea, and I should include being painfully shy. Not a very good lubricant.
A child of the Sixties and going into Space, so reasonable science became more church than church. Over many years the pot on the stove grew in volume. Bubbling, blending, they came to an understanding I was willing to embrace. Reasonable?
Like mom said, it was always my choice. However, no choice about having choice. No matter the source, the story inside always is within what understandings I’m willing to swallow. My choice. That is simple mechanics, how it works.
To summarize what hasn’t yet been said, I thought I carried some useful notions about this jigsaw in my lap. It all made a certain reasonable sense but the math always summed up to zero,
neutral was the word I used.
The universe didn’t care.
Much later a genuine teacher crossed my wandering. He was honest, I was not. He observed experience, I did not. He understood math better than me. From youth he had angels at the foot of his bed. And no compromise, no negation of his experience. His universe was not neutral, not at all. Neither was he.
Here’s the math.
in my view 1 plus -1 = 0
in his vision 1 plus -1 = 1
Noticeable difference it seems to me. Seen through another lens,
Love is the state, the act, of unconditional acceptance.
That’s a pretty big mouthful just of itself. More rightly said,
the true nature of existence is “love with affection”.
Connected. Not passive. Engaged.
A lie does not negate what is true. That math is wrong.
I was wrong.
As a human, he liked his experience of life. As human, I did not. No mystery why my notions had a certain blindness the way they leaned.
Same same as choice. You are the only one point of view to look and choose. Tell me what your own life says to you. Fear or joy? Which feels real to you? A stranger walking by, do their eyes meet yours? Aversion or greeting, which feels like home?
Does the world include awareness, affection? If you do, then the answer is yes. You are both evidence and proof. Ask the question. Take the answer you get. Look. Choose.
harbored in between.
far water. and,
no bigger than my thumb
ferryboats, moving east to me
and westerly where,
I don’t know.
Is there listening when I speak? when I think? when I feel?
Aphorisms The truth doesn’t mean anything. It just is.
Happiness is a function of accepting what is. Love is a function
of communication. Health is a function of participation. Self-
expression is a function of responsibility.
Werner Erhard, Aphorisms
Astronomers pose the question, Are we alone?
I’ve come to recognize I take that personally – Am I alone?
No, not meaning interstellar companions, rather what is already right here with us. You and me, obvious, although a challenge of itself. But how about – a bird, a breeze, a bench? The molecules in your hand? What is the mutual experience being us all?
Is there companionship and purpose here?
Does that make us free to appreciate? Or the other way round, is appreciation what makes us free?
about the elephant in the room
So alright, more said for me than you. Howsoever, it wants saying because after all – it is an Elephant. My blood is not behaving as it should. Real enough. I continue only through the grace of an equally intense medicine. This situation is also – so what? But my cognitive ability does suffer some. That makes a difference here. Words come less easily. Associations, questionable in scope. Less than ideal if writing is my chosen craft. The difference is both visible and invisible. How do I see what I’m not seeing, not remembering!
So my question of late is how do I write anyway? I don’t have an answer. It’s like having suddenly shorter arms. The three observable differences are writing less often, ideas more easily lost, fewer words in smaller aggregations – and yea, tiredness that’s become a distracting background
This is what is given me. I do not have the heart to be unappreciative.
You gotta pay for the ferryboat. Or learn to swim.
My prayer for you. May there be nothing in your way.
may you smile.
Lightness is always good when plowing language.
What and how to say and be?
Maybe here is the best I can do.
Maybe my expectations don’t fit simple truth. Do my intentions really matter as a step ahead? Do I even, honestly, get to prescribe how my intentions reach to ground? Or should I simply look at them as shadow stitched onto my feet? Abundant self-criticisms. Moment inside moment. No quaking earth, but one foot in front of the other. What about all of those thousand thousand steps? Arrogant to criticize myself for placing the fork to the left or right of the plate? What other sins?
Does the cat crossing the street lament self-doubts? The birds embracing the limbs they rest upon? The window, the door? What storms intrude that make any difference to the feast? Cross the street. That’s enough.
Breathe. Observe. Participate. Appreciate.
When I was rather young it was joy that frightened me more than pain.
However. Cobblestones. I’ve been in the river a long time now.
dear Charles. Remembering, a present tense verb. Two footprints in the sand. Do you hear the village cleansing bells? Men lift and persuade the loadsome bell platform down the narrow village street. Homes, the sliding doors open wide. Families, they move the doors. Rooms open with sky. Purity of regard. The way that breathing moves the chest, moves the sky.
Once you asked, what could you do to make me feel safe with you? Anything. Anything, you said. (Who says and means something like that!) My silence was impermeable. Meaning, no, nothing to give. I was afraid. Now, in a new tropic dream, you enter the circle, you ask again, come with me, and now this time, I do. Did you see?
Blessings chimed. Expunge broken things. Lift. Move the bell. Repeat.
Ten-ish I gather my daily regimen of pills. Then drizzle them onto tongue. Some water. Then swallow. Do I hate taking pills? I used to say, well, think, I hated these exotic shells of chemistry that keep my blood intact. These days I favor not using that word, not what I really mean – too violent. Language makes difference. Besides, emotionally the moment that most confronts my attention are the simple actions moving pills from their bottles into my attendant cup. That’s when resistance happens loud for me.
I am probably mistaken much of the time. However this gathering of me is all I have to offer – except for having you. And yes, no matter distance, your living colors into mine. A matter of choice.
At my best, and that is only a fraction of me, I want to know who you are and I want you to see who I am. To know and be known.
Beloved. More than a word.
the simple breath that kept him alive.
Naomi Shihab Nye
A recent post I read brought to question relevance. So what if I have cancer? How mundane. Some people have cats, some have dogs, some, nothing to eat. Although honestly, so often now I color my thoughts with a myriad of not-yets possible. Far from any semblance of enlightenment. No, not a thought about why me, nor even how do I escape the fate of life.
But where is the grace in my heart?
Times in the morning early
when it rained and the long grey
buildings came forward from darkness
offering their windows for light
William Stafford, from Some Things the World Gave
generosity is an expression of gratitude.
said another way. generosity is the root verb of gratitude.
said another way. it is gratitude in motion.
May my life be received like fresh baked bread.
Poems. A late life arrival but here for the duration. I said I would – write – but sometimes it’s shaky ground. More than desire it takes the guise, do I have anything worth saying? No escape. Bonded companions perhaps – write and doubt. Mutual regard? But what if.
What if language grows opaque and rigid for me? Memory is a real question that way. Experience seems trustable, but words? For that I need a good hammer and nails. What to write if words get thin?
I don’t have an answer.
I have a possible obsession with the question – are poems real? Are they merely ink on paper? Do they harvest some difference in more than just a busy life with a bag of marbles to collect? I suspect they do. I hope they do. I think a poem can carry a breath. And one breath can begin Anything. And Everything. Participation is what makes a difference.
This is an unexpected universe.
Write a poem that heals. Isn’t that real? Possible? Once upon a time I gave this response, Read this poem aloud. Me, I don’t think it met the challenge, not in a conventional poem manner. Yet the title itself, that invitation to “read aloud”, that carries engagement in a real human sense. Voice.
That realization is within easy reach.
excerpt from Story Time
Bring me a new one, maybe with a dog
that trots along side, and a desert with a hidden
river no one else finds, but you go there
and pray and a great voice comes.
And everything listens.
This journal posting goes maybe one step more near. First and last lines. Keep them but toss the rest as you wish. Touch. Touch and motion is how I measure truth. Connection is only realized in twos. Given by one, received by another. Relationship, by another name. Smile.
Does a life have purpose being here? Is purpose attractive (not pretty, but attracting)? A pebble like a tree like an afternoon wind like the sound of a voice, these too apply their purpose being here.
Genuine acceptance is thus defined.
Is my life not poem enough?
may your face smile when you think of me.
God made mud. God got lonesome.
So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up!”
“See all I’ve made,” said God, “the hills, the sea,
the sky, the stars.”
And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and
look around. Lucky me, lucky mud.
I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had
done. Nice going, God.
Nobody but you could have done it, God!
I certainly couldn’t have. I feel very unimportant
compared to You. The only way I can feel the least
bit important is to think of all the mud that didn’t
even get to sit up and look around.
I got so much, and most mud got so little.
Thank you for the honor!
Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
What memories for mud to have!
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud
I met! I loved everything I saw!
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle
Attraction begins at the feet.
Do we dare? I’m unsure how to say this – polite. Could I be more clever than I am? More or less by my own words? So forgive, as you see fit. Not only the sky is overcast right now. Me included. Forcasted, fog.
Pardon the lengthy quote. But seems it translates better stated whole, top to bottom-ish. Sometimes I read and think I have a real-life glimpse.
Sometimes I forget. Sometimes a lot. And god or not-god, this stance is about our response to living. So Christian or Buddhist or whatsoever don’t matter here. Allow yourself to receive and see how this fits on you.
We will, we do, make some immediate measure of judgement. But so much as you can, save that for five minutes after reading is done. Do these garments linger on your skin? Can we really – really – know till we welcome the visit whole heartedly? No drama. Listening is a gift we give ourselves.
Isn’t it odd? I feel my most genuine self when engaged with other people. Yet what source am I?
What’s the right time for what feelings we allow to roost within? Not uncommonly I’ve used the word “hate” to colorize, emphasize many of the situations and events in my life. Make me look bigger. Bigger than what’s perceived as threat, even discomfort as well. Two lessons learned. Who feels that texture, that taste on the lips, that sense of less-than-wellbeing? Yea, obvious. And more of personal lost grace, is that extreme attitude really what I mean? Do I hate the can of cat food I spill on the floor, the slow motion customer in the checkout line in front of me, the person who cut in line ahead of me? Do I hate the overcast grey sky above? Do I really hate the weather? It’s an emotional dishonesty. And habit takes no measure of appropriateness or desirability. Buyer beware!
Be honest about what you say.
And the mirror stance here? Gratitude. In its active form, generosity.
Decades past I worked on a project that put me ground-zero in Portland’s skid-row district. Spare me some change, a common refrain we were asked. My partner and I did some initial agonizing about the “right” course of action. Would a handout just buy them another cheap bottle of wine? Were we suckers to give in to their request? Then it dawned on us! What if their request story was not true? What precisely was our sin if we give them money? Simple. Our sin was being generous! If they lied, that’s on them, not us. We became at ease to respond however felt appropriate in the moment. Just say what you want, leave the “story” in a bag. Someone asks for your help (big or small). What do you do?
I want to choose gratitude. I want to choose generosity.
Suppose I got reasons to fret or worry or adopt ingratitude. Blood gone astray, seriously. It has been (and present tense) a challenge to attitude. No matter. Every day, another choice. If any prayer is worth my time, then pray, may I choose gratitude. No vacation. No days off.
choose. where does choice happen? describe that who and where and when.
Feeling like kind of a long story here. Maybe sometimes repetition serves receiving? I can also feel my own resistance to allowing simple notions to have their moment of truth. Oh no, that doesn’t apply to – me. That’s something I can’t really do. Iceberg tips. Till I take something full onto my skin, I can’t see if I even really really understand. Call it an unashamed trial.
And there’s an issue about being naive and being gullible. Give it up! Life is bigger than doubts.
Gratitude. Generosity. What is the left hand here? Appreciation. choice.
What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud
I met! I loved everything I saw!
standing on the balcony.
well below body temperature. I feel. a token name.
moisture squeezes from sky above.
feet on damp wood, there at one end of me.
legs like wooden stilts. do they bend?
relax posture from bone to muscle. feel.
feel tension discover itself. upright.
two legs. pillar pairs. wordlessly ripe.
one center in between.
that’s where weight is held in breath.
a little more here. then there.
balance. amazing. amazing.
uplift. erosion of doubt. surprising.
balance moves is the truth.
everything close is close to me
there’s a fondness I have for things near my feet
Thanks rendered to Ren Powell for her intimate photographic essay entitled Left. Observationally brilliant. When this poems first blog started, I’d not thought to include anything other than purely language poems, clean and focused. But I’m coming to recognize the lack-in-generosity of that content filtering. So here this photo image in kin response to Ren’s imagining (my thanks, and while looking for something else, found this cousin of that image and so here presented, in sighted appropriate kind I think).
neil, december 2020
Maybe this time I’ll rescue my Mother.
Pearl Harbor will just be a sleepy port of call.
Nobody came & nobody went away from home.
Nothing lost. No wedding bells.
We’ll gaze at the mist of plum blossoms
on the wide valley floor. Feed my lambs, someone
said. Someone loves like wind. No shunted hopes,
no brown uniform thrown on the bed.
His face won’t be in that photograph.
His face won’t look like mine. Nothing
gambled, lost in the high desert dust.
No frozen clothes on a winter line.
Brothers will just be brothers, won’t
go speechless in the silent light of home.
Although that one of them, he’ll still
go to Alaska on a tall sail ship.
He’ll still die, an artful youth of a man.
Some things just gotta be. Else no
wonder of clay, no sister on my desk.
Maybe Grandfather & Grandmother
will harvest ample roots on the rock-strewn
sides of farmers hills. No drought.
Maybe Mother will land covered in Spring rain.
Maybe she’ll smile, never knowing
I changed everything, including me.
read footnotes about this poem
what is body doing now?
my body is feeling gravity. my feet, the dirt. my hands, my tail, the metal bench. my body is moving blood. shake it down into fingertips. see the pink emphasis. my body is moving food. or is food moving, twisting and turning my bodies path. my body is moving air. feel the breeze in nose then throat. pressure inside. greater than. swallow the atoms we want to keep. see breath in cool morning air, reflecting out of me.
my eyes are seeing trees. seeing leaves, thinking autumn falling down, seeing stone made by hand, seeing knees, seeing hands. seeing a woman crossing the street, then two men. seeing bright across the street and above, seeing shadow, like thoughts sometimes. seeing birds, only in swift glancing flight. seeing the time of light, seeing change.
my hands are holding shapes. sculpting shapes. tenderness. curiosity.
here, come close.
skin feels air. more at the back of my neck when I don’t wear a hat.
my feelings feel thinking, but thinking does not think feelings, just impressions the way water does. horse and buggy would be an analogy. feelings feel in several voices all at once. feelings keep moving south and west and east and north. is it a matter of heart?
when a tree in the forest falls, the forest feels it fall. relationship.
relationship holds us to its breast. be at ease I inform myself.
and sleep becomes the mirror image of that breath.
maybe it’s not so easy living that meditation wherein we see ourselves in all we see. clouds and trees and a lady opening her refrigerator door in the dark of evening time. and gravity. and home. the pages of a book.
what is, is. what isn’t, isn’t.
maybe I should say how writing began for me?
should I say prayer? or say meditation, if that’s a more comfortable word.
I asked what should I do next in life?
no break in the clouds, no ray of light, no god speaking from afar. yet a day later one word came in reply to me.
no italics. no quotation marks. no period ending dot.
just that one doing-ness to do. nothing else. nothing else.
not what to write. poems were my choice. not write well. not write and publish. nothing else.
not write and heal the world. nor even heal me. maybe one cat or a few,
but that’s not a poems realm, just my own.
not write and be well read. certainly no fame.
not write and fix my car.
not write and do my laundry.
not write and change what language says.
not write and not grow old.
not write and fix my broken blood.
not write and live another day. maybe today will do.
not write and be loved. but maybe, maybe, writing -is- loving.
not write and be satisfied.
not write and be happy.
I think I know what was meant by that first word.
I’ve always likened it to father asking me to go mow the lawn please son.
and with gratitude, I did. I do.
because I was asked. because it is my honor to respond. a very good word
is simply – yes.
now my living depends upon the medicine I daily take. there is another layer in how I look, how I see the world. invisible until you arrive.
maybe my words will break. but not yet. not yet. and I think I’ll keep mowing the lawn.
maybe we are meant to live with our insides out?
I’m your neighbor, I’ll just be listening.
Something like Loneliness 01
we could say boundary, yet frontier seems more right, border seems more right. more untouched. more close as breath. more fertile.
ten fingers, two hands, arms, shoulders, one neck.
I rather like putting new words in the dirt for a while. let them get dusty and ripe.
a border is where we watch people change. here people and there people. fluid the way warm butter is. tangential.
injuries. broken leg, four years old, broken wrist, broken kidney twice, broken hearts, broken door, broken blood, broken cure. keeping this list of injuries.
what is your list of immaculate dangers?
does head know hands, as likewise, hands know feet?
how close is close enough? would you answer differently one year ago?
one mouth, one nose, two ears to touch. audible.
writing is meditation.
spoken in public, it reminds me of new and better hope.
if margins are about edges, there’s the edge of a cliff.
my solar plexus is a kaleidoscope moving south.
is there a geography in how you feel being here, being you? is there a north and a south? maybe tiger stripes. are there independently minded states of self? any civil war declared?
here too, look see, there’s a fracture in the universe.
it’s attention that motivates the flow of time. and identity.
two eyes, one chin, one brow, two lips spoken aloud.
are you alone in a crowd? who is the you that feels alone?
who is the who you keep talking to? who of you speaks first?
are we made of one substance or many, in body and in mind?
blessings. dawn alone in Pacific Grove, better friends than myself, being loved, being, saving that one seven-year-old picture of me, my cowboy hat, a pocketful of ceramic buttons, listening, listening. words.
forgetting. then. remembering the two of us like a seventh wave.
material is mostly empty space. as they say. so then, what’s space?
is space substance? is there no being alone? are we bubbles, you and me? two traces of silver thread?
meditation is writing this.
like the world needs wolves.
01 Something like Loneliness is a short film directed by Seth and Ben Epstein, and based on the award winning play by Ryan Dowler.
credit where due, thanks to Ren Powell and her Nothing But Metta4, Fish Pose, for starting this ball rolling downhill.
the thing about making things hidden is to put them right in front of your nose. that’s said by experience. literal. figurative.
if I’m kind, I’ll give attention as observational, rather than judgmentally. habit wiggles its ears, entering the room. tonight I think, I’d rather not even observe with a mind to correct. would that be ungenerous to simple honest seeing sight?
there was a point, young-time, and specifically so, when I changed. long recognized as pivotal, yet equally so, untouchable.
a black cowboy hat with white trim, a sheriffs badge, (and sorry, but) a holster and toy gun. no boots, just shoes. I was a walking talking dream on my sleeves. but costumes are symbols for water running deeper than common sight – props are just props, but past wet roots is an answer to the question of not what – not about furniture – but who.
I remember the day. I was young. suppose no one yet had ever said an unkind word to me. thus ill prepared, another kid said something to invalidate my fantastical view of life. just now the feeling – what was damaged was my sense of the poetry of myself, my life in whole. and yea, my choice, feeling smaller, feeling judgmentally curbed.
how did it really feel? my happiness went to sleep.
alright, no discussion heals history. neither is that why I am here. what I always left tabled when remembering was & is who was I before my path went another and half-hearted, blinds pulled down sort of way.
when I looked I looked no further than the point of change!
anger has had more appeal than a wondering thirsty sight. is it about vibration? confusing calm versus a loud noise? even today I notice some second glances when confrontation’s in the neighborhood. but it’s the traditional ice that once sank a boat. mostly underwater.
I’ve both fondness and faith in free-association. reasons might render understanding, but no illumination. it is more than embarrassing to forget so thought-fully, so shadowless. maybe a notion in palm of simple kindness? do I wonder what that child would think of me now? but more my place to hold the sugar here in place? forgiveness. generosity.
looking is not a passive process.
what you bring becomes a lens.
there’s a notion that much of our sense of self is rope-bound onto place and people. change those two and history takes a break. I never did that intentionally but by circumstance. moving home, arriving seven hundred miles from my life time geography, a different me came into the light. what was discomfort was now nourishing.
maybe enough, saying hello to a ghost?