the thing in my head

NOT BEING A POEM  or just treading water?
A Voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
      Marcel Proust
what do you do when you look in the mirror and no one looks back?
no, not writer’s block, more pervasive.  red blood knows.
room for rent
you’d of thought I’d heard, remembered remembering, wouldn’t you?  if someone says, oh yea, there’s a thing in your head.  memorable?  but I didn’t, even as local knowledge says otherwise.  meningioma, they said.  like a distressing thumb pressing home.  less memory, less balance.  less.  what to do?  take it away, they say to me.  they do.
yet another uninvited uncle remains, just won’t leave.  it has a tail like a question does.  but words say nothing of experience.  being me.
3 AM.  my sugar is low and I’m feeling it.  some sweetness and soon I’m mended right.  go out to the balcony.  wandering rain is washing the Washington fire smoke away.  some, but only some.  a Puget Sound fog horn makes its low slow song out in the dark.  sailors beware.  I am comforted, made right again.
the horn is like my writing is.  finding home is water I don’t know.  two poems, first in few.  one about the companionship of snails and a white butterfly in this pandemic haze, another day in paradise.  and the other, this one here, the thing in my head.  literal story telling.
not really a poem.  just something to say.
better wisdom recently sown says, what isn’t a poem?  I don’t know.
What is human existence?  It turns out it’s pretty simple:
We are dead stars, looking back up at the sky.

      Dr. Michelle Thaller
what star ever dreamed of becoming me?
me, I like to say heart rather than think.  heart is visceral.  is that me?  thoughts some folk think they should eschew, but nothing wrong.  thoughts are how we make peanut butter and jam sandwiches.  a very useful skill.  left hand, right hand.  but ask, what comes before the thought is a thought?  is that also radiant of my body and head?
I’m tired of being woken up from sleeping.
three in the morning, but not the same as before.  I am feeling afraid.
I have a spinal tap due later this day.  I feel afraid of the pain.  and pain has been a frequent companion these last several weeks.  that sense has made some memories.  but are they feelings or actually “thoughts”?
fear I suspect is me not listening.
I am being too loud.  three in the morning is both shadow & whispering.  I go stand on the balcony.  I hear the many wheels of a train moving by four blocks down toward the water from me.  but I’m more loud than the train.  the lady across the street isn’t awake watching television now.  I rather like the changing colors visible through her front window there.
then I remember my first spiritual teacher.  why say “spiritual”?  his whole life was how he taught real living.  then I touch the memory of his dying and he didn’t want to go.  seemed almost counter clockwise at the time, but no, he was “perfectly” human.  one of us.  what grace is given me?
I loved the man and I was afraid of the man.  he once said to me, tell me what you need of me and that’s how I will be for you, allowing you to come close with me.  who says something like that to another human being all genuine as he was?  no pretense.  authentic.  I never answered him!  I was that measure not open to our lives.  seems impossible, but silently, I said nothing, meaning – no.  I don’t talk about that.
When I dream at night, they save a place for me, no matter how small, somewhere by the fire.
      William Stafford
home.  more you than any other meaning.  remind me please.
between head surgery and an intense pain at the base of my spine my recovery healing surprises most everyone.  mostly I feel unattached to fear.  that surprises me more than the other.
all this is inside my head.  more thoughts than stars.
as I begin to understand the words, I miss the concept, I miss the experience.  to remove something I often put a mask over it.  lost in my remembering story.
at his funeral I thought, alright lesson made, time to rise and show us all.  that thought repeated from chapel to graveside.  then the final layer of mortar to seal the door.  the lesson would have no excuse of miracle aside from us to carry home.
I am my own gravity.  fear.  loving.  choose.
me and other blinking stars.
the reality of all your shapes is here, resident within my head.
and one white butterfly where the garden breathes.  this too.

another day in Paradise

more oft these days I pray to the gods of smaller
appreciation.  no cousin kin of want.
my cloud hand shadows the curving shell of a
snail in the bush beside my knee-high adjoining
bench.  is that a resistible kindness?
a small gesture by any measure.
how many raise clammer to violence when found
on a garden perch.  crush is so easy for us.  myself,
I find delight in another life close at hand.
what matter the size of the spoon?
root for the traverse of a shimmering thread
across their green & earthen universe.
no fear.  what fills the space?  welcome home.
and sometimes, yes,  leave nature to the
footsteps familiar to its own history.  some you
save.  some you let be.
from a balcony.  below a single white butterfly.
roam the yard once, maybe twice, then
out-of-sight.  repeating day then another day.
and only one, always seen alone.  never two.
is it the same white butterfly?  yet over many
days it makes no easy sense.  I don’t know.
today a white butterfly is across the street.
it circumnavigates that garden then proceeds
south down the street.
some answers are the common denominators.
here.  this thread needs no further story.
sunlight seems different now.  unafraid?
we wear masks to hide our faces in this
breeze.  even a glance now is courage kin.
maybe we are wrong.  maybe we’re meant
to share this given world.  maybe we’re not
the topmost top?  unwelcome news?
neighbors, companions, have we room that way?
notice how language is changing in our mouths.
there.  have you ever touched that word that way
how is it that in my head thoughts underthought
keeps turning into kangaroo?
I’m unsure what isn’t a poem anymore.

the book of lies

lie.  lie is not bad, it is just not accurate.

sin.  sin is not unforgivable, sin is forgiven.  sin just means, “not ripe”, not ready.  that’s all Jesus meant.  notice it, correct it, however appropriate, done.

wrong is like right.  it’s just what’s left after what’s so is said.

bad is not “good”.  meaning simply, change, do something kind instead.

hate is an emotion that’s gone astray.

fear just means look out!  when there’s a bear in close to you, fear makes some sense.  no bear?  then look, consider your perceptions.

disgust should simply say, “no thank you, not for me.”

anger is a wall like bricks.  to start, consider using something softer.  cotton will do for one.  then consider what’s different and what’s the same.

doubt is a part of trust and faith.  it is not opposite.  it is only looking that isn’t yet done.

loneliness is just a feeling.  and really really it’s not even true.  go walk, feel the earth, your feet, see the sky, your eyes.  trees are good to start.  go make a friend, who might just be wishing for you.

regret is just stuff you haven’t done.  none of us will ever do everything.  move on.

self-sacrifice.  don’t do it.  if you damage yourself you’ll have nothing left to give.  give freely, or don’t do anything.

getting even.  this is just fantasy of a hurtful sort.  don’t do it.  you’ll be the one who gets hurt.

shouldn’t.  you know.  you shouldn’t.

vengeance.  just don’t.  even God gave up on that.

unforgiveness.  simple.  forgive yourself.  the rest will just follow of itself.

repulsion is only natural.  but so is attraction.  choose.


push down above the heel,
bundle the gathering of footsteps

pull from the toe, remove the day.

grant feet peaceful pause, likewise

naked feet are closer to the dirt,

just in case.

there are finger prints lingering on my cat.
I’ve been there and still remain.

before fancy fractal words, summer meant
fingering free the larger hill slope rocks
from their binding ochre talc nest.

new dishes. they make me wonder if they’re
getting ready for when I’m not here anymore.
I tolerate the change but not in a friendly manner.

the cat curled to sleep less than two feet from my head.
this is radical accomplishment.

secret identities.  I live by tactile recognition.  Ahh… I’m here.


the nature of air

          you are but a whisper on the lips of God.
          as a whisper, you pass on ever so soon,
          like a line of poetry written on the waters of creation.
          yet the greatness of a whisper is that it is passed on…

                    C.P. Thorp.

wind breathes the whole world to your face

all of it, all

imagine, imagine how that is

because, because it is real, it is

all that is, a catspaw whisper on your ears

it is touching the skin of your face

it is tasting your mouth, the inside of you

it is breathing, you

sahara dusting the sky.  that salt water forest cove that no one
yet has found or mapped.  that oak scrub hill down two blocks
when you were this much tall.  a field of unbound wheat visible
after climbing the western ridge.  that place where there is yet
only your feet for memory.  stone and salt and gulls inside the

your lovers kiss between the sheets.  your lover twenty years ago.
that baby you touched inside its damp eager grasp.

your mothers breath
neil reid
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maybe I’ll remember color

          You can start having strange thoughts in trees.
                    Wolf Erlruch

terra cotta flower pots in grandmother’s bedroom nursery.
then a grilled cheese sandwich carried to me on a plate.

then the sea, every shade of everything other than blue.
although it wasn’t color, it was down deep I remember,

how you roll with the breathing pulse of water over rocks.

then me a salt fish and no memory of me above the waterline.
then an anemone thirsting for touch.

then pie, easy to redraw in single thought.
apples, peaches, both telling the truth.

then snails blooming from the shrub, here
beside the bench where I linger at dawn.

how arms and legs are akin more to roots than limbs.
how faces behave like rain.

memory is only another moment of now itself.
like tides, I go where water says.

or maybe the texture of dusty skin
or that scent native only to you.
maybe I’ll remember color when
maybe color will say my name
neil reid
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to the person who breathes the same air as me,
to the person whose feet know the same floor as me,
to the person whose fingers visit the same cabinets
and drawers as me.

to she who opens the refrigerator door,
to she who shares the butter dish with me,
to she who cooks and cleans the pots and pans,
the same as me.

to she who lays beside me in bed each night.
to she who sleeps and wakes and sleeps and wakes
beside me in bed each night.

to the one who hates driving to the hospital in the
late dark of that same night, but who does anyway.

to she who lives on the spiral arms of my compass.

and when night makes a pillow of the sky,
it’s not about solitude, it’s about gratitude.

for she whose dawn caress leans false dreams
to easy rest.

my colors pale without you remembering.

neil reid

where poems come from

maybe a good idea will fall out of the sky
and land on my head.

sky knows many words and listens to all
that’s ever said.

wind spreads far, repeating, repeating
what was said.

I take these as gift to pass along.
maybe a single phrase will materialize,
then I go looking for more kin.   by name,
by deed, by glad happenstance.
maybe from your lips or your fingertips.

maybe you’ll say or write something that
teases my ear.   I’ll welcome it into my home,
give it food, see if it wants to curl into my lap.

your words are as good or better than mine
and besides, we share everything, earth and
air and water.   and words.
neil reid
read footnotes about this poem