without a leash


 
 
                 a conversation ensconced in only one Spoken
                      voice

 
 
these aren’t the words I want to say.

maybe there aren’t words to do what I want to do.

like I’d like their meaning to matter, being words.

       merely words.

       rough hewn, on the loose.

       possible?
 
 
she says abstract.   meaning something else?   but, yea.
 
 
I wanna say I understand.   I wanna say I understand
everything.   including not the words, but what they
mean without the tethered word.

like me, like you, like sun, warm touching, like animals
with four feet, like close enough to know your scent
(like my cat used to do with my dirty shirts on the
closet floor), like that.   (if you know, you know what
I mean.)

       possible.

like what understanding really means without the
cloak.   like how process means removing what isn’t
to finally get to what is.   less, but meaning more.

       process, more than result is my breath.

like love.

yea, like that.   without hint of shy or fear.
what’s it like when love leaves your body?

just passing through.   like they say.   like that.

       a conduit.   nothing held in your hands.

       can that be imagined?
 
 
nothing wants to be less (or more) than it is.
another stray cat who comes home with you.
       gratitude is a mirror.   I long to be
       your words.
 
 
 
what walks on four feet, but doesn’t come when
you call?   poems, yea, poems.   by tooth and claw.
       affections second face.

       here’s a high-water mark.
 
 
 
death in the abstract, she says he says.   sometimes
(well, only once actually) I’ve considered the possibility
as possible.

think I understand?   no.   more than yesterday.
but the not-abstraction is more personal.

like they say, I’ll tell you when I know.
but no.   I won’t.

habits save my life.   habits confuse my life.
 
 
Alan Watts used to tell this story (and if he didn’t,
I’m saying he did) about a finger underneath a blanket,
poking the blanket up into sky.   when finger is moved
away – the blanket remains.   it is just a change in
altitude.   so where do we identify?
       draw your own geology.
 
 

yea, laundry, and dirty dishes.   they make demands.

but also, yes, it is within the smaller details where
I roost.   a particular fallen autumn leaf, even as
it continues to morph away from sight.

       these bits and pieces we measure here.

what to do with an injured bird, she asked.

they aren’t endangered or anything, he said.
       yea?   that’s me you’re talking about.

how to turn inside out a breaking heart.

        that’s a verb, not a noun.
 
 

    I said thus.   unblemished.

    be the stone in the middle of the creek.

    use your words.    speak.    speak now.

 
 
 
Houdini says, given time all will be made clear.
 
 
 
 
 

like being a dog

        We should all be as simple as a dog, shouldn’t we.   But we’re not.

      To feel alive in this world.   I remember in the arrogance of youth I thought if I have to take pills to stay alive… well now, I do.   And my sense of belonging is questionable.   Me and Spirit, just us, it feels
      like all the real that is.   But then, thoughts move like tides.
              Feelings, to the Moon and back.
              And yea, it’s the ocean we are in.

something like being blunt

I write because what else engaging is there to do with a pen in my hand.
I write because empty spaces keep finding their way to my desk. I write because those spaces aren’t empty. Yes, I write to get them outside of me.
I write to make them go away. I write because that seems like a good idea.
I write because I have no other good ideas. I write because the Earth, she
is spinning beneath my feet. I write to keep my balance standing here.
I write because my mother, she is gone.

I write because we are in the ocean, and she is big. I write because she is a woman. I write because I hope she will notice me. I write because her hand is in the air and she is waving to me. I write because she might just be god.

I write because I’m afraid. I write because I am not afraid.

I write because I can’t make up my mind. I write because I love the taste of language on my tongue. I write because I want to witness the world in person. I write because I want your company. I write because I want sweetness into your life. I write because your face keeps filling me with words. I write for beauty’s sake. I write because I never know how it will end when I begin. I write because the world is not a mystery. I write because we were always meant to see, to understand. I write because this is a blessing.
I write because my hand moves through words like through water. I write because feelings remake themselves when I do.

I write because the truth is uncomfortable. I write because I want to say what’s so. I write because I lie. I write because words are spider webs. I write because it never gets better than this. I write because I’m afraid this is as good as it gets. I write to make opportunity. I write because it isn’t yet all lost. I write because of friends I have lost. I write wanting me to be enough. I write because the mountains weren’t always mountains. I write because we get bigger. I write because we get smaller. I write because I’d rather write than go fishing.

I write because I forget.

I write because every day is like a bookend, but there’s only one. I write as an act of faith. I write to discover. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to ease the pain. I write as an answer to death. I write what passion says. I write to pray. I write to meditate. I write to listen more better. I write because words sometimes confuse themselves. I write because I believe in language.

I write to be playful like a child in a pile of leaves. I write because of the Moon. I write like a knife because it is dangerous. I write like a knife because it is surrendering. I write as ritual. I write to walk away from hate. I write to dream. I write to stay awake. I write to the kindness of heart I have abused. I write to forgive myself. I write to loosen knots. I write accidentally. I write when I am wrong, especially when I am wrong. I write even when it doesn’t matter, which it always is.

I write to appreciate my life with you. I write to see heaven in front of me. I write that you might also see. I write to make small history. I write to make solitude not being alone. I write to remember. I write to let go. I write to speak for the birds, the plants. I write to the rain. I write to the Moon when my eyes are closed. I write to remember breathing is a choice. I write to discover meaning. I write to look beneath the leaves. I write because I am filled with stars. I write because I am broken.

I write because this is how I cook. I write because this is how I eat. I write because a fork and spoon. I write to make a plate. I write to fill a cup, to fill a bowl. I write because this is how I sleep, this is how I walk, this is how I stoop to drink from the well. I write because this is why I love.
       I write because this is how I love.

I write because of the middle of night. I write because it is how I answer doubt. I write because I breathe. I write because blood, because heart. I write because it is a glorious waste of time. I write because of hands and arms, and because of color. I write because of chocolate. I write because of spiders and their webs. I write because ants get into the sugar bowl. I write because I don’t like wearing shoes so much. I write because I like the sound it makes inside my head.   I write because Spirit asked me to.

I write because words are threads.
 
          Why do you write?
I want to acknowledge and thank the better graces of Terry Tempest Williams who opened this gate and asked who else was willing to join her curiosity.   A response, Answers you see, they are implied in the question,
in the process itself, like using an abacus.
 
 
The two photographs are of the country hills around my old California home.
Oak and scrub and grass (all dry summer).   Very typical.   That was home for decades, and it still looks like “home” to me.

And a Manzanita summer scent, unmistakable.

REVISED.   stanza 10 added, new.   10.22.2022
 
 
 
 

William Stafford says

1914 – 1993
 
Writing is a reckless encounter with whatever comes along.
 
 
Writers have many things to be careful not to know  –  and strangely one of the things not to know is how to write.
 
 
Poems don’t just happen.   They are luckily or stealthily related to a readiness within ourselves.   A good rule is  –  don’t respond unless you have to.   But when you find you do have a response  –  trust it.   It has a meaning.
 
 
There is a dream going on while I am awake.   When I die, the dream is the only thing left.   It balloons and fills the world.
 
 
 
 
William Stafford wasn’t my father.   But he could have been.   I think that would be pleasing.   Maybe I’ll try.   Father, is that you?   Here I am.   I know you’re in another room.   far far.   But here I am.   Still.   For now.

I recognized you immediately.   Even though we never met.   It was like water on a mountainside.   Doubts were no more an obstacle.   Just something over which to spread my arms.   Whatsoever you did, I wanted to know more about the what and how of being you.   Surely, something was right.   I could feel the burnt match, hot and true between my fingertips.

Or that war.   A long time ago.   You said, no.   No, I’ve somewhere else to be.   So you did.   I think they thought it was some punishment, forcing their hand over you.   But the jest.   They just made a gathering of like-minded friends.   You used a shovel, it was hot, cleared some brush.   But all the while poems were being born.   Much later I discovered – me too, along that path.

so now, dear Bill, I write.   half because of god.   half because of you.   all these years given to mowing the lawn for you dad, but still, not even half so much a writer as you.   but you always said, OK.   so I’m taking you at your word.

there was a book.   your signature.   not important for a scrawl of ink.   rather that knowing your hand was there.   right there, where my own hand is now.
          a small mirror of two realities.

so, if I could, I’d talk with you.   meanwhile I hope you’ll take this letter here.
 
 
 

William Stafford, a poet and pacifist.   One of “the quiet of the land”, as he often described himself, known for his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice and his independence from social and literary expectations.

Born and mostly educated in Kansas.   As a registered conscientious objector, he performed alternative service from 1942 to 1946 in the Civilian Public Service camps.   His master’s thesis, the prose memoir Down in My Heart, published in 1948 described his experience in the forest service camps.   In 1947 he moved to Oregon where he taught at Lewis & Clark College.   Of his writing career he started late at 48 years of age.   His first book, Traveling Through the Dark won the National Book Award for Poetry.

Paul Merchant wrote of Stafford, “His poems are accessible, sometimes deceptively so, with a conversational manner that is close to everyday speech.”

In 1970, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now known as Poet Laureate.   In 1975, he was named Poet Laureate of Oregon; his tenure in the position lasted until 1990.   In 1980, he retired from Lewis & Clark College but continued to travel extensively and give public readings of his poetry.   In 1992, he won the Western States Book Award for lifetime achievement in poetry.

You might also want to see the Stafford shelf (04) in my book Library.

Wikipedia
 
 

      There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
      things that change.   But it doesn’t change.
      People wonder about what you are pursuing.
      You have to explain about the thread.
      But it is hard for others to see.
      While you hold it you can’t get lost.
      Tragedies happen; people get hurt
      or die; and you suffer and get old.
      Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
      You don’t ever let go of the thread.

      Wm. Stafford

 
 
 
 
 

plain talk don’t matter much

      like salmon do, swimming upstream, that’s the job.   salmon do it, why not me?   although do remember what happens to them afterwards.
      pebbles and eggs.

 
plain talk for folks who don’t much care for impressionistic abstract stream of consciousness free association kind of stuff.   is that you?
 
 
only forever lasts forever.   nothing else.   nothing.

there’s these folks who say, once upon a time there were no stars, only hydrogen with a little helium perhaps, oh yea, and some dark matter scattered unevenly throughout whatever whatever was.   the hydrogen was appealing to gravity so some of it gathered together too.   in clumps.   bigger and bigger clumps.   are you following?   everything is still all and totally dark, no light.   in time enough hydrogen got itself heavy and heavier, pressing in on itself.   you can kinda do the same with your hands.   gets warmer, doesn’t it.   so did the hydrogen, till that moment, a great ball of it ignited and began to burn.   now, now there was light in the universe.   first time, you understand.   there was a very first single star.   imagine that.   but good ideas, they repeat.   more and more first stars began to shine.   and in the shine, things began to move more and more, and more stars came to heaven.

      we are a speck of dust upon a speck of dust.

      we are but a sentence in the book of the universe.   so it is incumbent upon us to write the best sentence we can do.

that’s where we are right now.   so many many many galaxies, each with so many many many stars within their gathering.   over more time, galaxies they get attracted too and fly right through each other, changing each in many many many ways.   and that’s where we all are right now this very instant.
lots of stars and lots of light.   beautiful, that’s what we think to ourselves.   and we are right.   beautiful.   we live in the age of stars.

but all things, yes Virginia, they must come to an end.   many many times stars have grown old and died – some few into mysterious big black holes that make us wonder even more – what is all of this and who are we.   some just turn to a sort of burnt out coal and done forever too.   now some some far away day all the hydrogen will all get burnt up by stars and their lights will all go out one by one by one trillions of times.   almost black.   but not black holes we now understand, they evaporate slow slow slower than that, in so doing release a little heat, which we can also call a kind of light.   now that will take an even long long longer time and we certainly by then will also be gone like the stars.   but yes, eventually even the black holes will run out of steam.   the universe will be all dark and without heat.   no stars, no us.   like it was in the beginning.   perhaps.   we’re not sure.   but we won’t be wondering then.   so that property you’re thinking of buying as a long-term investment, understand long-term don’t mean very long.   and surely, not forever no matter what you think or want.

I wonder what god thinks of all that?   do you?
 
 
and in case you weren’t sure about your participation, yes Joni Mitchell was right.   we are stardust, billion year old carbon.  we are golden.   literally, all body, all of earth, this was once upon a time in the middle of a burning burning star, the molecular result of consuming hydrogen.   all this dirt, all these leaves, all these limbs, you and me.   no stars, no us.

so, you see the poetry of existence?   everywhere.

      two cats in an alleyway.   they’re not mine, one is black, the other stripes of grey and darker grey.   I shutter my eyes so they won’t be afraid of my gaze.   does that work for you?

 
 
 
 

            please fully enlarge image for an amazing view & see below

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Stolovy (Spitzer Science Center/Caltech)

This dazzling infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy. In visible-light pictures, this region cannot be seen at all because dust lying between Earth and the galactic center blocks our view.

Full size TIF quality image (beyond stunning)
          are you feeling any less lonely?
 
 
Joni Mitchell, Woodstock, or if you’d like a little more, Shadows and Light
 
 
 
 
 

becalmed


in many ways I’d rather be here than someplace else.   what difference I make, makes no difference here.   fish will find me familiar fare.
 
becalmed means staying in place.   water says, please.
 
not so easy, speaking truth.   so I tell myself, the world still shines like heaven does.   no, don’t think it is diminished even an atom’s worth.   but me?   I feel excluded.   that’s not possible.   same water, same ocean, same sky even.   
there’s the lie.   familiar, I should admit.   a perfect world with an imperfect me.   my logic ain’t even dependable.   memory is shy.   like I used to be.   now there’s fog between me and my eyes.   I used to adore the fog.   now I just feel confused.

for a time I thought the thread was linear, one after another you understand.   thinking my share of life growing short, though that coming with a certain peace.   then, less dire, being focused on more lively attitude – just because.    maybe that was more-right I felt.   then, was it next, realizing my attitude made absolutely no difference in how the soup would result.   my body a ship, me a passenger.   now they seem a matter of simply holding hands, all attitudes available all the time.   choose.

the medical teams did their chore, fixing me – well, better than before.   and a second now is testing my chemistry – so far so good – or – too early to say.   maybe I feel better.   maybe physically.   but there’s another ring to wear.   how do I feel?   I mean, how do I feel being me?   not an easy question to answer right now, today.

the queen is dead, long live the king.

seems appropriate to say, even if I can’t say why.

maybe it’s arrogance or defensiveness, why I hold myself apart – worse, not better, is still apart and a manner of crown if you understand.   ungenerous of me.   the answer to pain is love.   with another once upon a time, we said that.   does not say what pain qualifies.   and I did say I would never lie about the truth of being here.   if it seems something less, then that’s a statement about myself, not about the world of life.   you understand?
 
 
perhaps the best spoonfuls of this whole post are the two pictures of Monterey Bay in the morning fog.   the rest, the text, your forberance is asked.   but still feel I owe you something of me, no matter the glamor or no.

I’ll work on a better attitude.
 
 
 

            please fully enlarge images for best views

MBA webcam views of Monterey Bay used with permission.   please support the Monterey Bay Aquarium
 
 
 
 

young fossil feet

some future day will some creature, someone not us, find this relic this remembrance this sign of our passing, some folk they say, who made their own rock and here these traces of the world inhabited then.   

certainly the memory of a fallen leaf.   maybe even a shoe.

here, see, how we look

how we look is how we understand.

there was a young woman who wondered how her sight said what she saw.
what other ways might there be?   so she went walking her city streets in company with other eyes, other noses, other feet.

a child, a toddler, who sees everything from three feet tall and six inch feet.   a dog who sees with his nose, who’s been here, who passed along,
who left some message for other scents to know and recognize.   a doctor, a modern medicine man, who looked to see what people said with their bodies, their balanced walk, even the scent of their breath, how it was, their health inside their hidden lives.   a stone mason man who knew every texture and face and quality of stone throughout the region and what had been used to build and sheath each structure along the path.   a master of font and print who could read the history of each building saying who and from where their history was made by their style of alphabet.

what about the relics of our own lives?   who was I at five years old, what broken toys, what old shoes, how worn the soles, what scribbles in chalk or crayon on paper to please a parent?   who was I at ten years old, with a new camera Christmas present, my very first photography, and Uncle Lou, please step to one side while I imagine the flowering plant in black and white, and please, people only confuse the idea for me.   who at twelve or at fifteen, wearing a first graduation suit so out of reality, looking like someone I was not and never would be, not even close.   where was any reality of me, a modern life, wife with blonde hair, a white picket fence around the house?   did anyone see the doubt and insecurity?
wasn’t I obvious?

near everything I saw wasn’t really there.

rules for seeing more

be blessed with the ability to admire the unlovely.

explore by surfaces by textures, by finger by toe by tongue.   by taste.

forget what’s uninteresting.   the bottom of a chair, what’s behind a drawer, people’s knees.

gaze at something long enough and it may become odd, unfamiliar.   try.

          To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.       Paul Valery
 

compassion emerges from imagining the world alive.

          Alexandra Horowitz

when collecting a pebble, collect one more to keep the first company.   if not keeping it, return it to where it was found, that it not suffer from having been moved from its home.

allow body to speak.   a sweep of hands, a circumference, a shoulder shrug, a loose hillside rock, a turn of head, the next place you will go.

          point first, then speak, say

          look there

 
 
 
 

a brief history of me


I’ve made a bundle of mistakes in life, but I’m better now.
        there, that’s the history.   now to business.

beginnings and endings, they’re nearly the same.

there is no one-way to feel about a life, any life, that stands visible here in front of us.   mostly visible anyway.   by grace we’ll leave the dog-eared pages in peace.   FIFTH day now will reconcile my desire, being here, being me.

two rivers converge.   one from my heart, one from my blood.   a sixth day or more will be one question answered then.   simply close, like this.

what message then?   why am I here?   I do have a purpose in life.
        I’d like you to know.

I spent the better years of my life in resistance where ignorance wasn’t enough.   however, my writing is my declaration of intent, how I want to be, how I am when the chaff is set aside.

my purpose in life is to express the genuine nature of beingness, love.

but why be blunt?   maybe just that I’m unsure how well I’ve done my job.   say before there’s no more saying to do.   I wish you well.   but how you receive that is your responsibility, not mine.   that part I need let go.

        just saying how it is for me for you.
 
 
 
 
 

            please fully enlarge image for best view

MBA webcam views of Monterey Bay used with permission.
please support the Monterey Bay Aquarium
 
 
 
 

the pelicans will be just fine


I keep returning here.   me and the pelicans I suppose.   Monterey.
my heart is more glad, seeing them.   based on typical lifespans
many of these will likely be here long after me.   yea, still glad.

just let them have their sardines.   Cannery Row is history now.   well parted company too.   we’ve eaten our good share of fish.   to share is also good.

      conversation, Mother with Daughter, as two rocks beside
      a cliff, from the film Everything Everywhere All at Once.

      M:   I’m sorry about ruining everything –
      D:   Shhhh.   You don’t have to worry about that here.
      D:   Just be a rock.
      M:   I just feel so stupid –
      D:   God!   Please.   We’re all stupid!
      D:   Small, stupid humans, it’s like our whole deal.

      one rock to another, it’s easier being a rock than people.   isn’t it?

some news of progress with approval on a new blood disease medicine.
been waiting quite a while.   but now, am I this measure odd, as life felt all easier before, when less opportunity for survival seemed more eminent.   more to worry about now.   does it really, really I mean, feel more a burden not contemplating the end of me?   yea, how odd is that.   But I understand.

I’ve become accustomed to sleeping as my commonly preferred state of being.   some embarrassed saying that.   tiredness finds me easily.

a haystack of pills to pile onto what I already entertain.   I think to myself,
it better be worth all of this.

so I like the idea of pelicans being here with me, after me.

one weeks more telling will more define what medicine, what a heart procedure, will do for me.   that’s body anyway.   then’s the door that says, yea, this is where spirit resides.   to live without purpose, that means more than a broken heart.   you understand?

when I sleep I loose track of what room I’m in.   beginning to waken I often think I’m somewhere else.   surprise.   dreams feel more present tense.

this is one I’d really rather leave unpublished.   but transparency, even when lame, is probably right.   just being stupid.   probably.

and why tell you?   no good reason.   sorry.
 
 
one black cat, one brown rabbit, a single white butterfly, once late at night, a coyote across the street, one quick glance.   these moments I appreciate.
 
 

            please fully enlarge image for best view

MBA webcam views of Monterey Bay used with permission.
please support the Monterey Bay Aquarium
 
 
 
 

some letters I never wrote

 
 

      being everything and nothing, all at once, would be a great burden if being god was our fate.  but no, god whispered, more a simple imagining and the everything and the nothing being element and without subterfuge or agenda, said – yes.  yes, because of being asked.  and everything implied in such imagining, that is how it will come to be.

      that’s how matter got to become ripe fruit.

 
 
 
 
from here, I can just see what I see.  no obligation to castigate sight.  I know some few, first out of bed, no makeup, hair awry – I look and they are beautiful to me.  they can’t, they won’t see themselves that way.  at best they accept my crazy wrong-eyed sight, that’s just him.

like paint, beauty is what comes out of the bottle.  not the label.

I feel obliged to beauty.  it is, yes, a matter of choice.  no binding of my stance.  is it right when meeting that face that I not respond in kind?  that’s how I mean, obliged.  happens to be also how I learned from some others along my way.

beauty for beauty of word, of thought, of voice.  would less be a welcome guest?  no, not the same.  there might be an ocean or continents distance to reach, then adding history, experience.  but isn’t all conversation an ardent near-impossibility glimpsed even from inches away?  so perhaps there’s a threads-worth meaning to be realized.  looking at a tree a bird a thought a blue sky, is their meaning not immediate, intimate?

that much words can play as two actors on a stage.  all meaning there sought through relationship and mandatory distance, breath from breath.  no confusion necessary.  appreciation, only that.

I repeat, how do you give your life away?

holding life loosely, indeed.  (she said)
 
 
 
 
here as good as any to alight.  me, suppose I’m easily confused.  so much to drink in even one scribble here.  reminded of standing on my balcony, here, in summer now.  don’t need flowers as every different green has a scent of their own.  for me, almost so much I don’t stay long but leave.  my nose seems sensitive.  your images, your words, I’m on the balcony again.  all green, all colors.  is this what its like, loving life – and all the fish inside the bowl?

          counting weeks, counting days, counting hours.
 
 
 
 
maybe I’m making all this up but I am very motivated, and very very sincere.
 
 
 
be exactly as you are.  but if you allow, include seeing how I am seeing you.
 
 
 
 
 

haikai no ku

up close, when you’re intimate, the ocean is green more than blue.

 
I’ve leaned over, far as I could, the stone and concrete barrier wall at the cliff edge here.   I’ve stepped down rough slender stairs at low tide, then walked along the narrow sand beach below.   leaning forward, strangers walking by behind me here.   most glance, move on.   I adore.   I am lost.   willingly.

a few fish reflect each wave, moving more near, moving more far.
     effortlessly.   I am fish.   I am water too.

     I have no doubt.   going where water goes.
 
 
yet here I am, between water and dirt.   dust on my hands.
 
I remember standing there sometimes, confused, wondering why I was alone.
not the words, nor even thoughts.   but here, sight itself becomes haiku.
          am I not poem enough?
 
we don’t move.   the ocean does.
 
 

in Japanese, haiku is the contracted form of haikai no ku ‘light verse’.