look away, she said

which is it.   am I waiting for the Sun to rise or night to Fall.

this is the part where I’d say something comforting.   if I could.
beautiful words can be frightening at the same time.

I keep waiting for something to eat me.   maybe being worthwhile, then.
from inside a different belly.   I wonder how prey feel about that sport.

I keep looking for the right kind of surrendering.   not yet.   not yet.

rituals don’t seem to invoke any truth any more.   Fish don’t waste time with thoughts like these.   Swim, just swim.
he said that he liked my allusion, two hands being a bowl that is always our own.   a gift, you see.   is that the best of me.   one observation.

then gone.

    there was a man, most alive in the western desert.   observing, following a mountain lion at a watering hole.   he approached when the cat was gone, observing footprints in the wet mud.   then for no good reason, wondered, what if.   turned and there, circled around, behind him now, the lion had come to look himself.   quiet as unmoving air.   nowhere to run.   the man knew better.  don’t even turn away.   one great leap and lion would be onto him.   lion moved slightly left, slightly right.  yes please, look away, an instant is all I need, said the lion’s patient eyes.

    look away.   look away.   no, I have your eye in mine, thought the man.

    more stubborn was the man.    lion walks away.

write.    don’t think.    write.
the rule of predators.   kill swiftly, take no risk.   not that the prey might win the struggle, but the predator might get injured and thus be less able next time around.   death by starvation that result.

first light forgiven being bold

I am the sound.   I am not the voice.

I am the empty shell.   wind whistles me.

when you listen to me, you are listening to wind.

I am this much big.   farther now than I can see.

bigger also seems to mean a thinner thread.

I am a fish awash on the beach.   someone will find me soon.

healed or eaten.   either will be sufficient.   next.

I don’t know.   don’t know what face wants finding now.

I know what’s left behind.

I know what never arrived.

I am the dawn with sleeping eyes.   perhaps.

perhaps to know your name.   a river does.
will you know mine, in first light.

my star has a tail

my star has a tail.

well maybe, we all do.

a fish, they have one.   an octopus, goodness, I’m thinking the number eight.

us.   how many.   is it two, perhaps it’s four.   crawling or standing up.

       does that count.

       some tails you know proceed the cart.
my tail is reaching seventy light-years far away from here.
       that’s history on the hoof.

       are we falling torso first.   rhetorical.

       most questions are, don’t you think.

does light ever really end.   dim is not the same as gone lost & stray.
dear Sol, the letter begins.
they will know you farther and nearer than me.   you are more bright.
but I am still, a part of the inside of you.   always.   us.

     when they see you, they see me.

     I promise.   no lonliness.
for you, I make bright words.   my share of gravity.   lifting Light.
no lie, as you include me, so too, doubt is spliced into my sensibilities.

     truth is, ignorance is not bliss.   no tail sewn in place.
     no circumference.

wet the end with your tongue and lips.

     bare threads.   hand over hand.

image:  Solar System Quilt by Ellen Harding Baker 1886, public domain


closing your eyes

water like blood.

at night there are rocks we can’t see.   we may run right up to them
     and embrace.          (mariners take heed)

here, even in the middle of night, the middle of nothing,
it continues to lap the shore.   we listen.   we feel.   wondering.
     rhythm is our bones.

gratitude in a spoon

to feel a breath includes some pain.   gratitude.
to feel these legs includes some pain.   gratitude.

these fingers, they’re not like before.   gratitude.

these thoughts, they recall being shy.   gratitude.

memories, so many with no smile.   too few of you.   gratitude.
snow on the ground, a beauty I keep apart.   gratitude.

to feel apart from you, too common, found.   gratitude.

of intentions, a shallow pool.   gratitude.

of strength to lend a hand, remote.   gratitude.

of desire, a bowl facing down.   gratitude.

of possible.   looking with both eyes.   unfound.


tell me now, what gratitude is.
my teacher said faith includes doubt like this.

doubt, not a foreigner.   faith, an open door.
wasn’t my first guess, but gotta say,

seems right looking now.
     then sleep.   water will be like eyes.


a gift of salt

no, please, stay with me.   here, my word.   one face.

I am here for you.   just the way I was imagined to be.   so, I am.
when I’m awake I do just what god asks me to.   we call that fair.

                   when am I awake, you might ask.

zinc can make you fresh.   like a tomato bed.   fast asleep.   but no, awake.
it’s the color red.   it’s the scent of soil.   the way your lips are, close to me.

imagine rusty iron.   imagine the color of skin.   imagine being closer than before.     imagine imagining completely the way it is.
                   like an ocean is.

                   we say master, when the world is the way you say it is.   navigate.

imagine seedless melons.   well, we can say, wrong.   imagine seeds inside.
imagine birth.   mother.   imagine wanting more.
                   imagine bigger.
what makes us this way?    zinc.   a little bit.   some sun.   what you eat.   all of it.   what you breath.   what you touch.   understand?   what you see.   what you say.   feeds back inside.   the price of milk.   bread.   directions to the hospital.   the name you name yourself, inside.   even Tuesday’s do.

a donut or two.   rarely.   like many things.   do, or else.
a taste of shellac.   it’s safe you know.   beetle’s backs.   dark navy blue knee-high socks.   a brush to scrub your back.   there see, there you are again.   the movies you watch.   the stories you tell.   the ones we swallow like food.

salt then.   salt makes bigger than.

sugar, yes.   but not so much as to confuse a life.
plum sauce.   you never know when you will.
two spoons tamari.   there is a way you do that no one else does.
butter.   an ounce.   fat is where ideas take root.

                   cooking pots & pans.   as wise as books.

salt.   given by angels.   given by oceans.

salt.   makes the moment sacred.   in a pinch.

salt alone is a bitterness.   salt with another makes the distance sweet.

tongues will make feast upon summer salt.   nothing lost.

          that’s how we know each other.   taste, one of six.

salt.    evergreen.

shoeless feet say home like this

feet know this floor board by board, the gaps, the splinters, all of it.

some added pillows on the bed.   think I’ll keep them around, close to me.

a pillow is almost a cat.   or maybe dog, but I don’t know dogs that way.

this room thinks it is the ocean.   that’s why you see blue around every where.

meditation rolls like wheels do.   in fact, it was created before wheels were.

floorboards creak as a sign of enduring affection.   familiar, those feet.

window shades, one step away.   from there we can see the barn outside.

if the cat was home, she’d be sound asleep on the bed.   next to me.

light arrives just like a bird.   slender claws mark where faith holds on.

before me, a child slept in this bed.   like a dog, I circle before laying down.

another name for bed is nest.   a nest remembers all your many dreams.

some threads.   some webs we sketched.   like eight legs would draw,

if I called out your name.   would you respond?   here, come close.
now, close your eyes.


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.

                 William Stafford
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.
          Message delivered.

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.

leaves with feet, traveling

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