Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The End

First impressions are important, just a glance
may reveal of what character is your heart,
or how confident your stride — and now the dance
will start.

The middle portion, either, is not to be neglected,
as attention can sometimes be hard to hold.
Your partner should feel her steps directed.
Be bold,

but not overly so. Comfort is the key
that lets the world fall away into the night,
until you both, and the music, may as well be
in flight.

Still, all of this is minor, for no matter
if three minutes of your life are lost
to apologetic smiles, feet that get scattered
and crossed,

if at the end it all comes right.
Those final moments are the ones that reign,
that, if perfected, in memory might

For you’ll find the sweetness you’re intending
not in flashy tricks or blatant flair,
but on your mutual, intimate attending
to closing steps uttered like a prayer
to the perfect inevitability of an ending,


Monday, April 29, 2013

Being a Treatise on the Lifecycle of My Hair

It may seem to mark the cycle of the seasons, growing out a lush, protective coat against the supposed chills of California winters, and shedding it again, moments later, in the spring. And, indeed, it has been used as just such an almanac by certain indigenous tribes of Silicon Valley that are not known for venturing far enough from their computers to observe actual weather.

Yet there are more subtle, fractal patterns in these seeming transitory phases. The sparse, infant similarity of a new cut yields to soft-rounded baby fat before moving on to terrible twos, an adorable childhood, and various awkward teenage phases, recalcitrant and pimply, during which its eventual maturity must be accepted patiently as a matter of faith, justified a few inches later. This joyful, curling prime of life is soon tinged with gray strands growing ever more prominent with their length, and foreshadowing the drawn out scraggle of old age.

It is at this point that one invariably laments the lack of Life’s “rewind” button, a leisurely meander back through halcyon memories — in place of the harsh pruning of shears and razors, a gradual reabsorption. But flowing locks flow in one direction only, and cannot be recalled so easily as sent out. (Though this is occasionally attempted, when it seems no one is looking.) And so, all other stages seeming discontinuously arbitrary, nothing is left but to bid farewell to the old, used form and begin afresh on a clean slate, free of history, yet full of potential.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Your flaxen hair shines like the straw
    in sunshine out of doors,
like dandelions, goldenrod,
    and signs for slippery floors

Put lemon mustard on bananas,
    corn, and tubs of butter.
Then share it in a school bus with your
    bath-time duck of rubber.

Your xanthic raincoat will protect
    from jaundice-like diseases
that come from eating raw egg yolks
    with certain types of cheeses.

And when you see canaries
    or get stung by honey bees,
then think of citron, daisy hearts,
    and cadmium... and me.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Apologist Sestina

A poet sometimes has a fear of form,
of glaring rules and too long hours of practice —
all for what? Success just means a chance
to wear the chains and let yourself be bound
by someone else’s thoughts, by what they feel
is proper and poetical and right.

And who are they to tell me what to write?
My soul will never wear a uniform,
my art can only come from what I feel.
And what I feel does not include a practice
of subservience to poets bound
to shun delights that come from letting chance

impose its fancy on one’s art. By “chance”
I mean those whims that strike from left and right.
We know not where they come from or are bound
but think this mystery may yet inform
in some vague way what we may call our practice,
both of poetry and life. But feel

more deeply how emotions come to fill
you — crowds, desires, advertising, chance
encounters, music blaring. So, in practice
you will find that you’re not always right
to trust your gut, for who knows what may form
your fancies from these inputs that abound.

It’s when we do not know that we are bound
that we’re most caught. So, though perhaps you feel
at first you absolutely can’t perform
with such restrictions, try. Just take a chance
on sonnets or sestinas, on a rite
enacted over centuries of practice.

Though you’re stiff at first and out of practice,
You’ll improve yourself by leaps and bounds.
You’ll see that, far from giving up your rights
and freedoms, now in poetry you feel
a solid leverage, a boost, a chance
to bring ideas to new and higher forms.

So practice constantly until you feel
no longer bounded by the whims of chance,
but free within the rightness of your form.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Continuing Studies

If the soul’s evolution
ends in endlessness,
then I’m sure that even now
Swamiji is Master’s chela,
though both are one with God.

I imagine Master
showing him the ropes.
This is how to be a guru,
how to be an avatar.

And I thrust my hand in the air
crying “Please, Sir!
Practice on me!”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Night Triolet

When all the world is all a-spinning,
Just sit down and meditate,
Then in a trice you’ll soon be grinning,
As all the world calms its spinning.
So if your sense of hope is thinning,
And joy you would facilitate,
Then though the world is all a-spinning,
Just sit down and meditate.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2:30 AM Memorial

Sneaking awake in the middle of the night,
softly brewing a cup of tea in the dark,
swaddling myself in blankets on the couch —
and the laptop opens like a mystic portal

onto a bright, sunny, Italian day.
Its light shines only on my face,
the music sings only in my headphones,
leaving the stillness of night unstirred.

Disregarding miles, time zones, and eyelids,
I find myself transported there with friends, family,
and the one, unmoving friend who no longer
needs even this technology to reach me.

Eventually the portal closes, folding
the waiting night back around me, but now
with an extra secret, sealed in my soul
before it can fade in the distractions of day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The man of Truth perfected finds
The strength of his conviction
To be authority that binds
Reality’s depiction.

For when one’s word is never broke,
His speech creates predictions,
That have the power to revoke
All seeming contradictions.

Then as the World finds it hard —
A tiresome affliction —
To stand against this steadfast Bard,
It yields jurisdiction.

And so I carry on with my
Poetical infliction,
In hopes that someday too will I
Attract such benediction.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Here We Are

Here we are
gathered around a small, old body

And here we are
engulfed in a flow of energy
that began with an ending

And here we are
with a spiritual mission
as small as an individual heart
and as wide as the world

And here we are
looking around, realizing,
yes, it’s us

So here we are
ready, willing, and hope-to-God able

Here we are, Master.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

For Swamiji

I slept two hours last night,
one at the beginning and one at the end,
and in between, the surreal midnight
of bleary-eyed adrenalin
knocking on doors,
of pajamas and flashlights
making their way to the temple,
waiting to hear that it was a mistake,
another of the near-misses that
we almost take for granted.

But it wasn’t. This time,
of all the times, it was true.
No drama, no ambulances, no hospitals,
you just slipped off, almost casually,
between email and breakfast,
as if you didn’t want to trouble anybody.

And so we, nine hours and
many incarnations behind you,
gathered long before our own breakfasts,
to pray, and sing, and meditate, and love.
Just like your life, your death was a gift to us,
bringing us closer together,
closer to you, closer to God.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Then the music catches its breath

from a flow of flying grace notes,
eighth notes sparking grace into a
split second alive with stillness,
illuminating a space where
the keenness of hearing becomes,
for an instant, sight, and we see
ourselves, our fiddles, rosin dust
frozen midair as if in time,
clear but transparent over the
years since we last let the music
carry us together, the years
before, when we had lived for it,
and all the music that led up
to this tiniest moment of
no music, unexpected yet
inevitable, called into
being not because of us but
so specifically through us,
that we hear unison now in
each other, in the flow of sound
skirling, twirling around again,
and drawing us rushing onward

Friday, April 19, 2013

In Translation

Was it something I said?
It certainly wasn’t something I meant.
The fact that all our words are in English
means nothing if we aren’t speaking
the same language.

The source text of our lives is itself
in a foreign language,
one nobody speaks anymore.
Not dead, just waiting to be relearned.
And so our lives are spent
translating, interpreting, from thoughts,
ideals, intentions, potentials,
into physical manifestation.

We can’t always make it rhyme in the right places,
or make the meter come out in time,
but we know somewhere behind it all
is a thing of beauty.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Handkerchief

“Pardon me, Miss—
Did you lose this?”

A coyly dropped Kleenex, wadded up, has not quite the same flair,
But regardless the suitor, making do, retrieves it for his lady fair.

Is it so strange,
That romance has changed?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Overworked Sonnet

When all goes well and does not greatly strain
My efforts, skill, or allocated time,
Then I with my abilities remain
Content, nor driven greater heights to climb.
But as my obligations multiply,
My talent rapidly becomes undone,
I see how far beyond the grasp of my
Own competence my aspirations run.
’Tis then in no small panic I retreat,
To find within the source where power flows,
For Man cannot accomplish any feat,
But that his God through him has made it so.
Lord, therefore, as I labor, grant to me
That I not rest, if resting forget Thee.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Title Is Not Important

Really, a poem is so short,
They can just read it.
No need for a title to say what it’s about.
“Sonnet 53b” is plenty, if you must.

A sonnet, though, that’s a laugh!
Haven’t we outgrown that
in the last few centuries?

“I got rhythm,
I got meter,
I got an outmoded system of poetic confinement
that suppresses my creativity.”
Just line things up
against the left
or down the middle.
Close enough.

Those rhymes can go, too.
What is this,

And while you’re at it,
don’t stress out too much
about meaning.
Eye of the beholder and all that.
Everyone will read
something different into it,
so no worries if you
don’t quite get it sorted out.

Now feeling, though, that’s the ticket!
Get some good, ol’ fashioned emotion
going through this stuff.
Express yourself!
That’s how —
Hold on...

where’d it go?

Monday, April 15, 2013


Here’s to the middle, the center, the hub,
Whatever lies halfway, and sits at the nub.
When looking behind looks as far as ahead,
Your journey’s half over, you’ll soon reach your bed.
The midpoint’s the turning point, that’s where it’s at,
The median places assuring you that
Intermediate stages are always your friend,
For once you’ve passed midway, you’re close to the end.
So revel in limbo-land, not here nor there,
You’ve got to pass through it to get anywhere,
And when you’ve reached somewhere that’s where you should be,
You’ll look back and thank your encourager (me),
For getting you through all the doldrums and lows,
But I knew you could do it, ’cause that’s how it goes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Prodigal Shadow

At night, when darkness comes to claim its due,
My shadow slips its bonds and disappears.
The call of freedom each night rings anew,
A-thrill with hopes and fears.

The night can promise all things to a shade
That chafes each day at sunlight’s harsh restraint.
A world awaits that of itself is made,
Excused from light’s complaint.

Within the black my shadow reaches out,
It stretches, tumbles, turns and spreads its wings,
Beyond its normal limits casts about,
And darkly tries to sing.

No answer echoes back from out the dark,
Though other truant shadows gather there.
Their own exploring forms have left no mark,
No sound to move the air.

Alarmed, my shadow looks with some dismay
For its own self that to the night had rushed —
A missing nothingness of blackest gray,
A straining voice now hushed,

Is all that’s left of what it once had felt
To be a prison — ah, but now it sees
That to the altar of the dark it knelt,
And by the night was seized.

And so with longing heart and tempered pride,
My shadow, holding hope throughout the night,
By dawn resumes its place with me beside,
And welcomed home, admits it missed the light.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Have a Magic Shoe

When I first heard that God was everywhere,
infinitesimal as well as infinite,
I worried about stepping on Him.

Never sitting on
or bumping into Him —
it seemed He was always hiding in my shoe.

I’d give Him fair warning, respectfully, with
plenty of time to vacate
and make room for my foot.

I never knew which shoe He’d be in, though,
so I’d have to check.
Sometimes right, sometimes left,

and sometimes,
after a while,

Not that I’d see Him, necessarily,
but I’d feel Him grinning back at me
each time I won our little game of hide-and-seek.

That’s when He changed the rules.
When I thought I knew where to expect Him,
He’d sneak into my pocket, surprising me

before I’d even picked up my shoes...
where He’d still be, of course,
the mischievous grin coming in triplicate now.

Accepting the challenge, I redoubled my own efforts,
carefully inspecting each article of clothing,
calling softly, “Ready or not....”

He was always ready,
And always there.

Eventually — once he’d found his way
into the toothpaste,
and peeped out the spout of the tea kettle —

He started following me out of the house.
A world of hiding places, there,
discovered by ones and twos

behind clouds and buildings,
in music and the rumble of traffic,
the neighbor’s dog, the overgrown ivy.

People are trickier,
supplying Him with so many different masks.
But the more I look, the more He shows me.

We work together now,
playing on the same side.
Which just goes to show that

God will always come to you,
even, if needs be,
through your shoe.

Friday, April 12, 2013

That Which Is Asked About

The music master —
Hands, melodies, harmonies —
Calls forth the music.
The student listens in awe,
“But what does it mean?” he asks.

Again the master —
Hands, melodies, harmonies —
Calls forth the music,
Same, yet unchangingly new.
“That is what it meant,” he says.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Waltzer's Pantoum

If you haven’t yet waltzed, you can’t know how it is.
Stepping in time, sure, that’s a start.
It seems so simple, just turning like this,
But the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Stepping in time is a sure way to start,
Dodging her foot as you take to the floor.
But the whole is more than the sum of its parts,
And both of you find an increasing rapport.

Dodging another foot, crossing the floor,
More dancers surround you, all twirling like spheres,
And both of you find an increasing rapport
In threading a pathway through all of your peers.

More dancers everywhere blend into spheres,
The whirling lines blurring as sight slips aside.
In weaving a pattern with all of your peers,
You find space connects that had seemed to divide.

As blurring lines whirl and sight steps aside,
You find a new power that carries you on:
The space fills with music that cannot divide
But sweeps you all with it — you find that you’re drawn

By this powerful loving that carries you on,
Arcing through melody, space, and then time,
You’re swept up, and in the new poem that’s drawn,
Your bodies shape stanzas, the pivots all rhyme.

Arcing through melody, space, and then time,
Musicians and dancers transcending the hall,
We all come together in one joyful rhyme,
Not leading, not following, dancing with all.

The music, the dance, have transcended the hall,
It’s simple, yet infinite, turning like this,
You follow the Leader by dancing with all,
But now that you’ve waltzed... well, you know how it is.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Reincarnation Villanelle

Our lives extend beyond our sight,
An unrepeating repetend,
We come back ’till we get it right.

For though it looks like darkest night,
Death is not the final end —
Our lives extend beyond our sight.

We shirk our lessons, though despite
The karmic law we hope to bend,
We’ll come back ’till we get it right.

We struggle, hoping to rewrite
The epic plot that God has penned.
But life extends beyond our sight,

And when we give ourselves to Light,
We find it is our greatest friend,
Guiding us to get it right.

When finally, to our delight,
Our limitations we transcend,
All Life extends beyond mere sight.
We won’t come back; we got it right.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

In Which the Books Win

I can hardly stand to look
At things my friends might read for fun.
My house can’t take another book.

I’ve crammed them into every nook,
Partly read, or un-begun,
I can hardly stand to look.

I climb the piles with grappling hooks,
I fight them off with gatling guns,
My house can’t take another book.

I think I’m free, but I’m mistook —
They pile ’round me by the ton.
I can hardly stand to look.

I’d burn them but I’m trapped — I’d cook,
Farenheit 451.
My house can’t take another book.

I can’t escape, by hook or crook,
I know I never will be done.
I can hardly stand to look...
But still pick up another book.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sonnet for a Name Change

A name — a written, spoken face — defines
One’s life in ways unplanned. The words and thoughts,
The actions that eventually confine
Our expectations gather to us not
By will or choice, but seemingly by chance.
A set of circumstances, random whims,
A habit that became our only dance,
These few erratic notes define our hymns.
But always life, expanding, thriving, comes
To limits marked by words, and surging through
Gives birth to new-created names that from
The past are free, while still remaining true.
And so a man may look to be the same,
Yet, being free to grow, will change his name.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

For Cristie

My first
first cousin once removed,
should first be removed (at once!)
from my first first cousin proper.

In the meantime,
Cristie dreams longingly
of champagne corks
with happy childhoods.

They lead full, rich lives
and, go on, someday,
to have families of their own.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Birds are derived from the color blue.
The expansion of it, the height of the sky,
made it inevitable that life should soar there.
At the final dot of the Q.E.D., they appeared.

Time followed naturally from there.
The flapping of wings, as well as the baking of
pies (a process recently deduced
from the combined existence of cinnamon and apples),
logically implied a distinction between nows.

Our eyes catch motion in the air, and our hearts are
drawn upwards. Our aspirations inhabit a
timeful space in spaceless time.

Hope is born here, and though we may not
know our origin, it carries us on to our
destination. Which answers the same question.

Friday, April 5, 2013

C Major

Pianos have a landscape all their own,
Dark hills and white valleys that shape and guide
The music, chords, and melodies. Each key
A nearby foreign country, distinguished
By topography. Only C is flat,
Without a sharp or flat. It gives a wrong
Impression: nothing, blank, and empty. Not
A single mark to grace the written score,
A bare white cloud without a drop of rain.
Vanilla ice cream has the same effect,
Though similarly undeserved. But what
Do you see? What's the flavor of the key
Of C? A page of possibilities,
But more than that, the white of light, and not
Of absence. Light, the source of all creation,
Forming the receptacle and also
Filling it, a fullness that surpasses
Any mere division into finite
Qualities. What you find there is not
What it brings to you, which is everything,
But rather what you bring to it, and see
Reflected back to you: a human soul.
Musician? Banker? Sinner? Saint? You know
It's all in there. So if you don't like what
You see, just keep looking until you do.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Packing — probably as unpopular a task
As anything that ails you. It’s almost a nightmare
For the ornery, the unorganized, or others of their ilk.
It’s the current canary in the coal mine of my rapidly
Decreasing and dwindling endowment of time this evening.
What will I — or won’t I — need?
How many hands do I even have to carry it all?
Interestingly, the instruments are all itching to join me.
The mandolin is a maybe, mostly for the fact that it’s
Smaller than its sisters, except for one.
Yes, the ukulele is yapping excitedly,
Like a lapdog looking for walkies.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Poet and His Poem

Poetry’s a silly thing,
It makes a poet sigh.
Sometimes he can make it sing,
And sometimes he runs dry.

But still he tries, and yet again,
Through blood and sweat and tears,
And if it won’t come out his pen,
He’ll squeeze it from his ears.

So there it lies now, in his book,
A little worse for wear.
A grim and pouting kind of look,
Comes back to meet his stare.

Soon enough they’ll come to terms,
As providence decides.
The rhymes rebel. The meter squirms,
But presently subsides.

And someday, in a little while,
Creator and created
Will look back with a little smile
On the beauty they dictated.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


There’s something about a smile
Any smile
That draws you in.

A child’s smile, especially,
Teetering towards you
On a tiny bike with training wheels,
His helmet nearly as big as his head.

It brightens your day
Just to see him beaming up at you,
Proud of his slow, majestic wobbling,
Eyes half-closed in bliss.
You can’t help but smile back.

There’s something about a smile
Your smile
That calls to his.

Kindred souls
Sharing a wordless joy.

The resulting collision takes you both completely by surprise.

[based on a true story]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Listening to the Rain

Wind through water,
waves through sky,
a rushing streaming flowing
surrounds each one,
microscopic tsunamis
and tiny howling hurricanes
shaped by the sheer speed
of miniature seas streaking through space.

A drop connects - tap! - with a broad leaf
slipping off the side to - slap! - past a smaller one
joining a secondary chorus of dispersed plinks and plops
reaching the earth,

Where trickles crickle and seepings creep,
joining forces to track cracks in the ground.
Separating again sub-surface,
each sop soaks a clod,
to be sipped silently by a patient root,
where only an earthworm turns his head to notice.

Elsewhere, thousands of tiny, bare feet
slap the pavement as they run,
an invisible child bangs a metal pot,
sitting in the bend of the gutter pipe,
drowning out the rest.