Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lumps of Coal

After a blinding day of birds calling
whose names I will never know,
and trees dropping noisome
sap in the curdling street --
a night less oppressive.

I wish for a cauldron
to cook all the fat out of me,
to leave me slender, interesting, pale:
to render me into a storybook likely lad.

I am
genial, jolly, kindly, sexless, droll:
red faced, puffy and plump.
Still under my red velvet and white fur trim
there are odd ferocities and hungers.
Don't cross me too often or too much,
or you may see an old darkness
come into my eyes. I may not be dangerous
but I am not quite safe.

At night I take my lumps of coal
and fling them one by one at streetlights,
hitting aluminum crossbars
with a high and chilling ping,
the frosted glass
with a muffled chink. Wicked boys
and girls, here's what you get tonight,
here's your real reward: old fingers
smeared with soot, and a tongue
black with licking.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Word for Home (Present and Past)

Bright sky torn across the top;
crow calls where the damaged cloud
picks apart the tufts of soiled floss
and runs a ragged furrow through the trees.

He carries in an inside pocket (quilted plaid)
surgical instruments in a neat row, polished
and sweet, like the needle teeth of kittens.
He always says that opening the body
is something best done quick or not at all.

The stutter of the cloud fades into purple
where the bay goes silent and the gulls veer
left and right, leaving the straight ahead
to eyes without the sense to pull away.

They ask him if he misses home
and he just shrugs. I don't remember,
he says, how to say the word
in my own tongue.

Bright sky torn across the top;
a crow called where the damaged cloud
picked apart the tufts of soiled floss
and ran a ragged furrow through the trees.

He carried a in an inside pocket (quilted plaid)
surgical instruments in a neat row, polished
and sweet, like the needle teeth of kittens.
He always said that opening the body
was something best done quick or not at all.

The stutter of the cloud wore into purple
where the bay went silent and the gulls veered
left and right, leaving the straight ahead
to eyes without the sense to pull away.

They asked him if he missed his home
and he just shrugged. I don't remember,
he said, how to say the word
in my own tongue.

Now, the most interesting part of this exercise was discovering that if I was going to put the crow call into the simple past, I could not leave her without an article. It had to be “a crow.” Whereas in the abstract present (what's the technical term for that?), I was perfectly happy with “crow,” unarticled. I'm still waiting for this man to tell me more about himself: I rather think he fled Poland after the 1830 uprising and spent twenty years practicing medicine in the Rheinland before moving on to San Francisco in the 1850's, where he may or may not have drunk whiskey with a young, redheaded, rather hysterical ex-military young man (who was trying to become a banker & realtor and failing), name of William Tecumseh Sherman.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Word for Home

Bright sky torn across the top;
crow calls where the damaged cloud
picks apart the tufts of soiled floss
and runs a ragged furrow through the trees.

He carried a in an inside pocket (quilted plaid)
surgical instruments in a neat row, polished
and sweet, like the needle teeth of kittens.
He always said that opening the body
was something best done quick or not at all.

The stutter of the cloud fades into purple
where the bay goes silent and the gulls veer
left and right, leaving the straight ahead
to eyes without the sense to pull away.

They asked him if he missed his home
and he just shrugged. I don't remember,
he said, how to say the word
in my own tongue.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Gathering the Threads

Begin when all the rest had left behind them
Headlong death in battle or at sea --

I am, you realize, Percy Bysshe Shelley: Shelley grown old, fat, timid, and doubtful. I understand all that swathe of destruction. The conviction that the desire sweeping over me must be drenching all the land, filling up arteries and arterioles of the earth -- not to mention the woman who has fixed my attention. But, you know, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. And Harriet Westbrook and Mary Godwin Shelley learned that the bitter hard way.

Still, Mary would never hear a word against him. And that counts for something, as his poems wash up less and less often on the shore of the present. He's slipping back into the ocean: his champions have made personae non gratae of themselves, and anyway, he was not quite, not quite good enough to make the leap. It's good to know Mary is still waiting for him down there, among the other women and the fish.

It's this business of seeing around corners, of seeing the transparency of your own flesh, the quick glance away of knowing dark eyes, the blindness as the sun swings into the telescope, when the sidewalks all twist and ripple and you can see all the restless things beneath. It's never quite still, and never quite dead. Things that other people can't see clutch at you. Words throw long thread-roots into other words, and drag themselves into other languages, while they're still not quite unfleshed. It's the not-quite-ness that stings.

But none of this is what I wanted to say. I look over the lined faces of the poets carefully, as they lean into each other, each in black, and try to read the threads there, too. We are all Penelope, unweaving at night what we wove in the day, putting off a new husband as long as we can, hoping old Manytropes will still roll home in the end, shaggy but mossless. He might still outsmart them all. He might.

Fools and children!
They feasted on the kine of Helios
And he who walks all day through the heavens
Took from their eyes the dawn of their return.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What She Said

I have feathers growing over my skull, like a Mohawk parrot: and a line of wispy foliage runs on down my spine. Ridges of featherwork lead from pinky-base to elbow, from elbow to shoulder: rusty red feathers that tickle in the breeze. On the tops of my ears are delicate tufts. I hear better than I did.

I suppose I am turning into a bird: I have stronger than ever a yen to climb lightly onto housetops and to perch on wires. My bones are hollowing, turning to wishbones and tuning forks. Open spaces, where the wind might big me up and tumble me, are dangerous and alluring. The high silver static in my ears modulates to the distant scream of hawks.

I can feel my eyes grow brighter and sharper. When someone says something muddled I find myself turning my head to the side, so as to fix them with a one-eyed, brilliant, predator's stare.

Not long now, says the goddess. Oh, not long now, my darling.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Thirteen years a sapling
too weak to fight, too tough to kill;

thirteen years a young tree
struggling to stand;

thirteen years of bearing
confiscated fruit.

The roots knot
under the wall and pull;

the slow lean of tree thighs
splits the stone;

in the shade moisture
gathers, freezes, cracks.

When the wall falls
no one is surprised but the tree.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cute Curls, Bodhicitta, Birches

Came downstairs, and rapidly cleaned the kitchen up to house-showing level – threw the few last dishes in the dishwasher and turned it on, wiped down the counters, polished the glass of the stove top. Then did my back exercises, but rebelled at the idea of taking a shower. Instead I just threw on a new shirt, all wrinkly from sitting in the clean clothes basket in the basement, and drove here to Tom's in the drizzly summer rain.

I got eight hours of sleep last night – much more than I've been getting lately – and I feel rumpled and unkempt, inside and out. In the bathroom mirror at Tom's I see tufts of white-and-gray hair poking this way and that, including a fetching little curl on my temple. Can't quite tolerate that. I moisten a finger and try to straighten it: when it won't straighten, I settle for poking it under another tuft. Looking like an old homeless alcoholic is one thing: I can deal with that. But a cute curl at my temple is too much. I often wonder what it would be like, to be truly free of caring about a face to meet the faces. It might be wonderful.

Or it might just be a door into another room of doors. People spend lifetimes at it, trying to get free, and the reports that seem most honest are not particularly encouraging. Those people posit further lives, I think, not because they want to live forever – that's the whole point, they emphatically don't – but because they recognize that a project of that scale is not one to be completed in a paltry three score and ten.

In any case, there's no draft of fresh air from that direction, not for me, not today. Today the outside air, smelling of rain and hilltops, comes from the simplest bodhicitta prayers: May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. May all beings be without suffering and the causes of suffering. May all beings never be without the sacred joy that is without suffering. That's the direction in which freedom seems to lie today.

A deep breath. I push my spine against the booth-back, let it unscroll, let my sacrum unlock, let all my ribs lift towards the rain, towards the simplicity of love: and I have a sudden wish that I still had little children. Putting compassion in action is so easy, then. You just sit down on the floor and pay attention, and their cup of joy fills right up. With adults it gets so much trickier.

I want to plant a birch tree, at the new house, if ever we get so far as a new house. And if it fits, of course. I love birch trees. Are they native? I don't know. I think of the marvelous stand of birches in that park towards the Coast, on the slopes of – Saddle Mountain, was that it? And the yellow-green light and the white trunks, the spaciousness. They weren't large trees, but it had the feel of an old wood. There's a grand old birch behind the parking lot at Tom's, that's come in and out of my poetry a couple times. Posing as a willow, once, because I needed two syllables and liquid consonants. Sorry. I still feel bad about that.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


The man from the mountains
ferreted out the fish girl; feet sore

with calluses, he descended the hills
like a mountain lion and sniffed her skin

scaled in water. . . .

“Satyavati and Vyasa,” Uma Gowrishankar

Ferreting out the fish girl: I have spent my life
finding wounded girls on mountainsides
and bringing them to the river.

I turn quickly; one callused foot
in the clear water running over the staves,
one foot in the mud of the bank – and then I am running,
running to where the sweet fish smell and the pitch,
the resin of the young alders, can no longer find me.

Oh yes! I can call the mist; and I can change the smell
of fish into something so rare and lovely
all kings desire it; and I can restore
virginity – always the last gift they ask for,
and the most important: make it, they implore me,
as if you had never been.

Well. It is the lesson every rishi should learn,
if being is illusion and every man
calls his own fate down upon him: the price
of love is the river water
filling your footprints, and the quick shove
of a boat into the stream.

Friday, July 15, 2011


My response to Zhoen's comment on the post below is here, on the massage blog.

I haff created a monster! With two blogs, and posts published from each on two social networks. Linkenstein and Bride of Linkenstein.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Privacy and Exposure

Dawn: Venus high in the southeast; light clouds. A quiet morning. Light just beginning to collect in the spaces between the leaves.

It was still full dark when I awoke, conscious of a dull pain in my chest, around the fifth or sixth rib on the right, fretting about it – chest pain! It could be my heart! – in my sleep. I sat up and meditated for twenty minutes, watching my breath, becoming aware of all the light in the room, the green light from the clock, the irritating blue-white throb of my netbook recharging beside the bed. It's just a little indicator light, the size of the head of a pin: but it pulsed in my peripheral vision, catching my attention again and again. I wonder if it woke me. I'll put the netbook to charge downstairs, from now on, and cover the face of the clock before I go to sleep.

By the time I was saying the dedication prayers the light of dawn was appearing, and I knew my chances of getting more sleep were slim. That's okay. I'll sleep when I need to. The pain in my chest had wandered away. I came down to the landing to look at the sky, saluted Venus. And now I'm sitting in the living room, listening to the loud tick of the wall-clock, and wondering why the birds are so quiet. A car engine starts up, down the block, and the light is strong now, but the birds aren't saying a thing. I even see one, flashing through the maple boughs, a starling maybe. All silent.

Puzzled, I go out to the deck, sit cross-legged against the wall. Out here, I can hear them. But they're very quiet. No wonder I couldn't hear them inside. The loudest ones are the crows, blocks away, over on the slope of 53rd Avenue, where they like to gather for a brief conference before splitting up into their work-groups. But it's just one, saying the same thing over and over again. Two long caws, a pause, two long caws, a pause, two long caws. No one else speaks up: the others are listening sullenly. So I imagine.

I worked long hours – for me – on my data project yesterday, and I'm a little out of sorts, a little out of balance. My mind feels a little out of true, and my eyes are tired. And I've just done, for one day, what most software people do every working day. It's a wonder any of them last a year.

I was so happy to hear from everyone, yesterday, in my comments! And surprised that my last evoked so much response. But a lot of people seem to be uneasy with their online presences – some more uneasy about the fragmentation, others about the overexposure. The advent of Google Plus, even if you decide not to adopt it, has to stir up all the questions and anxieties that Facebook and Twitter were already raising, about privacy and exposure and homeliness (in the older sense of that word). A couple people brought up the very serious matter of exposing other people with your writing. It's not just our own privacy at stake. (Zuckerberg may not be my cup of tea, but he was right in the largest sense, that privacy and exposure are going to undergo radical cultural shifts as a result of most of us being searchable: I have no answers or predictions, but we are all going to have to attend to it.)

I've been astonished at how difficult it's been for me to find my footing with a “professional” blog, the blog attached to my massage website. It's a different kind of exposure to a different audience – exposure to people who might be employing me as a therapist, exposure to people who are colleagues or rivals – to people who know a lot about the topics and might catch me out. It raises some of the anxieties that academic writing raised, particularly since I find I don't fit in well with any of the massage clans – I heartily dislike both the medical and the shamanic models, with their claims to higher occult truths that are accessible only to people who take expensive training workshops: I really think that a fifteen-year-old who gives her grandma back rubs probably does as much good for her as would the most highly trained specialist in Myofascial Some-Guy's-Name Technique or a level 6 master of some supposedly ancient Asian (conveniently untranslated; if pressed, untranslatable) lore. I don't think rubbing people and making them feel loved and soothed and comforted is really that abstruse or that difficult: the only reason it's a viable “profession” is that our culture is so isolating, so high-pressure, and so hypersexualized, that the only way most people can get the humane, attentive, non-demanding touch they crave is by paying for it. They really don't need us: if by custom everybody in the grocery line rubbed the neck and shoulders of the person ahead of them, the bottom would drop out of our business and we'd be out on the street. It's not our skills that are in demand – it's our willingness to touch and attend, without groping, rushing or judging.

But that's hardly the sort of thing you make a professional blog out of -- saying that professional skills are bogus and unnecessary. I don't know. I need to rethink the whole project.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


One of the great advantages to having a blog, over the last eight years, is that it has gradually made me real. I know, the idea most people have of online presence is that it's easily faked -- there are all these articles about people presenting their lives as perfect on Facebook, and so forth. People warn you that you "don't really know" people you've met online. But my personal experience of blogging, and online life generally, has been one of inexorable outing. The people who knew me as a massage therapist met, in my comment threads, the people who knew me as an Old English scholar. The people to whom I was primarily a software guy at IBM read memoir that I had written with an audience of radical lefty free-school kids in mind; the people to whom I was a hard-core Buddhist, arguing about the emptiness of emptiness of an evening, got to read my posts about how I couldn't resist ice cream. The process culminated when I found out my father was reading my blog. All these communities I'd carefully kept apart, at arm's length were all in the same room. And the explosion --

The explosion never happened. Nothing blew up. Nobody hated me, nobody thought less of me. People have been -- especially given how cranky and contentious I can be -- remarkably kind and thoughtful and spacious. I had been basing my idea of what was safe to expose to people on my experience of junior high school. In fact, junior high was the exception, the only community I've ever inhabited in which people despised you for having eccentric interests, and maintained rigid hierarchies of social cliques. I know there are others, and I'm very sorry for people who have to live in them. But the actual social world I live in now is very fluid, very generous. I have gradually learned -- through blogging and online communities -- that I don't really have to hide. Probably I never did, once I was free of compulsory schools: but it took a long time -- and a blog -- for me to learn it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


You can think too much about how you want your life to be, forgetting how little control you have over it – how little engaged in the day to day decisions that make your life, is that morose and detached little twist of the the frontal lobe that likes to speculate on what a Good Life would be. The two things, the thought and the life, don't really have that much to do with each other. And it's probably just as well it should be so, because that little twist doesn't have much sense.

But on the other hand, you can lose track entirely, for months at a time, until you wake up one morning and ask yourself, “who is this person, and what are they doing? And why are they doing it?” And you watch, puzzled, while your hand reaches for the toothbrush. “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers,” intoned the objectionable William. “We have given our hearts away – a sordid boon!”

Since I am quite sure that I have a heart – is this real glass? I asked, and smashed it on the table: sure enough, real glass – since I'm quite sure, now, it might not be completely useless to ask, where I want to lay its patched together fragments. With the complete understanding that the morose little twist that asks the question can speak neither for my heart, nor for my operations manager.

“It will have leaves in it, and massage,” was the first answer I came up with. “And it will read books it delights in.”

And that set me to thinking of how much of this life I've dreamed away in books, following fantasy after fantasy. In the days of bondage I used to read all the time, sometimes thinking that the day would come when I would have a life and a story of my own, sometimes thinking I would not. And the habit lingered into my freedom, until now I have to ask, are the stories now my bondage? What is it that I do, when I read a story? Where am I? What do you call that intimacy with the dead? Because they are mostly dead now, or dead to me. The living writers I know are poets, mostly, and poetry lives in a different space – less controlled, less escapist, altogether more dangerous and unpredictable.

Last night Martha invited me to come read in the back yard, as the long summer afternoon settled into evening, to keep her company while she spread compost and planted grass. So I went and settled into a lawn chair, and she was going to come down and join me. I was reading Dancing Aztecs, by Donald Westlake. I read for an hour and she never joined me. She had been drawn into conversation with a neighbor.

It was a perfect evening, and the book – a dreadfully uneven mishmash of shrewd observation about America, with bits of undissolved racism bobbing in it – was basically about new lives. “Get a fast car and keep on driving,” as Tracy Chapman said. I sat in the yard with the leaves shimmering around me, a perfect summer evening, and thought of how little time I ever spent in this yard, and wondered how we would live in the new house.

Well, obviously, we'll live there exactly as we live here. We'll be the same people. Not much will change, no matter how much hope or anxiety we invest in it. If something is to be different, we will have to do something different. What do we want? Well, we never decided. I was too busy building a private space in which to smash glass to even ask the question. And the demands of raising children overwhelmed us. We're not high-energy people. We do a bit and stop and rest and wonder.

And that, I think, should be all right. Anyway, it's what we have to work with. Unless what we really have is lots of thwarted energy running opposite ways. Sometimes it feels like that. The vector sum of the forces is small, but that doesn't mean the forces are small. That's another thing I wonder about.

I was thinking about IBM, how intolerable it became there. I always think that “I jumped before I was pushed,” but I don't really know that: all I know is that I quit. And it occurred to me, as a startling and novel thought, that I was lonely there.

I don't think of myself as someone who gets lonely. All my life people have pestered me with suggestions that I must be lonely, when I was perfectly happy. I used to roam in the hills alone, and people thought I was lonely. I eat breakfast by myself and write and think, and people think I'm lonely. I wasn't, and I'm not. And I was always exasperated by the “team-building exercises” at work, which jammed a bunch of loners like me into groups to play putt-putt golf or drive little race cars around tracks. I wanted to be left alone to work. But now I think that I was lonely, at IBM, and maybe I have been lonely the last couple weeks at the Foundation.

“Some people,” said Barney, “run on a pretty lean mix.” I don't need much, or want much. But I miss Faith, who used to come in once or twice a week to check on me, and would touch my shoulder, and reassure me that what I was doing was important. Ten minutes of contact a week, maybe. But she looked me in the eye and gave me her whole attention, for that time, and took what I said seriously. It was the mix I needed. And Barney suggested that if I didn't have it now at work, I should think about how to get it, possibly even going to the radical extreme of asking for it.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Every touch creates a tidemark.
Behind it, the sounding sea, the rush
and swell of blood in capillaries
of ears or throat; air breaking on the beach
of your chest, the fading surf of shame,
the receding tide of insult, and eventually,
the full moon at the still pivot, high tide,
my hands coming to rest, a momentary sense
of plenitude. It will not stay. I did not make it.

Ten thousand advertisements say
they want a walk on the beach and a glass
of some wine better than they knew at home.

Is it disrespect to say I don't believe it?
to say the wind is skating disregarded feathers
on wide and empty sand-shelves even now?

I don't know much, but the moon does come
to sit with me on cloudy evenings, and he brings
a gallon of home-brewed yarrow beer to split.
He tells me all about how people hide from him,
How he rises over bunchgrass and glittering silica
where nothing but cellophane wrappers go for walks.

And a gruff tenderness comes into his pocked face
when he speaks of low tide, of wincing things exposed
that have no recourse, no defense against the sun.
He rises, snaps his weed-pouch shut, and sighs.
It's back to work for him, and for me, it's sheets to wash,
bottles of lavender oil and cloudlight to refill.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Small Craft

A stout woman in a black pantsuit driving a black jeep:
does she picture herself in fatigues and a helmet,
dangling cigarette, left leg cocked jauntily over the side?
Our boys cruised over the Siegfried Line like that.

Or the woman with her hair clutched back by barrettes,
in the battered silver Toyota, grimly piloting
her way into the Death Star: a suicide mission
to keep her family from destruction;

or again, driving the old Mercedes,
its interior afloat with masses of dark hair,
the hands of toddlers and the tails of dogs waving
like sea fronds, her sunglasses perched like false eyes

on the back of a creature with no other defense
than to look bigger than it is, and fiercer:
does she hear the blip blip of the sonar,
the silent running of the hidden ship?

The cafe rocks with the shifting of the plates
and I am peering out the window as we start:
the engine of the milkshake stirrer wakes;
we cast off, cruising past the cars and waving trees.

The lurching of upholstered seats, the rocking
of the tables, the silverware aslide on the formica:
Oh yes, we too, we too are underway;
we have our hidden destinations too.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Pools

Your thoracic vertebrae
curl in a perfect quarter circle,
in a widow's hump that fits,
so small are you, almost within my hand.
(I've laid you on your side:
you'll never again in this life
lie comfortable on your stomach or your back.)

You'd think I was mocking
if I said you were beautiful, but you are,
ninety years and still undaunted;
if your spine is curled
like the frond of a fern,
and the skin of your shoulders
is like a rind of avocado,
still the skin that never saw the sun
is soft and unblemished, and answers any question
my fingers put to it. Age
takes less than we imagine.

You say it must be hard
to massage an old lady.
deliberately misunderstand, and say that no,
what's hard is weight-lifters
with acres of muscle to get through:
Old ladies, I say, are easy:
this I could do all day.
I let
a hint of mockery stand, let
quotation marks settle around "old ladies."
I am perfectly aware of you as woman,
and no, age neither threatens nor repels me:
I hope to get there myself someday, with luck.

For now
My thumbs walk on the basketball curve
either side of the spinous processes,
sinking gently into the laminal groove,
finding little pools of pain you say
you didn't know were there. And this
is what everyone says to me,
whatever the curl of their spine,
however many years
they have been bowing over
kindergartners' desks.
This is not age, my dear one:
this is life.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Waiting It Out

I am trying to read George MacDonald again -- Lilith -- and failing. I find him arch and overbearing, both, and I find myself wanting to ask: are you quite sure that the keys were given into your hand? And why should I want to be lectured all day long by an English parson, even if he is a shapeshifter? I think of myself often as a misplaced Victorian, but even I don't have quite that appetite for being improved.

So I lay it aside again. I had wanted to read Eddison, Mistress of Mistresses, but Eddison is packed up with all the E's: both Eliots, Emerson, Edwards. I lie back on the bed, and experience the summer warmth, for the first time this year. Firecrackers pop and things that surely aren't legal blow up, apparently just behind my ear; others whistle and thrash. But the feel of the day is peaceful, and the leaves play with the setting sun: I treat the howling and bursting things as if they were the surf of some ocean, crashing on the shore of the street.

A feeling as if the bones of my hands and feet have grown too large: a faint dustiness between my fingers and toes, a thirst that won't quite be addressed by any drink to hand. I wait for the 4th of July to be over with more patience than I've mustered for decades. I have, like Jefferson, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind. Twice a year I can wait.

Ah, but tomorrow, tomorrow I will run like a dog on the beach, and bite the waves, and shake water all over my friends, and no one will make me behave, not for a moment.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


If I miss your paper skin and shaking hands
then they are not entirely gone; if the membrane
of the sky still shivers with your inhalation,
you are not dead. If the knife that cut your abdomen clean
under a tent in the South Pacific, and fished
the swollen worm of your appendix onto a dish,
is still in a cracking leather case in a closet, somewhere, anywhere –
Dad's surgical kit from the war, would like a museum want this?
then your blood must still be beating – up and over the hills –
under the river where Tony-Dog anxiously watched you swim.

But this is not afterlife we talk of here, this cloud
that sinks slow and blurs white in a medicinal glass, this
morning half-grapefruit and bowl of mush that we can't believe
there's no one here to eat. This is the startling chitter of squirrels
outraged by by your cat, and all the inexplicable continuations,
all the things that should have disappeared when you did:
the warmth of your wife's skin, the laughter of your daughter's eyes.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Floor Below That

A minor plunge into disorientation and anxiety, the last couple of days. Of finding myself unable to work, at work, of not being able to get myself to do ordinary chores or make necessary phone calls. Of finding my mind almost wholly unserviceable.

It was my daily frame of my mind, the last few years at IBM: I call it “minor” because it passed so quickly and wasn't all that debilitating while it was here. I did eventually get to work; I did eventually do my chores and make my phone calls.

The whole while it seemed like a weak echo, not the real thing, an atavistic phantom conjured by anxiety about selling the house, and I haven't been that troubled by it. But there's one new aspect to it. Sexual interest is not a get-out-of-jail-free card any more. I hadn't realized how useful it was. I could lose motivation in every other area of my life, but I never lost it in that. Sexual interest doesn't help you get to work at work, but it does at least supply you with, well, interest. It keeps you from subsiding altogether into apathy. But for the first time in my life, I was thinking, “so what?” in response to sexual thoughts. “Where would that get me?”

It's not a response I've ever had before. It used to be as far as I could drop. If everything else seemed useless and impossible, there was still that. I could still respond to sexual image and fantasy. I could still wander out onto the summer streets and see women that enchanted me. If that can go, too – what's the floor below that? Where do you drop if even that fails to hold you?

I don't know, and I'm not anxious to find out. I have no intention of spending any more time in the frame of mind that I (rather unfairly) associate with IBM. I don't want to drop that far again, let alone further.

This episode was the kick in the butt I needed to restart my practice, anyway. I sat shamatha for twenty minutes this morning. And now I'm off to work to catch up on everything I let slide earlier.