Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Maybe it's like practicing for a sort of death. A way to pretend at fragility, to inhabit, for however brief a time, sheer breakability, to enter the underworld and prepare yourself for what it will feel like to be helpless.

When I grow up and become a real blogger with a Wordpress blog and quick-draw html prowess, I'm going to have smorgasblog like Bonta. Till then I'll just keep on occasionally, arbitrarily and inconsistently linking to things like this amazing post of Kristen McHenry's, about the childhood doll she saved up for 14 months to buy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Morning

Now this is Spring: the deep dark and the long steady rain.

No hint of morning yet: somewhere above the clouds the sky must be changing color, but no sign of it here below. The rain is soft but persistent; the parking lot of Tosi's glimmers, shimmies. Each raindrop, as it strikes, is a vanishing pixel, catching streetlight or traffic light or headlight: the whole surface wavers like an old tv screen. Beyond, the cars kick up wakes of spray behind, and cast beams of lighted droplets forward.

In the cafe, people talk quietly. It's slow: Jimmy comes out from the kitchen and perches at the booth of the old-timers by the window. The radio plays softly, some old song about longing to go out dancing.

As I've been writing, the sky has imperceptibly lightened. At least I suppose so: the doug firs have darkened -- their black sillouettes are clear now against the sky.

And now a tide of blue-gray light is slowly washing in, from everywhere and nowhere. Morning. The rain patters on, the parking lot gleams as before, but you can sense that somewhere the gods are waking, that restless intelligences are abroad now. Intention is washing into the world with the light. People have plans, ambitions, agendas. All over the city they're jolting awake with alarm clocks, launching themselves out of bed, shaving, applying makeup, running over their daily list of fears and hopes for the day, reminding themselves of appointments, tasks undone, disputes unsettled.

I say I'm a morning person, but it's not this moment of the morning that I belong to. It's the moment before this one, when the doug firs first pick themselves out against the paling sky. I have nothing to do with the frantic preparation of faces, and I want nothing to do with it. Let them go and fight their battles. There's nothing I want out there. I want the touch of your hand, the slow sleepy bright smile, the pools of lamplight, the gradual wash of cloudlight.

Good morning. Good morning, dear.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Making Sense of Things

Morning. The trees peering sleepily into their mirrors to see how they look in their new leaves.

There are six ways to order three different objects; twenty-four ways to order four. I had forgotten how to figure that out – I came late to that branch of mathematics, and it doesn't stick very well – but I was able to think my way to the algorithm, using my old programmer habits (start with the simple cases, and look for the patterns) and visualizing the objects as a row of buttons. I still can't remember the names for these things. But the formula is enchantingly simple. The number of ways to order 3 things is 3 x 2; the number of ways to order four objects is 4 x 3x 2, five is 5 x 4 x 3 x 2, etc. The solution came to me so easily that I must have remembered something about it. I wonder what. Those ghostly memories fascinate me. Did I remember only that the solution was simple and easy to remember? Did I remember an image of a row of buttons? Or did I only remember that the problem had a solution, that I once knew? That would be enough to keep me confidently gnawing at it till I got it.

This is how I thought about it. Two buttons – lets call them Fred and George – can only be ordered two ways: either Fred comes first or George comes first. So now we're going to introduce a third button. Call her Amy. Say Fred and George are standing like this:

(Fred) (George)

Button Amy has three different places she can stand: before Fred, in between Fred and George, or after George.

(Amy?) (Fred) (Amy?) (George) (Amy?)

So there are three possible orders with Fred and George standing this way. But Fred and George could also stand the other way around, with George first. In that case Amy would, again, have three different choices about where to stand, making six possible orders (3 x 2) in all. And whenever you're going to add a button, it will be just the same. If you have a 20 buttons, there will be 21 slots the new button can take, so the formula for the number of orders of 21 buttons can take will be 21 x (however many orders the other 20 can take.)

Easy to fill in the parenthesis. You'd figure out 20 buttons the same way: 20 x (however many orders the other 19 can take): so it's 21 x 20 x (however many orders the other 19 can take.)

And you figure out 19 the same way, of course. 19 x (however many the other 18 can take), which gives us 21 x 20 x 19 x (however many the other 18 can take). At this point of course the pattern is obvious. And now you've solved the problem for any number of buttons, be it billions, or trillions, or even a large number, such as the number of pennies in the national debt. Lovely!

I didn't learn this stuff until I was in my thirties – I have a rather odd educational history – so I remember clearly my delight in it when I first came across it. And the counter-intuitive knack, which you use all the time in calculus, of deferring the working out of the actual solution until after you've understood the pattern. The pattern is (the number of slots) times (the number of orders of the rest). Once you understand that clearly, the only problem you actually have to solve, at the end of the series, is: how many orders can two objects take? And even my soggy old over-fifty brain can do that by dead reckoning. It's Fred first and then George, or George first and then Fred. No other option. Two different orders.

This all started because I was walking down the street and saw a business logo – four squares arranged in a big square, with one letter in each square – and I wondered which way you were supposed to read them: right to left and then top to bottom? Or top to bottom and then right to left? And then my eye started playing with different paths, and that brought me to wondering: how many different paths through these letters are possible? How many orders are there, anyway?

I frowned, thinking, I know I knew this once. So I set to work to recover the knowledge, and after walking a couple blocks I had it back.

My mind does this sort of thing all the time. It's always ferreting about for intelligibility, playing with patterns. Letters and numbers magnetize me, fascinate me. There are few pleasures more intense to me than that of figuring out a simple solution to something apparently confusing and complex. Knowing enough of Old English, Old Norman French, and the laws of phonetic change that English spelling actually makes sense is a daily gratification. I find the sort of mind that can rest easy with a spelling such as “knight” baffling. How can you accept such a thing? How can your mind not ache? How can it not ask: what 'k'? why is the 'i' long? what are that 'g' and 'h' doing there? How can this have seemed like the right way to spell this word to somebody?

Even more baffling to me: how can you be proud of knowing how to spell the damn word, without understanding why it's spelled that way? How can you lord it over someone who tries to spell it in a way that actually makes sense? Someone who writes “nite” is at least using systematic rules, is bringing his or her intelligence to bear on the problem. Every day I read people sneering at examples “illiteracy” which seem to me far more admirable than the obedient memorization of a set of opaque facts.

I don't want to just know the right answers. I want to understand the answers.

It all comes down a respect and tenderness for other human beings. An Anglo-Norman monk sat in his English scriptorium, on a day when the new leaves were just coming out, faced with an impossible task. He was keeping legal records, depositions: he was supposed to write down, for the sake of our Lord Christ, the noises the Saxons made in saying their word for the seigneur -- that click at the beginning of the word, the cat-like hiss in the middle. What to do? Well, 'k' would do for the click, but what about that horrible throat-clearing sound? 'g' at least put it at the back of the throat. Throw in an 'h' to suggest the hissing. What else can you do? He dipped his pen in the ink and carefully began to write.

The man did his best with what he had. A few centuries later the click and the hiss were gone, worn away with the rub of the years: the only sign of them left was the lengthening of the 'i' into a diphthong – what we call “long 'i'” – to compensate for the lost hiss. But the nonsensical spelling was enshrined in writing now. It was “correct,” and everybody had to use it, other people just as hapless, children sitting in schoolrooms on days when the new leaves were just coming out, and they ached to be outside playing.

It's not the rules, not the rules that count. It's not the correctness. It's trying to make sense of things. And the new leaves. Those are what count.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Cloud staining cloud;
silver seeping through white screens;
tarnish soaking through cotton.

Forget love, forget the writing of poems.
Come with me. Walk on moss crusted sidewalks:
tell stories about five year olds

and the deeds of long dead cats.
Ask riddles you learned when you were small.
Tell your favorite color.

Walk the curb like a balance beam;
pool your change with me
to buy a Three Musketeers.

We'll watch the sky change
and the rain sweep down from the hills
until the gutters run clear as glass.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Helium Head Revisited

Carolee made a poem out of my "Helium Head" post. I'm so delighted!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Four Stations: Sun and Moon

Then, the lighted doorway: new leaves glimmering;
the waxing moon
losing her footing on turbulent clouds.
Softness of breast under sweater. Goodbye:
always goodbye.

Now morning, half light, hunched shoulders,
sorting through versions of the day, deciding
on the next press release, my own handler.
What the President meant to say --
What the President was trying to convey --
Hush. No one is listening.

This evening
I will drive through a concrete tunnel and up a hill
to where the sunset country gleams,
too bright to look at. Over the West Hills,
into the land of promise. No one can see:
The traffic will slow
and grope. An orange and violet diffusion,
the sky wearing garish lipstick, the road paint
glitttering. Sun
will hold my head in the vice of her hands:
an unwelcome aunt determined on a kiss.

Listen. This is all I have.
Don't think that there's more concealed,
better to come, delights yet
undisclosed. I love you like
a mother mouse loves the squirming skin
jellybeans of her litter;
I love you like a stag in rut
loves any doe that crosses his path.
I love you like a wolf loves
his loping packmates,
like a swan loves the glide of his wife,
like the moon loves the clouds that stumble her.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Helium Head

Yet another confession: I am a helium head. That's what I understand they call them in the Air Force, anyway: people who are obsessed with lighter-than-air flight. Airplanes, forcing their way through the air with props or jet engines, do almost nothing to satisfy my craving for flight. What good is flying if you can't feel the wind in your hair, and can't hear the silence of the sky? I want to sail in the sky, not to motor in it. I dream of vast ships, constructed of high-tech filament and membrane, using the wind the same way a sailing ship does. They'd be transparent, barely there, like the jellyfish I've seen in Oregon Coast Aquarium, barely distinguishable from the water, using the water, not fighting it. My ships would use the air, the same way. Airplanes are capsules for transiting a hostile environment. They're for land beasts that really don't trust the sky. Like so much of modern industrial culture, they're essentially hostile to the natural world, wanting to conquer it, to tame it, rather than to understand it and work with it.

I've read that one reason German pilots were the most accomplished, early in the second world war, was that they nearly all trained as glider pilots first. They understood the air as an environment more sensitively than pilots accustomed to bulling their way through it from the start.

The ships would have to be huge. Forget jet packs and angel wings: they're for people who've never really thought about the physics of flight. A condor weighs 20 lbs and has a wing span of 10 feet; by plain arithmetic proportion a human being with a little gear would need a wing span of maybe 100 feet These are idle numbers – the progressions aren't arithmetic. Rigid airship builders reckoned that helium ships “broke even” at about eighty feet. To sail in the air you'd need to accept these proportions: you would be like those little dots, the nuclei of jellyfish, not like a superhero. If you wanted to carry other people, or freight, the proportions would of course be even greater. Most people I think lose visceral interest at this point. What good would flying be if you weren't the center of attention? But if you really play boldly with the scales, you realize that at really large sizes, the penny-per-mile cost of bulk freight could be astonishingly low. Grain to Russia? Bulldozers to Peru? Easy. Go straight there. Forget all the railroads and sealanes, the port costs. Pick it up wherever it is, take it wherever they want it.

I don't imagine my ships would ever land; possibly they'd never even anchor. You'd be winched up and down, maybe. You'd ascend through the gossamer sails and faintly prismatic wings, under the soap-bubble helium membranes, to find your place, check a few things, reef a sail or two there, extend a rudder membrane there, and set a spinnaker floating a couple hundred feet out to catch a thermal, and you'd be off to – anywhere at all.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Face Cradle Frame and Heated Fleece

I stopped by Robert Hunter's shop last week and bought an adjustable face cradle – or rather an adjustable frame for the face cradle. It's been ten years since I bought my table from him. The table looks practically new, ten years later, and Hunter looks much the same too, except that his hair is quite white now.

His tables are legendary, in Portland. I set up to do a massage for a fellow therapist, and she says, “is that a Hunter table?” Like a violinist asking “is that a Strad?”

The table is dark green – hunter green, come to think of it – and it's two or three inches wider than standard: I'd always disliked having to tuck my hands to keep my arms from dropping off the table. I didn't know at the time that I'd be working as a therapist, and that I'd be setting up and taking down the table ten times a week: it was just good luck that I got a table that could stand such use. A factory-made table would have come to bits in my first year of practice.

But after splurging on the table, I got cheap about the face cradle frame, and bought an inexpensive, rigid one. It's been okay for most of my regulars, but it's not quite comfortable for one or two, and not really ideal for any of them – usually it's better for the cradle to slant down a little, so as to open the back of the neck. So, business being good, I finally went back and got an adjustable frame.

Hunter pulled a frame out of a pile of them, and glued a couple velcro strips on as we talked. I thought of how odd it is, now, to have contact like this with a craftsman: to buy something that's not packaged, and have it hand-tweaked in the shop, while talking of this and that. He gave me a couple pointers about using it – he's a massage therapist himself, and his Reiki certification hangs on the wall – and I walked out with just the frame, and stuck it in the basket of my bike, and rode on to work, feeling that I'd wandered back into some pre-industrial Shire, and liking the feeling a lot.

But I continued my buying spree in a thoroughly 21st Century fashion, by buying a heated fleece on E-Bay from someone in Florida. It left Hodgson, Illinois, according to the UPS tracker, two days ago, so it should be here any time.

I always tell people to crank up the heat before I come, but they seldom do it enough, and if they do, then of course I'm too warm. There's a ten degree gap between the comfortable temperature for giving massage and the comfortable temperature for receiving it – a perenniel problem. Many spas have a running battle about the temperature of their massage rooms: spa owners insisting on the high 70s and the pink-faced, sweating therapists longing for the high 60s. So I've been meaning to get one of these pads for a long time. It introduces some complexity (where do I plug in?) and some bulk to my travel kit, but I think it will be worth it. One of the very first things I learned, doing massage, is that a client who gets cold on the table is never, ever going to call you back. And this is the worst time of the year: people are so anxious for it to be Spring and so excited to see the sun that they fling open the windows and entirely fail to notice that it's still 50 degrees in the shade. After an hour on the table they notice, all right, but by then it's too late.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lines Too Early for Easter

for the nicks and snags of battered hearts, and livers that like oysters
are helplessly gathering poisons in their red and rusty cloisters;

for the ribs that close and open like the fronded beards of mussels
and lungs that sweetly blossom in the dirty air that rustles

in the trachea, and whispers past the thyroid, dries the throat,
and catches in the nostrils like an old and dusty coat.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


As I start to speak, I watch her face go blank. Her face has grown more expressive, more revealing, with age. She used to be able to keep an expression of bright interest through several of my sentences. Now it goes dull at once. I finish speaking as quick as I decently can, and normal conversation resumes. But anyway, I've done my duty; I've been sociable. If I say one or two more things in the course of the evening everyone can say it's been a good time. She has never actually wanted to hear anything I say, of course, but it does make me a little melancholy, having it made so obvious.

I'm the wrong son for her. Slow, inarticulate, and unexpected. Sometimes when I get in the car and turn on the radio, I find that I've left it on the classical station: I listen to that when I feel up to a challenge. But if I'm tired and seeking comfort, hearing those slow tempos and unpredictable sounds come on makes me almost savage. I want the familiar, comfort-sound. Old rock-n-roll. I think that's what it's like for my mother when I begin to speak. I'm always difficult, a quarter-tone off, unnecessarily complicated, agonizingly slow. No wonder her face goes slack and her eyes wander slightly out of focus when she hears my voice. She follows what other people say with interest, most of the time, anyway; though gaps have become apparent with them too. Always her attention has had a way of snapping off suddenly and completely. Like a light going out. And if you're a child, dependent on her for your sense of self, it's like the whole world goes suddenly, utterly, and inexplicably pitch dark.

I read a book once, ill-written and not very smart, but passionate, about growing up as the child of a narcissist. I didn't find much about it that was illuminating, but I recognized at once the shared experience. It's like living in a theater: either you're under the floodlight of intense attention, or you're forgotten, and there's no transition between the two states. You're either the most important thing in the world, or nothing. Onstage or offstage.

It gradually becomes less confusing as you learn that the light and dark have nothing to do with you; they're coming on and off according to the internal needs of the parent, and that they are useless as navigational aids. You also come to learn that there are people who aren't that way, people for whom you don't disappear as soon as you leave their field of vision.

The worst of it is that you yourself are prone, and will all your life be prone, to narcissistic habits of thought. Dewey makes a great deal of infants learning object-permanence: what the child of a narcissist needs to learn is person-permanence. They're still there, even after your attention leaves them.

Maybe this psychological damage is part of why the Buddhist conception of multiple lives and permanent relationships has been so important to me. Buddhism teaches that there is no such thing as a temporary person, no such thing as a one-off connection. Sure, bodies and personalities are impermanent, but persons are not. Karma, the unfolding of the consequences, is inexorable. The web of connections has no loose threads. Every single relationship you have ever had will have to be worked out, healed, made good, eventually. It is the exact opposite of the narcissistic world-view, in which phantom people float into view out of a vast nothingness and abruptly vanish back into it.

Is the Buddhist view true? Probably not. But the narcissist view is not either. The conception of other persons is probably the most complex and most human thing our brains do, it is at the very limit of what human consciousness can achieve, and we no doubt are very bad at it. Having confidence that I really understand what – for instance – my mother sees when she looks at me would be silly. Exactly how and why we exist for each other is a dizzyingly complex problem, and whatever conceptual scaffolding we set up to work on it, we had better recognize it at once as flimsy and inadequate.

All we can ask of a view of reality is that it give us some traction. What we are really dealing with is probably beyond our understanding. But anyone can tell the difference between having something solid in their hands, and grasping at air. The permanence of persons gives me something to work with. I'm still working blind, but there is real stuff under my fingers, which responds to my touch. That's good enough for me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Winter Thing

After the CPR class we hand in the dummies
we have been kissing through plastic
sanitary barriers. Just heads and torsos, all male;
and then the babies. A closetful of baby-dolls.

The old fireman stacks them with indifference
but I noticed how he cradled his, when he taught us
what to do with choking infants, even though
it wasn't on the syllabus for adult CPR;
he was used to having a baby on his arm.

All night the stacked men and babies will wait.
They won't move a muscle, breathless,
waiting for kisses through plastic again.

Sometimes the Winter Thing returns in March
And carefully fits her mouth
(or whatever that is) over your own
and breathes the air you were hoping for;

or again she will extrude her stomach
and kiss you with her whole reversible body,
and you're inside, dissolving,
without knowing you've been eaten.

Better to wait quiet in the closet, in the dark,
and listen to the air come on and off;
hear the hum of the electric clock, and
take such signs of love as come to you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Knew This Would Happen...
... if I read too much about William Morris. It's not a real pen, real ink, or real paper yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Writing, Blogging, and Online Community

Some time ago I wrote that a surprising amount of my intellectual, spiritual, and emotional life takes place here, in the writing of this blog. It only does so because of the community of readers and writers which supports it. An online community is a strange thing. The ties between us are light and ephemeral, in a way; though at this point in my life, several of my blogging friendships have outlived many of my supposedly more grounded and durable “real life” friendships. Events that rock or destroy “real life” friendships – moving to the other side of the country, illness, taking to drink, marrying – can leave these supposedly lesser relationships quite undisturbed. People drift away – or vanish abruptly -- and return unpredictably: but the conversation goes on, and it deepens year by year, as the context grows richer.

Plus you can do something with online relationships that you can't do with real ones: you can go back in time. It's not something any of us does very often, but can be strangely illuminating, sometimes, to go back in your own or someone else's archives and revisit conversations from five years ago. It's never exactly what you thought it was. Some blogs of course disappear over the years, and accidents befall digital records just as they do paper records. Things disappear. But I don't think there has been anything in the world, not even in the copious letter-writing 19th Century, quite like the preserved conversations we have in the comment-threads to our blogs and the archives of our yahoo groups.

I love the quirkiness of what people write in the comments. You get to see your audience, in a way that writers have seldom been able to see them, except in the rather stilted and often agenda-ridden context of formal readings. You get to see them squirm and object; you get to see them admire fulsomely. You get to know that some of them will just be happy whenever a certain sentiment gets expressed, no matter how un-apt or clumsily worded it may be. You come to learn that some bonnets are always going to buzz the same way no matter what you bat them with. And you get a few of those invaluable readers who can tell exactly what you're driving at and will tell you baldly either that you got there, or that your car is in the ditch and you better haul it out.

And if you're very fortunate in your readers, as I have been, you'll find that they're up for anything, that there's nothing too risky, too pathetic, too strenuous, too boring, too complicated for them. My imagined audience, I have found, is much more narrow-minded and censorious than my real one. I find that when I take risks in my writing there is always some reader willing to see my bet and raise me -- to dare me to risk even more. You find that some things you'd always thought of as weaknesses are in the opinion of your readers strengths, and vice versa. My writing has become in many ways much more disciplined, but in other ways much more extravagant, than it was before I had this wonderful audience. I will write things now in my blog that I would not have dared to write even in my private journals ten years ago.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Why I am a Socialist

I am Socialist. Except I'm not. It's queer how the identifications we arrived at so painfully as we became adults haunt us, ever after. It's been a long time since revolutionary political theory held much charm for me, and I don't think revolutionary action ever held any charm any for me: I loathe mobs. When masses of people get all stirred up, for any reason, I get away as fast as I can. And being in a room with people who are all agreeing makes me feel like I can't breathe.

But this comes up because of reading a biography of William Morris: the biographer is at some pains to demonstrate that Morris remained a committed Socialist all his life, even if he became less active in his later years. The biographer is right: it is important to understand that he never “got over” Socialism, never repudiated it. But I suspect he remained a Socialist much as I have remained a Socialist. Not because he supported any particular plan of action, certainly not out of any yen for violence. When I say I'm a Socialist, now, really I mean only one thing: I mean to say no.

No, I don't agree that this is the best we can do. No, I don't agree that it's tolerable for one person to have at his personal disposal everything of value that ten thousand other people make, no matter what his virtues or their vices. No, I don't accept the justice of a market that drives people into meaningless repetitive jobs, into kowtowing to stupid, mildly or venemously abusive bosses, into watching their creativity and energy wither, their bodies stiffen and fatten, their minds grow brittle and resentful, their spirits starve, as the prime of their lives dribbles away. I don't accept it: I will never accept it. This is not how human beings are supposed to live, not how they are supposed to work.

More. I am a Socialist because, as Morris so succinctly put it, fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death. Because I am my brother's keeper, and he is mine.

I'm perfectly willing to entertain arguments against any proposal of any Socialist group -- or against all of them -- on grounds that they will make things worse instead of better. Often enough they have. But what I will not entertain, ever, is the idea that what we have now is acceptable. It's not.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Strangers and Dead People

But it's also partly that the words of strangers and dead people don't often have much for me now. Time was they could slap me across the face and make me change my life. But now they're more often white noise, even the classics: I use them to keep myself from thinking, not to think. I have spent too much time with them. It's living people I need now: it's your warm breast under my palms, your blog post, your voice on the phone, your email, the light of your eyes.

I come out of Central Library and the light falls, as it does in early Spring, crossways; there are shadowed canyons and bright pools of sky, beggars and county officials, women with lined faces, sherrifs painfully shaved, patient dogs tied to backpacks. The inarticulate love rises and makes my throat contract. There will never be words for this. But I know that the same sun is rising in Chennai, and that you are seeing the colors as painfully as I am. And I know that tonight my hand will rest lightly on the crown of your head, and the hair will be so soft that it will seem to move of its own accord. And you will send me email about something trivial that will make me realize, suddenly and completely -- as Tolstoy used to do -- I have to change my life: that the snow on your side of the continent is telling me things that I need urgently to know.

It's you, now, that hammer me, mark me, shape me.

Soon I'll have a birthday, and I'll have as many years as there are cards in deck. Imagine that!
Who would have guessed I would get so far? Or have such luck as to know so many brilliant and wonderful people? Some scientists speculate that the universe is tending, not to ever-increasing uniformity, but to ever-increasing improbability. I wouldn't know, but I know that has been the pattern of my life. It becomes less predictable, less known, less knowable, with each passing year.

Friday, March 05, 2010


My blood drips like burning gold;
my teeth are sharp; my politesse
can't conceal my ferocity. I'll eat you all,
hook, barb, line: I'll grind your ribs
between my molars.

The strength is coming
back into my hands, and the warmth is coming
back into the soil. Strange rooted things exult
and push into the air; tendrils
cinch on bricks and tear the mortar.

Your houses are falling. Your cars
are sliding sideways down the drives;
Your marriages split like melons
dropped from a grocery bag.
I'm back. As if I'd never gone.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Now the Books

Now the books crowd around me, hissing,
and all the words crawl frantically: the letter-
feelers waving and groping, and all
looking for consummations I can't deliver,
for the honey sweet of perfect understanding.

I do not know how I ever loved
bookstores and libraries; I think it was only
that I didn't understand that all those books
were written by people like me, desperate
for connection. No price
of lies or misdirection
too high to pay; only
listen to me! they plead, and
make me special, just this once!
You may be the last
who ever will pick up this book.

I am: I am the very last,
and it is too much to bear.
I can't read you all. I am a feckless tourist
who gives a few rupees and then runs,
pursued by beggars, and stumbles on the steps
of his hotel. I have no more to give.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Children of God

Form is emptiness and emptiness is form:
poor in spirit is comforted,
and blessed are they that mourn.

Slender finger bones, sun-white, clean and
tumbled by wind on the sand;

blessed are they that hunger
and thirst after emptiness,
for they shall be filled.

Therefore the wise man's branches
are useless and gnarled,

therefore he does not act.
Blessed are the meek, for the forester
passes them by.

Blessed are the peacemakers
for they shall be

blown out like a candle,
and the end of desire is the end of suffering
and they shall be called the children of God.

Inspired by Qarrtsiluni's next theme, New Classics.