Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Dishes

It was a little more than an hour's work, to clean the kitchen: wash all the dishes, pots, and pans, wipe down the counters, even scrub out the sink with the Bar Keeper's Friend. I could feel Martha's worried eye on me from time to time: she hates it when people get heroic. She fears that when the fit passes, the backlash will be all the worse: or that horse and rider will come down, trying a hedge too high, and she'll be left to put the pistol to the horse's head.

A sensible fear, living with me, but she was mistaken. Sober joy: joy at having survived, joy at being back in a world in which effort has effects, in which facts are true or false, in which light spills over the edge of the world in the morning, and drains away at night, in which there is fresh air and unbeholden creatures roaming at their own sweet will. Oh, it's not fair, it's not fair, but I associate that house with everything suffocating and artificial, and with every mean thing in my soul that answers to them: the craving for endless repetitions, desires and gratifications piling so thick and nauseating together that they lose the name of pleasure and just become the sea, the endless thirsty sea. 

So I now at home I work, I clean and scrub, I dry rack after rack of dishes. I grow tired: but it's not the bone-tiredness of spending all day avoiding the plain tasks before my face. It's just the ordinary tiredness of cleaning a well-used kitchen. And it makes me feel as though there was still a glance from the goddess of hope falling on my shoulder. Every once in a while, a glance. I don't ask for more than that: I don't ask for that much. But I'm grateful. I will sleep tonight.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I wanted to lift the haunted water
to that faint shield, no bigger
than a man's hand,
of the Pleiades.
I found a photo of you, as a girl,
scowling at the camera,
at the future, at me:
you were trying to see
the lens, that scissor of darkness.
I reached out fingertips to brush your cheek
but you were wilder then
even than now;
you vanished with your sisters
at a thickening of the cloud.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


As if we any of us came into focus
more than once or twice a month: the whirr
of the camera and the rasp of the shutter
giving news of aperture, the quick
opening of glossy black, the widening pupil,
the short-breathed sobs of coming or of grief;
and then the shutter falls. A quiet comes.
We pull on snaggy knits and clumsy button shirts;
we dry our eyes on anything at hand. Before
our hearts return to their horizon note
we are forgetting and our eyes are filming over,
sticky with the kitchen grease of days.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


A craving for potato chips. I don't bar eating potato chips, though I bar having them: I don't keep them in the house. So I walked over to the 7-Eleven and got a bag, and brought it back, and ate it. Feeling a little icky now, but it will pass.

I talked to myself as I walked through the night streets. That little store is maybe a dozen blocks away. The potato chips cost over four bucks -- don't remember exactly -- and the clerk, in a English so heavily accented I had to ask him to repeat himself, told me I could get two bags for five dollars. "No thanks, just the one," I said. Even one was more than I wanted, since I knew I'd eat them all. A strange thing, this compulsion to binge: I don't know what to make of it. I'm glad it comes less often than it used to.

As I walked, I talked aloud to myself. It's been so long since I've taken a walk and talked aloud to myself that it was like suddenly getting back in touch with an old friend. Oh yes, you! We used to talk all the time! It was nice, and I realized I've let blogging and social media crowd out that sort of time. For me, blogging began -- back when this blog was named "Vajrayana Practice" -- as a cross between keeping a journal, and talking aloud to myself as I walked. It turned into communication, and even community, for a time. (My other blog, the massage blog, has always been an uneasy combination of soapbox and billboard.) But by the same token, gradually, private rumination was crowded out. It was queer to hear my own voice in my ears again, with no public in mind but myself, and to hear what I had to say. I had a lot to say. I think I'll walk more often.

It's easy for me to get lost, to get thrown by an audience. That's okay: it's a feature, not a bug. But it means I need to have to maintain some private space, and listen for my own voice. I have been too quick, too clever, lately. I have let too many alien filaments work their way into my soul: there are too many interruptions. I check for responses too often, and do creative work too seldom. I don't blame technology or social media for this: they're just the current mechanisms of fidgety, unhealthy habits of mind that predate them entirely. They make them easier to indulge, that's all.

Ten years of this blog. A decade of water running swiftly under the bridge. An epoch of my life has washed by these pylons. And it has been an extraordinary decade: my life and habits have changed beyond recognition. Whole galleries of online friends have arrived and slipped away. The joys of being understanding and being understood are less intoxicating than they were, but they have transformed me. 

Still. Walk out under the night sky and the prickle of stars, even here where the city lights wash so many away, and I can feel a deeper throb, the pounding of a larger mind, the lure of understandings that are more important and more decisive. I have no wish to go beyond the human and the natural -- God and das ewige weiblichkeit have no purchase on me, and I want nothing that my hands can't touch -- but I'm not done with traveling, either. I breath deep -- my overfull stomach resentfully following my breath -- and a small skitter of laughter, unless it's leaves in the wind, runs ahead of me in the dark. Yes. I will be walking some more.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Some Were Sprung So Tight

Some were sprung so tight --
do you remember? -- it hurt your finger
to drag the nine or zero clear around.

But all things then were heavier, more real,
less apt to disappear or to transmute
when you moved your eyes away.

In this world now all things
lift to your touch as you reach for them.
All things but the frightened, glimmered flesh
of those reluctant incarnations,

the people on the street:
their faces close like sea anemonies
against the unfamiliar light of day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


And yet the joy recedes, its murmuration vanishes in the shifted sky. I am left with these two hands, pale in the winter light. I turn them palm up to receive what may remain:

the cold white winter, a heart which hesitates and coughs when I start it in the morning, and the ache of feet that have stood too long on concrete floors.

And if I remember adding a drop of menthol when I rubbed your temples, a smear of comfrey to your knee, I remember it only as dream, tasted on the side of the tongue.

You resurrect the scaffolding of heaven – to build again? To bring it down? – and invite me to climb again. I, who have held your beating heart in my hands, and now

hold the light of winter, the dust of a fading sky.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Water Ouzel,_Washington,_USA_-juvenile-8.jpg
One of several reasons I was a bad teacher: I dislike repeating myself. When I know I'm repeating myself, that is. Like everyone, I tend to say the same things over and over, but that's okay, as long as I've forgotten that I've said it before. When a former version is still resonating in my mind, though, and I try to say the thing again, it kicks up a feedback-storm in my mind – very like what happens, I imagine, to a stutterer, and with a very similar effect. I begin, hesitate, lose my place, and have to start over, only to have what I've just begun add to the confusion. A teacher needs to repeat things a lot. I find difficult, if not impossible. So when someone kindly suggests that I make a book out of my blogs, – as people do from time to time – something about embodiment and massage and meditation – it kindles a flutter, a minor panic, under my breastbone. Deliberately repeat myself? Oh, no.

Yet I'm thinking about it, in my ponderous way, and I'm even doing a little something like it, in that I'm starting to pick up old posts from the archives of Mole, refurbish them, and repost them over on my massage blog, where someone might actually see them. I do this against a lot of psychological resistance, which is why it's happening slowly.

Meantime: I am mortal, so very mortal. I gave a massage in a tea house, yesterday. I know nothing about tea houses – I'm utterly ignorant of all things Japanese – so I simply accepted that I must wear the white socks given me, in that space. I'm all in favor of taboos of place, and of ceremony and ritual that sets certain places apart; so I was quite willing to put on the socks. And massage is, itself, a sacred space to me – a place with its own rules, requiring a certain discipline of intention – so it felt appropriate, in one way: in another, I suspected that it was ludicrously inappropriate, and that somewhere Japanese spirits were cringing. Sorry.

Sorry, but that's my calling and my trade: going where people are, and working with what they give me. I'm a water-ouzel: a queer fish and an odd bird. I belong everywhere and nowhere; follow everybody's rules and nobody's. I don't know if I could do something so very drylandish as to write whole book.