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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Monday, December 31, 2018

For Marissa - New Year's Eve/New Year's Day

If you were to break glitter down
To the subatomic level
Do you think it would
Still shimmer all the way
To the bottom rung of
The ladder of visible light?

Of course it would!
The quantity of pixie dust
Is not strained
But is distributed
Roughly in equal measure
All through the universe
Which seems to consist
Of one particle glitter
For every million of grit

With certain exceptions
For pooling and puddling
Here and there
Yet even so
Wherever we see it gathering
In greater concentration
There we can infer
Lies the growing tip of
The homunculus rising
The very sparkle of life

All that glitters is not gold
Yet still it may hold far
Greater intrinsic worth
Than all the fool's gold
Locked away in the vaults
Across the vast glittering earth

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Plot Summary for Next Week's Episode

Suddenly the story lurches forward
Along with a quickening of the pace
Concentric circles alone
Don’t make a champion
But hitting three rings on
Your first go is no
Cause for disgrace

You had hoped for
A golden scarab
In the dead of winter
But all you heard
Was a stink bug
In the rafters high overhead

This is one of the early poems from my new collection, which is being written in the form of notes that I'm sharing, in real time, with the show-runner for the upcoming season of my life.

For Mom - after a first visit to Academy Point

With a command view
Of the Mystic Harbor
End of life is a time of life
With an idiom all its own
As the fire banks lower
It shows us how to re-calibrate hope
Downward moment to moment
Taking comfort in the ebb and flow
Of the Mystic River itself

*  *  *  *  *  

It's all assisted living
From the midwife's first slap
To our dying embrace
The passions we lay claim to
As our own most assuredly
Are merely borrowed from
Some ulterior place
All the closer to which
You now reside

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Reprobate's Son - less than wholly transformed

It's not just anyone but
The reprobate's son who
Has been less than
Wholly transformed
Across several lifetimes of regret
In each and every case
Having waited patiently
To see just how long
Virtue was going to take
Before taking good hold
Still waking up stoned and
Occasionally dreaming of Zhuang Zhou
And otherwise alas still
Seemingly possessed of
A passably translucent
Pair of butterfly wings
For whenever they might
Turn out to be needed

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sitting in Chan

Sitting in Chan
Open to stillness
Is both the hardest
And easiest thing to do
It's the event horizon
Where discipline and
Effortlessness converge
And where intention all
But disappears while the
Center reigns supreme

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Songs for the Here and Now (for Osip Mandelstam)


Here and now come
 Little magnolia buds
Set hard against
December’s frost
Saving their best
For springtime
In truth the future can’t
Come soon enough
Once they have laid down
Their downy nubs


As we journey along
We strive to be
Better attuned
To the here and now
Yet sometimes that too
Seems overly confining
 As if we’ve been trapped
Inside these two boxcars that are
Coupled together and rolling
Along a circular track


Peering out through the slats
 What we truly yearn for
Is to soar like the winter geese
Wherever they may be bound
We too ultimately belong
Only to the cloudless sky


The noise of time
It comes and goes
The more we hurry
The louder it grows
Until it subsides
In times of repose

But even then
It will flare up again
And can't be denied
We must surrender to it
Like a tinnitus
Rooted deep
Inside our brain

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Poem for a December Morning

A beautiful morning on December 1st.  The sun rose in the east much as expected.  Diadems of frost shimmered atop the spare stalks of winter grass. Was it a slug on its last prison walk that had drawn the dazzling paisley pattern on the sidewalk before me?  A troop of turkeys gathered and dispersed as I advanced. And for no good reason I thought about William Carlos Williams and composed this little poem.

The news that may be found in poems only
Faintly resembles the silence broadcast daily
By the blade of grass and ear of corn
So you may peruse some verse 
If you wish to be informed
By second hand whispers 
But only wordless in the presence
Of nature can you hope 
To be truly transformed

Photo courtesy of DeviantArt

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Poem for Thanksgiving

Buried alive in the blues
All the ways you can choose
Wherever you look there’s
Bad news and thick smoke
Just hold onto some myoho
That may be the best
One can aspire to

Yearning bears the seeds of forgetting
Let the dying yellow bleed into pale green
Late autumn now looks indistinguishable
From early spring when everything
Is said and done
From the meridian
We stand equidistant
The trees all but bare
With a blush of hope
Either before or after
The most vivid colors
This is the point to
Which we have come
It’s all in the giving
The expectancy for tomorrow
That faint lump you feel
In the back of the throat


On this morning's walk I was struck by the incredible resemblance of late autumn to early spring -- something I never noticed before -- when the leaves are all but stripped bare, it's the moment when the dying yellow bleeds into pale green.  That's what this Poem for Thanksgiving is all about.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Ode to Depression

Action begets action but
Inaction is its own reward
Without will or want
Stillness overtakes
The human heart
Settling down as
Ripples ambiguate
Across the surface
Of the pond

To speak of it
Is to loosen the spell
To admit the truth
To oneself is
To take but a sip
From a cool
Restorative well

But no less unceasingly
It's a flat expanse of earth
Where I have come to dwell
No more than a sandbar really
Sic transit the gulls and herons
From one day
To the next while
Clouds linger
On the horizon

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Poem for the End of Summer

Where are you?
A cricket cries
Again and again
Under the light
Of the waxing moon

Over here
Comes the
Irregular reply
From the edge of
My perceptual field

Above the fan's
Whoosh and whir
Ever so faintly I feel
The heavens wheeling

The still point
Of the turning world
Is turning still
Every cycle and season has
Its beginning middle and end
Over parsecs and eons
Of continual forgetting
Every something becomes
Nothing and soon enough
Becomes something again

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Nature's First and Last Green is Golden

Nature's first and last green is gold
The hue to which all life is beholden
With eyes open or closed the warmth
Within and without unfolds
From seed to flower to sheaf
Howsoever it may seem brief
We are transported beyond
The confines of a single season
As from dawn to dusk to dawn
It is gold alone that endures

Vincent van Gogh, Soir d'été, 1888.

This poem is in reply to Robert Frost's poem which I have copied below.  Much as I admire Frost's poem I think he rather misses the point, which Van Gogh captured on a summer night altogether much more clearly.

Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf’s a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief;
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Poem for the New Moon (by Jiao Ran)

There are quite a few great Tang poems written to or about the moon, Li Bai's Drinking Alone in the Moonlight and Li He's cycle of twelve lunar poems being perhaps among the best known.  Here's a little gem by Jiao Ran that I came across this morning, which strikes me as somewhat unique -- a tribute to the new moon or the moon that isn't there.  Being on the verge of a new moon and a new lunar year, now seems as good a time as any to publish it here on my blog.

Poem for the Mountain Moon

Night after night
An old man
Always takes faith
In the mountain moon
Tonight the old man arrives
But the mountain moon
Is nowhere to be seen

* * * * 




It may be worth mentioning that Jiao Ran, in addition to being a poet, was a Buddhist monk, so I don't think it's overreaching to suggest that this poem can be read in a spiritual light, or perhaps better said, in the murk of the lack thereof.