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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 ...

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Tweet for the Age of Transformation

In this age of transformation
My head is merely a cocoon
And whatever I am today
I'm sure to be unrecognizable
To myself (and others) all too soon

Illustration by Christine Shields


The theme of transformation has long preoccupied me, originating with my fascination and deep love for Zhuang Zhou and classical Chinese culture.  At first, the possibility of transformation seemed palpable but remained out of reach, at least for me personally, as you can read in this poem here:  https://lampoetry.blogspot.com/2010/07/ode-to-guanyin.html 

But we live in an age of transformation.  Ours is an era in which transformations of the most radical sort (including those of mind, body and spirit) have now become routine, not just for those who have been initiated into the arcane arts of transformation.  The power of transformation is in the air we breathe and water we drink - it has become a commonplace present literally everywhere we look.  

For that reason I've finally decided to privately publish this essay called Proteus Unbound.  I wrote this a few years ago and tried to find a publisher for it, which proved to be a pointless task, given that it attempts to formulate a theory of transformation not based on our present-day technological prowess but rather rooted in the theories of transformation that were developed and fundamental to classical Chinese civilization more than a millennium ago.  We are much too besotted with the technological powers of our civilization to realize we don't have a clue about the underlying nature of the transformations we have wrought.  These concepts may strike us as pre-modern, mystical and absurd but they are more germane than ever given our current incapacity to contend with the increasingly rapid pace of transformational change that characterizes our present day reality.  

(please remember to include Proteus Unbound in the subject line of your email) 


Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Burrow (for F. Kafka)

The tunnel is in your head
So too is the light and the fear
Of the oncoming train
Even the sense of relief
You feel upon finally
Emerging into the open air

Day by day we claw
Our way forward
Mind is the metaphor
The burrow that
Contains everything

Through every twist and turn
We hear the sounds
Of nearby scratching but
It's mostly for a deeper silence
We endlessly dig and yearn


A few weeks ago I had the chance to read The Burrow by Franz Kafka for the first time.  What an incredible story - I think it may be the best short story I've read.  Though technically the translator classified it among Kafka's unfinished works, it's hard to imagine a more definitive presentation of Kafka's world view -- that it is unfinished only makes it more perfectly apt as a description of his life and work of endless digging.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Why I Hit the Nightstand Last Night


I’ve never hit anyone that I can remember really.  My brother is 2 and ½ years older than me which made fighting with him pointless growing up.  I took on the role of peace maker in our family, always eager to avoid conflict.  That translated into a pacific attitude in the school yard as well.  All in all I was a wimp and found a way to navigate through life and get what I wanted or needed, more or less, without giving vent to the direct expression of anger or aggression. 

Which is part of the reason I’m surprised to wake up this morning with skinned knuckles on my right hand, having punched my nightstand last night in an angry outburst.  It was bound to happen sooner or later -- not that the nightstand had it coming but just that anger eventually will out, that is for all of us below the order of angels and saints.  I’m sixty-two years old, so it’s been a long time coming.

But still why hit my nightstand – why make an inanimate object the target of my first punch?

In my dream I was actually swinging at myself.  That makes some sense.  It’s not all that different than hitting a nightstand or some other inanimate object inasmuch as when you hit yourself there’s far less risk of getting punched back.  There is this counter-phobia at the root of my otherwise pacific demeanor.

My dream interpretation rests on the notion that other people (particularly seeming strangers) who appear in our dreams are usually stand-ins for parts of ourselves.  Thus it was in my dream last night that I was minding my own business, sitting in an aisle seat on an airplane, and this stranger sauntered down the aisle, and without so much as a word, took the folded newspaper that I had placed in the pouch of the seatback in front of me.  I felt a sudden surge of anger.  Give it back, I demanded.  You don’t need it, he replied, it’s just a movie review. 

It’s just a movie, I said to myself, no need to pay any mind.  But I did need it, I realized. I needed it more than anything else.  And the next thing I knew I had taken a roundhouse right at the nightstand.

So there it is – my anger in stark relief, finally unleashed.  I’m glad, at least, that I could admit the truth to myself in a dream.  I am furious at myself for not writing – for taking away from myself the thing I most need in order to fly-right and feel whole in the world. Why am I blocked and no longer writing?  Because some part of me came to the conclusion that my writing no longer mattered, to me or anyone else, that it was of no consequence, at least of no more consequence than yesterday’s discarded news.  While this may very well be true, it nonetheless makes me fighting mad.  And for the first time in my life I’ve landed a punch – it’s all the more notable because I also happen to be the target of my own fusillade.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Tweet for My Old Red Wheelbarrow

Once so much depended
But now sadly upended
In the dumpster you rust
Thanks to the relentless glazing rain
Which has corroded you thus
Sic transit nostrum transitus

Very sad to say goodbye to my beloved red wheelbarrow at the dump this morning.  My best hopes and plans for the future were all carried forth in your once sturdy frame.   But as any poet writes in the hope of immortalizing his or her beloved, so too my trusty red wheelbarrow has already been the subject of a few of my prior poems, as you can read here and here.