Friday, December 18, 2009



A full moon’s whisper
Once again
And reaches out
To grasp and pull
Each molecule
Of pulsing blood,
A silent, steady call
Heard only by
A listening heart
Opened and attuned
To ancient, secret words.

A nameless beauty
As a mist
Of fluid motion,
Subtle sways,
And endless curves
Beneath the moon,
Bathing in the glow
And swirling
In an eddy
Of the mystic pool
Of shining silver light.

A constellation
In the air
Around her
Like a spell,
A spirit form
She has called forth
To play a tune
With beating wings
Now singing
In the breeze
Evoked and stirred
By her twirling form.

A crowd of creatures
To the edge
Of this small field
Within the woods
Well trodden
By her feet,
Their shining eyes
Reflecting as they watch
Till joining in
They circle round and dance
With soft and padded steps.

This nameless beauty
In the crowd
Till dawn awakes
And paints the sky
With fiery gilded hues.
Her heavy heart
Ceases and she drops,
A crumpled mound
Of weeping, weary flesh
Encircled by the stars
That fall upon the grass.

And there she lays and weeps,
And there her heart seeks sleep,
But still her Mother Moon
Is calling for a dance,
And still her flesh is strong
And still she knows the steps,
So soon she stirs and stands,
And sways into the dance.

Image credit: Lachlan Donald, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



A midnight moonbeam, streaming misty light
Like liquid pearl, is swirling in a pool
Upon her dampened cheek, its soft caress
Too weak and wan to wipe away her tears.
Her face aglow although her eyes are dull,
She gazes down upon a sleeping world
From high atop a monument of steel
And waits to watch the sun awake again.

But now in darkness and a grim despair,
Her heart cries slowly like her sparkling eyes,
Its pulsing sigh and hidden, lambent fires
Grown dim but not exhausted lest they die.
This world in slumber, how it makes her weep
And long to hold it in a long embrace!
Those bodies, billions though they be, call out
And plead her passion bring them life again!

Within the silent shadows, this she hears,
And in her separate darkness, this she sees,
Envisioning within her mind much more
And feeling in her belly every prayer.

The moon now smiles upon a falling star
As she descends to give the world a gift
Too great, yet delicate, to be possessed,
Its secret borne within her naked flesh.

Image credit: Jules Joseph Lefebvre, from Wikimedia Commons; public domain image.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Cry of the Fates

The Cry of the Fates

The old Norns Cement plant had closed down about five years ago, the piercing scream of the whistle on the side of the factory announcing that the last remaining workers were quietly leaving at the end of that solemn day so long ago. It was the same note heard every weekday at 1:00 and 6:00 p.m.—the sound of lunch break and of quitting time—that had become such an ingrained part of daily life you could practically set your watch to. The amazing thing was how it had suddenly become a forlorn cry instead of the usual nostalgic sound penetrating the air as the workers slowly shuffled home. And as that once-great beast of activity died and soon fell to neglected ruin, so too did this little Appalachian town follow it down into obscurity.

Nearly all of us lost our jobs in the weeks preceding the shut-down—with my old age I was of course one of the first to go—and it left everyone with little more than a pink-slip and a hot temper. I think that the hollow feeling that you find suddenly residing in your stomach when the realization hits home that you're no longer the breadwinner had left a lot of people uncertain and scared. I remember that feeling, but things were different for me now. I didn't have the same responsibilities, the same worries that the other younger folks in town had. I simply went home to an empty house, thinking again of my wife and how much I had missed her these three years since her death, and I thought about what my next move would be. Should I finally just give in and retire, or should I look for another job just to pass my days outside of a lonely, quiet place that used to feel so warm for me? Fortunately, I had Social Security to fall back on, but not everyone was so lucky. My concerns weren't on finances, so I guess that made my position enviable from some people's perspectives.

Either way, the decisions had to be made, and shortly after the shutdown the anger of the town had abated, as it is always does, into an empty resignation that filled the hearts of those who had once thrown out bold talk of "strikes" and "filing grievances" with relentless fervor. They didn't know who exactly was there to listen, but I'd be willing to bet that the act of talking about it had at least helped to soothe the inescapable feeling of helplessness. Almost overnight, shops began to close, folks began to move to other productive factory towns nearby, and Perch Creek seemed to be fading away. Sorrow had soon turned to desperation, and desperation grew into fear as time marched slowly, steadily onwards and the fate of the town unfolded. Over the past five years since the factory shut its gates for good, I thought that the town had known fear and despair, and that the looming threat of financial and personal ruin had left us all questioning the future. That was before the Norns Cement factory whistle decided to start up once again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Poet

A song for Blake, Shelley, Keats, Swinburne, and Crowley...

The Poet

Weep for the world,
O, you son of the tears
Of the gods and the devils
With which you are fed.

Weep with your words
For the quick and the dead
For your brothers and sisters,
Though shunned and unheard.

Sing with the birds
As the nightingale mourns,
Forlorn and forgotten,
Without tongue or wings.

Bring us your song
And kindle our blood:
Speak to us, sing to us,
Give life to our hearts.

Bring us the fire
Of bright beauty and truth,
Remember and raise us
From shadowy sleep.

Now is the end
Of your exile: return!
Come to us, walk with us
Over your grave.

Bring us the power
To pass on through the night;
Bring us the truth
And the beauty and light.

Image Credit: Johann Friedrich Naumann, public domain image, from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow On

Batten down the hatches, folks, we have the winter uglies coming our way tonight...

 Snow On

Snow on a dead-skin-gray-cloud backdrop:
White freckles jumping ship to seek their color again
In warmer climes, anywhere but here,
While gravity grabs them to spite their denial.
“All things fall.” As if we need to be told.
And snowflakes, fat and heavy with the season’s weight,
Quietly descend (unless a whimsy wind stirs in their hearts)
And bring the seeds of winter from the cold but virile sky.

Snow on skeletal brown branches:
Bones of our bones with the flesh having changed,
Dermis and epidermis hardened and chilled;
Nails grown clear and long, creeping towards the ground;
Torso, loins, and legs boarded up as if in a coffin;
Blood turned to ice (or else seeping out of buried toes).
Trees know best what insulated mammals can only intuit:
All things freeze and slowly die from the inside out.

Snow on suffocating yet ever-green grass:
Billions of dollars’ worth of first-class lawn care—
Greenery groomed, pampered, spoiled like a prissy child—
Buried and mocked by a blanket of dusty white,
Its crystalline surface flawed by cracks from flurrying feet
And a snowman looming, a fat ephemeral god
With smile, top hat, carrot nose, and eerie button eyes,
Evoked and alive in this season shrouding all with death.

Snow on concrete (looks safe but watch your step!):
Blacktops, parking lots, driveways striving to keep their integrity,
The fury of specific heat waging war on snowflake ordnance:
Bombflakes striking without a boom, mushroom, fallout, or hell.
This battle has gone to the moderns, so high-tech designed,
But the ancient forces of white know persistence will win
And that “victory” here is but a holding of ground
For any and all things haughty in defiant hues.

Snow on the outside slowly drifting deep within:
In through the windows, in through the doors,
In through the clothing, the skin, and the eyes
As we watch ourselves, feel ourselves fall from the ashen sky.

Image credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Public Domain image, from Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, December 5, 2009

In the Mouth of Chaos

In the Mouth of Chaos

Black heart bangs booms beats
Shatters black daylight
Swallows dead sunlight—
Tattoo pounded, skid mark of sound.

Sea foam swirls in black aether,
Choking suffocation
Breeds bleeding maggots—
Feeding puking feeding
On shit of stars and shadows,
Bleeding dying light
In ooze, black semen, pitch,
Excretions of cosmic harmony
Rotting corpse-like melody—
Sing sing sing, O bones of air:
ינתקבש המל ילא ילא
Χάιρέ κάκος άγιος Πάν!
Ιω Ιω Σωτηρ Χάος!
Bat wings clapping slapping beating,
Tympani played by brimstone hail
Sulfur notes waft
Through black piss rivers:
Ιω Ιω Σωτηρ Χάος!

Why, mother dear, are you here?                               i am
And father, you as well?                                        alone there is
Come, help me hold this nightmare spell             no god where
Away, away, till break of day!                                    i am

Black cock calls out black windstorms—
Black cock falls in black sea foam—
Scythes swing through fields of blood
Reflecting refracting
Deforming in eddies of lightless
Names without meaning
Meanings without words
Words without language—
Names, black names:
Skeletons of scarabs
Buried in cold sand
Clinging to fossilized shit
Of cold suns.
Names, black snowflakes
Dancing over frozen flames
Of ooze, black semen, pitch,
Names of harmony
Dancing in discord—
Revelry ribaldry lustfully wed.
Ιω Ιω Σωτηρ Χάος!

Names of dead gods
Dismembered                dispersed
Remembered without members
Alive in molded clay.
Black semen, black river,
Golden child floating on black aether,
Swallowed by starving crocodiles
And serpents borne on wings of flesh.
Flowing black river, ancient sewer
Rancid with shit, piss,
Black semen flung on dirty curbs,
Seething with scavenging worms.

Black worm, black heart, black god
Of ancient aether,
Asshole mouth, dribble on—
Babble On! Babble On!
Names without words without meaning,
Skeletons of scarabs in black wind clinking:
Ιω Ιω Σωτηρ Χάος!

Image credit: Robert Fogliardi, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Through the Cracks

Through the Cracks


“Come on, Faith, hurry up.”

“But Mom—”

“Hush, just come on. God damn New York traffic.”


“I’m friggin’ an hour late already, so hurry up. You’ll just have to come to my office for a while, and I’ll take you to day care later during lunch or something.”

“But Mom—”

“WHAT, Faith?”

“My shoe’s untied.”

“I’ll tie it in a minute. Look, see, here we are.”

“Good morning, Bethany.”

“Morning Bri. I can’t believe it’s almost 9:00 already! Damn traffic on the bridge, wouldn’t you know. Maxine is gonna kill me.”

“No problem—actually, she’s not even in yet. Maybe she got stuck in the traffic, too? She hasn’t called in or anything…so you’re safe. And hello, Faith!”

“Hi, Miss Brianna!”

“Sorry I had to bring her in again, but traffic was a mess. I’ll keep her with me and then take her over to the day care center in Building 5 later.”

“Fine with me. And how is my favorite little girl this morning? You want to come spend the night with me this weekend? We can go play with some of the kids at Church…but your shoe’s untied!”

“I know Miss Brianna. I telled my Mom.”

Brianna, a thin pale woman, not more than a girl herself at all of 19, stoops down and ties Faith’s left Hello, Kitty! sneaker. The laces are white, bright white, and the glittery pink sneakers have a little white kitten on each one. The kitten is chubby, smiling with cherubic glee, watching Brianna as she ties the laces. The kitten’s eyes watch Brianna’s much narrower but equally cheery face as it concentrates, brow slightly furrowed, on the thin laces.

“Faith, if you’re a good girl in the office this morning, maybe your Mom will take you to FAO Schwarz after work! Huh, Mom?”

“Brianna, don’t get her started.”

“Can we go, Mom!!!”


“And if you’re extra good,” Brianna adds, “I’ll give you…five whole dollars for a toy!”

“Yay! I’ll be good. Promise.”

“Okay, then I’ll—”

But an explosion cuts short Bethany Shore’s sentence. The building lurches, throwing her, Faith, and Brianna to the thinly carpeted floor of the office. Brianna hits her head on the desk and lies still, as if napping—though it isn’t even nap time down in the day care center in Building 5, and definitely not here in the office. (At this moment, the day-care kids are having their snacks. Today it’s grapes and chocolate pudding in little plastic cups, the kind with the aluminum lids that you peel back. The triangles on the bottom have a “1” in them, so these are recyclable, though you have to throw away the peel-off lids. Miss Marietta, who runs the place, always tells the children to throw away the lids, wash the cups in the sink, and put them in the recycling bin. “Why do we recycle,” she asks them? At first they didn’t know, they were all less than four after all, but by now the older ones can tell her in chorus: “To save the Earth!” The younger ones do their best to sing along, too, like incompetent parrots. She always laughs when they sing it…they’re so smart!)

The building still hasn’t settled down yet. It seems like there was an earthquake, with constant aftershocks, and now the concrete and steel and glass are shivering, shuddering, groaning. Smaller explosions punctuate the movements, and…are those muffled screams, too?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

From the Well

From the Well

To Tina

Do you hear it?
Between the bird calls,
Under the rustling leaves.
Did you hear it?
A sound, a voice
From the wilderness.
And follow it
Into the woods…
And there…
And again
Like a drum…
Do you hear?
Come quickly,
Tread lightly
On crackling leaves,
And watch your step,
Never lose your way
In the shadows.
Again…and again!
Over there, in the brush,
In the shallow pool
Of dim sunlight
That drips through the trees.
Can you see it?
The rim of a well,
A ring of broken rocks,
Cold and gray and green
With lichens and mold.
From out of the depths,
A broken sound…or a voice?
There…and again…
And again, like a drum!
Peer over the rim,
Peer into the dark,
Can you see
What it is?
Too dark, so dark,
Too deep for the light.
So reach down,
Extend your arm
Down deep into
The swirling black,
And break the cobwebs,
Scatter the dust,
Brush away the leaves,
And dig into the dirt.
Dig deep!
Can you feel it?
Something warm and wet
Trembling in your hand.
Now bring it up,
Give it some light
And a breath of fresh,
Long-forgotten air.
You have found it!
Down deep in the dark,
Buried, abandoned,
Once lost but now found,
Maybe better off dead
But still clinging to life:
Clasp it close to your breast
And kiss away the bloody tears.
Can you hear
What it says?
Over and over,
Always the same:
Thank you…
Thank you…
Thank you…
My friend…

Image credit: Andrew Bossi, from Wikimedia Commons, under a creative commons license.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Glory Without God

I recently had a conversation (okay, an "interview") with a friend, who is a devout Christian, about my beliefs...which she did not know in full. Since I do not believe in God, I was admittedly anxious about responding. But luckily, she is also open-minded and intelligent. She wanted to understand how I can connect with and find value in the world despite living in a state of "godlessness." It ended up being a rewarding experience for both of us, so I thought I would share her questions and my answers. Long live the wonder of the world!

1. How do you connect with the world around you?

I am a nature junkie. I connect with the world around me in profound ways, at every level and in every moment. You see, I can appreciate the beauty, magic, and unexplainable wonder of the universe around me on its own terms, without any reference to, dependence on, or "explanation" through a conscious Designer. My love of the world takes the world for what it is, however it got that way, as it is in my experience; I do not have to seek some higher meaning or purpose at another level, a level I cannot experience directly. It is sort of like being a gift that you cannot enjoy and be grateful for unless you always refer it to the person who gave it to you. The value and meaning of it to you may still be very powerful, but it always requires another, separate element that, if lost, could diminish the gift's value.

In addition, I can respond to the frequent comment that a world without God is a cold, lonely place. Personally, and I know I speak for many other "heathens" like me, I actually feel so much warmth and connection and "love" in the universe that I am a part of—for however long I am a part of it, and however I happened to get here...which, in my view, can be fully and well explained in biological/scientific and sociological terms. I constantly wonder over how the universe works, how life popped up and continues to pop up and bloom before us. But I am even more amazed at the thought that it all happens without any intentional, "intelligent" design behind it all; it just happens because of fully natural laws, patterns that exist because that is how things just work. When I see a beautiful sunrise or stand at the top of a mountain, I honestly would feel sad if I knew it was arranged by God; it would feel too easy, too simple, too convenient. I can take heart and feel connected with all the other living and non-living things in this universe because we are all, in fact, connected...we are all stardust, in the end, for just about every element in our body came from the stars. I do not need to have faith in God to feel at one with the universe around me; I am at one with all things on a very physical, visceral level, right here and right now.

2. How do you focus or give direction to your spirituality?

At my core, I believe that the only meaning of life is the meaning(s) we give it, in the course of living it, being fully present and in it along with my fellow beings. So in my personal practice, I try my best to bring myself into the present moment, accept it as it is (pleasant or painful or neither), and then appreciate it in all its fleetingness. I try to be in the moment fully—a terribly hard task, but an important one nonetheless. On another level, I try to practice compassion and kindness as much possible, as well as tolerance. I wish for all beings to live free from suffering, as well as to be as knowledgeable as they can about the many sources of "enlightenment" available. I want them all to have as much understanding about various (important) issues so that they can make informed, rational decisions in their lives, not to fall victim to blindness and blinkered ignorance (often self-imposed...often going under the name of "faith"). At the same time, I am a terribly rational creature, and I love to study just about everything, so I am always reading about many topics—from philosophy to literature to science—in order to learn more about the world, about life, about us as humans, about myself, and about how I can live fully. Plus I just love to have things to think about—big questions to ask, even if I know (and revel in the fact) that I can never truly find the answer to most of them.

I suppose that for me, what it all boils down to, whether or not you believe in God, is the persistence of wonder. Just as with life, wonder can and will and should spring up wherever conditions allow it to. The greatest threat to life, fulfillment, and happiness is indifference. Ignorance is a pretty close second; in fact, they may be two sides of the same coin, two interdependent conditions. Either way, there is so much to wonder over in this life of ours. Why miss any of it?

Image credit: NASA, public domain image.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Enemy Fire

This feels somewhat apropos, given the fact that President Obama is considering sending yet more troops into Afghanistan. Please, Mr. President, show us you deserve that Nobel Peace Prize. Violence only begets violence...bring the troops home.

Enemy Fire

My life has been a life of the gun,
A life of flying lead and heavy steel,
A life lived on the hair-like line
Dividing life and death.
My parents have pictures of me as a boy
With a loaded pistol in my right hand,
A loaded bottle of milk in my left;
I was quick on the draw with both
And could aim like a pro every time
With a squirt or a bang and a gummy grin.
I got myself a license to kill
Long before a license to drive
(And still to this day I am better by far
With the first of these terrible twins).
I had little interest in clubs or sports
Unless they required ammunition,
And the only games I cared to play
Were games of total bloody war.
I drove to school with a shotgun at my side
More often than I did with a book,
The one worn dull by my studious hands,
The other pristine in a jacket of dust:
For all the things I needed to know
I learned as a student of Professor Steel,
And I was always the teacher’s pet,
The favored disciple every year,
The one with all the bright gold stars
And smiley faces next to my name;
“Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out”
Was my quote in the high-school yearbook.
The Great Outdoors was only ever great
When it gave me a buck to mount on my wall
And a snapshot to show the kids I would have
With a tall tale to tell them once I had retired.
Some called me a killer deep in my genes,
An adrenaline junkie, a wannabe God,
A plague, a pariah, a terror, a scourge,
A demon of Hell—and a brother...
And I would smile and give a wink
With eyes that glinted like steel.

But here, so far away from home,
The shadows cast by dunes and dust
Upon an endless desert’s sands,
Beneath the beating hammer of the sun,
Will take the strangest shapes at times—
The shapes of does, of coons...of men.
I raise my gun and set my sights,
The scope revealing all that hides
Within those shifting shades of sand
Like soldiers watching from trenches.
I aim...but find no target there.
I fire...but only raise a puff of dust.
I fire...but only hear the echo fade.
I dream...but never sleep or seem to wake.
My life is a life of the gun,
A life lived in the crosshairs every day.
They tell me I am a bringer of death,
A killer down to my DNA,
A Storm against Evil, a Terrorist-scourge,
An Agent of God—and a Soldier
Of Steel...though now it feels like rusted tin
With stiffened limbs and joints in need of oil.
But sometimes I peer into the scope
And stare into eyes that shimmer and swim,
The crosshairs fixed on a pupil grown large
And fathomless like an abyss, like a dream...
And I forget that heavy, lifeless feel
Of the trigger dividing life and death
As I forget the side that I am on
When a leaden tear strikes the searing sand.

Image credit: soldiersmediacenter, originally from flickr via Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

fallen star fading

This is another old one, and it feels appropriate for the sudden onslaught of COOOLD.

fallen star fading

A down of grass beneath my body,
Around me ground the dew has wetted,
A darkened firmament above me,
The sunset passed and not regretted:
Now all is still, this world gone silent,
A weary mother lightly sleeping
While somewhere else within a shadow
A something slowly rests from creeping,
Unlike the stars that float so distant
Along that inky stream and glisten
And whisper songs or ancient stories
To those who have the heart to listen.
But here is peace no sign of motion
Of life or breath to set me thinking—
Except the tears like flowing silver,
And cold, so cold, while softly sinking
And dropping down as stinging dewdrops
On to the ground to make it frozen,
To make the earth a slab of marble
To make a bier the bed I’ve chozen.
And still they fall and ever colder
Becomes my bed my bier my senses
As tendons acke and sinews stiffen
And all around a fog drips
And sounds are mixin.g no sense
is there to hear but. coldness
But still I heer the stilness
And hear the feeling of the chill
Is sinking in.
                    Is sinkinginto
                    The sound of snow
                    A snowflake
                    A snowdrop               a skull
Is falling down
          Is drifting down
     is dancing. Down
a snowdrop dancing
down. is silent
   as a Snowflake
drifting falling.
                    a tear
and i heer it above
dancing coldly
and i feel it drifting coldly or i hear
 as it drifts asitdances asit fals.
a snowflake droping
like a star falling Makeawish asleeep
a cold snowdropflake
star. on the ground frozen sleeps

Image credit: Barasoaindarra, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two Poems for Autumn

These are some old autumn poems for Autumn to celebrate its first day. Ave Autumn!

Sonnet: To Autumn

A stream of sunshine swirls upon the breeze
And wends its way between the waving leaves,
But all the wonders that the eye may seize
Seem trifles next to what the heart perceives.
These gifts you give must drop and turn to dust
Beneath the feet and paws that pass them by
Or scatter like a daydream in a gust
That sweeps them skyward, careless where they fly.
You lay your patchwork quilt upon the soil
To wrap in warmth each tender, sleeping seed
And bring to fruit another season’s toil:
The great repast on which your children feed.
Your glory falls--but thus proclaims your name;
Its embers fade--but set our hearts aflame.

The Gift of Gold

Autumn has only one color
Late in the season
When sunlight clothes
The otherwise drearily naked forms
Of everything and anything it can
In auras of gossamer gold.

The limbs of the trees, bare
Except for an occasional straggler,
Gradually lose their voices
Whenever the wind walks by for a chat;
But below, a cacophonous carpet
Cries out at the touch of the tiniest foot

And raises a storm of acrid dust--
A dazzling shower of gemstones
Alight in the swirls of the air,
Whirlpools of afternoon sun
That suck out each hesitant breath
And capture each word in the breast.

The bitterness stinging nostrils and tongue
Disappears in this sweet, ambrosial draught
Raining down from the heavens,
Every particle a flood washing through
The eyes, bathing clean and brilliant
Once again the heart and the mind.

These gifts of the seasons--gold, green, or white--
Have been offered each morning with kindness
And love like a parent's for one
Special child, one twinkling babe
Who at last crawls awake with a smile
And blinks in a halo of light.

Once, I found a ring of purest gold
On the floor of the forest, hiding there
Just beneath a layer of leaves.
And I carried it from door to door,
But no one would claim or receive what I held,
So I buried it back in the leaves after dusk.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the Road Back to Home

This is an old one, but it is one of my favorites. I wrote it while driving (literally) on Interstate 64, coming back to Virginia from California.

On the Road Back to Home

The name is but a word we speak
Sometimes with sweetness, letting it float
In the air on the tailwinds of a sigh
And the endless trail of a stinging tear;
Or sometimes it gets spat out from the depths
Of the throat like phlegm less bitter by far
On the tongue than it is on the heart
Though still painful as, puffing, we breathe.

No name could ever speak the truth
Of all the treasures found upon this land
That lies between two shores and two vast seas that seem
Themselves to sigh the name
From “Ah!” to “Ah!” with each wave’s crash,
The rest sung forth before the dawn
In myriad morning melodies
With winged notes that ride the light
That shows the sun its ancient path
And all its footprints made before.

My feet have left much less a mark
Upon this fertile, fragile soil,
My soles too tender, my legs too weak
To race the sun and see what it has seen
So often, yet returning day by day;
Mine has been a much more humble course
Than that of him we honor as we say

But still I’ve rambled, seen what I could see
From sea to sighing sea,
And on this journey, driven on by love
Of every jewel that makes the sunlight gleam,
The many winding paths I’ve walked,
The countless bridges quickly crossed
Have often left me scared and lost
Within the forest, by an icy stream,
In some far corner of America.

So hungry, bleeding, tired, and cold
I stand at last upon this stretching road
That leads me to the doorstep left behind,
Both sidewalks decorated now
With lamps of crimson, orange, gold, and green
That light the way from where I’ve been
And guide me, sparkling for a season, back to home—
Though now I pause, behold this autumn’s flare,
And sink as rain back into sacred ground.

Image credit: pfly, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Monday, September 14, 2009



The hours of time, in silent waves,
Break on the shore and wear it down;
They sweep it outward and apart,
Each cell like flesh dissolved and drowned.
The foam has faces, fleeting forms
That float and then break on the sand;
They scatter, misty, and are gone,
Are lost as sighs in winter wind.
The water ripples, swells like thoughts,
When stirred above or far below,
Its waves dispersing, crashing down,
But silent in the scattered foam.
The faces fly, white butterflies
That swirl in water and in sky
And swim upon the silent sea
Of hours that laps the sighing shores.

Image credit: Elena Campos Cea, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." (John 12:24)


Two spent rubbers--
Not one, but a pair--
Lie in the gutter
Of a rain-slick street
And glisten in the moonlight,
Perhaps from the rain,
Twisted and tangled
In slithering coils.

On this Sunday,
The Lord's Day,
His houses are filled
With the faithful,
Arisen to praise
Him with the dawn.

But here in the street,
These sacred vessels
Of a different faith
Have been cast away,
Like tokens of shame
Or a one-night fling.

The voices of choirs
Ring out and lift up,
And angels awake
And circle the sun
As if to give thanks
For life on this day.

But here on the street,
Are these chalices
Filled with the blood
Of God in the flesh?

Friday, September 11, 2009

To the White Rabbit

Where has all the madness gone?

To the White Rabbit

Beware, White Rabbit, someone plugged your hole!
You better find another spot and dig
Your way to Wonderland, a hole to home,
For even now you make the Red Queen wait,
And you'll have hell to pay for being late.
So move your tail, get hopping now, and dig!
Just use those paws and stain that white fur brown.
There's not a second more to stall and stay.

But once you make it back, be sure to leave
The hole wide open and the path well cleared
To let a little of the wonder in,
The magic madness, long since laughed away.
For here the looking glass is cold and dim,
Reflecting monsters, freaks, and fractured light,
And all the Cheshire Cats have gone extinct
And all the Hatters have been locked away.

Image credit: John Tenniel, modified by GeeAlice, from Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons License.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Un-Pursuit of Happiness

This is an old essay, which was also aired on WVTF public radio a year or so ago. Good times.

The Un-Pursuit of Happiness


In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson asserted that everyone was entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Note that last part: the pursuit of happiness...not happiness. Mr. Jefferson essentially promises us a wild goose chase; he does not promise that we will ever be happy, just that we have the right to give it our best shot. Or put another way, the wildly waddling goose never lays a golden egg but, to double my metaphors, is itself the golden egg.

Now, you may have trouble swallowing the idea that happiness can never be obtained and held like a little gilded treasure in the palm of your hand. After all, we have everything from sodas to televisions to prescription drugs to vacation packages promising us that happiness, yes HAPPINESS, can be ours with just one bite-sized charge on our credit cards—or an even more digestible payment plan. So bon appétit!

However, much as we celebrate the birthday of our country on July 4th, Independence Day, I believe that we can and should also celebrate our independence from the pursuit of happiness—that our life and our liberty are made stronger, more secure, when we base them upon an un-pursuit of “happiness,” however we define (or try to define) that state of mind and being.

Pursuit is a condition of restless activity, often frenetic energy and frustration, and so is the antithesis of contentment. For me, the best images of pursuing happiness are the nutty squirrels and their eternal onslaughts against my bird feeders. Let me tell you, neither side in this time-honored battle knows of true “happiness.” There is no peace; prisoners are not taken; there are no negotiations; there is no diplomacy; there are no treaties.

But if we can declare our independence from the pursuit of the idyllic ideal of happiness, then I believe we will find an endless storehouse of goodies waiting right at our paw-, er, fingertips. Why drive ourselves nuts trying to “find happiness”? Why worry ourselves into a panic attack by chanting, “Don’t worry, be happy!” like some mystical mantra? Why work ourselves into a sweat by running a marathon that only ends in some otherworldly state of bliss?

Instead, perhaps we can find happiness in the un-pursuit of happiness.

I mean, simply stop for a moment and really look at the way the sunlight sets a cardinal’s breast on fire. Pause for a moment and really feel how the bashful breeze caresses your skin on a summer day. Breathe deeply and appreciate the love that is shared in a friend’s hug, a stranger’s smile, a baby’s laugh….

We can be happy whether we have nothing or everything. We can be happy when the fireworks fade and the 5th of July dawns far too early. We need not pursue happiness. We need not seek some stealthy goose in order to pilfer its golden egg and bury it for safe keeping like those nutty, ingenious squadrons of little squirrels. We need not renounce what we own and who (we think) we are. We need not pursue happiness to be happy.

We are alive. We are at liberty. And, if we just realize these facts, then we may realize that we already are happy—standing right where we are, wherever we are.

Image credit: Jay Baldwin, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons License.



This one was a bloody stubborn thorn in my mind...


Damn these roots, like iron they seem,
Growing down and out from me,
Grasping grass and stubborn dirt,
As greedy as a starving dog with a bone.
For every bit of life they find,
Soak up, and suck within myself,
Binds me tighter, holds me here
Beneath the swirling, rootless sky.

Damn this clinging, miserly earth,
For I can only watch the sun and moon
And stars fly over, mocking me
And calling me to come and see
What they have seen, to stand and step
And stride away from star to star.

Damn the weather, damn the spring,
And summer, autumn, winter--all!
The seasons simply tell the time
And freeze my sap with ice and snow
Or bring the warmth and make it flow
And bid me bear my rags of green
Or gold from year to year--
Year after year of servitude
With no release except for death.

These roots take ever-tighter hold
From year to year, from day to day,
And leave me here to stand on Earth
And raise my head, and reach my arms
Up to the endless, groundless sky,
And raise my silent, shrieking voice
Above the drowning din of life
That bustles just beyond my grasp.

Damn these roots, this armored trunk,
These branches flung both far and wide!
Bring me your sharpest ax or saw
And let me hack them all away,
So I may climb upon the rain
Like a ladder into the wandering clouds
And ride the lightning through the air
Instead of awaiting its fiery crash.
Or chop me down and, limb by limb,
Break me from these clinging chains.

Image credit:, from Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons License.


I am ambivalent about getting up on this virtual soapbox and ranting away like some silly sidewalk prophet. But so it goes. This one, "?," is fairly recent.


This is the end
The end of days
Of hours and powers
And senseless sleep.

This is the time
To stop the clock
And tell the seconds
Till they're gone.

This is the day
To grasp the sun
And paint it black
And watch it fade.
This the bed
Of nails you made
To lay yourself
Upon and rest.

This is the path
Through forests of night
And over tombs
Of trembling dead.

This is the bell
That tolls for thee
In every halting
Hissing breath.

This is the dust
That drives the wind
And wears your body
Down to bone.

This is the stream
Become the flood
Of blood now pounding
In your ears.

This is the year
Of drought and plague
That rides in screams
Of locusts' wings.

This is the hot coal
That lies on your tongue
The fire from the sky
That scorches your bowels.

This is heaven
Torn down from on high
This is hell
Dragged up to the light.

This is the sound
Of the fury set free
This is the agony
This is the way.

This is the quest
And the question...?