Monday, December 16, 2013

Moon and Stars: A Hymn

Another post with Kabbalistic imagery and inspiration.

Moon and Stars

A Hymn

The diamond of the universe
Was shattered in the distant past
And scattered through the dreary void
    To liven up the space.

It broke apart like hand-blown glass
That falls upon a cobbled floor
Or like a lonely human heart
    That loves too much to rest.

But now the moon, a polished pearl,
Is smiling down to draw the tides,
The ebb and flow and wax and wane
    Of water, blood, and time.

Its gravely steady lunar force
(The parent and the child)
Is reaching out, as mothers would
    To stroke a baby’s cheek,

To seek the shards that lie about
Wherever chance has tossed them out
Like seeds of light upon the soil
    That spring will call to sprout.

Extending through the infinite,
Collecting them with tireless care,
It turns and turns to look about
    Till every sliver’s found.

And now this polished pearl the moon
Is dangling on a silver chain,
The priceless centerpiece that shines
    When set amongst the stars.

Monday, December 9, 2013

No, Time

No, Time

The ticking clock has a terrible sound:
The death screams of flickering moments
That are born and then suddenly gone
As echoes that slip into silence and sleep.

The shallow breaths and steady beat
Of Time’s unwavering heart are hard
To bear, and their stubborn insistence
Will wear away walls made of stone

In the heart and the gut stiff with sorrow
As the mind struggles blindly to grasp
The fading shadows of memories
And the ghosts of the moments long past

That were lived and were shared then forgotten
In a wrinkle or fold of the brain
Until tragedy dusts off the cobwebs
To show us the faces again,

Though changed, like a wispy reflection
Of sunlight in smoke in a mirror
That dances but cannot take shape
Before sunset steals it away...

The moments are dying and slipping away,
The memories sink into darkness and sleep,
The ticking clock has a terrible sound,
And I can but sit and stare in the deep.

Time is not a healer of wounds,
And time speaks no comforting spell.
Time is but a rambling fool
Who whistles while wandering to Hell.

Marah, Sea of Tears

There was a time in which the majority of my intellectual energy was devoted to researching, pondering, and writing about mystical and occult traditions. Foremost amongst these was Kabbalah, both in its Jewish and Western manifestations. While I do not believe in these systems, their beautiful imagery and symbolism and ontology still pluck a few nerves. This poem dives into Binah, one of the sephirot in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life...

Marah, Sea of Tears

How have I peered into those shadowed depths
And seen the world's demise?
   Can this same sorrow that she breeds
   Be where this serpentine path leads?
Are these same tears that swallow up my eyes
The resting-place of dreams?
Or shining seeds of vile destruction, each
Born from her darker side?

Engraved upon the blackness of her calm,
Smooth surface, still as Death,
   I see reflected many things,
   Foremost amongst them Saturn's rings;
Bewitched, I gaze and fall under the spell
Of ancient Father Time
Who, filled with vengeance, tells me mortal life
Is finite, futile dream.

And so I feed with my despair young twins,
The children of this Sea:
   For she is Mother, Dark and Light,
   Whose womb gives birth to Day and Night.
Full-grown, up from the softly crashing surf
The Son and Daughter spring,
Both born, like Aphrodite, from the foam
That breaks upon the sand.

Her name is Understanding to the brave
Ones who have felt her Love.
   While drowning all to purify,
   She strengthens as we pass her by.
I fear that, unlike Noah's guiding dove,
I have no hope of land:
Have I been left, forgotten, lying at
The Gateway of the Soul?

Yet while I drown so slowly, softly, drunk
Upon her salty wine,
   I ponder: Do her waters feed?
   Or, overbearing, drown the seed
Of Life's own Rose that has been placed with Love
Into the heart of Man?
And then with tenderness she shows me that
In truth there's naught to fear:

   Our greatest joys are sorrow-born;
   True Heaven lies past lands forlorn;
   In demon's shrouds is God adorned.

Thursday, December 5, 2013



A fat moon face
Smiles down on the world
In the darkness
Of waking night
In the stillness
Of frozen wind
And stops its drifting
For a time it seems
While red metal rooftops
Change colors
In a flash
Change planes
In a glimpse
Change states
In a wave.
Shall we go for a swim?

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory

We flow into this world in a river of tears
Over whitewater rapids of fury and pain
As though dragged from our home, now a memory’s glimpse
That floats on the surface, breaks the skin, and then sinks.

And thus we dive into a long-dead sea,
Or so it seems despite the blinding light—
But cold, so cold, it bathes our naked flesh,
It flushes out our newborn innocence.
And yet our eyes are cleansed and truly see
Until the bitter waters of this timeless sea
Of mortal blood collect like cataracts, and years
Occlude in filmy, salty, stagnant tears.

So how can vision ever penetrate
The blinds upon our senses sealed and shut?
Or hope?  What hope can warm the darkened hearth
That chills within our chest and gathers dust?
The vision fades.  The womb becomes a tomb.
The endless Earth seems but a coffin’s core,
From mountaintop to valley, buried all
Within a claustrophobic, airless, shrinking space.

But breathe, just breathe the air, expand these lungs
That fill to feel what freedom might remain
For angel-minded beings bound in human skins,
For birds at heart who walk with crippled wings.
“Awake! arise! or sleep and farther fall!”
Each breath and burst of heart commands and begs—
But have we sense enough to hear and to believe
What every thrilling nerve and sinew sings
In every second always vibrating
With every other one in wondrous harmony?

For all the darts that seem to pierce our hearts with death
Are yet the pricks of hungry bumblebees
That enter in our blooms and work the spell
That fructifies another season’s miracle.
The atmosphere that shuts us in and holds
Our field of vision to the stark horizon’s edge
Is yet the greenhouse that allows our shoots
To grow protected from the wintry night beyond.

And the power of life is a heart that is broken
As the world shimmers softly when seen through our tears,
And the glory of life is a heart filled to bursting
As the world shimmers sweetly when washed with our tears.

Monday, November 4, 2013

River Flow Through

River Flow Through

O, were I at one with the River
flowing and winding through time and space—
not floating above
like a fractured auburn
oak leaf, cast off in the process
of seasonal change;
no, not a rider on rippling waves,
nor a stone who watches petrified
from below, mortared in mud
as the world wanders by,
always something going past
and wearing this surface smooth, away;
I must now somehow de-solidify my-
self, release these clinging
molecules, free these lusty electrons
from their compulsive whirl—
or circumambulation—
around the protons they desire;
but simple disassembly
can never wash it all away;
no sparagmatic frenzy,
no bacchanalian ecstasy,
can ever wear these stones away:
as Orpheus forever sings,
though scattered here and there,
until no single piece remains
no peace can ever come to stay
(true, I am no Orpheus…
but can I sing a different fate?):
let there be no surface, no tactile
barrier to break through,
and no sensation of the world
upon this stubborn skin:
by some profound osmosis,
let the River permeate
and absorb this ailing body
picking up and dropping
       of     itself
upon a dusty trail of tears
that fall as grains of sand;
irrigate me, soak my roots,
and turn these yellow fronds to green,
quench the fire that only dies
when all the kindling is consumed;
I must now somehow throw wide my pores
like windows in an April rain,
become transparent, forget opacity,
no longer occlude—send my shadow away:
let me shatter these stained-glass
relics of a crumbling temple,
tear down this weeping wall, seeping from
wounds old and new, wailing in the desert sun,
its tears drifting off to drown
a sad and stinking, stagnant sea;
there can be no shards, no remnants
glinting as they catch the light
and sink into the River
as it catches them but will not hold;
I must now somehow dissolve, aquify,
rewrite my chemical formula
to hydrogens balancing oxygen
in this great mathematical entropy,
this lawful chaos, this graduated flux
that pulses and shines phosphorescent:
let my color, my taste, be that of
the River, the water mingling all
yet always the same, its flavor
forever too subtle to place;
the tastes on this tongue are sour,
spoiled with poor storage,
this liquor an ichor of bitter lees
futilely swirled through a leaking skin—
O, I must somehow allow it to flow
through, flood through, wash through and be
the blood, the life that bears me up
and gently fills me day by day:
let me open up and drink until
I am as one with the River.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Poetry, etc.

Poetry, etc.

the sea does not try 
to ebb & flow & find the shore 
it can it does it will 
it simply is 
and washes over you

Monday, October 28, 2013

Feature Article at Our Hen House

After showing up on the Our Hen House podcast last month, I also managed to sneak in (okay, not really) a feature article on how growing up on food stamps has influenced my thinking and activism as a vegan. Check it out!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Interview on Our Hen House's Weekly Podcast

I had the privilege to meet Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House during the most recent Vegan Night Out festivities. While they took local media by storm with a first, and then a second television news interview (one of which was a debate with the Virginia Farm Bureau), I had the chance to chat with them about various and sundry topics...and then to appear on their weekly podcast. Check it out:

Monday, September 9, 2013

No Trespassing

No Trespassing

The cow was glowing as she stood in front of the sun. I knew I shouldn’t be in the field, but there I was.

She licked my extended hand, her rough wet tongue embracing it. I noticed the tag dangling from her ear, a curious silhouette.

The loud crack seemed far away, the sudden pain closer. I saw a figure standing near the farmhouse, vaguely, its arms raised.

I knew I shouldn’t be in the field, but I was.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sonnet: To the Dark Matter

Author's note: I wrote this poem back in 1999. I am still fascinated by dark matter, and a recent story on a new theory of dark matter sparked my memory of this old sonnet (I was fascinated by the sonnet form for a while, too...).
Sonnet: To the Dark Matter

Something there is that yet still may not be:
Theories, conjectures, like folktales, abound;
Black mortar holding the bright tiles, for me:
Though ’tis concealed, amongst darkness be found.
In that abyss of the void in-between
Glistening gods man has too long revered
Lieth that crutch on which stars and spheres lean
(Key to a Nothing from which life appeared).
Look then, ye stargazers, upon that light
Wearied by lovers (like roses and dew!),
Thinking the luminous is the aright,
Certain that “Nothing there is!” is not true.
     Nothing: it is that which I gaze upon,
     Hiding itself ’neath the breaking of dawn.

Image credit: CosmoO, public domain image, via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review of On Their Own Terms by Lee Hall

It has been nearly 70 years since Donald Watson and others launched the Vegan Society, proclaiming to the world a radical idea: that humans had no right to use animals in any way, for any reason. Since then, many seminal thinkers and works have argued the case for animal rights. Peter Singer published Animal Liberation nearly 40 years ago, and we have for decades had available the works of theorists such as Tom Regan and Gary Francione. Through their work, and the work of countless “grassroots” activists of many forms, “animal rights” has become a term of general knowledge—though its connotations can vary drastically depending on the speaker and audience!

In recent years, and especially within recent months, people in the animal rights movement have begun to reflect publicly on the movement itself, assessing principles, practices, and future efforts. Of particular import in this reflection is the question of what kind of use of animals is acceptable…or is any use not acceptable at all?

This question has rippled through animal advocacy in all its forms, leading many to wonder if there are not two animal-focused movements (often being referred to as “abolitionist” and “welfarist,” depending on how the question is answered).