Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is there any other

way it could have been?
Is there perhaps
some undiscovered country
with strange and exotic ways
(of which I haven't heard)
that I could have been part of?
Was it all laid out ahead of time
in some absurd Calvinistic predestination,
or was it all just a babble of
quantum mindlessness?
Look for all the meaning
you want in this dustspeck.
It will keep you out of trouble
and maybe comfort you
at the threshold of oblivion.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I hear him taking

the practice swings now,
the instrument whistling through
the quiet air in easy,
casual rhythm,
a constant smile (of course)
on his preternaturally happy
as he looks at me
with professional interest.
I look at him and wonder
what tricks he has up his
baggy sleeves.
Will it be a blinding white
explosion in my head,
a knife to the sternum,
a long, crawling, painful descent,
or a bolt from the blue in the
form of an 18 wheeler?
Some days he seems a friend.
Others he's just there.
But today I've got better things
to do than sit and watch
the sand run out.
So let him take all the swings
he wants.
Only one will count
and I can't really be bothered
with it

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It could have been so

if we had lived up to the brave words
(or if we had really meant them)
(or even understood them).
If only we really could have been
who we said we were.
If only we could have overcome all the
ancient insanities that have
been burned into humankind,
and risen
to a new definition.
If only we could have kept the idea
out of the hands of the
the haters,
the fanatics,
the murderers,
the Ponzi artists,
and the glib PR men.
But Philadelphia turned out to
be a false hope
and the one compensation is
that I will be only a memory
when its last echo fades.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who are you,

I always ask.
Do I know you?
Why do you look so
What is this bizarre
disconnect, this mundane
Why can't I recognize
or make any sense
out of the tiresome
improvised play
you seem to be in?
If anyone saw me
talking to you or
acting out for you
or making faces at you
or staring blankly at you
they would think me
and I'd argue the point
but I'm not sure
which one of us
would speak up first.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How fearful the night

must have been when lurking demons
wandered the cobbled streets, looking for
unwary, impious souls to
drag down to the fiery pits
of eternal torment, when the deep
forests rang with the sounds of Satan's whores
laughing wildly as the Dark One entered
and the meadows after sundown held every
variety of hellish monster and assassin,
waiting to gouge the life out of anyone
foolish enough to challenge the horrors of
the darkness.
Werewolves bayed, ogres tore the
flesh off the living, and smoky
nightmares nailed the spirit to
hideous crosses.
How could anyone survive the Devil's
Menagerie without
roasting the old women alive in public,
burning the Talmud in solemn ritual,
flogging one's back until it was
suppurating and raw, or asking the
village priest to exorcise the mad spirits
from the frothing, raving lunatic?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

It's so unfair

that the ephemeral light
of the lengthening afternoon
can push me around with
such easy impunity.
How dare it
make me feel
so many lost, wordless
experiences from times
I no longer know
and selves
I no longer am.
What right does it have
to grip my heart this way
and make me want
to lose myself
in an illuminated dream
that blurs the line between
the past and infinity?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Three Haikus (Ni)

A chance seeks me out,
failure's prospect frightens me.
I sit paralyzed.

Baby wakes, crying.
She runs to my waiting arms.
My role is sacred.

I gaze back often,
what could have been calls to me.
I can't bear to look.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

They all showed up one day,

much to the surprise of most,
the grim satisfaction of some,
and the alarm of more than a few.
They came from fields stripped bare
by starving rats, gold mines in frozen wastes,
remote woods hiding their night secrets,
and the depths of Middle Passage voyages
gone wrong.
Gaunt entities arose from the Galway
countryside and from layers of ash
in the Sola River.
They crowded the Forbidden City
and inundated Sichuan province.
They emerged from museum displays of
skulls and shoes and teeth. They
overwhelmed the Valley of Mexico,
emerged from
Biafran streams and Rwandan ditches,
and even appeared in tourist locales in Montana.
The older ones, inspired, rose from
Assyrian walls and Antiochus's frying pans,
from lines of crosses, and Danish bogs.
Rows and ranks appeared, standing on
each other's shoulders in some places,
until they formed vaporous skyscrapers.
Those looking at them wondered who they were
and what they wanted, although some suspected
(and a few dreaded).
Then the quick ones turned back to their
and the transparent ranks,
slowly dissipated,
both silent
and unquiet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The darkness calls

and I move toward it
neither knowing
nor caring about
its true dimensions.
I would have liked
to remain in the light
but I'm not
really sure
I was ever in it
to begin with.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I stand in the line

and look down the row to my left,
following it past warriors, farmers,
hunters, and migrants,
and watch as it trails off
into the midsts of an early Hadar
I look to the right and make out
the dim outlines
of those who see me as primitive
and savage-like in my ignorance,
finally resting on
the settlers arriving at a
lifetimes of travel from
their now abandoned home.
How can I not
stand in awe
at being part of it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Three Haikus (Ichi)

Rippled mountains stand
reflecting January's light.
We watch, mesmerized.

Agonized thoughts fly.
I wrestle with cruel doubts.
Victory is mine.

Memory rises.
Ancient scenes encroach on me.
I plunge in darkness.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Please, just grant me

this one moment,
and let it be only for
Help me to quiet the chaos
of my own mind
and live
not in the regret of if only,
nor in the fear of what if,
but in THIS, the diamond-focused
Let me have
eyes that see not just color
or shape
or dimension
or relationship,
but eyes that see
that which
Let all else be silent.
Let the Furies come to ground.
Let all distractions melt.
Let yesterday die.
Let tomorrow disappear.
Let the next minute wait.
Let me be fully
and here only,
so that I might truly live
at least

Friday, January 18, 2008

Will we really

again be in the presence
of those who crossed over
before us, the ones who used
hospital beds and breathing apparatuses
as their launching pads?
Will they be once more
radiant in body and lucid in mind, but
even more so than they were in this world?
Will they stun us with their beauty
and the joyous wholeness of their being?
And will there be others there,
known only in family geneologies
and crumbling history texts,
whose ends were perhaps less merciful,
but who are now to be our friends and familiars?
Will we tearfully embrace those we loved
and thought lost forever, and bathe in the
knowledge of beckoning eternity and a life,
without sorrow?
Or will there be only
eternal darkness
and the dreamless sleep of
If the one awaits me, its reality
will be as overwhelming as the
laughter of children on the first warm day
of spring.
If the second is real...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh, poor you!

Sure, you got caught accidentally
in the propellers of the QE 2,
and sure, I know your house got eaten
by that horde of carnivorous locusts,
and yeah, yeah, I heard about
that load of I-beams
that got dropped on your head, and
you're being such a drama queen about
that spontaneous combustion thing the other night,
but I'VE got a freaking paper cut,
and it hurt like a son of a bitch
for at least three seconds.
So stop your disgusting self-pity,
your pathetic whining, and your
pitiful attempts at getting people
to pay attention to you,
and start focusing
on what really matters.
Get a life, already!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The little German AntiChrist

never meant to be misunderstood.
It's not his fault
that the demented Pagan God
from Linz saw him
as a prophet.
Why, who could possibly have misread
the call for the blond beast of prey
and the free warrior and the short
peace and the world with more pain?
Who could possibly have forseen
that the tearing down of every wall
would unleash a flood of blood demons
who would seek to rise to the rank
of Super Man in the ravine of Babi Yar?
As the English mathematician said,
they were just the fantasies
of an invalid.
Who could have imagined the grim
red land
left behind by the death
of mercy?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I can't

love you
if you've decided
that the one looking back at you
from the indifferent mirror
on all those haggard mornings
deserves to be stranded on that
waterless island.
How can I say you're wrong
to despise a shipwreck you know
on such brutally intimate terms?
Until you decide that
crawling up the Via Dolorosa
is simply a way of wasting
a cup you'll never be offered again,
and to end the ceaseless guerrilla war
with people who are no longer lying
in ambush,
you'll be too raw for me
to touch without being
When you're
ready to leave the midnight blue
of a past that can never be changed,
and to give birth to someone you can be
proud to be alone with,
I'll be here.
Not to make you whole
or to complete you
or make up for everything that was ever
stolen from you.
But to love you as an equal,
as a friend,
and as someone
who deserves it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I will never stand there

I will never walk the streets with the Biblical names
I will never silently go by the old schools
I will never see that tired little city in the dirty winter
I will never see the old green-sided house where she made her last refuge
I will never see the lake from the top of the main street
I will never look at the houses and feel both nostalgia and relief
I will never relive all those damned, exhausted psychodramas
I will never walk around and see how oversized my memories are
I will never let it drag me back into who I was
There was a world beyond it, after all.
It wasn't just something I saw in Life magazine.
There was a place where I could stand or fall
on my own,
and where I could shake off the last remnants
of Dr. Dowie's vision.
And for that, I will count myself lucky.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I can never get them

to not go,
to not rise up out of the ditches that had been
gouged out of the chalky soil near that sluggish river,
muddy way stations that had been dug
with the swaggering confidence
that they would be temporary.
They never hear my warning
to stay down
because the ones over there aren't dead,
but very much alive and desperate
to dig themselves out of their involuntary graves,
having spent a week of riding out the
storm of metal and gas,
and ready to man their
fire positions in a frenzy of terror and release.
They don't know that the Newfoundlanders
are going to be slaughtered or mutilated to the last man,
or that the Merseyside Pals are about to cease to exist,
or that he's going to have his jaw shot away,
or that the man over there is going to make the nurses
almost faint when they see him,
or that the man next to him is headed
for the Moribund Tent and a shot of morphine
and a smiling nurse to hold his hand as he slips away.
They'll always be brave, they'll always do what Haig
told them, and they'll always be
annihilated for it.
And no matter how many times I hope it will be otherwise,
that 19 year old kid always gets his Victoria Cross

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The cast of the play

I grew up with

keeps changing, their faces evaporating,

the memory of them turning into

file footage, and every year the members of

the dramatis personae become harder

to keep straight.

Sometimes they look like the old actors,

but you can't fool me--they keep reading the lines differently

and ad libbing relentlessly, devising scenes

that I don't recognize,

and taking the plot in directions that I can only look at

through my fingers.

I could swear they haven't read

the script at all, because some of them keep

crashing into the same scenery that everyone

always seems to.

I've been in the audience a while now,

and it seems that a lot of people go to

the concession stand

and never return.

And I can't help but notice

that the seat I used to have

near the middle of the theater

is getting closer to that glowing red sign

in the corner,

and fewer and fewer people seem to notice

if I applaud or not.

Friday, January 11, 2008

If you were really

what they say you are,
you would be responsible
for all of it, and either
you wouldn't,
or you couldn't,
or you had a deal with yourself
not to interfere,
no matter what.
I have to believe that you are still
because if I thought that you were
both here
and beyond here,
then I could never
understand how that nine year old girl,
wandering in shock down the streets
of hellscaped Nanking
with blood running down her legs,
glorified you.
And I would hate you, in my
antlike ignorance, for that,
or else have to think that you really were
just a rumor, after all, because
I'd have too much respect for you
to believe in you.
So I have to believe that you couldn't,
but that someday you'll be able to,
and that you will make it up to her,
and to every other innocent in every other
and that everything will make sense
at the end of time,
because, that's the only way I can come in from
the desert,
and I'm
more tired than even you could know,
of wandering sightless
within its desolate expanses.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I was twelve

and still living in the world
of church youth groups
and Christmas caroling
at the nursing home and wanting to bring
syrupy joy to the shut-ins,
and he was lost in his ninety years,
sitting like a living cadaver,
his breadstick legs crossed as if they were locked,
waiting exhaustedly for the days to finally
His skull-like head was propped in his decaying hand
and he stared, stripped of caring,
indifferent to our childish do-gooderism.
He seemed to have outlived life itself and
had ended up on old people's death row,
cursed by living beyond the desire
or the ability of anyone at home
to help him to the bathroom.
I didn't see any of
that then.
All I saw was a sad, defeated, skeleton
and I knew that I
was damned well never going to be
A lot of my opinions have changed since that night.
But not that one.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"We must always come

first," he shouted
in the lashing voice of command.
"Every action in defense of the ancient
and venerable tribe-mind of our people
is bloodworthy,
unspeakably just,
and beyond the paltry glory of Olympus.
We are bound
by no simpering rule.
We are restrained by no female weakness.
Our survival and our prospering
must always be at the zenith of the sky.
In the name of what is right
(and what is right is us!) we
we must make the gut-slashing fury of our
noble hatred
more horrible
than any soul has ever borne witness to,
because the Tribe must live so that it might keep
its place in the beautiful celebration
of merciless,
And with that he turned the rack
And we cheered.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

There is at least one echo left

of that Edenic majesty of our
sepia-tinted mythology.
It sings a jumbled chorus of
mating calls and lets an impish breeze
swirl through it insouciantly.
It bathes in star radiance and calls forth
from the ruddy, burgeoning earth
its dizzying array of children.
It revels in its ignorance
of soul destroying dawns
and cradles those
privileged to exult in it
like a mother who never grew old
and who will in fact
hold us gently in the hour of our
fortunate death.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Let's build a roaring fire

and bellow out mindless songs in unison.

Let's flex our chests and feel the testosterone

coursing through us in animal rivers.

Let's laugh until we

double up at jokes about Doing It and

Getting Some. Let's talk

defensive secondaries and offensive lines and

pound the beers

until everyone is our friend. Let's

arm wrestle and talk trash and yell "bullshit!" until we're


And then let's go home

and once more take off our furs and bearskins and horned helmets

and remember to use the right fork at dinner and to raise our little

fingers when we drink tea and wait until

the next time we get together

and become happy barbarians again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

You think I'm gonna stay

on the floor, don't you,

lying there in fetal submission,

the last of my fight circling the drain,

this time down for the count.

You don't know me, you son of a bitch.

I've taken on bigger, tougher, meaner, uglier

bastards than you and I've

cold-cocked them all.

So smirk all you want, pal,

because I'm about to knock you on your ass

harder than anyone ever has.

Just ask that group of swollen-faced idiots

lying spread-eagled on the arena's seats.

That is, if they wake up any time soon.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It was Nagumo's

metal ripped, blackened fleet pulling into port
in the middle of the death black to hide from the shame,
the shocked eyes, and a humiliation that screamed out in the silence
for seppuku.
It was the doctors
sewing up the last of the dead man from Brookline,
sealing the grim package,
and sending him back on his seven mile high journey to the
waiting catafalque, so that no one could see
the shredded remains
of the insane violence
that had been born
in the pathetic loser's
desire to be someone.
It was the last dregs of anything that resembled dignity
melting away in the cheap hotel as the mewling john crawled on the floor
begging to be hit by the bored,
It was the man of power lying in his bed
wide eyed in fear, feeling as if barbed wire
were being dragged through his brain and watching
his poses and gestures
laughing at him obscenely.
It was all part of the ancient abyss
that lies between the shimmering image of celebrated day,
and the bleeding, sweating, against the wall, no-holds-barred night
of how things really are.

Friday, January 4, 2008

He said to the kid,

"tell them nothing.

Never let them know what you feel.

Never tell them your business.

Don't tell them anything about your past.

And never say, 'I love you' first.

Got it? That kind of crap is for fools

and pussies."

The kid nodded,

and kept the tradition going

of staring at cold coffee cups,

passing out in the bathroom, and

dying in front of the TV.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

They are men now

or rapidly becoming men,

but in my heart's evergreen forest

they will always be my boys, the ones I

kind of

sort of

understood because I had been, in a different world,

one of them and I KNEW

how fierce their

desire and their

rage and their

sorrow and their

fear and their

uncertainty were and I KNEW

why they laughed in unleashed, unself-conscious

shockwaves at

dirty jokes and

stupid comments and

nasty putdowns and I KNEW

how hard it was to work up the nerve

to talk to that girl with the sweet face and nice legs,

and I KNEW

that I couldn't tell them

how much I loved them for that

because they wouldn't have understood.

And no matter how many beards they have grown and

children they have fathered and

burdens they have borne

and sorrows they have survived,

they will always be 16 or 17

and aspiring to more muscle than they had,

and burning for girls,

and dressed in rock t-shirts

or sports jerseys,

and not doing as well as they thought in hiding

from me and

(God forbid!)

from each other,

how vulnerable or in need

they actually were.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I was surrounded by a rope

twisting around my uncomprehending body,
and not knowing how it had happened
or knowing how to unravel myself I turned
and found the knot tighter so I
made a new loop in it and that made it
even stronger and then from there I moved
blindly, going in haphazard directions,
not knowing where they led, and every move I made
seemed to simply make the original tangle
more interestingly configured
and harder to see the base of,
and all of my strategies and tactics
only made it fasten its grip
in more cleverly elaborate
And I want nothing more than to do a Hercules number on it
but I'm not sure which knife to grab,
or even if I would know how to wield it,
or how I would live
without the knot's
comforting familiarity.

We know human life and

human society are filled with problems. They always have been and they always will be. It may strike many people as simplistic to note this, but I think that in this seemingly mundane observation is hidden a more fundamental question: why is this so? Why has it been so hard for humans to create a reality that isn't saturated with difficulties? Why is human life so messy, so confusing, so hard to understand, and so hard to manage? Why are humans so utterly split on questions of ultimate truth? Why is there no consensus whatsoever about what a genuinely good world would look like? Why are so many humans plagued with psychological difficulties and a sense that life is a continuous uphill struggle (quite apart from issues of ill health or material deprivation)? To me, the examination of the nature of human reality and the circumstances surrounding it begins with such questions.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

She lives in the certainty of

eternity and I am resigned to the prospect

of nothing.

She has felt the knife

more deeply than I and she is

not unscarred but she is still


and still unbreakable.

The world outside of our garden home

is beyond help,

but she transcends, resting on

the Nazarene, while I rage

in the futile sundown.

Her Zen essence will always be

a glass through which I see


but I will always stand with her, whether I understand it

or not,

because she is not just Moon to my Sun.

She is the last face I hope to ever


and I have no right

to ask anything else.