The vacation

Water funnel approaching
Snaking searching
Like a blind person’s cane
And when it finds what it is looking for
Just hope you are not what it is looking for
Are you paying attention
How can we be allowed to go on this way
Watching from the balcony
Or on the Beach
Yet another omen
Will somebody please
I don’t know how to put this any better
I feel like a broken record these days
But honestly
Will somebody please
Change the record
Or change the view
Or tell those people on the beach
To turn around
It’s the same old story
They’re all trying to fit into the picture
While the photographer is
Recording the funnel
And none of this should be happening
(There is also a whale in the picture
And an ark and a ladder and angels)
I think it’s time to go home.
The house sitter called
And said whatever, the fridge is empty
Let’s go home


The trial is on


The judge is 14.
The jury is kids.

The thunder is muttering approval at the window.
The wind sneaks under the door to witness.

The trial is over.
The courthouse is gone.

That dream is over.
A new dream is starting.


A tree is blossoming.
A baby is learning to walk.

A goat is being milked.
A young family is sharing soup.

It’s an old family recipe.
An old stone soup.

A dog is chasing a cat up a tree.
The dog is climbing the tree.

The cat is sprouting wings, chasing birds.


Look at all the young people marching with signs.
Their eyes are fierce.

They are angry.
Better make room.

Dreams are incubating.
Someone is stepping out of a hole.

She is happy.
She is singing.

The words are familiar.
“Baby, I love you.

When you kiss me I just gotta
Kiss me I just gotta

Kiss me I just gotta say. . .”
Everyone thinks it’s funny.

It gets funnier and funnier.
She came out of a hole singing!

Everyone is laughing now.
It’s like when we were little.

We couldn’t stop and we thought we would die.
Now there is another person stepping out of the hole.

And now there are lots of people, all ages, all sizes.
The hole has widened.

A whole world is emerging.
I guess it was down there the whole time.

I guess they were rising, from world to world.
I think they will do very well here.

They look like they will do very well.
Everyone is blinking in the light.

Everyone is looking at everyone else.
It’s like “who are you?”

The most dangerous country in the world

The most dangerous country in the world
Has no clue that it gives people nightmares.
It doesn’t know that its shadow is radioactive.
It doesn’t know why it wakes in a cold sweat
In a fetal position, gasping,
With all the blankets lying on the floor.
It cries out before it wakes up
And shuffles to the kitchen for a snack.
The most dangerous country in the world
Sells its young blood cheap.
The most dangerous country in the world
Points a gun at the mirror and says “bang, you’re dead.”
The most dangerous country in the world
Claims to be protecting its own
But it can’t trust anyone anymore;
There is no one left to protect,
So it protects its image, its wealth,
Its diminishing intellectual property.
It sells weapons to make a buck.
It thinks that making war is good for business.
It doesn’t believe in itself anymore,
It only believes in its right to continue.
The most dangerous country in the world
Has taught the rest of the world how to survive
By modeling unsustainable excess on every level.
The rest of the world is waiting, studying
The extinction of the most dangerous country.
It is like watching the last tyrannosaurus,
Raging at the sky,
Its tiny clawed arms flailing.

All the moth wanted

All the moth wanted
Was a little time with the night
To hide away or flutter
Against its prospects

But the storm had other ideas
It brought the moth’s house down
(Its shelter
Of dead leaf and live leaf)

And damaged its wings
And pummeled it to the brink
But when the morning came
The sun rose and against the odds

The moth crept out of its shadow place
And rested in a warm spot
On the very same leaf
That was its house before

And there sat and warmed itself
And did not move for hours
All the moth wanted
Was a little time with the day.

What did the moth want?

Industrial sea
Meets industrial river’s edge
Things forever trapped in things

Carbon footprint
Industrial ice

Numbers in sequence
Industrial spillway
Bench with no view

Wasted breath
Industrial breath

High up wind
Forgotten codes
Of industrial footprint

Dawn breaks so what?
Moon rises
Industrial moon

Waxing, waning
Over posthistoric phrases
On a brick wall

(Band-jo, badest mango, zandograndee,
popcorn, bardo, 4Get
Carpool drain, Yap&R)

Walls of longing
Grass paths
No bare feet walked

Industrial longing
What did they want?
What did the air want?

What did the water dream?
What did they write on the water?
What did the moth want?

(Did the moth want anything?)
The carbon footprint
Comes full circle

Circling the circle
Of Industrial longing
Industrial bardo.

The image is a painting by Katarzyna Coleman.

The round tower

Climbing the tower round
5 feet thick
1200 years old
and not a crack

Ladder by ladder
from the top
the land spreads out
beyond the monastery walls

A wild land threaded
with the paths of animals and pilgrims
maybe a donkey braying
murmur of the stream

A raven flying silently at eye-level
don’t snap any pictures yet
what I am seeing
can so easily fade away

The breeze, how it blows so gently
is the same
as it was a thousand years ago
sweet with scent of blossoms.
When we were in Ireland this time, in Glendalough and on Inis Mor, visiting the ruins of ancient monasteries, I was aware of a subtle level of life and activity all around me that utterly collapsed the passage of a thousand years, as if in a parallel dimension, the life of the monastic village all around us was thriving. All I needed was to let myself steep in the atmosphere or the feel of the space, allowing my own claim to reality to slip into a neutral gear. (Note: Shifting to the neutral gear in an automatic transmission will cut off the connection between the engine and the wheels so no power will be transmitted to the wheels when you press the pedal.) The longer we are in Ireland (the more times we go to Ireland), the easier it gets to achieve this chronological neutrality. I apologize for the transmission metaphor but this is my honest attempt to explain what is happening in this poem.

W.S. Merwin, poet of a higher order?

W.S. Merwin, a poet of a higher order?

(From “He won nearly every award available to an American poet, and he was named U.S. poet laureate twice. A practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, Merwin lived since the late 1970s on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii which he has painstakingly restored to its original rainforest state. Poet Edward Hirsch wrote that Merwin “is one of the greatest poets of our age. He is a rare spiritual presence in American life and letters (the Thoreau of our era).”

It’s sad that we often learn about some of our greatest (teachers? acharyas?) when they die. That’s not quite true with me and Merwin. I had a teacher in high school who pointed me to Merwin in the late sixties. By that time his “The Lice” (1967) had just been published 2 years before I graduated. It is a kind of obituary for the modern world. Responding to the immoral debacle in Vietnam, but no less the undoing of nature, he takes up the subject of extinction, extinction of justice, peoples and nature. There is a very moving poem addressed to the whales which reads as a final farewell that brought tears to my eyes. I ordered “The Lice”, the 50th anniversary edition that includes his early typed drafts of certain poems, and hand-written versions with cross-outs and arrows. My brother was shocked when I told him who Merwin was and that he had just passed, around the same time Mary Oliver died. Dave wrote back, that it was like discovering a “black hole” in his education. I labored over some of the poems in “Lice”, trying to figure out what he was saying. I think the point is, he isn’t saying any one thing. He is writing poems that are kind of like dreams. You can interpret each symbol and pattern or theme in a dream but in the final analysis no one can say what a given dream means. The whole dream, taken seamlessly means something non-specific. In a similar fashion many of Merwin’s poems are seamless complex metaphors that have to be absorbed as a whole. That is why I think he is a poet of a higher order, than someone like May Oliver or Robert Frost who, compared to Merwin, are prosaic and linear or narrative. Merwin reminds me of the walking guides we hired in Ireland (on our recent pilgrimage with 12 students} to escort us to sacred sites and ruins. All three of them did the same thing: they would talk about a place once we were all gathered and then they would stride off to the next place never looking over their shoulder to see if we were following them. Arriving at the next spot before us, they would patiently wait and the same behaviors would be repeated. That is how it feels to read Merwin’s poems. You listen to what the poem has to say and then Merwin is off, striding to the next poem. I love Mary Oliver but what she does best is deepen and enhance feelings and insights and emotions that are already familiar to me. Same with Frost. What Merwin does is lead us through a landscape that is new to us and as he leads us from poem to poem, place to place, we do well to keep him in sight.