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A short history of America and the world

Snapping Turtle Lake Andes Wetland Management District South Dakota

Between the turn of the screw
And the twist of the knife
Between the Twist of the twister 
And Dylan’s simple twist of fate

There sometimes arise opportunities 
To own the life that was given us by our mothers
To make headway against 
The semi generated wind of the highway of the one-way life.

Against the inherited trauma of my grandfathers and my father 
Who, fresh out of their respective world wars,  
Winged being fathers with broken wings, I actually
Thought the world would be kind to an escaped chicken!

But age brought second thoughts and I flew back into the coop
In the shadow of the mined-out mountain 
On the edge of Hamburger Forest where the medicines 
Were all bleeding into the fishy sea

Patrolled by giant nuclear stealth subs
With nothing better to do than stalk each other.
And while millions went starving under a full eclipse of the moon
Nation states played steal the flag and king of the hill.

But after all and in the time remaining
You’d think that someone would stop 
(Besides me) for a turtle
Who is getting ready to cross the express way.

But we can’t stop can we
Because of all the reasons we just can’t stop
Eating sugar making war battling shadows
Like good little soldiers saluting

As rocket after rocket vibrates our brains to jello
As they crawl skyward gaining momentum 
Against the weight of all the guilt and heartaches of civilization.
And they once called this Turtle Island.

……………………………….

On a recent epic drive from Vermont to North Palm Beach, FL, with two stops, one in NJ and one in VA, we were south of Augustine on route 95 when we passed a large turtle who was on the shoulder facing traffic, looking like he was contemplating a crossing. Right after passing the turtle there was an entrance to the expressway. We were traveling about 70 MPH but I couldn’t not stop, but, because of the entrance ramp I couldn’t safely pull to a stop for at least another 600 feet. The minute I stopped, (explaining my actions to Shirley, who was not quite sure that I was in my right mind), I was out the door, half walking, half running back to where I had spotted the turtle. It was still there, but even from a underfed feet away I sensed that something was wrong. Sure enough, when I was standing over it, I saw that the front of its thick shell was shattered and one of the fractures extended to the center of the dome of its shell. It had died facing the road and there were numerous tiny ants beginning the work of consuming it. It was a gopher turtle. I felt bad for it but was glad I stopped because I would have assumed it was alive and doomed if I hadn’t stopped.

There is a happy sequel to this story. Two days later we were at one of our favorite beaches, and after joining Shirley on the beach for a while I decided to walk a nearby nature trail by the parking lot on the chance of seeing a gopher turtle. I have occasionally spotted them there over the years. They like sitting backed into the entrances of their sandy burrows looking out. About a hundred feet in, no more than a few feet off the trail, there was a large gopher turtle, about the size of the one on the highway. He was just sitting there looking at me. I stood very still and we looked at each other for minute. Then this turtle started walking toward me! Right before it reached my feet and the trail it turned to the left and only then did I notice that it was heading for its path into the scrub. I watched it disappear and, being me, I allowed myself to imagine that it was, in its own way, acknowledging my stopping on the highway to assist its unfortunate twin.

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Praying (How I pray)

Mysterious morning

I

How do I say this?
As I am alive
I struggle.
As I live and as I struggle
It is important to me to be seen
I’m not sure why.


II


Maybe because I am increasingly aware
Of how each day
Draws me closer
To the exit of my life?


III


Of all the things I do
Praying is the thing
I value most.


IV


I have no metaphor for this
But let us just agree,
No matter what else stands between us,
We are alive 
And we all struggle.
And there is time.
Some of us have more time than others.
Some of us less.
Some of us have more time than we realize.
Some of us have less time than we realize.
Ultimately time is completely relative.


V


And for all of us there is an exit,
From struggle and from time

Maybe some will argue

Even with what I have said so far,


But to them I say
I am not trying to win you over,
Not today.
New Years Day.


VI


The pyramids do not speak to me.

The pyramids
With all their mystery and power of presence
Do not speak.
They do not pray.
But we can.


VII


I pray every day.
That sets me apart
Because I know that is not a common practice.
I think I learned it
From being in the forest in Vermont
Alone.
And the forest seemed to want more from me
Than I was offering.
It was in the forest that I learned 
How to offer appreciation
And gratitude.
Praying just took off from there.


VIII


I talk out loud to Creator.
I walk with Creator
When I pray.
How do I know
That I am praying?
Praying makes me feel that I am not alone.
I know what alone feels like.
When you pray 
You are not alone.


IX


I don’t expect miracles
But I want Creator to know me,
And to know where I am at all times.
This is important to me,
And not just because I am old.
I have always been that way.
But I wasn’t good at praying
When I was younger.
Maybe I didn’t have to be.


X


Now I have a metaphor: 
It’s like learning to travis pick
With the alternating base.
I thought I could never do it
But with practice I got it.
And now I can travis pick pretty well;
That is like praying.
I got better with practice. 


XI


There are many ways to pray but
There are more ways not to pray.


XII


How I pray is, 
I always introduce myself 
To acknowledge that I am always changing.
I remind Creator of who and where I am.
And then I talk
As to a confidant,
As to a lover,
As to a soul-partner and dear friend,
As to one who knows me 
Far better than I know myself,
As to an omnipotent power 
With influence over the cosmos.
As to one who does not differentiate 
Between the micro and macro,
Or pick favorites
Or chose sides
Between the valley and the mountain,
As one who has no issues or hangups. 


XIII


But mostly as a friend.
A powerful friend.
A friend for life
A friend of life,
A friend of death,
A friend after death.
A friend who loves everything about me,
A friend who sees my struggle
But also sees who I am 
Separate from my struggle. 


XIV


When I pray
I close by saying
Something I learned by the First Nations People:
We are all in this together.
“All my relations!”
I often say “Mita’kuye Oya’sʼiŋ”
Poorly pronounced.


XV


Creator doesn’t judge my pronunciation.
Never judges.
Never has.

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Is the stuff we send each other helpful?

MONASTERBOICE CEMETERY-ROUND TOWER.......

I don’t want to send you the wrong message. I love to receive cool, deep, profound and thoughtful, even hot-to-touch tidbits to challenge and expand my world-view but with that, or through that, I need real connection most of all, but what do I mean by connection? We all mean different things by connection. It would be out of character for me to send you a New Year’s plate of brownies, and, all my friends know not to send me brownies! But, when you read this (all these earnest words), you might conclude that this is Gary Lindorff, trying to connect. This is my version of the plate of brownies.

Your connection, your plate of brownies might be different, but for me, whatever it is (and sometimes from certain very special people, connection can actually assume the form of a Christmas card with a few heart-felt sentences!) . . . Your connection could be a response to something I sent to you, so in connecting there is the potential for something being co-created between our minds and hearts and souls.

Even when we are reading something that ie, a friend sent, that someone else wrote or posted — some thinker or writer out there in the Noosphere (Teilhard Chardin, The Future of Man) ) . . . some thought that is worthy of diving into, that by itself , profound as it might be, can be trumped by how I am feeling today, . . . by my own flawed but inescapable experience of waking up to another day and having to figure out what to do with the next 12-14 hours. So you need to know, if you value your connection with me, that I, personally, am spending a lot of my time and energy just trying to process my experience. Is what you are sending going to help with that in some way, shape or form? Are you sending it to me, or just sending it? Do you really think I might want to read it or is it just something that someone sent you, like a hot-potato? What would you like me to do with it? Treat it like an interesting stone to turn in my hand and marvel at?

Think of articles or poems or webinars as keys to certain chakras. The higher, the giddier, the more speculative the more like a spire held up by guy-wires, or an exotic bird almost too high to see, less like a medieval round tower that, when you climb it, feels like the Earth itself is holding you up, and this puts me in awe of the builders.

Imagine a piece of writing as an architecture. What kind of building would it make? Have you given any thought to whether it is safe to explore? Smart to explore? (Is there a minotaur lurking somewhere?) Am I going to get lost? How might this help me along the way to figuring out who I am, what am I doing and where am I going?

My last thought is, who is sending this? Does this help me, even slightly, add to what I know about this person (the sender) in terms of who they are, what they are doing and where they are going?

I hope you enjoy these brownies, such as they are.

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Connecting dots

Dots III

Dot one

The United States is at war
With itself.
(It is also at war with Russia
By proxy in Ukraine.
It is also at war in Congress.
It is at war in townships
And states
From sea to shining sea.)

Maybe in its heart too.
Maybe in its soul. 

Do you get what I’m saying? 

Dot two

I was listening to a webinar yesterday
That really got my attention.
There was an herbalist
Talking about how his life changed
When he stopped eating meat.
That seemed to be the catalyst for him.
He began to change
Little by little, and then
By a lot.
It felt like something let loose
Like a log jam,
Something that was stuck got unstuck
And he experienced a flow in his life
For the first time,
Like a spring thaw.
He attributes this shift
To his turning to plants.

It turns out that plants
Have a lot more to offer us
Than just nutrition.
When you let them in
They begin to influence how you think
And act and feel about yourself
And the world!
Don’t imagine that your diet doesn’t
Do this to you – program you.
It does. And it has.

Men, for tens of thousands of years
Were hunters,
While women were gatherers.
Women were plant people
And men were animal people.
This herbal guy was saying that
Men still think they need meat!
They are still on the hunt.

I didn’t say that,
He did. 

Dot Three

Oh, look outside.
There’s a big doe grazing.
Where do your thoughts go?
How beautiful she is? Or
That doe would fill my freezer.
I feel like asking
That, now, archetypal question,
“Why are we in Vietnam?”

Why are we always fighting each other?
What is at the heart
Of the need to make war?

I am not the dot-connector.
I don’t want to be.
We are.
We have to be.

Dot three is diet.

Dot Four 

Endless war.

Final thought

There might be some dots in between.
We have our work cut out for the New Year
If we really want the new year
To be better than the old year. 

What are your dots?

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The power of sharing dreams

Dream in Color

I have a dream group. It is small. Four of us meet every two weeks on Zoom, to share and talk about dreams. Our sessions last an hour and a half. We have been meeting for two and a half years, almost as long as Covid has been with us. At first we came together around dreams because the pandemic was making us a little anxious. We all had some background in dreamwork and a long-standing interest in dreaming, and we were all curious to see, not if, but how the pandemic would show up in our dream life, maybe not as an illness but as a situation or a threat.

Knowing something about complexes, I was particularly curious to see how our experience of the pandemic would manifest symbolically. and archetypally. We weren’t disappointed; it did show up in veiled guises challenging us to adapt or react or think-on-our feet. And it helped enormously to share these dreams with a trusted coterie of insightful dreamers.

After a while our dreams were less about living in a world turned upside down by a virus and more connected with our individuating lives as ongoing adventures. We found that our group did not need a world-wide crisis to remain cohesive. We were / are in it for the long-haul.

The way we work with dreams is based on a technique that one of our members was familiar with from having been in a dream group years ago. This is how it works: If a person has a dream to share, they tell the dream, leaving nothing out (so it works best if the dream isn’t too private or uncomfortably personal). While they are narrating their dream the others are listening carefully or jotting down what they can. Then the dreamer tells the dream again, but more slowly, allowing time for the others to write more notes, or let it sink in. Then the group asks questions about the dream, but not probing questions or personal questions. The purpose of asking questions is to flesh out various details that are of interest to a particular person. When there are no more questions, each member of the group asks if they can “borrow” the dream. Once the dreamer gives them permission, they walk through the dream as if it is their dream. Now they can explore the parts of the dream that most interest them or embellish some detail or focus on a certain character. When they are done, they thank the dreamer and formally “return the dream” to them. When each person has shared the dream, the dreamer tells their dream one more time, this time including in their narrative anything that stands out, either a thought, observation, feeling or emotion that came up during someone’s sharing.

There is no interpreting involved. 

Invariably, the dreamer experiences some kind of new insight into what their dream has revealed to them. Often these insights are startling and profound.

One thing I would like to add, for anyone who is interested in starting a group like this. We all agreed that we would not share dreams that are too personal or “raw”, and we were also in consensus that we would not take on nightmares, although, rather unexpectedly, after we had worked together for a while and our mutual trust flourished along with our sense of sharing a great adventure, we did (all four of us, by turns), on occasion, bring some dreams that would qualify as nightmares, and we were able to “hold space” for the dreamer. But I do not recommend sharing nightmares this way unless the group is confident that it can provide a strong container.

Each session begins with one of us (who has volunteered ahead of time) reading a poem of their choice. Each session concludes, more or less on time (90 minutes later) or sometimes earlier by consensus, with the same person reading a different poem of their choice. The poems are the opening and closing but they are not discussed, only appreciated, so we can stay focused on the dreams.

Needless to say this is 90 minutes well spent. We have covered a lot of territory since we began this journey together. We have all learned a lot about ourselves and each other and I highly recommend it.

Personally I feel that the ability of the group to hold together, to hold a safe space for such deep sharing, is essential. That is why the formality of structuring an opening and a closing and why the protocol for “borrowing” and “returning” the dream to the dreamer is baked into our sessions.

This is not “therapy” so much and it is not a substitute for one-on-one analysis, but it is therapeutic and it does delve into some of the areas that analysis explores. One big difference is that analysis includes the transference, which allows the therapist to take on the projection of a guide or teacher or even a parent which allows for the analysant to safely interact with their complexes, and that has proven to be very liberating and empowering because, as the complex is worked through, the transference dissipates. In a sense a good therapist is both solidly him or herself, but they are also a blank slate on which the analysant can project their hopes and fears.

If anyone wants to ask questions about this technique or wants to pursue starting their own group, I would be happy to respond.

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Get ready to dance

Shoes on a Wiry Intersection

Throw your gun in the lake

Surrender your angst to the volcano

Release your hate into the storm

Toss your insecurity in the fire

Cast your doubts into the wind

Add your old habits to the compost

Abandon your war-lust to the depths of the sea

Fling your old shoes over the power-line

And get ready to dance a barefoot jig

The band has arrived

And there are two fiddlers!

………………………………..

This is a type of poem that relies on a template for an idea, where all I do is repeat the verb, or paraphrase the action of, in this case, letting go of or releasing something — whatever it is that we need to let go of — until the last two lines, which break the pattern. I wasn’t happy with it until I realized that the band had two fiddlers and then I pictured the fiddlers playing the same melody in tandem and, after a while taking turns with solos, and conjuring some excitement. This is a poem for ushering in a new year. I see the week between Xmas and New Years as full of light and hope and, if possible, joy. Not of a religious nature necessarily. It’s just part of who we are, embedded in our DNA. The light is returning! The darkness, receding. Let us open to new possibilities!

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There once were artifacts

“A culture that cannot “make it new,” that cannot create alternatives to rather than repetitions of the present, is a culture whose past will shrivel up and die.” (From “Dig it up again: A century of the Waste Land” / Ryan Ruby)

I used to dig up old stuff all the time as a kid.
I had a built-in artifact detector,
An extra sense that would zero-in
On shards of ceramic, glass, bronze, copper,
Coins, whole bottles, even an aladdin’s lamp,
(The genie had vacated),
The brass plate from an early Ford
Mounted on what was left of a wooden strut,
Clay marbles, arrowheads . . .
There were skulls of cows
With crescent horns . . .
In the woods,
The remains of box turtles
With astral-centered plates all unglued.
There used to be more stone walls
Marking old pastures and boundaries.
When I was little
I used to tear into walls
Like a force of nature,
Looking for snakes, snake skins or old whiskey bottles.
The land held secrets for me.
I think I thought that there were worlds down there,
And the artifacts I found
Were clues and enticements to pay attention.
Once when I was exploring an old abandoned house
With a friend,
I was obsessed with the notion
That I would discover a trap door
In the field or in the ruins of the old barn
That would lead to some underground chamber.
There were lots of old wells to be found
By overgrown stone foundations.
Some of these wells were covered
By large flat fieldstones
With holes carved in the middle
Through which I would peer
Into the water far below
Where my distant silhouetted reflection
Would be peering up at me
As if my twin was in that other world
Waiting for me to join him.
But parallel with my growing up
Was the ubiquitous vanishing of artifacts,
As land became property
To remove or flatten or
Fill to raise and land-scape
For roads and developments
Or for, seemingly, no reason at all.
Maybe it was just for the sake of
Creating places to park the future.

In the future,
Where I am right now,
We have left no artifacts behind us.
Nothing worth digging up anyway.
I went through a phase of reburying
My collections of artifacts
So that future children
Would have something to find
So that they might know
That someone
preceded them.
But then I grew fast,
Almost overnight,
And my thoughts turned to
To other things
Such as survival.

…………..

This almost feels like a post apocalyptic poem. It seems to be describing the world that follows Eliot’s Wasteland. A world of increasing emptiness where any convincing signs that we are here seem to be lacking. And, an even more depressing thought, the things that make up our world that we will leave behind are not going to convey much of anything about us except that we did not know ourselves or care much for our world.

Another thought is, artifacts serve the purpose of writing a people or culture into the future. We, by not creating anything that will last, seem to be writing ourselves out of the future.

I can’t help but think that the Australian miners working for Rio Tinto (recently) blowing up that sacred Aboriginal cave in Juukan Gorge (in Western Australia), are like the waves in a poem I wrote a few years ago, “Our indifference” (Feb 2020), . . .

“Our indifference

Is quantum
Vast
Subatomic

It spins stories
In which whole lineages
Vanish like waves on the sand

Everything before and after
Trembles and falls
Nothing stands . . .”

I see their dynamiting these caves as weaponized indifference!

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Incredible shrinking army

Sidney Hall's (1831) astronomical chart illustration of the zodiac Capricornus. Original from Library of Congress. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

A would-be army of some 500 Capricorns
Read their horoscope on Rob Brezsny’s website.
Maybe, like me, many of them
Were sipping their morning coffee.
(Could be more than 500, could be less
But just for this fantasy
Let it be 500 Capricorns!)

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19) 
Better than most, you have a rich potential 
to attune yourself to the cyclical patterns of life. 
It’s your birthright to become 
skilled at discerning natural rhythms 
at work in the human comedy. 
Even more fortunately, Capricorn, 
you can be deeply comforted by this awareness. 
Educated by it. 
Motivated by it. 
I hope that in 2023, 
you will develop your capacity to the next level. 
The cosmic flow will be on your side 
as you strive to feel the cosmic flow

and place yourself 
in closer and closer alignment with it.” 

“The cosmic flow will be on your side”, hmmm,
Thought 200 of these Capricorn Brezsny fans,
All them weary of the human comedy.
See, Rob Brezsny, (if you don’t know this already), 
Is a gifted astrologer and intuitive.
His readings are taken seriously by
People from all walks of life,
Not just retired poets and dream workers,
But there is the contractor, the social worker,
The plumber, the free-lance journalist,
The car sales associate, the lawyer, 
The minister, the teacher,
The professional clown, politician . . .
Few of them regular followers of astrology,
They are just fans of Brezsny.
He is that good!
So when I and 199 other Brezsny Capricorns
Mulled over that phrase “The cosmic flow
Will be on your side”,
We could, just then, (as I imagine it) 
feel that flow,
Tugging us out of our funks, our business as usual,
Our closed-caption scripted future . . .
And boy, did it feel pretty good!
Then 50 of us thought,
Maybe this is the year!
(The year to stop letting the ego (or the boss)
Or the economy,
Or even our health
Call all the shots.)
This is the year to trust my deeper/ higher purpose!
Even if I don’t know what that is
Just let me be guided by the larger currents
Of my destiny! 
Trust.
And for 25 of us it was like mounting a wild horse
That wanted to take us somewhere.
It was 25 of us who stepped into a canoe
Covered with symbols 
Of the moon and stars
And the wild creatures
That would have our backs
On this prophesied journey
Following the flow of the water.
But it was 10 of us who asked ourselves,
What do I need to do
To make this real?
What might be expected of me?
How do I own this amazing entreaty 
To align myself with the stars?
And it was just five of us who remembered
How many times
We have counted ourselves among the lucky
And the blessed,
Only to find 
The very next day, we were back
To bemoaning our fate,
Wishing and praying for a break!
But it was just 3 of us who thought:
This is what I’ve been waiting for.
The world has never been so needy.
And so we sat up straight,
Moved forward, resolute
Army of three.

…………………

I held this poem in my head for a few days before attempting to write it. I liked the idea of an army of Capricorns, or an army of any contingent that is out to serve the higher good. Like the Salvation Army . . ., but lately I’ve been reading about the Yippies and radical environmental groups, like Green Peace and Earth First!, the seeds for which were planted in the 60s by psychedelic entheogens (like LSD, psilocybin and cannabis). In all three of the above mentioned groups, there is / was a movement behind them and a vision guiding them and a sacred purpose motivating them. This might even be news to many of us, but history shows that Green Peace and Earth First! were more than just politically motivated. They were founded by folks who had had the “doors of their perception” opened by a personal experience of the sacredness of life and they were kind of like environmental evangelists who had funneled their awareness into action. They weren’t waiting for the system to wise-up to make a difference. 

I have never “found” myself in a group, even when I joined the Freeze Movement (in 1981); it was because they were active in my neighborhood in Baltimore and nuclear power and weapons were a hot issue at the time. I was more interested in saving whales and might even have been the one who suggested that the Baltimore Freeze Movement and the Save the Whales movement join forces. (Baltimore was / is home to the National Aquarium.) But I always thought that if I did join a group, I would need it to be radical and free-thinking (not tied to special interests but autonomous) and big-thinking and gutsy, like Green Peace. 

Anyway, back to this poem: I wanted to write about how it works when something we read or see or hear might inspire us to some kind of shift or awareness but 9 out of 10 times, we drop the ball. The inspiration fades as we move on to something else and the moment of transformation is lost. Sound familiar? This poem tracks that process of signing on to something that excites us on a deep or spiritual level, and even evokes solidarity with others who, we imagine, have likewise been empowered or drafted by the same message or challenge, only to lapse back into brain fog or, slip back into the Matrix. Except in this poem, I don’t slip all the way back, but, along with 2 hypothetical others, I imagined us raising the colors, or the flag (if you will) or the symbol of our cause, in this case supported by the cosmos, and going forth. 

This poem is tongue in cheek, but it is also dead serious, as is much that I am writing these days! 

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A Summer’s Tale: One of the happiest times of my life

1

One of the happiest days
Of my adult life, 
Happened because of a serendipity
On Great Island, Cape Cod.

Great Island isn’t really an island. 
Maybe it used to be, 
But as long as I have known it 
It is a peninsula that sticks 
A few miles out into Cape Cod Bay.
You might say it is three islands
Joined together by sand 
Just north of Wellfleet.

The further out you go
The less likely you are to see anybody.
Except maybe that’s not as true 
As it used to be,
Since the Cape, 
Like so much of the world,
Has been slipping away
Becoming something less personal,
Something bought and sold.

The Cape is a changeling,
A sandy place of towns
And beaches
Where we used to camp and vacation
While visiting my grandmother 
(Who lived at the elbow in Orleans
With my Aunt Margery who raised Nubian goats.)

But back to Great Island.

2

That day, we parked, Shirley and I, 
And no sooner had we started into the pines
Then we came to a granite monument
Facing the sky
Decorated with stones and shells,
With the inscription:
Here lies an Indian woman
A Wampanoag
Whose family and tribe
Gave of themselves and their land 
That this great nation
Might be born and grow
Reinterred here May, 30, 1976
Wampanoag Tribal Council 
Wellfleet Historical Society

She lived in the 1500s.
Her remains were found 
During a house excavation in 1953.
At the reinterment ceremony 
Led by the Tribal Elders,
Curator emeritus Helen Purcell said:
“Small Indian woman 
We cannot restore you
Like Lazarus, to life
But we can release you . . .
And return you 
To the elemental dignity of death . . . “

3

I always felt that Great Island was a special place.
I have always found it welcoming,
A place unto itself.
No matter what mood I brought,
I always felt lighter there.
Easier. 
Especially in the summer
When the salted air is redolent of pine and wild rose
And the slightly rank and fishy perfume
Of seaweed pushed high and dry by the last high tide
To bake in the sun. 

We had been walking leisurely along the beach
At mid-low tide for about an hour
When I spotted something strange
About two hundred feet out in the bay.
It was something large and U-shaped
Right on top of an exposed rock
Glinting metallically in the sun.
Was it a sculpture?
Some kind of installation?
I was intrigued
And waded out to get a closer look.
Gradually the U-shape, which never moved
Assumed the aspect of a seal.
(He or she must be doing some kind of seal-yoga.)

As I stood there, up to my waist in water,
About a hundred feet left between us,
It’s hard to recapture what I was feeling
But it was something like awe, befuddlement 
And amusement.
It was as if I had chanced upon a monk in zazen.
I guess I thought that something should happen
As things usually do.
What I mean to say is,
As soon as I realized it was a seal
I thought that it should move,
Dive off the rock and swim off.
But instead, it held its U-shape
While I stood there watching.
And then I began to wonder if I should leave it alone
Since this was all unprecedented
And I was out of my depth, so to speak.
But then I began to think that maybe something was wrong with it,
Or maybe not with the seal so much, 
But with the whole picture,
As if everything that was happening
Had sort of slipped out of sync with the script,
Of our walk on the beach,
As if the movie had stopped 
And I was out of ways to respond.
And then it came to me,
That the moment was waiting for my response.
And then my response came, 
Right up through me with no warning.
I started to sing to this seal.

There were words in my song.
Loving words, gentle, 
Maybe even beguiling words 
Of praise and appreciation.
As I think of it
It might have been a love song! 
While I serenaded this seal in zazen
It never moved a flipper.
It was I who had to move.
I turned and headed back to the beach to rejoin Shirley
Who had been watching 
And listening the whole time.

It was right as I reached the shore
That Shirley told me to turn around.
The seal had slipped off the rock
And was swimming to shore,
Following me in!

I found a place to sit on a stone 
Just up from the water’s edge
And waited to see how close the seal would come.
When she (I’m going to call her she from now on)
Reached the shallows, 
To our surprise,
She continued to struggle clear of the waves
Galumphing to within 
Less than eight feet from where I was sitting
Where she stopped and rolled onto her side.
She looked at me with her huge black eyes.
Then she lazily scanned the beach.
Then she just relaxed into sun-bathing mode,
The picture of happiness.
There we stayed just like that
For probably half an hour,
But how much time actually passed I don’t know.
Again, it was I who grew restless.

My new friend seemed just as happy
Lying next to me on the beach
As she was when she was doing yoga on the rock.

Something had to break the spell.

It was a big horsefly that landed on my seal friend. 
I could see that it meant business. 
Sure enough, I began to see blood pooling around the damn fly.
I asked myself, what is the protocol here?
I reasoned, beneath her skin is a thick layer of fat.
Does she feel that? Probably not.

She must feel that!


I decided to be proactive
So I took a short step, reached out
And swatted the horsefly
At which she stretched out her neck and throat
And let out a resounding bellow of distress.
I was immediately sorry that I swatted her,
Realizing that I had misjudged the situation
And had crossed a line.

I don’t remember what happened next
But I think she decided
That our first and last date was over. 

So that was one of the happiest moments
Of my adult life,
The time I spent with that remarkable seal.

Why did I mention the grave of the Native American woman
Whose remains were reburied at Great Island?
Because I can’t help but think that encountering that grave
Was what started a non-ordinary sequencing of events.

When I saw the grave and read the inscription
I felt that from that point
We crossed some kind of threshold into 
More than just a special place
But a sacred place.
You might ask,
Am I projecting this awareness onto a memory
For the sake of spinning a story?
My answer is no,
That is how it was.
Whether I placed a stone or shell on the monument,
I don’t recall,
But my attitude was reverential, initially,
And after that, thoughtful and reserved.

That’s really all I have to say about this.
It’s something I’ve been wanting to share.

Featured post

Dreaming the World

Pyramid

Think of the world you inhabit.
It is a world full of forms and even institutions
That are manifest beliefs and structures.
Materializing things from dreams and visions
Is quantum and it is shamanic.
Take Walmart. Walmart was someone’s dream
That manifested in a thousand places
Almost overnight.
A powerful Dreaming.
Many were and continue to be sucked into
The field of that powerful middleworld Dreaming.
Ok, here is my story:
20 years ago a friend of Shirley’s and mine
Co-purchased a building across from Walmart.
He wanted to start a business
That would attract healers
And people seeking healing –
With rooms for therapists to rent
For their practice,
A retail space serving the healing arts,
A yoga studio
A salt cave etc.
Before he got started he wanted Shirley and me
To bless the building with a shamanic centering ritual
So the business would thrive and be successful
And meet the needs of the community.
I wanted to smudge each floor of the building
As part of the ritual,
So I asked him,
What about the fourth, top floor.
He said, Oh, don’t worry about that,
It’s still boarded up.
“I haven’t decided what to do with that space yet.”
I asked, what kind of space is it?
He said, it was a men’s club house
Like Rotary or Elks.
I said, we need to get in there.
“The top floor has to be included in any blessing of your business.”
All the more so because
The business would be called “Pyramid”.
(The top would be key.)
When we forced open the door,
Which was locked but there was no key,
We were amazed by what we found.
There was a patch on the wall
Where there used to be a pay phone
With messages and numbers scribbled on the wall.
There was a small bar with stools.
There were chromed metal stack-chairs
With orange vinyl cushions,
None of them upright,
Almost shouting late-fifties, early sixties.
(Start of the Cold War / Duck and Cover / I’m 8 or 11 years old /
DDT is already a problem /
Black Americans are being lynched in the South /
My father teaches Electrical Engineering /
All the largest computers are still analog /
My mother is in her prime /
She is my Cub scout Den Mother /
I still believe in Santa Claus (sort of) . . .)
There are flyers scattered everywhere
Announcing a dance-event
With a local band. . .
It felt almost voyeuristic entering this space
That was almost hermetically sealed
Against the passage of time
Except that it looked like a strong wind
Had ripped the phone of the wall
And created a little chaos
Before the door was closed and locked.
Our friend, the new owner of the building
Was just as gobsmacked as Shirley and me.
It felt like we were looking at a dream
That wasn’t quite finished
When someone woke up
And found himself smack in 2000 and 6.
Outside the windows, across the parking lot
Was Walmart.
Needless to say,
We advised our friend to call us back
After he had cleaned out the space
Which he was planning on transforming into a dance studio.
Several weeks later
He let us know he was ready for the shamanic cleansing
And blessing. He asked,
What do you need?
Nothing.
A few people were there when we arrived
With our sage and singing bowl.
Long story short, we ended at the top floor
Which was now a dance studio.
We brought in the directions.
We brought a small mirror with us
That we set up in the window
Facing out.
Everyone wanted to know
Why the mirror was facing outside.
We explained,
It was to reflect back the Dreaming of Walmart
(Utilizing the same principle that works
To neutralize the evil of Dracula)
So that it would not contaminate
The ideals of our friend’s business model
Which was community oriented
And not all about growth and profit.
So, this little story is all about changing the Dream
And Dreaming the World.
It is about taking responsibility
For the Dreaming we manifest and promote
And the Dreaming we refuse to help manifest and promote.
We are not Aborigines.
If we were traditional Australian Aborigines
We would not have agreed to bless and protect
Or friend’s vision
Even though it was, far and away,
An improvement on the Walmart Dream.
(Sam Walton’s strategy is built
On an unshakeable foundation:
The lowest prices anytime, anywhere.
On July 2, 1962, Sam Walton
Opens the first Walmart store
in Rogers, Arkansas.)

………………….

This prose poem is a reformatted email I sent to a friend. In an earlier correspondence I had brought up the difference between dreaming (small d) and Dreaming. I had made the point that “shamanism is a very very ancient art, the art of Dreaming. Shamanism keeps the world alive. It keeps the middle world viable. The middle world is the responsibility of shamans because it is where they live, even if they are living way up on a mountain or deep in the rainforest, and it is where we live and it is our access point to the Dreaming.

Unfortunately most people in the world have no real vision of where everything is heading. They have lost the ability to dream, and are caught up in a dead-end program, that is perpetuated by powerful algorithms.  (Even people like Jobs, who some have characterized as a kind of shaman, and who supposedly mushroomed and saw beyond his own nose, was caught in the web of the self-destructive Matrix-like middle world.) 

People who don’t and can’t dream are living in a world that has no above or below. Everything that does not serve their world-view is suspect or expendable. Their ideas and beliefs and values are the most real thing they have going and they are like gamblers who will gamble everything on the viability of their dead or dying world. It is tragic and sad.

This poem is my attempt to respond to her question: “How does one go from the dead-end program to consciously dreaming the world forward?”

Featured post

Stealth

Remote control helicopter.

The new stealth bomber costs 700 million per bomber.
Did you ever feel like putting on your electric suit
And getting gone?
Before Christmas!
Only because we have never been able
To live simply
And Christmas always rubs that in.
I never asked for a new stealth bomber.
I was fine with the old one.
And I don’t want a new electric suit either.
The old one still works, sort of.
It doesn’t hold a charge as long as it used to
But at least it neutralizes the noosphere
Long enough for me to escape all the algorithms
That make me think that I need a new stealth bomber
For Christmas.
In fact, 
My electric suit was the best investment I ever made.
That and my homemade helicopter,
Which reminds me,
I think I’ll renew my subscription to Popular Mechanics.
Maybe there is a blueprint
For a quieter helicopter.

Featured post

Into the gap

There is an inner room

Off the street

That is accessed through a small lobby

3 steps down

Where the walls and ceiling

Are painted black

And there are some posters

On the walls

And the lights are dim

But adequate to be able to see

How at least a dozen people are seated

At little tables

And there is a low stage

That is just high enough

So that everyone in the room can see

The person who is standing

Or sitting up there in front of them

And that person is you

And the people sitting at the little tables

Are no one you know

But you have their attention

And you have just said thank-you for coming

My name is

And you say your name

And they applaud

And then you say

Thanks again

(And) Let’s get started

We all know why we are here

Would you (?) . . . know why you are there?

Would you know what to say?

Would you be the host

Who introduces the celebrated speaker?

Or would you treat it as a lucid dream

And say your piece?

Or would you hold your peace

For eternity or

Until the next opportunity arises?

…………………………….

Imagine saying things that matter to you, uncensured. Sharing what’s important to you and having people actually listen . . . showing up at a dimly lighted dive like the one described in the poem, where people have actually gathered to hear you out. So what are you going to say? What’s going to come out? I attended a performance recently where there were two young men standing under the stage lights, one on keyboard, and the other began ranting at the top of his lungs semi-coherently, punctuating every explosive denouncement with toxic expletives. It was painful to listen to but I made the conscious decision not to bolt but to pay attention, and, low and behold, about half way through the performance I found that I was becoming strangely sympathetic with the tormented soul who was spilling his guts. After the performance, while the pair were packing up to make space for the next performers, I watched with interest as the artist morphed back into his off-stage character, soft-spoken and self-effacing. I realized that he was probably not psychotic and murderously angry after all, but he was just taking us somewhere, or inviting us to share an intensely emotional space with him for 15 – 20 minutes, more raw and intense and perhaps even more honest than any movie, and, in the end, I felt deeply grateful. I saw him as someone who is braver than me. Maybe that experience is one inspiration for writing this poem. I want to leave us all with the question: What would we share if we were facing an audience of sympathetic strangers who were there just to listen to us without judgment?

Featured post

Hiking in the Delaware Water Gap

My son and I walked up out of the Gap
Leaving the Delaware far below.


The trail is gradual but relentless as a ramp
All the way to the top of the ridge


With only one switchback 
Where a brook cascades down.

If you ascend as the sun sinks
If you are in a place where others are hiking


You will pass people who are coming down
And the there is an etiquette for when 


People pass each other on a trail, 
But I’ll be damned if I know what it is.

……………………………

This poem is written unabashedly from a 72-year-old perspective. But I wonder if the reader picks up on that. The brook at the switchback that “cascades down” captures the joy of descending. Sometimes old age feels like a relentless climb to me. The sun is sinking while the poet is ascending, so he is ascending against the relentless passage of cosmic time, as well as against gravity and against the descent of other hikers who seem to be more in sync with it just being another day. The poet’s quandary around trail etiquitte reveals how separate he feels from these descending hikers. Perhaps he feels as if it is his place to step aside or to step off the trail to let others (presumably younger hikers) pass. What’s between the lines is his attitude that people should make allowances for his age, maybe stepping aside for him, but the poem ends with his surrendering to his grumpiness. He is not a happy camper, but at least he is still able to surmount the ridge with his son and eke a little dry humor out of his situation.

Featured post

November snow (a poem I never titled)

Who grows tired of summer’s hot embrace?

I for one, who have memorized the season

And stared down its pompous face.

The boiling sap, the green earth-tremors,

The copper coils of July

That super-heat the air

Until an old man sweats and frets around the yard.

I could love a winter’s stern touch

That puts an end to the garden’s misery

And shakes the bean vine from its crutch,

That bares the world to every eye

And dries the mind that’s grown too soft

To last another month of mud and pollen passions.

The storm I waited a year to see

Caught me on a mountain’s shattered keyboard

Setting its sleepy substance free

To drift on an owl’s wind,

To catch and prey on trees that no cold touch could wake.

On a broken stone I made my stand

Alone as anyone could be

And was happy enough to be alone.

A pearl-winged angel could do no more

Than watch the triumphs of the frozen sun,

Honoring winter in silence

And with a silent mind.

Find me a child pulling a sled

Whose laughter stops the rabbit dead

In its run to spring.

Tell me that his cheeks are red

And that his eyes are calling out of ice

Their cheer and fury.

Tell me there is a trace of winter in his lungs.

And when burly winds stampede and whinny by the door,

Find me a child whose nest is on the floor,

Whose dreams break like waves before the fire,

Who loves a winter’s touch enough to flower

In the snow-spun spirit of November.

“”””””.

I wrote this poem when I was still in high school, age 17 or 18. I think my inspiration was an actual snowfall that “caught me” when I was walking on a remote hillside on the outskirts of my hometown in Connecticut. The “pearl-winged angel” who can “do no more than honor the triumphs of the frozen sun . . . with a silent mind”, was probably the stone angel in a Victorian churchyard, who, fair or not, was the muse of the Romantic poets, who were losing their sway over me. Let me explain: As a young writer, I had been straddling the Romantic poets (like Wordsworth, Shelly and Keats) and the “modern” poets like Pound and Eliot, ever since TS Eliot was introduced to me by my eighth grade English teacher. I was still in love with hyperbolic, over-the-top-language, the kind that sweeps one along like a wave or a river. As an adolescent I “got” hyperbole; I had a lot of respect for the power of passionate emotions, like the anger I stuffed when I was humiliated by a bully, and what it felt like to fall in and out of love, and the agony of jealousy that felt like I was being ripped apart. The Romantic poets were good at evoking such emotions, the very ones that Freud warned us about, that could sink a civilization! But at the same time, my intellect was waking up and very soon, within a few years, I would step into the realm of my right brain which was just waiting in the wings of my mind to unlock the quantum energy of analogy and archetypal symbolism. I was writing symbolic poetry, but it took Jung to awaken me to the intimate and numinous relationship between analogy and symbolism and metaphor, which together provided me with the key to getting out of the high security prison of mediocrity, which 50 years later I would rebrand The Matrix.

The mountain’s “shattered” keyboard was my attempt to describe an actual hillside of huge fragments of granite left by the ice-age that were in the process of being slowly forested over by oaks, that, if they are still standing, would now be a hundred years old. Why shattered? I imagined that those fragments of granite were the black and white keys of a piano, perhaps the keyboard of the piano my father struggled to play Mozart on. See, at the time, I wanted no part of the Romantic or the classical world. I was about to wake up to my own “cheer and fury” around stepping into my own Dreaming, which was young and naive but also old and wise at the same time.

Featured post

In the eye of the hurricane (tribute to a friend)

Shining in the Dark [Explored October 25th 2016]
NASA Analyzes Record-Breaking Hurricane Patricia

My friend lives in a house of shell

That floats beneath the moon and sun.

His life has conjured a kind of spell

A beautiful shell of protection.

There are those in this world of ours

Who understand the rain,

Whose presence calms the flowers

In the eye of the hurricane. 

There are those who sing to the trees

And those who drum for pleasure

(I’ve heard some drums travel breeze to breeze

Just how far no one can measure.)

I live in a house of several floors 

With a room just for guests

With many windows, and many doors

Surrounded by fields and forests.

But I think of my friend in his house of shell

Who understands the rain

And I know of all people he will do well

In the eye of the hurricane.

………………..

The rhyme scheme (abab cdcd etc.) forces me to scale back or distill the story I am telling here. One thing that never ceases to amaze me when I am writing rhyming poems is how few rhymes there are for almost any given word. Take the word “word” and see what you come up with without trying too hard, like absurd or bird, or nerd or herd or curd. Now go to rhyme zone. About fifteen words down, the choices start becoming useless, like whirred and purred and chauffeured, and there is Byrd for some reason (# 16). I’m just saying, you would think that out of the whole English language, there would be more choices. I don’t mind engaging close sounds like sword for the “rd”, which I think adds to the richness in a sonnet, but suffice it to say, in sticking with a rhyme scheme, the choices are limited and that limits what you can explore in the poem in terms of themes and metaphor. Once I accept my limitations and start concentrating on what is possible, the poem begins to open up.

Here I am describing a man who is my friend, who lives in Tao, at the center or the navel of the world. (He “understands the rain” and his shell house floats beneath moon and sun, i.e., at one with the cosmic opposites). But he also lives in a world of storms. We all do, that is, live in a world of storms. But we don’t all live in Tao (in houses of shell beneath the sun and moon). Far from it. Most of us, I think it’s fair to say, live close to the TV or some media feed, managing stressful lives, girding ourselves for news of the next mass shooting or flood or famine, so I need to come up with a metaphor that says two things about his situation — that he lives in a world of storms and he lives at the benign center. And, again, my rhyme scheme is limiting my choices. So, I have this man who understands rain, tending his flowers in “the eye of the hurricane”. With Tao, you have the micro and the macro in sync. Tao is not limited to large scale or small, it is universal. The spiral of the sheltering and centering shell is cognate / simpatico with the spiral of the hurricane. But the shell is solid and stable and protective, and the eye of the hurricane is unstable in the sense of moving, and it is energetic and ominous. One thing that is implied in this poem is that my house of several floors surrounded by fields and forest, is much more exposed to the hurricane and I, along with most of the rest of the human race, who are not in Tao, may not “do well” in the eye of the hurricane. Picture the likes of me racing around to get ready for the onslaught of high winds and rising waters while my friend, who-understands-rain, tends to his flowers.

I am reminded of a poem I posted a few years ago, “Dream of an old woman”. (https://garylindorff.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/dream-of-old-woman/) In that poem I and some others are trying to find a safe place to weather a cataclysmic storm when we chance upon the home of an old wise woman who allows us to stay with her, but to our surprise, in her world, because, like my friend, she inhabits Tao, there is no storm! (Here are the last two stanzas of that poem.)

Soon the great storm will hit
But this old mill-turned-home
Built of locally quarried granite
Will stand and we will survive
As we talk we anxiously inventory her provisions

As the winds pick up and the rain begins to fall
The woman reaches outside the window
To touch the rain saying
There is no storm
You may stay anyway

Like my friend she understands the rain. So, the question is: Is there a storm or not? The answer is Yes and No, depending on your relation with the universe.

Featured post

Learning from Lobster and Snake how to love

Lobster

To love, we must be willing
To be vulnerable
But being vulnerable
Means that we can be hurt.
It is no wonder that 
Those of us who are born to love
Learn to package our love,
As a viable alternative
To walking around
With our hearts wide open.
But when we package our love
By subserving institutions, mastering jargon, 
Losing ourselves in politics, 
Identifying with humanitarian organizations,
The love we would offer 
Tends to atrophy,
Waxes impersonal, cliche.
To escape this dilemma,
Let us understudy Lobster and Snake.
As lobsters grow they shed their shells,
They also consume their old shells
For the calcium so they can grow new shells.
We think of lobsters as armored
But their underbellies are exposed,
So they are not as tough as they appear.
Snake famously sheds its old skin
By slithering out of it.
When I was little
I was always finding snake skins 
In old stone walls.
Once I held one up to the sun
(So beautiful!)
And noticed that there was even 
A clear scale protecting snake’s eyes!
So in a sense, shedding
Renews snake’s vision.
Snake uses the stones of the wall
As an abrasive to help it shed its skin
But another thing the wall does 
Is, it protects snake
While it is shedding.
We who are born to love,
Must find our own way
To shed our skins,
To allow ourselves to grow
As our hearts expand.
Hopefully, like lobster and snake
We will continue to grow outwardly
And inwardly.
But, ultimately, we have to figure out
How to make lovinessesg work for us,
Because it is what we do,
It is who we are,
It is our super power.
Luckily there are a lot of us.
Being loving shouldn’t make us pushovers
Or targets for predators.
Let us (lovers of earth, life,nature, humanity, each other)
Emulate the likes of lobster and snake.
They have a lot to teach us
And, judging by the state of the world,
We have a lot to learn.  

……………………………………….

Animals can help us be better humans in many ways. They teach us by being themselves. We can see them as evolutionary successes. Most of them have been around much longer than our measly 1,000,000 years. That means that their species have lived through cataclysms of all kinds, geologic, atmospheric and climatic.

My son and I were walking through a woods in NJ and we started talking about the intelligence of animals. I remembered one time I was on a nature walk with a tracker friend of mine who gave me a tour of one of his favorite spots which included a large beaver-created marsh. On this walk we came to where an enormous century(+) – old oak had been killed by the beavers by girdling it, gnawing a ring about 2 or 3 inches deep. The tree was still standing but it was dead. He asked me why they left it standing. Was it because they gave up due its size? That’s what I thought. Why else? The answer was they were eliminating the competition. If there is unlimited water, there are records of trees absorbing 150 gallons of water in a single day. But A healthy 100-foot-tall tree has about 200,000 leaves. A tree this size can take 11,000 gallons of water from the soil and release it into the air again, as oxygen and water vapor, in a single growing season. The average swimming pool holds about 18,000 gallons. Especially if the beavers are dealing with a dry spell, they can’t afford to share 12,OOO gallons with a tree. My son wondered how they know this? Beavers have been doing the same thing on the North American continent since their ancestors crossed the Bering Land Bridge around 7.5 million years ago, which is a long time to get it right. At building dams they are geniuses. (When I was little I tried building dams to create swimming holes in streams, but I never mastered it.) Beavers move a huge amount of mud by carrying it with their front feet against their chests, walking on their hind legs, using their tales for a counterweight. (They don’t use their tails for this operation like they do in old Disney cartoons.) But dam and lodge building is not all they do. They are creating and maintaining habitat for themselves; that is where their genius unfolds. Few animals create the conditions under which they can flourish. And the environments they engineer continue functioning as powerful magnets for a rich diversity of wildlife long after a colony of beavers has moved on.

My son wanted to know why they never invented tools to make their lives even easier. Maybe the answer is, they never felt the need to change anything. In a video I watched a beaver transporting what must have been 2 or three pounds of mud. He or she stumbled and dropped their load, but patiently scooped it up and continued without uttering any obscenities. Such patience is a rare trait in a human. Sure, the invention of tools has made us more productive, but has being productive made us any happier? The moral is, let us keep learning from the animals, however we do that, while they are still around.

…………..

Beaver dams can last centuries: https://www.science.org/content/article/150-year-old-map-reveals-beaver-dams-can-last-centuries

Featured post

The used book store

When I stepped into that old used bookstore
With the entrance just two feet behind me
I knew there was no turning back
Until I chose a book or a book chose me.

The proprietor was perfectly cloaked 
By his energy field
To the point of only reluctantly appearing
When he saw me at the register

As if he had much better things to do
Than sell me a book today,
Giving me plenty of time to ask myself 
Why am I waiting to pay 

6$ for a book that I read 50 years ago? 
Is it because I was reclaiming
A little lost bit of my soul?
Shouldn’t I be branching out

Into some new / un-used direction?

But life was cheap but I was broke
But the world was black and white 
But it was before barcodes
But I was young and ravenous 

Stepping into that old used bookstore
Was like stepping into a cave 
Where something was hibernating.
Something big that used to roam the Id.

Hibernating but very much alive 
But at a very low vibration, thankfully.
Just pray that the code 
Doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

I left with Long Live Man by Gregory Corso.
He writes: “Useless you enforcers of safety
scheming hows and ways to keep out of me;
there is no out, there is only in,

and you are all in danger -“

………………

What do I mean by describing the store as if something was “hibernating” there, “Something big that used to roam the Id”? The Id is the primal mind, the part of the mind in which “innate instinctive impulses” are manifest. The Id is the antithesis of the cultural super-ego and Freud (who coined it) was a bit terrified by it. If we were to give into the Id, which is driven by our base instincts, culture would collapse, chaos would reign. Before we dismiss Freud’s warning (See his The Ego and the Id [1923]) as hysterical and perhaps outgrown, I am here to say, the old shrink was spot on. What he feared could happen, happened. WW2, the holocaust, Hiroshima. Most of the world since WW 2, by fits and starts, has been stuck in the seething cauldron of the Id. When Gregory Corso wrote “and you are all in danger” he was speaking for many of the intellectual and artistic community. Facing the prospect of being drafted to fight in Vietnam, even I knew what Corso was talking about and I was just a high school student. And, basically, in the interest of salvaging my own humanity and pulling myself from the seething cauldron of the Id, I became a “ravenous” reader, and a frequenter of used book stores. Being a slow reader I focused on small books first: Red Badge of Courage, Animal Farm, Civil Disobedience, Lord of the Flies, Eliot’s The Waste Land, Vonnegut’s Slaughter House 5, Cat’s Cradle, Hesse’s Siddhartha, Hersey’s Hiroshima, Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Of Mice and Men). Suffice it to say, the “low vibration” that resonated through the books I read and the book stores and libraries I loved, found a sympathetic vibration in me, and little by little, but just around the time I became an adult, I started feeling a little “dangerous”, like I could even do some harm with my words, or some good. I felt empowered by my own mind. Scroll forward 50 years. This is why, when I enter certain book stores I need to leave with a book. 6$ is cheap for “reclaiming a little lost bit of my soul”.

Featured post

Reckless

Artemis - Rebirth, Reboot - Bullundangr Galaxy

The great red rocket Artemis
(Sister of Apollo) 
Powers into the night sky
Heading for the moon.


But why Artemis?
Why not Eos 
(Aurora daughter of Hyperion) 
Who represents the goddess-like power of the dawn
To wipe all sins away.


For surely the launching of this rocket
Signals the dawning (or is it the spawning) 
Of ever more powerful rockets
That will banish the long night of evil.


Says mission manager, Mike Sarafin,


“Today, we got to witness the world’s most powerful rocket 
Take the Earth by its edges 
And shake the wicked out of it,”


The passage he is quoting is from the Book of Job (38: 41).
It is lifted from God’s triumphant monologue
Where He is revealing His omnipotence to Job:


God says:


“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, . . . Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it?” . . . (God continues:) “Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, That you may take it to its territory, That you may know the paths to its home? Do you know it, because you were born then, Or because the number of your days is great? “Have you entered the treasury of snow, Or have you seen the treasury of hail, Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, For the day of battle and war? By what way is light diffused, Or the east wind scattered over the earth? Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, Or a path for the thunderbolt, To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, A wilderness in which there is no man; To satisfy the desolate waste, And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass? Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew?”

I’ll tell you something.
Even though I don’t believe in God as such,
It seems a bit reckless to plagiarize His speech
Just to get in good with the boss
At the launching 
Of just another rocket to the moon. 

…………………..

I was aware of the power of the poetry in the Book of Job, but had forgotten how much the voice of Yahweh, in His speeches, reveals the inner workings of His mind and personality. Yahweh is sort of on the defensive in Job, even though He is omnipotent. In the above speech to Job, He is laying out his resume, in case his character and powers were ever seriously in doubt (which is the case in the Book of Job); he is spelling out “DON’T MESS WITH ME”. It was the mission manager’s quoting Job without crediting Yahweh for the language and Sarafin’s audacity in confusing the power of the rocket named after a Greek goddess with the omnipotence of Yahweh, that pushed me to write this poem as a way of reigning in the reckless hubris of NASA. Note: I find it amusing that the name Sarafin, sounds enough like Seraphim to conflate Sarafin with the archetype of the fallen angel, Lucifer, who, in Job (as Satan) is baiting Yahweh so that He will take out his anger on Job.  

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At the Urgent Poetry clinic: poetry in the future

The Clinic

You’re in the waiting room of the Urgent Poetry clinic, reading a National Geographic, waiting for them to call you. You just checked in. After about 20 minutes, the receptionist enters the waiting room.

“Mr Stone?” 

“Yes, right here”, you say. She is holding the door open to the hall.

“Third door on the right.” 

You enter the small room three doors down the hall. The receptionist says, “An Associate will be with you shortly.” 

She closes the door but not all the way. You are alone. You wait again, opting not to pick up a magazine. You are too nervous. The poem you want to talk about was big. It was disturbing. You’re having second thoughts about talking about it. It’s in your pocket scrawled on a napkin. Then there is a soft knock at the door and an Associate enters. She looks about 30, smiling. 

“Well, how are we today Mr. Stone?”

“Fine, I guess”, you say. (How can I be fine, you think. I’m at the Urgent Poetry clinic with a terrible poem. What kind of a question is that?) She takes your blood pressure and assures you the doctor will be with you shortly. She exits, leaving the door ajar. You take out your poem and look at it. You look out the window at another building. On the wall, there is a waterfall and a view of a big mountain.

“Good-morning Mr. Stone.” (It’s the poetry doctor. He is younger than you, in a lab coat, thinning hair and a mustache. The associate is standing to his left, already taking notes. “Are you comfortable?” 

“Yes.” 

“What can we do for you today?” 

“I wrote a terrible poem last night. . . I couldn’t sleep. . .” 

“Please read the poem slowly. Don’t leave anything out. We are not here to judge, only to help. Now, whenever you are ready.”

You read:


“Finish / it / down / the coarser 
Upbraided the twins
And yawn / daisy-crusted
In bloody fashion / in trance
Turned / said complete
The street / onion patch”. . .


“A what?”

“Onion patch” you repeat. ( He turns and murmurs something to the intern.) 

“Continue please.” 

You continue reading:


“Bending cabbage / annoyed
Trespassing darts and trawler
Comb / loose boots 
Shells and comfrey / in mourning
Back / still / obligatory
Counting braille / feathers” . . .

You are back in the horror of it. The braille. The feathers. . . You stop reading. There is silence. Your heart is pounding. The doctor nods encouragement. You continue:


“Uploading / steep canyon
Circle to heaven / corndogs
Coyotes appealing / distillery
Complacent / bobalink
“Towit / doggish / curly riser”. . .


You hear sobbing from the hall. An associate sticks her head in the door. “Doctor? Sorry to interrupt. . .” 

“I’m sorry Mr Stone”, says the doctor, “We’ll have to take a break here. I will be back in a moment.” 

The associate asks: “Would you like some water Mr. Stone?” 

“Yes, thank-you.” 

She leaves and returns with a cup of water. She looks at you and says quietly, “I love that line: “Towit / doggish / curly riser”. . .

You sit back. 

The poem isn’t as terrible as you thought. In fact it’s not bad.

The Associate is smiling. 

…………………

This poem goes with a companion piece, “At the Urgent Dream clinic: the future of dream work”. (https://www.opednews.com/articles/At-the-Urgent-Dream-Clinic-Dreams-221109-846.html) They are almost mirror images of each other. In the Dream clinic, the dream doctor (instead of the poetry doctor) is called away by an emergency and the poet is left in the company of the Associate who is genuinely, not just clinically, interested in the client’s dream and because of this connection, is instrumental in helping the dreamer through his crisis. Both of the clinics are modeled on my former dentist’s office, and how I was received when I showed up for an appointment there. With both of these pieces about the future, what I am imagining has its plusses and minuses regarding the fate of poetry and dreaming. That one may show up at a clinic, like Urgent Care, to discuss a dream or a poem one is writing is a plus, and presumably such a service would be covered by insurance, but everything else is a bit strange. My brother commented that it reminded him of the film “Brazil”, a 1985 dystopian black comedy directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard.

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How watching “Till” was like striking a gong

Kasper T.Toeplitz

Yesterday I had a thought 
That resounded like a gong.
It vibrated through my bones.
And there was a halo around it.
Overnight it became a story,
A story of how I can still save myself
From being steam-rolled by the status quo.


It was a movie that struck this gong.
The movie was “Till”.

I didn’t have the thought during the film.
While I was watching the film
You couldn’t have passed a sheet of graphene
Between what was playing on the screen
And my attention.
But after the film I just sat there
In my plush chair,
And as the lights came on in the theater
It seemed as if something 
Was being asked of me.


It started as questions:
What have I done with my life?
What could I have done with my life.
What was I born to do with my life? 


I thought about how subtle it can be
To fall short of our dreams.
You can’t expect somebody else to know
How you are doing
Relative to your original instructions.


My story: I was lucky because I remember
Liking who I was when I was a kid.
I liked my life in the country.
Not just my life but Life.
Things seemed to following a good plan
That made sense to me.


I liked playing outside, having adventures.
School wasn’t bad either;
I liked my teachers.
But the best part was,
Nature was an extension of my mother’s house.
When I went outdoors I was still at home.
So the idea of ecology,
Which introduced the idea of systems
Nesting within systems,
Made total sense to me.
I never saw the wasps who stung me as “bad”.
I didn’t see things in terms of good or bad,
And because of that early feeling 
Of being at home in nature,
And nature being just fine the way it was,
As I matured,
I was also at home with my own nature.
At least for the first decade of my life
I felt like an extension of nature.
But I thought of nature as innocent.
It was humans that threw me off.
Humans could be “bad” or “good”.
They were not innocent.
I was not innocent.


As a teenager, even as an adolescent,
I made some really bad choices,
And the choices I made
Began to alienate me from nature,
As well as from myself.


An example is how, at the age of 8 or 9
I was playing in a gravel pit near our neighborhood
When I spotted a scarlet king snake*.
I knew enough about snakes to mistake
This banded king snake for a coral snake.
I, heroically, killed it
And brought its limp body home
To show my mother.
I felt like I was protecting the neighborhood. 


I’m sure my soul
Wasn’t very happy about that.


Being an introvert,
Even as I became aware of my inner self,
I felt alone with my humanness.
When I was in nature,
For the most part
I didn’t feel like an introvert.
I was just myself,
But when I was with other people
I felt different.
I wasn’t comfortable with my own humanness.
As I navigated further and further 
Into the human universe
I felt like I was losing parts of myself,
Leaving parts of myself behind
In order to side with humanity.


What am I saying?
That I wasn’t all human to begin with? 
Well, isn’t that what “being one with nature” means?
That human nature can merge with nature
Without drawing a solid line
Between being human and being non-human . . .?

Let me go back to how 
It happened, very early on,
That I discovered how some people are “bad”.
I think it was around 9 or 10,
A few years after I killed the king snake,
(around 1960) that I became aware of the scale
Of the bombing of Hiroshima.
(The horrors of the Holocaust 
And the horror of the Nazi extermination camps
Was too awful for me to take in at that age,
And the fire-bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces
Was something I learned about much later.)
But Hiroshima was one bomb, one act,
One monstrouscataclysmicbarbariccold-bloodedgenicidal act.
It violated something in me.
It messed with me.
It got into my dreams.
It stole my innocence.
It made me feel ashamed to be a human being. 


And I was mostly alone with it. 
No one took it upon themselves 
To explain to me 
How such a thing could happen. 


It took me a few more years
To realize I was a pacifist,
And a while longer to realize
That there weren’t that many of us.
But once I realized that,
I started getting my priorities straight.


In 1969 I wrote my manifesto,
“Man behind the Waterfall”.
I became a warrior for peace.
I decided to “breathe my own air.”


How can we breathe our own air?
For me that meant getting myself back into the country
Where I didn’t feel different.
There, air was cleaner.
Owning my pacifism,
Something in me began to wake up.


Back to “Till”:
After watching Till I had the thought –
If I had been born Black in the fifties,
Evil would have had a different face.
It would have the face of a southern white man.
(My mother’s father and two of my uncles
On my mother’s side,
Were southern white men.)
But evil to me
Looked like a man in a military uniform
With the power to order missile strikes
And bomber strikes and napalm strikes.
Or it looked like a man in the civilian corporate uniform,
White shirt, dark suit and tie,
With the power to launch a nuclear strike.
Evil could be a man of any color,
But my imagination profiled him as white,
My color,
Because Truman was white,
And Oppenheimer,
Who famously remarked,
After witnessing the Trinity test in New Mexico,
(quoting the Bhagavad Gita),
“Now I am become Death,
The destroyer of worlds.”


No sh*t!


As I aged it became apparent 
That loving nature and loving life
Was a popular philosophy
But when it came to turning love into action
And into making change,
There weren’t too many examples
Of people who were doing that.
The status quo was like a steam roller.


It is said that Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux
Coined the phrase
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
This was over a thousand years ago.
That road is a lot closer to dropping us into hell
Then it was back in the year 1,100. 


I don’t draw a line between
The world view that spawned and unleashed 
The nuclear bomb
That wiped out two cities in Japan,
And the world view that sent millions of Jews
To extermination camps
Or the world view that concocted napalm,
A caustic gell that they dumped
On people, farms and forests in Vietnam.


Evil is Evil.


But let me get back to my story:
When I moved to Vermont
I experienced a protracted soul retrieval.
Little by little
My soul returned to me.
Vermont forest found its own way
Into my heart and into my blood
And I began to remember
My original instructions:


Love nature.
Love myself.
Love life. 


It doesn’t matter what we believe in
If it never manifests. 
What I started out saying is,
“Till” reawakened something in me
Like the striking of a gong:
That if we don’t manifest our good intentions
We shrink a little every day.
Our souls withdraw,
And eventually we experience soul-loss.


When Emmett Till’s mother realized she 
Had to let him travel to Mississippi,
That his mind was made up,
That she couldn’t stop him, 
Her advice to him was, 
“Make yourself small”.
In other words, Don’t stand out,
Don’t speak loudly,
Stay invisible.



I think a lot of us have lived like that
Without realizing it.
We have traded our original instructions
For living in a world that is steamrolling nature
To finish the road to hell.


It was hard to watch Till
But I’m glad I did.


What are your original instructions?
I will end by repeating mine:


Love nature.
Love myself.
Love life. 

…………………..

* A scarlet king snake is not native to New England but that is what I saw and killed. Apparently the scarlet king snake has been evolving to look more and more like a coral snake over the years. 

Scarlet King Snake (Lampropeltis elapsoides)

……………………………..

Plot of Till (Wikipedia): 


Mamie Till became an educator and activist in the Civil Rights Movement after the death of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, who, in 1955, was beaten severely and shot dead, then thrown into the Talahachee river, a 75lb cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbwire by white supremicists for whistling at a white woman while visiting his cousins in Money, Mississippi. Mamie Till insisted that the casket containing her son’s body be left open to let the world see what they had done to him.  Emmett Till’s murder is heard, but not shown in the film. The view of the mutilated body in the coffin is angled so as to be discrete but revealing at the same time. 


Featured post

The theology and Ten Commandments of conventional Environmentalism: Plug for a new Environmentalism

The Ten Commandments  ( 1956 )

If I’d been raised a good Christian, I might have accepted the theology that if I try to stay true to God’s will or intentions, I will go to Heaven where I can expect to see some of my friends and family: my father and mother and grandmother for example and maybe (hopefully) all the family pets that I have loved during my lifetime. Heaven is the biggest perk of being Christian. The less you analyze it the better. Just accept it, it comes when you sign off on the Ten Commandments, attend church as often as you can and pray for the souls of your loved ones and fellow human beings. Being a good environmentalist has parallels to being a good Christian. If you were raised a good Environmentalist you accept that, if you stay true to aligning the conduct of your life with the wisdom or will of the Natural World or the laws of Nature, in other words, live more or less in balance with these laws or “soft” Commandments, life will smile on you, you will be in good hands, and (regardless of your religion) even your death will be “natural” somehow. Nature will provide, nature will supervise everything. 

If you were raised a good Christian and a good Environmentalist, all the better for you, but being a good Environmentalist would suffice to open doors to grace and continuity. The less you analyze the better. The theology of conventional Environmentalism has its priests and prophets, its sacred texts and its “churches” or power spots, like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon or a cruise to Alaska. (I just read in a two page ad in AARP [The Magazine] the headline: “The restorative Power of Alaska – Renew your spirit in Alaska’s natural wonderland”.)

As with old school / conventional Christianity, the Church of Environmentalism has its Commandments, somewhat similar to the ten Christian Commandments, partly because Environmentalism reflects Judeo-Christian values. 

“You shall have no other gods before me.” = Whatever you do, the Environment comes first

“You shall make no idols.” = You shall not be distracted by false or diluted images of environmentalism. That’s a tough one because Western capitalism tries every trick in the book to make us feel like good environmentalists by selling us environmental-friendly “stuff” from cars to food to clothes (gear), to lawn furniture.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” = You shall not take the name of Mother Earth in vain. (We learned that from the [1974] Chiffon Margarine commercial, where Mother Nature, mistaking Chiffon Margarine for butter, upon being informed of her mistake, warns “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature”, underscoring her warning with a clap of thunder.) 

“Keep the Sabbath Day holy” = Keep Earth Day holy. (As long as we have one day to honor the Earth then for the rest of the days of the year we are off the hook.) 

“Honor your father and mother.” = This has been expanded to “Honor the ancestors, and also our descendents.” This commandment is based on seeing the world as a macrocosm of the house or household, which environmentalists define in ecological terms where the root of the word “ecology” derives from the Greek oikos or house.

“You shall not murder.” = You shall not murder any life. Murder meaning “needlessly or unlawfully or maliciously kill” certain living things. (i.e. Good Environmentalists are OK with killing in wartime, and killing / slaughtering animals for food, and eliminating “pests” (a label of convenience) by any effective means.)

“You shall not commit adultery.” = This is a tough one. You shall not “cheat” or stiff the Environmental Commandments just because it is a holiday or because you are on vacation. 

“You shall not steal.” = The Environmental version of this eighth Commandment must be understood in the context of stealing land from the indigenous people who lived here before us. Since these lands were stolen by our ancestors this Environmental Commandment is a shaming Commandment. “You shouldn’t have stolen. Shame. Now, what are you going to do about it?” 

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” = A good Environmentalist knows that truthfulness consists in showing oneself true in deeds that do not trash the environment but also in being careful not to present ourselves (to our neighbors) as if we are better environmentalists than we really are. 

“You shall not covet.” = We should banish our desires for whatever doesn’t belong or come to us or fall within our budget to purchase, such as an electric car or solar panels or a heat pump or a pellet stove or being able to afford all organic food or being in a position to grow our own organic produce..

A few more thoughts on the theology of Environmentalism. A pillar of that theology is recycling. There is a lot of ritual and rich symbolism around the all American environmental convention of recycling. Unfortunately only 5% of the 46 million tons of plastic waste generated annually in the U.S. gets recycled. Despite the claims of the plastic industry, plastics were not designed to be recycled. Endangered species is a misnomer. News flash! Every living thing on this planet, including the human race, is endangered and has been since Trinity, code name for the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945.

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The diamond

.Ice - Diamond.


I picture this poem
Outlasting me
Because it comes with a diamond.

I cannot quite explain this
Sparkling from deep within
My troubled dreaming,

Like something original
From the furnace of creation
From that timeless time

Way before there was us.
I give you this archetypal crystal
That never corrupts or changes

Whose purpose is simple and pristine –
To guarantee eternal chances
Through ages of light and dark.

With this poem I share this diamond
Wrapped in a husk of words.
This poem will outlast me

Because there is no life in it.
Only a rough diamond but therein
I tell you, light has found a home.

…………….

Here are the properties of the diamond in the poem:

It is original (dating back to the creation). It is way older than us, the human race.

It is archetypal and timeless– it does not corrupt or change.

It has a purpose, to guarantee eternal chances through the ages.

Light is at home in it. (As one might expect, it sparkles.)

………………………..

In saying this poem “has no life in it”, “only” a rough diamond, I am implying that it is the life in poems that limits there lifespan or shelf-life. Is a poem that lasts forever because of it’s subject, a better poem than a poem that is full of corruptible life? I’m just posing the question, but, just for the heck of it, I will name William Blake as the poet whose poems tend to be purely archetypal and have something mineral or crystalline and not much organic or living about them, as if they were mined and cut and polished, but light has found a home in them. For my poet whose subject is living, organic and therefore corruptible, I choose Robert Frost. All his poems, for me, take place on our near an old farmstead. There is nothing adamantine in them. Everything is perishable.

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Washing

Dragonfly

1 Washing and Drowning

We are drowning 
In a sea of things
And ideas.

Drowning.

And yet we are obsessive about washing.

The man who never washed during his lifetime 
Of 94 years
Died recently.
Under pressure he washed
And died shortly after.

2 Water

We drink water and wash with it,
Wash our cars with it
And boat on it.
We use it to make coffee
And to flush our waste 
Out of sight and mind.

3 Whales

Did you know that 
At extreme depths of the ocean
The water doesn’t move
And whales have learned to use it
As a medium for sounding 
For thousands of miles?

4 Dragonflies

Dragonflies and damselflies 
Belong to an order of insects called Odonata 
That spends its juvenile life
In the water and 
Its adult life in the air and on land.

Did you know that 
Dragonflies
Survived the asteroid Chicxulub
Which generated a tsunami one mile high
That scoured the ocean bottom 
For thousands of miles? 

5 Dragonflies and whales

Dragonflies
Have been around
For over 300,000,000 years.
One might argue that they are
The perfect creation.

But whales come even closer
To a perfect creation.

(Whales do not wash.

Dragonflies do not wash.)

6 Humans and washing

Where has washing gotten us,
Really?

Footnote: I give you Napoleon and Trump.

Maybe we should all stop washing.
I’m willing to try 
Just about anything 
At this point.

……..

The inspiration for this poem is an article in BBC World: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-63389045

A hermit dubbed by media as ‘the world’s dirtiest man’ has died at the age of 94, just months after having his first wash in decades.

I am saying we are washing while we are drowning, which is absurd but metaphorically accurate. We are obsessively washing off the “germs” and dirt of the world, while we are drowning in an ocean of things and ideas. The human race (or some evolutionary version of Homo sapiens) has only been around for about 1,000,000. Dragonflies, 300,000,000 years and whales about 30,000,000 years. Implied is that the human race is an imperfect and probably doomed (self-dooming) species while whales (who live in water) and dragonflies (who are born in water), are arguably perfect creations. If it wasn’t for us, dragonflies and whales could probably go on virtually indefinitely. The joke is that whales and dolphins don’t wash and they are perfect whereas humans, who are on a fast track to destroy themselves and planet Earth, wash, so maybe if humans stop washing they will begin to evolve differently which might be an improvement.

If you decide to join the DON’T BOTHER WASHING MOVEMENT, here is a list of times you don’t have to bother washing your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child
  • After blowing or picking your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling the remote
  • After touching garbage
  • After using a public phone
  • After pumping gas
  • After shaking hands with someone
  • After handling money
  • After handling a doorknob in a public building

Finally, a word about why the Roman Numerals: I use RNs for when I am writing something that coheres by linking disparate metaphors, like a chain, but not a heavy chain of iron. More like a wooden chain. I’m not trying to jerk people around or confuse. Picture driving through an old neighborhood where each modest house you pass is unique but they somehow belong together and form a neighborhood. That’s the idea.

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This poem is not for everyone

.We take a big step in life when we stop generalizing about others, and we consider each individually, even if it is anyway part of a whole that exceeds it.

What is that mesmerizing syncopation? 
Could it be the Climate Clock
And the Doomsday Clock together
Along with a trader’s heart counting down to the bell?
With my new hearing aids I can even detect my own oven timer
Timing the cooking of this poem

I’m waiting for someone by the back entrance door
Of this healthy building
I drove like mad to get here
For this meeting
Parked my car by the recycling dumpster
It being Saturday

But I think my car is being towed
It’s sending me an SOS

Oh, not another metaphor, you say
Now you are saying: “Do us a favor and muffle your old soul.”
Ouch

You think the world needs facts, hard core
Ok, here’s some facts for you
Do you know your house is killing you?
Could be mold (mildew on the brain)
EMFs
Ignore what’s in the brackets
(Despite extensive research, to date there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health. The focus of international research is the investigation of possible links between electromagnetic fields in the environment and cancer / brain fog / voting republican and getting into fights and electromagnetic fields near power lines and exposure to transmission signals from weather satellites.)
. . . Radon, dyes, the chemicals we use to remove stains from our brains
I’m picking up a weird vibration right now
Excuse me Hello? 
Hello?

At our last men’s gathering we were discussing eco-friendly ways of disposing of our bodies when
We got distracted by the moon rising through the trees and
Just then I was treated to an epiphany:
Those great oak trees are my age
They were planted by my father and me when I was six 

And then this:
I passed through this place at twenty whistling
I had a high whistle like a tea kettle
And you
You dressed in gold that caught the sun
We were like young gods

My soul had such plans for me
But then because of one thing or another
I fell between the cracks
Became addicted to supplements
Even considered becoming a vegan

I need to end this poem now
It’s getting away from me
Study the periodic table
There will be a test in your dream
Which you need to fail

Recycle the moon
Compost the sun

If you lean back in this chair it will turn you around
Learn your scales
Become a rock star
Trust the message in the song that you will hear
If you will only stop talking to yourself

If you don’t trust your own metaphors trust mine
I’m only trying to get us out of here alive

……………..
Image by Fan.D & Dav.C Photography

With accompanying quote: “We take a big step in life when we stop generalizing about others, and we consider each individually, even if it is anyway part of a whole that exceeds it.”

…………………………….

Let me try and explain the title. I received a response to an earlier post (a poem) addressing the danger and likelihood of a nuclear war breaking out. That poem got its title from a review I read on the Poetry Foundation site, “War was, and is, never far off”: Here is the response I received, which I feel OK about quoting because it is in public domain, and, just to be clear, I am not necessarily disagreeing with the the responder’s critique : “You could try something more realistic Gary. While you’re writing poetry, Ukrainians are being ground up in The Russian War Machine, supposedly for the benefit of the Washington Masters of The Universe.” It is true, that “while I am writing poetry, Ukrainians are” . . . falling under the threshers of two war machines, the Russian and Washington’s (“threshers” is my paraphrase). But poetry is not analytical commentary, and my poetry is not meant to compete with responsible journalism. That is why I joined https://thiscantbehappening.net, as the site poet. The collective that writes for this online leftist journal is comprised of 4 seasoned journalists (including one of the original founders of the site, my brother, Dave) and me.

When I write for OpEdNews.com and ThisCantBeHappening.net, I am not processing real-world events by sorting through history and the latest developments to articulate a fresh (or corrective) perspective . . . I am serving a deeper, metaphorical world view, that is closer to the an inside-out orientation. Often I ask myself, what would something look like if it was happening in a dream? In a dream everything is symbolic and relates to the dreamer (or in this case, the poet) somehow. Metaphor is how I process. I have tried to write about this before, how metaphor for me has nothing to do with what I learned in school. Metaphor and analogy are the engines of poetry. As a poet I straddle two realities: Yes, there is a war in Ukraine and people are dying, but Ukraine is also a powerful and complex metaphor that impinges on my poetic dreaming.

I would just like to add that the responder, who admonished me to wake up and look around while I am writing my poetry, came up with a powerful metaphor of Ukrainians being “ground up” by the Russian war machine. I take that as an implicit affirmation of my art.

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“War was, and is, never far off”*

Fall Foliage 2015_1569

I’m going to town today
For no good reason
But because I am restless

But war was, and is, never far off

I woke up today
Hearing you downstairs
Feeding the cats

But war was, and is, never far off

We both agree
This is the most beautiful fall in memory
It’s the burnt orange in the late sun

But war was, and is, never far off

The colors of the foliage
Will not release me
Until the sun has set

But war was, and is, never far off

The sun has set
I am writing from the fringes
Seeing myself in a mountain 

But war was, and is, never far off

………………….

* Ouoting Dennis Zhou from his review of Wong May’s translation of Tang Dynasty poets for the 21st century.

Sometimes poetry comes easy. When I was younger I just wrote like crazy. I didn’t think about getting it right because there was an urgency to my poetic. Metaphors came with their own momentum like ocean waves that, when they reached the beach or breakwater of my notebook or scrap of paper, would crash and recede to be followed by another. As I grow older, my writing is still a little like that (thank god), but, now I have my favorites — waves I mean. I want and anticipate more of a relationship with my poetic.

And woe to the poet who has tamed the source of their inspiration.

You can’t capture a wave in a photograph. Well, maybe it is possible but I have yet to see a photographer succeed in framing the energy or spirit of a wave. By the same token, you have to be careful when poems come with little conscious effort. It’s easy to feel like a charlatan. I have seen poets, mostly seasoned poets, who write great stuff, but, based on the high water mark set by their best earlier work, they seem to be sleep-walking, or “painting from a photograph” or, staying with the photograph-metaphor, writing for the frame. I don’t want this to be me. (I’m talking about how writing around a pithy refrain, as I did in this poem, can be like “writing for the frame”.)

One last thought: When Westerners write haiku it often comes across as bad translation. That is because haiku arose from a non-Western culture. Translation of Chinese characters into English is not possible. Why would you do it? It seems like a waste of talent to me. (I believe you can glean more haiku from studying a traditional Chinese brush painting than you can from reading any English translation.) It’s hard enough to be true to our own experience, our own poetic, even when we are writing in our own homegrown idiom.

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“Cut to fortress”: the surreal rainbow brainfog

Redwood Creek Clear Cuts: 1970s

I started reading Harriet Books’ review of Tawahum Bige’s new book of poetry, Cut to Fortress:, and something clicked for me, but it felt more like whacking my funny bone. You know how that feels . . . excruciating for a split second. Here’s how it went: 

I was reading: 

Cut to Fortress, the debut collection by Tawahum Bige, a Łutselk’e Dene, Plains Cree poet, wrestles with topographies of colonization, both in Canada and within the speaker’s personal relationships, which often involves confronting and contradicting received knowledge from authority figures. In one poem, a writing professor considers colonization ‘too abstract’, so the speaker concretizes the idea:

Colonization is a two-man saw:
a signed-in-blood, written-in-English
contract atop a forest cut to stumps
called fortress . . . ”

Me: Oh my god, this hits me like I just submerged my whole head in a stream and opened my eyes under water. I raise my dripping head and look around and just for a second or two as my eyes / brain readjust to my surroundings, I see differently. 

I see what someone else is feeling (!) and it snaps me to alertness and to a sense of anxious wonder, that I could have been so blind before. (Before when?) But already the blindness that I just snapped out of is returning, like a migraine of surreal colors across my field of vision. 

Wait. Not so fast. What was that? Colonization is what?

“a two-man saw:
a signed-in-blood, written-in-English
contract atop a forest cut to stumps
called fortress . . .”

. . . “a two-man saw.”

OK, got that — two men sawing with a big two-handled blade, back and forth, so neither one can say, “it’s just me” or “it’s just you”. It’s the two of them sawing this last tree down. Sweating, stupified by their labor, anxious to finish, so they can call it a day.

Next line: . . . “a signed-in-blood, written in English / contract”. . . So, there is more to this. English is my native language. So, I’m implicated. Back in the poem . . . I am on one end of the saw, sawing. 

I am revealed. I zoom in, and sure enough, one of those men is me! And I’m really exhausted. And I should be! Look at all the trees we have sawed down . . .an entire forest!

Now for the zinger! The forest is called “fortress”.

What does that mean?

Quick, before the old blindness of the surreal colors of the rainbow brainfog sets in — the clear-cut forest is called “fortress”.

Let’s push “pause”. This is a lot to process at once.

The clear-cut forest is our fortress??

Fortress:
1.a military stronghold, especially a strongly fortified town fit for a large garrison
2.a person or thing not susceptible to outside influence or disturbance.
“He had proved himself to be a fortress of moral rectitude.”

A stronghold guarded by a garrison, and / or a resolutely moral person. 

As a Vermonter (26 year transplant) and an “environmentalist”, I have seen a lot of logging over the past few decades. Some of it is (so-called) “responsible” “forest management”. Some is just relentless removal of trees where only the spindly useless ones are left standing. But in this poem clear-cutting is a metaphor, the metaphor of two men, one of whom is you or me, in accordance with a contract in English, signed in blood (their own), cutting down the archetypal forest.

It’s a metaphor.

It’s not my forest or your forest or “that” forest but “the” forest. “Every” forest. And the contract is old! We have been doing this forever and (read the contract), we will continue doing it until there are no more forests.

That is colonization. 

And the fortress is the stockade that we maintain, made out of trees stuck in the ground and pointed at the top, that defends the morality of the contract that authorizes us to keep sawing, and sawing , and sawing.

Our morality is our fortress. Our bloody contract is our (some say God-given) authority. 

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Are we colonizers or stewards? 

The Biblical (Old Testament) reference to “stewards” has always bothered me. Here is why: In Genesis 15:2, the original Hebrew word for “steward” is `al bayith, which literally means “man over the house.” (Source) “During Biblical times, most notable households would have had a steward, so the term was familiar and not originally tied to spiritual matters.” 

But what is the house? It’s the Earth. It’s Nature. 

Maybe being stewards of Earth was once innocuous, closer to a metaphor. But we (English speaking loggers) haven’t really understood metaphor for hundreds of years when all of the clear-cutting was happening. We were too busy clear-cutting to realize that what we were clear-cutting was sacred. We were so caught up in our morality and our all-important stewardship that we didn’t notice that the world was bleeding out, that “household” we were stewarding had become a fortress, and that all the forests were falling under our bloody saw. 

What was our spirituality?
How was God OK with this? (I mean your God.)

Shut up and “cut to fortress.”

………………

Sometimes when I am typing away on my computer these days, I am startled to see that my computer has changed a word, as if for it’s own amusement. Such as “forest” to “fortress”. Maybe chalk it up to hurrying, typing too mast (it just happened! “fast” became “mast”!), but I think there might be a little bit more to it. I’m not suggesting that Tawahum Bige was typing “Cut the forest” and his computer changed it to “Cut to fortress”, I’m just saying it’s possible. As I begin to experiment with language, and find myself beginning to relate to to my native English as a foreign language, I feel like something else is happening as I transition to writing almost exclusively on my computer and on the internet. I’m not in control of what I am writing any more. One thing I can honestly say though, is that the working drafts of all my (5) non-fiction books were written by hand in notebooks. I have all the notebooks to prove it. But my blog posts are written exclusively on the internet, and any notion that we are in control when we are on the internet is illusion. What I’m writing right now could disappear in an instant because I haven’t clicked on “Update”. (There, I just did.) But it could still go away. Sometimes the autonomy of the internet seems to favor us, right? So, it is kind of quantum, this virtual relationship. Just wait until our computers are quantum computers! We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

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I discover a lagoon in my house

Living Lagoon

In our kitchen, there is a shallow bay window overlooking the peeling deck. The bay window sill provides space above the sink for stuff three items deep that spiders, over the years, have used as anchors for their webs. There is an old ceramic cow-creamer, a few vases that we put flowers in or not, a cheap radio that picks up a staticy NPR, a solar lantern eternally charging and of course plants. Some of the plants have been there for years like the bamboo and aloe. Most of the plants that live there seem to be happy. Being right above the sink, we actually remember to water them regularly and there is a fair amount of sun that, between 10 AM and 1:00, filters through the tops of the maples.

I do the dishes in this household, so I spend a lot of time at this window and I happen to notice the plants a lot, and, I confess, I have my favorites. Which ones are my favorites? There are two little Bromeliaceae (related to the pineapple) that have been thriving on sunlight and daily misting from a spray bottle. There is one plant that is also hydroponic (living on water and sunlight) that shares a mug of water with a spider plant. The former has no roots. Its thing is to grow slowly, like a green snake, but it is covered in little pointy nubs that make it look a little like a cactus but its points don’t prick. It is these last two plants I want to talk about.

Like I said, they live in a mug of water. Every week, if I remember to, I add water to their mug, replacing the quarter inch of evaporation. Yesterday I wondered if I should replace all of the water in the mug like I do when we have flowers in a vase. (The blooms of cut flower bouquets last longer than the freshness of the water in the vase, which stagmates and begins to smell unless we refresh it.) To my surprise, when I inspected the water in the mug and smelled it, I found that it was crystal clear and odor free. This is water that hasn’t been changed for at least a year! All I have ever done is top it with a fraction of an inch of tap water every week. The quality of the water reminds me of some springs I have seen where the water comes from deep down. It conjures a cherished childhood memory of looking through the bottom of a glass bottomed boat into the depths of a pristine lagoon where the still water on which we floated, was perfectly clear, magnifying the interweaving roots of cypress and mangrove trees and the deeper blue caverns where mermaids were surely hiding. It also reminds me of a boggy wildlife preserve near where we live that has a class 1 wetland at its core, through which a crystal clear stream threads.

What I am saying is, the water in this mug is rather special. It was there all along waiting for me to discover it . . . our own tiny lagoon. I wonder how Stephen Buhner would describe it. He is the one who introduced the idea of “wild water” to me, and the notion that, once you relax whatever science has taught you about water, and begin to relate to water as a mysterious amorphic “element” that is synonymous with creation and the mystery of life, you start being seduced by your own ability to wonder. Sure, you can go online and google, “How do plants clean water?” and you come up with something like, “As with air, plants that live on and in the water absorb carbon dioxide and expel oxygen. In aquatic environments, this is helpful to fish and improves water quality. Plants in aquatic systems also absorb nutrients, bacteria, metals, and chemicals.”

OK, that might explain why the water in the mug that has been home to these two plants for years is comparable to the water in a pristine class 1 wetland but I have to wonder where am I in this picture now that I have peered into this mug and discovered this pure wild water? I’m in this picture too. As a poet I have to ask what is my water like, I mean the water that comprises 80% of me? Is it like the stale water in a vase that needs refreshing? Or is it like the water in this mug that maintains the life of the plants who, in turn, maintain the wildness of the water?

We are so used to thinking that we are born pristine, the water breaks and we emerge. We live the best we can and as well as we can and as long as we can while our bodies struggle against whatever comes up, but eventually time defeats us and we pass away . . . kind of like plants in a vase. These hydroponic plants tell a different story. They don’t pollute or compromise their home in the mug. And all they need is a bit of water and sunlight to live in their own little wilderness on my kitchen sill. I want to live more like that. I know I can’t live just like that, but can I live more like that? Can we?

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Watching the clock: Excerpts from A Climate Change Prevention Manual for the Children of America.

Antique grandfather clock

Watching the clock: Excerpts from A Climate Change Prevention Manual for the Children of America.

(“Every boy and girl who would be a good citizen should learn to protect their community and country against loss by Climate Change” Prepared by the United States Bureau of Climate Change Education and the National Board of Climate Underwriters.)

Sample Exercise: Climate Change and the clock.

To the teacher: Bring in an old grandfather clock and set it up in front of the classroom. Get the class’s attention and announce: Class? Now we are going to start up the great clock of Climate Change. Let them listen to the loud tic-tock-tic-tock.

Here is a good way to begin: Stand next the clock and say, “Watch the long hand creep steadily from minute to minute. Every time it passes a minute mark, say to yourself: “Another country is experiencing marginalization, political unrest, perhaps even famine. Perhaps someone’s land is drying up from a thirty year drought or some child is dehydrating because the reservoir has gone dry.” Then add, “It could have been prevented.”

Have them watch the clock hand for ten minutes or more: Say: “You should be thinking, some old people are dying of heat exhaustion. Some rich country is fortifying its borders and throwing Climate refugees in detention camps. That is the way it goes minute by minute, night and day throughout the year. When you wake in the morning you may be sure there will be hundreds of wild fires around the world before night.”

A history lesson:

To the teacher: In this exercise, ask the children to imagine they are futuristic children who have survived global climate collapse and are looking back at history from 3 or 4 hundred years in the future. Start with how oil was first discovered.

The funny history of oil: This strange precious fluid was so important that people a long time ago could not run the world without it; yet the world knew little about it until early in the 19th century, under the name of “Seneca Oil” , it was used as a liniment near Seneca Lake in New York State. Then in 1829, it was discovered in a state called Kentucky and sold for a time as “American Medicinal Oil”. Still later, it was discovered that there were large quantities in Pennsylvania, and then people began to wonder whether perhaps it couldn’t be used for light in place of whale-oil and candles. . . But smarter people said, ” Perhaps this oil would be all right to burn if we could take out its impurities”. They began to experiment, separating petroleum into various oils and gasses*.

Discussion prompt for youngsters:

For this discussion they are still pretending that they are in the future:

It is often said that the first “five minutes of a fire is worth more than the next five hours.” In the early 1970s someone in a rich, powerful country was awakened to the threat of Climate Change, but nobody listened. Fifty years went by and a little Climate Change became the great Climate Change of today, which soon began to eat away at the atmosphere of the planet. In the end, the whole world heated up, killing all the animals from the tiniest animals (called insects), to the largest animals called hippos and whales. People began to fight each other for habitable territory, food and water. The Earth burned for about three hundred years and then it cooled and people came out of the ground.

Questions:

Have fun with this. Encourage them to use their imaginations:

What did the people do when they came out of the ground? What did they eat? What did they wear? Were they happy? Were they crazy? Were they angry?

“””””””

This educational Climate Change guide for young citizens is available and free from the United States Bureau of Climate Change Education and the National Board of Climate Underwriters.

…………….

Note:

Believe it or not most of this post was lifted verbatim from an actual pamphlet on “Safeguarding the Home against Fire – A Fire Prevention Manual for the School Children of America” published right before WW 1 by the United States Bureau of Education sponsored by the United States Board of Fire Underwriters. Apparently fires were so prevalent that the government launched a campaign to educate children in the hope that the next generation would be smarter and more intuitive with combustibles. People in the early part of the 20th century were still transitioning to gas and mastering the differences between petroleum products. Many fires in the home could be traced back to someone using gas instead of kerosene in a kerosene lantern! Also, incredibly, people’s hats and ruffles and collars would sometimes burst, as if spontaneously, into flame if there was any contact with the slightest spark. Guncotton was often used (in both men’s and women’s apparel) as a source of cellulose, instead of starching. After treating and drying in nitric and sulfuric acid, a collar or a lady’s hat became more explosive than black powder. As a fuel to launch projectiles, the same guncotton or nitrocellulose produced six times the volume of gas than black powder without the smoke and stench of black powder.

All I did was change “fire” to Climate Change and dress up the narrative with some of my own moralizing.

* There are now over 6,000 items made from petroleum waste by-products, including: fertilizer, flooring (floor covering), perfume, insecticide, petroleum jelly, soap, vitamins and some essential amino acids.

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To the DOD — for God’s sake, back off from Ukraine! It’s not your war and we are not expendable!

Atom Bomb Nuclear Explosion

I feel that my life is cursed

By war mongers.

I never, in my darkest moment,

Entertained the suspicion

That visions of the mushroom cloud

Would be the bookends of my life.
……………
When I was little (between 6 and 12), I had almost daily visions of mushroom clouds on the horizon. I also had frequent nightmares of nuclear war and world’s end. Well, those visions are back but they are adult visions now because I have been schooled in what nuclear war would actually be like. In the garish light of my current visions, between forest-flattening, house imploding, searing hot pulsing walls of concussive shock waves and blinding flashes of light that melt eyeballs, I see cities disintegrating and a pitch black sky descending lower and lower to eventually cover the Earth in a global pall of dust and fallout. 

Here is our own Joe Biden on May 3, 2022, addressing the workers at Lockheed Martin Pike County Operations Troy, Alabama, Javelin missile facility: 
“Look, the American people know what workers at this facility are doing and support “- to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom. . . Folks, there’s an ongoing battle in the world between autocracy and democracy. . . .And because of you – in this first, really, battle, if you will – for that to determine whether that’s going to happen is because you’re making it possible. You’re making it possible for the Ukrainian people to defend themselves without us having to risk getting in a third world war by sending in American soldiers fighting Russian soldiers.”

Here is Biden again (recent quote) : “For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat to (of) the use of nuclear weapons, if in fact things continue down the path they’d (they’ve) been going,” Mr Biden told fellow Democrats. . . . “We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

What Putin and Biden share is . . . Well, first of all, they are not in possession of their right minds. But, more importantly, they are inflated by a sense of destiny. Each one is shadow-boxing with their archetypal nemesis, and if push comes to shove, anything goes. We (you and I, and our Russian counterparts), what we think or feel, is irrelevant. Our concerns, fears, and opinions are not in the picture. 

For Biden, the war in Ukraine is only “the first battle” – archetypal battle – between creeping autocracy and the free world (read “free for business”). For Putin, the reality is much darker. This is the battle between Mother Russia and a corrupt capitalistic gang of nations aggressively seeking world domination. Once Putin annexes parts of Ukraine, they are, in his mind, Russian territory, inhabited by Russians, falling under Russian protection. Putin is crazy but within his craziness he is no fool. The rules of the game change with annexation. If the United States (Nato) keeps backing Ukraine’s push to liberate Russian-annexed land, with arms and money, Putin will quickly draw the nuclear line in the sand. And then, all bets are off!

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The torch

I was in a large room bright enough to see across*.
It was lit on the far end by what looked like a match.
It was a torch.
I began to see movement here and there.
Just shadows moving. 
Then I began to wonder where I was.
Then I began to try to move.
When I realized I couldn’t move I panicked.
I woke up choking and sweating.
It was like a bad novel.


It was like what I write.
That is why I never made it as a fiction writer.
My stories just make people scratch their heads.
As for editors I made their job easy.
“We are only accepting blah blah blah”.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that.
But this was not a piece of fiction.
It was my dream.
I decided to look for an analyst.


I tried someone who called himself a dream worker.
Fine.  
He said start writing down all your dreams.
Jot down whatever you recall for a week.
Even if it is just a fragment..
Write a few notes about what happened the day before.
Send me whatever you have after a week.
That’s all I need from you to get started.


How much do you charge? I asked.
How much do you make an hour? he asked.
I’m retired I said.
How much did you make hourly when you worked?
About 18 dollars.
That is what I will charge you then.
How does that sound?


It sounded too good to be true.
Was this guy for real?
For the next week I had no more dreams.
I never paid much attention to dreams before.
That’s not quite true.
I had terrible nightmares when I was 20.


A psychiatrist put me on Prozac.
I slept pretty well.
The bad dreams stopped.
I stopped dreaming entirely.
My life improved.


My moods “stabilized”.
I went off prozac.
Then there was Zoloft. 
Then there was Lexapro.


Then I hurt my back on a job.
I went on pain pills.
I got addicted


I got off pain pills
I tried acupuncture last Monday. 


Monday night I had this dream

………………….. 

*Line from This is happiness by Niall Williams

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Passing on what Kami McBride has to say about plant communication

equina'cea

This might seem like a plug for Kami McBride, herbalist and plant medicine woman with an online following, who I check in on sometimes because she is so human and open and friendly and seems to know what she is talking about. Oh, and personable. So here is the gist of what I hear her saying about plant communication: That we can all do it. It’s not mysterious or esoteric or woo-woo. Communication with the plant world is a “dormant piece” of being human. It’s a case of waking up to this forgotten ability that we carry within us. Yes, it may be buried but not deep. Plants are always ready for us to communicate with them, we just have to remember that communicating with nature comes with being human!

It helps to make the little effort. It’s like crossing on a “little bridge” to a new kind of relationship with plants. A lot of people (she contends) have “had it” with the way we have been conditioned to use and exploit nature, as if it is Earth’s lot to give and give to the bitter end, and for us to receive. (Some of us more and some less.) But Kami sees plant communication as an “incredible opportunity for relationship”.

With the growing popularity of herbalism and plant medicine, if the relationship piece is not in place, she warns, corporations (pharma and the profit motive) will drive the movement. We can learn from what the fishing industry has taught us. The big-net fishing approach to herbalism might wipe out eco-systems before we realize what we have allowed to happen (by just sitting by and passively ordering supplements or purchasing our herbal remedies from the quickest, cheapest sources via global marketing and streamlined distribution services). . . . without even going outside. She reminds us that the Earth is not our inheritance to hoard or squander, we “borrow it from our children and grand children”.

Our way into plant communication might be a heart-memory, from childhood. Our life is deeply rooted in memories of first-encounters: with a certain tree for example or a spider or a snake, or a lilly pond. And it is those first encounters that “set up a trajectory for the rest of our lives”. Plant communication is not just for a few people who are gifted, but it is for all of us. We just need to find what that door or opening looks like for each of us. I see it as an old door, but one that will be strangely familiar. The henges might be a little rusty! But once we get started, more doors appear. Heart memories often provide the keys to these doors of access.

Finally, we have to learn to trust how we, each one of us, communicates with other life-forms and the Earth. And part of that process is learning to “discern the message from mind chatter”. The sooner we learn to trust ourselves, that our own way into this new / old relationship is fine, the better. “Comparing ourselves to others is like a choke collar.”

Featured post

News from the middle world

Abandoned Dictionary

From the smashed mosquito on the wall
Over the bed we can determine 
The DNA of the murderer of our dreams


Our ancestors probably had whiskers
(Like cats) rooted in their brains
To let them see when their eyes failed them 


I am playing with you I am praying for you
Even though you may be the murderer of my dreams
My intelligence is older My dreaming is old 


I know your limits I know why you stop trying 
Did you know that water can map our feelings
And has for millennia? 


I have thrown away my dictionary
I have thrown away my rainstick 
I’m not writing my dreams down anymore


I am using my whiskers to find my way
Because this world has gone dark and dreamless
This middle world


But I am wearing a watch
That has replaced my quotidian brain
That tells me everything I need to know


About how to navigate this world
It keeps my pink body
Out of the salvage yard


But why is that young family moving to Belize?
Why is my astrologer all freaked out? 
Why is everyone so afraid to change?


A man comes down from a vision quest
He says he went up
Not knowing how to pray


When he came down he didn’t know how to stop praying
The truth is there is no end or bottom to praying
Or what to pray for Like dreaming and loving

…………………….

The first two stanzas are drawing on two recent articles from BBC World News. Both were eye-opening to me, that they used the blood pilfered by a mosquito to catch a murderer and they can tell from tiny holes in human skulls that homo sapiens most likely had whiskers at one time. In this dream I am imagining that I am stuck in middle world, sort of eyeless in Gaza and must find my way by using those whiskers of my ancestors, which I am apparently equipped with because my “intelligence is older” and my “dreams are old”. The abandoned dictionary represents the language of the middle world that has gone dark and forgotten how to pray and dream and love.

………………………….

Eyeless in Gaza is a bestselling novel by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1936. The title is taken from a phrase in John Milton‘s Samson Agonistes: Promise was that I / Should Israel from Philistine yoke deliver; / Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him / Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves …

The title of the book, like Milton’s poem, recalls the biblical story of Samson: he was captured by the Philistines, his eyes were burned out and he was taken to Gaza, where he was forced to work at grinding grain in a mill. (Wikipedia)

When I first encountered Aldous Huxley’s novel, I wondered if “Gaza” in the title referred to the bland “gaze” or sightless gaze of a person who has eyes but does not see. My grandmother had a glass eye which looked so real that I would often forget which one of her eyes was glass. But anyway, because of her prosthetic eye I was familiar with the “blind gaze” that eyeless in Gaza evoked for me.

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Open Letter to my peers and readers with a footnote on Dreaming

When I think of the state of the world, with everything that is going on and almost all of it out of my control and going counter to what I would wish for it, I’m torn between balling my fists and ranting (picture an old man cursing the skies, very Dylan-Thomasesque) . . . or completely dropping out of sight and writing poetry to an imaginary friend, my Anam Cara, (more like John O’Donahue) . . . Either response would be age-appropriate (71). I am qualified to rant like the archetypal doom-sayer or to withdraw into timeless solitude for the rest of my days. (Grant me that.)

Side: I do actually have another book I might write this winter in which I will discuss the relationship between time and consciousness from an existential (as opposed to philosophical) point of view. Time is utterly mysterious in the sense that we have only begun to understand what time is. For one thing it is key to how we navigate between birth and death, but it is not just chronological. Far from it. Our experience of time is a reflection of how we experience ourselves. Anyway, I feel compelled to share what I have learned regarding the nature of time. After that, which would be my fifth non-fiction book, I think my intellectual barrel will be empty, for better or for worse, or at least empty enough that I will be able to focus on poetry.

Honestly though, because of the state and plight of the world, if I was put together differently and had not discovered dependable ways to get out of my head, and had not had certain experiences that confirmed the existence of my soul, and along with that, credible proof of reincarnation, I suspect that I might have descended into deep depression or become an island-hopping man. No shame in either. I mean that. Those would have been potential paths for me. Depression would have forced me to live much differently than I do now. Perhaps I would have found religion! (And I’m not being a smart ass.)

Civilization mostly sucks.

But I live with the knowledge that we carry the capacity for a different Dreaming (See note) within our DNA and are capable of changing or transforming the “dream” of civilization. There are plenty of people out there who are fully aware of this, and I think their numbers are increasing, perhaps exponentially, but it’s not fast enough. That makes me very sad.

I’m almost done with my current internet persona. I post poems and sometimes these little essays, but I’m not convinced that it serves any deep purpose. I don’t know if it means anything to be read by 1000 people, especially when I am essentially repeating my message. On the other hand, sometimes I attend events where other artists and thinkers show up . . . in real time, in real bodies, with real ears, eyes, and hearts, in their skins with faces, with names and there is community, exchange of ideas, some bartering and mutual appreciation of each other’s creative contribution to the birthing of a new culture. And I have found that inspiring and sustaining. These people use the internet very differently than I do and I have a lot to learn from them.

I want to believe that humanity has a future, as a whole, but I’m not sure it matters whether I believe in the viability of the human race or not. I do know that I can’t survive without believing in myself and believing that I am seen by other people. No, let me rephrase that, that my dreaming is important to other people. I don’t want to change anyone, although god knows I have tried to influence how people think or how they see the world, but really it is more about needing to share my dreaming. I think I just want company.

One of the most profound discoveries in my intellectual life is what the Australian Aborigines mean by the Dreamtime. The number of people in the Western World who know anything about the Aboriginal Dreamtime is miniscule. That also makes me sad. The Dreamtime is the fruit of a 60,000 year old relationship between a people and the world they embrace.

Let’s see, what else? . . . I guess nothing for now. Maybe I’ll follow this up with another open letter by and by.

……………

Dreaming (the noun) refers to a fluid world view that encompasses what I call hyper-subjectivity. Hyper subjectivity is a holistic expression or extension of the observation of early twentieth century quantum physicists that not only is wholeness an inherent property of a (given) phenomenon observed, (as in, say, rain), but the observer him- or herself is included as an aspect of this wholeness. (Paraphrase of quote from Steven M. Rosen PH. D) This is why weather shamanism works for those who practice it. Shamans (just for example) would not be so dependent on language to analyze or explain things that are experiential but simply accept that the universe and everything in it is alive. That includes stones and mountains and what have you. Jung, well before studying the acausal principle of synchronicity, described the unique relationship between “primitive cultures” and the universe as participation mystique, which describes Dreaming pretty well, with the caveat that participation mystique is not always primitive but can be highly lucid.    

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Island hopping man

Island hopping man,
If you keep talking
I will have to shut you down.
If you keep lying so vividly
I will have to believe you.
If you keep playing the blues like that
On my guitar
With those crazy fingers
I will have to ask you
Where you learned to play
And I think I know what your answer will be:
That you learned from the wind and the ocean
And from the countless islands you have befriended:
The island of loneliness
The island of hungry men,
The island called invisible,
Floating islands,
Islands of black beaches,
Islands of honky tonk,
Corral islands,
Crescent islands with pink sand,
Islands of the filthy rich,
Islands of the blessed poor.
Even an island within an island
Where a barefooted king
Offered you his daughter
But you could no more stay there
Then you can stay anywhere.
Island hopping man says:
Eat raw for a better world
Like the Rastafarians.
Eat raw and it will change you.
Sooner or later
You will see, you will see.

………….

We just got home from our week on Mohegan (island in ME). The first person I met after stepping off the ferry was a guy (roughly my age) who started up a conversation upon seeing my guitar. I am ostensibly a harp (mouth harp) player always on the lookout for folks who are creative on guitar in any genre (but preferably jazz, blues or ragtime) and if classic folk and rock is their bag, that can be fun too for a while. I’m not too particular but enjoy exploring , sharing and producing new sounds. So when I meet someone who is a little more experimental and improvisational and all over the frets, I am happy to hand over my guitar and pull out my harps. So, I’ll call him Jonathan, was this sort of guy. Not only was he all over the frets, but he was also from all over the world, a self-described island hopper. His politics kind of alienated me when he got to talking but musically we got along fine.

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Ballad of route 87 south

Balston township

Burnt Hills

Ushers Road

Mile 18, 17, mile 16

Half Moon next four exits

Ushers Road Exit 10

Number 3

Number 2

Number 1 (not miles)

Dead animal in the slow lane

Mechanicsville

Sweetwater (probably not).

My sister and I used to see who could hold their breath

Between bridges.

I always won

Because I was older

And knew how to lie.

Speed limit 65

That’s a laugh

If I went 65

I would be late for

The resurrection.

Trying to stay between the dotted lines

Troy, Schenectady 10 miles

Flag on a bridge railing

I’m not holding my breath

Now that I am too old to lie

Exit Revolution

Exit Resolution

Exit Absolution

Deer in silhouette next three miles.

…………………

This poem was written on the long drive to a reading at Opus 40 in Saugerties NY. The all-day program, christened “Verbatim”, was a celebration of small presses and outsider music labels, featuring back to back readings and performances. Opus 40 is the unique and remarkable creation of Harvey Fite, a bluestone quarryman who dedicated the second half of his life to transforming a bluestone quarry into a large-scale multi-level environment of walkways, passages and wide open 150-year-old quarried spaces centered by a wide spiraling ramp accessing a fifteen foot standing stone. The whole effect of this immersive stone setting is awe-inspiring. There is an inviting (wooden) museum set off from the quarry including a shop. Public parking is a short distance from the site to respect the sanctity of the space, which is contemplative.

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Across the way 2

Across the way
In a field by the road

Sits redfox looking for a forest.
Any woods will do.

His home was just clear-cut
So he sits in a low spot at the bend

With nowhere to go.
Looking rather lost as one evicted

But across the way
Who cares?

Do I? Do you?
For 45 seconds I honestly care

Just like I care about a lot of things
In a tiny corner reserved for caring

In my brain.
My heart cares for a little longer

And will periodically throughout the day.
So I watch him

Until my watching makes him nervous
And he bounds back into the ruined forest

Where the midday sun illuminates
The toppled pillars of a world that worked.

…………………………….

This is the second in a set of poems titled “Across the way”. Both were written in VA where we are visiting family. There is a clear cut underway across the road. “Across the way 1” more graphically depicts the cutting down of the trees, whereas the above poem focuses on a young fox who is pausing in an open field near the road below the decimated forest, obviously disoriented, getting his bearings. I was only moderately pleased with how this poem was going until the last three lines which felt like an ah-ha moment. The “toppled pillars” are, of course, the great trunks of the delimbed trees that resemble the bleached pillars that used to hold up the ostentatious edifices of ancient Rome. The similarity breaks down quickly. Rome was a tragically flawed, violent civilization that lasted way too long for its own good, whereas the pillars of the felled trees across the way are the ruins of a world that “worked”. I’m writing this poem because I am upset and sad, but the poem acknowledges that I will not stay focused on the fox’s woes for long. Such assaults on nature are a common occurrence in our world which, in many ways, resembles the Rome of Nero.

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I will you said

I will, you said

I will.

And again, I will.

As for me,

I will keep reminding you,

Did you?

Did you?

Did you do 

what you said

you would do?

Once I heard a poet reading 

in a secret garden.

A catbird 

in the tree above him 

began to sing.

The poet was annoyed.

I will start over! he said.

The bird stopped singing

and flew off.

Without the bird

It was just words like

I will / I will / I will . . .

……………………………….

This is a poem about procrastination, putting things off, which can morph into putting life off. The Catbird is neither sweet nor lyrical. It isn’t the bird that you might want to show up to sing during your reading. It is an outspoken bird, not an ambient bird or perhaps not even one who understands poetry! But having a bird join you when you are reading your poetry is a rare thing. In TS Eliot’s Wasteland the nightingale sings in the desert with “inviolable” voice. (Inviolable means secure from violation or profanation, secure from assault or trespass, as in an inviolable sanctuary or an inviolable spirit, or voice. In this poem, the “secret garden” was behind an ashram (which was also a magical bookstore). The secret garden was an inviolable space, a sacred space, a rare thing in the middle world, whereas nature is rife with sacred places. So when the catbird shows up to sing with this poet, he or she is bringing her inviolable voice to an inviolable space but her song is not sweet or nuanced and some of the audience might have agreed with the poet, that the catbirds exuberant song was not welcome. But others of the audience might have been thrilled to be witness to the catbird’s contribution. What does the incident of the catbird and the poet have to do with the theme of procrastination? I think it has to do with the question of, when do we keep going as opposed to starting over? When we start something, such as reading a poem for an audience, or something like living our life, it might not look exactly like we would wish; but maybe the message here is, a catbird is still a bird, and its joining its inviolable voice to the reading, is still a blessing. And if such a miraculous thing happened to me, I for one, would keep reading, perhaps even with tears in my eyes.

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A true story and a parable

Back from Home Depot I pull into the drive
There is a bundle of metal stakes in the trunk  
They are for the garden
They are bound tight by plastic straps

I toss this sheaf of stakes onto the drive
When it hits the ground the straps pop
There is an ear-splitting metallic ringing 
At the same time I hear something burst and shatter 

It came from the back of the house
It was the round glass table
It has shattered into a thousand pieces
This happened about 10 years ago

It reminds me of where we are at now
We have bundled our reality tightly together
As long as our bundles are secure we can carry on
We can plan gardens and we can carry on

We can go shopping and we can carry on
Our bundles hold enormous energy
It’s not a bomb that will shatter our glass table
It’s not climate change and it’s likely not our job

It is a critical misjudgment of the status of our fragility
This is a metaphor of how close we are to liberation
It is a metaphor for how ready we are for change
It is a metaphor for how clueless we are that we are ready

The round glass table on the deck is also symbolic
It symbolizes our universe
Your universe and mine
Remember that scene in 2001 – A Space Odyssey

It is the scene where the crystal glass falls and shatters
And then the old man hears his own labored breathing
He turns and sees himself vastly older in his deathbed
He represents the human race that has refused to transform

Now he / we have aged beyond self-recognition
This is metaphoric of our humanity
It isn’t personal
Our humanity has refused to change for eons

Now it is imprisoned in an ancient body
It is a body that is like a chrysalis
Inside is all the beauty of our immanent transformation
We are taking our very last breaths

Something is standing at the foot of our bed
It is the mysterious monolith
It is our death doula
Now we can release and a new world can be born

Every life is an odyssey 
But we are also together on this epic journey
We are bundled tightly together by our commitment
We are committed to journeying in a spatial dimension together

Our lives, long or short, are bundles of energy tightly bound
If we are lucky something will happen that will burst our imprisonment
And if fate favors us we will be free like the stakes that burst their ties
Something will shatter

It will be our world
It will shatter like a crystal glass or a glass table
There will be another world waiting for us
It will be just as fragile as this one 

Maybe we will be wiser
We will honor the fragility of our new world
We will be together but not so tightly bound
I went to see A Space Odyssey in 1969

I went with my father and his best friend
My father was an electrical engineer
His friend was a physicist
At the end of the movie we three walked out in silence

My father’s friend said, What was that all about?
My father said, Ask Gary
He was right
I explained what it was about on the long drive home 

………………………….

My father’s friend, the physicist, was a member of Mensa, (the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. It is a non-profit organization open to people who score at the 98th percentile or higher on a standardized, supervised IQ or other approved intelligence test). He was, measured by IQ, a very intelligent man, but as to what 2001, A Space Odyssey was all about, he hadn’t a clue, combined with a certain resistance to wanting to know. He was, by my book, an old school scientist, and therefore part of the problem. I tried to enlighten him. I don’t think he appreciated my efforts, me being an 18 year-old long-haired “hippy” and barely out of high school. One last note about the way this poem is written: It is one of those poems where every line is a complete sentence. I enjoy writing poems in this style because they allow me to write sequentially, ordering my thoughts in a very step by step fashion that lends itself to telling a story. I can still include little detours, my forté, but the priority is telling the story. Another, and probably my favorite, example of this line-by-line sentencing structure, is “Mudslide”. https://wordpress.com/post/garylindorff.wordpress.com/846

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And love will steer the stars

We went to see Hair at Weston Playhouse
and the opening performance of the epic song Aquarius
was easily worth the price of the ticket.
It opened the floodgates
of my own Hoover Dam
and the 60s came roaring back into my psychic space
as if my heart had willingly become a vacuum
in anticipation of a kind of private ecstatic homecoming.
The theater momentarily disappeared
as pellucid youthful voices,
heralding the dawning of the age of love,
swept me out of my simmering funk
into a heightened state of believing
that anything is possible with love.
Love will steer the stars.
Then the story slowly chipped away at that vision.
The story of a young man, Claude’s
enlistment into the army
and the downward spiral of his consigning his soul
to the military industrial complex.
As Claude said when he returned
to his old haunts and was questioned by his peers:
“Berger, I feel like I died.”
He is like Jesus of course, crucified by the war machine.
The hippie in him was easily erased
or, more accurately, blown away with a violence
that they somehow conveyed
with a concussive sound effect
and a flash of blue light.
In terms of stage craft, the actor stripped off stage,
donned camouflage fatigues,
pulled off his wig, mussed up his hair a bit
so he looked like he hadn’t slept in a few nights
and was instantly transformed
into a casualty of the Vietnam debacle.
Another zombie for Uncle Sam,
a drone, a stooge, an interchangeable cog
in the military juggernaut.
So, there I am, sitting
in my cushy theater seat
next to my wife,
holding back a tsunami of grief.
The effect of the anthem of freelove of the 60s
all but forgotten by my fickle memory
along with all the storied memories of my own experiments
to return to the garden of human possibility
that was just so fragile, so doomed, so,
as it turns out,
unAmerican.
What is American, by the way?
What is in the stars for us if we do away with love?
What will steer the stars?

…………………….

What a powerful line, “love will steer the stars”. Imagine the heavens transformed into a cosmic ship guided by the compass of love. I never saw a live performance of Hair. I was too busy growing my own toward the end of the 1960s and, in 1970 (?), shaving it all off entirely in a symbolic rejection of the Hippy movement.. Right around the phenomenon of Woodstock, when my generation was finally trading sneakers for barefeet and sandals and holey jeans and beads and letting their hair grow out, I was jumping that ship and turning to anarchy. I was angry. I had beaten the draft and, like the hippies I used to identify with (including some of my close friends), I was anti-establishment but I was also anti-drugs and very close to refusing to pay my taxes. That seemed the best way to avoid contributing to the war-machine. I was a maverick really, or at least I felt like one — a young man without a tribe. Hair is all about the tribe but it showed how ineffective it was against the “system”. At 19 in 1969, I wrote my manifesto which announced that I was going to “breathe my own air” and decide for myself what was treasure and what was trash as I sorted through what I considered the garbage of the failed democracy that my generation inherited. But I was isolated, largely unaware of how many people my age were doing the same thing I was doing, regrouping, soul-searching, in a way, vision questing for a path forward. I saw Hair as a kind of hippy-obituary. The Age of Aquarius was a collective wish or dream that never really got off the ground before it lost me to more serious life-and-death reflections of what it means to be a principled, pacifistic 20-year-old white middle class male in America in 1970. Love was not my compass back then. I was too upset and angry for that. Turns out I had a lot of shadow work to do before I could return to love as a power capable of steering the stars.

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To a little metal ball I found

How dare you be so round
oh little metal ball that I unearthed!
Such perfect roundness is beyond me
and mocks my need for imperfection,
especially when it comes to things
that have been so long buried,
cloaked so long from human purpose
as to fall from the kingdom of the familiar . . .
And no rust!
as if also cloaked from time
that is wearing me unevenly away.
It is as if you had worked something out
with mother nature.
And then there is the question
of what you might be,
now that I am asking,
where as before I found you
there was no you and me asking.
As if I owned rights to your story!
Before, there was just me
and everything but you.
And, don’t take this wrong, but
as far as this poem is concerned
my world minus you
was faring fine . . .
But now, just look what you have done!
You have made me wonder about you.
What are you?
A ball bearing
Whose happy place was once
between a wheel and a fixed axle,
in which the rotating parts and the stationary part
are separated by a ring
of small identical solid metal balls
that reduce friction?
And where then is the machine that your
existence conjures out of dust?
As if I care.
I don’t.
I am not curious.
Is that disappointing to you?
That you were not found
by someone more curious?
I am no detectorist but an aging poet
who is only interested
in your potential as a metaphor
which usually winds up being
just another veiled
self-referential revelation.
And I cannot do that to you.
Your perfect roundness resists
the machinations of my imagination.
There is just you on my shelf
of random keepsakes
and, of course, me and everything else.
And someday there will just be you
And everything else.
You remind me of my mortality.
But I do not fault you for that.
In fact you are faultless.
It is I and I alone
who must bear
the friction of this poem.

…………………..

I used to find lots of things in the ground when I was little, from stones to glass to pottery and odd bits of metal. I was looking, and I was curious. My mother was that way, always collecting things; I got it from her. She enjoyed wandering through junk shops and I caught the bug early on. I could lose myself in those places but back in the 50s the inventory in junk shops was at least 30% antiques and sometimes the price tag was pocket change, for an old pair of brass spectacles or a medicine bottle with whittle marks or an old book from the 19th century. For a kid with my discerning eye, that was heaven on earth and my room soon became a museum for old bottles and one-of-a-kind artifacts. As I grew a little older I started discovering bottle dumps in out of the way places — in old filled-in wells or the corners of old stonewalls in overgrown cow pastures or in marshes which towns and villages designated as unusable (unproductive) land and therefore suitable for family or community dumps. The best bottle dump I ever encountered was in Maine on a small island in a lake where 4 or 5 generations of an extended household or two had deposited their trash well over 100 years ago (that was around1965, so nothing in the dump was newer than, say,1870. For me bottle dumps were nothing but compacted moldering antique shops. I used to find inkwells, brass lamps, brass trivets and flasks with pontil marks. The deeper I dug, the older the stuff. And everything I collected conjured a story in my head. In elementary school one time we made a class trip to Sturbridge Village where I discovered that I loved stone ground cornmeal and gum made of pine resin which was sold in jars in the form of lightly floured marble-sized balls. But, to my great childish pleasure I saw how old utensils and tools and bottles were used in kitchens and barns and workshops, which was grist for my penchant for time-traveling in my mind. Getting to this poem now, the metal ball I found was a conundrum. It had to be old because it came from 3 or 4 inches down in undisturbed ground. But it was perfectly round and smooth and it wasn’t a musket ball which apparently were mostly made of lead. It was professionally machined and perfectly round. It seemed so self-sufficient and inscrutable, resisting all of my attempts to account for it’s being there. The best explanation I could come up with was that there was a farmer who acquired a large ball-bearing (in the 1920s or 30s) and he gave it to his kid as a marble. Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, it has been sitting on my shelf in my library in a small bowl along with 5 colonial vintage ceramic marbles. This poem is my attempt to find a home for this enigmatic ball it in my poetry. If it is from the 20s or 30s, as I imagine, that makes it an antique. By one definition something has to be 100 years old to qualify as an antique. The last line, which refers to the “friction” of this poem, alludes to how writing this poem was not a cakewalk. It’s not a deep poem, which, when I am writing such a poem, feels like the poem is taking me by the hand and showing me what it wants or needs from me. This poem, because it wasn’t deep, depended on word-play, language that makes a lot out of a little. It is really just a poem about feeling like an old worn out ball-bearing, but being OK with that because I can write about how that feels. Should there come a day when I can’t write about how I feel, I will just have to cross that bridge when I come to it.

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As long as rivers run and the law of karma

In 1874, General George Custer 

led a mineral-survey 

of the Black Hills of South Dakota 

and discovered gold. 

The Sioux, 

including young warrior Crazy Horse, 

saw broken forever 

an 8-year-old treaty 

that had promised the hills*

to the tribe. 

“. . . as long as rivers run 

and grass grows, 

and trees bear leaves.”

(When the rivers stop flowing

the grass will stop growing

and trees will stop bearing leaves.)

Just think,

if the bastards (federal government) had waited

148 years

they could have legally wormed

out of the treaty.

August, 2022: Europe’s Rivers Run Dry 

As Scientists Warn 

Drought Could Be Worst in 500 Years.*

In places, 

the Loire can now be crossed on foot; 

The Rhine is fast 

becoming impassable 

to barge traffic. 

In Italy, the Po 

is 2 meters lower than normal, 

crippling crops.

This is the age of

filling in the blank.

The worst 

fires, 

droughts, 

pandemic, 

war and

karma of a people

in 500 years.

What is so tragic about all of this

is how predictable it was. 

And Western culture

is still oblivious 

to the law of karma. 

……………

What is the law of karma?

“The doctrine of karma is not optional but mandatory. Everyone has to abide by this law. This law of cause and effect can be said to be a spiritual equivalent of the Newton’s law of motion which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” According to this law, whatever thoughts or energy you put out, you get back — good or bad. In order to get what you want, you have to embody and be worthy of those things. It’s the concept of what you reap, you sow. “Believing in Karma and reincarnation makes it easier to understand why bad things happen to good people or why a young innocent child develops a life-threatening illness. Vedanta would say that everything in your life is the result of the energy created by actions in previous births. Every situation that happens to you and everyone you meet has a Karmic significance. Everything happens for a reason.” https://chopra.com/articles/how-does-karma-affect-your-life

* Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant  

* The Guardian, The Observer / Jon Henley 

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Welcome to the Matrix: For 99.9999 percent of the human race, it may be all there ever is

I have written about how the world of human-created systems collectively constitutes an all-consuming program that is, in many ways, analogous to the Matrix in the sense that it has conditioned our worldview from top down to the micro-granular details of our lives. The only way to avoid this conditioning is to initiate out of it, and the only way we can initiate out of it is to be initiated by someone who is outside of it (such as Morpheus) or to have a transcendent experience that rewires how our brain processes reality.

When I work with people, as a dreamworker or as a shamanic practitioner, at some point in the work I recommend that they watch the Youtube clip of the lady in the red dress, in the first Matrix installment. It is worth a million words for how it illustrates how hard it is to escape the Matrix, how easily it draws us back in, or seduces us back in and when it does we can kiss our autonomy good-bye.

It’s a tough-love lesson, and few of us are any different than Neo in the video when he is distracted by the lady in red only to find that when he turns to keep her in sight, he is facing into the barrel of a gun that is aimed at his head point blank.

But it is only recently that I realized how progressives, left wingers, and even revolutionaries are just as vulnerable to being seduced by the Matrix as those who are not given to doing their own thinking. I am referring to how the Matrix convinces us or lulls us into believing that we are not in it, especially those of us who consider ourselves well-read and well-informed. Ideas, convictions, emotional truths, even many deep experiences that we might think qualify as initiatory, are just halfway houses of the Matrix where we can spend an entire lifetime fancying ourselves independent thinkers when in fact we are still in the Bardo of a massive and sinister program that no one controls.

Think of what I’m saying: Unless we are backed by a viable cultural alternative to the prevailing worldview that we are so critical of, we are unwitting prisoners of our illusions because our thinking is just another program that isn’t grounded in any kind of sustainable reality.

Get initiated.

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I’m sweating

I’m sweating.
How about you?
Sweating because much of Europe
China and India and Australia is heating up.

And virtually nothing is being done about it.
You know how ants behave
When you disturb their nest?
They spontaneously abandon the site,

Bringing their eggs underground.
If I am the cause
I usually back off
And give them 15 minutes or so

To clear out and do whatever they do
To deal with catastrophe,
Which they always
Manage brilliantly.

Sound familiar?
That’s like us.
We are excellent at reconnoitering,
Scrambling, clearing out, reorganizing.

Sure, there is massive loss
Of lives and property
But after the blight,
Hurricane, typhoon, fire, war

We’re back . . .
Kind of doing what we did before,
Because dealing with
The aftermath of disaster

Is what we do best.
In the “now”, there is chaos, suffering,
Anger, grief, despair . . .
But the algorithm guides us through.

We recover, rebuild, forget.
Did I say forget?
What does the government do?
It sends aid, some money, some experts.

It sends relief, equipment.
Anything the ants need.
As long as they
Continue being ants.

Governance is little more
Than a tolerated algorithm
Whose sole purpose
is maintaining the status quo

For as long as possible.
It doesn’t understand change.
I mean it honestly
Doesn’t understand change.

What I am trying to say is,
It doesn’t understand
Climate Change.
Neither do ants.

That is what we are dealing with,
So we need not be surprised
If civilization is allowed to fail.
So I’m sweating.

…………………

This poem presumes that ants function by pure instinct and, within a certain paradigm of calamity, it assumes that their response to calamity is a colony-wide response. Even when I was a little kid I marveled at how, when something exposes or devastates their nest (i.e., me), they spring to action and every ant seems to know exactly what to do. It reminds me of how a town comes together after a hurricane or some other disaster, such as war or a wildfire. But what would the ants do if the ground started heating up by increments of few degrees a year, since where they take their eggs when chaos strikes is underground. I am no scientist and am horrified by the scenario I just imagined. But I would speculate that they wouldn’t know what to do in such a situation, such as removing their eggs above ground to. say, a rotten log, which would call for thinking outside the instinctive algorithm that limits the creativity of their response to catastrophe. The point this poem is making is, both the government and the average person are in lockstep in being completely unimaginative and are behaving exactly like the ant when it comes to Climate Change, that is to say, non-responsive, even as the world heats up year by year, albeit so slowly, it is hard to measure in any convincing way. So, basically, this poem predicts that, unless the algorithms that govern our behaviors change, Climate Change will be the straw that breaks the back of modern civilization.

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Butterfly’s teaching

The lessons of butterfly are the lessons of metamorphosis, the different stages of transformation of the self:

Every decade of our lives offers a reset, but, if we keep delaying our transformation, the stakes keep going higher.

As a student of Jung (and his protege, Von Franz [author of Numbers and Time] I have long understood that the natural numbers are archetypes. This is powerfully reflected in how we experience aging in terms of our individuation, in particular with regard to the double numbers (age 22,33,44,55, etc.) These ages reflect real changes in our psyches (as well as our physical and chemical and organic systems and even our DNA).

This is cognate to what butterfly teaches us but bear with me:

One thing I learned on a VQ years ago is, butterfly is not what it appears. It embodies perhaps the most powerful teaching of all the creatures.

Following butterfly’s example, we all ideally individuate through the 4 stages of life:
Egg, larva, chrysalis, butterfly, but we individuate through these 4 stages every time we need to transform, and that would be, at least, every decade!

If we are in a stage where we are fighting our own evolution (living with our brakes on), and the container has grown too small, that is when craziness sets in, because we are in the chrysalis but our wings are trying to sprout (! ) and there is a kind of feverish, compulsive anxiety that comes over us at times, a kind of panic because we are holding on to an old form of ourselves when the universe is saying “It’s time.” . . . Time to grow, time to enter the next stage of our metamorphosis . . . time to spread our wings.

If we cling to our old form, old patterns, we will find that magic begins to leak away, that the supports are gone, that what once was crazy-magic-maybe-a-little-self-destructive-a-little-devil-may-care-a-little-wild is just messed up and depressing. We start not recognizing ourselves, because more and more of our soul is moving on or wants to and the overriding feeling is that we are alone, stuck with diminishing options.

The universe brings in the trickster when someone is refusing to evolve, and the trickster (the Greeks would say Hermes, the thief, the Natiive Americans, Coyote) begins to take away things, literally – bike, wallet, keys. But there are worse things to lose. How about sanity? Confidence? Health? Maybe even our home . . . The teaching gets tougher, the teacher takes the gloves off, because what is at stake is our life!

That is what I mean by Wake up. This isn’t Kansas any more. If we don’t evolve we may eventually lose everything. Maybe not today, maybe not even this year, but eventually that could happen. If this is the wake up time, it is imperative to not keep pushing it back.

The spirit of stasis / entropy / addiction takes no prisoners.

For the sake of transformation, we must get good at recognizing when we are in these stages on a day by day or weekly basis. Know when we are unhatched, when we are larval, when it feels like we are wrapped in a stifling chrysalis, and when we are trying out our fully formed wings and feeling centered and free to be ourselves and notice what’s different and why it’s different. Stop settling for the chrysalis stage. It really is a back and forth, almost random, progress until we finally “act your age” or “act your stage”.

So, next time you see a butterfly . . .

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Samdhi vigraha yostul yayam vrddhau samdhi mupeyatl

In a little town on the Hudson
In a dark room in the back of the Avalon
Luminous cocoons hang around Joanna Mattrey.
From her violin the bell of a horn has sprouted.

She generates a staticy thunder with her right foot
While her left foot pushes against gravity.

Outside blue light halos around Avalon.
I’ll walk it back. Two blocks away, just off Main
There is a park with a blue book on a bench
That someone abandoned like a baby:

Alcoholics Anonymous. Around the corner
In front of a small cafe advertising New York cuisine
A distinguished-looking elderly Black guy
in a brown houndstooth tweed suit

Is crooning the blues.
I walk past the closed store fronts.
With the first residential block
I hit an old sidewalk of bluestone slabs

With crabgrass growing between the stones.
I turn around because I want to be on time.
I may be old but the evening is young.
I am waiting to cross a street,

Waiting for the light to turn,
And then it does but the window of a car rolls down
A man’s hand reaches out
With a fat gold ring in his palm.

He says “I need money.”
The light changes. The car screeches away.
None of this hangs together
Until later when Joanna Mattrey

Produces such music from her violin
That I have never heard,
While conjuring a staticy thunder with her right foot
While her left foot pushes against gravity.

During the break I am standing outside talking to a woman
Who says she knows some sanSkrit
So I ask her to say something and she says,
Samdhi vigraha yostul yayam vrddhau samdhi mupeyatl.

I ask what it means.
She says, Choose love not war.
I ask her to say it again.
(The world doesn’t speak English, at least not tonight.)

………………..

Everything that I included in this poem happened pretty much as described except that what happened at the Avalon was magnified, not exaggerated. There is a difference. I didn’t make anything up. Neither did I try to normalize it because there was nothing normal about it. I was trying to communicate how I experienced both the performer and her performance as transcendent or larger than life. The “luminous cocoons” were translucent hollow paper pod-like constructions suspended from the ceiling, with lights inside them that changed colors. But how I perceived them was closer to cocoons, which they resemble, plus I have have been writing about the stages of butterfly’s metamorphosis, with its 4 distinct stages: egg, larva, chrysalis, butterfly. As far as her conjuring thunder and pushing against gravity and the horn sprouting from her violin, she did create a loud rumbling static effect with a pedal and there was a horn inexplicably protruding from her violin.

The poem starts out with my evening at the Avalon (in Catskill) and replays the time I spent in town, just off, but mostly on, Main Street, sharing some of what I experienced there while waiting for the doors to open for the show. The middle of the poem is mostly selective reporting of real random events. The poem ends with the woman quoting sanSkrit, which is also based on a real encounter. The actual translation was something like: If a King can choose love or war, he should choose love. That message resonated with me because I blame a lot of the problems and dysfunction in this country on bad choices. across the board and at every level of society. And that goes back to something I wrote in another recent post about one of the wisdoms that comes through in the film “Forrest Gump”, that we are, for the most part, responsible for what we do next. Not always, but, I would argue, most of the time. (The “king” in the sanSkrit quote, like the “superior man” in the I-Ching, symbolizes the higher self.)

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Hawk feathers, Gump and empire

The new 800 page book, by Caroline Elkins, Legacy Of Violence: A History Of The British Empire, explores how “colonial officials from India to Malaya to South Africa hid evidence of their violent practices while building the largest empire in human history”.

One thing she said in the interview I was listening to on NPR (Fresh Air), just as I was about to park and go into Home Depot, was that, before Britain colonized India, India’s economy represented 25% of global GNP. When they exited India, it had shrunk to 3 – 5% of global GNP. (I think that’s right.) (Made me want to throw out [compost] my English breakfast tea.) 

At the end of the interview the interviewer asked (my paraphrase), how does the United States compare to this picture of Empire (as bloodsucker) of sovereign vitality. Well, of course we did the same thing. We exploited the resources of a continent and, we may not call the countries we exploit “colonies”, but we are a declining, bloodsucking empire (my paraphrase). And now we are poor in every way that counts.

Sometimes I wake up feeling heavy and demoralized. That’s not a good way to start the day. But this morning when I sat down with my coffee there was a small hawk feather on the table where my coffee and laptop go. I put it there last night on purpose so I would find it. I’ll explain:

When I went on my walk yesterday I circled through the orchard heading for a favorite old white pine where I often sit. That feather was waiting for me right where I always stand or sit when I visit this pine, which I consider to be a friend and often share my secrets with. The feather is from a Red Tailed hawk who has lived by the orchard for a few years.

What does this feather “mean” to me? I’m going to tell you: It means that I would do well to expand my view, to fly a little higher and look around, maybe not take everything that is going wrong with the world so personally. I know other people who feel too much, or think too much . . . I do both, and it is exhausting. 

Is it exhausting being hawk? I’m sure it is. I’m sure she has bad days. Sometimes the crows go after her relentlessly, two big ones, taking turns dive-bombing, sometimes getting a peck in, which might explain her loss of a feather, but, most times I see her, she is gyring high up above it all. That feather lying in the slight bowl-shaped indentation where I sit reminds me of the feather in Forrest Gump; remember? (Google:) Forrest never knows where his life will take him next, but he goes with the flow and he finds happiness at all stops along the way because that is what his mother taught him to do. 

I couldn’t have said it any better. 

You know, in a way, we are all Gumps. It really is up to each of us what we do next.

…………………………………………………….

photo from article for The Take, by Jeff Saporito

https://www.npr.org/2022/07/11/1110863022/the-violent-legacy-of-the-british-empire

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In the house of the rain

What house are we in?
In the house of the rain.

Yes, here once again,
In the house of the rain.

Here we speak plain
In the house of the rain.

Rest our brain
In the the house of the rain.

Lay to rest our pain
In the house of the rain.

Need not explain
In the house of the rain.

Trust this refrain:
In the house of the rain.

………

In this poem, which reminds me of poems I wrote when it just dawning on me that I was a real poet (age 15, 16), I am inviting readers into my psychic house “of rain”. It reminds me of the poetry of some of my Green Mountain College students (written after a night of stoned partying or weathering an existential crisis) many of whom found or formed their own communities to “see them through”. It is a kind of poetry that is all heart. I am writing in the third person “we” because I am acknowledging that I am not alone but I am in a community of kindred spirits. I am referring to the OpEd virtual community of writers. After writing this ,and realizing that I was influenced by Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain”, it occurred to me that the loyal followers of the Grateful Dead were a kind of family or community of kindred spirits, which encouraged the G Dead to write from the heart, from a vulnerable place, which is evident in the lyrics of this song which has played in my head through the years.

“A Box of Rain” (excerpt):

Look out of any window
Any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
Birds are winging or rain is falling from a heavy sky

What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through?
For this is all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long ago

Walk out of any doorway
Feel your way, feel your way like the day before
Maybe you’ll find direction
Around some corner where it’s been waiting to meet you

What do you want me to do
To watch for you while you’re sleeping?
Then please don’t be surprised
When you find me dreaming too

Look into any eyes you find by you
You can see clear through to another day
Maybe it’s been seen before through other eyes
On other days while going home

What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through?
It’s all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long ago

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Turkeys are my people

I’m heading down to the garden to get some rhubarb stems.
I detect some movement by the garden gate.
There are some people there.
Three adults and six children.
Make that seven.
They have very small heads and disproportionately large bodies.
They are turkeys.
Three females, mothers, sharing child care.
They see me first and begin moving toward the forest.
When I stop they slow down, no longer perceiving me as a threat.
If I rushed them the mothers would fly to the sheltering trees.
The babies would melt into the bushes.
There they would wait for their mothers to fetch them.
I love these people.
They are good people.
Apparently this draught is perfect for dust baths.
They have created two dust jacuzzis.
These are large bowls in my lawn.
They use their wings to create clouds of dust to powder themselves.
These are my kind of people.
They take care of themselves.
They know how to coexist.
They love their children.
They do no harm.
This land is just as much their home as mine.
It makes me happy to see them.
They slow me down.
They make me stop.

……………….

A reader of this poem chimed in that he sides with “old Ben”, that the turkey would make a better national bird. I couldn’t agree more. Like I say, turkey’s are good people and are worthy of emulation. They might squabble now and then (I couldn’t resist using that word), but they know how to blend in and not make waves, whereas eagles would not make good people. (Turkeys are all about the pecking order but they are not territorial whereas eagles generally stake out a square mile.) There is a good reason why those for whom fighting wars is preferable to exploring every other option first, are called hawks. (Footnote: In 1784, in a letter addressed to Sarah, his daughter, Franklin wrote: “For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character.” There you have it.)

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The poppy

There was a red poppy
In a showy garden
On the road through the village on Monhegan
On the left
After you pass the backside 
Of the Island Inn.
(The garden is amazing really
With flowers I haven’t seen anywhere else.)
But this poppy was all by itself
And as I passed, its petals
Were moving intelligibly
In the breeze,
That is, they seemed to be trying to say something.
My tendency when I see something
Unusual, close up or distant,
Is to stop and take it in.
But, if I have my iPhone,
New to me,
Is my inclination to photograph it
Or video it. 
Why? 
For different reasons I suppose.
I fancy myself a good photographer.
You probably do too.
As technology improves
We actually do become better
Photographers, better
Documentarians. 
Maybe it is our way of
Stopping “to smell the roses”.
Getting back to the poppy,
This was not a rose,
But it was the intense red of this flower
That first caught my eye.
Like the little girl’s red coat
In Schindler’s List (1994),
Albeit the red of her coat was muted
I think you catch my drift,
That compared to that poppy
The world, which before
Was colorful enough,
Was now dull.
And here was this reddest of red flowers
Trying to tell me something.
Maybe it was trying to tell me 
To watch Schindler’s List again,
Because, that was what popped
Into my head, 
Where the little girl is walking
All by herself through the mayhem of a pogram
Where the Nazi Storm Troopers
Are routing and rounding up Jews.
She is as if in a different reality
Under the protection of something
Beyond all the evil and chaos
That Schindler is a helpless witness to.
And, in the same vein, there is 
The lady in the red dress on the Matrix (1999).  
Aren’t we all,
Who are reading this,
In a limited sense, Schindlers?
Aren’t we all,
In a limited sense, Neos?
Or maybe it was just telling me to stop!
Which I did,
And maybe I was even about to experience
Some kind of awakening
Just like Schindler did
And Neo did,
But I had my phone in my pocket
So, naturally, I decided to video the poppy,
Which I proceeded to do,
Moving in close.
As I videoed, a loud truck approached.
As the truck passed the sound was jarring.
Instead of staying focused on the flower,
Almost in revenge,
I moved the focus of the lens
To show the truck heading away
Shrouded in dust.
Now all my attention was on
The creative and “meaningful”
Video that I had taken.
The only trouble is,
For some reason
There is no video.
I can’t find it.
It is as if it was never taken.
I had my chance 
But the truth is
I am not Schindler,
Nor am I Neo.
I am just a poet struggling
Like many of us
To awaken from a dark 
And unsustainable dream.

……………

In “The Matrix”, the lady in the red dress is an anomaly planted in the training program to test Neo’s ability to focus on the lesson of his life. Morpheus is teaching Neo how to navigate the Matrix where everyone they are passing on the busy sidewalk is potentially an agent programmed to eliminate him. On one level the poppy is serving the same purpose for me. It is helping me stay lucid on an island that can easily be experienced as a kind of Shangri-la, where the flowers are larger than life and there are artists standing at easels in random spots, interpreting the ubiquitous beauty for posterity. One can easily be lulled into a passive insular euphoria especially if one is there to get away from it all. When I am on Mohegan, I find that what works best for me is to not let myself fall into the, I will call it the “Monhegan program”, where I can easily lose myself, such as if you were vacationing in a place that is famous or infamous for casting exactly that kind of spell (such as Los Vegas or Paris on the Seine), but to stay lucid so that I might tune to the “real” Monhegan, that can only reach me outside of the standard “Monhegan program”. One way I have learned to accomplish this dual-consciousness is to write poetry. Another way is to sit in a remote spot on the wild side of the island to be alone for an hour or two with the sea, but sometimes, in spite of my best efforts, I slip into the program and I require a little help.

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Crow VS the Sea

No sooner had I settled in
At one of my favorite spots
High above the ocean,
Than I noticed a crow
Perched
On the last exposed rock
Bobbing up and down on her spindly legs
Berating the frothy chaos
And tumult
Of the indifferent sea.

This crow was angry!

It was as if there were two soundtracks.
One wind carried her voice to me
While an offshore wind all but muted
The roar of her nemesis, the sea.
It was as if I was privy to the trial
Of Crow versus Sea.

Caw!
Caw!
Caw!

She railed against surge and thunder.
Where she was perched
Was as close as she could be
To annihilation.
I’m telling you, she was perched
Within the very salt-breath
Of the devouring mother!
But still she cried out
In language strangely amplified:

Caw!
Caw!
Caw!

Out of respect
And with increasing awe
I witnessed her challenge,
So small
That, if I withdrew my focus
To gaze upon the setting
Of her moment on the rock,
She all but disappeared
As if snatched away
By an impervious wave.

Then she stopped.
I guess she had said her piece,
And she flew off to the right.

I watched her for as long as I could.

Once she was out of sight
I found myself looking back
At the empty rock
And at the crashing waves.

And then I felt the armor
Of my innocence fall away
As must happen with many a jurist.
For, as I rose,
And got ready to move on,
I felt like a one-man jury
Delivering the verdict —
Guilty on all counts.

Guilty.
Guilty.
Guilty.

…………………….

I don’t feel the need to say too much about the writing of this poem except to state that the poem is an accurate description of something that actually happened. Someone else would have perceived the dramatic relationship between the crow and the sea very differently, but for me, it was archetypal, it was amplified. The lines that encapsulate the spirit of this poem for me are:

I’m telling you, she was perched
Within the very salt-breath
Of the devouring mother!
But still she cried out
In language strangely amplified:

This captures how, just as at a trial in which a “victim” of a crime, in summoning the courage to testify their truth of what happened before a jury, might be transformed right before out eyes into a hero, inspiring us (the jury) to speak our own truth in the face of or within the “salt breath” of annihilation.