The circle of what?

Circle up.
Hold hands.
Look around.

Look across.
Look at your feet.
Look at all the shoes.

Shoes with feet in them.
We make a good circle.
Circle of people.

Is life a circle?
Where is the circle of life?
Is there a bigger circle?

Why can’t I see it?
Is the Koala in it?
Is the house spider in it?

What about that tiger?
A tiger is walking 1,300 km.
It left its home in a sanctuary.

It weaved back and forth.
It is being tracked.
It is wearing a radio collar.

It’s just two years old.
Nobody knows why it is walking.
Will it find the circle?

What’s wrong with our circle?
What’s wrong with just people?
Isn’t people good enough?

Is this a circle of commiseration?
Prayer?
Community?

Friendship?
Faith?
Hope?

I left that circle.
I left the sanctuary.
1000 km, weaving, searching.
…………………
Photo credit: Tiger
by Enygmatic-Halycon
Attribution-ShareAlike License

In the Birdseye Diner

Songs from the 50s playing softly.
Lights in the diner warming
As the natural light outside
Darkens toward 4:30.

All 19 shiny stools are empty.
A couple at a booth
At the far end of the dining area
Are getting up to pay their bill.

The white-haired bearded man
Stands by the exit
Bobbing to the music
While his wife pays.

I can hear the cook in the back
Talking to the help.
I just paid my Medicare premium
More or less on time.

Chunk of money.
After my coffee
I am heading for the gym
In the next town

For an hour workout
On the machines,
Trying to maintain
The strength I still have.

It’s a losing proposition;
Age forgives no debt.
I am wearing an old leather
Flight jacket with a

Mother’s prayer embroidered
Into the lining of the back.
It’s very sweet, with roses
Twining around a banner

Highlighting “MOTHER”.
The blessing begins, “There’s
A dear little House inviting,
In a dear little Place I know,

And a welcome
Is always waiting
When to that little house
I go.” I have been thinking

Of my own mother lately.
She raised me in the 50s
When these songs were current
And she was still

Doing the jitterbug.
She taught me to honor
All life. Raised me
Not to kill a fly.

Left me with a lot of questions.
She also inadvertently
Taught me to love coffee.
She would cut my toast

Into strips called “soldiers”
Which I would dunk
In my father’s cup. I
Loved the bitter taste.

It’s dark out now.
The general store and gas station
Are all lit up.
Time to leave. This poem

Is going nowhere.
But I think
I’ll just keep it as it is
Suspended in the Birdseye.
………………
photo credit: jsalita at https://www.flickr.com/people/32994732@N07/

What’s so funny?

The world is not funny
but then again

Years ago my mechanics
were two brothers

Their garage was
a mile down Swamp Road

One day (I was driving a loaner)
I showed up

To see what was taking
them so long Just

As I was pulling in
here was the scene:

The brothers were sitting outside
the back bay on milk crates

My car was butt-up
to the garage

The rear axel, resting
on two upright cinderblocks

A truck was backing
up to the bay

And knocked my car
off the cinder blocks

The brothers were just beginning
to laugh at this

But when they saw me
they doubled up

My sense was, this was what
they lived for

Is this what is meant
by a Zen moment?

If so, my satori was delayed
about 25 years

For 25 years I have
replayed this sequence

Like a viral Youtube
unable to see the humor

Then yesterday
I was on the way to work

And it hit me
I laughed all the way

Through 3 intersections
harder and harder

First I laughed at
the truck driver’s error

Then I laughed at
the awkwardness of my timing

And then I laughed
with the brothers

As if I was sitting with them
taking a break

Like two Sligo shop keepers
I once saw (from the back)

Sitting at their shop entrance
on a pile of sacks

Looking out at the world
to all appearances

Caught up in Satori
not expecting or needing

Anything remarkable
to happen

But ready to laugh
because you never know

Shopping for a violin

They said he sold violins
Out of an old house
On that old stretch of Main
Before you get to the light.

234 Main, on the left
They said. They thought
He might still be there
But maybe not. It’s been a while.

No sign. I mean, no sign
Of anything. The place
Looked abandoned.
Porch railing rotting

Covered with vines.
We parked around back.
Knock on the back door.
Peering past the dirty curtain.

Inside, movement.
Like a shadow.
Struggling with the doorknob.
The door opens. He’s

Just as they described him
Only smaller
And older.
Thick glasses, hair

That looks dusted.
A wig? He mutters something
Turns and we follow.
In the hall, there they are.

All lined up on the floor
In their original cases
Tattered and sad
With a cable running

Through the handles.
Like a chain gang
I remember thinking.
Chained to him

For better or worse.
I wanted to release them,
Shower him with money
Like Bill Gates and call it a day.

But the fact was
We don’t have much money
I heard myself say
And felt shitty.

How much are you thinking?
Oh, about $70-$80.
He went to the middle of the gang
And pointed. Try that one.

He pulled the cable out.
Inside the case
Was a sleeping beauty.
Lying in a bed of worn green velvet.

I wanted to ask,
How do I wake her?
But he had returned to his desk
With the little metal cash box

That he opened
With a miniature key.
As we left with the violin
I felt like an intruder.

I knew he would be gone
If not when I turned around
Then tomorrow or the next day.
He didn’t belong,

Even more than I
Could ever not-belong.
And I wondered how he made it
So far into this world

Like an escapee
From a Stephen King book.
I almost asked him
If he played but

I knew what he answered
Would just haunt me.
How many times
Can you say good-bye?

……………………………

Painting: Still Life with Violin by William Harnett (1848-1892)

I / we versus the idiots

It’s not your world,
so stop complaining, you.

Sometimes, yes,
I call myself “you”.
affectionately.

You,
Stop!

(Nobody but me
has the authority
to stop my complaining.)

Other times I
refer to myself as “we”,
as in,
It’s not our world.

(We’re so tired
of having to explain ourselves!
)

I don’t know what is normal
anymore. Or useful
or an effective way
of getting across to myself.

Right now what I am working on
is censoring old songs
that I (or we)
are forever singing
to myselves.

These songs date back
to a time when I was little
and my mother was always
humming or whistling or singing
them and many others
that I have forgotten.

When she had Alzheimer’s
I would drive her around
the countryside she loved
singing all these songs
back to her.
She joined in.

But now that she is gone
these songs don’t speak to me;
they just are.

They sing
themselves back to me!

I might be stacking wood
and I snap,
Shut up!
as if to a teenager
with radio blaring.

And another thing
I, we
are working on
is trying not to be so disappointed
with the human race.

Today I emailed my brother:
Lately I feel like
I am surrounded by idiots.

He, wisely, did not respond.
Why would he?
If it’s true,
he can’t do anything to help me.
And if it isn’t true,
he would just assume
that I am having a bad day,

Which I am.

But even when I am not
having a bad day
I’m still surrounded by idiots!

But today I realized something
that startled me.
Some of the idiots surrounding me
are much smarter than me.
Allow me to explain:
They, for the most part,
do not read or think that much.
Or what they read and think about
doesn’t seem to
make them any smarter.
And yet they are
much more resilient than I,
and, by all indications,
happier.
And here is the clincher –
These idiots are much better adapted
to the same depressing world
that drives me crazy!

So, they are either much smarter than me
or they have discovered
something better than intelligence.
They have found a way to carry on
(albeit, as idiots)
without worrying about
the existential ax
hanging over our heads.

So, where does that leave you?
I ask us (me, myself, I
and my soul,
and the many others who hang out
with plural me.)

We don’t know.

If you don’t know,
I don’t know,
and we will just have to wait.

Just trust that some day
all will be revealed to us,

you assure me.

Your assurance brings us together,
makes me one.

Sometimes we all agree,
but hardly ever
and never
on how to end a poem.

Open letter to friends and readers:

The poems I have been writing lately are medicine poems for me as well as, hopefully, some of my readers. This is a difficult time of year leading up to the Winter Solstice. Every year my wife and I celebrate Samhain (pronounced Saw-en), the Celtic New Year, on October 31. We typically send out invitations to our Samhain ritual-celebration, but this this year we were not feeling very outgoing and were leaning toward skipping the ritual when a young couple, friends of ours, asked if we were offering the ritual this Fall. They participated in the one before last with their, then one and a half year old daughter, who lit the fire! I will never forget the look on her luminous face as the fire caught and began to climb through the compact teepee of sticks and branches. It was an expression of pure wonder.

During this celebration / ritual we honor the darkness and we honor the ancestral spirits. I won’t describe the ceremony here, but the last thing we do is light a candle from the fire. With that candle, we light a house-candle that has been set up in the west-facing window to guide new (benevolent domestic) spirits to the house to help us through the new year, which begins as if a tiny seed is planted in the deep night of Samhain. (The window is opened slightly to allow the spirit to enter the house whenever it arrives.)

It is normal to focus on our private most intimate spaces after Samhain. That darkest of transits that we are all in the middle of right now, is essentially a dark-night-of-the-soul, when we venture within, as deep as we can, to ponder what we are here for, or even who we are under the stars and the moon. All the crops have been harvested and it is time to concentrate on the wee seed of our essential selves that we consign to the nurturing dark. After Samhain there is a stretch of almost 2 months, until the Winter Solstice, when something cosmic transpires. The light returns! Our deepest hopes and dreams along with the quintessential soul of the new year, are touched by the returning light of the sun.

On the night of the Solstice (December 21), to the extent that we are receptive to these kinds of events, we could be sitting in the womb of the great mound at Newgrange, which was conceived and built 5,000 years ago, to guide the first rays of the rising Solstice sun into the (18-foot high) bee-hive chamber at the heart of the mound, where our Neolithic predecessors who (far wiser than we), were waiting in powerful ritual space to receive the light.

Every year we are granted this opportunity to participate in this cycle of cosmic renewal. As citizens of a troubled Western industrial Super Power, with little or no exposure to the profound annual initiation that I just described, many of us struggle through the dark underworldly-ethos of this time of year with no clue as to how we might watch for and anticipate the subtle, timely benefits of pulling in, conserving our energy, cherishing the tiny seed of renewed dreams and possibilities, aligning ourselves with the proven wisdom of the ancestors while girding ourselves for this unavoidable journey through darkness.

Me? I hold that close-up image of that little girl’s face when she was surprised by the fire that she lit (with our helping hand) on Samhain night a little over 2 years ago. It is her look of surprised wonder that guides me now. May it guide all of us!

Dream strong dreams. Journey well.

Shadow

I’m a veteran
Of WW3

I’ve got the scars and the stories
To prove it

And I’m signing up
For another tour

That is to say
My soul signs me up

Even though I haven’t
Recovered from the last

I limp I have night sweats
I wake up gasping for air

I bought myself a cane
With the head of a dragon

Years ago like
Taking out an insurance policy

I use it when I want respect
If someone lets the door close

Because they didn’t see me behind them
I can use it as a wedge

Against closure on my
Next entrance or exit

I’m what an elder looks like
I’m covered with language

Anti-war slogans
Old tattoos of extinct animals

Don’t get me started
Don’t push me

Don’t mess with me
If you don’t want to be judged

Don’t invite me to the party
And if you do invite me

Don’t pretend we’re old friends
I’m your shadow

I’ll tell the truth about what we did
To the planet in the name of progress

And science, race, democracy
Religion, commerce

Higher education
Law and order the free market

The free world
The expanding universe

I’m a jay-walker
A bullshit stalker

I’ll cut across your logic
I’ll squat on your private property

I won’t ask for your opinion
I can see what you think

It’s in what you just said
And what you’re going to say

It’s written all over the world
And by the way

If there is a WW4 it’ll be
Against our legacy