Monthly Archives: February 2017

Poet’s notebook: Haiku, “Four elder White men”, followed by a reflection


Four elder White men
by a woodstove in Vermont
with an elephant.

At our men’s discussion group last night we talked about James Baldwin’s message about how we carry our history in us, we are our history and if we don’t know that, and know our history, we don’t know ourselves, and if we don’t know ourselves, it is easy to see how our shadow can run things and get away with it because we simply aren’t paying attention. Well, that isn’t exactly what Baldwin said but it’s close enough.

Four of us, white guys, sitting around the woodstove in a cozy, clean room outside the house. No chance of being surveilled by the NSA. We could have talked about anything we wanted. If we had been white supremicists we could have talked that talk. If we had been terrorists, we could have talked that talk, planned our next terrorist act in total secrecy. But we were just 4 educated middle-aged white guys with knitted brows trying to figure out how to live the rest of our lives in such a way that our descendants would be proud of us.

I just saw the documentary, “I’m not your Negro” narrated by Samuel Jackson in James Baldwins’s words: “People pay for what they do, and, still more for what they allowed themselves to become . . . And they pay for it very simply by the lives they lead. The crucial thing here, is that the sum of these individual abdications menace life all over the world. For, in the generality, as social and moral and political and sexual entities, white Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any color, to be found in the world today.”

So, taking this in, let me say again: There we were, four of us, middle-aged white guys . . . with our history . . . the elephant in the room, and we saw it and it wasn’t pretty.



Poet’s notebook: Open letter to my brother who manages the brilliant site,

Open letter to my brother who manages

If nothing else, I am intuitive, so read between the lines here. I think I’m saying something important!

We need, that is, people need, to be empowered by people like you who know what’s happening behind the scenes. I’m not saying not to write articles that expose all the worms and raise the red flags,  but, in case you haven’t noticed, people are on over-whelm these days but they are also primed for real action and reform, even revolution.

In the sixties, there was just as much shit happening, maybe not with climate, but on most other fronts, but there was a message of coming together. People were having real visions! It was really similar to the days when Rome was imploding, and out of that came the message that love was the answer. Sound familiar? It’s so simple. What was happening in the early centuries AD and what was happening in the 60s was about the birth of love and compassion after the ethos of power and greed had had its day. Only now it’s not just a generational thing, and it’s certainly not just a Christian thing, it’s ubiquitous!

As a poet, I have to sort this out and wrestle with which messages I am serving.

We are witnessing the end of history. . .maybe. We are witnessing the rebirth of the human spirit. . .maybe. Different realities are true. Many realities are simultaneously true. That is what shamanism teaches. So we have to decide which ones we serve. Which basket to place our eggs in. Some realities will dry up and some will flourish, and the point to remember is, we really don’t know what is going to happen, but most likely, the vision we serve is going to happen.

Going back to the 60s, there were just as many good trips as bad, and those who weren’t having visions were picking up on a shift in the collective vision through the music and literature (i.e., the Don Juan books for example, the Beatles)  that was mainlining the psychic shift toward a new Welltanschauung. I feel that you are somewhat wasting your talents by stoking the wrong fire.

Of course things are going to hell in a hand-basket, but there is also some really amazing stuff happening and we need that kind of coverage. How can I say this? I don’t mean to sugar coat. I mean, there really is a groundswell of hope and change happening like the proverbial sprout breaking through the sidewalk. The up-coming generations need our support of that fresh powerful vision so they can clean up the train wreck after we’re  our of the picture.     Lo entrendes?

Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “True story about a one-legged duck, a parable” and comments

True story about a one-legged duck, a parable

I was walking down the bike path
between Poultney and Castleton on a hot summer day.
It used to be a railroad track,
passing through fields, forest and bog.

There behind an old derelict farm,
right up against the raised path,
was an old beaver pond.
And in the middle of the pond

There was a small island
that used to be the beaver lodge.
And on the island
stood a white, one-legged duck.

I stopped and looked at the duck, which held my gaze,
it was so beautiful!
I wished it a good day.

I stopped again on the way back to my car.
It hadn’t moved perceptibly.

Next week, I took the same walk.
The duck was still there,
but the island was larger
and the pond was much smaller.

I could see where the dam,
or what was left of it,
was no longer doing its job.
Everything was drying up. Continue reading

You are invited, a poem, followed by reflection

You are invited

You are invited
to a high mountain wedding
at the bend in the river
where the air is as thin
as the weave
of a dream

You are invited
to where glacial melt
out of the mountain’s shadow,
and quickens
before it leaps into space.
The minister is an old shaman

whose eyes reflect the mountains
that protect his soul
from the likes of you.
And yet,
you are invited!
So, you follow the river all the way up

through the hills
and gorges,
against the current, against gravity
to this high place of gathering.
You deserve a rest!
You are weary,

weary to the bone.
All your ideas are weary.
Your dreams
are that flock of birds
chattering in the sycamores
with all the flight gone from their wings

as if it is the end of the longest day,
but in truth it is early!
Rest and watch these ancient families arrive
on invisible paths.
The bride’s dress,

is flapping in the breeze
against white peaks.
You, one seven-billionth
of the human race,
are invited
to witness this union.

You, whose people have picked clean
the fruiting branch,
sanctioned the undoing of nature,
and have not yet even learned to be sorry,
who brought nothing to share,

will have to eat
whatever others bring.
You will watch them dance the eagle
at the wedding party.
You will watch them dance the mountain!
How strange for you.

But first you will
drink way too much,
so you won’t
remember when,
dancing, you
stepped barefoot
in the aching river,

where you lost your footing and fell.
But surely you will remember
how the river embraced you!
And you will also remember
when you were rescued
to resounding laugher.

And you will also remember
that while you were
under the water,
you heard the heart-beat of the river
because it filled your heart with joy.
You are invited to remember!

The bride could be your daughter!
Her white dress
is the clouds on the mountain
her dress is the dogwood blossoms
by the waterfall that are
almost too bright for your eyes.

You aren’t Dante in Paradise
dazzled by the glory of heaven,
but, like Dante,
you made it through Purgatory
and need no longer be blind-sided
by the bitter world.

You are invited.
to fully open your eyes now,
to become the plaything of time
to source life,
to journey at will
and never lose your way.

After a good night’s sleep
you will help
recover the instructions
that will enable your people to continue —
your people of the shrinking islands,
your people of the stinking cities

and the sinking shores,
your mountain and valley people,
your desert people and city people
your sick and hungry people
cherished by the brightest stars,
people of the straight river

and the drought-stricken plain . . .
people of the warring lands,
the poor lands and the sad lands,
the bitter lands.
Isn’t this air sweet?
Remember this high place.

And when you return to the valley,
tell the old woman
to free the horses.
Tell the old man to patch the tent.
You are invited.
The mountains invited you.

The water and the smoke
invited you.
The wind invited you.
See that old man
who just showed up?
The one who is making people laugh with his antics,

the one who is teasing the bride
and now he is taking the groom aside
with his hand on his shoulder?
Of course you do!
He is the shaman.
He invited you.

Poet’s Notebook: Two Onion and Woo poems, the second telling the origin of Woo

Onion and Woo don’t go riding

Let’s go horseback riding,
said Woo, looking lazily out at the stables
where an orange mare and a dusty roan
hung their heads over the gate.

Onion was just pouring a second cup of coffee
and turned to Woo surprised?
You, Woo, want to go riding?!
Yes Onion, don’t be such a snob.
I’m the one who took those horses in
and I’m the one who keeps them fed and watered.
Why wouldn’t I want to ride them sooner or later?

Onion rolled her eyes and then widened them.
She looked at Woo very seriously, frowning slightly.
Do we even own a saddle or a stirrup or a lead
or a bridle? Or a bit? Or a lasso? Or a snakebite kit
or a saddle bag? Or a spur, or chaps? Or cool looking cowboy hats?
Or a lazy, sunset-on-the-trail soundtrack?

Woo said, Now you’ve done it. The horses are gone!

Onion: They just went around the back of the barn!
Let’s go fishing! said Woo.
It is a beautiful day for that.

Onion said, Do we even have fishing poles?
Shhh, said Woo. We can scoop them up with our hands!

Onion smiled as she sipped her coffee,
while Woo imagined all the fish they would catch:
Trout, bass, sunfish, perch,
goldfish, angelfish, clownfish,
silverfish, anglers and moonfish, beamers and salmon,
sardines, catfish, dogfish and flying fish,
all vanishing into the bucket with every scoop
of their hands, and all of them smiling,
some even winking.
All we need is a bucket! Woo shouted.
I’m way ahead of you, Onion said,
holding up a shiny new galvanized bucket.

Why Woo

When Woo was born
he was not what anyone expected.
His eyes were wide open

And he was smiling.

The window sash was open
and the wind was whistling through
and it made a sound like “wooo”.

When the midwife transferred Woo
to his mother’s arms
she said, “my little Woo”.

This is make-believe.
But every time I write a Woo and Onion poem
I try to see him.

He is neither one thing nor another.
But he is perfect.

He is onion’s best friend.
Sometimes he is Onion’s partner.
Sometimes he is male, sometimes female.

But he is always perfect,
like an old braided rug,
or a sweet fallen apple
or a virtuoso kazoo solo.

Or like a Grimm’s fairly tale,
or a bird rhapsodizing all by itself in the woods.

He’s someone I might overlook
when I plan a jam
because he might start randomly banging on a pot.

He’s someone I wouldn’t trust to housesit
because he might let wild animals
into the kitchen for a potluck.

He isn’t animal or vegetable.
He is different.
Just different.

And his father is the wind.
That says a lot.

That’s everything I know about him.

And I respect his autonomy
but there is the distinct possibility
that some day
he might just blow away.

Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “Earth” followed by a comment


The fish bowl
is a pretty sight
on the dresser
by the window.

The fish
so pretty,
silver and orange,
red and black,

rainbow flashes.
The little ones
in groups,
dodging and regrouping.

The larger ones,
like a mobile
in space.

Little ceramic castle
with its drawbridge.

Murmur of the filter.
So pretty.
So peaceful.
So doomed.


Comments: This is pretty straightforward. It’s not the sort of poem I would like to be writing but the writing well has been dry and I’ll take what I get. I am almost embarrassed to be writing a poem that ends with the word “doomed”. See, I have been working with some students lately who have their heads screwed on right. They attend a local green college that weaves ecological values into its curriculum and it is these students who will lead us out of the disaster my generation and my parent’s generation have created – that fish bowl-Earth living on life support. I have been teaching these students how to build a sweat lodge and how to use it. They are diligent, eager, sensitive and respectful. Last night the weather turned mild, the wind subsided and we prayed in the lodge we built. Then we sat around the table, talking and laughing and enjoying squash soup and each other’s company . . . A needed respite from feeling doomed. When I was nineteen I wrote the following poem in my journal, in a dingy Gast Haus in Austria. A pretty poem I would like to write /and not be criticized for rhyming “kite” with “night”, / but you see, my mind is much too bold / for picking flowers and spinning straw to gold. / A message I just saw, scratched on a bathroom wall said, / If you want me for anything, down the toilet call. / So as I write this poem and drink my bitter beer, / and pay my bill against my will / before I disappear, / I’ll ask you if you are well / and how you drink your tea. / If it is with sugar and cream, I do not write for thee. That poem is not for these students. It is for the fish-people suspended in the doomed fish-bowl.