A Day with Ella – #822


A Day with Ella – #822

It was a perfect day.
It started with mother waking us both far too early,
and on such a damp chilly morning,
a holiday for us, mother rushed off to work.
As always,
you had to have your way,
so we were in the park while the ducks were still sleeping,
one leg up and bills tucked in back under a wing,
the pond glassy still,
white tufts of down spread over its waxy surface.
The swings were coated in dew
and I used all but one of my pocketed paper napkins
to wipe one dry for you,
and after a minute you were all done.
Swinging through the quiet chill of heavy morning air,
just you and I alone in the entire park –
besides the sleeping ducks –
is not much fun as it was on Saturday,
a balmy sunny day with children laughing and playing everywhere.
You reached for a high bar to swing out on
but the dew-coated metal slipped right through your hand
and you landed on your back in wet sand –
shocked, hurt, angry.
I had to hold you in my arm,
brushing off the sand
as your cry filled the empty quiet over the pond.
I held you that way a long time,
through the park, around the town,
and later back at home.
We spent the whole day together,
never more than an arm’s length apart.
We washed a little,
sampled the aromas of all the herbs and spices –
some things must spill, it’s not important –
and we made a tent,
a big one with three chairs and a quilt,
then we went inside and turned on our flashlights.
It was very funny being in that tent,
quiet too, you hardly heard the rain pattering on the roof.
In the end, you fell asleep on my chest,
while I slumped on the couch,
listening to Mozart piano music
and motets by Thomas Tallis.
As Spem in alium floated into the corners of the room
and your warm heaviness sank into my heart,
misty rain filled the forest on our mountain
and I began to reclaim some of the oceans of sleep that I’ve lost
these last two or so years.
I know it was a perfect day.

21 January 2002


Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living


Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living

“They make a wasteland, and call it peace.”
— Cornelius Tacitus

“Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice will not
sleep forever.”
— Thomas Jefferson

Noam Chomsky,
Christopher Hitchens,
Robert Bly,
Thich Nhat Hanh.

From the exact to the sublime,
the timely to the timeless,
the perceptive to the transcendent,
my mind begins to awaken to the magnitude of the crime,
my mind begins to open to my complicity in the evil —

The Black Wall in Washington
is not a monument to dead soldiers,
it is a continuous dirge to a nation’s lost honor,
an innocence lost over and over again,
a loss of soul.
Nothing can ever be right until we expiate that crime,
a crime that continues
by the willful ignorance, the convenient unknowing
of we who enjoy the bounty of this American life.

Oh, dear God, don’t call us to accounts for a thousand years!
for it would take at least that long — even if we tried —
to compensate for the enormity we have created;
and yet,
how sad to think our gods could be so cold,
our universe could be so empty and soulless,
that retribution for such evil could not possibly arrive —
even tomorrow.
What other comfort can the peasantry of the world have
as they shiver under the lengthening shadow
of our remorseless empire?

Monsoon-soaked ground bubbles up mines like a deranged apocalypse —
playthings for children —
and rivulets of poison trickle out of air-dropped wastelands
to seep into the veins of a new generation
and wither its fruit in the womb;
and here, in Jefferson’s land of the “ignorant and free,
in a state of civilization” that “never was and never will be,”
reflection on a withering career bubbles up memories,
fresh, gnawing, immune to time’s erosion,
buoyant against convenient forgetting,
stinging in their rebuke against my compliance to the course of evil.
Yes, even us little nobodies are faced with moral challenges,
inconveniently, unfairly, when we are young, when we are fragile.
We survive, we connive, we comply,
we feed our children and make our way,
but dare not hold out a cupped hand of water
to Jesus on his way to Golgotha.
My God, think what it would do to your career —
our future.
So we let others stretch out their hands
and we survive, quietly, into this future —
are we proud of it?
what great truth and what measure of courage
do you pass onto your children setting off on their own?
“Do you remember the Vietnam War, dad?”

We tell our children nothing about this,
we lie, we deny,
we glorify garbage myths for commercial exploitation,
we honor our greatest living war criminals
with prizes, bank presidencies, book contracts, speaking fees,
and we honor our greatest dead war criminals
by naming airports for them, by entombing them in televised temples.

Yes, I remember the Vietnam War.
I was not brave,
I did not challenge evil,
I looked out for myself,
and I am here.
All I can offer you is the truth,
and hope in that to find some redemption for my moral weakness,
and some grace in awakening you to greater good,
to deeper meaning,
to honest judgment that unfolds in your actions.

I want to cleanse my children’s country,
I want to cleanse my soul — in this world;
let the trials begin.

25 June 2001


An Expired Doctorate


An Expired Doctorate

Riding down the hillside along this lovely tree-lined street,
early evening liquid sun
oozing through the dancing cracks in the mosaic vista of the distant bay,
a luminous weave darting through a trembling fabric of leafy green
masking the immense face of the ripened sky behind its rippling veil,
and filling sight,
as susurrus of rushing air fill sound,
and reflections of lost promise fill mind.

How marvelous to be alive, to be aware, to feel the light,
to ride my breath through this eternal now.
How fortunate to have such balm to soothe the sting of failure.
Not a major failure to be sure,
only that of work and ego to achieve any useful end or recognition,
to see the raw promise of youthful ambition,
distilled by fine education to a potent extract,
now become a weak vinegar – sour and watered –
and a passionate vocation reduced to hireling occupation,
the reductionism of mind to mere calculator.

So I find myself
engrossed in the minutiae of a superfluous part
in an unnecessary weapon
within the excessive arsenal
of an insensate empire.
While I speak this poem – or you read it –
about fifty children in our world
will die from easily preventable disease,
and one hundred women will die or suffer disability
in pregnancy or childbirth
for lack of simple remedies and care.
To overcome such tragedy only requires
one quarter of the military costs of the third world,
or ten percent that of the United States.

so few less bullets, so much more life.
I look into my little daughter’s eyes
and think of those mothers and those fathers suffering such loss.
I look into my little daughter’s joyful dancing eyes
and draw purpose in each day of pointless employment,
as a trivial cog in the sprawling machinery of blind empire,
a Cyclops gone mad with lack of vision,
ravening the world with unquenching power.

I work among a swarm of aphid zombies,
each focused on his own proboscis
oblivious by intent, trained through rigorous education,
to even the agony of one beside being chewed alive
in mandibles of political expediency
by preying mantises invoking greater imperial glories,
the whole an infestation withering the vine of life.
I marvel at such voluntary unanimity in the degradation of human soul,
at such profound denaturing of awareness,
at such complete filtration of compassion from human hearts –
are they even still human?
Can it be true that so many accede to such enslavement?,
emptying themselves of their spiritual birthright
solely to tremble in fear as hollow vessels of mindless desiring
for things metered out by owners of a vampire economy?
Those quick of mind, well educated, articulate,
mouth such perfidy and platitudes to curry favor, to move up-class –
parasites in a parasite empire –
with no moral anchor
to drag along the course of their ambition.
How well did Yeats write:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Could I somehow liberate myself
to do some greater good – however minor –
yet still support my family?
How many others feel like me?,
engaged in our pangs of conscience
being rich enough to support such luxury,
and too weak to live on principle alone.
How much simpler the logic of life without such impediment,
yet what an opulence of poverty.

One in ten, surely not that many,
one bullet out of ten,
one French fry out of ten in a soldier’s mess,
one warplane out of ten,
one general out of ten.
Surely we would never notice,
surely we could train that marvelous capacity for unseeing
to shield consciousness from any perception
of such a trifling reduction of opulence.
Yet, wouldn’t even these willfully unseeing
feel the smile of grace for a transformed world
from the face of every child?

To open your mind and heart to this world is to go insane –
certainly if alone –
to survive one needs refuge in community.
Like a Christian in the Roman legions nineteen centuries ago,
I, too, will rejoice with the fall of empire.
How can I not pray for revolution,
even knowing how fearful a thing that can be?
My demeanor is resigned, my soul is in rebellion.

3 May 2001


The Family Wheel


The Family Wheel

The family is like a wheel: the mother is the hub, the center around which the family revolves, and she is the anchor point for each member, who are the spokes.

Any spoke on its own is like a stick in the road, unable to move and at the whim of whoever passes by to either be picked up and carried along, or kicked aside into the ditch with other discards, or simply ignored to be trampled and to weather, weaken and splinter, eventually being scattered by the wind to disappear unnoticed.

The mother hub is the center into which each spoke is anchored by mother love, giving the entire wheel its strength by opposing and complimenting each others direction of force. And so the wheel can turn and the family progress spoke-by-spoke.

The movement of such a wheel will be bumpy, and its integrity lost if any one spoke fails when the entire weight of the family rests upon it. Preventing this is what the father does. He is the rim of the wheel, absorbing the bumps in the road and dissipating the shocks of the journey into a gentler pressure transferred uniformly around the entire wheel, to smooth the travel and preserve the integrity of the wheel.

Of course, a family is an organism, a living wheel, not an inert assembly like the wheel of an oxcart. So, in time the child spokes will mature and need to go out into the world to become the hubs or rims of their own families. Also, the aged spokes of the family wheel will come to the ends of their lives, fade away, and only remain anchored to their descendant hubs and rims as memories. Eventually the family wheel will be spoke-less, with the father rim freely orbiting the mother hub – revolving in her own thoughts – as the boundary between the external world and the inner space of family memory.

It may even be that a spoke-less family wheel floats apart, as the old mother hub and father rim each drift away into their own personal oblivions. Another wheel of life, its journey ended but its legacy continuing as a new generation of family wheels. Organisms of temporary existence carrying forward and then passing on the weight of the enduring urge for life.


America United, A New National Anthem

America United

O beautiful for spacious skies
And amber waves of grain,
With purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
United people we,
In brotherhood
With worldwide good,
Our solidarity!

O beautiful for glorious tale
Of liberating strife,
When valiantly for love’s avail
Some gave up precious life!
America! America!
United people we
Till selfish gain
no longer stain
The banner of the free!





Hallelujah Armageddon


Lumpers versus Splitters:
Incoherent hopes for socialism excluded
by relentless sociopaths driven to punish.

A shrinking island of increasing opulence,
to a surrounding ocean of deepening ruin.

U.S. foreign policy is imperialism,
its economic policy is militarism,
its domestic policy is colonialism, and
its management policy is patronism.

American politics is how Money talks to itself.

The glory of American Capitalism:
There is nothing we can’t ignore today
and commercialize tomorrow.
“Nuclear Climate Change War:
How We Became Extinct.”
The greatest TV Series of all time:
Beautiful people unlike you
doing things you can’t afford to,
having thrills you’ll never know,
and getting rewards you’ll never see.
You’ll love it!
And forget your dreary lives for hours!
And buy the crap the commercials push
to keep your illusions alive
of connection to the fantasy.
We want your money, not you:
die broke, and thank you!

American Capitalism is too important
to let human survival get in its way.

The job of American police
is to enforce the race laws.
These are clearly understood
but not written down
to protect the egos of the privileged.
The crimes of all those arrested
are the same: existing.
The punishments vary:
incarcerated torture,
The application of punishments is random.
The American Judiciary is paid to
protect the owners from the dispossessed.
The purpose of the High Courts is
to protect Capital from Democracy.
The purpose of the Low Courts is
to protect Property from The Poor.
Justice is incidental.
Am I being unfair?
Get arrested, then tell me.

Okay, now go pay your taxes —
for their government.





I drank from a hidden fountain:
everything stopped,
sound froze,
cracked, fell to the ground as powder;
light melted,
dripped, clung to the skin like sweat,
sank in.
I breathed in cold darkness
and exhaled puffs of light,
my eyes illuminated everything,
my vision bore through steel,
rocks, smoke;
mirrors evaporated.
I closed my eyes
and saw a brilliant azure sea
caressing a band of dazzling white
stretching away past the edges of sight,
fringing the toes of flower strewn dunes;
the air alive, vibrant, yet light as grace,
and all in a shower of warmth
under the luminous dome of sky.
My eyes opened,
I saw my other cell mates,
“We can get out,” I said,
“You must leave,” they replied,
“Come, let me show you,”
I said, leading them to the great iron door,
it was unlocked, as always.
I opened it, walked out,
calling for them to follow, saying
“We are always free.”

They closed the door behind me,
pushing hard to keep it sealed,
“Go, do not come back, do not speak,”
they screamed without speaking,
“Wolves will eat your flesh,
your bones will lie in the open,”
they cried in fearful anger
and returned to their cells.
I can see them,
each staring at the texture of the bricks
in the walls of their cells,
pining for freedom,
clinging to the certainty of parallel isolation.
And I am cast out, left to die,
wandering the dunes, eating wild strawberries,
watching the flight of birds,
the unfolding of clouds,
listening to the hymn of wind across sand,
the fall of water into the embrace of surf,
sheets of water wiping the face of the beach,
the hissing kiss of foam on wet sand.
Mountains have grown and been ground flat,
washed into the sea –
and still, I am here.

17 April 2002