poems by Joneve McCormick ©
Like rain dropping into the sea
like mist evaporating
when boundaries disappear
I grow larger and larger
The shape-shifter that sets me free
unveils what I hold too tightly,
lives behind my masks and in them,
in stones too, and mere words
Faithful as a rising sun
love appears dressed in light
to unite with me, to create new life,
when I am willing.
Metaphors in motion
Some say we create our worlds
from memories made long ago
like the story of a clam and its surf
on a wild and pristine beach
becoming bony jaws and frothy milk,
irritations overcome turning into pearly teeth,
on to a mercedes with a roaring motor
we’ve quieted down, opening its hood …
and catch ourselves in our dramas.
Who are you?
You, behind dark and light forms here and there,
Behind mirrors and doors,
Behind thoughts and their frames,
Behind angels and demons,
Behind my desires and fears …
Who are you
Who teaches that the less space there is between us
The higher I can fly on my own wings?
In the leaves
I flicker across trunks
weave ribbons of light
slither up bark
swing branch to branch
flatten and fade
nothing and everything.
Back to the sea
I want to go back to the sea
where light and dark are one,
where I’m free.
Back to sea waits and wiggles
where the will to be
(not greed) trumps right and wrong.
I would be a tiny fish, live one marvelous moment
or a big one, snapping up the little.
The sea sings, ‘the one who doesn’t know me is an orphan.’
I will go to the deepest place,
listen. and find my wings
where they form.
Winged dinosaur, master fisher
I dream you are an ancestor
living deep within and near as well.
You ride rolling waves with your mate
then circle high overhead —
dive spear first, break water
and scoop up another wide-eyed morsel
in the hungry sea where I toss.
Self Image Is Destiny
There was a little girl
with shining curls,
one in the middle
of her forehead;
daily she was told
they were beautiful;
they grew thicker, shinier
like the coat of a young alpha wolf.
As the girl grew older
she began to hear she’d caused
the hair of her friends
to be thin and limp
because she was claiming
the most care and attention
and she caved in, shrank from view;
her hair dulled, turned limp, fell out.
Then the hair of her friends
didn’t look so bad.
(It’s lonely at the top.)
Reflections (after Rumi)
A cloud passes unseen
you see the shadow it casts
Pulled from your source
you long to go back
Desire makes your heart skip a beat
in the lock of your fear a key turns
In time all images are spent
like gold plucked from a sleeve
You deem yourself a donkey’s slave
yet ride a magical horse
While you sleep in darkness
something within you shines
While your body fades to dust
you hop from roof to star
Your body is but a shadow
of a shadow of your love
A Reflection (after Rumi)
How does softness leave a petal,
or hardness a stone?
But the parts, when lost bless,
bring you to all there is,
the Friend you seek beyond them.
Killing the Christ within
(written after reading comments by Benny Morris on ethnic cleansing)
Ethnic cleansing is sometimes justified
he tells the crowd
which claps and shouts
roars and cheers, believing
what goes around
doesn’t come around
when you’re armed to the teeth
St. Peter isn’t there this time,
just an old man
sucking on an empty pipe.
A cock crows and keels over.
He sees the cock drop
and tells the crowd he’s had a sign
– it’s up to them, the chosen,
to kill the Christ left within
– their Beast is set to rise
to scorch the land again
and they’re to follow,
pitiless as a desert sun.
(a suicide bomber foresees her death)
dynamite strapped across her chest
dark hair covered, soft brown eyes,
she steps over raw sewage
cement rocks and broken toys
across fields and into a shop
busy with affluent citizens
her veiled purpose to blow apart
those who drove her family
from their land and lives
who degrade without a rest,
stealing mind and body
like vampires feasting
the world watching,
she will not be broken
or pretend to acquiesce to slavery
she will light a fire of hope
with the orange cord held to her heart,
a martyr opening gates to heaven
(short poems and sayings)
It’s said, ‘You have to kiss a lot of frogs,’
wet ones, eyes bulging.
Many do, yet never find a prince;
find grinning frogs in their mirrors instead.
A green fish, nearly too old to breathe, rests
under October’s thin ice. Early snowflakes
melt above him. Soon fish and flakes will
leave the viewer, who says he owns them.
Some have said that Sound and Picture
are more fundamental than the Word, better
vessels for magic, superior tools for the artist;
but, like fire, language is a gift from the gods;
words can create both sounds and pictures
and turn them into poetry. Words are wands.
When our thoughts impinge on one another
and shrink, energy hardens into mass
and we see the worlds we call real.
A bowl of cherries is just a bowl of cherries.
A hawk circles over a farmer’s hens
while the farmer plucks cherries for his pies,
pops one into his chin.
Knowing one can have something
doesn’t mean one knows the cost.
One’s will to be all he can
guarantees his fall
until he completes the work within.
I would say to the warrior, Achilles
that poets, too, live in joy
and laugh in the face of death.
It is said that those who’ve usurped
the throne of their god
still worship their golden calf.
‘Impulsive’ is said to be
eager without looking
then – surprised!
Some with that habit
age to ‘old and wise’;
others turn old
with a vengeance.
Dancer and red fish dream,
one under satin,
one under stone;
glide like fireflies
from their covers.
His poem about a perfect lover
is well-crafted, but no one lives there.
The color red is said to bring
new beginnings and prosperity,
the darker shades elegance and power,
the brighter ones energy.
Body and Soul:
Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return
Soul thou art and soul thou shall remain
The one who worships himself as God
is highly tolerant of his own evil.
What is permitted may not be forgiven;
listen to the still voice within
if you would walk scatheless through your days,
your own master, blameless.
For David, the Painter
‘Sometimes I want to paint
something as corny
as a sunset,’ he said.
‘Why don’t you,’ I asked.
‘Maybe you could paint it
like no one else has.’
But he shook his head,
‘I have an image to think of.’
He paints abstractly
and, instead of things, an idea
that life is an unending plateau.
His paintings remind me of sunsets.
Some New Scholars
(verse commentary, after Yeats’ “The Scholars”)
by William Butler Yeats
Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.
All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?
They used to be forgetful of their sins,
now they seduce their students, pretend they’re
young themselves, but can’t remember when they
felt love’s emotion without self-consciousness;
believe beauty is clever, not ignorant.
The older ones vacation in exotic places, the
younger wear disdain and good will; all wear
the carpet with their shoes; all think aloud
in the same domain of political correctness.
Few in the humanities or social sciences dare
have an original thought that works (I recall
one: “pecked to death by doves”; its source
was speaking of her friends).
All know the members of their crowd; it’s still
important to know the right thinkers. In a town
I passed through, those teaching for the local
college bought their uniforms at Sears; the one
with pecky friends asked if Catullus was an
astronaut, then confessed she’d mostly read
classic comics, adding that her specialty was
As a child…
I learned to hold spiders, snakes, toads and lizards,
the feel of life, stroking their small bodies with care.
Years later at an inland college I saw a teacher in the faculty lounge
kicking a cricket side to side, enjoying its terror.
I dodged his shoe and picked it up; a scream from across the room
whipped deep into my back — other teachers had been watching
(and crickets didn’t belong except in poems).
I took it outside and put it on the grass, faded, its presence scattered,
but still beautiful and black.
(Childhood learning was at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.)
for John Milton
When we’re young, arrogant lambs
with heart and wool
the world lusts after
we preen and swagger
all the way to hell
by a poet)
change radically –
willing, totally –
crawl from the fire,
rise to the light
(called by the same poet
Those who stayed home
ask, ‘why look for trouble?’
and ‘who needs to be a hero?’
as though they have little
left to discover
but you reached
into hell and heaven
for secrets of the journey,
show Him planting His apple seed
that holds the fruit
of divine Knowing
in our Garden
then creating us
His chosen seekers and finders
I’ve wondered more than once
which friends serve me best,
those who stand by me
or those who exploit my weaknesses.
The first offer love;
the second, loss
followed by opportunities
I wouldn’t have sought directly.
Wanting to know my world,
find the treasures hidden in it,
what can I honestly say now
other than I’ve been lucky.
red and yellow leaves
crackle under marching feet
whispers of winter
an old man has died;
raindrops fall on melting snow
robins peck at it
I am getting old;
it is springtime on the beach
and I wear a coat
Where I want to be
I choose a poet for my teacher
whose song gives greatness form,
a maker of gods who has what I seek.
Why would I choose a different guide
when that’s who’s leading?
I have eternity in which to grow
and believe, and thank the heavens
that a man named Homer visited earth.
He plays on rims of chaos
testing his intent to live
and disciplines self
by choosing not to obliterate
certain foes and faithless friends,
remembering his drive to kill
before being killed must be on edge
– else he could forget, grow hapless
and life be lost — maybe his;
he’s come close when playing
with all he’s got for a good cause
not certain if he’s right or not
which doesn’t make him wrong —
he’s only caught
The Fallen Angels
Words can freeze revealed truths
and transform meanings.
many grope towards the light
and fall or stumble,
warriors losing battle flags
sacrificed to profane causes.
Until they need to reach
far within and beyond
(sometimes called “suffering
and the last straw”)
followers fail guidelines
they haven’t sourced,
not unlike mothers bearing
children with malignant marks.
I’m not the body
I move, own, am tied to
giving thanks today
as I consume the flesh
of friends Tom Turkey,
plants I love,
along with air and water…
What is this communion,
one form devouring others,
transforming, mind giving credit
for the privilege
to a god?
“The only tyrant I bow to
is the still voice within.”
Knowing the difference,
he chose between dying and living.
Regarding Van Gogh’s Advice
Not to Be Afraid and Not to Try
to Make a Painting Pretty
It takes courage not to try
to make a painting pretty.
Few souls can resist,
the desire to please requiring
that ugliness be hidden.
Tell it like it is,
beautiful and ugly,
the best you are able –
serve no other master!
Was that commandment made for man
who has so much to worship, and forget?
A Van Gogh baby is big,
drooling, eternal –
a fat promise
held by a vigilant mother,
her apron wrapped tightly
over simian bones like a second skin,
strings hanging like tails.
It is in related gestures too –
their straight backs,
a jutting hip,
a small leg dangling
and hands ready to reach –
that love and attitude
raise immortal heads.
In first grade, I learned long fingers indicate aesthetic bent and
vision. Felt discouraged, until I saw pictures of chimpanzees
with very long fingers, long arms too, especially adapted for
grasping and swinging.
One of my professors remarked that in his experience people with wide
triangular eyes have benevolent souls and those with round eyes evil ones;
his own eyes were remarkably wide and triangular and when he saw me
looking, noting their glint too, he frowned. Every time he heard his round-eyed
dog bark he put it in a closet, on a vegetarian diet; it lived five years.
And so it goes: white, brown, short, tall, plump, thin, old, young;
we make one better than another because someone has to lose, we think,
so why not play more games like who can be truly kinder?
Many have longed to be free,
self-governing, safe, in a space
where every being has a place
and is understood —
a heaven here and now.
Plato had in mind a realm
ruled by wise philosophers;
he said poets could not be allowed,
were hard to lead and told stories
of gods and goddesses, how they lived
before, some say, man fell to earth.
Others, mostly from the East,
teach how to get oneself back
and the freedom that comes with that
(which is what it is all about) :
For as long as it takes
a seeker must look within for truth
and experience the karmic rule
that over time inflow equals outflow
like the breath — there is only now.
Beginnings and Endings
Thor’s forearm and fist
Feisty maidens gliding by
Marginal voices whisper, ‘not born of reason
No endings are signaled’
People sublimate building a nation
And realize a vision
When wills become feeble
They make hammers with alloys
And built-in obsolescence
Opting out of prison
True to self and all they knew
Joan of Arc chose death by fire
Garcia Lorca was shot dead
Those willing to be
Conscious and free
Create a world of immortal forms
Promising a future
Held in an all-seeing eye
Thor’s hammer forges on
Lorca’s laurel wreath glows in eternal light
Joan communes with her God, radiant
And humble as her Savior was
Kneeling in the Garden
New York City (1996)
with the heartbeat
of the world
we have a sense
of action snowballing,
of impending upheaval.
In my neighborhood
a darkness beyond the ordinary
has been settling in
for a long while.
It penetrates the daylight,
walls of buildings,
pores of faces.
We know it is never too late,
but is there a future here?
That is the incredible question
in this City of high energy
where people of every kind
live together in a harmony
unheard of elsewhere.
We play out our dramas
deep in the womb
of a sleeping volcano,
await the purifying fire.
big white fish hiding
under red October leaves
closes, opens lips
brief as a firefly
a goldfish glides under weeds
in dusky water
carp swims up my scroll,
turns into silver crescent
predicting long life
the lucky kind, curls 3 times;
yellow base means death
my boots sometimes sink
climbing over a snow bank,
ice cream cone steady
To follow the Christ spirit
manifest in that one
who was a son of God and knew it
even in the bloody eye of his storm
open to what the winds will bring
open to dying, to being born
is too difficult for me
I opened many doors once
and turned my life authentic
but love won’t bear another undergoing
I think, looking back –
still, today appeared a hurricane
and I am walking through it upright
Don’t call me christian though,
a follower of dogma;
I’m a co-creator in alignment.
The agnostic is caught in his mind
by his god and by his devil
to be and not to be:
maybe devil and god exist; maybe neither
maybe mist was always rain
and rain a shining river.
There are no answers, he believes,
but the questions are eternal.
a push and pull
wearing down concrete,
leather and bone.
Like wind and roses,
stone and sun,
each shoe’s life
depends on crafting,
what it is made of
and what it rubs.
The magic footprint
Whoever puts his foot in a side of the cliff
where a giant footprint is stamped
will be granted the wish there he makes for himself.
In our town, this is a living myth.
Over the past 30 years, four have tried;
one fell into the sea and broke her hip,
the others say their wishes have come true.
I decide with certainty – no doubt
what will have come to pass for me;
un fait accompli already,
it manifests in its time like magic
if I let it be.
The King of Siam
My betta fish is emerald blue
with a mouth wide as his head
and great thin billowy fins
When I come close
he darts to the top of his world to dance,
hungry or not
and expands like a haiku
far beyond his lines
in a space now named Siam
I turn into an ancient warrior
under his spell
– wild, cold, artful –
listening for the first sounds ever made
beyond ocean floors
and glittering stars
Not easy to forget
Blue lights danced through rooms,
around corners in his sleepy eyes
playing find and lose
with the timing of a master,
the power of a magnet.
He was a drummer who kissed runes
of wisdom and wit, understood in depth
and found the rhythms in my marrow.
But when I melted he quickly sank our float
saying,”I’ve enjoyed this intermission.”
If You Were Mine (and other lies)
You left me in the early hours
not waiting for the pale yellow
of a flower
or leafy trees to shine,
fleeing to softer lights
before the sun
could touch my arms.
Traitor, you are,
yet I love your heavy-lidded eyes;
I would shield you, were you mine.
You would not need to be
a faithful lover as you think.
Together we would sink
into the moon’s wild beams
and swim through purple-flowered seas
to before the start of time.
If you were mine.
sign of the tiger
Though often alone, I’m seldom lonely.
Born under the Sign of the Tiger,
I can spot a demon or thief miles away
but do not close in
unless loneliness holds sway
You and I
I know, from dreams, we played with Minos,
ran in Minoan marathons
and later met on Everest,
spying for different queens.
When did we first meet?
It was yesterday, this life;
you harpooned me from across another room,
love and lust penetrating in equal measure.
You wait now for me to do your will,
then go about your business.
Again you tell me not to dream,
you need your freedom.
I can give that now before you need it,
skipping all that was in-between.
I love freedom too, in my nest as well as out.
We have said hello-goodbye many times.
When the untold suffering to come
propels humankind-in-need to find new ways,
maybe you will see me whole
when we meet up.
The Future’s DNA
A caterpillar inches along
toward a changing of his ways.
Before its egg is made and laid
a seabird forms its wings.
Chalk and Board
(or Cheek and Tongue)
Vice makes virtue possible to know,
like white chalk on black or green,
thus there is no role I would not play —
sage, madman, robber, king —
changing skin and gait
on a Shakespearean stage;
the more identities I can have
the more knowledgeable I can be,
not re-act mechanically
or be fooled by Loki spirits
This reminds me of a dream
in which a traveler lost his way
but that was before I found my devil
looking out just for me
while I hop leg to leg
loss to gain back to back;
the devil with a stash of scalps
who tells me I’ve been chosen
and others haven’t.
Plea to a friend, to act wisely
When have you or I
stopped pursuing folly
before many falls?
There is a Zen saying
that some horses only need
to feel a whip lightly,
others in the marrow of their bones.
Questions Emerging From A Dream About Eating A Pet
Does all food, including medicine,
when we eat we make what is
not us, our own?
is eating, like touching, a way to know
the illusionary nature of form?
are rules made to be broken
in ways that work
like – bite off more than chewable
if very hungry (and learn what you learn)?
I AM OM
Lord of Heaven
give me your blessing.
Color me with your light.
No other can purify
like You, the Ocean.
You make me light.
You are mother, father,
child, friend, companion.
Satguru, Lord of Heaven
show me what I am,
what I am becoming.
You are the Star guiding
me home, the Lover
who inspires me to transform.
I belong to Light.
I am Om, Om Shanti.
(Satguru means “the true teacher”; Om Shanti means “I am a peaceful soul.”)
Child of God, do you know who you are?
Do you know who you are?
Is your self-esteem high?
Deep is the ocean
of unlimited love,
The child who knows her
is not an orphan.
Child of God,
do you know who you are?
From Small Bird Bones
(Published by The New Press, December, 1993.)
My Daughter’s Footsteps
drop at my door and fade.
I wonder, then know
what she wants to hear…
who I’ve ignored
all day, again
(having other things
asks with her
that I tell her I love her.
Small Bird Bones
My cat’s eyes
shine with tenderness,
his tail furls
and curls with intention.
Soon he will meow long
and scratch the screen door
until he’s too tired
to see the fallen sparrow.
I want to let him go,
see his black body fly
like an elegant arrow –
have it over with –
but hear my first cat
high in a tree,
small bird bones
caught in his throat.
à la Baudelaire
L’Invitation au Voyage
Allons en voyage, mon frère
où ensemble nous nagerons
à travers les sauvages rayons
de la lune, à travers
les mers violettes, en fleur
où il n’importe que tu m’es menti
mon cher, où le soleil
brille quand nous voulons
et nous nous aimons.
J’aime que tu existe.
(for Jack Noyes, who hunted butterflies and black widow spiders)
He told me what he did
to women and insects
was a matter of curiosity,
wanting to know them.
He said all men kill
the things they love
and find their joy there,
that I would understand,
being a woman.
Child with a Shell
He touches its teeth
fingers its inner ear, smoothly glazed
like a pink fish-belly.
As he feels further,
echoing sounds from the center –
he holds the empty hull
wondering where the sound has gone
and looks for another shell.
The arrowhead maker
Does he know how to make heads
from living as a clam in sand
where relentless surf pounded shell
and sharp beaks found their mark?
The Swans of Isla Vista
The swans swim together
mated for life,dive to their shoulders
necks stained with algae;
they sip along the water’s surface
necks coiling, uncoiling.
On the riverbank
in late afternoon
each grooms its white body.
Invocation to the White Goddess
(The Celtic Muse)
Isis of water, earth,
Fire and air,
Hear my prayer.
See with me,
Touch my tongue.
Let me speak to pierce the hearts
Of all who worship you.
Hold me as your child,
That I may know
What is real.
(Ref. Robert Graves, The White Goddess)
(for Minoru Kawabata)
He taught painting in Manhattan,
a wisp of a man, almost transparent,
who knew his world
and what he intended came about.
He didn’t seem to know
or care he was famous.
He found living seeds of promise
on each student’s canvas
and ways to coax forth their powers;
in his care we grew as artists.
Missing nothing, beyond wisdom,
he had exact words and gestures
to calm the space and lift our spirits.
Though he spoke little English,
he touched our hearts with such elegance
that we outdid ourselves.
Manhattan, I’ve loved you…
from the moment I arrived,
I knew I’d been chosen.
I love your love, your savoire faire,
your wider skies,
your lights, theaters, fruitstands, harbors,
smells of perfume and salt water,
the magic of your ships and towers,
your tales of freedom and tomorrows,
the tongues and colors of your people,
all your styles,
your open eyes,
all that you make possible.
Knocking on heaven’s door
Those who knock on heaven’s door
know Who opens it,
playing, building in that space,
painting, weaving, singing, healing
In that place Spirit turns
words into wands,
water into wine, crosses oceans,
rockets to the moon and other universes
Some call their knocking change of heart
and what comes forth, amazing grace
Some drum up sacred sounds,
dance with them and grow a world
There is no end to what can be,
knocking on heaven’s door
They still study with Merlin’s coterie
and honor sundry desires
like their cousins, the angels.
Knowledge yet keeps them light
and their wings brightly rainbow
while much they do be hidden
but fewer appear fully-formed
when today’s reality experts
go on their paid vacations.
Some say fairies are migrating
for security reasons to other planets.
My friend tells me...
my short poems are my best.
I start with the wind at my back
and get scared
shut and bolt the door
and on and on
as though the wind
is still there
(regarding “short vs. long” poems:
The Poetic Principle by Edgar Allan Poe).
is a misfit
those who would disable her
like plato’s escaped prisoner
delights in discovery
and seeing further
though she may be
blind like homer
and when her faith
wiggles out of its cocoon
into a poem
it sometimes has wings
Compassionate warrior, philosopher, poet,
my father showed chivalry to women
and good will to all
I learned from him what is possible,
not what is common now;
he chose to be guided by honor
When I need to discover higher ground
within myself, and hold it,
he is my beckoning star.
Chinese formula poems
Wafting in fragrance
a peach blossom falls.
Blown into the bushes
a love letter is lost.
No one sees.
Hidden in weeds
cat watches crow
pulling up a worm.
Overhead a plane purrs
Under dark sky
pink buildings glow,
a man looks up,
takes deep breaths,
forgets to hurry.
6 short poems:
soft and warm
reminds me of you
touching my arm.
The blind king no longer hides and by midday light finds every corner.
Perceiving players and plots unite, the inevitability of truth,
at sundown the king declares all is well and vanishes.
I squeeze your hands
and run my fingertips
across the tips of yours
then between your fingers, up and down,
then all my tips against your palms.
You shiver; life is good.
Come to me in the night,
your body off, soul to soul;
we will fill the space,
move without moving, making love
3 Easter chicks
black and yellow peeps on pronged toothpicks
one with a wounded red thigh
is pecked non-stop by 2 needle beaks
moved out of reach
he screeches incessantly
After all controversy surrounding Christmas …
there is a winter solstice
carrying the promise
of another spring
and a Christ within
wiling to be born.
The blue spruce was white against the sky
and clumps of shadows frozen gray that March,
a pale year, our coldest month in many winters.
My uncle’s beard glittered with crystals,
he said a mackinaw was not enough
or the fur-lined boots he wore;
the cold paralyzed his fingertips
through fur-lined gloves; still,
he was hunting because he liked to hunt,
and his fingers curled with warmth enough
to pull the trigger. A squirrel fell from a branch,
flickering crimson across the snow.
Then another. He said we had our dinner
and floundered through the drifts
to pick up the bodies.
He said he wasn’t dependent for his meat
on any city’s butcher.
A black and white snapshot shows
aunt Heather, six years old, seated at a piano
staring hopefully at a page of music.
Short sleeves puff against her pinafore straps,
plaid ribbons tie back her braids.
Her third, right finger is on a key,
those on each side point upward like a spatula.
Though Heather had a teacher,
she learned to read numbers instead of notes –
that seemed easiest, she said, but
only notes were in the second book.
(Her teacher said she lacked interest.)
Heather made me promise, on principle,
not to depend on teachers
and to keep to difficult paths.
C’est à l’intérieur...
Le soleil brille
sur tout le monde,
sans juger, mais
c’est à l’intérieur
que je suis heureuse,
Où es Tu, mon Dieu?
Où suis-je? C’est moi-même
que je dois retrouver,
pour sentir Ta chaleur.
It Is Inside…
The sun shines on all
but it is inside
I am happy, or not.
Where are You, my God?
Where am I?
It is myself I must find again,
to feel Your warmth.
Out of the cave I called my home,
beyond the mere life of this body
the universe is disrobed.
There is no place now to fall,
no desire to shrink.
I see myself burrow into earth,
hover over the sun
or walk down a street —
I can see everything I’ve done,
pretending many roles.
I can transform into a living cross
or a mummy wrapped in white
spiraling in space
if I choose,
as I’ve chosen before.
Beyond this mere life
I’ve traveled many roads
in the all-seeing eye
creating the world;
I was with Homer and Aesop,
in the water Christ walks on,
in hurricanes and harvests.
Don’t say it cannot be,
that these and other things
don’t or didn’t happen;
I know what I know.
And here is my test for truth —
the exact consideration,
and what works:
beyond this body’s walls
where I live
the machinery of bondage
in heaven and on earth
Life digs itself
Following Ayn Rand, some critic claims
an avatar only has power
to the extent he is believed,
without considering this might be true of Ayn
And so the eternal game continues:
life digs itself
bees make honey
All of us have been in places
no sane person would choose;
mystics say life experiencing itself
is the purpose
And that the avatar is born,
or becomes, so empathetic
he is able to dig anything
and transform it, mind or matter,
bring forth life from death
Critics secretly believe he negates
their own discoveries
and protest, watching from a raft
at risk of flooding
From mist to shining river,
egg to feathers
flying with power,
seed to ancient stick:
life digs itself
The poet Rumi calls it creation dancing
in a passion for God
An eyelid rises
in the middle of his forehead
and Pegasus gallops forth;
the drums of time
beat on heaven’s door:
rum a tum, om ta rum
rum a tum, om ta rum
While Pegasus dreams
his playground forms,
a watery mirror
Narcissus runs toward, knowing
a god will meet him.
rum a tum, om ta rum
rum a tum, om ta rum
He watches in a trance
the wings below
shining with light
not knowing how to let go
of what is drowning.
rum a tum, om ta rum
rum a tum, om ta rum
I had exotic plumage once
soft, brilliant green, gold, red
I turned into a swallow
frail and lice-ridden
What was I thinking?
Its head was bright and new
its tail stuck in a concrete wall.
When I gave up trying to pry it loose
the penny quickly faded
and its space expanded a thousand-fold
on to a lane of soft spring colors
in early 19th century France
where carriages rolled over cobblestones
and elegant ladies strolled
in high-waist gowns and bonnets.
All I had to do was take the step
but knew I might not have the power
to come back, being ambivalent
about changing habitat and habits.
Remembering the maxim
“better safe than sorry,”
made to order for such occasions,
I walked away, looking back to see
the wall close up without the penny
and another chance.
The leaves on my money tree are filled with sunlight
but my IRA is nearly defunct.
Thoughts darken, turning to bankers and other wall street thieves
dreaming up new strategies, and to greed and sabotage;
I look at the gold-lit leaves —
they could be an omen of prosperity,
but then I recall Pandora’s safe box.
Like a tree whipped by winds
a saint leads a twisted life,
turning time and again
towards light to straighten
until, beyond the pull of opposites,
she glows like a sun.
I spend my nights
in a case grown large,
watch serpents in the noon sun
swallow their tails,
glide into river reeds.
Nefertiti will bring a womb
for me, soon to be her son,
hoping I will not blame
the small thought
life in death
death in life.
Everything that is
vanishes; after sensation
that most delights me.
We sat on thrones
built by slaves,
captured in the stones,
found, whether king or footstool,
man does nothing
he does not choose —
but much he will deny.
An old woman
inches through the drizzle,
taps her stick
along the foggy shore
looking for something washed up.
We will begin again —
I have found my middle way,
coming round full circle
after touring the world
in many pieces
and putting them together.
I can see truth and wisdom
on paths I believed
opposed my own;
what seemed contrary
belongs now in my larger world
where, almost surprised
I find myself centered,
somebody at home.
must and could
A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside us… (Franz Kafka)
How does one come to write with the power to melt a frozen sea?
With force, daggers invade at large;
flowers penetrate our timid hearts less than they could.
It is better to live one day as a tiger,
than for a thousand years as a sheep. (Tibetan Proverb)
I agree but would prefer to be
anything I choose
neither trapped nor fleeced
captured only while I’m willing.
I am Kali from the West
I come into this world
from Spirit like any male deity
but am often perceived by the fearful
to be less holy.
In mortal form, men believe I am flattered by propositions
and pleased when they tell me who and what to love.
They think I am fulfilled when they force obedience,
saying what they want is what I must want —
like all they hold in thrall.
Few in this drama guess the rage in my heart
and my secret plotting to render the bullies harmless,
fighting each other to mutual defeat, shorn of luck.
I drink their blood afterwards, wear their teeth in my necklaces.
Here is my story in a myth:
In a time out of mind a Spirit visited earth
to destroy what is decayed and corrupt;
She carries a snake for a staff, dancing East to West and back.
Between one noon and the next many mortals fall into Her crypt
and all become slaves who would enslave Her.
On the Road
rocks turn to dust, seeds are barren,
a tail of greed wags the dog
(the one who kills
the goose with the golden eggs)
half beasts slouch
toward succor and safety,
fall into fires
with withering angels
never say die
whose path is holy
not wanting to end up on his horns
she refused his friendship
and ended on a sword
some approach suing for redress
and soon find weakness
with their arrows
in a world ruled by struggle
there are choosers and the chosen,
each depending on the other
young girls, coatless in winter,
pull in eyes;
the big fish don’t always
catch the little
wolves dine on fresh lambs
until the lambs turn into tigers
(the tigers into saviours)
one with great love and knowledge
walked on water
beckoning others to follow
and they still believed in death
I’ve looked at moonless waters, treading them
burned and frightened,
and I’ve looked from high places
in the light where love rules.
I listen to the still voice within
which knows without thinking,
correct myself as needed,