poetry

Midnight at the 2300 Club

 

The pole dancers inside don’t care about the lonely highway in the night.

They feel the eyes on their soft, fleshy gladiatorial bodies.

Is this West Texas or Rome? I see centurions, slaves, senators, coroners, cowboys,

and all the fallen angels too numerous to name. That look walking by said you didn’t

understand what I said. No matter. At 3 a.m., my eyes aglow, standing in the parking lot

I see an image in the clouds embracing a blood-red Moon ­

– creamy, soft, beckoning – veiling inestimable molecules up there and inside my head.

I call this moment passion.

 

For Ikkyu

 

Spoon strikes cup,

Sound made flesh

 

Each time the door opens

Something is given

And given up

 

Upon waking:

The corpse dances

In the empty casket

 

Rock on the ground

Moon in the cosmos –

Breathe this.

 

About That Bowl

Round it is, the bowl I placed

in a hut in a mountain valley.

For a moment, its dominion

arises, a matter of form and space,

or so one thinks – that bowl and

emptiness – giving and taking

like nothing else.

But it’s not about one or the other –

or wilderness or hearth. In usefulness,

wildness is swept away,

for a moment, but then it returns

like nothing else.

 

Morning Practice

When my eyes open at dawn’s light

the question naturally arises,

whose arms are these – flaccid pink

skin draping off brittle bones?

On the pillow there’s some long hairs – mine

or the two dogs, Roxy and Daisy, sleeping on

the bed? Before, the long hairs were always

a woman’s, her body pressed close

in the morning chill.

Now part of my lung is gone, infiltrated

by swarming molecules hungry to

devour my breath. It’s rationed now.

My heart beats harder to help

its neighbor. My heart’s comforting

sound fills my chest, but my morning

cough sounds like a sick man.

One beat, one breath….

Good practice for a lazy man.

As Su Tung p’o said,

“I’m a tired horse unharnessed at last.”

 

Minding My Time

Awash in mind time. Mind’s always mattering:

sensations, feelings always forming stuff.

Words always mattering in Universe of Matter –

That’s all (not really for Roy & Laddawan

and the Thai band playing Eric Clapton).

Mind called self is just the go-between

for no-body. Big Self is every thing.

It knows like a bone every thing’s just co-

existing meaning-matter like the sky.

Right now in Chiang Mai at 1:18 a.m.

as a tiny candle lantern rises golden

in the night like a star.

 

On James’ Birthday

(Mid-1980s)

Unwrap this, it’s for you

to take along on your search

for the perfect back beat

and still sea.

On this still-light morning

breaths draw slowly.

Sleeping bodies throughout

the house, too much drink

last night. The still cat

sits in the window sill

staring outside.

Beyond is the Great Outdoors

but what is it?

In last night’s dream

there was a man with

three hooks piercing his

chest, bound and hanging

on a swaying rope.

Is he you and me?

Now comes the first morning sound.

A bird feeling the Sun

on its tongue on another

moment of birth.

 

A Poem for Red Pine

Bill Porter went West,

took a new name

and came back from the East

to spread the word.

A master of the shadow art,

he trails behind, recasting Chinese ideograms

into new lines for English minds.

He works from a second floor study in Port Townsend,

deciphering black strokes from faraway days

with sharp eyes, diamond mind –

a time of flaming hearts:

writers of the Silent Word.

On the wall of his study, a Tibetan tanka.

A small painting of bamboo with a poem by Wang Wei.

Through a window, the Cascade Mountains.

Through another window, the ocean.

Through another window, the branch of a plum tree.

Pine trees and bamboo sway in the  morning wind.

Light brightens a new day

as the pine tree’s shadow disappears,

leaving no trace.

 

To You

It’s like your skin is on my body

despite your excess and betrayals.

You warned me, “I can be very bad…”

None of it matters. I am bound

to you: You are my lover and my daughter.

It’s OK – embrace your young lover and your old man,

bookends of orgasmic silence.

I only wish I was young and fresh like you

or I could carry you with me into death,

into a long, long night of love

and transcendence.

Riding the Wind 

In my dream

you gave me your

Book of Poems

and said,

“Read this one:”

The wind was Love

and what the was was

was was.

 

Finding Now

Well, yes ­– exactly – that’s the problem.

All travelers experience it

at each step on the Way. Is it

here, there, up, down,

backwards, forwards, all around,

or somewhere else? How are we to know,

if it doesn’t tell us so?

We all have our maps, but they are the

artifacts rubbing our noses in it.

My worn map I drew myself. I traced

a line from Birchman Street in Fort Worth

through dark caves as a Boy Scout, to Saigon

(and flowing dresses) to Ubon and

Thailand’s temples to Third Street in Denton –

a college town – to Dallas (there’s the dead president)

to Arlington to Thailand again and Laddawan – to Denton

(the college town again) to Waco – a crazy town –

to Alpine and the airy Big Bend where I met and lost

so many friends, to here and now in Chiang Mai.

Ok, just breathe deep and let go.

That’s as close as I can get to it.

 

For Dead Tom Copeland

I found your clear, plastic ruler

between the pages of a book

I bought for $2. Oriental poetry.

Your straight lines in black, red and green,

the stars and brackets marking

Li Po’s words  that fired your mind.

From the margins your ideas rise so clear.

“Do nothing – not nothing to do.”

Text and notes joining here and now

in my mind, measuring, marking

studying the way Li Po and you and me

joined mind to Mind.

 

The Bowl is Always Full

It’s a matter of matter or so one thinks.

The half-full bowl and emptiness

are not one or the other.

Everything is like that.

Old babbling songbirds said it too. If you want

to know the self, know the songbird’s silence.

 

Bill

I knew a cowboy in Texas named Bill.

I guess I wanted him as a Father.

But he was a loner. He wouldn’t drive

till after midnight. He liked empty roads.

This cowboy made moonshine

in the woods, kept a spiral notebook

in his khaki shirt pocket, read science fiction.

He said:

We’re reachin’ out from inside. We know there

ain’t no real heaven. But maybe

that’s still where we’ll all end up––out there.

How we’ll be…

He wanted to know where West was

or he got nervous. He couldn’t handle

compliments or prosperity.

He liked without better.

This cowboy was brave,

and knew not to show it.

But this cowboy wanted reassurance too.

He didn’t want it from people.

He wanted it from the sky.

 

Circling the Big Bend

Insect dialogue clearly has escaped

the net of rhetoric. Yet, the natural world

speaks, epic dramas do appear

in flickering shadows.

Birds sing pure sound.

I know how the Great Way rises and

falls on the sacred search. Thus written,

I formally nominate for President

the empty space above the green basin

formed by the Chisos Mountains.

But the spell can’t be held. Or,

as Heidegger quipped, living life is

somewhat unfamiliar to us all.

 

Name it

I call it A Rock in the Cosmos,

a rock on the ground with no name.

But let’s be real. It is a rock,

not a rock-on-the-ground metaphor,

not a descriptive target: a white, porous

igneous outcast atop a scaly wind-blown

nob here in the cowboy Big Bend

in mysterious Springtime.

It stimulates. Does it recognize

something of its fiery history

or the bottom of the swaying Sea,

or a bit of a bright Star – its ancestry?

No matter, of itself it is enough.

Ok, let’s be real, it is a rock

on the ground in the Cosmos.

It is white, porous, igneous.

The rock can never know

the rising Sun, the waning Moon,

the ten thousand waves, but there

is this rock in my mind, too,

not on the ground, and this

mysterious non-stop, empty,

air-like chorus accompanying

all this and more.

Katy Makes an Entrance

She’s back after a three-day prowl.

Laddawan watched her jump to the top

of the wall along the back of the house

then fly up four feet like a furry bird

onto the roof to tread to the bedroom window.

Images of fangs sinking into her haunch,

blood on the road, a little girl’s touch

calling her away all disappeared

as she walked into our life again

from the Otherwhere – now returned to here,

tongue lapping the water bowl, smelling bits

of dried food, meowing non-stop as she curls

up near my feet.

“Where have you been, Babe?”

“It’s none of your business, Bud. You wouldn’t

understand anyway,” she said, licking the

half-inch, dried puncture wound

on the inside of her right foot where

the skin is pink and has no hair.

Thanks

Doi Sutep high

over Chiang Mai

green mass

east and west

pearl white clouds

Thinking of Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain

is cold

right now

shivering bones––time

for hot tea.

Ready?

Raise your right hand

Human Rights are not enough.

We must accept Earth Rights,

The right of our Home in Space

To maintain Itself – to live, to replenish.

The rights  of the Seas, the Rivers, the Grasslands,

The Forests, the Birds, the Insects, the Mammals

All evolving, living forms – to continue their

Natural journey in harmony with each person

Who pledges to live within boundaries

And do as little harm as possible.

We will know real Joy when

We live more naturally

With less waste

And greed.

Gary Snyder’s Real Work

 We can’t be whole

living outside the mind.

We can’t be whole

living inside the mind.

We are whole being

all for one & one for all.

That’s the real work

joining us all

to each thing.

A Short Story

The Macaba, the Cantinet,

Lilly, the first, Ming, the second.

Night taxis to Cholon

The whitewashed Everest Hotel –

Bome Bom, diddy moi, hai ba trung!

Then Le Hang’s black eyes,black hair

black fan, dusty blades slowly turning

humming, turning – board bed, creaking,

creaking.

“Don’t be sorry.

When we are old

This will keep us warm.”

3 poems

Curled tightly

together on the bed

in dawn’s light

a black and white

Yin-Yang circle––

My two dogs.

Strange––

a butterfly

flying straight.

A bottle of ketchup.

Nature’s transfusion.

Still Life

Nature has no frame,

no point of vieq

But I find myself

occasionally caught

at the center

Of figure ground.

So I swallow

the moment

as pure prayer

to all that

touches me

yet moves me not

that makes me

a simple minded part

of the picture

of life.

Sweet Dreams

Nearly all my life without a wife.

Now I’m old and married.

We’ve said sweet dreams

every night for 15 years.

It’s as good as wrapping

feet together on a cold night.

 

Humbly, To My Chinese Ancestors

At this moment

I have no similar other.

The woman I’m with

is so sour she makes

the Sun go down early.

She can’t even say

Hello without opening

her mouth.

I want to ride the goose’s neck

to the Moon.

But tonight the Moon casts no light.

The wine is gone.

You know this feeling.

Thanks

A  sparrow outside my door

each morning. Hopping

left and right listening

to my music, dancing on

two twiggy feet – your

song rises from your

feather covered breast.

Thank you for saying

good morning.

Get Serious

If you think you can sort this out:

Mind, consciousness, thinking, language,

ego, soul, reason, meaning, knowing,

imagination, intuition, past, future, knowledge,

wisdom, non-thinking,

then get on with it –

Time will strip you clean

before you know it.

Mother

Last night it was

my dead mother

dropping in.

Just says

know, know, know

I love you.

Then she sent her love

dream-mail direct.

Night bird in West Texas

A medicine woman, she comes

with lightning, rain and wind

in the blue-black norther

from Montana

to sleep’s edge

to stand beside my bed

to press her hand hard

against my foot.

They call her Minerva.

She doesn’t talk.

She presses hard.

“Yes . . . wake up.”

I open my eyes.

Air stirs in the doorway.

She’s there, half woman

half bird

looking, smiling

laughing at me.

The next morning

I walk slower

in thought.

 

To Huang Ch’ao

Huang Ch’ao, a businessman who

sold salt, captured Chang-an,

the capital of China, in 881.

A poet stuck a poem on a wall

blasting his new rule.

“Kill everyone who could write

such a poem,” ordered Huang Ch’ao.

Three thousand people disappeared

like clouds––but poetry lives on.

When you’re in Chang-an

paste this poem on a wall.

A Snapshot

The Chihuahua Desert.

More interesting people

than anyplace in the world

with a bunch  of nothing as far

as the eye can see. They come

whirling out of the dust

—clinched, carbuncled fists on the

throttle of a  clanking Harley,

a weathered hand dropping

the bone-dry reins of a  burro

over a hitching post, a beauty in

pink short-shorts exiting a dusty

battered Buick. It takes real stuff

to hold the passing eye. But every

time she walks into a room,

you see her eyes full of stardust and sadness,

and there’s a flash— a woman

on a mission of mystery.

 

The Stick

 My Japanese-lettered walking stick’s

been to the top of Mount Fuji

but who cares?

Fog rolls into the Chisos Mountains basin tonight.

White and glowing car headlights

slice the air. Off to the west

the Solitario Mountains lie silent

like on the Moon

surrounding nothing at all.

Here’s two canyon place names

from my tattered map:

Lower Shut-up and Left-hand Shut-up.

Come morning clouds boil to life

from a Big Bend Sky Scroll.

August rains. I draw stars above names

on the map:

Sierra Del Caballo Muerto,

Terlingua Abaja, Lost Mine Peak,

Christmas Wells, Cow Heaven Mountain.

Poetry is everywhere. The dogs are smiling

at noon in Boquillas across the Rio Grande.

Death Poem

(September 25)

This morning I looked at my feet and

thought of my mother.

She died on this day fourteen years ago,

naked in a hospital bed, save for a diaper,

a breathing tube down her throat, her feet frozen still.

“Am I going to die?” she asked, agitated because

she’d rather be working on a crossword puzzle.

“No, you’re not dying.”

She’d rather be parsing letters into empty boxes,

watching TV or reading a romance novel.

Finally, in a coma, she tossed and turned,

mumbling, “Let me in, open the gate.”

The gate of Saint Gabriel or the Mumonkan?

Let it be, mom, there’s no gate.

You’re already there. Let it go.

Then the five letters – each appeared

in the  empty space – Death.

Five letters for the Holy Ghost,

or Emptiness, or the forgiving

final kiss.



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