These Hands Of Yours

the only way

 

to welcome someone in

is to set them at a remove

from all conditions

 

nothing can be provisional

welcome is always wholehearted

or it is not welcome

 

welcoming someone is

a form of high adventure

skydiving bungee jumping cliff diving

cannot compare

to a welcome

it is the adventure most comparable

to love

in which there are

no borders

and no limits

a welcome is

truly unknown territory

 

true because

it is only by sailing

beyond the boundaries of pattern

that we have a chance of arriving

in the oh so desirable unknown

in the mysterious

and welcoming

country of the generous spirit

 

and

arriving there

is important

it is so important

we must always try to do this

we must make it

the story of our lives

if we wish to have lives at all

 

arriving in unknown lands

is the most worthwhile activity

available in this reality

mandatory

if you want to get the most

out of being here

and even though not required

it certainly shouldn’t be missed

 

 

let us not quibble

 

or dissemble

with one another now

as we voyage

into our own unknown realms

 

these hands of yours

 

which soon enough will

be dead hands

more still than still

 

these hands

have again and again

welcomed the world

into themselves

 

and then with unmeasured joy

they have again and again

offered the world back to itself

enriched by yet another touch

always these hands

have released what they grasped

always they have offered it back

 

this generosity

is the hallmark of your truest self

 

you were never merely decorative

you guided these hands

you purposed their interactions

you were a force

to be reckoned with

 

orders of magnitude

greater than what

my hands

can grasp now

 

these hands of yours

are misshapen and discolored

they are reflections

of the strongest currents

expressed by their

motivational locus

which is to say

 

you

 

your hands reflect you

good and ill

they wordless show

exactly who and what you are

 

 

I touch these hands

 

and wish

I had the language of their dance

so I could know all the news

the gossip and the slander

of fingers meeting fingers

nails on palms

the rumor of every surface and soul

these hands have touched

and of every act of will

that led them where they went

 

I wish I knew their lingo

so I could get

past the front door

at some of these trendy joints

and feel what they feel

 

sad

non-verbal me

I can’t even order a cup of coffee

in the lithe Lethe language

of these hands

 

I don’t have a clue

to the story

of how they welcomed

the world into themselves

 

to the story

of where these hands

have lingered

 

not one clue

 

though they are singing their story

into my mind

with every touch

 

my ignorance is a tragedy

perhaps of cosmic proportion

after all

no one can say

which butterfly wing

precipitates which tempest

the end of the world

might lie in exactly this ignorance

 

 

so

 

you will have to think of something

and perhaps you will save the world

thereby

 

think of some way

to help me understand

some way to reach

the inner sides of me and

 

tickle me

with the logic of your days

 

regale me

in the argot of my own sad soul

 

with tales from the sunset

 

with legends

of the lands

lying so still and silent

behind your clouds

beyond your own guarding horizon

beyond your boundaries of pattern

 

 

these hands reflect you

 

good and ill

wordless they show

exactly why and how you are

 

and though I may not

speak their language

still I hear it

plucking the strings of my heart

music in an unknown tongue

beautiful

haunting

as full of mysterious meaning

as the songs of birds

calling in a dawn mist

rising from an unknown river

descended from mountains of mystery

 

as a magnificent chorus

sung beneath

an unknown sun of unspeakable color

among constellations from your dreams

and zodiacs

assembled from your private hoard of deities

each cherishing a memory of you

 

we voyage out now

and into the stars

beyond all song and all constellations

beyond all boundaries of pattern

 

this is our mortal destiny

and our loftiest goal

this is the guest we must

wholeheartedly welcome

the quest we must accept

 

 

and it is the glass we must raise

 

these hands of yours

in a long ago age

were designed

for exactly such a toast

 

raise them now

twined in my own

and rise into the nevermore

as must we all

and with not a single regret

 

this is so exciting

 

turn your eyes

with mine

and look

upon the unknown land

 

 

Full Moon Memories

Full Moon. The Wolf Moon, the Old Moon. The first full moon of the year, and for that reason, possibly worth paying attention to.

Possibly not.

Feelings’ Loss

 

The pain of feeling pain was lost, that night,

as, in the manner of a princess, you

set bowls of moon alight, amid the blue

and night and constellations of our sheets.

 

You claimed you learned of samadhi with me

while waxing up and waning down atop

my hips, until the full moonlight was slopped

in bucketsful in hearts and memories,

 

in surfs of loving at our rocking hips,

and broken foams of yearning on our lips.

All ease retreated from our fingertips,

and knowledge pounded in the glow

of broken seas of meaning, lost below

a shale of words, within our undertow…

 

Kind of like a sonnet, I suppose. Pretty strong iambic pentameter, rhyme scheme ABBA CDDC EEEFFF, which is a little weird, sonnet-wise, but no so weird we have to dream up some other designation for this sucker.

Not an inappropriate poem for a full moon, though, whatever anyone calls it.

 

All That Is Not Quotidian

Was recently invited into the bed of an old flame, just as one year rolled into another. She was someone I had known when I was a teenager, though we didn’t share a school. We would meet at church social events or at multi-school games or field trips, and somehow we would always wander off together.

Sometimes our time together was just talking and sharing – an exploration of a museum, or holding hands on a visit to a local factory, or a shared joint behind the bleachers at a football game. But as time went on, we became more physically involved. We wanted each other a lot, but we never actually managed a true coupling. After we graduated, we lost touch, and then, we lost track…

Until just recently. Like me, she’s old as dirt now, but I could still see that certain familiar (and desirable) twinkle in her eye, even through the accumulated dust and scratches of all those intervening years.

Fifty years ago, that twinkle kept me up, nights, staring at the stars, full of longing and lust, and now here it is again. Amazing, really, to experience the fulfillment of even a faded echo of the oceanic yearning that filled me half a century ago.

Strange how some things fade and others persist.

Sometimes I have trouble believing that women have any interest in sex with men at all – we men seem so very much less than what women are. Men, of course, are slugs – usually smelly, usually unkempt, usually ignorant and too often blissfully unaware. But women are higher beings – smarter, better in every way. The idea that they would want to couple with men is just weird.

At first blush, sex seems so non-sentient – the sort of thing you see in nature films about clams, or sea cucumbers, or crickets. Somehow, sex is invertebrate at its deepest level. Mindless – an activity for sea floor ocean thingies, perhaps, or earthworms.

Or men.

I think sex seems that way to me because it’s so primal, so fundamental, so beyond ideas like personality or self. How does a cork bobbing on the surface of the ocean respond to a hurricane? Damn near every living thing ends up obediently coupling in one form or another, senselessly propagating in response to pheromones, secretions, chemical signals, optical stimulation – caught in a storm over which they have absolutely no control.

Looked at in that light, sex hardly seems worth our attention, right? It’s a thing that happens, like lightning. Not something we do.

But wow – such ecstasy, when it results in real union – when you get it exactly right. I’m not talking about the physical release of orgasm so much as the sense of selfless joining that sex can engender. The ecstasy of attachment and merging, the joy of being open to other living beings.

Heavenly, really, though it’s kind of off-kilter, I guess, thinking of sex as "heavenly", considering what most spiritual traditions have to say about it. Most doctrinal teaching regarding sex (no matter what religion you examine) brands it as the opposite of "heavenly".

But then, mainstream doctrinal traditions are almost always wrong on big things like this, and anyway, every religion has deeper, much more esoteric traditions that celebrate sex and sexuality. Traditions that compare sexual union to union with the Divine.

Maybe the energy of sex seems so much like heaven not because it really is related, but just because it's so different – so distant from the day-to-day. Perhaps all it has in common with the elegiac mode is how dissimilar it is to the mundane. Heaven and hell do share that one characteristic, after all: they aren’t common. Perhaps sex invites comparison to paradise only because, like paradise, sex is rarely quotidian.

I think not, though. I think sex, though it is one of the most profound physical experiences for living things, has its roots in the spirit. It is a manifestation of truth: an expression of omnipresent Divinity.

It’s seen as dangerous precisely because it is so primal. So fundamental. So overpowering and Divine.

It’s dangerous because sometimes people want to forget what they really are, and sex reminds them of the truth. People want to see themselves as small and inconsequential because it relieves them of responsibility for their actions, and sex always is consequential and real.

People hide from themselves all the time. Once they’ve lost their way, sex becomes bound up in seemingly endless, needless complexity, and ends – always – in death and disappointment.

Not necessarily in that order…

 

Gelid Bone

think about lying in bed

crispness of sheets

scent of fabric and pillow and art

 

now picture the alcove

surrounding the bed

the joy of a good book

 

the shelf of toys and tools

the cup and knife and coin and wand

the heaps of extra blankets

 

the scent of the dark pouring

in under the door

from a night safely at bay

 

 

this is my sphere of event

my home

my volume of influence

 

a night full of

adventure and shadow

and scents of the consuming earth

 

ripe with sensation

rich and sour

balm and burr

 

feel the bark creaking

as a vibration in the smoky night

the trees are expanding

 

 

my skin is an eye

my skin feels the movement

and life in every leaf

 

and rock we are

momentary plasmas

hung on gelid cartoons of bone

 

and the bounds

between the air

and the self

 

and the earth

are

ridiculously thin

 

Sweet little bit of imagery, in free verse three line stanzas, laden with esoteric reference and a little taste of something like what a cop might beat out on a suspect’s head with his nightstick; you know – a tarantella…

 

Windows Winter Frost

Winter, and heat, and walls to trap the light,

a mate to bring the room alive, our feet

in woolen boots beneath the coverlet...

 

… then – deep within the dark without – a beat

begins…

… enchantment, busy in the night...

 

My shadow friend, in all the years I’ve lived

I’ve never had a lover quite so grave.

So like the earth in ways; the sea, in ways.

 

Gone years ago, when we were an affair

that lacked a real home, I dreamt we two

would always be in love, unless the curse

of our tomorrow’s needs became our curse.

 

For long, it seemed we failed our trial run,

and all the work that we had once begun

(the lyric road, so musical, was near)

decayed to dust inside our broken hearts –

our love, for all the world of love, was gone,

and life became a preparation for

some blank tomorrow’s needs. As both we know,

we both were lost. And that’s the magic fact

that breached our hearts, and let us dream a Yes…

 

As lovers lost to rest, we yearned to slave

like workers on a pyramid, in both

tomorrow, and in some forgotten age.

All times were then, all thens were now, with not

a single difference to see or touch.

 

Now, magic fact has reached our hearts, and love

is deep. This lets us both say Yes, to all

life holds, and that is why we wander through

our nights in dark-enfolded loving touch:

to praise our tidal lives, alert and wide.

To know we need them now, as dawn becomes,

as (with the light) the sea of life arrives.

 

Blank verse. Even the italicized introductory stanza is in iambic pentameter, albeit with its final line broken for the sake of sense. Occasional rhyme, but rhyme isn’t emphasized. This is a lover, speaking in the dark to their loved one, affirming their bond with some urgency.

An old poem, from a very different time, when I was a very different person.

This piece has been extensively modified over the course of its thirty-plus year lifespan, and the meaning has shifted somewhat, but not as much as I might have expected. Its voice has gotten stronger and more certain in every revision, and I have high hopes that this might very soon become a "good" poem, one of the gems of my collection.

In my life I’ve written and preserved about 700 poems and about 150 songs, and I’d guess that maybe one in twenty is really good, though all have something to recommend them. Only a few of my efforts (perhaps forty poems out of my seven hundred; maybe ten songs) really work on every level.

To use an automotive metaphor, few of my poems fire on all cylinders, even if most manage to get up a bit of speed and momentum. If my poems were rockets, few would achieve escape velocity, although most would get off the pad and go somewhere…

Those aren’t bad numbers, by the way. I’m proud of those numbers. I may be biased, but my percentages seem better than Edison’s 99 to 1, so I have hopes.

I’ll be pleased if even a single song survives for a while in someone’s heart.

 

Friend Of A Friend

Declined a generous invite from a friend,

this night. The day had left me driven wild,

so Winter-crazy, in the harshest winter white,

and though she tempted me with all delight,

with hurried, stricken words, I passed her by.

 

I couldn’t do her justice in that mood,

so manic and unrested as I was;

I would have been impossible to love,

a cat upon a leash. And so? Goodbye.

 

I wanted cigarettes, and coffee on;

a typewriter, and awful, fatty food;

a softly nonsense-babbling radio,

and pipes of weed beneath a yellow lamp

surrounded by my pens, and scraps of thought.

 

I wanted every spell of warmth and light

to guard me from the searing Winter night –

to shield me from my deeper cold and damp,

as with my pen – and soul – I sat to write…

 

Blank verse in stanzas of five, four, five and four lines.

This is a significant rewrite of a piece that was in my first poetry collection. In a classic adolescent move, I titled that collection Ars Moriendi. Which is absolutely laughable at this late date…

The first version of this poem showed up in 1983, when I was still a relatively young man – in my early thirties – as my patterns of living were finally coalescing out of the chaos of my twenty-something years. This poem typifies who I was, then: very intense about my writing and willing to put almost anything to the side in its service.

 

Just That I Want You

Verse 1:

G                       C

I remember the good old days

G                              C

you'd come downstairs and we'd play

am                 em

Nothing was in our way

am  em      D

our way was free

D           C                     G

our way was free – but that's history…

 

Chorus 1:

G                                   C

Now it's not the good times that we had

G

it's not the fact that I need you and

C           D       bm

want you so bad

bm              C                    D

you been gone – seems like a thousand years

         C                    D

and it's just that I want you near

     C                D

It's just that I want you –

C               D   G

just that I want you near

 

Verse 2:

Now you tell me the past is gone

but we keep on keeping on

You're in my heart

with each morning's dawn

from dawn 'til night –

all day and night

you're the brightest light

 

Chorus 2:

Now it's not the loving things we said

it's not the way that you filled up my

heart and my head

you're away what seems like a million miles

and I just got to see your smile

It's just that I want you –

just that I want you near

 

Verse 3:

Our lives open, and they close.

You're still the song of a blooming rose

through all the highs and lows

you're a harmony – your harmony

is still there for me

 

Chorus 3:

Now it's not the loving things we do

it's not the way that you love me and

know I love you

you're my heart, my primal overdose

and I just got to have you close

It's just that I want you –

just that I want you near

 

Appears on one of my very oldest practice tapes, one of the pre-California tapes.

Key of G