Saturday, April 16, 2022

one by one we are gone

 Larry and Tim died

these last two years, we greeted

decades on retreat

during Spencer Holy Week --

two gentle christian brothers

écoute, n'aie pas peur

Friend writes from prison

how ghosts visit him; it's fine,

he says, they're just us --

not yet gone off to heaven,

not about to admit death

her children have gone into captivity before the enemy

Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis - Tenebrae 2019 live recording

Live recording of the Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis, parts I and II, recorded during the service of Tenebrae in Holy Week, April 2019, in the Cathedral Church of All Saints, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Sung by members of the University of King's College Chapel Choir, directed by Paul Halley. Latin text and English translation are in the video. Also featuring photography by Béatrice Schuler (all photos taken in the Cathedral Church of All Saints). Singers: Hilary Allister, Mary-Louise Belyea, Simon Blake, Shaylan Burkhart, Molly Cowles, Jen Hall, Elizabeth Halley, Nick Halley, Paul Halley, Vanessa Halley, Kip Johnson, Janelle Lucyk, Sarah Myatt, Paul Rogers, Dominique Saulnier, Karis Tees, James Whitley. Audio recording by Sarah Myatt. Re-mastered by John D.S. Adams / Stonehouse Sound

a great silence and stillness

 From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday


The Lord descends into the underworld

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity 


 (—from Office of Readings, Holy Saturday)

Friday, April 15, 2022

death is where emptiness goes to rest

 He’s dead someone killed

Him, the place feels empty. Yes,

That’s it, emptiness

inside out

 In town, shirtsleeves no

coats this warm Friday -- good hint

birdsong on mountain

all of, all in

 Iconic words from yesterday: “This (this!) — is my body.”

And at sacred Seder, the realization; This — (this!) — is our history … the facticity of our existence.

We stare at reality today.


Wondering if this is what Christ is…

If this is what Passover means?

May creation be with you, this …

All of, all in, this!

the sparrow on the lemon tree nearby wondered — (this friday of complicated grace)

Mouth Still Open

     by Mosab Abu Toha

Someone’s mouth is still open. He hadn’t finished yawning
when shrapnel
his chest,
stung his
No wind
stop the
flying pieces
of shrapnel. Even
the sparrow on the lemon tree nearby wondered how they



Copyright © 2022 by Mosab Abu Toha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 15, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

une nouvelle histoire, s'il vous plait

We are mistaken if we think freedom is doing whatever we want.

Think again.

What we want is seldom what-is-here. We usually want something else. Something not everyone else can have. We want for ourself. 

As Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words grace the Statue of Liberty, wrote in 1883, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” 


America, too, needs a redemption narrative, a shared story for the America being born in our time. Perhaps the Exodus from Egypt, once deemed so dangerous that it had to be excised from some Bibles, will awaken our moral imagination as we strive to write a new story for this nation. I still believe that together we can build a redeemed society. A multiracial democracy, rooted in equal justice that defends the dignity of every person and strives to embody the great, age-old vision of collective liberation.

(--from, Imagine a Bible With No Moses, No Story of the ExodusApril 14, 2022, NYTimes op-ed,  by Sharon Brous, founding and senior rabbi of Ikar, a Jewish community based in Los Angeles. ) 

Our story in America is one of complaint, entitlement, and privilege.

That story is stale and moldy.

So, we wait. And pray.

μια νέα ιστορία, παρακαλώ -- (A new story, please!) -- une nouvelle histoire, s'il vous plait! סיפור חדש, בבקשה


 Mark took photograph

two ladders against barn in

Canada during snow

…   …   …

icon (n.)

also ikon, 1570s, "image, figure, picture," also "statue," from Late Latin icon, from Greek eikon "likeness, image, portrait; image in a mirror; a semblance, phantom image;" in philosophy, "an image in the mind," related to eikenai "be like, look like," 

ix, two Greek letters, e.g. Ιησούς Χριστός

as is (christ) what is

 Christ is what is as

is. (Do you understand?)

As is, christ, what is.

(So few come to see things as

they are as we are just this)

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

becoming fools

In Holy Week this year, perhaps our awareness, along with attentiveness to historical belief and mythic narration, might mull the notion of presence.

Presence is the revelation of being through existence.  

16.  When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”           (--Genesis 28:16, New International Version)

Here, in this place, and I, unaware.

So, too, truth, here and complete, and I, unaware of this. 

Truth is perfect and complete in itself. It is not something just newly has always existed.  


Truth is not far away; it is ever near. Do not try to walk to it, because your every step leads away from it. 


Do not follow some other person's thoughts, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself. Your body and your mind will blend in unity, and you will realize the oneness of all life.



Many thoughts will crowd into your mind...just ignore them, and they will soon vanish. Think that which cannot be thought.

In other words, think nothing. This is the proper way to meditate according to Zen teaching.

Zen meditation is not physical culture, nor is it a method to gain something material. It is peacefulness and blessedness itself. It is the actualization of Buddha-Dharma, namely, the ultimate truth of universal oneness.

In your meditation you yourself are the mirror reflecting the solution to your problems. The human mind has absolute freedom within its true nature. You can attain your emancipation intuitively. Do not work for emancipation....but allow the work itself to be emancipation. 

(--from, The Practice of MeditationDogen (1200-1253))

Our lives are perennial novitiates for the practice of creation spirituality.

As is Christ.

Whether Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Agnostic, or Humanist -- it is Creation-Itself  that offers itself for our contemplation.

"Christ" is the underlying hidden reality wherein we dwell, and have our being.

"Christ" is beyond appropriation or ownership. There's no monopoly on Christ.

Our brothers and sisters who call themselves christian are not always aware of the implications of such appellation. 

This week I am reading three non-fiction books: 

  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder;
  • Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us, by Brian Klaas
  • The Naked Now: Learning To See As the Mystics See, by Richard Rohr
The first is mostly about Russia. The second is pretty much about everywhere. The third is, in effect, about everything. 

Our greed and ignorance is astounding. Our inability to see and understand suffering -- its roots and our antagonistic behavior toward fellow human beings, living creatures, and creation itself -- are constant demonstrations of the moral lack and perverse solipsism in our personalities and souls.

I don't have to read about ancient Palestine or a wonderful wandering holy man who was beaten and killed by secular and religious thugs for the crime of spreading truth and calling out the lack and perversity he witnessed. 

I have Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Ethiopia, 36th street subway station in Brooklyn, Wall Street, halls of congress, high courts, legislatures and other pockets of prejudice, self-righteousness, and indecent wealth  -- each a scripture of human suffering.

The breath of the earth, the breath of Christ, the spirit of truth -- these are wisdom. These are our hope, even those of us who do not traffic in hope.

18  Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.


(--1 Corinthians 3:18, New International Version)

Let's begin there!

namo’valokiteshvaraya chant

Autumn 2020 Plum Village, premiered 27jan2022

we used to think of god this way

 The rules do not count

for people like Putin or

Trump — moral chaos

after thought

 Because things begin

They end. Nothing more to say.

But… te quiero 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

as they are perceived and not as they are known

 The poem is being written. 

(Read that: "Being" written)

Charlie, a student, and sometimes friend, famously repeatedly said he hated poetry. He's not alone. 

It is perhaps the supposed "haters" of poetry who suspect, in contrast to the flibbertigibbet enthusiasm of those who adorn their artistic personnas with it, that there is a raw danger and uncontrollable fierceness to the undiscovered power and process of poetry that is not perceived by the amorous aficionados and their vague flirtations with it.

“A fresh look and a fresh listen,” said Robert Frost of a good poem. “Read it a hundred times: it will for ever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance.” A poem may not show us anything new, but what we see, we see afresh, and what we hear, we hear anew. Frost was talking about the poem itself: what it presents, and the way it does it, should strike us unexpectedly. 


The English novelist and scholar David Lodge asked, “What do we mean . . . when we say that a book is ‘original’? Not, usually, that the writer has invented something without precedent, but that she has made us ‘perceive’ what we already, in a conceptual sense, ‘know,’ by deviating from the conventional, habitual ways of representing reality.” It is newness of seeing, rather than newness per se, that counts. 


This effect or property of art—to see things anew—was given a name in a 1917 essay by the Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky. He called it “defamiliarization.” As Shklovsky put it, “The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.” And to accomplish that, art makes objects “unfamiliar.” Art, in other words, has the power to make our process of seeing less habitual. Shklovsky goes on: “Habituation devours work, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war. . . . And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.” 

(--The Unfamiliar Familiar, by , Tricycle)

Charlie's keeping his distance these days. He was on national television talking about his creations and the unusual studio wherein he creates. He s probably busy fielding proposals of marriage and offers of patronage for when he returns to the marketplace in a future uncertain. But about poetry, he is certain.

It says nothing he can grasp or hold on to, he'd say. 

And he's right. Poetry does say nothing. And there's nothing to grasp. Nothing to hold on to.  

Those who think there's something there are like our christian friends who love the form and the feel of their belief but fail to fall into the formless devastation of the reality of christ.

Christ is the sound of emptiness. As is poetry the portal into what perception presents to those who see nothing but the eye looking.

The eye wants to see something, just as the ear wants to hear something. 

The poem is a trapdoor. Admire the nuance:

trap·door| ˈtrapˌdôr | (also trap door) 

  • noun --a hinged or removable panel in a floor, ceiling, or roof.   

  • a feature or defect of a computer system which allows surreptitious unauthorized access to data.     ( --Apple Dictionary)

 Charlie's right to be skeptical and wary. Poetry insinuates: 

  • A hinged or unhinged opening.
  • Surreptitious unauthorized access 
As is Christ.

Is there an other side to the opening? And what is it that is fallen into? Who wants to go to a hidden unapprovable region of reality no reports return from to accurately describe?

Only adversion.

Turning to. Turning away. Turning out. Turning back. Returning to. Attending throughout.

The stony stone rolls into place. The stony stone rolls out of place.

Charlie sculpted a tome wood-scripted with Rilke, Hugo, Lowell, Roethke and others as gift when the common belief was I'd finished a teaching so-called career that spanned thirty years of college courses at Maine State Prison. It was a surprise to me that I was done. It was a trapdoor. He and I taught a final course together two years later, (a first-time collaboration at MSP between a resident and a university faculty member.) It was a pandemic-distanced technology-challenged success. He's been silent since.

It's like a poem that, once read, refuses to yield itself because there's no telling, nor reason to tell, where it has gone to hibernate. 

As is Christ.

Before the Coronavirus, Saskia and I, (along with Tina, Jayen, and, later, John), would go to Quarry Hill for Poetry, Tea, and Thee. There was a woman who'd attended through the final year or two as she slipped into that place where the mind refuses to locate. Each gathering she'd begin the recitation of her favorite poem, only getting a couplet or two before falling through the trapdoor.

She was on to something.


                BY JOYCE KILMER 

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree. 

Source: Poetry (Poetry) 

Monday, April 11, 2022

ob- + audire "listen, hear"

 Going around in circles isn’t so bad. Let’s face it, living on earth is one big go-around. 

So, too, our spiritual life. 

The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself seek to love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me! “We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “If we love one another, God remains in us, and God’s love is brought to perfection in us” (1 John 4:12). Then we love with God’s infinite love that can always flow through us. We are able to love things for themselves and in themselves—and not for what they do for us. That takes both work and surrender. As we get ourselves out of the way, there is a slow but real expansion of consciousness. We are not the central reference point anymore. We love in greater and greater circles until we can finally do what Jesus did: love and forgive even our enemies.

(—from, Expanding Circles of Love, Richard Rohr 

When Dawkins, Kenny, and Williams met in an Oxford debate in 2012, there was reference to recursive self-embedded syntactic structures. 

A search yielded:

What is a recursive structure?

(definition) Definition: A data structure that is partially composed of smaller or simpler instances of the same data structure. For instance, a tree is composed of smaller trees (subtrees) and leaf nodes, and a list may have other lists as elements. See also iteration, recursion, recursive. 

 And, recursive:

re·cur·sive| rəˈkərsiv |  



characterized by recurrence or repetition.  


Mathematics & Linguistics relating to or involving the repeated application of a rule, definition, or procedure to successive results: this restriction ensures that the grammar is recursive 


Computing relating to or involving a program or routine of which a part requires the application of the whole, so that its explicit interpretation requires in general many successive executions: a recursive subroutine 



recursively | rəˈkərsəvlē | adverb  



late 18th century (in the general sense): from late Latin recurs- ‘returned’(from the verb recurrere ‘run back’) + -ive. Specific uses have arisen in the 20th century. 

It is a week of intimate religious observance -- Ramadan, Passover, Holy Thursday/Good Friday/Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday. These are recursive religious reiterations. 

And we, although only reluctantly, are invited to utter something idiosyncratic and idiorhythmic to the recursion as it circles back through us and springs forward beyond us.

What would we add?

Evolution isn't the problem. Nor is theism. Certainly not rationalism, logic, nor scientific speculation. As for atheism? Who can say with certainty what is or what is not?

For an opening bid I affirm that "the more a thing changes the more it becomes itself". I submit this translation as an exercise in recursive syntax.

 (cf. "In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose “ – the more things change, the more they stay the same… Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.")

I like my translation: "the more a thing changes, the more it becomes itself." Nor does "to cement" say it for me, implying a rigidity of understanding. I'd rather the word "concretion", (ie. a "growing together"). Such implies a flexibility, a regenerative recomposition.

We'll have to come to terms with the word "itself."  Merriam Webster offers:



1. : that identical one  


— compare IT sense 1

—used reflexively

watched the cat giving itself a bath

, for emphasis

the letter itself was missing

, or in absolute constructions

itself a splendid specimen of classic art, it has been exhibited throughout the world 



: its normal, healthy, or sane condition

in itself

: in its own nature : INTRINSICALLY 

was not in itself bad

We come around to the suspicion that all stories about divinity or what is called the supernatural are ways we circle the unknown with words and beliefs familiar, historical, and concrete (however ungraspable). Place a level of authoritative tradition over it, and one doesn't try to understand, only obey.

But obedience (the word) comes from:

obey (v.)

c. 1300, obeien, "carry out the commands of (someone); submit to (a command, rule, etc.); be ruled by," from Old French obeir "obey, be obedient, do one's duty" (12c.), from Latin obedire, oboedire"obey, be subject, serve; pay attention to, give ear," literally "listen to," from ob "to" (see ob-) + audire"listen, hear" (from PIE root *au- "to perceive"). Same sense development is in hiersumnian, the Old English word for the same thing. Related: Obeyed; obeying. 


ob-      word-forming element meaning "toward; against; before; near; across; down," also used as an intensive, from Latin ob (prep.) "in the direction of, in front of, before; toward, to, at, upon, about; in the way of; with regard to, because of," from PIE root *epi, also *opi "near, against" (see epi-).  


*au-     Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to perceive." 

It forms all or part of: aesthete; aesthetic; anesthesia; audible; audience; audio; audio-; audit; audition; auditor; auditorium; auditory; hyperaesthesia; kinesthetic; oyer; oyez; obedient; obey; paraesthesia; synaesthesia.   


It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit avih, Avestan avish "openly, evidently;" Greek aisthanesthai "to feel;" Latin audire "to hear;" Old Church Slavonic javiti "to reveal."    

(--Online Etymology Dictionary)

The invitation is to openly feel, hear, and reveal what is taking place during this go-around.

Listen carefully.

Feel openly.

Reveal courageously and compassionately.

This is the invitation this week, as it is every day, every moment, every instant of our lives.

If "prayer" ie. "invocation" (ie "calling into") is the protocol during heightened times of religious remembrance, let us call into the deep regions and dimensions of this temporal/spatial existence with resolve and fearlessness.

Then, listen.

All the while, remaining fearless and open to awe and mystery. What is revealing itself always nears and changes us.

It's what holiness does as it circles our way.

This go-around.


 I’d like to be more interested in Holy Week, Ramadan, Passover.

I am, but my interest falls to breath and breathing awareness.

Spirituality is the practice of breathing through what arises and falls away.

Each ending exhalation, death

Each renewing inhalation, rebirth.

Resurrection is the rising of new awareness through death/rebirth and the cessation of death/rebirth.

Go beyond words

Enter here




This —


The word “mushin” is comprised of two kanji characters: 無 (mu), meaning “nothingness”, and 心 (shin), meaning “heart,” “spirit,” or, in this case, “mind.” In this way, mushin can be roughly translated to “nothing mind” or “no mind.” It comes from a longer phrase used in Zen Buddhism, “無心の心” (mushin no shin), or “mind of no mind.”

Sunday, April 10, 2022

palms up


                  My God,  

Deus meus, réspice in me :

                   my God, look upon me:  

quare me dereliquísti?

                   why have You forsaken me?        

   (Tractus, Palm Sunday)

 Praise him

(Kill him)

Who is he

(Who wants…

To know)

coffee, tea, juice, or water, please

 No cigar nor scotch

today, after twenty five 

years, I prefer not—

Idiocy and madness

empty coasters left behind

完了 (kanryō, completion)

 “Get busy living or get busy dying.” (Andy, The Shawshank Redemption)

I’m not busy these days.

Phone call on house phone from friend at Maine State Prison during rainy Saturday afternoon was delightful hour. At end, Saskia calls cell phone from the road and the three of us have final minute together -- a Sumie brush stroke two hundred miles long lifting bristles from paper — the perfect 完了 (Kanryō, completion).

I’d elide the “or” from Andy’s quote.

In the secret hour of life’s midday the parabola is reversed, death is born. The second half of life does not signify ascent, unfolding, increase, exuberance, but death, since the end is its goal. The negation of life’s fulfilment is synonymous with the refusal to accept its ending. Both mean not wanting to live, and not wanting to live is identical with not wanting to die. Waxing and waning make one curve. [1] 


[1] C. G. Jung: Psychological Reflections: A New Anthology of His Writings, 1905–1961, ed. Jolande Jacobi (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), 323.  (cf. Rohr)

I’ve come to suspect that life is death and death is life.

Avoid one, avoid the other.

Fear the other, fear one.

This Sunday morning, in the christian metaphor, Palm Sunday, the sun shines through window.

The joy in seeing what is here, of realizing what is not here, is the delight of not knowing whether you are coming or going.