Saturday, September 09, 2023

when being enclosed has benefit

 Cousin porcupine

waddles between yurt and gate

where dog and I watch

not bothering to meet up with his body

 Our lives are spotty. 

How would memoirist thomas merton write his final day in Bangkok? The talk he gave. The cryptic ending about he’ll disappear. The reference to all having a Coke too prosaic a final comment for biographers.

The the fiasco of narrative about last minutes. There would have to be mention of heat, bungalow, tile floor, a bathroom, a standing fan, a faulty wire, a wound on back of head, a dead body.

His dead body. How would he write that?

He’d add wit, sardonic allusion to nihil obstats and green-billed censorship, mimeograph runoffs and notes from Dan Berrigan volunteering to edit his work (please, please) down to measurable worth.

But would he know how he died? Would he feel his heart give out, or hammer to back of head, or electric current running up arm across chest? Would he care once a final breath left him to circulate in the suddenly changed room that everyone who came into the room wherein his body was breathless did a pisspoor job of making sense of what actually happened?

Merton would suggest he quickly found himself in Gethsemane on porch of hermitage looking over pond and field as monastery bells tolled time for hours to be prayed. Who would want to stay in Thailand while police and officials decided what story of their own to tell?


Misplaced modifiers, unrelated facts about early life, someone he fell in love with, photographs undocumented and poems lacking explaining strophe. 

He’d begin by saying he didn’t expect to die, not then, not there. He’d say something a Zen Buddhist would adopt as a koan and find a zafu to sit with for an hour. He’d say some words about the nothing he experiences as he tries to pray. Then laugh. He’d think that prayer would taste cold and biting like recently iced Coca Cola.

Thomas Merton wouldn’t write the final page. The reader would turn the penultimate page and find mid-sentence an empty space where three final paragraphs should be. No brush stroke, no haiku, no unsatisfying conclusion leaving the reade wanting clarity or closure.

No. He’d leave the last page blank.

When his body was delivered back to the monastery for burial he wouldn’t bother meeting up with it.

There would be a bird in a tree at edge of field doing what songs they do in late afternoon. There would be clouds trying to decide whether to rain themselves into sweet smells of soil and puddle. An easy breeze would pick him up and carry him to a fond memory just off to the side of anything he could recollect.

Of course he’d write all this down. Where’s my pen? My notebook? 

My word? 

do you know what it’s like on the outside

                “For things to reveal themselves to us, 

              we need to be ready to abandon our views about them. “ (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Just like that turning

corner looking back not a

thing there — verition

I don’t know what you think goes 

on but I’ve no idea

say nothing, listen

 There are times when night

far advanced wakes you up with

noiseless reverence

Looking out window faint light

tolls monastic mute prayer

Friday, September 08, 2023

circulating converse

 In prison we talk

aporia -- but we are 

uncertain -- read poem

Singularity by Howe

then argue about Descartes

trembling to caress the light

 Lowell said it — “All’s 

misalliance. Yet why not 

say what happened?” —Word!

Thursday, September 07, 2023

quieter still

Someone dies, nurses

attend after family 

leaves — vigil — home — (home)

turn turn re-turn

 What is neither yes

nor no —where can you stand be-

tween one and other

the energy necessary to reveal itself is incalculable

 Scripture speaks of God

Nature keeps her counsel — dark

matter does neither 

fallback strategy

 Cat decides to nap

until I go get food tin

downstairs in kitchen

and no

Some think that it is easier to shoot and kill someone than to persuade them to think differently. It’s not a good strategy but it is a deep dark background insinuation of the gun people in our society to differing opinions, lifestyles, things believed — shut them up, shoot them!

Nothing on the horizon seems to be appearing to countervail that mind set.

Get your gun. Buy your bullets. Say goodbye to your life. But first, shoot them bastards.

Someone, somewhere, is writing a suicide manifesto, scoping out a vulnerable population, checking to see what his favorite deranged and obscene ranting fool is condemning today, and remembering all the slights and cancellations aimed at him since 2nd grade. Cruelty festers. And then there are murderous weapons.

“Bless me father for I have sinned” is replaced with protestations of mental illness, 2nd amendment rights, and nullifying juries.

What place blessing? 

Giving metta as a skillful means doesn’t mean you agree with this person or approve of their position or their choices. It simply means that you acknowledge that they are a human being just like you—they want to be happy, to live in peace and safety, and to have good health. When you offer metta to a person who frustrates you, you’re including them in your wish that everyone has the conditions to thrive and live with joy. This is because we all deserve to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. This is true even for people you don’t like or those who are dangerous. You can adopt an attitude toward them of “I love you and no”— knowing that you will do your best to stop them from exercising their poor judgment or causing harm, while at the same time wishing for them to have well-being and ease.

(—from, Want to Change Someone Else’s Mind? Try This Insteadby Kimberly Brown, In tricycle, July 2022)

I own no gun.

I say “no” to the argument all our differences can be shot and killed.

Difference is mostly what we have.

Be different — don’t shoot.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

the year before she gave birth

 Christ, she said from dream, 

is emergence, (fifty two 

years ago in Bronx) —

Nothing then, it explains all

Now (is she still listening)


               (after Lynn Casteel Harper)

 Finishing the book

On Vanishing she infers

“Vapor, vapor, all 

Is vapor.” Ends book: “Vanish-

ing is still life” — perfectly

what is necessary is so infrequent

 Sipping cold water

Hot September afternoon

Reading new purchase

A God That Could Be Real — truck

at gate — panting dog lays down

feeling wobbly

 Light breeze through hot light

Sun over harbour yoga

troup stretches on grass —

September Texan’s rental

car with Florida plates click

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

face to face

 Look again.

Do not accept anything simply
Because it has been said
By your teacher,
Or because it has been written
In your sacred book,
Or because it has been
Believed by many,
Or because it has been
Handed down by your
Accept and live only
According to what will enable
You to see truth face to face.


I am looking.

Thank you! 

just that





respectfully declining

 I am not running

for president, not now, no —

(do vote, and wisely)

I’d rather sit quietly

within breeze sidling through trees

Monday, September 04, 2023

price of doing business

 Bee lands on jewel

weed, blossom breaks off falls ground

flies away no thought

not one thing is true

 Tibetan holding

Prayer wheel next to cross with birds —

How well the world spins

the work we do not know we are doing

 Two cats lick chops bowls

Empty. Listening to book

On Vanishing — blank

Mind — Alzheimer’s steals loved ones

Death before death vacancy 

Sunday, September 03, 2023

monks at night outside barn

 St. Bernard mix sniffs

frog in dooryard under bright

moon Labor Day eve

building bridge across brook

 Here’s the thing, practice

Is for well-being of all —

Even done alone

each practice a different universe

dog's raw food ready

chime on stove insists -- on rug

muzzle on paw, waits

leeching the life out of words

Beauty is the absence of temporizing. 

The aesthetics of poetics surrounds inspiration with the raw feeling of presence for the radical duration of this glance, this moment, this departure letting be and going on leaving behind brief light for others to sense someone was here.

Ensōs of pre-ruminative eternity dipped onto decaying matter moving elsewhere.

His censorship came from the outside and was a crippling burden to him, but all artists feel the weight of their own self-censorship—What can I write about? What should I write about? How should I say it?—which in some cases can be paralyzing. Merton felt this self-censorship too; it was exacerbated by the paradox that he had taken a vow of silence and had a compulsive need to write. On aesthetic grounds, he was not free of the conflict many moderns and postmoderns have felt: What is aesthetic discipline, and what is a straitjacket that leeches the life out of the words? (—from On Thomas Merton, by Mary Gordon, 2018)

A hospice sitting next to bed of the actively dying. Nothing to do. Nothing to say. The breath of attention as is moves away to passing necessities the touching amenities of anonymity and evanescence.

Whatever you think

You are saying

It is already too much

For the time-being 

no one in the place

 The hour prayer

Begins, moon sweeping night off

Roof, dog barks in dream