Saturday, December 23, 2023

just an old fashioned love song

 In what way do you practice?

No way.

Is is effective?


Why do you bother?

No bother.

Yet you keep on?

I know no other way.

this relation itself

At times I think poets are the evangelists for contemporary diaspora unhoused and wandering far from true home.  It seems we are lost. And no amount of cajoling or rationalizing fits back together what has been smashed against undetectable intelligence, unreasonable self-indulgence, and arrogant uncaring. 

Still, there's no wiggle-room in a car's boot traveling the highway kidnapped from predictability and being taken to who-the-hell-knows-where just down from who-the-hell-cares. 

Except for the existentialist's curious feeling that possibly, ever so faintly possibly, they are loved, beyond all calculation, simply loved.

        [The ship] is slowly giving up her sentient life. 

        I cannot write about it.
                                       — Shackleton, diary

Next to where their ship went down

they pitched their linen tents.

You, mountain-climbing,


wearing your dead father’s flight jacket—

My scalp is alive,

love touched it. My eyes are open water.

Yours too.

Sitting in the dark Baltimore bar

drinking coke

with you with your inoperable cancer

with your meds

no tent

no care what we look like

what we say

Later that night, in my room

looking into the mirror, to tell the truth

I looked right through into nothing. 

I was loved.

                            (Poem by Jean Valentine) 

Damn mystics!

Epilogue become epigraph.

An obviate despondency snatched away, chickadee cracking open sunflower seed on yew branch, the world is nicer than I thought (as Raimon Panikkar says in Metaphor of the Window. The indecipherable urge to get on with it. Spit spot. Pack up pickup for the dump. Bring hiking sticks. It's officially winter and light is returning. Walk a while. Listen to a book.

A Catholic convert with strong Buddhist sympathies, a person

of prayer and of sitting meditation, Valentine draws deeply from

Christian theology and iconography, but her poems treat individ-

ual belief systems and religious symbols in a more syncretic way,

revealing or gesturing toward spiritual mysteries largely without re-

course to dogma (Interview, 16).1 Instead of relying on any one in-

stitution for power, her work depends on the paradoxes character-

istic of all mystical texts. Mystical paradox, as de Certeau defines it,

“cannot be reduced to either of the aspects that always comprise

[it]. It is held within their relation. It is undoubtedly this relation it-

self” (16; emphasis added). Thus mystics argue that “God is neither

personal nor impersonal,” as Bernadette Roberts writes in The Ex-

perience of No-Self, “neither within nor without, but everywhere in

general and nowhere in particular” and thus can be experienced as

both presence and absence (33).

(--from, BRIAN TEARE “The History of the World Without Words” Mysticism and Social Conscience in the Poetry of Jean Valentine)

Of course. God is both present and absent.

At the same time?

No doubt. Also (of course) no certainty.

Let it go, the image in the mirror. Or, go into it, through it.

There's probably nothing there.

Go ahead, step in.

Or, the selfsame activity, turn away, walk to the far edge of the room, out the door, into the afternoon breeze.

It's not that it's all the same.

More, it's completely different than we can imagine. Completely unimaginable.

Unsurpassibly so.


 Chuang-tzu pointed out 

everything becomes something 

else. — Yeah, I see this.

Friday, December 22, 2023

unread sign signifying nothing much

 down road his Trump sign

pitched in frozen ground dwarf wind

bending -- no one cares

and who, to my wandering eye, should appear

 There they were at first door off the mile smiling as I approached.

"They still letting you in here?" said former student and old teaching assistant. Buddies standing astride and aglow.

It was a good Christmas gift, seeing folks for whom fondness fits.

Backslaps and handshakes all around as they turned and waved and called Christmas greetings making their way down hallway to the Earned Living Unit at Maine State Prison -- this Friday morning appearance.

can't make it all alone, a near-perfect christmas song

Fairytale of New York

It was Christmas Eve babeIn the drunk tankAn old man said to me, won't see another oneAnd then he sang a songThe Rare Old Mountain DewI turned my face awayAnd dreamed about you
Got on a lucky oneCame in eighteen to oneI've got a feelingThis year's for me and youSo happy ChristmasI love you babyI can see a better timeWhen all our dreams come true
They've got cars big as barsThey've got rivers of goldBut the wind goes right through youIt's no place for the oldWhen you first took my handOn a cold Christmas EveYou promised meBroadway was waiting for me
You were handsomeYou were prettyQueen of New York CityWhen the band finished playingThey howled out for moreSinatra was swingingAll the drunks they were singingWe kissed on a cornerThen danced through the night
The boys of the NYPD choirWere singing Galway BayAnd the bells were ringing outFor Christmas day
You're a bumYou're a punkYou're an old slut on junkLying there almost dead on a drip in that bedYou scumbag, you maggotYou cheap lousy faggotHappy Christmas your arseI pray God it's our last
The boys of the NYPD choirStill singing Galway BayAnd the bells are ringing outFor Christmas day
I could have been someoneWell so could anyoneYou took my dreams from meWhen I first found youI kept them with me babeI put them with my ownCan't make it all aloneI've built my dreams around you
The boys of the NYPD choirStill singing Galway BayAnd the bells are ringing outFor Christmas day

(—lyrics by Jim Finer, Shane Mac Gowan, sung by the Pogues)

Thursday, December 21, 2023

you too, me too, see through

 Stars bright moon bright cold

Night winter solstice, darkness

Pauses, turns, sees light

ina aonar leis an aonar*

 When I became monk

I was alone, no word no

Others wandering 

And so it has always been —

Nothing presenting nowhere

….  …   …

*Gaelic: alone with the alone

amico che lancia con la mano sinistra al secondo

This sandlot teammate

Slapping catchers mitt on leg

Lifting mask, smiling

lux est lux

Truth is what is Truth

End is beginning is End

God is what is God

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

through truck window handing in ornament

 In grocery line

He said he googled old friend

Learning she had died

Without her calling him there

To see her through end of life

xingshan 性善


Humaneness (ren)


A good idea

Human nature is good

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

metta and metta each week

 Wind stops rain stops dawn

I know you…love me…today

Now reveals itself

Suffer die return ascend

Prison sangha weekly with

Monday, December 18, 2023

did you see him, anyone

 Specter not a man

Something passing through this plane

Hurriedly going

Somewhere unforeseen and yet

Absorbing everything whole

time it was and what a time it was

 Once I sat zazen

All quiet and unmoving

Very place itself

I can barely remember

Why it was I did once so

the hands of a preposterous person

 Commentators are either apoplectic at the obvious inflammable rhetoric, menacing threats to American democracy and values of compassion with justice by the republican candidate for the presidency. 

Other commentators worry that adulation and unaccountable glee at the promptings of disproportionately undemocratic authoritative propagandistic dog whistling signal a shift in American acquiescence to “let’s try it” addiction to dangerous ideology.


I’m becoming a fatalist.

Perhaps he will be elected.

America will then undergo profound antipathy and overt arrogance by putting total unchecked and unbalanced power in the hands of a preposterous person.

Voices rise up saying “let’s try it!”

I don’t know.

It feels like too many think he’s a joke.

There are those who feel some assassin’s sights will focus in tight scope if things threaten to materialize. (God help us should that happen.)

Others, more philosophical, aver good sense and civilized intelligence will rise to the occasion and overcome extreme attitudes and return to more moderate governance.


Hard telling.

Still, the annoyance continues.

I read The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About The Good Life, by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh, c.2016.

Rituals matter.

The importance of goodness.

To respond well to others.

We can hope, right?

Better, we can practice.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

that ‘thing’ which encompasses or transcends everything

From New Monasticism: An Interspiritual Manifesto For Contemplative Life in The 21st Century, by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko:

So what is this constitutive dimension of the human being? This archetype of the monk? “We may have no other entrance into the archetype than to study or come to know the monk as archetype.”4 


 It is the monk who has most often represented this ideal among the human family. When we look at the monk and peer deeply into “those aspects of the human being that are most rooted in his nature… [we find that] the monk ultimately becomes a monk as the result of an urge, the fruit of an experience that eventually leads him to change and, in the final analysis, break something in his life for the sake of that ‘thing’ which encompasses or transcends everything.”5

“By monk,” Panikkar writes, “monachos, I understand the person who aspires to reach the ultimate goal of life with all his being by renouncing all that is not necessary to it, i.e., by concentrating on this one single and unique goal. Precisely this single-mindednness, or rather exclusivity of the goal that shuns all subordinate though legitimate goals, distinguishes the monastic way from other spiritual endeavors toward perfection or salvation…”6 

[--footnotes refer to Raimon Panikkar's Blessed Simplicity

We like Panikkar.

We named our Wohnküche after him.

He's been an inspiration. 

work boots and grip gloves

 Finish novel set on eastern shore down from Halifax in Nova Scotia by Lesley Choyce. 

Atlantic Canada and Atlantic Maine is where my imagination dwells. There, and in the emptiness of promise and acceptance of inevitability. 

Can’t seem to find my way to any church, temple, or dharma center.

Stacking wood is close enough. WERU and Willy Nelson’s Angel Flying Too Cose To The Ground. As good a ritual and hymn for this December season of endings and beginnings.

Good for them that do church and greet priest, imam, pastor, rabbi, zen master or rishi on their way out the remnant of congregating community.

These days are reminiscence and rumination.

Coffee and breakfast cake, eggs and toasted English are the sacrament this Sunday morning.

Zagajewki and Guzlowski are the scripture poets haunting chaotic desk.

Some are leaving.

Others drink silence.

(Opening lines of poem, The Last Storm, by Adam Zagajewski)

There’ll be no snow for the holiday. 

All the same to me. 

Bird feeder has seeds. 

Silence, room.