the next shore

The river bends slowly
The river inhabits the night
with its quietest voice, speaking a lazy urgency
with its quietest companion, the night sky,
dark and heavy like disappointment
dry and flaked mud encrusting my hands
I listen, but hear no promises at the furtive shore,
I listen with my petrified limbs, but see
no palliative hut for shelter
no fruit tree to feed the pause
it is the stream that speaks
it is the lumbering flow that begs my surrender
do i wish for some death-like rest
do i hope for a flood to do my work for me
am i a slave to the force in my hands
am i a slave to the blood in my veins
am i wanderer or king
am i stranger or friend
I breath, and breath, and breath
I breath and fall, and am borne toward that next shore


sometimes I tire of being fair and caring
of seeing things from your point of view
of thinking broadly of cause and effect and the delicacy of the little girl in you
sometimes I tire of looking for my culpability
compassion does not always beget compassion
and perhaps, I have learned that vampires are real

you see compassion (i do not say feel) as a handle to hold:
my strong heart, which loves you and loves I and loves youandi
becomes your feasting table, became your feast
eat this, it is my flesh, drink this, it is my blood

I am no savior (much as I want to be), no messiah, barely have I the blood left to move myself
barely have i strength to let you alone
your tears, your accusations, your unending demand to feed, demanding more of me until i no longer know my hunger from your hunger, until there is only feeding and preparation to feed (and hope, never ending hope that at last, you will say “it is good”)

my strong heart is growing wiser, it will not run and hide forever (today, yes, and maybe tomorrow also)
and while it still bleeds for you, (because my heart is made to bleed and I will not change that),
you may no longer taste the iron and the wine, you may no longer satiate your hunger through my veins
But I shall still bleed, to feed my own need
Until I learn the taste of new drink


before spring; before the green shoots of possibility;
before color and the fresh morning
there is a waking underneath
a stirring of elemental force, like the unheard rumblings at the volcano’s root
i feel it in my soles as i walk unshod, testing for solidity
i know it by the broken shards of my sacred pain

not knowing when life will return
nor how the liquid flows of earth and light and water will take shape in me, in the small universe i have touched;
i tremble, remembering failed promise and the twisted gifts
of cold springs past
remembering, over and over, my culpability
knowing that I am my only canvas
and the brush knows no other hand
i tremble, and reluctantly, bow to hope

The interrupted man

I have said I am broken
but what is it to be whole
what is the story of the uninterrupted man
does he love completely
live fearlessly
take hold of the world and change its shape
is an unbroken man the undeniable master of his own life
or the unconscious perpetrator of a thousand banal horrors
Is the whole man yet a boy, is the breaking itself the lost initiation rite
I have said I am broken
and do not know what a man should be
Should I have killed the beast within
or saddled it
Tell me please, because
my beast is a starved thing, huddling in dark corners, unable to lend its strength
If not whole, what then remains?
Innumerable parts dispersed across years and the crumbling self and the disintegrating present? the unstructured man?
I have said I am broken
and will have it no other way


In the morning of my evening
I found, like a lost treasure in a forgotten pocket,
myself opening
not as a stately door on well-oiled hinges
nor as a crooked gate, bent by years
what holds me closed is not latch or turf or rust
but the ghost of a burning coal
an ashen shape that falls away
at your whisper
I am torn open
(not as the temple curtain was ripped
when the lamb was slain)
torn like fabric too worn by living and loving
for the weave to hold


there is nothing profound in chaos
and we are not strangers to the
destructive power of creation
no unusual magic is found
in the movement of our bodies
and you will not find the key to your future self
on this floor on which we stand
we dance to live
we dance because we have chosen
to continue
to suck the sap into ourselves
and produce another leaf
another branch
The bud of new fruit

we cannot discern all the illusions
and we cannot live in essential solitude
we dance to touch
to taste
small moments of that which
lay beneath illusion
which holds the chaos
which is our unending


i’ve never been pretty
that word, all the feelings
all the expansive and burdensome landscape
it plays across in the great mind we share
has never been applied to me
i learned to wield it though, the word, clumsily
as a compliment to little girls
“pretty shoes”, “pretty dress”, “such a pretty girl”
and pets
“pretty girl”
and later, as a stand in for lust
“pretty girl”
or a dismissal
“pretty girl”, “pretty woman”
or a joke
“i feel pretty, oh so pretty…”
and much later, as a many layered thing
“he’s very pretty”

now its a word of the past
an engine for the baggage train of patriarchy and oppression
and a reminder of my own culpability
a word I don’t use any more
a violent word like “cunt”, “whore”, “slut”
a word that dies on the back of my tongue

i watched my daughter, in her battle against prettiness
shave her head and insert gold teeth
she wanted to feel what i felt
the absense of the priviledge and weight
my little girl
who delighted in her princess dress and sparkly shoes
who danced and sang with abandon on the back lawn at twilight
declaring to no one, in a voice like a forest stream
“I am so pretty”

Prayer of Appreciation

whatever visions of gods or powers I once followed have lost their power over me
to whom then should I pray

from whom do I receive the two year old voice of my son’s daughter calling my name
or texture of his speaking to her of comfort and delight
who listens to the rising within me at these simple words::

where is the altar, and what is the offering I can give to match the unexpected fragrance of flowers on the wind
or of the brine from the morning shore

how many kneelings will suffice to express what I have gained from the thousand ways in which I have been broken or from the ten thousand kindness’s from which I’ve been formed

what language can carry back all that I have found in the hearts that have whispered through me

my body is too poor, even in its wildest dance, to give proper due to the deep wells of passion that have washed me

only life,
only living,
wholly living,
is worthy of the gifts
so to life only will I bow

soul sister

it is in the trembling of my fingers,
a trembling that wells up from
bone and memory
that I know you are near
Not your words, though I feel the breath of them
not your eyes which hold me like a cloud holds water
not the grasp of your hand, though it’s warmth is a persistent sun
I am moved by your moving, the currents of my life rippled in your wake
I feel you feel, like our hearts are great tethered balloons traveling through the wide sky streams
I am seen, and thus see
I am heard, and know music
I find you here
even in this emptiness

Jedi Mind Tricks

I hold the thought of you
as it were, with what in me
is capable of holding
sometimes it is the candle’s flicker
tiny and open to all the world
or else it is the sun fire
heat and brilliance and roiling gravity
often it is the expected hearth
calling from the cold road
at all times, you are alight
always, I will tend the flame