Feb 15, 2016

On a Rock on the Bitterroot River

Walking, sitting, lying, running,
happy, sad, scared, content
all are equal.

Hunger comes and is sated
eventually, returns eventually.

In between all that
why raise your voice
but to shout for joy?

Unless you want to 
make someone mad, which is fine

but why risk short-
ening your life?

Snow will fall on your ashes soon enough.

Dec 17, 2015

In Paranoia of Joy

They’re gonna make an example of me.

What the hell is the difference
between a vision and a thought?

Existential detective,
just putting together everyone’s stories,
trying to see what they’re saying.

Can you ever really know what life’s like for someone?

I’m here in the basement pushing a pen.
When am I not possessed?
Where do these voices come from?
What are they trying to do?
Am I robot?
Is there a microchip in my brain,
a microchip in my brain,
a microchip in my brain?
Am I a fountain of cells?
Am I a spirit guide?
Am I a brain inside
a hundred pieces you can name,
a fleshy vase,
a lava lamp of bone and skin,
an organ holding electric net of jewel-encrusted molecules.
Am I dolphin leaping out
                                               and splashing in
ov                   er                  a
      er         ov      and      er    gain?
          and                   ov

Am I a puppet of the universe?—
wide fur-lipped muppet mouth flapping on about the state of things.

Let the furniture tell the story.
Where you put your clothes,
how you make your bed.
What kind of ice cream you like
and where you bring your dog
or first dates to walk.

Where’s the best place to watch the sunrise?
Your spirit lingers there,
cross-legged on some boulders
in your favorite sweater.
You like to be talked to
by someone who talks about what they know,
or vise-versa.

And then the don’t-know amusements
splash up on the rocks
as the water gets tangerine and pink.
This is how you want to be remembered by me.

This is how I want to be remembered, too,
us here, making each other laugh
in the cold dark morning
waiting for this light.

I just want to know
if you’re actually enjoying this
or if you’re just pretending.
I want to believe this is real and
it passes by just like a dream does.
The memories from either are no more real
but life’s a dream that persists for longer,

and when we are gone
it’ll be the same as dream
us sitting here on the rocks

examples to each other
of how to act in such circumstances,
examples to any passing squirrels,

the splashing lake,
the strangers and stars
of how two humans are

and what matters to us
at this moment.

Dec 3, 2015

Why Meditate?

You sit down on the cushion
hoping to find a temple
bell hanging in your chest.
Snow is on the deck
outside your window.

The furnace blows.

In the powder yard there are
so many branches, sticks, twigs
you haven’t raked up.

Deep Breath In.

Here come the gunmen

crashing into the concert hall
opening fire.
Here drone the pundits pointing fingers
consulting experts who say

Breathe In.
In. Release
the madness unleashed,
fifty toothsome rabid dogs with spiked collars
venomous fangs, red stormy eyes
barking at you about your
childhood, all the shitty things you did and didn’t do.
Mom’s getting old now and still thinks
she runs you, you
really blew up at her on the phone yesterday
when she wouldn’t stop questioning your job,
are you making enough money,
when are you going to
Breathe in.
In. Re-
crease! Those new dress pants
are upstairs on the floor,
they’re gonna get ruined if you let ‘em
sit there like that,
maybe you should get up and fix ‘em.
You can fix ‘em if you do it mindfully, just

okay, Breathe in as you stand up,
Release as you up the stairs.
Very. Slow and gradual
hold out the hanger,
slip the pant legs through
perfect lines folded on the creases,
find the perfect balance
so they won’t fall out.
Downstairs the cushion knows
you’re gone.
Upstairs, you’re all upstairs
as you take slow, mindful steps and your toes
knock over the glass of water
you left two days ago
sitting by the door to bring downstairs
Haha, idiot, but
this is just like all those Zen stories
of the monks who felt their minds opening and then
WHAM! they tripped on a rock
carrying the bucket of water,
and suddenly they got enlightenment
so huuuuuhhh, maybe
this is it.
This is it as you
Breathe in, find a towel
Release, pat the water of the floor.
Feel the cold stain rise to your fingers.
Breathe in.
Yes this is it.
Ha ha.
This is it.
I’ve done it!

You’ve been taken.

There’s no you.
And the AK-47s are still being bought and sold
and fired through heads.
Some heads saying, “Insha’Allah”
others screaming, “God No!”
others holding thoughts of their loved ones
as they bravely raise their hands answering
“Yes, I am a Christian,”
“Yes, I am a Jew,”
“Kill me,”
and where are you


Somewhere in the hallway,
now through the kitchen,

back to the living room,
back down on the cushion

to finish your half-hour,
and I hope you learned something

to benefit all beings.

I hope you

found some


Nov 23, 2015

Good Morning Every One

From my window I see the sky
through the firs’ sparse boughs,

the birch’s branches bare.
The ninja silhouette of a squirrel

scampers across. The mountains
have snow on them.

In the woods across the river
there’s a man stabbing a corpse.

I do not call the cops.
He’s taking the elk home

to freeze for the winter.
Ducks paddle upstream, in a row.

Always upstream,
always in a row.

No one takes a straight edge to their line.
I’ve never known a nun to smack

the wrist of an eagle
for missing its supper.

God does not need us to scold
one another. Our

fingers can point at many things
but the Indians used to point the way

with their lips.
A nod and a kiss

to the direction they wished
to go.

God was once, only
once perfect,

but that was long before rulers.
Now God learns perfection through us.

I tell you,
we’d do well

to learn it through ducks.

Oct 29, 2015

The Break Cafe, October 29th, 2015

There are a handful
of things I know
for certain right now:

I have good friends
with small but not unpowerful jobs.
Sean didn’t charge me for this tea.

I know anxiety
and how it can swipe the whole jigsaw puzzle
to the floor in a second.

I know right now
I’m breathing deep and serenely as
Billie Holiday lyrics pour
gently from the teapot stereo
over the leaves of a saxophone.

I don’t know where I’ll be
next lifetime, though I have
a feeling some nothing of me
outlasts this body, the same
nothing of me that outlasts this mug
of tea once it’s empty.
The same me that limps down the street
wearing all of my clothes
and a few garbage bags
waving sharpied cardboard at cars
for the hope of chicken bones in my beard
in the coming days.
The same me that is the body
of a taxi cab honking hurry hooray
for today get the hell out of my way.

There was a tremendous mural
under the bridge over the Yellowstone
in Livingston. It was dated
September 11th, 2001
and prophesied the end of all war.
There were childish drawings of buildings
and soldiers burning, angels
flying down from heaven
to catch the falling, to lift up
the wounded and the screaming and
the dead with X's on their eyes
There was a huge redwhiteandblue tag for
next to it.
I am letting the cool waters of the Yellowstone
bring peace to us all.
In that place, in that month
it wasn’t a mighty river.
It was low and slow and gentle.
Some places it was just
a wide trickle over rocks
and I crossed the river
back and forth in these places,
my feet hardly getting wet.

I’m sorry to say
this is how peace comes.
It doesn’t come blaring from the intersection
green light go, wait your turn,
halt, halt, stop everything
everyone stop.
I mean
it does, but not everyone recognizes
it all the time.
And even when it does
crashing descend upon you
it’s unsettling,
quiet unsettling
how you never noticed
it’s always been there for you.
It’s always been there in you.
You’ve always not been there
in it
and now
the river smashes your dixie cup,
crumples your tea pot
you are rolling over and
down against the rocks bashed
banged brow, face mashed
legs and arms twirling like a mangled
piece of farm equipment
I’d be more specific but I can’t
you’re so old and rusty misshapen
I can’t even identify you.

Not to worry.
When the Spring floods subside
that old metal is just
a former shell of something.

It’s being buried solowly in the bank
by moss and lichen and mud.
That’s not you anymore.

Gather you legs.
Meet me by the side
of the Yellowstone in September,
the side closer to the peaks
and let’s weep before that picture
of our brothers and sisters dying for nothing.
Let’s scream our madnesses silently
into the gentle flow of water, for this
is how peace comes to us truly—
in slow sips of breath,
one Sinatra song at a time,
the warm tears on our face,
the mug lifted,
the ring of tea
left on the table
slowly evaporating.

Oct 16, 2015

Damn You Charlie Wong!

I know what makes me happy,
it’s just hard to get there.
My nose starts itching 
from the grease. I reach
into the backseat for my
                   Which one
should it be? The nine
to five suburban driveway
dream, or some wandering
mendicant never setting down
roots. Long ago he said,
“Here’s what you have to de-
cide: do you want to warm
your feet by your own fireplace
or someone else’s?”
                                         I have
so many sweaters. The green
cotton hoodie, two black wool—
one with buttons, one with a zipper—
a thick, lined flannel that passes
as a jacket and as a shirt, and then
all the gray pullover hoodies
I’ve accumulated from running
track, different organizations over
the years.
                       The years add up,
yep they do, and if I knew
I was going to live to be 200
I’d have a totally different
plan, but I’ve got to plan
on 80, so this’ll have to do.
I’m 27 soon, “Marrying age”
I said to her
                            the other day.
We wanted soup at Saigon Garden
but we were in that awkward window
between lunch and dinner. They were
closed till five, so Frugal’s
was my choice. I wanted
a burger and some fries. Her
stomach hurt. Then she downed
a breaded chicken sandwich and
moaned, “I have no self
I remember playing Yahtzee in the
evenings with my parents. I remember
a Saturday morning in the English off-
ice, November, he had fingerless gloves
and Wish You Were Here on, he was
typing up poems and I thought,
“Damn that sweater looks comfy.”
Then he tore into my poems with a
red pen and I
                              was so thrilled
every time I met a girl who
played catch with my heart.
All the late nights holding hands
on our backs in the grass at
Lorel Park, staring up through
the orange Chicago night sky
until we saw stars, until
it’s getting late, I’ve got to
sneak back home, but let’s do this
again and again and again
                                                  the Autumn
turns to Winter and I happily pull
my sweaters on and we happily keep
each other warm by fires
                                                and then
Spring comes and Summer and we end it for 10,000 reasons.
The years add up. Despite what I
believe, I am getting older and I
am wondering if it isn’t time to
grow up a little, forgive myself
for my childish past, ask for
a second chance,
                                     and a third
of my life is gone now
                                           if I live
to be 80.
                      If I live
to be 80.
                                    That’d be

May 1, 2015

Brass Skin

The woman next to me at the bar
just hollered, “WALKER!”
in my direction.
Shrill and piercing
like a golf ball flying into a mailbox


I don’t blame her—
she’s drunk on a Friday afternoon
and eating peanuts.

Here are the feelings today:
ambivalence, and

That last one’s always there.

Well, almost always.
There are times
after a run,
in the morning looking at the mountains,

I think about everything that might happen,
everything that’s inevitable, and
it’s all okay.

Old age, homelessness, shitty jobs, fuck-ups,
horrible diseases I say thanks every day I don’t have
yet, death, yes
all okay.

That feeling never lasts more than an hour though
'cause next comes giddiness that maybe
I’ve left all my troubles and worries behind
once and for all, and that’s

always pursued by a feeling
of manic anxiety.
Then suddenly

I’m back in my own skin,
my mind the hammer
of a church bell
at noon.