Stay with me, Love

Hold me, my Love,
I’ve lost my dreams
—sluiced away as cotton candy after rain.

Hold me, my Love, can
you stay the night?   in my dreams

The afternoon after the poem in the night, four hours before the wedding party:

The ache in my body as this poem wrote itself and woke me last night was as physical as an iron cannon atop a fort wall it can no longer protect, and as lonely.

Which does not mean my mind was not baffled. It, or I, prides itself on managing well, managing well without a man in my bed, managing to keep static interference from forming a wall between myself and what is beyond the tangible. At the grocers, others contemplate which flavors of ice cream to buy. I contemplate the flavors of time, love, space, and what the cashier is thinking as she or he tallies my groceries.

It is perhaps relevant, though, that my dog was not in bed with me, cozying up as the nights turn cold—or close enough I can reach him if I wake for a bit. His soft warm fur, his tolerance of a kiss on his sleek jaw, his peace when I hum “om” against his skull.

He was not here because there is a wedding party here tonight—I am waiting for the caterers to arrive—and my dog would spend the evening patrolling for food.

So what was it with this poem? This seeming calling for a lover? This seeming destitution? This searing admittance of need, and of grief? It seemed all of these, but made no sense to my mind.

Waiting for the caterers, I realize “my Love” is not a man (though that could be nice) but is my reservoir of Love, a well of Love that spreads to the harried or content cashier and the harried or content me, a Love that comes not so much from me as through me.

I was calling on that Love to hold me through the difficulty of losing beliefs and dreams—dreams washed away by deliberate cruelties and random happenstance. Are floods happenstance? Is abandonment of people who have been flooded happenstance? Is war happenstance? Is famine caused by war happenstance?

These things have worn at my belief in benevolence. They make me cry inside, a cave where tears form crystalline stalactites.

Humans have forced reality on me. Some people sheltered others with their bodies when the shooting started, while others were trampled by those fleeing.

It’s a mix.

The flowers were delivered this morning, a mix of soft lavenders, dark purples, whites, and palest greens, roses, tulips, hydrangeas, even baby pink cabbage leaves. When the caterers arrive I will say “The tall vase goes there, don’t you agree?” and “That is for the entryway.” They will be spread through the house like a blessing, like belief. 

This is a first wedding of a couple in their forties who have been together for some time. They have a good chance.

My reservoir of love will hold me, regardless of the slip-sliding of dreams and raining away of spun sugar.

Love will refresh me through the night as I sleep. That is not a belief, it is knowledge.

The day after the wedding party:

And so the flowers were spread through the house. One hundred or more people arrived, were greeted by chardonnay, and then they, too, spread through the house in blessing and belief, and joy and comfort.

Food was passed on trays. The bride and groom were radiant. Toasts were given, laughter cycled above our heads. Some people sang show tunes around the piano. The last left around 3 am.

In my dreams I sang in ancient keening languages, my cries ascending in golden plumes to the beyond. People didn’t know what to do with me. The teacher told me to stop. I told him he had yet to learn this language. I did not wake, but I remember, and am held.




Going Gently into the Light

All I want is to be gentle and to have the right to be gentle. It is not my time to protest anymore, but giving it up feels like an abandonment not only of those in need and those in pain and those in loss, but of myself, of the spirit of my younger self. It is confused by my physical weariness.

Some people climb the Himalayans in their 70s or even 80s, but that will not be me.

I am not complaining, though I am baffled. Doctors do not decipher my weariness, they prescribe or they look at me slightly askance as though someone who looks as I look must be a malingerer, or neurotic, certainly unrealistic and narcissistic. They are not inside my body.

I am not a malingerer. My body and my mind are weary. Wrong, only part of my mind is weary. One part is burstingly alive, radiant, claiming, grabbing, and appalled at the other half.

Forget names, forget the names of things, forget the sequence of events over the past week, forget spellings.

Doctors say is it usual. It is NOT usual. It is not acceptable, though I try, when I am not angry or frightened.

Have you noticed how we never grow up? How dreams and thoughts take us back to childhood, and there it revamps things? It makes memories and some good guys problematic, but more, it makes some bad guys good. We come to understand those who hurt us and accept the cages that destroyed them and harmed us. We become organisms that forgive, even as some people must be written off.

And even that loses meaning too with time.

I don’t want to be the old woman in the chair in the corner, and it is difficult to imagine I will be even as I might be. “She was so vital,” they’ll say. “She was something in her day.”

I just want to be gentle and gracious and generous and to have flashes of brilliances. Strangely I do have flashes of brilliance, mostly private. They come as gifts special delivery from a bright and shining light, and they blow me away. No, they lift me, and fly me to clean places where for a moment I am where forever lives.

I just want to be gentle and know that I too will be forgiven for wrongs and errors, and that I have a right to be gentle, that the world will be safe enough for the elderly to be gentle if they need be, without guilt, that we can mourn our losses quietly and let joy flow like light through our veins without guilt for not having done more.

Perhaps this will change, perhaps my body will find a key to turn that brings it back to power and rambunctiousness, and I would accept that gladly. Who wouldn’t? Reality has always included miracles we can work towards and be open to, but not command.

Perhaps the miracle is that, as my body gentles itself, love occupies all its spaces.



He Would Have Been Tested For Rabies

The President of the United States violates every principle of honesty and exploits every crevice of divisiveness he can find. He trades in fear, bigotry, deception, and alternative worlds. He is a carrier of a malignant virus. If he were an animal in the Iowa of my childhood, he would have been tested for rabies.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, I was 13 and in civics class, second to last in the row of desks closest to the hallway door, a farmer’s daughter who had been taught your word was your bond and that we depended upon each other to bring in the harvest.

In that seat, I had an “aha” moment that Iowa was quintessentially the safest and most American state, or at least the Midwest was the most American area, and because Iowa had corn we had the edge even there. I also found it boring, which made me secretly a little ashamed of myself. How could I reject such luck to be born in Iowa?

We were at the heart of the light of freedom for the world. Each generation would have it better than the last. There was only one direction to go and that was up.

Central to this belief was the touchstone of honesty. Even our soil was honest, it showed you exactly what it was. Cows, pigs, chickens, they showed you if they were healthy or not, liked you or not. The sky was clear and endless. The wind and rains and snow were honest, taking their turns to show us exactly what they were and what their power could do and how we needed them.

And Christianity for the most part was honest in its values, though it wasn’t tested except inside one’s self. When farms were lost, some farmers shot themselves in their cellars by putting the shotgun in their mouths and pulling the trigger with their big toe. That was how I first learned women are usually better at managing crises than men. I’m not sure how much of that had to do with a woman’s Christianity or her tenacity.

I secretly found Bible stories to be fairytales but I knew the feel of good hearts and solid folks. They were my neighbors, whom I did not find boring. I found them quirky and strangely diverse, but pulled together by bonds of mutual respect and interdependence.

Christianity, however, did not discuss social issues and my civics class did not discuss minorities. There were no minorities in Iowa, so we set up our divides between Protestants and Catholics, and town folks and farm folks.

The desire to believe you are the people who are right, better, finer, closest to your sect’s chosen god is a pernicious virus.

So let’s come to the sorrowful point of now:

The President of the United States violates every principle of honesty and exploits every crevice of divisiveness that he can find. He trades in fear, bigotry, deception, and alternative worlds. He is a carrier of a malignant virus. If he were an animal in the Iowa of my youth, he would be tested for rabies.

He would have been isolated. No farmer would have worked with him because he was not to be trusted. He would not respect the farmers who rented instead of owned. He would not have paid his bills and that would be the end of that for him.

He would have been ostracized across counties. The word would have gone out among the people when the children were not listening. He would have been a fraud in a place where your word was your bond, where honesty was in the land.

They would have compared his hair with straw, but not in front of the children; they would have laughed behind the barn about his small hands.

Now, it turns out, these people voted mainly for him. Our farm was 18 miles from Mason City, the River City of “The Music Man.” The town folks were huckstered in the musical, but that at least was about trombones.

Times have changed, but that Iowa dirt is still in my heart. It demands truth, and it is not alone. It feels like one handful of loam in a field, a plain, of people rising across the United States reclaiming the heartland of who we are:

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood (and sisterhood) from sea to shining sea!



The Dalai Lama and My Soul are Running Buddies

My soul insists that the 14th Dalai Lama is a personal friend, is kin. The Dalai Lama turned 80 a week ago, but my soul says the two of them are the same age, timeless. They are running buddies. They have stories they could tell each other but neither bothers because they already know each other’s stories, infinite.

If an age were demanded of them, if they were forced, they would probably say they were 11 years old because of the mischievousness. Or something over 2000 because of the knowledge they have that I cannot normally access.

The Dalai Lama and I had our moment. It was a few miles north of Santa Fe in 1995, maybe 1996, and started over a breakfast of huevos rancheros at a five-star resort in the desert.

Out the dining room window I saw Tibetan flags leading towards the mountains. Moments later, monks in orange robes walked by the window.

I grabbed a waiter, “Is the Dalai Lama here?”

“He’ll be here soon.”

“What’s happening?”

“There’s a press conference.”

“I’m supposed to be there.”

“It’s private, it’s closed.”

“I’m supposed to be there.”

“Talk to those people over there.”

Abandoning huevos rancheros and my husband, I rushed to the very official looking people “over there.” They had clip boards and check off lists.

“I’m supposed to be at the press conference.”

“It’s closed.”

“But I’m a reporter and a photographer,” I sort of, vaguely, exaggerated, even as I knew I was supposed to be there. I was.

“Show me some i.d.”

I don’t remember what I showed them. I think I rattled off places where I worked years earlier.

“Okay, but you better get in there. It’s starting in five minutes.”

I sprinted out the door to my room among the cacti, grabbed my Nikon, and sprinted back past the monks, and slipped through the double doors as they were being closed.

Not a single chair was available. Everyone was silent, waiting His Holiness.

I stood alone against the wall inside the double doors. They opened and six monks entered. Together we stood in a line against the wall.

When the Dalai Lama entered, he came in with his head down and palms together in front of his chest. He bowed to each monk in turn without raising his head.

Orange robe to orange robe to orange robe to orange robe to orange robe to orange robe . . . to levis. The Dalai Lama was bowing to me.

He looked up, surprised and curious, his head 12 inches from mine. Then he smiled.

He smiled just for me, his eyes sparkling. The Dalai Lama and I shared a joke, a visual joke, a quiet joke, a timing joke. A joke of the misplaced and unexpected. Fifteen minutes before I had been eating huevos rancheros.

His eyes have been called “laser eyes.” It is true. Their amusement and curiosity etched into my mind. It was only a moment, but it was timeless.

And the memory, the reality of the memory, returns now with good timing for I have been weighed down by the suffering in the world. Old questions such as “How can any of us be happy when so many of us are in misery?” are unanswered and seem to me to be unanswerable.

Yet, the Dalai Lama tells us we can have peace inside and experience daily joy. He shows us we can have peace inside and experience daily joy. But he’s the Dalai Lama, it’s his job description. How does it become ours?

In the last week of my father’s dying, he laughed in that time of the dark night of the soul around 4 am. It was a muffled laugh. He had only one-half of one functioning lung.

But it was enough to wake me on the cot next to his hospital bed. Well, I was in a listening sleep and heard his every breath.

“What’s happening, Dad?”

“It’s a joke. It’s all been a joke!” He was in bliss, radiant, and highly amused by his 82 years of life.

The next morning a nurse asked in that loud voice nurses sometimes use, “Howard, are you in pain?”

“Why be in pain?” he answered.

Only a week before he had been remembering every injury ever done to him. He started with my mother and worked his way backwards through time until he was in his twenties. He spoke of people and things I had never heard of. He was angry, resentful, and fed up. He was not going to leave this earth without letting someone – me – know every time he had been cheated, betrayed, humiliated.

After three days, I asked, “Dad, is this how you want to do it?” He stopped talking to me for the next two days. Then in the dark, he muttered something incoherent, a guttural sound.

“What’s happening, Dad?”

“I’m trying to get my head on straight.”

Two nights later, he saw life was a joke and he abandoned pain. Three days after that he abandoned this physical life.

The Dalai Lama and a farmer from Iowa have the same message. The difference is one has had decades to tell it to millions while the other had only a couple days and told it only to me.

But the message is the same. Everyone has a right to be happy, joy is possible, the suffering do not wish us also to suffer, it is ego to think our sadness helps their suffering. It is also ego to turn away from those who suffer.

My soul is quietly saying, “Go girl, you’re getting there.”

Joy is not a luxury item. It is as basic as corn and potatoes were to my father, and as the twinkle in his eye is to the Dalai Lama.

I think, yes, that the point where we do not belittle those who suffer by thinking they are different from us – that we are greater and, therefore, somehow guilty –  but that we realize we are all equally deserving of joy, it is native to each of us, that is the point where we have gained a little bit of new understanding.

To take on suffering gratuitously that has no benefit to others is its own hubris. It is saying I think my suffering will make a difference when, in fact, it is our joy that makes the difference.

None of us is god, and each of us is god. My soul and the Dalai Lama have this conversation all the time. Perhaps I am just starting to hear a little bit of it.

When we feel joy, we are not ignoring those who suffer, we are keeping the light bright. We are accepting our natural state, and it is from this natural state that we have something more to give than our grief. It is light that clears darkness, our own and other’s.


Rachmaninoff and Me

I haven’t written because I have too much to say, but question the validity of saying any of it. Recently on Facebook I have been adding “friends” who are poets and authors, and I don’t know who they are – well, some names are slightly familiar – and they all have books, and write beautifully, which adds to my writer’s block; but I just came from seeing the play “Preludes” at Lincoln Center about the composer’s block of Sergei Rachmaninoff after a disastrous – and I do mean disastrous – debut of a new symphony. The conductor was drunk and the orchestra not prepared, and Sergei got skewered by the critics. If seeing that play doesn’t unblock my backlog, I think nothing could except drunkenness, which isn’t my style. It didn’t work for the conductor, it wouldn’t work for me.

Afterwards I sat under the trees in front of the theater in this blessed balmy air that is the same temperature as your skin surface, which is, of course, heaven, and the guy who played Rachmaninoff walked by. He was talking to an obvious friend who left and then as he walked back, I said “Thank you,” and he came over and I told him about the Rachmaninoff wars between my 7-year-old grandson who adores Rachmaninoff, though at first he thought it was Mozart he adores but it is Rachmaninoff, and my 5-year-old granddaughter who thinks music isn’t music unless it has words and a singable melody, while Ben doesn’t like music with words. He is gifted in math so it makes sense. Rachmaninoff was mathematical also.

So the writer’s block has been both about that I cannot keep up with the magnificent writers who are suddenly all over my FB thread even though they don’t know me, but probably did a quick check, saw I looked harmless, and were willing to accept me as a “friend.” And it is also because I have lost my sense of having a profile, any i.d. Nothing makes sense anymore regarding who I am. And if you don’t know who you are, your literary impulses, which depends on what you think and feel, can get pretty confused.

Wendell Berry – one of my new literati friends posted this magnificent poem by him – described this well. Well, my dislocation takes it a bit further than he does, but he really described not knowing. See?

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Now, it seems the impeded stream may not be singing – more like gurgling eddies – but he sums up the bafflement and makes it all good somehow, as having the purpose of no purpose might actually get you somewhere.

I haven’t been fighting losing my identify. I invited it and have yielded to it even as I now question it. Several years ago I decided to strip myself of definition and it has been working. I mean, people think I am serenity, except for my closest friends who still think I am serenity and rely upon my being serenity for their own serenity even when some get occasional glimpses of churning waters underneath.

Joan Didion wrote that as she got older she couldn’t write as she once did, words eager to rush onto the page, internal rhythms known even before the words arrived. Now she just tries to use the right words, the accurate ones, the authentic ones. Each word done with such care. I tell myself to do the same but I am not Joan Didion, and to include a reference to myself in a paragraph about her is narcissistic blasphemy, but . . . yikes.

Plus, there is a residue inside me that is rococo. I would love to be able to use words like verisimilitude, laconic, obfuscation, lexicography, and lassitude as nimbly as I use words like harvest, fever, raspy, and earth.

It is imperative to use the right words, but it is work. It is a meditation, it is knowing what is. And knowing what is is, generally, beyond words. See the problem?

Other problems include that I’m just plain lonely in this transition to non-description. This is, by the way, an essential struggle of most elderly. Have you any idea how many people who were my friends or acquaintances a couple months ago are no longer here?

My second ex-husband sent the word out, through a convoluted route that found me across the U.S. and after 35 years, that he has dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. It wasn’t his lungs, after all, that got him. It was Lewy’s body disease, the second most common form of dementia, the top of the list of all those kinds of dementia that are not Alzheimer’s. Do you think I’m losing use of my vocabulary not because of seeking rockbottom truth but because words are disappearing? I am afraid of that. In any case, no-frill words tend to be truer. Something may be “transcending” but it is more accurately “rising, delicate and vaporous.”

Rachmaninoff really suffered. Brilliance hiding is not a pleasant thing, especially when you need to bring in rent money. Brilliance molding? What is a sorry state for others is a horror for a genius. I am not a genius. My suffering has been real but it is not a case of having a gift that could blow the minds of others into the stratosphere and that the world will forever ache over from its loss. Mine is more closely aligned to the loneliness felt in the gap of not hearing one’s self express one’s own understandings, of not taking something to the next level, of stupefied energy.

This is not outwardly visible. I look pretty good, and my health is good. I had it checked out of fear that the gloom eyeing me along the edges of my campfire was partially physical. My health is fine, my loneliness isn’t really.

Did I tell you my past is littered with bad husbands? Men who failed me on the simplest of terms. Fidelity, safety, things like that. It is a cluttered landscape behind me. Debris beside the road, but it is okay. I am blessed, and I saw this play today “Preludes” on the composer’s block of Rachmaninoff. He was 28, I’m 72. He got over it. I will too . . . or not.

It is not important to be able to use words such as pulchritude, dipsomaniac, vermiculite, or phrases such as “it hit him the way formaldehyde hits a lizard, “ or “she circumambulated the offering, an oracle tied to the thread of a vision” No, it is enough to be able to say, “She loves with her entire body. She loves so much she does not know her body from her mind. She loves more than fits conventional wisdom. She loves beyond calling. She loves with the clarity of a baby’s drool. She loves. She loves mindlessly. She loves so much she trusts losing herself even though she has no choice in the matter.”

Rachmaninoff went on to write his “Prelude in C# Minor.” I wrote this.


Finding the Words for Eternity

Words become more precious as you age. Each one is required to be right, exact, capturing and cradling a clear intent. It is my belief there are several reasons for this.

First is that life itself becomes more precious. A limited supply of anything good becomes more precious, and as you come to grasp what remains of your life, to deal with it daily as people around you die, you want to have what remains to be superb. That includes the words you use. They must not degrade the preciousness of life.

Second, but related, is a desire to understand what life is in its pure form. In the living of your life when you are younger, you seldom need to understand what being alive is. You just are. You do what your species does. You don’t obsess over what is real and what is not real, or try to enter the DMZ area between consciousness and unconsciousness. You don’t focus so intently on your reactions to events and people that you have seen your reactions as passing sensations, vapors, mists, sandstorms, waves, occasionally particles. You don’t yet know that you are forming a matrix of these sensations and labeling them as “now” and “here” and “memory” and “reality.”

But, there is a need as you realize that your life is by all definitions at least 75% over to re-examine what life is – what it actually is instead of what happens within it. In this re-examining you can discover that being alive is more than living a life.

You feel the universe expand as your physical life shortens. To explain this intangible reality through tangible words is a delicate art. It has stymied me, though without anxiety. It is, actually, why I have not written in more than a month.

During that time I also spent two weeks in London, loathed a winter that overstayed its welcome, and for not altogether bad reasons have felt a lessening of closeness with two men who matter to me dearly. Yet I wrote of none of this because something larger is happening and it avoids words.

In any case, I don’t have the right words yet. I don’t believe there are any. Even so, I am trying.

I feel on the outer edge of the reality within which we classify and categorize sensations, memories, responses, and beliefs, and we call them reality and we try to hang on to them, when they are only imprints on our consciousness. I’m trying to say there are two worlds and they are both real, but in different ways.

I feel I am gently against the inside of the skin of a large bubble and on the other side is all time as timelessness and all space as beyond space. I think I may have stumbled on why so many older people become gentle. We have become more aware of what is on the other side of the bubble skin, and it gives hope, love, and patience. It also reorganizes our priorities. It tells us to live in ways that add beauty. Just that one rule.

I don’t pretend to know what is beyond individual consciousness, but I trust this awakening relationship with timelessness and unending space. I ask It questions occasionally.

Two nights ago I said: You will have to spell this out for me. I don’t quite get what is real and I don’t know what I am do to.

I asked It to spell it out and that night I had a dream in which I sing a song that flowed through me. I woke to listen to the song. It is the letters W, A, I, and T.

Only the letters W A I T, over and over. I will wait. There is time. There is eternity.


Ode to a Man Who Loves Me

There is a man who has loved me since I was a sophomore in college, or maybe a junior. I’m not sure now. He was the campus poet. Also a wrestler and football player, but for me mainly a poet and friend. Four or five years ago he found me through Facebook. When I responded with “Is that you?” he was unable to reply for weeks.

But since then he has written, mainly through private FB messages or emails, an average of two or three times a week. Each note is poetic, most have photographs, and they revolve around me, not him. He seldom volunteers information about himself or his life.

Occasionally he forwards an announcement from NASA or elsewhere on new discoveries in the cosmos or inside atoms. He is very smart and understands that we cannot comprehend where we live – and that the best we can do is to keep chipping away at ignorance until the gems of truth are seen and known. Well, I attribute that to him. He never carries on or pontificates. Maybe he just loves being awestruck.

Stars, mountains, lakes, and vistas figure large in his life. He spent years working in our national parks. A couple years ago he sent messages that I needed to call him right away. He had gone out to his car at night to see if that was where he left his keys. Standing under the stars and thinking about the end of his life, he had to talk to me, he had to make sure I knew how much he loved me before he went gaga and forgot to tell me.

Well, I don’t think either of us is near to being gaga, but he wrote last night that he is ill with one of those degenerative diseases that is not kind. I’m not sure any of them are. I am sad.

It took little nudges from me over months to find out that he is ill. He has had many medical tests done and the verdict seems to be in. His energy was devoted to supporting me, to being a champion, to declaring love, to being amusing with words that have multiple meanings and surprise pathways. It was not in sharing his troubles. You might find this strange. It is certainly unique. He chose to bless my life, and has.

Beyond his being there, beyond his infusion of beauty into my life, he has shown me the courage of expressing love, of saying it. We in the Midwest were taught not to do that.

Neither of my parents said they loved me until I was in my mid-twenties and I forced the issue by ending annual visits to Iowa by telling them I loved them. After a few years of this, they expected it and managed first an awkward “me, too” and then finally “I love you, too” at the airport. It was like chewing cardboard for them, but they got there.

There are so many absurdities around saying “I love you” and my friend blew them all away. The hesitancies didn’t apply. I’m not saying I deserve his love. I recognize he credits me with being more or better or whatever than I am. But that is not the point. He loves and he says so – not only to me. Sometimes he copies me on poems, photos, and notes to his family.

He was in Vietnam, one of only two in his unit to return alive and with all his body parts. A poet in the midst of slaughter. How does one deal with that? Well, at least partially with medicines and by saying what needs to be said before you go gaga or die.

He says he will love me always. It is that simple, that courageous, that “without any strings.” He has received scarcely anything from me compared with what he has given, though I hope he knows how grateful I am.

I love you, my friend. You have helped me to tell everyone I love that I love them. You have given my heart freedom, muscle, and joy.

And, dear friend, please forgive my being so public in the face of your tendency towards privacy. I want to pass on what you have helped me to learn.

. . .

Readers, below is a teeny sampling of photographs, and I start with a random – yet very clear – excerpt from a longer quote:

Q: So what did the OTHER photon say to the one photon … etc… 
A: I have NO clue as to what this matter is all about… so please, enlighten me, I truly wish to know if there is a tunnel at the end of the light…

tunnel at the end of the light..

reflections of warmth, love and light.. too much love..

veil of clouds..

Peace.. 2

Na Pali Coast, Kauai..

Love, one world..

heart with no pockets..

Waiting in the garden for lightning

garden at night

I sit in my garden at 1:30 am waiting for an epiphany,
longing, Saul on the road to Damascus, to be relieved.

Even though I don’t believe salvation comes through lightning,
I long for quick and fast.

I believe salvation comes through knowing and accepting,
though I do not know of what or how.

Not tonight but the night before I met a man
who has lived twenty-five years under a large tree in India
where there is snow and a trail to Tibet
where Chinese soldiers have orders to shoot you on sight.

The trail, narrow as a snake, winds along the side of mountains.

The Chinese soldier who saw him, wearing no shoes,
asked his blessing and gave him his combat boots.

He lives off wild strawberries that look like raspberries –
I saw a photo on his friend’s cell phone – and a kind of wild spinach.

And mushrooms that grow only after lightning strikes the ground.

I wait for an epiphany.

In a US city he wear shoes, soft sportive clothes, and a white newsboy hat.
He smiles without end, and seldom speaks.

He glows as someone might who eats mushrooms that grow after lightning strikes.

I wait in my garden with my dog, discomforted.

Three days ago I had lunch with a rare beauty in her early 70s,
enthralled by a rocker, singer-songwriter – enthralled!

They whirl and dance, enchantress and enchanter.
He has wings tattooed on his back.

She calls him panther, he calls her slow burn.
She is famous, on the cover of a magazine right now,
wearing a hat made of a nest with golden eggs.

She writes of their sex life, real and imagined –
she will create a perfume for them and the book.

The perfume will be named “text.” He is 37.

She removed her large black straw hat and blue sunglasses
under the mottling trees. Our lunch was salmon with avocado
and chia seed pudding with raspberries.

I had not seen her in over a year.

“You have ‘Z’ on your forehead.”

“Yes,” she said, “it is a tattoo.”

“You have been struck by lightning.”

Two night ago, I saw my own young lover after months of parting.
He told me he missed me, us, talking, being.

That was not an epiphany, except in being stated.
It was getting things good and right.

He will help “Z” find a perfumery.
Perhaps we will create our own perfume,
something for what we cannot have.

I wait, in the garden, discomforted, for lightning – and rain.

I look to a man who lives under a tree
and a woman who loves madly
and a librettist who may make an opera of a play I wrote
and a once lover who will be a friend forever
and a widower who flees grief, likes bullfights, and touches my heart
and a phalanx of delicate and mighty women who fight demons with me –
and a singer-songwriter (not hers, but mine) who breaks through reasonable living
by the ruckus of his untamed genius.

These people and more sit with me as I sit in the dark,
knowing there is no lightning of reprieve,
understanding, or accepting of what has happened
to the others now with us –

children beheaded in Iraq,
people turned into body parts in Gaza,
the dead from plague in West Africa.

Numbers beyond immensity dead in Syria.

And this is the crux:

How do we dance on the head of the pin during slaughter?
How do we create perfume?
How do we eat chia seeds with raspberry topping?

I cannot put their suffering in a drawer
for after my vacation or rendezvous or lunch.

Symphony of friends and lovers – simplest of lives,
most stylish of lives – lift me lift me lift me.

I am split between ecstasy and pain.

Did lightning already strike? Was I torn apart silently?

A rabbit, a first, just hopped across the end of my garden
– not poetic license. It is a city garden, it is 2:00 am.

Two of us awake in this strange land,
searching for a kind of wild spinach or berry,
or mushroom that grows only after lightning strikes.


Some people place you in their side pocket among their keys and billfold to take out only when you are useful to them, without care if you have been scratched, rumpled, or torn.

Others in their breast pocket, more tenderly, to be taken out like a small shiny object, perhaps of use as a secret talisman, or to be shown as borrowed i.d. to gain them entry into someone else’s esteem.

Still others place you in a purse, back pack, or computer bag jostled among their history of ticket stubs, old lipsticks, used tissues, and aging agendas to be rediscovered by happenstance when they search for someone else’s business card.

There are no pockets in someone’s heart. To be there your host had to have been willing to feel your essence and let it pervade their own. When that happens, your perfume will linger forever. If they let you know depends on who they are, what they understand of beauty and rarity, and how they tend love.

Passion, a steed

You can lead passion to rationality
but you can’t make it drink.

It may bow its head or rear up, meow or whinny,
but it will not drink.

The size of its obstinance does not matter.
Passion, any size, does not drink rationality.

We brush our teeth and tie our shoes, it does not.
We read our mail and change our beds, it does not.
We pay our bills and make coffee, it does not.

Passion drives us mad banging against the bars
and searching for the key to escape.

Passion rode us on its back long ago, or only yesterday.

It remembers, and will not let us forget.