when i think about the Tao Te Ching

when i think about the Tao Te Ching
(though thoughts about it tend to distance it)
i fear the utter speechlessness it brings;
i dread being alone to witness it
when the universe of all things profound
pours out its annihilating secrets;
i’m scared of being infinitely drowned
in that vacuum where no light or sound
can interfere with the eternal Tao;
i’m scared of being disintegrated
& never returned to how i am now—
the fate to which all living things are fated.
but you dissolve all this. with you, i am
embraced by the great mystery, not damned.

all the great Masters recommend restraint

all the great Masters recommend restraint
of thought, word, action & initiative:
always be ready to respond, but wait
for the right time to strike. how do they live
so disciplined, their only time around
more competent than others, but less proud?
as a dam may serve to irrigate the land
& pens pinpoint the fine control of hands,
their limits must be what defines their aim.
is love, which knows no boundaries, the same?
if i want lasting love, is there some vow
that can bind & secure me to its course?
or are great works accomplished to allow
their workers to draw closer to its source?

i realized if i could only love

i realized if i could only love
a tiny bit more deeply than i’d grieve
in the extreme worst case, i’d be above
petty paranoias that you might leave
& free to love you with such abandon!
the problem is that even bottomless
love can never swallow up grief’s canyon.
like balanced scales, grief is love’s consequence,
& as my treasuring of you multiplies
day by day, in layers thickening
around your heart, your speaking voice, your mind,
the thought of parting grows more sickening.
but i’m far too far already to turn back,
so i’m flooring it until i’m out of track.

a mental illness

a mental illness is a paradox:
addiction is the habit of chaos;
delusion is falsehood made orthodox;
OCD is unrelenting will turned
on its master, forcing him to stand still
& the noonday demon i know firsthand
perversely makes life’s lovers lust for death.
in every case, elusive mental health
skips teasingly ahead, just out of reach,
obeying neither reasonable speech
nor the hard teaching of experience
& perpetrating weariness.
i know there’s not some awesome, magic cure,
but being with you makes me not so sure.

prayer to Athena

wisdom incarnate! God of craftsmanship,
adviser of kings—come to earth!
materialize as the larger-than-life Alpha Female
you are, Athena, i know you’re aching
to stretch those strong legs—come walk
hand in hand with every leader of my troubled,
fast-paced age—please, Athena, born
of the thundering cranium of Zeus,
rise in your golden armor like the Sun
& bring enlightenment to everyone!
reveal the great rewards that can be won
when men are all loved like brothers & sons!
be the mother of invention & art
& set the pulse of mankind with your heart.

agnostic’s prayer

growl, the sound the ground makes in an earthquake
thunder, the tidal wave mounting at sea
silent horizon rising in the sky—cry
under the arc of the tsunami
the transfixed crowd howls & is erased
white noise in the dark emptiness of space.

light me a lantern, yellow as daylight
that never exhausts the primal oil it burns;
light it inside the drowned houses of God,
schools, courtrooms, mega-theaters, all submerged;
befriend my generation, end this flood
& even if we’re not the only earth
in your care (if you’re there) preserve this one
to add to the white noise, for what it’s worth.

how to write two poems

How to write one poem

start with vivid, ballooning, colorful
visuals that bring daydreams of childhood
out to play. celebrate the wonderful
carefreedom of your clear-minded
reader.
          catching him midair, feel his weight
thump your chest & answer it with a push
back to the sky
                          now, with his legs straight
out, let him relish the rushing WHOOSH
of the air through his hair, the swing’s chains
slackening where the arc stops—
                                                  that’s when he
bends his knees, leans forward with his face
facing the blurry earth & picks up speed, free
of you.
           last, let him decide if he’ll stay
smoothly swinging or fall (in love) someday.

How to write another poem

this time, it’s less about writing a poem
& more about feeling through this substance
that happens to be a poem. you’re at home
with your subject, but still, you keep your distance,
like a patient birdwatcher who listens
from far off before the binoculars
quietly confirm his intuitions.
some birdwatchers are great photographers—
not you. you don’t take well-timed snapshots
of beauty. instead, you try to capture
how your iridescent subject is wronged
when Time’s ruthless forward-marching nature
conquers it however fast it’s flying
& sketch it moving—moving, but not dying.

sleep to your heart’s content

sleep to your heart’s content, delinquent Muse,
with every sugar daddy who can buy
you; ogle any oligarch you choose,
give sloppy seconds to the little guy
& make babies with Satan, if you must—
don’t wait to sate your promiscuity
on my account. your lust won’t break my trust
as long as you keep one promise for me:
promise to love my love as much as I
do. love him with your trained & practiced tongue,
receive his love, & conceive in your mind
the strongest, sweetest song that can be sung
to a man—then sing to him when he’s near,
pretend i’m gone & let me overhear.

Medusa

Poseidon, Lord of the Seven Seas,
stormed ashore boiling with lust into
the temple where she was worshipping
him & his massive suffocating
body poured pushed pounded &
consumed her; his roar deafening,
she couldn’t hear but she could feel him
forcing out her screams.

What he left of her lay deathlike on
the floor for a long time, listening
quietly to the ebbing tide.

When she rose (alive, but not like before) her scalp was pulling against
itself, restless skin twisting, hissing
in her ears—
                    alone, terrified, she spat
venom & clawed at the teeming mass of
snakes that had replaced her hair!

                                   her invaded flesh
embodied her distress so deeply that
from then on, whoever met her eyes
became a petrified stone statue.
Even birds dropped mid-flight, paralyzed by the sight.

In misery & shame, Medusa hid away,
surrounded by the statues she had made
till a hero came to count her death toll paid.

He chased her through her cave, using his
shining shield to mirror around blind
corners—hunted like his prey, she stayed
in shadow, praying, stalemate!

At last, in a moment of unspoken truce,
the killer commanded: “Show me your back.”

What did she have to lose?

Facing the wall, she let the torchlight
fall on her gentle curves. Then, dangling
to her waist with their whispering faces
swaying
                the slenderly cascading snakes
transfixed the tired soldier by surprise.

Timidly, the female monster offered,
“Sheath your sword. Close your eyes.”

For some reason, the man obeyed, unafraid
as her footsteps & forked tongues came
close, lapping the air moist with his sweat—
then, all at once, his bare shoulders caressed
by her nuzzling heads, her warm
breasts heavy in his hands, the monster
was conquered.

Prometheus


Nicolas-Sébastien Adam

My ancestors believed they were created
out of red riverbed clay by Prometheus,
a superhuman being.

What possessed him to breathe life
into us, just forgeries of himself, no one
knows, but our creation brought him pride—
so, the Lord Zeus let it slide.

One winter, under cover of night,
Prometheus climbed to the mountaintop
where the bright light of the gods burned hot
& held a torch between his fingers
until the heat sank in
& the embers could withstand the wind
& brought it to the people.

We called it fire.

But Zeus had an eagle known to fly
to sentinel the dark night sky,
& once Prometheus was done,
the shadow flew back to its master.

Later that night, Prometheus visited
the Divine Blacksmith and said, “My friend,
Zeus is coming for us:
for me, to punish me for what I’ve done,
for you, to polish up the tools of your
trade & use the finest iron known to you
to forge an indestructible restraint
& bind me to this earth, &
I want you to comply, for your sake & for mine.”

What a hostile time for mankind!
Disaster struck whole cities to the ground,
tyrants dangled the dead heads of their foes
under the noses of the deaf, pitiless gods,
& when the earth rose under your feet
to heave & purge, you felt the excruciating
pain of Prometheus, sweating like a flood,
titanic limbs thrashing against rock & chains
while the loyal & cruel eagle tore into his
liver with its vengeful beak,
& it was his red-hot blood that poured
from the volcano & became stone,
& through this upheaval, people
came (together) to believe this story.

Camera Man

Last time I saw my son,
I was a young man. Now, he is.
It’s OK. I like listening.

I don’t resent the woman. I’m just tired
of traveling, listening, hauling
my tall three-legged robot & his box
of replacement eyes, ears & memories.

Things could be worse.
Want to see a grown man cry? Lie
& tell people he raped his daughter.