Swimming


“If you do something in the spirit of non-achievement, there is a good quality in it. So just to do something without any particular effort is enough.”
Shunryu Suzuki



To make something of these times I 
must make something so I will find 
a frame in which to nail my thoughts. 
I cannot beat this lone silence

and I cannot take this seedless 
greening anymore, this yearning 
growth that knows only down and in,
only dragging my thoughts into 

the night where I cannot find them 
though I remember having them, 
remember how they felt if not 
how they looked, remember them close 

and warm, and thought them somehow grand 
or at least telling at the time 
I barely had them, but now? Now 
I barely have them even less. 

Now I am not sure if I have
them or if they have me. Now they 
are lost in their own depths, swimming 
silently in the rolling black 

medium of their making. Now 
they haunt me in their bare being
and unmake me and swim through me
and I will make nothing of them.







prising, slogging, digging



I try to write at night but mostly 
fall asleep before I can begin,
before I can achieve the proper
state of reverie, the space that
I crave to create, that I cannot 
seem to make the time or the 
energy for. But yes, the words 
whisper to me when I cannot 
catch them and slip away before
I can put them in their place,
before I can place them where
they will live and grow into more.



I put the parts of them in little boxes,
little bits of hair, a leaf dropped,
a bone perhaps, found in the soil,
slip them into a little book that I 
keep in my pocket to pull out
later, to try to form into something--
something more, something alive,
something that can find the light
to live when I can find the silence
that it needs to let it grow. My days
are far too noisy, my nights too short.



The soul trudges on, 
slogs through the mud of life with 
little time to dig.  

I offer these words to myself as 
a balm, a hand on the shoulder, 
a consolation in the true sense 
perhaps but without a prize to offer 
as I cannot prise the poems from their 
hidden places as often as I would like, 
as I feel I should, as I feel I need. 

The soul trudges on, 
slogs through the mud of life with 
little time to dig.  




The Ecstasy of Autumn

“To say anything—the mere effort alone—is a form of abandonment, an act of distortion. We can’t pin the world down in words, but there’s incredible pleasure in attempting to chart the slippage.”

—Joseph Massey

 

we slip

from being to saying

there is pleasure

in the tearing away

abandoning the seen

for the said

it’s the tension

between the two

between the too

many things

A death of memory poem

 





I have been thinking about the
writing of death poems. How this 
practice can prepare one for the 
inevitable. I had intended to write
a death poem on the forty-seventh
anniversary of my birth (the beginning,
I thought, of a new annual tradition) but 
I did not. Instead, I seem to have written 
a death of memory poem, something 
that I believe I must fear even more 
than death itself at this time in my life,
though this is probably only because
I have not come close enough to 
death while the death of memory is 
a thing that I have known closely for
quite a long time. So here is my
death of memory poem. Perhaps,
by its writing, I will be made ready.







Let my poems be a hedge between
my self and the loss of my memories,
a palliative against or a salve for the 
wounds that I saw on my father’s face, 
that I now have seen on my own face, 
that same face when I look in the mirror.







My memory is gone.  It is a broken 
thing beyond fixing that will just run 
down and down over time. But maybe 
these words, these poems will give me 
something that my father never had, 
something that he never knew how 
to find on his own, something that I 
do not know that I know how to find
on my own and yet still I search and 
yearn for—a changing of the heart, 
a look in this mirror, a softening of 
the self (hard, hard thing that we
make within us, our myriad actions 
and phenomena uncountable that 
we cling to, these never-ending 
evanescent folds in the cortex 
of time, these simple tricks we 
use to try to woo security to sit 
at the table with us, to say to us
that we are we but not alone
and yet somehow still solitary…).







Perhaps I can find this thing 
for both of us, my father and
I, though he is long past finding
and I find my self searching still.







Perhaps, if my memories must leave 
me (and it seems that they will) I can 
have them replaced with poems.  
If my memories are to be dislodged,
if they are to fall to the wayside, 
I would rather have poems in their places 
than just more fears of losing more memories.







What is the self but a bag full
of memories that we cannot 
put down? Though we are
boarding a train to a place 
of no things and we stand
ultimately alone on the platform
and the bag is full of useless things
and our arms are already full of all 
the things the world has given us
that we did not want or need or ask for,
still, we cannot put it down.







I want to be able to put it all 
down. When the time comes, I 
want to be able to board that 
train with empty hands. Let me
board it with empty hands, alone.











Drive, a haiku sonnet





There is a robin 
singing in a tree somewhere,
telling the world he

is looking for a 
mate. A robin sings in a 
tree somewhere, telling 

the world he has found 
a mate. The tree somewhere is 
a tulip in the 

neighbor's front yard. Spring 
has come. We drive by the same 
people, sleeping in

bags on the sidewalk, waiting 
for the world to warm.










(Been a little minute since I wrote one of these...)

Between Beginnings

This very moment, as you take in a breath 
to speak the next line or just to whisper it 
or just to sigh a little, a girl is letting out all 
of the breath in her lungs for the very last 
time as the building around her collapses.

A man who is really just a boy is
holding his breath without realizing it 
because he cannot grasp the fear that 
he feels as he starts to pull the trigger.

He has no words for what he feels
and she has no time to make words.

And me? I am still 
breathing in.





(I wish, on this day, to remind myself that what was for us an extreme punctuation to 
our otherwise and comparatively serene lives is in fact a fact of life--yearly, monthly, 
weekly, daily--the substance of the narrative--for so many people in so many places.)

(This is, in a sense, a follow-up to this post, many years on)

This poem first appeared on my friend Jeremy Nathan Marks' project,
Poetry of the Resistance.