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Monday, February 28, 2011

poems: from here to eleven

(25)
i still struggle.
i convince myself that love is an outcome.
a result.

i forget who i am,
what i will always be,
is a lantern.
a soft hum of light.
traveling easily wherever it is taken.

yet even on those days, those times,
where i seek my self-worth
in achievements and externals,

the truth is,
i am just happy to be here.
i do not take this for granted.
and i just want to say,

thank you.

***
(26)
what do i want to learn today?
better to ask,
what will i allow to count as a lesson.

---
(27)
i only know how rich i am
when i begin to give.

what i own,
what i hoard,
means nothing
if it impoverishes my soul.

whenever i feel truly poor,
it's always some worry over losing this or that.

conversely, i never feel as rich
as when i'm able to give all of who i am.

how can this be?
how can giving show me
how little i actually need?
perhaps i am learning
that to give is to discover
one's own infinite abundance.

---
(28)
the question, "why am i worthy of my own unconditional love?
is the same as, "what is the meaning of life?"

neither has a fixed answer that already exists.

in giving myself unconditional love,
in trusting that there is some sacred meaning to life,
i create my answer through pursuing the question.

---
(29)
my poems are right where they should be.
as my path become more clear, so will these lines.

sometimes my poems
lack the language of poetry.
i can't get the lift just right.
a word stumbles out water-logged, a wingless bird.

and that is okay.
i don't write in this or that voice.
i just pour myself into life,
and then pour that life into words.

my syntax, my diction
can't miss a target for which i have not aimed.
whatever and wherever these poems are,
that's where they belong.
as my path deepens and clarifies and sings,
so will this art.

---
(30)
i will never become someone else.
i will only become that which reveals
who i already am.

---
(31)
i always catch myself
creating a game out of all this.

if i sense i can win,
i try and grab as much attention as possible.

if i see i am beat,
i try and conform with the herd
and hope to blend in.

my life shuttles between narcissism and anonymity.
ostentation and obscurity.

i spend my days searching for some ultimate victory,
while hoping to hide out amongst the crowd.

i'll do anything to avoid letting my loss be public.
anything except opting out of the game.

---
(32)
each day
i am trying to loosen
my image, my ego, my identification with form.
i want to move beyond what i may or may not signify,
what i may or may not mean.

my true identity is not given greater reason
to exist from winning the respect of others.
nor is my true self suddenly worthless
when i seem to come in last.

my self-worth is not my job.
it is not my thoughts.
nor is it my power.
nor my influence.
my home.
my gadgets.
my clothes.
my likes.
my dislikes.
my friends.
my accomplishments.
my disappointments.
my goals.
my regrets.
all of these are just stories.
and they may even be my identity.
but my identity is a persona, a mask.
something that hides and conceals,
rather than heralds.

it seems some people can live with masks,
without mistaking them for anything beyond
a playful and perhaps even useful fiction.
they don't mistake the mask for their true self.

where did i get the idea that my mask and my soul were the same?
and now that i know they are not, what next?
for now, trust what's true.
the heat of my heart.
the more masks i throw into its fire,
the larger the flame will grow.

---
(33)
everyday, i face disappointment.
something happens--big or small--that hurts.

it hurts to feel anger.
it hurts to feel pain.
it hurts to feel envy.
loss.
grief.
fear.
they all hurt.
not getting what i want.
hurt.
things not going as planned.
hurt.

when i face disappointment,
i need to ask myself what's going on,
what is really happening.
and can i handle it without getting angry?

if not, can i simply witness it from a higher place?
can i be aware of my anger without being
the emotion, the feeling, the thought?

or maybe i can use anger
as a lesson in opposites.

when i feel pain,
give joy.

when i feel envy,
give gratitude.

when i feel loss,
give love.

when i feel grief,
give hope.

when i feel fear,
give courage.

or maybe i will breathe,
deep as i can.
first drawing the universe against my back.
then inhaling all this pain through my heart
and into this infinite space.
which welcomes the hurt.
which takes whatever i bring.
that only asks i slowly exhale.

inhale hurt.
exhale love.

inhale hurt.
the thing i thought i couldn't take.
exhale love.
the thing i thought i couldn't give.

---
(34)
a candle, lit and alive,
burns within me
night and day,
rain or shine.

this flame may flare and flicker.
yet something tells me i can't be sure.

perhaps it's only when
i seek warmth someplace else
that my candle seems to fade.

when i trust my light,
this love catches fire.

---
(35)
as i move through the world,
as my mind swings through,
i seem to rise and fall
and live and die.

i want to live with more light.
i want to open when fear says close.

the dark has its place, too.
at night,
i cry at the sight of stars.

Monday, February 21, 2011

in a shaft of sun

(24)
there's a part of me
who still seeks fame.
who still, in a flash,
would trade everything
to fall asleep obscure
and wake up famous.

the crush of unworthiness i've let build in here
seems solved only through the world's adoration.

instead of prizing fame,
let me tend to this small seed of peace.

let me give it space and light and love.

let me live quietly, anonymously, invisibly.
let me be the cloud
surrendering another shape.
or the silver glint in a shaft of sun.

nothing i love asks for an audience.

even my own heart,
which continues to beat, to play, to whisper, to dance.

how i'm tempted to greet this love
as my old friend who has finally returned.

but my heart has always remained right here,
waiting without worry.

it knew there would come a day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

poems: new and selected.

(12)
if i sense i don't belong somewhere,
suddenly it's as though i don't belong anywhere.

i must learn to trust my place in this book,
without craving a spot on every page.

***
(13)
today i walked down the sidewalk,
the road messy with an earlier rain.

i felt the vastness of the universe.
i said aloud the word space.

i come from planets. stars. air and time.

whenever i begin to imagine all that's carried me here,
and all the ways it might have been otherwise,
i can hardly believe i've been given this chance.


***
(14)
i've always cared what people think of me.
at times more than others.
with certain groups more than others.

this game has gone on long enough.
this hunger for respect and admiration.

fine. i seek approval. belonging. acceptance.
i'm sure we all do.
but i must begin to take the journey inward.
it is only there i will discover i was loved all along.


***
(15)
my life seem to exist on the rim of discovery.
each day brings a new petal with fresh color and design and dew.
sometimes i can't take it.
i want to live with the flower i found yesterday.
yet what is wisdom if not gratitude for growth in the garden.


***
(16)
i am still unable to authentically connect.
if i live and speak and love from my truest self,
i fear people will reject what i treasure most dearly.

so i keep it sealed off, hidden, protected.
but in hiding my heart from others,
i too lose track of where it is.


***
(17)
i can accept my flaws, my imperfections, my failures.
but only if i accept my talents and gifts and accomplishments
as equally irrelevant to the amount of worthiness
i must experience at any given moment.


***
(18)
a slow jog this evening,
mid-february.
i move through quiet streets
under a dark and thickening sky.

and as though i had stepped on a hidden switch,
the street lamps--antique, european--suddenly pulse awake.

the block now a landing strip,
a necklace of light guiding me in.

and later
down a different street,
a group of kids at the skirt of a driveway.
a football moving among them.
i open my arms, flash my palms.
the boy with the ball sends it my way.

yet another gift.


***
(19)
when i strive toward being my best,
i only seem to notice flaws and shortcomings.
this doesn't mean, however, i am moving in the wrong direction.


***
(20)
what to make of those days when everything seems out of alignment?
--when i feel cut off from who i am, from the world?

i must shed the garments i use as protection.
true, this shield doesn't let pain in,
but it also doesn't let love out.

today, i will let myself get lost.
only through this losing can i remember
what already is found.

how much longer will i help my image and ego find the food they crave?

let me dine on a different meal today.
or rather, let bloom what patiently waits inside me.
let bloom what is already there.
it doesn't need a thing to flourish.
it only asks i open the door.


***
(21)
the past few days, i've let discouragement back in my life.
i didn't know i'd offered an invitation, but here it is just the same.

my job now is to tend to my other guests
--the one's that flow from my soul--
and trust they'll crowd this feeling out.

or perhaps i can summon the courage to remember
that discouragement can take any room in this house, but still
i am worthy of everything that makes this heart whole.


***
(22)
i have to remember to avoid the fantasy of becoming something i am not already.
yes, i want to experience greater peace, deeper joy, broader connection.
but these shifts will not come through inhabiting a new costume, a new me.

let me follow the path in, not out.
transformation begins there.
let me implode so i can start with whatever remains.
that which can't be destroyed is who i truly am.


***
(23)
i've spent my life in uncertainty and doubt.
the promise of an answer, of a solution always seemed possible.

yet, here i am. carrying the same set of questions.

it is time to begin a second journey.
but for a different reason.

this time i am not looking for safety.
this time i am not looking for confirmation, for glory, for acceptance.
this time i am not looking for envy.

i only ask to give up control of my story, to release and surrender.

how else can i walk toward mystery, chance, spontaneity.
how else can i head from the uncertain to the unknown.

the bird that tried to race the rain

(11)
i've never fallen in love with a word.
to me, music is all in the combination.
the arrangement of sound and spirit and image.

when the mixture is just right,
leave things just as they are.
refuse to add even a single note.
then cut fat from the front.

yes, trim and nudge and slash both sides
until all that remains is a quiet, infinite gesture.
until all that remains is

the bird that tried to race the rain.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

where rain is and is not



(10)
as a boy in a car going over a bridge,
the sky stretches blue overhead.
below and soon, san francisco.
in the rain.

i watch it, the rain.
i've never seen it this way.
from this place.
from where it isn't raining to where it is.

i've always wanted the reverse, though.
to look out from within the rain
and see where it is not.

Friday, February 11, 2011

first day on earth, part two (of three)


last week i wrote (and posted) a treatise on open-mindedness. I'd hoped setting my thoughts on paper would offer me clarity on the subject, would finally give (once and for all) the insight i need to live a life of greater tolerance. and yet the more i foreground open-mindedness as part of my daily intention, the more i notice how compulsively i label, judge, rank.

on a more sanguine note, however, awareness can sometimes lead to changes in behavior. and thus lately i have also found myself exploring more for exploration's sake, moving through the world with less judgment, less ego.

god, what freedom: to simply explore life--allowing consciousnesss to flow with blissful absorption in the Now. allowing life to exist on its own terms, free of any value or name. free of my intrusion.

but perhaps the strongest epiphany i've experienced is this: being open-minded is, essentially, tolerance to change.

yes, tolerance to change.

like most anybody, i have certain preferences for my day. i'd like to bike to work free of parked cars suddenly swinging their doors open. i'd also like motorists and myself to share the road, as i imagine different fish pleasantly share the same ocean current. at my job, i have a whole new set of of desires and expectations and assumptions. and after work? my list resets again.

and even though the particulars of my list vary with context, the common denominators remain the same: i seek pleasure, happiness, meaning, depth, love.

consequently, i try to avoid pain, sadness, vacuity, superficiality, hate.

on the face of it, my plan seems healthy, perhaps even logical. but what happens when i find what i do not seek (pain where i sought pleasure, hate where i wanted love)?

well, here's what happens. i grow frustrated, discouraged, entitled, weirdly self-righteous.

and defeat seems everywhere.

of course, once i gain some distance from the defeat, i can usually see the problem wasn't that something unexpected doomed my plan, nor was it a flaw in the plan itself (idealistic as it may be). the problem was...me. or, more specifically, how i chose to react to change.

instead of tolerating change, i fought change. and like most fights, i'm left belligerent and bruised. and whatever Oneness i've managed to experience in the world is suddenly absent. and, worst of all, when i let anger and frustration predominate, i'm no longer willing to give love--and thus unable to receive it. (the two could not be more connected. i cannot live from the heart, if i feel unable to openly receive kindness and compassion.)

which is why i now take the next vow in my pledge to live a more open-minded life.

i will tolerate change.

when things clash with my expectations, when i get X where i sought Y, when i feel ignored where i hoped to be heard, when that webpage takes (what feels like) my whole afternoon to load, when someone answers his cell phone behind me at the movies, or when i forget to unsubscribe or renew or return, when i lose the second pair of sunglasses i bought this month, or spend an eternity on hold with customer service, when i am late because someone else was late, when i notice i look older than i used to...i will attempt to tolerate change. i will try to keep from shutting down, from closing off. i will try to keep my mind--in a word--open.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

poetry, stuff i am not sure what to call so i'll call it



(1)
i used to think courage was something i needed in order to risk death.
now i think courage is something i need in order to truly live.

***
(2)
these poems are directions.
nothing else can tell me where i've been, where i am, and where i still must go.

***
(3)
the only guarantee is everything is uncertain.

***
(4)
do i want happiness?
yes.
yet there are things in life,
a sad movie,
a poignant song,
a photograph of something all alone,
that bring what i also need.

enjoyment.

***
(5)
why is it so hard to see through the layers i've let build up around myself?
and why do i keep mistaking the armor of others for anything other than armor?

too often i let myself feel disconnected from the those on the street, at work, in traffic, at the store.
i tell myself they are selfish, compassionless, gruff--and, of course, wrong.
and i, logically, must be the opposite.
i must be altrusitc, loving, gentle.
i must be right.

where do i create such fiction?

i must remember that we all need, every single one of us, the same nourishment.
we need love in our hearts. we need music in the soul.
we need to know that we belong, that life is a gift of which we are worthy.

when i remember that all humans depend upon the same core needs,
the same essential light, i see through your armor because i've taken off mine.

***
(6)
what keeps me from sharing the best part of who i am?
perhaps i no longer trust the power of my own heart.
a pity.
its strength is limitless.

***
(7)
i now begin to join anyone who has ever decided to wage peace.

strange, though, how it feels like i am stepping off a cliff.

if only somebody else could take the first step for me.
if only there were someone here to help.
i am so close to the edge, i'd only need to be touched.

i close my eyes. the mind stills. there is more i must let go.
only then will i float on this shy breeze.

***
(8)
there is a kindness in me i continue to protect.
if i let it move freely,
it won't know the rules and someone will step on its dance.
any wonder i no longer hear music.

***
(9)
the mask never fit right.
perhaps it was just too small for the job.

or maybe the mask was too big.

the pain was nothing at first.
but it grew more and more each day.
it was fighting to fill the mask.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

first day on earth, part one (of three)


i am beginning to realize i don't know how to consciously be open-minded. i'm a tolerant enough guy, sure, the sort who welcomes diversity and embraces a range of creeds and lifestyles.

and yet i am not so sure that makes me open-minded. because isn't the crux of open-mindedness the suspension of snap-judgments, the challenging of facile assumptions, and a kind of meta-cognitive awareness of one's own biases?

given my own definition, can i really say i'm open-minded?

not a chance.

i'm constantly slapping labels on almost everything i encounter. i can't go ten seconds in public without assigning everyone around me into (what i divine to be) their proper caste.

and what troubles me even more is how my ranking system isn't really mine at all. to a large and important degree, my ranking system belongs to the society in which i find myself--a zeitgeist that assigns top value to its most materialistic, most egotistical, most self-centered, and most status-starved members.

i want out.

yet with each passing year, i seem to become more and more enslaved by this mentality. a near continuous monitoring of not only my size and importance in the world, but also the relative worth of those around me.

sure, i claim to be above the impoverished rubric of this particular period in western culture, but then why i am one of it most unwitting foot soldiers? why do i judge myself and others by the very same ranking system i decry as vacuous and life-crushing.

and, simply put, why i am ranking people at all?

something must change, because i hate the way i feel when i judge. it makes me feel small and alone. it makes me feel toxic and cynical.

that's not to say there aren't hours, even days, when i am at my best. when i feel a shared Oneness with those in my community, a true Social Network where i move among people living humbly and gently and for nothing more than the quiet growth of Soul.

it's just, well, i want more of those days. more loving, more openness, more connection to the grid of universal human experience.

i can no longer be the person who prizes (or at least claims to prize) open-mindedness, while also being the most critical person in the room.

i want to give my highest self more of what it savors. i want to meditate. muse. make.

i want to live with greater gratitude in my heart and say yes to the artisanal, the homemade, the modest.

and perhaps more than anything, i want to live the journey and the process for its own sake--not for some result or product, not for some reward or imagined glory.

i want the richness of connecting with the Now to be the most sacred part of day, my life.

if i am to make any real progress toward any of this i must liberate myself from assuming, a priori, i know how things i haven't tried will turn out. because i don't know how things will turn out. especially if i've never tried them. (and even if i have tried them, that guarantees nothing. absolutely nothing.)

here's what i will do: i will experience life--with all its choices and opportunities and possibilities, with all its tests and challenges, with all its creativity and wonder and imagination. i will engage it all with the wonder of child. not to decide if i like it or not. but simply to explore what it is.

and that's what it means to be open-minded: to explore.

to move through the world without the need to slather it with labels and opinions and names. i will free myself from the taxonomic impulse to classify everything into a hierarchy that, irony of all ironies, i feel enslaved by yet continue to perpetuate.

simply put, i take the vow to experience life. not as if it is my last day on earth. but as if it is my very first.