The White Institution (circa 2002)

I walked down the street
With my eyes on the building of white
I knew they were like me
Autistic and trained not to fight 

They rocked behind bars and
I knew I belonged there not here
Not out on the streets
With the ones who had never known fear

My body moved forward 
To ocean with sand and with stars
But my thoughts, they went back
To the white institution with bars 

As slugs we might be
But the world it had fashioned a shell
Not home anymore
Not here, not on earth, but in hell

[Events 1999, first written circa 2002, written from memory 2014, May contain errors.]

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Awe

Awe is where wonder and fear collide
And we stare out to the stars meeting the sea
And we wonder is there a place in this world for me

Awe is where my heart turns into a stone
A living, pulsating stone of many colors
That move out of the way to make room for each other

Awe is where the stones meet the ocean
In caves that took millions of years to erode
And my body tells me this is your second home

Water and earth can mean so many things
The soil of the redwood rainforests
The stone caves carved by water seeking the sea
The river rocks with holes all through them
The monsoon season in the desert rocks
The rivers carving canyons
The tiny creeks wetting tiny amounts of soil
The springs of water flowing out from in between the rocks
Waterfalls crashing down with caves behind them

And all of these things are sacred to me
And all of these things are part of me
But the one that means the most
Will always be the soil in the redwoods

Awe is where wonder and fear collide
I am where earth and water unite
I am in awe of the collision
I am in awe of you and of me
We are made of the stuff of the earth
We are made of the stuff of the water
I have only to look at you
To see a metallic daughter
With the earth kept tight inside
Like a vessel full to bursting
And I have only to look at myself
To see moistened soil from the forest floor
And I could see even more
The plants that grow, wither, and die
And decay to become part of me
The wind with a sigh brings down
Dead redwood needles and cones

And it doesn’t matter where you go
Or who you are
You have only to look at the ground
Below your feet
Or up at the stars
The clouds roll overhead
A thunderclap hits a little too close
And that beauty and awe is back
But you’d better run home

Love, Rainbow Heart, Eyes

I never thought I could look so long
Into someone else’s eyes
But one day we climbed into a tree
And it felt like love and photosynthesis
The sun shining down on our leaves
Sending its love from afar
Creating rainbows in our watery hearts

And I looked into your deep brown eyes
As you looked into my green-brown eyes
It was as if the earth was centered around our tree
And even when we closed our eyes
It seemed we could still see

But staring into your eyes, without a hint of threat
Was perhaps the most amazing of all that happened yet
I didn’t feel I needed to run and hide
I just wanted you to see who I was inside
And I wanted to see you just the same
We were so different yet always we came back to this

Back to looking into each other’s eyes
Back to holding hands
(The world, of course, revolved around our hands)
Back to lying on top of each other
Making deep low-pitched noises to vibrate
Underneath the other person’s skin
A way of getting in

I remember being told the amazing part about sex
Was being able to be inside another person
Or have someone inside of you
That this kind of connection was beautiful beyond words

I was disappointed when I found out
These things would never be for me
Those body parts are too painful for me
To allow anyone in

But there’s in and there is in
There are ways underneath the skin
You can use sound waves to penetrate
A whole abdomen at once

When people ask if I’m a virgin
I never know what to say
If it’s tab-A and slot-B then sure
I’ve never had sex that way

But how can you call it anything but sex
When you press your bodies tight
And experiment with different sounds
To make the other person feel them inside

We repeated each other’s names
Like a mantra, like a gentle chant
And the world fell away
And we found ourselves
In a place made just for us

It looked like an intricate geometric lattice
Made of delicate shimmering silver
And where the pieces of the lattice met up
There were glowing jewels of every color
And the love in that place
Eclipsed our identities

No longer did we feel our bodies
No longer did we hear each other saying our names
All we could perceive, in fact
Was the rainbow lattice inside our hearts
Because that’s what this place really was
It was the place where two hearts touched

Everyone has these pathways somewhere
Sometimes they’re harder to find
People tend to assume
That the only way to express their sexuality
Is through erogenous zones and groins

But for every single person
There are many different routes
To the love and communion we found
Some are lazy day hikes down the road
Some are backpacking treks lasting several days
Some require mountain-climbing gear
But if both of you want this
And both of you look hard
You’re bound to find a different trail
To get there every day

Our hearts beat out the same rhythm
We could feel it through our shirts
And we went outside to watch the ocean
And the rainbows in our hearts
Were mirrored in the clouds
And the soap bubbles blown
By children on the beach

And sitting together on a rock near the shore
We looked into each other’s eyes
And soon we were lost in each other again
Rainbows in our hearts
Starlight on our hands
Magic in our eyes

[This is another poem where someone else provided the title, and I had to write the poem.  The story is, more or less, true, with a few poetic embellishments.]

Return to sender: no longer at this address

My mother is a wizard with plants
I kind of knew it already
But when my father was upset
Because he'd never see the morning glories
Bloom again in his life
My mother secretly coaxed
A morning glory vine
Out of season
To bloom, and climb, to bloom, and climb
And she took him outside
To show him the magic she'd done
And that's how much my mother loves my dad

My flowers are my poetry
I coax the words to bloom and grow
And climb and climb into his heart
Even out of season
I use words to express the wordless
And that's one kind of magic I have
And that's how much I love my dad

But one of these days
I'm going to write a poem
It will be full of obscure mountain lakes
And treks across the mountains to the sea
And forest floors that were so much more
And owls hooting up in the trees
It will show him every place
That I could feel his love
Without the emotional bombardment
Of living in the city

And it will be a perfect poem
For that time and that place
It will certainly be better than this one
It will show him that I care for him
(As if he doesn't know by now)
It will show the depth of love
That death can dredge up when you're lucky

And then i will get a phone call or an email
It will start out:
“Go and take your dexamethasone right now.”
And I'll have a sinking feeling
But I'll take the syringe of steroids
And put it in my feeding tube
Then go back to the phone or the computer

Then they'll say
“The news is bad
Your father has passed away
He was far too tired this morning
To check your blog today.”

And all that's left of my magic
Will be words on a screen
Words he may have understood
But will never hope to read

From that point on forwards
We'll be separated by time
We both will have existed
But from that point in time onwards
I will be here and he won't

I wonder how much dexamethasone it takes
To avoid adrenal crisis when your dad dies
I wonder how much magical love it takes
To stand the pain you feel when you realize

That you will never talk to him again
You'll never hug him again
You'll never sit next to each other
With an elderly cat spread across your laps
You'll never ask the questions
You forgot to ask when he was alive
You'll never play with his beard again
And there's so little time
There's so little time

But I'm wrong
Like people are often wrong about time
Eternity is all around us
That's all the time in the world
Eternity is where love exists
Outside of time and space
So even if he never reads my best poems
He'll feel the love that went into them
Just as he feels the love
From that morning glory vine

He feels the love from his two pet dogs
He feels the love from his wife
He feels the love from his three adult children
He says he's lucky to be surrounded
By so much love

So I'm terribly sorry, Ron
If some of my poems don't reach you in time
And i'm terribly sorry Ron
If I try to Skype you and it turns out you're gone
Just know I love you more
Than even the best poet can convey
I love you more than I could ever say

And love is the magic that made my mom
Able to grow those morning glories
And love is the magic that makes me able
To write poems daily after years of dormancy
And love is the magic that connects you to me
It's the way we can feel each other's love
Without any form of contact at all

I hope the place I built for you outside of time
And filled to overflowing with my love
Will see you through

And I hope that I'll continue
Writing poetry to you
Long after you've gone

And I hope it reaches you in Eternity
Or wherever it is you're going

And I hope that even the worst of it
Conveys this message:

I love you
I love you
I love you

Words Are Just A Carrier Wave

All you have to do is think of me
And all my love is there
All you have to do is look at my face
And all the unspoken things
I want to tell you before you die
Pour out of me and into your mind

All I have to do is think of you
And I see so much of you I’ve never seen before
All I have to do is look at your face
And all the things you can’t remember
All the things your brain won’t let you say
Are written there as if in ink

Everything we are is written on each other
Everything we need to know is there
There’s nothing more we have to say, in a way
Because everything is written on our souls

I can see you right now
Three thousand miles away
I see the light that shines inside you
I see the love that holds your body together
Even as it’s failing

That love will hold us up as you die
That love won’t disappear
No matter how bad it gets
That love is turning you into light
Even now I can see it
Turning you into light
Three thousand miles away
The love you have taken on
Is slowly turning you into light

You told me not to grieve too hard
Which is a tall order
When losing a father for the first time
But when I close my eyes to look at you
Every day I see the light shine through
Even more than it had before then
Even more than it had before

You’re becoming translucent
Your skin is just a place
For the light to shine through
For the love that has carried us this far
To shine through you and around you
I see it more every day
And there’s not a lot I can say
Because it’s already been said
And we can read it
In the love
On our bodies

“Words are just a carrier wave”
That’s what my friend Anne would say
When faced with situations like this one
But I have some memories
I want to share before you go
And maybe words will serve their purpose

I remember sitting with you
And listening for owls in the redwoods
On our back porch

I remember granite mountainsides
Heated so much by the sun
That you could smell the rock itself

I remember picking up and counting
Every salamander
On a hike from the skyline to the sea

I remember hollow logs so big that
Even adults could stand inside them
And marvel at the fungal growth

I remember picking wild blueberries
While you made pancakes out of them
Then let me ride on your shoulders

I remember playing with your beard
When I was too young to understand
Just about anything

I remember catching more fish
Than any of the rest of you
Because I liked the repetition

I remember feeling proud
When you taught me how to gut a fish
Like I learned something truly useful

I remember the glee I felt
Sorting your tangled pile of resistors
Thinking it was a game, not a chore

I remember the fresh smell of your sweat
After you came inside
From splitting wood

I remember how proud I felt
When you taught me to split wood
All by myself

I remember when I talked like you
You’d smile and call me
“My lil’ Suthun gal”

(Whenever I could be like you
My heart would burst with pride)

I remember when you took me on creek walks
With our shoes and pants on
And the water splashing us all around

I remember when you showed me
An entire wall full of electronics
And then told me, “I made this.”

I remember going to work with you
Getting to meet all the other technicians
Was better than meeting the famous physicists

I remember always stopping during a hike
At one particular spring
To make lemonade

I remember all your sayings like
“Bear food runs from bears” and
“I’m just as fine as frog fur.”

Thank you
For getting so depressed when you were drafted
That you ate too much and accidentally got too fat for the Service
(Or I might not exist.)

Thank you
For not using protection
In the woods in Henry Coe
(Or I wouldn’t exist.)

Thank you
For getting out of that snowstorm
When you hallucinated me saying I needed you
(I did. I do still. I will always.)

Thank you
For living in Redwood Terrace
When I was born
(Or I’d be a completely different person)

Thank you
For letting me hit you in the back
So I wouldn’t hit the ER nurse who had his hand up my butt
(That’s a true father)

Thank you
For forgiving me
For everything I put you through
(I can’t imagine raising me)

Thank you
For learning anger management
And then passing on the knowledge to me
(Because we both sure needed it)

Your love brought me life
Your love holds me up
Your love is everything to me
And now that you’re leaving
Love will cover us all
And love is all you will be

I will watch for your love in the stars
I will watch for your love in the sea
I will watch for your love
In the soil and the rocks
And in the sun’s light
That shines over me

But right now all I have to do
Is look at your face
To see the light shining through
And right now all you need to see
Is the love in my face
Shining right back at you

Pale-skinned person with lots of very dark hair, glasses, a unibrow, and slight facial hair.

Picture of me with my hair down and glasses slightly crooked.

The Singing Tree (2004)

She said the ocean, she was sure
We retraced our steps down the rocky cliff
Stars staring down pinpricks into my head
The human condition, she said
The fog obscured my frantic blundering
World whirling in the rain at the top of the tree
We sang a wordless melody
The air sang back to us
She said the ocean, but I was sure the tree
Dug roots into our hearts

On Writing (circa 2005)

I am weak
I cannot hold up my head
Nor type without my arms supported
The effort of movement
Clashes with the effort of words
Clashing again with the effort of thought

When I move
Thought comes in formless swirls
No longer the crystalline clarity
That comes with stillness
I grasp at the remaining fragments
Struggling to piece them together
And turn them into words

I cannot predict my body
As it shifts from stiff to limp
From rhythmic movement
To rigid stillness
And staccato jerks
It gives little warning
And no apology

Luminous clarity changes suddenly
To searing pain
Detail beautiful enough for tears
Passing an invisible threshold
Soundlessly shatters
Laser-sharp focus
Giving way to electric fog

I am a collector of fragments
That sit within my mind
Weeks, months, years
Before settling into their places
In the patterns of my thoughts

I write as a historian
Not a reporter or newscaster
My specialty is remembrance
Not narration

My mind can burn
With the desire to tell it as it is now
The drives of a writer and a poet
Clash with the mind of an observer

I pound my head and wordlessly yell
As if this will hasten the process
That changes experience to thought
Thought into words
Words into movement
Intricate lines that branch
On the shell of a tortoise
Marching in a straight line to the sea

But my body does burn
With the effort of this chronicle
Eyes flash on and off
And words recede
Head rocking from side to side
Legs undulate unbidden
Fingers flick rather than type
Fragments collect again
The poet flees

I struggle now
As words dissolve on all sides
To adequately display
The meaning of fluctuation

Easy would be
To call this hell
Torture, imprisonment
To evoke the overlay
Of several shifting principles
Unsynchronized with each other
With their abhorrence of change
A body here, a mind there
Each sense broken into pieces
Jagged electricity interrupting
As I burn in unceasing pain

Too easy it would be
To acquiesce
To end with this description
As the inevitable flood
Of my internal rhythms
Drowns me out
As I try to shout over the waves
That shift through my mind

That I see waves and the poet
The rhythm and the cry
The weakness and the beauty
The struggle and the change
The fluctuating movement
The lines on the shell
Unpredictability and pain

I see them
They drown me out
They propel me
I shout over them
That I can’t see the tortoise
Without all of this
And as such
This must all be my home

What can you see?

In the voids inside my mind
There’s an ocean, deep and dark
At the bottom of the ocean
There’s reflections of the stars

If you can see the stars
At the bottom, in the deep
If you can see the rainbows
That even the sun can’t reach

If you can see me dancing
Unaware of being watched
If you can see the world
Before a mind, before a thought

If you see distant reflections
Of reflections, of reflections
And if you can see the deep, the dark
The silence between worlds

If you can see the void
That stands in front of me
If you can see how full it is
And how empty it can be

If you see what it’s like
To not know at thirty
What they knew at three

But to know things
And to see things
That nobody else can see

Then maybe, just maybe
I can see you
And you can see me