The Tree Outside My Window (circa 2004)

The tree outside my window is rooted in the ground
It looks immobile from a distance
But I have seen its branches
Grow, bend, break, be hacked off, grow again
And I have seen its leaves
Grow, twist, change, fall, and grow again

Compared to the tree, I move a lot, and quickly
Compared to other humans, I don’t move much, and slowly
I spend years of my life lying down by the window
In those years the tree tumbles in through my eyes
The jumble slowly etches a deep pattern in my brain

The tree outside my window is not immobile, inert, or unaware
It understands warmth and cold, sunlight and rain
It has an understanding not contained in a brain
A sedentary, ordinary understanding
But one too foreign for most of us rapid creatures
To do more than, one way or another, distort or deny

A woman recoils from the mere thought of how I live
She says my pain and weakness steal time and life from me
I had no words to make her understand
But unbidden the tree forces its way into my mind
Flashing bright, demanding to be recognized
It is not wasted, and neither am I

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Outlines and Mirrors and Turning Away

I am reading
And the words go into my eyes
Into my brain
And I am connecting
Again and again
With a man I’ll never meet
Who doesn’t know I exist
But who is connecting with me
All the same
 
He is one of the rare ones
Who writes with his eyes
Into restless souls
And understands things
That he’ll never say
 
And when he turns the corner
With his mind
To avoid having to explain
I can see the outlines
Of where his words don’t go
The places his mind
Evades and avoids
And it’s as much a communication
As if he’d said it out loud
 
Is it wrong
To be grateful
For his suffering
Because it mirrors my own?
 
Maybe that does make me
A selfish monster after all
Far more than being unable
To cry
 
Or maybe we are all
Selfish monsters
Some of the time
And only believe otherwise
Because nobody is saying it
Out loud
 
And when I try to find the words
To say what’s in my heart
My mind turns away
Just like his
So as not to betray
 
If you want to really know me
Look for what I will not say
Even to say this much
Feels like handing the keys away
Handing keys to strangers
In a dangerous world
 
Well no matter
Because you need more than keys
To understand what you see
When you unlock the mind
Of a person
Like you, or like me
 
You can peer all you want
At the silhouettes formed
By my retreating thoughts
But if you come here with malice
Even just a trace
You will never understand
What’s staring you in the face
You’ll get twisted and turned
Around and around
Until you find yourself outdoors again
Dumped on the ground
 
If you come here as a friend
Then the key is all you need
Come in, you’re welcome
Let’s all plant the seed
For a tree of protection
To grow in this place
So that none of us need worry
About malicious strangers
With keys and with greed
 
You can drink the water
From the well in the ground
I will join you in a moment
And without a sound
We will look past the barriers
Look past the pain
And burrow a tunnel
To keep out the rain
 
Then you and I
Can be the kind of friends
Where the learning
And the sharing
And the joy
Never ends
 
I can feel you right now
Over thousands of miles
Hoping all the while
That there’s someone
On the other side of time
Crossing that line
Without leaving a sign
 
There are billions of people
And millions of years
And somehow we connect
In an underground village
Without fear
Without shame
Without disbelief
Though we shake like a leaf
At the wonder
 
The shadows we cast
Are taller than trees
But the light that creates them
Is brighter than anything
We can stand to see
One day we’ll meet again
Inside of that light
And there we’ll uncover
The end to all fright
 
But until then we live
In our burrow underground
And talk to each other
Without making a sound
 
And I’m no longer alone
No longer in pain
No longer imprisoned
Inside of my brain
 
I wrote my way out
I wrote my way to you
You wrote your way to me
And our life begins again:
 
Unfettered
Enriched
Unlocked
Alive
Anew

Poison Oak Fears

My fears are growing like poison oak
There are phone calls every day
They say “Come Skype with your father,
Though he’s feeling very weak today.”

Video chats with my father
Are the best conversations I’ve had
We don’t talk, we just sit and look at each other
And the love blooms like flowers befween us

My father can no longer hide
How bad he’s feeling
Sometimes parts of his face turn bkue
And as if he has become translucent
The light of eternity shines through him
Sometimes he clearly struggles to breathe
Sometimes the pain jolts through his body
Sometimes he has no energy
To do anything but lie there and look at me
Out of half-closed eyes

We have little need for words now
What can be said has been said
He can read on my face unconditional love
I can read on his body both love and suffering

So we lie in our hospital beds
Thousands of miles away
And we stare at each other and feel the love
As if we were still hiking the ancient forests
He hiked me through as a child

Those forests were filled with love
And so are we as we stare at each other
Each of us falls asleep
He sometimes loses track
But love — the important part —
Still blooms like redwood sorrel
Carpeting the forest floor

But fear grows like poison oak
And I fear that one of these days
The message will no longer be
“Your dad may be well enough
To Skype with you a little today.”
I fear that instead it will be
“Take your dexamethasone right now
Because your father passed away.”

Will I cry?
Will I go numb?
Will I be enraged?
Will I throw myself into projects?
Will I become unable to function?.
Will I be able to be there for grieving relatives?

One thing I know
No matter what shows on my face
My tears will outnumber
The drops of rain
In a redwood forest in winter

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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

Sometimes, Restrictions Only Increase Life’s Richness

I spent six years in bed, six years I found
The richness of the love surrounding me
A tree outside my window so profound
From detail comes familiarity
They say that all restriction is a curse
A nightmare from which folks can never wake
But we exalt our highest forms of verse
Like sonnets, which restrict which form to take
And always those who could, would hurry past
Without a glance at me, or at the tree
The richness that they missed, they moved too fast
To see what I and other slow folks see
For life is rich to infinite degree
It’s found in sonnets, and in folks like me

Visiting Your Grave

I may never see your grave in person
But I will be there every day
That’s a promise I can keep
Every night before I sleep
As I travel to the place where you’ll lay

I will be the rain that falls on your grave
I will be the wind in the trees in the graveyard
I will be the soil that grows the plants
I will be the plants that grow from you
I will be the sky that shelters the earth
I will be the earth lying under the sky
I will be the sun shining down on the trees
I will be the trees growing over the graves
I will be the needles and leaves that fall from the trees
And carpet the ground where you lay

So don’t fear that I will never visit
I will be with you every day
I’ll be the rain and the wind
And the sun and the stars
And the earth made into clay
I will see you from above
I will see you from below
I will see you from without
I will see you from within
And if you want my flowers
Just look for the weeds
Growing at the base of your grave

The graveyard in the woods.

The graveyard in the woods.

The graveyard in the woods.

The graveyard in the woods.

The graveyard in the woods.

The graveyard in the woods.

[This is not the poem I’d been working on.  It just came out, rather quickly, all on its own.  Almost too fast to write down properly.  These pictures are the actual graveyard my father has picked for when he dies, and he has also picked out a beautiful plain pine coffin.  He loves how peaceful this tiny graveyard in the middle of the forest is.  I believe it suits him perfectly.  I will miss him terribly, but I feel better knowing his body will be laid to rest in such a wonderful place.]