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:


I cried so many tears tonight
That all the words I had relied upon
To explain how I feel
Have washed away in saltwater
And what is left
What is left
Is what I cannot say

This is why it was the best conversation we’ve ever had

Love lies beneath words
We don’t need to talk out loud
It blooms between us



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


It’s scary to let go of words, when you’re trapped inside them.

Because there’s a moment when you’ve let go of the words
And you realize that once you let go, they won’t come back
And you’re hanging in the air between the words and the ground
And you don’t know how high you are in the air
And you don’t know how hard you’ll hit the ground
Or how many bumps and bruises that will cause
Even though you always feel better with your feet on the ground
And you desperately, desperately want to be on the ground smelling the earth
But you’re afraid to fall
And you’re afraid to hit
And you’re afraid how much effort it will take to get back in the air
Or whether you can get into the air at all
So you cling and scrabble
Until your fingers break
And you hit the ground fifty times as hard
And stay there fifty times as long
Too stunned to take in
Everything you normally appreciate
About being on the ground


My Head Is Wrong, But Things Will Be Alright

I did more today and in general this week than I should. Too much exertion. Too much work.

My skin burns everywhere.

The world is shimmering. There’s a background flicker. Then there’s orange and yellow shimmery spots everywhere.

My ears are ringing in a very high pitch that nothing can block.

My tongue is weird.  It’s poised for verbal tics. Poised in a highly unpleasant way. But there’s no words or noises. Just the threat of words or noises.

But there are words in my head. Or ideas, just before they get formed into words. They are flooding every which way.

My head is buzzing.

All the above things are connected together, part of the same whole.

So the words flicker and the flickering buzzes and the buzzing is orange and yellow and the orange and yellow are made of words and three words burn.

Please stop please stop please stop.

This is not me. This is me, lost. This is me, lost in the world of words. If it would only be quiet and still again I would be me.

This is the world I lived in made my own barged my way into no matter the pain, from the ages of approximately seven to twelve.

And then and then the words fell apart and everything was fragments and I was picking up the pieces.

But I was just that much closer to me?

At least now it is only minutes hours days instead of weeks months years.

I finally find it. .

I tell my mind to be silent, to stop telling itself stories, the lies we all tell ourselves about the world.




These things are not me.

They are outside me. Bombarding me. But the prickly burning ringing orange words are not me.

I tell them to leave.

They have no place in my mind. My home.  My life.

My brain does not need to accept this world of words, let it worm its way into my head, tell me how to feel, how to live, how to be.

It’s an intrusion into my life. Not a thing to aspire to or identify with.

But I have deep roots in places no words can go. And those give me an immunity to the kind of words that exist only to delude and invade.

Those words can’t touch me.  They can’t even see me.

If I reach down far enough I am made of clarity. I am made of joy.  I am made of strength. I am made of love. I am made of silence.


That’s what matters.



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


Peas in a Pod

They flitted around the room
Like moths
Each one’s hands dancing
In rhythm with the other
Though never once
Did the mother look upon her daughter
Nor the daughter look upon her mother

They danced, weaving in and out of the crowd
Their arms made the same motions
Their hands twisted in unison
Their bodies danced as if
They’d been dancing all their lives

They looked more like a mother and daughter
Than any mother and daughter I’ve ever seen
No man was evident
And no man should have been
Given how the pregnancy happened
They looked alike
So alike they could have been
Twin sisters with a 19-year age difference

Their love was so palpable
That everyone I knew
Looked their way
There was no way to avoid it
They bled love into the air
The way some people bleed anger or fear
And everyone in the room
Was better for their presence

I think about them now
I worry
Is the daughter still alive?
Is the mother coping with what life throws her way?
But they have resilience enough
To meet most situations head-on

I will always remember
When the mother circled around my table
To acknowledge my presence
Without saying a word
And without saying a word
My pattern of rocking altered
All on its own
To acknowledge her presence
And that was enough
For both of us
Without a verbal ‘hello’
That neither of us could muster

The mother is one of those people I love
Whose functioning is cobbled together by pieces
Who always surprises people
Either with what she is capable of
Or what she is incapable of

The reason I love people like this
Is I am one of them
And it takes one to know one
It takes one to see the giant gaps
Between what is expected and what is there

They would call us low-functioning
And they would say it was amazing
That we could do the things we do
Just because we climb the cliffs every day
And cobble together functioning
From the wreckage of the previous day
Our fingers bleed
But we do it because we have
No other choice

I love people like us because
This is my people
This is the people who understand
When I collapse in the middle of a presentation
This is the people who understand
When I can’t say hello
When I can’t type at all
This is the people who understand
That sometimes not typing is not a malfunction
Sometimes it’s a return to our roots
Where words never grew on their own
And thoughts were mere shadows in the distance


Fishing For Words

Sleep, when a word dangles on a hook
And I jump up to catch it
And fall back down with my eyes closed
Ready to sleep
But there’s another word on the hook
So I jump out of the water, again and again
Running out of air
To type words
Rather than sleep in my underwater home



Whippoorwill whippoorwill
That’s the noise my ears are making
Whippoorwill whippoorwill
And maybe they’ll take me home

Maybe they’ll take me home to that place on a hill
I can feel it around me like warm glowing fire
It tells me I have a place
I have a place in the world still
Whippoorwill whippoorwill
I have a place in the world still

Maybe all the dancing colors won’t have to mean a thing
The words couldn’t tell me a shred of what there is to know
Even if I could hear them as more than the whippoorwill sings

Whippoorwill whippoorwill
Maybe the rhythm will get me through the day
Whippoorwill whippoorwill
It’s impossibly blue spreading out all around me
Maybe it will
Be the whippoorwill
Who guides me home
Who tells me of marona

I thought she was just a bird in a book
Until I heard her call me home
To a place she’s never lived
(Except between the pages of a book)

But the whippoorwill is calling as if her life depends on the sound
And I am flying — flying — flying —
— Now a tangled heap on the ground

I pick up a redwood cone
Smell the sorrel
Squish a mushroom with my butt

How would a whippoorwill
From a book
Lead me here
What does this whippoorwill
Know of marona

All I know is I can’t trust my eyes
I can’t trust the words people want me to hear
Whippoorwill is a call from a time
Before hearing, before seeing
When everything was feeling

And whippoorwill calls me back, calls me back
Tells me this is where you belong
This is where you are
Every day of your life
Know it or not

It’s the source
At the center
Of your song

There will be times when you can’t feel a thing
But you’re still in marona
You can never leave

So go to marona
Stay in marona
Rest in marona
Live in marona
Love in marona
Marona is home.