AFTER NIGHT BATHING IN STEPHENS CREEK, TEXAS, I AM CARRIED UP LIKE ELIJAH INTO HEAVEN

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As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
2 Kings 2:11

for Carol and for David Spero

 

 

There is quivering in the creek water
like the flanks of a mare in heat.

In the pasture behind the log barn, there is vibration in the blood
of the seed bull.
Circling the moon, two hawks watch the bull
lifting himself on to the backs of heifers
laying his head between their shoulder blades to smell the quiet
in their sweat.

Now in air thick and damp as a lover’s tongue
there are tremolos of fireflies, teeming wings of mosquitoes!
A million gnats too small to be seen are carried over treetops
in heated waves of air.

I am joined in this air by web worms
by flying spiders climbing into oak trees to make sails of their silk.
Together we will throw ourselves into the sky
while the moon is naked as a dancer’s breast!

There is moonlight in fog
the color of skin stretched wide across the bottom land
where the ground slopes back to Stephens Creek
and javelinas come to rut.

There is a tingling in every cell where the captive has been locked so long inside of freedom.

I am ready for the moon to take me
in waves over pine thickets, over rivers dammed the colors of coiling snakes.

I am flying!

I am carried from the San Jacinto River, north to Palestine, Texas
and beyond!

I am flying!

Anyone who welcomes me now, I welcome as my own self
and give myself in return.
As the heart of a man should be
mine is!

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SEVEN PRAYERS WRITTEN IN THE SPRING OF 1974

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I WILL LEAN INTO YOUR VOICE

I will lean into your voice as a willow leans into wind.
The terror of your nails!
The meat of your presence!
Noise of many waters!

The seed bull enters his herd with a trumpet.
Grackles fly out of maple trees in the midst of seizure!
The magnificent eye that sees all creatures afloat in itself
sees me.

Let me run my hands along the nylon over your void.
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PRAISING KRSNA

Standing on a lake, playing his flute,
golden dhoti giving birth to wheat fields in the air.
Worlds, men and women tangled with stars
are streaming from the flute!

He speaks his own name and universes leap into being.
He keeps quiet and everything melts back into his Being.
He stops playing and eats a mango!

Over a sourceless, sounding lake he walks
and every footstep leaves a baby waking up in water.
We are praising you Krsna,
praising you Krsna,
Krsna!

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I LOOK IN THE INFINITE DIRECTIONS OF THE EYE

I look in the infinite directions of the Eye.
See your face upon the Earth,
the circle of your mouth,
teeth like white geese whose beaks point toward the sun.
Hear a caravan of wind, a shipment of breezes,
thunder carrying your Voice over the farms.
You are the ark and the creator of the ark.

I am calling you like a young tree frog.
I am calling like a cricket to the moon.
Hear me.

I want to be stripped of limitation, forced full of lights.
I want to be a raining presence of affection,
to stand naked before you
and give myself wholly to the river off your glance.

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PRAYING IN A HORSE PASTURE NEAR MIDNIGHT

I enter through a wound
going down into the world
where fire walks, embodied in blood.

I walk into the fire and I burn
upside down in a suit of ashes.

Near midnight
I drink words from a broken cistern,
words and ashes mixed together.

I want the earth never to have existed!
I want colors going back into light!
I am afraid of little breezes touching my arm!
See wings made of moon light beating in the dark!

Something in me wants the iris to float out of my eyes,
wants me to be old, to surrender to the sky,
give up to the floating scenery I am described by.
I want that too!
I want to disappear, become all this.
I want to be with you and know you won’t get tired of me.

Come down to this pasture where long eared donkeys bray.
Come down from the tower of the trees
or bring me up.

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HEARING TREE FOGS IN THE RAIN

Hearing tree frogs in the rain, I draw back curtains,
let their clear syllables fall across my boots.

Last night we slept together touching ankles.
Now I stand at the window
holding in my hands the green light of cedars.

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I SPEAK OF THE NEW BIRTH!

I speak through a cylinder of foam
birds raging in my throat.
A season of nails falls from my hands,
my feet.
The sky slides into my shoulders.

I am not this, I am not that!
The hundred angles of my smile attach to light.
I speak of the new birth!
Nothing is tangled.
The star is a star after all.
The coil is a river and the river is myself.

Watch for me, where I fly in the body of an oriole,
an answer without a question!

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PRAYING BY A CATTLE TANK

I want to be touched by the nameless Presence.
I want my lips to be leaves of fire!
But there are flies on the surface of the cattle tank.
A mare with a belly like a church house has come down
to drink the water.
From where I sit, I  see
the jawbone of a cow that bloated and died.
And a blue jay, everything eaten but its feathers!

I hold my hands up against the land, the sky, oak trees
without end.

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Lord Krishna Bewilders Brahma

FORGIVING ABSALOM


“Verily, he is victorious who has conquered himself.” Hazrat Inayat Khan

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I have heard about the courage of a child who found her alcoholic mother lying unconscious in her own vomit, again. How she left the mother there, years later coming to forgive her, looking all the way through the mother’s face to see her own.

I was 8, riding bareback through the woods on an old mare, grey as bark, when I came upon my cousin, who had been adopted at 12 and was then around 15. I was told her mother was a drunk, who’d  had her daughter out of wedlock. Later they say my cousin went that way herself. Where ever she is now, I trust and believe she is happy and has found peace. That day, my cousin rode Aunt Cle’s red mare under a low hanging oak and got her hair tangled in its branches. Just like Absalom had in the Bible.

I knew well the pride and arrogance of Absalom. That day, unseen by my cousin, I sat my horse and watched her struggle, hung by her long hair, red as the horse’s mane.  That day, I heard her crying for help and felt a coldness come up in me like a thousand light years of space. Then I turned my horse and rode away, telling no one until now.

It wasn’t long after that our grey mare was kicked by the red one, breaking a back left leg and hip. She was on the ground, struggling to get up, all her yellow teeth showing but not making a sound. So I ran to my father and uncle, who were drinking coffee and reluctant to come. When they did come and saw what had happened, one of them finished off the grey mare with a shotgun that had a hickory stock carved by hand after the War of Northern Aggression. Then they harnessed the red mare that kicked her and drug the grey off into the woods. The grey mare’s name was Bess. The girl was Ginny.

All the years behind me are a quiet pool of rain water. Easy now to look into that pool and see a face that is no longer mine. To notice it, forgive and bless it, to leave it there, riding on.

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UNASKED FOR ADVICE

“There ain’t no shortage of storage room for advice you never asked for, in the place where the sun don’t shine.” Chuck from Dime Box, Texas

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My advice, since you didn’t ask for it

is to be sad and angry as you need to be.
When your heart heals and opens
welcome it back as your friend.
You know as well as I do how dumb men are.
God has a body composed of 37 trillion cells.
Every cell is well lit and has a comfortable chair
where God sits in front of a mirror
watching himself brush out 100,000 strands of hair
each one long as a river.

When it comes to the universe, God has no idea
how he does it.

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MORE LIKE THE SKY THAN THE SKY ITSELF

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for my dear friend, Rob Sacks, on his birthday

We seem to be alone but we are not.

Seem to be solid but we are more like sky than the sky itself.

All day long we are busy pouring water from one hand

into the other.

At end of day we get back to open air.

Stand listening to the wind

separating calls of dog, coyote, wild turkey, formations of geese

from the sound the sky makes going red.

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WORDS WRITTEN TO MY WIFE AFTER WORKING OUTDOORS IN WINTER

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in 1994, for Carol

1

A river of blood runs under the bridge of the rib cage.
I have come home with a cracked tooth
the pain like a soft flickering of lightning.
See the new moon hung in frost broken limbs of our maple tree.
I will lay my face against the moon, calling, “Carol, Carol…”
a light coming on gradually inside this leather box
I call myself.

2

I am a working man behind on his payments.
Loans taken out in another life eat my liver like a crow.
I can’t afford these words I am saying.
Can’t afford the assurance of men who walk in straight lines
or of those who follow their own desires
toward imagined pleasure or pain.

3

You tell me the way to heal is
first find the wound.
Go to it tenderly as you would a woman.
Stay with her, giving only what you are to what you are.
Nothing stays the same, you say.
Even pain will finally move toward itself.
When self meets self, there is an end
to it.

4

I say, let the good God of children draw his sword across my throat!
Let these last words bleed away.
I am holding up empty hands asking you to make them
emptier.

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A PRAYER FOR RAFAEL STONEMAN WHO TRIMS TREES FOR A LIVING, TO KEEP HIM SAFE

Rafael Stoneman in his natural habitat.

Rafael Stoneman in his natural habitat.

“i figure if Ramana wants me to drop the body, he’ll
make it happen, and if not, HE will keep the tree standing.” Rafe

I was painting a big three story Queen Anne
off a forty foot ladder, up near the  roof line
when God whispered in the ear of the ladder holder
“You’re not needed here. Walk away.”

So he walked away
and when the steel toes of the ladder kicked out
I fell
hitting  the roof of an ugly family room tacked on in 1971
the year you were born.
That saved me.

But I kept on rolling off that second roof and hit a 6×6 cedar post
planted upright in the garden for no discernible reason.
Finally coming to earth with only my collarbone broke.

There were other falls.

Thirty-five feet off an apartment house I was decking in 1972.
The roof over the third story porch broke loose and I went with it
fast and furious like a bird on fire
but peaceful too, like it was happening to someone else.
Landed on my back in a pile of boards.
Three cracked vertebrae, a week in the hospital and out.
God said “It don’t hurt that much.”
Funnily enough, he was right at the time.
Just starting to now.

I fell off a concrete dam into the Blanco River when I was a kid
but didn’t drown.
Fell out of a hickory tree, twenty-five feet or so, in 1959
grabbing at limbs that tore holes in me, screaming all the way
down.

Jumped off a roof once, testing a parachute made from a cotton sheet.
Had printed cowboys on it firing six guns out of both fists
and the air was so thick with damp, I thought that I could walk upon it.
But that one doesn’t count.

Other falls I don’t remember so well anymore.
They say forgetfulness and loss of grip are gifts of age
and I agree with them.

In 1988 after that collarbone business I went to my Guru
Shri Shri Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj!
Beautiful, fierce and kind, all at once,  just like a little child
who also is a cobra.
He gave me blessed vibhuti, a chunk of sacred ash used for initiation.
Said, “Keep this in your car. You’ll be OK.”
That’s what I did, moving it from the glove compartment of one junker work truck to another
until that last one caught fire and burned
nearly taking the whole neighborhood with it!
By this time my Guru had passed on
becoming the breath that all of us breathe forever and forever
and forever.
Now if I fall, I will not be falling.  I will fly.

All I’m saying, Rafael, is be careful my friend.
You are needed here and you are much
loved.

 

 

 

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photo of Sage Stoneman