Words written to a friend of mine, still full of shame, fifty years after killing a bullfrog for his legs…
When it comes to hurting frogs, I’m afraid you stand in my shadow. Your story brings back a flood of memories of what we did to them in Texas, in the 1950’s. All terrible. One reason I feel I am coming to the end of being a human is that I feel humanity as a single entity, apart from myself. I am one of you but more like a ghost, dead and done, even if I live another thirty years or thirty life times.
We’re a brave and a sad and a transcendent bunch. We go lower than worms and equally as high. Sometimes I feel myself holding all the suffering in my arms, saying, “It will be alright.” I know we will be all right, the hateful and the noble things we have done let go of and forgotten. If I had grandchildren, I would want them to know this, that no matter how high we rise or how low we fall, in the end it never happened. That’s the kind of thing a child can accept and be glad of.
This picture doesn’t really go with the words I have written here but I took this photograph on a day full of rain, down by the White Salmon River. I liked the weirdness of it. That bird had just been diving under white water, coming up, diving back down. Then he stood on that rock shaking the water off himself. That’s what we do.
In this clearing where a stand of horse apple trees used to grow
we wait for emptiness to fill.
Our two voices are together, inside an overwhelming pulse of crickets!
There is a joy, giving everything away
exactly at the moment we are taken by force.
That is the moment we go free.
If we are drowning, we relax and drown.
There is no saviour we may take with us. We go
I want to let everyone know about the new book by my friend, Rafael Stoneman. It is a collection of poems written without artifice or doubt by a man with a guileless heart. Rafael’s hand is always extended in friendship. Take it! Advaita Heart is available here:
One of my favorites of this collection is:
You are a criminal because you broke
into my heart. You cornered me and
murdered the ‘my’.
You are a thief because you stole
my mind. You confronted me and
sabotaged my soul.
You are a liar because you promised I
would be enlightened. You made the
‘I’ dissolve and left only yourself.
You are a cheat because you stacked
the deck and preyed on my need to
gamble. You forced me to surrender
when I had no other choice.
You are a harlot because your lips
swore that I was your only love.
You made me fall mad for you and
find out I am not the only One!
Man on Fire by Sue Reed
What we were, we remain for the people we have hurt.
We never change, never grow old, never die.
In my 20’s and 30’s, I was always in an ecstasy or a rage.
Nothing in between but the silence of a monk
self immolated, flames where my lips were meant to be.
Tongue either raw or a burnt offering.
If you knew me thirty years ago and still wish that I were dead
forgive me first.
That is what I’m asking for.
for Carol and for Stefan Pyne
“…if you feel like a room without a roof…if you feel that happiness is the Truth…”
Happiness coming over me!
Silver schools of Gulf trout moving in waves under the skin!
Every mullet in the Gulf has a name.
Both their eyes have names.
The scales that cover their eyes each has a name
written in a kind of fire known only to the Most High.
But you tell me joy is evidence of a wound.
The Mother is always lifting up her children
to wipe the blood from our eyes.
You say we are moving down this road alone, alone
but every body is one candle lit inside another.
We make the necessary efforts to shine and one day we all
catch fire together.
Sitting at my ease now, becoming more and more
like the air around me
I swim into another body made of inhaled breath
the hand of the first body is stroking the long white hair of the other.
I can taste my name being called.
Because I am saying this, I know it’s nearly time for me
But for now I am a rooster strutting on the roof ridge of a white church
my feathers all red and gold!
Elaborate coxcomb thrown back fluttering in a furnace of wind
I go cockadoodledoing while the preacher tries to preach.
Hey you crying on your knees!
Hey you, bent over with your back broken under weight of fear and guilt
come outside and whirl with me!
Everything you believe about yourself is vomit.
Your sermons are mouthfuls of rancid meat!
Why not come whirling with your arms full of fire?
Take this gallon can of gasoline and pour it over both our heads!
My fingers are match sticks already struck with fire.
bee in flight, taken on the road to the White Salmon River
Now that I am growing old, the circle darkens
under the eye.
Fingers broken in a long forgotten fall
What mattered once has been broken
into small and smaller measurements of the space
we all are falling through.
Now the one I love calls me by a name that is no longer mine.
Her voice is like a Gulf, silver and curling.
The name she calls me is one wave within her, flecked with tar.
Coming closer, I am being lifted.
The one I love is bending over me
looking me full in the face.