PERCY SLEDGE IN 1966

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Mr. Percy Sledge says, “Loving eyes can never see.”

Conked hair, big teeth with space between them
Space full of the moon and stars.
His eyes are two ships in the Black Sea, burning at night.
His voice, a sledge hammer swung against the heart.
Face split with emotion
Mr. Pain and Mr. Unbearable Joy wearing the same silk suit
Tied and belted with ecstasy.
Fists clinched not in anger but trying to contain the power
Of the Holy Ghost and the roll of thunder
Through him.

His chest is a black sky swelling with the breath of fire
While lightning flares in the blowing rain, in the blowing rain
Of his horns.

Mr. Percy Sledge says, “Take time to know her. Sleep out in the rain if she says that’s how
it ought to be.”

Thank you, sir, for saying that.

 

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PRAYERS IN WINTER

Baba Hand Writings for USA

 

There is no difference now between faith and unbelief.

Words are bloody rags placed on an altar.

“I believe, I believe…”

Dead men slow dancing with worms, ashes raining from their eyes.

Every prayer, including this one, is a tsunami of self pity

a rogue wave in a daub of spit!

 

 

All day our faces are gulfs of green undrinkable water.

At night coyotes hunt the river bank for lives more quiet than their own.

Ten years ago you told me

“Come to the river in morning, among grass widows, in blades of light.

Come repeat a name composed entirely of water.

Whisper these syllables across the river not as prayers

but as breath let go of, not expected to return.”

Now you say

“Don’t try to find me where I’ve always been.

Look for me in dangerous places where the poor cook their own hands

for food.

I am the poor and the dead.  I am meat in the fire.

Only when the tongue is taken back into your mouth as ashes

can you speak my name again.

Only when the roof of the mouth collapses in fire

when the skull is broken into, robbed of everything

it possesses.

Only when you are empty as the endless canopy of sky

can you kneel like a drunk man

amazed to find the full moon floating in his cup of wine.

When you see the mountains of that moon

bear witness to that light only the blind may see

sing words only those can sing whose throats are cut

then speak my name.”

 

 

There is an oak tree planted by the river

so old only its leaves know the world still exists.

When I sleep, I hear the west fork of that river

and smell it in the fine hair on my wrists.

There is something in me wants to be that cold

wants to come back to itself in deep water

where the river curves and the bank is undermined.

There is a quiet that goes on gathering in the river

until it touches a man between his shoulder blades and he wakes.

 

But there is no meaning in this world.

There is heaven. There is hell. There is purgatory

and there are hallways leading between them.

You tell me

“Every house is on fire!

The moon is dancing naked on the roof ridge

with all her feathers fallen to the ground!”

You say

“Throw off your blankets! Your sheets are in flames!

Look up and see the bed where you are sleeping is now the unmade sky.”

 

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TROUBLE FOLLOWS ME ON THE COLDEST MORNING OF THE YEAR

 

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I hear the soft yodeling of pigeons
the sound my breath makes hitting against falling snow.
On the news today a thousand crows fell dead over Arkansas
a thousand more in Louisana.
Nobody knows why.

When all questioning stops, the breath rises
filling the gap between the inside and the out.”
These kinds of thoughts come to my mind like quail to a corncob.
I look at them as I would a turnip left for no reason by the side of the road.
Walk on.

Train horns are blowing through the river gorge.
Wild turkeys step lightly in the side yard
feeling for hurled corn under the snow.

So hard to know one face from another in the dark.
Whose eyes am I seeing through?
Whose teeth are these turned the color of Irish tea?

I feel for them with a tongue inside the mouth.
They are like strangers gathered in a train station
looking for food.

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TALKING TO FREDDIE YAM ON A WINTRY DAY

 

 

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“…where the trees have leaves of prisms and break the light in colors that no one knows the names of.” The Byrds

Personal life, what remains of its tiresome memories, hopes and fears, is an empty warehouse where a fair amount of commerce once took place. Even rats don’t live here anymore, so little food being left for them to eat.

Across the street in a vacant lot where years ago someone threw an apple core, a tree has come up, ready now to bloom. In its upper branches a sparrow builds her nest.

The fact of existence is one thing. Being aware of it, another. Trying to claim ownership of what we could never create,  bend existence to our own imagined will, is a very distant third. When existence, awareness and surrender come together, there is a blossoming of joy like morning birdsong.

THE WORLD IS ONE THING AND I AM ANOTHER

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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.

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IN A CLEARING

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In this clearing where a stand of horse apples used to be

we wait for emptiness to fill.

Our two voices are together, inside an overwhelming pulse of crickets!

There is a joy in 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

with him.

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SOME RECENT CLOUDS

Big cloud tumbling high, the amazing flying sky
how the gulls are pillaging the town.”   Donovan

IMG_0793sky 2cloud 12cloud 11cloud 1IMG_0826IMG_0793IMG_0789IMG_0752IMG_0751cloud 13IMG_0754IMG_0824IMG_0779IMG_0782IMG_0792IMG_0804IMG_0805oneIMG_0823IMG_0789IMG_0795IMG_0787IMG_0758IMG_0756IMG_0168right eyeIMG_0304IMG_0167wxyIMG_0754200201202IMG_0438IMG_0873IMG_0852111333sky101sky102sky103sky105sky1041001100212345678911131415161234501020304IMG_1098

Guru Purnima Moon 2015

Guru Purnima Moon 2015

These are some snapshots of clouds, mostly taken from the deck in our backyard, also several from the front yard and the road we live on. I could never write anything as beautiful as one of these. Some are the most common looking of clouds, when seen at first glance by the naked eye but the camera sees more than our eyes do. What is hidden to one is not to another. There is more to every particle of creation that can be imagined.

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