FOR JUAN RAMON JIMENEZ

juan-ramon-jimaenez

 

1973

Because I have known the space between thoughts

known and endured terrible silences

I keep quiet. I say nothing.

Find myself walking around the house in a coma

the right hand held in the left.

The moon watches, sitting in the window like a child eating crackers.

I want to be a happy man but this house won’t cooperate.

So I will leave it!

I will wind the arms of the sky around my head and I will leap

into the subtle body of my soul!

When I become whole, I may never speak again

or I may speak for the first time of my secret visions

of my memories of angels in the cornfields

of the light around my Grandma’s coiled and braided hair

of  the green flames of pine trees.

 

 

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THREE UNRELATED VIEWS OF THE BODY AT THE BEGINNING OF 1982

3D_Male_Skeleton_Anatomy

 

The happy body

 

In the tiniest cells of my body, I am jumping up and down!

In the bright atoms I am crouching

like a  brilliant parakeet with wings tightly folded

but ready and bristling with happiness!

 

 

The wounded body

 

Like a priest called to an accident, I kneel over bodies.

I pray for the blood of little girls shot dead in El Salvador

to come back, come back…

but you know it won’t.

Adolescent soldiers aim in the dark at the shrieks of wounded babies!

Old men are chased around trees by helicopters

made in New Jersey.

 

 

The drowned body

 

When the body stops struggling

it rises and floats.

It goes where the river goes.

Not shouting, not weeping, not praying, not singing.

Little boys point to it, on its way into the Gulf.

 

 

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WORDS WRITTEN TO MY WIFE AFTER WORKING EIGHT HOURS OUTDOORS IN WINTER

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written in 1994

I am a white man
white as blizzard, as the coming of ice
white as the first generation removed from Earth.

But tonight there is a river of blood running under the bridge of the rib cage.
There is a new moon hung in frost broken limbs of our maple tree
and I am a man with a cracked tooth, the pain like a soft flickering of lightning.

If I lay my face against the moon, calling your name, “Carol, Carol…”
a light may come on gradually inside this leather box
I call myself.
I will move inside you as a snake of water
between the banks of The Columbia.

But I am a working man, behind on his payments.
The interest on loans taken out in another life
eats my liver like a crow.
I can’t afford these words I am saying.
I can’t afford the assurance of men who walk in straight lines
or of those determined to follow their own desires
toward unimagined pleasure or pain.

You tell me the way to heal is
“First find the wound.”
Go to the pain, 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.

I say, let the good God draw his sword, the color of the sharpened moon
across my throat right now!
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

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“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 extension ladder, up near the  roof line
when God whispered in the ear of the ladder holder
“You don’t need to be here. Walk away.”

So he walked away and when the feet 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 came to earth with only my collarbone broken.

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 in 1959 or 60
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
with printed cowboys firing six guns out of both fists.
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.

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 is, be careful my friend.
You are needed here and you are much
loved.

 

 

 

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photo of Sage Stoneman

WORDS WRITTEN TO FRIENDS TOWARD END OF WINTER, 2015

for Carol, Rob, Aja, Amidha, Michael

mummy-buddha

one

The world is memory.
You remember a little squirrel, fallen from his nest
hairless and smooth as a scrotum.
Now I remember that same squirrel as my own.
We both cry for him.
Off and on for the rest of our lives we go on crying.
We think we are stranded but we are moving at the speed of light.
Believe we are unloved while the Mother’s hands are all
over us.
Know with a certainty we only have a few years left to live
when we died a century ago
and it made so little difference we never noticed.

 

two

Catching sight of God
it’s like seeing a deer in the woods.
The colors are not impressive at first glance.
It’s God’s deer not Walt Disney’s.
If you’ve never seen a deer
you might miss it entirely or say to yourself,
“That can’t be a deer.”

 

three

Yesterday we walked to the river
one of us immersed in pain, the other aware of a unity.
The white water in the river below, the ringing of the hillside to the north.
High pitched trilling in the ear like 10,000 digitally recorded crickets.
Pixellated visuals of fir trees, dirt road, low hanging cloud
all composed of sound, light, energy in the body.
The body itself, pin points of light oscillating fast
as moth wings!
No difference between suffering and elation
between your body and mine
between the river below us and the sky.

 

four

Despite what you say, I believe you are capable
of performing super human good deeds to all seven billion of us.
All of us at once, yourself included.
The common human heart may appear
shallow as grave
but it will open wide enough to hold the universe
our sun, moon, all our stars small as teardrops.

We will be buried inside ourselves forever
or we will burn, we will burn, we will burn
until we are free.

 

five

I don’t want to ever go past that love.
I want to stay where that love is.
It’s like treading water in a pool fed by springs
coming up under us
not gently but churning the water in a muscular way
the currents wanting to lift all of us up
forcefully.

 

six

God has seven billion pairs of eyes but he is blind unless our eyes are open.
He doesn’t have a clue what he feels
unless we speak for him.

The Mother is other wise.

 

 

 

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BLESSING A FIELD IN EAST TEXAS

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poem written in 1981

 

I have left my car along a road near Grapeland, Texas
and walked into someone’s field.
How lovely the border pines in the rise of wind,
the stalks of maize heavy with rain water.

I own no land, no home, and before the car is paid for
it will pass to others.
Let me kneel in these furrows,
and with my right hand pull johnson grass out of loose soil.
Hold weed roots up to the sun
white and delicate as the bodies of my children.

From a pine tree, two hawks are watching.
I rise and, turning in a circle, I sing. I bless this land. I sing, I bless this nation.
I bow down like a Muslim in the maize.

BUMS ON THE ROAD

 

hobo

“Tonight I am a child. I do not know that the moon is not the sun.” Rafael Stoneman

1971

Hitch hiking from Oklaunion,Texas to Ellenville, New York
telling people about Jesus.
Dime in my watch pocket, the cost of pay phones having risen so high.
People are mostly kind, give me food to shut me up
as if a man can’t preach with his mouth full.
Nearly died of dysentery in Ellenville
eating out of dumpsters what fell from the rich man’s plate.

Stole a jar of peanut butter once, while I was on the road
believing it righteous to even rob a bank in the service of  the Lord.
Broken hearted man just out of prison taught me better.
Said, “Pretty boy like you don’t want to go anywhere near jail.”
One of very few converts that I made.
Weeping beside me in his mother’s Buick
not for crimes he’d done but for the mother long dead
her hair grown so long in memory it nearly reached the ground.

Preacher in Brinkley, Arkansas
first put me up in a railroad hotel, then had me arrested.
Had persuaded the youth director of his church to forsake all
take to the road with me!
24 hours in a drunk tank in Brinkley, Arkansas
before they drove us to the county line.
Me and one old man the scriptures could not reach
so full of shame he couldn’t help but drink hisself
to death.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a hobo.
Back when they had Bible beards long and black as Chinese rivers
all in danger now of catching fire.
I see kids on the highway
20 years old, leaving home without their teeth.
Mouth sores like a leper’s, eyes like campfires built inside dripping caves.

Where I live in winter the sky is white as a fish’s belly
cut open with a folding knife, water draining out of it.
Travelers keeping dry beneath the underpass that leads them to the river
I sometimes give a dollar.
More often I try to time it so I don’t get caught there by the light.

Crossing the Columbia from Washington to Oregon
I feel a distance come upon me.
I feel the space between the sky and what I call myself suddenly come to nothing.
Then I am seeing through eyes of strangers on the road.
Feeling the common and the aching human heart
trying to free itself of everything
or  die.
Whether it’s Ripple wine or the clearest water, all of us are drunk on something.
Then we’re dead as any traveler found frozen in a culvert
by the lonesome railroad tracks.

There is joy in knowing this. There is joy in knowing this.

That is what I feel on a bridge of fog between two states
but by the time I cross the river into Oregon,  the stranger’s heart is gone
and there is only the sky.
The Bible says we have no name that can be repeated.
It says that living with tears is also living well.
Even God sleeps in a rent house and may be torn asunder.

I sometimes feel a shame having lived this long, awake in the night
with so little still to give
but here are my empty hands in friendship.

What I have is yours.

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DAWN COMES TO 241 COOPER AVE, UNDERWOOD, WASHINGTON 98651

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Above the river gorge there is a tree line of green woman taking shape
in fog.

Listen, you can hear increase of light as a kind of ringing.

All night long, roots of Douglas fir hold their ground
fingers working in the soil, binding the hillside together.

Three feet down in darkness, beneath the foundation of the house
I hear balls of gravel tumbling against one another.
Sounds like bells
the kind that children tie in laces over tongues of their shoes.

Millions of them tinkling.

WORDS WRITTEN TO FRIENDS IN WINTER

Bare_Trees_by_the_surreal_arts

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.                    D H Lawrence

1.

First 37 years spent in solitary confinement
rolling dice carved from a finger bone
against this unforgiving wall.
Let out time to time
circling the prison yard.

2.

No brain for science.
Forced by nature to relate everything to God.
Layers of imagined specialness
all very complicated.

Getting old now.
Falling back to what set this world in motion.
Whatever Love is
the only God I want to know.

3.

Selfishness at the root of every body.
Take care of my own self first.
Fight for the last remaining breath.

All very tiresome in the end.

The body stores so much tension it can’t relax.
By the time it dies, its face belongs to someone else:
the man created by a tension held
so dear.

4.

Friend
when you came to my door, your arms were open
but I had climbed into a pine tree
high, higher up
scanning distances the color of cerulean frost
hoping  to catch sight of my own eyes.
Maybe you called my name but I could not hear
for the mockingbirds.
When you left, even the crows left with you.
Even the blue jays are gone from my door step.

No one singing now.

There is no pain other than being here without you.
All other pains are rolled into that one.

5.

Behind it all, an embrace, a smile, a welcome
home.
At the right moment, I will not be afraid.
What is broken will be knitted back again by needles
of light.

I know this.

6.

So interesting to hold the hand of the one I love
feel it as a woman’s hand grown old.
Also as a baby girl’s
a dry leaf,  flow of air across the palm.

In the dark
can’t tell whose hand is whose.

7.

We are all illegals here
all of us homeless with a hand out.
Help me cross the river, Friend
water streaming off my body red as blood.
Hold me one time in your arms and tell me I am
precious.

Once will be enough.

8.

Being on time for God is important
being awake when he passes on his morning walk….
but luck has much to do with those who catch sight
of him.
No matter how diligent we are
we drift out of sleep just in time
to see the moon passing full across the window
pane.

9.

I sympathize with your friend who shot himself in the head
but let’s not do that, just yet.
Fellow I knew hung himself.
A good man, you couldn’t miss the sweetness in him.
Battled depression for years. Fought it hand to hand.
End of a long relationship must have played a part
but the final blow
was the dean of the local college
where this man painted, cleaned, repaired walls.
Announced it was likely the school would have to close.

Went home, wrote some note to his children
hung himself for a friend to find.
Now it seems the dean was hasty.
The school won’t close after all. They say that school never closes.
How could it?

10.

Hope is not essential.
Sometimes there is joy and ecstasy.
We feel a pointed participation with our Existence
as a person with plans unfolding.

Sometimes there is an ecstasy with no plan.
Just seeing the moon pass across the window is enough
to justify the universe.

Other times we are in pain
rolling in our bed sheets as a caterpillar spinning its cocoon
or taking a light nap
aware of what is happening around us but uninvolved
with it.

Either way, risen or set, the moon is there.
The moon.

11.

Not allowing ourselves to tunnel out of prison
not rolling our bones into a past or future
is important.
When we fall in love, it always happens where we are
not where we ought to be.

We look up, for no reason that we know, and there is Krishna.
Or in my case, there is Carol
or there is Krishna dressed as Carol or Carol dressed how Krishna would be dressed
if he were dressed as Carol.

I want to give back everything I have stolen from my self
calling it “mine”.
Lay it down on the counter, where I find myself
naked as moonlight in our kitchen
waiting for water to boil.

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