for my wife, Carol
To strangers and to moths gathering around fire
my common heart is opening.
In every rounded corner of the world there is a laughter
I can hear.
There is a joy I share with falling leaves and sparrows.
Inside his prison cell, the condemned man is awake,
overcome with joy.
His floor is worn smooth with solitary dancing.
The sand bags packed around his eyes are there to stop the river overflowing.
Can you hear church bells ringing in the palms of his hands?
There is happy static jumping inside the blood
and across his rib cage, waving pastures, fireflies humming!
The pain that comes with love is taken down into the body,
locked in cells designed to open.
That pain is free to go now!
Born naked into fire? That pain is forgotten!
The pain of Earth confined in solitary space,
all that is over now!
From here I see a billion suns clustered as her crown.
Some like to take the shape of planetary nebulae falling past the world
as flaming dust.
I like to follow the blood, returning to the heart.
Every moment I am kneeling with an ear against my prison wall
and the beating heart I listen for is yours.
After painting a horse barn all day, I drink tea in late afternoon
letting go of what I can’t hold in her hands.
Eight hours gripping the rungs of a twenty-two foot ladder.
Now the ladder falls while I remain in air!
We hear cicadas singing in shrubs along the fence line
so loud they must be inside us.
Delighted now in whirring air after years under the ground
cicadas are rising in a mass, shedding larvae shells.
They are singing for their mates, flexing the muscle along ribs
I offer my right hand to one who has landed in leaves of the hops vine.
She steps gladly on a finger that was broken in the Fall
recognizing its curved rigidity as her own.
There is a joy years in coming that waits for us in the dark.
It fills the space we call emptiness that has always been full of stars.
Emptiness that is a well, spring fed and overflowing.
There are eyes in that dark and wings prepared to open.
Whirling in the air, there is a joy coming in waves and in shattered lights
I will go down to the root
down to the finest tendrils of what I am
draw into myself the clearest water
bring it up through all the veins of the body.
I will pour myself drop by drop over your feet
over your shining hands.
My heart does not belong to me
not my breath
not even the sensitive tissue around a hollow tooth.
Nothing is mine.
I will leave this world at the right time carried away in a flood.
Fear will not stop me from stepping into the water.
The river will harden under my crooked toes.
The moon will guide me to another earth and I will land exactly
where I belong.
As long as you are there
it will always be here. It will always be now.
You say we are who we seek
that I am coiled inside you waiting to be born.
The hands that pull me from the birth canal
are my own hands red with blood!
You say that breath is prayer.
My breath unites with yours and we become two wings of a white crane
following the Guadalupe River into Matagorda Bay.
There may be a heaven
beyond which there is another and another…
1008 arms of the infinite may wrap around each other
but in the center of everything there is a sky so full of light
beyond which there is nothing to be said.
I am not afraid of you.
Every drop of my blood is a prayer flag
red and snapping.
I am kneeling in the curved shadow of your sword
where there is no difference between laughing and crying.
I hear rivers in flood carrying away the dead
but I am the living and the unborn.
Sometimes I hear a voice I call my own.
Sounds like cicadas writing scriptures in the leaves of sweet gum trees
feels like the oiled moon gliding across my shoulder.
I am the river that pumps from your heart.
Your arms warm as blood are my magic circle.
The sky opens like a pomegranate. Stars fall around us!
Oceans rise up waving swords.
Armies of slaves and their smirking masters throw children into pits of fire!
All the horrendous faces of my mind are hysterical with blood!
But your arms are a circle of moon, a wheel of fire with us inside
Just before dawn meadowlark and morning dove are with me
and the moon is still a challenge to the dark.
Now when rivers are flooding
and the crying of seven billion is like seven billion knots in my heart
I call your name.
Even with my fingers stiff with secret guilt I can clap my hands.
I can stand in the highest place I know and shout your name!
When you are gone I feel something in my heart
I call Carol.
When I can’t hear your voice I call your name.
When I can’t touch your feet that are wide as this world and so small
I touch my own!
Because there’s something in my heart I call
Your face is a sky where worlds give birth to other worlds.
There is a shining in you like the moon in a wild
When my face is dark with imagined sorrows
a light comes from there.
In your quiet I hear wolves and waterfalls and in my own heart
atoms are whirling.
Sometimes I strut like a grackle, a poor man in cheap
but gaudy clothes.
If you smile at me, I say
“I am approved! I am acceptable to God!”
If you ignore me and become a mountain blazing with attention
I say, “How great is my silence!”
But with your help I can cross the distance between us.
In that sky between your eyes and mine
birds fall exhausted with flight!
They fall but never hit the ground.
With you there is no difference between falling
Who follows me in this winding street?
Who is there before me waiting?
Who rips the scab from my heart and lets the cleansing blood
begin to flow?
Who heals in my hands and in my feet the wounds of Christ
never mine to bear?
I seem to wander. I seem to stagger through wet streets
where neon snakes are coiled in rain.
But in my heart a miracle is happening!
From where I stand I bow to you.
You who follows me in this winding street and you who are there before me
My heart will break and go on beating.
I know this.
My heart will stop but I will go on into the blossom, into the red fruit
of wanting nothing in this world but you!
When I walk in wet pastures, called there by the moon
I am breathing at the same rate as poplar trees.
It is true we breathe each others’ breath like lovers!
There is only one sky.
Above and below there is only sky.
You are that sky!
When I walk in high places along the barricades I have built
I come unexpectedly to the cliff of what I only think I know.
Then I reach for you.
It is like falling off this world! It is flying!
I am yours.
I am your breath coming in your breath going out.
Even if I don’t know what I’m talking about.
If I turn suddenly away from you demanding money
I am yours.
For a long time I squatted in shadows
shouting my own praises, then demeaning myself.
I called myself Christ and Judas
the right hand and the left.
Now I am tired of being anyone.
Help me stand still for this one moment.
Shine your light through every object, every feeling, every thought.
I want to see through everything and be not even dust!
I will not sleep.
I will go out into the flying light
the sky spread wide between my heart and yours.
I want to see you in the morning, come from the mountain.
I am not a child.
It may be summer now but I can smell the winter coming.
There is a coldness in the river waiting to enter every body.
The first time we met
someone came in the night and took me down from a cross.
“Why nail your left hand to a tree and ask me to nail the right?”
You are the right hand and you are shining.
I don’t have to suffer anymore.
It is finished!
Forgive me when I tell you I am lost.
Even though you hollowed out the rock
and made a temple in my chest
my heart is still sometimes a slaughter barn
where dogs fight over ribbons of blood.
Though I have heard angels singing clear syllables
that can change a stone into a man
and bring him crying to his knees
I am lost.
So many times I have been saved by Grace
heard the ringing of invisible bells that covered the laughter of demons
and drove them away.
I have killed demons by the thousands with a sword
baptized this world in their blood
but I don’t know for sure what my own name is.
Mother Mary smiles at me using the faces of grocery clerks.
The Mother and Father of the Universe tell me
I am their child.
But I am lost because I can’t remember every moment
in whose arms I am held.
Two times I felt a presence behind me
turned to see a god seven feet tall
whose open face was a shotgun blast to the heart!
But twenty-three years later I come to your door
like a boy crying with a fish hook caught in his hand.
I need your help to go deeper.
I have seen Jesus Christ laughing inside an oval of light
the color of lavender.
Seen Lord Krsna dancing in a conch shell that was clear as ice
saw him floating over the Gulf of Mexico
while seagulls mimicked his name
and mullet leapt out of waves to reach him.
But I could not reach him.
Shree Maa told me, “I am you. I am nothing.”
Shivabalayogi said to me, “I am who you are.
You can never forget your own Self.”
But every moment I don’t remember I am in love with you
is like living in a bombed city.
There is an emptiness in rooms where you lived
then left behind
that hurts like a pulled tooth.
I need your help to go deeper.
For a long time I was afraid to give myself to you
knowing I would be eaten alive.
Now the sound of my bones snapping between your teeth
I want to walk in the perennial garden
want to gather into my wide face the light of the sky
coming down at sunset to kiss me on the mouth
leaving my lips red as a girl’s.
I want to give back light to you like the moon.
My beard is white.
My belly like a woman’s three months pregnant
but in my heart I am a lover.
I am a bridegroom with a handful of flowers.
If the one I love is Shiva
let him be the groom and I will be three months pregnant
with his child.
Take these flowers from my hand and put them in my hair.
I am talking to the God who lives in the body of Carol.
I am singing these words to my wife.
The body starts falling away.
Begins the long process of leaving me behind,
a wife happier alone.
Everything my eyes see will die.
Everything these hands take hold is torn from them.
Tomorrow the world will say, “Get out.”
Still I am carried into the valley between her breasts
where a salty stream of sweat is washing me.
I wade in that water to the dripping cave between her thighs.
A sincere opening leads inward to a fire that eats my body for food.
I am happy here, all bones now
one flake of ash smeared on my throat as ornament.