A TEXAN EXPLAINS THE HOLY NAME

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The holy name can never be spoken.
It disappears from the mouth.
Takes form in the space between syllables
where silence widens, becoming a sky
unto itself.

In that sky
a name too formal to be used is forgotten.
Why call someone who is always here?

Does the husband call his wife to the bridal bed
when she is already there waiting?
When the wife’s mouth is on his
does he stop to ask for a glass of water?

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FOR MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE IN HER SICK BED

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I have come from the river
singing Om sri sri aing aing namah namah
“Beautiful Mother, I am kneeling, I am kneeling.”

Back home I tell you how windows can fill suddenly with sky
how purple finches will fly through the walls of our bedroom
where there is not even a rug on the floor
not a quilt spread across the bed.
Only one old chair and all the birds of heaven
circling inside us.

Your face is open, red and gold as a maple leaf
where welcome drops of rain will pool
for hummingbirds to drink.
Through our kitchen window there is a light
innocent as a sea shanty being sung by an eight year old girl.
Let us live in this welcome light.
In particles and in waves, let us live together
inside this welcome light.

 

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GO TO HER

…I brought him to my Mother’s house
to the bedchamber of the one who conceived me.

Song of Soloman 3:4

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GO TO HER

Leave the flesh waving behind
as if it were an acre of maize.
Float out to Her, calling her name.
Your voice is a morning glory opening in the throat.
The name forming on your tongue sounds like
one thousand syllables of falling water.
We are drawn from our Mother’s well
fed by Her spring
hidden until sung for
in the folds of Her.

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HYMN OF PRAISE TO THE DIVINE MOTHER IN HER ROLE AS QUEEN OF NATURE

This is a poem I started in the Fall of 1986. I have worked on it off and on ever since.

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“There’s a light, a certain kind of light…” The Bee Gees

I walk in spirals
through streets of Chicago elegant as a rattler’s back.
Stepping over rainbows in oily gutters,  I see my reflection
standing with well dressed mannequins
in a department store window
as if we are family, waiting for the world to end.

 

But I am older than Chicago, older than the prairies.

In my chest are springs seeping into cattle tanks
where milk cows gather at dusk to drink water the colors of heaven.
Dogs are howling up and down my spine!

In October I stood by an open window in Fairfield, Iowa
contemplating the Fall.
Leaves like Puerto Rican brides
red and gold were falling and flying
and I am flying with them now as a bridegroom
over cities swollen with the blood of people
cut off from the sea.

I fly over solitary farm boys courting domesticated animals
forbidden by the Bible
see my body below me mounting mule deer and antelope
along the Chama River in New Mexico.
Put on antlers and wade with cows into water
the colors of heaven!

 

I want to spread my arms wide as prairies!
I want to kiss everything alive!
Lie down in fields plowed black as Ethiopian women
and pull the sky down on top of us!

Because I am awake in the love that makes leaves bud
in the highest branches of an ash tree!
Because every cell of my body is dancing in African circles
like one hundred thousand ash leaves together in a wind!

 

This love I offer to the Mother.

You with your prayer voice, your prayer smoke rising.
You with your prayer teeth, your prayer skull throbbing with rivers.
Your face is a cliff of fiddle fern with no trail to the top.
There are no roads higher than your hipbones.
So come down to me because I can’t climb high enough
to reach you.

I have built altars to myself in high places
and I have fallen.
I have climbed on ladders made of breath and I have fallen.
But your breath is a wave swelling in the Gulf of Mexico
beyond the seventh sand bar.
Your breath folds into itself and breaks in sudden laughter
on Matagorda beach!

 

If you see me on street corners, standing in a rain of galvanized nails
shouting, “I am Jesus!”
If I limp toward you with bullet holes in the palms of my hands, carrying an atom bomb
lift me up into your arms and heal me.

Let your breath come from the four corners of the sky.
Come like dawn through my blue windows and lay
your salmon colored hands on me!

Mother, lift me up and enter me!
Make my belly swell with a new earth
a new sky with a new moon in it.

 

When I walk in spirals through Chicago there is a lamb’s heart
beating in my heart.
Light enters through a wound in my side.
I welcome strangers standing on corners like ash trees giving back
breath.

I welcome meadowlarks with flowers in their beaks
and gray winged gulls come from the Great Lakes
who follow rivers inland to live with drunk men under bridges.

I welcome the Mother who has no place to stay where she has not always
been.

 

Once I carried heavy burdens
crazy women with hair the color of drained oil.
I walked in circles gathering the dust of cities
that falls from wings of sparrows,
dust that collects in the creases around our eyes.
I carried the skull of the moon between my shoulder blades
where wings used to be.

One night the moon rose off of me.
Stars fell and there were rivers in my hands!
There was water falling over me, seeping through hillsides into springs.
There are oceans inside me now and my heart is full of waves!

 

Late November now in Fairfield, Iowa.
A certain kind of light is falling from the wings of meadowlarks.
The sky is full of white flakes of fire!

Standing in a grove of oak trees naked after the Fall
grown so close together we touch each other like children

I praise the ten thousand genitals of an oak tree!
The open face of the sky I praise!
God’s breasts round and full, I praise.

I praise her belly covered with moss roses
praise her long arms embracing seven billion men and women.
Everything that breathes and does not breathe, I embrace.
I kiss her red mouth.
I drink her voice seeping through me like water into cattle tanks.

I kiss her red mouth.

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ARTHRITIS OF THE HAND IN WINTER

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Three vertebrae in the mid back that once were tender as willow, cracked in a fall from a three story building. Now they hold to each other as three widows would,  living in a one bedroom apartment. I have a nose broken in four places and a ring finger that can not bend, as a swan will, to its own reflection in a palm full of water. The body worships with a child’s faith every illusion of safety but, with age, begins letting go of faith, learning to make do with common sense and the support of a brace.

This morning the moon is the color of a mule’s hip bone, the one I found in a field of crowder peas outside New Waverly, Texas in 1959. The sky is white as the face of a man in his sixties, raised on pork. I am walking to the White Salmon again, following the circle of my breath. Hear the spangled screech of hawk or eagle hunting ground squirrel in the fog. Sounds like a tambourine or the ornate rowel of a Mexican spur suddenly set spinning.

Walking in snow a hundred feet above the river, I recognize my own boot prints coming toward me from yesterday. Cloud fills the narrow gorge to its limits. Crows caw to each other over the rapids, swell their breasts and make the popping sounds of courtship. In the shadow of an overhang, egrets are murmuring and their murmur is a twin to the murmur of the river.

Without gloves on, the cold moves ‘cross the swollen knuckles of my right hand, as a wind that circumambulates five sacred hills where little fires are built. This fire is how I know the sky comes down to the riverbed and enters into bone. My hand, the color of a slice of wonder bread, is open, offering the sky back to itself. The One without a name who takes the shape of water and of air is also present in fire and in bone.

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PRAYER TO MY GURU, SHRI SHIVABALAYOGI MAHARAJ

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Shivabalayogi Maharaj

Shivabalayogi Maharaj 1935-1994

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I followed you by rivers of phlegm and blood
followed you by rivers of gas and strong digestive juices and I found you
in my heart.

What I call my heart is you.

Now I want to hear you sing and play the flute the Virgin played
when she danced before our Lord in pious circles as the moon does in her orbit.

Once more I want to see you consulting with widows about their hemorrhoids
and with men my age asking for money.

I am more than 60 now
more than the smoke of memory gone in fire
more than what is left when bones are splintered ash.

When not even the echo of my voice is left
there you are.

With my hands I am listening for your voice spread over me like a flag of sky
open and let go of,  carried in wind and snapping like a prayer shawl!

The mind without end or beginning
the heart alone with itself,  the heart alone
I listen for that.

two

Whatever prayer is, this is a prayer:
the whistling a redbird makes shot through the wing with a pellet gun
the call of a buzzard falling from the forehead of an oak tree in Stephen’s Creek, Texas
shot from an amazing distance with a 22 rifle when I was twelve.

The arc of it falling beautiful in memory as the breast of a woman
or the flared nostrils of a muley cow in labor.
The arc of falling is my prayer and the memory of hitting the ground still trying
to breathe.
My own red face in the mirror is my prayer when I am feeling old
and bitter and used.

There is no burden greater than breath turned against itself
but if you are who I say you are, you hear these words before I
do.

three

They say you are God but you are not God.

God is just one more man who doesn’t listen when we go down crying on our knees.
You are more than God and I am laid bare to you!

The coarse hair over my heart
you know it well.
When I call your name you see the gaps between the crooked teeth I want to hide
behind my hands.

I have the tongue of a crow slit by a peanut farmer’s son and taught to speak
the words of men.
If I couldn’t lie there would be nothing left to say.

I am poor poor poor poor. I am poor!

I can’t earn your love.
I can only stalk you as a crow will a slice of wonder bread
that falls from your high window to this ground.

I tell you my heart is a decorated doorway
that the ribs over my heart are sanded smooth and lacquered with mantras
chanted in the remains of a East Texas accent.
But the face I show you only you can see
who see through walls and time before emptiness becomes a man.

Once I heard you telling someone on the street
“Abandon every face, see only sky.
If you must kneel, kneel completely through the earth.
You are free! You are not a prostitute and God is not your pimp!”

I kneel and I feel myself carried underground to the unconceived beginnings of a river.

I am the decorated doorway
the one you pass through walking with an arm of moon around your waist.
I will kneel before you like a man
or I will wear a long white skirt that drags the ground with a red hem.
I will dance for you with honeysuckle in my hair!

four

Shree Maa said to me
“Who am I? I am nothing, zero! If you want to see God, look in your mirror.”

I can’t say who I am
but I go round you like a red tailed hawk around a wild magnolia tree
in which a red winged blackbird sits.

Sometimes when the moon rises, our blood follows the limping heart and flows
in a spiral through the body
like the mob that followed Jesus through the winding streets of Jerusalem
when the cross was on his back, the sun setting on his head
followed by thunder, followed by rain!

Sometimes we may feel a wing has been torn out of our spine.
Shree Maa told me that with one good wing we can fly in circles around our Lord
that a circle is as good as straight line when all we want is to be
with you.

Before I came to rest in the one whose breast is white and fragrant as magnolia
I ate the flesh and drank the blood of memory.
My heart was a bible with verses marked by sticks of chewing gum.

Now in early morning I kneel by streams of breath
and with the moon as my witness
admit to you
I know nothing nothing nothing.

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LITTLE SONGS AND PRAYERS FOR CAROL

Every spoken word is a lie but the same words being sung are true.

1

I find myself laughing for no reason

cry when there is no cause to cry.

I go out when moonlight is sharp as a woman’s slap

to see a round face that is not my own

but find I am looking into my own right eye!

I don’t know who I am not.

I am all places, all people, every seed and every open blade of grass.

I am what you are.

2

I keep a close watch on this heart

see my mind look for and find

no answers.

I watch the heart let go of everything and look to itself

alone.

You are my heart

a sky in all directions.

Above and below you are my heart.

3

All we know is what we can never be told.

But we are not forgotten when we forget ourselves.

Someone is close

someone kneeling in water whose breath is a spiral.

4

There is a yellow light the color of peach flesh

laid across everything alive.

There is a naked awe in being here

whether in bolts of happiness

or in grinding or sudden suffering.

Whether I move with those who are moving

or stand in shadows as a thief of breath I am with you.

I am you.

5

The silence after a question that has no answer goes on forever.

Our minds stop

when we are not afraid to be completely alone.

The sky cracks open

the crown of the head is born from the womb.

We see the whole blue body come

between the Mother’s legs like a mountain of sky!

6

Alone or together

our hearts are gathered into one.

We are carried up like farm dogs in a funnel cloud.

7

The heart is a spring of water.

To reach it we must kneel and put our mouths near the mud.

We have to smell the mud and taste it in ourselves

to know.

Kneel if you dare.

Drink only if you are brave.

8

All night long thunder with lightning!

Earthquakes open canyons in the sea!

Inconsequential hills are lifted up as mountains.

Cities fold in waves of salt that are red as blood!

But by morning, the tidal flood receded

I smell the Gulf drying in the nets of your hair.

Quail are ticking in the fallen leaves

and you are spread across everything like the sky suddenly awake!

Twenty-three years ago you shouted

“Every word you say is a lie!”

Between untruth and total silence I became your husband.

9

Now my teeth are going one at a time

as the petals of our ornamental cherry tree are pulled

by gusts of wind.

Connective tissue in the joints, eyesight, hearing, all are going.

There is a darkness in my heart

the dark of springs deep in earth

of water too cold to drink that must be warmed first in your hands.

Words come to me one at a time

like leaves torn from pin oak trees sixty years ago in Texas

that were carried underground in a torrent

and rise to surface in this spring of water.

As the poor make windows out of bottles, I make a bed for you

of these leaves.

10

I don’t know what love is.

There are no objects and no relationships.

Only one being like a sky that has no mouth but speaks anyway

no arms but we are all embraced by it!

I am the one behind the mirror

who sees without being seen.

I could line my driveway with the skulls

of every body I have been.

11

I am alone

in a house with no stairway to an upper room

no back door out.

In the quiet where a cricket rubs his legs together

I sit in this chair instead of working

knowing I am not a body

not the chair the body sits on

not the floor that supports the chair.

This house is mortgaged and I look around with rented eyes.

There is no sadness in a fact

and no rejoicing in what is simply true.

I am alone and like the cricket I make a song from what

I am.

12

I have followed you through all the veins of the body

and come back alone to the knot

of the heart.

All words end in the silence.

They vanish!

The heart never even forms a thought.

No words come from there

and none can reach it that are not first changed to fire.

13

Sometimes I wake up in the cold

and there is no face in the mirror

no voice

only a dry leaf for a tongue

and emptiness like a handful of fire!

14

If you walk in a spiral through this city

following lines of power, drawn by your own intelligence

you will find a place where I am already waiting

arms full of flowers buzzing with bees.

I wait for you in every cell.

There is a happiness in me

coiled and tightly folded as the wings of meadowlarks!

15

I follow you

wind blowing through me all the names

of the dead I am.

There is one name I answer to, so much like silence

that I answer it with silence.

16

Some believe in the quiet between two words

God can be heard breathing.

My faith is never to believe.

My prayer is not to speak the first word.

17

You told me

don’t resist the rising breath

even if your lungs are filled until they break your ribs.

Don’t stop

until all this sky is breathed inside you!

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