Nirvana Unlocked

buddha_widescreen

The inmates sit

In a circle

On a cement slab

Behind bars

 

One blames self-made

Bad luck—one points to rage

Just one names cowardice

More claim anger and hate

 

They’ll never leave here

And all agree their choices

Sprang from fear—what they

Want is to understand

 

So they sit

And meditate

In silence

Face themselves

 

Meet the man in the mirror

Know he is guilty

Because all men are guilty

As all men are innocent

 

And incarcerated and free

All men need to forgive

Themselves—bring peace

Step back and see

 

Step back and watch

Pause—listen—just be

Prisons contain bodies

The human mind is liberty

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I Should Have Played The Piccolo

imitation-blues-cover

 

For years

I never thought

Myself a poet—

I didn’t understand

Most of the poetry I’d read

Or care to decode it—

That convoluted

Cryptic high-dollar lingo

I needed Webster

To help me plow through

And still never knew

What the fuck

Was going on—

I couldn’t unwind

The syntactical mysteries

I’d find at every turn

Of phrase—another puzzle

And intriguing when I was a kid

When everything was a mystery to me

Like the sound of my tongue

Liquidy and clippity in my mouth

Articulating whispered

Gibberish and words

Against my teeth and lips

The roof of my mouth

A foreign music to echo

In the ear of the soul

That queer landscape

Inside my head—an edgy fear

Of the unknown

The universe of the mind

Like prayer—our search

For a reason to go on

Playing along in this game

We’ve evolved into buying

The belief in the significance

Of our particular

Existence having meaning

Believing those stories

Of myth or religion

Or science—the chatter

To support a collective mission

A unified awareness

That we must sacrifice

The glories of individual ego

And work like ants

For a better tomorrow

For a true day of reckoning

A day of understanding—

When the answer will arrive

Like a golden key

Gleaming on a purple pillow

Along with the secret knowledge

Of which door we need

To open to find

Universal peace and love

The big Why—

And if we buy into that notion

Of our ability to know

We give ourselves way more

Power than we know

We can have—and I want

You to know that I know

I don’t know shit

And don’t care to pretend

I do—I know today is

Upon me—and coyote will be

Back—where is the trickster

In the Christian-corporate model

There is no silliness in the boardroom

No laughter at the gates of Hell

I’ll take wily Old Coyote

Losing his ass again and again—

That roadrunner, oblivion

Is too quick for me—give me

Beauty or give me head

And fuck the rest of it

Men have been the managers

The progressive masters of fear

So let’s give women a chance

To screw it up some more

See what they might do

With this cursed boys’ camp

Of indentured servitude

Maybe trade a little tenderness

For drudgery or despair—give me

Free love and saddle shoes

I bet the Buddha was a gay blade

Who played the piccolo—

A poet and a Mommas’ boy

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Threading The Needle

singer

Mother’s sewing box

sat atop The Old Man’s chest

of drawers. It was made of cedar

covered with tin, painted gold,

the lid hinged. It held thread

and needles, stick pins and safety

pins, lace, yarn, razor blades and two

thimbles, a tape measure and

Sucrets tin filled with more pins

and a needle threader. 

There was a pair of scissors

and a Zip-Fix (the modern marvel

tool that fixed broken zippers

on the garment!) plus lots of

scraps of cloth, a bra strap

extension, a hand-me-down

pin cushion, basting tape,

and a hem ripper.

 

Of course there were buttons: all kinds,

shapes, and sizes, because at heart,

this box was mostly Mother’s

button-repair station. Granted,

she sewed on plenty of knee patches,

hemmed cuffs and dresses,

those dutiful extensions, but

she never claimed to be a seamstress

(though she darned a few hundred

wool socks in her time) mainly

she tried to keep buttonholes filled.

 

I don’t know why I was surprised

to find her inside the sewing box

(undisguised by the pungent odors

of wood and metal) but there she was,

pins between her lips and horn rims

perched on the end of her long,

German nose, digging for a bobbin,

some color that would match

the thread of her chore

paused under the pressure foot

of the old Singer machine

that vibrated the kitchen table

with every seam she’d treadle.

 

Her lines may not have been factory

straight, but nobody cared much

about appearances in a little iron-horse

town where the darkened bedrooms

reeked of cigarettes and whiskey

in the middle of the day,

and the church pews were filled

with women and kids.

 

I discovered it rummaging

through boxes of Mother’s stuff

I’d packed two years before,

after she’d died unexpectedly

at eighty-nine (hard for us to imagine

her not being around all the time).

I was looking for her recipes

and rolling pin when I found the gold

box and opened the lid, whiffed her

setting up the Singer and peering 

over her rims knowingly

as she asked me to sneak in her room

and grab the sewing box.

 

One always tip-toed, coming or going,

in the dragon’s lair where snorts

and snores sawed the thick, smoky,

booze-sweet air, shades pulled,

doors closed. That dragon breath

conjured monsters, battles,

fires forged in the gut—horrors

no one wanted to know. That smell—

vivid as Vitalis, moth balls, 

or fresh trout in a creel—taught me

how to navigate Hell.

 

But no outside fragrances ever

penetrated the sewing box.

It was as stable as the woman

who dug through it 

searching for thread and a button, 

just the right color and size . . .

stitching, patching, threading

the needle once again to secure

our cuffs and collars

against the cold and wind

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DEAD LIFT

hyster-lift

The Hyster battery is dead

again. You hook up the charger,

turn the dial to boost.

Better check the drip

buckets, snow on the roof,

the sun’s been blazing all morning.

The pack van’s loaded

with scrap cardboard

for a run to Pacific Recycling.

No windshield scraper,

but the heater works. Transmission

is iffy at best. Don’t ask

about the brakes or tires.

Remember to add oil,

throw your tool box in,

and roll down the windows

to vent the exhaust. Your slogan—

“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.”

Like the ’64 Chevy

straight truck, holes in the floor,

or the ’68 Freight Liner

cab-over tractor

with Arm-strong steering,

this fleet was in condition

during Nixon’s second term.

The break room refrigerator

motor is burned up.

Better leave your lunch outside.

Paydays, after work,

drive your check to the bank

and pray they’ll give you the cash.

Have faith in the Hyster

battery. Don’t turn your back

on the hydraulic lines. Find

a reefer before spring thaw.

After noon you fire up

the Ford gas-tractor,

shovel rusty snow

off the worn flatbed.

Halfway to the mill,

you break down, again,

have to walk three miles

for a phone. Both fuel

tanks are full. Both

fuel pumps are shot.

You’re going nowhere

slow. Don’t watch the clock.

The overtime rate

(nursing mechanical death row)

helps lube your complacency.

You’re no gambler. Know that

tomorrow morning the sun

will rise, the drip buckets

will sing, and the goddamn Hyster

battery will die—your laughter

extolling the beauty of decay.

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Jackknife

case

Lying on one side, bottom facing

me, you’re a customized mid-sixties

Chevy nose and grill, the horizontal lines

of the Case three-blade pocket design.

Around back I see the cluster of folded

shanks pressed tight, aligned, begging

mechanical action. Always promising

to be discreet even though your top—

which is actually the side where the Case

insignia (long gone) was glued—clacks

where the simulated bone-handle plastic

was cracked when I dropped you on

the garage floor, then accidentally backed

over you. Each hinge snaps open hard

firm, folds shut an echo in your belly

clear and sharp as the bite of a woodcutter’s

ax in the trunk of a tree a fair distance away.

I like you’re heft, even though it wears

holes in my pockets, you’re the perfect

size and weight in my hand. You let me

cut, chop, trim, scrape, clean, pry and screw.

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THE MEANING OF LIFE

summer-solstice

 

The earthy gravity of Seamus Heaney’s poems

and the sweet taste of John Powers whiskey

mixed with a few foot-surgery Percocets

 

could explain the face droop I feel, the heavy

shallow breaths, but on top of the dumb-slow

hours of pain and recovery, it was the blind

 

pick-up (no caller ID) and the pace and tone

of my niece’s voice that foretold the tale

ahead of the words: her father, the Little

 

Hungarian, had left to find my sister, his

Bull-headed Irish lover (gone now for not

quite a year) and tend the roses of their garden

 

in paradise. And however you want to spin it,

your metaphor about what happens after

we die, I can testify to their story here,

 

a love story for over half a century, one glass

half-empty, one glass half-full, they were

a team who’d thrown in together for better

 

or worse. It was a hell of a ride. True opposites.

They never gave up on each other. Call it

love, commitment, ignorance, or fear.

 

Call it what you want. Year after year

they kept trying to keep a full-glass together.

The meaning of life is in the living.

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THE RIVER QUEEN

geisha_by_kaiprincess

Cleopatra does vaudeville

as the bells chime

in time, in time—

 

the pushy broad is no mime,

yet she swirls white-faced,

she kneels, she dips—

 

the pushy broad is the writer

of this Black-Geisha script

reaching palms open,

 

she reaches past the tomb,

past the past, backing into

bloody memory of misquotes

 

and asps—her statues

swim from Egypt, slither

to the Yucatan—at last

 

she boards the ark

wearing nothing but her dark

rose and smile—her push

 

is more stroke than pose.

 

          for Lorilee Evans-Lynch

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When the Rooster Crows

A techno-neon colored red-blue guitar

muted under Dylan’s cigarette-lipped visage

eyelids closed to open your mind’s eye

on funky rat bastards posing

more lies so pour yourself another

drink some more

love all you want

it’s all you’ll ever need to know

although you’ve been urged to shake up the pattern

try to write longer lines maybe consider the prose poem you know that verse that pushes through to the end of the line regardless of meter regardless of time just keeps on keeping on with whatever you try to say but your trouble is you want to break the line

you want to carve your view

into their minds

fuck with their ears and eyes

your sense of the beat

you want to sing them dancing in the street

to the Easy Rider soundtrack

bring back John Kay

and the Steppenwolf pleasure of taking a goddamn stand

against tombstones in our eyes

like Bob Dylan the Byrds the Animals the Airplane

so many great songs too many bands to name

you went to an art gallery today

what a sweet way to spend an hour absorbing the crafted heart-thoughts

of other idlers like you

one of whom you’ve conned into covering your book

lucky men live in communities

where talented people do art for the love of doing

how else do you place a thousand dollar painting on the front of a collection of poems

most people wouldn’t shell out twenty bucks for

you don’t know which way the wind blows unless you go outside

open the door open your mouth spit your mind

it’s alright ma you’re only tryin’

to continue the show

only buyin’ into transcendence for the length of this poem

we all know sooner or later

that hard rain’s gonna fall

look out your window

we’re all disappearing in our reflection upon the reason

the seasons keep traveling on

so don’t think twice

just go there and drink it in

straight up no ice

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TURN THE RADIO ON

radio hoto

Saturday morning I’d push

A kitchen chair in front of the fridge,

Hop on to be closer to the radio:

Brer Bear, Brer Fox, & Brer Rabbit

Bustin’ the chops of that tar baby,

So stuck on himself. I still remember

The whole mess: losing his temper, vain

Wit—too smart for his own good,

& Uncle Remus’s low voice, soothing

As the sound of whittling wood,

The meadowlark’s liquid refrain.

 

I couldn’t get close enough

To that magic box (so hard to hear).

I’d examine the glittered fabric

That covered the speaker, smell the oiled

Wood & that sweet-warm hum

Of tubes & dust & electricity,

Watch the greenish glow lighting the dial

Behind the window—& then I’d fly away.

 

Mother listened to Arthur Godfrey

Or Art Linkletter while she cleaned house,

Didn’t have time for The Edge Of Night

Or As The World Turns. Outside

We shoveled snow off Dewald’s driveway,

Listened to basketball broadcast live

From the old RCA cabinet radio mounted

On the wall of their garage. Clad in sweatshirts,

Stocking caps, long Johns, & Chuck Taylors,

Our hands red-cold from dribbling wet pavement

& retrieving out-of-bounds snow-balls,

We were Panther heroes of the game

Winning shot—a last-second toss from the terrace.

 

One evening my dad hauled the radio down

Onto the kitchen table to hear a Heavyweight

Title fight. Liston & Clay. He searched

& tuned through static crackles & whirs,

Buzzes & whistles till we heard the ring

Announcer’s scratchy words: “In this corner . . .”

Muffled by the roar of the crowd. Ding!

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Fading in & out,

Waves of punches floated, jabbed,

bobbed & weaved, & then it was over

So suddenly, before we’d even tuned it in—

Sock & shock. No butterfly

Fix. The bear stung by the bee: Ali!

No Viet Cong ever called him “boy.”

 

Even after TV stole the show

(those images of Kennedy, The Beatles,

Men walking on the moon, Gunsmoke, Jack

Benny, Ward & June ) I listened to AM

Radio each night in my bedroom:

Rock ‘n’ Roll from Chicago, New York

& L.A. The Wolfman howling about white

Rooms & white rabbits, black magic

Women lighting fires & rolling

Stones, blowing open the doors of perception

On the eve of destruction, California

Dreamin’ in strawberry fields, & old Puff

Smokin’ those Nashville cats in purple

Haze hats—tumbling dice

With the hurdy-gurdy man.

 

Can you dig it, Ziggy? Ground control

To Major Tom. I’m not the man you think I am

At all. No. So surrey on down, sky pilot—

How high can you fly? You’ll never reach

The spirit in the sky dancin’ in the street.

They say video killed the radio star.

Imagine that, Sundown. You better take care.

Come to me & take my hand. No? It ain’t me

You’re lookin’ for, Babe? Can’t you

Hear my heartbeat, you heartbreaker? Shake

For me girl. Lay across my big, brass bed.

I want to be your backdoor man. If you’re sad

& feelin’ blue, go out & buy a brand new

Pair of blue suede shoes or a night on the town.

I’m counting on you. Lord, please

Don’t let me down. I need somebody.

Not just anybody. How can you laugh

When you know I’m down & out & I can’t go

On? Just take a sad song & make it better

By turning the radio on & taking me away

From here, dear Prudence, Roxanne,

Gloria, Michelle, my belle, Holly

Holy Hell—I love to turn you on.

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Losers

headshot

Now I’m seeing you, Old Man,

From the inside out, and I think I know

You better today, finally recognize

Your silence, your sentence, your view

From that over-stuffed chair

Where you stared back at me looking

For who you were. Still, I try to read your lips

On my mouth in the mirror, the eyebrows

And grin, mugging those tired eyes,

Your baggage, the bitter loneliness you

Couldn’t hide tumbling across the tournament

Of lies. Occasionally we’re awed by beauty

Passing by our observation posts. Wry

Patience is learned in waiting rooms.

We haul this hollow business, our husks

Of bony air, those weathered chrysalises

Decaying, into the storm. Don’t they call it joy?

Rebirth? This transformation to dust?

Their version of “love” you called a crusade,

A bloody sideshow of lust—and your cynicism

They were quick to call selfishness—

An excuse to drink, escape the labors of the lost,

Practice avoiding your duty, their job.

And their cure for you and your ilk, promised

New life, a key to your prison cell and guaranteed

A position in Clown-Hall. Scoffing at those

Gatekeepers of Hell, you knew they could hide

But never deny death row. And the meaning

You strove to find gave way to gray hair

And repeated lines till finally you put

The books aside, sat down and waited

For the change. After fifty-some years

Of murder, tears, hypocrisy and pain, you

Just quit—booze, reading, or ranting about it—

You clammed-up—there wasn’t much to say.

So now when I see you in me and know

I’m running out of words to spew—losing

Interest in my witty ways to grab attention—

I wonder who is who, you in me, maybe

Me in you. This spark we carry forward,

This flicker in the flames, flare and ember,

Spirit or DNA, burning and dying—

We disappear and appear again

To give in—this losing is what we do.

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