To the Daughter I Never Had


I don’t mean to sound unkind, and I am far, far from perfect, as a father or man. But I have spent some time in your future, and hope to help you avoid some of what just ordinary life, and poor judgement and the next 20 years of wear and tear might do to you, as it has to too many of your older sisters.

For now, you revel in the intoxicating power your young beauty has to excite desire. It just landed in your lap —no pun intended— and by God, you’ll use it. And, it’s fun for a while. (You’re smart too, but that will last longer.)

Older women sometimes mock men when our eyes follow younger women. “You look ridiculous–” they’ll say “–panting after her like that. Don’t you realize how ridiculous you are?”

Yes, we feel ridiculous a lot,  especially when we’re reminded of it—and often when we walk by a mirror, so we don’t need more reminders. Do they, do you suppose?

But we realize it comes from losing the illusion of immortality, of hurt feelings, and fear of being left behind; from the cosmic unfairness of time slipping away, and also a realistic understanding about how men are suckers for a good visual. You feel you can’t win. Ever. Some days Sisyphus wins, some days the rock wins.

Actually, the rock always wins. It’s the same for us.

It is ridiculous to live an illusion, of course. To pretend against evidence to be young again is…pathetic, really. Someone is always more bronzed and buffed, younger, richer, smarter, more lucky, with better teeth and genes. And half of the world’s population has the same basic equipment you do. You didn’t earn it; it was a gift. Maybe a curse, too.

We’re really not all that special, despite the ego that says we are. It’s nature’s way. Each dandelion plant spreads 15,000 seeds, all pretty much the same. I wonder if each seed thinks the world cannot go on without it, as we do?

Take care of yourself, daughter, and hear my words, because I’ll be gone soon. The future will be here before you know it. Try not to live just for ego and pleasure; take care of the love you can grow. Inside us all is a child that feels unloved. Heal yours first, because you won’t know love until you do.

Then let your whole life be a love song to the world.

In the forest
is a monster
It has done terrible things

So in the wood
it’s hiding
And this is
the song it sings

Who will love me now?
Who will ever love me?
Who will say to me
You are my desire,
I set you free
Who will love me now?
Who will forgive
and make me live again?
Who will bring me back
to the world again?
In the forest
is a monster

And it looks so
very much like me
Will someone
hear me singing?/p>

Please save me,
please rescue me
Who will love me now?
Who will ever love me?
Who will say to me
You are my desire,
I set you free

Who will love me now?
Who will ever love me?
Who will say to me
You are my desire,
I set you free
Who will love me now?
Who will ever love me?
Who will love me now?

“Who Will Love Me Now,” by P.J. Harvey ® Island Records limited

Travelers of Eternity


As the hand held before the eye conceals the greatest mountain, so the little earthly life hides from the glance the enormous lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he or she who can draw it away from before one’s eye, as one draws away a hand, beholds the great shining of the inner worlds. 

Rabbi Nachmann of Bratzlav

Days and months are the travelers of eternity. So are the years that pass by… I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind—filled with a strong desire to wander… I walked through mists and clouds, breathing the thin air of high altitudes and stepping on slippery ice and snow, ’til at last through a gateway of clouds, as it seemed, to the very paths of the sun and moon, I reached the summit, completely out of breath and nearly frozen to death. Presently the sun went down and the moon rose glistening in the sky. 

–Basho
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

 

The River


The river is.
It is in the secret places of the
mountains and marshes,
in the droplets of rain falling
alone and silent
from the tips of pine needles,
gathering in the rocks,
gathering,
falling
As one.

The river is, at its source
and at its mouth,
the same river.
At the waterfalls,
the springs,
under the bridges,
the ferry boats,
in the rapids and the
quiet pools.

In the ocean
at once,
only in the present—
without time,
without past,
without future,
eternally
becoming.

http://hemmingplay.com

Boomer’s Elegy


Ooops. Might have screwed something up…

We said love would save the world
We faithfully sorted colors of glass and three kinds of plastic
We took reusable bags to the grocery
We turned the water off while brushing
We thought everyone would do the right thing.
We thought our parents were wrong about everything;
We were only partially right. 
We thought rich people were smart and the smart would get rich
We were almost always wrong, except for the evil smart ones. 
We thought there were heroes (and some of us still do)
We thought we’d beaten the Nazis once and for all, ’cause or our dads did it.
We thought our dads were wrong about a lot of other things.
We were wrong about that, too. 
We thought feelings were more important than facts.
We thought wishes would turn into dishes,
We thought wishes would let beggars ride.
We thought things would only get better.
We thought magical thinking was thinking.
We thought swords could be beaten into plowshares  
We thought FDR saved our grandparents, and loved him for that.
We thought Ike was great, but too old for our future.
We thought JFK was cool, and that the other stuff wasn’t important
We thought Johnson did some good things, but was a hick
We thought tricky Dick was bad then, then found out he was worse
We thought he was the worst we’d see; we were wrong.

We are nearing the end, and can’t believe the ride is almost over. 
We can’t believe David Crosby has three fatal diseases. 
We can’t believe Joni i s old and decrepit. 
We thought… oh, who cares what we thought. 
We were right about some things, wrong about most, 
We thought we could change things, and maybe we did, 
We thought and we thought and we experimented and
We come to the end, chastened but unbowed. 
We thought we were doing the right thing. 
We don’t get to write the history, dammit. 

 

 

Opposites


What would reason and sobriety be without drunkenness?
What would desire be without Death looking over its shoulder?
What would love be without the possibility of its loss?
What is the point of promises if nothing really matters?
What would attractions between man and woman be
     without the eternal antagonisms of the sexes?

Life happens in the space
between
opposites.

No exhale without
an inhale,
no breath both in
and out.
Man. Woman,
Yet none can be both
wife and husband.
Order.
Disorder.
Freedom.
Slavery.
A life of the senses.
A life of the mind.
Birth.
Death.
Always one pays for the other,
Each necessary, precious.

Breathe in…

Wayfarers


I wander toward
an unknown destination.
Pretending a purpose.
As do you.

Free (for a change).
Hungry to learn your ways, how you touch,
why you sigh, where
your shy ecstasy waits.

The sunrise, the sunset.
The passing of the seasons.
New life in the spring.
A baby’s smell.

Each moment burns bright,
then is gone. Another comes.
God is there.
Listen.

Death has been
my companion,
making life sweeter. Happiness?
Never permanent.

Rejoice.

Memory


Memory is the not-quite-living museum of our lives, and dusty.
You’re not sentenced to remain what you already are.
You may change, grow and split the hardened
carapace of a self that no longer fits,
and like the seven-year locust,
climb high into a tree and
claim your rebirth.
But first comes
mere courage
and  risk.

 

Silences


What an odd boy, they used to say of me.

(They’re still saying it.)
But I’m a writer, my dear, and not right in the head.
That’s all it is. But I do know how to
take my time and listen,
sitting under the willow tree in the spring as the birds
bring me happy messages from…God?
I take my time with other important things, too,
so lay your warm
curves of water here beside me.

If I please you,
You may pay me back with your
second sight,
and tell me where my
true nature hides,
where my pain
scuttles unhealed,
my illusions fester.

I will love you all the more for it.
These are gifts we give, freely
and they bind us in profound ways
because they reveal. Continue reading “Silences”

Love in the Time of Corona


I’ve grown tired of disappointing women.
And of being disappointed in them.
I know that’s too broad a conclusion
from a very small sample.
Don’t care. I need a break,
and Corvid-19 is a convenient excuse.

I’m hiding out from another virus
of my own making,
sheltering in place and
eating frozen vegetables.
Aware this might become permanent.

I had a long life with a woman who died,
a life better than most, I think,
not as good as some.
But still, what do I have to complain about?

Younger people have their difficulties,
stemming mostly from being naively stupid,
but older men and women bring
a lot of experienced stupidity to the bed, too.
(If it ever gets that far.)
Continue reading “Love in the Time of Corona”

Vanities


Feel your belly button,
where you were attached to
your mother. But
try not to think about
about the night you were conceived.
Whether it was a result of
a hand up a skirt, urgent kisses
and fevered promises
and premature explanations
on your mother’s couch.
(After consultations with
your inner editor,
let’s instead say it was
after a long talk over wine,
Chopin on the stereo,
tender kisses and happy plans.)

What does it matter now? You’re here.
Don’t screw up.
That’s what it comes down to.

Or wind your watch forward
(humor me, you digital ones)
a thousand years.
Was there ever a coffin
built to last the whole trip?
One that was worth the price?
We could ask Tutenkamen, I suppose,
(Who was bad at office politics
and is still dead.) Continue reading “Vanities”

Purpose


Sooner or later
each of us asks
did I have a purpose?
What was I born to?

I had such a moment this morning.
Each of my life’s 2. 22 billion seconds
had to have gone exactly as it did
to bring me to this,

to experience the flock of warblers
that burst out of the sky
into the middle of my morning, singing
of their wild and precious lives–

up from Mexico, or Central America,
bonded in common struggle from all those days aloft,
looking for food, now,
for grass and moss for a nest.

The things prayers are made of,
for this moment.

Mountains


 

The mountains,
lustrous at dawn.
Below, here in the valley,
the droplets of last night’s rain
shimmer on blades and twigs, their
molecules respond to the sun
like a woman rising to
meet a beloved’s touch. 

Wait.
Something is going on up there
on the deep-packed slope.
A whirling figure of white, of mist,
there, yet almost not;


A snow giant,
like a tranced dervish, twirls in
the morning’s new energies—
it whirls violently,
fingerless, wispy hands thrust
high into the cold blue,
200 feet tall, or more.
A mile, maybe. It’s hard
to tell from here, as it’s
insubstantial. Massive.

Continue reading “Mountains”

Questions That Come With Age


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The clock… relentless.
What’s my allotment going to be?
How to make the best of it?
How to keep dignity,
avoid a failure of imagination,
avoid self-pity….

“Savor each moment…”
Yes, well that’s a cliché.
I know what’s coming,
What I’ve lost for good.
The trick is to
Savor these, too,
With a little grace.

No lies in the mirror.
No false smiles.
No regrets.
No cruelties.
Kindnesses given
with no expectations.

There are enough
bitter herbs around.
But

One surprise smile is enough
to recharge a whole day.
Thank you, darlin’

Continue reading “Questions That Come With Age”

Island Nights


Full moon sliding fast over the water,
enough to read by,
be burned by,
rolling bright and cool
to the west, painting
a wrinkled, twinkled path
on restless waves of
aching blue turned dark,
reflecting clouds and stars.

Magical island nights, but doomed.
As the moon waned
a little more each night,
so did the magic.
Precious, but fragile.

Continue reading “Island Nights”

Distorted Passage


I swim in
streams and rivers
instead of on land,
looking up
through ripples
seeing mere refractions
of unknowns
filtered through milky moonlight.

Down small creeks,
under
branches splitting
the sky,
dark firs waving in
the breeze like monks
chanting,
and oaks bragging of age;
rocks and crags,
shifting, rippling,
dropping dappled shards of
sunlight on
crystal, chuckling waters.

In spring, the birdsong
coaxes the furled leaves out,
and enchants the forest.
The dawn flows down
hillsides like bronze-gold fire
and I, in my watery cocoon,
am under a spell.

Things skate around the edges,
we new things, like
larvae burrowing in the sand,
or peering with fearful eyes from
under rocks;
hiding, growing,
wary of hungers everywhere.

With the rains
flowing from all sides
the waters puff and
the inexorable,
invisible, seductive,
irresistible waves
of gravity pull us all
to reunion with the
mother of
all waters.

Home


I can’t go home, because
home has not stopped
moving yet.
But I do know that
this moment is real;
I know how your lips feel,
I know the heat and
weight of you
In the dark,
or pressed against me
at a dock, oblivious
to jealous eyes,
saying a goodbye,
wordlessly telling
me what feels right.
I know loneliness
melts
in the heat of the
grace of you.
Stay with me a while, dancer.
Let’s walk on the beach,
and look in the sands for courage,
and sit at dawn,
watching the day come up like thunder.