Poem About My Rights

New Age pundits will say

that the point of power is where you

take what life gives you

and respond to it in constructive ways

rather than reacting to what someone else

has done or failed to do

Nobody can make you feel anything

curtly says the life coach

who brandishes a sheet of paper

with a colorful wheel containing individual “feeling” words

like enraged, enthralled, elated

after she gently corrects me when I offer that I feel overlooked

because “overlooked” is not a feeling word—

it’s a weapon I’m using to project blame outward

while keeping myself comfortably cocooned

in a blanket of self-righteous indignation

I struggle with this assessment

but I’m willing to be wrong

so I consider what would happen

if I did the thing she’s telling me

if I chose my words so they fit neatly into her suggested template

for conflict resolution:

“The story I’m telling myself is that you might be [blank]

and I’m feeling [blank]”

I consider what would happen if I were to tell

an inconsiderate workshop participant:

“The story I’m telling myself is that you might be a racist

based on everything you’ve said and failed to say

and I’m feeling pretty fucking angry and uncomfortable”

Would my assessment be incorrect?

If a racist barb falls in a forest in which none of the

other forms of sentient life particularly care or notice

does it mean it didn’t happen?

I think of the way I round corners

with a shopping cart

so timorously, lest someone in a hurry

come careening into me

I think of the trouble I go to

to contain my thoughts and judgments

to make them a secret only I know

I think of the way I round corners with words

hedging my judgments in the currently accepted

painfully polite chosen lexicon

so that no one can accuse me of reneging personal responsibility

so that no one can accuse me of

springing like an under-fed animal

on some imagined offense

Somehow we get past this awkward burp

facilitated by the fact that where most people’s faces would be

just their names remain in white block letters

and “Your Internet connection is unstable”

splashes its cautionary announcement

across my screen

What happens in you when you speak your truth this way?

When you choke down your protest and smile

at every innocuous invitation, like

“How do you feel about abundance?”

Abundance isn’t nearly precise enough a word

to hold the vertiginous expanse of itself

Abundance probably feels like

the billion trillion stars in the observable universe

an idea that scares me and makes me surge

toward the flickering candle flame of sufficiency

But I won’t say this

or tell you how I feel

I’ll merely smile

jot down notes in my gratitude journal

take whatever it is you offer

finesse and crank it through the mighty wheel of my imagination

and do my best to make it my own

I Hate the Love I Feel for You (after Rina Rocha)

I hate the love I feel for you

Not because you don’t deserve it

That much is evident from your prolonged absences

And casual insertions of self

Into the otherwise spacious parentheses of my day

I hate the love I feel for you

Because it’s a sign of my weakness

I’m not talking feminine weakness

The stereotypical pining-after, incessant self-interrogation

(Did I do something wrong? Does

he love me anymore? Am I

worthy of his love? What did I

do to deserve it and

how can I remain deserving?

Have I ever been deserving?

How could he want someone like me,

after all?), and bitter regrets

I’m talking the weakness that turns self against self

Stems the warm flood of passionate questions

Cools the yearning river bed of the soul

Which longs for a soft communion

I’m talking about the weakness that leads me to abandon myself

To accept only the mirror-image version of me

Flat and vapid

Reflected in your eyes that are incapable of seeing

My love is not conditional—it is eternal and unchanging

It is a sigh that emerges from my hollow throat

Destined never to die but to merely find itself

Radiating outward to the lonely reaches of space and time

Until it becomes a whisper

An unfathomable hum always on the verge of perishing

But never quite getting there


Is all around me

My love was once a tether to something real

A golden thread revealing the subtle architecture of an intimate and gentle universe

And then it turned into a sour god

Who banished me to this hell of perpetual distance

To dark mazes of rooms in which I am in constant pursuit

But all I see is the back of your head as you close another door behind you

I hate the love I feel for you

Because it takes me further from me


Wedges of white bread with the crusts torn off

topped with sun-bright circles of cooled egg yolk

often became my meager substitute

for the heaping piles of meat that constituted any worthy feast

at least in the books I read

If I couldn’t have sausage or pastrami

rippling with fat and the exertion of the working woman

at least I had my imagination

The solo games I played with myself—

Wish-fulfillment fantasies brimming over with jugs of dark wine

and steaming platters of crab legs smothered in golden butter—

quickly gave way to no hedonism at all

It felt, after all, inauthentic to dream up such idyllic scenes

(bereft as they were of conflict

or naughty fairies consigning mere mortals to centuries of servitude

upon plucking an innocent delicacy off a perfectly polished plate)

with all I knew of hunger and longing

So the last rectangle of bread, pebbled over by graying egg yolk

was hastily stuffed into a ragged paper towel

and shoved into a leather messenger bag

that I slung casually over one shoulder

eyes shifting right and left to assess all possible peril

on the landmine-strewn trail from the kitchen table

across the living room

(surrounded by loud TV, angry dad, and raucous children

just beyond the double-paned windows)

and up the creaky cement stairs

Home base, at last! (also known as the strip of ragged carpet

between my bed and the black-and-white TV)

so versatile it could be a dank and winding tunnel

in a labyrinth of arcane corridors

or the open road, bookended by soft earth and cloudless sky

In this place I could rest my weary head

unwrap my hard-earned crusts of stale bread

and gaze toward a horizon numbered by several pairs

of anonymous glittering eyes

In this place

no longer a slave to my greed

or my longing for palatial sweetmeats

I could evenly distribute my meager meal

to the anonymous silent eyes that lingered and wait ed

and although I might never know the smoky taste of

meat or the dark velvet of wine

my imagination was the witchy benefactor

with the power to transmute this pathetic tableau

into a feast made all the more flavorful

by exhaustion and generosity

and by the secret knowledge of every traveling stranger:

in sharing what we have

we triple our fortune

and in wedding ourselves to our longing

we court the infinite largesse of a fate for which

there are no words

or existing flavors to adequately describe

New New Year’s Resolutions

It’s true that anything can be a weapon

And anything can be an unlined face 

Turned up to face the waterspout of a clear sky,

Of an unclouded Sun.

Anything can be beauty.

I want to write about mold in the sink

And the sadness that allowed it to bloom.

I want to write about the cost of not caring.

I want to write about how wonder and majesty 

Can bloom in the midst of garbage,

How life can emerge from rot,

How dying things house wisdom.

I want to write about naked experience,

And the skeletal, ragged remains of the spider

That got caught in its own web and that lives on in death,

Splayed and crusted to the wall above

The bathroom closet.

I want to share the strange grief that

Pours from me, that holds vigil over the life

I never experienced, but that shone at me from a corner of the stage above my head,

Every time I turn on the light in the middle of the night

After a sudden urge to urinate, and my sleepy face

Is attuned to things that go bump, bump, bump.

I want to tell you about the mountain of unopened letters

That go straight into the metal container that opens with 

A press of the foot and closes softly of its own accord.

I want to tell you, even though some industrious part of me

That is a vestige of my crafty foremothers

Dreams of creating an art project from daisy chains of 

Generic form memos folded in thirds.

I want to confess to a crime

That was trivial and disgusting—like

The pile of unwashed dishes that formed soft strawberry fuzz,

Delicate as clouds of blancmange from a fancy dessert shop

Full of things my mouth stumbles over in taste and pronunciation.

I want to admit to my halting pace. 

Or the curdled milk on the top shelf of the fridge, 

Its putrid redolence of life in death.

It’s like a baby’s defiance in the form of soft-serve

At the bottom of its soggy diaper. 

A body cannot apologize for what a body does.

I want you to know the pains I’ve taken 

To hide all this from you—

The scraps of human offal: skin, boogers, earwax—

Shoved solicitously into a dustpan that never stops collecting

Signs of trespass.

I want to break the mirror when I 

See my feeble form within it, the dark shadows

Beneath my eyes that betray the hours

I’ve spent obsessing over order.

I’d like to imagine that in a hundred years,

This house will no longer be here. 

The symbols of my impatience, my incapacity to sit

With a thought or an object or 

A relic of my mortality for an uncomfortable ellipsis of time,

Will have been swept away by a final reverie, 

A meditation from which the mind and body won’t escape.

Perhaps you’ll see my body, withered and bent,

Covered in layers of lichen and spider vein,

Which poke up from a sea of broken floorboards.

Perhaps you’ll see the rosebushes and lanky gorgeous tendrils

They call weeds 

Sharing space with the soft aged broccoli 

And decaying rolls of paper towels.

Among these many lives I could not save 

Or tidy into a fixed diorama of homey cheer, 

Something honest will emerge.

Humor me, considering that I did not customarily stop

To gaze at speckled-blue robin eggs

Or walk the length of a tree to 

Treat myself to a rare glimpse of nature undressing.

So may what I write live beyond me

Like a bolt of cloth thrown up into the sky

Unraveling in an unmarked future 

In which time does not fester into regret

In which everything is given space to 

Be, to change.

What I Wish I’d Said Instead

Resist the urge to check your emails.

Even more, to answer.

Let the water cistern remain unfilled

As the shower emanates sulfur from the well water

And you bathe in the essence of the primeval.

The foam from your fancy shower gel

Will calcify into a dark film in the porcelain tub—

Let it;  this pair of opposites (the way clean can so easily turn dirty)

Can dance in technicolor, take up the entire screen.

Old pizza boxes—let them populate the untended recycling bin,

An occasional jostle sending a spray of crumbs to the cold concrete.

Serve your guests from stained, scratched china

And the tea-ringed cups that nourished you with their prophecies.

Throw out the ugly caked-clay heirlooms you didn’t ask for.

But keep the broken pottery, the worn yellowed glass

Holding the imprint of your first kiss, you pressed to you.

Don’t try to fix it in time; let it grow old, older, softened by memory.

The threadbare gown can waste away, shadowing a part of you that

Thins and ebbs into the night.

Succumb to the elements, which pervade the empty rooms inside,

Filling each vacancy with concrete, specific knowing.

Let the mice and spiders and roaches uncomplicate your interior

With their urgency and their unaccounted pauses.

As tumbleweeds of dried dirt, grass, dust, fingernail clippings

Drift in through the front door, remind yourself

That this separation between you and the processes

Under the wet log, always in a state of happening,

Is false. Say hello to the mycelia. The squirrels. The deer,

Who drift through bogs of branches and moss

And disappear into the maze of trees forever.

Write yourself into the poem of changing seasons.

You, like the moon or the centipede inching along or the frog

That sits in meditation in the folded-up umbrella,

Are just another piece of Earth, unswaddled.

It’s simpler than you think to rest in the soft grass.

To turn off your phone, your mind, and be transported

Into the sudden clarity of your own beauty,

Which doesn’t need a mirror or safekeeping.

Don’t get too caught up on the right color schemes

Or the way the light filters through the curtains

And gives you a taste of the scattered remnants of your life

Coming together into a slipstream of awareness.

Want what you have, no more or less.

Leave the empty toilet paper roll on its holder;

The hand towel hardened by wet soap, a little askew on the metal ring.

Only attend to the open palms facing each other

Like two small, shy animals meeting for the first time.

Treasure the space inside the sincere prayer,

The undeniable wanting—for what isn’t and might yet be.

Enmeshed in the unknown, let what breaks

Your heart open be your compass, the siren song

That pulls you into the undertow so you

Are no longer above it all, but with it.

Your heart, already filled with water, that

Sometimes requires emptying out before it can be filled.

Souvenirs can be put out on the sidewalk:

Your most painful memories can be salvation for

A soul that wants to lay itself bare before the mystery

Of another life, brimful with chipped teeth and worn paint.

It’s OK to eat leftovers more than once

And discard the poems you wrote at the age of 13

Because they embarrass you with their imitation of

Writers you’ve decided you don’t even like.

And you don’t have to faithfully photograph or record

Every treasured moment;

In fact, it’s better you don’t.

Get rid of your land line and put your cell on “Do Not Disturb.”

Don’t yell at children for breaking things that are breakable.

Let your life bloom from the wreckage;

Practice a philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, but only

When the rearranged broken pieces make something even more


Accept that 39 trillion lifeforms stalk your every movement

And don’t lament your loneliness, which is another fiction

That some bitter revenant from your past cursed into fact.

Let life and death be part of the same free-form flow.

Don’t screw your windows shut or worry about unlocked doors.

Uncork your essence and let it sloppily issue forth.

It, too, is a welcome stranger.

Collect the dirt that accumulates under your fingernails,

The debris that forms a sacred mound on the windowsill.

Talk to the walls, which house innumerable keepsakes

And the watchful senses of the unbodied dead.

Let the mold molder into cabbage-rose shapes.

Attend to yourself but not without wonder for the

Many unanswered questions of why some people

Die peacefully in their sleep, and others are

Wrecked and wrenched by unseen ailments.

Don’t assign causality to the nature of things

Or pretend you know things’ nature.

Be as patient as the inchworm circumambulating the

Giant grotto of indoor houseplants.

Take your name off mailing lists.

Follow nothing. No one. Except the crescent of visible sky

And the gleam of distant life it holds.

Get over your to-do list, especially of places to go,

Books to read, movies to watch, experiences to sear

Into your flesh memory, as evidence that you’ve lived.

Take umbrage at the thought that these creaky bones,

This lined brow and restless fingers, aren’t evidence enough.

Tear the shutters off any portal between

Your fear and the stark raving mad truth of this enterprise.

Pry your hands off your eyes.


Kill the distance between your thinking

And this unrepeatable moment.

An Inventory of Seeds: A Poem

Lately, I have been thinking of how the seeds that have been planted by years of practice are only sprouting forth now. And how some are still lying dormant in fallow earth, waiting for their time, not knowing if their time will ever come. And yet, how every word, deed, action, bears its fruit and has its purpose. And some contribute to necessary decay, which makes for fertile soil and good ground. We plant seeds that we forget, yet we can always trust their timing.

everything that grows and ripens

comes from a place of fallowness

and beyond that a place of dark soil

fertile unknown

parceled in

messy oblong garden plots of possibility

all of it could easily

become life

or death

or something in between

that never quite materializes

but remains a silent hum

on the astral plane

whatever makes it this far

is delivered into

a world of




its difficult passage is acknowledged

by cacophony and

a thankless slap on the rump

this morning

i thought i heard the voice of some

mouthless deity

its eyes spelled beauty and foreboding

its hands were long-stemmed roses

extending beyond the sleeves

of its funereal robe

what will your seed bring forth?

i was still beginning to awaken

rubbing sleep and the

dread of my undreamed dream

from my ocean-black eyes

i could feel my life unraveling

like a spool of thread traveling down

a paved dirt road

chased by headlights

or a trail of saliva dribbling

from my open mouth

i could see myself

shuttling forth

giddy with speed

unfurling and blossoming

a vulgar multifoliate plant

strangling myself on my own life

not fully understanding that

what i had deemed growth

was only the wild motion

of hunger

i could see myself

stretching up

then bowing beneath

my own excess

decaying into the nameless home

that exists beyond this

body house

i could see myself crushing this body

bone and sinew

blood and byways

ancestors and empty atoms

back into

the first kernel of life

that held me

dripping down the roots of

my family tree

i could see myself attempting to know

and unknow my life

in prayer

released from

this song of satire

this expanse of lingering

this identity stripped of its zodiac

free of labels

devoid of assigned worth

it was here

that i finally danced

it was here that i reveled

in the smallness of my seed

it was here that I tasted

the sweet fruit

my life

longed for me

to bring forth