After El Collie Died

‘Twisted Nights’ – yamabuki
“The new poets still quoted the old poets, 
but no one spoke in verse
of the pregnant woman drowned, 
with perhaps twins in her,
kicking at blank walls
even before birth.”
— “A River
By A. K. Ramanujan
“Hoson zes, phainou 
Meden holos su lupou; 
Pros oligon esti to zen 
To telos ho chronos apaitei” 
“While you live, shine 
Don’t suffer anything at all; 
Life exists only a short while 
And time demands its toll”
— ‘Song of Seikilos‘ 
(Ancient Greek Melody,
c.100 BC)
You see how the colors twist and curl into each other
This is one of my favorite Photoshop tools
I learned to use it in my pictures
After El Collie had died
And I had come back from death’s brink
For another cup of bitter tea
I cried and cried that deathly time
But she had told me I had to stay
I still was not finished with my work
So I created music and pictures
To reconnect me to this crazy life
She had had a dream of dying
In which she crossed over a bridge
I tried to follow her across as well
But half way over I had to go back
She continued on, leaving me behind
We both knew what this dream meant
We looked at it with our magical tools
And then buried it away in the earth
Next to the Palm tree that she had planted
And hoped that we still had more time
Life and death twists and curls
We eat and die, around we go
Coffee and bread are not enough
Not even meat can fill my need
As we continue to follow life’s flow
Death’s angel still follows us all
When I was young I looked at the stars
And as I watched them in the sky
I fell up into them in the swirling night
Yet still I remained in my young body
Only just barely just arrived
Only just awakened to this dream
My mother told me I had cried and cried
As a young baby still new to this world
I could not remember this, but knew what it meant
All the suffering of being born, and dying
Once again the wheel was turning
The Fates were spinning their stories
And we were the threads they wove
Today I had another dream
That woke me from night’s bed
A palm tree had died in the light
Cut off at the knees as I watched
And chopped to pieces with our eyes
Another piece of this twisted dream
Around goes the swirling mist of dreams
This blue and emerald shadow we live in
Eating and breathing each day’s joy
Pulling out the unwanted weeds of pain
Tending our foolish gardens of hope
Can you see why I cried and cried?
April 2011

Beneath the Stars

‘Blood Moon at the Solstice’ – yamabuki
“So long was I on the northern frontier,
Even my dog growls at my footsteps,
I had hoped to sing with my friends
Beneath the stars on my return,
But some have died,
And two have moved to Pyongyang,
Much the same thing.”
— Hong Ki Bo (1665 – 1710)
Is this the hidden side of  the moon
A strangeness taught from an early age
teaching a new song of desire
That school and language force feed
Our children remade into something new
We learn to eat up the world with our words
Breaking up the mountains and oceans 
Shattering their wholeness into pretty words
Making bird song a kind of blasphemy
And banishing our soul to the moon
Trees and birds light up the dawn
Their songs covering the sky
Arching past wind blown leaves
Piercing the moon light
With their shadowy lines
Then the day begins again
Night banished to some other realm
We see that it has rained again
The worms and snails are frolicking
Soon the birds will have their breakfast
The fish by the lake still swim sleepily
Their watery dreams still fresh in their heads
Light on the water reflecting their moods
While thunder rustles faintly on the hilltops
A lone crane stands waiting
Rasputin was sitting in a tavern
Lilith came over and sat down with him
Rasputin introduced himself 
“I am no one special at all. 
I’m here the same as we all are.”
Lilith poured a drink for him and herself
Saying nothing she looked him in the eyes
When the music began, she asked him to dance
Back at the table they talked of small things
He winked at her shyly and she smiled
“They say I’m a temptress” she said
“But I just want to love you.”
He reached over and stroked her hand
Sitting quietly in the soft light they touched
A sad song played as their eyes met again
Rasputin suggested a walk in the moonlight
Hand in hand under the stars they strolled
Cold clouds drifted in speaking of rain
Close by the river Neve flowed coldly
Singing a dirge of Rasputin’s demise
Maitreya felt troubled by his future birth
Moonlight shone darkly from his eyes
Fear and sadness twisted his heart
Humanity’s fate his heaven and hell
Beyond the perimeters of madness
Everyone would resent his strange appearance
His dark eyes hypnotic and sparse
His Cheshire smile of twigs and coal
Sharpened by lightning in dead of the night
More Abraxas than devil in his actions
How are we to judge the gait of his soul
How are we to know the currents in his skull
This madman of God who speaks to the sun
Disappearing at night in yellowing fogs
Traveling to hells where no one would go
Maitreya, The bodhisattva not yet born
Already here in the midst of our lives
He comes not to save or judge us
Nor wake us from our nightmares
He would sing with us beneath the stars
April 2011

Blood Secrets

Hidden Sighs – yamabuki
“If you place a fern
under a stone
the next day it will be
nearly invisible
as if the stone has 
swallowed it.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye
“Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.”
— Naomi Shihab Nye 
Sighs and whispers drenched in blood
They wander endlessly dusk to dawn
And like Vladimir and Estragon
Await their final redemption
Hanging upon their Woden cross
Yellow fog and red lipped poppies
Drenching us in the rain of sighs
Their blood enters our veins
In the needled thorns of their lies
Looking endlessly for peace
Do you long for peaceful sleep
The absence of malice and violence
Would you banish devils and demons
Back to their misbegotten hells
That we may live in sweetness and light
But blood and sighs will not allow this
Tears and terror live in our dreams
They pump our heart and feed our mind
Defining the path we choose to follow
Through the mountains of snow and ice
What of the past that whispers
Such winds blow our words away
Where have they gone
Must we always start anew
Will dead voices never cease
Where is the division that speaks
Though all words divide meaning
Splitting the Is from Isn’t
Why are we not deafened
By the thunder of such assertions
Take eggs as an example
A life straining to appear
Or giving life to another
We who would eat them wonder
Is the unhatched unworthy of life
I have in my mind a murder
Perhaps real, perhaps imagined
A beautiful loving action it’s true
But a murder none the less
How do we judge such a thing
If this were a murder in a dream
Would it be any less real
Than a murder in a movie
Our soul has still been witness
To the reality of death’s call
Our mind in its rationality says no,
Your eyes have been deceived,
Your heart has been fooled,
No one has died in that vision.
Why then don’t I accept such ‘truth’
In a novel I’ve been reading,
A mother dies of starvation
Giving what little food she had
To keep her grandson alive.
Do these words touch your heart too?
I’ve been told that even in games
When we ‘kill’ on screen avatars,
Computer generated characters,
We are creating violent energy
That effects the whole of reality
Do you know of Indra’s net
The interconnection of all beings?
It sounds so impossible to our mind
That a butterfly moving its wings in Brazil
Could cause a Typhon in Hong Kong
Maitreya received an invitation
To visit Quan Yin Bodhisattva
In the heaven realms
Upon arrival at Quan Yin’s pavilion
Overlooking a placid lake
Full of fish, ducks and lotus blossoms
Maiteya bowed deeply to Quan Yin
She served him small cakes and tea
And they sat quietly for a short time
Then Quan Yin spoke thusly
“The old gods and goddesses
The saints and angels of the past
All have departed from the human world”
“Yes, this is so” said he
“I dreamed of this not long ago”
“Soon your time will arrive
And your star will ascend.
Would you have my blessing?” she asked
“I would have you with me
For compassion is needed
Now more than ever
In the realm of humans”
“Truly spoken are your words,
But my time on earth is over for now.
The twilight of the gods is real
The wheel has turned.
Another spoke has ascended
And I have left the earth.”
Maitreya said nothing for a while
Thinking on Quan Yin’s words
Feeling with his heart
The flow of blood and time
And Quan Yin spoke further
“You are to arrive alone
In the human realm.
Yet my hands and eyes,
That live on in those who follow me,
Will help you as they are able”
Maitreya watched the ducks
Speaking nothing for a while
Then reached into his robe.
He brought out a begging bowl
And set it on the ground before her
“I saw the Buddha in a cage
And offered him my cell phone
That he might call his followers
To come and help him
He and the cage disappeared
leaving this begging bowl
Which I now gift to you.”
Quan Yin asked quietly
“Is there any hope for the future?”
Maitreya smiled sadly
And shook his head slowly
“The future, which is my time,
remains a mystery.
But do not forget,
The human realm
Has always been violent
And thus doubly rewarding.”
“Watch for me in the storms
Watch for me in the earthquakes
Watch for me in the fires
Watch for me in the floods.
When least expected
I will be there
Without fail”
April 2011

Shadow Catcher in 9 pieces

Shadows of Nothing – yamabuki
“I know that I live not in the world,
but in the shadow of the world”
— Patrick Dubost
“If it bleeds as it cries,
That is all there is to it.
Nothing more, nothing less,
Nothing in the middle.
It is a very, very simple
Dark thing.”
— Richard D. Remler
What is the use of all our poetries
All our shadow words of nothingness
Limping through the darkness
Edging through those wordless nights
At the flaming edges of yellow fogs
Dripping with flickering orange rhymes
Having passed the empty songs of longing
While the dead pages scatter in the wind
And spew metaphors wildly
With long forgotten thoughts 
Past our longings for meaning
To some bitter coldness
Or burning desert waste
Where we must endlessly wait
What is the use of all our poetries
Again will I ask this unanswerable question
When yellow smoke slips by
Silent as death’s footstep 
Without making answer
That we can hear
All we will retain are echoes
That speak the deadly shadows 
And creep past in darkened lines
Visions of fuligin, darker than dark
The shadow of what is not yet arrived
The tears of sad sestina eyes
Followed by hollow days
That feel like dazed concussions
And mock our foolish words
O those lonely lines of poetry
Watching us dispassionately
Waiting to catch a flagrant verse
Slipping through stanzas
Falling from broken books
Searching for cadence and rhyme
Will their words never end
Where do we send them
Those broken hearted poems
And where leave off
When they sink ‘neath the waves
Breaking the wayward rhymes
Of our cloudy visions
Breaking our lines
Into bits of shadowy detritus 
That haunt our fevered nights
Of what use these poetries
Will they bring what you seek
Fame or Fortune, surely not
Those two terrors of misfortune
Certainly not love or family
For Poetry is a lonely road
Through a desolate land
Afflicting us like a disease 
That ensnares us unawares
Haunting our restless sleep
Saying write, write, write
Or you will surely suffer
Yes poetry is our fate
But also our salvation
Its fever melts our skin
Its meanings may heal as well
But don’t count on it for anything
For the muses, like the fates
Have their own sense of congurity
And woe to those of us
Who choose to ignore it
Poetry’s shadow crosses our path
Black cat stalking us in darkened rooms
Jumping out like fear personified
Still such abstraction is not so useful
Nor likely to ease our shaking hands
Think of trees and roots instead
Slowly growing their thoughts
Leafing their seasonal feelings
Swaying in the wind’s moods
Clinging to earthen stone
Commingling with the deeply dark
Rooting widely for strength
Leaching watery mineral feelings
Building their rising sap thoughts
Into their poetry of growth
Poetry does not follow rules
Not if it wants to explore shadows
Sure you can find sweetness
Sunlit orchards full of fruit
Precisely rhymed to flow
In exact rows of tree filled delight
But that is not what you’ll find here
Not in these shadow filled dungeons 
Does it seem odd to speak of poetry
Within what purports to be a poem
Are you starting to doubt my poetness
Could I be writing something else
That only pretends to be a poem
But really seeks to seduce you
Into some dark corner
To mug you or worse
To steal you soul
April 2011

Untamed Circles

Sunset Shadows – yamabuki
“I’m saddened by the peonies before the steps, so red,
As evening came I found that only two remained.
Once morning’s winds have blown, they surely won’t survive,
At night I gaze by lamplight, to cherish the fading red.”
–Bai Juyi – Tang dynasty poet
“I do not know much about gods;
 but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—
sullen, untamed and intractable”
–T. S. Eliot
The strong brown of a river god
Or the fading red of peonies
We paint our visions in color
Be they humble flowers
Or untamed river gods
Who are we to believe
Ancient Chinese poet Bai Juyi
Or 20th Century poet T. S. Eliot
May not the two share our attention
I asked my wife:
‘Who is Bai Juyi?’
And she knew immediately
That he is one of the most famous
Chinese language poets
I asked her about T. S.  Eliot
She had never heard of him, saying
‘He is not famous, right?’
I once heard it said
That women shed tears
Breaking our hearts
And men shed blood
Keeping our secrets
We need both wings to fly
We need both feet to run
We need both eyes
We need both ears
We need both hands
On and on it goes
Where it stops
Death only knows
Tears and Blood
Filling our seasons
Biding their time
Their rhythms are our rhymes
Showing us the way
That we might live through them
I’ve heard it said
That Shiva gives
And Shiva takes
Last night I dreamed
That I went to a huge hall
That was full of stone & ceramic statues
Statues of Gods and Buddhas
Statues of Saints and Angels
Statues of the holy and sacred
All of them had been destroyed
Broken into unmade rubble
I knelt down among the ruins
And entered an reddish orange vision
My being cried out in anguish
And I wailed like a newborn
Loudly I cried in that carnage
Others were there too
Most sat in meditation
One woman came over
Sat close to me in quiet
And put her arm around me
As I continued in my anguish
Leaving aside the mysteries of transmigration
I feel that there is another aspect
That needs our consideration
Specifically the problem of listening
Have you heard the song the Zelkova sings
Are you able to quiet your mind
Enough to hear what trees say
Are you able to hear the sky
To hear what the wind says
To hear the words behind the words
This is not easy for us in our rational mind set
And when we do happen to hear their ghostly words
We are inclined to refuse them
What is being said to us is part of the mystery
What we call waking life is really but a dream
Some would say it is God’s dream
But I think God would say
Don’t worry about whose dream it is
Listen instead to what is being said
Pay attention to the non-verbal words
That come from your non-verbal brothers and sisters
This is not to say that you need to follow their advice
Each of us walks our own path
Each of us pays the price for our choices
Though words may not be enough
To describe what the real price is
For who knows really
What happens after death?
We are sometimes bothered
By arguments that go in circles
Circles are said to be un-logical
When used to think rationally
They go round and round
Seemingly never getting us anywhere
But so too does the Earth
So too does the Sun and Moon
Or rather seemingly so do they go

If continued on endlessly
They wear down our thinking mind
They wear down our resistances
They wear down our days and nights
They torture us with their repetitions
Yet without the turning of the Earth
The circling of the Sun and Moon
Where would we be?
April 2011

Dark Monuments

Light and Dark – yamabuki
“Once upon a midnight dreary, 
while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious 
volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, 
suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, 
rapping at my chamber door.
`’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, 
`tapping at my chamber door –
Only this, and nothing more.'”
– Edgar Allan Poe

And is eternity’s time not enough
Endless years of witches tears
Shuttered in conformity
Giving Caesar his due
And failing at failure
Though beginning again anew
Is this a different kind of failure
With the only lessons learned
Being the uncertainty of words
To convey the meanings of Sun and Moon
In which ever way we are led
Are you disposed to follow
To Venture forth blindly
To the ends of Hades
Where the yellow fog’s musings
Find black squalor’s vision
A requiem of ghostly figures
That marches in tune to evil eyes
Yes eyes of evil live here too
In this imprecision of fleeing leaves
Leaving feelings broken in their wake
Falling on shattered halls and bloody hills
Who will carry them now 
By what strength and conformity
Will they be subdued 
And will they then be cast
Back home into the fiery pits
Denied entry to the hallowed ways
Out sourced to hell’s obscurity
These are our teachers too
These lost devils and damned souls
Our children know them as well
With that secret knowledge they own
Their love of the moonless dark
Their wild rides that challenge death
They seek not our protection
And long for those forbidden places
Where their dark rituals are learned
That they may break the cords
That bind them roughly
For having nothing of their own
They seek new ways to live
Old fools surely know this
They feel the world’s turning
And churning of the fogs of time
For time is no enemy to us
Young and old alike
We know of death’s door
Its wayward intensity beckoning
With that screaming orgasm of eternity
That fiery lifetime of burning 
In sacred fires that are coming
Leaving old stones gasping
And rasping in broken awe
Do you long for the coolness
When evening turns to starlight
The quiet of trees sleeping
The end of weeping shadows
The healing of mournful whispers
Would you hear it arriving 
A wind blown from nowhere
Shattering chaos in its wake
And nothing is left but shades
We old fools know of death
His face is strangely familiar
But our going is not always smooth
Easy passage, for young or old
Is seldom a given path
Death’s intensity is our song too
Sung unknowingly loud
And shared in concerts of blood
With frozen notes of icy wind
Leaving only desolation’s chill
As our final bodily cry
April 2011