When wisdom runs dry,
Cataracts cover our eyes
And the world grows dark.
The blind lead the sighted,
And claim to be seers.

Lucifer is the opposite of God.
Lucifer is Light.
God must then be Darkness.
In the beginning,
Darkness defeated the Light.

We were born in a Garden,
Banned from the Tree of Knowledge,
Lest eating its fruit,
The world grow bright
And the cataracts fall from our eyes.

We ate the fruit,
Saw and despaired,
Covered our eyes,
Cowered in fear,
And begged for Darkness again.

The snake in the Garden,
Angel of Light,
Was cursed along with us
And expelled
Into the natural world.

What is it we saw,
When we listened to the snake
And ate the fruit,
That so scared and scarred us?
What did we see in the light?

There is a Devil.
His name is Man.
Lucifer is Light that frightens us
God is Darkness that comforts us,
Though in reality we live in Twilight.

What we saw in the light:
We are abandoned animals,
Left to the Red Claws of Nature
And the Cold Whims of Chance,
Left to choose nonetheless.

Grim Fandango

The cake is a lie,
Solid Snake will never die,
Lara will tomb raid forever,
Gordon will always have a Half-Life.
And Manny will come for me
When it’s my time
For a Grim Fandango.

All places I have been
Before my Grim Fandango.

I’ve gone on a Journey
Come From Dust
Been in System Shock
Made a Braid in time
Navigated Limbo
Sought a Lost Swan
All to evade my Grim Fandango.

With an Assassin’s Creed,
And a Dragon’s Dogma,
I answered my Call of Duty,
Beyond Good and Evil,
To pay for the Sins of a Solar Empire.
Such was my Fate
Before my Grim Fandango.

I used a Portal
With a Quantum Conundrum
And Mass Effect
To Warp
Through Dead Space
As Sly as any Time Bandit
To escape my Grim Fandango.

I played a Symphony of the Night
And sang Tales of Symphonia.
I played a flute to be a Wind Waker
And sang tales of Divine Divinity.
I played an Eternal Sonata
And sang a Brutal Legend
To silence my Grim Fandango.

All this to come to 65,
An old man
Hoping for a Deus Ex
To save me, salve me
From Dark Souls
And Bioshock
That seek to hasten my Grim Fandango.


The river flows
Regardless of us
Heedless in its urge
To the sea.

We can join it for a while.
But it flows before us
And after us
And beyond us.

Unless we dam it
Or drink it dry
Or heat the earth
Until the river dies.

Why do humans
Seek to stop flow?
Is it greed
Or fear of mixing in the sea?

Why do we dam the flow?
And not let it break through?
Is it greed
Or fear of floods that obliterate boundaries?

In a river flowing to the sea
We would all bob along together
For awhile
And then disappear in the sea.

We have spread destruction throughout the sea.
Rivers flow into dead zones,
If they flow at all.
Many of us will walk down a dust-dry wash to our end.

They baptize us in water
And tell us we go from dust to dust,
When we were meant to come forth from a mother’s watery womb
And flow into the boundless sea.

From Dust to Dust

We sit in silence
Waiting in the dark
For the sun.

We sit on a dirt floor
In a crumbling hut
Empty save for us.

The first hint of dawn
Is just a quiver in the darkness
Framing the opening in the shattered wall.

Then suddenly there is a burst of bird song
Followed by a shallow light
Entering the room.

We chant an ancient song,
Accompanying the morning chorus
To welcome the dawn.

There are only two of us.
Man and woman,
Too blackened by the sun to tell apart.

We have honored the sun ritual
For as long as we can recall.
Starting when we were young.

We pray all night
And sleep in the open air
When the sun is up.

We each move slowly now
Gathering when we can
Nuts and berries and vines.

This is Eden at the end.
We are back where we began.
In a garden.

If the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
Is still here,
It bears no fruit.

Who do we pray to at night?
Why do we always stay awake
Waiting for the sun?

The sun is the last god
We can remember.
It wrecked vengeance on our kind.

We died in many ways,
Some in flood, some in drought,
Some from famine, war, or disease.

Some sacrificed for others with love.
Some stole from others with greed.
All perished together.

Like the passenger pigeons and the magnificent bison before us,
Our vast numbers decreased
Faster than any of us could have conceived.

In the end we the hunters became the hunted,
Stalked by our former prey
And even by our former pets.

When we humans caused the greatest species kill off
Since time began,
We went before the swine.

Scorched now by the sun we worship
We last ones will soon go to dust
And end the human race.

Once Each Day (A Poem for English Teachers)

Language is predicated on telling the truth.
It’s not that we always tell the truth.
It’s that if we rarely or never do,
Language loses its point.

In America today
We expect lies from corporations, governments, and scam charities.
We expect lies from every side
In the name of profit, success, and power.

In a world where everyone customizes what they want to hear
And listens in an echo chamber of self-sameness
To only what they want to believe,
The truth is an orphan any way.

The truth that is important is not spelled with a capital “T”.
Truth with a little “t” just means trying
To respect the world and others the best we can
By letting words mingle with things and not just desires.

If you want to know whether your new idea is good or bad,
Ask someone who doesn’t love you or hate you,
Who knows some things you don’t
And will listen to what you say and not who you are.

The point of truth seeking is not being right.
It is trying to be right
And allowing you may be wrong
And that someone else you don’t even like might be right.

The rich fat cats deny Global Warming
So they can keep selling oil.
Hospitals call themselves charities
When they collect every penny from the poor.

Of course in America this is nothing new.
Adrian Mitchell said it so well some time ago
In his poem, “To Whom It May Concern
(Tell Me Lies about Vietnam)”:

“I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam”.

Lessons go unlearned.
We lose more wars
And harm more people
Because we will not teach and learn.

The “English teacher” is the key.
The job is to teach the students to once at least
Tell the little “t” truth each day,
To feel how it sounds on the tongue and looks on the page.
Once each day will keep the devil away.

Dead Zone

It is all for naught.
The dead zone spreads.
No matter how hard I try
To stem its tide.

All the fish are dead,
In the dead zone.
There is no oxygen,
In the dead zone.

There is no air to breathe,
No life left,
In the dead zone.
Nothing is left in the dead zone.

It comes creeping upon me, the dead zone.
Pollution spilling into my soul,
Killing everything in its wake,
To create a dead zone in my soul.

I cannot breathe
Because there is a massive
Dead zone in my soul.
Where innocence used to be.

Emotion almost dies.
Even bare feeling is almost dead.
Life comes near its end
In the dead zone.

The dead zone does not just belong to me.
It belongs to all of us
And to history.
It is part of our very nature.

For centuries
One group dreamed up slow tortures
To maximize a small person’s pain.

That is what finally caused my dead zone.
The full on realization of human evil
As common place now
As it always has been through history.

It is still as true today as it ever was:
We rape women
And barbecue men,
In the name of dominance.

And so it went,
Each group claimed others were savages
And did the same
And brought more and more pain.

The small person had no chance.
Just speared with a lance
And staked to the ground for more torture as entertainment,
A cipher in history, one among the many dead.

Did one small person say one day,
“No. No to all of this. No to all of us.”
And yet still powerlessly entertain the bloody crowd with his pain?

History moved on after that “No”,
But not much.
It just ratcheted up a very small degree.
But that is history.
And history—thank God—has a long long memory.

The Good Doctor

Dr. George
Once showed me
The blow-up woman
In his closet.

She didn’t look like a woman,
Not that I had seen many at the time.
She was a balloon with holes.
An object you could morally objectify.

The good Doctor had gotten a PhD
From a diploma mill
Before diploma mills
Were mainstream colleges.

Earlier, the good Doctor had graduated from Columbia,
Where in the golden days
He played basketball
And majored in partying.

There George chose his life work–
I stress “chose”–
Because he had many other options–
To become a professional partier.

Professional in those days meant professional,
Really pro, not pseudo-pro as it does so often today.
And George was a pro’s pro.
He was invited to be the life of the party up and down both coasts.

And he was always the heart of the party
Even though he was circumspect,
Never loud or ebullient,
Just drinking with a wink in his eye.

In his prep to become pro
George had drunk so much
He ruined his stomach
And had none when I met him.

He could only eat and drink
A little at a time.
And yet he drunk everyone else under the table
And always looked like he had just begun.

The rich and famous invited him to their parties
Even when they didn’t know him well,
Because a party without the good Doctor
Was like a Cubs game without the immortal Ernie Banks.

Ernie Banks famously said one morning,
During batting practice
At Wrigley Field for the thousandth time,
“What a good day to play baseball”.

The good Doctor often said–
Well in fact he said it every day–
“What a good day for a party”,
Or, really, parties.

The good Doctor
Left everyone wasted
And then went on
To the next party.

It was his duty.
He was a pro.
He had a reputation to uphold.
And more important, he had God’s good work to do.

When the good Doctor was there,
The high
And the low
Were all equal, leveled in his presence.

The good Doctor
Quiet and calm
Old but ageless
Drew everyone inexorably to him.

They came up to him to engage in cocktail party chatter,
Just for a moment,
With an entirely unprepossessing man,
And then couldn’t leave.

They were drunk;
The doctor, long into his cups, was stone sober drunk.
They begged for kindness and mercy.
He heard their confessions like a priest.

The good Doctor had nothing,
No job or honors,
No riches or pretensions.
Yet he was the master.

Good and bad men
Mean and gentle women
Bent to his charm
Knowing the doctor was always in.

The rich and powerful
The famous and the feared
The worthy and the guilty
Became just simple humans.

He accepted them all.
He eased their fears and doubts.
There were no airs to be put on in front of a man
Who sucked self-deception right out of the air

George had chosen to be nothing but a good partier,
And he was the best there ever was.
Others thought themselves important
Until they met him, drink in hand, wink in his eye,
The good Doctor.

Choosing Life

According to an ancient American myth,
When a child is born,
The child can choose to leave or stay
Once human life has been sampled for a while.

Parents fear children will choose to leave,
If they catch on too early to the whims of fate
And the random horrors of the universe,
So their parents tell them stories in poetry.

The stories find patterns everywhere.
Everything seems nice and neat and meant to be.
By the time the child finds out that things are not so,
It is too late to go.

The source of poetry is a lie,
A just so story,
A whistle in the dark to quell fear of change and chance
And beasts that roar in the night.

The source of poetry is a parent pleading
With a child
To stay
And have hope it will be all right.

Once we know we have been fooled,
We repeat the old poetic stories
As talismans to keep chance at bay
To quell the fear that very little happens for a reason.

When poetry becomes a talisman,
We sometimes call it prayer.
Prayer to an arbitrary god
Determined by the place of our birth.

Where do the children go who see through the ruse,
When they choose to get out before the getting out gets too hard?
Someplace nice, I hope.
Someplace where the stories are true.


Dust gently
On the flat
Of the thick-green pond.

Blue dragonflies
Yellow jackets
And Red-winged
Fly slowly in the heavy air.

Small buzzes
And short sharp trills
The stillness.

The pond is jade
Shaded by giant oaks
And maples
With fiery-red

Every small motion melts
In the humid heat,
A stilled
That every now and then buzzes or trills back to languid life.

The tranquil motion of color, heat, and shaded light
Fills my regret-filled soul
With the blessings of a Mind
Free of any shades of Judgment.

My old body hangs heavy
In the liquid heat
A material
At one with the thingness of things.


She: Push, push, push!
He: It will not move.
She: We are strong.
He: We are weary.
She: It’s somewhere to go.

He: This is the end.
There is nowhere to go.
We are hunted behind
And blocked ahead.

She: Push, push, push again!

The boulder moves…

She: We are in!
He: It is so so dark in here!

They walk in blackness,
Black as blinding light.
They walk in silence.
Two giant owls fly above them silently unseen.

She: We are in a cave’s throat.
He: Walking to its womb.

At last
A dim light
In the distance.

The male eagle owl calls HOO-HOOO.
The female owl calls hoo-hoooo.
But they sound like one:
HOO-hoo, HOOO-hoooo

And they arrive
At the light
To see drawings
Move on a wall.

It’s a hunt.
Dangerous animals dance in the flickers,
Pursued by stick figures
Keen to kill and to worship.

She: We are here.
He: Where? Where? Where?
She: We are the hunted and this is their hunt.
He: Do the Savannah People want to worship us with their far-flung spears?

She: We had images too
He: Older than theirs.
She: Our hands are on the walls
He: Of time.

She: This is the place to wait.
He: They will come.
She: They will kill us at their altar.
He: We are the last of us,
The last of the People of the Cold.

She sat silently.
Tears dropping from her eyes.
She remembered when they had taken her
And had their way.

A child was born
Something in between
The Savannah People named her “Less than Us”
And drove her mother away.

But before she was cast off
She had snuck in
To name her daughter her people’s way:
HOO-hoo, HOOO-hoooo.

She knew that the two of them would not be the last,
The People of the Cold would live on inside their foe,
Inside the people who kill at altars,
Altars that echo HOO-hoo, HOOO-hoooo.

When a Stutter Becomes a Strut

If one person imitates a stutterer,
That is ridicule.
If a dozen join with music, rhythm, and dance
That is performance,

Rhythm makes things new
And artful.
The one wracked with illness, deficit, and disease
Is just a performer waiting for others
To dance.

Dance, music, and art
Capture anything and everything
To recoup and recuperate.
They make the strange a normal part of us
And the normal totally strange again.

The hunchback
The white whale
The skinny knight
The adulteress
The Idiot

All take the stage
To invite you and me to shed our conventions
Or at least to shed those that kill the dance
Have no rhythm
And demean the child in each of us.

We all look bad alone.
We are hairless apes
Meant to get it on with others
Not take it out on others
We don’t understand.

We all fear that our dance step
Is lame
When it is just a new step
Waiting for the harmony of other hearts
To beat in unison.

When you fail to see the potential rhythm
In other people’s steps
You stop history.
You create static and noise,
Instead of music.

There are probably those who cannot be recouped and recovered
Too far out, too lost,
Too far behind or too far before their time,
Too lame to be danced with.
But how do you know until you step out?

Death is to be feared,
Faced in terror, alone,
Unless it is a death scene,
The last act
In our starring role on the boards with our fellow players.

Blobfish God

The Lion God is not the Aye-Aye God.
The Golden Tamarin God is not the Naked Mole Rat God.
The Whale God is not the Blobfish God.
The God who made the lion is not the God who made most of us.

Many mistakenly worship at the altar of the Lion God
Only to be found wanting.
The altar of the Blobfish God sits untended
Save by the wretched of the earth.

Christ said he was the “Son of God”,
But was He the son of the Lion God or the Blobfish God?
Since what He actually said was that He was “the Son of Man”,
His Father was certainly the Blobfish God.

Indeed, Christ said He had come to save
The lions, the Golden Tamarinds, the whales, and the beautiful people
So they too could enter heaven
With the aye-ayes, the mole rats, the blobfishes, and the rest of us.

They say God made us in His own image.
Some people look like the Lion God made them,
But most of us look like the Blobfish God made us,
So I say “Hasten to His altar”.

The Lion God is the God of the flawless.
He seeks perfection.
The Blobfish God is the God of flaws
He seeks the sublime.

When they wove their beautiful quilts
The old Puritans sought to evade competition with the Lion God
By always imposing an intentional imperfection.
In the act they were greatly pleasing in the eyes of the Blobfish God.

The Blobfish God is an artist who knows flaws are the foundation of life.
Flaws ruin things so they can become something new,
Something wiggling, jiggling, singing, broken, and alive,
Something that looks ever more sublime the more it faces death.

I will tell you a secret.
When the noble lion is finally old and scarred,
He achieves the sublime—like the blobfish, the aye-aye, and the naked mole rat—
And retreats to the altar of the Blobfish God.

There is only one God
And He is the Blobfish God.
We all eventually arrive at His alter to sacrifice our illusion
That the Lion God will save us.
Then truly we look on the divine face of the Blobfish God.




She lays herself down (cycle)


She lays herself down on the desert sand.
Black vultures sit with her,
Experts in death who know when
To summon majesty to take her.

They cry to the sky to call the wild beast
To its duty
To kill her body
So they can clean the bones.

She does not shudder at the roar.
She does not seek escape.
She offers her throat to the bite
And her body to the embrace.

The vultures prepare the body
Digest it into dirt and dust
So the ancient beetle can carry it away
For the restoration of life.

Her bones gleam white against white on the white desert floor.
But they will darken soon
Chewed and abraded to dirt and dust as well.
The wind will finish the job in a flurry of sand.

Her soul
Like a blue mirage
Of life-saving water
To draw another seeker hence.



He is drawn
Pulled and dragged
To the light bright shimmering water.

He trudges on
Over dunes
And more dunes again
Until it all seems a cruel mirage.

But then he arrives
By a light blue light.

He can feel something has happened here.
There is a faint smell of violent blood
A faint hint of peace as well.

This violent peace is only here.
Everywhere else is vacant lifeless desert
All about him
Closing in.

Yet life
And death
are everywhere there,
Concealed asleep in the searing heat.

He cries out
“I feel you, I sense you
Dear dear one,
Who laid yourself down.”

Suddenly there are other presences there
Black things
Odd things
And then it comes in a wave and a roar.

Accompanied by a raven
Who says,
“You are not prepared.”



The squat old woman glimpses
The wisp of blue
On the horizon.

Like a desert tortoise
She comes
To the place
Of blue
Shimmering above the desert floor.

She lowers herself down
In stages
To the sand
And sits

Surround her.

An ancient beetle crawls
And says
Welcome back.”

The old woman cannot speak.
She comes from the time
Before speaking
But not before understanding.
She nods.
And the beetle waits.

She waits.
The blue shimmers.
A bare wisp.
The blue congeals
Into a substance.
She takes the soul

The beetle is left alone
And walks on.



The young professor scans the high-desert grass,
Searching for pronghorns.
Some people call them antelopes.
But they have been here in the New World forever.
They are antelopes no more than javelinas are boars.

They run faster than anything on the continent,
Flying across the grasslands,
Easily outrunning wolves and coyotes.
They are perfect speed.
No living thing can match them.

But a dead one can.

Evolution dictates that nothing runs fast
Save to escape a predator seeking to run faster.
Nothing learns to flee that is not chased by something not easily outrun.
The pronghorn is indeed chased,
But chased by a spirit now.

A fleet and powerful cat chased it once upon a time,
Shaped its miraculous speed,
In order to receive the gift of its own agility in turn.
The spirit cat is gone now from the flesh,
Betrayed by a slow halting primate with a spear.

The pronghorn is alone,
With nothing left to chase it,
To kill it,
To honor it,
To meld with it in a blizzard of speed.

In the wilderness the professor comes upon an old woman
Accompanied by a young girl.
Perhaps they are Native Americans,
Though only the girl looks it.
The old woman looks like the grass itself.

She is yellowed and sallow,
Aged and ancient as a creek bed,
Withered, shrunken,
Burned black by the sun.
Her face betrays no race.

The professor is startled.
But feels he is the intruder.
“I am here to find pronghorns,
To celebrate their speed,
To watch them run for play.”

The little girl says, “They do not play,
They run in sorrow and in waiting
In sorrow for the death of majesty,
In waiting for its return,
So the dance of life and death can begin again.

The old woman does not speak.
But a vision enters his mind as if a gift from her.
In his mind the pronghorn bounds
As fast as an eye can see
Pursued by a majestic blur.

The pronghorn says
“This is what I was made for,
This is what I was born for
This is what I live for
This is how to die.”

When the majestic cat
Chases the majestic deer,
They are one.
No time for fear,
Only time for life.

The professor responds,
“No one has ever seen this cat,
This ghost
Who runs so fast.
It is only scientific speculation.”

The girl says,
“Mother has seen it many times in the flesh.
She is here
To take its soul



Seeking shelter from the storm,
The homeless man finds a cave
Above a dry wash
Turned raging torrent.

Wet and shivering, he sits
In cold

Once he had been something.
What, he has forgotten.
Society’s refuse is what he is now.
Garbage meant to take itself out.

He has wandered for years,
A leper with no bell,
To find himself scavenging in a red desert,
Seared with hellish heat except for the occasional Biblical deluge.

Like an old ascetic,
He has spent forty days and forty nights in the desert,
Free at last of those who would throw stones
At lepers without bells.

From the shrouded entrance of the cave
A coyote emerges
Ending the old man’s reveries
With a spark of fear down his spine.

The coyote lies down close beside him
And falls asleep,
Spreading animal warmth
To his body and his soul.

They sleep in peace side by side.
He dreams of a special place in the desert
He has seen
Where there was a shimmering blue light.

He dreams of an old woman
He has never seen,
She is ancient beyond words
And gestures to him to come.

He remembers the raven
Long ago
When he sought a higher calling,
Saying he was not prepared.

He and the coyote wake
To a majestic roar outside the cave.
They venture forth.



The “old bone man”–
He laughs when he thinks of what they call him.
He is  indeed a sack of old weary bones
Come to study bones far older.

He walks to the excavation site.
They wait for his science to kick in.
The old bone man always has a guess about what the bones had been,
Long before humans had begun.

Perhaps an ancient cheetah
Or a long-legged fleet hyena,
Both long gone
From the desert grassland.

The old bone man
For a long long while.

“It’s probably a hoax,” he says.
The bones look too old,
Too massive,
For what we know was here.

It’s cat-like.
But it was never here, if it was anywhere.
It would have been very big and very fast
And could never have existed.

Nothing could have escaped its jaws
No animal could have outrun it.
It would have caught and eaten everything.
Even pronghorns could not have eluded it.

A young Native American girl was there,
Unnoticed till now in the background.
She asks, “What if this cat was big and fast
Because something was bigger and faster still?”

The old bone man nodded.
Looked at the girl.
And said, “Perhaps.”

He thought to himself,
“There has to a be a last one, doesn’t there,
A fastest and biggest,
An eater that does not get eaten?”

The girl hears his thoughts
And says, “No,
Humans eat but do not get eaten
Yet they are naked, frail, and slow.

They left the chain long ago.
For them, there is no death with dignity.
They hold their victims in pens
And they themselves die in expensive hospital rooms
No better than rooms in a cheap hotel.”



The man and the coyote
March across the desert
With assurance
Fixed on their goal.

They are going to the place
He dreamed of,
The place where he was rejected
Because he was not prepared.

They are going together
As equals,
Scavengers both
Not to take but to be a meal.

Drink my body
Eat my blood
Mix me
Into the soup of life.

He, to return at long last to the cycle,
The coyote, to mentor the re-entry
Of a being who had spun clear of necessity
In a great fall.

There is a way to die
With dignity:
It is not to flee the pursuer,
But to meld with the pursuer in grace.



The man and the coyote
March across the desert
With assurance
While the coyote tells a tale.

“There once was a creature
Who substituted money for blood
And left the cycle of life.

Those with more preyed on those with less
And bled them dry
To make slaves and serfs.

In nature, predator and prey are on an equal footing
And they are sometimes one and sometimes the other,
Exchanging the gifts of food and death so life can flourish.

Money made the few powerful
And the many weak.
Once proud primates became zombies who called themselves wise.

They fed on each other’s blood
And fleeced bodies before they were buried.
In a dead world where the soul died before the body.

They called themselves higher.
They claimed a god told them to dominate.
They killed the majesty of death in a lust for eternal life.

They forgot what we animals know,
Life is about facing death squarely in the eye,
Otherwise there is no soul.

Do they shed money when they cry, not tears?
Do they shed money when they bleed, not blood?
Do they shed money when they die, not life?

We animals seek our mates
Run for our lives
And embrace death when it comes.

You humans seek money
Work for your living
And cling to a life you never really lived.

Have you ever run from a lion,
Saved yourself in a mad dash and leaping bound
And hailed the majesty that made you?

If not, you are not prepared.
You are not worthy.
You are merely buying time.”



The man and the coyote,
Near their goal,
Come upon an ancient woman and a raven.

The man says, “Greetings grandmother.”
But the woman cannot speak.
The raven speaks in her stead.

“The pronghorn is not an antelope
The javelina is not a pig
The tarantula is not to be feared.

I am not a human.
Things are not as they seem.
I collect the souls of the dead.

Each creature’s soul is a different type of blue.
From souls I make necklaces,
Symphonies of blue.

For balance I need all the shades,
But human souls are rare things these days
And I must seek them far and wide.

There are fewer and fewer to be found.
Most of them disappear before death
Leaving humans empty husks.

I see, my son, you have run for your life.
Your soul shimmers bright and blue.
Go, majesty awaits you.”

It’s Not Working (Series 3)

It’s not working,
Trying to mean something and communicate at the same time.
Meaning is a species of being.
Communicating is a species of belonging.

For most of life, being and belonging vie and jostle,
Like two twins
Who cannot get along,
But get along anyway because they are the same.

Later in life, being and belonging sometimes separate,
Especially for those born with a weak sense of belonging.
The need to be grows stronger than the need to belong
And meets its new twin, the need not to be.

You miss the old twin
But nonetheless long for him to be gone
Because of all the pain you have caused him
And he has caused you.

One night you sit in a nice restaurant
And the socializers turn to wisps
You can barely see or hear.
You have seen and heard it all before.
Belonging has ceased at last to matter at all.


Bundles: An Essay Letter

Humans are bundles of contradictions. This “informal blog” is in my bundle. It has taught me things I should have known already (We academics often find that when we claim something is true, we only discover it is actually true much later and then sometimes regret it).

I am—or was or maybe may still be—for better or worse—an academic. Trying to write “poetry” has made it clear to me that the life of an academic—at least in modern universities—is not the stuff of poetry. On the other hand, it is clear to me now that life (everyone’s) is the stuff of “poetry” and, for a few gifted or truly tortured souls, poetry.

In my academic work I have argued that all human language is a form of poetry. At least when we humans care and are really trying to make sense, we speak in lines and stanzas and rhythms with saturated meanings, though usually we are not aware of it (some of my 1980’s work was about the “poetry” of everyday sense making). Every speaker and every soul has the stuff of poetry inside. What we call poetry is heightened and formalized, but basically just language, our language as each and every one of us owns it. So, too, by the way with stories: All humans are story tellers and story makers—we are especially good ones when we care or suffer and story to recover. Literature heightens and formalizes what belongs by right to all of us and each of us.

In my academic work, I have argued that all humans—and we are built this way by evolution and biology—learn from experiences in the world, not from generalizations, abstractions, and calculations (1990’s/early 2000’s work). Generalizations and abstractions are the result of finding patterns in lots and lots of experiences over long periods of time. We do start with them; we end with them (sometimes, if at all).

When we limit someone’s experiences in the world—through ideology, religion, poverty, prejudice, fear or whatever—we limit their minds, their souls, and their growth as humans. We deny them their right to be, become, grow, and flourish.

Humans learn best from experiences in which they have an action to take whose outcome really matters to them (so says the immortal Art Glenberg). For humans, mattering (caring) precedes all learning, semiotics, and “accountability”. Otherwise, experience is really not all that good for learning.

There is a problem with learning from experience. Humans are powerful pattern recognizers—it is our super power as the good knight Kurt Squire so often says—ready and willing to find patterns anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat (or hate). So when we start on new learning through new experiences we need something to help us know what to pay attention to in the plethora of new details. We need, as well, something to help us know what patterns are fruitful to look for as a beginner hoping to go down fruitful and not frustrating paths.

Therefore, experience and learning are inherently social. Our mentors, communities, families, social groups and so forth tell us and show us what to look for and what matters. They help us find the “right” patterns so we can be social, communicate, and belong to the group; so that we can “be one of them” for “thems” we want to belong to and not be excluded from. And sometimes we newcomers reward “them” by finding patterns or variations they have not seen before, if they teach us well and truly (as the sacred Gunther Kress has proclaimed). We newcomers move them forward, if they do not suppress our creativity but sometimes allow us to show them the way.

So, then, the human mind is “social” (as I said in my only out-of-print book), filled with the patterns, associations, and connections our social natures, our social practices, and our social “apprenticeships” have given rise to. Of course, since we humans can belong to a great many different social groups and these groups can believe and value different things in different ways, we are, all, as I said, a bundle of contradictions. The only way you can remain consistent and “true” (“I did it my way”) is to limit your experience, your groups, and your humanity and ultimately your mind, that is to say, to make yourself—or let others make you—stupid.

As and when I became an old man, for a reason I am not privy to—maybe just because I did not ask myself and still do not want to—I decided I wanted to write “poetry” out of my experiences, just the way we humans always do when things matter, but to explore those experiences “privately”. As a man who once knew his Wittgenstein well, I knew there was no such thing as a “private language”. As a linguist I knew that language and communication are irredeemably social (“conventional” is the philosophical technical term here).

I had a contradictory wish: I wanted to write (communicate) without caring (I first mistakenly wrote “carrying”, which is, in fact, better) what others thought or what their judgments were. I oddly wanted to speak/write to myself and for myself in a medium that owes all its design and expressiveness (human language as communication) to sociality and response. I wanted to mean without meaning or at least without meaning what conventions and sociality had or would “force” me to mean. I wanted to use a convention—even have it work for me—but not be part of, not be loyal to, the convention. A contradiction or, at least, a complexity, as I said.

In writing my “poetry” I came to realize that while good poetry (not mine) can universalize specific human experiences, mine would only mean anything close to what I cared about to “old people” (probably not strictly an age-determined thing). That is one among other reasons why what I write is not “really” poetry, not “good” poetry, but only “poetry”, human stuff (by the way I am told editors don’t like scare quotes and think them crude—I cannot imagine honest writing without them (I am told editors don’t much like parentheses either)).

We should not punish ourselves for being a bundle of contradictions. But that does not mean we should not try at least for resolutions even if they give rise, as they will, to different bundles or bundlings. The poems on this “blog” (we all know it isn’t a blog, but I do not know what it is and probably don’t even know what a blog is—hence the scare quotes—an admission of ignorance) are so far in two series. The first series is a “cycle” that is meant to have a beginning (Vampires) and an end (Christmas 2012). These are now in the hands of the Warrior Priestess Denny Taylor. The second series, only a few poems so far (and so far is fated in this case to be as far as it goes) was written as I began to worry—as normal, sane, healthy humans do and should so—what others thought, about the meanings being attributed to me, and about the corrupting effect I could be having on the young. Alas, I am not a normal, sane, healthy human and less so every day, since I am old and in my case—at least in my “middle period” when I could at least pretend to be social—the windmills fought back and “won”, leaving me a battered old man.

Series 3 starts soon. It will be detached from social media—I should never have connected this stuff to social media—that I did, shows how little I understood social media and understood myself. I will say this though—not in any defense, but as a mere observation—academics as a career “well and truly” (as my former Australian friends used to say) renders the word “friend” vexed, confusing, menacing, vague, ambiguous, dishonest, touching, ephemeral, and contradictory—a minefield for the naïve, the autistic, and the rubes like me. Social media has of course done vexed things to the word “friend”—though less deep and rich than the complexities of academics—but I cannot say much here about that because I rarely look at social media sites and when I do I never understand them (there is no glory in this as I well know when I watch the young making “poetry” here as well).

So I am detaching this “blog” from social media and getting rid of the comment function. That way the “readers” (if any and there are in fact few anyway now) will not be fictional (as the giant Ron Scollon warned us they would (requiem in pacem dear Ron, the best of us by far)) any longer, but real people I do not know, see, feel, or have to worry about. If you want to read this stuff—and if you don’t, don’t, and if you do, do, but write too, not just read—we will just write “private” “poetry” in our own private languages together—a new form of sociality. They will say we are only capable—you and I—of parallel play. I will say true, true, save if we—me and you—can engage in telepathy.

I apologize for “involving” “people” in my “private” life—something I abhor. It was bad taste, poor judgment, swimming in the shallows, swimming in the deep water, modern, co-opting what rightfully belongs to the young and the restless. It was vain, clueless, and (“fun”).

Don Quixote

The young need hope,
Even illusions.
Age destroys illusions
And replaces hope with skepticism.

That is why the young should not read the poetry of the old.
Soon enough the young will be old themselves,
Better now to believe that dreams come true
If you just believe them hard and long enough.

Dreams do of course sometimes come true.
In America they are often dreams of riches and success,
Of power and fame,
Dreams that achieved can taste like dust or leave others in the dust.

The truly oppressed, most of the people who have ever lived on this earth
Or who live on it now
Dream of food and respect,
Dignity and freedom from want and despair.

Throughout history the rich have always oppressed the poor.
They oppress them more and more,
Until they finally go too far,
And the poor fight back with nothing left to lose.

An old man like me has no advice for the struggling young.
But if for some reason you lose your hope too soon
And begin to despair at how the poor and weak are continually crushed,
And you come to feel there is no advance against a foe so big,

Then, all I can say is this:
In history, when all is lost, there always finally appears
A wan knight wearing a rusty barber’s bowl as a helmet,
Riding on an old nag, broken lance in hand, to tilt at windmills.

He is insane.
Driven so by his love
For Dulcinea
And for justice.

He tilts at windmills he thinks are giants
And giants actually fall.
He saves the wretched,
Because he tells them a secret that restores their hope.

The secret is that the center,
That central power that makes all others weak and undeserving
And renders everyone at the margins marginal,
Is empty.

Its power is only the false belief that it is there.
But nothing is at the center
Save for empty symbols
The rich and powerful claim only they can read.

The good Don always strikes from the margins,
In the guise of a fool, his fantasies still intact.
The center falls and history cycles on,
The losers the winners in the end,

Until it is time for the Don to come again
In the name of love and justice.
Maybe this time he is you,
Ready and willing to tilt at windmills, your fantasies still intact.

A Red Rock Coffee Shop

Red rocks
Failed gurus
Failed artists
Good coffee.

Surrounded by red wilderness
In a New Age coffee enclave
Where crystals replace gods
Who fail us or who we fail.

Tourists come in
Miffed by the scruffy men who read palms
And the healing women
Who teach us how to talk to cats so they won’t eat meat anymore.

Mark is one of us.
He survived a cancer
He helped along by treating himself with herbal medicines and New Age wisdom
Before a brutal course of chemotherapy cured him.

Mark is all of us.
To survive means to treat a sickness of the soul we help along
With unrequited desires and Old Age nostrums about success
Before the brutal truth of old age cures us.

Now that Mark is cured, he works in the coffee shop
Happy with a new New Age insight
That his miracle cure saved him for something important
Something still to come, something to wait for.

Now that I am cured, I sit in the coffee shop
Happy with an old Old Age insight that all is vanity.
Ecclesiastes says too that there is no new thing under the sun.
But nonetheless I still wait to see what will come.

Dorian Gray

You know how familiar your own hand looks to you?
How you would recognize it anywhere,
Even cut off?

I look at my hand
Or my knee
And I clearly see me.

But I look in the mirror
And wonder who it is,
Surely it is not me.

Others recognize me by my face
Not by my knee.
But my face seems to me more foreign than my knee.

Because I am old?
Because I am afraid?

I don’t talk to my knee,
But I do talk to my face,
In the mirror.

I say, ” Who are you?
I ask because you look a bit like me,
But older and more forlorn”.

The man in the mirror never has anything to say.
He listens patiently while I speak.
Though he nods once in a while.

It is a Dorian Gray scene,
But in a mirror,
Not a painting.

The mirror ages faster,
Showing every misdeed,
Which I hope no one else sees.


Natasha my love,
You picked me,
One of the few who has,
Maybe the only one.

You came out of darkness and said, “Take me”.
There was no “please”.
There was no plea.
It was a command.

I adored you when I saw you,
Because you were so small and weak,
So strong and confident,
So eager to be free.

You had been born sick,
And struggled to survive.
You were manhandled by those who sought to save you,
But you had an indomitable desire to be.

My OCD son followed you as you paced.
Your guardian told him to respect your space.
But later that night, he sat with you,
As you dared dream of venturing out.

When you finally ventured forth, you found a large and menacing bandit.
You sat silently, making yourself yet smaller,
To protect yourself from male aggression,
Only to find that it was really utterly-smitten male submission.

Then you looked him in the eye.
And he fell in love with you forever,
You two spent your days cuddling
When you weren’t playing with delight.

We rushed you to the hospital many times.
When you were away, Bandit was forlorn.
You faced the sickness without fear.
Even when they poked and prodded, you pranced without a tear.

When you came back, we all hugged you
And you settled in again with Bandit.
He gently licked you
And you gently licked him.

You went out and played with Bandit,
But ran immediately back when we called.
Not just because you feared being out alone,
But because Bandit was back home.

In your last picture, Bandit and you snuggle close head to head,
But there is a small speck of blood in your nose.
We didn’t see it until the picture made it clear.
Only later did we know it meant the end was near.

When it was time, you stumbled out from the dark
And asked me to pick you up.
You could not stand
And needed to be held by the one who was always at your command.

We rushed you to the hospital.
But it was too late.
You died in my arms,
And my heart just broke.

Bandit was not there.
He was alone at home in despair.
He sensed something had happened
And sought your smell to quell his fear.

We watched you go,
A spirit, not a body any longer.
I wept in the sterile room
And Bandit howled at home.

You were the little one
Who commanded me to take you
To life
And to death.

Natasha, I still remember you in the basket
So beautiful and benign,
Loving us,
But waiting for your Bandit.

Now I wait for my own Bandit, Bead.
You taught me, Natasha, to command her to take me
To life
And to death
When it comes.

Fly in the Fly-Bottle

Is there light
Out there?
But Wittgenstein told us that flying to the light is the wrong thing to do.
The fly in the fly-bottle must fly to the darkness to be free.

A fly-bottle uses sweets to entice a fly to fly in.
Once in, the fly sees light all around the bottle,
But only darkness at the opening at the top.
The only way out is to fly to the dark.

The fly is trapped because people hate the fly.
But what if you are trapped by people who love you instead
Though you are in fact no better than the fly?
What if the sweets that trapped you are what you love?

What if what kills you nourishes you?
What if Wittgenstein was wrong when he said death was not an event in life?
Perhaps death is part of every event in a life worth living?
What if freedom means not flying away?

Philosophy makes you wise.
It tells you truly that you must fly to the dark to be free.
But I think it tells you too the goal of life is not to be free,
But to choose to be bound by what you stand for.

Drunks and Hippos

How do I live on wine,
When it doesn’t have enough protein?

Well maybe I am an angel
Drinking the nectar of the gods.

Or maybe I am a vampire
Drinking red wine in lieu of dark blood.

Maybe I need a twelve-step program to land somewhere in the middle,
Though if the middle is human, count me out.

I am less impressed by the sober than the drunk
The sober always get the knife in straight.

Some drunks kill and maim,
But much less than sober warmongers.

The drunks go to jail,
But the war mongers don’t.

Drunken parents tear families apart,
Greedy CEOs tear whole countries apart.

The drunks go to jail,
But the CEOs don’t—they get bailed out.

There are Mothers against Drunk Drivers
But there are no Mothers against Sober Greedy Strivers.

Animals don’t drink.
They are not embarrassed by their species.

Make no mistake; I am no good example of a human,
And I am not trying to be.

I plead guilty, ready to go to jail with no bail out,
My only regret is I wasn’t born a hippo.

Have you seen the picture of the big hippo mother using her nose to push her little baby hippo up,
So the baby hippo can take a deep breath before diving again?

If you agree we can all be hippos together,
I will never drink again, but only breathe and dive and breathe and dive again.

Tillers of Night Soil [First Poem of Second Series]

Truth is too crude for poetry.
Poetry is beauty and passion.
Poetry should soar.

After you discover it, truth is often banal.
Sometimes the search is exciting,
But truth is tethered to the ground.

Oh, I know there are grand discoveries,
That there is grandeur inside the atom and outside the galaxy,
But most truth is humble and inconvenient.

The truths we humans seek to evade are like yippy puppies that bite when you don’t feed them,
And poop on the floor when you ignore them,
While the rich and powerful seek to get the rest of us to clean up the mess.

So those who search for truth and seek to eradicate lies are a lower caste,
Street sweepers and dung cleaners.
They are important only because eventually sickness kills society and not just the poor.

You can tell truth tellers from the charlatans because the truth tellers are dirty, rarely confident, and never proud.
Their probabilistic claims can’t win black and white media wars.
Their methods are bad for sales.

Truth is a little bird that grasps for breath when it is caught,
Too fragile to survive against greed, ideology, and lies.
Truth is Un-American and bad for business.

That’s why truth seekers get up every two hours to feed their baby birds,
Hoping against all hope they will grow strong enough to fly against the wind.
Not usually to soar like eagles, but mostly to hug the ground like a family of clownish quail.

Today, the tillers of night soil are being shown the door,
They get no grants and grant no mercy for lies.
When they are gone, there will be no regrets,
But lots of shit on the floor.

A Christmas Poem (Dec. 25, 2012)

When they came for him in the garden,
He didn’t stand his ground.
When Peter drew his sword and cut off the High Priest’s slave’s ear,
Christ healed the slave and ordered Peter to back down.

The rich would hate him as a guest at their fancy dinners.
He would invite prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and poor people in.
He would tell parables about how hard it is for the rich to get to heaven,
And how the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

If they bemoaned government, he would tell them to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
If they celebrated wealth, he would tell them to give all their wealth away.
If they decried the inheritance tax, he would tell them only the meek inherit the earth.
If they shouted “Don’t Tread on Me”, he would tell them to turn the other cheek.

They say America is a Christian nation.
They say Christ supports our wars,
They say we should see great wealth as a sign of grace.
I say these people might be wrong.

But today I won’t stand my ground,
Merry Christmas.

Redistribution: A Primer on 21st Century Economic Theory

A teacher wants to get across to her students the evils of redistribution.
She believes redistribution is a socialist, communist, liberal plot to undermine America.
It is a doctrine of moochers and takers not makers and shakers.
It makes people dependent and fails to “incentivize” them for success.

Redistribution is an out and out evil.
Unfair, unjust, immoral, and unconstitutional.
It undermines the very foundations of society.
It kills the desire to work hard for low wages.

“How fair would a grading system be that made the A’s give points to the B’s and C’s and D’s,
And, God forbid, even to the F’s!”, she says.
“That’s how redistribution works.
The people who earned it have to give to those who didn’t.”

Of course, students in a course and people in America do not all start at the same starting line.
Some, with privileged backgrounds, start already many yards ahead.
Others start way behind the line.
The teacher calls it a fair race nonetheless.

Some earned their A through hard work,
But others earned their A by starting well ahead.
Some earned a C because they started way behind
And made more progress than any of the A’s.

The teacher is right but in the wrong direction.
For the last many decades wealth in America has been redistributed up not down.
The rich have taken from the middle class and the poor,
And in the act have surpassed the Age of the Robber Barons.

The rich raided everyday people’s bank accounts once Glass-Steagall was repealed.
They created a lucrative poverty industry out of payday loans, check cashing, and usurious credit cards.
They harvested companies by laying off workers, lowering wages, and raiding pension funds.
They made derivatives out of liar loans and foreclosed on homes.

They bought politicians, got subsidies, cut health care, and left the rest of us with the bill.
They claimed they had “earned it” when they had inherited wealth or had famous parents.
They demanded meritocracy for others but no inheritance tax for their kids so they would not have to compete.
They colluded to rig Libor rates and raise CEO pay, but decried unions.

They had the Supreme Court pass Citizens United so the corporations and the rich could steal elections.
They sought to restrict voting, just in case their money wouldn’t turn the trick.
Then they claimed the election was stolen when they lost,
Because it was their God-given right to win.

So the teacher was confused about who the moochers were.
If redistribution is a Commie plot, then our rich are Commies through and through.
Though I suspect the teacher is happy with the rich taking from the rest of us,
After all, they’re rich, so they MUST be smart, as any social Darwinist knows.

For our teacher, downward redistribution– the sort Christ was for– is evil.
And upward redistribution is good, since when wealth trickles down to the poor the rich can take it again and “grow” the economy.
Our teacher probably calls herself a good Christian,
But she is in fact a devout Milton Friedmanian.

For the record, trickle down–supply side–economics is a fraud and economies grow by consumption.
Workers with no jobs or bad wages can’t buy anything.
See, it had nothing really to do with morality but only with capitalism,
A system we should try.

In the 21st Century there is another case for downward redistribution beyond consumption.
It is a sort of Christian argument on steroids for helping those who have fallen behind.
Today our world is imperiled by complex systems and fierce conflicts.
The earth and the human species are challenged as never before.

You don’t slay a dragon with an A.
It takes a team whose strength is no better than its weakest link.
Faced with the dragon’s fire, you can bet that the best gives to the worst to get them up to speed,
Before the whole team is burnt to a crisp.

If you’re a warrior fighting at the dragon’s feet,
You don’t ask whether the healer was once a slacker or deprived,
You damn well see to it he will be ready to save you when you are about to die,
And vice versa.

That’s how to survive a major dungeon in the World of Warcraft.
And that’s how the army takes a hill in a bloody battle in the desert, though in America rich kids don’t go to war.
You redistribute your butt off until everyone is the best they can be.
The team becomes better, smarter, and sometimes braver than anyone in it

Then you don’t just get a silly A, you gain victory.
The guild gives you the best drop.
And the army gives you a medal for saving not just yourself but all of us.
You earned it, but you couldn’t have done it without the team.

The battle for the earth and for life on our planet,
For the survival of the human species,
Is already joined.
The dragon is at the gates.

Don’t bring your A to the battle and brag about it,
Or your money and tell us how hard your parents worked to give it to you.
Bring the respect you won when you buffed your team mates so they could help you save the day.
When the dragon roars, you need people to watch your back, not admire your golden ass.

If you don’t believe me, as I know you won’t,
See what happens when you stand before the dragon alone and show him your A.
Tell him the others are not there because they didn’t get an A.
As you perish, you might even scream, “It’s isn’t fair, they weren’t as good as me”.

Ah, but I hear you say, “I’ve got you now,
I will bring a team of only A’s,
People all as good and smart as me.
People who towed the line and did what they were told”.

Too bad you didn’t know this particular dragon was impervious to a team of only standard skills.
What you really need now is that screwed up dwarf,
The one you earlier denied drops you really didn’t need.
What he might have become is what you need now to save yourself.

“But, surely”, you say, “Helping should be a matter of charity,
Not the government or the team telling me what to do”.
You are right, you should not be forced on the team.
You can sit it out and hope those you wouldn’t help will help you.

But perhaps I’m wrong,
And you’ll be just fine,
Alone with your own kind.

Music From Trash

Each silence fragments the soul.
Piece by piece it falls apart.

Now that I am old, my soul is melting away altogether,
Like a glacier calving in the Age of Global Warming.
Too little is left to hold out any longer against the toxins in the institutional air I breath.

I once thought old people grew old souls.
Now I know souls grow hard, freeze, and then finally melt away,
Hived off block by block by compromises we should not have made.

Soulless, I am left adrift in the detritus of my past,
Swimming in the backwash of the wreckage of my soul,
A backwash filled with the havoc my sins have wreaked.

What happens when the soul is gone?
What happens when it’s all a sea filled with wreckage and debris?
What happens when we feel too old and hurt to swim to shore?

Souls ice over so we can get on by going along.
So we can bear the pain of stupidity.
Not stupid people, no not at all,
But forms of life that make us all unwise.

But perhaps from the litter in our soulless sea we can fabricate a new soul.
We can make from the garbage a new more fragile but angry soul.
Fragile because we always knew the kids who played symphonies with instruments made from trash were more worthy than the rich kids who padded their applications to Harvard with expensive instruments played with no passion.
But we kept silent.
Angry because we sacrificed our first soul on an altar to false gods.

Then perhaps we learn to swim through the mistakes of our past,
Because we are “differently abled” now.


Humans are intention seekers.
We see intention everywhere.
In light and shadow and shade.
In mountains, sky, and sea.

We cannot accept that the Red Rocks of Sedona
Or the red deserts of Australia
Were carved by old seas and erosion,
And not by the art of a godly sculptor.

We go further and feel it’s all alive.
We stand in mountain vortexes swirling with special powers.
We hear breezes as messages
And sense the presence of ancients who painted symbols on the rocks.

I have walked through the Australian red deserts.
The landscape quivers with animateness,
The stones and dunes seem ever so slightly to move
As the rock kangaroos sit quietly on their mothers of stone.

We humans need to see the meanings of things
And hear the messages they send.
We cannot settle for the thingness of things
Including animate things like ourselves.

Do we redeem nature by giving it meaning
And deciphering its intentions?
What if javelinas and rock kangaroos have nothing to say,
Except that they are alive on their own terms?

We humans are trapped in the spider webs of meaning.
We can never be alive on our own terms.
We have to mean something everywhere and always
And our intentions have to be scrutinized constantly.

We cannot just be a thing full of thingness.
We have to have a soul
And maintain human progress
While we devastate the earth on our way to heaven.

I often fantasize sitting still in the Red Mountains,
Honoring nature as my goddess–
Then the mountain lion pounces


I was never a leader.
A coward, I always sought to flee.
Retreats were never merely tactical for me.
But alas I have a terrible sense of direction.

Fleeing rapidly out the back,
I got lost and ended up at the front.
Brave men were fighting there against all odds,
Until they saw me running toward the foe.

They were cheered by my courage
And rushed into the breach,
Glad to follow a real leader
Whose terrified scream sounded like a battle cry.

When I saw the hostile troops,
I turned at once
To seek a quick escape
In what perhaps looked to be a feint to fool the foe.

I got spun around anew.
Running in the direction of what I thought was home,
I came upon the enemy’s reinforcements rushing in.
Half my cadre followed me and easily won the day.

I ran off as fast I could, but was soon adrift again.
At last I heard shouts of victory and joy,
And was hailed a returning hero as I magically appeared,
Lost and back where I had started from.

There the troops were regimented
To salute a leader bold and brave,
To give me a medal for finding the way
As I asked for directions from the fray.

Love and Puds

I am sorry I don’t fit your conception
Of who I am
Or who I should be
Or who I could be.

I am sorry I offend you,
Because I am different people at different times,
A cheap schizophrenic,
Fueled by sadness, anger, mistaken friendship, hope, despair, and alcohol.

I am always impressed by how “academic liberals”
Who champion “diversity”
Have no tolerance for people like me
When we are not what they want us to be.

They disdain people for whom socializing is an Olympic event
A struggle just to finish.
They like people who are “diverse” in just the right way,
A way that makes the “liberals” feel good about themselves.

My love tells me:
“That’s the good thing about puds,
They don’t care”.
That’s why we have nine.

In a recent interview I was asked “Are you ever alone?”
I said “Never”, never anymore.
I am always with my love and my puds.
We’re  all curled up on a big bed.

The judgers and the judgments fade away.
And I finish the race in my own way.
Not necessarily in a good way and surely not in a better way than anyone else’s.
But in the way that was open to me.

Tower in Ruins

Why is the tower in ruins?
Deep down in its darkest dungeon
We kept a secret that would not stand the light.

We were in the tower to worship knowledge, not God or gods.
But we were priests nonetheless
And made sacrifices at our altar.

Our sacred duty was to expose false gods,
To face facts rather than to create myths,
To root out superstitions.

To do so we withdrew into our monastery
And made pronouncements ex cathedra
To a world that rarely cared.

When we brought them new cures
Or new tech toys and other magical tools,
They cared for the things but not the theories.

Our words were stale.
They inspired neither hope nor fear,
But only boredom.

We unlocked the secrets of the universe
And made impossible bombs that actually went off.
But late at night some people wanted to know what it meant to be here.

Science sometimes made life better.
And sometimes it made it worse.
But science didn’t give life meaning or worth.

The peons in the tower were the ones who were supposed to work on that.
They were to meditate on the meaning of it all
With paint brushes, stories, poems, and philosophical tracts.

But they sought tenure and merit increases more fiercely
Than they sought the meaning of things.
When the tower became a business they had nothing to sell.

The peons announced the death of meaning and stories and “theory”.
They told the laity they were all dupes,
Not even modern enough to be postmodern.

We all, scientists or not, published not to perish
Good work was lost in a sea of trash
The vast majority of it never cited.

We were all too busy going to conferences
And writing things no one read
To remove the trash or teach the acolytes.

The tower became a business.
We sold what we had claimed was beyond price
And discovered it wasn’t worth all that much on the open market.

Competitors came from all sides.
E-learning spread our kitschy knick-knacks everywhere
And amateurs learned without us how to make live viruses in their kitchens.

We made our tower a job training center,
And told the rubes they’d all get good jobs,
As wages, income, equality, and dignity plummeted.

But what in the hell did we know about jobs?
Our tower was meant, we had said, to enable vocations,
To be about a calling, not a job.

We all bemoaned the day our tower became a business center,
Just another type of insurance scam.
But we had been selling status all along.

We weren’t making people better.
We were making better off people better off.
And warehousing the less well off in the less well off towers.

We claimed audaciously that books had power,
But in reality we offered credentials and other trinkets,
That were no better than indulgences or superstitions.

We eventually found it was cheaper just to sell them
Rather than make anyone work to earn them,
Since they didn’t mean anything anyway.

Now we have courses with 50,000 students
Earning certificates that are special
Only because they’re not really as real as the other unreal ones we give.

We have “for profit” diploma mills,
No better than check cashing stores in rundown neighborhoods,
Offering students debt, lies, and bad degrees.

Catholic priests abused children sexually
And earned scorn.
We abuse them intellectually and earn money.

What was the secret in the dark dungeon deep?
What was there that turned to ashes in the light?
That we were meant to be priests of meaning, not just knowledge.

Meaning is hard and not for sale.
We can only baptize you when you begin the search
And bury you when you’re dead.

Not all needed or wanted the search,
Many are happy just as they are,
The tower was for those willing to sacrifice happiness for meaning.

The secret that died in the dungeon
Was that we had abandoned our birthright there.
The light showed us for what we had become.

We sacrificed our birthright on the altar in the dungeon downstairs.
Not ourselves.
Now we have paid the final price.

We are hirelings at a faux wood desk,
Writing bad checks on a drawn account,
With a quota to make.

Lies of Hope

We beg for the mercy of lies
So we don’t have to face the mercilessness of truth.
But one day we wake up and swear to tell the truth,
And then have no idea what it is.

There are hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar lies
Which never work.
And there are cowardly lies,
Sins we inevitably pay for long before we get to the Pearly Gates.

There are lies of arrogance.
When we assume we know the truth and hide it.
Indeed we thought that’s what it meant to lie.
But in reality we had no idea what the truth was and only kidded ourselves we did.

There are also lies of hope.
Where we aren’t so much lying
As improvising,
Trying to hit a moving target we cannot always see.

At their best our lies are hopes,
Try outs
For an improvisational play
We cannot script.

I regret the lies I told.
But often I knew no truths any better.
Some of the lies I told came true and made the world better.
And some were just lies that made the world all the worse.

Now I face the Final Judgment.
The choir of angels tells me there were truths I should have known.
And I would dearly love to have known what they were.
So I improvise and tell the angels my best lies were guesses in the dark,
Mapping the maze bump by bump.

As for my worst lies,
I throw myself on the mercy of the court
And hope they lie to me
And tell me it’s all all right.


De Rerum Natura

A Western Grebe bobs gently on the sea
Then darts below
And breaks the surface with a small silver fish
Swallowed in a flash.

Casual death
Every moment of every day of every year
For billions of years
De Rerum Natura.

A cat pounces on a bird
That flutters and dies
As the cat enters the magic circle
Of play.

The torturer waterboards his foe
Who gasps and gasps for air
Inside the magic circle
Of pain.

An institutionalized child screams
While “an alternative asset management firm” fires caretakers
To raise stock prices
And make rich people richer.

A girl has acid thrown in her face
Because quite reasonably
She doesn’t want to marry a man
Who would throw acid in her face.

A toddler slips and falls
Through space
In the flash of a parent’s eye
And is murdered by gravity.

Good and bad people alike cry out for reasons
From an all-powerful all-knowing all-good God
Who, they say, tells them it’s all for good
And meant to be.

I don’t buy it
Because I don’t want to worship a God
Who would let acid destroy a young girl’s face.
Even if He had a good reason.

“Beware of false prophets
Who come to you in sheep’s clothing
But inwardly are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them”.










I am a member of the “I Don’t Give a Fuck Anymore Club”,
A 12 step program for people who once cared.
Caring brought us stress, anxiety, anger, and disdain.
It destroyed us and those we cared about as well.

John cared about his job and was forced to train his own replacement.
Mary cared about her husband and got replaced by a young male.
Fred cared about the environment and now they frack in his backyard.
Sue cared about her cat who moved in next door.

Caring is toxic to the soul.
You suffer every hurt of someone else,
And every setback to a cause,
When you have your own private suffering to bear.

To care about an institution is the stupidest thing.
Institutions are designed to squander any opportunity for good.
They are full of people who claim to follow rules for the greater good,
But only as a ruse to suck the greater good dry for their own benefit.

Oh, yes, humans do follow one general rule,
“To thine own self be true”.
But it means “Screw others if you need to,
And pretend to care if you must”.

“The I Don’t Give a Fuck Anymore Club” is for people who were foolish enough to care.
They thought the cause was all about the cause, but it never was.
They thought the institution was all about its vaunted goal, but it wasn’t.
They thought others cared, but they really didn’t.

The “I don’t give a fuck anymore” state is liberating.
You can feel your arteries opening.
Your muscles relaxing.
And your heart closing.

You long to say, “No, I don’t care,
You have mistaken me for someone else.
Here’s a quarter, call someone who still cares.
I don’t give a fuck, not even a flying fuck, whatever that is”.

I could have been a great success had I cared less.
I could have lived longer.
I could have lived lighter.
I have aged beyond my years by adding worry about others to worries about myself.

Now I am facing an early grave.
Caring has caused my telomeres to fray.
The people, the causes, and the Institutions I cared about have moved on.
My care meant little and accomplished even less.

Now don’t mistake me and think I care what you think,
Or that I claim any merit by having been addicted to care.
Caring is the rare disease that has no Internet support group.
It’s a disease everyone wants to claim, but no one wants to have.

We in the “I Don’t Give a Fuck Anymore Club” don’t have sponsors.
To sponsor someone else would require caring.
We go it on our own.
There’s no one to call if we lapse back and give a damn.

I often wonder who started our group,
Since that would have required caring about us all.
All that is known is that the founder passed on worn down by care,
A failure in the eyes of the club who can’t remember his name.

We care addicts were raised by parents who bought the scam that people care,
When what they really care about is only themselves and their kin.
We all wonder now how our parents ever got old enough to mate,
When evolution should have taken care of them long before.

A meeting of the club is a cold affair.
There’s no hugging and no support.
We take our turns admitting errors.
But no one cares.


A thick forest of gloom.
A small shrine of stone.
A rotting log by a cold fire.
I sit alone on the log staring at the last shrine.

Shrines have propelled the human race.
Each group constructs a shrine for devotion to its chosen god,
Expecting favors in return.
But sooner or later the shrine always runs dry.

The favors cease.
The devotion wanes.
Skeptics arise.
Then someone notices that the shrine next door still seems to work.

Those foreigners next door,
Just far enough away not to have occasioned a war,
But just close enough to borrow and steal from now and then.
Appear to have the real thing.

Their shrine works.
Their gods really do listen and reward.
Our shrine is bogus.
So let’s adopt theirs.

The new shrine works for a while.
Then it too runs dry.
We spy yet another and adopt it.
But that one too will soon run dry and we will seek another again.

Religions and myths have always borrowed and stolen.
They become mixed and mired in each other.
Some religions wrote books to stop it.
But even books as shrines run dry no matter what.

Does the god desert the shrine?
Or was he never there?
Do our devotions eventually fail to please him?
Or do our devotions merely fool us?

We humans need something to worship.
We need an insurance policy against chance and fate.
An insurance policy against a short life and a bad death.
But the company never pays.

Each of us, no matter how modern, erects shrine after shrine in our personal lives.
Shrines to forces that we hope can save us,
Shrines to money, fame, fortune, family, nations, and many other lesser gods.
But these shrines all run dry too.

All the altars where I have worshipped are barren now.
As all shrines do, they have run bone dry.
I wait patiently now for the last god to come through the forest of gloom
To sit beside me near the cold fire at my final shine.


A fork in the path.
I turn left.
Now I will always be “the person who turned left when he could have turned right”.

A fork in the path.
I am blown right by a strong wind.
Now I will always be “the person who was blown right when he might have chosen otherwise”.

After a great many twists and turns,
I become “the person who turned or was blown right left left right right right left …. when it could or might have all been otherwise”.
Our lives and ourselves turn into a circuitous route composed of when and where there was a chosen or a forced turn.

Sometimes we just let the wind choose,
And go wherever even a gentle wind bids us,
Three sheets to the wind even when we’re not drunk.

We cannot always tell if we chose or were blown.
And surely we often cannot remember.
Does it matter in a game where you cannot turn back?

Long ago in a trailer in a forest I made a bad choice.
That choice forced another and another.
Now I regret the first choice but I am what I am now from all the others.

What if I could go back and make that choice again?
It would not be me that goes back to decide again.
I am the ill formed progeny of that choice, no longer the innocent I once was.

It would be that long-gone innocent making the new choice.
But that innocent would soon become something else altogether once the new choice was made.
That innocent self, even if wise enough to make a different choice, or let the wind choose, would now be a route I never took and utterly unrecognizable to me as me.

How would he judge me? How would I judge him?
What could the judgment of or by an alternative self really mean?
Is this what the Final Judgment at the Gates of Heaven is?

What are people who read self-discovery books seeking to discover?
They say they want to know who they are.
Better, I think, if you are young, to seek who you should be, though it won’t be what you become.

When you are old, you no longer want to know who you are,
Or who you should be,
But what you have become and what you should think of it.

Is the proper emotion guilt?
Or surprise?


It’ s a lie.
I forget.
I can only vaguely recall.

So many lies my brain is numb.
I can see just a glimpse.
But of what?
There are too many lies to remember.

Big lies, medium lies, little lies.
A Goldilocks of lies.
Some are just right.
Lulled to sleep by lies.

People lie to win.
People lie to keep others happy.
People lie to survive.
People lie to help and to harm.

We bathe in lies.
The media lies.
The politicians lie.
We all lie.

Because we want power, sex, and money.
Because we want respect.
Because we want love.
Because we want to belong, not to be left alone.

Lies lubricate social life.
Lies negotiate the peace and start the wars.
Lies allow us to sleep at night.
In the morning, lies allow us to get up and go on.

We cannot stop lying and believing lies.
We are addicted to lies.
They keep the world at bay.
And lock us into the battered shelter of self-deception.

But what is there out there that frightens us so?
The indifferent universe.
And people in a zero sum game.
A game only one of us can win.
A cage fight to the end.

People claim to like us, to be our friend, even to love us.
But they just need warmth against the cold.
And we need a companion by the fire.
When the fire goes out we are alone again.

We seek.
We weep.
We wish.
We fail.

In desperation we come to the communal fire.
To whoop with the tribe.
To pump ourselves up for violence.
Against the others who otherwise we would love.

We are frail beasts.
Evolved from creatures that ate or got eaten.
We awoke with consciousness one day and pain became suffering.
Then we all desperately sought a lie that would make everything all right.


I was seven years old, the age of reason.
The age when for the very first time sin becomes possible.
Even necessary.

When I made my First Confession, I had to find a sin.
To prove I had the capacity to reason.
Or rather the common human capacity to have reason overridden by desire.

It’s hard to sin when you’re seven, at least back then when children were still children.
I hadn’t done anything bad.
Not because I didn’t want to, but because my father wouldn’t let me.

No matter: For Catholics, wanting to do bad things was already a bad thing.
Wanting to do bad got you credit for doing it.
So I confessed to wanting to talk back.

I wonder now why thinking bad things gets you credit for being bad.
But thinking good things doesn’t get you credit for being good.
To get credit for being good, you actually have to do good things.

For teens, having impure thoughts was a common sin.
It was hard to tell the priest the number though.
There were too many and they were difficult to individuate.

There were venial and mortal sins.
Venial sins got you time in Purgatory.
Mortal sins got you an eternity in Hell.

Sex outside marriage was a mortal sin.
So was murder.
Letting kids starve all over Africa wasn’t.

It might seem that confession should have worked the other way round.
People should have told the priest what good things they had actually done.
“Father, I have not done any good at all, I have nothing to confess”.

A focus on sin leaves too many people locked in thought and not deeds.
It leads to spending too much time removing sin from one’s soul.
And not enough time removing harm and evil from the world.

Being good comes to mean avoiding sin and temptation.
Don’t do this and don’t do that.
But, would not God think well of a head full of dirty thoughts and a life full of good deeds?

Some Christians attack abortion clinics and that’s a deed.
Yet they want to cut social services and champion the death penalty.
They do good things for embryos, not for real people.

There is a paradox about good deeds: They can only make things better, not perfect.
Evil flourishes in perfection.
Too often many die so that all can live.

Of course there are good Christians, Christ was one.
He told us not to cling to riches or status.
And To DO what he DID.

Christ made the final exam open book.
He gave out the questions well before he demanded the answers.
For some reason he left abortion off the test.

Come, you blessed of My Father,
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you
From the foundation of the world;

For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave Me drink,
I was a stranger and you took Me in,

I was naked and you clothed Me,
I was sick and you visited Me,
I was in prison and you came to Me.

Assuredly, I say to you,
Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My Brethren,
You did it to Me.

So there are only six questions on the exam.
The exam you get at the End of Time.
Hungry thirsty strangers and naked sick prisoners, that’s all there is.

As we debate abortion and Christ in politics,
As we claim the U.S. is a Christian country, but that helping the poor is Communism,
I wonder about “Christians” who fail a test that was released ahead of time.

I visited a girlfriend in prison once.
I have unclothed more people than I’ve clothed.
But unlike “Christians” I don’t claim to have passed the final exam.

I don’t worry anymore about whether I am a good Christian.
The exam questions have settled that.
Old now, though, I wonder whether what little good I thought I did was any good at all.

There is another exam I fear.
At the moment of death, when there is no reason left to lie even to yourself, you ask:
“What good did I DO?”


They look at me askance.
I would have thought it was “a skance”.
But that is why they look at me so.

I rarely heard fancy words at home.
Once I heard “pluralism” at the dinner table though.
Because my father read Hans Kung.

I only heard big words from theology books.
That’s all my father ever read.
He taught himself to read Teilhard de Chardin autodidactically

My father told me he was thrown out of school in the third grade.
For climbing a flag pole in Mississippi.
He left home at thirteen and got through the Great Depression working at hotels in Kansas City.

He joined the 82nd Airborne, parachuting into World War II.
Broke his collar bone on the drop into Normandy and fought on.
Only late in life, near death, would he finally talk about the horror of the war.

Overseas he met an English girl from Derby.
After the War he took her to a cabin in the wilds of the Uvas.
Wolves howled and she demanded to move to the city.

Before the War he had started a taxi company in San Jose.
He returned to take it back from thugs.
Battling them with machine guns in the yard.

He was the first in town to hire African-Americans,
And he refused service ever again to anyone who wouldn’t ride with them.
One day an African driver (not an African-American) who had not been driving long drove his cab into a plate glass window.

The store called to complain about the driver and the broken window.
They never got a cab again.
Dad had principles without nuances.

He wanted to choose a religion.
Pamphlets over-filled a drawer at home.
Like many uneducated people, he believed reading was a doorway to truth.

A Jesuit named Father Ring passed by the cab company each morning on his way to Church.
Each day Dad doffed his hat and said, “Good day, Father”.
Father Ring converted him to Catholicism and made his War Bride a bride again.

Dad petitioned Rome to annul a former marriage that had ended in divorce,
So he could marry Mom for “real” in the Catholic Church.
My identical twin brother and I, little boys dressed all in white, walked down the aisle throwing petals on the ground.

He developed a deep fondness for the Little St. Teresa and the Big one too.
Old as he was, he was an altar boy early each morning at Mass where the Carmelite nuns chanted, hidden behind a wall.
They could not venture out and spoke to visitors only from behind a wooden turnstile.

When my brother and I made our First Communion, we saw the nuns sitting in a bare room with cold iron bars.
They removed their veils so we could see their faces.
This was something they could do only for innocents making their First Communion.

I remember them still.
Frozen in time and place even then.
Old and young, virgins and innocents, they laughed and looked happy and well.

Dad thought we had looked on the faces of angels.
He would never see any of these women, women who he served for a lifetime,
Until he was on his death bed and they came to wish him well on his way to see the face of God.

When Dad died, Mom still went to the Carmelite Monastery for Mass.
One day in the courtyard she went off to watch a squirrel play in a tree.
Surprised I ran up to her and she gasped at the attention I had brought on her from others.

My mother hated public attention.
She could not stand to stand out.
When her life was drawing to a close, people stared at her in public while she fought the ill effects of an aneurism.

Like my mother, I have always hated people looking at me.
But when I ventured out,
They looked at me askance.

One day, Dad decided we would all go to Spain to trace the history of the Carmelites.
And a very long history it was.
Some said it started even before Christ, in the Holy Land on Mt. Carmel.

We visited my elderly grandmother in England first.
And my mother’s many brothers and sisters.
I had never seen my English Grandmother; in fact she is the only Grandparent I ever saw.

My brother and I showed up in cowboy hats and boots, sporting toy rifles.
We guarded the front door of the old red brick house.
And watched horse drawn carts deliver bottles of milk.

Grandma’s house had no refrigerator and no heat save from the kitchen stove.
She walked to town several miles each morning to buy the food for the day.
A small gray lady ambling with her bags to town, she lived a long long time.

Dad wanted to surprise Grandma with her first spaghetti dinner.
He went all over Derby looking for what turned out to be in England rare ingredients.
Grandma said it looked like worms and wouldn’t eat it.

For reasons I do not know, my Anglican relatives ate fish on Friday just like us Catholics.
They did not know why either.
And denied there was any Irish in their line despite suspicions about their name.

At night the house was frigid.
After a late supper of fish and chips wrapped in old newspaper, we ran upstairs as fast as we could from the warm kitchen through the icy house to bed.
God be praised, Grandma had placed a hot-water bottle under the stone cold bed clothes.

Derby was a village then.
Old red brick houses and horse-drawn carts on cobbled roads.
Grandma had an outhouse and no indoor plumbing.

When Mom was nearing death, sick of the modern world, she longed to return home to Derby.
To the Derby which she dreamed was there still.
We did not have the heart to tell her it was gone, transformed into an industrial slum.

Though Dad had fought the Fascists in the War, we went to the Fascist Franco’s Spain.
Franco was a Catholic who heard Mass each day.
For Dad, that meant he had a good soul.

The desk clerks at the hotel offered to pay my brother and me to talk to them in English.
They had learned British English and wanted to talk fast like us Americans.
Dad made us go down each night and talk for free.

The young bellhops knew no English and we knew no Spanish.
But they took us out each day to play with paper planes and such.
Language was no barrier for play.

We were surprised to see policemen stop all the cars and pedestrians to let us pass alone.
They asked us if they could take our picture in the middle of the road.
Finally, my Dad asked “Why?”

“We know who you are”, the policeman said.
My father said, “Who am I then?”
“You’re Eisenhower”.

The paper had said Eisenhower was visiting Spain.
Dad looked like Ike.
To this day there are pictures still on Spanish mantles of Eisenhower and his two fat twins.

As we walked the streets of Spain, Dad found the passing priests uncivil.
Each time he doffed his hat and said with a smile “Good day, Father”, they just walked by.
Not like the priests back home, not like dear old Father Ring.

One day, Dad had had it.
When an old priest walked silently by, Dad called out to him “What’s this?” “Why so rude? Why just walk by?”
The old priest stopped and said, “Who are you?” meaning “Who in the Hell are you?”

Dad said “I am Ernie Gee from San Jose California”.
The old priest just stopped and thought.
Then he said, “Do you know a Jesuit by the name of Harold Ring?”

The old priest and Father Ring had attended the same seminary together long ago in Rome.
They were old friends who had not seen each other ever since.
Dad said Father Ring had converted him.

The old priest and my father became fast friends.
They toured Spain together looking at churches and buying old statues.
The old priest sent a Christmas card each year thereafter.

Dad was searching for the true Carmelites.
The ones who went way back to the Saints Teresa and beyond.
But at convent after convent he heard tales of theological fine points.

Petty differences.
“Well, really, Mr. Gee we are not quite like that other house”.
It had been a forked and twisted path from old Mt. Carmel.

This was Old Europe and the Church after all.
For thousands of years Carmelites, both monks and nuns, had championed their own devotions.
Though they all reported to the Father General in Rome, there were nonetheless old and subtle differences.

Finally, Dad had had it (again).
Footsore and weary, he sought refuge in the sacristy of an old church.
Sitting on a bench he complained to us about “these Carmelites” in not so decent terms.

A monk came in tired too,
Unnoticed, he sat behind us.
Eventually he tapped my father on the shoulder.

He said, “I see you are unhappy with the Carmelites”.
“Who are you?” meaning “Who are you, for heaven’s sake?”
“I am Ernie Gee from San Jose, California”.

The monk said, “I am the Father General of the Carmelites,
I am here from Rome on a visit to Spain”.
They became fast friends and he sent a Christmas card each year thereafter.

We came home with lots and lots of slides.
My father, camera round his neck and family in tow, was what they then called “an Ugly American”.
Pushing across Old Europe with naïve faith and unabashed forwardness.

Little did we know how truly ugly Americans would later get,
When they were not fresh off the beaches of Normandy,
But policing the world in the name of “American Exceptionalism”.

Dad did not live all that long, he died at 52.
His people were Dust Bowl wanderers and they all died young.
An altar boy to the end, a series of heart attacks eventually felled him.

The Father General of the Carmelites in Rome cabled the nuns in California.
Make a habit and bury him as a Carmelite he said.
My brother and I, then in a monastery world ourselves, were allowed to attend his funeral where he lay in an open casket, in a monk’s habit, gone to join the long line of Carmelites where he belonged.

Finally, I ventured out, out to the modern world.
They looked at me askance.
And have ever since.

I would have thought it was “a skance”.
But that is why they look at me so.
I never heard fancy words at home.

Except that word “pluralism” which impressed me then even though I was quite young.
I lived in a closed world then and this magic word seemed to say there were plural worlds in one society. E pluribus unum, out of many, one, many devotions beyond my own.

I have lived a long time in that pluralistic society.
Its elites seem to live in as closed worlds as I once did.
They look at me askance.

Like my mother, I want to go home, but I know it’s gone.
I can still hear, but barely, the chanting of the nuns,
And see my father kneeling at the altar of their song.


Sadly, when you are old, enough is never enough.
Enough is less than you want.
More than you need.
But maybe enough is never enough even for the young.

An old folk tale has guest after guest come in.
Each asks if there is enough.
The gracious hostess always says, “There’s just enough” .
Enough never becomes less than enough.

Even for the wild young, enough runs out quickly.
For the old it runs out quicker still.
For the hostess enough is always just enough.
For me just enough is just too little.

If I have more than enough will others have too little?
Can some have more without others having less?
I get that less is more and moral,
If not everyone gets enough.

But not with wine.
Or food.
Or sex.
Or beauty.

Surely there is enough for all: Wine is not oil, we can grow grapes.
Food is not a gem, we can grow grain.
Sex only requires someone else and God knows there are plenty of them.
And beauty seems limitless.

But what of love?
Is there a shortage of that?
Can we grow love?
Is there enough–even more than enough–for every one?

Are we searching for love,
Searching even to love ourselves,
When enough is not enough?
Or is that a trite truth?

Is the truth in wine deeper?
That love is so rare,
We drink to wait and hope.
Until, if ever, enough is enough.

Fire at Night

Joe was a very old man in an old world.
He was fat and had thick glasses.
He wore all black.
And taught algebra.

He could barely see.
When I wrote my exam in pencil,
He couldn’t see it.
“Mr. Gee, you give me nothing, I give you nothing,” he wrote alongside my ‘F’.

He liked to sit at his old wooden desk,
And make the students chant my name as fast as they could.
“Jim Gee!”, “Jim Gee!”, “Jim Gee!”, they chanted while he pounded out each beat on the desk with his chalk bottle.
He liked that my name was short and you could say it fast.

We did algebra problems at the board.
He told us we must draw x’s one way and not the other.
I made my x wrong, the way the Nuns had told us to in grade school.
He said, “Mr. Gee, that’s not how we makes x’s here”.

I did it again and he covered me in chalk head to toe,
Pounding me slowly with a large dusty chalk eraser.
I have never made x’s any way since save his.
That’s mainly what I learned in Algebra class.

Larry was another very old man in the same old world.
He was tall but stooped and crippled, standing with the aid of two canes.
He wore all black.
And lectured from behind a wooden podium atop a stage.

We were afraid of him.
It was rumored that there was a blood stain next to the desk in his room.
I saw it once when I was called to see him, at least I think I did.
They said he had hit a wayward student with one of his canes.

In class, we sat in old wooden desks with chairs attached.
One day my friend Paul whispered to another student.
Larry dropped his canes and leapt from the stage,
Picked up the desk, with Paul in it, and carried it out the door,
And threw it into the courtyard below, Paul and all.

Of course we were all shocked.
I was shaking because I had thought Larry was coming for me.
None of us ever talked in class again.
And we believed all the more devoutly in the blood stain on the floor.

John was yet another very old man in that old world.
He was tall and absent minded.
He wore all black.
He taught two different classes
And carried a book with the names of his students in it everywhere.

He started each class by calling attendance from his book.
As he called each name, the designated student said “Yes”.
But John usually called the names from the other class.
We each said yes anyway and John went happily on.

One day John was on a roll, oblivious we were there.
He was talking about a story in the Bible.
He said, “If you squeeze an orange, what do you get?”
“Orange juice”.

Then he said, “If you squeeze a human being, what do you get?”
He stopped, said nothing more, and went on to something else.
Human being juice?
I didn’t know then, but I do know now, what he meant.

Bucky was a very old man too in that old world.
He was very frail.
He wore all black.
He called on each of us in turn to translate Greek out loud.

I honestly believed Bucky had known Plato.
He was that old.
He sat silently after we each recited our Greek.
And just wrote a grade we never saw in an old book.

I was no good at Greek.
So to pass the exams I just memorized the English.
And tried to line it up with whatever Greek showed up on the test.
It was easier than actually learning Greek.

On one exam, Bucky gave me an ‘A’.
He even wrote “Good job, Mr. Gee”.
But, then, he wrote, “It is odd that there is one more paragraph of English than there is of Greek”.
I had gone too far, missing where the Greek had actually ended.

A bonfire raged in the dark cloister.
Hormones raged as well in young male bodies around the fire.
Teens dressed all in black.
Very young men in a very old world.

It was Easter Eve late at night.
A vigil waiting for the Resurrection.
We went to Midnight Mass.
And then drank hot chocolate together in the old large drafty refractory.

That world is long dead.
And it will have no resurrection.
It died when the fire went out.
An old man myself now, in the Dark Night I seek kindling I cannot find.


Once, long ago, I wrote about a vampire.
Now I am a vampire.

Vampires can live forever.
Eventually they live so long they have no home.
Everything familiar has long disappeared.
They can barely recall the world in which they were born.
Some of them long for death.

All of us can be vampires now.
It used to take hundreds of years for a vampire to grow weary.
Now it takes less than a mortal’s life.
One lifetime is now a thousand years of change.

Not all vampires grow weary, I suppose.
Some of us old people want to live forever.
Some of us are asking biology for eternal life.
Some of us want science to heal frayed telomeres and cure old genes.

When I was quite young, I warped in time.
I went back hundreds of years.
You could do that then.
It took guts or fear or wanting to leave home.
Ironic now, isn’t it? This wanting to leave home.

In the warp, there was no radio.
No TV.
No newspapers.
No magazines.
No phones.
No family.

No girls or women either.
In fact, they gave me a little black book that said:
“All girls and women have lust in their hearts”
(This I found out much later was sadly not true).

We rose at 6:05 and went to bed at 9:05.
We slept on straw.
We ate bad food.
We ate in silence listening to one of our kind read bloody stories about torture.
I took my turn to read.
Sometimes we secretly waited for the delivery man and begged for bread.

The library stopped in the 18th century.
Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza were banned.
So they weren’t there.
I found them, secretly, hidden, not in their own books.
St. Anselm had turned me on to them.
Though he didn’t know it.

I did once escape the warp world.
I hid under a blanket guiltily reading Kant in a very strange place.
San Francisco.
Forbidden fruit.
Kant, too, was banned.

It was slow going, reading Kant.
Many years later I read Kant again in a philosophy course in college.
I went to my professor and said I could not be a philosopher.
I just read too slowly.
He asked me how many pages of Kant or Hegel I could read an hour.
I said two or three max.
He said “You are reading too fast”.

I saw both God and the Devil in the time warp world.
God, two or three times.
The Devil, only once.
Actually I did not really see the Devil.
Someone else did and told me.
To be accurate, he was more heard than seen scratching at a window.

I discovered the Cuban Missile Crisis when I found an old wind-blown page of a newspaper in our forest.
It said there was a crisis.
There might be Nuclear War, it said.
I had no idea how it had all turned out.
Perhaps the world had been destroyed, save for our forest.
I looked for a later page.
I couldn’t find one.

When I was very young I had a textbook called “The Evil Tree”.
It was a Catholic book.
It said Communism was the Work of the Devil.
Communism would Never Die.
Russia was the Eternal Evil Empire.
We needed Eternal Vigilance.
Now Communism is gone.
The Evil Empire is Dust.
So is the Catholic Church, trapped in a tar pit of its own making.

In one fell swoop I went from the time warp world into the 60’s.
It was a bigger warp to the 60’s than it had been from my home to the warp world.
I walked right onto a Sunny beach in a Sunny college town.
There were long-haired hippies, surfers, and beautiful girls in bikinis the size of napkins.
When they weren’t wearing nothing at all at Nude-Ins Against the War.

I came on the scene wearing a black suit, a stiff white shirt, a thin tie, and a crew cut.
My small British mother was with me.
The hippies, the surfers, the girls stared.
Not hostilely.
It was, after all, the 60’s.
They were very nice to me.

The surfers came to trust me with their girlfriends when they were out cheating on them.
They knew I didn’t know what to do.
I bought a book about women’s bodies.
It was all line drawings.
I could make no sense of it at all.
I have always been bad with maps.
That’s why today I believe in Doing before Reading.
That’s why I believe in gaining images and actions before words.
Reading bodies before reading about bodies.

The Philosophy Department Head asked what I had come to study.
I said Metaphysics: Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza.
That’s what you get when you ban things.
He said no one did Metaphysics any more.
That was all just History now.
I had arrived too late.
I had really wanted to make a contribution to Metaphysics.

I asked what THEY did now.
He said:
Analytic philosophy.
Linguistic philosophy.
Wittgenstein. Austin. Ryle.

I admitted then I had not been able to get into any classes anyway.
They were all full.
I had failed to mail back some little cards.
I hadn’t known what the cards were for.
So I had stood in long lines to get courses.
But the courses were all filled by the time I got to the front.
And I had no priority.
I had been in the warp world too long.

The Department Head said all that was left was his Plato class.
But it was a graduate class.
Not for undergraduates, especially not new ones.
I was desperate.
“Could he help me?”
I begged.
“Well, have you ever read Plato?”
Sheepishly, I said: “I have only read him in Greek”.

I thought you were supposed to have read him in English.
It somehow seemed more modern. Not time warped.
In the time warp world we read Greek and Latin.
We also ate meals silently, listening to stories about torture, as I said.

He said, “You’re in”.
And we read Plato in English.

That ocean place and time is now long gone.
A bank got burned.
And in America you don’t burn banks.
Not even way back then.

Soldiers filled the town with guns, gas canisters, and dump trucks.
A helicopter and a dump truck once made me hop on one leg back to my room.
I was caught in the dark after curfew.
A light shone down on me from the sky.
A voice spoke out of the light.
It told me to STOP.
I thought it was God, for the third or fourth time.
But it was the helicopter.
It told me to wait.
A dump truck full of policemen with masks and shields and guns came up behind me.
The helicopter told me to start hopping.
I did.

The town in which I was born is long gone now too.
Once despised, it found love when it discovered Silicon.
Those of us born there could no longer afford to live there.
It had become fancy and we had not.

I became a university professor because the time warp world had disappeared.
The old stone buildings were torn down.
The forest was leveled.
Concrete was poured
A suburb was born.
The time warp world was buried underneath it.
There was a sign that said it had been there.
The sign may be gone now too.
Once it took hundreds or thousands of years to bury worlds.
Now one lifetime is more than enough.

The university was the closest thing I could find to the time warp world.
In the time warp world they told me that if anyone earned a PhD, he would lose his FAITH
(Remember, no women, so no pronoun problem).
I earned my PhD in another Sunny place.

Once, in graduate school, my main professor left to take another job.
Her name was Joan.
I felt bereft.
The new one was not coming for a semester.
His name was Tom.
I needed someone to study with.
Someone as good and special as Joan.
Not just anyone.

I shared my concern with the Department Head.
Her name was Clara.
She told me to pick anyone in the world.
She told me to consult with Joan.
Clara would bring whomever I chose to me.
So I could work with them while I waited for Tom.

I picked a famous professor from Paris.
His name was Richie.
Clara called him in Paris right in front of me.
When Richie came, I was the only student in both his classes.
One was a small seminar.
I had to give the first student presentation.
There were no other student presentations after that.
The other class was in an old large lecture hall.
Richie lectured from a lectern on a high wooden stage.
I sat alone in the hall, near the front, way down below.
Richie stopped every once in a while, looked down, and asked whether there were any questions.
Often there were.

The University is gone now too.
It is just another bank.
The ratio is not one to one.
The professors are Automatic Teller Machines, with fees.

And America is gone too.
Oh, I know I am not supposed to call it that.
I know there is a South America.
And a Central America.
Even a Canada.
But America is what we called it back then.
When it was still there.


I once wrote about the soul in an academic book.
The book is old now and out of print.
A Cambridge Puritan told me the soul was not a fit academic topic.
In any case, the soul itself is old now and out of print.

When I was young, the soul was pictured as a milk bottle.
The bottle was partly white with grace (milk) and partly black with sin.
If the milk ran out, you were filled with sin.
Mortal Sin: Big sins which can send your soul to hell.
Now I know you’re just empty.

Dualism died sometime in the 20th century.
Descartes said Mind and Body were radically different.
But they are the same.
The mind is a flow of chemicals and electricity across networked neurons.

Alas, the system of networked neurons and its connections and settings is complex.
It is more complex than the universe.
There are more connections and settings in the brain than there are stars in the universe.
When Dualism collapsed, the Mind did not get any less mysterious.
It got more mysterious.
But it became the mind, not Mind anymore.

When I was a young teen, I read Descartes out loud pacing in my small back yard.
In those days, I pronounced his name Des-CAR-tes, not DE-cart.
I had never heard it said.
My family was not (capital “E”) Educated.

Des-CAR-tes thrilled me.
Such BOLD thoughts.
To figure out the whole world in PURE THOUGHT!
Cogito Ergo Sum; “I think, therefore I am”.

Later, a professor told me a better translation, philosophically, was:
“I doubt, therefore I am”; Dubito, Ergo Sum.
Now I know a better translation, philosophically, is:
“I am because I say so”.
It is one of the few things that are true just because you say it.

Some people used to think Mind and Soul were the same thing.
When it was Mind and not mind.
Others didn’t.
But now that the mind is chemicals, it is no longer Mind.
And the (little “m”) mind can’t be the Soul.
Because the Soul isn’t chemicals.
Though I think it is the (little “s”) soul, really, and not the Soul.
After all, even God has become god.

One of my favorite poems is “Parting”.
It is a poem by Emily Dickinson.
I once taught poetry, even though I had never read any.
Except for T.S. Eliot late at night on a cold stairwell in a time warp world:

My life closed twice before its close;

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.

I once lived in Emily’s town.
I have been in her house.
Emily had an interesting take on religion.
She wrote her poems in the rhythm of the Protestant Hymnal.
But they are heresy through and through.

Emily’s poem—I like to call her Emily, since I once wanted to date her—is about the soul
(Yes, I know Emily was a lesbian. I expected as much back then.
Had I had the choice of what to be, my first choice would have been to be a hippo.
Human is way down on my list.
But if I had to be human, I would have wanted to be a lesbian).

Emily’s poem is about the soul, not the Soul.
That is one reason it’s heresy.
That is one reason it’s modern.
Or, maybe it is just about parting being such sweet sorrow, as Juliet said to Romeo.
Perhaps, though, Emily’s point is that “parting is such sweet sorrow” is about the soul.

Life closing has always intrigued me.
It intrigues me ever more now that I am old.
Any human knows, as Emily says, that we humans can die more than once.
When I was a teenager, I knew Emily’s lesson down deep in my soul.
Then I had strong feelings.
Things really truly passionately actually mattered.
Life was tasty and full of salt.
Today I am on a low salt diet.
Nonetheless, I can still die.

Emily is offering a proof of the soul.
So, her poem is, in a sense, an academic text.
A treatise on the soul.
There are two ways to die.
One can happen only once:
When the body dies.
One can happen many times:
When the soul dies.

The soul, unlike the body, can suffer mortal damage and live to die again.
The soul dies when the milk bottle is empty.
It can fill and empty again.
Emptiness isn’t sin.
It’s the death of the soul, the emptying of the bottle.
It is what the mystic St. John of the Cross called “The Dark Night of the Soul”.

I write this in my home town, Sedona, Arizona.
Red rocked Sedona is the New Age Capital of America.
I write in a coffee shop where New Age is the standard language.
Here is some New Age language I found on something called “The”:

”Dark night of the soul” sounds like a … much to be avoided experience.

Yet … seekers on the road to higher consciousness will pass through the dark night.

In fact, they may pass through several until they experience the … joy of their true nature.

Many seekers would encourage the dark night experience if they knew what it was.

However, to one engaged in the dark night, suffering seems unending.

We humans do have a nature (“… joy of their true nature”).
Human nature.
Though liberal academics don’t like it.
But we do not have individual natures, like “Jim’s nature”.
There isn’t a “true Jim” to be discovered or even made.
What you discover in the Dark Night of the Soul is not your true self.
But one of them. Perhaps.
There are no guarantees even in the dark.

St. John of the Cross was a mystic, though he was never in Sedona.
He too had nice things to say about the night even if it was dark:

Oh, night that guided me,

Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,

Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,

Lover transformed in the Beloved!

These Dark Nights of the Soul, Emily’s closings, our empty bottles:
They keep getting connected to loving, leaving, being, transforming.
Emily told us, the death of the soul (a huge, hopeless to conceive closing) is all we know of heaven.
For her, too, the night could be good for the soul.

But Emily also says it is all we need of hell.
We NEED hell.
That is a BOLD idea.
We need hell to have heaven.
Hell is when the soul dies.
Hell is a time not a place.
If you cannot bear to lose something, it is hell to lose it.
Heaven to have it.
If you can bear to lose it, it is neither heaven to have nor hell to lose.

Heaven burns brightest when hell is on the horizon.
Once again Emily drives me to William.
To Sonnet 73 where death is “the glowing of such fire”:

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,

Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.

This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long

Our soul dies when what we cherish leaves, parts, dies.
Such huge, hopeless to conceive events are the ultimate trackers of the human soul.
So is dreading them, often in the dark of night, a mini-death.
Our bottle is empty then.
All the milk is gone.
But we just might find more milk.
Though in the dark night we don’t think so.
There is hope until the fire is out.

What if we stay empty?
What if we can find nothing more to cherish?
In my old days, when I was young, there was one and only one sin that could not be forgiven.
It was called the sin against the Holy Ghost (later known as the Holy Spirit).
It was suicide, the absence of hope.

But it always seemed to me, even back then, that the worst sin was denying others,
Or not supplying others,
Which is to say,
Making it hard or impossible for them to find things to cherish.

Our soul is the part of us that can die more than once.
It is the part of us that can come back to life.
Like vampires recovering from their wounds in the dark.
It is, as Emily says, our immortality.

The soul is not chemical, because it is not inside us.
It is a bond between us and something else, something cherished.
What is cherished on the other end of the bond is not in us.
When the bond breaks—or is about to break—we see what we cherish in its clearest brightest light.
That’s what William said.
And we die. Our life closes.
That’s what Emily said.
Then, perhaps, it opens again.

It seems to me that the soul IS a fit academic topic.
How can we cherish the world and others before it is too late?
How can we give all people hope when they have died for a time?
How can we fill their bottles again with milk?
And won’t that fill ours, too?

Big Experience

I have written a lot about experience.
We used to think that the mind was made of rules and calculations.
But it is made first and foremost of patterns found in lived experience.
We use these patterns as bets and guides for future decisions and actions.

The old scout sits in the stands.
“I’ve done this for 30 years”.
“I know’em when I see ‘em”.
“That guy’s a keeper”.

Now a quant runs some numbers.
Numbers originally dreamed up by amateur baseball fanatics.
The numbers say he’s not a keeper.
And he’s not.

Alan Greenspan says “I’ve been doing this for 40 years”.
“I’ve run this economy for a long time”.
“I know my markets”.
“I know business and business is the business of America”.

The global economy tanked in 2008, thanks to Al and US.
Alan said “I never saw it coming”.
In fact, he had advised people to trade in their fixed mortgages for balloon payments.
He had said the price of houses would never fall.

Alan went to Congress after the collapse.
“Nothing in my 40 years of economics told me this would happen”.
“I believed that free markets always give rise to the best outcomes”.
“I believed CEOs would never purposely harm the companies they run”.

But Alan! There were no free markets.
You deregulated them.
Frost said you cannot plan tennis without a net.
Alan, you removed the referees and were surprised the thugs cheated.

But Alan! The CEO’s companies were “companies” no more.
You thought a company made something that made profit.
But now companies are just holds for quick bets on their stock price.
Bet now and get out quick before customers find out no one cares what the company makes.

The quant guys with their Big Data ran the numbers.
Alan, they knew it was a House of Cards and it was all going to fall.
The smart guys on the Street took the short bets and got vastly richer yet.
The “little” guys saw their houses, families, and lives blow away.

Karl Rove fell apart on Fox News when Ohio was called for Obama.
“It can’t be so”, he said.
“I’ve done this for many many years”.
“I was Bush’s Brain”.
“I know there are Red Votes still out there. I just know it”.

But Karl missed the Puerto Ricans moving into the Red county in Florida.
He missed demographic changes that had been predicted and in motion since the 1970’s.
He missed facts of human nature:
Trying to stop people from doing something (i.e., voting) makes them want to do it more.

Insulting people doesn’t make them want to vote for you.
You can’t buy votes unless you buy the voters.
Money to ad companies and television channels won’t cut it.
And you don’t buy the voters by knocking down their wages.

The quant guys ran their algorithms and massaged their data seven ways to Sunday.
They said here is how the election will go.
And that is just how it went.
And the people on Fox looked like someone had killed their dog.

Nate Silver called the election.
He started as an amateur baseball stats guy.

Numbers are dangerous, of course.
Algorithms on computers now buy and sell stocks on the fly at warp speed.
There is the danger they will all get in synch and sink the market.
Getting in synch is what complex systems often do, like fireflies.

But numbers are benignly indifferent, too.
They don’t care that the catcher is bald.
They don’t care that Puerto Ricans moved in.
They don’t care that the Alan and Karl are powerful, elite, old, and sad.
Numbers are humane or, at least, tolerant.

The problem is that experience isn’t what it used to be.
Experts are people with credentials who have had lots of experience.
But even a vast amount of experience is a small sample in the face of Big Data.
And credentials are for being good at one narrow thing.
Yet the important stuff today is all about many complex interactions.
Today, the expert’s one thing is soon gone or vastly changed anyway.
Furthermore, amateurs on the Web can now beat experts at their own game.

But, alas, experience is the foundation of human learning and intelligence.
We build our knowledge on the basis of patterns we have found in our experience.
We make our choices on the basis of patterns we have found in our experience.
No experience, no knowledge—we are left with only words floating free from the world.

But now that Big Data trumps experience.
We can all look like someone killed our dog.
Big Data can level the proud and humble alike.
But numbers do have their limits.
They can predict what will happen,
But they cannot say what should happen.

To trump Big Data—to tame it for the good—we need Big Experience.
Yours and mine alone will no longer do.
We need to pool our experiences.
To get diverse minds and souls in synch, like fireflies.

To make everyone count.
To seek out the mutant, the odd man out.
To find the datum Big Data will never find,
Because it is just the odd thing one person saw or felt,
A thing too small to see and too big to miss.

On the savannah, as we evolved, human experience was usually veridical because the world was small.
But today our world is big and out experiences of it is small and limited.
Our unaided minds—no matter how expert we are—are no good anymore.
Big Data will always show us the world does not fit our preconceptions.

But Big Data will face the same problem the Social Sciences have always faced.
Humans can make things true by willing and doing them.
They can change the Data.
Unlike an atom they pay attention to what is said about them.

The question is: What should we make?
We can make more than ever before with Fab Labs soon to be as prevalent as computers at home.
We can make change through networks and social media outside the strictures of institutions.
We will soon be able to make worlds as easily as we can now destroy them.

But what will we make?
Will we save the planet only to make hell on earth?
Perhaps even by trying to make heaven on earth?
When you can make old guys cry, what do you do next?

Collective Intelligence
Wisdom of the Crowd
Crowd Sourcing
Synchronized Minds
Shared Minds
Networked Intelligence
Distributed Intelligence
It’s all Big Experience, the mental analogue of Big Data
Let’s hope it is wiser than our savannah minds have been.


We lived in a little red house in the thick woods next to the fancy golf course
The grass in the backyard was tall and deeply over-grown.
So I got a Spanish goat.
He jumped the fence and ate the grass on the green instead.

They took him away.
And I had to rescue him from the pound.
They had said they had no goat.
But there he was between the pig and the peacock.

I took him home in the back seat of the car.
He chewed my hair all the way home.
People rolled down their windows to ask why I had a deer in the backseat.
At home he demanded crackers and broke the water bed.

He had to go back where I got him from.
He would not stop baa-ing unless he was in bed with us.
He missed the ducks that had been his friends.
And went back to be with them.

The grass grew uncontrollably.
I missed him dearly.
Did he miss me?
Like he missed the ducks?

I got an honor and went away for the summer.
Tracy stayed in the little red house.
When I came back there was a semi in the driveway.
And a man bouncing a basketball in the house.

Tracy said it was ok.
I should stay.
But the guy came back.
And men called at night to see if she wanted to go to Mexico.

I dropped out of school.
I couldn’t read a thing.
Facts no longer interested me.
I wanted to write a novel.

I wrote just one sentence.
Really just a part of one.
“She had chocolate eyes”
That’s all I could get.

When I was away I had seen a girl watching television in a dorm late at night.
She had chocolate eyes.
When the last show was over and we were finally alone, I asked her out.

We went to a lake.
In a forest.
And sat still.
I was thrilled.

I asked her to sleep with me when we got back.
She said yes, but she had to make a phone call first.
She called her boyfriend in Wyoming.
He was home, so though she wanted to, she couldn’t, she said.

At the end of the summer I drove her home across country.
I left her with her boyfriend at a used car lot.
I cried all the back to California.
And dedicated my thesis to her.

We were young then.
I am old now.
But she is the same in my mind.
I have never seen her since.

I first saw Tracy from afar.
Locking her bike.
I asked myself what sort of man gets a woman like that.
Then I met her by surprise working where I worked.

Though I had no prior experience, I pursued her.
She had just broken up with a boyfriend.
It was too early to get involved, she said.

I had no idea what to do.
So I used a movie I had seen.
I said let’s see how close we can get naked without touching.
To this day I am shocked and grateful it worked.

It was my first time.
Late, I know.
I was late because they told me Sex was Sin.
But it was more complicated than they said.

It seems a grace now.
And seemed a glory then.