My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the experiment and the journey that is The United States of America. I am honored and humbled to stand before you to add a line in that story, to begin, with you, the work of writing the next chapter. Let us start this chapter talking about success.

American individualism will tell you that my success has been born of my upbringing in a small town, with a father who worked in a used book store and a mother who drove a school bus. Both my campaign and the American narrative would lead you to believe that my success in being on this dais today came from my ability to overcome obstacles, learn lessons, and with a uniquely American spirit, carry myself across this land to meet and inspire a generation of citizens to new levels of participation and support. But, this is an incomplete myth.

What has also led to my success was my safety. Success was born from playing in a front yard with no fence and no fear of being run over, gunned down, mistreated or murdered. Success came from a warm meal in the evening after being allowed to wander all day. Success came from having big, incomplete, childish dreams, and being told to keep imagining and refining them. Success came from making friends and choosing family and never once wondering if they did or didn’t love me. Success came from being able to marry and divorce and remarry whomever I chose, never once being told my choices were unacceptable. Success came from trying and failing and being taught to fail better. Success came from getting sick and breaking bones, but never having to worry for my very existence. Success came from the community and state and country in which I was protected and raised.

I didn’t see, I don’t think any of us see, the womb of protection that surrounds us. The parents, the officers, the firefighters, the military, the regulations, the environment, the atmosphere, the magnetic fields of the earth. None of us notice these immunities until they are gone, or until they turn on us. Too many children find out early that their parents are not protectors. Too many teens discover that the police do not always defend and serve. Too many in other countries bear the wrath of militaries. Too many are stripped of their environment. Too many don’t have clean water or nutritious food. Too many have been told to walk, talk, look and act a certain way, that if they wander outside some narrowly acceptable line they will die. We all live beneath a thinning atmosphere of our own making.

The greatest gift this country has been blessed with is two large oceans protecting our coasts, and companion nations to the north and south. We have been allowed, like I was allowed, to experiment and discover and play. This has led us to be leaders in the world, to think bigger thoughts, to imagine and implement fantastic ideas. For, those whom we insure their safety become our leaders, our thinkers, our inventors, our artists, our entrepreneurs. This is why the great majority of those who make up our government have degrees from prestigious universities. Because these institutions ensure, for a time, the space and safety to incubate new ideas.

All of us elected last November were rewarded for our ability to raise funds and supporters, to build a coalition of people willing to not only vote for us, but to campaign for us. It will be our inclination to answer that support with a willing ear, with our precious time, and with concern for the issues of those who sent us. But I ask you today to also look forward, to decide where the next generation of world-changing Americans will come from, to spend some of your political capital and intellectual prowess on figuring out how to provide safety for our people.

Every time a woman walks down the street unsure of where the next attack or catcall will come from, she is not thinking about how to lift up a nation. Every time a person of color is followed in a store, they are wondering what they have done wrong, rather than wondering how to invent better products. Every time a child imagines what awful thing might happen when they head home from school, they are not thinking about how to ace their homework.

There is a reason that very few people, nearly none, who stand at this podium have grown up in the cities, the population centers, of our democracy. It is because living in a city means constantly looking over your shoulder, watching your back, worrying about where the next danger might come from. All of those mental resources that could have been used to lift us up as a species, spent, instead, just to keep themselves alive.

We have built into our democracy safeguards to keep people protected. It is a central tenet of our beliefs, that the individual left to explore and learn and grow without needing to fight everyday for survival, can uplift their family, their community, this nation, this world. I look forward to our debates and legislation and compromise and solutions that further protect the American people. I will sign into law any bill that I believe will keep people alive, and safe, and free.

If we can think not just about those who brought us here, but also about those who are worried today for their life and their livelihood, if we can lift that burden off their shoulders, just a bit, than we have ensured our next great generation. If we can keep our people safe, give them space, allow them to experiment and explore, they will honor us with their support.

God bless us and protect us. And God bless the United States of America.

The Space

It was an argument when I was a kid.
After a period at the end of a sentence.

Does anyone even care anymore?
The distance between this thought and the next.

Between the harsh word and the retort.
Between the forbidden word and the fist.

Between the impulse and the kiss.
Between the dump of adrenaline

and the inevitable reaction.
Can we make a space? One or two.

Breathe long enough to let our intellect intrude.
Space for important questions?

Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
Is it true?

Is my life at risk?
Is this pain or presence?

Space before we table the debate.
Space before we smack the insect.

Could we let it live?
Space we used-to find in nature.

Between our fight and our flight.
Between our lungs and our legs.

An inch we can inhabit betwixt our anger.
Between our swirling moods and our spirals.

In concert with our questions. Unresolved.
Can I have just a minute? To be. Before I do?


I am his, mom.
His arms. His hair.
His aorta. His aroma.

This animas-gizmo
transmits charisma, charm,
thirst, origins, antics…

(tho’ not racism, scorn, or machismo)

This miscasting, it stings.
This arson, it harms.
This scorn…

I, his cartoonish match in this gnostic saga.
This shaman. This artist. I am
his scars. His shortcomings.

I am his stoic grin.

His mirth. His aching.
His anchor. His thirst.
His mast. His tonic.

Can I stomach him? Room him among
atoms, tarots, ghosts, traits?
His rash. His itch. This chariot.

I am his, mama. No iota to omit.

This is a version of a Beau Présent, a poetry form created by Georges Perec and passed on by Carol Peters, where you use solely the letters of a person’s name to write a poem honoring them. I have modified it here to use the letters of my own name to honor my brother, Greg Henneman.

These Dogs

I’ve mused before that my dogs are Buddhas, a not original idea which I copped from Mark Doty about how they live permanently in the here and now, in this very beautiful moment. But, they are also the rascal voices of my head; imps, goblins, the sweet fur incarnate of my monkey-brain.

One wants to be loved, not in the ethereal sense of accepting affection as an equal creature of God’s creation, but as the schlub at the end of the bar who stuffs his wet nose between a pack of women out for a night of dancing. Loved meaning rubbed.

One wants to play, to be distracted from its animal nature by a hunk of plastic so shaped as to illicit the desire to gnash and gnaw and pretend this false thing is a helpless creature built to fit neatly into its jaw.

One wants what everyone wants, what anyone else has, what they can only have at the cost of others. Pure jealousy, and rage, and greed. Willing to stomp on the desires of others to fill the gaps inside, permanently broken.

One wants sex. One wants food. One wants to sit so close as to make sure you have no chance to engage any other morsel of the entire universe.

One wants to interrupt. One growls at ever being interrupted. One wishes it could scratch out its eyes. One wants to cure every itch with more scratching. One with licking.

One is all anger. One is all shame. One is afraid that when its stops being adorable– cute, cuddly, sweet like a puppy, stops loving you unconditionally despite your flare ups and your flaws– that it will be left out in the cold to fend for itself.

These dogs, they never leave. They follow me from room to room, never more than a few feet away. From couch, to bed, to desk. From work to play. From city to city. From youth to age. These brute-voices, these mutt-rumblings. These incessant, relentless beasts.


J., the wisest man I’ve known, told me once that he wanted two women, one to write about, and one he could take care of. He talked about being dedicated more to a place than to people, or was it people rather than place. I can never remember.

I’ve tried both, loving the location, its pizzerias, its theaters, the deep and tangled forest beneath my feet, refusing to leap when others leave. I’ve tried eschewing place for person. Packing up the car at a whim and moving along with my love.

Neither state brought me joy, married in two, schooled in four, alive and in love in at least seven more. Neither state brought me peace.

I have been a river, that misnomer noun which is in fact a verb, river being neither the passing water, nor the bed, nor the fish, nor the waves, but the moving only and always. I have been the droplet that becomes a stream, melted off some mountain, trapped in some eddy, rushing along the rocky spoor, always missing something.

While rocks know rocks across the shore, and the sunrise is a conspiracy of sky in concert with the well-known leaves of the trees, I have been all about moving. Nothing for too long. Not with the waterfall ahead, nor the exhilaration of falling, the crash of flirtation. All about slipping over beds of leaves, lifting silt, polishing the edges off stone.

I have seen the darkness no light can penetrate, and been, again, the lifted air. Committed to cycle, to process, to forever and nothingness. Nourishment and weapon. Cool and boiling. Carved a canyon with no apparent plan. Just dripping.

Some say we come from a comet or stars. Some from the hot plasma of the beginning. A bond unbreaking.

J. would call bullshit on all of this, and wax philosophical about the importance of proper condiments on french fries. He always seemed to be staying on a track towards something, towards love, a commitment to an art, or an anesthetic, or a city . While I felt like it was best to keep evaporating.

The Mechanism

Fear nothing more than the focused, for they will be the ones to carry the great leaps and bounds of the species to fruition with their ability to see the distracted rest of us as mere tools to achieve whatever end on which they are fixated and to ignore those things which so fascinate and keep us simple and sated and utterly distracted, breasts and celebrity and kitten-pictures and money.

There is a mechanism built into the system, meant as a sort of antibotic to keep the disease of consciousness from spreading too quickly across whatever swath of reality we have the potential to inhabit and, therefore, tarnish, taint, and destroy, that dominion of time-space into which our forebears have disappeared leaving us behind in pools of our own sarcasm, irony, and multi-faceted misery.

See the rise of computing power and the rise of autism and the rise of psilocybin and the rise of Buddhism as the counterbalances to the increasing abundance of social networks and memes and broadcast video outlets and vlogs and set top boxes and pornography, as if there is a set amount of distraction and focus available in balance and as we increase one the other comes along to thwart any eventual victory.

The angel-brain knows that the Dalai Lama is correct when he suggests that the best way to deal with most of the global crises is for more folks to commit themselves to lives of voluntary celibacy, to become monks and nuns to any religion and spend their energies feeding the hungry and blanketing the cold and spending our off hours in deep meditation so that we can see through the illusion to an objective reality.

Beware of those who would create a product that does one thing well, or a small set of things, and as soon as possible corrupt that thing with its single-focus-engine into a swiss army knife of usability being sure to add on features like multitasking and to connect it as soon as possible with games and fart noises and the aggregation and delivery of data from entertainment, sports, and political sources.

There is nothing so sacred as our religions and our politics, our countries and our families, no topic we can broach which will so keep us entwined as the principles enshrined in our founding documents which provide for us an outline of the mechanism, endowed by our creator, which allows us to spend our days demarcating imaginary boundaries between ourselves and ourselves.

Fear those who would suggest, or worse yet, put in our hands and in our heads a way to unscramble the structures that hold this whole thing up, the mechanism that keeps us moving at this snail’s pace, what with our thoughts like those mysterious sub-atomic particles blinking in and out of existence at seemingly random intervals just when we were about to grasp the big and untenable topics, the God particles.

Make it illegal. Make it unseemly. Call it dangerous. Make it unprofitable. Label it offensive. Encourage wallowing. Legalize those substances which slow you down, kill you off, keep you addled, leave you addicted. Never forget. Do this because the disease of consciousness can only be contained. The veil is not far away and not heavy to lift. Kill young those who would open it. Label them as entrepreneurs or entertainers. Drive them mad. Co-op, neuter, or vilify that madness. Make them inaccessible, iconoclastic, obscure, different.

Who Kills With A Gun or A Review of the Unbelievers

I wonder sometimes where the massacre would have started, where people would have hid, which teacher would have stood like a shield and which might have tripped me. The voice of that belittled fifteen year old wonders still about the logistics of gym class, with its locker storage and sheer number of targets, its embarrassment and irony and meaning, versus recess, where the fearful could have run while the hunter hunts.

A fun game is to watch those of certain qualities berate that quality, the fake decrying a lack of genuineness, the vicious lamenting cruelty, well-made-up beauties upset that people notice only their bodies, the gay homophobic congressman.

The righteous are the ones who allow themselves to be unequivocal.

My voices. The kid with the crayons, the sneak at Christmas, the dumped in college, the broken professional, the ogre throwing hands through walls. If I listen close I can still hear the titter of a five year old making angels in the snow.

Rage is just a volume.

When you film a documentary about the openness of scientists, about their willingness to have everything they know proven wrong, you might want to cast scientists who are open, who don’t unequivocally know, who might be wrong.

Fox News is reporting the desire of people in remote areas of the world to spread a message of hate. They have sent a camera crew to broadcast their findings.

I have loved those who would not have loved me back no matter the convincing. I have seen mountains too big to consume. I do not think we can raise the dead, or live forever, or outrun our own egos. These are not engineering problems.

I remember learning to tie my shoes.

The scientists are upset at the believers for not allowing us to admit (and then solve) climate change, upset at the mischaracterization of evolution, upset that an archbishop would make a poor biologist.

The scientists created climate change. Scientists built the nuclear reactors of the industrial age, the predator drone, the musket, the trebuchet. They broke it.

Your film helps little more than a wet-whilly.

The kid never gets to the point of deciding. Sometimes it’s a hallway in between periods. Sometimes its with some form of gas. Sometimes the gun has a silencer.

Their argument is that religion keeps us dumb, that it prevents the whole race from moving forward. Think of the wars fought in the names of Gods. Think of the wars won by those with better weapons.

It’s about hearts and minds. It’s about beliefs and problem solving. It’s also about capability.

Answer me this: if kids are cruel, how should we live as a species? I’ll take any solution, from any quarter, if you can tell me how we stop a bully.

What Does It Take To Heal?

The challenge with capitalism is that it is a game of playing the angles. Any edge you can get, be it political, technological, parasitic, personal, or financial the system encourages. Any attempt to even the playing field, to inject some reasonableness is seen as taking away someone’s advantage, labeled as an affront to fairness, an attack on the system, called un-American. The irony is that even this objection is only a front, a tool to gain another edge.

After thirty-five years of having a crush on K., scrawling her name on the rock, carrying poems around in my head and my heart, lamenting some scene in a hallway in sixth grade, I let it go. It happened in an instant after reading she was chairman of the board of one organization and, of another, CEO. I could never have loved her in a way to make her life richer. What captain of industry should marry a fool committed to fawning over you, singing of your beauty daily?

I was taught, and learned, that running a store was about people, was about changing lives, was about pushing the human race and making the world a better place. I never gave a shit about stockholders, about P&L, about the RD coming this week who needed to be managed and wooed. My store always looked beautiful.

How about a tax based on success. At the end of the year we figure how much the government spent, how much each person is worth, and you pay your percentage. Total wealth of the US population, 10 trillion (hypothetical). Your net-worth, $2500 (assets minus debts). You owe .000025% of whatever we spent (not sure on the math there, nor the poetics).

The problem is I don’t have irrefutable evidence. Yet, even without it I’m convinced I could love you better. Convinced there is a solution. Convinced we do not need to be headed for oblivion just for playing the edges. I do things sometimes just to prove I am a better person.

What about a car that runs on wind-assist. All moving objects create resistance. Can’t we channel that through a tunnel that helps spin the front tires and recharges the battery, some sort of internal turbine. The more you’re assisted the faster you go.

A good idea is a good idea whether or not you can monetize it.

I was a great manager because I actually liked my people. I didn’t see them as loss leaders, or trouble, or vessels to some land of profit. I didn’t pit them against each other, nor us against other teams. I didn’t buy into the value of embellishment, or lying. I had no hope of fitting into a corporate structure, but that never stopped me.

I have no problem tilting at windmills.

A mentor once told me he could see me running a store, almost, except that something was missing. He couldn’t put his finger on it. I couldn’t then. Let me help you. I have no taste. I have no pitch, no sense of discerning the good things from the nearly. Little sense of what separates awesome from mediocre. I have no problem doling out effusive praise.

I would have made an amazing troubadour, a fine minstrel, one of Prufrock’s attendant lords, friend to anyone who wanted their story told, highlighter of what makes them most amazing. Your name painted on the side of a rock, your heart in a lyric, the sheer force of your piercing intellect or your compassion scrawled across the page, and indelible in my heart.

I’ll tell you daily how amazing you are. I’ll love you that much. What I won’t do is let go, to stop loving you before I know, with some indefensible proof, that you are better with another, that you’ve found your edge, that your life has become one fabulous invention. Perhaps then, when you appear to be parsecs out of my orbit I can heal, be apart from you entirely, from your everloving gravity.

Poetry Riddle Incantation Pun

A student struggles with a project-topic, trying to put into words how music says something they feel, even when it doesn’t have lyrics.

I love the word round, the word leave, the word still. Round like lips. Round as an approximation of location. Round as in math – ridding oneself of the remainder. We sing in a round. And when we’re done, what remains? What we leave. I love you. I hate you. Leave! Take leave of our senses. A leave of absence. What did one tree say to another? Leave.

A poem should not be a riddle, but the solution to a riddle, not a padlocked door, but the key. There is something I’ve been trying to say for eons, that I’ve not yet been able to say. But, safe-cracker at the spindle, I’m still whispering. Still. Unmoving, yet persistent. A contraption in the woods in which grain alcohol is brewed.

Music is a syringe. It opens the skin wide enough to let blood out, to let drugs pass this semi-permeable membrane. This is why the woman alone on stage with an instrument will always be a heroine.

There’s something we’ve forgotten. I see it in the eyes of people in line at the grocery. A statue on a pedestal outside a museum. Teenagers sitting on the bricks, legs swaying fidgetably in the breeze. As adults we no longer sit like this. But there, as I’m scanning the aisles, a glint.

Syringe is the wrong metaphor. It’s too violent. More like a mouth when it needs oxygen or an epiglottis, blood vessels in arousal. Music as an incantation that calls the not-yet into reality. We can assume the spinning earth made music as it cooled, as we slowed from molten-gas-atmosphere, to lava, to rock, to blues.

I always thought I’d be around people who embraced big thinking, who would persist in their quest for deeper knowledge, who would reach, and would not leave, still. I’m here, still, on this pedestal, down below the mountains, a part of this world and apart of this world, trying to catch what’s in a tune. But there’s the catch.

I was in grad school, in my apartment, in deep meditation, when God (like a stagehand with a broom) asked if I wanted to see behind the curtain, the levers and pulleys and counterbalances. I understood the trade-off. I was not yet open. Had music been playing…

Had music been playing…

Had music been playing?

The First Technology

The first technology was fire.

We have no way of proving that, of course, but also no way to disavow it. It came when a lightning bolt struck a tree and passed from limb to limb until some great ancestor made sense of it. They passed it from limb to limb, warming those in the cold, softening vegetables, leaving meat more palatable.

What’s best for fire, even today, is to keep it at a safe distance. And that’s how technology starts, best at a distance. Best handled by the experts. Best to bring the bard, the barber, the librarian, the technician, the doctor, the seer your questions. Best to let them sort them out through their books and manuals, compare it to all known knowledge, runs some tests, and provide you your feedback.

Let’s blame Gutenberg.

It was his technology that created this novel concept of knowledge in the hands of the populace. A book in every house, perhaps a bible, but also an erotic novel hidden under a mattress. Access to knowledge for the rich, technology for the affluent, passed down through the generations. It was in your home and scarcely controlled. You could touch it. Your kids could find it. And once it got ubiquitous enough, there was no way to leash the thoughts again of the authors. Dangerous thoughts, to kill them, to stop them procreating in time. Of course there was fire. But that never seemed to work right.

A computer was once a large machine in a raised and air conditioned room. You would meet a qualified individual at the front desk, hand them some cards, and they would respond later with your answers. A computer was once as big as a refrigerator. There was one in your building at work you could log into. A computer was once a beige box in the corner of the library at school. Once had a black and white screen. Once came with a book in the box. Once had peripherals, printers and modems and external drives. Once had a keyboard. Once had a camera. Once had a screen.

There has been a distance between what we create and ourselves. It came from the heavens, or came shooting out of us with great effort. We needed a midwife or a editor to get it out right. We needed an agent, a publishing house, a tech department, store clerks who could sell it. But the dreamer, in dreaming, imagines none of these logistics.

The technology is coming. Closer with each iteration. It was atop our desks, then atop our laps. Now in our hands, soon on our wrists. The distance between creator and created and creating constantly shrinking. A computer on our tongue. In our ears. A way to tell stories from one brain to the next directly. Stored in the collective. Available to everyone.

The story told by our ancestor, about lifting a few pieces of brush to carry fire. The trick was not the fire itself, neither its destruction nor its capabilities. The earth was fire before it was anything. The trick was not the story, but learning to pass it from limb to limb, to jump across the distance, so we could speak of God, of sex.

We’ve found ways to mimic our skin, to armor it. We’ve made mock wings to lift ourselves above it. We’ve cut glass to enhance our vision, and learned to breathe underwater. We have devices that mimic super hearing, which capture voice and video. I can almost touch you at a distance.

The tech is coming. Closer and closer. It is our triumph over time and space, our wish that someone will speak of us, our hope of permanence.


We looked down.

Which has many problems with it.

First, it isn’t so much we as I, being that there is only one… what would you call it… atmosphere. Although, with the word atmosphere the thought is usually about areas closer to space realms. In reality, what I mean starts at the ground. I guess… air.

Second problem, it didn’t happen in the past, unless you consider the perception of time as time itself. And we couldn’t look, as there weren’t really yet eyes.

Down is mostly accurate.

I sense in the earth a great many minerals, pastes and stones with which to build, trying first to move the water and sand all at once into such lovely shapes. But direct manipulation is a crass tool.

How I envy fingers.

Before fingers, I loved the earth, but there was always a distance. I could move earth, but was not of earth. Lighter, you would say? I could howl through tunnels, hurricane above the ocean. Many times plow down into surfaces with all my might. Only to rise.

So warm the earth. So dense and warm.

It’s not clear how the first experiment that worked worked. There is earth and water and the places we meet. That’s key. Always trying to love the earth or ocean via myself directly. But the meeting of us three. A small bit of water soaking the soil and a part of me… stuck. A moment. And once I was there, I was there.

It couldn’t do much. What one might call a proof-of-concept. Yes. Water, air, earth, holding together, contained together. That old relic, it’s still lying around here somewhere.

I Keep Remembering

“You’re trying to remember something too important to forget.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

I keep remembering
……..(I keep forgetting)

some secret passage.
……..(a being in a doorway)

Trying to shake loose
……..(from my remembering)

the apostles of compassion.
……..(who wanted this world)

The words are absurd
……..(I saw you freeing us)

poor sticks for spark-making.
……..(your heart of kerosene)

You were sated by small things
……..(how silly our creating)

kindest, smartest, tireless.
……..(job, safety, comfort)

I miss our expansive colonies
……..(we’d have saved many)

I become distracted easily.
……..(the flesh is attractive)

The saying, the saying
……..(I’d rather have made these)

words that choked action.
……..(that gutted our loving)

Success for X

A friend of mine works for a company I would love to work for. He is not someone you are ever going to see on stage, nor someone who would get chewed out and fired after a product launch. But, he is part of the backbone that holds up that organization. Ok, maybe not the backbone, maybe more like a rib. What I mean is his role is important, although not vital. He got his job because he is one of maybe a hundred people in the country who can do what he does. If he wanted to he could easily be on one of those vital, fireable teams. He doesn’t. He has a wife, and a baby, and a good job, and a good salary, and he gets to go home at night and on the weekends and take fun pictures with his family.

The generation after mine, the millennials, weren’t raised on TV. They were certainly raised with TV, but by the time they were 10 there were other screens competing for their attention. Those screens required input, feedback, interaction. They were never plopped down in one spot for hours not needing to do much more than change the channel. Mark Zuckerberg grew up in that, computers all around him, friends more vital than family. But, he also grew up believing he could build something great, change the world, change the way people communicate. The quintessential millennial.

Firefly is a Generation-X show, more so even than Friends. The first few seasons of Friends spoke to us, genetic family on the periphery, jobs done out of a sense of passion or obligation, relationships a mess, no money anywhere. But, as the series goes on you can tell that this is a show about Gen-X, but not made by Gen-Xers. At the end of the last episode of the last season you have a group of wealthy friends leaving each other, well paid for their fulfilling jobs, moving to the burbs to safely raise their families. This is a boomer-told story.

Firefly is a story about overly qualified folks caught in the crossfire of old wars, who give up more lucrative possibilities to keep their crew together, their family together, and who pay dearly for it. People die. This is the Gen-X dream made manifest by Gen-Xers. This is a show with characters who hold tight to their friends, and never sell out their honor. Firefly is who we wish we could be. “Find a crew, find a job, keep flying.” Harry Potter is this same story, fiercely loyal friends caught up in their parents’ wars. Both end the same way, everyone ends up either dead or scarred.

We never wanted to be this jaded. But we were born while the country mourned the Kennedys, and King, and Malcolm X, and Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, and Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean, while the economy fell apart, while factories closed, while big cities were gutted and burned, with gas lines and hostages, with different presidents every four years, with yuppies, and douchebags, and meaningless bickering about things that happened on college campuses in the sixties. No one wanted to stick around and fix anything. So we raised ourselves, made friends, and did what we could to make each other happy.

The best we could have managed was to be in a band with three or four of our talented friends, in a crew, together. But we weren’t all musically talented. I have a friend who started a theatre company, one running a non-profit, one working on publishing others, too many to count on stages and in small clubs. And it all works, right up until something goes wrong with the friendships. None of these businesses die because of money. They die because someone gets married, or has a baby, or moves away.

Scott Hall, professional wrestler and baby boomer, put it best. For his generation “it’s not called show friendship, it’s show business.” CM Punk, professional wrestler and Gen-Xer walked away from a lucrative contract to retire at 35 and the bosses couldn’t figure out why. They call him selfish. To us, the reasons were obvious and unselfish. They didn’t hire and promote his friends. Find a crew, find a job, keep flying. Show friendship.

I’ll always follow my heart. It means more to me than money. I have never seen money bring joy to my parent’s lives. I will always be there for my friends. Any one of them could call me at a moment’s notice and I would be on a bus, a plane, or a boat to help. I have a great job. It doesn’t pay me my highest possible salary. I am not working for a most admired company, and I did not make it out unscarred. I miss my people, some of them desperately. But I love seeing their success, their fierce loyalty, their proper choices, their ability to balance health, wealth, and family.

We were never going to save the world. The world didn’t need saving. It just needed more honor, more friendship, more loyalty.

The Game as a Game

Professor Benjamin and Professor McNitt would be at each other’s throats, and having them one class after the other could get dizzying. One would tell us the reason a burger in the cafeteria was so expensive was because the college hired a private food services company who had to make a profit. It would be cheaper if the college ran its own food service. Profiteering makes the food lower-quality and more expensive. An hour later the other would tell us that the reason a burger was so expensive was that the workers hired were subject to minimum wage laws and worse, negotiated contracts as part of their unions. High wages and benefits for workers made the food expensive.

There’s a stock broker whose only concern is buying low and selling high. The University of Kentucky Men’s basketball team has a mission statement that reads, “To compete each year for the national title.” All that matters to members of the House and Senate is their seat. Individualized self-interest is the only thing that can hold in check individualized self-interest. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

It is a small mind that can only hold small ideas, that can hold only one thought at a time, who sees the world through the colors of team, the stripes of flags, the edicts of a profession, who measures by measurable statistics. This is also the definition of focus. And the one who can focus, who shuts out the noise of everything and narrow down their definition of success to one thing, who wins that one thing, wins.

Am I being too simplistic?

At the first meeting of a class on game theory the teacher lays out the rules for a game in which you have a chance to take a large number of points for yourself and screw others, take a medium number of points for yourself and nothing from others, or give points to others and keep few for yourself. If everyone chooses the last option, the whole class wins. After the game is over the teacher chides the class to “Never play from a dominated position.” Even if it’s best for the whole? “Never.”

We fight wars because there are violent people in the world who must be destroyed. All that matters are this week’s jobs numbers. Market share. Market cap. Advertising revenue. The overnights. Who gets to bed first and who stays up to turn out the lights.

There are those who decide that life is a game and play it as such. As if the things moving about them are pieces. There are people who raced to cross the Atlantic, grab territory, get to the ocean, manifest destiny, land on the moon. The side benefits of these quests are lauded as the value of science, colonialism, war.

Even if it’s best for the grander goal? “Never.”

What really excites me is everything. Not the answer as to whether or not we live in a mechanical universe, but the possibility that a thousand years from now we will have rethought everything. Big wide opening eyes.

Inefficiency has its place. As does thinking deeply. We once thought the universe was matter and antimatter, that time only flowed in one direction, that the most intimate two people could be with each other was sex, that life was always based on cells and carbon, that intelligence came with a pre-frontal cortex.


Not the concept of getting for myself or ensuring for my family. Not putting safety and prosperity on the inside cover of the box of a board game. Not fighting back and being angry. Not being justified, or right, or treated with dignity.

We once believed that how one best connected to another was through language, and thought, and touching. We once worked from this simplistic combination of mind and body. We thought we came down with the apes from trees and that we were the pinnacle and the end of evolution. Vacations meant moving only our bodies closer to the oceans. We thought space was the final frontier.

Consciousness. Can you sense this? This notion that a flea who jumps a millimeter off a petri dish has achieved some grand accomplishment.

For so long we were distracted by our own procreation, by our tribes, our mechanics, our inventions. We worried about whether or not we would die and what would happen next. We fixated on the traits we passed on, as if we alone were our species, as if our species were the planet, as if the planet were the whole of creation. We never once thought about the dust in our blood.

Of Flesh and Not Flesh

I’m curled up in the tiniest space in which I can fit. And not fit comfortably, just fit. It’s 1997 and I am visiting a friend in Chicago. I took the bus up along a rumbling highway. No, I took a plane. The space allotted to me is little more than the space for cargo. It’s 1991 and my first day of college. We have a 12 by 12 room for three wide, tall, and lanky men. It’s 1988 and the best parts of me are kept hidden underneath an elevated bed or tucked between the plywood and the mattress in a notebook, in between college-ruled lines. In a crib. In a plastic bin in a maternity ward. In a world all my own. In a few dividing cells.

Across a coffee shop in Chicago I see a woman I have never met. She is absent mindedly drinking tea while pouring over some papers she has unclasped from inside a yellow manila envelope. I am drawn to her. Suddenly this world which has felt so small feels expansive. I know with all that I am that if I walk up to her and say hello she will recognize me. Our future will be laid out in front of us, the great wide plain of love, an odd story of how we met, and a family. But the distance is too great, the steps too big. I cannot muster the courage to make my feet move across the tile floors between us.

I’ll write her a letter, the amazing woman from freshman orientation. I’ve never written a letter before, not a letter like this. I had a pen pal in ninth grade, someone in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. But I never knew what to write to a stranger. This time I know. I’ll pour my heart and my hopes, my fears and my flesh, my very being into the front and back of one page. I will fit myself in between lines. By the time we meet again on that first day of college, unpacking into our 12 by 12 crates, she will know all of me.

Just before sleep my meditation sometimes consists of trying to feel every inch of my flesh, to inhabit it completely. Sometimes on the run I imagine myself to be a tiny ball of light in my chest, less than a cell wide and a cell high, shining out from the spot behind the bone that combines the left and right of my ribs. That light reaches out to the fiber optics at the end of each of twenty digits and ignites the giant mixing bowl of traffic lights and headlights in my mind. Sometimes I try to escape this body. I breathe out so thoroughly that I bat against the chain link fence and see the spot in the forest between the trees where I will disappear into the wide wilderness. This body is meat. It is not me. It is all I will ever be.

Rumi asks, “Who makes these changes?” Rumi was a spirit unencumbered by flesh. And yet flesh made manifest. And yet, flesh that was not whole until he met his teacher. And yet, that teacher cracked him open and released what was trapped in flesh. And yet, Shams broke him when he took his body and left, and was killed. And Rumi, in his wanting of Shams, finally lived.

What I am trying to say is that I want to fully inhabit this body. It is only on this hardware that my being will look and act and feel like me. It is only through this body that I will know my self and only through this body that I will know others. But I am not this body. I am not this flesh. The words I write, the ideas, the stories, those will carry on in the strange combinations I have jotted down for others. But even the words need a body.

A woman lived ten thousand years ago of whom I am a descendant, many women, many men. Had they not each eaten a hearty meal, pulled plants from their roots, slaughtered animals big and small, laid down at night with each other in sweaty sex, been drawn into union and conversation, protected by and protected their tribe, fought over territory and won, I would not exist. I know nothing of any of them. I owe them nothing. I owe them the existence of this flesh.

We are software, minds and ideas and spirits. But software must be written and stored, executed and replicated. It is not hardware, but cannot exist without hardware. Physical media. The earth merely revving models.

Sometimes I feel compelled to write. Like the voice inside of me is me. Sometimes I am drawn to eyebrows, the cock of a hip, the way a person sits a pen against their head while they are thinking, the twist of their concentrating lips. Sometimes I inhabit this flesh and sometimes I am nearly free of it. Sometimes I feel like little more than lines of code.

Out of Myself

If two cannot be one
I’ll meet the day
as nighttime. You’ll
shine while I take
my leave. Wave to me
as I pass by completely.
While you sleep I’m out
on the town drinking of
ink and mad at myself.

Weighed by love, I’ll
never catch up. You do
the growing of what
everyone needs, raise the
crops. I’ll host Angels
in their caves who cannot
recall what the fell to do.

We’ll meet on horizons, your
lipstick a blush, my eyelash
a hint of blue. You will
rise to read what I write
all night for you. On
and on, the longing my
hand sweeps from my cheek.

I’m over the moon. The
stars. Done with the poem
of hope. The belief that
something that hasn’t
changed can change. We’ve been
separate in all but thought,
and a dawn we keep memories of.

Getting religion

Back in college we group of friends invented a religion, The First International Church of Funk and Soul. The idea was that if you did these three things every day you would unify and align yourself with the divine forces of the universe. You could touch God. The three things were:

  • 1. Eat good pastry: defined as pastry cooked, served, and eaten in the same building.
  • 2. Drink a snapple. It was the early 90s and snapple was a new, natural, cool thing. There were still tea leaves in the bottom of the bottle.
  • 3. Listen to one hour of soul, blues, or funk music.

We presented our religion to Father Damien, the head of the Catholic Campus ministries and his response was, “I have seen religions based on less.” He wished us luck. * For the purpose of what comes next I define religion as a series of practices and actions that one takes in order to brush against the large forces of the universe. Stuff you do to touch God. This is separate from faith, the believe, without need for observable, predictive, reproducable evidence, that God exists. This is separate from spirituality, a belief structure that higher truths exists, and that it matters both in our lives and to the greater whole that we recognize these higher truths. * I am inventing a new religion. This time without the snapple. Here are the things I hope to do every day to align myself with the divine:

  • 1. MovementFree: Take 30 minutes each day to sit without movement or distraction or chores or conversation or action.
  • 2. Movement: Use 45 minutes each day to swim, bike, run, lift, climb, dance, fight, or otherwise make my heart race.
  • 3. NewsFree: No Google News, Facebook Newsfeed, MacRumors or other psuedo-information gathering at home during the week. I can do plenty of these at work, and not much changes between the end of one work day at the start of the next. No more than one check for a half hour on weekend days.
  • 4. ForArtSake: Imbibe a new poem, essay, story, or song by an author I don’t know daily. Really listen.
  • 5. LimitVideo: Video in the house should consist of no more than one click of one episode of one story a day.
  • 6. EliminateGames: Keep no games on my mobile devices. They don’t amount to anything but distraction.
  • 7. WriteItDown: Post a little each day about what I ate, read, saw, thought, and moved through.

Seven seems like a good and godly number. It feels like a lot to do each day. But what it cuts out should make room for what it puts in. It starts today. It starts now. The daily blog will be here.

Wish me luck Father D.

Why Washington Square Outshines Anna Begins

Time is an effective filter for art. The stories and manifestos that mean so much on the day of their release wash away. The artifacts that somehow sneak their way from box to box, dorm room to apartment to house, from hard drive to hard drive blossom with new meaning.

One of the cool things about getting old are the bands that survive. They’ve made their money and are doing their best, unencumbered, trying to impress no one, work. They possess both the “fuck it” attitude of youth, and the polished skills that come with years of experience. And, they’re back to playing small venues where you can see them cheap enough to still buy a t-shirt, surrounded by devotees who love the stuff from their new album.

I’m not sure how I kept Counting Crows. I didn’t care much for them when their radio single mega-hits hit, no more than I did for Mr. Big or Hole. But every album since there were two or three songs, what we grown folks call B-sides, that would transcend what DJ’s could find. Every three or four years a new album. Every three or four years a few diamonds.

I’m not sure how I started teaching writing. I am one for taking the scenic route, bypassing the highway of a career in just about anything. Somewhere along the way I went from sitting in workshops to leading them, from taking classes to teaching them. And somewhere I came to realize, in teaching them, that the nouns matter.

Anna Begins is an early track. It’s from those sessions that happen before the band hits, that block of songs that come from coffee houses and scratching on napkins. It’s super personal and shrouded in mystery, based on something the artist is not yet ready to name.

Washington Square comes later, fifteen years in, and Counting Crows have found a way to be clear, artistic, articulate, simple, and deep. It’s no longer the artist searching, or trying to protect someone’s identity. It’s Picasso in two strokes drawing a bull. It’s the craftsman just… saying.

What separates these skill sets are the nouns.

Nouns come in at least two varieties, concrete and abstract. Some you use to name a vague idea and some you hit with a hammer. And pronouns, good lord, the worst of writing is littered with pronouns. When you don’t want to name the person, or narrow it down enough for them to be noticeable, then the drama comes between me and she and him and them.

What abstract nouns don’t give you is the ability to set yourself down in a time and place, and sit face to face with the artist, with their creations. What concrete nouns give you are the particulars, a chair, a table, a waitress named Bonnie with bright red hair and a tattoo on her left wrist.

Anna Begins begins with, “My friend assures me it’s all or nothing. I am not worried. I am not overly concerned. My friend implores me for one time only, make an exception. I am not worried.”

Washington Square starts, “Sold my piano. It couldn’t come with me. I locked up my bedroom, and I walked out into the air. Nothing I needed was left there behind me, just memories of walking through Washington Square.”

In the first I am left to wonder what’s going on and where is my place in the story. The imaginative leaps I must make are in the particulars. I must bring with me a situation, maybe with a friend of mine, where it has been all or nothing, and yet I was not overly concerned. What would that be? I have had people tell me, with confidence, that this song is about senseless sex, or rape, or suicide, or being too drunk to care.

In the second I am right there. And although I have never owned or sold a piano, I can make the leap to understand a piano both as a gateway to music and as a symbol of a weighty life that makes it difficult to move, something beautiful, but with heft and gravity.

I hear young writers arguing for the value in leaving things vague, leaving space for the reader to insert their own life. But that’s not how life works, it’s not how the art that stays stays. I know that from age. Feelings and impressions burn away. But I remember the strands of hair being pushed thoughtlessly behind an ear, the drops of sweat that fall from being close with another person and intense, the journals we used to carry, the boots we used to wear.

The stuff that holds lies in the particulars. At this age I can make those imaginative leaps. I can guess what a thief stealing a silver spoon means. But I have no space or care to fill in the faces and scents of blank people mired in angst for some unknown reason. I think of the great ending of Stanley Kunitz’s poem The Portrait, telling a story about his mother slapping him as a child. “In my sixty-fourth year / I can feel my cheek / still burning.”

That’s concrete. That’s a well-aged artist saying big things simply. That is why Washington Square outshines Anna Begins.

Though I’d Rather

I could leap about the room howling,
spinning into storms of exuberance,

a hurricane laughing. Though I’d rather
remind you “It’s raining,” just outside

our window, a light dew on the lawn
like tears. Softly. Gently. Cool nourishment

invisible like breathing. You. Safe, out
on a limb, in a nest, curled in my arms.

The rain constant as the love you keep,
as the love you keep despite leaving.

An Observation Of Weather

Back east the day starts out mired in cloud-like blankets,
as if it spent the night twisting itself in thunderclouds
and great huge swabs of rain. But there is hope
that by afternoon when the sun has burned
the tops of its biscuits, some clarity
and fresh air will break through.

Out west, in the land of Triathlon,
the opposite is true, morning rises easy
from a dry, and hot, and starless night. Cool.
It heats up at pace through lunchtime. Then clouds,
lakes lifted on the back of vacuums, the mountaintops
in dispute with wind and sun. Each comes with a flash flood.

The Worst Lesson

The worst lesson I ever learned came in sixth grade when Mr. Fabiano, trying to help a nerdy kid get beat up less, taught me the word “stoicism”. No, the worst lesson came when Mr. Hansen, in eighth grade biology, taught us about homeostasis. No, the worst lesson might have been in the Tao, the part where it talks about being a pole in the middle of a stormy sea, water churning around you as you stand still, unflinching. Then there is Kristina in college, stopping dead in her tracks at the sight of a sunrise, running towards it with her arms open, as if she could catch it, or imbibe it, or somehow stretch wide enough to embrace its entirety.

This essay is not about that.

It’s not about whether or not to react to the world, whether to engage it or stand stoic and separate. There is no available option for stopping. As Galileo said of the universe on his death bed, “It moves.” All of it. Each of us too. No, this is about the building and the signpost and the ledge we choose to stand on each morning, and what we wake ready to dive into. We welcome this conscious world to prove to us, each morning, what we already believe. The day is an opportunity to prove a philosophy. And for those people who made better choices than myself today, I have envy.

I see one of them each day, awake at the pillow believing this world is a positive place, that the people in it are good and kind, that life is driven by a powerful thrust forward, and that the heart is a deep well of joy that can feed everyone. That annoying happy colleague. That clerk at the grocery store who is way too chipper to be to work by five. The ticket taker at the counter whom I would not have met had I made my first flight. Who is he to be so overjoyed, to be making everyone else smile and laugh so heartily?

And I see the cynics, the ones who are sure this world is made of ore and stone which must be futilely pounded every day. I see the oppositionists, who prove by their living that the world is separated into rich and poor, good and evil, worthless and worthy. I see the defenders, who put up walls around whatever their lives hold, and keep in all in their fort, willing to kill or die for both their nutrition and their garbage. I see the centrists, who never quite bought into the sun being the focus of the solar system, the sun being so far away from them. I see the cause-heads, who have one lens, and wait for the world to show its inherent flaw, its lack of any willingness to fight for this, our most important issue. I see the pushers, who won’t stop until everything is changed, and the consumers, who take, and take. I see the apologists, and the back-stabbers, and the martyrs. And I am more frustrated with myself than by any of them

Just stop. We all need to stop.

For one day. Don’t move.

Don’t buy anything. Don’t sell. Don’t run away. Don’t reboot, refocus, reload, recommit, reinvest, reembellish. Stop. For God’s sake Galileo.

I’m tired of moving, of feeling, of fulfilling everyone’s unproven philosophies. I’m ready to pop. And if the universe keeps filling up, keeps inflating, keeps bursting at the seams, if we keep having more and more to choose from, if I have to carry this all inside any longer, I won’t survive.

The most reliable way to fix a computer is to restart it. This wipes out any running processes. It allows the kernel to start fresh, and for a little while, everything loads smoother.

This world is not inherently flawed. The Buddhists don’t have the answer. You can’t work your way to happiness. Drugs are neither demons nor doorways. Surrender will not save you. We are not the greatest country in the history of the world. Your team is not number one. Science, and the ever expanding library of human knowledge, will neither obliterate us nor offer an escape. We are not better off with or without the seals.

The worst lesson I ever learned was that “the day is an opportunity to prove a philosophy”. I’m not sure where I picked it up, or who taught it, or what Legos I pieced it together from. I can’t stand Mr. Ramsey for putting in my head that life is either a struggle between man and nature, or man and man, or man and himself. I hate that Professor Haffar taught us the concept of false happinesses, that someone who felt joyful, while in actuality being oppressed, should be taught about their oppression.

Somewhere in there I was an open-hearted boy. And the world came easy to me. And when someone made fun of me, or struck me, I cried. And I felt the force behind a waterfall. And the pangs of true love. And the smack of a bumper to a bumper when I forgot to pay attention. And I felt music. And I felt my great grandmother’s ancient, dry hands. And I felt death. And I cared. And I knew it would be over soon. And I couldn’t imagine living past eighteen.

I can’t say this thing. I used to be able to say this thing. But, whatever I woke this morning to prove just won’t seem to come to me.

About Your Happiness

Here’s the problem, my friend. 

You’ve told me everything about what you’ve been up to and the sum total of it seems to be that you… are not happy. 

Now I know you can point to many good things in your life, blessings, gifts, scars well-earned. 

You tell me how much you love the crowds, and the restaurants, and the oncoming buzz. 

But near the end of the evening, when all the slacks and jackets and party dresses have been tossed in the laundry or rehung, you are not filled with the joy that twirls at the center of the world. 

You don’t wake up enamored of life, and the morning, and the process of living a day. 

You tell me with the suffix of, “I bought a new piece of plastic (or metal, or cloth). One I have been looking for. One that I know will bring me my happiness. I’ve booked a trip to a far off destination. Signed up for classes. Found a new city and am planning to move.” 

Your life is so very frenetic. 

As if jumping from one lustful passion to another will somehow fill it. But the bucket has no bottom. You’re lighting the gas of your longing with what matches. Yet you seem devout in your sadness. It’s pervasive. 

And there’s nothing anyone can do. Do you think about this? This. Right here. Spent some hours listening to the sounds that wander through the rooms of your dwelling, the edifice of your imagination, the cavernous, high ceilinged room of your heart. 

We’ve known each for a long time and so I can share with you a secret. I can see into your heart. Not just yours, everyone’s. When I meet someone it takes about a minute. Their bodies dissolve and I see instead the inner layer of their skin, the one that has been with them since youth. 

Yours glows. 

It swims between pink and yellow. It has these lovely eddies that curl around your belly when you eat and around your head, like a halo, when you remember lovely things. 

But so often you tamp it down, get filled with this grey malice that starts at the surface and pushes, like weight, against these savory colors to your feet, where they pool and quiver. 

I think, (and what do I know?), if you just let sat still. Here. Right here. 

And listened. And looked. And took in this scene, with no care in the world or plan for anything, you could feel them start to move, to rise up to your knees, overtake your belly, swim in a circle around the flute of your throat. 

They’ll fill your eyes. They’ll color how you see the world. They are here, just below your skin, so thin. Your beauty bursting out which requires no paint and no coat. No sales receipt or title. 

It’s you. I see. Swirling out wildly.

Catholic Twist

In the back of my father’s chariot,
Cadillac he toiled to own–

the one he lied an oath through his teeth
(to the Marines, to a wife or two or three) to keep,

the coal-black fenders, tailfins latched to whiteness,
steel smelted from each iota of his Italian heritage,

halo, cross, and cloth thrown off for the kitsch
of a name that stood like a hood ornament;

shield between knotted wings– coiled a cowlicked boy
taught to loathe those on the other end of Church Avenue

who prayed to a God of talc and smoke, to a Pope
who had his grandma known (or been told

he existed) would have sworn
was God’s own love on earth.


Here I am, up again, my friend, up
at some ungodly hour meant more
for dreaming they laying out schemes
of attack on a day for which I will
now be more poorly rested
and therefore less effective.

Here I am, pondering again
without the use of hallucinogens
how one might make time travel
or move space and stay in a place
impossible, the top corner of a room
watching a scene in our history unfolding.

A thousand times, again, hoping in this past
to find the ripple or fold that allows us
to explore what would have been
had you’d been less… or I’d been more…
perched atop the door to kick it closed
hold the knob shut as you twisted it and left.

Here nightly, brightly hunched and painting
in watercolors no one gets to see,
tongue out my left lips, a boy
still spreading stained rainbow
fingers into circles wrapped up
into imaginary rings of gold.

I should sleep. I should let go of
what simply will not be. The past,
a future, another version of the separate
life (lives) we lead. Somewhere
you’re awake, I dream, and listening.
Somehow this love, our love

radiates out from brain-meat to brain-meet,
this busy signal un-hung-up and sung
into ears by crickets in connected meadows
out the back doors and off the porch where
you are whispering and I am whispering.
I am.……………………………………….Hear.

Why We Lock The Shed

He lies
on the couch
by the window,
supine (blinds
spun shut)
in the pre-sunrise.

What ripens
(and rottens) inside
ensues in chaos,
sharp like pine needles,
ever green (giving up little),
as in the scents of candles.

His penis is a prune,
heart in resin, a knot tied
in his spine. What sense
in ripping off that false S?
In loosening the reins
of the well-taught sniper?

Because It’s full
of power-tools
we won’t use,
charged battery
packs, drills,
buttons to press.

He meditates
on the nursery,
on the scent of urine,
on the shade of paint
awakening with the sun
ripping at the horizon.

A Yellow Sun Rises Over A Yellow House

A yellow sun rises over a yellow house.
A tree impedes the pristine scene growing
from angled eaves. A pair of birds flitter
translucent across the rooftop in the beams.

The reflection of cars warped in a window.
A roof tile loose and peeling. What could be
dust or the body of a moth tugged by gravity.

All of it pixelated through my
window screen. Dirt and uneven shades
and peeling paint around the sill. Squares
bent down into a u or a v. I can’t recall

what I thought
when I knew love
was easy.

Love Light Air Life

For weeks I’ve been wrestling in my head, with the nature of consciousness, and I want you to understand where I’ve come to. If I started talking out loud I wouldn’t be able to explain it, so I am hoping writing it down can flesh out some of it, and give you a peek into what I believe now about who we are and how we came to be.

I think we humans invent things that are metaphors for a reality we are trying to uncover. The wheel a metaphor for the earth before we knew its shape. The book a metaphor for the mind before we understood its storage. Intuited inventions that point the path towards science we have not yet learned. The greatest invention of the 20th century being the automobile, a metaphor for the human body. Stronger and faster than anything available at the start of the century, better than any horse or burro of biology. But, in constant need of fuel from the earth, temporary, unhealing, always rusting and failing. In constant need of repair, always being reclaimed back to the earth.

At the end of the century though, the great invention, and what I believe to be our next great metaphor became the computer. We talk about this computer metaphor with students. Hardware like the human body. Software like the human brain. Steve Jobs described the computer as, “The most remarkable tool we have ever come up with.” But at the end of the century, we created a third part to this platform, the cloud. We know that the computer has the same problems the car had. It is temporary, things break and fail and are lost. So we have these networked backup systems, where, ideally, those things we want to be permanent can be stored. And we struggle now not with their temporariness, but with their permanence. So what part of us is that permanence?

What if what is permanent, what is aware, what is creative, what is conscious, what is more permanant is not the animal, not the body, but the cloud, the air? I first heard this from KRS-One and thought it was a cool idea, but I didn’t consider the science behind it. This is not the eternal soul (or is it?), but perhaps a feat of physics and electricity. What if, way back in the days of pre-life primordial soup, the binding action that pulled together some inanimate objects and built the first proteins was a bolt of lightning? Mary Shelley intuited this with how one would bring life to Frankenstein. Star Trek intuited this on many episodes, this idea of conscious creatures in the clouds who sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t need to inhabit a body. What if that which is permanent (as permanent as the air) is in the air? Air which has no plural (oneness), and which is one cloud above us all (heaven).

This gives us a third part of life. There is the physical body, the mental brain, and then consciousness, that which is creative, imaginative, and aware. In this idea, the brain is a prism. Light (awareness) goes in one side as one cohent, invisible thing and comes out the other side separated out into something that looks very different. The human body is there to keep the human brain alive. The human brain is there to focus electricity and to give body, breath and language to awareness, to consciousness. The brain is a lens, a series of optics.

What about other animals? They are obviously alive, but are they aware? To some extent yes. But, what the human mind has on them is that it is a better lens, a better set of optics, more megapixels (again, the metaphor of inventions). If you are an awareness, born from the physics of electricity, pure light/air in a cloud and choose to pass through the prism of life to develop (like an old photo) into something, you are going to choose the best optics you can afford. And maybe that has always been, that consciousness chooses the best optics. Maybe, at some point, the amoeba held that consciousness, the hawk held consciousness, the dinosaur, and for now, the human. Thus King Arthur’s legends about Merlin making him a bird. Thus Q’s comment on Star Trek that “I traveled the road many times, sat on the porch, played the games, been the dog, everything! I was even the scarecrow for a while.”

I was running the other day, looking up into the air, into the clouds, thinking about this. Am I electrified air breathed into flesh, wailing the first time my lungs were inflated? Are you? And if so, why? What are our impulses in this flesh? One is invention. One is flight. One is space travel. Would aware entities want to travel away from their place of birth? Yes. If I could invent a way for my consciousness “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Yes. And maybe for a long time simply jumping from evolving brain (lens) to evolving brain was progress, until we got to these tool builders. These who are somehow different than other creatures. Now we may not need to wait another million years for the next jump in evolution. If we can keep building better tools, and do so without destroying the car (species) we are in, perhaps we can find a shortcut. Space travel being one driving force. But maybe another.

If consciousness moves from most evolved to most evolved, to the best optics, perhaps inside this species of tool builders, we could build a better container than this temporary body with it’s current mexapixeled lens. Perhaps our next great invention will be Frankenstein, Commander Data, or Q. Some focuser of consciousness that is exceptionally better than what natural selection can naturally select. And maybe we can build it over a thousand years, rather than it growing organically over millions. And these bodies can go back to being primates. And we consciousness can continue on.

Heaven is up, and when we die, our last breath out, that which is permanent goes back into the oneness, into the air, which really is a life in the clouds. Hell is down, a fiery pit in the ground where the meat of all of our beings is headed, an eternity of damnation. And here we are in between, meat animated. A prism. The cover of dark side of the moon album. The ephemeral focused through flesh. A body, an evolved brain, consciousness. Hardware, software, cloud. Inventors, tool builders, imaginations. Limited by biology, which Buddhism says could never, on its own, produce awareness. Limited by our senses and our perceptions to seeing only certain bands of light and radiation, a poor, but best ever camera. Frail, temporary, failing. But with imagination, intuition, creativity. Those things that have allowed us to make our thoughts into words, our words sticky and semi-permanent, to increase that level of stickiness, and to imagine, in the stories we tell each other (write down, type, zip around the world, make permanent on the web), greater and further horizons. We drive toward invention, so we can go beyond the atmosphere that holds us, the bodies that limit us, one and separate. Breathing. In all meditation, focus on your breathing. Why? What if it is to know who we are?


Nothing endures.
Even bone sculptures become howling
and dust. Oceans hold eons-old pirate gold

but no one mines the treasures of arid seas
until the rains come. Till husks from holds
break open, flint and swords, blood and flesh,

rusty plugs and oar-locks. Until bundles of hooks
on snapped lines reach for soil and light.
Coyotes cowered while gopher preachers

bucketed out flooded pulpits. All we needed
was salt-smell and hope, a molecule or two
of what binds sand and light.

……………………………….We missed
one thing, just, from becoming a prairie
………………………………………………..full of life.


It’s as if, swimming upstream, I carried with me
not just his bushy eyebrows and yellow toenails,
but a belt and pair of crooked spectacles, cock-

eyed view of the world. Raised too sophisticated
to give voice to his dogs and hoses, the martinis
and subtle winks he aped from Bogart movies.

His urge to hop a plane and escape, fantasy
without responsibility, family, to create anew
in stories, unburdened by more than pulp

L’amour. My conception molten like metal
cooling into an impression. No matter what
my edge reflects, the bank’s a bowl of stones.

On Want

I have tried to write this essay several times. I have failed using flowery language, academic speak, spiritual overtones, and psycho-babble. But it never came out the way I wanted. And that is the point of it. Want.

Want is a disease, a psychosis. It is an error of the mind and of the body. It is the flaw in how many of us live. We obsess over what we want for years. We make great art based on our want. It is the barrier to enjoyment and happiness. And not just in big ways.

It is easy to still pine for the person you wanted to kiss when you were sixteen. That small wish may hover inside your mind like a micro-tumor, but it is probably benign. What hurts us more is the want of the moment.

You are sitting in a long line of cars wanting a light to turn green. It turns and only one car gets through. And you want it to be different. The person you share your life with cannot read your mind, cannot do, seemingly, anything right, and you want them to be different.

Want distances you from this moment. It allows you to hide inside another, imaginary, more ideal reality. It suggests you should hold this life up against that ideal one and compare the two, a pageant which this moment will always lose. I want to be taller, want shorter, want skinnier, want stronger.

But let’s separate want from action. There is a moment not yet lived that you can choose into. The future must be shaped, and we can use it to reach towards an ideal. We can work for change. But that is not want, that is taking action.

I am lying in bed, in the middle of the night. I wake with my mouth open and bone-dry. I can ease myself out of bed, walk to the sink and have a glass of water. In the morning I can purchase a humidifier. Next month I can move to a coast or a rainforest.

Or I can sit here in want, hating this arid moment, imagining my imaginary ease. The distance in time between a felt need and the action to answer that need is want. And it is killing us. Every moment in want is a moment wasted, a moment of this life, right here, now, gone.

Each moment is far bigger than you can inhabit, larger than you can imagine. If you envision now throughout the whole globe, and know you could live on almost any inch of that, you start to see now. If you imagine how tiny the earth is to the universe, you start to sense the size of now.

Each moment offers you something to hate, something to love, something to act on, something to want. Worse than loving or hating, wanting means you do not inhabit this moment. It steals here and now from you. It makes our conscious life fly by us, miniscule and quick.

I want to exercise more, compared to exercising. I want to forgive someone, compared to actively forgiving. I want to write is worse than awful writing. I want to focus on my family. I want to eat better. I want to let go. I want to feel love. I want to live, before I want to die.

In little ways and big we are handing over this, here, now, to our imagination. Not for the sake of a deeper contemplative life, but simply to fill a compost heap with moments, one that rots as soon as it hits the here-air. We are wasting our lives in wanting, trashing this opportunity at being.

Three Christmases

In the story of the Christ child, today is not the day to think about what happens at the end of the book, but at the beginning. A child is born surrounded by love and prophecy and mysticism. Look around you today and seek that which appears to be the tiniest, the most weak, the most frail, the most powerless. There is glory and grace there, and potential.

In the story of the Christmas star, a light is laid out which points to greatness and divinity. Set your goals today, find that tiny prick of unreachable light and head towards it, across desert and mountain, across time and space. The light left that place thousands of years ago and finds you now, walk towards it (no, actually, run).

In the story of the Christmas tree, the life in nature is brought inside and decorated. Go now and find that life. Get outside today, away from plastic and wrapping, away from bells and whistles. Go out and commune with that which is alive, even in the darkest part of the year. Look out your windows, visit your neighbors. There are trees somewhere nearby. They love and miss you. Decorate them with your love.

Merry Christmas. I love you.


A Bird In Hand

Memory littered with lust from our twenties
when the right beverage could spark
a conversation, neck rub
to relieve tension,

an understanding of struggle. Then,
beyond our ego and separation, we knew
someone was waiting
at a table, sent there

by forces greater, having an innocuous latte,
shaking sugar packets, fidgeting with a zipper,
hoping to be known, to get laid,
for life to change.


Play me backwards to capture
the slurs unspoken by non-voices
who scream insults and prevent me
from seeing and seeing me.

Dust and scratches on the surface
of the mirror I use to get ready
to keep the compliments coming
from strangers I can not incorporate.

Buy therapy. Buy a different outfit
to fit in. Lament my car and color
of my housing. Buy certain foods,
buy into pop-ideas. Cry: bye-bye.

Play me seriously and play quietly.
Listen to the voice that’s spoken for
a foot down and a mile deep
the soft earth of me in which to dig.

Down By The Riverside

As the adolescent creek reached a plateau,
we were thrown together, where we played
like children, assuming the old spiritual
theatre of sex and unemployment, we

had invented. Notes we grew up hearing
in our separate minds, come together
in this tin can band, thawed from ice,
tumbling over falls, picked and strummed

along each smoothed stone. We tripped,
fell and broke, cracked off-key till the land
or factory or fire bid us rise. Then we sang
our giddy, addled, laughing good-byes.

No Turning Back

Some stand sure-footed on the hard dry edge, bank
on its uneroded topsoil as a platform from which
they can dip a toe, safely dangle a leg, place

one foot, then two up to the ankles, stand
in the fast running rapids of reality, icy
stream whipping round their feet.

Some ease in to their necks, hope
the rush of danger cracks their heads
or heart, that shock deafens them to our

landlocked existence. Why not dive deep?
Breathe back our gills. Test the white lie of oxygen
that claims we’re just red lungs, veins and capillaries.

Broken Hearted Savior

You go through life screaming,
and politicing,
piling on

lingo to gather votes on the promise
some topic
with your tonic
gets a hearing.

I opt out of that logic, coiling, instead
like a snake, or
a glass of pinot,
insistent like a hangnail.

You ride first class for the optics.
I’m the GPS
and the horizon,
cockpit instruments.

You hang, fretfully unaware, in mid-air
dangling, clinging
to nothing. I know
where we’re landing.

Somewhere, My Love

Somewhere, my love

I could love you like it’s 1953
again, or at least like the ’53
I imagine, a colorized version

of Black and White America
where I’m a diligent worker
in the middle-management

of a family-owned factory, fretting
about helping our neighbors
without enough money.

I could love you with a kiss
at the door and a compliment
on the smell of your roast,

and try to think very little
about meaningful things;
the Constitution, war,

or sociology. I could love you
before TV, once a week, on
my birthday. And putter through

that existence. But I’d rather
struggle through business,
bills, roles, religions, equality.


It’s faster than a heartbeat
when you look at me,
faster than a blink,

than my fingers
pounding out a text
as I drift down retail streets.

We should have this out
in the same city. You should be
howling. Me claiming innocence,

you overreacting. Instead
the snow’s piling up,
each flake attacking. Capitals

can’t relay my anger.
Exclamations. The river
is frozen. I want

my nights back. I want
your days. And your finger.
And your head. We should

be falling, accumulating,
dangerously slipping.

Not melting.

New Rose

Love intensity
I once thought
A measure of sexy

That I am you
And you me
Before our first date

That I know your soul
I claim
Before your name

Love intensity
How you tip me
Drinking coffee

If we never speak
Matters nothing
Married anyway

In our soul-scape
Steamed windshield
On clean sheets

Love intensity
Measure of nothing

You, you only
We never date

I miss your soul
Forget your name

Love intensity
Empty coffee

You spoken for
Happily married

Our soul escapes
And clean sheets


In a house of five, allegiances are born
and die as quickly as the evening meal
is thawed and cooked and eaten. Toys
lie black and blue about the floor, love
is being offered, on loan, and ignored.

In a house of five, someone lays in wait
for a party or a date, for a secret kept
to be leaked, and for the next shushing,
for vengeance to be the call of the day,
for diagrams to be drawn to call the play.

In a house of five, the stairs are byways
of clicking sneers, of breath through teeth
and “Don’t. Touch. Me.” There’s not room
enough for space to think, for time-out
with a good book, or a moment’s peace.

Four offers a chance for balance, three
a tight alliance, two, a buddy-cop movie.
At six we could field and coach a team.
We grew up in a palace, in a maelstrom,
in an inner ring of the defense department.

What we trained for remains sealed.
What we learned later confirms rumors.
Fifty years after the last of us have died
the files will be unclassifed, the dust
and scores and cracked walls all settled.

When I Paint My Masterpiece

The brush does not move, nor the canvas,
nor the wrist of the artist

but the sea rippling along the shore of Italy
where my great-great Grandmother stands, ankle deep

waiting for the pescatori
to return home to shore

dinghies bobbing along the horizon,
her husband, her sons

weighted down with work, made dark by the globe
diving behind the island.

She squints, and a lens snaps the landscape
long before Kodak,

developing itself through the palm on her belly,
which moves, and kicks, and swells

dashing ruddy hues cross the generations’
canvas sails.

Float On

Can anyone tell which door we used to get into this room, cause
I can’t seem to recall and the walls appear polished seamlessly
to a high sheen, the floor and ceiling incomprehensibly far away?

I can’t imagine we fell from a great height and survived, nor
that we jumped on our own into this ballroom. The question
may seem esoteric, but I’d like to find the exit, in case

I need to head outside for a smoke or if I’m done, simply,
with this party. I’m not being antisocial, the food here is more
than passable, company of the highest order, the guest speakers

fascinating. It’s just I might like to sit quietly without all this laughing,
all these false approvals of achievement, filth diminishing
as the machines keep shrinking, smiles spread across faces

while the bombs keep falling.

Giorgio by Moroder

Mom said “Today,
we bake a cake.”

I was eight, and a boy,
and my toys

were plastic cast
into weapons

teaching me to hate,
and cars teaching

me to escape. She
showed me spoons,

and cups, and eggs,
round bottomed things.

Taught me to measure,
and the pleasure it takes

to create.
The batter thickened.

Oil so it would not stick.
I licked the bowl.

The whole thing
took half the day.

The toys are filling
land in a trash heap.

The cake
is a lemon memory.

Mom? We don’t talk
much. Maybe

I’ve mixed
the whole thing up.

Sons who move
away. Old women

alive yesterday.
She never wore

an apron. I’ve never
let a lover in. I sit still

quietly in the morning
planning destruction

in my imagination,
in realities where I’m

the maker of destiny,
before I must follow

instructions, spend
all day filling out forms

with the heat inside
me rising slowly,

so I can bake
the world like batter,

rather than fire
like an engine,

like a high
powered machine,

or like a furnace
hardening clay.

Rockin’ Gypsies

To impress no one, we run
to the store for an onion, for salt
from the sea, for Kleenex
in a box of paisley.

We unlocked door to butt-
in on a simple question, how
one and a half
baths become a studio?

To impress no one, we set
the table with a vase
of carnations, telling no one
what a trying day; trying.

We reach for the door, check
the lock and the peep
before killing the light
in hopes we can sleep.

To impress no one, we wake
the neighbors with our banging,
hanging black and white
photos of fruit.

At our office door we greet
each person with a smile, neat,
and an anecdote from the weekend
“… spent it with friends.”

To impress no one, we end
our stories with a flourish,
garnish their slow-cooked ingredients,
and scour the china, thoroughly, clean.

Long Slow Distance

I’ve heard it said, by fellows
in tunics and scientist eggheads,
that we, meaning all things that aren’t
nothing, no things, are made up

of subatomic, quantum, finely-tuned
strings vibrating, as in a well-
translated koan, our unmeaning
brought over coherently.

If that’s true, then we, a metaphor
for four billion years of tuning turn
out to be this table, chair, air,
organ, skin, and also a melody

each, lines, drawn-in notes,
or instruments, timpani,
tuba, blowing beats
in a distinct symphony.