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The Poetry of Disease
Dr. David Fialkoff

 

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Introduction

Stop trying to fix your problems, to heal your disease, to overcome your deficiencies.
Stop fighting with your negativity.
Opposition doesn't work.
You can't win.
Stop acting like you're in control, like you're the boss.
Cooperation, not dominance, is the answer.
Adopt a compassionate, creative attitude to your negative experiences and those experiences turn from stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.
"You find, paradoxically, that what you've been running away from is the source of your authentic being," James Hillman.
The solution to your problem is right in front of you.

Life is theater.
We act out our problems in our day-to-day interactions until we find another way, another place, to pay attention to them.
Find a creative discipline to interact with what is bothering you.
Make poems of your negativity instead of acting it out in your personal relationships.
Draw or sketch your problems instead of doing them in your career.
Dance your disease instead of manifesting illness in your body.

My method can be tested.
Memorialize with creative expression what makes you uncomfortable, your dis-ease, and practically your life improves; you become smarter, more effective at dealing with the problematic people and situations in your life.
If you do your negativity in a journal or sketchbook, then you don't have to do it elsewhere in your life.
You can do it here or you can do it there, but it's not going away.
What you have is what you need.
What you need is a better attitude to life's difficulties, to the disease.
Everything is an oracle, including the negativity.

This book is a participatory experience.
It is meant as a guide to assist you in exploring your own disease.
Hopefully the ideas and poetry offered here will inspire you to write your own poems. Here are a few rules:

1. HEAP IMAGES ON IT:
Record the images that describe your negative experience.
The psyche loves images:
"I am lonely," carries no pictures;
"A tiny boat on a vast, dark sea," is a rich image of loneliness.

2. Avoid writing directly about the actual problematic people or situations.
Exaggerate, fictionalize, embellish.
Don't worry about being fair or accurate.
Make use of poetic license.

3. Avoid the first person as much as possible.
Don't write about "my pain."
Instead write about the tree's pain, the sky's emptiness, the world's sorrow.
Universalize your experience.

Poetry is the artistic discipline which I use to interact with disease, but I promise you, if you get a sketchbook and each day meditate on your negativities and then draw them, however abstractly, before you fill the book, your problems are forever changed, for the best.
It doesn't matter if you're not a great artist.
Just do it.

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1


"Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding," Lao Tsu,Tao Te Ching


What we take to be a problem is really the solution to another problem, a bigger problem of which we are not yet aware.
The problem is the solution.
Everything depends on how you frame it: the context for your disease.
Questioning invites knowledge.
Darkness enlightens.


"Buddha exclaimed on achieving enlightenment, "How wonderful! All beings are already enlightened, just as they are."

Everything is already perfect; everything except our attitude
The way you look at it is the problem.
The difficulty is integral to the system.
Something is calling for attention.
We are prejudiced against the experience.
What you do with the problem is the problem.
Sit attentively; interact creatively with what is "wrong."


Write a "Dear Disease" letter.
Learn its language. Do something "for" not "about" your experience of disease. What you don't look at comes around to haunt you.
Write it out instead of acting it out.
Write as if your life depended on it: it does!

Heritage

it is a heritage left you
a treasure from long ago
a language you cannot yet understand.
your basement full of riches
you leave home in search of wealth
going to search for authority
when you yourself are king.
that which you undervalue is the chief good
that which you neglect is the key to the kingdom.
the cow manure sprays out onto the field in a green-brown soup
enriching the earth.
respect yourself
including that part of you without self-respect.

***

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2


"When you find peace and quiet in the midst of busyness and clamor, then towns and cities become mountain forests; afflictions are enlightenment, sentient beings realize true awakening." Foyan


The problem is the way you look at it.
Change the way you look at the problem and the problem becomes less problematic.
Find a different way of interacting.
Behave differently towards the problem and it behaves differently towards you.


When you go to the market with a lot to buy, you make a list.
When you have a lot to remember to pack for a trip, you make a list.
When there's a lot going on in your heart and mind, write it down.
Write even if you have to write about not being able to write.


The journey is the goal.
The end is present in the beginning.
Each step of the journey is its own destination.
Each moment is complete unto itself.
Seek the wisdom of now.
Learn the lesson of the present circumstance before you move on, before you try to change it.
All healing and growth depends on being fully present now.
Be here now.
Take the disease as your primary coordinate.
Find ways of being here now without fixing or figuring.


Long Ago

the masters explained it all long ago
but people do not listen,
the way does not lead anywhere
the Tao does not lead away from itself,
there is nothing to acquire or lose.
men unfamiliar with the truth
make up games to pass the time
never satisfied with what they have
they have lost the capacity for enjoyment
restless ghosts
insatiably casting about
not knowing what they're looking for.
seek the wisdom of now.

***

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3


"You find, paradoxically, that what you've been running away from is the source of your authentic being," James Hillman.


It is precisely the desire to change, to grow and heal that prevents healing, growth and change.
Our strategies make things worse, compound the problem
Experience the fullness of the truth from which you flee and you will change.
Stop running away.


Words are magical.
The name contains the magical potency of the named.
Adam named the animals and had dominion over them.
Labels, diagnostic jargon and the pronoun "it" inhibit understanding the disease.
Avoid the inadequacies of pronoun.
Call disease by its name.
Avoid inarticulate self-destruction and suffering in silence.


If you want to change the world, start with yourself.
You are part of the equation.
Change the way you behave and the world becomes a different place.
Develop a practice of creatively considering your difficulties.
Change in a relationship does not fundamentally depend on the other.
Move from childlike dependence to self-empowerment.
You have the power.
Be willing to let go, to lose your attachment and things take their natural course.


"Everyone wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die"

Remedy

it does not take that much to set it right
a dive into the cold pond
a few quick strokes
and then up out onto the sunny bank.
there is a way
a remedy
not the putrid decomposition of a corpse
or the inescapable frustration of the torturer's conundrum,
there is not only wilderness but a path
a trail leading somewhere
if only to another trail.
or it is already right
and we need only persevere
sometimes things need to fall apart
skins ready to shed
we may not understand the code
but it is intelligent
you've got to let go you know.
calm, be calm
sit quiet with the source
it does not require much
just your heart and soul and wits
but the world is offered in return
descent and ascent
one of summer's last nights
come coolly through the window
the crickets are saying goodbye
to die and be reborn.

***

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4


Sometimes old concepts need to be broken to allow for new realizations.
Falling apart precedes reintegration, allowing for radical realignment.
Destruction and construction are two parts of the same process, two sides of the same coin, mutually dependent.


Disease as failure, constraint and frustration is the destruction which is as integral to creativity as construction.
Do the failure, constraint and frustration creatively on a page instead of acting them out.
Disease is the necessary counterpoint to health and growth.
Decay feeds growth which feeds decay.


Disease removes us from a state of ease, from our familiar accustomed state.
Disease disrupts our usual way of being, challenging our attitudes.
Disease demands that we integrate new contents, forcing us into new relationships with experience.
Find a new relationship to your problems.
Art has always been a way of addressing life's irreconcilable circumstances.
Poetry can be a non-invasive interaction with the unaccustomed.


If a culture doesn't have a word for the experience, then the experience doesn't exist.
Linguistics equal reality.
Choose rich phraseology over the poverty of unarticulated experience.

Only Shadows

uncertainty encompasses me
like the blue gray mists on this mountainside.
my vision is cloudy
I cannot see what is only a little in front of me
all the familiar things are lost.
am I on the path or about to fall over the precipice?
disoriented and afraid there is no place to rest
strange shapes loom before me
half-formed creatures obscured by fog.
somewhere the sun shines warm and bright
but here there are only shadows.

***

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5


Balance is not steady.
It is a fluid state, not a static one.
Balance is flow; getting stuck is the problem.
Balance dynamically responds to the dynamics of disequilibrium.
Balance rests on disequilibrium.
Tension allows for new equilibrium.
We must become better at responding to disequilibrium, flow through the darkness, find new ways of experiencing, heap images on it.
Synthesis requires conflict.
Ignorance, confusion and darkness open the way for new insight.
Challenge refines us.


Getting stuck in ignorance, confusion and darkness is the problem.
Find something to do in these problematic states.
It pays to have something to do with, not about the disease.
Art saves lives.


Disease is not damnation.
It is not a hell state where souls are punished without purpose.
Rather, through its suffering disease provides a corrective influence on the world view which the ego has fashioned.
Disease is necessary, meaningful and complete unto itself and does not need to be healed.
It is we who need to be healed, not the disease.
Our attitude towards the disease, our stubborn refusal needs healing.
Art allows for an openness to revisioning the disease

Endangered

they are cutting down trees again
along the avenue
hundred year old sugar maples
whose only crime is that they might some stormy day
threatened power lines that ought in the first place to be buried.
the beauty is our loss, along with shade
the trees in some way that surpasses human understanding
forgive us.
the planet will survive our intrusions
and though it take ten million years it will somehow heal
it is we who are impoverished
we who are endangered.

***

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6


"If what is fundamental exists within you, how can you say that you have not obtained it?" Wen-i


Disease is fundamental.
It is the philosophers' stone which changes lead into gold.
Disease is part of the stuff of life.
It is not a mistake.
For all your romantic fantasies you cannot keep away.
It is our bad attitude, our resistance to the importance of disequilibrium that gets us further into trouble, that makes things worse.
Disease is integral to life.
Stop resisting.
Deliberately interact with the problematic emotion in a non-directed way. You are not the director.


"The ancients said that when you want to keep away from what you are hearing and seeing, you attach yourself to what you are hearing and seeing..." Wen-i


Wanting to avoid, you attach.
Ignoring the problem makes it worse.
Denial and premature attempts at healing compound the disease, deepening our inelegant involvement with disequilibrium.
Recognize your attachment to disease.
Creatively embrace the problem.
Find new ways of expressing the disease.

What Hell Is This

What hell is this that follows me
Whichever way I fly
A darkness over all I see
A shadow ever nigh

A cloud that comes before the sun
Eclipsing golden rays
An umber haunting all things done
Until the end of days

A thief who sneaks in from the night
And leaves the heart a husk
Replacing heat and bloody might
With cool vapors of dusk

Each passing day my torment worse
No charm to break the spell
No flight of refuge from this curse
For I myself am hell.

***

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7


Carl Jung said that we ought to personify our disease, that we ought to treat our anger, depression, anxiety, confusion, etc. as though they were people.
Treat your disease like a person; it is at least a sub-personality.
Personal relationships require respect.
Presume intelligence and meaning.
What is the disease's point of view?
Find the images that speak to your disease.
Learn its language, its terminology.


Be deliberate about your relationship with disease.
Establish a relationship.
Talk to it.
Write to it.
Listen to it.
Try to get along.
Believe that it has value.
Respect its point of view.
Imagine its point of view.
Imagine that it wants to enlighten and enrich.
We have to admit our relationship before that relationship can be improved.
Begin a dialogue.
Address the hellishness on its terms.


Respect yourself, including the part of you that has no self respect.
Indulge the negative perspective on the page.

Already Dead

madness comes on its own time
water dripping in the toilet tank in the middle of the night
the covers uncomfortably warm
a sensation approaching thirst
worries of the day
I am my mother's son
I know what keeps her awake
hearing the car start across the street
the low moan of a once proud man
we all need some inspiration
something to do
victory and defeat entwine
there is something strange,
something disquieting about people loving us.
it is hard to see the pattern
to find a context
but like it or not the shoe fits
sleep is a luxury
refuge undeserved
oblivion.
the cat knows
the insomniac knows
the furniture which will outlive us knows
we are already dead
already ghosts wandering immaterially
in a world of dreams.
the traffic begins on the avenue
the sun struggles up
towards the eastern horizon,
there is no other way.

***

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8


Disease is a wild man breaking into our house, disturbing our daily activities, disrupting our tame, predictable worldview.
Disease as wild man breaks doors and windows, soils carpets and furniture and leaves the refrigerator door open.
Bars and locks, psychologists, accomplishments and positive affirmations cannot keep the wild man out.


Disease as wild man often comes at the worst possible moment, throwing himself through the picture window when we are having a party, or blocking our vision when we most need creative insight.
Primitive, stereotyped perspectives, our unfinished business, interfere with both our ability to enjoy life and our ability to practically address life's difficulties.

Epitaphs

epitaphs unfurl this morning
in the unchallenged sun
banners waving in the breeze
prayer flags
along some Tibet mountain pass,
one hundred reasons why
after its over;
neither of us
were desperate enough,
the years were too
many between us,
there wasn't enough to give,
she believed in love too much
and I too believed too little,
we were both lost but not together
planets traveling differently
drifting apart
in the astrological night.

there is an end to some things of the heart
looking up through roses
on an early day in June
red-pink banners against blue sky.
the trail ends in some deep woods
and goes on no further.
and though I felt it coming
and even allowed it to die
still it is sad.

***

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9


"You shouldn't strain to seek the path; if you seek it, you will lose the path. You need not strain to make things fluid; if you try to make them fluid, thing remain as they are. If you neither seek nor try to produce fluidity, the path will merge with things; then what thing is not the path?" Foyan


Sometimes disease as wildman arrives in the middle of the night and starts yelling in the backyard, disrupting our sleep.
Then stick your head out the window and talk to it.
Don't yell or threaten, talk; ("You need not strain to make things fluid.")
Tell it, "Look, it must get chilly out there. I've left you some blankets underneath that blue tarp. Take them as a present. I'm trying to sleep right now, could you come back in the morning? I'll make you some breakfast."


Befriend the disease as wildman.
Do something for it.
Do something before the crisis.
Leave out some food and the door unlocked when you go to work.
The wildman will reciprocate, bringing you treasures from his world, sweetness and healing, honeycomb and herbs.
Learn to communicate.
Teach it to close the refrigerator door and how to wipe its feet.
Build a room for disease in your psychological house.
Follow it out into the jungle to taste the bounty of the wild.

Semblance

I saw you among the flowers
Their wild beauty unencumbered by gravity's pull
Unearthly,
Rising delicately triumphant in summer's early evening air
Celestial,
Rooted only in the sky

Not you, but your semblance
Her hair greying as yours might be
Falling forward across the blossoms
As she bent down to explore the curl of a petal
The boldness of a stamen.

In that twilight watching
From behind I saw you move
With slow feline grace
Fed and lazy down verdant paths
Suspend with you again
In the foolish certainty of youth
That now is all and forever.

I saw you in that garden
Amid roses yet impossibly full of a fragrance which had long since ceased to be.

Not there, but long before
Strolling in unhurried innocence across lawns still dewy with the promise of that first spring
Before the winter
Before the blight.
And I, breathless between two worlds,
Transfixed by your apparition,
Watched in the fading light of my distant reverie as she turned a stranger's face
Not you.
Not there.
How much has been lost.

***

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10


I am able to say to my sense of abandonment, one of my wildmen,
"Not now. I'll talk to you later. I'm involved in a difficult negotiation and I don't need to feel like a four-year-old trying to get mommy's approval."
And because I have already established a relationship with the disease, already paid it respect, it takes a back seat saying, "All right, but why don't you try x, y, and z?"
And I try x, y, and z and they work and I thank my sense of abandonment for the good advice.


Disease comes to inform us.

Friday Morning

children and lovers desert you
people dig holes in the middle of the road
in cracks of chimney tops
flowers bear fruit
the sun shines in an ordinary way.
enlightenment is not such a blissful state
go ask Buddha about the pain in his foot.

***

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11


"In my school there are only two kinds of sickness. One is to go looking for the donkey while riding on the donkey. The other is to be unwilling to dismount once having mounted the donkey." Foyan


We look for the answer even while it carries us along.
People fear that if they look at the face of their disease, they will perish
We fear that if we entertain it, we will be overwhelmed.
But we are already riding on the donkey.
When disease wants to overwhelm us, it does not need our permission.
It does not need our complicity.
If disease wants to push us over the edge, it can.


The attitude of avoidance, hiding from disease is like the magical thinking of a child who hides from the bogeyman under the bed covers.
Such an position in fact makes it easier for the bogeyman to wrap you up and carry you off.
We are under the covers being beaten up by disease, stubbornly refusing to look.
Hiding makes it angrier.
If we would just stick our head out of the covers and look at the disease, it would not hit us so hard.
Get better at mounting and dismounting the disease.
Attention helps pacify the negativity.

For the Misbegotten

I listen to the wind
but it is not in the wind,
I listen to the cascading brook
but it is not there,
I listen to the song of birds,
to the laughter of children returning from school
but I do not hear it,
the ten thousand voices of the city do not speak it,
not thunder, not systole,
neither rain upon the roof nor a lover's moon,
but sometimes in silence
dense like the bottom of the sea
it comes to me
in narrow places free of hope, I find it
in the wasteland of my wretchedness it draws near
rewarding the vanquished
companioning the lost,
a voice for the misbegotten.

***

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12


You cannot hide behind your hands.
Attempted denial is not actual denial.
Denial does not mitigate painful reality, it obscures and worsens it.
Our oppositional response exaggerates, compounds and makes problematic the resisted psychological experience.
Try to get along.
Do something for not about the problem.
Do something with the disease, not against it.
Make art with it.


It is because we respond to negative emotions as obstacles that they become obstacles. Our response is much more obstructionistic than are the negative emotions.
Find new ways of approaching the obstruction without trying to fix it.
Write about the disease without trying to heal it.
Have the experience of obstruction without getting stuck.
Acceptance of disease promotes healing; loneliness becomes solitude, confusion transforms into creative chaos.

Milky Way

he was very serious
she was anything but,
he was falling in love
she was just having fun,
he wanted it so much she finally gave it to him
but it meant a lot more to him than it did to her.
now he stands out under the milky way
in the dull shadow of the earth
after she has disappeared into the night.

we want love on our terms
to be worthy of the miracle without shedding a skin,
but there are scars among the star
gaping black emptinesses
wounds that will not be filled by any super nova
as he stares up at the milky way
and dreams of wholeness.

***

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13


If you want the disease to be less hostile and obnoxious to you, try being less hostile and obnoxious to the disease.


Disease is not fundamentally hostile to our being.
The psyche is not sadistic.

Imperfect Creation

the maple is bright orange
the morning is gray
success and failure are the best of friends
philosophers have been thinking for centuries
and have concluded nothing
except that there is nothing to conclude
we are distracted by life's necessities
bread on the table
a warm, dry place to sleep
a bit of animal warmth
we are distracted by the brightly colored leaves.
there is no proof of G-d
history is its own reward
ten thousand things conspired to overwhelm us
how much better we feel when we take things into our own hands.
riding down the cliff unscathed
or almost so
it takes one's breath away
anticipating a fall
theories are abundant
but then a unknown is still unknown.
we watched the leaves fall
and morning change to afternoon
contemplating our leaps of faith
with infinite interest
picking pennies off the sidewalk
pieces of religion
no two the same
we are fascinated by our artifice
the poetic works of our hands
what we have made
of this imperfect creation.

***

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14


"There is something in each of you that you will only be able to perceive when you turn around." Foyan


Disease wants attention.
When we attempt to ignore or intimidate the disease it acts out, making a mess of things, because negative attention is better than no attention.
When things get really extreme we enlist the aid of professional therapists to make the disease go away or, at least, shut up.
But it is not going anywhere and will not be denied.
If something keeps biting your ass, have a look.
Leave aside value judgments and preferences.
Become one with the experience of disease.
Find the images that speak to your negative experience.
Write them down.


"You must observe the present state. What is its logic? What is its guiding pattern? Why are you confused? This is the most direct approach." Foyan


Disease is like a child who wants the cookies in the middle of the supermarket.
But we know from previous experience that he'll make a tremendous mess, cookies rolling up and down the aisles.
We refuse and he screams, ruining our shopping experience.
He cannot wait, having no faith that we will give him the cookies when we are out of the store, for he has been deprived before.
Leave the cart, taking the child and cookies outside and let him eat.
Pay the disease attention and eventually it will delay its need for gratification to a more opportune moment.
It may be obnoxious, but it's legitimate.
It is we who must change not the disease.
Artistically favor, indulge the negative perspective.

Thunderstorms

that thunderstorms come
on hot humid afternoons
seems proof of God's beneficence.
that all should be still
just for one moment
makes the tumult tolerable.
mountains of guilt
slide down over themselves
destroying whole villages,
balloonists plunge
five and a half miles
down into uncharted seas
and are miraculously unharmed,
this pen cyphers meaning
across the white slopes of this page.
there are various strategies for living
but no one has the answer.
the hill is slippery after the rain
tires turn a little before rolling on their way
the air is almost cool
the sun, retired behind the clouds
grants us a longer twilight.
there is not room
to save all who need saving
somehow a priority must be established.
I would like to work in my garden
to prune back some overreaching plants
but it has started to rain again,
nature has a way
of foiling our plans.

***

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15


Rapport takes time; cooperative experience builds trust. vDisease needs to be practiced.
Our unpracticed encounters with disease are awkward, dangerous, and unencouraging. We want to run away.
Don't be discouraged.
It takes a while.
First there must be a period of convalescence.
It is a long row to hoe, but you have momentum.
You're not dead in the water.
Every art takes practice.
Patiently invest your energies
Spend time exploring the world of your disease.
Revision the negativity
Make something of it.
The rewards are great.


"When you encounter a situation or hear a saying, your mind gets excited, and you make up an interpretation, in any case you are in a scattered state." Foyan


We are quick to jump to paranoid conclusions, stifling the importance of the negative experience.
Disease comes, often at the worst possible moment, remembering what the ego would rather forget, drawing us toward repressed being.
Pay it homage.
Make a physical memorial.
Write it down.
Dance it.

Homage

This emptiness, this deep black hole
This hunger gaping wide
That swallows heart and breath and soul
Remains unsatisfied.

This silence which makes destitute
Each song and word and cry
Does deafen ear and render mute
Each voice which would defy.

This stillness with its spastic rein
And sharp unyielding bit
Does flesh and spirit both restrain
All motion made forfeit.

And death which holds all life prey
Our master and our host
Removes from us each passing day
And makes of it a ghost.

***

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16


From the point of view of the ego, the disease is a problem, but from the point of view of the disease the ego is a problem.
Assume the negative point of view.


The ego presumes that disease needs its correcting influence, when in fact, disease is the corrective influence in the world view that the ego has fashioned.
If you want to do something, get out of the way.


The ego judges right and wrong, pretending to know what is best.
In its arrogance it presumes to effect the disease, like the colonialist who disruptively introduces modern conveniences into traditional, native culture, missing the importance of the aboriginal ways.
Observe the ancient ways.

The Night is a Jungle

the night is a jungle
panthers prowl suburban streets
hungry for their prey.
the timid stay indoors
while those possessed venture forth
hungrily.
strange insects fill the darkness with song
calling in a thousand tones
and listening for response,
armies of bats devour the air
the end is made certain
sensible people turn away
and dream their dreams of light.
in the darkness there you are free
with an abysmal reckless freedom
the night embraces all.
there you will find the unity you crave
in the only way that it's granted
oblivion's sweet kiss.
the night is a jungle
towns and cities disappear
all dissolving into the primal pulse
the end which is also the beginning. now is the time for love and fear
draw closer now to your god
see how the dead rejoice in the darkness
with the wisdom of the grave.
all that you shun
everything wild and dispossessed
calls to you from out in the night,
there comes an hour
when you must answer.

***

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17


Disease awakens us to neglected facets of self.
Disease calls us to be more our authentic self, more fully ourself.
The universe conspires to show us our shadow.
Have a look.
Make a record of the images revealed.


Disease is a persistent advocate of our interest.
It is our vigilant mentor and friend
We harm ourselves.


Disease is trying to communicate with us.
Study its language.
You may have forgotten it, but it has not forgotten you.

Death Waits

death waits
beneath the frozen lake,
on the hospital's sixteenth floor,
on the inside lane of the interstate highway,
in the paintings of Frida Kahlo,
on the couch next to my father,
within the 45 caliber pistol.

death waits
while children play at recess,
while workers take their lunch break,
while old women pray,
and fish eye the wormy hook.

death waits
for the sun to set,
for the moon to wax,
for spring to arrive,
for the song to finish,
for the kettle to boil.
death waits
at the foot of the bed,
at the end of the road,
at the moment of birth,
patiently
with an all knowing smile,
enjoying the breeze on the first day of autumn,
watching the Jews walk to synagogue to pray to their God.

death waits
calmly
immobile
like the perfect Buddha
assured that all will come to him.

***

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18


"Thinking will not do; not thinking will not do either. Then how do you teach people to contemplate. I tell you, just step back and look." Foyan


In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it appeared that science would solve all our problems, wonder drugs would eliminate disease, labor saving devices would eliminate the need for work, the mysterious land of the psyche would soon be mapped. We still cherish the naive assumption that science can measure and order our experience. However, life resists knowledge.
Disease is about un-knowing, putting aside our assumptions and entering the unknown.


Culturally we are obsessed with the one who knows and, putting that knowledge to work, fixes the problem.
Our cultural icon is the Hollywood hero who, knowing exactly what must be done, exterminates the opposition, has a drink and gets the girl.
We need some way of approaching the uncertainties of life.
We need to make room for and address the unknown disease.
Address the negative perspective with a creative discipline.

Straight Lines

there is no such thing as a straight line
there is no such thing as a simple explanation
train whistles sound in the night
cars driving down the avenue
sound like waves breaking on the shore
a woman called today to ask me
to help her commit suicide
if as she fears
her life becomes unbearable,
she was barely getting by
before her husband was institutionalized,
I promised her again that I would
I hope she doesn't hold me to it.
the back room is coming along slowly
grass doesn't grow in August.
after the sun set
I weeded the garden,
mint is so aggressive
and finished cutting the trees
out of the hedge and hydrangea,
each year it's the same
sooner or later their roots will give up.
life requires that we be part of something larger than ourselves,
there is no point to living alone.
each week my father seems to slip a little farther away
quietly occupying space.
oceanic cars speed down the road
trains bewail their comings and goings
there are no easy answers
no answers at all.

***

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19


Disease requires of us humble receptivity, a suspension of our personal agenda in favor of the deeper currents of our unconsciousness.
Disease requires listening over doing, the active listening that art provides.


"Whatever you are doing, twenty-four hours a day, in all your activities, there is something that transcends the Buddhas and Zen Masters; but as soon as you want to understand it, it's not there. It's not really there; as soon as you try to gather your attention on it, you have already turned away from it. That is why I say you see but cannot do anything about it." Foyan


There is too much doing, too much directed action.


Disease, like grace, functions separate from personal effort.
Find the action which does not violate the negative space.
Be true to the disease.

Dominance

we are fascinated by our newly acquired dominance over nature
television commercials show family vehicles
being driven where vehicles ought not go,
racing through sacred desert land
splashing through pristine mountain streams
cresting remote flower-strewn hills.
we suffer from the world-denying attitude of our major religions
not this world but the next is our goal
we have contended with nature for survival for so long
that we don't know how to stop struggling
we don't know that we've won
that the game must be preserved
for those after us to play.
just because we can doesn't mean we should.

***

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20


Disease challenges and refines us, drawing us away from ephemeral ideals towards practical fulfillments.
Disease is a way of revising our conscious life plan.
What we want is often not what is best for us.
What does the negativity want?
Use your imagination.

Give Me A Call

When you've lost or forgotten whatever you came for
And your guilt seeps like rain through the cracks in the wall
But you don't know which crime you've accepted the blame for
Won't you please give me a call.

When you've let go of the threads by which you've been hanging
And you tumble through the darkness as you fall
Into another tangled web wove of lifeless haranguing
Won't you please give me a call.

When you can't find the ground that you used to stand on
And you're not sure which way that you ought to crawl
But you know that you won't reach the goal that you planned on
Won't you please give me a call.

When your reason takes the veil from your eyes and deserts you
And your nakedness leaves you no room to barter or stall
With the hungry embrace which surrounds and perverts you
Won't you please give me a call.

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21


"Once they have taken it up, they have already misunderstood; acting as if they were in charge, they do not realize Buddhism is not understood in this way" Foyan


Curing disease is neither possible nor desirable.
We cannot work on, cure or understand the darkness.
Find something else to do with the negativity.


We do not work on disease any more than a person sitting on an iceberg directs the berg with his paddle.
Deep ocean currents push against the nine tenths of the iceberg below the surface sailing it independent of the person's puny efforts.
You are not the captain.
Pay attention to where you are going.
Get the drift.

Abandon

Abandon all hope you who pass through this door
Say goodbye to the life you won't live anymore
For the signs that direct you are to clear to ignore
And there's no turning back if you'd want to
Because nothing's the same as it once seemed before
For your whole damn world is changing.

Sickness rages around you without any cure
Their drugs and addictions make you numb and obscure
While the fountains of water all run dry or impure
Don't worry 'bout the chances you're taking
Just get out while you can 'cause you're dying there for sure
For your whole damn world is changing.

Those you do love have been cruelly unkind
They've convinced you to search in the land of the blind
For a comfort and home that you can never find
As they stumble and fall right beside you
But now keep your eyes open and don't look behind
For your whole damn world is changing.

Your castles and temples have turned into sand
And they've all washed away with the dreams that you've planned
And they've left you there floating with no ground to stand
Amid dark waves that threaten to drown you
Just forget what you've lost and start swimming for land
For you whole damn world is changing.

The storm outside raging does batter and blast
And blow open that old door which you had held fast
And it sucks you along as the threshold is past
Out into the cyclone your spinning
Now you'd better start living like each moment's your last
For your whole damn world is changing.

***

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22


One cannot simultaneously "accept" something and "work on" it.
Working to change something is the opposite of accepting it.
It is not a job.
It is not a problem to be fixed.
It is a message to be revealed.


We don't need to do something about disease; we need to do something with it.
We don't need to understand or figure disease out; we need to creatively interact with it.
We don't need to work on disease; we need to play with it.
We need to "play with" not "work on" the "inner child."
Write in a playful way.
Fancy not analysis is the rule.
It may be an ugly or a sad game, but it is still a game.


You will not get to know someone if you believe that you already know him, especially if you believe that you already know him enough to change him.
Abandon that knowing attitude and humbly, diligently pay homage.

As Long

as long as you think that you can fix it
set it right
unknot or transform it,
as long as you believe
that you can heal it
resolve it
or make it work,
as long as you expect to forgive, forget or outlive it,
as long as you imagine that there is a possible right response
that it is unnatural, a mistake, an aberration,
as long as you make war on it or excuses for it,
as long as you feel singled out or especially cursed because of it,
as long as you think that it shouldn't be
or that it will change
you have not felt
how deep the pain goes.

***

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23


Disease is much bigger than us.
It is not inside of us; we are inside of it.


Don't hate your disease.
Be nice.
Be hospitable.
It's bigger than you.
It can kick your ass anytime it wants and has done so many times.
If it is not currently kicking your ass, it's just being friendly.
Be friendly in return.
If you are not currently in crisis, take the opportunity to improve your rapport with the negative through creative expression of the disease.

Close at Hand

the end is close at hand
sun raging through October's windows
so close you have stopped counting the pages
peace is not warm
tranquility is cessation
the final chill
hypothermia
entropy
molecules coming to rest.
my mother watches the obituary column
and today finds one of her friends dead
the end of the leaves
the end of the year
the end is never far
even on the sunniest summer day
in the midst of childhood's games the doors are closing
rusting shut.
beginnings are aplenty
distracting us from mourning the finality
everything contains its own annihilation
God is at once the endless beginning
and the beginningless end,
people worry about the sun burning out
the world however keeps limping along
with everything we've loved passing
until we too are no more.
my mother calls upstairs to ask
if I can watch my father who is also passing
while she goes to the funeral of someone
only yesterday
well loved.

***

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24


In a garden when the first two cotyledon leaves of a plant appear, it is impossible to tell what type of plant it is, squash, pumpkin or gourd.
Later, when the plant flowers it may be clear that it is a gourd, but still we cannot tell what type of gourd it is until it further matures.
Disease is a plant that needs to grow.
Tend it.
Heap images on it.
See what fruit it will bear.


"I always tell you that what is inherent in you is presently active and presently functioning, and need not be sought after, need not be put in order, need not be practiced or proven. All that is required is to trust it once and for all. This saves a lot of energy." Foyan


Nurture the experience of being out of sorts.
Cultivate the imbalance.
Give the disease an artistic arena in which to perform.

Dichotomy

the hills grow black
against the dark blue western sky.
the full moon crests the eastern ridge
shining down through trees.
the brook flush with snow still melting off the mountain
roars melodiously through the quiet gathering of night.
this morning I woke in the city
now I am alone on this mountain
the distance cannot be bridged.

***

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25


Adopt a broader frame to see the whole picture.
Get a larger screen so that you can see what is being projected rather than having the image spill off onto the curtains.
You are confused because you do not se the larger context of your sufferings.


Manure too concentrated burns the plant, spread out it fertilizes the field.
Give the disease more room.
Allow it to unfurl and express itself.
Spread out your shit.
Manure is valuable shit; shit in its proper context.

Another World

there is another world
below the surface of your thoughts
where the same things happen
but in a different way
for purposes you have not imagined
there Buddha sits declaring,
"How wonderful, how wonderful,
all beings are already enlightened,
just as they are."
there all myths of all lands are true
there our love and pain form symphonies
the mundane is rendered sacred
there mighty currents flow
rivers in the sea
unfathomable,
the ancient ones sit with inscrutable smiles
kaleidoscopically
questions find their answers
language finds its truest form
inexpressibly,
there is no wrong or shouldn't be
no wasted time or effort
there only that which must be learned
the vast, insistent present.
we are the shipwrecked on that sea
we are the corpse dragged down
we are all that can never be
the garden of the drowned
the sunken riddle now unfurled
below the surface of this world.

***

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26


That annoying black spot that you have been trying to rub off the page is microfiche.
Magnify it.
What does it say?
Enlarge the disease.
Exaggerate.
Indulge.
Inquire.


Disease is like a word processing program that has not fully inflated from a compressed state.
It is frustrating and time consuming to get stuck in the unexpanded area, but we do not want to trash that part of the program.
Expanding it we discover that it is the spell check and the word count and that makes our life easier.

What Ails Thee

What ails thee king? Where is thy woe?
How comes this land benighted?
There's naught to reap of what they sow
All hearts are disunited.

Where is the dawn that broke so sweet?
The sun which promised life?
Chilled by the cold and scorched by heat
The land is lost in strife.

How fares the bold and foolish knight?
How often must he fail?
He after famine, fear, and fight
Returns without the grail.

A wounded healer without rest
A queen in spells of magic
And not to find, ours but to quest
On journeys blessed or tragic.

***

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27


"If people recognize false thoughts and deliberately try to stop them, it's because you see that there are false thoughts.
If you know you're having false thoughts and deliberately practice contemplation to effect perception of truth, this is also seeing that there are false thoughts.
If you know that falsehood is fundamentally the path, then there is no falsehood in it." Foyan


If you know that disease is fundamentally the path, then there is no disease in it.
The body creates the disease.
Leave well enough alone.


Something is required, but it is not your manipulation.
Disease needs expression.
Like heated, subterranean, volcanic forces, disease requires a vent or it will explode.


Become an advocate for the dark.
Give voice to the negativity.
Feed it.
It's hungry.

Despite What Came Before

the dreams are fevered
but there is no heat
staccato vignettes
learning to fly
a mountain retreat
my childhood home
with brief wakings between them
time just to turn
to pull the covers up or down
a sleep not giving to rest
a mental somnambulism
a working out of what?
the summer sand
a classroom almost naked
a restaurant enshrouded
a caribou brought down by wolves
an antelope by lions
the herd moves on
not far
relieved
and settles down to grazing
so much of life is going on
despite what came before
we each have our burdens
and if not yet
then we anticipate their coming
the world is full of or horrors
mundane and profound
last night as I lay close to sleep
I could have cried but didn't
this morning out of fevered dreams
I touched my brow and wept,
the whole world is crying.

***

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28


Computerized noise reduction is accomplished by broadcasting the same sound wave one-half phase off, so that as one wave rises, the other falls.
Like cures like.
The disease done creatively becomes the cure.
Treat disease homeopathically rather than by contraries.
Unplug your ears.
Listen, and memorialize what you hear.


Disease doesn't need or want to be captain of the ship, but it's tired of being kept under the deck and if it has to grab the helm to get attention, it will.

Hunger in the Midst of Plenty

the sky is mottled
clouds barely shielding the sun
cows graze distantly on the hill
old friends are reunited
the air is still
like a soft kiss good night.
I feel myself a part of it all
pleasantly in the company,
I am sitting at the table
enjoying in the fullness,
I am the hungry dog
looking for scraps.
there are many unreasonable expectations
things that with age
we learn to do without.
there are deep wildernesses in the soul
where human comfort is sacrificed
where human things are put aside.
springs burst forth between dry rocks
the sun peaks through the clouds
hunger greets me in the morning
the untrammeled face of youth
the perfect curve of a woman's behind
the forgotten left along the way.
there is something burning
with everything in fruit
impossible to extinguish
there are hungers impossible to fill,
no matter where you are
the compass always points north.

***

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29


The inscription over Jung's door at Bollinger reads, "Invited or not the gods will attend." You may not like the disease, but it's not going away.
Invited or not, the horror will attend.
It has a right to be here.
Pay homage to the maddened gods.


Freud observed that the repressed remains primitive.
That is to say, disease becomes worse if we attempt to ignore it.
It is easier to have rapport with a sophisticated, articulate disease.
It's easier to know what is required.
Confusion needs expression, needs to be heard, practiced.

Spinning

one moment ago I was a child
and in an instant I shall be old,
time knows no bounds.
that night should become day
that day should turn into night
is only a trick of this rotating planet,
they are constantly in place
it is we who spin madly.
her mother was alcoholic and committed suicide
everything went wrong in Paris.
the cat will meow until she is fed
idealists think they can save the world
I am falling asleep
dreaming of good-byes.
the Chinese destroy Tibet to save its people
in Afghanistan human bones are dug, ground and sold as fertilizer
today I washed my sheets
tonight she is not here.
the darkness forces its way inside my head
it is comforting to turn away from the sun.

my father cannot refuse
the few needs which press him,
this man who has denied so much.
I hold him as he slips from life
especially weak when he has just risen
tucking him in I stroke his hair
as I know no one has for a very long time
if ever
and certainly not much.
he is grateful for his son.
I turn out the light
and say good nightv
as death spins silently closer

***

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30


Learn the language, the vocabulary of disease.
Become fluent with your negativity.
Allow that destruction style and grace.
Make way.
Make a way for the disease, creatively.


Disease has gotten a bad rap.
It needs better public relations.
If it weren't for my sense of inadequacy, I never would have accomplished so much."


It is not so much the disease, but our relationship with the disease that is the problem.


Disease is a wise old mentor and we act like a know-it-all kid.

Urine

she complains bitterly against her lot
but I just back from hearing tales of Auschwitz and Hiroshima
have little sympathy for her.
my father
eighty years old
tottering and mostly blind from a stroke
has wet his pants again
this she notices like something spilled in his lap
while I am with him in the bathroom
readying him for bed.
"I just washed three pairs of pants," she wails
ignoring my offer to rinse out the gray sweatpants
and I, still imagining the seared flesh of the living
and forty-four children deported after one-year hiding
singing to a death camp
I, so situated, am immune to her point.

suffering and love are relative qualities
and when life shorts us on the genuine article
we make up our own.

***

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31


Disease has purpose.
Disease is complete and meaningful.
Disease isn't stupid.
It isn't a mistake.
Disease is not broken and doesn't have to be fixed.


Disease isn't due to a character flaw.
Take it easy on yourself.
Loving the "bad" person that you are is a necessary stage.


The meaning of life comes from the meaning of our limitation, disease and death.
We must expand our imagistic vocabulary to appreciate the meaning of our disease.
Art is the only language rich enough to encompass the meaning of the negative


Disease has an ecology.
It is a complete system.
One must look at the whole picture and not intervene in a piecemeal manner.
Take a holistic perspective.
Find the images that make up the whole picture.

Filling the Void

one expects that love will matter
and then it doesn't
or it does
but not enough
or not in the right way
and slowly you work your way through the list
money, time, wisdom, peace
each one disappointing in its acquisition
failing to fill the void.
it's almost better not to have
to keep that hope alive
imagining some satisfaction just out of reach.
I see a weariness in the eyes of those who have gone before me.
the only way to keep from being fooled
is to stop believing
to find some comfort in a non-human scale
the time of rocks
the spirit of the wind
the measure of the sky.
hollow are the ways of man
the petty pride of kings
bend heaven down
or raise the earth
what are the things of this world worth?

***

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32


There is an economy to disease.
If you do it here, you don't have to do it there, but it will be done.
Creatively interact with disease rather than blindly acting it out.


Get past the denial.
Accept the pain.
It is what it is.
After so much denial now it is time to indulge the obsessional point of view.
"Uglify," Lewis Carol.

Humanity

we are all animals
humanity is never more than a veneer
those who are deeply human
are already saints.
you can see it at the supermarket
behind the wheel
in sports and politics
and of course
on the battlefield
territoriality and domination are the rule
cooperation is the exception.
the best we can manage is the pack
the gang, the team
an us against them
the truly social animals, bees and ants took a different evolutionary fork.
fetal development follows the development of the species
ontology recapitulates phylogeny
the embryo's first and fish-like brain is soon covered
by a bilobed amphibian brain
which in turn is swallowed by a mammalian brain
itself eventually buried beneath the human cortex,
but the ancient instincts are difficult to suppress
it's hard to be human;
most people eat like animals
most people love like animals.
there is something to be said for visiting these lower brains
but a little humanity goes a long way
humanity is the icing on the cake
the choice
the art of living
everything else is just reflex,
a little humanity is all the humanity we have.

***

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33


"When people do not understand an answer, they produce views based on words. They do not know it is something you answer for yourself-what truth have you found, and where does it lead? Therefore it is said, 'It's all you.' Look! Look!" Foyan


We are born like a mansion.
Our many rooms represent a great variety of being, perception and potential.
From birth we become effected by other people's valuations of our many rooms.
We are rewarded for entering some and discouraged from dwelling in others.
Eventually we come to forget about whole wings and floors of the mansion.
We come to regard ourselves in a limited way.
We cannot see ourselves beyond our habits, our habitual ways of being.
Mind is conditioned.


There are ghosts running through the neglected rooms of our psyche.
Some rooms are frightening.
Some are full of joy.

Madness

There is a madness in our souls
A tiger freshly caged
Who restlessly alert patrols
Captivity enraged.

There is a darkness in our eyes
A place unknown by light
Where measure's lost and order dies
And everything's in flight.

In every heart wild passions flare
Which threaten to devour
With fire and ice all that we dare
To build in our brief hour.

Strange hungers do our bowels consume
With flesh and bone within
For some dark birth inside our womb
Whose shelter is our skin.

Fearful the night and shadow's urge
Black snakes within their holes
Whose venom's bite as they emerge
Brings madness to our souls.

***

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34


In the desperation of disease we pound our head against the wall until it cracks open.
Inside the crack we see what turns out to be a doorknob.
Now deliberately breaking off plaster we uncover a doorway long ago sealed over.
We are a mansion with doorways plastered over, rooms lost, whole wings forgotten.


"Search for the coin in the river where you lost it." Wen-yen



The door has always been there.
The key is hidden in the one place we refuse to look.
We are so ashamed, so convinced of the worthlessness of our disease that we avoid exploring its recesses.
The key is the pain and does not need to be healed.
What trees are falling in your psychological forest that you are not hearing?
Listen, dance, paint.

Jungle

Perhaps the jungle's grown too dense
The passage blocked inside
By mountains rising up immense
Or rivers stretched too wide.

Maybe I'm weak in heart and mind
With plans so foolishly bold
To brave the perils search and find
A fabled city of gold.

Perhaps the night's too dark and filled
With ghosts of promises broken
With umbered haunts of wishes willed
And echoes of love misspoken.

Maybe all fables are for fools
And jungle's darkness reigns
But love bids me oppose all rules
And cherish all the pains.

***

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35


Disease is a treasure-laden time-capsule containing all that has been lost, repressed and denied.
All the selves that were not allowed to be are there waiting to be explored.
Face up to the witch and get the treasure.


Disease can be a process of enrichment.
The hollowing out wrought by disease results in an increased capacity, an opening to a greater level of psychic organization.
Find a medium with which to creatively explore.
Cooperate with the process.

Refuge

the world returns to nothingness
with nothing to mark its passing.
everything extinguishes itself
from satiety or neglect.
winter and early spring
passions cease to move.
once it seemed there was something to be done
somewhere to go
now all is lost
over before it started.
the animal needs are fed
the old man sits
impatiently waiting for death
the foolish days coalescing into one.
the simple things are lovely
brightness of sun
warmth of bath water
flavor of food
soft aliveness of the flesh
spicy, sweet smells.
the towers are fallen
what have the centuries accumulated?
the wonder is unearthly
wondrous because of its transcendence
something brought
an endowment
a crown atop an empty head.
we are left to feel something
without a place to feel it
there is no home
no wandering
there, just there
take refuge.

***

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36


Light is brighter on coming out of the dark.
After experiencing the night there is an increased capacity to enjoy the day.
The darkest hour is not only right before the dawn, the darkest hour brings the dawn.


The crest of a wave is only as high as the trough is deep.


The psyche is not sadistic.
It does not demand our attention to torment us, but calls us back to authentic living lost long ago in the blanket process of denial.
The pain was repressed, but so were essential joys.
Remembering the pain remembers the joy.
Remember the pain; assemble its pieces, its members into a whole.


Cultivated, disease transforms, if not like a caterpillar into a butterfly, then like a larva into a moth or at least a maggot into a fly.
Get wings.
Realize the benefit, the wisdom inherent in your disease.


Disease taken in stride transforms from a stumbling block into a stepping stone.

Misplacing

I am good at misplacing my affection
believing that the crescent moon could do other then fall through the night
enamored of the possibility
that what I see in love's dark eye
is more than my reflection.
this light is not the sun
although such shadowed fools as I might be excused for thinking so;
tiny, buzzing, winged things in sad electric orbits.
youth compels us into embrace
ensuring the survival of the species
but age makes our loneliness complete.
still, I would have thought there more than all these false redemptions
more than the sweetness of my blood
the throbbing pulse
the misting of my eye,
still there beats that silly hope
that obscene wish for someone's understanding,
that I have loved too well is but my most poetic fault.

***

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37


Locomote with greater ease.
Navigate.
It doesn't have to be so paralyzing.
Just let go.
Enjoy the ride.
It's not your job to fix it.
Stop trying.
You're not the cook,
Just taste the soup.


Disease is closing the windows of our house on a hot summer day.
The ego, complaining that the house will get hotter, rushes around opening them.
Eventually disease overpowers the ego, punching it in the belly.
Then the ego, lying on the floor catching its breath with windows closed, realizes for the first time that the house has air conditioning.

Sad To Tell

Oh children it's sad to tell
That you like me were born in hell
And those who claim to wish you well
Have hung your soul to dry and sell.

Crucified by mother's pain
Chafing from your father's rein
Your heart is broken and in chain
I wish somehow I could explain.

There is no way to count the cost
The love you crave is ever lost
You're brutalized and double crossed
That fragile spring betrayed by frost.

They feed you on their unfilled dreams
To fence you in their selfish schemes
And justify by any means
Ignoring all your muffled screams.

***

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38


"When you were infants you also heard sounds and saw forms, but you didn't know how to discriminate. Once you came to the age of reason, then you listened to discriminating thinking, and from that time on have suffered a split between the primal and the temporal." Foyan


Living is fundamentally a non-intellectual activity.
Essentially experience cannot be apprehended by thought.


"Live in the land of thought yet untouched by thought." Foyan


The thinking self is not the inherent definition of our being.
Do something with your experience besides analysis.
Stop trying to explain it away.
Life defies analysis.
Thinking about life is at best a poor second to living it.


"They are shrouded by the light of knowledge, attached to an extreme of knowledge." Foyan


Every understanding is an approximation.
All scientific theories are models, inevitably subject to revision.
Everything is relative.
Nothing is written in stone.
It all depends on how you look at it.
There is no objective truth.
Poetry provides us with a richer vocabulary with which to interpret experience.


If you could have figured it out, you would have figured it out already.
Pick a new strategy.
Become creative with the negative.

No Joy

do not expect joy
from a job well done
exhaustion has its own rewards.
do not expect satisfaction
from a principled life
loneliness has a tax.
comfort erodes
beneath this hard rain
were the only salvation
is a deep root.
there is some small victory
in opening your eyes to the morning
or surviving to rest again at day's end
but it is a fool's game.
the lights are out across the farm
there is no answer in the night
there is an awkwardness to living
a moth breaking its wings against the windowpane.
understanding is not the end of suffering
but the start.
what you want is not available
at any price,
it never was.
you may continue to dream your dreams
but there is no joy in waking.

***

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39


"The non-duality of initial experience and fundamental reality is called ultimate enlightenment." Ashvaghosha


We experience beauty directly.
We find the painting beautiful or not.
Our aesthetic response to experience is usually obvious, immediate, visceral. vWe don't have to think whether we like a taste or sound or smell.
Experience ought also to be immediately visceral, not merely intellectual.
Stop watching life, live it.
We must re-experience our lives.
We must acquire an artistic approach to our experience.
Write to your negative experience.


"Those who seek for the truth should realize that there is nothing to seek....Thoughts perpetually change and cannot be grasped because they possess no self-nature." Ma-tsu1


Truth is often very hard to determine.
It is a slippery fish.
Aesthetic is stronger than knowing.
Beauty over truth.
The universe, including disease, has an aesthetic.
Art, painting, writing, dance, etc., is a non-intellectual way of paying attention to disease.
Art not analysis.

Not One

the leaden weight of a new day
not one but many.
privilege taken to the extreme
increases the inevitable oppression
just to set it down
provides relief
to share it with the page
passing comfort
like the sun racing through the sky.
a world not one but many
a different world on opening the eyes
unfamiliar
without the accouterments of self
gray and shadowy
sunny and warm
the mirage of consistency dissipates.
by evening today has changed again
the air somewhat hopeful
strange the things we cling to
the way in which we count
fragments of fairy tales
hearth and dark woods.
the cat seems impatient with these musings
wanting to go outside and hunt
unburdened by self consciousness.
to set it down
not once but many times
to make a story of the different days that greet us
comforted among the unfamiliar.

***

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40


Life is tragic.
Death, loss, sickness, pain, the simple passing of time all contribute to the tragedy that is living.
The ancient Greeks knew this and wrote plays about it.
Find the images that describe the tragic nature of experience.


Life, tragedy, beauty and truth cannot be essentially understood.
We are not required to figure out our disease, only to creatively engage it, to tell a story with it, to find a context that includes it, a mythology that encompasses it, a cosmology that gives it place.
Story over analysis.
Stop analyzing and write a poem.

The Laureate

High-built walls of stony girth
Hold prisoner amorphous earth
Protecting with their cool, grey pardon
Recesses of that sunken garden.

Whose lawns were filled as every walk
By congregates to hear the talk
And render in that evening's shade
The poet greater accolade.

And there the aged laureate
Ensconced in a gazebo sat
A weathered Buddha wizened wise
Staring out with complacent eyes.

Over the throng who'd gathered round
Across the flowered and sculpted ground
Taking it seemed recondite pleasure
In rhythms with those walls did measure.

Then read his rhymes to their applause
An hour forced to take a pause
When with a cough his voice did harden
As cool night sank into the garden.

While all the while from treetop's towers
Indifferent to the poems and flowers
Unbridled nature's voice rang strong
As one bird sang its sunset song.

For poems are made like garden walls
In patterns wrought from what befalls
Enclosures fashioned poor or grand
From just whatever lay at hand.

Their words restraining shapeless earth
Have won a place of human worth
From nature brutal and sublime
Who little cares for human rhyme.

***

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41


"The true nature of ignorance is the very nature of enlightenment; the empty body of illusions and projections is the very body of realities." Grand Master Yongjia


Children are very good at not knowing, at not understanding, at being confused.
Children do not assume that they are supposed to know.
Adults are very uncomfortable not knowing.
They strive to understand.
They pretend to understand when they don't, obscuring experience with superficial labels.


The nature of darkness is that you don't know.
Love it; you don't have to know it.
Stop looking for explanations.

Dinosaurs

the damned walk down the avenue
mole-like
without vision
with nothing to recommend them.
they work as little as possible
at anything
they eat far too much
the sun has already set on their sorry asses
they are dinosaurs
yet unaware that they are extinct.
I cannot blame them for this
they have no idea what they are missing
they cannot conceive of their damnation
their brains are arrested in an early developmental stage
barely human
worn down by centuries of oppression
or addled by too much comfort
the outcome is stupidly the same.
they feed
or dream of feeding their animal souls
with two hands
unable to satiate their selfishness
in the midst of plenty
they war with their neighbor.
I used to look at them with hope
but experiencing their stubborn refusal to live
cured me of that disposition
and also of the pity that replaced it,
then I felt disgust
but came to find them unworthy
of so active an emotion,
now there is only a certain pathetic indifference
as when one drives past roadkill
a dead skunk or raccoon
quickly on one's way to somewhere else
a brief regret
the smallest instant of horror
easily overlooked in the rearview mirror.
that is how I feel
seeing the damned promenade
on the avenue
already dead.

***

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42


Socrates claimed to be the wisest man because he knew that he didn't know, whereas others thought they knew but didn't.
The more you know, the more you know you don't know what you know.


Adults jump to arbitrary conclusions attempting to avoid uncertainty.
As Dylan sang, "We all sit here stranded, but we're all doing our best to deny it."
Tolerate ambiguity.
Stop pretending to know.
Poetry allows us to engage without knowing.

Not

not food, not money, not love
not sex, not fame, not lightning
not freedom, not God, not politics
not winning, not losing, not giving up
not beauty, not truth, not death
not poetry, not school, not the wind
(certainly not school)
not embarrassment, not being right
not timing, not enthusiasm
not birthdays, not diagnoses
not paintings or colors or books
not children, not being lost
not home, not history, not tomorrow
not crime or cultural genocide
not mistakes, not luck
not astrology, not the bible
not mother, not father
not your second grade teacher
not work, not vacation, not retirement
not patience, not growth
not today, not here, not now
not hunger, not drought
not Venus or Mars
not north or west or up or down
not intentions, good or bad
not almost (not even in horse shoes)
not questions, not knowing
not knowing that you don't know
not goodness or evil or destiny,
nothing is as important as it seems.

***

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43


"Right now if you are questioned and cannot speak, where is the fault? It is generally because of seeing forms where there is no form, hearing a voice where there is nothing said, forcing rationalizations where there is no reason, asserting control where there is no control." Foyan


Not everything can be thought.
Thinking is overrated.
Knowledge is overrated.
I know now what I didn't know then, but I don't know yet what I don't know yet.
The mind cannot understand the mind.
Disease is not inside of us, we are inside of it.
We cannot understand disease because disease is greater than we are.


There is too much doing, too much making, too much effecting.
Feelings are apprehended through receptivity, not doing.
When you tumble under the water, disoriented, don't flail about madly, relax, wait to discover which way is up.
Discover the truth of disease through creatively engaging it.

Saturday's Game

at first there wasn't enough money
then there was
then there wasn't enough love
then there was
then my father's disease
and my mother's anger,
the older we get
the more that assails us.
rules are for children
the law is a tightening noose.

at first the words came infrequently
like a national holiday
now they flow like a spring-fed mountain brook
at first she was small
now her feet are almost as big as mine.
this ball is too big
this one too soft.
strange how much things change
and how little the changes matter.
halfway through the season
the team hasn't won a game yet
but the kids are having a good time.

***

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44


"As soon as you accept and approve anything, recognizing it as your own, you are immediately bound hand and foot and cannot move. So even if there are a thousand possibilities, nothing is right once you have recognized, accepted and approved it as your own." Foyan


The hero has an agenda, knows what needs to be done and does it.
The arrogant hero conquers and captains.
The heroic ideal is made possible by the naive belief that science, i.e., "knowledge" can encompass and order our experience and solve our problems.


Hercules kills Proteus.
The hero reduces multifaceted reality to permit single-focused action.
The heroic archetype covers a tiny fraction of our experience; heroism is so rarely an option.
Adopt a less hostile attitude to the unknown.
Be less directed with disease.
Give it space, time, voice.

Pools of Hell

Oh spread those wings in fledgling flight
And flutter upwards towards the light
Away from this eternal night
Upon whose shores we dwell
By shaded pools of hell.

To bathe one brief triumphal day
With gladdened heart in golden ray
And turn our troubled thoughts away
From tears which rained and fell
In shaded pools of hell.

So render form and weighty mass
To images inside a glass
Our bodies' breath too soon does pass
Into the shapeless spell
Of shaded pools of hell

Then take the chisel and engrave
Heroic doings of the brave
And yet for us there's none to save
No bright Elysian dell
Just shaded pools of hell.

***

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45


"When you want to manifest it by the light of knowledge, you've already obscured it." Foyan


The problem is the way we think about it.
The way we think about the problem is the problem.
The way we think about the problem precludes solution.
The problem is the way we think.


"Learning Zen is called a gold and dung phenomenon. Before you understand it, it's like gold; when understood it's like dung." Foyan


The way we think about spirituality is a problem.
The way we think about soul is a problem.
The way we think about health is a problem.

The way we think about disease is a problem.
The way we think is a problem.
Change you personal mythology.


"It is just that you avoid what is right before you." Foyan


The biggest obstacle to realizing God is our conception of God.

God

god is an empty promise,
god is the severed hand,
the tortured corpse,
night terror,
the approaching battle,
a terrible swift sword,
a silent plague.
god is the end of all you have known,
no love,
no sex,
famine.
god is the perfect silence and the deafening roar,
the opportunity lost,
the end of hope,
the first injury,
and the final insult.
god is the good rejected and the horror embraced,
god is the opposite of all you believe
knowing which all is swept into nothingness.
god is the end of comfort,
god is the light which makes pale all other lights,
the sun which blinds and the eye which is blinded
god is the sudden frost,
the conqueror worm,
the drought and the quaking earth,
the tidal wave and the rain which washes all away.
god is the taste whose sweetness cancels all other flavors,
god is the wholeness which annihilates the parts.
take comfort in your searching
cling to your imperfections.
god is the devouring fire,
the idiot's dream.
god is death and god is dead
god is the starving baby,
the deformed birth.
god is the suburban desert,
unholy laughter,
shameful waste,
senseless destruction,
craziness at noon,
nightmare,
the end of days,
motherless children trembling in the wilderness,
unforeseen peril,
every insect that craves your blood,
humanity's abysmal stupidity,
harvest lost,
the suffering which wastes your world,
the end of innocence,
the gauntlet,
blight,
holocaust,
genocide,
genetic engineering,
nuclear waste,
sand falling through your fingers,
my stroke debilitated father,
cynical wisdom,
black humor,
the search for nothing,
the dreamer who does not awaken,
an unfinished poem.
god is unrequited longing,
an unknown hunger,
polluted rivers,
dead oceans,
the weeping earth,
babies starving in the womb,
god is waiting for you at the end of your pointless existence.

***

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46


The thinking self is not our primary self.
The thinking self, the ego isn't the hub of a system of selves.
Thinking is peripheral, not central.
The ego is not the hub of your experience.
Change the primary coordinates of your identity.
Identify with the negative.


"Inside your body and outside in the physical world, every phenomenon is the original reality - nothing is not it." Foyan


The self that imagines disease to be the problem ought not to be taken as the primary coordinate, the measure of all things.
We do well to identify our selves with the full spectrum of our being and perception.
The self that imagines disease to be the problem is itself the problem.
Imagine the disease.

Bridge

the monkey lay dead
roadkill in the middle of some African highway
there in a photograph on page sixty-three
of the National Geographic Magazine.
in the next issue the editors wrote
that many people were disturbed by the photo
and that some had suggested building a rope bridge over the highway
for the monkeys who wished to cross.
black rats devour baby sea turtles
uncounted species become extinct like clockwork
people slaughter each other singly and en masse.
the killing is okay as long as we don't have to see it.
that rope bridge just won't stretch far enough.

***

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47


No amount of logic is going to cure or fix it.
It is a fixation.
It's okay not being able to fix, not being able to reconcile things.
Pay the problem attention; you don't have to fix it


Life is a series of irreconcilable circumstances.


"Enlightenment is always with people, but people subjectively pursue things." an ancient


Explaining the feeling does violence to the feeling.
Thinking is not integral to the solution, it is part of the problem.
Make a place to experience the feeling creatively.


"You should realize there is someone who does not seek to know." Nanji


There is no possibility of understanding your problem.
There is no reward for doing so.
Even if we could, just figuring out the problem doesn't fix it.
Stop your whoring after truth.
Thank God we can't figure it out; how boring life would become.


If you feel responsible for fixing the problem, then you have two problems: the problem, and your belief that you are responsible for fixing it.
It loses a lot of hellishness when you stop trying to figure it out.

Waiting

there is a waiting
like the sky
when it is about to snow
a quiet premonition
a hushed gray pregnancy
silencing
the enshrouded world.

there is an expectation
like someone holding their breath
a moment suspended
outside of life
an impossible tension
demanding relief.

morning turns to afternoon
the day proceeds
like some underwater balletv stony clouds and oceanic pressures.

there is
no air to breath
no snow to fall
only the cold nakedness
of now.

***

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48


"The knife does not cut itself, the finger does not touch itself, the mind does not know itself, the eye does not see itself." an ancient


The mind is a slippery fish.
Thoughts keep changing.
According to the Buddhists, a belief in consistency is one of the first illusions of mind.


The brain is a reducing filter, damping down millions of visual, auditory, tactile and other sensations each second, stereotyping perception.
Thinking is even more stereotyped.
Buddhism teaches, "The mind is conditioned."
Be suspicious of your take on the situation.
You've misunderstood.
Stop jumping from conclusion to conclusion; explore the wilderness.
Follow the signs.
Find the images.


"What is actual is true and what is true is actual." Chao-chou


There is no "thing," separate from you to be thought of, to be apprehended by logic.
It doesn't exist as a separate entity, an "it".
Things are not the way they seem to be.


The problem is irrational, not subject to understanding.
A chaotic, illogical system can't be figured out.
If analysis were going to work, it would have worked already.
It is a failed strategy.

Until The Dawn

one pathetic ending after another,
sitting on benches outside the front door
the sky is starry enough
music pouring out of the open windows is rhythmically pleasing
two blueberry pies cool inside on the kitchen counter
my right knee aches
the outside of my left foot hurts
spent all day hucking brush
piling up of sections of fallen trees
clearing the right field up on No. 9. brush piles piled high
the crew about to finish this last week of nine
one pathetic ending after another
dinner's over
innocence is lost
hope extinguished
soon the blueberry pies will be history
some of these stars no longer exist
appearances can be deceiving.
I am nostalgic for things not yet past
movies draw to a close
energy drains
last drops squeezed from the remains of the day
local, wild blueberries about to go out of season.
maybe we had too much too fast
the moon has already set
moment after moment ebbs away
returning to the ether
a continuous leaving.
the story's over
the pies consumed
turn out the lights
close the door
sleep will comfort us until the dawn.

***

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49


Be non-judgmental about your many selves.
Self-complacency, selfishness is only a problem with too narrow a definition of self. Radical self-complacency means that where you are is okay.
Your limitations are okay.
The power is yours.


Oh Champion

Some terrible demanding force
Compels the runner on his course
And when the laurels he has won
Commands another race be run.

The fruit whose promise dangles sweet
Does coyly make its quick retreat
From Tantalus whose tortured grasp
Would bounty to his bosom clasp.

In labyrinths of heart and mind
The tangled threads of fate unwind
Whose turning faithlessly betrays
Brave Theseus lost in that maze.

Enormities of weighted will
Push Sisyphus up hellish hill
Deny then him his burdened rest
As down they pull him from the crest.

Blind runner racing past the crown
With ears deaf to your own renown
Oh champion, oh trophy prized
Oh victory unrecognized.

***

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54


"As soon as you make the differentiation between right and wrong, you become confused and lose your mind." Chao-chou

"Step back each day, look into yourself and see all the way through." Foyan

If we were not valued and respected enough as children, then we have difficulty respecting and valuing ourselves.
The devaluation we suffered as a child is reflected today in our own devaluation of our experience, particularly our negative experience, past and present.
Today we are uncomfortable with ourselves just as our caregivers were before.

It's all right to feel sad.
It's all right to feel angry.
It's all right to feel afraid.
It's all right to feel lost.
It's all right to feel weak.
It's all right to feel small.
It's all right to feel bad.
It's all right to feel had.
It's all right to feel.
It's all right.

"In other places they like to have people look at model cases stories, but here we have the model case story of what is presently coming into being." Foyan

We make value judgments about our psychological experience.
Certain feelings are deemed good and others undesirable.
In self-disdain we continue to deny aspects of our selves as we were forced to do as children.
In this we echo our caregivers' admonitions;
"Don't feel that way!"
"Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!"

We are highly prejudiced about our feelings.
Like Dr. Mengele on the tracks of Auschwitz we decide which are valuable and which are without worth, who shall live and who shall die.

We feel guilty about our negative feelings.
Try to feel something else about your darkness besides guilt.


Something Else

there is always something else
something that might have been
but wasn't
another way to play the hand
greener grass
another side
a different road not taken
something better, something worse.
there is always something else
another smile, another touch
more money, more regrets.
this otherness is the salvation and damnation of living
to leave for something new
and to never reach the end,
we are never satisfied
it's just that we get tired and settle for what we have
maybe even convincing ourselves that what we have is what we want.

my underwear has holes in it
lying here in bed I pull the crotch down a bit and feel them rip more
it is time to retire them;
it's hard to know what to want
hard to know when we get what we want
it's hard to let things go
loves, philosophies or underwear
even when the holes rip wide
even when there are others to take their place
and cover our ass.

***

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55


"When people proceed on the path because they are confused and do not know their own minds, they come to the mountain forests to see teachers, imagining that there is a special 'way' that can make people comfortable, not realizing that the best exercise is to look back and study your previous confusion." Foyan

We maintain perverse loyalties to the counterfeit relationships of our youth.
These misplaced loyalties would be overthrown by our experience of genuine relationship.

We stubbornly preserve the illusion that we were loved by people who in fact, did us a great deal of harm.
Love and harm become coupled in our psychological experience.
Loyal to that perverse coupling we cannot accept a genuine experience of love as that genuineness would expose our counterfeit experience.
That wasn't love.
That wasn't respect.
That was a hell state.


Alchemy

The river does not leave its course
Nor waken from its bed
But dreams with all unerring force
Of oceans widely spread.

Titanically the mountain broods
Its stony crown enshrouded
Soft vagaries of misty moods
Have gravity beclouded.

Inviolable the star wheels turn
Through destiny's dark heights
As falling wayward angels burn
In meteoric flights.

Fickle the heart whose beating wing
Unreachable above
Has left me here earthbound to sing
My lonely songs of love.

***

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56


"This power (of non-description) is very great; it is only that the function of the power is made deficient by infections or unlimited misperception. Without all these different states, different conditions, different entanglements, and different thoughts, you can transform freely, however you wish, without any obstacle." Foyan

The parents' disowned emotions are in a box in the closet.
The kids get into the box and try on those closeted emotions, getting into trouble with those primitive, repressed attitudes.
Stop doing mom's unowned craziness or dad's abandoned sadness or whatever.

We lie to our children, sanitizing the dreams we feed them, sweetening their fairy tales.

Children feel emotion without being told about it.
You cannot "not burden" a child by pretending to hide your emotions.
Children are not psychologically retarded.


Prisoners

we are all prisoners
refusing to escape
animals who love their captor
the full belly of domesticity.
the trick is not to think
not ever
at least not outside the box,
the chickens and fox.
sometimes the dream seems so clear
but when I wake, until I sleep again
emptiness,
a monkey on my back.
a person needs something to do
however noble or contrived
some imagined purpose
to cut through the malaise
a story of one's own telling.

how quickly the morning passes
pink clouds drifting through a powder blue sky.
a man must stretch his limbs
measure himself against some project,
woe to those grown fat inside the yoke of the oppressor
the lazy who crave the security of the cage
oh to die
wild and free.

***

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57


"When that very thought of yours arises, it is the flowing whirl of birth and death: do you consider it habit activated consciousness, or do you consider it immutable?" Foyan

Having a relationship with caregivers is essential to the child.
Unfortunately, caregivers are often unavailable for relationship.
The child, however, then naively tries to adapt to the caregiver's requirements, tries very hard to make that relationship work.
That child then is conditioned to believe that relationships require tremendous effort and are inherently frustrating.

The emotionally frustrated child, as an adult tends to recapitulate that childhood experience of trying and failing in relationships.
Such "adult children" go to ridiculous lengths to maintain relationships with persons who are grossly abusive of that relationship.
"Adult children" desperately cling to relationships with others as if life depended on it, as in fact, it once did.


Love Seeks an Object

it's good to know where you're wanted
and where your not wanted
and where you want to be
circles within circles
wheels within wheels
people who have themselves given up don't want you to succeed
people accuse others of that which they are themselves guilty
bitterness, like a love seeks an object
everyone is involved in the crime.

***

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58


As children, we can be effected in ways which are closed to us as adults.
Childhood passes along with those special childish opportunities.
Those receptive moments, in which we could have been fundamentally reassured by another, vanish.
We are not children anymore, and cannot naively accept another's affirmation of our being as truth.

Caregivers can't do for us now what once they might have.
(Perhaps they never could.)
They have lost their special status.
Childhood is over.


Before He Dies

it is a shame that you can't feel it
not on this icy morning
trees hanging like crystal chandeliers,
yesterday you were sure he was dying
unable to keep down his bites of food
wasting away,
today I hear you screaming
angry at your lot
frustrated by this disease beyond your control
embarrassed by his helplessness as you care for him.

it is not much after all the disappointments of so many married years
it is not much compared with the indignities of living together
it is not enough to feed your hungry heart
but it is love
his love
fragile like the ice upon the trees
and I hope
mostly for your own sake
that you feel it
before he dies

***

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59


Such "adult children" persist in trying to have relationships with parents who often do not even respect their basic humanity.
While it is not the only question to be considered, it is enlightening to ask, "If these people were not my parents, would I want to have a relationship with them, would I tolerate the way they treat me?"
It is enlightening to ask, "Who the hell are these people?"

Denial of the stark emotional reality was necessary for the terribly dependent child that we were. We did what we had to do to get by.
But now let us stop trying to have a relationship with people who are fundamentally incapable or unwilling to have a relationship.
It's very impractical and uncomfortable.
They don't do for themselves what we want them to do for us.


Before

food tastes better when your hungry
appetite heightens pleasure
too much of a good thing is a problem in its own right
like working in ice cream parlor
or too much sex,
its still undeniably sweet
just not as satisfying.
of course, there's always the new flavor
to pique the interest
but the spice of life taste better when you haven't eaten in a while
after a long day the night is welcome
after the darkness, the light.
funny how important it seems
when you don't have it
whatever it is,
money, food, sex, privacy, company, recognition, rest
how common, even contemptuous once you have enough.
there is something exquisite in the wanting
something lost in fulfillment
the palate wearies
satiety is a mixed blessing
when everything is complete
there is nothing to look forward to.
expectation exceeds receipt
dreams are more wondrous
before they come true.

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60


Most parents never once admit to their child that they are wrong.
Most parents never even apologize to their children.
Some people manipulate others just to convince themselves that they're alive.
We act, too much, like our parents.
Karma is the same-old, same-old.
Enlightenment is spontaneous creativity.

Let your ideals of your parents die.
If the relationship is already dead, then bury the unresponsive corpse; it stinks.
The commandment, "Honor your father and mother" is grossly misunderstood: If your father is a thief, you shouldn't help him steal.
Admit how your parents failed.
Stop acting out their failure.


While I Was Waiting For You To Call

the snow
a great maddened swarm
blows across the sky tonight
whitening the darkness
a milky veil
which yet
over the remnants of this day
does not fall

a stormy tide of fleecy dreams
bright atmospheric churnings
mirages in a frozen sea
deep oceanic yearnings
which break and frothing rise again
to vanish in the night

for all its fury
tomorrow their only be
a dusting left upon the walk

***

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61


One person in a relationship may monopolize all of a particular emotion or attitude in that relationship.
One person may hold all the discipline and linear thought in a relationship, and the other then procrastinates and can't think straight.
Take back your emotions.
Own your misappropriated attitudes.

Become conversant with your familial persuasions.
Familial indoctrination may, like our tastes in food, seem very central to who we are.
However, there is nothing sacred about either tastes or indoctrinations.
Both can change drastically.

Everyone knows that some people never should have children.
However, it's hard to admit that those people include one's parents.


Needs

father needs a walk
Nora needs a call
my sister needs a name for her baby.
the world suffers
from Christianity's arrogant denial of its soul
of its simple right to be.
we are only the most successful species
pizza parlors and internal combustion engines
what to do on a Sunday afternoon
what to hunt or gather
the window needs washing
the garden needs raking
dead leaves lie in the bed
the sun makes its way cautiously between the clouds
bring the owl wings to the shaman
go for a bicycle ride
crack the back
take a sauna
wash my hair
seduce or be seduced.
this is more or less an intentional arrangement
there was a plan
some things are reaching their fulfillment.
Mozart's genius would have been wasted
without the advantages of his birth
into a musical family
my place allows for my unfolding
my needs are few
and far from pressing.
the tiger disappears
humanity is a knot
impossible to untie
the window needs to be washed
it's time for lunch.
with so many starving
privilege is shameful.

***

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62


Experience, including disease, is largely impersonal.
Our problems are not really our problems.

Mostly we are taught how to experience by family and culture, or given towards modes of experience based on inherited, psychobiological predisposition's common to the species.

The belief that feelings and experience are our own results from the loss of the communitarian self, loss of a sense of mutuality, of community, of tribe.
Community, mutuality is a lost integer.
"It's not good for people to be alone." (Genesis 2:18)
The world is supportive; it's not all up to us.


Hard

we have been taught that it is hard
we are well-trained in difficulty
our primary nature has been obscured
we have been distracted from ourselves.
it is rare to find someone who knows how to work as a team
competition is the rule everywhere
neighborly emotions have been replaced by suspicion
creativity, replaced by form
conformity, uniformity
we're all taught to want the same
to act the same
while denying our sameness
our communality.
the simple has been made complex
we're divided from ourselves and each other
lonely in the crowd.

***

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63


"(People) just recognize the mortal body and forcibly act as if they were in charge.." Foyan

Whether or not you're aware of it, life is going on around and through you.
You're in it.
Life, including your disease is not yours; you are a part of it.
It's not within your power; you are within its power.

Life, including your disease is not yours, but it's you and you don't exist, at least, not like you think you do, not as an autonomous individual.
Experience, far from a personal phenomenon, is often best understood in the context of the species.
Speciesism over individualism.
Disease is often best framed not as a personal handicap, but as the human condition.


Real Horror

bags of human ears
atomically seared flesh
bishops assassinated
children deported to death camps
cities ruined
genocide
human cargo in cattle cars
graffiti carved by dying men,
the abyss of living is deeper than oblivion,
the mundane horror is unimaginable.

decapitation
rape at gunpoint
generations disappeared
fingers, eyes, testicles removed,
what do the sufferings of one person matter when so many nations are writhing?

slaughter on the battlefield
starving children by the side the road,
I'm sorry that you are so disappointed
by your life among the privileged
but my heart has no place
for your petty tribulations.

***

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64


"An ancient worthy said, 'The whole earth is your self,' so how can you clear your mind?" Foyan

We are effected by attitudes which have been passed from parent to child for millennia.
Much of the burden of family, tribe, race and species comes down on us.
We are the living edge of a long line of ancestors.
We are effected by and somehow responsible for our culture's disease.
Anorexics make up for everyone who is eating too much.
Persons with psychiatric illness compensate for the numbness of psychological normalcy.
Around the world cultures assert that we can effect our ancestor's spirits.
Everywhere religious rites exist for this purpose.
Carrying the burden of the world's disease requires us to be creative.

We are culturally out of touch with disease.
It is important to come to terms with the cultural context of our disease.
We have lost touch with our ancestors.
I whispered to a Japanese patient regarding her troublesome anxieties, "They are ancestral spirits and you are being impolite."
Make an offering to the ancestral disease.
Write a poem to the pain.


Nothing in Particular

focusing on one obscures the other
the uniqueness conferred by particular attention
discounts the generalized horror.
human atrocities are without number
genocide or attempted genocide
is the rule among nations
and yet the slaughter
of just one village
is enough to keep one crying
forever.

***

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65


Racial disease is deeper than personal disease.
The horrors suffered by our family, tribe and race are far worse than our personal misery.
Racial memories and a priori predisposition's are more potent than personal psychology.
The terrors which humans and other species suffer transcend our personal concerns.
Existential hell is worse that personal hell.

So much of life is not personal.
We are not alone, not exclusive.
Experience is a mutuality.
We are a mutuality, a multitude of mutualities.

Depression doesn't imply a character flaw.
It's the human condition; you are not at fault.

Framing disease as a personal issue attempts to deny the full gravity of it's existential nature.
It's not your responsibility.
Disease doesn't belong to you, but you have to deal with it.
Disease is us, not ours.


Centuries

centuries weigh down upon today
generations upon each one of us
this weight is not that of a single morning
this sadness is not ours alone
along the road and off into the woods
the past remains
intensely interested in the present
a pressure without which we would cease to exist
like helium escaping from a balloon
diffusing into the atmosphere.
the familiar ways are not our own
the path not of our making or choice.
still, I have felt the lightness of being,
the wind unrestrained blowing through me.

***

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66


"The mind does not exist by itself; its existence is manifested through forms." Ma-tsu

The delusion of inferiority which gives rise to the belief that "thing are my fault" inflates the importance of the person just as delusions of grandeur do.
Both result from existential impotence.
We are all trying to cope with existential impotence.

We exist like a drop thrown up into the air by an ocean wave, a drop which ceases to exist when it falls back into the ocean.
Reincarnation is impersonal.

The soul is impersonal.
It is composite, derived from a great communal pool of soul stuff.
The phrase "my soul" is an oxymoron.


Orchestra

there was an orchestra at Auschwitz
that played while chambers gassed
and crematoria blazed
while trains rolled in with mechanical efficiency
from the sad eastern european landscape
through a gate which promised
"Work makes free"
always and to the end the lie.
an orchestra of the damned
recognized by the instruments they carried disembarking from the cattle cars
spared the immediate extermination of the young and old and feeble
saved by their art.
I suspect that neither the guards nor their victims found anything incongruous
about this juxtaposition
of music and death;
art is a response to the horror of existence.

at Auschwitz
while naked mothers wept bereft
and chimneys belched their sweet smoke
as a people,
their people
were incinerated
an orchestra played
accompanying their demise.
an orchestra played at Auschwitz
we die in silence.

***

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67


"Those who cultivate purification must let it come forth from their own hearts in each individual situation." Yantou

You are the experience.
Are you experienced?

Subtle fields of consciousness wash over and through us.
The world is filled with non-personal forces which effect our person.
We are effected by larger cycles, webs or chains of being to which we must pay homage.


"Fayan was journeying and Dizang asked him where he was going; when Fayan replied that he was journeying, Dizang asked, 'And do you understand what the journey is for?' Fayan answered, 'No'. Dizang said, 'If you want to know what the journey is for, it is for the one who does not understand it.'" Foyan

There is no road, no traveler, no journey.

There is no "it", no object, no subject, no you.
There is no thing to be thought of.
Nothing is objectively concrete.
Nothing is written in stone.
Stop talking about things that don't exist.


Enough

enough words have been written
enough blood has been shed
government only perpetuates the status quo
this is the longest night
history is ugly and covered up
written by the powers that be
we all want to be on the side that's winning
victims identify with their oppressors
empires exist by force of arms
politics as usual
the benevolence of the state is only espoused
by those whose bellies are full
bribes buy and sell the public good
america's long shadow
insisting on our righteousness
the corporate good of war
it is all a circus for the masses
a shell game to keep them guessing
the poor pathetic hordes.
somehow you'd think they would understand
despite the lies they're taught at school
despite the doctored news reports
somehow they might see through it
the smoggy thick consumptive air
that their anger might be directed
against those who keep it so
who profit by their misery
that they might reject the tasteless, poisoned crumbs
with which they're fed.
the rivers run red
the books are full
when will you learn?

***

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68


"The ordinary and the holy are one suchness." Foyan

Life is already perfect.
The kabbalists assert this mundane world, the physical plane, is the ultimate spiritual arena.
Heaven is here, but we don't see it.
Heaven is here, but we're somewhere else.
Right here, right now, this is enlightenment, it's just not what you expected; it's not how you thought it would be.
The experience is itself enlightenment.
The ordinary is miraculous.
Enlightenment is ordinary consciousness.
It's okay now.
The negative is okay; your attitude needs some work

"The normal mind is the path." Nanquan

People go around muttering, "This isn't it. This isn't it."
They are not sure exactly what they're looking for, but they know that what they've found so far isn't it.
People go around lost in dissatisfied expectation, unaware that this is it.
Lost in becoming we ignore being.
Write to your disease.


Condemned

the future condemns the past
hindsight reveals all that might have been
opportunities squandered
practices unpracticed
all the glaring mistakes
of action or inaction.
time is money
well, maybe not
but they do you have an awful lot in common
overlapping illusions
errors of quantity
too much or too little
never quite getting it right
never enough.
the illusion is that you need more money
and that you have more time
the fantasy of futurity
the sands are running out
quicker than you think
the trick is to cast yourself ahead
and look back to now
to imagine what you will regret not having done
and do it
and to realize that next year
or next week
or even tomorrow
might be too late.
the moment is fleeting
and that beautiful stranger
with the smile like springtime
is about to walk away.

***

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69


"In Transmission of the Lamp, Huaitang read the story where someone asked Doufu, 'What is the bamboo grove of Doufu?' He replied, 'One cane, two canes slanting.' At this, Huaitang finally opened up and awakened." Foyan

Hold to the actual, rather than the concept, the canes rather than the grove.

Ideals prejudice us against experience.
How you think things should be matters infinitely less than how they are.
Disease draws us away from ephemeral ideals of how we would like things to be and towards the practical fulfillment of how things are.
Give over to the negative perspective, creatively.
Acknowledge the way things are.
Disease stands in contrast to romanticized notions of life.
Become practical.

Don't compromise your experience for some ideal.
Don't preclude your experience.
Honor it.
Indulge it.
Heap images on it.
Admit it.
Allow it in.
There's no choice; you can't make it go away.

"We Buddhists should be free to respond to whatever comes to us according to the moment and the cause. When it is cold, we respond to nothing else but cold; when it is hot, we respond to nothing else but heat." Wen-i

Facing disease creatively is cathartic.
Eat what's in your bowl.
Honor your incarnation.
Pay the devil his due.
Pay throughout the month and when he shows up for the balance it isn't so bad, the crisis isn't as overwhelming.

"You must come to the realization that you are Buddha; only then will you be free from doubt." Foyan

The part that doubts perfection is itself perfect.
The doubting is perfect.
When there's nothing wrong then there's no one to blame; it's no one's fault.

"The way of enlightenment is inherently omnipresent." Foyan 93

Letting go of ideals, how you thing things should be, puts one in touch with the infinite potential of how things are.
Kill your ideals.
Face the music.
Compose.


Without Us

what was it we thought we wanted?
what was so important?
a pretty face
a new pair of shoes
some peace of mind
don't bother to call
turn off the television
how ridiculous it seems after all.
night falls irrevocably
the rains are over
the joke is on us
love is bright red blood spilling onto the snow
love is the embrace of the damned
love it is shooting star
only for a moment.
my father holds the railings in the hallway
on his way to and from the bathroom and bed
he says "thank you" when I change his diaper
dependency agrees with him.
I would write a love poem to woman in Japan
but I am unsure of my heart
a woman here loves me
a part of me is dead
time is running out
happy for the creature comforts
we suffer the choices made
somehow everything will be all right
without us

***

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70


"There were those who attained enlightenment from confusion; all of their teachings are on attaining enlightenment from confusion. Then there are those who came to understand confusion after becoming enlightened; all of their statements are teachings on understanding confusion after becoming enlightened." Foyan

Enlightenment and confusion are not mutually exclusive.
In a state of confusion it is impossible to hold onto emotional or intellectual beliefs. Enlightenment and confusion share this freedom from attachment.
Cultivate the confusion.
Practice the confusion.
Do the confusion artistically.

"Besides dressing, eating, moving bowels, releasing water, what else is there to do?" Wen-yen 289

Enlightenment is like moving your bowels when you get the urge.
The more you pay attention to it, the more practical, the more comfortable life becomes. Don't wait because you want to finish what you're doing, or because you don't want to smell up the bathroom.
Crap if you have to crap.
Follow the urge rather than the ideal.
Make a safe place to explore the dark feelings.
Usually you'll land on your feet.

"A monk asked, 'How is it to be in silence and free of dependence?' The Master replied, 'It is still troubled'." Hsueh-feng

Spirituality is not the absence of trouble.
Serenity is not the goal.
Equanimity is easier if you live on a mountain top.
There are a lot of different types of yoga.

The ideal of spiritual transcendence is denial of physical reality.
To hell with heaven.


Escape

Leave off the expectation of
Your frustrated ideals
Let heaven hover high above
With all that it conceals.

Renounce your noble search for truth
Those passionate forays
Of stratagem and cunning sleuth
In living's endless maze.

From soft dreams of love awaken
From sleep whose promise swells
Phantom hopes of hearts forsaken
Sweet opiated hells.

Escape that frantic race with death
For that which doesn't rust
And savor well your mortal breath
Among the ash and dust.

***

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71


"In the teachings it says that those ordinary feelings and perceptions of yours are like unbaked clay, which is useless before it has been fired. You have to bake it in a hot fire before it is useful; that is like an instant enlightenment." Foyan

Ordinary feelings need to be baked in the fire of art before they reveal their essence.
Meditate on the negativity, get into the negative mood and create art from it.

Responding to disease as if it were a threat misses the point.
Techniques learned under duress as children are not adequate to engage the fullness of life.
Childish survival orientation results in denial.

Childish perception, then and now, exaggerates the pain we suffered as children.
We persist in childish fear of the disease.
Childish weakness exaggerates the horror of the repressed.

Witnessing the abuse of power prejudices us against the use of power.
We have a bad relationship to authority, either too loose or too tight.


Boldness

boldness is required
plunging forth to meet life.
passivity is its own reward
wholly unto itself
without reference to others
always predictably the same.
boldness is an altered chemistry
a formula revised
bodies jumping from the cliff
splashing through the surface
penetrating the deepness of the lake
an adventure
a going beyond the norm
that tried and tested well-trodden path
an openness tinged with recklessness
a calculated gamble
escaping from the prison of convention
where creatures of habit prefer to stay
hiding the keys from themselves
where food is poor, but regular
and lives are all clocked out
where passion is the shadow of a dream
and pain a nightmare.
boldness is required to break those chains
to rise from sleep to waking
to greet the day most lustily
a life of our own making
were joy and suffering are true
and worth the undertaking.

***

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72


Children are dependent on the benevolence of their caregivers.
They are poorly able to articulate their needs.
Childishly we expect the spontaneous recognition and passive fulfillment of our needs, rather than being responsible for their active fulfillment.
Adopting the passive helplessness of childhood we are unable to actively advocate our self interest.
We want someone else, the government, a doctor, a lover, to take care of us, something else to make us whole.
The inner child cannot embrace the adult world.
Persisting in childish irresponsibility (inner child) we are afraid to accept the responsibility that we make life.

The child is dependent on the parent, actually needs that one special person.
The child had to make the relationship with the caregiver work, had to try to make it work.
The "adult child" often becomes obsessively attached to one person, going to ridiculous lengths to maintain a relationship, persisting in the belief that he needs that one particular person.


Sandcastles

What castle made of sand and shell
Can stand the rising tide?
What raft of bark survive the swell
As sea and shore collide?

Which river would not turn to ice
Beneath the arctic breath?
When winter wields its whitened scythe
Which land is free of death?

Who does not feel the rain's wet lash
The quaking and the fear
As lightning's fire and thunder's crash
Consume the atmosphere?

How can a heart pierced by the bow
Which you hold in your hand
Preserve its blood and love which flow
'Round castles made of sand?

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73


Many times we act like frustrated children waiting to have our unspoken needs fulfilled or our wrongs freely redressed by those who have wronged us.
This morbid passivity, this reenactment of childhood's pain is tremendously impractical, preventing us from living effectively, from actively getting our needs met now.

When someone has wronged us, it is best if that person understands for themselves how they have hurt us, and comes on their own to apologize.
A close second best is asking for and receiving an apology.
Some people want to be asked.
What do you want?
Do you know what to ask for?


Childishness

childhood extends past adolescence
even up to thirty
growing more ridiculous with age
at their age Alexander had already conquered the world
they have not put down their toys.
life has a way of imposing itself
eventually the natural limits take effect
and it becomes impossible to pretend
that we are any longer young.
summer, autumn, winter
the seasons do not pretend
the game comes to end.
how pretty their imaginations
their elegant postponements
but the clock is running
and delaying the choice
only creates the illusion of freedom.
water finds its own level
we all have our excuses
our capacities and demons
hunger grows while we sleep
sooner or later we wake up famished
options retreat like a hairline
one can almost smell winter in the air,
it's hard to imagine growing older.

***

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74


Some wounds don't heal.
The opportunity for rectifying the loss has expired.
We'll never be able to fill that (w)hole.

There is no way to heal the wound.
It's not going away.
It's not going to change.
It's not going to get better.
There is that which stays the same.
The great unfulfilled need is.
It demands attention, but not for healing.
Make art for the wound.

Disease is something fixed rather than something which can be fixed.
We become fixated trying to fix that which is fixed.
We experience the fixation, the unchangingness of disease, out of place, in a morbid context.
Our attitude towards disease gets stuck.
Stop trying to correct and pay homage.
Stop trying to grow and maintain.
Write a poem.


Screams

the screams are never far away
waiting in the trees for the dawn
baying at the moon
they tear up through this old house
as if it were made of playing cards
shattering plaster and wood
ruining any semblance of home
deep, bloody hollers of rage
against a fate which might still be different
against the oppressor
sleek, high velocity shrieks
as the final blow is delivered
as the lost is lost
entirely
the damaged done
irrevocably
black, clotted wails.

***

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75


Imagined hope denies failure.
Stop throwing good money after bad.
It isn't coming back.

We can compensate for an acknowledged psychical handicap by modifying certain physical activities.
We can compensate for an acknowledged psychological handicap, responding in less stereotyped ways to certain psychological activities and circumstances.
Acknowledging disease allows us to compensate for it.
Deliberately interacting with disease renders it less problematic.
Give your helplessness a home.
Get a prosthesis.
Let art be your crutch.
Even if you believe in your eventual wholeness, first you must accept your disability.

Progress is directly related to owning that which doesn't progress.
We don't need to go forward, but back.
You've been there before.
You'll never get in touch with how adequate you are until you get in touch with how you are inadequate.
Draw your inadequacy
Do you own your experience?


Love

love lights candles across the street on the third floor,
love comes to the door at 10 o'clock in the morning after being robbed,
love makes excuses for the bodies in the back room,
love moans at 2 a.m. from the hallway were my father has fallen,
love hides in molecular structures,
love is a silly old whore,
love is what your mother could not give
and you could not take,
love fills the garbage cans lining the streets at 6 a.m.
feeding the prowling dinosauric trucks,
love is a breeze through an open window,
love is unconquerable and too late and not enough,
love is a bang in the middle of the night which almost wakes you up,
love is the stone which the builders rejected,
love is a needle in the vein,
love is the cobra's fang,
love is a movie which you turn off not halfway over,
love makes us do strange things,
love finishes writing this poem,
love changes the course of rivers
and alters the outcome of war
love puts out the candles on the third floor across the street
leaving us all in the dark.

***

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76


"You are always in the light, and yet do not know it, even with your eyes open." Foyan

We search for something that we didn't receive and can never acquire.
Childhood is over.
You aren't a child.
A relationship with your parent now can never approach what might have been.
Some people become good parents when they no longer have children.

It's dead already, you're just afraid to look.
Don't prop it up.
Bury the corpse.
Some causes are lost.
Cast a poetic eye on the loss

"Because of your millions of rationalizations; these make it hard for you to understand. Buddahood is an easily comprehended state, comfortable and pleasant." Foyan

It hurts to admit loss.
It hurts to admit failure.
It hurts to admit that what is gone is never coming back.
It hurts to admit what never was.
It hurts.
Be creative with the pain.

Applaud novelty.
Do something new, anything; at least, it has the potential of being right.


Decline

Love falls
Like snowflakes swirling
On the homeless wind.

Like songs that banished angels sing
Muffledly murmuring
Beneath the ice of mountain streams
Flowing ever away.

Falling as the night also falls
From starry heights
To wander vast and alone
Across these frozen fields
On trails of years declining
Like footprints in the snow.

***

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77


"I am you and you are me." Foyan

People are very good at playing into our psychodramas and shouldn't be blamed for doing so.
Other people will respond to your disease until you authentically respond to it yourself.
There is a sign on your back describing your psychological vulnerabilities, giving instructions on how to pull your chain.
You have a hook on which the disturbance catches.

"You have unconsciously acquired habits of thinking about yourself and others, and hardly even give a thought to the matter of independence." Foyan

The abuse we suffer is our own unowned power usurped by others.
People don't trust you because you don't trust yourself, because you don't make use of your own power.
People act strangely towards you, because you act strangely towards yourself.

Be honest with yourself, and others will be more honest with you.
Be more comfortable with yourself, and others will be more comfortable with you.
When you are more practiced with yourself, you will have an easier time with others. When you are more there for yourself, you can be there more for others.
Attend your neglected selves with art.


Evermore

A place of quiet amidst the noise
The perfect rest of equipoise
Where I can savor heaven's joys
Washed up upon that shore
Elusive evermore.

The innocent embrace of love
A present from the gods above
Which far too fast did let go of
This mortal heart I wore
Forsaken evermore.

Some overarching paradigm
Which weaves the reason with the rhyme
Into a tapestry divine
That angels might adore
Evasive evermore.

A small respite from living's storm
A shelter from the maddened swarm
Where nocturne's mists may yet give form
To dreams dreamed long before
Receding evermore.

***

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78


"Anywhere you go, you each can find your own native place, according to your karma." Wen-yen

It is easier to experience emotional problems outside of relationships.
Your own emotional problems are clearer without someone else's intervening.
Projecting your negative emotions onto someone else confuses the dynamic.
It's harder to be angry, sad, afraid, etc. with someone else interfering.
Loneliness is worse in a crowd.

Meet your emotional needs outside of a relationship.
Don't expect others to meet your emotional needs.
They may, but don't expect it.
Don't try to work out your emotional needs with food, drugs, sex, money or people.

"When I affirm my truth there is no affirming mind and no affirming objects; that is why I dare tell people." Foyan

Why do I want you to love me?
Why do I expect you to respect me?
I should be loving and respecting myself.
Be there more for yourself.
Heap images on your neglected selves.

You have to save yourself.
You have to love yourself.
You have to respect yourself.
You have to nurture yourself.
Buddha said, "Work out your own salvation diligently."
No one else can do it for you; at least not until you do it for yourself, and then you don't need their help.


For Yourself

I wait for someone to come
but no one comes
I listen for footsteps on the stairs
but there are none
voices surround me
music through the open door
but there are no faces
conversations through windows
but not for me.
man is an island and the sea is very wide
boats on the horizon are bound for somewhere else
not here
my longing is drown beneath the intervening waves
drawn down among the fishes.

people are so disappointing
people with their little dreams,
the architecture is overwhelming
a huge construction
the sky beyond is some sad infinity.
we are animals who find some small comfort in huddling.
the world is alone
and tired
and disappointed in us.
it is hard to get together
and most often not worth the effort,
others become less important when you can do it for yourself,
there is the death of expectation and a lonely survival.

***

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79


"As soon as you accept and approve anything, recognizing it as your own, you are immediately bound hand and foot and cannot move. So even if there are a thousand possibilities, nothing is right once you have recognized, accepted and approved it as your own." Foyan

Selfishness is another word for integrity.
Selfishness is a virtue except where the self is defined too narrowly.

Love yourselves, all your many selves.
Talk to your selves; did you even know that you had selves to talk to?

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?" Hillel.
If you don't respect yourself, who will?


Amends

it's hard to make amends
for putting someone's eye out,
for beating someone's mother,
for giving away your land,
for sawing down the forest,
for being president of the United States.
some messes are harder to cleanup than others
some breaks will not mend
some lacks cannot be made whole
some wounds never heal.
you can lie about or ignore the damage done
or never ceased from trying
imagining that failure is postponed
but the crime is committed
the verdict rendered
guilty with no appeal.
in the end it's just the end
without any resolution
only worse.
it's hard to ask forgiveness
for something you keep doing.
some apologies take practice
try, try again
until you get it right
until you know what you're apologizing for.
sometimes you don't know how sorry you can be
how sorry you will be.
sometimes it's hard to make amends
sometimes you've got to try.

***

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80


"Each of you must take responsibility for this yourself."

Love yourself.
You can meet your own emotional needs.
We feel unloved to the extent that we don't love ourselves.
We're lonely because we abandon ourselves.
Find the images that speak to your abandoned self.

Respect yourself, including the part of you that has no self respect.
Esteem yourself.
You don't have to be perfect, but you have to be yourself.

You intimidate yourself so others intimidate you.
You abandon yourself, so you imagine others abandoning you.
Others cooperate with your script.
Imagine your abandonment on the page.

How you hurt yourself.
I wouldn't let anyone treat you the way you treat yourself.


Narcissus

she is so terribly alone
drifting far beyond reach
of every kind assistance
of any comforting word
drifting like a satellite
in high altitude orbit
where there is no air,
lonely like the moonlit snow
deep in the north woods
like the unanswered call of the falcon
like a ship on the high seas
like regret in the pit of your belly.
she has her anger for companionship
her most constant friend
her many complaints and many wrongs
small cuts with a knife.
she has been implicit in her victimization
choosing too often the path of least resistance
she wants love, but cannot give it
when it is most needed
she is unable to muster up the kindness necessary to calm the waters.
she is supremely insistent on the correctness of her point of view
without empathy
like Narcissus bent over the pool
seeing only himself
so terribly alone.

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81


"It is because of the self that one can bow to the other." Xuansha

The way we treat others is the way we treat ourselves.
The way we treat others is the way we treat our other selves.
The degree to which we trust others is the degree to which we trust ourselves.
How we trust our disease is how we trust ourselves.
The way you treat your disease is the way you treat yourself.
You reap what you sow.
Treat your disease better.

Criticism tells us more about the critic than it does about the object of criticism.
You are not the subject.
You do not exist separately from the disease.


"You must make a living on your own; don't come questioning me." Foyan

"The tao (way) that can be written is not the true tao," Lao Tsu.
You can't find it in a book.
If you have to read a book about it, you're lost.
There are too many books.
Find your own discipline.
Write your own book.

If we do our part and something still goes wrong, we may be disappointed.
Not being true to ourselves, not doing our part, is really depressing.
Be true to your shameful selves, artistically.


Absence

The soul cannot survive
The air too thin to breathe
Cannot be formed
Into the kindness of a word.

Bodies drift past each other
Substanceless
Without the density to touch
Or be touched.

Night implodes
Shadows collapsing into a black hole
Darkness infinitely turning in upon darkness.

Oceans congeal
Mountains turn to dust
Nothing remains.

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82


We become trapped in our childish experience of the world.
Not admitting our childhood experience of pain we are doomed to endlessly recapitulate that pain.

If you can't remember your childhood, rest assured it still remembers you.
If you can't remember your past just look around.
If you're not in touch with your feelings, be sure that they're still in touch with you. Disease remembers the things that our ego would like to forget.
Pay attention to what gets in your face.
Write a poem.


Jealous God

memory fails
but it is not hard to imagine
to extrapolate from the present how it must have been.
it is at once the most pervasive and most secret attitude
invisible because of its ubiquity
without relationship
it is the primary matter
that which was not known better than
seemingly the ground of the world
the way things are.
how hard it is to reach beyond that primary indoctrination
that deficiency of animal touch
of kind words
of encouragement or appreciation
to reach beyond that empty hesitation
the overwhelming nothingness
that curtain which falls before the fullness of being
a jealous God
still hungry
for blood and fire.

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50


As children we lack the experience and resources to come to terms with our pain, the big things that happened to us when we were so little.
As adults we can creatively face the suffering we first experienced as children. Recognizing the pain, the death that has been, stops our dying the thousand deaths of denial.
Address the pain poetically.
Stay close to the images.

Not objectively aware of our childhood's pain, we subjectively re-enact it.
Unaware of the particular context of our childhood's pain, we take the experience of that pain to be a general, existential baseline.
"That's just the way the world is."
We remain unconscious of the pain the way a fish is unaware of water. I remain unaware how my father's disorganization harmed me to the extent that I incorporate disorganization into my life.
Then disorganization appears as a condition inherent to life rather than a learned behavior.
Then the disorganization is not a cruelty inflicted on me by an inconsiderate parent, but the way life is, a fact of life, which I continue to suffer.



Regret

I know you feel cheated/ Deceived and mistreated
By people you thought you could trust
The love that you bartered/ Betrayed now lies martyred
Returning to ashes and dust
That door you were hopin'/ Would one day spring open
Has sealed 'neath a layer of rust
With all of their lying/ There's no use in trying
Still sometimes you feel that you must.

Some fright keeps you frozen/ A sacrifice chosen
To pay back your family's debt
That old guilt that binds you/ Steps up to remind you
Of things that you'd rather forget
You cherish the notion/ That childish devotion
Will ransom you from your regret
But beg, steal, or borrow/ Your fear and your sorrow
Cannot pay the price that's been set.

The game that you're playing/ The rules you're obeying
Have left you without any sense
This losing and winning/ Right from the beginning
Have made you uncomfortably tense
The walls you erected/ To keep you protected
Have locked you within your defense
They've all been outsmarted/ But now you have started
Believing in your own pretense.

These words which I've spoken/ Lie lifeless and broken
Outside on the steps by your door
Your arrogant shoulder/ Has gotten much colder
Some things even I can't ignore
You've battered and blamed me/ Abandoned and shamed me
But that's all just part of the score
Still I'm sick of this grieving/ I'm tired and I'm leaving
I don't want to play anymore.

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51


The child who does not receive love develops strategies to win love.
He believes that it is possible to win the love that ought to be his unconditionally.
He believes that there is something that should be done or changed in order to earn the love which, in fact, ought to have been his freely in the first place.
The naive child and the heroic ego believe "I can and should make this work."
He believes that there is something undeserving, something wrong with him.

The child unable to accept the reality that he is cruelly deprived of love becomes the adult persisting in that denial, convinced that there is something else he should be doing, that there is something left undone, that things aren't, that he isn't good enough yet.
We are obsessed with becoming rather than being.


The child denied of a parent's love is subject to the extreme psychological stress of brainwashing techniques in that he believes he can achieve a positive outcome when in fact success is impossible.
The prisoner of war must believe that through his failure he is responsible for the catastrophic outcome, e.g., the death of his comrade.
If he knows that the game is rigged, then the psychological crisis is not as acute and the brainwashing fails.


Mother

other people react with despair
or fear, or complacency
she is angry
a writhing, venomous anger.
she needs only the slightest pretext
and her debilitated husband gives her many.
she imagines that things could be better
or should be better
and does not understand that she is the one making them worse.
she has many grievances
but is unable to advocate her position.
when she doesn't have something to complain about
she goes looking.
she is fundamentally incapable
of seeing someone else's point view
she has the abiding conviction
that her way is the right way
despite the world's inability to comply.
she reacts to opposition with hysteria
she yells so as not to hear
she is very unhappy in the corner into which she has painted yourself
but she will not receive assistance
she is infinitely unavailable.
when a contradiction is forced on her
she becomes physically violent
she is secure in her misery
without approach
and I am her son.

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52


"A question was asked: 'How great is the distance between heaven and hell?' The Master used his staff to draw a line upon the ground." Yang-shan

It is possible for caregivers to affirm children's being.
Caregivers can respect children's opinions, appreciate their creativity, allow for their individual style, etc.
Such children will then tend to interpret and experience the world as an affirming environment, attracting people and situations which reinforce their feelings of self worth and avoiding those who don't.

Children raised by caregivers who damage their feelings of self worth, tend to experience themselves and their situations as lacking.
Feeling inadequate, such children blame themselves for the deficiencies in their relationships with caregivers;
"If only I were smarter, more athletic, prettier, better behaved, etc., then I would be loved."

"Master Xuefeng, on seeing a breeze stirring taro leaves, pointed them out to a student. The student said, 'I am quite frightened.' Xuefeng clucked his tongue and said, 'It's an event in your own house; why are you afraid?' That student then had an awakening too." Foyan


The parent comes home emotionally distressed from the workplace.
At the dinner table the child spills a glass of milk.
The parent erupts, inappropriately chastising the child with all the pent up emotional frustration of the workplace.
The child takes the parent's reprimands at face value.
Assuming that spilling the glass of milk is the source of the parent's rage, the child develops a strongly negative self appraisal.


A Matter Of Time

it is only a matter of time
before they understand
the cynicism of their elders.
their faces are yet unscarred
wait and see
how the slow, unrelieved burden
wears down the beast.
their hope is still bright
they have not accepted the inevitable
they have not measured or weighed the cost
they yet believe in reinforcements
but there are no reinforcements coming.
it is only a matter of time
before they learn to speak the words
and a little more before
they learn how little those words matter.
the wasting limb
the failing eye
the futile course persisted in too long,
these are the things that matter
the twisted sacraments
which make our lives profane.
it is only a matter of time
before they understand
what is to be mortal
but by then
it will be too late

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53

As adults we tend to maintain the negatively biased self appraisal of the deprived child that we were.
We tend to continue that childish prejudice that interprets our actions and beings as inadequate.
We become ashamed of our failures.
To counter that predisposition towards negative self appraisal, it is necessary to adopt a policy of radical self-love, self-complacency.
We must in some way become comfortable with the way things are.
We must admit our disease.
Be here now.
In many ways, things are much, much better than our inherited devaluation allows us to believe.

It's hard to accept our improvement, because we haven't accepted our stuckness.
We have trouble accepting the "yes", because we haven't accepted the "no."

"Don't seek reality, just put a stop to opinions." Foyan

We weren't loved well enough so we have trouble loving ourselves.
We weren't nurtured so we have trouble nurturing yourself.
It's hard to admit that we're okay.


"All that is necessary is that there be no perceiver or perceived when you perceive-no hearer or heard when you hear, no thinking or thought when you think. Buddhism is very easy and economical; it spares effort, but you yourself waste energy and make your own hardships." Foyan

So much appends itself to our experience.
Appended, it is not inherently part of the experience.
We project our psyche onto circumstance and onto others.
The appended complicates our experience.
People create their own emotional hells.
Separate your emotional issues from your circumstance.

We project our repressed emotions, our disease onto our circumstance.
However, circumstance proves a poor screen for these projected emotions.
The screen is not blank, not smooth, not big enough.
The picture pours off over the edges of the screen, the images cannot be viewed
Neither our circumstances nor the projected disease can be recognized.
Disease spills, polluting our circumstances.
Focus don't spill.
Do the disease somewhere else, in a journal, in a sketchbook, in a dance.


Seabird

returning to the city
the leaves are already on the trees
people rush about the crowded streets
engaged in the business of living.
this world is like a game I do not want to play
a story I cannot believe.
in the mountains the trees and rocks were my friends
silent companions, they did not disturb my loneliness
here people all insist on their own importance.
I am like a seabird blown inland
living on the lake shore
missing the saltwater.

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83


Disease is like a lump of spice which did not dissolve in the soup.
Yes, it is too concentrated, unpalatable, but you do not want it to go away.
Stir it in and it flavors the soup quite nicely.
Give the disease more artistic latitude.

Disease is like radioactive material, which packed too tightly together, explodes.


Without Substance

we are without substance
dreams that expire upon waking
rootless plants tumbling in the wind
shadows disappearing in the light
what we mistake for thought and preference
are mere urges
instinct and physiology
hormone and blood sugar
biology erupting in the brain
all our nobler emotions are all self interest
love and belonging
are for procreation and the pack
the tribe, the herd
our minds, to the extent that we have them, are conditioned
salivating at the sound of a bell
an original thought is rare and suspect
disruptive
someone with their own opinion is already an artist, a superman
a subversive
we are sad at dusk
and happy to see the dawn
overcast depresses and a sunny day uplifts
company distracts us from our loneliness
all in all we will settle for a full belly
there is nothing to us
neutral
like a television screen playing whatever is on
we hold fast to our sense of self
precisely because there is so little to hold on to
in death we will not the missed
because we were never really here.

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84


Disease is like water flooded over a field.
If we dig a large pit, then the water collects there forming a pond.
The rest of the field becomes available for growing food, building homes, playing ball, etc. The pond provides water to irrigate the crops.
Focusing the disease allows us to practically engage our life.
Giving the disease a place to accumulate keeps it from ruining the rest of our lives.
Have a creative place to go with the illness.

Achieving dry ground does not mean that the water ceases to be, just that now it is somewhere specific.
Becoming practical with our disease does not imply that we are disease-free, just that now the disease has stopped spilling over our circumstances, that now it has a focus, a place to be.

In fact, the water in the pond is much deeper than it was when it was spread across the whole field.
Although now we usually stay on dry ground, when we do fall into the pond the water is over our head.
That is, our disease is deeper when focused.
We are more in touch with the severity of our affliction.
Practically speaking, we are doing much better, not distracted in our daily activities by unowned ghosts.
The ghosts have an arena of artistic activity.
Life is easier and the profundity of our disease is more obvious.


Free

free of necessity I tumble through life
a rootless plant blown by the breeze
unrestrained, thoughts dissipate in the wind
thin clouds vanishing before the sun
my love and fear find no object
the way is clear before me.
why then do I feel like crying?

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85


"Confusion is extremely accessible, yet hard to penetrate." Foyan

The practical solutions are obvious, but we don't see them, and the reason why we don't see them is important.
The blindness is the point.
Why didn't you see it before?
Practical solutions are sacrificed to permit the expression and discovery of the denied and repressed experience of disease.
Experience the disease more poetically, more creatively.

We all have blind spots, just like in a rearview mirror, things we cannot see.
Minister to the darkness, the obscurity, the blindness
Pay attention to the not knowing.
Stop obscuring your experience and honor its genuine obscurity.
Make a place to let the obscurity run freely.


Blind Moon

the blind moon shines
dimly through the clouds
the ground sleeps
beneath a luminous blanket of snow
everything is hidden
thoughts rise
like wood smoke out of the stove's open door
the cold protects us from the curious
the cold is the key to the kingdom.
there is no time
there is nowhere else
all is suspended
the mountain holds its breath
the knitting has unravel
eternity is not a simple proposition
the hunt has been successful
the harvest is complete
there is a slow winding down
a gradual undoing
our attempts are noble in their futility
the hidden remains unnoticed.
we sleep because we must
we dream that we are awake
there is only the virtue of the moment
the spontaneous undertaking
nothing is meant to last
no one will read these poems
winter is beautiful in its finality
the cold hugs me from behind.
turning out the light I am free in night's oblivion.

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86


"At the time of initial inspiration one attains true enlightenment (the rest) is a matter of ripening." Foyan

Minister to the irrational, to that which is out of balance.
To hell with balance.
Care for the imbalance.
Balance can take care of itself.

Make a channels to receive the flood.
You can't "work on" the flood; prepare for it.
It is hard to start a creative approach to your disease when you are in the middle of its crisis.
High tide is massive in a narrowing bay.
Make bigger channels.

Disease is like a lightening bolt which, striking the house, will burn it down.
Put up a lightning rod and channel the electricity down into batteries for later use.
The energy can be used.
Art grounds the charge of disease.
You don't want to be without it.
You don't want it to go away.

The circuit unable to handle so much electricity dangerously heats up.
The filament can't handle that much power.
The bulb burning brightest just before burning out.
Use heavier wire.


Holding On

he almost dangles
holding fast to the chain
suspended over the big wood stove
his lithe, weathered body gently curving in over the heat.
the sun has just set
due west on this equinox
and the cabin, deprived of its only illumination, grows dim.
we have come to visit after our long walk down the ridge
leaving our snowshoes outside his door.
he is cordial, but tired
smiling with his eyes closed
swinging slightly over the stove
his strong hands holding a good part of his weight
his features chiseled like the chairs he carves
angular like the geometries of his monochrome paintings.
he has lived on this mountain a longtime
thirty years
and he shows the signs
the sufferings and rewards
of having lived life on his own terms.
friends visit, but he is alone
alone with the mysteries in his bright blue eyes
solitary like the moose who ambles by now and again.
he is pleasant enough hanging there from that chain
but tired
rising and setting with the sun
weary like the ever-spinning earth
possessed of stony, unspeakable wisdom
and he might then be, with his white hair flowing long
as old as the hills.
we leave him there dangling in that twilight
perfectly balanced between day and night
leave him there to the rest that he deserves.

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87


"The path of the original Zen masters is like the bright sun in the blue sky- why are there people losing their way?" Foyan

You are advised to "love yourself."
However, no one needs to remind you to love your lasagna, because you already love your lasagna, or the way you sing, or the way you think...
No one needs to encourage you to further appreciate the talents you already love.
The injunction to love yourself refers to your shameful, embarrassing, diseased selves.
They need love from you.
Have compassion on the disease.

"Therapy" is the Greek word for "care."
Which parts of you need care?
The weak parts.
Care for the disease.
Allow it creative expression.
Pain has priority.
Disease is our master and even our friend.

You can't forgive what you haven't yet remembered.
Develop a discipline of remembering, a discipline for remembering.

You cannot forgive someone for something they haven't stopped doing.
Forgiveness has to be received.

Embracing the corrupting energies is tantra.
Exaggerating and fictionalizing can be ways of indulging and embracing the disease, ways of paying homage, ways of remembering.
Memorialize; make something of it.


Vanishings

people disintegrate
failing to hold up their end of the bargain
failing to hold up at all
they crumble
like ancient Assyria
like stone houses after a quake
nothing but rubble.
it's magic
now you see them
now you don't
a trail of fairy dust on the floor.
insufficient gravity
the pieces cannot hold together
achieved with great effort
the configuration is lost
orbits degrade.
some have a good long run
some only months or days
some just the appearance of solidity
disappearing on approach
an illusion of optics.
at first it is unsettling
all this slipping away
the count keeps changing
cleaning up the mess that's left
the sad wonder of it all
then one stops wondering
stops pretending that there was ever anything there
that appearances are more than lights on a screen
that today implies something about tomorrow.
the meteor burns brightly
but only while it's falling
the movie is over usually before the last reel
the mirror reflects merely shadows
only the strong survive
keeping dust waiting until the grave.

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88


Other cultures venerate what we hold in contempt.
Other cultures venerate physical and psychological breakdowns as experiences of initiation into deeper levels of the tribe.
Physical and psychological stress are part of the native american vision quest.
Disease today is an initiation experience without the tribe.
We need context for our breakdown.
We need to tell our own stories.
Today's psychiatric patient in the context of an aboriginal culture might become a shaman.

If Beethoven were alive today, he would be given prozac and we'd have none of his symphonies.
Genius is psychopathology with art.
There are great spices in your crisis.

There's nothing wrong with breaking down as long as we have a way to practice it, an art to make with it, for it.
We all need multiple ways to pay homage, to digest our experience.
We need to find the stories that describe our experience.


Young Ladies

they come to visit
but they do not visit
they take but they do not share
their beauty is all for themselves
fruit on a high branch
not yet ripe
sparkling in the sun.
in the group they whispered to each other
as if telling secrets.
they are unsure
unsteady on their legs
newborn fawns still wet from birth.
they are shy to the point of fear
what are they guarding?
they do not know themselves
how quickly the flower fades
how easily plucked.
what is there of such importance?
they would hold us off with a hollow smile
a nicety
their inner thoughts are private
even from themselves
they are far from human warmth.
the cruelty of the world stalks them
while they fret over trifles
they have become good at saying no
they have no idea how vulnerable they are
or how easy it is to become lost for ten years
they believe they are immune
there is no substitute for experience.

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89


"Don't abandon this world and cling to the beyond; for if you do so, it will be even harder to understand." an ancient

Perfection is static, finished, boring.
Disease has impetus, dramatic tension.

Cultivate an empowering, erotic approach to disease.
Accommodate the passion of the negative perspective.
Disease is trying to connect us with lost love.

Disease is the source of your authentic being; stop running away.
When you have nothing more to give up, you have reached the source.
When you have accepted what is, when you are not trying to change anything, you are there.


Beware

Walking through the sea dry-shod
Staring at the face of God
Dancing on a lightening rod
Beware the slightest wink or nod
Your soul's already dazed and overloaded.

Fed well on forbidden fruit
Plugged into the absolute
Digging for the hidden root
Bailing out without a chute
The ground you stood has all now been eroded.

Speaking the unuttered name
Gazing at the sacred flame
There is nobody else to blame
The angel's touch has made you lame
You'd better leave before he has reloaded.

Stone drunk on some holy wine
Starstruck in a hallowed shrine
You stand before the grand design
The awesome presence so divine
One false move and you will be exploded.

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90


People have a difficult time with each other's emotional inconsistency, because they have a difficult time with their own.
We crave homogeneity, but the world is not homogenized.
Accept inconsistency.
Change is the only constant.
Spontaneity is inconsistency at its best.

We complicate daily life, confusing practical realities.
We've been creating mundane multiplicities mirroring life's denied multiplicities.

Be a small helpless child and a mature adult at the same time.
Be fifteen different ways all at once.
There are many different channels broadcasting simultaneously.
Just because we are watching one doesn't mean the others aren't available.

According to Jung, we are all multiple personalities.
Your disease is part of this multiplicity of selves, just as your conscious personality is. Talk to your selves.
Dialogue, interact with your sub-personalities.


Mistaken Identity

it seems a case of mistaken identity
an error has been made
a wrong turn
she watches me
as though I were someone other then myself
she sleeps beside me in another dream
that I can reach out and touch her
is only some cruel hallucinations
I am not capable of receiving her affection
there is a crack in the vase
she speaks to me
in a language I do not know
I haven't the strength to turn away
too much light
too much song
I am already drunk
outside in the night
plows scrape snow from the street
valiantly, hyperbolically
deeply booming
so little snow has fallen
I would take what she has to offer
what sleep has to offer
it all seems so fragile and short-lived
where Mozart?
where van Gogh?
oblivion
as though I were someone other than myself
significance reveals itself
beyond all human understanding
a case of mistaken identity.

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91


The self is not the axis of being.
There is no central, organizing principal.
There is no axis, no hub, and no wheel.
God is a multiplicity.
Experience is disarrayed, or at least, polyvalent, possessing more than one form.
God is a circle whose periphery is everywhere, and whose center is nowhere.

The world is animated, full of souls.
There are multiple forces at work.
Inconsistency is the norm, impermanence, change.
Rating experience, trying to fit polyvalent reality into a system, narrowing and numbering are paranoid reactions to life's multiplicities.


Too Far Ahead

looking too far ahead
demise looms largely
everything is already done
crowned with personal futility
maybe it is my aged father
decompensating on the second floor
the heart attack was insulting
close to death and then returned
the stroke left him crippled
balance, vision and bowels
in truth he's now a nicer man
softer, with more use for people
a friendliness noticeable at the height of his infirmity
his still swollen brain adding to the confusion
of localized cerebral death
there in the hospital corridors
now I take him out to the deli
or downstairs for a sauna
but mostly he sits on the couch and waits for death
and welcomes death
looking it seems not too far ahead
I at half his age also look
and feel with him in sympathy
at the pages turned and years blown by
the hustling all for what?
to raise animals who will go on to raise more animals
I remember him at the beach
hat and shades and the cigar which he never lit
sitting, his big Buddha belly glistening in the sun
staring at the waves
drifting off to sleep
looking ahead
perfectly poised on emptiness' shore.

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92


There are a lot of different ways of looking at it.
It's good to see the options, to see another point of view and another and another...
There are a multiplicity of interpretations, which are not mutually exclusive.
All variants of the myth are true at once.

Each of seven blind men grabbed a different part of the elephant; one the trunk, one the leg, one the tusk, one the ear, one the tail, one the belly, one the head.
Each believed that he had grasped the whole.


Soon Ghosts

soon we will all be ghosts
continuing our wandering without effort
souls without the ballast of corporeality.
the dead wait for us
pathetically over our shoulder
crowding the rooms of our life
with their echoless footsteps
vacant remembrances
of countless years
histories ancient and near
close, but unable to touch.

soon we will be ghosts
haunting halls and fields with empty embraces
incidental apparitions hovering beyond memory and significance
beyond care
beyond snow or rain.
here now on every shelf
every table, every chair and stool and inch of bed
they sit waiting to be remembered
waiting to be absolved
waiting to be reborn.
lifeless days
once grand or small
blown on the breeze
like autumn leaves
the past stays with us
each moment shrivels and piles insubstantially on all that has come before
soon we will drift into that weighty nothingness
perhaps we already have.

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93


"Forms arise from that which has no substance; names arise from that which has no name." Wen-i

Tolerate ambiguity.
Inconsistent experience cannot be assembled consistently.
Disorder is difficult enough without futilely trying to order it.
Experience is confusing enough without trying to make sense of it.
Then you have two problems, the confusion, and the belief that you have to make sense of it.
Do something with the confusion other than trying to figure it out.
Find the images that describe your confusion.

Wittgenstein said that there are no supertheories to order existence, that we look for general principals where none exist.
Life defies organization.
We've been inventing systems to contain experience, ideologies to constrain life, but life will not be constrained and the repressed contents of experience assert themselves.

Life spins our heads, threatening our limited worldview.
Most people refuse to admit all the possibilities, implications, contradictions, denying, turning away.
Numbness is the way most people cope with life's dizzying array of deeds.
Openness can be a problem, but overall it's better to be sensitive than numb.
The world is crazy, and you want to be sane?

"Not knowing most closely approaches the truth." Wen-i

Accept the irrationality of life.
Life is creative, spontaneous, random, inconsistent.
The world is a paradox, the conundrum of the koan.
It's all unknown.
The mystery and confusion that attend our polyvalent experience make life interesting, lovable.
Find something to do with that which doesn't make sense other than trying to make sense of it.
Cultivate nonintellectual disciplines for your disease.

Everything is duplicitous.
Things are not mutually exclusive, not straight forward.
Accomplishment doesn't rule out a sense of inadequacy.
The dark contains the light.
The light contains the dark.
In the middle of the yang there's a little bit of yin.
Things turn into their opposite.
Extreme yin becomes yang.
The snake swallows it's tail.

Life is ironic.
Things are not all one way or the other.
Juggle the ironies.
Entertain the contradictions.
Being true to your intellectual confusion is enlightenment.


Twain

How strange the twain spring from one root
Two names upon one breath
Twin blossoms of a single shoot
My lover and my death.

Aloft my heart on joyous wings
Allows no disavowal
Of fear below which sinking stings
And sickens in the bowel.

Now cradled in my hands I hold
More than can ever be
Then washed up on the sands I'm cold
And broken by the sea.

So torn the wholeness of my soul
Is madly drawn from pole to pole
And as the trough does match the crest
So now the worst does match the best.

How strange the pleasure and the pain
Exquisitely compounded
An opiate inside the vein
That has the brain confounded.

The sweet dream and nightmare toss
Across my sleepless bed
Fair springtime and late autumn's frost
Each half the bride I wed
And I the groom am found and lost
The lover and the dead.

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94


The world is a scary place.
The universe is gigantic, we are very small and we're all going to die.
Life must eat other life to survive.
"Nature red in tooth and claw" is a horrible arrangement.

As individuals our position is very precarious.
We are all trying to cope with existential impotence, inventing strategies for living, staying within the lines, hoarding wealth, every hair in place, safe and predictable.
Those who suffer with delusions of grandeur allow themselves the comforting illusion that they are more powerful than in fact they are.
Those who suffer with feelings of worthlessness allow themselves the comforting illusion that while they themselves are weak, others are worthy and strong.
That is, "I may not know what is going on, but other people do."


Brought to Life

that heat has brought the flies to life
waking them from their long winter sleep
high up near the rafters
one has gotten stuck in a spider's web
but the spider is still hibernating.
there is no venom to end its agony.

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95


"The whole world is an eon of hell." Foyan

A lot of our uneasiness is entirely impersonal.
It is not even peculiar to our species.
The cat is wary.
The bird is nervous.
The squirrel is ill at ease.
All life experiences it with us.
It is not ours to effect.
It is we who must accommodate it.
Leave your individualism and connect with the larger context of life.

When a tree falls in the forest five or six saplings struggle up in the new patch of sunlight. However, there is not room for five or six trees in that space.
In fact, the older trees surrounding that space in a few years will grow in and close the forest canopy eliminating that patch of sunlight and killing the saplings.
That's the way nature works.
The trees are killing each other.


Don't Reckon Dear

Don't reckon dear that far off goal
Which ever slips beyond control
Don't grieve the laurels yet unwon
Nor sorrow for the race not run.

The flowers that refuse to bloom
The life that's locked inside the womb
Need not our plaintive, dirgeful mourn
No requiem for the unborn.

Too fast the fickle heart does fly
Too broad the compass of the eye
And most remains outside our grasp
Between life's first and final gasp.

But mis'ry's rank and bitter fruit
Draws darkly from a deeper root
And pale all our infertile toil
Beside her black and bloody soil.

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96


Things often fall short of what is anticipated.
Frustration is a part of life.
Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail.
Failure is a part of life
Struggle denies failure.
As long as you keep trying, you don't have to admit you've failed.
Stop struggling against failure.
Write a poem about failure.
Admit failure and get on with it.
Stop throwing good money after bad.

Let disappointment yield to cynicism.
Avoid dumbly reenacting your unowned frustration.
Don't project unowned frustration onto your life's circumstance.
Get in touch with your own level of frustration and avoid frustrating situations.
Give frustration a home.
Don't act it out; write it out.


Spring's Flowers

here in the city it is raining
people drive cars down the avenue
going to their corporate towers
tires sounding strange on wet pavement
like ocean waves breaking down the shore.
up in the mountains it is silent
moose crossing the ridge sink deeply into snow
covering the frozen ground
here spring's flowers already push up through the soil
oh, why did I leave the highlands?

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97


Intertribal warfare is the rule.
Brutality, torture, and genocide are very common in human experience.
Death, especially the fear of death, is the engine of civilization.
Embrace the horror artistically.

Overidentification with the ego, with our individuality, with our personality makes worse our fear of death.
Community equals continuity.
We fear death because we haven't lived.

The deaths that were are more frightening than the death that will be.
Suicide is a refusal to face the deaths that we have already suffered in this life and a literalization of them.
Face the deaths that have been; stop the killing.

Transform your relationship with hell.
Kiss the angel of death.


Deserve to Die

we all deserved to die
guilty of the worst crimes
all that we have is stolen
genocide and atomic incineration
have built the houses we live in
murder is our business
sweatshop slaves toil ceaselessly
to keep us dressed in the latest fashion
our appetites are never filled
more, more, consume, waste
suck off the fat of the world
the flesh and bones
life is hard but we've got the upper hand
might makes right
we are the Great Satan
slaughter in the Balkans
slaughtered in East Timor
two kids in Denver grab their guns
and act out the carnage locally
trench coat mafia
high school massacre
we all deserve to die
gleefully eating the hamburger cows
raised on land where the rain forest grew
land which will not support the grazing of cattle for more than a few years
land which will be left for waste
as deeper cuts are made into the virgin heart
of the last forests that sustain us
species disappear
species valuable even by capitalist standards
the gene pool shrivels
unimaginable beauty and wealth
bulldozed and burned for Burger King.

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98


We have been led to expect our lives should be ideal, like the romanticized versions of life portrayed on the screen.
The fairy tales have all been sanitized, stripped of their tragedies and ambiguities.
We've all been Disneyized.

These idealized notions of how life ought to be make it difficult to appreciate our actual experience.
The uncompromising standards of ideals make it hard to accept and work with our all too real experience of life.
We are supremely uncomfortable with our shortcomings
Kill your ideals, or at least let them die.
Revalue your imperfect experiences

Life is tragic.
Our pre-psychological ancestors suffered drought, famine, plague, death and other existential factors beyond their control.
They knew why they were depressed.
We've been trivializing our depression by imagining it to be our personal psychological problem.
Assuming problems to be personal precludes social or political solutions which might be available


Tottering

my father totters as he walks
his vision is not clear.
once he constructed huge buildings
now he needs to me to cut his nails.
sick of the ways of men
he retired many years ago
and has lived quite well doing nothing.
since his illness he has become more interested in life
reaching out to touch it as it ebbs away.
there is so little worth the doing.

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99


Ours is a grossly destructive culture.
People anticipate destruction by nuclear war, cigarettes, and countless other self-destructive activities and images.
Our religious image is of a hell where a maniacal god punishes eternally, without redemption.
People are into excess, waste.
There is a cultural legacy of diseased, negativity and pain which we must address creatively or suffer blindly.

"In the midst of confusion one sees Bodhidarma." Hsueh-feng

Believing that the world is a better place than it is, we take the world's problems on as though they were ours.
The horror of existence is resident in the present.
The world is depressed, anxious, angry, etc.
Problems that appear personal often have social or political solutions.
Utopian fantasies, how we think things are or should be, prevent us from dealing with the pressing reality of now.
Have a simple relationship to life's complexity.
Directly address the disease without seeking to manipulate it.

The belief in nature's or God's unadulterated benevolence is naive, a romantic notion, a sanitized fantasy.
God is love, but God is also a lot of other things besides love.


Psalms to an Angry God

I sing psalms to an angry god
A darkly vengeful lord
Who swiftly swings his awesome rod
And wildly wields his sword.

Whose bitter gall strikes to the root
To sour the sweetest wine
To wither there with tender shoot
The fruit upon the vine.

A stream of justice turned to sand
Righteousness changed to dust
A wrath which nothing can withstand
Turns even gold to rust.

And rips the unborn from the womb
The suckling from the breast
Whose blinded fury does consume
The wicked with the best.

I sing psalms to a god enraged
A lord of fire and stone
With madness raining unassuaged
Down from his high-built throne.

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100


Ritual involves action.
Ritual is a non-rational, poetic activity mirroring our non-rational experiences of life. Ritualizing pays homage to our experience, including our disease.
The participation mystique of ritual immerses us in experience.
Ritual develops soul.
Ritual involves not thinking or praying, but doing.
Do something for the disease

"The insight into past, present and future mortal conditions, and their related miracles is not necessary at all because these are only the fringes of reality." Yang-shan

Today we suffer the loss of ritual.
Culture has been declining since before the Renaissance.
The Renaissance was only a brief reversal of the trend.
Life has not been progressing, but getting worse.
Ritual has been supplanted by dry science, but knowledge cannot encompass experience. "Scientific Enlightenment" is an oxymoron.
Reductionism cannot encompass the holism of experience.
Art saves lives.

We can change our psyche by changing the physical.
Cleaning the room or the desk can have a profound effect on our psyche.
Ritual involves action, doing, e.g., lighting a candle, drawing, writing, dancing....
There is a magical potency of the physical.
Magic involves doing.
The kabbalists assert, "There is an advantage to physicality."
Get it out of your head.
The ritual, the act of writing is more important than the content of the writing.
Just do it.

Children are good at the immediate experience of their environment.
They are present oriented in time and space, immersed in their activity, right there.
Return to the childhood state of play.
Don't be so serious about your problems.


Plastic

this plastic will out live us all
brightly colored petrochemical toys
floating in a chlorinated pool.
once cheating death was the prerogative of kings
in gold masks and pyramids
now we all choke on the imperishable
sitting in our vinyl chairs
suffocating in plastic bags
trapped in nylon nets.
come see what we have done
this is our immortality
our plexiglass mausoleum
with plastic savior.

long ago we all died
but no one is left to mourn us,
plastic does not weep.

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101


"If you are aware of this mind, you will dress, eat, and act spontaneously in life as it transpires, and thereby cultivate your spiritual nature." Ma-tsu

If you want the world to change, change yourself.
Magic is the performance of inwardly oriented ritual to change the outward world.
Art changes the world.

"Psychopathology is a failure of imagination," James Hillman.

It all depends on how you look at it.
What you think is going on is going on, until you change the way you think, until you find new rituals to reorient your imagination.
Life is but a dream.
Life itself is psychosomatic.
It's not a problem with life, it's a problem with your rituals.
How encompassing is your fantasy, your mythology?
It's all an imagining.
What are your basic integers?
How do you count?
How do you imagine?
How do you do?


Raspberries

I picked raspberries that summer
along the shore of Lake Washington
in what used to be an old air force base
but was then a park.
the bushes grew up tall and circular
eighteen feet across
it was easy to pick a gallon
and gorge yourself at the same time
there were so many berries.
and when we had our full of fruit and thorns
with our booty secured in our backpacks
we'd walk the short distance
across the crumbled remains of the runway
through the weeds to our private spot on the lake
where we'd strip off our clothes
and plunge into the cool waters of that huge lake.
and I would swim far on that first breath
staying underwater as long as I could
enjoying the wet, fluid embrace of another world.
there submerged
especially when I first dove in
eyes closed
I saw against the darkness of my lids
raspberries, clusters of raspberries hanging on the bush.

what do they see
those who cower behind a desk all day
playing paper games,
those fixed to the cathode ray
with its dazzling display
of meaninglessness
those who harvest only the black fruit of regret,
I wonder
when they close their eyes
what do they see?
but I don't really want to know.

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102


"It is not Buddha. It is not a thing." Nanquan

Western thought tends to remove soul from the universe, elevating human beings to the lonely kingship of existence.
The world becomes filled with soulless objects, which we are justified in manipulating for our purposes, cutting down the rainforest, slaying the heathen.
Spirit is taken away from the animistic universe and reserved for human beings.
Human beings become prime movers responsible for their own experience.
When soul is restricted to self, then problems become "my problems."

Soul is not an exclusively human phenomenon.
Things have soul.
Disease has soul.
Cultivate a soulful relationship with the world, with your disease.
Avoid object materialism.
A relationship between two souls has a life, a reality, a soul of its own.
Objects have life.
Objects are subjects.


If Only

The bird whose heart longs for the north
Compelled by nature's passioned force
Would follow fast it's homeward course
On sure and tireless wing
If only it were spring.

The serpent in its icy den
Would supple grow and writhe again
To bask reborn in sunny glen
Warm, soft awakening
If only it were spring.

Great rivers frozen in their bed
Would thawing tumble on ahead
Were joyously their waters wed
The sea's wide wandering
If only it were spring.

Then would the tightly whorled bud
Its veins engorged with life's sweet blood
Burst open in a scented flood
Love's lusty blossoming
If only it were spring.

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103


The world is overbrimming with forces and fields of energy lying for the most part beyond our range of perception or scientific measurement.
Human beings share the world with a great multiplicity of forces.
Like the animal spirits of shamanism, or the thought forms of Buddhism, our feelings, including our disease, are not ours.
They exist as independent entities.
We need to accommodate these forces.

One comes under the influence of these independently existing moods, for example, in a house of worship, a corporate office, a hospital, or a natural setting.
Most people are uncomfortable being subject to the great pandemonium of the world's subtle forces.
"Invited or not the gods will attend."
We must pay poetic attention to the subtle forces washing over us.


Concerned

people call me up concerned about my spirituality
they leave messages urging be to join them in prayer.
years ago I rose each morning before the sun
and went to the prayerhouse
the ancient words were my friends
but among the congregates I was lonely.
now I have gotten lazy
I rise late and watch clouds idling across the sky
the formulas are lost
and I am left with only these awkward incantations.
people are disappointed with me
but I think somehow God is happy.

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104


We share our insecurity, depression, anxiety, etc., in common with others.
My insecurity may be identical to yours.
We partake in these states, but they are not ours.
In a very real sense, they exist apart from us.
Depression does not imply a character flaw.
There is nothing wrong with you because you are depressed.
The feeling is not in us, we are in the feeling.
It is not ours to manipulate.
It is we who must accommodate it.

"If your eyes were clear, you'd have attained it...As soon as you say 'This is thus and so', that is a complacent fixation; people with clear eyes are not like this." Foyan

What is the context of our being?
Do we identify our self as part of a larger whole? a family? a community? a tribe? a nation? a species?
Seeing one's self as a single organism, isolated from others within a boundary of skin, is an impoverished and anxious vision.
Disease fits poorly the context of an isolated individual.
Imagining one's self as part of a community of life allows one to draw strength, support and meaning from that community.
Negativity is an experience held in common.
Seeing one's self as a node in an eternal web of being relieves much of the existential dread of individuality.
Disease often does not make sense in the individual context.


Abstract

life is better in the abstract
fairy tales and want-to-bes
are preferred over the hard feel
of pavement under your feet,
the angels do not eat.
few things meet our expectations
fewer rise beyond
the simple things all run aground.
all virtue is forgotten
I prefer leaving messages to talking to people
pills arrayed before me
we are only the most successful animal.
that birds might burst into flame
diving through the sky
that rooftops speak with shingled tongues
that trees possess some noble intelligence
that people are deserving.
blood flows down the streets
poison spews into the air
the jokes are not funny anymore
clean the window
hang the tapestry
somehow reach beyond yourself
what else is there to do?

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105


The ancient Greeks did not have psychology, they has cosmology.
The powerful and autonomous moods which possessed their souls were gods.
For the Greeks, the question asked of the Sybil, the wise, weird woman who lived in the sacred cave, by one in distress was "To which god need I pay homage to alleviate my suffering?"
Who or what has been neglected?

Disease is a deeper initiation, not a pharmaceutical problem.
Disease lets us know that it's time for a change.
Respect the initiation experience.
Initiation is harder without the tribe.
We must write our own story.
These forces are not mistakes, not pharmaceutical phenomenon, they are gods!


Euriydice

Eurydice, come back to me
There is no song without you
Life broods in silent misery
Since cruel death closed about you.

Let poet's voice now find the verse
To free you from cold Hades' curse,
Let lyre's tune now break the spell
That keep us in immortal hell.

Eurydice, come flee with me
The way is clear before us
Make haste while dark Persephone
Agrees yet to restore us.

Rise up now like some grand phoenix
Take flight across the wine-dark Styx
While Charon waiting in his bow
A passage back does yet allow.

Eurydice, ascend with me
And keep your eyes ahead now
Lest turning we abysmally
Fall back among the dead now.

Those wretched ghosts of life's decay
Who call us back towards disarray
And so distracted from our height
We gaze down on eternal night

Eurydice, remember me
Although death has us parted
There in your somber reverie
I too am broken-hearted

Though silence stays this poet's tongue
And sadness ends the joy once sung
Your hell below and mine above
Still echo with our tortured love.

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106


In its force and fury, disease is godlike.
The proper attitude to a god, even a wild and crazy god, is homage.
The young woman who was hopelessly in love was directed by the Sybil to the cult of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
There immersed in the rituals of love, she achieved a more balanced relationship with her own experience of love.
Pay homage.
Discover what is expected from you.
Attend the moody gods.


Risk

There are chances you must take
There are rules that you must break
Cross the bridge and let it burn
Spin the wheel another turn
Everything you are's at stake.

Just forget what you have heard
Their point of view is so absurd
There's a sickness in their joke
When it all goes up in smoke
Yours will be the final word.

Nothing's wrong and nothing's right
Every sweet kiss has a bite
All your pleasure and your pain
Is a fever in your brain
Just a dream you dreamed last night.

There's no time to hesitate
Or to worry 'bout your fate
Leave the credit and the blame
Take the sword out of the flame
Come the hour is getting late.

You've been bought and you've been sold
And you've done what you've been told
Now the hand that held the key
Lies there bloody as you flee
With fists full of blood and gold.

The point of no return's been crossed
Win or lose risk has its cost
But it's easy to be brave
When there's nothing left to save
Count yourself among the lost.

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107


"One must be like thirty tons of iron, which cannot be pulled forward or pushed back- only then do you know it's the real thing. People like you stir the minute you're shaken by someone; one more push and you tumble."

Trust in your personal style, with all its failings.
Call it like you see it.
What do you want?
How do you see it?
What's your agenda?
Trust your feelings.
Be true to your experience.
Own your own emotions, perceptions, thoughts and experience.

Presume mutuality.
What is good for you, is good for those who love you.
Presume relationship.
You are not alone in your feelings.
Share.

Tell it like it is for you.
Accommodation isn't necessarily kind.
Accommodation isn't a panacea.
Acquiescing doesn't necessarily do the other person a favor.
Don't deny someone the benefit of your counsel.
Share your opinions.
Honor your personal experience.


Before the Roses

spring's first full moon is past
already the sun is a long time in the sky
magnolias blossom
but here in the rose garden all is thorns and tiny leaves.
a young couple strolls past
laughing as her auburn hair catches the afternoon sun,
young children have a drawing class in the gazebo,
old folks sit on benches,
waiting patiently.
there is no cure for this disease.

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108


Cultivate the aesthetic response.
There is no correct flavor.
It's a matter of personal taste.
Don't do anything that you don't want to do.
It is a question of variety, not hierarchy.

Disagreement often has nothing to do with right and wrong, and everything to do with a difference in styles.

The dichotomy of right and wrong is not inclusive enough, all other qualities apply.
Disease is not encompassed by the question of right and wrong.
We must consider other aspects of our feelings.
Are they wet? warm? sticky? sweet? dark? hard? loud? sharp? smelly? etc.

Beauty over truth.
Not truth, but richness.
Truth is often elusive; beauty is obvious.
Have an aesthetic take on experience.


Some

some are great composers
setting down symphonies of unearthly beauty
some are outstanding scholars
revealing deep wisdom
some are accomplished dancers or acrobats
some have hands of tremendous dexterity
shaping nature into exquisite forms
some are comforted by their beauty or wealth.
here on this lonely mountainside
poor in deeds and learning
I have only these silly words to amuse me
see how they fly
like autumn leaves scattered by the wind.

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109


Even cultures with a profound sense of familial obligations acknowledge that when you enter the monastery, you disassociate from the family.
To enter the spiritual life you need to leave behind the familiar.
Cut off the family, the same old same old.
Stop the karma, the conditioned response.
React not in kind.
Be free.
Be creative.
The goal according to Zen is unmediated spontaneity.
Do something new.

We've cherished ideals of family more than we've loved ourselves.
Loving the self is healthy selfishness.

We grew up accommodating crazy people; so what does that make us?
We were conditioned by spiritually and/or emotionally retarded persons.
We were dependent on unloving people.
There is a primal connection in genuine relationships, a deep place where we don't like to go because it's wounded and hurts.
Authenticity often hurt with an impersonal pain.
In a painful world being sensitive hurts.


Sooner or Later

sooner or later things catch up
you might have a good long run
but then it's over
a shot too low
a knock on the door
a letter in the mail
the end comes in variance guises
sudden gripping pain
silent disorientation
some people just get up and leave
one day the cat is purring
the next not
you can play the percentages
hedge your bets
but it's a sure thing
things come undone
the best you can do is to keep moving
but even that is not good enough.
there are those who do not even try
lazy or cynical or scared
they drift on the tide
toward the edge of the world
nothing ventured
everything lost.
there are those whose only job
whose only joy
is to see you finished
to bring you down
like one lobster pulling another back into the pot
their whole purpose is to end yours,
there are a lot of them
and the law is on their side
you must be ready to skip town
to change your name and face
to find a new game
still
sooner or later
they'll have you cornered
and then the game is up.

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110


"No delusion, no enlightenment.... It's necessary to attain the reality where there is no delusion and no enlightenment before you can become free and unfettered." Foyan

You cannot abandon "unacceptable" feelings.
Accept the unacceptable.
The negative aspects of life are proper.
You don't want them to go away.

"A monk asked, 'What is my own self?' 'Have you finished your rice gruel?' asked the Master. 'Yes I have finished it', replied the monk. 'Then go and wash your dish', said the Master." Chao-chu

Attend that which is before you, that which confronts you.
Embrace the monkey on your back and he'll take his nails out of your neck.
If you want the disease to be less hostile and obnoxious to you, try being less hostile and obnoxious to the disease.

Depression is often a stubborn refusal to look at objective reality.
Stop staring into the corner refusing to look.
Stop dead-ending.
Stop refusing to move.
Why get into such a predicament?
Why associate with such circumstances?

Stop being complicit in your own suffering..
Look into the darkness to find the light.
Love the riddle of life.
Act creatively rather than routinely in your psychodramas.
Do something.


Defenseless

never having been sick
she was defenseless
against the ravages of disease.
sometime not long ago
he started using again
fell in with a bad crowd at work
started staying away for days at a time
things started disappearing from the apartment,
crack is an ugly drug,
finally she hid the valuables somewhere else.
discussions and arguments
somehow he was convinced
even if he could not convince her
that it was all
always all her fault;
the best liars lie to themselves
believe their own lies.
and she wants to believe
that this time he will quit for good
that he is not trying to enslave her
that love will be enough
to save his magic from destruction.
but love is never enough
and the baseness of humanity
is much deeper than she imagines.
addicts will rob you blind
before you even stop smiling.
love dies
like a flower or a tree
and she is well on her way to the same fate,
but still between the storms
there are breaks of sunshine in her eyes.

***

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111


"Look people; if you are about to misunderstand your whole life, how can you not go to someone to find certainty?" Foyan

People obsess in deficiency consciousness rather than glory in the multifaceted wonder of being.
We obscure the miraculous by stubbornly and inaccurately focusing on historical deficiency.
The bad apple ruins the good.

Poverty is knocking at the door; it wants to eat a meal, not the whole house.

Many believe, "Everybody is doing better than me."
Then they live their lives in a manner to prove it.
Don't create poverty:
Be more creative with poverty.

"Set this down. This set down. Have we been led this way for birth or death?" T.S. Eliot.

Birth hurts.
Birth is bloody.
It's easy to die, but it's hard to be born.

You have necessarily to do poverty, but not necessarily in finances or personal relationships.
Do the negative in your journal or sketchbook.
Enrich poverty consciousness.
Get out of your psychological cul de sacs.
Look for an alleyway, a door ajar, a fence to climb over.

If you don't get the import of the dream, it will recur.
Write it down.
Elaborate upon it.
Pay attention.


Irreplaceable

lovers arrive
on the age of night
dogs bark with canine glee
vegetables are retrieved from the dark
these are the simple things
car doors slamming
headlights descending off the hill.
it is a wicked time to be alone
the last light squeezed out of the sky
between the clouds and hills
a failing, blind light.
it all seems some sort of exercise
a preparation for what?
a thousand hopelessnesses settle in
the promised ending comes
the suicide leaves us questioning
our own petty braveries.
dogs get excited
without even a moon to bark at.
the irreplaceable is lost
does anyone know where the disappeared go?


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112


"Just do not seek elsewhere." Foyan

The improverishments which we are unable to admit, unable to give place to in our lives, haunt our world like hungry ghosts, devouring our successes.
Our unowned sense of poverty, craving attention, pollutes and blinds us to the richness in our lives.
We are embarrassed by riches.
How hard it is for us to receive compliments.
How difficult to take comfort in our accomplishments.
How elusive our further success.
Feed the hungry ghosts.
Embellish the impoverishments with images

For most of us, the question is not "Is the glass half full or half empty?"
Rather, it is "Is the glass nine tenths full or one tenth empty?"
Too easily minor imperfections overshadow our major successes.
Thirteen good days are wiped away by one bad day.
Give the negativity a place to be besides your day to day life.

Knowing how close health is, don't be afraid to explore sickness.
Don't sweat being out of balance.
Come from a place of strength in exploring the weakness.

I was once adding up a stack of checks for deposit which totaled two thousand, two hundred and twenty-two dollars and twenty cents.
I reported this coincidence to an acquaintance of mine who replied, "It should have been two thousand, two hundred, twenty-two dollars and twenty-two cents."
To which I retorted, "The two cents don't matter."
Don't sweat the two cents.


Forsaken

Poised on the twilit edge of night
Illumined by day's latent light
Come revelations which requite
The efforts undertaken
And still I am forsaken.

In gardens ripe with exiled dreams
The slumbered sun of Eden gleams
On fruit whose harvest now redeems
But from that sleep awaken
I who am yet forsaken.

Long silenced is the cannons' roar
The ragings of that private war
Whose casualties now help restore
Foundations that were shaken
Still I remain forsaken.

No comfort found in love's embrace
No certainty of divine grace
No fullness now can e'er replace
The ease which has been taken
And left me here forsaken.

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113


"They are like people sitting by a food basket talking about eating; they can never be filled, because they do not themselves partake. Realization obliterates the subject-object split; it's not that there's some mysterious principle besides. In your daily activities, when you see forms, this is an instance of realization; when you hear sounds, this is an instance of realization; when you eat and drink, this is an instance of realization. Each particular is without subject or object." Foyan

Identify with your experience, good and bad.
Obliterate the subject-object split.
Repression is a blanket phenomenon dampening positive as well as negative emotions. Feeling the pain allows you to feel the joy.

We've been afraid of love.
We're not any more comfortable with joy and love than we are with anger and fear.

"So, I have a horror of success," Vincent van Gogh.

We are not afraid of failure.
We are very familiar with failure.
It makes us uncomfortable, but not afraid.
Ours is not a fear of failure, but a fear of success.


Late August

August expires tonight
Its cool, final breezes
Already autumnal
The dying breaths of some gigantic beast
Who sleeps
Exhausted beneath the harvest
And dreams of being naked and light.

Summer aches
Her overladen womb
Weary of its labors
Craves the withering frost
Ripeness left too long
Grows rank and fat upon the bough
Which cannot bear
But breaks.

The world slips
Sighing tired and heavy
Headlong this evening
Into the quiet absence of space
Darkness suddenly usurps the day
Seasons falter
Earth's massive axis tips.

The heart bleeds
Irrevocably
Spilling its impossible lushness
Out into night's cool, black sea
Life ends
The swell of passion's throbbing pulse
Grows slight
And soon recedes.

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114


Addiction is an affirmation, an acknowledgment of the disease, it is something we do because we are sick, for our disease, but it is a primitive, impoverished acknowledgment.
Freud observed that the repressed remains primitive.
It's primitive, and it's you.

It's easier to deal with a sophisticated disease.
Articulated, it's easier to get a hold of, easier to handle, not as slippery.

"When you say an incense stand, what did you call it? You called it an incense stand. Everyone calls it an incense stand; why do you not think why you call it an incense stand?" Foyan

Addictions and ideologies are oversimplified strategies for living.
They are comforting because of the seeming certainty of direction they provide.
Any monomania, money, fame, sex, power, knowledge, love, etc., is inadequate to encompass our experience.

Having only one way of feeling good, or having only of feeling bad, is addiction.
Refocus the addiction.
We need multiple sources.
We need multiple ways of getting high or getting down.


Sameness

waking I am amazed to find things the way I left them
the books, the plants, the towels and soap
the leaves upon the trees
the world is mired in ordinariness
people driving the same car
down the same road
to the same job or the same school.
we are fascinated by the disruptive
accidents, war, crimes of passion
crime in general
natural catastrophes
hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.
sudden illness, death
all the disasters the evening news can feed us.
we are fascinated by that which disrupts the ordinary tasks of living
the way children in school love fire drills
the way sports fanatics love the championship race
the trouble comes when you realize
that the drills are planned
the game is fixed
that destruction and cataclysms are themselves ordinary
along with love and other epiphanies.
aging with your eyes open you come to see
that it's all really the same old same old
and the best that they can manage is a new package,
genuine novelty in art or politics or elsewhere
goes begging until it is no longer new.
the zen masters assert that there are no secrets
that ordinary mind is enlightenment.
Lao Tsu had seen enough
and left civilization for the wilderness,
the western lands;
my father sits quietly on the couch
supremely unimpressed,
I sit here with notebook and pen
undressed
at the beginning of another day
with everything remarkably the same,
cars blow their horns
last night's rain dries off the rooftops
I sit here with the imagined uniqueness of my own self consciousness
then I get up
and flush.

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115


Sometimes we get tired of being good, tired of towing the line, paying the bills, being responsible.
Then, inarticulately, we act out our badness.
However, compulsive eating, cigarette smoking and other simplistic self-destructive habits don't adequately express disease.
We need an artistic theater to play at our disease, an arena to exercise the negative.
Sugar is a down and dirty way of feeling good.
Self-sabotage is a down and dirty way of feeling bad.

Addicts overrate the object to which they are addicted.
Knowledge is overrated.
Love is overrated.
Consistency is overrated.
Stop whoring after money.
Stop whoring after truth.
Stop prostituting yourself.
Stop compromising your experience.
Be true to your experience.


Pity

Pity the heart that beats too long
Its unrelentant rhythmic song
Compelling with those sad refrains
This tired blood through tortured veins.

Beware the thoughts which dive profound
In waters where deep truths abound
Lest they uncover hidden there
Leviathan's titanic lair.

Accursed that providential star
Whose fateful light leads us afar
Towards destinies which all betray
Our bright hopes held along the way.

For petty is the pride of man
And poverty consumes his span
Devouring every hour that's torn
From him much better left unborn

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116


Stop creating excuses to feel bad.
Stop creating dysfunctional situations to allow yourself bad feelings.
Feel bad without dysfunction.
You can feel bad without inventing excuses to do so.

Stop slashing at yourself; drive the blade to the bone.
Exaggerate the pain.
Indulge it.
Heap images on it.
Admit death and stop dying one thousand deaths.
Do it here and you don't have to do it there.
Do it artistically and you don't have to do it in your day to day life.

It's easy to lose.
It's easy to give up.
It's easy to surrender.
Enlightenment is the easy way.


The Moment

now that I have lost everything
what can they take from me?
all is dressed in impermanence
each day ends in shadows.
we have only the moment to enjoy
knowing that the moment will not last.
spring rain visits naked trees
tempting roots to try again.
green leaves not yet formed
anxiously await their turn.

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117


"As long as you don't know how to be people in the midst of enlightening realities, you only exercise your minds in the mundane world." Foyan

Say yes to no.
Get in touch with the no and the yes comes by itself.
Get in touch with impossibility and the possible will become obvious.
Learn how to be not serene, and serenity reveals itself.
Paint with a darker palette.
Do the no more creatively.
Less is more.

No doesn't cancel yes.
They are not mutually exclusive, not in opposition.
Embrace the no.
Disease is not incompatible with rich living.

A sense of inadequacy doesn't preclude accomplishment.
Every actor has stage fright.
Successful actors know how to accommodate the fear (with ritual) and benefit from it.
Become practical while tending your "craziness" artistically.


Intelligence

intelligence is not valued in this world
those who are beautiful can make it far without it
charm will also open many doors
being right counts for very little
the truly wise are smart enough to hide their wisdom
deep thinking gets people into trouble.
the frogs croak loudly in the pond this early spring
they have only one thing on their minds.

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118


The yes is in the no.
The yes is already here, and we inarticulately obsess about the no, the not, the impossible. The no is not the whole story, but it demands attention.

Don't make the negative too big to approach.
The negativity is not beyond your reach.
The disease is approachable.
Start even in a small way.

"It is just that you avoid what is right before you." Foyan

Absence is not hell.
Absence is deficiency.
Hell is not being able to accept the fullness that is present.


Saint Annie


Through the window open wide
Night slips quietly inside
Turning memories of you
A much deeper shade of blue.

Saint Annie took her dress off
As she walked across the beach
The conversation was too polite and formal.
Then she dove into the water
Drifting further out of reach
She was tired of solid earth and acting normal.

Staying up all night she painted
Seven wonders on the wall
And in the morning left to go and join the circus.
She's at home up on the highwire
'Cause there's no place left to fall
She has balance, but she's got no sense of purpose.

Whirling through the kitchen
Like a dervish in her dance
She paused to make the food appear upon the table
Then sitting down to eat
She fell back deeply in a trance
She was willing, but she wasn't always able.

Annie saw the angels floating
All around the bed
Then on silver wings she floated out the window
Following the line
Between the living and the dead
She had reasons, but she never really said so.

All is lost, there's no returning
Bridges crossed are brightly burning
Man, it's never really clear
Somehow things just disappear.

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119


Feelings are always valid, but not always obvious.
Feelings cannot be grasped on their first emergence from the soil of the unconscious mind. Our initial experience of our feelings may be only preliminary, superficial.
We may need to tend, to water and fertilize those incipient feelings, to allow them time and room to grow.
Let them grow in your sketchbook.

Rushing to conclusions regarding the nature of our feelings denies those feelings the ground to reveal themselves.
This premature evaluation of feelings nips them in the bud, preventing their fuller expression.
This jumping to conclusions is a mechanism of denial.
With it, feelings are doomed to remain primitive.
Unsophisticated and undifferentiated such feelings are confused and confusing.
Poorly articulated they are without handles, hard to grasp.
Slippery and unpredictable, they justify our perception of them as dangerous forces to be controlled and avoided.
Art is a friendly way of encouraging our feelings to reveal themselves in a friendly manner.


Wisemen

Lao Tzu was disgusted
Buddha was disillusioned
Jesus was frustrated;
humanity is such an ugly lot
the world a vale of tears
full of unspeakable horrors.

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120


Taking your feelings literally denies their metaphorical import, their broader context, their subtler implications.
Taking them at face value avoids going more deeply into them.
We assume that we've got the message and stop listening.
This short circuits the process of feeling, and although we may feel a big jolt of emotion, we haven't experienced the complete process.
We have secret, internal agreements not to confront certain issues.
Don't jump to facile conclusions.
Find a safer place to experience your negative feelings.


Excuses

the cat is sleeping on the couch
the dog is dreaming under the bed
trucks leave in clouds of dust
people used to be smarter
the mirror doesn't lie
children perform burials in the desert night
bleeding
shoplifters are apprehended
people do not act in their own self interest
snow does not melt
paleness has an unearthly beauty about it
it is easy to give over to sensual
a Canadian woman searches for God
in northeastern Vermont
searches for God in my eyes
there is no place of final rest
the rope tightens
like a boa constrictor
impossible positions are achieved
excuses work better for beautiful women
planes are caught
times slips away
computers shed a dull blue glow
there are easier ways to proceed
it's hard to separate fact from fiction
some things need a lot of work
some things need time
some things need a bullet in the brain
some people never learn.
everything to everybody
no one at all.

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121


"Every one of you should turn his own light inward and look at the Self within. Do not try to remember my words. Ever since the beginningless past you have walked away from your own light and entered into darkness. It is evident that false thinking is deeply rooted in you, and it is very hard to dig out." Yan-shan

"Acting out" our emotions is a way of short circuiting our experience of them.
Let them brew in an artistic vessel.
Take the long circuit.
There is a short way which is a long way, and a long way which is a short way.

Emotions motivate.
They concentrate passion, eroticism.
Pathos has passion.
We wrestle with angels.


Tasteless

we are already starving
the crisis is up on us
the people who remember better times grow fewer every day
substance and flavor are gone
food is synthetic
artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial nutrients
nothing is as it used to be
nothing is left
the soils are empty
the crops are empty
the people are diseased
how can we swallowed this tasteless life?

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122


Don't take feelings so literally.
Just because you feel abandoned, doesn't mean that you are abandoned.
Just because you feel inadequate, doesn't mean that you are inadequate.
Just because you feel lost, doesn't mean that you are lost.
Just because you feel weak, doesn't mean that you are weak.
Just because you feel insecure, doesn't mean you are insecure.
Just because you feel like dying, doesn't mean that you are dying.
Just because you feel like a child, doesn't mean that you are a child.
Just because you feel worthless, doesn't mean that you are worthless.
Just because you feel helpless, doesn't mean that you are helpless.
Just because you feel out of control, doesn't mean that you are out of control.
Just because you feel unloved, doesn't mean that you are unloved.

Don't be ludicrously literal.
Disease is larger than individual life, don't trivialize it.
For example, don't think that your anger or sadness exists only because you were just insulted; "If he wasn't such a jerk, then I wouldn't feel this way."
There is a proximate cause, but that isn't the whole story.
It is the trigger, but not the whole cannon, not the whole blast.


Kindness

I am tired of their affection
tired of what they take for affection.
not the safety or surety
the scripted choreography
my love is the ragged edge of life
the wound which will not heal
not dawn but deepest night.
I wake to find my heart untouched
they have mistaken me.
their kindness is a burden,
I cannot survive their love.

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123


Removing the emotion from the object of your emotion allows you to respond freely and practically to the object.
When you own your anger you no longer need that person or circumstance to feel your anger.
There is a Tibetan breathing meditation wherein one concentrates on exhaling cool, blue air and inhaling hot, red air, breathing out goodness and breathing in the difficulty.
The goodness outweighs the difficulty.
You can afford to be generous.
Embrace the obstacle.


Gone

The signs are disappearing
The cars, the road, the walks
The flowers are disappearing
One plant after another
Security guards come into view and vanish
First the man and then the woman
The doors are gone
Now row by row the brick wall evaporates
The woman walking across the parking lot, gone
Her little one trailing along, gone
(The wind blows)
Cloud by cloud the sky is erased
Three garbage cans disappear, one returns
The woman security guard reappears, but the wall on which she leans is gone
It's all just drying up
Trees and doctors and a lifetime ending
The gate is gone, the fence, the struggle to survive
Birds disappear
The deli across the street returns to nothingness
The driveway is gone
The entrance cannot be found
Bicycles and riders are lost
Failures, nightmares and dreams dissolve
Men carrying boxes to a van disappear
Then the van
Grievance and disappointment
Hunger, longing and loss,
Gone, gone
Neighborhoods, family and the tortured march of years vanish
Summer, then September, gone
(Still the wind blows)
Childhood's last foolish embers are extinguished
Trash blowing through a vacant lot disappears along with the lot
Grass and children and leaves already colored and falling, gone
God and country and the war, bombs falling, all finished
Lines, edges, curbs, dogs, crap tables, business deals, card games, long drives, arguments, sevens, elevens, the slow burden of being, windows, roofs, columns, hospitals, gone
And this poem, all gone.

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124


"When you ask, 'How can one be free from the world?' You must first find out what the world is." Foyan

Feelings are always valid, but sometimes they are misplaced.
Feelings of abandonment, anger, sadness, etc. arising inappropriately in one situation are none-the-less appropriate for another situation.
The emotions belong somewhere else.
Not admitted in one circumstance, they force admission into another.
For example, a person denies frustration at work, and then becomes inappropriately frustrated at home.
We must be accurate with our emotions, grieve accurately, anger accurately, fear accurately, love accurately....
Practice your emotions artistically.

Feelings are always valid, but sometimes misattributed.
Obviously incongruent, you can't blame your feelings on the experience.
There is no possible association.


Nightmares

That sleep which puts an end to rest
And robs the night of quiet
Makes prisoner and does molest
The heart that would defy it.

Those dreams which rouse the dreaming will
Great efforts to betake
Then drive it on undone until
Exhausted it does wake.

That somnolent obsessive thought
Rants rabid its refrain
Whose frothing madness renders naught
All shrewdness of the brain.

Those nightmares, those nocturnal spells
Whose frightened circumstance
Reflects but dimly daylit hells
Lost here in waking's trance.

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125


"A bit of filth sticks to the nose of a sleeping man. He wakes up, unaware of the filth, and thinks that everything stinks." Foyan

Some things are not in the right context.
The bed is an obstacle in the kitchen, you can't sleep in it because there's too much traffic; you can't stack things on it because it sags, but you don't want to throw it away.
Bring the bed into the bedroom.

Move the manure away from the kitchen window.
Spread it out on the field.
Redeem the out of place.
Redeem lost things.


Helpless

the stroke caught him in his vision center
and balance,
before he was reclusive
never really had much to say
now it seems he has more interest but less ability,
muscles devoid of tone
he totters across the room
holding onto table tops and chair backs
or with my arms embracing him from behind,
under his arm pits and across his chest,
"I feel so helpless," he sighs
and all I can do is agree.

naked with him in the sauna
the first blast of steam always feels so good
sweating there quietly in the semi-darkness
or exchanging some observations
this still proud man and his son,
the older I get the more I realize the truth of what he said and says
the wisdom of his cynicism
and I await the same decay.

everything turns to manure but stone
and stone just turns to dust.
there sitting upon the couch my father seems content if not happy.
the garden is past its prime
the harvest is over,
how much futility
can one man take?

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126


Feelings have nothing to do with work.
You cannot "work on" your feelings.
You cannot work to understand your feelings.
You cannot stand under your feelings.
You cannot stand apart from your feelings.
You are surrounded.

Feelings exist without our work.
They are speaking to us.
They are trying to get our attention.
They are working on us.
Our job is to become receptive.
Develop a way to listen and to play.
If you want to do something, get out of the way.


Twilight

See how the solar orb has set
Behind that distant hill
It's skyward beauty falling yet
Below broad heaven's sill.

See how those rays which once ranged free
Now gather towards the west
As they from growing shadows flee
Like sparrows to their nest.

Like sailors drawn down by their ship
Into a sunken grave
Those wrecked remnants of daylight slip
Beneath horizon's wave.

See that last embered indigo
Yet dimly phosphoresce
The final breath of afterglow
Expired in night's caress

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127


Experience is largely metaphorical.
If your waking experience had been a dream, how would you interpret it?
For example, how could you interpret someone standing you up for an appointment?
Perhaps the metaphorical significance of that episode is that person is emotionally unreliable, or that your expectations of friendship are unreasonable.
Mundane episodes provide us with a wealth of deeper significance which we ignore at our peril.
Follow the signs.
Pick up on the cues, the hints.
If you don't perceive the significance of a dream it will recur, often with greater urgency.
The world is an oracle whose message disease comes to reinforce.


For My Blood

people clamor for my blood
they want to throw me to the lions
how happy they would be to see me fall
unwilling to try themselves they want be to fail.
living among them I sought to be their friend
sharing my bread and wine
rising full from my table
they tell stories behind my back.
now that spring is coming
I will move farther up the mountain
to live alone in the wilderness
it has become impossible for me eat to conceal my distaste.

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128


Consider the metaphorical implications of your experience.
Consider life as metaphor.
Explore the metaphor, actively with art.
Life is but a dream.

Ultimately disease has very little to do with anyone else and has almost nothing to do with what you think it is about.
The person who checks for the fourteenth time to make sure that the burner is off, is not really worried about the stove.


No Hurry

no one is in a hurry anymore
everything is already won or lost
the redeemed are redeemed
the damned are damned
all is at rest
entropy
nothing is delivered
those who wait
wait in vain
the mighty have fallen
fools are risen up
suicide seems a noble option
no way out
no way in
televisions playing in empty rooms
trees falling in forests, unwitnessed
the entertainment ceases to distract
the restaurants are closed.
I want to cry
but my mind is as black and cold as this winter night
snowflakes falling from my eyes
misery loves company
but we suffer alone
it is so easy to close one's eyes
and pleasantly drift to sleep
the world rewards forgetfulness
so much has gone unanswered
the days have slipped away
the dead may rise
but not tonight
the dream resists interpretation
there is nothing left to do.

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129


"All of your activities everywhere transcend Buddhas and Masters. The water buffalo at the foot of the mountain is imbued with Buddhism, but as soon as you try to search, it's not there. Why do you not discern this?" Foyan

The truth is so simple that we miss it.
It's a simple economy.
When something gets in your face, look at it.

"When you find yourself in the midst of it, help yourself to a little bit of what's around you.." Lennon/McCartney.

The things that get in our way, that interrupt our conventional accommodation with life, are the keys to our authentic being.
"Aye, there's the rub," Hamlet.
Explore the incongruities.

"Supernatural power and wonderful functioning are found in the carrying of water and the chopping of wood." P'ang Yun

You use your considerable intelligence to confuse the hell out of yourself.
It's not so complicated.
It's not subtle.
It's a straight forward reality.


Because He was Bored

maybe after all it has nothing to do
with finding and losing
or losing and winning
the beautiful and the ugly
the healthy and the sick
ants and elephants,
we find ourselves also indeed of a little drama.
I want to be held
to feel my body inside another
this morbid urge to share.
the fly clings to the tapestry
still again tonight
waiting for death
the cat purrs
senselessly
next to me on the bed
waiting to kill
the box on my bureau which once held a bottle of tequila
now holds rocks chipped from the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid
"they turn to dust if you leave them unwrapped," she told me
just before she herself disappeared,
the voice is always with me.
God created the world because he was bored,
what's your excuse?

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130


You can pay for it now, or you can pay for it later, but you've got to pay the devil his due. Pay regularly throughout the month, and it won't hurt so much when he shows up for the balance.

We respond to desperate situations, crises.
Practice your disease when you're not in crisis.
Do it here, or do it there, but it's easier to do something before the crisis.


Too Soon

and though I fall in love too soon
I know a dream's a dream.
it stays within my chest
the echoed voice of loneliness
leaves blowing from a tree
like crows taking flight
across the twilight.
fix the roof and pave the walk
take care of my parents
cure the sick and raise the dead
practice the voice
write, write, write,
love will take care of itself.

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131


Don't make the problem so big that you can't get close to it.
Take small steps.
Take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.
A journey of a thousand miles is always only one step at a time.

You've been doing it the hard way.
I'm talking easy.
You're sweating up on the bank.
Come on in, the water's fine.


Oasis

Russian matrons promenade
Up and down the avenue
But nobody sees you
Anymore.

Before my house
Your garden grows
Again
Impossibly dense
Like some equatorial jungle
Flowers blooming where you bled
Drunkenly miscarrying
Purple, yellow, blue and red
Without you.

Your kindness
Which even before you left
Was a memory
Smoldering like a lunar eclipse
Dimly red among the stars
No longer haunts me.

My walls still stained with your excess
Cacophonous exotic depths
Artistic fits of ego
Their painted gossamer embrace
Which yet for you could not erase
The ordinariness of being.

"Has she moved away?"
Someone asks of me
As if I should know
I saw you once
How many months ago?
One lazy evening
While I rocked on my porch swing.
And imagined then
That your scowl and your military gait
Were in my honor
But now I imagine
That you never saw me
Now I know that our misery is our own
And that love is
At best
A glass of water in the desert.

When you left
I did not let myself think of you
I did not wonder
With whom you were
Or if you were drinking yourself to death
For me you were already dead
And I was not bothered
By the slanderous whispers from your grave
I was glad not to see you on the avenue
As soon I forgot.

One day I heard
While I was planting
And tossed away a stone
The bells which had lain hidden
Silently among the brambles
Four seasons
Where you threw them
From a third floor window
When I said that they were mine.

Now they sit on my kitchen table
(The table that you also painted
Adorning it with cosmological hallucinations)
Bits of soil
From the year before I found them
Still clinging to the bronze bellies
Of their Tibetan dragons
And I ring them now and then
To pacify evil spirits
And just recently
Like some brief oasis
Alone
I stumbled on the love
Which once I thought was yours.

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132


"The only essential thing in Zen is to forget mental objects and top rumination." Foyan

At first disease is like a canyon into which we fall and wander lost for days before reaching the other side and climbing out.
Becoming more familiar with disease transforms the canyon into a chasm, deeper, but narrower.
Or it's still a canyon, but we are more familiar with the terrain and so it's easier to find our way out.

Let the water settle.
Stop mucking up the pond.
See what's on the bottom.
It's easier to swim when you put on a mask and realize that the dark shapes on the bottom of the lake are not menacing creatures, but boulders and sunken trees, old pains.

Establishing a broader basis for interacting with your disease is like wearing a pair of snowshoes.
Spread the weight out so you don't sink deeply and it becomes easier to move forward. Be more deliberately interactive with your disease.
Be deliberate, and become less obsessed with it.


Ending

Evening encroaches imperceptibly
Upon this late afternoon
With unhurried certainty
Too subtle to observe
Each shadowed wave
Swells the darkening tide.

Day yields
The zenith of its azure
Slipping reluctantly westward
Invisibly
Light's banished legions fall
And softly are extinguished.

The sun's once great fire
Cools
A dying ember
Fading slowly
Behind low, ashen clouds.

Gently night approaches
Already spreading in unseen increments
Among the color and form
Gradually, inevitably
Things disappear.


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