Saturday, December 31, 2011

better late

so i am compiling my works for a reading in nyc on jan 5, let me take a moment to plug that gig:

this thursday, january 5, 6-8pm, at les petite versailles in the east village, i will be giving a reading. it is an outdoor art installation, which is heated and quite cozy i'm told.

anywhoo, i'm preparing my work, and reading the pieces aloud for my first timed reading (this is my standard practice before a reading).

it comes to me that the way i read my poems is not how they appear on the page.

the lightbulb finally flickers and illuminates, i need to make my work look like i read it.

i tell this brilliant idea to my poet friend jacque who is visiting from baton rouge, and she says,
i told you that last year.


well, friends, i am nothing if not stubborn. she said,
you wouldn't listen.

i said,
i get it now.

she just shook her head. i changed the subject. fortunately the night provided many diversions.

so that is the first phase of revision for me, breaking lines and using space to convey to the reader how my works sound as i read them aloud.

change is slow, change is hard. but i am listening. even if it takes me a full year to see the merit of an argument, i don't claim to be speedy in how i apply what i hear, i only promise to listen. and someday, to change.

lucky me if you are sitting with me when i have that realization.

lucky me if you can say,
i told you that a year ago.

it proves that i have friends who accept my many flaws and trust the process with me. i am grateful for such a band of poets and ne'er do wells. though they're not such a bad bunch as all that.

Friday, December 23, 2011

contending with shadows

it has come time for me to face my work again. to turn a hard cold eye to it, and attempt to fashion it into something publishable. those words seem strange to me because i don't view poetry that way, a product of manufacture. that, perhaps is my greatest liability (i have many).

having recently been told in the most brutal way that i need to revisit my manuscript, i am now faced with the task of doing so. and so i shall.

sometimes, change comes that is unexpected. we grow through much pain, but we grow. that is the task before me now, to not shy away from the pain of growth, but to
breathe into it,
as sophie says,
surrender to the screaming hip.

i have no more foresight at this juncture of my life than i have had at any previous. i only know how to trust. i said last night,
there are two doors.

what's on the other side

i don't know.

you see, i never know. none of us have that luxury.

i had a thought last night that i haven't had in a great while. that i wished some hawk was still circling overhead, looking out for me. that was then though.

how to use my winter break. i had thought to escape, to run to the hills and be alone for a while, but i may stay and reckon with shadows. with the darker nature of my life. dig out, as it were, the piles of papers under my desk. dust off the manuscript that has been sheathed since the dogpile. and dogpile it was. a most unlovely public flogging of an event.

but i'm still standing.

what does the future hold.

i do not know. but i trust.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


my love told me to watch this movie, an old movie, with robert de niro and robin williams. it struck me as the kind of movie that screams wake up and live your life.

i was comforted by the fact that i do feel i live my life. that i'm paying attention. that i'm feeling it. could i do more. of course, everyone can. but in terms of loving those in my life, i certainly do that.

in each of my classes this semester i would get images of the faces of those who sit before me and feel an obligation to them, to do right by them. and i tried to engage them. to respond to that calling.

as one class ended thursday, i got a hug, a few,
hope to see you agains,
i hope you're teaching my next class,
and it was nice to know that there was mutual regard. the backward glance over the shoulder of a young person is significant.

i spent the better part of my semester sitting across the table from the kids in my writing course. the way i teach i engage them and their writing one on one. i look into their eyes. i listen to them. i read their words and ask,
what are you trying to say.

by explaining it to me, i can usually help them navigate their way there. it's the ones who don't know what they are trying to say that i have the most difficulty helping cross that cavernous void of wordlessness.

one young man would arrive late, fall asleep in class, and was generally out of sync. but when i found out why, i couldn't help but respond to him. he worked the night shift, then slept for a couple hours, then attended classes all day. he was trying to change his stars.

more than once, as i can see his eyes before me now, did i sit with him and say,
tell me.
and he did. he spoke softly.

i'm not entirely sure why people enter our lives.

a woman i know very well uses this phrase which i've tried to incorporate into my repertoire,
an abundant exchange of energy.

what does that mean. i'm not entirely sure. in a moment by moment exchange it could be thirty cents for the copier or twenty dollars for a cd, or my book for yours, or just presence. attending to one another's lives in whatever context we might find ourselves.

looking back over the semester i wonder if i served them well. i'd like to think i did the best i could. that i genuinely showed up. i trust that when one person actually engages others are obliged to or leave. the weight of actual presence has that repelling factor to it. if i can't show up for you, i won't. i will leave. that is how i experience it anyway. so when another does persist. slogs through the mundane to meet for an abundant exchange of energy, the other must reconcile that presence. or walk away.

walking away is one way to deal with it. but i hope to engage those eyes again next semester. the questioning, the bored, the delighted.

and i trust those that stay will meet me with their presence.

for an abundant exchange of energy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

trust into it

yes, i've a pile of dishes and need to shower, i just got in from yoga and have to go give a final to a class. but that phrase just slipped out of my noodle and i had to push pause.

last night's yoga class with sophie was divine. i couldn't get the easiest things right, because my mind was cluttered from the day, a good day, albeit, but there was a lot going on. i didn't find the bodywork so challenging though, it was more the mind work.

this morning, sophie teaches an am class which is the twin of the pm class. i had trouble getting up, bed was warm, dreams were intriguing, but i drug myself there and found my mind in it, my body, not so much.

sometimes when we're in a deep stretch sophie will say,
breathe into it.

let the breath take you deeper.

i try. yoga has the ability to make one realize what a rigid frame develops over the years. i'm still locked up in many ways, but find that if i just breathe and relax, i can slip deeper into a pose.

so my dear friend is struggling. i told her,
trust into it.

that is the phrase that got me.

it is pretty much how i live my life. when i breathe and trust, i can slip deeper into presence. into now.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


sometimes good things happen. i'm grateful for everything, but the good things are really nice. sometimes, most times, they are also very scary. what happens when we finally start getting what we want. there are no more excuses. it's time to step up. then you begin to realize, this is a lot of work, being happy. at least that is what i've realized.

wait, wha--

exactly. i've found that desire fulfilled is not just joy. it is also work. it takes a lot of energy to do the thing you do. the good thing is, that thing generates enough umph that you continue to feel it worthwhile. after all it is what you wanted to do, right.

if it do not, then perhaps the work is about realizing what you thought you wanted wasn't really what you wanted. the reconciliation of dreams and ideals to reality. everyone goes through it.

so, no reconciling here, i'm getting what i asked for. it's wonderful. it's work.

i'm rolling up my sleeves and diving in joyously. though sometimes i tremble, that is part of the learning curve. that is part of the deal. just because it's a wish fulfilled, doesn't mean it's going to be a free ride (can i use any more cliches).

i'm grateful. that's all. just plain old fashioned grateful.

Monday, December 05, 2011

separate self

i've come to the stunning paradox that we are individuals, some would say,
alone till we die,
yet in the buddhist texts, at least, we are trying to stop separating self from other. yet, the paradox--i am alone, and in relationship, be it intimate or otherwise, i am together in my aloneness.

this idea, this reality, made me realize that i've never overcome the separateness in my past relationships. never even gave it a thought. it was how we operated. i retreated to my corner, he to his, or she to hers, depending. only now, do i find the piercing eyes of my other pressing in, even when i am most unlovely, reminding me not to let it take me out.

don't forget who you are,
she says.

who am i. really.

there are moments i think i know. and moments i'm certain i do not. this weekend was a mixed bag of reaction and observation. at least i was able to stay present in my sucktastic moments, and by that presence to observe what has come instinctively to me my entire life.

in short, to run. pack up, take off, head for the hills. and if i can't get bodily away, to wall myself in, typically with silence, an averted glance. so many defenses. it was hard to see through them, until finally, i just kept watching and found some words to describe what exactly was going on.

i came across this passage in everyday zen:
if we truly want to see fundamental unity, not just once in a while, but most of the time--which is what the religious life is--then our primary practice has to be with what Menzan Zenji (a Soto Zen scholar and teacher) calls the "barrier of emotion-thought." He means that when something seems to threaten us, we react. The minute we react a barrier has come up and our vision is clouded. Since most of us react about every five minutes, it's obvious that most of the time life is clouded over for us. We are caught within our own selves, we're caught in this barrier.

forget for a moment, the threatening initiation of this defense. consider only, as i was forced to, the barrier. i said at one point,
i'm walled in and can't get out.
because i could no more force myself to see beyond the barrier than a fish can live on land. it just wasn't happening. so i stayed with it. i languished. it wasn't wallowing, i wasn't berating myself, i was just watching things going through my head, hearing the past chime in, the future, for me is easier to keep out, i tend to be very now, but even the past wasn't so painful as it had been. that could be considered triumph if i hadn't had the awfulness of the present moment to contend with.

what i came to understand through the course of that most difficult night, was that sometimes, other will press in. sometimes, other will want to engage, even see you through the mindfields. :) i like that word. it felt a lot like that this weekend. like i was navigating my past, my habits, my defaults.

perhaps, having navigated them, and mind you, i've come to no resolution about the insult (or perceived threat), i have merely begun to be released from the stranglehold of my coping mechanisms. will i do better next time. i sure hope so. but we'll see. karma, threat, growth, all have their uncomfortable moments. my boss has said,
if you're not uncomfortable, you're not growing.

well folks, i'm growing. that's all i can say.