What is Love: sestina


Is love a thing that lasts, or a mere trinket,
a toy that fascinates until it bores,
a passing fancy, or eternal compact
between two souls and never any more,
a gift from gods above, or social stricture
meant as a mere distraction for the mind?

If only short-term passion or mere pastime,
who was the first poor fool to ever think it?
Imagine, if you can, that sadist’s picture
of all the violence that love held in store.
It’s hard to even fathom a much more
effective way to stymie human contact.

And what divine creator is so lacking
compassion for their children, all mankind,
that our connecting is a frightening chore,
as fragile as a momentary blink?
Who would believe in such gods any more,
that leaven pain in such a heavy mixture?

And yet, if love is an eternal fixture,
there seems about it a confounding lack
of solid substance built in at its core;
it takes so long for even two to find,
yet needs so little work and time to sink it.
How could it last beyond a day or more?

It seems so ill-equipped for what’s in store:
a world that frowns on any cheerful picture,
that trades not in eternity, but trinkets
designed never to bind, but just attract.
Thus all the poets say that love is blind;
what difference, when our eyesight proves so poor?

Does love last once it’s left the showroom floor,
or does it leave its victims far from shore,
where stripped of all illusion, each one finds
what they imagined was a solid mixture
begins to crumble into dust and crack,
and leave them on a sea with naught to drink?

No, love is more than either of these pictures;
you neither score, nor spend time keeping track.
You find eternity in every moment’s wink.

26 MAY 2017

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The Use of Dreams: rondine


What is the use of dreams devoid of action,
that linger on as hopes before they die;
and while they last, convince us if we try
that in the end we will find satisfaction.
Such wistful shadows taunt us to distraction;
lost in the mist, we separate in factions
and dissipate and fade out, by and by.
    What is the use?

If dreams and hope are to have any traction,
they must inspire our deeds, not just reactions.
We must find rousing songs, not lullabies,
and exercise our wings if we would fly.
If not, life is continuing subtraction;
    what is the use?

11 MAY 2017

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Salt of the Earth


Imagine a person made completely out of salt.

If that person chooses to be immersed in the ocean, their very being is absorbed by the sea. Once their head is beneath the waves, no distinction can be made between their now dissolved form and the depths into which they have sojourned. Not even the ocean can separate itself again, saying “this minute portion of me is of that small salt doll, and the remainder is not”.

Such is the case, too, when a person approaches and begins to comprehend the infinite energy of the universe. Once an individual recognizes the eternal within themselves, the external sack of temporal cloth in which that eternal has been stored melts away, and only the infinite remains.

In either case, who is left to report, to return some answer to the question they originally set out seeking? And in what language could that answer be expressed, that those on the shore, whose toes scarcely dare to dip into the surf’s foam, would be able to understand?

Even the cleverest of parables fails. And to speak with the voice of the ocean itself is to be misunderstood as a overwhelming roar.

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How Many Times?


for Johnny Cash

How many times must I repeat
the same old tired line?
How many times can this old heart
be broken and be fine?
It doesn’t take a genius to opine
the odds are bound to take a sharp decline.

How many times must substance
take a backseat behind style?
How many times can a good man
walk down that extra mile?
The calculations need not take a while;
no need to note an entry in some file.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you,
but I’m getting tired
of waking up each morning
feeling old and uninspired;
There’s just an empty feeling
in my heart that’s like a hole,
and a longing for something that’s
out of my control.

How many words should be too many
spoken out of turn?
How many matches must we strike
before we start to burn?
It doesn’t take a brilliant man to learn
the law about diminishing returns.

How many lies will we both tell
before we face the truth?
How much of careless, foolish love
is wasted in our youth?
It doesn’t take too much to find the proof
that some foundation must hold up the roof.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you,
but I’m getting tired
of waking up each morning
feeling old and uninspired;
There’s just an empty feeling
in my heart that’s like a hole,
and a longing for something that’s
out of my control.

05 MAR 2006

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Not Much of Everything


What is belief except a means to reach
beyond the limits safe within our grasp
to learn from the unknown what it may teach?
If in that fertile darkness, courage fails,
as well as our illusions of defense,
what is there but belief until night pales?

Can faith alone provide, as some suppose,
sufficient armor against what we fear:
a deep pervading loneliness that grows
with every hour, behind our cheerful smiles;
a nagging doubt that we are each alone;
that substance fails, and there are merely styles?

It is belief that is our mooring rock:
the tenets that we hold as true and sure,
that mark us individuals, and shock
those who either grasp at fashion’s whims,
or sip from here or there, like butterflies;
the book of life we choose to read, not skim.

But separate belief from life, and it becomes
a rigid set of chains that bind the soul,
that does not fuel, but instead starts to numb
the senses to the underlying truth:
that what we see is only a small part,
akin to how old age is known to youth:

A lantern in the dark, but not the light;
a drop of canteen water, not the spring;
a packet of dry crackers, but not grain;
a piece, not very much, of everything.

18 OCT 2005

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No Shaman Left to Heal Our Tribe


Come, dig the grave, but not too deep;
the eighties were a shallow time.
We spent a decade just to learn
how to maintain appearance’s sake
and delve with questions, off-the-cuff,
in cocktail conversation bluffs.

Come, dig the grave, the shovel’s mouth
will gouge the earth enough to serve
as depth-gauge for the swollen corpse;
besides, the scavengers we bred
in boredom need not work too hard
to find in us their daily bread.

Come, dig the grave; it’s only death
that by necessity is born
and like a cancer spreads throughout
the tender tissue we have formed
to shield us from the sunlight’s glare
and make believe there’s nothing there.

Come, work the soil and lay the sod;
the garden must be fed anew
lest what fruit has escaped the rod
be left to rot by morning’s dew.
What harvest plenty still remains
is just enough to clog the drains.

Come, dig the grave, but not too deep,
lest toil and sweat destroy our youth.
Let future generations weep
that they’ve no gravestone for the truth.
Besides, it’s almost happy hour —
we should arrive by our own power.

for Jim Morrison

03 OCT 2005

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Cause Without a Rebel


I have no cause to champion
that’s worthy of a flag,
bedecked with symbols meant to stir
like-minded souls to arms;
no psycho-babbling sycophants
pore through my work to find
some mystic key that might unlock
their esoteric core.

if taken quickly, just skin deep,
there’s no euphoric high
to titillate the rebel throng
who seek a new messiah.
My generation does not struggle,
nor is it oppressed
by more than its own aspirations,
which don’t add to much.

We seek to decode messages,
enamored by their form
but not impressed by their content;
besides, who has the time
to contemplate some foolish scrawl?
Besides, as we all know,
all knowledge worth the knowing
was old news some years ago.

Our elders? They resent the way
we skulk around and wait
for them to die; we will inherit
naught but scornful pride.
The younger generation
we already do not like;
they simply fail to listen when
we outline our great plan.

In part, because there is no plan,
no underlying glyph
that seeks to make the parts a whole;
instead, we ask “What if
there is no point to anything,
no future, and no past;
therefore, there’s no good reason
to build anything that lasts.”

28 JUN 2005

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