Sometimes I have to say


Sometimes i have to say
to answer the terrible news
i feel compelled to read
perhaps hoping that this morning
something will have changed
I missed the Green New Deal town hall
because the kids wanted to watch
beautiful young millionaires toss
spheres of absorbent polyurethane
into distant hoops
the shot begins at the balls of the feet
arcs thru the body and escapes
from the fingertips
like the arc that sends an axe head
thru a round of pine
yesterday I heard a rusty saw say
I can’t I can’t I can’t
fuck that I said and heard it change to
I can I can I can
then the shed door opened with a sigh
or was it a hi!
matter often speaks to me
tho more and more inaudibly
as age steals my ears
there is no medicare for hearing aids
since only people with money need to hear
what people with money are saying
so I can only hear what you have to say
when you are within arms length
in groups I am in a sphere of silence
lapped by mysterious vowels
thus I’ve come to the habit of deciphering
even the voices of saws and doors

The Stranger’s Face

Death disappears
when you think about it.
A living person does not become a dead person.
When you cease to be alive
the dust that housed your life just goes on being dust
but you don’t go on with it
you are no longer found
in a house of dust

unless your life was large enough
to inhabit more than one body.
In a larger life we ‘matter’ to each other
you give meaning to others who
give meaning to you.

In this larger life you know that when you lose
your nominal body you
live on as those who gave you meaning
and when one of them dies they
live on as you

which bids us ask how much can you mean
to me?
how much can I mean to you?

I have lived in cities where, like Fred Neil, I heard

everybody talking at me,
didn’t hear a word they were saying
only the echoes of my mind.
People walking, staring past me,
I didn’t see their faces
only the shadows of their eyes.

Sometimes I felt like an island in a sea of meaningless voices and faces because, like all the rest, I was just passing thru on my way to somewhere better than this world

But now I know, belatedly,
that this is the only Earth we have to live in and it will become a better place but only
if we stop and listen

to the strangers on the street, in the shops, in our houses
in our heads
and look beyond the shadows of our cold preconceptions
into each stranger’s face

The Loss

Since all conceptions of ultimate reality are specious
unconceive it
discard the juvenile back stories
leaving only what is now.
It’s needful and sometimes fun to look behind the masks
but Earth is burning
with the beauty of lilacs
the beauty that only exists
when you have a heart that can see it.
When the eye of the heart is closed
you are just a bit more than a tool
for maintaining a meaningless world
just a bit more than a robot because
robots feel nothing
but you inwardly grieve
for something you know you have lost.


My best guess is that I have as much chance of conceiving totality as my cat does.

Totality is what’s everywhere, including all that is here, so everything that’s here is also fundamentally inconceivable, including me and you and my cat.

So?  What earthly use comes of this view?

uses of inconceivability the view

— Deflating the importance of the human animal. All beings are equally inconceivable, including presidents, poets, popes and their gods.

— A cure for intellectual complacency and sloth, as in—

I have it all figured out. My guru, religion, favourite website has it all figured out. Scientists or someone has it all figured out,  so I don’t have to make any effort to understand what they know.

“He was starving in some deep mystery

like a man who is sure what is true.”

—Suspension of belief, disbelief and judgement

— inconceivability fosters openness to people and situations, expects the unexpected. We face reality without preconceptions.

Few people are totally ignorant, selfish and unfeeling tho they tend to get more media space than the rest of us.

Few authorities are as wise and compassionate at they are made out to be.

Few are as weak and poor in resources as they may think they are.

Few authoritarians are totally invulnerable.

Few prisons are inescapable.

The approaching global meltdown is not yet irreversible

And even if it is not reversed some humans, mice and insects will survive, evolve and hopefully learn from studying the disastrous consequences of terminal corporate capitalism.

And perhaps find a different way to destroy the biosphere.

That nothing can ever be fully known means there is no end to learning,

No end to the periodic gifts of new understandings about how some parts of reality work, no end to the rivers of insight and the epiphanies that bloom on the fields and hills of wisdom.

inconceivability and emptiness

Buddhist philosophers rattle on about emptiness, the theory that each and every form is void of self-existence but interexists with all other forms. Hence there is no permanent self in any person, plant or stone. In the Buddha’s time the impermanent self was the primary point of disagreement between Buddhists and adherents of other paths and thousands of scholars have wasted their lives attempting to show by logic alone that a permanent something cannot exist anywhere above or under heaven. Subtler minds have insisted that a permanent something cannot even be imagined while others simply accept the theory on faith because the Buddha said so.

I think emptiness is a good working theory of how things generally are.  Quite compatible with Darwin’s theory too but the only thing I can say about Reality at Large is that from here it looks like the room in which I now rest, in an empty tub, typing these words on an iPad.

The best definition of emptiness I ever read was Chogyam Trungpa’s terse: “Existence is empty of our preconceptions.” A conclusion that naturally flows from seeing that Totality is ultimately inconceivable

but here it is

radiant with possibility.


a green immensity

I early learned that the world is a shadowy place. My mom was my best friend but when I tried her patience she ratted me out to my dad when he came home from work then he would take me to the woodshed where he hung his razor strap and instruct me to raise my arms so that the strap would not injure my hands, then slash me with the strap until I was seized by uncontrollable sobbing. My mom may have thought this was good for me because she and her two sisters used to slash each other with willow switches to prove they were stronger than the devil.

Ontario towns were full of tough kids who wore steel clickers under their boot soles and would elbow you off the sidewalk if you dared to walk on the curb edge which for some mysterious reason belonged to them. I soon learned to take refuge in solitary walks and reading. Fairy tales opened doors to other worlds where normal rules did not apply. These were followed by comic books, science fantasy fiction and a growing curiosity about the cosmos beyond my dream-filled days and nights. 

Three revelations guided my early teens and they were all delivered by the printed word. One was Darwin’s Origin of Species which details his discovery of the process called natural selection whereby genetic mutations that are better adapted to environmental change tend to persist whilst mutations that are less well adapted do not. I delighted in the elegant simplicity of Darwin’s logic and the breadth of his vision.

A second book was Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman’s exuberant celebration of the sacred mystery that is embodied by each individual being, including himself and possibly me. Leaves was a deep, sweet shock. I had never before encountered such sonorous, evocations of the beauty of nature and language and such a large view of what a man might be or a boy might become.

The third publication was a magazine article about the holocaust, featuring photographs of naked, emaciated corpses in mass graves and body parts used in the sick experiments of Josef Mendele who evaded capture for the next thirty years until he drowned while swimming off the coast of Brazil.

Darwin gave me a sense of the interconnected wholeness and mindless creativity of nature. Whitman gave me an example of the sensual wholeness of sanity and wisdom to which I might aspire and led me to seek their seeds and find out how to grow them. Mengele showed me the active and latent evil of human nature and I began to search for the basis of that evil so that I could liberate myself and others from its power.