To Begin Anew: Tender Work


#1 Since You Are Me
After Listening to Tiokasin Ghosthorse…4
Long Gone Chicago, For Fred Hampton…5  (First appeared in The Rookery, 2021
For Greta…7
For Jacob… 8
The Courage We Need…9
Who Will Explain?…10    (First appeared in NYC Festival of Human Right Art Journal, 2019) 
Bullied, a History…11
Resurrection….12           (First appeared in Snapdragon Journal of Health, 2019)
#2. We Drink Moonlight
Buddha’s Rhetoric…17
 Picasso and Einstein Walk into a Bar…18
Circumnavigation…19                    (First appeared in Sky Island Journal, 2018)
Tea Ceremony…21
The Dream of Driving….22     (First appeared in Spirit First, 2020 winner of second place prize)
Why We Go to The Beach….23
Surrender…. 24
Unfold Yourself…26
#3 To Begin Anew is All She Knows
Chihuly Glass #1….28
Chihuly Glass #2….29
Boyd Hill….30
Pushaw Lake…32
#4 Tender Work
Tinney Creek #1… 35 (First appeared in Plum Tavern Journal, 2019)
Tinney Creek # 2….36
Weedon Island #1 Morning…40
Weedon Island #2 Shelter…41
What the Dog Says…42
A Field in Maine…..44
Nest…45          (First appeared in Salt Creek Journal, 2018)
Ibis and Dragonfly..48
Advice from a Live Oak…49    (First appeared in Odet, 2020)
The Great Extinction…51
I Am….53
GPS Dirge…55

Since You are Me

After Listening to Tiokasin Ghosthorse

Name yourself the Lakota way
see how
streams reflecting sunlight
run in your veins,
stars shine
on your brow.

Go to the forest the Lakota way.
hear roots
whisper wordless
under the the soft-handed canopy
holding you
as you sleep.

Know this boulder the Lakota way
and you will understand 
something solid
Is not
but glows and glitters
with light
like your bones 
like boulders,
that by constant motion joined,
speak your name.

Long Gone Chicago
for my Childhood Schoolmate Fred Hampton
Hometown music
sets the groove
the sway
joy drum
saxophone shout
in this Florida coffee shop
where I sit writing.

Seventies Chicago rhythm and blues play today
as long ago
I took the elevated train past projects in a gray line
over the expressway
the “El” clatters,
shakes the tenement windows,
screeches to a stop.

From the eleventh floor, a five-year-old watches, 
this rushing world,
wonder-eyed, wish-filled
as the refrain
 “Stand by me…”  
floats out from his window
this summer day 
of Chicago-heat-cemented
hot air blown about by a single fan,
“Darling, darling, stand
stand by me…”

the roar of the train deafens 
deafens love songs.
I feel 
faith in his heart,
not mine, but

He watches
 his brother waiting
sitting on the stoop
at noon
      job denied
one more time.

On a Monday in my car, Marvin Gaye sings
“Makes me wanna holler, 
throw up both my hands…” 

the news interrupts

age 21 
shot dead
while sound asleep.

I feel faith between the notes, 
not mine, but
from a distance,  
as I drive 
to the South Side weeping
for my job at the welfare,
warfare office.

For Greta

But you, too young to say
You make it possible again and again…
~~lyrics from the song Rise Up by Roy Zimmerman, after the Parkland shootings

Only the old believe in death
fooled by their changing bodies,
unchanging minds
to hold back time.
Looking back, 
through memories 
eyes lose sight
of what is ahead.

I am old now 
but live

with wonder at my place in:
      the purple center of red tulips,
      the sacred geometry of nautilus shells,
      all Fibonacci forms,
      endless as then am I 
on the full rounding
of the moving earth
rolling and
and returning.

I stand 
on the edge
of uncertainty,
arms open
mind open
to every possibility.

For Jacob

I am lying in a hospital bed.
Shot seven times in my back.
My children watched.
I am paralyzed now
but the people in red hats
have been taught,
to blame me 
now for my shattered back.
On the same streets, they protest.
two lie dead
shot by a boy
who fears he’s not a man
and killing makes him so.
The long rifle his power, at last.

How long has this been going on?
The Vikings stole people,  
as slave holders do,
for hundreds of years.
The point being,
fellow humans,
our cruelty
is nothing new
this heredity of hate
grows a stunted family tree
all thorns and brittle branches. 

So what do you make of this?
How do we continue 
to buy groceries
swim in the pool
drink coffee on the patio
and pretend you are not me?
Pretend again
the justice you would seek
rage that would burn 
revenge you could take
yet won’t 
because you are a man.
Imagine the love you deserve
since you are me.

What kind of courage do we need?…We must accept reality in all its immensity…the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome and most inexplicable of phenomena.~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Courage We Need

Is to stand 
on the dance floor.

The courage we need is
to stay steady
see clearly
through lies
thick as blankets
as the sleepers
pretend wakefulness.

The courage we need is
to refuse
the safety 
of the trance.

The  courage we need is
to love with a broken heart,
shed fears like leaves
to bend, bow
and continue.

Who Will Explain?

The brown-eyed children
in the cages
huddle under silver blankets
that sparkle like Christmas tinsel.

The children sleep on the cold cement floor
do not understand
the wire cages,
their loneliness
after the long, hot walk
through the desert.
Do they wonder,
     as children do,
what they did wrong?

Who will explain
to them
this land
where people sleep
on silk sheets
stride, careless, across marble floors
after cool rides 
in shiny new trucks
through the desert,
drunk on their comforts.

Who can explain
why these people
never wonder
what they did wrong?

First appeared in the Festival of Human Right Art Journal, NYC, 2019

Bullied: A History

She held the dog in her lap,
soft-eyed, golden pit bull-spaniel mix.

Of course, you know dogs,
so you understand 
she was held also.

He looked at them 
“This dog has never known cruelty,” he said, 
recalling how cruelty 
had rocked his crib.

She understands,
recalls the fear,
the screams.

He and she,
strangers to safety,
uncertain of its terrain,
familiar only with threat,
surprised to come upon
this sacrosanct moment.

He returned as bully.
She returned as victim.


Nobody was ever drunk on Easter
So it was one holiday
not dread.
My parents, instead of hiding their drinking in the garage
took us to the woods 
to collect moss
as the bed 
for Easter eggs
we later would wrap in leaves,
coffee grounds, strips of colored cloth,
bound in burlap, tied with string,
boiled, then unwrapped, 
earth-colored spheres
like stones, like brown-gray shades of bark,
streaks of orange, blue, red
like the sun over 
the green-blue river, 
a cardinal’s feather.

ln the woods,
we lifted damp moss
with care
soft, muddy
caked with moldy 
dead leaves
that mulch life,
carry a fertile scent
of sweet loam
the promise, 
of a resurrection 
by my drinking, dying parents
resurrection guaranteed 
by the fallen tree 
the detritus of fur from creatures 
all turning, sinking into soil
sprouting a cacophony of mushrooms
then tender violets, 
at last,
 a bud on a branch.			(First appeared in Snapdragon Health Journal, 2020)


Aeon (symbol all-encompassing insight)

The Greeks have four words for love:

1. storge, 
that mirrors for us
if we are lucky,
 2. philautra, 

So with this in our hearts,
clear-eyed, warm-hearted
we discover

3. philea,
a love that comforts like good soup.

4. The deeper nourishment
of course, is found in 
The beloved community.

Those of  us,
planted in rocky soil 
growth stunted, frozen
reach for fire, 
thinking it is the sun.

Our word for love is
the name for our illusions
a fog that hides the shoreline.

We navigate by blinding lies
instead of stars.

Tossed about, dizzied, bruised
by storms we call passion,
nearly drowned.
We think we will be saved 
by grasping,
tighter still
to the punctured.hull.

Aeon knows love through
Body, Spirit and Soul 
appears as the Star Goddess 
       her companion,
 Hadith, a winged ball of fire,
       their child is Horus,
      clear insight.

Aeon rises above the waves,
to tell us
it is almost too late for
seasick sailors, lost and weary,
appears as an eagle
 cries out

…love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.... and don't expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance…Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything. ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Some say
and its quietude
is a nightmare of isolation,
the very opposite of love.

Some hide under crowd-cover 
run from themselves 
submerge in another.

Yet, solitude might be cherished
even more than a lover.

What else nourishes your poems 
like rain on roses,
grows your songs, flows your art?
What else 
returns you to yourself,
honors your silence,
makes space for your tears,
nests you in its bosom?
What else 
leaves room for your questions
is the dawn for your answers
reminds you of the warp and weave
connecting the universe?
What invites you to meditation,
guides you to your spirit,
leads you to prayer?

We Drink Moonlight

Buddha’s Rhetoric

as exhaled breath
and yet
become flesh
Also, giraffes
and beer bottles
wind chimes
and muddy boots.

begun as snapping synapses
birthed behind the eyes
sounds spinning into the world
armored with our meanings
carried across mountains
they start wars.
built as beliefs by our ancestors
are substantial
 as smoke.

Picasso, Einstein and Buddha Walk into a Bar…

Picasso takes a swig of whiskey and proclaims
“There is blue in the horse!”
Einstein agrees.
Buddha nods.
Yes, blue is in the horse.
If you look beyond muscle and haunch,
Buddha says, 
sipping his tea,
you will see
atoms that sparkle  and shine.
Einstein smiles
and drinks his beer.
Picasso says,
they want me to draw the mouth on the face
 they say, where it belongs. 
They don’t want the eyes on the forehead,
tell me to look at statues
to understand the body.
“As if we aren’t particles,” Picasso says
“As if our cells are static,” Einstein sighs.
“As if we are solid,” Buddha adds.
At this their laughter grows uproarious.
The customers look askance, shake their heads, concerned.
They tell each other those three sound crazy,
 and look,
one of them is wearing a sheet and no shoes!
The other hasn’t combed his hair for days!
The three are thrown out of the bar
onto the street
so arm-in-arm
they stroll into the night 


Really there is no edge
from which to fall.

We are like ancient sailors
trembling at the horizon.

Everything is a circle 
your eye, the earth.

The path is not straight
as you come round
and return
   as we do 
   as we all do
to where we started
which may look like
A mandala
of your recollections
in hues of every color
in circular order
the stories
we spent our lives
looking for
the conclusion
but finding instead

A Sufi dancing in a circle of light
 round of white 

Like a planet
and the sun
illuminated circumferences
all circadian rings of light
that cross over
and around
 the globe.
like the 
deep round sound of the 
drum, or the  
singing bowl struck awake
its overtone 
like the echo 
floating in a canyon
gliding up and down
the rocky basin 
returning to its origin.

 Tell me  then 
     what you fear.

Tell me,
   where is the beginning
   of this moment
or the  end
of the ocean?

(First appeared in Sky Island Journal, 2018)

Tea Ceremony
Every day is a good day when thoughts do not remain.
~~Zen saying 

like memories,
are weightless
yet gathered, 
Grow heavy over the light
of even a bright full moon.
Like the fog of old fears
tumble and build 
one upon the other,
dark, thick.

like steam
that rises from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teacup 
float out the window,
to return as rainthat quench the thirst of tea leaves. 
Thay teaches this:clouds appear in teacups,we drink moonlight,
and can see clearly
through fog.

The Dream of Driving

Inhaling I notice 
 tailgate each other in my mind
A car backfires
a mindfulness bell of sorts
to remind me
I can take an exit
pull out of traffic
but thoughts roar to life again 
overtake me like gangsters in Cadillacswho hold me hostage
push me into yesterday 
drag me into tomorrow
convince me
they are realuntil a deep breath, 
like the foot on the pedal, 
guides me to the rest stop
where I watch 
just watch 
thoughts like cars
 pass before my eyes 
and I know again 
how these flickering moments
of  quick bright peaceare real 
more real
than the dream of driving.

				(First appeared in Spirit First, winner of second place 2020)

Why We Go to the Beach

With plans laid out like railroad tracks,
linear as certainty, as cynicism,
rusted by habitual distrust,
I navigate by thought alone,
obdurate with my belief
in diaphanous assumptions.

Then,  though seldom, 
I stop
                            go to the beach, let’s say,
                                     nowhere significant, you know,
not the important places
with the important people.

at water’s edge,
feet caressed by wavelets startle me into my body, 
mind quieted,
senses alert
resistance washed away by 
 waves rising, 
Then falling
Gentle as autumn leaves.
I float
like the minnows darting past.
Sharing their trust,
I am carried
To uncertainty,
A type of sanity,
to poetry.


is like 
grinding out the last cigarette under your boot heel
this time for good
this time for good.

Leaving the key on the table.
Shutting the door
that door. 

Surrender is a fist opening
the grip loosening
from the conviction
of how it should have been.

Tear-washed eyes
are clear now 
of the wider horizon. 

An angel or  a buddha 
put its arm around your shoulders
and you felt held
and you are 
it was          it was


It begins with
a rhythm 
a beat,
 a pulse 
rises and falls
after the downbeat 
of thunder
when rain sounds 
like fingers snapping
foot tapping
on the roof
until the swell of a deluge
builds to a crescendo
and ends 
with the slow brushstroke of a snare drum. 
The musician searches for a cadence
 and the tempo 
set by water.

Unfold Yourself

The mind is a small town
where the news is old
and the air stale 
with endlessly certainty.

It’s where you live
from possibilities
by questions
by your memories.

In this narrow, airless place
if you part a dusty curtain,
lift the window,
vistas open
where solutions,
like surprises like wildflowers
spring up in spaciousness.

Step out the door
Unfold yourself
like a picnic blanket on the grass.


To Begin Anew is all She Knows

Chihuly Glass #1
A Chihully glass shell is formed,
as are we all,
from a sacred geometry
etched precisely
by water and fire. 

These secret equations
might be understood
by calculating eons
blazing suns,
salt water tossed rocks			
ground to sand
turned solid and translucent 
curled and bent 
to correct angles
surfaces divided
into harmonious parts
fragile as glass

smooth as bone
or a seashell
or your spine.


Chihuly Glass #2
This is the mystery 
of energy 
enough to ignite
colored shards of glass  
into a fountain 
of blue and red 
yellow and orange  
into a fused stillness. 
The same mystery 
in the candle wick,
the match
the dry kindling.

Against this cosmic background the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change. 
~~Rachael Carson
Boyd Hill Nature Perserve, St. Petersburg, Florida
This land feasts on fire and flood
where lightening strikes
scrub pines flare like torches.
Crackling pine needles
play a fiery staccato.

Snakes, squirrels, mice 
(who’ve learned from their elders)
 burrow in tunnels
built by gopher tortoise.
The truce between predator and prey will hold 
below the conflagration 
as mouse and snake listen together
to the racing current of flames overhead.
They wait for the certain drenching deluge
to cool the charred tree trunks.

Grasses turned to ash
(a rich burnt compost) 
will nourish sandy soil
needle thin stalks will push up through dank mud 
towards the steamy sun. 
Soon thickly green
vines wind around vines.
Branches cross one another, reach
in every direction.

After fire and rain
Mockingbirds, thrush, kingfishers, hawks
call out emphatic declarations 
while under darkened canopies of oaks
frogs and turtles sleep.

Upon the humid air floats
A symphony of scents 
honeysuckle, magnolia, fiddlewood,  
rise in sweet crescendos 
In the thorny brush
a rustling
as mouse jumps
from the grasp of snake
white clouds, backlit by the sun
grow into mountains
portend the next fire
 the next flood
and gopher tortoise casts a wary, wise eye skyward.

Pushaw Lake, Maine

It is late August.
The bee flutters about a dandelion
gains its footing and does its work.
A man stands steady in a boat fishing
on the quiet lake.
The hammock, under two maples,
sways in the breeze.

I write these pictures
to capture the last days of summer.
This is a fool’s errand of course
Like trying to anchor the clouds.

But I persist 
because I am in love with this moment
like a monk bent over his sand mandala
adding pinpricks of of color in a corner of the whole.
He practices impermanence
the one lasting certainty.

The long-lived log
the swing of the ax 
solidity split.

So I set these images
one word at a time 
bent over the page
with reverence for:

The swimmer in the lake
who does a slow crawl through the evergreen water
the tall pines above her watching.
The black ant who climbs over the boulder.
A loon who rises with a haunting  call
and geese 
who talk a blue streak in passing.

For now, just now
I walk under the light of the moon
down the path to the fire pit
a full moon 
will soon empty itself
 become a sliver, a crescent 

 Lagoon, Martha’s Vineyard 

Here on an empty stretch of saltwater lagoon this gray morning 
 my bare feet scoured by gold-brown sandI walk mindful of the footprints of dogs and sharp shells, rocks, mud. 
I come to meditate 
which is simply just to stop
to practice seeing.

Damp translucent and neon-green strips of seaweed 
stretch along the shore line.The lagoon lies still
 under the smoky-pale sky
 its calm speaks of a welcome respite from visitors
 as if its heartbeat is steady againso I feel an intruderI will be quiet, walk slowlytake a seat on a weathered green bench.
It is high tidea few days after a new moon(said to inspire new beginnings). 
A swan appears on the silver water,looks my way.The life-long mate nowhere to be seen.
I whisper an invitation.I hope she will come to meteach me about her solitudebut, no, she is hereto be graceful and careful,
to glide serenely alone .
She bends her long neck like a ballerina 
darts her beak into the water to catch a minnow.
She will navigate this lagoonfollowing the movement of the tides
 the moon and starlight. 
To begin anew 
is all she knows.

Tinney Creek #1

Tinney Creek runs past 
and despite
the TJ Max
CVS, Target .
I live next to Tinny Creek,
across from a mall
along with the ducks, egrets, and crows
and the occasional hawk.
Tinney Creek 
travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls with the tide
feeds Egrets, a families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
seeking tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs. 
In the muddy bank grow
feathery Java fern
rounded Moneywort 
verdant, abundant 
as if this was still The Garden.
the insults of a styrofoam cup,
a plastic bag.

Here between snaking highways, 
Dollar Stores
gas stations
condo buildings
Taco Bells
hawk has built a nest atop a pole
advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes.
The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I
 claim the creek as haven.

					(First appeared in Plum Tavern Journal, 2019)

Tinney Creek #2
Low tide at Tinney Creek brings
a rare pink-and-white-feathered surprise.
The Roseate Spoonbill 
sweeps its ladle-like beak
through the shallow water 
ignoring the styrofoam cup floating past 
Urban detritus
The Spoonbill lifts it’s Dr. Seuss face
to me, then
twitching its white and rosey feathers
lowers its wide baseball-hat- bill into the water
sweep, sweep 
side to side
poke, poke 
with open paddle mouth
for shrimps and insects.

The Spoonbill is  a  “gregarious bird” according to the website
“who spends time with other large wading birds,”
It arrived with an egret
now at its side,
as the usual resident
Muscovy ducks  
rest like plump buddhas on the grass.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor says.
My heart aches 
as regularly 
as it beats
these days
at the all too familiar words.
There were many

And yet
The Roseate Spoonbill came 
to Tinney Creek.

And at night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the creek 
lighting up a sweet stretch of sleeping ducks
peaceful despite ambulance sirens
the roar of car engines.

At dawn they will wake 
to waddle like drunks 
and raise their chicks
though hawk will hunt them.
The creek still alive and fertile
feeds them all
weathers the encroachments
of condos and commerce
And so
My heart resumes its song.


Tender Work


A tree birthed me.
I climbed into its arms
Protected from
Heat and harm.
Hidden by leafy tendrils
Birds and I sheltered
While she nourished earth
Swept the air clean.

With age
The skin on my limbs
Resembles tree bark 
Years etched,
Storms weathered.

I recall childhood
Her green canopy.
In autumn
Her fiery, falling leaves
My joy.

Weedon Island #1 Morning

in the shade, beneath a tin roof
on Weedon Island
at a green wooden picnic table
we sit and write towards sanity,
feeling the soft feathers of a breeze.
Above, the blue sky is cloudless this morning.

Away from all things hectic,
thoughts quieted,
we are held by a hammock of silence 
but for rhythmic bird call
Woot woot, pause, woot woot, pause.

Among the live oaks
Scrub pines
undergrowth thick and untamed
fertile mulch
fine housing for turtle, snake and mouse,

Is reality:
Tin roof 

Weedon Island #2 Shelter

My sandals slap
Along the wood path,
damp from last night’s rain.

The peaked tin roof 
that covers the picnic tables
must have drummed loudly last night.

Snake and tortoise might have woken by
the stormy orchestra
its kettledrum percussion of thunder
cooling into the notes like a timpani.

Do the creatures fear the storms
as do we
by cash, cars, and houses?

But fear knows it is not welcome
where there is peace,
not cash, car, house.

What the Dog Says

as a dog I hear many
and have learned
people use words
 like leashes 
like masks
like shields 
and sometimes clubs.

I have no words, but 
all meanings are clear for me.

His tension smells like hot tar.
Her laugh sounds like a fire alarm.
It is because I watch
that I see
like infants and others 
who still feel the earth as their bodies.

Only people grown away from creation  
ignore senses
remain unaware
of each other.
With words they name things 
what they are not
(words are best for lying).

They do not recognize 
the  scent of fear in themselves or another.
I know 
fear smells like car exhaust.
I know 
love smells like sweet sweat.

Fear and love. 
What else is there to know?

I need no further schooling.
I am aware
how before he speaks,
his shoulders rise and stiffen
her eyes dart for a place to land.
I understand,
lower my head to the floor and sigh.
They sit across from each other
at what they call a table.
I know it is the ocean dividing them.

At last I bark,
beseeching them
how painful,
how lasting, is the wound
from the powerful bite of words.

A Field in Maine

Work with what you are.

If you are a fawn
at dusk
you will stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open 
watching sparrows flit and fly home 
through lavender twilight.

If you are a fawn, 
your soft brown ears upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines,
like brooms sweeping the sky.

If you are a field mouse
you will scurry, slipping between
a crowd of periwinkle-blue lupines 
and fawn hooves.

If you are a human
you will see 
fawn, pines, wildflowers, mouse
know your breath as wind through the pines,
and your heart as it
beats in fawn and mouse,

then and only then
your tender work
is done.


To practice seeing,  I choose an empty nest
fallen to the sidewalk
built into a Tillandsia, 
the “air plant” that hangs from the branches of trees
round, bowl-like
A perfect scaffolding.
The plants tentacles intertwine
Round and round each other
The cardinal needs only scoop out the center.
For this, dear architect, did you use your clawing feet?
Your beak?
The cleverness of your construction should not surprise me
but I am human.

I have so many questions.
The answers are mapped in the mind
 of a small, smooth feathered head which
 pictured the design
 shapes, sizes, textures 
 arranged each element
composed it all
 into a unified utility.

How long, how difficult was the construction?
Thin, sliver twigs needed to be bent, 
Bits of grape vine collected
Then inserted into the Tillandsia,
Threaded through the  curls of grape vines
The stitching secures dry, flaky particles of Live Oak seedpods.

This builder knows how to balance beauty with practicality.
I attempt 
to practice the same day by day.

What was next indicated in your plans? 
Perhaps, you decided
To lift dry, gray Spanish moss
Lacy string by lacy string
carried in your beak, flitting back and forth
on labored wings
Nest to branch
 branch  to nest
you knew that
moss matted down, then mixed with dirt
makes a sturdy stucco
Was this an ancient knowledge inherited from
Your dinosaur DNA?

To the stucco, lodged as if glued is
A one-by-one inch square of plastic netting from a bag of fruit.
Architect, this raises more questions. 
How was the perfect size of plastic netting located, then chosen? 
Was this serendipity? 
Or was it a memory of a bright white, crisscrossed thing you spied from the air?
This plastic web has little function.
Did it thrill or amuse you?
Who can say it didn’t?

And why did you place this swatch of netting
On only one side of your nest?
Was this a statement?
A signature?
Who can say it wasn’t.?
Or was it for fun?
Do you like fun like I like fun?
Who can say you don’t?
Woven between the Spanish moss, Tillandsia fibers and the fragile twigs
 are three strips of cotton from an old cloth bandage. 
Was this only for comfort?
Do you like the softness against your face?
 Like I like softness? 
Who can say you don’t?
Six strips of silver tinsel from an old Christmas tree 
are inserted at the top of the nest. 
Are you making a case for beauty?
 Is this a sign of aesthetics in a life otherwise dominated by survival? 
Like mine?
Who can say it isn’t?
The tinsel is fragile, not  material for construction
but sparkles,
in the sun.
Do you and I both delight in things that shine? 
Who dares to say you don’t?
Like any clever architect
You balance beauty with practicality.
I attempt the same
 day by day.
I never knew all this about you
Your jokes, your artistry
Until you stopped my mind one day
 and opened my eyes 
when I found your home.

					(First appeared in Salt Creek Journal, 2017)

Ibis and Dragonfly

My wings
span my world
known by me
as the places
where dragonflies
dive in and out
of lily pads
and tall grasses,
statling turtles
from their sunny sleep.

The dragonfly and I
turn with the earth.
We sense each transformation
dawn to dusk
hot to cold
caterpillar to butterfly.

Life and death
dragonfly and I, know
is contraction and expansion, 
the latent liberty
in our winged bodies.

The dragonfly, they say,
is a totem creature
of transformation
as am I.
how my wide opaque white wing
changes to mauve in the dimming light of dusk.

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way…As a man is, so he sees. ~~William Blake

Advice From a Live Oak in Florida to the Owner of the Mercedes Floating Down the Street in Miami 
Listenyou there...step back from the edge of the precipice you’ve come uponwith no warningin your mind.Here now, at your winter home in Florida, 
you stand on the crumbling asphalt
watch your Mercedes float by as if it was your yacht.Nearby, as if in a dream, you hear someone saying words like 
aquifer, global warming, unsustainableBut you don’t understand any language not spoken in banks. 
You shout your mantraFix it! Fix it!You shiver in the heat under the roof you constructed over the planet. 

ListenThis is how you got here:You looked at me through blinders and called me a tree. Then you named me:Live Oak.I became a fact you could dismiss or use as it suitedWhen you cut me and my sap ranyou did not recall the stickiness of your own blood. 
 So, I knew that our reunion would have to wait 
until we had no choice. Like now.

Before you were too busy.
You dug mines, drained swamps, 
smothered the soil with cement 
slashed the forests and fieldsforced water where it did not want to flow. 
Now you are surprised.You order the seawalls to be rebuilt higher 
again and again,yet the waves roar at them and they succumb 
over and over.For comfort, you grab at your pockets for your rosary of coins. 

On  the news you seeCoyotes leap over the walls of your mansion
Panthers roam the yardBlack bears rummage through your trash 
swim at their leisure in your Olympic-sized pools.
 ou have homes hidden behind steel gates 
but the animals know these woods and marshes 
they have mapped the paths in their veinsfeel the contours of the land in their heartssee through the darkand know exactly what needs knowing upon the air. 

You reach into your vault of millions for your talisman of dollars 
and find a time bomb lodged in one corner. 
When this bomb is triggered by the last floods and the final fires 
even you 
will become brethren to the lowest insect, the stalk of grass. 

For the first time, you hear the alarms.Your senses open like a deer listening for the hunter’s next step. 
Listen, here was your next mistakeYou mowed when it was time to sow. 
Demolished what it was time to save. 
You understood how to ravage but not how to prune. 

Now is the time to listen.
to what speaks quietlyin both of us: 
Live… live… live...

The Great Extinction

Even if you aren’t a believer
your feet have faith
in the earth
your lungs are believers 
in the air 
your thirst trusts
in water.

We are held,
with no effort of our own.

What other love gives so freely?
This is holiness
by those who once again
know not
what they do.


~~Inuit for “sitting together in the dark”

While the blue northern ice
melts into the sea
We sit in the dark together alongside Polar bear.
on the tundra’s newly blackened soil.

The Inuit have seventy-four words for sea ice.
We name what we see
to navigate
and so
we are collecting new words 
for tears
and ignorance.

We gather 
in the dark
seeking new ways
to set the course over these rising waters.

The word we cannot lose
is most treasured,
we must repeat to each other
as warning, as warming
as we gather in the dark

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
― Walt Whitman

I Am

My hair is marsh grass 
 arms tree limbs
     stretching, muscular in youth
     lowering, frail in old age.
My heartbeat is a frog’s
eyes, a bird’s
lungs, a fish’s
skin, a seal’s in youth
rough wood bark in old age.

My veins line a leaf 
blood, a river inside the leaf
breath, is a breeze, a gale
the soles of my feet, a bear’s.

My bones are rocks, elongated minerals, calcifications.
 They will be the heaviness of my ashes
 you will feel in your palm 
as you scatter me 
to seed new life.

GPS Dirge

We have forgotten
what butterfly and bird,
dolphin and sea turtle know.

The young bird and butterfly imprint
on the sun and stars,
oriented to the direction,
pulled by an electromagnetic embrace,
certain of their journey home.

Above us bird and and butterfly
understand the messages carried by the wind,
comprehend the news of temperature on their wings,
and how the scent of of forest, fields and mountains
build a map to follow.

Below us dolphin feels
Sound waves,
the magnetic magic in the ocean too
brings sight,
a fine echolocation its guide.

Sea Turtle moves on a electromagnetic wave as well,
pulses slow and sure.

Oh, human
too quickly losing balance,
devoid of our senses, 
toppling the poles north and south.


 We send wishes to the stars
our hopes 
dot the black sky,
forming paths of light
from our longings.

What set stars ablaze
set us afire as well,
born, as we were,
they say,
in nebula nurseries.

Mother/father stars
draw upward our gaze,
though we have forgotten 
how we floated on helium
to earth, 

as electrified dust 
released from the super nova of 
numberless explosions
children of
of planets grown full and massive,  
dying yet deathless energy
transformed, gaseous.

Hope is illuminated by
a fusion 
that fuels
the living universe
and unknown
and unseen.



Like a River, Like a Wolf

That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

That got me thinking…

We are segregagated not only from diverse humans, but also from wilderness.

I am dog sitting downtown in St. Pete, Florida. My view is a city street, a gated condo, high-rises in the distance. There is also the park and Tampa Bay a few blocks away–pretty, but tamed. A stiffened, stifled kind of beauty. The only wildness left are the trees, the birds, the fish and occasional dolphin in the bay. Our downtown is more tree-friendly than most cities, so the bay and trees are it’s saving grace. A reminder of what is missing.

Unless we can afford to travel to it, many of us city dwellers have never been in wilderness We do not understand it, we have never gotten to know it, and so we fear it and belittle it, as is true of all segregation. Just as we force out diverse populations, we do the same with meadows, plains ,animals, mangroves, wetlands, sand dunes. In so doing, we expose ourselves to the threat nature feels from us, we are surprised by it’s push back to survive. What is unbalanced, will be balanced regardless of our wealth. The result of our need to control and tame results in poisoned manicured lawns, weirdly box-shape shrubs, flowers of one kind restricted to small mounds. All man-made, nature excluded.

What does all this cutting and pasting of wildness done to us? What I see downtown is linear and orderly, meant to make us feel secure, protected. I do not feel safe, only contained. Feeling policed and restricted by the rigid concrete and steel city squelches creativity; writers seek retreats from this in coffee houses with art on the walls, music playing, all reminders of the more rounded, integrated, nurturing spaces we lack.

Natalie Goldberg coined the phrase wild-mind to describe the creative process. A wild-mind flows like a river, making its way past boulders and branches of the controlling ego, of perfectionism, of the man-made. Creativity explores wilderness, trusting the directions given by that spirit. The creative spirit is in the miracle of grass growing without our planting. From wilderness we learn the power of mystery, of growing, blossoming, adapting according to life’s urging. We breathe only because the live oak breathes. Our cities have asthma, our breath is constricted.


In the Zen tradition, dukkha is often translated as “suffering,” although more often it means dissatisfaction or the nagging sense that something is off, or sometimes even existential angst. It seems that dukkha is discussed more explicitly in American Zen than it commonly has been elsewhere in the Zen world.~~Konin Cardenas, “Understanding Dukkha,” Lion’s Roar 2017

That got me thinking…

Dog sitting is my part time job. While walking Paco, the Min-Pin-Chihuahua mix, in  the sauna-like humidity of Florida summer,  I was experiencing dukkha, because my bum hip hurt and I was uncomfortable. I was also feeling guilt about my cat, Gus, home alone even though I went back daily for a few hours with him. Then there were the nagging questions common to dog sitters: what did I need from home that I forgot and what did I leave at the other condo that I need at home.

I happened upon an acquaintance, a resident of the building where I was staying. “How are you doing these days,” I asked. She answered “Going to Maine soon. I just bought a condo in Portland.” And I felt the hammer of dukkha come down hard on my mind. Envy. Dissatisfaction. 

As everyone knows, Buddha said life is full of suffering. What people misinterpret is what he meant by suffering. in addition to suffering death, disease and old age, there is the suffering brought on by our desires. This suffering is called Dukkha and is less about actual suffering, but more about unease, a sense one doesn’t have all they need. It’s about being attached to certain outcomes, desires and being disappointed when they don’t come to fruition. It’s also about the niggling little irritations, the small pains, the irritations of bad traffic or bad weather, aversion to inconvenience and craving for pleasure. And change. Most people will avoid change like the plague. We wait until our ass is on fire before we finally change what the problem may be. Dukkha can be defined as difficulties.

Some of my friends are on vacation in cool, beautiful places. Some even have lovely second homes in those places. They have financial well-being. I have Dukkha.

I’m not proud of it. I’m not homeless, I just have a lower income than my better-off friends. I don’t have much to complain about. 

Like so many others in the United States, I suffer from dissatisfaction. It arises out of a belief that I should be happy. That something is wrong with my life if I am not happy. This is the burden we inherit from the myth of the American Dream. We suffer from having too much and not enough. We even have the house, the car, the income we are told will make us happy, and yet…

So…because I am a writer, I write to face and understand things. I have ample opportunities to practice lessening the impact of dukkha on my life because I am an American. What helps other than writing? Seeing through the myth of the need for constant happiness. 

Try the attitude of accepting difficulty instead of getting aggravated by it. It’s a lot more peaceful.~~Rick Hanson, Phd. from “Just One Thing”

Alan Watts and Gus

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.~~Alan Watts

That gets me thinking…

Gus jumps up on the window sill. A bird or fly has flashed past.

I find myself gazing out the window with him, notice the sky, the clouds, but in the next second I have left–gone into the past or the future. My body sits in the chair, but I don’t know it. I am looking at the sky, but do not see it. There are sounds outside, but I do not hear them. Gus is tuned to the vista, its colors, shapes, movement. I am not here.I come back to the present with a start–as if an alarm went off to wake me. I do not know what alerted me to life again, but usually it is nature or some creature. We acknowledge that we need dogs and pets for their unconditional love (well, maybe conditioned in Gus’s case…) but we may also need them because they bring us into the present. They offer us their presence in a way most humans cannot, see us as we are now, not as we were or could be.

I stroke Gus’s soft fur and come back into my body as I notice his warmth on my lap. Gus, I think, must always sense his body and mine. I, however, do not inhabit my body while I am lost in thought, and I am almost always lost in thought.

Gus and other creatures, it seems to me, are examples of minds that are in tune with the “primary consciouness” that Watts describes here and that Buddhists would recognize as an awakened mind:

The “primary consciousness,” the basic mind which knows reality rather than ideas about it, does not know the future. It lives completely in the present, and perceives nothing more than what is at this moment. ~~Alan Watts

What if the present moment is full of pain or grief? Ahh…That is for the next blog…

Watching with Meeko and Brutus

With Brutus at His Water Place

Brutus is a big, bulky lab mix with a weight problem, but he is also graceful. And slow. 

He is a slow walker who usually trails behind me.. It’s not that he is too old or sick to walk. He is just slow. Periodically he stops to say, with  his big brown eyes, “Which way now?” However, when we are heading for his special  water place he becomes a fast dog trotting in front of me, pulling me down the blocks across a small bridge, and through the neighborhood to a street that ends at the bay

He climbs down the crumbled pavement into the water, over the stinky piles of seaweed until the water covers his belly, then stops. He stands and gazes out into the bay, occasionally turning his head to check that I am still there. His tells me how much he loves this place. He says he wishes we would come here daily.  I hear him. We all know how clearly dogs can speak. I take a breath and follow his lead into the present moment: sky, water, seaweed, dog. Peace plenty.

Mindfulness with Meeko

If you came to this earth as thousands of cells that want the experience of  being an American Eskimo dog, you are snow-white and have a fan-like tail. You are alert to the smallest gnat that flits past. Your ears stick up straight and open, so no sound can escape your hearing. You zoom around your big yard on dainty, thin legs and feet, but you are not a dainty soul. You take no guff from passers-by, especially other dogs, and bark in short bursts of passion.

You are like Buddha in that you dwell in the present moment and watch life with exquisite mindfulness. Your ears twitch, small black eyes search and scan the air, the ground. You love the outdoors where everything is happening, almost too much to take in. You love being outside so much that you leap into the air at the closed kitchen door until I open it.

Meeko  and I love being outside, looking around. Nature reminds us to stop.Be attentive. It says here is beauty, check it out. Here is life living itself, notice. A yellow butterfly flits past Meeko’s black nose. A mockingbird swoops down to keep us away from her nest. A lot is happening but humans in houses tend to miss it all.

The exact balance of sun, air, living and decaying things settles us. Where can there be more peace than here where Meeko and I are held in the hammock of nature? No hurry, no achievements. Just being.

Contemplating Wisdom, Featuring Gus and Brutus, et al

Bruts head shot at beachIMG_0781

The Western mind draws a sharp boundary between humans and the rest of the world….for the Western mind, it is hard to recognize mind in animals, whereas for the Japanese mind, it is hard not to do so.~~Semiotician Yoshimi Kawade, written in 1998

That quote gets me to thinking…

Brutus, the lab mix that I often dog sit, sends me love with a look. He and I look directly, usually silently, into each other’s eyes each time we want to tell each other something. It’s simple. Direct. Clear. A type of mind reading. I’ve learned from dogs and cats how much can be said by the eyes.

With Brutus and Gus, the tiger-striped cat, words are seldom necessary even though I use them out of habit. Brutus and Gus hear me make sounds. Brutus looks at me patiently until I make myself clear.; Gus walks off unless I add a treat to the sounds.

I think, this is one of the reasons that people need dogs and cats—we get sick and tired of talking.

Or we can’t stop talking around people and can only be quiet with our pets. Words are hard to come by. The right ones. Words can be so difficult to find. Those we speak are often the ones we repeat out of habit; they aren’t the words available, or even appropriate often, in the present moment, if we took the time to notice those.

People don’t listen for the most part. Dogs listen. They learn the meaning of words.directed to them. When I say “car” or “beach”  or “cookies” to Brutus, he comes to a happy attention. Have we learned any language from other animals in the same way?

Our words come from minds filled with past and future, so how accurate are they? How wise? Meanwhile, my stock and trade is, ironically, words; I’m a writer and a teacher. However, I’ve been investigating the mind in the way of the as a Buddha and I am starting to see its limitations.

The book Intelligence in Nature, An Inquiry into Knowledge, by Jeremy Narby,  an anthropologist, is filled with words for 243 pages. Since they are written instead of spoken, they have been carefully chosen and re-thought many times; writing can be a more clearway to use words than speaking. Narby writes about the intelligence he and other scientists, have discovered in creatures great and minuscule, like nematodes. “A slime mold,” he writes,” in a maze has the capacity to apprehend its situation and act on its knowledge.”

He makes the point that there are more forms of intelligence than we ever dreamed of. A Western mind has to overcome hundreds of years of the myth of human intellectual superiority.

Recently I read in Narby’s book that “Information of one kind or another is consistently circulating in nature, in particular in the form of biochemical molecules. The world is streaming with signs. Not so long ago, some people considered the use of signs a specifically human trait.”

All this is to say, that I am searching as I write: what is nature telling me? What is it I am missing? Can I become better at reading the signs life is posting? We’ll see… Any donations/love offerings to this writing project will be gratefully apppreciated.

Tender Work

Work with what you are

If you are a fawn
at dusk
you will
stand still as wood
in a field of tall green grass
at the edge of a forest
your dark eyes wide open
watching sparrows
flit and fly home
through the twilight.

If you are a fawn
your soft brown ears
upright will catch sounds
of wind through the pines.

If you are a field mouse
you will
scurry, slipping between
fawn hooves.

If you are a human
you will
see the fawn, the pines, the wildflowers
feel you breath as wind,
how your heart beats as
bird mouse, fawn
then and only then

your tender work
is done.

Because I am in you, and you are in me.~~Thich Nhat Hanh

This morning
ten ducklings scurried next to their mother
on the grass bank of Tinney Creek.

It’s the time of year for births at the creek
and on the wheel of birth’s
death for all but a few of the ducklings.

Helpless I watched
hoping the crow’s kill was quick
hoping the duckling felt only soft grass and sky

Being human this seems a loss to us
until we arrive at the meal.

This evening in a restaurant a person will order duck
for their dinner.
Talons or forks
the same but

One is choiceless, the other chooses.

For feathers or skin
made of ducks and ducklings
we ought bow in gratitude

or regret.

Tinney Creek

Tinney Creek, St. Petersburg, Florida

Tinney Creek runs past
and despite
the TJ Max
CVS, Target.

It travels back and forth
from Tampa Bay
rises and falls daily with the tide
feeds Egrets, families of Muscovy ducks and Mallards
who seek tiny prawns, mud crabs, bugs.

Feathery Java fern
rounded Moneywort
grow in it’s rich mud,
as if this was still The Garden.

Between snaking highways,
Dollar Stores
gas stations
condo buildings
Taco Bells
the creeks and their residents
carry on
as if this was still The Garden.

Down the busy street a ways
atop a pole advertising Beer and Low-Cost Cigarettes,
an osprey has built a roomy nest,
designed in the contemporary open sky plan.

A lone Roseate Spoonbill sometimes visits Tinney Creek
always in company with her Egret.
I watch as
Spoonbill lifts it’s comical Dr. Seuss face
twitches its white and rosy feathers
lowers its wide paddle-like beak into brackish water
sweep, sweep 
side to side
poke, poke.

The ducks, Ibis, Egret, crows and I claim
this creek and the remaining
Royal Palms, oak trees, iridescent sunsets
as ours.

“I used to see many Roseate Spoonbills here once,”
a neighbor tells me.
My heart aches 
as regularly
as it beats
these days
at these all too familiar words:

There were many here

At night, arriving home,
my headlights sweep over the banks of the creek 
lighting up a line of ducks, like fat-buddhas
heads curled into their downy breasts
asleep despite ambulance sirens,
the roar of traffic.

At dawn they will wake 
waddle like drunks
raise their chicks,
the Osprey will hunt,
the Spoonbill and Egret will visit
I will marvel at how they float and splash
and the creek
feeds us all
as if this is still the Garden.