dimanche 30 novembre 2008

The Last Ashram

recent events have awakened some specific memories and yearnings in me, so i've decided to be flexible with my little vow--never say never!--to publish only new poems on this blog as a way to keep myself motivated. i wrote this poem in 1997 after a heartbreaking separation from a hindu priest to whom i was very attached and the local indian community i had come to love and worship with every sunday and beyond. my decision to separate was due to continual verbal abuse visited upon me for years by another member, the temple "amma" (mother) and swamiji's cook and caretaker, a physically glorious woman who had taken an instant liking to me, followed by an active, aggressive hatred. unfortunately, i am not the only one to which this happened and it was indian women as well. why swami did not intervene only swami knows for sure.

initially, i felt i was being tested and shaped for egoless service and i worked my butt off to be silent and compliant; but ultimately, i decided that it was going to be up to me to shape myself and that i could do it without abuse, starting out on a new path to vanquish a major theme that had followed me from childhood. but i miss swami: he was my mentor for ten years.

We've broken away from the swami games,
the clashing of kartals, the clanging of tongues,
jealous retribution in a kitchen
until one feels
not a wit oneself,
fit or be fitted,
incline or die.

We can leave our shoes outside but
we bring the baggage in,
and to win, what a prize!
To sit beside a laughing man,
a place right next to the plastic man,
a man guaranteed to make you cry
in your sleep, in your dreams.

"Come, oh ye sheep,
to the butcher block
of heavenly peace."

jeudi 27 novembre 2008

deep night in the terrorist state

in the wake of the mumbai attacks

this little world i've created

is not enough
to keep out the terrorists.

compassion's not enough
nor is knowledge,
and truth seems a blight
on my consciousness.

a million disembodied
voices cry out for kindness,
but there is not enough
manna nor enough water
to assuage the infinite want.

i sit, deep in the dark
of the darkest night
and confess that i am
not enough, not enough
even to keep out my
own hopelessness.

if there were a plan for
all this carnage,
we'd have to ask what
kind of god would
visit upon us bloodlust
and hunger in order to
turn us into
worthy servants.

i can't even ask you to
ask that question,
i can't even ask you
to still see beauty
in the tiny acts of love
between human beings,
i can't ask for anything
but an end to my pain
that rages hot and endless.

something is happening
that could turn the tide:
but when i reach out
to touch it, little clouds
emerge from my mouth
and rain vomit and blood
onto the earth.
i am not a messenger
of hope, i'm not sure
i have a message at all

as i sit in the dark
of the deepest night
tranquilized with fear,
overwhelmed with terror
that seems to live within,
that seems to consume
all my attention
and leaves me black
and suicidal with despair,
my disembodied voice is all
that you know or hear.

i am a failed prophet
because i'm inside myself:
my inward terrorist winds up
turned on its head,
chanting in nonsense tongues
about love, when i wonder
if that is what we want
at all, a slap in the face
as one being touches another:
perhap we want simply to
suffer alone as a sort of perverse
justification for assumed guilt

and compassion only denies
us self loathing which
a religious education and
enough societal abuse
has hardened into our bone
and usurped the good
from our latent brain,
the one that knew intrinsically
how to survive, the question
being do we survive alone
or as a whole of good
en face the terrorist state,
when it is ourselves we hate.

can we unmask ourselves
enough to reveal the will to
revenge that lies beneath
the surface and controls us?
or do we only wish to be seen
as conscious beings
with nothing to hide at all
as we move through this world?
good luck with that,
my fellow seers and peers.
i've been abused by those
who only wanted to help
or so they said, and i've done
the same to many.

so what of good and evil?
my shoulders feel a burden
that doesn't belong to me,
handed down generation to
generation through slaughtered
jewry and
la politique blasée.
but the terror sinks below
the surface and arms itself
with patience, emerging at
the right moment to cut
the enemy in twain
and howl victory to the
highest hills, which all bow
down under the sadness of
our failed evolution.

vendredi 21 novembre 2008

r.i.p. petite dent

poor little eye tooth

you've been through so much:
it was glorious battle!
first you broke on a baguette
still chewy and warm
from the best bakery in paris
a sunday brunch topped with
fromage, if only laughing cow
and me in bliss, so enjoying
that i couldn't believe it!
you broke on the best
baguette I've ever eaten

wise tooth you were
it was a clean break
right below the gum
and i remembered that
a pin and a bit of glue
might secure you to a
second life, might like other
stuff i have lost and won
resurrect out of the ashes of
my will and my sorrow
remain to chew another day
keep me somewhat pretty

so i wrote an email
and sent it out to all
my new parisian friends
and everyone wrote back
with sad stories about
the sorry dentists of paris
until i got anxious
but saïd responded with
bonne adresse
1 blvd voltaire
and i telephoned in my timid
french for an appointment

i couldn't believe my
bonne chance when i
rang that bell on the street
and was greeted at that
door, one floor up at the
top of that grand staircase
la petite américaine
with a hole in her mouth
and you in her pouch
more in awe of the
experience than (per habit)
frightened of the dentist

the grand
salle d'attente
was filled with the best art
like a paris exhibition
and a kindly dentist came
and shook my hand
and led me into another
large room as big as my
living, held the film to my
mouth, took the shot
and there it was above me
you or rather half of you
still alive at the root

two visits later
and 150 euros
you were back intact
and i thought you were
worth so much more
but france has a different
pay scale for dentists
i called all my new friends
and flashed them my smile
happy that you were
well again, until one week
later when i ate a baguette

i lived with you broken
for another six months
i was heartsick and
filled with funk
but eventually, back
in the u.s.a., i went to
my own cruel doctor
with his nitrous and his
oxides, and you were formed
with something like
plaster of paris, and you
had your third renaissance

a few months later
i could not bite on you
without wincing in pain
something was wrong
you were oozing and swelling
without anything evident
i was forced to go back
to my nazi dentist and
was told you had to come out
you were broken at the root
fractured somewhere
even if we couldn't see it

i was so attached to you
i couldn't accept your demise
we drove for four hours
to see an endodontist
he took new pictures
gently poked and prodded
until with tears in his eyes
(or were they mine?)
softly explained our
predicament, beautiful
though you were, you
were cracked at the core

so dear eye tooth
i did what i had to do
i bit the bullet and
had you pulled
and there you were
cracked horizontally
and vertically
with a half-inch screw
like an achilles heel
i didn't take you home
instead i shut down
and lamented your loss

as two baguettes,
a good address, and
all my paris friends
flash in my brain
and i think, i at least
should have kept you
in a drawer because
that's as close as i'll get
to loving a tooth
with so many memories
to sustain me through all
the losses yet to come

petite dent
my beauty is gone
and with it my youth
my paris days,
mes rendez-vous
baguettes and apples
with twelve teeth left
in my large overbite
and a pale, bitter sorrow
that haunts my heart
as i take the
that dry out my mouth
and dream of better days

dimanche 16 novembre 2008

dreams of a disabled woman

for Ron

doorknobs make

good lovers
fish smells
linger in the kitchen
empires crumble
beneath my feet

there are countless
stars in the sky
there are dreams
that come and
go in a flash
and I can't keep them

they say timing is
everything: miss a step
and fall flat on your face
then try to remember
how god's grace felt
before the crash

someone mows a lawn
because the sun is out
i mute the television
so i can write a poem
about nothing at all
and dare to be a god

a broom sits waiting
for the filthy floor
the cat at my shoulder
is bored to death
we both want to be fed
by the god upstairs

but he is sleeping
who cares? it's still morning
a face on the television
looks wise as he speaks
do i dare to hope
that i might believe?

everything wise
loves silence:
i close my burning eyes
and meditate on breath
then light a cigarette
to appease my pain

death isn't silent
it comes rumbling
into town with
a broken muffler and
no brakes
radiator exploding

i've been told that
women have no
adam's apple at all
could it be that
the tree of knowledge got
stuck in adam's throat?

who knows.
who cares.
there are places to go
people to see
things to believe
but not for me

my sickbed is a place
that god visits
with a wink and a nod
as if everything and
nothing are understood
maya, karma and

blood on the wire:
the cat sits on my arms
as i type, she seems
to like the dance
of my words on the keys
an unsteady rhythm

then leaps to her feet
angry and hungry
she sits with her back
turned against me
tells me to get up
and do something!

i don't protest
i light a cigarette
and feast on smoke
I'm no fool, sweetheart
I know what you want:
the god upstairs to descend

he does so every day
picks up her dish
gently teasing her
opens the can of cheap tuna
warms it up and ever so
sweetly calls her to sup

it's a big lawn
across the street
the tv may be dumb but
there is not enough
silence for an
accurate poem

there will be no
punchline today
the earth is turning
but i can't feel it
someone wise is speaking
but there's a gag in his mouth

i feel the smooth knob
rub against my vulva
i remember i'm celibate
and wake up stunned
there are sounds in the kitchen
god has arrived, ungloved

why was i born?
how does the earth turn?
where oh where
has my libido gone?
the lawnmower roars
and no answers come

i sit cross-legged
on the couch
i don't get up
to shut the door
i wait in this no-silence,
putting words to nothing

like dreams
that come and go like
an old woman's libido
but the face of god
is always welcomed
at the end of the day

he is the action i lack
he is language
he makes a happy cat
and fills our bellies
and signals an answer
to my continued existence

it's a very large lawn
across the street
i unmute the voices
and call forth wisdom
like tumbling out of bed
with a bang and a whimper

and i wait
sitting cross-legged like
an indian mystic
the world screams
around me nonstop
but i like silence best

i like perfecting poems
in the dark
i like dreaming of love
i light a cigarette
and inhibit the sickness
that swells in my stomach

while i wait, a bored cat
at my shoulder again
waiting for god to descend
as he does everyday
it's clockwork, it's grace
it's a bittersweet dream at best

in this do-nothing world
there are exceptions like poems
that occasionally flourish
and wise men on television
that fill a hole
while we wait on god

he's got my ear again:
i listen intently for
his footfall on the stair
he banishes all loneliness
he understands my prayers
my god is come

my god is love!
i'll fold back the laptop
and stroke the kitty
then feast on fish
whilst my god and i visit
and count the stars

an infinite number
flickering in the sky
everything is turning
and we follow suit,
there is nothing more
that we gods can do

doorknobs make
good lovers
fish smells
linger in the kitchen
empires crumble
beneath my feet

there are countless
stars in the sky
there are dreams
that come and
go in a flash
and I can't keep them