Monday, October 24, 1994


                  Je pense donc je suis
                   —Descartes, 1637
                       For Sonny Lowe

Because of your small son we find ourselves
inducted, offering meals at the rude altar.
Within his frenzied orbit we find ourselves
trading dishes across the truce of doorways,
sharing intimacies, bartering the intangible.

Coming home from the niteclubs,
at the changing of the guard, you slip
into the evacuated shroud of my body heat:
in this way we learn the odor of each other’s skin.
On the clothesline, garments whip small plots
of insurrection against the approaching storm.

I saw you with the wounded face of a stranger
test the loneliness of granite. Bluesman or poet:
we each have a vested interest in the art of suffering.
The cats crave the simple praise of hands before they’ll eat.
To hold what is good also requires merciless attention.
On the anniversary of my grandmother’s death

I learned the name of my mother’s death; took refuge
in the ordinary: a boy carving pumpkins, the tv’s baleful stare.
Not the lump in my breast, or the generational patterns
we belabored and distrusted.  The mirror of the son in your eyes.
What truth faced my father (like yours) who raised
another jar against the darkness until it swallowed him?

Over coffee, laundered secrets struggle against
daylight like young birds, or new-born planets—
The juxtaposition of distance against the kenning,
the knowing; the fatal separation of mind and body:
I suffer, therefore I am has kept so many of us safe for years—
The cup of coffee, a fragrant vessel across the River Styx.

Death eats my mother’s bones until they shine 
with the purity of snow while we gather stones
to build walls against the coming of winter,
no longer able to shrug off the inevitable—
the genetic cloth of familial patterns
unravels us with the same mistakes.

Early warning signals do not efface the reflection
of your son’s eyes against the mirrored river.
None of us chooses family, neighbors, or love.
Despite everything, like death, the spectacle
of hope persists, colors everything we do.


Friday, October 14, 1994

HEALING WAYS freewrite

For those who will follow.
        —for Al Hunter

I wanted the edge of the equator
where the scent of eucalyptus
tangles the continents
I fell hard against the sun
on the streets of Quito
on the street of the upright coffins
I wanted to find a dancing partner
I wanted to find life
edged in the purple satin of the dead

I could see their faces smiling at me
following me into my dreams
When I saw the eyes of the unborn
I was separated from myself
though the rainbows chased us to Otovalo.

My grandmother follows me even in sleep
in the underbelly of this continent
She refuses to speak but asks for
the camera lens of my eye
to record the tarnished silver of the heart
my beating heart with clipped wings
in the cage I was born into.
I dream of lizards in the woodpile
against the coming of winter
the circular haunting of life.

I cannot write of my father
whose solitary confinement
followed him even in death
raising his jar of whiskey against the darkness.
I gestate my terms of mourning
give birth to lizards and geckos
who died the day after his birth
I walk the streets of the Mission
like a bloodhound in search of unnamed quarry
of my absent father, hungry for memory
anyone’s memory
a mirror against my own emptiness
that I couldn’t foresee
the circle of the cup eternally chasing
its own beginning, its own end.

I stack wood in order to find order
flanges of wood, splinters in my blood
ordinary things speaking in tongues
In dreams I ask for explanations
He hands me a book
says, Pretty good story, huh?
This, my gift for healing

I wanted to find the edges of the cup
I wanted to slide down the white belly
for those who will follow
not of my own lineage
for I have taken back life too many times
to live a charmed life
The decisions, hard as silica pierced my heart
opened it to the vulturing wind
and genetic code fluxing the lake of memory
ancestral chain of mountains  scouring the sky.

I give you the heart of these mountains for safekeeping
they require the singing of your feet at sky level
and they will give you fragments of me
buried in the crystalline structure of quartz and fossilized bone
I have found fragments of ancient trees wishing to speak
locked in the eternity of stone

I wanted the edge of the earth to find me for once
I believed in falling off it
I was given no object to hold
nothing to pass on except the work of my life
and the ability to find the hidden lineage in everything
the circle of the cup following me white in sleep
offering me coffee to keep awake.

I want to tell you to live is to be fully wakened
to the song of the sky
against the edges of the mountains
the gift my grandmother gave me
there are no edges, no endings
the round eye of the cup
singing patterns of the equator
of our lives
in these mountains of our past
the Styrofoam cup is a poor reminder
of this final century of the millennium
its progeny on all the sacred trails
of poetry without borders.

Fort Mason
Al Hunter's poetry workshop, 
CPITS International Conference

Saturday, October 8, 1994



I fell into another kind of blue last night
& hung with the insomnian moon
My heart was like a bird lost in flight
I drifted alone in dreamless rooms
Caught in the embrace of the blues

The tv and I can’t sleep at night
And I hardly know how to begin
Naming my affliction despite
The fact that my heart is wearing thin
I crawled into the arms of the blues

If it would fix the situation
To battle the problem from within
I’d call a bluesman in for consultation
But the music’s gotten under my skin
I’ve slipped down the throat of the blues

Sometimes I leave my door open wide
Just to hear him play a note or two
Now there’s no place left for me to hide
For the song has left my mind askew
Surrendered to the law of the blues

I’m singing the blues solo at night
My foolish heart can’t take more abuse
The problem: the cure’s worse than the bite
I’m too old for bad love—what’s the use?
The bluesman’s given me the indelible blues
Coming home in the early dawn light