The stage is black
The spotlight in the center
The audience in the round
The seats steeply raked
Rows going higher and higher
up into the rafters, and perhaps beyond.
Out of sight and hearing, an ethereal audience is also watching.

In the light she turns slowly,
every breath illuminated
every heartbeat heard
every cell scrutinized by the silent throng.

Completely exposed, utterly vulnerable.

It is quiet, except for the sussurant movements
of her feet as she turns, always facing new witnesses,
always turning her back to thousands more.
There are no demands, no answers— just the circle of light,
and the others outside it, in the darkness.

Over and over again, a fearful mind climbs out of its monkey-skin
and freezes.

Then a shift: I am here, she remembers.
Monkey-mind, mid-shed, simply begins to dissolve.
Notice: the surface of the stage beneath her feet. It feels interesting.
Tiny bumps, roughness, layers and layers of paint covering—
Who knows what?

Notice: a subtle warmth generated by the spotlight.
Suddenly no longer interrogatory, the light
becomes beneficent. Sweaty palms, turned outward
begin to dry as she raises her arms slowly above her head.

Rootedness, timelessness, flow up through her feet and legs.
It is the trees speaking to her, from the time before
they became the boards beneath her. As she listens,
they remind her to dance with the wind.

With each movement of her toes, her fingers, her hips, her hair—
thousands of filaments of light extend from all parts of her,
out and out, to every seat…. up and up.
She dances.

Hey Old Mexican Man

The tears sprang forth from my eyes, like a cartoon character who is whacked between the shoulder blades and spits a mouthful of food:

“Hey old Mexican man, how can you go around looking like my Dad
with your white chin beard and smooth brown skin, your glasses and snappy-looking hat, your boots and your nice shirt and self-respecting character? How can you stand around, patiently self-aware, (jerking me around emotionally), when I’m just standing in line with someone else who is standing in line at Costco? It’s not even a store I’ve ever been in before, and there you are, being all Dad-like, right next to me. I had a jolt, then a long appreciative stare, then as I said, the tears sort of sling-shotted up from my stomach and burst in my eyes, at about the same time my throat constricted and I wanted to sink to my knees and curl up, or go up to you for a hug, or run my fingers over your beard. Hey old Mexican man, do you have daughters? How old ARE you? The back of your head even looks like my Dad’s, both dignified and vulnerable, and I have to look away because I feel a growl of frustration at my loss, sense a wail running toward me across the grass, its arms outstretched, wanting to enfold me in the Truth of its sound.”

It’s Just Weather

The weather turns gloomy
A cloud blots out my sun
I search, looking down at my legs
for the joy
as if it were a brightly colored pair of pants
that have been forgotten in the dryer.

My mind gets caught in a dark hallway,
I go down feeling for the knobs.
Opening each door a crack, I hear and see
fragments of what goes on around me.
You reach out, trying to catch my attention
in your butterfly net, but I dissolve
and continue down, looking back
wishing I could step inside the warmth and dance a while.

Wind. The illusion of time.

A scent on the air, blue above bleeding through–
The clouds chase each other, trying to re-knit their matrix
but the weather has changed. Light floods the hall,
pouring through the trees around me.
I make my way to the sunny clearing,
smiling as someone dancing in colorful pants
looks just like me.

I Hear You

Is it the words calling me?
Is it ideas, and sensations?

I hear a nagging buzz
as I read everyone’s thoughts about the news
rather than the news itself,
and feel disturbed, and empty.

Stomach is wrung out,
FaceBook an onslaught
of opinion
about too many things
not even tangentially
truly important
to me.

The buzzing asks,
is this what you want? or perhaps
it would be better….

I know. It’s better
to write about the trees without leaves,
the bowed stringy branches waving at me
talking to me of the things we have in common
as I relax on the acupuncture table
and commune through the window.

It is better to remember
the conversation translated at the old woman’s bedside,
and how I sent my feet to root into the earth
while I opened my heart
and cast a wave of peace over her
as she heard the news that it didn’t look good.

It is better to remember
that there are always enough words,
and that my job is letting them find me
as I sit in the car, in traffic
as I scratch my son’s long back
as I awaken too early, and it’s too cold outside the covers.

Find me. Call me. I promise I will listen.


I couldn’t do it.
Each time I walked by the table where the photos go,
I felt a dragging sigh, a magnetic pit beginning to open.

I wanted to.
I had a few plans…. vague ones.
What I had more of was uncried tears.

I’m not ready for you to be gone Dad. For to you be
An Ancestor. A memory. A funny story. A photo. An object.

A blue work shirt soaked with raku. Rub my face in it. Inhale.

Pick off a little dried clay from worn leather work boots, crumble between my fingers.

A ceramic bowl of chile verde, some tamales. Wish I’d paid more attention when you made menudo from scratch, but the smell sent me and kept me outdoors.

Water evaporating from bisque-ware, your knowing smile when I ask “Why does that smell so good?”

Subtle tension around the huge slab-roller. I was more afraid I’d slip off the seat of the big cement kick-wheel, lose a few toes. But you seemed more aware of the potential for little fingers hiding under the canvas to get rolled out flat.

A Panama hat. Sharp dresser.
A hand-made silver belt buckle, worn and worn and worn.

A flick of the eyebrows, a tilt of the chin: you signaled to me, drew my attention to the characters around us, their foibles and humor and beauty and outrageousness. We “got” each other, no words necessary.

“No bullshit.” “That’s life.” “You can do it.” “You’re great.” “You’re beautiful.” “I trust you.” “You’ll do the right thing.” “I love you.”

A fast walker. Then a shuffler. I ran to keep up, then watched you lag behind.

My broken heart, when you fell sideways into the bush, and couldn’t stand up. It took all our combined strength to get you up. What combinations of fear, shame, panic, dismay swirled around us. We sat on the bench until your color came back. My brain quickly re-writing and updating files: Legs no longer strong enough to stand up from a fall unassisted. Foot-drop a tripping hazard. Little girl must take charge.

And now? A natural leader of the pack, you fly with giant colorful ripstop nylon wings, kite wings, in your Hawaiian shirt, bare-headed and barefooted, playing your silver flute, skin smooth and brown, glowing from within. You pipe laughter and inspiration, confidence and skill, into our hearts and hands.

A big bear hug, bigger than anything, goes on forever
and ever.

Dance for the Damned

I danced for those lost souls,
those arsonists in California, starting fires.
I danced with a bright red scarf hiding my grimacing face.

The bottom had dropped out of my core
and I paused, struggling to regain a sense of equilibrium.
It didn’t come.

You, how could you? How could you pretend
to return to humanity? Which fractured facet
do you present to your family?
Which justification lets you sleep at night?

The weight of your sin rides heavily on my heart.
You signed your fate, you are paying dearly already
for your monstrous mistake.

If by my dance I reach you, teach you
to awaken to our shared joys, to put down
your burden of hatred and jealousy,
to gather your inflamed soul
and wait under a cold rock
until a more mature morning comes…

I will dance for you,
and others like you
for as long as I live.

No Longer Empty

An avoidance plops on my shoulders
a familiar ringing in my ears, the sound of emptiness,
which is much like a pause, only louder and longer.

A challenge disgruntles me, a lip curls.
I am of my own making, my own bed
lies waiting.

Behind my eyes, sleep looks at its watch, impatiently.
Head tilted, I stare back, then roll my eyes. What
can I do?

I am ragged with impulses, dulled by desires.
I am scraping and hauling myself
over a bed of rock, not knowing why, or what
lies waiting. Too often,
I stop to examine the damage done to my nails
by this rock.

What if I were to lick the rock? To sniff the petrichor?
What if I noticed the gold flecks of mica, felt the patches
warm from the sun? What if I made my hands vibrate
at a different rate, slowly plunging them into the rock,
knowing it from the inside?

I am swallowed, and it’s dark in here.
But the ringing is gone: it’s no longer empty.

Future Lives

I’m pretty sure we’ve been here before.

Long long ago, when I was in the Crusades
And you kindly gave me a drink from your well, and, well.
You were my first real sin. After that I had something to carry,
not quite a cross, but something worthy of repentance and pilgrimage.
And by far the best thing that happened to me in that lifetime.

I rode back through, but you had married and died in childbirth.
I wished it had been our child, not his.
But I could see what you liked about him.
A worthy second-choice.

The loss of you ate at me, and over time destroyed my faith,
and led me to seek a healer. And she gave me bark tea to drink,
and spoke softly until I was without armor, staring at the sky
from my bed of leaves. She bid me tell her what I saw,
but there were no words.

I saw you, beneath me, as we made love.
You had changed, and so had I. There was a room,
with windows of glass, many books on shelves
and you had read them all. Sunlight on our skin,
incense in the air. There were objects in the room
whose use was a complete mystery to me,
thrilling my brain. The fabrics on the bed—
only an angel could fabricate.

The scent of burning wood drew me back,
the healer gave me a different tea, and fruit to eat.
“I was a woman,” I said.
She laughed and said “You will be. You have visited the future.
He will be there, for you.”

The Niggling

As a glowing pink softness creeps from cell to cell, I become aware
that I will fall asleep, sweetly, very soon.
I melt with relief and gratitude for this nightly ritual of renewal.

But hist! A niggling thought, more a sensation,
prances up my spine. One of my mind’s malevolent eyes
opens a crack, and swivels reluctantly toward its prey.
Is it an inspiration, a creation? That might be worth
a tiny surge of adrenaline.
But a recrimination? Let’s hope it’s not that.

I decide to deliberately train my mind onto thoughts
of…. food. No. How about the rearrangement of a…
Or the design of the perfect dance outfit: the fabric, a deep orange
blend of linen and Lycra, hm? As usual, I get stuck
at the cut of the pants. Definitely smooth and high-waisted,
but tapered? Straight? Bell-bottomed?

By now the niggle has pranced up to my neck, over my shoulder,
and is breathing hot on my heart. My muscles tingle,
and I shift position. I sigh with exasperation, and sniff around
for the dregs of that heavy sweetness of pre-sleep.

What do we want? What does anyone ever want, really?
To love and be loved. Is this what the niggle wants?
What do you want, niggle? I want to sleep.

It wants me to remember something. What was it?
I begin to drift. What was it? Was it something about love?
Something soft? Hm? Soft…glowing…pink…

Getting Down To The Nitty Gritty

It’s an itty bitty, nitty gritty thing.
Getting down to the core of it.
Years taken, getting under the crust, past the molten lava,
to the very center.
What does it look like? How heavy is it?
Heavy, man.

You’ll have to ride it out, hair blowing backwards
in the fierceness of your fears, squinting at uncertainties,
to follow that fruity scent of truth.

Dodge the old platitudes, slough off the defenses.
Carefully turning your reasons over one by one
you’ll notice the dust underneath. They’re not yours.
Not anymore.

Hold still. Just sit I say.
Will it come? Perhaps not today.
But you’ve stopped the knee from jerking,
turned the bitter gall into a lukewarm bland.
Who’s to say it won’t become
a nice pot of stone soup
or a chocolate truffle?

Really, how hard can it be?
Take each opportunity. Eventually,
the salt in the wound becomes a beauty scrub.

An inkling becomes a certainty slowly.
Hopefully, there is fun involved when the Cosmic You
points its finger at the center of your chest
and laughs and laughs.