Pristine Sound

So many houses set back from the beach; dark windows imagine sailing the boats anchored offshore. Where is everybody? Docks never peopled. Sails never raised. Where are the fishermen? Where are men in high pants on the rocks up to their thighs in the water? A cash of color never studied, so rarely even observed. Why are the branches unbirded? Are all holed up in houses? Are the birds gone for the winter? There is no shortage of cars. Or of communication devices. There is no shortage of clocks or of watchers. There is no shortage of sugar. Of the sugar that is killing us off. There is no shortage of fences. There is no shortage of bombs. There is no shortage of fear. There is no shortage of bars.
     AND NO ONE IS ENJOYING THE WATER.
     The plants water themselves, making the weather.
     No one enjoys these waters.
     Even in the rain.
     Where are the nets?
     Where are the hunters?
     Even in the fog which is in fact the best time to be on the water. With your little heater. With your bottle and your baby. With no one.
     And solitude is the most cherished time. We best remember being alone. Because we were left to our thinking.
     And there are minerals to extract; crabs to cultivate. There are seals to control.
     GET OUT ON THE WATER!
     Turn from the wall that blocks the way.

Record High!

Before the market reaches a million
Will the workers get a raise
Or will it reach a million
Because wages stayed the same,
Actually going down
Because of inflation?

When the market crashes
Will the workers take the loss,
Losing wages and benefits
And time with those they love?

You Said It

This is their general feeling:
No real need to continue on;
We made it this far;
We have nothing to prove.

Living a philosophy
And misunderstanding
Existentialism.

Utter fatalists, individualists,
And misanthropes,
They wear earplugs
To block the sound of the
Earth / animals / people
Suffering.

Suffering?  Where?
I will do something.

Their cameras are turned inward.
They only look at pictures of themselves.

They drive new cars
And have low interest rates.

They feel good.
They feel like they are twenty-five.

Suffering?  Environmental destruction?
Where?

Pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers.
Nothing wrong with them
In moderation.

Nothing too much.

Not too much war.
Not too much torture.
Not too much spying.
Not too much radioactive waste.

They love self-checkout
And their stupid phones.

They try not to worry.
They work to keep their stress levels low.

They are terrified of death.
They envy youth.

They wear a lot of synthetic fiber.
Their homes are highly flammable.

The Light of Olympia

There is the Light of Olympia
Or is it the light
Of the prison yard?
The light of the Eye
Looking at us
Over the island
Across the channel.
A dim light.
A theatre light.
A light under a curtain.
The prop of the island
Is a prison island.
Is the light from there
Or the Capital?

Jagged black cuts
The paper island
In the light is a hint of green.
In the light is a glint of red.
We stand on a cliff,
We look over at the light,
What light?
The Light of Olympia
Or of bright lights
Shining down shining up
On/off the yard.

There was an inversion fog/
Smog and dreadful gray
Streaks on the stone walls,
Or on an ivy tangled city
Of Demigods and Owls.

Episode on the Airport Shuttle

Silence that tightens your intestines or makes you want to laugh....
     The shuttle-bus driver, white-haired, bespectacled, chewed on his cheeks and said nothing to the bus full of people.
     He maneuvered the twenty-two passenger rig out of the hotel parking lot. First, he dangerously reversed. Hardly looking in the mirror. There was loud beeping. Second, he slammed it into drive and accelerated out of there. Now he slammed on the brakes at a stop sign.
     He had said little so far. Only what he had to say. And like it was a recording:
     "Now departing Gig Harbor. Next stop Seattle-Tacoma International Airport."
     He might have mumbled, Here we go, to himself.
     Who could have guessed that he had been on duty for four hours? It was just now getting light.
     Now all the passengers, and nearly every seat was taken, were quiet in their passive frustration. I mean they were like twenty-five minutes late! People don't have that kind of time to throw around! I mean, where had he been?
      Everybody was cold, impassive. Flights might be missed. And what then?
     There was a great busying of cell phones. Many fingers swept and dabbed. And blood pressure was collectively high, and rising.
     Now the shuttle-bus plummeted down the freeway on-ramp.
     Then the white-topped driver breathed for the first time in maybe five minutes. He shook out the sleeves of his shuttle-bus driver windbreaker. He addressed the passengers:
     "Ah, okay. Where do I begin?" This said in a frazzled and defensive tone, empathetically you might say: He too was stressed. They were--he and his passengers--in this late situation together.
     Said he,
     "How about the fog? There was a back-up in Silverdale. In Bremerton, I  had two passengers with ticketing problems. I had to make a phone call into base. Then, ha-ha, there was road construction and we were on back-roads. So, I apologize. But, considering all these unforeseen circumstances, I think we are doing pretty good. I am going to drive just as fast as I can without hopefully attracting the attention of my friend Mr. Law. Again, thank you for your patience, and good morning. Next stop the airport.
 
In row four--the rows were not numbered but he was four rows back--a man, a young man, but not so young, pink cheeked, in a black sweater: a man was wedged next to a girl who was sleeping with buds in her ears and a big pink-cased phone clasped in her hand in what seemed a pose of rigor mortis. Indeed, he himself had a phone and was texting or trying to text his fiancée:
     Bubumpiest ride I3ve ever bbeen onon. Wor2see tthaan that tuime onn bubus tpqs in mount5ainss of Ccosta Rica. Lliike 33rd word cuntree.

O'Hare at Night

He is trying to sit with good posture, waiting and waiting still for takeoff.  His hands are terribly dry from the isopropyl wipes.  He looks at his hands and folds them in his lap. 
     The captain lets up on the brakes and the jet foots forward, Isaac Emerson sitting there beside the captain.  Isaac is silent, staring out at his son Henry in the brightness of O’Hare at night.
     Does he wonder about me?  Does he hate me when I’m gone?  In and out of his life I go, I go, I go, praying for the day I can stay.
     Isaac thinks, We stumble into adulthood uncoordinated and flailing, tripping over rocks of opportunity.  We stumble and then we tumble, and for what?
     What are we all tumbling towards?  Death, Isaac.  Death, Mr. Emerson.  Careening out of control out of the concise chaos of childhood, that jagged ballet of stubbed toes and burned fingers and broken bones, and we get pretty good at not hurting ourselves physically, and we get wonderful at wounding ourselves emotionally.  Then we are just swerving drunkards, reckless and out of control of the vessels of our lives.
     Isaac Emerson reaches up to his cravat and yanks it loose.
     Not like you knew any better.  Would be nice to have been warned.  Rumbling rocks rolling after me.  A constant crushing by what could have been.  Now go about this job.  Robbed!  Robbed!  Mobbed by the rocks on top of me!
     The jet creaks forward, in the background the incessant chatter of ground control: “Taxi runway … Hold short of taxiway … Monitor tower on …” and on and on and on, and the little green lights in the ground leading the way, the little blurry balls of guidance.  The jet trembles as the heavy jet ahead increases thrust, and the captain says, “If we’re gonna be behind this Seven-Sixty-Seven, we better go normal thrust.”
     “Roger,” says Isaac Emerson, the first officer, changing the target takeoff thrust setting, adjusting the takeoff speeds.  His right upper thigh twitches, begins to ache.  He squeezes it. 
     He asks himself, How long now?  A long time.  But not all the time.  Only now and then.  You are fine.  Everything is fine.  Nothing outrageous is happening.  You are not dying.  You do not have cancer in your leg.  Do not be ridiculous.  Nothing like that is going to happen to you.  It is all in your head. 
     Now they are fourth or fifth in line for takeoff, the field aglow in blue and red and green and yellow and white, and the thunder of a fully loaded 747 at full thrust does not distract him.  Nor is he distracted by the cold air of the vents brushing over his arms, nor the tapping of the captain’s pen against the yoke, nor the smell of cold coffee.  Isaac Emerson thinks, When you were a child and first learned about war, you hoped there would be one in which you could fight.  Now you have your war, though not of arms, and how do you like it, you pacifist?  You were brave in childhood.  What happened?  When you first learned about hunger, you hoped you would hunger.  It’s true.  And now you are hungry, though not starving, and how do you like it?  How much have you eaten the past three days?  Enough.  Right, enough.  It is good to skip meals.  You are fasting right now.  Oh, stop it.  Focus on the task.  So you are poor in spirit and desperate for peace in your heart and fullness in your life.  Who does not long for these things?  Focus, Isaac. 
     The captain positions the airplane on the runway.  “Your controls,” she tells First Officer Isaac Emerson.
     “My controls.”  He brings up the power.  The airplane trembles and shifts down the runway.  They climb into the darkness.  The nose-lights press into the coming cloud like against a stone wall.  Then at cruise the new wait begins.  He thinks it is all just the build-up to the takeoff and then the landing.
     “I’m tired,” Captain Debra Young says, smiling over at her copilot.
     “I’m hungry and restless,” Isaac Emerson answers.  Like a child he says, “I want to go home.” 
     They chuckle.  Glaring at the instruments, their eyes strain and bulge.
     “Me too,” she says some time later. 
     “Want to hear a joke?” he asks her.
     “Sure.”
     “How do flight attendants like their eggs in the morning?”
     She plays along, “How?”
     “Unfertilized.”
     “That’s bad, Isaac.  That’s really bad.  Nice one.  Got any more?”
     “Nope.  Sorry.”
     She taps her pen on the thrust levers.  “Figures.”
     “Got any gum, captain?” he asks.    
     She reaches for her little bag of supplies.  She holds down a grin.  Before handing the gum to him, she warns, “It’s arsenic flavored.”
     He reaches out for it, “Perfect.  That’s my favorite flavor.”
     The cockpit is loud with laughter.  But soon it is quiet.  Captain Young says, “Only two more days and two more nights.  We’re almost halfway there.  I think we’ll make it.”
     “Of course we will,” Isaac Emerson says.  “When have we not?”
     “Never.”  She props her foot up on the rubber pad beneath the instrument screens and interlocks her fingers around her knee.   
     The lights in the cockpit are turned down, and it is nearly as dark in the airplane as it is outside.  The plane is going five hundred thirty miles per hour, but it feels like they are in a semi-truck storming down a country road.  They sit in darkness.  They wait for something to happen.  The turbulence stops.  They are floating in the sea.  The drone of the engines is a drug for sleep of which the pilots are used to overcoming.  Turned away from the captain, Isaac Emerson peers out at fists of stars.

Liberia

Westpoint, on the coast, has no electricity because no one knows or even cares to know about the Children squatting on the beach whose blood soldiers drink and the skeletons posing in grotesque and miserable pictures of Cruelty and Despair and the prostitute Mother of an orphanage who makes the job sound like a good one because it is in Hell.
     One will never find a hotter place, a filthier place, a place with more Suffering or where Women are more often Raped or where more Children are Dying of A.I.D.S. than in the United States’ one little African trophy.
     Liberia.
     The people were taken all along the Côte d’Ivoire and then returned to one little place. The capital, Monrovia, is named after the American President who willed this place. What may have been done with Good Intentions turned terrible as the Freed Slaves Enslaved the Native Population, making crops out of Men, eating each other, as we ate each other—their Toil and profound Suffering for the Sake of our Fat Stomachs.
     And a hundred years after they returned, a Slave rose up, Rose up, and became President and Freed the Slaves and that’s when everything went to shit.
     Was the West involved in the coup in 1980 and 1990 and 2000 and 2010? Who will deny that unrest in Africa contributes to our Material Wealth which is a Fat Stomach and a New Cellphone and ya-di-da while Children are Raped and Men and Women of all ages are Brutalized, Mutilated and Humiliated?
     Liberia. Westpoint. Monrovia. Bloodstains and diseased rags. Heroinized Children, braindead, waiting to be fed.

The Flowers of Fogville

There were no flowers in Fogville, and the sky was always gray.  Faces were always sad.  No one ever smiled.  It was a place all about business.  Everyone had something to sell.  Everyone had some place to be.  Everything in town served a purpose, just as every minute was spent purposely.  No one laughed.  Why laugh?  And no one cried.  Why cry?  Both were purposeless.  And what was happiness?  What did that word even mean?
     The people of Fogville lived shrewdly under the cloud; they lived decisively.  Everything was black or white.  And change was pointless—unless it was a change in product—and creativity for the sake of creativity was frowned upon.  Indeed, it was forbidden for children to have coloring crayons.
     There was one child, though, a worthless girl, the daughter of convicted artists: she was obsessed with color.  With her crayons (ones that had been hidden when her parents were taken away) she colored on walls when no one was looking.  Her name was Mali.  Often, she walked a long way down the road that led out of Fogville.  If she had been bigger, she would perhaps have kept walking until she found a place where color was embraced, but she was a little girl and Fogville was her home.
     As it happened, one day Mali crossed paths with an old man who was heading into town.  He was dressed in clothes that were severely faded.  Yet, and Mali was pretty sure of this, it looked as though the man’s clothes had once been colorful.  His pants were a washed out shade of yellow and his coat was a faded green.  She noticed, too, that with every step he took, he sprinkled a little of something.  Intrigued, Mali followed him into town.
     She watched the way the merchants sneered at him.  She heard them gossip.  Someone was going to have to tell that poor-old-man-with-nothing-to-sell-and-no-money-to-buy that it was against the rules of their culture to wear clothes like that.  It was not good to have a man like that in town.  And what was he doing?  Was he smiling?  There was no smiling in Fogville!  And what was he sprinkling?  What were those little things?  Someone was going to have to clean it up!
     Mali was following a little closer now, and on the other side of town, when no one else was around, she said, “Hello.”
     Without turning around, he replied, “Hello, little girl,” and went right on walking.  Mali kept with him and was now beside him.  She asked, “What are you doing?” 
     He laughed. 
     It filled her with joy to hear laughter.  She smiled.  She never smiled.  She wanted to laugh.  She did not know how.  She asked, “What is that stuff you are sprinkling—dust?”
     He laughed.  “Seeds.”
     “What kind of seeds?” she asked.
     “Wait and see,” he told her.
     He walked on and she followed and with every step a sprinkling.
     They walked down a side street and circled back and came upon a mob of men.  The mob yelled, “You can’t leave your … STUFF everywhere!  If you have nothing to sell you’ll have to leave!  Are you smiling?  Stop smiling!  Are you laughing?  Stop laughing!  Laughing is forbidden in Fogville.”
     The man laughed and sprinkled his seed, and the people were offended, and they puffed up their chests at him and scowled and screamed.  No one touched him, however, and he walked by them, and Mali followed, and the people made sour faces at her.  But time was ticking and business could be interrupted no longer by this trespasser and his follower.
     The man turned to Mali and smiled and they kept walking.  “Look at how they move,” said the man to Mali.  “Always in such a rush.  Listen to them talk.  No time for niceties.  See how they live!  No place for pleasure.”
     "Tell them that!” Mali cried.  “I know what is wrong with this place.  I want to know how to fix it.”
     “You already know,” he said.
     “I do?”
     “Every time you color on a wall, you frustrate them.  They get angry, and they are angry with themselves.  It is envy that they feel, and some of them secretly admire you.  Some will eventually realize free-time is a valuable thing—the most valuable, next to love, which together bring happiness.  Others will remain certain that ceaseless striving is the meaning of life.  It is not in your power, little girl, to change people.  But be a bright beacon.  In that way lead them to happiness.  In that way bring color into their lives.”  And with every sentence, a step, and with every step, a sprinkle.  And they walked all the streets and then at last came to the end of town.
     “You’re not staying?” asked Mali.  “Not even for the night?”
     “I am a wanderer and must keep on.”
     “Can I come with you?”
     “You must stay and be the beacon.  I envision the day when Fogville is not all about business and people laugh and play.”
     “What about your seeds?” she asked.
     “What about them?  They have been sown.” 
     And he walked on and was soon gone, Mali standing there at the end of town until she could no longer see him. 
     And then she went to work at a kiosk selling calculators and it was hard to hold on to the memory of the man (as it is hard for a little girl to hold on to anything) and she soon forgot him, and then her crayons ran out and the little bit of color faded from her life.
     She stopped taking walks.  Why walk to walk?  She hated her job and wished she had something of her own to sell, and it had been a while now since the crayons had been used up.  It hurt to smile.  She stopped.  Like everyone in Fogville, she saw the world in black and white.
     Then, one day on her way to work, she looked up and caught a hint of blue.  Then the clouds parted for an instant and the yellow ball blinked and her face was alighted, and she smiled.  She remembered that there was more to life than making money, more to life than sell! sell! sell!
     And each day on, a little more blue came through, and with the brightening sky came an improvement in her mood.  And color, color everywhere began to sprout, it began to bloom!  Suddenly, unexpectedly, there were flowers!  There were all sorts of flowers everywhere!
     Some people, suppressing smiles, wearing dealing frowns, condemned the uprising of color.  “We could be overwhelmed!” they cried.  “Who knows where this will lead?”  And others were overjoyed.  “The flowers smell so good, and they are everywhere!  How can you say it isn’t beautiful!”  The angry answered, “Beautiful is a word like happiness.  Beauty—happiness: there are no such things.  If they exist, where are they?  Where can I buy them?  Who has them for sale?”
     And always close, hidden in her kiosk of calculators, was the girl.  Now, finally, Mali found the courage to shout.
     She shouted, “What a ridiculous discussion!”  And she started to laugh.  "Ha-ha!  Ha-ha!  Ha-ha!"  It felt so good.  "Ha-ha! You fools!  Ha-ha!  Ha-ha!"  It felt like ... she could not find the words to describe the feeling.  If she had known what fireworks were, perhaps she would have compared laughter to those explosions of color, but instead of in the sky the explosions were inside her.  Fountainheads of flowering sparks purple and white and red and blue and yellow and pink: all the best colors were exploding inside her.  Boom!  Boom!  "Ha-ha!  Ha-ha!"
     “Stop that!” they cried, some of them, and others joined in the laughing.  “She’s right,” they said.  “Who cares?  Let’s nobody work today.  Let’s run around and play.  Let’s pick flowers and put them in our hair and tie bracelets and necklaces and let nobody care.  I’m tired of business.  I’m tired of sell! sell! sell!  It’s time to play, laugh and say goodbye to the gray.  Worthless work can wait until another day.  Ha-ha!  Ha-ha!”
     And on a hill
     High above the land
     Sat, looking down, the man.
     He could see all the towns
     He had been through
     And the flowers blooming
     And his dream come true.

One Can Leave

Forget about the orange leaves that were falling all around you. It was being inside a gentle tornado of calm death, the leaves twirling down like tops. And it was impossible to grasp the real beauty of it. Nor will I soon remember how you addressed the earth.  Calling it drenched in leaves all the colors you can guess dry and all around that crunching friction of the leaves on the branches brushing and the leaves spiraling down touching. You stood there in the middle of this last dance, this gentle tornado like a spinning ballroom dance, all the dancers spinning and presque mort mais heureuse. Each leaf did its own dance and it was one big dance and I stood there in the middle of it until all the leaves had fallen.
     I felt that, it feels that, and it will, like the leaves are falling and I in the eye. One can leave and never have left.
     Just as one can stay and be gone. And there is the other idea, the other thing that came to you. Unlike the leaves coming down around you, this other thing came. It came when you were looking down and hitting that button on what you said and did not say and before you knew it you were catching I talking to I. A car could have swerved and you would not have seen it coming. But you caught the craziness ... and the ability to appreciate beauty is a most wonderful gift from God.
     Of.
     By.
     There was a moment, too, back there, when you were walking so fast and feeling the self-destruction of the night in which you spilled that glass of wine on that woman's lap. Red wine. You knocked it all over her with one of those big ridiculous hand gestures. Back there, when you were carried away by these kind of pitiful contemplations and feeling the pain in your legs, back there you thought you were no longer able or at least for the moment unable to feel any good emotion. But good love came through. You love the trees and the falling leaves and even in the pain of guilt and intoxication, you found your love and beheld its beauty in death.
     What thing decays, what goes, what enters back into the earth more gracefully than the falling leaf? Rain? Snow? Sunlight? Not dogs or men. Were leaves, are leaves, Designed to be conduits of water or to be carried by the wind?
     However that may be, the beauty in the death of a dog or man speaks directly to the dignity with which that poor creature fell.

The Cast of Harmony

Let’s call the cast of Harmony,
And cast out the foes of Happiness,
Loosing the troop of Melancholy,
To set the stage with friends of Bliss.

So lonely Selfishness be gone,
In your place kneel Servitude,
So ugly Evil, so long,
In your place should stand Good.

Cruelty barks as he is driven away,
So that Kindness may play the part
Of the loyal dog bound to stay
With Master Loyalty, who wheels the cart,
That carries Betrayal to his grave.

Hope, you have the role of Despair;
Now, Rage, retire to the Pit;
Now, Calm, you stand right there,
Next to Courage who never sits,
Who replaced the coward who sat in fear.

Hate, you failed, you’re fired, leave,
And make room for shining Love,
Who knows nothing of how to deceive,
For only Truth comes from above.

Fill the stage and act your roles,
Allow Patience to direct your moves;
His voice is soft unlike Frustration’s growl;
His voice, it guides, it soothes.

Yes, mind yourselves, know your ways,
And fulfill the potential of the play,
Which is joyous life on any day.

If you falter just look to the lead,
Whom of course is Love,
If you stumble just look to He,
The brilliant light above, that
On our simple stage is the simple dove.

Our costumes are plain, our stage is neat,
Now that Pride is gone.
Come please, Humility, sit and eat,
While the rest of us sing to you a song …
“… Last shall be first in the Kingdom of God.”

The Deer (an excerpt from a forthcoming novel)

What of the deer, Pacific?  Remember when we drew them?  The drawings are in that clothbound book.  The deer just held there like they were made of paper.  Perhaps their instincts tell them to be afraid and their hearts tell them something else.
     Now I watch them, write of them.  I turn the page; they look at each other, the sound of the paper having startled them.  The big one turns his back on me, now lopes away.
     Earlier, I approached them.  I held out my arms and spoke to them and tossed them apples.  They looked at the apples on the grass and would not go near them.  I inched towards the deer, with arms outstretched, and got within ten feet before they fled.
     Now I sit here in the amphitheater of my home, in the open back door.  The gray is lovely, tinted yellow.  A dissolving fog rinses the treetops.  Two crows soar across the screen.  Language goes back and forth between the black birds.
     I wish you were here, Pacific.  We would wait for the deer to gain courage and we would draw them again and try to feed them apples.
     Rain, fog, our wet world adds detail to the day.  The incessant wisp of tires keeps time moving forward.  The rain starts, it stops, never predictable.  Someday you will understand, my son, you will understand how little you know, and your perception will change.
     Where are the deer, Pacific?  How long should we wait?  Should we go find them?
     One time we snuck up on them and got so close we could have hugged them.  When they finally tripped, we were right beside them.  Pacific, they were not as afraid of you as they were of me.  You could have kissed them.  Remember when we got that picture of the fauns kissing?  Were they kissing, or sharing a flower?
     Would you like to live like them, to sleep under a bush, to eat plants out of gardens, to always be on guard, always ready to flee?
      Perhaps they relax when they believe they are alone, and that is why they can be startled so.  We shock them.  Their memories are poor.
     They are right to be afraid.  Their meat is as peculiar in its taste as the animal is beautiful, with its white tail, with its bowed legs, because of its big bulging black eyes.  And the deer can run faster than us and better bear the cold.  The deer is pure in its silent relationship with creation.  The deer belongs in heaven, I think.  Its blood is purple and in a legend was sifted for gold.  Someday, Pacific, I hope to bless with you a meal of venison.
     But never would I harm these deer, for I know them.  In that, in knowing them as neighbors and therefore respecting their existence, I fear lies a terrible truth.  A deer somewhere else, in some hunting forest, seen from afar, that deer I could kill. 
     I knew these deer when they were fawns.  Their white spots betrayed them as they rested under a fir tree.  Kirsten pointed them out to me.  Sunlight was around them, their spots reflecting the light.  It seemed as though they were imagined.  I felt certain they were possessed by angels or saints or children.
 

Upon a Chariot

Asks my little boy, "Can I read your words?"
"Yes."  He does not know how to read.  Old notebooks, journals, on the floor.  He carries them under his arm, hands one to my wife.  I say, "That was my first journal."
     "It's cute."  She flips to the middle.  Quiet for a moment.  Now, "You should put this poem on your blog."
     "Which one?"
     "Here."
     "I wrote that six years ago."
     "And?"

Upon a chariot,
I ride there,
The Place of Eternal Spring,
On the outskirts of the City
Of New Ideas,
Closer to the Creator.

Upon a chariot,
Commanded by Angels,
I ride there,
The Place of Infinite Relation,
In earshot of the Temple
Of Contemplation,
Closer to the Giver of Life.

Upon a chariot,
Commanded by Angels,
To the Seventh Dimension,
I ride there,
The Place devoid of time and question,
Down the river from where
Moses and Elijah drink,
Closer to Perfection.

Upon a chariot,
I ride to Elysian Fields.