Ban This Poem

Ban this poem.
Don't believe a word.
Most of it is quoted from the 'Vijnana Bhairava,'
verses expunged by the Guru's first disciple.
Never trust the Guru's first disciple.
Here's the problem: after the innocent years,
all we know about the Guru comes
from his first disciple.
There are truths hidden here,
like the eyes of coyotes in the woods
behind the Confederate cemetery.
But most of what I say is a squabble of ravens
by the garbage compactor in the alley
outside a five star French restaurant.
I speak truth to power.
After a few days, whether it comes from
La Grenouille or Burger King,
all truth smells the same.
In West Africa, I purchased sacred
ritual masks stained with chicken blood,
decorated with shotgun shells.
I did not have the courage to keep them.
Now let's get down to why you came to this poem.
There’s a golden temple in every wound.
This is what you were born to discover.
Why journey to Mecca, Jerusalem, Machu Picchu?
Just follow your pilgrim breath
up the minaret of your esophagus
to the temple dome of the blown mind.
Go there, forgive yourself, and come home
to the radiance in your belly button.
I hope you're getting this.
You are the planetary omphalos.
Circumambulate the basalt Kaaba
carved from your breastbone.
Whenever you pause to urinate,
relax, surrender completely,
thus attaining perfect emptiness,
the state beyond waking and sleep.
This is called, Entering the Golden Stream.
Perhaps you think I'm joking?
That is because you lack faith
in the transcendental suchness
of your body.
This is not to say you needn’t celebrate
the fragile balance of atomic particulars,
or find beauty in the constancy
of perishing.
The sparkling singularity
of your golden chaos could be
the opaque eye of a bald child
receiving her last chemo,
the dreamless gaze of a wolf mother,
mucous in a stillborn cocoon,
banks of gray rain clouds over
the metallic waters where villagers drown
their statue of Kali.
When the ceremony is over,
the idol must dissolve like sugar
into the formless stream of the ordinary,
swirling with sewage.
We are most alive in a season
when all mouths share one hunger.
Your Advaita must never become a romance.
Samadhi is styptic, contracting what is Not
into the diamond of what Is.
The bleeding stops here.
Young friend, a third of your life
is already gone.
These moments hurry toward some
languorous now when the stars pause
to let you dawdle an ancestor on your knee.
That is the hour when the gash of time closes.
Choose tonight what kind of crone,
what manner of elder you would be.
Birdlike scarlet petals fly home
to last year's buried bulb.
Cast here your circle of return.
Now these are the three last questions.
Which is lovelier, the hollow in a seed
or a fragile flax's day-flower?
What happens to your death
when you refuse to give it a name?
Were you ever born?
Staying awake, that is the answer.

Photo: flax blossoms; they only last a day.


A sunbeam falls
on the scarlet
in Spring
and the naked twig of plum
in Winter.
Yet it is the same light,
always connected
to its golden source.
So your life
cannot be defined
by outward circumstance.
Whether your ray falls
on lack or abundance,
beauty or pain,
you are always connected
to the Sun in your heart.

Photo: hibiscus on my porch last summer, gone now.


When you follow your breath,
veiled in softest fire,
back into the hollow
core of your body,
this very inhalation is
your Mother’s homecoming.
Your Father, who is silence,
embraces her.
They kiss, and their kiss
is your conception.
For you grow from an
seed of light
in the pulsing darkness
of her womb.
Honor yourself as the
offspring of this most
mysterious marriage.

Some call it
the wedding
of Shiva,
who is witnessing stillness,

and Goddess Shakti,
whose dance is creation.
Others say the union
of ha'Shem and Shekinah.

And some tell in a whisper
that this is the nuptial night
of Christ and Magdalene
in the Bridal Chamber that
you have prepared for them,
mixing wine and tears
in your secret chalice.
But I call it simply
the breath of the heart,
because you are the Mystery.

Stained glass, Church of Dervaig,
Isle of Mull, Inner Hebrides, Scotland


Don't imagine that breathing
is something you do
just to stay alive.
Breath has a secret purpose.
Each inhalation whispers
the most beautiful name
to every cell in your body.
Your exhalation pours
living starlight
into your bowl of wanting.
Please don’t forget 
how to be thirsty,
or the radiant cup of your lungs
will be an offering of dust,
your ribs ruined chariots
in desert sand.
There will be no cream
in your sighing,
no honey in your skull
to drip down music.
You won't notice the gaze
of the shy moon under her veil,

the keening of doves in mist
at dawn among the first apple buds,
or the glistening pilgrimage
of a snail across the hosta leaf.
Dear one, there are intricate
miracles of attention
woven into the muscular
pounding of your ancient heart.
Each nerve is threaded to
a certain ache of sweetness
in an oak, a thistle seed, a trout
leaping in a mountain stream.
You are not called to
understanding but to wonder.
Now celebrate not knowing
with the wine between your thoughts.

Well On Your Way

Well on your way
to getting lost
between Winter
and Spring,
now is the time
to risk
being ordinary.
The Goddess?
Your breath.
Her Beloved?
The silence
between perishing
You are born
in the tidal caress
of yearning and grace,
here in the sweet
salty hollow
of your missing rib.
Love is not a secret.
The glow from the deep
kiss of prayer and
emptiness inside you
is my face.
Your gaze is this
same light in me.
Budless twigs
in our season of dust,
now is the time
to risk
being ordinary.
Surely we will burst
into something
unbearably beautiful.


The ocean between us.
Wind-swirled stars.
If my heart sends
a silent sigh
of yearning,
you are my inhalation.
Beyond seeking
is the one.
Beyond oneness
is this sacred play
of Lover and Beloved.
The ocean between us.
Wind-swirled stars.
Dear one,
even my sorrow
is the dance of love.

Birthday of Seeing

This is the birthday of seeing.
I must tell the world how our eyes
bathe the earth in our own reflections,
and planets shine with the inward light
through which we look at them.
I must tell the world that Seraphs thirst
for shadow-bodies like ours,
made of stars that vanished eons ago.
They wonder how leaves feel
kissing the sidewalk.
I think the lonesome lord of hosts
longs deeply to pitch his tent in our cheeks,
and the future Buddha knows there are
secrets learned only here
on a mid-Winter morning.
Clustered berries on the naked pyracantha.
A befuddled kitten’s snowy footprints
following her everywhere.
Sunrise of scattered angels flecked
on a frozen pond.
A nest inside an egg.
A mother's womb encircling her savior.
And this, that when we rest
in our own peculiar rhythm,
all motion is stillness.
Never underestimate the small, the fallen.
Let humble triumphs of snow repose
in glistening impermanence.
Wherever this melting leads you, friend,
go there.
Just to be awake is Christ.

Mural by Fra Angelico

Here You Are

You're not here
to save the world.
You're here to discover
that you Are the world.
You are compassion.
You are perfect healing.
In you the mountains
are lighter than the sky.
In you the Winter sparrow
hears herself sing.

Don't try to understand this.
Just fall in love with
yourself in every
pair of eyes.

Painting by Sandro Botticelli

Journey of the Magi

Drop these reins
of thought.
Be lead
by the camel rhythm
of breathing.
The star you follow
is in your brow.
This yearning
between your ribs
is the desert crossing.
Warm enough,
the bleak stable
of your body.
Something unspeakable
is born here
among odors of
beastly fur,
where a lady gazes
into the straw.
Sunbeams fall upward
to her face
grateful and bemused,
not so much with
as of certainty
that nothing could ever
surprise her again.
Here you could bow,
drink from a bittersweet
glory-well that gushes
out of the earth,
become the mother
of your own heart.

Painting: Gerard van Honthorst, 1620

Don't Worry

'Ma succah: Don't worry.'

~Krishna, Gita 18:66

Mé merimnaté: Don't worry.'
~Jesus, Mat 6:25

The supreme Yoga
is simply not
to worry.
You don't need
to acquire anything.
Just drop the mind
of doubt.
This is courage.
What remains?
Wondrous starlight,
sparkling atoms
of ananda.

Now at 3 A.M.

Now at 3 A.M. it becomes
so clear that a flower
is made of sunlight and soil,
that two are made of one
and one is made of two.
Some say, "It is beyond the world."
Others say, "Return and embrace."
I say, "Transcend and return,
transcend and return
until you are washed in God
and God is washed in the earth.
A flower is made of sunlight and soil.
A soul is made of beauty and tears.

In Ancient Times

In ancient times
men and women lived
in the heart, here
in the hairy chest,
the milky nipple
perfect without
the shame of law.
There was neither
right nor wrong.
Each moment
was a kingdom
of Presence.
Not much needed
doing, not much
needed saying,
because silence
with compassion.
There was a lot
of hugging,
planting seeds,
singing through
darkness and
being surprised
by Spring.
Then something
broke in two.
They rose upward
out of the pulse
of the organ.
They invented
the mind and
thought too much.
They invented
politics. They
needed to be angry
in order to feel alive.
They invented
the self and the other,
and the government.
Out of the body
they ascended,
and no longer loved.

Painting by K. C. Aryan

It Must Be 4

Surely, it must be
4 a.m.
plunged into silence
drowning in groundless
healing that dissolves
all in a black seed
of light
a spark of death
inside a drop of
infinite milk
from the mothering
fire igniting this
momentary cosmos
of seamless mind
without edges
like a knife made
of sky
playful yet wildly
serene so
many of us here
dancing yet really
no other
no knowledge but
a kiss of breath
awakening speechless
lips to praise
the Winter dawn.

Painting by Sebastian Spreng
that hangs in our living room


There's a landscape of dew
between violets,
a milky place
where galaxies
briefly catch.
Dimensions pour
their cream into 
each others cups.

It's all a kind of
overflowing, your eyes
already filled with
what they might see,
like eggs containing
their golden creatures
before creation.
Meet me here
in the very small, the
landscape of dew
between violets,
and you will become

You Also

Dear friend, why belabor
this petty distinction
between darkness and light?
Find the Beloved
whose joy was yours
before evening or morning
of the first day.
Sun, moon, and pole star
rise and set in her silence.
She is nearer than flesh.
Can you not taste
the whole sky in a breath?
Her sea of emptiness
pulsates with love-pangs,
brilliant moon-threads
of compassion spinning
this entangled earth
out of the space in your heart.
Consider that you,
you also,
could mother creation
just through the work
of being still...


Dear one, when you
go, please leave
an echo of your song,
the way a fallen
petal leaves the scent
of jasmine,
so that those who
truly listen
to what's hidden
in silence
will close their eyes
to savor this breath
and hear you call
from deep inside,
"Don't follow,
just dissolve."


why does your path
spiral upward
through seven heavens
beyond creation
to the outermost
emptiness of seeing,
only to curve
downward like a bow
and carry you
to earth again?
So that you may become
round and whole,
the living seed
of all that flowers
from your longing.
In the beginning
God is light,
then God is darkness,
then She is green.

Ode to Hands

I honor your hands, those skillful
bones, tendons, knuckles, knobs:
you awe me, tool-holder!
I bow to you, my own hands inept,
little accomplishing, hardly able
to fold themselves in prayer.
You who tie knots and make shelters,
you who reach into birth blood and turn
the breached foal's head in the womb
of the mare, woodcarver, carpenter,
thrower of pots, blacksmith, diamond
cutter, pruner of fruit trees;
you who swing bats or sink birdies,
loaf kneader, roller of noodles, whirler
of pizza dough; calligrapher allowing
clouds to stain the silken sumi-e,
expressing mountain and bamboo
in wrists and fingertips, I honor you!
Squirting milk into a bucket
from the goat's teat, or fingering
the Uileann pipes as you gaze into
the eyes of Danu, inward Mother
of green Eire; and you, the lonely
cosmetician with your palette of faces 
I do not forget, nor you, foot masseuse,
nor plumber, chiropractor, nurse
practitioner laying hands on the sick
at midnight, unknown to the doctor,
or bandaging the leaky toilet pipes,
equally skillful; you the medic too,
binder of wounds on the battlefield;
and the veterinarian who skillfully
removes a rubber duck from the belly
of a Labrador; nor do I forget
the greasy engineer in the rib cage
of a tramp steamer at sea,
or the star-fluent navigator
in oceanic night on the bridge
with his sextant and compass.
I honor the breaker of rusted bolts,
and you who changed my mother's
tire on the highway; you who somehow
lay brick walls in a straight line,
or play the steel stringed guitar with
tough delicate fingers; poodle groomer,
I honor your hands sword-wielder,
marksman, backhoe driver, shaker
of the shaman's rattle at the moon.
I honor the deft diaper changer
and the mixer of cocktails;
the Ayurvedic pulse-reader,
the miner with infernal drill;
distiller of barley malt, brewer,
grafter of grape vines; you who bless
tinctures and ointments, crushing
flowers into homeopathic salve,
all of you equally adept; I honor
the handyman and midwife, builder
of campfires, mudra weaver in
your mountain shrine, and you
love-maker also, most dexterous. 
With my hands, that make nothing,
I offer this poem.


Why does the flame
in the temple of the heart
need no oil?
Because it drinks
from the radiance
of the Self.

Painting: Elena Kotliarker

Where? Why?

If you cannot adore the Goddess
in the form of your own Breath,
where will you find Her,
where will you find Her?
If you cannot praise the Creator
as your mind's own clear
radiant silence
before a single thought arises,
why call his name,
why call his name?
'Allah,' 'Jesus,' 'Buddha,' 'Ram'
are not spoken when the ocean
of love pours into your chest
and garlands your heart with starlight.
Dear friend, your Beloved has
no plan, no commandment
but abundant joy,
no plan no commandment
but abundant joy.

Photo: entrance to our house


Anger is an energy
that attracts more anger.
But compassion
is inversely proportional
to crowd size.
A single animal
behaves more humanely
than a multitude of men.
Therefor keep faith
in the Alone, curled up
in the snowy woods
around your own wound,
sharing your blood,
your milk,
with one perfect stranger
at a time.

His Grace

Without the Master's grace,
it is only a word, a sound.
By the Master's grace,
it is an ocean of fire.
Without the Master's grace,
it is effort, control, concentration.
By the Master's grace,
it is whirling, expanding, falling,
being held.
Without the Master's grace,
it is only the mind
trapped in thoughts about "God."
By the Master's grace,
there is no thought, there is only
the physiology of starlight,
every neuron immersed
in the nectar of the sun.
Without the Master's grace,
an atom of this body is a particle,
weary with density and mass.
By the Master's grace,
this body is a wilderness
of love-waves,
that sea of fire, dancing,
that oceanic Name of Her
who sings us into being.
Therefor I bow down,
bow down, bow down.
Yet even bowing happens
by the Master's grace.


I cherish most of my body
very deeply,
but I am at war with
my belly.
Perhaps you are not getting
along with one of your
body parts?
If so, here's what to do.
Expand that one
small body part until
it fills the sky.
Let it encircle the moon
and all nine planets.
Perhaps it is your penis,
like a majestic tower
rising beyond the rim
of the galaxy.
Perhaps it is that trembling
golden water lily,
your clitoris, floating
on a lake of stars.
Or are you ashamed
of your little brain?
Let it become a cathedral
whose spires touch Andromeda,
lofty in the cosmic
dust clouds of the Rearing
Horse nebula
where new suns are
born from the womb
of Unknowing.
Now how could you be
troubled or bound
by a body-part?
For it is really a temple
of fiery intelligence,
a singing bowl whose
circumference embraces
all the silent stars?
I hope this works
for you, friend.
It worked for me.
Flesh is sacred!
Now I feel at home in
my Buddha belly.


Before he was born,
Jesus was the silence
of your listening.
Then the stillness
between your breaths
put on a garment
of uncreated dust.
To see the face of the savior,
look deep into your body.
Underestimating your glory
is the first and only sin.
Now drink up the rest of this day:
bask in yourself
and squander the kingdom!
A fountain of something
like starlight will rise
up your spine,
spill over and shower
the world with burning
seeds of wonder,
gold as the stuff
in Mary's womb.

Junk: A Sabbath Meditation

In meditation this morning
I breathed in stones
on which I could find no names,
only numbers marking the graves
of anonymous mental patients
who all died during an influenza epidemic
at Western State Hospital in 1916.
I breathed in a broken typewriter
from my neighbor's trash,
and a tangle of audio tape that was once
a Dharma talk by a now disgraced guru.
I do not believe in progress.
I return to my breath.
In meditation this morning
I breathed in the sorrows of Christmas,
three used hypodermic needles,
two discarded double-A batteries
and an empty ziplock bag
containing a trace of snow.
I breathed in the Sunday New York Times,
almost an entire tree of useless information,
and enough lead dust to poison 8.5 children.
I breathed the spilled shell casings
from a clip of hollow point bullets.
I breathed the odorless transparent fumes
from Commencement Bay
where according to John Muir
the fat spawning salmon crowded
thick enough to walk on,
and ten thousand elk bugled
on cedar-mazed cliffs subsequently
leveled by the Army Corps of Engineers.
I do not believe in progress.
I return to my beaten heart.
In meditation this morning I did not forget
to breathe in your tears of ruined hope
for a better country.
And what shall I breathe out?
Ah, that hasn't happened yet.
I still hold it in honor of your grieving.
I can only tell you that it won't be
stones or plastic, OxyContin,
or pelican wings dripping petroleum.
It will be something luminous,
something new, yet whispering
with ancient oceans of moonlight.
Something like a Goddess, yet not
with a Goddess form, but the shape
of dusty exhalations on pilgrim roads
that circle back to tribal fires
with songs of friendship.
And it will not be my breath only,
but yours.
Hear a reading of the poem: LINK

Good Things

All the good we want for others
begins with compassion
for ourselves.
We would never know this
if we didn't fuck up quite often.
If you believe that you are
you become stiff, lonely,
haunted by the secret despair
of isolation from your tears.
Ever so gently remember
that you're always a beginner
on the path.
Like a pilgrim at rest -
for the places where we stop
to rest along the way
are the portals that bring us home -
dump your sack of laundry
and garbage in a steaming pile.
Gaze into it, whispering,
"I have not arrived, after all,
and this is what I am:
entangled collapse, illuminated
by some eye of forgiveness."
Don't ask whether it's the eye
of Buddha, Jesus, or your Mother
who is still awake somewhere.
Just keep gazing until golden mushrooms
grow from your dark parts,
the hidden meat between your joints,
the tendons holding back pain.
Please don't meditate
on your subtle body of bliss.
Meditate on the tumble-down succulence
of your soup body.
Meditate on the round ripe sprouting
pungent uselessness of your mind,
the savor of disappointment,
your fury and sadness.
Meditate on falling.
Stop trying to catch yourself.
Allow your own grace to rapture you,
not upward toward empty sky,
but downward into teeming sod
where good things die and grow.

A reading on SoundCloud: LINK

Hard Work

It takes hard work to become
someone else,
but no doing at all
to be who you are.
Why not save that energy
and use it for delight?
We could meet deep down
in the sea of effortlessness,
Selved as luminous waves
of that fresh honey we have
always already just made.
Only by drowning
in who I Am
can I give you real peace,
the freedom to be You.
The Star of Bethlehem
is between your eyebrows,
pointing its ray downward
through your body,
yes your body,
through that thickening cloud
of glory, your flesh,
through that good news
of night,
to the dark ground where
fallen angels sing,
"Wander. Enter. Gaze.
Be no one else!"

Too Much, Not Enough

Too much self care,
not enough earth care.
Too much earth care,
not enough self care.
The balance?
Rest in the black center
of your golden flower,
where care arises
like clear sap, flowing
neither inward nor out.
Then do what you love.

Hymn To Imperfection

"Imperfection is beauty." ~Marilyn Monroe

"O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam!"

~Exultet, Easter Vigil

On this pathless way, the sign of progress is that I'm not as perfect as I was yesterday. Here I fall, a sloppy fractal ceaselessly spilling from on high, into the dark blessed chaos of humanity.

I make sacraments of my mistakes, and let God breathe through my broken places. I let my wounds stay open: that is the best healing, eyes of the Buddha where Jesus had gashes.

After ten thousand lifetimes, this seeker's heart knows what the robin knows at sunrise. I don't look for diamonds: even my jagged edges are made from infinitesimal love-sparks.

"I vow to be healed by the next person I meet. I will bathe in the radiance of humanity" : this is the rule of my lineage, a long tradition of failed monks.

I insist that the blind Guatemalan woman selling rutabagas in the open-air market be my guru. Here is my secret strength: long ago I threw away my measuring cup, and dove into the sea of wonder.

Why be caught in names? We all seek the same caress. There are thousands of reports, but only one breath, many hungers but a single wanting.

The king of the universe seeks my friendship: it's as simple as that. The one who created me broke my wings, so that I could dance on earth. How can I thank Her?

Love follows sadness, Autumn follows summer; I keep scattering myself like golden leaves to learn this.

A mother taught me to breathe, and with each breath I return to where I was before conception.

Saints, angels, and Bodhisattvas hover over me in a white cloud, all thirsty, all longing to get into the tavern of my heart. But you get in first, friend; they're not here for serious drinking like us.

I have nothing to teach, and nothing to give you. That is why you must sit with me on a park bench overlooking the city. Rest your head on my shoulder; listen to the oaks trembling around us in the fading sunlight.

We are unbalanced equations, we are bright quarks spinning out of the void, discovering our loveliness in uncertainty.

We are awkward braids of honeyed wine, splashing into a dark chalice. We don't even know the name of the host who pours us out as an offering.

Drop the Veil

When you drop the veil of hope and wanting,
you can watch the sun pluck harps of frost
strung between oak leaves.

You can hear the infinitesimal chime of stars
in the sparkling silence of your inhalation.

Call it a moment of grace if you like.
But really, grace is all there is

here on the planet where creatures shatter
into tinier and tinier miracles.

And really it's true, love overflows
the rim of a dust mote.

O mind, expect nothing.
Let the tongue plunge naked into
breaking waves of water cress and huckleberry.

Of course the mere mind continues
to mutter "More!"

But a fiercer listening within
rises cool and dark from a forgotten well.

One breath bows to another, you
remember how to stand here,
amazed, then how to walk.