essentialism

my guilty feelings
regarding some shortfall
conditioned by the context
of unlucky life circumstances
are transformed into shame

a self-hating conviction
that in my core
in my deepest identity
i’m fundamentally broken

this is wrong
essentialism is bullshit

a bad experience
with a particular person
conditioned by the context
of an unjust society
is transformed into racism

an other-hating conviction
that all who share
an irrelevant characteristic
are fundamentally inferior

this is wrong
essentialism is bullshit

form is emptiness
emptiness is form
essentialism is bullshit

say it with me now
essentialism is bullshit

one more time
essentialism is bullshit

it really goddamn is

body

so get this:

jesus died

they hung his body on a tree
and then he died
(dead is dead)

but now they say
he’s resurrected

they put his body
in a grave
and then
and then

the grave was empty!

so get this:

now they say
that we
are his body

that’s crazy, right?
how are we supposed to
rub some mud
in a blind dude’s eyes
and make him see?

that’s crazy
the only thing
that i know how to do
with mud
is make bodies dirty

dead is dead
and if you think otherwise
that’s crazy

but if you want to get
your body dirty
i can help you out

learning to play the banjo

there’s a lot to learn
about this twangy contraption
of mahogany and rosewood
mylar and steel
screwed together like an ikea end-table

i’m cramming my head
with musical knowledge
of strings and frets
chords and rolls
the gray matter’s working extra hard

but my fingers
my poor fumbling fingers
like beer-bellied sluggards
trying olympic gymnastics
scoff, you call what you’re doing learning?

brain, please

love ’em or leave ’em

you have two choices
said my master
when people and animals
objects and ideas
causes and conditions
drift into your life
like clouds on a breezy day

you may love them
and sit with them
listen to their story
and truly see their worth
embrace them
and share life with them

or you may let them go
and watch as they
drift out of your life
like storm clouds in a gale
or like dissipating mist

but master
i inquired with some anxiety
what of those clouds
which i cannot love
and which yet
refuse to leave?

ah, young one
for that kind of cloud
you will need this
said the master
as i was suddenly blasted
by the thunder and wind
of her carefully concealed
leaf blower

seen

do you want to know my superpower?
it’s a really awesome superpower
yep
i’m invisible

stop laughing at me
stop telling me you can see me just fine

you don’t see me

it’s ok though
i don’t want you to see me
that’s why i’m using my superpower

i can’t trust you enough to show you
i can’t trust you unless i know
you’re really here

i can’t trust you until you show me
that if you see me
you’ll see the real me
the deep me

not just these scars
and burns
and discolorations

so please stop
stop trying to see me
you can’t see me yet

not until i can see you

bird brain

the little grey bird
twittering on a branch
outside my window
as i sit to meditate
has ants in its pants

it can’t seem to stop
shaking its tail feathers

is it thinking about sex?
or does it literally have
bugs on its bottom?

maybe it’s boogie fever
i can’t say

eventually
it flutters to a higher place
and settles down

eventually
however briefly
i do the same

The Stuff I’m Made Of

65% oxygen, so I may inspire
18% carbon, to help me form diamonds
10% hydrogen, to ignite my combustion
3% nitrogen, so I’m a high-protein snack
1.4% calcium, to fortify my chompers
1.1% phosphorus, making me luminous
73% muscle, ’cause I eats me spinach
22% fat, ’cause I scarfs me donuts
3% bone – thank you, calcium!
58% water swelling my ugly bag of skin
patches of hair keeping bits of me warm
a score of shiny nails to dig in the mud
a couple of grimy spirit-windows
two feet that stumble on smooth floors
ten fingers that flounder over keys
a derriere well-adapted to sitting still
a heart like a neodymium magnet
a durable web that binds me to you
a little dog, desperate for approval
a pirate who gives away his booty
a child at storytime, lost in wonder
an octillion of this universe’s molecules
and approximately one of creation’s souls

Lord of Miracles

A ruined cathedral, partially buried by lava rock, against a background of blue sky, clouds, and tree-covered hills.

Paricutin Cathedral – Photo credit: Daniel Tapia. Some rights reserved.

In 1943, two Mexican towns were consumed by a sudden yet gradual volcanic eruption. All of the townspeople’s lives were spared, together with most of the nearby cathedral.

Lord of Miracles

Nevertheless,
the north tower thrusts toward heaven
a gnarled and knobby index finger
jabbing, accusing,
hissing, “You did not lay me low.

Oh, you tried,
on the day you wrapped your
gentle, burning arms
around my brother and me.
You reached up, and you held me,
and you pulled my stone
toward yours,
yet still I stand.”

Its sibling to the south says nothing,
its throat and mouth having plunged
to mingle with the jagged tumble
of dark lava-rock
surrounding and permeating
the cathedral that was,
the sacred place that is,
sixty-five years after
God’s hot embrace.

Behind those brothers –
one tall, one reduced
to stubby fingers reaching up,
an open hand to receive the gifts
of the sky – is the chapel
with three walls and no top.
It too is ready
to accept heaven’s favors
even if they descend from above
as a slow avalanche of fire.

Pilgrims fill the chapel –
seekers dressed in yellow and red,
in green as vibrant as the brush
that ekes out life upon this
snaggy, igneous landscape.
They come for the icon enshrined within –
el Señor de los Milagros.

And were there ever miracles here?
Was it love that was raining down
when the people of two towns
lost their homes,
yet thanks to the slow tenderness
of God’s scorching grasp,
not a single soul lost her life?

El Señor hangs upon his tree –
the ruin at which he eventually arrived –
as the women who loved him weep.
He seems to gaze upward
at the similar cross
that sits proudly atop the northern spire.
In the late afternoon sun
the tower’s stone and brick skin is black
and brown, tan and red like flame,
like human flesh.

And in the sunlight,
it stands.

inside the clock tower

behind the perfect
circle of his face
i am reduced

and through his eyes
i condescend
to gaze upon

the vital city
smaller still than i
but more alive

this does not matter
does not modify
the work that i must do

his face is blemished
only i can rectify
this indignity

his noble surface
shall be whole again
while i diminish

descend and
disappear
leaving him to reign

ode to the table – day one

uneven and paint-splotched
    knobbly     wobbly
you’d teeter like the tippling pals
you held upright the night before
except for the wadded-up napkins
someone jammed beneath your toes

this is no place for flawlessness
yet your mighty central pillar
elevates your broad circular surface
    welcoming     balancing
high enough above the filthy floor
to ground my nervous drumming fingers

it’s dark in this stranger-full room
and i’m sharing you with two women
    not-yet-kate    not-yet-erin
who aren’t talking to me
because although this is a sort of church
my saint/sinner status is yet unknown

so i stare down at you instead
studying your lavish ornamentation
of gum-wads and peeling/curling stickers
until the indescribable commences
    uncontainable    untameable
and i am beguiled for good