Monday, October 31, 2011

Poem: Samhain Prayer

To see the latest version, please go to the October 31 2012 entry:


Here is my Samhain Prayer from last year, edited a bit.

Have a magical, meaningful night!



Samhain Prayer

Let us hope the humanosphere moves swiftly to break from its vector of nuclear doom.

Let us hope war is recognized for what it is: a black hole sucking us all down.

Let us hope mutual care trumps greed, and soon nary a person shall hoard money and ignore a starving child’s ribs.

Let us hope that wagging tongues yield to wide ears, and that the soft-spoken are honored rather than circumvented.

Let us hope fanatics lose their grip, and that all gods are validated except those that seek to be the only one.

Let us hope our leaders stop spitting terror out of angry mouths; and that misled flocks stop kneeling before them in collars of fear.

Let us hope all cultures mingle and mate in spiritual companionship. Should not we all be lovers in this sense?

Let us hope the light of education burns through webs of ignorance, freeing untold numbers of wings.

Let us hope denial and discord melt into delight, and that we see as children, with tears in our eyes because each color or scent or taste or touch or song is rare.

Let us fall down and beg the Fates to guide us away from our planet-killing path, the one we take when we buy poisons in the name of a shallow shine.

Let us pray we can be more than fussy ants, led by the pheromone of purse strings, rushing into Discount Hives where nothing was manufactured with love.

Let us take a deep breath, and realize what a treasure that one breath is, more so than any ingot or jewel.

Are we not all winners in the most important lottery of all: the journey of Life.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poem: Inside Metal

This poem originally appeared in Blast Furnace Review.

It's a criticism of car culture.




Inside Metal

it is hard not to hustle
the wheel over the continents
it has shaped. the land itself
wears a corset of scars.

a mountain isn’t so great anymore,
just another back to ride.
deserts that once schooled prophets
gleam like casino jaunts.

inside metal, speed is a game.
you cruise on the burning blood
of jungles and tundras.
a large herd of muskox.
the sea.

you fidget
with dials and buttons
like a fetus in a robot’s womb.
under savage pistons,
the machine can feel you kick.

inside metal,
you never want to sweat again,
or canter a horse.
you can’t imagine
sitting on a ziggurat,
cross-legged under Draco.

your life waits before you,
laid out on crushed stone.
in a long dark tunnel
unheard victims curse obscene
in reflective glares.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Moment of Circuitry

A sense of appreciation for hundreds of millions of years of nature, and its recent demise, is imperative for us; otherwise, our trajectory into the future will be reckless in the extreme.

There was no such thing as a television less than a hundred years ago. Computers, which are now like proteins in the great beast of society, have even less tenure. Think about how electricity, in a slice a geological second, transformed the nightside of our planet into a pimple-patch of lights. Think about watching the peace of Orion, and then all at once an orbital pest of satellite cuts across his waist.

Before our Moment, evolution produced mighty trees of variegated creatures, many with skills that are unbelievable. To name a few: the flame of fireflies; the camouflage of chameleons; the marksmanship of bats; the grandiosity of the brontosaur. The exquisite butterfly wing culminates three stages of metamorphosis. With many insects, the larva, the nymph, and the mature, span an elemental range: from stream to soil to sky.

The mathematics and majesties of nature are patient and reliable. Their vast scale effloresces with creation. The elegant simplicity of the physical formulas that cradle these miracles cannot limit or define them. We are surrounded by teeming beauty, and so we forget to marvel. We not only forget, we destroy. In our headlong ache to achieve more power, more thrill, more success, we transform the world into our possession, relying on the bully-might of our technologies. We arrest evolution and substitute our own genetic tampering. We slaughter untold species to extinction, modify others to serve us instead of run free. We amass power enough to annihilate the continents in a hell rain of tens of thousands of explosions. Our war-lust means that every day we risk a "nuclear winter," which would ban sunlight from touching the ground.

No green would grow for a dozen years. The soil would soak with lethal and almost immortal radiation. It is impossible not to wonder if life itself could persist.

Computers are essential to our Beast. I described them above as a protein in the biochemistry of the collective; and in that role they act as catalyst, accelerating our gluttony for data. The time will soon come when we--already married to computers, which are smaller and smaller--will wear them intimately, closer even than our current relationship, tete-a-tete, with cell phones.

What are we becoming and why?

We need to remember that our time, this Moment of Circuitry, is a dust speck in the life of Gaea. Most of us rush from stress to stress, paycheck to paycheck, focused on a few simple yet overwhelming goals, ones that do not relent for spiritual or philosophical contemplation.

It’s up to you. You can be a chemical in the cybersystem of the Beast, as dutiful and unthinking as your computer, or you can be something much more.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Acceptance: Xenith


Xenith is a long-standing and absolutely excellent literary nexus. I am very proud that my poem “Constrictive” will be appearing.

I don’t have a lot of time, and even if I did, there is no way I could describe the fresh, socially incisive feel of this site. It started as a child of a pioneering digital impetus, something that previous generations couldn’t possibly understand. Quoting from the “About” page:

Xenith began life as an ASCII text zine that existed only in late 90s AOL inboxes. We began dual publishing issues on our website just before the new millennium in an attempt to broaden our audience. We released over forty issues in less than five years, earning a devoted following and press exposure, including an appearance in the New York Times Upfront Magazine.

I read this and thought, “This is it, an epoch-changing thin line in the history of civilization: brilliant minds merging the social arena of computer-driven technology with the august realm of literature.

It’s true. Xenith is the first generation of a new way. It is expressed through the verbal artistry of young minds (sometimes with old bodies) who capture something profound about the Generation Y experience. This profundity is consciousness-cracking. It is techno-shamanic and spiritually scientific.

What is the Gen Y experience? Here is where I tell you to read Xenith. All I can say is that the world is now, at least in half-real metaphor, an internet connectedness, Something it never was before, going back billions of years. At the same time, globalization and earth-shaking robo-drone-machinery transform our animal minds, everything from views on spirits to corporations to sex.

Xenith has its many-fingered Hand of Shiva on the pulse of all this. It is prophetic and yet somehow humble and friendly. It is dangerous while making you feel we must all face the danger as part of being human in these tumultuous times. Peril, on a planet where someone in Thailand talks intimately with someone in Canada, via the ether, breeds camaraderie.

The Publisher and Founder is Kelly Joi Phelan. The Managing Editor is Patrick Nathan. My communications with him were brief, and yet he comes across as very human, very real. What does that mean? It is, first and foremost, a serious compliment. No fakeness, no hubris. Just heartfelt interaction. A feeling that I was part of an authentic moment.

Sadly, this is rare.

I recommend this journal without mitigation. After reading its superb fiction or poetry, drop Editor Nathan an email about what you liked. Editors love to get encouraging feedback--and Patrick Nathan especially deserves it.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Poem: Enlightenment

A different version of this poem recently appeared at Blue Lake Review (See my entry for Oct 4).

Happy Reading. I am off to Occupy Wall Street!




nothing but flimsy
pretense holds doubt
over a complicated pit.

when the tissue snaps
it’s like a red ocean
chewing on a drop of water.

your scream opens
down a long revelation:
your eyes have been wrapped

in cellophane.
you sold them to a list
of approved ruled.

the toys you counted as trophies
rise up like nails,
out of a coffin’s clench.

your reward for resurrection
is weakness, and a hundred angels
on a leaf.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Poem: Suffering

An alternate version of this poem recently appeared in Blue Lake Review (see my post on October 4). I don't know which version is better. This is a more recent formulation. If you have time to read both versions and have an opinion, I would be very interested to know.

Best to all readers.




the wolf is under the bed.
or at work.
or in a box of cheerios.

you’ve been killed by it before.
every place you hide
you’ve been found before.

there wasn’t really a time
without this.
that past is fake.

the hunt expands
to encompass everything,
circles the cosmos.

you stare into oceans
of dark matter,

like running inside a stone,
faster than
the escape of light,

as you sink.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Acceptance: Rose & Thorn Journal

Rose & Thorn

There have been rare yet special times in my life when I wished to write with great eloquence, urgent to convey the full intensity of my pith. This is one of those times. I know from experience I will fail to encapsulate my gratitude, let alone succeed in masterful prose that might capture some bit of its inner fire. As always, all I can do is fret, trying not to damage my lower lip, when I am forced to confront my limitations.

Poetry has been my vehicle of soulful purpose from over a decade now, with no signs of abating; and Rose & Thorn has been essential to that journey. They accepted my work more than once when, despite best and painstaking efforts, my good poems were like a pittance of gems hidden in tonnages of coal.

Miraculously, the Poetry Editors at R&T ferreted them out. They were personable and spoke to me outside formal templates. My first acceptance with them was in 2006. The poetry chief at the time was Cesar Garza, who was friendly and generous in sharing. He arranged for me to write three guest blogs and also posted a podcast of one of the best poems I ever wrote: “Owl.”

The staff today is every bit as competent and patient with my submissions (which are hopefully less flawed than in the past). It has been a true pleasure to correspond with Cynthia Toups, Senior Poetry Editor. It is under her leadership that R&T transitioned a few years ago from the old website to the new one, which included a complete change in tone and aesthetic while preserving the excellence and mission of the journal. Judging by the quality of the quarterly issues, her diligence, fortitude, acumen and organization skill are astounding. No doubt a huge amount of talent and effort are prerequisite to make the brilliance that is R&T coalesce.

Toups must also possess fine networking skills because she works with three other poetry editors. One of them is Wil Hough, one of the founders of R&T, which qualifies him as a luminary by itself; and yet his presence in the literary world is legendary for other reasons, too. I am going to share his bio from the website:

Wil Hough, one of the founding editors at Rose & Thorn, first spent a decade as NOVLPapa in the old AOL Amazing Instant Writers Group. While earning his living as a faux finishing artist specializing in Impressionist and Post Expressionists wall art, he best expresses his contrarian outlook through poetry, essays, and short stories.

I’ve submitted to thousands of journals and yet Hough surprised me by doing something that has never happened before: while my work was being considered at R&T, he contacted me to say that my poem “In the Philosopher’s Condo” resonated deeply with him on a personal level; and he also told me why in specific terms. I thought this amazing, since it is rare for anyone to express that my poetry affected them deeply, much less to say why. Furthermore, this occurred during an evaluation process, a delightful deviation from protocols.

My opinion, bolstered by Hough’s note, is that we all ought to break out of the box more often. By doing so, Hough left me with a permanent memory and a story to tell about my poem. He made the poem more alive for me, gave it a Lazarus quality.

(As an aside, I am curious how Hough’s “contrarian outlook” adds to the dynamic of the Poetry Staff, and how it affects the chemistry of the team. I don’t mean to imply that it makes things more difficult. As I have learned from studying psychology, it is good to have many perspectives, and for each individual to speak their mind, to avoid the insidious conformity of Group Think).

There are two other poetry editors at R&T whom I have never had the privilege of communicating with directly. Yu-Han Chao has a Masters in fiction from Penn State and teaches at Merced College. Among her other accomplishments, she has published a book of poetry, We Grow Old, with Blackwaters Press. On amazon, it is described this way by Joe Farley:

Yu-Han Chao writes with delicacy and power. Her poems speak on many levels about life, relationships and personal nightmares. Her work flows from a mix of traditional Chinese culture, contemporary Taiwan and post-modern America. The resulting poems contain beauty and often wisdom. Many are worth reading over and over again.

The following short excerpt from the book has changed the way I view clocks--has sunk through layers of reflection to nestle deep. The title of the piece is “Song Zhong,” which means “Give Clock”:

The Chinese do not give each other clocks as a gift, because to song zhong, give clock, means to see someone to their grave, to be present at their deathbed, to give last rites.

The next Poetry Editor is Marilyn Shapley, self-described as a “life-long lover of poetry.” In her essay “Why Read Poetry,” she contrasts novels with poems. Of the former, she writes:

These books are places to lose your life, page by page; like sleep, a way to waste time, to follow another’s words down a lane of forgetting. Afterward, they sit on shelves or lay in dusty corners, are stuffed into rotting cardboard boxes and congregate in attics, waiting to grab my attention once again.

Shapley's Essay

The latter, on the other hand, transcend words to challenge and instruct many facets of her psyche:

How could they know that their words cease to be words at all to me but become, instead, an artist’s brush (or more nearly the paint itself ), bold strokes and small nuances that I am sure to miss on first reading. I sit with them, study them as I would a work of art in a gallery, straining to discover the artist’s essence on the canvas or catch the one detail of great importance to him. Sometimes it is a fleeting beauty that cannot be described regardless of the medium used — paint, glass, ink or paper — whatever it is, is just there, a moment of discovery tucked away in a remote place, preserved for the discriminating viewer or, in my case, fearful reader.

As you can see, the Poetry Staff at R&T is eclectic and iconoclastic, sagacious and meticulous. It’s an amazing team, a complex yet effective synergy. I want to thank them most fully for taking my poems, “In the Philosopher’s Condo” and “Cat Among Curios.” Look for the them in the Fall issue, due out October 15!

I didn’t get to mention (tempus fugit!) the interviews, reviews, podcasts and essays that appear in R&T. This is indeed a fantastic venue. As mentioned, without their support, I might have given up. Today, I am a little less worried about recognition. I know I will continue to pile up rejections, and that greatness will most probably elude me. I want to be the best writer I can; to work at it continuously because it feels right; and to express my ethos, passion, worldview--and also that mandalic phantasmagoria which courses my veins, daring to be visionary.

In all these things too, R&T has helped me.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Release: Wilderness House Lit Review # 6/3

Five of my poems just went up at Wilderness House Literary Review. It’s dark jaded stuff. I love this journal. If I were Dorian Gray, this journal would be the portrait I keep hidden.

The first poem, “Closet” is about suicide and is very close to my personal life:

Closet et. al.

I can turn my neck all the way around, because I’m an owl.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Acceptance: Blue Lake Review

Two of my poems were recently accepted and just appeared at Blue Lake Review:

Blue Lake Go!!

This great honor is extra special because the Poetry Editor, Diana May-Waldman, is a champion of women’s rights and the affirmation of women’s voices. It is clear from her writing that she understands the sad truth: oppression is a powerful and very damaging force in our own society, and also, of course, across the world.

Yes, some things have changed for the better. Women can now vote in many countries, a privilege that culminates centuries of struggle and protest; however, it took civilization 6000 years to get to this fragile perch of universal suffrage.

May-Waldman’s recent book of poems is titled A Woman’s Song:

A Woman's Song

It courageously challenges patriarchy, daring to study and criticize the traditional gender roles, as in the following excerpt. The poem is titled “Penis” and starts off with “I want a penis” and later gets here:

I want my penis to feel the tears of women
and understand the animal cruelty of its nature.
I want my penis to be deaf, never listening
to the voices that define what it means to be a man.

These are courageous words that disrupt the cultural programming which insidiously affects deep levels of our being. If this poem is uncomfortable, perhaps it is because it tells us we are biased about what women and men can and should say and do.

I am very grateful that my poems “Enlightenment” and “Suffering” appear in the latest issue of Blue Lake Review. And I want to thank the talented Diana May-Waldman not only for her diligence as an editor and poet, but also for her virtuous stand for equality, fairness and healthier relationships.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Poem, Read by Nic Sebastian, at Whale Sound

The day has finally arrived for my poem, "The Gods Reflect On Creation" to appear at Whale Sound:

Owl Who Laughs at the Gods

This is the best reading of my poetry I have every heard. Nic Sebastian is a genius!

My predication is that she will become very famous in the poetry world. Not only for her voice and editing, but for the quality of her own poetry as well. For example, these poems at Escape Into Life:

Sample of Sebastian's Poetry

More of my thoughts about Whale Sound:

Review of WS

Thanks for reading,