they’re filming a tv show in my tiny town [poem]

I’m not the only one who gawks at the scene
Handful of heads and cell phones below
Local photographer in charcoal appears
There will be others

My office, the room where I do all the things
the crying, the writing, the yoga, working, planning, painting
top floor of the old state bank. 1911 was it?
The center of this tiny town — Coleman
in the center of the pretty palm — Michigan
‘bloom where you are planted’
a sign reads in my window

Restaurant Impossible — a television show with goals
$10,000, a Hollywood crew in black, catering van out back
save the kafe on the korner
where friends & family gather
across the intersection from my space

36 people, the chosen, line up aside sun-scorched gray
vinyl siding. everyone is white, makes sense —
the crew is not, Hollywood — F-350 cab with box
truck, California plates, California people
in this tiny town, waiting to put dinner on the screen

Slate Suburban cruises by, hand in princess wave
a parade, past the dozens smiling
woman in lime flaps a hand
Is she happy to be seen?

Facebook event alerted of the news
I knew what I would do — watching, my son playing. Writing with a carbonated Michelob
noise-cancelling earbuds — good friends

Handsome state trooper pulls up
wait, a local cop. Cough, well done, tiny town
smiles at the just-arrived body guard in an Equinox
tinted windows. Two dozen people left standing.
Someone should bring these people water, chairs.

Did you know the Dollar General was closed today?
It’s the only place to go.
Woah. Two minutes later, did you know what arrived?
Chairs — enough for the ladies — and water bottles
Thank you thank thank you thank you

My best friend drives by, white Silverado
‘In God We Trust’ on the windshield
god — I love this tiny town. Did you know
last weekend, the annual ‘Night of Thunder’
our first in three years, my first in decades
it feels good to be back

The final extras now inside. Traffic cones are gone.
A crew member in skinny jeans pours leftover liquid down our drain
crushes bottles — love the California style — wonder
when will we all do the same

Perhaps this is travel enough —a perch
for people watching

Last time I watched a film crew, the desert
western Rajasthan, a Chinese team and Jackie Chan
dark-skinned extras, terrorists with dummy machine guns
on the steps of my renovated hippie style yellow home
a corner bastion in an 800-year-old fort
below me were the sleeping quarters
for elephants. My kitchen window over three feet thick.

India was incredible.
In its own super sweet way
so is this tiny town.
I’m grateful to be here

Good luck, Leah’s Korner Kafe
Looking forward to pancakes soon
You, too? Check them out.

is this the eye [poem?]

dog died
father lied
you’ve been asked to walk alone

yellow home
charras in the window

forest trees
come with me
banyan draped so heavenly

scooter ride
want to die
went so fast around the curves

feet in window
butt on seat
fingers barely find the keys


wonder when
I’ll find my feet

Many times I’ve sat to write. The journal is better these days —
pen flows without promise
of a reader
or two.

It’s amazing what it’s like to not want to be seen.

I remember what it was like ‘wanting’ to be seen. The loudest, the proudest, the best at this and that… It felt good to be seen.

And then, it did not feel good to be seen.

Right now, it does not feel good to be seen, perhaps because it feels people have expectations from me. To be wise. To be helpful. Or at least, to be cheerful.

I don’t want to be cheerful.

I want to paint smears of ochre yellow, purple, black, white across large canvasses. I want to paint foreheads, and cheeks, and chins. I want to paint people not smiling.

I want to paint the people, not smiling.

I am not smiling. If I am, I am likely not sober. It’s shitty. But it’s true, these days.

I’m often not smiling.

I am crying.

I am painting reflections on canvas.

They are often missing eyes, and nearly always missing
the likeness.

I am nearly always missing
the likeness
of what was
when I used to be what was it that I used to be?

Nevermind because right now, I don’t want to smile
because that would not be fair. There are so many people
not smiling.

I am one of them now.

And now, I have no words to offer you.

But I can paint you some ochre lips.

Would you like that?
I would
like that.

please let there be blue paint there, too? choosing to career again. [poem]

I stayed in bed all of today, save
four walks to the kitchen, the same
number of front door openings
so my yellow dog with a hard chest
could pee on sparkling snow, light blue
reflecting the Saturday sky of January.
I felt a fever, which made me scared not
in fear of this virus I’m told to be afraid
of, but of passing on a job interview, a
role I know I’ll get, and will accept, and for which
I will adjust my life accordingly.
I didn’t want to fuck it up, from
sickness, no I’d rather make that happen
by choice. I practiced pitches, the sales funnel steps and learned about aluminum trailers. Hours spent understanding trailers. Done, and still will there be
time for writing, for spreading blue
on white canvas, the feel of wonder
on my fingertips as they glide in
wet paint, creating something from
nothing. The not knowing feels the best, and yet
here I am, with wrinkles
a hairline moving back, an inch past
where Snapchat filters place
the hairline on my head. My scalp
hurts. Years of indecision hidden
under play, curious in deserts, dawdles
on Fridays in the forest and tuesdays
on airplanes. Who but I to set
my schedule, and still, a child played
with gray blue sand and flimsy clear
volcano molds on the table next to
me, behind the computer as I decided
not to let me be so unsure any longer.
From this bed today I practiced
elevator pitches, the fire in my pelvis
cooling with the minutes that pass. I
questioned to the doctor if his drugs
could be to blame. I wished never
to decide my steps from head and not
from heart, and yet I saw him sitting
there, tiny rocks falling from chubby
little hands, water falling on my face
“Don’t cry like that mommy” as my chin
dimpled in. “Mama’s trying to make it better,
little man” amongst the papers and
the mess I created ‘round myself, to
shield us from monotony that is
surely just ahead, when I clear
the mess I created ‘round myself, in
spreading blue on white canvas,
the feel of wonder on my fingertips
as they glide in wet paint,
creating something from nothing.

I will listen and I will believe you. — a New Year’s resolution and a promise to a little girl.

As her blue ocean eyes peered into mine of bluish green, her blonde curls falling beside her face the way mine did when I was her age, I told her “If there’s anything you ever need to say, and you don’t feel safe or sure to tell anyone else, you can always tell me. I will listen to you, and I will believe you. No matter what.”

My parents never told me that, and they never did that. Listened, believed unconditionally, helped make sense of it all, and then act appropriately.

I am not this young girl’s parent. I am her aunt, but I did see her come into this world and that moment was one of my life’s most profound. Those early months were magic. I sang her to sleep some days with mantras. I felt her beating heart on my own while she curled her legs up to her chest and nestled into a similar shape on my own limbs and torso. There is a shared experience between us star children.

I worry about her and her ability to be listened to, and to be believed. I worry often that she won’t find ears for her truths.

As I dig for clues behind the current rage and contempt in my heart at the cruelty in this world, and the pain and problems and their denial to be seen within people who share my own blood, I find a deep yearning, simply, to be listened to, and to be believed.

I find that much of my harder to feel emotions are covering a deep despair over not ever being unconditionally believed. And if I am not believed, then am I really seen? How could I have had worth in the eyes of those who are supposed to hold me unconditionally, if I was not listened to fully and then loved no matter what.

I realize, as a child, that it was not safe in my world to share my full truth. People were uncomfortable if they knew the sadness, the abuse, the reality, of my life. It was only safe to share my victories, not my losses. So, I created a lot of wins, perhaps, just to have a voice. Being better than is far superior to being real. (I’m so sorry for those I hurt when I was trying to be better than you.)

By not sharing the darkness of what I was experiencing, I allowed the storytelling of shame to begin within my hiding mind. Shame grows wild in the secrets and stories we keep to ourselves. (Brené Brown can fill you in on that if you’re not up to speed.)

Looking back, shame was all around me as a kid. It was in the denied depression and resentments of my mother, the overeating overworking over-angry high standards of my father. It was in my blood. And it filled my household.

There were moments when efforts were made, despite its presence, for genuine redemption (glory glory hallelujah) but were covered quickly with a round of “tell us about your perfection, kid number 2” at the post-Sunday church Chinese buffet.

I saw shame also in the sad eyes of some of my friends, in the lower middle class houses I passed in a school bus. My family’s house looked nicer than most on the outside, with its big weeping willow tree out front and the pony out back, but the farmhouse was cluttered, and unfinished (for as long as I lived there) on the inside.

Instead of finding ways to understand, I found ways to escape. Turns out, I wasn’t alone.

There were so many of us sharing our selves with each other, with our harvest season joints and our fifths of very bottom shelf vodka purchased at the Cherry Lane, with a passing round of cigarettes to burn holes in our arms that would scar circles forever. I felt belonging and believed in that badge akin to a polio vaccine wound. I wore it proudly. I had my tribe. And then I overdid it, everything, and saw the havoc I could create with enough charisma and a willingness to please. But it felt good to escape nonetheless. So I kept on… and perhaps still do.

I can’t fault anyone for being who they are, and for having only the tools they have. I know well enough that we are all a product of where we come from and the emotions of those around us when we’re young. But… I can be wiser than that, and choose differently than that, if I try hard enough. I fear I’m not trying hard enough. But I am trying.

So I told that little girl, with the ocean eyes that look into my own with a unique blend of sadness and spirit and a bucket of absolutely horrible beauty behind them, and I tell her that she will always be believed.

If there is ever confusion in her mind of why she feels a way that seems different from what she sees acted out around her, or if she is hurt, or forced, or wild with expansion… I want her to know she can share it without fear of being shushed.

I wonder what could have been if I felt safe to share.

I don’t want that little girl to grow into a woman who wonders what could have been. I don’t want her to impress everyone. I don’t want her to be unsafe in her body, so unsafe to feel what she feels that she hides any abuses passed her way even after an accomplice dies. I hope that she never has those stories to tell me.

I know the blood that raised me also raises her, in part, so I must try to show her another way than denial and avoidance and forced perfection.

I will listen, and I will believe you.

And I hope that she doesn’t need me in the end. I hope that she has that at her home, where should always be her most safe place. But if not, I’ll be there. Just like I try to be, insist on being, for my own son.

And for anyone who needs to be believed, I am here. My resolution for 2021 is to find more ways to listen. There are other bodies out there needing ears for their truths.

don’t take down the art asking to be seen [poem]

i don’t know where to put it, or him
this is his space, too, and i need to be respectful

not everyone should see the sulking frothing form of woman, bleeding
on walls and screens, on her face, smell of cannabis and tulsi smoke and death, asking

art asks
to be seen

so then how to do it
to cut the skin and drip it out
while also being a mother, a lover, a friend
this is his space, too, and i need to be respectful

not everyone needs to look at the choking chastised woman, without a bra
in her home just walking waltzing doing freedom flying birth and life, just asking

art asks
to be seen

so then let her be in art
create space on the inner side
grow rise never contract in the face of fear
new ways of thinking are required if we are to expand

not everyone need know language of the beings being without name or reason
cosmic worlds can speak in silent colors rhythms rhyme and guttural sounds, just asking

art asks
to be seen

i do know where to put it, or her
because this is my space, too, and i need to be respectful

you can forget the words– artist you yogi you writer you–once you’ve gotten the meaning [ram dass poetic teaching]

(ram dass said chuang tzu said)

the rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit.
once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare.
words exists because of meaning.
once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words

where can i find a man who has forgotten words so i can have word with him?
you don’t have to try or even to listen
we just have to be together and it will happen

thanks to ram dass and youtube and for 2020 for all of this that was and is to come

you are enlightened, said guruji, i tossed it back from the shore [poem]

the swans and eagles visited
when i lobbed your ancient firestone
in that indian lake

thousand years of resurfacing

took a second time, god tests me
i listen to my voice
more than his

baptised by my own free will
in that indian lake

if ganga wouldn’t take me
by golly, maybe kitch-iti-kippi
the icy freshwater spring can kill

unsure if the second choice was just
or if ’twas first, that did bring it back

which rhythm, songbird, shall you sing
you dove in after the second rock
fan of leaping, living for the taking

and poof!, that is that, small splash

in throwing him the second time
returned a gift of bluestone, green, from gray
when i looked upon the shore, you were still there, love

i’m making a new choice this time
not gold, not black. pure

allow what is to be

and we shall see how many
years will pass by, before you come again

love is love [poetic teaching]

what is it, you say
(baba ram dass), about


when we’re in the presence
our hearts experience joy and expansion, which
and within experiencing it, we’e free to be

and so, you say
(baba ram dass)

THE HEART will lead your authentic
EXPANSION if we allow it to
SEEK ITSELF over and over and over
AGAIN SEEKING, finding itself

so then, you say
(baba ram dass)

in the presence of
our SELF is experiencing its SELF

so then, you say
(baba ram dass)

(baba ram dass) two things, maybe three


2) Know the LOVE is also YOU and ENDLESS and INFINITE and is is what is, so just RELAX

3) Don’t attach LOVE to an object or experience. Once it has been felt, ever, really felt between people, animals, places, situations, EVER, it is ALWAYS a part of YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS. BE GRATEFUL FOR THE LOVE AND let it go with GRACE. Period.

who is baba ram dass [in gratitude]

i am an unworthy phony who has moments of holiness, he said

i am not a holy being
who now
and then

imagine a wheel
hub in the center

now and then through
intense trauma
and sadhana, or the love of a guru, or something

moments of liberation
you go
ahhh you see who you are and it’s

all beautiful and then you’re off balance and
i oughta meditate

then the weight has flipped and then you’re off balance and
i oughta stop meditating and do the dishes

you don’t have to go to india
your teachings will be right here
and then he disappeared.

in gratitude to he that is ram dass, rest in forever liberation and light.
gratitude to you, ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram ram.

golden cosmic wisdom water cannot pour from empty cups. tibet, i see you. [poem]

silent and still
upon the plateau

can you imagine what it’s like?
just. beings. just. being.
vessels of golden cosmic wisdom water
ready to enlighten

        who can pour from an empty cup?

man wants just the taking, of the taking of the man
not leaving lone magnificence, righteous rights
wisdom is free for all, and within
just. beings. just. being.

        who can pour from an empty cup?

without place to fill their jugs
without sacred drops to drink
without rivers to reach the world

silenced and still
upon the plateau

can you imagine what it’s like?
just. beings. just. being.
vessels of golden cosmic wisdom water
ready to enlighten

        who can pour from an empty cup?

tibet, i see you.
acceptance, patience, equanimity soon will come

mercy, please offer us water. we have thirst.
man, give us back our water wells, our rivers, truths, source.
WE ARE READY but man wants just the taking, of the taking of the man
not leaving lone magnificence, righteous rights

wisdom is free for all and within
just. beings. just. being.

silent and still
upon the plateau

can you imagine what it’s like? [poetic teaching]

(krishna says in the og bg)
he who teaches those who do not want to hear
is performing an immoral act
                but you couldn’t anyway

it is only at the point that you ask the question
that you can hear the answer

it is only at the point when it begins to dawn on you that maybe
all the methods you had available to you thus far
aren’t going to be enough

all we can do at this point is to
share our journeys with one another (thanks, ram ram dass)

as the heart opens
again, if they surrender

vairagya letting go
the karmic eventual non-attachment
the most sincerest of seekers, or life experiencers, will feel

        as the heart opens
        again, if they surrender

all paths lead to the same place
you can get some of the dynamics of method
other pilgrims walking the true path without a path to follow
only the heart opening
watch in wonder

        as the heart opens
        again, if they surrender

silent break ups with boy friends suck [poem]

        did you realize
        you’d broken up?

paint pours, you contour his
cheeks, white pink flesh, two moles
best friend, he was, he was
for many, years ago

and the others?
alan beaver the blonde twins, best friends
trusted them, with your hurt
left you wild, with your hurt
        more than anyone

what about forrest?
friend, heart smart, strong, vata as fuck
        where is he?

        no one, there
        the mat, breath in, breath out
        he was, they were, smoke

come back, guys
sorry, pussy ‘tween my legs
i’m down to hang
like i always was

        more to give than goodies
        i’ll keep my crazies down

the big, deep, spring [poem]

for twenty-five new dawns
i propose a mid-day drive
something to look forward to

the big, deep, spring
not far from where i lay my head
beside gray-brown heavy curls
of my now toddler son

we went on a drive today
it snow and was the first time since it stopped, not that long ago
today it arrive, arrived, and arrived

the cops were there
       that was unexpected, and terrifying

babe wished to go home
before i’d wished anything
fight flight or freeze
never been my style with badged officials
i ask why not a raft ride
        that was unexpected, and terrifying

spotted brown, lake, brook trout
chunk of dishwater hair floating
jesus christ what the fuck
        that was unexpected, and terrifying

an only parent, with a son
and a 12-year-old golden witness
no one else, no jury
        that was unexpected, and terrifying

big swing push, biggest swing push
loaded up the car and crew
pulled out in a line of three

two cherokees, two and a half indians
enough support to get moving
i drove west, they split off

five miles from our place, a rental
cozy covid safe haven in the north, home.
car off. cries out

never have i ever been so close to
losing someone
like that
        that was unexpected, and terrifying

Opium in a baggy at the tea stahl [poem]

Black tar, she enjoyed this kind
in high school, rolled small balls
smoked in a marijuana joint
sometimes fired on its own

where in the world did
midwestern teenagers get this
poppy product adored by the Rajasthani man
tar-stained teeth, no shame

offers it to the American
mother in a navy a-line skirt sitting beside
chubby toddler in his tan and black fedora

it was always her favorite drug
pretended not to love it
she remembered the high well
smooth, relaxed, easy

for 16 years whenever asked
which she preferred best
last time she tried it, was a child

two men sat on a bench, cornered
across, in the cement block tea stahl near the fort first gate
pale blue button downs neatly pressed
brown skin, just a few shades darker than
their milky tea in slender glasses

government workers, kind dumb simple eyes
on the plastic baggy of opium held open to
the mother, eyes wide yet smaller than her own

she watched them watch her
the son, the baggy, chocolate inside
the mother clenches her jaw, purses her lips
hostage status in the exchange

Take opium? He asked, smirk and gentle smile
slides the black tar
his finger and the dime-sized dollop
oozing, My life is clean now
I heard her say, did you hear

he pressed resin on a pink tongue
skin scraped against sharp teeth below.
winding the baggy round itself, returned to a pocket
reached for water before the son, half liter
down his throat, just like that
he crossed his legs above the knee

now, a swallow of chai
held the glass with charisma, confidence
strange sexiness in the dark, this man

son banged a red litchi juice carton on the table
demanding attention from the audience, watching

name is Garfur, he told her, relative of
the politician who owns her hotel
last name Khan of the muslim warrior clan, three
daughters, one son, worked in camels before now
tuk tuk driver

life is good
opium cigarettes marijuana chai
easy life

who knows what my future brings
I heard her say, did you hear

now, this isn’t for me

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India // spring 2019
edited for form November 2020