Prose & Poetry 2020

The Overrated Agony of Insomnia

I was at the end of my rope. For five nights I had not slept more than a two or three hours. Now I was facing another day of brain-fogged exhaustion, battling the unthinkable possibility: What if I never sleep again? Will I die, or go crazy?

This was nothing new – I’ve had bouts of insomnia for decades. It was, of course, stress, which is, of course, everywhere. My current list of stressors included my partner’s health, my grown kids’ various problems, selling our house, and our impending long-distance move. Not to mention dangerous fools running the world.

Regardless, I’d been doing ok, managing to sleep in spite of everything. Until five days ago, when out of the blue something happened that made my stress-o-meter blow its delicate fuse. 

It was a friend’s horror story that did it. In the course of being a good neighbor, my friend found himself suddenly entangled in a situation of violence that included death threats. That phone call woke me up like a knife in the ribs.

I did the only two things I knew how to do to help: I sat down and imagined him safely floating in an island of light, and I stayed awake worrying. Not so much about him, as about myself…

I did the staying awake to perfection. Five nights in the sleep desert, mind racing and eyes wide. If that didn’t solve the problem, I didn’t know what would. 

But now I was done. I couldn’t take any more. I had to find my off-switch.

That was easier said than done. Over the years I’d tried everything in the book, and the only thing that worked more or less reliably was a highly addictive, dementia-inducing sleeping pill. And that was something I was determined to avoid.

But what else was there? 

When I reach my wits’ end, I often call my old friend Fernando. 

Fernando has a particular talent: bursting illusion-balloons. He loves to provoke people, teasing them until they see the absurdity of their fondest beliefs. His sage advice has helped me come through many impossible situations. 

It takes a lot to get me to call him – asking for help is so embarrassing. But five nights without sleep and I was ready to be embarrassed. Planting myself on the deck in the sunshine, I called Fernando. 

When I explained what was going on, he said, “Oh yes, I know about our friend’s situation. Things seem to be working out. A difficult problem, but things will most likely be fine.”

“That’s good,” I said, “but I have got to do something about my insomnia. This not sleeping is really getting to me.”

“Ah, insomnia,” he responded. “One of the most overrated problems ever!”

That was the last thing I expected. “What do you mean?” I asked him.

“I know insomnia causes a lot of suffering,” he replied. “I myself have been having more trouble sleeping as I get older – but what I’ve noticed is that even when I don’t sleep enough, I’m really ok.” 

I thought about this. Much as I hated not sleeping, I had to admit that I’d been functioning ok these last several days, even though I’d only gotten a few hours of sleep a night, if that.

The idea intrigued me. It resurrected a possibility that had raised its innocent head more than once in the past: What if I could actually learn to live with my sleeplessness, maybe even take advantage of it? More hours in the day, after all, would not be amiss.

I had never contemplated this idea for more than a fraction of a second before shoving it back into the realm of impossibility. But now, with someone else going so far as to suggest it, maybe – just maybe – I could give it a chance.

“You know,” I ventured, “I think you might be right. I guess I have been more or less ok all week, at least physically…”

I paused, looking back over the years, and had to admit that this seemed to be consistently true true. Sleep or no sleep, my body was usually more or less ok.

If my body was ok, what was the problem? What was making me so miserable?

The answer was obvious. It was how I felt emotionally. 

“You know,” I told Fernando, “I do think most of my insomnia suffering comes from worrying about it, much more than anything physical. Sure, I’m tired sometimes, but that’s not so terrible. I can always take a nap or a rest and if I need to, and I generally get through the day ok.”

“Of course,” said Fernando. “It’s the dread of not sleeping that is the killer. If you aren’t afraid of not sleeping, and you just stay awake, what’s the problem?”

That was the question. Was there a problem? 

I had always believed there was. But why? 

I remembered how it started, when I had my first run-in with insomnia as a teenager. At that age my upset had had to do with how I saw myself. I wanted to be OK, to be normal, not some freak. Everyone sleeps, and if you can’t, there’s obviously something wrong with you. I was miserable until the doctor gave me the pink pills. They did the trick, even though I later found out they were placebos. I believed they would make me ok, and they did.

After that, although my desire to be “normal” persisted, I had no problem sleeping until my forties. It was when I was raising three little kids and publishing a newspaper at the same time that the stress of it all got to me. Staying up all night again and again to get the paper out, I pushed my endocrine system over the brink, and ended up with chronic insomnia.

At first when that happened, I just struggled. Lying wide awake and quietly panicking, I tried to force myself to sleep. Of course that did nothing but wake me up more. 

Then I tried the things that were supposed to work if you were normal: I took hot baths, ate turkey, had foot rubs, and I even counted sheep. Nothing worked. 

Clearly I was not normal. 

So I went to the medical experts. They agreed with me, this was a serious problem. 

They sent me to a sleep hygiene class, where I learned all the dos and don’ts of sleep, none of which were of any use. The only thing I got out of that class was proof that I was right. I was abnormal, and nothing would work on me. 

If nothing would work, I was a goner. According to doctors and scientists alike, the prognosis for anyone who doesn’t sleep normally is grim. Who knows how many cancers are caused by years of wear and tear on the immune system from lack of sleep? Not to mention a host of other ghastly conditions. So on top of being a hopeless case who might quite possibly spend the rest of my life awake, I was doomed to die of cancer or lose myself in Alzheimer’s… 

As the evidence of my doom mounted, my terror of not sleeping grew. Hulking over me like an evil cloud, it rained down its morbid warning: sleep or die!

At last, when my husband was dying of cancer, my insomnia became unbearable. I went again to my doctor. Maybe I should try sleeping pills? 

I’d always resisted taking pharmaceutical sleep aids. This was partly because I didn’t want to get addicted, but mostly because I was afraid they would do nothing. Then I would truly be in a pickle, utterly beyond the reach of modern science. 

But now I had no choice. I had to get enough sleep so I could be there for my husband. 

“What do you think,” I asked the doctor. “Should I try some kind of sleep medication?”

“Yes, of course,” he answered without hesitation. “Any time you can’t sleep, it’s an emergency. I’ll give you a prescription for Ambien. It’s not so bad.”

That did it. If a doctor said it was an emergency, I had to find a way to beat my insomnia at all costs. Even a pill reputed to wreak havoc with memory and other vital functions would be better than dying from some hideous illness or going crazy from not sleeping…

I got the prescription. Miraculously, it worked, and I took it for a year, until my husband died. Then the Ambien stopped working, so I got a new prescription, for a drug called Clonazepam. 

Ambien was ok, but Clonazepam worked wonders. I still love it, it knocks me out like a light. But it is highly addictive, and if you get hooked you have to wean yourself off it slowly, and even then it can be a wild ride. I’ve gotten off it three times. The worst part is the satanic voices in my head… 

Regardless, I’ve gone back to that sweet poison again and again, especially when I travel. And if my trip lasts longer than ten days, I’m hooked, and have to wean myself off it all over again.

I didn’t tell Fernando all this, that morning on the deck – just about the doctor telling me insomnia was an emergency. 

Fernando snorted with disbelief. “An emergency?!”

Later that day I told another friend the same story. 

“Hah!” she laughed, “the only emergency is the doctor’s bank account!”

No one seemed to understand how I could have taken that seriously, about insomnia being an emergency. Now that I thought about it, it did seem just a tad naïve.

After contemplating this remarkable comprehension, I figured I might just give Fernando’s proposal a try. Might just try being ok with the way I am, sleepless. Maybe I’d just keep the pills for a last resort…

And so I did it. I let go – dropped my ancient fear of not sleeping like an old hat. 

It was easy – much easier than worrying – and an immense relief. Because no matter how I justified using sleeping pills to squash my insomnia, I had never felt quite right about it. I knew I was avoiding something that I really might be able to face. And that made me uncomfortable.

In reality it wasn’t just my insomnia I was refusing to face – it was my life. I had always dreamed of living without having to struggle against myself, against my tendencies. What would it be like to just let everything be, and live with myself exactly as I am? I had never dared…

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t about to abandon all fear, delightful as that might be. My fears were there to keep me safe. Even the fear of insomnia was well-intended and clearly justified: it was there to protect me from the many well-documented perils of sleep deprivation.

But the fear of insomnia, unlike the fear that keeps me from stepping in front of an oncoming bus, was making things worse, not better. My body was already flooded with fight-or-flight chemicals at all the wrong times just from being alive in the 21st century, and the more I panicked about sleeping, the more I couldn’t.

So I figured it was like living in an earthquake zone. If that’s where you live, you don’t just up and leave. You accept that there might be an earthquake any moment, and go on with your life. 

That’s what I did with my insomnia. I accepted it. I decided that it was ok. That it was normal for me. That I could live with it.

It was like stepping off a cliff and finding out that I’d grown wings.

After that the small miracles began. The first was that I lost my fear of clocks.

I used to refuse to look at the clock after bedtime, because I was sure that the lateness of the hour would distress me, and that distress would keep me awake. So I never had a clock in my bedroom, and turned my eyes away from any glowing digital time pieces I might encounter when I got up at night to pee. At hotels I turned every clock to the wall, and hung a towel over the glowing numbers on the microwave. 

Just losing that little fear was lovely. Now whatever the time was, I was ok with it. No longer did I have to tell myself it was really quite early, while being sure it was really quite late, without being able to face the unknown truth, whatever it was. 

I even began to write down the time whenever I woke up so I could keep track of my sleep patterns. And the next day I would observe how I felt after such and such an amount of sleep. I was becoming my own scientific experiment!

An even greater marvel is that I’ve stopped taking sleeping pills when I travel. Unless I know I’m going to have to drive long distance, I now dare to sleep in strange beds pill-free. At first it might be challenging, but I can take being tired the next day. And little by little, I get used to it, and actually sleep. It’s amazing.

And a great, unexpected bonus: with the stress element missing, I seem to need less sleep. Now I usually feel physically fine even after only a few hours of sleep.

All this has brought up an outlandish possibility. If I’m not stressed about it, could insomnia be less of a death sentence? I mean, isn’t it mainly stress that sends us careening headlong toward all those dire illnesses? 

Whatever the case, all is well. 

Because more than anything I feel clean. Clean and neat, as if I’ve put on a white dress, freshly ironed and smelling of the wind. As if I’ve ironed all the wrinkles out of myself.

Not that I’ve magically become an expert sleeper. Sometimes I still can’t get to sleep. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and stay that way. I imagine I will always have nights where I get no sleep at all, and days when I am exhausted, and even quite uncomfortable. And now and then, I will take a sleeping pill.

But none of that will be weird or wrong or abnormal. It will be ok. Because I am fine, alive and kicking, and stronger and more courageous than I thought.    

It happened

I was visiting my son. As usual the world was about to come to a violent end. The poor idiot who had landed himself in the white house was intent on ending everything in the most splendid of firestorms. 

My son and I were playing music, he on the guitar and with his reedy deep voice, and I sometimes on my recorder, and sometimes singing. We had just finished playing “Blackbird” by the Beatles.

It was so sweet, this making of music with my tall, lovely son, that the poignancy of life filled me with sudden anguish – the anguish that has accompanied the world since mothers have had children. How could it be that we were still here? 

Usually I put a brave face on it. Why not pretend? Why not imagine the best, instead of the worst? Caught in the stream of life like a minnow in the rapids, my intention keeps frenetically rebuilding the future – if only if only if only if only if only…

But today I am overcome. I blurt out, “Oh sweetheart, do you ever regret having been born?”

He looks up from his guitar, his eyes kind and amused and amazed.

“What kind of question is that!?”

“Oh, it’s just that ever since you guys were born, I’ve been so aware that everything could end in a flash. Now this idiot is puffing his stupid smoke signals to North Korea and Russia, threatening who knows what, and the whole world could go up in smoke any moment…it’s just so tragic and horrible. We live each day as if we had all the time in the world – and any moment could be our last!”

He looked at me imperturbably.

“Yes,” he said with the most peaceful of smiles, “but the day happened!”

It happened. And it IS happening. And that is all that matters.

His calm filled my heart. Where did this young man come from? How could the universe have given me such a gift?

Fountain of Life

A lot of people agree with the Buddha. Life mostly sucks, they say. Now and then you may bump into an oasis of pleasure, but you can only stay there so long, and then it’s back to crossing the desert of suffering. Maybe heaven is on the other side, or maybe the world just drops off into nothingness. It doesn’t matter. For now you’re crossing the desert.

I may be naive, but it doesn’t really convince me. What about babies, and music, and sunlight, and waterfalls, and all the other things that put us in touch with the divine?

Still, the desert of suffering is pretty enormous, and a lot of people are dying of thirst as they struggle to cross it.

Maybe that’s why I am currently obsessed with Water. There’s this fountain near my apartment, the Keller Fountain. It’s outrageous – right in the middle of the city, surrounded on all four sides by multiple lanes of asphalt, is this mammoth, cascading, many-layered mega-waterfall. Its designer must have been possessed by bevy of naiads who wanted a place to play, because when the city turns on the fountain in the summer, they all come out of hiding to frolic in its sparkling waters, filling the air with their mirth.

Every day this summer I’ve been drawn there, toward the sound of splashing that reaches you before you can see where it’s coming from. When I get there, I creep into a shady spot under a pine tree and sit on the cool concrete, staring into the water coursing down its channel like liquid glass, full of glints of gold and green, to spread out and pour over ledges into wide, deep basins where children play on hot days. Above me the small pine holds stillness in its still branches… 

All kinds of people come here to worship the water. At the edge of one of the pools, a young woman with gold in her hair smiles while her two elfin little boys tiptoe around the water, testing the air like puppies, delving into this reality that is so wonderful and new. Across the street a man with an orange flag leads a chain of bright-clad toddlers into the crosswalk toward this layer cake of tumbling waters. On the grass a dusty man sleeps, his legs marvelously locked in half-lotus, mouth half-open in dream. A cafeteria worker sits on a bench, gazing at the golden coal of her cigarette tip, and a troupe of Segways lands in front of her like a flock of chariot birds, pausing and wobbling slightly as their leader lectures them about how a Bulgarian woman named Angela dreamt this place up years ago...

Here in this oasis, the joy of the laughing, sweet water fills me to overflowing – that is why I cannot leave, but sit here entranced for hours. Somehow the singing, sweet flowing water gives me courage to be at peace, to stop disagreeing with the world. 

I know there is suffering all around me, and I try to feel compassion, but it does not come easy. I am no Cinderella, to want to wear humanity’s glass slipper, which fits me perfectly but always hurts. 

But of course I need to feel compassion, because I myself will certainly suffer again. It’s a problem of perspective. Peering out into the enormity of creation through the narrow peephole of my human existence, I want things to fit my tiny perspective, and when they don’t, which is often, I suffer. I’m too attached to my body and the bodies of my dear ones to allow the universe to just do as it will with them without protesting loud and long.

Usually I spend enormous energy disagreeing what already is. My children left, my flesh is sagging, the climate is changing, insanity is in power. That’s the way it is! I disagree with it, but it already is. I hate it, but when I sit by the water and let down my guard, trust sneaks up on me. Just for a moment, I stop disagreeing, and the wind goes out of the sails of my suffering. 

And that’s a good thing. Peacefulness is possible. It isn’t an instant fix-all; it goes in fits and starts, wandering about like a toddler in the park, meandering, taking its time, getting lost. But things do get better if you keep at it. Sure, I still don’t get what I want a lot of the time, but the older I get, the less I care. 

After all, when my body’s time is up, all the flourishes I have ever made to leave my mark on the world will vanish as if they never were. And for me, the world itself will vanish as if it never was. Everything will be like a moment’s array of bubbles on the surface of a river flowing toward the sea. 

If that is so, why do I keep wanting to sing, to make poetry, to fill the world with beauty? Because life is a gift, and whether or not the gift seems flawed, the only thing to do is celebrate it. 

So I celebrate the gift of being here with this faithful body and this clear awareness, the gift of this world full of remarkable people and other living things. I celebrate life and give thanks to wherever it came from, and wherever it is going. Because I know it’s going somewhere…

And when the inevitable dark wind sweeps through my life with its dictatorship of chaos and loss, then I hope I will remember the fountain of life: the delight of its rushing streamlets, the cool depths of its trembling pools, the kindness and generosity of its waters that never stop giving and giving. I hope I will remember to dip my hands and my whole body into its sweet, clear depths, to drink deep of its truth.

And then, in whatever new and unfamiliar place I wake up again, to begin the new day by giving thanks to the sun for rising, and by offering my hand with a smile and a kind word to all I meet.

At the Venetian 

If you pursue pleasure

You enchain yourself to suffering

But as long as you do not harm your health

Enjoy without inhibition 

When the opportunity presents itself…

- Silo’s Message

Alone in this Las Vegas hotel

With its elevated canals 

Of real water and real gondolas

Under a marvelously real

Fake baroque sky

This place I never wanted to go

Or ever even imagined being

I sit bemused with delight

At my enjoyment of being here

Awash in luxury

On the 20th floor

Of this monument to excess

I’ve just had

The most delicious 

Cup of coffee

And my very innards are singing

Here in our elegant suite

Nobody else around

Looking out

Over Caesar’s Palace

And Harrah’s

And an unreachable

Many layered cascading lake

Like a liquid wedding cake

Glimmering heaven-like

Under the hot sky

And I think of all

The humans

Here in this outer-inner world

This bardo of hope and greed 

All the just-a-larks

Or I-can’t-stop-get-me-out-of-heres

Or why nots?

Or just happenstance, like me

So many dreams

Unfolding in a zillion

Personal galaxies 

Spinning out their endless stories

Around all of us

All-important “me’s”

And whether or not

We are all quite having fun yet

I open my heart 


To all these souls

My kindred

Whatever our commonality

Or lack thereof

Whether we are

Right or left

Wrong or right

Or wherever in between

And I am content

Gliding here on my 

Caffeine high


At the coincidence of dreams

That landed me 

In this remarkable spot

For this little interlude

Of time

And I give thanks

For everything and nothing

For the sheer


Unreasonable fact

Of Being.

Bedtime Prayer 


Hello, God? 

Yes, this is He.

Oh wow, I can’t believe it, I got through! 

And who might this be?

Oh, just me - one of your eight billion plus - but God, are You for real? You’re not just all in my head?

On the contrary – your head is all in Me. 

Oh – that’s weird. 

Really? I had no idea. But you called – to what do I owe the pleasure?

God, I’m desperate, I need help!

Hmmm, and what seems to be the problem?

I’m just sick of everything - life has no meaning, no one loves me, I’ve lost everything, if this goes on, I’m going to kill myself!

That’s understandable.

But God, what should I do?

Oh you know, love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, that kind of thing - it’s all in the Manual…

That’s all You can say?

No, I am capable of many utterances…

But I need to know what to do!

Sorry, that’s all I can tell you.

But then what good are you?

By one definition, I am nothing but Goodness. 

Good grief…

Yes, grief is good...

Stop pulling my leg!

I’m not, but I can if you want –

No, please, God, if You are who You say You are, surely You can just give it to me straight –

Unfortunately, the obvious truth is not my department. You might try some other deity though – after all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat!

Will you stop talking in parables?

Certainly – I misspoke. Cats are nice.

Heh – yes. Well, thanks God. Have a good night. 

Any time, my child, 

Any time. 

Dear God

How is this fair?

Unlike many

Or even most of your subjects

I’ve lived an easy life

Full of kind and decent folk

I still have all my kids

And both my kidneys

Knock on wood

And have never once been chased 

By an angry person 

With a knife

Oh, I’ve had my ups and downs

My big losses

And moments of despair,

But most of the time you’ve been merciful

And this has been so from the start

Before I ever had a chance at sin.

Weirder still, your mercy

Often seems to bless the villains

And avoid the pure and sweet

I just don’t see you wielding

The laws of Karma

Good and Evil
Crime and Punishment

The way they say you do.

The closest I can come

To understanding you

Is through my occasional stabs

At Compassion 

For the victims of your wacky 

Decision-making process

But then I’m no student 

Of Divinity, in fact

You seem to have endowed me

With a pitiful spiritual IQ

So all I can assume

Is that somehow

You know what you’re doing

Meanwhile I remain 

Naively yours

Without the slightest doubt

That when you yank 

That last rug out

From under me

I’ll find myself 

Safe and sound 

Riding high 

Cleaving the blue familiar sky

On a first-rate chauffeur-driven

Flying carpet

Perhaps a tad astounded

But sweetly bound

For your 

Utterly unreasonable glory.

Dear God, 

How is this fair?

Unlike many

Or even most of your subjects

I’ve lived an easy life

Full of kind and decent folk

I still have all my kids

And both my kidneys

And I’ve never once been chased 

By an angry person 

With a knife

Oh, I’ve had my ups and downs

My losses

And moments of despair,

But I remain happily naïve

And have no doubt

That when you yank 

That last rug out

From under my behind

I’ll find myself 

Safe and sound 

Riding high 

Cleaving the blue 

Familiar sky

On a first-rate 


Flying carpet

Perhaps a tad astounded

But sweetly bound

For glory.

Death comes like a dancer

Death comes like a dancer

Black and exultant

Striding and turning with great gestures

Gathering all

Terrifying and beautiful

Fierce and impersonal 

He comes whirling from the side

When you least expect him

Young and proud he comes

Power streaming from him


The New

Endlessly Everyone Day


- for Jaydra and Noah


Returning at last

To the unmasked ball

To renew myself

So long overdue

I’m swept up

By more friends

Of every impossible sort

Than I ever imagined

Could fit in my heart

And we all fall in love

Twirling and whirling

Eye to eye

On our way somewhere wonderful

Deep in the sky

Mistakes and confusion

Our tickets to ride

No one ever

Left behind or aside

And surprise is the game

As all of us fly


And away

And away

And away

Awake as can be on this 

One and only

Divinely danceable

Endlessly Everyone 


Failing at Failure

“After many days I discovered

this great paradox:

Those who bore failure in their hearts 

were able to illuminate the final victory, 

while those who felt triumphant 

were left by the wayside 

like vegetation 

whose life is muted and diffuse.”

- Silo, The Inner Look

I used to be a perfect failure

Full of angst

Sure of getting into heaven

On the merit of my

Poverty of spirit alone

But these days

I remind myself

Of a happy squash

Or a leaf of chard

Waiting to be sauteed

With onions and raisins

And sunflower seeds

I’m just too content

I don’t mind life

Oh sure, sometimes 

I’m miserable, even terrified

But that passes

And then there’s joy

Like the cat 

Rushing in the door

To jump on my bed

And tell me her story

Or like the deep pleasure

Of telling someone the truth
Without fear

I find happiness

In cooking dinner

In wiping down the counter

In writing silly words

In the quest

For poetry

Why pretend?

I’m just not suffering


Oh, I’m sure my time will come

And then

Maybe I’ll have a chance

At salvation

But if I die today

And just blink out like a light

From being too content

Then that’s the way it is –

Although I don’t believe it

For a minute

But have no doubt 

That clemency awaits

All the pure of heart

Even those who’ve only failed

At bearing failure

In their hearts.

First Two of the Twelve Steps of the Morphological Discipline

Today I wrap myself in my mother’s shawl

And sit down with my Guide

Who looks at me expectantly


There are twelve steps to this thing

And I’m stuck on two,

I confess-complain

Patiently he looks at me 

Which calms me down

Then he squeezes my hand for luck

Have a good time!

And sends me through the gate again

Into the Infinite Plane

And there I stand

Alone in the open 

Where anything can happen 

But now his voice comes soft in my ear

Here’s what you do:

Let the horizon in front draw near

And the horizon on both sides 

And the horizon behind 

So I do

And find myself standing

In the middle

Of the courtyard of infinity

This is better, I think

Nice and secure

But there’s more, he says

Let the square become 

A circle

So I do

And the circle is comfortable 

But now he’s telling me

Let white petals rise up

And close above you

And as above

So below

And again

I follow his instructions

Until I find myself

Afloat in a commodious globe 

That holds me

And the whole wide world 

In a mother-of-pearl goblet of light

Which I like even more

Maybe I am 

The Jewel

In the lotus?

But he’s not done

Now let the whole thing contract

Damn - this makes no sense at all

After I’ve come this far

And am so comfortable here

But I’ve agreed to this

So I do my best

And let my lovely globe 

Begin to dwindle

Tinier and tinier all around me

A miniature world

With me inside

The tiniest possible

Crystal ball

Until at last

We are both nothing 

But a mote 

Of infinite light

In my heart

And this

Is the moment

Of conception

To be continued…

Flute sound

From within

I blow

A round note

That grows outward

Until it fills all space

Then bursts

Into nothing

Leaving only

Emptiness and


For My Son Who Dances

When you were two

Dancing wildly

Around the living room

To Handel’s 

Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

You marveled

“My muscles are good!

My muscles are in my tummy!”

And now

Look what has happened:

Tall with

Muscles galore

You still dance

From the muscles in your tummy,

Hanging loose

Like a well-oiled marionette,

Dangling yourself

By the string of your soul,

Infecting everyone around you

With delight.

And although 

Now and then 

You may fall into disrepair

As do we all

Never fear

For you dance 

From what is deathless inside you

From that sweet kernel

Of Trust 

That protects you

From all true harm

So it’s simple

All you need to do

Is dance through life 

My boy

As only random gladness tells you

And sow your gifts 

All around you

Like a gentle rain 

Of kindness.

For my four husbands

You were all so different

and still are

but it doesn’t really matter

what we think

or say

or do

because always

I am I 

and you

are you


you were a surly 

fifties greaser 


while you schemed 

to steal the treasure

from the world’s heart

Next you were 

a young man dancing 

your way 

to jaded success

in colors that did not exist

until you stumbled

all unwitting

on a treasure

hidden deep within


you were a gentle 


space case lover 

of the deeps

who dwelt with me

in tender

and astonished


And now

you are a crusty old Jew

sitting atop your wall of doubt

laughing out loud

at the way the sun

comes up each day


And I

girl, woman, 

wife, mother, and crone

have been

happy foa

Formal meditation

In and out of fantasy I float 

Centered in my sphere

Two small girls sitting near 

The guide asks them

Who here is your kin?

And they turn to me, “She is!”

Which fills my heart 

With sweetest cheer

fulfillment in the parking lot

how fine to stroll 

this quiet walkway

everything waiting

in its proper place


quiet for a while

beside a swath

of clipped grass shining

each blade holding high

its cup of dew

this Japanese maple

holding out her delicate hands

in greeting

every sign standing

in its place



or a name

and I too


in my place 

every thought and feeling

every breath

and every step

in its proper place

in its proper time

Here in the Center

Here in the Center

of the living Universe

you and I are one

as multiplicity and the void

are one

and sound and silence 

light and dark

warm and cold

form and transformation

are one


We bless

This sacred world

On verticality versus sphericity

Have you ever noticed

The shape

Of things?

How like a tower of power

And doom is the world,

The wealthy aloft 

In the penthouse

The janitor 

Scrounging his living

With the coal fire

Down below

Only dissatisfaction in between

And no place else

To go?

We lowly ones

Can only dream

Of the heights

Where the rare birds roost


in their plumage

And dropping their gifts

On our heads

Maybe that’s what 

Artists are for,

To launch themselves

Secretly toward the heights

In the dead of night

And bring back 

Sacred traces

Of what they’ve seen


Helping us dream

Carnival rides can do that too

In their own way

I saw one

The other day

Called the Slingshot

Where you pay

To settle your warm 

And trusting buns

In a rubber seat

While the giant 

Holding your life in his hands

Aims high into the sky

Pulls back his enormous arm

And lets fly

And there you go


Into the helpless afternoon

Your insides


Until you hit the zenith

And tha-runk

Down you plunge

Your stomach

In your mouth

Then up…

Then down…

Then up again

Down up down up


After they peel you

From the seat

A mere dribble 

Of your former self

But cured of all your foolish dreams

You go and fill your void

With any of a dizzying array

Of processed protoplasm products

And then go home

To rest so that

The following day

You may obey 

Your boss

And stay alive

In the basement 

Of the Hive.

Sadly, to date

This is our collective fate

Here in the land

Of up and down

Where we wear ourselves out

Between good and bad

Delight and dread

Hope and fear

Until we rebound

For the final hurrah

Hoping we land

on our feet

But pretty sure

We will end up

A mere smear

On the street

This is the way it has been

Forever and a day.

But now let me say

That if you are tired 

Of this ballyhoo

Fed up with running

After impossible and empty success

Ready to accept

The failure 

Of all you hold dear

You might wish

To listen 

When I tell you

That there is a way

Out of here

It’s not an up and down way

But rather

A spherical gesture, 

And it’s no guarantee

For this is certainly

All in your head

But if you’ve had enough

Of the carnival ride

You might just want to set aside

A moment or two

To do 

What I tell you to do

So here it is:

Suspend disbelief

Stop insisting 

On things making sense

Because that 

Is the way

Of up and down

And if you don’t let go of that

You’ll be stuck there



Just glance up above you

Not into the air

But into your mind

To the high place 

Where the lovely light shines

And just

Scoop up a luminous globe

And bring it down gently

Into your heart

Now feel that light

Growing inside you


Like ripples 

From your heart 

Out and out 

Till it bathes everything

With its kind


All around

Let this gentleness be 

All you need

Forget reason

Just give thanks

For this sweet light

That fills 

Everyone and everything

Without demand.

OK you say

That’s it? 


I must admit

It’s humble

But it’s all I’ve got

And I do believe

It’s everything

There is

And everything 

We need.


if you keep 

A generous roundness

In all you do

Think and feel

You’ll be home free

For round is the shape 

Of an embrace

And of a smile

And in this way

We can live 

For love and for ever

Without fear

In the infinite land

Of the now and the here.

I don’t like rhyme

I really don’t like


But it comes out of me

All the time

And the more

I try not to

The more it bleeds

From all my pores

Like this:

When thinking becomes

Just too much

A crutch

To keep from letting go

Just end it,




Take a break

And go inside

It’s never too late

To marinate


Time trickster will get you

And then 

There’s no place

To hide.

Fencing butterflies

I’m giving up fencing butterflies. 

Talk about herding cats -

When the butterflies attack like that

Without warning

They’re so damned hard to pin down!

Some people say use a net - 

But what would I do with them 

If I caught them?

No, I always keep a sword under my pillow, 

And this morning, when I felt them 

Fluttering all around inside my head

I was ready.

I leapt up and danced all about the floor 

Lunging and parrying and

Thoroughly exhausting myself…

I was getting depressed by the futility

Of the task

When it occurred to me 

To just stop

And let them out.

I don’t know why I never thought of that before…

Anyway, next time I have an attack of butterflies

I’m just going to open the window

And let them fly away

Into the void.

Life is a bouquet 

life is a bouquet

narrow where the hands 

that hold it pray

and opening out above 

all colors

a gift to kiss the day

For Nina

Nina of the light little wind

handclasped in a flower

whirling and leaping

lightfooted through inner space

bowing with the grace 

of a heartbeat

your smile invites us in

through the portals

of Joy

where distance is only outer

and all the oceans

of surging space between us

wrap us warm in the earth's 

eternal breath


When the floating blossom

came to the falls

it slipped over the brink

without the least


so sweetly

let me go

when it is my time.

Take heed

Take heed

O my dahling

as that sexy Chef Ramsey on tv

would say

devastating his latest


with charm

Do not doubt

that you are beautiful.

That is a sin

or a contradiction

(whichever you prefer)

of the first degree. 

For you 

are beautiful

and kind

and yes

even perfect

and down deep

all is well

in fact

could not be weller:

You are a well

of wellbeing

O my dahling.

So come with me

to the high halls

and the steep mountains

and the deep orchards

where glimmer

the golden apples 

of the sun, the silver

apples of the moon

and there we will find

Goethe and Yeats

in a fond 

though chaste


and our hearts

will bloom

and we will forget

all we ever 

thought we knew

Because it will be

too late for anything

but Love

too late

for anything

but the sweetest taste

of Grace.

Ode to the Crows

How I love the crows!

But no crow

can carry

a tune,

and thus they wake me

flapping past my window

with riotous cries

before the sun

begins to rise

At which my crow spirit

cawing wildly

flies out the window to join them

and onward they swarm

galumphing through the sky

yelling and gathering their kin

jeering and peering

at all below

with happy sneers

Irate and full of themselves

drunk but never hung over

they flap and flap, on and on

piloting their motley crew

on wings of derisive joy

crowing their rapture

at all dark

and shiny things

No one questions them

as they carry out

this elaborate daily routine

It is their job, their destiny

a sacrilegious service

that only crows can do

And that is excellent because

if not the crows

then who?

For Susan, Queen of Sheba and Beloved of God

Rise up, my love, my fair one, 

and come away. 

For lo, the winter is past, 

the rain is over and gone; 

the flowers appear on the earth; 

the time of the singing of birds 

is come, and the voice 

of the turtledove is heard 

in our land…*

They told me you had died,

kind friend,

but I know it is not so

because you are here with me

right now

loving me as I love 

speaking to me as I speak

granting me

your sweet

immortal company 

I laugh with happiness

to see you free

no longer trapped 

in morbid rationality,

but enthroned in peace

riding the fiery skies 

in your chariot of joy

your sweet Jesus

and all your loving children

by your side

For you are indeed

the great Mother

whose tender voice spoke

on your answering machine:

“Hello, this is

the Queen of Sheba,

I’m out with all my children now

but please do 

leave me your name…”

Humble and

resplendent diva 

you played your part

with all your heart

in the sacred tragedy

weeping an eternity of tears

for the agony you reaped

and all the while


with a love so deep

for God and all the world 

that it made no sense at all

but only left you prostrate 

with gratitude

saying Thank You Lord

no questions asked

Thank You

for everything.

*from “The Song of Solomon.” Some say the Queen of Sheba was one of King Solomon’s lovers…

Old lady by the water

Down here by the river 

where I am intimate with the mud

and the water lapping at my feet

Down here under the long bridge

where the noise of the city and of nature roars 

and rushes in my brain 

Down here by the bright water 

where the Light encroaches on my inner eye

Here is where I want to get to know you, 

my own true self, 

my soul, 

my sweet, deep guardian. 

I write these words 

but they cannot cure my deafness, 

my blindness, my numbness 

Only you can speak to me, my own true self

Only your love can cure me

Oh let me feel your presence

Let me hear your voice

Let me feel your love 

envelop all my soul.



Standing before me

Your red dress richer

Than the Queen’s brocade

What do you mean

Appearing so bright and clear

In my dream?

Only this:

That Life 

Breathing and Present

And the Knowing of it

Is Sacred

And that 

Is all we need.


Seeking refuge

from the world of affliction,

of worry and fear 

and grief,

I breathe in and out

and come to rest 

in the weightless space


And here 

in this moment of stillness 

in spite of myself 

I see

that everything 

in this whole world

shines with the need

to be

And it’s only 

here in this silence

where all 

is still and pure

that I can see and feel

and love and be

at ease 

with all that is

And you, my love,

are with me

here in the stillness 


seeing and feeling

loving and being

true to our 

deep heart’s desire


the fleeting darkness

of certain 

difficult dreams 

no harm can ever

befall us 


in the heart of peace

And all

shall be well

shall be well

all manner of thing

shall be well*

with you and me 

and all our loves

for all eternity

Seeking refuge

from the world of affliction,

of worry and fear 

and grief,

breathing in and out

we come to rest 

in the weightless space


*Julian of Norwich, a Christian mystic in 14th century England who was paid by the city of Norwich to live alone with her cat, provide counseling to the townspeople, and pray for the world. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, relates a profound mystical experience she had as a young woman, and is purportedly the first book ever written by a woman.



In moments of forgetting

I believe myself caught


And ignorant

At the center

Of a web 

Of Badness


And unknowing

Callous, cynical


And crude

But then I remember

That inside me

Is a cyclotron of Goodness

And I feel 

A warmth

And a light,

And peace comes

And strength

And love

And joy

This Great Goodness 

Never leaves me

But makes me 

And awakens me

Fulfills me

And blesses me

And everyone around 

In the River House

Oh my dearest love

Was it a trick of my mind

that you died and left me,

escaping into realms

I could not penetrate?

For here you are beside me

Alive in this very moment

in this yellow kitchen

at this long table with friends

in the house that goes

down to the river.

Here you are with me

alive and smiling

sad that I left

but glad to the brim

without a trace of rancor

that I am back again.

Now memory clarifies me

and relief floods me

like the rising Day:

For it is clearer than the song of life

that here with you

and nowhere else

is where I belong!

Can it be true

it was I who left you,

and not the other way around?

That some requirement

of destiny trapped me, some theater

I had to play out alone?

And you, kind soul, 

bowed to your role

while I fled weeping away?

For I have believed in death,

and mourned and wept

and learned the ropes of living

just on my own.

But now that I have seen you

held you and kissed you 

so sweetly once again

I do remember:

Nothing is so real as our love.

How I have longed

not knowing the depth of my longing

to be at your side

all these years.

And now I know 

you keep a place for me

here in this river house

by the deep, sweet waters

where children and friends

and a feast await.


let me dream you beside me

until we next awake.

Sacred geometry

in perfect quiet

we contemplate from within

from the point

at the apex

of the mountain

the center of the sun

the depths of the sea




sacred geometry

Skating dream

First, chaos

What am I doing here?

Why are these people chasing me?

Then, aha!

It’s a game, a dance,

a love affair

Take my hand

At first you’re a clumsy oaf

Almost sitting on the ice

But little by little

You get the hang of it

And rise

And we glide and glide

Circling around and around 

Helping each other

As we wink and glide

Now together, now apart

And lo and behold

Everyone has a part

We even get paid

And can pay the babysitter

It all works out to be 

A good living

As long as we keep our balance.

Soft fantasy

Ah my soul

to know for real

what this 

our fantasy

would mean:


in the center 

to just let go

Let go of you

Let go of me

Let go of everything

And slip and slide

fall and die

dwindling together

into one

til one and all

are gone

How then

can it be 

that you and I

and we

and all our world

can still speak?

Yet here we are

alive and well

in the grand



Here in the Being

empty and full

where the nothing

and the everything  


Where still

in the end

as at the beginning

our whole being


and looks on.


- for the morphologically inclined

No sheep 

to bumble about alone

weighed down 

with individuality

upon the ground

we surge 

in sweet 

and singing swiftness

across the sky


all as one

to sculpt the bright 

and empty air

with wings of light

The Feast of Life

Every day

in the great womb of Being

new little beings are born

all wide eyed 

innocent and brave

and Hungry as all get out

Eager as little fishes

eyes wide in surprise

they flounder into the light

and behold the shining world

so tempting

vast and rich

so full of suffering and joy

And each new being says

Please Mama God

give me something

to eat

And Mama God

who can’t resist

dishes out each one

a generous piece of the world

to see just what

they’ll do with it

Each piece is different

bursting with bitter 

and sweet, 

delicious and doubtful,

fragrant spice

deep dark heat

and pools of cool

and luscious calm

So many tastes

to be acquired

and so much to learn,

which fork to use

and which goblet 

for which wine,

that it takes each one

a lifetime 

to thoroughly digest

The little ones set to with a will

gobbling and gulping and

scarcely tasting a bite

until tummy troubles 

do their work

and at last 

they slow down

take a breath

And little by little

begin to learn 

to savor every morsel

to chew thoughtfully

and enjoy the company

of other happy diners

other tasters

of the Holy Sacrament

of Life

At last one by one

having polished off 

every last morsel

of the wondrous feast

each of us

replete and full

of memories

we heave a gentle sigh

and gratefully lie down

and fall asleep. 

The high climb

The way

is high, high

and perilous

sheer drops

no handholds

The crone climbs 

and climbs

with a single mind

hoisting herself through 


and misdirection

up the red cliffs

into the luminous Sun

For up there

high high up

waits her wise 

and wizened

twinkly geezer

of a love

with his big big heart

He feeds her peaches

papaya and avocado

dripping with sweetness

and together

they concoct foolish jokes

and delectable poems

to feed each other

and all the scattered children

of their 

age old love

There is a way

There is a way

To go through 

This body door

This interface

Between Time 

And Space

To the place 

Where boundaries 


No walls


Inside and out

Not like 

Me in here

And you in there 

Each trapped inside our skin 

With dead space

In between

To escape from that prison

Just go in 

Through feeling

Through the senses

Then the sleeper disappears

No fears

Try it!

Just let go

Go in and in

Keep going

Until in 

becomes out

All edges blur

Everything soft

No stopping place

Only the depths

Of endless

Gentle space

That is how


Turns into


and Death 

Into an open door

Go through it?

That depends

On attitude

If life is good

You just want


Time with the rain

Why do I love

The rush and roar

Of water?

Blessed by rain

We stand together

Under umbrellas

Watching the raindrops

Spout and melt

On the surface

Of these transparent 

Liquid masses

Moving swiftly 

Over small

Brown-gold stones.

I would rather stand here



Breathing in

The wet life

Than in any

Warm room

Chatting about

Things unreal.

What am I to make of this?

What am I to make of this hodge podge?

Today and everyday I find myself thinking, thinking and living, living

The day comes into me, and thoughts, and lights and sounds and touches

Pass through me, and I through them

I try to pin myself down but I am nowhere 

And everywhere

The light laughs and I laugh with it and in it

And a great Silence holds everything 

All sound, all movement, all thought and feeling

Holds it all carefully, tenderly, like a woman with her hands full

Of flower petals

Advice for dying 

Waiting you’ll stand

Alone in the sea

your being atremble

with the crash and surge

and the endless roar,

the sand ever shifting

beneath your feet

while you fix your gaze 

on that one great wave

rolling toward you

sao inexorably 

Churning and roiling

moaning and crying

it rumbles its rage

with a deafening thunder

that will surely

dtemolish your bones

and you close your eyes

and hold your breath

counting your hopes

and your fears

and ask Why me?

But soft

the wind whispers,

You know what to do:

Wait here in peace


let everything be

Wait and watch

and when that wave 

is almost upon you

just dive under it

into the calm of the deep

Glide on below

while the hullaballoo howls

roaring away overhead

And when it is spent

rise up and breathe deep

in the warm bright air

of that welcoming world

that is sweeter and kinder

and far more real

than the best of any

of our dreams

(inspired by what a wise man is rumored to have said before he took the plunge...)

A good question

One day alone

and desolate

crying out

for company

I hear

this kind reply:

“Dear one

Why not give

Yourself a try?”

Which makes me smile

because it’s true

I hardly know 

my closest friend:

the one inside.

When I see you

My smile grows

As wide as the world

And you are in me

And I am in you.

How did it happen

That you are planted

So deep in me

Whole and complete

When we have spoken

Only rarely

And only of nonsense?

How is it

That you are in me

The way the world is in me

As I walk through the forest

And the trees are in me

And the path is in me

And the wind is in me

And there is nothing in me

That is not the world

That is not you?

Who we are

Who am I exactly

I asked my Beloved

And who are you to me?

I know you are there

But which one and where

Are you Jesus

Or Rama

Or Shiva Shakti


Mary, Sophia



Or the Pachamama?

And a voice without voice

Smiled deep inside me:

I am He and She

I am One

With No Differences

And millions of names

And you

Are a part

Of me

When you were born

I led you here

Taught you to walk 

Talk and laugh

Look and feel

See and think

And I gave you 

One of the infinite names

Of the Holy One

But how can we all

Be One? I pled

When we are so many

So different

So troubled

So lonely and alone

And all of us

Will soon 

Be dead?

Fear not my sweet

Said that Someone 

I’m always here

Nearer than near

Right at your side

For you are mine
and I am yours

And we are A One  

That no force in the cosmos

Can ever divide 

It’s quite impossible

That thing you fear

For without me

You just aren’t 

And with me

You are 

And I Am

And that’s that

You’re at once a fragment

And fully complete:

One sacred moment

One child

One star

So dear one

Give it up

Set your heart

At ease

I’m here

So are you

Always were and will be 

It matters not a hoot

What you choose 

to call me

For truth

Blooms forever

With a million names

Each playing its part

And exclusivity

Is the falsest art.

Out here on the leviathan waters

Out here on the leviathan waters

blue green in the sun

speed boats race 

up and down the river

and the big waves rock the wharf

where I sit 

content as can be.

Near me

a father and his two sons fish

the fat little one screams

and his brother tickles him and runs

The fish are only nibbling

But the dancing water

weaves a rolling cocoon

around the seer

who sits 


vastly content

no place to go

but happy

with everything 

wind rocking

waves slapping

wharf timbers trembling

motors roaring

and in here


as quiet

as quiet 

can be.