in this issue are:

John Vieira
Guy Birchard
Scott Watson
Jeremy Seligson
Eric Paul Shaffer

in translation:
YAMAO Sansei

spring 2002

Bongos of the Lord
is printed in Sendai, Japan
for Bookgirl Press

3-13-16 Tsurugaya-higashi
Miyagino-ku, Sendai


For BOTL there is neither subscription fee nor pay per
page fee extracted from contributors, but
overseas paper-version readers are invited to
send IRCs to cover overseas postage, which averages
300 yen (3 U.S. dollars) per issue. Readers
who are satisfied receiving the cyber-version
can disregard this notice.

All rights return to authors.

BOTL is a non-profit, no-grant, totally fund-lacking publication.

poems by John Vieira

I'm Afraid To Drive The Car

Brushing away gnats we
listened to the vendor's
bells, simple as a haiku.
Jasmine and roses filled
the air with good reasons.
It didn't take much of
anything to overwhelm us.

just now I scalded my lips
cursing you, left to its
own there is little merit
in a tear-stained dear john,
salad greens today do more
for hunger than daisies.

judgement day

as abruptly
as it came
the deluge
was gone

even the
stones are
now not
any longer

the world
as a Moorish

the fish
cart in
a walled

but not

eating up
the grapes
before they
are wine

and blood

The Worlds

Are the

The heart
Of man

Of love

The earth
A whole

Of form
The sign

 for C.

a feat of love or
else serving a prison term
myrrh flavors the air
burning paper money in
a fire that we keep going


in bed

when a

you love

me thru
the dark


the truth

your eyes

Because I don't want to be
Pegged as a prima donna, I
Find that I bow and scrape
To the dumb powers that be.
For no good reason because
Work has no charm of itself.
Down to their own citations
There is no merit in rules.
What is left that is great?
The great vase-shaped elms
That once lined the avenues
Have now fallen to disease.
Who feels enough to want to
Suddenly fall unreasonably
Into deepest contemplation,
An end to our own defeating?
Swarming like a ghost town
Tonight in this pitch outside
The womb I sense a definite
Air and a sky as high as God.

poems by Guy Birchard


     for Cam Christie

A depanneur* in the student ghetto in Montreal nearly agreed to sell me
his own under-the-till .22 when I was 22--how appropriate, I thought.
But I would only have shot holes in the walls of my apartment, like
Sherlock. A decade later at a Polk Gulch sidewalk sale in San Francisco
I found a .32 Saturday-nite-special/belly-gun like you used to mail-order through the back pages of Argosy and True, only with half its grip
missing, though most of a box of shells.Then when I turned 38 I handled
longingly a fine Smith & Wesson .38 beyond my ability to afford, although hitting the mark with it came naturally, out in the back-40. Three years later I almost traded for Billy the Kid's Colt .41 Thunderer--ok, one just like it--down in Rye, Colorado, ratty old rig & all. But
frugality, prudence, Canada Customs and Revenue, some
such faintness of heart
stopped me again.

  Now this year's another chance: go for the long
barrel, make it a Magnum, and if restrictive controls make it tough,
fuck it: there's still next year for the massive classic
automatic, or a time-honored antique Peacemaker.

Happy birthday, Camerado.
    Yr old side-kick,

* depanneur: convenience store.--ed.

 Murder of Crows

 a murder of crows rises out of the trees
 around the grainyard, milling and calling.
 I'm trying to work, trying to imagine,
 trying, an actual, a better, a viable
 world, but . . . no permission. Robert Johnson
 has been here, sung and gone. Crows approach
 over the stubble, mob my mind. They don't
 look twice, but having faced them, then fled,
 I do. He knew the words and the melody, or
 the blues for it. I am arrested mid-life
 sentence. They come on. Over my head their
 eyes, my eyes; theirs of the still centre,
 mine of salvation. Should they derive from
 mine, what I from theirs? They are on no
 wind, the air cold as their look. They create
 a wind upon which, intending no malice, they
 threaten. The first crows of spring signalling
 the end of God's compromise with Satan, a sight
 for months we long to make. Robert Johnson
 wants to guide. I want to go. The crows
 effortlessly, borne up by unprevaricating
 instinct, keep going and coming back, jet
 figures over gold ground on a lapis field

 Taken as Text

a poem beginning and ending with lines by Duncan

 god step at the margins of thought
 resounds familiar skirting
 until we came to a vale walking
 and what did we there besides chill
 and eat?

 god step at the margins of thought
 admirable as
 the centre of attention
 reaches the mind's eye intact and
  happens I climb up a hill at dusk
 for no more than the view a breath a
 a substitute for company declined

 god step at the margins of thought
 unlike a footfall behind in the
 dark but an uncommunicative
 listening devices faint grounded
          tuning as surely
 as a printed circuit a real enough
 world one favoured frequency attainable
 popular melodies so fond they will be-
 come long forgotten
   still sweet

 god step at the margins of thought
 . . .
  . . .
   . . .
    . . .

 dwell in the roots of the heart's rancour

 impatient with victory that ought
 give rise to certainties
  exhausted with long extending
 days that ought exalt that ought at
 least profit
  afraid of the spoils
              though they
 tell me I can take them
 our infirmities not just mine
 dwell in the roots of the heart's rancour

 where the world brawls and the why
  of it oblivious
 the shouts of the rancorous the shouts back
 of the aggravated whelmed
 dwell in the roots of the heart's rancour 


The Words' Escape

"Language is chains." a

link of tongue and known
           none so simple as once
thought, spelled     -   not
necessarily of fact but of
course, hard certainties

the grammarian's implications
piss off poets         "Language is
chains." inevitably
part company in haste

we in a free world from
defined souls in a world of
paper, on our keeping, at

large, lonesome, bound
to be


   the way the
   way is always:

  you're living for the world's
  consolation believing what you
  want of yourself to be leaving
  behind between the inchoate
  and the confused neither
  man nor Brass

  strength is persistence
  bearing under sorrow
  grace courage chases

  a nervous nervous system keyed
  up so no one else's squint and
  gesture be no violation of
  character only cold
  makes souls hideous
  if the face is the book


  that the frown she
  used to finger off your brow
  returns is no slight

               she says not
               to let pain
               make you mad

  you like the hard
  way she makes you
  work for her and
               too her re-de-
               signed belly
               by Botticelli

  she gives you two
  looks: one smile, one face


               too long since
               and thus still

poems by Scott Watson


in this country is

 pond (((we know old)))

one thing these


 ourselves (we know . . .)

                                          taking nature in              
                as water drops
           this divine

then there's that other real ramshackle clutter
all over the jam-packed, on this  bus a guy who
must have eaten for breakfast garlic salami or this one heavy
with cologne or that one obviously was on a binge
last night groggily off to work this morning unbathed smells
still of liquor. dandruff in this one's hair standing right under
my nose or this girl's makeup caked or
afternoon an infant wailing on its mother's bent back. the overall
diesel stink. old folks stooped, gnarled, housewife shoppers
prim and proper, sweaty school boys
smell like cafeteria or me
a foreign scent that offends their olfactory
gods so they invisibly hold their noses who will know no
truth not to imagine ourselves too a naturally occurring
disaster that earns us
unmercifully a life to live--
the one thing that gives us
erases where all we aren't (and where aren't we)--
& want too to sit and ease into this the ride of our lives.


the water bone is the boy's door
not all that deep
intones itself
bay's bottom tide and wind through
line to finger
body to body, bottom
come to mind decaying things
that stink to heaven. incense to a crab.
     come when they will
god's own involvement
     the day is dark green and blue
nearly iron black tea brown it depends
on light its angle the sky water's depth
turbulence and what bottom is
where you are
color all too much to say
as with air's brackish scent,
bay grasses washed up
marsh islands sun-baked, fish dead,
clam and mussel shells, gull-
pecked a
sea within. all is calm for now
line with
what below there is
a concentration me.

the night
we'd spent near
the petrified forest this
morning we roll towards
utah via colorado
when there's a
mexican-looking man
his car broke
down we stop to ask
does he
need help a
lift or what
his place he says
is not far
in our direction so here he's
in with us and going
out of his way it seems
to praise god and the united states
to the extent I wonder if
he's not illegal
but sure he's got religion rattling
on worried maybe
we're some aryan nation bunch
with plans to string him up
the tension dries our throats
as we're drawn taught too
scared he's cult &
wants to litter the land with
our body parts
we motor down an interstate almost stiff
thinkin' what we'll do
to each other on the road
a ghastly thought
death is more
with us
than anywhere  


he gave
up all he
could and live

for all
there is

silenced here
by nature

being what it is


ugly weeds we think
cosmetically and kill.
the worst it gets is true.

poems by YAMAO Sansei

A Sea and Narrow-leaf Vetch

a beach, some narrow-leaf
vetch by which I seat myself
in bloom, sink a bit into
sand a pale, cobalt sea gaze
going on some billion years,
and dwelling on sea memory
if it at all exists a vetch as such
can speak naturally
a silent affirmation.


up at  mountaintop
today's weather again
is a sky still, clear,

a blue with
hamayu's* white blossom

white rose of Sharon too,
praise's spirit, is
a blue sky's celebration

this sky at mountaintop
still and clear

* Crinum asiaticum var. japonicum. Of the family Amaryllidaceae. --ed.

Build a Fire

a mountain when shades draw near
even with night at back
children go on with play
but it's time for them to build a fire

as night
completely covers all
in flames'
heartful colors
seeing selves
as primal fire

in a world
there is no you
those selves you
need to live

are the fire
you made

look deeply into   


Enter Mr. Boo-boo

My bedroom walls were painted blue. I remember a white wooden writing desk, cubby holed, and a long pinewood bookcase built for me by my grandfather, my mother's father who was a carpenter by trade. In that room so much went on so long ago, things mostly with little importance to anyone but me and those closest to me like a hand held bean game in a small box you had to fidget with, tilt different ways, make the beans go into holes provided. That I pried open and for some reason thought it might be fun I guess to put a bean into my nose, but one went down my nostril so far I couldn't blow it out.  Left alone on my own . . . . Whatever happened to that bean?
     This scar on my left pointing finger is from that time, I think, or shortly after. There was a long thick cardboard tube that maybe once had cloth or something on it, I don't know, wrapping paper maybe, that I'd come up with somewhere and was using a razorblade cutter on trying to fashion it into a bazooka.
     In that room, I was pretty small I guess, lying on my bed one afternoon napping, was awakened by a slap in the face, or what I thought was a slap in the face. It may have been a bad dream, but a bad dream that woke me with a smack in the face. I awoke crying, and, since only my parents were in the house at that time--I am an only child--what entered my head was that my dad had hit me for some wrong I'd done, though it was not his way to beat or slap or give me a strapping. (I may have had a spanking once but usually he just yelled and called me things like gutless or sissy when he became angry.) But when my mother and father, hearing me cry, came to my room and heard my account they assured me they would never smack me like that, and certainly never while I was sleeping.
     Well, who then? Or what? Maybe it was some mean kid on the block slipped in unnoticed. They asked me did I see anyone? No, I saw no one. Dad went around the house looking for a possible intruder; there were plenty of stories, especially from their friends and relatives across the river in Philly, about total strangers entering houses and our basement window had in fact once been forced open and our house entered. This was one hot summer evening after dad had come home from work and taken us in his car to cool off at a lake.
     Once a stranger did come to our home and opened the screen door to come in without being greeted. A salesman, was he? Blitz, our wonderful German Shepherd, sensed the man was up to no good and charged him, the very ferociousness of the movement sending the man reeling out and down the two or three steps at our doorway. So it was not totally unthinkable that there might be an actual intruder. No sireee.
 Dad found no one, no traces of a window being forced, nothing. Then he took me along with him so that I could see with my own eyes and be assured there was no one in the house but us. We visited each closet, we flashed a light in each dark corner of our basement, we looked under beds; dad even took me out into our backyard to check the shed where he kept his lawn mower, rakes, shovels, a big sack of bovung and other stuff. No one, no sign of anything having been disturbed. Nothing missing.
     Back in my room again they examined my body. It was my face I thought was slapped so they told me there should be a welt or at least some redness. (Actually this part may have occurred earlier, before the house search. I'm not sure.) No marks, no welts.
 So I came to accept that I'd had a bad dream. It didn't seem reasonable that I'd been physically slapped. It's strange how little kids come to imagine these things. There's someone or something in the closet, under a bed, in the toilet bowl; the child can't sleep, it's scared.  
     Mom told me later that Boo-boo was a name I'd given to my imaginary friend. But for some reason I associate Boo-boo with the imaginary smack I received that Sunday afternoon napping. Friends sometimes fly off the handle and let each other have it--at least in some friendships. But in kiddy talk--beyond my private names for things--boo-boo also meant (maybe still does) wound, a little cut or scrape or bruise, and a big boo-boo was something serious, even death. There was on the t.v. cartoons too a Boo-boo. Yogi the Bear's cute little side kick. Why should an imaginary cuddly friend be a wound, and what did I do--other than just being alive--that gave rise to this experience? Was it perhaps some sort of confabulation, some fabrication to replace a memory that involved or contained no fear of death?
     Or is it instinctual growth in a child of sense as it--for survival--comes to suspect others--even parents according to Freud and company--as sources of potential danger, harm? A threat? I don't know. Or was it a sudden, developmental shock in the psyche, a stage for psychosis to arise in a child's life, something that will be with me always, me. I don't know. Was it an attempt to transfer to others or one's surroundings the source of death one is? I don't know. Would calling whatever it was Boo-boo, a child's word/world, transform into a mature language as a psychiatric term for a particular condition? Boo-boo: that gave it a name that satisfied a small me and drew so much of what was going on into it, what I experienced at that moment, loving and secure while dangerous and threatening, it meant everything at that one dreamed awakening, for what I was crying out to meant there could be a place, peopled by others where one could feel loved and warm, and a me.

Soul Child

     I am an only child. And I was the only only child I knew among all my relatives, friends, classmates, and acquaintances. Except my father. As an adult I've heard someone say it's too bad someone had to be an only child, but never thought much about what makes it too bad. Are we on the too bad list, there along with too bad couples who have no children at all though they tried too bads? Our numbers are increasing: there are more of us too bad one-and-onlys according to statistics. 
     Are we indeed strange? Is it that our existence as a sole child creates in us a discordant note, or is there something in the way we interact socially that throws us off key with the rest of the world (who are on key???)? We never had the immediacy that for better or worse comes with give and take between brothers and sisters. We're alone with parents or whoever might be there taking care. People where I grew up did not come right out and say "you're weird because you have no brothers or sisters" but I've heard here in Japan "I'm sorry. It's too bad you were an only child." Genuine sympathy about a genuine stereotype? That's like how some women are faulted by others for not being able to have children. Or if they can't make a boy. "I'll show you how to have children! I had five of them!" We're different. Razzmatazz! So what? Now there are special books about raising an only child, about our special needs. We're out of the ordinary, it seems, but what is there in  the way of dramatization for the only child scene? Imagine the difficulties involved in making one.
     I was never treated like a freak or anything like that. My childhood was what I guess could be called normal, though that is a word it's probably best not to use since it means pretty much nothing, though I dare use it anyway. There were friends, other kids I played with, but whereas these other kids had brothers and sisters living in the same house or cousins living in the same town, or nearby at least, my cousins and cousins twice removed were all an hour or more away over the bridge across the Delaware River in Philadelphia, it's outskirts, or spread over eastern Pennsylvania. Not somewhere I could pedal to on a tricycle.
     I hear that only child families are increasing and that soon one-third of all families in the USA will be families with only one child. There is data of many sorts filling research papers and talk show time slots and some of this deals with breaking the stereotypes surrounding only children. As a child these stereotypes were unknown to me, as was the word stereotype itself. There was at times a sense that I was somehow not in the main run of things because I missed out on the entire act of being with someone also a child like me who was not myself. There was no one else but this me that I came to regard as a bit strange in some strange way I couldn't put my finger on,  different, because that's the way I was regarded by a world around me. This strange me. At school a teacher would go on at length, it seemed to me, about how she'd taught so and so's elder brother or sister--no doubt this was to make the child feel at home--but there was never any reference to knowing anyone or anything in connection with me. We were newcomers to that small town. Was I intruding or interrupting something?
     There was no envy on my part for those with brothers and sisters, none that lasted more than momentarily. It's just that the feeling of being an outcast of sorts was, I dunno, somewhat unpleasant at times.
      A loner at heart. I don't think it scarred me any more than I may have scarred myself.
     My folks wanted more children. They tried, they said. They couldn't even have me until after five years of marriage. Then one day, or so the story my father told me goes, my mother was horseback riding at an uncle's farm. The horse threw her or she fell off the horse. Not long after that she became pregnant. It couldn't have been too long after or else no one would have connected the two events. It was my father who made the connection. Her hitting the ground like that had cleared the way for something inside mom, he told me. He so often would intuit things like that. And he always had a fifty per cent chance of being right and a one-hundred per cent chance to deny everything if he was not.
     It was interesting to learn much later that in the oriental zodiac the year of my birth is the Year of the Horse. Gettyup!
     And then, since my birth required that a Caesarean section be performed on my mother, her doctor told her it might put her in danger if she were to try to have more children. So that was it. I was it. From a fall from a horse--maybe--to a Caesarean section. Difficulty getting here. And difficulty for those bringing me. Who was it said beginnings are always difficult?
     But I don't remember myself as being a sad child, even if I was, or had to be, at times a loner. I was used to being by myself with my own thoughts, which, you know, weren't all that notable or breathtaking, sitting alone drawing or on my bed playing with matchbox cars or plastic World War II soldiers. Watched t.v. downstairs with mom and dad. They'd often let me watch my shows. Combat!, Outer Limits, Star Trek, Man from U.N.C.L.E. and many others. Read the Hardy Boy series or Classics Illustrated:  Hawkeye's line You needn't probe, Doctor. The bullet has missed the bone and will easily be extracted fascinated me, the language, the way of saying itself, so distant, so strange. My neighbor friend and I repeated those lines an entire summer. You needn't probe . . .
     But I wasn't all that used to being my own feelings and knowing it, to being consciously aware that the way I feel is who I am. How did it feel there on my bed making gun sounds from teeth and from back in my throat. Tcheewww! Kyeeww! ttttttttttttt! (machine gun) pyu pyu pupupupu (carbine), etc. Hey! This is me! What was there to feel about? I'd get absorbed in what I was I was doing, for sure, which means perhaps it must not have been too unpleasant. Yet I was never consciously  doing what I was doing as an only child. Never did I intellectualize my emotions to that extent. If there was loneliness it was gut lonely being me. It wasn't possible to abstract from that an expression that could be communicated verbally or even hinted at. It was left to others to have to read me if they cared to. There was being alone and there was being lonely. Two different conditions. There was unpleasant loneliness, a kind of boredom perhaps, and loneliness I did not wish to be brought out of.
     If there had been someone older, a sister or brother, not a parent, or even younger we would have served as guides, reference, backdrops, feedback for each other--even if unconsciously--and help put ourselves into perspective, but for that absence my emotions would often seem life and death, as in fact they must be. But then it's possible that there are fewer emotions with fewer encounters. I don't know. Or if what is felt is felt more intensely.

     Once a neighbor kid and I were picked up by the police for sassing a lady only a few blocks away but which was to us another world--it wasn't me but my playmate who sassed her--and then stupid me who didn't run away because I thought I'd done nothing wrong. Stupid virtuous me. Forget the virtuous. I waited, having been brought home by the cops, sent to my bedroom by my grandmother, waited through twilight into dark without turning on a light for my mother or father to get home--which of them would be more angry?--thinking all the time what punishment loomed. It was usually a scolding or long talking to but always it weighed on me a far more hideous thing; was it because I was indeed hideous to myself deep down or that I lacked any frame of reference for my emotions, which went reeling away in an abyss? It was the end of the world or at least that's how it seemed or maybe what's worse is that's how it's supposed to seem. There being no one around to relate to, no one to sense from that others suffered too in similar circumstances. Was it natural to assume it was only me who felt so disgraceful and low as this? Which is how my old world grandma who lived with us then would often so heavily put it, that I was a disgrace to my family. For her it was always respectability or disgrace: what would the neighbors think? (Once she got my father to repair all our rain spouts because she said the next door neighbor was staring at them; this is the kind or paranoia I was raised in.) So in my mind then I was shut up in my own fears and left to free fall or learn to work things out on my own. I didn't, or couldn't, to the best of my recollection. It was discomfort, a hell of sorts without a reason other than my being such a horrible disgraceful thing as a human being.
     What I learned to do was to be able to come out--like a prisoner from THE HOLE though I was only shut off sometimes for a couple hours--into a lighted room and in what seemed like an instant transform myself so as to interact socially, minimally at least, with other humans, visiting relatives, neighbors, whoever, but most often would sit and eat and interact with a troubled silence. Was this then the lesson we can't figure out on our own? Or was it about learning to respond to external authority? My own feelings--what I wanted to do--went unexamined. Did I want to learn to control myself, to gut it out, so that I could go into the dining room and sit down with mom and dad and grandmom and eat a proper meal? That probably was not my wish. At the time my surface feelings may have been that I never wanted to see any of them again. And there was no chance to probe my own deeper feelings because it was a lesson about external authority. The ordeal's nature--a matter of becoming a properly behaving body--was not one that would inspire a youngster to reflect on it truly. And what is a properly FEELING body? Who decides what's proper? External authority again? Or me, what feels best, pleasant, to me? Is morality my internalization of what the power prescribes as right and wrong, that dutifully unpleasant confrontation with ugliness, with hell, or is morality what it is to be drawn into the resonant mountains of voice that are who I am, the good feeling, being me? But authority doesn't want me doing that and would tear me away, tear me apart, Prometheus, doesn't want me thinking or living outside their box, doesn't want a me, so I have to go around incognito, like I'm not really who I am but some one of them in a box playing games, making pretend, playing I'm dead to myself and in general being ill at ease. It's all too impossibly simple for a kid or an adult. We're all just beginners.    
     What had precipitated the whole situation that one time with the lady and the cops was that my playmate Kenny cursed her--we were maybe 10 or 11--told her "kiss my ass" when she told us not to play where we were playing or not to do what we were doing--maybe one of her kids told her we were harassing them--told us to go back to our own neighborhood. Not that I never sassed anyone; just this time it wasn't me.
     It became a lesson about living outside in the world with some degree of politeness, about not being disrespectful to those older or in a position of authority. BECAUSE they are older and higher up--not because they are, you know, whatchamacallit. Even if we thought this particular lady was a nasty witch we were not supposed to say that in front of her. It was okay to think it without wondering why it was we thought that way. This was not the lesson, or not a lesson for little kids I guess. Maybe our society deems little kids  unready for lessons in truth. That Mrs. Nasty may have been an alcoholic or been regularly beaten by her husband never crossed our minds. Nor did we ever--it was a brief encounter--imagine that she may have been then or at any time something more than the witch we saw and one of us cursed. Here was this poor woman torn apart at heart perhaps her life no bowl of cherries and her barely managing with what's left from hubby's drinking to feed and clothe her kids or hold herself together. A grown-up unable to handle a situation involving little kids without summoning the police? My oh my. We didn't see any such darkening things.
     And there are other untold possibilities; the point is that I at the time believed my partial reading of her person to be complete: there she was, the all of her, the whole caboodle: nasty. I never imagined that what I was doing was practicing a form of idolatry. Nor did I know what that word means. (Or consider the way some male adults or women themselves, writers even, from way back see a woman as a binary proposition, either a madonna pure, a virgin Mary, or a devilishness, a temptress, seductress, Lilith. A mom all goodness and apple pie--or cunt, slut, bitch, whore.)  
     These external matters seem to me to be what children--or was it just me?--are often forced to reflect on. Authority, hierarchy: the social settings that we are supposed to come to accept as given by god or natural "laws" and unchangeable. Perhaps as a result I came to view others as objects or surfaces, two-dimensional or perhaps cartoon like existences (too much t.v. played its part as well but what's the tube but a little box in a much larger squaring off of things), or characters from a morality play. An adult such as Mrs. Nasty could be from my eyes an oppressive otherness (which is a way of saying something less polite), an otherness my heart was not in the creation of. (Others taken to heart are equally ourselves no matter what chronological age we happen to be at or what our position in society is.) This from the fact of growing up as I did, where I did, in the society I did, in the house I did and as the person I was, one unable to grow, unable to transform myself and others into beings beyond that system, into beings of deeper, larger dimensions. Nothing colossal or imperial, nothing like that. A fact in nature (to reduce nature is to reduce ourselves, we become something less than what we are), a person, a forest or meadow, to grow with/in, love.
     The ancestor men were most often down in mines forced to live little better than brutes, digging, drilling, blasting a way out way down under tapping earth's veins for its coal and busy trying to survive. Their experiences were painful and deformed, tormented. Reduction is like destruction in a way. Except with destruction that particular element isn't coming back. Things could and did come crashing down on them separating forever arms or legs from a wholeness perhaps they never dreamt of but as being in heaven reunited. Their lives in their work they often saw as unsightly blotches, the land they lived on they witnessed become a blight gloomy and barren, dust choked, without character. Down there in the dark, foul, damp air underneath, that was their world. Blowing away rock, picking and drilling, loading coal, or high up stooped on boards working the breaker operation, small kids. Despite the honor and dignity they'd comfort and perfume and mask themselves with, how deeply could a person go on probing into one's life before questioning whether this was in fact actually living? There were as yet no modern age concentration camps with which to metaphor their condition. Slavery sufficed, and hell. They had to accept their nothingness and play rugby and soccer on their one day off, those who were yet left with limb. Or checkers. Dance, sing ballads, drink and drink and drink some more, the beer trucks door to door. A huge gaping wound on the earth in their lives deepening. They knew. They were, in the owners' eyes, human garbage, their lives expendable, disposable. The young had to grow up knowing that, that they were valuable, that their lives meant something, only if they could perform some job. How inspired would a person be to dig into the beauties of being alive? How motivated would I have been, had I been a young one there, to explore my self, a cosmos, or others, or listen when Walt Whitman glorifies me as being what America is, my misery, my dingy hovel? (There I am, a little one in an old photograph, taken with my mates way back then. A dull, sad, hungry look.) I'll take another pail of beery truth; listen to a minstrel come around singing us our plight.  Drop a coin in his cup.
     No wonder the upper classes, the good people, finally came around to Whitman, to embrace him--from a distance--enough to let him into their academies with his barbaric yawp. He washes away the filth and blood and shit they have to pay (though restitution will never be enough for how lives were broken, shattered, crippled, deformed, crushed, for how lives thus strained were lived as hunger, disease, sickness, filth, garbage and everything else about which these my ancestors were made so painfully and ineluctably aware day in day out for generations, for how lives were lived in the way of the real and then falsely cleansed, purified, byznotized as LAND OF THE FREE.)
     Still, I doubt many of the good people get what he is all about. And, too, Whitman thought with many others in his own time and before that earth's store was a boundlessness to realize spatially westward and out into the stars a discount outlet mall. Endless space to conquer and consume is a religion that still grips many of my brethren Americans soon to mine Mars.
     All the professionals from schools graduated--what are they to do? Or all the workers Whitman was with as they plowed and pounded, all the chemists employed now inventing additives for foods, compounds for shampoos, still others laboring, checking what the first have done: will this industrial chemical in this shampoo disintegrate our scalps? Will this chemical in instant juice powder make holes in our stomachs? What are all these who have studied and graduated supposed to do? All the film school grads movie making the medical school ones discovering or inventing new things, new things in us to treat new gadgets to treat us with, new things, more, to be wrong with us in the universe within, law school graduates, legislators, discover greater need for litigation, endless cause for regulation. Whitman is with them. The food processing industry needs industrial-size warehouses super-supermarkets edibles boxed, canned, forklifted ceiling high. In from factory-floor Wall Street-owned machine age farms computer regulated soil manufacturing in quantity chemically empowered anemic foods someone has to eat. (Is anyone surprised there's so much cancer? Is it shocking there should be such a need for diets and health products? Making ourselves sick on one hand, curing ourselves with the other?) Whitman is with them. The arms industry non-stop machines rolling out guns, tanks, bombers, missiles . . .  [real need index? none, conveniently, exists]. Who need ask why there's so much war, gang violence, carnage over all; someone has to use all the weapons, consume them. (Then what: such killing in quantity is a by-product of a system, a qualitative drop in the human psyche?) He is with them as I am with them as I am with all the commercial gigantism that includes people--the inflation of our own importance means increased personal needs for which all we can purchase something to satisfy and it means too that being a victim of one kind or another becomes a national pastime. And all of these of course are treatable through counseling and therapy. Medication. Prozac. And money mainly: The Gross National Ego.
     Whitman is with all the washing the true washing the washing it all true as I am with it too that which is washing as it is me and I am it washing and being washed. But I'm getting away from myself. Or am I?
     Whitman perhaps imagined his universality would someday draw us to our senses.
     What poems the miners made by and for themselves were mostly cynical, skeptical, gritty.

  Forty years I worked with pick and drill
   Down in the mines against my will
  The Coal King's slave, but now it's passed;
  Thanks be to God I'm free at last.
     --on a miner's tombstone

     Yet if I'd chewed on Walt Whitman more, if I HAD had the time and energy, if I weren't dead on my feet exhausted, too groggy to read even the little I could, if such human activity as a growing sensitivity or contemplation were ever permissible amongst these my comrade roughs, or if I weren't just too damned coal fueled with fear to live beyond these fields, I would maybe have come to see how it is the hell or prison we find ourselves in can be transcended. It would have meant for me to an extent a shying away from the checkerboards, from the booze halls, from the reels and jigs, from the various things going on not because I don't like dance and drink but because they pale against what I love: I'd have wanted to be connected more directly and intimately with that, my self, life, me my own ongoingness and those going on with me, a me that I don't sit down to as a meal once and forever who I am without ever eating again but flow on as to be connected with what it is that envisions all of this in us, to be with a vibrantly fecund force that flows through every one thing imagining itself of us, through roots, associations, sensations, meanings, death and nothingness, and to say it all, try to, and to write it down. A different dance going on in me, a dance of dimensions awakening my happy feet to be with what is found in a poem a discovering new Adam me. Naked naked lung sung. OhOhoooohhhhh! Immigrant song.

     Though it would have been no easy feat. You'd have to have books and be able to read them, or sympathetic people around you. You'd have to have a sky and fresh air, a moon and stars. It would be impossible to do this on your own, or even thinking you are on your own, in a devastated environment where you're underground much of the time or even above unable to see through coal dust ten feet in front of you. You need guides. People and things that are open to a meadow's openness and to a sky's and that too try to go on being what it is to be love.
     There was god, but it was a god coopted by production, a god that spoke to human behavior via organized religion, the vehicle through which god enters a SOCIAL world, and a god the powers thought could be controlled for their own purposes to keep the earth flat--it may not have been for a me back then and there god THE WORKS.
     Try forcing any Native American to the same yoke and many would have run off into the woods. Some would have suicided first; there would have been mothers who murdered their newborns rather than let them grow up in a hell such as a colliery. They had too much dignity to live like that, but these Scots (& other groups from across the Atlantic) were a different clan and did not try to escape in that way. They did not run off into the forest. They persevered. They had another way to escape. They had longer experience in this their own Euro-based Christian civilization. They knew from experience mobility and change within it was possible from the theology that shaped their cognitive faculties and shaped the way they read into things a time and space so that there was such a diamond thing as hope, and even if what they'd mostly known was change for the worse there had to be down the line a better. They endured because their religion fed into their plight a vision of life as something to suffer through, and they did so proudly, took pride in being miners, and they believed their suffering gave them dignity in digging, and they believed their hard, dangerous work brought them honor and they thought there was some hope as an end where they would earn more creature comforts, get a little schooling--a few nights the little miner lamps on our heads shaping knowledge out of darkness--and get away, escape, from patch towns into the ever spreading above ground industrial hell tooling up, teething up, in America which all the coal they'd dug up fueled. Factories of even less independence, less individualism, less sense of who one could possibly be. In a few generations they were out into professional occupations. Upward mobility--escape--was faster for whites (once the coal was wiped off), especially Protestant whites, education and training easier to obtain.
     But the coal is in the lungs that breathe in where we've been. The lungs are of a mind and it is an impoverished dark heart of a mind a mine can be for ages something that will collapse; things in a life that will cave in upon us, this fear that remains in the lungs and conditions what we breathe to no small degree, the stale air, the rock damp deadness in a breast of coal finding home in blood, the immigrant DNA carrying who knows what misery, what terror brought from long before their Atlantic crossing, from back in the old country in the bad old days. The Irish knew the worst of those who worked in coal, but too the poor downtrodden Scots, who had it a bit better since they were Protestant, still they were no less disenfranchised in their own land, evicted, destitute, forbid to work their native crafts in their native land or work their family plots; even certain dress was prohibited. And in general ASSAULTED. Their communities, families, no less torn apart by the external authority THE MONEY way back then that was taking over and brought over to the U.S. where mines & rail lines were backed by English banks, there being not enough money in America at that time. (Not to accuse the English: those who were poor there knew as well what it was to be kicked off a land they'd worked, to have nowhere to go but migrate to cities and make slums.) This is what they were trying to escape, the fact of having no place to go and no thing within a civilization to do, the homeless back then left to forage for roots and wild grasses, this is why they were seeking something better in this newer world which they were forced to help devastate to make their oppressors rich if they were to make their own way out, some thing to do that promised to let them be by something they could do with their brain or their body but where was something for a heart to do but hold on to each other? Even so for small boys especially childhood was brief and brutal; they were sent off to work at the mines by their own parents so as to bring in extra income, six or seven years old six days a week ten hours a day all they could do to survive what kind of holding it was that went on for an extra couple dollars.

     And you want someone to hold on to. Brothers and sisters, whether my biological mother gave birth to us all or not.  Who is there who wants to be brotherly or sisterly? You were alone as a child the subject of your parents' parental love. The first and last, the only lonely one with all the child stuff. Who can be such a sole focus even if it's only me contemplating all I am, that I am all, and be but one endless interconnectedness in order to live? Yet this is what a person does, is. It's who we are, subject of everything in a cosmos coming together to make each one of us an only who each is. Thankfully there's something more than a world to envision us, a world through which we form partial identities sure, but this internal matter matters infinitely more as a who we are.
     A moon. A moon that is so immeasurably this instant a finger's tip pointing so inordinately in us at so much life to live. Soul child. Being held.

A Love Story:
let it be true

It came. I was asleep. All of a sudden there was news. She and her husband would be in this area, here in this prefecture in northeastern Japan. He had been in the military years ago, but was he still? American troops were scheduled to stage joint maneuvers just north of here with the Japanese Self Defense Forces. It was reported on the t.v. news and these were set for the next couple of weeks.
     There would perhaps be a chance to see them, to see her. This lady, married and mother, was a first puppy love for me as I was perhaps for her. In kindergarten we were together I think but it was in first grade that an invitation to her birthday party came. There were others invited of course. The party games we played I still remember, supervised by her father while her mother readied the eats. It was in I think the basement of her house which was fixed in the style of a "rec room" that was popular then and maybe still is, I don't know.
     There was a present my mother got for me to take but I've forgotten what it was. Later on in high school--my family had moved to a neighboring township where I attended a different school from grades 4 through 8--sitting next to her in history class I teased her that she'd had a crush on me way back even in first grade. She dismissed that: she didn't really want to invite me but her mother made her.
      Soon after that we were dating. This was our junior year. We went to a prom together. My aunt, when she saw the photo, exclaimed "Oh! She looks like an Irish Colleen!" There was no notion in my head what an Irish Colleen might be but now I guess I know what she meant. She was lovely. And someone in her family probably had come from Ireland.
     Let me get back to my dream. When I awoke I was every day anxiously expecting a letter telling me she and her husband would be in this part of the world and that we should get together. No letter arrived.
     Sometimes things come from what is in my dreams. Often sadly so. Once Morie and I--we were married a little over a year--were living in a rented house in Binghamton, New York--dreamt about the same person. One morning we woke up and told each other what we'd dreamed: we'd both had dreams about my aunt Lil in Philadelphia. In my dream she had come to say goodbye. Not an hour later my mother was on the phone to us telling us of our aunt's death the night before. Strange. Her death of course saddened us but the fact that we'd both been contacted in our dreams . . . well, it shook me.
     Or when my father's cousin passed away. We were here in Japan then. Again a dream came to me just before we heard of  his death. He'd come to me. He was dressed as what  seemed to me like an old time town crier with  a tricornered hat and carrying a lantern which he handed to me saying You are the next patriarch of the Watson family. And that was it. Whoa! And was I in fact a patriarch to be? How so? And what of it? Strange. A day later, it was near Christmas, my father called me to tell me of his cousin's passing.
     These were strong dreams, as I call them. There's no doubt about them. Something has happened and in my experience it had been death that had happened. But now was another dream sensed just as strongly but it wasn't about death, it was about reuniting, meeting someone I'd been close to years ago. I didn't know what to make of it. I waited. Days passed; I heard nothing. Another dream came the following week. This time it brought the kind of news I was used to receiving from strong dreams, bad news. She was in some kind of trouble. Something had happened to her. It wasn't clear what. She needed my help.
     What to do? I called my mother. She knows about some of these dreams I have. Had mom heard any news about her? Mom is in touch with friends her age back where I grew up, which was a small town. People hear things. She'd heard nothing. So I wrote a letter. With me, next to my writing desk in a file cabinet is a list from our last high school reunion. Her married name and present address is there. She wasn't at the reunion.
     Because we were once romantically involved I tried to be very tactful writing this letter, but I was too embodied by this dream to not do something or try, and had it been something which required me to cross the Pacific Ocean there's no doubt in my mind that I would have had I had enough money, but I'd write a letter first.
     She is married. As am I. Both of us are with our original spouse. No divorce as yet. I'm fine with my wife, though we have our ups and downs, as I hope she is with her husband. I did not want to come on like I'm trying to move on her. In the letter I wanted to make it clear that I am ready to do what I can to help if there is indeed some trouble she's in.
     I don't know what it might be that would make me ready for a letter writing or Pacific crossing if not the fact that I have feelings for her. Should this disturb me? It's surprising to find how we can feel deeply about some one or some thing pastly present. It's almost as if we acquire for these feelings for others a negative ability to shut them off. It's almost as if we're not allowed to care or still care, not allowed to have deep feelings or still have them for anyone, an past sweetheart or whoever, another male even.
     There I was with my schedule and my job, a life with wife and kids and all the social expectations that come along with family and suddenly a dream, or two dreams, strike a emotional chord I don't often vibrate to, nor can I truthfully say I knew was in me. The feelings we may find there can be disturbing perhaps is why I at least am not more open to them.  Does it mean I'm not over her? There were other girls I dated but I have never had any dreams involving any one of them in particular. Nothing distressing or joyous in any way that I remember as significant.
     I'd venture that the feeling goes beyond not being over a romantic connection.  What is it then about these certain persons in our lives that would create such a messenger as a dream to communicate something as vital as being needed. Or is it that in my life at the time as I lived it I did not often strongly feel needed (other than just being around and bringing home the bacon)? Relativity? I don't know.
     Some attachments in our lives no doubt seep deeply into us and remain in our love folds for as long as love runs in us?
     Anyway is there an emotional law about loving others from somewhere deep within us even if they are not our spouse, not our significant other, and not our own family or children?
     I wrote the letter. I wrote that I hoped she would not think negatively about my writing her. I explained the circumstances, the dreams, etc. I offered my services if there was some problem or some trouble she was in. She need not feel pressured to respond, it went on, but in case the dream had pointed to some actual sadness or suffering she'd come to she should not hesitate to contact me. I was ready to help. The letter went off. Was I impulsive? I'm afraid the letter sounded stiff and official. It was as if it wasn't meant to sound like love. It was about my caring but I was afraid to write like I cared. It sounded like a letter from the IRS.   
     The dreams had shaken me more than those which had brought news about relatives' deaths. These dreams were about life. I went in to school in a fog. I had to pull myself together in order to go in front of a class. The day was like others in way of routine but throughout this one there was little else on my mind but these consecutive dreams about this one person.
     There was never any letter or postcard that came back from her. My letter did not come back with RETURN TO SENDER stamped on the envelope. What had happened? Just a dream? Life has some way of telling us that we are still meaningful for each other even as memory. Memories can decay like everything else though the love that made them flows on. Isn't it love that takes us back to visit and nourish and keep alive the memories?

     The feeling together as one we were then was obviously not so strong as to to keep us together long enough to exchange vows, but we did not imagine it was something more than the fault of one of us, did not see how we both were lost in the lost heart of a country at war with itself and busy making war upon the land itself. Arts go into decline, perish. What arts there are. It perhaps was not the best of environments in which to grow emotionally, but  then again we were young and knew no better. Who can say? Isn't love epiphenomenal, doesn't it happen sort of on the spot, then and there, wherever? I haven't  heard of any romances that began in Auschwitz though. There has to be hope I guess.
     It doesn't mean the feelings were not there, just there is no place to be them and no us to be them for lack of a growing scene to grow along with and more fully into. Impoverished by materialism, money, all that. What effect does that have on a heart? The shrinks I don't think study this much. The fact that there could be love at all and that it grew into dream all this time later as we learn the story of Altair and Vega coming together once a year is not to be dismissed. Hidden from each other throughout much of the goings on because if they were together always where would be the myth, the deep space story of eternal travelers meeting up again.
     Our contribution, our twinkle to the story, is more than the mundane other we play as our social selves. But this is all projection; she may hardly remember me, or even if she does is it a fond memory or a hurtful one? I have no way of knowing, only faith.
     Then, too, how would I feel if one day Morie woke up and told me she'd dreamt of a high school or college sweetheart?

 Morie: Last night in a dream I watched a boyfriend from my      college days still loves me.
 me:       eenie beanie chilly beanie. The spirits are about to speak.
 Morie: That's why. You never let anyone into your heart.
 me:       What's for dinner?
 Morie: Yes, I see. So, that's how you think.
 me:       All right!      Christ!      I was just joking!
 Morie: Yeah! "Jesus Christ!" "Goddamn it!" Why you always      angry?

 . . .
     We lacked a sense of each other's character that a novelist could offer. We were characterized through each other as the here and now we were featured as--if not then how can it be said love was in us doing us our thing? Because if it's not flowing into, through, and out of both of us how can it be said to be love? How can one's heart be broken and not the other's? Don't both feel pain and loss? What did the we of we mean? What did we give rise to in each other? Her tenderness was more than a psychological explanation in the way she tilted her head and the Pre-Raphaelite curve of her neck, more than I can get excited about describing with any degree of intellectual fervor. She had a way of laughing. Her voice got high and squeaky when irked by my immaturity. She piped off. Her smile was a gentle breeze, a sun's warmth upon me. Her auburn hair a beach and wind bristling with sand that got in my mouth. Her eyes a surf when sun is on it a morning clear that made me sing and laugh inside. She was all these elements in nature, they were drawn into her, she was their embodiment; she gave them her heart to dwell in so that when I felt her I was feeling an earth and sky inside me. Hers was a body sanguine and I sensed, lying beside her holding her to me, that we were both in a very living way worshiping god, though it wasn't like any service I'd been to at a church.
     It was not possible perhaps to have experienced this and have our selves as this in a world we lived in, a world we could not live together in. There's the reality that we would be pulled down to a world in which what we meant to each other was popularity, being one of the in crowd, prom kings and queens, or pinned, going steady, engaged, and all the other social, economic, and legal compartments our world forces our love into. Or would she be seen as a "nice ass" by the football group I practiced with, drank beer with, ate pizza with, or would she have been adequately intellectual had I been in a brainy circle? It's strange now to realize how powerful these circles we live through can be. It never really hit me until seeing it in cultural contrast here in Japan. And how weak I can be to these groups, their influences. But this is what happened, one of the problems. The "devil" got to me, the world me, again, as it many times has when I've given up truth my soul for a worthlessness which is I guess what it means to have to live a lifeful of meaninglessness when we don't really have our heart in what we do. And how often do we?
     And, too, we were teenagers, an adventure with the issues our society creates for people who are biologically mature but economically and socially not yet self-sufficient. It was me, someone unshielded by religion, belief, or by consciously acquired intelligence of any kind against the world's onslaught. Or for that matter unshielded against myself, my not being in my own life because I wasn't so often living in my own heart there being too much inside my head taking me away: football glory, colleges, a future, success, insecurity and much else. I have no virtue other than nakedness, a life to live for better or worse. There's no joy to be found in regret.
     Removed from her nature, confusion ensued, an uncertainty that was itself painful. Was it me, was it her? According to her it was me. I stubbornly refused to see her point in this; defense mechanisms were engaged. Her accusations were valid certainly, when I think on it now; it's just that if she persisted with them they'd evolve into a grudge. Inevitably. I guess. This, undoubtedly, was love's aftermath. Had she really loved me? Had I really loved her? She would've rather it had been Joe Schmoe called her, as she told me early on when I first began phoning her. All I cared about, she said teasingly, was football and beer--this while I was at her home in her bedroom with Neil Young's Gold Rush album for her birthday present. Hello? A year later it's me who's at fault for breaking her heart that only love can break. It must've been love. You see where the blaming goes: if it doesn't take us into misery, it sure sets us spinning.
     And in between dates, during our time together, I may have dated someone else or maybe several others. I did. Before her I'd been going steady with someone for a couple years--and wasn't steadily loyal all the way through that either--and so I told her that because of this previous romance I wanted to be for a while free and uncommitted, which was a lie anyway, an incredible attempt to deceive myself into believing I knew what I wanted. She wanted loyalty, understandably I guess--though we don't always get what we want in life. I couldn't give it. This I know does not make good advertising copy for me but I guess with living we might try to be honest about our own lives. Though who could WANT to be? We're all emotionally suspect. Humans are the least stable creatures on this earth. She didn't want a me who wanted her in offs and ons. Completely understandable. She wasn't madly in love with me. Nor was I with her.
     I don't know if I've ever been loyally myself throughout my life though just now, this very moment, do I discover this like a new star what loyalty is in me and where it shines from. The many years it has taken. So that I can live and write of it, and it's not even a matter of being loyal TO a woman or a wife, which, without some deeper dedication, is so much sensational fallaciousness (and the guilt trip thrown in too for good measure), since we don't actually spiritually FEEL loyal to someone. We feel--hopefully together--spiritually alive and bound to this one truth. We can live with that.
     I don't regret dating those other girls. I enjoyed it. They were wonderful. They were not just female bodies to pleasure myself with. They were new to get to know. We were full of ourselves in our new stage of life, excited to be out on our own away from parents' eyes. They were mostly not wild, they were small town girls conscious of reputation--some dating for the first time & who had never had sex and who didn't have it first with me though it was a heated debate at times, how far we would go, etc. Some were looking maybe for the promised fix, to land in ultimate romance AND a dutiful hubby with a good salary. Would I, Scott Watson, be the one? (Indeed!) And did I know or care but to go with my own surge? But were we just tickets for each other to a prom or elsewhere and each worse off for using the other? I never saw it that way. Maybe ignorance is bliss.
     But there was no cause for shame, no sense of immorality in dating them and perhaps I never would have felt that had someone not chided me about it. Like Adam and Eve supposedly never knew they were naked and never thought there was something wrong with them until they got death and made themselves religion and from that something about which to feel shame or self pity. Never was it clear to me why someone would be upset. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. My feelings for her were still there. I liked some other girls, I felt more for her. I was alive in a field of flowers, though I could probably be as uptight and possessive as the next person. We can make our emotional lives into one big booger of negation. I couldn't, nor can I now (in the socially sanctioned sense of the word can), do things with other girls or just be with them. Because of their gender, the sex morals of our tribe.
     Social interactions in our world are strongly regulated by sex. Female-male, male-male, female-female, who can go or do what with who. It gets to seem like a board game, one you can easily tire of playing, and which, board games as a whole, I was never all that taken with. All the instructions to read and rules to play by. Tedium.
     So few we get to know under the reign of King Penis and Queen Vagina. Only allowed to see ourselves in settings dictated by pricks and cunts. Do we have, within our groups, more freedom than apes? Is our behavior any less regulated by hierarchy? Yet we have speech. We can gather at conferences and imagine communicating beyond our group with alien intelligence, with E.T., but we can't have tea with a married woman. A theorist has said that in the beginning there was the word but he quickly follows that the word was with god--the theorist didn't mention anyone else but let's assume it was the learned brethren who kept the word amongst themselves on their monopoly board. The word given god the god-given word. It's almost as if there is a piracy to piety; from the beginning a speech that goes beyond the obvious yackety-yack, a speech with which to open ourselves, to ourselves, (what would such a language sound like? Poetry?) has been stolen, appropriated for delimitative sacred usages.  

     What I felt while together with her, was it me doing all the feeling and is feeling essentially who I am? Was what was going on in me my own capacity for love and since it was seemingly over was my capacity to love nullified, my credibility as enactor of my self revoked? There no longer was an us. Or was "us" our opening ourselves to each other's vision, entering it and so expanding our own? Or all of these? Or none? Who knows? That's why there's wisdom. Love learns us painfully.
     I hold on to splendor's moment feeling blessed, graced, by the vision, timeless, the moments given us, to be in these at all.
     Or is hers to me still another message, messages endlessly connecting, an unknown calling that she responded to in being with me as I with her, something more than our or my inevitable mistakes and stupidity, our ego hurts and heartful aches, something that grows into an expansiveness that is life-giving. This is what happened to us, what became of us, what we became of. We are its touch, in touch, our person. Characterization.
     Those dreams, as I see them now some four years later, were not only to tell me that there was some trouble in her life--though I don't imagine there is any life without trouble in it of some kind--but that there is something not flowing freely in my own, as when a world closes in upon us with our own petty concerns, chokes us, closing our heart's eye so that we are hardly aware how immense our living in fact is. The dreams. The love that flows into and through these dreams and these memories, the love that takes us back to them brings us back, liberates, helps, heals, lets us live. All that we recall is recalling us. Opening us. This is lifescape, its source or soul, these every days in our nature to which our dying and living is bound.

F.J. Seligson

* these poems originally appeared in chapbook form from PEACE PRESS. Anyone has Mr. Seligson's permission to reproduce these poems, free of charge, etc.--ed.




     died . . .?








     w/ Arabs . . . !

     " . . .  Jews!"

poems by Eric Paul Shaffer

The following pieces are from a longer work entitled Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen. These are written in the voice of Shih-te, who was cook and janitor at the Buddhist-Taoist monastery of Kuo-ch'ing in the T'ien-t'ai Mountains of China during the T'ang Dynasty.--ed.


Most days I refuse
Cold Peak's invitation to the clouds.

Not that I have much to do
       but gaze on the little model of the world
       young monks tend in the yard,
   laboring in a garden of rock and swept stone.

In the kitchen, fire cooks rice
but only with the willing work of water.
I am happy as I am,
             and that's enough.

As we leave all thoughts, let us leave all things--
as they are, in their places

             No need to climb up or down
             for a view of the world
                  within the world.
Here, one smells rice steaming,

  hears the mealtime tap and clunk
    of sticks and bowls, tastes the high
chill of peaks in waters
rushing through rock from blue heights.



Cold Peak, my brother,
   your broken, yellow bones litter
         stones at Cold Cliff's foot.

       The last time I saw you
                was the last time I saw you.

The moon come and gone three times
      since then,
yet what remains of you gleams on green and gray
       in beams of sun through cloud.

I catch myself on the question
   I came to ask you:
     "How came you here?"

I should ask myself instead


The glory of this great round moon
         would make the Buddha gasp.

Stars shy from silver light
                framed by soft black boughs
         in a sky so deep in blue
a lone cloud sails dark crests on an empty sea.

   What a shame to say all this
             just because I can't
keep my mouth shut.