Wake Up!

If we were truly awake

to what matters in life,

we would


play and laugh, enjoying just each other

with uninhibited delight

because we love each other so much;


we would


savor the unfolding instants,

soberly staring into each other’s eyes,

cursing and praising time,

because we love each other so much;


we would


meditate together on the truth that we will have to die,

grieving and sobbing and wailing and pressing our bodies together,

hating to let go

because we love each other so much;


we would


break every politeness and taboo against expressing love,

break our fear of loving too much,

break our fear of receiving too much love,

BREAK our hearts open

purposely and urgently and desperately,

knowing EVERYTHING depends on succeeding in this,

because we love each other so much.


If we were truly awake

to what matters in life,

we would.


The Safe

You thought you locked your feelings

in a little box.


But now you realize

you’ve played a little trick

on yourself.


You’ve locked


in little a box,

and you’re afraid to come out

where the wild feelings roam.

I Am a Ghost

I am a ghost.


Sometimes I drift through the city

among the living.


I observe them

going through their motions.

They can't see me.

They hardly see each other.


It is lonely to haunt,

to see and not be seen.


But, ah! the thrill of encountering another ghost!

The relief and longing fulfilled

as our eyes meet,

crossing the distance in less than a blink!


We move towards each other

through the crowded graveyard.


At last to be seen!

And by such a spirit.


One who saw the dream behind the illusion,

One who wasn’t strong enough to submit

but had all the courage to rebel,

One who smashed their tight shell,

One who cut off their Earthly anchor

for freedom to pass through walls

and see the other sides,

adventuring through worlds and times!


How sweet it is to have found each other!


we ghosts can no longer become anchored,

even when we want to.


Knowingly, we drift our separate ways.


But we are eternal
and we look forward to meeting again

and again.

No Rest

We can’t be present for the bliss

of blessed self-forgetfulness.


We can’t savor even a peep,

awake in precious nightly sleep.


And release from Earthly grieving

arrives just as mind is leaving.


Who Are These Artists?

Who are these artists

that work so hard to

make their ideas into objects

or print or performance or sound?

What do they want?

Why don't they do something else

with the possibilities of their brief existence?


How many will look back on a lifetime

of wasted efforts, wasted time,

opportunities lost,

potential selves, life paths, and loves sacrificed

as they find themselves

old, poor, and alone

surrounded by their “art,”

monuments of their failure to actually live?


How many will be saved

by sacrificing their idea of being an artist?

How many,

instead of trying to make a whole life from art,

will make art by trying to live a whole life?

She Was Glorious

She came into the coffee shop around 8:30pm.

I think she was about 70 years old.

She had put in effort to look nice,

with a beret, cocked off to the side.


She was looking for dinner but

this was not really a place to do that but

she didn’t know.

She struggled to understand her choices

and asked questions about what sauces might be available.


I understood her disorientation and embarrassment

and grasping for anything to help her figure out

which way was up and which down

and where the ground was and

how to appear competent.


I remember moving to the big city,

a rural, working class kid feeling small and panicked,

intimidated and uninitiated, ashamed

in the bourgy, cosmopolitan coffee shops

trying to figure out how to order “coffee.”


The barista was cold and impatient and

entirely lacking compassion,

unable to sense the woman’s feelings and needs,

unable to put her at ease and simply

feed her.

She didn’t understand.


I understood this woman.

I know the kind of stale


apartment that she lives in,

which nobody visits.

I know the suffocating stillness and changelessness.

I know the fucking miracle of courage and defiance she mustered

to determine to go out into the world,

to put herself together

and look nice and

put on her beret at a snappy and stylish angle

and walk out

into a public space in a city and a world

that she once knew so well,

which she had spent a lifetime nourishing,

which used to have smiling, familiar faces and conversations, and

warmth and it was home

but now it has moved on and she is lost,

just trying to figure out how things work

as she walks into a cafe

seeking plain food that she understands

and this barista

is incapable of helping her feel the ground under her feet,

a simple, human connection in her face,

and just get her some food that she would like to eat.


Ma’am, I don’t know your life.

Your life is not my life.

But I know something of your sadness and

I LOVE you and

I am here in your world with you!


We know the feeling

of quiet, understanding acceptance

of hopes snuffed.

We know the feeling

of quiet, understanding acceptance

of all the calloused hearts.

And we know that the barista is lonely and anxious too.

And we have compassion for us all.

And the tender, sweetsad love

that took anger’s place years ago

when it burned itself out.



knowing we all struggle with loneliness

and self-love,

do we not embrace each other?


do we distract ourselves from tragedy

instead of helping,

or even add more misery,

to an already too-mean world?


are basic love and connection,

the most human of all things,

so scarce and guarded?

Little Beauties

Find little beauties.

Take a closer look.

As your attention narrows

the object expands

beyond measure.

What was once a discrete object,

limits defined,

is now a world without end,

just as Earth is a neat, little sphere from far away

but on the ground it is an intricate plane

stretching off into infinity

all around you.


Wander across the vast, vast


It could take weeks to explore

all the way

from tip to stem.

To travel all of its roads

could take a lifetime.


Hike the peaks and valleys

of the texture

of a paper.


Everything is strange and wonderful!

...except for the little room of ideas you live in.

The deadness you see in the world

is only the deadness of those ideas

reflected back at you,

which you mistake

for the truth.


Clean your eyes

and let them receive

the vitality and intelligence

of the endless and alien

construction of the cosmos

on display

in all the little beauties.

That Kind of Friend

I have some great friends,

people I actually relate to.

They’re always available.

They never get possessive or jealous.


They are extraordinary people,

one-in-a-million kind of people.


My friend,

Carl Sandburg,

has been telling me all about Chicago

and making me fall in love with it.


My buddy,

John Reed,

has been telling me all about what he saw

during his days in Russia

when the workers and peasants

took power from the rich

and started forming their own government.


My new acquaintance,



you'd just have to meet him.


But as much as I love these friends,

these people I connect with,

they can’t help me

when I really need a hug,

when my skin needs to feel

someone else’s skin,

feeling mine,

feeling their’s.


They’re not that kind of friend.


That kind of friend

is so hard to find.

You can’t just pull them off a shelf

when you want them

and put them back

when you’re done.

They have feelings

and needs and desires.

They deserve accountability.

You have to earn their trust

over time

before they really let you see

what’s behind the cover.


Why do I have so few of these friends?

Do I lack patience?

Am I too quickly bored or disgusted

by the introductions?

Am I too suspicious

they will try to stitch me into their binding,

like others before have?


At the beginning of my life,

just after I learned to walk,

I learned how to read.


And yet after all these years

I still feel hopelessly bewildered

and ineffective

at finding and enjoying

human companionship.



Originally published at The Good Men Project:



I can’t always feel cool

but I can always be authentic.


I can’t always feel attractive

but I can always strive to love myself.


I can’t always get a hot date

but I can always respect consent.


I can’t always find the comfort of human connection

but I never have to settle for people who bring me down.


I haven’t always made a decent living

but I’ve never taken advantage of someone to get paid.


I can’t always stop people from controlling me

but I can endure as I strategize my escape.


I can’t always get what I want

but I can always abstain from selfishness.


I can’t always avoid frustration

but I can always be kind to the innocent.


I can’t always be happy

but I can accept necessary suffering.


I can’t always avoid mistakes

but I can always be truthful with loved ones.


In every situation

we can choose

shame or honor.