I’ve Been Hurt



I’ve been hurt.

Real bad.


No, I’m not trying to compare.


Everyone has a right to honor their own wounds.


And everyone has a responsibility

to go to their pain

and heal it

because hurt is contagious.


It helps to talk about it a bit.


I don’t remember

what happened.

I remember bad things

but I can’t find the memories that explain




I’m sorry.

I always feel like I need to apologize.

I’m a walking apology.



I feel like I need to apologize for being born

but no matter how much I apologize for it

I never feel forgiven


to live

my life.



I’ve been hurt

real bad,

somewhere deep where my mind isn’t allowed to go.


But I feel it

when I try to speak

or dare to try something that would require me to believe I have a right in this world.


I feel it

when it swells up

and spreads through my body and I


and clench and contract and shrink away

like I’m trying to protect myself from another blow

or just disappear.


I used to use anger to get big and strong

and push everything away

and get enough space to


But after just a few years

I burned through my lifetime supply of rage.


I used to use alcohol and drugs

for the soothing

and the cheap, fast illusion of power,

but each night’s step forward

cost me two steps back.


I finally found myself

but I was miles behind.




I stopped taking the edge off.

Now I want to leave it on.

I need it to cut this mystery open.


I’ve spent years trying to give myself permission to cry.

I can do it a little now.

It feels useless trying to squeeze a river

through a little crack.


But I remind myself that

one little crack is all it takes

to bring the dam crashing down

some magnificent day.









Patience and


of water.


Water’s ease and assurance, effortless

in awesome weight and power,

in inevitability.



And I will burst through that wall,

taking the spaces that are mine to fill,

with innocent confidence,

trusting nature

will continuously correct my course

as I flow freely into my life,

laughing at my silly self

for ever having been a river

who wanted permission

to join in our ocean.

Whatever You Do


In Seattle

people obey the “don’t walk” light at the street corner

even if no cars are coming.

Yes, they just stand there!


It looks bizarre and surreal to see them

standing there

obeying without thinking,

but how many signs do we all obey

without even noticing?






facial expressions,




Signs only have power over you

if you don’t reflect on them.

Reflect on them and

take your power back.



wearing that cross means

he’s an ally to the poor and oppressed,


maybe he’s just exploiting that symbol

so he can exploit you.


Don’t trust a sign.

Meet the substance.


Maybe that flag stands for freedom


maybe genocide, slavery, and imperialism


maybe all of these and more.


Maybe it’s not so simple.


You see, a sign is a very simple thing

but significance is


the opposite of simple.


Maybe that look means

the person doesn’t like you


maybe they like you a lot

and it makes them nervous


maybe you’re irrelevant

and they’ve had a hard day


a lifetime of trauma.


All day we react, unaware:

“He looks trustworthy.”

“He looks dangerous.”

“I should…”

“I’m so…”

“I can’t…”

“I’ll just…”


Why did you think that?

What was your sign?

What did you assume?


How many signs do we obey

without even noticing?


(And how many useful signs do we ignore without noticing,

signs that could help us if we were more observant?)


Signs only have power if

you don’t reflect on them.

Notice them,

in the street and in your mind,

and reflect on them.

Take your power back.


Next time you see the “don’t walk” light

and no cars are coming

you can just stand there

or you could cross

or you could roll around in the street

or fall to your knees and sob.


Whatever you do,

first, wake up.

I Have Seen a Bird


I have seen a bird

crumpled, shy, cowering.


But I have seen another bird


wings extending powerfully,

pushing on air until it rises,

then finally soaring on nature’s invisible currents.

A Blessing for You

May you be happy.
May you feel light.
May you allow a smile to gently spread through your face.
May your eyes be open and clean.

May you release your apprehension
and be filled with supple strength.

May you stand tall and rooted,
pulled taught from above and below.

May you remember that your appearance
comes from the inside out.

May you remember that you’re someone
who people are pleased to meet.

May you never forget that you are lovable.
May you often relive memories of the love you have known.

May you remember that heaven is inside you,
always shining just behind the clouds.
May you fly beyond them
on the gust of a single thought.

Young Love


The old fisherman walks the shore

a bit before the sunset,

steady, patient, and quiet,

working to make peace with life.


His wife has passed away and his children are grown

and somewhere else

they have lives of their own.


Alone he must make his peace.


He is almost soft and empty enough,

at last,

for the fullness of life

to fit and breathe

comfortably inside of him.


But the old fisherman shakes his head

and smiles, a little sad,

as his longing taunts his surrender.


He gently steps along the line

where waves and sand

have playfully wrestled

in young love forever.

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.


How to Write a Poem

You want to write a poem?

Then you will fail.


If you try to write a poem, you will be unconsciously imitating a concept of poetry.  You will be contriving an approximation of your idea of what a “poem” is. To create your empty imitation, you will probably use language that is “poetic” according to more preconceptions, and its insignificance will be made more unsightly by wearing gaudy words, drab cliches, and knock-off banalities.


Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but it’s the plain truth and you might as well understand it clearly and right away.  I’m telling you this because I care.


Also, if your goal is to write a poem, you might want to question your motivation.  I’ll bet there’s a hungry ego behind it. I’m not judging you; we all have hungry egos.  But a hungry ego will never be satisfied by any of your achievements or the attention they get you.  Dealing with that ego requires a better strategy than trying to feed it.


So just forget about writing a poem.


But keep on reading this if you would like to:

*explore the mystery of your Self;

*access and feel suppressed emotions and ideas;

*fully experience the meanings of your life;

*make a social justice issue more understandable and poignant to an audience;

*release pains you’ve been carrying;

*just cry a bunch;

*learn better ways to live;

*and have a written record of these powerful, inner experiences so you can revisit them and provide signs that others might follow towards a similar experience.


True creativity starts with a profound, subjective event.  It could be an insight, an intense feeling, or a compelling vision, anything that makes you say, “WOW.”  If it didn’t make you say, “WOW,” or, “Ah!” or, “Ha!” when it occurred to you, then it will never become art.  It should be a meaningful surprise to your own consciousness. Then you have to actually create something with it: paint, sing, dance, act, sculpt, or write.


I think of it this way.  I’m constantly processing my life and thinking about the things that matter to me.  It’s like I have a big, complex, tight knot that I urgently want to untie. I keep looking at it from different angles and tugging on this or that part of it but nothing moves.


AndThenAllOfASuddenSomethingSlipsLoose!  You know that feeling!  And pulling that one bit apart opens up a few more little bits of the knot if you keep working on it.  And finally you get stumped again. That’s the end of a poem.


My point is that your starting place must be your own, natural, inner workings.  When a powerful idea happens, you can write it down. When you start to write it down, more details and powerful feelings and mysterious insights are revealed in your imagination.  Keep writing and watching your imagination until there’s nothing more. Wasn’t that amazing, watching something profound unfold inside of you?! Wow!  You didn’t mean for this to happen but, since you used writing to get deeper into yourself, you’ve now got a poem!


I always edit my work for accuracy of expression and various aspects of style and affect.  I recommend doing this. Those decisions are totally personal and depend on what you want but I will share a few thoughts about this topic:

*Reworking your writing will probably help you find words that more clearly capture and express that inner experience you had.  Bring the experience back from your memory and see if you can convey it more exactly, with more precise language as well as pacing and tone that more exactly match your experience.

*Nobody is impressed with needlessly fancy words.  For example, “azure” should probably never, ever be used in a poem ever again.  Ever.

*Metaphors and similes are the common stock of poetry.  But don’t just grab one. It’s going to be trite. Good poems only use metaphor and simile because some person had an inner event so profound and unprecedented that literal language was incapable of expressing it.  That person had to get really creative with words--out of necessity--and improvise with language to capture that experience.  Understand this and you will understand the true source and form of poetry.  (I actually think cliches are important to use sometimes but they require special considerations and that’s a topic for another essay).


The most important topic of this essay is unpacking and writing an intense inner event.  How do those events happen? Are they random? Can we do anything to have them more often?


Inspiration is like getting struck by lightning but you can become a lightning rod.  Rather than trying to stimulate these events into being, I recommend removing obstacles in their path.  Here are some things to remove or partially restrict in your life:

* Watch less TV, listen to less music, read less, and put the phone away (you’ll be OK . . . really).  You can’t observe the unfolding patterns and emergent phenomena in your mind if you are constantly imprinting your mind with patterns from the outside world.  Remove inputs and distractions.

* Once your precious distractions are gone, you run the risk of actually experiencing yourself!  Oh no! Anxious and obsessive thinking will rush in. Now you will have to deal with these painful obstacles but you will get lots of powerful moments, maybe the best ones, from this process of healing. You can begin a disciplined habit of mindfulness meditation, seek therapy, and/or get deep into self-help.  Whatever you do, be on an all-out quest for clarity, the truth, the meaning of your existence, uninhibited feeling, lucidity.

* Drink less and do less drugs.  It’s true that being intoxicated can bring out strong thoughts and feelings.  I have had plenty of drunken walks home when I shouted things skyward like, “Bleak universe! Deaf to our prayers for total annihilation!!” or, “Earth! Inhospitable womb!!!” But these things won’t turn into insightful, revelatory experiences worth capturing in a poem.  You’re drunk. You aren’t functioning. It’s that simple. What are you doing? Go to bed. And hangovers? You’re not going to see anything profound all day. Get sober.


As you remove these obstacles, you will become more in touch with your inner self.  That’s really the point of all this, remember? If you’re really doing the work of developing a healthier inner state you will begin having profoundly meaningful moments.


If you’re having a day where not much is erupting inside, you can go seek a stimulus.  First get really grounded and lucid and then just walk around, ride the city bus, etc. Note: This only works if you’re not mesmerized by your phone, listening to music, reading, or drunk.


If you have gone all day without anything stirring inside you, I recommend doing some writing about absolutely anything.  No, it won’t be inspired but it’s the disciplined work of developing your craft. Craft is the midwife of your ideas. Work, whether you are inspired or not, and develop skills so that when something is trying to be born you don’t kill it.  Just as a visual artist will go sketch things when they’re uninspired, go sketch with words. You probably won’t make anything you really care about but it’s the process, not the product, that really matters. The end result of your life, the grand finale, the final product, is a corpse.  Focus on experiencing each moment just as it is. Be there for it.


These practices have radically changed my life.  I hope my ideas here will help you live more deeply, truthfully, and meaningfully.  If you end up with some poems, that’s cool too.


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.





The Young Construction Worker

The young construction worker

asked the older construction worker,

“¿Al lado?”


Ah, I was jealous.

The young man,

just becoming a man,


His honorable work.

He and the older man had a familiarity with each other.

There was a hierarchy

but the hierarchy itself

hinted at a deep and loving bond

larger than two men.


The young man was deferential and humble to the elder,

which did not indicate weakness

but rather made the youth more venerable and dignified.

It indicated his path,

rites along a definite road to maturity,

learning how to be part of something bigger than himself,

something alive but older than any living individual,

something that he is gradually taking responsibility for,

ensuring its patterns

of love and survival

will continue to be woven,

long after his body has dissolved.


The young man

looked so bright and hopeful,

earning a living,

maybe in love,

maybe excited to start a family,


a most precious piece contributed

from each of two ancient families,

who are now moving together,

gathering around as a new living shape is born

into the great mosaic,

lawfully shifting the sacred geometry

of family and eternity.


I was so happy for him but,

ah, I was so painfully jealous

as I walked past them

on my way home




most Holy Church of churches.


People pissing in the pews

Windows either broken out or boarded up

Cigarette butts stomped into the floor

And that pile of shit and garbage

that people started in the corner

is starting to spill all over the place.



Don’t they know this is a FUCKING CHURCH?!


No, they really don’t.

Their ancestors knew

but now most have been trained

not to notice.


And soon enough we will all die

of deprivation, poison, sickness, and violence,

corpses strewn and piled,

quiet and still

in every room.


The church will go on standing

but what good is a church

if no one worships there anymore.

So Far From Your Feelings

How can you stand to live

so far

from your feelings?


All alone out there in the world.


You never visit.

You never call.

You never write.

When we call

you never answer.


I know you’re busy

but some things you have to make time for.


We miss you.

At this rate we’re going to become strangers!

Would you even recognize Joy if you were in the same room?

I hate to tell you

because I don’t want you to worry


you really ought to know.

Joy is very sick,

withering away almost to nothing.


But remember the twins, Loneliness and Resentment?

They’ve grown up so big since the last time you saw them!

You’d have to see them to believe it!


I understand that you had to move away for a while,

get some distance,

find yourself,

but it’s time to come home and give your feelings another chance.

You moved away so young,

you really only knew us through a child’s eyes.

But you’ve matured now and

you’ll see us in a whole new way.


Won’t you come home,

even just for a holiday,

and get reacquainted?


Don’t you want to hear everyone’s stories

and learn about where you came from?


It’s never too late to come back

but each day that passess without us

is time you’ll never get back.


And each day you’ll feel

the truth

that you do miss us painfully.



Your Feelings


I Want to Meet Your Light

I want to meet your light

right at the front

of your eyes,



shining from deep in your center

where the hearth crackles.

I want the light to meet me

right out front

and invite me inside,


You’ll know it’s safe

because my light will meet you there

at the doorsteps of our souls.

And you will see clearly

into me too.

And you’ll see that I don’t want

to take anything

or change anything

or condemn anything.

You’ll see that I just want to enjoy what’s in there, that

I just want to like you.

You’ll know it’s safe

because my eyes

will be warm and opened to you,

trusting that you too will move with care and mercy,

as you come through my world

to join me

at my fire.


Looking for Connections

I am lonely. I have wonderful family, friends, colleagues, and loving relationships of many kinds. Yet I am lonely and I suffer from it. I also suffer from despair. Some say this is the human condition but I disagree. I think it’s a wide-spread, social, cultural, and (fundamentally) political condition and I live in constant rebellion against it.

This website is for me to express my deepest self publicly, in hope that I will strike a chord in others, who will send back their own echoes. I am testing the idea that I can overcome loneliness and despair by opening my inner world and inviting others in. Maybe, in turn, you will want to invite me into yours.

Trying to cure loneliness and despair over the internet is, of course, like trying to cure thirst with salt. I live in Seattle. If you’re local, maybe we should hang out. You can contact me through this website and maybe we will want to meet. (JSYK: I’m picky about who I spend my time with. Part of the reason I struggle with loneliness is that many people just want to feed on my attention and energy, so I have developed appropriate defenses. I don’t want to be around people who leave me feeling depleted. I want relationships that energize everyone involved; otherwise I prefer solitude.)

I hope that you will reach out to me if you would like to collaborate on writing or music or visual art or theater/film or zines, anything that will help us feel alive, connected, significant, and purposeful. Let’s tear down the alienating, reifying spectacle of capitalism. We can begin by ripping just one section of the fabric, the one that keeps you and me apart.

Be Bolde, Be Wyse

The name of this website comes from my family’s motto, “Be Bolde, Be Wyse.” Nobody really knows where it came from except that some ancestor was a knight and put these words on the family coat of arms. I remember seeing the coat of arms hanging up at my grandma and grandpa’s house when I was a little kid. I immediately felt that it was a command, a duty. Words have power (I mean, like magic) and this motto gives me strength, guidance, and accountability.