Wednesday, April 20, 2016

life after death

You used to complain about your weight, then eat ice cream before bed.
You wouldn’t open up when you were upset for days, then a trigger would send you at me suddenly, howling in terrifying rage that made no sense to me.
You didn’t trust your body since it seemed to betray you so often, and had no tolerance for pain, resisting it and distracting yourself instead of taking better care.
You were so afraid of me being hurt that any small thing would send you into a panic over me, instilling a deeply etched pattern I keep trying to shake off.
Your black and white thinking alienated so many people, and your certainty kept you closed off and ashamed of your own choices, your misplaced guilt a shark-filled moat around you.
You wanted to connect so badly that your intensity backfired, leaving you mostly alone.
Your own brother barely knew you…
Your father blamed himself for so much, not because he did treat you badly when you were young, but because of his choices in women…
Your mother lied to you about why she was so depressed and angry, and after she died you wished you could speak with her.

And I realize, all at once, that all these things, so directed at you, so angry at you, so judgmental of you, voices repeated by my mind over the years, can also be said at many points, completely, truly, about me.

And also.

Your sense of humor was excellent, and we would make each other laugh until we couldn’t breathe.
You tried hard to exercise, to eat healthier food, and enjoyed small adventures.
You loved philosophy, archaeology, old movies, music, science fiction, and poetry.
You thought you had a good answer for how to make the world a better place.
You loved to sing in other languages.
Music moved you, could make you cry, or motivate you to dance awkwardly around the living room.
You had a gift for seeing into me, understanding what really motivated me, who I was, solidly, reliably, predictably, underneath the roiling emotions that constantly disturb my surface, and your advice and love were deep.
Your relationship with grampa got much better over time.
You understood your mother so much better after she died, and although that was painful, it was helpful too.

All these things are also true for me.

No suffering is ever unconnected.
No connection is ever without effect.
Letting go of certainty and blame,

the innocence of interdependent arising 
can begin to be seen to illuminate existence.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


it seems to you I do nothing
sitting, walking, reading, writing, thinking
and in a sense I agree
there are days when doing nothing
means I stay here-
it is a meditation,
incredible restraint, non-doing-
when the pressure to escape
is a fault line ready to slip
when each imagined new path
is met with screams of ‘impossible’
when memories of children and fathers
explain that I will always be irrelevant
when I have exhausted my grip
sleep is less adventurous than death...
and so, this evening, 
when you ask what I did today,
I can extend my arms to you,
and smile,

and say, ‘nothing’

Sunday, February 28, 2016

a Dream of Time

We are born into an hourglass, a structure of time
For a moment there is no sand around us
But the colorless sand transformed into our cage.
As we take our first breath
The universe is transparent, boundless.
We enter into our own time
The count starts, sand lands on our heads
Shocked, we cry, trapped, cold, alone.
The grains fall around us, they become familiar
We use them, become comfortable in them
As it falls we assume new sand will always fall
So we can keep building our sandcastles…
Some become aware of our imprisonment
Some attempt to escape early
Rushing Jumping Building Steps
Up towards the fall of sand
The movement looks to show only one way out
Choking, suicidal, some get stuck in the rush of time
But spirits cannot move from the stream until the grains have all fallen through…
For the rest, when the grains run out, for a moment there is peace
A clear path for spirit to leap into the empty chamber above
Leaving our bodies below.
Spirit can float free without time
Until inertia turns the hourglass over and we begin again
The dust from our old lives mixing with time
Pouring over us again, old patterns and habits
While our spirit remembers only love and wisdom
It begs to be heard through the noise from the fall
There is a spirit that remembers its nature is pure light
And for the joy of it
The joy alone
The spirit embraces its light nature
Floating free between turns of the glass
Illusion is banished
And light passes through glass
There comes a choice
To be light inside time
Or to be light outside time
And then

To return to time as light?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Love and Dreams

I still remember how you used to look at me. Trying to look at my eyes, frustration, distraction, desire, struggling to care about my words. In the dream early this morning it was the same. Even as I woke up, the need to explain the story I was telling you, the need for you to understand, to sympathize, to be indignant for me, to laugh with me and make me feel better about the jerk who'd tried to use me to hurt my friend, all of those things felt real enough that I wanted to finish telling you the story even after I was fully awake. But as the dream faded and I thought about how real it seemed, I remembered why you couldn't listen, why you missed so much. In the dream I had only a pink tank top on, the one I have now that is too big that I sleep in sometimes, but it didn't matter. You always saw me and said I was so little, you saw my body, you saw under my clothes, you saw what you wanted to do 10 minutes from then. You had trouble being present, hearing my words, seeing the person who loved you, focusing long enough to get to know me all the way through. I mostly wanted a friend back then, I wanted you to be someone you weren't capable of being for me. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that I was so angry at you for so long after either. I probably could have made it easier on us, but I didn't know how at the time. I didn't see the person who loved me either. But love is not necessarily what you need it to be, since it comes from a person who is not necessarily what you need for your soul to feel at home. I hope you understand that now like I do. You were the only one there for me during the worst week of my life, and I can never transmit to you the extent of my gratitude, and how much I love you for that gesture, no matter the ulterior motive. A song on my way home tonight sang to me about getting over someone, but I will never get over anyone I've loved. Nor would I want to. Because for me love is forever, even if it changes form, because I use it as a verb, and I still love you. If I give away a piece of my heart, there isn't a loan or lease, it is yours. Crush it like you did, give it away like you did, forget it like I thought you did, it is still yours. The giving made my heart stronger somehow, letting more light out and in through the gaps.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

grampa's voluntary trip to anatomy lab (in memoriam)

remembering anatomy lab
where we curious butchers would go,
to plumb the depths of someone

searching for every muscle to name
taking off skin
sawing through bones

braving the formaldehyde
the cold
the gruesome reality of death

looking for diagnoses
finding heart attacks, implants, strokes, tattoos, cancers—
it really was fascinating-

… there was a strange excitement
that went along with each discovery
… we’d think about the patient

not for long about how they died,
instead we’d imagine a life,
usually a positive one

and we treated our patients with respect,
kindness, compassion,
though they wouldn't know

… but I wonder when my grandfather’s body
lay in their med school lab
… if they found his sadness…

his loneliness as the final cause of death…
the grief, the shame, the guilt,
that drove the last few years of his life

the frustration…
but also the kindness and the love
and the desire to understand

his ready laugh that was harder to evoke last year
his enchantment with children
his repetitive stories i loved

'I may not always be right
but I'm never wrong'
and how often he walked to get us donuts on Sundays... 

underneath the anxiety
that likely damaged his arteries
there was a sincere desire

he wanted his grandchildren
to be well and happy

alongside the resignation and despair
because he did not know how…

I wonder where we find that.
when medical students learn that.
I certainly didn't learn it in lab.

does someone you love have to die
for you to understand death- 
losing all my immediate family certainly didn't teach me-

does it require something more?

how do you teach an understanding of life inclusive of death?
making us grateful and present

for the lives we have while we have them

...he loved us so much
...I wish everyone could have known my amazing grandfather
...and be touched by his gregarious and optimistic love for everyone he met