Down

Featherless freaks
thin skinned fur poachers
look what all we traded
to be brainy enough
to have worries.

Shivers are the hoarse song
poking in to the tune of life
where our molecules shudder
and shrink and malfunction
in the sluggish low frequencies
that will withdraw
the very beats from our hearts
should our adaptations fail.

Here in Texas we are maneuvering our way back to normal after a shock of extreme weather knocked things about. The agency here that governs power grid management is more aligned with Enron-style market games than it is with the public good, so wish us luck.

Photo: Northern Mockingbird on a cold morning, (CC-BY-SA) 2021, G. Paul Randall

Whistlers

in the end
the folds will close, and
nothing will you save

so tell me how
the resolute are pious
stout and brave

the end is nigh
but by and by, tomorrow
rise and shave

it’s better whistling
in the air, than turning
in your grave

Whistlers first appeared in The Poetry Bar, July 6, 2019.

Cloud Bank

So how much would you likely pay
to have yourself a sunny day?

We'd like to pay the bill in cloud
if that might somehow be allowed.

As currency a cloud is very
like the dollars that we carry.

All puffed up with value there
but marking what is actually air.

All pomp and cheer when we have money
but when it's gone it's not so funny.

We go to pay the tab that's due
what now? Your wallet's clear and blue.

Photo: close-up of an avocado, with effects. (CC) 2021, G. Paul Randall

Mean Time Between Failures

I slammed the car door in anger
and then I thought about that crazy machine
that slams car doors all day long
so automotive engineers can see
which component fails first
after a lifetime of being slammed
by mad-as-hell people like me
and maybe some of you…

They could've asked if they wanted to know
it's always the patience that's first to go.

The Novel Loses its Thread

un-baffled exhaust ports
of an unseen muscle car breathe
noisy fire, roar, then idle down to a purr

abrupt report of a pistol

then shifting gears as the motor fades
into the distance, like self-conscious years
writing their way to a halt
at the index of a history text

all the unprovoked thoughts
run adrift, then assemble at sleep's door
as the novel loses its thread
just like a life lived in earnest

innocent as a forgotten thing
its power to provoke all played out
on a Saturday night in Houston

Impermanence

A rotten orange and this magic wand
some bones to hold
the lump erect

A starter pistol barks for the ready wheels
all thrust and penetration
not circumspect

A fire burns until it's out
without much worry
I suspect


Impermanence (Tib. metakpa)

The magic wand is the appearance of a fixed reality in the orange before it rots. Bones give structure to thoughtless agency. Onward, into the fog. Impermanence is demonstrable, what use is its contemplation? Born into bodies, we had to invent the wheel. This is not the problem. We are like plankton feeding ourselves to the whale of endless craving. We are fire, burning through everything we desire, and suffering pain and loss is the inevitable smoke of this burning.

“In horror of death, I took to the mountains – again and again I meditated on the uncertainty of the hour of death, capturing the fortress of the deathless unending nature of mind. Now all fear of death is over and done.”

—Milarepa

The Nocturnal Habits of Daylight

Light, upon young skin
I noticed you by the grace of it
and the rays of it glancing off
of everything you touched.

Radiance beyond
the duality of particle and wave
we, spinning and wobbling
like fresh formed planets
in a steady stream of it.

But the Sun of these better days
had yet to rise:

It was dark the hour we met
and that poor Sun probably burns
knowing now that I had seen you first
and by its own light
that it had carelessly loaned
to the Moon that night.
No hearts were harmed, or even moved for that matter, in the making of this love poem.

Zen Curious

The archer's faulted for its lack
Subgenius craves it—calls it slack

Potter shaping mound of clay
Seeks wabi-sabi, so they say

Outnumbered by the many foe
Kung Fu's the only way to go

The Koan reaches eager ears
Throws a wrench into the gears

Like pyramids, real power now
Though no one knows exactly how

An author knows this very well:
Slipped in the title, book will sell

That certain something thought of when
You don't know what to call it: Zen

Just for fun, search “Zen and the Art of” and see all the various suggestions offered by your search engine. (I recommend DuckDuckGo as a privacy oriented search alternative to the big guys. I do not use Google anymore.) Turns out that Robert Pirsig was riffing on another book’s title when he published Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: which was Zen in the Art of Archery, by German philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel, published in 1948.

Kyūdō: Bows are called Yumi (, lit. “Bow“)

Something striking to me about Western culture is that it’s thoroughly grounded in materialist orthodoxy but is endlessly fascinated with the ‘Mysteries of the East’ like Zen and martial arts. Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Kung Fu.

America is a Cop Show

The Ballad of Knee-jerk Holler

America is a cop show
That started way back when
A slave took off and got away
And they fetched him back again

America is a sitcom
Where life is neatly framed
The laughs are prerecorded
And the foil neatly blamed

America is a racket
A scheme that is sublime
It lets the rich stay filthy rich
On someone else's dime

America is an advert
Tells you how to spend the buck
You worked so hard to pocket
At that job you got by luck

America is that famous city
Shining on a hill
That once belonged to someone else
The ones we had to kill

America is a voter
Empowered to enthrone
The one who keeps the system rigged
Who tosses you the bone

America is a grifter
Who lied his way to power
That many still support him
Is a situation dour

America is a system
Designed to self-correct
It barely pulled it off this time
It very nearly wrecked

America is a dreamer
Full of hope and faith and cheer
Who takes his knocks and gets back up
To face another year