A Medical History

The last 24 hours: six a.m. eating breakfast I bite my tongue really hard on the side and it hurts quite a bit. I finish breakfast contemplating mindfulness in general and mindful eating in particular – I am thinking about mindfulness, mind you, not actually being mindful.

There is a pain in my jaw from the day before that can’t decide if it is a toothache or a headache. My memory of it calls forth the actual sensation – don’t think about it! My tongue hurts for the next eight hours. At lunch I eat some junk food and feel full of stomach and depleted of spirit – my tongue seems acutely aware of the nearby gnashing teeth, fresh is its memory from this morning and it is still sore.

After lunch I develop a thick feeling in my throat and it is awkward to swallow – I ignore it and do my job all afternoon, preparing some items for a shipment with a nagging irritability lurking around my work area.

Early evening I have no appetite. I watch some of the film called Babel and when Cate Blanchett is struck by the bullet, which has a complicated history, I think about how many causes lay hidden in the scenery of our plodding days, unbeknownst to us. I visualize myself as the Medicine Buddha for a moment and become a light-filled mandala hosting every living being, human in form, Buddha in essence, from the past, present and future, and everything functions as medicine, even poison. Back to the movie. Everyone in the film is either making bad decisions or dealing with their consequences – this goes for the one watching the film too.

I have no known allergies to any medications. Check. My maternal grandmother had diabetes. Check. My deductible on prescription medicine is outrageous and I relive a bad memory in which I accused, in an unpleasant phone call many years ago, an insurance rep of malfeasance after receiving a letter saying my policy would not cover a condition which they had determined I was susceptible to: I stopped short of calling the man a heartless grifter, however, in a follow-up email I did suggest to him that he seek an honorable line of work before it was too late – deathbed regrets are not a treatable condition.

At around nine p.m. I head to bed, my bodily condition seeming like a profound irrelevancy. My aches, pains, worries and anxieties, complaints in general, are like a ship full of waving vacationers leaving the harbor, setting sail on the ocean at large in a vessel lighter than water, heavier than air, and stocked with delightful amenities.

As I drift off to sleep I wonder briefly what the weather will be tomorrow.


an innocent thought
effects follow like shadows
drought and flood alike


karma ripening
shaping on its potter’s wheel
goblins of the night


conceptual frames
stacked together so neatly
this game has no end


(illustration by me, 2009)


pristine, it means untouched
by loving hands, or brandished

weapons, be all astound
my enemies in this life

reflect a broken bond of love
in a previous tour of this round

and we, who believe in karma
are not much crazier than you, who

keep living it, I have found


boxer shorts, a warm night
for all the stink of me
wearing yesterday’s shirt
with my little fan running

call to bare knuckles
formed to shape angry thoughts
in the shadow of all kindness
surely bestowed saintly on a fool

who turns proud, pacing, grinding
nibbling, nips dark in the brain silo
bonehead cache of saids and dids

the beacon of remembered slights
steering the someday ships
straight into the rocks

I ask myself: did you see that?

Pay Day

Better be the con man
Than his mark there is no doubt

Except he’s going into debt
And the mark is getting out

Many lives ago their roles
Were switched so now he’ll pay

For what he had conned out of him
On that cold unlucky day

So if one day you pester me
with lessons set to rhyme

I hope I recognize the debt
I owe you at that time

If I don’t the thing will just
Keep going, what a bore

And we’ll engage in doggerel
Like this for ever more