The Days, They Fall Upon

the kitchen light goes on, in
the pre-dawn, and outside the cicadas
fly in dizzy rafts, they thump against
the window glass, I draw water
in fizzy drafts, my head, it slumps
whence, the craving pillow, alas

the days, they fall upon
like Keystone Cops, yet unfunny
these antics in the fog, I once
was taught the art of sleep
by a silent, fallen log

Hang Loose, the Bathrobe Cinches of Destiny

like peace in the Middle East
sleep seems a remote possibility

the hospitalized dim of my bedroom
has lost all interest in color
(I know the feeling) and
shows signs of developing fog

illuminated by a laptop screen
a weak glow, folding sickly shadows
into their hiding places
among the clutter: I am awake

(though not awake in the Buddhist
sense, alas, luckless pilgrim
it’s the other kind of awake
the kind that taunts your desire
to be asleep) but wait
here comes darkness, as if to mock
my wired-wide dog-barking brain

—the idling display has timed out

sucking the tween appearance of
the room right out of my eyes
and into its greedy dark
little screen, snatching away
what my reasonless eyes had
set their sights upon

my bathrobe hanging from a hook
on the wall by the closet, with its
long flannel waist-cinch dangling
from a couple of droopy side loops
like hanged men, or drape cords
(innocent, in other words)

side by side, hanging as they are
loose, no orders to follow, fretless
the robe doors open to the night, and
the destiny of a naked, sleepless
man is his alone to ponder
as they now slumber


breath of the ear canal
    shouting self-like, clanging ear-sounds
    shatter an insipid sleep
    secure in the comfort
    of its own noise
    the space of thoughts, ideas
    and the space in front of your own nose
    one space, one knows
come thunder to rattle it all
    we answer with a wild-eyed roaring
    to frighten the wrong away
    then laugh into the void of
    an imagined victory
    nobody can tell you anything
    one knows
so the world becomes
    a self-archiving relic
    the moment I say me
    or you say you and
    some wag-tongue's history underwrites
    then undermines our stories
    propping up a sagging gallery
    fortifying a cherished position
    stories, the ones we know
say it isn't so
    but things are happening
    in the space where intentions form
    before the buzz saw of thought
    gets busy building another shanty
    from the scraps that history
    had no use for
and eyes would not function
    if they sprouted late
    sensors, lumen readers sprout
    bud-like on an old spud head
    full of stuff already seen
    and imagined, but instead
    opened on the face you had
    before our forebears
    before your grandmother's wedding
    before the rise and fall
    of anything you care to name
folds, the map came later
    we used to wing it
    in space, where the offerings
    multiplied to fill the spheres
    before sentient beings
    learned to lose their minds
    in transactions of sum zero
we, who seeing the power lines
    strung above a highway
    full of idling automobiles
    on our way to a dental appointment
    felt struck by a sense of futility
    and reacted in sadness
    instead of madness
we, who run ourselves ragged
    marking the tally of infinity
    stocking the shelves of selves
    in a state we sometimes
    call love, Sangye Menla at the center
    of the mandala of all who live
    and take refuge
clang, the bell emitting clear light
    a sustained glow
    in that space before
    knowing knows it knows
    and recognizes the grasping
    in a moment so sudden and pure
    you will spit your drink
    all over the table
urge, the will to movement
    blind to the calendar's map pin
    always next year's calendar waiting
    seeing the bouquet of youth
    as a fleeting folly
    smile token acknowledgements 
    to fashion a sense of honor
    out of scraps of guilt
    thinking about not thinking
    about it
a stack of bison skulls
    white as sheets
    like a pyramid by the
    railroad stop, taller
    than a courthouse facade
    brittle, sun bleached cone of
    calcium, the milk
    of human kindness
follow, go where others go
    but fight along the way
    and don't give an inch
    unlimited compassion, the Buddha
    herself, at the center of
    every shoving match
    every dirty look
    every soup kitchen brawl
    beneath the flophouse carpet
    and dripping shingle cracks
home bound, where hobos got their name
    war vets, civil conflagrations
    hopping trains and traveling
    the sense of home
    not yet occurring to anyone
    as the here and now
    but do hop a train
    and see for yourself
    everyone makes war, but
    no one wants to call war home
    so go we go, go ahead and go
innocence, no one believes in it
    not really, the castings
    of first stones, in our hearts
    know the knowing, gnawing
    defending the innocent, we
    defend ourselves, side step
    if we can, what we ourselves
    have to answer for
clang, a bell struck once
    rings and rings, and sure
    it fades, a neon-lit arrow
    pointing to the silence
    and that's the mark
    we're far off Broadway
    in a district we call home
    so let's try it once again
    places, and action.

    Maha Shramanah Svaha

Edge of Sleep

Sometimes I try to stay awake through the process of falling asleep. This doesn’t really make sense (you are either conscious or unconscious, right?) but the effort is interesting as you can get much closer to the edge, that point where you just fall, than you might think, and it’s an interesting and peculiar experience. Most often what happens is that sleep is merely postponed and you lay there wrestling against the fall into blankness, which is not what I am trying to do. I want to fall asleep and be aware of everything as it’s happening. So you stand guard and watch and you can actually get a sense of it approaching without having a sense of what IT actually is. You can ward it off, or let it come and take you, but you somehow aren’t allowed to watch what happens when it does.

Occasionally I notice that I seem to be entering a dream before I lose it and plunge into sleep, which is still a loss of awareness but with a thin slice of lucid dreaming at the leading edge. I’m assuming that my memory of this after waking back up is reliable. After experimenting with this for a while, I read somewhere that a very high Tibetan Lama, a really highly realized individual, had admitted to one of his students that he himself would lose the view briefly during the drift-off to sleep. Well, no wonder I can’t do it.