Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The goal is to live
with godlike composure
on the full rush of energy,
like Dionysus riding the leopard,
without being torn to pieces.

-Joseph Campbell



A bit of madness?


crashing, careening,
drunken abandonment;

swooning I fall;

I must -
down to earth
always, down to the earth
again and again.

That wheel of rebirth?
That fucking endless loop of frustration?
Just slit my throat!
Be done with it.
What? It makes no difference?!
Always was, always will be?
Takes the rip out of a
rippin' good suicide.
shit! a man can't even kill himself anymore.

a "bit-of-madness"?
~ perhaps ~
but I wear it well,
don't you think?

Who's that outside the door --
peering in the dark
through the window?

I hear your voice calling
my name; or a voice
calling a name. Voices.
I hear them. They're calling.
Don't be alarmed.
They always do that.
Ask the others.

A bit of madness:
the ghost talkers.

They keep secrets: about you,
whispering whispers
late at night
whispered secrets
most are


in sleep –
dreaming mysterious worlds.

I watch this one -
a guard
in the middle of the night
in a really good game of cards,
talking with ghosts,
sharing tequila
and secrets
with ghosts --

my ghost,

who stays up all night
painting the sky orange for morning.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

All Storms Pass

[this is the fourth in the series on water and the Great Lakes dedicated to the Water Walkers]

All Storms Pass

It’s a beautiful spring weekend in Ontario. My family – my wife, oldest son and his girlfriend and myself have come to Toronto for the family sail; a day when the teenagers who comprise the working crews of Toronto Brigantine take their families out for a sail on Lake Ontario. This is my youngest son’s passion and he has spent the past 4 years devoted to this boat that is the first serious love of his life, apparent when he refers to her as ‘she’, with a look in his eyes usually reserved for a ‘girlfriend’. He is a loyal and devoted young man, filled with a young man’s single-mindedness about the object of his love and passion. Her name is Playfair - a brigantine tall ship – a reproduction of days gone by. She is a rare beauty, especially when her sails are full out and she skims silently along the Great Lake’s blue waters with only the sound of wind and the snap of the sail to be heard.

The young, all teenage crew have spent the previous winter breaking her down, laboring hard over her, repairing, maintaining and doing all the work necessary to keep such a gem afloat. A winter of every weekend living on the unheated boat in the icy harbor, sewing sails, tarring shrouds, varnishing wood and other tedious time consuming labor is rewarded on this day with the first official sail of the new season. Soon they will be back out there doing the thing he loves the most: sailing the Great Lakes. The ‘Family Sail’ is the initiation of the season, where parents and families are taken out into the open waters of Lake Ontario with the young crew in command. They work as a well-oiled machine, listening for their next directives shouted out by those in command – the captain and the first mate. Having worked his way up from the bottom as a trainee four years before, my son has worked and earned his way to be second in command: the first mate. I’ve watched him grow through the years from young and green, to confident and seasoned. As we begin our family sailing venture out into the beautiful waters I watch him closely, proud of how he takes charge and leads by example, how he constantly is watching for a teachable moment to help one of his crewmates tighten their sailing skills and become even better sailors.

This is a culminating moment for us as a family. The previous two years had been spent navigating our own personal storm of crisis of Dad being laid out with life-threatening circumstances of stage IV cancer. Throughout the harsh winter of fighting death back, it was all the more important to maintain this island of sanity outside the turmoil at home for him. During that time I had two jobs only: to heal, and to get him to the train station an hour away so he could take the four hour journey to Toronto each weekend to be with his love. Both were proudly accomplished. I got stronger and so did he. There’s never a good age to face the mortality of one’s parent, but a teenage boy facing the loss of his father is one of the harder ones. Playfair saved him. She loved him strong and he loved her back, traversing the storm at home. Now, two years later, here we all are celebrating all of the hard work of the journey taken, the healing I’ve been able to find and the manhood he has found. I couldn’t be prouder, happier or more grateful.

Now he stands as the first mate of this fine sailing vessel, looking like an old salt; feet planted widely in a stance to keep balanced as he steers the ship with its large, spoked, wooden wheel, over the waters.

The wind carries the ship high, the bow reaching upwards as it heels its way forward. I stand with my cane in hand, grabbing anything that will help offer support with my other hand. I lean into the wind to keep from falling down.

Dark gray clouds that formed a bank across half the sky when we started out, now sit heavily upon us, completely overhead. The air is thick; the pressure pushes down heavily. Lightning and thunder begin to scatter across over the cold, now gray water, made grayer and colder by the blanket of cloud. Small boats, birds and people head to shore to take cover. But not us. These kids are tough. This is what they’re made for - to meet Nature and her forces on her terms.

The sails are full; the wind is high and full of life. Electricity floods the air; you can feel its crackle. The rain begins and we continue on unfazed. Then, the rain begins falling harder and everyone but the essential crew takes cover down below. I remain. I’m mesmerized, unable to remove myself from this moment, watching my son steering the wheel of the ship, over the waves, with the wind, with the powerful invisible forces he’s come to know well. He works confidently, carrying his precious cargo of families through the storm. It rains and blows harder; my face is pelted with hard spray flying at me horizontally. Quickly, I am drenched – my face, hair and clothes – thoroughly drenched, to the core, but what do I care? All I know, see and feel with every cell of my body and every corner of my soul is that I am alive. I am here to see this – to reap this reward of all the hard work. The hard journey is forgotten and all that remains is this:


Riding high on this sea, I am being steered through this storm by my young son and I am alive and strong – and so is he!

The thunder cracks. In the same split second, lightning bolts shoot to the water, slicing the air with electricity from the heavens. The sky opens, pouring out its contents. Again and again, lightning pierces the dark sky, the thunder cracking it open, encouraging the clouds to release more and more of their contents. Sheets of water are hurled down from above.

I am here to witness one more storm; to be as alive and electric as the storm itself; to feel the wetness fiercely blown, hitting my face. Huge drops crash harshly in the wind – there is no hiding from it. There is only immersion – being drenched by the holy waters; blessed straight from their Source above, straight from the sky and the providers of all that is good, holy, moist and ALIVE! I am drenched thoroughly - every inch of flesh - living, breathing flesh - nourished, watered, renewed and alive!

The exhilaration and ecstasy are so intense, lightning is no threat to my aliveness. There is no fear or worry that can find me. I am protected by the sheer vibrancy and power running though me. We have survived our own greater storm in our lives and there is nothing here on the water that can endanger me more.

I am in a very ecstatic state of mind and body when suddenly through my reverie I hear my son’s sobering, yet gentle reminder: “Don’t touch anything metal,” and reality quickly makes its appearance as I appreciate the danger of being on a boat on a Great Lake in a powerful thunderstorm. I do a quick inventory looking around cataloguing what is metal and what is not; what’s safe to touch – and what’s not. It doesn’t lessen my ecstasy any; it can’t. Instead, the danger heightens all the more the ecstasy of being alive – in this moment – ALIVE! - More than ever – ALIVE! The wind, water, waves, rain and danger all mix with this being alive in all its rawness – in all its spectacular Beauty. It is all that exists.

I smile. Down to the core of my being, I smile. Taking all of this in - reflecting on all we’ve been through, how far we’ve come, and what I’ve learned today from my young son the sailor. First, in a hard, ripping storm – to face right into the storm - lean into the wind; and if lightning is involved literally or metaphorically, don’t touch anything metal: don't flirt with disaster. But most importantly, remembering every moment of every day – to live full out, as if my life depended upon it. It very well might. And lastly, in the midst of all the storms in life to remember:

All storms pass.

>>>> <+> <<<<

for more info on Toronto Brigantine's Youth Sail Training Program: http://www.tallshipadventures.on.ca/

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Storm From the Mountain

A Nahuatl poem, read at the beginning of the Zapatistas Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle:


Now I have arrived
Now I am here, present,
I am the singer.
Now is the time to celebrate,
Come here and present yourself,
those who have an aching heart.
I raise my song.


From out of the jungle communities they caravaned to Mexico City - to the seat of the government. Campesinos, farmers, poets, artisans, activists, they gathered in numbers as they crossed from Chiapas to Mexico City, a storm gathering. They entered the city in peace, yet strong. They made their statement about peace, justice and dignity. Tlakaelel, mi maestro (teacher), was one of the elders to receive them and offer his blessings when they arrived. I had wanted to be there physically; I was in spirit. They made their statement: they are a force to be reckoned with; they are survivors; they are not going away.

After their peaceful appearance in Mexico City in 2001 they returned home. They are quiet now. They are patient. They are not gone. It may be many years before we hear from them again. They move in indigenous time; they know how to wait. Meanwhile, the forces of oppression continue at work. Meanwhile, the resistance continues. We, safe at home, unaware, have no idea of what really goes on with our closest neighbor. Here? They keep us busy thinking and worrying about swine flu, illegal immigration, drug cartels - and Mexicans. Really? Do you not believe that their well-being is our well-being? Do you really still believe that there is a border that separates us and keeps their troubles there, and our safety secured here?

There are fathers and mothers - forces in the mountain jungle: villages of farmers. What lengths will they go to for their children? What lengths would you go to for your children?


The fight continues. Quietly and patiently, it continues. Listen to the winds. Their voices carry. A revolution takes place, every day, quietly - right under our collective noses. They disappeared back into the jungles of Chiapas, but they are far from gone. Do you see how strong they are? Quiet strength accumulating, gathering. Zapata lives. There is not one Subcomandante Marcos; many are Subcomandante Marcos. Behind every mask another Subcomandante lives. Do not fear the mask that protects the identities of fathers, mothers and children. We are many under one mask. Zapatismo will never die. Dignity is never out of fashion.

Peace, justice and dignity - all rights of EVERY individual, and every community. Nice words, but how do we make it so? Listen; keep your eyes wide open. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid when instead of from the jungles of far-off Chiapas, the call for dignity and justice comes from the streets of Chicago, Detroit, L.A. and Nueva York. That would be a start. And then, if you want to do something really radical - maybe show a Mexican some love.

Yeah, that would be a start.

[As I finish writing this, coincidentally (?) the music in the background is the great American songwriter Steve Earle singing] :

The revolution starts now
When you rise above the fear
And tear the walls around you down
The revolution starts here
Where you work and where you play
Where you lay your money down
What you do and what you say
The revolution starts now
Yeah the revolution starts now
in your own backyard
In your own hometown
So what you doin' standin' around
Just follow your heart
The revolution starts now

Saturday, May 9, 2009

god is alive; magic is afoot

This is my fourth spring of renewal; a commitment to healing and whatever that means or brings. Healing - too many words have been spoken and written on a mystery we all would like solved, but that will forever remain a mystery. Perhaps it's more about what can't be contained in a word. I like how in the old Jewish way the name we know as God is spelled G-d - the reason being to show there is no one word that could possibly contain the concept or name of the unnameable; no defining of Mystery. I like that. To me, they're saying: "We don't know.... It's too big for us to 'know'."

But I digress...

Each of these four springs, at one time or another, this old song of Buffy Sainte-Marie's [Cree Nation] has come to mind. As we break out of the looooong winter and Michigan is abloom with flowers and every flavor of flowering tree, as the air is perfumed with the scent of apple blossoms and lilac, at some moment of reverie this song will float into my head.

It just popped in again. This spring it arrives along with well-wishes for writer - friend, teacher - mentor, Luis Alberto Urrea, whom I dedicate this to. His latest book, a novel: "Into the Beautiful North", has just been released with good and strong reviews. If you've never read any of Luis' books, I highly recommend them. I mention him with this song because he is one who understands how and when magic is afoot - call it god, God, G-d, or nothing at all; he weaves magic with words, be they about immigration, border-lives and crossings, stories of his ancestor, Teresita the healer, in the days of the Mexican Revolution, or being the chicano haiku-master. He is a kind and generous person; and the highest of compliment in the indigenous world: a good human being. And, he tells a good story. Check him out. Look over here -----> under Links of Interest. Click on his name; it will take you to his website. Like I said: good man; worth checking out.

Lastly, this video contains much artwork of Huichol Indian artists. Their work is visionary; each painting ceremonial in nature - full of magic and mystery.

Enough said about the unspeakable.

Enjoy the blessings of Spring and Renewal.


Song: Buffy Sainte-Marie
Lyrics by Leonard Cohen:
Video by gewajega@yahoo.com