Category Archives: Poetry

To Do List

October 10, 1420
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Acorn mash
Feed horses and dogs
Hunt for food
Gather canes and grasses for baskets
Dig latrine
Bathe in stream
Carry water to community garden
Wash clothes in stream (use soapwort)
Lunch: berries and dry Salmon
Clear brush from around encampment
Make arrowheads
Hunt for food
Meet with band to plan trip to trading center
Dinner: cooked game plus mushrooms and wild greens
Meet with shaman to pray for rain
Dance and play clapperstick
Shaman leads healing ceremony
Walk encampment perimeter with dogs
Burn sage in remembrance of ancestors
Say prayers

October 10, 1820
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Oat meal
Feed horses, cows, and dogs
Collect food from garden
Gather wood
Repair outhouse
Carry water to house
Heat water for weekly bath
Use hot water to wash clothes (use lye plus animal fat)
Lunch: lettuce and tomato salad, bread
Clear brush from upper pasture
Sharpen tools
Milk cows
Meet with neighbors to plan trip to town
Dinner: cooked chicken plus garden vegetables, bread
Ride farm perimeter accompanied by dog
Play harmonica
Study Farmers’ Almanac to predict rain
Read “The Last of the Mohicans” (hardcover)
Study ancestors’ pictures
Read passage from Bible

October 10, 2020
Wake at sunrise
Breakfast: Oat flakes
Feed dogs
Buy food at market
Read email
Flush toilet
Turn on hot water
Take shower
Wash clothes in washer (use laundry detergent)
Lunch: Lettuce and tomato salad, bread
Clear brush from access road
Load new version of operating system
Read email
Zoom meeting to plan fire-safety actions
Dinner: cooked chicken plus garden vegetables, bread
Walk ranch perimeter with dog
Play Jazz
Study Weather Channel to predict rain
Read “All the Light We cannot See” (Kindle)
Say prayer for family
Give thanks

Coronavirus Serenade

Lessons Learned (7th month)
Rx: “West End Blues” (Louis Armstrong)

You gotta move
Rx:”Pressure Drop” (Toots and the Maytals)

Take time to reflect
one day at a time
in the present moment
cushioned by impermanence.
Rx: “The Wheel” Jerry Garcia
( )

Connect to
loved ones
Rx: “See the Way” (Jimmie Dale Gilmore)
( )

Rx: “You can get it if you really want.” (Jimmy cliff)

Rx: “Favorite Things” (John Coltrane)

Growing Old

My delta waves sweep in
carrying the realization
running out of runway.

how many more days
I will be able to:
walk the dogs
carry the groceries
do my familiar routine.

The hits keep on comin’
shelter-in-place suggests
I may never again visit my favs:
Musee D’Orsay
NYC Theatre District
SF Jazz Center
Poipu beach.

I walk the dogs
with renewed attention
see the wildflowers
delight in the (smokey) vistas
vow to protect democracy.

I Remember

I remember
the beginning
the flash of light
maternal cries of anguish.

I remember
being comforted
searching for a hug
flinching from opprobrium.

I remember
Fifties California
driving among stately Fan Palms
glistening orange groves.

I remember
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre
gaping at the Cinemascope screen
swept up
by the magic lantern.

I remember
Balboa beaches
swimming alone at sunrise
baptism in the frothy surf.

I remember
peak experiences
dancing “beneath the diamond sky
one hand waving free”.

I remember
optimistic America
feeling lucky
expecting the best.

Abandonment Issues

Belle the puppy
bonded with us
caterwauls my exit
bemoans abandonment

Burnett infants
clung to my legs
pleaded and wailed
“Daddy don’t go”

Divorce trauma
“No one loves me”
fell into the pit
confronted abandonment

Kathy kvetches
“You’re not connected”
advertises intimacy
fears isolation

stalked by COVID
buffered from family
simulates abandonment

Commandante Trump
lies and bullies
crumples democracy
promotes abandonment


“You can’t take it with you.”
Kathy’s late cousin George.
His Hillsborough house was a
testament to
George loved model airplanes
in every room
half-assembled projects
belt sander
assorted tools
George believed in bulk buying.
We removed
200 cans of pop
100 rolls of toilet paper
14 gallons of Roundup
11 jars of mustard
8 boxes of “Rice-a-Roni”
and MORE.

I fight my battle with
Sold LPs
CDs took their place.
Donated novels
art books line my shelves.
Downsized from two homes to a
storage locker filled with

Quakers aspire to
Friends believe that a person’s spiritual life and character
are more important than
the quantity of goods he possesses


Sleep Disorder

dark bedroom
quiet house
warm bed

“Neurons, start your engines.”
The tasks pass the reviewing stand
row one:
. need idea for this week’s poem
. finish song with David
. call  vet about Milou’s paw
row two:
. modify FSO website
. balance Schwab account
. call electrician about 30amp connection
row three:
. mow lower meadow
. schedule tree work
. answer John’s email
chores fly by the reviewing stand
like eucalyptus leaves in the Santana wind.

“Maybe I won’t be able to go back to sleep.”
3:20 am
drink water
try to get comfortable
“You know, this isn’t good for your health.”
My critic awakes
“You ate too much, last night.
You know you can’t eat dessert.”

Heart pounds
“You’ve been lucky, so far.
Your luck is running out.”

Chest tightens
“How will Kathy cope, when you are in the hospital?”
eyes open
a shaft of moonlight graces the far wall.

The puppy snorts.
“Maybe I’ll have to take Belle out to pee.”
She calms.
“I’m lucky to have Kathy
and the dogs.
Lucky to live here.
lucky for my family.
Lucky for a lot of things.”

My blessings fall down like rose petals
caressing me to sleep.

Gotta Come Out

“One night I was layin’ down
I heard mama and papa talkin’
I heard papa tell mama
‘let that boy boogie-woogie

It’s in him and it got to come out.'”
John Lee Hooker, “Boogie Chillen”

Music was always inside me
singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” with my grandmother
church choirs
L.A. pop radio (overlaid with my lyrics)
school choirs.
But the full expression of my own music was
stopped up.

In 1955
an epiphany
The Johnny Otis: Rhythm and Blues Hit Parade

My musical landscape shifted
from Bing Crosby to Bo Diddley.
A thousand new suns:
Clovers, Drifters, Flamingoes, Temptations,
Hank Ballard, Jerry Butler, Sam Cooke, Joe Turner,
Ray Charles,
Lowell Fulson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf,
John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk…

I began to dance and
music inhabited all of body.

Thank you
Johnny Otis
for activating my
boogie woogie.

Death Comes to Town

The church bell tolls 12 times.
A tumbleweed careens down
parched mainstreet.

Where is everyone who said they had my back?

At the intersection
dressed in black.

My feet shuffle forward.

Masked faces press against the saloon windows.

I wonder who betrayed Me?
The waitress who didn’t wear her mask over her nose?
The drunk Sacramento couple who wouldn’t wear masks?

The boardwalk creaks.

Grit in my mouth.
Unfinished list in my pocket:

A gopher breaks through the hardpan.

Where have all your brave words gone?

Nemesis’ ivory face

A barn owl screams.

It’s not over, until it’s over.

Nemesis sets up the table
unfurls the chess board
bids me to move.

White pawn to e4.

Bonded with the Blues

1958 summer Sunday afternoon
David’s room
smoking cigarettes
drinking beer
playing records.

Little Richard
Fats Domino
Chuck Berry

We’re competitive.
I played a Josh White LP
David parried with
“Leadbelly Memorial Volume 1”

Side one began with “Goodnight Irene”
ended with “Man going around taking names.”
Side two started with “John Henry.”
When we got to “See See Rider”
the earth stopped.

Thunderous 12-string guitar intro
(Hawaiian slack-key tuning)
amplified by a powerful baritone
See See Rider
see what you done done
you made me love you
now your man done come.

Naive white boys
transported to the land of
da blues.

We played “See See Rider” until
the room billowed with cigarette smoke and
the beer was gone.

We bonded.

Then our lives took different paths:
Bob, child of privilege
left for Stanford and
the corporate world.
David, child of the 99 percent
went to a local college
dropped out
worked as a house painter
drifted into addiction and

Real-life blues

David passed 18 years ago.
My kindred spirit.


Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

1.”Bob, you were born impatient,” my father used to say.

When I first attended Quaker silent meeting, and realized I had to sit in silence and say nothing for sixty minutes, I thought, “I’m never going to be able to do this. I’m too impatient.” Nonetheless, I learnt to sit in silence for SIXTY MINUTES and not fall asleep.

It took years.

2. Basic patience training.

First, I learned the “one step at a time” mantra:
it’s possible to accomplish anything if you undertake the task one small step at a time.
I used this to lose weight by jogging
ran each day and gradually lengthened the distance
completed “Bay to Breakers”
lost 35 pounds.

At Quaker Meeting, I worked out a simple — one step at a time — strategy
First, focus on getting comfortable.
Next, pay attention to what’s up and acknowledge whatever that it is:
the 49ers
my kids
a Bruce Springsteen song
Then, agree to set this aside
clear the karmic path.
Finally, as a mantra, repeat the historic Quaker testimonies
As in, “This week, what did I do to further equality?”
I found this process comforting
once in awhile, I would drop into deep silence.

baptism of the spirit

3. When I finally was able to truly participate in Quaker meeting
I came to treasure the silence.

As a bonus
came a series of self-realizations.
One of them was that my karmic lesson — for this lifetime — is patience.

4. I’m better at tolerating delay than I am enduring trouble or upset.
If we’re sitting in the airport, and our plane is delayed, Kathy gets anxious.
I am stoical.

When I was in the throes of nummular dermatitis
an illness that took me several years to get over
I was able to manifest forbearance.

5. Now I am experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic
a circumstance that requires toleration of delay, trouble, and suffering.
The hard times trifecta.

Q: “Daddy, how long ’til we get there?”
A: “I don’t know. We’ve never taken this road before.”

Every problem is an opportunity
says the Aquarian.
The pandemic is an opportunity to
take it one step at a time
cultivate patience.

Shelter in Place: The Game

“Four Rules For Life: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results.” Angeles Arrien.

Play the game daily.  Possible scores range from -50 to +50, depending upon your performance in each of the four categories.


Show Up:
Starting score: 5 (if at home)
Penalty points:
-5 never got out of bed
-10 woke up in girlfriend’s bed
-50 her parents were in next bedroom
Bonus points:
+5 went outside
+10 moved in nature
+15 contacted family or friends
+20 walked with a (socially distanced) friend

Pay Attention:
Starting score: 5 (if alpha rhythm detected)
Penalty points:
-5 woke up on couch holding TV remote
-10 turned on TV
-15 looked at Facebook
-20 couldn’t find phone
Bonus points:
+5 any form of meditation (each occurrence)
+10 artistic expression (each occurrence)
+50 felt gratitude

Tell the Truth:
Starting score: 0
Penalty points:
-20 refused to wear a mask
-50 believe the pandemic is a hoax
Bonus points:
+5 look in mirror and see signs of stress
+10 miss physical contact with loved ones
+15 feel apprehensive about going to store
+20 worry this is new normal

Don’t be attached to the results:
Starting score: 0
Penalty points:
-5 believe this will end soon
-20 think everything will return to normal
Bonus points:
+10 view SIP as a growth experience
+20 see an opportunity to simplify
+50 finding ways to help others