Category Archives: Poetry


“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

CV Blues

Hey everybody
come here quick
this coronavirus
’bout to make me sick.

I got the CV blues
just me and you
what’re we gonna do?

I called my momma
but she ain’t home
got no money
and I’m all alone.

got the CV blues
just me and you
what’re we gonna do?

Went to see my daddy
at the county jail
He said, “buck up son
you’re too young to fail.”

got the CV blues
just me and you
what’re we gonna do?

Went to my girlfriends’ but
she locked the door
yelled “you’re contagious
don’t come around no more.”

got the CV blues
just me and you
what’re we gonna do?

Called my doctor
told him my bad news
he said, “Don’t worry Bobby
you’ve just go the blues.”

got the CV blues
just me and you
what’re we gonna do?


Consolation in time of trouble or worry.


At the end
my mother, Lillian,
could not be comforted.
She’d turned to stone
blocked the possibility of solace.
In the last hours
Mom lay on her hospital bed
close enough to touch
unreachable by love.

I had a difficult relationship with Lillian
see elements of her in myself
wonder if I’ve lost MY ability
to be comforted.

These are grindstone times.
I must
stay cool
let myself be comforted.

I’m too young
to turn to stone.


Attempt what is not certain.
Certainty may or may not come later.
It may then be a valuable delusion.

[Richard Diebenkorn]

A killer stalks the streets.

A terrifying situation
but familiar.

We’ve learned to respond to emergencies
A pandemic isn’t that different
at first.

Weeks pass
terror morphs into

What’s your level of comfort
in the face of

How long can you live with the knowledge
a killer stalks the streets

What sustains you
in this strange new age of
omnipresent fear?

Is it the awareness
is delusion?

Gratitude: Four Steps

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

Once I was thankless
now I am grateful.

(I was taught to give thanks but not to be thankful.)


My path to gratitude began with awe.
Summer morning surfing at Little Corona.
It doesn’t get any better than this.
(The water is warm but I have goosebumps.)



Next came mindfulness.
Quaker Meeting
entering the pool of silence.
Waiting for the doors to open.

One led to simplicity.
Focussing on the essential.
(Swimming naked in the pool.)

A second opened to gratitude.
I am thankful that
I am.
(Possessions do not define me.)

Life in lockdown is elemental.
Down to the bone.
Each day an opportunity for

Under the Dome


Willow Creek was the third address Gene Walker took us to.  Walked onto a golden, ten-acre dome.  Gasped at the 180 degree view: Goat Rock, Salmon Creek beach, Point Reyes lighthouse, and Sonoma Mountain. Our hearts’ desire.  “We’ll buy it.”  Gene laughed, “Don’t you want to see the house first?”

We took water for granted.  City dwellers.  Turn on the tap and water flows out.


Five years in, we drove onto Willow Creek, turned on the tap and nothing. Neighbor’s horses snapped the water line.  Time to appreciate country-water-system mechanics.

Then came the drought of 2014.  Water tankers cruised Willow Creek. Neighbors ran out of water.  Our well soldiered on.


“You have the most reliable water on Willow Creek,” said hydrologist Gene Boudreau.

Most of Willow Creek ridge is Mesozoic-era Franciscan melange.                                              Closed                                                                                                                                                     Chert.  Shale.  Serpentine.  Compacted Clay.                                                                                    Water only found in open fractures.

Our dome is a remnant of the younger Merced formation.                                                           Open                                                                                                                                               Sandstone.                                                                                                                                                  120 acre-feet of water.