Category Archives: Poetry

Bonded with the Blues

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

Little Richard
Fats Domino
Chuck Berry
doo-wop
folk

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
(repeat)
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
despair.

Real-life blues

David passed 18 years ago.
My kindred spirit.

Patience

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:
money
sex
the 49ers
my kids
a Bruce Springsteen song
whatever.
Then, agree to set this aside
clear the karmic path.
Finally, as a mantra, repeat the historic Quaker testimonies
peace
equality
community
simplicity.
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.

AMAZING
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.

Uh,uh,uh
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.

Uh,uh,uh
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.”

Uh,uh,uh
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.”

Uh,uh,uh
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.”

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

Comfort


Consolation in time of trouble or worry.

Solace.

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
yet
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.

Uncertainty

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
fire
flood.
A pandemic isn’t that different
at first.

Weeks pass
terror morphs into
uncertainty.

What’s your level of comfort
in the face of
protracted
uncertainty?

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

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

Is it the awareness
certainty
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
gratitude.

Under the Dome

Infatuation

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.

Reality

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.

Understanding

“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.