Begin Life in a moment
End Life in a day
A moment in a lifetime
Where no clocks come to play

A statue in the hallway
A hallway in the door
The blood-brain barrier
’twixt now and nevermore

The room where Life is ended
Is the room where it began
Did you see yourself by looking
Or by holding out your hand?

Begin Life not with breathing
End Life with waking up
See the world you have been given
As a shattered crystal cup

Swim on waves of gravity
Through nurseries of night
Amniotic oceans
Umbilicus of light

Amniotic oceans
Umbilicus of light

Amniotic oceans
Umbilicus of light


This was a song written for a musical version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A group of very creative friends stages “Musical Emergencies” based on movies, fables, and other source material a couple of times a year. This one was staged by me and my partner (mostly my partner, who saw the movie 10 times in the theater at age 11).

Imagine a slow, contemplative song, minor key, only four chord changes, played on organ as accompaniment.



I am pinned to the places I have been, mapped
and logged and archived;
even some dreamplaces I revisit, where I am known and
even somewhat famous.

But there is a bench, a beach,
and a line of peaks
engraved in my book,
though my lungs have not drawn
that rarified salt air.

These islands
and their thousand shades of grey and blue
are a chain that pulls me in,
partly DNA
mostly fernweh;
a place so strange and so familiar
that I can feel the lichen soft on my feet
hear the corncrake’s green rattle
smell the whisky-smoke.

I believe I shall find my initials
engraved on a bench
on the Isle of Harris,
and I’ll sit homebound there
til the wind blows me yon.


Photo: Willem Eelsing


IMG_2298 1

I can’t imagine how puzzled
my mom must feel
to have outlived her son.

Her precious dark-haired boy,
the big one
at age 2,
meant to look after his blond
blue-eyed brother,
then curly haired
little sister,

then me, the squealing surprise package
when he
was 11.

Maybe he should have been
the baby
for a little longer,
caretaker that he was.

Never could stand
to see anyone cry, always
the one to say “It’s okay.”

I wish we’d had more time
in these years, my brother,
but I’m glad
I got to
take care of you.


Dale obit

Pardon me, my dearest friend,
while I for two minutes make your death about me.

Because they didn’t tell us our friends would die.

Maybe his friend, or hers, or theirs,
Maybe my mom’s and dad’s,
then my dad
then my brother.

But our tribe, the ones we choose, the ones
we lounge about laughing at dumb teevee with,

the ones who teach us to cross-country ski,
and always get us the perfect gift
and agonize with over yet another pair of shoes

And then cry with and
move away from and
who never listen to our excellent advice
nor we theirs,

the ones whose cores are so strong
forged in the fire of abuse, loneliness, and
unspeakable sorrow,



were supposed to prevail.

Because goddamnit

It’s all about me.


I watched the leaves change from green to autumn
from the hospital room window
that month before my daddy died.

Once, as a teenager, I told my mother
that fall would be the best time to die,
but it would be sad to miss spring.

It occurs to me that, despite decades to consider it,
I understand death a little less
than I did then.


One Single Sense

I would miss taste, it’s true,
but by then I will have had my fill
of delicacies, and will eat plain stew.

The touch of a lover, the thrill,
that would be hard to kiss goodbye.
But at least I will not feel winter’s chill.

Scents, however, are the means whereby
memory’s pathways collide and collude.
NB: write poems of remembrance, should that sense die.

Now sight: think of all the beauty you’ve viewed
and assemble a mental scrapbook of sorts.
Not ideal, but a comfort in your solitude.

Ah! but hearing. Mostly, music exhorts
me to insist: I cannot live without that gift,
which all other senses merely support.


The Adder Stone

The thing about stones is
they are only about time.

Time to take their shape
time for a hole to form,
the time I was walking on the beach or river path
and found them.

From what I understand,
the holes can mean something was there and is gone,
the stone was in the way of a particularly torturous drop of water.

That is a story only the stone can tell,
but either way, something was lost.

Someone tells me such stones are talismans,
protection against loss. Well,
I don’t buy it.
The stone is witness and proof against it.

My parents would sometimes find me adder stones
in their American travels.
They didn’t protect against the loss of my father
and the drip drip of time that made the hole he fell into.
That is too much to expect of a stone, or anything
for that matter.

My stones are only about time:
not eternity, but memory,
traveling toroidally
around the hole
left by loss.


On Loan

Are memories
where the softness of time
and the muscularity of the brain meet? Time says,
Here is a note, a scent, a color for you to hold
just for an instant.
The brain says thank you, will you be wanting this back?
The answer is always yes, for now.

Time grows less soft, and more persistent.
Brain goes less muscular, and more furrowed.
And then when they meet, you may keep the flower, the song, the sweet kiss
for just a little longer, and more often.

Not because time is kind, exactly,
nor the brain greedy;
this is simply the agreement they made at the outset,
at the first imprint.