(third revision)

In my young adulthood, the first time I heard anyone talking about courage as a desirable character trait, it felt very self conscious to me; it didn’t ring true. In my own mind, I’d already worked out what courage was. It didn’t include talking about it, discussing it – which seemed like a conceit. It was something that went beyond the realm of speech; or simply didn’t need to be put in words.

Over time, as I heard people repeatedly speak of courage, it somehow became something that I could aspire to and possess. I believe that it became more deeply instilled in me as a value. It takes courage to live in a complacent world. Yet it makes life so much more interesting.

When people tell me today that I have courage, it can be hard to understand. It’s not a word that I use a lot. It doesn’t seem to relate to anything about my life in particular. What is it about me; or what is it that people think I’ve done?

As regards to my gender identity and sexuality, it’s more a case of stubbornness, bullheadedness. I did not like the choices I was given. With so much of my life already past, I learned the true meaning of codependency (it was not what I’d thought.) I came to believe/understand that we can’t micro-manage other people’s feelings. We can’t “make them happy”‘, etc. We can’t change them. The only person we can change is ourselves. I learned the neat trick of creating choices of my own.

I’ve been called a rebel. It seems to me more to the point. I didn’t like the flow of my life, so I chose to go against it; or rather, to go with my own flow. Surely there’s a joy in that. It’s more in the realm of identity-as-a-concept-in-itself.

If I possess any quality worthy of praise, I think it’s more in a striving to be honest. What others are unwilling to say, I sometimes feel compelled to attempt.

Nevertheless, I feel that courage is one of the highest compliments one can receive. So I must appreciate it.

If you’ve ever been praised in a very thoughtful way and aren’t sure if you should take credit for it – the thoughtfulness and love of the words may yet make you aspire to become that person.

There’s so many kinds of courage. Enough for all.


walking in Lincoln Park

beside Puget Sound

I stopped to read the dedications

on the park benches

and felt sad

so I stopped reading them.


when I die let me pass to ashes




life is transient,

life is eternal

but not for grief,

not for me,

not today.


40 minutes’ walk finished

endorphins kicked in

it felt good

life is good

don’t miss this opportunity!

why I’m a Buddhist and socialist –

a socialist because wealth needs to be redistributed to the needy – health care, education, food, housing and employment… and a  Buddhist because I believe in the sanctity of life; and to keep from being ground down and numbed into passivity, the way I see economics affecting people – scarcity ideation


Men of power, their vassals keep

o’er the air, a foggy sleep

at infernal days end, we mewl as sheep

the fiery furnace, ‘fore to keep.

– A fog of gloom and helplessness

depression, grief – it’s just business

The status quo and its deceit

has sprung its trap on our conceit

For those who dare to dream so free

for immigrants – just misery


In Palestine, just look and see

the shattered lives – land, sky and sea!

locked down for life, “They must be freed!”

we mutter vaguely, in our safety


These wars I would not subsidize

homeland insecurity institutionalized

blaming the raped,

the victimized

In the name of democracy

and justice

we know what’s best

– what’s best for us!


the recent past, COINTELPRO

shot down the leaders here below:

farm workers, Panthers,

anti-war, Chicano,

Native Americans,

feminists and queers,

socialists –

anything that threatened their status quo


What present COINTELPRO will the future reveal?

The original, so damnably effective!

at creating divisions and scaring

away the righteous


Lady ‘Day, Lenny Bruce

squeeeeze them for their bitter juice

the drugs, the jails, the brothers still

in slavery’s continu-ation

the cops on the corner, clubs all drawn

hunger for the bloody dawn


Locked down ourselves,  our ruin looms

as millionaires through empty rooms

wander aimless, in laughing fits –

they piss themselves as here we sit!

With a special thanks to Maia, a poet-teacher friend – a muse, even. She suggested that I edit out some harsher self-judgmental words – and leave in some of the ones I was squeamish about. It was a lesson in itself.

I tagged and categorized this under “muse” because it’s a good example of how I sometimes work out my grief/depression/confusion through prose or poetry. It often serves to clarify issues, codify ideas and concepts. Writing gives us time to reflect. We find ways to say things that we might otherwise be unable to express.

I have strong opinions about the romantic notion that art can only be produced  through great suffering.  From my own perspective as a survivor and Buddhist believer in the holiness of life, I came to the conclusion/rule-of-thumb that the art is never more important than the artist.

Which is quite different from saying one who suffers can’t or shouldn’t attempt art – there should be more art in our lives, not less. My love of classic reggae has taught me about that connection. One’s problems are often a great muse, a spark, a great starting point; as long as one doesn’t wallow in it; as long as it doesn’t become the object itself.

I question the wisdom of seeking the derangement of the senses as a muse (a la the popular conception about Rimbaud.) I’ve managed to do quite enough of that, without actually making a point of it. I suggest taking healthy risks as an alternative – like risking an unpopular opinion, or being thought foolish…

I seek for my muse to come from a higher life-condition, from more positive things – kindness and the sanctity of life. Art for me is a spiritual thing – or a function of spirituality.


Memorial Day

Driving home in my truck
on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, 2006
after a job
risking my neck for something that seems so silly –
Well… money’s not silly!

But for clean windows?

I caught myself, mourning the passing of the oil age
No one’s troubling with the design of new cars, as much…
What’s the point, for an object so soon to be obsolete?
But then, I thought – oh! A return, for us, to god’s green earth
– a chance at regeneration for our much-maligned planet
and thus, humankind’s inadvertent partial redemption

Then, shortly after that, the blues tried to sneak back in on me
oh! They’re so insistent!
What is it this time!?

On my way home – to what?
Loneliness? An awful aloneness, so unconscious of itself…
Another transition in the structure of my day…
Is this what my freedom – being self-employed – gets me?
– Because it will force me to look
– at where in life – my actions have led me…
Yes, alone with my own thoughts – how bleak is that?!

Now, making a detour of one or two blocks
so that I can see the horizon
and have a guess at tomorrow’s weather
I’m lucky to be able to see the western horizon,
so close to home…
There’s so precious few places that one can do that…
A treat for this grizzled old sea-bitch
How long before something so soulful as the horizon is gone?
Replaced by higher buildings – apartments and progress…

Oh, god! Remembering another Memorial Day,
so many years ago, when I was 19
a huge, tacky Iron Cross around my neck
I think it said 1914 on it
painted pink on one side from fingernail polish
catching a bus, downtown
accusing stares, that made me remember what day it was
of which I had been so oblivious…
Ah! I had much to learn!
You pay a price for such youthful folly!…
Oh! The awful uncomfortableness of myself!
The shame I felt, to be in my skin!
And oh! The awful ignorance of that cross, worn in the name of hipness.

Did those German hordes not yearn for glory, too?
Were they so unlike us, today?


footnote: one sign of my spiritual/personal growth/recovery was the day that the loneliness I felt when returning home alone changed into a pleasant realization that my home had actually welcomed me into its warm embrace…