One Coyote

     One Coyote

There in the night,
   a coyote choir,
   atop the ring of cliffs,
surrounding us,

How many? I cannot tell.
   Voices rising, falling, together.

Oddly together.

Coyote's mask slips.

One coyote sings
   to the cliffs
and they sing back,
   an acoustic Hall of Mirrors.

And for all the coyotes we hear,
   we recognize the one voice
of Coyote.

The 2018 Waco WordFest in now ended.  One Coyote was part of the anthology.

This version is how I read it.  The version in the anthology has a different last line of the second to last stanza.  This version is clearer meaning and has better rhythm.

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Waco WordFest 2018 Anthology launch

My poem “One Coyote” was accepted for the 2018 Waco WordFest Anthology. The book launch is October 6, 7-9pm at the Waco Convention Center. The WordFest is part of the Waco ArtFest so there may be other events happening there. I will be reading my poem as well as many other fine poets.  If you are in the area, come on by.  If not, I will post it on this blog when I get back.  Enjoy.

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Three Bookmark Journal

Like most writers, I carry around a notebook for ideas, first drafts, Morning Pages, and the occasional class assignment. I bookmark my progress filling pages.

Later I edit and rework on the computer. A bookmark marks the next draft needing entry. If something leads me to enter drafts out of order, I simply mark it off with a check mark in the margin.

Austin Kleon and others advocate revisiting notebooks. When re-reading notebooks I have another bookmark.

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Mindfulness Is/Isn’t

Recently I read somewhere, “Mindfulness is heart, mind, and body in the same place.”  It sounded good at the time and I understand the intent, but it isn’t wearing well with time. On reflection, I think it sets the bar too high. It may be better used as a compass, a direction to practice toward, than a goal. A more accurate statement may be Nirvana or enlightenment is heart, mind, and body in the same place. Not having experienced enlightenment, I may be making the same mistake in a different place. Mindfulness is being aware of the split and not rushing to alleviate it.

After living elsewhere for twenty years, I still find my heart and occasionally my mind back where I grew up. It is still where we vacatio. It is a beautiful place with pleasant weather. Many people with money agree and have bid the prices up out of my range. That’s a mind thing. They aren’t the people I grew up with and are not nice to live among. The landscape hasn’t changed. It’s still beautiful. That’s a heart thing.

Spiritual bypass would be to pretend it’s not so. I’m beyond that. To insist that nothing less than all in the same place is mindfulness is to cut off the bottom rungs of the ladder.

Mindfulness is staying aware of reality: internal, external, emotional, physical, and intellectual. And sitting with the awareness, not pretending it is otherwise.

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Old joke:

God came to a Russian man and offered him one wish, whatever he wanted.  Before the man could speak, God cautioned him, “Whatever you ask for, I’ll give twice as much to your neighbor.  The man thought carefully for a long time, then said, “Pluck out one of my eyes.”

The first time I heard this joke, it was painfully funny.  Over time, it has become less funny and painfully true of too many people I encounter in person or read about in the news.  Whenever my wife or I see this behavior in ourselves or others, “… is a Russian” has become our shorthand.

As a stereotype, this is a truth but not a complete truth.  Not all of this kind of russian live in Russia and not all Russians behave like this.  Just enough for a stereotype.

War is all about trying to cause the enemy more loss than you sustain.  So winning is losing less.  Game Theory calls this a negative sum game.  All the losses and gains, if any, for both sides are totaled up and the result is always negative.  Most 2 person recreational games (e.g., chess, checkers) and many sports (tennis, baseball) are zero sum games. The total is one winner, one loser.  Positive sum games are win-win situations and things like New Games movement in the 60s.

What is the appeal of negative sum games?  In the joke above, the Russian chooses a negative sum game over a positive sum game.  He could have gotten something for nothing and his community could have gotten triple something for nothing.  Instead he chose loss for himself and his community.

I will admit to occasionally wanting to do harm to someone and being willing to harm myself in the process.  I stopped acting on the impulse and the impulse is decreasing.

Many politicians have found that appealing to this impulse, promising death/loss/affliction to some demonized/designated Other/minority wins votes and often elections.  And it’s much easier to implement than empowering or boosting the majority.

Millennia ago Moses told the people, “I place before you life and death. Choose life.”

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”

Lessons that few take to heart. The few times I have acted on what felt like a message from God, a Higher Power.  The result was more creative and abundant than anything I could imagine achieving on my own. I’m encouraged to follow these strange messages. If it wasn’t strange, God wouldn’t need to tell you.

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Sixer Prompts

In one of my writing groups, someone brought a prompt she described as a sixer, a story in six words: “Iris bloom around steps, house gone.”  From it I wrote a very good poem that is making the submission rounds.

Recently I volunteered to bring a sixer prompt for today’s meeting. This morning I had not come up with one of my own, so I searched the Internet. Six Word Memoirs seems to be Sixer Central. I browsed through quickly and found four suitable prompts:

  • Careful shepherds. You are the wolf.
  • Blue in life’s bowl of cherries.
  • Healed. Almost. Who would have thought?
  • Dog dies tomorrow. My heart, today.

In two rounds of writing, the five of us covered all four at least once. A useful resource to start writing if I’m stuck for an idea or spark.

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Cohen and Hayes

I’ve been reading Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnet for my Past and Future Assassin and listening to Leonard Cohen’s songs, particularly Hallelujah and Suzanne. Some of the sonnets are relentless, pedal to the metal all the way, though there’s always some breathing in them, between poems if not within a poem. There’s a lot of energy and intensity. Leonard Cohen lines, some grab me, some rest easy. Both artists’ work pull and push, move me. Neither lets go, drops the rope. Even after the work ends.

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Coping vs. Change

Several traditional Buddhists have criticized mindfulness training.  At first this seems a bit odd, but reading the whole critique explains the problem they have.  It wasn’t mindfulness practice per se, it is mindfulness only as a way to cope with the stresses of modern life or even to sharpen the predators’ edge.  The Buddha taught a way to transform individuals and society, not to prop up an unjust, predatory system.

Living by Meditation Alone lays out this view in more detail.

When one examines the place of meditation in the Vajrayana in particular, one finds again that it is not considered a self-sufficient means of spiritual accomplishment. It comes second in the triad of view, meditation, and action. View signifies the correct vision of reality that the Vajrayana master imparts to the student, and meditation signifies the subsequent development and stabilization of the glimpse afforded by this introduction. Thus, it is only through both view and meditation, together with their enactment and testing in action, that one could even approach spiritual accomplishment.

Note: Vajrayana is the Tibetan branch of Buddhism.  This teaching is central to all traditional Buddhist traditions.  It is only in secular, Western Buddhism that meditation only practice is encouraged.  Ethics has to have a place in the teaching or you get the perversion of the samurai—calm, efficient killers and militarism, e.g. Japan leading up to WWII.

In every religion, there is a tension between the institution that wants to cozy up to the power structures, whether empire or free market capitalism and the founder’s way of transformation, compassion, and justice.  Certainly we are currently seeing this also in Christianity, e.g., the evangelicals and other conservatives joining with political right.

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Prophecy by Pauli Murray

Powerful 1969 poem by Pauli Murray, still relevant.

I sing of a new American
Separate from all others,
Yet enlarged and diminished by all others.
I am the child of kings and serfs, freemen and slaves,
Having neither superiors nor inferiors,
Progeny of all colors, all cultures, all systems, all beliefs.
I have been enslaved, yet my spirit is unbound.
I have been cast aside, but I sparkle in the darkness.
I have been slain but live on in the river of history.
I seek no conquest, no wealth, no power, no revenge:
I seek only discovery
Of the illimitable heights and depths of my own being.
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The gatekeepers have stopped
the barbarians at the gate.
They guard access
to empty pews.

The horde demanding entrance
is empty too.

Who are the gatekeepers for:

Some gatekeepers are going away or being circumvented

  • Non-denominational churches walk away from denomination rule, hierarchies, and gatekeepers, and establish their own.
  • Bitcoin end-runs governmental currencies and is backed by nothing beyond the ability to generate a valid one.
  • Discount brokers undercut full-service brokers.
  • Hedge funds and venture capitalists dance in and outside the stock markets.
  • Shadow banks are not legally banks, but offer many of the same services, e.g., loans.  Regulations are much less stringent.
  • Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies try with varying degrees of success to break the taxi company (and city permitting process) monopoly.  In general, the sharing economy does this too.

Disintermediation refers to cutting out the middle man, e.g. buying direct from the manufacturer’s Website.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Who will watch the watchmen?

I’m not advocating no rules, regulation, or gatekeepers. How do we keep those who keep out the unqualified and unscrupulous from becoming those who shield those inside from competition or criticism from outside. Who do we prevent those who guard/protect us from becoming our prison guards? In another context I asked, “Public Safety Officer or occupying army protecting privilege?”

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