Medicine Man [Prose Poem]

He was unkempt and disheveled, even by the standards of those primitive living people of the tribe. If you could find a translator to speak with his tribes-folk, they’d not be offended to hear you refer to him as a madman. They’d find it surprising that you considered that some sort of insightful revelation.

They would part company on two points. First, you believe the fact that he thinks he speaks to spirits and devils is evidence of his insanity. They believe the fact that he has to speak with spirits and devils has made him coo-coo. Who wouldn’t lose a few screws? Second, where you think his insanity makes him fit for nothing — incapable of a worthy contribution. They think his insanity makes him uniquely fit to do a task no sane person would ever do.

He lives by himself, outside the tribe’s clearing, and people only have the nerve to visit when they must. But he’s never for lack of a conversational companion. Though only occasionally does he speak in the tribe’s language. He’s just as likely to caw like a crow. He fears nothing, even those things sensible people would agree are rightly feared. The tribespeople fear him, but they value him for the fear he inspires — in those unseen things that bump in the night and in their souls.

With one foot in this world and the other in another, his world bears only a passing resemblance to yours.


POEM: The Hour of the Sun

Like muscle-bounce bouncers,
the twin mountains stood —
ominous & imposing.

An hour of light per day
squeezed between those broad shoulders.

One hour of sunlight —
in the good seasons,
when there was sun.

The villagers’ days pivoted on that hour.

Whatever is the opposite of a siesta, they lived it.
A fiesta?
an hour of frenetic love…
of dance
of the outdoors
of the sun
of love, itself.

Outsiders found the place dismal & gloomy,
but they never loved the sun
like those villagers love the sun.

Three Tanka

plucking strings
the player feels each note,
his eyes closed
he lets himself be surprised
by vibrations of bone or soul


the butterfly
splays its wings and holds,
in that stillness
it becomes a flower
’til it must butter-fly



wind tousles
the grain-weighted heads
of ripe wheat
the sway is erratic
the sound is subtle

POEM: Lost in Space [Pantoum]

Under the vault of starry skies,
I lost my Self through open eyes.
I spread out through that vast light cloud,
and heard the wordless word aloud.

I lost my Self through open eyes?
How’d I stretch to infinite size?
I heard a wordless word aloud?
How’d I Know what was wrapped in shrouds?

How’d I stretch to infinite size —
and all between sun’s set and rise?
How’d I Know what was wrapped in shrouds —
secrets felt; not spoken out loud?

I died between sunset and rise,
under that vault of starry skies.
I could feel, but not speak out loud
as I floated in that light cloud.

POEM: Killing Fields

In the last days that stony ground gave life,
those great, green gifts were gained by thrust of knife.
As the blood puddle spread, so went the green —
trumped by colors inanimate and mean.
And when they prayed for cooler days and nights,
they were answered with blazing fires and lights.

POEM: The Ouroboros of Life & Death

The forest floor —
strewn with damp leaf litter
slightly twisted twin-pronged needles.

Fungal fruiting bodies,
caps sprinkled with grit,
stand sentry over the rich, black loam.

The musty smell at life & death’s edge
reigns subtly supreme.

We call it decay, and think it a death stench,
but that ground echoes the ouroboros —
the mythical serpent consuming it’s own tail —
eater and eaten are one —
life and death are thusly intertwined in that dark soil.

POEM: What Country for Old Men? [Ottava Rima]

There’s more than one undiscovered country.
Hamlet’s is no place for old men to aim.
I urge a fight for foreign shores, bluntly.
Don’t let false gods go staking early claims.
They’ll have one sitting on the couch, glumly —
the fast-path shortcut to the pyre’s fierce flames.
If you can feel the breath expand your chest,
then pick up your pack, and start stepping West.

POEM: Nature’s Spotlight [a Haibun]

Under cottony clouds, my gaze fell upon the borehole by which slanted shafts of light found the ground. A divine spotlight that shone only on the liquid metal surface of a smooth flowing river at a point just before the rapids were reached. A closed-eyed kayaker might feel graced by the warm sunshine on his face. But only for the moment before being cast into a dim and turbulent transition from heaven to hell.

divine spotlight
a beam of sunlight burns
through gray clouds