POEM: The Flavor of Grief


I have been
getting familiar lately
with the flavor of

grief. It comes on me
with no warning.
While driving up-river,

to shelter-in-Nature.
At 68 mph, passing
a too-slow, white

Chevy truck. There
it is. A watery
film glazes my eyes.

It curls up, like
fog on a pond, when
the weather turns

and water reacts,
a heat differential
as the sun rises.

I am not, I should
add, grief-stricken.
Although, were I to

think about it, it’d be
easy to tune into it
clear, like locking

on a radio station
amid a miasma
of static.


There is enough
grief going round, what
with a pandemic

expiring a quarter
million lives in less
than a year. A quarter

million sons & daughters,
fathers, mothers, friends
& cousins. Reprobates and

saints. This virus claims
them all. Then, there’s the
grief that fuels the anger

with a clown-show
president, who is no
more interested in the

lives he helped dispatch.
Couldn’t, honestly, it seems,
care less. Would rather

mull the many
slings and arrows of
his outrageous misfortune.

One white golf shoe
pressed to the floor,
going hole-to-hole.

Chewing on his
interminable grievances.
As we, his audience,

enraged or darkly
entertained, pull up
short, after yet another

mate gets called
positive. And like a
relentless grandmaster,

wielding bishops &
pawns, bears down upon
our sanctuary.


There’s a lot of
grief going down.
But I don’t think

this grief is
that grief. This
murky, sudden-rising

grief seems old, inborn,
perhaps? The grief of
childhood’s shock,

when we were promised
innocence, but daily
living overtook us

like a steamroller,
flattening things. Or we,
in our woundedness,

flatten other people’s
lives. Hurt people hurt
people, as they say.

(And let it be said,
whomever ‘they’ are,
they’re likely hurt, too.)

It comes with the
territory. This
grief, I mean.


There’s a word in
Buddhist thought—samvega.
It’s the dawning horror

we’re yoked to this
water-wheel of life-after-
life, spun round

for aeons. So lost. ‘Long
have I wandered in samsara,
seeking, but not finding

the builder of this house …’
That grief is maybe the
sort I mean.

Be curious, my
kalyana mitta—my
spiritual friend—B.

says, with whom I
engage in inquiry
once a month by

telephone, across
the length & breadth
of America. Sometimes,

he’s on the Left Coast,
sometimes New Orleans,
it doesn’t matter. The

guidance remains the
same. Don’t flee! Don’t
exit the field, back into the

cockpit of my forebrain. A
familiar redoubt, where I head to
outhink my churning thoughts.


That’s a hopeless, age-old
dodge. Be curious when
the demiurge, the sleek

panther of rage appears
(that’s a powerful fellow,
that one.) Not jet-black,

but made from dark
charcoal smoke, flecked
with grey ash. Who’s he?

Be curious. Remain
in the room. And so,
now, driving,

50 mph. Gazing for
my turn-off, aiming to
sit in the noon-time sun.

Cigar in one hand, a
couple of dragonflies
helicoptering down

upon my white pants
leg—such curious creatures!
I don’t shoo them off.

But photograph them
with my phone. Realize
the taste of grief is gone.


For now. It had risen
at the back of my throat
like gorge. Gone in this

minute with the
dragonflies, as they lift off,
alight anew.

I am quite sure it
will be back. Until
I attain nibbana. If,

that is, it’s even possible
to ‘attain.’ This grief,
I’m certain, will be a

traveling companion
for the long road. Or
several companions. For

I sense—distantly, yet
with certainty—my grief
has distinctions.

Many eras. Many colors.
And many flavors. I hardly
know them all.

Greenbottom, WV | nov27-28.2020


POEM: “Window No. 1”: One of my earliest, notable windows was in the basement bedroom I shared with brother Rick. It opened to the left, sliding open with a satisfying ‘chonk!’ Revealing the level grass of our backyard.

PICTURE|POEM: A Dozen Ways to Look at Chicago, Illinois: I’ve always been intrigued by human whose lives are lived just below the level of the clouds. They surround us by the thousands. In blue rooms, staring at TVs in their skyboxes. Doing Downward Facing Dog,

POEM | “My Paragraph & I”: ‘I want my paragraph to strut, carved cane in hand, the Left Bank, like a proper boulevardier. I want my paragraph to wow you. leave you wanting more. To, if possible, make you gasp.

POEM | “Body of Evidence”” ‘I’d no excuse not to grok the fact, or traffic in illusions of not growing old. Or denial of encroaching senescence. Or flipping the bird at Mister Death. It would halt nothing of my body’s fade, of our decay. I was, perhaps, whistling past my future graveyard.’

POEM | “Nous Celeron”” ‘Don’t you, Nous Céleron,/wish to lay down your arms?/Enter the Ohio’s cool darkness,/or the Chinodahichetha!/Sounding out each syllable/as a Wyandotte/might utter them …’

POEM | The Pledge: We must imagine/a better country, after/the orange man in/the white house. Tote/our losses & our/wounds. Revelations/about our neighbor’s/secret selves. The sign,/the flag, rippling in/the wind. That says—/’Off with your head’ ….

POEM | “Fridays”: I mark out my life in the passage of a flood of Fridays, the signposts zooming by in Friday cat posts by a favorite blogger.

Poems: A Hundred Years of Silence: It should be recalled/most of human history/has been lived in silence.

PORCH POEMS: ‘Ms. Nature & Mr. Death’: So, my day, which when fortunate,/begins with coffee, cat, and dawn,/shifts at some point, to the deck, for some sitting beneath the same old sky,/only this time, eyes closed./Climbed up on the shore, out of thetumultuous stream of thought./I’ve yet to grasp the meaning/of your collaboration, Ms. Nature,/with your ally, Mr. Death.’

PORCH POEMS: ‘Overhead’: ‘The clouds don’t care,’/ he said. Blowing a puff/ of cigar smoke at me/ from across the porch./ I sent a pretty good/ smoke ring back his way./ We were not/ six feet apart, so could/ be killing each other, should/ the virus hitch a ride upon our exhalations …

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