special ed

The history teacher is young, energetic.
Maybe 15 kids, mostly
Boys don’t notice as I come through the door.
She has to attend an IEP meeting.
Just show the film. They know
what to do.
What can we do? I think.
One of the boys gets up and pushes

Most do not watch the images of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
And the interviews with elderly survivors.
Their drawings, that I’ve seen in that book Unforgettable Fire.
Two girls near the TV sit with hands on chin.
Girl farther away flirts with her tablemates.
Toward the end, the boys consult the two
girls about what to write on their worksheets. Nerdy
girls basking in the brief attention of the cool

They are numb I think. It’s just another
cartoon or video game.
Horror in Honduras perhaps lived and escaped from.
Here in the US surrounded by gangs, shootings, hunger,

tired sad mothers especially.
In Spanish Jonathan’s mother says, I leave at five and don’t get home until seven I don’t know what they do.
She has four
boys. Jonathan is not doing his homework,
he looks doggedly at the floor, silent
as the teachers talk about him. His mother, full of hope at his birth, must have thought  carefully about choosing the name Jonathan. The system chugs on trying to
help so many kids trying to get to the diploma everyone says
will make things better.

some 20 years ago I remember showing Schindler’s List to freshmen
I think I was in the back, crying a little, I always do in that movie.
The class was silent, that rare precious dead silence of complete attention.
Pedro, who was a real pain in the ass all year, a tweaker said his mates, who didn’t like
him either, Pedro cheered when the Nazi pulled out a revolver and shot a woman.
There was a collective gasp.
I stopped the VCR. Out! I bellowed.
I told Al, the assistant principal, Pedro can’t come back to my class.
You can’t really do that he said, although I understand.
There was a week of school left, including finals.
I’ll give him a C and he can just go somewhere else.
There are all kinds of reasons kids get passing grades.

In retrospect, Pedro probably had a story.
He was Salvadoran.

the call

I surrender to You, who are nothing.
What a crazy thing to do.
And yet no other choice.
This shadow world
Is profoundly empty.
I follow the faintest of feelings.
A call from nowhere.
I must go.

the argument

29 years, and  the arguments are old.
What’s the point? he says and clams up,
Arms crossed, looking at the floor.
I am feeling abandoned and
flash anger, deep tears, anguish.
I give him the silent treatment all afternoon
but he seems not to notice.


I know better.
My complaints are hollow,
the responses mechanical.
myself is a fiction
that does not bear scrutiny.
This marital conflict engulfing us
dissolves right now.


Jonah in the whale just had to summon
enough love to walk through the door of his heart.


Inside the empty cabinet, the metal measuring tape
bends at 27-1/2 inches
and I am joyful for 27-1/2 X 10-1/2.
Wrote it down twice already and still cut the
contact paper wrong.
Somehow not bothered much when the plastic sticks to itself,
I pull it apart,
position each ill-fitting piece five, six, seven times.
smooth out the lumps and wrinkles in a personless state that can only be called
love for no reason. So
Shiva dreams.



No ground.
Endless universes spin into being at a thought and vanish.
What? Where? Who?
Nothing. Nowhere. No one.
No reason.
Love only.

What the hell?
No hell, no heaven.
No place to stand.
No place, no standing.

The eyes go warm
As I try to allow nothingness.
The cat looks inquiringly.
What are you doing?

Being present in the room.
Or is the room present in me?

The mind that doesn’t exist shuts it down and goes back to smaller dreams.
Petrified of endless, overwhelming, glorious existence and
Unable to resist its gentle, piercing love call,
I answer as I can.

lazy early morning cat

The lazy early morning cat opens one eye.
She has a different rhythm.
She is resting after tearing around the apartment during the night.
I awaken full of buzzing energy.
A new day?
I spend the night who knows where.
In consciousness of course.
The body is immobile in the bed.
The day-night thing is confusing.
As is the awake-dream thing.
It’s all happening at once.

I go to the doctor about my back.
Sorry you’re hurting, says Charles.
No body, no doctor.
For a moment I sit with it.
Then resume being me.

cats on acid

I complain that paying attention to the thoughts is excruciating and exhausting.
Nothing to do but wait for death, the teacher says.
Living or dead, either way, the ego goes.
It’s not going happily.
Keep noticing the thoughts, he says.
No hope, no fear, Pema Chodron says.

The sensations of heat in the body remind me
She is here. Where would She not be?
The cat appears as though condensed out of the air.
The brain scans of cats are equivalent to humans on acid.
Staring at things no one else can see.
Like the black blob near the ceiling right now.
The cat looks too.
As real as anything else.
All an illusion of Shakti, I’m told,
Or strings of vibrating energy.
Take your pick.

It’s not so gloomy all the time, the dying of the ego.
Eating soup. The eyes grow warm.
She is here, seeing Brussels sprouts,
The rosebush outside the window, the disorderly bookshelves.
I surrender, for a moment
To more love than I had ever imagined.


I turn the attention inward, or rather upward,
Or rather to no location.
Attended to, it gets bigger,
The responding subtle whiteness, energy, bliss.
Is this the reason for all the anxiety?
All I want really, anything else is unbearable.
Is the anxiety from separation? Turning attention to things I think I’m supposed to want?
Things I’m supposed to do?
When in fact I want nothing except more of the subtle whiteness.

Making Coffee

This morning making coffee I am beset with anxiety.
Will there be enough milk?
Last night I give Allegra half a gallon.
If there is enough left for my coffee.
Oh, there’s lots, she says, going out the door with it.
I shake the remaining carton, barely enough to make the latte.

Now I will have to go back to Costco for milk
Well, not now, later. Why think about later? Anxiety.
We went two days ago.
Do you need milk? Harvey says.
Only if the kids come over. We haven’t heard from them lately.
I am calculating the space in the refrigerator that would take five half gallons.

On the way to Costco two days ago
We come from the north, an unfamiliar direction.
Where do I turn? Asks Harvey.
Turn right on Delano I say.
Now where? he says.
Funny how we use now to mean next,
Now being ungraspable and quite the opposite of next.
You’ve been this way before, I snarl impatiently.
No, he says. Yes, I say. From the other direction.
Anxiety. Before me stretches a possibility of a long, dependent old age
Which has not yet occurred.
My limited observation of the elderly is that spatial cognition seems to go first.
But that is not really fair, since he has always been this way. I say nothing.
He figures it out. I bask in the small triumph of keeping my mouth shut.

Vickie is a particular bundle of likes and dislikes.
The cat comes in and claws the couch.
I throw the pen at her from across the room, missing on purpose, but she stops.
She sniffs at the crack under the front door, meows to get out.
Not safe.
My inclination is to let her go out, but the rest of them will never forgive me if a coyote gobbles her up.
I get up from the armchair and open the blinds for her. Small consolation.
But the finches rustling in the rosebush compel her to watch.
She is her own set of likes and dislikes.

I finish drinking the coffee.
The coffee making is terrifying this morning,
A complex process, vulnerable to accident at several points.
There’s only milk enough for one attempt.
I  keep everything out until it is finished, since putting things away as I go seems to be a jinx.
I take it as a spiritual practice, not to anticipate.

And yet, this morning I am acutely aware of the anxiety of everyday life.
The Teacher repeatedly says to pay attention. It took me a long time to figure out what that means.
It is excruciating watching the likes and dislikes,
A tangle of memory and anticipation.