Friday, February 28, 2014

The Phantom Sings

Dancing on the moor
The little creatures
Shaped like dwarves

I drink, and drink some more
Amid the wild grass
And chilling sound
Of children yelling as they play

Who is he? Who is he?
The phantom sings today

Drinking cider, sipping sweet
The spring delights
Of roses blowing
The scent of things undone

White beard, happy belly,
Cup of wine
That dances as I sway

Who is he? Who is he?
The phantom sings today

Little people
Marching through the woods
Telling tales of long lost dead

Give me a mistress
Give me a wife
In love with the sea
In love with the princess I pray

Who is he? Who is he?
The phantom sings today

Inspired by Gabriel Vicaire's "Le Korandon"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

That Space Between

searching for peace
in a forest of beasts

when what we seek
is cloaked within
the shadows and light

in a world of day
a world of night

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


embedded in the sun
I sail the dawn river

drifting for the shore
where light and touch

become a single point
and two lives enfold

together as one

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Beautiful Egyptian (a translation)

Dark deity, whose black splendor
Shines a fire that burns us all:
The snow is nothing,
Your ebony defeats the ivory.

From darkness comes the splendor of glory,
And I have seen in your eyes, I dare not speak,
An African love preparing to fly,
An ebony bow that rides to victory.

Demonless witch, seer of what’s to come,
Who reads in her palm what we’ve come to see
And charms the senses in a look:

You seem to have learned the future,
But do not amuse yourself with adventure:
Dark deity, bring it to us.

Georges de Scudéry, translated by Frank Watson

Original French

La Belle Egyptienne

Sombre divinité, de qui la splendeur noire
Brille de feux obscurs qui peuvent tout brûler :
La neige n'a plus rien qui te puisse égaler,
Et l'ébène aujourd'hui l'emporte sur l'ivoire.

De ton obscurité vient l'éclat de ta gloire,
Et je vois dans tes yeux, dont je n'ose parler,
Un Amour africain, qui s'apprête à voler,
Et qui d'un arc d'ébène aspire à la victoire.

Sorcière sans démons, qui prédis l'avenir,
Qui, regardant la main, nous viens entretenir,
Et qui charmes nos sens d'une aimable imposture :

Tu parais peu savante en l'art de deviner ;
Mais sans t'amuser plus à la bonne aventure,
Sombre divinité, tu nous la peux donner.

Georges de Scudéry

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Edge

walking between the planes
in a dialect of hidden existence
we rise with the morning sun

to leave behind the inspiration
of moon-crazed nights
that dance in the muddy lanes of desire

and we are free in the warmth of love
to share a kiss at the edge
where all the colors of light reflect in mist

Thursday, January 16, 2014


changing to a bird
he falls to sea;
changing to a sword
he stains in red

sound unheard
he longs to be free;
voice ignored
he sings of life instead

Though titled "Prometheus," this is not based on the actual myth.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cutting Wood

How to cut wood?
It’s hard without an axe.
How to find a wife?
It’s hard without a go-between.

Cutting wood… cutting wood…
The rule’s pretty clear:
To find a girl
You need a lot of gifts.

Original Chinese




fá kē

fá kē rú hé
fěi fǔ bù kè
qǔ qī rú hé
fěi méi bù dé
fá kē fá kē
qí zé bù yuǎn
wǒ gòu zhī zǐ
biān dòu yǒu jiàn

Translation Notes

Cut-down axe-handle
[fig. How to make an axe handle?]

Cut-down axe-handle like how?
[like how = how?]
Not/bandits axe no overcome.
Take wife like how?
Not/bandits matchmaker not obtain.
Cut-down axe-handle cut-down axe-handle,
His rule not far.
I meet her child,
Bamboo-container beans have trample.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tending Roses (a short story)

     I’m a good girl, just like you want. Your sweet, little, dirty blonde, green-eyed Brigitte. Better this way. If I got a job I’d have to talk with other men and you wouldn’t like that. You’d hit me. I know you don’t like to do it, but I deserve it sometimes.
     It started a month ago, I think. You were out that day, workin’ at the Westward Diner, fryin’ up the food for all the regulars. I felt restless inside the house. Just get that way sometimes.
     Went out front to tend the garden. It’s relaxin’, takes my mind off things to be in the garden when the sun is out. One of the things I liked about movin’ out here to Van Nuys, right in the heat of the valley outside Los Angeles.
     I was there in the dirt tendin’ the white roses. Pretty, those little things, smell nice too. I was down there on my hands and knees in my summer dress. It gets dirty when I tend the flowers, but I only wear dresses. Know how much you like ’em and I wanna please you.
     Just then Josef come out. I see him sometimes ’cause he’s always home, workin’. He was wearin’ a white button-up shirt and tight blue jeans, but all they did was show how downright skinny he was. Never took much interest in him. He’s too pale and thin, but he does have nice, wavy chestnut hair. You’re a much more handsome man, and passionate. I like a passionate man. Whenever I look into your fiery black eyes and wild black hair, it sets me boilin’. I remember when you swept me into your world like a burnin’ well of fire. I love to touch and smell your olive skin too, and feel the strength in your arms, the way you take possession of me.
     Can’t understand exactly what Josef does. Computer somethin’ or other. Never talked with him much either. You wouldn’t like that, I know. Whenever he said “hi,” I’d just reply likewise.
     That day his eyes stayed on me as I was down there, in the dirt. Don’t know why. I felt his eyes scannin’ me up and down. Got downright flush. Tried not to look back. Looked straight at my roses, pretendin’ not to notice. He came up to me that time, walkin’ casually, but I could tell he wanted somethin’.
     “Mornin’, Brigitte.”
     Josef was standing in front of me, just off to the side. His eyes scanned along my legs, pausin’ at the side of my rear, then moved up to my chest, restin’ there a bit, before they caught my eyes.  “Whatcha doin’ down there?”
     “Just tendin’ the roses,” I said. My face turned hot and I couldn’t look up at him. I was hopin’ he’d go away if I didn’t look at him. Anytime a man talk to me I feel nervous, knowin’ how angry you’d get if you found out.
     Instead, he walked a little closer. To my side of the yard. His body was close, I thought—too close. Could feel the heat from his skin reach out and touch me. He crouched down there and looked at the roses. I started back a bit. Gave myself some space. “Lovely little things, aren’t they?” he said.
     “I s’ppose.”
     “Roses are tricky. Require a lot of care. Sure smell nice, though.” He looked at the roses, the dirt, then went back up to my face.
     “Yeah, they do,” I said, takin’ a sniff. Thinkin’ of the way roses smell calms me a bit, helps my nerves. I looked up briefly at Josef’s face, then lowered my glance again.
     “Franco’s at work?” he asked, lookin’ me in the eye. Why was it he asking me about you, anyway? I see him talkin’ with you sometime.
     “Yeah, till seven,” I said, not glancin’ up. It was around two then.
     He looked at me more closely, with a smile. I felt nervous with another man this close to me, but he didn’t try and come any closer. His voice was relaxed, a deep bass, his gestures friendly.
     Suddenly his smile dropped. “What’s that on your arm?” he asked, pointin’ to my bruises.
     “Nothin’. Just bumped myself.”
     He hesitated, didn’t say nothin’, just kept lookin’ at me. Then he said, “Brigitte, I’ve seen bruises on you before.” I fidgeted. Didn’t wanna talk about what you done to me. Beside, he wouldn’t understand. I try to do better, I really do, but sometime I just can’t help makin’ a mistake. You’re strict that way, and it makes me a better woman.
     “Look, there’s some things I gotta do,” I said, standin’ up. I turned around and hurried in, not lookin’ back at Josef. He seemed nice and all, and I could see he was concerned. I was touched, actually, by how he seemed to care, but really, I don’t need that kind of trouble and I don’t wanna explain things to him. He wouldn’t understand.

     You weren’t always like this. I remember when you first wooed me. Was a waitress at a diner and you came in scourin’ about for a job. I was serving some customers then, an old couple who didn’t talk much, and I saw you starin’ at me out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought there was somethin’ on my uniform, but when I saw more fully, you were lookin’ at me up at down like you couldn’t take your eyes off of me. I felt warm deep inside and kinda dizzy, and forgot what I was talkin’ about with the customers.
     After you finished speakin’ to the manager, you came right up to me, told me I was beautiful, and that you wanted to take me out. No hesitation or beatin’ about the bush with it. The way you looked me straight in the eyes and wouldn’t let go, I knew you wanted to possess me. I stumbled with words, but said “yes” and we went out.
     For the next few months you courted me like a lover I’d seen on TV—buyin’ me dinners and wine and roses, takin’ me to parks and lakes—but most of all, you were so forceful and passionate when you wanted me, takin’ me whenever you wanted me, whether in the car, in the woods, or right at home. I felt like I had to follow your desires, but that is exactly what my deepest, sexiest, feelin’ was. Couldn’t think of none else.
     In a few months’ time you wanted to get hitched and there was nothin’ I wanted more. Right up to the ceremony, you were always sweet to me, but still, I felt the violent passion lingering just beneath your skin… and I wanted more.
     It wasn’t until after we got hitched that you started hittin’ me. It wasn’t much at first. Just I’d make some mistake and you’d slap me over it. I’d cry and you’d comfort me, tell me you were sorry and would never do it again, and I forgave you. I knew how sweet you was and knew it wasn’t your intention. I made mistakes and naturally sometimes you wouldn’t be patient with me.
     Over time, the hittin’ turned more and more frequent. You were frustrated with never makin’ it up from a diner cook, always worried about losin’ your job to immigrants. You turned to drinkin’ more… and I was never able to be the woman I wanted to be, always screwin’ up and settin’ you off…

     I drifted in those thoughts for a while. The next day was another warm and sunny mornin’. Can’t beat L.A. in January, no sir. Went out again and sat on the front porch, doin’ my crochet. Got lost in time, not thinkin’ anythin’ at all, just watchin’ the movements of my hands.
     About half an hour later, Josef came out, took a deep breath while stretchin’ his arms over his head, then went to the curb to pick up his paper. Funny he reads those things, bein’ in the computer business. I never read them, even before the Internet. As he turned around and walked back to his house, he noticed me.
     “Mornin’ Brigitte.”
     He walked over to my yard again, right in front of the porch, but didn’t come up. “Hey, I’m sorry about yesterday; didn’t mean to get too personal.”
     “Ah, it was nothin’,” I said, starin’ at my knit. “Nothin’ at all.”
     “Okay, see you around, I guess.” He went back to his house.
     It was quiet then, but I couldn’t concentrate on my knit no more. Just looked up and stared at traffic. It was another sunny day, like all of them out here, but the sky was tinted amber with smog.
     Didn’t see him again for a few days. Kinda forgot about the whole thing and went about my business. Then we started fightin’ again.
     The day started okay—you were happy, actually. You came home with your t-shirt all greased up from the fryin’ you done at the diner that day. But you washed up and made me a fancy meal. Real good too—filet mignon, fettuccini with cream sauce, creamed spinach, asparagus, and my favorite, mashed potatoes. Piled my plate up high.
     I tried eatin’ everything, but got filled up. “Can’t eat no more,” I said.
     “Finish the plate. I made this special.”
     “But I can’t.”
     “Goddamn it, finish the plate.” Your face turned red and your eyes narrowed. I knew you’d explode soon. You don’t like it when I don’t appreciate your work.
     Finished up the plate, wantin’ to show you how delicious your food was, but I felt more and more nauseous. Got up to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t stop it no more. The food blew out of my mouth and went all over the dinin’ room floor. I curled down, retchin’, lost in the sea around me.
     “You stupid cunt, look what you did to the floor,” you said. Then you kicked me in the stomach. “Now clean that shit up.”
     Still, I couldn’t think straight. Was tryin’ to get myself together, but started cryin’ and was just foggy inside, my wind lost from that kick you gave me. Then you slapped me right across the face and said, “Don’t just sit there—move your lazy ass.” Right then I saw a white light and everythin’ turned blurry. Can’t remember much after that.
     The next day you went back to work. I thought over the previous day and tried to understand what I done wrong to set you off like that. Probably ate too much for lunch, didn’t leave enough room for dinner. You work hard all day at the diner and I have to make it nice for you when you get back. I know I’m a disappointment of a wife, but I’m tryin’ and think I can do better.
     The sun was out that day and the sky was bright blue, no amber smog. I went outside to the garden, relaxin’ my nerves. Sometimes I just get anxious. Don’t know why, but I can’t be calm a lot of the times.
     Anyway, I was prunin’ the flowers, adrift in the smell of the white buds. Sure was a lovely day. Josef came out, saw me, and walked on over. The sun shined brighter on half of his face.
     “Mornin’ Brig—” he said, cuttin’ himself off when he saw me close. “What happened to your face? He’s hitting you, isn’t he?”
     “It’s nothin’,” I said, watchin’ as a little blue car meandered down the street. “Nothin’.”
     He looked at me, frownin’. “Brigitte, you don’t deserve that no matter what,” he said.
     “Josef, please.”
     “How often does he do this?”
     “Don’t know… look, I gotta go,” I said, not movin’.
     “When did it start?”
     “I . . . You don’t understand.”
     “You can get help. I hear the yelling sometimes, even all the way over in my house. There are groups and agencies to help women in this situation,” he said. I looked down, noticin’ a blade of grass. It was alive and green. “We should talk more about what you can do.”
     I got up and took a step back and said, “I appreciate this, I really do, but I can’t talk no more.” I turned around and started to walk back to my door. As I got to the porch, Josef caught up with me and held my elbow gently. I flinched, but stopped and turned my head to look at him.
     “I don’t mean to impose,” he said, releasin’ my arm. His face looked kinda shocked that I had flinched. I felt embarrassed, like I was a little girl. “This is a serious problem. He could kill you one of these days.” Josef looked me in the eyes, as if searchin’ for somethin’. “Let’s have some tea. It’ll relax you. We can talk some more.”
     “Tea? That’s not a good idea.”
     “It’s just . . . You seem stressed. Some warm tea might soothe that weight off your shoulders.”
     “I don’t know.” I was confused from everything that happened the night before. My nerves were all riled up and my ribs still hurt. Tea would be nice. I thought it might relax me just talkin’ everythin’ over with someone. But still, a man in the house. . .
     “Come on, it’s okay.” Josef touched my elbow very slowly, letting me see his hand as he did it, then guided me toward the house.
     At the front door, I stopped. “I can’t, Josef, really.”
     He paused for a second, lookin’ like he was thinkin’ something over. “If you really don’t want to, we don’t have to. But I’m worried and can’t stand by. Perhaps I should report this to the police.”
     The word “police” his me like a voltage shock. I didn’t want them involved. What a mess that would be. And when they left, you would blame me for everything. Why wouldn’t he just mind his own business?
     Maybe that’s why my judgment wasn’t so good, my thoughts were firin’ in all directions, but I thought maybe if I talk to him, explain things to him, he’d back off.
     “Don’t call the police,” I said. “Leave it be, it’s nothin’.”
     “I don’t know, it might be a good idea to get them invovled.”
     “Look, just come in for some tea. We’ll talk about it. But just for a few minutes, okay?”
     He came in and sat at the dinin’ room table. I made some herbal tea, chamomile, I think, and set the pot and two cups on the table, one for each of us. I smelled it and felt relaxed.
     Josef looked into my eyes, in a kind of soft focus. “Brigitte, I know it’s hard to talk about this. If it’s too hard, we can talk about something else.”
     I looked back at him, examinin’ his eyebrows and the relaxed muscles around his jaws. Then I looked down again. “It’s okay,” I said.
     “What exactly does Franco do to you?”
     “Nothin’ really.”
     “It’s okay, it really is.” Josef put his hands on mine. Even though I was lookin’ down, I could see him tryin’ to catch my eye.
     “It’s not every day.” I thought of your anger, your outbursts. At first it surprised me. I’d fold your shirts the wrong way and it’d set you off. I’d talk with a man in the market when we were in line and you’d slap me when we got home, callin’ me a whore. “It’s mostly when I mess up. I try to be good. Think it’s gettin’ better.”
     “You are good,” Josef said. “And you don’t ever deserve to be beaten.” I wondered why he’d think I’m good when he hardly knew me.
     “You don’t understand.” I started to cry, tryin’ to stop the tears. The roof of my mouth hurt from tryin’ to hold them back.
     Josef cupped my hands. Looked at me while I gazed down. I felt like he was starin’ at the bottom of my neck, just above my chest. The air felt hot and my chest started heavin’. He took one of his hands off and touched me just below the chin, liftin’ my face up so I looked at him straight in the eyes. I felt a warmth sweep over me, washing over the confusion of what I should do next. “I do understand,” he said. “My father beat my mother. Nearly every day. Nothing can justify it.”
     Tears started comin’ down till they wouldn’t stop no more. I raised my hands and covered my eyes. Josef moved closer and hugged me. I set my face down on his shoulder and just sobbed. It seemed so long, I forgot the time.
     When I looked up at Josef, he was so close and I didn’t know what to do. His face was blurry from all the tears and I felt a kind of comfort in being in gentle arms that I hadn’t felt before. Without thinkin’ I kissed him on the lips. They were warm and soft. Startled, I backed off.
     Josef looked at me. I felt like his eyes could see right through me. He put one hand on the back of my head and pulled me closer, kissin’ me longer and slower than before.
     I embraced him, wrapped my arms around his back, and rested my head on his shoulder. He pulled me closer, holdin’ me with both his arms, movin’ his hands up and down my back as we just sat there, holdin’ each other.
     Then, suddenly, I realized how much what a blunder I had just made. I stood up and pushed him off me. “I’m sorry, this was just a mistake. Please, leave now.”
     “I didn’t mean for that to happen.” Josef stared at me, not getting up, lookin’ startled by the sudden change in my mood.
     “I know. It was my fault actually, got carried away. Please, just go.” I couldn’t believe what a stupid thing I had done.
     “Okay, I understand.” He got up and walked toward the door. As he opened the door, he turned his head and looked like he was about to say somethin’ but then he turned back around and walked out.
     All alone in the house, I was in shock about what had just happened. Why had I exposed myself so much? What would you think if you found out? I sat down again on the dining room chair and just stared at the sofa, not so much lost in thought, but unable to think of anything at all.
     Since then, for the last couple weeks, I haven’t been out of the house at all. Didn’t wanna run into Josef again. He came every day, knockin’ at the door, yellin’ through it that he needed to talk to me, but I would tell him through the door that I didn’t feel like talkin’.
     A few days ago, he stopped comin’. I felt kind of relieved, but disappointed too. Actually, it made me feel good, a man wantin’ to talk to me like that, comin’ to my door and sayin’ my name. I started missin’ the way he held me, those gentle arms, the way his eyes penetrated deep into me.
     Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed him away, I thought. He might have felt somethin’ for me too, with all that knockin’ on the door. If I go out in the garden I might see him again. He might crouch beside me as I smell the fresh laundry scent of his white, button-up shirt. Maybe he would even take me away from all this.
     This is how I was feelin’ when you came home tonight. I was lookin’ at you, but thinkin’ of Josef.
     You went into the kitchen and started to prepare dinner. “It’s a damn shame,” you said.
     “What is?”
     “You know Josef, our neighbor?”
     “I s’ppose.”
     “Police found him the other day outside O’Malley’s bar. Beaten dead, worse than a mutt. Took ’em till now to ID him.”
     I couldn’t say nothin’. Just stared at you shake your head as you made dinner. The pain crawled through my brain and I felt like there was an undertow takin’ me out to sea. I turned around and halted toward the front door.
     “Where you going?”
     “Just tendin’ roses.” They sure smell nice today.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Forever Flawless Jade

Two children in a boat,
Drifting with the scenery.
How I wish to speak to them,
The dear ones I reared.

Two children in a boat,
Drifting, they’ve passed away.
How I wish to speak to them,
Forever flawless jade.

Translated from the Chinese of an anonymous poem in the Shijing 

Daodejing #13

Fortune and misfortune both frighten;
The rich and great will suffer for themselves.

Why say fortune and misfortune both frighten?
With fortune, you can only go down—
Get it and you fear losing it;
Lose it and you’re upset you’ve lost it.

Why say the rich and great will suffer for themselves?
The one who suffers is the one who resists his place;
Acting for themselves, they struggle,
Reaching in selfish ambition, they struggle.

Why fight? Why suffer?

Be one with the world—
Love your place under the sky
And you may entrust your life as it is.

Literal Translation

Favor humiliate like frighten

Expensive great suffer like body

Why say favor humiliate like frighten?

Favor does bring-down,

Get it like frighten,
Lose it like frighten,

Indeed say favor humiliate like frighten.

Why say expensive great suffer like body?

Resist place therefore has big suffer he-who,

Does resist have body,

Extend resist not body,

Resist have why suffer?

Ancient value therefore body be heaven

If can rely-on heaven below;

Love therefore body acts sky under,

Like can entrust sky under.