A Sunday Memorial for Allen Ginsberg

Allen, we came to honour you today
Allen, can you hear us in your celestial grave?
You roly-poly imp of a man,
you stood below everyone and
Roared like a lion

Man, you made the squalor on the street
glisten with truth and beauty
cherished the golden life of sunflowers
beneath man’s tainted progress
You sang to that good
wherever you saw it
Allen, can you hear us as we sing your praises now?

I was naïve when you appeared
across the street from the White House
It was too much for you to
pass up the opportunity
that Artists could influence Presidents
“Every day you walk by there you said
Every day you can protest
It’s your right. It is your duty”

You sparked a momentary curiosity
but later a fire burned in my belly
when I saw the evening news
Kent state, killed by our own guards,
And children
with sweet, haunted, faces
running along a jungle road
into the silent scream – the wide gulf that opened
the terrible sadness between us

Years later,
I heard you again on the radio
found myself in your Howl
lost myself in your humour
thought of you as the voice of America
I saw your foibles and marvelled at how you
found the poetry in them that
I had failed to see

Today Allen, we honour you in death
because you honoured life
In it’s unseemly underbelly,
you deciphered songs that remind us
of our common heritage,
of rage, of humour,
of blessedness, bittersweet losses, and
the profound and transient awareness
that prevails as the only constant,
ever ready to receive us.

You taught that the belly needs to eat
and the soul needs to sing
But your mission is at last ended,
survived by countless poems that live on without you
They wail and gnash their teeth in the night, as you
dream sweetly, in restful repose

Farewell sweet poet,
your name was Allen Ginsberg, and now
We sing your praises.

Vancouver, September 28th, 1997.

A poet’s funeral is wide as the world

They said he was a great poet
which set me off
to find him
in Geddes discovered

And so I sat down
outside it was raining
To read the poems of Irving Layton
who died yesterday

At the funeral,
praise and humour,
a resilience in loss
We watched on tv
who didn’t know him
and wished now we did

On the radio
Leonard is reading
from the poet’s shimmering pool
How fortunate
His reflection remains
The lighting of many candles
Birth days
He rests but still stirs

Jan 9, 2006

A big sky pilgrim

I can understand now how myths are created
He walked among us, yes
and the mishaps and misconceptions
were steps taken lightly
show a retrospective wisdom

What remains now
is all that is worthy of him and us
we are a community of worshipers

Simple things,
those big, gentle hugs, warm and enveloping
his open laugh and playfulness
the way he truly revered the best in others
We all awoke to that touch

He was here among us, roaming wide
in all four directions. In full abandon to the world
A big sky pilgrim
gazing out from rocky bluffs, wandering the woods
he loved, the mountain passes, streams and rocks
breathing with little laps of waves at the shore

And in the secret journeys of heart and mind
sacred labyrinths of meaning
seeking, delighting, discovering

Once, in a dream, long ago,
he sang into a large burnished pot
resonated into the deep well of my being
became a memory, a person I cherish

And in his passing, in that final glance of knowing
realizing fully the world of love
he took us all on a journey
like a pied piper
with a sound so sweet that
the child within each of us responded, followed
knowing in that place
was a profound beauty
freedom and joy, laughter

The sound still pulls at my heart, a deep yearning
but he is gone
and we are left behind to tell the story
of a wonderful being we were blessed to know
who honoured the best in all of us

For Rients, December, 2008

Chant Enormous Whisper

I’m not like some poets
who write in English
My lines are too imperfect
My thoughts are imperfect too,
veering off course – like balloons

I envy their effortless restraint
their ability to peek under the image
so dispassionately, so deeply with
a knowledge of every nuance.

And unlike others, I have no word songs,
or repetitions, to reify pain or madness.
No losses suffered,
And no tidy messages
either, of gardens, or lovers (well, a few)
Or meaningful moments of homey-ness
the coda that poets live by

And no absurdities that sometimes
only language can reveal
then half an hour later…
(the Chinese food of poetry)

Yes, like the balloon I once drew
for someone who asked my innermost thoughts
a Prof. at the Corcorraine,
who thought a translation
of Jaques Mariatan was enough English,
if you wanted to be an artist

“Essence of a balloon”
I wrote carefully
below the simple line drawing

All I could capture
was the outline of its shape
And my poems too
simply edge the perimeter
of something too inscrutable to decipher

Some feel a cast of foreignness
Like a bridge over a chasm
they’d rather not cross,
not at this time anyway

Perhaps if I lived differently
thought differently,
I could fit between the doors
of two covers
onto the bookshelf of life

But something in me
keeps veering off course
Light as air, unsubstantial
Pulled by the chant
of an enormous whisper
into a wealth of emptiness

March 29th, 2005.

Dark night

Life took me to a place that seemed like death
I walked in silence, my head bowed down
Is this the place I was heading for? I asked
but no answer came and
forsaken, I wandered on

No end to the horizon
that simple grey line
though luminous, grows dim
I cannot look upon it now
that source of unending peace
Wretched loathing and grief

All the paths taken
so full of promise,
have led to this unavoidable sorrow

In the light of one lone star, I see the treasure I once held
more than one can say in a poem
empty, empty, tumbling before me
no longer to be found

May 8, 2006 (Rev Oct)


So this is what flesh and bone does
make space internal
A dusky holding place
for your presence,
Your face with eyes like
Jetsun pearls

“Please pose,” they said
And you turned into the light
so the camera could record
your illumined face
and enter the internal
space of flesh and bone

Buddha nature
good as any Buddha nature
Yours and mine are mingling
in the dusky light of being

What is being?
You step through all worlds
Like a lion.

Aug 28, 1999

(* Poem for Jamyang Kyentse Chokyi Lodro.)


Who is this tulku who travels
as a simple monk to answer our prayers?
His profound journey brings ancient truths
remembered as an act of service
as a path of liberation

Kept safe in the land of snows
now scattered to the wind,
teachings and teachers have arrived
to remind us of impermanence –
that emptiness is fullness
How fortunate we are to travel again
the road of dharma, and to meet
such a dear friend on the path
Lama, you are a blessing!
We have longed for the teachings
like thirsty creatures in a desert.
Now with devotion we prostrate
to the jewel of dharma
you carry so carefully

In the diamond light of wisdom
we find relief from the travails of samsara
Rinpoche, may your life be long and fruitful
And may the clear light continue to radiate
in your words and countenance
spreading the nectar of dharma to all that you meet.

written for Lama Phurbu Tashi
May 4, 2013, Annapolis, MD


You are etched into the crevasses of tide in the sand
You are the simple but noble rock on the shore
ever present, but not always seen
Now every wildflower calls your name
remembering you to me

Your eyes spied the best stones on the beach,
or a hidden beauty… the signs that drew you
deep into their world
You are the geologist who knew their composition
the artisan that breathed their lessons into glass

You held my hand by the water’s edge
Warm breeze like the breath of this day
Rising and subsiding, both urgent and gentle
How could I forget you?
You are the land that lives eternal
To be discovered
On a warm spring day

April, 2000.

Po ms

Po ms

For those unused
to searching, or tending
We lay the fruit out
in ordered rows,
to be picked and prodded
I love mangoes
the cherries are sweet
the apples so-so

In the hurried consumption
something is lost
of the tree, the vine,
the sun-laden bush
The way the rain refreshes
the orchard at dawn

And who remembers
the balmy breezes of late afternoon?
The plump white clouds
against the azure?
or the colours that
gently gather at dusk?

The cold and the heat,
the startle of hail?
The blanket of stars,
the luminous moon?

The life of each fruition
is diminished
Now neatly packaged,
So shy and undaunting
with mysteries tamed

Such are the perils of going to market.

March, 2004.

Morning Soundscape

the urgency of pigeons cooing
a motorcycle passing
neighbours talking, teasing
questions called out

hang in the air

answers follow
a startle of wings in flight
another day begins

through the open windows
aeroplane overhead
louder than usual
cars passing
horn honking
the ghettoblast of summer

then, family greetings, in Greek
the day’s plans discussed
wait, wait, Rex
the dog is not listening
the sound of laughter

I hear the green
speckled with sun
camaraderie and flowers in bloom
all things content
amidst the hullabaloo

Aug 4th, 2005.