Tag Archives: poetry

Version 0.86 (Just Some Thoughts on a Train, and a Little Poem at the End)


Sitting on a train going nowhere.

Correction: just as I began writing this we began to move. Only about one hour from Da Nang Station now. There is only one track that runs through the mountains and jungle along the coastline, so it is imperative that care is taken when another train is coming.

I left Nam Dinh last night in the rain. Spent half the day in a cafe idling my time way while Huyen was in the office. Afterward she ended up driving me around in the rain so that I could replace my cellphone, which we succeeded at doing, and then dinner at a cheap Korean place. I’m so, so grateful for her. It’s pretty clear that she doesn’t want me to leave Vietnam, but I feel I really have to. So low on funds. Trips to Tam Coc and Sa Pa realized much higher expenditures than I expected, and then I lost my phone. The day spent in Nam Dinh was nice enough though, and I look forward to spending nearly a week with Huyen in Da Lat.

I’m still here for a few more weeks.

I want to see family and friends. Andddd, I miss my bicycle immensely.

Through the window
The sea is spread out far and wide
Soft horizon
Rocky shore


Version 0.81 (Weather)


Bright, misty morning. Nothing but white, white, white.
The air is heavy with them: these vast impenetrable clouds.
Sa Pa hidden below, mountain slopes lost above.
Peering into this nebulous void is like trying to see into the future:
all that is visible: that which is around me now,
and even that is impossibly indistinct at times.

These inscrutable clouds that move in from all around.

Version 0.42 (Kafeville Poem)


Coffee—nearly at last
A mustard-yellow wall
Spirals of razorwire atop it
In places it has crumbled away
With age, with the damp, with forgetfulness and neglect
It is like an old love, the glow of the setting sun on it all that is giving it warmth,
Illuminating it before it sinks into darkness
Coffee arrives and smells of strawberries and passion fruit.
It is a red and orange and purple and blue carpet spread beneath my nose
A garland of fruits and flowers hung about my neck
The air is still, silent
Ocassionally it quivers with the voice of an employee or guest, like a single plucked string of a guitar

[Enters loudly: steam from the espresso machine wand]

And suddenly a thought comes to me: why aren’t I meditating while I am here?

As I think about this cafe space as an isolated sphere of peace and serenity a child’s voice bursts in from a room in the rear
Bright and happy like a jelly bean, she skips through back to front and out the door, like a stone across a lake, leaving the surface calm and still after
The world undisturbed
As it was when I first arrived.

Autumn in Flagstaff, at Least for this Moment

Humphrey’s Peak right up there
With clouds tailing off
Dusted with snow like a cinnamon bun.

Flagstaff silent but for the crows,
Some traffic rolling along cracked and tar strapped asphalt
Breeze pushing yellow, green, yellow-green leaves along a sidewalk
Bluebirds bright, their song with joy
Happiness like a child’s reflection in an iced over pond.
the very air
—crisp, crackling with energy.

Winter draws nearer.

The smell of old leaves,
Of dead leaves,
New soil,

Blue of autumn sky.

GLORY! (or Santa Cruz Island)

Glory, I say.

Let’s try that again.

(and AMEN, as Henry Miller would say)

GLORY! says the bark of the sea lions from that yonder pointed rock, protruding sharply and hard-edged from the mouth of the cove that I’m overlooking from this rocky promontory.
GLORY! says the sun sunk behind the next island a few miles off, clouds rippling around its peaks loudly like streamers.
GLORY! says the sky, speckled with sun drenched clouds glowing heavily with summer’s honey-colored light even though the last week of October.

(soft streak of rose
petals and tulips
across the horizon
in one long painterly stroke)

This air is life itself — GLORY! — perfumed by the salty, aquamarine waters hundreds of feet below, crashing onto the shore, foamy-white.

And here I sit on the most luxurious rock, looking out at all this revelation.
I could be sitting on a pin cushion.

I discern no visible joy out there, only mystery and a raw primalness. But within, a sense of calm equilibrium and belonging.

I have merged with the salt-sea air, with the last remaining rays of the sun, with the wild, mangy bark of the sea lion.
I am no longer, as I once thought, just this flesh and bone but, I see now that I am this whole of nature.
This skin which contains me; which keeps me bundled up in this extraordinary body with its two legs and its two arms and a head which swivels this way and that, and a mind that thinks and creates divisions; this skin which contains me, which seems a boundary, is also contained within me. It is merely the surface of an ocean, the ground floor of an atmosphere.

It exists, but only in your mind.

GLORY, I say!

How to Write a Poem

The sound of the rain
That countless chorus of voices
Each drop individual, different
But the same word sung—”LIFE”
Shouts the children in the street with giggling
They know the language well

Ah!, it has been so long since last I’ve experienced rain
Here, on the patio, in the dark I sit
Alone but for the company of the cat
The two of us listening, and smelling as we breathe in breathe out
Quietly—the children have gone
Inside (to supper, to games, to bed?)
The rain continues its chatter
Meaningless, but life-affirming

At first I couldn’t see the rain
Could only listen to its voice
Until a car pulled up
Headlights glancing off a window
And the drops of water stuck like glitter
Dazzling like the germs of stories in my head
Until the car pulled away
And this poem began

Bartavelle is Always On

A cacophony
but through the window
my vision sharply focused: PEACE.

Interpol dancing loudly on the stereo,
the ‘clank-clank!’ of dishes,
shouted announcement of prepared food: “Ling! Ling!”,
the rip-roar of a motorcycle in the parking lot,
a burst of steam from the espresso machine.

But outside, the wind tickling the trees tickling the sky white-streaked and blue.

There is a peace here maintained by staring out the window.

There is a joy here audible if one listens.

Portrait of Bartavelle

fruit, and cheeseboards, and books
lattes, and glasses of lemonade
on small, circular, wood-slat tables
bathe in the sun
reading books
reading phones
standing in line staring at bread
waiting for the line to move
the parking lot empty
the intersection full
the wind turns
the trees dance
children shout
wafting toast aroma flutters out the door

BART or The Significance of Public Transport

Sleeping faces
Nose-in-a-book faces
Enchanted by smartphone faces
Hidden-by-sunglasses faces
Laughing faces
Straight faces
Pale faces
Dark faces
Multicultural faces
Animated faces
Faces in repose
Faces in love
Profiles of faces
Children’s faces
Teen faces
Adult faces
A beautiful face directly across from me
Smooth and youthful faces
Pockmarked and wrinkled faces
Bearded faces
Clean-shaven faces
A tattooed face
Inquisitive faces
Concentrating faces
Looking and questioning faces
Apologetic faces
Weary faces
Calm faces
Sunlight through the windows on all of their faces faces

There’s an orange peel under one of the seats
And this train is hurtling along at incredible speed.