"CREATIVE WRITING SAMPLE"
Carrying rose petals toward the moon--reflecting sunlight.
Winking Earth, I see you.
I arrived here by leaping, holding a rose between my teeth.
Only I see constellations out my window
only I can feel my fragrant blood,
and only I will hear the petals fall.
If I take up flamenco guitar,
you'll hear the music and dance.
— November 2013
“Right.” -- Bhanu Kapil
“We look at skulls and feel unsettled -- skulls are right here.” -- Brandon Shimoda
My skull—slowly eroded from inner electrical storm appears to be stable. Slanted imagination. The undulating flesh spread across my temples, and pulled into a bunch at the center of my brow, slides over the smooth surface of skull as if it were a scoby on ice. Meanwhile, my ever-fermenting brain-brew is well contained within. An x-ray machine can tell nothing of the morse code cloud flashes—thunderhead thoughts, kombucha klesha, psychosomatic soirée within meteoric bone lounge. Pause. Now rest the whole blessed mess on a pillow until dawn.
Dawn. Skull and scoby have been dusted now by powdered snow-sugar. I may dunk in coffee-consciousness for breakfast. Is this a prose poem? Skull: too close, too familiar. I draw out abstractions and throw paint at them just to get an image—because in the mirror I see throbbing song but no infrastructure.
The skull is in the mind. The tongue is swollen with sores currently—I don’t know why. It rests among tissue held within skull and yet it speaks the skull. When I burn in the hearth my tongue will be swallowed by flame just as language will be swallowed by death. The skull: will be left here. Left here!
My friend has a skull on his bicep—ink. I use ink here to bring the skull into view. The tongue is dipped in ink, in a sense, and applied to the page. The ink is the infrastructure for meaning, as the skull is the infrastructure for perception. We sing the skull to know it, and yet, the lone, bare skull sings itself within perception.
A month ago I saw brains boiling out the back of a cracked open skull: the late Acharya Allyn Lyon—my teacher, who named me, twice. I saw her face first—yellow and lifeless, as she laid in the hearth, here on the land. I saw Bhanu laying in the hearth once, in real life. When the fire boiled off her skin (Acharya’s), her charred, black-dusted skull was revealed. Eventually it cracked in the heat, and the brains—her kombucha brew—blew out the back, and fell out in clumps. Right. Indeed.
Skull is utterly un-clever. Also the infrastructure for panic. Teacher—stark message. Like a flame to insulation: worry is frivolity. Never elaborating, ornamenting, wavering. Right: Here. Skull as decor, icon, employed—is secondary. Ink of ink is within our elaborations. Inseparable. Come now (tongue), jester in the court, blow us a kiss on tip toe.
Flowers and Sensei, Awake
Speed like weeds. Flowers like music. Pulsating perfection, and busy bodies missing beats. A million words, a million actions — exhausted bodies wanting to flop… but far too busy. A million deaths and missed opportunities, a smile, and one perfect ringing note — the bliss bell. Soon-enough, tumbleweeds of thinking. Busy bodies. But, perhaps more and more often — bell.
Breathe. A weekend with Shenpen, Sensei — arranging flowers, slowing down, opening up. Her being is her teaching. It’s always that way. More the wholeness than the spoken instructions.
My emotional state — worked-with through arranging. And then the arrangement as a mirror.
Heaviness purified through art-form. The energy, once challenging, now reflected, purified, no more grief about it, rather: there it is.
Flowers. Resistance to knowing flowers, revealing ever-floral me — the fragility is too much to bear. Always so tender and never-lasting. Afraid to say goodbye… and, thus, afraid to say hello.
So… dropping all of that and being simple. I wish to be more relaxed — not in a floppy way, but in an open way. I wish to do my work, but without all the tension and goal-orientedness. I believe it works better that way.
What good is scatter-brained accomplishment? What power is there in that? Instead, one simple, perfectly timed bell.
One after another.
After the weekend program concluded, Sunday with lunch, I went to my house and napped. Then, awoke and cleaned, and arranged, my space. Sensei said that Ikebana is a dangerous contemplative art, because it will change your life.
I see the way environment affects mental and emotional states — and vice versa. It felt amazing, uplifting, to be in my space after it had been cleaned and arranged.
The world is always communicating. We are always communicating… What is the message? Heart, care, awake, play, not-so-serious. We’re expressing always. Artwork — changes the world, changes minds.
The whole way through. Friday afternoon, I felt like I wanted to nap for three days. I was so burnt from the work week — so much activity. So much obligation. So much hope and fear. Instead of curling into a ball, I engaged in artwork. It purified my state. And the result was more beauty in the world. The whole process was helpful and beautiful on many levels.
Grateful. Grateful for the reminder. For the immersion. Grateful to have been in space with Sensei. Her floral radiance. Her heavenly wisdom and strong hands, delicate touch.
Glad to know my world to be a living arrangement. Sensei, smile. Oh, virtue of whimsy. May I not become too busy. Sensei, awake. Pause. Awake.
— April 21, 2014
Fragments from a notebook (early morning)
Sacredness and also my particular karma (the monkey in the palace).
I wonder about writing my way through the haze, back onto the page, into the body, the room. The sounds around me — popping of propane heater, a light buzz of silence and maybe blood gushing in my head. A slight tiredness in my fingers holding the pen. No final word.
On the surface: discursive. And deeper, the poetry of sambhogakaya. The well of nectar. I don’t need to think much about that right now. Also though, as long as the pen is moving on the page: what to do? Why waste breath, ink, paper? What is there to explore in the space uncluttered, unobscured, by discursiveness? Some notes about yesterday, maybe? Some ideas about how mysterious and elusive the voice is? About how the voice with Heather (lover) is high pitched and sweet, and the voice can be so many other ways... the sad, sore, joyful — rather than aggressive — voice on the page, in the air. About how I want this to be a genuine endeavor.
I feel tingling in my skull and fingertips. A swelling in my heart and body. The body in motion, onto the page. The mind offering touches. A sweet, subtle process. Going beyond ego-scribblings-trying-to-impress. Opening the true gate. Communicating. Space, now. But I’ve committed to keeping the pen moving. I feel full, almost as if a wave has just washed over me — or maybe I am the wave, having just crashed. Almost sweet-sad-tired now. How may I serve you — honey, nectar? How may I melt more? More? Or, how to manifest wakefully in atmosphere of total bliss? How about... how to bring levity into this song? All songs? How to notice when I’m becoming too holy and allow the whole thing to breathe and laugh from the belly?
I sense an inclination to not think about writing — to avoid becoming fearful, confused, and shutting down by just trying to write without noticing. I am writing and I don’t want to catch myself in the act. But recently I’m feeling a way into the process, more fully — okay, I am here on the page, in the space, in the lines — so what? There are mountains out the window which are astonishingly beautiful. A flower, perhaps, in a dish on the table that I also cannot explain or take credit for.
So, what is the difference between that phenomena and the phenomena of body in motion, words appearing on the page? There is an inner, invisible, element here which is the heard voice. And this is where the “I” comes in. Seemingly the heard voice has to do with the nervous system, firing synapses, and all the rest. And now we get into Buddhist exploration of emptiness, mind, self, and come up with emptiness-luminosity — which paints the process as a non-dual dance — the flower, mountain, poetry appearing on the page.
And so where this becomes troubled is when.. attachment enters? When ego clings, attempts to claim. I’m very much in my head now and am now settling back into the body. A bit of that cerebral search for explanation can go a long way. And then, as Joseph Goldstein spoke about, I can return to the relaxed, peaceful wisdom of the body. So, acknowledging that I am here in the midst of universe which I cannot grasp, acknowledging uncertainty, ambiguity, and also beauty. And wishing to highlight, illuminate the beauty.
There are wars and there are ikebana flower arrangements. There are voices which are war-like, which are afraid, which cling and say NO to ambiguity, to beauty. And there are voices which are flower-like, which dance because it’s the only way to move without creating trauma, tension. In my writing, I am feeling my way into a state of harmony-resonance that is dance-like, and the result is flower-like. Or, like an ikebana arrangement.
Joining heaven and earth, the invisible and visible. And how does this relate to Bhanu and the border?
— April 2015
Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Karma
Birds in mirrors wondering
about the particular scent of feathers.
I wonder about her name. Yet,
I'd rather not be tied in
Tropical monkey dazed in an orange grove,
growing inside-out until zesty dribble
on her skin.
My bones will give out, my throat will give out—a few songs until then, I think.
My think will give out and my universe will
bomb the monkey with cosmic orange-truth juice, pulpy as my insides, drenched in dharma, leaving a trail of thangkas in the blue sky. Sky is grey with acidity today.
Oh, to lose my monkey-skin independence...
The bird has flown and left us its tail-feathers to examine, to touch to our cheeks and wonder.
In a dream, a leap! And then a splash
in the ocean so subtle that a grouper woke up with a good idea.
The field is fertile. The seeds are sewn. I sneezed and grew a forest.
My toenail sliced through a dimension and I see her.
The trembling monkey is becoming dehydrated—dreaming up a "me," hallucinating in Florida.
Somewhere a monk is cleaning a toilet, unconcerned with fame.
I pulled the trigger. The sky collapsed.
I woke up as a monkey in the sun. Now I'm waiting for this floor to give way.
I pour tea with a hint of a grin. The oranges grow and I am glad to be on the branch.
My acidic mind is tender.
My skin is soft.
I am full of seeds and I grow jungles on accident.
I long to know my own flavor and I would like your assistance. Hold my tongue. Hold my mirror. Hold my feathers.
Pin me down with my own jokes. Reach through my guarded chest and tickle my ventricles. I can't do it on my own.
— December 2013
A world in which rock-people swirl as if only vapor, the sky answers in snowfall poem, and light allows dust to be messenger of song…
A week of everything — some real, some imagined, some really imagined — up in the cabin — Sambhogakaya — and roaming an enchanted corner of the land. Offering smoke and reciting, hearing, esoteric verses from inscrutable Trungpa — rather, “from” who? — some say this or that. And so terrifying — possibilities open as if revealing the core of the earth. The core of my being, beneath sage brush of comfort, mountain peaks of reassurance, forests of familiarity.
Some uncertain lava sure to devour any versions of myself that I uphold which are not in accord with roaring truth, muse. Cosmic. The circumstances of my voice in the sunlight are far more vast than I tend to recognize. My melodramas will be swept off in a single breath of this wind.
I always kinda knew that the path would open up wider, and that which I’d glimpsed would breathe — hot — in my face, and otherwise on the back of my neck.
Now, several years into the conversation, subtle dance, with lineage — practice, hearing, feeling — things are opening up — but it’s like a growth spurt. It’s not quite a shock, but a bit sudden. It’s not quite foreign, but a bit more strangely personal. A bit more real than before — which is disconcerting.
Perhaps my center of gravity is shifting, and I’m struggling a bit to adjust, find my balance. Or, also knowing that things will likely always be in flux… Anyway, it’s one of those bardo periods.
We moved out of the cozy lodge suite with the bathtub just a few days after I returned from retreat — a rather traumatic re-entry in which I tried to say and show a lot of my experience — things that may be better digested than shown while being chewed upon. I opened my mouth and showed Heather — the nitty gritty of spiritual expansiveness and utter bewilderment. We rode this moment of blazing ambiguity and eventually came home to one another. And then, we moved into a new home. Boxes into the mini-van. And now, sharing a small bedroom in Manjushri (cabin). Planning to move upstairs into the larger room soon. One of my main homies, Ryan, is considering moving into Avalokiteshvara — the yurt. I’ve been trying to sway him like I’m a Realtor. That lil’ house is sacred and I feel protective. I want to pass it onto to someone who I feel would be a good successor-inhabitant. It’s a lineage thing
Also, tic season. I’ve pulled four off of me so far. The first was in retreat. I had a lucid dream: a monster appeared and bit into my thigh. I woke and grabbed it right off. I could see clearly that it was terrified. I whispered blessings and then asked the insects to leave me alone. I made offerings of peppermint tea on all of the windowsills and at the doorway. There were no more incidents. Now though… Heather has had ticks too. Last night, she was quite upset. Me too. Disturbed. I did tonglen, laying in bed — for her, for us — I forgot about the tics. So many beings to be amidst — seen, unseen, parasitic, lovely, at any given moment. Me too. — April 6, 2015
A Phan Plugs In
I got up close and Trey and I
locked eyes during the "Sand" jam.
At that moment, I nearly shit myself.
We held it for a long while:
Our bodies writhing in response
to one another
His fingers tracking every subtlety
of the emotional union
through the guitar
Our faces naked, demonstrative
It was difficult to bear
but Trey was willing to
go further, becoming even more raw
We swelled and hung in space
We confessed our mortality
and became ecstatic
My breaths were heavy
The jam peaked
and tears came into my eyes
Trey Anastasio: fountain of
enlivened by his giving
Afterwards he smiled, waved,
offered a bow and left
—November 13, 2015
Soggy Cloak and Golden Strands, Entwined
Heartbroken by hearing about extreme prejudice, I imagined myself as a Muslim American who prays for peace. I felt it deep in my heart and so I chose to add my voice to the big mix, rather than keep quiet in hopes of causing less disturbance.
I said something about Donald Trump on Facebook. First time.
Immediately, a friend posted a photo below: Donald Trump with a butthole where his mouth ought to be.
Then, right after that, another friend showed up. His profile picture is him standing beside Donald Trump. He said: “What are you doing for your country, Travis?”
Representatives from both sides of the spectrum.
I responded by thanking friend #2 for respectfully asking that provocative question, opening up conversation. Really! Thank you for showing up and not letting my remark drift off into the choir of like-minded people. Thank you for reminding me who I’m speaking to.
This is a dense area for me. A soggy cloak. Soaked in blood that may turn golden in the sunlight if I am not too quick to shed it.
How to engage socially? That’s the next frontier. I’ve got another half-a-year here on the mountain, and then I’m moving back into “society.” Of course, there is society here. This is society. We have politics, protectors, poets, and so on. It’s all represented here.
Funny though, that my engagement is not only with this micro society, because, being here, I’m still a citizen of the world, the global society. I work on the internet, on this mountain. And so, there are two starkly distinct but inseparable societies happening at once.
The Sakyong said: The universe is multi-layered.
What’s happening on one level, reflects what is happening on another level. It all corresponds and is not happening independently. Engaging with one aspect is engaging with the whole thing.
I know Donald Trump’s fear and prejudice as my own prejudice. His is more full blown, because he is very, very worked up. But it’s the same phenomena on different levels.
Likewise, I know the qualities of social challenges and virtues of America because I know them in Shambhala Mountain Center.
This may be obvious, and I’ve said it before, but I’m acknowledging this opportunity at this time, as I feel the weight and responsibility of social engagement in perhaps a more full way than I have previously.
So much to say about all of this. Perhaps more notes as the cloak dissolves, metamorphosis — back and forth — and all that.
I read Thoreau after dinner, my emotions undulating. I laid down, Heather came home, and I spoke about the whole thing with her, processed, then some romantic beauty. Woke up and hit the shrine room, visualized the fibers of emotional turmoil becoming golden strands, and all of our strands joining: Myself, Donald, Donald’s friend, my friend. All of us here at SMC: our strands entwined, always, and sometimes illuminated in love and golden.
— December 8, 2015
The sun is shining
Birds are falling from the sky
The sun is shining
Boots on the snow
Crescent moon above
Wink and a crush
Oops and Onwards
Snowflakes melting as they land
on tar tiles of roof
out the window
Busy flurry in the air.
Sky is blank, vaguely bright.
Inches are accumulating.
I’m going to spill ink for this. Inward
ink already — what’s that word? — saturating
my blood and guts, bones. I’ve done it again. What have I done?
Something I’m not so sure about. And: What have I done? I don’t know.
I’ve made a mark which haunts me.
I’ve revealed a moldy
corner of mind.
While my shelter collapses I’ve got to cradle my baby. Diamonds and hearts fall all around me. Clubs in the rubble. Spade Ace in my breast pocket. Toss it in order to express devotion to the indestructible: Diamond of diamonds.
Exposing as medicine for over-exposure. A washed out strip of film:
licked, pressed to my chest. My body horizontal in the desert, nude, as an offering.
Tell me what you come up with in the dark room — as an offering. Tell me what you’ll have to hold in your locket.
All I have is the baby to nurture
and the sun to incinerate
all but the Diamond of diamonds.
And, I’ve also got: a tea pot and leaves. I’ve also got the snowfall. I’m a fool.
I’ve got heroic words and dummy tendencies. How might it all hang together in perfection?
- January 7, 2016
Because you are still sleeping
in our bed, over there
You did not see me petting
my little clay teapot, just now
It is so smooth, loyal, and cute
and still warm, having just poured
this morning’s first small cup
of Dong Ding
On the toilet I noticed my fingernails
and appreciated the care I put into
cutting them yesterday morning.
Also, the blood blister on my pinky --
from being careless with my Ikebana shears.
After this third cup of Dong Ding
I’ll practice qigong. And then,
visit you in bed — so smooth,
loyal, and cute, and still warm,
having never left the blankets.
- January 9, 2016
Orion, I see you
impossible among other constellations
as I stumble through snow
amazed by Milky Way
Warm song in my mind
imperfect only if I attempt
to bring it through fleshy filter
Otherwise — pristine and accurate
I am all four: Trey, Mike, Page, Fish
They move as I do, emotionally --
scoring every second of embodiment
in the luminous arena of imagination
I worship the stars by invoking
their voice — unheard by coyotes
and other sensory cartilage
My gospel music resounds in the
muscles of body and explodes
into distant galaxies, silently
- January 9, 2016