Recent Works and Early Confusions

Herein resides newer and older works by the author, NB

All work Copyright Pathway Publications, Notumbo Publications, 2010. All Rights Reserved

All Light That Flows


All light that flows from matter

Is trapped there by time.

You breathe slowly at night, your dreams

Releasing their photons

As though to balance time and space


What we are is no different

Than what we are not.

(Sometimes I wake and see what I cannot understand.

Sometimes asleep I understand what cannot be seen.)


If our eyes were strong enough,

If they could see across every wavelength,

Would rocks glow? Would they seem endless,

Unbound from mere minerality?


Glowing in dreams as you do,

There among now transparent rocks,

Time stills, long enough

For me to apprehend your beauty,

To rest within your continuum.


I want to think we all glow like that,

Our slow molecules burning

Like small candles in a vast universe.


And I think of you with that same steady glow,

Releasing your photons with clear intent,

Aimed at the heart of the galaxy,

Sure to arrive inside these imperfect eyes.


How to Paint


Paint the shadows first.

That is where everything else is waiting.

What emerges, afterward,

Is not in your control.


Remember that the size of the canvas

Is proportionate to the breadth of your life.

(Or is it the other way?)


Color determines color,

Line limits line.


At all times keep your brushes ready at hand,

Store them in jars of blood.

Shape their tips

Like wind shapes feathers.

Hold them perpendicular

To the surface of your dreams.


Do not paint small things large,

Nor bind large ideas in darkened monasteries.

Rather, loose all the locusts of your vision.


One last thing – prepare for surprise.

What erupts before you is its own thing –

You hold no ownership.

You are merely the bridge this new thing crosses

To conquer your own world.


Bolinas, 1971


Why is it I have no memory of you?

All those birds that flew through my heart

Left little trace.

I am certain their bursting from the hedges

Shook me from sleep,

Woke me to the fact

Some bright moment had finally arrived.


But did I grab hold of it’s seductive promise,

Or merely rouse for a moment

To vaguely observe it’s passing,

Only to drift once again toward this Neverland

I thought to be life?


I am certain your hair sets off alarms

In the deep folds of my well-worn memories.

But, that quickly, it fades,

And I am once again only here,

In this sad moment,

Separated from the joy I once knew,

Deep inside your arms.

June, 2010

Dull the Ache of God


Who are we, all flaming anguish,

Caught in the winds of time?

Seek to be one thing only,

One destination, merely a single dream.


Who are we, all frozen joy,

Brought low by faults of our own making?

Blind the one eye remaining,

Dull the ache of god.


Who are we, suspended off the coast

Of never-enough, stuck in a life of things?

Spun beyond the need to spin,

Forgotten in our unraveling moments.


Who are we, to invent gods

Soon despised? Tell their tales,

Harbor doubts, deny complicity,

Spend less than eternity moaning our self-pity.


Who are we, giving daily bread

To those without need? No stripes, no spots,

A sleek, plain skin around an empty core,

Unable to hide among the trees.


Who are we that cannot reach beyond

The small and bitter limits of our own design?

Dredge deep channels in our hopelessness,

Deafened by echoes from our cries for help.


Who are we, not a question but an epitaph,

No name on a tomb but a single bone,

Drawn from the heart of a fate declined,

Holding to false belief while belief gives nothing back.


Who we are, is still unknowable.

Who we are, a dream without end.

Who we are rises and falls

Then rises again from the dust.

Where a still wind calls.



Lost in the mythology of moments,

Every thing becomes more important

Than it deserves.

One cloud stands out, stark, rapid

In its quest for distance, finally,

Simply, a cloud.


All these small screens frame our visions –

Who is there now among us

Can see the broad horizons?


There is no one place to stand

That permits us to see all we have become.

Only hiccups of time, our lives

Stop-motion, great gaps of memory,

What is missing is all that’s been denied.


Look up, and out, beyond such small moments,

What we see is what is looking back…..


There is no space between you, and I,

Only time, and memory,

Of the dreams we thought were ours alone,

When all along, they were finally,

Simply, dreams.


Song for the End of Days


Give me one last summer,

Beneath the final trees,

To listen to the last sweet birds,

To hear the final bees.


Grant me one last rainfall

That does not strip away

The flesh from bones and sight from eyes,

And I will not ask to stay.


One final look at sunrise,

One small taste of wine,

One last kiss from Katy’s lips,

Before the end unwinds.



One last kiss from Katy’s lips

Before the end of times.



Starting with Infinite Transparency

Starting with cadmium red,

Because it was the first color

I saw that day,


The borders of the field drew closer,

Fending off the rest of time,

Enclosing extraneous interferences.


In the lower quadrants

(I did not create these geometries,

Only inherited their non-fluid restraints)

A red awakening, now,


All would follow as if without doubt,

Blues, shadows, tangents,

Reliquaries for the dead,

Now reborn out of snowy ground,


Then, some detail not foreordained,

But by its appearance all chance diminished,

An element of joy


Emerges in the outer boundaries,

Silver line intersects random

Black and gold conundrums,


A deep glow at center right,

Pushing cadmium and lapis

To excel at self-reflection,

Exposing, finally, a refractive index

Of twilight, oceanic turbulence, time slows

Within this finite frame


Revealing a desire not anticipated,

A form and density, an inevitability

No one saw coming.



The Silence of the Birds

(after The Conference of the Birds, by Farid ud-Din Attar)

For Setara Hussainzada, and all who dance inside their hearts.


In the early morning You came to us,

A pale light,

While we were covered by the shawl of fear.

The shawl was not ours,

The fear fully our own,

And we forgot to listen for Your call.


At mid-morning the song of timid finches

Broke the ears of the sleeping Hunters,,

And bullets returned Their call:

The finches grew silent,

And the shadows fell away.


With the sun at it’s center post,

The peacocks danced with abandon

For Their hens,

Shameless in the heat.

This time, the Hunters stayed sleeping,

And the people rejoiced.


As the afternoon deepened,

All the birds exploded Their joy

Upon an astounded and rapturous village,

Who forgot to listen

For the returning storm.


When twilight drew it’s shawl

Over Your fading countenance,

I saw the Hunters at the edge of the clearing,

Riding their engines of fear

Into the nightingale’s sad and hopeful hearts.


At the last bell of midnight,

Only the owls dared uncover Their faces;

Who else was left to sing the moon

Across that dark and unthinking sea?


Oh Khandahar! Oh Herat!

The Green One awaits

Outside your gates

For a dawn where the Hunters

Finally depart, allow all the birds

To return to the skies,

To ring Their bells of song and plumage

In freedom and delight,


As Allah so willed

From the beginning of Time.



The Weight of All, The Endless Night


What is the weight of all who are and have been,

not only bodies but dreams; fears, aspirations, envy,

all thought and dread, all emotion, all sensation,

how can we measure the weight of it all?


At birth seven pounds six ounces at death one hundred,

This is only mass, volume, the wheels of the journey.

What of all that has accumulated over the course of

One simple life? Not things, but essence, all that is “I.”


Pull it apart, separate the dross, tease out the wasted moments,

But include the moments collected in waiting, wanting,

Hoping the story would change,

coming to terms with what could not.

These, too, made up the mass of a life.


The books never balance. Subtract all food all water all air,

And still a life cannot be properly assessed, cannot add up

To what is discernable with the naked eye, the naked ear,

The naked self encompasses an orbit

greater than that of the sun.


Some small number among us

have understood the truth of this,

That one life is equal to the weight of all life,

Enfolds within its years all history, adds more to this long

Story we unfold, this spinning journey still unraveling.


Now add to this one life all life, this dance

Across the universe of dreams, this ocean of ideas,

And what then? The weight is more than one planet

Can bear, cannot begin to hold so many burning stars.


Hunger never abates, dreams never wind down,

They only build mountains on mountains, wings within wings,

They add new layers to the world so the next travelers

Have a place to spin still newer tales, dream bigger dreams.


And somewhere in all this enormity, we seek the Other,

The one who does not wait so much as abides, preparing

For the dazzling moments when we join to their sides,

Build together a newer orbit, expand the event horizon.


The Universe is not the product of a Bang, but of a Dance,

Spun out from the center pole of the First Desire.

I Dance you, you Dance me,

stars are born and cool to dust,

But we go on and on, endless,

through the dark and shining night.



When All Seeing is Done


It’s what the eye sees

When all seeing is done,

Those left-over bits

Of worn out memories,

Small shards of light,

And it’s antecedents,

Bursting behind these lowered lids

Inherited from reptiles.


Is that how long we have known

The ache of blue? Sky and

Sea, extensions of dreams,

What the eye longs for,

Long before Darwin’s knowledge

Suggested we might instead

Become birds, that sudden branching

By no choice of our own,

Or more correctly,

Of our reptile ancestors?


The light of those fractured memories

No different from any other photon’s dance,

Crossing parsecs to enter first our eye,

Then continue on its way

Across this expanding universe,

Now burdened with that unfathomable

Weight of what was seen,

Of what seeing is, and was,

And what that seeing brought into being.


Where being, and blue,

And the chromatic shards of time prove

That Einstein’s gravity predict with certainty

All the light illuminating you, here, now,

On this deep summer morning,

Began in chaos and ancient thunder,

Was aimed at this one instant,

Where my eyes and their steady evolution


Would take you inside,

Add you to all the shards of memory,

And with deep reluctance,

Allow those particular shards

To be on their way,

Andromeda bound.



Dark Matter


Scientists now tell us we are being squeezed

By masses of dark matter, turning

Our home galaxy into a flat, whirling spiral.

We cannot see or measure, but only infer

Such matter is even there at all.

As with love, it might be added.


You stay with me for less than the life of a galaxy,

And I cannot tell if what I know to be

Is even true, only that it matters:

You take me through all the darkness,

And out the other side,

Light years from the man I once was.


Such great distances we have gone,

And even greater distances to go:

We who travel entwined with no fear

Of darkness or light, waves of tender regard,

Carry us closer to the small center

Of this galaxy we dream together.


What compresses us is no invisible dark,

But sure knowledge we travel in good company.

Even at the heart of the Milky Way we carry

All that is truly necessary:

Your heart, in mine; my heart, in yours,

Bound and boundless, beyond all science.


The Need to Keep Breathing


I used to think war would break out

Any moment,

Change the trajectory of all our lives.


Things that used to matter would seem

Petty and small,

The importance we placed upon such things would fall away.


I once held a stunned hummingbird in the

Palm of my hand,

Its fear of me replaced by the need to keep breathing.


Look at the universe, infinite and grand, and we

Small things residing,

Still stuck in the belief we are its center.


Yet every atom is equal to every other atom and even

One less

Would unmake each thing, strip away its symmetry.


Perhaps there is no small and petty thing nor

Inconsequential moment,

And our trajectory never a straight line,


All space curved and time unpremeditated.

If I wait long enough,

Wars will begin and end without my dreaming,


But only with those dreams, and the dreams

Of all beings,

Will the whole story unfold.



In This Singing, All Things Become

For Walt

 I am asking you to tell me how it begins,

How the grasses grew slowly from morning till night,

How the storms receded, dropped new rain,

Parted the sky’s wonder, drew upon the sparrow’s beating heart,

Gave words to all things, and brought sweet confusion to the table?

How the body’s current passed deep within, sparking wonder?

I am asking for a key to the door I am not allowed to enter,

That in its opening I may find clarity, or

What is left of an ancient promise made to widows

Who once danced on the hills above Khandahar,

Tethered to unforgiven hearts, and spent a lifetime

Seeking one small and precious memory. How it begins,

 Is no simple thing. First light, or what counted as light

Deep inside the grip of dark, a great burst of desire,

Was this the thing that lit the spark? Or a dream?

All words speaking the Word as though handed down

The mountain of God, the valley of Belief,

The desert of Knowledge. I am asking for a simple thing.

I am asking the powers that be to open their hearts to the wind,

Hold their palms upright, release the fist,

Let lilies lift their scent as benediction, blessings upon all

Who wander this far, seeking an end to all evasions,

All lies at the feet of the Holy Wanderer, none dare say

If it is a beginning, an end of dreaming, a shot in the dark.

I am asking to know the uncertainty attending the birth

Of this small and delicate Universe. How can I reach

Across its expanse, to grasp in one hand

An egret’s wind-swept desire, in the other the wine of eros?

What is contained by beginnings, by loss, what does time

Know of Void? Skin holds more territory

Than all the voices of Babel.

I am asking how night permits some to take wing,

How others seek refuge inside their fear; how women

Divine their purposeful path through the heart of one clear idea.

How men spend willingly their lives

For something indescribable, shot through with false hopes?

I wake each day with the understanding I can not do so

For an eternity, but eternity draws my wanting heart forward.

How can this be? Limits are why we say, this starts here,

This ends there, that dream is over, another begins. I am asking

What shall we do when we reach the outer boundaries?

Ravens take us under their wings, chrysanthemums blossom

Regardless of anything we choose to do or not do, all form

Arises and falls and we with its wave

Race across an ever-unfolding Universe.

I am asking how anything can be said to begin, to end.

I beseech an answer where none exists, because the asking itself

Eternally creates, lifts new music out of things, into air, into ear,

And no one Thing can be said to exist outside its being sought,

As the forest permits no separation from the earth and air it resides between,

As no eye is separate from its seeing. We never arrive at an end-point,

And still I ask how it will all begin. I arrived

Without knowing whence I departed in the first instance. Do I then

Depart without understanding the last? The small mammal

Opens its eyes in the dark warmth of its mother’s heartbeat, enters

Life inside an unfolding Universe, never Beginning, never Ending.

It strides with unknowable purpose, devours time, re-enters the Void,

It’s circle shall be Unbroken, and all will sing in exaltation.

I insist on an answer to why things begin. I grant absolution

To myself, for enduring the traps of belief and contradiction;

For retreating into the dank caves of recrimination.

A great heron lands before me, bends its elegant neck forward,

Beak full with emeralds, their green blanketing the horizons

I abide within, begs the question of continuance, exhibits elegant

Dances of dreams and despair. I am asking with no hope of answers:

How then can I go on, how can I not, how will I answer

The small questions posed by this new child, now emergent?

I want to know with what permissions did time begin, or

Is what occurred before light came into being held aloof

From our gaze, not permitted for our study?

I hold a small green beetle in my palm,

Its motion not unlike the motions of time.

I study the shape of a wing on an albatross,

Clouds can be made out between the shafts of each feather,

Storms erupting from the winds that issue from it’s dark pulsing.

A voice prophetic emerges from the path it opens in the skies.

Whitman once lay upon the grass and allowed the world to enter within,

But declined to remain there alone. He did not ask difficult questions,

But put out his hand, palm up, inviting the snail and the elephant,

Bid hello to the passing breeze, conjured hope from deepest sorrow.

He held up the world as the mirror of its own soul, celebrating

Our small part of the Dance, gloried those strong arms

That join with ours in the blue Earth’s turning.

This, then, is how I will say it begins:

Small steps, arms unfolding, hands joined to wings,

Shadows evaporate in light, I see you, seeing me,

Each and all,

Endlessly singing the Self.

September 20, 2010

Stay Tuned for More!

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