Poem – What makes The Dalai Lama Lovable

His posture

From so many years

Holding his robe with one hand

Is odd.
His gait

Also.
One’s own body

Aches

Witnessing

The sloping

Shoulders

& Angled

Neck; 
One hopes

He

Attends

Yoga class

Or does Yoga

On his own

As part

Of prayer.
He smiles

As he bows

To Everything:

Accepting

The heavy

Burdens

Of

This earth; 
It’s

Toxic

Evils

& Prolific

Insults.
Even so,

He sleeps

Through

The night

Like a child

Because

Thank goodness

That is something

Else

Daylong

Meditation

Ass ures.
You could cry

Yourself to sleep

On his behalf

& He

Has done that

Too.
Life

Has been

A great

Endless

Tearing away

For

Him.
From

Mother, Father, Siblings, Country, Home.

And yet

Clearly

His mother

Loved him; 

His brother & sister

Too:

Even his

Not so constant father,

Who

When Tenzin was

A boy

Shared

With him

Delicious

Scraps

Of

Succulent

Pork.
He laughs

Telling this

Story

Over half a century

Later

&

To who knows

How many

Puzzled

Vegetarians:

About

The way he sat

Behind

His father’s chair

Like a dog,

Relishing

Each juicy

Greasy

Bite.
Whenever I see

The Dalai Lama

My first impulse

Is to laugh

I am so happy

To

Lay eyes

On

One

So effortlessly

Beautiful.
That balding head

That holds

A shine; 

Those wire framed

Glasses

That might

Have come

From

Anywhere.
His look of having given

All he has.
He is my teacher; 

Just staying alive.
Other teachers

I have had

Resemble him

In some way; 
They too

Were

&

Are

Smart

And Humble; 

Fascinated

By Science & things like

Time,

Eternity,

Cause & Effect; 

The Evolution

Of the Soul.
A soul

That

Might

Or might not

Exist.
They too

See all of us

-Banker, murderer, gardener, thief –

When they look

Out across

The world:
But that is not all

They see.
They see our suffering; 

Our striving

To find

The right path; 

The one with heart

We may only

Have heard

About.
The Dalai Lama is Cool

A modern word

For

“Divine”

Because he wants

Only

Our collective

Health

& Happiness.
That’s it! 
What makes

Him

Lovable

Is

His holiness. 

Poem – Turning Madness into Flowers

If my sorrow were deeper
I’d be, along with you, under

the ocean’s floor; 

but today I learn that the oil

that pools beneath the ocean floor

is essence

residue

remains

of all our

relations

all

our ancestors who have died and turned to oil

without our witness

eons ago.

We’ve always belonged to them.

Speaking for you, hanging, weeping, over the water’s edge

as well as for myself.

It is our grief

heavy, relentless,

trudging

us, however resistant,

to the decaying and rotten

bottom of things:

our grief bringing

us home. 

Poem – To Change the World Enough 

To change the world enough
you must cease to be afraid
of the poor.

We experience your fear as the least pardonable of

humiliations; in the past

it has sent us scurrying off

daunted and ashamed

into the shadows.

Now,

the world ending

the only one all of us have known

we seek the same

fresh light

you do:

the same high place

and ample table.

The poor always believe

there is room enough

for all of us; 

the very rich never seem to have heard

of this.

In us there is wisdom of how to share

loaves and fishes

however few; 

we do this everyday.

Learn from us,

we ask you.

We enter now

the dreaded location

of Earth’s reckoning; 

no longer far

off

or hidden in books

that claim to disclose

revelations; 

it is here.

We must walk together without fear.

There is no path without us 

Poem – You want to Grow Old Like the Carters

Let other leadersRetire

To play golf

& write

Memoirs

About bombing

Villages

They’ve never seen.
Growing old

Presents a peril

They may not

Expect.
It is to lose

One’s soul

In trivia

& irrelevance

The nerve

Endings

Blunted

By the constant

Pressure

Of moral

Indifference.
Growing old

A curse:

Not even

Generally speaking

Able

To relate

To whoever

Shares
Your house. Not the mansion

You inhabit

On the

Lovely stolen hill

Above the sea

Or the interior one:

The darkened

Desolate

Shack.
You want to grow old

Like

The Carters; 

Curing blindness

&

Building houses

For

The Poor; 
Making friends of those

Who believe

They must fight.
You want to grow old

Like

The Carters

Holding hands

With someone

You love

&

Riding bicycles

Leisurely

Where the ground

Is well known

& perfectly

Flat.
You want to find

And keep to the path

Laid down

Inside you

Such a long time

Ago.
You want to grow old

Like

The Carters:

Serene. Eyes

Twinkling

To be accused

Of

Not getting

It right.
Upfront, upright.

Speaking what to you is true.
A person rich in Mothers.

Beloved.
And:

Honoring what is black

In you. 

Poem – Word Reaches Us 

Word reaches us
that you are sleeping, sleeping.
Dismayed
we have turned to the sea.
We encounter among others
walking there
a sense of what we have lost:
the broad expanse of humanity’s
sensitivity to the oneness of itself.
Gabrielle,
while you sleep, resting your nimble
brain, we think of walking with you
in the valley
of the shadow of death; holding
you up.
We hope you can feel our grief;
our sorrow vast
like the ocean that draws us.
We know in this moment you teach us many things:
how all across the world
there is no one who deserves this fate.
We know we must bleach and sterilize our
tongues,
brighten with understanding
all our dark thoughts.
Sister, whom I never met
except in this pain that has so
wounded you
thank you for reminding us
through your suffering
and your suspenseful sleep
that we must change. 

Poem – A Picture Story for the Curious 

I get to meditate

in a chair! 

Or against the wall

with my legs

stretched out! 

(Or even in bed!) 
I get to see

maybe half

of what I’m looking at! 

(This changes everything!) 
I get to dance

like the tipsy old men

I adored

when I was an infant! 

(They never dropped me!) 
I get to spend time with myself 

whenever I want! 

I get to ride a bicycle

with tall

handlebars! 

(My posture improves!) 
I get to give up

learning to sail! 

I get to know

I will never speak

German! 
I get to snuggle all

morning

with my snuggler

of choice:

counting the hours

by how many times

we get up

to pee! 
I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want! 

I get to eat chocolate

with my salad.

Or even as a first course! 

I get to forget! 

I get to paint

with colors

I mix myself! 

Colors

I’ve never seen

before.
I get to sleep

with my dog

& pray never to outlive

my cat! 

I get to play

music

without reading

a note! 
I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want! 

I get to sleep

in a

hammock

under the same

stars

wherever I am! 

I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want! 
I get to laugh

at all the things

I don’t know

& cannot

find! 
I get to greet

people I don’t remember

as if I know them

very well.

After all, how different

can they be? 
I get to grow

my entire

garden

in a few

pots! 

I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want! 
I get to see

& feel

the suffering

of the whole

world

& to take

a nap

when I feel

like it

anyway! 
I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want! 
I get to feel

more love

than I ever thought

existed! 

Everything appears to be made

of the stuff! 
I feel this

especially for You! Though I may not remember

exactly which You

you are! 

How cool is this! 

Still, I get to spend time with myself

whenever I want! 

And that is just a taste

as the old people used to say

down in Georgia

when I was a child

of what you get

for getting old.
Reminding us, as they witnessed our curiosity about them, that no matter the losses, there’s something fabulous going on at every stage of Life, something to let go of, maybe, but for darn sure, something to get! 

Poem – I will Keep Broken Things

I will keep
Broken

Things:

The big clay

Pot

With raised

Iguanas

Chasing

Their

Tails; 

Two

Of their

Wise
Heads

Sheared

Off; 
I will keep

Broken

things:

The old

Slave

Market

Basket

Brought

To my

Door
By Mississippi

A jagged

Hole

Gouged

In its sturdy

Dark

Oak

Side.
I will keep

Broken

things:

The memory

Of

Those

Long

Delicious

Nig ht

Swims

With

You; 
I will keep

Broken

things:

In my house

There

Remains

An
Honored

Shelf

On which

I will

Keep

Broken

Things.
Their beauty

Is

They

Need

Not

Ever

Be 

‘fixed.’
I will keep

Your

Wild

Free

Laughter

Thoug h

It is now

Missing

Its

Reassuring

And

Gra ceful

Hinge.
I will keep

Broken

Things:
Thank you 

So much! 
I will keep

Broken

Things.
I will keep

You:
Pilgrim

Of

Sorrow.

I will keep

Myself. 

Poem – Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Did you ever understand this?

 If my spirit was poor, how could I enter heaven? 

Was I depressed? 

Understanding editing,

I see how a comma, removed or inserted

with careful plan,

can change everything.

I was reminded of this

when a poor young man

in Tunisia

desperate to live

and humiliated for trying

set himself ablaze; 

I felt uncomfortably warm

as if scalded by his shame.

I do not have to sell vegetables from a cart as he did

or live in narrow rooms too small for spacious thought; 

and, at this late date,

I do not worry that someone will

remove every single opportunity

for me to thrive.

Still, I am connected to, inseparable from,

this young man.

Blessed are the poor, in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus. (Commas restored) .

Jesus was as usual talking about solidarity: about how we join with others

and, in spirit, feel the world, and suffering, the same as them.

This is the kingdom of owning the other as self, the self as other; 

that transforms grief into

peace and delight.

I, and you, might enter the heaven

of right here

through this door.

In this spirit, knowing we are blessed,

we might remain poor 

Poem –  No Body’s Darling

Be nobody’s darling; 
Be an outcast.

Take the contradictions

Of your life

And wrap around

You like a shawl,

To parry stones

To keep you warm.

Watch the people succumb

To madness

With ample cheer; 

Let them look askance at you

And you askance reply.

Be an outcast; 

Be pleased to walk alone

(Uncool) 

Or line the crowded

River beds

With other impetuous

Fools.
Make a merry gathering

On the bank

Where thousands perished

For brave hurt words

They said.
But be nobody’s darling; 

Be an outcast.

Qualified to live

Among your dead. 

She – Alice Walker

She is the one 

who will notice 

that the first snapdragon 

of Spring 

is 

in bloom; 
She is the one 

who will tell the most 

funny 

complicated 

joke. 
She is the one 

who will surprise you 

by knowing the difference 

between turnips 

and collard 

Greens; 
& between biscuits 

& scones. 
She is the one who knows where 

to take you 

for dancing 

or where the food 

& the restaurant’s 

decor 

are not 

to be 

missed. 
She is the one 

who is saintly. 
She is the one 

who reserves the right 

to dress 

like a slut. 
She is the one 

who takes you shopping; 
She is the one 

who knows where 

the best clothes 

are bought 

cheap. 
She is the one 

who warms your 

home 

with her fragrance; 
the one who brings 

music, magic & joy. 
She is the one 

speaking 

the truth 

from her heart. 
She is the one at the bedside 

wedding, funerals 

or divorce 

of all the best people 

you dearly love. 
She is the one 

with courage. 
She is the one 

who speaks 

her bright mind; 
She is the one 

who encourages young & 

old 

to do the same. 
She is the one 

on the picket line, at the barricade, 

at the prison, in jail; 
She is the one 

who is there. 
If they come for me 

& I am at her house 

I know 

she will hide me. 
If I tell her 

where I have hidden 

my heart 

she will keep 

my secret 

safe. 
She is the one 

who 

without hesitation 

comes to my aid & 

my defense. 
She is the one 

who believes 

my side of the story 

First; 
She is the one 

whose heart 

is open. 
She is the one who loves. 
She is the one who makes 

activism 

the most compelling 

because she is the one 

who is irresistable 

her own self. 
She is our sister, our teacher, our friend: 
Gloria Steinem. 
Born 75 years ago 

Glorious 

To your parents 

& still 

Radiant 

Today. 
Happy Birthday, Beloved. 

The grand feast 

Of your noble Spirit 

Has been 

& is the cake 

that nourishes 

Us. 
We thank you for your Beauty 

& your Being. 
Namaste.

 

When You See Water – Alice Walker 

When you see water in a stream 

you say: oh, this is stream 

water; 

When you see water in the river 

you say: oh, this is water 

of the river; 

When you see ocean 

water 

you say: This is the ocean’s 

water! 

But actually water is always 

only itself 

and does not belong 

to any of these containers 

though it creates them. 

And so it is with you.

When You Thought Me Poor – Alice Walker

When you thought me poor, 

my poverty was shaming. 

When blackness was unwelcome 

we found it best 

that I stay home. 
When by the miracle 

of fierce dreaming and hard work 

Life fulfilled our every want 

you found me crassly 

well off; 

not trimly, 

inconspicuously wealthy 

like your rich friends. 
Still black too, 

now 

I owned too much and too many 

of everything. 
Woe is me: I became a 

success! Blackness, who 

knows how? 

Became suddenly 

in! 
What to do? 

Now that Fate appears 

(for the moment anyhow) 

to have dismissed 

abject failure 

in any case? 

Now that moonlight and night 

have blessed me. 
Now that the sun 

unaffected by criticism 

of any sort, 

implacably beams 

the kiss filled magic that creates 

the dark and radiant wonder 

of my face.

Before I Leave The Stage – Alice Walker 

Before I leave the stage 

I will sing the only song 

I was meant truly to sing. 
It is the song 

of I AM. 

Yes: I am Me 

You. 

WE ARE. 
I love Us with every drop 

of our blood 

every atom of our cells 

our waving particles 

-undaunted flags of our Being- 

neither here nor there.

Poem – If I was President – Alice Walker

If I was President

 The first thing I would do 

is call Mumia Abu-Jamal. 

No, 

if I was president 

the first thing I would do 

is call Leonard Peltier. 

No, 

if I was president 

the first person I would call 

is that rascal 

John Trudell. 

No, 

the first person I’d call 

is that other rascal 

Dennis Banks. 

I would also call 

Alice Walker. 

I would make a conference call. 

And I would say this: 

Yo, you troublemakers, 

it is time to let all of us 

out of prison. 

Pack up your things: 

Dennis and John, 

collect Alice Walker 

If you can find her: 

In Mendocino, Molokai, Mexico or 

Gaza, 

& head out to the prisons 

where Mumia and Leonard 

are waiting for you. 

They will be traveling 

light. 

Mumia used to own a lot 

of papers 

but they took most of those 

away from him. 

Leonard 

will probably want to drag along 

some of his 

canvases. 

Alice 

who may well be 

shopping 

in New Delhi 

will no doubt want to 

dress up for the occasion 

in a sparkly shalwar kemeez. 

My next call is going to be 

to the Cubans 

all five of them; 

so stop worrying. 

For now, you’re my fish. 

I just had this long letter 

from Alice and she has begged me 

to put an end 

to her suffering. 

What? she said. 

You think these men are the only ones who suffer 

when Old Style America locks them up 

& throws away 

the key? 

I can’t tell you, she goes on, 

the changes 

this viciousness 

has put me through, 

and I have had a child to raise 

& classes to teach 

& food to buy 

and just because 

I’m a poet 

it doesn’t mean 

I don’t have to 

pay the mortgage 

or the rent. 

Yet all these years, 

nearly thirty or something 

of them 

I have been running around 

the country 

and the world 

trying to arouse justice 

for these men. 

Tonsillitis 

hasn’t stopped me. 

Migraine, 

hasn’t stopped me. 

Lyme disease 

hasn’t stopped me. 

And why? 

Because 

knowing the country 

that I’m in, 

as you are destined to learn 

it too, 

I know wrong 

when I see it. 

If that chair you’re sitting in 

could speak 

you would have it moved 

to another room. 

You would burn it. 

So, amigos, 

pack your things. 

Alice and John and Dennis 

are on their way. 

They are bringing prayers from Nilak Butler and Bill Wapepah; 

they are bringing sweet grass and white sage 

from Pine Ridge. 

I am the president 

at least until the Corporations 

purchase the next election, 

and this is what I choose 

to do 

on my first day.

Poem – What Makes The Dalai Lama Lovable? – Alice Walker

His posture From so many years 

Holding his robe with one hand 

Is odd. 
His gait 

Also. 
One’s own body 

Aches 

Witnessing 

The sloping 

Shoulders 

& Angled 

Neck; 
One hopes 

He 

Attends 

Yoga class 

Or does Yoga 

On his own 

As part 

Of prayer. 
He smiles 

As he bows 

To Everything: 

Accepting 

The heavy 

Burdens 

Of 

This earth; 
It’s 

Toxic 

Evils 

& Prolific 

Insults. 
Even so, 

He sleeps 

Through 

The night 

Like a child 

Because 

Thank goodness 

That is something 

Else 

Daylong 

Meditation 

Assures. 
You could cry 

Yourself to sleep 

On his behalf 

& He 

Has done that 

Too. 
Life 

Has been 

A great 

Endless 

Tearing away 

For 

Him. 
From 

Mother, Father, Siblings, Country, Home. 

And yet 

Clearly 

His mother 

Loved him; 

His brother & sister 

Too: 

Even his 

Not so constant father, 

Who 

When Tenzin was 

A boy 

Shared 

With him 

Delicious 

Scraps 

Of 

Succulent 

Pork. 
He laughs 

Telling this 

Story 

Over half a century 

Later 

To who knows 

How many 

Puzzled 

Vegetarians: 

About 

The way he sat 

Behind 

His father’s chair 

Like a dog, 

Relishing 

Each juicy 

Greasy 

Bite. 
Whenever I see 

The Dalai Lama 

My first impulse 

Is to laugh 

I am so happy 

To 

Lay eyes 

On 

One 

So effortlessly 

Beautiful. 
That balding head 

That holds 

A shine; 

Those wire framed 

Glasses 

That might 

Have come 

From 

Anywhere. 
His look of having given 

All he has. 
He is my teacher; 

Just staying alive. 
Other teachers 

I have had 

Resemble him 

In some way; 
They too 

Were 

Are 

Smart 

And Humble; 

Fascinated 

By Science & things like 

Time, 

Eternity, 

Cause & Effect; 

The Evolution 

Of the Soul. 
A soul 

That 

Might 

Or might not 

Exist. 
They too 

See all of us 

-Banker, murderer, gardener, thief – 

When they look 

Out across 

The world: 
But that is not all 

They see. 
They see our suffering; 

Our striving 

To find 

The right path; 

The one with heart 

We may only 

Have heard 

About. 
The Dalai Lama is Cool 

A modern word 

For 

“Divine” 

Because he wants 

Only 

Our collective 

Health 

& Happiness. 
That’s it! 
What makes 

Him 

Lovable 

Is 

His holiness.

Poem – Desire – Alice Walker

My desire

 is always the same; wherever Life 

deposits me: 

I want to stick my toe 

& soon my whole body 

into the water. 

I want to shake out a fat broom 

& sweep dried leaves 

bruised blossoms 

dead insects 

& dust. 

I want to grow 

something. 

It seems impossible that desire 

can sometimes transform into devotion; 

but this has happened. 

And that is how I’ve survived: 

how the hole 

I carefully tended 

in the garden of my heart 

grew a heart 

to fill it.