Clear a Space Among the Ruin


IMG_1186t kaniakapupu black and white

You can imagine it in its splendor,

for surely the full moon casts a glow

over the ruins of Kaniakapupu in the

early hours.

This emergence

from the contours of a clouded sarcophagus,

will leave no witness.

No one taking meaningless pictures

to capture or extract from its essence,

nothing to distract from a dance,

luminous as it is sudden in its disappearance.

Our temporal bodies a nonentity

to the unseen symmetry of stones

and in their reflection our own illusions unlearned.

To clear a space for illumination, for the imagination,

an axis of paths scratched out of the convolution of bamboo,

a place for the wind to gather leaves

in the striptease of season’s silence

shaken and committed to streams

and in the passage of time

sense the essence of nature

whose falls appear out of the gloom of mountains,

from under the veil of ghostly heights

too treacherous to reveal secrets to foolish climbers.

Rain, relief, sadness and acceptance,

all upon the skin of the message;

trust the process.

Light, like a torch through the canopy,

gifts a brief glance at the inner geometry,

the blurred boundary between the spirit and the living,

between stillness and motion,

receive inspiration like a transmission.

Surfaces mirror the soul,

control the discourse

over what is known of forests.

Remnants of history, partial achievement

coming into focus from out of obscurity.

Clear a space for the sacred,

somewhere to retreat

from the profanity of the city.

All the modern means of obstruction,

the flow confined to concrete,

the land mined under the guise of progress.

Under the shadow of glass,

no one seems to care that it can never last.

In a hundred years, when the forces of nature

clear another space,

what will be the state of our ruin?

the legacy of our folly?








The Essence knew no Boundary

koralia bonfireThe essence knew no boundary

over great tracts of wilderness,

in the abrupt descent into the sea.

Through uninterrupted spaces,

the spirit is as evident

as the grass it passes through.

Akin to a last breath expanding outwards,

seeking a landing,

somewhere to rest its laurel leaves

with lines of light

that guide through the night,

like the lanterns of Santa Marta,

all the runaway stars

that slip through the sky to the playa,

a culmination of sparks from a dual bonfire.

Passing between flames,

we were no longer the same but altered forever.

Candles capture our image

while smoke lifts us ascendant,

etched in the moon’s white visage,

we’re stark black and in tatters,

crisscrossing footprints, overlapping shadows.

Love and loss lean on each other

until they become one in the same

mournful song of nocturnal birds taking wing,

soon settling into everything;

a scent, a fabric,

the fragments in nature that form a picture

outside of any frame, it’s nothing we can name,

that which knows no boundary.

Entrenched in the heart,

the feeling swells into a soaring crescendo,

breaking chains of attachment, Bowie’s “Heroes”

communicating directly with something immaterial.

If the spirit was a wind,

it would be as wild and wayward as these trades,

ragged from journeys, seaborne and saved.

We would get a sense of it through its impact on the waves,

in the patterns in the sand it creates.

Relating to spirit it stands

seedless yet rooted,

following the oldest  of forms,

connecting practitioners with those who passed

a half a century before.

There is a subtle stirring in these movements,

a newer manifestation of an ancient art

which is once again a communication.


In the next chapter, after everyone goes home,

we’ll tend to the alters.

The ash of insense and dead petals will be swept.

The salvaged portrait polished

until we find time for reflection.

The gaze in the photograph

attaches a steady line to our own memory,

like a charcoal tracing over the spaces between meaning,

in a search that is never wavering,

we can come to an understanding

that between death and life

some things endure.


For Uncle Joe McCauley

I think of you often







Thoughts that Wander Dark (shaking hands at the end)

a8d21c1f-b192-4ea9-b3ff-e989a7f5c524shad fgI know these thoughts that wander dark .

While traveling we coalesced briefly,

as strangers when neither offered shelter,

out beyond the city lights,lying in forests

almost too quiet to be pacified.

Back East, where the Atlantic is brewing storms,

darkened they would form from the subconscious,

until  breaking over Montauk,

memory grows full of the sound

of wave grain scraping pebbles,

descending, with salty skin,

smooth as seal wash,

like shipwrecks to subterranean sand,

it is never solid ground on which we stand.

A weeping, for all of us sinking.

Thoughts going abruptly dark,  drowning

like sailors with no one’s mourning to lift them,

only loosened garments , black and torn,

strewn across the sky like an aborted skin.

It takes the form of storm clouds and bellowing wind

to shake widow’s peaks and usher in

a spray of gulls, deranged and white,

with cries like a piercing reprise.

In the dunes a string of flowers endures,

while burning forests of evergreen

cast down the safety screen,

thrusting us once more into tenuous positioning.

The horror inherent in a charred landscape,

the specter of cancer haunting our mutated shapes,

we’re absorbing the next tragedy through the TV,

breathing deeply the Autumn scent of gunpowder and spotfire.

Out beyond the reflection of light on the surface of the sea,

gasoline ignites  from underneath,

so you get to know the inverse as well,

for the source of words can transform wounds to beauty,

like streaks of light that adorn the sky,

a holiday to the eye though it temporarily blinds

into forgetting that we all must one day die.

The body cannot sustain this creativity.

At it’s peak, it used these techniques

to attempt immortality.

High upon the mountain, it gains traction on the stars.

Till far below it sings odes to the river that washes out to sea.

Down the road you migrate through the mirage in a distant bend,

calling to the future like an estranged friend,

shaking the hand of what comes to meet you,

once again putting aside the folly

of aimlessly grasping at the illusion of permanence

amidst the totality of an eventual end.







The Pali Revisited


The Pali,

that dark depository for all that passes through it.

Wind, wheels, energy,

psychic imprints left like tire marks on the periphery.

The forgotten past straddles median lines with the present,

relapsing in the flash of headlights

like the sudden reflection of moonlight across the eyes,

mysterious pools beneath a canopy’s disguise.

The light finds its way through coils and folds,

illuminating those trapped in banyan choke holds.

It is calculating, seizing hosts, sinister in time.

Simultaneously, it is the substance to the darkness

where the spirit descends,

intermediary for this marriage that depends

on the synchronicity of strangers

thrust into one another by seed or by accident,

punctuated by a rain that stirs up

all that lay dormant in dark contours.

The road follows its bends,

unravelling thoughts that never end,

sucked into tunnels, a gaping mouth

that funnels the fear

from one generation to the next,

born out of these corners, legends endure.

Over windward’s steep ravine,

some took the curve too sharply,

dead teens in careening trajedy

comingle in red clay.

With no shoulder to lean

over this auto graveyard,

flashlights will gleam off derelict fenders

and last screams linger over the screetch of brakes.

This pain re-awakes in those who suffer in silence

while wind accentuates the absence.

deeper into that forest of loss,

older passages trail off to no answer.

Wind, an instrument for a troubled mind,

sets in motion the swaying vines,

caressing wet air, dangling hair

descending from cool heights where

a mist would appear, is it more than it seems?

Does it backdrop the myth, will it penetrate dreams?

The Pali leaves you stranded again,

tricking you with voices and visions,

so you place alms in the crux of stones for fallen victims,

offer empathy, lest we disturb what is underneath,

skulls the highway keeps,

tunnels cursed to know the interior of burial caves.

How many workers unfortunate to find shallow graves,

tie Ti leaves to truck beds before driving it again?

That endless loop wound tightly to the mountain’s circumference,

straddling that extraordinary line

between the material and the spirit,

darkness and the divine.

The Pali, a psychological barrier,

intermediary for whatever you bring over.


B3_Chinese_New_YearBy night, Chinatown is a forlorn nexus of stumbling humanity.

Transient shades in motion, empty or full of pretense

all are made to wait under awnings

for the passing rain

that slants through street lamps

and beads the hanging wires

to become strings of light

tying together a kind of deranged continuity.

All streets lead back here for me,

caught in its vortex ,

Chinatown’s story a complex scent

of piss, jasmine and sandlewood insense.

Layered between 4 blocks in the deception of memory,

lest we forget the plague and the fire that swept through,

the dispossessed perched on rooftops

watching the blaze erase all they had accumulated

from field to storefront,

a shifting wind took everything.

Tongues of flame from the past relapse

in the shadowplay as neons go on and off again.

Illuminated windows arabesque what’s behind

a vision, a suggestion,

somewhere subterranean in the imagination,

plush chambers red and tassled,

host unseen scenarios in the candlelight.

There’s no moon to feed through pinched alleys,

so we’ll leave the darkness there to hold course

like a muddy river down the gutter

for the losers and winners in hidden gambling parlors.

The lion dancers come out on New Years

to bless thresholds and eat red qing envelopes,

stamping spirit in smoke,

chasing away any evil  Chinatown would invoke.

In a steaming kitchen after the drum beat dims,

gather in the cacophonous din of conversation.

If drunk on an internal dialogue, you can empty it

in the rattle of tea cups looking to be filled again.

Amidst these distractions, euphoria

in this gloriously chaotic quarter,

you can start all over.

Chinatown, a microcosm, degraded yet venerated,

full of deals, cheap thrills,

maneuvering through the streets again,

like a paper dragon

ushering in the next layer of its regeneration.



photo by Brent Wong

Gee Yung International Lion Dance Association













The Returning


The moon, held suspended on a cloud

like a jewel in an outstretched palm

that clenched its fist

over a creative instrument

that prisms the light to beam through the sky.

From this vantage,

see the night thaw into a fleeting image

of my own willingness

to let the past be prologue

and memory become notes in a ship’s log

bound for East Point

painted on the horizon

like a raised birthmark over a darkened skin,

it’s set in its own isolation.

Through the El Greco sky of the mind,

unsteady in the swirl of shade and light,

poles teeter on the edge of each other ,

delicately dancing in the glow.

Where it beckons you’ll follow,

tracing lines to their inevitable ends,

leaving a progeny of words

strung against words

like a procession of lanterns

engulfed by waves

extinguished candles of breath

that craved oxygen,

building up only to give in to collapse.

All the thoughts and differing shades of meaning

shifting the gleam to tide pools cascading

from an overarching theme,

where everything is passing through.

For a moment the moon holds true,

weightless and suspended in a bubble of foam.

A perfect circle, timeless, eternal,

always returning home.

The Dream Lends Light to Darkness

lost city

Entombed under the weight of sleep,

it comes like a relief,

a blade of light pulled from a darkened sheath

In the midst of that jungle,

through the dense trees, a glittering El Dorado

appears through the lens

clear as a mountain stream.

From the deepest valleys

dreams nourish the source of words.

From watersheds, unconscious threads

follow cracks between rocks and the riverbed,

a silken transition

that transcribes light to the water’s edge.

The glass over this surface

scratched innumerable stories into liquid mirrors.

The illusion of today gone tomorrow,

the process words seem to follow.

Solitary thoughts with painted wings

point the way inspiration

lends light to temporal things.

Where the breeze mingles with the sky,

the imagination holds up the butterfly

seeking somewhere to land.

The sharp branches of Kiawe

do not ward off this delicate advance,

now coming into focus,

patterns of color to contrast

with the stark bark of reason.

Relenting once again

to the tumbling of events,

the breaking of waves,

the last gasp of energy

scattered like ash in an enchanted rain.

Dreams will burn brightly

through the smoke of illusion,

leaving fragments for the waking to reclaim.