Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For the Kids

No I would not lie to you , my dears.

As you make your way through the passing years,

Though joy you'll find

And friends so kind,

And games to play

On a sunny day.

You may find insight

In a blaze of light,

And your hearts' delight

In the bed of night,

But, there will be many tears.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

11th Floor - Cold Mountain General

Sitting up in sick-bed

Thinking nothing,

All day long.

It's as good as reading sutras.

Or do I mistake Percocet

For Buddha Nature?


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Taming the Tiger

She presses a plunger, 

Releasing a tiger into the room,

Bright teeth and razor claws everywhere.

Siegfried drops his whip

And tames this tiger by sitting in his chair.

The crowd roars!

Image from Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Friday, October 31, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Healing Slowly

"You must rest! You must rest!"

I look into the care-worn face of my wife.

Lifting a mirror up toward her,

The patient tries to heal his nurse.

- David Clark

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Big spoon, little bowl,

A sudden gust of gravity, 

A jumping fish,

A mayonnaise kitchen.

- David Clark

Image by Gibbon Sengai

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I awoke in a hospital bed
To find the ox licking my face,
His wet tongue wiping away
The tears of the world with each rough stroke.
- July 5, 2008

Life has been most interesting of late. At midnight on the night of June 12th, while visiting friends in Seattle, I received a surprising phone call. "Can you be in San Diego by 6AM? We have a new liver for you." 
To say I was stunned would be a gross understatement. After three and a half years on the transplant waiting list I had begun to lose hope of ever getting such a call, losing strength and stamina with each passing day. Now, at the end of the first day of the first vacation I had allowed myself in a very long time came the call! My wife got on her cell phone immediately and made arrangements with Alaska Airlines to get us on the first flight out in the morning. While it was not possible to make it to San Diego by 6, I could assure Dr. Barry, the surgeon, that I would be there in time for the operation at 9:30. We showered, repacked our bags and at O-dark- thirty our friends drove us, still stunned, to the airport. 
A favorable tailwind got us to our destination 10 minutes early.  As I climbed into the first cab in the line at the airport I notice something that gave me a bit of a start. Atop the meter box was mounted a museum-quality reproduction statue of the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, the guardian and escort of the souls of the dead through their journey in the underworld! Hmm. I asked the middle-eastern looking driver to explain the meaning of our black lacquered companion, but he could not. It was not his cab, he shrugged. It was at that point that I reflected on the fact that it was Friday the 13th. Good thing for me that I am not superstitious! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Try Coming to Cold Mountain Sometime

"When people see the man of Cold Mountain
They all say, "There's a crackpot!"
Hardly a face to make one look twice,
His body wrapped in nothing but rags...
The things we say he doesn't understand;
The things he says we wouldn't utter!"
A word to those of you passing by-
Try coming to Cold Mountain sometime!"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Han-shan and Cold Mountain


It has been a crazy, hectic week in my world. Thank goodness for poetry! At the close of the day I have been dipping into the marvelous, lucid world of the Cold Mountain poems, by the T'ang Dynasty hermit/poet Han-shan (as brilliantly translated by Burton Watson). Regarded as the finest of the T'ang era Buddhist poets, his work was produced during the flowering of Chinese Zen and is still prized in contemporary Zen sects. Han-shan's own words express my feelings about his verses so well that I'll simply quote them here.

"Do you have the poems of Han-shan in your house?
They're better for you than sutra-reading!
Write them out and paste them on a screen
Where you can glance them over from time to time."

The following is one of the poems that recently been much on my mind. It is labeled #98 in Watson's collection of 100 selections, first published in 1962.

"In the late sun I descended the western hill,
Light streaming over the grass and trees,
Till I came to a dark and gloomy place
Where pines and creepers grew thick together.
Within crouched many tigers;
When they saw me, their fur stood on end. 
Not so much as a knife in my hand,
Did I not gasp with fear?"

The image above is a detail from a Chinese rug pictured on the website of  
Thomas Cole's Antique Rugs and Textiles. If you appreciate textile art at all, check them out at:

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Under Tree"

"Under Tree" is an aquatint etching done a few years ago. The image was drawn directly on the surface of a specially coated zinc plate, the sharp metal drawing tool removing the protective resin coating. The plate was then immersed in an acid bath to etch the lines into the plate. Once satisfied with the quality of the line, I sprayed layers of lightly diffused spray paint onto the surface, which when dipped in the acid gave the gray-tone effect to the appropriate areas.
The finished plate was hand-inked, wiped to remove the upper surface ink, leaving only the pigment in the etched lines and aquatint textured areas. The plate was then run trough an old hand-cranked printing press with individual dampened sheets of high grade German etching paper. This print is the result. This traditional handcrafted approach to printmaking is slow and labor intensive, but at its' best, highly rewarding. Each time you peel back a newly printed sheet from the plate it's a bit like opening a Christmas present, sometimes you get a fabulous gift, sometimes a lump of coal! (I've never actually received a lump of coal for Christmas, but my Grandfather, being a rather naughty young fellow,  did on several occasions).
The image itself comes from an experience I had on a night ambush in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, with a full moon illuminating the countryside and our small group of infantrymen positioned in the moon-shadow of a large old tree overlooking the area. I took my watch sitting up, motionless, looking and listening in a state of hyper-vigilance. I was repeatedly struck on the head by some sort of seed pod, often enough that I finally moved out from under the tree, and still I was struck several times more! How and why became a great mystery until the first rays of dawn revealed a wild monkey sitting in the branches of the tree, very upset at the strangers below who had surrounded his tree during the night. I must say that monkey had very good aim, I was glad he hadn't been throwing something softer, as I had seen his caged brothers do in the San Diego Zoo!

Monday, May 19, 2008

At the Mountains of Madness

One of my interests over the years has been printmaking.
Above is a "suicide print" I did a few years back, entitled
At the Mountains of Madness.
The odd term "suicide print" comes from the fact that only one block is used to produce the entire print. After printing each layer, one carves away that portion of the block which printed the desired color, repeating the process for each color. In the end, the image on the block has been destroyed by the process.