The Only Number I Still Remember

873-8480 you were an awful lot of eights on a rotary phone.  873-8480 I recite you over and over as if you were a chant, a mantra, a line from the movie Rain Man.

873-8480 I dialed you my whole boyhood to talk to Grandma Ruth.  I loved to talk to Grandma Ruth.  873-8480 restore my heart, deliver me, heal me, save me.

873-8480 you are the only number I still remember in this strange new world of the mind handing over information to technology.  If the global server crashed tomorrow, would we know who we are anymore?  Would our minds begin to strengthen again?  Photo albums, cameras, address books – sales would skyrocket.

873-8480 you lived on the truck route corner, the clatter and grind of jake-brakes vibrating the roof of the double-wide trailer home, moving the blades of the Dutch windmill pumphouse half a degree clockwise.  

873-8480 the covered porch where she taught me how to shoot pool, played the old 45’s, had a martini and talked about Paul Newman.  873-8480 the carport with her little yellow Porsche near her garden with the climbing string beans, the crystal bowl with peanut M and M’s beneath the lid, the little animal figurines along a ledge near the front-room ceiling: duck, whale, llama.  “Isn’t he the darndest thing?”

873-8480 the carved wood shapes of naked girls set into cupboard doors in the bathroom, made for her by a retired Army man, an ex-boyfriend who lived in an RV, Carl I think his name was.

873-8480 do you remember how she always kept Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer?  It explains her way of being in the world, how she lived: “a little bit of everything, kiddo”.    

873-8480 she called the couch a Davenport.  She called bratwurst Oktoberfest Sausage.  She read me Dr. Seuss.  She loved braunschweiger sandwiches with mustard and sliced raw red onion.  She called Richard Dawson the kissing bandit, wished bankruptcy on Wheel of Fortune contestants when they got greedy, went skydiving at age 72, called me on my birthday to tell me she had decided to commit assisted suicide through the Death With Dignity Act.

873-8480 hand me that box of tissue I can’t take it I’m vulnerable my heart might give out.  You’re a seven-number combination key on the lock-box in my memory bank.



Stephen Levine’s Definition of Death

“It is the ultimate in natural conservation in which the container is discarded but the contents are recycled.”   – Stephen Levine


My fires are so thirsty,

the hunger drinks itself.

Transcendent wheel turning,

at once groaning and soundless.

I speak the language of rounded stones,

spoken at the navel of the world.


At times I cannot even reach you.

At times I scoop you up

to ride across the world in the cups of my hands,

my skin peeling back

as if it were the bark of a eucalyptus tree.


To really explain, I’ve got to go back

to where the rain stopped suddenly

and everything went quiet

and the sky turned bright orange.

I’ve got to go back and I can’t take you with me,

but I will return and tell you what I find there.


All my life,

I simply do what I was made to do.

That is why I am a contented man.

Vision Quest

Once, everything you knew – wanted to know, even –seemed so important. All the things you were sure you understood, and wished to better understand.

But then the long night of your life came.

Deep in among the folds of that night, you cried out for your life to be different, but it was only ever up to you.

A thousand pairs of eyes watched you from a distance.  They only knew there was nothing they could do to protect you, and that their final breath would come as surely as yours, and that they were hungry.

Songs of moonflowers, rain-shadows, animal powers – even the song of the wind we must unlearn.

You’ve walked a path upon the earth – now to it, return.


The Voice

Friends, what does it matter if the world hears our voices?  We all belong to each other. Your voice is here, mine is here, as wild, small, and equal in worth as any other.

The voice is in your heart and so the world’s heart knows it, as surely as you know the heart of the world and hear its voice also, as surely as there is perfect stillness in the eye of every storm.

The line is cast before the coming of a great fish.  A sudden tug is felt through our hands, and our withered husks give rise to something new.

When I Am Old

When I am old, I’ll have had my fill of beds, couches, chairs, the underwater hibernation of cavernous sleep. I’ll have had enough of the body’s honesty and the mind’s betrayals.

When I am old I will leap up unexpectedly, so fully rested that the last shooting star of vitality will pass over my face, the memory of youth searing my eyes with its virile flame, scorching my solar plexus. I’ll escape my caretaker (if I’m lucky enough to have one), and slip off to Florida where I can soak in the warm saltwater and hear southern girls talk. I’ll hop a flight to Barcelona and see the masquerade-mask balconies, sit at a sidewalk café in Rome with my ten-mile stare, stop in Vietnam and stand in the emerald brilliance of a rice field. In Africa, the treetops will sway differently than what I’m accustomed to. In Tahiti, the sand grains will pepper my thighs. In Egypt, thousands of mosquitoes will be feasted upon by swarms of bats as I sit and savor rich golden couscous and sticky dates from Morocco.

When I am old, I’ll lay down on a grassy slope as the summer evening comes on, and long for the warm familiarity of you, thinking of the way you entered all the cells of my body and stayed there. Venus will be there, and the North Star, and the Moon of course, and the fireflies with their luminous silence.

When I am old, I’ll be wondering why I’m still here when everyone else has gone.  I’ll avoid mirrors and my reflection in shop windows, too weary of my appearance to steal a glance. I’ll inspect my food as if it were an alien substance. I’ll recall the world I grew up in as a lost one, and I’ll be a castaway in this new and different world.

When I am old, a gentle breeze will pick up and the light in me will go out. It will be my turn to discover whether or not you get to see everyone again, my turn to find out what happens next, after a lifetime of wondering.


Stones On The Shore

Like stones on the seashore, we too are fragments of something larger, something greater.

We too are individual yet connected. We too are washed up here from another realm, only to return to it. We are moved back out of the sphere of gravity and oxygen, back out of a place that owes everything to its proximity to a burning star.

Our time in this dimension will cease to be, as we are returned to the same waves that washed us up, in earth-time, only a moment before. Strands of consciousness, we return to our transcendent source, no We, no You, no I.

In the one hand, Time. In the other, Eternity.  In both hands, Love.