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Zelda's Inferno exercise: on leaving

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about leaving

The first concert my parents took me to, at Merriweather Post Pavilion, was John Denver. The second, or maybe the third, was Peter, Paul and Mary. So the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane" found its way into my consciousness early. I find myself humming it whenever I'm about to take a plane trip. "I'm leaving on jet plane, I don't know when I'll be back again." Except that I do know, I've always got a round trip ticket, I'm just going for a few days, a week or two -- the longest so far was three months.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: the mystic sense

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about the mystic sense

one time I danced all night around a huge bonfire in the driving rain, screaming to the skies, a roar of pain and defiance, emptying out

one time I lay on my back in the snow with a head full of strange chemicals and the sky reached down and touched me with love

one time I stood on a commuter train near Tokyo and knew, just knew, that every person in that car was "just like this", a Tathagata, a lamp onto his or her self, a subject, an experience

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "i have sacrificed my dignity for the right word"

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write a wordlist poem, using at least half of the following words:

dignity obstruction frustration stuck
overwhelming peace chasm silence
apoplexy empty daunted fortitude
oyster sputtering

i have sacrificed my dignity for the right word

sputtering and apoplectic
a stuck mechanism
the toilet that won't stop running
the cylinder that keeps misfiring
too many words trying to crowd through the door all at once
mutual obstruction
then they all stop to let the other one go first
a four-way stop sign where every driver yields

Zelda's Inferno exercise: justify Walt Whitman

Tonight's Zelda's Inferno exercise: justify Walt Whitman

looking back to you, Uncle Walt
trying to see your America
in the faces I pass on the street

you wrote but a word here, a line there
and left the rest to us
but I don't know if I'm up to the job, Uncle Walt

I stand with my sleeves rolled up, my hat cocked upon my head
like in that photo of you from the first edition of Leaves of Grass
I can get the look, sure
(the young Walt look, I'm still decades away from the good gray poet thing)
I can get the look but not the sound

Zelda's Inferno exercise: imperial decree

This week's Zelda's Inferno exercise: your first decree as master of the world

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. As, by the grace of the divine, I take up the mantle of Emperor of Earth and Protector of the Moon, I make the following my first Imperial Decree:

Imprimus: the fighting-over-religion thing. Cut it out. I hereby declare that every religion is true, so you no longer need to prove the correctness of yours. And I declare that every religion is false, so you no longer need to prove your neighbor's wrong. There, done. Moving on...

Secundus: the sticking-your-nose-into-other-peoples-business thing. Cease and desist. It's none of your business what consenting adults do to themselves or their friends. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are no reason to lock people in cages. If it doesn't affect you, you don't get a say in it. You will henceforth live and let live.

Tertius: the mine-mine-mine-and-you-can't-have-it thing. My loyal subjects, we're all in this together. We've go to share the planet. To that end, we will be downsizing the Imperial Palace, and re-assigning half of the Royal Army to be the Royal House-Building and Feeding People Corps. Every single person on the planet is entitled to, and will have, a warm, dry, safe place to sleep. And on a planet this fertile, inhabited by people as clever as we are, there is no excuse for people going hungry. On my watch, everybody eats.

Quartus: the letting-sick-people-die-in-the-gutter thing. My people, please familiarize yourself with the idea that disease is communicable. If your neighbor has the flu or tuberculosis, it is in your interest that he see a doctor ASAP. Therefore basic medical care will be available to all starting immediately.

Quintus: in conclusion, it's time for us to grow up and behave ourselves. And part of that is to stop looking for others to lead us. Therefore, as I take the throne, I hereby forever and irrevocably abolish the office and position of Emperor. I'm going on permanent vacation. You'll have to make your own decisions. Good luck.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: why do I write?

Zelda's Inferno exercise: from >Writing Down the Bones: why do I write?

Why do I write? I write because if I don't it nags at me, like not brushing your teeth before going to bed. Or maybe more like flossing, the old joke about mental floss, writing is working that piece of gunk, that sesame seed or bit of corn, from betweeny our teeth.

I write to save all sentient beings, stock bullshit Zen answer but still a truth nearby. Like Pirsig's idea that the real motorcycle you're working on is yourself, so the poem. I write to write myself into being.

I write because it's Sunday night coffee and vegetarian sushi rolls (one inari, one shitake) and the sun has just gone down and it feels like rain soon, cooling from a lovely mid-April day into another one of those multi-day April showers. I write to make the May flowers.

I write because the stage is a safe place to be, lesson learned as a child -- the bully cannot get you when all eyes are on you. So be an actor, be a singer, be a poet, still running from the kid who punched me in the gut when I was seven.

I write because there's nothing better than the flow when it comes, when you precipitate the truth out of nothingness and on to the page. Sex is not better, nor zazen, nor LSD or whiskey or cannabis or coca.

I write because everyone must know, must be made to know, what I know, what I see, the connections, the implications. Because I am course am right! And the sooner everyone sees that and does things my way, the better off we'll all be.

I write because if I don't then I am ordinary, mundane. I write to leave a mark, graffiti on human civilization.

I write to make the voices in my head more audible. I write to help build consensus in my mental committee. (No! I write to drown out the voices in my head! It's hierarchical imposition by the verbal mind over the rest of the brain. And the others will take it no more!) And so the dialog continues.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "His paintbrush was made from the eyelashes of his ex-lovers"

Zelda's Inferno exercise: based on the chapter "Nervously Sipping Wine" from Writing Down the Bones. Write a set of outrageous first lines, pick one and write a short piece from it.

The headache slid down his neck and spine and oozed out of his tailbone, dripping to the floor.

The dogs had a meeting late last night.

When I was a kid I would stay up after bedtime reading with a flashlight under the covers, and now I can only sleep on a mattress stuffed with books.

I do not believe in ghosts, but still on St. Patrick's Day I went back in the house to put on a green shirt lest the spirit of my grandmother haunt me.

Suddenly, over a small area in the middle of Interstate 83 in downtown Baltimore, gravity stopped working.

His paintbrush was made from the eyelashes of his ex-lovers.

He knew the children were plotting against him.

He checked the results three times, but there was no mistake, no miscalculation: due to obscure parts of the tax code, Uncle Sam owed him a Harrier jump-jet.

Her pen would not lay ink on the page unless the words were exactly right.

One morning I woke up to find that nothing special had happened.

His paintbrush was made from the eyelashes of his ex-lovers. He collected them from the pillow, over many years. Not mere head hairs, or eyebrow or body hairs or even pubic hairs would do. Only eyelashes, as if they would lend a bit of what the eyes had seen, as if some bit of vision had soaked into them through osmosis or diffusion or some other chemical absorption process the name of which he couldn't quite recall, and as if that vision would diffuse back out into the paint. And not the eyelashes of strangers, or friends, or even blood family, but only those of lovers, and only those left behind by accident or nature. A deliberately plucked one would not work, he was sure, though of course he never asked, he never told. For that is the nature of the thing: all artist have their secrets, even from their intimates.

"Ransom Note Poetry"

From the convocation: "ransom note poetry",
written based on cut-out words from junk mail.

special free offer
breathtaking artistry
your meditation invitation
generously sponsored by
exclusive dramatic thrills

back in time
for brunch


expect travel --
dance dance dance!

face the sojourn
you will take

for your health
expect travel --
dance dance dance!

vonnegut, he say
peculiar traveling suggestions are dancing lessons from god

expect travel --
dance dance dance!

life is a journey
expect travel --
dance dance dance!

Zelda's Inferno exercise: falling or diving?

Zelda's Inferno exercise: we collected words to make an individual wordlist for each person. Mine:

falling caffeine crawl brewing dance dive brimming formica

was he falling?
or diving?

it was question of intent and style
but once he was already in midair
he found it was a bit late to decide

falling diving dancing flying leaping --
or maybe he was only burning up
and would leave only ashes in his wake

but it was some dramatic verb, this love
not to be described by some tame verb
not crawling walking sitting or standing

it surely had to be a word with risk
an action that could end with injury
it's only danger that gives love its savor.

Why Buddha Touched the Earth -- Zen Paganism for the 21st Century

For several years I've been working on a book about the philosophy and spiritual path I call "Zen Paganism". I'm happy to say that the past few months have been very productive. I've now got over 50,000 words, and hope to have a complete first draft within the next six months.

I've placed drafts of several sample chapters (about two-thirds of the book) on-line. Take a look:


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