Insomnia Again

Oh how I resent the feelings that wake me up night
Or are they thoughts, I cannot tell ’em apart
Ghosts from past as recent as yesterday
Even those I have met only through words

How they harass my mind, and chase away
the angels that cradle me to lull
Yeh, yeh angels are demons and my paradise
May be a hellish nightmare still

I take that any night
to the unsleeping eyes peering in the dark.
Vigilance lurking unseen
Only to ambush me in the shadows of the night

I take the beating that comes my way
Hopelessly I reach for a herd of sheep
Only to see them slaughtered
before my unyielding eyes

The monster holds my gaze, but no
It doesn’t finish me, not till the sun
Pierces the dark sky and my watch confirms
Hours of have passed and the day has begun

So it goes – me, my enemies and I
Conjoined through chance or the god of Chaos
I talk myself silly I know
and offer half of my next day in sacrifice



I am not afraid, I say to myself as I hide
Inside these walls glancing out
Of the partially closed blinds

I am not afraid, I whisper this time
As the sky is painted
darker and darker shades of blue

The air is still
yet my body trembles with the threat
That resides on the other side

Suddenly ground quivers and the roof
Is blown away
The walls that keep me crumble to dust

And I am afraid
My hopes fragile and my body frail
And I sense cruel waves coming forward

Wishing my thoughts to be steered
To safety. To feel a different way
I close my eyes

In the aftermath of the storm
I see a small green sprout
Through the cracks

We Are Not Responsible

This powerful poem resonated deeply and validated many of my struggles. It brought me to tears.
How I hope for a time when we and they, all of us are responsible ….

We Are Not Responsible

We are not responsible for your lost or stolen relatives.
We cannot guarantee your safety if you disobey our instructions.
We do not endorse the causes or claims of people begging for handouts.
We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Your ticket does not guarantee that we will honor your reservations.
In order to facilitate our procedures, please limit your carrying on.
Before taking off, please extinguish all smoldering resentments.

If you cannot understand English, you will be moved out of the way.
In the event of a loss, you’d better look out for yourself.
Your insurance was cancelled because we can no longer handle
your frightful claims. Our handlers lost your luggage and we
are unable to find the key to your legal case.

You were detained for interrogation because you fit the profile.
You are not presumed to be innocent if the police
have reason to suspect you are carrying a concealed wallet.
It’s not our fault you were born wearing a gang color.
It is not our obligation to inform you of your rights.

Step aside, please, while our officer inspects your bad attitude.
You have no rights we are bound to respect.
Please remain calm, or we can’t be held responsible
for what happens to you.


Baptized 11/22/19 poem

Don’t dress me in white I need color
Don’t tie me to your cross I cannot breath

My dress was tattered and old
But I had a soul precious as gold

Roots severed I sought a new home
To be accepted I wore a new robe

I was looking for a new beginning
Their music drew me in

They laid me in sacred water
Tried to cleanse from my sins

What they called sin was a part of me
The fabric of my skin

It tore into my flesh
Robbed me of what I held within

Down I went to the depths of hell
Down I went till I met my end

Then I saw the lies, I shed the past
Soaking wet I rose at last

I was Baptized against my will
Free of religion yet searching still

Where are you from?

Where am I from?
Here I guess – The place I call home
As for country of birth
That is a forbidden place

Let me apologize
for the inconvenience – I’d go back if I could
and rip me out of my mother’s womb
Plant me somewhere civilized – accepted
You know what I mean, somewhere like Here

Is dilution is the solution?
I have severed and dissolved what was once known
When I attempt to read Hafiz or Rumi
I stumble over the words, meaning evades
Words of my childhood, wisdom of my past
I don’t hold a grudge, no one is to blame
Turns out one’s heritage is not like riding a bike
It is a living thing, in need of nurture and attendance
And I attended to all things American
Its life, liberty and pursuit of happiness

Funny thing, where one comes from or ends up in
I live in what used to be Mexico, but not anymore
And Mexicans aren’t welcome where their ancestors were born
Despite the Mexican city and street names that remain
Earth didn’t change itself, didn’t part its water and land
I stood at the border one foot here, the other there
Didn’t notice a thing, a line I couldn’t understand

One day friends, the next foe
One day allies, and then no
How dizzying to keep up with the lies
Travel bans, the imaginary lines
I apologize, if I must for where I come from
But I’m not sorry and I am Here, as are you, as are they
Dilute the illusion, break the chains
The divisions that keep us apart and cause such pain

Mary Janes

Mary Janes (9/26/19)

Ugly inside and out, is how I felt
Unwanted – surely my fault
I had a pair of shoes given by mother
How I hated them
With the bitterness of an unloved child

The shoes shiny and white
Reminding me of her cold demeanor
How, when I misbehaved
She threatened to abandon me
If I needed comfort, she wouldn’t let me near

And misbehaving I did, again and again
Then one day I was visiting the orphanage
Why, or with whom I don’t recall
Suddenly surrounded with girls my age
With a gaze in in their eyes, I couldn’t translate

Was it desire or envy
I heard “Beautiful shoes”
“Wish I had shoes like that” followesd
When I went home to mother
I thought myself lucky for a little while
And she never abandoned me

One legged crow

I saw a one legged crow
Sitting on a curb
In the parking lot of Costco
And I thought there must be meaning
In the silence of the cars parked in a row
Feathers ruffled by the wind
As the one legged creature looked on
Scanning the grounds
She must have been wise
Holding on without compromise

I trace the scar permanently carved
Over my shoulder feeling the curvature
Of the plate that holds two bones together
It aches from time to time
Had I been the crow, I would have lost my left arm
Would I have survived?
And had she been me, she would be scanning the grounds
For a place to park her wings
For she wouldn’t have flown, no
Much as I didn’t walk
To get my errands done.

Captive flowers









Flowers on my table
Orange, yellow, shades of red
Warm end of the color spectrum
This table is my companion, my work
My resting place, my window, my classroom
my efforts – many of them futile
But the flowers rest upon the wooden surface
not passing judgement, they do not leave
Held captive within the confines of the vase
And though they change from week to week
Sometimes bringing the garden in
Other times with money changing hands
They don’t last and there lies the secret
To my rising in the morning
For there are flowers to be had


When I went from mommy to mom
I felt something though
not quiet sure what to call it yet
I soaked it in my mouth feeling
For texture and taste
Not exactly good, nor bad
She turned ten and I turned mom
I am tasting the change



Crossing the streets of my childhood
Came rather easy
Coper red mountain
Perched up north
Helping me navigate
The hostile and unkind grounds

There it stood
Guiding without judgement
And I always found my way

Since then I’ve been lost
Drifting from place to place
Without an anchor to bring me back
Neither the desert, nor the ocean
Or the tree lined hills around this house
Settle the heart

Fleeting moments of joy
Rustling of the leaves as I close my eyes
And try to hear the past


Congruence or else
Beautiful people smile
Effortless as their elegance
They shine on display

Dead to suicide
homicide or else
One after the next
Lost to hanging, guns or an overdose

Suffocating in an incongruent world
And I wonder wouldn’t it be better
To see the tears and the frowns for
One may pause and ask, Are you okay?

To align the facade with the chaos hidden inside
Maybe the only way
Inner demons don’t bow easily
To the curling iron
Or fit into designer clothes

In a world that worships power, beauty and youth
What are the ordinary to do but pretend?
Even the extraordinary among us
succumb like the rest
Illness and despair travels to every place



Look I try but I can’t feel any more
Ten is less than seventeen
Body count I mean
Am I unfeeling when I read other news
Or browse for a new pair of shoes
America is great
And there’s profit to be made
I have this breath
And if I’m lucky, maybe the next
My worries, my fears
Who will take care of me
When I fall?
Stand tall or die one death
There’s no space for your cries and pleas
This half dead half alive state
Suspended between the what ifs of disaster
Drowning in news some call fake
It doesn’t matter anymore
We are just browsing
Keep you weapons
And shoot the kids
Why should we care?
America’s great and
There’s profit to be made



How they close it shut
The gap between them
Inches away – then
Stretches thousands of miles

Do they know when they leave
Does it?
That the two are never to meet
again – Belongings left behind
Their bags heavy with memories

They flee with the clothes on their backs
And the blue painted door
Remains, waiting
For the children to return
And play ball on the dirt covered road
Hands embracing its rounded knob
Exchanging hellos and smiles

And the door doesn’t know
When or why its horizon changed
From a tree lined street
To piles of rubble and debris
For the door to knock
And children to come in


It was easy to not feel
Once she was cut open
Stillness took over
Soft and hard flesh – shades of red
Loops of intestine traced inch by inch
Adhesions freed
I stood there Watching
While her humanity was asleep
And what laid before me
Became a thing

Sing to me

Sing to me

I love you
A love that is close to loving life itself
Consuming every breath

Black were the walls – When you
lifted the vail letting light through
And windows appeared

I fly not knowing
My destination – steps away
Or far places

The light remains
And I have the gift
Of loving you

I won’t back off!

Guns don’t kill you say, people do
You are one such people
A coward defending a delusion
Not a constitution

It is your breath, my friend
and that of those around you
That is most vulnerable
to the indiscriminate killer you hold dear

And I hide behind the screen in my fear of you
I haven’t the courage to come face to face and ask
What’s with the “Back off – guns on board” sign
on the monstrous eyesore you drive to the zoo, the mall
And the playground

No I don’t wish you death as you seem to do me
But I want your guns gone
And your head examined
My right to live comes first
Over your insane obsession


As I grew quieter you grew louder
There was a time in the past
when our voices matched in amplitude
We conversed over tea and pondered
about life and destiny

Those were simpler times
Now I doubt everything and everyone
Even these very words as I put them upon the page
And the thoughts and feelings that arise
or give rise to this nonsense.

Common House Fly

An unfortunate fly
trapped in the house
I didn’t want it here
it too wanted out

Fluttering wings
It flew up too high
Only to collide
With the ceiling glass

No luck at the doors
Nor the windows
I tried to let it out
Our timing wasn’t right

Few days passed
And it dropped dead
Just to make sure
I stepped on its head

House flies
Considered to be pests
Eat feces and trash
Reducing the mess

We on the other hand
Produce and expand
Non-degradable waste

Stories mother told

Mother – today I try to remember the good
My heart throbbing from years of abuse and my mind is numb
From the neglect I’ve endured

I can’t remember your kindness
Or love. It wasn’t there
Despite what you say
While buried in your books
Or choosing your muse

Around the world Bedtime storied are told to children
Print or memories yet I recall only one
You ever told

Distant planet – a fearsome king
And his servant bride
She shattered his vase of precious crystals
Afraid of his rage, scattered the shards
Hence a ring circled their planet
Softening his heart

Domestic stew

Domestically inclined
Tending to chores and dishes
Linens and towels spinning in the washer
the dishes too
Chop onions and celery
Cooker fired up with chunks of meat
Sizzling and browning
As I stir
A sideway glance at the recipe
Part improvised part directed
The stories I want to tell

Floors cleaned and waxed
Windows and tables dusted
I sit in solitude
How I enjoy these moments
Sound of my heart beat
Blanket of thoughts

And I think of my predicament
This domestic life
Far from what I envisioned Years ago
A vision that despite its blurry edges
Laid a grand story
Which won’t be told
Shackled to this house
This man, these kids
To my past, my failures and defeat
The paralyzingly fear that keeps me hidden
Within these walls
Not a prison
Yet not exactly chosen
By me



These droplets
haphazardly arranged
As musical notes
Or a set of numbers and codes
A melody

Scattered as they seem
Rolling down one by one
Merging as directed
By the maestro
They collectively triumph

Others evaporate leaving
Calcified residue on the glass.
Of the stains we leave behind
And the dust
that collects beneath

With benevolence, malice and chaos
Illusion of purpose and
A fear that links us all
Collective rolling
Down, down, down.

Men with guns


I am afraid of guns and men with guns
They are afraid too
Afraid of me and you
Afraid of their church
Do they worship guns, gods or both?

Seated on a the wooden bench
Books of prayer
As I scramble to find the page
Praying for peace costs nothing
Does even less

To live, to love, to pray, to hate
To kill – kill with guns

Kids grow up
at home, in schools, churches or the movie theatre
Sound of gunshot not from the screen nor those pages
When color red is not a metaphor
Nor are the words “we’re dying here”

Villains and heroes in movies
Are stunned and the deadly bullets
Don’t come from them
But from us and no one’s immune

Schoolbooks meant to teach history, progress and math
Yet they shiver covered in red
As gun plus math equals death
And otherwise heathy kids drop dead

Maybe it isn’t your gun I’m afraid of
But the rage in your tone
A tone that borders madness
The kind you blame for the violence
When you say “take it from my dead cold hands”

We are all afraid of something
Me of you, us of them
Let us work through this pain
With bullets there’s no gain

You needn’t fear me
The tone of my voice, color of my skin
I may have come from afar
But peace is what I seek
And haven’t but the words I speak

Maybe I needn’t fear you
If you put the gun down
And we can talk over tea
And learn Shakespeare, math and chemistry

May the sound of bullets come from the screen
Or the video games
The things you blame
Don’t make us bleed

We’ve tried your way
Let us try ours
While the children ride their bikes

Gentle as a rose

I am

Gentle as a rose
Not just the flower, no
The plant, twisted stems, prickles and thorns

Flowers bloom and they whither
The plant grows tortuous
With a hardened core

From afar you wont see but the blooming flower
up close the leaves are covered
With lumps and powdery mildew

Without the rose pedals one may
Dismiss the plant with the unsightly wood
But wait a while and let the roses bloom

But there is joy

Words on a screen
and I learn a dear friend has died
A shining light dimmed too soon

Another set of words
across the screen. This time
birth of a girl

Fridays have have puzzled me
in ways more than one
Death is easy

Living is hard
He suffers no more and she
has just begun


And memories rush in, I
looking out the window, they
riding their bikes
Against my loneliness and it tastes bitter
Feeling awkward in a new neighborhood

Another day and pouring rain
A knock on our door and I peek through the glass
Yellow rainboots
A girl about my age looking bold
With a big smile she says hello
“I’ve seen you ride your bike”
She invites me to join her
Some other day I whisper
I don’t know how to ride

And girls come one by one
On a sunny day with a common goal
To teach me to ride
They hold the back and I pedal
They let go and I am ok
Riding, feeling cool air brush across my face

No longer them and I
We become us
They stand on the sidewalk of our alley
Cheering on
As I do now with my kid
As my parents never did


The eyes
Look through the darkened circles
In disbelief
They have seen lips silent to abuse
Trembling legs unwilling to run
Hands and fingers twisted in rage
But not fighting back
This collective we has endured
Defeated in shame but no more
The eyes refuse to remain locked up
In silence. They
Reach out and tear
The thin skin of the lids, cheeks, lips, tongue
Ripping through the flesh
Shredding to pieces
The walls that kept them captive
All these years. They flee
As two specs of light
Leaving the lifeless flesh behind

Horizontal Tornado

Horizontal Tornado

Have you seen a horizontal tornado?
I did
And it was horrific
As the white spinning mass of air
Appeared from the sky
An angry cloud
Coming down the highway we were on
Stretching from here to eternity it seemed
And I, shouting at the driver
Turn away, turn away
My voice quivering and shrill
As we watched horrified and helpless
Feeling the pull of the magnificent beast
To its center
With promise of demise


Holding on

Holding on

I hold on to you
As a baby chimpanzee holds on to its mother
Hands, feet, fingers and nails
grasping tight as life depends on it
You the conduit of pain that you are
I hold on to you
As I hold on to air, not another breath
Or the lingering scent of shit
That never quite left the carpet
Where someone deposited
A special package and I
Needed to get it replaced




Suddenly autumn
And golden leafs shiver and fall
This isn’t a breeze, air
Moves quicker than thoughts
Stirring dust, trees and the clouds
My mood wants a detour
We’ve been down this path before
And I follow only to find myself
down the same rabbit hole


He said “I’m growing up tomorrow”.
No! I said.
Later, much later please
When then? Tuesday?
I really hope not
Stay little a while longer

Yet he is growing up despite
my ambivalence and I
miss the small onesies and socks
How I long to hold him
curled up perfectly
against my chest

When he stopped nursing
Now the bottles are done too
With each changing diaper size
or when his little feet
No longer fit his shoe and
when his words grew

“Mommy I’m sorry I said a bad word”
What bad word?
I said “hate” yesterday
My heart …
The other day too
He’d been a handful at the restaurant
Messing around on empty tables
Little hands everywhere
Utensils, glasses, tossing napkins
My threats, pleads and bribes turning to dust

He tells me
“Sorry I sat on’nother table
I didn’t like the chicken”
And he was right it wasn’t good
I will miss that and the tantrums
The potty accidents too

I miss him as I hold
his three year old body
My back aching a little
But he curls up
with arms tucked between us
Just as he did as a baby. There
lies a tender carved out spot
where he rests his head
Over my shoulder
And his body to my chest

Fluttering Thoughts

Fluttering Thoughts

Running through fields
of butterflies
among tulips and lilies

With a wide net
set out to capture
a few

Oh no!
These fluttering thoughts
fly through the gaps

The net woven
Long long ago
loosened over the years

Yet there is
rhythm in these steps and
breath hums a melody



Grandfather bought an orchard
With apple and peach
Cherry and pear trees
When he retired from the railroad

In a village not too far
A curmudgeon he was yet
he beamed with pride traveling
three hours each day on a bus

Grandmother every morning
resented him for leaving
She sat by the window in the evening
staring at the clock, next to it

the old black telephone
Turning the dial-wheel calling everyone
She pleaded with god “Bring him home”
As if he’d gone to war

Imagining accidents, or the unknown
and her being left alone
An anxious love that had endured decades
Then he’d open the door

Her facial features gave her away. Chin
trembling, eyes tearing
Lips letting out a sigh of relief yet
she held on to the grudge

With a tongue, well rehearsed she
unleashed harsh words scolding him, pleading
Cursing those who sold him the orchard. They
did this every day

It was funny then. Now
it makes me sad as I remember
the small imperfect apples
Crunchy and sweet

Though I only took a few bites
around the blemishes discarding the rest
Grandfather ate apples and pears
flesh, seeds and core, nothing went to waste

Today I picked an apple from the tree
in the yard, bitting around the blemishes
It was sour and sweet. And I wished
they were here with me




The old Futon is gone, with it
pieces of my past
But not the memories they last

Thick and thin, fire and ice
Long sleepless nights when
My wounds, tears and sorrow
Melted onto its comforting firm surface

It held my cats, all gone but one
Twelve years, is that a life time for a futon?
So much has happened much of it
With the futon somewhere in the background

Worn through the years and yes
peed on by the cat, a sign of affection perhaps
Now the cat is gone
It’s been a month, an eternity

I mourn the cat, I do
Still hearing his meow
Seeing him curled up on the surface of a futon
That isn’t there anymore

Cloud Gazing


Cloud Gazing

The bluest sky
And clouds, luminous white
Gently disperse and gather
The mighty wind
Can’t make up its mind
And I lift my chin
To meet the bluest eyes
Unspoken words
And I feel okay
They come closer
The sky and all that it holds
Before my eyes
As if to embrace me
And hold my face
All I have to do
Is stay

December Moon (1999)

A beautiful and subtle meditation on love and longing. I hope you enjoy this elegant poem by Robert Okaji as much as I did.

O at the Edges

December Moon (1999)

If loneliness breathes,
then rain is its heart,

always falling to its lowest point
before receding. Water graces us

daily in all its forms – the slowest
drop, the line of ice on the wall,

your breath, so soft and even
in the cool night. But no one,

no thing, can fill the void of
departure. You exhale and turn

away, and the air, with its empty
arms, embraces the space

you’ve left. I feel this daily,
whenever we part. At forty-one

I’ve known you half my life
but have loved you even longer,

through the millennium’s demise
and all that preceded or follows.

The brightest moon for a century to come
is but a shadow in your light.

This first appeared on the blog in October 2015. It’s hard to believe that I wrote “December Moon” nearly eighteen years ago. Busy with books, work and life…

View original post 32 more words

For My Mother


April 17: Nocturne: Tiny Now

She is tiny now, my mother

and jokes in the morning, when

her teeth aren’t in, how she whistles

like a little bird. And i want to reach

back to the nights when

she brought the piglets in

laid them in the woodstove oven

so tiny, but she believed in them

and in that warm cradle, the spark

of life rekindled in them. How

do i cradle her? now

she is so tiny, softly

drawing nearer to

the Western Door.

This poem won’t do it.

This poem is for me

a piglet grown, with

my snout astonished

at discovery, how the power

that built a world for me still

reveals itself, blue

slight, soft, tiny.

My mother went home to God on May the 5th. I was honoured to be with her then, to recite for her the prayers she loved. One day, it will…

View original post 159 more words


Fragments refuse to
Come together and
Make something meaningful, perhaps
These broken pieces came from
Not one, but more

And so it lays
Scattered in disarray
Longing for meaning and order
In a world that dances
To different tunes

Listening to the sound of dust
As it passes
Through invisible hands
Change is inevitable
Though its direction unknown

A Bar Mitzvah

I almost said
Ah to be thirteen again!
But my thirteen was as lousy as twelve
All the rotten years that came
and those that remain

As I watched this boy
Sing and pray words unfamiliar
With such conviction and joy
I wasn’t happy, nor sad
I felt lost and inferior

Alien indeed
Not the wardrobe
nor the strange sound of words
Majesty of the temple
or the ache in my toes

I grew up in a family
Not peasants nor lords
vast in numbers indeed
A culture with songs
Costumes, written words

At five, ten, or thirteen
Did I matter? No!
A Nuisance at best
But mostly Insignificant
and I remained low

Not belonging, this else-ness
Is a slow bitter death
Drowning in my sorrows
And the unbearable shoes, I walk
Wearing a smile so forced it hurts

A boy walks out a man
Oh so proud
and I remain
bitter, yet fairly softened
As I wish him well

This wasn’t home. I am
yet to find belonging
But as people go
This was a gracious crowd
and I have hope

Cloud of Debris

I remembered the sheep shaped cloud I saw
when I was six maybe seven
That was when the war began
Walking in a roundabout with mother
We didn’t know
the sheep shape in the sky
wasn’t benign with its pinkish glow

What do they see, kids I mean
Have they vanished?
Kidnapped by force, fire and vengeance
Trapped into precocious adults
Do they cry when one dies?
Do they play beneath the bombs?
What shapes are formed in their skies
From the debris and malice of demise

They said “mother of all bombs”
Their choice of words makes me cringe
But the wound inside
Bleeds all over, it says otherwise
Of men and their wars
Crimes washed clean with
The sound of Profit
Peace and freedom delivered
In the shape of bombs


The other day when
Night was merging with day and
My eyes burned for a blink yet
Dreams where nowhere to be found
I reached for a rock

By my bed. I knew
It wasn’t there
Daylight. This illusion
There is night
The rest are stories we tell

My fingers curled around and
felt its rough edges
I aimed and threw
Piercing the damned window
And the light it let through

I punctured the dawn and it burst
with dazzle and thunder
falling lifelessly as dust
Glorious darkness. Ah!
Until another day
And another set of lies

Destiny Chance



Destiny Chance, and
Everything in between
Senselessly beautiful
This chaos

Two seeds, same in every way
One thrives, the other not
With shriveled little roots
Leaves, though green
can’t touch the sun

Nature, nurture
and the stochastics in between
Call it God, call it not
She won’t listen

As for them and us
Some diseased, others not
Yet they assign fault and
Punish. These differences
Begin as one

Behavior and appearance
are expressions, phenotypes
What lies beneath is
Mostly unknown

Epigenetics may provide the key to understand the human condition. What batter way to seek creative inspiration than the very place where nature meets nurture? That is epigenetics in a nutshell. Here is the link to a brief article with the image above. 


Let me trace your
Fear seeps through the cracks
Borders are raw
Love won’t shatter this wall
Yet slowly penetrating
through the bricks
Planting kisses and melting
the dividing line

On Mars

I suspect it will be nice
On Mars
With its waterless rivers
and treeless hills

I gather butterflies won’t
fly over roses
Birds won’t chirp

There won’t be
guns or terrorists
No cross to bear
No church for prayer

What bliss!
Wars not waged nor battles won
Dog not chasing the cat
Nor cat the dog

There won’t be
A you and I
Maybe an us, who knows?

And earth will be
but a distant memory
A blue planet rising
and falling when sun
dims behind shadows