tzintzuntzan: night of the dead

Night of the Dead Ceremony in an Indigenous Mexican Cemetery
Night of the Dead Ceremony in an Indigenous Mexican Cemetery  

tzintzuntzan: night of the dead

solemn, joyful industry

in quiet


known deep, the tracing of motions

older than body:

movement, grace,




longing, startled: flapping

from a breast, awkward

and enlivened.

a frisson of alarm.

pulse, breath, catching.

a disturbance,

a shiver of atmosphere.

kneeling. whispering fingers 



stillness amid the stir, implacable.

wet, heavy hours

of air.




clearing; arranging; tending


earthy damp.

wild flowers lit

in orange, sing

like light, enticing

souls: “find

beauty; remembering; love—



stars beside graves.

fire. feast. offerings

of dance, deliberation, duty.

the lost, adored, torn

in death as in birth.


candied pumpkin, skulls of sugar, bones of bread;

sweet cinnamon drink, a dwindling warmth;

dead and living partaking

in flame, food,











A Piano and a Man Named Samuel

March 29, 2013

I sang a heck of an Ain’t Misbehavin’ Thursday morning, in the 2-story Mayo Clinic foyer, where the grand piano is. It felt fabulous. What a present and delighted audience. No singing I have ever done comes close to the experience of singing here, as a patient, for patients. It is a communion through music.

A healing communion. Joy blooming in dark and treacherous reaches of the heart.


This sits atop the piano:


Isn’t that something?


This is the piano from the balcony above:



And here I am with Jane and Anthony.

Jane plays every Monday & Thursday from 10 to 12, for anyone who wants to sing.



Audience On the Balcony Above



Audience Below



Community Gathering Around the Piano


This piano—the advent of unexpected music, my shy approach to the sounds and companionship unfolding there, eventually coming close enough to start meeting the people who congregate there—was my only lifeline when I first got here. Hearing an angel’s voice as I stepped from an elevator onto the overlook; passing the passions of Brahms played with elegant fervor; approaching the circle surrounding; joining others in singing hymns, while two women eloquently interpreted them into sign language; sitting near and hearing my first stories from other patients; eventually daring to sing on my own​…

these are the moments that first kept my heart alive. That brought color and sunlight back to the world when I thought they’d been sucked out of everything forever. These are the moments in which I first experienced belonging, company, delight.



To see the eyes of elders come to life and sparkle… To see a smile where there had been only weariness and pain… This moved me newly, day after day, as I watched people listen, pause, beam, sing along.

And then to sing—at first it was too much for me; too much was open and roiling in me, and the pure joy of putting voice to melody was almost unbearably expressive, healing, rekindling… connecting.

And finally, to have such people thank me for sharing, with them, what brings me joy… Sometimes I could barely sing for the tears that choked me; it was beyond words.

•        •        •



This is my buddy, Samuel.

I adore him. He’s funny and flirtatious and plays Sentimental Journey, which I sang with him today. He played his favorite Lutheran hymn and told me how all of God’s pain, and all beauty too, were in that song; a certain chord in particular made him seem to nearly swoon. He said, “If I were playing this right, I’d probably be crying by now.”


Yesterday, when I first saw Samuel, he was wearing the same gorgeous sweater he wore today.

One of the women remarked on it, and asked him if someone had made it for him. He said yes, his wife.

“Oh, is she here?”

“No, she… She’s… up.”

Someone asked how long, and he said 7 months.

“So I can’t wear this sweater because it makes me think of her,” he said, sorrow filling his eyes. “But…​ it makes me think of her…​ and… I think… that’s… OK.”

His face moved my heart so deeply, I felt grief and love in my chest and throat. Another woman patted his shoulder, saying, “Well, you know she’s watching you wear it.” He replied, “Yeah, and she’s still saying, ‘It’s too big on you!'”

7 months.

And he’s playing piano, making people laugh and sing.

•        •        •

I emerged from an elevator onto the upper balcony this morning, looked down, and saw him playing. (I hadn’t, till that moment, known he played.) Although we’d not yet spoken, I smiled & waved; he saw me and smiled. I put my hand on my heart.

He lifted his hand from the keys

and placed it over his.



big sky music,

stars flung upon the night, nestling in fragrant grass, unwound by the infinite.

a wider peace

friends, a circle, a fire, a scent of sage
cowboy-quiet around sparks
tin cup in fingers
nothing to say
connected deeper than that.

making its smell present
dirt being Texas
damp dirt red and endless
sturdy under ass.

boots rough and scraped
at rest
knees easy
arms lazy
breathing unguarded
no time
no waiting
nor hurry

the weeds, the wild, the sprigs: teasers
the nose rush:
drugs to earthy lullaby swing.
cradle of earth
moon a beam a candle a
fire mesmerizing hypnotic,

one letting go of all

self, letting
be letting be
be the freedom
of letting be

the shoulders dropped, sloughed off
like a snow bank sliding off a roof angle under sun
all at once in a slow sleepy quiet-heavy sliding.

all the shelves, the binds, the boulders
the crosses, albatrosses,
clatters, clusters:
rough slid slipped
like tears
like letting go of a baby

go of need
of grasping
a lover’s love
go another soul

a fierce hatred

a red, a black,
a blank, a field of white noise, a hurt, a cry, a loss, a black hole


riding river but not riding
no acting, asserting, defending;

slipping like the snow,

being carried
by the river stars
the breathing air

the wind at grace, un
hurried un worried un captured un bound un
caught or catchable un
touchable but touching

letting slide, melting

un hating
un fighting
un puzzling
un driving
un piercing
jaws un clamping,
the fight in you slowly letting down its arms.

the fear in you
bubbling, receding, like the inhalation of a wave,
or the swirling down a drain.

slough off dead skin: cracking open like
old cover too tight, too battered, scratchy and panic making tight…



a stone
is everything
is one


hypnotic like fire
with flowing subtleties;

is a bread crumb,
is a star,
is dust

is hurtful sharp hard shard
then soft,
a measure of peace

trying nothing
expecting none
totally heavy
carrying tension nowhere
no muscles
no holding tight
heavy everywhere the same
dreamy everywhere the same

no right or wrong in a stone
no failure or forgiveness
no drive or guilt

dirt i will be
why not now
in the silent stars air night dirt grass flatness openness allness rest.


Tenderness afraid
but to escape
from fear:
a door is here,
am I awake?

I see a silhouette
within the frame;
I hesitate.

To speak my name
would be an act of faith:
to tread upon
a path of flame.

A door is here

Mosaic I

Angles, cracks, and gleamings
clamor to be laid—
by fingers, warm with blood,
tips tracing their tactile whispers—
by intuition,
in a rhythm
of dream language.

Windows—cruel, brilliant
wounds—riven into
by the merciless precision
of the stone cutter’s blade.

A bird’s delicate tracks, vanishing
into wet sand…
what else has been lost, in the slap
and rustle of weeping waves?

Angles, Cracks and Gleamings

Angles, Cracks and Gleamings


The scrap and splinters littering an earthquake site; the remains of a total shattering.

1. That which can be made only from things broken; from shards.
2. The act of creatively, playfully, soulfully, attentively, reconceiving and rearranging shards, into: pattern, beauty, harmony, coherence, concept, wholeness, belonging, identity, recognizableness: a new life.

Salt and Honey: Shattering and Bliss
Wings: A Story of Shattering and Bliss may offer a glimpse of my creative source, process, purpose.

Salt and Honey is the space in which I begin to gather the fragments of my shattered universe, and the jewels unearthed below.

Gather and arrange… and re-arrange… turning each against each other, so that I may see them in new ways.

So that I might begin, to discern: forms, meanings, messages… coalesce, from serendipitous combinations.

I may hope… to perceive storylines hidden within them, which only become coherent as I intuit the rhythms that their various shapes, colors, and textures seek to form.

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